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Spring in the Heart

Spring in the Heart

Spring in the Heart

"Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof."—Psalm 65:10.

THOUGH other seasons excel in fulness, spring must always bear the palm for freshness and beauty. We thank God when the harvest hours draw near, and the golden grain invites the sickle, but we ought equally to thank him for the rougher days of spring, for these prepare the harvest. April showers are mothers of the sweet May flowers, and the wet and cold of winter are the parents of the splendour of summer. God blesses the springing thereof, or else it could not be said, "Thou crownest the year with thy goodness." There is as much necessity for divine benediction in spring as for heavenly bounty in summer; and, therefore, we should praise God all the year round.

Spiritual spring is a very blessed season in a church. Then we see youthful piety developed, and on every hand we hear the joyful cry of those who say, "We have found the Lord." Our sons are springing up as the grass and as willows by the watercourses. We hold up our hands in glad astonishment and cry, "Who are these that fly as a cloud and as doves to their windows?" In the revival days of a Church, when God is blessing her with many conversions, she has great cause to rejoice in God and to sing, "Thou blessest the springing thereof."

I intend to take the text in reference to individual cases. There is a time of springing of grace, when it is just in its bud, just breaking through the dull cold earth of unregenerate nature. I desire to talk a little about that, and concerning the blessing which the Lord grants to the green blade of new-born godliness, to those who are beginning to hope in the Lord.

I. First, I shall have a little to say about the work previous to the springing thereof.

It appears from the text that there is work for God alone to do before the springing comes, and we know that there is work for God to do through us as well.

There is work for us to do. Before there can be a springing up in the soul of any, there must be ploughing, harrowing, and sowing. There must be a ploughing, and we do not expect that as soon as ever we plough we shall reap the sheaves. Blessed be God, in many cases, the reaper overtakes the ploughman, but we must not always expect it. In some hearts God is long in preparing the soul by conviction: the law with its ten black horses drags the ploughshare of conviction up and down the soul till there is no one part of it left unfurrowed. Conviction goes deeper than any plough to the very core and centre of the spirit, till the spirit is wounded. The ploughers make deep furrows indeed when God puts his hand to the work: the soil of the heart is broken in pieces in the presence of the Most High.

Then comes the sowing. Before there can be a springing up it is certain that there must be something put into the ground, so that after the preacher has used the plough of the law, he applies to his Master for the seed-basket of the gospel. Gospel promises, gospel doctrines, especially a clear exposition of free grace and the atonement, these are the handfuls of corn which we scatter broadcast. Some of the grain falls on the highway, and is lost; but other handfuls fall where the plough has been, and there abide.

Then comes the harrowing work. We do not expect to sow seed and then leave it: the gospel has to be prayed over. The prayer of the preacher and the prayer of the Church make up God’s harrow to rake in the seed after it is scattered, and so it is covered up within the clods of the soul, and is hidden in the heart of the hearer.

Now there is a reason why I dwell upon this, namely, that I may exhort my dear brethren who have not seen success, not to give up the work but to hope that they have been doing the ploughing, and sowing, and harrowing work, and that the harvest is to come. I mention this for yet another reason, and that is, by way of warning to those who expect to have a harvest without this preparatory work. I do not believe that much good will come from attempts at sudden revivals made without previous prayerful labour. A revival to be permanent must be a matter of growth, and the result of much holy effort, longing, pleading, and watching. The servant of God is to preach the gospel whether men are prepared for it or not; but in order to large success, depend upon it there is a preparedness necessary amongst the hearers. Upon some hearts warm earnest preaching drops like an unusual thing which startles but does not convince; while in other congregations, where good gospel preaching has long been the rule, and much prayer has been offered, the words fall into the hearers’ souls and bring forth speedy fruit. We must not expect to have results without work. There is no hope of a church having an extensive revival in its midst unless there is continued and importunate waiting upon God, together with earnest labouring, intense anxiety, and hopeful expectation.

But there is also a work to be done which is beyond our power. After ploughing, sowing, and harrowing, there must come the shower from heaven. "Thou visitest the earth and waterest it," says the Psalmist. In vain are all our efforts unless God shall bless us with the rain of his Holy Spirit’s influence. O Holy Spirit! thou, and thou alone, workest wonders in the human heart, and thou comest from the Father and the Son to do the Father’s purposes, and to glorify the Son.

Three effects are spoken of. First, we are told he waters the ridges. As the ridges of the field become well saturated through and through with the abundant rain, so God sends his Holy Spirit till the whole heart of man is moved and influenced by his divine operations. The understanding is enlightened, the conscience is quickened, the will is controlled, the affections are inflamed; all these powers, which I may call the ridges of the heart, come under the divine working. It is ours to deal with men as men, and bring to bear upon them gospel truth, and to set before them motives that are suitable to move rational creatures; but, after all, it is the rain from on high which alone can water the ridges: there is no hope of the heart being savingly affected except by divine operations.

Next, it is added, "Thou settlest the furrows," by which some think it is meant that the furrows are drenched with water. Others think there is an allusion here to the beating down of the earth by heavy rain till the ridges become flat, and by the soaking of the water are settled into a more compact mass. Certain it is that the influences of God’s Spirit have a humbling and settling effect upon a man. He was unsettled once like the earth that is dry and crumbly, and blown about and carried away with every wind of doctrine; but as the earth when soaked with wet is compacted and knit together, so the heart becomes solid and serious under the power of the Spirit. As the high parts of the ridge are beaten down into the furrows, so, the lofty ideas, the grand schemes, and carnal boastings of the heart begin to level down, when the Holy Spirit comes to work upon the soul. Genuine humility is a very gracious fruit of the Spirit. To be broken in heart is the best means of preparing the soul for Jesus. "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." Brethren, always be thankful when you see high thoughts of man brought down; this settling the furrows is a very gracious preparatory work of grace.

Yet again, it is added, "Thou makest it soft with showers." Man’s heart is naturally hardened against the gospel; like the Eastern soil, it is hard as iron if there be no gracious rain. How sweetly and effectively does the Spirit of God soften the mau through and through! He is no longer towards the Word what he used to be: he feels everything, whereas once he felt nothing. The rock flows with water; the heart is dissolved in tenderness, the eyes are melted into tears.

All this is God’s work. I have said already that God works through us, but still it is God’s immediate work to send down the rain of his grace from on high. Perhaps he is at work upon some of you, though as yet there is no springing up of spiritual life in your souls. Though your condition is still a sad one, we will hope for you that ere long there shall be seen the living seed of grace sending up its tender green shoot above the soil, and may the Lord bless the springing thereof.

II. In the second place, let us deliver a brief description of the springing thereof.

After the operations of the Holy Spirit have been quietly going on for a certain season as pleaseth the great Master and Husbandman, then there are signs of grace. Remember the apostle’s words, "First the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear." Some of our friends are greatly disturbed because they cannot see the full corn in the ear in themselves. They suppose that, if they were the subjects of a divine work they would be precisely like certain advanced Christians with whom it is their privilege to commune, or of whom they may have read in biographies. Beloved, this is a very great mistake. When first grace enters the heart, it is not a great tree covering with its shadow whole acres, but it is the least of all seeds, like a grain of mustard seed. When it first rises upon the soul, it is not the sun shining at high noon, but it is the first dim ray of dawn. Are you so simple as to expect the harvest before you have passed through the springing-time? I shall hope that by a very brief description of the earliest stage of Christian experience you may be led to say, "I have gone as far as that," and then I hope you may be able to take the comfort of the text to yourselves: "Thou blessest the springing thereof."

What then is the springing up of piety in the heart? We think it is first seen in sincerely earnest desires after salvation. The man is not saved, in his own apprehension, but he longs to be. That which was once a matter of indifference is now a subject of intense concern. Once he despised Christians, and thought them needlessly earnest; he thought religion a mere trifle, and he looked upon the things of time and sense as the only substantial matters; but now how changed he is! He envies the meanest Christian, and would change places with the poorest believer if he might but be able to read his title clear to mansions in the skies. Now worldly things have lost dominion over him, and spiritual things are uppermost. Once with the unthinking many, he cried, "Who will show us any good?" but now he cries, "Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon me." Once it was the corn and the wine to which he looked for comfort, but now he looks to God alone. His rock of refuge must be God, for he finds no comfort elsewhere. His holy desires, which he had years ago, were like smoke from the chimney, soon blown away; but now his longings are permanent, though not always operative to the same degree. At times these desires amount to a hungering and a thirsting after righteousness, and yet he is not satisfied with these desires, but wishes for a still more anxious longing after heavenly things. These desires are among the first springings of divine life in the soul.

"The springing thereof" shows itself next in prayer. It is prayer now. Once it was the mocking of God with holy sounds unattended by the heart; but now, though the prayer is such that he would not like a human ear to hear him, yet God approves it, for it is the talking of a spirit to a Spirit, and not the muttering of lips to an unknown God. His prayers, perhaps, are not very long: they do not amount to more than this, "Oh!" "Ah!" "Would to God!" "Lord have mercy upon me, a sinner!" and such-like short ejaculations; but, then, they are prayers. "Behold he prayeth," does not refer to a long prayer; it is quite as sure a proof of spiritual life within, if it only refers to a sigh or to a tear. These "groanings that cannot be uttered," are amongst "the springings thereof."

There will also be manifest a hearty love for the means of grace, and the house of God. The Bible, long unread, which was thought to be of little more use than an old almanack, is now treated with great consideration; and though the reader finds little in it that comforts him just now, and much that alarms him, yet he feels that it is the book for him, and he turns to its pages with hope. When he goes up to God’s house, he listens eagerly, hoping that there may be a message for him. Before, he attended worship as a sort of pious necessity incumbent upon all respectable people; but now he goes up to God’s house that he may find the Saviour. Once there was no more religion in him than in the door which turns upon its hinges; but now he enters the house praying, "Lord, meet with my soul," and if he gets no blessing, he goes away sighing, "O that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat." This is one of the blessed signs of "the springing thereof."

Yet more cheering is another, namely, that the soul in this state has faith in Jesus Christ, at least in some degree. It is not a faith which brings great joy and peace, but still it is a faith which keeps the heart from despair, and prevents its sinking under a sense of sin. I have known the time when I do not believe any man living could see faith in me, and when I could scarcely perceive any in myself, and yet I was bold to say, with Peter, "Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee." What man cannot see, Christ can see. Many people have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but they are so much engaged in looking at it that they do not see it. If they would look to Christ and not to their own faith, they would not only see Christ but see their own faith too; but they measure their faith, and it seems so little when they contrast it with the faith of full-grown Christians, that they fear it is not faith at all. Oh, little one, if thou hast faith enough to receive Christ, remember the promise, "To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God." Poor simple, weak-hearted, and troubled one, look to Jesus and answer, Can such a Saviour suffer in vain? Can such an atonement be offered in vain? Canst thou trust him, and yet be cast away? It cannot be. It never was in the Saviour’s heart to shake off one that did cling to his arm. However feeble the faith he blesses "the springing thereof." The difficulty arises partly from misapprehension and partly from want of confidence in God. I say misapprehension: now if like some Londoners you had never seen corn when it is green, you would cry out, "What! Do you say that yonder green stuff is wheat?" "Yes," the farmer says, "that is wheat." You look at it again and you reply, "Why, man alive, that is nothing but grass. You do not mean to tell me that this grassy stuff will ever produce a loaf of bread such as I see in the baker’s window; I cannot conceive it." No, you could not conceive it, but when you get accustomed to it, it is not at all wonderful to see the wheat go through certain stages; first the blade, then the ear, and afterwards the full corn in the ear. Some of you have never seen growing grace, and do not know anything about it. When you are newly converted you meet with Christians who are like ripe golden ears, and you say, "I am not like them." True, you are no more like them than that grassy stuff in the furrows is like full-grown wheat; but you will grow like them one of these days. You must expect to go through the blade period before you get to the ear period, and in the ear period you will have doubts whether you will ever come to the full corn in the ear; but you will arrive at perfection in due time. Thank God that you are in Christ at all. Whether I have much faith or little faith, whether I can do much for Christ or little for Christ is not the first question; I am saved, not on account of what I am, but on account of what Jesus Christ is; and if I am trusting to him, however little in Israel I may be, I am as safe as the brightest of the saints.

