Obrazy na stronie

and solemn formalities; we make the church a stage whereon to act our parts, and play our pageantry; there we make a profession every day of confessing our sins with humble, lowly, and obedient hearts; and yet, when we have talked after this manner, twenty, thirty, forty years to gether, our hearts for the most part continue as proud, as impenitent, as disobedient, as they were in the beginning. We make great protestations, "When we assemble and meet together to render thanks to God Almighty, for the benefits received at his hands;" and if this were to be performed with words, with hosannas and hallelujahs, and gloria patris, and psalms, and hymns, and suchlike outward matters, peradventure we should do it very sufficiently; but, in the mean time, with our lives and actions we provoke the Almighty, and that to his face, with all variety of grievous and bitter provocations; we do daily and hourly such things as we know, and he hath assured us, to be as odious unto him, and contrary to his nature, as any thing in the world is to the nature of any man in the world; and all this upon poor, trifling, trivial, no temptations. If a man, whom you have dealt well with, should deal so with you, one whom you had redeemed from the Turkish slavery, and instated in some indifferent good inhe, ritance, should make you fine speeches, entertain. you with panegyrics, and have your praises always in his mouth; but all this while do nothing that pleases you, but upon all occasions, put all affronts and indignities upon you: would you say this were a thankful man? Nay, would you not make heaven and earth ring of his unthankfulness, and detest him almost as much for his fair

[ocr errors]


speeches, as his foul actions? Beloved, such is our unthankfulness to our God and Creator, to our Lord and Saviour: our tongues ingeminate, and cry aloud, Hosanna, hosanna; but the louder voice of our lives and actions is, Crucify him, crucify him." We court God Almighty, and compliment with him, and profess to esteem his service perfect freedom; but if any thing be to be done, much more, if any thing be to be suffered for him, here we leave him. We bow the knee before him, and put a reed in his hand, and a crown upon his head, and cry, "Hail, King of the Jews:" but then, with our customary sins, we give him gall to eat, and vinegar to drink; we thrust a spear in his side, nail him to the cross, and crucify to ourselves the Lord of glory. This is not the office of a friend to bewail a dead friend with vain lamentations; Sed quæ voluerit meminisse, quæ mandaverit erequi-to remember what he desires, and execute what he commands. So said a dying Roman to his friend, and so say I to you. To be thankful to God, is not to say, God be praised, or, God be thanked; but to remember what he desires, and execute what he commands. To be thankful to God, is certainly to love him, and to love him is to keep his commandments: so saith our Saviour (John xix.) "If ye love me, keep my commandments." If we do so, we may justly pretend to thankfulness; which, believe me, is not a word, nor to be performed with words: but, if we do not so, as generally we do not, our talk of thankfulness is nothing else but mere talk, and we accomplish St. Paul's prophecy herein also; having a form of thankfulness, but not the reality, nor the power of it.

If I should reckon up unto you, how many direct lies every wicked man tells to God Almighty, as often as he says Amen to this "form of godliness," which our church hath prescribed; if I should present unto you all our acting of piety, and playing of humiliation, and personating of devotion, in the psalms, the litanies, the collects, and generally in the whole service, I should be infinite; and, therefore, I have thought good to draw a veil over a great part of our hypocrisy, and to restrain the remainder of our discourse to the contrariety between our profession and performance, only in two things; I mean, faith and repentance.

And, First, For faith: we profess, and indeed generally, because it is not safe to do otherwise, that we believe the Scripture to be true, and that it contains, the plain and only way to infinite and eternal happiness; but if we did generally believe what we do profess, if this were the language of our hearts, as well as our tongues, how comes it to pass, that the study of it is so generally neglected?

Let a book, that treats of the philosopher's stone, promise never so many mountains of gold, and even the restoring of the golden age again, yet were it no marvel, if few should study it; and the reason is, because few would believe it. But if there were a book extant, and ordinary to be had, as the Bible is, which men did generally believe to contain a plain and easy way for all men to become rich, and to live in health and pleasure, and this world's happiness; can any man imagine, that this book would be unstudied by any man? And why then should I not believe,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

that, if the Scripture were firmly and heartily believed the certain and only way to happiness, which is perfect and eternal, it would be studied by all men with all diligence? Seeing, therefore, most Christians are so cold and negligent in the study of it, prefer all other business, all other pleasures, before it; is there not great reason to fear, that many, who pretend to believe firmly, believe it not at all, or very weakly and faintly? If the general of an army, or an ambassador to some prince or state, were assured by the king his master, that the transgressing any point of his commission should cost him his life; and the exact performance of it be recompensed with as high a reward as were in the king's power to bestow upon him; can it be imagined, that any man, who believes this, and is in his right mind, can be so supinely and stupidly negligent of this charge, which so much imports him, as to oversee, through want of care, any one necessary article, or part of his commission; especially, if it be delivered to him in writing, and at his pleasure to peruse it every day? Certainly this absurd negligence is a thing without example, and such as peradventure will never happen to any sober man to the world's end; and, by the same reason, if we were firmly persuaded, that this book doth indeed contain that charge and commission, which infinitely more concerns us, it were not in reason possible, but that to such a persuasion, our care and diligence about it should be in some measure answerable. Seeing, therefore, most of us are so strangely careless, so grossly negligent of it, is there not great reason to fear, that though we have professors and protestors, in abundance, yet the faithful, the truly and

sincerely faithful, are, in a manner, failed from the children of men? What but this can be the cause, that men are so commonly ignorant of so many articles, and particular mandates of it, which yet are as manifest in it, as if they were written with the beams of the sun? For example, how few of our ladies and gentlewomen do or will understand, that a voluptuous life is damnable and prohibited to them? Yet St. Paul saith so very plainly, "She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth."* I believe this case directly regards not the sex: he would say, he, as well as she, if there had been occasion. How few of the gallants of our time do or will understand, that it is not lawful for them to be as expensive and costly in apparel, as their means, or perhaps their credit, will extend unto? Which is to sacrifice unto vanity, that which by the law of Christ is due unto charity; and yet, the same St. Paul forbids plainly this excess even to women-" Also let women (he would have said it much rather to the men) array themselves in comely apparel, with shamefacedness and modesty, not with embroidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly apparel." And, to make our ignorance the more inexcusable, the very same rule is delivered by St. Paul also, 1 Epist. iii. 3.

How few rich men are or will be persuaded, that the law of Christ permits them not to heap up riches for ever, nor perpetually to add house to house, and land to land, though by lawful means; but requires of them thus much charity at least, that ever, while they are providing for their wives and children, they should, out of the

1 Tim. ii. 9.

1 Tim. v. 6.

« PoprzedniaDalej »