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There is no trained man in the whole troop of God, but must have his bout with the beasts of the time. "Vita hominis militia super terram: we are here in a Militant Church. As we have all received our press-money in baptism, so we must every one, according to our engagement, maintain this fight against the world. But if a man be a pupiouéva, as St. Paul, singled out to a public calling, now he must think himself made for combats, because for victories: for Bellum durius contra victores, as Gregory speaketh.
It was the charge of the Apostle, that a Bishop should be no striker; and Clericus percussor is an old brand of irregularity. But if, in this kind, he strike not, I must say of him as St. Paul to Ananias, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall. All his whole life must be spent in these blows: he must be, as Jeremiah speaks of himself, 172 W'N 29 W'N; Jer. xv. 10. a man of strife and contention : there is no beast comes in his way, but he must have a fling at him. When Gregory Nazianzen (Epist. 23.) speaks of Basil, designed to the Bishoprick of Cæsarea, “ If any man,” saith he, “ pretend his weakness, non athletem, sed doctorem creabitis." But, in this spiritual sense, if he be a Doctor in the Chair, he must be a Champion in the Theatre. No St. Martin may plead here, “ I am Christ's soldier, I may not fight;" yea, therefore must be fight, because he is Christ's soldier. Whosoever then would be a fit combatant for God, to enter into these lists against the beasts of the world, must be a St. Paul, in proportion : so must he be a follower of him, as he is of Christ
. Will it please you to see him, first qualified, then armed.
(1.) Qualified first, with Holiness, Skill, Courage.
Holiness: for he must be a man of God, and, as the Apostle charges, queue Q irreprehensible ; otherwise he is a beast himself, and had need of some body to bait him. Woe be to those champions of God, that take upon them to wield the sword of the Spirit with unclean hands. That divine weapon is not so fit to wound any, as their own souls. Ex ore tuo, serve nequam. Let me say truly, It were a happy and hopeful thing, that even our external and secular wars should be managed with pure and innocent hands. I shall tell you that, which perhaps few of you have either known or considered, that of old a soldier was a sacred thing: and it is worth your notice, what, in former times, was the manner of our ancestors, in consecrating a soldier or a knight to the wars. Some six hundred years ago and upward, as I find in the History of Ingulphus, the manner was this: Anglorum erat consuetudo, quòd qui militiæ legitimæ consecrandus esset, &c. “ He, that should be devoted to the trade of war, the evening before his consecration came to the Bishop or Priest of the place; and, in much contrition and compunction of heart, made a confession of all his sins: and, after his absolution, spent that night in the Church, in watching, in prayers, in afflictive devotions : on the morrow, being to hear Divine Service, he was to offer up his sword upon the altar; and, after the gospel, the priest was, with a solemin benediction, to put it about his neck; and then, after his communicating of those sacred mysteries, he was to remain miles legitimus." Thus he: who tells us how that valiant and successful knight, Heward, came thus to his uncle, one Brandus, the devout Abbot of Peterborough, for his consecration; and that this custom continued here in England, till the irreligious Normans, by their scorns, put it out of countenance, accounting such a one non legitimum militem, sed equitem socordem, et Quiritem degenerem. This was their ancient and laudable manner; some shadow whereof we retain, while we hold some Orders of Knighthood religious. And, can we wonder to hear of noble victories atchieved by them; of giants and monsters slain by those hands, that had só pious an initiation ? These men professed to come to their combats, as David did to Goliath, in the Name of the Lord: no marvel if they prospered. Alas ! now, Nulla fides pietásque, &c. ye know the rest. The name of a soldier is misconstrued by our gallants, as a sufficient warrant of debauchedness : as if a buff-jerkin were a lawful cover for a profane heart. Woe is me, for this sinful degeneration ! How can we hope, that bloody hands of lawless ruffians should be blessed with palms of triumph ? that adulterous eyes should be shaded with
garsands of victory? that profane and atheous instruments, if any such be employed in our wars, should return home loaded with success and honour? How should they prosper, whose sins fight against them, more than all the swords of enemies; whose main adversary is in their own bosom and in heaven? If the God of Heaven be the Lord of Hosts, do we think him so lavish that he will grace impiety? Can we think him so in love with our persons, that he will overlook or digest our crimes ? Be innocent, o ye Warriors, if ye would be speedful : be devout, if ye would be victorious. Even upon the bridles of the horses in Zachary must be written, Holiness to the Lord : how much more upon the foreheads of his priests, the leaders of his spiritual war? With what face, with what heart, can he fight against beasts, that is a beast himself?
