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The Scribe instructed, &c.
PREACHED AT ST. MARY’S CHURCH IN OXON,
BEFORE THE UNIVERSITY,
JULY 29, 1660.
Being the time of the King’s commissioners meeting there, soon after the Restoration, for the visitation of that University.
Then said he unto them. Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.
IN this chapter we have a large discourse from the great preacher of righteousness; a discourse fraught with all the commending excellencies of speech; delightful for its variety, admirable for its convincing quickness and argumentative closeness, and (which is seldom an excellency in other sermons) excellent for its length.
For that which is carried on with a continued, unflagging vigour of expression can never be thought tedious, nor consequently long. And Christ, who was not only the preacher, but himself also the word, was undoubtedly furnished with a strain of heavenly oratory far above the heights of all human 4 rhetoric whatsoever: his sermons being of that grace and ornament, that (as the world generally goes) they might have prevailed even without truth, and yet pregnant with such irresistible truth, that the ornament might have been spared; and indeed it still seems to have been used, rather to gratify than persuade the hearer. So that we may (only with a reverential acknowledgment both of the difference of the persons and of the subject) give that testimony of Christ’s sermons, which Cicero (the great master of the Roman eloquence) did of Demosthenes’s orations, who being asked, which of them was the best, answered, the longest.
Accordingly, our Saviour having in the verse here pitched upon for my text, finished his foregoing discourse, he now closes up all with the character of a preacher, or evangelist; still addressing himself to his disciples, as to a designed seminary of preachers; or rather indeed, as to a kind of little itinerant academy, if I may so call it, of such as were to take his heavenly doctrines for the sole rule of their practice, and his excellent way of preaching for the standing pattern of their imitation; thus lying at the feet of their blessed Lord, with the humblest attention of scholars, and the lowest prostration of subjects. The very name and notion of a disciple implying, and the nature of the thing itself requiring both these qualifications.
Now the discussion of the words before us shall He in these following particulars:
1st, To shew, What is here meant by the scribe
2dly, What by being instructed unto the kingdom of heaven. And,5
3dly and lastly, What by bringing out of his treasure things new and old; and how upon this account he stands compared to an householder.
And I. Concerning the word scribe. It was a name, which amongst the Jews was applied to two sorts of officers.
1. To a civil; and so it signifies a notary, or in a large sense any one employed to draw up deeds or writings: whether in an higher station or degree, as we read in the 2 Kings xxii. and the 3d verse, that Shaphan was γραμματεὺς βασιλέως, the king’s scribe, or secretary; or, as in a lower sense and acception of the word, we find this appellation given to that officer who appeared in quelling the uproar at Ephesus, as we read in Acts xix. where, in the 35th verse, he is called γραμματεὺς, which, I think, we may fitly enough render, (as our English text does,) the townclerk, or public notary of the city. To this sort also some would refer those mentioned in Matthew ii. and the 4th verse, who are there called the scribes of the people; as if they were such notaries as we have been speaking of; but the business about which we read in that chapter that Herod called them together, seems to evince the contrary; which was to inquire of such as were skilled in the writings of the prophets, when and where the Messiah was to be born. The resolution of which was very unlikely to be had from those who were only notaries and journeymen to courts, to draw up indictments, bonds, leases, contracts, and the like. And from whence we may, no doubt, conclude, that this sort of scribes was quite of another nature from the scribe here alluded to in the text; and which shall be next treated of: and therefore,6
2. This name scribe signifies a church-officer, one skilful and conversant in the law, to interpret and explain it. For still we find the scribes reckoned with the great doctors of the Jewish church, and for the most part joined with the Pharisees in the writings of the evangelists, and by St. Paul with the disputer of this world, 1 Cor. i. 20; and sometimes called also νομικοὶ, lawyers, as in St. Luke vii. 30, and in St. Luke xi. 52; that is to say, men skilful and expert in the Mosaic law. Not that these scribes were really and properly any part of the Pharisees, (as some have thought;) for Pharisee was the name of a sect, scribe of an office: and whereas we read, in Acts xxiii. and the 9th verse, of the γραμματεῖς there said to be τοῦ μέρους τῶν Φαρισαίων, of part of the Pharisees; the word of part is not to be understood in respect of distribution, as it signifies a correlate to the whole, but in respect of opinion; as that they were of the Pharisees’ part or side, or, in other words, joined with them in some of their opinions; as possibly others of them might join with the Sadducees in some of theirs. By scribe therefore must be here meant a doctor or expounder of the law to the people; such an one as Ezra, that excellent person, so renowned amongst the Jews; who, in Ezra vii. verse 6, is said to have been a ready scribe in the law of Moses. For though, indeed, the word scribe in the English and Latin imports barely a writer, and the Greek γραμματεὺς by its derivation from γράφω, strictly signifies no more; yet by its nearer derivation from γράμμα, which signifies a letter, it seems to represent to us the nature of the office from the notation of the name, viz. that these scribes were men of the bare letter, or the 7text; whose business it was to explain and give the literal sense and meaning of the law. And therefore, that the men here spoken of, whom the Jews accounted of such eminent skill in it, should by their office be only writers, or transcribers of it, can with no more reason, I think, be affirmed, than if we should allow him to be a skilful divine, who should transcribe other men’s works, and, which is more, preach them when he had done. But,
2. As for the meaning of that expression, of being instructed unto the kingdom of heaven. By the kingdom of heaven is here signified to us, only the preaching of the gospel, or the condition and state of the Church under the gospel; as, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, that is, the gospel is shortly to be preached: now we are to take notice, that it was the way of Christ, in his preaching to the Jews, to express the offices, and things belonging to his church under the gospel, by alluding to those of the Jewish church under the law, as being known, and familiar to them. Hence he calls a minister, or preacher of the gospel, a scribe: and this from the analogy of what the scribe did in the explication of the Mosaic law, with what the gospel minister was to do, in preaching and pressing home the doctrines of Christianity upon the heart and conscience; much the harder work, God knows, of the two.
