|« Prev||Verse 16.||Next »|
Here the apostle cometh to make application, and to prove that these were such as Enoch had described, and therefore liable to the judgment threatened. Here are several things charged; I shall take them in order:—
The first thing is their unsatisfiedness with their present condition, expressed in two words:—(1.) Murmurers; (2.) Complainers.
The first word, γογγυσταὶ, signifieth such a muttering as men use when they are under a passion and discontent. The other word, μεμψίμοιροι, signifieth blamers of their lot and portion; namely, of that portion which is set out for them by God; the one implieth their discontented thoughts, the other their querulous expressions, Note hence:—
Obs. 1. That murmuring is a great sin. It is so charged here upon the seducers. I shall, first, show what murmuring is; secondly, prove that it is a great sin.
First, What it is. One saith well,153153 Dr Sibbes. it must needs be known, because it is so commonly practised; but if you will have me describe it, I shall say, it is the scum of discontent, or the vent of impatience, or such bold expostulations and complaints as flow from an exulcerated mind. In the text, you see first men mutter and then complain; the heart boileth with impatience, and then the froth is cast out in passionate speeches and complaints. Humble complaints are not murmuring, else there would be no room for prayer; but bold expostulations are murmurings, when we complain rather of God than to God, taxing the administration of his providence, as if he dealt too hardly with us; so that in effect murmuring is an anti-providence, first cherished by repining thoughts, and then vented and uttered in bold and uncomely speeches. Thoughts are audible with God, but it is worse when thoughts are not controlled, but break out openly in words tending to God’s dishonour; if the fire be kindled in our bosoms, it is some kind of victory if we smother it, and will not let the sparks fly abroad.
There are several kinds of murmuring—either against men, or against God, though in the issue all be against God, against God about men.
1. Against men, and so either against our equals or superiors.
[1.] Equals, when we murmur because they are admitted to the same privileges with ourselves: see Mat. xx. 11, ‘They murmured against the goodman of the house, saying, These last wrought but one hour.’ So Luke xv. 30, ‘This thy son devoured thy living with harlots,’ &c. And Beza, of some that reproached him with the sins of his unregenerate condition: Hi homines invident mihi gratiam Divinam—surely these men are angry because God hath showed me mercy. There is an envious nature in man: we would all shine alone, and inclose the common salvation. To upbraid men with late conversion is all one as to make it a crime because they are born but yesterday: it is to take up that filth which God would have covered.
[2.] Against superiors, especially because invested with magistracy 300or ministry. Some men are of a yokeless, libertine spirit, will acknowledge no other law but their own lusts, as in the text, ‘Murmurers, walking after their own lusts;’ think magistracy to be an encroachment upon their freedom, and therefore cannot away with any established order; and as for ministry, that ‘all the Lord’s people are holy,’ Num. xvi. 3; what need any to be set apart for that work? Thus would they level all things in church and commonwealth, as those rebels rose up against Moses and Aaron. But though not against the office, we may murmur at the persons that are advanced, as if we would teach God how to govern the world, and whom to lift up and cast down; or else by finding fault with their government without a cause. Some presumptuous persons, that never learned obedience, are always un satisfied. It was observed of Egypt, that it was Loquax et ingeniosa in contumeliam praefectorum provincia; si quis forte vitaverit culpam, contumeliam non effugit. Many such ungoverned spirits there are, that are always traducing public government, especially when it is most faithfully managed, and to the discouragement of opinionists and evil-doers. God will not suffer this evil to go unpunished, Exod. xvi. 8, and 2 Sam. xviii. 7. The calling is his ordinance, the persons are designed by his providence, and the work concerneth his glory; and therefore God taketh himself to be much interested in the quarrel.
2. There is a murmuring which is immediately against God himself. Since the fall man is always quarrelling with his Maker, either against his decrees, or his laws, or his providence.
[1.] Against his decrees. Proud man cannot endure to hear of God’s absolute sovereignty; we will do what we will, but we will not give leave to God to do what he will. The good man of the house was fain to plead his right, Mat. xx. 15, ‘Shall I not do with my own?’ &c. We can see no reason why God should pass by one and choose another: though we can see no reason, it is enough it is God’s pleasure, Mat. xi. 26. God hath his arcana imperil, as well as earthly princes, and we have cause to admire what we cannot understand; things may be just, though his reasons appear not to us; God is not bound to give us an account, or to tell us all his secrets; human reason groweth giddy by prying into the depth of God’s decrees. It is good to change disputes into wonder and reverence: Rom. ix. 20, ‘Who art thou, O man, that disputest with God?’ We may chop logic one with another, the potsherds of the earth with the potsherds of the earth, but God’s prerogative is above the tribunal of our reason.
[2.] His laws. A proud creature cannot endure to hear of restraints; we could love other things in God, but not his legislative power, Rom. viii. 7; the carnal mind will never stoop, but complaineth of him as harsh and severe, as if he had forbidden us the satisfying of those desires which he hath planted in us. The Israelites murmured thus: the land was a good land, but there were giants and sons of Anak, Num. xiii. 32. The heaven promised is a good heaven, but the way is rough and impassable; duties are difficult, and it is cumbersome to thwart our lusts. The project of carnal nature is to find out an easy and smooth path to eternal happiness: see Ps. cvi. 24, 25, ‘They despised the pleasant land; they believed not his word, but murmured 301in their tents.’ Heaven, figured by the land of Canaan, is not counted worth the pains and difficulty of getting thither.
[3.] His providence. In general, when the wicked prosper, it is a temptation that hath shaken the tallest cedars in Lebanon: David, though afterwards he was ashamed of it, and counts it brutish ignorance, Ps. lxxiii. 22; so Jer. xii. 1-3, and Hab. i. But let us come to temptations that are of a more particular and private experience. We murmur either for what we want, or for what we have lost, or for what we affect.
First, For what we want. As soon as we are straitened we complain presently; this is not so bad as when we murmur out of wantonness. The Israelites, I observe, did fall a-murmuring either out of want, and then they were spared; as for want of waters, Exod. xv. 24; for want of meat, Exod. xvi. 2; want of bread, Num. xx. 3; but at other times out of wantonness. They ‘loathed manna,’ must have quails; but then some special judgment or other broke out upon them. But, however, it is bad enough when our necessities extort these complaints from us: want is a time of praying, not of murmuring. The throne of grace was erected for a ‘time of need,’ Heb. iv. 16. But it is man’s usual custom to change duties into sins, as admonition into censuring; instead of speaking to men, we speak of men; so in stead of complaining to God, we complain of God, and so make murmuring take the room of prayer. Necessity is a time to put the promises in suit, to try faith, to awaken affections, not to provoke murmurings: ‘I was dumb, and opened not my mouth,’ saith David, Ps. xxxix. 9. We may open our mouths in confessions of sin, humble narratives, pleading of promises, but not in self-justifications, stormings against providence, or words of unbelief and impatience; so we must be dumb, and not once open our mouths.