I have said, however, that mixed with misapprehension there is a great deal of unbelief. I cannot put it all down to an ignorance that may be forgiven: for there is sinful unbelief too. O sinner, why do you not trust Jesus Christ? Poor quickened, awakened conscience, God gives you his word that he who trusts in Christ is not condemned, and yet you are afraid that you are condemned! This is to give God the lie! Be ashamed and confounded that you should ever have been guilty of doubting the veracity of God. All your other sins do not grieve Christ so much as the sin of thinking that he is unwilling to forgive you, or the sin of suspecting that if you trust him he will cast you away. Do not slander his gracious character. Do not cast a slur upon the generosity of his tender heart. He saith, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." Come in the faith of his promise, and he will receive you just now.

I have thus given some description of "the springing thereof."

III. Thirdly, according to the text, there is one who sees this springing. Thou, Lord—thou blessest the springing thereof.

I wish that some of us had quicker eyes to see the beginning of grace in the souls of men; for want of this we let slip many opportunities of helping the weaklings. If a woman had the charge of a number of children that were not her own, I do not suppose she would notice all the incipient stages of disease; but when a mother nurses her own dear children, as soon as ever upon the cheek or in the eye there is a token of approaching sickness, she perceives it at once. I wish we had just as quick an eye, because just as tender a heart, towards precious souls. I do not doubt that many young people are weeks and even months in distress, who need not be, if you who know the Lord were a little more watchful to help them in the time of their sorrow. Shepherds are up all night at lambing time to catch up the lambs as soon as they are born, and take them in and nurse them; and we, who ought to be shepherds for God, should be looking out for all the lambs, especially at seasons when there are many born into God’s great fold, for tender nursing is wanted in the first stages of the new life. God, however, when his servants do not see "the springing thereof," sees it all.

Now, you silent, retired spirits, who dare not speak to father or mother, or brother or sister, this text ought to be a sweet morsel to you. "Thou blessest the springing thereof," which proves that God sees you and your newborn grace. The Lord sees the first sign of penitence. Though you only say to yourself, "I will arise, and go to my Father," your Father hears you. Though it is nothing but a desire, your Father registers it. "Thou puttest my tears into thy bottle. Are they not in thy book?" He is watching your return; he runs to meet you, and puts his arms about you, and kisses you with the kisses of his accepting love. O soul, be encouraged with that thought, that up in the chamber or down by the hedge, or wherever it is that thou hast sought secrecy, God is there. Dwell on the thought, "Thou God seest me." That is a precious text,—"All my desire is before thee;" and here is another sweet one, "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in his mercy." He can see you when you only hope in his mercy, and he takes pleasure in you if you have only begun to fear him. Here is a third choice word, "Thou wilt perfect that which concerneth me." Have you a concern about these things? Is it a matter of soul-concern with you to be reconciled to God, and to have an interest in Jesu’s precious blood? It is only "the springing thereof," but he blesses it. It is written, "A bruised reed he will not break, and the smoking flax he will not quench, till he bring forth judgment unto victory." There shall be victory for you, even before the judgment-seat of God, though as yet you are only like the flax that smokes and gives no light, or like the reed that is broken, and yields no music. God sees the first springing of grace.

IV. A few words upon a fourth point: what a misery it would be, if it were possible, to have this springing without God’s blessing!

The text says, "Thou blessest the springing thereof." We must, just a moment, by way of contrast, think of how the springing would have been without the blessing. Suppose we were to see a revival amongst us without God’s blessing. It is my conviction that there are revivals which are not of God at all, but are produced by excitement merely. If there be no blessing from the Lord, it will be all a delusion, a bubble blown up into the air for a moment, and then gone to nothing. We shall only see the people stirred, to become the more dull and dead afterwards; and this is a great mischief to the church.

In the individual heart, if there should be a springing up without God’s blessing, there would be no good in it. Suppose you have good desires, but no blessing on these desires, they will only tantalize and worry you; and then, after a time, they will be gone, and you will be more impervious than you were before to religious convictions; for, if religious desires are not of God’s sending, but are caused by excitement, they will probably prevent your giving a serious hearing to the Word of God in times to come. If convictions do not soften they will certainly harden. To what extremities have some been driven who have had springings of a certain sort which have not led them to Christ! Some have been crushed by despair. They tell us that religion crowds the madhouse: it is not true; but there is no doubt whatever that religiousness of a certain kind has driven many a man out of his mind. The poor souls have felt their wound but have not seen the balm. They have not known Jesus. They have had a sense of sin and nothing more. They have not fled for refuge to the hope which God has set before them. Marvel not if men do go mad when they refuse the Saviour. It may come as a judicial visitation of God upon those men who, when in great distress of mind, will not fly to Christ. I believe it is with some just this—you must either fly to Jesus, or else your burden will become heavier and heavier until your spirit will utterly fail. This is not the fault of religion, it is the fault of those who will not accept the remedy which religion presents. A springing up of desires without God’s blessing would be an awful thing, but we thank him that we are not left in such a case.

V. And now I have to dwell upon the comforting thought that God does bless "the springing thereof." I wish to deal with you who are tender and troubled; I want to show that God does bless your springing. He does it in many ways.

Frequently he does it by the cordials which he brings. You have a few very sweet moments: you cannot say that you are Christ’s, but at times the bells of your heart ring very sweetly at the mention of his name. The means of grace are very precious to you. When you gather to the Lord’s worship you feel a holy calm, and you go away from the service wishing that there were seven Sundays in the week instead of one. By the blessing of God the Word has just suited your case, as if the Lord had sent his servants on purpose to you: you lay aside your crutches for awhile, and you begin to run. Though these things have been sadly transient, they are tokens for good.

On the other hand, if you have had none of these comforts, or few of them, and the means of grace have not been consolations to you, I want you to look upon that as a blessing. It may be the greatest blessing that God can give us to take away all comforts on the road, in order to quicken our running towards the end. When a man is flying to the City of Refuge to be protected from the man-slayer, it may be an act of great consideration to stay him for a moment that he may quench his thirst and run more swiftly afterwards; but perhaps, in a case of imminent peril, it may be the kindest thing neither to give him anything to eat or to drink, nor invite him to stop for a moment, in order that he may fly with undiminished speed to the place of safety. The Lord may be blessing you in the uneasiness which you feel. Inasmuch as you cannot say that you are in Christ, it may be the greatest blessing which heaven can give to take away every other blessing from you, in order that you may be compelled to fly to the Lord. You perhaps have a little of your self-righteousness left, and while it is so you cannot get joy and comfort. The royal robe which Jesus gives will never shine brilliantly upon us till every rag of our own goodness is gone. Perhaps you are not empty enough, and God will never fill you with Christ till you are. Fear often drives men to faith. Have you never heard of a person walking in the fields into whose bosom a bird has flown because pursued by the hawk? Poor timid thing, it would not have ventured there had not a greater fear compelled it. All this may be so with you; your fears may be sent to drive you more swiftly and more closely to the Saviour, and if so, I see in these present sorrows the signs that God is blessing "the springing thereof."

In looking back upon my own "springing" I sometimes think God blessed me then in a lovelier way than now. Though I would not willingly return to that early stage of my spiritual life, yet there were many joys about it. An apple tree when loaded with apples is a very comely sight; but give me, for beauty, the apple tree in bloom. The whole world does not present a more lovely sight than an apple blossom. Now, a full-grown Christian laden with fruit is a comely sight, but still there is a peculiar loveliness about the young Christian. Let me tell you what that blessedness is; you have probably now a greater horror of sin than professors who have known the Lord for years; they might wish that they felt your tenderness of conscience. You have now a graver sense of duty, and a more solemn fear of the neglect of it than some who are further advanced. You have also a greater zeal than many: you are now doing your first works for God, and burning with your first love; nothing is too hot or too heavy for you: I pray that you may never decline, but always advance.

And now to close. I think there are three lessons for us to learn. First, let older saints be very gentle and kind to young believers. God blesses the springing thereof—mind that you do the same. Do not throw cold water upon young desires: do not snuff out young believers with hard questions. While they are babes and need the milk of the Word, do not be choking them with your strong meat; they will eat strong meat by-and-by, but not just yet. Remember, Jacob would not overdrive the lambs; be equally prudent. Teach and instruct them, but let it be with gentleness and tenderness, not as their superiors, but as nursing fathers for Christ’s sake. God, you see, blesses the springing thereof—may he bless it through you!

The next thing I have to say is, fulfil the duty of gratitude. Beloved, if God blesses the springing thereof we ought to be grateful for a little grace. If you have only seen the first shoot peeping up through the mould be thankful, and you shall see the green blade waving in the breeze; be thankful for the ankle-deep verdure and you shall soon see the commencement of the ear; be thankful for the first green ears and you shall see the flowering of the wheat, and by-and-by its ripening, and the joyous harvest.

The last lesson is one of encouragement. If God blesses "the springing thereof," dear beginners, what will he not do for you in after days? If he gives you such a meal when you break your fast, what dainties will be on your table when he says to you, "Come and dine"; and what a banquet will he furnish at the supper of the Lamb! O troubled one! let the storms which howl and the snows which fall, and the wintry blasts that nip your springing, all be forgotten in this one consoling thought, that God blesses your springing, and whom God blesses none can curse. Over your head, dear, desiring, pleading, languishing soul, the Lord of heaven and earth pronounces the blessing of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Take that blessing and rejoice in it evermore. Amen.

Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain)

The Necessity and Benefits of Religious Society

The Necessity and Benefits of Religious Society

The Necessity and Benefits of Religious Society

Eccles. 4:9, 10, 11, 12

Two are better than One, because they have a good Reward for their Labour.

For if they fall, the One will lift up his Fellow: But woe be to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

Again, if Two lie together, then they have heat; but how can One be warm alone?

And if One prevail against him, Two Shall withstand him; and a threefold Cord is not quickly broken.

AMONG the many reasons assignable for the sad decay of true christianity, perhaps the neglecting to assemble ourselves together, in religious societies, may not be one of the least. That I may therefore do my endeavour towards promoting so excellent a means of piety, I have selected a passage of scripture drawn from the experience of the wisest of men, which being a little enlarged on and illustrated, will fully answer my present design; being to shew, in the best manner I can, the necessity and benefits of society in general, and of religious society in particular.

"Two are better than one, &c."

From which words I shall take occasion to prove,

First, The truth of the wise man’s assertion, "Two are better than one," and that in reference to society in general, and religious society in particular.

Secondly, To assign some reasons why two are better than one, especially as to the last particular. 1. Because men can raise up one another when they chance to slip: "For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow." 2. Because they can impart heat to each other: "Again, if two lie together, then they have heat; but how can one be warm alone?" 3. Because they can secure each other from those that do oppose them: "And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken." From hence,

Thirdly, I shall take occasion to shew the duty incumbent on every member of a religious society.

And Fourthly, I shall draw an inference or two from what may be said; and then conclude with a word or two of exhortation.

First, I am to prove the truth of the wise man’s assertion, that "two are better than one," and that in reference to society in general, and religious societies in particular.

And how can this be done better, than by shewing that it is absolutely necessary for the welfare both of the bodies and souls of men? Indeed, if we look upon man as he came out of the hands of his Maker, we imagine him to be perfect, entire, lacking nothing. But God, whose thoughts are not as our thoughts, saw something still wanting to make Adam happy. And what was that? Why, an help meet for him. For thus speaketh the scripture: "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make an help meet for him."

Observe, God said, "It is not good," thereby implying that the creation would have been imperfect, in some sort, unless an help was found out meet for Adam. And if this was the case of man before the fall; if an help was meet for him in a state of perfection; surely since the fall, when we come naked and helpless out of our mother’s womb, when our wants increase with our years, and we can scarcely subsist a day without the mutual assistance of each other, well may we say, "It is not good for man to be alone."

Society then, we see, is absolutely necessary in respect to our bodily and personal wants. If we carry our view farther, and consider mankind as divided into different cities, countries, and nations, the necessity of it will appear yet more evident. For how can communities be kept up, or commerce carried on, without society? Certainly not at all, since providence seems wisely to have assigned a particular product to almost each particular country, on purpose, as it were, to oblige us to be social; and hath so admirably mingled the parts of the whole body of mankind together, "that the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again, the hand to the foot, I have no need of thee."

Many other instances might be given of the necessity of society, in reference to our bodily, personal, and national wants. But what are all these when weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, in comparison of the infinite greater need of it, with respect to the soul? It was chiefly in regard to this better part, no doubt, that God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone." For, let us suppose Adam to be as happy as may be, placed as the Lord of the creation in the paradise of God, and spending all his hours in adoring and praising the blessed Author of his being; yet as his soul was the very copy of the divine nature, whose peculiar property it is to be communicative, without the divine all-sufficiency he could not be compleatly happy, because he was alone and incommunicative, nor even content in paradise, for want of a partner in his joys. God knew this, and therefore said, "It is not good that the man shall be alone, I will make a help meet for him." And though this proved a fatal means of his falling; yet that was not owing to any natural consequence of society; but partly to that cursed apostate, who craftily lies in wait to deceive; partly to Adam’s own folly, in rather chusing to be miserable with one he loved, than trust in God to raise him up another spouse.

