CMF eZine The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship. 20 April The Benefits of an Early Piety By George Whitefield Sermon 0 Comment The Benefits of an Early Piety Preached at Bow Church, London, before the Religious Societies. Eccles. 12:1 Remember now thy Creator in the Days of thy Youth. THE amiableness of religion in itself, and the innumerable advantages that flow from it to society in general, as well as to each sincere professor in particular, cannot but recommend it to the choice of every considerate person, and make, even wicked men, as they wish to die the death, so in their more sober intervals, to envy the life of the righteous. And, indeed, we must do the world so much justice, as to confess, that the question about religion does not usually arise from a dispute whether it be necessary or not (for most men see the necessity of doing something for the salvation of their souls;) but when is the best time to set about it. Persons are convinced by universal experience, that the first essays or endeavours towards the attainment of religion, are attended with some difficulty and trouble, and therefore they would willingly defer the beginning of such a seemingly ungrateful work, as long as they can. The wanton prodigal, who is spending his substance in riotous living, cries, a little more pleasure, a little more sensuality, and then I will be sober in earnest. The covetous worldling, that employs all his care and pains in "heaping up riches, though he cannot tell who shall gather them," does not flatter himself that this will do always; but hopes with the rich fool in the gospel, to lay up goods for a few more years on earth, and then he will begin to lay up treasures in heaven. And, in short, thus it is that most people are convinced of the necessity of being religious some time or another; but then, like Felix, they put off the acting suitably to their convictions, ’till, what they imagine, a more convenient season: whereas, would we be so humble as to be guided by the experience and counsel of the wisest men, we should learn that youth is the fittest season for religion; "Remember now thy creator, (says Solomon) in the days of thy youth." By the word remember, we are not to understand a bare speculative remembrance, or calling to mind, (for that, like a dead faith, will profit us nothing,) but such a remembrance as will constrain us to obedience, and oblige us out of gratitude, to perform all that the Lord our God shall require of us. For as the forgetting God in scripture language, implies a total neglect of our duty, in like manner remembring him signifies a perfect performance of it: so that, when Solomon says, "Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth," it is the same as if he had said, keep God’s commandments; or, in other words, be religious in the days of thy youth, thereby implying, that youth is the most proper season for it. I shall in the following discourse, First, Endeavour to make good the wise man’s proposition, implied in the word of the text, and to shew that youth is the fittest season for religion. Secondly, By way of motive, I shall consider the many unspeakable advantages that will arise from, "Remembering our Creator in the days of our youth." And, Thirdly, I shall conclude with a word or two of exhortation to the younger part of this audience. First, I am to make good the wise man’s proposition, implied in the words of the text, and to shew that youth is the fittest season for religion: "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth". But to proceed more clearly in this argument, it may not be improper, first, to explain what I mean by the word religion. By this term, then, I would not be understood to mean a bare outward profession or naming the name of Christ; for we are told, that many who have even prophesied in his name, and in his name cast out devils, shall notwithstanding be rejected by him at the last day: nor would I understand by it, barely being admitted into Christ’s church by baptism; for then Simon Magus, Arius, and the heresiarchs of old, might pass for religious persons; for these were baptized: nor yet the receiving the other seal of the covenant, for then Judas himself might be canonized for a saint; nor indeed do I mean any or all of these together, considered by themselves; but a thorough, real, inward change of nature, wrought in us by the powerful operations of the Holy Ghost, conveyed to and nourished in our hearts, by a constant use of all the means of grace, evidenced by a good life, and bringing forth the fruits of the spirit. The attaining this real, inward religion, is a work of so great difficulty, that Nicodemus, a learned doctor and teacher in Israel, thought it altogether impossible, and therefore ignorantly asked our blessed Lord, "How this thing could be?" And, truly, to rectify a disordered nature, to mortify our corrupt passions, to turn darkness to light, to put off the old man, and put on the new, and thereby to have the image of God reinstamped upon the soul, or, in one word, "to be born again," however light some may make of it, must, after all our endeavours, be owned by man to be impossible. It is true, indeed, Christ’s yoke is said to be an easy or a gracious yoke, and his burthen light; but then it is to those only to whom grace has been given to bear and draw in it. For, as the wise son of Sirach observes, "At first wisdom walked with her children in crooked ways, and brings them into fear; and torments them with her discipline, and does not turn to comfort and rejoice them, ’till she has tried them and proved their judgment." No; we must not slatter ourselves that we shall walk in wisdom’s pleasant ways, unless we first submit to a great many difficulties. The spiritual birth is attended with its pangs, as well as the natural: for they that have experienced it, (and they only are the proper judges,) can acquaint you, that in all things that are dear to corrupt nature, we must deny ourselves, lest, after all, when we come to the birth, we should want strength to bring forth. But if these things are so; if there are difficulties and pang, attending our being born again; if we must deny ourselves, what season more proper than that of youth? When, if ever, our bodies are robust and vigorous, and our minds active and couragious; and, consequently, we are then best qualified to endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. We find, in secular matters, people commonly observe this method, and send their children abroad among the toils and farigues of business, in their younger years, as well knowing they are then fittest to undergo them. And why do they not act with the same consistency in the grand affair of religion? Because, as our Saviour has told us, "The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light." But, Secondly, If pure and undefiled religion consists in the renewal of our corrupted natures, then it is not only a work of difficulty, but, the perfection of it, of time. And if this be the case, then it highly concerns every one to set about it betimes, and to "work their work while it is day, before the night cometh, when no man can work." Could we, indeed, live to the age of Metbuselab, and had but little business to employ ourselves in, we might then be more excusable, if we made no other use of this world, than what too many do, take our pastime therein: but since our lives are so very short, and we are called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, we have no room left for trifling, left we should be snatched away white our lamps are untrimmed, and we are entirely unprepared to meet the Bridegroom. Did we know a friend or neighbour, who had a long journey of the utmost importance to make, and yet should stand all the day idle, neglecting to set out till the sun was about to go down, we could not but pity and condemn his egregious folly. And yet it is to be feared most men are just such fools; they have a long journey to take, nay, a journey to eternity, a journey of infinite importance, and which they a obliged to dispatch before the sun of their natural life be gone down; and yet they loiter away the time allotted them to perform their journey in, till sickness or death surprizes them; and then they cry out, "What shall we do to inherit eternal life?" But leaving such to the mercies of God in Christ, who can call at the eleventh hour, I pass on to The Second general thing proposed, To shew the advantages that will arise from remembering our Creator in the days of our youth; which may serve as so many motives to excite and quicken all persons immediately to set about it. And the first benefit resulting from thence is, that it will bring most honour and glory to God. This, I suppose, every serious person will grant, ought to be the point in which our actions should centre; for to this end were we born, and to this end were we redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, that we should promote God’s eternal glory. And as the glory of God is most advanced by paying obedience to his precepts, they that begin soonest to walk in his ways, act most to his glory. The common objection against the divine laws in general, and the doctrines of the gospel in particular, is, that they are not practicable; that they are contrary to flesh and blood; and that all those precepts concerning self-denial, renunciation of and deadness to the world, are but so many arbitrary restraints imposed upon human nature: but when we see mere striplings not only practising, but delighting in such religious duties, and in the days of their youth, when, if ever, they have a relish for sensual pleasures, subduing and despising the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life; this, this is pleasing to God; this vindicates his injured honour; this shews that his service is perfect freedom, "that his yoke is easy, and his burden light." But, Secondly, as an early piety redounds most to the honour of God, so it will bring most honour to ourselves: for those that honour God, God will honour. We find it, therefore, remarked to the praise of Obadiah, that he served the Lord from his youth: of Samuel, that he stood, when young, before God in a linen ephod: of Timothy, that from a child he had known the holy scriptures: of St. John, that he was the youngest and most beloved disciple: and of our blessed Lord himself, that at twelve years old he went up to the temple, and sat among the doctors, both hearing and asking them questions. Nor, Thirdly, will an early piety afford us less comfort than honour, not only because it renders religion habitual to us, but also because it gives us a well-grounded assurance of the sincerity of our prosession. Was there no other argument against a death-bed repentance, but the unsatisfactoriness and anxiety of such a state, that should be sufficient to deter all thinking persons from deferring the most important business of their life to such a dreadful period of it. For supposing a man to be sincere in his prosession of repentance on a death-bed (which, in most cases, is very much to be doubted) yet, he is often afraid lest his convictions and remorse proceed not from a true sorrow for sin, but a servile fear of punishment. But one, who is a young saint, need fear no such perplexity; he knows that he loves God for his own sake, and is not driven to him by a dread of impending evil; he does not decline the gratifications of sense, because he can no longer "hear the voice of singing men and singing women;" but willingly takes up his cross, and follows his blessed Master in his youth, and therefore has reason to expect greater confidence of his sincerity towards God. But farther, as an early piety assures the heart of its sincerity, so, likewise, it brings its present reward with it, as it renders religion and all its duties habitual and easy. A young saint, was you to ask him, would joyfully tell you the unspeakable comfort of beginning to be religious betimes: as for his part, he knows not what men mean by talking of mortification, self-denial, and retirement, as hard and rigorous duties; for he has so accustomed himself to them, that, by the grace of God, they are now become even natural, and he takes infinitely more pleasure in practising the severest precepts of the gospel, than a luxurious Dives in a bed of state, or an ambitious Haman at a royal banquet. And O how happy must that youth be, whose duty is become a second nature, and to whom those things, which seem terrible to others, are grown both easy and delightful! But the greatest advantage of an early piety is still behind, Fourthly, It lays in the best provision of comfort and support against such times as we shall stand most in need thereof, viz. all times of our tribulation, and in particular, against the time of old age, the hour of death, and the day of judgment. This is the argument the wise man makes use of in the words immediately following the text: "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, wherein thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them." Observe, the time of old age, is an evil time, years wherein there is no pleasure: and ask those that are grown old, and they will inform you so. Cordials surely, then, must be exceeding proper to support our drooping spirits: and O what cordial comparable to the recollection of early piety, depending wholly on the righteousness of Christ? When the eyes, like Isaac’s, are grown dim with age; when "the keepers of the house, the hands, shall tremble," as the wise man goes on to describe the infirmities of old age; when "the strong men bow themselves," or the legs grow feeble; and the "grinders," the teeth, shall cease to do their proper office, because they are few; for a person then to hear the precepts of the gospel read over to him, and to be able to lay his hand on his heart, and to say sincerely, notwithstanding a consciousness of number-less short-comings, "All these have I endeavoured, through grace, to keep from my youth:" this must give him, through Christ who worketh all, comfort that I want words to express and thoughts to conceive. But, supposing it was possible for us to escape the inconveniences of old age, yet still death is a debt, since the fall, we all must pay; and, what is worse, it generally comes attended with such dreadful circumstances, that it will make even a Felix to tremble. But as for the godly, that have been enabled to serve the Lord from their youth, it is not usually so with them; no, they have faith given them to look upon death, not as a king of terrors, but as a welcome messenger, that is come to conduct them to their wished-for home. All the days of their appointed time have they waited, and it has been the business of their whole lives to study to prepare themselves for the coming of their great change; and, therefore, they rejoice to hear that they are called to meet the heavenly Bridegroom. Thus dies the early pious, whose "path has been as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." But follow him beyond the grave, and see with what an holy triumph he enters into his Master’s joy; with what an humble boldness he stands at the dreadful tribunal of Jesus Christ; and can you then forbear to cry out, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my latter end, and future state, be like his?" Need I then, after having shewn so many advantages to arise from an early piety, use any more arguments to persuade the younger part of this audience, to whom, in the Third and last place, I address myself, to "remember their Creator in the days of their youth?" What! will not all the arguments I have mentioned, prevail with them to leave their husks, and return home to eat of the fatted calf? What! will they thus requite our Saviour’s love? That be far from them! Did he come down and shed his precious blood to deliver them from the power of sin; and will they spend their youthful strength and vigour in the service of it, and then think to serve Christ, when they can follow their lusts no longer? Is it fit, that many, who are endowed with excellent gifts, and are thereby qualified to be supports and ornaments of our sinking church, should, notwithstanding, forget the God who gave them, and employ them in things that will not profit? O why will they not arise, and, like so many Phineas’s, be zealous for the Lord of Hosts? Doubtless, when death overtakes them, they will wish they had: and what hinders them, but that they begin now? Think you that any one yet ever repented that he began to be religious too soon? But how many, on the contrary, have repented that they began when almost too late? May we not well imagine, that young Samuel now rejoices that he waited so soon at the tabernacle of the Lord? Or young Timothy, that from a child he knew the holy scriptures? And if you wish to be partakers of their joy, let me persuade you to be partakers of their piety. I could still go on to fill my mouth with arguments; but the circumstances and piety of those amongst whom I am now preaching "the kingdom of God," remind me to change my style; and, instead of urging any more dissuasives from sin, to fill up what is behind of this discourse, with encouragements to persevere in holiness. Blessed, for ever blessed be the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, I am not speaking to persons inflamed with youthful lusts, but to a multitude of young professors, who by frequently assembling together, and forming themselves into religious societies, are, I hope on good ground, in a ready way to be of the number of those "young men, who have overcome the wicked-one." Believe me, it gladdens my very soul, to see so many of your faces set heaven-wards, and the visible happy effects of your uniting together, cannot but rejoice the hearts of all sincere christians, and oblige them to wish you good luck in the name of the Lord. The many souls who are nourished weekly with the spiritual body and blood of Jesus Christ, by your means; the weekly and monthly lectures that are preached by your contributions; the daily incense of thanksgiving and prayer which is publicly sent up to the throne of grace by your subscriptions; the many children which are trained up "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, by your charities; and, lastly, the commendable and pious zeal you exert in promoting and encouraging divine psalmody, are such plain and apparent proofs of the benefit of your religious societies, that they call for a public acknowledgment of praise and thanksgiving to our blessed Master, who has not only put into your hearts such good designs, but enabled you also to bring the same to good effect. It is true it has been objected, "That young mens forming themselves into religious societies, has a tendency to make them spiritually proud, and to ‘think more highly of themselves than they ought to think." And, perhaps, the imprudent, imperious behaviour of some novices in religion, who, "though they went out from you, were not of you," may have given too much occasion for such an aspersion. But you, brethren, have not so learned Christ. Far, far be it from you to look upon yourselves, as righteous, and despise others, because you often assemble yourselves together. No; this, instead of creating pride, ought to beget an holy fear in your hearts, lest your practice should not correspond with your profession, and that, after you have benefited and edified others, you yourselves should become cast-aways. Worldly-mindedness, my brethren, is another rock against which we are in danger of splitting. For, if other sins have slain their thousands of professing christians, this has slain its ten thousands. I need not appeal to past ages; your own experience, no doubt, has furnished you with many unhappy instances of young men, who, "after (as one would have imagined) they had escaped the pollutions which are in the world through lust," and "had tasted the good word of life," and endured for a season, whilst under the tuition and inspection of others: yet, when they have come to be their own masters, through a want of saith, and through too great an earnestness in "labouring for the meat which perisheth," have cast off their first love, been again entangled with the world, and "returned like the dog to his vomit, and like the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire." You would, therefore, do well, my brethren, frequently to remind each other of this dangerous snare, and to exhort one another to begin, pursue, and end your christian warfare, in a thorough renunciation of the world, and worldly tempers; so that, when you are obliged by Providence to provide for yourselves, and those of your respective housholds, you may continue to walk by faith, and still "seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;" not doubting, but all other things, upon your honest industry and endeavours, shall be added unto you. And now, what shall I say more? To speak unto you, fathers, who have been in Christ so many years before me, and know the malignity of worldly-mindedness, and pride in the spiritual life, would be altogether needless. To you, therefore, O young men, (for whom I am distressed, for whom I fear as well as for myself) do I once more address myself, in the words of the beloved disciple, "Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but receive a full reward." Be ever mindful, then, of the words that have been spoken to us by the apostles of the Lord and Saviour. "Give diligence to make your calling and election sure. Beware, lest ye also being led away by the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall. Be not high-minded, but fear. But we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous, to forget your works and labours of love. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them, who through saith and patience inherit the promises." It is true, we have many difficulties to encounter, many powerful enemies to overcome, ere we can get possession of the promised land. We have an artful devil, an ensnaring world, and above all, the treachery of our own hearts, to withstand and strive against. "For strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto eternal life." But wherefore should we fear, since he that is with us is far more powerful, than all who are against us? Have we not already experienced his almighty power, in enabling us to conquer some difficulties which seemed as insurmountable then, as those we struggle with now? And cannot he, who delivered us out of the paws of those bears and lions, preserve us also from being hurt by the strongest Goliah? "Be stedfast therefore, my brethren, be immoveable." Be not "ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation." Fear not man; fear not the contempt and revilings which you must meet with in the way of duty; for one of you shall chase a thousand; and two of you put ten thousand of your enemies to flight. And if you will be contented, through grace, to suffer for a short time here; I speak the truth in Christ, I lye not; then may ye hope, according to the blessed word of promise, that ye shall be exalted to sit down with the Son of Man, when he shall come in the glory of his Father, with his holy angels, to judgment hereafter. May Almighty God give every one of us such a measure of his grace, that we may not be of the number of those that draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe and endure unto the end, to the saving of our souls, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Which God, &c. Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain) The Benefits of an Early Piety Preached at Bow Church, London, before the Religious Societies. Eccles. 12:1 Remember now thy Creator in the Days of thy Youth. THE amiableness of religion in itself, and the innumerable advantages that flow from it to society in general, as well as to each sincere professor in particular, cannot but recommend it to the choice of every considerate person, and make, even wicked men, as they wish to die the death, so in their more sober intervals, to envy the life of the righteous. And, indeed, we must do the world so much justice, as to confess, that the question about religion does not usually arise from a dispute whether it be necessary or not (for most men see the necessity of doing something for the salvation of their souls;) but when is the best time to set about it. Persons are convinced by universal experience, that the first essays or endeavours towards the attainment of religion, are attended with some difficulty and trouble, and therefore they would willingly defer the beginning of such a seemingly ungrateful work, as long as they can. The wanton prodigal, who is spending his substance in riotous living, cries, a little more pleasure, a little more sensuality, and then I will be sober in earnest. The covetous worldling, that employs all his care and pains in "heaping up riches, though he cannot tell who shall gather them," does not flatter himself that this will do always; but hopes with the rich fool in the gospel, to lay up goods for a few more years on earth, and then he will begin to lay up treasures in heaven. And, in short, thus it is that most people are convinced of the necessity of being religious some time or another; but then, like Felix, they put off the acting suitably to their convictions, ’till, what they imagine, a more convenient season: whereas, would we be so humble as to be guided by the experience and counsel of the wisest men, we should learn that youth is the fittest season for religion; "Remember now thy creator, (says Solomon) in the days of thy youth." By the word remember, we are not to understand a bare speculative remembrance, or calling to mind, (for that, like a dead faith, will profit us nothing,) but such a remembrance as will constrain us to obedience, and oblige us out of gratitude, to perform all that the Lord our God shall require of us. For as the forgetting God in scripture language, implies a total neglect of our duty, in like manner remembring him signifies a perfect performance of it: so that, when Solomon says, "Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth," it is the same as if he had said, keep God’s commandments; or, in other words, be religious in the days of thy youth, thereby implying, that youth is the most proper season for it. I shall in the following discourse, First, Endeavour to make good the wise man’s proposition, implied in the word of the text, and to shew that youth is the fittest season for religion. Secondly, By way of motive, I shall consider the many unspeakable advantages that will arise from, "Remembering our Creator in the days of our youth." And, Thirdly, I shall conclude with a word or two of exhortation to the younger part of this audience. First, I am to make good the wise man’s proposition, implied in the words of the text, and to shew that youth is the fittest season for religion: "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth". But to proceed more clearly in this argument, it may not be improper, first, to explain what I mean by the word religion. By this term, then, I would not be understood to mean a bare outward profession or naming the name of Christ; for we are told, that many who have even prophesied in his name, and in his name cast out devils, shall notwithstanding be rejected by him at the last day: nor would I understand by it, barely being admitted into Christ’s church by baptism; for then Simon Magus, Arius, and the heresiarchs of old, might pass for religious persons; for these were baptized: nor yet the receiving the other seal of the covenant, for then Judas himself might be canonized for a saint; nor indeed do I mean any or all of these together, considered by themselves; but a thorough, real, inward change of nature, wrought in us by the powerful operations of the Holy Ghost, conveyed to and nourished in our hearts, by a constant use of all the means of grace, evidenced by a good life, and bringing forth the fruits of the spirit. The attaining this real, inward religion, is a work of so great difficulty, that Nicodemus, a learned doctor and teacher in Israel, thought it altogether impossible, and therefore ignorantly asked our blessed Lord, "How this thing could be?" And, truly, to rectify a disordered nature, to mortify our corrupt passions, to turn darkness to light, to put off the old man, and put on the new, and thereby to have the image of God reinstamped upon the soul, or, in one word, "to be born again," however light some may make of it, must, after all our endeavours, be owned by man to be impossible. It is true, indeed, Christ’s yoke is said to be an easy or a gracious yoke, and his burthen light; but then it is to those only to whom grace has been given to bear and draw in it. For, as the wise son of Sirach observes, "At first wisdom walked with her children in crooked ways, and brings them into fear; and torments them with her discipline, and does not turn to comfort and rejoice them, ’till she has tried them and proved their judgment." No; we must not slatter ourselves that we shall walk in wisdom’s pleasant ways, unless we first submit to a great many difficulties. The spiritual birth is attended with its pangs, as well as the natural: for they that have experienced it, (and they only are the proper judges,) can acquaint you, that in all things that are dear to corrupt nature, we must deny ourselves, lest, after all, when we come to the birth, we should want strength to bring forth. But if these things are so; if there are difficulties and pang, attending our being born again; if we must deny ourselves, what season more proper than that of youth? When, if ever, our bodies are robust and vigorous, and our minds active and couragious; and, consequently, we are then best qualified to endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. We find, in secular matters, people commonly observe this method, and send their children abroad among the toils and farigues of business, in their younger years, as well knowing they are then fittest to undergo them. And why do they not act with the same consistency in the grand affair of religion? Because, as our Saviour has told us, "The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light." But, Secondly, If pure and undefiled religion consists in the renewal of our corrupted natures, then it is not only a work of difficulty, but, the perfection of it, of time. And if this be the case, then it highly concerns every one to set about it betimes, and to "work their work while it is day, before the night cometh, when no man can work." Could we, indeed, live to the age of Metbuselab, and had but little business to employ ourselves in, we might then be more excusable, if we made no other use of this world, than what too many do, take our pastime therein: but since our lives are so very short, and we are called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, we have no room left for trifling, left we should be snatched away white our lamps are untrimmed, and we are entirely unprepared to meet the Bridegroom. Did we know a friend or neighbour, who had a long journey of the utmost importance to make, and yet should stand all the day idle, neglecting to set out till the sun was about to go down, we could not but pity and condemn his egregious folly. And yet it is to be feared most men are just such fools; they have a long journey to take, nay, a journey to eternity, a journey of infinite importance, and which they a obliged to dispatch before the sun of their natural life be gone down; and yet they loiter away the time allotted them to perform their journey in, till sickness or death surprizes them; and then they cry out, "What shall we do to inherit eternal