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look all these sublunary vanities: Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth; seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. There only shall you
find true rest, and constant glory.
2. This for the Act of the Turning: the TERMS or SUBJECT of it follows; A fruitful land into barrenness.
Philosophy hath wont to teach us, that every change is to the contrary: here it is so, plainly;, fruitful into barren, yea into the ab. stract, barrenness itself.
Small alterations are not noted. The growing of the grass, the daily declining into age, though not without a kind of change, are insensible: but for Aaron's dry rod to be budded, blossomed, almoned in a night; for the vigorous and curled prisoner to become grey-headed by morning; for the flourishing Pentapolis to be turned suddenly into sulphurous heaps and salt-pits; these things fill the eye, not without an astonishment of the heartThe best beauty decays by leisure; but for a fleshy idol at the Court to become suddenly' a leprous Miriam, is a plain judgment,
Thus, when the fair face of the earth shall be turned from a youthful and flourishing greenness into a parched and withered de, formity; the leaves, which are the hairs, fall off, and give way to a loathsome baldness; the towered cities, which are the chaplets and dresses of that head, are torn down, and turned to rubbish; the fountains and rivers, which are the crystalline humours of those eyes, are dried up; the surface, which is the skin of that great bo, dy, is chopped and chinked with drought, and burnt up with heat; those sweet waters of heaven, and those balmy drops of fatness wherewith it was wont to be besprinkled, are restrained, and have given place to unwholesome sereness, and killing vapours; shortly, that pampered plenty, wherewith it was glutted, is turned into a pinching want: this change is not more sensible, than woeful,
It is a great judgment this of barrenness. The curse of the disappointing fig tree was but this; Never fruit grow on thee : as, con, trarily, the creature was blessed in no other terms, than Crescite et multiplicamini; Increase and multiply. A barren womb was Michal's plague, for her scoffing at devotion. It was held by Abimelech no small judgment, that God inflicted on him, in closing up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech; Gen. xx. 18: and therefore it is said, Abraham prayed, and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maid-servants; verse 17, And surely, as the Jews held this as the reproach among women, though ours have not the same opinion, nor the same reason, Luke i. 25; insomuch as canta, stea silis, had been a strange word, Isaiah liv. 1. were it not for that which followeth, The desolate shall have more children than the married: so, this is opprobrium terræ, “ the reproach of our common mother,” an unbearing womb, and dry breasts; Hos. ix, 14.
What follows hence, but miserable famine, leanness of body, languishing of strength, hollowness of eyes, dryness of bones, blackness of skin, wringing of maws, gnawing and clinging of guts ?
And, in the end, the pale horse of death follows the black horse of famine ; Rev. vi. 8: and Those, that are slain by the sword, are better thun they, that are slain with hunger ; Lam. iv. 9.
Yet, let me tell you, by the way, the earthly and external barrenness is nothing to the inward and spiritual: where the hea is barren of grace, where the life is barren of good works, the man is not near to cursing, but is under it. Ye know who said, Give me children, or else I die ; Gen, xxx, 1. It was an over-passionate word of a good woman: many a one lives, and that with less grief and care, and more ease, without them: she might have lived happy, though unfruitful. But sure, a barren soul is both miserable and deadly. God says of it, as the Lord of the Soil said of the fruitless figtree, Exscindatur ; Cut it up, why keepeth it the ground barren? If then we find ourselves in this condition, let us do, as Solomon says the fashion is of the barren womb, cry Give, Give; and never leave importunate craying, till we find the twins of striving in the womb of our souls,
But yet, if a dry Arabian desert yield not a spire of grass; or the whitish sands of Egypt (where Nile touchetħ not) yield nothing but their Suhit and Gazul, fit for the furnace not the mouth; or, if some ill natured waste yield nothing but heath and furze we never wonder at it; these do but their kind: but, for a fruitful land to be turned to barrenness, is an uncouth thing: the very excellency of it aggravates the shame,
And, surely, God would not do it, if it were not wonderous : he fetches light, not out of glimmering, but out of darkness : he fetches not indifferent, but good, out of evil, We, weak agents, (such all natural, and other voluntary are,), descend by degrees from an extreme, by the stairs of a mean, and (that ofttimes) sen, sible mutation : God, who is most free and infinite, is not tied to our terms: he can, in an instant, turn fair into foul; fruitful into barren; light into darkness ; something, yea all things, into nothing.
