sequentis judicii amaritudo nunquam recedat a memoria :— so laugh here that you may not forget your danger, lest you weep for ever." He that thinks most seriously and most frequently of this fearful appearance, will find that it is better staying for his joys till this sentence be past; for then he shall perceive, whether he hath reason or no. In the mean time wonder not, that God, who loves mankind so well, should punish him so severely: for therefore the evil fall into an accursed portion, because they despised that which God most loves, his Son and his mercies, his graces and his Holy Spirit; and they that do all this, have cause to complain of nothing but their own follies; and they shall feel the accursed consequents then, when they shall see the Judge sit above them, angry and severe, inexorable and terrible; under them, an intolerable hell; within them, their consciences clamorous and diseased: without them, all the world on fire; on the right hand, those men glorified whom they persecuted or despised: on the left hand, the devils accusing; for this is the day of the Lord's terror, and who is able to abide it?

Seu vigilo intentus studiis, seu dormio, semper
Judicis extremi nostras tuba personet aures.




Now we know that God heareth not sinners; but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doth his will, him he heareth.John ix. 31.

I KNOW not which is the greater wonder, either that prayer, which is a duty so easy and facile, so ready and apted to the powers, and skill, and opportunities, of every man, should have so great effects, and be productive of such mighty blessings; or, that we should be so unwilling to use so easy an instrument of procuring so much good. The first declares

God's goodness, but this publishes man's folly and weakness, who finds in himself so much difficulty to perform a condition so easy and full of advantage. But the order of this felicity is knotted like the foldings of a serpent; all those parts of easiness, which invite us to the duty, are become like the joints of a bulrush, not bendings, but consolidations and stiffenings: the very facility becomes its objection, and in every of its stages, we make or find a huge uneasiness. At first, we do not know what to ask; and when we do, then we find difficulty to bring our will to desire it; and when that is instructed and kept in awe, it mingles interest, and confounds the purposes; and when it is forced to ask honestly and severely, then it wills so coldly, that God hates the prayer; and if it desires fervently, it sometimes turns that into passion, and that passion breaks into murmurs or unquietness; or, if that be avoided, the indifference cools into death, or the fire burns violently and is quickly spent ; our desires are dull as a rock, or fugitive as lightning; either we ask ill things earnestly, or good things remissly; we either court our own danger, or are not zealous for our real safety: or, if we be right in our matter, or earnest in our affections, and lasting in our abode, yet we miss in the manner; and either we ask for evil ends, or without religious and awful apprehensions; or we rest in the words and signification of the prayer, and never take care to pass on to action; or else we sacrifice in the company of Korab, being partners of a schism, or a rebellion in religion; or we bring unhallowed censers, our hearts send up to God an unholy smoke, a cloud from the fires of lust; and either the flames of lust or rage, of wine or revenge, kindle the beast that is laid upon the altar; or we bring swine's flesh, or a dog's neck; whereas God never accepts or delights in a prayer, unless it be for a holy thing, to a lawful end, presented unto him upon the wings of zeal and love, or religious sorrow, or religious joy; by sanctified lips, and pure hands, and a sincere heart. It must be the prayer of a gracious man; and he is only gracious before God, and acceptable and effective in his prayer, whose life is holy, and whose prayer is holy; for both these are necessary ingredients to the constitution of a prevailing prayer: there is a holiness peculiar to the man, and a holiness peculiar to the prayer, that must adorn

the prayer, before it can be united to the intercession of the holy Jesus, in which union alone our prayers can be prevailing.


"God heareth not sinners."-So the blind man in the text, and confidently, "this we know:" he had reason, indeed, for his confidence; it was a proverbial saying, and where recorded in their Scriptures, which were read in the synagogues every sabbath-day. "For what is the hope of the hypocrite? (saith Job) Will God hear his cry, when trouble cometh upon him?"* No, he will not. "For if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me,”† said David; and so said the Spirit of the Lord by the son of David: "When distress and anguish come upon you, then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me."+ And Isaiah, "When you spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when you make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood."§ And again, "When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they will offer burnt-offerings and oblations, I will not accept them. For they have loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the Lord will not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins."|| Upon these and many other authorities,¶ it grew into a proverb; "Deus non exaudit peccatores." It was a known case, and an established rule in religion; "Wicked persons are neither fit to pray for themselves, nor for others."

