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Here the apostle diverteth to another matter, reinforcing what he had said in the first chapter of the evil of the tongue; however, this discourse is with good reason subjoined to the former. Those that vainly boast of their own faith are most apt to censure others; and they that pretend to religion are wont to take the greatest liberty in rigid and bitter reflections upon the errors of their brethren.
My brethren.—The compellation, though familiar and usual to our apostle, hath here a special emphasis. (1.) Good men are many times surprised, and usurp too great a liberty over the failings of others. (2.) He would not deal too rigidly himself, and therefore tempereth his reproof with sweetness. (3.) The title carrieth the force of an argument; brethren should not affect a mastership over each other.
Be not many masters.—What is the meaning? The word master hath divers significations. Sometimes it is taken for an absoluteness of power and authority in the church: thus Christ alone is a master, Mat. xxiii. 10; his word is a law; his will is authentic. Sometimes it is taken for a subordinate teaching and opening the counsels of God; and those who do so by way of office are called `masters in Israel, John iii. 10; and so some take it in this place, and make the sense of the apostle's dissuasive to be, that every one should not easily or unlawfully invade the office of public teaching. And the reason, `knowing that we shall receive, &c., they open thus: because God requireth more of them that are teachers than of others, and so by rash entering into the office they run the hazard of the greater 271judgment. But the context will not bear this sense, the bent and drift of it being against the ill use of the tongue; and the reason annexed will not gratify it without much straining; and the scripture saith, that for not reproving and warning we draw the greater judgment upon ourselves, rather than by teaching or reproving, Ezek. xxxiii. 6. Therefore this second sense is not proper; neither can the first be applied, as master is taken for authenticness in the church, though Austin and Beda seem so to understand it, as if the apostle had dissuaded them from setting up themselves as masters and heads of factions, and broaching novel doctrines, that they might appear in the head of a train, or, in the scripture phrase, `draw disciples after them., But this is wholly alien and foreign to the apostle's scope. Master, then, is sometimes taken in the worst sense, καταχρηστικῶς, for a supercilious reprover, for one that is gotten into a chair of arrogance, whence he doth pro imperio, magisterially enough inveigh against the practices of other men; and so it is taken here. And the apostle maketh choice of this expression, `be not many masters,—(1.) To show he doth not speak of public and authorised reproof. God hath set some in the church that are to be censores morum, masters of manners, as the teacher and ecclesiastical magistrate; but because God hath allowed a few, let not every one be a master, or turn censurer: `Be not many;, we are all apt, but this itch must be killed. (2.) To show that he doth not forbid private brotherly admonitions, such as proceed from Christian care and love, but such a reproving as was supercilious and masterly, managed with as much sharpness and rigour as a man would use to his slave, or a master to a scholar of the lowest class and standing. And so some understand that πολλοὶ διδάσκαλοι, be not much masters, as if πολλοὶ were taken for πολὺ, many for much.
Knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.—This is the first reason the apostle produceth against the pride of censuring, which is grounded upon a consideration of the danger of the sin, or the severity of judgment following it; μεῖζον κρῖμα, `a greater judgment, either from men. Censurers have their own measure usually returned into their bosoms, Mat. vii. 1, 2. Or from God. Who can expect pardon for him that is severe to others? Mat. xviii. 32, 33. I chiefly understand judgment and condemnation from God, which is the more severe to censurers, upon a threefold ground:—(1.) The justice of retaliation. We condemn others, and God condemneth us; we are severe to their failings, and how can we expect that God should be merciful to ours? (2.) Because God is the avenger of injuries, Rom. xii. 19, and among them, blasting the repute of others is the greatest. (3.) A censurer's sins are more aggravated, because of that garb of indignation that he seemeth to put on against them: see Rom. ii. 1. In censuring others we do but pronounce our own doom and judgment, which the scripture manifestly representeth to us in those known instances of David, 2 Sam. xii., and Ahab, 1 Kings xx. 39, &c.
Obs. 1. The best need dissuasives from proud censuring. The apostle saith, `My brethren, be not many masters;, and afterwards he putteth himself in the number, `If we, &c. It is the natural disease 282of wit, a pleasing evil: it suiteth with pride and self-love, and feedeth conceit. Proud nature thinketh itself somebody, when it can get into a chair of arrogance, and cast out censures according to its own will and pleasure, as if God hath advanced us into some higher rank and sphere, and all the world had been made to be our scholars. It suiteth with self-love, because it diverteth the care of our souls; they that so narrowly look after the mote, forget the beam. And it strengtheneth self-conceit; so many evils in others make our own the less odious. It serveth vainglory, and provideth for our esteem abroad; we demolish the esteem of others, that out of the ruins of it we may raise a structure of praise to ourselves. Now all these evils are in the best of God's children. `Pride of life, is last mentioned, 1 John ii. 16, because it is last mortified; it groweth with the decrease of other sins, and thriveth by their decay. Well, then, `suffer the words of exhortation, Heb. xiii. 22. Some religious persons think such dissuasives as to them are either superfluous or injurious, this touchiness argueth guilt: no evil is more natural, no evil desireth less to be touched; insensibly it stealeth from our hearts into our tongues. We sin, and do not think of censuring; pride, being crossed, rageth: hear such matters patiently; James speaketh to the brethren, `Be not many masters.,
Obs. 2. Censuring; it is an arrogation of mastership over others. All teaching, especially reproof, is an act of power, and therefore the apostle forbiddeth it to women, 1 Cor. xiv. 34, because they cannot have power over a man. Well, then, when you are about to censure, check it with this thought—What power hath God given me over my fallen brother?, Why should I judge another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth, Rom. xiv. 4. It is a wrong to God to put myself in his room; it is a wrong to my neighbour to arrogate a power over him which God never gave me. We all stand upon the same level; needless and unprofitable censuring is but a bold usurpation; and besides the idleness of the words, we shall give an account for the sauciness of them.
Obs. 3. Christians should not affect this mastership over their brethren. You may admonish, reprove, warn, but it should not be in a masterly way. How is that? (1.) When we do it out of pride and self-conceit, as conceiving yourselves more just, holy, wise, &c.: Luke xviii., `I am not as other men;,222222`Non dicit, ut aliqui, modestiae fuisset istud; sunt enim aliqui profecto daemones humana specie larvati, universalem naturam sortitur indefinitus enunciandi modus.,—Dr Hall, Serm. Synod. Dord. he speaketh indefinitely. With praise a Christian may say he is not as some men; some are as brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed; and with thankfulness we may acknowledge that God hath not suffered us to run into the excess of their riot. The Pharisee speaketh as if he were above common weakness: Gal vi. 1, `Restore with meekness, considering yourselves;, we are all involved in the same state of frailty. (2.) When we do it as vaunting over their infirmities and frailties, in a braving way, rather to shame than to restore them; as Ham laughed at Noah's drunkenness: this doth not argue hatred of the sin, but envy, malice against the person. Paul's temper was truly Christian: Phil. iii. 17, `I have told you often, and now tell you weeping, they are enemies of 273the cross of Christ., A good man taketh no delight to rake in a dung hill, others, failings cannot serve his mirth and triumph: `My soul shall weep sore for your pride in secret places, Jer. xiii. 17. Censures are full of passion, but Christian reproofs of compassion; such a difference there is between reproving out of pride, and out of love and charity. (3.) When the censure is unmerciful, and we remit nothing of extreme rigour and severity; yea, divest the action of those extenuating circumstances of which the matter is capable. The censure should be extended no further than what may be necessarily inferred from the fact; jealousy collecteth more than is offered, but `charity thinketh no evil, 1 Cor. xiii. 5, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακὸν; it reasoneth no evil; that is, doth not seek to make sins, but cover them; as when an action is capable of two interpretations, it doth not fasten upon that which is evil, or interpret doubtful things in the worst sense, or conclude a sin from an inevident sign; as Eli did from Hannah's fervency conclude her drunkenness, 1 Sam. i. 14, 15; or if there be evil in it, it doth not by undue surmises make it worse; as judge the heart by the fact, or by one or more single actions infer a habit or malignity in the offender; or if that be visible, it doth not prejudge their future condition. Though charity be not blind, it looketh upon things as they are; yet charity is not jealous to argue things into what they are not. It is against all law and right to be judge and accuser too, and to hunt out an offence, and then censure it. (4.) When we infringe Christian liberty, and condemn others for things merely indifferent, this is to master it indeed, and lay snares upon the conscience—a wrong not so much to our brethren as to God's own law, which we judge as if it were an imperfect rule, James iv. 11. In habits and meats there is a great latitude; and as long as rules of sobriety and modesty are not violated, we cannot censure, but must leave the heart to God. See Rom. xiv. per totum. (5.) When men do not consider what may stand with charity as well as what will agree with truth; there may be censure where there is no slander. Many religious persons think they are safe if they can speak only of others what is true. But this is not all; every evil must not be divulged, some must be covered with the cloak of love; there may be malice in reporting the truth. An eager desire to spread a fault wanteth not sin: `Report, say they, and we will report it, Jer. xx. 10. Nay, if there be no ill intent, such prattle will come under the charge of idle words, for which we are responsible. The apostle forbiddeth `whispering, and `meddling in others, matters;, at best it is but a wanton vanity. All that we do herein should be to promote some aim of love and charity, that the offender may be seasonably reproved; or for some common good, that by the uncasing of a hypocrite others be not deceived and ensnared. (6.) When we do it to set off ourselves, and use them as a foil to give our worth the better lustre, and by the report of their scandals to climb up and commence into a better esteem. In the whole matter we are to be acted by love, and to aim at the Lord's glory. Well, then, look to yourselves in your reproofs, that they be not censures; they are so when they are supercilious and magisterial, the issues of pride rather than love. Envy often goeth under the mask of zeal; we had need be careful, especially in times of public difference. For remedies:—(1.) 274Cherish a humble sense of your own vileness and frailty. Others fall sadly and foully; but what are we?223223`Aut sumus, aut fuimus, aut possumus esse quod hic est., we were as bad, Titus iii. 2, 3; we may be worse, 1 Cor. x. 12. Bernard224224Bernard. de Resurrect. Dom. telleth of a man that, hearing of a fallen brother, fell into a bitter weeping, crying out, He is fallen to-day, and I may to-morrow. (2.) Exchange a sin for a duty: 1 John v. 16, `If any see his brother sin, let him pray., This will be a holy art and means to spend your zeal with least danger and most profit.
Obs. 4. From that knowing that we, &c. A remedy against vain censures is to consider ourselves, Gal. vi. 1. How is it with us? Gracious hearts are always looking inward; they inquire most into themselves, are most severe against their own corruptions. (1.) Most inquisitive after their own sins. `The fool's eyes are to the ends of the earth, always abroad; like the windows of the temple, broad outward, narrow inward; curious to sift the lives of others, careless to reform his own. But with good men it is otherwise, they find deceit enough in their own hearts to take up their care and thoughts. (2.) Most severe against themselves. A good heart is ready to throw the first stone against itself, John viii. 4, 5; others can, with much heat, inveigh against other men's sins, and with a fond indulgence cherish their own. Hatred against the person doth but take advantage of the miscarriage to shroud itself from notice and censure; and though they hate the traitor, yet they love the treason.
Obs. 5. Rash and undue judging of others, when we are guilty ourselves, maketh us liable to the greater judgment. The apostle proceedeth upon that supposition. Sharp reprovers had need be exact, otherwise they draw a hard law upon themselves, and in judging others pronounce their own doom; their sins are sins of knowledge, and the more knowledge the more stripes. Ignorants have this advantage, ut mitius ardeant, they have a cooler hell. Well, then, rest not in talking and prescribing burdens to others; it is a cheap zeal; but `thinkest thou that thou shalt escape?, Rom. ii. 3, and ver. 21, `Thou which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?, &c. There is little sincerity in that, as well as little self-denial; and hypocrisy will render us liable to condemnation. Hell is the hypocrite's fee-simple, Mat. xxiv. 51. The phrase of `receiving the greater judgment `is also applied to the Pharisees, Mat. xxiii. 14, because of their hypocrisy. So that those that reprove, whether out of office or charity, had need look to themselves; their sins are sins against knowledge, and so have more of malice and hypocrisy in them, and therefore draw on the greater judgment. Lewd ministers could not but tremble in their hearts, if they were sensible of their work. God purified Isaiah before he sent him to reprove Israel, Isa. vi. 7. Your first work should begin at your own hearts, and then you will carry on the duty with more comfort and boldness.
He goeth on to dissuade from supercilious censures. In this verse he urgeth two arguments. The first is the common frailty incident 275to all men, which may be two ways urged:—(1.) Wilt thou condemn them for that from which no men be exempted? The excuse of weakness and failings is the unhappy privilege of all mortal men. Or (2.) Will you not show them that tenderness which you need yourselves? You may also fail; `we all of us offend in many things., The next argument, the difficulty of not sinning by the tongue; he that can do that, can do anything in Christianity.
In many things we offend all.—He saith we, including himself, though an apostle of great holiness. Eusebius225225Euseb. Eccl. Hist., lib. ii. cap. 1. saith, he was for his virtue surnamed The Just. And indeed none is exempted, not the blessed Virgin, who is taxed in scripture for some slips, Luke ii. 49; John ii. 3, 4. For that question, whether God can, by the singular assistance of grace, keep any one in the animal and bodily life totally pure from sin, it is altogether curious, and of no use and profit; God's pleasure being declared the other way. And to that other question, whether some very short or transient action of a renewed man, whether civil, moral, or natural, may not be without actual sin, I answer in these propositions:—(1.) That in our deliberate actions, especially those which are moral, there is some mixture of sin. In this sense you may take that, Eccles. vii. 20, `There is not a just man upon the earth that doeth good and sinneth not., You may understand, that sinneth not in doing good; for he doth not say simply, There is not a just man that sinneth not, but a just man that doeth good and, &c. And to this purpose is that saying of Luther, so much upbraided by the Papists,226226`Opus bonum optime factum mortals peccatum est,; et paulo post, `Omne opus justi damnabile est, et mortale peccatum, si judicio Dei judicetur.,—Luther in Assert., arts. 31, 32, 35, 36. that the best works of the regenerate are sins, if examined by God. And Gregory the Great227227`Omne virtutis nostrae meritum est vitium, et omnis humana justitia injustitia est si stricte judicetur.,—Greg. Moral. 9, caps. 1, 14. hath a saying of the same sound and sense, that man's merit is but sin, and his righteousness unrighteousness, if it should be called to a strict account. Yea, the prophet Isaiah before them both, that `all our righteousness is as filthy rags, Isa. lxiv. 6. No work of ours is so pure but there is some taint and filth of sin cleaving to it, which, without a mediator, in the rigour of the law would be damnable. So that though the essence of the work be good and holy, yet because of the fleshly adherences, it cannot any way undergo the strictness of divine judgment; man being in part holy, and in part carnal, the effect cannot exceed the force of the cause; and as there is a mixture in the faculties and principles of operation, so there will be in the actions themselves, especially in actions religious, corrupt nature returning and recoiling with the more force against resolutions of duty. (2.) There may be, I conceive, an action so short that there is no room or scope for corruption to put forth itself; as in a sudden holy glance or thought, we may conceive a motion or lust of the spirit, or renewed nature in itself, and as preceding a lust of the flesh, or the opposition of the old nature, which, though it be not perfectly, yet is purely, holy. Besides, in some actions the force and vigour of corrupt nature may be wholly suspended by the power of God; as it is in conversion, in which divines say we are 276wholly passive;228228`Deus in ipso regenerationis opere adeo potenter in voluntatem agit, ut actualiter resistendi potentia proxima pro illo tempore suspendatur; emotam autem et in actu primo positam resistendi potentiam non quidem funditus extirpat, sed in sua amara radice delitessere permittit.,—Theol. Britan. in Synod. Dord., Art. de Conversione. and though God doth not take away the power of resisting, yet he bridleth it, and suspendeth it, that corruption cannot put forth itself, but lieth hid in its own root. Besides, in some actions, which are merely natural, as in walking a step or two, there is not the least provocation to draw forth sin; and therefore I cannot but justly condemn that unnecessary rigour in some, who say, that a renewed man in every action, whether moral, civil, or natural, be it but the walking of two or three steps, doth actually sin; a fond nicety, which, under the colour of a deeper humility, destroyeth true humiliation. We need not make man more guilty; it is enough to humble us that `in many things we offend all., But the devil loveth to cheat men of true humility by that which is affected and strained; and when fancy inventeth supposed crimes, conscience is the less troubled for those which are real; curiosity being a kind of excuse for due remorse. (3.) Those actions are not acceptable with God for their own sakes partly because though they are pure, or free from sin, yet they are not perfect; they might be more holy. And partly because they are done by a person that hath a corrupt nature, and is stained with the guilt of other actual sins, the least of which renders him obnoxious to the curse of the whole law, James ii. 10. So that these actions also need a mediator; and, as the apostle saith, where we `know nothing by ourselves, we are not thereby justified, 1 Cor. iv. 4; or as it is, Job ix. 3, `If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thou sand., For one such innocent action, there are a thousand-stained and polluted. Another question may be, whether there be not some sins which in their own nature are so foul that a child of God can not fall into them? I answer—(1.) There are some gross corruptions which are very contrary to grace, μιάσματα τοῦ κόσμου, `corruptions of the world, 2 Peter ii. 20, sins that stink in the nostrils of nature; therefore the apostle saith, `The lusts of the flesh are manifest, Gal. v. 19, that is, to sense and reason; as adultery, drunkenness, &c., which nature hath branded with marks of shame and contempt; into these a child of God may fall, though rarely and very seldom. We have instances of Noah's drunkenness, Lot's incest, and David's adultery; therefore may conclude, that the children of God do not only sin freely in thought, but sometimes foully in act; however, not usually, not but upon special temptation: they are not ad pocula faciles, given to women, or to wine. The usual practice is a note of God's hatred: `A whore is a deep ditch, and he that is abhorred of the Lord shall fall therein, Prov. xxii. 14. These sins, therefore, are not of usual incidence, as wrath, and worldliness, and pride are. (2.) There are other sins which are extremely contrary to nature itself, as Sodom's bestiality, &c., into which a renewed man cannot fall; partly for the great dishonour such a fact would reflect upon religion; partly because it is a note of God's tradition, or giving up a man or woman to sin, Rom. i. 26, 27. These things are so far from being practised by saints, that they are not to be named amongst them, Eph. v. 3.277
If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man.—Here is the second argument; bridling the tongue is a note of some perfection and effectual progress in grace. `Offend not in word, that is, speaketh only a known truth, and that seasonably, charitably, without vanity, or folly, or obscenity, or rash oaths, as Gregory Nyssen229229`Μὴ λαλεῖν τὰ μάταια, εἰδέναι καῖρον καὶ μέτρα καὶ λόγον ἀναγκαῖον καὶ εWπίκισιν εὔστοχον, μὴ λαλεῖν ἀῤῥύθμως, μὴ χαλαζεῖν τοὺς ἐντυγχάνοντας τῇ σφοδρότητι.,—Nyssenus, περὶ εὐποιΐας. fully expoundeth it. `Is a perfect man., You may take the words as a supposition. If any man avoid the evils of the tongue, I will make bold to call him a perfect man, such another as is not found among mortals. Thus we say often, when we propose an unlikely practice, He that could do this were a perfect man indeed. Or you may take it positively and assertively, and so it is another argument against supercilious censures. `If you offend not in word, you are perfect, that is, upright, sincere: those that are so, because they do not divide and baulk with God, are expressed by the term perfect. Or else perfect is put here for some ripeness and growth in Christianity. In the Jewish discipline there were two sorts of persons—ἀσκηταὶ, beginners, that did exercise themselves in virtuous actions and endeavours; then there were others, whom Philo calleth τελείους, perfect; they were those that had attained to somewhat, and made some progress in the matters learned. Thus perfect is taken, 1 Cor. ii. 6, `We speak wisdom among those that are perfect., However weaklings are taken with toys, yet grown, mortified Christians will discern wisdom and sublimity in the plain preaching of Christ crucified. And this sense may be accommodated to this place: He that bridleth his tongue is not ἀσκητὴς, a beginner or learner, one that trieth experiments in religion, but τέλειος, a perfect man, one that hath made some towardly progress.