Secondly, For what we have lost. We complain when God taketh away such a child, or such a comfort, or blasteth such a confidence of ours as our affections were much set upon, and in bitterness of heart speak unworthily of God and his dispensations: see 2 Sam. xviii. 33. We hate going back a degree or two, and count it miserable to be once happy, &c. But, O Christians! remember, when anything is lost, it is a wonder all is not gone. Job lost all, and yet ‘blessed God,’ Job i. 23. Abstulit, sed et dedit,154154 Seneca. ‘He took, but he gave first. That we were once happy showeth we have not always been miserable; our pilgrimage might have been wholly evil and uncomfortable: ‘Shall we receive good and not evil at the hands of the Lord’? Job ii. 10. There is much gone, but somewhat left; that little that is left is more than we have deserved; many in the world would be glad of our relics. Hath he taken aught from us? He might have taken more; he taketh part that giveth all; all is his own, he reserved the property to himself; as much right as we had to our comforts was long since forfeited. If God hath lent us blessings and demand them again, shall we grudge them to the right owner? It is needful now and then that God should take our comforts from us. When we have gotten a carnal pillow under our heads we are apt to fall into a deep sleep, and dream many a fond dream till God take it from under us. He withdraweth 302comforts to see how we will take it, and bear up upon our great and everlasting hopes: Heb. x. 34, ‘Ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods,’ &c. You will say that was by martyrdom, but your loss by an ordinary providence; and will not you let God take as willingly as thieves and persecutors? You have the same encouragements, ‘a better and enduring substance.’
Thirdly, For what we affect. We are wont to murmur at the smallness of our portion; we have not so much as others; our condition in the world is not so great, so rich, so honourable as theirs; we have but a single, but they a double, a Benjamin’s portion. Oh! but consider this is mere murmuring. God never undertook to maintain all his children at the same rate, and we cannot expect so much. Variety of conditions is necessary for the preservation of the world. Levelling is not God’s dispensation. Some must be high and some low. The wise preserver of all things distributeth his gifts variously—wealth to one, skill to another, strength to a third; one must reign, another serve, and all for the common good. A piece of arras is composed of several parcels. We should all famish for company if all were of one sort. Who should endure the handy labours? How low soever thou art, thou art there where God hath set thee, and there thou must tarry till the fair invitation of providence call thee higher. Look backward; thou hast made some increase. Jacob took notice that he was become ‘two droves,’ Gen. xxxii. 10, though when he first came into the country he had nothing but his staff in his hand. Many of God’s children are not so high as thou art. If you murmur, what should others do that have less? We cast our eyes forward on those before us, and because we have not so. much as they, so good trading, houses so well furnished, such honour and esteem in the world, all is as nothing. You do not look about you to the thousands that come short of you. You say, Why should not we thrive as they, be preferred as they? Joseph knew why Benjamin had a larger mess, though the rest at the table did not. So doth the Lord know why he giveth to one and not to another.
Secondly, Let me show you the heinousness of the sin by—(1.) The causes of it; (2.) By the injustice of it.
1. The causes of murmuring are many, but ail naught, as—
[1.] Pride and self-love. When men are conceited of themselves, they storm that others are preferred before them. A proud man must needs be discontented, because he sets a high price upon himself; and when others will not come up to his price he is troubled. You will find such a proud thought rising in your heart that men of your worth are not taken notice of, and yet they that deserve least complain and murmur most. The best say, I am not worthy. Real worth is humble. The laden boughs hang their heads; the nettle mounteth when the violet lieth shrouded under its leaves, and is only found out by its own scent. All God’s blessings are low to him that is high in his own eyes.
[2.] Impatience. We cannot endure the least inconvenience. Touchy natures would be at ease, tumbling and wallowing in all kinds of pleasure. Therefore, as soon as we are touched in our skins, we fall a-murmuring, ‘Why is this evil befallen me?’ and ‘Why should 303I wait upon the Lord any longer?’ An unsubjection of will to God will inevitably put us upon repining.
[3.] Presumption of merit. Where all is of free cost there is no complaining. Men ascribe to themselves when they prescribe to God what he shall do for them, or how bless them. Everything is welcome where nothing is deserved. If you keep a man of alms, you take it ill that he should not be pleased with his diet. When we look to desert, we may wonder more at what we have than what we want. God would do us no wrong if we were reduced to a less pittance. If in a prison, it is a favour we are not in hell. A malefactor would be glad to commute his punishment, a greater for a less, death for exile, exile for loss of estate, and then the whole for a part. Can a firebrand of hell murmur? There is our desert; but we think God is bound, and that it is a wrong that he taketh no more notice of us: ‘Wherefore have we fasted?’ &c., Isa. lviii.; ‘I am not as other men,’ &c., Luke xviii.
[4.] Carnal affection. We are too ravenous and greedy upon outward things,155155 ‘Quod enixè concupiscunt ut sit, contabescunt quod esse non possit.’—Gilbert, in Cant. xix. and therefore the disappointment breedeth the more vexation. Our desires and hopes of more destroy the memory and consideration of what we have. God giveth sufficiently to satisfy our necessities, and we seek to supply our lusts. Lust is more given to murmuring than necessity. Nature is contented with a little. It is soon satisfied; but lust enlargeth the desire as hell.
[5.] Unbelief and distrust: Ps. cvi. 24, 25, ‘They believed not his word, but murmured in their tents.’ Men quarrel with God’s providence because they do not believe his promises. Distrust will be sure to breed discontent. It is ill for the present, and they cannot see how it will be better. They could not believe that the wilderness was the way to Canaan, that God can love one whom he corrects, and therefore as soon as they feel the smart of the rod they give vent to their passions.
2. The injustice of it. It is injurious to God, to others, to ourselves.
[1.] It is injurious to God. Murmuring is a sin that pulleth God out of the throne; you ‘enter into judgment’ with him; as David, on the other hand, prayeth, ‘Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord.’ Murmurers either deny his providence or tax it. Implicitly they deny it, as if God did not set out to every man his portion. If men did believe that God did govern the world, even as he made the world, why do they not complain of creation as well as providence? We would laugh at him that would murmur because God did not make him an angel or a star. Why! is it not as ridiculous to murmur because God hath made thee a subject and not a prince, a beggar and not a rich man, a servant but not a master, but that they own the hand of God in one and not in the other, as if the world were governed by blind chance? Or else they tax providence of indiscretion or unrighteousness. It is marvellous to see how murmuring robbeth God of all his attributes. It clippeth his sovereignty. We will not let him do with his own as it pleaseth him. The great contest between him and us is, Whose will shall stand, his 304or ours? It limits his power, and slights it. When God doth not satisfy us we think he cannot, Ps. lxxviii. 20. We set him a task, and if God perform it not, we question his sufficiency. It is a contention with our maker, an entering into the lists with God, as if we could make our party good against him, Ps. lxxviii. 17. We tax his wisdom. Men will be teaching God how to govern the world, for we prescribe to him as if he did not understand what is fit for us. He pleaseth us not in his wisest dispensations, and we bear it out as if we could mend his works: Job xxi. 22, ‘Shall any teach God knowledge, seeing he judgeth those that are high?’ They that disallow of God’s proceedings take upon them to be God’s teachers. It was a blasphemous speech of Alphonsus, Si Deo a consiliis adfuisset in creatione mundi, multa se consultius ordinaturum—if he had been of God’s council when he made the world, he would have ordered many things better. Many abhor the blasphemy, and yet think almost to the same effect. If they had the governing of the world, such men should not prosper, and such and such things should not be done. Thus do we ‘darken counsel with words without knowledge,’ Job xxxviii. 2, and cast a reproach of folly and injustice upon God’s providence. Again, to his goodness we are injurious, by disvaluing what we have in comparison of what we expect: Mal. i. 2, ‘Wherein hast thou loved us?’ as if they had nothing, because not fully what they expected.156156 ‘Quantumlibet saepe obligati hoc solum memineruut quod negatum est.’—Plin., Ep. iv., lib. 3. It is man’s nature to forget what is granted, and pitch only upon what is denied,157157 ‘Non quod habet numerat, tantum quod non habet optat.’—Manil. as children in a pet throw away what they have if you do not give them more. Saith Haman, ‘All this availeth me nothing,’ &c., Esther v. 13; and the whole kingdom of Israel would not content Ahab when he falleth sick for ‘Naboth’s vineyard, 1 Kings xxi. 4. As in the body, if one humour be out of order, or one joint broken, the soundness of all the rest availeth us nothing; a little is enough to set the creature a complaining. His justice also we tax, as if he did defraud us of our due. We think somewhat is due, or else why do we complain? Mat. xx. 13, ‘Friend, I do thee no wrong,’ &c.
