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When Christians gathered themselves with more freedom, and churches were established with more liberty, preaching prevailed; and there is no exercise, that is denoted by so many names, as preaching. Origen began; for, (I think) we have no sermons, till Origen's. And though he began early, (early, if we consider the
age of the church, a thousand four hundred years since) and early, if we consider his own age, (for Origen preached by the commandment, and in the presence of bishops, before he was a churchman) yet he suffered no sermons of his to be copied, till he was sixty years old. Now, Origen called his, homilies; and the first Gregory, of the same time with Origen, that was bishop of Neocæsaria, hath his called, sermons. And so names multiplied; homilies, sermons, conciones, lectures, St. Augustine's enarrations, dictiones, that is, speeches, Damascene’s and Cyril's orations (nay, one exercise Cæsareus, conveyed in the form of a dialogue) were all sermons. Add to these church-exercises, (homilies, sermons, lectures, orations, speeches, and the rest) the declamations of civil men in courts of justice, the tractates of moral men written in their studies, nay go back to your own times, when you went to school, or to the university; and remember but your own, or your fellows' themes, or problems, or common-places, and in all these you may see evidence of that, to which the Holy Ghost himself hath set a seal in this text, that is, the recommendation of bounty, of munificence, of liberality, The liberal deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things he shall stand.
That which makes me draw into consideration the recommendation of this virtue, in civil authors, and exercises, as well as in ecclesiastical, is this, that our expositors, of all the three ranks, and classes (the fathers and ancients, the later men in the Roman Church, and ours of the Reformation) are very near equally divided, in every of these three ranks; whether this text be intended of a moral and a civil, or of a spiritual and ecclesiastical liberality; whether this prophecy of Isaiah, in this chapter, beginning thus (Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment) be to be understood of
Hezekias, or a Josias, or any other good king, which was to
2 Ver. 1.
succeed, and to induce virtuous times in the temporal state, and government, or whether this were a prophecy of Christ's time, and of the exaltation of all virtues in the Christian religion, hath divided our expositors in all those three classes. In all three, (though in all three some particular men are peremptory and vehement upon some one side, absolutely excluding the other exposition, as, amongst authors in the Reformation, one says, Dubium non est, it can admit no doubt, but that this is to be understood of Hezekias, and his reign, and yet another of the same side*, says too, Qui Rabbinos secuti, they that adhere too much to the Jewish Rabbins, and will needs interpret this prophecy of a temporal king, obscure the purpose of the Holy Ghost, and accommodate many things to a secular prince, which can hold in none, but Christ himself) yet, I say, though there be some peremptory, there are in all the three classes, ancients, Romans, reformed, moderate men, that apply the prophecy both ways, and find that it may very well subsist so, that in a fair proportion, all these blessings shall be in the reigns of those Hezekiases, and those Josiases, those good kings which God affords to his people; but the multiplication, the exaltation of all these blessings, and virtues, is with relation to the coming of Christ, and the establishing of his kingdom. And this puts us, if not to a necessity, yet with conveniency, to consider these words both ways; what this civil liberality is, that is here made a blessing of a good king's reign ; and what this spiritual liberality is, that is here made a testimony of Christ's reign, and of his gospel. And therefore, since we must pass twice through these words, it is time to begin; The liberal man deriseth liberal things, and by liberal things he shall stand.
From these two arms of this tree, that is, from the civil, and from the spiritual accommodation of these words, be pleased to gather, and lay up these particular fruits. In each of these, you shall taste first, what this liberality thus recommended is; and secondly, what this devising, and studying of liberal things is ; and again, how this man is said to stand by liberal things ; The liberal man deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things he shall stand. And because in the course of this prophecy, in this chapter, we have the king named, and then his princes, and after, persons of lower quality and condition, we shall consider these particulars; this liberality, this devising, this standing; first, in the first accommodation of the words, in the king, in his princes, or great persons, the magistrate, and lastly, in his people. And in the second accommodation, the spiritual sense, we shall consider these three terms, (liberality, devising, standing) first, in the King of kings, Christ Jesus, and then, in his officers, the ministers of his gospel, and lastly, in his people gathered by this gospel ; in all which persons, in both sorts, civil and spiritual, we shall see how the liberal man deviseth liberal things, and how by liberal things he stands.