And able to bridle the whole body.—By body, Grotius understandeth the church, which is called `the body, 1 Cor. xii. 20, Eph. iv. 12; and he maketh the sense out thus: He that can bridle himself in disputation is able to govern the church; an exposition curious, but strange to this context. By bridling the body is meant, then, governing all his other actions, which are expressed here by the term body, because they are acted by the members of the body, eyes, hands, feet, &c. Why he pitcheth so much weight upon this matter of governing the tongue, I shall show you in the observations.
Obs. 1. None are absolutely freed and exempted from sinning: 1 John i. 8, `If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us., The doctrine of the Catharists is a lying doctrine: Prov. xx. 9, `Who can say I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?, Solomon maketh a challenge to all the world. Many may say so boldly, but who can say so truly? All of us offend in many things, and many of us in all things. There is in all a cursed root of bitterness,230230`Habitat, sed non regnat; manet, sed non dominatur; evulsum quodammodo, nec tamen expulsum; dejectum, sed non prorsus ejectum tamen.,—Bern. in Psal. xc., serm. 10. which God doth mortify, but not nullify; it is cast down, but not cast out. Like the wild fig-tree, or ivy in the wall,231231Similitude Procli apud Epiphan. Haeres 64. cut off stump, body, bough, and branches, yet some 278strings or other will sprout out again, till the wall be plucked down: God will have it so, till we come to heaven. Well, then—(1.) Walk with more caution; you carry a sinning heart about you. As long as there is fuel for a temptation, we cannot be secure; he that hath gunpowder about him will be afraid of sparkles. (2.) Censure with the more tenderness; give every action the allowance of human frailty, Gal. vi. 1. We all need forgiveness; without grace thou mightest fall into the same sins. (3.) Be the more earnest with God for grace; God will keep you still dependent, and beholden to his power: `Who shall deliver me?, Rom. vii. (4.) Magnify the love of God with the more praise. Paul groaneth under his corruptions, Rom. vii., latter end; and then admireth the happiness of those that are in Christ, Rom. viii. 1: they have so many sins, and yet none are damnable.
Obs. 2. The sins of the best are many. The apostle saith, `We offend., God would not abolish and destroy all at once. There is a prayer against outward enemies, Ps. lix. 11, `Slay them not, lest my people forget: scatter them by thy power; and bring them down, O God, our shield., He would not have them utterly destroyed, but some relics preserved as a memorial. So God dealeth in respect of sin; it is brought down, but not wholly slain; something is still left as a monument of the divine grace; as Peter of Alexandria, when he destroyed the rest of the idols, left one that was most monstrous and misshapen to put them in mind of their former idolatry. God will still honour free grace; the condition of his own people is mixed, light chequered with darkness; those that walk in the light may stumble. Oh! then—(1.) Be not altogether dismayed at the sight of failings. A godly person observed that Christians were usually to blame for three things:—They seek for that in themselves which they can only find in Christ; for that in the law which shall only be had in the gospel; and that upon earth which shall only be enjoyed in heaven. We complain of sin; and when shall the earthly estate be free? You should not murmur, but run to your Advocate. You complain, and so do all that have the first-fruits of the Spirit: 1 Peter v. 9, `All these things are accomplished in your brethren that are in the flesh., They are all troubled with a busy devil, a corrupt heart, and a naughty world. (2.) However, bewail these failings, the evils that abound in your hearts, in your duties, that you cannot serve God as entirely as you served Satan; your evil works were merely evil, but your good are not purely good; there your heart was poured out, ἔξεχύθησαν, Jude 11, here it is restrained; there is filthiness in your righteousness, Isa. lxiv.
Obs. 3. To be able to bridle the tongue is an argument of some growth and happy progress in grace. You shall see not only our apostle, but the scripture everywhere maketh it a matter of great weight and moment: Prov. xviii. 21, `Death and life are in the power of the tongue., Upon the right or ill using of it a man's safety doth depend. And lest you should think the scripture only intendeth temporal safety or ruin, see Mat. xii. 37, `By thy words shalt thou be justified, and by thy words condemned., One of the prime things that shall be brought forth to judgment are your words. So Prov. xiii. 3, `He that keepeth his mouth, keepeth his life; but he that openeth wide his lips, shall have destruction., He intimateth a similitude of a city besieged: to open the gates betrayeth the safety of it; all watch and ward is about the gate. So the tongue is the gate or door of the soul, by which it goeth out in converse and communication; to keep it open or loose-guarded letteth in an enemy, which proveth the death of the soul. So in other places it is made the great argument and sign of spiritual and holy prudence: Prov. x. 19, `In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin; but he that refraineth his lips is wise., Empty vessels are full of sound; discreet silence, or a wise ordering of speech, is a token of grace. So Prov. xvii. 27, `He that hath knowledge spareth his words; and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit., In the original it is `of a cool spirit, not rash and hot, ready to pour out his soul in wrath. So David maketh it to be a great argument or sign of our interest in the promises: Ps. xxxiv. 13, `What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile:, that is the first direction. So elsewhere he maketh it the character of a godly man, Ps. xv. 3. I have heaped up these scriptures that the matter of keeping the tongue may not seem light and trivial. The Spirit of God, you see, giveth exhortation upon exhortation, and spendeth many scriptures upon this argument. There were also special reasons why our apostle should be so much in pressing it. (1.) Because this was the sin of that age, as appeareth by the frequent dissuasions from vain boasting of themselves, and detracting from others, in the 1st and 2d chapters; and it is a high point of grace not to be snared with the evils of our own times. (2.) It is the best discovery of the heart; speech is the express image of it: Mat. xii. 34, `Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh., When the heart is full, it overfloweth in speech. The story of loquere ut videam is common: Speak that I may see thee; so Socrates to a fair boy. We know metals by their tinkling. Ps. xxxvii. 30, `The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh judgment, for the law of the Lord is in his heart., Good men will be always discovering themselves, and giving vent to the fulness of their hearts. (3.) It is the hypocrites, sin; they abstain from grosser actions, but usually offend in their words, in boasting professions, and proud censures: see James i. 26. (4.) All of us are apt to offend with the tongue many ways; most of a man's sins are in his words. One reckoneth up twenty-four several sins of the tongue, and yet the number may be increased—lying, railing, swearing, ribaldry, scoffing, quarrelling, deceiving, boasting, tattling, &c. At first, indeed, there was no other sin in society but lying, but now to how many evils doth this one member subscribe? It is observable, that when the apostle giveth us the anatomy of wickedness in all the members of the body, he stayeth longest on the organs of speech, and goeth over them all: Rom. iii. 13-15, `Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues have they used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness, &c. There is much need, you see, of reforming and polishing this member. So Prov. xii. 13, `The snare of the wicked is the transgression of his lips;, that is, not only 280by which he taketh others, but by which he is taken himself, to his own ruin and destruction. (5.) It is a sin into which we usually and easily fall, partly by reason of that quick intercourse that is between the tongue and the heart—we sin in an instant; and partly because speech is a human act which is performed without labour; and so we sin that way incogitantly, without noting or judging it: `Our tongues are our own, Ps. xii. 4; such natural actions are performed without thinking of the weight and consequence of them; and partly because the evils of the tongue are very pleasing, marvellously compliant with nature.
Well, then, take care, not only of your actions, but your speeches: Ps. xxxix. 1, `I said I would take heed to my ways, lest I offend with my tongue., He would take heed to the whole course of his life, but chiefly watch his tongue; iniquity and offence was likely to shoot forth soonest that way. Next to keeping our hearts, Solomon biddeth us to keep our tongues: Prov. iv. 23, 24, `Keep thy heart with all diligence;, then, `Put away a froward mouth and perverse lips., First the heart, then the tongue, then the foot, ver. 26. Consider—(1.) Your speeches are noted. Xenophon would have all speeches written, to make men more serious. They are recorded, James ii. 12. Every idle word is brought into judgment, Mat. xii. 36: light words weigh heavy in God's balance. (2.) They are punished: Ps. lxiv. 8, `Their own tongue shall fall upon them., Better a mountain should fall upon you than the weight of your own tongue. Origen observeth out of that expression which intimateth that the rich man desired a drop to cool his tongue, Luke xvi. 24, that his tongue was punished quia linguâ plus peccaverat, because he had sinned most with his tongue: but the expression there intendeth only ease and comfort. Other places are more clear: see Prov. xiv. 3, `In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride, but the lips of the wise shall preserve them., We boast and insult; God will make it a rod to scourge us. It is not a sword, but a rod; because God will punish contempt with contempt, both in this life and that to come. (3.) Consider what a vile thing it is to abuse the tongue to strife, censure, or insultation. The tongue is called the glory of man in the Psalms: `Awake, my glory, Ps. lvii. 8. It should not accommodate such vile uses and purposes; we pervert it from its proper use. God made it to celebrate his own praise, to convey the holy conceptions of the soul to others. Man's excellency should not be thus debased; better be dumb than of a wicked tongue. (4.) It is not of small regard that God in nature would show that he hath set bounds to the tongue: he hath hedged it in with a row of teeth.232232`Δεῖνον ἔπος φύγεν ἔρκος ὀδόντων.,—Homer. Other organs are double; we have two eyes, two ears, but one tongue. Children have not a use of their tongue naturally till they have a use of reason; certainly, therefore, it was never intended to serve passion and pride and every idle humour.
For apt remedies—(1.) Get a pure heart; there is the tongue's treasury and storehouse. A good man is always ready to discourse, not forced by the company, but because the law of God is in his heart: Prov. xv. 7, `The lips of the wise disperse knowledge, but the 281heart of the foolish is not so., By virtue of the opposition it should be `the tongue of the foolish, but whatever is in the tongue cometh from the heart; his heart doth not233233Qu. `but,?—ED. incline his tongue.234234`Qualia principia, talia principiata., A stream riseth not above the fountain. Out of the heart come blasphemies and evil speakings, Mat. xv. 19. (2.) Watch and guard speech: Ps. xxxix. 1, `I said, I will take heed to my tongue;, I said, that is, penitus decrevi, I took up such a resolution. Nay, he saith, he would `keep his mouth as with a bridle, especially when the wicked were before him., The tongue had need be restrained with force and watchfulness, for it is quick and ready to bring forth every wicked conception. You must not only watch over it, but bridle it; it is good to break the force of these constraints within us, and to suffocate and choke them in the first conception. David, though enraged, would keep in his spirit as with a bridle. Pambus in the Tripartite History was long in learning of this lesson. So, see Prov. xxx. 32, `If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or hast thought evil, lay thy hand upon thy mouth;, that is, to bridle and stifle those thoughts of anger, revenge, or any other ill design; do not deal too softly with unruly evils, but strongly resist and compress them. This rule should chiefly be observed in worship: Eccles. v. 1, `Be not rash with thy mouth., Our words should be more advised; a hasty carelessness engageth to sin: `The preacher sought out words., Certainly in worship we should see our thoughts ere they escape from us. (3.) All our endeavours are nothing. Go to God: Ps. cxli. 3, `Set a watch, O Lord, before my month; keep the door of my lips., He desireth God to keep him from speaking amiss when he was in deep afflictions. It is God alone that can tame the tongue; desire the custody of his spirit: Prov. xvi. 1, `The answer of the tongue is from the Lord., When the heart is prepared the tongue may falter. In preaching and praying we are sometimes stopped in the midst of the work though the matter be meditated. The saints sometimes desire God to open their mouth, Eph. vi. 19; Ps. l. 15; sometimes to shut it; he doth all in this matter. (4.) That you may not offend in your words, let them be oftener employed about holy uses. It is not enough to abstain from evil-speaking: Eph. iv. 29, `Let no corrupt communication come out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying., So Eph. v. 4, `Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, but rather giving of thanks , εὐχάριστια, that is, thankfully remembering your sweet experiences. You may have joy, if Christians, in other things; you may communicate to one another your experiences of God, and that is better mirth than foolish jesting. As we must then avoid the evil of the tongue, so we must commune one with another more fruitfully, quickening one another to a sweet apprehension of the benefits of God. The spouse's lips `dropped honeycombs, Cant. iv. Many possibly avoid conferences grossly evil; but how slow are we to good! Solomon, that describeth the sad effects of an evil tongue, doth also everywhere discover the fruits of a good tongue. For a taste take these places:—Prov. x. 20, `The tongue of the just is as choice silver;, not only as it is purged from the dross of vanity, and lies, and filthy 282speaking, but because of the worth and benefits of it. In another place he saith it is the `tree of life, Prov. xi. 30, whose leaves are medicinable. And Prov. xii. 18, `The tongue of .the wise is health., All which should shame us, because we are so backward in holy discourse, to refresh and heal one another. And out of the whole we may learn that Christianity doth not take away the use of speech, but rule it; and doth not make us dumb in converse, but gracious.
Ver. 3, 4. Behold, we put bits into horses, mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole bodies. Behold also the ships, which, though they be great, and driven of fierce winds, yet they are turned about with a small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.
These two verses being spent in comparisons and similitudes, need the less of comment and illustration. The drift of them is to show that little things are able to guide great bodies, as a bridle and a rudder; and so the guiding of the tongue, a little member, may be of as great use and consequence in moral matters. By the bridle we keep the horse from stumbling, and by the rudder the ship from rocks. So answerably Solomon saith, Prov. xxi. 23, `Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue, keepeth his soul from troubles.,
Out of these verses observe:—
Obs. 1. That it is good to illustrate divine things by similitudes taken from earthly. (1.) Our knowledge is by sense; by things known we the better apprehend those that are unknown: and by an earthly matter, with which we are acquainted, we conceive of the sweetness and worth of that which is heavenly and spiritual. (2.) In a similitude the thing is doubly represented, and with a sweet variety; though we know the man, we delight to view the picture Christians should use their parts more this way; there is much benefit in it; fancy is polished: we are more fit for occasional meditation, and we apprehend spiritual things with more clearness and affection.
Obs. 2. Nature, art, and religion show that the smallest things, wisely ordered, may be of great use. Neglect not small things; we are often snared by saying, `Is it not a little one?, Gen. xix. 20. And we lose much advantage by `despising the day of small things, Zech. iv. 10.
Obs. 3. God's wisdom is much seen by endowing man with an ability of contrivance and rare invention; that so fierce and wild a creature as the horse should be tamed with a bridle, that things of so great a bulk as ships should be turned about, and that against the violence of boisterous winds, with a small helm: Aristotle235235`Διὰ τὶ πηδάλιον μίκρον ἐπ᾽ ἐσχάτου πλοίου τοσαύτην δύναμιν ἔχει, &c.—Arist. ii. Μηχανικῶν, cap. 5. proposeth it as a worthy matter of consideration. These crafts are all from the Lord: Isa. liv. 16, `Behold, I create the smith that bloweth in the coals in the fire, and bringeth forth an instrument for his work., He left these inventions to human industry, but he giveth the wit and abilities.236236`Reliquit haec sane Deus humanis ingeniis eruenda; tamen fieri non potest quin ipsius sint omnia, qui et sapientiam tribuit homini ut inveniret, et illa ipsa quae possunt inveniri primus invenit.,—Lactant. de Falsa Relig., lib. i. cap. 18. The heathens had a several god for every several craft, as the Papists have now a tutelar saint; but the Lord giveth wisdom. 283As for embroidery: Exod. xxxi. 3, `Bezaleel was filled with the Spirit of God, &c. Every art is a common gift of the Spirit. So for husbandry, see Isa. xxviii. 24-26. So for war, Ps. cxliv. 1. Well, then, bless God for the various dispensations of his gifts for the good of mankind, and wait upon him, that you may understand the matter of your callings, and find good in them: Prov. xvi. 20, `He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good; and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he., You must wait upon the Lord for skill and for success; he teacheth to tame the horse, to steer the ship.
Obs. 4. From the first similitude you may observe, that men, for their natural fierceness and wantonness, are like wild beasts. Man affected to be God, but became like `the beasts that perish, Ps. xlix. 12. The psalmist saith, Ps. xxxii. 19, `Be not like horse and mule, whose mouth must be held with bit and bridle, lest they come near thee., To keep them from doing harm, they must be held in with bit and bridle. So there is a wantonness by which we are apt to kick with the heel against God's precepts, Deut. xxxii. 15. It is God's mercy that we are restrained. This natural fierceness may be discerned to be abated by the guidance of the tongue.
Even so the tongue is a little member.—Here is the reddition of the similitude; the tongue is a bridle and rudder, small in bulk, and yet of great use. The apostle's word is μεγαλαυχεῖ, `boasteth great things;, this indeed is the proper signification of the word. By the force of the context James should have said, `doth great things;, for the thing to be proved was, that he that can govern his tongue is able to govern his whole body. To take off the prejudice that might arise against such a proposition, he produceth two similitudes, wherein he would insinuate that things little by good management may be of great use; and thereupon, in the accommodation of the similitudes to the present purpose, he should have inferred that the little member the tongue, well ordered, can do great things; that is, the government of it is of singular use in man's life. But he rather, and that according to the use of the apostles, repeateth the main proposition in such terms as imply another argument. `And boasteth great things:, as if he had said, The tongue witnesseth for itself; for by it men^ trumpet out their confidences and presumptions, and boast they can bring great things to pass. And he instanceth in boasting, not only as most accommodate to his matter, but—(1.) Because it is the usual sin of the tongue; this is a member that most of all serveth pride, a sin from whence most of the errors and miscarriages of the tongue proceed. (2.) Because this is usually the sin of those that have no command of their spirits and actions. Hypocrites and vain men are proud boasters. `Flattering lips, and `the tongue that speaketh proud things, are joined together, Ps. xii. 3. So Prov. xiv. 3, `In the mouth of the foolish is the rod of pride., True grace humbleth, false puffeth up.
Behold how great a matter a, little fire kindleth.—Another similitude, to show that great inconveniences come from the abuse of so small a member. A man would think that words, that pass away with the breath in which they are uttered, had not such a weight and deadly 284influence; but, saith the apostle, a little fire kindleth much wood. Small things are not to be neglected in nature, art, religion, or providence. In nature, matters of moment grow up from small beginnings. Nature loveth to have the cause and seed of everything small: a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump; thin exhalations descend in great showers; small breaches in a sea-bank let in great inundations, &c.