[2.] It is injurious to others; it puts us upon acts of violence and sedition; the murmurers are called ‘rebels,’ Num. xvii. 10. Schism in the church and sedition in the commonwealth are but the fruits of murmuring. Men dislike their own rank and station, and then murmur, and then perturb all. ‘Oh, that I were a judge!’ said Absalom, and afterwards breaketh out into open rebellion. Thin exhalations end in great storms. Servants would be masters, and the poor would be rich, and subjects would be in office and power; and by giving vent to their repining thoughts, inflame the zeal of persons likeminded with themselves, till all be embroiled in blood and confusions.
[3.] It is injurious to ourselves. Man is a foolish creature; what doth he get by complaining of God? Who shall right us? Before what tribunal will you put him in suit? Of all sins, murmuring is most unreasonable, but very pernicious. What do we get by it but disquiet and judgment? It is like spitting against the wind, the 305drivel is returned upon our own heads. Disquiet it breedeth us. A murmuring spirit is a greater evil than any affliction; like a sour vessel, it turneth all things that are put into it into sourness. Most men’s misery ariseth from their discontent; if their heart and their condition were suited, they would do well enough in the world; we trouble our own peace. If we could learn to frame our minds to our estates, as the skilful musician letteth down the strings a peg lower when the tune requireth it, we should pass to heaven more comfortably. Again, it bringeth down judgment; expressions tending to God’s dishonour have a loud cry in his ears. Miriam was smitten with leprosy for murmuring, and Dathan and Abiram swallowed up alive; fiery serpents, and plagues, and exclusion out of Canaan were Israel’s judgments when they were sick of the fret: see 1 Cor. x. 10, ‘Neither murmur ye, as some of them murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.’
Let us now make application. Beware of murmurings, it is a greater sin than the world taketh it to be. Here I shall speak of two things:—(1.) Murmuring at the times and public changes which have happened amongst us; (2.) Murmuring in our own private case.
First, Murmuring at the times. It is a repining age we live in; many factions are disappointed, and therefore the most are full of discontent, forgetting that all this is the work of a wise God. Mistake me not; I list not to become the times’ advocate; it little beseemeth us to be patrons of public miscarriages, or factors for any private interest.
Therefore, let me proceed with the greatest scripture evidence and conviction, and state what is murmuring at the times. It is forbid den, Eccles. vii. 10, ‘Say not thou that the former times were better than these; for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.’ Now, what is the sin taxed in this scripture? I answer:—
1. Not godly sorrow, and complaining to God, and bewailing the corruptions of the times. No; the mourners in Sion are marked for preservation, Ezek. ix. None are better friends to public interest. It were well if these ‘doves of the valleys’ had more company. This is no sin, for this is the only way of entering our protest, and being free from the corruptions of the age. God hath bound up all politic bodies in the same bundle, and we are concerned in others’ sins. It is the art of divine mercy by this means to prevent public ruin, by interesting his people in the welfare of those places where they live, that every man in his place may be sensible of present sins and approaching judgments. Two dry sticks will set a green one a-fire. Can you blame the children of God, then, if they mourn, and enter their protest against the iniquity of the times? The Corinthians were not clear of the incest committed amongst them till they had mourned; then the apostle saith, ‘Now ye are clear in this matter,’ 2 Cor. vii. 11. Surely they that are involved in the guilt, concerned in the judgment, had need mourn.
2. Not zeal in public reproof: Isa. lviii. 1, ‘Cry aloud, spare not,’ &c. Vitium saeculi is no excuse. If we spare, God will not spare; if we hazard our bodies in bearing our testimony, we save our souls. We must cry out upon sin with a full throat, and that again and again, provided we be clear in our principles and aims, and do it without 306clamour and popular invectives. When a fire is kindled in a city, we do not say coldly, Yonder is a great fire, I pray God it do no harm. In times of public defection we are not to read tame lectures of contemplative divinity, or fight with ghosts and antiquated errors, but to oppose with all earnestness the growing evils of the world, whatever it cost us.
3. Nor yet a holy dislike and singularity, standing aloof from public corruptions, as Lot in Sodom, and ‘Noah walked with God in his generations,’ Gen. vi. 9. God’s children most commonly are forced to walk in a counter motion to the times. Paul, when he had accused the times as evil, adviseth Christians to ‘walk circumspectly,’ Eph. v. 16. Worldly wisdom would draw quite another conclusion. The times are bad, let us do as well as we can. There is no living in the world unless we yield a little. The oak is rent to pieces with the fury of the wind when the willow boweth and bendeth. Shall we alone resist such a torrent? Thus would we reason; but the Spirit doth not loosen the reins, but straiten them, upon this consideration, ‘The days are evil,’ therefore ‘be circumspect;’ that is, be careful to keep close to rule, lest you be blinded and perverted by the subtleties of those that lie in wait to deceive, and elsewhere: ‘Shine as lights in the midst of a perverse generation.’ Dead fishes swim with the stream. There is a difference between subjection to God and compliance with men, &c.
But now, positively, what is the fault there reproved? I answer:—
[1.] Foolish murmurings, or such a fond and unthankful admiration of former times that we have not a good word for the present. Tacitus observed it, Vitio malignitatis humanae vetera laudantur, praesentia fastidio sunt. It is a common evil, men are praising past times and declaiming against the present: querulous natures are never pleased, neither full nor fasting. Past temptations are forgotten, and therefore present evils seem worst, and laziness many times occasioneth complaints. Many repine against God because he hath given us our lot in such an age, wherein public contests put us upon the trouble of prayer, discourse, and diligent searching in the mind of God; now usually to excuse other duties we fall a-complaining.
Again, private discontent may exasperate some; things are not suitable to their humours and interests. No wonder if Demetrius and the coppersmiths call those evil times when the gospel is like to get up, because their craft is like to go down, and they are not favoured as they desire. Again sottish carnality may be in the wind; carnal men will extol the happiness of former times, their great hospitality and kind neighbourhood, their honest dealing, and good devotion, what a merry time it was, and how plentiful all things were before the new gospel came in, and they had nothing but mass and matins; as those sots, Jer. xliv. 18, 19. Formalists cry up the goodness of the old religion to disparage times of reformation; so the pagans said that the Roman empire thrived more under false gods than under the Christian religion; wherefore Augustine wrote his book, De Civitate Dei, to answer that charge. Christians, these times may be the worse for those that went before; we may smart for their blood 307and idols and hatred of the people of God; judgments were then in the causes, as the clouds gather before the rain falleth.
[2.] When we pass over the good, and look only upon the evil; we should counterbalance our afflictions with our mercies: ‘Shall we receive good and not evil at the hands of God?’ Job ii. 10. It is railing to gather up the failings of others and not to take notice of their graces; so it is a railing against providence and an ill office to be only like flies pitching upon a sore place. Is there no blessing with all this bad? with our temporal calamities have we not some increase of spiritual privileges, as in the wilderness they had God’s presence, though they had a tedious passage of it? The free use of ordinances will countervail all public burdens. Some suppose that Solomon, in that Eccles. vii. 10, alludeth to the people’s murmuring in his time; there was a temple building, but the taxes were great, and therefore they cried ‘The former times were better than these.’ See 1 Kings xii. 4.
