Images de page

and lightly touched the skin; yet the offender cried out with most bitter exclamations, while his fault was expiated with a ceremony and without blood. So does God to his servants; he rends their upper garments, and strips them of their unnecessary wealth, and ties them to physic and salutary discipline; and they cry out under usages, which have nothing but the outward sense and opinion of evil, not the real substance. But if we would take the measures of images, we must not take the height of the base, but the proportion of the members; nor yet measure the estates of men by their big-looking supporter, or the circumstance of an exterior advantage, but by its proper commensuration in itself, as it stands in its order to eternity: and then the godly man that suffers sorrow and persecution, ought to be relieved by us, but needs not be pitied in the sum of affairs. But since the two estates of the world are measured by time and by eternity, and divided by joy and sorrow, and no man shall have his portion of joys in both durations; the state of those men is insupportably miserable, who are fatted for slaughter, and are crowned like beasts for sacrifice; who are feared and fear, who cannot enjoy their purchases but by communications with others, and themselves have the least share, but themselves are alone in the misery and the saddest dangers, and they possess the whole portion of sorrows; to whom their prosperity gives but occasions to evil counsels, and strength to do mischief, or to nourish a serpent, or oppress a neighbour, or to nurse a lust, to increase folly, and treasure up calamity. And did ever any man see, or story tell, that any tyrant-prince kissed his rods and axes, his sword of justice, and his imperial ensigns of power? they shine like a taper, to all things but itself. But we read of many martyrs who kissed their chains, and hugged their stakes, and saluted their hangman with great endearments; and yet, abating the incursions of their seldom sins, these are their greatest evils: and such they are, with which a wise and a good man may be in love. And till the sinners and ungodly men can be so with their deep groans and broken sleeps, with the wrath of God and their portions of eternity; till they can rejoice in death and long for a resurrection, and with delight and a greedy hope can think of the day of judgment; we must conclude that their glass-gems and finest pageantry, their splendid outsides and great powers of evil, cannot make

amends for that estate of misery, which is their portion with a certainty as great as is the truth of God, and all the articles of the Christian creed. Miserable men are they, who cannot be blessed, unless there be no day of judgment; who must perish, unless the word of God should fail. If that be all their hopes, then we may with a sad spirit and a soul of pity inquire into the question of the text, "Where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?" Even there where God's face shall never shine, where there shall be fire and no light, where there shall be no angels, but what are many thousand years turned into devils, where no good man shall ever dwell, and from whence the evil and the accursed shall never be dismissed. O my God, let my soul never come into their counsels, nor lie down in their sorrows.'





Despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?-Rom. ii. 4.

FROM the beginning of time till now, all effluxes which have come from God, have been nothing but emanations of his goodness, clothed in variety of circumstances. He made man with no other design than that man should be happy, and by receiving derivations from his fountain of mercy, might reflect glory to him. And therefore, God making man for his own glory, made also a paradise for man's use; and did him good, to invite him to do himself a greater: for God gave forth demonstrations of his power by instances of mercy, and he who might have made ten thousand worlds of wonder and prodigy, and created man with faculties able only to stare upon, and admire, those miracles of mightiness, did choose to instance his power in the effusions of mercy, that, at the same instant, he might represent himself desirable and adorable, in all the capacities of amiability; viz. as excellent in himself, and profitable to us. For as the sun

sends forth a benign and gentle influence on the seed of plants, that it may invite forth the active and plastic power from its recess and secrecy, that by rising into the tallness and dimensions of a tree, it may still receive a greater and more refreshing influence from its foster-father, the prince of all the bodies of light; and in all these emanations, the sun itself receives no advantage, but the honour of doing benefits: so doth the Almighty Father of all the creatures; he at first sends forth his blessings upon us, that we, by using them aright, should make ourselves capable of greater; while the giving glory to God, and doing homage to him, are nothing for his advantage, but only for ours; our duties towards him being like vapours ascending from the earth, not at all to refresh the region of the clouds, but to return back in a fruitful and refreshing shower; and God created us, not that we can increase his felicity, but that he might have a subject receptive of felicity from him. Thus he causes us to be born, that we may be capable of his blessings; he causes us to be baptized, that we may have a title to the glorious promises evangelical; he gives us his Son, that we may be rescued from hell. And when we constrain him to use harsh courses towards us, it is also in mercy: he smites us to cure a disease; he sends us sickness, to procure our health. And as if God were all mercy, he is merciful in his first design, in all his instruments, in the way, and in the end of the journey; and does not only shew the riches of his goodness to them that do well, but to all men that they may do well he is good, to make us good; he does us benefits, to make us happy. And if we, by despising such gracious rays of light and heat, stop their progress, and interrupt their design, the loss is not God's, but ours; we shall be the miserable and accursed people. This is the sense and paraphrase of my text; "Despisest thou the riches of his goodness, &c. ?" "Thou dost not know," that is, thou considerest not, that it is for farther benefit that God does thee this: the 'goodness of God' is not a design to serve his own ends upon thee, but thine upon him: "the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.'