If we reflect indeed on that familiar intercourse, our first parent could carry on with heaven, in a state of innocence, we shall be apt to think he had as little need of society, as to his soul, as before we supposed him to have, in respect to his body. But yet, as God and the holy angels were so far above him on the one hand, and the beasts so far beneath him on the other, there was nothing like having one to converse with, who was "bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh."

Man, then, could not be fully happy, we see, even in paradise, without a companion of his own species, much less now he is driven out. For, let us view him a little in his natural estate now, since the fall, as "having his understanding darkened, his mind alienated from the life of God;" as no more able to see his way wherein he should go, than a blind man to describe the fun: that notwithstanding this, he must receive his sight ere he can see God: and that if he never sees him, he never can be happy. Let us view him in this light (or rather this darkness) and deny the necessity of society if we can. A divine revelation we find is absolutely necessary, we being by nature as unable to know, as we are to do our duty. And how shall we learn except one teach us? But was God to do this himself, how should we, but with Moses, exceedingly quake and fear? Nor would the ministry of angels in this affair, be without too much terror. It is necessary, therefore (at least God’s dealing with us hath shewed it to be so) that we should be drawn with the cords of a man. And that a divine revelation being granted, we should use one another’s assistance, under God, to instruct each other in the knowledge, and to exhort one another to the practice of those things which belong to our everlasting peace. This is undoubtedly the great end of society intended by God since the fall, and a strong argument it is, why "two are better than one," and why we should "not forsake the assembling ourselves together."

But farther, let us consider ourselves as christians, as having this natural veil, in some measure, taken off from our eyes by the assistance of God’s holy Spirit, and so enabled to see what he requires of us. Let us suppose ourselves in some degree to have tasted the good word of life, and to have felt the powers of the world to come, influencing and moulding our souls into a religious frame: to be fully and heartily convinced that we are soldiers listed under the banner of Christ, and to have proclaimed open war at our baptism, against the world, the flesh, and the devil; and have, perhaps, frequently renewed our obligations so to do, by partaking of the Lord’s supper: that we are surrounded with millions of foes without, and infested with a legion of enemies within: that we are commanded to shine as lights in the world, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation: that we are travelling to a long eternity, and need all imaginable helps to shew, and encourage us in our way thither. Let us, I say, reflect on all this, and then how shall each of us cry out, brethren, what a necessary thing it is to meet together in religious societies?

The primitive christians were fully sensible of this, and therefore we find them continually keeping up communion with each other: for what says the scripture? They continued stedfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, Acts 2:42. Peter and John were no sooner dismissed by the great council, than they haste away to their companions. "And being set at liberty they came to their own, and told them all these things which the high priest had said unto them," Acts 4:23. Paul, as soon as converted, "tarried three days with the disciples that were at Damascus," Acts 9:19. And Peter afterwards, when released from prison, immediately goes to the house of Mary, where there were "great multitudes assembled, praying," Acts 12:12. And it is reported of the christians in after-ages, that they used to assemble together before day-light, to sing a psalm to Christ as God. So precious was the Communion of Saints in those days.

If it be asked, what advantages we shall reap from such a procedure now? I answer, much every way. "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labour: for if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe be to him that is alone when he falleth, for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat; but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken."

Which directly leads me to my Second general head, under which I was to assign some reasons why "two are better than one," especially in Religious Society.

1. As man in his present condition cannot always stand upright, but by reason of the frailty of his nature cannot but fall; one eminent reason why two are better than one, or, in other words, one great advantage of religious society is, "That when they fall, the one will lift up his fellow.

And an excellent reason this, indeed! For alas! when we reflect how prone we are to be drawn into error in our judgments, and into vice in our practice; and how unable, at least how very unwilling, to espy or correct our own mis-carriages; when we consider how apt the world is to flatter us in our faults, and how few there are so kind as to tell us the truth; what an inestimable privilege must it be to have a set of true, judicious, hearty friends about us, continually watching over our souls, to inform us where we have fallen, and to warn us that we fall not again for the future. Surely it is such a privilege, that (to use the words of an eminent christian) we shall never know the value thereof, till we come to glory.

But this is not all; for supposing that we could always stand upright, yet whosoever reflects on the difficulties of religion in general, and his own propensity to lukewarmness and indifference in particular, will find that he must be zealous as well as steady, if ever he expects to enter the kingdom of heaven. Here, then, the wise man points out to us another excellent reason why two are better than one. "Again, if two lye together, then they have heat; but how can one be warm alone?". Which was the next thing to be considered.

2. A second reason why two are better than one, is because they can impart heat to each other.

It is an observation no less true than common, that kindled coals, if placed asunder, soon go out, but if heaped together, quicken and enliven each other, and afford a lasting heat. The same will hold good in the case now before us. If christians kindled by the grace of God, unite, they will quicken and enliven each other; but if they separate and keep asunder, no marvel if they soon grow cool or tepid. If two or three meet together in Christ’s name, they will have heat: but how can one be warm alone?

Observe, "How can one be warm alone?" The wise man’s expressing himself by way of question, implies an impossibility, at least a very great difficulty, to be warm in religion without company, where it may be had. Behold here, then, another excellent benefit flowing from religious society; it will keep us zealous, as well as steady, in the ways of godliness.

But to illustrate this a little farther by a comparison or two. Let us look upon ourselves (as was above hinted) as soldiers lifted under Christ’s banner; as going out with "ten thousand, to meet one that cometh against us with twenty thousand;" as persons that are to "wrestle not only with flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, and spiritual wickednesses in high places." And then tell me, all ye that fear God, if it be not an invaluable privilege to have a company of fellow soldiers continually about us, animating and exhorting each other to stand our ground, to keep our ranks, and manfully to follow the captain of our salvation, though it be through a sea of blood?

Let us consider ourselves in another view before mentioned, as persons travelling to a long eternity; as rescued by the free grace of God, in some measure, from our natural Egyptian bondage, and marching under the conduct of our spiritual Joshua, through the wilderness of this world, to the land of our heavenly Canaan. Let us farther reflect how apt we are to startle at every difficulty; to cry, "There are lions! There are lions in the way! There are the sons of Anak" to be grappled with, ere we can possess the promised land: How prone we are, with Lot’s wise, to look wishfully back on our spiritual Sodom, or, with the foolish Israelites, to long again for the flesh-pots of Egypt; and to return to our former natural state of bondage and slavery. Consider this, my brethren, and see what a blessed privilege it will be to have a set of Israelites indeed about us, always reminding us of the folly of any such cowardly design, and of the intolerable misery we shall run into, if we fall in the least short of the promised land.

More might be said on this particular, did not the limits of a discourse of this nature oblige me to hasten,

3. To give a third reason, mentioned by the wise man in the text, why two are better than one; because they can secure each other from enemies without. "And if one prevail against him, yet two shall withstand him: and a threefold cord is not quickly broken."

Hitherto we have considered the advantages of religious societies, as a great preservative against falling (at least dangerously falling) into sin and lukewarmness, and that too from our own corruptions. But what says the wise son of Sirach? "My son, when thou goest to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation:" and that not only from inward, but outward foes; particularly from those two grand adversaries, the world and the devil: for no sooner will thine eye be bent heavenward, but the former will be immediately diverting it another way, telling thee thou needest not be singular in order to be religious; that you may be a christian without going so much out of the common road.

Nor will the devil be wanting in his artful insinuations, or impious suggestions, to divert or terrify thee from pressing forwards, "that thou mayst lay hold on the crown of life." And if he cannot prevail this way, he will try another; and, in order to make his temptation the more undiscerned, but withal more successful, he will employ, perhaps, some of thy nearest relatives, or most powerful friends, (as he set Peter on our blessed Master) who will always be bidding thee to spare thyself; telling thee thou needst not take so much pains; that it is not so difficult a matter to get to heaven as some people would make of it, nor the way so narrow as others imagine it to be.

But see here the advantage of religious company; for supposing thou findest thyself thus surrounded on every side, and unable to withstand such horrid (though seemingly friendly) counsels, haste away to thy companions, and they will teach thee a truer and better lesson; they will tell thee, that thou must be singular if thou wilt be religious: and that it is as impossible for a christian, as for a city set upon a hill, to be hidden: that if thou wilt be an almost christian (and as good be none at all) thou mayest live in the same idle, indifferent manner as thou seest most other people do: but if thou wilt be not only almost, but altogether a christian, they will inform thee thou must go a great deal farther: that thou must not only faintly seek, but "earnestly strive to enter in at the strait gate:" that there is but one way now to heaven as formerly, even through the narrow passage of a found conversion: and that in order to bring about this mighty work, thou must undergo a constant, but necessary discipline of fasting, watching, and prayer. And therefore, the only reason why those friends give thee such advice, is, because they are not willing to take so much pains themselves; or, as our Saviour told Peter on a like occasion, because they "favour not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men."

This then, is another excellent blessing arising from religious society, that friends can hereby secure each other from those who oppose them. The devil is fully sensible of this, and therefore he has always done his utmost to suppress, and put a stop to the communion of saints. This was his grand artifice at the first planting of the gospel; to persecute the professors of it, in order to separate them. Which, though God, as he always will, over-ruled for the better; yet, it shews, what an enmity he has against christians assembling themselves together. Nor has he yet left off his old stratagem; it being his usual way to entice us by ourselves, in order to tempt us; where, by being destitute of one another’s help, he hopes to lead us captive at his will.

But, on the contrary, knowing his own interest is strengthened by society, he would first persuade us to neglect the communion of saints, and then bid us "stand in the way of sinners," hoping thereby to put us into the feat of the scornful. Judas and Peter are melancholy instances of this. The former had no sooner left his company at supper, but he went out and betrayed his master: and the dismal downfal of the latter, when he would venture himself amongst a company of enemies, plainly shews us what the devil will endeavour to do, when he gets us by ourselves. Had Peter kept his own company, he might have kept his integrity; but a single cord, alas! how quickly was it broken? Our blessed Saviour knew this full well, and therefore it is very observable, that he always sent out his disciples "two by two."

And now, after so many advantages to be reaped from religious society, may we not very justly cry out with the wise man in my text, "Woe be to him that is alone; for when he falleth, he hath not another to lift him up?" When he is cold, he hath not a friend to warm him; when he is assaulted, he hath not a second to help him to withstand his enemy.

III. I now come to my third general head, under which was to be shewn the several duties incumbent on every member of a religious society, as such, which are three. 1. Mutual reproof; 2. Mutual exhortation; 3. Mutual assisting and desending each other.

1. Mutual reproof. "Two are better than one; for when they fall, the one will lift up his fellow."

Now, reproof may be taken either in a more extensive sense, and then it signifies our raising a brother by the gentlest means, when he falls into sin and error; or in a more restrained signification, as reaching no farther than those miscarriages, which unavoidably happen in the most holy men living.

The wise man, in the text, supposes all of us subject to both: "For when they fall (thereby implying that each of us may fall) the one will lift up his fellow." From whence we may infer, that "when any brother is overtaken with a fault, he that is spiritual (that is, regenerate, and knows the corruption and weakness of human nature) ought to restore such a one in the spirit of meekness." And why he should do so, the apostle subjoins a reason "considering thyself, left thou also be tempted;" i. e. considering thy own frailty, left thou also fall by the like temptation.

We are all frail unstable creatures; and it is merely owing to the free grace and good providence of God that we run not into the same excess of riot with other men. Every offending brother, therefore, claims our pity rather than our resentment; and each member should strive to be the most forward, as well as most gentle, in restoring him to his former state.

But supposing a person not to be overtaken, but to fall wilfully into a crime; yet who art thou that deniest forgiveness to thy offending brother? "Let him that standeth take heed left he fall." Take ye, brethren, the holy apostles as eminent examples for you to learn by, how you ought to behave in this matter. Consider how quickly they joined the right hand of fellowship with Peter, who had so wilfully denied his master: for we find John and him together but two days after, John 20:2. And ver. 19, we find him assembled with the rest. So soon did they forgive, so soon associate with their sinful, yet relenting brother. "Let us go and do likewise."