life?" But leaving such to the mercies of God in Christ, who can call at the eleventh hour, I pass on to The Second general thing proposed, To shew the advantages that will arise from remembering our Creator in the days of our youth; which may serve as so many motives to excite and quicken all persons immediately to set about it. And the first benefit resulting from thence is, that it will bring most honour and glory to God. This, I suppose, every serious person will grant, ought to be the point in which our actions should centre; for to this end were we born, and to this end were we redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, that we should promote God’s eternal glory. And as the glory of God is most advanced by paying obedience to his precepts, they that begin soonest to walk in his ways, act most to his glory. The common objection against the divine laws in general, and the doctrines of the gospel in particular, is, that they are not practicable; that they are contrary to flesh and blood; and that all those precepts concerning self-denial, renunciation of and deadness to the world, are but so many arbitrary restraints imposed upon human nature: but when we see mere striplings not only practising, but delighting in such religious duties, and in the days of their youth, when, if ever, they have a relish for sensual pleasures, subduing and despising the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life; this, this is pleasing to God; this vindicates his injured honour; this shews that his service is perfect freedom, "that his yoke is easy, and his burden light." But, Secondly, as an early piety redounds most to the honour of God, so it will bring most honour to ourselves: for those that honour God, God will honour. We find it, therefore, remarked to the praise of Obadiah, that he served the Lord from his youth: of Samuel, that he stood, when young, before God in a linen ephod: of Timothy, that from a child he had known the holy scriptures: of St. John, that he was the youngest and most beloved disciple: and of our blessed Lord himself, that at twelve years old he went up to the temple, and sat among the doctors, both hearing and asking them questions. Nor, Thirdly, will an early piety afford us less comfort than honour, not only because it renders religion habitual to us, but also because it gives us a well-grounded assurance of the sincerity of our prosession. Was there no other argument against a death-bed repentance, but the unsatisfactoriness and anxiety of such a state, that should be sufficient to deter all thinking persons from deferring the most important business of their life to such a dreadful period of it. For supposing a man to be sincere in his prosession of repentance on a death-bed (which, in most cases, is very much to be doubted) yet, he is often afraid lest his convictions and remorse proceed not from a true sorrow for sin, but a servile fear of punishment. But one, who is a young saint, need fear no such perplexity; he knows that he loves God for his own sake, and is not driven to him by a dread of impending evil; he does not decline the gratifications of sense, because he can no longer "hear the voice of singing men and singing women;" but willingly takes up his cross, and follows his blessed Master in his youth, and therefore has reason to expect greater confidence of his sincerity towards God. But farther, as an early piety assures the heart of its sincerity, so, likewise, it brings its present reward with it, as it renders religion and all its duties habitual and easy. A young saint, was you to ask him, would joyfully tell you the unspeakable comfort of beginning to be religious betimes: as for his part, he knows not what men mean by talking of mortification, self-denial, and retirement, as hard and rigorous duties; for he has so accustomed himself to them, that, by the grace of God, they are now become even natural, and he takes infinitely more pleasure in practising the severest precepts of the gospel, than a luxurious Dives in a bed of state, or an ambitious Haman at a royal banquet. And O how happy must that youth be, whose duty is become a second nature, and to whom those things, which seem terrible to others, are grown both easy and delightful! But the greatest advantage of an early piety is still behind, Fourthly, It lays in the best provision of comfort and support against such times as we shall stand most in need thereof, viz. all times of our tribulation, and in particular, against the time of old age, the hour of death, and the day of judgment. This is the argument the wise man makes use of in the words immediately following the text: "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, wherein thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them." Observe, the time of old age, is an evil time, years wherein there is no pleasure: and ask those that are grown old, and they will inform you so. Cordials surely, then, must be exceeding proper to support our drooping spirits: and O what cordial comparable to the recollection of early piety, depending wholly on the righteousness of Christ? When the eyes, like Isaac’s, are grown dim with age; when "the keepers of the house, the hands, shall tremble," as the wise man goes on to describe the infirmities of old age; when "the strong men bow themselves," or the legs grow feeble; and the "grinders," the teeth, shall cease to do their proper office, because they are few; for a person then to hear the precepts of the gospel read over to him, and to be able to lay his hand on his heart, and to say sincerely, notwithstanding a consciousness of number-less short-comings, "All these have I endeavoured, through grace, to keep from my youth:" this must give him, through Christ who worketh all, comfort that I want words to express and thoughts to conceive. But, supposing it was possible for us to escape the inconveniences of old age, yet still death is a debt, since the fall, we all must pay; and, what is worse, it generally comes attended with such dreadful circumstances, that it will make even a Felix to tremble. But as for the godly, that have been enabled to serve the Lord from their youth, it is not usually so with them; no, they have faith given them to look upon death, not as a king of terrors, but as a welcome messenger, that is come to conduct them to their wished-for home. All the days of their appointed time have they waited, and it has been the business of their whole lives to study to prepare themselves for the coming of their great change; and, therefore, they rejoice to hear that they are called to meet the heavenly Bridegroom. Thus dies the early pious, whose "path has been as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." But follow him beyond the grave, and see with what an holy triumph he enters into his Master’s joy; with what an humble boldness he stands at the dreadful tribunal of Jesus Christ; and can you then forbear to cry out, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my latter end, and future state, be like his?" Need I then, after having shewn so many advantages to arise from an early piety, use any more arguments to persuade the younger part of this audience, to whom, in the Third and last place, I address myself, to "remember their Creator in the days of their youth?" What! will not all the arguments I have mentioned, prevail with them to leave their husks, and return home to eat of the fatted calf? What! will they thus requite our Saviour’s love? That be far from them! Did he come down and shed his precious blood to deliver them from the power of sin; and will they spend their youthful strength and vigour in the service of it, and then think to serve Christ, when they can follow their lusts no longer? Is it fit, that many, who are endowed with excellent gifts, and are thereby qualified to be supports and ornaments of our sinking church, should, notwithstanding, forget the God who gave them, and employ them in things that will not profit? O why will they not arise, and, like so many Phineas’s, be zealous for the Lord of Hosts? Doubtless, when death overtakes them, they will wish they had: and what hinders them, but that they begin now? Think you that any one yet ever repented that he began to be religious too soon? But how many, on the contrary, have repented that they began when almost too late? May we not well imagine, that young Samuel now rejoices that he waited so soon at the tabernacle of the Lord? Or young Timothy, that from a child he knew the holy scriptures? And if you wish to be partakers of their joy, let me persuade you to be partakers of their piety. I could still go on to fill my mouth with arguments; but the circumstances and piety of those amongst whom I am now preaching "the kingdom of God," remind me to change my style; and, instead of urging any more dissuasives from sin, to fill up what is behind of this discourse, with encouragements to persevere in holiness. Blessed, for ever blessed be the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, I am not speaking to persons inflamed with youthful lusts, but to a multitude of young professors, who by frequently assembling together, and forming themselves into religious societies, are, I hope on good ground, in a ready way to be of the number of those "young men, who have overcome the wicked-one." Believe me, it gladdens my very soul, to see so many of your faces set heaven-wards, and the visible happy effects of your uniting together, cannot but rejoice the hearts of all sincere christians, and oblige them to wish you good luck in the name of the Lord. The many souls who are nourished weekly with the spiritual body and blood of Jesus Christ, by your means; the weekly and monthly lectures that are preached by your contributions; the daily incense of thanksgiving and prayer which is publicly sent up to the throne of grace by your subscriptions; the many children which are trained up "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, by your charities; and, lastly, the commendable and pious zeal you exert in promoting and encouraging divine psalmody, are such plain and apparent proofs of the benefit of your religious societies, that they call for a public acknowledgment of praise and thanksgiving to our blessed Master, who has not only put into your hearts such good designs, but enabled you also to bring the same to good effect. It is true it has been objected, "That young mens forming themselves into religious societies, has a tendency to make them spiritually proud, and to ‘think more highly of themselves than they ought to think." And, perhaps, the imprudent, imperious behaviour of some novices in religion, who, "though they went out from you, were not of you," may have given too much occasion for such an aspersion. But you, brethren, have not so learned Christ. Far, far be it from you to look upon yourselves, as righteous, and despise others, because you often assemble yourselves together. No; this, instead of creating pride, ought to beget an holy fear in your hearts, lest your practice should not correspond with your profession, and that, after you have benefited and edified others, you yourselves should become cast-aways. Worldly-mindedness, my brethren, is another rock against which we are in danger of splitting. For, if other sins have slain their thousands of professing christians, this has slain its ten thousands. I need not appeal to past ages; your own experience, no doubt, has furnished you with many unhappy instances of young men, who, "after (as one would have imagined) they had escaped the pollutions which are in the world through lust," and "had tasted the good word of life," and endured for a season, whilst under the tuition and inspection of others: yet, when they have come to be their own masters, through a want of saith, and through too great an earnestness in "labouring for the meat which perisheth," have cast off their first love, been again entangled with the world, and "returned like the dog to his vomit, and like the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire." You would, therefore, do well, my brethren, frequently to remind each other of this dangerous snare, and to exhort one another to begin, pursue, and end your christian warfare, in a thorough renunciation of the world, and worldly tempers; so that, when you are obliged by Providence to provide for yourselves, and those of your respective housholds, you may continue to walk by faith, and still "seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;" not doubting, but all other things, upon your honest industry and endeavours, shall be added unto you. And now, what shall I say more? To speak unto you, fathers, who have been in Christ so many years before me, and know the malignity of worldly-mindedness, and pride in the spiritual life, would be altogether needless. To you, therefore, O young men, (for whom I am distressed, for whom I fear as well as for myself) do I once more address myself, in the words of the beloved disciple, "Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but receive a full reward." Be ever mindful, then, of the words that have been spoken to us by the apostles of the Lord and Saviour. "Give diligence to make your calling and election sure. Beware, lest ye also being led away by the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall. Be not high-minded, but fear. But we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous, to forget your works and labours of love. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them, who through saith and patience inherit the promises." It is true, we have many difficulties to encounter, many powerful enemies to overcome, ere we can get possession of the promised land. We have an artful devil, an ensnaring world, and above all, the treachery of our own hearts, to withstand and strive against. "For strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto eternal life." But wherefore should we fear, since he that is with us is far more powerful, than all who are against us? Have we not already experienced his almighty power, in enabling us to conquer some difficulties which seemed as insurmountable then, as those we struggle with now? And cannot he, who delivered us out of the paws of those bears and lions, preserve us also from being hurt by the strongest Goliah? "Be stedfast therefore, my brethren, be immoveable." Be not "ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation." Fear not man; fear not the contempt and revilings which you must meet with in the way of duty; for one of you shall chase a thousand; and two of you put ten thousand of your enemies to flight. And if you will be contented, through grace, to suffer for a short time here; I speak the truth in Christ, I lye not; then may ye hope, according to the blessed word of promise, that ye shall be exalted to sit down with the Son of Man, when he shall come in the glory of his Father, with his holy angels, to judgment hereafter. May Almighty God give every one of us such a measure of his grace, that we may not be of the number of those that draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe and endure unto the end, to the saving of our souls, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Which God, &c. Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain) Related The Necessity and Benefits of Religious Society The Necessity and Benefits of Religious Society Eccles. 4:9, 10, 11, 12 Two are better than One, because they have a good Reward for their Labour. For if they fall, the One will lift up his Fellow: But woe be to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if Two lie together, then they have heat; but how can One be warm alone? And if One prevail against him, Two Shall withstand him; and a threefold Cord is not quickly broken. AMONG the many reasons assignable for the sad decay of true christianity, perhaps the neglecting to assemble ourselves together, in religious societies, may not be one of the least. That I may therefore do my endeavour towards promoting so excellent a means of piety, I have selected a passage of scripture drawn from the experience of the wisest of men, which being a little enlarged on and illustrated, will fully answer my present design; being to shew, in the best manner I can, the necessity and benefits of society in general, and of religious society in particular. "Two are better than one, &c." From which words I shall take occasion to prove, First, The truth of the wise man’s assertion, "Two are better than one," and that in reference to society in general, and religious society in particular. Secondly, To assign some reasons why two are better than one, especially as to the last particular. 1. Because men can raise up one another when they chance to slip: "For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow." 2. Because they can impart heat to each other: "Again, if two lie together, then they have heat; but how can one be warm alone?" 3. Because they can secure each other from those that do oppose them: "And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken." From hence, Thirdly, I shall take occasion to shew the duty incumbent on every member of a religious society. And Fourthly, I shall draw an inference or two from what may be said; and then conclude with a word or two of exhortation. First, I am to prove the truth of the wise man’s assertion, that "two are better than one," and that in reference to society in general, and religious societies in particular. And how can this be done better, than by shewing that it is absolutely necessary for the welfare both of the bodies and souls of men? Indeed, if we look upon man as he came out of the hands of his Maker, we imagine him to be perfect, entire, lacking nothing. But God, whose thoughts are not as our thoughts, saw something still wanting to make Adam happy. And what was that? Why, an help meet for him. For thus speaketh the scripture: "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make an help meet for him." Observe, God said, "It is not good," thereby implying that the creation would have been imperfect, in some sort, unless an help was found out meet for Adam. And if this was the case of man before the fall; if an help was meet for him in a state of perfection; surely since the fall, when we come naked and helpless out of our mother’s womb, when our wants increase with our years, and we can scarcely subsist a day without the mutual assistance of each other, well may we say, "It is not good for man to be alone." Society then, we see, is absolutely necessary in respect to our bodily and personal wants. If we carry our view farther, and consider mankind as divided into different cities, countries, and nations, the necessity of it will appear yet more evident. For how can communities be kept up, or commerce carried on, without society? Certainly not at all, since providence seems wisely to have assigned a particular product to almost each particular country, on purpose, as it were, to oblige us to be social; and hath so admirably mingled the parts of the whole body of mankind together, "that the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again, the hand to the foot, I have no need of thee." Many other instances might be given of the necessity of society, in reference to our bodily, personal, and national wants. But what are all these when weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, in comparison of the infinite greater need of it, with respect to the soul? It was chiefly in regard to this better part, no doubt, that God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone." For, let us suppose Adam to be as happy as may be, placed as the Lord of the creation in the paradise of God, and spending all his hours in adoring and praising the blessed Author of his being; yet as his soul was the very copy of the divine nature, whose peculiar property it is to be communicative, without the divine all-sufficiency he could not be compleatly happy, because he was alone and incommunicative, nor even content in paradise, for want of a partner in his joys. God knew this, and therefore said, "It is not good that the man shall be alone, I will make a help meet for him." And though this proved a fatal means of his falling; yet that was not owing to any natural consequence of society; but partly to that cursed apostate, who craftily lies in wait to deceive; partly to Adam’s own folly, in rather chusing to be miserable with one he loved, than trust in God to raise him up another spouse. If we reflect indeed on that familiar intercourse, our first parent could carry on with heaven, in a state of innocence, we shall be apt to think he had as little need of society, as to his soul, as before we supposed him to have, in respect to his body. But yet, as God and the holy angels were so far above him on the one hand, and the beasts so far beneath him on the other, there was nothing like having one to converse with, who was "bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh." Man, then, could not be fully happy, we see, even in paradise, without a companion of his own species, much less now he is driven out. For, let us view him a little in his natural estate now, since the fall, as "having his understanding darkened, his mind alienated from the life of God;" as no more able to see his way wherein he should go, than a blind man to describe the fun: that notwithstanding this, he must receive his sight ere he can see God: and that if he never sees him, he never can be happy. Let us view him in this light (or rather this darkness) and deny the necessity of society if we can. A divine revelation we find is absolutely necessary, we being by nature as unable to know, as we are to do our duty. And how shall we learn except one teach us? But was God to do this himself, how should we, but with Moses, exceedingly quake and fear? Nor would the ministry of angels in this affair, be without too much terror. It is necessary, therefore (at least God’s dealing with us hath shewed it to be so) that we should be drawn with the cords of a man. And that a divine revelation being granted, we should use one another’s assistance, under God, to instruct each other in the knowledge, and to exhort one another to the practice of those things which belong to our everlasting peace. This is undoubtedly the great end of society intended by God since the fall, and a strong argument it is, why "two are better than one," and why we should "not forsake the assembling ourselves together." But farther, let us consider ourselves as christians, as having this natural veil, in some measure, taken off from our eyes by the assistance of God’s holy Spirit, and so enabled to see what he requires of us. Let us suppose ourselves in some degree to have tasted the good word of life, and to have felt the powers of the world to come, influencing and moulding our souls into a religious frame: to be fully and heartily convinced that we are soldiers listed under the banner of Christ, and to have proclaimed open war at our baptism, against the world, the flesh, and the devil; and have, perhaps, frequently renewed our obligations so to do, by partaking of the Lord’s supper: that we are surrounded with millions of foes without, and infested with a legion of enemies within: that we are commanded to shine as lights in the world, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation: that we are travelling to a long eternity, and need all imaginable helps to shew, and encourage us in our way thither. Let us, I say, reflect on all this, and then how shall each of us cry out, brethren, what a necessary thing it is to meet together in religious societies? The primitive christians were fully sensible of this, and therefore we find them continually keeping up communion with each other: for what says the scripture? They continued stedfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, Acts 2:42. Peter and John were no sooner dismissed by the great council, than they haste away to their companions. "And being set at liberty they came to their own, and told them all these things which the high priest had said unto them," Acts 4:23. Paul, as soon as converted, "tarried three days with the disciples that were at Damascus," Acts 9:19. And Peter afterwards, when released from prison, immediately goes to the house of Mary, where there were "great multitudes assembled, praying," Acts 12:12. And it is reported of the christians in after-ages, that they used to assemble together before day-light, to sing a psalm to Christ as God. So precious was the Communion of Saints in those days. If it be asked, what advantages we shall reap from such a procedure now? I answer, much every way. "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labour: for if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe be to him that is alone when he falleth, for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat; but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken." Which directly leads me to my Second general head, under which I was to assign some reasons why "two are better than one," especially in Religious Society. 1. As man in his present condition cannot always stand upright, but by reason of the frailty of his nature cannot but fall; one eminent reason why two are better than one, or, in other words, one great advantage of religious society is, "That when they fall, the one will lift up his fellow. And an excellent reason this, indeed! For alas! when we reflect how prone we are to be drawn into error in our judgments, and into vice in our practice; and how unable, at least how very unwilling, to espy or correct our own mis-carriages; when we consider how apt the world is to flatter us in our faults, and how few there are so kind as to tell us the truth; what an inestimable privilege must it be to have a set of true, judicious, hearty friends about us, continually watching over our souls, to inform us where we have fallen, and to warn us that we fall not again for the future. Surely it is such a privilege, that (to use the words of an eminent christian) we shall never know the value thereof, till we come to glory. But this is not all; for supposing that we could always stand upright, yet whosoever reflects on the difficulties of religion in general, and his own propensity to lukewarmness and indifference in particular, will find that he must be zealous as well as steady, if ever he expects to enter the kingdom of heaven. Here, then, the wise man points out to us another excellent reason why two are better than one. "Again, if two lye together, then they have heat; but how can one be warm alone?". Which was the next thing to be considered. 2. A second reason why two are better than one, is because they can impart heat to each other. It is an observation no less true than common, that kindled coals, if placed asunder, soon go out, but if heaped together, quicken and enliven each other, and afford a lasting heat. The same will hold good in the case now before us. If christians kindled by the grace of God, unite, they will quicken and enliven each other; but if they separate and keep asunder, no marvel if they soon grow cool or tepid. If two or three meet together in Christ’s name, they will have heat: but how can one be warm alone? Observe, "How can one be warm alone?" The wise man’s expressing himself by way of question, implies an impossibility, at least a very great difficulty, to be warm in religion without company, where it may be had. Behold here, then, another excellent benefit flowing from religious society; it will keep us zealous, as well as steady, in the ways of godliness. But to illustrate this a little farther by a comparison or two. Let us look upon ourselves (as was above hinted) as soldiers lifted under Christ’s banner; as going out with "ten thousand, to meet one that cometh against us with twenty thousand;" as persons that are to "wrestle not only with flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, and spiritual wickednesses in high places." And then tell me, all ye that fear God, if it be not an invaluable privilege to have a company of fellow soldiers continually about us, animating and exhorting each other to stand our ground, to keep our ranks, and manfully to follow the captain of our salvation, though it be through a sea of blood? Let us consider ourselves in another view before mentioned, as persons travelling to a long eternity; as rescued by the free grace of God, in some measure, from our natural Egyptian bondage, and marching under the conduct of our spiritual Joshua, through the wilderness of this world, to the land of our heavenly Canaan. Let us farther reflect how apt we are to startle at every difficulty; to cry, "There are lions! There are lions in the way! There are the sons of Anak" to be grappled with, ere we can possess the promised land: How prone we are, with Lot’s wise, to look wishfully back on our spiritual Sodom, or, with the foolish Israelites, to long again for the flesh-pots of Egypt; and to return to our former natural state of bondage and slavery. Consider this, my brethren, and see what a blessed privilege it will be to have a set of Israelites indeed about us, always reminding us of the folly of any such cowardly design, and of the intolerable misery we shall run into, if we fall in the least short of the promised land. More might be said on this particular, did not the limits of a discourse of this nature oblige me to hasten, 3. To give a third reason, mentioned by the wise man in the text, why two are better than one; because they can secure each other from enemies without. "And if one prevail against him, yet two shall withstand him: and a threefold cord is not quickly broken." Hitherto we have considered the advantages of religious societies, as a great preservative against falling (at least dangerously falling) into sin and lukewarmness, and that too from our own corruptions. But what says the wise son of Sirach? "My son, when thou goest to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation:" and that not only from inward, but outward foes; particularly from those two grand adversaries, the world and the devil: for no sooner will thine eye be bent heavenward, but the former will be immediately diverting it another way, telling thee thou needest not be singular in order to be religious; that you may be a christian without going so much out of the common road. Nor will the devil be wanting in his artful insinuations, or impious suggestions, to divert or terrify thee from pressing forwards, "that thou mayst lay hold on the crown of life." And if he cannot prevail this way, he will try another; and, in order to make his temptation the more undiscerned, but withal more successful, he will employ, perhaps, some of thy nearest relatives, or most powerful friends, (as he set Peter on our blessed Master) who will always be bidding thee to spare thyself; telling thee thou needst not take so much pains; that it is not so difficult a matter to get to heaven as some people would make of it, nor the way so narrow as others imagine it to be. But see here the advantage of religious company; for supposing thou findest thyself thus surrounded on every side, and unable to withstand such horrid (though seemingly friendly) counsels, haste away to thy companions, and they will teach thee a truer and better lesson; they will tell thee, that thou must be singular if thou wilt be religious: and that it is as impossible for a christian, as for a city set upon a hill, to be hidden: that if thou wilt be an almost christian (and as good be none at all) thou mayest live in the same idle, indifferent manner as thou seest most other people do: but if thou wilt be not only almost, but altogether a christian, they will inform thee thou must go a great deal farther: that thou must not only faintly seek, but "earnestly strive to enter in at the strait gate:" that there is but one way now to heaven as formerly, even through the narrow passage of a found conversion: and that in order to bring about this mighty work, thou must undergo a constant, but necessary discipline of fasting, watching, and prayer. And therefore, the only reason why those friends give thee such advice, is, because they are not willing to take so much pains themselves; or, as our Saviour told Peter on a like occasion, because they "favour not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men." This then, is another excellent blessing arising from religious society, that friends can hereby secure each other from those who oppose them. The devil is fully sensible of this, and therefore he has always done his utmost to suppress, and put a stop to the communion of saints. This was his grand artifice at the first planting of the gospel; to persecute the professors of it, in order to separate them. Which, though God, as he always will, over-ruled for the better; yet, it shews, what an enmity he has against christians assembling themselves together. Nor has he yet left off his old stratagem; it being his usual way to entice us by ourselves, in order to tempt us; where, by being destitute of one another’s help, he hopes to lead us captive at his will. But, on the contrary, knowing his own interest is strengthened by society, he would first persuade us to neglect the communion of saints, and then bid us "stand in the way of sinners," hoping thereby to put us into the feat of the scornful. Judas and Peter are melancholy instances of this. The former had no sooner left his company at supper, but he went out and betrayed his master: and the dismal downfal of the latter, when he would venture himself amongst a company of enemies, plainly shews us what the devil will endeavour to do, when he gets us by ourselves. Had Peter kept his own company, he might have kept his integrity; but a single cord, alas! how quickly was it broken? Our blessed Saviour knew this full well, and therefore it is very observable, that he always sent out his disciples "two by two." And now, after so many advantages to be reaped from religious society, may we not very justly cry out with the wise man in my text, "Woe be to him that is alone; for when he falleth, he hath not another to lift him up?" When he is cold, he hath not a friend to warm him; when he is assaulted, he hath not a second to help him to withstand his enemy. III. I now come to my third general head, under which was to be shewn the several duties incumbent on every member of a religious society, as such, which are three. 