Here then is God's method of curing mankind, Xenoróτης, ἀνοχὴ, μακροθυμία. First, “ goodness,” or inviting us to him by sugared words, by the placid arguments of temporal favour, and the propositions of excellent promises. Secondly,


avoxn, at the same time. Although God is provoked every day, yet he does dvéxav, he " tolerates" our stubbornness, he forbears to punish; and when he does begin to strike, takes his hand off, and gives us truce and respite. For so avoxn signifies laxamentum,' and inducias' too. Thirdly, uaкрoľvμía,” still “a long putting off" and deferring his final destroying anger, by using all means to force us to repentance; and this especially by the way of judgments; these being the last reserves of the divine mercy, and however we esteem it, is the greatest instance of the divine long-suffering that is in the world. After these instruments, we may consider the end, the strand upon which these land us, the purpose of this variety, of these labours and admirable arts, with which God so studies and contrives the happiness and salvation of man: it is only that man may be brought by these means unto repentance, and by repentance may be brought to eternal life. This is "the treasure of the divine goodness," the great and admirable efflux of the eternal beneficence, the λovτos xenotótηtos, "the riches of his goodπλοῦτος χρηστότητος, ness," which whosoever despises, despises himself and the great interest of his own felicity; he shall die in his impenitence, and perish in his folly.

1. The first great instrument that God chooses to bring us to him, is xonoτórns,' profit,' or benefit; and this must needs be first, for those instruments whereby we have a being, are so great mercies, that besides that they are such which give us the capacities of all other mercies, they are the advances of us in the greatest instances of promotion in the world. For from nothing to something is an infinite space; and a man must have a measure of infinite passed upon him, before he can perceive himself to be either happy or miserable: he is not able to give God thanks for one blessing, until he hath received many. But then God intends we should enter upon his service at the beginning of our days, because even then he is before-hand with us, and hath already given us great instances of his goodness. What a prodigy of favour is it to us, that he hath passed by so many forms of his creatures, and hath not set us down in the rank of any of them, till we came to be paulo minores angelis,' 'a little lower than the angels!' and yet from the meanest of them God can perfect his own praise. The deeps and the snows, the hail and the rain, the birds of the air and the

fishes of the sea, they can and do glorify God, and give him praise in their capacity; and yet he gave them no speech, no reason, no immortal spirit, or capacity of eternal blessedness but he hath distinguished us from them by the absolute issues of his predestination, and hath given us a lasting and eternal spirit, excellent organs of perception, and wonderful instruments of expression, that we may join in concert with the morning-star, and bear a part in the chorus with the angels of light, to sing hallelujah to the great Father of men and angels.

But was it not a huge chain of mercies, that we were not strangled in the regions of our own natural impurities, but were sustained by the breath of God from perishing in the womb, where God formed us in secreto terræ,' told our bones, and kept the order of nature, and the miracles of creation; and we lived upon that which, in the next minute after we were born, would strangle us if it were not removed? but then God took care of us, and his hands of providence clothed us and fed us. But why do I reckon the mercies of production, which in every minute of our being are alike and continued, and are miracles in all senses, but that they are common and usual? I only desire you to remember, that God made all the works of his hands to serve him. And, indeed, this mercy of creating us such as we are, was not "to lead us to repentance," but was a design of innocence: he intended we should serve him as the sun and the moon do, as fire and water do; never to prevaricate the laws he fixed to us, that we might have needed no repentance. But since we did degenerate, and being by God made better and more noble creatures than all the inhabitants of the air, the water and the earth besides,—we made ourselves baser and more ignoble than any for no dog, crocodile, or swine, was ever God's enemy, as we made ourselves. Yet then from thenceforward God began his work of "leading us to repentance" by the "riches of his goodness." He causeth us to be born of Christian parents, under whom we were taught the mysteriousness of its goodness and designs for the redemption of man ; and by the design of which religion, repentance was taught to mankind, and an excellent law given for distinction of good and evil. And this is a blessing, which though possibly we do not often put into our eucharistical litanies to give God thanks for; yet if we sadly consider what had become

« PrécédentContinuer »