Present fruitfulness, therefore, is no security against future bars renness. It is the folly of nature, to think itself, upon too slight grounds, sure of what it hath, Non movebor, David confesses, was his note once; but he soon changed it, and so shall we, Thou art rich in good works, as the churl was in provision; and sayest, Soul, take thine ease : let thy hand be out of use a little through a Jazy security, thou hast forfeited all by disuse; and mayest expect to hear, Stúlte, hâc nocte, Thou art rich in profession of grace : was any man more ofticious than Demas? Yet he soon fell to embrace the present world, with a neglect of the future.
Think not now, that I am falling in with our late Excutifidians, to teach, that a true, solid, radicated saving faith may be totally, finally lost: no; I hate the motion : it is presumption, that I tax ; not well-grounded assurance : presumption of outward profession and privileges; not assurance of the inward truth of grace.
Presume not, O Vain Man, of what thou wert, or what thou hast. Devils were Angels : Jerusalem was the Holy City : Rome
was for her faith famous through all the world; Rom. i. 8. Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt; Isaiah xxix. 1. Our own once good estate may aggravate our misery, can never secure our happiness. Son of man, what shall become of the vine, of all plants ? saith the Prophet, The more noble it is, the worse it speeds, if fruitless. Oh, let us not be high minded, but fear.
England was once, yea lately was, perhaps is still, the most flourishing Church under heaven; that I may take up the Prophet's words, The glory of Churches, the beauty of excellency; Isaiah xiii, 19: what it may be, what it will be, if we fall still into distractions and various sects, God knows, and it is not hard for men to foresee. Surely, if we grow into that anarchical fashion of Independent Congregations, which I see, and lament to see, affected by too many, not without woeful success; we are gone, we are lost, in a most miserable confusion: we shall be, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah; and it shall be with us, as the Prophet speaks of proud and glorious Babylon, The shepherds shall not make their fold here; wild beasts of the desert shall lie here, and our houses shall be full of doleful creatures ; and owls shall dwell, and satyrs shall dance there; and the wild beasts of the island skall cry in our desolate palaces ; Isaiah xiii, 20, 21, I take no pleasure, God knows, to ominate ill to my dear nation, and dear mother the Church of England; for whose welfare and happiness I could contemn my own life: but I speak it in a true sorrow of heart to perceive our danger, and in a zealous precaution to prevent it. O God, in whose hands the hearts of princes and all the sons of men are, to turn them as the rivers of waters, put it into the heart of our King and Parliament, to take speedy order for the suppression of this wild variety of sects and lawless Independencies, ere it be too late.
II. Thus much for the Subject and Terms of this change: the AGENT follows; He turneth.
Never was there any sterility, whereof there may not be a cause given. Either the season is unkindly parching with drought, or drenching with wet, or nipping with frost, or blasting with pernicious airs, or rotting with mildews: or some mis-accident of the place; inundations of waters, incursions and spoil of enemies, sudden mortalities of the inhabitants : or some natural fault in the soil; or misdemeanour of the owners; idleness, ill-husbandry, in mistiming, neglect of meet helps, unculture, ill choice of seed : but, whatever be the second cause, we are sure who is the first; He turneth. Is there any evil in the city, and he hath not done it?
Alas, what are all secondary causes, but as so many lifeless puppets. There is a Divine Hand unseen, that stirs the wires, and puts upon them all their motion : so, as our Saviour said of Pilate, we may say of all the activest instruments both of earth and hell, Thou couldest have no power over me, unless it were given thee froma abore. Is Joseph sold to the merchants, by the villany of his envious brethren? The Lord sent me before you ; Gen. xlv. 5. Do the Chaldeans and Sabeans feloniously drive away the herds of Job ? doth the Devil by a tempestuous gust bluster down the house, and rob him of his children? The Lord hath taken; Job i: 21. Is a man slain by chance-medley, the ax-head slipping from the helve? Dominus tradidit. So, whether they be acts of nature, of will, of casualty; whether done by natural agents; by voluntary, by casual, by supernatural; Digitus Dei est hic ; He turneth. What can all other causes either do or be, without Him, who is the original of all entity and causality?
There is much wisdom and justice, in distinguishing causes, and giving each their own; whereof, while some have failed, they have run into injurious and frantic extremes: while, on the one side; wild and ignorant heretics have ascribed all to God's agency, without acknowledging secondary causes; on the other, atheous fools ascribe all to the second and immediate causes, not looking up to the hand of an overruling and all-contriving Providence. We must walk warily betwixt both: yielding the necessary operation of subordinate means, employed by the divine wisdom; and adoring that infinite wisdom and power, which both produces and employs those subordinate means to his own holy purposes.