1. Mutual reproof; 2. Mutual exhortation; 3. Mutual assisting and desending each other. 1. Mutual reproof. "Two are better than one; for when they fall, the one will lift up his fellow." Now, reproof may be taken either in a more extensive sense, and then it signifies our raising a brother by the gentlest means, when he falls into sin and error; or in a more restrained signification, as reaching no farther than those miscarriages, which unavoidably happen in the most holy men living. The wise man, in the text, supposes all of us subject to both: "For when they fall (thereby implying that each of us may fall) the one will lift up his fellow." From whence we may infer, that "when any brother is overtaken with a fault, he that is spiritual (that is, regenerate, and knows the corruption and weakness of human nature) ought to restore such a one in the spirit of meekness." And why he should do so, the apostle subjoins a reason "considering thyself, left thou also be tempted;" i. e. considering thy own frailty, left thou also fall by the like temptation. We are all frail unstable creatures; and it is merely owing to the free grace and good providence of God that we run not into the same excess of riot with other men. Every offending brother, therefore, claims our pity rather than our resentment; and each member should strive to be the most forward, as well as most gentle, in restoring him to his former state. But supposing a person not to be overtaken, but to fall wilfully into a crime; yet who art thou that deniest forgiveness to thy offending brother? "Let him that standeth take heed left he fall." Take ye, brethren, the holy apostles as eminent examples for you to learn by, how you ought to behave in this matter. Consider how quickly they joined the right hand of fellowship with Peter, who had so wilfully denied his master: for we find John and him together but two days after, John 20:2. And ver. 19, we find him assembled with the rest. So soon did they forgive, so soon associate with their sinful, yet relenting brother. "Let us go and do likewise." But there is another kind of reproof incumbent on every member of a religious society; namely, a gentle rebuke for some miscarriage or other, which though not actually sinful, yet may become the occasion of sin. This indeed seems a more easy, but perhaps will be found a more difficult point than the former: for when a person has really sinned, he cannot but own his brethrens reproof to be just; whereas, when it was only for some little misconduct, the pride that is in our natures will scarce suffer us to brook it. But however ungrateful this pill may be to our brother, yet if we have any concern for his welfare, it must be administered by some friendly hand or other. By all means then let it be applied; only, like a skilful physician, gild over the ungrateful pill, and endeavour, if possible, to deceive thy brother into health and foundness. "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and malice, and evil-speaking, be put away" from it. Let the patient know, his recovery is the only thing aimed at, and that thou delightest not causelesly to grieve thy brother; then thou canst not want success. 2. Mutual exhortation is the second duty resulting from the words of the text. "Again, if two lye together, then they have heat." Observe, the wise man supposes it as impossible for religious persons to meet together, and not to be the warmer for each other’s company, as for two persons to lye in the same bed, and yet freeze with cold. But now, how is it possible to communicate heat to each other, without mutually stirring up the gift of God which is in us, by brotherly exhortation? Let every member then of a religious society write that zealous apostle’s advice on the tables of his heart; "See that ye exhort, and provoke one another to love, and to good works; and so much the more, as you see the day of the Lord approaching." Believe me, brethren, we have need of exhortation to rouse up our sleepy souls, to set us upon our watch against the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil; to excite us to renounce ourselves, to take up our crosses, and follow our blessed matter, and the glorious company of saints and martyrs, "who through faith have fought the good fight, and are gone before us to inherit the promises." A third part, therefore, of the time wherein a religious society meets, seems necessary to be spent in this important duty: for what avails it to have our understandings enlightened by pious reading, unless our wills are at the same time inclined, and inflamed by mutual exhortation, to put it in practice? Add also, that this is the best way both to receive and impart light, and the only means to preserve and increase that warmth and heat which each person first brought with him; God so ordering this, as all other spiritual gifts, that "to him that hath, i. e. improves and communicates what he hath, shall be given; but from him that hath not, or does not improve the heat he hath, shall be taken away even that which he seemed to have." So needful, so essentially necessary, is exhortation to the good of society. 3. Thirdly, The text points out another duty incumbent on every member of a religious society, to defend each other from those that do oppose them. "And if one prevail against him, yet two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken." Here the wise man takes it for granted, that offences will come, nay, and that they may prevail too. And this is no more than our blessed matter has long since told us. Not, indeed, that there is any thing in christianity itself that has the least tendency to give rise to, or promote such offences: No, on the contrary, it breathes nothing but unity and love. But so it is, that ever since the fatal sentence pronounced by God, after our first parents fall, "I will put enmity between thy feed and her feed;" he that is born after the flesh, the unregenerate unconverted sinner, has in all ages "persecuted him that is born after the spirit:" and so it always will be. Accordingly we find an early proof given of this in the instance of Cain and Abel; of Ishmael and Isaac; and of Jacob and Esau. And, indeed, the whole Bible contains little else but an history of the great and continued opposition between the children of this world, and the children of God. The first christians were remarkable examples of this; and though those troublesome times, blessed be God, are now over, yet the apostle has laid it down as a general rule, and all who are sincere experimentally prove the truth of it; that "they that will live godly in Christ Jesus, must (to the end of the world, in some degree or other) suffer persecution." That therefore this may not make us desert our blessed master’s cause, every member should unite their forces, in order to stand against it. And for the better effecting this, each would do well, from time to time, to communicate his experiences, grievances, and temptations, and beg his companions (first asking God’s assistance, without which all is nothing) to administer reproof, exhortation, or comfort, as his case requires: so that "if one cannot prevail against it, yet two shall withstand it; and a threefold (much less a many-fold) cord will not be quickly broken." IV. But it is time for me to proceed to the fourth general thing proposed, to draw an inference or two from what has been said. 1. And first, if "two are better than one," and the advantages of religious society are so many and so great; then it is the duty of every true christian to set on foot, establish and promote, as much as in him lyes, societies of this nature. And I believe we may venture to affirm, that if ever a spirit of true christianity is revived in the world, it must be brought about by some such means as this. Motives, surely, cannot be wanting, to stir us up to this commendable and necessary undertaking: for, granting all hitherto advanced to be of no force, yet methinks the single consideration, that great part of our happiness in heaven will consist in the Communion of Saints; or that the interest as well as piety of those who differ from us, is strengthened and supported by nothing more than their frequent meetings; either of these considerations, I say, one would think, should induce us to do our utmost to copy after their good example, and settle a lasting and pious communion of the saints on earth. Add to this, that we find the kingdom of darkness established daily by such like means; and shall not the kingdom of Christ be set in opposition against it? Shall the children of Belial assemble and strengthen each other in wickedness; and shall not the children of God unite, and strengthen themselves in piety? Shall societies on societies be countenanced for midnight revellings, and the promoting of vice, and scarcely one be found intended for the propagation of virtue? Be astonished, O heavens at this! 2. But this leads me to a second inference; namely, to warn persons of the great danger those are in, who either by their subscriptions, presence, or approbation, promote societies of a quite opposite nature to religion. And here I would not be understood, to mean only those public meetings which are designed manifestly for nothing else but revellings and banquetings, for chambering and wantonness, and at which a modest heathen would blush to be present; but also those seemingly innocent entertainments and meetings, which the politer part of the world are so very fond of, and spend so much time in: but which, notwithstanding, keep as many persons from a sense of true religion, as doth intemperance, debauchery, or any other crime whatever. Indeed, whilst we are in this world, we must have proper relaxations, to fit us both for the business of our profession, and religion. But then, for persons who call themselves christians, that have solemnly vowed at their baptism, to renounce the vanities of this sinful world; that are commanded in scripture "to abstain from all appearance of evil, and to have their conversation in heaven:" for such persons as these to support meetings, which (to say no worse of them) are vain and trifling, and have a natural tendency to draw off our minds from God, is absurd, ridiculous, and sinful. Surely two are not better than one in this case: No; it is to be wished there was not one to be found concerned in it. The sooner we forsake the assembling ourselves together in such a manner, the better; and no matter how quickly the cord that holds such societies (was it a thousand-fold) is broken. But you, brethren, have not so learned Christ: but, on the contrary, like true disciples of your Lord and Master, have by the blessing of God (as this evening’s solemnity abundantly testifies) happily formed yourselves into such societies, which, if duly attended on, and improved, cannot but strengthen you in your christian warfare, and "make you fruitful in every good word and work." What remains for me, but, as was proposed, in the last place, to close what has been said, in a word or two, by way of exhortation, and to beseech you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to go on in the way you have begun; and by a constant conscientious attendance on your respective for societies, to discountenance vice, encourage virtue, and build each other up in the knowledge and fear of God. Only permit me to "stir up your pure minds, by way of remembrance," and to exhort you, "if there be any consolation in Christ, any fellowship of the spirit," again and again to consider, that as all christians in general, so all members of religious societies in particular, are in an especial manner, as houses built upon an hill; and that therefore it highly concerns you to walk circumspectly towards those that are without, and to take heed to yourselves, that your conversation, in common life, be as becometh such an open and peculiar profession of the gospel of Christ: knowing that the eyes of all men are upon you, narrowly to inspect every circumstance of your behaviour: and that every notorious wilful miscarriage of any single member will, in some measure, redound to the scandal and dishonour of your whole fraternity. Labour, therefore, my beloved brethren, to let your practice correspond to your profession: and think not that it will be sufficient for you to plead at the last day, Lord have we not assembled ourselves together in thy name, and enlivened each other, by singing psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs? For verily, I say unto you, notwithstanding this, our blessed Lord will bid you depart from him; nay, you shall receive a greater damnation, if, in the midst of these great pretensions, you are found to be workers of iniquity. But God forbid that any such evil should befal you; that there should be ever a Judas, a traitor, amongst such distinguished followers of our common master. No, on the contrary, the excellency of your rules, the regularity of your meetings, and more especially your pious zeal in assembling in such a public and solemn manner so frequently in the year, persuade me to think, that you are willing, not barely to seem, but to be in reality, christians; and hope to be found at the last day, what you would be esteemed now, holy, sincere disciples of crucified Redeemer. Oh, may you always continue thus minded! and make it your daily, constant endeavour, both by precept and example, to turn all your converse with, more especially those of your own societies, into the same most blessed spirit and temper. Thus will you adorn the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in all things: Thus will you anticipate the happiness of a future state; and by attending on, and improving the communion of saints on earth, be made meet to join the communion and fellowship of the spirits of just men made perfect, of the holy angels, nay, of the ever-blessed and eternal God in heaven. Which God of his infinite mercy grant through Jesus Christ our Lord; to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost, three persons and one God, be ascribed, as is most due, all honour and praise, might, majesty and dominion, now and for ever. Amen. Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain) Abraham’s Offering Up His Son Isaac Abraham’s offering up his Son Isaac Genesis 22:12 And he said, Lay not thine Hand upon the Lad, neither do thou any thing unto him; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy Son, thine only Son from me. THE great Apostle Paul, in one of his epistles, informs us, that "whatsoever was written aforetime was written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the holy scripture might have hope." And as without faith it is impossible to please God, or be accepted in Jesus, the Son of his love; we may be assured, that whatever instances of a more than common faith are recorded in the book of God, they were more immediately designed by the holy Spirit for our learning and imitation, upon whom the ends of the world are come. For this reason, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, in the xith chapter, mentions such a noble catalogue of Old Testament saints and martyrs, "who subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, stopped the mouths of lions, &c. and are gone before us to inherit the promises." A sufficient confutation, I think, of their error, who lightly esteem the Old Testament saints, and would not have them mentioned to christians, as persons whose faith and patience we are called upon more immediately to follow. If this was true, the apostle would never have produced such a cloud of witnesses out of the Old Testament, to excite the christians of the first, and consequently purest age of the church, to continue stedfast and unmoveable in the profession of their faith. Amidst this catalogue of saints, methinks the patriarch Abraham shines the brightest, and differs from the others, as one star differeth from another star in glory; for he shone with such distinguished lustre, that he was called the "friend of God," the "father of the faithful;" and those who believe on Christ, are said to be "sons and daughters of, and to be blessed with, faithful Abraham." Many trials of his faith did God send this great and good man, after he had commanded him to get out from his country, and from his kindred, unto a land which he should shew him; but the last was the most severe of all, I mean, that of offering up his only son. This, by the divine assistance, I propose to make the subject of your present meditation, and, by way of conclusion, to draw some practical inferences, as God shall enable me, from this instructive story. The sacred penman begins the narrative thus; verse 1. "And it came to pass, after these things, God did tempt Abraham." After these things, that is, after he had underwent many severe trials before, after he was old, full of days, and might flatter himself perhaps that the troubles and toils of life were now finished; "after these things, God did tempt Abraham," Christians, you know not what trials you may meet with before you die: notwithstanding you may have suffered, and been tried much already, yet, it may be, a greater measure is still behind, which you are to fill up. "Be not high-minded, but fear." Our last trials, in all probability, will be the greatest: and we can never say our warfare is accomplished, or our trials finished, till we bow down our heads, and give up the ghost. "And it came to pass, after these things, that God did tempt Abraham." "God did tempt Abraham." But can the scripture contradict itself? Does not the apostle James tell us, "that God tempts no man;" and God does tempt no man to evil, or on purpose to draw him into sin; for, when a man is thus tempted, he is drawn away of his own heart’s lust, and enticed. But in another sense, God may be said to tempt, I mean, to try his servants; and in this sense we are to understand that passage of Matthew, where we are told, that, "Jesus was led up by the Spirit (the good Spirit) into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil." And our Lord, in that excellent form of prayer which he has been pleased to give us, does not require us to pray that we may not absolutely be led into temptation, but delivered from the evil of it; whence we may plainly infer, that God sees it fit sometimes to lead us into temptation, that is, to bring us into such circumstances as will try our faith and other christian graces. In this sense we are to understand the expression before us; "God did tempt or try Abraham." How God was pleased to reveal his will at this time to his faithful servant, whether by the Shechinah, or divine appearance, or by a small still voice, as he spoke to Elijah, or by a whisper, like that of the Spirit to Philip, when he commanded him to go join himself to the eunuch’s chariot, we are not told, nor is it material to enquire. It is enough that we are informed, God said unto him, Abraham; and that Abraham knew it was the voice of God: for he said, "Behold, here I am." O what a holy familiarity (if I may so speak) is there between God and those holy souls that are united to him by faith in Christ Jesus! God says, Abraham; and Abraham said (it should seem without the least surprize) Behold, here I am. Being reconciled to God by the death and obedience of Christ, which he rejoiced in, and saw by faith afar off; he did not, like guilty Adam, seek the trees of the garden to hide himself from, but takes pleasure in converting with God, and talketh with him, as a man talketh with his friend. O that Christ-less sinners knew what it is to have fellowship with the Father and the Son! They would envy the happiness of saints, and count it all joy to be termed enthusiasts and fools for Christ’ sake. But what does God say to Abraham? Verse 2. "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I shall tell thee of." Every word deserves our particular observation. Whatever he was to do, he must do it now, immediately, without conferring with flesh and blood. But what must he do? "Take now thy son." Had God said, take now a firstling, or choicest lamb or beast of thy flock, and offer it up for a burnt-offering, it would not have appeared so ghastly; but for God to say, "take now thy son, and offer him up for a burnt-offering’ " one would have imagined, was enough to stagger the strongest faith. But this is not all: it must not only be a son, but "thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest." If it must be a son, and not a beast, that must be offered, why wilt not Ishmael do, the son of the bond-woman? No, it must be his only son, the heir of all, his Isaac, by interpretation laughter, the son of his old age, in whom his soul delighted, "whom thou lovest," says God, in whose life his own was wrapped up: and this son, this only son, this Isaac, the son of his love, must be taken now, even now, without delay, and be offered up by his own father, for a burnt offering, upon one of the mountains of the which God would tell him. Well might the apostle, speaking of this man of God, say, that "against hope he believed in hope, and, being strong in faith, gave glory to God:" For, had he not been blessed with faith which man never before had, he must have refused to comply with this severe command. For how many arguments might nature suggest, to prove that such a command could never come from God, or to excuse himself from obeying it? "What! (might the good man have said) butcher my own child! it is contrary to the very law of nature: much more to butcher my dear son Isaac, in whose seed God himself has assured me of a numerous posterity. But supposing I could give up my own affections, and be willing to part with him, though I love him so dearly, yet, if I murder him, what will become of God’s promise? Besides, I am now like a city built upon a hill; I shine as a light in the world, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation: How then shall I cause God’s name to be blasphemed, how shall I become a by-word among the heathen, if they hear that I have committed a crime which they abhor! But, above all, what will Sarah my wife say? How can I ever return to her again, after I have imbrued my hands in my dear child’s blood? O that God would pardon me in this thing, or take my life in the place of my son’s!" Thus, I say, Abraham might have argued, and that too seemingly with great reason, against complying with the divine command. But as before by faith he considered not the deadness of Sarah’s womb, when she was past age, but believed on him, who said, "Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed;" so now, being convinced that the same God spoke to and commanded him to offer up that son, and knowing that God was able to raise him from the dead, without delay he obeys the heavenly call. O that unbelievers would learn of faithful Abraham, and believe whatever is revealed from God, though they cannot fully comprehend it! Abraham knew God commanded him to offer up his son, and therefore believed, notwithstanding carnal reasoning might suggest many objections. We have sufficient testimony, that God has spoken to us by his son; why should we not also believe, though many things in the New Testament are above our reason? For, where reason ends, faith begins. And, however infidels may stile themselves reasoners, of all men they are the most unreasonable: For, is it not contrary to all reason, to measure an infinite by a finite understanding, or think so find out the mysteries of godliness to perfection? But to return to the patriarch Abraham: We observed before what plausible objections he might have made; but he answered not a single word: no, without replying against his Maker, we are told, verse 3. that "Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt-offering, and rose up and went unto the place of which God had told him." From this verse we may gather, that God spoke to Abraham in a dream, or vision of the night: For it is said, he rose up early. Perhaps it was near the fourth watch of the night, just before break of day, when God said, Take now thy son; and Abraham rises up early to do so; as I doubt not but he used to rise early to offer up his morning-sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. It is often remarked of people in the Old Testament, that they rose early in the morning; and particularly of our Lord in the New, that he rose a great while before day to pray. The morning befriends devotion; and, if people cannot use so much self-denial as to rise early to pray, I know not how they will be able to die at a stake (if called to it) for Jesus Christ. The humility as well as the piety of the patriarch is observable: he saddled his own ass (great men should be humble;) and to shew his sincerity, though he took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, yet he keeps his design as a secret from them all: nay, he does not so much as tell Sarah his wife: for he knew not but she might be a snare unto him in this affair; and, as Rebekah afterwards, on another occasion, advised Jacob to flee, so Sarah also might persuade Isaac to hide himself; or the young men, had they known of it, might have forced him away, as in after-ages the soldiers rescued Jonathan out of the hands of Saul. But Abraham sought no such evasion, and therefore, like an Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile, he himself resolutely "clave the wood for the burnt-offering, rose up and went unto the place of which God had told him." In the second verse God commanded him to offer up his son upon one of the mountains which he would tell him of. He commanded him to offer his son up, but would not then directly tell him the place where: this was to keep him dependent and watching unto prayer: for there is nothing like being kept waiting upon God; and, if we do, assuredly God will reveal himself unto us yet further in his own time. Let us practice what we know, follow providence so far as we can see already; and what we know not, what we see not as yet, let us only be found in the way of duty, and the Lord will reveal even that unto us. Abraham knew not directly where he was to offer up his son; but he rises up and sets forward, and behold now God shews him: "And he went to the place of which God had told him." Let us go and do likewise. Verse 4. "Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off." So that the place, of which God had told him, was no less than three days journey distant from the place where God first appeared to him, and commanded him to take his son. Was not this to try his faith, and to let him see that what he did, was not meerly from a sudden pang of devotion, but a matter of choice and deliberation? But who can tell what the aged patriarch felt during these three days? Strong as he was in faith, I am persuaded his bowels often yearned over his dear son Isaac. Methinks I see the good old man walking with his dear child in his hand, and now and then looking upon him, loving him, and then turning aside to weep. And perhaps, sometimes he stays a little behind to pour out his heart before God, for he had no mortal to tell his case to. Then, methinks, I see him join his son and servants again, and talking to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, as they walked by the way. At length, "on the third day, he lifts up his eyes, and saw the place afar off." And, to shew that he was yet sincerely resolved to do whatsoever the Lord required of him, he even now will not discover his design to is servants, but "said, verse 5. to his young men," (as we should say to our worldly thoughts, when about to tread the courts of the Lord’s house) "Abide you here with the ass; and I and the lad will go up yonder and worship, and come again to you." This was a sufficient reason for their staying behind; and, it being their master’s custom to go frequently to worship, they could have no suspicion of what he was going about. And by Abraham’s saying, that he and the lad would come again, I am apt to think he believed God would raise him from the dead, if so be he permitted him to offer his child up for a burnt-offering. However that be, he is yet resolved to obey God to the uttermost; and therefore, Verse 6. "Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and they went both of them together." Little did Isaac think that he was to be offered on that very wood which he was carrying upon his shoulders; and therefore Isaac innocently, and with a holy freedom (for good men should not keep their children at too great a distance) "spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father; and he (with equal affection and holy condescension) said, Here am I, my son." And to shew how careful Abraham had been (as all christian parents ought to be) to instruct his Isaac how to sacrifice to God, like a youth trained up in the way wherein he should go; Isaac said, "Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?" How beautiful is early piety! how amiable, to hear young people ask questions about sacrificing to God in an acceptable way! Isaac knew very well that a lamb was wanting, and that a lamb was necessary for a proper sacrifice: "Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?" Young men and maidens, learn of him. Hitherto, it is plain, Isaac knew nothing of his father’s design: but I believe, by what his father said in answer to his question, that now was the time Abraham revealed it unto him. Ver. 8. "And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a Lamb for a burnt-offering." Some think, that Abraham by faith saw the Lord Jesus afar off, and here spake prophetically of that Lamb of God already slain in decree, and hereafter to be actually offered up for sinners. This was a lamb of God’s providing indeed (we dared not have thought of it) to satisfy his own justice, and to render him just in justifying the ungodly. What is all our fire and wood, the best preparation and performances we can make or present, unless God had provided himself this Lamb for a burnt-offering? He could not away with them. The words will well bear this interpretation. But, whatever Abraham might intend, I cannot but think he here made an application, and acquainted his son, of God’s dealing with his soul; and at length, with tears in his eyes, and the utmost affection in his heart, cried out, "Thou art to be the lamb, my Son;" God has commanded me to provide thee for a burnt-offering, and to offer thee upon the mountain which we are now ascending. And, as it appears from a subsequent verse, Isaac, convinced that it was the divine will, made no resistance at all: For it is said, "They went both of them together," and again, when we are told, that Abraham bound Isaac, we do not hear of his complaining, or endeavouring to escape, which he might have done, being (as some think) near thirty years of age, and, it is plain, capable of carrying wood enough for a burnt-offering. But he was partaker of the like precious faith with his aged father, and therefore is as willing to be offered, as Abraham is to offer him: And so they went both of them together." Ver. 9. At length "they came to the place of which God had told Abraham. He built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood." And here let us pause a while, and by faith take a view of the place where the father has laid him. I doubt not but the blessed angels hovered round the altar, and sang, "Glory be to God in the highest," for giving such faith to man. Come, all ye tender-hearted parents, who know what it is to look over a dying child: fancy that you saw the altar erected before you, and the wood laid in order, and the beloved Isaac bound upon it: fancy that you saw the aged parent standing by weeping. (For, why may we not suppose that Abraham wept, since Jesus himself wept at the grave of Lazarus?) O what pious, endearing expressions passed now alternately between the father and the son! Josephus records a pathetic speech made by each, whether genuine I know not: but methinks I see the tears trickle down the Patriarch Abraham’s checks; and out of the abundance of the heart, he cries, Adieu, adieu, my son; the Lord gave thee to me, and the Lord calls thee away; blessed be the name of the Lord: adieu, my Isaac, my only son, whom I love as my own soul; adieu, adieu. I see Isaac at the same time meekly resigning himself into his heavenly Father’s hands, and praying to the most High to strengthen his earthly parent to strike the stroke. But why do I attempt to describe what either son or father felt? It is impossible: we may indeed form same faint idea of, but shall never fully comprehend it, till we come and sit down with them in the kingdom of heaven, and hear them tell the pleasing story over again. Hasten, O Lord, that blessed time! O let thy kingdom come! And now, the fatal blow is going to be given. "And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son." But do you not think he intended to turn away his head, when he gave the blow? Nay, why may we not suppose he sometimes drew his hand in, after it was stretched out, willing to take another last farewell of his beloved Isaac, and desirous to defer it a little, though resolved at last to strike home? Be that as it will, his arm is now stretched out, the knife is in his hand, and he is about to put it to his dear son’s throat. But sing, O heavens! and rejoice, O earth! Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity: for behold, just as the knife, in all probability, was near his throat, ver. 11. "the angel of the Lord, (or rather the Lord of angels, Jesus Christ, the angel of the everlasting covenant) called unto him, (probably in a very audible manner) from heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham. (The word is doubled, to engage his attention; and perhaps the suddenness of the call made him draw back his hand, just as he was going to strike his son.) And Abraham said, Here am I." "And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now know I that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me." Here then it was that Abraham received his son Isaac from the dead in a figure. He was in effect offered upon the altar, and God looked upon him as offered and given unto him. Now it was that Abraham’s faith, being tried, was found more precious than gold purified seven times in the fire. Now as a reward of grace, though not of debt, for this signal act of obedience, by an oath, God gives and confirms the promise, "that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed," ver. 17, 18. With what comfort may we suppose the good old man and his son went down from the mount, and returned unto the young men! With what joy may we imagine he went home, and related all that had passed to Sarah! And above all, with what triumph is he now exulting in the paradise of God, and adoring rich, free, distinguishing, electing, everlasting love, which alone made him to differ from the rest of mankind, and rendered him worthy of that title which he will have so long as the sun and the moon endure, "The Father of the faithful!" But let us now draw our eyes from the creature, and do what Abraham, if he was present, would direct to; I mean, fix them on the Creator, God blessed for evermore. I see your hearts affected, I see your eyes weep. (And indeed, who can refrain weeping at the relation of such a story?) But, behold, I shew you a mystery, hid under the sacrifice of Abraham’s only son, which, unless your hearts are hardned, must cause you to weep tears of love, and that plentifully too. I would willingly hope you even prevent me here, and are ready to say, "It is the love of God, in giving Jesus Christ to die for our sins." Yes; that is it. And yet perhaps you find your hearts, at the mentioning of this, not so much affected. Let this convince you, that we are all fallen creatures, and that we do not love God or Christ as we ought to do: for, if you admire Abraham offering up his Isaac, how much more ought you to extol, magnify and adore the love of God, who so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son Christ Jesus our Lord, "that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life?" May we not well cry out, Now know we, O Lord, that thou hast loved us, since thou hast not withheld thy Son, thine only Son from us? Abraham was God’s creature (and God was Abraham’s friend) and therefore under the highest obligation to surrender up his Isaac. But O stupendious love! whilst we were his enemies, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that he might become a curse for us. O the freeness, as well as the infinity, of the love of God our Father! It is unsearchable: I am lost in contemplating it; it is past finding out. Think, O believers, think of the love of God, in giving Jesus Christ to be a propitiation for our sins. And when you hear how Abraham built an altar, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood; think how your heavenly Father bound Jesus Christ his only Son, and offered him upon the altar of his justice, and laid upon him the iniquities of us all. When you read of Abraham’s stretching forth his hand to slay his Son, Think, O think, how God actually suffered his Son to be slain, that we might live for evermore. Do you read of Isaac carrying the wood upon his shoulders, upon which he was to be offered? Let this lead you to mount Calvary (this very mount of Moriah where Isaac was offered, as some think) and take a view of the antitype Jesus Christ, the Son of God, bearing and ready to sink under the weight of that cross, on which he was to hang for us. Do you admire Isaac so freely consenting to die, though a creature, and therefore obliged to go when God called? O do not forget to admire infinitely more the dear Lord Jesus, that promised seed, who willingly said, "Lo, I come," though under no obligation so to do, "to do thy will," to obey and die for men, "O God!" Did you weep just now, when I bid you fancy you saw the altar, and the wood laid in order and Isaac laid bound on the altar? Look by faith, behold the blessed Jesus, our all-glorious Emmanuel, not bound, but nailed on an accursed tree: see how he hangs crowned with thorns, and had in derision of all that are round about him: see how the thorns pierce him, and how the blood in purple streams trickle down his sacred temples! Hark how the God of nature groans! See how he bows his head, and at length humanity gives up the ghost! Isaac is saved, but Jesus, the God of Isaac, dies: A ram is offered up in Isaac’s room, but Jesus has no substitute; Jesus must bleed, Jesus must die; God the Father provided this Lamb for himself from all eternity. He must be offered in time, or man must be damned for evermore. And now, where are your tears? Shall I say, refrain your voice from weeping? No; rather let me exhort you to look to him whom you have pierced, and mourn, as a woman mourneth for her first-born: for we have been the betrayers, we have been the murderers of this Lord of glory; and shall we not bewail those sins, which brought the blessed Jesus to the accursed tree? Having so much done, so much suffered for us, so much forgiven, shall we not love much? O! let us love Him with all our hearts, and minds; and strength, and glorify him in our souls and bodies, for they are his. Which leads me to a second inference I shall draw from the foregoing discourse. From hence we may learn the nature of true, justifying faith. Whoever understands and preaches the truth, as it is in Jesus, must acknowledge, that salvation is God’s free gift, and that we are saved, not by any or all the works of righteousness which we have done or can do: no; we can neither wholly nor in part justify ourselves in the sight of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is our righteousness; and if we are accepted with God, it must be only in and through the personal righteousness, the active and passive obedience, of Jesus Christ his beloved Son. This righteousness must be imputed, or counted over to us, and applied by faith to our hearts, or else we can in no wise be justified in God’s sight: and that very moment a sinner is enabled to lay hold on Christ’s righteousness by faith, he is freely justified from all his sins, and shall never enter into condemnation, not withstanding he was a fire-brand of hell before. Thus it was that Abraham was justified before he did any good work: he was enabled to believe on the Lord Christ; it was accounted to him for righteousness; that is, Christ’s righteousness was made over to him, and so accounted his. This, this is gospel; this is the only way of finding acceptance with God: good works have nothing to do with our justification in his sight. We are justified by faith alone, as faith the article of our church; agreeable to which the apostle Paul says, "By grace ye are saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." Notwithstanding, good works have their proper place: they justify our faith, though not our persons; they follow it, and evidence our justification in the sight of men. Hence it is that the apostle James asks, was not Abraham justified by works? (alluding no doubt to the story on which we have been discoursing) that is, did he not prove he was in a justified state, because his faith was productive of good works? This declarative justification in the sight of men, is what is directly to be understood in the words of the text; "Now know I, says God, that thou fearest me, since thou hast not withheld thy Son, thine only Son from me." Not but that God knew it before; but this is spoken in condescension to our weak capacities, and plainly shews, that his offering up his son was accepted with God, as an evidence of the sincerity of his faith, and for this, was left on record to future ages. Hence then you may learn, whether you are blessed with, and are sons and daughters of, faithful Abraham. You say you believe; you talk of free grace and free justification: you do well; the devils also believe and tremble. But has the faith, which you pretend to, influenced your hearts, renewed your souls, and, like Abraham’s worked by love? Are your affections, like his, set on things above? Are you heavenly-minded, and like him, do you confess yourselves strangers and pilgrims on the earth? In short, has your faith enabled you to overcome the world, and strengthened you to give up your Isaacs, your laughter, your most beloved lusts, friends, pleasures, and profits for God? If so, take the comfort of it; for justly may you say, "We know assuredly, that we do fear and love "God, or rather are loved of him." But if you are only talking believers, have only a faith of the head, and never felt the power of it in your hearts, however you may bolster yourselves up, and say, "We have Abraham for our father, or Christ is our Saviour;" unless you get a faith of the heart, a faith working by love, you shall never sit with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or Jesus Christ, in the kingdom of heaven. But I must draw one more inference, and with that I shall conclude. Learn, O saints! from what has been said, to sit loose to all your worldly comforts; and stand ready prepared to part with every thing, when God shall require it at your hand. Some of you perhaps may have friends, who are to you as your own souls! and others may have children, in whose lives your own lives are bound up: all I believe have their Isaacs, their particular delights of some kind or other. Labour, for Christ’s sake, labour, ye sons and daughters of Abraham, to resign them daily in affection to God, that, when he shall require you really to sacrifice them, you may not confer with flesh and blood, any more than the blessed patriarch now before us. And as for you that have been in any measure tried like unto him, let his example encourage and comfort you. Remember, Abraham your father was tried so before you: think, O think of the happiness he now enjoys, and how he is incessantly thanking God for tempting and trying him when here below. Look up often by the eye of faith, and see him sitting with his dearly beloved Isaac in the world of spirits. Remember, it will be but a little while, and you shall sit with them also, and tell one another what God has done for your souls. There I hope to sit with you, and hear this story of his offering up his Son from his own mouth, and to praise the Lamb that sitteth upon the throne, for what he hath done for all our souls, for ever and ever. Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain) Easter 1608 - Bishop Lancelot Andrewes Easter 1608 — Bishop Lancelot Andrewes Mark 16:1–7 And when the Sabbath day was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought sweet ointments, that they might come and embalm Him. Therefore early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre, when the sun was yet rising. And they said one to another, Who shall roll us away this stone from the door of the sepulchre? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away; for it was a very great one. So they went into the sepulchre, and saw a young man sitting at the right side, clothed in a long white robe; and they were afraid. But he said unto them, Be not afraid: ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, Which hath been crucified; He is risen, He is not here; Behold the place where they put Him. But go your way and tell His disciples, and Peter, that He will go before you into Galilee: there shall ye see Him, as He said unto you. The sum of this Gospel is a gospel, that is, a message of good tidings. In a message these three points fall in naturally: I. the parties to whom it is brought; II. the party by whom; III. and the message itself. These three: 1. the parties to whom,—three women, the three Maries. 2. The party by whom,—an Angel. 3. The message itself, the first news of Christ’s rising again. These three make the three parts in the text. 1. The women, 2. the Angel, 3. the message. Seven verses I have read ye. The first four concern the women, the fifth the Angel, the two last the Angel’s message. In the women, we have to consider 1. themselves in the first; 2. their journey in the second and third; and 3. their success in the fourth. In the Angel, 1. the manner of his appearing, 2. and of their affecting with it. In the message, the news itself: 1. that Christ "is risen;" 2. that "He is gone before them to Galilee;" 3. that "there they shall see Him;" 4. Peter and all. 5. Then, the Ite et dicite, the commission ad evangelizandum; not to conceal these good news but publish it, these to His Disciples, they to others, and so to us; we to day, and so to the world’s end. As the text lieth, the part that first offereth itself, is the parties to whom this message came. Which were three women. Where, finding that women were the first that had notice of Christ’s resurrection, we stay. For it may seem strange that passing by all men, yea the Apostles themselves, Christ would have His resurrection first of all made known to that sex. Reasons are rendered, of divers diversely. We may be bold to allege that the Angel doth in the text, verse 5. Vos enim quœritis,* for they sought Christ. And, Christ "is not unrighteous to forget the work and labour of their love" that seek Him. Verily there will appear more love and labour in these women, than in men, even the Apostles themselves. At this time, I know not how, men were then become women and did animos gerere muliebres,* and women were men. Sure the more manly of the twain. The Apostles, they set mured up,* all "the doors fast" about them; sought not,* went not to the sepulchre. Neither Peter that loved Him, nor John whom He loved, till these women brought them word. But these women we see were last at His Passion, and first at His Resurrection; stayed longest at that, came soonest to this, even in this respect to be respected. Sure, as it is said of the Law, Vigilantibus et non dormientibus succurrit Lex, so may it no less truly be said of the Gospel. We see it here, it cometh not to sleepers, but to them that are awake, and up and about their business, as these women were. So that there was a capacity in them to receive this prerogative. Before I leave this part of the parties, I may not omit to observe Mary Magdalene’s place and precedence among the three. All the Fathers are careful to note it. That she standeth first of them, for it seemeth no good order. She had had seven devils in her,* as we find, verse 9. She had had the blemish to be called peccatrix,* as one famous and notorious in that kind. The other were of honest report, and never so stained, yet is she named with them. With them were much, but not only with them, but before them. With them;—and that is to shew Christ’s resurrection, as well as His death, reacheth to sinners of both sexes; and that, to sinners of note, no less than those that seem not to have greatly gone astray;—but before them too, and that is indeed to be noted; that she is the first in the list of women, and St. Peter in that of men. These two, the two chief sinners, either of their sex. Yet they, the two, whose lots came first forth in sorte sanctorum,* in partaking this news. And this to shew that chief sinners as these were, if they carry themselves as they did, shall be at no loss by their fall; shall not only be pardoned but honoured even as he was,* like these, with stolâ primâ, "the first robe" in all the wardrobe, and stand foremost of all. And it is not without a touch of the former reason, in that the sinner, after his recovery, for the most part seeketh God more fervently, whereas they that have not greatly gone astray, are but even so so; if warm, it is all. And with God it is a rule, plus valet hora fervens quam mensis tepens, ‘an hour of fervour more worth than a month of tepor.’ Now such was Mary Magdalene, here and elsewhere vouchsafed therefore this degree of exaltation,* to be "of the first three;" nay, to be the first of the three, that heard first of His rising; yea, as in the ninth verse, that first saw Him risen from the dead. This of the persons. And now, because their endeavours were so well liked as they were for them counted worthy this so great honour, it falleth next to consider what those were, that we being like prepared may partake the like good hap. So seeking as they, we may find as they did. They were four in number. The first and third in the second, the second in the first, and the last in the third verse. All reduced, as Christ reduced them in Mary Magdalene, to dilexit multum, ‘their great love,’ of which these four be four demonstrations; or, if love be an "ensign" as it is termed Cant. 2.,* the four colours of it. 1. That they went to the sepulchre;—love to one dead. 2. That they bought precious odours;—love that is at charges. 3. That out they went early, before break of day;—love that will take pains. 4. That for all the stone, still they went on;—love that will wrestle with impediments. The first is constant as to the dead; the second bounteous, as at expense; the third diligent, as up betimes; the last resolute, be the stone never so great. According to which four, are the four denominations of love: 1. Amor, a mor-te, when it surviveth death. 2. When it buyeth dearly, it is charitas; 3. When it sheweth all diligence, it is dilectio; 4. When it goeth per saxa, when stones cannot stay it, it is zelus, which is specially seen in encountering difficulties. It shall not be amiss to touch them severally; it will serve to touch our love, whether ours be of the same assay. The first riseth out of these words, "They went to the sepulchre;" and indeed, ex totâ substantiâ, ‘out of the whole text.’ For, for whom is all this ado, is it not for Christ? But Christ is dead, and buried three days since, and this is now the third day. What then, though He be dead, to their love He liveth still: death may take His body from their eyes, but shall never take His remembrance from their hearts. Herein is love, this is the first colour, saith a great master in that faculty,* fortis sicut mors, "love, that death cannot foil," but continueth to the dead, as if they still were alive. And when I say the dead, I mean not such as the dead hath left behind them, though that be a virtue, and Booz worthily blessed for it that shewed mercy to the living for the dead’s sake;* but I mean performing offices of love to the dead himself; to see he have a sepulchre to go to; not so to bury his friend, as he would bury his ass being dead. To see he have one, and not thither to bring him, and there to leave him, and bury him and his memory both in a grave. Such is the world’s love.* Solomon sheweth it by the lion and the dog. All after Christ living, but go to His sepulchre who will, not we. The love that goeth thither, that burieth not the memory of Him that is buried, is love indeed. The journey to the sepulchre is iter amoris; had it been but to lament, as Mary Magdalene to Lazarus:—but then here is a farther matter, they went to anoint Him. That is set for another sign,* that they spared for no cost, but bought precious odours wherewith to embalm Him. 1. To go to anoint Christ, is kindly; it is to make Him Christ, that is, "Anointed." That term referreth principally to His Father’s anointing, I grant; but what, if we also anoint Him, will He take it in evil part? Clearly not, neither quick,* nor dead. Not quick, Luke 7. Mark 14. Not dead; this place is pregnant,* it is the end of their journey to do this. He is well content to be their, and our Anointed, not His Father’s only; yea, it is a way to make Him Christum nostrum, ‘our Christ,’ if we break our boxes, and bestow our odours upon Him. 2. To anoint Him, and not with some odd cast ointment, lying by them, kept a little too long, to throw away upon Him; but to buy, to be at cost, to do it emptis odoribus, ‘with bought odours.’ 3. This to do to Him alive, that would they with all their hearts; but if that cannot be, to do it to Him dead, rather than not at all. To do it to whatsoever is left us of Christ, to that to do it. 4. To embalm Christ, Christ dead, yea though others had done it before,* for so is the case. Joseph and Nicodemus had bestowed myrrh and aloes to that end already. What then? though they had done it, it is not enough, nay, it is nothing. Nay, if all the world should have done it, unless they might come with their odours and do it too, all were nothing. In hoc est charitas, ‘herein is love,’ and this a sign of it. A sign of it every where else, and to Christ a sign it was. Indeed, such a sign there was, but it is beaten down now. We can love Christ absque hoc, and shew it some other way well enough. It sheweth our love is not charitas, no dear love; but vilitas, love that loves to be at as little charges with Christ as may be, faint love. You shall know it thus: Ad hoc signum se contrahit, ‘at this sign it shrinks,’ at every word of it. 1. "They bought,"—that is charge; we like it not,* we had rather hear potuit vendi. 2. "Odours." What need odours? An unnecessary charge. We like no odour but odor lucri. 3. To Christ. Nay, seeing it is unnecessary, we trust Christ will not require it. 4. Not alive, but especially, not dead. There was much ado while He lived to get allowance for it; there was one of His own Apostles, a good charitable man,* pater pauperum, held it to be plain perditio. Yet, to anoint the living, that many do, they can anoint us again; but to the dead, it is quite cast away. But then, if it had been told us, He is embalmed already, why then, take away their odours, that at no hand would have been endured. This sheweth our love is not charitas. But so long as this is a Gospel, it shall sound every Easter-day in our ear, That the buying of odours, the embalming of whatsoever is left us of Christ, is and will be still a sign of our loving and seeking Him, as we should; though not heretofore, yet now; now especially, when that objection ceaseth, He is embalmed enough already. He was indeed then, but most of the myrrh and aloes is now gone. That there is good occasion left, if any be disposed in hoc signo signari, ‘with this sign to seal his love to Christ anew again.’ From this of their expense, charitas, we pass to the third, of their diligence, dilectio, set down in the second verse in these words "very early," &c. And but mark how diligent the Holy Ghost is in describing their diligence. "The very first day of the week," the very first part of that first day, "in the morning;" the very first hour of that first part, "very early, before the sun was up," they were up. Why good Lord, what need all this haste? Christ is fast enough under His stone. He will not run away ye may be sure; ye need never break your sleep, and yet come to the sepulchre time enough. No, if they do it not as soon as it may be done, it is nothing worth. Herein is love, dilectio, whose proper sign is diligentia, in not slipping the first opportunity of shewing it. They did it not at their leisure, they could not rest, they were not well, till they were about it. Which very speed of theirs doubleth all the former. For cito we know is esteemed as much as bis. To do it at once is to do it more than once, is to do it twice over. Yet this we must take with us, Διαγενομένου σαββάτου. Where falleth a very strange thing, that as we have commended them for their quickness, so must we now also for their slowness, out of the very first words of all. "When the Sabbath was past," then, and not till then, they did it. This diligence of theirs, as great haste as it made, stayed yet till the Sabbath were past, and by this means hath two contrary commendations: 1. One, for the speed; 2. another for the stay of it. Though they fain would have been embalming Him as soon as might be, yet not with breach of the Sabbath. Their diligence leapt over none of God’s commandments for haste. No, not this commandment, which of all other the world is boldest with; and if they have haste, somewhat else may, but sure the Sabbath shall never stay them. The Sabbath they stayed, for then God stayed them. But that was no sooner over, but their diligence appeared straight. No other thing could stay them. Not their own sabbath, sleep—but "before day-light" they were well onward on their way. The last is in the third verse, in these words, "As they went, they said," &c. There was a stone, a very great one, to be rolled away ere they could come at Him. They were so rapt with love, in a kind of ecstacy, they never thought of the stone; they were well on their way before they remembered it. And then, when it came to their minds, they went not back though, but on still, the stone non obstante. And herein is love, the very fervor of it, zeal; that word hath fire in it. Not only diligence as lightness to carry it upward, but zeal as fire to burn a hole and eat itself a way, through whatsoever shall oppose to it. No stone so heavy as to stay them, or turn them back.* And this is St. John’s sign: foras pellit timorem, "love, if it be perfect, casts out fear;" et erubescit nomen difficultatis, ‘shames to confess any thing too hard for it.’ Ours is not so; we must have, not great stones, God wot, but every scruple removed out of our way, or we will not stir. But as, if you see one qui laborem fingit in prœcepto, ‘that makes a great deal more labour in a precept’ than needs, that is afraid where no fear is;* of leo in viâ, "a lion" or I wot not what perilous beast "in the way," and no such matter; it is a certain sign his love is small, his affection cold to the business in hand; so, on the other side, when we see, as in these here, such zeal to that they went about, as first they forgot there was any stone at all, and when they bethought them of it, they brake not off, but went on though; ye may be bold to say of them, dilexerunt multum, ‘their love was great’ that per saxa, ‘through stones’ and all, yet goeth forward; that neither cost nor pains nor peril can divert. Tell them the party is dead they go to; it skills not, their love is not dead; that will go on. Tell them He is embalmed already, they may save their cost; it is not enough for them except they do it too, they will do it nevertheless for all that. Tell them they may take time then, and do it; nay, unless it be done the first day, hour, and minute, it contents them not. Tell them there is a stone, more than they remember, and more than they can remove; no matter, they will try their strength and lift at it, though they take the foil. Of these thus qualified we may truly say, They that are at all this cost, labour, pains, to anoint Him dead, shew plainly, if it lay in them to raise Him again, they would not fail but do it; consequently would be glad to hear He were risen, and so are fit hearers of this Gospel; hearers well disposed, and every way meet to receive this Messenger, and this message. Now to the success. We see what they sought, we long to see what they found. Such love and such labour would not be lost. This we may be sure of, there is none shall anoint Him alive or dead, without some recompense or consideration; which is set down of two sorts. 