صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

the damps and vapours of hell itself, and spread a cloud of diffidence, and an impenetrable crust of desperation upon my conscience; when health shall fly from me, and I shall lay hold upon riches to succour me, and comfort me in my sickness, and riches shall fly from me, and I shall snatch after favour, and good opinion, to comfort me in my poverty; when even this good opinion shall leave me, and calumnies and misinformations shall prevail against me; when I shall need peace, because there is none but thou, O Lord, that should stand for me, and then shall find, that all the wounds that I have, come from thy hand, all the arrows that stick in me, from thy quiver; when I shall see, that because I have given myself to my corrupt nature, thou hast changed thine; and because I am all evil towards thee, therefore thou hast given over being good towards me ; when it comes to this height, that the fever is not in the humours, but in the spirits, that mine enemy is not an imaginary enemy, fortune, nor a transitory enemy, malice in great persons, but a real, and an irresistible, and an inexorable, and an everlasting enemy, the Lord of hosts himself, the Almighty God himself, the Almighty God himself only knows the weight of this affliction, and except he put in that pondus gloriæ, that exceeding weight of an eternal glory, with his own hand, into the other scale, we are weighed down, we are swallowed up, irreparably, irrevocably, irrecoverably, irremediably.

This is the fearful depth, this is spiritual misery, to be thus fallen from God. But was this David's case? Was he fallen thus far, into a diffidence in God? No. But the danger, the precipice, the slippery sliding into that bottomless depth, is, to be excluded from the means of coming to God, or staying with God; and this is that that David laments here, that by being banished, and driven into the wilderness of Judah, he had not access to the sanctuary of the Lord, to sacrifice his part in the praise, and to receive his part in the prayers of the congregation ; for angels pass not to ends, but by ways and means, nor men to the glory of the triumphant church, but by participation of the communion of the militant. To this note David sets his harp, in many, many psalms: sometimes, that God had suffered his enemies to possess his tabernacle, (He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, he delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemies' hands“,) but most commonly he complains, that God disabled him from coming to the sanctuary. In which one thing he had summed up all his desires, all his prayers, (One thing hare I desired of the Lord, that I will look after ; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple") his vehement desire of this, he expresses again, My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God's? He expresses a holy jealousy, a religious envy, even to the sparrows and swallows, yea, the sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, and where she may lay her young, eren thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Thou art my King, and my God, and yet excludest me from that, which thou affordest to sparrows, And are not we of more value than many sparrows"?

And as though David felt some false-ease, some half-temptation, some whispering that way, that God is in the wilderness of Judah, in every place, as well as in his Sanctuary, there is in the original in that place, a pathetical, a vehement, a broken expressing expressed, O thine altars; it is true, (says David) thou art here in the wilderness, and I may see thee here, and serve thee here, but, O thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. When David could not come in person to that place, yet he bent towards the temple, (In thy fear will I worship towards thy holy templeo?.) Which was also Daniel's devotion; when he prayed, his chamber windows were open towards Jerusalem; and so is Hezekiah's turning to the wall to weep, and to pray in his sick bed”, understood to be to that purpose, to conform, and compose himself towards the temple. In the place consecrated for that use, God by Moses fixes the service, and fixes the reward 20; and towards that place, (when they could not come to it) doth Solomon direct their devotion in the consecration of the temple, (When they are in the wars, when they are in captivity, and

21 Psalm Lxxviii. 60, 61.

32 Psalm xxvii. 4.

23 Psalm xli. 2. 24 Psalm Lxxxiv. 3.

25 Luke xii. 7.

26 Psalm Lxxxiv. 3. 27 Psalm v. 7.

28 Dan. vi. 10. 29 Isaiah xxxviii. 2. 30 Deut. xxxi. 11.

pray towards this house, do thou hear them".) For, as in private prayer, when (according to Christ's command) we are shut in our chamber, there is exercised modestia fidei, the modesty and bashfulness of our faith, not pressing upon God in his house : so in the public prayers of the congregation, there is exercised the fervour and holy courage of our faith, for Agmine facto obsidemus Deum, It is a mustering of our forces, and a besieging of God. Therefore does David so much magnify their blessedness, that are in this house of God; (Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, for they will be still praising thee) those that look towards it, may praise thee sometimes, but those men who dwell in the church, and whose whole service lies in the church, have certainly an advantage of all other men (who are necessarily withdrawn by worldly businesses) in making themselves acceptable to Almighty God, if they do their duties, and observe their church services aright.

