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neither excluded, nor confined? All is in the affection of the supplicant.
As it is, therefore, in the occasions of the present life, let a lor. ing wife hold her husband truly dear to her, she will as heartily, if not more, pray for him when he is in the farthest Indies, as when he is in the next harbour; so it is in respect of the estate of the other life: distance of place breaks no square. If prayers could help the departed soul, the Israelites in Goshen can be no less zea. lously mindful of their progenitors, than if they lived in Mamre, within sight of their graves. So as little need is there for this cause to press near to the altar: neither doth it more help the soul, to shroud the body in a Franciscan's cowl, than to intomb it within the air of the unwarranted and thankless sacrifices.
As for the practice of praying for the dead, there hath been of old some use of it, but not the Romish; that is, not with an intuition to their feigned Purgatory; for that in hand, Bellarmin hath stated it thus: The question is, What dead men are helped by our prayers? “ It is certain,” saith he, “that they profit not either the blessed or the damned souls; the former need them not, the latter cannot be aided by them.” Solùm iis prosunt, qui sunt in purgatorio, is his conclusion: and let them keep that breath to blow that fire. For us, we know that the blood of JESUS CHRIST is that, which purgeth us from all our sins: to that, shall be our only recourse. As for our prayers, let us bestow them upon the living: and let them be no other, when we refer to the dead, than the congratulations of their joys present; and the testimonies of our hope and desire of their future resurrection, and consummation of bles sedness, together with all the glorious Saints of heaven. To the happy participation whereof, that good God, who hath ordained, as mercifully bring them and us, for the sake of the Dear Son of his Love, Jesus Christ the Righteous: To whom, with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, One Glorious and Incomprehensible God, be ascribed, as is most due, all honour, praise, and glory, now and for evermore.
DIVINE LIGHT, AND REFLECTIONS.
IN A SERMON PREACHED TO HIS MAJESTY, AT WHITE-HALL, ON WHITE
BY JOSEPH EXON.
1 JOHN i. 5.
God is Light.
ye mark it, your very Calendar, so as the wisdom of the Church hath contrived it, is a notable Catechism. And, surely, if the plain man would but ply his Almanack well, that alone would teach him Gospel enough, to show him the history of his Saviour. If one day teach another, all days would teach him. There should he see his Blessed Saviour's conception annunciated by the angel : March 25. Forty weeks after that, he should see him born of the Virgin accordingly at the Feast of the Nativity : eight days after that, circumcised; on New Year's Day : then, visited and adored by the sages ; in the Epiphany: then, presented into the Temple; on the Day of Purification: then, tempted and fasting forty days; in Lent. He should see him ushered in by his fore-runner, the holy Baptist; six months before his Nativity: attended by his twelve Apostles, in their several ranks; and Thomas the last, for his unbelief. And, at last, after infinite and beneficial miracles, he should see him making his Maundy with his disciples, on the Thursday; and crucified, on Good Friday: he should see, that, on Easter Morning, God the Father raises up his Son Jesus from the dead; Acts v. 30 : on Ascension Day, God the Son mounts up to heaven in glory ; Acts i. 9: on Whitsunday, God the Holy Ghost descends upon the Apostles; Acts ij. 3, 4 : and his belief in all these, summed up in the celebration of the Blessed Trinity ; the Sunday following
I shall not over-labour to reduce the Text to the day. Fire and light have so near affinity, that they are scarce ever separated. The same Spirit of God, who appeared, as this day, in the shape of fiery tongues, to the disciples, may he now please, by my tongue, to manifest himself to your souls in light. And, as that fire was very lightsome, else it could not have been seen in the
day-time; so may this exhibition of light be accompanied with a fire of holy zeal, both in my tongue and your hearts.
In my last Sermon at the Court, I gave you the Character of Man: I shall now endeavour to give you some touches of the Character of God.
There is nothing in this world so much concerns a man, as to settle his heart in a right apprehension of his God; which must be the ground of all his piety and devotion : without which, all his pretences of religion are so nothing worth, as that in them God is made our idol, and we the mis-worshippers of him : without which, shortly, our whole life is mispent in error and ignorance, and ends in a miserable discomfort. Whence it is, that this dear disciple makes it the sum of all the apostolical mission, which he had from his Lord and Saviour, to inform the world what to think of God: This then is the message, which we have heard of him, and declare to you, that God is Light. Would ye know the message, which the Apostles received from Christ? would ye know the message, which they delivered from Christ to the world ? it is in these three syllables of my Text, God is Light.