1. "They found the stone rolled away," as great as it was. That which troubled them most, how it might be removed, that found they removed ere they came. They need never take pains with it, the Angel had done it to their hands. 2. They found not indeed Whom they sought, Christ; but His Angel they found, and heard such a gospel of Him, so good news, as pleased them better than if they had found His body to embalm it. That news which of all other they most longed to hear, that He they came to anoint needed no such office to be done to Him, as being alive again. This was the success. And from this success of theirs our lesson is. 1. That as there is no virtue, no good work, but hath some impediment, as it were some great stone to be lifted at,—Quis revolvet? so that it is ofttimes the lot of them that seek to do good, to find many imaginary stones removed to their hands; God so providing, ut quod admovit Satanas, amoveat Angelus, ‘what Satan lays in the way, a good Angel takes out of the way;’ that it may in the like case be a good answer to Quis revolvet? to say, Angelus Domini, "the Angel of the Lord," he shall do it, done it shall be: so did these here, and as they did, others shall find it. 2. Again, it is the hope that all may have that set themselves to do Christ any service, to find His Angel at least, though not Himself; to hear some good news of Him, though not see Him at the first. Certain it is with ungentes ungentur, ‘none shall seek ever to anoint Him but they shall be anointed by Him again,’ one way or other; and find, though not always what they seek, yet some supply that shall be worth the while. And this we may reckon of, it shall never fail us. To follow this farther. Leave we these good women, and come first to the Angel, the messenger, and after to his message. An Angel was the messenger, for none other messenger was meet for this message.* For if His birth were tidings of so great joy as none but an Angel was meet to report it, His resurrection is as much. As much? nay, much more. As much; for His resurrection is itself a birth too. To it doth the Apostle apply the verse in the Psalm,* "This day have I begotten Thee." Even this day when He was born anew, tanquam ex utero sepulchri, ‘from the womb of the grave.’ As much then, yea much more. For the news of His birth might well have been brought by a mortal, it was but His entry into a mortal life; but this here not properly but by an Angel,* for that in the Resurrection we shall be "like the Angels," and shall die no more; and therefore an immortal messenger was meetest for it. We first begin with what they saw,—the vision. They saw an Angel in the sepulchre. An Angel in a sepulchre is a very strange sight. A sepulchre is but an homely place—neither savoury, nor sightly, for an Angel to come in. The place of dead men’s bones, of stench, of worms, and of rottenness;—What doth an Angel there? Indeed, no Angel ever came there till this morning. Not till Christ had been there; but, since His body was there, a great change hath ensued. He hath left there odorem vitœ, and changed the grave into a place of rest. That not only this Angel here now, but after this,* two more, yea divers Angels upon divers occasions, this day did visit and frequent this place. Which very finding of the Angels thus, in the place of dead bodies, may be and is to us a pledge, that there is a possibility and hope, that the dead bodies may come also into the place of Angels. Why not the bodies in the grave to be in Heaven one day, as well as the Angels of Heaven to be in the grave this day? This for the vision. The next for the manner of his appearing, in what form he shewed himself. A matter worth our stay a little as a good introduction to us, in him as in a mirror to see what shall be the state of us and our bodies in the Resurrection, inasmuch as it is expressly promised we shall then be ἰσάγγελοι,* "like and equal to the Angels themselves." 2. They saw "a young man," one in the vigour and strength of his years, and such shall be our estate then; all age, sickness, infirmity removed clean away. Therefore it was also that the Resurrection fell in the spring, the freshest time of the year; and in the morning, the freshest time of the day,* when saith Esay "the dew is on the herbs." Therefore, that it was in a garden, (so it was in Joseph of Arimathea’s garden) that look, as that garden was at that time of the year, the spring, so shall our estate then be in the very flower and prime of it. They saw him "sitting," which is we know the site of rest and quietness, of them that are at ease. To shew us a second quality of our estate then; that in it all labour shall cease, all motions rest, all troubles come utterly to an end for ever, and the state of it a quiet, a restful state. They saw him sit "on the right side." And that side is the side of pre-eminence and honour, to shew that those also shall accompany us rising again. That we may fall on the left side,* but we shall rise on the right; be "sown in dishonour," but shall "rise again in honour," that honour which His Saints and Angels have and shall have for ever. Lastly, they saw him "clothed all in white." And white is the colour of gladness, as we find Eccles. 9:8. All to shew still,* that it shall be a state, as of strength, rest, and honour, so of joy likewise. And that, robe-wise; not short or scant, but as his stole, all over, down to the ground. Neither serves it alone to shew us, what then we shall be, but withal what now we ought to be this day, the day of His rising.* In that we see, that as the heavens at the time of His Passion were in black, by the great eclipse shewing us it was then a time of mourning; so this day the Angels were all in white, to teach us thereby with what affection, with how great joy and gladness, we are to celebrate and solemnize this feast of our Saviour’s rising. Their affection here was otherwise, and that is somewhat strange. In the apparition there was nothing fearful as ye see, yet it is said, "they were afraid." Even now they feared nothing, and now they fall to be afraid at this so comfortable a sight. Had they been guilty to themselves of any evil they came to do, well might they then have feared, God first, as the malefactor doth the judge, and then His Angel, as the executioner of His wrath. But their coming was for good. But I find it is not the sinner’s case only, but even of the best of our nature.* Look the Scripture; Abraham and Jacob in the Old,* Zachary and the Blessed Virgin in the New,* all strucken with fear still, at the sight of good Angels; yea even then,* when they came for their good. It fareth with the Angels of light, as it doth with the light itself. Sore eyes and weak cannot endure it, no more can sinners them. No more can the strongest sight neither bear the light, if the object be too excellent, if it be not tempered to a certain proportion; otherwise, even to the best that is, is the light offensive. And that is their case. Afraid they are, not for any evil they were about, but for that our very nature is now so decayed, ut lucem ad quam nata est sustinere nequeat, as the Angels’ brightness, for whose society we were created, yet as now we are, bear it we cannot, but need to be comforted at the sight of a comfortable Angel. It is not the messenger angelical, but the message evangelical that must do it. Which leadeth us along from the vision that feared them, to the message itself that relieved them; which is the third part. The stone lay not more heavy on the grave, than did that fear on their hearts, pressing them down hard. And no less needful was it, the Angel should roll it away, this spiritual great stone from their hearts, than he did that other material from the sepulchre itself. With that he begins. 1. "Fear not." A meet text for him, that maketh a sermon at a sepulchre. For the fear of that place maketh us out of quiet all our life long.* It lieth at our heart like a stone, and no way there is to make us willing to go thither, but by putting us out of fear; by putting us in hope, that the great stones shall be rolled away again from our sepulchres, and we from thence rise to a better life. It is a right beginning for an Easter-day’s sermon, nolite timere. 2. And a good reason he yields, why not. For it is not every body’s case, this nolite timere vos, "fear not you." Why not? For "you seek Jesus of Nazareth Which hath been crucified." "Nazareth" might keep you back, the meanness of His birth, and "crucified" more, the reproach of His death. Inasmuch as these cannot let you, but ye seek Him; are ashamed neither of His poor birth, nor of His shameful death, but seek Him; and seek Him, not as some did when He was alive, when good was to be done by Him, but even now, dead, when nothing is to be gotten; and not to rob or rifle Him, but to embalm Him, an office of love and kindness, (this touched before) "fear not you," nor let any fear that so seek Him. Now, that they may not fear, He imparts them His message full of comfort. And it containeth four comforts of hope, answerable to the four former proofs of their love: "1. He is risen;" 2. But "gone before you;" 3. "Ye shall see Him;" 4. "All His Disciples," "Peter" and all; "Go tell them so." In that you thus testify your love in seeking Him, I dare say ye had rather He ye thus come to embalm, that He were alive again; and no more joyful tidings could come to you than that He were so. Ye could I dare say with all your hearts be content to lose all your charge you have been at, in buying your odours, on condition it were so. Therefore I certify you that He is alive,* He is risen. No more than Gaza gates could hold Samson,* or the whale Jonas, no more could this stone keep Him in the sepulchre, but risen He is. First, of this ye were sure, here He was: ye were at His laying in, ye saw the stone sealed, and the watch set, so that here He was. But here He is not now; come see the place, trust your own eyes, non est hîc. But what of that, this is but a lame consequence for all that; He is not here, therefore He is risen. For may it not be, He hath been taken away? Not with any likelihood; though such a thing will be given out,* that the Disciples stole Him away while the watch was asleep. But your reason will give you; 1. small probability there is, they could be asleep, all the ground shaking and tottering under them by means of the earthquake.* 2. And secondly, if they did sleep for all that, yet then could they not tell sleeping, how, or by whom, He was taken away. 3. And thirdly, that His Disciples should do it; they you know of all other were utterly unlike to do any such thing; so fearful as miserably they forsook Him yet alive, and have ever since shut themselves up since He was dead. 4. And fourthly, if they durst have done such a thing, they would have taken Him away, linen, clothes, and all, as fearful men will make all the haste they can possibly, and not stood stripping Him and wrapping up the clothes, and laying them every parcel, one by one in order, as men use to do that have time enough and take deliberation, as being in no haste, or fear at all. To you therefore, as we say, ad hominem, this consequence is good; not taken away, and not here, therefore risen He is. But, to put all out of doubt, you shall trust your own eyes; videbitis, ‘you shall see’ it is so; you shall see Him. Indeed, non hîc would not serve their turns; He knew there question would be, Where is He? Gone He is; not quite gone, but only gone before, which is the second comfort; for if He be but gone before, we have hope to follow after; I prœ, sequar; so is the nature of relatives. But that we may follow then, whither is He gone? Whither He told ye Himself, a little before His Passion, chap. 14:28. "into Galilee." 1. No meeter place for Jesus of Nazareth to go, than to "Galilee:"* there He is best known, there in Nazareth He was brought up,* there in Cana He did His first miracle, shewed His first glory—meet therefore to see His last; there in Capernaum, and the coasts about, preached most, bestowed most of His labour. 2. "Galilee;" it was called "Galilee of the Gentiles,"* for it was in the confines of them; to shew, His resurrection, tanquam in meditullio, ‘as in a middle indifferent place,’ reacheth to both;* concerneth and benefiteth both alike. As Jonas after his resurrection went to Nineveh, so Christ after His to Galilee of the Gentiles. 3. "Galilee;" that from Galilee, the place from whence they said, No good thing could ever come, He might bring one of the best things, and of most comfort that ever was; the sight and comfort of His Resurrection. 4. "Galilee" last, for Galilee signifieth a revolution or turning about to the first point, whither they must go that shall see Him, or have any part or fellowship in this feast of His Resurrection. Thither is He gone before, and thither if ye follow, there ye shall see Him. This is the third comfort, and it is one indeed. For sight is the sense of certainty, and all that they can desire, and there they did see Him. Not these here only, or the twelve only,* or the one hundred and twenty names, in Acts 1. only, but even five hundred of them at once,* saith the Apostle; a whole "cloud of witnesses,*" to put it clean out of question. And of purpose doth the Angel point to that apparition, which was the most famous and public of all the ten. This was good news for those here, and they were worthy of it, seeking Him as they did. But what shall become of the rest, namely of His Disciples that lost Him alive, and seek Him not dead? They shall never see Him more? Yes (which is evangelicum, ‘good tidings’ indeed, the chief comfort of all) they too that left Him so shamefully but three days ago, them He casts not off, but will be glad to see them in Galilee. Well, whatsoever become of other, Peter that so foully forsook, and forsware Him both, he shall never see Him more? Yes, Peter too, and Peter by name. And indeed, it is more than needful He should name him, he had greatest cause of doubt; the greatest stone upon him to be rolled away of any, that had so often with oaths and execrations so utterly renounced Him.* This is a good message for him, and Mary Magdalene as fit a messenger as can be to carry it, one great sinner to another. That not only Christ is risen, but content that His forsakers, deniers, forswearers, Peter and all, should repair to Him the day of His Resurrection; that all the deadly wounds of His Passion have not killed His compassion over sinners; that though they have made wrack of their duty, yet He hath not lost His mercy, not left it in the grave, but is as ready to receive them as ever. His Resurrection hath made no change in Him. Dying and rising, He is to sinners still one and the same, still like Himself, a kind, loving, and merciful Saviour. This is the last; Peter and all may see Him. And with this He dismisseth them, with ite et dicite, with a commission and precept, by virtue whereof He maketh these women Apostolos Apostolorum, ‘Apostles to the Apostles themselves,’—for this article of the Resurrection did they first learn of these women, and they were the first of all that preached this Gospel—giving them in charge, that seeing this day is a day of glad tidings, they would not conceal it, but impart it to others, even to so many as then were, or would ever after be Christ’s disciples. They came to embalm Christ’s body natural; that needs it not, it is past embalming now. But another Body He hath, a mystical body, a company of those that had believed in Him, though weakly; that they would go and anoint them, for they need it. They sit drying away, what with fear, what with remorse of their unkind dealing with Him; they need to have some oil, some balm to supple them. That they do with this Gospel, with these four; of which four ingredients is made the balm of this day. Thus we see, these that were at cost to anoint Christ were fully recompensed for the costs they had been at; themselves anointed with oil and odours of a higher nature, and far more precious than those they brought with them,* Oleum lœtitiœ, saith the Psalm,* Odor vitœ, saith the Apostle. And that so plenteously, as there is enough for themselves, enough too for others, for His Disciples, for Peter and all. But what is this to us? Sure, as we learned by way of duty how to seek Christ after their example, so seeking Him in that manner, by way of reward we hope to have our part in this good news no less than they. 1. "Christ is risen."* That concerneth us alike. "The head" is got above the water,* "the root" hath received life and sap, "the first fruits" are lift up and consecrate;* we no less than they, as His members, His branches, His field, recover to this hope. 2. And for His going before, that which the Angel said here once, is ever true. He is not gone quite away, He is but gone before us; He is but the antecedent, we as the consequent to be inferred after. Yea, though He be gone to Galilœa superior, ‘the Galilee that is above,’ Heaven, the place of the celestial spheres and revolutions, even thither is He gone, not as a party absolute, of or for Himself, but as "a Harbinger,"* saith the Apostle, with relation to others that are coming after, for whom He goeth before to take up a place. So the Apostle there, so the Angel here. So He Himself, Vado;* not Vado alone, but Vado parare locum vobis, "I go to prepare a place wherein to receive you," when the number of you and your brethren shall be full. 3. To us likewise pertaineth the third videbitis, that is, the Gospel indeed. "He is risen." Rising of itself is no Gospel, but He is risen and we shall see Him; that is it. That the time will come also, that we shall see Him in the Galilee celestial that is above;* yea, that all shall see Him, even "they that pierced Him." But they that came to embalm Him,* with joy and lifting up their heads they shall see Him; with that sight shall they see Him, That shall evermore make them blessed. 4. Lastly, which is worth all the rest, That we shall not need to be dismayed with our unworthiness, in that willing He is Peter should have word of this, and Mary Magdalene should carry it. That such as they were, sinners, and chief sinners, should have these tidings told them, this Gospel preached them; that He is as ready to receive them to grace as any of the rest, and will be as glad to see them as any others in Galilee. But then are we to remember the condition, that here we get us into Galilee, or else it will not be. And Galilee is ‘a revolution, or turning’ ad principia ‘to the first point,’ as doth the Zodiac at this time of the year. The time of His resurrection is pascha, ‘a passing over;’ the place Galilee, ‘a turning about.’ It remaineth then that we pass over as the time, and turn as the place, putteth us in mind. Re-uniting ourselves to His Body and Blood in this time of His rising, of the dissolving and renting whereof our sins were the cause. The time of His suffering, keeping the feast of Christ our new Passover offered for us; leaving whatsoever formerly hath been amiss in Christ’s grave as the weeds of our dead estate, and rising to newness of life, that so we may have our parts "in the first resurrection;"* which they are happy and blessed that shall have, for by it they are sure of the second. Of which blessing and happiness, He vouchsafe to make us all partakers, That this day rose for us, Jesus Christ the Righteous! Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 2). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain) A Preservative against unsettled Notions A Preservative against unsettled Notions, and want of Principles, in regard to Righteousness and Christian Perfection. Being a more particular Answer to Doctor Trapp’s Four Sermons upon the same Text. To all the True Members of Christ’s Holy Church. Dear Fellow Christians, THE great, and indeed the only motive which prompted me to publish this sermon, was the desire of providing for your security from error, at a time when the deviators from, and false pretenders to truth, are so numerous, that the most discerning find it a matter of the greatest difficulty to avoid being led astray by one or by other into downright falshood. There is no running divisions upon truth; like a mathematical point, it will neither admit of subtraction nor addition: And as it is indivisible in its nature, there is no splitting the difference, where truth is concerned. Irreligion and enthusiasm are diametrical opposites, and true piety between both, like the center of an infinite line, is at an equal infinite distance from the one and the other, and therefore can never admit of a coalition with either. The one erring by defect, the other by excess. But whether we err by defect, or excess, is of little importance, if we are equally wide of the mark, as we certainly are in either case. For whatever is less than truth, cannot be truth; and whatever is more than true must be false. Wherefore, as the whole of this great nation seems now more than ever in danger of being hurried into one or the other of these equally pernicious extremes, irreligion or fanaticism, I thought myself more than ordinarily obliged to rouze your, perhaps, drowsy vigilance, by warning you of the nearness of your peril; cautioning you from leaning towards either side, though but to peep at the slippery precipice; and stepping between you and error, before it comes nigh enough to grapple with you. The happy medium of true christian piety, in which it has pleased the mercy of God to establish you, is built on a firm rock, "and the gates of hell shall never prevail against it." While then you stand steadily upright in the fulness of the faith, falshood and sin shall labour in vain to approach you; whereas, the least familiarity with error, will make you giddy, and if once you stagger in principles, your ruin is almost inevitable. But now I have cautioned you of the danger you are in from the enemies who threaten your subversion, I hope your own watchfulness will be sufficient to guard you from any surprise. And from their own assaults you have nothing to fear, since while you persist in the firm resolution, through God’s grace, to keep them out, irreligion and enthusiasm, falshood and vice, impiety and false piety, will combine in vain to force an entrance into your hearts. Take then, my dearly beloved fellow-members of Christ’s mystical body, take the friendly caution I give you in good part, and endeavour to profit by it: attend wholly to the saving truths I here deliver to you, and be persuaded, that they are uttered by one who has your eternal salvation as much at heart as his own. "And thou, O Lord Jesus Christ, fountain of all truth, whence all wisdom flows, open the understandings of thy people to the light of thy true faith, and touch their hearts with thy grace, that they may both be able to see, and willing to perform what thou requirest of them. Drive away from us every cloud of error and perversity; guard us alike from irreligion and false pretensions to piety; and lead us on perpetually towards that perfection to which thou hast taught us to aspire; that keeping us here in a constant imitation of thee, and peaceful union with each other, thou mayest at length bring us to that everlasting glory, which thou hast promised to all such as shall endeavour to be perfect, even as the Father who is in heaven is perfect, who with thee and the Holy Ghost lives and reigns one God, world without end! Amen, Amen. Eccles. 7:16 Be not righteous over-much, neither make thyself over-wise: Why shouldest thou destroy thyself? RIGHTEOUS over-much! may one say; Is there any danger of that? Is it even possible? Can we be too good? If we give any credit to the express word of God, we cannot be too good, we cannot be righteous over-much. The injunction given by God to Abraham is very strong: "Walk before me, and be thou perfect." The same he again lays upon all Israel, in the eighteenth of Deuteronomy: "Thou shalt be perfect, and without blemish, with the Lord thy God." And lest any should think to excuse themselves from this obligation, by saying, it ceased when the old law was abolished, our blessed Saviour ratified and explained it: "Be ye, therefore, perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect." So that until our perfection surpasses that of our heavenly Father, we can never be too good nor righteous over-much; and as it is impossible we should ever surpass, or even come up to him in the perfection of goodness and righteousness, it follows in course that we never can be good or righteous in excess. Nevertheless Doctor Trapp has found out that we may be righteous over-much, and has taken no small pains, with much agitation of spirit, to prove that it is a great folly and weakness, nay, a great sin. "O Lord! rebuke thou his spirit, and grant that this false doctrine may not be published to his confusion in the day of judgment!" But if what this hasty, this deluded man advances had been true, could there be any occasion, however, of warning against it in these times, "when the danger (as he himself to his confusion owns) is on the contrary extreme; when all manner of vice and wickedness abounds to a degree almost unheard of?" I answer for the present, that "there must be here sies amongst you, that they who are approved may be made manifest." However, this earthly-minded minister of a new gospel, has taken a text which seems to favour his naughty purpose, of weaning the well-disposed little ones of Christ from that perfect purity of heart and spirit, which is necessary to all such as mean to live to our Lord Jesus. O Lord, what shall become of thy flock, when their shepherds betray them into the hands of the ravenous wolf! when a minister of thy word perverts it to overthrow thy kingdom, and to destroy scripture with scripture! Solomon, in the person of a desponding, ignorant, indolent liver, says to the man of righteousness: "Be not righteous over-much, neither make thyself overwise: Why shouldest thou destroy thyself?" But must my angry, over-sighted brother Trapp, therefore, personate a character so unbecoming his function, merely to overthrow the express injunction of the Lord to us; which obliges us never to give over pursuing and thirsting after the perfect righteousness of Christ, until we rest in him? Father, forgive him, for he knows not what he says! What advantage might not satan gain over the elect, if the false construction, put upon this text by that unseeing teacher, should prevail! Yet though he blushes not to assist satan to bruise our heel, I shall endeavour to bruise the heads of both, by shewing, I. First, The genuine sense of the text in question. II. The character of the persons, who are to be supposed speaking here: And III. The character of the persons spoken to. From whence will naturally result these consequences. First, That the Doctor was grosly (Lord grant he was not maliciously) mistaken in his explanatory sermon on this text, as well as in the application of it. Secondly, That he is a teacher and approver of worldly maxims. Thirdly, That he is of course an enemy to perfect righteousness in men, through Christ Jesus, and, therefore, no friend to Christ: And, therefore, that no one ought to be deluded by the false doctrine he advances, to beguile the innocent, and deceive, if possible, even the elect. I. To come at the true sense of the text in question, it will be necessary to look back, to the preceding verse, where the wise man, reflecting on the vanities of his youth, puts on for a moment his former character. "All things, have I seen in the days of my vanity: (and among the rest) there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongeth his life in his wickedness." Now it is very plain, that he is not here talking of a man, who is righteous over-much, in the Doctor’s manner of understanding the words, that is, "faulty, and criminal by excess." For on one side he commends him for being a just man, and full of righteousness, and yet on the other tells us, that his righteousness is the shortening of his life. Whereas, had he looked upon his perishing in righteousness to be an over-righteousness, he would never have called him a just man. Neither by a wicked man, can he mean a man given up to the utmost excess of wickedness, since he tells us, that he prolongeth his life in (or by) his wickedness. Who does not know, that the excess of almost every kind of vice, is of itself a shortener of life. So that the whole opposition and contrast lies between a good man, and a bad man. A good man whose goodness shortens his life, a bad man whose iniquity lengthens his life, or at least is not excessive enough to shorten the thread of it. Solomon, absorbed in these reflections, speaks here by way of prosopopeia, not the sense of Solomon, the experienced, the learned, the wise, but of the former Solomon, a vain young fellow, full of self-love, and the strong desires of life. In the quality of such a one then, he looks with the same eye upon the righteous man, who perishes in his righteousness, as he would on a wicked one, who should perish in his wickedness. For it is neither the righteousness of the one, nor the wickedness of the other, that offends him, but the superlative degrees of both; which tending equally to shorten life, he looks upon them as equally opposite to the self-love he fondles within him. And, therefore, he deems an excess of debauchery as great an enemy to the lasting enjoyment of the pleasures of life, as an extraordinary righteousness would be. Well then might he say to the latter, in this character, "Be not over-much wicked, neither be thou foolish; why shouldst thou die before thy time?" And to the former: "Be not righteous over-much, neither make thyself over-wise: Why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" What wonder then, that a youth of sprightliness and sense, but led away by self-love to be fond of the pleasures and enjoyments of life, when attained without hurry, and possessed without risk; what wonder, I say, that such a youth should conceive an equal dislike to the superlative degrees of virtue and vice, and, therefore, advise such of his companions as give into the excess of debauchery, to refrain from it: as it must infallibly tend to clog their understandings, stupify their senses, and entail upon their constitutions a train of infirmities, which cannot but debilitate their natural vigour, and shorten their days? "Be not over-much wicked, neither be thou foolish: Why shouldst thou die before thy time?" What wonder, that the same self-love should prompt him to dissuade such of his friends or acquaintance, as he wishes to have for companions, and countenancers of his worldly-minded pursuits, from pursuing righteousness and wisdom to a degree that must destroy in them all taste of earthly pleasures, and may possibly impair their constitutions, and forward their end? "Be not righteous over-much, neither make thyself overwise: Why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" This is the sense in which Solomon (placing himself in the state of vanity of his youth) speaks to the one, and the other: to the righteous, and to the ungodly. This is the true, genuine sense of the letter; and every other sense put upon it, is false and groundless, and wrested rather to pervert than explain the truth of the text. O christian simplicity, whither art thou fled? Why will not the clergy speak truth? And why must this false prophet suffer thy people, O Lord, to believe a lye? they have held the truth in unrighteousness. Raise up, I beseech thee, O Lord, some true pastors, who may acquaint them with the nature and necessity of perfect righteousness, and lead them to that love of christian perfection which the angry-minded, pleasure-taking Doctor Trapp, labours to divert them from, by teaching, that "all christians must have to do with some vanities." Is not the meaning of this text plain to the weakest capacity? I have here given it to you, as I have it from the mouth of the royal preacher himself. I have made use of no "philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ," to impose a fleshly sense upon you, for the sense of the word of God. No, I have given you a natural exposition, obvious from the very words themselves. Hence you may see, my fellow-strugglers in righteousness, how grosly our angry adversary is mistaken in his explanation of this text. Lord! open his eyes, and touch his heart; and convert him, and all those erring ministers, who have seen vain and foolish things for thy people, and have not discovered their iniquity, to turn away thy captivity. For they have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way: The priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink, they err in vision, they stumble in judgment. It is plain from the words of the text, that the royal Preacher was speaking in the person of a vain worldling, when he said, "Be not righteous over-much;" whereby he meant to exhort the truly righteous not to be dismayed, terrified, or disturbed from their constant pursuit of greater and greater perfection of righteousness, until they rest in Christ; notwithstanding the derision, fleshly persuasion, ill-treatment and persecution of worldly men: Who, one day, repenting and groaning for anguish of spirit; shall say within themselves, "These were they whom we had sometime in derision, and a proverb of reproach. We fools, accounted their lives madness; and their end to be without honour. How are they numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints!" How blind then is the application (not to say perverse) which this self-wise clergyman makes from the text, to such as, following the advice of the apostle, (Coloss. 