Now the word which we here render instructed, in the Greek is μαθητευθεὶς, one who was taught, schooled, or disciplined to the work by long exercise and study. He was not to be inspired, or blown into the ministry, but to come to it by mature study and labour. He was to fetch his preparations from 8industry, not infusion. And forasmuch as Christ’s design was to express evangelical officers by legal, there must, as I shew, be some resemblance between them; and since the matter or subject they were engaged in was wholly diverse, this resemblance was to hold, at least, in the qualification of the persons, viz. that as the scribe of the law did with much labour stock himself with all variety of learning requisite to find out the sense of the same, so the evangelical scribe, or preacher, should bring as much learning, and bestow as much labour in his employment, as the other did in his; especially since it required full as much, and deserved a great deal more: and so pass we to the
3d thing proposed, which was to shew what is to be understood by bringing out of his treasure things new and old. By treasure is here signified that which in Latin is called penus, a storehouse, or repository; and the bringing out thence things new and old was (as some are of opinion) a kind of proverb, or proverbial speech amongst the Hebrews, expressing a man’s giving a plentiful or liberal entertainment to his friends, and such as came about him. And accordingly, as here borrowed from the householder, and applied to the gospel-scribe in the text, it makes the drift and import of the whole parable to amount to this: that as the former, if a man of substance and sufficiency, of a large stock, and as large a mind, will entertain his friends and guests with plenty and variety of provision, answerable to the difference of men’s palates, as well as to the difference of the season; not confining them to the same standing common fare, but, as occasion requires, adding something of more cost and 9rarity besides; so our gospel-scribe or preacher, in the entertainment of his spiritual guests, is not always to set before them only the main substantials of religion, whether for belief or practice, but, as the matter shall require, to add also illustration to the one, and enforcement to the other, sometimes persuading, sometimes terrifying; and accordingly addressing himself to the afflicted and desponding with gospel lenitives, and to the hard and obstinate with legal corrosives; and since the relish of all is not the same, he is to apply to the vulgar with plain familiar similitudes, and to the learned with greater choiceness of language and closeness of argument; and moreover, since every age of the church more peculiarly needs the clearer discussion of some truth or other, then more particularly doubted of, or op posed; therefore, to the inculcating the general acknowledged points of Christianity, he is to add something of the controversies, opinions, and vices of the times; otherwise he cannot reach men’s minds and inclinations, which are apt to be argued this way or that way, according to different times and occasions; and consequently he falls so far short of a good orator, and much more of an accurate preacher.
This, I conceive, is the genuine and full sense of the words we are now upon, and which I shall yet further strengthen with this observation: “That we shall find that Christ’s design all along the evangelists was to place the economy of the church under the gospel, above that of the Jewish church under the law, as more excellent in every particular.” Now it was the way of the scribes then, to dwell wholly upon the letter of the law, and what Moses said; shewing the construction, the coherence, 10and force of his words, only sometimes sprinkling them a little with tradition, and the pompous allegation of their ancient rabbies, Ἐῤῥέθη τοῖς ἀρχαίως. But Christ, who, we read, taught with authority, and not as the scribes, as one not only expounding, but also commanding the words, took a freedom of expression, in shewing not the sense of Moses only, but the further sense and intent of God himself speaking to Moses; and then clothing this sense in parables, similitudes, and other advantages of rhetoric, so as to give it an easier entrance and admission into the mind and affections; and what he did himself, he recommended to the practice of his disciples. So that, I think, we may not unfitly account for the meaning of our Saviour in this chapter thus: You see how the scribes of the law with much anxiety and niceness confine themselves to the let ter of Moses, but the scribe who is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, and fitted to preach the gospel, must not dwell only upon the letter and shell of things, but often enlarge and amplify upon the subject he handles, adapting his discourse to the various circumstances, tempers, and apprehensions of his hearers; and so letting it rise or fall in the degrees of its plainness or quickness, according to his hearers dulness or docility.
Thus, I hope, I have made out the full import of the words, and the design of our Saviour in them, which I shall now more throughly prosecute in this proposition, naturally resulting from them so explained, viz.
That the greatest advantages, both as to largeness of natural, and exquisiteness of acquired abilities, are not only consistent with, but required to the due 11performance of the work and business of a preacher of the gospel.
Not that I affirm, that every one, who has not such a furniture of parts and knowledge, is therefore wholly unfit or forbidden to be a preacher; for then most of us might for ever sit down and adore, but not venture upon this work. But in giving a rule for any thing or action, we must assign the utmost perfection which either of them is capable of, and to which men ought to aspire; not to which they of necessity must or can attain. We know the copy always falls short of the original, and the performance of the precept. But still the rule must be absolute, and highly perfect; otherwise, we should never look upon our improvement as our duty, or our imperfections as our defects.
In the handling of the proposition drawn forth, I shall shew,
1st, What qualifications are required as necessary to a minister of the word, from the force of the comparison between him and the scribe mentioned in the text.
2dly, I shall shew the reasons to evince and prove their necessity: and
3dly, I shall draw some inferences from the whole.
And first, concerning the qualifications required, &c.
I shall bring them under these two.
1. An ability and strength of the powers and faculties of the mind. And,
2. An habitual preparation of the same, by study, exercise, and improvement.12
Which two, I conceive, contain all that both nature and art can do in this matter.
And first, for the first of these two.
1. A natural ability and strength of the powers and faculties of the mind. And what these are is apparent, viz. judgment, memory, and invention.
Now, whether these three are three distinct things both in being distinguished from one another, and likewise from the substance of the soul itself considered without any such faculties, but only receiving these several denominations from the several respects arising from the several actions exerted immediately by itself upon several objects, or several qualities of the same object; I say, whether of these two it is, is not easy to decide; and it is well, that it is not necessary. Aquinas and most with him affirm the former, and Scotus with his followers the latter. But yet to assert with him, that in a created nature essence and power are the same, seems too near and bold a step to the incommunicable simplicity of the divine; and according to the received way of arguing will pass for a great absurdity. However, not to insist further upon a point merely philosophical, but supposing (at least probably) that (according to the common opinion) the soul acts or works by powers and faculties, as well as habits, distinct from its own substance; I proceed to shew the necessity of the three forementioned faculties in the business of the ministry. And,
1st, For that great leading one, the judgment: without which, how can any controversy in philosophy or divinity be duly managed, stated, or determined? How can that which is ambiguous be 13cleared, that which is fallacious be detected, or even truth itself be defended? How, where the words of scripture may bear several senses, some proper, and some figurative, can we be assured which the writer or speaker of them intended them in? How also, without this, when a scripture has been corrupted, partly by filching some words out of it, and partly by a supposititious foisting of some in, shall the whole be rescued from the imposture passed upon it, and so restored true and genuine to itself? And lastly, how shall many seeming clashings and dark pas sages in sacred history and chronology be placed in such a light, as may throughly satisfy, or at least effectually silence the doubtful and exceptious? All which particulars (with many more of the like nature) being confessedly knotty and difficult, can never be accorded, but by a competent stock of critical learning; and can any one (even according to the very signification of the word) be said to be a critic, and yet not judicious? And then,
2dly, For memory. This may be reckoned twofold. 1. That which serves to treasure up our reading, or observations. And 2. That which serves to suggest to us, in our reciting or repeating of any thing, which we had endeavoured to commit to our memory before. I distinguish them, because one may be, and often is excellent, where the other is deficient. But now, were this never so large, yet theology is of that vast compass, as to employ and exhaust it. For what volumes are thereof antiquity, church-history, and other divine learning, which well deserve reading; and to what purpose do we read, if we cannot remember? But then also, for the reciting or repeating part of memory, that is so necessary, 14that Cicero himself observes of oratory, (which indeed upon a sacred subject is preaching,) that upon the want of memory alone, omnia, etiamsi praeclarissima fuerint, in oratore peritura.22 Primo libro de Oratore. And we know that, to a popular auditory, it is upon the matter all. There being, in the esteem of many, but little difference between sermons read, and homilies, save only this, that homilies are much better. And then for the
Third faculty, which is invention: a faculty acting chiefly in the strength of what is offered it by the imagination. This is so far from being admitted by many as necessary, that it is decried by them as utterly unlawful; such grand exemplars, I mean, as make their own abilities the sole measure of what is fit or unfit, lawful or unlawful; so that what they themselves cannot reach, others, forsooth, ought not to attempt. But I see not why divinity should suffer for their narrowness, and be deprived of the service of a most useful and excellent endowment of the mind, and which gives a gloss and a shine to all the rest. For I reckon upon this as a great truth, that there can be no endowment in the soul of man, which God himself is the cause and giver of, but may even in its highest and choicest operations be sanctified and employed in the work of the ministry. And there is also another principle, which I account altogether as true as the former; namely, that piety engages no man to be dull; though lately, I confess, it passed with some for a mark of regeneration. And when I shall see these principles disproved, I shall be ready to grant all exercise of the fancy or invention, in the handling things sacred, to be unlawful. As fancy, 15indeed, is often taken in the worst sense, for a conceited, curious, whimsical brain, which is apt to please itself in strange, odd, and ungrounded notions; so I confess, that nothing is more contrary to or destructive of true divinity; but then I must add withal, that if fancy be taken in this sense, those who damn it in its other sober and right acception, have much the greatest share of it themselves. But if, on the other hand, we take fancy for that power or ability of the mind, which suggests apposite and pertinent expressions, and handsome ways of clothing and setting off those truths which the judgment has rationally pitched upon, it will be found full as useful as any of all the three mentioned by us in the work of preaching; and consequently slighted and disapproved of by none but such as envy that in others, which they are never like to be envied for the want of in themselves. He therefore who thinks to be a scribe instructed for the kingdom of heaven, without a competency of judgment, memory, and invention, attempts a great superstructure where there is no foundation; and this, surely, is a very preposterous way to edify either himself or others.
