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and liniments, as that that which is said by the prophet's poor widow, to the prophet Elisha, That she had nothing in the house but a pot of oil, is very properly by some collected from the original word, that it was not oil for meat, but oil for unction, aromatical oil, oil to make her look better; she was but poor, but a widow, but a prophet's widow, (and likely to be the poorer for that) yet she left not that. We see that even those women, whom the kings were to take for their wives, and not for mistresses, (which is but a later name for concubines) had a certain, and a long time assigned to be prepared by these aromatical unctions, and liniments for beauty. Neither do those that consider, that when Abraham was afraid to lose his wife Sarah in Egypt, and that every man that saw her, would fall in love with her, Sarah was then above threescore; and when the king Abimelech did fall in love with her, and take her from Abraham, she was fourscore and ten, they do not assign this preservation of her complexion, and habitude to any other thing, than the use of those unctions, and liniments, which were ordinary to that nation. But yet though the extent and limit of this adorning the body, may be larger than some austere persons will allow, yet it is not so large, as that it should be limited only, by the intention and purpose of them that do it; so that if they that beautify themselves, mean no harm in it, therefore there should be no harm in it; for, except they could as well provide, that others should take no harm, as that they should mean no harm, they may participate of the fault. And since we find such an impossibility in rectifying and governing our own senses, (we cannot take our own eye, nor stop our own ear, when we would) it is an unnecessary, and insupportable burden, to put upon our score, all the lascivious glances, and the licentious wishes of other persons, occasioned by us, in over-adorning ourselves.
And this may well have been Bathsheba's fault, that though she did not bathe with a purpose to be seen, yet she did not enough to provide against the infirmity of others. It had therefore been well if David had risen earlier, to attend the affairs of the state; and it had been well, if Bathsheba had bathed within doors, and with more caution; but yet these errors alone, we 52 Kings iv. 2.
should not be apt to condemn in such persons, except by God's permitting greater sins to follow upon these, we were taught, that even such things, as seem to us in their nature to be indifferent, have degrees of natural and essential ill in them, which must be avoided, even in the probability, nay even in the possibility that they may produce sin.
And as from this example, we draw that conclusion, that sins, which are but the children of indifferent actions, become the parents of great sins; which is the industry of sin, to exalt itself, and (as it were) ennoble itself, above the stock, from which it was derived. The next sin will needs be a better sin than the last so have we also from David this conclusion, that this generation of sin is infinite; infinite in number, infinite in duration; so infinite both ways, as that Luther (who seldom checks himself in any vehement expression) could not forbear to say, Si Nathan non venisset, If Nathan had not come to David, David had proceeded to the sin against the Holy Ghost. O how impossible a thing is it then, for us to condition and capitulate with God, or with our own nature, and say to him, or to ourselves, We will sin thus long and no longer, thus far, and no farther, this sin, and no more; when not only the frailty of man, but even the justice of God provokes us (though not as author, or cause of sin) to commit more and more sins, after we have entangled and enwrapped ourselves in former! Who can doubt, but that in this year's space, in which David continued in his sin, but that he did ordinarily all the external acts of the religious worship of God? Who can doubt but that he performed all the legal sacrifices, and all the ceremonial rites? Yea, we see, that when Nathan put David's case in another name, of a rich man that had taken away a poor man's only sheep, David was not only just, but he was vehement in the execution of justice; He was, says the text, exceeding wroth, and said, As the Lord liveth, that man shall die; but yet, for all this external religion, for all this civil justice in matter of government, no mention of any repentance in all this time. How little a thing then is it, nay how great a thing, that is, how great an aggravating of thy sin, if thou think to bribe God with a Sabbath, or with an alms; and, as a criminal person would fain come to sanctuary, not because it is a consecrated
place, but because it rescues him from the magistrate, so thou comest to church, not because God is here, but that thy being here may redeem thee from the imputation of profaneness. At last Nathan came; David did not send for him, but God sent him; but yet David laid hold upon God's purpose in him. And he confesses to God, he confesses to the prophet, he confesses to the whole church; for, before he pleads for mercy in the body of the Psalm, in the title of the Psalm, which is as canonical Scripture, as the Psalm itself, he confesses himself plainly, A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
Audiunt male viventes, et quærunt sibi patrocinia peccandi®; wo hear of David's sin, and we justify our sins by him; Si David, cur non et ego? ego? If David went in to a Bathsheba, why may not I? That father tells you why, Qui facit, quia David fecit, id facit, quod David non fecit, He that does that, because David did it, does not do that which David did; Quia nullum exemplum proposuit, For David did not justify his sin, by any precedent example; so that he that sins as David did, yet sins worse than David did; and he that continues as unsensible of his sin, as David was, is more unsensible than David was; Quia ad te mittitur ipse David', For God sends Nathan to thee, with David in his hand; he sends you the receipt, his invitations to repentance, in his Scriptures, and he sends you a probatum est, a personal testimony how this physic hath wrought upon another, upon David.
