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James, a servant of God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.—James I. 1.

JAMES, there were two of this name, the son of Zebedee, and the son of Alpheus; the latter is the author of this epistle, as in the prefatory discourse on the title more fully appeareth.

A servant of God.—The word δοῦλος is sometimes put to imply an abject and vile condition, as that of a slave or bondman; so the apostle Paul, when he saith, Gal. iii. 28, `bond or free are all one in Christ, for bond he useth the word δοῦλος; and this great apostle thinketh it an honour to be δοῦλος, the servant of God. The lowest ministry and office about God is honourable.

But why not apostle? Grotius supposeth the reason to be because neither James the son of Zebedee, nor James of Alpheus, was the author of this epistle, but some third James; not an apostle, but president of the presbytery at Jerusalem; but that we have disproved in the preface. I answer, therefore: He mentioneth not his apostleship—1. Because there was no need, he being eminent in the opinion and repute of the churches; therefore Paul saith, he was accounted a pillar and main column of the Christian faith, Gal. ii. 9. Paul, whose apostleship was enviously questioned, avoucheth it often. 2. Paul himself doth not in every epistle call himself an apostle. Some times his style is, `Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, Philem. 1; sometimes, `Paul, a servant of Christ, Phil. i. 1; sometimes nothing but his name Paul is prefixed, as in 1 Thes. i. 1, and 2 Thes. i. 1.

It followeth, and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some take both these clauses in a conjoined sense, as applied to the same person, and read it thus: A servant of Jesus Christ who is God and Lord; as indeed this was one of the places urged by the Greek fathers for the God head of Christ against the Arians. But our reading, which disjoineth the clauses, is to be preferred, as being least strained, and 16more suitable to the apostolic inscriptions; neither is the dignity of Christ hereby impaired, he being proposed as an object of equal honour with the Father; and as the Father is Lord, as well as Jesus Christ, so Jesus Christ is God as well as the Father. Well, then, James is not only God's servant by the right of creation and providence, but Christ's servant by the right of redemption; yea, especially deputed by Christ as Lord, that is, as mediator and head of the church, to do him service in the way of an apostle; and I suppose there is some special reason of this disjunction, `a servant of God and of Christ, to show his countrymen that, in serving Christ, he served the God of his fathers, as Paul pleaded, Acts xxvi. 6, 7, that, in standing for Christ, he did but stand for `the hope of the promise made unto the fathers, unto which promise the twelve tribes, serving God day and night, hope to come.,

It followeth in the text, to the twelve tribes; that is, to the Jews and people of Israel, chiefly those converted to the faith of Christ; to these James writeth, as the `minister of the circumcision, Gal. ii. 9. And he writeth not in Hebrew, their own tongue, but in Greek, as being the language then most in use, as the apostle Paul writeth to the Romans in the same tongue, and not in the Latin.

Which are scattered abroad; in the original, ταῖς ἐν τῇ διασπορᾷ, to those which are in or of the dispersion. But what scattering or dispersion is here intended? I answer, (1.) Either that which was occasioned by their ancient captivities, and the frequent changes of nations, for so there were some Jews that still lived abroad, supposed to be intended in that expression, John vii. 35, `Will he go to the dispersed among the Gentiles?, Or (2.) More lately by the persecution spoken of in the 8th of the Acts. Or (3.) By the hatred of Claudius, who commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome, Acts xviii. 2. And it is probable that the like was done in other great cities. The Jews, and amongst them the Christians, being every where cast out, as John out of Ephesus, and others out of Alexandria. Or (4.) Some voluntary dispersion, the Hebrews living here and there among the Gentiles a little before the declension and ruin of their state, some in Cilicia, some in Pontus, &c. Thus the apostle Peter writeth, 1 Peter i. 1, `To the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.,

Χαίρειν, greeting.—An usual salutation, but not so frequent in scripture. Cajetan thinketh it profane and paganish, and therefore questioneth the epistle, but unworthily. We find the same salutation sometimes used in holy writ, as to the Virgin Mary, Luke i. 28: χαῖρε (the same word that is used here), `Hail, thou that art highly favoured., So Acts xv. 23: `The apostles, and elders, and brethren, send (χαίρειν) greeting to the brethren which are of the Gentiles., Usually it is `grace, mercy, and peace, but sometimes `greeting.,

Observations out of this verse are these:—

Obs. 1. From that, James a servant of God, he was Christ's near kinsman according to the flesh, and, therefore, by a Hebraism called `The brother of the Lord, Gal. i. 19, not properly and strictly, as Joseph's son, which yet was the opinion of some of the ancients2424Eusebius Epiphanius, Gregory Nissen, and others. by a 17former marriage, but his cousin. Well, then, `James, the Lord's kinsman, calleth himself `the Lord's servant:, the note is, that inward privileges are the best and most honourable, and spiritual kin is to be preferred before carnal. Mary was happier, gestando Christum corde quam utero—in having Christ in her heart rather than her womb; and James in being Christ's servant, than his brother. Hear Christ himself speaking to this point, Mat. xii. 47-49: `When one told him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without desiring to speak with thee., Christ answered. `Who is my mother, and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand to his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren; for whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, sister, and mother., The truest relation to Christ is founded in grace, and we are far happier in receiving him by faith, than in touching him by blood; and he that endeavours to do his will may be as sure of Christ's love and esteem, as if he were linked to him by the nearest outward relations.

Obs. 2. It is no dishonour to the highest to be Christ's servant. James, whom Paul calleth `a pillar, calleth himself `a servant of Christ;, and David, a king, saith, Ps. lxxxiv. 10, `I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than dwell in the tents of wickedness., The office of the Nethinims, or doorkeepers in the temple, was the lowest; and therefore, when the question was proposed what they should do with the Levites that had warped from God to idols, God saith, `They shall bear their iniquity;, that is, they shall be degraded, and employed in the lowest offices and minis tries of the temple, which was to be porters and doorkeepers (see Ezek. xliv. 10-13): yet saith David, `I had rather be a doorkeeper;, carnal honour and greatness is nothing to this. Paul was `an Hebrew of the Hebrews, Phil. iii. 5; that is, of an ancient Hebrew race and extraction, there being, to the memory of man, no proselyte in his family or among his ancestors, which was accounted a very great honour by that nation; yet, saith Paul, I count all σκύβαλα, dung and dog's meat, in comparison of an interest in Christ, Phil. iii. 8.

Obs. 3. The highest in repute and office in the church yet are still but servants: `James, a servant;, 2 Cor. iv. 1, `Let a man account of us as of ministers of Christ., The sin of Corinth was man-worship, in giving an excess of honour and respect to those teachers whom they admired, setting them up as heads of factions, and giving up their faith to their dictates. The apostle seeketh to reclaim them from that error, by showing that they are not masters, but ministers: give them the honour of a minister and steward, but not that dependence which is due to the master only. See 2 Cor. i. 24: `We have not dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy., We are not to prescribe articles of faith, but explain them. So the apostle Peter bids the elders not to behave themselves as `lords over God's heritage, 1 Peter v. 3; not to master it over their consciences. Our work is mere service, and we can but persuade; Christ must impose upon the conscience. It is Christ's own advice to his disciples in Mat. xxiii. 10: `Be not ye called masters, for one is your master, even Christ., All the authority and success of our teaching is from our 18 Lord. We can prescribe nothing as necessary to be believed or done which is not according to his will or word. In short, we come not in our own name, and must not act with respect to our own ends; we are servants.

Obs. 4. A servant of God, and of Jesus Christ.—In all services we must honour the Father, and the Son also: John v. 23, `God will have all to honour the Son as they honour the Father;, that is, God will be honoured and worshipped only in Christ: John xiv. 1, `Ye believe in God, believe also in me., Believing is the highest worship and respect of the creature; you must give it to the Son, to the second person as mediator, as well as to the Father. Do Duties so as you may honour Christ in them; and so—

First, Look for their acceptance in Christ. Oh! it would be sad if we were only to look to God the Father in duties. Adam hid himself, and durst not come into the presence of God, till the promise of Christ. The hypocrites cried, Isa. xxxiii. 14, `Who shall dwell with consuming fire?, Guilt can form no other thought of God by looking upon him out of Christ; we can see nothing but majesty armed with wrath and power. But now it is said, Eph. iii. 12, that `in Christ we have access with boldness and confidence;, for in him those attributes, which are in themselves terrible, become sweet and comfortable; as water, which is salt in the ocean, being strained through the earth, becometh sweet in the rivers; that in God which, out of Christ, striketh terror into the soul, in Christ begets a confidence.

Secondly, Look for your assistance from him. You serve God in Christ:—[1.] When you serve God through Christ: Phil. iv. 13, `I can do all things, through Christ that strengtheneth me., When your own hands are in God's work, your eyes must be to Christ's hands for support in it: Ps. cxxiii. 2, `As the eyes of servants look to the hands of their masters, &c.; you must go about God's work with his own tools.

[2.] When ye have an eye to the concernments of Jesus Christ in all your service of God, 2 Cor. v. 15. We must `live to him that died for us;, not only to God in general, but to him, to God that died for us. You must see how you advance his kingdom, propagate his truth, further the glory of Christ as mediator.

[3.] When all is done for Christ's sake. In Christ God hath a new claim in you, and ye are bought with his blood, that ye may be his servants. Under the law the great argument to obedience was God's sovereignty: Thus and thus ye shall do, `I am the Lord;, as in Lev. xix. 37, and other places. Now the argument is gratitude, God's love, God's love in Christ: `The love of Christ constraineth us, 2 Cor. v. 14. The apostle often persuades by that motive—Be God's servants for Christ's sake.

Obs. 5. To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.—God looks after his afflicted servants: he moveth James to write to the scattered tribes: the care of heaven flourisheth towards you when you wither. A man would have thought these had been driven away from God's care, when they had been driven away from the sanctuary. Ezek. xi. 16, `Thus saith the Lord, though I have cast them far off among the heathen, and have scattered them among the countries, 19yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the places where they come., Though they wanted the temple, yet God would be a little sanctuary. He looks after them, to watch their spirits, that he may apply seasonable comforts; and to watch their adversaries, to prevent them with seasonable providences. He looketh after them to watch the seasons of deliverance, `that he may gather her that was driven out, Micah iv. 6, and make up `his jewels, Mal. iii. 17, that seemed to be carelessly scattered and lost.

Obs. 6. God's own people may be dispersed, and driven from their countries and habitations. God hath his outcasts: he saith to Moab, `Pity my outcasts, Isa. xvi. 4. And the church complains, `Our in heritance is turned to strangers, Lam. v. 2. Christ himself had not where to lay his head; and the apostle tells us of some `of whom the world was not worthy, that `they wandered in deserts, and mountains, and woods, and caves, Mark, they wandered in the woods (it is Chrysostom's note) ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐκεὶ ὄντες ἔφευγον2525Chrysostom in Heb. xi. the retirement and privacy of the wilderness did not yield them a quiet and safe abode. So in Acts viii. 4, we read of the primitive believers, that `they were scattered abroad everywhere., Many of the children of God in these times have been driven from their dwellings; but you see we have no reason to think the case strange.

Obs. 7. To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.—There was something more in their scattering than ordinary: they were a people whom God for a long time had kept together under the wings of providence. That which is notable in their scattering is:—

1. The severity of God's justice; the twelve tribes are scattered—his own people. It is ill resting on any privileges, when God's Israel may be made strangers. Israel was all for liberty; therefore God saith, `I will feed them as a lamb in a large place, Hosea iv. 16. God would give them liberty and room enough. As a lamb out of the fold goeth up and down bleating in the forest or wilderness, without comfort and companion, in the midst of wolves and the beasts of the desert liberty enough, but danger enough!—so God would cast them out of the fold, and they should live a Jew here and a Jew there, thinly scattered and dispersed throughout the countries, among a people whose language they understood not, and as a lamb in the midst of the beasts of prey. Oh! consider the severity of God's justice; certainly it is a great sin that maketh a loving father cast a child out of doors. Sin is always driving away and casting out; it drove the angels out of heaven, Adam out of paradise, and Cain out of the church, Gen. iv. 12, 16, and the children of God out of their dwellings: Jer. ix. 19, `Our dwellings have cast us out., Your houses will be weary of you when you dishonour God in them, and you will be driven from those comforts which you abuse to excess; riot doth but make way for rapine. You shall see in the 6th of Amos, when they were at ease in Sion, they would prostitute David's music to their sportiveness and common banquets: Amos vi. 5, `They invent to themselves instruments of music like David., But for this God threateneth to scatter them, and to remove them from their houses of luxury and pleasure. And when they were driven to the land of a stranger, 20they were served in their own kind; the Babylonians would have temple-music: Ps. cxxxvii. 3, `Now let us have one of your Hebrew songs:, nothing but a holy song would serve their profane sport. And so in all such like cases, when we are weary of God in our houses and families, our houses are weary of us. David's house was out of order, and then he was forced to fly from it, 2 Sam. xv. Oh! then, when you walk in the midst of your comforts, your stately dwellings and houses of pomp and pleasure, be not of Nebuchadnezzar's spirit, when he walked in the palace of Babylon, and said, Dan. iv. 30, `Is not this great Babel, which I have built?,—pride grew upon him by the sight of his comforts; not of the spirit of those Jews who, when they dwelt within ceiled houses, cried, `The time to build the Lord's house is not come, Hag. i. 1,2. They were well, and at ease, and therefore neglected God;—but of David's spirit, who, when he went into his stately palace, serious thoughts and purposes of honouring God arose within his spirit: 2 Sam. vii. 2, `Shall I dwell in a house of cedar, and the ark of God dwell within curtains?, Observe the different workings of their spirits. Nebuchadnezzar, walking in his palace, groweth proud: `Is not this great Babel, which I have built?, The Jews, in their ceiled houses, grow careless: `The time to build the Lord's house is not come., David, in his curious house of cedar, groweth religious: What have I done for the ark of God, who hath done so much for me? Well, then, honour God in your houses, lest you become the burdens of them, and they spue you out. The twelve tribes were scattered.

2. The infallibility of his truth; they were punished `as their congregation had heard;, as the prophet speaketh, Hosea vii. 11, 12. In judicial dispensations, it is good to observe not only God's justice, but God's truth. No calamity befell Israel but what was in the letter foretold in the books of Moses; a man might have written their history out of the threatenings of the law. See Lev. xxvi. 33: `If ye walk contrary unto me, I will scatter you among the heathens, and will draw a sword after you., The like is threatened in Deut. xxviii. 64: `And the Lord shall scatter you from one end of the earth unto another among all the people., And you see how suitable the event was to the prophecy; and therefore I conceive James useth this expression of `the twelve tribes, when that distinction was antiquated, and the tribes much confounded, to show that they, who were once twelve flourishing tribes, were now, by the accomplishment of that prophecy, sadly scattered and mingled among the nations.

3. The tenderness of his love to the believers among them; he hath a James for the Christians of the scattered tribes, In the severest ways of his justice he doth not forget his own, and he hath special consolations for them when they lie under the common judgment. When other Jews were banished, John, amongst the rest, was banished out of Ephesus into Patmos, a barren, miserable rock or island; but there he had those high revelations, Rev. i. 9. Well, then, wherever you are, you are near to God; he is a God at hand, and a God afar off:^ when you lose your dwelling, you do not lose your interest in Christ; and you are everywhere at home, but there where you are strangers to God.


Ver. 2. My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations.

My brethren.—A usual compellation in the scriptures, and very frequent in this epistle, partly because of the manner of the Jews, who were wont to call all of their nation brethren, and partly because of the manner of the ancient Christians,2626See Tertul. in Apol. cap. 39, Justin Mart. in fine Apol. 2, and Clement. Alexand. lib. v. Stromat. who in courtesy used to call the men and women of their society and communion brothers and sisters; partly out of apostolical kindness, and that the exhortation might be seasoned with the more love and good-will.

Count it; that is, though sense will not find it so, yet in spiritual judgment you must so esteem it.

All joy; that is, matter of chief joy. Πᾶσαν, all is thus used in the writings of the apostles, as in 1 Tim. i. 15, πάσης ἀποδοχῆς ἄξιος, `worthy of all acceptation, that is, of chief acceptation.

When ye fall, ὅταν περιπέσητε.—The word signifies such troubles as come upon us unawares, as sudden things do most discompose the mind. But however, says the apostle, `when ye fall, and are suddenly circumvented, yet you must look upon it as a trial and matter of great joy; for though it seemeth a chance to us, yet it falleth under the ordination of God.

Divers.—The Jewish nation was infamous, and generally hated, especially the Christian Jews, who, besides the scorn of the heathen, were exercised with sundry injuries, rapines, and spoils from their own brethren, and people of their own nation, as appeareth by the Epistle of Peter, who wrote to the same persons that our apostle doth; and also speaketh of `divers or manifold temptations, 1 Peter i. 6. And again by the Epistle to the Hebrews, written also to these dispersed tribes: see Heb. x. 34, `Ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, that is, by the fury of the multitude and base people, against whom the Christians could have no right.

Temptations.—So he calleth afflictions, which to believers are of that use and habitude.

The observations are:—

Obs. 1. My brethren.—Christians are linked to one another in the bond of brotherhood. It was an ancient use, as I showed before, for Christians of the same communion to call one another brothers and sisters, which gave occasion of scorn to the heathen then. Quod fratres nos vocamus, infamant, saith Tertullian; and it is still made matter of reproach: what scoff more usual than that of holy brethren? If we will not keep up the title, yet the affection which becomes the relation should not cease. The term hinteth duty to all sorts of Christians; meekness to those that excel in gifts or office, that they may be not stately and disdainful to the meanest in the body of Christ—it is Christ's own argument, `Ye are brethren, Mat. xxiii. 8: and it also suggesteth love, and mutual amity. Who should love more than those that are united in the same head and hope? Eodem sanguine Christi glutinati, as Augustine said of himself and his friend Alipius; that is, cemented with the same blood of Christ. We are all travelling homeward, and expect to meet in the same heaven: it would be 22sad that brethren should `fall out by the way, Gen. xlv. 24. It was once said, Aspice, ut se mutuo diligunt Christiani!—See how the Christians love one another! (Tertul. in Apol. cap. 39.) But alas! now we may say, See how they hate one another!

Obs. 2. From that count it, miseries are sweet or bitter according as we will reckon of them. Seneca said, Levis est dolor si nihil opinio adjecerit—our grief lieth in our own opinion and apprehension of miseries. Spiritual things are worthy in themselves, other things depend upon our opinion and valuation of them. Well, then, it standeth us much upon to make a right judgment; therein lieth our misery or comfort; things are according as you will count them. That your judgments may be rectified in point of afflictions, take these rules.

1. Do not judge by sense: Heb. xii. 11, `No affliction for the present seemeth joyous, but grievous, &c. Theophylact observeth,2727Theoph. in loc. that in this passage two words are emphatical, πρὸς τὸ παρὸν and δοκεῖ, for the present and seemeth; for the present noteth the feeling and experience of sense, and seemeth the apprehension and dictate of it: sense can feel no joy in it, and sense will suggest nothing but bitterness and sorrow; but we are not to go by that count and reckoning. A Christian liveth above the world, because he doth not judge according to the world. Paul's scorn of all sublunary accidents arose from his spiritual judgment concerning them: Rom. viii. 18, `I reckon that the sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared with the joys that shall be revealed in us., Sense, that is altogether for present things, would judge quite otherwise; but saith the apostle, `I reckon, i.e., reason by another manner of rule and account: so Heb. xi. 26, it is said, that `Moses esteemed the reproach of Christ better than the treasures of Egypt:, his choice, you see, was founded in his judgment and esteem.

2. Judge by a supernatural light. Christ's eye-salve must clear your sight, or else you cannot make a right judgment: there is no proper and fit apprehension of things till you get within the veil, and see by the light of a sanctuary lamp: 1 Cor. ii. 11, `The things of God knoweth no man, but by the Spirit of God., He had said before, ver. 9, `Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, &c.; i.e., natural senses do not perceive the worth and price of spiritual privileges; for I suppose the apostle speaketh not there of the incapacity of our understandings to conceive of heavenly joys, but of the unsuitableness of spiritual objects to carnal senses. A man that hath no other light but reason and nature, cannot judge of those things; God's riddles are only open to those that plough with God's heifer: and it is by God's Spirit that we come to discern and esteem the things that are of God; which is the main drift of the apostle in that chapter. So David, Ps. xxxvi. 9, `In thy light we shall see light;, that is, by his Spirit we come to discern the brightness of glory or grace, and the nothingness of the world.

3. Judge by supernatural grounds. Many times common grounds may help us to discern the lightness of our grief, yea, carnal grounds; your counting must be an holy counting. Those in the prophet said, `The bricks are fallen, but we will build with hewn stones, Isa. ix. 10. It is a misery, but we know how to remedy it; so many despise their troubles: we can repair and make up this loss again, or know how to deal well enough with this misery. All this is not `a right judgment, but `vain thoughts;, so the prophet calleth their carnal debates and reasonings: Jer. iv. 14, `How long shall vain thoughts lodge within thee?, that is, carnal shifts and contrivances, by which they despised the judgment, rather than improved it. True judging and counting always followeth some spiritual discourse and reasoning, and is the result of some principle of faith or patience; as thus, it is a misery, but God will turn it to our good. God's corrections are sharp, but we have strong corruptions to be mortified; we are called to great trials, but we may reckon upon great hopes, &c.

Obs. 3. From that all joy; afflictions to God's people do not only minister occasion of patience, but great joy. The world hath no reason to think religion a black and gloomy way: as the apostle saith, `The weakness of Christ is stronger than the strength of men, 1 Cor. i. 25; so grace's worst is better than the world's best; `all joy, when in divers trials! A Christian is a bird that can sing in winter as well as in spring; he can live in the fire like Moses's bush; burn, and not be consumed; nay, leap in the fire. The counsel of the text is not a paradox, fitted only for notion and discourse, or some strain and reach of fancy; but an observation, built upon a common and known experience: this is the fashion and manner of believers, to rejoice in their trials. Thus Heb. x. 34, `Ye took the spoiling of your goods joy fully;, in the midst of rifling and plundering, and the incivilities of rude and violent men, they were joyful and cheerful. The apostle goeth one step higher: 2 Cor. vii. 4, `I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation, Mark that ὑπερπερισσεύομαι τῇ χαρᾷ, I superabound or overflow in joy. Certainly a dejected spirit liveth much beneath the height of Christian privileges and principles. Paul in his worst estate felt an exuberancy of joy: `I am exceeding joyful;, nay, you shall see in another place he went higher yet: Rom. v. 3, `We glory in tribulations, καυχώμεθα; it noteth the highest joy—joy with a boasting and exultation; such a ravishment as cannot be compressed. Certainly a Christian is the world's wonder, and there is nothing in their lives but what men will count strange; their whole course is a riddle, which the multitude understandeth not, 2 Cor. vi. 10: `As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;, it is Paul's riddle, and may be every Christian's motto and symbol.

Object. 1. But you will say, Doth not the scripture allow us a sense of our condition? How can we rejoice in that which is evil? Christ's soul was `heavy unto death.,

Solut. I answer—1. Not barely in the evil of them; that is so far from being a fruit of grace, that it is against nature: there is a natural abhorrency of that which is painful, as we see in Christ himself: John xii. 27, `My soul is troubled; what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour, &c. As a private person, Christ would manifest the same affections that are in us, though as mediator, he freely chose death and sufferings; the mere evil is grievous. Besides, in the sufferings of Christ there was a concurrence of our guilt taken into his own person and of God's wrath; and it is a known rule, 24 Coelestis ira quos premit miseros facit, humana nullos. No adversary but God can make us miserable; and it is his wrath that putteth a vinegar and gall into our sufferings, not man's.

2. Their joy is from the happy effects, or consequents, or comforts, occasioned by their sufferings. I will name some.

[1.] The honour done to us; that we are singled out to bear witness to the truths of Christ: `To you it is given to suffer, Phil. i. 29. It is a gift and an act of free-grace: to be called to such special service is an act of God's special favour, and so far from being a matter of discouragement, that it is a ground of thanksgiving: 1 Peter iv. 16, `If any man surfer as a Christian, let him glorify God in this behalf:, not accuse God by murmuring thoughts, but glorify him. This consideration had an influence upon the primitive saints and martyrs. It is said, Acts v. 41, that `they went away rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ: `in the original, ὅτι κατηξιώθησαν ἀτιμασθῆναι, that they were honoured to be dishonoured for Christ. It is a great dignity and honour put upon us to be drawn out before angels and men as champions for God and his truth; and this will warrant our joy. So Christ himself: Mat. v. 12, `When men say all manner of evil against you falsely, and for my name's sake, rejoice and be exceeding glad, Luke hath it, `Rejoice, and leap for joy, Luke vi. 23; which noteth such exsiliency of affection as is stirred up by some sudden and great comfort.

[2.] The benefit the church receiveth. Resolute defences gain upon the world. The church is like an oak, which liveth by its own wounds, and the more limbs are cut off, the more new sprouts.2828`Τεμνόμενον θάλλει καὶ τῷ σιδηρῷ ἀντάγωνίζεται,—Naz. in. Orat. Tertullian saith, The heathen's cruelty was the great bait and motive by which men were drawn into the Christian religion;2929`Exquisitior quaeque crudelitas vestra illecebra est; magis sectae, plures efficimur, quoties metimur a vobis,—&c. Tertul. in Apol. and Austin3030`Ligabantur, includebantur, caedebantur, torquebantur, urebantur, laniabautur, trucidabantur et tamen multiplicabantur.,—Aug. lib. xxii. de Civit. Dei, c. 6. reckoneth up all the methods of destruction by which the heathen sought to suppress the growth of Christianity, but still it grew the more; they were bound, butchered, racked, stoned, burned, but still they were multiplied. The church was at first founded in blood, and it thriveth best when it is moistened with blood; founded in the blood of Christ, and moistened or watered, as it were, with the blood of the martyrs. Well, then, they may rejoice in this, that religion is more propagated, and that their own death and sufferings do any way contribute to the life and nourishing of the church.

[3.] Their own private and particular comforts. God hath consolations proper for martyrs, and his children under trials.3131Philip, the Landgrave of Hesse, being asked how he could endure his long and tedious imprisonment, `Professus est se divinas martyrum consolationes sensisse.,—Manlius. Let me name a few. Sometimes it is a greater presence of the word: 1 Thes. i. 6, `Ye received the word with much affliction, and joy in the Holy Ghost., Great affliction! but the gospel will counterpoise all. Usually it is a clear evidence and sight of their gracious estate. The sun shineth many times when it raineth; and they have sweet glimpses 25of God's favour when their outward condition is most gloomy and sad: `When men revile you, and persecute you, rejoice, for yours is the kingdom of heaven, Mat. v. 10. God cleareth up their right and interest—yours. So also distinct hopes and thoughts of glory. Martyrs, in the act of suffering and troubles, have not only a sight of their interest, but a sight of the glory of their interest. There are some thoughts stirred up in them which come near to an ecstasy, a happy pre-union of their souls and their blessedness, and such a fore-enjoyment of heaven as giveth them a kind of dedolency in the midst of their trials and sufferings. Their minds are so wholly swallowed up with the things that are not seen, that they have little thought or sense of the things that are seen; as the apostle seemeth to intimate, 2 Cor. iv. 18. Again, they rejoice because of their speedy and swifter passage into glory. The enemies do them a courtesy to rid them out of a troublesome world. This made the ancient Christians to rejoice more when they were condemned than absolved;3232`Magis damnati quam absoluti gaudemus.,—Tertul. in Apol. to kiss the stake, and thank the executioner, because of their earnest desires to be with Christ. So Justin Martyr (Apol. 1, adversus Gentes), Gratias agimus quod a molestis dominis liberemur—we thank you for delivering us from hard taskmasters, that we may more sweetly enjoy the bosom of Jesus Christ.

Object. 2. But some will say, My sufferings are not akin to martyrdom; they come not from the hand of men, but providence, and are for my own sins, not for Christ.

Solut. I answer—It is true there is a difference between afflictions from the hand of God, and persecutions from the violence of men. God's hand is just, and guilt will make the soul less cheerful; but remember the apostle's word is divers trials; and sickness, death of friends, and such things as come from an immediate providence, are but trials to the children of God. In these afflictions there is required not only mourning and humbling, but a holy courage and confidence: Job v. 22, `At destruction and famine shalt thou laugh., There is a holy greatness of mind, and a joy that becometh the saddest providences. Faith should be above all that befalleth us; it is its proper work to make a believer triumph over every temporary accident. In ordinary crosses there are many reasons of laughing and joy; as the fellow-feeling of Christ; if you do not suffer for Christ, Christ suffereth in you, and with you. He is afflicted and touched with a sense of your afflictions. It is an error in believers to think that Christ is altogether unconcerned in their sorrows, unless they be endured for his name's sake, and that the comforts of the gospel are only applicable to martyrdom. Again, another ground of joy in ordinary crosses is, because in them we may have much experience of grace, of the love of God, and our own sincerity and patience; and that is ground of rejoicing: Rom. v. 3, `We rejoice in tribulation, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience., The rule holdeth good in all kinds of tribulations or sufferings; they occasion sweet discoveries of God, and so are matter of joy. See also 2 Cor. xii. 9, 10, `I glory in infirmities, and `take pleasure in infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me., They are happy occasions 26to discover more of God to us, to give us a greater sense and feeling of the power of grace; and so we may take pleasure m them. Lastly, all evils are alike to faith; and it would as much misbecome a Christian hope to be dejected with losses, as with violence or persecution. You should walk so that the world may know you can live above every condition, and that all evils are much beneath your hopes. Well, then, from all that hath been said we see that we should with the same cheerfulness suffer the will of Christ as we should suffer for the name of Christ.

Obs. 4. From that, when ye fall, observe that evils are the better borne when they are undeserved and involuntary; that is, when we fall into them, rather than draw them upon ourselves. It was Tertullian's error to say that afflictions were to be sought and desired. The creature never knoweth when it is well; sometimes we question God's love, because we have no afflictions, and anon, because we have no thing but afflictions. In all these things we must refer ourselves to God's pleasure, not desire troubles, but bear them when he layeth them on us. Christ hath taught us to pray, `Lead us not into temptation;, it is but a fond presumption to cast ourselves upon it. Philastrius speaketh of some that would compel men to kill them out of an affectation of martyrdom; and so doth Theodoret.3333Theod. lib. iv. Haeret. Fabul. This was a mad ambition, not a true zeal; and no less fond are they that seek out crosses and troubles in the world, rather than wait for them, or by their own violences and miscarriages draw just hatred upon themselves. Peter's rule is: `Let none of you suffer as an evil-doer, 1 Peter iv. 15. We lose the comfort of our sufferings when there is guilt in them.

Obs. 5. From that divers, God hath several ways wherewith to exercise his people. Divers miseries come one in the neck of another, as the lunatic in the gospel `fell sometimes in the water, sometimes in the fire;, so God changeth the dispensation, sometimes in this trouble, sometimes in that. Paul gives a catalogue of his dangers and sufferings: 2 Cor. xi. 24-28, `In perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the city, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren., Crosses seldom come single. When God beginneth once to try, he useth divers ways of trial; and indeed there is great reason. Divers diseases must have divers remedies. Pride, envy, coveteousness, worldliness, wantonness, ambition, are not all cured by the same physic. Such an affliction pricks the bladder of pride, another checks our desires, that are apt to run out in the way of the world, &c. Do not murmur, then, if miseries come upon you, like waves, in a continual succession. Job's messengers came thick and close one after another, to tell of oxen, and house, and camels, and sons, and daughters, and all destroyed, Job i.; messenger upon messenger, and still with a sadder story. We have `divers lusts, Titus iii. 3, and, therefore, have need of `divers trials., In the 6th of the Revelations one horse cometh after another—the white, the pale, the black, the red. When the sluice is once opened, several judgments succeed in order. In the 4th of Amos, the prophet speaks of blasting, and mildew, and cleanness 27of teeth, pestilence, and war; all these judgments one after another. So Christ threatens Jerusalem with `wars and rumours of wars;, and addeth: `There shall be famine, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places, Mat. xxiv. 7. Oh! then, `Stand in awe, and sin not, Ps. iv. When the first brunt is over, you cannot say, `the bitterness of death is past;, other judgments will have their course and turn. And learn, too, from hence, that God hath several methods of trial—confiscation, banishment, poverty, infamy, reproach; some trials search us more than others. We must leave it to his wisdom to make choice. Will-suffering is as bad as will-worship.

Obs. 6. From that word temptations, observe, that the afflictions of God's people are but trials. He calleth them not afflictions or persecutions, but `temptations, from the end for which God sendeth them. The same word is elsewhere used: 2 Peter ii. 9, `God knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation., Now affliction is called temptation, not in the vulgar sense, as temptation is put for an occasion or inducement to sin, but in its proper and native signification, as it is taken for trial and experience; and so we have it positively asserted that this is the end of God: Deut. viii. 16, `He fed thee with manna in the wilderness, to humble thee and prove thee, and do thee good at the latter end., The afflictions of the saints are not judgments, but corrections or trials—God's discipline to mortify sin, or his means to discover grace; to prove our faith, love, patience, sincerity, constancy, &c. Well, then, behave thyself as one under trial. Let nothing be discovered in thee but what is good and gracious. Men will do their best at their trial; oh! watch over yourselves with the more care that no impatience, vanity, murmuring, or worldliness of spirit may appear in you.

Ver. 3. Knowing this, that the trial of your faith worketh patience.

Here is the first argument to press them to joy in afflictions, taken partly from the nature, partly from the effect of them. The nature of them—they are a `trial of faith;, the effect or fruit of them—they beget or `work patience., Let us a little examine the words.

Knowing.—It either implieth that they ought to know, as Paul saith elsewhere: 1 Thes. iv. 13, `I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep in the Lord, &c. So some suppose James speaketh as exhorting: Knowing, that is, I would have you know; or else it is a report; knowing, that is, ye do know, being taught by the Spirit and experience; or rather, lastly, it is a direction, in which the apostle acquainteth them with the way how the Spirit settleth a joy in the hearts of persecuted Christians, by a lively knowledge, or spiritual discourse, by acting their thoughts upon the nature and quality of their troubles; and so knowing is distinctly considering.

That the trial of your faith.—Here is a new word used for afflictions; before it was πειρασμοῖς, temptations, which is more general. Here it is δοκίμιον, trial, which noteth such a trial as tendeth to approbation. But here ariseth a doubt, because of the seeming contradiction between Paul and James. Paul saith, Rom. v. 4, that 28patience worketh δοκιμὴν, trial or experience; and James seemeth to invert the order, saying, that δοκίμιον, `trial or experience worketh patience., But I answer—(1.) There is a difference between the words: there it is δοκιμὴ; here, δοκίμιον; and so fitly rendered there experience—here, trial. (2.) There Paul speaketh of the effect of suffering, experience of God's help, and the comforts of his Spirit, which work patience; here, of the suffering itself, which, from its use and ordination to believers, he calleth trial, because by it our faith and other graces are approved and tried.

Of your faith; that is, either of your constancy in the profession of the faith, or else of faith the grace, which is the chief tiling exercised and approved in affliction.

Worketh patience.—The original word is κατεργάζεται, perfecteth patience. But this is a new paradox—how affliction or trial, which is the cause of all murmuring or impatience, should work patience!

I answer—(1.) Some expound the proposition of a natural patience, which, indeed, is caused by the mere affliction; when we are used to them, they are the less grievous. Passions being blunted by continual exercise, grief becometh a delight. But I suppose this is not in the aim of the apostle; this is a stupidity, not a patience. (2.) Then, I suppose the meaning is, that our trials minister matter and occasion for patience. (3.) God's blessing must not be excluded. The work of the efficient is often given to the material cause, and trial is said to do that which God doth. By trial he sanctifieth afflictions to us, and then they are a means to beget patience. (4.) We must not forget the distinction between punishment and trial. The fruit of punishment is despair and murmuring, but of trial, patience and sweet submission. To the wicked every condition is a snare. They are corrupted by prosperity, and dejected by adversity;3434`Eum nulla adversitas dejicit, quem nulla prosperitas corrumpit.,—Greg. Mor. but to the godly every estate is a blessing. Their prosperity worketh thanksgiving, their adversity patience. Pharaoh and Joram grew the more mad for their afflictions, but the people of God the more patient. The same fire that purgeth the corn bruiseth the stalk or reed, and in that fire in which the chaff is burnt gold sparkleth.3535`Ignis non est diversus et diversa agit; paleam in cineres vertit; auro sordes tollit.,—Aug. in Ps. xxxi. So true is that of the psalmist: Ps. xi. 5, `The Lord trieth the righteous; but the wicked, and him that loveth violence, his soul hateth., Well, then, the sum of all is, that afflictions serve to examine and prove our faith, and, by the blessing of God, to bring forth the fruit of patience, as the quiet fruit of righteousness is ascribed to the rod, Heb. xii. 11, which is indeed the proper work of the Spirit. He saith, `The chastening yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby;, as our apostle saith, `The trial worketh patience.,

The notes are these:—

Obs. 1. From that knowing, ignorance is the cause of sorrow. When we do not rightly discern of evils, we grieve for them. Our strength, as men, lieth in reason; as Christians, in spiritual discourse. Paul was instructed, Phil. iv. 11, and that made him walk with such an equal mind in unequal conditions. Solomon saith, Prov. xxiv. 5, 29 `A wise man is strong, yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength;, and he saith afterwards, ver. 10, `If thou faintest in affliction, thy strength is but small;, that is, thou hast but little prudence or knowledge. There lieth the weakness of our spirits. Children are scared with every trifle. Did we know what God is, and whereto his dealings tend, we should not faint. Well, then, labour for a right discerning. To help you, consider:—(1.) General knowledge will not serve the turn. The heathens had τὸ γνωστὸν, excellent notions concerning God in the general, Rom i. 19; but they were `vain in their imaginations, ver. 21ἐν τοῖς διαλογίσμοις, in their practical inferences, when they were to bring down their knowledge to particular cases and experiences. They had a great deal of knowledge in general truths, but no prudence to apply them to particular exigences and cases. Many can discourse well in the general; as Seneca, when he had the rich gardens, could persuade to patience, but fainted when himself came to suffer.3636`Senecae praedivitis hortos.,—Juvenal. So Eliphaz chargeth it upon Job, that he was able to instruct and strengthen others, `But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled, Job iv. 45. Therefore it must not only be a knowledge, but a prudence to make application of general truths, that in particular cases we may not be disturbed and discomposed. (2.) Our knowledge must be drawn out in actual thoughts and spiritual discourse. This bringeth in seasonable succour and relief to the soul, and therein lieth our strength. Observe it, and you shall always find that the Spirit worketh by seasonable thoughts. Christ had taught the apostles a great many comforts, and then he promiseth, John xiv. 26, `The Comforter shall come; καὶ ἀναμνήσει, and he shall bring all things to your remembrance which I shall say to you., That is the proper office of the Comforter, to come in with powerful and seasonable thoughts to the relief of the soul. The apostle ascribeth their fainting to `forgetting the consolation, Heb. xii. 5. Nay, observe it generally throughout the word—our strength in duties or afflictions is made to lie in our distinct and actual thoughts. Would we mortify corruptions? It is done by a present acting of the thoughts, or by spiritual discourse; therefore the apostle saith, Rom. vi. 6, `Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him;, so would we bear afflictions cheerfully. See Heb. x. 34, `Ye took it joyfully, knowing that you have a better and more enduring substance;, and Rom. v. 3, `Knowing that tribulation worketh experience., And so in many other places of scripture we find that the Spirit helpeth us by awakening and stirring up proper thoughts and discourses in the mind. (3.) Those thoughts which usually beget patience are such as these:—(1st.) That evils do not come by chance, or the mere fury of instruments, but from God. So holy Job: `The arrows of the Almighty are with in me, Job vi. 4. Mark, `the arrows of the Almighty, though Satan had a great hand in them, as you may see, Job ii. 7—God's arrows, though shot out of Satan's bow. And then, (2d.) That where we see anything of God, we owe nothing but reverence and submission; for he is too strong to be resisted, too just to be questioned, and too good to be suspected. But more of this in the fifth chapter.

Obs. 2. From that δοκίμιον, the trial, the use and ordination of 30persecution to the people of God is trial. God maketh use of the worst instruments, as fine gold is cast into the fire, the most devouring element. Innocency is best tried by iniquity.3737`Probatio innocentiae nostrae est iniquitas vestra.,—Tertul. in Apol. But why doth God try us? Not for his own sake, for he is omniscient; but either—(1.) For our sakes, that we may know ourselves. In trials we discern the sincerity of grace, and the weakness and liveliness of it; and so are less strangers to our own hearts. Sincerity is discovered. A gilded potsherd may shine till it cometh to scouring. In trying times God heateth the furnace so hot, that dross is quite wasted; every interest is crossed, and then hirelings become changelings. Therefore, that we may know our sincerity, God useth severe ways of trial. Sometimes we discover our own weakness, Mat. xiii.; we find that faith weak in danger which we thought to be strong out of danger; as the blade in the stony ground was green, and made a fair show till the height of sum mer. Peter thought his faith impregnable, till the sad trial in the high priest's hall, Mat. xxvi. 69. In pinching weather weak persons feel the aches and bruises of their joints. Sometimes we discern the liveliness of grace. Stars shine in the night that lie hid in the day. It is said, Rev. xiii. 10, `Here is the patience and faith of the saints;, that is, the time when these graces are exercised, and discovered in their height and glory. Spices are most fragrant when burnt and bruised, so have saving graces their chiefest fragrancy in hard times. The pillar that conducted the Israelites appeared as a cloud by day, but as a fire by night. The excellency of faith is beclouded till it be put upon a thorough trial. Thus for ourselves, that we may know either the sincerity, or the weakness, or the liveliness of the grace that is wrought in us. (2.) Or for the world's sake. And so, (1st.) for the present to convince them by our constancy, that they may be confirmed in the faith, if weak and staggering, or converted, if altogether uncalled. It was a notable saying of Luther, Ecclesia totum mundum convertit sanguine et oratione—the church converteth the whole world by blood and prayer. We are proved, and religion is proved, when we are called to sufferings. Paul's bonds made for the furtherance of the gospel: Phil. i. 12, 13, `Many of the brethren waxed confident in my bonds, and are much more bold to speak the word without fear., In prosperous times religion is usually stained with the scandals of those that profess it; and then God bringeth on great trials to honour and clear the renown of it again to the world, and usually these prevail. Justin Martyr was converted by the constancy of the Christians (Niceph. lib. iii. cap. 26). Nay, he himself confesseth it.3838Justin Mart, in Apol. 2, circa finem. When he saw the Christians so willingly choose death, he reasoned thus within himself: Surely these men must be honest, and there is somewhat eminent in their principles. So I remember the author of the Council of Trent saith concerning Anne de Burg, a senator of Paris, who was burnt for Protestantism, that the death and constancy of a man so conspicuous did make many curious to know what religion that was for which he had courageously endured punishment, and so the number was much increased.3939See Hist. of the Council of Trent, p. 418, 2d edit. (2d.) We are tried 31with a respect to the day of judgment: 1 Peter i. 7, `That the trial of your faith may be found to praise and honour in the day of Christ's appearing., God will justify faith before all the world, and the crown of patience is set upon a believer's head in that solemn day of Christ. You see the reasons why God trieth.

Use. Well, then, it teacheth us to bear afflictions with constancy and patience; God trieth us by these things. For your comfort consider four things:—(1.) God's aim in your afflictions is not destruction, but trial; as gold is put into the furnace to be fined, not consumed. Wicked men's misery is `an evil, and an only evil, Ezek. vii. 5. In their cup there is no mixture, and their plagues are not to fan, but destroy. But to godly men, miseries have another property and habitude: Dan. xi. 35, `They shall fall to try, and to purge, and to make white;, that is, in times of many persecutions, as was that of Antiochus, the figure of Antichrist. (2.) The time of trial is appointed: Dan. xi. 35, `They shall fall to try, and to purge, and to make white, even to the time of the end, because it is yet for a time appointed., You are not in the furnace by chance, or at the will of your enemies; the time is appointed, set by God. (3.) God sitteth by the furnace prying and looking after his metal: Mal. iii. 3, `He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver., It notes his constant and assiduous care, that the fire be not too hot, that nothing be spilt and lost. It is a notable expression that of Isa. xlviii. 9, 10: `For my praise will I refrain; I have refined thee, but not as silver;, that is, not so thoroughly. Silver or gold is kept in the fire till the dross be wholly wrought out of it: if we should be fined as silver, when should we come out of the furnace? Therefore God saith he will `choose us in the furnace, though much dross still remain. (4.) Consider, this trial is not only to approve, but to improve; we are tried as gold, refined when tried: so 1 Peter i. 7, `That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perisheth;, or more clearly in Job xxiii. 10, `When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold: `the drossy and scorious part or matter is severed, and the corruptions that cleave close to us are purged and eaten out.

Obs. 3. From that, your faith. The chief grace which is tried in persecution is faith: so in 1 Peter i. 7, `That the trial of your faith, being more precious, &c. Of all graces Satan hath a spite at faith, and of all graces God delighteth that the perfection of it should be discovered. Faith is tried, partly because it is the radical grace that keepeth in the life of a Christian: Hab. ii. 4, `The just shall live by faith: `we work by love, but live by faith; partly because this is the grace most exercised, sometimes in keeping the soul from using ill means, and unlawful courses: Isa. xxviii. 16, `He that believeth doth not make haste;, that is, to help himself before God will. It is believing that maketh the soul stand to its proof and trial: Heb. xi. 35, `By faith those that were tortured would not accept deliverance;, that is, which was offered to them upon ill terms, of refusing God and his service. Sometimes it is exercised in bringing the soul to live upon gospel-comforts in the absence of want of worldly, and to make a Christian to fetch water out of the rock when there is none in the fountain. Many occasions there are to exercise faith, partly because 32it is the grace most oppugned and assaulted; all other graces march under the conduct of faith: and therefore Satan's cunning^is to fight, not against small or great, but to make the brunt and weight of his opposition to fall upon this grace: nay, God himself seemeth an enemy, and it is faith's work to believe him near, when to sense he is gone and withdrawn. Well, then:—

Use 1. You that have faith, or pretend to it, must look for trials. Graces are not crowned till they are exercised; never any yet went to heaven without combats and conflicts. Faith must be tried before it be `found to praise and honour., It is very notable, that wherever God bestoweth the assurance of his favour, there presently followeth some trial: Heb. x. 32, `After ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions., Some are cast upon troubles for religion soon after their first conversion, like these, as soon as illuminated. When Christ himself had received a testimony from heaven, presently Satan tempteth him: `This is my beloved Son;, and presently he cometh with an, `If thou be the Son of God,—Mat. iii. 17, with Mat. iv. 1, 3: after solemn assurance he would fain make you question your adoption. So see Gen. xxii. 1: `It came to pass that after these things God did tempt Abraham., What things were those? Solemn intercourses between him and God, and express assurance from heaven that the Lord would be his God, and the God of his seed. When the castle is victualled, then look for a siege.

Use 2. You that are under trials, look to your faith. Christ knew what was most likely to be assailed, and therefore telleth Peter, Luke xxii. 32, `I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not., When faith faileth, we faint; therefore we should make it our chief work to maintain faith. Chiefly look after two things:—(1.) Hold fast your assurance in the midst of the saddest trials: in the furnace call God Father: Zech. xiii. 21, `I will bring them through the fire, and they shall be refined as silver and gold is tried: and they shall say, The Lord is my God., Let not any hard dealing make you mistake your Father's affection. One special point of faith, under the cross, is the faith of our adoption: Heb. xii. 5, `The exhortation speaketh to you as children; my son, despise not the chastening of the Lord., It is the apostle's own note that the afflicted are styled by the name of sons. Christ had a bitter cup, but saith lie, My Father hath put it into my hands: John xviii. 11, `The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink of it?, It is a bitter cup, but he is still my Father. (2.) The next work of faith is, to keep your hopes fresh and lively: believers always counter-balance the temptation with their hopes. There is no grief or loss so great, but faith knoweth how to despise it in the hope of the reward: therefore the apostle describeth faith to be, Heb. xi. 1, ὑπόστασις τῶν ἐλπιζομένων, `the substance of things hoped for;, because it giveth a reality and present being to things absent and to come, opposing hope to the temptation, and making the thing hoped for as really to exist in the heart of the believer as if it were already enjoyed. Well, then, let faith put your hopes in one balance, when the devil hath put the world, with the terrors and profits of it, in the other; and say, as Paul, λογίζομαι, `I reckon, or compute, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the 33glory that shall be revealed in us., Rom. viii. 18. All this is nothing to our hopes: what is this to glory to come?

Obs. 4. From that κατεργάζεται, worketh or perfecteth, many trials cause patience, that is, by the blessing of God upon them. Habits are strengthened by frequent acts; the more you act grace, the stronger; and often trial puts us upon frequent exercise: the apostle saith, chastening `yieldeth the quiet fruit of righteousness, τοῖς γεγυμνασμένοις, to them that are exercised thereby, Heb. xii. 11. The fruit of patience is not found after one affliction or two, but after we are exercised and acquainted with them: the yoke after a while beginneth to be well settled, and by much bearing, we learn to bear with quietness, for use perfecteth; as we see those parts of the body are most solid that are most in action,4040`Ferendo discimus perferre; solidissima pars est corporis, quam frequens usus agitavit.,—Seneca. and trees often shaken are deeply rooted. Well, then: (1.) It showeth how careful you should be to exercise yourselves under every cross; by that means you come to get habits of grace and patience: neglect causeth decay, and God withdraweth his hand from such as are idle: in spirituals, as well as temporals, `diligence maketh rich, Prov. x. 4. (2.) It showeth that if we murmur or miscarry in any providence, the fault is in our own hearts, not in our condition. Many blame providence, and say they cannot do otherwise, their troubles are so great and sharp. Oh! consider, trials, yea, many trials, where sanctified, work patience: that which you think would cause you to murmur, is a means to make you patient. The evil is in the unmortifiedness of your affections, not in the misery of your condition. By the apostle's rule, the greater the trial the greater the patience, for the trial worketh patience. There is no condition in the world but giveth occasion for the exercise of grace.

Obs. 5. From that patience, the apostle comforteth them with this argument, that they should gain patience; as if that would make amends for all the smart of their sufferings. The note is, that it is an excellent exchange to part with outward Comforts for inward graces. Fiery trials are nothing if you gain patience. Sickness, with patience, is better than health; loss, with patience, is better than gain. If earthly affections were more mortified, we should value inward enjoyments and experiences of God more than we do. Paul saith, 2 Cor. xii. 9, `I will glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me: `misery and calamities should be welcome, because they gave him further experiences of Christ. Certainly, nothing maketh afflictions burthensome to us but our own carnal affections.

Obs. 6. From the same, we may observe more particularly, that patience is a grace of an excellent use and value. We cannot be Christians without it; we cannot be men without it: not Christians, for it is not only the ornament, but the conservatory of other graces. How else should we persist in well-doing when we meet with grievous crosses? Therefore the apostle Peter biddeth us, 2 Peter i. 5, 6, to `add to faith, virtue; to virtue, knowledge; to knowledge, temperance; to temperance, patience., Where are all the requisites of true godliness? It is grounded in faith, directed by knowledge; defended, on the right hand, by temperance against the allurements of the world; 34on the left, by patience against the hardships of the world. You see we cannot be Christians without it; so, also, not men. Christ saith, `In patience possess your souls, Luke xxi. 19. A man is a man, and doth enjoy himself and his life by patience: otherwise we shall but create needless troubles and disquiets to ourselves, and so be, as it were, dispossessed of our own lives and souls that is, lose the comfort and the quiet of them.

Ver. 4. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting in nothing.

Here he cometh to show what patience is right, by way of exhortation, pressing them to perseverance, integrity, and all possible perfection. I will open what is difficult in the verse.

Ἔργον τέλειον, her perfect work. For the opening of this, know that in the apostle's time there were divers that with a great deal of zeal bore out the first brunt, but being tired, either with the diversity or the length of evils, they yielded and fainted; therefore he wisheth them to tarry till patience were thoroughly exercised, and its perfection discovered. The highest acts of graces are called the perfection of them: as of Abraham's faith we say, in ordinary speech, there was a perfect faith; so when patience is thoroughly tried by sundry and long afflictions, we say there is a perfect patience. So that the perfect work of patience is a resolute perseverance, notwithstanding the length, the sharpness, and the continual succession of sundry afflictions. One trial discovered patience in Job; but when evil came upon evil, and he bore all with a meek and quiet spirit, that discovered patience perfect, or sufficiently exercised. It followeth:—

That you may be perfect and entire, wanting in nothing. The apostle's intent is not to assert a possibility of perfection in Christians: `We all fail in many things, James iii. 2. And all that we have here is but in part: 1 Cor. xiii. 9, 10, `We know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away., Here grace must needs be imperfect, because the means are imperfect. But his meaning is either that we should be sincere, as sincerity is called perfection in scripture: Gen. xvii. 1, `Walk before me, and be thou perfect;, so it is in the original and marginal reading, what in our translation is, `be thou upright;, or else it is meant of the perfection of duration and perseverance; or rather, lastly, that perfection is intended which is called the perfection of parts,—that we might be so perfect, or entire, that no necessary grace might be lacking—that, having other gifts, they might also have the gift of patience, and the whole image of Christ might be completed in them—that nothing might be wanting which is necessary to make up a Christian. Some, indeed, make this a legal sentence, as implying what God may in justice require, and to what we should in conscience aim to wit, exact perfection, both in parts and degrees. It is true this is beyond our power; but because we have lost our power, there is no reason God should lose his right. It is a saying of Austin,4141Aug. in lib. de Corrept. et Grat. c. 3. O homo, in praeceptione cognosce quid debeas habere, et in correptione cognosce tuo te vitio non habere. Such precepts serve to show God's right, and quicken us to duty, and humble 35us with the sense of our own weakness. So much God might require, and so much we had power to perform, though we have lost it by our own default. This is true, but the former interpretations are more simple and genuine.

The notes are these:—

Obs. 1. The perfection of our graces is not discovered till we are put upon many and great trials. As a pilot's skill is discerned in a storm, so is a Christian's grace in many and great troubles.4242`Gubernatoris artem tranquillum mare et obsequens ventus non ostendit; adversi aliquid incurrat oportet, quod animum probet.,—Sen. ad Marc. c. 5. Well, then, in all that doth befall you, say, Yet patience hath not had its perfect work. Expectation of a worse thing maketh lesser troubles more comportable; yet trust and patience is not drawn out to the height. The apostle saith, Heb. xii. 4, `Yet ye have not resisted unto blood, striving against sin., Should we faint in a lesser trial, before the perfect work cometh to be discovered? Job was in a sad condition, yet he putteth a harder case: Job xiii. 15, `If he should kill me, yet I will trust in him: `in a higher trial I should not faint or murmur.

Obs. 2. That the exercise of grace must not be interrupted till it be full and perfect—till it come to ἔργον τέλειον, a perfect work. Ordinary spirits may be a little raised for a time, but they fall by and by again: Gal. v. 7, `Ye did run well; who hindered you?, You were in a good way of faith and patience, and went happily forward; but what turned you out of the way? Implying there was as little, or rather less, reason to be faint in the progress as to be discouraged in the beginning. Common principles may make men blaze and glare for a while, yet afterward they fall from heaven like lightning. It is true of all graces, but chiefly of the grace in the text. Patience must last to the end of the providence, as long as the affliction lasteth; not only at first, but when your evils are doubled, and the furnace is heated seven times hotter. Common stubbornness will bear the first onset, but patience holdeth out when troubles are continued and delayed. The apostle chideth the Galatians because their first heat was soon spent: Gal. iii. 3, `Are ye so foolish? having begun in the spirit, are ye made perfect in the flesh?, It is not enough to begin; our proceedings in religion must be answerable to our beginnings.4343`Non incepisse sed perfecisse virtutis est.,—Aug. ad Frat. in Eremo. Ser. 8. To falter and stagger after much forwardness,4444`Turpe est cedere oneri, et luctari cum officio quod semel recepisti; non est vir fortis et strenuus qui laborem fugit, nec crescit illi animus ipsa rerum difficultate.,—Seneca. showeth we are `not fit for the kingdom of God, Luke ix. 62. The beasts in the prophet always went forward (see Ezek. i. 11); and crabs, that go backward, are reckoned among unclean creatures, Lev. xi. 10. Nero's first five years are famous; and many set forth well, but are soon discouraged. Liberius, the Bishop of Home, was zealous against the Arians, and was looked upon as the Samson of the church, the most earnest maintainer of orthodoxism; suffered banishment for the truth; but alas! he after failed, and to recover his bishopric (saith Baronius4545Baronius ad annum Christi, 357.), sided with the Arians. Well, then, while you are in the world, go on to a more perfect discovery of patience, and follow them that, `through 36faith, and a continued patience, have inherited the promises, Heb. vi .12.