Notes out of this verse are these:—
Obs. I. A usual sin of the tongue is boasting. Sometimes the pride of the heart shooteth out by the eyes; therefore we read of `haughty eyes, and `a proud look, Prov. vi. 17; but usually it is displayed in our speech. The tongue trumpeteth it out—(1.) In bold vaunts. Rabshakeh threatened he would make them `eat their own dung, and drink their own piss., So Isa. xiv. 13, `I will ascend into the heavens, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit upon the mount of the congregation, on the sides of the north., He threateneth battle against God himself, and then against his people. See Hannah's dissuasion, 1 Sam. ii. 3, `Talk no more exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth, &c. (2.) In a proud ostentation of our own worth and excellency: `Is not this great Babel, which I have built?, First we entertain our spirits with whispers of vanity and suppositions of applause; and then the rage of vainglory is so great, that we trumpet out our own shame. It is against reason that a man should be judge in his own cause. In the Olympic Games the wrestlers did not put the crowns upon their own heads; that which is lawful praise in another's lips, in our own is but boasting. (3.) In contemptuous challenges of God and man. Of God: `Who is the God of the Hebrews, that I should let you go?, and Ps. xii. 4, `Our tongues are our own; who is lord over us?, Of man: Daring, provoking speeches are recorded in the word. Solomon saith, Prov. xviii. 6, `A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes., Cartwright on that place instanceth in those forms of irritation or provocation, Do an, thou durst, and, Thou sordid fellow; which he saith are as the alarum of war, and as drums to beat up to the battle. (4.) Bragging promises, as if they could achieve and accomplish great matters above the reach of their gifts and strength: `I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, &c., Exod. xv.
Obs. 2. Small things are to be regarded; and we must not consider matters in their beginning only, but progress, and ultimate issue. A little sin doth a great deal of mischief, and a little grace is of great efficacy: Eccles. x. 13, `The beginning of a foolish man's speech is foolishness, but the latter end is foolish madness., At first men toy, wrangle, for sport and pastime, but afterward, break out into furious passion, and so from folly go on to madness. Contention at first is but as a spark, but afterwards it being fomented and blown up by unsober spirits, it `devoureth the great deep, Amos vii. 4, putteth whole kingdoms into combustion: Prov. xvii. 14, `The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water , it is easy to open the sluices and let it out, but who can call the floods back again? Strife is sometimes compared to fire, sometimes to water; they are both unmerciful elements when once they are let loose: Prov. xxvi. 21, `A man given to strife is as fire to the coals:, when the burning is once begun, it is easily propagated and 285continued. So heresy at first is inconsiderable, but it creepeth like a gangrene from one place to another, till it hath destroyed the whole body. Arius, a small Alexandrian spark, enkindled all the world in a flame.237237`In Alexandria una scintilla fuit, sed quia non statim oppressa est, totum orbem ejus flamma populata est.,—Hieron. So also providence beginneth great matters upon small occasions. Luther's reformation was occasioned by opposing pardoners. Men begin to quarrel one with another about trifles; and God inferreth great mutations and changes of states and kingdoms.238238`Penes reges est inferre bellum; penes autem Deum terminare., The young men's playing may prove bitterness in the issue, 2 Sam. ii. 26. Christ's kingdom at first was despised, a poor tender branch, a little stone crumbled from the mountains; but afterwards it `filled the whole earth, Dan. ii. 37. Well, then, out of all this—(1.) Learn not to neglect evils that are small in their rise and original; resist sin betimes, Eph. iv. 27; give no place to Satan. You know not the utmost issue of Satan's tyranny and encroachment. So for contention, neither meddle239239Qu. `either meddle not,?—ED. with it at all, or leave off betime. So for heresy;, take the little foxes, Cant. ii. 15. Watch over the first and most modest appearances of error: `I did not give place, not for an hour, saith the apostle, Gal. ii. 5. (2.) Learn not to despise the low beginnings of providence and deliverance: there is a `day of small things, Zech. iv. 10. God useth to go on when he hath begun a good work. Philpot said, The martyrs had kindled such a light in England as should not easily go out.
Here he applieth the similitude of a little fire to an evil tongue: `And the tongue is a fire, &c. I shall open the phrases that are most difficult.
A world of iniquity.—Things that are exuberant and abounding are expressed by this proverbial speech, `a world., It implieth that the force and power of the tongue to hurt is very great; as the world is full of all kind of things, so the tongue of all kind of sin.
So is the tongue among the members; that is, of so great regard; it is but one, and that a small member among the rest, and yet of such a cursed influence, that it often draweth guilt upon all the rest of the members.
That it defileth the whole body.—Ephraim Syrus understandeth this clause without a figure; he thinketh it is an allusion to the punishment of leprosy with which Miriam and Aaron were smitten for the abuse of their tongues. But that agreeth not with this place. The meaning is, therefore, it blotteth and infected the whole man with sin and guilt, and so possibly there may be an allusion to what is said, Eccles, v. 6, `Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin;, where by flesh is meant the whole man; as also here by body: which term the apostle used before, ver. 3, and with good advice. (1.) Because he speaketh of the tongue, which is a member of the body, and so the rather carrieth the expression in terms suitable. (2.) Because sin, though it beginneth in the soul, is executed and accomplished by the body; 286and it is some grace, when we cannot stop it in the concupiscible, to stop it in the locomotive power; if not in the lust, yet in the members. Or (3.) Body, because of that resemblance the scriptures make between the sins of all the members and a body; and therefore the course of our actions, whether good or bad, are expressed by this term; as Mat. vi. 22, `The light of the body is the eye; and therefore if the eye be single, the whole body is full of light, &c.; where body is put for all the actions of the soul: if the understanding and aim be rightly directed, all the motions are right. Now the tongue defileth this whole body, as it persuadeth to sin, or else uttereth and bewrayeth sin, and so showeth the whole man to be defiled. It also engageth to sin: the tongue often engageth the hand to smite with the fist of wickedness, and by its brawling and contention other members are involved in sin and inconveniences. So also for other sins, men speak evil, and then commit it; one member infected maketh way for the corruption and defilement of another; and the tongue being of so sovereign an influence, tainteth all.
And setteth on fire.—He showeth the further efficacy of this tongue-fire; it doth not only black and sully, but it devoureth and destroyeth. He expresseth it by this phrase, `setteth on fire, because of the comparison foregoing; and it is very proper, partly in regard of the effects of the tongue, which are usually false heats, passion, wrath, raging, violence, contrary to which is that `cool spirit, which Solomon saith is in the prudent man; partly in regard of the tongue's manner of working in contentions. It is rapid and violent; men are by the tongue transported and heated into inconveniences; and it is also disorderly, like raging fire, causing great confusions; and therefore in any heat we had need look to the rise and quality of it: be sure to watch over your spirit when it beginneth to grow furious and inflamed.
The whole course of nature.—In the original it is τὸν τρόχον τῆς γενέσεως, which some render, `the wheel of our nativity, by which he intendeth the whole course of our lives; there is no action, no age, no estate privileged from the influence of it. The Syriac interpreter hath, `all our generations, as if the sense were, that all ages of the world are conscious to the evils of the tongue, and can produce instances and experiences of it. But the word rather signifieth our natural course, or the wheel of human conversation.
And it is set on fire of hell.—He showeth whence the tongue hath all this malice and mischief; from hell, that is, from the devil, who is the father of lies, the author of malice and virulency, and doth by the tongue, as a dexterous instrument or fit servant, transmit lies, and slanders, and strifes, for inflaming and enkindling the world. Some read, φλογισομένη, `it shall be set on fire of hell, as implying the punishment; but in all approved copies it is φλογιζομένη, `is set on fire, as noting the original.
The points observable are these:—
Obs. 1. There is a resemblance between an evil tongue and fire:—(1.) For the heat of it. It is the instrument of wrath and contention, which is the heat of a man—a boiling of the blood about the heart. Solomon saith, `A man of understanding is of a cool spirit, Prov. xvii. 27. Hot water boileth over, so do passions in the heart boil out 287in the words. Of the ungodly man it is said, Prov. xvi. 27, `In his lips there is a burning fire. (2.) For the danger of it. It kindleth a great burning. The tongue is a powerful means to kindle divisions and strifes. You know we had need look to fire. It is a bad master, and a good servant. Where it prevaileth, it soon turneth houses into a wilderness; and you have as much need to watch the tongue. Solomon saith, Prov. xxvi. 18, `The fool casteth firebrands, and saith, Am I not in sport?, We throw fire abroad, scalding words, and do not think of the danger of them. (3.) For the scorching. Reproaches penetrate like fire. David compareth them to `coals of juniper, Ps. cxx. 4, which burn hottest and longest; they may be kept a whole year. The Septuagint have τοῖς ἀνθράξι τοῖς ἐρημικοῖς, `desolating coals., Fire is a most active element, and leaveth a great sense and pain. So do reproaches, like the living coals of juniper. (4.) It is kindled from hell, as in the close of the verse. Zeal is a holy fire that cometh from heaven, this from hell. Isaiah's lips were `touched with a coal from the altar, Isa. vi. 6; and the Holy Ghost descended in cloven tongues of fire, Acts ii. But this is fire from beneath, of an infernal original. Oh! labour then for a cool spirit. A tongue that is set on fire from hell shall be set on fire in hell. You know who wished for a drop to cool his tongue. The hot words of wrath, strife, and censure come from Satan, and lead to Satan.240240`Illic incipit, et illuc rapit., When you feel this heat upon your spirit, remember from what hearth these coals were gathered. God's word was as fire in Jeremiah's bones, so is wrath many times in ours; yet though wrath boil, keep anger from being a scorching fire in your tongues. See Ps. xxxix. 3, &c.
Obs. 2. There is a world of sin in the tongue. It is an instrument of many sins. By it we induce ourselves to evil, by it we seduce others. Some sins are formal and proper to this member, others flow from it. It acteth in some sins, as lying, railing, swearing, &c. It concurreth to others, by commanding, counselling, persuading, seducing, &c. It is made the pander to lust and sin. Oh! how vile are we if there be a world of sin in the tongue—in one member! Some241241Laurent, in loc. have reckoned as many sins in the tongue as there are letters in the alphabet. Where shall we find a rule and account to number up the sins of every member?, All the imaginations are evil, Gen. vi. 3. As there is saltness in every drop of the sea, and bitterness in every branch of wormwood, there is an `overspreading of abominations, throughout the whole man, Dan. ix. 27. Again, we may consider the ingratitude of man. Our tongue is our glory;242242Ps. cviii. 1, and xvi. 9, compared with Acts ii. 26. it is the member by which we discover and show forth our reason; it fitteth us for commerce. Speech maketh man a sociable creature;243243`Ἄνθρωπος ἐν φύσει ζῶον πολίτικον.,—Arist. Pol., lib. i. cap. 2. yet there is a world of iniquity in the tongue.
Obs. 3. From that and defileth. Sin is a defilement and a blot. We hear of `filthy communication, `filthy lucre, and `filthy lusts., The very show of sin is called `filthiness of the flesh, 2 Cor. vii. 1. Scandalous sinners are the stain of their society: `These are spots in your love feasts., It will be your own disgrace. When, you give up yourselves to the practice of sin, you get to yourselves a blot: Deut. xxxii. 5, 288 `Their spot is not as the spot of God's people., And it will be your eternal disadvantage: Rev. xxi. 27, `And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth., In short, sin is such a filthiness that it is ashamed of itself. It seeketh to hide itself from those that most love it, and goeth shrouded under the disguise of virtue. There needeth no other argument to make it odious than to see it in its own colours.
Obs. 4. Tongue sins do much defile. They defile others. We communicate evil to others, either by carnal suggestions, or provoke them to evil by our passion. They defile ourselves. By speaking evil of them we contract guilt upon ourselves. Either they deserve it not, and so it is a lie, which is a great blot, or if the crime imposed be true, their sin is made ours by an undue speaking of it.244244`Peccatum quod alter incurrit operando, tuum facis obloquendo.,
Obs. 5. From that the whole body. An evil tongue hath a great influence upon other members. When a man speaketh evil, he will commit it. When the tongue hath the boldness to talk of sin, the rest of the members have the boldness to act it: 1 Cor. xv. 33, `Evil words corrupt good manners., First we think, then speak, and then do. Men will say it is but talk. Be not deceived; a pestilent tongue will infect other members.
Obs. 6. From that the course, or wheel, of our nativity. Man's life is like a wheel. It is always in motion; we are always turning and rolling to our graves: Ps. xc. 3, `Thou turnest man to destruction, and sayest, Return, ye children of men., The meaning is, they are turned into the world, and returned to the grave. It noteth also the uncertainty of any worldly state; the spokes are now up, and now down, sometimes in the dirt, and sometimes out. The bishops of Mentz give a wheel for their arms; it is but the emblem of our lives, and the inconstancy of every condition of life; when you see the wheel , improve the occasion to some good meditation. There is a story of Bajazet, as also of another taken by an ancient king of France, when they saw the wheel of the conqueror's chariot, they smiled, saying, `The upper spokes will come down again., Here we are always moving, sometimes up, sometimes down, but still towards the grave.
Obs. 7. The evils of the tongue are of a large and universal influence, diffuse themselves into all conditions and states of life. There is no faculty which the tongue doth not poison, from the understanding to the locomotive; it violently stirreth up the will and affections, maketh the hands and the feet `swift to shed blood., Rom. iii. 14, 15. There is no action which it doth not reach; not only those of ordinary conversation, by lying, swearing, censuring, &c., but holy duties, as prayer, and those direct and higher addresses to God, by foolish babbling, and carnal requests; we would have God revenge our private quarrel. Pulpits are made stages and cockpits, on which men play their prizes and masteries, and set on private passions. There is no age exempted; it is not only found in young men, that are of eager and fervorous spirits, but in those whom age and experience hath more matured and ripened. Other sins decay with age, this many times increaseth; and we grow more forward and pettish as natural strength decayeth, and `the days come on in which is no pleasure., I say, when other sins lose their vigour, as being tamed and subdued by the infirmities of old 289age, we see the spirit groweth more tart, nature being drawn down to the dregs, and the expressions more passionate. No calling is exempted. The tradesman in his shop abuseth his tongue for gain: Prov. xxi. 6, `The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that love death;, the woman at home, in idle tattling, and vain censures. Ministers in the pulpit often prostitute the sacredness of their function to the corruption of the tongue, by preaching for gain, by being `rash with their mouths to utter anything before God, Eccles. v. 1; by being furiously passionate, &c. There is no temper so meek and humble but may be perverted. Holy Moses, the meekest man upon earth, was angry at the waters of strife, and brake out into passion: Ps. cvi. 33, `He spake unadvisedly with his lips., Meek Christians in a disease, how fro ward are they! injurious even to God himself. David well prayeth in a great cross, `O Lord, keep the door of my lips, Ps. cxli. 3. Well, then, none of us should think these exhortations unnecessary. It is a vain scoff, and it argueth horrible slightness of spirit, to charge this only upon the female sex: through the strength and pregnancy of imagination or fancy, they may be given to talk; but you see men, the best and highest, are apt to offend. The apostle saith, `It setteth on fire the whole course of nature., No part of man so noxious and hurtful; no part of a man more fierce and unbridled; no part more easy and apt to err.
Obs. 8. A wicked tongue is of an infernal original. The prophets, fires, as I told you, were kindled from heaven; like the chaste fires of the Roman vestals, which, if let out, were to be rekindled by a sun beam. In all heats it is good to see whence they come; heat in good matters out of a selfish aim, is a coal fetched not from the altar, but the kitchen. Calumnies and reproaches are a fire blown up by the breath of hell. The devil hath been `a liar from the beginning, John viii. 44, and an accuser of the brethren, and he loveth to make others like himself. Learn, then, to abhor revilings, contentions, and reproaches, as you would hell flames; these are but the eruptions of an infernal fire; slanderers are the devil's slaves and instruments. Again, if blasted with contumely, learn to slight it; who would care for the suggestions of the father of lies? The murderer is a liar. In short, that which cometh from hell will go thither again: Mat. v. 22, `Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire., Wrath being expressed in a word of reproach, you see how deadly and grievous it is. By nourishing an evil tongue, you do nourish and keep in hell flame, which hereafter will break out to your destruction.
Ver. 7, 8. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of man kind: but the tongue can no man tame: it is an unruly evil, and full of deadly poison.
Having showed the cursed influence of the tongue, he showeth how difficult the cure is. Wild beasts are more tractable, and may be sooner brought to hand, than an evil tongue; it is wilder than the wildest beast.
Every kind of beasts, and birds, and serpents, and things in the sea.—The enumeration is the more full, that he may show how far human art can reach. For instances and stories, interpreters abound in 290them. How lions have been tamed and brought to hunt as dogs, or draw the chariot as horses, you may see Pliny in his Natural History, lib. viii. cap. 16, and Ælian, lib. xv. cap. 14. How birds have been taught, you may see Plin. lib. x. cap 42, and Macrob. lib. ii. Saturn, cap. 10. Of elephants, Lipsius, cent, primà, Epist. 50. In short, nothing is so violent and noxious by nature but human art and industry hath made it serviceable to human uses. This is a fruit and relic of that dominion God gave man over the creatures at first; by an instinct put into their natures they were all to obey him and serve him; but man, revolting, lost imperium suum and imperium sui, the command of himself and the command of the creatures; he rebelling against God, the creatures rebelled against him, to avenge the quarrel of the creator. But now, by art and industry, and some relics of the image of God in himself, and the help and concurrence of a general providence, he doth in part recover his dominion over the creatures; but over himself he cannot by any means, no, not over his tongue, `a little member;, for to that end is this illustration brought here.
Is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind.—As if he had said, It not only hath been done in ancient times, but we see it still done. He useth this distinctness of expression to show that he doth not only intend the subjection of the creatures before the fall, which was full and voluntary, or some miraculous effects, as when the whale hurted not Jonah, chap. ii.; or the lions, Daniel in the den, chap. vi.; or the viper, Paul, Acts xxviii; but what is usual and ordinary, and falleth out often in common experience.
But the tongue can no man tame.—The old Pelagians, wholly wresting this place, did read it as an interrogation, as if the sense were, Man can tame all other things, and can he not then tame himself? which is quite contrary to the apostle's scope, which is to show what an unruly and an untractable evil the tongue is. Others, to avoid the seeming harshness of the sentence, say, He speaketh of other men's tongues; who can stop them? as if it were a saying of a like sense with that Ps. cxx. 3, `What shall we give to thee? or what shall be done to thee, thou false tongue?, How shall I prevent it? But this also doth not agree with the apostle's scope, who doth not show how we should bridle other men's tongues, but guide our own. The meaning is, then, no man can do it of himself; and we have not such an absolute concurrence of the divine grace as to do it wholly.
It is an unruly evil, κακὸν ἀκατάσχετον.—Some take it causally; it is the cause of sedition and unruliness: but rather it signifieth what was formerly expressed, an evil that will not be held in. It is a metaphor taken from beasts that are kept within rails or chains. God hath, in the structure of the mouth, appointed a double rail to it, teeth and lips, and by grace laid many restraints upon it; and yet it breaketh out.