It is not holiness yet, that can secure us from blows : Job's Behemoth, as he is construed, durst set upon the Holy Son of God himself. To our holiness therefore must be added Skill; skill to guard, and skill to hit; skill in choice of weapons, places, times, ways of assault or defence : else we cannot but be wounded and tossed at pleasure. Hence the Psalmist ; Thou teachest my hands to war and my fingers to fight. The title that is given to David's champions was, not dispositi ad clypeum, as Montanus hath it, y n3v; but disponentes : such as could handle the shield and the buckler; i Chron. xii. 8. Alas, what is to be looked for, of raw, untaught, untrained men, if such should be called forth of their shops on the sudden; that know not so much as their files or motions or postures, but either flight or filling of ditches! He, that will be a Petus in Jovius's History, or a Servilius in Plutarch, to come off an untouched victor from frequent challenges, had need to pass many a guard and Veny in the fence-school. So skilful must the man of God be, that he must know, as St. Paul, even te vorala;
how many teachers are very novices in the practic part of this Sugioplazice; and therefore are either borne down, or tossed up
with the vices of the time? whose miscarriages, would God it were as easy to remedy as to lament!
Lastly, what is skill in our weapon, without a Heart and Hand to use it ? Rabshakeh could say, Counsel and strength are for the war; 2 Kings xviii. 20. Strength without counsel is like a blind giant, and counsel without strength is like a quick-sighted cripple. If heart and eyes and limbs meet not, there can be no fight; but tu pulsas, ego vapulo. What are men in this case, but lepores galeati, or as sword-fishes, that have a weapon, but no heart? Hear the spirit of a right champion of heaven; I am ready, not to be bound only, but to die for the name of the Lord Jesus. Here was a man, fit to grapple with beasts. It is the word of the sluggish coward, There is a lion or a bear in the way. What if there be ? If thou wilt be a Sampson, a David, encounter them. There is no great glory to be looked for, but with hazard and difficulty. When the soldier said, “ The enemy is strong," it was bravely answered of the captain, “ The victory shall be so much more glorious.”
(2.) I have shewed you the man qualified; I shouid stay to shew you him Armed: armed with Authority without, with Resolution within: but I long to shew you the Fight.
2. A fight it must be; which I beseech you observe, in the first place. Neither doth he say, “ I played with beasts;" except you would have it in Joab's phrase: as neither did the beasts play with him, except, as Erasmus speaks, Ludus exit in rabiem. "He says not, “ I humoured their bestiality : I struck up a league or a truce with the rices of men.” No; St. Paul was far from this: he was at a perpetual defiance with the wickedness of the times; and, as that valiant commander said, would die fighting.
The world wanted not, of old, plausible spirits ; that, if an Ahab had a mind to go up against Ramoth, would say, Go up and prosper; and would have horns of iron, to push him forward. St. Paul was none of them: neither may we. He hath indeed bidden us, if it be possible, to have peace with all men; not with beasts. If wicked
about to glaver with us, Is it peace, Jehu ? we must return a short answer, and speak blows.
Far, far be it from us, to fawn upon vicious Greatness; to favour even Court-sins. If here we meet with bloody oaths, with scornful profaneness, with pride, with drunkenness; we must fly in the face of it with so much more fierceness, as the eminence of the sin may make it more dangerously exemplary : quò grandius nomen, eò grandius scandalum, as Bernard. Let the clearest water mix with the best earth, it makes but mire. If we be the true Sons of Thunder, even the tallest cedar-sins must be blasted with our lightning; and riven with our bolts. Cato would not, they say, have a dumb soldier: I am sure Christ will not.
Iloe be to us if we preach not the Gospel : yea, woe be to us, if we preach not the Law too; if we do not lash the guilt of the Great, with
the scorpions of Judgment. What stand we upon bulk ? if the sin be an elephant, harnessed, and carrying castles upon his back ; we must, with Eleazar, creep under his belly, and wound that vast enemy with the hazard of our own crushing. It is the charge of God, Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins ; Isaiah Iviii. 1. The words are emphatical : whereof the first signifies a straining of the throat with crying; and the next, the trumpet, implies a sound of war. This same bellum cum vitiis,“ with sins," must be dowoudos Tónemos, uncapable of so much as a truce; yea, as a respiration. As that undaunted soldier therefore held first, with his right hand; and, when that was cut off, with his left; and, when both were cut off, with his teeth: so must we resolve to do. That, which is the praise of the mastiffs of our nation, must be ours, To leave our life with our hold. Profecíò stabimus, et pugnabimus usque ad mortem ; “We will stand, and fight it ont to the very death ;” as Bernard speaks.