First then, in our first part, in the civil consideration of this virtue, liberality, it is a communication of that which we have to other men; and it is the best character of the best things, that they are communicable, diffusive. Light was God's first child ; light opened the womb of the chaos; born heir to the world, and so does possess the world; and there is not so diffusive a thing, nothing so communicative, and self-giving as light is. And then, gold is not only valued above all things, but is itself the value of all things; the value of everything is, thus much gold it is worth; and no metal is so extensive as gold; no metal enlarges itself to such an expansion, such an attenuation as gold does, nor spreads so much, with so little substance. Sight is the noblest, and the powerfullest of our senses; all the rest, (hearing only excepted) are determined in a very narrow distance; and for hearing, thunder is the furthest thing that we can hear, and thunder is but in the air ; but we see the host of heaven, the stars in the firmament. All the good things that we can consider, light, sight, gold, all are accompanied with a liberality of themselves, and are so far good, as they are dispensed and communicated to others; for their goodness is in their use. It is virtus prolifica, a generative, a productive virtue, a virtue that begets another virtue ; another virtue upon another man; thy liberality begets my gratitude; and if there be an unthankful barrenness in me, that thou have no children by me, no thankfulness from me, God shall raise thee more children for my barrenness, thy liberality shall be the more celebrated by all the
world, because I am unthankful. God hath given me a being, and my liberal benefactor hath given me such a better being, as that, without that, even my first being had been but a pain, and a burden unto me. He that leaves treasure at his death, left it in his life; then, when he locked it up, and forbade himself the use of it, he left it. He that locks up, may be a good gaoler ; but he that gives out, is his steward: the saver may be God's chest; the giver is God's right hand. But the matter of our liability (what we give) is but the body of this virtue. The soul of this liberality, that that inanimates it, is the manner, intended more in the next word, he deviseth, he studieth, the liberal deriseth liberal things.
Here the Holy Ghost's word is iagnatz, and iagnatz carries evermore with it a denotation of counsel, and deliberation, and conclusions upon premises. He devises, that is, considers what liberality is, discourses with himself, what liberal things are to be done, and then, upon this, determines, concludes, that he will do it, and really, actually does it. Therefore, in our first translation, (the first since the Reformation) we read this text thus, The liberal man imagineth honest things; though the translator have varied the word, liberal and honest) the original hath not. It is the same word in both places; liberal man, liberal things; but the translator was pleased to let us see, that if it be truly a liberal, it is an honest action. Therefore the liberal man must give that which is his own; for else the receiver is but a receiver of stolen goods ; and the curse of the oppressed may follow the gift, not only in his hands, through which it passed, but into his hands, where it remains. We have a convenient emblem of liberality in a torch, that wastes itself to enlighten others; but for a torch to set another man's house on fire, to enlighten me, were no good emblem of liberality. But liberality being made up of the true body, and true soul, true matter, and true form, that is, just possession for having, and sober discretion for giving, then enters the word of our text, liberally, The liberal man deciseth liberal things; he devises, studies, meditates, casts about, where he may do a noble action, where he may place a benefit ; he seeks the man with as much earnestness as another man seeks the money; and as God comes with an earnestness (as though he thought it nothing, to have wrought all the week) to his faciamus hominem. Now let us make man; so comes the liberal man to make a man, and to redeem him out of necessity and contempt; (the upper and lower millstone of poverty) and to return to our former representations of liberality, light, and sight; as light comes through the glass, but we know not how, and our sight apprehends remote objects, but we know not how; so the liberal man looks into dark corners, even upon such as are loath to be looked upon, loath to have their wants come into knowledge, and visits them by his liberality, when sometimes they know not from whence that shower of refreshing comes, no more than we know how light comes through the glass, or how our sight apprehends remote objects. So the liberal man deciseth liberal things; and then, (which is our third term, and consideration in this civil and moral acceptation of the words) by liberal things he shall stand.
Some of our later expositors admit this phrase, (The liberal man shall stand) to reach no further, nor to signify no more, but that the liberal man shall stand, that is, will stand, will continue his course, and proceed in liberal ways. And this is truly a good sense ; for many times men do some small actions, that have some show and taste of some virtue, for collateral respects, and not out of a direct and true virtuous habit. But these expositors (with whose narrowness our former translators complied) will not let the Holy Ghost be as liberal as he would be. His liberality here is, that the liberal man shall stand, that is, prosper and multiply, and be the better established for his liberality; he shall sow silver, and reap gold; he shall sow gold, and reap diamonds; sow benefits, and reap honour; not honour rooted in the opinion of men only, but in the testimony of a cheerful conscience, that pours out acclamations by thousands; and that is a blessed and a loyal popularity, when I have a people in mine own bosom, a thousand voices in mine own conscience, that justify and applaud a good action. Therefore that translation which we mentioned before, reads this clause thus, The liberal man imagineth honest things, and cometh up by honesty; still that which he calls honesty, is in the original liberality, and he comes up, he prospers, and thrives in the world, by those noble, and virtuous actions. It is easy for a man of any largeness in conversation, or