3:2.) "set their affection on things above, not on things on the earth." Must hastiness in anger get the better of sense and truth? Must the people be misled because the pastor cannot, or will not see? Or must the injunction of Christ, "Be perfect, even as your Father, who is in heaven, is perfect," give place to the maxim of the heathen Tully: The greatest reproach to a philosopher, is to consute his doctrine by his practice; if this be the case, alas, what a deplorable, unspeakably deplorable condition is that of some christians! Wherefore, "thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets who make his people to err, that bite with their teeth and cry peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him: therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision, and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine, and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them. But I will leave these lovers of darkness, and turn to you, O beloved, elect of God! I beseech you, by the bowels of Christ, suffer not yourselves to be deceived by their flattering, sin-soothing speeches. "Be not of that rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord: who say to the seers, see not; and to the prophets, prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits." Follow not those, who flatter you in the vanities they practise themselves. O may you never be of the number of those, in the person of whom Solomon here says, "Be not righteous over-much:" for their character is the character of the beast. II. The character of the persons, who are to be supposed speaking here in the text, is in a word the same with the character of those whom Solomon here personates: who, as is already shewn, are a vain set of men, neither righteous enough to have an habitual desire of improving virtue to its perfection, nor quite so flagitious as to give into self-destroying vices: in a word, they are self-lovers, the sole end of whose pursuits, whether indifferent, bad, or laudable in themselves, is self-enjoyment. Insomuch that they look upon virtue and vice, righteousness and wickedness, with the same eye, and their fondness or aversion for both is alike, as their different degrees appear to be the means to enhance and prolong the enjoyment of pleasure, or to lessen and shorten those pleasures. Thus any virtue, while it is kept within such bounds as may render it subservient to the pleasurable degrees of vice, will meet with no opposition from them; on the contrary, they will even commend it. But the moment it becomes a restraint to vice in moderation (if I may be allowed to make use of terms adequate to their system) from that moment it gives offence, and they put in their caveat, "Be not righteous over-much." In like manner, vice, while confined to certain limits, which rather improve than obstruct pleasures, is with them a desirable good; but no sooner does it launch out into any depth, sufficient to drown and diminish the relish of those pleasures, than they declare open war against it; "Be not over-much wicked." And the reason they assign for their opposition in both cases, is the same: "why shouldst thou destroy thyself? Why shouldst thou die before thy time?" Such is the prudence of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Such the maxims of these refined libertines, so much the more dangerous as they are less obvious; so much the more insinuating, as they are removed from certain extravagancies capable of shocking every man who has the least sense and delicacy. O Lord, how true is it, that the sons of darkness are wiser in their generation than the sons of light! You are not then, beloved in the Lord, to imagine that your greatest opposition, in struggling for perfect righteousness, is to come from profligates, from men whose enormous vices create horror even to themselves: no, your most dangerous, most formidable enemies, are the kind of men I have painted to you, who render vice relishable with a mixture of apparent virtue, and cloath wickedness in the apparel of righteousness: "Beware of them, for they come to you in the cloathing of sheep, but inwardly are ravenous wolves." This perverse generation will ensnare you into ungodliness, by seeming oppositions to vice, and allow you to swallow the seemings of virtue and righteousness like an emetic, only to puke forth the reality of them. They paint black, white, and the white they convert into black. Not content with seeming what they are not, they labour to make you, what they are. Righteousness and wickedness they interweave in an artful tissue, capable of deceiving the very elect, and difficult for the most discerning among them to unravel; as alms-giving and avarice, pride and humility, temperance and luxury, are dextrously blended together; while as mutual curbs to each other, they combine to stem the tide of impediments to worldly enjoyment, which might flow from extraordinary degrees on either side. Thus "Almsgiving (you are told) is very excellent," and you believe the proposition, without knowing the particular sense it is spoken in, which is, that alms-giving is an excellent curb upon avarice, by preserving a rich man from such a superlative love of money as deprives him of the self-enjoyment of it. And upon the strength of this belief, the worldly-minded man, who labours to deceive you, gains credit enough with you to establish this maxim, that all superlative degrees of alms-giving, are great sins, and that a man must never sell all he has and give it to the poor, because some may have families of their own, and ought to make sufficient provision for them, according to that proverb, "Charity begins at home;" when no one, at least scarce any one, is wise enough to know, when he has a sufficiency. O Lord, which are we to believe, these worldlings, or thee? If thou dost deceive us, why dost thou threaten us with punishments, if we do not heed thee? And if the world is deceitful, shall we not flee from it to cleave to thee? "Pride is a great sin" even with these worldlings, inasmuch as the external excesses of it, may obstruct the way to many ambitious terminations of view, and its internal agitation; are the destruction of that peace, to which even self-love aspires; besides, the frequent extravagancy of its motions may not only be prejudicial to health, but a shortner of life. And, therefore, no wonder they should object against it, "Be not over much wicked: why shouldst thou die before thy time?" For this reason, they look upon a little mixture of humility to be not only commendable, but even necessary to curb the extravagant fallies of an over-bearing pride. But then a superlative degree of humility, that is, humility free from the least tincture of pride or vanity, which is the same with them, as "an over-strained humility, is a fault as well as folly;" because, forsooth, it is an expediment to the self-enjoyment of the world and its pleasures; "All christians must have to do with some vanities, or else they must needs go out of the world indeed; for the world itself is all over vanity." Tis nothing, therefore, surprising, my brethren, to see a man of this cast of mind making a vain ostentation of his little superficial acquaintance, with the ancient Greeks and Romans. What is this but acting conformably to his own principle, that "all christians must have to do with some vanities?" And shall we wonder to hear such a one prefer their writings, to those of an apostle; or be astonished to see him wound the apostle with raillery, through your sides, for wishing to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified? No, with him it is consistency to laugh and reprove you out of the perfection of righteousness, which, however he may play with terms, is with him the same as being righteous over-much; but with you it would be inconsistency, who ought to know no difference between being righteous, and living in a perpetual, habitual desire of being superlatively so. It is no more then, than you ought to expect to hear such advocates for the world cry out to you, "Be not righteous over-much: why should you destroy yourselves?" But, O Lord, surely this is not the same voice which tells us, that unless we humble ourselves like unto children, we shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven, and that he is greatest there, who humbles himself the most like a child! But what will not men advance who are drunk with passion, and intoxicated with self-love? "The vice of intemperance in eating, and drinking, is plain to every body," they own. And, therefore, they give it up as an excess which cannot but tend to the impairing of health, and shortening of life: nay, it drowns the very relish of pleasure in actual eating and drinking. Hence will every refined debauchee exclaim against it with Dr. Trapp: "Be not over much wicked: why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" Little sobriety, say they, is requisite to give a zest to luxury and worldly pleasures. But too much of it is too much, "to eat nothing but bread and herbs, and drink nothing but water, unless there be a particular reason for it (such perhaps as Doctor Cheyne may assign) is folly at best, (that is, even though it be done for Christ’s sake) therefore no virtue:" "Be not then righteous over-much, why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" And if you should answer these carnally-minded men with the words of the apostle, Rom. 8. "We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh: For if we live after the flesh, we shall die: but if we, through the spirit, do mortify the deeds of the flesh, we shall live." If you answer them thus, they will tell you, "this is teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." And it will be to as little purpose to answer them, with what St. Paul says elsewhere (Rom. 14:17.) "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost:" They will not blush to tell you, that "our blessed Saviour came eating and drinking, nay worked a miracle to make wine (at an entertainment) when it is plain there had been more drank than was necessary." To such lengths does the love of the world hurry these self-fond, merry-making worldlings! Tell them of self-denial, they will not hear you, it is an encroachment upon the pleasures of life, and may shorten it of a few days, which you are never sure of possessing; it is being "righteous over-much: why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" Jesus, you will say, tells us (John 12:25.) "He that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal." But this and the like, they will inform you, "are hyperbolical phrases." Now what signifies minding Jesus, when he speaks hyperbolically, that is, speaks more than is strictly true. Yet, O Lord Jesus, grant us to mind thee, whatever these worldlings may say; remind us, that if any man will come after thee, he must deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow thee! O how enlarging is it to the soul, to take up the cross of Christ and follow him! But you are charged, ye beloved lovers of perfect righteousness, with extravagances. You allow of "no sort of recreation or diversion; nothing but an universal mortification and self-denial; no pleasure but from religion only:" you teach "that the bodily appetites must not be in the least degree gratified, any farther than is absolutely necessary to keep body and soul together, and mankind in being: No allowances are to be made for melancholy misfortunes, or human infirmity: grief must be cured only by prayer;" (a horrid grievance this, to such as think prayer burdensome at best) "To divert it by worldly amusements is carnal." A heavy charge this: but left it should seem so only to those carnal persons, who are resolved to give way to their carnal appetites; what you look upon at advisable only, these perverters of truth insinuate to be looked upon by you as indispensable duties. And left prevarication should fail, down-right falshoods must be placed to your account, "so that to taste an agreeable fruit, or smell to a rose, must be unlawful with you," however you disown it. But O, my beloved christians, be not discouraged from the pursuit of perfect righteousness by these or such vile misrepresentations. For "blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for the sake of Christ Jesus. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: For great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you." Thus far, then, may suffice to shew clearly with what dangerous views the worldly-minded men, whom Solomon personates in the text before us, lay siege to your souls in fair speeches. What I have said, is enough to convince you, that their character is that of the beast, whom St. John, in the Revelations, "saw coming up from the sea (that is, the flagitious world) with seven heads." And what shall we say of a man, a clergyman, who teaches, and is an advocate for their perverse doctrines? May we not, nay, must we not, for the glory of God, and your good, inform you, that he is a "Teacher and approver of worldly maxims." May I not, nay, must I not, give you this caution with the royal preacher: "When he speaketh fair, believe him nor, for there are seven abominations in his heart?" But how different is the character I have given you, from the character of the persons to whom the text under consideration is spoken: that is, the character of all such, as, like you, are resolved never to rest, ’till they rest in Christ Jesus. To shew this, I shall now pass to my third point. III. To what sort of persons does Solomon in the character of a worldling address himself, when he says, "Be not righteous over-much, neither make thyself over-wise: why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" Not to the wicked, ’tis plain; for besides that it would have been an unnecessary precaution, he turns to these in the next verse with another kind of warning, which however has some analogy with this. "Be not over-much wicked, neither be thou foolish, why shouldst thou die before thy time?" Was it then to the righteous, in a common way; that is, to such as content themselves with the observance of the absolute essentials of God’s laws? Surely our adversaries will not allow this, unless they be of opinion, that to be righteous at all, is to be righteous over-much. And yet it cannot possibly be supposed that the persons spoken to, are men perfectly righteous; since, as I proved to you, in the introduction of this discourse, till we come up to the perfection of our heavenly father, we can never be righteous enough, much less perfectly righteous: wherefore, as in this life, men cannot attain to the perfection of their heavenly father, it follows in course that the persons here spoken to, cannot be men perfectly righteous, there being no such men existing; for as St. John saith, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Alas, O Lord, when shall we be delivered from the body of this death? It remains, that the persons spoken to, in the text, are such only, as persisting stedfastly in a firm adherence to all the essential laws of God, content not themselves with the practice of common virtues in a common degree, but live in a perpetual habitude of desires, struggles, and yearnings towards an intimate union with Christ, the perfection of righteousness. They are not of the number of those righteous with indifference, who would fain blend the service of God and mammon, would fain have Christ and the world for their masters, and halting between two, like the children of Israel of old, with their faces to heaven, and their hearts to the earth, are neither hot nor cold. Alas, would they were cold or hot! But "because they are luke-warm, and neither cold nor hot, the Lord shall spew them out of his mouth." Not so the persons spoken to in my text; not so you, O beloved in God, who having shaken off the world and worldly affections, to run the more swiftly after righteousness, hate your own lives for the sake of Christ. Happy, happy are all you, who put on our Lord Jesus, and with him the new man! "You are the true circumcision which worship God in spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." What wonder then, christians? To you I speak, all ye lovers and strugglers after the perfect righteousness of your divine Master Christ; what wonder is it, that you should be charged with enthusiasm, with folly, with fanaticism and madness? Were not the apostles so before you, when they preached Christ Jesus? Nay were they not reputed drunk with wine? Can you be amazed at it in an age, "when all manner of vice abounds to a degree almost unheard of," when the land is full of adulterers, and because of swearing the land mourneth. O how is the faithful city become an harlot! my heart within me is broken, because of the clergy, all my bones shake? I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome; because of the Lord, and because of the words of his holiness, perverted by this deluded clergyman. When the clergy, whom Christ has appointed to teach his people "to walk before him and be perfect," become teachers of worldly maxims, what can be expected from the laity? It is notorious, that for the moralizing iniquity of the priest, the land mourns. They have preached and lived many sincere persons out of the church of England. They endeavour to make you vain: (as the prophets did in the days of Jeremiah) they speak a vision out of their own mouth, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. In a word, "both prophet and priest are prophane, and do wickedness in the very house of the Lord." Nay, they say still to them who despise the Lord, The Lord hath said, ye shall have peace; and they say to every one who walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. Such is the language, my beloved lovers of christian perfection, which the indolent, earthly-minded, pleasure-taking clergy of the church of England, use to strengthen the hands of evil-doers, that none may return from his wickedness. Such is the doctrine of the letter-learned divine, who has dipped his pen in gall, to decry perfect righteousness, and to delude you from, it with a false application of that text so grosly misunderstood by him: "Be not righteous over-much, neither be thou over-wise: why shouldst thou destroy thyself?" But suffer not yourselves, my fellow-christians, to be deluded by him. For as I have already shewn to you, he is grosly (Lord grant he was not maliciously) mistaken in his manner of explaining this text; and so far from making a right application of it according to the wise, the experienced Solomon’s intention, he acts the character of a vain libertine, full of self-love, and earthly desires, whom Solomon but personated, to ridicule. But the doctor by realizing that character in himself, becomes the teacher and approver of worldly maxims, which he applies to you, on purpose to destroy in you the yearnings after perfect righteousness in Christ. May I not then, nay, must I not warn you, my beloved, that this man is an enemy to perfect righteous in men through Christ Jesus, and, therefore, no friend to Christ? O that my head was an ocean, and my eyes fountains of tears, to weep night and day for this poor creature, this hood-winked member of the clergy. Pray you, O true christians, pray and sigh mightily to the Lord; importune him in the behalf of this erring pastor; pray that he would vouchsafe to open the eyes, and touch the stubborn heart of this scribe, that he may become better instructed. Otherwise, as the Lord said by the mouth of his true prophet Jeremiah, "Behold, I will feed him with wormwood, and make him drink the water of gall; for from him is prophaneness gone forth into all the land." This good, however, hath he done by attempting to shew the folly, sin, and danger of that which he miscalls being righteous over-much, that is, being superlatively righteous, in desire and habitual struggles; he has thereby given me the occasion to shew you, brethren, in the course of this sermon, the great and real folly, sin, and danger of not being righteous enough; which, perhaps, I should never have thought of doing, had not his false doctrine pointed out to me the necessity of doing it. Thus does the all-wise providence of God, make use of the very vices of men to draw good out of evil; and chuse their very errors to confound falsehood and make way for truth. Though this should be more than our angry adversary intended, yet, Lord, reward him according to his works: and suffer him no longer to be hasty in his words, that we may have room to entertain better hopes of him for the future. Blessed be God for sending you better guides! I am convinced it was his divine will: our dear fellow-creature, Doctor Trapp, falling into such errors, has given so great a shock to the sound religion of christian perfection, that unless I had opposed him, I verily believe the whole flock who listened to his doctrine, would have been scattered abroad like sheep having no shepherd. "But woe to ye scribes and pharisees! Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture, faith the Lord." Full well I know that this sermon will not be pleasing to my poor peevish adversary; but correction is not to pleasure but to profit: few children can be brought willingly to kiss the rod which rebuketh them; though, when they become of riper understanding, they will bless the hand that guided it. Thus shall this angry man, I trust, thank me one day for reproving him, when his reason shall be restored to him by the light of the holy spirit. O Lord, grant thou this light unto him, and suffer him to see with what bowels of pity and tenderness I love him in thee, even while I chasten him. Neither am I insensible, brethren, how offensive my words will be to worldlings in general, who loving falsehood better than truth, and the flesh before the spirit, will still prefer the doctor’s sin-soothing doctrines to the plain gospel verities preached by me. O how my soul pities them. But I have done my duty, I wash my hands, and am innocent of the blood of all. I have not sought to please my hearers, but have spoken plain truth though it should offend. For what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ; and hope I shall ever do so. Not that I presume to think myself already perfect. But "I press forward towards the mark, for the prize of the high-calling of God in Christ Jesus." None of us, as I before told you, can boast of having attained the summit of perfection; though, he is the nearest to it, who is widest from the appetites of the flesh, and he stands the highest, who is the lowliest in his own esteem: wherefore, as many of us as have made any advances towards Christ and his kingdom, "whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing." Walk not then, brethren, according to the ways of the world: but be followers of Christ together with me. And if any, even an angel of light, should presume to teach you any other gospel than that which I have here taught you, let him be accursed. "For you will find many walking, like such of whom I have told you already, and now tell you weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly: and whose glory is in their shame, for they mind worldly things. But your conversation is in heaven, from whence also you look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change your vile bodies, that they may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue even all things unto himself," even the stubborn heart of our perverse adversary. Which God of his infinite mercy grant, &c. Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain) Thankfulness for Mercies received, a necessary Duty Thankfulness for Mercies received, a necessary Duty A Farewel Sermon, preached on board the Whitaker, at Anchor near Savannah, in Georgia, Sunday, May 17, 1738. Psalm, 107:30, 31 Then are they glad, because they are at rest, and so he bringeth them unto the haven where they would be. O that men would therefore praise the Lord for his goodness, and declare the wonders that he doeth for the children of men! NUMBERLESS marks does man bear in his soul, that he is fallen and estranged from God; but nothing gives a greater proof thereof, than that backwardness, which every one finds within himself, to the duty of praise and thanksgiving. When God placed the first man in paradise, his soul no doubt was so filled with a sense of the riches of the divine love, that he was continually employing that breath of life, which the Almighty had not long before breathed into him, in blessing and magnifying that all-bountiful, all-gracious God, in whom he lived, moved, and had his being. And the brightest idea we can form of the angelical hierarchy above, and the spirits of just men made perfect, is, that they are continually standing round the throne of God, and cease not day and night, saying, "Worthy art thou, O Lamb that wast slain, to receive power and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." Rev. 5:12. That then, which was man’s perfection when time first began, and will be his employment when death it swallowed up in victory, and time shall be no more, without controversy, is part of our perfection, and ought to be our frequent exercise on earth: and I doubt not but those blessed spirits, who are sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation, often stand astonished when they encamp around us, to find our hearts so rarely enlarged, and our mouths so seldom opened, to shew forth the loving-kindness of the Lord, or to speak of all his praise. Matter for praise and adoration, can never be wanting to creatures redeemed by the blood of the Son of God; and who have such continual scenes of his infinite goodness presented to their view, that were their souls duly affected with a sense of his universal love, they could not but be continually calling on heaven and earth, men and angels, to join with them in praising and blessing that "high and lofty one, who inhabiteth eternity, who maketh his fun to shine on the evil and on the good," and daily pours down his blessings on the whole race of mankind. But few are arrived to such a degree of charity or love, as to rejoice with those that do rejoice, and to be as thankful for others mercies, as their own. This part of christian perfection, though begun on earth, will be consummated only in heaven; where our hearts will glow with such servent love towards God and one another, that every fresh degree of glory communicated to our neighbour, will also communicate to us a fresh topic of thankfulness and joy. That which has the greatest tendency to excite the generality of fallen men to praise and thanksgiving, is a sense of God’s private mercies, and particular benefits bellowed upon ourselves. For as these come nearer our own hearts, so they must be more affecting; and as they are peculiar proofs, whereby we may know, that God does in a more especial manner favour us above others, so they cannot but sensibly touch us; and if our hearts are not quite frozen, like coals of a refiner’s fire, they must melt us down into thankfulness and love. It was a consideration of the distinguishing favours God had shewn to his chosen people Israel, and the frequent and remarkable deliverances wrought by him in behalf of "those who go down to the sea in ships, and occupy their business in great waters," that made the holy Psalmist break out so frequently as he does in this psalm, into this moving, pathetical exclamation, "O that men would therefore praise the Lord for his goodness, and declare the wonders that he doeth for the children of men!" His expressing himself in so fervent a manner, implies both the importance and neglect of the duty. As when Moses on another occasion cried out, "O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would practically consider their latter end!" Deut. 32:29. I say, importance and neglect of the duty; for out of those many thousands that receive blessings from the Lord, how few give thanks in remembrance of his holiness? The account given us of the ungrateful lepers, is but too lively a representation of the ingratitude of mankind in general; who like them, when under any humbling providence, can cry, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" Luke 17:13. but when healed of their sickness, or delivered from their distress, scarce one in ten can be found "returning to give thanks to God." And yet as common as this sin of ingratitude is, there is nothing we ought more earnestly to pray against. For what is more absolutely condemned in holy scripture than ingratitude? Or what more peremptorily required than the contrary temper? Thus says the Apostle, "Rejoice evermore; in every thing give thanks," 1 Thes. 5:16, 18. "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God," Phil. 4:6. On the contrary, the Apostle mentions it as one of the highest crimes of the Gentiles, that they were not thankful. "Neither were they thankful," Rom. 1:21 as also in another place, he numbers the "unthankful," 2 Tim. 3:2 amongst those unholy, prophane persons, who are to have their portion in the lake of fire and brimstone. As for our sins, God puts them behind his back; but his mercies he will have acknowledged, "There is virtue gone out of me," says Jesus Christ, Luke 8:46 and the woman who was cured of her bloody issue, must confess it. And we generally find, when God sent any remarkable punishment upon a particular person, he reminded him of the favours he had received, as so many aggravations of his ingratitude. Thus when God was about to visit Eli’s house, he thus expostulates with him by his prophet: "Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy fathers, when they were in Egypt, in Pharaoh’s house? And did I chuse him out of all the tribes of Israel, to be my priest, to offer upon mine altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod before me? Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice, and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation, and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people? Wherefore the Lord God of Israel faith, I said indeed, that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever; but how the Lord saith, Be it far from me, for them that honour me will I honour, and they that despite me shall be lightly esteemed." 1 Sam. 2:27, 28, 29, 30. It was this and such like instances of God’s severity against the unthankful, that inclined me to chuse the, words of the text, as the most proper subject I could discourse on at this time. Four months, my good friends, we have now been upon the sea in this ship, and "have occupied our business in the great waters." At God Almighty’s word, We have seen "the stormy wind arise; which hath lifted up the waves thereof. We have been carried up to the heaven, and down again to the deep, and some of our souls melted away because of the trouble; but I trust we cryed earnestly unto the Lord, and he delivered us out of our distress. For he made the storm to cease; so that the waves thereof were still. And now we are glad, because we are at rest, for God hath brought us to the haven where we would be. O that you would therefore praise the Lord for his goodness, and declare the wonders, that he hath done for us, the unworthiest of the sons of men." Thus Moses, thus Joshua behaved. For when they were about to take their leaves of the children of Israel, they recounted to them what great things God had done for them, as the best arguments and motives they could urge to engage them to obedience. And how can I copy after better examples? What fitter, what more noble motives, to holiness and purity of living, can I lay before you, than they did? Indeed, I cannot say, that we have seen the "pillar of a cloud by day, or a pillar of fire by night," going visibly before us to guide our course; but this I can say, that the same God who was in that pillar of a cloud, and pillar of fire, which departed not from the Israelites, and who has made the sun to rule the day, and the moon to rule the night, has, by his good providence, directed us in our right way, or else the pilot had steered us in vain. Neither can I say, That we have seen the "sun stand still," as the children of Israel did in the days of Joshua. But surely God, during part of our voyage, has caused it to withhold some of that heat, which it usually sends forth in these warmer climates, or else it had not failed, but some of you must have perished in the sickness that has been, and does yet continue among us. We have not seen the waters stand purposely on an heap, that we might pass through, neither have we been pursued by Pharaoh and his host, and delivered out of their hands; but we have been led through the sea as through a wilderness, and were once remarkably preserved from being run down by another ship; which had God permitted, the waters, in all probability, would immediately have overwhelmed us, and like Pharaoh and his host, we should have sunk, as stones, into the sea. We may, indeed, atheist like, ascribe all these things to natural causes, and say, "Our own skill and foresight has brought us hither in safety." But as certainly as Jesus Christ, the angel of the covenant, in the days of his flesh, walked upon the water, and said to his sinking disciples, "Be not afraid, it is I," so surely has the same everlasting I AM, "who decketh himself with light as with a garment, who spreadeth out the heavens like a curtain, who claspeth the winds in his fist, who holdeth the waters in the hollow of his hands," and guided the wise men by a star in the east; so surely, I say, has he spoken, and at his command the winds have blown us where we are now arrived. For his providence ruleth all things; "Wind and storms obey his word:" he faith to it at one time, Go, and it goeth; at another, Come, and it cometh; and at a third time, Blow this way, and it bloweth. It is he, my brethren, and not we ourselves, that has of late sent us such prosperous gales, and made us to ride, as it were, on the wings of the wind, into the haven where we would be. "O that you would therefore praise the Lord for his goodness," and by your lives declare, that you are truly thankful for the wonders he had shewn to us, who are less than the least of the sons of men. I say, declare it by your lives. For to give him thanks, barely with your lips; while your hearts are far from him, is but a mock sacrifice, nay, an abomination unto the Lord. This was the end, the royal Psalmist says, God had in view, when he shewed such wonders, from time to time, to the people of Israel, "That they might keep his statutes, and observe his laws," Psalm 105:44 and this, my good friends, is the end God would have accomplished in us, and the only return he desires us to make him, for all the benefits he hath conferred upon us. O then, let me beseech you, give to God your hearts, your whole hearts; and suffer yourselves to be drawn by the cords of infinite love, to honour and obey him. Assure yourselves you can never serve a better master; for his service is perfect freedom; his yoke, when worn a little while, is exceeding easy, his burden light; and in keeping his commandments there is great reward; love, peace, joy in the Holy Ghost here, and a crown of glory that fadeth not away, hereafter. You may, indeed, let other lords have dominion over you, and Satan may promise to give you all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, if you will fall down and worship him; but he is a liar, and was so from the beginning; he has not so much to give you, as you may tread on with the sole of your foot; or could he give you the whole world, yet, that could not make you happy without God. It is God alone, my brethren, whose we are, in whose name I now speak, and who has of late shewed us such mercies in the deep, that can give solid lasting happiness to your souls; and he for this reason only desires your hearts, because without him you must be miserable. Suffer me not then to go away without my errand; as it is the last time I shall speak to you, let me not speak in vain; but let a sense of the divine goodness lead you to repentance. Even Saul, that abandoned wretch, when David shewed him his skirt, which he had cut off, when he might have also taken his life, was so melted down with his kindness, that he lifted up his voice and wept. And we must have hearts harder than Saul’s, nay, harder than the nether milstone, if a sense of God’s late loving kindnesses, notwithstanding he might so often have destroyed us, does not even compel us to lay down our arms against him, and become his faithful servants and soldiers unto our lives end. If they have not this effect upon us, we shall, of all men, be most miserable; for God is just, as well as merciful; and the more blessings we have received here, the greater damnation, if we do not improve them, shall we incur hereafter. But God forbid that any of those should ever suffer the vengeance of eternal fire, amongst whom, I have, for these four months, been preaching the gospel of Christ; but yet thus must it be, if you do not improve the divine mercies: and instead of your being my crown of rejoicing in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, I must appear as a swift witness against you. But, brethren, I am persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though I thus speak. Blessed be God, some marks of a partial reformation at least, have been visible amongst all you that are soldiers. And my weak, though sincere endeavours, to build you up in the knowledge and fear of God, have not been altogether in vain in the Lord. Swearing, I hope is, in a great measure, abated with you; and God, I trust, has blessed his late visitations, by making them the means of awakening your consciences, to a more solicitous enquiry about the things which belong to your everlasting peace. Fulfil you then my joy, by continuing thus minded, and labour to go on to perfection. For I shall have no greater pleasure than to see, or hear, that you walk in the truth. Consider, my good friends, you are now, as it were, entering on a new world, where you will be surrounded with multitudes of heathens; and if you take not heed to "have your conversation honest amongst them," and to "walk worthy of the holy vocation wherewith you are called," you will act the hellish part of Herod’s soldiers over again; and cause Christ’s religion, as they did his person, to be had in derision of those that are round about you. Consider further, what peculiar privileges you have enjoyed, above many others that are entering on the same land. They have had, as it were, a famine of the word, but you have rather been in danger of being surfeited with your spiritual manna. And, therefore, as more instructions have been given you, so from you, men will most justly expect the greater improvement in goodness. Indeed, I cannot say, I have discharged my duty towards you as I ought. No, I am sensible of many faults in my ministerial office, and for which I have not failed, nor, I hope, ever shall fail, to humble myself in secret before God. However, this I can say, that except a few days that have been spent necessarily on other persons, whom God immediately called me to write and minister unto, and the two last weeks wherein I have been confined by sickness; all the while I have been aboard, I have been either actually engaged in, or preparing myself for instructing you. And though you are now to be committed to the care of another (whose labours I heartily beseech God to bless amongst you) yet I trust I shall, at all seasons, if need be, willingly spend, and be spent, for the good of your souls, though the more abundantly I love you, the less I should be loved. As for your military affairs, I have nothing to do with them. Fear God, and you must honour the King. Nor am I well acquainted with the nature of that land which you are now come over to protect; only this I may venture to affirm in the general, that you must necessarily expect upon your arrival at a new colony, to meet with many difficulties. But your very profession teaches you to endure hardship; "be not, therefore, saint-hearted, but quit yourselves like men, and be strong," Numb. 14. Be not like those cowardly persons, who were affrighted at the report of the false spies, that came and said, that there were people tall as the Anakims to be grappled with, but be ye like unto Caleb and Joshua, all heart; and say, we will act valiantly, for we shall be more than conquerors over all difficulties through Jesus Christ that loved us. Above all things, my brethren, take heed, and beware of murmuring, like the perverse Israelites, against those that are set over you; and "learn, Whatsoever state you shall be in, therewith to be content," Phil. 4:11. As I have spoken to you, I hope your wives also will suffer the word of exhortation, Your behaviour on shipboard, especially the first part of the voyage, I chuse to throw a cloak over; for to use the mildest terms, it was not such as became the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, of late, blessed be God, you have taken more heed to your ways, and some of you have walked all the while, as became "women professing godliness." Let those accept my hearty thanks, and permit me to intreat you all in general, as you are all now married, to remember the solemn vow you made at your entrance into the marriage state, and see that you be subject to your own husbands, in every lawful thing: Beg of God to keep the door of your lips, that you offend not with your tongues; and walk in love, that your prayers be not hindered. You that have children, let it be your chief concern to breed them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And live all of you so holy and un-blameable, that you may not so much as be suspected to be unchaste; and as some of you have imitated Mary Magdalen in her sin, strive to imitate her also in her repentance. As for you, sailors, what shall I say? How shall I address myself to you? How shall I do that which I so much long to do; touch your hearts? Gratitude obliges me to wish thus well to you. For you have often taught me many instructive lessons, and reminded me to put up many prayers to God for you, that you might receive your spiritual fight. When I have seen you preparing for a storm, and reefing your sails to guard against it; how have I wished that you and I were as careful to avoid that storm of God’s wrath, which will certainly, without repentance, quickly overtake us? When I have observed you catch at every fair gale, how have I secretly cried, O that we were as careful to know the things that belong to our peace, before they are for ever hid from our eyes! And when I have taken notice, how steadily you eyed your compass in order to steer aright, how have I wished, that we as steadily eyed the word of God, which alone can preserve us from "making shipwreck of faith, and a good conscience?" In short, there is scarce any thing you do, which has not been a lesson of instruction to me; and, therefore, it would be ungrateful in me, did I not take this opportunity of exhorting you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to be as wise in the things which concern your soul, as I have observed you to be in the affairs belonging to your ship. I am sensible, that the sea is reckoned but an ill school to learn Christ in: and to see a devout sailor, is esteemed as uncommon a thing, as to see a Saul amongst the prophets. But whence this wondering? Whence this looking upon a godly sailor, as a man to be wondered at, as a speckled bird in the creation? I am sure, for the little time I have come in and out amongst you, and as far as I can judge from the little experience I have had of things, I scarce know any way of life, that is capable of greater improvements than yours. The continual danger you are in of being overwhelmed by the great waters; the many opportunities you have of beholding God’s wonders in the deep; the happy retirement you enjoy from worldly temptations; and the daily occasions that are offered you, to endure hardships, are such noble means of promoting the spiritual life, that were your hearts bent towards God, you would account it your happiness, that his providence has called you, to "go down to the sea in ships, and to occupy your business in the great waters." The royal Psalmist knew this, and, therefore, in the words of the text, calls more especially on men of your employ, to "praise the Lord for his goodness, and declare the wonders he doth for the children of men." And O that you would be wise in time, and hearken to his Voice to-day, "whilst it is called to-day!" For ye yourselves know how little is to be done on a sick bed. God has, in an especial manner, of late, invited you to repentance: two of your crew he has taken off by death, and most of you he has mercifully visited with a grievous sickness. The terrors of the Lord have been upon you, and when burnt with a scorching fever, some of you have cried out, "What shall we do to be saved?" Remember then the resolutions you made, when you thought God was about to take away your souls; and see that according to your promises, you shew forth your thankfulness, not only with your lips, but in your lives. For though God may bear long, he will not forbear always; and if these signal mercies and judgments do not lead you to repentance, assure yourselves there will at laft come a fiery tempest, from the presence of the Lord, which will sweep away you, and all other adversaries of God. I am positive, neither you nor the soldiers have wanted, nor will want any manner of encouragement to piety and holiness of living, from those two persons who have here the government over you; for they have been such helps to me in my ministry, and have so readily concurred in every thing for your good, that they may justly demand a public acknowledgment of thanks both from you and me. Permit me, my honoured friends, in the name of both classes of your people, to return you hearty thanks for the care and tenderness you have expressed for the welfare of their better parts. As for the private favours you have shewn to my person, I hope so deep a sense of them is imprinted on my heart, that I shall plead them before God in prayer, as long as I live. But I have still stronger obligations to intercede in your behalf. For God, ever adored be his free grace in Christ Jesus! has set his seal to my ministry in your hearts. Some distant pangs of the new-birth I have observed to come upon you; and God forbid that I should sin against the Lord, by ceasing to pray, that the good work begun in your souls, may be carried on till the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. The time of our departure from each other is now at hand, and you are going out into a world of temptations. But though absent in body, let us be present with each other in spirit; and God, I trust, will enable you to be singularly good, to be ready to be accounted fools for Christ’s sake; and then we shall meet never to part again in the kingdom of our Father which is in heaven. To you, my companions and familiar friends, who came over with me to sojourn in a strange land, do I in the next place address myself. For you I especially fear, as well as for myself; because as we take sweet counsel together oftner than others, and as you are let into a more intimate friendship with me in private life, the eyes of all men will be upon you to note even the minutest miscarriage; and, therefore, it highly concerns you to "walk circumspectly towards those that are without," I hope, that nothing but a single eye to God’s glory and the salvation of your own souls, brought you from your native country. Remember then the end of your coming hither, and you can never do amiss. Be patterns of industry, as well as of piety, to those who shall be around you; and above all things let us have such servent charity amongst ourselves, that it may be said of us, as of the primitive christians, "See how the christians love one another." And now I have been speaking to others particularly, I have one general request to make to all, and that with reference to myself. You have heard, my dear friends, how I have been exhorting every one of you to shew forth your thankfulness for the divine goodness, not only with your lips, but in your lives: But "physician heal thyself," may justly be retorted on me. For (without any false pretences to humility) I find my own heart so little inclined to this duty of thanksgiving for the benefits I have received, that I had need fear sharing Hezekiah’s fate, who because he was lifted up by, and not thankful enough for, the great things God had done for him, was given up a prey to the pride of his own heart. I need, therefore, and beg your most importunate petitions at the throne of grace, that no such evil may befal me; that the more God exalts me, the more I may debase myself; and that after I have preached to others, I myself may not be cast away. And now, brethren, into God’s hands I commend your spirits, who, I trust, through his infinite mercies in Christ Jesus, will preserve you blameless, till his second coming to judge the world. Excuse my detaining you so long; perhaps it is the last time I shall speak to you: my heart is full, and out of the abundance of it, I could continue my discourse until midnight. But I must away to your new world; may God give you new hearts, and enable you to put in practice what you have heard from time to time, to be your duty, and I need not wish you any thing better. For then God will so bless you, that "you will build you cities to dwell in; then will you sow your lands and plant vineyards, which will yield you fruits of increase," Psal. 107:36, 37. "Then your oxen shall be strong to labour, there shall be no leading into captivity, and no complaining in your streets; then shall your sons grow up as the young plants, and your daughters be as the polished corners of the temple: then shall your garners be full and plenteous with all manner of store, and your sheep bring forth thousands, and ten thousands in your streets," Psal. 144. In short, then shall the Lord be your God; and as surely as he has now brought us to this haven, where we would be, so surely, after we have past through the storms and tempests of this troublesome world, will he bring us to the haven of eternal rest, where we shall have nothing to do, but to praise him for ever for his goodness, and declare, in never-ceasing songs of praise, the wonders he has done for us, and all the other sons of men. "To which blessed rest, God of his infinite mercy bring us all, through Jesus Christ our Lord! to whom with the Father and Holy Ghost be all honour and glory, might, majesty, and dominion, now, henceforth, and for evermore. Amen, Amen." Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain) Good Friday 1597 Bishop Lancelot Andrewes Good Friday 1597 — Bishop Lancelot Andrewes Zechariah 12:10 And they shall look upon Me, Whom they have pierced. That great and honourable person the Eunuch, sitting in his chariot, and reading a like place of the Prophet Esay, asketh St. Philip. "I pray thee,* Of Whom speaketh the Prophet this? of himself, or some other?" A question very material, and to great good purpose, and to be asked by us in all prophecies. For knowing who the party is, we shall not wander in the Prophet’s meaning. Now, if the Eunuch had been reading this of Zachary, as then he was that of Esay, and had asked the same question of St. Philip, he would have made the same answer. And as he out of those words took occasion, so may we out of these take the like, to preach Jesus unto them. For neither of himself, nor of any other, but of Jesus, speaketh the Prophet this;* and "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of this prophecy." That so it is the Holy Ghost is our warrant, Who in St. John’s Gospel reporting the Passion, and the last act of the Passion—this opening of the side, and piercing of the heart—our Saviour Christ saith plainly, that in the piercing the very words of the prophecy were fulfilled,* Respicient in Me Quem transfixerunt. Which term of piercing we shall the more clearly conceive, if with the ancient writers, we sort it with the beginning of Psalm 22. the Psalm of the Passion. For, in the very front or inscription of this Psalm, our Saviour Christ is compared cervo matutino, "to the morning hart;" that is, a hart roused early in the morning, as from His very birth He was by Herod, hunted and chased all His life long, and this day brought to His end, and, as the poor deer, stricken and pierced through side, heart, and all; which is it we are here willed to behold. There is no part of the whole course of our Saviour Christ’s life or death but it is well worthy our looking on, and from each part in it there goeth virtue to do us good; but of all other parts, and above them all, this last part of His piercing is here commended unto our view. Indeed, how could the Prophet commend it more, than in avowing it to be an act of grace, as in the fore part of this verse he doth? Effundam super cos Spiritum Gratiæ, et respicient, &c.* as if he should say; If there be any grace in us, we will think it worth the looking on. Neither doth the Prophet only, but the Apostle also, call us unto it,* and willeth us what to "look unto" and regard, "Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith." Then specially, and in that act, when for "the joy of our salvation set before Him He endured the cross, and despised the shame;" that is, in this spectacle, when He was pierced. Which surely is continually, all our life long, to be done by us, and at all times some time to be spared unto it; but if at other times, most requisite at this time, this very day which we hold holy to the memory of His Passion, and the piercing of His precious side. That, though on other days we employ our eyes otherwise, this day at least we fix them on this object, respicientes in Eum. This day, I say, which is dedicated to none other end,* but even to lift up the Son of Man, as Moses did the serpent in the wilderness, that we may look upon Him and live; when every Scripture that is read soundeth nothing but this unto us, when by the office of preaching Jesus Christ is lively described in our sight, and as the Apostle speaketh,* is "visibly crucified among us;" when in the memorial of the Holy Sacrament,* "His death is shewed forth until He come," and the mystery of this His piercing so many ways, so effectually represented before us. This prophecy therefore, if at any time, at this time to take place, Respicient in Me, &c. The principal words are but two, and set down unto us in two points. I. The sight itself, that is, the thing to be seen; II. and the sight of it, that is, the act of seeing or looking. Quem transfixerunt is the object, or spectacle propounded. Respicient in Eum, is the act or duty enjoined. Of which the object though in place latter, in nature is the former, and first to be handled; for that there must be a thing first set up, before we can set our eyes to look upon it. Of the object generally, first. Certain it is, that Christ is here meant: St. John hath put us out of doubt for that point. And Zachary here could have set down His name, and said, Respice in Christum; for Daniel before had named his name, Occidetur Messias;* and Zachary, being after him in time, might have easily repeated it. But it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to him, rather to use a circumlocution; and suppressing His name of Christ, to express Him by the style or term, Quem transfixerunt. Which being done by choice, must needs have a reason of the doing, and so it hath. 1. First, the better to specify and particularize the Person of Christ, by the kind, and most peculiar circumstance, of His death.* Esay had said, Morietur, "Die He shall, and lay down His soul an offering for sin." 2. Die—but what death? a natural or a violent?* Daniel tells us, Occidetur; He shall die, not a natural, but a violent death. 3. But many are slain after many sorts, and divers kinds there be of violent deaths. The Psalmist, the more particularly to set it down, describeth it thus:* "They pierced My hands and My feet;" which is only proper to the death of the Cross. 4. Die, and be slain, and be crucified. But sundry else were crucified; and therefore the Prophet here, to make up all, addeth, that He should not only be crucifixus, but transfixus; not only have His hands and His feet, but even His heart pierced too. Which very note severs Him from all the rest, with as great particularity as may be; for that, though many besides at other times, and some at the same time with Him were crucified, yet the side and the heart of none was opened, but His, and His only. 2. Secondly, as to specify Christ Himself in Person, and to sever Him from the rest; so in Christ Himself, and in His Person, to sever from the rest of His doings and sufferings, what that is that chiefly concerneth us, and we specially are to look to; and that is this day’s work—Christ pierced. St. Paul doth best express this:* "I esteemed," saith he, "to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." That is, the perfection of our knowledge is Christ; the perfection of our knowledge in, or touching Christ, is the knowledge of Christ’s piercing. This is the chief sight; nay, as it shall after appear, in this sight are all sights; so that know this, and know all. This generally. Now, specially. In the object, two things offer themselves; 1. The Passion, or suffering itself, which was, to be "pierced." 2. And the Persons, by whom. For if the Prophet had not intended the Persons should have had their respect too, he might have said Respicient in Eum Qui transfixus est;—which passive would have carried the Passion itself full enough—but so he would not, but rather chose to say, Quem transfixerunt; which doth necessarily imply the piercers themselves too. So that we must needs have an eye in the handling, both to the fact, and to the persons, 1. quid, and 2. quibus, both what, and of whom. In the Passion, we first consider the degree; for transfixerunt is a word of gradation, more than fixerunt, or suffixerunt, or confixerunt either. Expressing unto us the piercing, not with whips and scourges; nor of the nails and thorns, but of the spear-point. Not the whips and scourges, wherewith His skin and flesh were pierced; nor the nails and thorns wherewith His feet, hands, and head were pierced; but the spear-point which pierced, and went through, His very heart itself; for of that wound,* of the wound in His heart, is this spoken. Therefore trans is here a transcendent—through and through; through skin and flesh, through hands and feet, through side and heart, and all; the deadliest and deepest wound, and of highest gradation. Secondly, as the preposition trans hath his gradation of divers degrees, so the pronoun me hath his generality of divers parts; best expressed in the original. "Upon Me;" not, upon My body and soul. "Upon Me" Whose Person, not Whose parts, either body without, or soul within; but "upon Me," Whom wholly, body and soul, quick and dead, "they have pierced." Of the body’s piercing there can be no question, since no part of it was left unpierced. Our senses certify us of that—what need we farther witness? Of the soul’s too, it is as certain, and there can be no doubt of it neither; that we truly may affirm; Christ, not in part, but wholly, was pierced. For we should do injury to the sufferings of our Saviour, if we should conceive by this piercing none other but that of the spear. And may a soul then be pierced? Can any spear-point go through it? Truly Simeon saith to the blessed Virgin by way of prophecy,* that "the sword should go through her soul," at the time of His Passion. And as the sword through hers, so I make no question but the spear through His. And if through hers which was but anima compatientis, through His much more, which was anima patientis; since compassion is but passion at rebound. Howbeit, it is not a sword of steel, or a spear-head of iron, that entereth the soul, but a metal of another temper; the dint whereof no less goreth and woundeth the soul in proportion, than those do the body. So that we extend this piercing of Christ farther than to the visible gash in His side, even to a piercing of another nature, whereby not His heart only was stabbed, but His very spirit wounded too. The Scripture recounteth two, and of them both expressly saith, that they both pierce the soul. The Apostle saith it by sorrow:* "And pierced themselves through with many sorrows."* The Prophet, of reproach: "There are whose words are like the pricking of a sword;" and that to the soul both, for the body feels neither. With these, even with both these, was the soul of Christ Jesus wounded. For sorrow—it is plain through all four Evangelists; Undique tristis est anima Mea usque ad mortem!* "My soul is environed on every side with sorrow,* even to the death." Cœpit Jesus tædere et pavere,* "Jesus began to be distressed and in great anguish."* Factus in agoniâ, "being cast into an agony."