Images de page

sins, and will not be reclaimed: ye, ye are the men, that spit God in the face, and deny flatly the power of Godliness. Woe is me! we have enough of these birds every where at home. I appeal to your eyes, your ears: would to God they would convince me of a slander!

But what of all this now? The Power of Godliness is denied by wicked men: how then? what is their case? Surely inexplicably, unconceiveably fearful. The wrath of God is revealed froin heaven against all ungodliness; saith the Apostle. How revealed ? say you: wherein differ they from their neighbours, unless it be perhaps in better fare? no gripes in their conscience, no afflictions in their life, no bands in their death: Impunitas ausum, ausus excessum parit, as Bernard; “Their impunity makes them bold, their boldness outrageous." Alas, wretched souls! The world hath nothing more woeful, than a sinner's welfare. It is for slaughter, that this ox is fattened: Ease slayeth the simple, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them; Prov. i. 32. This bracteata felicitas, which they enjoy here, is but as carpets spread over the mouth of hell: for, if they deny the power of Godliness, the God of Power shall be sure to deny them; Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity, I know you not.

There cannot be a worse doom, than Depart from me ; that is, depart from peace, from blessedness, from life, from hope, from possibility of being any other than eternally, exquisitely miserable. Qui te non habet, Domine Deus, totum perdidit; “He, who hath not thee, O Lord God, hath lost all;" as Bernard truly. Dying is but departing; but this departing is the worst dying; dying in soul, ever

so as if there be an ite, depart, there must needs be a maledicti, depart ye cursed; cursed, that ever they were born, who live to die everlastingly. For this departure, this curse ends in that fire, which can never, never end.

Oh the deplorable condition of those damned souls, that have slighted the power of Godliness! what tears can be enough to bewail their everlasting burnings? what heart can bleed enough at the thought of those tortures, which they can neither suffer nor avoid ? Hold but your finger for one minute in the weak flame of a farthing candle, can flesh and blood endure it? With what horror then, must we needs think of body and soul frying endlessly in that infernal Tophet? Oh think of this, ye thạt forget God and contemn Godliness : with what confusion, shall ye look upon the frowns of an angry God rejecting you, the ugly and merciless fiends snatching you to your torments, the fames of hell flashing up to meet you? with what horror, shall ye feel the gnawing of your guilty consciences; and hear that hellish shrieking, and weeping, and wailing, and gnashing?

It is a pain, to mention these woes: it is more than death, to feel them. Perhorrescite minas, forinidate supplicia; as Chrysostom. Certainly, my Beloved, if wicked sinners did truly apprehend a hell, there would be more danger of their despair and distraction, than of their security. It is the Devil's policy, like a raven, first to



pull out the eyes of those that are dead in their sins, that they may not see their imminent damnation.

But, for us; tell me, ye that hear me this day, are ye Christians in earnest, or are ye not? If ye be not, what do ye here? If ye be, there is a hell in your creed. Ye do not less believe there is a hell for the godless, than an earth for men, a firmament for stars, a heaven for saints, a God in heaven: and, if ye do thus firmly believe it, cast but your eyes aside upon that fiery gulf, and sin if ye dare. Ye love yourselves well enough to avoid a known pain : we know there are Stocks, and Bridewells, and Gaols, and Dungeons, and Racks, and Gibbets for malefactors; and our very fear keeps us innocent: were your hearts equally assured of those bellish torments, ye could not, ye durst not, continue in those sins, for which they are prepared,

But, what an unpleasing and unseasonable subject am I fallen upon, to speak of Hell in a Christian Court, the emblem of Heaven! Let me answer for myself, with devout Bernard, Sic mihi contingat semper beare amicos, terrendo salubriter, non adulando fallaciter; Let me thus ever bless my friends, with wholesome frights, rather than with plausible soothings.” Sumenda sunt amara salubriu; saith St. Austin: bitter wholesome is a safe receipt for a Christian: and what is more bitter or more wholesome than this thought? The way not to feel a Hell, is to see it, to fear it. I fear we are all generally defective this way: we do not retire ourselves enough into the chamber of meditation, and think sadly of the things of another world. Our self-love puts off this torment: notwithstanding our willing sins, with David's plague, non appropinquabit, It shall not come nigh thee. If we do not make a league with hell and death, yet with ourselves against them.

Fallit peccatum falsá dulcedine, as St. Austin, “Sin deceives us with a false pleasure.” The pleasure of the world is like that Col. chian honey, whereof Xenophon's soldiers no sooner tasted, than they were miserably distempered: those, that took little, were drunk: those, that took more, were mad: those, that took most, were dead. Thus are we, either intoxicated, or infatuated, or kill. ed outright with this deceitful world, that we are not sensible of our just fears : at the best, we are so besotted with our stupid security, that we are not affected with our danger,

Woe is me! the impenitent resolved sinner is already fallen into the mouth of hell; and hangs there but by a slender twig of his momentary life: when that hold fails, he fails down headlong into that pit of horror and desolation.