Obs. 3. That Christians must aim at, and press on to perfection. The apostle saith, `That ye may be perfect and entire, nothing wanting, (1.) Christians will be coveting, and aspiring to, absolute perfection. We are led on to growth by this aim and desire: they hate sin so perfectly, that they cannot be quiet till it be utterly abolished. First, they go to God for justification, ne damnet, that the damning power of sin may be taken away; then for sanctification, ne regnet, that the reigning power of sin may be destroyed; then for glorification, ne sit, that the very being of it may be abolished. And as they are bent against sin with a mortal and keen hatred, so they are carried on with an earnest and importunate desire of grace. They that have true grace will not be contented with a little grace; no measures will serve their turn. `I would by any means attain to the resurrection of the dead, saith Paul, Phil. iii. 11; that is, such a state of grace as we enjoy after the resurrection. It is a metonymy of the subject for the adjunct. Free grace, you see, hath a vast desire and ambition; it aimeth at the holiness of the glorious and everlasting state; and, indeed, this is it which makes a Christian to press onward, and be so earnest in his endeavours; as Heb. vi. 1, with 4, `Let us go on to perfection;, and then ver. 4, `It is impossible for those that were once enlightened, &c., implying that men go back when they do not go on to perfection; having low aims, they go backward, and fall off. (2.) Christians must be actually perfect in all points and parts of Christianity. As they will have faith, they will have patience; as patience, love and zeal. In 1 Peter i. 15, the rule is, `Be ye holy, as I am holy, in all manner of conversation., Every point and part of life must be seasoned with grace, therefore the apostle saith, ἐν πάσῃ ἀναστροφῇ, in every creek and turning of the conversation: so 2 Cor. viii. 7, `As ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, see that ye abound in this grace also., Hypocrites are always lacking in one part or another. The Corinthians had much knowledge and utterance, and little charity; as many professors pray much, know much, hear much, but do not give much; they do not `abound in this also., As Basil saith in his sermon ad Divites, I know many that fast, pray, sigh, πάσαν τὴν ἀδάπανον εὐλάβειαν ἐκδιανυμένους, love all cheap acts of religion, and such as cost nothing but their own pains, but are sordid and base, withholding from God and the poor, τὶ ὀφέλος τουτοῖς τῆς λοίπης ἀρετῆς. What profit have they in their other graces when they are not perfect? There is a link and cognation between the graces; they love to go hand in hand, to come up as in a dance, and consort, as some expound the apostle's word, ἐπιχορηγήσατε: 2 Peter i. 5, `Add to faith, virtue., Ac. One allowed miscarriage or neglect may be fatal. Say, then, thus within yourselves—A Christian should be found in nothing wanting. Oh! but how many sad defects are there in my soul! if I were weighed in God's balance, I should be found much wanting! Oh, strive to be more entire and perfect. (3.) They aim at the perfection of duration, that, as they would be wanting in no part of duty, so in no part of their lives. Subsequent acts of apostasy make our former 37crown to wither; they lose what they have wrought, 2 John 8. All their spiritual labour formerly bestowed is to no purpose, and whatever we have done and suffered for the gospel, it is, in regard of God, lost and forgotten. So Ezek. xviii. 24, `When he turneth to iniquity, all the righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned., As under the law, if a Nazarite had defiled himself, he was to begin all anew: Num. vi. 12, `The days that were before shall be lost, because his separation was denied;, as if he had fulfilled the half part of his vow, or three parts of his vow, yet all was to be null and lost upon every pollution, and he was to begin again. So it is in point of apostasy; after, by a solemn vow and consecration, we have separated ourselves to Christ, if we do not endure to the end, all the righteousness, zeal, and patience of our former profession is forgotten.

Ver. 5. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

The apostle, having spoken of bearing afflictions with a mind above them, cometh here to prevent an objection, which might be framed thus: This is a hard saying, to keep up the spirit not only in patience, but joy; when all things are against us, who can abide it? .Duty is soon expressed, but how shall we get it practised? The apostle granteth it is hard, and it will require a great deal of spiritual skill and wisdom, which, if you want (saith he), God will furnish you, if you ask it of him; and upon this occasion digresseth into the rules and encouragements of prayer: in this verse he encourageth them by the nature and promise of God. But to the words.

If any of you—This if doth not argue doubt, but only inferreth a supposition.4646Non dubitantis est, sed supponentis. But why doth the apostle speak with a supposition? Who doth not lack wisdom? May we not ask, in the prophet's question, `Who is wise? who is prudent?, Hosea xiv. 9. I answer—(1.) Such expressions do more strongly aver and affirm a thing, as Mal. i. 6: `If I be a father, where is my honour? If I be a master, where is my fear?, Not as if God would make a doubt of these things, but such suppositions are the strongest affirmations, for they imply a presumption of a concession: you will all grant, I am a father and a master, &c. So here, if you lack wisdom: you will grant you all lack this skill. So Rom. xiii. 9, `If there be any other commandment, &c. The apostle knew there was another commandment, but he proceeded upon that grant. So 2 Thes. i. 6, εἴπερ, `If it be a righteous thing, &c. The apostle taketh it for granted it is righteous to render tribulation to the troubler, and proceedeth upon that grant: and therefore we render it affirmatively, `seeing it is, &c. So James v. 15, `If he hath committed sins., Why, who hath not? It is, I say, a proceeding upon a presumption of a grant. (2.) All do not lack in a like manner: some want only further degrees and supplies; therefore, if you lack; with a supposition, if you lack it wholly, or only more measures.

Wisdom. It is to be restrained to the circumstances of the text, not taken generally: he intendeth wisdom or skill to bear afflictions; for in the original the beginning of this verse doth plainly catch hold of the heel of the former, ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενοι and then εἰ δέ τις ὑμῶν λείπεται—`lacking nothing, and presently, `if any of you lack.,


Let him ask it; that is, by serious and earnest prayer.

Of God; to whom our addresses must be immediate.

That giveth to all men.—Some suppose it implieth the natural beneficence and general bounty of God, as indeed that is an argument in prayer; God, that giveth to all men, will not deny his saints: as the psalmist maketh God's common bounty to the creatures to be aground of hope and confidence to his people, Ps. cxlv. 16, `Thou satisfiest the desire of every living thing;, and upon this his trust groweth, ver. 19, `He will fulfil the desires of them that fear him., He that satisfieth every living thing certainly will satisfy his own servants. There is a general bounty of God, which though liberally dispensed, yet is not specially. But this sense the context will not bear. By all men, then, may be understood all kinds of persons—Jew, Greek, or barbarian, high or low, rich or poor. God giveth not with a respect to outward excellency; he giveth to all men: or else, (3.) and so most suitably to the context, to all askers, all that seek him with earnestness and trust; however, it is thus generally expressed, that none might be discouraged, but apply himself to God with some hope.

Liberally.—The word in the original is ἁπλῶς, which properly signifieth simply, but usually in matters of this nature it is taken for bountifully. I note it the rather to explain many other places; as Mat. vi. 22: Christ would have the `eye single, that is, bounteous, not looking after the money we part with: so Rom. xii. 8, `He that giveth, let him do it ἐν ἁπλότητι, with simplicity, we read, but in the margin, `liberally, or bountifully., So Acts ii. 46, `They did eat their bread with all singleness of heart;, that is, bounteously, liberally, as we translate the word in other places, as 2 Cor. viii. 2, `The riches of your singleness, we translate `liberality:, so 2 Cor. ix. 11, the same word is used for bounty; and this word simplicity is so often put for bounty, to show—(1.) That it must come from the free and single motion of our hearts; as they that give sparingly give with a hand half shut and a heart half willing; that is, not simply, with a native and free motion. (2.) That we must not give deceitfully, as serving our own ends, or with another intent than our bounty seemeth to hold forth: so God gives simply, that is, as David expresseth it, 2 Sam. vii. 21, according to his own heart.

And upbraideth no man.—Here he reproveth another usual blemish of man's bounty, which is to upbraid others with what they have done for them, and that eateth out all the worth of a kindness: the laws of courtesy requiring that the receiver should remember, and the giver forget:4747`Haec beneficii inter duos lex est, alter oblivisci debet dati statim, alter accepti nunquam.,—Sen. de Beneficiis. but God upbraideth not. But you will say, what is the meaning then of those expostulations concerning mercies received? and why is it said, Mat. xi. 20, `Then he began to upbraid the cities, in which many of his mighty works were done,? Because of this objection, some expound this clause one way, some another; some suppose it implieth he doth not give proudly, as men use to do, up braiding those that receive with their words or looks: so God upbraideth not, that is, doth not disdainfully reject the asker, or twit him with his unworthiness, or doth not refuse because of present failings, 39or former infirmities. But I think it rather noteth God's indefatigableness to do good: ask as oft as you will, he upbraideth you not with the frequency of your accesses to him: he doth not twit us with asking, though he twitteth us with the abuse of what we have received upon asking. He doth upbraid, not to begrudge his own bounty, but to bring us to a sense of our shame, and to make us own our ingratitude.

And it shall be given him.—Besides the nature of God, here he urgeth a promise, `Let him ask of God, and it shall be given him., The descriptions of God help us to form right thoughts of him, and the promise, to fasten upon him by a sure trust.

The notes are these:—

Obs. 1. That all men are concluded and shut up under an estate of lacking: `If any of you., This supposition, as we showed before, is a universal affirmative. God's wisdom suffereth the creatures to lack, because dependence begetteth observance; if we were not forced to hang upon heaven, and live upon the continued supplies of God, we would not care for him. We see this—the less sensible men are of the condition of mankind, the less religious. Promises usually invite those that are in want, because they are most likely to regard them: Isa. lv. 1. `Ho, every one that thirsteth, and he that hath no money;, Mat. xi. 28, `The weary and heavy laden., In the 5th of Matthew, `The poor in spirit, and `they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: `being humbled by their own wants and needs, they are most pliable to God's offers. Well, then, do not think your lot is above the lot of the rest of the creatures. God only is αὐτάρκης, self-happy, self-sufficient; other things are encompassed with wants, that they may look after him: Ps. cxlv. 15, 16, `The eyes of all things are upon thee, and thou satisfiest the desire of every living thing., The creatures are made up of desires, that their eyes may be upon God. Certainly they want most that want nothing: be sensible of your condition.

Obs. 2. From that lack, want and indigence put us upon prayer, and our addresses to heaven begin at the sense of our own needs. The father should not have heard from the prodigal, had he not `begun to be in want, Luke xv. 16. Observe it: the creature first beginneth with God out of self-love. The first motive and allurement is the supply of our wants. But, remember, it is better to begin in the flesh and end in the spirit, than to begin in the spirit and end in the flesh. It is well that God sanctifieth our self-love to so blessed a purpose. If there had not been so many miseries, of blindness, lameness, possessions, palsies, in the days of Christ's flesh, there would not have been such great resort to him. The first motive is want.

Obs. 3. From that wisdom, considered with respect to the context; and the note is, that there is need of great wisdom for the right managing of afflictions. Cheerful patience is a holy art and skill which a man learneth of God: `I have learned to abound, and to be abased, Phil. iv. 10. Such an hard lesson needeth much learning. There is need of wisdom in several respects:—(1.) To discern of God's end in it, to pick out the language and meaning of the dispensation: 40Micah vi. 9, `Hear the rod., Every providence hath a voice, though sometimes it be so still and low that it requireth some skill to hear it. Our spirits are most satisfied when we discern God's aim in everything. (2.) To know the nature of the affliction, whether it be to fan or to destroy; how it is intended for our good; and what uses and benefits we may make of it: `Blessed is the man whom thou chastisest, and teachest out of thy law, Ps. xciv. 12. The rod is a blessing when instruction goeth along with it (3.) To find out your own duty; to know the things of obedience in the day of them: `Oh! that thou wert wise in this thy day, Luke xix. 41. There are seasonable and proper duties which become every providence: it is wisdom to find them out; to know what to do in every circumstance. (4.) To moderate the violences of our own passions.4848`Sapiens ad omnem incursum munitus et intentus, non si paupertas, non si ignominia, non si dolor impetum faciant, pedem referet; iuterritus et contra illa ibit et inter illa.,—Seneca. He that liveth by sense, will, and passion, is not wise. Skill is required of us to apply apt counsels and comforts, that our hearts may be above the misery that our flesh is under. The Lord `giveth counsel in the reins, and that calmeth the heart. Well, then: (1.) Get wisdom, if you would get patience. Men of understanding have the greatest command of their affections. Our hastiness of spirit cometh from folly, Prov. xiv. 29; for where there is no wisdom, there is nothing to counterbalance affection. Look, as discretion sets limits to anger, so it doth to sorrow. Solomon saith, Prov. xix. 11, `The discretion of a man deferreth his anger;, so it doth check the excesses of his grief. (2.) To confute the world's censure; they count patience, simplicity, and meekness under injuries, to be but blockishness and folly. No; it is a calmness of mind upon holy and wise grounds; but it is no new thing with the world to call good evil, and to baptize graces with a name of their own fancying. As the astronomers call the glorious stars bulls, snakes, dragons, &c., so they miscall the most shining and glorious graces. Zeal is fury; strictness, nicety; and patience, folly! And yet James saith, `If any lack wisdom, meaning patience. (3.) Would ye be accounted wise? Show it by the patience and calmness of your spirits. We naturally desire to be thought sinful rather than weak. `Are we blind also?, John ix. 40. We all affect the repute of wisdom, and would not be accounted blind or foolish. Consider, a man of boisterous affections is a fool, and he that hath no command of his passions hath no understanding.

Obs. 4. From that of God, in all our wants we must, immediately repair to God. The scriptures do not direct us to the shrines of saints, but to the throne of grace. You need not use the saints, intercession; Christ hath opened a way for you into the presence of the Father.

Obs. 5. More particularly observe, wisdom must be sought of God. He is wise, the fountain of wisdom, an unexhausted fountain. His stock is not spent by misgiving. See Job xxxii. 8, `There is a spirit in man; but the inspiration of the Almighty giveth understanding., Men have the faculty, but God giveth the light, as the dial is capable 41of showing the time of the day when the sun shineth on it. It is a most spiritual idolatry to `lean to our own understanding., True wisdom is a divine ray, and an emanation from God. Men never obtain it but in the way of a humble trust. When we see our insufficiency and God's all-sufficiency, then the Lord undertaketh for us, to direct us and guide us: Prov. iii. 5, 6, `Acknowledge the Lord in all thy ways, and he shall direct thy paths., When men are conceited, and think to relieve their souls by their own thoughts and care, they do but perplex themselves the more. God will be acknowledged, that is, consulted with, in all our undertakings and conflicts, or else we shall miscarry. The better sort of heathens would not begin anything of moment without asking counsel at the oracle. As all wisdom is to be sought of God, so especially this wisdom, to bear afflictions. There is nothing more abhorrent from reason than to think ourselves happy in misery. We must go to another school than that of nature. I confess reason and nature may offer some rules that may carry a man far in the art of patience; but what is an inferior or grammar school to a university? The best way will be, not to go to nature, but Christ, `in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Col. ii. 3.

Obs. 6. From that let him ask, God will have everything fetched out by prayer; he giveth nothing without asking. It is one of the laws according to which heaven's bounty is dispensed: Ezek. xxxvi. 37, `I will be sought to by the house of Israel for this thing., God will have us see the author of every mercy by the way of obtaining it. It is a comfort and a privilege to receive mercies in a way of duty; it is better to ask and not receive, than to receive and not ask.4949Clem. Alex. lib. vii. Strom. Prayer coming between our desires and the bounty of God is a means to beget a due respect between him and us: every audience increaseth love, thanks, and trust, Ps. cxvi. 1, 2. We usually wear with thanks what we win by prayer; and those comforts are best improved which we receive upon our knees. Well, then, wisdom and every good gift is an alms—you have it for the asking. Mercies at `that rate do not cost dear. Oh! who would not be one of that number whom God calleth his suppliants? Zeph. iii. 10; of `the generation of them that seek him,? Ps. xxiv. 6.

Obs. 7. Asking yieldeth a remedy for the greatest wants. Men sit down groaning under their discouragements, because they do not look further than themselves. Oh! you do not know how you may speed in asking. God humbleth us with much weakness, that he may put us upon prayer. That is easy to the Spirit which is hard to nature. God requireth such obedience as is above the power of our natures, but not above the power of his own grace. It was a good saying that, Da quod jubes, et jube quod vis—Give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt. If God command anything above nature, it is to bring you upon your knees for grace. He loveth to command that you may be forced to ask; and, indeed, if God hath commanded, you may be bold to ask. There is a promise goeth hand-in-hand with every precept: `Let him ask.,

Obs. 8. That giveth. God's dispensations to the creatures are carried 42in the way of a gift. Who can make God his debtor, advantage his being, or perform an act that may be obliging and meritorious? Usually God bestoweth most upon those who, in the eye of the world, are of least desert, and least able to requite him. Doth not he invite the worst freely? Isa. lv. 1, `He that hath no money, come and buy, without money and without price., Nazianzen,5050Greg. Naz. Orat. 40, de Baptismo, circa med. I remember, notably improveth this place, ὤ τῆς εὐχολίας τοῦ συναλλάγματος—Oh, this easy way of contract! δίδωσιν ἥδιον ἢ λαμβάνουσιν ἕτεροι—he giveth more willingly than others sell; ὤνιον σοὶ τὸ θελῆσαι μόνον τὸ ἄγαθον—if thou wilt but accept, that is all the price; though you have no merits, nothing in yourselves to encourage you, yet will you accept? So in the Gospel, the blind and the lame were called to the wedding, Mat. xxii. Whatever is dispensed to such persons must needs be a gift. Well, then, silence all secret thoughts, as if God did see more in you than others, when he poureth out more of himself to you. Merit is so gross a conceit, that, in the light of the gospel, it dareth not appear in so many downright words; but there are implicit whisperings, some thoughts which are verba mentis, the words of the mind, whereby we think that there is some reason for God's choice; and therefore it is said, Deut. ix. 4, `Say not in thy heart, For my own righteousness:, as you dare not say it outwardly, so do not say it in your hearts. Be not conscious to the sacrilege of a privy silent thought that way.

Obs. 9. To all men. The proposals of God's grace are very general and universal. It is a great encouragement that in the offer none are excluded. Why should we, then, exclude ourselves? Matt. xi. 28, 4 Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden., Mark, poor soul, Jesus Christ maketh no exceptions. He did not except thee that hast an heavy load and burden of guilt upon thy back: `Come, all ye., So here; the lack is general, `If any;, and the supply is general, `He giveth to all men., God never told thee that this was never intended to thee, and that thy name was left out of the Lamb's book. And it is a base jealousy to mistrust God without a cause.

Obs. 10. From that liberally, God's gifts are free and liberal. Many times he giveth more than we ask, and our prayers come far short of what grace doth for us. There is an imperfect modesty in our thoughts and requests. We are not able to rise up to the just excess and infiniteness of the divine goodness. The apostle saith, God will `do above what we can ask or think, Eph. iii. 20. As it is good to observe how the answers of prayer have far exceeded the desires of the creature, which usually are vast and capacious, let me give you some instances. Solomon asked wisdom, and God gave liberally; he gave him wisdom, and riches, and honour in great abundance, 1 Kings iii. 13. Jacob asked but food and raiment for his journey, and God multiplieth him from his staff into two bands, Gen. xxviii. 20, with xxxii. 10. Abraham asked but one son, and God gave him issue as the stars in the heavens, and the sand on the sea-shore. Gen. xv. with xxii. Saul came to Samuel for the asses, and he heareth news of a kingdom. The prodigal thought it much to be received as an hired servant, and the father is devising all the honour and entertainment that possibly he can 43for him—the calf, the ring, the robe, &c., Luke xv. In Mat. xviii. 26, the debtor desired but forbearance for a little time: `Have a little patience, and I will pay thee all: `and in the next verse his master `forgave the debt., Certainly God's bounty is too large for our thoughts. The spouse would be drawn after Christ, but the King brought her into his chambers, Cant. i. 4. David desired to be delivered out of the present danger: Ps. xxxi. 4, `Pull me out of the net;, and God advanced him to honour and dignity: `Thou hast put my feet in a large room, ver. 8. Well, then: (1.) Do not straiten God in your thoughts: `Open your mouths, and I will fill them, Ps. lxxxi. 10. God's hand is open, but our hearts are not open. The divine grace, like the olive-trees in Zechariah, is always dropping; but we want a vessel. That expression of the virgin is notable: Luke i. 46, `My heart doth magnify the Lord, μεγαλύνει, that is, make more room for God in my thoughts. When God's bounty is not only ever-flowing, but overflowing, we should make our thoughts and hopes as large and comprehensive as possibly they can be. When the King of glory is drawing nigh, they are bidden to set open the doors, Ps. xxiv. 7. No thoughts of ours can search out God to perfection; that is, exhaust and draw out all the excellency and glory of the Godhead; but certainly we should rise and ascend more in our apprehensions. (2.) Let us imitate our heavenly Father, give liberally, ἁπλῶς—that is the word of the text—with a free and a native bounty: give simply, not with a double mind. Some men have a backward and a close heart, liberal only in promises. Consider, God doth not feed you with empty promises. Others eye self in all their kindness, make a market of their charity;5151Ἐμπορίαν μᾶλλον ἤ χάριν ποιοῦσιν.,—Isocrates. this is not simply, and according to the divine pattern. Some men give grudgingly, with a divided mind, half inclining, half forbearing; this is not like God neither. Others give in guile, and to deceive men;5252`Non est sportula quae negotiatur.,—Martial. it is kindness to their hurt, δῶρα ἄδωρα, giftless gifts;—their courtesy is most dangerous.5353Timeo Danaos, et dona ferentes. Give like your heavenly Father, liberally, simply.

Obs. 11. From that and upbraideth not. Men are apt to do so, but God giveth in another manner. Observe from hence, First, in the general, that God giveth quite in another manner than man doth. It is our fault to measure infiniteness by our last, and to muse of God according as we use ourselves. The soul, in all her conclusions, is directed by principles and premises of sense and experience; and because we converse with limited natures and dispositions, therefore we do not form proper and worthy thoughts of God. It was the gross idolatry of the heathens to `turn the glory of the incorruptible God into the image of a man., Rom. i. 23; that is, to fancy God according to the shape and figure of our bodies. And so it is the spiritual idolatry of Christians to fancy God according to the model and size of their own minds and dispositions. I am persuaded there doth nothing disadvantage us so much in believing as this conceit that `God is altogether like ourselves, Ps. 1. 21. We, being of eager and revengeful spirits, cannot believe his patience and pardoning mercy; and that, I suppose, 44was the reason why the apostles (when Christ talked of forgiving our brother seven times in one day), cried out, Luke xvii. 5, `Lord, increase our faith, as not being able to believe so great a pardoning mercy either in themselves or God. And therefore, also, I suppose it is that God doth with such vehemency show everywhere that his heart hath other manner of dispositions than man's hath: Isa. lv. 8, 9, `My thoughts are not as your thoughts, nor my ways as your ways; as far as the heavens are above the earth, so are my thoughts above your thoughts: `I am not straitened in bowels, nor hardened, nor implacable, as men are; as there is a vast space and distance between the earth and the firmament, so between your drop and my ocean. So Hosea xi. 9, `I am God, and not man; and therefore Ephraim shall not be destroyed;, that is, I have not such a narrow heart, such wrathful implacable dispositions as men have. Well, then, consider^ when God giveth, he will give like himself. Do not measure him by the wretched straitness of your own hearts, and confine God within the circle of the creatures. It is said of Araunah that he gave as a king to David, 2 Sam. xxiv. 23. Whatever God doth, he will do as a God, above the rate and measure of the creatures, something befitting the infiniteness and eternity of his own essence.

Obs. 12. From the same clause, upbraideth not, you may more particularly observe, that God doth not reproach his people with the frequency of their addresses to him for mercy, and is never weary doing them good. It is man's use to excuse himself by what he hath done already. They will recount their former favours to deny the present requests. Men's stock is soon spent; they waste by giving, and therefore they soon grow weary. Yea, we are afraid to press a friend too much, lest, by frequent use, kindness be worn out. You know it is Solomon's advice, Prov. xxv, 17, `Let thy foot be seldom in thy neighbour's house, lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee., Thus it is with men; either oat of penury or satiety, they are soon full of their friends. But oh! what a difference there is between our earthly and our heavenly friend. The oftener we come to God, the welcomer; and the more we `acquaint ourselves with him, the more `good cometh to us, Job xxii. 21. His gates are always open, and he is still ready to receive us. We need not be afraid to urge God to the next act of love and kindness: 2 Cor. i. 10, `Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver; in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us., One mercy is but a step to another, and if God hath, we may again trust that he will. With men, renewed addresses and often visitings are but impudence, but with God they are confidence. God is so far from upbraiding us with what he hath done already, that his people make it their usual argument, `He hath delivered me from the lion and the bear, therefore he shall from the uncircumcised Philistine, 1 Sam. xvii. 37. Well, then: (1.) Whenever you receive mercy upon mercy, give the Lord the praise of his unwearied love. When God promised to keep up honour upon honour, and privilege upon privilege on David and his line, David saith, 2 Sam. vii. 19, `And is this the manner of man, O Lord God?, Would man do thus? Is this according to his use and custom, to grant request after request, and to let his grace run in the same eternal tenor of love and sweetness? 45Should we .go to man as often as we go to God, we should soon have a repulse, but we cannot weary infiniteness. (2.) If God be not weary of blessing you, be not you weary of serving him. Duty is the proper correlate of mercy. God is not weary of blessing, so be not you `weary of well-doing, Gal. vi. 9. Let not your zeal and heat be spent, as his bounty is not.

Obs. 13. From that and it shall be given him. Due asking will prevail with God. God always satisfieth prayer, though he doth not always satisfy carnal desires: `Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you, Mat. vii. 7. If we do not receive at asking, let us go to seeking; if not at seeking, let us go on to knocking. It is good to continue fervency till we have an answer. But you will say, Are these promises true? The sons of Zebedee, they asked, and could not find, Mat. xx. 22. The foolish virgins, they knocked, and it was not opened to them, Mat. xxv. 8. So the church seeketh Christ: Cant iii. 1, `By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth; I sought him, and found him not., How, then, can these words of Christ be made good? I shall answer by stating the general case. Prayers rightly qualified want not success; that is, if they come from a holy heart, in a holy manner, to a holy purpose. I remember one prettily summeth up all the requisites of prayer thus, Si bonum petant boni, bene, ad bonum.5454Grotius in Annot. in Mat. xviii. 19. These are the limitations: (1.) Concerning the person. God looketh after, not only the property of the prayer, but the propriety and interest of the person. Our apostle, chap. v. 16, `The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much., δέησις ἐνεργουμένη—a prayer driven with much force and vehemency; but it must be of a righteous person. The Jews propound it as a known rule, John ix. 31, `God heareth not sinners., It is so frequently inculcated in scripture, that they urge it as a proverb—An unclean person polluteth his own prayers. But of this hereafter. (2.) That which they ask must be good: 1 John v. 14, `Whatever we ask according to his will, he heareth us., It must be according to his revealed will, that is obedience; and with submission to his secret will, that is patience—neither according to our own lusts, nor our own fancies. To ask according to our lusts is an implicit blasphemy, like Balaam's sacrifices, performed out of a hope to draw heaven into the confederacy of his cursed designs. And to make our fancy the highest rule is a presumptuous folly. God knoweth what is best for us. Like children, we desire a knife; like a wise Father he giveth us bread. God always heareth his people when the request is good. But we must remember God must judge what is good, not we ourselves. There cannot be a greater judgment than always to have our own will granted.5555`Sancti ad salutem per omnia exaudiuntur, sed non ad voluntatem, ad voluntatem etiam Daemones exauditi sunt, et ad porcos quos petiverant ire missi sunt.,—Aug. in Epist. Johan. tract. 6. So also (Serm. 53, de Verbis Domini), `Quid prosit medicus novit, non aegrotus., (3.) We must ask in a right manner, with faith, as in the next verse; with fervency, see chap. v. 16; with patience and constancy, waiting for God's time and leisure. God's discoveries of himself are not by-and-by to the creature. A sack stretched out containeth 46the more; and when the desires are extended and drawn out to God, the mercy is usually the greater: Ps. xl. 1, `I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry., God loveth to dispense mercies after our waiting. (4.) It must be ad bonum; you must pray to a good end, with an aim and reference to the Lord's glory. There is a difference between a carnal desire and a gracious supplication: James iv. 3, `You ask and have not, because you ask amiss, to spend it on your lusts., Never let your requests terminate in self. That was but a brutish request, Exod. xvii. 2, `Give us water that we may drink., A beast can aim at self-preservation. Prayer, as every act of the Christian life, must have an ordination to God. Well, then, pray thus, and you shall be sure to speed. Carnal requests are often disappointed, and therefore we suspect gracious prayers, and faith is much shaken by the disappointment of a rash confidence. Consider that, John xvi. 23, `Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever you ask the Father in my name, he shall give it you., Mark, Christ speaketh universally, `whatsoever, to raise our hopes; earnestly, `verily, verily, to encourage our faith. We are apt to disbelieve such promises.

Obs. 14. Lastly, from that it shall be given. He bringeth an encouragement not only from the nature of God, but the promise of God. It is an encouragement in prayer, when we consider there is not only bounty in God, but bounty engaged by promise. What good will the general report do without a particular invitation? There is a rich King giveth freely; ay! but he giveth at pleasure; no, he hath promised to give to thee. The psalmist argueth from God's nature, `Thou art good, and dost good, Ps. cxix. 68. But from the promise we may reason thus, `Thou art good, and shalt do good., God at large, and discovered to you in loose attributes, doth not yield a sufficient foundation for trust; but God in covenant, God as ours. Well, then, let the world think what it will of prayer, it is not a fruitless labour: you have promises for prayer, and promises to prayer; and therefore when you pray for a blessing promised, God doth, as it were, come under another engagement: `Ask, and it shall be given.,

Ver. 6. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering; for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed.

Here he proposeth a caution, to prevent mistakes about what he had delivered: every asking will not serve the turn; it must be an asking in faith.

But let him ask in faith.—Faith may be taken—(1.) For confidence in God, or an act of particular trust, as Eph. iii. 12: `We have boldness and access with confidence through the faith of him, (2.) It may import persuasion of the lawfulness of the things that we ask for; that is one acceptation of faith in scripture, Rom. xiv. 23: `Whatever is not of faith, is sin;, that is, if we practise it before we are persuaded of the lawfulness of it. Or, (3.) In faith, that is, in a state of believing; for God will hear none but his own, those that have interest in Jesus Christ, `in whom the promises are yea and amen, 2 Cor. i. 20. All these senses are considerable, but I think the first is most direct and formal; for faith is here opposed to doubting and wavering, and so noteth a particular act of trust.

Nothing wavering, μηδὲν διακρινόμενος.—What is this wavering? 47The word signifieth not disputing or traversing the matter as doubtful in the thoughts. The same phrase is used Acts x. 20, `Arise, go with them, μηδὲν διακρινόμενος, nothing doubting;, that is, do not stand disputing in thy thoughts about thy calling and the good success of it. The word is often used in the matter of believing; as Rom. iv. 20, `He staggered not through unbelief; in the original οὐ διεκρίθη `He disputed not, did not debate the matter, but settled his heart upon God's power and promise: Mat. xxi. 21: `If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed into the depths of the sea, &c. If they could but remove the anxiousness and uncertainty of their thoughts, and settle their hearts upon the warrant, they should do miracles.

For he that doubteth is like a wave of the sea, that is tossed to and fro.—An elegant similitude to set out their estate, used by common authors in the same matter,5656`Turbo quidam animos nostros rotat, et involvit fugientes petentesque eadem, et nunc in sublime allevatos, nunc in infima allisos rapit.,—Seneca de Vita Beata. and by the prophet Isaiah, chap. lvii. 20. James saith here, the doubter, ἔοικεν κλύδωνι, is `like a wave of the sea;, and the prophet saith of all wicked men, κλυδωνισθήσονται (as the Septuagint render it), `These shall be like troubled waves, whose waters cannot rest.,

The notes are these:—

Obs. 1. That the trial of a true prayer is the faith of it. Cursory requests are made out of fashion, not in faith; men pray, but do not consider the bounty of him to whom they pray: prayer is a means, not a task; therefore, in prayer there should be distinct reflections upon the success of it. Well, then, look to your prayers; see you put them up with a particular hope and trust; all the success lieth on that: `O woman! great is thy faith; be it to thee as thou wilt, Mat. xv. 28: God can deny faith nothing; `Be it to you as you will., So Mark xi. 24, `Whatsoever things ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye shall receive them, and ye shall have them., Mark that, `Believe, and ye shall have., God's attributes, when they are glorified, they are exercised, and by our trust his truth and power is engaged. But you will say, How shall we do to pray in faith? I answer—There is something presupposed, and that is an interest in Christ. But that which is required in every prayer is:—

1. An actual reliance upon the grace and merits of Jesus Christ: Eph. ii. 18, `Through him we have access with confidence unto the Father., We cannot lift up a thought of hope and trust but by him. If you have not assurance, yet go out of yourselves, and look for your acceptance in his merits. Certainly this must be done; none can pray aright but believers. How can they comfortably be persuaded of a blessing, that have never a promise belonging to them? Therefore, at least you must honour Christ in the duty: you must see that such worthless creatures as you may be accepted in him: Heb. iv. 16, `Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find help in time of need., Through Christ we may come freely and boldly: I am a sinner, but Jesus Christ, my intercessor, is righteous. Men will say, they do not doubt of God, but of themselves: I am a wretched sinner, will the Lord hear me? I answer—48This is but Satan's policy to make us say we doubt of ourselves^ not of God; for, in effect, it is a doubting of God; of his mercy, as if it were not free enough to pardon and save; of his power, as if it were not great enough to help. We must come humbly; we are sinners: but we must come in faith also; Christ is a Saviour: it is our folly, under colour of humbling ourselves, to have low thoughts of God. If we had skill, we should see that all graces, like the stones in the building, have a marvellous symmetry and compliance one with another; and we may come humbly, yet boldly in Christ.

2. We must put up no prayer but what we can put up in faith: prayer must be regulated by faith, and faith must not wander out of the limits of the word. If you have a promise, you may be confident that your requests will be heard, though in God's season: you cannot put up a carnal desire in faith. The apostle's words are notably pertinent to state this matter: 1 John v. 14, `This is the confidence that we have concerning him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us., All things are to be asked in faith; some things absolutely, as spiritual blessings,—I mean, as considered in their essence, not degree. Degrees are arbitrary. Other things condition ally, as outward blessings. Let the prayer be according to the word, and the success will be according to the prayer.

3. The soul must actually magnify God's attributes in every prayer, and distinctly urge them against the present doubt and fear. Usually we do not doubt for want of a clear promise, but out of low thoughts of God; we cannot carry his love, power, truth, above the present temptation, and believe that there is love enough to justify us from so many sins, power enough to deliver us from so great a death or danger, 2 Cor. i. 10; and bounty enough to bestow so great a mercy. This is to pray in faith, to form proper and right thoughts of God in prayer, when we see there is enough to answer the particular doubt and exigency: as Mat. viii. 28, 29, Jesus saith to the two blind men, `Believe ye that I am able to do this? and they said, Yea, Lord: then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith, be it unto you., Christ asked first whether they had a right estimation of his power, and then, in the next place, he calleth it faith, and gave them the blessing. Those that come to God had need conceive rightly of him; Christ requireth nothing more of the blind man but a sealing to the greatness of his power. `Believest thou that I am able?, `Yea, Lord;, and that was all. But you will say, Tell us more distinctly, what faith is required in every prayer? I answer—The question has been in a great part already answered.

But, for further satisfaction, take these rules:—[1.] That where we have a certain promise, we must no way doubt of his will; for the doubt must either proceed from a suspicion that this is not the word or will of God, and that is atheism; or from a jealousy that God will not. make good his word, and that is blasphemy; or a fear that he is not able to accomplish his will, and that is downright distrust and unbelief. Therefore, where we have a clear sight of his will in the promise, we may have a confidence towards him, 1 John v. 14.

[2.] Where we have no certain assurance of his will, the work of faith is to glorify and apply his power. Unbelief stumbleth most at that, 49rather at God's can than will; as appeareth partly by experience.—Fears come upon us only when means fail and the blessings expected are most unlikely; which argueth that it is not the uncertainty of God's will, but the misconceit of his power, that maketh u doubt. The present dangers and difficulties surprise us with such a terror that we cannot comfortably use the help of prayer out of a faith in God's power:—partly by the testimony of the scriptures. Search, and you shall find that God's power and all-sufficiency is the first ground and reason of faith. Abraham believed, because `God was able to perform., Rom. iv. 21. And that unbelief expresseth itself in such language as implieth a plain distrust of God's power; as Ps. lxxviii. 19, `Can the Lord prepare a table in the wilderness?, It is not will, but can: 2 Kings vii. 2, `If the Lord should open the windows of heaven, how can this be?, So the Virgin Mary: Luke i. 34, `How can these things be?, and so in many other instances. Men deceive themselves when they think they doubt because they know not the will of God: their main hesitancy is at his power. Look, as in the case of conversion, we pretend a cannot, when indeed we will not;5757`Non posse praetenditur, non velle in causa est.,—Seneca. so, oppositely, in the case of faith, we pretend we know not God's will, when we indeed doubt of his can. Therefore the main work of your faith is to give him the glory of his power, leaving his will to himself. Christ putteth you, as he did the blind men (Mat. ix. 28), to the question, `Am I able?, Your souls must answer, `Yea, Lord., And in prayer you must come as the leper: Mat. viii. 2, `Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean., Whether he grant you or not, believe; that is, say in your thoughts, Lord, thou canst.

[3.] In these cases, his power is not only to be glorified, but also his love. But you will say, in an uncertain case, How must we glorify his love? I answer—Two ways; faith hath a double work. (1.) To compose the soul to a submission to God's pleasure. He is so good, that you may refer yourself to his goodness. Whether he grant or not, he is a wise God and a loving father, and will do what is best; so that, you see, in no case we must dispute, but refer ourselves to God, as the leper was not troubled about God's will, but said, `Lord, thou canst., Cast yourselves upon his will, but conjure him by his power; this is the true and genuine working of faith. When you dare leave your case with God's love, `let him do what seemeth good in his eyes, good he will do; as in scripture the children of God in all temporal matters do resign themselves to his disposal, for they know his heart is full of love, and that is best which their heavenly Father thinketh best, and this taketh off the disquiet and perplexity of the spirit: Prov. xvi. 3, `Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established., They wait with serenity when they have committed their works to God's will with submission. (2.) To incline and raise the soul into some hope of the mercy prayed for. Hope is the fountain of endeavours, and we should neither pray nor wait upon God were it not that we may look up to him because there is hope, Lam. iii. 29. The hypocrite's prejudice was, `It is in vain to seek God, Job xxi. 15. There are some particular promises, you know, concerning preservation in times of pestilence, oppression, 50famine, &c. (Mal. iii. 14), which, though they are not always made good in the rigour of the letter, yet they are in a great measure fulfilled, and ἐπὶ τὸ πλεῖστον, for the most part take place. I say, though they are to be expounded with the exception and reservation of the cross (for God is no further obliged than he is obliged by the covenant of grace, and in the covenant of grace he hath still kept a liberty of `visiting their iniquity with rods, Ps. lxxxix. 33), yet because the children of God have many experiences of their accomplishment, they cannot choose but conceive some hope towards God, and incline rather to think that God will grant. The least that these promises do is to beget some loose hope, they being so express to our case, and being so often accomplished. Nay, how can we urge these in prayer to a good God, and not say, as David, `Remember thy word unto thy servant, wherein thou hast caused me to hope, Ps. cxix. 49? I do not say we should prescribe to God, and limit his will to our thoughts, but only conceive a hope with submission, because of the general reservation of the cross.

[4.] Some, that have more near communion with God, may have a particular faith of some particular occurrences. By some special instincts in prayer from the Spirit of God they have gone away and said with David, Ps. xxvii. 3, `In this I will be confident., I do not say it is usual, but sometimes it may be so; we cannot abridge the Spirit of his liberty of revealing himself to his people. But, remember, privileges do not make rules; these are acts of God's prerogative, not according to his standing law and rule. However, this I conceive is common: that, in a particular case, we may conceive the more hope, when our hearts have been drawn out to God by an actual trust; that is, when we have urged a particular promise to God in prayer with submission, yet with hope; for God seldom faileth a trusting soul. They may lay hold on God by virtue of a double claim; partly by virtue of the single promise that first invited them to God, and then by virtue of another promise made to their trust; as Isa. xxvi. 3, `Thou keepest him in perfect peace who putteth his trust in^thee, because he trusteth in thee., An ingenious man will not disappoint trust; and God saith, eo nomine, for that reason, because they trust in him, he will do them good; therefore, now having glorified God's power, and with hope referred themselves to his will, they have a new argument of hope within themselves. It is notable that in Ps. xci. 2, 3, there is a dialogue between the Spirit of God and a believing soul. The soul saith, `I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress, my God; in him will I trust., There is a resolution of a humble and actual trust. The Spirit answereth, ver. 3, `Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from a noisome pestilence., There is a promise under an averment, surely, which certainly would do nothing, if it did not at the least draw out the more hope.

Thus I have given you my thoughts of this common and useful case,—praying in faith.

Obs. 2. From that nothing wavering, or disputing, as it is in the original, man's nature is much given to disputes against the grace and promises of God. The pride of reason will not stoop to a revelation; 51and where we have no assurance but the divine testimony, there we are apt to cavil. All doubts are but disputes against a promise; therefore what is said in our translation, `Lift up pure hands, without wrath and doubting, (1 Tim. ii. 8), is in the original χωρὶς διαλογίσμου, without reasoning or dispute. A sure word is committed to the uncertainty of our thoughts and debates, and God's promises ascited before the tribunal of our reason. Well, then, cast down those λογίσμους, those imaginations, or reasonings rather (for so the word properly signifieth), which exalt themselves against the knowledge of God in Christ. Carnal reason is faith's worst enemy. It is a great advantage when we can make reason, that is an enemy to faith, to be a servant to it; λογίζεσθε, saith the apostle: Rom. vi. 11, `Reckon, or reason yourselves to be dead to sin, and alive to God., Then is our reason and discourse well employed, when it serveth to set on and urge conclusions of faith.

Obs. 3. From the same—That the less we doubt, the more we come up to the nature of true faith. The use of grace is to settle the heart upon God; to be fast and loose argueth weakness: `Why doubt ye, O ye of little faith?, I do not say it is no faith, but it is a weak faith: a trembling hand may hold somewhat, but faintly. Well, then, seek to lay aside your doubts and carnal debates, especially in prayer; come `without wrath and doubting: `without wrath to a God of peace, without doubting to a God of mercy. Do not debate whether it be better to cast yourselves upon God's promise and disposal, or to leave yourselves to your own. carnal care; that is no faith when the heart wavereth between hopes and fears, help and God. Our Saviour saith, Luke xii. 29, μὴ μετεωρίζεσθε, `Be not of doubtful mind, what ye shall eat and drink;, do not hang between two, like a meteor hovering in the air (so the word signifieth), not knowing what God will do for you. A thorough belief of God's attributes, as revealed in Christ, taketh off all disquiets and perplexities of spirit. Well, then, get a clear interest in Christ, and a more distinct apprehension of God's attributes. Ignorance perplexeth us, and filleth the soul with misty dark reasonings; but faith settleth the soul, and giveth it a greater constancy.

Obs. 4. From that like a wave of the sea, tossed to and fro, doubts are perplexing, and torment the mind. An unbeliever is like the waves of the sea, always rolling; but a believer is like a tree, much shaken, but firm at root. We are under misery and bondage as long as we are tossed upon the waves of our own affections; and till faith giveth a certainty, there is no rest and peace in the soul: `Return to thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee, Ps. cxvi. 7. Faith shedding abroad God's love in our sense and feeling, begetteth a calm: they that teach a doctrine of doubting—exercent carnificinam animarum, saith Calvin—they do but keep conscience upon the rack, and leave men to the torment of their own distracted thoughts. Romish locusts are like scorpions (Rev. ix. 10), with `stings in their tails;, and `men shall desire death, (ver. 6) that are stung with them. Antichristian doctrines yield no comfort and ease to the conscience, but rather sting it and wound it, that, to be freed from their anxiety, men would desire to die. Certainly there cannot 52be a greater misery than for man to be a burden and a terror to himself; and there is no torment like that of our own thoughts. Well, then, go to God, and get your spirit settled: he that cherisheth his own doubts doth but hug a distemper instead of a duty. ^

Ver. 7. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.

Let him not think.—It is either put to show that they can look for nothing, nor rise up into any confidence before God; he doth not say, `He shall receive nothing, but `Let not that man think he shall receive;, whatever God's overflowing bounty may give them, they can expect nothing. Or else, `Let not that man think, to check their vain hopes. Man deceiveth himself, and would fain seduce his soul into the way of a carnal hope; therefore, saith the apostle, `Let not that man think, that is, deceive himself with a vain surmise.

That he shall receive anything.—Such doubting as endeth not in faith frustrateth prayers, and maketh them altogether vain and fruit less. There are doubts in the people of God, but they get the victory over them; and, therefore, it is not to be understood as if any doubt did make us incapable of any blessing, but only such as is allowed and prevaileth.

Of the Lord, παρὰ του̂ Κυρίου; that is, from Christ; Lord, in the idiom of the New Testament, being most usually applied to him, as mediator; and Christ as mediator is to commend our prayers to God, and to convey all blessings from God; therefore, the apostle saith, 1 Cor. viii. 6, `To us there is but one God, the Father of all, by whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him., The heathens, as they had many gods, many ultimate objects of worship, so they had many lords, many intermediate powers, that were to be as agents between the gods and men, to convey the prayers and supplications of men to the gods, and the bounty and rewards of devotion from the gods to men; `But to us, saith the apostle, `there is but one God, one sovereign God, `the Father, the first spring and fountain of blessings; `and one Lord, that is, one Mediator, `Jesus Christ, δι᾽ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς δι᾽ αὐτοῦ, by whom are all things, which come from the Father to us, and by whom alone we find access to him.

The notes are these:—

Obs. 1. That unbelievers, though they may receive something, yet they can expect nothing from God. Let him not think. They are under a double misery:—(1.) They can lift up no thoughts of hope and comfort, for they are not under the assurance of a promise. Oh, what a misery is this, to toil, and still to be left to an uncertainty—to pray, and to have no sure hope! When the task is over, they cannot look for acceptance or a blessing. The children of God are upon^ more sure terms: 1 Cor. ix. 26, `I run not as uncertainly;, that is, not as one that is in danger or doubt of having run in vain. So Solomon saith, Prov. xi. 18, `The righteous hath a sure reward;, they have God's infallible promise, and may expect a blessing; but the wicked, whether they run or sit, they cannot form their thoughts into any hope; whether they run, or sit still, they are in the same 53condition;5858   `Τὸ στάδιον Περικλῆς εἰτ᾽ ἔδραμεν, εἰτ8᾽ ἐκάθητο,
Οὐδεις οἶδεν ὅλως· δαιμόνιος βραδύτης
.,—Graec. Epigram.
if they run, they run uncertainly; if they pray, they pray uncertainly; like a slave that doth his task, and knoweth not whether he shall please; so, when they have done all, they are still left to the puzzle and uncertainty of their own thoughts; and indeed it is a punishment that well enough suiteth with their dispositions; they pray, and do not look after the success of prayer; they perform duties, and do not observe the blessing of duties, like children that shoot their arrows at rovers, with an uncertain aim, and never look after them again. Those that live best among carnal men, live by guess, and some loose devout aims. (2.) If they receive anything, they cannot look upon it as coming by promise, or as a return of prayers. When the children are fed, the dogs may have crumbs: all their comforts are but the spillings and overflowings of God's bounty. And truly this is a great misery, when we cannot see love in our enjoyments, and blessings are given us by chance rather than covenant; they cannot discern mercy and truth in any of their comforts, as Jacob did, Gen. xxxii. 10. Well, then, let the misery of this condition make us to come out of it; get a sure interest in Christ, that you may be under a sure hope and expectation. Unbelief will always leave you to uncertainty; doubting is a new provocation, and when a man maketh a supplication a provocation, what can he look for? A man may be ashamed to ask God, that is so backward to honour him.

Obs. 2. From the other reason of the words, let him not think. Men usually deceive themselves with vain hopes and thoughts: they are out in their thinking: Mat. iii. 9, `Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father., Carnal confidence is rooted in some vain principle and thought; so men think God is not just, hell is not so hot, the devil is not so black, nor the scriptures so strict as they are made to be. The apostles everywhere meet with these carnal thoughts; as 1 Cor. vi. 9, `Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor idolaters, &c. They were apt to deceive themselves with some such hope; so Gal. vi. 7, `Be not deceived, God is not mocked., Men are persuaded that if they can devise any shift to excuse themselves from duty, all will be well enough. God is not mocked with any pretences; this is but a vain thought. Well, then, look to your privy thoughts. All corrupt actions are founded in some vain thought, and this vain thought is strengthened with some vain word; therefore the apostle saith, Eph. v. 6, `Let no man deceive you with vain words., All practical errors are but a man's natural thoughts cried up for a valuable opinion, and they all tend either to excuse sin, or to secure us from judgment, or to seduce us into a vain hope; and thus foolish man becometh his own cheater, and deceiveth himself with his own thinking. In all natural and civil things we desire to know the truth; many do deceive, but none would willingly be deceived;5959`Gaudium de veritate omnes volunt, multos expertus sum qui velint fallere, qui autem falli neminem.,—Aug. lib. x. Confes. cap. 13. but in spiritual things we think ourselves never more happy than when we have seduced our souls into a vain hope, or gotten them into a fool's paradise.


Obs. 3. From that, that he shall receive. The cause why we receive not upon asking, is not from God, but ourselves; he `giveth liberally, but we pray doubtingly. He would give, but we cannot receive. We see men are discouraged when they are distrusted, and suspicion is the ready way to make them unfaithful; and, certainly, when we distrust God, it is not reasonable we should expect aught from him. Christ said to Martha, John xi. 40, `If thou wouldst believe, thou shouldst see the glory of God;, that is, power, love, truth, discovered in their lustre and glory. Omnipotency knoweth no restraint, only it is discouraged by man's unbelief; therefore it is said, Mark vi. 5, 6, `And he could do no mighty work there, because of their unbelief;, he could not, because he would not, not for want of power in him, but for want of disposition in the people. So Mark ix. 22, 23: the father cometh for a possessed child: `Master, if thou canst do anything, help us., Christ answereth, `If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth., The distressed father saith, `If thou canst do anything;, our holy Lord saith, `If thou canst believe:, as if he had said, Do not doubt of my power, but look to thy own faith; I can, if thou canst. If we were disposed to receive as God is fitted to give, we should not be long without an answer. Omnipotent power can save to the utter most, infinite love can pardon to the uttermost, if we could but believe. `All things are possible to him that believeth;, that is, God can do all things for the comfort and use of believers; faith is his immutable ordinance, and he will not go out of his own way. Well, then, if you receive not, it is not for want of power in God, but want of faith in yourselves.

Obs. 4. From that anything—neither wisdom nor anything else—that God thinketh the least mercy too good for unbelievers: he thinketh. nothing too good for faith, and anything too good for unbelief. It is observable, in the days of Christ's flesh, that faith was never frustrate; he never let it pass without some effect; nay, some times he offereth all that you can wish for: Mat. xv. 28, `Great is thy faith; be it to thee even as thou wilt., Faith giveth Christ content, and, therefore, he will be sure to give the believer content; crave what you will, and he will give it. But, on the contrary, `Let not that man think that he shall receive anything., How are the bowels of mercy shrunk up at the sight of unbelief! Believers shall have all things, and you nothing.

Obs. 5. From that from the Lord, that the fruit of our prayers is received from the hands of Christ; he is the middle person by whom God conveyeth blessings to us, and we return duty to him. See John xiv. 13, `Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son., Mark, `I will do it,6060`Mirum novumque dictu quod patri exhibeatur petitio et filius exaudiat, cum exauditio ad eum pertineat cui est porrecta petitio.,—Simon de Cassia, lib. xiii. cap. 2. Christ receiveth the power to convey the blessing; we must ask the Father, but it cometh to us through him: and all this, not that the Father might be excluded, but glorified. We are unworthy to converse with the Father, therefore Christ is the true mediator. God is glorified when we come to him through Christ. In times of 55knowledge, God would have your thoughts in prayer to be more distinct and explicit; you must come to the Father in the Son's name, and look for all through the Spirit: and as the Spirit worketh as Christ's Spirit, to glorify the Son, John xvi. 4, so the Son, he will give to glorify the Father. What an excellent ground of hope and confidence have we, when we reflect upon these three things in prayer—the Father's love, the Son's merit, and the Spirit's power! No man cometh to the Son but by the Father, John vi. 65: no man cometh to the Father but by the Son, John xiv. 6: no man is united to the Son but by the Holy Ghost: therefore do we read of `the unity of the Spirit, Eph. iv. 3.

Ver. 8. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.

He proceedeth to a general consideration of the unhappiness of un believers, and he saith two things of them—that they are double-minded and unstable. Possibly there may be a secret antithesis, or opposition, between the temper of these men and what he had said before of God. God giveth ἁπλῶς, with a single mind (ver. 5), and we expect with a double mind, our trust being nothing so sure as his mercy is free. But let us examine the words more particularly.

A double-minded man, δίψυχος ἀνὴρ.—The word signifieth one that hath two souls; and so it may imply—(1.) A hypocrite, as the same word is used to that purpose, James iv. 8: `Purify your hearts, ye double-minded., δίψυχοι. As he speaketh to open sinners to cleanse their hands, so to close hypocrites (whom he there calleth double-minded, as pretending one thing and meaning another), to purify their hearts, that is, to grow more inwardly sincere; and so it suiteth very well with that phrase by which the Hebrews express a deceiver: Ps. xii. 2, `With a double heart do they speak:, in the original, `With a heart and a heart, which is their manner of expression when they would express a thing-that is double or deceitful, as divers or deceitful weights is a weight and a weight in the original, Prov. xx. 23. As Theophrastus saith of the partridges of Paphlagonia, that they had two hearts; so every hypocrite hath two hearts or two souls. As I remember, I have read of a profane wretch that bragged he had two souls in one body, one for God, and the other for anything.6161`Professus est se habere duas animas in eodem corpore, unam Deo dicatam, alteram unicuique illam vellet.,—Callenucius lib. v. Hist. Neap. (2.) It implieth one that is distracted and divided in his thoughts, floating between two different ways and opinions, as if he had two minds, or two souls; and certainly there were such in the apostle's days, some Judaising brethren, that sometimes would sort with the Jews, some times with the Christians, and did not use all due endeavours to be built up in the faith, or settled in the truth: as of ancient, long before this time, it is said of others, 2 Kings xvii. 33, `They feared the Lord, and served their own gods;, they were divided between God and idols, which indifferency of theirs the prophet expresseth by a double or divided heart: Hosea x. 2, `Their heart is divided, now shall they be found faulty., Thus Athanasius applied this description to the Eusebians,6262The Arians, so called from Eusebius, the Arian Bishop of Nicomedia, who recanted and fell again to his heresy.—Socrat. Scholast. lib. i. cap. 25. that sometimes held one thing, and anon another, that a 56man could never have them at any stay or certain pass. (3.) And, more expressly to the context, it may note those whose minds were tossed to and fro with various and uncertain motions; now lifted up with a billow of presumption, then cast down in a gulf of despair, being divided between hopes and fears concerning their acceptance with God. I prefer this latter sense, as most suiting with the apostle's purpose.