[3.] When we charge our guilt upon the times. Man is apt to transfer his faults upon others, and obliquely upon God himself: ‘The woman which thou gavest me,’ &c.; and so usually the times wherein we live are such, &c. Why, God ordered them, and if you were as you should be, the times could not hurt you. A great deal of fire falleth upon a stone and it burneth not, but a dry chip soon taketh fire. Men think, if they be corrupt, the fault is not theirs, but the times. It is yours certainly; it is bad men make bad times, as I shall show anon.
Let me now give you a few remedies.
(1.) When your hearts storm, look back; there were inconveniences in the wilderness, but a sore bondage in Egypt; a good memory is a help to thankfulness. For my own case, when I am brimful, I consider the times that are past,—see 2 Chron. xv. 3-6—when there was ‘no peace to him that went out or came in;’ when private meetings were a conventicle, and in public we could only sigh, not speak; when maypoles and carnal sports were preferred before the Sabbath; when afternoon preaching was suppressed to make way for those sports; when it was a crime to go from a doting service-reader to hear the preaching of the word. Surely they that are so ready to return into Egypt have forgotten their bondage, when their cry came up to God because of the anguish of their souls. Our ‘hard taskmasters,’ the domineering prelates, and their oppressing filthy courts, are forgotten, our promiscuous communions, and the flat and cold repetitions of an imposed liturgy quite forgotten; so the confinement of preaching, and the restraint of doctrines; these things are out of feeling, and therefore out of remembrance. One great defect the people of God are troubled withal is a bad memory: Micah. vi. 5, ‘O my people! remember,’ &c. I tell you, if we did but remember how we were prelate-bitten, we would not murmur, but give thanks.
(2.) ‘There is nothing new under the sun,’ Eccles. i. 7. We say, ‘Is there any sorrow like unto my sorrow?’ things never were as they are now. Certainly you do not rightly inquire after this matter; the world is the world still; men have ever had the same principles, the same corruptions, the same temptations; there were Donatists 308then as well as Separatists now, Pelagians then as well as Arminians now, Arians then as well as Socinians now; all new lights are but old darkness revived, neither new, nor lights. It is easy to parallel what is most odious; there is a circular motion of opinions and fashions, as the sun returneth every year to the same points of his compass.
(3.) All cometh to pass by God’s providence; he is the great master of the scenes that present the world with a new stage both of acts and actors: 1 Sam. ii. 7, 8, ‘The Lord maketh poor and maketh rich; he bringeth low, and he lifteth up; he raiseth up the poor from the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among the princes, and make them inherit the crown of glory; for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them.’ The government of the world is in God’s hands, and he casteth down some, and raiseth up others from beggary to sovereignty, from the dunghill to glory. You see there his course is contrary to levelling; he will have some upon the throne of glory. And you see, again, that God hath a hand in all the mutations and changes that fall out in the world, and that these mutations are frequent. The world is tossed to and fro like a ball from hand to hand, that God’s sovereignty and dominion over events may the better appear, and that power may not want a bridle, nor the low condition a comfort. Again, that all the kings of the earth do hold their estates of God. Say, then, If God hath set up these persons, let me see what God will do with them.
(4.) The good of times is not to be measured by the carnal quiet of them. Physic provoketh ill humours; better they should be stirred than lie still and foment a disease. God usually cometh with a fan and a sword: we should not murmur against the sword, because of the benefit of the fan.
(5.) If every one did amend himself, the times would soon amend. Mend thyself and as many as are under thy charge, and mourn for others, and thou hast no cause to complain: Josh. xxiv. 15, ‘I and my house will serve the Lord.’ If every one did sweep before his own door, the common filth would be sooner carried away. Usually complainers do least, as the crafty lapwing will go up and down fluttering and crying to draw the fowler from her own nest. We have some secret nest of our own, and we are loath it should be rifled and exposed to public view.
(6.) The worse the times are the more exercise for grace. We have more opportunities of showing love to God than formerly, and zeal for his interests, and industry in finding out the right way. Man is never contented; sometimes we question God’s love if we meet with no opposition, and yet we complain when the ways of God are opposed.
(7.) There is an antiperistasis in grace as well as nature. You should be better in bad times, as fountain water is hottest in winter, and fire scaldeth most in frosty weather, or stars shine brightest in the darkest night; see Phil. ii. 15. When the air is infectious we are the more careful of our diet.
(8.) Complaining will not excuse duty; it argueth little faith—is 309not Christ king? doth not he reign?—little obedience and care of reformation; a gracious heart is most apt to return upon itself. If the times be bad, what have I done to make them better? If not, thou art one that hast made them worse.
(9.) He that is not good in bad times will be naught in better, Isa. xxvi. 10, ‘In the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly.’ A sick man thinketh to have ease in another bed, in another room; carry him thither, his pain continueth. If a carnal man had lived in the prophets’ times or the apostles’ times, he would be the same as now; see Mat. xxiii. 29, 30. A briar is a briar wherever it groweth; change of times will not do the work without a change of heart. Adam sinned in paradise, the apostate angels in heaven; Lot was unchaste in the mountains, where were none but his own family; in a howling wilderness where they had no outward enticements, the Israelites were given to fleshly lusts.
Secondly, The next part of use is to rebuke murmuring in our own private case. By way of consideration take these helps:—
1. A little is enough; too much is a snare: Luke xii. 15, ‘Man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of what he possesseth.’ The wants of nature are very few, till lust make it ravenous; a garment too long will soon prove a dirty rag; the greater gates open to the greater temptations and cares; it is a hard lesson, to ‘learn to abound,’ Phil, iv. 12. We say such a one would do well to be a, lord or a lady; it is a harder thing than you think it to be. A little sufficeth to keep us till we come to heaven; if we have clothes for warmth, though not for pomp, it is enough. What need a Christian care how, finely dust and ashes be wrapped up,158158 ‘Qui Christum cui at non multum carat quam de preciosis cibis stercus conficiat.’—Hierom. or of what stuff his excrements be made of?
2. God hath a hand in all things,. Ps. xxxix. 9, Isa. xxxviii. 15. God is the party with whom we have to do in sickness or any other trouble; every wheel moveth according to the motion of the first; when we see the hand of God, it is a piece of religious manners to keep silence.
3. God seeth what is fittest for us. If a man should be left to carve out his own portion, he would be his own greatest enemy. None hath more love than God, more wisdom and justice than God; therefore count the present estate best, because it is of his choosing. Should the shepherd choose the pastures, or the sheep? We are all for the delicacies of pleasure and prosperity;. children think green fruit the best diet because it suiteth with their appetite. What a strange creature would man be if he were what he would be himself! Well, then, let us leave it to God to choose our portion, and to appoint us what part we shall act in the world. Usually we set up a court in our own affections, and enact laws, prescribe to providence, we would have this and we would have that; and when our expectations are not answered we fall a-murmuring. It is very hard to repeal the decrees of our own will; therefore it is good to resign ourselves to the disposal of providence, as David doth, 2 Sam. xv. 26, 27; and to keep our desires low till God’s will be declared. It is easier to add than to subtract, and to ascend with providence, when ‘the master of the feast biddeth us to sit higher,’ than to be compelled to descend and lie in the dust.310
4. If it be bad, it might have been worse, in regard of God’s absolute power and our desert. Your sufferings are not so great as your sins: Ezra ix. 13, ‘Thou hast punished us less than we have deserved.’ God is too just to do us wrong. If he will exchange hell for Babylon, there is much of mercy in it, nothing of injustice. If you do not deserve this usage from the hands of men, you have deserved this, and much more, from God: it is deserved of God, and therefore to be borne patiently; it is not deserved of men, therefore to be borne cheerfully. Whose cross would we bear, Christ’s or the thieves’ cross? When we suffer deservedly and as malefactors, we bear the thieves’ cross.