Oh, ye, my Dear Brethren, so many as love your souls, have mercy upon yourselves. Call aloud, out of the deeps of your sins, to that compassionate Saviour, that he will give you the hand of faith, to lay hold upon the hand of his mercy and plenteous redemption, and pull you out of that otherwise-irrecoverable destruction; else ye are gone, ye are gone for ever.

Two things, as Bernard borrows of St. Gregory, make a man both goud and safe, “To repent of evil, to abstain from evil." Would ye escape the wrath of God, the fire of hell? Oh, wash you clean, and keep you so. There is no laver for you, but your own tears, and the blood of your Saviour. Bathe your souls in both of these, and be secure. Consider how many are dying now, which would give a world for one hour to repent in. On, be ye careful then to improve your free and quiet hours, in a serious and hearty contrition for your sins; say to God, with the Psalmist, Deliver me from the evil man; that is, from myself, as that Father construes it.

And, for the sequel, instead of the denying the power of Godliness, resolve to deny yourselves, to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world; that, having felt and approved the power of Godliness in the illuminating our eyes, in raising us from our sins, in ejecting our corruptions, in changing our lives, and creating our hearts anew, we may at the last feel the happy consummation of this power, in the full possessing of us in that eternal Blessedness and Glory which he hath prepared for all that love him: To the perfect fruition whereof, he bring us, that hath dearly bought us, Jesus Christ the Righteous: To whom, &c.




MARCH 1, 1634,




As one, that hath no power to stand out against the importunity of him, whose least motion is justly wont to pass with me for a come mand, I have here sent your Lordship the copy of my Sermon, lately preached at the Court; which, partly the distance, and partly the inconvenience of the place and season, would not suffer you to hear; that now your ear may be supplied by your eye: though not without some disadvantage on my part. Let it lie by you, as a private and faithful monitor, instead of

Your Lordship's truly and sincerely devoted

in all observance,


PSALM cxliv. 3, 4. Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him; or the son

of man, that thou makest account of him? Man is like unto vani,

[ocr errors]

My Text, and so my Sermon too, is the just Character of Man. A common and stale theme," you will

but a needful one: we are all apt to mis-know or to forget what we are, No blacks, nor soul-bells, nor death's heads on our rings, nor funeral sermons, nor tombs, nor epitaphs, can fix our hearts enough upon our frail and miserable condition. And, if any man have condescended to see his face in the true looking-glass of his wretched frailty, so soon as his back is turned he forgets his shape straight: especially at a Court, where outward glory would seem to shoulder out the thoughts of poor despicable mortality.


Give me leave therefore, Honourable and Beloved, to ring my own knell in your ears this day, and to call home your eyes a little; and to shew you that, which I fear you too seldom see, yourselves.

Lent and funerals are wont still to go both in one livery. There is no book so well worthy reading, as this living one. Even now David spake as a king of men, of people subdued under him: now he speaks as a humble vassal to God; Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him?

In one breath is both sovereignty, and subjection: an absolute sovereignty over his people; My people are subdued under me: an humble subjection to the God of kings; Lord, what is man?

Yea, in the very same word wherein is the profession of that sovereignty, there is an acknowledgment of subjection: Thou hast subdued my people. In that he had people, he was a king: that they might be his people, a subjugation was requisite; and that subjugation was God's, and not his own; Thou hast subdued. Lo, David had not subdued his people, if God had not subdued them for him. He was a great king, but they were a stiff people: the God that made them swayed them to a due subjection. The great conquerors of worlds could not conquer hearts, if he, that moulded hearts, did not temper them. By me kings reign; saith the Eternal Wisdom: and he, that had courage enough to encounter a bear, a lion, Goliath, yet can say, Thou hast subdued my people.

Contrarily, in that lowliest subjection of himself, there is an acknowledgment of greatness. Though he abaseth himself with a What is man? yet, withal, he adds, thou takest knowledge of him, thou makest account of him: and this knowledge, this account of God, doth more exalt man, than his own vanity can depress him.

My Text then, ye see, is David's rapture, expressed in an ecstatical question of sudden wonder; a wonder at God, and at man: MAN'S VILENESS; What is man? GOD'S MERCY AND FAVOUR; in his Knowledge, in his Estimation of man.

Lo, there are but two lessons, that we need to take out here, in the world, God and Man; and here they are both : Man, in the notion of his Wretchedness; God, in the notion of his Bounty.

Let us, if you please, take a short view of both; and, in the one, see cause of our humiliation; of our joy and thankfulness, in the other: and if, in the former, there be a sad Lent of mortification; there is, in the latter, a cheerful Easter of our raising and exaltation.

I. Many a one, besides David, wonders at himself: one wonders at his own honour; and, though he will not say so, yet thinks, “What a great man am I! Is not this great Babel, which I have built ?" this is Nebuchadnezzar's wonder. Another wonders at his person; and finds, either a good face, or a fair eye, or an exquisite hand, or a well-shaped leg, or some gay fleece, to admire in himself: this was Absalom's wonder. Another wonders at his wit

« PrécédentContinuer »