Is unstable, ἀκατάστατος.—Hath no constancy of soul, being as ready to depart from God as to close with him; no way fixed and resolved in the religion he professeth.

In all his ways.—Some apply it chiefly to prayer, because those that are doubtful of success often intermit the practice of it, regarding it only now and then in some zealous pangs, when conscience falleth upon them: but I suppose rather it is a general maxim, and that prayer is only intended by consequence, for the apostle saith, `in all his ways., Note, way, by a known Hebraism, is put for any counsel, action, thought, or purpose; and so it implieth that all their thoughts, motions, and actions do float hither and thither continually.

The notes are these:—

Obs. 1. That unbelieving hypocrites are men of a double mind; they want the conduct of the Spirit, and are led by their own affections, and therefore cannot be settled: fear, the love of the world, carnal hopes and interests draw them hither and thither, for they have no certain guide and rule. It is said of godly men, Ps. cxii. 7, `They shall not be afraid of evil tidings; their heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord:, they walk by a sure rule, and look to sure promises; and therefore, though their condition is changed, their heart is not changed, for the ground of their hopes is still the same. Carnal men's hearts rise and fall with their news, and when affairs are doubtful, their hopes are uncertain, for they are fixed upon uncertain objects, `They are confounded, for they have heard evil tidings, saith the prophet, Jer, xlix. 23: upon every turn of affairs, they have, as it were, another heart and soul. That request of David is notable for the opening of this double mind, Ps. lxxxvi. 11, `Unite my heart to fear thy name., The Septuagint read ἔνωσον τὴν καρδίαν μοῦ, `make my heart one, that is, apply it only and constantly to thy fear; implying, that where men are divided between God and secular interests, they have, as it were, two hearts; one heart inclineth them to a care of duty, the other heart discourageth them by fears of the world: the heart is not μοναχῶς (which is Aquila's word in that place), after one manner and fashion. This double mind in carnal men bewrayeth itself two ways in their hopes and their opinions. (1.) In their hopes, they are distracted between expectation and jealousy, doubts and fears; now full of confidence in their prayers, and anon breathing forth nothing but sorrow and despair; and possibly that may be one reason why the psalmist compareth the wicked to chaff, Ps. i. 4, because they have no firm stay and subsistence, but are driven to and fro by various and un certain motions, leading their lives by guess, rather than any sure aim. (2.) In their opinions, hypocrites usually waver and hang in suspense, being distracted between conscience and carnal affections; their affections carry them to Baal, their consciences to God; as the prophet 57saith to such men, 1 Kings xviii. 21, `How long will ye halt between two opinions?, They are usually guilty of a promiscuous compliance, which, though used by them in carnal policy, yet often tendeth to their hurt; for this indifferency is hateful to God and men. God loatheth it: Rev. iii. 15, `I know thy works; I would thou wert either hot or cold; but because thou art neither hot nor cold, I will spue thee out of my mouth., Lukewarmness is that temper that is most ingrate to the stomach, and therefore causeth vomits: so are lukewarm Christians to God; his ways are not honoured but by a zealous earnestness. And man hateth it. Solon did not judge him a good citizen that in a civil war took neither part; usually such middling men,6363`᾽Μέσος ἀπ᾽ ἀμφοτἐρων κακῶς πάσχει,—Nazar. Orat. 13. like those that come between two fencers, suffer on both sides. I confess, sometimes godly persons may be at a stand; those that make conscience of things are not rash in choice, and therefore usually there is some hesitancy before engagement, which, though it be an infirmity, yet God winketh at it as long as they endeavour satisfaction: but certainly a child of God should not rest in such a frame of spirit: sincerity is much tried by an `establishment in the present truth, 2 Peter i. 12; that is, by up rightness in the controversies of our age and time. Antiquated opinions, that are altogether severed and abstracted from present interests, are no trial, therefore it is good to be positive and settled, ἐν τῆ παρούσῃ ἀληθείᾳ, `in the truth that now is., I confess, such cases may happen, where the pretences of both sides are so fair, and the miscarriages so foul, that we know not which to choose; and (as Cato said of the civil wars between Caesar and Pompey, quem fugiam video, quem sequar non video), we can better see whom to avoid, than whom to close with and follow; and thereupon there may be hesitancy and indifferency; but this is neither allowed for the present, nor continued out of interest, but conscience, and never descendeth to any base compliances for advantage.6464`Bonus animus nunquam erranti obsequium accommodat.,—Ambros.

Obs. 2. That doubtfulness of mind is the cause of uncertainty in our lives and conversations. Their minds are double, and therefore their ways are unstable. First, there is (as Seneca saith), nusquam residentis animi volutatio, uncertain rollings of spirit; and then vita pendens, a doubtful and suspensive life.6565Sen. lib. de Tranquill. For our actions do oft bear the imnge and resemblance of our thoughts, and the heart not being fixed, the life is very uncertain. The note holdeth good in two cases:—(1.) In fixing the heart in the hopes of the gospel; (2.) In fixing the heart in the doctrine of the gospel; as faith sometimes implieth the doctrine which is believed, sometimes the grace by which we do believe.6666`Fides quae creditur, et fides qua creditur., A certain expectation of the hopes of the gospel produceth obedience, and a certain belief of the doctrine of the gospel produceth constancy.

1. None walk so evenly with God as they that are assured of the love of God. Faith is the mother of obedience, and sureness of trust maketh way for strictness of life. When men are loose from Christ, they are loose in point of duty, and their floating belief is soon discovered in their inconstancy and unevenness of walking. We do not 58with any alacrity or cheerfulness engage in that of whose success we are doubtful;6767`Προαίρεσις οὐκ ἔστιν ἀδυνάτων.,—Arist. Ethic. and therefore, when we know not whether God will accept us or no, when we are off and on in point of trust, we are just so in the course of our lives, serve God by fits and starts, only when some zealous moods and pangs come upon us. It is the slander of the world to think assurance is an idle doctrine. Never is the soul so quickened and enabled for duty as it is by `the joy of the Lord:, Neh. viii. 10, `The joy of the Lord is your strength., Faith, filling the heart with spiritual joy, yieldeth a strength for all our duties and labours; and we are carried on with life and vigour when we have most lively apprehensions of the divine grace.

2. None are so constant in the profession of any truth as they that are convinced and assured of the grounds of it. When we are but half convinced, we are usually unstable. I remember the apostle speaketh of a thing which he calleth ἴδιον στήριγμον, `our own steadfastness, 2 Peter iii. 17, `Lest ye fall from your own steadfastness into the error of the wicked., Every believer hath, or should have, a proper ballast in his own spirit, some solid, rational grounds that may stay and support him; otherwise, when the chain of consent is broken, we shall soon be scattered. So elsewhere a believer is bidden to render λόγον, `a reason of the hope that is in him, 1 Peter iii. 15; that is, those inward motives that constrained his assent to the truth. Thus also the apostle Paul chargeth us, 1 Thes. v. 21, first to `prove all things, and then to `hold fast that which is good., It is unsafe to engage till a full conviction, or to resolve without evidence, for there is no likelihood of holding fast till we have proved. Well, then, labour to understand the grounds of your religion. If you love a truth ignorantly, you cannot love it constantly. There is still a party left in the soul to betray it into the hands of the opposite error. To take up ways without any trial is but a simple credulity, which will soon be abused and misled; and to take up ways upon half conviction is hypocrisy, which by that other part of the mind not yet gained will be soon discovered. Look upon it, then, as brutish to follow the track, and base to profess before you are ascertained.

Ver. 9. Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted.

The apostle having finished that necessary digression about prayer, returneth to the main matter in hand, which is bearing of afflictions with joy; and urgeth another reason in this verse, because, to be depressed in the world for righteousness, sake, is to be exalted towards God; and in consideration of their spiritual comforts and privileges, they had rather cause to boast and glory than to be made sorry. Lot us see the force of the words.

Let the brother; that is, a Christian. The people of God are expressed by that term, because the truest friendship and brotherhood is inter bonos, among the good and godly. Combinations of wicked men are rather a faction and a conspiracy than a brotherhood; therefore you find this in scripture notion always appropriated to the people of God. When it is said indefinitely `a brother, you may understand a saint; as here James doth not say `a Christian, but `let the brother., So Paul, 1 Cor. xvi. 20, `All the brethren salute you;, 59that is, all the saints. And sometimes it is expressed with this addition, `holy brethren, 1 Thes. v. 27; whereas in the same place, in ver. 26, he had said, `Greet all the brethren., This loving compellation and use of calling one another brothers and sisters continued till Tertullian's time, as we showed before.

Of low degree. In the original it is τάπεινος, which, as the Hebrew word ענו, signifieth both humble and base, the grace and the condition, affliction and humility. It is here put for the condition, not the grace, and therefore we well render it `of a low degree;, for it is opposed to the term `rich `in the next verse; and so it is taken else where, as Prov. xvi. 19, `Better be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud., By lowly he meaneth the lowly in condition, not in heart; for it is opposed to `dividing the spoil., So Luke i. 48, `He hath regarded the low estate of his handmaid;,—it is τὴν ταπείνωσιν, the humility of his handmaid. The grace and the condition are expressed by the same term, because a low estate is the great engagement to a lowly heart. But remember, by low degree is not intended one that is poor simply, but one that is poor for Christ, as persecutions and afflictions are often expressed by the word humility and humiliation; thus Ps. ix. 12, 13, `He forgetteth not the cry of the humble,—the margin readeth afflicted; and in ver. 13, `Consider my trouble which I suffer from them that hate me,—in the original, my `humiliation., So here, ἄδελφος ὁ τάπεινος, `the humble brother, is one that is humbled or made low by the adversaries of religion.

Rejoice.—In the original καυχάσθω, `boast, or `glory, as it is in the margin. It is the highest act of joy; even when joy beginneth to degenerate, and pass the limits and bounds of reason. I say, it is the first degeneration of joy, and argueth the soul to be surprised with great excess and height of affection, for the next step beyond this is verily wicked. Joy beginneth to exceed when it cometh to exultation, but when it cometh to insultation, it is stark naught. Therefore, how should they boast or glory? Is that lawful? I answer—(1.) It may be understood as a concession of the lesser evil, thus: Rather than murmur under afflictions, or faint under them, or endeavour to come out of them by ill means, you may rather boast of them; rather than groan under them as a burden, you may boast of them as a privilege it is the lesser evil. Such concessions are frequent in scripture, as Prov. v. 19, `Thou shalt err in her love;, so in the original, and in the Septuagint, τῃ̂ φιλίᾳ αὐτῆς περιφερόμενος πόλλοστος ἔσῃ, `Thou shalt be overmuch in her love., We translate, `He shall be ravished with her love, which certainly implieth an unlawful degree, for ecstasies and ravishments in carnal matters are sinful. How is it, then, to be understood? Doth the scripture allow any vitiosity and excess of affection? No; it is only a notation of the lesser evil. Rather than lose thyself in the embraces of an harlot, `let her breasts satisfy thee, be overmuch, or `err in her love, (2.) It may only imply the worth of our Christian privileges: let him look upon his privileges as matter of boasting. How base and abject soever your condition seem to the world, yet suffering for Christianity is a thing whereof you may rather boast than be ashamed. (3.) It may be the word is to be mollified 60with a softer signification, as our translators, instead of `let him boast, or glory, say, `let him rejoice, though, by the way, there is no necessity of such a mitigated sense; for the apostle Paul saith directly, in the same terms, Rom. v. 3, `We boast, or glory, in tribulations, &c. But more of this in the observations.

In that he is exalted, ἐν τῷ ὕψει αὐτοῦ, in his sublimity. This may be understood two ways: (1.) More generally, in that he is a brother or a member of Christ, as the worth and honour of the spirit ual estate is often put to counterpoise the misery and obscurity of afflictions; thus Rev. ii. 9, `I know thy poverty, but thou art rich, poor outwardly, but rich spiritually. (2.) More particularly, it may note the honour of afflictions, that we are thought worthy to be sufferers for anything in which Christ is concerned, which is certainly a great preferment and exaltation.

The notes are these:—

Obs. 1. That the people of God are brethren. I observed it before, but here it is direct, `Let the brother of low degree, &c. They are begotten by the same Spirit, by the same immortal seed of the word. They have many engagements upon them to all social and brotherly affection. Jure matris naturae6868Tertul. in Apol. cap. 39. (as Tertullian saith)—by the common right of nature, all men are brethren. But, Vos mali fratres, quia parum homines (saith he to the persecutors)—the church can ill call you brethren, because ye are scarce men. Well, then, consider your relation to one another. You are brethren, a relation of the greatest endearment, partly as it is natural—not founded in choice, as friendship, but nature; partly as it is between equals. The respect between parents and children is natural; but in that part of it which ascendeth from inferiors to superiors, there is more of reverence than sweetness. In equals there is (if I may so speak) a greater symmetry and proportion of spirit, therefore more love. Ah! then, live and love as brethren. Averseness of heart and carriage will not stand with this sweet relation. The apostle speaketh with admiration: 1 Cor. vi. 6, `Brother goeth to law with brother, and that before unbelievers!, There are two aggravations one from the persons striving, brother with brother; the other, before whom they made infidels conscious of their contention. So Gen. xiii. 7, 8, `And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle, and the Canaanite and Perizzite was yet in the land., The Canaanite was yet unsubdued, ready to take advantage of their divisions, yet they strove. But see how Abram taketh up the matter. `We be brethren, let there be no more strife., Oh! consider, no discords are like those of brethren. The nearer the union, the greater the separation upon a breach; for natural ties being stronger than artificial, when they are once broken they are hardly made up again; as seams when they are ripped may be sewed again, but rents in the whole cloth are not so easily remedied. And so Solomon saith, Prov. xviii. 19, `A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: their contentions are like the bars of a castle;, that is, they are as irreconcilable as a strong castle is impregnable. But this is not all that is required, as to avoid what misbecometh the relation, but we must also practise 61the duty that it enforceth. There should be mutual endeavours for each others, good: Ps. cxxii. 8, `For my brethren and companions, sake, I will now say, Peace be within thee;, that is, because of the relation, he would be earnest with God in prayer for their welfare.

Obs. 2. The brother of low degree.—He saith of low degree, and yet brother. Meanness doth not take away church relations. Christian respects are not to be measured by these outward things; a man is not to be measured by them, therefore certainly not a Christian, I had almost said, not a beast. We choose a horse sine phaleris et ephippio, by his strength and swiftness, not the gaudiness of his trap pings: that which Christians should look at is not these outward additaments, but the eminency of grace: James ii. 1, `Have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ in respect of persons;, that is, do not esteem their grace according to the splendour or meanness of the outward state and condition. Despising the poor is called a despising the church of God: 1 Cor. xi. 22, `Have ye not houses to eat and drink in? Or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not?, At their love feasts they were wont to slight the poor, and discourage those that were not able to defray part of the charge, which, the apostle saith, is a despising the church that is, those that are members of Christ and the church, as well as themselves;6969See Spanhemius in his Dubia Evangelica, part iii. dub. 77, largely discussing this matter. for he doth not oppose ἐκκλησίαν to οἰκον, as a public place to a private, but a public action to a private action; as if he had said thus: In your houses you have a liberty to invite whom you please, but when you meet in a public assembly, you must not exclude such a considerable part of the church as the poor are.

Obs. 3. Again, from that the brother of a low degree. Not a man of low degree, but a brother. It is not poverty, but poor Christianity that occasioneth joy and comfort. Many please themselves because they suffer afflictions in this world; and therefore think they should be free in the world to come, as many ungodly poor men think death will make an end of their troubles, as if they could not have two hells. Oh! consider, it is not mere meanness that is a comfort; the brother only can rejoice in his misery and low estate. You shall see it is said, Exod. xxiii. 3, `Thou shalt not countenance a poor man in his cause:, a man would have thought it should have been rather said, `the rich;, but there is a foolish pity in man, and we are apt to say, he is a poor man, and so omit justice. Well, then, God, that condemneth it in man, will not pity you for your mere poverty: Mat. v. 3, `Blessed are the poor in spirit;, mark that πνεύματι, in spirit, not in purse. Many men's sufferings here are but the pledges and prefaces of future misery, the `beginning of sorrows, Mat. xxiv. 8. For the present your families are full of wants, your persons oppressed with misery and reproach, but all this is but a shadow of hell that cometh after; every Lazarus is not carried into Abraham's bosom; you may be miserable here and hereafter too; God will not pity you because of your suffering, but punish you rather, for these give you warning. Oh! consider, then, is it not sad to you, when you see the naked walls, the ragged clothes, and hear the cries of the hungry bellies within your families, you yourselves 62much bitten and pinched with want, and become the scorn and contempt of those that dwell about you? Ay! but it will be more sad to consider that these are the beginnings of sorrows; you cry for a bit now, and then you may howl for a drop to cool your tongue; now you are the scorn of men, then the scorn of God, men, and angels. Oh! be wise; now you may have Christ as well as others; as the poor and rich were to pay the same ransom to make an atonement for their souls, Exod. xxx. 15: but if not, you will perish as well as others; as God will not favour the rich, so he will not pity the poor.

Obs. 4. From the word τάπεινος—it signifieth both humble, and of low degree—observe, that the meanest have the greatest reason and engagement to be humble; their condition always maketh the grace in season—poverty and pride are most unsuitable. It was one of Solomon's odd sights, Eccles. x. 7, to see `servants on horseback, and princes going on foot., A poor proud man is a prodigy and wonder of pride; he hath less temptation to be proud, he hath more reason to be humble. Nebuchadnezzar was more excusable, for he had a great Babel, and that was a great temptation. Besides what should be in your affections, there is somewhat in your condition to take down the height of your spirits: it is not fit for those of the highest rank to turn fashionists, and display the ensigns of their own vanity; but when servants and those of a low degree put themselves into the garb, it is most intolerable. But alas! thus we often find it; men usually walk unsuitably to their condition, as if they would supply in pride what is lacking in estate and sufficiency; whereas others that excel in abilities are most lowly in mind, as the sun at highest casteth least shadows.

Obs. 5. Again, from that of low degree. God may set his people in the lowest rank of men. A brother may be τάπεινος, base and abject, in regard of his outward condition. `The Captain of salvation, the Son of God himself, was, Isa. liii. 3, `despised and rejected of men;, as we render it in the original, chadal ischim, desitio virorum, that is, the leaving-off of men; implying that he appeared in such a form and rank that he could scarce be said to be man, but as if he were to be reckoned among some baser kind of creatures; as Ps. xxii. 6, David saith, as a type of him, `I am a worm, and no man;, rather to be numbered among the worms than among men, of so miserable a being that you could scarce call him man; rather worm, or some other notion that is fittest to express the lowest rank of creatures. Well, then, in the greatest misery say, I am not yet beneath the condition of a saint—a brother may be base and abject.

Obs. 6. From that let the brother of low degree glory. That the vilest and most abject condition will not excuse us from murmuring: though you be τάπεινος, base, yet you may rejoice and glory in the Lord. A man cannot sink so low as to be past the help of spiritual comforts. In `the place of dragons, there is somewhat to check murmurings, somewhat that may allay the bitterness of our condition, if we had eyes to see it: though the worst thing were happened to you, poverty, loss of goods, exile, yet in all this there is no ground of impatiency: the brother of low degree may pitch upon something in which he may glory. Well, then, do not excuse passion by misery, 63and blame your condition when you should blame yourselves: it is not your misery, but your passions, that occasion sin; wormwood is not poison. But alas! the old Adam is found in us: `The woman, which thou gavest me, gave me, and I did eat., We blame providence when we should smite upon our own thighs. It is but a fond excuse to say, Never such sufferings as mine: Lam. i. 12, `Is there any sorrow like unto my sorrow?, Men pitch upon that circumstance, and so justify their murmurings. But remember, the greatness of your sufferings cannot give allowance to the exorbitancies of your passions: the low degree hath its comforts.

Obs. 7. From that rejoice, or glory, or boast. There is a concession of some kind of boasting to a Christian; he may glory in his privileges. To state this matter, I shall show you:—

1. How he may not boast. (1.) Not to set off self, self-worth, self-merits; so the apostle's reproof is just, 1 Cor. iv. 7, `Why dost thou glory, (the same word that is used here) `as if thou hadst not received what thou hast?, That is an evil glorying, to glory in ourselves, as if our gifts and graces were of our own purchasing, and ordained for the setting off of our own esteem; all such boasting is contrary to grace, as the apostle saith, Rom. iii. 27, Ποῦ οὖν ἡ καύχησις, `Where is boasting? It is excluded by grace., (2.) Not to vaunt it over others; the scripture giveth you no allowance to feed pride: it is the language of hypocrites, Isa. lxv. 5, `Stand by thyself; I am holier than thou., To despise others, as carnal, as men of the world, and to carry ourselves with an imperious roughness towards them, it is a sign we forget who made the difference. The apostle chideth such kind of persons, Rom. xiv. 10, τί ἐξουθενεῖς, `Why dost thou set at naught thy brother?, Tertullian readeth it, Cur nullificas?—why dost thou nothing him? He that maketh nothing of others, forgetteth that God is `all in all, to himself. Grace is of another temper: Titus iii. 3, `Show meekness to all men, for we ourselves in times past were foolish and disobedient., So think of what you are, that you may not forget what you were, before grace made the distinction.

2. How he may boast. (1.) If it be for the glory of God, to exalt God, not yourselves: Ps. xxxiv. 2, `My soul shall make her boast of God;, of his goodness, mercy, power. This is well, when we see we have nothing to boast of but our God; neither wealth, nor riches, nor wisdom, but of the Lord alone: Jer. ix. 23, 24, `Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, nor the mighty man glory in his strength; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he knoweth me, saith the Lord., This doth not only quicken others to praise him, but argueth much affection in yourselves; as, when we prize a thing, we say we have nothing to glory of but that; so it is a sign the soul sets God above all when it will glory in none other. (2.) To set out the worth of your privileges. The world thinketh you have a hard bargain to have a crucified Christ;—glory in it. Thus Rom. v. 3, `We glory in tribulations., The apostle doth not say, We must glory or boast of our tribulations or sufferings, but glory in tribulations. There is poor comfort in offering our bodies to the idol of our own praise, and to affect a martyrdom to make way for our repute or esteem, that we may have somewhat whereof to boast; that is not the apostle's meaning. 64But this glorying is to let the world know the honour we put upon any engagement for Christ, and that they may know we are not ashamed of our profession, when it is discountenanced and persecuted. The apostle Paul is excellently explained by the apostle Peter: 1 Peter iv. 16, `If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this behalf., They think it is a disgrace, and you think it is a glory to surfer for Christ. Look, as divines say, in the case of eyeing the reward; then it is done most purely when it is done to extenuate the temptation by the esteem and presence of our hopes, as Christ counted it a light shame, in comparison of `the joy set before him, Heb. xii. 2; and Moses the treasures of Egypt nothing in comparison of the recompense of reward, Heb. xii. 26. So, here, in this cause you may glory, that is, to counterbalance the shame of the world with the dignity of your profession and hopes. Well, then, you see how you may glory, to declare your valuation and esteem of God and his ways.

Obs. 8. From that he is exalted. That grace is a preferment and exaltation; even those of low degree may be thus exalted. All the comforts of Christianity are such as are riddles and contradictions to the flesh: poverty is preferment; servants are freemen, the Lord's freemen, 1 Cor. vii. 22. The privileges of Christianity take off all the ignominy of the world. Christian slaves and vassals are yet delivered from the tyranny of Satan, the slavery of sin; therefore he saith they are `the Lord's freemen., So James ii. 5, `Hath not God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith?, Spiritual treasure and inward riches are the best. A Christian's life is full of mysteries; poor, and yet rich, base, and yet exalted; shut out of the world, and yet admitted into the company of saints and angels; slighted, yet dear to God; the world's dirt, and God's jewels. In one place it is said, 1 Cor. iv. 13, `We are counted as the scurf and off-scouring of the earth;; and in another, Mal. iii. 17, `I will make up my jewels., Not a foot of land, yet an interest in the land of promise, a share in the inheritance of the saints in light; you see everything is amply made up in another way. Do but consider the nature of your privileges, and you cannot but count them a preferment. You are called to be `sons of God: `John i. 12, `He vouchsafed them ἐξουσίαν, the privilege or prerogative to become the sons of God;, so also, `members of Christ, and what a door of hope doth that open to you; so also `heirs of the promises, `joint-heirs with Christ., Rom. viii. 17; so also `partakers of the divine nature, 2 Peter i. 4: and what a privilege is that, that we should be severed from the vile world, and gilded with glory, when we might have stood like rotten posts! that we should be united to Christ, when, like dried leaven,7070Qu. `leaves,?—ED. we might have been driven to and fro throughout the earth. Well, then:—

1. Never quarrel with providence. Though you have not other things, rejoice in this, that you have the best things. Sole adoption is worth all the world. Do not complain that you have not the gold, if you have the kiss. I allude to that known story in Xenophon. Never envy the world's enjoyments, no, though you see men wicked and undeserving. To murmur under any such pretence is but disguised 65envy. Consider God hath called you to another advancement. You sin against the bounty of God if you do not value it above all the pomp and glory of the creatures. They are full and shining, but your comforts are better and more satisfying: 1 Tim. vi. 6, `Godliness with contentment is great gain;, or it may be read, `Godliness is great gain with contentment, in opposition to worldly gain. Men may gain much, but they are not satisfied; but godliness is such a gain as bringeth contentment and quiet along with it; for I suppose that place of the apostle is parallel to that of Solomon: Prov. x. 22, `The blessing of God maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.,

2. Refresh your hearts with the sense of your privileges. You that are the people of God are exalted in your greatest abasures. Are you naked? You may be `arrayed in tine linen, Rev. xix. 8, which is `δικαιώματα, the righteousnesses of the saints:, that plural word implieth justification and sanctification. Are you hungry? God's mountain will yield you `a feast of fat things, a feast of wines upon the lees well refined, Isa. xxv. 6: wines on the lees are most generous and sprightly. Are you thirsty? You have `a well of water springing up to everlasting life, John iv. 14. Are you base? You have glory, you have a crown. The word useth these expressions to show that all your wants are made up by this inward supply.

Obs. 9. Observe more particularly, that the greatest abasures and sufferings for Christ are an honour to us: Acts v. 41, `They rejoiced they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name., It was an act of God's grace to put this honour upon them. Well, then, do not look upon that as a judgment which is a favour. Reproaches for Christ are matter of thanksgiving rather than discontent. In ordinary sufferings God's people have this comfort, that as nothing cometh without merit, so nothing goeth away without profit. But here, what ever is done to them is an honour, and an high vouchsafement. Oh! how happy are the people of God, that can suffer nothing from God or men, but what they may take comfort in!

Ver. 10. But the rich, in that he is made low; because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.

He taketh occasion from the former exhortation, which pressed to rejoice in miseries, to speak of the opposite case, prosperity. Some suppose the words to be an irony,7171Tho. Lyra. wherein the apostle discovereth his low conceit of worldly glory: all their exaltation is humiliation; and therefore, if he will glory, let him glory in his vileness, and the unsettledness of his condition. That is all they can boast of—a low enjoyment that may be soon lost. But I suppose it is rather a direction; for he speaketh by way of advice to the rich Christian or brother, which will appear more fully by a view of the words.

But the rich.—It noteth the noble, the honourable, those that are dignified with any outward excellency, more especially those that did as yet remain untouched or unbroken by persecution. Some observe he doth not say `the rich brother, as before, `the brother of low degree, but only generally `the rich., Few of that quality and rank give their names to Christ. But this may be too curious.

In that, &c.—You see here wanteth a verb to make the sense entire 66and full. What is to be understood? Œcumenius saith αἰσχυνέσθω `Let him be ashamed, considering the uncertainty of his estate; others, much to the same sense, ταπεινούσθω, let hhn^be humbled in that he is made low, as if the opposite word to καυχάσθω were to be introduced to supply the sense. So it would be a like speech with that, 1 Tim. iv. 3, where in the original it runneth thus, Κωλυόντων γαμεῖν καὶ ἀπέχεσθαι τῶν βρωμάτων, `forbidding to marry, and to abstain from meats;, where there is a defect of the contrary word `commanding, which we in our translation supply, and read, `forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, as Epiphanius, citing that place, readeth it with that addition, κωλυόντων γαμεῖν καὶ κελευόντων ἀπέχεσθαι βρωμάτων. So 1 Tim. ii. 12, `I suffer not a woman to teach, but to be in silence., The opposite word to suffer not, or forbid, is understood, that is, `I command her to be in silence., So here, `Let the brother of low degree glory in that he is exalted;, and then `the rich be humbled in that he is made low., Many go this way. But this seemeth somewhat to disturb the series and order of the words. I always count that the best sense which runneth with a smooth plainness; therefore I rather like the opinion of others who repeat καυχάσθω, used in the former verse, `Let him rejoice, the poor man, in that^he is spiritually exalted; the rich in that he is spiritually humbled., So that grace maketh them both even and alike to God, and in regard of divine approbation they stand upon the same level—the poor that is too low he is exalted, the rich that is too high he is humbled; which to both is matter of glory or joy.

He is made low.—Some say outwardly and in providence, when his crown is laid in the dust, and he is stripped of all, and brought into the condition of the brother of low degree. But this is not so proper; for the apostle speaketh of such a making low as will consist with his being rich; made low whilst πλούσιος, rich, and high in estate and esteem. Some more particularly say, therefore made low, because, though honourable for riches, yet, because a Christian, no more esteemed than if poor, but accounted base and ignominious. But this doth not suit with the reason at the end of the verse, `because as the flower of the field he shall pass away., More properly, then, it is understood of the disposition of the heart, of a low mind in a high condition; and so it noteth either such humility as ariseth from the consideration of our own sinfulness (they are happy indeed whom God hath humbled with a sense of their sins), or from a consideration of the uncertainty of all worldly enjoyments. When our hearts are drawn from a high esteem of outward excellences, and we live in a constant expectation of and preparation for the cross, we may be said to be made low, though never so much exalted, which I suppose is chiefly intended, and so it suiteth with the reason annexed, and is parallel with that of the apostle: 1 Tim. vi. 17, `Charge the rich men of this world that they be not high-minded, and trust not in uncertain riches., The meaning is, that the glory of their condition is, that when God hath made them most high, they are most low in their own thoughts.

Because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.—He rendereth a reason why they should have a lowly mind in the midst of their flourishing and plenty, because the pomp of their condition is but 67as a flower of the field, which fadeth as soon as it displayeth its glory. The similitude is often used in scripture: Ps. xxxvii. 2, `They shall soon be cut down as the grass, and wither as the green herb;, so Job xiv. 2, `He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down;, so Isa. xl. 6, 7, `All flesh is grass, and the goodliness thereof as the flower of the field. The grass withereth, and the flower fadeth, because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it;, so also in many other places. I shall improve the similitude in the notes. Only observe here, that the apostle doth not say that his riches shall pass away as a flower, but he shall pass away, he and his riches also. If we had a security of our estate, we have none of our lives. We pass and they pass, and that with as easy a turn of providence as the flower of the field fadeth.

The notes are these:—

Obs. 1. Riches are not altogether inconsistent with Christianity. `Let the rich, that is, the rich brother. Usually they are a great snare. It is a hard matter to enjoy the world without being entangled with the cares and pleasures of it. The moon never suffereth eclipse but when it is at the full; and usually in our fulness we miscarry; and therefore our Saviour saith, Mat. xix. 24, `It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God., It is a Jewish proverb to note an impossibility. Rich men should often think of it. A camel may as soon go through a needle's eye, as you enter into the kingdom of God. That were a rare miracle of nature, indeed, to see a camel or an elephant to pass through a needle's eye; and it is as rare a miracle of grace to see a rich man gained to Christ and a love of heaven. Of all person sin the world, they are least apprehensive of spiritual excellences. Christ himself came in poverty, in a prejudice, as it were, to them that love riches. Plato, an heathen, saith the same almost with Christ, that it is impossible for a man to be eminently rich and eminently good.7272`Ἀγαθὸν ὄντα διαφερόντως καὶ πλούσιον εἰναι διαφερόντως ἀδύνατον.,—Plato. The way of grace is usually so strait, that there is scarce any room for them that would enter with their great burthens of riches and honour.7373`Non possunt in coelum aspicere, quoniam mens eorum in humum prona, terraeque defixa est; virtutis autem via non capit magna onera portantes.,—Lactant. lib. sept. But you will say, What will you have Christians to do then? In a lavish luxury to throw away their estates? or in an excess of charity to make others full, when themselves are empty? I answer—No; there are two passages to mollify the rigour of our Lord's saying. One is in the context, `With God all things are possible, Mat. xix. 26. Difficulties in the way to heaven serve to bring us to a despair of ourselves, not of God. He can loosen the heart from the world, that riches shall be no impediment; as Job by providence was made eminently rich, and by grace eminently godly—`none like him in all the earth, Job i. 8. The other passage is in Mark x. 23, 24, `Jesus said, How hard is it for them that have riches to enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words; but Jesus answereth again, How hard is it for them that trust riches to enter into the kingdom of God!, It is not the having, but the trusting. Riches in the having, in the bare possession, are not a hindrance to Christianity, but in our abuse of them. The sum of all 68is, it is impossible to trust in riches and enter into the kingdom of God, and it to us is impossible to have riches and not to trust in them. Well, then, of all men, rich men should be most careful. A man may be rich and godly, but it is because now and then God will work some miracles of grace. Your possessions will not be your ruin till your corruptions mingle with them. Under the law the poor and rich were to pay the same ransom, Exod. xxx. 15, intimating they may have interest in the same Christ. It is Austin's observation7474`Servatur pauper Lazarus, sed in sinu Abrahami divitis.,—August. in Ps. li. that poor Lazarus was saved in the bosom of rich Abraham. Riches in themselves are God's blessings that come within a promise. It is said, Ps. cxii. 3, of him that feareth the Lord, that `wealth and riches shall be in his house;, that is, when God seeth good, for all temporal promises must be understood with an exception. They do not intimate what always shall be, but that whatever is is by way of a blessing, the fruit of a promise, not of chance, or a looser providence. Yea, riches with a blessing are so far from being a hindrance to grace, that they are an ornament to it; so Prov. xiv. 24, `The crown of the wise is their riches, but the foolishness of fools is folly., A rich wise man is more conspicuous; an estate may adorn virtue, but it cannot disguise folly. A wise man that is rich hath an advantage to discover himself which others have not; but a fool is a fool still, as an ape is an ape though tied with a golden chain. And to this sense I suppose Solomon speaketh when he saith, Eccles. vii. 11, `Wisdom with an inheritance is good;, that is, more eminent and useful. And thus you see riches are as men use them, blessings promiscuously dispensed—to the good, lest they should be thought altogether evil; to the bad, lest they should be thought only good.7575`Dantur bonis ne putentur mala, malis ne putentur bona.,—August.

Obs. 2. That a rich man's humility is his glory. Your excellency doth not lie in the pomp and splendour of your condition, but in the meekness of your hearts. Humility is not only a clothing, `Put on humbleness of mind, Col. iii. 12, but an ornament, 1 Peter v. 5, `Be decked with humility, ἐγκομβώσασθε. It cometh from a word that signifieth a knot, that maketh decency when things are fitly tied. Men think that humility is a debasement, and meekness a derogation from their honour and repute. Ah! but you see God counteth it an ornament. It is not a disguise, but a decking. None so base as the proud in the eyes of God and men. Before God, you must not value yourself by your estate and outward pomp, but your graces. An high mind and a low condition are all one to the Lord, only poverty hath the advantage, because it is usually gracious. If any may glory, they may glory that have most arguments of God's love. Now a lowly mind is a far better testimony of it than an high estate. And so before men, as Augustine said, he is a great man that is not lifted up because of his greatness. You are not better than others by your estate, but your meekness. The apostles possessed all things though they had nothing. They have more than you if they have a humble heart.

Obs. 3. That the way to be humble is to count the world's advantages our abasement. The poor man must glory in that he is exalted, but the rich in that he is made low. Honours and riches do but set 69us beneath other men, rather than above them, and do rather abate from you than add anything to you; and it may be you have less of the Spirit because you have more of the world. God doth not use to flow in both ways. Well, then, get this mind in the midst of your abundance. It is nothing what you do at other times. Men dispraise that which they want, as the fox the grapes, and simple men learning. But when you are rich, can you glory in that you are made low, and say, All this is but low in regard of the saints, privileges? This would keep the heart in a right frame, so that you could lose wealth or keep it. If you lose it, you do but lose a part of your abasement; if you keep it, you do not keep that which setteth you the higher or the nearer to God. This is to `possess all things as if you possessed them not, 1 Cor. vii. 30—not to have them in your hearts when you have them in your houses. And the truth is, this is the way to keep them still, to be humble in the possession of them: Mat. xxiii. 12, 4 Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased, and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted., Riches will be your abasement, if you do not think them so.

Obs. 4. If we would be made low in the midst of worldly enjoyments, we should consider the uncertainty of them. This is the reason rendered by the apostle, `Because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away., We are worldly, because we forget the world's vanity and our own transitoriness: Ps. xlix. 11, `Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling-places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names., Either we think that we shall live for ever, or leave our riches to those that will continue our memory for ever; that is, to our children, which are but the parent multiplied and continued; which is, as one saith, nodosa aeternitas, a knotty eternity. When our thread is spun out and done, their thread is knit to it; and so we dream of a continued succession in our name and family. But alas! this inward thought is but a vain thought—a sorry refuge by which man would make amends for the loss of the true eternity. But in vain; for we perish, and our estate too. Both your persons and your condition are transitory. The apostle saith, `He shall pass away like the flower of the grass., Man himself is like the grass, soon withered; his condition is like the flower of the grass, gone with a puff of wind. So 1 Peter i. 24, `All flesh is grass, and the glory of man as the flower of the grass., Many times the flower is gone when the stalk remaineth; so man seeth all that he hath been gathering a long time soon dissipated by the breath of providence, and he, like a withered rotten stalk, liveth scorned and neglected. The scriptures make use of both these arguments sometimes our own transitoriness, as Luke xii. 20, `Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee., Here men toil, and beat their brains, and tire their spirits, and rack their consciences; and when they have done all, like silkworms, they die in their work, and God taketh them away ere they can roast what they get in hunting. Sometimes the transitoriness of these outward things; if we do not leave them, they may leave us. As many a man hath survived his happiness, and lived so long as to see himself, when his flower is gone, to be cast out upon the dunghill of scorn and contempt. 70And, truly it is a madness to be proud of that which may perish before we perish, as it is the worst of miseries to outlive our own happiness. The apostle saith, 1 Tim. vi. 17, `Charge rich men that they be not high-minded, and trust not in uncertain riches., Trust should have a sure object, for it is the quiet repose of the soul in the bosom of an immutable good. Therefore that which is uncertain cannot yield a ground of trust. You may entertain it with jealousy, but not with trust; so Prov. xxiii. 5, `Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not?, Outward riches are so far from being the best things, that they rather are not anything at all. Solomon calleth them `that which is not;, and who ever loved nothing, and would be proud of that which is not?

Obs. 5. The uncertainty of worldly enjoyments may be well resembled by a flower—beautiful, but fading. The similitude is elsewhere used: I gave you places in the exposition, let me add a few more: see Ps. ciii. 15, 16, `As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth: for the wind passeth over it. and it is gone, and the place thereof shall know it no more., When the flower is gone, the root, as afraid, shrinketh into the ground, and there remaineth neither remnant nor sign; so many a man that keepeth a bustling, and ruffleth it in the world, is soon snapped off by providence, and there doth not remain the least sign and memorial of him. So 1 Peter i. 24, `For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass; the grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away., It is repeated and returned to our consideration—`all flesh is grass, and then, `the grass withereth, to show that we should often whet it and inculcate it upon our thoughts. In short, from this resemblance you may learn two things:—

1. That though the things of the world are specious, yet they should not allure us, because they are fading. Flowers are sweet, and affect the eye, but their beauty is soon scorched: the soul is for an eternal good, that it may have a happiness suitable to its own duration. An immortal soul cannot have full contentment in that which is fading; but this is a point that calleth for meditation rather than demonstration. It is easy to declaim upon the vanity of the creature: it is every man's object and every man's subject. Oh! but think of it seriously, and desire God to be in your thoughts. When the creatures tempt you, be not enticed by the beauty of them, so as to forget their vanity. Say, Here is a flower, glorious, but fading; glass that is bright, but brittle.

2. The fairest things are most fading. Creatures, when they come to their excellency, then they decay, as herbs, when they come to flower, they begin to wither; or, as the sun when it cometh to the zenith, then it declineth: Ps. xxxix. 5, `Man at his best estate is altogether vanity;, not at his worst only, when the feebleness and inconveniences of old age have surprised him. Many, you know, are blasted and cut off in their flower, and wither as soon as they begin to flourish. Paul had a messenger of Satan presently upon his ecstasy, 2 Cor. xii. 7. So the prophet speaketh of `a grasshopper in the beginning of the shooting up of the latter growth, Amos vii. 1. As soon as the ground recovered any verdure and greenness, presently there came a grasshopper to devour the herbage: the meaning is, a new 71affliction as soon as they began to flourish. Well, then, suspect these outward things when you most abound in them. David thought of overthrows when God had given him a great victory, as Ps. lx. Com pare the psalm with the title. So it is good to think of famine and want in the midst of plenty: a man doth not know what overturnings there may be in the world. The woman that stood not in need of the prophet, 2 Kings iv. 13, `I dwell among my own people, that is, I have no need of friends at court, yet afterward stood in need of the prophet's man, 2 Kings viii. 5. The Lord knoweth how soon your condition may be turned; when it seemeth to flourish most, it may be near a withering.

Ver. 11. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth; so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.

He pursueth the similitude, and in the close of the verse applieth it. There is nothing needeth illustration but the latter clause.

So shall; that is, so may; for the passage is not absolutely definitive of what always shall be, but only declarative of what may be; and, therefore, the future tense is used for the potential mood. We see, many times, that `the wicked live, become old, and mighty in power; their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them: their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf, Job xxi. 7-10. Therefore, I say, the apostle showeth not what always cometh to pass, but what may be, and usually falleth out, and what at length certainly will be their portion.

The rich man.—That is either to be taken generally for the rich, whether godly or ungodly, or more especially for the ungodly person that trusteth in his riches.

Fade away μαρανθήσεται, a word proper to herbs when they lose their verdure and beauty.

In his ways.—Some read, as Erasmus and Gagneus, ἐν πορίαις, `with his abundance, which reading Calvin also approveth, as suiting better with the context, `So shall the rich and all his abundance fade away;, but the general and more received reading is that which we follow, ἐν πορείαις in his ways or journeys; the word is emphatical, and importeth that earnest industry by which men compass sea and land, run hither and thither in the pursuit of wealth, and yet, when all is done, it fadeth like the flower of the grass.

The notes are these:—

Obs. 1. From the continuance of the similitude, that the vanity of flowers should hint thoughts to us about the vanity of our own comforts. We delight in pictures and emblems, for then the soul, by the help of fancy and imagination, hath a double view of the object in the similitude, which is, as it were, a picture of it, and then the thing itself. This was God's ancient way to teach his people by types; still he teacheth us by similitudes taken from common and ordinary objects, that when we are cast upon them, spiritual thoughts may be awakened; and so every ordinary object is, as it were, hallowed and consecrated to a heavenly purpose. Well, then, let this be your field or garden meditation; when you see them decked with a great deal of bravery, remember all this is gone in an instant when the burning 72heat ariseth. In the text it is (let me open that by the way) ἥλιος σὺν τῷ καύσωνι, the sun with a burning wind, so in the original; for καύσων, the word used here, is usually put here for a scorching wind, which, in the hot and eastern countries, was wont to accompany the rising of the sun; as Jonah iv. 8, `It came to pass, when the sun did begin to arise, God prepared a vehement east wind;, and, therefore, do we read of `the drying east wind, Ezek. xvii. 10; and in many places of Hosea. It was a hot, piercing wind that blasted all things, and was the usual figure of God's judgments; and so the psalmist saith, `The wind passeth over it, and it is gone, Ps. ciii. 16. But this by the way, because I omitted it in the exposition. When, I say, you walk in a garden or field, as Isaac did, to meditate, Gen. xxiv. 63, think thus with yourselves: Here is a goodly show and paintry; but alas! these things are but for a season; they would fade away of their own accord, but the breath of the east wind will soon dry them up; so are all worldly comforts like flowers in the spring, good in their season, but very vanishing and perishing.

Obs. 2. That our comforts are perishing in themselves, but especially when the hand of providence is stretched out against them. The flower fadeth of itself, but chiefly when it is scorched by the glowing, burning east wind. Our hearts should be loose at all times from outward things, but especially in times of public desolation; it is a sin against providence to affect great things: when God is over turning all, then there is a burning heat upon the flowers, and God is gone forth to blast worldly glory: Jer. xlv. 4, 5, `The Lord saith, I will pluck up this whole land, and seekest thou great things for thyself?, that is, a prosperous condition in a time of public desolation; it is as if a man should be planting flowers when there is a wind gone forth to blast them. Well, then, take heed you do not make providence your enemy, then your comforts will become more perishing. You cannot then expect a comfortable warmth from God, but a burning heat. There are three sins especially by which you make providence your enemy, and so the creatures more vain.

1. When you abuse them to serve your lusts. Where there is pride and wantonness, you may look for a burning; certainly your flowers will be scorched and dried up. Pleasant Sodom, when it was given to `pride, and idleness, and fulness of bread, met with a burning heat indeed, Ezek. xvi. 49: in Salvian's phrase,7676`Pluit Gehennam e coelo.,—Salvian de Provid. God will rain hell out of heaven rather than not visit for such sins.

2. When you make them objects of trust. God can brook no rivals; trust being the fairest and best respect of the creatures, it must not be intercepted, but ascend to God. If you make idols of the creatures, God will make nothing of them; the fire of God's jealousy is a burning heat. God took away from Judah the staff and the stay, Isa. iii. 1; that is, that which they made so, excluding him; for that is the case in the context. So when you trust in your wealth, as if it must needs be well with your families, and you were secured against all judgments, and turns of providence; certainly God will take away the staff and the stay, and show that riches are but dead helps, when they are preferred before the living God, 1 Tim. vi. 17.


3. When you get them by wrong means. Wealth thus gotten is flesh (like the eagles from the altar) with a coal in it, that devoureth the whole nest: Hab. ii. 9, `Woe be to him that coveteth an evil covetousness, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil., You think it is a ready way to advance you; no, this is the ready way to ruin all: James v. 3, `Your gold and silver shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire;, that is, draw the fire and burning heat of God's wrath upon yourselves and families.

From that his ways.

Obs. 3. Worldly men pursue wealth with great care and industry. The rich turneth hither and thither, he hath several ways whereby to accomplish his ends. In self-denial, covetousness is the ape of grace; it `suffereth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, 1 Cor. xiii. 6, 7. What pains do men take for things that perish! Do but observe their incessant care, earnest labour, and unwearied industry, and say, how well would this suit with the heavenly treasure! It is a pity a plant that would thrive so well in Canaan should still grow in the soil of Egypt; that the zealous earnestness of the soul should be misplaced, and we should take more pains to be rich unto the world than to be rich towards God. Luke xii. 21. Man fallen is but the anagram of man in innocency, he hath the same affections and delights, only they are transposed and misplaced; therefore do we offend in the measure, because we mistake in the object. Or else, secondly, observe their pains and care, and say thus: Shall a lust have more power upon them than the love of God upon me? I have higher motives, and a reward more sure, Prov. xi. 18; they are more earnest for an earthly purchase, and to heap up treasure to themselves, than I am to enrich my soul with spiritual and heavenly excellences. Surely grace is an active thing, of as forcible an efficacy as corruption; why then do we act with such difference and disproportion? The fault is not in grace, but in ourselves. Grace is like a keen weapon in a child's hand; it maketh little impression because it is weakly wielded. Worldly men have the advantage of us in matter of principle, but we have the advantage of them in matter of motive; we have higher motives, but they more entire principles, for what they do, they do with their whole heart; but our principles are mixed, and therefore grace worketh with a greater faintness than corruption doth. But, however, it is sad. Pambus, in ecclesiastical history, wept when he saw a harlot dressed with much care and cost, partly to see one take so much pains for her own undoing, partly because he had not been so careful to please God as she had been to please a wanton lover. And truly when we see men `cumber themselves with much serving, and toiling and bustling up and down in the world, and all for riches that `take themselves wings and fly away, we may be ashamed that we do so little for Christ, and they do so much for wealth, and that we do not lay out our strength and earnestness for heaven with any proportion to what they do for the world.

Obs. 4. Lastly, again, from that ἐν ταῖς πορείαις, from his ways or journeys. All our endeavours will be fruitless if God's hand be against us. As the flower to the burning heat, so is the rich man in 74his ways; that is, notwithstanding all his industry and care, God may soon blast him: they `earned wages, but put it in a bag with holes, Hag. i. 6; that is, their gains did not thrive with them. Peter `toiled all night but caught nothing, till he took Christ into the boat, Luke v. 5. So you will catch nothing, nothing with comfort and profit, till you take God along with you: Ps. cxxvii. 2, `It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep., Some take this place in a more particular and restrained sense; as if David would intimate that all their agitations to oppose the reign of Solomon, though backed with much care and industry, should be fruitless; though Absalom and Adonijah were tortured with the care of their own ambitious designs, yet God would give Jedidiah, or his beloved, rest; that is, the kingdom should quietly and safely be devolved upon Solomon, who took no such pains to court the people, and to raise himself up into their esteem as Absa lom and Adonijah did; and they ground this exposition partly on the title of the psalm, `a, psalm for Solomon, partly on the name of Solo mon, who was called Jedidijah, or the beloved of the Lord, 2 Sam. xii. 24, 25, the word used here, `he giveth his beloved rest., But I suppose this sense is too curious; for though the psalm be entitled to Solomon, yet I think not so much by way of prophecy as direction: for as the 72d Psalm (which also beareth title for Solomon) representeth to him the model of a kingdom and the affairs thereof, so this psalm, the model of a family, with the incident cares and blessings of it; and therefore the passages of it are of a more universal and un limited concernment than to be appropriated to Solomon; and it is not to be neglected that the Septuagint turn the Hebrew word plurally, τοῖς ἀγαπητοῖς αὐτοῦ ὕπνον, `his beloved ones sleep, showing that the sentence is general. The meaning is, then, that though worldly men fare never so hardly, beat their brains, tire their spirits, rack their consciences, yet many times all is for nothing; either God doth not give them an estate, or not the comfort of it. But his beloved, without any of these racking cares, enjoy contentment: if they have not the world, they have sleep and rest; with silence submitting to the will of God, and with quietness waiting for the blessing of God. Well, then, acknowledge the providence that you may come under the blessing of it; labour without God cannot prosper; against God and against his will in his word, will surely miscarry.

Ver. 12. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Here the apostle concludeth all the former discourse with a general sentence. I shall despatch it very briefly, because the matter of it often occurreth in this epistle.

Blessed; that is, already blessed. They are not miserable, as the world judgeth them: it is a Christian paradox, wherein there is an allusion to what is said, Job v. 17, `Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth;, it is a wonder, and therefore he calleth the world to see it—Behold! So the apostle, in an opposition to the judgment of the world, saith, Blessed.

Is the man, ἀνὴρ.—The word used is only proper to the masculine 75sex, and therefore some7777`Beatus vir, non mollis vel effoeminatus, sed vir, dictus a virtute animi, virore fidei, vigore spei.,—Aquinas in locum. have forced and obtruded some misshapen conceits upon this scripture; whereas throughout the epistle we shall observe our apostle delighteth in the use of this word for both sexes; as ver. 23, ἄνδρι παρακύψαντι, `A man beholding his face, &c., in tending a man or woman, for it answereth to the Hebrew word isch, under which the woman also was comprehended.

That endureth, ὃς ὑπομένει—that is, that patiently and constantly beareth. A wicked man suffereth, but he doth not endure: they suffer, but unwillingly, with murmuring and blasphemy; but the godly man endureth; that is, beareth the affliction with patience and constancy; without murmuring, fainting, or blaspheming. Enduring is taken in a good sense; as Heb. xii. 7, `If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as sons., God is not perceived to deal as a father, but when the affliction is patiently borne, which the apostle calleth enduring there.

Temptation.—Affliction is so called, as before; in itself it is a punishment of sin, but to the godly but a trial; as death, the king of terrors, or highest of afflictions, is in itself the wages of sin, but to them, the gate of eternal life.

For when he is tried, δόκιμος γενόμενος.—The word is often translated approved: Rom. xiv. 18, `Approved of man;, it is δόκιμος. So 1 Cor. xi. 19, `That δόκιμοι, they which are approved may be made manifest;, so here, when he is made or found approved, that is, right and sound in the faith; it is a metaphor taken from metals, whose excellence is discerned in the fire.

He shall receive; that is, freely; for though none be crowned without striving, 2 Tim. ii. 5, yet they are not crowned for striving; as in the scripture it is said in many places, God will give every man according to his work, yet not for his work, for such passages do only imply (as Ferus,7878Ferus in Mat. in cap. 16. v. 27. a Papist, also granteth) that as evil works shall not remain unpunished, so neither shall good works be unrewarded.

A crown of life.—It is usual in scripture to set forth the gifts of God by a crown, sometimes to note the honour that God putteth upon the creatures: `Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour, Ps. viii. 5; sometimes to note the all-sufficiency of God's love. It is as a crown; on every side there are experiences of it: so it is said, Ps. ciii. 4, `He crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies: `but most usually it is applied to the heavenly estate:—(1.) Partly to note the honour of it, as a crown is the emblem of majesty; and so it noteth that imperial and kingly dignity to which we are advanced in Christ: Luke xxii. 29, `I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me., Christ, that left us the cross, hath left us his crown also: one of Christ's legacies to the church is his own cross; therefore Luther saith, Ecclesia est haeres crucis—the church is heir of the cross. So you see in this place he saith διατίθημι, I do by will and testament—so the word signifieth—dispose a kingdom to you; and that is one reason why heavenly glory is expressed by a crown. (2.) To note the endless and perpetual fulness that is in it: roundness is 76an emblem of plenty and perpetuity; there is somewhat on every side, and there is no end in it: so Ps. xvi. 11, `In thy presence is fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore, (3.) To note that it is given after striving; it was a reward of conquest; there was a crown set be fore those that ran a race: to which use the apostle alludeth, 1 Cor. ix. 24, 25: `They which run a race run all, but one receiveth the prize: so run that ye may obtain. Now, they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible;, that is, in the races and Isthmic games near Corinth, the reward was only some garland of flowers and herbs, which soon faded; but we run for an incorruptible crown of glory; or, as another apostle calleth it, `A crown of glory that fadeth not away, 1 Peter v. 4. Thus you see why heaven is expressed by a crown; now sometimes it is called `a crown of glory, to note the splendour of it; sometimes `a crown of righteousness, 2 Tim. iv. 8, to note the ground and rise of it, which is God's truth engaged by a promise, called God's righteousness in scripture: some times it is called `a crown of life, as Rev. ii. 10, `Be faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life;, because it is not to be had but in eternal or everlasting life: or else, to note the duration of it; it is not a dying, withering crown, as the garland of flowers, but a living crown, such as will flourish to all eternity.

