« PoprzedniaDalej »
TO THE WORSHIPFUL AND REVEREND,
MR. DR. HALL,
DEAN OF WORCESTER, MY WORTHY AND MUCH RESPECTED FRIEND,
ALL HAPPINESS, WITH MY LOVE IN CHRIST JESUS.
This Sermon, I know, is at the press before you expected: but I thought, as this glorious Chapel occasioned it, so it might minister occasion of perpetual remembrance of the Chapel, by remaining its first Monument. And, although both these were confined to the private, the Chapel for the Family of my Right Honourable Lord the Earl of Exeter, who hath given the material thereof sufficient lustre; and the Copy of the Sermon to the Cabinet of my truly Noble and Virtuous Lady, his Countess : yet both these are much and oft required to the public; the Sermon, to be an instruction, and so it is; the Chapel, to be an e.rample, and so it may be : the Sermon, to teach all, to be all glorious in their souls ; the Chapel, to teach some, who build houses for their own habitation, to set up another for God's Religion. The Sermon was craved at the hands of my Honourable Lady, that it might come to the press ;, who, of her own pious disposition, gave forth the copy, and for her noble esteem of yourself, and of the worth of your Sermon, was willing and desirous to give it way to the printer. And this I thought good to impart unto you, and to the courteous reader, that you may be satisfied of the means how, and the cause why, it comes in public. And so praying for you, and desiring your pruyers for me, I remain,
Your truly loving Friend,
THE ENEMIES OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST.
A SERMON PREACHED AT HAMPTON-COURT TO KING JAMES.
IN ORDINARY ATTENDANCE, IN SEPT. 1624.
PHILIPPIANS ii. 18, 19. For many walk of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the Cross of Christ. Whose end is destruction.
My Text you see is but a parenthesis: yet necessary and essential; though not to the sentence foregoing, yet to Christian warning and instruction. It is enclosed, like some good garden, for singular use: a garden, wherein there are both flowers and weeds; Howers of Apostolical virtue; and weeds of Philippian wickedness.
For I know not whether these words bewray more worth in the true Apostle, than unworthiness in the false. This censure of his doth no less grace himself, than it brandeth them: so we have met with some pictures, which, if you look one way, show us a comely face; if another way, an owl, or an ape, or soine deformed visage.
Look first at THE APOSTLE'S GRACIOUS CARRIAGE IN THE MANAGING OF THIS SHARP REPROOF; and ye, whom it concerns, imitate it: and then turn your eyes to the view of THE DAMNABLE COURSES OP THESE PHILIPPIAN SEDUCERS; and learn to abhor their ways, and fear their hell.
I. The FIDELITY OF THE APOSTLE is commended by his WARNING; by the FREQUENCE; by the PASSION of it: his warning, I have told you ; the frequence, I have told you often; the passion, I now tell you weeping.
1. To begin with the WARNING. As wisdom hath eyes to note evils, so faithfulness hath a tongue to notify them. We are by our profession the Seers of God, in respect of our eyes; and we are the Prophets of God, in respect of our tongues: it must be our care, to make use of both titles. We are blind guides, if we see not: we are dumb dogs, if we give not warning of what we see: as good no eyes, as no tongue.
There was, in the north part of Jerusalem, the Tower of the Furnaces ; Neh. iii. 11: wherein, it seems, there was continual fire kept, for the way-mark of travellers. That flame was both vocal and real; admonishing the passenger of his errors, and guiding him in his course: such we either are or should be: like to John Bap. tist, who was a burning and a shining light; Burning for his own zeal, Shining for the direction of others; direction, as in example of life, so in precepts of doctrine. We should not be like dials on a wall, or watches in our pockets, to teach the eye; but like clocks and larums, to ring in the ear. Aaron must wear bells, as well as pomegranates: yea, louder than so, the Prophet's voice must be a trumpet, whose sound may be heard far off; Hos. viii. 1.
God will never thank us for keeping his counsel; he will thank us for divulging it: and that St. Paul knew well enough, when, in his Farewell to the Elders of Ephesus, he appealed to their consciences, that he had kept back nothing that was profitable unto them, but had declared unto them all the counsels of God; Acts xx. 20, 27. Our Saviour therefore bids us not, to run into corners, and whisper his messages; but to get us unto the house-top, and to make the highest roof and battlements our pulpit.
Woe, therefore, to those Sigalion-like statues, who, taking up a room in God's Church, sit there with their fingers upon their mouths; making a trade of either wilful or lazy silence; smothering in their breasts the sins and dangers of God's people!
It is a witty and good observation of Gregory, that the Prophet prays, Set a door before my lips; a door, not a wall: he would not have his tongue mured up for all occasions; but so locked, that it may be seasonably let loose and free, when the convenience or necessity of his own soul or others' require it. The neglect or restraint of which liberty shall lie heavy upon many a soul. Surely, the blood of all those souls, that have miscarried through their unfaithful silence, cries loud to heaven against them, and shall one day be required at their hands.
If I shall see a blind man walking towards some deep pit or deadly precipice, if I do not warn him of it and prevent his fall, I am not much less guilty of his death, than if I had thrust him down. It is a clear and familiar case, that of Ezekiel xxxiii. 7, 8. Son of man, I have set thee for a wutchman to the house of Israel : therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them of it. Then I sty
to the reicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely, die; If thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquily, but his blood will I require at thine hand. A sleeping centinel is the loss of a whole city. The forfeiture of his own life, is the least piece of the mischief he is guilty of. () therefore ye, that are the watchmen of the Lord, rouse up yourselves: and,
you desire to avoid so many vengeances as there are souls lost by your drowsiness and taciturnity, bestir your tongues, in giving warning to God's people of their spiritual dangers, as our Apostle doth here; I have told you, and now tell you again.
