[ocr errors]

wrest judgement, thou shalt keep thee far from a false matter:" for God (whom thou oughtest to imitate) will not justify the wicked. Men will follow the sinful fashions of the world, in strange apparel, in prodigious hair, in lustful and unprofitable expense of that precious moment of time, upon the abuse or right improvement whereof dependeth the several issues of their eternal condition; though the Lord say expressly, "Be not conformed to this world": they that walk according to the course of the world, walk according to the prince of the power of the air." "The Lord will punish all such as are clothed with strange apparel," who take up the fashions of idolaters, or any other nation, or other sexes (as that place is differently expounded"). Nature itself teacheth, that it is a shame for a man to wear long hair. Nay, nature itself taught that honest heathen to stand at defiance with the sins of his age, and not comply with the course of the world, upon that slight apology, as if the commonness" had taken away the illness; and that which, committed by one, would have been a sin,-being imitated after a multitude, were but a fashion. To conclude this particular: the apostle is peremptory, "Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor effeminate, nor covetous, nor thieves, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God:" and the consciences of many men, who yet will never yield to the conclusion, cannot choose but subsume, as the apostle goes on, “such are some of us;" nay, and such we will be too. But now if we should bespeak these men in the word of the prophet", "Produce your cause, saith the Lord, bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob,"-they should, find at the last their reasons to be like themselves, vanity, and lighter than nothing; that the Word of the Lord will at last prevail, and sweep away all their refuge of lies.".

Secondly, The power of the Word towards wicked men is seen in affrighting of them: there is a spirit of bondage, and a savour of death', as well as a spirit of life and liberty,

4 Rom. xii. 2. t1 Cor. xi. 14.

r Ephes. ii. 2. s Zeph. i. 8. Hieron. Theodoret. Ribera. u Nec virtutem aut vitium seculum vocavit. Tacit, in Agric. virtus vocatur, cum publice z Isai. xli. 21.

* Homicidium cum admittunt singuli, crimen est; geritur. Cypr. 1. 2. Ep. 2. y 1 Cor. vi. 9. xxviii. 17.

b 2 Cor. ii. 16.

a Isai.


which goeth along with the Word. Guilt is an inseparable consequent of sin, and fear, of the manifestation of guilt. If the heart be once convinced of this, it will presently faint and tremble, even at the shaking of a leaf, at the wagging of a man's own conscience: how much more at the voice of the Lord, which shaketh mountains, and maketh the strong foundations of the earth to tremble! If I should see a prisoner at the bar pass sentence upon his judge; and the judge thereupon surprised with trembling, and forced to subscribe and acknowledge the doom, I could not but stand amazed at so inverted a proceeding: yet in the Scripture we find precedents for it; Micaiah, a prisoner, pronouncing death unto Ahab, a king: Jeremiah, a prisoner, pronouncing captivity unto Zedekiah, a king: Paul, in his chains', preaching of judgement unto Felix in his robes, and making his own judge to tremble. It is not for want of strength in the Word, or because there is stoutness in the hearts of men to stand out against it,-that all the wicked of the world do not tremble at it; but merely their ignorance of the power and evidence thereof. The devils are stronger and more stubborn creatures than any man can be; yet because of their full illumination, and that invincible conviction of their consciences from the power of the Word, they believe and tremble at it. Though men were as hard as rocks, the Word is a hammer h which can break them: though as sharp as thorns and briers, the Word is a fire which can devour and torment them: though as strong as kingdoms and nations, the Word is able to root them up', and to pull them down: though as fierce as dragons and lions", the Word is able to trample upon them, and chain them Thirdly, The power of the Word is seen towards wicked men, in that it doth judge them. "Son of man, wilt thou judge, wilt thou judge the bloody city?" saith the Lord: " "Yea, thou shalt show them their abominations :"-to note, that when wicked men are made to see their filthiness in the Word, they have thereby the wrath of God, as it were, sealed upon them. "He that rejecteth me, the Word which I have

[blocks in formation]


e Jer. xxxvii. 16, 17. h Jer. xxiii. 29. 1 Jer. i. 10. m Psalm xci. 13.

i Ezek. ii. 6.

n Ezek.