5. The Lord disposeth all for the benefit of his own people, so that if it be not good for the present, it will turn to good, Rom. viii. 28. If God should not thus exercise us, we would have more cause to complain. He is too gentle a physician that lets his patient die for want of putting him to the trouble of physic. Consult with God’s aim. rather than your present feeling; let him cut and burn here that he may save hereafter—Domine, hic ure, hic seca, &c.
6. Murmuring is so bad in none as in God’s children. It doth not become their privileges, their vows, their hope. God in covenant is theirs, and he hath all things that hath him that made all things: all things are comprised in God. If our lumber be changed into silver, our silver into gold, our gold into one rare pearl, that is all the other virtually. If God hath given us himself, his Christ, his Spirit, will not all this content us? It doth not become our vows, and the promises which thou madest to God when thy terrors were upon thee; then thou didst say, O Lord, let me have Jesus Christ, and I will be content, though I should beg my bread, and be reduced to rags, and extremity of want. When thy heart was stung with sin, thus desirous wert thou to reckon upon Christ as thy all-sufficient portion. How grew the ‘consolations of God to be small’ with thee? Job xv. 11. Now God trieth whether thou wilt stand to thy word, and thou fallest a-murmuring: it may be just with God to dip his arrows in venom and vengeance, and shoot them into thy soul again. Once more, it is below your hopes; you should have a spirit as high as heaven, and will you storm at every petty loss? as he said, ‘Art thou the king’s son-in-law, and art so lean from day to day?’ are you heirs of glory, and stand so much upon trifles? It should -not be.
Having given you some general considerations against murmuring, I now come to particular cases.
1. Dost thou lie under deep pressing wants? Divers have been put to great straits that have done God more glory. Musculus, a great divine, yet forced to serve a weaver for his subsistence; Paul made tents that he might not be burdensome, and so prejudice men against the gospel; the more destitute, the more sensible of the care of providence. God beareth the purse for us; when we have but from hand to mouth, we are still supplied: the more immediately you live upon God, the more you begin the life of heaven, where God is all in all. Deep poverty is the sauce of the present life. Austin saw a beggar frisking after his belly was filled; he could find no such delight after the use of the creatures, being daily and abundantly supplied. The spectacle much wrought upon him.311
2. Hast thou sustained great losses? If God hath lent us blessings, and taken them again, shall we grudge them to the right owner? He took part that gave all.
3. Dost thou endure great pains? There is a gradation in miseries; those that light upon the estate do not sit so close as those that light upon the body, and those that light upon the body are not so terrible as those that light upon the soul: ‘A wounded spirit, who can bear?’ Bodily pains is the case we now speak to: you are full of pains, but Christ on the cross suffered more; but he was God-man. The martyrs suffered more, Heb. xi. 35: they were tortured, ἐτυμπανίσθησαν—they were stretched out like a drum; but those were rare instances, and had a singular assistance. Paul’s was an ordinary case; his ‘thorn in the flesh,’ 2 Cor. xii., was some great bodily pain; but Paul was a choice spirit: heathens have borne it stoutly. Epicurus was full of solace in a fit of the colic, ob memoriam inventorum, by calling to mind his inventions in philosophy; and Tully speaketh of Possidonius the philosopher, that whilst he was under a great fit of the stone, could discourse freely that nothing was good but virtue, nothing evil but vice; and when his pain twinged him, would say, Nihil agis, dolor! quamvis sis molestus, nunquam confitebor te esse malum—pain, thou dost nothing alter my opinion; though thou art troublesome, yet thou art not evil. But these were men that obsti nately maintained an insensibleness. Little children have endured great pains, and wilt thou startle at that which poor little children have suffered? Besides all this, it is God’s design to try you. There is a great deal of valour to be showed in the sick-bed:159159 ‘Virtus etiam lecto exhibetur.’ either the end of it will be life or death: if death, it is the last brunt, bear it patiently: ‘Those enemies which ye now see, ye shall see them no more,’ Exod. xiv. 13; heaven will make amends for all: if life, you will be ashamed, when well, that you had no more patience whilst sick. Passive valour is the glory of a Christian; active valour, that is fomented with plenty of blood and spirits, is a poor thing to it. Great soldiers, that will venture upon the mouth of a cannon, yet tremble at a disease and lingering death; when they are sick they are under God’s arrest, &c.
Thus I have given you remedies against murmuring by way of consideration: now by way of practice.
1. Divert the stream another way. As to the disposition of heart, take this rule: Be still examining thyself rather than judging God, Ps. iv. 4. If God seemeth to neglect me, have not I neglected him? &c. As to the outward expression of murmuring, turn the streams again; express thy sorrows often in a way of prayer, thy rejoicings in a way of praise. Prayer cureth murmuring, for that is a duty wherein we profess subjection and dependence: and besides, utterance giveth ease to the soul: an oven stopped is the more hot within; complain more to God, and we shall not complain of God. Praise cureth murmuring, Job i. 23; as long as we can give thanks, we will not be querulous: but when we are disdainful of blessings, and we say, What! no more? Mal. i. 2, the distemper is getting ground upon the soul.
2. Affect rather to be good than great. None murmur because of 312the smallness of grace; that is not their complaint; but because of the lowness of their condition in the world. A man that looketh after the increase of grace, he can bless God for his outward decays, 2 Cor. iv. 16, and look upon murmurings as worse than pains or losses; those are afflictions, these are sins. So much for the first crime charged.
The next part of their character is walking after their own lusts. This is fitly subjoined to the former, for lusts make men fro ward and hard to be pleased, and the persons here described were exact libertines, making their lusts their rule and their law; yea, the most brutish of all lusts, ‘the lusts of the flesh; and therefore in Peter it is, 2 Peter ii. 10, ‘That walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness.’ How portentious they were for impurities in this kind we told you before. Their walking after their lusts implieth their giving up themselves to such a course, contrary to all fear of God, care of laws, or restraint of nature.
The point is, that it is an argument of ungodliness when men walk after their own lusts. The apostle, applying the prophecy of Enoch against ungodly men, bringeth this as a part of the charge, that they ‘walk after their own lusts.’ I shall inquire:—
1. What lusts are?
2. What it is to walk after their own lusts?
3. Prove it to be a note of ungodliness.
First, What lusts are? This I have answered elsewhere; see my commentary on James i. 14. For the present, let it suffice to note, that lust is either original or actual.
1. It signifieth our original proneness to all that is evil, James i. 14.
2. Actual lust, so it signifieth any evil motion of the heart that swerveth from the law of God, more especially our inordinate desires and inclinations to pleasures, honours, or profit. Sometimes they are called ‘fleshly lusts,’ 1 Peter ii. 11, as carrying us out to the satisfaction of our bodily and brutish appetites; sometimes ‘worldly lusts,’ Titus ii. 12, because they are stirred by worldly objects. Lusts are the fever of the soul, unnatural heats, transgressing the laws of reason and bounds of religion.
Secondly, What doth this walking imply? It is elsewhere expressed by ‘serving divers lusts and pleasures,’ Titus iii. 3, and by ‘fulfilling the desires of the flesh and the mind,’ Eph. ii. 3. It noteth:—
1. A willing subjection to lust as a law or as a master, The one is implied in ‘walking after our lusts,’ the other in ‘serving our lusts,’ when men do as they please, and let their sensual heart give law to the whole man. A child of God may be overcome by his lusts, but he doth not walk after them, or serve them; he may be foiled, but he doth not give over the combat, and is still resisting, striving, praying, calling in the help of the Spirit; his soul suffereth a rape by lust, there is not a plenary consent on his part.