And thus much for the first of the two qualifications of our evangelical scribe; to wit, a tolerable ability or strength of the powers and faculties of the mind; particularly of those three, judgment, memory, and invention. I proceed now to the other, and
Second qualification: which was an habitual preparation by study, exercise, and due improvement of the same. Powers act but weakly and irregularly, till they are heightened and perfected by their ha bits. A well radicated habit, in a lively, vegete faculty, is like an apple of gold in a picture of silver; 16it is perfection upon perfection, it is a coat of mail upon our armour, and, in a word, it is the raising the soul at least one story higher: for take off but these wheels, and the powers in all their operations will drive but heavily. Now it is not enough to have books, or for a man to have his divinity in his pocket, or upon the shelf; but he must have mastered his notions, till they even incorporate into his mind, so as to be able to produce and wield them upon all occasions; and not when a difficulty is proposed, and a performance enjoined, to say, that he will consult such and such authors: for this is not to be a divine, who is rather to be a walking library, than a walking index. As, to go no farther than the similitude in the text, we should not account him a good or generous housekeeper, who should not have always something of standing provision by him, so as never to be so surprised, but that he should still be found able to treat his friend at least, though perhaps not always presently to feast him: so the scribe here spoken of should have an inward, lasting fulness and sufficiency, to support and bear him up; especially where present performance urges, and actual preparation can be but short. Thus, it is not the oil in the wick, but in the vessel, which must feed the lamp. The former indeed may cause a present blaze, but it is the latter which must give it a lasting light. It is not the spending-money a man has in his pocket, but his hoards in the chest, or in the bank, which must make him rich. A dying man has his breath in his nostrils, but to have it in the lungs is that which must preserve life. Nor will it suffice to have raked up a few notions here and there, or to rally up all one’s little utmost into one discourse, which can constitute a divine, or give a 17man stock enough to set up with; any more than a soldier who had filled his snapsack should thereupon set up for keeping house. No; a man would then quickly be drained, his short stock would serve but for one meeting in ordinary converse, and he would be in danger of meeting with the same company twice. And therefore there must be store, plenty, and a treasure, lest he turn broker in divinity, and having run the rounds of a beaten exhausted common place, be forced to stand still, or go the same round over again; pretending to his auditors, that it is profit able for them to hear the same truths often inculcated to them; though, I humbly conceive, that to inculcate the same truths, is not of necessity to repeat the same words. And therefore, to avoid such beggarly pretences, there must be an habitual preparation as to the work we are now speaking of. And that in two respects.
1. In respect of the generality of knowledge required to it. The truth is, if we consider that great multitude of things to be known, and the labour and time required to the knowledge of each particular, it is enough to discourage and dash all attempt, and cause a careless despair. What Hippocrates said of the cure of the body, is much truer of the cure of the soul, “that life is short, and art long.” And I might add also, that the mind is weak and narrow, and the business difficult and large. And should I say, that preaching was the least part of a divine, it would, I believe, be thought a bold word, and look like a paradox, (as the world goes,) but perhaps, for all that, never the further from being a great truth. For is it not a greater thing to untie the knots of many intricate and perplexing controversies; and 18to bring together all the ends of a loose and hardly cohering hypothesis? to refute the opinions and stop the mouths of gainsayers, whereas some of them are so opposite amongst themselves, that you can hardly confute one, but with arguments taken from the other, though both of them equally erroneous? In which and the like cases to carry an argument for the defence of truth so warily and exactly, that an adversary shall not sometimes be able to pervert it to the support of an error, (since though the argument may be materially the same, yet the different application and management of it may produce quite different inferences from it;) this, no doubt, is a matter of great difficulty, and no less dexterity. And the like also may be said of casuistical divinity for resolving cases of conscience; especially where several obligations seem to interfere, and, as it were, justle one another, so that it seems impossible to the conscience to turn either way without sin, and while it does so, must needs be held under great distraction. To clear a way out of which, being a work certainly depending upon much knowledge of the canon and civil laws, as well as of the principles of divinity, it must needs require much toil and labour for the casuist to provide himself with materials for this purpose, and then no less art and skill to manage and apply them to the conscience. And as it is highly requisite that this should in some measure be found in every divine, and in its height and perfection in some, which since it cannot well be, but by the whole employment of a man’s time, not took off or diverted by other ministerial business, it so far shews the happy constitution of such churches, as afford place of suitable scholastic maintenance 19(without the trouble of a pastoral charge) for such whose abilities carry them to the study of the controversial or critical part of theology, rather than any other belonging to the ministry. But on the contrary, where there is no such proper maintenance allotted for a divine, but by preaching only, let us suppose, that which in such a case we easily may; That one had a peculiar inclination to controversy, or to dive into antiquity, or to search critically into the original letter of the scriptures; and withal had little inclination, and perhaps less ability to preach, but yet knew no other way to live as a divine, but by preaching; do we not here lose an excellent casuist, an accurate critic, or profound school-divine, only to make a very mean preacher? who, had he had the forementioned opportunity of encouragement, might have been eminently serviceable to the church in any of those other ways, while he only serves the natural necessities of life in this. And this has been observed by a learned knight33 Sir Edwyn Sandys in his Europae Speculum. to have been an inconvenience even in those days, when the revenues of the church were not wholly reformed from it; that for our not then setting aside whole societies for the managing of controversies and nothing else, as the church of Rome finds it necessary to do, divines for the most part handle controversies only as a diversion in the midst of their other pastoral labours, and many of them have performed it accordingly. For as man’s faculties will not suffice him for all arts and sciences, so neither will they sometimes reach all the parts and difficulties of any one of them. But the late times made the matter yet ten times worse with us, when the rooters and through-reformers 20made clean work with the church, and took away all, and so, by stripping the clergy of their rights and preferments, left us in a fair posture, (you may be sure,) both offensive and defensive, to encounter our acute and learned adversaries the Jesuits. For then the polemics of the field had quite silenced those of the schools. All being took up and busied, some in pulpits, and some in tubs, in the grand work of preaching and holding forth, and that of edification, (as the word then went;) so that they seemed like an army of men armed only with trowels, and perhaps amongst thousands only a Saul and a Jonathan with swords in their hands, only one or two with scholastic artillery, and preparation for controversy. But this by the way, and as a sad instance to shew how fatal it is, that when divinity takes in so large a compass of learning, and that for so many uses, the church should be robbed of the proper and most effectual means of stocking herself with it.