But there is another kind of reproof incumbent on every member of a religious society; namely, a gentle rebuke for some miscarriage or other, which though not actually sinful, yet may become the occasion of sin. This indeed seems a more easy, but perhaps will be found a more difficult point than the former: for when a person has really sinned, he cannot but own his brethrens reproof to be just; whereas, when it was only for some little misconduct, the pride that is in our natures will scarce suffer us to brook it. But however ungrateful this pill may be to our brother, yet if we have any concern for his welfare, it must be administered by some friendly hand or other. By all means then let it be applied; only, like a skilful physician, gild over the ungrateful pill, and endeavour, if possible, to deceive thy brother into health and foundness. "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and malice, and evil-speaking, be put away" from it. Let the patient know, his recovery is the only thing aimed at, and that thou delightest not causelesly to grieve thy brother; then thou canst not want success.

2. Mutual exhortation is the second duty resulting from the words of the text. "Again, if two lye together, then they have heat."

Observe, the wise man supposes it as impossible for religious persons to meet together, and not to be the warmer for each other’s company, as for two persons to lye in the same bed, and yet freeze with cold. But now, how is it possible to communicate heat to each other, without mutually stirring up the gift of God which is in us, by brotherly exhortation? Let every member then of a religious society write that zealous apostle’s advice on the tables of his heart; "See that ye exhort, and provoke one another to love, and to good works; and so much the more, as you see the day of the Lord approaching." Believe me, brethren, we have need of exhortation to rouse up our sleepy souls, to set us upon our watch against the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil; to excite us to renounce ourselves, to take up our crosses, and follow our blessed matter, and the glorious company of saints and martyrs, "who through faith have fought the good fight, and are gone before us to inherit the promises." A third part, therefore, of the time wherein a religious society meets, seems necessary to be spent in this important duty: for what avails it to have our understandings enlightened by pious reading, unless our wills are at the same time inclined, and inflamed by mutual exhortation, to put it in practice? Add also, that this is the best way both to receive and impart light, and the only means to preserve and increase that warmth and heat which each person first brought with him; God so ordering this, as all other spiritual gifts, that "to him that hath, i. e. improves and communicates what he hath, shall be given; but from him that hath not, or does not improve the heat he hath, shall be taken away even that which he seemed to have." So needful, so essentially necessary, is exhortation to the good of society.

3. Thirdly, The text points out another duty incumbent on every member of a religious society, to defend each other from those that do oppose them. "And if one prevail against him, yet two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken."

Here the wise man takes it for granted, that offences will come, nay, and that they may prevail too. And this is no more than our blessed matter has long since told us. Not, indeed, that there is any thing in christianity itself that has the least tendency to give rise to, or promote such offences: No, on the contrary, it breathes nothing but unity and love.

But so it is, that ever since the fatal sentence pronounced by God, after our first parents fall, "I will put enmity between thy feed and her feed;" he that is born after the flesh, the unregenerate unconverted sinner, has in all ages "persecuted him that is born after the spirit:" and so it always will be. Accordingly we find an early proof given of this in the instance of Cain and Abel; of Ishmael and Isaac; and of Jacob and Esau. And, indeed, the whole Bible contains little else but an history of the great and continued opposition between the children of this world, and the children of God. The first christians were remarkable examples of this; and though those troublesome times, blessed be God, are now over, yet the apostle has laid it down as a general rule, and all who are sincere experimentally prove the truth of it; that "they that will live godly in Christ Jesus, must (to the end of the world, in some degree or other) suffer persecution." That therefore this may not make us desert our blessed master’s cause, every member should unite their forces, in order to stand against it. And for the better effecting this, each would do well, from time to time, to communicate his experiences, grievances, and temptations, and beg his companions (first asking God’s assistance, without which all is nothing) to administer reproof, exhortation, or comfort, as his case requires: so that "if one cannot prevail against it, yet two shall withstand it; and a threefold (much less a many-fold) cord will not be quickly broken."

IV. But it is time for me to proceed to the fourth general thing proposed, to draw an inference or two from what has been said.

1. And first, if "two are better than one," and the advantages of religious society are so many and so great; then it is the duty of every true christian to set on foot, establish and promote, as much as in him lyes, societies of this nature. And I believe we may venture to affirm, that if ever a spirit of true christianity is revived in the world, it must be brought about by some such means as this. Motives, surely, cannot be wanting, to stir us up to this commendable and necessary undertaking: for, granting all hitherto advanced to be of no force, yet methinks the single consideration, that great part of our happiness in heaven will consist in the Communion of Saints; or that the interest as well as piety of those who differ from us, is strengthened and supported by nothing more than their frequent meetings; either of these considerations, I say, one would think, should induce us to do our utmost to copy after their good example, and settle a lasting and pious communion of the saints on earth. Add to this, that we find the kingdom of darkness established daily by such like means; and shall not the kingdom of Christ be set in opposition against it? Shall the children of Belial assemble and strengthen each other in wickedness; and shall not the children of God unite, and strengthen themselves in piety? Shall societies on societies be countenanced for midnight revellings, and the promoting of vice, and scarcely one be found intended for the propagation of virtue? Be astonished, O heavens at this!

2. But this leads me to a second inference; namely, to warn persons of the great danger those are in, who either by their subscriptions, presence, or approbation, promote societies of a quite opposite nature to religion.

And here I would not be understood, to mean only those public meetings which are designed manifestly for nothing else but revellings and banquetings, for chambering and wantonness, and at which a modest heathen would blush to be present; but also those seemingly innocent entertainments and meetings, which the politer part of the world are so very fond of, and spend so much time in: but which, notwithstanding, keep as many persons from a sense of true religion, as doth intemperance, debauchery, or any other crime whatever. Indeed, whilst we are in this world, we must have proper relaxations, to fit us both for the business of our profession, and religion. But then, for persons who call themselves christians, that have solemnly vowed at their baptism, to renounce the vanities of this sinful world; that are commanded in scripture "to abstain from all appearance of evil, and to have their conversation in heaven:" for such persons as these to support meetings, which (to say no worse of them) are vain and trifling, and have a natural tendency to draw off our minds from God, is absurd, ridiculous, and sinful. Surely two are not better than one in this case: No; it is to be wished there was not one to be found concerned in it. The sooner we forsake the assembling ourselves together in such a manner, the better; and no matter how quickly the cord that holds such societies (was it a thousand-fold) is broken.

But you, brethren, have not so learned Christ: but, on the contrary, like true disciples of your Lord and Master, have by the blessing of God (as this evening’s solemnity abundantly testifies) happily formed yourselves into such societies, which, if duly attended on, and improved, cannot but strengthen you in your christian warfare, and "make you fruitful in every good word and work."

What remains for me, but, as was proposed, in the last place, to close what has been said, in a word or two, by way of exhortation, and to beseech you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to go on in the way you have begun; and by a constant conscientious attendance on your respective for societies, to discountenance vice, encourage virtue, and build each other up in the knowledge and fear of God.

Only permit me to "stir up your pure minds, by way of remembrance," and to exhort you, "if there be any consolation in Christ, any fellowship of the spirit," again and again to consider, that as all christians in general, so all members of religious societies in particular, are in an especial manner, as houses built upon an hill; and that therefore it highly concerns you to walk circumspectly towards those that are without, and to take heed to yourselves, that your conversation, in common life, be as becometh such an open and peculiar profession of the gospel of Christ: knowing that the eyes of all men are upon you, narrowly to inspect every circumstance of your behaviour: and that every notorious wilful miscarriage of any single member will, in some measure, redound to the scandal and dishonour of your whole fraternity.

Labour, therefore, my beloved brethren, to let your practice correspond to your profession: and think not that it will be sufficient for you to plead at the last day, Lord have we not assembled ourselves together in thy name, and enlivened each other, by singing psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs? For verily, I say unto you, notwithstanding this, our blessed Lord will bid you depart from him; nay, you shall receive a greater damnation, if, in the midst of these great pretensions, you are found to be workers of iniquity.

But God forbid that any such evil should befal you; that there should be ever a Judas, a traitor, amongst such distinguished followers of our common master. No, on the contrary, the excellency of your rules, the regularity of your meetings, and more especially your pious zeal in assembling in such a public and solemn manner so frequently in the year, persuade me to think, that you are willing, not barely to seem, but to be in reality, christians; and hope to be found at the last day, what you would be esteemed now, holy, sincere disciples of crucified Redeemer.

Oh, may you always continue thus minded! and make it your daily, constant endeavour, both by precept and example, to turn all your converse with, more especially those of your own societies, into the same most blessed spirit and temper. Thus will you adorn the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in all things: Thus will you anticipate the happiness of a future state; and by attending on, and improving the communion of saints on earth, be made meet to join the communion and fellowship of the spirits of just men made perfect, of the holy angels, nay, of the ever-blessed and eternal God in heaven.

Which God of his infinite mercy grant through Jesus Christ our Lord; to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost, three persons and one God, be ascribed, as is most due, all honour and praise, might, majesty and dominion, now and for ever. Amen.

Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain)

The Principle Wheat

The Principle Wheat

The Principle Wheat

"The principal wheat."—Isaiah 28:25.

THE prophet mentions it as a matter of wisdom on the part of the husbandman, that he knows what is the principal thing to cultivate, and makes it his principal care. The text, with the connection, runs thus,—"Does not the husbandman cast in the principal wheat?" He does not go to the granary and take out wheat, and cummin, and barley, and rye, and fling these about right and left, but he estimates the value of each grain, and arranges them in his mind accordingly. He does not think that cummin, and carroway, which he merely grows to give a flavour to his meal, are of half such importance as his bread-corn; and, though rye and barley have their values, yet he does not reckon that even these are equal to what he calls "the principal wheat." He is a man of discretion, he arranges things; he places the most important crop in the front rank, and spends upon it the most care.

Here let us learn a lesson. Do keep things distinct in your minds—not huddled and muddled by a careless thoughtlessness. Do not live a confused life, without care and discretion, running all things into one; but sort things out, and divide and distinguish between the precious and the vile. See what this is worth, and what the other is worth, and set your matters in rank and order, making some of them principal, and others of them inferior. I suggest to you young people especially that, in starting life, you say to yourselves, "What shall we live for? There is a principal thing for which we ought to live, what shall it be?" Have you turned over that question, or have you gone at it hit or miss? What are you living for? What is your principal aim? Is it going to be that of the old gentleman in Horace who said to his boy, "Get money: get it honestly, if you can; but, by all means, get money." Will you be a money-spinner? Shall coin be your principal corn? Or will you choose a life of pleasure—"a short life and a merry one," as so many fools have said to their great sorrow? Is it in dissipation that your life is to be spent? Are thistles to be your principal crop? Because there is a pleasure in looking at a Scotch thistle, do you intend to grow acres of pleasurable vice? And will you make your bed upon them when you come to die? Search and see what is worthy of being the principal object in life; and, when you have found it out, then beseech the Holy Spirit to help you to choose that one thing, and to give all your powers and faculties to the cultivation of it. The farmer, who finds that wheat ought to be his principal crop, makes it so, and lays himself out with that end in view: learn from this to have a main object, and to give your whole mind to it.

This farmer was wise, because he counted that to be principal which was the most needful. His family could do without cummin, which was but a flavouring. Perhaps the mistress might complain, or the cook might grumble, but that did not signify so much as it would do if the children cried for bread. They certainly must have wheat, for bread is the staff of life. It is bread that strengtheneth man’s heart, and therefore the farmer must grow wheat if he does not grow anything else. That which is necessary he regarded as the principal thing. Is not this common sense? If we were wisely to sit down and estimate, should we not say, "To be forgiven my sins, to be right with God, to be holy, to be fit to live eternally in heaven, is the greatest, the most needful thing for me, and therefore I will make it the principal object of my pursuit." A creature cannot be satisfied unless he is answering the end for which he is created; and the end of every intelligent creature is first, to glorify God, and next, to enjoy God. What a bliss it must be to enjoy God himself for ever and ever. Other things may be desirable, but this thing is needful. A competence of income, a measure of esteem among men, a degree of health—all these are the flavouring of life, but to be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation is life itself. Jesus Christ is the bread by which our soul’s best life is sustained. Oh, that we were all wise enough to feel that to be one with Christ is the one thing needful; that to be at peace with God is the principal thing; that to be brought into harmony with the Most High is the true music of our being. Other herbs may take their place in due order, but grace is the principal wheat, and we must cultivate it.

This farmer was wise, because he made that to be the principal thing which was the most fit to be so. Of course, barley is useful as food, for nations have lived on barley bread, and lived healthily too; and rye has been the nutriment of millions: neither have they starved on oats, and other grains. Still, give me a piece of wheaten bread, for it is the best staff for life’s journey. This farmer knew that wheat was the most fitting food for man, and so he did not put the inferior grain, which might act as a substitute, into the prominent place; but he gave his wheat the preference. He did not say, "the principal barley," or "the principal rye," much less "the principal cummin," or "the principal fitches," but "the principal wheat."