Man being therefore thus subject naturally to manifold calamities, and spiritual calamities being incomparably heavier than temporal, and the greatest danger of falling into such spiritual calamities being in our absence from God's church, where only the outward means of happiness are ministered unto us, certainly there is much tenderness and deliberation to be used, before the church doors be shut against any man. If I would not direct a prayer to God, to excommunicate any man from the triumphant church, (which were to damn him) I would not oil the key, I would not make the way too slippery for excommunications in the militant church; for that is to endanger him. I know how distasteful a sin to God, contumacy, and contempt, and disobedience to order and authority is ; and I know, (and all men, that choose not ignorance, may know) that our excommunications (though calumniators impute them to small things, because, many times, the first complaint is of some small matter) never issue but upon contumacies, contempts, disobediences to the church. But they are real contumacies, not interpretative, apparent contumacies, not presumptive, that excommunicate a man in heaven ; and much circumspection is required, and (I am far from doubting it) exercised in those cases upon earth; for, though every excommu31 1 Kings viii. 44.

39 Tertullian.

nication upon earth be not sealed in heaven, though it damn not the man, yet it dams up that man's way, by shutting him out of that church, through which he must go to the other ; which being so great a danger, let every man take heed of excommunicating himself. The impersuasible recusant does so; the negligent libertine does so; the fantastic separatist does so; the half-present man, he, whose body is here, and mind away, does so; and he, whose body is but half here, his limbs are here upon a cushion, but his eyes, his ears are not here, does so: all these are self-excommunicators, and keep themselves from hence. Only he enjoys that blessing, the want whereof David deplores, that is here entirely, and is glad he is here, and glad to find this kind of service here, that he does, and wishes no other.

And so we have done with our first part, David's aspect, his present condition, and his danger of falling into spiritual miseries, because his persecution, and banishment amounted to an excommunication, to an excluding of him from the service of God, in the church. And we pass, in our order proposed at first, to the second, his retrospect, the consideration, what God had done for him before, Because thou hast been my help.

Through this second part, we shall pass by these three steps. First, that it behoves us, in all our purposes, and actions, to propose to ourselves a copy to write by, a pattern to work by, a rule, or an example to proceed by, because it hath been thus heretofore, says David, I will resolve upon this course for the future. And secondly, that the copy, the pattern, the precedent which we are to propose to ourselves, is, the observation of God's former ways and proceedings upon us, because God hath already gone this way, this way I will await his going still. And then, thirdly, and lastly, in this second part, the way that God had formerly gone with David, which was, That he had been his help, (Because thou hast been my help.)

First then, from the meanest artificer, through the wisest philosopher, to God himself, all that is well done, or wisely undertaken, is undertaken and done according to pre-conceptions, fore-imaginations, designs, and patterns proposed to ourselves beforehand. A carpenter builds not a house, but that he first sets up a frame in his own mind, what kind of house he will build. The little great philosopher Epictetus, would undertake no action, but he would first propose to himself, what Socrates, or Plato, what a wise man would do in that case, and according to that, he would proceed. Of God himself, it is safely resolved in the school, that he never did anything in any part of time, of which he had not an eternal pre-conception, an eternal Idea, in himself before. Of which Ideas, that is, pre-conceptions, predeterminations in God, St. Augustine pronounces, Tanta vis in ideis constituitur, There is so much truth, and so much power in these Ideas, as that without acknowledging them, no man can acknowledge God, for he does not allow God counsel, and wisdom, and deliberation in his actions, but sets God on work, before he have thought what he will do. And therefore he, and others of the fathers read that place", (which we read otherwise) Quod factum est, in ipso vita erat; that is, In all their expositions, whatsoever is made, in time, was alive in God, before it was made, that is, in that eternal Idea, and pattern which was in him. So also do divers of those fathers read those words to the Hebrews", (which we read, The things that are seen, are not made of things that do appear) Ex invisibilibus visibilia facta sunt, Things formerly invisible, were made visible; that is, we see them not till now, till they are made, but they had an invisible being, in that Idea, in that pre-notion, in that purpose of God before, for ever before. Of all things in heaven, and earth, but of himself, God had an Idea, a pattern in himself, before he made it.

And therefore let him be our pattern for that, to work after patterns; to propose to ourselves rules and examples for all our actions; and the more, the more immediately, the more directly our actions concern the service of God. If I ask God, by what Idea he made me, God produces his Faciamus hominem ad imaginem nostram, That there was a concurrence of the whole Trinity, to make me in Adam, according to that image which they were, and according to that Idea, which they had predetermined. If I pretend to serve God, and he ask me for my Idea, How I mean to serve him, shall I be able to produce none? If he ask me an Idea of my religion, and my opinions, shall I

[blocks in formation]

3+ IIeb. xi. 3.

« السابقةمتابعة »