But some perhaps will reply, What needs all this? we are resolved to preach only, and look no further, and for this much reading cannot be requisite, except only for the delivery of our sermons: for we will preach our own experiences. To which I answer, that be this as it may; but yet, if these men preach their own experiences, as they call them, without some other sort of reading and knowledge, both their hearers, and themselves too, will quickly have more than sufficient experience of their confidence and ridiculous impertinence. But as there are certain mountebanks and quacks in physic, so there are much the same also in divinity, such as have only two or three little experiments and popular harangues to entertain and amuse the vulgar 21with; but being wholly unacquainted with the solid grounds and rules of science, from whence alone come true sufficiency and skill, they are pitifully ignorant and useless as to any great and worthy purposes; and fit for little else, but to shew the world how easily fools may be imposed upon by knaves. And thus much for habitual preparation in point of knowledge; besides which, there is required also, in the
Second place, the like preparation as to significant speech and expression. For as I shew, that by knowledge a man informs himself, so by expression he conveys that knowledge to others; and as bare words convey, so the propriety and elegancy of them gives force and facility to the conveyance. But because this is like to have more opposers, especially such as call a speaking coherently upon any sacred subject, a blending of man’s wisdom with the word, an offering of strange fire; and account the being pertinent, even the next door to the being profane, I say, for their sakes, I shall prove a thing clear in itself by scripture, and that not by arguments, or consequences drawn from thence, but by downright instances occurring in it, and those so very plain, that even such as themselves cannot be ignorant of them. For in God’s word we have not only a body of religion, but also a system of the best rhetoric: and as the highest things require the highest expressions, so we shall find nothing in scripture so sublime in itself, but it is reached, and sometimes overtopped by the sublimity of the expression. And first, where did majesty ever ride in more splendour, than in those descriptions of the divine power in Job, in the 38th, 39th, and 40th chapters? And what 22triumph was ever celebrated with higher, livelier, and more exalted poetry, than in the song of Moses in the 32d of Deut.? And then for the passions of the soul; which being things of the highest transport and most wonderful and various operation in human nature, are therefore the proper object and business of rhetoric: let us take a view how the scripture expresses the most noted and powerful of them. And here, what poetry ever paralleled Solomon in his description of love, as to all the ways, effects, and ecstasies, and little tyrannies of that commanding passion? See Ovid with his Omnia vincit amor, &c. and Virgil with his Vulnus alit venis et caeco carpitur igne, &c. How jejune and thin are they to the poetry of Solomon, in the 8th chapter of the Canticles, and the 6th verse, Love is strong as death, and jealousy cruel as the grave. And as for his description of beauty, he describes that so, that he even transcribes it into his expressions. And where do we read such strange risings and fallings, now the faintings and languishings, now the terrors and astonishments of despair venting themselves in such high, amazing strains, as in the 77th Psalm? Or where did we ever find sorrow flowing forth in such a natural prevailing pathos, as in the Lamentations of Jeremy? One would think, that every letter was wrote with a tear, every word was the noise of a breaking heart; that the author was a man compacted of sorrows; disciplined to grief from his in fancy; one who never breathed but in sighs, nor spoke but in a groan. So that he who said he would not read the scripture for fear of spoiling his style, shewed himself44 Politian. as much a blockhead as an atheist, 23and to have as small a gust of the elegancies of expression, as of the sacredness of the matter. And shall we now think that the scripture forbids all ornament of speech, and engages men to be dull, flat, and slovenly in all their discourses? But let us look a little further, and see whether the New Testament abrogates what we see so frequently used in the Old. And for this, what mean all the parables used by our Saviour, the known and greatest elegancies of speech? so that if this way was unlawful before, Christ by his example has authorized and sanctified it since, and if good and lawful, has confirmed it. But as for the men whom we contend with; I see not why they should exterminate all rhetoric, who still treat of things figuratively, and by the worst of figures too, their whole discourse being one continued meiosis, to diminish, lessen, and debase the great things of the gospel infinitely below themselves. Besides that I need not go beyond the very words of the text for an impregnable proof of this; for Christ says, that a scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven ought to bring out of his treasure things new and old. Now I demand, what are the things here to be understood? For as to the matter which he is here to treat of, the articles of the Christian religion are and still must be the same, and therefore there can be no such variety as new and old in them. Wherefore it remains, that this variety can be only in the way of expressing those things. Besides that our Saviour Christ, in these words, particularly relates to the manner of his own preaching, upon occasion of the very sermon which we find all along this chapter delivered in parables; so that by new and old may probably be meant nothing 24thing else, but a plenty, or fluent dexterity of the most suitable words and pregnant arguments to set off and enforce gospel truths. For questionless, when Christ says, that a scribe must be stocked with things new and old, we must not think that he meant, that he should have an hoard of old sermons, (whosoever made them,) with a bundle of new opinions; for this certainly would have furnished out such entertainment to his spiritual guests, as no rightly-disposed palate could ever relish, or stomach bear. And therefore, the thing which Christ here drives at, must needs be only variety and copiousness of sacred eloquence.
And thus much for the first of the three general heads proposed by us for the handling these words; which was to shew the qualifications necessary for a gospel scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven. And these were two; first, habitual preparation, in point of learning or knowledge; and secondly, the other in point of significant speech or expression: I proceed now to the
Second general head proposed; which was, to as sign the reasons of this their necessity; and these shall be three.
1. Because the preacher works upon men’s minds only as a moral agent, and as one who can do no more than persuade, and not by any physical efficiency. And herein I do not say, that conversion is caused only by moral suasion: for if we consider the strength of our corruption, and how it has insinuated itself into the very principles of nature, and seized upon those powers which are but very little under the command of the intellectual part, I think it cannot be subdued by mere suasion, which 25in its utmost reaches only to the convincing of that: but the heart must be changed by a much higher power, even by an immediate omnipotent work of God’s Spirit infusing a quality into the soul, not there before, which by degrees shall weaken and work out our inherent natural corruption: and this being a creating work, is done solely and immediately by God himself, forasmuch as creation admits of no instrument, as being an effect of that infinite creative power, which cannot be conveyed to an instrumental agent.
