committed the dispensation of the grace of God. So then the Word is his, but the service ours.

From whence, both the ministers of the Word, and they which hear it, may learn their several duties. First, We should learn to speak as the oracles of God, as the servants and stewards of a higher master, whose Word it is which we preach, and whose church it is which we serve. We should therefore do his work, as men that are set in his stead; preach him and not ourselves. There can be no greater sacrilege in the world, than to put our own image upon the ordinances of Christ, than to make another gospel than we have received. St. Paul durst not please men, because he was the servant of Christ; neither durst he preach himself, because he was the servant of the church. For hereby men do even justle Christ out of his own throne, and, as it were, snatch the sceptre of his kingdom out of his hand, boldly intruding upon that sacred and uncommunicable dignity which the Father hath given to his Son only, which is to be the author of his gospel, and the total and adequate object of all evangelical preaching. This sacrilege of self-preaching is committed three manner of ways: First, When men make themselves the authors of their own preaching, when they preach their own inventions, and make their own brains the seminaries and forges of a new faith; when they so gloss the pure word of God, as that withal they poison and pervert it. This is that which the prophet calleth lying visions and dreams of men's own hearts;" which St. Peter" calls "perverting," or making crooked the rule of faith; and St. Paul, the huckstering, adulterating, and "using the word of God deceitfully." Which putteth me in mind of a speech in the prophet', "The prophet is the snare of a fowler in all his ways." Birds, we know, use to be caught with the same corn wherewith they are usually fed; but then it is either adulterated with some venomous mixture, which may intoxicate the bird, or else put into a gin which shall imprison it: and such were the carnal preachers in the prophet's, and in St. Paul's time, who turned the truth of God into a snare, that by that means they might "bring the



Ezek. xiii. 3, 9, 17. Jer. xiv. 14. xxiii. 16.
• 2 Cor. ii. 17. 2 Cor. iv. 2.
f Hosea ix. 8.

b Gal. i. 10. iii. 16.

d 2 Pet.

church into bondage."s The occasions and originals of this perverse humour are, First, Without men, the seducements of Satan, unto which, by the just severity of God", they are sometimes given over, for the punishment of their own and others' sins. Secondly, Within them (upon which the other is grounded) as pride of wit, joined with ambition and impatiency of repulse in vast desires, which hath anciently been the ground of many heresies and schisms: nothing hath ever been more dangerous to the church of God, than greatness of parts unsanctified and unallayed with the love of truth, and the grace of Christ. Secondly, Envy against the pains and estimation of those that are fearful. This was one of the originals of Arius's cursed heresy, his envy against Alexander the good bishop of Alexandria, as Theodoret reports. Thirdly, Impatiency of the spiritualness and simplicity of the holy Scriptures, which is ever joined with the predominancy of some carnal lust, whereby the conscience is notoriously wasted or defiled. He that hath once put away a good conscience, and doth not desire truth in order and respect to that, that thereby his conscience may be illightened, purified, and kept even towards God,-will, without much ado, make shipwreck of his faith, and change the truth for any thriving error. And this impatiency of the Spirit of truth in the Scriptures, is that which caused heretics of old to reject some parts, and to add more to the canon of sacred Scriptures, and, in these days, to superadd traditions and apocryphal accessions thereunto; and in those which are pure, and on all sides confessed, to use such licentious and carnal glosses, as may hale the Scripture to the countenancing of their lusts and prejudices, rather than to the rectifying of their own hearts by the rule of Christ

[ocr errors]

Secondly, Men preach themselves when they make themselves the object of their preaching, when they preach self-dependency, and self-concurrency, making themselves, as it were, joint-saviours with Christ. Such was the preaching of Simon Magus, who gave out that

8 Gal. ii. 4. Mic. iii. 5, 6.

h1 Kings xxii. 23. 2 Thes. ii. 10, 12, i Mater omnium Hæreticorum, superbia. Aug. de Gen. contr. Manic. lib. 2. c. 8. et Conf.4. 12. c. 24. k Theod. Eccl. Hist. 1. i. c. 2.-Vid. Petr. Erod. Decret. lib. 1. Tit. 6. sect. 12.

1 Tertul. cont. Merc. 1. 4. c. 6. et 43. et lib. 5. cap. 4.

himself was some great one, even the great power of God. Of Montanus and his scholars, who preached him for the comforter that was promised. Of Pelagius and his associates, who though they did acknowledge the name of gracem, to decline envy, and avoid the curse of the great council of Carthage, yet still they did but shelter their proud heresies under equivocations and ambiguities. Of the Massilienses in the time of Prosper and Hilary, and of some ancient schoolmen, touching pre-existent congruities for the preparations of grace, and co-existent concurrences with the Spirit, for the production of grace. Of the Papists, in their doctrines of indulgences, authoritative absolution, merits of good works, justification, and other like,-which do, all in effect, out-face, and give the lie unto the apostle, when he calleth Christ an 'able or sufficient Saviour.'"