Tell me then, art thou crossed in thy designs and expectation ? Blame not distempers of times, disappointment of undertakings, intervention of cross accidents. This is, as some shifting alchymist that casts all the fault of his mis-success upon his glass or his furnace: but kiss that invisible hand of power, which disposeth of all these sublunary events; if against thy will, yet according to his own. Even nature itself will teach us, to reduce all second causes to the first. Behold, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens ; they shall hear the earth ; the earth shall hear the corn, wine, oil; and they shall hear Israel; Hos. ii. 21, 22.
Lo here is a necessary scale, whereof no staff can be missing. How should Israel live without corn, wine, oil ? How should the corn, wine, oil, be had without the yieldance of the earth ? How should the earth yield these, without the influence of heaven? How can heaven yield these influences, without the command of the Maker ?
When I meet, therefore, with a querulous Husbandınan, he tells me of a churlish soil ; of a wet seed-time; of a green winter; of an unkindly spring; of a lukewarm summer; of a blustering autumn: but I tell him of a displeased God; who will be sure to contrive and fetch about all seasons and elements, to his own most wise drifts and purposes.
Thou art a Merchant: what tellest thou me of cross winds; of Michaelmas flaws; of ill weathers; of the wafting of the archangel's wings, when thou passest by the Grecian promontory; of tedious becalmings; of piratical hazards ; of falsehood in trades, breaking of customers, craft and undermining of interlopers ? All these are set on by heaven, to impoverish thee.
Thou art a Courtier, and hast laid a plot to rise : if obsequious servility to the great, if those gifts in the bosom which our blunt ancestors would have termed bribes, if plausible suppalpations, if restless importunities will hoise thee, thou wilt mount: but something there is, that clogs thy heel, or blocks thy way : either some secret detractor hath forelaid thee by a whispering misintimation ; or some misconstruction of thy well-meant offices hath drawn thee into unjust suspicion; or the envy of some powerful corrival trumps in thy way, and holds thee off from thine already swallowed honour. There is a hand above, that manageth all this. What are we, but the keys of this great instrument of the world, which he touches at pleasure ; drepressing some, while others rise, and others again stand still?
Yea, let me make higher instances of you Men of State, that sway the great affairs of kingdoms; and, by your wise and awful arbitrements, decree, under Sovereignty, of either war or peace; and either take up or slacken the reins of commerce : so framing the many wheels of this vast engine, that all may move happily together. You may rack your brains, and enlarge your fore gn intelligences, and cast in the symboles of your prudent contributions to the common welfare ; but know withal, Frustrà nisi Do. minus : let your projects be never so fair, your treaties never so wise and cautious, your enterprises never so hopeful, if he do but blow upon them, they are vanished. The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor yet bread to the wise ; Eccl. ix. 11.
What should we do then, but, first, look up to that Almighty Hand, that swayeth all these sublunary, yea and celestial attairs? It is the weak fashion of foolish children, to ascribe all their kindnesses or discontents to the next cause. If good befal them, it is the Tailor, to whom they are beholden for their coat; the Con. fectionary, for their sweet-meats : not their Parents, who pay for all these. Again, if the knife be taken away from them the Servant is blamed; and beaten with their feeble, but angry hand: not the Mother, that commanded it. Yea it is the brutish fashion of unreasonable creatures, to run after and bite the stone ; not regarding the hand that threw it. We Christians should have more wit: and, since we know that Nature itself is no other than God's ordinance of second causes, and Chance is but an ignorance of the true causes, and our freest wills are overruled by the First Mover; oh let us improve our reason and Christianity so much, as to acá knowledge the secret, but most certain hand of an Omnipotent Agent in all the occurrents of the world : for, certainly, there cannot be a greater injury to the great King of Heaven and Earth, than to suffer second causes to run away with the honour of the first, whether in good or evil.
Secondly; what should we do, but kiss the rod, and him that smites with it; patiently receiving, all chastisements from the hand of a powerful, wise, just God? Had we to do with an agent less than an Omnipotent, we might perhaps think of him as one said of the Egyptian Magicians, They could hurt, but they could not heal; they could do evil, but not good: or we might fear something might betide us against, beside, without, his will: finite agents cannot go beyond their sphere: were the power of great princes as large as their wills,