Which the Lord hath promised.—This is added, partly to show the certainty of it—we have the assurance of a promise; partly to note the ground of expectation—not by virtue of our own merits, but God's promise. Now there is no particular promise alleged, because it is the general drift of the whole word of God. In the law there is a promise of mercy: `To a thousand generations, to them that love him, Exod. xx. 6. When all things were `after the manner of a carnal commandment, the expressions of the promises were also carnal and that is the reason why, in the Old Testament, the blessings of the promises are expressed by `a fat portion, `long life, and a `blessing upon posterity;, for all these expressions were not to be taken in the rigour of the letter, but as figures of heavenly joys and eternal life: and therefore, what was in the commandment, `mercy to a thousand generations, to them that love him, is in the apostle, `a crown of life to them that love him, the mystery of the expression being opened and unveiled.

To them that love him.—A usual description of the people of God. But why them that love him, rather than them that serve or obey him, or some other description? I answer—(1.) Because love is the sum of the whole law, and the hinge upon which all the commandments turn: this is the one word into which the Decalogue is abridged; therefore Paul saith, Rom. xiii. 10, that `love is πλήρωμα νόμου, the fulfilling of the law., (2.) Because it is the great note of our interest in Christ: faith giveth a right in the promises, and love evidenceth it; therefore is it so often specified as the condition of the promises, the condition that evidenceth our interest in them; as James ii. 5, `The kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him., He doth not say `fear him, or `trust in him, though these graces also are implied, but chiefly `to them that love him., So Rom. viii. 28, `All things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to his purpose:, where love of God, you see, is 77made the discovery both of effectual calling and election. (3.) Because patience is the fruit of love: Nihil est quod non tolerat qui perfecte diligit—he that loveth much will suffer much: and therefore when the apostle speaketh of enduring temptations, he encourageth them by the crown of life promised to them that love God: a man would not suffer for him, unless he did love him.

I shall give you the notes briefly.

Obs. 1. Afflictions do not make the people of God miserable. There is a great deal of difference between a Christian and a man of the world: his best estate is vanity, Ps. xxxix. 5; and a Christian's worst is happiness. He that loveth God is like a die; cast him high or low, he is still upon a square:7979`Τετράγωνος ἀνὴρ.—Arist., he may be sometimes afflicted, but he is always happy. There is a double reason for it:—

1. Because outward misery cannot diminish his happiness.

2. Because sometimes it doth increase it.

1. Afflictions cannot diminish his happiness: a man is never miserable till he hath lost his happiness. Our comfort lieth much in the choice of our chiefest good. They that say, `Happy is the people that is in such a case, Ps. cxliv. 12-15; that is, where there is no complaining in their streets, sheep bringing forth thousands, garners full, oxen strong to labour, &c., they may be soon miserable: all these things may be gone, with an easy turn of providence, as Job lost all in an instant. But they that say, `Happy is the people whose God is the Lord, that is, that count it their happiness to enjoy God, when they lose all, they may be happy, because they have not lost God. Our afflictions discover our choice and affections; when outward crosses are the greatest evil, it is a sign God was not the chiefest good; for our grief, in the absence of any comfort, is according to the happiness that we fancied in the enjoyment of it. One that hath setup his rest in God can rejoice in his interest, `though the fields should yield no meat, and the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there should be no herd in the stalls., These are great evils, and soon felt by a carnal heart; yet the prophet, in the person of all believers, saith, Hab. iii. 18, `I will joy in the Lord, and rejoice in the God of my salvation., In the greatest defect and want of earthly things there is happiness, and comfort enough in a covenant-interest.

2. Sometimes afflictions increase their happiness, as they occasion more comfort and further experience of grace: God seldom afflicteth in vain. Such solemn providences and dispensations leave us better or worse, the children of God gain profit by them, for it is God's course to recompense outward losses with inward enjoyments: 2 Cor. i. 5, `For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so also consolation aboundeth by Christ;, that is, inward comforts and experiences, according to the rate of outward sufferings. Now he hath not the heart of a Christian that can think himself more happy in temporal commodities than spiritual experiences: a wilderness that giveth us more of God is to be preferred above all the pleasures and treasures of Egypt. Learn, then, that they may be blessed whom men count miserable. They are not always happy to whom all things happen according to their desires, but they that endure evil with victory and 78patience; the world judgeth according to outward appearance, and therefore is often mistaken. Nemo aliorum sensu miser est, sed suo, saith Salvian8080Sal. de Gub. Dei, lib. i.—a godly man's happiness, or misery, is not to be judged by the world's sense or feeling, but his own; his happiness and yours differ. The apostle saith, 1 Cor. xv. 19, `If our hopes were only in this world, we were of all men most miserable;, if worldly enjoyments were our blessedness, a Christian might not only be miserable, but `most miserable., The main difference between a worldly man and a gracious man is in their chiefest good and their utmost end; and therefore a worldly man cannot judge of a spiritual man's happiness. But, saith the apostle, 1 Cor. ii. 15, `The spiritual man judgeth all things, and he himself is judged of no man: `you think that their estate is misery, but they know that yours is vanity. You cannot judge them, but by the light of the Spirit they judge all things. They that count God their chiefest good know no other evil but the darkening of his countenance; in all other cases, `Blessed is he that endureth:, they lose nothing by affliction, but their sins.

Obs. 2. Of all afflictions those are sweetest which we endure for Christ's sake. The apostle saith, `Blessed are they that endure temptation;, that is, persecution for religion's sake. The immediate strokes of providence are more properly corrections; the violences of men against us are more properly trials; there is comfort and blessedness in corrections, namely, when we receive profit by them: Ps. xciv. 12, `Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and instructest out of thy law., Mark, when the chastening is from the Lord, there is comfort in it, if there be instruction in it: but it is far more sweet when we are merely called to suffer for a good conscience: Mat. v. 10, `Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness, sake., There is the blessedness more clear. Corrections aim at the mortifying of sin, and so are more humbling: but trials aim at the discovery of grace, and so are more comfortable. Corrections imply guilt; either we have sinned, or are likely to sin, and then God taketh the rod in hand. But trials befall us, that the world may know our willingness to choose the greatest affliction before the least sin, and therefore must needs be matter of more joy and blessedness to us. In short, corrections are a discovery and silent reproof of our corruptions; but trials a discovery and public manifestation of our innocency, not a reproof, so much as an honour and grace to us. Well, then, when you are called to suffer for Christ, apply this comfort: it is a blessed thing to endure evil for that cause; only be sure your hearts be upright, that it be for Christ indeed, and your hearts be right with Christ.

1. That it be for Christ. It is not the blood and suffering that maketh the martyr, but the cause. We are all apt to entitle our quarrel to Christ, therefore we should go upon the more sure grounds. The glory of our sufferings is marred when there is somewhat of an evil deed in them, 1 Peter iv. 15. And we cannot be so cheerful as in a cause purely religious; evils are not welcomed that come mixed in our thoughts, partly trial, and partly punishment.

2. That your heart be right for Christ. The form of religion may many times draw a persecution upon itself, as well as the power , the 79world hateth both, though the form less. Oh! how sad is it that a man cometh to suffer, and he hath nothing to bear him out but an empty form. Either such kind of persons `make shipwreck of a good conscience, or else, out of an obstinacy to their faction, do but sacrifice a stout body to a stubborn mind; or, which is worse, have nothing to support them but the low principles of vainglory and worldly applause. Oh! consider, there is no blessedness in such sufferings; then may you suffer cheerfully when you appeal to God's omnisciency for your uprightness, as they do in the psalm, `The Lord knoweth the secrets of the heart; yea, for thy sake are we slain all the day long, Ps. xliv. 21 , 22. Can you appeal to the God that knoweth secrets, and say, For thy sake are we exposed to such hazards in the world?

Obs. 3. From that when he is tried, note that before crowning there must be a trial. We have no profit at all by the affliction, neither grace nor glory, till there be some wrestling and exercise; for grace, the apostle showeth plainly, Heb. xii. 11, `It yieldeth the quiet fruits of righteousness, τοῖς γεγυμνασμένοις, to them that are exercised thereby., The pleasantness and blessedness is not found by and by, but after much struggling and wrestling with God in prayer, long acquaintance with the affliction. So for glory, the apostle showeth here, `when he is proved, he shall receive a crown., In the building of the temple the stones were first carved and hewed, that the sound of hammer might not be heard in God's house; so the living stones are first hewn before they are set in the New Jerusalem. The apostle saith, 2 Tim. ii. 5, `If a man strive for masteries, he is not crowned unless he strive lawfully;, that is, unless he perform the conditions and laws of the exercise in which he is engaged, he cannot expect the reward; so neither can we from God till we have passed through all the stages of Christianity. The trial doth not merit heaven, but always goeth before it. Before we are brought to glory, God will first wean us from sin and the world, which the apostle calleth a being `made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, Col. i. 12. And this work is helped on by many afflictions. Those serve to make us meet for the communion of saints, not to merit it. When God crowneth us, he doth but crown his own gifts in us.8181`Deus nihil coronat nisi dona sua.,—Aug., lib. v. horn. 14. Well, then, bear your trials with the more patience. It is said, Acts xiv. 22, that Paul `confirmed the souls of the disciples, showing that through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God., It is the common lot. There is none goeth to heaven without their trial. As the way to Canaan lay through a howling wilderness and desert, so the path to heaven lieth through much affliction. He that passeth his life without trial knoweth not himself, nor hath no opportunity to discover his uprightness.8282`Miserum te judico quod nunquam fuisti miser; transistis sine adversario vitam; nemo sciet quid potueris; ne tu quidem ipse; opus est ad notitiam sui experimento, quae quisque posset nisi tentando non didicit.,—Sen. lib. de Provid., cap. 4.

Obs. 4. That it is good to oppose the glory of our hopes against the abasure of our sufferings. Here are trials, but we look for a crown of glory. This is the way to counterpoise the temptation, and in the 80conflict between the flesh and spirit, to come in to the relief of the better part. Thus Paul saith, the inward man is strengthened, `When we look not to the things that are seen, but the things that are not seen; for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal, 2 Cor. iv. 18. A direct opposition of our hopes to our sufferings maketh them seem light and easy. Thus our Saviour biddeth us consider, `When you are persecuted for righteousness, sake, yours is the kingdom of God, Mat. v. 10. Though ye be deprived of all you have, yet ye cannot be deprived of heaven. Remember, heaven is still yours. You may lose an estate, but you have an assurance of a crown of glory. Thus Basil speaketh of some martyrs that were cast out all night naked in a cold frosty time, and were to be burned the next day, how they comforted themselves in this manner: `The winter is sharp, but paradise is sweet; here we shiver for cold, but the bosom of Abraham will make amends for all, &c.8383`Δριμὺς ὁ χείμων, ἀλλὰ γλυκὺς ὁ παράδεισος· ἀλγεινὴ ἢ μήνις, ἡδεῖα ἡ ἀπόλαυσις. μικρὸν ἀναμείνωμεν καὶ ὁ κόλπος ἡμᾶς θάλψει τοῦ πατριάρχου, &c.—Basil ad 40 Martyr. Well, then, make use of this heavenly wisdom; consider your hopes, the glory of them, the truth of them.

1. The glory of them. There are two things trouble men in their sufferings—disgrace and death. See what provision God hath made against these fears: he hath promised a crown against the ignominy of your sufferings, and against temporal death a crown of life. A man can lose nothing for God, but it is abundantly recompensed and made up again; the crown of thorns is turned into a crown of glory, and losing of life is the ready way to save it, Mat. x. 39. Thus, it is good, you see, to oppose our hopes to our sorrows, and not altogether to look to the present dangers and sufferings, but to the crown, the crown of life that is laid up for us.8484`Pericula non respicit martyr, coronas respicit.,—Basil, ubi supra. Extreme misery, without hope of redress, overwhelmeth the soul; and, therefore, the promises do everywhere oppose a proper comfort to that case where the feeling is like to be sorest, that faith may have a present and ready answer to such extremities as sense urgeth; as Stephen, in the midst of his sufferings, `looked steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, Acts vii. 55. There was somewhat of miracle and extraordinary ecstasy in that vision, the glory of heaven being not only represented to his soul, but to his senses; but it was a pledge of that which falleth out ordinarily in the sufferings of God's children, for their hearts are then usually raised to a more fixed and distinct consideration of their hopes, whereby the danger and temptation is defeated and overcome. It is very observable that when Moses and Elijah came to speak with Christ about his sufferings, they appeared in such forms of glory as did allay the sharpness of the message; for it is said, Luke ix. 31, `They appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem;, intimating that the crown of thorns should put us in mind of the crown of glory; and when we are clothed with shame and sorrow, we should think of the shining garments; for the messengers of the cross were apparelled with a shining glory.


2. The truth of them. It is not only a `crown of glory, that you expect, but a `crown of righteousness, 2 Tim. iv. 8, that is, which the righteous God will surely bestow upon you; for though God maketh the promise in grace, yet it being once made, his truth, which is often called his righteousness in scripture, obligeth him to perform it.8585`Promittendo se debitorem fecit.,—Aug. Well, then, consider thus: I have the promise of the righteous God to assure me, and shall I doubt or draw back? He is too holy to deceive—`God that cannot lie, Titus i. 2; so immutable and faithful that he cannot repent and change his mind, Num. xxiii. 19; so omnipotent and able that he cannot be disappointed and hindered, Job ix. 12; so gracious that he will not forget: `Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?, Oh! that our trust were as sure as his promises, and there were no more doubt to be made of our interest than of his truth! Every promise is built upon four pillars: God's justice or holiness, which will not suffer him to deceive; his grace or goodness, which will not suffer him to forget; his truth, which will not suffer him to change; his power, which maketh him able to accomplish.

Obs. 5. Lastly, That no enduring is acceptable to God but such as doth arise from love. The crown which God hath promised, he doth not say, `to them that suffer, but `to them that love him., A man may suffer for Christ, that is, in his cause, without any love to him, but it is nothing worth: 1 Cor. xiii. 3, `If I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing., Through natural stoutness and stubbornness men may be constant in their way, and, as I said before, yield a stout body to a stubborn mind; and yet, when they are burning in the fires, their souls burn with no zeal or love to God's glory. There are many who would die for Christ if they were put to it, yet will not quit a lust for him. Vicious persons that die in a good cause are but like a dog's head cut off for sacrifice. Well, then, do not think that mere suffering will excuse a wicked life. It is observable that Christ saith last of all, `Blessed are they that suffer for righteousness, sake, Mat. v. 10, as intimating that a martyr must have all the preceding graces; first, `Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are the pure in heart;, then, `Blessed are they that suffer., First, grace is required, and then martyrdom. The victory is less over outward inconveniences than inward lusts; for these, being more rooted in our nature, are more hardly overcome. Under the law the priests were to search the beasts brought for burnt-offerings, whether scabbed or mangy, &c. A burnt-offering, if scabby, is not acceptable to God. In short, that love that keepeth the commandments is best able to make us suffer for them. Philosophy may teach us to endure hardships, as Calanus in Curtius willingly offered his body to the fires; but grace only can teach us to overcome lusts. We read of many that, out of greatness or sullenness of spirit, could offer violence to nature, but were at a loss when they came to deal with a corruption; so easy is it to cut off a member rather than `a lust, and to withstand an enemy rather than a temptation! Therefore the scriptures, when they set out an outward enemy, though never so fierce, call him flesh, `with them is an arm of flesh;, 82but when they speak of the spiritual combat, they make it a higher work, and of another nature: `We fight not against flesh and blood, &c., Eph. vi. 12. Learn then to do for God, that you may the better die for him; for a wicked man, as he profaneth his actions, so his sufferings—his blood is but as swine's blood, a defilement to the altar.

Other notes might be observed out of this verse, but they may be collected either out of the exposition, or supplied out of observations on chap. ii. ver. 5, where suitable matter is discussed.

Ver. 13. Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.

He cometh now to another kind of temptations; for having spoken of outward trials, he taketh occasion to speak of these inward temptations, that thereby he might remove a blasphemous error concerning the cause of them. It is clear that those outward trials are from God, but these inward trials, or temptations to sin, are altogether inconsistent with the purity and holiness of his nature, as the apostle proveth in this and the following verses.

Let no man, when he is tempted, μηδεὶς πειραζόμενος—that is, tempted to sin, for in this sense is the word used in scripture; as δοκιμάζειν, or trial, is the proper word for the other temptation, so πειράζειν is the proper word for temptations to sin; thus the devil is called ὁ πειράζων, the tempter, Mat. iv. 3; and in the Lord's Prayer we pray that we may not be led εἰς πειρασμὸν, `into temptation, chiefly intending that we may not be cast upon solicitations to evil; so here, when he is tempted, that is, so solicited to sin that he is overcome by it.

Say; that is, either in word or thought, for a thought is verbum mentis, the saying of the heart; and some that dare not lisp out such a blasphemy certainly dare imagine it; for the apostle implies that the creature is apt to say, to have some excuse or other.

I am tempted of God; that is, it was he solicited, or enforced me to evil; or, if he would not have me sin, why would not he hinder me?

For God cannot be tempted with evil.—Here is the reason, drawn from the unchangeable holiness of God: he cannot any way be seduced and tempted into evil. Some read it actively, he is not the tempter of evil; but this would confound it with the last clause; some, as Salmeron, out of Clemens Romanus,8686`Ἀδόκιμος ἀνὴρ ἀπείραστος παρὰ τῷ θεῷ.,—Clem. Rom. lib. ii. Const., cap. 8. render the sense thus: God is not the tempter of evil persons, but only of the good, by afflictions; but that is a nicety which will not hold true in all cases, and doth not agree with the original phrase; for it is not τῶν κακῶν, as referring it to evil persons, but simply without an article, κακῶν, as referring it to evil things. The sum is, God cannot, by any external applications, or ill motions from within, be drawn aside to that which is unjust.

Neither tempteth he any man; that is, doth not love to seduce others, willing that men should be conformed to the holiness of his own nature. He tempteth not, either by inward solicitation or by such an inward or outward dispensation as may enforce us to sin.

The notes are these:—

Obs. 1. From that let no man say, that man is apt to say, or 83to transfer the guilt of his own miscarriages. When they are seduced by their own folly, they would fain transact the guilt and blame upon others. Thus Aaron shifts his crime upon the people, upon their solicitations, Exod. xxxii. 23, 24, `They said, Make us gods, and I cast it into the fire, and thereof came the calf., Mark, thereof came, as if it were a work of chance rather than art. So Pilate, upon the Jews, instigation, Mat. xxvii. 24, `Look ye to it., So ignorant men, their errors upon their teachers; if they are wrong, they have been taught so; and therefore Jeremiah says, Jer. iv. 10, `Ah! Lord God, surely thou hast greatly deceived this people;, that is, O Lord, they will say thou hast deceived them; it was thy prophets told them so. So Saul, 1 Sam. xv. 15, `The people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen;, and ver. 24, `I feared the people., It was out of fear of others that entreated; the people would have it so. So many, if they are angry, say they are provoked; if they swear, others urged them to it; as the Shelomith's son blasphemed in strife, Lev. xxiv. 10. So if drawn to excess of drink, or abuse of the creatures, it was long of others that enticed them. Well, then:—

1. Beware of these vain pretences. Silence and owning of guilt is far more becoming: God is most glorified when the creatures lay aside their shifts. You shall see, Lev. xiii. 45, `The leper in whom the plague is shall have his clothes rent and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and he shall cry, Unclean, unclean;, all was to be naked and open but only his upper lip; he was not to open his mouth in excuses. It is best to have nothing to say, nothing but confession of sin; leprosy must be acknowledged. The covering of the upper lip among the Hebrews was the sign of shameful conviction.

2. Learn that all these excuses are vain and frivolous, they will not hold with God. Aaron is reproved, notwithstanding his evasion. Pilate could not wash off the guilt when he washed his hands. He that crucified our Saviour crucified himself afterward.8787Euseb. Eccles. Hist., lib. ii. cap. 7. Ignorance is not excused by ill teaching: `The blind lead the blind, and not one, but `both fall into the ditch, Mat. xv. 14—the blind guide and the blind follower. So Ezek. iii. 18, `The man shall die in his iniquity, but his soul will I require at thy hand., It will be ill for the teacher, and ill for the misled soul too. So Saul is rejected from being king, for obeying the voice of the people rather than the Lord, 1 Sam. xv. 23. Shelomith's son was stoned, though he blasphemed in spite, Lev. xxiv. 14. And it went ill with Moses, though they provoked his spirit, so that `he spake unadvisedly with his lips, Ps. cvi. 33, 34. Certainly it is best when we have nothing to say but only, Unclean, unclean!

Obs. 2. Creatures, rather than not transfer their guilt, will cast it upon God himself. They blame the Lord in their thoughts; it is foolish to cast it altogether upon Satan—to say, I was tempted of Satan. Alas! if there were no Satan to tempt we should tempt ourselves. His suggestions and temptations would not work were there not some intervening thought, and that maketh us guilty. Besides, some sins have their sole rise from our own corruption, as the imperfect animals are sometimes bred ex putri materia, only out of 84slimy matter, and at other times they are engendered by copulation. It is useless to cast it upon others—I was tempted of others. Actions cannot he accomplished without our own concurrence, and we must bear the guilt. But it is blasphemous to cast it upon God, and say, `I am tempted of God;, and yet we are apt to do so,—partly to be clear in our own thoughts. Men would do anything rather than think basely of themselves, for it is man's disposition to be `right in his own eyes, Prov. xvi. 2. We love those glasses that would make us show fairest. It is against nature for a man willingly to profess and own his own shame: Job. xxxi. 33, `If I hid my sin as did Adam, i.e., more hominum, as Adam and all Adam's children do. Men would be clear and better than they are. Partly because by casting it upon God the soul is most secure. When he that is to punish sin beareth the guilt of it, the soul is relieved from much horror and bondage; therefore, in the way of faith, God's transacting our sin upon Christ is most satisfying to the spirit: Isa. liii. 6, `The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all., Now, we would lay it upon God by odious aspersions of his power and providence; for if we could once make God a sinner, we would be secure. You see we do not fear men that are as faulty as ourselves; they need pardon as well as we, and therefore is it that the soul doth so wickedly design to bring God into a partnership and fellowship of our guilt. Partly through a wicked desire that is in men to blemish the being of God. Man naturally hateth God; and our spite is shown this way, by polluting and profaning his glory, and making it become vile in our thoughts; for since we cannot raze out the sense of the deity, we would destroy the dread and reverence of it. It is a saying of Plutarch, Malo de me dici nullum esse Plutarchum quam malum esse Plutarchum, de Deo male sentire quam Deum esse negare pejus duco. We cannot deny God, and therefore we debase him, which is worst, as it is better not to be than to be wicked; we think him `as one of us, Ps. 1. 21; and the apostle saith, `We turn his glory into a lie., Rom. i. 25. Well, then, beware of this wickedness of turning sin upon God. The more natural it is to us the more should we take heed of it. We charge God with our evils and sins divers ways,—

1. When we blame his providence, the state of things, the times, the persons about us, the circumstances of providence, as the laying of tempting objects in our way, our condition, &c., as if God's disposing of our interests were a calling us to sin: thus Adam, Gen. iii. 12, `The woman which thou gavest me, she gave me, and I did eat., Mark, it is obliquely reflected upon God, `The woman which thou gavest me., So many will plead the greatness of their distractions and incumbrances. God hath laid so many miseries and discouragements upon them, and cast them upon such hard times, that they are forced to such shifts; whereas, alas! God sendeth us miseries, not to make us worse, but to make us better, as Paul seemeth to argue in 1 Cor. x. 13, 14: if they did turn to idolatry, the fault was not in their sufferings and trials, but in themselves. Thus you make God to tempt you to sin when you transfer it upon providence, and blame your condition rather than yourselves. Providence may dispose of the object, but it doth not impel or excite the lust; it appointeth the condition, but 85Satan setteth up the snare. It was by God's providence that the wedge of gold lay in Achan's way, that Bathsheba was offered naked to David's eye, that the sensual man hath abundance, that the timorous is surprised with persecution, &c. All these things are from God, for the fault lieth not here. The outward estate, or the creatures that have been the occasions of our sinning, cannot be blamed: as beauty in women, pleasantness in wine. These are good creatures of God, meant for a remedy; we turn them into a snare. The more of God's goodness or glory is seen in any creature, the greater check it is to a temptation, for so far it is a memorial of God; and therefore some have observed that desires simply unclean are most usually stirred up towards deformed objects. Beauty in itself is some stricture and resemblance of the divine majesty and glory, and therefore cannot but check motions altogether brutish. It is very observable that of the apostle Peter: 2 Pet. i. 4, `The corruption that is in the world through lust., The world is only the object; the cause is lust. The reason why men are covetous, or sensual, or effeminate, is not in gold, or wine, or women, but in men's naughty affections and dispositions. So also it is very observable, that when the apostle John would sum up the contents of that world which is opposite to the love of God, he doth not name the objects, but the lusts; the fault is there. He doth not say, Whatsoever is in the world is pleasures, or honours, or profits, but `the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, and addeth, `These are not of the Father, but of the world, 1 John ii. 16; that is, not of God, as riches, and honour, and other outward things are, but these are parts of that world that man hath made, the world in our own bowels, as the poison is not in the flower, but in the spider's nature.

2. By ascribing sin to the defect and faint operation of the divine grace. Men will say they could do no otherwise; they had no more grace given them by God: Prov. xix. 3, `The foolishness of man perverteth his ways, and his heart fretteth against the Lord., They say it was long of God; he did not give more grace. They `corrupt themselves in what they know, Jude 10, and then complain, God gave no power. Men naturally look upon God as a Pharaoh, requiring brick where he gave no straw. The servant in the Gospel would make his master in the fault why he did not improve his talent: Mat. xxv. 24, `I knew thou wert an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed, and therefore I went and hid the talent;, as if that were all the cause.

3. When men lay all their miscarriages upon their fate, and the unhappy stars that shone at their birth, these are but blind flings at God himself, veiled under reflections upon the creature. Alas! `who is it that bringeth out Mazzaroth in his season, that ordereth the stars in their course? is it not the Lord?, To this sort you may refer them that storm at any creatures, because they dare not openly and clearly oppose themselves against heaven; .as Job curseth the clay of his birth, Job iii. 3, as if it had been unlucky to him; and others curse some lower instruments.

4. When men are angry they know not why. They are loath to spend any holy indignation upon themselves; therefore, feeling the 86stings and gripes of conscience, they fret and fume, and know not why. They would fain break out against God, but dare not; as David himself, 2 Sam. vi. 8, `David was displeased because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzzah., He was angry, but could not tell with whom to be angry; he should have been angry with his own folly and ignorance. Wicked men break out apparently: Isa. viii. 21, 22, `They shall fret themselves, and curse their God, and their king, and look upward; and they shall look to the earth, &c. Sin proving unhappy, vexeth the soul; and then men curse and rave, and break out into indecencies of passion and madness, accusing God, and providence, and instruments, and any but themselves. So. Rev. xvi. 21, `They blasphemed the God of heaven, because of their plagues;, the madness of their rage breaketh out into open blasphemy. But in the children of God it is more secretly carried; there is a storming in their hearts, but they dare not give it vent; as in Jonah, chap. iv., he was vexed, and surcharged with passion, but knew not upon whom to disgorge it.

5. Most grossly, when you think he useth any suggestion to the soul, to persuade it and incline it to evil. Satan may come, and, by the help of fancy and the senses, transmit evil counsel to the soul. But God doth not, as more fully hereafter: Mat. v. 37, `Whatsoever is beyond these cometh of evil;, in the original it is ἐκ πονηροῦ, not only of the evil heart, but the evil serpent; from the devil, and our corruption, if it be beside the rule. There is Satan's counsel in all this, not the Lord's.

6. When you have an ill understanding and conceit of his decrees, as if they did necessitate you to sin. Men will say, Who can help it? God would have it so,—as if that were an excuse for all. Though God hath decreed that sin shall be, yet he doth neither infuse evil nor enforce you to evil. God doth not infuse evil; that which draweth you to it is your own concupiscence, as in the next verse. He doth not give you an evil nature or evil habits; these are from yourselves. He doth enforce you, neither physically, by urging and inclining the will to act, nor morally, by counselling and persuading, or commanding you to it. God leaveth you to yourselves, casteth you in his providence, and in pursuance of his decrees, upon such things as are a snare to you; that is all that God doth, as anon will more fully appear. I only now take notice of that wickedness which is in our natures, whereby we are apt to blemish God, and excuse ourselves.

Obs. 3. From that he cannot be tempted with evil, that God is so immutably good and holy that he is above the power of a temptation. Men soon warp and vary, but he cannot be tempted. There is a wicked folly in man which maketh us measure God by the creature; and, because we can be tempted, think God can be tempted also; as suppose, enticed to give way to our sins. Why else do they desire him to prosper them in their evil projects, to further unjust gain, or un clean intents?—as the whore, Prov. vii. 14, had her vows and peace-offerings to prosper in her wantonness. And generally, we deal with God as if he could be tempted and wrought to a compliance with our corrupt ends, as Solomon speaketh of sacrifice offered with an evil mind, Prov. xxi. 27; that is, to gain the favour of heaven in some 87evil undertaking and design. Thus the king of Moab hoped to entice God by the multitude of his sacrifices, seven altars, seven oxen, seven rams, Num. xxii., and the prophet, of some that thought to draw God into a liking of their oppression: Zech. xi. 5, `Blessed be God, I am rich., So in these times wicked men have a pretence of religion, as if they would allure the Lord to enter into their secret, and come under the banner of their faction and conspiracy. Oh! what base thoughts have carnal men of God! No wonder the word of God is made a nose of wax, when God himself is made an idol or puppet, that moveth by the wire of every carnal worshipper! Oh! check this blasphemy. God cannot be tempted; he is immutably just and holy: Hab. i. 13, `Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity., Iniquity shall never have a good look from him. Oh! then, how should we tremble that are easily carried aside with temptation! How can you stand before the God that cannot be tempted?

Uses of this note are two:—

1. It is an inducement to get an interest in God, and more communion with him: a believer is `made partaker of the divine nature, 2 Peter i. 4. Now the more of the divine nature in you, the more you are able to stand against temptations. We are easily carried aside, because we have more of man than God in us. We are so mutable, that if all memory of sin and Satan were abolished, man himself would become his own devil; but God is at the same stay. Oh! let us covet more of the divine nature, that when the tempter cometh he may find the less in us. We do in nothing so much resemble God as in immutable holiness.

2. You may make use of it to the purpose in hand. When natural thoughts rise in us, thoughts against the purity of God, say thus: Surely God cannot be the author of sin, who is the ultor or the avenger of it; he is at the same pass and stay of holiness, and cannot warp aside to evil. Especially make use of it when anything is said of God in scripture which doth not agree with that standing copy of his holiness, the righteous law which he hath given us. Do not think it any variation from that immutable tenor of purity and justice which is in his nature, for `he cannot be tempted;, as when he bade Abraham offer his son, it was not evil, partly because God may require the life of any of his creatures when he will; partly because, being the lawgiver, he may dispense with his own law: and a peculiar precept is not in force when it derogateth from a general command, to wit, that we must do whatsoever God requireth: so in bidding them spoil the Egyptians. God is not bound to our rule; the moral law is a rule to us, not to himself, &c. In all such cases salve the glory of God, for he is ἀπείραστος κακῶν, altogether incapable of the least sin or evil.

Obs. 4. From that neither tempteth he any man, that the Lord is no tempter; the author of all good cannot be the author of sin. God useth many a moving persuasion to draw us to holiness, not a hint to encourage us to sin; certainly they are far from the nature of God that entice others to wickedness, for he tempteth no man—man tempteth others many ways:

1. By commands, when you contribute your authority to the countenancing 88of it. It is the character of Jeroboam that he `made Israel to sin:, `Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, that made Israel to sin., It is again and again repeated; the guilt of a whole nation lieth upon his shoulders; Israel ruined him, and he ruined Israel. So 2 Chron. xxxiii. 9, `Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and do worse than the heathens., Mark, he made them; their sins are charged upon your score. In the 7th of the Revelations, where the tribes are numbered, Dan is altogether left out, and Ephraim is not mentioned. Dan was the first leading tribe that by example went over to idols: Judges xviii., and Ephraim by authority: so some give the reason.

2. By their solicitations and entreaties, when men become panders to others, lusts: Prov. vii. 21, `With much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him., Mark, she caused him to yield, and then forced him; first he began to incline, and then he could no longer resist. When such Eves lay forth their apples, what evil cometh by it? Solicitations are as the bellows to blow up those latent sparkles of sin which are hidden in our natures into a flame.

3. Those that soothe up or encourage men in their evil ways, calling evil good and good evil, like Ahab's prophets. Their word is, `Go up and prosper;, they cry, Peace, peace! to a soul utterly sunk and lost in a pit of perdition. Oh! how far are these from the nature of God. He tempteth no man; but these are devils in man's shape; their work is to seduce and tempt—murderers of souls, yea (as Epiphanius calleth the Novatians), murderers of repentance.8888`Τοὺς φονεῖς τῆς μετανοίας.,—Epiphan. Dives in hell had more charity; he would have some to testify to his brethren `lest they came into that place of torment, Luke xvi. 28. But these are factors for hell, negotiate for Satan, strengthen the hands of the wicked, and (which God taketh worse) discourage and set back those that were looking towards heaven. So the apostle, 2 Peter ii. 18, they `allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them that live in error, τοὺς ὄντως αποφυγόντας, really or verily escaped, that is, had begun to profess the gospel; or, as some copies have, ὀλίγως ἀποφυγόντας, having a little escaped from error; thence the vulgar eos qui paululum effugiunt, with which the Syriac and Arabic translations agree;8989So see Jerom. lib. iii. contra Jovin. et Aug. de Fide et Operibus, cap. 25. and so it showeth how ill God taketh it, that the early growth and budding of grace should be blasted, and as soon as they began to profess any change, that a seducer should set them back again, and entangle those that had made some escape, and were in a fair way to a holy life. This is Satan's disposition outright: the dragon watched for the man-child as soon as he was born, Rev. xii. 4, and these make advantage of those early tendencies and dispositions to faith which are in poor souls; for while they are deeply affected with their sins, and admiring the riches and grace of Christ, they strike in with some erroneous representations, and, under a colour of liberty and gospel, reduce and bring them back to their old looseness.

Use 2. If God tempteth no man, then it informeth us that God cannot 89be the author of sin. I shall here take occasion a little to enlarge upon that point. I shall first clear those places which seem to imply it; then, secondly, show you what is the efficiency and concurrence of God about sin.

I. For the clearing of the places of scripture. They are of divers ranks; there are some places that seem to say that God doth tempt, as Gen. xxii. 1, `God tempted Abraham;, so in many other places; but that was but a trial of his faith, not a solicitation to sin. There is a tempting by way of trial, and a tempting by way of seducement.9090`Diabolus tentat; Deus probat.,—Tertul. de Orat. God trieth their obedience, but doth not stir them up to sin. But you will say, there are other places which seem to hint that God doth solicit, incite, and stir up to sin; as 1 Chron. v. 26, `God stirred up the spirit of Pul, the king of Assyria, to carry away the Jews captive;, but that was not evil, to punish an hypocritical nation, but just and holy, a part of his corrective discipline; and God's stirring implieth nothing but the designation of his providence, and the ordering of that rage and fury that in them was stirred up by ambition and other evil causes, as a correction to his people. So also 2 Sam. xxiv. 1, `The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David to number the people., But compare it with 1 Chron. xxi. 1, and you shall see it is said, `Satan stood up and provoked David to number the people;, and so some explain one place by the other, and refer that he to Satan, `The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he, (that is, the devil); or it may be referred to the last antecedent, the Lord, whose anger is said to be stirred up; he moved, that is permitted Satan to move, by withdrawing himself from David. God moved permissivè, Satan efficaciter: God suffered, Satan tempted; for God is often in scripture said to do that which he doth but permit to be done; as to `Awaken the sword against the man his fellow, Zech. xiii. 7, that is, to stir up all that rage which was exercised upon Christ; and the reason of such expressions is because of the activeness of his providence in and about sin, for he doth not barely permit it, but dispose circumstances and occasions, and limit and overrule it, so as it may be for good. Thus also Ps. cv. 25, `He turned their heart to hate his people, and to deal subtilely with his servants., The meaning is, God only offereth the occasion by doing good to his people. The Egyptians pursued them out of envy and jealousy. God, I say, only gave the occasion, did not restrain their malice; therefore he is said to do it. There are other places which imply that God hardeneth, blindeth sinners, delivereth them over to a reprobate sense, sendeth them a strong delusion; as Rom. i. 2; Thes. ii. 11, and in many other places. I answer in general to them all:—God, by doing these things, doth not tempt the good that they may become evil, but only most justly punisheth the evil with evil: this hardening, blinding, is not a withdrawing a good quality from them, but a punishment according to their wickedness. Particularly God is said to harden, as he doth not soften; he doth not infuse evil, but only withhold grace; hardness of heart is man's sin, but hardening, God's judgment. So again, God is said to make blind as he doth not enlighten, as freezing and darkness follow upon the absence of the sun: he doth not infuse evil, nor 90take away any good thing from them, but only refuseth to give them more grace, or to confirm them in the good they have. So also God is said to give up to lusts when he doth not restrain us, but leaveth us to our own sway and the temptations of Satan. So God is said to send a strong lie when he suffereth us to be carried away with it. God in deed foreseeth and knoweth how we will behave ourselves upon these temptations, but the foresight of a thing doth not cause it.

Some urge that 1 Kings xxii. 22, `Thou shalt be a lying spirit; go forth and do so, and thou shalt prevail with him., But that is only a parabolical scheme of providence, and implieth not a charge and commission so much as a permission.

Others urge those places which do directly seem to refer sin to God; as Gen. xlv. 5, 8, `Be not grieved nor offended, it was not you that sent me hither; it was not you, but God., The very sending, which was a sinful act, is taken off from man and appropriated to God. So 1 Kings xii. 15, `The king hearkened not unto the people, for the cause was from the Lord;, that rebellion there is said to be from the Lord. I answer—These things are said to be of the Lord because he would dispose of them to his own glory, and work out his own designs and decrees. There are some other places urged, as where God is said to deliver Christ, to bruise and afflict him, which was an evil act, &c.; but these only imply a providential assistance and co-operation, by which God concurreth to every action of the creatures, as shall be cleared elsewhere.

II. I am to state the efficiency and concurrence of God about sin. All that God doth in it may be given you in these propositions:—

1. It is certain that without God sin would never be; without his prohibition an action would not be sinful. The apostle saith, `Where is no law, there is no transgression;, but I mean chiefly without his permission and fore-knowledge, yea, and I may add, without his will and concurrence, without which nothing can happen and fall out; it can not be beside the will of God, for then he were not omniscient; or against his will, for then he were not omnipotent. There is no action of ours but needeth the continued concurrence and supportation of his providence; and if he did not uphold us in being and working, we could do nothing.

2. Yet God can by no means be looked upon as the direct author of it, or the proper cause of that obliquity that is in the actions of the creatures; for his providence is conversant about sin without sin, as a sunbeam lighteth upon a dunghill without being stained by it. This is best cleared by a collection and summary of all those actions where by, from first to last, providence is concerned in man's sin; which are briefly these:—

[1.] Fore-knowledge and pre-ordination. God intended and ap pointed that it should be. Many that grant prescience deny preordination, lest they should make God the author of sin; but these fear where no fear is. The scripture speaketh roundly, ascribing both to God: `Him being delivered by the fore-knowledge and determinate counsel of God, Acts ii. 23. Mark, Peter saith, not only τῇ προγνώσει, `by the fore-knowledge, but τῇ προγνώσει, `determinate counsel, which implieth a positive decree. Now that cannot 91infer any guilt or evil in God, for God appointed it, as he meant to bring good out of it. Wicked men have quite contrary ends. Thus Joseph speaketh to his brethren, when they were afraid of his revenge, Gen l. 19, `Am I in the place of God?, that is, was it my design to bring these things to pass, or God's decree? and who am I, that I should resist the will of God? And then again, ver. 20, `But as for you, ye thought evil; but God meant it for good, to bring it to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive;, that is, God decreed it otherwise than you designed it: your aim was wholly evil, his good.

[2.] There is a permission of it. God's decrees imply that sin shall be, but they do not impel or enforce; for he leaveth us to the liberty of our own hearts, and our own free choice and work; he is resolved not to hinder us: Acts xiv. 16, `He suffered them to walk in their own ways., God was not bound to hinder it, therefore permission in God can not be faulty;, Who hath given him first?, Were grace a debt, it were injustice to withhold it; and did God act out of a servile necessity, the creatures might reject the blame of their miscarriages upon the faintness of his operation: but God being free, neither obliged by necessity of nature, nor any external rule and law, nor by any foregoing merit of the creatures, may do with his own as it pleaseth him; and it is a shameless impudence in man to blame God because he is free, when himself cannot endure to be bound.9191`Homo Deum non nisi ex sensu suo metitur, nec de auctoritate ejus cogitat, quin eam circumcidat, nec de libertate quin ei fibulam impositam velit; Pelagiani omnes nascimur, immo cum supercilio pharisaico. Hic character vix delebilis est: Homo sibi obnoxium Deum existimat, non se Deo, &c.—Spanhem. de Gratia Universali, in Praef. ad Lect.

[3.] There is a concurrence to the action, though not to the sinfulness of it. It is said, Acts xvii. 28, `In him we live, move, and have our being., When God made the creatures, he did not make them independent and absolute: we had not only being from him, but still we have it in him; we are in him, we live in him, and we move in him, κινούμεθα—we are moved or acted in him. All created images and appearances are but like the impress of a seal upon the waters: take away the seal, and the form vanisheth; subtract the influence of providence, and presently all creatures return to their first nothing; therefore to every action there needeth the support and concurrence of God: so that the bare action or motion is good, and from God; but the de-ordination, and obliquity of it, is from man; it cometh from an evil will, and therein is discerned the free work of the creatures.

[4.] There is a desertion of a sinner, and leaving of him to himself. God may suspend, yea, and withdraw, grace out of mere sovereignty; that is, because he will: but he never doth it but either out of justice or wisdom; out of wisdom, for the trial of his children, as, in the business of the ambassadors, `God left Hezekiah, that he might know what was in his heart, 2 Chron. xxxii. 31. So sometimes in justice, to punish the wicked; as Ps. lxxxi. 12, `I gave them up to their own hearts, lusts, and they walked in their own counsels., When grace is withdrawn, which should moderate and govern the affections, man is left to the sway and impetuous violence of his own lusts. Now God 92cannot be blamed in all this, partly because he is not bound to give or continue grace: partly because, when common light and restraints are violated, he seemeth to be bound rather to withdraw what is already given; and when men put finger in the eye of nature, God may put it out, that they that will not, may not see; and if the hedge be continually broken, it is but justice to pluck it up; and then if the vineyard be eaten down, who can be blamed? Isa. v. 5: partly be cause the subsequent disorders do arise from man's own counsel and free choice; therefore upon this tradition of God's it is said, `They walked in their own counsels;, that is, according to the free motion and inclination of their own spirits.

[5.] There is a concession and giving leave to wicked instruments, to stir them up to evil; as carnal company, evil acquaintance, false prophets: 1 Kings xxii. 22, `I will go forth, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of Ahab's prophets; and God said, Go forth., In that scheme and draught of providence, the evil spirit is brought in, asking leave for wicked instruments. So Job xii. 16, it is said, `The deceiver and deceived are his;, he is sovereign Lord over all the instruments of deceit, so that they are restrained within bounds and limits, that they can do nothing further than he will give leave.

[6.] There is a presenting of occasions, and disposing of them to such providences as become a snare; but this can reflect no dishonour upon God, because the providences and objects are good in themselves, and in their own nature motives to duty, rather than temptations to sin. Wicked men abuse the best things—the word irritateth their corruption; sin getteth strength by the commandment: Isa. vi. 9, `Go, make the heart of this people fat, that is, dull and heavy; as the ass, which of all creatures hath the fattest heart, is the dullest.9292Plutarch. The prophet is bidden to make their hearts fat; the preaching of the word, which should instruct and quicken, maketh them the more gross and heavy. So also they abuse mercies and miseries: Ps. lxix. 22, `Let their table become a snare, and their welfare a trap., A sinner, like a spider, sucketh poison out of everything; or, like the sea, turneth the sweet influences of the heavens, the fresh supply of the rivers, into salt water; so their table, their welfare, all becomes a curse and a snare to them. In this sense it is said, Jer. vi. 21, `I will lay stumbling-blocks before this people;, that is, such occasions and providences as are a means to ruin them: in all which God most righteously promoteth the glory of his justice.

[7.] A judicial tradition and delivering them up to the power of Satan and their own vile affections; as Rom. i. 26. `God gave them up to vile affections;, this is, when God suffereth those κοίνας ἐννοίας, those common notices to be quenched, and all manner of restraints to be removed: the truth is, we rather give up ourselves; only, because God serveth his ends of it, it is said, he giveth.

[8.] A limitation of sin. As God appointeth the measures of grace according to his own good pleasure, so also the stint of sin; it runneth out so far as may be for his glory: Ps. lxxvi. 10, `The wrath of man shall praise thee, the remainder thereof shalt thou restrain., So far as it may make for God's glory, God letteth the fierceness of man to 93have its scope; but when it is come to the stint and bounds that providence hath set to it, it is quenched in an instant.

[9.] There is a disposal and turning of it to the uses of his glory: Rom. iii. 7, `Our unrighteousness commendeth his righteousness, and the truth of God aboundeth to his glory through our lie., God is so good, that he would not suffer evil if he could not bring good out of it. In regard of the issue and event of it, sin may be termed (as Gregory said of Adam's fall) felix culpa, a happy fall, because it maketh way for the glory of God. It is good to note how many attributes are advanced by sin—mercy in pardoning, justice in punishing, wisdom in ordering, power in overruling it; every way doth our good God serve himself of the evils of men. The picture of providence would not be half so fair were it not for these black lines and darker shadows. Well, then, let me never blame that God for permitting sin, who is willing to discover so much mercy in the remitting of it.

Ver. 14. But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

Here he cometh to show the true and proper cause of sin. having removed the false pretended cause, namely, God's providence and decree. The true procreating cause of sin is in every man's soul; it is his lust; he carrieth. that which is fons et fomes, the food and fuel of it in his own bosom. Now this lust worketh two ways, by force and fraud, drawing away and enticing, as in the explication will more fully appear.

But every man is tempted.—He speaketh so universally, because none is free but Christ.

When by his own lust.—He saith his own, because though we have all a corrupt nature in common, yet every one hath a particular several inclination to this or that sin rooted in his nature. Or rather own, to exclude foreign force, and all violence from without: there is not a greater enemy than our own nature.

His own lust.—That I may show you what is meant by lust, I must premise something:—(1.) The soul of man is chiefly and mainly made up of desires; like a sponge, it is always thirsting, and sucking of something to fill itself. All its actings, even the first actings of the understanding, come out of some will and some desire; as the apostle speaketh of `the wills of the mind, Eph. ii. 3, a place I shall touch upon again by and by. (2.) At least this will be granted, that the bent of the soul, the most vigorous, commanding, swaying faculty of the soul, is desire; that δύναμις ἐπιθυμητικὴ is, I say, the most vigorous bent of the soul. (3.) Since the fall, man rather consulteth with his desires than with anything else, and there all action and pursuit beginneth. So that this faculty is eminently corrupted, and corrupteth and swayeth all the rest; and therefore gross lusts, the lower and baser desires, are called, `the law of the members., Rom. vii. 23; desires or lusts giving law to the whole soul. Upon these reasons I suppose it is that all sin is expressed by lust, which, if taken in a proper and restrained sense, would not reach the obliquities of the whole nature of man, but only of one faculty; but because there seemeth to be in the creature a secret will and desire, by which every act is drawn out, and desire is the most vigorous faculty, bending and engaging the soul to action, 94the Spirit of God chooseth to express sin by lust, and such words as are most proper to the desires of the creatures. It is true, that in the Old Testament I find it expressed by a word proper to the understanding, by `inventions, or `imaginations, or `counsels, whence those phrases, `walking according to their own imaginations, and `walking in their own counsels., But the New Testament delighteth rather in the other expressions of `concupiscence `and `lust, words proper to the desires; the reason of which difference I conceive to be, partly the manner of the Hebrews, who frequently use words of the understanding to note suitable affections; partly the state of the world, who at first were brutish in their conceits, and prone to idols, and therefore the Old Testament runneth in that strain, `imaginations, `counsels, &c.; and at length were brutish in their desires, and more prone to gross sins; and therefore in the New, it is `lusts, `concupiscence, &c. However, this I observe, that in the Old Testament there is some word belonging to the will and desires adjoined to those words of the understanding, as the `imaginations of their own hearts, `the counsels of their own hearts;, that is, such imaginations as were stirred up and provoked by their own hearts and desires. All this is premised to show you why the scripture chooseth to express sin by lust and concupiscence.

Now, lust may be considered two ways:—(1.) As a power; (2.) As an act.

1. As a power, and so it noteth that habitual, primitive, and radical indisposition to good, and a disposition to evil, that is in all the faculties—the whole dunghill of corruption, which reeketh sometimes in the understanding by evil thoughts, sometimes in the will by lusts and corrupt desires, and is the mother out of whose womb all sin cometh; and as it is called lust or concupiscence, so it is called flesh, the opposite contrary principle to spirit: Gal. v. 17, `The flesh lusteth against the spirit, there it is called flesh, and its radical act lusting.

2. Look upon it as an act, and actual lust or concupiscence, and it is nothing else but the risings and first motions of this fleshly nature that is in us. These lustings are of two sorts—those of the lower and those of the upper soul. The apostle calleth them, Eph. ii. 3, `the wills of the flesh, and of the mind.,

[1.] The wills of the flesh are those lower and more brutish appetites which are the rise of lust, wantonness, drunkenness, gluttony, called by way of emphasis, `the lusts of the flesh:, 1 John ii. 16, `Whatever is in the world is the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life., By the lusts of the flesh are meant the neighings of the soul after outward pleasures, and all manner of sensual and carnal delights. Now these, when they are improved into gross and irregular actions, stink in the nostrils of nature. In Aristotle9393Arist. Ethic., lib. vii. cap. 6. they are called ἐπιθυμίαι θηριώδεις, brutish and belluine, not only because we have them in common with the beasts, but because they degenerate into a brutish excess. Thus you see what lusts of the flesh are. I confess they are sometimes taken more largely for any risings of corrupt nature, it being most natural to us to be enslaved by sensual and fleshly objects; the part is put for the whole.


[2.] The wills of the mind are the first risings of the corruption that is in the upper soul, as fleshly reasonings, thoughts, and desires, covetousness, ambition, pride, envy, malice, &c. These are rooted in the corrupt risings or stirrings of the mind, will, &c. These things I thought good to hint, to show you what the scripture intendeth by lust, the vicious inclinations of our own spirits, chiefly those impetus primo primi, the first risings of original sin.

He is drawn away and enticed.—There is some variety among interpreters in opening these two words. Some conceive that in these two words the apostle giveth out two causes of sin, one internal, which is lust, as if that were hinted in the former word: `drawn away by his lust;, and the other external, to wit, the pleasure that adhereth to the object, which is as the bait to entice the soul, for the word signifieth enticed as with a bait; and (as Plato saith) ἡδονὴ δέλεαρ κακῶν, pleasure is the bait of sin. Thus Piscator and our translators seem to favour it, in putting the words thus: `When he is drawn by his own lust, and enticed;, as if they would intimate to us this sense, drawn away by his own lust, and enticed by the object; whereas, the posture of th3 words in the original referreth both to lust; thus, `When he is drawn away and enticed by his lust., Others make these words to hint several degrees in the admission of sin. Thus, first drawn away from God, then enticed by sin; then, in the next verse, `sin conceiveth, then `bringeth forth, &c. Others, as Pareus, Grotius, &c., make these to be the two parts of sin, and by drawing away, say they, is meant the departure from the true good, and by enticed, the cleaving to evil. For look, as in grace there is something privative and something positive, a departure from evil and a cleaving to good so, on the contrary, there is in sin a withdrawing from that which is good, and an ensnaring by that which is evil. I cannot altogether disallow this sense, though I rather incline to think that neither the object nor the parts of evil are here hinted, but only the several ways which lust taketh to undo us; partly by force, and so that word cometh in, ἐξελκόμενος, he is `drawn aside, or haled with the rage and impetuous violence of his desires; partly by blandishment and allurements; and so the other word is used, δελεαζόμενος, `he is enticed, and beguiled with the promise and appearance of pleasure and satisfaction to the soul.

From this verse observe:—

Obs. 1. That the cause of evil is in a man's self, in his own lusts, ἡ ἰδία ἐπιθυμίας, the Eve in our own bosoms. Corrupt nature is not capable of an excuse. Sin knoweth no mother but your own hearts. Every man's heart may say to him, as the heart of Apollodorus in the kettle, 9494Plut. de Sera Num. Vindict.ἔγω σοὶ τούτων αἰτία—it is I have been the cause of this. Other things may concur, but the root of all is in yourselves. A man is never truly humbled till he `smite upon his own thigh, and doth express most indignation against himself. Do not say it was God. He gave a pure soul, only it met with viciously disposed matter. It is not the light, but the putrid matter that made the torch stink, though, it is true, it did not stink till it was lighted. You cannot 96altogether blame the devil: `Suggestion can do nothing without lust,9595`Diaboli decipientis calliditas, et hominis consentientis voluntas.,—Aug. de Peccat. Orig. lib. ii. cap. 37. I remember Nazianzen saith, τὸ πῦρ παρ᾽ ἡμῶν, ἡδε φλὸξ τοῦ πνεύματος—fire is in our wood, though it be the devil's flame. You cannot blame the world; there are allurements abroad, but it is your fault to swallow the bait. If you would have resisted embraces, as Tamar did Amnon's, the world could not force you. Do not cry out of examples; there is somewhat in thee that made thee close with the evil before thee. Examples provoke abhorrency from the sin, if there be nothing in the man to suit with it. Lot was the more righteous for living in Sodom, and Anacharsis the more temperate for living in Scythia; ungodly examples are permitted to increase detestation, not to encourage imitation. Do not cry out of occasions. David saw Bathsheba naked; but he saith, `I have sinned and done this evil, Ps. li. 4. Do not cast all the blame upon the iniquity of the times; good men are best in worst times, most glorious when the generation is most crooked, Phil. ii. 15; most careful of duty when the age is most dissolute, `redeeming the time, for the days are evil, Eph. v. 16; like fire that scorcheth most in the sharpest frost, or stars that shine brightest in the darkest nights. Do not blame the pleasantness of the creatures. You may as well say you will rebel against the prince because he hath bestowed power upon you, and by his bounty you are able to make war against him. It is true, there is much in these things; but there is more in your hearts. It is your venomous nature that turneth all to poison.

Obs. 2. That, above all things, a man should look to his desires. All sin is called ἐπιθυμία, lust or desire. God calleth for the heart: `My son, give me thy heart;, which is the seat of desires. The children of God, when they plead their innocency, urge their desires, they fail in duty; but their `desires are to the remembrance of his name, Neh. i. 11; Isa. xxvi. 8. The first thing by which sin discovereth itself is by lust or desire. All actions have their rise from some inclination and tendency of the desire towards the object. Before there is any thought or consultation in the soul, there is ὄρεξις, a general tendency or bent in the soul. Well, then, look to your lusts or desires; the whole man is swayed by them: men are worldly or heavenly as their desires are; appetite followeth life; the spirit hath its lustings as well as the flesh. See how it is with you.

