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PREACHED UPON THE PENITENTIAL PSALMS.
PSALM xxxii. 9.
Be not as the horse, or the mule, who have no understanding; whose mouth
must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
As God, above whom there is nothing, looks downwards to us ; so except we, below whom there is nothing that belongs to us, look upward toward him, we shall never meet. And therefore God foreseeing such a descent in man, as might make him incapable, and put him out of distance of the rich promises of this Psalm, in this text he forewarns him, of such a descent, such a dejection, such a diminution of himself. And first he forbids a descent generally into a lower nature; Nolite fieri, Be not made at all, not made any other, than God hath made you. God would have man, who was his medal at first, (when God stamped and imprinted his image in him) and was God's robe, and garment at last, (when Christ Jesus invested and put on our nature) God would have this man preserve this dignity, Nolite fieri, Be not made any new thing. Secondly, he forbids him a descent, into certain particular depravations, and deteriorations of our nature, in those qualities, which are intimated and specified, in the nature and disposition of those two beasts, the horse, and the mule, Nolite fieri sicut equus et mulus, Be not as the horse, or the mule. But principally, for that which is in the third place, Quia non intellectus, Not because they have no faith, but because they have no understanding, for then, it is impossible that ever they should have faith ; and so it is a reason proportioned to our reason ; do not so, for it will vitiate, it will annihilate your understanding, your reason, and then what are you, for supernatural, or for natural knowledge ? But then there is another reason proportioned to the sense, that this declination of ours, into these inferior natures, brings God to a necessity to bit, and bridle, and curb us, that is, to inflict afflictions upon us; and then that reason is aggravated by the greatest weight that can be laid upon it, that God will inflict all these punishments upon these perverse men, metamorphosed into these beasts, not only ne approximent, that they may not come near God's servants, to do them harm, (which seems indeed to be the most literal sense of the word) but (as some of our expositors have found reason to interpret them) ne approximent, that they shall not come near him; not near God in the service of his church, to do themselves any good ; his corrections shall harden them, and remove them further from him, and from all benefit by his ordinances.
First then God arms him with a pre-increpation upon descent, Nolite fieri, Go no less, be not made lower. The first sin that ever was, was in ascending, a climbing too high; when the purest understandings of all, the angels, fell by their ascending; when Lucifer was tumbled down, by his similis ero altissimo, I will be like the Most High', then he tried upon them, who were next to him in dignity, upon man, how that clambering would work upon him. He presents to man, the same ladder; he infuses into man the same ambition, and as he fell with a similis ero altissimo, I will be like the Most High, so he overthrew man, with an eritis sicut dii, Ye shall be as gods. It seems this fall hath broke the neck of man's ambition, and now we dare not be so like God, as we should be. Ever since this fall, man is so far from affecting higher places, than his nature is capable of, that he is still grovelling upon
the ground, and participates, and imitates, and expresses more of the nature of the beast than of his own. There is no creature but man that degenerates willingly from his natural dignity; those degrees of goodness, which God imprinted in them at first, they preserve still; as God saw they were good then, so he may see they are good still; they have kept their talent; they have not bought nor sold ; they have not gained nor lost; they are not departed from their native and natural dignity, by anything that they have done. But of man,
But of man, it seems, God was distrustful from the beginning. He did not pronounce upon man's creation, (as he did upon the other creatures) that he was good; because his goodness was a contingent thing, and consisted in the future use of his free will. For that faculty and power of the will, is rirtus transformativa”; by it we change ourselves into
that we love most, and we are come to love those things most, which are below us. As God said to the earth, (and it was enough to say so) Germinet terra juxta genus suum, Let the earth bring forth according to her kind; so, Vide juxta genus tuum, says St. Ambrose to man, Live according to thy kind; non adulteres genus tuum, do not abase, do not allay, do not betray, do not abastardize that noble kind, that noble nature, which God hath imparted to thee, imprinted in thee.