But you will say then, If conversion be the sole, immediate work of God, what need is thereof a preacher? and how can he be said to be, as usually he is, God’s instrument in the work of a man’s conversion? To which I answer, 1st, That God’s institution of preaching is a sufficient reason for it, though we knew no other. 2dly, That when the preacher is said to be an instrument in the conversion of a sinner, it is not meant, that he is such, by a properly physical efficiency, but only morally, and by persuasion. I explain my meaning thus. A physical instrument, or such as is found in natural efficient productions, is that, which, partaking of the power, force, and causality of the principal agent from thence derived to it, produces a suitable effect. As when I cut or divide a thing, the force of my hand is conveyed to the knife, by virtue of which, the knife cuts or divides. And thus, I say, the preacher cannot be the instrument of conversion, for the reason above mentioned; because that infinite power, which does convert, cannot be conveyed to any finite being whatsoever. But a moral instrument is quite of another nature; and is that, as I 26may so express it, non quo producente, sed quo interveniente sequitur effectus: not that which conversion is effected by, but that without which, ordinarily at least, it is not. So that while the minister is preaching and persuading, God puts forth another secret influence, quite different from that of the preacher, though still going along with it: and it is this, by which God immediately touches the sinner’s heart, and converts him. Howbeit, the preacher is still said to be instrumental in this great work; forasmuch as his preaching is subordinate to, and most commonly, as has been said, accompanies it: God not being pleased to exert his action, but in concurrence with the preacher exerting his. And thus having given God his prerogative, and the preacher his due, by shewing how he is morally instrumental to the work of the sinner’s conversion by persuading; I infer the necessity of those forementioned abilities and preparations for preaching, as being the most proper means and instruments of persuasion. See this exemplified in St. Paul himself, and in him observe, when he deals with the Jews, how he endeavours to insinuate what he says, by pleading his own kindred with them, speaking honourably of Abraham, and of the law, and calling the gospel the law of faith; and affirming, that it did establish the law. All which was the true art of natural rhetoric, thus to convey his sense under those names and notions, which he knew were highly pleasing to them. But then, on the other hand, when he would win over the gentiles; forasmuch as there was a standing feud between them and the Jews; (the Jews, like the men here of late, for ever unsainting all the world, besides themselves;) observe how he 27deals with them. He tells them of the rejection of the Jews, and the Gentiles being ingrafted in their room: and that Abraham believed unto justification before he was circumcised, and therefore was no less the father of the uncircumcised believers, than of the circumcised. He tells them also, that the believing Gentiles were his spiritual seed, but the Jews, as such, were only his carnal. He takes occasion also to undervalue circumcision, and the ceremonial law, as abused by the Jews, and in themselves things most hateful to other nations. Now all this was hugely pleasing to the Gentiles, and therefore very apt to persuade. But had not St. Paul been a man of learning and skill in the art and methods of rhetoric, he could not have suited such apposite exhortations to such different sorts of men with so much dexterity. And the same course, in dealing with men’s minds, is a minister of the word to take now. As suppose, he would dissuade men from any vice, he is to found his dissuasives upon the peculiar temper of the man; so that if, for instance, he should find it needful to preach against drunkenness, and there were several in the congregation addicted to several sorts of vice, as some to pride or ambition, some to covetousness, or the like; here, besides the general argument from the punishments of the other world denounced against these and such other vices, if he would do his business effectually, he must also tell the ambitious or proud man, that his drunkenness would disgrace him, and make him the scorn and contempt of all the world about him; and the covetous man, that it would certainly waste his estate, and beggar him. Whereas should he, on the other hand, transplace these arguments, and dissuade 28him who is proud from drinking, because it would beggar him, and him who is covetous, because it would disgrace him, doubtless he would prevail but little; because his argument would not strike that proper principle which each of them were governed by. And now what can this be grounded upon, but upon natural philosophy, and a knowledge of men’s passions and interests, the great and chief springs of all their actions? And upon the like ground it is, that for a preacher in his discourses to the people to insist only upon universals, is but a cold, faint, languid way of persuading or dissuading; as, to tell men in general, that they are sinners, and that, going on in sin without repentance, they are under the curse and wrath of God; all which they think they knew before, and accordingly receive it as a word of course, and too slightly regard it: but conviction, the usual forerunner of, and preparative to conversion, is from particulars, as if the preacher should tell his hearers, that he who continues to cheat, cozen, and equivocate, is a wicked and impenitent wretch; and that he who drinks, and swears, and whores, is the person to whom the curse directly belongs: and this seriously urged, and discreetly applied, will, if any thing, carry it home to the conscience, and lodge it there too. And now is not the reason of this method also to be fetched from philosophy, as well as from religion? For we know, that men naturally have only a weak, confused knowledge of universals, but a clear and lively idea of particulars. And that which gives a clear representation of a thing to the apprehension, makes a suitable impression of it upon the will and affections. Whosoever therefore pretends to be a preacher, 29must know, that his main business is to persuade, and that without the helps of human learning, this can hardly be done to any purpose. So that if he finds himself wholly destitute of these, and has no thing else to trust to, but some groundless, windy, and fantastic notions about the Spirit, (the common sanctuary of fanatics and enthusiasts,) he would do well to look back, and taking his hand off from this plough, to put it to another much fitter for him. But in the mean time, as for ourselves, who pretend not to a pitch above other mortals, nor dare rely upon inspiration instead of industry, we must rest content to revere the wisdom, and follow the examples of those who went before us, and enjoined us the study of the arts and sciences, as the surest and most tried way to that of divinity.
2. A second reason for the necessity of these preparations for the ministry shall be taken from this consideration; that at the first promulgation of the gospel, God was pleased to furnish the apostles and preachers of it with abilities proper for that great work, after a supernatural and miraculous way. For still we find, that the scripture represents the apostles as ignorant and illiterate men, and that the chief priests and elders of the Jews took particular notice of them, as such, in Acts iv. and the 13th verse. The text there giving them this character, that they were ἄνθρωποι ἀγράμματοι, καὶ ἰδιῶται, that is to say, according to the strict signification of the word, men unlearned, and of a mean and plebeian condition. Nevertheless, since they were appointed by God to preach the gospel to several nations; a work requiring a considerable knowledge of the languages of those nations, and impossible to be performed 30without it; and yet no less impossible for the apostles, having neither time nor opportunity to acquire that knowledge in the natural, ordinary course of study; God himself supplies this defect, and endues them with all necessary qualifications by immediate and divine infusion. So that being filled with the Holy Ghost, as we read in Acts ii. and the 4th verse, they forthwith spoke with other tongues; and that so clearly, plainly, and intelligibly, as both to convince and astonish all who heard them; even those of the most different nations and languages, as well as their own countrymen the Jews themselves. From whence I thus argue; That if the forementioned helps and assistances were not always of most singular use, and sometimes of indispensable necessity to the calling of a divine, certainly the most wise God would never have been at the expense of a miracle, to endow men, of that calling, with them. For he who observes that order and decorum in all his works, as never to over do any thing, nor carry on the business of his ordinary providence by extraordinary and supernatural ways, would doubtless (in the eye of the world at least) seem to debase and make cheap those noblest instances of his power, should he ever exert them, but where he saw it of the highest concern to his own honour, and man’s happiness, that something should be done for both, which bare nature, left to itself, could never do.