And what is there, brethren, that is so fit for the heart, the mind, the soul of man, as to know God and his Christ. Other mental foods, such as the fruits of knowledge, and the dainties of science, excellent though they may be—are inferior nutriment and unsuitable to build up the inner manhood. In my God and my Saviour, I find my heaven and my all. My soul sits down to a crumb of truth about Jesus, and finds great satisfaction in living upon it. The more we can know God, and enjoy God, and become like to God, and the more Christ is our daily bread, the more do we perceive the fitness of all this to our new-born natures. O beloved, make that to be your principal object which is the fittest pursuit of an immortal mind,

"Religion is the chief concern
Of mortals here below;
May I its great importance learn,
Its sovereign virtue know!

"More needful this than glittering wealth,
Or aught the world bestows;
Not reputation, food, or health,
Can give us such repose."

Moreover, this farmer was wise, because he made that the principal thing which was the most profitable. Under certain circumstances, in our own country, wheat is not the most profitable thing which a man can grow; but, ordinarily, it is the best crop that the earth yields, and therefore the text speaks of "the principal wheat." Our grandfathers used to rely upon the wheat stack to pay their rent. They looked to their corn as the arm of their strength; and though it is not so now, it always was so of old, and perhaps it may yet be so again. Anyhow, the figure holds good with regard to true religion. That is the most profitable thing. I am told that rich men find it very hard to get hold of anything which yields five per cent. nowadays; but this blessed fear of the Lord is an extraordinarily profitable investment, for it does not yield a hundred per cent. or a thousand per cent., but a man begins with nothing and all things become his by faith. Being freely discharged of our sins, we are by overflowing grace greatly enriched, so that we number among our possessions heaven itself, Christ himself, God himself. All things are ours. Oh, what a blessed crop to sow! What a harvest comes of it! Godliness is profitable for the life that now is, and for that which is to come. Godliness is a blessing to a man’s body, it keeps him from drunkenness and vice; and it is a blessing to his soul, it makes him sweet and pure. It is a blessing to him every way. If I had to die like a dog, I would like to live like a Christian. If there were no hereafter, yet still, for comfort and for joy, give me the life of one who strives to live like Christ. There is a practical everyday truth in the verse—

"’Tis religion that can give
Sweetest pleasures while we live;
’Tis religion must supply
Solid comfort when we die."

Only that religion must not be of the common sort; it must have for its root a hearty faith in Jesus Christ. See ye to it. Our religion must be either everything or nothing, either first or nowhere. Make it "the principal wheat," and it will richly repay you.

II. Secondly, the husbandman is a lesson to us because he gives this principal thing the principal place. I find that the Hebrew is rendered by some eminent scholars, "He puts the wheat into the principal place." That little handful of cummin for the wife to flavour the cakes with he grows in a corner; and the various herbs he places in their proper borders. The barley he sets in its plot, and the rye in its acre; but if there is a good bit of rich soil—the best he has—he appropriates it to the principal wheat. He gives his choicest fields to that which is to be the main means of his living.

Now, here is a lesson for you and for me. Let us give to true godliness our principal powers and abilities. Let us give to the things of God our best and most intense thought. I pray you, do not take religion at second hand from what I tell you, or from what somebody else tells you; but think it over. Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the word of God. The thoughtful Christian is the growing Christian. Remember, the service of God deserves our first consideration and endeavour. We are poor things at our prime, but we ought to give the Lord nothing short of our best. God would not have us serve him heedlessly, but he would have us use all the brain and intellect and mind that we have in studying and practising his word. "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace." "Meditate upon these things. Give thyself wholly to them." If your mind is more clear and active at one time than at another, then sow the principal wheat. If you feel more fresh and more inclined to think at one time of the day than at another, let your mind then go towards the best things.

Be sure, also, to yield to this subject your most earnest love. The best field in the little estate of manhood is not the head, but the heart; sow the principal wheat there. Oh, to have true religion in the heart; to love what we know—intensely to love it; to hold it fast as with the grip of life and death—never to let it go! The Lord says, "My son, give me thy heart," and he will not be contented with anything less than our heart. Oh, when your zeal is most burning, and your love is most fervent, let the warmth and the fervency all go towards the Lord your God, and to the service of him who has redeemed you with his precious blood. Let the principal wheat have the principal part of your nature. Towards God and his Christ also turn your most fervent desires. When you enlarge your desire, desire Christ; when you become ambitious let your ambition be all for God. Let your hunger and your thirst be after righteousness. Let your aspirations and your longings be all towards holiness, and the things that shall make you like to Christ. Give to this principal wheat your principal desires.

Then let the Lord have the attentive respect of your life. Let the principal wheat be sown in every action If we are truly Christians we must be as much Christians outside the church as in it. We shall try to make our eating and our drinking, and everything we do, tend to the glory of God. Draw no line between the secular and the religious part of your conduct, but let the secular be made religious by a devout desire to glorify God in the one as much as in the other. Let us worship God in the commonest duties of life, even as they do who stand before his throne. So it ought to be. Let us sow the principal wheat in all the fields of our conversation, in business, in the family, among our friends, and with our children. May we each one feel, "For me to live is Christ. I cannot live without Christ, or for anything but Christ." Let your whole nature yield itself to Jesus, and to none else.

We should give to this principal wheat our most earnest labours. We should spend ourselves for the spread of the gospel. A Christian man ought to lay himself out to serve Jesus. I hate to see a professing man zealous in politics and lukewarm in devotion; all on fire at a parish vestry, and chill as winter when he comes to a prayer-meeting. Some fly like eagles when they are serving the world, but they have a broken wing in the service of God. This should not be. If anything could rouse us up, and make the lion within us roar in his strength, it should be when we confront the foes of Jesus or fight in his cause. Our Lord’s service is the principal wheat, let us labour most in connection with it.

This, I think, should also take possession of us so as to lead to our greatest sacrifices. The love of Christ ought to be so strong as to swallow up self, and make sacrifice our daily joy. For Christ’s name’s sake we should be willing to endure poverty, reproach, slander, exile, death. Nothing should be dear to a Christian in comparison with Christ. Now, I will put it to you whether it is so or no. Is the love of Jesus the principal wheat with us? Are we giving our religion the chief place or not? I am afraid some people treat religion as certain gentlemen treat an off-hand farm; they put a bailiff into it, and only give an eye to it now and then. Their minister is the bailiff, and they expect him to see to it for them. These off-hand farms are losing concerns. Look at these half-and-half brethren. They have religion? Certainly. But they are like the man of whom the child spoke at the Sunday-school. "Is your father a Christian?" said the teacher. "Yes," said the child, "but he has not worked much at it lately." I could point out several of this sort, who are sowing their wheat very sparingly, and choosing the most barren patch to sow it in. They profess to be Christians, but religion is a tenth-rate article on their farm. Some have a large acreage for the world, and a poor little plot for Christ. They are growers of worldly pleasure and self-indulgence, and they sow a little religion by the roadside for appearance sake. This will not do. God will not thus be mocked. If we despise him and his truth we shall be lightly esteemed. O come let us give our principal time, talent, thought, effort to that which is the chief concern of immortal spirits. May we imitate the husbandman who gives the principal wheat the principal place in his farm.

III. Let us learn a third lesson. The husbandman selects the principal seed-corn when he is sowing his wheat. When a farmer is setting aside wheat for sowing, he does not choose the tail corn and the worst of his produce, but if he is a sensible man he likes to sow the best wheat in the world. Many farmers search the country round for a good sample of wheat for sowing, for they do not expect to get a good harvest out of bad seed. The husbandman is taught of God to put into the ground "the principal wheat." Let me learn that if I am going to sow to the Lord and to be a Christian, I should sow the best kind of Christianity.

I should try to do this, first, by believing the weightiest doctrines. I would believe not this "ism," nor that, but the unadulterated truth which Jesus taught; for a holy character will only grow by the Spirit of God out of true doctrine. Falsehood breeds sin: truth begets and fosters holiness. You and I therefore ought to select our seed carefully, and cast out all error. If we are wise we shall think most of the most important truths, for I have known people attach the greatest importance to the smallest things. They fight over the fitches, and leave the wheat to the crows. As for me, those who will may dispute over vials and trumpets, I shall mainly preach the doctrine of the precious blood and the glorious truths of substitution and atonement. These doctrines are the principal wheat, and therefore these shall have my choice.

Next to that, we ought to sow the noblest examples. Many men are dwarfed because they choose a bad model to start with. They imitate dear old Mr. So-and-so till they grow wonderfully like him with the best of him left out. A minister happens to be of a gloomy turn of mind, and he preaches the deep experience of the children of God, and in consequence a band of good people think it their duty to be melancholy. Why need they fall into a ditch because their leader has splashed himself? We should never copy any man’s infirmities. To be like Paul there is no need to have weak eyes; to be like Thomas there is no necessity to doubt. If you copy any good man, there is a point at which you ought to stop short. If I must have a human model, I would prefer one of the bravest of the saints of God; but oh how much better to follow that perfect pattern which you have in Christ Jesus!

We should sow the best wheat by seeing that we have the purest spirit. Alas! how soon do spirits become soiled by self or pride, or despondency or sloth, or some earthly taint. But what a grand thing it is to live in the spirit of Christ. May we be humble, lowly, bold, self-sacrificing, pure, chaste, and holy.

And, then, there is one more mode of sowing selected seed. We should endeavour to live in the closest communion with God. A dear brother prayed just now that we might have as much grace as we were capable of receiving, and that God would bring us into such a state that we might not hinder him in anything which he willed to do by us. This is a good prayer. It should be our desire to rise to the highest form of spiritual life. If you sow this principal wheat, get the best sort of it. There is a spirit and a spirit; and there are doctrines and doctrines; the best is the best for you. O young men, if you mean to have piety, go in for it thoroughly. Do not sneak through the world as if you were ashamed of your Lord. If you are Christ’s show your colours. Rally to his banner, gather to his trumpet call, and then stand up, stand up for Jesus. If there is any manhood in you, this great cause calls for it all; exhibit it, and may the Spirit of God help you so to do.

IV. Fourthly, the husbandman grows the principal wheat with the principal care. Some critics say that the proper translation is that the husbandman plants his wheat in rows. It is said that the large crops in Palestine in olden time were due to the fact that they planted the wheat. They set it in lines, so that it was not checked or suffocated by its being too thick in one place, neither was there any fear of its being too thin in another. The wheat was planted, and then streams of water were turned by the foot to each particular plant. No wonder, therefore, that the land brought forth abundantly.

We should give our principal care to the principal thing. Our godliness should be carried out with discretion and care. Brethren, are we careful enough as to our religious walk? Have you ever searched to the bottom of your profession? Why do you happen to be members of a certain church? Your mother was so. Well, there is some good in that reason, but not enough to justify you in the sight of God. I pray you judge your standing. If any Christian minister is afraid to urge you to this duty I stand in doubt of him I am not at all afraid. I beg you to examine all that I teach you, for I would not like to be responsible for another man’s creed. Like the Bereans, search and see whether these things be according to Scripture or not. One of the greatest blessings that could come upon the church would be a searching spirit which would refer everything to the Holy Scriptures. If they speak not according to this word it is because there is no light in them. Do your service to God as carefully as the eastern farmer planted his wheat, when he set it in rows with great orderliness and exactness. You serve a precise God, therefore serve him precisely. He is a jealous God, therefore be jealous of the least taint of error or will-worship.

Take care, also, that you water every part of your religion, as the farmer watered each plant. Pray for grace from on high that you may never be parched and dried up. Perform to your faith, to your hope, to your love, and to all the plants that are in your soul every other service which the husbandman renders to his wheat. Give grace your principal care, for it deserves it.

V. With this I close. Do this, because from this you may expect your principal crop. If religion be the principal thing, you may look to religion for your principal reward. The harvest will come to you in various ways. You will make the greatest success in this life if you wholly live to the glory of God. Success or failure must much depend upon the fitness of our object. It is of no use my attempting to sing, for I shall never be able to conduct a choir. I could not succeed in that, but if I preach, I may succeed, for that is my work. Now you, Christian man, if you try to live to the world you will not prosper, for you are not fitted for it. Grace has spoiled you for sin. If you live to God with all your heart you will succeed in it, for God has made you on purpose for it. As he made the fish for the water, and the birds for the air, so he made the believer for holiness, and for the service of God; and you will be out of your element, a fish out of water, or a bird in the stream, if you leave the service of God. The Eastern farmer’s prosperity hinges on his wheat, and yours upon your devotion to God. It is to Godliness that you must look for your joy. Is there any bliss like the bliss of knowing that you are in Christ, and are the beloved of the Lord? It is to your religion that you must look for comfort on a sick and dying bed, and you may be there very soon.