Full of deadly poison.—It is an allusion to such creatures as hurt by poison. The tongue is as deadly, and hath as much need to be tamed, as venomous beasts. Besides, some beasts carry their poison in their tongues, as the asp in a bladder under the tongue, which, when they bite, is broken, and then the poison cometh out; therefore 291it is said, Ps. cxl. 3, `They have sharpened their tongues as a serpent; adders, poison is under their lips.,
The notes are these: from the 7th verse you may observe:—
Obs. 1. The tractableness of the beasts to man, and the disobedience of man to God. Beasts are tamed, serpents are charmed by our skill, but we are not charmed by all the witchcrafts and allurements of Heaven: Ps. lviii. 4, 5, `Their poison is like the poison of a serpent; they are like the deaf adder, which stoppeth her ear, which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely., It is an allusion to the fashion of the asp, which, when he seeth the charmer, layeth one ear close to the ground, and covereth the other with his tail. But now we read in the text, `Serpents have been tamed, and are tamed., But all the magic of the gospel, the sweet spells of grace, will not cure the heart of man. So the ox, a creature of great strength, is obedient to man, a weaker creature; but we kick with the heel against God, as the prophet, Isa. i. 3, `The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but my people doth not know, Israel doth not consider., Fallen man may go to school to the beasts to learn mildness and obedience; and yet God hath more power to subdue, and we have more reason to obey.
Obs. 2. The greatness of man's folly and impotency in governing his own soul. Though he tameth other things, he doth not tame himself. We seek to recover our loss of dominion over the creatures, but who seeketh to recover that power which he once had over his own soul? How can we lock to have our dominion entire over beasts and inferior creatures, when by the irregularity of our lusts we make ourselves as one of them? Ps. xlix. 12, `He is as the beasts that perish., We all affect sovereignty, but not holiness. Men seek to conquer others, but not themselves. Solomon saith, `He that ruleth his own spirit is better than he that winneth a city;, that is the nobler conquest, but we effect it not. We would recover our lordship over the creatures, but still remain captives to our own lusts. Domat feram, non domat linguam; it was Austin's245245Aug. Serm. 4, de Verbis Domini. complaint, we do not tame the beasts in our own bosoms. The evil tongue is the worst serpent; and the most rabid and curst of all the fierce beasts is the railer; and therefore Solomon saith, Prov. xxi. 19, `It is better to dwell in a wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman., In the wild desert there are lions, and bears, and tigers, but these assault us but now and then, and these can but rend the skin; but a contentious woman is like a tiger, that still lieth in our bosoms, with sharp and bitter words, ever ready to fret out our hearts.
Obs. 3. The deepness of man's misery. Our own art and skill is able to tame the fiercest beasts, and make them serviceable; beasts as strong as lions and elephants; fishes that do, as it were, inhabit another world; birds as swift almost as a thought; serpents hurtful and noxious. But, alas! there is more rebellion in our affections; sin is stronger, all our art will not tame it. We may teach beasts to do things contrary to their fierceness and natural dispositions; ^elephants to crouch, horses to dance; but man is θήριον δυσμεταχείριστον as Plato called him, a beast that will not easily come to hand. We see 292in children much stubbornness, ere they come to be ripened and habituated in sin. A man would think their inclinations should be more flexible; but `folly is bound up in their hearts., Certainly man's will is the toughest sinew in the whole creation.
Obs. 4. Art and skill to subdue creatures is a relic and argument of our old superiority. The heathens246246 `Sanctius his animal mentisque capacius altae, Deerat adhuc, et quod dominari in cetera possit, Natus homo est.,—Ovid. Met., lib. i. discerned we had once a do minion, and the scriptures plainly assert it: Gen. i. 26, `Let them have dominion over the fowl of the air, over the fish of the sea, and over all the earth, and over the cattle, and over every creeping thing., Next to God's glory, they were ordained for man's service and benefit. We had a right and a grant from God, and therefore all the beasts were to come to Adam and receive their names, which was a kind of formal submission to his government, and a presenting of their homage and fealty to him. For the maintaining of this government, God gave man wisdom, and planted an instinct in the creatures by which they should be ready to obey him, fearful of doing him harm and offence. And therefore, when the grant was in part renewed, it was said to Noah and his sons, Gen. ix. 2, `The fear and dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, fowls of the air, fishes of the sea, &c. So that then Adam could converse among the beasts without fear (as Noah and his sons did afterwards in the ark by singular dispensation), and command them at his beck and will; there would have been, on man's part, no such difficulty to subdue them to human uses—Adam, in the great wisdom with which he was then furnished, knowing how to accommodate himself to the dispositions of the beasts; and on the beasts, part, there would have been no repugnancy. But, alas! ever since the fall this right was forfeited, and the creatures withdrew themselves from man's obedience, and proved hurtful and rebellious;247247`Quia per peccatum deseruit homo eum sub quo esse debuit, subditus est iis supra quae esse debebat.,—Aug. Tract. in Johan. therein representing to us our own treason and disloyalty. And therefore usually wild beasts are made an instrument of divine vengeance: 2 Kings xvii. 25, `The Lord sent lions among them., So Ezek. xiv. 15, `I will cause noisome beasts to pass through the land, and spoil it., The insurrection and rebellion of the creatures against us is a memorial of our unfaithfulness and rebellion against God. But yet, though this grant be forfeited, it is not wholly extinguished. A wicked man hath lost his right, but not the use, which to him is continued out of God's patience and general providence, for the preservation of human society. And the elect have a new title and right by Christ, which will at length fully instate them in the absoluteness of the old dominion;248248See Dr Alting, Problem. Theol., pars 1, quaest. 61, 62. when the creature, being `freed from the bondage of corruption, shall willingly be subject to the children of God, Rom. viii. 19-22. But for the present the dominion is exercised in a much lower way than it was in innocency. Though we have some skill to subdue them, and govern them for human uses, either of profit or delight; and though there be some instinct of fear in the hurtful creatures, and therefore they do not come abroad at such times as man is supposed to be in 293the field, Ps. civ. 20-23, yet this subjection is not with such willingness as formerly on the creatures, part, Rom. viii. 20, nor with such easiness on ours, it being a matter of more difficulty and toil. Besides that, there are many creatures which, by their swiftness and fierceness, do wholly escape the terrors of man's sovereignty.
From the 8th verse observe:—
Obs. 1. The tongue is hardly tamed and subdued to any right use. I say hardly; for he doth not say none, but no man can—no human art and power can ever find a remedy and curb for it. And in this life God doth not give out absolute grace so as to avoid every idle word. The note is useful to refute the patrons of free-will; it cannot tame one member; and also perfectists. Do but consider the offences of the tongue, and you will see that you have cause to walk humbly with God. If he should but charge the sins of your own tongue upon you, what will become of you? But if it cannot be tamed, what shall we do? why do you bid us bridle it? I answer—(1.) If we have lost our power, God must not lose his right. Weakness doth not exempt from duty; we must bridle it, though we cannot of ourselves. (2.) Though we cannot bridle it, yet God can: Mat. xix. 26, it is a hard matter for `a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God; but with God all things are possible., Difficulty and impossibility as to the creature's endeavours are left, that we may fly to God. The horse doth not tame himself, nor the camel himself, nor man himself;249249`Attendite similitudinem ab ipsis bestiis quas domamus. Equus non se domat, camelus non se domat, aspis non se domat; sic et homo non se domat, sed ut dometur equus, bos, camelus, elephantus, leo, aspis, quaeritur homo; ergo Deus quaeratur ut dometur homo.,—Aug. Serm. 4, de Verbis Domini, tom. x. man tameth the beast, and God tameth man; thou tamest a lion, and thou didst not make it: God made thee, and shall he not tame thee? Imago Dei domat feram, saith Augustine; domabit Deus imagmem suam. The work is done by the next highest power. (3.) To those that attempt it, and do what they are able, God will give grace; he never faileth a diligent, waiting soul. When God hath given you τὸ θελεῖν, `to will, he will give you τὸ ἐνεργεῖν, `to do;, the first motions are from him, and so is the accomplishment; offer yourselves to his work. (4.) Though we cannot be altogether without sin, yet we must not altogether leave off to resist sin. Sin reigneth where it is not resisted; it only remaineth in you where it is opposed. But you will say, What is our duty? I answer—(1.) Come before God humbly; bewail the depravation of your natures, manifested in this untamed member. This was one of the sins which Austin confessed, he said his tongue was fornax mali, an Ætna that was always vomiting up distempered fires and heats. Complain of it to God: `wretched man! who shall deliver me?, (2.) Come earnestly; this was one of the occasions upon which Austin in his Confessions250250 August. Confess. lib. x. See Cornel. a Lapide in hunc locum. sobbed out his Da quod jubes, et jube quod vis—Lord, give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt. He spake it upon the occasion of lust, and he spake it upon the occasion of the evils of the tongue. Your applications to grace must be the more earnest and frequent; cry for a remedy: `O Lord, keep the door of my lips, Ps. cxli. 3.
Obs. 2. From that an unruly evil. There is an unbridled license 294and violence in the tongue: Job xxxii. 19, `Behold, my belly is as wine which hath no vent, it is ready to burst like new bottles., When the mind is big with the conception, the tongue is earnest to utter it: Ps. xxxix. 3, `My heart was hot within me; while I was musing, the fire burned., Therefore in the remedy we should use not only spiritual care, but an holy violence: `I will keep my mouth as with a bridle, `I will lay my hand upon my mouth, Ps. xxxix. 1. And you had need look to the heart; it cometh from `the abundance of iniquity, naughtiness must have some vent for its excrement and superfluity; and from the heat of wrath get a cool spirit; and from the itch of vainglory let man's honour seem a small thing, 1 Cor. iv. 3; and from the height of discontent, full vessels will plash over. Meeken the heart into a sweet submission, lest discontent seek the vent of murmuring.
Obs. 3. From that full of deadly poison. A wicked tongue is venomous and hurtful: as Bernard observeth, it killeth three at once—him that is slandered, his fame by ill report; him to whom it is told, his belief with a lie; and himself with the sin of detraction. Bless God when you escape those deadly bites, the fangs of detraction `A good name is a precious ointment, and a slanderous tongue is a `deadly poison;, nothing will secure you but the antidote of innocency; but if it be your lot, bear it with patience; there is a resurrection of names as well as persons. Though you are poisoned by the tongue of detraction, yet remember he is wont to give a cordial `in whose mouth there is no guile, 1 Peter ii. 22. It may also dissuade men from the sin; we would not poison one another; slander is poison.
Here he showeth the good and bad use of the tongue; the good to bless God, the bad to curse men; and the absurdity of doing both with the same tongue: you put the same member to the best and worst use. Things employed in worship, because of their relation are wont to be accounted holy; certainly too worthy to be submitted or debauched to mean, at least, to the vilest, uses and purposes; that were a monstrous and unbeseeming levity.
I shall open the phrases in the points.
Obs. 1. The proper use of the tongue is to bless God: Ps. li. 15, `Open my mouth, and I will show forth thy praise., If God give speech and abilities of utterance, he must have the glory; it is the rent we owe to him. This is the advantage we have above the creatures, that we can be distinct and explicit in his praises: Ps. cxlv. 10, `All thy works, O Lord, shall praise thee, and thy saints shall bless thee., The creatures offer the matter, but the saints publish it. The whole creation is as a well-tuned instrument, but man maketh the music. Speech, being the most excellent faculty, should be consecrated to divine uses:251251See Nazianzen. Orat. ii. in Pascha. Eph. v. 4, `Nor filthiness, nor foolish speaking, but giving of thanks, εὐχάριστια, thankfully remembering your sweet experiences. It is a Christian's work, and his recreation: `While I have breath I will praise the Lord, saith the psalmist. God gave us these pipes and organs for that purpose; your breath cannot be better spent. Acts ii. 4, when they spake with other 295tongues, they spake `the wonderful works of God., Well, then, go away and say, `I will bless the Lord continually; his praise shall be always in my mouth, Ps. xxxiv. 1. This is to begin heaven upon earth. Some birds sing in winter as well as in spring. Stir up one another, Eph. v. 18, as one bird setteth all the flock a-chirping.
Obs. 2. From that God, even the Father; that is, of Christ, and in him of us: you had the same speech, chap. i. 27. The note is, We bless God most cheerfully when we consider him as a father. Thoughts of God as a judge cannot be comfortable. Our meditations of him are sweet when we look upon him as a father in Christ. The new song and the new heart do best suit.252252`Canticum novum et vetus homo male concordant.,—Aug. in Psalm. Every one cannot learn the Lamb's new song, Rev. xiv. 3. Praise cometh from us most kindly when it cometh from us like water out of a fountain, not like water out of a still; out of a sense of love, not out of a fear of wrath. Wicked men can howl, though they cannot sing. Pharaoh in his misery could say, `The Lord is righteous.,
Obs. 3. From that and therewith me curse men. The same tongue should not bless God and curse men, it is hypocrisy. Acts of piety are counterfeited when acts of charity are neglected: Ps. l. 16, with 19, 20, `What hast thou to do to take my covenant in thy mouth? seeing thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit: thou speakest against thy brother, and slanderest thine own mother's son., Hypocrites are most censorious, but true piety maketh men meek and humble. It is storied of Cranmer, that he never miscalled a servant, or used words of disgrace and contempt to them. Religion begetteth a grave awe and reverence. The seraphim never revile, but only praise God: Jude 9, `He durst not bring a railing accusation against the devil., Some are of a wicked temper, can only curse, like dogs, non proferitate, sed pro consuetudine latrant, that bark not so much out of fierceness as custom. They know not how to pray, their mouths are so inured to cursing and evil-speaking. Others there are that can curse and bless at the same time: `They bless with their mouths, but they curse inwardly, Ps. lxii. 4; others that curse and rail under a pretence of piety and zeal. The evils of the tongue, where they are not restrained, cannot consist with true piety. Obedience is counterfeit where it is not uniform. One table cannot be kept with the violation of another. Oh! check yourselves, then, when you are about to break out into passion. Shall I pray and brawl with the same tongue? and divert from worship to railing? With this tongue I have been speaking to God, and shall it presently be set on fire of hell?
Obs. 4. Man is made after God's own image: `Let us make man after our image and likeness, Gen. i. 26. In other creatures there are vestigia; we may track God by his works, but man is his very image and likeness. I shall not be large in this argument. This image of God consisteth in three things—(1.) In his nature, which was intellectual. God gave him a rational soul, spiritual, simple, immortal, free in its choice; yea, in the body there were some rays and strictures of the divine glory and majesty. (2.) In those qualities of `knowledge, Col. iii. 10;, righteousness, Eccles. vii. 29: and `true holiness, 296Eph. iv. 24. (3.) In his state, in a happy confluence of all inward and outward blessings, as the enjoyment of God, power over the creatures, &c. But now this image is in a great part defaced and lost, and can only be restored in Christ. Well, then, this was the great privilege of our creation, to be made like God: the more we resemble him the more happy. Oh! remember the height of your original. We press men to walk worthy their extraction. Those potters that were of a servile spirit disgraced the kingly family and line of which they came, 1 Chron. iv. 22. Plutarch saith of Alexander, that he was wont to heighten his courage by remembering he came of the gods.253253`Quoties diis genitum se putavit, toties in barbaros, multo ferocius et insolentius pugnavit., Remember you were made after the image of God; do not deface it in yourselves, or render it liable to contempt, by giving others occasion to revile you.
Obs. 5. It is a dissuasive from slandering and evil-speaking of others, to consider they are made after God's image. I shall inquire—(1.) How this can be a motive. (2.) Wherein the force of it lieth.
1. How can this be a motive, since the image and likeness of God is defaced and lost by the fall? I answer—He speaketh of new creatures especially, in whom Adam's loss is repaired and made up again in Christ: Col. iii. 10, `Ye have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him., So Eph. iv. 24, `That ye put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness., God is tender of his new creatures; intemperance of tongue against saints is dangerous: as he said, `Take heed what you do; this man is a Roman, so take heed what you speak; these are Christians, created after God's image, choice pieces, whom God hath restored out of the common ruins. (2.) He may speak it concerning all men, for there are some few relics of God's image in all, as Epiphanius well argueth out of that Gen. ix. 6, `Who so sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he him., In which reason there would be no force, if there were not after sin some relics of God left in man, though much deformed. So this saying in James, being promiscuously spoken of all kind of men, it argueth, that in them as yet remaineth some similitude of God, as the simplicity and immortality of the soul; some moral inclinations instead of true holiness; some common notices of the nature and will of God instead of saving knowledge; which, though they cannot make us happy, yet serve to leave us inexcusable. So also some pre-eminence above other creatures, as we have a mind to know God, capable of divine illumination and grace; and in the fabric of the body and countenance there is some majesty and excellency above the beasts, as also in the relics of dominion and authority spoken of before. And look, as we reverence the drizzled picture of a friend, and the ruins of a stately edifice, so some respect is due to these remains of our primitive integrity.
2. Wherein lieth the force of the argument—cursing man made after the image of God? I answer—(1.) God hath made man his deputy to receive love and common respects; higher respects of trust and worship are to be carried out to God alone; but in other things, 297Christians, the poorest of them, are Christ's receivers. Hence those expressions, `He that despiseth you, despiseth me, Luke x. 16; and `Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of these little ones, ye did it not to me, Mat. xxv. (2.) The image of God is that which we can come at: we would blast all excellency:254254`Η τοῦ εἰκόνος τὶμη ἐπὶ τὸ πρωτότυπον ἀναβαίνει.,—Basil. de Spiritu Sancto, cap. 13. we go as far as our malice can reach. As they say, the panther, when she cannot come at the man, rendeth his picture; so do we deal with God. (3.) God himself is wronged by the injury done to his image; as among men the contempt and despite is done to the king himself which is done to his image or coin; as Mat. xxiii. 18, to `swear by the altar, which was the symbol of God's presence, was to swear by God.255255`So Maximinus his statues were thrown down, in disgrace to the person.,—Euseb. Hist. Eccl., lib. ix., cap. 11. (4.) This is the fence God hath placed against injury: Gen. ix. 6, `For in the image of God made he him., It is referred, not to the slayer, as if he had sinned against those common notices of justice and right continued in his conscience, but of the man slain, he is the image of God: God hath honoured this lump of flesh by stamping his own image upon him; and who would offer violation to the image of the great King? Now to speak evil against him is to wrong the image of God. All God's works are to be looked upon and spoken of with reverence, much more his image.
Well, then, in your carriage towards men let this check injury and indecency of speech: he is God's image. Though images are not to be worshipped, yet the image of God is not to be bespattered with reproaches; especially if they have a new creation, and a new forming: these are vessels of honour. Consider against whom the sin is in its latest result, a despite done to God himself, because done to his work and image. Solomon saith, Prov. xvii. 5, `Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his maker., God is the maker of all; but he instanceth in the poor because they are the usual objects of our scoffs and reproaches: though poor and mean, they are the image of God as well as thou: this should beget a restraint and reverence. Nay, the poor are secured by a special reason; their persons are the image of God, and their condition is the work of God. Besides creation there is an ordination of providence; you afflict a man, and you afflict misery, which are both of God's making; and though they cannot avenge the injury, God can, whose command you have not only violated, but his image.
He amplifieth the absurdity by a repetition or new proposal of it. His meekness is observable, he might have reproved them sharply; but dissuading them from the evils of the tongue, he would himself give them a pattern of modesty and gentleness.
These things ought not to be so; that is, they should be quite other wise. It is a phrase savouring of apostolical meekness; Paul useth it in almost a like case, 1 Tim. v. 13, `Speaking things they ought not;, and Titus i. 11, `Teaching things which they ought not.,
Out of this verse observe:—
Obs. 1. That blessings and cursing do not become the same mouth. 298 This is like him in Æsop that blew hot and cold with the same breath. A good man should be uniform and constant: the same heart cannot be occupied by God and the devil, nor the same tongue be employed to such different uses. The Pharisee prayed and censured at the same time, Luke xviii. 10; and many pray and curse, pray and rail, in the same breath. This is most unseemly; one part condemneth and destroyeth the other; the good aggravateth the evil, and the evil disproveth the good: railing is the worse because of the solemnity of the action; and praying is but a revengeful eructation, when thus managed and accompanied. When the tongue is employed in prayer, it is as it were hallowed and consecrated, and therefore must not be alienated to common and vile purposes. They were carnal wretches that said `Our tongues are our own, Ps. xii. 4; thine is given up to God.