Obs. 3. The way that lust taketh to ensnare the soul is by force and flattery, either `drawn away, or `enticed.,

First, By violence, ἐξελκόμενος, drawn away, haled with it. One way of knowing desires to be irregular is, if they are violent and over-pleasing to the flesh. When affections are impetuous, you have just cause to suspect them, not to satisfy them. David would not touch the waters of Bethlehem when he longed for them, 2 Sam. xxiii. 17. Rage of desire can never be lawful. Greediness is a note of uncleanness, Eph. iv. 19. When the heart boileth or panteth, it is not love, but lust. When you find any such force upon your spirits towards carnal objects, if you would be innocent, complain and cry out as the ravished virgin under the law; if she cried out she was guiltless. It 97is a sign that sin hath not gained your consent, but committeth a rape upon your souls. When you cry out to God, Rom. vii. 24, `O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?, you may discern this force upon your souls.

1. When your desires will not endure consultation, or the consideration of reason, but you are carried on by a brutish rage; as Jer. v. 8, `They were as fed horses; every one neighed after his neighbour's wife., They had no more command of themselves than a fed horse. So Jer. viii. 6, `Every one turneth into his course, as the horse into the battle., The rage of the horse is stirred up by a warlike noise, and then they confront danger, and press on upon the pikes and the heat of the battle. So they go on with an unbridled license against all reason and restraints, without any counsel and recollection. Your lusts will not allow you the pause of reason and discourse.

2. When they grow more outrageous by opposition, and that little check that you give to them is like the sprinkling of water upon the coals, the fire burneth the more fiercely. This is that which the apostle calleth πάθος ἐπιθυμίας, `the passionateness of lust., We translate it a little too flatly, `the lust of concupiscence, 1 Thes. iv. 5. It noteth a raging earnestness. This violence is most discerned in the irregular motions of the sensual appetite, which are most sensible because they disturb reason, vex the soul, oppress the body. But it is also in other sins. The apostle speaketh of it elsewhere: Rom. i. 27, `They burned in their lust one towards another., It is when reason is so disturbed and oppressed, that there can be no resistance; yea, grace itself is overborne.

3. When they urge and vex the soul till fulfilled, which is often expressed in scripture by a languor and sickness. Now this is such an height and excess of affection as is only due to objects that are most excellent and spiritual; otherwise it is a note of the power of lust. To be sick for Christ is but a duty, Cant. ii. 5; so worthy an object will warrant the highest affection. But to be sick for any outward and carnal object noteth the impetuousness and violence of sin in the soul. Thus Amnon was sick for Tamar, 2 Sam. xiii. 2; that was a sickness to death, the sickness of lust and uncleanness. Ahab was sick of covetousness, 1 Kings xxi. 4; and Hainan for honour, Esth. v. All violent affections urge the soul, and make it impatient; and because affections are the nails and pins that tie body and soul together, leave a faintness and weakness in the body.

This violence of lust may inform us,—

1. Why wicked men are so mad upon sin, and give themselves over to it to their own disadvantage: `They draw iniquity with cart ropes, Isa. v. 18. As beasts that are under the yoke put out all their strength to draw the load that is behind them, so these draw on wickedness to their disadvantage, commit it though it be difficult and inconvenient. So it is said, Jer. ix. 5, that they `weary themselves to commit iniquity., What is the reason of all this? There is a violence in sin which they cannot withstand.

2. Why the children of God cannot do as they would—withstand a temptation so resolutely, perform duties so acceptably. Lusts may be strong upon them also. It is observable that James saith, `Every man 98is tempted, taking in the godly too. A wicked man doth nothing but sin—his works are merely evil; but a godly man's are not purely good: Rom. vii. 19, `The good that I would I do not do; but the evil that I would not, that I do., Though they do not resolve and harden their faces in a way of sin, yet they may be discouraged in a way of grace. So Gal. v. 17, `Ye cannot do the things that ye would., Their resolutions are broken by this violence and potent opposition.

Secondly, Observe, the next way of lust is by flattery, δελεαζόμενος, enticed. It cometh lapped up in the bait of pleasure, and that mightily prevaileth with men: Titus iii. 3, `Serving divers lusts and pleasures., That is one of the impediments of conversion—lust promiseth delight and pleasure; so Job xx. 12, `Wickedness is sweet in his mouth, and he hideth it under his tongue., It is an allusion to children, that hide a sweet morsel under their tongue, lest they should let it go too soon. Neither is this only meant of sensual wickedness, such as is conversant about meats, drinks, and carnal comforts; but spiritual, as envy, malice, griping plots to undo and oppress others: Prov. ii. 14, `They rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked, Revenge is sweet, oppression is sweet, to a carnal heart; so Prov. x. 23, `It is a sport to a fool to do mischief., They are enticed with a kind of pleasure of that which is mischievous to another. Well, then:—

1. Learn to suspect things that are too delightful. Carnal objects tickle much, and beget an evil delight, and so fasten upon the soul. It is time to `put a knife to the throat `when you begin to be tickled with the sweets of the world. Your foot is in the snare when the world cometh in upon you with too much delight. That which you should look after in the creatures is their usefulness, not their pleasantness—that is the bait of lust. The philosopher could say, that natural desires are properly πρὸς τὰ ἀναγκαῖα, to what is necessary.9696Arist. Eth., lib. vii. cap vi. Solomon saith, Prov. xxiii. 31, `Look not upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth its colour in the cup, when it moveth itself right., You need not create allurements to your fancy, and by the eye invite the taste. There are stories of heathens that would not look upon excellent beauties lest they should be ensnared. Pleasures are but enticements, baits that have hooks under them. The harlot's lips drop honey in the greeting, and wormwood in the parting, Prov. vii.; like John's book, honey in the mouth, and wormwood in the bowels. God hath made man of such a nature that all carnal delights leave impressions of sorrow at their departure.

2. Learn what need there is of great care. Pleasure is one of the baits of lust. The truth is, all sins are rooted in love of pleasure. Therefore be watchful. Noonday devils are most dangerous, and such things do us most mischief as betray us with smiles and kisses. Heathens were out that advised to pleasures, that by experience we might be weaned from them; as Tully9797M. T. Cicero in Orat. pro Rege Deiot. saith of youth, voluptates experiendo contemnat—by use of pleasures let us learn to disdain them, as the desires are deadened and flattened to an accustomed object. But, alas! this is the bait of lust rather than the cure. Poor souls! they did not know a more excellent way. It is true, some curiosity is 99satisfied by experience: but, however, the spirit groweth more sottish and sensual. Wicked men, when once they are taken in that snare, are in a most sad condition, and think that they can never have enough of sensual pleasures; all delight seemeth to them too short; as one wished for a crane's neck, that he might have the longer relish of meats and drinks. And Tacitus speaketh of another glutton that, though he could satisfy his stomach, yet not his fancy or lust; quod edere non potuit, oculo devoravit—his womb was sooner filled than his eye.

Ver. 15. Then, when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

Then, when lust, εἴτα δὲ.—After this he goeth on in describing the progress of sin: after that lust had by violence withdrawn, and by delight ensnared, the soul, then sin is conceived; and after conception, there is a bringing forth; and after the birth, death.

Hath conceived; that is, as soon as sin beginneth to form motions and impulses into desires, and to ripen things into a consent; for sin, or corrupt nature, having inclined the soul unto a carnal object by carnal apprehensions, laboureth to fix the soul in an evil desire. Now the titillation or delight which ariseth from such carnal thoughts and apprehensions is called the conception of sin.

It bringeth forth; that is, perfecteth sin, and bringeth it to effect within us, by a full consent and decree in the will; and without us, by an actual execution. The one is the forming and cherishing in the womb after conception; the other, as the birth and production.

Sin; that is, actual sin; for the Papists go beside the scope when they infer hence that lust without consent is not truly sin. Our Saviour saith plainly, that the first titillations are sinful: Mat. v. 28, `Whoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart., Though there be but such an imperfect consent as is occasioned by a glancing thought, it is adultery. But you will say, How is this place to be reconciled with that of Paul, Rom. vii. 8, where he saith, `Sin wrought in him all manner of lust;, and here it is said, `Lust bringeth forth sin., I answer—By sin Paul understandeth that which James calleth here lust, that is, evil nature, or the wicked bent of the spirit; and by lust, the actual excitation of evil nature: but by sin James understandeth the actual formation and accomplishment of those imperfect desires that are in the soul.

And sin, when it is finished; that is, actually accomplished, and by frequent acts strengthened, and settled into a habit. But why doth the apostle say, `When it is finished,? Are all the rest venial—all corrupt motions till sin be drawn either to a full consent, or an actual accomplishment, or a perfect habit. I answer—;(1.) The apostle doth not distinguish between sin and sin, but speaketh of the entire course and method of the same sin, of the whole flux and order, and so rather showeth what death and hell followeth, than how it is deserved. Every sin is mortal in its own nature, and bindeth over the sinner to^death and punishment; but usually men consummate and perfect sin ere it lighteth upon them. (2.) Death may be applied as the common fruit to every degree in this series, to the conception as well as the 100production, and to the production as well as the consummation of it. The grandfather and great-grandfather have an interest in the child, as well as the immediate parent; and death is a brat that may be laid, not only at sin's door, but lust's. (3.) It is good to note that James speaketh here according to the appearance of things to men. When lust bringeth forth, and the birth and conceptions of the soul are perfected into a scandalous gross sin, men are sensible of the danger and merit of it.

Bringeth forth; that is, bindeth the soul over to it; for in this succession there is a difference: lust is the mother of sin, but sin is the merit of death; and so Cajetan glosseth well, generat meritoriè, it bringeth forth, as the work yieldeth the wages.

Death. It is but a modest word for damnation; the first and second death are both implied: for as the apostle showeth the supreme cause of sin, which is lust; so the last and utmost result of it, which is death; not only that which is temporal, for then the series would not be perfect, but that other death, which we are always dying, and is called death, because life is neither desired, nor can it properly be said to be enjoyed. Vivere nolunt, mori nesciunt—they would not live, and cannot die.

The notes are these:

Obs. 1. That sin encroacheth upon the spirit by degrees; the apostle goeth on with the pedigree of it. Lust begetteth strong and vigorous motions, or pleasing and delightful thoughts, which draw the mind to a full and clear consent; and then sin is hatched, and then disclosed, and then strengthened, and then the person is destroyed. To open the process or successive inclination of the soul to sin, it will not be amiss to give the whole traverse of any practical matter in the soul. There is first ὄρεξις, which is nothing but the irritation of the object, provoking the soul to look after it; then there is ὅρμη, a motion of the sensitive appetite, or lower soul, which, receiving things by the fancy, representeth them as a sensual good; and so a man inclineth to them, according as they are more or less pleasant to the senses; and then the understanding cometh to apprehend them, and the will inclineth, at least so far as to move the understanding to look more after them, and to advise about some likely means to accomplish and effect them, which is called βούλησις, consultation; and when the understanding hath consulted upon the motion of the will, there followeth βούλη, a decree of the will about it, and then αἵρεσι, the actual choice of the thing, and then ^ov\^^a, a perfect desire, and then action. And so sin is represented by the fancy to the appetite; and then fancy, being a friend, blindeth the understanding, and then the soul beginneth to be engaged in the pursuit of it. If this course and method be a little too large for your thoughts, see it contracted in this passage of our apostle. There is concupiscence, or corrupt nature, then lust, or some inclinations of the soul to close with sin, then delight, then full consent, and then action, and then death. David observeth somewhat a like progress: Ps. i. 1, `Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful., Sin is never at a stay: first, ungodly, then sinners, then scorners; first, counsels, 101then way, then seat; and again, first, walk, then stand, then sit. You see distinctly there three different terms for the persons, the objects, the actions: first, men like wickedness, then they walk in it, then are habituated: first, men are withdrawn into a way of sin, then confirmed, then profess it. To do anything that the Lord hateth, is to `walk in the counsels of the ungodly;, to go on with delight, is to `stand in the way of sinners;, to harden our hearts against checks of conscience and reproofs, is to commence into the highest degree, and to `sit, as it is there expressed, `in the seat of scorners;, or, as it is in the Septuagint, τῶν λοιμῶν, to affect the honour of the chair of pestilence. Thus you see men go on from assent to delight, from delight to obduracy.

Use 1. Oh that we were wise, then, to rise against sin betimes! That we would `take the little foxes, Cant. ii. 15; even the first appearances of corruption! That we would `dash Babylon's brats against the stone!, Ps. cxxxvii. Hugo's gloss is pious, though not so suitable to the scope of that place: sit nihil in te Bdbylonicum—the least of Babylon must be checked; not only the grown men, but dash the little ones against the stone. A Christian's life should be spent in watching lust. The debates of the soul are quick, and soon ended, and, without the mercy of God, that may be done in little more than an instant that may undo us for ever. It is dangerous to `give place to Satan, Eph. iv. 27. The devil will draw us from motions to action, and from thence to reiteration, till our hearts be habituated and hardened within us: Eccles. x. 13, `The beginning of a foolish man's speech is foolishness, but the latter end is foolish madness., From folly they go on to downright passion. Small breaches in a sea-bank occasion the ruin of the whole, if not timely repaired. Sin gaineth upon us by insensible degrees, and those that are once in Satan's snare are soon taken by him at his will and pleasure.

Use 2. It reproveth them that boldly adventure upon a sin because of the smallness of it; besides, the offence done to God, in standing with him for a trifle, as the `selling of the righteous, is aggravated in the prophet by the little advantage, `for a pair of shoes., Consider the danger to yourselves. Great faults do not only ruin the soul, but lesser; dallying with temptations is of a sad consequence. Caesar was killed with bodkins. Look, as it is murder to stifle an infant in the womb, so it is spiritual murder to suppress and choke the conceptions of the Spirit;9898`Homicidii festinatio est prohibere nasci; etiam conceptum utero dum adhuc sanguis in hominem delibatur dissolvere non licet, nec refert natura natam quis eripiat animam an nascentem disturbet.,—Tertul. in Apol. but, on the other side, it is but a necessary rigour to dash Babylon's brats, and to suppress sin in the conception and growth, ere it be ripened and perfected. We are so far to abhor sin as to beware of the remote tendencies; yea, to avoid `the occasions of it, 1 Thes. v. 22. If it be but malè coloratum, as Bernard glosseth, of an ill look and complexion, it is good to stand at a distance.

Obs. 2. Lust is fully conceived and formed in the soul, when the will is drawn to consent; the decree in the will is the ground of all practice. Look, as duties come off kindly when once there is a decree in the will: Ps. xxxii. 5, `I said I will confess my transgressions unto 102the Lord., David had gotten his will to consent to acts of repentance, and then he could no longer keep silence: so, on the other side, all acts of sin are founded in the fixed choice and resolution of the will. `I will pursue, I will overtake, said mad Pharaoh, Exod. xv. 9; and that engaged him in acts of violence. Now this decree of the will is most dangerous in the general choice of our way and course; for as religion lieth in the settled resolution of the soul, when we make it our work and business, as Barnabas exhorted the new converts, `that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord, Acts xi. 23, τῇ προθέσι τῆς καρδίας, that they would resolvedly decree for God in the will; so, when the apostle speaketh of his holy manner of life, he calleth it προθέσιν, his purpose, 2 Tim. iii. 10. So also the state of sin lieth in a worldly or carnal choice; as the apostle saith, 1 Tim. vi. 9, `He that will be rich;, that is, that hath decreed and fixed a resolution in his soul to make it his only study and care to grow rich and get an estate, he is altogether carnal. A child of God may be overborne, but usually he doth not fix his will: Rom. vii. 16, `I do that which I would not;, or, if his will be set, yet there is not a full consent, for there will be continual dislikes from the new nature. I confess sometimes, as there is too much of deliberation and counsel in the sins of God's children (as you know David's sin was a continued series and plot), so too much of resolution and the will; but this is in acts of sin, not in the course and state; their manner of life and purpose is godly. Well, then, if lust hath insinuated into your thoughts, labour to keep it from a decree, and gaining the consent of the will. Sins are the more heinous as they are the more resolved and voluntary.

Obs. 3. What is conceived in the heart is usually brought forth in the life and conversation. `Lust, when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin., That is the reason why the apostle Peter directeth a Christian to spend the first care about the heart: 1 Peter ii. 11, 12, `Abstain from fleshly lusts, and then `have your conversations honest., As long as there is lust in the heart, there will be no cleanness in the conversation; as worms in wood will at length cause the rottenness to appear. How soon do lusts bewray themselves! Pride runneth into the eyes, therefore we read of `haughty eyes, Prov. vi. 17, or into the feet, causing a strutting gait or gesture. A wanton mind peepeth out through wanton eyes and a gazing look. A garish, frothy spirit bewrayeth itself in the vanity of apparel, and a filthy heart in the rottenness of communication; the eyes, the feet, the tongue, the life do easily bewray what is seated in the heart. Momus, in the fable, quarrelled with God for not making a window at every man's breast, that others might see what was in it. There needeth no such discovery. Time showeth what births there are in the womb; so will the life what lusts are conceived and fostered in the heart, for lust delighteth to bring forth. Well, then:—

1. Learn that hypocrites cannot always be hidden, disguises will fall off. Men flatter themselves in their hidden sins, but they will be `found hateful, Ps. xxxvi. 2; that is, scandalous and inconvenient. God hath peremptorily determined that `their wickedness shall be showed before the congregation, Prov. xxvi. 26. Some misbehaviour 103will bring it to light; art and fiction is not durable. The apostle saith, 1 Tim. v. 25, `They that are otherwise cannot be hidden;, that is, otherwise than good.

2. Learn the danger of neglecting lusts and thoughts. If these be not suppressed, they will ripen into sins and acts of filthiness. While we are negligent and our care is intermitted, the business of sin thriveth and goeth on. Allowed thoughts bring the mind and the temptation together. David mused on Bathsheba's beauty, and so was all on fire. It is ill dallying with thoughts.

3. Learn what a mercy it is to be hindered of our evil intentions, that sinful conceptions are still-born, and when we wanted no lust we should want an occasion. Mere restraints are a blessing. We are not so evil as otherwise we would be. Lust would bring forth. God would have Abimelech to acknowledge mercy in a restraint: Gen. xx. 6, `I withheld thee from sinning against her., David blessed God that the rash executions of his rage were prevented: `Blessed be the God of Israel, which sent thee to meet me this day, 1 Sam. xxv. 32. God smote Paul from his horse, and so took him off from persecution, when his heart boiled with rancour and malice against the saints, Acts ix. Oh! take notice of such instances when your way of sin hath been hedged up by providence, Hosea ii. 6; and though lusts be not checked, yet the execution is disappointed: you were mad, and should have gone on furiously, but that God `fenced up your way with thorns.,

Obs. 4. That the result and last effect of sin is death; so the apostle Paul, Rom. vi. 21, `The end of these things is death., It cometh with a pleasing and delightful sweetness, promising nothing but satisfaction and contentment, but the end is death. So Ezek. xviii. 4, `The soul that sinneth it shall die., It is an express law that brooketh only the exception of free grace; it shall die temporally, die eternally. This is a principle impressed upon nature; the very heathens were sensible of it: Rom. i. 32, `Knowing that they which commit such things are worthy of death., Mark, the apostle saith the heathens knew it. Conscience, being sensible of the wrong done to the godhead, could fear nothing less from angry justice. Draco, the rigid law giver, being asked why, when sins were equal,9999Qu. `Not equal,?—ED. he appointed death to all? answered, He knew that sins were not all equal, but he knew the least deserved death. This was that that made the heathens at such a loss for a satisfaction to divine justice, because they could find none sufficient to redeem their guilty souls from the dread of death; and therefore the first effect of the blood of Christ upon the conscience is `purging from dead works, Heb. ix. 14; that is, from that sentence of death which the conscience receiveth by reason of our works. The Papists on this point, worse than the heathen, hold some sins venial in their own nature. It is true, it is said, 1 John v. 17, `There is a sin not unto death;, but that place speaketh of the event, not the merit; words, evil thoughts, the least sins, deserve death. Do not think God will be100100Qu. `Will not be,?—ED. so extreme. If you have no better plea, that will be a sorry refuge in the day of wrath. David a Mauden,101101David a Mauden in Prefat. Comment, in Decalog. a learned Papist, saith, Those sins are only to be counted mortal—;(1.) Which are said to be 104an abomination to God, and hated by him, in scripture; (2.) To which a Voe, or woe, is expressly denounced; or (3.), Are distinctly said to be worthy of eternal death; or (4.) To exclude and shut out from the kingdom of heaven; or (5.) Such as by the law of nature are directly repugnant to the love of God or our neighbour. But, alas! all this is to be wise without the word. It is true God hath expressly declared more of his displeasure against these sins than others, and therefore we are more ^ound and engaged to avoid them, but they are all mortal in their merit.

Use 1. It teacheth us how to stop the violence of lust; this will be death and damnation. Oh! consider it, an^l se t it as a flaming sword in the way of your carnal delights. Observe how wisely God hath ordered it, much of sin is pleasant; ay! but there is death in the pot, and so fear may counterbalance delight. Another part of sin is serious, as worldliness, in which there is no gross act, and so there being nothing foul to work upon shame, there is something dreadful to work upon fear. Well, then, awaken the soul; consider what Wisdom saith, Prov. viii. 36, `He that forsaketh me loveth death., It is against nature for a creature to love its own death; all natural motions are for self-preservation. Oh! why then should I satisfy my flesh to endanger my soul? God himself puts on a passion, and reasoneth thus with us, Ezek. xxxiii. 11, `Why will ye die, O house of Israel?, Why will you wilfully throw away your own souls? Why will ye for a superfluous cup adventure to drink a cup of wrath unmixed? For a little estate in the world make hell your portion? It is sweet for the present, but it will be death. Sin's best are soon spent, the worst is always behind.

Use 2. It showeth what reason we have to mortify sin lest it mortify us; no sins are mortal but such as are not mortified; either sin must die, or the sinner. The life of sin and the life of a sinner are like two buckets in a well—if the one goeth up the other must come down. When sin liveth the sinner must die. There is an evil in sin and an evil after sin. The evil in sin is the violation of God's law, and the evil after sin is the just punishment of it. Now, those that are not sensible of the evil in sin shall be sensible of the evil after sin. To the regenerate person, all God's dispensations are to save the person and destroy the sin, Ps. xcix. 8: `Thou wast a God that forgavest them, and tookest vengeance of their inventions., God spared the sinner and took vengeance on the sin; but the unmortified person spareth his sins, and his life goeth for it; as the apostle Paul speaketh of himself when the power of the word came first upon him, Rom. vii. 9, `Sin revived and I died., Sin was exasperated, and he felt nothing but terror and condemnation. Oh! then, consider it is better sin should be condemned than you should be condemned; as the apostle speaketh of the condemnation of sin, Rom. viii. 3, `For sin, he condemned sin in the flesh;, that is, Christ being made a sacrifice for sin, sin was condemned to save the sinner. Reason thus within yourselves: It is better sin should die than I should die: `Thy life goes for its life, as it is in the prophet's parable, 1 Kings xx. 39; therefore let me destroy my sin, that my soul may escape.

Use 3. Bless God that hath delivered you out of a sinful state; 105your soul hath escaped a snare of death. Oh! never look back upon Sodom but with detestation; bless God that you are escaped: `Blessed be the Lord that gave me counsel in my reins, Ps. xvi. 7. I might have been Satan's bond-slave, lust's vassal, and have earned no other wages but my own death, but he hath called me to life and peace. Conversion is onewhere expressed by a `calling out of darkness into a marvellous light, that is much; but in another, by a `translating from death to life, that is more. It is no less a change than from death to life. I might have wasted away my days in pleasure and vanity, and afterwards gone to hell. `Oh! blessed be the name of God for evermore, that hath delivered me from so great a death!,

Ver. 16. Do not err, my beloved brethren.

The apostle having disputed the matter with them about God being the author of sin, he dissuadeth them from this blasphemy. There is no difficulty in this verse.

Do not err, μὴ πλανᾶσθε, do not wander; a metaphor taken from sheep, and sometimes it noteth errors in practice, or going off from the word as a rule of righteousness, as it is said, Isa. lxiii. 17, `We have erred from thy ways;, sometimes errors in judgment, or going off from the word as the standard and measure of truth, which we most commonly express by this term `error.,

My beloved brethren.—Dealing with them about an error, he dealeth with them very meekly, and therefore is the compilation so loving and sweet.

This verse will afford some points.

Obs. 1. It is not good to brand things with the name of error till we have proved them to be so. After he had disputed the matter with them, he saith, `Err not., (1.) Loose slings will do no good. To play about us with terms of heresy and error doth but prejudice men's minds, and exulcerate them against our testimony. None but fools will be afraid of hot words. Discoveries do far better than invectives. Usually that is a peevish zeal that stayeth in generals. It is observable, Mat. xxiii., from ver. 13 to 33, our Saviour denounceth never a woe but he presently rendereth a reason for it. `Woe unto you, for ye shut the kingdom of heaven;, and again, `Woe unto you, for ye devour widows, houses, &c. You never knew a man gained by loose slings. The business is to make good the charge, to discover what is heresy and what is antichristianism, &c. (2.) This is an easy way to blemish the holy truths of God. How often do the Papists spread that livery upon us, heretics and schismatics. They `speak evil of things they do not know, Jude 10. When men are loath to descend to the trial of a way, they blemish it: Acts xxiv. 14, `After the way which they call heresy we worship the God of our fathers., Men condemn things suddenly and rashly, and so often truth is miscalled. If matters were dispatched by arguments rather than censures, we should have less differences. The most innocent truths may suffer under an odious imputation. The spouse had her veil taken from her, and represented to the world as a prostitute, Cant. iii. The Christians were called Genus hominum superstitionis malificae,102102Tacit. Anual., lib. xv.; Sueton. in Nero, cap. 16. a wicked sort of men, and Christianity a witchery and superstition.


Use. Oh! then, that in this age we would practise this: Be less in passion and more in argument. That we would condemn things by reasoning rather than miscalling. That we were less in generals, and would deal more particularly. This is the way to `stablish men in the present truth., In morals, the word seldom doth good but when it is brought home to the very case. Thunder at a distance doth not move us so much as a clap in our own zenith; that maketh us startle. General invectives make but superficial impressions; show what is an error, and then call it so. Truly that was the way in ancient times. At first, indeed, for peace, sake, some103103See Usser de Britann. Eccl. Primordiis, p. 221. have observed that the fathers declaimed generally against errors about the power of nature, not meddling with the persons or particular tenets of Pelagius and his disciples; but afterward they saw cause for being more particular. Loose discourses lose their profit. Blunt iron, that toucheth many points at once, doth not enter, but make a bruise; but a needle, that toucheth but one point, entereth to the quick. When we come to deal particularly with every man's work, then the fire trieth it, 1 Cor. iii. 13. I do the rather urge this because usually ungrounded zeal stayeth in generals, and those that know least are most loose and invective in their discourses.

Obs. 2. We should as carefully avoid errors as vices; a blind eye is worse than a lame foot, yea, a blind eye will cause it; he that hath not light is apt to stumble: Rom. i. 26 , first they were given up, εἰς νοῦν ἀδόκιμον, `to a vain mind, and then `to vile affections., Some opinions seem to be remote, and to lie far enough from practice, and yet they have an influence upon it; they make the heart foolish, and then the life will not be right. There is a link and cognation between truth and truth, as there is between grace and grace; and therefore speculative errors do but make way for practical. Again, there are some errors that seem to encourage strictness, as free-will, universal grace, &c.; but, truly weighed, they are the greatest discouragement; and therefore it hath been the just judgment of God that the broachers of such opinions have been most loose in life, and (as the apostle Peter maketh it the character of all erroneous persons, 2 Peter ii.) vain and sensual. The apostle Paul presseth strictness, and our work the more earnestly, because God must work all, Phil. ii. 12, 13. Well, then, beware of erroneous conceits; your spirit is embased by them. Men think nothing is to be shunned but what is foul in act, and so publicly odious. Consider, there is `filthiness in the spirit, as well as `in the flesh, 2 Cor. vii. 1; and a vain mind is as bad and as odious to God as a vicious life. Error and idolatry will be as dangerous as drunkenness and whoredom; and therefore you should as carefully avoid them that would entice you to errors, as those that will draw you to sin and profaneness; for error, being the more plausible of the two, the delusion is the more strong: natural conscience will smite for profaneness. Many, I am persuaded, dally with opinions, because they do not know the dangerous result of them: all false principles have a secret but pestilent influence on the life and conversation.

Obs. 3. Do not err; that is, do not mistake in this matter, because it is a hard thing to conceive how God concurreth to the act, and not 107to the evil of the act; how he should be the author of all things, and not the author of sin: therefore he saith, however it be difficult to conceive, yet `Do not err., The note is, that where truths cannot be plainly and easily made out to the apprehension, men are apt to swerve from them. Many truths suffer much because of their intricacy , errors may be so near alike that it is hard to distinguish them: the nature of man is prone to error, and therefore when the truth is hard to find out, we content ourselves with our own prejudices. All truths are encumbered with such a difficulty that they which have a mind to doubt and wrangle do easily stumble at it: John vi. 60, `This is a hard saying; who can hear it?, that is, understand it; and then, ver. 66, `From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him., When there is something to justify our prejudices, we think we are safe enough. God leaveth justly such difficulties for a stumbling-block to them that have a mind to be offended. The Pharisees and people that had followed Christ thought themselves well enough, because of the darkness of those expressions, as if it did justify their apostasy; so when there are some involucra veritatis, some covers of difficulty, in which truth is lapped up from a common eye, we think our assent may be excused: as Jews say, that surely Christ was not the Messiah, because he did not come in such a way as to satisfy all his own countrymen; so many refuse truth because it will require some industry and exercise to find it out. God never meant to satisfy hominibus praefracti ingenii,104104Camero de Eccles. men of a captious and perverse wit; and therefore truth is represented in such a manner, that though there be plainness enough to those that have a mind to know, yet difficulty enough to harden others to their own ruin. Men would fain spare the pains of prayer, study, and discourse; they are loath to `cry for knowledge, to dig for it as for silver, Prov. ii. 4; they love an easy, short way to truth, and therefore run away with those mistakes which come next to hand, vainly imagining that God doth not require belief to such things as are difficult and hard to be understood; they do not look to what is sound and solid, but what is plausible, and at first blush reconcilable with their thoughts and apprehensions.

Use 1. You see, then, what need you have to pray for gifts of interpretation, and a `door of utterance, for your ministers, and a knowing heart for yourselves, that you may not be discouraged by the difficulties that fence up the way of truth. Pray that God would give us a clear spirit, a plain expression, and yourselves a right understanding; this will be better than to cavil at the dispensation of God, that he should leave the world in such doubt and suspense. Chrysostom observeth, that the saints do not pray, Lord, make a plainer law, but, Lord, open my eyes, that I may see the wonders of thy law; as David doth. It were an unjust demand for blind men, or they that willingly shut their eyes, to desire God to make such a sun that they might see; it is better to desire gifts of the Spirit for the minister, that the scriptures might be opened; and the grace of the Spirit for ourselves, that our understandings might be opened, that so we may come to discern the mind of God.


Use 2. It showeth how much they are to blame that darken truth, and make the things of God the more obscure. `They darken counsel by words, that by method or manner of speaking perplex the understanding, that people can hardly reach the letter of things delivered. Many men have a faculty to raise a cloud of dust with their own feet, and so darken the brightness and glory of the scriptures; certainly such men either envy the commonness of knowledge, or serve their own esteem, when they draw all things to a difficulty, and would seem to swim there, where they may easily wade, yea, pass over dry-shod.

Obs. 4. Again, from that do not err. Take in the weightiness of the matter. Ah! would you err in this point, in a business that doth so deeply intrench upon the honour of God? The mistake being so dangerous, he is the more earnest. Oh! do not err. The note is, that errors about the nature of God are very dangerous. There is nothing more natural to us than to have ill thoughts of God, and nothing more dangerous; all practice dependeth upon it, to keep the glory of God unstained in your apprehensions. You shall see, Rom. i. 23, 24, `They changed the glory of God, &c., and then `God gave them up to uncleanness., Idolatry is often expressed by whoredom; bodily and spiritual uncleanness usually go together: ill thoughts of God debauch the spirit, and make men lose their sense and care of piety. Well, then, take heed of erring this error: let not the nature or glory of God be blemished in your thoughts; abhor whatever cometh into your mind, or may be suggested by others, if it tend any way to abate your esteem of God, or to eclipse the divine glory in your apprehensions.

06s. 5. From that my beloved brethren. Gentle dealing will best become dissuasives from error. One saith, we must speak to kings, φήμασι βυσσίωοις, with silken words. Certainly we had need to use much tenderness to persons that differ from us, speak to them in silken words. Where the matter is like to displease, the manner should not be bitter: pills must be sugared, that they may down the better: many a man hath been lost through violence: you engage them to the other party. As Tertullian, when he had spoken favourably of the Montanists, by the violence of the priests of Rome he was forced into their fellowship.105105`Prorsus in Montani partes transivit.,—Pamel. in Vita Tertul. Meekness may gain those that are not engaged. Men of another party will think all is spoken out of rage and anger against them; it is good to give them as little cause as may be, especially if but inclining through weakness to an error. Oh! `do not err, my beloved brethren., I would to God we could learn this wisdom in this age: 2 Tim. ii. 25, `In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth., Others will brook sharpness better than they: every man that is of a contrary opinion thinketh feat he hath the advantage ground of another, as being in the right; and pride is always touchy. Outward gross sins fill the soul with more shame, and upon conviction there is not that boldness of reply; for a man is so far under another as he may be reproved by him: but now here, where every man thinketh himself upon equal or higher terms, we had need deal the more meekly, lest pride take prejudice, and, out 109of a distaste of the manner, snuff at the matter itself: but of this elsewhere.

Ver. 17. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

He taketh occasion from the former matter, which was to show you that God was not the author of sin, to show you that God is the author of all good, especially the spiritual gifts and graces bestowed on us; in which there is an argument secretly couched: the author of all good cannot be the author of evil. Now `every good and perfect gift, is of God; and because the argument should be the more strong by an allusion to the sun, he representeth God, in the latter part of the verse, as essentially and immutably good.

Every good gift.—The vulgar readeth `the best gift, properly enough to the sense, but not to the original words. The gift is called good, either—;(1.) To exclude those gifts of Satan which are indeed injuries rather than gifts: a blind mind, 2 Cor. iv. 4; unruly affections, Eph. ii. 2. These gifts, that are from beneath, are not good. (2.) To note the kind of gifts which he speaketh of; not common mercies, but good gifts, such as the apostle calleth elsewhere πνευματικὰς εὐλογίας, `spiritual blessings, Eph. i. 3. It is true all common gifts come from the divine bounty; but the apostle intendeth here special blessings, as appeareth partly by the attributes `good, and `perfect., It is true some distinguish between the two clauses, δόσις ἀγαθὴ, or `good gift, to imply earthly blessings, and δώρημα τέλειον `perfect gift, to imply heavenly or spiritual blessings; but I suppose that is too curious. These two words imply the same mercies with a different respect, as by and by; partly because such mercies suit with the context, look upon it forward or backward. In the foregoing verses he speaketh about God being the author of sin, and no argument is so fit to batter down that conceit as that God is the author of special and saving grace; and in the following verse he instanceth in regeneration, partly because those mercies are most clearly from God, and need little of the concurrence of second causes.

And every perfect gift; that is, such as do anyway conduce to our perfection, not only initial and first grace, but all the progresses in the spiritual life, and at last perfection and eternal life itself, are the gift of God. Though eternal death be a wages, yet eternal life is a gift; and therefore the apostle diversifieth the phrase when he compareth them both together, Rom. vi. 23. The sum is, that not only the beginning, but all the gradual accesses from grace to glory, are by gift, and from the free mercy of God.

Is from above; that is, from heaven. The same phrase is else where used: John iii. 21, `He that cometh from above is above all;, that is, from heaven. And heaven is put for God, as Luke xv. 21, `I have sinned against heaven, and against thee;, that is, against God and his earthly father. And I suppose there is some special reason why our blessings are said to be from above, because they were designed there, and thither is their aim and tendency, and there are they perfectly enjoyed; and therefore, Eph. i. 3, are we said to be `blessed with spiritual blessings in heavenly places;, therefore `in 110heavenly places, because thence was their original, and there is their accomplishment.

And descendeth or cometh down; not `falleth down, to show (saith Aquinas) that we have not blessings by chance, but in the way of regular means.

From the Father of lights; that is, from God. The word father is often used for the author or first cause, as Gen. iv. 20, 21, `The father of such as dwell in tents;, `the father of those that handle the harp;, that is, the author and founder. So God is elsewhere called `Father of spirits, Heb. xii. 9, because they do not run in the material channel of a fleshly descent, but are immediately created by God. Well, but what is meant by Father of lights? Some conceive that it intendeth no more but `glorious Father, as it is usual with the Hebrews to put the genitive case for an epithet, and the genitive plural for the superlative degree. But I conceive rather God is here spoken of in allusion to the sun, who deriveth and streameth out his light to all the stars; and so God, being the author of all perfections, which are also signified and expressed by light, is called here `The Father of lights., Therefore it is usual in the scriptures to attribute light to God and darkness to the devil; as Luke xxii. 53, `This is your hour, the power of darkness;, that is, of Satan. More of this term in the points.

With whom is no variableness, παραλλαγὴ.—It is an astronomical word or term, taken from the heavenly bodies, which suffer many declinations and revolutions which they call parallaxes, a word that hath great affinity with this used by the apostle. The heavenly lights have their vicissitudes, eclipses, and decreases; but our sun shineth always with a like brightness and glory.

Neither shadow of turning, τροπῆς ἀποσκίασμα.—The allusion is continued. Stars, according to their different light and posture, have divers adumbrations; as, the nearer the sun is to us, the less shadow it casteth; the farther off, the greater: so that we know the various motions and turning of the sun by the difference of the shadows. But the Father of spiritual lights is not like the father or fountain of bodily: with him is no shadow of turning; that is, he is without any motion or change, any local accesses and recesses, remaineth always the same. This is a sun that doth not set or rise, cannot be overcast or eclipsed.

The notes are these:—

Obs. 1. That all good things are from above; they come to us from God. Mere evil is not from above; `the same fountain doth not yield sweet and bitter waters., God is good, and immutably good, and therefore it cannot be from him, which was Plato's argument. Evils do not come from God, because he is good; which reasoning is true, if it be understood of evils of sin; for otherwise, `Shall there be evil in a city and the Lord hath not done it?, Amos iii. 6. But for good that floweth clearly from the upper spring, there are indeed some pipes and conveyances, as the word, and prayer, and the seals; and for ordinary blessings, your industry and care. But your fresh springs are in God; and in all these things we must, as chickens, sip and look upwards. It is, I confess, the waywardness of flesh and blood to look 111to the next hand, as children thank the tailor for the new coat, and suffer the immediate helps to intercept their trust and respects; and therefore God often curseth the means, and blasteth our endeavours. The divine jealousy will not brook a rival. God delighteth in this honour of being the sole author of all our good, and therefore cannot endure that we should give it to another. When God was about to work miracles by Moses, hand, he first made it leprous, Exod. iv. 6. There he was aforehand with this sin; first or last, the hand of the creature is made leprous. This note, that God is the author of all the good that is in us, is useful to prevent many corruptions; as, (1.) Glorying in ourselves. Who would magnify himself in that which is from above? We count it odious for a man to set out himself in another man's work and glory; as the apostle saith, 2 Cor. x. 16, that he would not `boast in another man's line of things made ready to his hands., Now, all good is made ready to your hand; it is the bounty of heaven to you. It is not your line and work, but God's. (2.) Insultation, or vaunting it over others. Had we all from ourselves, the highest might have the highest mind; but `who made you to differ?, 1 Cor. iv. 7. Carnal and weak spirits feed their lusts with their enjoyments. A straight pillar, the more you lay upon it, the straighter it is, and the more stable; but that which is crooked boweth under its weight: so the more God casteth in upon carnal men, the more is their spirit perverted. (3.) Envy to those that have received most. Our eye is evil when God's hand is good. Envy is a rebellion against God himself, and the liberty and pleasure of his dispensations. God distributeth gifts and blessings as he will, not as we will; our duty is to be contented, and to beg grace to make use of what we have received.

Obs. 2. Whatever we have from above, we have it in the way of a gift. We have nothing but `what we have received, and what we have received we have received `freely., There is nothing in us that could oblige God to bestow it; the favours of heaven are not set to sale. When God inviteth us to mercy, he doth not invite us as a host, but as a king; not to buy, but to take: they are most welcome that have no money, Isa. lv. 1; that is, no confidence in their own merits. Some divines say, that in innocency we could not merit. When the covenant did seem to hang upon works, we could, in their sense, impetrare, but not mereri—obtain by virtue of doing, but not deserve. Merit and desert are improper notions to express the relation between the work of a creature and the reward of a Creator; and much more incongruous are they since the fall. Sin, bringing in a contrariness of desert, maketh mercy much more a gift; so that now in every giving there is somewhat of. forgiving, and grace is the more obliging because in every blessing there is not only bounty, but a pardon. It was long since determined by the schools, that penitents had more reason to be thankful than innocents, sin giving an advantage to mercy to be doubly free in giving and pardoning, and so the greater obligation is left upon us. Oh! then, that we were sensible of this; that in all our actions our principle might be a sense of God's love, and our end or motive a sight of God's glory.

Obs. 3. That among all the gifts of God, spiritual blessings are the 112best: these are called here good and perfect, because these make us good and perfect. It is very observable that it is said, Mat. vii. 11, `If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him., Now in the parallel place in Luke xi. 13, it is, give `the Holy Spirit to them that ask him;, that is the giving of good gifts, to give the Holy Spirit. Nihil bomim sine summo bono106106Aug. lib. iv. contra Jul.—there can be nothing good where there is not the Spirit of God: other blessings are promiscuously dispensed; these are blessings for favourites. The `men of God's hand, Ps. xvii. 14, may have abundance of treasure, that is, violent, bloody men; but the `men alter God's heart, have abundance of the Spirit. A man may be weary of other gifts; an estate may be a snare, life itself a burden; but you never knew any weary of spiritual blessings, to whom grace or the love of God was a burden; therefore, it is `better than life, Ps. lxiii. 3. Well, then, they are profane spirits that prefer pottage before a birthright, vain delights before the good and perfect gifts. David makes a wiser choice in his prayer, Ps. cvi. 4, `Eemeniber me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people; O visit me with thy salvation., Not every mercy will content David, but the mercy of God's own people; not every gift, but the good and perfect gift. The like prayer is in Ps. cxix. 132, `Look upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do to those that love thy name., Mark, not the mercies that he used to bestow upon the world, but the mercies he used to bestow upon his people and favourites. No thing but the best mercy will content the best hearts.

Obs. 4. That God is the Father of lights. Light being a simple and defecate quality, and, of all those which are bodily, most pure and spiritual, is often put to decipher the essence and glory of God, and also the essences and perfections of creatures as they are from God. The essence of God: 1 John i. 5, `God is light, and there is no darkness in him., There light, being a creature simple and unmixed, is put to note the simplicity of the divine essence. So also the glory of God: `He dwelleth in light inaccessible, 1 Tim. vi. 16; that is, in inconceivable glory. So Jesus Christ, in regard he received his personality and subsistence from the Father, is called, in the Nicene Creed, φῶς ἐκ φῶτος, εὸς ἀλήθινος ἐκ θεοῦ ἀληθίνου, `Light of light, and very God of very God., So also the creatures, as they derive their perfections from God, are also called lights; as the angels, `Angels of light, 2 Cor. xi. 14; the saints, `Children of light, Luke xvi. 8. Yea, reasonable creatures, as they have wisdom and understanding, are said to be lights; so John i. 9, `This is the light that enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world;, that is, with the light of reason: all the candles in the world are lighted at this torch. In short, reason, wisdom, holiness, happiness are often expressed by light, and they are all from God. As the stars shine with a borrowed lustre, so do all the creatures; where you meet with any brightness and excellency in them, remember it is but a streak and ray of the divine glory. As the star brought the wise men to Christ, so should all the stars in the world bring up your thoughts to God, who is 113`the Fountain and Father of lights., Thus Mat. v. 16, `Let your light so shine before men, that they, seeing your good works, may glorify, not you, but `your Father which is in heaven., If you see a candle bum brightly and purely, remember it was lighted and en kindled by God. If there be any light in them, a sight and sense of the mysteries of the gospel, if they be `burning and shining lights, if they give out the flame of a holy conversation, still remember they do but discover that lustre and glory they received from above. Well, then, if God be the Father of lights,—

1. It presseth you to apply yourselves to God. If you want the light of grace, or knowledge, or comfort, you must shine in his beam and be kindled at his flame. We are dark bodies till the Lord fill us with his own glory. Oh! how uncomfortable should we be without God. In the night there is nothing but terror and error; and so it is in the soul without the light of the divine presence. When the sun is gone the herbs wither; and when God, who is the sun of spirits, is withdrawn, there is nothing but discomfort and a sad languishing in. the soul. Oh! pray, then, that God would shine in upon your soul, not by flashes, but with a constant light. It is too often thus with us in point of comfort find grace; holy thoughts arise, and, like a flash of lightning, make the room bright, but the lightning is gone, and we are as dark as ever. But when God shineth in by a constant light, then shall we give out the lustre of a holy conversation: Isa. lx. 1, `Arise and shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee., We, like the moon, are dark bodies, and have no light rooted within ourselves; the Lord must arise upon us ere we can shine. So also in point of comfort: Ps. xxxiv. 5, `They looked to him and were lightened; their face was not confounded.,

2. It showeth the reason why wicked men hate God: John iii. 19-21, `Light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light;, and again, `They come not to the light, for their deeds are evil., Men that delight in darkness cannot endure God, nor any thing that representeth God. Rachel could not endure Laban's search, nor wicked men God's eye. He is the Father of lights; he hath a discerning eye, and a discovering beam.

3. It presseth the children of God to walk in all purity and innocency: `Ye are children of light, walk in the light, Eph. v. 8. Walk so as you may resemble the glory of your Father: faults in you, like spots in the moon, are soon discerned. You that are the lights of the world should not shine dimly; nay, in the worst times, like stars in the blackest night, you should shine brightest; therefore the apostle saith, Phil. ii. 15, `Shine as stars in the midst of a perverse age.,

Obs. 5. That the Lord is unchangeable in holiness and glory; he is a sun that shineth always with a like brightness. God, and all that is in God, is unchangeable; for this is an attribute that, like a silken string through a chain of pearl, runneth through all the rest: his mercy is unchangeable, `his mercy endureth for ever, Ps. c. 5. So his strength, and therefore he is called `The Rock of ages, Isa. xxvi. 4. So his counsel, Mutat sententiam, sed non decretum (as Bradwardine); he may change his sentence, the outward threatening or promise, but not his inward decree; he may will a change, but not 114change his will. So his love is immutable; his heart is the same to us in the diversity of outward conditions: we are changed in estate and opinion, but God he is not changed; therefore when Job saith, Job xxx. 21, `Thou art turned to be cruel, he speaketh only according to his own feeling and apprehension. Well, then,—

1. The more mutable you are, the less you are like God. Oh! how should you loathe yourselves when you are so fickle in your purposes, so changeable in your resolutions! God is immutably holy, but you have a heart that loveth to wander. He is always the same, but you are soon removed, Gal. i. 6;, soon shaken in mind, 2 Thes. ii. 2; whirried with every blast, Eph. iv. 14, borne down with every new emergency and temptation. The more you do `continue in the good that you have learned and been assured of, 2 Tim. iii. 14, the more do you resemble the divine perfection.

2. Go to him to establish and settle your spirits. God, that is unchangeable in himself, can bring you into an immutable estate of grace, against which all the gates of hell cannot prevail; therefore be not quiet, till you have gotten such gifts from him as are without repentance, the fruits of eternal grace, and the pledges of eternal glory.

3. Carry yourselves to him as unto an immutable good; in the greatest change of things see him always the same: when there is little in the creature, there is as much in God as ever: Ps. cii. 26, 27, `They shall perish, but thou shalt endure; they shall all wax old as a garment: thou art the same for ever, and thy years have no end., All creatures vanish, not only like a piece of cloth, but like a garment. Cloth would rot of itself, or be eaten out by moths; but a garment is worn and wasted every day. But God doth not change; there is no wrinkle upon the brow of eternity; the arm of mercy is not dried up, nor do his bowels of love waste and spend themselves. And truly this is the church's comfort in the saddest condition, that however the face of the creatures be changed to them, God will be still the same. It is said somewhere, that `the name of God is as an ointment poured out., Certainly this name of God's immutability is as an ointment poured out, the best cordial to refresh a fainting soul. When the Israelites were in distress, all the letters of credence that God would give Moses were those, Exod. iii. 14, `I am that I am hath sent me unto you., That was comfort enough to the Israelites, that their God remained in the same tenor and glory of the divine essence; he could still say I AM. With God is no change, no past or present; he remaineth in the same indivisible point of eternity; and therefore saith, I AM. So the prophet Malachi iii. 6, ἐγὼ κύριος, οὐκ ἠλλοίωμαι, `I am the Lord, that change not, (or am not changed);, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed., Our safety lieth in God's immutability; we cannot perish utterly, because he cannot change.

Ver. 18. Of his own good-will begat he us, by the word of truth, tJiat we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.

The apostle showeth that his main aim was to set forth God as the author of spiritual gifts, and therefore instanceth in regeneration.

Of his own good-will, βουληθεὶς.—Because he would, or being willing. The word is put:—(1.) To deny compulsion or necessity; 115God needed not to save any; and (2.) To exclude merit; we could not oblige him to it, it was merely the good pleasure of God; for this βουληθεὶς is equivalent to that which Paul calleth εὐδοκία, the natural bent, purpose, and inclination of God's heart to do the creatures good: Eph. i. 11, it is called `the counsel of his will, and elsewhere `abundant mercy;, 1 Pet. i. 3, `Out of his abundant mercy he hath begotten us to a lively hope;; in other places `the pleasure of the Father.,

Begat he us.—A word that properly importeth natural generation, and sometimes it is put for creation; and so as we are men we are said to be his γένος, `his offspring, Acts xvii. 28; and indeed so some take it here, applying these words to God's creating and forming us, and making men to be his first-fruits, or the choicest piece in the whole creation; or, as Zoroaster called him, τολμηροτάτης τῆς φύσεως ἄγαλμα, the masterpiece of over-daring nature. But this is beside the scope; for he speaketh of such a begetting as is `by the word of truth, which, in the next verse, he maketh to be an argument of more conscience and sense of the duty of hearing; therefore begetting is put to imply the work of grace upon our souls. The same metaphor is elsewhere used: 1 Peter i. 23 `Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth for ever;, so 1 Peter i. 3, `Begotten to a lively hope., I have brought these two places to show you the two parts in the work of grace; the one is quâ regeneramur, by which we are begotten, the other quâ renascimur, by which we are born again; the one is God's act purely, the other implieth the manifestation of life in ourselves; a distinction that serveth to clear some controversies in religion: but I go on with my work.

By the word of truth.—Here is the instrument noted. Those that refer this verse to the creation, understand it of Jesus Christ, who is the eternal uncreated Word of the Father, and by him were all things made; see John i. 1, 2; Heb. i. 3, &c.; but clearly it is meant of the gospel, which is often called `the word of truth, and is the ordinary means whereby God begetteth us to himself.

That we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.—Those that apply the verse to the creation say the apostle meaneth here that man was the choicest, chiefest part of it; for all things were subjected to him, and put under his feet, Ps. viii. But I conceive it noteth rather the dignity and prerogative of the regenerate; for as it was the privilege of the first-fruits of all the sheaves to be consecrated, so believers and converts among all men were set aside for the uses and purposes of God. The first-fruits of all things were the Lord's:—(1.) Partly to testify his right in that people; (2.) Partly for a witness of their thankfulness; they having received all from him, were to give him this acknowledgment: Prov. iii. 9, `Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first-fruits of thy increase;, this was the honour and homage they were to do to God. Now this is everywhere attributed to the people of God; as to Israel, because they were God's peculiar people, called out from all the nations: Jer. ii. 3, `The first-fruits of his increase is holiness to the Lord;, that is, of all people they were dedicated to God. So the holy worshippers, figured by those virgins in Rev. xiv. 4, are said to be `redeemed from among men, to 116be a first-fruits unto God and the Lamb:, these were the chiefest, Christ's own portion. So the church is called, Heb. xii. 23, `the church of the first-born., All the world are as common men; the church are the Lord's.

The points are these:—

Obs. 1. That which engaged God to the work of regeneration was merely his own will and good pleasure: `Of his own will begat he us;, Rom. ix. 18, `He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth., God's will is the reason of all his actions; you will find the highest cause to be will, love, and mercy. God can have no higher motive, nothing without himself, no foresight of faith and works; he was merely inclined by his own pleasure: John xv. 16, `Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you;, he begins with us first. When Moses treateth of the cause of God's love to Israel, he assigneth nothing but love: Deut. vii. 7, 8, `He loved you, because he loved you;, he had no motive, and can expect no satisfaction. So Ps. xviii. 19, `He delivered me, because he delighted in me;, that was all the reason he did it, because he would do it. So Hosea xiv. 4,; I will love them freely;, there is the spring and rise of all. This is applicable divers ways:—(1.) To stir us up to admire the mercy of God, that nothing should incline and dispose his heart but his own will; the same will that begat us, passed by others: whom he will he saveth, and whom he will he hardeneth. Man's thoughts are very unsober in the inquiry why God should choose some and leave others: when you have done all, you must rest in this supreme cause, God's will and pleasure: Mat. xi. 26, `Even so, Father, because it pleased thee., Christ himself could give no other reason, and there is the final result of all disputes. Oh! admire God, all ye his saints, in his mercy to you; this circumstance giveth us the purest apprehensions of the freeness of God's love, when you see that it was God's own will that determined mercy to you, and made the difference between you and others; nay, in some respects, it puts a difference between you and Christ: εὐμένεια πάτρος σ᾽ ἀποκτείνει, ἀλλοῖς γίγνεται σωτηρία,107107Nazianz. in his Christius Patiens. the good-will of the Father slayeth thee, and saveth others; he willed Christ's death, and your salvation. In the same verse, Christ's bruises and our salvation are called chephers, God's pleasure: Isa. liii. 10, `It pleased the Father to bruise him;, and then, `My pleasure, that is, in the salvation of the elect, `shall prosper in his hands., (2.) It informeth us the reason why, in the work of regeneration, God acteth with such liberty: God acteth according to his pleasure; the Holy One of Israel must not be limited and confined to our thoughts: John iii. 8, `The wind bloweth where it listeth., All is not done after one tenor, but according to the will of the free Spirit; as, in giving means, you must leave God to his will: there are mighty works in Chorazin and Bethsaida, when there are none in Tyre and Sidon. Israel had statutes and ordinances, when all the world had nothing but the glimmering candle of their own reason. So for the work of the Spirit with the means, some have only the means, others the work of the Spirit with the means: John xiv. 22, `How is it that 117thou wilt reveal thyself unto us, and not unto the world?, They have choice revelations. The spouse is brought into the closet, Cant. i. 3, when the virgins, common Christians, stay only in the palace of the great King. Do but observe two places: Acts ix. 7, it is said of Paul's companions, that `they heard a voice, and yet, Acts xxii. 9, it is said, `They that were with him heard not the voice., Solomon Glassius reconcileth these two places thus: They heard a sound, but they did not hear it distinctly as Christ's voice. Some only hear the outward sound, the voice of man, but not of the Spirit in the word; there is a great deal of difference in the same auditories. So also for the measure of grace; to some more is given, to some less; though all have a vital influence, yet all have not the same measure of arbitrary influences: Phil. ii. 13, `He giveth both to will and to do, κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν, according to his good pleasure., So for the manner; it is very diverse and various. God beginneth with some in love, with others by terrors, `plucking them out of the fire., Some are gained by a cross and affliction, others by a mercy. Some are caught by a holy guile (as the apostle saith of the Corinthians); others are brought in more sensibly, and with greater consternation. Upon some the Spirit cometh like a gentle blast, grace insinuateth itself; upon others like a mighty rushing wind, with greater terror and enforcement. So for the time; some are longer in the birth, and wait at the pool for many years; others are surprised and gained of a sudden: Cant. vi. 12, `Ere I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib., Therefore we should not limit God to any one instance, but still wait upon him in the use of means, for his good pleasure to our souls.