* Jam turbata est anima Mea; "Now is My soul troubled." Avowed by them all, confessed by Himself. Yea, that His strange and never else heard of sweat—drops of blood plenteously issuing from Him all over His body, what time no manner of violence was offered to His body, no man then touching Him, none being near Him; that blood came certainly from some great sorrow wherewith His soul was pierced. And that His most dreadful cry, which at once moved all the powers of Heaven and earth,* "My God, My God, &c." was the voice of some mighty anguish, wherewith His soul was smitten; and that in other sort, than with any material spear. For derelinqui a Deo—the body cannot feel it, or tell what it meaneth. It is the soul’s complaint, and therefore without all doubt His soul within Him was pierced and suffered, though not that which—except charity be allowed to expound it—cannot be spoken without blasphemy. Not so much, God forbid! yet much, and very much, and much more than others seem to allow; or how much, it is dangerous to define. To this edge of sorrow, if the other of piercing despite be added as a point, as added it was, it will strike deep into any heart; especially, being wounded with so many sorrows before. But the more noble the heart, the deeper; who beareth any grief more easily than this grief, the grief of a contumelious reproach.* "To persecute a poor distressed soul, and to seek to vex Him that is already wounded at the heart," why, it is the very pitch of all wickedness; the very extremity that malice can do, or affliction can suffer. And to this pitch were they come, when after all their wretched villanies and spittings, and all their savage indignities in reviling Him most opprobriously, He being in the depth of all His distress, and for very anguish of soul crying, Eli, Eli, &c., they stayed those that would have relieved him; and void of all humanity then scorned,* saying; "Stay, let alone, let us see if Elias will now come and take Him down." This barbarous and brutish inhumanity of theirs, must needs pierce deeper into His soul, than ever did the iron into His side. To all which if we it add, not only that horrible ingratitude of theirs, there by Him seen, but ours also no less than theirs by Him foreseen at the same time; who make so slender reckoning of these His piercings, and, as they were a matter not worth the looking on, vouchsafe not so much as to spend an hour in the due regard and meditation of them; nay, not that only, but farther by incessant sinning, and that without remorse, do most unkindly requite those His bitter pains, and as much as in us lies,* "even crucify afresh the Son of God, making a mock of Him and His piercings." These I say, for these all and every of them in that instant were before His eyes, must of force enter into, and go through and through His soul and spirit; that what with those former sorrows, and what with these after indignities, the Prophet might truly say of Him, and He of Himself in Me, "upon Me;" not whose body or whose soul, but whom entirely and wholly, both in body and soul, alive and dead, they have pierced and passioned this day on the cross. Of the persons;—which, as it is necessarily implied in the word, is very properly incident to the matter itself. For it is usual, when one is found slain as here, to make enquiry, By whom he came by his death. Which so much the rather is to be done by us, because there is commonly an error in the world, touching the parties that were the causes of Christ’s death. Our manner is, either to lay it on the soldiers, that were the instruments; or if not upon them, upon Pilate the judge that gave sentence; or if not upon him, upon the people that importuned the judge; or lastly, if not upon them, upon the Elders of the Jews that animated the people; and this is all to be found by our quest of enquiry. But the Prophet here indicted others. For by saying, "They shall look," &c., "Whom they have pierced," he intendeth by very construction, that the first and second "They," are not two, but one and the same parties. And that they that are here willed to look upon Him, are they and none other that were the authors of this fact, even of the murder of Jesus Christ. And to say truth, the Prophet’s intent is no other but to bring the malefactors themselves that pierced Him, to view the body and the wounded heart of Him, "Whom they have so pierced." In the course of justice we say, and say truly, when a party is put to death, that the executioner cannot be said to be the cause of his death; nor the sheriff, by whose commandment he doth it; neither yet the judge by whose sentence; nor the twelve men by whose verdict; nor the law itself, by whose authority it is proceeded in. For, God forbid we should indict these, or any of these, of murder. Solum peccatum homicida; sin, and sin only, is the murderer. Sin, I say, either of the party that suffereth; or of some other, by whose means, or for whose cause, he is put to death. Now, Christ’s own sin it was not that He died for. That is most evident.* Not so much by His own challenge, Quis ex vobis arguit Me de peccato?* as by the report of His judge, who openly professed that he had examined Him, and "found no fault in Him." "No, nor yet Herod," for being sent to him and examined by him also, nothing worthy death was found in Him.* And therefore, calling for water and washing his hands he protesteth his own innocency of the blood of this "Just Man;" thereby pronouncing Him Just, and void of any cause in Himself of His own death. It must then necessarily be the sin of some others, for whose sake Christ Jesus was thus pierced. And if we ask, who those others be? or whose sins they were? the Prophet Esay tells us,* Posuit super Eum iniquitates omnium nostrûm, "He laid upon Him the transgressions of us all;" who should, even for those our many, great, and grievous transgressions, have eternally been pierced, in body and soul, with torment and sorrows of a never-dying death, had not He stepped between us and the blow, and received it in His own body; even the dint of the wrath of God to come upon us. So that it was the sin of our polluted hands that pierced His hands, the swiftness of our feet to do evil that nailed His feet, the wicked devices of our heads that gored His head, and the wretched desires of our hearts that pierced His heart. We that "look upon," it is we that "pierced Him;" and it is we that "pierced Him," that are willed to "look upon Him." Which bringeth it home to us, to me myself that speak, and to you yourselves that hear; and applieth it most effectually to every one of us, who evidently seeing that we were the cause of this His piercing, if our hearts be not too hard, ought to have remorse to be pierced with it. When, for delivering to David a few loaves, Abimelech and the Priests were by Saul put to the sword, if David did then acknowledge with grief of heart and say,* "I, even I, am the cause of the death of thy father and all his house;"—when he was but only the occasion of it, and not that direct neither—may not we, nay ought not we much more justly and deservedly say of this piercing of Christ our Saviour, that we verily, even we, are the cause thereof, as verily we are, even the principals in this murder; and the Jews and others, on whom we seek to derive it, but only accessories and instrumental causes thereof. Which point we ought as continually, so seriously to think of; and that no less than the former. The former, to stir up compassion in ourselves, over Him that thus was pierced; the latter, to work deep remorse in our hearts, for being authors of it. That He was pierced, will make our bowels melt with compassion over Christ. That He was pierced by us that look on Him, if our hearts be not "flint," as Job saith, or as "the nether mill-stone,"* will breed remorse over ourselves, wretched sinners as we are. The act followeth in these words; Respicient in Eum. A request most reasonable, to "look upon Him"—but "to look upon Him," to bestow but a look and nothing else, which even of common humanity we cannot deny, Quia non aspicere despicere est. It argueth great contempt, not to vouchsafe it the cast of our eye, as if it were an object utterly unworthy the looking toward. Truly, if we mark it well, nature itself of itself inclineth to this act. When Amasa treacherously was slain by Joab, and lay weltering in his blood by the way side, the story saith that not one of the whole army, then marching by,* but when he came at him, "stood still and looked on him." In the Gospel, the party that goeth from Jerusalem to Jericho was spoiled and wounded and lay drawing on, though the Priest and Levite that passed near the place relieved him not, as the Samaritan after did; yet it is said of them, they "went near and looked on,"* and then passed on their way. Which desire is even natural in us; so that even nature itself inclineth us to satisfy the Prophet. Nature doth, and so doth Grace too. For generally we are bound to "regard the work of the Lord,* and to consider the operations of His hands;" and specially this work, in comparison whereof God Himself saith, the former works of His "shall not be remembered,* nor the things done of old once regarded." Yea Christ Himself, pierced as He is, inviteth us to it. For in the Prophet here it is not in Eum, but in Me; not ‘on Him,’ but "on Me Whom they have pierced." But more fully in Jeremy; for, to Christ Himself do all the ancient writers apply, and that most properly, those words of the Lamentation;* "Have ye no regard all ye that pass by this way? Behold and sec, if there be any sorrow like My sorrow, which is done unto Me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted Me in the day of His fierce wrath." Our own profit, which is wont to persuade well, inviteth us;* for that as from the brazen serpent no virtue issued to heal but unto them that steadily beheld it, so neither doth there from Christ but upon those that with the eye of faith have their contemplation on this object; who thereby draw life from Him, and without it may and do perish, for all Christ and His Passion. And if nothing else move us, this last may, even our danger. For the time will come when we ourselves shall desire, that God looking with an angry countenance upon our sins, would turn His face from them and us, and look upon the face of His Christ, that is, respicere in Eum; which shall justly be then denied us, if we ourselves could never be gotten to do this duty, respicere in Eum, when it was called for of us. God shall not look upon Him at ours, Whom we would not look upon at His request. In the act itself are enjoined three things: 1. That we do it with attention; for it is not Me, but in Me; not only "upon Him," but "into Him," 2. That we do it oft, again and again, with iteration; for respicient is re-aspicient. Not a single act, but an act iterated. 3. That we cause our nature to do it, as it were, by virtue of an injunction, per actum elicitum, as the schoolmen call it. For in the original it is in the commanding conjugation, that signifieth, facient se respicere, rather than respicient. First then, not slightly, superficially or perfunctorily, but steadfastly, and with due attention, to "look upon Him." And not to look upon the outside alone, but to look into the very entrails; and with our eye to pierce Him That was thus pierced. In Eum beareth both. 1. "Upon Him" if we "look," we shall see so much as Pilate shewed of Him;—ecce Homo, that He is a Man. And if He were not a man, but some other unreasonable creature, it were great ruth to see Him so handled. 2. Among men we less pity malefactors, and have most compassion on them that be innocent. And He was innocent, and deserved it not, as you have heard, His enemies themselves being His judges. 3. Among those that be innocent, the more noble the person, the greater the grief, and the more heavy ever is the spectacle. Now if we consider the verse of this text well, we shall see it is God Himself and no man that here speaketh, for to God only it belongeth to "pour out the Spirit of grace," it passeth man’s reach to do it; so that, if we look better upon Him, we shall see as much as the Centurion saw, that this party thus pierced "is the Son of God."* The Son of God slain!* Surely he that hath done this deed "is the child of death," would every one of us say; Et tu es homo, "Thou art the man," would the Prophet answer us. You are they, for whose sins the Son of God hath His very heart-blood shed forth. Which must needs strike into us remorse of a deeper degree than before; that not only it is we that have pierced the party thus found slain, but that this party, whom we have thus pierced, is not a principal person among the children of men, but even the only-begotten Son of the Most High God. Which will make us cry out with St. Augustine, O amaritudo peccati mei, ad quam tollendam necessaria fuit amaritudo tanta! ‘Now sure, deadly was the bitterness of our sins, that might not be cured, but by the bitter death and blood-shedding Passion of the Son of God.’ And this may we see looking upon Him. But now then, if we look in Eum, "into Him," we shall see yet a greater thing, which may raise us in comfort, as far as the other cast us down. Even the bowels of compassion and tender love, whereby He would and was content to suffer all this for our sakes.* For that, whereas "no man had power to take His life from Him," for He had power to have commanded twelve legions of Angels in His just defence;* and without any Angel at all, power enough of Himself with His Ego sum, to strike them all to the ground;* He was content notwithstanding all this, to lay down His life for us sinners. The greatness of which love passeth the greatest love that man hath; for "greater love than this hath no man, but to bestow his life for his friends,"* whereas He condescended to lay it down for His enemies. Even for them that sought His death, to lay down His life, and to have His blood shed for them that did shed it; to be pierced for His piercers. Look how the former in Eum worketh grief, considering the great injuries offered to so great a Personage; so, to temper the grief of it, this latter in Eum giveth some comfort, that so great a Person should so greatly love us, as for our sakes to endure all those so many injuries, even to the piercing of His very heart. Secondly, respicient, that is, re-aspicient; not once or twice, but oftentimes to look upon it; that is, as the Prophet saith here, iteratis vicibus, to look again and again; or, as the Apostle saith, recogitare,* "to think upon it over and over again," as it were to dwell in it for a time. In a sort, with the frequentness of this our beholding it, to supply the weakness and want of our former attention. Surely, the more steadily and more often we shall fix our eye upon it, the more we shall be inured; and being inured, the more desire to do it. For at every looking some new sight will offer itself, which will offer unto us occasion, either of godly sorrow, true repentance, sound comfort, or some other reflection, issuing from the beams of this heavenly mirror. Which point, because it is the chief point, the Prophet here calleth us to, even how to look upon Christ often, and to be the better for our looking; it shall be very agreeable to the text, and to the Holy Ghost’s chief intent, if we prove how, and in how diverse sorts, we may with profit behold and "look upon Him" Whom thus we have "pierced." First then, looking upon Him, we may bring forth for the first effect that which immediately followeth this text itself in this text, Et plangent Eum:—Respice et plange. First, ‘look and lament,’ or mourn; which is indeed the most kindly and natural effect of such a spectacle. "Look upon Him that is pierced," and with looking upon Him be pierced thyself; respice et transfigere. A good effect of our first look, if we could bring it forth. At leastwise, if we cannot respice et transfigere, ‘look and be pierced,’ yet that it might be respice et compungere, ‘that with looking on Him we might be "pricked in our hearts," ’* and have it enter past the skin, though it go not clean through. Which difference in this verse the Prophet seemeth to insinuate, when first he willeth us to mourn as for one’s only son, with whom all is lost. Or, if that cannot be had, to mourn as for a first-begotten son, which is though not so great, yet a great mourning; even for the first-begotten, though other sons be left. And,* in the next verse, if we cannot reach to natural grief, yet he wisheth us to mourn with a civil; even with such a lamentation as was made for Josias. And behold a greater than Josias is here. Coming not, as he, to an honourable death in battle, but to a most vile death, the death of a malefactor; and not, as Josias, dying without any fault of theirs, but mangled and massacred in this shameful sort for us, even for us and our transgressions. Verily, the dumb and senseless creatures had this effect wrought in them, of mourning at the sight of His death; in their kind sorrowing for the murder of the Son of God. And we truly shall be much more senseless than they, if it have in us no work to the like effect. Especially, considering it was not for them He suffered all this, nor they no profit by it, but for us it was, and we by it saved; and yet they had compassion, and we none. Be this then the first. Now, as the first is respice et transfigere, ‘look upon Him and be pierced;’ so the second may be, and that fitly, respice et transfige, ‘look upon Him and pierce;’ and pierce that in thee that was the cause of Christ’s piercing, that is, sin and the lusts thereof. For as men that are pierced indeed with the grief of an indignity offered, withal are pricked to take revenge on him that offers it, such a like affection ought our second looking to kindle in us, even to take a wreak or revenge upon sin, quia fecit hoc, ‘because it hath been the cause of all this.’ I mean, as the Holy Ghost termeth it, a mortifying or crucifying; a thrusting through of our wicked passions and concupiscences, in some kind of repaying those manifold villanies, which the Son of God suffered by means of them. At leastwise, as before, if it kindle not our zeal so far against sin, yet that it may slake our zeal and affection to sin; that is, respice ne respicias, respice Christum ne respicias peccatum. That we have less mind, less liking, less acquaintance with sin, for the Passion-sake. For that by this means we do in some sort spare Christ, and at least make His wounds no wider; whereas by affecting sin anew we do what in us lieth to crucify Him afresh, and both increase the number, and enlarge the wideness of His wounds. It is no unreasonable request, that if we list not wound sin, yet seeing Christ hath wounds enough, and they wide and deep enough, we should forbear to pierce Him farther, and have at least this second fruit of our looking upon Him; either to look and to pierce sin, or to look and spare to pierce Him any more. Now, as it was sin that gave Him these wounds, so it was love to us that made Him receive them, being otherwise able enough to have avoided them all. So that He was pierced with love no less than with grief, and it was that wound of love made Him so constantly to endure all the other. Which love we may read in the palms of His hands, as the Fathers express it out of Esay 49:16;* for "in the palms of His hands He hath graven us," that He might not forget us. And the print of the nails in them, are as capital letters to record His love towards us. For Christ pierced on the cross is liber charitatis, ‘the very book of love’ laid open before us. And again, this love of His we may read in the cleft of His heart. Quia clavus penetrans factus est nobis clavis reserans, saith Bernard, ut patcant nobis viscera per vulnera;* ‘the point of the spear serves us instead of a key, letting us through His wounds see His very bowels,’ the bowels of tender love and most kind compassion, that would for us endure to be so entreated. That if the Jews that stood by said truly of Him at Lazarus’ grave,* Ecce quomodo dilexit eum! when He shed a few tears out of His eyes; much more truly may we say of Him, Ecce quomodo dilexit nos! seeing Him shed both water and blood, and that in great plenty, and that out of His heart. Which sight ought to pierce us with love too, no less than before it did with sorrow. With one, or with both, for both have power to pierce; but specially love, which except it had entered first and pierced Him, no nail or spear could ever have entered. Then let this be the third, respice et dilige; ‘look and be pierced with love of Him’ that so loved thee, that He gave Himself in this sort to be pierced for thee. And forasmuch as it is Christ His Ownself That, resembling His Passion on the cross to the brazen serpent lift up in the wilderness, maketh a correspondence between their beholding and our believing—for so it is John 3:14.—we cannot avoid,* but must needs make that an effect too; even respice et crede. And well may we believe and trust Him, Whom looking a little before we have seen so constantly loving us. For the sight of that love maketh credible unto us, whatsoever in the whole Scripture is affirmed unto us of Christ, or promised in His Name; so that believe it, and believe all. Neither is there any time wherein with such cheerfulness or fulness of faith we cry unto Him,* "My Lord, and My God," as when our eye is fixed upon "the print of the nails, and on the hole in the side" of Him that was pierced for us. So that this fourth duty Christ Himself layeth upon us, and willeth us from His own mouth, respice et crede. And believing this of Him, what is there the eye of our hope shall not look for from Him? What would not He do for us, That for us would suffer all this? It is St. Paul’s argument,* "If God gave His Son for us, how shall He deny us any thing with Him?" That is, respice et spera. ‘Look upon Him, and His heart opened, and from that gate of hope promise thyself, and look for all manner of things that good are.’ Which our expectation is reduced to these too: 1. The deliverance from evil of our present misery; 2. and the restoring to the good of our primitive felicity. By the death of this undefiled Lamb, as by the yearly Passover, look for and hope for a passage out of Egypt, which spiritually is our redemption from the servitude of the power of darkness. And as by the death of the Sacrifice we look to be freed from whatsoever evil, so by the death of the High Priest look we for and hope for restitution to all that is good; even to our forfeited estate in the land of Promise which is Heaven itself, where is all joy and happiness for evermore. Respice et spera, ‘look and look for;’ by the Lamb that is pierced to be freed from all misery, by the High Priest that is pierced fruition of all felicity. Now, inasmuch as His heart is pierced, and His side opened; the opening of the one, and the piercing of the other, is to the end somewhat may flow forth. To which end, saith St. Augustine, Vigilanti verbo usus est Apostolus, ‘the Apostle was well advised when he used the word opening;’* for there issued out "water and blood," which make the sixth effect, Respice et recipe. Mark it running out, and suffer it not to run waste, but receive it.* Of the former, the water, the Prophet speaketh in the first words of the next chapter,* that out of His pierced side God "opened a fountain of water to the House of Israel for sin and for uncleanness;" of the fulness whereof we all have received in the Sacrament of our Baptism. Of the latter, the blood, which the Prophet,* in the ninth chapter before, calleth "the blood of the New Testament," we may receive this day; for it will run in the high and holy mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ. There may we be partakers of the flesh of the Morning Hart,* as upon this day killed. There may we be partakers of "the cup of salvation,"* "the precious blood" "which was shed for the remission of our sins."* Our part it shall be not to account "the blood of the Testament an unholy thing,"* and to suffer it to run in vain for all us, but with all due regard to receive it so running, for even therefore was it shed. And so to the former to add this sixth, Respice et recipe. And shall we alway receive grace, even streams of grace issuing from Him That is pierced, and shall there not from us issue something back again, that He may look for and receive from us that from Him have, and do daily, receive so many good things? No doubt there shall, if love which pierced Him have pierced us aright. And that is, no longer to hold you with these effects, Respice et retribue. For it will even behove us, no less than the Psalmist, to enter into the consideration of quid retribuam.* Especially since we by this day both see and receive that, which he and many others desired to see, and receive, and could not.* Or if we have nothing to render,* yet ourselves to return with the Samaritan, and falling down at His feet, with a loud voice, to glorify His goodness, Who finding us in the estate that other Samaritan found the forlorn and wounded man, healed us by being wounded Himself, and by His own death restored us to life. For all which His kindness if nothing will come from us, not so much as a kind and thankful acknowledgment, we are certainly worthy He should restrain the fountain of His benefits, which hitherto hath flowed most plenteously, and neither let us see nor feel Him any more. But I hope for better things—that love, such and so great love, will pierce us, and cause both other fruits, and especially thoughts of thankfulness to issue from us. Thus many, and many more if the time would serve, but thus many several uses may we have of thus many several respects, or reflexed lookings upon Him Whom we have pierced. Thirdly, facient se respicere. For the Holy Ghost did easily foresee, we would not readily be brought to the sight, or to use our eyes to so good an end. Indeed, to flesh and blood it is but a dull and heavy spectacle. And neither willingly they begin to look upon it, and having begun are never well till they have done and look off of it again. Therefore is the verb by the Prophet put into this conjugation of purpose, which to turn in strict propriety is respicere se facient, rather than respicient. ‘They shall procure or cause, or even enjoin or enforce themselves to look upon it;’ or, as one would say, look that they look upon it. For some new and strange spectacle, though vain and idle, and which shall not profit us how strange soever, we cause ourselves sometimes to take a journey, and besides our pains are at expenses too to behold them. We will not only look upon, but even cause ourselves to look upon vanities; and in them, we have the right use of facient se respicere. And why should we not take some pains, and even enjoin ourselves to look upon this, being neither far off, nor chargeable to come to, and since the looking on it may so many ways so mainly profit us?* Verily it falleth out oft, that of Christ’s; violenti rapiunt illud, nature is not inclined, and where it is not inclined, force must be offered, which we call in schools actum elicitum. Which very act by us undertaken for God, and as here at His word, is unto Him a sacrifice right acceptable. Therefore facias, or fac facias; ‘do it willingly, or do it by force.’ Do it, I say, for done it must be. Set it before you and look on it; or if you list not, remove it, and set it full before you: though it be not with your ease, respice, ‘look back upon it’ with some pain; for one way or other, look upon it we must. The necessity whereof, that we may the better apprehend it, it will not be amiss we know, that these words are in two sundry places two sundry ways applied.* 1. Once by St. John in the Gospel, 2. and the second time again by Christ Himself in the Revelation. By St. John to Christ at His first coming, suffering as our Saviour upon the cross. By Christ to Himself at His second coming, sitting as our Judge upon His throne, in the end of the world:* "Behold He cometh in the clouds, and every eye shall see Him, yea, even they that pierced Him;" et plangent se super Eum omnes gentes terræ. The meaning whereof is, Look upon Him here if you will; enjoin yourselves if you think good, either here or somewhere else; either now or then, look upon Him you shall. And they which put this spectacle far from them here, and cannot endure to "look upon Him Whom they have pierced," et plangere Eum, "and be grieved for Him," while it is time; a place and time shall be, when they shall be enforced to look upon Him, whether they will or no, et plangent se super Eum, ‘and be grieved for themselves,’ that they had no grace to do it sooner. Better compose themselves to a little mourning here, with some benefit to be made by their beholding, than to be drawn to it there when it is too late, and when all their looking and grieving will not avail a whit. For there respicientes respiciet, et despicientes despiciet; ‘His look shall be amiable to them that have respected His piercing here, and dreadful on the other side to them that have neglected it.’ And as they that have inured themselves to this looking on here,* shall in that day "look up and lift up their heads with joy, the day of their redemption being at hand;" so they that cannot bring themselves to look upon Him here, after they once have looked upon Him there, shall not dare to do it the second time, but cry to the mountains, "Fall upon us, and to the hills,* Hide us from the face of Him That sits upon the throne." Therefore, respicient is no evil counsel. No, though it be facient se respicere. In a word, if thus causing ourselves to fix our eyes on Him we ask, How long we shall continue so doing, and when we may give over? let this be the answer; Donec totus fixus in corde, Qui totus fixus in cruce. Or if that be too much or too hard, yet saltem, ‘at the least,’ respice in Illum donce Ille te respexerit, ‘Look upon Him till He look upon you again.’ For so He will.* He did upon Peter, and with His look melted him into tears. He that once and twice before denied Him and never wept, because Christ looked not on him, then denied and Christ looked on him, and "he went out and wept bitterly." And if to Peter thus He did, and vouchsafed him so gracious a regard, when Peter not once looked toward Him, how much more shall He not deny us like favour, if by looking on Him first we provoke Him in a sort to a second looking on us again, with the Prophet, saying; Proposui Dominum coram me,* ‘I have set Thee, O Lord, before me;’* and again, Respice in me, &c. "O look Thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as Thou usest to do to those that love Thy Name." "That love Thy Name," which is Jesus, "a Saviour;" and which love that sight wherein most properly Thy Name appeareth, and wherein Thou chiefly shewest Thyself to be Jesus "a Saviour." And to conclude, if we ask, How we shall know when Christ doth thus respect us? Then truly, when fixing both the eyes of our meditation "upon Him That was pierced,"—as it were one eye upon the grief, the other upon the love wherewith He was pierced, we find by both, or one of these, some motion of grace arise in our hearts; the consideration of His grief piercing our hearts with sorrow, the consideration of His love piercing our hearts with mutual love again. The one is the motion of compunction which they felt, who when they heard such things "were pricked in their hearts."* The other, the motion of comfort which they felt, who, when Christ spake to them of the necessity of His piercing, said; "Did we not feel our hearts warm within us?"* That, from the shame and pain He suffered for us; this, from the comforts and benefits He thereby procured for us. These have been felt at this looking on, and these will be felt. It may be at the first, imperfectly, but after with deeper impression; and that of some, with such as nemo scit, ‘none knoweth,’ but He that hath felt them. Which that we may endeavour to feel, and endeavouring may feel, and so grow into delight of this looking, God, &c. Comments are closed.