Obs. 2. From that ought not to be. We must look not to what we desire to do, but what ought to be done. Lust, or the bent of the spirit, is not the rule of duty. Many advise with no other counsellor but their own hearts; carnal constraints are an ill warrant. Beasts are led by strength of instinct and natural impulse; man is to be governed by an outward rule: there is an higher Lord than your own will. Look, then, not to the earnestness of your motions, but the regularity of them; not at what you would, but what you ought.
Ver. 11, 12. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig-tree, my brethren, bear olive-berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain yield both salt water and fresh.
Here are several illustrations taken from the course of nature, to show that one cause and original can have but one orderly and kindly birth. He reasoneth from what is impossible in nature to what is absurd in manners. In the similitudes he speaketh of what falleth out for the most part. If any rare instances can be brought to the contrary, it prejudiceth not the apostle's scope, which is to show what falleth out in the wonted course and influence of causes, and thereby to declare how incompatible with true religion the evils of the tongue are if not restrained.
Obs. Nature abhorreth hypocrisy and double-dealing; contrary effects from the same cause are monstrous: it is against the whole ordination of God among the creatures. There is not a surer note of hypocrisy then deformity of effects and practices. It is true a Christian hath a double principle—flesh and spirit; but not a double heart. All the productions of the soul are like the yeanlings of Laban's sheep, Gen. xxx. 39, `Speckled and spotted:, but in an hypocrite's life there is an utter dissonancy and disproportion. Hate this double-dealing, when you profess religion and live in sins; see how contrary it is to the whole course of nature: say, Sure this cannot come from an uniform and good heart. Especially use these illustrations to check the deformities of your speech; when you are apt to bless and curse, pray and revile, say, This would be monstrous in nature; is there such another cause in the world as the tongue is—of such, different uses and employments?
He now diverteth to another matter, though that which is near of kin with the former, which is an exhortation to meekness, as opposed to envy and strife.
Who is a wise man among you, and endued with knowledge? Some apply this, as all the former discourse, to the ministry, as if the meaning of the question or supposition were, If any be qualified for this dispensation; and they are strengthened in this conceit by the words here used, σόφος καὶ ἐπιστήμων which hold forth the two gifts that are necessary for the ministry. The apostle elsewhere calleth them `the word of knowledge `and `the word of wisdom, 1 Cor. xii. 8; but the very structure of the words showeth them to be generally intended. He speaketh of wisdom and knowledge, because all the former evils come from a presumption of greater skill and ability than others; or because they affected the repute of prudent, knowing Christians. Now, saith the apostle, if you would be so indeed, you must be meekly godly. The questionary proposal intimateth the rare contemperation of these two qualities; wisdom and knowledge are very seldom coupled: knowing he might grant these censors to be, but not wise.
Let him show out of a good conversation.—The first requisite of true wisdom is to honour knowledge with practice, that being the end of all information; and the knowing person having a greater obligation to duty than others.
His works with meekness of wisdom.—Here is the second requisite, prudent meekness in converse, wisdom being most able to consider of frailties, and to bridle anger.
The points are these:—
Obs. 1. Wisdom and knowledge do well together; the one to inform, the other to direct. They are elsewhere coupled: Hosea xiv. 9, `Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them?, There is a difference between these two, knowledge and wisdom, wisdom and prudence, as appeareth by that Prov. viii. 13, `I, wisdom, dwell with prudence., A good apprehension and a good judgment make a complete Christian. Where heavenly wisdom is, there will be also prudence, a practical application of our light to the occurrences of life; and where God giveth knowledge, he giveth also wholesome and needful counsels for the ordering of the conversation. Prudence dispenseth the light of knowledge according to particular occasions. Faith is opposed to folly as well as ignorance: Luke xxiv., `O ye fools, and slow of heart to believe!, Faith is a wise grace, a spiritual prudence, more for practical inferences than nice speculations. Well, then, do not rest in `a form of knowledge, Rom. ii. 20; couple it with wisdom. A Christian is better known by his life than discourse. Bare `knowledge puffeth up, 1 Cor. viii. 1, getteth into the head or tongue; then it is right, when `wisdom entereth into thy heart, &c., Prov. ii. 10. Men of abstracted conceits and sublime speculations are but wise fools; like the lark, that soareth high, peering and peering, but falleth into the net of the fowler. Knowledge without wisdom may be soon discerned; it is usually curious and censorious.300
Obs. 2. That true wisdom endeth in a good conversation. Surely the practical Christian is the most wise: in others, knowledge is but like a jewel in a toad's head: Deut. iv. 6, `Keep these statutes, for this is your wisdom., This is saving knowledge, the other is but curious. What greater folly than for learned men to be disputing of heaven and religion, and others less knowing to surprise it!256256`Surgunt indocti, et rapiunt coelum, et nos cum omnibus doctrinis nostris detrudimur in Gehennam., This is like him that gazed upon the moon, but fell into the pit. One property of true wisdom is to be able to manage and carry on our work and business; therefore none so wise as they that `walk circumspectly, Eph. v. 15. The careless Christian is the greatest fool; he is heedless of his main business. Another part of wisdom is to prevent danger; and the greater the danger, the more caution should we use. Certainly, then, there is no fool like the sinning fool, that ventureth his soul at every cast, and runneth blindfold upon the greatest hazard. I might enlarge myself in all points of wisdom, but I forget the laws of this exercise.257257See Dr Sibbs in Hosea xiv. 8. The use of all is to check those that please themselves in a false wisdom. (1.) The worldly wise. Men are cunning to spin a web of vanity, and to effectuate their carnal purposes. Alas! this is the greatest folly: Jer. viii. 9, `Since they have rejected the word of God, what wisdom is in them?, Who would dig for iron with mattocks of gold? The strength of your spirits, your serious cares, are better worth than vanity. Usually providence maketh fools of the worldly wise;, their understanding undoeth them, as it is said of Babylon, Isa. xlvii. 10, they overwit and outreach themselves. (2.) Such as content themselves with human knowledge. Some can almost with Berenger dispute de omni scibili; or with Solomon, unravel nature `from the cedar to the hyssop;, but know not God, know not themselves: like the foolish virgins, make no provision for the time to come; and so do but wisely go to hell.258258`Sapientes sapienter descendant in infernum.,—Hieron. Some of the heathens had large endowments; but `professing themselves wise, they became fools., Rom. i. 22. (3.) Such as hunt after notions and sublime speculations, knowing only that they may know. A poor soul that looketh heaven ward hath more true wisdom than all the great rabbis of the world: `The testimonies of the Lord make wise the simple, Ps. xix. 7. And in another place, `A good understanding have all they that do there after., Others may have sharper wits, but they have more savoury apprehensions; as blunt irons, if heated, pierce deeper than those that are sharp and edged if cold. (4.) Such as are sinfully crafty have wit enough to brew wickedness. Oh! it is better be a fool in that craft: 1 Cor. xiv. 20, `Be not children in understanding, but in malice be ye children., Happy they whose souls never enter into sin's secrets! Rom. xvi. 19, `I would have you wise in that which is good, and simple in that which is evil., It is best be one of the devil's fools; simple as to wicked enterprises. They that affect the glory of acuteness in sin do but resemble their father the devil, who is of great knowledge, but much malice.
Obs. 3. The more true wisdom, the more meek. Wise men are less 301 \angry and more humble. (1.) Less angry: There is much spoken of a fool's wrath: Prov. xxvii. 3, `A stone is heavy, and the sand is weighty, and a fool's wrath is heavier than them both., He wanteth judgment and understanding to allay and moderate the rage of it; so that where it falleth, it falleth with the whole strength and weight of it. The more wisdom a man hath, the more can he give check to passion; they can oppose wise considerations, the frailties of nature, their own slips, their need of pardon from God; at least they will not trust such a furious passion, and let it out without restraint: Prov. xix. 11, `A wise man deferreth his anger, lest it burn with too hot a flame. Once more we hear of the wrath of a fool: Prov. xvii. 12, `Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his folly;, that is, in the heat of his rage (as the similitude implieth); and it is called folly, for then men are most foolish. (2.) They are more humble: Prov. xi. 2, `With the lowly there is wisdom, Pride and folly always go together, and so do lowliness and wisdom. The world many times looketh upon meekness as folly, but it is heavenly wisdom. Moses is renowned in scripture for wisdom and meekness. Men that are but morally wise, we see, are most meek. The laden clusters will bow the head. Well, then, we all affect the repute of wisdom; discover it in meekness, in bearing with others, in being lowly within yourselves; other wisdom may serve your carnal ends best; but this is true wisdom, this pleaseth God best: `The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is a thing of great price in the eyes of the Lord, 1 Peter iii. 4. The world counteth it an effeminate softness; God counteth it an ornament; this the best Christian temper. Christ is `the lion of the tribe of Judah, but that is to his enemies; he is a `lamb, to his followers. Fierce ruffianly spirits do not become Christianity, no more than the wolves would the lamb's bosom. There are excellent fruits of meekness that discover the use of it, either in setting on doctrine—man is won by love: `With meekness instruct those that oppose themselves, 2 Tim. ii. 25; this is like the small rain upon the tender grass: or in preventing contention: `A soft answer pacifieth strife;, Abigail stopped David's fury, &c.
Obs. 4. Meekness must be a wise meekness. It is said, `Meekness of wisdom., It not only noteth the cause of it, but the quality of it. It must be such as is opposite to fierceness, not to zeal. The Spirit appeared in `cloven tongues of fire, as well as in the form of a dove; and the apostle saith there is `a spirit of love and power, which may well consist and stand together, 2 Tim. i. 7.
Obs. 5. From that let him show forth. A Christian must not only have a good heart, but a good life, and in his conversation show forth the graces of his spirit: Mat. v. 16, `Let your light shine, &c. We must study to honour God, and honour our profession. It is one thing to do works that may be seen, and another to do them that they might be seen `that they may see your good works, Ἱνα, or the word for that, is taken, ἐκβατικῶς, not αἰτιολογικῶς. It doth not note the scope, but the event.259259Chrysost. in locum.302
Having showed what was the effect and token of true wisdom, he inferreth that if the contrary were found in them, they had little cause to glory, rather to be ashamed; and opposeth two things to the former double effect of wisdom—to meekness and good works, envy and strife.
But if ye have.—The apostle's modesty in reproving is observable. He doth not positively tax them, but speaketh by way of supposition. So also chap. i. 25 and ii. 15. In reproofs it is wiser to proceed by way of supposition than direct accusation.
Ye have bitter envying.—He noteth the root of tongue-evils. We pretend zeal and justice, but the true cause is envy. He calleth it ζῆλον πίκρον, `bitter envying, to distinguish it from that ἀγαθὴ ἔρις, that `holy emulation, which maketh us strive who shall excel each other in the ways of godliness; as also from true zeal for God's glory, which they pretended; as if he had said, It is a zeal, but a bitter zeal. As also to note the original of it; it proceedeth from the over flow of gall and choler, that `root of bitterness, that is in the heart. It also noteth the effects of it. It is bitter to ourselves and others. It maketh us displeasant to those with whom we do converse; and though it be sweet for the present, yet when conscience is opened, and we taste the fruits of it, it proveth `bitterness in the issue., And it showeth whither that similitude, ver. 11, tendeth, `Doth a fountain at the same time send forth sweet water and bitter?,
And strife in your hearts.—This is the usual effect of envy. And he saith `in your hearts;, because, though it be managed with the tongue or hand, it is first contrived in the heart, and because this aggravateth the matter. Breaches may fall out between Christians in their converse besides intention; but where they are affected and cherished, they are abominable.
Glory not; that is, either of your Christianity, an evil so contrary to it being allowed, or of your zeal, it being so deeply culpable, or of any special wisdom and ability, as if able to reprove others; this most probably. For the main bent of the discourse is against opinionative wisdom. You have no reason to boast of your wit and zeal in censuring or contention, as men are wont to do in such cases, unless you will glory in your own shame; rather you have cause to be humbled, that you may get these vile affections mortified,
And lie not against the truth.—Some say by a carnal profession. Hypocrisy is a practical lie. Some speak lies, others do them: John iii. 21, `He that doth the truth cometh to the light, &c. Rather by false pretences of zeal and wisdom. It is a pleonasm usual in the apostle's writings: Rom. ix. 1, `I say the truth in Christ, I lie not;, and 1 John i. 6, `We lie, and do not the truth.,
Out of this verse observe:—
Obs. 1. That envy is the mother of strife. They are often coupled: Rom. i. 29, `Full of envying, then followeth `murder and debate., So Rom. xiii. 13, `Not in strife and envying;, 1 Cor. iii. 3, `There is among you envying, strife, and factions;, so 2 Cor. xii. 20, `Envyings, wraths, strifes;, and Gal. v. 20, `Emulations, wraths, strifes, seditions., These things being so solemnly coupled in scripture, intimate to us that envy is but a cockatrice egg, that soon bringeth forth strife. The world had an early experience of it in Cain and Abel, and afterwards 303in Abraham and Lot's herdsmen; then in Joseph and his brethren: Gen. xxxvii. 4, `They envied Joseph, and could not speak peaceably to him;, and ver. 11, `They envied him, and they conspired to slay him; so in Saul and David: 1 Sam. xviii. 9, `He eyed David, ever afterward; so also in the priests against Christ: `For envy they delivered him, Mat. xxvii. 18. There are two sins which were Christ's sorest enemies, covetousness and envy. Covetousness sold Christ, and envy delivered him. These two sins are still enemies to Christian profession. Covetousness maketh us to sell religion, and envy to persecute it. The church hath had sad experience of it. It is the source of all heresies.260260`Fuerunt quidam nostrorum vel minus stabilita fide, vel minus docti, vel minus cauti, qui dissidium facerent unitatis vel ecclesiam dissiparent; sed ii quorum fides fuit lubrica, cum Deum nosse se aut colere simularunt, augendis opibus et honori studentes affectabant maximum sacerdotium, et a potioribus victi secedere cum suffragatoribus suis maluerunt, quam eos ferre praepositos quibus concupiebant ipsi praeponi,, &c.—Lactan., lib. 4, Instit., cap. ult. Arius envied Peter of Alexandria, and thence those bitter strifes and persecutions. It must needs be so. Envy is an eager desire of our own fame, and a maligning of that which others have. It is compounded of carnal desire and carnal grief. Well, then, `let nothing be done through strife and vainglory, Phil. ii. 3. Scorn to act out of that impulse. Should we harbour that corruption which betrayed Christ, enkindled the world, and poisoned the church?
Obs. 2. From that strife in your hearts. There is nothing in the life but what was first in the heart: Mat. xv. 19, `Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, blasphemies, thefts, adulteries;, there is the source of sin, and the fountain of folly. As the seeds of all creatures were in the chaos, so of all sins in the heart. Well, then, look to the heart; keep that clean if you would have the life free from disorder and distemper: Prov. iv. 23, `Keep thy heart above all keeping, for out of it are the issues of life., The Jews were banished England for poisoning fountains. The heart is the fountain, keep it clean and pure; be as careful to avoid guilt as shame. If you would have the life holy before men, let the heart be pure before God; especially cleanse the heart from strife and envy. Strife in the heart is worst; the words are not so abominable in God's eye as the will and purpose. Strife is in the heart when it is kept and cherished there, and anger is soured into malice, and malice bewrayeth itself by debates or desires of revenge; clamour is naught, but malice is worse. The apostle forbiddeth κραύγην, `clamour, or the loudness of speech, Eph. iv. 31. But `woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds, Micah ii. 1. Studied wickedness is worst of all.
Obs. 3. Envious or contentious persons have little reason to glory in their engagements. Envy argueth either a nullity or a poverty of grace; a nullity where it reigneth, a weakness where it is resisted, but not overcome: `They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the lusts and affections thereof, Gal. v. 24. He is a carnal man that is carried away with any inordinate affection or lust. Now, of all lusts, this is the most natural: `The spirit that is in us lusteth to envy, James iv. 5. Children betray it first; vidi zelantem parvulum—I saw, saith Augustine, a little child looking pale with envy. As it is natural, 304so it is odious; it is injurious to God and his dispensations, as if he had unequally distributed his gifts. It is hurtful to others; we malign the good that is in them, thence hatred and persecution; it is painful to ourselves, therefore called `the rottenness of the bones, Prov. xiv. 30. In short, it ariseth from pride, it is carried out in covetousness and evil desire, and ends in discontent. Oh! then, beware of this bitter envying and strife: Eph. iv. 31 , `Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger be put away from you., It is hateful to God, prejudicial to others, troublesome to ourselves; it is its own punishment. Nothing more unjust than envy, and yet nothing more just, saith Nazianzen. Will you know what it is? Discontentedness at another man's good and prosperous estate, holiness, esteem, renown, parts, &c. In carnal things it is sordid, in higher things it is devilish; in the one we partake with the beasts, who ravenously seek to take the prey from one another; in the other with the devils and evil angels, who, being fallen from happiness, now malign and envy those that enjoy it. Envy discovereth itself—(1.) By grief at others, enjoyments, Gen. iv. Cain is sad because Abel's sacrifice was accepted; their having is not the cause of our want, but our envying it. (2.) In rejoicing at their evils, disgrace, ruin: Ps. xxii. 7, `They laughed me to scorn; This is he, &c. David fasted for an enemy's fulness, &c. (3.) By incommunication: men would have all things inclosed within their line and pale; are vexed at the commonest of gifts, because they would shine alone. Moses, contrarily: `Would to God all did prophesy, Num. xi. 28, 29. Consider these things, how unsuitable to your profession. So also for strifes; they do not become those who should be cemented with the same blood of Christ.261261`Eodem sanguine Christi glutinati.,—Aug. All strifes are bad: your heart was never the better when you carne from them; but envious strifes are worst of all, and yet usually this is the sum of our contests, `Who shall be greatest?, Opinions are drawn in for the greater gloss and varnish (as Paul said, Some preached gospel out of envy; Phil. i. 15), but usually that is the main quarrel; and so religion, which is the best thing, is made to serve the vilest affection.
Obs. 4. Envy and strife goeth often under the mask of zeal. These were apt to glory in their carnal strifes; it is easy to take on a pretence of religion, and to baptize envious contests with a glorious name. One faction at Corinth entitled their sect by the name of Christ, `I am of Christ, 1 Cor. i. 12, they are reckoned among the rest of the factions; `I am of Christ, in the apostle's sense, is as bad as `I am of Paul, and I am of Apollos, and I am of Cephas., Well, then, examine those affections that are drawn forth under a disguise of religion; there may be zeal in the pretence, and bitter envy at the bottom. Sin is often arrayed in the garments of virtue; and there are so many things that look like zeal, but are not; and our own interest is so often concerned in the interests of religion, that we have need to suspect ourselves, lest the wild gourds of frowardness and passion be mistaken for `the planting of the Lord, zeal and righteousness. There are two shrewd presumptions, upon which, if you cannot absolutely condemn such motions, you have cause to suspect them. One is, when they boil up into irregular and strange actions: true zeal, though it increase 305the stream, doth not usually overflow the banks, and break one rule to vindicate another. The other is, when we are apt to glory and boast, as in this place: we usually boast of graces of our own making: 2 Kings x. 16, `Come and see my zeal for the Lord of hosts, was in effect but, Come and discern my pride and hypocrisy. Hypocrites have so little of the power of religion, that they adore their own form.