The manner of the Fight follows; and that must needs vary, according to the divers fashions of the onset. For all beasts assail not alike: one fights with his tusks; another, with his paws; another, with his horn; another, with his heel; another, with his sting: one rampeth upon us; another leaps in to us; a third either rusheth us down, or casts us upward ; a fourth galls us afar; a fifth wounds us unseen: one kills by biting; another, by striking; another, by piercing; another, by envenoming. According to these manifold changes of assaults, must the expert champion dispose of himself.
To speak morally : as these Men-beasts are either Beasts of Opinion or Beasts of Practice, and both of them maintain the fight either by close subtlety or by open violence; so did St. Paul's opposition suit them; so must ours, whether for defence or for offence.
The Beasts of Opinion were either idolatrous Ethnics, or refractory Jews: the one, worshipping Diana for their goddess; the other, refusing the true Messiah for their Saviour: the one, he beats with the down-right blows of right reason; the other, he hews with the two-edged sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. The Beasts of Practice he smites through with the darts of the Law; whereof Exod. xix. 13: If a beast touch the mount he shall be shot through. Their subtlety he declined by a wise evasion; their violence he repelled with an irresistible force. The particularities would be infinite: neither do any of you expect, that I should turn the pulpit into a Fence-school or a Paris-garden. Only let me reduce St. Paul's practice herein to some few useful rules; as to express his beast-combat, so to direct our own.
(1.) Whereof the first, to begin with the Beasts of Opinion, was and shall be, To fight still at the head. When he comes to the theatre of Ephesus, he deals not with collateral matters of a secondary nature, but flies upon the main heads of the highest contradiction; whether one true God only should be worshipped; whether Christ should be acknowledged for the Messiah. No
doubt, Ephesus was full of curious and nice scruples : the wise Apostle waves all these; and, as some magnanimous mastiff, that scorts to set upon every cur that barks at him in the
way, serves himself for these lions and tigers of error. Oh, how happy were it for Christendom, if we, that profess to sit at St. Paul's feet, as he at Gamaliel's, could learn this wit of him! It is true, which Chromatius hath, Non sunt parva quæ Dei sunt; “ None of God's matters are slight:" but yet, there is a difference; and that would be observed. The working brains of subtle man have been apt to mince divinity into infinite atoms of speculation ; and every one of those speculations breeds many questions, and every question breeds troubles in the Church : like as every corn of powder flies off, and fires his fellow. Hence are those papai, &c. foolish and unlearned disquisitions ; 2 Tim. ii. 23. that have set the whole Christian World together by the ears. Ex utraque parte sunt qui pug. nare cupiunt, as Tully said of his time; “ There are enough on both sides that would fight.” The main fort of religion is worth, not our sweat, but our blood : thus must we strive pro aris: só even heresy shall be found, as Chrysostom observes, not more dangerous than profitable. But, if it be only matter of rite or of unimporting consequence, (de venis capillaribus, as he said) Oh, what madness is it in us, to draw the world into sides, and to pour out the souls of God's people like water! What is this, but as if some generous bandog should leave the bear or lion, prima forine feram, which he comes to bait, and run after a mouse? Melancthon cites and approves that saying of Dionysius of Corinth in Eusebius, That schism is no less sin than idolatry. And, if the fish be the better, where the seas are most unquiet; I am sure the souls are worse, where the Church is tumultuous. I cannot skill of these swan's eggs, that are never hatched without thunder; nor of that unnatural brood, that eats through the dam, to make passage into the light of reputation. Oh, for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace ! Justly did Agesilaus lament the state of Greece, that had lost as many soldiers in domestic wars, as might have made them masters of the world. Let me say, Had all our swords and pens been happily bent against the common enemy of Christendom, long ago had that Mahometan moon waned to nothing, and given way to the glorious Sun of the Gospel.
Our second rule must be, When we do smite, to strike home. It is St. Paul's: I so fight, on ass d'égee dégar as not beating the air; 1 Cor. ix. 26. Here is not a blow lost'; non verberat ictibus auras. How doth he cut the throat of the Ephesian beast, Idolatry, while he
argues, They are not gods that are made with hands ! All the silversmiths of Diana cannot hammer out a reply to this charge. It is no flourishing, when we come to this combat. Weak proofs betray good causes. Demonstrations must have place here, not probabilities. How powerfully doth he convince the unbelieving Jews of Ephesus and Rome, out of Moses and the prophets ; Acts xxviii. 23! This, this is the weapon, whereby our Grand Captain vanquished the great challenger of the bottomless pit, Scriptum est.