2. Customary practice and observance. Walking is a progressive motion, and so implieth men’s course and the tenor of their lives. A child of God his walking is in the Spirit, Gal. v. 16, and doth not fulfil the lusts of the flesh; but it is a wicked man’s work and employment.313
3. A fond indulgence; they are so far from thwarting lusts, that they provide, contrive for them: Rom. xiii. 14, ‘Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.’ They nourish their hearts, fondle lust, and make a wanton of it; they do not crucify it, and set up a course of mortification against it.
Thirdly, This is a note of unregeneracy, or a state of ungodliness. The apostle describeth the natural state by this ‘serving,’ Titus iii. 3; and this ‘fulfilling,’ Eph. ii. 3; and when the Holy Ghost doth deride the pride and folly of young men in giving themselves up to a course of lust and vanity, he saith, ‘Go, walk in the way of thine own heart,’ Eccles. xi. 9; and the negative or privative work of regeneration is called a ‘putting off the old man with his deceitful lusts,’ Eph. iv. 22, and it standeth with good reason:—
1. Because they that walk after their lusts seek to cherish that which Christ came to destroy, and so go about to defeat the Redeemer, and to hinder him from obtaining his purpose in their hearts. Christ came ‘to destroy the works of the devil,’ 1 John iii. 8, ἵνα λύσῃ, to untie and loosen those cords of vanity wherewith Satan hath bound us. The works of the devil are lusts, which are of his inspiring and cherishing: John viii.44, ‘Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.’ Now when Christ cometh to loose these cords, carnal men tie them the faster, and therefore certainly are to be reckoned to the devil, and not unto God. Every degree of service done to Satan is an act of treason and disloyalty to Christ; therefore, when men make it their work to fulfil their lust, they renounce all allegiance to Christ.
2. They that walk after their lusts have not taken the rule of the new creature upon them. The new man hath another master and another rule; the renewed soul is not governed by lust, but by the law of God, Gal. vi. 16. If we have not changed our rule, it is a sign we have not changed our master.
3. They that walk after their lusts never felt the power of grace, for ‘the grace of God teacheth us to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts,’ Titus ii. 11, 12. How doth it teach us? I answer—(1.) Partly by diversion, by acquainting us with better things in Christ: Rom. xiii. 14, ‘Put ye on the Lord Jesus, and make not provision for the lusts of the flesh.’ Love cannot lie idle in the soul, the mind of man must have some oblectation and delight; either love runneth out in lust or in respects to God, either to heavenly or worldly things. When we only savour the things of the flesh, it is a sign we never tasted how sweet God is in Christ. (2.) Partly by way of help and supply; it planteth opposite principles, and makes use of an opposite power; it plants opposite principles, a new nature that hath new desires and delights, 2 Peter i. 4, and maketh use of an opposite power, which is the Spirit of God, Rom. viii. 13. (3.) Partly by way of argument. Grace out-pleadeth lust; it urgeth the unsuitableness of it to our condition. See Rom. xiii. 13; 1 Peter iv. 3, i. 14; Rom. vi. 2. To our vows; baptism implieth a renunciation of sins, 1 Peter iii. 21. It is an answer to God’s demands: Credis?—Credo. Abrenuncias?—Abrenuncio. Spondes?—Spondeo. Therefore he that liveth under the full power of lust hath forgotten his baptismal vows, 2 Peter i. 8, ‘for gotten that he was purged from his old sins.’ It pleadeth also the unsuitableness 314of it to our hopes, 1 Peter ii. 11. We are passing on to another country, where we shall enjoy a pure and sinless estate.
Let us now apply the point:—
Use 1. It dissuadeth us from walking after our own lusts. You that are Christians should deny them, and not gratify them, otherwise you renounce your allegiance to God. Lust sets up another lord, and maketh us stand in defiance of the God that made us; his laws call for one thing, and your lusts crave another. God saith, ‘Put off the old man with his deceitful lusts,’ and you say, We will keep them. Can they be good subjects that live in defiance of their sovereign’s laws? If a prince should send a message to a city not to harbour such and such traitors, but to search them out, and bring them to condign punishment; if they never look after them, yea, are angry with those that discover them, it argueth they do inhaunt with traitors, and are enemies to their prince. We are often warned in God’s name to look to our sinful lusts, to put them away; and we go home and never regard it, nay, are angry with those that grate upon the conscience: Herod would not have his Herodias touched. We take it heinously when the word beareth hard upon our hearts; what do we but show ourselves traitors to the crown of heaven?
2. Otherwise you renounce your interest in Christ: Gal. v. 24, ‘They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts thereof He doth not say they are Christ’s that take up this opinion and naked belief that he was crucified, or died for sinners, but they are Christ’s that feel that he was crucified, that, by the virtue of his cross, do crucify their own lusts and sinful affections. What! a Christian, and yet worldly! a Christian, and yet sensual! a Christian, and yet proud! You that are given to pleasures, do you believe in Christ that was a man of sorrow? You that are carried after the pomp and vanity of the world, do you believe in Christ, whose ‘kingdom was not of this world’? You that are proud and lofty, do you profess an interest in Christ, who said, ‘Learn of me, for I am humble and lowly’? It is in vain for you to talk of his dying for sinners, and boasting of his cross, when you never felt the virtue of it, Gal. vi. 14. What experience have you that his cross was the cross of the Son of God, when your hearts linger as inordinately after carnal things as ever? Have you got anything by it? Do you feel any weakening of lusts? any decay of sin? Are you ‘planted into the efficacy of his death’? Rom. vi. 5. If not, how can you glory in the cross of Christ?
3. Otherwise you are not acquainted with the Spirit; his work is to mortify lusts, Rom. viii. 13, and ‘they that are after the flesh do savour of the things of the flesh; and they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.’ Rom. viii. 5. After whom do ye walk? After your own lusts, or after the Spirit of God?
4. God doth not only require you in point of sovereignty to put away your lusts, but also pleadeth with you upon terms of grace: Titus ii. 11, 12, ‘The grace of God that bringeth salvation, teacheth you to deny worldly lusts.’ Grace hath denied us nothing, it hath given us Christ, and all things with him; and shall we stick at our lusts, that are not worth the keeping? Nature is much addicted to these lusts, but surely God loves Christ much more than we love the world; 315his love is infinite and unlimited, like his essence, yet God gave up the Son of his love. Grace counteth nothing too dear for us, not the blood of Christ, the joys of heaven; and shall we count anything too dear to part with for grace’s sake? God forbid! A ‘right eye,’ and a ‘right hand,’ Mat. v. 29, cannot be so dear to us as Christ was to God. What a cost hath grace been at to redeem us and save us! and shall grace be at all this cost for nothing? If God had commanded us a greater thing, ought we not to have done it? If to ‘give the body to be burned,’ to offer ‘the first-born for the sin of the soul’? Considering his absolute right over the creature, he might have required thy life, and thy children’s life, but he only requireth thy lusts, things not worth the keeping, the bane of the soul, a bad inmate, which, if we know its pestilent influence, we needed no more arguments to turn out of doors. Thy lusts God requireth; things we are bound to part with, to preserve the integrity and perfection of our natures, if God had never dealt with us in a way of grace. But how shall grace plead in vain when it presseth to deny lusts? It will be the shame and horror of the damned to all eternity that they have stood with God for a trifle, that they would not part with dung for gold, with a little brutish contentment for the consolations of the Spirit, especially when grace, which hath so deeply pre-engaged us, pleadeth for it.
