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them. And as it is in civil, and secular, so it is in ecclesiastical, and spiritual things too. How many men, by a popular hunting after the applause of the people, in their manner of preaching, and humouring them in their distempers, have made themselves incapable of preferment in the church where they took their orders, and preached themselves into a necessity of running away into foreign parts, that are receptacles of seditious and schismatical separatists, and have been put there, to learn some trade, and become artificers for their sustentation? The same people that welcomed Christ, from the Mount of Olives, into Jerusalem, upon Sunday, with their Hosannas to the son of David“, upon Friday mocked him in Jerusalem, with their Hail, king of the Jews, and blew him out of Jerusalem to Golgotha, with the pestilent breath, with the tempestuous whirlwind of their crucifiges. And of them, who have called the master, Beelzebub, what shall any servant look for“? Surely men of low degree are vanity.
And then, under the same oath, and asseveration, surely, as surely as the other, men of high degree are a lie. Doth David mean these men, whom he calls a lie, to be any less than those whom he called ranity ? Less than vanity, than emptiness, than nothing, nothing can be; and low and high are to this purpose, and in this consideration, compared with God, or considered without God) equally nothing. He that hath the largest patrimony, and space of earth, in the earth, must hear me say, that all that was nothing; and if he ask, but what was this whole kingdom, what all Europe, what all the world?. It was all, not so much as another nothing, but all one and the same nothing as thy dunghill was. But yet the Holy Ghost hath been pleased to
vary the phrase here, and to call men of high degree, not ranity, but • a lie, because the poor, men of low degree, in their condition promise no assistance, feed not men with hopes, and therefore cannot be said to lie, but in the condition of men of high degree, who are of power, there is a tacit promise, a natural and inherent assurance of protection, and assistance, flowing from them. For the magistrate cannot say, that he never promised me justice, never promised me protection ; for in his assuming that place, ho made me that promise. I cannot say, that I never promised my
44 Matt. xxi. 9.
45 Matt. X. 25.
parish, my service; for in my induction, I made them that promise, and if I perform it not, I am a lie; for so this word chasab (which we translate a lie) is frequently used in the Scriptures, for that which is defective in the duty it should perform; Thou shalt be a spring of water, (says God in Esay) cujus aquæ non mentiuntur, whose waters nerer lie", that is, never dry, never fail.
So then, when men of high degree do not perform the duties of their places, then they are a lie of their own making; and when I over-magnify them in their place, flatter them, humour them, ascribe more to them, expect more from them, rely more upon them, then I should, then they are a lie of my making. But whether the lie be theirs, that they fear greater men than themselves, and so prevaricate in their duties; or the lie be mine, that canonize them and make them my god, they, and I shall be disappointed; for, Surely men of high degree are a lie. are upon a sermon, not upon a satire, therefore we pass from this.
And, for all this, there may seem to be room left for the middle state, for a mediocrity; when it is not so low as to be made the subject of oppression, nor so high as to be made the object of ambition, when it is neither exposed to scorn and contempt, nor to envy, and undermining, may we not then trust upon, not rest in such a condition ? Indeed, this mediocrity seems (and justly) the safest condition; for this, and this only enjoys itself: the lazy man gets not up to it; the stirring man stays not at it, but is gone beyond it. From our first themes at school, to our texts in the pulpit, we continue our praising and persuading of this mediocrity. A man may have too much of anything ; Anima saturata, A full soul will tread honey under his feet*?; he may take in knowledge till he be ignorant ; let the prophet Jeremiah give the rule, Stultus factus est omnis homo à scientia, Every man becomes a fool by knowledge “e, by over-weening, and over-valuing his knowledge ; and let Adam be the example of this rule, his eyes were opened by eating the fruit, and he knew so much, as he was ashamed of it; let the apostle be the physician, the moderator, sapere ad sobrietatem", not to dive into secrets, and unrevealed mysteries. There is enough of this doctrine involved
46 Isaiah Lvii. 11.
48 Jer. x. 14.
47 Prov. xxvii. 7. * Rom. xii. 3.
in the fable, Actæon saw more than he should have seen, and perished. There is abundantly enough expressed in the oracle of truth, Uzza was over-zealous in an office that appertained not to him", in assisting the ark, and suffered for that.
We may quickly exceed a mediocrity, even in the praise of mediocrity. But all our diligence will scarce find it out. What is mediocrity? Or where is it? In the hierarchy of the Roman church they never thought of this mediocrity; they go very high, and very low, but there is no mean station ; I mean no denomination of any order from meanness, from mediocrity. In one de gree you find embroidered shoes, for kings to kiss, and in another degree bare feet; we find an order of the Society of Jesus; and that is very high, for society implies community, partnership; and we find low descents, minorites, men less than others, and minims, least of all men; and lower than all them, nullans, men that call themselves, nothing; and truly, this order, best of all others hath answered and justified the name, for very soon they came to nothing. We find all extremes amongst them, even in their names, but none denominated from this mediocrity.