Obs. 5. Hypocrisy and carnal pretences are the worst kind of lies. The Lord complaineth, `They compass me about with lies., The practical he is worst of all; by other lies we deny the truth, by this we abuse it; and it is worse sometimes to abuse an enemy than to destroy him. It had been more mercy in Tamerlane to have executed Bajazet, than to have carried him up and down in scorn as his foot stool. Hypocrites do not only feign against religion, but carry it up and down as a footstool, upon which they step into their own interests and advancement. The practical he is little better than blasphemy: Rev. ii. 9, `I know the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews, and are not., It is a `lie against the truth, indeed, and a blasphemy, when we entitle it to our unclean intents.
To right the truth against whose glory they had lied, he addeth these words, wherein he showeth that though they had a pretence of zeal and wisdom, yet it was not heavenly wisdom, but such as cometh from the devil, or the corrupt heart of man. There is a great deal of difference between cunning and holy wisdom.
This wisdom descendeth not from above.—`From above;, that is, from God, as chap. i. 17, whom we worship as above, because his glory chiefly shineth forth in the heavens; true wisdom is of that descent. Some262262`Non dicit ἔρχεται, sed κατέρχετα. Is apud Demosthenem et Aristotelem, innotante Budaeo, dicitur κατέρχεσθαι, qui redit exul, seu postliminio redit.,—Brochm. in locum. observe a criticism in the word κατέρχεται, descendeth, it properly signifieth returneth; we lost it in Adam, and we receive it again from above; the sense is, then, this is no wisdom of God's giving. But you will say, all common knowledge is from God, even that which is employed about earthly matters. I answer—The apostle speaketh not of skill, but carnal wisdom, and showeth it is not such as the Holy Ghost giveth, but is inspired by the spirit of darkness.
But is earthly.—Here he cometh to show the properties of carnal wisdom; he reckoneth up three, suiting with the three sorts of lusts mentioned, 1 John ii. 16, as anon more fully. Earthly it is called, because it suiteth with earthly minds, it is employed about earthly things, to a carnal or earthly purpose. So Paul speaketh of some that are σοφοὶ τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, only wise for this world, 1 Cor. iii. 18.
Sensual.—The word in the original is ψυχικὴ, the vulgar rendereth animalis, animal; it is elsewhere rendered natural, as 1 Cor. ii. 14, ἄνθρωπος ψύχικος, `the natural man, one guided by carnal reason; for he is opposed to πνευμάτικος, `the spiritual man, ver. 15, one that is furnished with divine illumination. It is again used, Jude 19, ψύχικοι, πνεῦμα μὴ ἔχοντες, and translated as here, `sensual men, not having the Spirit., The word properly signifieth those that have a soul, or arising from the soul; and it is usually opposed to the 306light and saving work of the Spirit. It is good to know upon what grounds it is translated sensual. I suppose the reason is partly from that place of the apostle, 1 Thes. v. 23, where he distinguisheth of `body, soul, and spirit, as the three parts and subjects of the sanctifying and renewing work of the Holy Ghost. In the original the words are πνεῦμα, ψύχη, σῶμα: by πνεῦμα he understandeth the intellectual or rational part; by ψύχη, the mere animal or sensitive part, the sensual appetite, that faculty that we have in common with the beasts; by craj.,^a, that which is commonly understood by it, the body, as it is the organ and instrument of the soul; so that ψύχη, being in the apostle's distinction put for our mere animal part, or sensual appetite, the translators turn ψύχικοι, which is the word that cometh from it, by sensual. Partly because man, being left to himself, to mere soul light or soul inclinations, can bring forth no other fruits than such as are carnal, the bent of nature being altogether for present satisfaction, the conveniences and delights of this present life; and therefore, where it is left to its liberty and power, it only mindeth these things. Thus you see why that word, which in its proper and native signification signifieth animal, is sometimes translated natural, and sometimes sensual. Thus Tertullian, when leavened with Montanism, called the orthodox psychicos, meaning sensual, because they did not with Montanus condemn second marriages.
Devilish.—This the third character of false wisdom. So it is called—(1.) Because Satan is the author; carnal men are `taught of hell., The devil teacheth them not only to brew wickedness, but to turn and wind in the world: `The god of this world hath blinded their eyes, 2 Cor. iv. 4; Eph. ii. 2. (2.) Because it is such a wisdom as is in the devil; he is wise to do hurt. He appeared in the form of the serpent, a subtle creature. So pride, ambition, envy, wrath, revenge, they are Satan's lusts. There are some sins which the scripture calleth `fleshly and beastly lusts, and there are other sins which are called `Satan's lusts, John viii. 44, `Ye are of your father the devil, and his lusts will ye do., Man hath somewhat in common with the beasts, and somewhat in common with the angels. Adultery, riot, &c., these make a man brutish; envy, pride, malice, slander, &c. , these make a man devilish. The devil doth not commit adultery, steal, &c., but he is proud, envious, slanderous.263263`Invidientia vitium diabolicum, quo solus diabolus reus est, et inexpiabiliter reus; non enim dicitur diabolo ut damnetur, adulterium commisisti, furtum fecisti, villam alienam rapuisti, sed homini stanti lapsus invidisti.,—Aug. lib. de Disciplina Christiana, cap. 1. Pride is his original sin, therefore called `the condemnation of the devil, 1 Tim. iii. 6. Envy and slander, they are his actual sins. He envieth lost man; he is wise to devise calumnies and reproaches; it is his work to be accusing and ripping up the sins and faults of others. This latter sense is most proper.
Out of this verse observe:—
Obs. 1, That we should look after the original of that which we conceive to be wisdom. Is it from above or from beneath? The quality is oft known by the original. True wisdom is inspired by God, and taught out of the word. See for both, Job xxxii. 8; Prov. ii. 6; and fetched out by prayer, 1 Kings iii. 9, and Ps. xxv. 4, 5. Men have a 307natural faculty to understand and discourse, but without the assistance, counsel, and illumination of the Spirit we can do nothing in divine matters; we have it from God, from his word and Spirit, after waiting and prayer. God's mind is revealed in scripture, but we can see nothing without the spectacles of the Holy Ghost. The quickest, sharpest eye needeth light: Dan. ii. 21, `He giveth wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding., Well, then, you that pretend to wisdom in religion may from hence know of what kind it is, if you were wise indeed. Prayer will be a great part of your duty,264264`Bene orasse est bene studuisse.,—Luther. the word will be your rule, and the Spirit your counsellor; and then there needeth but one character more, there will be thankfulness to your teacher. Wisdom, as it cometh from God, will carry the soul to God, as the rivers return into the sea from whence they came.
Obs. 2. That the wisdom of man is corrupt. There is a maim in the intellectuals and higher faculties, not only in the sensual appetite: Rom. viii. 5, `They that are in the flesh mind the things of the flesh., All the discourses of the understanding, till it be sanctified, are but sottish and foolish. And afterwards, ver. 7, `The wisdom of the flesh is enmity., If wisdom be merely natural, it will be presently devilish. How vain are men without the Spirit of God in their worship! How disorderly in their conversations! If left to ourselves, what gross thoughts should we have of religion! The heathens, `thinking themselves wise, became fools., Rom. i. 22. Oh! then, lean not upon your own understandings; soul light is not enough, there must be spirit light. The whole man is corrupted, head, and heart, and feet, and all.
Obs. 3. Carnal wisdom is either earthly, or sensual, or devilish. It is a perfect distribution, like that, 1 John ii. 16, `For all that is in the world is either the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and pride of life., The evils of the world may be reduced to `these three heads—sensuality, covetousness, and pride, suitable to the treble bait that is in the world, pleasures, honours, profits; these, like the three darts that struck through the heart of Absalom, do pierce through the hearts of all worldly men. Thus the devil assaulted our first parents, Gen. iii. 6: it was for fruit;265265Qu. `food,?—ED. there is `the lusts of the flesh;, it was for the eyes; there `the lust of the eyes: `for wisdom; there `pride., Thus he assaulted Christ; he tempted him, Mat. iv., to turn stones into bread to satisfy appetite; showed him the glory of the world to tempt his eyes: `Cast thyself down;, there is presumption and indiscreet confidence. This is contrary to the three graces commended by the gospel—sobriety, righteousness, and piety: Titus ii. 12, `The grace of God teacheth us to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world, &c. Soberly, in opposition to the lusts of the flesh; righteously, in opposition to the lust of the eyes; and. piously, to check the pride ^of life. So also you may consider the three duties illustrated by Christ in his sermon, Mat. vi.—alms, fasting, prayer. Fasting, to wean us from sensuality; alms, from covetousness; and prayer, from pride. In short, the three great ends of our creation are our salvation, the good of others, and the glory of God. When men melt away their days in pleasure, they neglect the great salvation. Covetousness is the bane 308of charity, and pride and self-seeking doth quite divert us from serving God's glory. All sins, you see, grow upon these roots. Well, then, walk with caution; there are many snares of divers sorts. Satan knoweth our temper, and how to proportion the bait. We must not be secure; this life is nothing but a continued temptation.266266`Nemo securus esse debet in ista vita quae tota tentalio nominatur.,—Aug. Conf., lib. x. Here you may offend by a glance of the eyes, there by a taste of pleasures, and anon by a vain thought. If a man escape one snare, he may be caught by another. Usually, indeed, lusts take the throne by turns; but yet there are some inclinations in a man's heart to one sin more than another. `We are all gone astray, but `every man to his way, Isa. liii. 6. We are all out, but some have their particular course: Mat. xxii. 5, `They made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise, &c. Do not say, I am not a sinner, unless you reckon all the kinds. Many are not sensual, but they are covetous; some are not proud, but they are sensual. Every sinner hath his way; the devil's slaves are not all of a sort, &c.
Obs. 4. From that earthly. That wisdom is to be suspected for naught which you find to be earthly. A Christian should be wise for the kingdom of heaven: `The children of this world are wise in their generation, Luke xvi. 8. Oh! it is sad to be a fool for duty and wise for the world, to be serious in trifles and to trifle in serious matters. To the children of God it is said, `Set your affections on things that are above, Col. iii. 2; the word is φρονεῖν, we must be wise for them: so Rom. viii. 5, `Minding things of flesh and spirit, is to be wise in either kind. There are some unsavoury spirits that relish nothing but earth and the world, think of nothing but spreading their nets, please and entertain their spirits with carnal projects, and images and suppositions of worldly profit, &c.
Obs. 5. Sensual wisdom is but folly; such as tendeth to gratify the senses, and is spent upon outward pleasures. Brutes, that have no election, excel us in temperance, they are contented with as much as natural instinct carrieth them to, and yet to enjoy pleasures without remorse is their happiness. Vain men rack their wits, employ their understandings, to rear up their lusts; and, to make the provocation more strong, they sacrifice their time, and care, and precious thoughts upon so vain an interest as that of the belly. Certainly our despite is great against the Lord; when we dethrone him, we set up the basest things in his stead: `Whose god is the belly, Phil. iii. 19. Thoughts, the noblest offspring of the human spirit, were made for a higher purpose then to be spent upon the satisfactions of the appetite; and yet the apostle saith there are some who `make provision for the flesh., Rom. xiii. 14, ποιοῦντες πρόνοιαν: their care and projects are to gratify their lusts, and please their senses.
Obs. 6. From that devilish. Fallen man hath not only somewhat of beast, but of the devil in him. Christ had but twelve disciples, `and one of them was a devil, John vi. 70. Full of devilish wisdom and policy. It is said of Judas when he plotted against Christ, Luke xxii. 3, `Then entered Satan into Judas;, and then, saith Luther, there was a devil in a devil. All wicked men are Satan's slaves; 309they drudge in his work. Some are as it were devils themselves in contriving mischief, hatching wickedness, slandering the godly, envying the gracious estate of their brethren, &c.
He proveth that such devilish wisdom as serveth envy and strife cannot be good wisdom, for it bringeth forth quite contrary effects; that is for holiness and meekness, this is for confusion and profaneness. The sentence may be understood either in a public or private reference.
First, In a private reference; and then the sense is, that in what heart soever envy and contention reigneth, there is also great disorder and wickedness; and then the note is:—
Obs. That an envious and contentious spirit is an unquiet and wicked spirit. (1.) It is an unquiet and disorderly spirit: `Envy is the rottenness of the bones;, nothing more discomposeth the mind. The contentment and felicity of others proveth our sorrow. An envious man is his own Achan, the worst sort of cannibal, that not only troubleth, but `eateth his own flesh, Prov. xi. 17. (2.) An envious spirit is a wicked spirit: there is no wickedness but they will undertake and accomplish it; it is a raging passion, that putteth men upon sad inconveniences. We gave you a catalogue of the fruits of it before. The devil worketh upon nothing so much as envy and discontent: such a spirit is fit for Satan's lure. Well, then, look to the first stirrings of it, and check it as soon as the soul beginneth to look sour upon another's happiness and advancement; you do not know how far the devil may carry you. The first instances that we have of sin are Adam's pride and Cain's envy: the first man was undone by pride, and the second debauched by envy. The whole world, though otherwise empty of men, could not contain two brothers when one was envied. Pride gave us the first merit of death, and envy the first instance of it; the one was the mother, the other the midwife of human ruin. Adam was a sinner, but Cain a murderer; there envy tasted blood, and ever since it is glutted with it. Cain's envy tasted the blood of Abel, but Saul's thirsted for David's, and Joab's gorged itself with that of Abner and Amasa. And still, if the severity of laws restrain it from blood, it pineth if it be not fed with injury.
Secondly, It may be understood in a public sense, that among such a people, where envy and strife reigneth, there will be confusions, and tumults, and seditions, and all licentiousness. Strife followeth envy, and sedition followeth strife, and all manner of wickedness is the fruit of sedition.
Obs. 1. That where envy and strife is, there will be tumults and confusions. Ill affections divide as much as ill opinions. Lust is the great makebait. An envious proud spirit may undo a commonwealth. Look to your hearts then; it is a sad thing to be the plague and pests of your country: if you would not be noted with such a black coal, mortify your vile affections. We learn hence, also, that religion is a friend to civil peace; it striketh not only at disorder in the life, but lusts in the heart, at envy and pride, the privy roots of contention. Why should the world hate it? It represented a God who is `the 310God of peace, and not of confusion, 1 Cor. xiv. 33. It holdeth forth a gospel that is `the gospel of peace, Acts x. 36. It establisheth a wisdom which prescribeth all ways of peace, Heb. xii. 14; Rom. xii. 18. It increaseth the number of the godly, who do best in any community; mortified spirits are most peaceable. Pride, envy, self-seeking, hurry others into confusions, and they shake all to serve their own lusts and interests.
Obs. 2. Through confusion and contention every evil work aboundeth. Wickedness then taketh heart and courage, and acteth without restraint. This day is this scripture fulfilled before our eyes; we need no other comment but our own experience. Envy maketh us quarrel one with another, and quarrelling openeth a gap to all looseness. Never had the devil such a harvest in England as since these un happy differences; one party debauching the country with vice, another poisoning it with error. Christ hath got some ground indeed; but when shall the dregs of the war be purged out? Thus usually it is; in the midst of contentions laws are silent, religion loseth its awe, and then men do what is right in their own eyes. There cannot be a better argument than experience to make us see the benefit of public order and peace.
He cometh now to reckon up the fruits of true wisdom. He calleth it `the wisdom that is from above;, because, as I said before, all wisdom is known by its descent. He giveth it several properties; they will be best explained in the observations.