5. Consider what lust is; it is the disease of the soul. Natural desire is like the calor vitalis—the vital heat; but lust is like a feverish heat, that oppresseth nature. We should get rid of it as we would of a disease; the satisfaction of it is sweet to carnal nature, so is drink to a man in a fever. Who would desire a fever to relish his drink? Better be without the disease than enjoy the pleasure of the satisfaction; better mortify lust than satisfy it; in the issue it will be sweeter. I am sure the pains of mortification will not be so bitter as the horrors of everlasting darkness. Lust let alone beginneth our hell; it is a burning heat that at length breaketh out into everlasting flames. Again, lust is the disorder of nature: as it is monstrous in the body if the head be there where the feet should be, and the feet there where the head should be; such a deordination is there in the soul when the affections carry it; and when reason should be in dominion, we suffer lust to take the throne. Man rightly constituted, his actions are governed in this manner: the understanding and conscience prescribe to the will; the will, according to right reason and conscience, moveth the affections; the affections, according to the command and counsel of the will, move the bodily spirits and members of the body; but by corruption there is a manifest inversion and change; pleasures affect the senses, the senses corrupt the fantasy, the fantasy moveth the bodily spirits, they the affections, and by their violence and inclination the will is enslaved, and the mind blinded, and so man is carried headlong to his own destruction. Now, shall we cherish these lusts and brutish appetites? The Lord forbid!
6. It is lusts that hinder the peace of the world, our own peace. How quietly and happily would men live if they were more mortified! Men desire more than they have, and so are made poor, not by want so much as desire. He that expects little is soon satisfied. It is our own passions that raise a storm in the soul. A man that is vile and 316little in his own eyes, when others contemn and slight him, they do but ratify his private opinion of himself; and who can be angry with others because they are of the same judgment with ourselves? Take away the lust and the trouble ceaseth. What need Haman be troubled that Mordecai did not bow the knee, but that he looked for it? Nay, lusts trouble our peace of conscience. Lusts let alone end in gross sins, and gross sins in desperation. Love of pleasures, if uncontrolled, will end in drunkenness, or adultery; and envy, in murder and violence. Sins unchecked grow licentious and unruly. Judas allowed his covetousness, and it brought him to betray his Master, and that brought him to the halter. Gehazi was first blasted with covetousness, and then with leprosy, and so became a burden to himself; Ananias and Sapphira, taken off by a sudden judgment. The devil loveth by lust to bring us to sin, and by sin to shame, and by shame to horror and despair; so that, if we walk after our lusts, it proveth a sad walk in the issue. Again, it disturbeth our peace with others. These libertines were yokeless, and could not endure restraints, because wedded to their own lusts. It is not opinions divide the world so much as lusts and interests.
7. The more you walk after your lusts, the more you may. They are not quenched when they are satisfied, but increased rather, as the fire is, by laying on new fuel; the distemper groweth every day, till you are quite enslaved: ‘Given to much wine,’ Titus i. 7, ii. 3; it is δεδουλωμένας, ‘enslaved to wine,’ in the Greek. In this sense we are said to be ‘brought under the power ‘of the creature, 1 Cor. vi. 12; so that whatever shame or loss ensueth, you cannot leave your lusts: Jer. xviii. 12, ‘There is no hope,’ &c.; they see it is bad, and cannot see how it should be otherwise.
8. What can we get by sin but a little pleasure? Titus iii. 3, ‘Serving divers lusts and pleasures.’ This is the great sorceress that enchants the whole world, the root of all sin; they ‘loved pleasures more than God,’ 2 Tim. iii. 4. It is not imaginable that an intelligent creature should rest in his own actions; we aim at somewhat in walking after our own lusts; if we balk that which is honest, it must be profit or pleasure. Now, that a man should enslave himself for ever, and that for a little pleasure, which is base in itself, and lost as soon as enjoyed, is monstrous and absurd. Breve est quod delectat, aeternum quod cruciat—the pleasure is but short, vanishing, but the pain is for ever. And will you for a thing of nought break with God, and forfeit your immortal souls? Oh! let it not be.
Let all this now persuade you to deny your lusts, rather than to feed and cherish them, to renounce them, and not to walk after them. There are three degrees of this denial:—(1.) They must be prevented, and kept from rising; (2.) Suppressed and kept from growth; (3.) We must not accomplish them, and if they gain consent, keep them, from execution. Suitable to which three degrees there are three duties:—(1st.) Mortification, that we may prevent them. (2d.) Watchfulness, that we may suppress them; (3d.) Resolution, that we may not accomplish them.
1. To begin with the top and highest degree, to prevent the lust: 1 Peter ii. 11, ‘Abstain from fleshly lusts.’ It is not enough to abstain 317from acts of sin, but we must abstain from lusts; yea, the root must be deadened: Gal. v. 24, ‘Crucify the flesh.’ She is chaste that checketh an unclean solicitation, but she is more worthy of praise whose grave carriage forbiddeth all assaults and attempts in that kind; so should we be so mortified as to prevent a temptation, not to have a lust stirring. But because this cannot always be—
2. The next degree is, timely to suppress them, laus est aliqua in secundis stare—to conquer lust when we cannot curb it, and wholly keep it under. Dash Babylon’s brats against the stones, and take the little foxes; smother it in the conception, James i. 15. It is a great sin to quench the Spirit’s motion, so it is a great neglect not to take notice of the first thoughts and risings of sin; the little sticks kindle first, and set the great ones on fire; crush the cockatrice in the egg. The flesh riseth up in arms against every graceful motion; so should the spirit, the better part, against every sinful motion, Gal. v. 17. Chide away your carnal thoughts, and let them not find harbour. If the envious man throw weeds over the garden wall, the gardener will not let them root there. If Satan cast in thoughts, cast them out again with indignation.
3. Let not. worldly lusts be put in execution. If thou hast neglected the mortification and deadening of the affections, if sin hath got the start of thee, and gained a consent, yet at least restrain the practice: James i. 15, ‘Lust, when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin,’ that is, an external sinful action; there are ‘works of the flesh,’ that follow ‘the lusts of the flesh,’ Gal. v. 19. It is good to stop at lust; though the lust grieveth the Spirit of God, yet the work, besides the grief, bringeth dishonour to God, giveth an ill example, bringeth scandal to religion, maketh way for a habit and further proneness to sin; therefore if thou hast not prevented the lust, act not the sin: Micah ii. 1, 2, ‘Woe be to them that devise evil upon their beds, and when the morning is light, they practise it.’ It is naught to harbour the motion, to plot and muse upon sin, but it is worse to practise it, for every act strengthens the inclination; as a brand that hath been once in the fire is more ready to burn again. If the devil have kindled a fire in thy bosom, let not the sparks fly abroad, but keep the temptation within doors, lest thou more betray thyself into Satan’s hands.