3. The third and last reason for the necessity of such preparations for the ministry, shall be drawn from the dignity of the subject of it, which is divinity. And what is divinity, but a doctrine treating of the nature, attributes, and works of the great 31God, as he stands related to rational creatures; and the way how rational creatures may serve, worship, and enjoy him? And if so, is not the subject-matter of it the greatest, and the design and business of it the noblest in the world, as being no less than to direct an immortal soul to its endless and eternal felicity? It has been disputed, to which of the intellectual habits, mentioned by Aristotle, it most properly belongs; some referring it to wisdom, some to science, some to prudence, and some compounding it of several of them together: but those seem to speak most to the purpose, who will not have it formally any one of them, but virtually, and in an eminent transcendent manner, all. And now can we think, that a doctrine of that depth, that height, and that vast compass, grasping within it all the perfections and dimensions of human science, does not worthily claim all the preparations, whereby the wit and industry of man can fit him for it? All other sciences are accounted but handmaids to divinity: and shall the handmaid be richer adorned, and better clothed and set off, than her lady? In other things, the art usually excels the matter, and the ornament we bestow, is better than the subject we bestow it upon: but here we are sure, that we have such a subject before us, as not only calls for, but commands, and not only commands, but deserves our utmost application to it; a subject of that native, that inherent worth, that it is not capable of any addition from us, but shines both through and above all the artificial lustre we can put upon it. The study of divinity is indeed difficult, and we are labour hard and dig deep for it; but then we 32dig in a golden mine, which equally invites and rewards our labour.
And thus much for the second general head at first proposed, for the handling of the words; which was to shew, the reasons of the necessity of the preparations spoken of to the study of divinity. Of which we have assigned three.
And so we pass at length to the third and last general head proposed, which was, to shew what useful inferences may be drawn from the foregoing particulars. And the first shall be a just and severe reproof to two sorts of men.
1st, To such as disparage and detract from the grandeur of the gospel, by a puerile and indecent levity in their discourses of it to the people.
2dly, To such as depreciate, and (as much as in them lies) debase the same, by a coarse, careless, rude, and insipid way of handling the great and in valuable truths of it.
Both of them certainly objects of the most deserved reproof. And
1. For those who disparage and detract from the gospel, by a puerile and indecent sort of levity in their discourses upon it, so extremely below the subject discoursed of. All vain, luxuriant allegories, rhyming cadencies of similary words, are such pitiful embellishments of speech, as serve for nothing but to embase divinity; and the use of them, but like the plastering of marble, or the painting of gold, the glory of which is to be seen, and to shine by no other lustre but their own. What Quintilian most discreetly says of Seneca’s handling philosophy, that he did rerum pondera minutissimis sententiis frangere, 33break, and, as it were, emasculate the weight of his subject by little affected sentences, the same may with much more reason be applied to the practice of those, who detract from the excellency of things sacred by a comical lightness of expression: as when their prayers shall be set out in such a dress, as if they did not supplicate, but compliment Almighty God; and their sermons so garnished with quibbles and trifles, as if they played with truth and immortality; and neither believed these things themselves, nor were willing that others should. For is it possible, that a man in his senses should be merry and jocose with eternal life and eternal death, if he really designed to strike the awful impression of either into the consciences of men? No, no; this is no less a contradiction to common sense and reason, than to the strictest notions of religion. And as this can by no means be accounted divinity, so neither indeed can it pass for wit; which yet such chiefly seem to affect in such performances. For these are as much the stains of true human eloquence, as they are the blots and blemishes of divinity; and might be as well confuted out of Quintilian’s Institutions, as out of St. Paul’s Epistles. Such are wholly mistaken in the nature of wit: for true wit is a severe and a manly thing. Wit in divinity is nothing else, but sacred truths suitably expressed. It is not shreds of Latin or Greek, nor a Deus dixit, and a Deus benedixit, nor those little quirks, or divisions into the ὅτι, the διότι, and the καθότι, or the egress, regress, and progress, and other such stuff, (much like the style of a lease,) that can properly be called wit. For that is not wit which consists not with wisdom. 34For can you think that it had not been an easy matter for any one, in the text here pitched upon by me, to have run out into a long, fulsome allegory, comparing the scribe and the householder together, and now and then to have cast in a rhyme, with a quid, a quo, and a quomodo, and the like? But certainly it would then have been much more difficult for the judicious to hear such things, than for any, if so inclined, to have composed them. The practice therefore of such persons is upon no terms to be endured. Nor,
2. Is the contrary of it to be at all more endured in those who cry up their mean, heavy, careless, and insipid way of handling things sacred, as the only spiritual and evangelical way of preaching, while they charge all their crude incoherences, saucy familiarities with God, and nauseous tautologies, upon the Spirit prompting such things to them, and that as the most elevated and seraphic heights of religion. Both these sorts, as I have said, are absolutely to be exploded; and it is hard to judge which of them deserves it most. It is indeed no ways decent for a grave matron to be attired in the gaudy, flaunting dress of youth; but it is not at all uncomely for such an one to be clothed in the richest and most costly silk, if black or grave: for it is not the richness of the piece, but the gaudiness of the colour, which exposes to censure. And therefore, as I shew before, that the ὅτι’s and the διότι’s, the Deus dixit, and the Deus benedixit, could not be accounted wit; so neither can the whimsical cant of 55 Terms often and much used by one J. O. a great leader and oracle in those times.issues, products, tendencies, breathings, indwellings, rollings, recumbencies, 35and scriptures misapplied, be accounted divinity. In a word, let but these new lights, (so apt to teach their betters,) instead of all this and the like jargon, bring us, in their discourses, strength of argument, clearness of consequence, exactness of method, and propriety of speech, and then let prejudice and party (whatsoever they may mutter against them) despise and deride them, if they can. But persons of light, undistinguishing heads, not able to carry themselves clear between extremes, think that they must either flutter, as it were, in the air, by a kind of vain, empty lightness, or lie grovelling upon the ground, by a dead and contemptible flatness; both the one and the other, no doubt, equally ridiculous. But, after all, I cannot but believe, that it is the be witching easiness of the latter way of the two which chiefly sanctifies and endears it to the practice of these men; and I hope it will not prove offensive to the auditory, if, to release it (could I be so happy) from suffering by such stuff for the future, I venture upon some short description of it; and it is briefly thus. First of all they seize upon some text, from whence they draw something, which they call a doctrine, and well may it be said to be drawn from the words; forasmuch as it seldom naturally flows or results from them. In the next place, being thus provided, they branch it into several heads, perhaps twenty, or thirty, or upwards. Whereupon, for the prosecution of these, they repair to some trusty concordance, which never fails them; and by the help of that, they range six or seven scriptures under each head; which scriptures they prosecute one by one, first amplifying and enlarging upon one, for some considerable time, till they have spoiled it; and then, 36that being done, they pass to another, which in its turn suffers accordingly. And these impertinent and unpremeditated enlargements, they look upon as the motions and breathings of the Spirit, and therefore much beyond those carnal ordinances of sense and reason, supported by industry and study; and