Obs. 1. True wisdom is a pure and holy wisdom. Ἅγνη, the word which we translate pure, signifieth chaste, modest. There is a double purity,267267Dr Hammond, Pract. Cat. in Mat. v. 8. such as excludeth mixture; so we say pure wine, when it is not sophisticated and embased; and such as excludeth filthiness; so we say pure water, which is not mudded and defiled; in the former sense purity is opposed to double-mindedness or hypocrisy, in the latter, to filthiness or uncleanness, which is the proper consideration of this place; the word, as I intimated, signifying chaste. But you will say, `Who can say, my heart is clean; I am pure from my sin?, Prov. xx. 9. The answer will be best given in opening the term; I shall do it by six pairs or couples. (1.) It is a cleanness in heart and life. Christ saith, Mat. v. , `Blessed are the pure in heart;, and David saith, Ps. cxix., `Blessed are the undefiled in the way., The heart must be pure, and the way undefiled. So James iv. 8, `Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double-minded., Persons scandalous, whom he intendeth by sinners, must cleanse their hands; hypocrites, noted in the other expression, double-minded, they must make their hearts clean. The first care must be spent about the heart; a pure spirit will not brook filthy thoughts, unclean desires, fleshly counsels. Christ condemneth the glance, Mat. v. 22; and Peter speaketh of some that had eyes μέσους μοιχαλίδος, `full of the adulteress, 2 Peter ii. 14, intimating the impure rollings of the fancy. True Christians do `abstain from the lusts of 311the flesh, 1 Peter ii. 11, as well `as mortify the deeds of the flesh., Rom. viii. 13. Then after this we must look to the life, that it be void of scandals and blots; that as we do not incur blame from inward guilt, so we do not procure just shame from the outward conversation, that the good conscience may be a feast to give a cheerful heart, and the good name an ointment to give a cheerful countenance. As in the soul there should not be πάθος ἐπιθυμίας, `the passionateness of lust;, so the body must be kept `in sanctification and in honour, 1 Thes. iv. 4. This is the first pair and couple, a pure spirit and a pure life. (2.) It will not brook the filthiness either of error or sin; error is a blot, as well as sin. The way of God is called `the holy commandment, and Gentilism `the pollutions of the world, 2 Peter ii. 20. Jude calleth false teachers `filthy dreamers, ver. 8. Dreamers, be cause of that folly and dotage that is in error; and filthy, because of the defilement of it; and therefore pure wisdom must be made up of truth and holiness. It is said of deacons, 1 Tim. iii. 9, `Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience., Precious liquors are best kept in clean vessels. Some are zealous against errors, that yet are slaves to their own lusts. It is as great a judgment to be delivered up to vile affections as to a vain mind. Jerome speaketh of some qui agebant vitam paganam sub Christiano nomine, were heathens not in opinion but conversation. The bishop of Aliff said in the Council of Trent, that the Protestants had orthodoxos mores, but haereticum fidem, that they were in life orthodox, however faulty in belief. But, alas! now it may be said that many have an heretical conversation, and some of the worst heterodoxism is in their manners. These are like Ithacius, of whom Sulpicius Severus saith there was nothing good or notable in him but only the hatred of the Priscillian heresy. Others, on the contrary, are of a plausible behaviour, but of a vain mind; sober in regard of fleshly delights, but drunk with error; see Rom. xii. 3. There is less shame, and remurmuration of conscience goeth along with error, and therefore we do not startle at it so much as at sin. `Julian, the apostate, was a very just, temperate, strict man, but a bitter enemy to Christ,268268Vide Petri Merentini Praef. in Juliani Miso. So Swenkefield, a man devout and charitable, notable in prayer, famous for alms, but of a very erroneous and fanatical spirit. It is excellent when we can see truth and holiness matched. Sound in faith, fervent in love, how well do these together. (3.) In word and deed. We read of the pure life, and the `pure lip, Zeph. iii. 9. There is a communication that becometh Canaan,269269The lip of Canaan, Isa. xix. 18. and there is a life that becometh that language. Many securely sin with the tongue, and would not be mistaken for so bad as they appear in their talk! But your tongues are not your own; they `defile the whole body, James iii. 6. The apostle condemneth `filthy communication, and `foolish speaking, Eph. v. 4, and iv. 29. There is a sanctified discourse that becometh the children of God. On the other side, many affect a luscious kind of discoursing, and such a flaunting phraseology as is proper to deceivers. 2 Peter ii. 18, `They speak great swelling words of vanity, ὑπέρογκα ματαιότητος many nowadays270270Belmen., and others. bluster with the terms of divine teachings, 312glorious illuminations, the bosom of God, the inward root, &c., and such like `swelling words, Jude 16, which are but a cover and preface to corrupt doctrine or a rotten heart; a vanity and fondness which hath always been discovered in men of an heretical spirit. Calvin observed it in the Libertines of his days;271271`Communi sermone spreto, exoticum nescio quod idioma sibi fingunt, interea nihil spirituals asserunt.,—Calv. in Jud. 13. and Jerome noteth the like in Jovinian: Descripsit apostolus Jovinianum loquentem buccis tumentibus, et inflata verba trutinantem (Hieron. lib. i. adversus Jovin). Such windy discourses argue an unsavoury proud mind. (4.) There must be both an evangelical and a moral cleanness; that is, there must be not only an abstinence from grosser sins, but the heart must be washed in the blood of Christ, cleansed from unbelieving distrustful thoughts. The pure are principally those that believe the pardon of their sins in Christ, and are renewed by the Holy Ghost. There is not only an abstinence from sin, but a purging of their consciences, and a washing of their hearts in `the fountain opened for uncleanness:, Zech. xiii. 1; 1 John i. 7. Now many little mind this; they are civilly moral, lead a fair life in the world, but they are not `washed and made clean in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God, 1 Cor. vi. 11. Others are for an evangelical, but not for a moral cleanness; cry up justification to exclude sanctification, certainly to the neglect of civil righteousness; pretend an interest in Christ, though the heart were never purified. True purity is when the spirit is purged both from guilt and filth, `the conscience from dead works, Heb. ix. 14, and `the heart from an evil conscience, ver. 22. The conscience from dead works; that is, from the death that is in it by reason of our works. And the heart from an evil conscience; that is, that inward pollution whereof the conscience is witness and judge, absolved from guilt and cleansed from sin; the one by the merit, the other by the Spirit of Jesus Christ. (5.) It must be in our inward frame, and our outward administrations: Man loveth to divide where God hath joined; purity of heart and purity of ordinances must go together. Many are for a pure administration, and yet of an unclean spirit, as if outward reformation were enough. When the conscience is purged, then it is meet `to serve the living God, Heb. ix. 14. It is an allusion to legal un cleanness, which debarred from worship. So Mal. iii. 3, `I will purify the sons of Levi, and then they shall offer the sacrifices of righteousness, Public care should not excuse private; the first work is to look to our own spirits. But now others think all care of reformation is confined to a man's own heart. Let a man look to himself, and all is well enough; Satan is busy on every hand. When outward endeavours are perilous and put us to trouble, then we think it is enough to look to ourselves, as if former times were better when administrations were less pure. As a man is to look to himself, so to others: Heb. iii. 12, `Take heed lest there be an evil heart of unbelief in any of you., So Heb. xii. 15, `Looking diligently, lest any root of bitterness spring up amongst you, and so many be defiled., The whole body is polluted, not only by the infection and contagion, but the guilt of the peccant member; scandalous sins are a blot upon 313the body, till effectual remedies be used. True purity bewrayeth itself uniformly in public and private reformation. (6.) It avoideth real defilements, and defilements in appearance: 2 Cor. vii. 1, `Having such precious promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit., What is the meaning? To keep the flesh or body pure from the show of sin, as to keep the heart pure from the guilt of sin. The case presented was about being present at idol feasts, though they knew the idol to be nothing; the apostle dissuadeth them by the promises of God's dwelling amongst them, and then inferreth, `Having such promises, let us keep ourselves from all flesh-filthiness;, that is, defiling the body with such outward presence, or idolatrous rites, as well as `spirit-filthiness;, that is, defiling the soul with idolatry itself. So Jude 23: `Hating the garment spotted by the flesh., It is a phrase taken from legal uncleanness, which was contracted by touching the houses, the vessels, the garments of unclean persons; detest the show of participating with men in their uncleanness. Socrates272272Socrates Scholasticus, Eccles. Hist., lib. ii. speaketh of two young men that flung away their belts, when, being in an idol temple, the lustrating water fell upon them, `detesting, saith the historian, `the garment spotted by the flesh., The true Christian is loath to go too far, and therefore avoideth `all appearance of evil, 1 Thes. v. 22. Bernard glosseth, quicquid est male coloratum, whatever is of an ill show, or of ill report: that he may neither wound conscience nor credit; this is pure wisdom indeed.
All this is required of those that would be truly pure; and `this will be your wisdom, Deut. iv. 6, how troublesome soever it be in the flesh, and inconvenient in the world: the flesh may judge it folly, and the world a fond scrupulosity; but it is a high point of wisdom to be one of `the world's fools, 1 Cor. iii. 18. The wisdom required in the world is a holy innocency, not a Machiavellian guile, Mat. x. 19. What is more wise than to manage actions in the fear of God, direct them to the glory of God, and conform them to the will of God? Others may be more able to spin out a web of sin, or for worldly contrivance; but no matter though your souls enter not into that secret.273273See before on ver. 13. It is the glory of a man to be a fool in sin, and wise in grace. Let it be your care, then, to drive on the great design of holiness; this will conform you to God, which is man's excellency; bring you to enjoy God, which is man's happiness: Mat. v. 8; Heb. xii. 14.
Obs. 2. True wisdom is peaceable, and void of strifes and contentions. Solomon, the wisest king, hath his name from Peace: Christ, who is `the wisdom of the Father, is also `our Peace., It is one of the honours of God, `the God of peace, 2 Thes. iii. 16; 1 Cor. xiv. 33. Peace is the purchase of Christ, the work of the Spirit. The great design of heaven was to make peace between two of the greatest enemies—God and sinful man. It is one of the great privileges of heaven; all is quiet and peaceable there: thunder is in the lower regions; in the lower parts are heat and cold, moisture and drowth, contrariant qualities and creatures. It were easy to expatiate upon so sweet an argument. But loose praises do but entice the fancy 314into pleasing imaginations; distinct discussions usually are more powerful, to which I must gird up the discourse more closely. There is a sweet connection between peace and wisdom: Moses is renowned for wisdom and meekness; the wisest, and yet the meekest man upon earth in his time. The more cool the spirit is, the more freedom for wise debate. Holiness is a Christian's ornament, and peaceableness is the ornament of holiness. The Alcoran saith, God created the angels of light, and the devils of the flame: Certainly God's children are children of the light, but Satan's instruments are furious, wrathful, all of a flame.
But you will say, Wherein must we be peaceable? I answer—True Christians will strive to keep peace, to make peace; to preserve it where it is, to reduce it where it is lost; they are εἰρήνικοι, peaceable, and εἰρηνόποιοι, peacemakers.
First, They are peaceable; neither offering wrong to others, nor revenging wrong when it is offered to themselves; which indeed are the two things that preserve human societies in any quiet, whereas violence and rigorous austerities disturb them. This is your wisdom, then, to be harmless and innocent. The world may count it an effeminate softness, but it is the truest prudence, the ready way to a blessing. It is said, Mat. v. 5, `The meek shall inherit the earth., Others keep a bustle, invading other men's right and propriety; yet, when all is done, the meek have the earth. A man would think they should lose their patrimony, yet they hold by the safest and surest tenure. And as they offer no wrong, so they pardon it when it is offered to them: those that see they have so much need of pardon from God, they pardon others. God is not inexorable: how often doth he overcome evil with good! And truly when God is so ready to hear, men should be more ingenuously facile. Men think it is generous to keep up their anger; alas! it is but a sorry weakness; infirmitas animositatis, as Austin calleth it, the weakness of strength of stomach. David, the wronged party, sought peace, Ps. cxxvii. 7: it is more suitable to the pattern. God, the party injured, `loved us first, 1 John iv. 19; and Jesus Christ, `in the night in which he was betrayed, 1 Cor. xi. 23, instituted the supper, consigning to man the highest mysteries, when man did him the most spite. So when he was crucified, he prayed for his enemies. Christians have little reason to think of recompensing evil for evil: no spirit more unsuitable to your profession than revenge; it is sweet to you, but very odious to God. Certainly they must needs be prejudiced against the expectation of pardoning mercy that examine all things by extreme right. Some observe that David was never so rigid as when he lay under his sins of adultery and murder; then `he put the Ammonites under saws and harrows of iron, and made them, pass the brick kilns, 2 Sam. xii. 31.
And as the children of God are careful of civil peace, so also of church peace. True wisdom looketh not only at what may be done, but what should be done in such a juncture of time and affairs; it will do anything but sin, that we may not give just offence. Basil, by reason of the prevalency of the adversaries, abstained from offensive 315words in the doctrine of the Holy Ghost.274274Nazianz. alicubi. Unsober spirits draw their liberty to the highest, and in indifferent matters take that course that will offend; there is little of the wisdom that is from above in such a spirit. True wisdom, as it is careful not to offend Christ by a sin, so not to offend the brethren by a scandal; as it will not sin against faith by error, so not against love by schism. By faith we are united to Christ, by charity one to another; it is careful that neither band be broken. I know the imputation of schism may be unduly charged; and the spouse, being despoiled of her own ornaments, may be clothed with this infamy: but however they that separate had need look to their spirits. The scripture hath put sad marks upon separation. Cain was the first separatist: Gen. iv. 16, `He went out from the presence of God., God is everywhere; the meaning is, from the church. Jude saith, `They are sensual, not having the Spirit, Jude 19. Korah made a cleft in the congregation, and God made the earth to cleave and open upon him. The good mother would rather lose the child then see it divided. It is said of love, 1 Cor. xiii. 7, `It beareth all things, endureth all things, hopeth all things;, that is, all such things as are proper to the allowance of charity. However, the terms being universal, it showeth men should do much, endure much, before they go off from the communion of any church, not upon such slight grounds as many do, merely to accommodate a fond desire. Whatever we are forced to do by providence and conscience, it must be done with grief; as all acts of extremity are sinful if they be not done renitenti animo, with some reluctation. The question of separation lieth much in the dark; enforcements to love are clear and open: such withdrawment is a mighty exasperation; therefore we should be careful in the circumstances of it. The modesty of Zanchy is well worth notice:—`I, Jerome Zanchy, testify to the church of God to all eternity, that I separated from the Church of Home with no other intent but to turn again to communion with it as soon as I may with a good conscience; which that it may be, should be my prayer to God, &c.275275`Ab Ecclesia Romana non alio discessimus animo, quam ut si correcta ad priorem ecclesiae formam redeat, nos quoque ad illam revertamur, et communionem cum illa in suis porro caetibus habeamus, quod ut tandem fiat, toto animo Dominum Jesum precamur; quid enim pio cuique optatius, quam ubi per baptismum renati sumus, ibi etiam in finem usque vivamus, modo in Domino; ego Hieronymus Zanchius septuagenarius cum tota familia testatum hoc volo toti ecclesiae Christi in omnem eternitatem.,
Secondly, They are peacemakers, striving to reduce it where it is lost. It is a thankless office to intermeddle with strife; but there is a blessing promised: Mat. v. 8, `Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God., They have the greater encouragement from heaven, because they meet with so much scorn upon earth. Men that desire to make up the breach meet with the displeasure of both sides, as those that interpose between two fencers receive the blows: μέσος, saith Nazianzen, Orat. 2, de Pace, ἀπ᾽ ἀμφοτέρων κακὸν πάσχει. But the glory of the duty doth recompense the inconvenience of it; and those endeavours that want success among men do not want a blessing with God. Well, then, they are far from true wisdom that love to live in the fire, that cherish contentions, and 316royl the waters that they may fish in them, that increase the difference and add oil to the flame that they may promote their private interests.
Obs. 3. From that first pure and then peaceable. That true wisdom ordereth the first and chiefest care for purity. You shall see this order in other places:—Mat. v. 8, 9, `Blessed are the pure in heart;, and then, `blessed are the peacemakers;, so 2 Kings xx. 19, `Is it not good that peace and truth should be in my days?, There is the sum of Hezekiah's wish, truth hath the first place. Of all blessings purity and religion is the best. As God is the best of beings, so religion is the best of blessings. A people may be miserable under a peace, but not under purity.276276`Κρείττων εύπαθοῦς ὁμονοίας ἡ ὑπὲρ εύσεβείας διάstasis., So Nazianzen (though a man zealous for peace) Orat. 2, de Pace. A wilderness with God is better than the plenty of Egypt with idols. Troubles and distractions do far excel a sinful peace. When the devil possessed the nations they were in great peace: Luke xi. 21, `When the strong man keepeth the house, the goods are in peace., If we would be contented with half Christ, all would be quiet.277277`Si dimidio Christi contenti essemus, facile transigeremus omnia.,—Calvin. In this sense Christ saith that he `came to send a sword;, and it is happy that he doth. Besides, all true peace is founded in purity and holiness. Be it civil peace: Prov. xvi. 17, `When a man's ways please the Lord, he will make his enemies to be at peace with him., The best way is to make peace with God, and then he can bend and dispose hearts to every purpose. So for ecclesiastical peace. Holiness meekeneth spirits, and the purest and surest agreement is in the truth.278278`Ὀυδὲν οὔτως ἴσχυρον πρὸς εἰρήνην ὡς περὶ τοῦ θεοῦ συμφωνία.,—Naz. ubi supra. First there is `a pure language, and then `one shoulder, Zeph. iii. 9. One faith is urged by the apostle as a ground of union, Eph. iv. He will bring it to that at length. The world looketh at purity as the makebait, but it is the great reconciler.
There are two corollaries that may be drawn from hence:—(1.) If the chiefest care must be for purity, then peace may be broken in truth's quarrel. It is a zealous speech of Luther, that rather heaven and earth should be blended together in confusion than one jot of truth perish.279279`Potius ruat coelum quam pereat una mica veritatis.,—Luth. It is a sleepy zeal that letteth errors go away quietly without conviction. If the gospel stir up uproars in Ephesus, Acts xix., yet it is better it were preached than forborne. Though shrine-makers lose their craft, it is better than the whole city should lose their souls. Calm lectures of contemplative divinity please more; but the wolf must be hunted out, as well as the sheep foddered. (2.) Truth must never be violated for peace's sake, nor any accommodation agitated to the disservice of religion,280280`Ne dum humana foris jurgia metuant, interni foederis discussione feriantur.,—Ambros. lest while we make peace with man, we make a breach with God. The world would have stirs ended; desire peace, but not with holiness: Mark ix. 50, `Have salt in yourselves, and peace one with another., Doctrine must be kept whole some, and truth retain its savour and acrimony, and then look after peace. Well, then—(1.) Truth must not be embased by unworthy mixtures for peace's sake, as in the design of the Interim. God hateth those cothurnos, socks in religion, when truth is made to serve every 317man's turn, and is mollified to a compliance with all factions. Nazianzen observeth of his father, that he always hated this daubing and temporising,281281`Οὐ κατὰ τοὺς νῦν σόφους κατακλινόμενος οὐδὲ τεχνικῶς καὶ μεσῶς τοῦ καθ᾽ ἡμᾶς λίγου ποοιστάμενος.,—Naz. when truth is made to speak `half in the language of Canaan, and half in the language of Ashdod., (2.) Truth must not be injured by promiscuous tolerations.282282See my sermon before the Parliament on Zech. xiv. 9. This were to love our ease more than God. (3.) Truth must not be proscribed and suppressed. M0n double their troubles by hoping to free themselves this way. The Jews rolled a stone against Christ's sepulchre, and set men to watch it, but Christ rose again. Though carnal policy conspire against it, yet truth will have a resurrection. The Romans came, though the Pharisees thought to provide against that fear by killing Christ, John xi. 48. Maximinus, that he might enjoy a continued peace, interdicteth the profession of Christianity, and then presently followeth a civil war, which was his undoing. `The dwellers on earth, rejoiced when the witnesses were slain, but they revived again to their woe and torment, Rev. xi. 10, 13. Carnal policy lifted up against truth never thriveth.
Obs. 4. Next to purity we must regard peace. He doth not only say, `first pure, but `then peaceable., Truth is to be preferred, yet peace is not to be neglected. We are bidden to follow after, διώκειν τὴν εἰρήνην, to `prosecute peace, Heb. xii. 14. There are many commendations of it in scripture: `It is a good and pleasant thing, Ps. cxxxiii. 1. It is a note of religion, John xiii. 35, `By this shall all men know, &c. The curtains of the tabernacle were to be looped together; so should Christians. It is the beauty, the glory of the church: Cant. vi. 9, `My dove is but one; the daughters saw her, and blessed her., It is the church's strength against common adversaries: broken forces are soon dissipated. When Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek combine, should we stand single? It is the nurse of piety; truths have less power when controverted. It is the pleasure which the godly have in the world: the best part of the present world is the church. Now when the church groweth full of strifes, the godly grow weary of it: Ps. cxx. 6, `My soul hath too long dwelt with them that hate peace., Strigelius desired to die, to be freed ab implacabilibus odiis theologorum, from the implacable strifes of divines. Well, then, use all endeavours to purchase this great blessing. See how it is enforced, Rom. xii. 18, `If it be possible, and as much as in you lieth, &c. Deal with God; treat, yield, comply with men, as far as you can with religion and a good conscience: 2 Thes. iii. 16, `The Lord give you peace always, and by all means, &c. We must be earnest with the Lord, use all ways and means with man. You should not stick at your own interests and concernments. Curtius, a heathen, ran into the gulf to save his country. Nazianzen saith, If I be the Jonah, throw me into the sea to allay the storm. Usually we stick here: `All seek their own things, and not the things of Jesus Christ, Phil. ii. 21. Nay, mostly our strifes are for carnal interests, sovereignty and greatness, who shall bear sway; as the disciples were in controversy `who should be greatest, till their noise 318awakened Christ's zeal. Oh! consider, the Lord himself hath given us a fair pattern: one end why he abolished the ceremonial law was for peace sake, Eph. ii. 15-17. And though we cannot quit ordinances, because they are not in our power, yet certainly there may be a suspension of practice or a forbearance of profession in matters of a lesser or lower importance for the better advantage of religion. As in nature many things act contrary to the rule of their particular nature for the conservation of the universe, so many of the smaller things of religion may be forborne for the general peace. It were good to consider how far the case of continuing circumcision may be a precedent.