The third clause in this application of Enoch’s prophecy is, that their mouth speaketh great swelling words. In Enoch’s prophecy not only unholy deeds are noted, but hard speeches. These Gnostics were faulty both ways, both in word and deed; that which is charged here is a fault in their speech. It is said, Dan. xi. 36, ‘The king shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods,’ In the Septuagint the same phrase is used that is here, καὶ ὁ βασιλεὺς ὑψωθήσεται καὶ μεγαλυνθήσεται ἐπὶ πάντα θεὸν, καὶ λαλήσει ὑπερογκα, and so possibly it may imply their blasphemies against God, a crime of which these wretches were guilty, in exalting Simon Magus above the true God. Or else these ‘swelling words’ may relate to their boasting of their own knowledge, from whence they were called Gnostics; and Tertullian saith of them, Omnes tument, omnes scientiam pollicentur; ipsae mulieres haereticae, quam sunt procaces!—they all swell with pride, and make ostentation of deeper knowledge; their very women, how conceited are they! Or else it may signify their proud censures of others, 318their scorning of the guides of the church, as it is said of some: Ps. lxxiii. 9, ‘They speak loftily, they set their mouth against the heavens, their tongue walketh through the earth.’ They took a liberty to speak of all things and persons at pleasure, without any restraint, which was and is the very genius of these and other seducers. Bather, I suppose, though not excluding the other senses, these swelling words relate to their phraseology and unsavoury gibberish which they used in representing their opinions. Peter calleth them ‘swelling words of vanity,’ 2 Peter ii. 18. The note hence is this:—
Obs. 3. That the pride and vanity of seducers is usually bewrayed in the fondness and affectedness of their expressions. The affected language of the Gnostics and Valentinians may be seen in Irenaeus; and how much this pattern hath been improved by men of a fanatical spirit, may be found in those that have written of the heresies of succeeding ages. Jerome taxeth Jovinian with his swelling words.160160 ‘Descripsit Apostolus Jovinianum loquentem buccis tumentibus et inflata verba trutinantem.’—Hieron. adversus Jovin., lib. i. In times more modern, Swinkfield was observed to be always talking of illumination, deification, &c.; and the familists’ cant is not unknown, of being godded with God, and christed with Christ. So Jacob Behmen’s greening of the inward root, &c.; and Calvin saith of the libertines of his time, communi sermone spreto, exoticum nescio quid idioma sibi fingunt, interea nihil spirituale afferunt, they pretend to matter more spiritual, and when all cometh to all, it is but noisome errors disguised, or common things represented in uncouth forms of speech, which the scriptures own not, rational and truly spiritual men understand not. The same unsavoury and unintelligible forms of speech may be observed in a wicked book lately put forth by a knight of this country, called ‘The Retired Man’s Meditations,’ wherein the highest principles of our most holy faith are endeavoured to be undermined by this artifice of covert and affected speech; but that by the providence of God the book fell under neglect and scorn presently upon the publication. Now the reason of this affectation is, I suppose, to amuse the reader with the pretence of mystery and depths, Rev. ii. 24, that, despising the simplicity of the word, and the common and avowed principles, he may be the more pliable to their carnal fancies, which, if nakedly exposed at first, would have nothing of allurement and temptation in them to any well-disposed minds. Well, then, be not rapt into admiration with novel and conceited expressions, nor troubled with ‘oppositions of science falsely so called,’ 1 Tim. vi. 20. This is the devil’s device, first to maze people, as birds are with a light and a bell in the night, and then to drive them into the net. If you would keep to wholesome doctrine, keep to a form of wholesome words, and do not place religion in conceited speaking; a holy dialect I know becometh saints, but an affected phraseology is one of Satan’s lures, and a means to corrupt many.
The fourth clause is, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage. Junius applieth this to those that set up angels, and unknown names and persons in the church, instead of Christ; but I think it is rather to be applied to men. Person is therefore put for the outward state and appearance, in which sense it is said, ‘Thou shalt have no respect of persons in judgment,’ that is, of their outward 319condition and estate. Accepting of persons, as Gen. xix. 21, is rendered in the Septuagint by θαυμάζειν τὸ πρόσωπον,161161 Nasliati panecha, the word signifieth, ‘I have accepted thy face,’ or ‘lifted up thy face;’ the Septuagint renders ἐθαύμασα τὸ πρόσωπον, ‘See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing.’ wondering at a man’s face or outside, as being overcome and dazzled at the splendour of it. Accordingly our apostle saith here, ‘Having men’s persons in admiration.’ Now this they did ‘for advantage,’ that is, either to gain men to their party, by crying them up as holy and knowing, to the contempt of others who were more valuable for the sincerity of their religion; or else for worldly profit’s sake, those whom they feared, or from whom they expected any worldly profit, as the rich and powerful, upon these would they fawn, and with these in a servile manner in sinuate themselves, commending their actions and magnifying their persons.
Having been so long in the former part of the verse, I shall but mention the notes here,
Obs. 4. None so fawning and base-spirited as the proud for their advantage: these spoke ‘swelling words ‘and yet basely crouched for profit’s sake. Ambrose noteth it of a spirit of ambition: Ut dominetur aliis, prius servit; curvatur obsequio, ut honore donetur—none stoop so as they that have a mind to rise. One observed of our late prelates,162162 Dr Jackson in his ‘Treatise of Faith.’ that they were willing to take Ham’s curse upon them, to domineer in the tents of Shem, that is, would be ‘servants of servants,’ slaves to great men’s servants, that they might lord it over God’s heritage. Men of proud insulting spirits bow low for their own ends. As Absalom courteth the people to jostle his father out of the throne, 2 Sam. xv. 2-5. And Tacitus observeth the like of Otho, that he did projicere oscula, adorare vulgus, et omnia serviliter pro imperio—adore the people, kiss the meanest, basely dispense his courtesy to the vilest, all to further his designs upon the empire. So Ammianus Marcellinus, lib. xxv., observeth the same of Julian, that out of affectation of popularity he delighted to converse with the meanest of the people. Certainly a proud spirit is no great spirit, no more than a swollen arm can be accounted big.
Obs. 5. Having men’s persons in admiration for advantage is a sin. We may admire the gifts of God in others so as to praise the giver, but not so as to be guilty of anthropolatry, or man-worship, 1 Cor. iii. 21; not so as to ‘despise others,’ who have their usefulness, and it may be as excellent a gift in another kind, 1 Cor. xii. 7-11; not so as to promote our interests thereby, this is servile flattery, condemned in the text and Hosea vii. 8; not so as to be afraid to tell them their own, or for their fear or favour to wrest the truth of God: Matt. xxii. 16, ‘Thou teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man, for thou regardest not the person of men.’ Let all regard this, especially the ministers of Christ.
Obs. 6. That seducers are apt to insinuate with great persons and men of power and interest, that having their ear and countenance, they may engage them against the truth. Having not truth of their side, they use the more craft; as the ivy, not being able to support itself, 320twineth about the oak till it sucketh out its heart. God’s messengers carry it more openly, and with a single plainness; see 2 Cor. i. 12. Creepers and fawning parasites do but draw a suspicion upon themselves. Surely God’s cause is able to stand upon its own legs, and needeth not the support of so base an artifice.
Quest. But is it not lawful to use some prudence in this kind, and to insinuate with great men for the advantage of a good cause?
Ans. To be over solicitous in this kind argueth distrust of God’s providence, and draweth suspicion upon the way which we would needs maintain: that matter is not very combustible where men blow so hard. What favour cometh in the fair way of God’s providence we may accept: ‘All men seek the ruler’s face, but every man’s judgment is of the Lord;’ and what may be gotten by honest, open, and lawful means, as by humble addresses, and the magnetic virtue of truth itself, and the holiness of them that maintain it, may be sought after. Thus the apostles dealt with the rulers and great ones, to gain their respect to Christianity, that they might with less prejudice in sinuate the truth to the people, Acts xviii. 8, and xix. 31. ‘Some of the chief of Asia’ were friends to Paul. But, now, when this respect is to be gotten by clancular and dishonest arts, and cannot be kept without flattering them in their sins, or compliance with their lusts and carnal designs, and men stretch their consciences, and make it their business to humour those that they may advance them, and trample upon all that may be called right and honesty to accomplish their ends, and magnify those whom they would have scorned if their station had not been so high,—this is to ‘have men’s persons in admiration for advantage.’
Obs. 7. Usually men of a false way in religion admire those of their own party above others of known worth and integrity. This is one part of the sense. All of their own way they accounted Gnostics, that is, knowing persons; as if others, how much soever owned by God, as having the stamp and impress of gifts and graces upon them, were not to be compared with them. This is the genius of all sectaries: illic ipsum esse est promereri, saith Tertullian, it is religion enough to be one of them.
|« Prev||Verse 16.||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version