Obs. 2. That the calling of a soul to God is, as it were, a new beget ting and regeneration. He `begat us;, there must be a new framing and making, for all is out of order, and there is no active influence and concurrence of our will; therefore grace is called, 2 Cor. v. 17, καίνη κτίσις, `a new creation;, all was a chaos and vast emptiness before. So elsewhere it is expressed by being `born again, John iii. 5; and so believers are called Christ's seed, Isa. liii. 10. The point being obvious, I shall the less stay on it. It is useful—;(1.) To show us the horrible defilement and depravation of our nature; mending and repairing would not serve the turn, but God must new make and new create us, and beget us again: like the house infected with leprosy, scraping will not serve the turn; it must be pulled down, and built up again. They mince the matter that say of nature as those of the damsel, `She is not dead, but sleepeth;, as if it were a languor or a swoon into which Adam and his posterity fell. No; it was a death, and therefore are those two notions of creation and resurrection solemnly consecrated by the Spirit of God to express our regeneration or new birth. (2.) To show us that we are merely passive in our conversion: it is a begetting, and we (as the infant in the womb) contribute nothing to our own forming: Ps. c. 4, `It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves;, we had no hand in it. (3.) It showeth us two properties of conversion: (1st.) There will be life; the effect of generation is life Natural men are said, Eph. iv. 18, to be `alienated from the life of God;, they are altogether strangers to the motions and 118operations of the Spirit. But now, when the soul is begotten, there will be acting, and moving, and spiritual feeling; the soul will not be so dead towards God. Paul saith, Gal. ii. 20, `Not I live, but Christ liveth in me., A man cannot have interest in Christ, but he will receive life from him. (2d.) There will be a change. At the first God bringeth in the holy frame, all the seeds of grace; and therefore there will be a change: of profane, carnal, careless hearts, they are made spiritual, heavenly, holy: Eph. v. 8, `Ye were darkness, but now are light in the Lord., You see there is a vast difference. If men remain the same, how can they be said to be begotten? They are filthy still, carnal still, worldly still; there will be at least a desolation of the old forms and frames of spirit.

Obs. 3. It is the proper work of God to beget us: `he begat., It is sometimes ascribed to God the Father, as here, and so, in other places, to God the Son: believers are `his seed, Isa. liii. 10. Some times to the Spirit, John iii. 6. God the Father's will: `Of his own will begat he us. God the Son's merit: through his obedience we have `the adoption of sons, Gal. iv. 5. God the Spirit's efficacy: by his overshadowing the soul is the new creature hatched and brought forth. It is ascribed to all the three persons together in one place: Titus iii. 5, 6, `By his mercy he hath saved us, through the renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ., In another place you have two persons mentioned: Eph. ii. 10, `For we are his workmanship, created in Jesus Christ unto good works., It is true, the ministers of the gospel are said to beget, but it is as they are instruments in God's hands. So Paul saith, `I begat you, 1 Cor. iv. 15; and of Onesimus he saith, `Whom I begat in my bonds, Philem. 10. God loveth to put his own honour many times upon the instruments.

Well, then—1. Remove false causes. You cannot beget yourselves, that were monstrous; you must look up above self, and above means, to God, who must form you after his own image. It is said, John i. 13, that we are `begotten, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God., Not in the outward impure way that is meant by that `not of blood; nor by the will of the flesh, that is, in the carnal manner, as man begetteth man to satisfy a fleshly will or desire; `nor of the will of man, that is, any workings or desires of our will; but only by the power of the Spirit; for the intent of that place is to remove gross thoughts and wrong causes, that we might apprehend it right for the nature of it, and look up to the right cause of it.

2. It showeth what an honourable relation we are invested with by the new birth. He begat us. God is our Father; that engageth his love, and bowels, and care, and everything that can be dear and refreshing to the creature: Mat. vi. 32, `Your heavenly Father knoweth that you have need of these things., This relation is often urged by the children of God: Isa. lxiii. 16, `Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us., There is comfort in a father, much more in a heavenly Father. Evil men may be good fathers, Mat. vii. 11; they cannot but obey those natural and fatherly impressions that are upon their bowels; how much more will 119 a good God be a good Father? Tam pater nemo, tam pius nemo108108Tertul. in lib. de Orat. Dom.—none can be so good and so much a father as he.

Obs. 4. The ordinary means whereby God begetteth us is the gospel. He begat us `by the word of truth:, 1 Cor. iv. 15, `I have begotten you in Jesus Christ, through the gospel., There is the instrument, the author, the means: the instrument, Paul, `I have begotten you;, the means, `by the gospel;, the author, `in Jesus Christ., So 1 Peter i. 23, `Begotten by the incorruptible seed of the word., The word is, as it were, the seed, which, being ingrafted in the heart, springeth up in obedience: it is by the word, and that part of the word which is properly called the gospel. Moses may bring us to the borders, but Joshua leadeth us into the land of Canaan; the law may prepare and make way, but that which conveyeth the grace of conversion is properly the gospel. Well, then, let us wait upon God in the use of the word: it is not good to balk the known and ordinary ways of grace. Wisdom's dole is given at wisdom's gates: Prov. viii. 34, `Blessed is he that watcheth always at my gates., It was a great advantage to the decrepit man to lie still at the pool, John v. God's means will prove successful in God's time. Urge your souls with the necessity of the means. `Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God., Rom. x. 17. Without grace I cannot be saved, without the word I cannot have grace; reason thus within yourselves, that you may awaken the soul to a greater conscience and sense of waiting upon God in the word. It is true, the divine grace doth all, he begetteth us; but remember, it is by the word of truth. The influences of the heavens make fruitful seasons, but yet ploughing is necessary. It is one of the sophisms of this age to urge the Spirit's efficacy as a plea for the neglect of the means.

Obs. 5. The gospel is a word of truth; so it is called, not only in this, but in divers other places. See 2 Cor. vi. 7; Eph. i. 12; Col. i. 5; 2 Tim. ii. 15; the same expression is used in all these places. You may constantly observe, that in matters evangelical the scriptures speak with the greatest averment and certainty; the comfort of them is so rich, and the way of them is so wonderful, that there we are apt to doubt most, and therefore there do the scriptures give us the more solemn assurance; as 1 Tim. i. 15, `This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came to save sinners., We are apt to look upon it as a doubtful thing, or at best but as a probable truth; therefore Paul prefaceth, `This is a faithful saying., So Isa. liii. 4, `Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows., Thou sayest, surely I am a sinner; but it is as sure that Christ is a Saviour; naturally we are more sensible and sure of sin than of the comforts of Christ. The apostle speaketh of heathens, Rom. i. 32, that they `knew the judgment of God, and that `they that commit such things are worthy of death., Natural conscience will give us a sight and sense of sin, but usually we look upon gospel comforts with a loose heart and doubtful mind; and therefore is it that the scripture useth such forms of certainty. Is it sure that thou art a sinner? so sure is it that he hath `borne our sins and carried our sorrows., So Rev. xix. 9, `Blessed are they which are called to 120the supper of the Lamb: these are the true sayings of God., So Rev. xxii. 6, when he had spoken of the glory of heaven, he saith, `These sayings are faithful and true., The Spirit of God foresaw where we are most apt to doubt, and therefore hath laid in such solemn security (as the asseverations of God) aforehand. Thus Christ's priesthood is ushered in with an oath, Ps. cx. 4, `The Lord hath sworn, Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec., Points so far above the reach and apprehension of nature are hard to be believed, therefore are they prefaced with deep asseverations and oaths.

Use. The use is to press us to put our seal to these truths, to adventure our souls upon the warrant of them. How strange is it that our hearts should be most loose towards those points that have a special note of truth and faithfulness annexed to them! Well may it be said, 1 John v. 10, `He that believeth not maketh God a liar;, for these things are propounded to you, not only in assertions, but asseverations. He hath told you they are faithful and true sayings; therefore you implicitly give God the lie when you think these things are too good to be true, or carry yourselves with a carelessness and loose uncertainty towards them, or, in despair, think there cannot be comfort for such sinners as you are. This is to lift up your own sense and experience against the oaths and protestations of God, which are everywhere interlaced with the proposals of the gospel. Oh! do not hang off. Bring up assent to the greatest certainty that may be; check those vile thoughts which secretly lurk in all our hearts, that the gospel is some fine device and rare artifice to cheat the world, some golden fancy to make fools fond with; as that profane pope said, Fabula Cliristi, the fable of the gospel. Oh! consider, all the wit of the creatures could not contrive or design such a plot and frame of truths, so satisfying to the conscience, as the gospel is, and therefore all assents that do not amount and come up to assurance are beneath the dignity of it.

Assents are of divers kinds; some are very imperfect. There is conjecture, which is but a lighter inclination and propension of the mind to that which is only probable; it may or may not be true. This is discerned by carelessness and disrespect towards things that are excellent; men do but guess, and have but loose thoughts of them. Higher than this there is opinion, when the mind is strongly swayed to think a thing true, however there is formido oppositi, a fear of the contrary, which is opposed to believing with all the heart, Acts viii. This is enough to engage to profession—a man followeth his opinion. The next degree above this is ὀλιγοπιστία, `weak faith, which engageth the soul not only to profession, but to some affection and adherence to the truths acknowledged; they look upon them as true and good, but cleave to them with much brokenness and imperfection. Higher than this there is assurance; I mean, of the truths of the gospel, not of our interest in the comforts of it. This is intended by the apostle when he said the Thessalonians `received the word with much assurance, 1 Thes. i. 5; they were undoubtedly, and beyond contradiction, persuaded of the truths of the gospel. The same apostle, Col. ii. 2, calleth it, `The riches of the full assurance of understanding 121the mysteries of Christ;, that is, such an apprehension of the truths of the gospel as is joined with some experience, and a resolution to live and die in the profession of it.

Quest. You will say, How shall we do to ripen our assents to such a perfection? What are those proper mediums or arguments by which (next to the infallible persuasion of the Spirit) the soul is assured that the gospel is a word of truth?

Ans. This question is worth answering at all times, because atheism is so natural to us,—if there were none in the world, yet there is too much of the atheist in our own bosoms,—but in these times especially, the reigning sin being atheism and scepticism in matters of religion, occasioned partly by corrupt and blasphemous doctrines, which have a marvellous compliance with our thoughts; partly by the sad divisions among the people of God. Every one pretending to be in the right, we suspect all; therefore Christ prayed for unity in the church upon this argument, `That the world may know that thou hast sent me, John xvii. 23. When there are divisions in the church, usually there is atheism in the world: partly by the scandals and villanies committed under a pretence of religion, by which Christ is, as it were, denied, Titus i. 16, and again, `crucified and put to an open shame, Heb. vi. 6; that is, exposed to the derision and scorn of his enemies, and represented as a malefactor. Now if ever then, is it needful to ballast the mind with solid and rational grounds, and to establish you in the holy faith. Many arguments are urged by the fathers and the schoolmen in behalf of the gospel; but I have always preferred the arguments of the fathers, as of Lactantius, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Cyril, &c., before those of the schoolmen, as being more practical and natural, and so having a greater and a more constant awe upon the conscience; whereas those of the schoolmen (who questionless were the worser men) are more subtle and speculative, and so less apt to be understood, and are not so always present with the soul as the other are, that are founded in practical truths. Briefly, then, you may know the gospel to be a word of truth, because what ever is excellent in a religion is in an unparalleled manner found in our religion, or in the doctrine of the gospel. The glory of a religion lieth in three things—the excellency of rewards, the purity of precepts, and the sureness of principles of trust. Now examine the gospel by these things, and see if it can be matched elsewhere.

1. The excellency of rewards. This is one of the chief est perfections of a religion. Therefore the apostle proposeth it a principle and foundation of religion and worship to `believe that God is, and that he is a plentiful rewarder of those that seek him, Heb. xi. 6. He that cometh to God, that is, to engage in his worship, next to his being must believe his bounty; and the reason is, because a man, in all his endeavours, is poised to some happiness and reward. Now since the fall there are `many inventions, Eccles. vii. 29. As the Sodomites, when they were smitten with blindness, groped about Lot's door, so do we grope and feel here and there for a reward that may be adequate and of full proportion with our desires. The heathen were at a sad loss and puzzle. Austin,109109August. de Civit. Dei, lib. xix. cap. 1. out of Varro, reckoneth up two hundred 122and eighty-eight opinions about the chiefest good. Some placed it in pleasures, and such things as gratified sense. But this were to make brutes of men, for it is the beast's happiness to enjoy pleasures without remorse; and Tully saith, he is not worthy the name of a man, qui unum diem velit esse in voluptate, that would entirely spend one whole day in pleasures. Alas! this is a way so gross, so oppressive, and burthensome to nature, so full of disturbance and distraction to reason, that it can never satisfy. Some went higher for a reward for virtue, and talked of victory over enemies, long life, and a happy old age; but many that were good wanted these blessings. Others dreamed of a kind of eternity, and placed it in fame and the perpetuity of their name and renown, which is a kind of shadow of the true eternity; but this was a sorry happiness to those that lived and died obscurely. Those that went highest could go no higher than the exercise of virtue, and said that virtue was a reward to itself; and said that a man was happy, if virtuous, in the greatest torments, in Phalaris, brazen bull, &c. But, alas! `If our happiness were in this life only, we were of all men most miserable, 1 Cor. xv. 19. Christianity would scarce make amends for the trouble of it. But now the gospel goeth higher, and propoundeth a pure and sweet hope, most pure, and fittest for such a sublime creature, a reasonable creature, as man is, and most sweet and contenting, and that is the eternal and happy enjoyment of God in Christ in the life to come; not a Turkish paradise, but chaste and rational `pleasures at his right hand for ever more, Ps. xvi. 11; complete knowledge, perfect love, the filling up of the soul with God; so that the gospel, you see, hath outbidden all religions, propounding a fit and most excellent reward to the holy life.

2. Purity of precepts. In the Christian religion all moral duties are advanced and heightened to their greatest perfection: Ps. cxix. 96, `The commandment is exceeding broad, of a vast extent and latitude, comprising every motion, thought, and circumstance. The heathens contented themselves with a shadow of duty. The apostle saith, Rom. ii. 15, that ἔργον νόμου, `the work of the law, was written upon their hearts;, that is, they had a sense of the outward work, and a sight of the surface of the commandment. They made conscience to abstain from gross acts of sin, and to perform outward acts of piety and devotion, as sacrifice and babbling of hymns and prayers to their gods. All their wisdom was to make the life plausible, to refrain themselves; as it is said of Haman, when his heart boiled with rancour and malice against Mordecai, Esther v. 10, `Haman refrained himself., So Lactantius proveth against them that they had not a true way of mortification, and were not spiritual enough in their apprehensions of the law: Sapientia eorum plerwnque abscondit vitia, non abscindit—all their wisdom was to hide a lust, not to quench a lust; or rather to prevent the sin, not to check the lust. But now our holy religion doth not only forbid sins, but lusts: 1 Peter ii. 11, `Dearly beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts., Babylon's brats (as we showed before) by a holy murder must be dashed against the stones. The precepts are exact, commanding love, not only to friends, but enemies. The law is spiritual, and 123therefore in all points perfect: Ps. xix. 7, `The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;, that is, not only guiding the offices of the exterior man, but piercing to the thoughts, the first motions of the heart; we have a perfect law.

3. The sureness of the principles of trust. One of the choicest respects of the creature to the Godhead is trust and dependence. And trust, being the rest and quiet of the soul, must have a sure bottom and foundation. Now stand upon the ways, and survey all the religions in the world, and you will find no foundation for trust but in the gospel, refer it to any object, trusting in God for a common mercy, trusting in God for a saving mercy.

[1.] For a common mercy. There are no such representations of God to the soul as in the gospel. The Gentiles had but loose and dark thoughts of God, and therefore are generally described by this character, `Men without hope, 1 Thes. iv, 13. I remember when our Saviour speaketh against carking and anxiousness about outward supports, he dissuadeth thus: `Take no thought what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, or what ye shall put on, for after these things seek the Gentiles, Mat. vi. 31, 32, implying such solicitude to be only excusable in heathen who had no sure principles; but you that know providence and the care of a heavenly Father, should not be thus anxious. It is true, the heathens had some sense of a deity; they had τὸ γνῶστον τοῦ θεοῦ, some knowledge of the nature of God, Rom. i. 20; but the apostle saith in the next verse, that `they were vain, ἐν διαλογίσμοις, in their imaginations, that is, in their practical inferences and discourses; when they came to represent God as an object of trust, and to form practical thoughts and apprehensions of his majesty, there they were vain and foolish. But now in the gospel God is represented as a fit object of trust, and therefore the solemn and purest part of Christian worship is faith; and it is judiciously observed by Luther, Id agit tota scriptura, ut credamus Deum esse misericordem—it is the design of the whole scripture to bring the soul to a steady belief and trust; therefore the psalmist, when he speaketh of God's different administrations in the world and in the church, when he cometh to his administrations in the church, he saith, Ps. xciii. 5, `The testimonies of the Lord are sure., God deals with us upon sure principles, though he hath discovered himself to the world only in loose attributes.

[2.] For saving mercies; and indeed that is the trial of all religions; that is best which giveth the soul a sure hope of salvation: Jer. vi. 16, God biddeth them `stand upon the ways, and see, and ask for the good old way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls;, intimating, they should choose that for the best religion which yieldeth most peace of conscience. Now, there are three things that trouble the soul—our distance from God, our dread of angry justice, and a despair of retaining comfort with a sense of duty; and therefore, ere the conscience can have any solid rest and quiet, there must be three matches made, three couples brought together—God and man, justice and mercy, comfort and duty, all these must mutually embrace and kiss each other.

(1.) God and man must be brought together. Some of the wise 124heathens placed happiness in the nearest access and approach to God that may be, as Plato for one; and Coelius Rhodiginus, saith Aristotle, delighted much in that verse of Homer where it is said that it would never be well till the gods and mortal men did come to live together. Certain we are that common instinct maketh us to grope and feel after an eternal good: Acts xvii. 27, `They groped after God., Now, how shall we come to have any commerce with God, there being, besides the distance of our beings, guilt contracted in the soul? How can stubble dwell with devouring burnings? guilty creatures think of God without trembling? approach him without being devoured and swallowed up of his glory? The heathens were sensible of this in some part, and therefore held that the supreme gods were defiled by the unhallowed approaches of sinful and mortal men, and therefore invented heroes and half-gods, a kind of middle powers, that were to be mediators, to convey their prayers to the gods, and the blessings of the gods back again to them: so Plutarch, διὰ δαιμονίων τᾶσα ὁμιλία καὶ διάλεκτος μεταξὺ θεῶν καὶ ἀνθρώπων—that by these intermediate powers there was all commerce and communion between the gods and men. To this doctrine of the heathen the apostle alludeth, 1 Cor. viii. 5; the heathens had `lords many, and gods many;, as they had many gods, many ultimate objects of worship, so many lords, that is, mediators. `But to us (saith he) there is but one Lord, and one God;, that is, one supreme essence and one Mediator, which is that excellent and sure way which the scriptures lay down for our commerce with God. The device of the heathens, being fabulous and absurd, could not yield comfort; but in the gospel there is excellent provision made for our comfort and hope, for there the Godhead and manhood is represented as met in one nature. The Son of God was made the Son of man, that the sons of men might be the sons of God; therefore the apostle Peter showeth that the great work of Christ was `to bring us to God, 1 Peter iii. 18, to bring God and man together. So the apostle Paul saith, Heb x. 20, we may `draw near through the veil of his flesh., It is an allusion to the temple, where the veil hid the glory of the sanctum sanctorum, and gave entrance to it. So Christ's incarnation did, as it were, rebate the edge of the divine glory and brightness, that creatures may come and converse with it without terror. Christ is the true Jacob's ladder, John i. 51, the bottom of which toucheth earth—there is his humanity; and the top reacheth heaven—there is his divinity; so that we may climb this ladder, and have communion with God: ascende per hominem et pervenies ad Deum, as that father said—climbing up in hope by the manhood of Christ, we have social access to the Godhead.

(2.) Justice and mercy must be brought together. We want mercy, and fear justice; guilt impresseth a trembling upon the spirit, be cause we know not how to redeem our souls out of the hands of angry justice; the very heathens were under this bondage and torment, because of the severity of the divine justice: `Knowing the judgment of God, they thought themselves worthy of death., Rom. i. 32. Therefore^ the great inquiry of nature is, how we shall appease angry justice., and redeem our souls from this fear. You know the question, 125Micah vi. 6, 7, `Wherewith shall I come before him? and wherewith will he be pleased?, The heathens, in their blindness, thought to oblige the Godhead by acts meritorious (as merit is natural), either by costly sacrifices, `rivers of oil, thousands of rams, burnt-offerings, and whole burnt-offerings, hecatombs of sacrifices; or by putting themselves to pains or tortures, as Baal's priests gashed themselves; or by doing some act that is unwelcome and displeasant to nature, as by offering their children in sacrifices, those dear pledges of affection, which certainly was an act of great self-denial, natural love being descensive, and like a river running downward; yea, this was not all, the best of their children, their first-born, in whom all their hopes were laid up, they being observed to be most fortunate and successful. And this custom also the carnal Jews took up, for bare outward sacrifice was but a dull way either to satisfy God (his being `the cattle of a thousand hills, Ps. l. 10), or to pacify conscience; for though it were a worship of God's own appointing, yet it `did not make the comer thereunto perfect, as appertaining to the conscience, Heb. ix. 9; that is, the worshipper that looked no further could never have a quiet and perfect conscience, and therefore they `caused their children to pass through the fire to Moloch., Such a barbarous custom could not be taken up barely by imitation; nothing but horror of conscience could tempt men to an act so cruel and unnatural; and the prophet plainly saith, they `gave their first-born for the sin of their soul., Thus you see all ways are at a loss, because they could not yield a recompense to offended justice. But, in the gospel, `justice and mercy have kissed each other, righteousness and truth have met together, as it is Ps. lxxxv. 10. And we may sing, `Gracious is the Lord, and righteous, Ps. cxvi. 5; `Our beloved is white and ruddy, Cant. v. 10. For there is a God satisfying as well as a God offended, so that mercy and justice shine with an equal lustre and glory; yea, justice, which is the terror of the world, in Christ is made our friend, and the chief ground of our hope and support; as 1 John i. 9, `The Lord is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins., A man would have thought faithful and gracious had been a more proper term than faithful and righteous, pardon being most properly an act of free grace; but justice being satisfied in Christ, it is no derogation to his righteousness to dispense a pardon. So the crown of glory is called `a crown of righteousness, 2 Tim. iv. 8. There is a whole vein of scriptures runneth that way, that make all the comfort and hope of a Christian to hang upon God's righteousness; yea, if you will believe the apostle Paul, you shall see that God's great intent in appointing Christ, rather than any other Redeemer, was to show himself just in pardoning, and that he might be kind to sinners without any wrong to his righteousness; in short, that justice being satisfied, mercy might have the freer course. Hear the apostle, and you shall see he speaketh full to this purpose: Rom. iii. 25, 26, `Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness in the remission of sins., And lest we should lose the emphatical word, he redoubleth it: `To declare, I say, his righteousness, and that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus: `that is, in the matter of justification, where grace is most 126free, God makes his righteousness shine forth, having received satisfaction from Christ.

(3.) Comfort and duty are brought together. The end of all religion is ut anima sit subjecta Deo et pacata sibi—that the soul may be quiet in itself, and obedient to that which is supposed to be God. Now how shall we do to retain a care of duty with a sense of comfort? Conscience cannot be stifled with loose principles. The heathens could not be quiet, and therefore, when their reason was discomposed and disturbed with the rage of sensual lusts, and they knew not how to bridle them, they offered violence to nature; pulled out their eyes, because they could not look upon a woman without lusting after her; and raged against their innocent members, instead of their unclean affections. And we, that have the light of Christianity, know much more that we cannot have comfort without duty; for though true peace of conscience be founded in Christ's satisfaction, yet it is found only in his service: Mat. xi. 28, `Come to me, and I will give you rest;, but in ver. 29 it is, `Take my yoke upon you, and ye shall find rest for your souls., As we must come to Christ for comfort, so we must stay under his discipline, if we would have a sense of it in our own souls. Well, now, you shall see how excellently these are provided for in the gospel. There is Spirit against weaknesses, and merit against defects and failings, so that duty is provided for, and comfort. They need not despair under weaknesses, having the assistance of a mighty Spirit; they need not put out their eyes, having a God to quench their lusts;110110`Democritus excaecavit seipsum quod mulieres sine concupiscentiâ aspicere non posset, et doleret si non esset potitus: at Christianus salvis oculis foeminam videt; animo adversus libidinem caecus est.,—Tertul. in Apol., cap. 46. they need not despair under the sense of their defects, there being such a full merit in the obedience of Christ. In short, when they have largest thoughts of duty, they may have sweetest hopes of comfort, and say, with David, Ps. cxix. 6, `I shall not be ashamed when I have respect to all thy commandments.,

So much for the fifth observation.

Obs. 6. That God's children are his first-fruits. The word hinteth two things—their dignity and their duty; which two considerations will draw out the force of the apostle's expression.

1. It noteth the dignity of the people of God in two regards:—(1.) One is, they are `the Lord's portion, λάος περιούσιος, his `peculiar people, Titus ii. 14, the treasure people, the people God looketh after. The world are his goods, but you his treasure. The word κτισμάτων in the emphatical. Others are but his creatures, you his first-fruits. He delighteth to be called your God; he hath, as it were, impropriated himself to your use and comfort: `Blessed is the people whose God is the Lord, Ps. cxliv. 15. He is Lord of all, but your God. One said, Tolle meum et tolle Deum—it is the relation to God that is sweet, and a general relation yieldeth no comfort. Oh! what a mighty instance is this of the love of God to us, that he should reckon us for his first-fruits, for his own lot and portion! (2.) That they are the considerable part of the world. The first-fruits were offered for the blessing of all the rest: Prov. iii. 10, `Offer thy first-fruits, and so thy barns 127shall be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with wine., So here; the children of God, they are the `blessing in the cluster;, others fare the better for their neighbourhood; they are the strength, the `chariots and horsemen, of a nation. It was a profane suggestion in Haman to say, `It was not for the king's profit to suffer them to live., These are the first-fruits that God taketh in lieu of a whole nation, to convey a blessing to the rest.

2. It hinteth duty; as—;(1.) Thankfulness in all their lives. First-fruits were dedicated to God in token of thankfulness. Cain is implicitly branded for unthankfulness because he did not offer the first-fruits. You, that are the first-fruits of God, should, in a sense of his mercy, live the life of love and praise. The apostle saith the mercies of God should persuade us to offer ourselves, Rom. xii. 1. Now, under the gospel, there are no sin-offerings, all are thank-offerings. Well, then, give up yourselves in a reasonable way, λογικὴ λάτρεια, of sacrifice. It is but reason that when God hath begotten us we should be his first-fruits. The principle and motive of obedience under the gospel is not terror, but gratitude: Luke i. 74, `That we, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, should serve him without fear, &c. Your lives should show you to be first-fruits, to be yielded to God as a testimony of thankfulness. (2.) It noteth holiness. The first-fruits were holy unto the Lord. God's portion must be holy; and therefore of things that were in their own nature an abomination the first-fruits were not to be offered to God, as the first-born of a dog or ass, but were to be redeemed with money. God can brook no unclean thing. Sins in you are far more irksome and grievous to his Spirit than in others. You shall see, Jer. xxxii. 30, it is said, `The children of Israel and Judah have only done evil before me from their youth., The Septuagint read, μόνοι ποιοῦντες τὴν ἁμαρτίαν, `they alone, or they only, have been sinners before me;, as if God did not take notice of the sins of other nations: Israel, God's portion, are the only sinners. (3.) It noteth consecration. You are dedicate things, and they must not be alienated; your time, parts, strength, and concernments, all is the Lord's; you cannot dispose of them as you please, but as it may make for the Lord's glory; you are not first-fruits when you `seek your own things;, you are not to walk in your own ways, nor to your own ends; you may do with your own as it pleaseth you, but you cannot do so with what is the Lord's. First-fruits were passed over into the right of God, the owner had no property in them. Well, then:—(1st.) You are not to walk in your own ways; your desires and wills are not to guide you, but the will of God. `There is a way (saith Solomon) that seemeth right in a man's own eyes;, a corrupt mind looketh upon it as good and pleasant, and a corrupt will and desire is ready to run out after it. So the prophet Isaiah, chap. liii. 6, `We are all gone astray, every man to his own way., Oh! remember you are to study the mind and will of God; your own inventions will seduce you, and your own affections will betray you. (2d.) Not to your own ends: 2 Cor. v. 15, `Henceforth we are no more to live to ourselves, to our pleasure, profit, honour, interests: we have no right and property in ourselves, it is all given up to God. Those that gave up all to God did not reserve a liberty for self-pursuits and self-interests.111111`Nesciunt suis parcere qtii nihil simm norunt.,—Ambros. 128All pleasures, honours, profits, are to be refused or received as they make us serviceable to the glory of God.

Ver. 19. Wherefore, my Moved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, &c.—You see these words are inferred out of the former. The apostle saith, wherefore. Some make the consequence thus: He hath begotten you, therefore walk as men regenerate; for they make these sentences to be of a general concernment, and take them in the largest sense and extent of them. But this seemeth harsh, partly because it is not the use of the gospel to descend to such low civilities as the ordering of speech and the like; much less would it urge such a weighty argument as regeneration in a matter of such common importance; and indeed the inference in that sense is no way clear, and it would be a great gap and stride to descend from such a weighty and spiritual matter to mere rules of civility: partly because the subsequent context showeth these sentences must be restrained to the matter in hand; for, ver. 21, he sub-inferreth out of these sayings an exhortation to hear the word rightly; therefore I conceive the connection to stand thus: He had spoken of the word of truth as being the instrument of conversion, and upon that ground persuadeth to diligent hearing and reverent speaking of it; for so these sentences must be restrained, and then the coherence is more fluent and easy, as thus: You see what an honour God hath put on the word, as by it to beget us to himself; therefore `be swift to hear, that is, of a docile or teachable mind, be ready still to wait upon God in the word; be `slow to speak, that is, do not rashly precipitate your judgment or opinion concerning things of faith; be `slow to wrath, that is, be not angrily prejudiced against those that seem to differ and dissent from you. Thus you see, if we consider these directions under a special reference to the matter in hand, the context is easy. I confess it is good to give scripture its full latitude in application, and therefore rules may be commodiously extended to repress the disorders of private conversation, as garrulity, when men are full of talk themselves, and morosity, when they cannot endure to hear others, and so also anger and private revenge; especially when any of these is found, as usually they are, in Christian meetings and conventions, little patience, and much talk and anger. But the chief aim of the apostle is to direct them in the solemn hearing of the word.

The notes are these:—

Obs. 1. From that wherefore. It is a great encouragement to wait upon the ordinances, when we consider the benefits God doth dispense by them. In the institution of every duty there is a word of command and a word of promise. The command for our warrant, the promise for our encouragement. The command that we may come in obedience, and the promise that we may come in faith. Thus it is said, Isa. lv. 3, `Hear, and your soul shall live., Hear, that is the command. Your soul shall live, there is the promise. It is God's mercy that no duty is a mere task, but a holy means; and ordinances are appointed, not only in sovereignty, but in mercy. Well, then, Christians are not only to look to the ground of duties, but the end of 129them, that sweeteneth them to us. God hath required nothing of you but for your own benefit: Prov. ix. 12, `If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself., God hath glory in your approaches, but you have comfort. Oh! consider, then, every time you come to hear the word, the high privileges you may enjoy by it! Say thus, when you come to hear: I am to hear that my soul may live, I am going to the word that is to beget me, to make my soul partaker of the divine nature. Christians do not raise their expectations to such a height of mercies as are offered to them in the ordinances.

Obs. 2. Again, from the illative particle wherefore. Experience of the success of ordinances engageth us to a further attendance upon them. He hath begotten you by the word of truth, `wherefore, be swift to hear., Who would baulk a way in which he hath found good, and discontinue duty when he hath found the benefit of it? When God hath given you success, he hath given you a seal of his truth, a real experience of the comforts of his service. The Stancarists,112112From Stancaras, a professor at Königsberg, and afterwards in Poland, where he died in 1574.—ED. that think ordinances useless for believers, fit to initiate us in religion, and no further, are ignorant of the nature of grace, the state of their own hearts, and the ends of the word. Because this proud sect is revived in our times, and many, as soon as they have found the benefit of ordinances, think they are above them, let us a little examine these particulars.

1. They are ignorant of the nature of grace, which always upon a taste longeth for more: Ps. lxiii. 1, 2, `I long to see thy power and glory, as I have seen thee in the sanctuary., When the springs lie low, a little water cast in bringeth up more: so, after a taste, grace longeth for more communion with God; they would see God as they have seen him: so the apostle, 1 Peter ii. 3, 4, `If ye have tasted that he is gracious, come to him as to a living stone;, that is, if you have had any taste and experience of Christ in the word (which is the case in the context), you will be coming to him for more. However it is with spiritual pride, grace is quickened by former success and experience, not blunted.

2. They are ignorant of the intent and end of the word, which is not only to beget us, but to make the saints perfect, Eph. iv. 12, 13. The apostles, when they had established churches, returned to `confirm the disciples, hearts, Acts xiv. 22. We are to look after growth, as well as truth. Now, lest you should think it only concerneth the new-born babes, or the weaker sort of Christians, you shall see those of the highest form found need to exercise themselves herein: the prophets `searched diligently, into the writings of other prophets, 1 Peter i. 11, 12. Daniel himself, though a prophet, and a prophet of high visions, studied books, Dan. ix. 2. And still the greatest have need of praying, meditating, reading, hearing, to preserve the work of grace that is begun in their souls. That place is notable, Luke viii. 18, `Take heed how you hear; for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken that which he seemeth to have., Our Saviour upon this ground presseth them to a greater conscience and sense of the duty of hearing, because those 130that have grace already will have further confirmation and increase; and those that, upon a presumption and pretence of having grace, neglect the means of grace, shall lose that which they seemed to have; that is, shall appear to be just nothing in religion, blasted in gifts, as well as decayed in grace.

3. They are ignorant of the state of their own hearts. Are there no graces to be perfected and increased? no corruptions to be mortified? no good resolutions to be strengthened? no affections to be quickened and stirred up? Is there no decay of vigour and livelihood? no deadness growing upon their spirits? Certainly none need ordinances so much as they that do not need them. The spirit is a tender thing, soon discomposed. Things that are most delicate are most dependent. Brambles grow of themselves, but the vine needeth props. Wolves and dogs can rummage and seek abroad in the wilderness, but the sheep need a pastor. They that look into their hearts would find a double need of ordinances. (1.) Knowledge is imperfect. It is some good degree of knowledge to be sensible of our own ignorance; none so proud and contented as they that know least: 1 Cor. viii. 2, `If any man thinketh he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing as he ought to know., At first truths seem few, and soon learned; and it is some good progress in any learning to be sensible and humbled with the imperfections of knowledge; and it is so in divine matters. We see little in the word till we come to be more deeply acquainted with it: and then, Ps. cxix. 18, `Open mine eyes, that I may see wonders in thy law;, then we come to discern depths, and such wisdom as we never thought of. The word is an ocean, without bottom and banks. A man may see an end of other things, and get the mastery over an art: `I have seen an end of all perfection, but thy commandment is exceeding broad, Ps. cxix. 96. We can never exhaust all the treasure and worth that is in the word. (2.) Affections need a new excitement. Commands must be repeated to a dull servant; such is our will. We need fresh enforcements of duty upon us. Live coals need blowing, and a good soldier the trumpet to stir up his warlike rage, 1 Cor. xiv. 31. All may learn, or all be comforted. The apostle there specifieth the two ends of prophecy, which is either that we may learn, or be comforted, or exhorted; the word is indifferent to both those significations, either the improving of knowledge, or the exciting of languishing affections.

Obs. 3. From that let every one. This is a duty that is universal, and bindeth all men. None are exempted from hearing and patient learning: `the eye hath need of the foot., Those that know most may learn more. Junius was converted by discourse with a plough man. A simple laic (as the story113113Socrates Scholast., lib. ii., Eccles. Hist., cap. 8. calleth him) turned the whole Council of Nice against Arianism. G-od may make use of the meanest things for the instruction of the greatest. Paul, the great apostle, calleth Priscilla and Persis, two women, his `fellow-helpers in the Lord., Rom. xvi. Torches are many times lighted at a candle, and the most glorious saints advantaged by the meanest. Christ would teach his disciples by a child: `He took a child, and set him in the midst of them, Mat. xviii. 2. It is proud disdain to scorn the 131meanest gifts. There may be gold in an earthen vessel. There is none too old, none too wise, none too high to be taught.114114Ἀει γηράσκω πολλὰ διδασκόμενος.—Solon. Let every one.

Obs. 4. From that be swift, that is, ready. The commendation of duties is the ready discharge of them. Swiftness noteth two things:—(1.) Freeness of spirit; do it without reluctancy when you do it; no offerings are accepted of God but such as are free-will offerings, Ps. cxix. 108. (2.) Swiftness noteth diligence in taking the next occasion; they will not decline an opportunity, and say, Another day. Delay is a sign of unwillingness. You shall see, Ezek. i., the beasts had four faces and four wings; they had four faces, as waiting when the Spirit would come upon them; and four wings, as ready to look and fly into that part of the world into which God would dispatch them. This readiness to take occasions is showed in three things:—(1st.) In restraining all debates and deliberations: `I consulted not with flesh and blood, but immediately I went up to Jerusalem, Gal. i. 10. When the soul deliberateth about duty, it neglecteth it; do not debate when God commandeth, whether it be best or no; the soul is half won when it yieldeth to dispute things. God saith, Gen. ii. 17, `In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt die., And Eve repeateth, chap. iii. 3, `Thou shalt not eat, lest ye die;, and Satan saith, ver. 4, `Ye shall not surely die., God affirmeth, the woman doubteth, and Satan denieth. It is not good to allow the devil the advantage of a debate; when you pause upon things, Satan worketh upon your hesitancy. (2d.) In laying aside all pretences and excuses. Duty would never be done if we should allow the soul in every lesser scruple; there will still be `a lion in the way, and opening to the Spouse will be interpreted a defiling of the feet. Peter, as soon as he heard the voice of Christ, cast himself into the sea, others came about by ship, Mai xiv. 29; he did not plead the waves between him and Christ. (3d.) In yielding yourselves up to the whole will of God without reservations, do not allow one exception, or reserve one carnal desire: Acts ix. 6, `Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?, The ear and heart was open for every command. So 1 Sam. iii. 9, `Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth., He was ready to receive whatever God would command; but, alas! it is otherwise with us. Christ cometh to offer himself to us, as he did to the blind man: Luke xviii. 41, `What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?, Christ is fain to ask our pleasure, not we his. The master asketh what the servant will command. Yea, we refuse him when he offereth himself to us: Heb. xii. 25, μὴ παραιτήσατε, `See that ye refuse not, &c. The word signifieth, do not urge vain pretences. This is the fourth note, but I must be more particular.

Obs. 5. From that be swift to hear; that is, the word of God, for otherwise it were good to be slow in hearing. We may wish ourselves deaf sometimes, that we may not hear oaths, impurities, railings; as old Maris was glad that he was blind, that he could not see such a cursed apostate as Julian. Divers things are implied in this precept. I shall endeavour to draw out the sense of it in these particulars.

1. It showeth how we should value hearing: be glad of an opportunity; 132the ear is the sense of learning,115115`Plus est in auribus quam in oculis situm, quoniam doctrina et sapientia percipi auribus solia potest, oculis soils non potest.,—Lactantius. and so it is of grace; it is that sense that is consecrated to receive the most spiritual dispensations: Rom. x. 14, `How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?, The Lord beginneth his sermon with `Hear, Israel, Deut. vi. When Christ was solemnly discovered from heaven to be the great prophet of the church, the respect that is bespoken for him is audience: Mat. xvii. 5, `This is my beloved Son, hear him., God is pleased to appoint this way, do not despise it. Beading hath its use, but the voice hath aliquid latentis energiae, a secret force upon the soul, because of the sympathy between the external word and inward reason; I mean, it hath a ministerial efficacy, by which the authority and sovereign efficacy of the Spirit is conveyed. God would insinuate a real efficacy in a moral way, and therefore useth the voice. The apostle had spoken much of the word, and then he saith, `This is the word which is preached to you, 1 Peter i. 25. It is not the word read, but the word preached. You may judge it a vain artifice, count it `the foolishness of preaching, but it is under the blessing of a solemn institution: `It pleased the Father, &c., 1 Cor. i. 21. Therefore, by the external voice there is meant, then, a ministerial excitation. Reading doth good in its place; but to slight hearing, out of a pretence that you can read better sermons at home, is a sin. Duties mistimed lose their nature; the blood is the continent of life when it is in the proper vessels; but when it is out, it is hurtful, and breedeth putrefactions and diseases.

2. It showeth how ready we should be to take all occasions to hear the word. If ministers must preach `in season and out of season, a people are bound to hear. It is observed that a little before the French massacre Protestants were cloyed with the word; and so it is now. Heretofore they would run far and near to enjoy such an opportunity: Mat. iii. 5, `Jerusalem and Judea, and all the region round about, came to hear John., Some of those places mentioned were thirty miles from Ænon beyond Salem, which was the place where John baptized: 1 Sam. iii. 1, `The word of the Lord was precious in those days; for there was no open vision., Heretofore lectures were frequented when they were more scarce. The wheat of heaven was despised when it fell every day: Amos viii. 12, `I will send a famine of the word, and they shall wander from sea to sea, from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro, and shall not find it., Then they would go far and near for a little comfort and counsel. This is one of those enjoyments which is valued when it is wanted. When manna is a common food, men lust for quails: `Nothing but this manna!, This swiftness here showeth the content men should take in hearing the word; but, alas! now men pretend every vain excuse, their merchandise, their farm, and so cannot wait upon the word of God: it may be on the Lord's day, when they dare do nothing else; but few take other occasions and opportunities. David saith, Ps. xxvi. 8, `I have loved the habitation of thy house, the place where thine honour dwelleth., It was comfort to him to wait upon God, to come to the doors of wisdom, a burden to us.


3. It noteth readiness to hear the sense and mind of others upon the word. We should not be so puffed up with our own knowledge, but we should be swift to hear what others can say. It is a great evil to contemn others, gifts; there is none so wise but he may receive some benefit by the different handling of what he himself knoweth. It is an advantage to observe the different breathings of the Spirit of God in divers instruments. Job would not `despise the cause of his servants, Job xxxi. And as we should not contemn their gifts, so we should not contemn their judgments. In this being swift to hear is condemned that ἰδιογνωμοσύνη that private spirit, and over prizing of our own conceits and apprehensions, so that we are not patient to hear anything against them. Men are `puffed up with their own mind, though it be `fleshly, and carnal, Col. ii. 18; they make a darling and an idol of their own thoughts. The apostle saith, 1 Cor. xiv. 30, `If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace., You do not know what may be revealed to another; no man is above a condition of being instructed. Divide self from thy opinion, and love things not because they suit with thy prejudices, but truth. `Be swift to hear, that is, to consider what may be urged against you.

4. It noteth what we should do in Christian meetings. They are apt to degenerate into noise and clamour; we are all swift to speak, but not to hear one another, and so all our conferences end in tumult and confusion, and no good is gotten by them: every man's `belly is like a bottle full of wind, ready to burst for want of vent, Job xxxii. 19. If we were as patient and swift to hear as we are ready to speak, there would be less of wrath and more of profit in our meetings. I remember when a Manichee contested with Augustine, and with importunate clamour cried, `Hear me, hear me, the father modestly answered, Nec ego te, nec tu me, sed ambo audiamus apostolum—neither hear me, nor I thee, but let us both hear the apostle. It were well if we could thus repress the violences and impetuousness of our spirits; when one crieth, Hear me, and another, Hear me, let us both hear the apostle, and then we shall hear one another. He saith, `Be swift to hear, slow to speak., When Paul reproveth the disorder and tumult that was in the Corinthian assemblies, he adviseth them to speak ἀνὰ μέρος, l by turn or course, 1 Cor. xiv. 27; and ver. 31, `Ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all be comforted;, that every one should have free liberty to speak, according as their part and turn came, and not in a hurry and clatter, which hindered both the instruction and comfort of the assembly.

Obs. 6. That there are many cases wherein we must be slow to speak. This clause must also be treated of according to the restriction of the context; slow in speaking of the word of God, and that in several cases.

1. It teacheth men not to adventure upon the preaching of the word till they have a good spiritual furniture, or are stored with a sufficiency of gifts. It is not for every one that can speak an hour to adventure upon the work of teaching. John was thirty years old when he preached first, Luke iii. 1. In the fifteenth year of Tiberius,116116Stapyld. in Prompt. Moral, in Dom. 3, Advent. that was John's thirtieth year. Augustus reigned fifty-five years, and 134John was born in his fortieth year, and preached in the fifteenth of Tiberius, his next successor. Every one itcheth after the dignity of being a teacher in Israel. There is somewhat of superiority in it (upon which reason the apostle forbiddeth women to teach, 1 Cor. xiv. 34, because by the law of their creation they cannot be superiors), and somewhat of profit, and therefore the time is hastened and precipitated. Few stay till their youthful heats be spent, and thirty years, experience hath fitted them for so great a work and burthen. It is observable that Jesus Christ had also fulfilled thirty years ere he entered upon his public ministry. Though I do not tie it merely to the years; either too young or too weak, it is all one to me. There are (as Ignatius saith in his epistle to the Magnesians) τὴν πολίαν μάτιν φέρπμτες, some that in vain hang out the bush of grey hairs, when they have no good wine to vend or utter. Indeed, the drift of that whole epistle is to persuade them to reverence their bishop, though but of small years,117117Hortatur Magnesianos: `Μὴ καταφφονεῖν τῆς ἡλικίας τοῦ ἐπισκόπου, οὐ προὶ τὴν φαινομένην ἀφορῶντας νεότητα ἀλλὰ προὶ τὴν ἐν Θεῳ φρόνησιν.,—Ignat. Epist. ad Maqnes sub initio Epist. where he instanceth in Daniel, Solomon, Jeremiah, Samuel, Josiah, whose youth was seasoned with knowledge and piety, and concludeth that it is not age but gifts make a minister, and, through the abundance of Spirit, there may be an old mind in a young body; and Timothy, though younger in years, was an elder in the church. For my own particular, I must say, as Pharaoh's chief butler said, Gen. xli. 9, `I remember my faults this day., I cannot excuse myself from much of crime and sin in it; but I have been in the ministry these ten years, and yet not fully completed the thirtieth year of my age; the Lord forgive my rash intrusion. Whatever help or furtherance I have contributed to the faith and joy of the saints by my former public labours, or my private ministerial endeavours, or shall do by this present work, I desire it may be wholly ascribed to the efficacy of the divine grace, which is many times conveyed and reached forth by the most unworthy instruments. But to return. Tertullian118118Tertul. in lib. de Prescript, adversus Haeret. hath a notable observation concerning some sectaries in his time, Nunquam citius proficitur quam in castris rebellium, ubi ipsum illic esse promereri est—that men usually have a quick dispatch and progress in the tents of heresy, and become teachers ere they are scarce Christians. He goeth on: Neophytos collocant, ut gloriâ eos obligent, quia veritate non possunt—they set up young men to teach, that they may win them by honour, when they cannot gain them by truth. Certainly this is a bait that pride soon swalloweth; and that which hath drawn many into error, is a liberty to teach before they are scarce anything in religion. Oh! consider, hasty births do not fill the house, but the grave. Men that obtrude themselves too soon upon a calling do not edify, but destroy. It is good for a while to be slow to speak. Aquinas, when he heard Albertus, was called Bos mutus, the dumb ox, because for a great while he was altogether silent. It is not the Spirit of God, but the spirit of vainglory which putteth men upon things which they are not able to wield and manage. It is good to take notice of those compressions and constraints that are 135within our spirits; but it is good also to take heed that they do not arise from pride, or some carnal affections.

2. It showeth that we should not precipitate our judgments concerning doctrines and points of divinity. That we may not rashly condemn or defend anything that is contrary to the word of God, or of which we have certainty from the word. Be slow to speak; that is, do not speak till you have a sure ground. The sudden conceptions of the mind are not always the best. To take up things hastily engageth a man to many inconveniences. Moses would not give an answer suddenly; Num. ix. 8, `I will hear what the Lord will speak concerning you., That great prophet was at a stand till he had spoken with God. Under the law the tip of the priest's ear was to be sprinkled with blood; first he must hear Christ, and then speak to the people. Well, then, be not too hasty to defend any opinion till you have tried it. How mutable do men of a sudden spirit and fiery nature appear to the world! Rashly professing according to their present apprehensions, they are forced to change often. There should be a due pause ere we receive things, and a serious deliberation ere we defend and profess them.

3. That we be not more forward to teach others than to learn ourselves. Many are hasty to speak, but backward to do, and can better master it and prescribe to others than practise themselves, which our apostle noteth: James iii. 1, `My brethren, be not many masters;, that is, be not so forward to discipline others when you neglect your own souls. The apostle speaketh so earnestly, as if he meant to rouse a benumbed conscience: Rom. ii. 21, `Thou which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?, And I have heard that a scandalous minister, in reading of it, was struck at the heart and converted. Since the fall, light is more directive than persuasive; and therefore a heathen could observe, that it is far more easy to instruct others than to practise ourselves.119119`Ἅπαντες ἔσμεν εἰς τὸ νουθετεῖν σόφοι, ὅταν δ᾽ αὐτοὶ ποιῶμεν μωροὶ οῦ γιγνώσκομεν.,—Menander.

4. That we do not vainly and emptily talk of the things of God, and put forth ourselves above what is meet: it is good to take every occasion, but many times indiscreet speaking doth more hurt than silence. Some will be always bewraying their folly, and in every meeting engross all the discourse: Prov. x. 19, `In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin, but he that refraineth his lips is wise., We should weigh our words before we utter them: when men are swift to speak and much in talk, they bewray some folly which is a stain to them. So Prov. xvii. 27, `He that hath understanding spareth his words., Empty vessels sound loudest; and men of great parts, like a deep river, glide on with the least noise.

5. It teacheth us not to be over-ready to frame objections against the word. It is good to be dumb at a reproof, though not deaf. Let not every proud thought break out into thy speeches. Guilt will recoil at the hearing of the word, and the mind will be full of vain surmises and carnal objections; but alas! how odious would men appear if they should be swift to utter them—if thoughts, that are the words of the mind, should be formed into outward words and expressions. 136Thoughts may be corrected upon further information, but words cannot be recalled; thoughts do only stain our own spirits, words convey a taint to others; thoughts are more indeliberate than words; in thoughts we mi with our mind only, in words with our mind and tongue.

Obs. 7. That renewed men should be slow to wrath. You must understand this with the same reference that you do the other clauses; and so it implieth that the word must not be received or delivered with a wrathful heart: it concerneth both hearers and teachers.

1. The teachers. They must be slow to wrath in delivering the word. (1.) Let not the word lacquey upon private anger: spiritual weapons must not be used in your own cause; you have not a power to cast out of Christ at your own pleasure. The word is not committed to you for the advancing of your esteem and interests, but Christ's. The apostle had `vengeance in a readiness, 2 Cor. x. 6, but it was for disobedience to Christ, not for disrespect to his own person. Men that quarrel for esteem bring a just reproach and scandal upon their ministry. (2.) Do not easily deliver yourselves up to the sway of your own passions and anger: people will easily distinguish between this mock thunder and divine threatenings. Passionate outcries do only fright the easy and over-credulous souls, and that only for the present; proofs and insinuations do a great deal more good: snow that falleth soft, soaketh deep. In the tempest Christ slept; when passion is up, true zeal is usually asleep.

2. The people. It teacheth them patience under the word. Do not rise up in arms against a just reproof; it is natural to us, but be slow to it; do not yield to your nature. David said `I have sinned against the Lord, 2 Sam. xii. 13, when Nathan set home his fact with all the aggravations: and it is an accusation against a king, 2 Chron. xxx vi. 12, `He humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet, speaking from the mouth of the Lord., Mark, it is not said, `before the Lord, but `before Jeremiah., God was angry with a great king for not humbling himself before a poor prophet. Anger doth but bewray your own guilt. One was reported to have uttered something against the honour of Tiberius; the crafty tyrant did the more strongly believe it, because it was the just report of his own guilt. Quia vera erant dicta credebantur, saith the historian.120120Tacitus. So many think we aim at them, intend to disgrace them, because indeed there is a cause, and so storm at the word. Usually none are angry at a reproof but those that most deserve it; and when conviction, which should humble, doth but irritate, it is an ill sign. Those that were `pricked at the hearts, Acts ii. 37, were much better tempered than those that were `cut to the heart, Acts vii. 54, as humiliation is a better fruit of the word than impatience. You shall see the children of God are most meek when the word falleth upon their hearts most directly. David saith, `Let the righteous reprove me, and it shall be an oil, c. Reproof to a gracious soul is like a sword anointed with balsam; it woundeth and healeth at the same time. So Hezekiah said, Isa. xxxix. 8, `Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken: `it was a sad word, a heavy threatening; yet the submission of his sanctified judgment 137calleth it good. In such cases you should not storm and rage, but give thanks, and say, as David to Abigal, `Blessed be the Lord that sent thee to meet me this day:, bless God for meeting with you in the word.

Obs. 8. That it is some cure of passion to delay it. `Be slow to wrath., Anger groweth not by degrees, like other passions, but at her birth she is in her full growth; the heat and fury of it is at first, and therefore the best cure is deliberation:121121`Maximum remedium iraedilatio est, ut primus ejus fervor relanguescat, et caligo quae premit mentem aut resiliat aut minus densa sit; graves habet impetus primo.,—Senec. de Ira, lib. ii. cap. 28, and lib. iii. cap. 12. Prov. xix. 11, `The discretion of a man deferreth his anger;, that is, the revenge which anger meditateth. Many men are like tinder or gunpowder, take fire at the least spark of offence, and, by following their passions too close, run themselves into inconveniences; therefore it is good to check these precipitant motions by delay and due recourse to reason: Prov. xiv. 29, `He that is hasty in spirit exalteth folly., When men are quick and short of spirit, they are transported into many indecencies, which dishonour God, and wound their conscience, and afterward have cause enough, by a long repentance, to bewail the sad effects of a short and sudden anger. Athenodorus advised Augustus, when he was surprised with anger, to repeat the alphabet, which advice was so far good, as it tended to cool a sudden rage, that the mind, being diverted, might afterward deliberate. So Ambrose122122Ruff., lib. ii. Hist., cap. 18; Theod., lib. v. Hist., cap. 26. counselled Theodosius the Great (after he had rashly massacred the citizens of Thessalonica) to decree, that in all sentences that concerned life, the execution of them should be deferred till the thirtieth day, that so there may be a space for showing mercy, if need required. Well, then, indulge not the violence and swiftness of passion; sudden apprehensions usually mistake, the ultimate judgment of reason is best. Motions vehement, and of a sudden irruption, run away without a rule, and end in folly and inconvenience. It is a description of God that he is `slow to wrath;, certainly a hasty spirit is most unlike God. It is true that some good men have been observed to be ὀξύχολοι, hasty, and soon moved, as Calvin.123123Beza in Vitâ Calvini, p. 109. Augustine observes the like of his father, Patricius,124124`Erat vero ille sicut benevolentiâ praecipuus: ita irâ fervidus.,—Aug. Confess., lib. ix. cap. 9. and some observe the same of Cameron;125125`Ὀξύχολος quidam et adversus notos et familiares facile irritabilis, sed qui etiam irani deponeret, atque ultro culpam et errorem agnosceret.,—Icon. Carrier. Praef. Operibus. but for the most part these motions in those servants of God were but (as Jerome calleth them) propassions, sudden and irresistible alterations that were connatural to them, and which they by religious exercises in a great mea sure mortified and subdued; and if anger came soon, it stayed not long. Solomon says, Eccles. vii. 9, `Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry, for anger resteth in the bosom of fools., That anger is126126Qu. `is not,?—ED. most culpable which soon cometh, but resteth or stayeth long, as being indulged. So Solomon saith elsewhere, Prov. xiv. 17, `He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly, but a man of wicked devices is hated;, implying, that sudden anger is an effect of folly and weakness, which may be 138incident to the best, but to concoct anger into malice is an argument of wickedness, and is found only in the most depraved natures; in short, it is contemptible to be angry suddenly, but to plot revenge abominable.