Which proposition let us first consider in the sense of that purpose, which the blind man spoke it in, and then in the utmost extent of it, as its analogy and equal reason go forth upon us and our necessities. The man was cured of his blindness, and being examined concerning him that did it, named and gloried in his physician: but the spiteful pharisees bid him give glory to God, and defy the minister; for God indeed was good, but he wrought that cure by a wicked hand. No, says he, this is impossible. If this man were a sinner and a false prophet (for in that instance the accusation was intended), God would not hear his prayer, and work

[ocr errors]

* Job xxxvii. 9. Jer. xiv. 12, 10.

+ Psalm lxvi. 18.

Prov. i. 28. $ Isa. i. 15.
¶ Vide etiam. Ps. xxxiv. 6. Micah iii. 4. 1 Pet. iii. 12.


miracles by him in verification of a lie.—A false prophet could not work true miracles; this hath received its diminution, when the case was changed; for at that time, when Christ preached, miracles were the only or the great verification of any new revelation; and, therefore, it proceeding from an almighty God, must needs be the testimony of a Divine truth; and if it could have been brought for a lie, there could not then have been sufficient instruction given to mankind, to prevent their belief of false prophets and lying doctrines. But when Christ proved his doctrine by miracles, that no enemy of his did ever do so great before or after him ; then he also told, that, after him, his friends should do greater, and his enemies should do some, but they were fewer, and very inconsiderable; and, therefore, could have in them no unavoidable cause of deception, because they were discovered by a prophecy, and caution was given against them by him that did greater miracles, and yet ought to have been believed, if he had done but one; because against him there had been no caution, but many prophecies creating such expectations concerning him, which he verified by his great works. So that, in this sense of working miracles, though it was infinitely true that the blind man said, then when he said it, yet after that the case was altered; and sinners, magicians, astrologers, witches, heretics, simoniacs, and wicked persons of other instances, have done miracles, and God hath heard sinners, and wrought his own works by their hands, or suffered the devil to do his works under their pretences; and many, at the day of judgment, shall plead that they have done miracles in Christ's name, and yet they shall be rejected; Christ knows them not, and their portion shall be with dogs, and goats, and unbelievers.

There is, in this case, only this difference; that they who do miracles in opposition to Christ, do them by the power of the devil, to whom it is permitted to do such things, which we think miracles; and that is all one as though they were but the danger of them is none at all, but to them that will not believe him that did greater miracles, and prophesied of these less, and gave warning of their attending danger, and was confirmed to be a true teacher by voices from heaven and by the resurrection of his body after a three days' burial: so that to these the proposition still remains



true, "God hears not sinners," God does not work those miracles; but concerning sinning Christians, God, in this sense, and towards the purposes of miracles, does hear them, and hath wrought miracles by them, for they do them "in the name of Christ," and therefore Christ said, "cannot easily speak ill of him ;" and although they either prevaricate in their lives, or in superinduced doctrines, yet, because the miracles are a verification of the religion, not of the opinion, of the power of truth of Christ, not of the veracity of the man, God hath heard such persons many times, whom men have long since, and to this day, called heretics; such were the Novatians and Arians; for, to the heathens they could only prove their religion, by which they stood distinguished from them, but we find not that they wrought miracles among the Christians, or to verify their superstructures and private opinions. But, besides this yet, we may also by such means arrest the forwardness of our judgments and condemnations of persons disagreeing in their opinions from us; for those persons, whose faith God confirmed by miracles, was an entire faith; and although they might have false opinions, or mistaken explications of true opinions, either inartificial or misunderstood, yet we have reason to believe their faith to be entire; for that which God would have the heathen to believe, and to that purpose proved it by a miracle himself intended to accept, first to a holy life, and then to glory. The false opinion should burn, and themselves escape. One thing more is here very considerable, that in this very instance of working miracles, God was so very careful not to hear sinners or permit sinners, till he had prevented all dangers to good and innocent persons, that the case of Christ and his apostles working miracles, was so clearly separated and remarked by the finger of God, and distinguished from the impostures and pretences of all the many antichrists that appeared in Palestine, Cyprus, Crete, Syria, and the vicinage, that there were but very few Christians, that, with hearty persuasions, fell away from Christ, Θᾶττόν τις τοὺς ἀπὸ Χριστοῦ μεταδιδάξειε, said Galen, “ It is not easy to teach anew him that hath been taught by Christ:" and St. Austin tells a story of an unbelieving man, that, being troubled that his wife was a Christian, went to the oracle to ask by what means he should alter her persuasion;

« VorigeDoorgaan »