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licentiousness, Venus, a tortoise, a creature that had no heart; capable of no understanding. And it is better expressed in those licentious persons, who pursued Lot's guests. Their blindness brought them to an impossibility of finding the door, (They were weary in seeking the door"). And if they had found it, they had found it shut. A man that hath wallowed long in that sin, when he seeks a door of repentance, he will quickly be weary, for there lie hard conditions upon him; and he is in danger of finding the door so shut, as his understanding (and that is all his key) cannot open; he will make shift for reasons, why he should continue in that sin, and he will call it ill-nature, or falsehood, or breach of promise, and inconstancy, to depart from the conversation that nourishes that sin. The door will be shut, and his reason cannot, nay his reason would not open it, but rather plead in the sin's behalf.
Thus far our first reason hath carried us, do it not, lest you lose your understanding, the field of that blessed seed, the tree of that fruitful graft, the materials for that glorious building, faith; for, the understanding is the receptacle of faith: but do it not, the rather, because if ye do it, God will be brought to a necessity, In chamo et fræno maxillas constringere, to hold in your mouths with bit and bridle, to come to hard usage, when as he would fain have you reduced by fair and gentle means. But to this way God is often brought; and, by this way of affliction, the cure is sometimes wrought upon us. St. Augustine proposes to himself a wonder, why the first woman was called at first, and in her best state, but Isha, virago“, which was a name of diminution, as she was taken from the man, (for Isha is but a she-man) and then in her worse state, when she had sinned, she was called Era, mater riventium, The mother of all living“; she had a better name in her worst estate. But this was not in respect of her sin, says that father, but in respect of her punishment. Now that she was become mortal by a sentence of death pronounced upon her, and knew that she must die, and resolve to dust, now, says he, there was no danger in her, of growing proud by any glorious title ; affliction had tamed her, and rectified her now;
40 Gen. xix. 11.
41 Gen. ii, 23.
12 Gen. iii. 20.
and to that purpose sometimes does God bit and bridle us with afflictions, that our corrupt affections might not transport
We find that Absalom sent for Joab; the king's son for the king's servant; there was coldness, some dryness between Absalom, and his father, Absalom was under a cloud at court, and so Joab neglected him, he would not come; Absalom sent again, and again Joab refused; but then Absalom sent his servants to burn Joab's corn-fields, and then Joab came apace. Affliction and calamity are the bit and the bridle, that God puts into our mouth sometimes to turn us to him. Behold, we put bits into the horses' mouths, that they should obey us, and we turn all the body about“. And to this belongs that, a whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back*; when we are become fools, made like the horse and mule, that we have no understanding, when God bits and bridles us, he whips and scourges us, sometimes lest our desires should mislead us a wrong way, sometimes, if they have, to turn us into the right way again; but here in our text, it is, Ne approximent te, Their mouths must be held with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
When God, by their incorrigibility, have given over all care of them, yet he takes care of us, of his servants, of his church, and he bits and bridles his and our enemies, so, as that they shall not come near us, they shall not hurt us. So God said to Sennacherib, Because thou ragest against me, (God was far enough out of Sennacherib's reach, but God accounts his Jerusalem as heaven, and his Hezekiah as himself) Because thy rage is against me, I will put my hook into thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and will turn thee back, by the way by which thou camest *. When man is become as the horse, proud of his strength, in chamo, et fræno, God shall bit him, and bridle him so, as that he shall be able to do no harm; and certainly, the godly have not a greater joy, when they are able to do good to others, then the wicked have sorrow, when having power in their hands, yet they are not able to execute their mischievous purposes upon them that they hate. Satan was glad of any commission upon Job, because God made a hedge about him, and about his house, Ne approximaret, That Satan could not come near him; he was glad God gave
43 2 Sam. xiv.
44 Jam. iii. 3.
2 Kings xix. 28.1
him power, to annoy
him any way; but sorry that he exempted his person, in that first commission (Only upon himself put not forth thy hand) he was glad that in a second commission, God did lay open his person to his power, but sorry that he excepted his life, (Behold he is in thy hand, but save his life“7. For, till the wicked come to an utter destruction of their enemies, they think it no approximation, they are never come near enough to them. And in chamo, et fræno, therefore God bits and bridles them, that they shall not come near, not so near, to destroy; and certainly, God's children have not so much sorrow for that which the wicked do inflict upon them, as the wicked have for that which they cannot inflict upon them;
the wicked are more tormented that they can do no more, than the godly are, that they have done so much. And this is a comfortable, (and truly, the most literal sense of this Ne approximent) Their mouths must be held, they must, though none can hold them but God, yet God must, God himself for his own glory, and the preservation of his church, is reduced to a necessity, he must, he will hold them in with bit and bridle, lest they come
But there is a sadder, and a heavier sense arising out of these words, as St. Hierome accepts and pursues the words, with which we shall end all that belongs to them.