Ver. 20. For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

Here he rendereth a reason of the last clause, why they should take heed of this indignation and rising of their hearts against the word, because the wrath of man would hinder them from attaining that righteousness and accomplishing that duty which God requireth in his word.

For the wrath of man.—There is an emphasis in that word: he doth not say wrath in general, for there is always a righteousness in the wrath of God. The apostle saith, Rom. i. 18, it is `revealed from heaven against the unrighteousness of men, or, rather, the wrath of man, to show that, under what disguises soever it appeareth, it is but human and fleshly: there is nothing of God, but much of man in it.

Worketh not, οὐ κατεργάζεται—doth not attain, doth not persuade or bring forth, any righteous action; yea, it hindereth God from perfecting his work in us.

The righteousness of God.—That is, say some, justice mixed with mercy, which is the righteousness that the scriptures ascribe to God, and anger will not suffer a man to dispense it; but this seems too much strained and forced. Others say the meaning is, it doth not execute God's just revenge, but our own malice. But rather the righteousness of God is put for such righteousness as God requireth, God approveth, God effecteth; and in this sense in scripture things are said to be of God or of Christ which are effected by his power or commanded in his word: thus faith is said to be the work of God, John vi. 29, because he commandeth we should labour in it, which plainly is the intent of that context; and the apostle useth the word `righteousness, because anger puts on the form of justice and righteousness more than any other virtues. It seemeth to be but a just displeasure against an offence, and looks upon revenge not as irrational excess, but a just punishment, especially such anger as carrieth the face of zeal, which is the anger spoken of in the text. Rage and distempered heats in controversies of religion, and about the sense of the word, such carnal zeal, how just and pious soever it seem, is not approved and acquitted as righteous before God. It is observable that there is a litotes in the apostle's expression—more is intended than said; for the apostle means, it is so far from working righteousness, that it worketh all manner of evil; witness the tragical effects of it in the world: the slaughters that Simeon and Levi wrought in Shechem: Sarah in her anger breaks two commandments at once, takes the name of God in vain, and falsely accuseth Abraham, Gen. xvi. 5.

Obs. 1. From the context. The worst thing that we can bring to a religious controversy is anger. The context speaketh of anger occasioned by differences about the word. Usually no affections are so outrageous as those which are engaged in the quarrel of religion, for then 139that which should bridle the passion is made the fuel of it, and that which should restrain undue heats and excesses engageth them. How ever, this should not be. Christianity, of all religions, is the meekest and most humble. It is founded upon the blood of Christ, who is a Lamb slain. It is consigned and sealed by the Spirit of Christ, who descended like a dove. Both are emblems of a meek and modest humility. And should a meek religion be defended by our violences, and the God of peace served with wrathful affections, and the madness of an evil nature bewray itself in the best cause? Christ's war fare needeth not such carnal weapons; as Achish said, `Have I need of mad men?, 1 Sam. xxi. 15. So, hath Jesus Christ need of our passions and furies? Doth the God of heaven need `a tongue set on fire of hell,? James iii. 6. Michael the archangel was engaged in the best cause against the worst adversary, with Satan about the body of Moses; and yet the purity of his nature would not permit him to profane his engagement with any excess and indecency of passion: `He durst not bring against him a railing accusation, Jude 9. And as the wrath of man is unsuitable to the matters of God, so it is also prejudicial. When tongue is sharpened against tongue, and pen against pen, what followeth? Nothing but mutual animosities and hatreds, whereby, if we gain aught of truth, we lose much of love and goodness. Satan would fain be even with God. The devil's kingdom is mostly ruined by the rage of his own instruments; and you cannot gratify Satan more than when you wrong the truth by an unseemly defence of it;127127`Affectavit quandoque diabolus veritatem defendendo concutere.,—Tert. for then he seemeth to be quits with Christ, overturning his kingdom by those which are engaged in the defence of it. Briefly, then, if you would do good, use a fit means. The barking dog loseth the prey. Violence and furious prosecution seldom gaineth. Those engage most successfully that use the hardest arguments and the softest words; whereas railings and revilings, as they are without love, so they are without profit. Be watchful; our religious affections may often overset us.

06s. 2. From that worketh not the righteousness. Anger is not to be trusted; it is not so just and righteous as it seemeth to be. Of all passions this is most apt to be justified. As Jonah said to God, `I do well to be angry, Jonah iv. 9, so men are apt to excuse their heats and passions, as if they did but express a just indignation against an offence and wrong received. Anger, like a cloud, blindeth the mind, and then tyranniseth over it. There is in it somewhat of rage and violence; it vehemently exciteth a man to act, and taketh away his rule according to which he ought to act. All violent concitations of the spirit disturb reason, and hinder clearness of debate; and it is then with the soul as it is with men in a mutiny, the gravest cannot be heard; and there is in it somewhat of mist and darkness, by which reason, being beclouded, is rather made a party than a judge, and doth not only excuse our passion, but feed it, as being employed in representing the injury, rather than bridling our irrational excess. Well, then, do not believe anger. Men credit their passion, and that foments it. In an unjust cause, when Sarah was passionate, you see how confident she is, Gen. xvi. 5, `The Lord judge between me and thee., It would 140have been ill for her if the Lord had umpired between her and Abraham. It was a strange confidence, when she was in the wrong, to appeal to God. You see anger is full of mistakes, and it seemeth just and righteous when it doth nothing less than work the righteousness of God. The heathens suspected themselves when under the power of their anger. `I would beat thee, saith one, `if I were not angry,128128`Caedissem te nisi iratus essem.,—Plato. When you are under the power of a passion, you have just cause to suspect all your apprehensions; you are apt to mistake others, and to mistake your own spirits. Passion is blind, and cannot judge; it is furious, and hath no leisure to debate and consider.

Obs. 3. From that anger of man and righteousness of God. Note the opposition, for there is an emphasis in those two words man and God. The point is, that a wrathful spirit is a spirit most unsuitable to God. God being the God of peace, requireth pacatum animum—a quiet and composed spirit. Thunder is in the lower regions, inferiora fulminant; all above is quiet. Wrathful men are most unfit either to act grace or to receive grace; to act grace by drawing nigh to God in worship, for worship must carry proportion with the object of it, as the God that is a spirit, John iv. 27, will be served in spirit; so the God of peace with a peaceable mind. So to receive grace from God: angry men give place to Satan, but grieve the Spirit, Eph. iv. 26, 27, with 30, and so are more fit to receive sin than grace. God is described, Ps. ii. 4, to `sit in the heavens, which noteth a quiet and composed posture; and truly, as he sitteth in the heavens, so he dwelleth in a meek and quiet spirit.

Obs. 4. The last note is more general, from the whole verse: that man's anger is usually evil and unrighteous. Anger and passion is a sin with which the people of God are many times surprised, and too often do they swallow it without grief and remorse, out of a conceit partly that their anger is such as is lawful and allowed; partly that it is but a venial evil, and of sudden surreption, for which there is a pardon of course.

I shall therefore endeavour two things briefly:—

1. Show you what anger is sinful.

2. How sinful, and how great an evil it is.

First, To state the matter, that it. is necessary, for all anger is not sinful; one sort of it falleth under a concession, another under a command, another under the just reproofs of the word.

[1.] There are some indeliberable motions, which Jerome calleth propassions,129129`Προπάθειαι, non πάθη.—Hieron. Epist. ad Demet. sudden and irresistible alterations, which are the infelicities of nature, not the sins;130130`Infirmitates, non iniquitates.,—Ambros. tolerable in themselves, if rightly stinted. A man is not to be stupid and insensate: anger in itself is but a natural motion to that which is offensive; and (as all passions) is so long lawful as it doth not make us omit a duty, or dispose us to a sin, or exceed the value of its impulsive cause. So the apostle saith, `Be angry, and sin not, Eph. iv. 26. He alloweth what is natural, forbiddeth what is sinful.

[2.] There is a necessary holy anger, which is the whetstone of 141fortitude and zeal. So it is said, `Lot's righteous soul was vexed, 2 Peter ii. 7. So Christ himself, Mark iii. 5. `He looked about him with anger., So Moses, wrath waxed hot, Exod. xi. 8. This is but an advised motion of the will, guided by the rules of reason. Certainly they are angry and sin not who are angry at nothing but sin: it is well when every passion serveth the interests of religion. However, let me tell you, this being a fierce and strong motion of the spirit, it must be used with great advice and caution. (1.) The principle must be right. God's interests and ours are often twisted, and many times self interposeth the more plausibly because it is varnished with a show of religion; and we are more apt to storm at indignities and affronts offered to ourselves rather than to God. The Samaritans rejected Christ, and in the name of Christ the apostles, they presently called for fire from heaven; but our Lord saith, Luke ix. 55, `Ye know not what mariner of spirit ye are of., It is good to look to the impulses upon which our spirits are acted; pride and self-love is apt to rage at our own contempt and disgrace; and the more securely when the main interest is God's. A river many times loseth its savour when it is mingled with other streams; and zeal that boileth up upon an injury done to God may prove carnal, when it is fed with the accessions of our own contempt and interest.131131Πραείᾳ μὲν ψύχῃ τὰς καθ᾽ ἑαυτοῦ διαβολὰς ὑποφέρων, &c.,—Basil ad Fratres in Eremo. It is observed of Moses, that he was most meek in his own cause. When Miriam and Aaron spoke against him, it is said, Num. xii. 3, `The man Moses was meek above all men in the earth;, but when the law was made void, he broke the tables, and his meek spirit was heightened into some excess of zeal. By that action you would have judged his temper hot and furious. Lot's spirit was vexed, but it was with Sodom's filthiness, not with Sodom's injuries. Zeal is too good an affection to be sacrificed to the idol of our own esteem and interests. (2.) It must have a right object: the heat of indignation must be against the crime, rather than against the person: good anger is always accompanied with grief; it prompteth us to pity and pray for the party offending. Mark iii. 5, Christ `looked about him with anger, and was grieved for the hardness of their hearts., False zeal hath mischief and malice in it; it would have the offender rooted out, and purposeth revenge rather than correction. (3.) The manner must be right. See that you be not tempted to any indecency and unhandsomeness of expression; violent and troubled expressions argue some carnal commotion in the spirit. Moses was angry upon a good cause, but he `spake unadvisedly with his lips, Ps. cvi. 33. In religious contests men are more secure, as if the occasion would warrant their excesses; and so often anger is vented the more freely, and lieth unmortified under a pretence of zeal.

[3.] There is a sinful anger when it is either—;(1.) Hasty and indeliberate. Kash and sudden motions are never without sin. Some pettish spirits are, as I said, like fine glasses, broken as soon as touched, and all of fire upon every slight and trifling occasion; when meek and grave spirits are like flints, that do not send out a spark but after violent and great collision. Feeble minds have a habit of wrath, 142and, like broken bones, are apt to roar with the least touch: it argueth much unmortifiedness to be so soon moved. Or, (2.) Immoderate, when it exceedeth the merits of the cause, as being too much, or kept too long: too much when the commotion is so immoderate as to discompose the spirit, or to disturb reason, or to interrupt prayer, and the free exercise of the spirit in duties of religion. When men have lost that patience in which they should possess and enjoy themselves, Luke xxi. 19. There is a rational dislike that may be allowed, but such violent commotions are not without sin. Too long: anger should be like a spark, soon extinguished; like fire in straw, rather than like fire in iron. Thoughts of revenge are sweet, but when they stay long in the vessel they are apt to wax eager and sour. New wine is heady, but if it be kept long, it groweth tart. Anger is furious, but if it be detained, it is digested and concocted into malice. Aristotle reckoneth three degrees of angry men, each of which is worse than the former; some are hasty, others are bitter, others are implacable.132132`Ὀργιλοὶ, πικροὶ, χάλεποι.,—Arist. Ethic., lib. iv. cap. 18. Wrath retained desisteth not without revenge. Oh! consider this spirit is most unchristian. The rule of the word is, `Let not the sun go down upon your wrath, Eph. iv. 26. This is a fire that must be covered ere we go to bed: if the sun leave us angry, the next morning he may find us malicious. Plutarch saith of the Pythagoreans that if any offence had fallen out in the day, they would before sunset mutually embrace one another, and depart in love.133133`Πυθαγορικοὶ γένει μηδὲν προσήκοντες, ἀλλὰ κοινοῦ λόγου μετέχοντες, εἴποτε προαχθεῖεν εἰς λοιδορίαν ὑπ᾽ ὀργῆς, πρὶν τὸν ἡλιον δῦναι τὰς δεξιὰς ἐμβάλλοντες ἀλλήλοις καὶ ἀσπασάμενοι διελύοντο.,—Plutarch. And there is a story of Patricius and John of Alexandria, between whom great anger had passed; but at evening John sent to him this message, The sun is set; upon which they were soon reconciled. (3.) Causeless, without a sufficient ground: Mat. v. 22, `Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, is in danger of judgment., But now the great inquiry is, What is a sufficient cause for anger? Are injuries? I answer—No; our religion forbiddeth revenge as well as injury, for they differ only in order. The ill-doing of another doth not loosen and take away the bond of our love. When men are provoked by an injury, they think they may do anything; as if another's injury had exempted them from the obedience of God's law. This is but to repeat and act over their sins: it was bad in them, it is worse in us; for he that sinneth by example sinneth twice,134134`Qui exemplo peccat bis peccat., because he had an instance of the odiousness of it in another. To `answer a fool according to his folly `is to be `like him, Prov. xxvi. 4; to practise that myself which I judge odious in another; and certainly it cannot be any property of a good man purposely to be evil because another is so.135135`Qui referre injuriam nititur, eum ipsum a quo laesus est gestit imitari; et qui malum imitatur bonus esse nullo pacto potest.,—Lactant. de Vero Cultu, lib. 6. cap. 10. But are mishaps a cause? I answer—No; this were not only anger, but murmuring, and a storming against providence, by which all events, that are to us casual, are determined. But are the miscarriages of children and servants a cause? I answer—If it be in spiritual matters, anger justly moderated is a duty. If in moral and civil, only a rational and temperate displeasure is lawful. For it 143is but a natural dislike and motion of the soul against what is unhand some and troublesome. But we must see that we regard measure, and time, and other circumstances. (4.) Such as is without a good end. The end of all anger must be the correction of offences, not the execution of our own malice. Always that anger is evil which hath somewhat of mischief in it, which aimeth not so much at the conviction and reclaiming of an offender as his disgrace and confusion. The stirring of the spirit is not sinful till revenge mingle with it. Well, then, as there must be a good cause, there must be a good end. Cain was angry with Abel without a cause, and therefore his anger was wicked and sinful, Gen. iv. 5. But Esau had some cause to be angry with Jacob, and yet his anger was not excusable, because there was mischief and revenge in it, Gen. xxvii. 41.

Secondly, My next work is to show you how sinful it is. I have been larger in the former part than my method permitted; I shall the more contract myself in this. Consider an argument or two.

1. Nothing maketh room for Satan more than wrath: Eph. iv. 26, 27, `Be angry and sin not;, and it followeth, `Give not place to the devil;, as if the apostle had said, If you give place to wrath, you will give place to Satan, who will further and further close with you. When passions are neglected they are ripened into habits, and then the devil hath a kind of right in us. The world is full of the tragical effects of anger, and therefore, when it is harboured and entertained, you do not know what may be the issue of it.

2. It much woundeth your own peace. When the apostle had spoken of the sad effects of anger, he added, Eph. iv. 30, `And grieve not the Holy Spirit, by which you are sealed to the day of redemption., The Spirit cannot endure an unquiet mansion and habitation: wrathful and fro ward spirits usually want their seal, that peace and establishment which others enjoy; for the violences of anger do not only discompose reason, but disturb conscience. The Holy Ghost loveth a sedate and meek spirit; the clamour and tumult of passion frighteth him from us, and it is but just with God to let them want peace of conscience that make so little conscience of peace.

3. It disparageth Christianity: the glory of our religion lieth in the power that it hath to sanctify and meeken the spirit. Now when men that profess Christ break out into such rude and indiscreet excesses, they stain their profession, and debase faith beneath the rate of reason, as if morality could better cure the irregularities of nature than religion. Heathens are famous for their patience under injuries, discovered not only in their sayings and rules for the bridling of passion, but in their practice. Many of their sayings were very strict and exact; for, by the progressive inferences of reason, they fancied rules of perfection, but indeed looked upon them as calculated for talk, rather than practice. But when I find them in their lives passing by offences with a meek spirit, without any disturbance and purposes of revengeful returns, I cannot but wonder, and be ashamed that I have less command and rule of my own spirit than they had, having so much advantage of rule and motive above them. As when I read that Lycurgus136136Plutarch, in Vita Lycurgi. had one of his eyes struck out by an insolent young man, 144and yet used much lenity and love to the party that did it, how can I choose but blush at those eager prosecutions that are in my own spirit upon every light distaste, that I must have limb for limb, tooth for tooth, and cannot be quiet till I have returned reviling for reviling? &c. Certainly I cannot dishonour the law of Christ more than to do less than they did by the law of nature.

Ver. 21. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the ingrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

The apostle having formerly spoken of the power of the word, and from thence inferred that it should be heard willingly, and without a cavilling or contradicting spirit, and to that purpose having shown the evil of wrath, he again enforceth the main exhortation of laying aside all wrathful and exulcerated affections, that they might be fitter to entertain the word with an honest and meek heart, for their comfort and salvation. There is in the verse a duty, and that is, `receiving of the word;, the help to it, and that is, `laying aside, evil frames of spirit. Then there is the manner how this duty is to be performed, `with meekness;, then the next end, and that is `ingrafting the word;, then the last end, which is propounded by way of motive, `which is able to save your souls.,

Wherefore, that is, because wrath is such an hindrance to the righteousness which God requireth; or it may be referred to the whole context, upon all these considerations.

Lay apart, ἀποθέμενοι.—The force of the word implieth we should put it off as an unclean rag or worn garment: the same metaphor is used by the apostle Paul: Eph. iv. 22, `That ye put off the old man, which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts;, and Col. iii. 8, in a very like case, `But now put off these, anger, malice, wrath, blasphemy, filthy communication.

All filthiness, πᾶσαν ῥυπαρίαν.—The word is sometimes put for the filthiness of ulcers, and for the nastiness and filth of the body through sweating, and is here put to stir up the greater abomination against sin, which is elsewhere called `the filth of the flesh, 1 Peter iii. 21. Some suppose the apostle intendeth those lusts which are most beastly, and have greatest turpitude in them; but either the sense must be more general to imply all sin, or more particularly restrained to filthy and evil speaking, or else it will not so well suit with the context.

And superfluity of naughtiness, τὴν περισσείαν κακίας. It may be rendered `the overflowing of malice;, and so it noteth scoffs, and railings, and evil speakings, which are the superfluity of that in which everything is superfluous; and these are specified in a parallel place of the apostle Peter, 1 Peter ii. 1, to which James might allude, writing after him. Beza rendereth it `the excrement of wickedness., Some make it an allusion to the garbage of the sacrifices in the brook Kedron. Most take it generally for that abundance of evil and filthiness that is in the heart of man.

And receive.—A word often used for the appropriation of the word, and admitting the power of it into our hearts. Receive, that is, give it more way to come to you; make more room for it in your hearts. 145Thus it is charged upon them, 2 Thes. ii. 10, that `they received not the love of the truth., So it is said of the natural man, οὐ δέχεται, `He receiveth not the things of God., This is a notion so proper to this matter, that the formal act of faith is expressed by it, John i. 11, `To as many as received him, &c.

With meekness; that is, with a teachable mind, with a modest, submissive spirit.

The ingrafted word, λόγον ἔμφυτον.—Some refer it to reason, others to Christ, but with much absurdity; for this word noteth the end and fruit of hearing, that the word may be planted in us; and the apostle showeth that, by the industry of the apostles, the word was not only propounded to them, but rooted in them by faith. The like metaphor is elsewhere used: `I have planted, 1 Cor. iii. 6, that is, God by his means; and the metaphor is continued, Col. i. 6, λόγος καρποφορούμενος, a phrase that noteth the flourishing and growing of the word after the planting of it in the soul.

Which is able to save; that is, instrumentally, as it is accompanied with the divine grace; for the gospel is `the power of God unto salvation., Rom. i. 16.

Your souls; that is, yourselves, bodies and souls. Salvation is attri buted to the soul by way of eminency, the principal part being put for the whole: Rom. xiii. 1, `Let every soul be subject to the higher powers, that is, every person. So in other places the same manner of expression is used in this very matter: 1 Peter i. 9, `The end of your faith, the salvation of your souls;, so Mat. xvi. 20, `Lose his own soul, that is, himself. In such forms of speech the body is not excluded, because it always followeth the state of the soul.

The notes are many: I shall be the briefer.

Obs. 1. From that laying aside. Before we come to the word there must be preparation. They that look for the bridegroom had need trim up their lamps. The instrument must be tuned ere it can make melody. Hash entering upon duties is seldom successful. God may meet us unawares, such is his mercy; but it is a great adventure. The people were to wash their clothes when they went to hear the law, Exod. xix. 10. Something there must be done to prepare and fix the heart to seek the Lord, 2 Chron. xx. 19; Ps. lvi. 8. Solomon saith, `Take heed to thy foot when thou goest into the house of God, Eccles. v. 1. The heathens had one in their temples to remember them that came to worship of their work; he was to cry, Hoc age. Many come to hear, but they do not consider the weight and importance of the duty. Christ saith, Luke viii. 18, `Take heed how you hear., It were well there were such a sound in men's ears in the times of their approaches to God; some to cry to them, `Oh, take heed how you hear., It is good to be `swift to hear, but not to be rash and inconsiderate. Do not make such haste as to forget to take God along with you. You must begin duties with duties.137137`Iter ad pietatem est intra pietatem., Special duties require a special setting apart of the heart for God, but all require something. Inconsiderate addresses are always fruitless. We come on, and go off, and there is all. We do not come with expectation, and go without satisfaction. Well, then, come with more advised care when you come to wait upon 146God; look to your feet, and come prepared. Let me speak one word by way of caution, and another by way of direction.

1. By way of caution. (1.) Do not exclude God out of your preparations. Usually men mistake in this matter, and hope by their own care to work themselves into a fitness of spirit. Preparation consisteth much in laying aside evil frames; and before you lay aside other evil frames, lay aside self-confidence: Prov. xvi. 1, `The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord;, the very dispositions and motions of the spirit are from him. It is a wrong to that text to expound it so as if the preparation were from man and the success from God; both are from the Lord. God's children have entered comfortably upon duties, when they have seen God in their preparations: Ps. lxxi. 16, `I will go forth in the strength of God;, that is, to the duty of praise, as is clear in the context. (2.) Though you cannot get your hearts into such a frame as you do desire, trust God: `Faith is the evidence of things not seen, Heb. xi. 1; and that help which is absent to sense and feeling may be present to faith. A bell may be long in rising, but it ringeth loud when it is once up. You do not know how God may come in. The eunuch read, and understood not, and God sent him an interpreter, Acts viii. When you begin duty you are dead and indisposed; but you do not know with what sensible approaches of his grace and power he may visit you ere it be over. It is not good to neglect duty out of discouragements; this were to commit one sin to excuse another: `Say not, I am a child, Jer. i. 6: `I am slow of lips, `Who made the mouth?, Exod. iv. 10, 11.

2. By way of direction. I cannot go out into all the severals of preparation, how the heart must be purged, faith exercised, repentance renewed, wants and weaknesses reviewed, God's glory considered, the nature^ grounds, and ends of the ordinances weighed in our thoughts. Only, in the general, so much preparation there must be as will make the heart reverent. God will be served with a joy mixed with trembling: the heart is never right in worship till it be possessed with an awe of God: `How dreadful is this place!, Gen. xxviii. 17. And again, such preparation as will settle the bent of the spirit heavenward. It is said somewhere, `They set themselves to seek the Lord; and David saith, Ps. lvii. 7, `My heart is fixed, my heart is fixed;, that is, composed to a heavenly and holy frame. And again, such preparation as will make you come humble and hungry. Grace is^usually given to the desiring soul: `He hath filled the hungry with good things, Luke i. 53. Again, such as erecteth and raiseth the heart into a posture of expectation. It is often said, `Be it to thee according to thy faith., They that look for nothing find nothing; Christ's greater things are for those that believe, John i. 50.

Obs. 2. Christian preparation consists most in laying aside and dispossessing evil frames. Weeds must be rooted out before the ground is fit to receive the seed: `Plough up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns, Jer. iv. 3. There is an unsuitableness between a filthy spirit and the pure holy word; and therefore they that will not leave their accustomed sins are unfit hearers. The matter must be prepared ere it can receive the form. Some translate Paul's δοκιμαζέτω 147ἑαυτὸν, 1 Cor. xi. 28, `Let him purge himself, get away his dross and corruption. All this showeth the need of renewing repentance before the hearing the word; that sin being dispossessed, there may be room for the entrance of grace. Noxious weeds are apt to grow again in the best minds; therefore, as the leper under the law was still to keep his hair shaven, Lev. xiv., so should we cut and shave, that though the roots of sin remain, yet they may not grow and sprout. There is an extraordinary vanity in some men, that will lay aside their sins before some solemn duties, but with a purpose to return to the folly of them; as they fable the serpent layeth aside his poison when he goeth to drink. They say to their lusts as Abraham to his servants, `Tarry you here, for I must go yonder and worship; I will come again to you, Gen. xxii. 5. They do not take an everlasting farewell of their sins. But, however, they are wiser than those that come reeking from their sins into God's presence: this is to dare him to his face. The Jews are chidden for praying with their `hands full of blood, Isa. i. 15. They came boldly, before they had been humbled for their oppression: `If her father had spat in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days?, Num. xii. 14. After great rebellions there should be a solemn humbling and purging. What can men that come in their sins expect from God? Their state confuteth their worship. God will have nothing to do with them, and he marvelleth they should have anything to do with him. He hath nothing to do with them: Job viii. 20, `He will not help the evil doers;, in the original, `He will not take the wicked by the hand;, and he wondereth you should have anything to do with him: `What hast thou to do to take my words into thy mouth?, Ps. l. 16.

Obs. 3. From the word laying aside, ἀποθέμενοι. Put it off as a rotten and filthy garment. Sin must be left with an utter detestation: Isa. xxx. 22, `Thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth; thou shalt say, Get ye hence., Sin is often expressed by abomination; it is so to God, it should be so to men. Faint resistance argueth some inclination of the mind to it. Here affections should be drawn out to their height; grief should become contrition, anger should be heightened into rage and indignation, and shame should be turned into confusion; no displeasure can be strong and keen enough for sin.

Obs. 4. From that all. We must not lay aside sin in part only, but all sin. So in Peter, the particle is universal, πᾶσαν κακίαν, 1 Peter ii. 1, `all malice: `and David saith, `I hate every false way, Ps. cxix. True hatred is εἰς τὰ γένη,138138Arist. Rhet. in Pass. od. to the whole kind. When we hate sin as sin, we hate all sin. The heart is most sincere when the hatred is general. The least sin is dangerous, and in its own nature deadly and destructive. Caesar was stabbed with bodkins. We read of some that have been devoured of wild beasts, lions and bears; but of others that have been eaten up of vermin, mice, or lice. Pope Adrian was choked with a gnat. The least sins may undo you. You know what Christ speaketh of a little leaven. Do not neglect the least sins, or excuse yourselves in any Rimmon. Carry out yourselves against all known sins, and pray as he, Job xxxiv. 32, `That which 148I see not, teach thou me; if I have done iniquity, I will do so no more.,

Obs. 5. From that word filthiness. Sin is filthiness; it snllieth the glory and beauty of the soul, defaceth the image of God. This expression is often used, `Filthiness of flesh and spirit, 2 Cor. vii. 1, where not only gross wickedness, such as proceedeth from fleshly and brutish lusts, is called filthiness, but such as is more spiritual, unbelief, heresy, or misbelief, &c., nay, original corruption is called so: Job xiv. 4, `Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?, so Job xv. 14, `How can man be clean?, Nay, things glorious in the eyes of men. Duties they are called dung, because of the iniquity that is found in them: Mal. ii. 3, `I will spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts., So it was in God's eyes. The Spirit of God everywhere useth comparisons taken from things that are most odious, that our hearts may be wrought into the greater detestation of sin. Certainly they are much mistaken that think sin an ornament, when the Spirit of God calleth it dung and excrement. But more especially I find three sins called filthiness in scripture:—(1.) Covetousness, because it debaseth the spirit of man, and maketh him stoop to such indecencies as are beneath humanity; so it is said, `filthy lucre, 1 Peter v. 2. (2.) Lust, which in scripture dialect is called filthiness, or the sin of unclearness, 1 Thes. iv. 7, because it maketh a man to subject or submit his desires to the beasts, happiness, which is sensual pleasures. (3.) In this place, anger and malice is called filthiness. We please ourselves in it, but it is but filthiness; it is brutish to yield to our rage and the turbulent agitation of our spirits, and not to be able to withstand a provocation; it is worse than poison in toads or asps, or what may be conceived to be most filthy in the creatures; poison in them doth hurt others, it cannot hurt themselves; anger may not hurt others, it cannot choose but hurt us. Well, then, all that hath been said is an engagement to us to resist sin, to detest it as a defilement; it will darken the glory of our natures. There are some `spots that are not as the spots of God's children, Deut. xxxii. 5. Oh! let us get rid of these `filthy garments, Zech. iii. 4-6, and desire change of raiment, the righteousness of Christ. Ay! but there are some lesser sins that are spots too: `The garment spotted by the flesh, Jude 23; unseemly words are called `filthiness, Eph. v. 4, and duties `dung.,

Obs. 6. From that superfluity of wickedness. That there is abundance of wickedness to be purged out of the heart of man. Such a fulness as runneth over, a deluge of sin: Gen. vi. 5, `All the imaginations of the heart are evil, only evil, and that continually;, it runneth out into every thought, into every desire, into every purpose. As there is saltness in every drop of the sea, and bitterness in every branch of wormwood, so sin in everything that is framed within the soul. Whatever an unclean person touched, though it were holy flesh, it was unclean; so all our actions are poisoned with it. Dan. ix. 27, we read of `the overspreading of abominations;, and David saith, Ps. xiv., `They are all become vile, and gone out of the way;, all, and all over. In the understanding there are filthy thoughts and purposes; there sin beginneth: fish stink first at the head. In the 149will filthy motions; the affections mingle with filthy objects. The memory, that should be like the ark, the chest of the law, retaineth, like the grate of a sink, nothing but mud and filthiness. The conscience is defiled and stained with the impurities of our lives; the members are but instruments of filthiness. A rolling eye provoketh a wanton fancy, and stirreth up unclean glances: 2 Peter ii. 14, `Having eyes full of adultery;, in the original, μοιχαλίδος, `full of the adulteress., The tongue bewrayeth the rottenness of the heart in filthy speaking. Oh! what cause we have to bless God that there is `a fountain opened for uncleanness, Zech. xiii. 1. Certainly conversion is not an easy work, there is such a mass of corruption to be laid aside.

Obs. 7. From that receive. Our duty in hearing the word is to receive it. See places in the exposition. In the word there is the hand of God's bounty, reaching out comfort and counsel to us; and there must be the hand of faith to receive it. In receiving there is an act of the understanding, in apprehending the truth and musing upon it. So Christ saith, Luke ix. 44, `Let these sayings sink down into your minds, Let them not float in the fancy, but enter upon the heart, as Solomon speaketh of wisdom's entering into the heart, Prov. ii. 10. And there is an act of faith, the crediting and believing faculty is stirred up to entertain it. So the apostle saith, `mingled with faith in the hearing, Heb. iv. 2, that is, mingled with our heart, or closely applied to our hearts. And there is an act of the will and affections to embrace and lodge it in the soul, which is called somewhere `a receiving the truth in love, when we make room for it, that carnal affections and prejudices may not vomit and throw it up again. Christ complaineth somewhere that `his word had no place in them, οὐ χώραν ἔχει ἐν ὑμῖν, it cannot find any room, or be safely lodged in you; but, like a hot morsel or queasy bit, it was soon given up again.

Obs. 8. The word must be received with all meekness. Christ was anointed to preach glad tidings to the meek, Isa. lxi. 1. They have most right in the gospel. The main business will be to show what this meekness is. Consider its opposites. Since the fall graces are best known by their contraries. It excludeth three things:—(1.) A wrathful fierceness, by which men rise in a rage against the word. When they are admonished, they revile. Deep conviction provoketh many times fierce opposition: Jer. vi. 10, `The word of the Lord is to them a reproach., They think the minister raileth when he doth but discover their guilt to them. (2.) A proud stubbornness, when men are resolved to hold their own; and though the premises fall before the word, yet they maintain the conclusion: Jer. ii. 25, `Refrain thy foot from bareness, and thy throat from thirst;, that is, why will you trot to Egypt for help, you will get nothing but bareness and thirst; but they said, `Strangers have we loved, and them will we follow;, that is, Say what thou wilt, we will take our own way and course. So Jer. xliv. 16, 17, `We will not hearken to thee, but will certainly do whatsoever goeth out of our own mouth., Men scorn to strike sail before the truth, and though they cannot maintain an opposition, yet they will continue it. (3.) A contentious wrangling, which is found in men of an unsober wit, that scorn to captivate the pride of reason, and therefore 150stick to every shift. The psalmist saith, Ps. xxv. 8, 9, `He will teach sinners the way. The meek he will guide in judgment; the meek he will teach his way., Of all sinners, God taketh the meek sinner for his scholar. There is difficulty enough in the scriptures to harden the obstinate. Camero139139Camer, lib. de notis verbi Dei. observeth that the scriptures are so penned that they that have a mind to know may know; and they that have a mind to wrangle may take occasion enough of offence, and justly perish by the rebellion of their own reason; for, saith he, God never meant to satisfy hominibus praefracti ingenii, men of a stubborn and perverse wit. And Tertullian140140`Non periclitor dicere ipsas scripturas ita dispositas esse, ut materiam subministrarent haereticis.,—Tertul. had observed the same long before him: that God had so disposed the scriptures, that they that will not be satisfied might be hardened. Certain we are that our Saviour Christ saith, Mark iv. 11, 12, that `these things are done in parables, that seeing they might not see, nor perceive and understand;, that is, for a just punishment of wilful blindness and hardness, that those that would not see might not see. So elsewhere our Lord saith, that `he that will do the will of God shall know what doctrine is of God, John vii. 17. When the heart is meekened to obey a truth, the mind is soon opened to conceive of it.

Secondly, My next work is to show what it includeth. (1.) Humility and brokenness of spirit. There must be insection before insition, meekness before ingrafting. Gospel revivings are for the contrite heart, Isa. lvii. 15. The broken heart is not only a tamed heart, but a tender heart, and then the least touch of the word is felt: `Those that tremble at my word, Isa. lxvi. 2. (2.) Teachableness and tractableness of spirit. There is an ingenuous as well as a culpable facility: `The wisdom that is from above is gentle, and easy to be entreated, James iii. 17. It is good to get a tractable frame. The servants of God come with a mind to obey; they do but wait for the discovery of their duty: Acts x. 33, `We are all here present before God, to hear the things that are commanded thee of God., They came not with a mind to dispute, but practise. Oh! consider, perverse opposition will be your own ruin. It is said, Luke vii. 30, `They rejected the counsel of God, but it was `against themselves;, that is, to their own loss. So Acts xiii. 46, `Ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life., Disputing against the word, it is a judging yourselves; it is as if, in effect, you should say, I care not for God, nor all the tenders of grace and glory that he maketh to me.

Obs. 9. The word must not only be apprehended by us, but planted in us. It is God's promise: Jer. xxxi. 33, `I will put my laws in their hearts, and write them in their inward parts;, that is, he will enlighten our minds to the understanding of his will, and frame our hearts and affections to the obedience of it, so that we shall not only know duty, but have an inclination to it, which is the true ingrafting of the word. Then `the root of the matter is within us, Job xix. 28; that is, the comfort of God's promises rooted in the heart. So 1 John iii. 9, `His seed abideth in him;, that is, the seed of the word planted in the heart. Look to it, then, that the word be ingrafted in you, that 151it do not fall like seed on the stony ground, so as it cannot take root. You will know it thus:—(1.) If it be ingrafted, it will be λόγος καρποφορούμενος, `a fruitful word, Col. i. 6; it will spring up in your conversation; the `stalk of wickedness, Ezek. vii. 11, will not grow so much as the word. (2.) The graft draweth all the sap of the stock to itself. All your affections, purposes, cares, thoughts, will serve the word: Rom. vi. 17, εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε τύπον διδαχῆς. They were delivered over into the stamp and mould of the word that was delivered to them. All affections and motions of the spirit are cast into the mould of religion.

Obs. 10. That the word in God's hand is an instrument to save our souls. It is sometimes called `the word of truth, at other times, `the word of life;, the one noteth the quality of it, the other the fruit of it. It is called `the power of God., Rom. i. 16, and `the arm of the Lord:, Isa. liii. 1, `Who hath believed our report? to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?, By our report God's arm is conveyed into the soul. The use to which God hath deputed the word should beget a reverence to it. The gospel is a saving word; let us not despise the simplicity of it. Gospel truths should not be too plain for our mouths, or too stale for your ears. `I am not ashamed of the gospel, saith the apostle, `for it is the power of God to salvation.,

Obs. 11. That the main care of a Christian should be to save his soul. This is propounded as an argument why we should hear the word; it will save your souls. Usually our greatest care is to gratify the body. Solomon saith, `All a man's labour is for the mouth;, that is, to support the body in a decent state. Oh! but consider this is but the worser part; and who would trim the scabbard and let the sword rust? Man is in part an angel, and in part a beast. Why should we please the beast in us, rather than the angel? In short, your greatest fear should be for the soul, and your greatest care should be for the soul. Your greatest fear: Mat. x. 28, `Fear not them that can destroy the body, but fear him that can cast both body and soul into hell fire., There is a double argument. The body is but the worser part, and the body is alone; but on the other side, the soul is the more noble part, and the state of the body dependeth upon the well or ill being of the soul: he is `able to cast both soul and body, &c., and therefore it is the greatest imprudence in the world, out of a fear of the body, to betray the soul. So your greatest care, riches and splendour in the world, these are the conveniences of the body, and what good will they do you, when you come to be laid in the cold silent grave? Mat. xvi. 26, `What profit hath a man, if he win the whole world, and lose his own soul?, It is but a sorry exchange that, to hazard the eternal welfare of the soul for a short fruition of the world. So Job xxvii. 8, `What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh his soul?, There is many a carnal man that pursueth the world with a fruitless and vain attempt; they `rise early, go to bed late, eat the bread of sorrows;, yet all will not do. But suppose they have gained and taken the prey in hunting, yet what will it profit him when body and soul must part, and though the body be decked, yet the soul must go into misery and darkness, without any furniture and provision for another life? 152what hope will his gain minister to him? Oh! that we were wise to consider these things, that we would make it our work to provide for the soul, to clothe the soul for another world, that we would wait upon God in the word, that our souls may be furnished with every spiritual and heavenly excellency, that we may not be `found naked, saith the apostle, 2 Cor. v. 3.

Obs. 12. That they that have received the word must receive it again: though it were ingrafted in them, yet receive it that it may save your souls. God hath deputed it to be a means not only of regeneration, but salvation; and therefore, till we come to heaven, we must use this help. They that live above ordinances, do not live at all, spiritually, graciously. Painted fire needeth no fuel. The word, though it be an immortal seed, yet needeth constant care and watering. But of this before.

Ver. 22. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

This verse catcheth hold of the heel of the former. He had spoken of the fruit of the word, the salvation of the soul; that it may be obtained, he showeth that we should not only hear, but practise.

But be ye doers of the word; that is, real observers. There is a sentence of Paul that, for sound, is like this, but is indeed quite to another sense: Rom. ii. 13, `For not the hearers of the law, but the doers, are just before God., Doer is there taken for one that satisfieth the law, and fulfilleth it in every tittle; for the apostle's drift is to prove that the Jews, notwithstanding their privilege of having the oracles of God committed to them, were never a whit the nearer justification before God. But here, by doers are implied those that receive the work of the word into their hearts, and express the effect of it in their lives. There are three things which make a man a ποιητὴς, a doer of the word—faith, love, and obedience.

And not hearers only.—Some neither hear nor do; others hear, but they rest in it. Therefore the apostle doth not dissuade from hearing; `Hear, saith he, but `not only.,

Deceiving, παραλογιζομένοι.—The word is a term of art: it implieth a sophistical argument or syllogism, which hath an appearance or probability of truth, but is false in matter or form; and is put by the apostle to imply those false discourses which are in the consciences of men. Paul useth the same word to imply that deceit which men impose upon others by colourable persuasions: Col. ii. 4, `Let no man παραλογίζῃ, deceive you with enticing words.,

Your own selves.—The argument receiveth force from these words. If a man would baffle other men, he would not put a paralogism upon himself, deceive himself in a matter of so great consequence. Or else it may be a monition; you deceive yourselves, but you cannot deceive God.

The notes are:—

Obs. l.^That hearing is good, but should not be rested in. The apostle saith, `Be not hearers only., Many go from sermon to sermon, hear much, but do not digest it in their thoughts. The Jews were much in turning over the leaves of `the scriptures, but did not weigh the matter of them: therefore I suppose our Saviour reproveth them, John v.39, 153 `You search the scriptures., That ἐρευνᾶτε there seemeth to be indicative, rather than imperative, especially since it followeth, `for in them ye think to have eternal life., They thought it was enough to be busy in the letter of the scripture, and that bare reading would yield them eternal life: so do others rest in hearing. They that stay in the means are like a foolish workman, that contenteth himself with the having of tools. It is a sad description of some foolish women, 2 Tim. iii. 7, that they are `ever learning, and never coming to the knowledge of the truth., Much hearing will increase our judgment, if there be not a lively impression upon our hearts. The heart of man is so sottish, that they content themselves with the bare presence of the ordinances in their place; it is satisfaction enough that they `have a Levite to their priest, Judges xvii. 13. Others content themselves with their bare presence at the ordinances, though they do not feel the power of them.

Obs. 2. That the doers of the word are the best hearers. That is good when we hear things that are to be done, and do things that are to be heard. That knowledge is best which is most practical, and that hearing is best which endeth in practice. David saith, Ps. cxix. 105, `Thy word is a lantern to my feet, and a light to my steps., That is light indeed which directeth you in your paths and ways. Mat. vii. 24, `He that heareth my words, and doeth them, I will liken him to a wise builder., That is wisdom, to come to the word so as we may go away the better. Divers hearers propound other ends. Some come to the word that they may judge it; the pulpit, which is God's tribunal, is their bar; they come hither to sit judges of men's gifts and parts: James iv. 11, `Thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge., Others come to hear pleasing things, to delight themselves in the elegancy of speech, rarity of conceits, what is finely couched and ordered, not what is proper to their case. This is not an act of religion so much as curiosity, for they come to a sermon with the same mind they would to a comedy or tragedy; the utmost that can be gained from them is commendation and praise: Ezek. xxxiii. 32, `Thou art to them as a lovely song, or one that hath a pleasant voice; but they hear thy words, and do them not:, they were taken with the tinkling and tunableness of the expressions, but did not regard the heavenly matter. So, that fond woman suddenly breaketh out into a commendation of our Lord, but, it seemeth, regarded the person more than the doctrine: Luke xi. 27, `Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps that gave thee suck;, for which our Saviour correcteth her in the next verse, `Yea, rather blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it., You are mistaken; the end of preaching is not to exalt men, but God. You will say An excellent sermon! But what do you gain by it? The hearer's life is the preacher's best commendation, 2 Cor. iii. 1, 2. They that praise the man but do not practise the matter, are like those that taste wines that they may commend them, not buy them. Others come that they may better their parts, and increase their knowledge. Every one desireth to know more than another, to set up themselves; they do so much excel others as they excel them in knowledge: and therefore we are all for notions and head-light, little for that wisdom that `entereth upon the heart, 154Prov. ii. 10, and serveth to better the life; like children in the rickets, that have big heads but weak joints: this is the disease of this age. There is a great deal of curious knowledge, airy notions, but practical saving truths are antiquated and out of date. Seneca observed of the philosophers, that when they grew more learned they were less moral.141141`Boni esse desierunt simul ac docti evaserint.,—Seneca. And generally we find now a great decay of zeal, with the growth of notion and knowledge, as if the waters of the sanctuary had put out the fire of the sanctuary, and men could not be at the same time learned and holy. Others hear that they may say they have heard; conscience would not be pacified without some worship: `They come as my people use to do, Ezek. xxxiii. 31; that is, according to the fashion of the age. Duties by many are used as a sleepy sop to allay the rage of conscience.

The true use of ordinances is to come that we may profit. Usually men speed according to their aim and expectation: `Desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby, 1 Peter ii. 2. So David professeth his aim, Ps. cxix. 11, `Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee., The mind, like the ark, should be the chest of the law, that we may know what to do in every case, and that truths may be always present with us, as Christians find it a great advantage to have truths ready and present, to talk with them upon all occasions, Prov. vi. 21, 22. Oh! it is sweet when we and our reins can confer together, Ps. xvi. 7.

If you cannot find present profit in what you hear, consider how it may be useful for you to the future. Things I confess are not so acceptable when they do not reach the present case; but they have their season, and if come to you, you may bless God that ever you were acquainted with them: Isa. xlii. 23, `Who will hearken and hear for the time to come?, You may be under terrors, and under miseries, and then one of these truths will be exceeding refreshing; or you may be liable to such or such snares when you come to be engaged in the world, or versed in such employments, therefore treasure up every truth of God: provision argueth wisdom; it may concern you in time. Jer. x. 11, the prophet teacheth them how they should defend their religion in Babylon; therefore that sentence is in Chaldee, that he might put words in their mouths, against they came to converse with the Chaldeans: `Thus shall ye say to them, The gods that made not the heavens and the earth, they shall perish from the earth., It is good to provide for Babylon whiles we are in Sion, and not to reject truths as not pertinent to our case, but to reserve them for future use and profit.

Obs. 3. From that παραλογιζομένοι Do not cheat yourselves with a fallacy or false argument. Observe, that self-deceit is founded in some false argumentation or reasoning. Conscience supplieth three offices—of a rule, a witness, and a judge; and so accordingly the act of conscience is threefold. There is συντήρησις, or a right apprehension of the principles of religion; so conscience is a rule: there is συνείδησις, a sense of our actions compared with the rule or known will of God, or a testimony concerning the proportion or disproportion that our actions bear with the word: then, lastly, there is κρίσις, or 155judgment, by which a man applieth to himself those rules of Christianity which concern his fact or state. All these acts of conscience may be reduced into a syllogism or argument. As for instance: he that is wholly carnal hath no interest in Christ; there is the first act, knowledge: but I am wholly carnal; there is the second act, conscience: therefore I have no interest in Christ; there is the third act, judgment. The first act of conscience maketh the proposition, the second the assumption, the third the conclusion. Now all self-deceit is in one of these; propositions. Sometimes conscience is out as a law in the very principles; sometimes as a witness in the assumption; some times as a judge it suspendeth and hideth the conclusion. Sometimes, I say, it faileth as a law, by making an erroneous principle to be the bottom of a strong hope; as here, the principle is naught: `They that hear the word shall be saved., At other times it erreth in the application of the rule; as 1 John i. 6, `If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth;, so 1 John ii. 4. The principle was right, `They that have communion with God are happy;, but `We have communion with God, that was false, because they walked in darkness. So as a judge it doth not pass sentence, but out of self-love forbeareth to judge of the quality of the action or state, that the soul may not be affrightened with the danger of it. You see the deceit; how shall we help it? I answer severally to all these acts and parts of conscience:—

First, That you may build upon right principles:—(1.) It is good to `hide the word in our hearts, and to store the soul with sound knowledge, and that will always rise up against vain hopes; as he that would get weeds destroyed must plant the ground with contrary seeds. When there is much knowledge, your own reins will chasten you; and those sound principles will be talking to you, and speaking by way of check and denial to your sudden and rash presumptions: `Bind the law to thine heart, and when thou wakest it shall talk to thee, Prov. vi. 22. (2.) In the witnessing of conscience observe the reason of it, and let the principle be always in sight: do not credit a single testimony without a clear rule or positive ground. A corrupt conscience usually giveth in a bare report, because the grounds are so slender and insufficient that they come least in sight; for upon a trial conscience would be ashamed of them: as, for instance, this is the report of conscience, Sure I am in a good condition: now ask why? and the conscience will be ashamed of the paralogism in the text—I hear the word, make much of good ministers, &c. And yet this is the secret and inward thought of most men, upon which they build all their hopes; whereas true grounds are open and clear, and are urged together with the report, and so beget a firm and steady confidence in the spirit; as 1 John ii. 3, `Hereby we are sure we know him, that is, enjoy him, have communion with him; for knowing there is knowing him by sense and experience. Now whence did this confidence arise? You shall see from an open and clear ground: We are sure (saith he) because `We keep his commandments, (3.) The grounds upon which conscience goeth should be full and positive. There are three sorts of marks laid down in scripture: some are only exclusive, others inclusive: and between these a middle sort of marks, 156which I may call positive. For exclusive marks, their intent is to deceive i false hope, or to shut out bold pretenders, by showing them how far they come short of an interest in Christ; and usually they are taken from a necessary common work, as hearing the word, praying in secret, attendance upon the ordinances; he that doth not these things is certainly none of God's: but in case he doth them, he cannot conclude his estate to be gracious. It is the paralogism mentioned in the text, to reason from negative marks and the common works of Christianity. It is true, all go not so far; therefore Athanasius wished utinam omnes essent liypocritae—would to God that all were hypocrites, and could undergo the trial of these exclusive marks. All are not diligent hearers; but, however, it is not safe to be hearers only. But, then, there are other marks which are inclusive, which are laid down to show the measures and degrees of grace, and are rather intended for comfort than conviction, which, if they are found in us, we are safe, and in the state of grace; but if not, we cannot conclude a nullity of grace. Thus faith is often described by such effects as are proper to the radiancy and eminent degree of it, and promises are made to such or such raised operations of other graces. The use of these notes is to comfort, or to convince of want of growth. But, again, there is a middle sort of marks between both these, which I call positive; and they are such as are always and only found in a heart truly gracious, because they are such as necessarily infer the inhabitation of the Spirit, and are there where grace is at the lowest. Such the apostle calleth τὰ ἐχόμενα τῆς σωτηρίας, Heb. vi. 9, `Things that accompany salvation, or which necessarily have salvation in them, the sure symptoms of a blessed estate. He had spoken before of a common work, enlightening, and slight tastes and feelings, ver. 4-6. But, saith he, `We are persuaded better things of you, and that you have those necessary evidences to which salvation is infallibly annexed. Now, these must be by great care collected out of the word, that we may be sure the foundation and principle is right.

Secondly, That conscience as a witness may not fail you, take these rules:—(1.) Note the natural and first report of it ere art hath passed upon it. Sudden and indeliberate checks at the word, or in prayer, being the immediate births of conscience, have the less of deceit in them. I have observed that the deceitfulness that is in a wicked man's heart is not so much in the testimony itself of his conscience, as in the many shifts and evasions he useth to avoid the sense of it. Every sinner's heart doth reproach and condemn him; but all their art is how to choke this testimony, or slight it. You know the apostle John referreth the whole decision of all doubts concerning our estate to conscience, 1 John iii. 20, 21. For certainly the first voice of conscience is genuine and unfeigned; for it being privy to all our actions, cannot but give a testimony concerning them; only we elude it. And therefore let wicked men pretend what peace they will, their consciences witness rightly to them; and were it not for those sleights by which they put it off, they might soon discern their estate. The apostle saith, they are `all their lifetime subject to bondage, Heb. ii. 15. They have a wound and torment within them, which is not always felt, but soon awakened, if they were true to themselves. The artificial 157and second report of conscience is deceitful and partial, when it hath been flattered or choked with some carnal sophisms and principles. But the first and native report, which of a sudden pincheth like a stitch in the side, is true and faithful. (2.) Wait upon the word. One main use of it is to help conscience in witnessing, and to bring us and our hearts acquainted with one another: Heb. iv. 12, `The word is quick and powerful, a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart;, it revealeth all those plots and disguises by which we would hide our actions from our own privity and conscience. He saith there, it `divideth between soul and spirit., The soul cleaveth to sin, and the spirit, or mind, plotteth pretences to hide it; but the word discovereth all this self-deceiving sophistry. So 1 Cor. xiv. 25, `The secrets of his heart are made manifest:, that is, to himself, by the conviction of the word. (3.) Ascite conscience, and call it often into the presence of God: 1 Peter iii. 21, `The answer of a good conscience towards God., Will it witness thus to the all-seeing God? When Peter's sincerity was questioned he appeal eth to Christ's omnisciency: John xxi. 17, `Lord, thou knowest all things, and thou knowest that I love thee., Can you appeal to God's omnisciency, and assure your hearts before him? So 1 John iii. 20, `If our hearts condemn us, God is greater than conscience, and knoweth all things., God's omnisciency is there mentioned, because that is the solemn attribute to which conscience appealeth in all her verdicts, which are the more valid when they can be avowed before the God that knoweth all things.

Thirdly, That conscience may do its office as a judge, you must do this:—(1.) When conscience is silent, suspect it; it is naught; we are careless, and our heart is grown senseless and stupid with pleasures. A dead sea is worse than a raging sea. It is not a calm this, but a death. A tender conscience is always witnessing; and therefore, when it never saith, What have I done? it is a sign it is seared. There is a continual parley between a godly man and his conscience; it is either suggesting a duty, or humbling for defects; it is their daily exercise to judge themselves. As God after every day's work reviewed it, and `saw that it was good, Gen. i, so they review each day, and judge of the actions of it. (2.) If conscience do not speak to you, you must speak to conscience. David biddeth insolent men, Ps. iv. 4, to `commune with their hearts, and be still., Take time to parley, and speak with yourselves. The prophet complaineth, Jer. viii. 6, `No man asketh himself, What have I done?, There should be a time to ask questions of our own souls. (3.) Upon every doubt bring things to some issue and certainty. Conscience will sometimes lisp out half a word. Draw it to a full conviction. Nothing maketh the work of grace so doubtful and litigious as this, that Christians content themselves with semi-persuasions, and do not get the case fully cleared one way or another. The Spirit delighteth in a full and plenary conviction: John xvi. 8, ἐλέγξει, `He shall convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment., Conviction is a term of art; it is done when things are laid down so clearly that we see it is impossible it should be otherwise.142142`Τὸ μὴ δύνατον ἄλλως ἔχειν, ἀλλ᾽ ὀͥντως ὡς ἡμεῖς λέγομεν, &c.—Arist. Org. Now this the Spirit doth, whether it be in a 158state of sin or righteousness. God saith he would deal with his people so roundly, `that they might remember, and not open their mouth any more for shame, Ezek. xvi. 63; that is, leave them so convinced, that they might not have a word to say but `Unclean! unclean!, It is good upon every doubt to follow it so close that it may be brought to a certain and determinate issue.