But to pass from names to the thing; indeed what is mediocrity? where is it? Is it the same thing as competency? But what is competency? or where is that? Is it that which is sufficient for thy present degree? perchance thy present degree is not sufficient for thee; thy charge perchance, perchance thy parts and abilities, or thy birth and education may require a better degree. God produced plants in Paradise therefore, that they might grow; God hath planted us in this world, that we might grow; and he that does not endeavour that by all lawful means, is inexcusable, as well as he that pursues unlawful. But, if I come to imagine such a mediocrity, such a competency, such a sufficiency in myself, as that I may rest in that, that I think I may ride out all storms, all disfavours, that I have enough of mine own, wealth, health, or moral constancy, if any of these decay, this is a verier vanity, than trusting in men of low degree, and a verier lie than men of high degree; for this is to trust to ourselves ; this is a sacrificing to our own nets", our own industry, our own wisdom, our own fortune ; and of all the idolatries of the heathen, who
50 2 Sam. vi. 6.
51 Habbak. i. 16.
made gods of every thing they saw or imagined, of every thing, in, and between heaven and hell, we read of no man that sacrificed to himself. Indeed no man flatters me so dangerously, as I flatter myself, no man wounds me so desperately, as I wound myself; and therefore, since this which we call mediocrity, and competency is conditioned so, that it is enough to subsist alone, without relation to others, dependency upon others, fear from others, induces a confidence, a relying upon myself; as, that which we imagine to be the middle region of the air, is the coldest of all, so this imagined mediocrity, that induces a confidence in ourselves, is the weakest rest, the coldest comfort of all, and makes me a lie to myself. Therefore may the prophet well spread, and safely extend his asseveration, his surely, upon all, high, and low, and mean; Surely to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than canity.
Here then, upon a full enumeration of all parts, the prophet concludes upon all. If therefore thou have the favour of great ones, the applause of the people, confidence in thyself, in an instant, the power of those great ones may be overthrown, or their favour to thee withdrawn from thee, and so that bladder is pricked, upon which thou swammest) the applause of the people may be hushed and silenced, (either they would not, or they dare not magnify thee) and, thine own constancy may be turned into a dejection of spirit, and consternation of all thy faculties. Put all together, (which falls out seldom, that any man can do so) but if he can do that, (which is the best state of man, that can be imagined in this world, that he hath all these together, the favour of high and low, and of himself, that is, his own testimony in his conscience, (though perchance an erring, a mistaking conscience) yet, the prophet had delivered the same assurance before (even of that state of man, which is rather imagined, than ever possessed) Surely every man, at his best state, is altogether canity; and here, he adds, lighter than canity”. Vanity is nothing, but there is a condition worse than nothing. Confidence in the things, or persons of this world, but most of all, a confidence in ourselves, will bring us at last to that state, wherein we would fain be nothing, and cannot. But yet, we have a balance in our text; and all these are but put together in one balance. In the other scale there is something put to, in comparison whereof all this world is so light. God does not leave our great and noble faculty, and affection of hope, and trust, and confidence, without something to direct itself upon, and rectify itself in. He does not; for, for that he proposes himself; the words immediately before the text, are, God is a refuge ; and in comparison of him, To be laid in the balance, Surely they are altogether lighter than vanity.
52 Psalm xxxix, 5,
So then, it is not enough not to trust in the flesh (for, for that, Cursed be man, that trusted in man, or maketh flesh his arm"; their flesh cannot ecure thee, neither is thine own flesh brassss, that thou canst endure the vexations of this world, neither can flesh and blood reveal unto thee the things of the next world"). It is not enough not to trust in flesh, but thou must trust in that that is spirit. And when thou art to direct thy trust upon him, who is spirit, the spirit of power, and of consolation, stop not, stray not, divert not upon evil spirits, to seek advancement, or to seek knowledge from them, nor upon good spirits, the glorious saints of God in heaven, to seek salvation from them, nor upon thine own spirit, in an over-valuation of thy purity, or thy merits. For, there is a pestilent pride in an imaginary humility, and an infectious foulness in an imaginary purity; but turn only to the only invisible and immortal God, who turns to thee, in so many names and notions of power, and consolation, in this one Psalm. In the last verse but one of this Psalm, David says, God hath spoken once, and twice hace I heard him. God hath said enough at once; but twice, in this Psalm, hath he repeated this, in the second, and in the sixth verse, He only is my rock and my salvation, and my defence, and (as it is enlarged in the seventh verse) my refuge and my glory. If my refuge, what enemy can pursue me? If my defence, what temptation shall wound me? If my rock, what storm shall shake me? If my salvation, what melancholy shall deject me? If my glory, what calumny shall defame me?
53 Jer. xvii. 5.
54 Job vi, 12.
55 Matt. xvi. 17.