2. Thus much for the Warning; now the FREQUENCE follows; I have told you often.
Not once, not seldom, had the Apostle told his Philippians of these inordinate walkers, but often. St. Paul feared not the slander of a tautology: rather, like a constant workman, he beats still upon
the same anvil. There can never be too much warning of
that, whereof there can never be enough heed. Nice ears are all for variety of doctrines; as palates, of meats. Quousque eadem? “What still the same over and over?” is the note of both. How scornfully do these gluttons look at the often entrance of the same standing dishes! St. Paul hates to feed this wanton humour; and tells them this single diet is safe for them, and to himself not grievous: and therefore, not fearing their surfeit of so wholesome a service, he still sets before them the same mess; I have told you often, and now tell you again.
We tell over the same numbers in the counting of our coin; and are not weary of it: in our recreations, we spend the night after the day at the same game; and complain not of satiety: why should we, who profess ourselves spiritual, so soon nauseate at the iteration of good counsels?
Perhaps if we would seek Athens in our city, we should not lose our labour. There is an itch of the ear, which St. Paul foresaw would prove the disease of the latter times, that now is grown epidemical: an itch after news, even in God's Chair; new doctrines, new dresses.
And surely it must needs be confessed, that, of latter years, there was much fault in this kind. Too many pulpits were full of curious affectation of new quirks of wit, new crotchets of conceit, strange mixtures of opinions: insomuch as the old and plain forms were grown stale and despicable. Let me tell you, I still feared this itch would end in a smart. Certainly there cannot be a more certain argument of a decayed and sickly stomach, than the loathing of wholesome and solid food, and longing after fine quelques choses of new and artificial composition.
For us; away with this vain assectation in the matters of God. Surely, if ought under heaven go down better with us than the savoury viands of Christ and him crucified; of faith and repentance, and those plainly dressed, without all the lards and sauces of human devices; to say no worse, our souls are sick, and we feel it not.
() ye foolish Israelites, with whom too much frequence made the food of angels contemptible! If onions and garlic had grown as rifely in the Wilderness, and manna had rained down no where but in Egypt, how would ye have hated those rude and strong salads, and have run mad for those celestial delicates. The taste of manna was as of wafers made with honey; Exod. xvi. 31. Now what can be sweeter than honey? Yet says the Wise-man, the full despiseth a honeycomb. I doubt there are too many thus full; full of the world, full of wicked nature, of sinful corruptions; and then, no marvel if they despise this food of angels.
But, for us, my Brethren, Oh let us not be weary of our happiness; let not these dainties of heaven lose their worth for their store: every day, let us go forth of our tents and gather; and, while we are nourished, let us not be cloyed with good: else, God knows a remedy: he knows how to make the Word precious to us; precious in the want, because it was not precious to us in the valuation. He, that hath told us, how precious peace is by the sense of a woeful war, can soon shew us, how precious his word was by a spiritual famine; which God, for his mercy's sake, avert from us !
I might here have done with the Frequence: but let me add this one consideration more; That often inculcation of warning necessarily implies a danger. There is much danger, in a contagious conversation: evil is of a spreading nature: sin, as leaven, yea old leaven, sours the whole lump where it lies; yea, it is a very plague, that infects the air round about it. If (as the entrances of sin are bashful) it begin with one angel, it infects legions: let it begin with one woman, it infects all the mass of mankind: one person infects a family; one family, a whole street; one street, a whole city; one city, a whole country; one country, a whole world: yea, it runs like powder in a train, and flies out suddenly on all sides.
Look about you, and see, whether you need any other witnesses, than your own eyes.
ye not see daily, how Drunkenness doth in this participate of the nature of that liquor which causeth it, that it is not easily contained within its own bounds? The vice, as well as the humour, is diffusive of itself. How rarely have you ever seen a solitary drunkard! no; the very title, which is mis-given to this sin, is “Good Fellowship.” Mark, if Oaths, where lewd men are met, do not fly about like squibs on a wheel, whereof one gives fire to another; and all do, as it were, counter-thunder to heaven: one bold swearer makes many, and the land mourns with the number. Look at the very Israelitish Stews: They assemble by troops into the harlots' houses; Jer. v. 7. And, for Heresies and Erroneous Opinions in Religion, the Apostle tells us it is a gangrene; 2 Tim. ii. 17. whose taint is both sudden and deadly: let it be but in the finger, if the joint be not cut off, or there be not an instant prevention, the whole arm is taken, and straight the heart. It is a pregnant comparison of the Father, That the infection of heresy is like the biting of a mad dog: you know the dog, when he is taken with this furious distemper, affects to bite every living thing in his way; and whatever he bites, he infects; and whomsoever he infects (without a present remedy) he kills, not without a spice of his own distemper
. I would we had not too lamentable experience of this mischief every day: wherein we see one tainted with Popery; another, with Socianism; another, with Antinomianism; another, with Familism; and all these run a madding after their own fancies, and affect nothing so much, as to draw others into the society of their errors and damnation.
Take heed to yourselves for God's sake, ye, that stand surest in the confidence of your settled judgment, grounded knowledge, honest morality. The pestilent influences of wicked society are not more mortal, than insensible. In vain shall ye plead the goodness of your heart, if ye be careless of the wickedness of your heels and elbows. St. Paul thought it a sentence worthy to borrow from a Heathen Poet, and to feoff it in the Canon; Evil conversation corrupts good manners. As therefore Mose's said in the case of Korah and his company, so let me say in the case of others' wickedlness, whether it be in matter of judgment or practice; Depart, I