And so having in this first part, which is the consideration of the persons in our text, God and David, brought them by Nathan's mediation, together, consider we also, for a conclusion of this part, the personal applications, that David scatters himself upon none but God, tu me, and he repeats it, do thou purge me, do thou wash me.
Damascene hath a sermon of the assumption of the blessed Virgin, which whole sermon is but a dialogue, in which Eve acts the first part, and the blessed Virgin another; it is but a dialogue, yet it is a sermon. If I should insist upon this dialogue, between God and David, tu me, tu me, do thou work upon me, 7 Augustine.
it would not be the less a profitable part of a sermon for that. For first, when we hear David in an anhelation and panting after the mercy of God, cry out, Domine tu, Lord do thou that that is to be done, do thou purge, do thou wash, and may have heard God, (thereby to excite us to the use of his means) say, Purget natura, purget lex, I have infused into thee a light and a law of nature, and exalted that light and that law, by a more particular law and a clearer light than that, by which thou knowest what is sin, and knowest that in a sinful state thou canst not be acceptable to me, Purget natura, purget lex, Let the light of nature, or of the law purge thee, and rectify thyself by that; do but as much for thyself, as some natural men, some Socrates, some Plato hath done, we may hear David reply, Domine tu, Lord put me not over to the catechising of nature, nor to the pedagogy of the law, but take me into thine own hands, do thou, thou, that is to be done upon me. When we hear God say, Purget ecclesia, I have established a church, settled constant ordinances, for the purging and washing of souls there; Purget ecclesia, Let the church purge thee, we may hear David reply, Domine tu, Alas Lord, how many come to that bath, and go foul out of it? How many hear sermons, and receive sacraments, and when they return, return to their vomit? Domine tu, Lord, except the power of thy Spirit make thine ordinance effectual upon me, even this thy Jordan will leave me in my leprosy, and exalt my leprosy, even this sermon, this sacrament will aggravate my sin. If we hear God say, Shall I purge thee? Dost thou know what thou askest, what my method in purging is, that if I purge, I shall purge thee with fire, with seven fires, with tribulations, nay, with temptations, with temporal, nay, with spiritual calamities, with wounds in thy fortune, wounds in thine honour, wounds in thy conscience, yet we may hear David reply, tu Domine; as the people said to Joshua, God forbid we should forsake the Lord, we will serve the Lord"; and when Joshua said, You cannot serve the Lord, for he is a jealous God; and if ye turn from him, he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you after he hath done you good; the people replied, Nay, but we will serve the Lord; so whatsoever God threatens David of afflictions and
Josh. xxiv. 16.
tribulations, and purgings in fire, we may hear David reply, Nay but Lord, do thou do it, do it how thou wilt, but do thou do it: thy corrosives are better than other's fomentations; thy bitternesses sweeter than other's honey; thy fires are but lukewarm fires, nay, they have nothing of fire in them, but light to direct me in my way; and thy very frowns are but as trenches cut out, as lanes that lead me to thy grave, or rivers or channels, that lead me to the sea of thy blood. Let me go upon crutches, so I go to heaven; lay what weight thou wilt even upon my soul, that that be heavy, and heavy unto death, so I may have a cheerful transmigration then. Domine tu, Lord do thou do it, and I shall not wish it mended.
And then when we hear David say, Domine me, Lord purge wash me, and return four times in this short text, to that personal appropriation of God's work upon himself, purge me, that I may be clean, wash me, that I may be whiter than snow, if we hear God say (as the language of his mercy is, for the most part, general) as the sea is above the earth, so is the blood of my Son above all sin; congregations of three thousand, and of five thousand were purged and washed, converted and baptized at particular sermons of St. Peter, whole legions of soldiers, that consisted of thousands, were purged in their own blood, and became martyrs in one day. There is enough done to work upon all; examples enow given to guide all; we may hear David reply, Domine me, Nay but Lord, I do not hear Peter preach, I live not in a time, or in a place, where crowns of martyrdom are distributed, nor am I sure my constancy would make me capable of it if I did, Lord I know, that a thousand of these worlds were not worth one drop of thy blood, and yet I know, that if there had been but one soul distressed, and that soul distressed but with one sin, thou wouldst have spent the last drop of that blood for that soul; blessed be thy name, for having wrapped me up in thy general covenants, and made me partaker of thy general ordinances, but yet Lord, look more particularly upon me, and appropriate thyself to me, to me, not only as thy creature, as a man, as a Christian, but as I am I, as I am this sinner that confesses now, and as I am this penitent that begs thy mercy now. And now, beloved, we have said so much towards enough of the