this they call a saving way of preaching, as it must be confessed to be a way to save much labour, and nothing else that I know of. But how men should thus come to make the salvation of an immortal soul such a slight, extempore business, I must profess I cannot understand; and would gladly understand upon whose example they ground this way of preaching; not upon that of the apostles, I am sure. For it is said of St. Paul, in his sermon before Felix, that he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come. The words being in Acts xxiv. 25, διαλεγομένου δὲ αὐτοῦ, and, according to the natural force and import of them, signifying, that he discoursed or reasoned dialectically, following one conclusion with another, and with the most close and pressing arguments from the most persuasive topics of reason and divinity. Whereupon we quickly find the prevalence of his preaching in a suitable effect, that Felix trembled. Whereas had Paul only cast about his arms, spoke himself hoarse, and cried, You are damned, though Felix (as guilty as he was) might have given him the hearing, yet possibly he might also have looked upon him as one whose passion had at that time got the start of his judgment, and accordingly have given him the same coarse salute which the same Paul afterwards so undeservedly met with from Festus; but his zeal was too much under the conduct of his reason to fly out at such a 37rate. But, to pass from these indecencies to others, as little to be allowed in this sort of men, can any tolerable reason be given for those strange new postures used by some in the delivery of the word? Such as shutting the eyes, distorting the face, and speaking through the nose, which I think cannot so properly be called preaching as toning of a sermon. Nor do I see why the word may not be altogether as effectual for the conversion of souls, delivered by one who has the manners to look his auditory in the face, using his own countenance and his own native voice, without straining it to a lamentable and doleful whine, (never serving to any purpose, but where some religious cheat is to be carried on.) That ancient, though seemingly odd saying, Loquere ut te videam, in my poor judgment, carries in it a very notable instruction, and peculiarly applicable to the persons and matter here pointed at. For, supposing one to be a very able and excellent speaker, yet, under the forementioned circumstances, he must, however, needs be a very ill sight; and the case of his poor suffering hearers very severe upon them, while both the matter uttered by him shall grate hard upon the ear, and the person uttering it at the same time equally offend the eye. It is clear, therefore, that the men of this method have sullied the noble science of divinity, and can never warrant their practice either from religion or reason, or the rules of decent and good behaviour, nor yet from the example of the apostles, and least of all from that of our Saviour himself. For none surely will imagine, that these men’s speaking as never man spoke before, can pass for any imitation of him. And here humbly conceive that it may not be amiss to take 38occasion to utter a great truth, as both worthy to be now considered, and never to be forgot; namely, that if we reflect upon the late times of confusion which passed upon the ministry, we shall find that the grand design of the fanatic crew was to persuade the world, that a standing, settled ministry was wholly useless. This, I say, was the main point which they then drove at. And the great engine to effect this, was by engaging men of several callings, (and those the meaner still the better,) to hold forth and harangue the multitude, sometimes in streets, sometimes in churches, sometimes in barns, and sometimes from pulpits, and sometimes from tubs: and, in a word, wheresoever and howsoever they could clock the senseless and unthinking rabble about them. And with this practice well followed, they (and their friends the Jesuits) concluded, that in some time it would be no hard matter to persuade the people, that if men of other professions were able to teach and preach the word, then to what purpose should there be a company of men brought up to it, and maintained in it, at the charge of a public allowance? especially when, at the same time, the truly godly so greedily gaped and grasped at it for their self-denying selves. So that preaching, we see, was their prime engine. But now what was it which encouraged these men to set up for a work, which, if duly managed, was so difficult in itself, and which they were never bred to? Why, no doubt it was that low, cheap, illiterate way then commonly used, and cried up for the only gospel, soul-searching way, (as the word then went,) and which the craftier sort of them saw well enough, that with a little exercise, and much confidence, they might in a short 39time come to equal, if not exceed; as it cannot be denied but that some few of them (with the help of a few friends in masquerade) accordingly did. But, on the contrary, had preaching been made and reckoned a matter of solid and true learning, of theological knowledge, and long and severe study, (as the nature of it required it to be,) assuredly no preaching cobbler amongst them all would ever have ventured so far beyond his last as to undertake it. And consequently this their most powerful engine for supplanting the church and clergy had never been at tempted, nor perhaps so much as thought on: and therefore of most singular benefit, no question, would it be to the public, if those who have authority to second their advice would counsel the ignorant and the forward to consider what divinity is, and what they themselves are, and so to put up their preaching tools, their medullas, note-books, their mellificiums, concordances, and all, and betake themselves to some useful trade, which nature had most particularly fitted them for. This is what I thought fit to offer and recommend; and that not out of any humour of opposition to this or that sort of men, (for, whatsoever they may deserve, I think them be low it,) but out of a dutiful zeal for the advancement of what most of us profess, divinity; as likewise for the honour of that place which we belong to, the University; and which of late years I have (with no small sorrow) heard often reflected upon for the meanness of many performances in it, no ways answerable to the ancient reputation of so noble a seat of knowledge. For, let the enemies of that and us say what they will, no man’s dulness is or can be his duty, and much less his perfection.40
And thus, having considered the two different, or rather contrary ways of handling the word, and most justly rejected them both, I shall now briefly give the reasons of our rejection of them; and these shall be two.
1. Because both these ways, to wit, the light and comical, and the dull and heavy, extremely expose and discredit the ordinance of preaching: and,
2. Because they no less disgrace the church itself.
1. And, first, we shall find how much both of them expose and discredit the ordinance of preaching; even that ordinance which was originally designed for the two greatest things in the world, the honour of God, and the conversion of souls. For if to convert a soul, even by the word itself, and the strongest arguments which the reason of man can bring, (as being no more than instruments, or rather mere conditions in the case,) if, I say, this be reckoned a work above nature, (as it really is,) then surely to convert one by a jest would be a reach be yond a miracle. In short, it is this unhallowed way of preaching which turns the pulpit into a stage, and the most sovereign remedy against sin, and preservative of the soul, into the sacrifice of fools; making it a matter of sport to the light and vain, of pity to the sober and devout, and of scorn and loathing to all; and I believe never yet drew a tear or a sigh from any judicious and well-disposed auditor, unless perhaps for the sin and vanity of the speaker: so sad a thing it is, when sermons shall be such, that the most serious hearer of them shall not be able to command or keep fixed his attention and his countenance too. For can it be imagined excusable, or indeed tolerable, for one who owns himself for God’s 41ambassador to the people, to speak those things, as by his authority, of which it is hard to judge whether they detract from the honour or honesty of an ambassador most? But, in a word, when the professed dispensers of the weighty matters of religion shall treat them in a way so utterly unsuitable to the weight and grandeur of them, do they not come too near the infamous example of Eli’s two sons, who managed their priestly office (as high and sacred as it was) in so wretched a manner, that it is said, in 1 Sam. ii. 17? that the people abhorred the offering of the Lord? and if so, we may be sure that they abhorred the offerers much more.