In the world to come what a crop, what a harvest will come of serving the Lord! What will come out of all else? What but mere smoke? A man has made a million of money, and he is dead. What has he got by his wealth? A man’s fame rings throughout the earth as a great and successful warrior, and he is dead. What has he as the result of all his honours? To live to the world is like playing with boys in the street for halfpence, or with babes for bits of platter and oyster shells. Life for God is real and substantial, but all else is waste. Let us think so, and gird up our loins to serve the Lord. May the divine Spirit help us to sow "the principal wheat," and to live in joyful expectation of reaping a happy harvest according to the promise, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy."

Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain)

Easter 1607 - Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Easter 1607 - Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

EASTER 1607 — Biship Lancelot Andrewes

1 Corinthians 15:20

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and was made the first fruits of them that sleep.

The same Apostle that out of Christ’s resurrection taught the Romans matter of duty, the same here out of the same resurrection teacheth the Corinthians matter of hope. There, similiter et vos,* by way of pattern to conform ourselves to Him "in newness of life;" and here, similiter et vos, in another sense by way of promise; that so doing, He shall hereafter conform us to Himself,* "change our vile bodies," and make them like "His glorious body." That former is our first resurrection from sin, this latter our second resurrection from the grave; this, the reward of that. In that, the work what to do; in this, our reward, what to hope for. These two, labour and hope, the Church joineth in one Anthem to day, her first Anthem. They sort well, and being sung together make a good harmony. But that without this, labour without hope, is no good music.

To rise, and to reclaim ourselves from a sinful course of life we have long lived in, is labour sure, and great labour. Now labour of itself is a harsh unpleasant thing, unless it be seasoned with hope.* Debet qui arat in spe arare, saith the Apostle above at the ninth chapter, in the matter of the Clergy’s maintenance,* "He that plows must plow in hope;" his plough will not go deep else, his furrows will be but shallow. Men may frame to themselves what speculations they please, but the Apostle’s saying will prove true: sever hope from labour, and you must look for labour and labourers accordingly, slight and shallow God knoweth. Labour then leads us to hope.

The Apostle saw this, and therefore is careful, whom he thus presseth to newness of life and the labour therefore, to raise for them, and to set before them, matter of hope. Hope here in this life he could set them none. They were, as he was himself,* at quotidie morior every hour,* in danger to be drawn to the block. It must therefore be from another, or at least as the text is, by a hope of being restored to life again. It was their case at Corinth, here in this chapter, plainly: If we must die to-morrow, if there be all that shall become of us,* then "let us eat and drink" while we may. If we be not sure of another life, let us make sure of this. But when in the sequel of the chapter, he had shewed there was restoring, and that so sure he was of it that he falls to insult over them in these terms, they gird up their loins again, and fall to their labours afresh,* as knowing their labour should not be "in vain in the Lord." This hope leads us to our restoring.

Our restoring is but a promise—shall be restored: that necessarily refers to a party that is to make it good. Who is that? Christ.* "Christ is our hope." Why, "hope is joined to the living,"* saith the Wise Man. Christ is dead; buried last Friday. If He be our hope, and He be dead, our hope is dead too; and if our hope be dead, our labour will not live long, nay both are buried with Christ in His grave. It was their case this day that went to Emmaus: say they, supposing Christ to be dead,* nos autem sperabamus, "we were once in good hope" by Him, that is, while He lived; as much to say as ‘Now He is in His grave, our hope is gone, we are even going to Emmaus.’ But then after, as soon as they saw He was alive again, their hope revived, and with their hope their labour; and presently back again to Jerusalem to the Lord’s work, and bade Emmaus farewell. So He leads us to labour; labour, to hope; hope, to our restoring; our restoring to Christ’s, Who, as He hath restored Himself, will restore us also to life. And this keeps us from going to Emmaus. It is used proverbially. Emmaus signifieth ‘a people forlorn:’ all that are at sperabamus, have lost their hopes, are said to go thither; and thither we should all go, even to Emmaus, but for the hope that breathes from this verse, without which it were a cold occupation to be a Christian.

This then is the hope of this text, spes viva, spes beata, worth all hopes else whatsoever. All hopes else are but spes spirantium, ‘hopes while we breath;’ this is spes expirantium, ‘the hope when we can fetch our breath no longer.’ The carnal man—all he can say is, dum spiro spero, ‘his hope is as long as his breath.’ The Christian aspireth higher, goeth farther by virtue of this verse and saith, dum expiro spero; ‘his hope fails him not when his breath fails him.’* Even then, saith Job, reposita est mihi spes in sinu meo; this hope, and only this, is laid up in our bosom, that though our life be taken from us, yet in Christ we to do it, and it to us shall be restored again.

Our case is not as theirs then was: no persecution, nor we at quotidie morior, and therefore not so sensible of this doctrine. But yet to them that are daily falling toward death, rising to life is a good text; peradventure not when we are well and in good health, but the hour is coming, when we shall leave catching at all other hopes, and must hold only by this; in horâ mortis, when all hope save the hope of this verse shall forsake us. Sure it is, under these very words are we laid into our graves, and these the last words that are said over us, as the very last hold we have; and we therefore to regard them with Job, and lay them up in our bosom.

There is in this text, I. a text, and an II. exposition. I. The text, we may well call the Angels’ text, for from them it came first. II. The exposition is St. Paul’s. These words,* "Christ is risen," were first uttered by an Angel this day in the sepulchre;* all the Evangelists so testify.

This text is a good text,* but reacheth not to us, unless it be helped with the Apostle’s exposition, and then it will. The exposition is it that giveth us our hope, and the ground of our hope. "Christ is risen," saith the Angel. "Christ the first fruits," saith the Apostle. And mark well that word "first fruits," for in that word is our hope. For if He be as the "first fruits" in His rising, His rising must reach to all that are of the heap whereof He is the "first fruits." This is our hope.

But our hope must have "a reason," saith St. Peter, and we be ready with it.* The hope that hath a ground, saith St. Paul, that is,* spes quæ non confundit. Having then shewed us this hope,* he sheweth us the ground of it. This: that in very equity we are to be allowed to be restored to life, the same way we lost it. But we lost it by man, or to speak in particular, by Adam we came by our attainder. Meet therefore, that by man, and to speak in particular, that by Christ, we come to our restoring. This is the ground or substance of our hope.

And thus he hath set before us this day life and death, in themselves and their causes, two things that of all other do most concern us. Our last point shall be to apply it to the means, this day offered unto us toward the restoring us to life.

The doctrine of the Resurrection is one of the foundations, so called by the Apostle. It behoveth him therefore, as a skilful workman,* to see it surely laid. That is surely laid that is laid on the rock,* and "the rock is Christ." Therefore he laid it on Christ by saying first, "Christ is risen."

Of all that be Christians, Christ is the hope; but not Christ every way considered, but as risen. Even in Christ un-risen there is no hope. Well doth the Apostle begin here; and when he would open to us "a gate of hope,"* carry us to Christ’s sepulchre empty; to shew us, and to hear the Angel say, "He is risen." Thence after to deduce; if He were able to do thus much for Himself, He hath promised us as much, and will do as much for us. We shall be restored to life.

Thus had he proceeded in the four verses before, destructive.* 1. Miserable is that man, that either laboureth or suffereth in vain.* 2. Christian men seem to do so, and do so, if there be no other life but this. 3. There is no other life but this, if there be no resurrection.* 4. There is no resurrection, "if Christ be not risen;" for ours dependeth on His. And now he turneth all about again. "But now," saith he, 1. "Christ is risen." 2. If He be, we shall. 3. If we shall,* we have, as St. Paul calleth it, a "blessed hope," and so a life yet behind. 4. If such hope we have, we of all men "labour not in vain." So there are four things: 1. Christ’s rising; 2. our restoring; 3. our hope; and 4. our labour. All the doubt is of the two first, the two other will follow of themselves. If a restoring, we have good hope; if good hope, our labour is not lost. The two first are in the first; the other, in the last words. The first are, "Christ is risen;" the last, we shall be restored to life. Our endeavour is to bring these two together, but first to lay the cornerstone.

"Christ is risen," is the Angel’s text, a part of the "great mystery of godliness,"* which, as the Apostle saith, was "seen of Angels," by them "delivered," and "believed on by the world." Quod credibile primum fecit illis videntium certitudo, post morientium fortitudo, jam credibile mihi facit credentium multitudo. ‘It became credible at first by the certainty of them that saw it, then by the constancy of them that died for confession of it, and to us now the huge multitude of them that have and do believe it, maketh it credible.’ For if it be not credible, how is it credible that the world could believe it? the world, I say, being neither enjoined by authority, nor forced by fear, nor inveigled by allurements; but brought about by persons, by means less credible than the thing itself. Gamaliel said,* "If it be of God, it will prevail." And though we cannot argue, all that hath prevailed is of God, yet thus we can: that which hath been mightily impugned, and weakly pursued, and yet prevailed, that was of God certainly. That which all the powers of the earth fought but could not prevail against, was from Heaven certainly. Certainly, "Christ is risen;" for many have risen, and lift up themselves against it, but all are fallen. But the Apostle saith, it is a "foundation," that he will not lay it again; no more will we, but go forward and raise upon it, and so let us do.

"Christ is risen:" suppose He be, what then? Though Christ’s rising did no way concern us or we that, yet 1. first, In that a man, one of our own flesh and blood hath gotten such a victory, even for humanity’s sake; 2. Then, in that One that is innocent hath quit Himself so well for innoceney’s sake; 3. thirdly, In that He hath foiled a common enemy, for amity’s sake; 4. lastly, In that He hath wiped away the ignominy of His fall with the glory of His rising again, for virtue and valour’s sake; for all these we have cause to rejoice with Him, all are matter of gratulation.

But the Apostle is about a farther matter; that text, the Angel’s text, he saw would not serve our turn, farther than I have said. Well may we congratulate Him, if that be all, but otherwise it pertains to us, "Christ is risen." The Apostle therefore enters farther, telling us that Christ did thus rise, not as Christ only, but as "Christ the first fruits." "Christ is risen," and in rising become the "first fruits;" risen, and so risen; that is, to speak after the manner of men, that there is in Christ a double capacity. 1. One as a body natural, considered by Himself, without any relative respect unto us, or to any; in which regard well may we be glad, as one stranger is for another, but otherwise His rising concerns us not at all. 2. Then that He hath a second, as a body politic, or chief part of a company or corporation, that have to Him, and He to them, a mutual and reciprocal reference, in which respect His resurrection may concern us no less than Himself; it is that He giveth us the first item of in the word primitiæ, that Christ in His rising cometh not to be considered as a totum integrale, or body natural alone, as Christ only; but that which maketh for us, He hath besides another capacity, that He is a part of a corporation or body, of which body we are the members. This being won, look what He hath suffered or done, it pertaineth to us, and we have our part in it.

You shall find, and ever when you find such words make much of them, Christ called a "Head,"—a head is a part; Christ called a "Root,"*—a root is a part; and here Christ called "first fruits,"* which we all know is but a part of the fruits, but a handful of a heap or a sheaf, and referreth to the rest of the fruits, as a part to the whole. So that there is in the Apostle’s conceit one mass or heap of all mankind, of which Christ is the "first fruits," we the remainder. So as by the law of the body all His concern us no less than they do Him, whatsoever He did, He did to our behoof. Die He, or rise, we have our part in His death and in His resurrection, and all: why? because He is but the "first fruits."

And if He were but Primus, and not Primitiæ dormientium, there were hope. For primus is an ordinal number, and draweth after a second, a third, and God knoweth how many. But if in that word there be any scruple, as sometime it is, ante quem non est rather than post quem est alius, if no more come by one; all the world knows the first fruits is but a part of the fruits, there are fruits beside them, no man knoweth how many.

But that which is more, the "first fruits" is not every part, but such a part as representeth the whole, and hath an operative force over the whole. For the better understanding whereof, we are to have recourse to the Law, to the very institution or first beginning of them.* Ever the legal ceremony is a good key to the evangelical mystery. Thereby we shall see why St. Paul made choice of the word "first fruits," to express himself by; that he useth verbum vigilans, ‘a word that is awake,’* as St. Augustine saith, or as Solomon, "a word upon his own wheel." The head or the root would have served, for if the head be above the water, there is hope for the whole body, and if the root hath life, the branches shall not long be without; yet he refuseth these and other that offered themselves, and chooseth rather the term of "first fruits." And why so?