spoken, the same shall judge him at the last day," saith our Saviour." And "if all prophesy," saith the apostle 3, “and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all, and the secrets of his heart are made manifest." Nay, the Word doth, in some sort, execute death and judgement upon wicked men: therefore it is said, that "The Lord would smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips would slay the wicked ":" and again, “I have hewed them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of my mouth "." And therefore the word of the Lord is called "fury" by the prophet, to note, that when wrath and fury is poured out upon a land, they are the effects of God's word. If a pestilence devour a city, and a sword come and glean after it, it is the Word only which slays; they are but the instruments, which are, as it were, actuated and applied by the word of God to their several services. Therefore it is that the prophet saith, that wise men "see the voice of God, and hear his rod." A rod is properly to be seen, and a voice to be heard; but here is a transposition, and, as it were, a communication of properties between the word of God and his punishments; to note, that towards wicked men there is a judging, and tormenting virtue in the Word; "For judgement," saith our Saviour ", " am I come into the world, that they which see not, might see, and that they which see, might be made blind." If it be here objected that Christ saith of himself, "The Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them; and that he came not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved;" I answer, that there are two events of Christ's coming, and by consequence, of his gospel:-the one principal, and by him intended; the other accidental and occasional, growing out of the ill disposition of the subject unto whom he was sent. The main and essential business of the gospel, is to declare salvation, and to set open unto men a door of escape from the wrath to come: but when men willingly stand out, and neglect so great salvation, then, secondarily, doth Christ prove unto those men a stone of offence, and

• John xii. 48. Jer. vi. 11.

q Isai. xi. 8.
* Luke vi. 5

r Hosea vi. 5.

p 1 Cor. xiv. 24.
Micah vi. 9. u John ix. 30.

the gospel a savour of death unto death; as that potion which was intended for a cure by the physician, may, upon occasion of the indisposedness of the body, and stubborn radication of the disease, hasten a man's end sooner than the disease itself would have done :. so that, to the wicked, the Word of God is a two-edged sword indeed, an edge in the law, and an edge in the gospel. They are on every side beset with condemnation; if they go to the law, that cannot save them; because they have broken it: if they go to the gospel, that will not save them, because they have contemned it.


Fourthly, The power of the Word towards wicked men is seen in this, that it doth ripen their sins, and make them so much the more sinful, and so much the sooner fill up their measure. "If I had not come," saith Christ", "and spoken unto them, they had had no sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin." A tree which is fastened unto a wall, in which the heat of the sun is more permanent and united, will bring forth ripe fruit before the ordinary season: so a people upon whom the light of the gospel hath constantly shined, and which doth often drink in the rain which falleth upon it, must needs bring forth summer-fruit, sins speedily ripe, and therefore be so much nearer unto cursing. There is but a year between such a tree and the fire a. We shall never find, that the sins of Israel and of Judah (for which they were at any time plagued with captivity) were so long in ripeness as the sins of the Canaanites, upon whom there did no light shine. The land had rest sometimes forty years: but we never find, that they were suffered to provoke the Lord to his face four hundred years together. We find, when to Nineveh he sent a prophet to reveal unto them the guilt and merit of their sins, he then set them a very short time, in which they should either forsake or ripen them, "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed."

Fifthly, The power of the engraffed Word towards wicked men is seen even in the rage and madness, which it excites in them. It is a sign that a man hath to do with a strong enemy, when he buckleth on all his harness, and calleth together all his strength for opposition. When I see a river with out any sensible noise or motion, I am ready to esteem it a

y John xv. 22. a Amos viii. 1. a Luke xiii. 8, 9.

standing pool; but when I look further, and there observe what huge engines it carries about, and what weighty bodies it rolleth before it,-I then believe a strength in it which I did not see: So when I see the word of Christ rouse up the rage and lusts of men, and force them to set up against it strong holds and high imagination, even the wisdom and strength of the gates of hell to keep it out; I must needs then conclude that it is indeed virga virtutis,' a rod of strength. The most calm and devout hypocrites in the world have, by the power of this word, been put out of their demure temper, and mightily transported with outrage and bitterness against the majesty thereof. One time, filled with wrath ; another time, filled with madness; another time, filled with envy and indignation; another time, filled with contradiction and blasphemy; another time, cut to the heart, and, like reprobates in hell, gnashing with their teeth;-such a searching power, and such an extreme contrariety there is in the gospel to the lusts of men, that if it do not subdue, it will wonderfully swell them up,-till it distemper even the grave, prudent men of the world with those brutish and uncomely affections of rage and fury, and drive disputers from their arguments unto stones. Sin cannot endure to be disquieted, much less to be shut in and encompassed with the curses of God's word. Therefore as a hunted beast, in an extremity of distress, will turn back, and put to its utmost strength to be revenged on the pursuers, and to save its life; so wicked men to save their lusts will let out all their rage, and open all their sluices of pride and malice, to withstand that holy truth which doth so closely pursue them. Thus as beggarly masters deal with their servants, or bankrupts with their creditors,-when they should pay them their money (which they are unable to do), they then pick quarrels, and create pretences to withhold it; or as froward men, in suits of law, when their cause fails, endeavour to piece it out with rage and passion;-so do wicked men deal with God in his word, when they should pay him that service which he therein requireth of them, and which they have neither will nor power to do, when he produceth

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« VorigeDoorgaan »