Mundi moles liber esto, This whole world is one book; and is it not a barbarous thing, when all the whole book besides remains entire, to deface that leaf in which the Author's picture, the image of God is expressed, as it is in man? God brought man into the world, as the king goes in state, lords, and earls, and persons of other ranks before him. So God sent out light, and firmament, and earth, and sea, and sun, and moon, to give a dignity to man's procession; and only man himself disorders all, and that by displacing himself, by losing his place. The heavens and earth were finished, et omnis exercitus eorum, says Moses, all the host thereof; and all this whole army preserves that discipline, only the general that should govern them, misgoverns himself. And whereas we see that tigers and wolves, beasts of annoyance, do still keep their places and natures in the world, and so do herbs and plants, even those which are in their nature offensive and deadly, (for alia esui, alia usui“, some herbs are made to eat, some to adorn, some to supply in physic) whilst we dispute in schools, whether if it were possible for man to do so, it were lawful for him to destroy any one species of God's creatures, though it were but the species of toads and spiders, (because this were a taking away one link of God's chain, one note of his harmony) we have taken away that which is the jewel at the chain, that which is the burden of the song, man himself. Partus sequitur ventrem; we verify the law treacherously, mischievously; we all follow our mother, we grovel upon the earth, whose children we are, and being made like our father, in his image, we neglect him. What is man that thou are mindful of him, and the son of man, that thou risitest himo? David admires not so much man's littleness in that place, as his greatness; he is a little lower than angels; a little lower than God, says our former translation ; agreeably enough to the word, and in a good sense too; God's lieutenant, his vicegerent over all creatures; Thou hast made him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; (and dominion is a great, it is a supreme estate) and thou hast put all things under his feet; (as it follows there) and yet we have forfeited this jurisdiction, this dominion, and more, our own essence; we are not only inferior to the beasts, and under their annoyance, but we are ourselves become beasts. Consider the dignity of thy soul, which only, of all other creatures is capable, susceptible of grace; if God would bestow grace anywhere else, no creature could receive it but thou. Thou art so necessary to God, as that God had no utterance, no exercise, no employment for his grace and mercy, but for thee. And if thou make thyself incapable of this mercy and this grace, of which nothing but thou is capable, then thou destroyest thy nature. And remember then, that as in the kingdom of heaven, in thoso orders which we conceive to be in those glorious spirits, there is no falling from a higher to a lower order, a cherubim or seraphim does not fall, and so become an archangel, or an angel, but those of that place that fell, fell into the bottomless pit; so, if thou depart from thy nature, from that susceptibleness, that capacity of receiving grace, if thou degenerate so from a man to a beast, thou shalt not rest there in the state and nature of a beast, whose soul breathes out to nothing, and vanishes with the life, thou shalt not be so happy, but thy better nature will remain, in despite of thee, thine everlasting soul must suffer everlasting torment.
: Psalm vii. 4.
Now as many men when they see a greater piece of coin than ordinary, they do not presently know the value of it, though they know it to be silver, but those lesser coins which are in current use, and come to their hands every day, they know at first sight; 60 because this stamp, this impression of the image of God in man, is not well and clearly understood by every man, neither this descent and departing from the dignity thereof, being delivered but in general, (Nolite fieri, Be ye made like nothing else) therefore the Holy Ghost brings us here to the consideration of some lesser pieces, things which are always within distance and
apprehension, always in our eye, (Nolite fieri sicut,) Descend not to the qualities of the horse and the mule. Though (as God summed up his temporal blessings to the Jews, in that total, Et profecisti in regnum, Thou didst prosper into a kingdom) he may also sum up his spiritual blessings to us in this, Et profecisti in ecclesiam, et in ecclesiam credentium, (for there is Ecclesia malignantium, odivi ecclesiam malignantium, says David, I have hated the congregation of evil doers'). I have brought thee first from the nations, from the common, into a visible church, and then from Babylon, from that church of confusion, that makes the word of God and the word of man equal, into an orthodox and sincere church, yet our sins have cast us Infra Gentes, infra Babylonem, Below all these again. For, for the Gentiles, The Gentiles which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law'; we that have the help of the law and Gospel too, do not. And for Rome, the example of our reformation, and their own shame, contracted thereby, hath wrought upon the church of Rome itself; they are the better for the reformation, (in frequent catechising and preaching) and we are not. Compare us with the Gentiles, and we shall fall under that increpation of the apostle, There is such fornication amongst you, as is not once named amongst the Gentiles': we commit those things which they forbear to speak of. Compare us with Rome, and I fear that will belong to us, which God says and swears in the prophet, As I lite, saith the Lord, Sodom thy sister hath not done as thou hast donelo.
Where, by the way, be pleased to note, that God calls even Samaria, and Sodom, sisters of Jerusalem ; there is a fraternity grounded in charity, which nothing must divest; if Sodom and Jerusalem were sisters, Babylon and we may be so too; uterine sisters of one womb, (for there is but one baptism) though fornication itself, (and fornication, in the spiritual sense of the Scriptures, hath a heavy signification, and reaches even to idolatry) have made that church, as some think, scarce capable of the name of a church, yet Sodom is a sister.
But be she as far degenerate as she can, our sin hath made a
$ Ezek. xvi. 13.
#Rom. ii. 14. 9 1 Cor. v. 1.
10 Ezek. xvi. 18.