This very day, Easter-day, the day of Christ’s rising, according to the Law, is the day or feast of the "first fruits;" the very feast carrieth him to the word, nothing could be more fit or seasonable for the time. The day of the Passion is the day of the Passover, and "Christ is our Passover;"* the day of the Resurrection is the day of the first fruits, and Christ is our "first fruits."

And this term thus chosen, you shall see there is a very apt and proper resemblance between the Resurrection and it. The rite and manner of the first fruits, thus it was. Under the Law, they might not eat of the fruits of the earth so long as they were profane. Profane they were, until they were sacred, and on this wise were they sacred. All the sheaves in a field,* for example’s sake, were unholy. One sheaf is taken out of all the rest, which sheaf we call the first fruits. That in the name of the rest is lift up aloft and shaken to and fro before the Lord,* and so consecrated.* That done, not only the sheaf so lifted up was holy, though that alone was lift up, but all the sheaves in the field were holy, no less than it.* The rule is, "If the first fruits be holy, all the lump is so too."

And thus, for all the world, fareth it in the Resurrection. "We were all dead,"* saith the Apostle, dead sheaves all. One, and that is Christ, this day, the day of first fruits, was in manner of a sheaf taken out of the number of the dead, and in the name of the rest lift up from the grave, and in His rising He shook,* for there was a great earthquake, by virtue whereof the first fruits being restored to life, all the rest of the dead are in Him entitled to the same hope, in that He was not so lift up for Himself alone, but for us and in our names; and so the substance of this feast fulfilled in Christ’s resurrection.

Now upon this lifting up, there ensueth a very great alteration, if you please to mark it. It was even now, "Christ is risen from the dead, the first fruits"—it should be of the dead too, for from thence He rose; it is not so, but "the first fruits"—"of them that sleep;" that you may see the consecration hath wrought a change. A change and a great change certainly, to change νεκροὶ into κεκοιμημένοι, a burial place into a cemetery, that is a great dortor; graves into beds, death into sleep, dead men into men laid down to take their rest,* a rest of hope, of hope to rise again. "If they sleep, they shall do well."

And that which lieth open in the word, dormientium, the very same is enfolded in the word "first fruits:" either word affordeth comfort. For first fruits imply fruits, and so we, as the fruits of the earth, falling as do the grains or kernels into the ground, and there lying, to all men’s seeming putrified and past hope, yet on a sudden, against the great feast of first fruits, shooting forth of the ground again. The other of dormientium the Apostle letteth go, and fastens on this of fruits, and followeth it hard through the rest of the chapter;* shewing, that the rising again of the fruits sown would be no less incredible than the Resurrection, but that we see it so every year.

These two words of 1. sleeping and 2. sowing would be laid up well. That which is sown riseth up in the spring, that which sleepeth in the morning. So conceive of the change wrought in our nature; that feast of first fruits, by "Christ our first fruits." Neither perish, neither that which is sown, though it rot, nor they that sleep, though they lie as dead for the time. Both that shall spring, and these wake well again. Therefore as men sow not grudgingly, nor lie down at night unwillingly, no more must we, seeing by virtue of this feast we are now dormientes, not mortui; now not as stones, but as fruits of the earth, whereof one hath an annual, the other a diurnal resurrection. This for the first fruits, and the change by them wrought.

There is a good analogy or correspondence between these, it cannot be denied. To this question, Can one man’s resurrection work upon all the rest? it is a good answer, Why not as well as one sheaf upon the whole harvest? This simile serves well to shew it, to shew but not prove. Symbolical Divinity is good, but might we see it in the rational too? We may see it in the cause no less; in the substance, and let the ceremony go. This I called the ground of our hope.

Why, saith the Apostle, should this of the first fruits seem strange to you, that by one Man’s resurrection we should rise all, seeing by one man’s death we die all? "By one man,"* saith he, "sin entered into the world, and by sin death;" to which sin we were no parties, and yet we all die, because we are of the same nature whereof he the first person; death came so certainly, and it is good reason life should do so likewise. To this question, Can the resurrection of one, a thousand six hundred years ago, be the cause of our rising? it is a good answer, Why not, as well as the death of one, five thousand six hundred years ago, be the cause of our dying? The ground and reason is, that there is like ground and reason of both. The wisest way it is, if wisdom can contrive it, that a person be cured by mithridate made of the very flesh of the viper bruised, whence the poison came, that so that which brought the mischief might minister also the remedy; the most powerful way it is, if power can effect it, to make strength appear in weakness; and that he that overcame should by the nature which he overcame, be "swallowed up in victory." The best way it is, if goodness will admit of it, that as next to Sathan man to man oweth his destruction, so next to God man to man might be debtor of his recovery. So agreeable it is to the power, wisdom, and goodness of God this, the three attributes of the blessed and glorious Trinity.

And let justice weigh it in her balance, no just exception can be taken to it, no not by justice itself; that as death came, so should life too, the same way at least. More favour for life, if it may be, but in very rigour the same at the least. According then to the very exact rule of justice, both are to be alike; if by man one, by man the other.

We dwell too long in generalities; let us draw near to the persons themselves, in whom we shall see this better. In them all answer exactly, word for word. Adam is fallen, and become the first fruits of them that die. "Christ is risen, and became the first fruits of them" that live,—for they that sleep live. Or you may, if you please, keep the same term in both, thus: Adam is risen, as we use to call rebellions risings;* he did rise against God by eritis sicut Dii; he had never fallen, if he had not thus risen; his rising was his fall.

We are now come to the two great persons, that are the two great authors of the two great matters in this world, life and death. Not either to themselves and none else, but as two heads, two roots, two first fruits, either of them in reference to his company whom they stand for. And of these two hold the two great corporations: 1. Of them that die, they are Adam’s; 2. Of them that sleep and shall rise, that is Christ’s.

To come then to the particular: no reason in the world that Adam’s transgression should draw us all down to death, only for that we were of the same lump; and that Christ’s righteousness should not be available to raise us up again to life, being of the same sheaves, whereof He the first fruits, no less than before of Adam. Look to the things, death and life; weakness is the cause of death, raising to life cometh of power.* Shall there be in weakness more strength to hurt, than in power to do us good? Look to the persons, Adam and Christ: shall Adam,* being but a "living soul," infect us more strongly than Christ, "a quickening Spirit," can heal us again?* Nay then, Adam was but "from the earth, earthy, Christ the Lord from Heaven." Shall earth do that which Heaven cannot undo? Never. It cannot be; sicut, sic, ‘as’ and ‘so,’—so run the terms.

But the Apostle, in Rom. 5. where he handleth this very point,* tells us plainly, non sicut delictum, ita et donum; "not as the fault, so the grace;" nor as the fall, so the rising, but the grace and the rising much more abundant. It seemeth to be a pari; it is not indeed, it is under value. Great odds between the persons, the things, the powers, and the means of them. Thus then meet it should be; let us see how it was.

Here again the very terms give us great light. We are, saith he, restored; restoring doth always presuppose an attainder going before, and so the term significant; for the nature of attainder is, one person maketh the fault, but it taints his blood and all his posterity. The Apostle saith that a statute there is,* "all men should die;" but when we go to search for it,* we can find none, but pulvis es, wherein only Adam is mentioned, and so none die but he. But even by that statute, death goeth over all men; even "those," saith St. Paul,* "that have not sinned after the like manner of transgression of Adam." By what law? By the law of attainders.

The restoring then likewise was to come, and did come, after the same manner as did the attainders; that by the first, this by the second Adam, so He is called verse 45. There was a statute concerning God’s commandments, qui fecerit ea,* vivet in eis; ‘he that observed the commandments should live by that his obedience,’ death should not seize on him. Christ did observe them exactly, therefore should not have been seized on by death; should not but was, and that seizure of his was death’s forfeiture. The laying of the former statute on Christ was the utter making it void; so judgment was entered, and an act made, Christ should be restored to life. And because He came not for Himself but for us, and in our name and stead did represent us, and so we virtually in Him, by His restoring we also were restored, by the rule,* si primitiæ, et tota conspersio sic; "as the first fruits go, so goeth the whole lump," as the root the branches. And thus we have gotten life again of mankind by passing this act of restitution, whereby we have hope to be restored to life.

But life is a term of latitude, and admitteth a broad difference, which it behoveth us much that we know. Two lives there be; in the holy tongue, the word which signifieth life is of the dual number, to shew us there is a duality of lives, that two there be, and that we to have an eye to both. It will help us to understand our text. For all restored to life; all to one, not all to both. The Apostle doth after, at the forty-fourth verse, expressly name them both. 1. One a natural life, or life by the "living soul;" the other, 2. a spiritual life, or life by the "quickening Spirit." Of these two, Adam at the time of his fall had the first, of a "living soul," was seized of it; and of him all mankind, Christ and we all, receive that life. But the other, the spiritual, which is the life chiefly to be accounted of, that he then had not, not actually; only a possibility he had, if he had held him in obedience,* and "walked with God," to have been translated to that other life. For clear it is, the life which Angels now live with God, and which we have hope and promise to live with Him after our restoring,* when we "shall be equal to the Angels," that life Adam at the time of his fall was not possessed of.

Now Adam by his fall fell from both, forfeited both estates. Not only that he had in reversion, by not fulfilling the conditions, but even that he had in esse too. For even on that also did death seize after et mortuus est.

Christ in His restitution, to all the sons of Adam, to all our whole nature, restoreth the former; therefore all have interest, all shall partake that life. What Adam actually had we shall actually have, we shall all be restored. To repair our nature He came, and repair it He did; all is given again really that in Adam really we lost touching nature. So that by his fall, no detriment at all that way.

The other, the second, that He restoreth too; but not promiscue, as the former, to all. Why? for Adam was never seized of it, performed not that whereunto the possibility was annexed, and so had in it but a defeasible estate. But then, by His special grace, by a second peculiar act, He hath enabled us to attain the second estate also which Adam had only a reversion of, and lost by breaking of the condition whereto it was limited. And so to this second restored so many as, to use the Apostle’s words in the next verse, "are in Him;" that is, so many as are not only of that mass or lump whereof Adam was the first fruits, for they are interested in the former only, but that are besides of the nova conspersio, whereof Christ is the primitiæ.

"They that believe in Him,"* saith St. John, them He hath enabled, "to them He hath given power to become the sons of God," to whom therefore He saith, this day rising, Vado ad Patrem vestrum;* in which respect the Apostle calleth Him Primogenitum inter multos fratres.* Or, to make the comparison even, to those that are—to speak but as Esay speaketh of them—"His children;"* "Behold, I and the children God hath given Me." The term He useth Himself to them after His resurrection,* and calleth them "children;" and they as His family take denomination of Him—Christians, of Christ.

Of these two lives, the first we need take no thought for. It shall be of all, the unjust as well as the just. The life of the "living soul," shall be to all restored. All our thought is to be for the latter, how to have our part in that supernatural life, for that is indeed to be restored to life. For the former, though it carry the name of life, yet it may well be disputed and is, Whether it be rather a death than a life, or a life than a death? A life it is, and not a life, for it hath no living thing in it. A death it is, and not a death, for it is an immortal death. But most certain it is, call it life if you will, they that shall live that life shall wish for death rather than it, and, this is the misery—not have their wish, for death shall fly from them.

Out of this double life and double restoring, there grow two resurrections in the world to come, set down by our Saviour in express terms. Though both be to life, yet, 1. that is called "condemnation to judgment;"* and 2. this only "to life."* Of these the Apostle calleth one "the better resurrection," the better beyond all comparison. To attain this then we bend all our endeavours, that seeing the other will come of itself, without taking any thought for it at all, we may make sure of this.

To compass that then, we must be "in Christ:" so it is in the next verse;* to all, but to "every one in order, Christ" first, "the first fruits, and then, they that be in Him."

Now He is in us by our flesh, and we in Him by His Spirit; and it standeth with good reason, they that be restored to life, should be restored to the Spirit. For the Spirit is the cause of all life, but specially of the spiritual life which we seek for.

His Spirit then we must possess ourselves of, and we must do that here; for it is but one and the same Spirit That raiseth our souls here from the death of sin,* and the same That shall raise our bodies there from the dust of death.

Of which Spirit there is "first fruits," to retain the words of the text, and "a fulness;" but the fulness in this life we shall never attain; our highest degree here is but to be of the number whereof he was that said,* Et nos habentes primitias Spiritus.

These first fruits we first receive in our Baptism, which is to us our "laver of regeneration,"* and of our "renewing by the Holy Spirit," where we are made and consecrate primitiæ.