It is not possible, that our finite conceit should comprehend God essentially, as he is in himself. No notion of our weak humanity can thus reach his infiniteness. Our ambition must be only to conceive of him, according to those expressions, which he hath made of himself: wherein it hath pleased his wisdom to condescend to our shallow capacity, by borrowing from those creatures, which come nearest to his most pure, simple, spiritual nature : amongst which, none is more proper or more frequent, than this of Light.
Not only, therefore, hath it pleased God to express those heavenly spirits of his by the title of Angeli Lucis; Angels of Light : not only hath the Son of God, God and Man, justified himself Lur Mundi; the Light of the World: but God, absolutely and indistinctly in respect of persons, vouchsafeth to inakė himself known to us by this name, that God is Light. Hereupon it is, that, even in this sense, the children of God are called the Sons of Light; because He is Light, whose sons they are. But that of the Nicene * Creed is most pregnant, 'That the eternal Son of God, God the Son, is “God of God; Light of Light.” Neither doth our Apostle here say, God is resembled by Light: but, as our Saviour said of God, God is a Spirit ; so here, our Apostle, God is Light. How then is God Light?
Far be it from us, that, according to the stupidity of the Manichees, we should take this literally of a sensible and material Light. That is but a creature; though indeed the first, and exceeding glorious : but yet a creature; and therefore infinitely below the purity and perfection of the Creator.
But, sure, God would have us by this, to be led to the conceit of the transcendant glory of his incomprehensible Deity; and would
The original has “ Athanasian” here, but manifestly by mistake. EDITOR,
have us, when we think of him, to be put in mind of admiring an
Away then with all dull and darksome imaginations, when we
And, surely, as none, but an eagle, can look upon the light of the sun; so none, but the confirmed eyes of an illuminated Christian, can behold God in this notion of his celestial splendour : which we must so labour to attain unto and settle in our minds, as that we should no more think of the Blessed Deity, without the conceit of an infinite resplendence; than we can open our eyes at noon-day, without an incurrence and admission of an outward light.
But this, however requisite to be conceived and done, is not the main drift of our Apostle : who goes not about here, so much to
make any description of God, or prescription of the ways of our understanding, or representation of his glorious presence ; as to lay the grounds of our holy disposition, and pure and heavenly carriage before him. For, so is the Light here affirmed of God, as the darkness is disavowed of him: and both of them are mentioned, with an intention of drawing in an exhortation to that purity, which we should affect; and the avoidance of all the state and works of spiritual darkness, which we should abhor. God then is Light, as in himself; so in relation to us: and this predication of Light serves to infer our conformity to God in this behalf.
It is not for us therefore, to inquire so much into those absolute terms, wherein God stands with himself; as what he is in pattern unto us. Thus, is he Light, either qualitatively, or causatively.
The light bath a Quality (for it matters not to search into the essence of it, and indeed it is more than we can do to find it out) of clearness, of purity: of clearness, for the use of manifestation ; of purity and untaintedness, in respect of any mixture of corruption. In both these is God Light. Causatively, in that he is the Author of all Light; communicating it to his creatures, in what kind soever: not without reference to the diffusive quality of light in the illuminating of this vast body, and dilating itself to all the world in an instant. In these three regards therefore is God Light here: 1, of absolute clearness, in his infinite knowledge and wis dom; 2. of exact purity, in the perfect rectitude of his will; 3. of gracious diffusion, in the communicating of himself to his creatures, and to us in special; so, as to enlighten us with competent knowledge in our understanding, and sincere disposition of our will and affections. And, because God is thus Light, all, that will claim to partake of him, must be, in their measure, clear in understanding, pure in will and affections, diffusive of their know, ledge and graces to others.
These THREE QUALITIES OF CLEARNESS, PURITY, DIFFUSION, together with THREE ANSWERABLE REFLECTIONS UPON US shall be the matter of our following discourse, and challenge your best attention,
I. Those things, which, whether in nature or art, are wont to pass for the carriages of light, have in them, sometimes, at least in respect of our sight, some kind of dimness and opacity. The candle hath his snuff; the fire, his smoke, and blackness of indigestion; the moon, her spots; the very sun itself, his eclipses. Neither is it said, that God is lightsome, but light itself in the abstract; than which nothing can be convinced more clear and piercing; and, therefore, it is purposely added, for the further emphasis, In him is no darkness. Oh the infinite CLEARNESS of the Divine knowledge, to which all things lie open, both past, present, and to come! which doth not only reach in one intuition to all the actions, motions, events of all creatures that have been, are, shall be; but, which is infinitely more than all these, extends to the full comprehension of himself, his whole Divine nature and essence; to which the world, though full of innumerable varieties,