St. Hierome reads these words so, as that when God hath said, Nolite fieri, Be not as the horse or mule, that have no understanding, God hath done, and says no more; and that in the rest of the words, In chamo et fræno maxillas eorum constringe, (Hold in their mouths with bit and bridle, who come not near thee) the church speaks to God; and so, this inhibition, Ne approximent, that they come not near thee, may very well be, that they come not near God, that God bits and bridles them so, afflicts and multiplies afflictions so, that even those afflictions drive them further from God, and seal their condemnation in their own blood. God's spirit shall fan them, sift them; that might do them good; purify them, clease them; no, it shall do them no good; for, (as it follows) God shall sift them with a siece of vanity*8; in vain, to no purpose, without any amendment; and there shall be, frænum erroris, a bridle in their jaws causing them to err; their impa
47 Job ü. 6.
18 Isaiah xxx. 28.
tient misinterpretation of God's corrections, shall turn them upon a wrong way on the left hand, and depart them further and further from God. And then, He that being often reproced, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy “"; suddenly, and irrecoverably; suddenly, no time given him to deprecate his destruction, no reprieve; irrecoverably, if he had never so much time: I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their troubles. Shall any be able to cry unto God, and not be heard? Yes, to cry, and to cry for their trouble; for all this may be done, and yet no true prayer made, nor right foundation laid ; when only impatience upon affliction extorts, and presses, and vents a cry, God will not hear them. No, nor when they are thus disabled to pray for themselves, will God hear any other to pray for them. Thrice doth God chide the prophet Jeremy from that charitable disposition of praying for that people. Lift not up a cry nor prayer for them"; not a cry, by way of remembering me of their pressures and afflictions, as though that should move me; not a prayer, by remembering me of my covenant of mercy towards them, as though that should bind me. At other times, God sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before him for the land, that he might not destroy it, but ho found nones? Here Jeremy offers himself in the gap, and God will not receive him to that mediatorship, to that intercession for that people. When Moses importuned God for the people, God tells him, For thyself thou shalt be no loser; whatsoever become of this people; (I will make thee a great nation) but yet, says God, Let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against this people, that I may consume them". O how contagious and pestilent are the sins of man, that can thus (if we may so speak) infect God himself ! how violent, how impetuous, how tempestuous are the sins of man, that can thus, (if we may so speak) transport God himself, and carry him beyond himself! for himself is
mercy, and there is no room for our own prayers, no room for the prayers of others to open any door, any pore of mercy to flow out, or to breathe out upon us.
49 Prov. xxix. 1. 50 Jer. xi. 14.
5% Ezek. xxii, 30.
31 Jer. xi. 14; vii. 16.; xiv. 11.
53 Exod. xxxii, 10.
Truly, beloved, it is hard to conceive, how any height of sin in man should work thus upon God, as to throw him away, without any purpose of re-assuming him again, or any possibility of returning to him again. But to impute that distemper to God, that God should thus peremptorily hate man, thus irreparably destroy man, before he considered that man, as a sinner, and as a manifold sinner, and as an obdurate sinner, nay before he considered him, as a man, as a creature, that first he should mean to damn him, if he had him, and then mean to make him, that he might damn him; this is to impute to God a sourer and worse affected nature, than falls into any man. Doth
any man desire that his enemy had a son, that he might kill him! Doth any man beget a son therefore, that he might disinherit him? Doth God hate any man therefore, because he will hate him? Deliver me, O Lord, from my sins, pardon them, and then return to thy first purposes upon me; for I am sure they were good, till I was ill; and my illness came not from thee ; but
so multiplied by myself, as that thou mayest bit me and bridle me so, as that I shall not come near thee, in any of those accesses which thou hast opened in thy church: prayer, preaching, sacraments, absolution, all shall be unavailable upon me, ineffectual to me. And therefore, as God would have us conserve the dignity of our nature in his image, and not descend to the qualities of these beasts, horse, and mule, specified by the Holy Ghost, to represent to us those two sins, which are the wombs and mothers of very many others, pride and lust, (the greatest spiritual, and the greatest bodily sin) because thereby we lose all understanding, which is the matter upon which grace works; so would he have us do it for this also, that he might not be put to a necessity of bitting and bridling us, of hard usage towards us, which may turn us as well to obduration as contrition, and so come to lose our faith at last, as we had done our reason and understanding before.