Obs. 4. That men are easily deceived into a good opinion of themselves by their bare hearing. We are apt to pitch upon the good that is in any action, and not to consider the evil of it: I am a hearer of the word, and therefore I am in a good case. Christ's similitude implieth that men build upon their hearing, and make it the foundation of their hopes, Mat. vii. 24, to the end. Watch over this deceit; such a weighty structure should not be raised upon so sandy a foundation. (1.) Consider the danger of such a self-deceit: hearing without practice draweth the greater judgment upon you. Uriah carried letters to Joab, and he thought the contents were for his honour and preferment in the army, but it was but the message of his own destruction. We hear many sermons, and think to come and urge this to God; but out of those sermons will God condemn us. (2.) Consider how far hypocrites may go in this matter. They may sever themselves from following errors, and hear the word constantly: Luke vi. 47, `Whosoever cometh to me, &c. They may approve of the good way, and applaud it: `Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps that gave thee suck, &c., Luke xi. 27, 28. They may hold out a great deal of glavering and false affection: Luke vi. 46, `Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?, They may be endowed with church gifts of prophecy and miracles, be able to talk and discourse savourily of the things of God, do much for the edification of others: `Many will say to me in that day, &c., Mat. vii. 22. They may have a vain persuasion of their faith and interest in Christ: they will say, `Lord, Lord, Mat. vii. 21. They may make some progress in obedience, abstain from grosser sins, and things publicly odious: `Herod did many things, Mark vi.; and Christ saith, `Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, &c., Mat. vii. 19. There must be some thing positive. There may be some external conformity; ay! but there is no effectual change made;, the tree is not good, Mat. vii. 18. Well, therefore, outward duties with partial reformation will not serve the turn. (3.) Consider the easiness of deceit: Jer. xvii. 9, `The heart of man is deceitful above all things; who can find it out?, Who can trace and unravel the mystery of iniquity that is in the soul? Since we lost our uprightness we have many inventions, Eccles. vii. 29, shifts and wiles whereby to avoid the stroke of conscience: they are called, Prov. xx. 27, `the depths of the belly., Look, as in the belly the inwards are folded, and rolled up within one another, so are there turnings and crafty devices in the heart of man.

Ver. 23, 24. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like to a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

Here James amplifieth the former reason, which was taken from the vanity and unprofitableness of bare hearing, by a similitude taken from a man looking in a glass.


If any be a hearer of the word and not a doer; that is, contenteth himself with bare hearing, or bare knowing the word of God, and doth not come away with impulses of zeal, and resolutions of obedience.

Is like a man:—In the original it is ἀνδρὶ, a word proper to the masculine sex, and therefore some frame a criticism. The apostle doth not say, `like a woman , they are more diligent and curious. They view themselves again and again, that they may do away every spot and deformity. But this is more witty than solid. The apostle useth ἀνὴρ promiscuously for man and woman, as ver. 12, `Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, the man or woman: only the masculine sex is specified, as most worthy.

That beholdeth his natural face, τὸ πρόσωπον τῆς γενέσεως, `the face of his nativity.,—What is intended by that? Some say, the face as God made it at its birth, that he may behold God's work in it, and so take occasion to condemn painting, and the artificial cerusse and varnish of the face; or his natural face, upon which men bestow least care. In painting, there is more exactness: or natural face, as importing a glance, as a man passeth by a glass, and seeth that he hath the face of a man, not exactly surveying the several lineaments. Others think the apostle hinteth the thing intended by the similitude—our natural and original deformity—represented in the words, and that he complicateth and foldeth up the thing signified with the expressions of the similitude; but that seemeth forced. I suppose, by `natural face, he meaneth his own face, the glass representing the very face which nature gave him.

He goeth his way, and straightway for getteth what manner of man he was.—He forgetteth the fashion of his countenance, the spots represented therein, and so fitly noteth those weak impressions which the discoveries of the word leave upon a careless soul, who, after his deformity is represented, is not affected with it so as to be brought to repentance.

The notes are these:—

Obs. 1. That the word of God is a glass. But what doth it show us? I answer—;(1.) God and Christ: 2 Cor. iii. 18, `We all with an open face behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and are changed into the same image from glory to glory., A glass implieth the clear est representation that we are capable of here upon earth. I confess a glass is sometimes put for a dark vision; as 1 Cor. xiii. 12, `Now we see but as in a glass, darkly; but then we shall see face to face., Then we shall see God himself: 1 John iii. 2, `We shall see God as he is., But here we have his image and reflection in the word: as sometimes the `heart of flesh, is put for an earthly mind, sometimes for a tender heart. In opposition to `a heart of stone, the `heart of flesh, is taken in a good sense; but, in opposition to pure and sublime affections, in a bad sense. So, in opposition to the shadows of the law, seeing in a glass importeth a clear discerning; but in opposition to `face to face, but a low and weak conception of the essence of God. Oh! study the glory of God in the word. Though you cannot exhaust and draw out all the divine perfections in your thoughts, yet `your ear may receive a little thereof, Job iv. 11. When we want the sun, we do not despise a candle. (2.) The word is a glass to show us ourselves; 160it discovereth the hidden things `of the heart, all the deformities of the soul: Mark iv. 22, `There is nothing hidden that shall not be made manifest., The word discovereth all things. Our sins are the spots which the law discovereth; Christ's blood is the water to wash them off, and that is discovered in the gospel.143143`Maculae sunt peccata quae ostendit lex; aqua est sanguis Christi quem ostendit evangelium., The law discovereth sins: Rom. vii. 9, `I was alive without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died., We think ourselves well and in a good case, till the law falleth upon the spirit with full conviction, and then we see all the spots and freckles of our souls. The gospel discovereth how we may do away our sins, and deck and attire our souls with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Use. It ministereth a meditation to you. When you are at your glass, consider the word of God is a glass: I must look after the estate and complexion of my soul. Take but a part of the law and exercise yourself with it every day, and you will soon see the deformity of your own spirit: do not look in a flattering glass. We love a picture that is like us, rather than that which is flourished and varnished with more art.

Obs. 2. That the knowledge of formal professors is but slight and glancing: like a man beholding his face in a glass, or like the glaring of a sunbeam upon a wave, it rusheth into the thoughts, and it is gone. The beast under the law that did not chew the cud was unclean. There is much in meditation and a constant light. Some men, if they should be considerate, would undo all their false hopes; therefore, usually, carnal men's thoughts are but slight and trivial; they know things, but are loath to let their thoughts pause upon them: Luke ii. 5 it is said, `Mary pondered all these sayings., A slippery, vain, inconsistent mind will be hardly held to truths. When we apprehend a thing, curiosity being satisfied, we begin to loathe it; and, therefore, it is an hard matter to agitate the thoughts again to that point to which they have once arrived; the first apprehension doth, as it were, deflower it.

Obs. 3. Vain men go from the ordinances just as they came to them: he beholdeth, and goeth away. Like the beasts in Noah's ark, they went in unclean, and came out unclean. So many come unhumbled and unmortified, and so they go away. Oh! let it never be said of you.

Obs. 4. Slight apprehensions make a very weak impression: things work when the thoughts are serious and ponderous: musing maketh the fire burn, Ps. xxxix. 3. When God's arrows stick fast, they make us roar to the purpose, Job vi. 4. And David, when he would express his deep affection, he saith, Ps. li. 3, `My sin is ever before me:, it would not out of his thoughts. Well, then, a weak impression is an argument of a slight apprehension: thoughts always follow affection. They that `heal their wounds slightly, Jer. vi. 14, show that they were never soundly touched and pricked at heart. Men thoroughly affected say—I shall remember such a sermon all my life time. David saith, Ps. cxix. 93, `I will never forget thy precepts; for by them thou hast quickened me., Others let good things slip, because they never felt the power of them.


Ver. 25. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

In this verse you have the third reason why they should hear the word so as to practise it. The first was, they would but deceive themselves, and go away with a vain mistake. The next, that bare hearing would be of little benefit; no more than for a man to glance his eye upon a glass, and to have a slight view of his countenance. And now, because due and right hearing will end in blessedness. This verse is full of matter. I shall drop it out as the order of the words yieldeth it.

But whoso looketh, ὁ δὲ παρακύψας: a metaphor taken from those that do not only glance upon a thing, but bend their body towards it, that they may pierce it with their eyes, and narrowly pry into it. The same word is used for the stooping down of the disciples to look into Christ's sepulchre, Luke xxiv. 12, and John xx. 4, 5, and that narrow search which the angels use to find out the mysteries of salvation: 1 Peter i. 12, `Which things the angels desire to look into;, where there is a plain allusion to the cherubim whose faces were bowed down towards the ark, as desirous to see the mysteries therein contained. The word implieth three things:—(1.) Deepness of meditation. He doth not glance upon, but `look into the perfect law of liberty., (2.) Diligence of inquiry; they do not content themselves with what is offered to their first thoughts, but accurately pry into the mind of God revealed in the word. (3.) Liveliness of impression: they do so look upon it as to find the virtue of it in their hearts: 2 Cor. iii. 18, `We, with open face beholding the glory of the Lord as in a glass, are changed into the same image from glory to glory., Such a gaze as bringeth the glory of the Lord into our hearts, as Moses, face shone by talking with God; and we, by conversing with the word, carry away the beauty and glory of it in our spirits.

Into the perfect law.—Some understand the moral law, in opposition to the ceremonial, as not being clear and full, and not able to justify, though men rested in the observances of it; and not perfect, because not durable, and was not to remain for ever. Thus Heb. vii. 19, `The law made nothing perfect, but only the bringing in of a better hope., A man could not be sanctified, justified, saved, without Christ, by the dispensation of Moses. So Heb. ix. 9, `That service could not make the comer thereunto perfect, as appertaining to the conscience., The soul could find no ease and rest in it without looking to Christ. But though this sense be probable, yet I rather understand the whole doctrine and word of God, and chiefly the gospel. The will of God in scripture is called a law. So a godly man is said to `meditate on the law day and night, Ps. i.; and `thy law do I love, Ps. cxix., where by law is understood the whole word; and the gospel is called νόμος πίστεως, `the law of faith., Rom. iii. 27. Now this law is said to be perfect, because it is so formally in itself, and they that look into it will see that there needeth no other word to make the man of God perfect.

Of liberty.—It is so called, partly because of the clearness of revelation: it is the counsel of God to his friends; or, saith Piscator, because it spareth none, but dealeth with all freely, without respect of 162persons, though they be higher, richer, stronger than others; but rather because it calleth us into a state of freedom. See other reasons in the notes.

And continueth therein; that is, persevereth in the study of this holy doctrine, and remaineth in the knowledge, belief, and obedience of it.

He being not a forgetful hearer, ἀκροατὴς τῆς ἐπιλησμονῆς, `a hearer of oblivion, a Hebraism; and he useth this term to answer the former similitude of a man's forgetting his natural face.

But a doer of the work; that is, laboureth to refer and bring all things to practice. He is said to be a doer that studieth to do, though his hand doth not reach to the perfectness of the work; that is, mindful of the business cut out to him in the word.

He shall be blessed in his deed; that is, so behaving himself, or so doing; or, as some more generally, he shall be blessed in all his ways, whatsoever he doth shall be prosperous and happy. For they conceive it to be an allusion to the words of the 1st Psalm, ver. 3, `Whatsoever he shall do shall prosper: `for the psalmist speaketh there of doing the law, and meditating in the law, as James speaketh here of looking into the law of liberty, and walking in it. But here the Papists come upon us, and say—Lo! here is a clear place that we are blessed for our deeds. But I answer—It is good to mark the distinctness of scripture phrase: the apostle doth not say for, but in his deed. It is an argument or evidence of our blessedness, though not the ground of it; the way, though not the cause.

The points are these:—

Obs. 1. From that he looketh. That we should with all seriousness and earnestness apply ourselves to the knowledge of the gospel. There should be deep meditation and diligent inquiry. Your first duty, Christians, is to admit the word into your serious thoughts: Ps. i. 2, `He meditateth in the law day and night., We should always be chewing and sucking out the sweetness of this cud: Ps. xlv. 1, `My heart inditeth a good matter., The word in the original signifieth baketh or frieth; it is an allusion to the mincah, or meat-offering, that was baked and fried in a pan. Truths are concocted and ripened by meditation. And then there must be diligent inquiry, that we may not content ourselves with the surface of truth, but get into the bowels of it: 1 Peter i. 10, `Of which salvation the prophets have inquired diligently., Though they had a more immediate assistance of the Spirit, yet they would more accurately look into the depths and mysteries of the gospel, and consider their own prophecies: Prov. ii. 4, `Search for wisdom as for hidden treasures., Jewels do not lie upon the surface; you must get into the caverns and dark receptacles of the earth for them. No more do truths lie in the surface or outside of an expression. The beauty and glory of the scriptures is within, and must be fetched out with much study and prayer. A glance cannot discover the worth of anything to us. He that doth but cast his eye upon a piece of embroidery, doth not discern the curiousness and the art of it. So to know Christ in the bulk doth not work half so kindly with us as when we search out the breadth, and the depth, and the length, the exact dimensions of his love to us.


Obs. 2. The gospel is a law. It is often invested with this title and appellation: Rom. viii. 2, `The law of the Spirit of the life of Jesus Christ hath made us free from the law of sin and death., The covenant of works is there called `the law of sin and death, because the use of it to man fallen is to convince of sin, and to oblige and bind over to death. But the gospel, or covenant of grace, is called the law of the Spirit of the life of Christ, because the intent of it is, by faith, to plant us into Christ, whose life we are enabled to live by the Spirit; and it is called `the law of this life, because everything that concurreth in the right constitution and making of a law is found in the gospel:—As (1.) Equity, without which a law is but tyranny. All the precepts of the gospel are just and equal, most proportionate to the dignity of man's nature: it is holy, good, and comfortable. (2.) There is promulgation, which is the life and form of the law, and without which it were but a private snare to catch men and entrap them. Now it is `proclaimed to the captives, Isa. lxi. 1; it must be `preached to every creature, Mark xvi. (3.) The author, without which it were sedition—God, who can prescribe to the creature. (4.) The end, public good, without which a law were tyrannous exaction; and the end is the salvation of our souls. Well, then, look upon the gospel as a law and rule, according to which—;(1st.) Your lives must be conformed: `Peace on them that walk according to this rule, Gal. vi. 16; that is, the directions of the gospel. (2d.) All controversies and doctrines must be decided: `To the law and the testimony; if they speak not according to this rule, it is because there is no light in them, Isa. viii. 20. (3d.) Your estates must be judged: `God will judge the secrets of all men, according to my gospel., Rom. ii. 16. The whole word carrieth the face of a law, according to which you shall be judged; nay, the gospel itself is a law, partly as it is a rule, partly because of the commanding prevailing power it hath over the heart. So it is `the law of the Spirit of life;, so that they that are in Christ are not without a law, not ἄνομοι, but ἔννομοι. So the apostle, 1 Cor. ix. 21, `I am not without the law, but under the law to Christ;, that is, under the rule and direction of the moral law, as adopted and taken in as a part of the gospel by Christ.

Obs. 3. The word of God is a perfect law. So it is in divers respects. (1.) Because it maketh perfect. The nearer we come to the word, the greater is the perfection and accomplishment of our spirits. The goodness and excellency of the creature lieth in the nearest conformity to God's will. (2.) It directeth us to the greatest perfection, to God blessed for ever, to the righteousness of Christ, to perfect communion with God in glory. (3.) It concerneth the whole man, and hath a force upon the conscience: men go no further than outward obedience; but `the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul, Ps. xix. 7. `It is not a lame, defective rule; besides outward observances, there is some what for the soul. (4.) It is a perfect law, because of the invariable tenor of it; it needeth not to be changed, but is always like itself: as we say, that is a perfect rule that needeth no amendment. (5.) It is pure, and free from error. There are no laws of men but there are some blemish in them. Of old, wickedness was enacted by a law144144Osorius de Glor., lib. i.164adultery: by a law of the Syrians, the virgins were to prostitute themselves before marriage. So in the laws of every country there are some marks of human error and frailty; but, Ps. cxix. 140, `Thy word is pure, therefore thy servant loveth it., (6.) Because it is a sufficient rule. Christ hath been `faithful in all his house, in all the appointments of it. Whatever is necessary for knowledge, for regulating of life and worship, for confirmation of true doctrines, for confutation of false, it is all in the word: 2 Tim. iii. 17, `That the man of God may be perfectly furnished unto every good work., Well, then—;(1.) Prize the word. We love what is perfect. (2.) Suffer nothing to be added to it: Deut. iv., `Ye shall not add to the word which I command you., So the whole Bible is concluded: Rev. xxii. 18, `If any one add to these things, God shall add to him the plagues that are written in this book., It will be a sad adding that incurreth these plagues. The plagues written in that book were those dreadful judgments that should be executed upon Antichrist and his adherents; they are most for adding, coining new doctrines of faith, piecing up the word with their own inventions. And, indeed, as they add, by obtruding upon the world the traditions and usages of men, so others add by imposing upon men's reverence their own inventions and imaginations. They cry up their fancies without the word, and private illuminations. God would not leave the world at so great an uncertainty. Others urge the commands of men. Certainly God never intended that the souls of his people should be left as a prey to the present power.

Obs. 4. That the gospel, or word of God, is a `law of liberty., As it is a perfect, so it is a free law. So it is in divers respects. (1.) Because it teacheth the way to true liberty, and freedom from sin, wrath, death. Naturally we are under the law of sin and death, entangled with the yoke of our own corruptions, and bound over to eternal misery; but the gospel is a doctrine of liberty and deliverance: John viii. 36, `If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed., There is no state so free as that which we enjoy by the gospel. (2.) The bond of obedience that is laid upon us is indeed and in truth a perfect freedom. For,—

1. The matter itself of our obedience is freedom.

2. We do it upon free principles.

3. We have the help of a free Spirit.

4. We do it in a state of freedom.

1. The matter is freedom. Duty is the greatest liberty, and sin the greatest bondage. You cannot have a worse restraint than to be left to `walk in the ways of your own hearts., The sinning angels are said to be `kept in chains of darkness, Jude 6. A wicked man is in bondage here and hereafter; now in snares, then in chains; here 1 taken captive by Satan at his will, and pleasure, 2 Tim. ii. 26, and hereafter bound up with Satan in chains of darkness. Sin itself is a bondage, and hell a prison, 1 Peter iii. 19. Were there nothing in sin but the present slavery, it is enough to dissuade us. Who would be a vassal to his own lusts? at the command of pride, and every unclean motion? But, alas! the present thraldom is nothing to what is future. The condition of a sinner for the present is servile, but 165hereafter woful and dreadful. Satan's work is drudgery, and his reward is death, How can we remain in such an estate with any pleasure? From the beginning to the end it is but a miserable servility. Why should we account Christ's service a burthen, when it is the most happy liberty and freedom? The world is all for `casting aside the cords, for breaking these bonds, Ps. ii. 3. Which would you have? the cords of duty or the chains of darkness? We cannot endure the restraints of the word, or the severe, grave precepts of Christianity; we look upon them as an infringement of our carnal ease and liberty. Oh! consider these are not gyves, but ornaments: Ps. cxix. 45, `I shall walk at liberty, for I seek thy precepts;, beddachah, `at large., That is the only free life that is spent in loving, enjoying, and praising God. Oh! do not count it, then, to be the only free and pleasant life to know nothing, to care for nothing, in matters of religion. Who would dote upon his shackles, and think gyves a liberty? Peter ii. 19, `While they promise themselves liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption; for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage., The apostle alludeth to the law of nations, by which it is lawful to make slaves of those that are over come and taken in war. Now those that preach carnal doctrine, and tell men they may live as they list, they help on the victory of sin, and so bring men into a vassalage and servitude to their own lusts. So Rom. vi. 20, `When ye were servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness., You would expatiate, and run out at large, and you thought this was a freedom; but all the while you were servants, and servants to the basest master, your own sin. It was Ham's curse to be a servant of servants. It is a goodly preferment, is it not, to be Satan's vassal, lust's slave? I remember Austin saith of Home, that she was the great mistress of the world, and the drudge of sin.145145`Domitrix gentium, et captiva vitiorum.,—Aug. de Civit. Dei. And Chrysostom saith, that Joseph was the freeman, and his mistress was the servant, when she obeyed her lusts.146146Chrysos. Hom. 19, in priorem Ep. ad Corinth.

2. We do it upon free principles. Whatever we do, we do it as `the Lord's freemen, 1 Cor. vii. 22, upon principles of love and thankfulness. God might rule us `with a rod of iron, but he urgeth the soul with `constraints of love., In one place, `I beseech you by the mercies of God, &c., Rom. xii. 1; in another, `Grace teacheth us, &c., Titus ii. 12. The motives of the gospel are mercy and grace; and the obedience of the gospel is an obedience performed out of gratitude or thankfulness.

3. We have the assistance of a free Spirit, that disentangleth our souls, and helpeth us in the work of obedience. David prayeth, `Uphold me by thy free Spirit, Ps. li. 12. A free Spirit, because he maketh us free, helpeth us to serve God willingly and freely. There is spirit and life in the commandment, somewhat besides a dead letter, and that maketh it a `perfect law of liberty., Of old, there was light in the commandment to guide their feet, but not fire to burn up their lusts; there was no help to fulfil it: the light was directive, but not persuasive.

4. We do it in a free state, in an estate of sonship, and well pleasing: 166Rom. viii. 15, `Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but a spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father., When a man is under a covenant of works, the testimony of his conscience is suitable to his estate; and therefore in his natural condition his spirit is servile, and all that he doth he doth as a servant: but when he is regenerated, and claimeth by another tenure, that of grace, the dispositions of his spirit are more filial and child-like; he acteth as a son, with an ingenuous liberty and confidence. Adam himself in innocency, because under a covenant of works, was but as an honourable servant: Gal. iv. 31 , `We are not children of the bond woman, but of the free., The new covenant giveth us another kind of estate and spirit. So Luke i. 74, `Being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we serve him without fear;, that is, without such a scrupulous awe and bondage, as otherwise would remain upon the soul.

Use. Well, then, consider whether you be under a law of liberty, yea or no. To this end—;(1.) Ask your souls, which is a bondage to you, sin or duty? When you do complain of the yoke, what is grievous to you, the commandment or the transgression? Do you `delight in the law of the Lord in the inward man?, Only corruption that hangeth on so fast is a sad burthen. The carnal heart hath a spite at the law, Rom. viii. 7, not its own lusts. (2.) When you do duty, what is the weight that poiseth your spirits to it? Your warrant is the command; but your poise and weight should be love.147147`Amor meus est pondus meum, eo feror quocunque feror.,—Aug. (3.) What is your strength for duty—reason or the assistance of the free Spirit? He that cometh in his own name usually standeth upon his own bottom. When our dependence is on Christ, our tendency is to him. (4.) Would you have the work accepted for its own sake, or your persons accepted for Christ's sake? It is an ill sign when a man's thoughts run more upon the property and quality of the work than upon the propriety and interest of his person. In the law of liberty or covenant of grace, God's acceptance beginneth with the person; and though there be weak services, much deadness, coldness, dulness, yet it is accepted, because it is done in a free state. Works can never be so vile as our person was when we first found favour with God. If it be thus with you, you have cause to bless God for your freedom, to consider what you shall render again. Requite God you cannot till you pay back as much as he gave you.148148`Deo redempti sumus, Deum debemus.,—Salvian. He hath given his Son to free you, and you should give up yourselves.

Obs. 5. From that and abideth therein. This commendeth our knowledge of and affection to the word, to continue in it. Hypocrites have a taste; some men's hearts burn under the ordinances, but all is lost and drowned in the world again: John viii. 31, `If ye continue in the word, then are ye my disciples indeed., There may be good flashes for the present, but Christ saith, `If ye continue, if ye ripen them to good affections. So 2 John 9, `Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God; but he that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son., He that hath not God hath lost himself; and he that hath God hath all things: now so great a privilege is promised to perseverance. 167The corrupt angels lost their glory when they left their love to the truth. Their sin is thus expressed—they `abode not in the truth, John viii. 44. Now to this abiding in the word two things are opposite:—(1.) Apostasy, when we go off from our former profession and zeal for God; a sad case! 2 Peter ii. 21, `Better they had never known the holy commandment than to go back from the knowledge of it after it was once delivered to them., The less law the less transgression; apostates sin against more conviction: Ps. cxix. 118, `Thou hast trodden down them that err from thy statutes: God treadeth them under feet as unsavoury salt,149149`Sic Ecebolius de ipso; Πατήσατε μὲ τὸ ἅλας τὸ ἀναίσθητον.,—Socrat. Ecd. Hist. lib. iii. cap. 2. because they have lost their smartness and savour. (2.) There is ἑτεροδιδασκαλία, other gospelling: Gal. i. 6, `Soon turned to another gospel., So 1 Tim. i. 3, `Charge them that they teach no other doctrine., Men would have something new and strange, which is usually the ground of heresy. So 1 Tim. vi. 3, `If any teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, he is proud, knowing nothing., This desire to differ, and hear another gospel, is very dangerous; new ways affected are the high way to an old error.

Well, then, if we must abide in the word, then—;(1.) Be sure to cherish good motions if they come upon your hearts: you are to abide therein: though the Spirit break in upon the soul of a sudden, let it not go so. Usually our religious pangs are but like a sudden flash of lightning into a dark place. (2.) Be careful to observe the first decays and languishments of your spirits, that you may `strengthen the things that are ready to die, Rev. iii. 2. If the candle of the Lord doth not shine as it was wont to do, complain of the first dimness and decay.

Obs. 6. From that being not a forgetful hearer. That hearers must take heed that they do not forget the good things dispensed to them. Helps to memory are these:—(1.) Attention; men remember what they heed and regard: Prov. iv. 21, `Attend to my sayings; keep them in the midst of thine heart;, that is, in such a place where nothing can come to take them away. Where there is attention, there will be retention: the memory is the chest and ark of divine truths, and a man should see them carefully locked up: Isa. xlii. 23, `Who will hearken and hear for the time to come?, Hearkening noteth reverence and seriousness; as it is said, Isa. xxxii. 3, `The ears of them that hear shall hearken., Now reverence in the admission of the word helpeth us in the keeping of it: truths are lost by slight hearing. (2.) Affection, that is a great friend to memory; men remember what they care for: an old man will not forget where he laid his bag of gold: delight and love are always renewing and reviving the object upon our thoughts, Ps. cxix. David often asserteth his delight in the law, and therefore it was always in his thoughts: ver. 97, `Oh how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day, (3.) Application and appropriation of truths; we will remember that which concerneth ourselves: in a public edict, a man will be sure to carry away that which is proper to his case and tenure: Job v. 27, `Hear this, 168and know it for thy good;, there he spake to me; this I must remember for ray comfort. So Prov. ix. 12, `Be wise for thyself;, this is for your souls, and concerneth you nearly. (4.) Meditation, and holy care to cover the word, that it be not snatched from us by vain thoughts; that the fowls of the air do not peck up the good seed, Mat. xiii. 4. You should often revolve and revive it upon the thoughts: as an apple, when it is tossed in the hand, leaveth the odour and smell of it behind when it is gone: Luke ii. 19, `Mary kept these sayings, and pondered them in her heart;, she kept them, because she pondered them. (5.) Observation of the accomplishment of truths: you will remember things spoken long since, when you see them verified: John ii. 19, `Then they remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up., Such occasions observed will make old truths come to mind afresh. So ver. 22, `Then they remembered he had spoken `of destroying the temple in three days. So God saith, Hosea vii. 12, `I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard., When the prophets are dead and gone, they may remember they were taught such things along time since. (6.) Practise what thou nearest: you will remember the good you get by it: `I will remember thy precepts, for by them thou hast quickened me, Ps. cxix. 93. Christians can discourse of the circumstances of that sermon by which they have received profit. (7.) Commit it to the Spirit's keeping and charge: John xiv. 26, The Comforter, ἀναμνήσει shall bring things to your remembrance., Christ chargeth the Holy Ghost with his own sermons; the disciples, memories were too slippery: and truly this is the great advantage which they have that have interest in the promise of the Spirit, that truths are brought freshly to mind in the very season wherein they do concern them.

Obs. 7. From that he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer. Sin cometh for want of remembering: forgetful hearers are negligent: Ps. ciii. 18, `Them that remember his commandments to do them., A godly man hath an affective memory; he remembereth to do. Wicked men are often expressed and set out by their bad memories; as Job viii. 13, `They forget God;, so Ps. cxix. 139, `Mine enemies have forgotten thy word;, that is, they do not practise it; yea, the sins of God's people are usually sins of forgetfulness and incogitancy; as Peter would never have been so bold and daring upon the danger, and done what he did, if he had remembered. The text saith, `When he remembered, he wept bitterly, Luke xxii. 61. So when they fainted under affliction: Heb. xii. 5, `Ye have forgotten the consolation which speaketh to you as children., A bad memory is the cause of a great deal of mischief in the soul. So for distrust: Mark viii. 18, `Ye see and hear, but do not remember;, they did not actually consider the former experience of the loaves and fishes, and so distrusted. So for murmuring and impatience: David murmured till he `remembered the years of the right hand of the Most High, Ps. lxxvii. 10. We find that seasonable truths give a great deal of relief and ease to the mind in a temptation: Lam. iii. 21, `This I recall to mind, and therefore I have hope;, whereas others are troubled with every event of providence, because they do not remember the comforts the scripture hath provided in such a case. They that came to the sepulchre 169were troubled about the death and resurrection of Christ, because they had forgotten what he had spoken to them in Galilee, Luke xxiv. 6, 8. So when the Thessalonians were troubled at the growing of errors, and extremely shaken in their confidence, Paul saith, 2 Thes. ii. 5, `Remember ye not how I spake of those things?, It is very observable that in many places of scripture all duty is expressed by this word remember, as if it did necessarily imply suitable actions and affections; so Exod. xx. 8, `Remember the sabbath-day;, as if, then, they must needs sanctify it: so Eccles. xii. 1, `Remember thy Creator;, it is put for all that reverence, duty, and worship which we owe to God. In other places the link between memory and duty is plainly asserted: Num. xv. 40, `That ye may remember to do all my commandments:, a seasonable recalling of truths doth much. You see, out of all this, that we should not only get knowledge, but remembrance; that we should not only faithfully lay up truths, but seasonably lay them out; it is a great skill to do so, and we had need call in the help of the Spirit. There are some truths that are of a general use and benefit; others that serve for some cases and seasons. In the general, hide the whole word in your heart, that ye may have a fresh truth to check sin in every temptation, Ps. cxix. 11. So lay up the mercies of God that you may be thankful; forget not all his benefits, Ps. ciii. 2; your sins, that you may be humble: Deut. ix. 7, `Remember and forget not how thou provokedst the Lord thy God in the wilderness;, so remarkable experiences, `the years of God's right hand, that you may be confident. Labour thus to get a present ready memory, that will urge truths in the season when they do concern us.

Obs. 8. From that but a doer of the work. The word layeth out work for us. It was not ordained only for speculation; it is a rule of duty to the creatures. There is the `work of faith, John vi. 29; the `labour of love, Heb. vi. 1; and `fruits worthy repentance, Mat. iii. 8. All this work is cut out to us in the gospel—faith, love, and new obedience. Do not content yourselves, then, with a module of truth. The apostle calleth it, Rom. ii. 20, μόρφωσιν ἐπιστήμης, `a form of knowledge., With a winter sun, that shineth, but warmeth not, let not the tree of knowledge deprive you of the tree of life; work the works of God. Faith is your work, repentance is your business, and the life of love and praise your duty.

Obs. 9. From that shall be blessed in his deed. There is a blessedness annexed to the doing of the work of the word;150150Qu. `Lord,?—ED. not for the work's sake, but out of the mercy of God. See then that you hear so that you come within the compass of the blessing; the blessing is usually pronounced at the time of your addresses to God in this worship. See that your own interest be clear, that when the minister, in God's name, saith, `Blessed is he that heareth the word and keepeth it, you may echo again to God, and bless him in your reins, for that he hath bowed your heart to the obedience of it.

Ver. 26. But if any man among you seemeth to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own soul, this man's religion is vain.

The apostle having showed the blessedness of those which are doers 170of the word, lest any should seem to challenge a share in it to whom it doth not belong, he discovereth who are hearers only, and not doers of the word; men that do allow themselves in any known sin; and he instanceth in the evils of the tongue.

Quest. Before I open the words any further, I shall inquire why James doth pitch so much weight upon this one particular, it seeming so inconsiderable in itself, and it having so little respect to the context.

Ans. The reasons assigned in the answer will afford us so many notes.

Reas. 1. Because this is a chief part of our respect to our neighbour, and true love to God will be manifested by love to our neighbour. They do not usually detract from others whom God hath pardoned. He that saith, `Thou shalt love God, hath also said, `Thou shalt love thy neighbour;, though the object be diverse, yet the ground for obedience is the same; therefore the apostles usually bring this argument to unmask and discolour hypocritical persuasions; as 1 John ii. 9, `He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even till now;, so 1 John iii. 17, 18, `If he shut up his bowels from his brother, how dwelleth the love of God in him?, How can it be imagined that those that are sensible of the love of God should be merciless towards others? So 1 John iv. 20, `He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?, The good and attractiveness that is in others is an object of the senses, and usually they make a strong impression. Well, then, do not flatter yourselves with duties of worship, in the neglect of duties of commerce.

Reas. 2. Because of the natural proneness that is in us to offend with the tongue: censuring is a pleasing sin, extremely compliant with nature. How propense the nature of man is to it I shall show you in the third chapter. Speech is the discovery of reason; corruption soon runneth out that way. Well, then, watch over it; the more natural corruptions are, the more care should we use to suppress them: Ps. xxxix. 1, `I will take heed to my ways, that I offend not with my tongue., There needeth special caution for that; and as you should watch, so you should pray, and desire God to watch over your watching: Ps. cxli. 3, `Set a watch before my mouth, keep the door of my lips., The awe of God is a great restraint.

Reas. 3. Because it was the sin of that age, as appeareth by his frequent dissuasives. See ver. 19; so chap. iii. per totum; so chap. iv. ver. 11, &c. The note is—It is an ill sign to be carried away with the evil of the times. It is a description of wicked men, Eph. ii. 2, that they `walked according to the course of this world;, in the original, κατ᾽ αἰῶνα, according to the age, as the manner of the times went. So Rom. xii. 2: `Be not conformed to this world;, τῷ αἰῶνι τουτῷ, `to this age;, the meaning is, do not get into the garb of the times. So 2 Chron. xvii. 4, `He walked after the trade of Israel., Many do so; they walk after the fashion and trade of the country and times wherein they live. Oh! consider, this is the sure note of a vain profession. Sins, when they grow common, become less odious; and therefore slight spirits commit them without remorse.


Reas. 4. Because it seemeth so small a sin, and having laid aside grosser sins, they did the more securely continue in the practice of it. They were not adulterers, drunkards; and therefore, flattering themselves with a show of holiness, they did the more freely censure and detract from others. Note, indulgence in the least sin cannot stand with grace. Your `religion is vain, if you do not `refrain your tongue., They are miserably mistaken that hope to redeem their souls from the guilt of one sin by abstaining from the practice of another. Some are precise in small things, that they may be excused for nonobservance of `the weightier things of the law;, as the stomach, when it cannot digest solid food, naturally desireth to fill itself with water, or such light stuff as breedeth nought but wind. The Pharisees `tithed mint and cummin, &c. Others avoid grosser sins, and hope that it is an excuse for other corruptions that are not so odious. We all plead, `Is it not a little one, and my soul shall live?,

Reas. 5. Because this is usually the hypocrite's sin. Hypocrites, of all others, are least able to bridle their tongue; and they that seem to be religious, are most free in censuring; partly because, being acquainted with the guilt of their own spirits, they are most apt to suspect others. Nazianzen saith of his father, οὔτε τὶ τῶν πονηρῶν αὐτὸς παραδέχη—he being of an innocent and candid soul, was less apt to think evil of others; and he giveth this reason, βραδὺ γὰρ εἰς ὑπόνοιαν κακοῦ, τὸ πρὸς κακίαν δυσκίνητον—goodness is least suspicious, and plain hearts think all like themselves. Partly because they use to be much abroad that are so little at home. Censuring is a trick of the devil, to take off the care from their own hearts; and therefore, to excuse indignation against their own sins, their zeal is passionate in declaiming against the sins of others. Gracious hearts reflect most upon themselves; they do not seek what to reprove in others, but what to lament in themselves. Partly because they are not so meek and gentle as true Christians. When a man is sensible of his own failings, he is very tender in reflecting upon the weaknesses of others: Gal. vi. 1, `Ye which are spiritual, restore him with meekness., They which are most spiritual are most tender to set a fallen Christian in joint again, καταρτίζετε. Partly because an hypocrite is a proud person: he would have every one to be his own foil, and therefore he blemisheth others. Diotrephes would be prating against John, because he `loved the preeminence, 3 John 9, 10. Partly because hypocrites are best at their tongue, and therefore cannot bridle it. When men make religion a talk, their way is to blemish others; it is a piece of their religion. The Lord give you to discern into your own souls, whether these dispositions be in you or no.

Reas. 6. Because there is such a quick intercourse between the tongue and the heart, that the tongue is the best discovery of it; and therefore, saith the apostle, is `their religion vain, if they `cannot bridle their tongues., Seneca said, that the speech is the express image of the heart; and a greater than he said, `Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh., The quality of many men's religion may be discerned by the intemperateness of their language; words are but the excrements and overflow of their wickedness. A man may soon discern of what religion they are, saith Pareus of the 172Jesuits, qui theologiam in caninam maledicentiam transferunt—that, like angry curs, cannot pass by one another without snarling.

These reasons being premised, the opening of the verse will be the more easy.

If any man seemeth to be religious.—To himself or others, by the practice of some few things by worship, and some duties of the first table.

And bridleth not his tongue; that is, doth not abstain from the evils of the tongue, such as railing, reviling, censuring, and detraction, which latter, I suppose, is chiefly intended.

But deceiveth his own soul.—It may be understood two ways:—(1.) Though he detract from others, yet he hath too good an opinion of himself. Self-love is the ground of hypocrisy; they do not search themselves, suspect themselves. Judas said last, `Master, is it I?, They are too equal to themselves, though too severe to others. (2.) The other sense may be, he cometh at length to flatter himself, to deceive his own soul, as well as to seem to others.

This man's religion is vain; that is, either he maketh his graces and the good things that are in him to be vain and unprofitable, or rather, his religion is pretended to no purpose.

Obs. 1. Besides what I have observed already from hence, you may collect from that seemeth to be religious, there may be religion only in pretence and seeming. So 1 Cor. viii. 2, `If any man among you thinketh he knoweth anything;, that is, pleaseth, flattereth himself in the conceit of his knowledge. So Gal. vi. 3, `If any man think himself to be something, when he is nothing;, that proudly overweeneth his own worth. Well, then, rest not in a `form of godliness, 2 Tim. iii. 5, or in a `form of knowledge, Rom. ii. 20; in a naked speculation, or in a varnished profession. These things may carry a fair show and semblance in the world, but are of no account before God. Still put yourselves to this question, Am I yet beyond a hypocrite? Be what you would seem to be.151151`Quod videri vis, illud esse debes.,

Obs. 2. From that bridleth not his tongue. That it is a great part of religion to bridle the tongue. There are several evils that must be restrained—lying, swearing, cursing, railing, ribaldry. I shall speak of these five:—(1.) Lying. Beware of that, with all the kinds, equivocation and dissimulation. Truth is the ground of commerce. It is a sin destructive to the good of mankind. The devil, that is, the accuser, he is called the liar too. Oh! do not cry up a report of others, till you have sifted it. `Report, say they, and we will report it, Jer. xx. 10; that is, bring us anything, and we will blaze it; and so a little water is evaporated into a great deal of steam and smoke. Crassa negligentia dolus est, say the civilians—if you do not try it, you are guilty. (2.) Cursing. There is corruption at the heart when the tongue is so blistered. It is observable that when God would have the curses pronounced upon Mount Ebal, he employed the servile tribes about it, only Reuben was amongst them, that prostituted his father's bed. There is seldom any blessing for them that use themselves to curses. (3.) Swearing. It is said the righteous `feareth an oath, Eccles. ix. 2. Not only those false-mouthed oaths, but minced oaths, and vain speeches, and peremptory asseverations in the 173slightest matters. Men that lavish away deep asseverations upon every trifle are, if the matter be anything more serious, put upon that which should be the last reserve, an oath. (4.) Bailing. I take it not only for the gross railing, but privy defamations and whisperings to the prejudice of others, meddling with other men's matters; as the apostles often speak against these, so commending with a but, as the scripture saith of Naaman, 2 Kings v. 1, `A great man, an honourable man, a mighty man, but he was a leper., They say he is thus and thus, but, &c.; and so wound while they pretend to kiss. They make their praise but a preface to their reproach, which is but as an archer that draweth back his hand, that the arrow may fly with the more force. It was a great praise that Jerome gave Asella, Habebat silentium loquens—she was silent when she spake; for she spake only of religious and necessary things, not meddling with others, persons or fame. (5.) Ribaldry. Filthy `rotten communication, Col. iii. 8; σάπρος λόγος, `filthy speaking, Eph. v. 4. Many travel under the burthen of a profane jest. Oh! the filthy breath that cometh out of their mouths! All foolish jesting cometh under this head. Aristotle's virtue, εὐτραπελία, is a sin with Paul, Eph. v. 4.

Obs. 3. From that but deceiveth himself. Hypocrites come at length to deceive themselves. A liar, by repeating his lies, beginneth to believe them. Natural conscience is pacified with a show. It is just with God to punish deceit with deceit. And as they cozen others, so they deceive their own souls; as the carver fell in love with an image of his own making, and thought it living. Hypocrisy endeth in hardness and gross blindness, and by custom men dote upon that which at first they knew was but paint and varnish; as if God would be as easily mocked and deceived as men.

Obs. 4. From that this man's religion is vain. Pretended religion will be fruitless: shows are nullities with God. Of all things, a man cannot endure that his serious actions shall be in vain and to no purpose; for there usually hope is more strong, and therefore the disappointment must needs be the more vexatious. This will be no small part of your torment in hell, to think that all your profession is come to this. I prophesied in Christ's name, in his name I wrought miracles. I conferred, repeated, closed with the better side, to my loss and disadvantage, and yet am I now in hell. Oh! how sad will such discourses be in the place of torment! Oh! consider, the greater rise your hope had, the more bruising and crushing will your fall be, as a stone that falleth from a high place is broken to powder.

Ver. 27.—Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father, is this, to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Here the apostle cometh to the positive part of the trial. As he must not do hurt, lest his religion prove vain; so he must do good, that it may be found pure and undefiled.

From the context observe:—

Obs. Negatives in religion are not enough: he must refrain his tongue, and he must visit the fatherless. Our duty should carry proportion with the divine grace to us. God's mercies are not only privative but positive; he doth not only bring us out of hell, but put us 174under an assurance of glory. It was Absalom's misery to be only acquitted from the punishment, but not to see the king's face. God's grace is more entirely dispensed; we are taken out of a state of wrath into a state of love. God's terms to Abraham were, to be `a shield and an exceeding great reward;, to be a protector, and a saviour; and to all the faithful, `a sun and a shield, Ps. lxxxiv. 11. A shield against danger, and a sun, the cause of all vegetation, life, and blessing. Now we should imitate our heavenly Father; we should not rest in a bare removal of evil, but be careful of that which is good: there should be not only an abstinence from grosser sins, but a care to maintain communion with God. The descriptions of the word are negative and positive: `Walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, but walketh in the ways of the Lord, Ps. i. 1, 2; so Rom. viii. 1, `Walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit., Some are not drunkards, not outwardly vicious; but are they godly? Is there any savour and power of religion? Are there any motions and feelings of the spiritual life within their souls? God, that hateth sin, delighteth in grace; to be less evil, at the best, will but procure you a cooler hell. It is vulgarly observed, that the Pharisee's religion ran upon nots, Luke xviii. 11. It is not enough to live civilly and do no man wrong; there must be grace, and the exercise of grace. I observe, that sins trouble the conscience more than want of grace, partly because conscience doth not use to smite for spiritual defects, and partly because sins work an actual distemper and disturbance to reason. Oh! but consider; he that wanteth good works is as much hated of God as the outwardly vicious; and the barren tree is cut down as well as the poisonous tree—if it bear no fruit as well as if it bear ill fruit. It is not enough for a servant that he doth his master no hurt; he must do his master's work: in the Gospel, he had not misspent his talent, but hid it in a napkin.

But I come to the words. In the verse he presseth them to works of charity, and an holy conversation, that so they might both show themselves to be truly religious, and that their profession was that pure and immaculate faith which Christian religion propoundeth.

Pure religion, and undefiled.—He doth not set down what is the whole nature of religion, but only some particular testimonies of it. Religion also requireth faith and worship, but the truth of these is evidenced by charity and an holy life; and, therefore, the anti-scripturists of our days grossly pervert this place, and the scope of the apostle, when they would make all religion to consist in these outward acts; for the apostle is dealing with hypocrites, who pretended faith and worship, neglecting charity.

Before God and the Father is this; that is, before God, who is the Father of Christ, and us in him. The like phrase is used in many other places: 2 Cor. i. 3, `Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ;, so Eph. i. 3; so Eph. v. 20, `To the God, and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ:, and he saith, `Before God, that is, in his eye, and his esteem. Hypocrites may deceive men, for they see only what is without; but God the Father judgeth rightly. And also this is mentioned to imply the sincerity of such Christian offices; they should be done as in the presence of God.


To visit.—Under this word by a synecdoche are comprehended all duties of love. To visit, is to comfort them in their misery, to relieve them in their necessities; and under this one kind of charity are comprehended all duties to our neighbour.

The fatherless and the widows.—These are specified, but others are not excluded: there are other objects of charity, as the poor, the sick, the captive, the stranger, which are also spoken of in scriptures. But the fatherless and widows do most usually want relief, and are most liable to neglect and oppression. They are often mentioned elsewhere in scripture; as Isa. i. 17, `Judge the fatherless, plead for the widow;, so Ps. cxlvi. 9; so Prov. xv. 25, and xxiii. 10.

In their affliction; that is, in their straits, and when most op pressed; and this is added lest men should think their duty performed by visiting those amongst the fatherless and widows that are rich and wealthy.

And to keep himself unspotted.—This is coupled with the former duty, to show the inseparable connection that should be between charity and holiness, and to show that that religion is false which doth not teach holiness as well as charity: as Papists sever them, and cry up charity as a merit to expiate the defect of holiness.

From the world.—The world, when it is taken in an ill sense, is sometimes put for the men of the world, and sometimes for the lusts of the world: 1 John ii. 15, `Whatever is in the world is either the lusts of the eyes, the lusts of the flesh, or the pride of life., Now, to `keep ourselves unspotted from the world, is to keep ourselves from the taint and infection of an evil example, and the prevalency and sovereignty of worldly lusts.

Out of this verse observe:—

Obs. 1. That it is the glory of religion when it is pure: Ps. xix., `The commandment of the Lord is pure;, no doctrine so holy in itself, and maketh such provision for good life. False religions are descried by their impurity. God suffereth false worshippers to fall into obscenities, that they may draw a just scorn upon themselves, Rom. i. Popery is no friend to good life: pardons set at sale make way for looseness. The true Christian religion is called `a holy faith, Jude 20. No faith goeth so high for rewards, nor is so holy for precepts. Well, then, an impure life will not suit with a holy faith. Precious liquor must be kept in a clean vessel, and `the mystery of the faith, held `in a pure conscience, 1 Tim. iii. 9. We never suit with our religion more than when the way is undefiled and the heart pure: `Blessed are the undefiled in the way, Ps. cxix. 1; and again, `Blessed are the pure in heart, Mat. v. 8.

Obs. 2. That a pure religion should be kept undefiled. A holy life and a bounteous heart are ornaments to the gospel. Religion is not adorned with ceremonies, but purity and charity. The apostle speaketh of making the doctrine of God our Saviour comely, Titus ii. 10. It is with us either to credit or to stain our religion: `Wisdom is, or should be, `justified of her children, Mat. xi. 19. By the innocency of their lives they bring a glory to their way. So also a bountiful man is an honour to his profession, whereas a covetous man sullieth it; as the apostle saith, Rom. v. 7, `For a 176righteous man would one scarcely die, but for a good man would one even dare to die., A man of a severe innocency is hated rather than loved, but a good or bountiful man gaineth upon the hearts of others; they would even die for him.

Obs. 3. A great fruit and token of piety is provision for the afflicted. In the 25th of Matthew you see acts of charity fill up the bill. Works of mercy do well become them that do expect or have received mercy from God; this is to be like God, and we should never come to him, or go away from him, but with somewhat of his image in our hearts: dissimilitude and disproportion is the ground of dislike. Now one of the chief glories in the Godhead is the unweariedness of his love and bounty: he visits the fatherless and the widows; so should we: the spirit of our religion is forgiving; and therefore the cruel hard heart is made by Paul a kind of `denying the faith, 1 Tim. v. 8.

Obs. 4. Charity singleth out the objects that are most miserable. The apostle saith, `the widows and fatherless, and that `in their afflictions., That is true bounty when we give to those that are not able to make requital: Luke xiv. 12-14, `When thou makest a dinner or supper, call not thy brethren, or friends, or rich neighbours, &c. We cannot do the least duty for God but we have some self aims. We make our giving many times to be a kind of selling, and mind our advantage in our charity. Oh! consider, our sweetest influences should fall on the lower grounds: to visit the rich widows is but courtesy; to visit the poor, and that in their affliction, that is charity.

Obs. 5. This charity to the poor must be performed as worship, out of respect to God. The apostle saith to visit the fatherless is θρησκεία, worship. A Christian hath a holy art of turning duties of the second table into duties of the first; and in respect to man, they worship God. So Heb. xiii, 16, `To do good, and to communicate, forget not; for with such sacrifice God is well pleased., To do good is a duty of the second table; and sacrifice, while it was a part of God's worship, a duty of the first. Well, then, alms should be sacrifice; not a sin-offering, but a thank-offering to God. This is the difference between a Christian and others, he can make commerce worship. In common business he acteth upon reasons and principles of religion, and whatever he doth to man, he doth it for God's sake, out of love to God, fear of God. The world is led by interest, and they by conscience. The men of the world are tied one to another, like Samson's foxes by their tails, by their mutual intertwisted interests; but they, in all their relations, do what they do as in and to the Lord, Eph. v. 22; so Eph. vi. 1; so ver. 7, et alibi. Well, then, we must be tender of the end and reason of our actions in civil respects: alms is worship and sacrifice, and therefore not to be offered to the idol of our own credit and esteem, or to be done out of private ends, but in obedience to God, and for his glory.

Obs. 6. From that before God. True religion and profession is rather for God's eye than man's. It aimeth at the approbation of God, not ostentation before men. David saith, Ps. xviii. 23, `I have been upright before thee, and kept myself from my iniquity., That is a fruit of true uprightness, to draw all our actions into the presence of 177God, and to do what we do before him. So Ps. xvi. 8, `I have set the Lord always before me., In every action he was thinking of the eye of God; will this be an action for God's notice and approbation? So Ps. cxix. 168, `I have kept thy testimonies; for all my ways are before thee., He maketh that to be the reason of the integrity of his obedience, `My ways are before thee;, under the observance and inspection of God. Hypocrites cannot endure such thoughts. The prodigal was for a far country, away from his father; and it is said, Job xiii. 16, `A hypocrite will not come before him;, that is, be under God's eye and sight.

Obs. 7. From that before God and the Father. We serve God most comfortably when we consider him as a Father in Christ. Lord, Lord, is not half so sweet as Our Father. Duty in the covenant of grace is far more comfortable, not only as we have more help, but because it is done in a sweeter relation. We are not servants, but have received the adoption of sons. Get an interest in God, that his work may be sweet to you. Mercies yield the more sweetness when they come not only from a Creator, but a Father; and duties are done with the more confidence when we can come into the presence of God, not as servants, but sons. A servant may use greater industry and pains than a son, and yet please less.

Obs. 8. The relieving of the afflicted and the unspotted life must go together. As the apostle coupleth them, so doth Christ: Mat. v. 7, 8, `Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy;, and then presently, `Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God., A man that is charitable and not pure, is better to others than to himself. Goodness and righteousness are often coupled in the Old Testament: Micah vi. 8; so Dan. iv. 27. It is strange that men should so grossly separate what God hath joined. There are some that are `pure in their own eyes, but content themselves with a cheap and barren profession. Others are vicious and loose, and they are all for acts of charity and mercy; and so covetousness lurketh under the veil of profession on the one side, and on the other men hope to recompense God for the excesses of an ill life by a liberal profusion, as if the emptying of the purse were a way to ease the conscience. Well, then, let the hand be open and the heart pure. You must `visit the fatherless and the widow, and `keep yourselves unspotted from the world.,

Obs. 9. The world is a dirty, defiling thing. A man can hardly walk here but he shall defile his garments. (1.) The very things of the world leave a taint upon our spirits. By worldly objects we soon grow worldly. It is hard to touch pitch and not to be defiled. We see in other things that our minds receive a tincture from those objects with which we usually converse. Christ prayeth, John xvii. 15, `I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but keep them from the evil of the world., Christ knew what a temptation it is to live here in the midst of honours, and pleasures, and profits. It was a happy thing that Paul could say, Gal. vi. 14, `I am crucified to the world, and the world is crucified to me., The world hated him, and he did not care for the world. The world is crucified to many, but they are not crucified to it; they follow after a flying shadow. 178(2.) The lusts of the world, they stain the glory and deface the excellency of your natures: `Corruption is in the world through lust, 2 Peter i. 4. Your affections were made for higher purposes than to be melted out in lusts. To love the pleasures of the world, it is as if you should defile your bed with a blackamoor, and be so sick of lust as to hug nastiness. and embrace the dung, Lam. iv. 5. (3.) The men of the world are sooty, dirty creatures. We cannot converse with them but they leave their filthiness upon us. The apostle saith, 2 Tim. ii. 21, `If a man purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel of honour, sanctified and meet for the master's use., From these, that is, from the leprosy of evil examples, for the apostle speaketh of those vessels of dishonour that are in the great house of God, the world, which a man cannot touch without defilement. A man cannot hold any communion with them, but he shall be the worse for them. `These are spots in your love-feasts, Jude 12; they defile the company.

Well, then—;(1.) Let us more and more grow weary of the world. A man that would always live here is like a scullion that loveth to lie among the pots. In those blessed mansions that are above, `there shall in no wise enter anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, Rev. xxi. 27. There we shall have pure company, and be out of the reach and danger of temptations. There are no devils in heaven; they were cast out long since, 2 Peter ii. 6, and you are to fill up their vacant rooms and places. The devil, when he was not fit for heaven, he was cast into the world, a fit place for misery, sin, and torment; and now this is the devil's walk. He compasseth the earth to and fro. Who would be in love with a place of bondage? with Satan's diocese? that odd, dirty corner of the universe, where a man can hardly move back or forth, but he shall be defiled? (2.) While we live here, let us keep ourselves as unspotted as we can. In a place of snares, we should walk with the more care: Rev. iii. 4, `There are a few names that have not defiled their garments; they shall walk with me in white., There are some, though few, that escape the taint of the world. You are kept by the power of God; yet, in some sense, you must keep yourselves: you are to `watch, and keep your garments, Rev. xvi. 15. You are to act faith upon the victory of Christ, by which `he hath overcome the world, 1 John v, 4. You are to commend yourselves to God in prayer, that he may keep and `present you faultless before the presence of his glory, Jude 24. You are to discourse upon the promises, and to work them into your hearts by spiritual reasoning, that you may `escape the corruption that is in the world through lust, 2 Peter i. 4, and 2 Cor. vii. 1. You are to avoid communion with the lepers of the world: we should learn a holy pride,152152`Discamus sanctam superbiam, et sciamus nos esse illis meliores.,—Hieron. and scorn such company. A man that keepeth ill company is like him that walketh in the sun, tanned insensibly. All these things you must do. It is a folly to think that because the power is from God, therefore the care should not be in ourselves.

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