2. As the two forementioned ways of handling the word, viz. the light and comical, and the heavy and dull, do mightily discredit the great ordinance of preaching, so they equally discredit the church itself. It is the unhappy fate of the clergy, above all men, that their failures and defects never terminate in their own persons, but still redound upon their function; a manifest injustice certainly; where one is the criminal, and another must be the sufferer: but yet as bad as it is, from the practice of some persons, to take occasion to reproach the church; so, on the other side, to give the occasion, is undoubtedly much worse. And therefore, whatsoever relation to, or whatsoever interest in, or affection to the church, such may or do pretend to, they are really greater enemies and fouler blots to her excellent constitution, than the most avowed opposers and maligners of it; and consequently would have disobliged her infinitely less, had they fallen in with the schismatics and fanatics in their bitterest invectives against her; and that even to the renouncing her orders, (as some 42of them have done,) and an entire quitting of her communion besides; the greatest kindness that such could possibly have done her. For better it is to be hissed at by a snake out of the hedge or the dung hill, than to be hissed at and bitten too by one in one’s own bosom. But I trust, that when men shall seriously and impartially consider how and from whence the church’s enemies have took advantage against her, there will be found those whose preaching shall both answer and adorn her constitution, and withal make her excellent instructions from the pulpit so to suit, as well as second her incomparable devotions from the desk, that they shall neither fly out into those levities and indecencies (so justly before condemned) on the one hand, not yet sink into that sordid, supine dulness on the other, (which our men of the Spirit so much affect to distinguish themselves by, and which we by no means desire to vie with them in.) In sum, we hope that all our church-performances shall be such, that she shall as much outshine all those about her in the soundness and sobriety of her doctrines, as she surpasses them all in the primitive excellency of her discipline.
And thus having finished the first of the two general inferences from the foregoing particulars, which was for the reproof of two contrary sorts of dispensers of the word, and given reasons against them both, I shall now, in the
Second place, pass to the other and concluding inference from this whole discourse; and that shall be, to exhort and advise those who have already heard what preparations are required to a gospel scribe instructed to the kingdom of heaven, and who withal design themselves for the same employment, with 43the utmost seriousness of thought to consider the high reasonableness, or rather absolute necessity of their bestowing a competent and sufficient time in the universities for that purpose. And to dissuade such from a sudden and hasty relinquishment of them, (besides arguments, more than enough, drawn from the great inconveniencies of so doing, and the implicit prohibition of St. Paul himself, declaring, that he who undertakes a pastoral charge must not be a novice,) there is still a more cogent reason for the same, and that from the very nature of the thing itself: for how (naturally speaking) can there be a fitness for any great thing or work without preparation? And how can there be preparation without due time and opportunity? It is observed of the Levites, though much of their ministry was only shoulder work, that they had yet a very considerable time for preparation. They were consecrated to it by the imposition of hands at the age of five and twenty; after which they employed five years in learning their office, and then, at the thirtieth year of their age, they began their Levitical ministration; at which time also our blessed Saviour began his ministry. But now, under the gospel, when our work is ten times greater, (as well as twice ten times more spiritual than theirs was,) do we think to furnish ourselves in half the space? There was lately a company of men called triers, commissioned by Cromwell, to judge of the abilities of such as were to be admitted by them into the ministry: who, forsooth, if any of that Levitical age of thirty presented himself to them for their approbation, they commonly rejected him with scorn and disdain; telling him, that if he had not been lukewarm, and good for 44nothing, he would have been disposed of in the ministry long before; and they would tell him also, that he was not only of a legal age, but of a legal spirit too; and as for things legal, (by which we poor mortals, and men of the letter, and not of the spirit, understand things done according to law,) this they renounced, and pretended to be many degrees above it; for otherwise we may be sure that their great master of misrule, Oliver, would never have commissioned them to serve him in that post. And now what a kind of ministry (may we imagine) such would have stocked this poor nation with, in the space of ten years more? But the truth is, for those whose divinity was novelty, it ought to be no wonder, if their divines were to be novices too; and since they intended to make their preaching and praying an extemporary work, no wonder if they were contented also with an extemporary preparation; and after two or three years spent in the university, ran abroad, under a pretence of serving God in their generation, (a term in mighty request with them,) and that for reasons (it is supposed) best known to themselves. But as for such mushroom divines, who start up so of a sudden, we do not usually find their success so good as to recommend their practice. Hasty births are seldom long lived, but never strong: and therefore I hope, that those who love the church so well, as not to be willing that she should suffer by any failure of theirs, will make it their business so to stock themselves here, as to carry from hence both learning and experience to that arduous and great work, which so eminently requires both. And the more inexcusable will an over-hasty leaving this noble place of improvement be, by how much 45the greater encouragement we now have to make a longer stay in it than we had some years since; Providence having broken the rod of (I believe) as great spiritual oppression, as was ever before exercised upon any company or corporation of men whatsoever: when some spiritual tyrants, then at the top and head of it, not being able to fasten any accusation upon men’s lives, mortally maligned by them, would presently arraign and pass sentence upon their hearts; and deny them the proper encouragement and support of scholars, because, forsooth, they were not (in their refined sense) godly and regenerate; nor allowed to be godly, because they would not espouse a faction, by resorting to their congregational, house-warming meetings; where the brotherhood (or sisterhood rather) used to be so very kind to their friends and brethren in the Lord. Besides the barbarous, raving insolence which those spiritual dons from the pulpit were wont to shew to all sorts and degrees of men, high and low; representing every casual mishap as a judgment from God upon such and such particular persons; who being implacably hated by the party, could not, it seems, be otherwise by God himself. For, 66 Dr. H. W. violently thrust in canon of Christ Church, Oxon, by the parliament visitors, in the year 1647.Mark the men, said Holderforth, (as I myself, with several others, frequently heard him.) And then, having thus fixed his mark, and taken aim, he would shoot through and through it with a vengeance. But, I hope, things are already come to that pass, that we shall never again hear any, especially of our own body, in the very face of loyalty and learning, dare in this place (so renowned for both) either rail at majesty, 46 or decry a standing ministry, and, in a most unnatural and preposterous manner, plant their batteries in the pulpit for the beating down of the church.
In fine, therefore, both to relieve your patience and close up this whole discourse, since Providence, by a wonder of mercy, has now opened a way for the return of our laws and our religion, it will concern us all seriously to consider, that as the work before us is the greatest and most important, both with reference to this world and the next, so likewise to remember and lay to heart, that this is the place of preparation, and now the time of it: and consequently, that the more time and care shall be taken by us to go from hence prepared for our great business, the better, no doubt, will be our work, and the larger our reward.
Now to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen,47
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