Obs. 5. From the next qualification observe, that true wisdom is gentle. The word is ἐπιεικὴς. Beza rendereth it aequa, equal, or just with moderation; so we translate ἐπιείκεια, Phil. iv. 5, `Let your moderation be known to all men., Elsewhere we translate it by patience; the deacon must be ἐπιεικὴς, patient, 1 Tim. iii. 3. When men stand upon terms of extreme right, contentions are engendered, and all patience is lost. This gentleness, then, is opposite to severity of practices, and rigour of censures, and insobriety of disputes. And so a truly wise Christian is moderate—(1.) In his censures; not always making the worst of matters, but charitably and favourably judging, where things are capable of a candid interpretation. Those ἀκριβοδίκαιοι, that examine all things by rules of extreme right, and use harder terms than the quality of man's actions requireth, though they would seem more wise and quick-sighted than others, show that they want much of this true wisdom which the apostle commendeth. Austerity is the note of folly. Wise Christians, in weighing an action, always cast in the allowance of human frailty. (2.) In his opinions; not urging his own beyond their weight, nor wresting those of his adversaries beyond their intention to odious consequences which they disclaim, a fault which hath much disturbed the peace of Christendom.283283See Davenant Sent. de Pace Procur., and Dr Hall of Christian Moderation, lib. ii. sect. 11. Charity should consider not what followeth of itself upon any opinion, but what followeth in the conscience of those that hold it; though usually these uncharitable deductions and inferences are rather forced by the disingenuity of the adversary, than found in the opinions of the author. A man may err in logic that doth not err in faith; and though he may be urged with the consequences of his opinion, yet he may not be charged with them. You have no reason to infame him with the brats of your own malice: to make any man worse than he is, is the way to disgrace an adversary, not reclaim him. (3.) In his conversation, going off from his own right for peace's sake; other wise, while we seek to do ourselves the greatest right, we do ourselves the greatest wrong; revenge proveth our own trouble: Eccles. vii. 16, `Be not just over-much, neither make thyself over-wise; why shouldst thou destroy thyself?,284284See Dr Hall's sermon on that scripture, recorded in the History of the Synod of Dort. That rule is of great extent and use in the affairs of human life. Among other senses and intents of it, this is one, to forbid a rigid innocency and severe prosecution. When magistrates deal extremely in all cases, the name of justice is made a 319cover for cruelty. The severity of the laws must be mitigated, not in an indulgence to sin, but upon just and convenient reasons, and the equity must still be preferred before the letter. So also it concerneth private Christians, when they stand upon right, and will not part with it upon any considerations, how conducible soever it be to the glory of God, and our peace with others. David saith, Ps. lxix. 4, `I restored that which I took not away;, and our Lord paid tribute to avoid scandal, though otherwise he were not bound, Mat. xvii. 27. We are not only to look to what is lawful, but what is equal and convenient.285285See Mr Perkins of Christian Moderation on Phil. iv. 5.
Obs. 6. That true wisdom is easy to be entreated; ἐυπείθης, exordble, and of an ingenuous facility, either to be persuaded to what is good, or dissuaded from what is evil. Men think it is a disgrace to change their mind, and therefore are headstrong, wilful, unpliable to all suggestions and applications that are used towards them. But there is not a greater piece of folly than not to give place to right reason. I confess there is a faulty easiness. Some are of the temper of those Asiatics that could not say, οὐ, No, no; or like that king in the prophet, Jer. xxxviii. 5, `The king is not he that can say you nay;, easily drawn by company and evil counsel. It is better to be stiff than thus flexible to every carnal insinuation. In the way of religion, to be deaf to entreaties is not obstinacy, but resolution. Thus Paul, though they did even break his heart, they could not break his purpose, Acts xix.; and Galeacius Carracciolus broke through the entreaties of friends, the embraces of his wife, the cries of his children, that he might keep his purpose to God. The easiness to be entreated that is here commended must be shown—(1.) In a condescension to all honest and just motions and requests; it becometh not them that find God's ear so ready to hear to be inexorable. The crying of the poor hath such a resemblance with our addresses to God that I wonder how they that expect mercy should not find more ready bowels: the unjust judge was won by the widow's importunity, Luke xviii. (2.) In yielding to the persuasions of the word; this is that which is intended in the promise of the `heart of flesh, Ezek. xxxvi. 26, a heart docile and tractable. Some harden their hearts to God's fear; will not be either persuaded to good: the apostle calleth such ἀτόπους, absurd, `unreasonable men, 2 Thes. iii. 2, or dissuaded from evil: Hosea iv. 17, `Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone., The Septuagint read, μέτοχος τῶν εἰδώλων, incorporated with his idols; there is no disjoining him and idols; leave him to his mad pervicacy. So see Jer. ii. 25, and xliv. 17-19, where there is a perfect description of our English vulgus. (3.) In yielding to the counsels of others when better reason is discovered. Job would not `despise the counsel of his servant, Job xxxi. The same is recorded of Naaman, 2 Kings v. 12. So David was persuaded by Abigail, 1 Sam. xxv. 33. (4.) In matters of dispute, not jangling beyond sobriety. Many out of pride will hold fast their first conclusion, though manifestly disproved: Prov. xxvi. 16, 1 The sluggard in his own conceit is wiser than seven men that can render a reason., Usually we find it thus, men will not let go their prejudices, and what is wanting in argument is made up in obstinacy, as if matters were to be decided by the strength of will rather than 320 reason, 2 Peter ii. 10, `self-willed., Men think that a disparagement which indeed is the greatest praise, to strike sail to a represented truth.286286`Laudem non veniam meretur repudium agniti erroris.,—Tertul. Apol.
Obs. 7. The next qualification of wisdom is `full of mercy, which is shown either to those that offend or to those that want. (1.) To those that offend: Prov. xix. 11, `It is the glory of a man to pass over a transgression., Men think it is a disgrace, as if clemency did argue a man void of courage and spirit. But in the judgment of the word it is your honour; there is more generosity in pardon than revenge. (2.) To those that want: Col. iii. 12, `As the elect of God put on bowels of mercy;, that is a good garment for a Christian, without which he is naked and filthy before God.
Obs. 8. The next qualification is, `full of good works, by which he understandeth all offices of humanity which will become good nature and grace. It is a scandal brought upon religion, as if it were too tetric and morose; whereas it is kind and affable, full of a holy sweetness; and he calleth those offices of humanity `good fruits, because they are from mercy as from a root. Well, then, religion is not a barren tree; the godly are the best neighbours: common offices are performed out of a principle and engagement of grace. It is the great fault of some that when they begin to be religious, leave off to be human, as if there were no tree that grew in Christ's garden but crabs.
Obs. 9. Another property of true wisdom is ἀδιάκριτος. We render it in the text without partiality; in the margin, without wrangling: the word will brook other senses, without suspicion, or without judging; all are proper enough to the matter in hand: `Without partiality;, that is, making no difference between person and person because of outward respects, which indeed is a high point of wisdom. Fools are dazzled with outward splendour, and, like children, count nothing good but what is gay and adorned with pomp; this the apostle calleth `knowing things after the flesh, 2 Cor. v. 16. True wisdom weigheth nothing in a carnal balance. If you render it `without wrangling, the sense is thus: True wisdom is an enemy to brawling disputes; passion dwelleth at the sign of the fool. If `without suspicion, or `curious inquiry, thus: True wisdom doth not suspiciously inquire after other men's faults; when we desire to make others worse than they are, we make ourselves worse than they; inquisitiveness argueth malice. Solomon condemneth listening: Eccles. vii. 21, `Take no heed to every word that is spoken, lest thou hear thy servants curse thee., When men will be hearkening to every word that is spoken, they are often acquainted with their own disgrace. Or you may render it, `without judging, or `censuring., Fools are the greatest censurers; what they want in worth is made up in pride; and because they cannot raise themselves to an equality with others, endeavour by censures to take them down, that they may be as low as themselves.
Obs. 10. The last property is, `without hypocrisy., In true wisdom there is much light, but no guile. The greatest care of a Christian is to be what he seemeth to be, and to account godliness the chiefest cunning. Carnal men count them wise that can manage their matters 321with most craft and guile, and gratify their interests by a plausible dissimulation; but this the Lord hateth. The hypocrite is the greatest fool, and putteth the greatest cheat upon himself in the issue; all that he gaineth by his designs is but the fee of hell: `He shall give him his portion with hypocrites, Mat. xxiv. 51. Well, then, reckon sincerity as the highest point of wisdom: 2 Cor. i. 12, `Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that, in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we had our conversation in the world, &c. Avoid hypocrisy in all the actions of your life, not only in addresses to God, but your respects to men. The scriptures, that require `faith unfeigned, 1 Tim. i. 5; 2 Tim. i. 5, do also require `love unfeigned, 1 Peter i. 22; 2 Cor. vi. 6; Rom. xii. 9: `Let us not love in word and tongue, but in deed and in truth, 1 John iii. 18. We should be as willing to do them good, as to proffer it; to reprove, as to flatter; to pray to God for them in secret, as to make professions of respect to themselves.
These words are the conclusion of the whole discourse, intimating the happiness of them who have the wisdom formerly described. The words have been diversely expounded. Some thus: That peaceable men do sow a seed that afterward will yield sheaves of comfort into their bosoms; as if the meaning were, that in their peaceable endeavours they did sow the seed of the everlasting reward which afterwards they should receive in heaven. Others thus: That though they do with a great deal of modesty and sweetness bear with many evils, yet they do not leave off to sow the seed of righteousness. The first sense maketh it an argument of persuasion, the next an anticipation of an objection; the first noteth the happiness of the reward, the last the quality of their endeavours. Which is to be preferred? I answer—I suppose they may be compounded and drawn into one; their sowing implying the hope and expectation of the reward, and their `sowing the fruit of righteousness, the quality of their endeavours, which will appear by a fuller explication of the terms.
The fruit of righteousness.—It is an expression elsewhere used; as Phil. i. 11, `Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Christ to the praise and glory of God;, so Rom. vi. 22, `Having your fruit to holiness, &c.; and again, Heb. xii. 11, `Afflictions yield εἰρήνικον κάρπον δικαιοσύνης, the quiet fruit of righteousness., In short, `the fruit of righteousness, either that fruit which is of righteousness, to wit, eternal life, which is the reward that God hath promised to sanctification; or else it is put for holiness and sanctification itself, which is called fruit in scripture, and that in many regards:—(1.) In regard of the root, Christ, John xv. 5, 16. (2.) Because they are the free, native, and noble offspring of the Spirit in us; whereas lusts and sins are a servile drudgery: that is the reason why the apostle expresseth himself with such difference, Gal. v. 19, ἔργα σάρκος, `the works of the flesh;, but ver. 22, κάρπος πνεύματος, `the fruit of the Spirit., (3.) Because of the increase and growth; as fruits by degrees come to maturity and ripeness; so Phil. i. 11. Thus in the Canticles we read of buds and tender grapes. (4.) Because 322of its excellent and happy reward; it will be fruit, not an empty and dry tree; so Rom. vi. 22. (5.) In regard of the delay of this reward; it will be fruit, though now seed; therefore he saith, `the fruit of righteousness is sown, which is the next term.
Is sown.—It implieth either their care of holiness—they have sown it—or the sureness of the reward of grace; it is not as water spilt upon the ground, but as seed cast into the ground; you do not lose your labour, such endeavours will yield an increase; see Isa. xxxii. 17. Or, lastly, it implieth their non-enjoyment of the reward for the present; they do not reap, but sow: how the harvest287287Qu. `but sow now; the harvest,?—ED. of a peaceable righteousness is not so soon had. It is usual in scripture to express such effects and consequents of things as do not presently follow by sowing and ploughing.
In peace.—The meaning is, either in a peaceable and sweet way; but that seemeth to be expressed in the last clause, `that make peace;, or else with much spiritual tranquillity and comfort, much rest and peace in their souls for the present. So Heb. xii. 11, εἰρήνικον κάρπον, `the peaceable fruit of righteousness., Righteousness or sanctification bringeth peace with it.
Of them that make peace.—So Christ saith, Mat. v. 9, `Blessed are the peacemakers., It implieth not the event and success, but the endeavour or care, conatum, non eventum; the notion of making in scripture phrase belonging to the bent of the soul; as to make a he is to be given to lying. So 1 John ii. 29, `Every one that doth or maketh righteousness, &c., ὁ ποιῶν τὴν δικαιοσύνην. So 1 John iii. 8, `He that doth or maketh sin, ὁ ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν noteth the full bent and inclination of the soul. So to `make peace, is to have strong and hearty affections this way.
So that you may take the words as a direction to duty, and the sense is, that they that are studious of peace ought to have a care of sowing righteousness; or as a promise of a blessing, and then thus: They that with their peaceable endeavours couple a care of righteousness, they shall have a threefold blessing, increase of grace with peace for the present, `and shall reap the crop of all hereafter.
Obs. 1. Whatever we do in this life is seed; as we sow, so we reap.288288The metaphor is used of all moral actions, either good or evil. See how the scripture followeth this metaphor both ways; in point of sin or duty. In sin, see Gal. vi. 8, and Job iv. 8; so Prov. xxii. 8; Hosea viii. 7. It may be long first, but the crop will be according to the seed: `They have sown the wind, they shall reap the whirlwind., The whirlwind is nothing but wind imprisoned in the bowels of the earth; and so it is an excellent allusion to note the damage and ruin which they receive who study nothing but vain things. In duty or good actions: Hosea x. 12, `Sow to yourselves in righteousness, and reap in mercy, &c.; that is, endeavour good works, and you will find God propitious; they are the way, not the cause. God showeth mercy according to works, though not for works. So in particular it is ap plied to charity: 2 Cor. ix. 6, `He that soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly., So to penitent tears: Ps. cxxvi. 5, `They shall sow in tears, and reap in joy., There is an intimate connection between our endeavours and the Lord's recompenses. (1.) Let it press us to a care 324of our actions; they are seed; they fall upon the ground, not to be lost, but to grow up again; we may taste the fruits of them long after they be committed; be sure you sow good seed. To help you, consider there must be subactum solum, a ground prepared, Hosea x. 12. If you would reap mercy, `plough up your fallow ground;, so Jer. iv. 3, 4. The heart is like waste ground, till it be prepared by breaking; then let the actions be good for principle, manner, and end. We must not only do good, but well; a man may sin in doing good, but not in doing well. Chiefly you must regard the end, God's glory. A tree beareth fruit for the owner: Hosea x. 1, `Israel is an empty vine, that bringeth forth fruit to himself., Actions done with a carnal aim are not seed, they lose their fruit and reward with God, Mat. vi. 1. (2.) Have a care of the season, it is the seed-time;289289`Hieme non seminavit; venit aestas, et nihil messuit., a husbandman would not lose that. Eternity dependeth upon this moment; now we sow our everlasting weal or woe. Take heed of sowing nothing, then you can expect nothing; he had not a drop that would not give a crumb. And take heed of sowing to the flesh; when others have their bosoms full of sheaves, you will be empty; the foolish virgins made a great cry when their vessels were empty, &c. (3.) Ground of hope to the children of God; their works are not lost, it is seed that will spring up again: Eccles. xi. 1, `Cast thy bread upon many waters, and after many days thou shalt find it, `Thy bread, that is, `thy bread corn., Faith, which is `the evidence of things not seen, can look for a crop out of the waters. If the reward were sure, .men would act more uniformly and proportionably to their hopes. Oh! consider, whatever you do to God, or for God, it is seed. Wicked men count it lost, a vain profusion, or as foolish a course as ploughing the ocean, or scattering seed upon the sea. Ay! but you will find it again, there is no loss by serving God, Mal. iii. 14. (4.) It is comfort to us. Here we are miserable; it is our seed-time that is usually in tears; you must expect the harvest: Ps. xcvii. 11, `Light is sown for the righteous., It is buried out of sight, but it will spring up again. The corn must first die in the ground; you cannot sow and reap in a day. `The patient abiding of the righteous shall not perish for ever.,
Obs. 2. That a care of righteousness bringeth peace with it. All good actions cause an ἐνθυμίαν, serenity in the mind. The kingdom of grace yieldeth `joy unspeakable, 1 Peter i. 7, though not glory unspeakable. We have `songs in our pilgrimage, Ps. cxix. 54. God will have us to enter upon our possession by degrees; joy entereth into us before we enter into our master's joy. We have first the day-star, then the sun. What a good master do we serve, that giveth us a part of our wages ere we have done our work! Whilst we are sowing we have peace, the conscience and contentment of a good action. There is no work like God's: `In the keeping of his commands there is reward, Ps. xix. 7. Sin bringeth shame and horror, but gracious actions leave a savour of sweetness, and diffuse a joy throughout the soul. There is no feast to that of a good conscience: Jer. ii. 5, `What iniquity did your fathers find in me?, Did you ever lose by communion with God? A man cannot do an ill action without blame. But how quietly do we enjoy ourselves when we have enjoyed our God! Conscience of duty giveth the purest contentment to the mind. Base 324comforts and sinful satisfactions are bought with clamour of conscience, and then they are bought very dear. What a great reward may we expect, since we have so much joy and peace in the expectation of it? How great are the joys of heaven, since the very interest in them casteth such a lightsome brightness upon the soul! If the taste be such, what is the fulness? If the morning glances and forerunning beams be so glorious, what will the high noon be? If there be songs in your pilgrimage, you will have hallelujahs in your country.
Obs. 2. It is the duty of God's children to sow the fruit of righteousness in peace. The oil of grace and the oil of gladness do well together. That you may not lose the comfort of grace, live socially with God and sweetly with men. (1.) Socially with God. Maintain a constant and intimate communion and commerce between you and heaven, that `your fellowship may indeed be with the Father and the Son, 1 John i. 5. Neglect of God maketh the conscience restless and clamorous: `Acquaint thyself with God, and be at peace, Job xxii. 21. When David had discontinued his intercourse and communion, he lay a-roaring, Ps. xxxii. Things can never be quiet out of their centre; after gross neglects and strangeness, conscience will scourge you. (2.) Sweetly with men. An austere man troubleth his own flesh; there is a holy amiableness, as well as a strict righteousness. It is said of Jesus Christ: Luke ii. 52, `He increased in favour with God and man., We should walk in his steps in a holy strictness, and an amiable sweetness. Athanasius was magnes and adamas—an adamant and a loadstone; neither of a loose easiness, nor of an uncivil austerity. Do this, and you will increase in comfort and grace; couple a sweet goodness with a severe righteousness.
Obs. 4. From that them that make peace. That true lovers of peace are and must be also lovers of righteousness. Peace without righteousness is but a sordid compliance; righteousness without peace is but a rough austerity. They are not true friends to peace that can enhaunt with wicked men, digest violations of God's law, truth, and worship, because ease is good, and go on with a sleepy and careless silence; can violate truth, debase it; stupidly bear with errors without witnessing against them. These, whilst they seek to knit with men, they disjoin themselves from God; and whilst they would make up a strife with others, they make a greater between God and their own souls. So, on the other side, they are not true friends to righteousness that have no care of making peace. Hypocrites carry on all things with a blind and brawling violence. It is true God's children cannot choose but speak warmly; but I intend those that care not what ruptures they make, how they disadvantage the cause of religion, so as they may discharge or disgorge their rage and passion: John xiii. 35, `By this shall ye know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another., As to men, that is the badge or note; sons of God are not usually sons of the coal. Oh! that we could learn this holy art of coupling righteousness with peace, that we could reprove with faithfulness, and yet bear with meekness; that we might not do the office of an executioner, but a chirurgeon. Be zealous, and yet with temperateness and moderation. But of this before.
Obs. 5. That a righteous peaceableness is blessed with grace here, 325and glory hereafter. This verse is a promise, as well as a direction. This is our comfort against all the difficulties and inconveniences that holy and peaceable endeavours meet with in the world; your reward is with God, you have a pledge of it in your own souls; while strifes lessen grace in others, you grow and thrive and; you shall reap in glory.
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