Thirdly, Men preach themselves, when they make themselves the end of their preaching, when they preach their own parts, passions, and designs, and seek not the Lord; when out of envy, or covetousness, or ambition, or any other servile or indirect affection, men shall prevaricate in the Lord's message, and make the truth of God serve their own turns; when men shall stand upon God's holy mount, as on a theatre, to act their own parts, and as on a step to their own advancement P; when the truth of God, and the death. of Christ, and the kingdom of Heaven, and the fire of Hell, and the souls of men, and the salvation of the world shall be made basely serviceable and contributary to the boundless pride of an atheistical Diotrephes. Such as these were they, who, in the times of Constantius the emperor', poisoned the world with Arianism, and, in the times of St. Cyprian, provoked persecutions against the church; and, in the times of Israel, ensnared the ten tribes, till they were utterly destroyed, and blinded the two tribes, till they were led away captive by the Babylonians :-so horrid are the consequences of taking away the gospel of Christ from him, and making it the rod, not of his strength, but of our own pride or passion.

m Gratiæ vocabulo frangens invidiam, offensionemque declinans, Aug. de Grat. Christ. 1. 1. c. 37. et epist. 105. n Heb. vii. 25. o Jer. x. 21. Phil. i. 16. Ezek. xxxiv. 25. P Isai. lvi. 11. Mich. iii. 5. 2 Pet. ii. 14, 15. Jude v. 11. 4 3 John ver. 9. Amos vii. 12, 13. Sulpit. Sever. lib. 2. -Cyprian. de Lapsis. Hos. v. 1. ix. 7, 8. Jer. xxiii. 28, 29.

We must, therefore, always remember, that the gospel is Christ's own, and that will encourage us to speak it as we ought to speak :

First, With authority and boldness, without silence or connivance at the sins of men. Though, in our private and personal relations, we are to show all modesty, humility, and lowliness of carriage towards all men; yet, in our master's business, we must not respect the persons, nor be daunted at the faces of men. Paul a prisoner was not afraid to preach of righteousness, and temperance, and judgement to come, before a corrupt and lascivious prince, though it made him tremble.

Secondly, With wisdom, as a scribe', instructed to the kingdom of Heaven. This was St. Paul's" care to work as a wise master-builder. When Christ's enemies watched him to pick something out of his mouth, whereby they might accuse him, we find so much depth of wisdom in the answers and behaviours of Christ, as utterly disappointed them of their expectations, and struck them with such amazement, that they never durst ask him questions more. So should we endeavour to behave ourselves in such manner, as that our ministry may not be blamed, nor the truth of God exposed to censure or disadvantages: for sacred truths may be sometimes either so unseasonably, or so indigestedly, and incoherently delivered, as may rather open than stop the mouths of gainsayers, and sooner discredit the truth, than convert the adversary. The apostle saith, that we are to "make a difference, to save some with compassion, others with fear." This is to speak a word in due season,' and, as our Saviour did, 'to speak as men are able to hear;' to press the Word upon the conscience with such seasonable and suitable enforcements as may be most likely to convince those judgements, and to allure those affections, which we have to do withal. It is not knowledge in the general, but the right use thereof, and wise application unto particulars, which winneth souls. "The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright." This is that heavenly craft wherewith the apostle caught

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

the Corinthians, as it were, by guile: such art he useth towards the philosophers of Athens, not exasperating men who are heady and confident of their own rules, but seeming rather to make up the defects, which themselves in the inGod scription of their altar confessed, and to reveal that very unto them, whom they worshipped, but did not know. Therefore we find him there honouring their own learning, and, out of that, disputing for a resurrection, and against idolatry, to show that Christian religion was no way against that learning, or rectified reason, which they seemed to profess. The like art he used towards king Agrippa, first presuming of his knowledge and credit which he gave to the prophets, and then meeting, and setting on his inclinable disposition to embrace the gospel; like the wisdom of the servants of Benhadad unto Ahab, "They did diligently observe, whether any thing would come from him, and did hastily catch it; and they said, Thy brother Benhadad." And the like wisdom he used everywhere, he denied himself his own liberty, and made himself a servant unto all; to the Jew, as a Jew; to the Greek, as a Greek; to the weak, as weak; and all things to all, that by all means he might save some, and so further the gospel. One while, he used circumcision, that he might thereby gain the weak Jews: another while, he forbad circumcision, that he might not misguide the converted Gentiles, nor give place by subjection unto false bre"and I am not weak? thren. "Who is weak," saith he ", who is offended, and I burn not?" His care of men's souls made him take upon him every man's affection, and accommodate himself unto every man's temper; that he might not offend the weak, nor exasperate the mighty, nor dishearten the beginner, nor affright those which were without, from coming in, but be all unto all for their salvation. The same love is due unto all; but the same method of cure is not requisite for all. With some, love travelleth in pain ; with others, it rejoiceth in hope: some, it laboureth to edify; and others, it feareth to offend: unto the weak, it stoopeth; unto the strong, it raiseth itself: to some, it is compassionate; to others, severe; to none, an enemy; to

d Acts xxvi. 2, 3, 27, 29.

e 1 Kings xx. 33.

e Acts xvii. 23, 28. f 1 Cor. ix. 19, 23. 8 2 Cor. xi. 29. h Eadem omnibus debetur charitas, non eadem medicina, &c. Aug. de Catech. Rud. cap. 15.

« VorigeDoorgaan »