But as we need be restored to life, so I doubt had we need to be restored to the Spirit too. We are at many losses of it, by this sin that "cleaveth so fast" to us. I doubt, it is with us,* as with the fields, that we need a feast of first fruits, a day of consecration every year. By something or other we grow unhallowed, and need to be consecrate anew, to re-seize us of the first fruits of the Spirit again. At least to awake it in us, as primitiæ dormientium at least. That which was given us, and by the fraud of our enemy, or our own negligence, or both,* taken from us and lost, we need to have restored; that which we have quenched,* to be lit anew; that which we have cast into a dead sleep, awaked up from it.

If such a new consecrating we need, what better time than the feast of first fruits, the sacrificing time under the Law? and in the Gospel, the day of Christ’s rising, our first fruits, by Whom we are thus consecrate? The day wherein He was Himself restored to the perfection of His spiritual life, the life of glory, is the best for us to be restored in to the first fruits of that spiritual life, the life of grace.

And if we ask, what shall be our means of this consecrating? The Apostle telleth us, we are sanctified by the "oblation of the body of Jesus." That is the best means to restore us to that life.* He hath said it, and shewed it Himself; "He that eateth Me shall live by Me." The words spoken concerning that,* are both "spirit and life," whether we seek for the spirit or seek for life. Such was the means of our death, by eating the forbidden fruit, the first fruits of death; and such is the means of our life, by eating the flesh of Christ, the first fruits of life.

And herein we shall very fully fit, not the time only and the means, but also the manner. For as by partaking the flesh and blood, the substance of the first Adam, we came to our death, so to life we cannot come, unless we do participate with the flesh and blood of the "second Adam," that is Christ. We drew death from the first, by partaking the substance; and so must we draw life from the second, by the same. This is the way; become branches of the Vine, and partakers of His nature, and so of His life and verdure both.

So the time, the means, the manner agree. What letteth then but that we, at this time, by this means, and in this manner, make ourselves of that conspersion whereof Christ is our first fruits; by these means obtaining the first fruits of His Spirit, of that quickening Spirit, Which being obtained and still kept, or in default thereof still recovered, shall here begin to initiate in us the first fruits of our restitution in this life, whereof the fulness we shall also be restored unto in the life to come;* as St. Peter calleth that time, the "time of the restoring of all things." Then shall the fulness be restored us too, when God shall be "all in all;" not some in one, and some in another, but all in all. Atque hic est vitœ finis, pervenire ad vitam cujus non est finis; ‘this is the end of the text and of our life, to come to a life whereof there is no end.’ To which, &c.

Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 2). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain)

Easter 1606 - Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Easter 1606 - Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Easter 1606 — Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Romans 6:9–11

Knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him.

For, in that He died, He died once to sin; but in that He liveth, He liveth to God.

Likewise think (or account) ye also, that ye are dead to sin, but are alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Scripture is as the feast is, both of them of the Resurrection. And this we may safely say of it, it is thought by the Church so pertinent to the feast, as it hath ever been and is appointed to be the very entry of this day’s service; to be sounded forth and sung, first of all, and before all, upon this day, as if there were some special correspondence between the day and it.

Two principal points are set down to us, out of the two principal words in it: one, scientes, in the first verse, "knowing;" the other, reputate, in the last verse, "count yourselves;"—knowing and counting, knowledge and calling ourselves to account for our knowledge.

Two points very needful to be ever jointly called upon, and more than needful for our times, being that much we know, and little we count; oft we hear, and when we have heard, small reckoning we make of it. What Christ did on Easter-day we know well; what we are then to do, we give no great regard: our scientes is without a reputantes.

Now this Scripture, ex totâ substantiâ, ‘out of the whole frame of it’ teacheth us otherwise; that Christian knowledge is not a knowledge without all manner of account, but that we are accountants for it; that we are to keep an audit of what we hear, and take account of ourselves of what we have learned. Λογίζεσθε is an auditor’s term: thence the Holy Ghost hath taken it, and would have us to be auditors in both senses.

And this to be general in whatsoever we know, but specially in our knowledge touching this feast of Christ’s Resurrection, where there are special words for it in the text, where in express terms an account is called for at our hands as an essential duty of the day. The benefit we remember is so great, the feast we hold so high, as though at other times we might be forborne, yet on this day we may not.

Now the sum of our account is set down in these words,* similiter et vos; that we fashion ourselves like to Christ, dying and rising, cast ourselves in the same moulds, express Him in both as near as we can.

To account of these first, that is, to account ourselves bound so to do.

To account for these second, that is, to account with ourselves whether we do so.

First, to account ourselves bound thus to do, resolving thus within ourselves, that to hear a Sermon of the Resurrection is nothing; to keep a feast of the Resurrection is as much, except it end in similiter et vos. Nisi, saith St. Gregory, quod de more celebratur etiam quoad mores exprimatur, ‘unless we express the matter of the feast in the form of our lives;’ unless as He from the grave so we from sin, and live to godliness as He unto God.

Then to account with ourselves, whether we do thus; that is, to sit down and reflect upon the sermons we hear, and the feasts we keep; how, by knowing Christ’s death, we die to sin; how, by knowing His resurrection, we live to God; how our estate in soul is bettered; how the fruit of the words we hear, and the feasts we keep, do abound daily toward our account against the great audit. And this to be our account, every Easter-day.

Of these two points, the former is in the two first verses, what we must know; the latter is in the last, what we must account for. And they be joined with similiter, to shew us they be and must be of equal and like regard; and we as know, so account.

But because, our knowing is the ground of our account, the Apostle beginneth with knowledge. And so must we.

Knowledge, in all learning, is of two sorts: 1. rerum, or 2. causarum, ὅτι, or δίοτι, ‘that,’ or ‘in that.’ The former is in the first verse: "knowing that Christ," &c. The latter, in the second; "for, in that," &c. And because we cannot cast up a sum, except we have a particular, the Apostle giveth us a particular of either. A particular of our knowledge quoad res, which consisteth of these three: 1. that "Christ is risen from the dead." 2. That now "He dieth not." 3. That "from henceforth death hath no dominion over Him." All in the first verse. Then a particular of our knowledge quoad causas. The cause 1. of His death, sin; "He died to sin." 2. Of His life, God; "He liveth to God." And both these but once for all. All in the second verse.

Then followeth our account, in the third verse. Wherein we consider, first, 1. the charge; 2. and then the discharge. 1. The charge first, similiter et vos; that we be like to Christ. And then wherein; 1. like, in dying to sin; 2. like, in living to God. Which are the two moulds wherein we are to be cast, that we may come forth like Him. This is the charge. 2. And last of all, the means we have to help us to discharge it, in the last words, "in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Before we take view of the two particulars, it will not be amiss to make a little stay at scientes, the first word, because it is the ground of all the rest. "Knowing that Christ is risen." This the Apostle saith, the Romans did;—"knowing." Did know himself indeed, that Christ was risen, for he saw Him. But how knew the Romans, or how know we? No other way than by relation, either they or we, but yet we much better than they. I say by relation, in the nature of a verdict, of them that had seen Him, even Cephas and the twelve; which is a full jury, able to find any matter of fact, and to give up a verdict in it. And that Christ is risen, is matter of fact. But if twelve will not serve in this matter of fact, which in all other matters with us will, if a greater inquest far, if five hundred will serve,* you may have so many; for "of more than five hundred at once was He seen," many of them then living ready to give up the same verdict, and to say the same upon their oaths.

But to settle a knowledge, the number moveth not so much as the quality of the parties. If they were persons credulous, light of belief, they may well be challenged, if they took not the way to ground their knowledge aright. That is ever best known that is most doubted of; and never was matter carried with more scruple and slowness of belief, with more doubts and difficulties, than was this of Christ’s rising. Mary Magdalene saw it first, and reported it. "They believed her not."* The two that went to Emmaus, they also reported it. They believed them not. Divers women together saw Him,* and came and told them; "their words seemed to them λῆρος,* an idle, feigned, fond tale." They all saw Him, and even seeing Him, yet they "doubted." When they were put out of doubt,* and told it but to one that happened to be absent, it was St. Thomas, you know how peremptory he was; "not he,* unless he might not only see with his eyes, but feel with his fingers, and put in his hand into His side." And all this he did. St. Augustine saith well: Profecto valde dubitatum est ab illis, ne dubitaretur a nobis; ‘all this doubting was by them made, that we might be out of doubt, and know that Christ is risen.’

Sure, they took the right course to know it certainly; and certainly they did know it, as appeareth. For never was any thing known in this world, so confidently, constantly, certainly testified as was this, that Christ is risen. By testifying it, they got nothing in the earth. Got nothing? Nay, they lost by it their living, their life, all they had to lose. They might have saved all, and but said nothing. So certain they were, so certainly they did account of their knowing, they could not be got from it, but to their very last breath, to the very last drop of their blood, bare witness to the truth of this article; and chose rather to lay down their lives and to take their death, than to deny, nay than not to affirm His rising from death. And thus did they know, and knowing testify, and by their testimony came the Romans to their knowing, and so do we. But, as I said before, we to a much surer knowing than they. For when this was written, the whole world stopped their ears at this report, would not endure to hear them, stood out mainly against them. The Resurrection! why it was with the Grecians at Athens, χλευασμὸς, a very ‘scorn.’* The Resurrection! why it was with Festus the great Roman, μανία, ‘a sickness of the brain, a plain frenzy.’* That world that then was and long after in such opposition, is since come in; and upon better examination of the matter so strangely testified, with so many thousand lives of men, to say the least of them, sad and sober, hath taken notice of it, and both known and acknowledged the truth of it. It was well foretold by St. John, hæc est victoria quæ vincit mundum,* fides vestra. It is proved true since, that this faith of Christ’s rising hath made a conquest of the whole world. So that, after all the world hath taken knowledge of it, we come to know it. And so more full to us, than to them, is this scientes, "knowing." Now to our particulars, what we know.

Our first particular is, That Christ is risen from the dead. Properly, we are said to rise from a fall, and from death rather to revive. Yet the Apostle rather useth the term of rising than reviving, as serving better to set forth his purpose. That death is a fall we doubt not, that it came with a fall, the fall of Adam. But what manner of fall? for it hath been holden a fall, from whence is no rising. But by Christ’s rising it falls out to be a fall, that we may fall and yet get up again. For if Christ be risen from it, then is there a rising; if a rising of one, then may there be of another; if He be risen in our nature, then is our nature risen; and if our nature be, our persons may be. Especially seeing, as the Apostle in the fourth verse before hath told us, He and we are σύμφυτοι, that is, so "grafted" one into the other, that He is part of us, and we of Him;* so that as St. Bernard well observeth, Christus etsi solus resurrexit, tamen non totus, ‘that Christ, though He be risen only, yet He is not risen wholly,’ or all, till we be risen too. He is but risen in part, and that He may rise all, we must rise from death also.

This then we know first: that death is not a fall like that of Pharaoh into the sea,* that "sunk down like a lump of lead" into the bottom, and never came up more;* but a fall like that of Jonas into the sea,* who was received by a fish,* and after cast up again. It is our Saviour Christ’s own simile. A fall,* not like that of the Angels into the bottomless pit, there to stay for ever; but like to that of men into their beds, when they make account to stand up again. A fall, not as of a log or stone to the ground, which, where it falleth there it lieth still;* but as of a wheat-corn into the ground, which is quickened and springeth up again.*

The very word which the Apostle useth, ἐγερθεὶς, implieth the two latter: 1. either of a fall into a bed in our chamber, where, though we lie to see to little better than dead for a time, yet in the morning we awake and stand up notwithstanding; 2. or of a fall into a bed in our garden, where, though the seed putrify and come to nothing, yet we look to see it shoot forth anew in the spring. Which spring is, as Tertullian well calleth it, the very resurrection of the year; and Christ’s Resurrection falleth well with it;* and it is, saith he, no way consonant to reason, that man for whom all things spring and rise again, should not have his spring and rising too. But he shall have them, we doubt not, by this day’s work. He That this day did rise, and rising was seen of Mary Magdalene in the likeness of a gardener,* this Gardener will look to it, that man shall have his spring. He will, saith the Prophet, "drop upon us a dew like the dew of herbs,* and the earth shall yield forth her dead." And so, as Christ is risen from the dead, even so shall we.

Our second particular is, That as He is risen, so now He dieth not. Which is no idle addition, but hath his force and emphasis. For one thing it is to rise from the dead, and another, not to die any more. The widow’s son of Nain,* the ruler’s daughter of the synagogue,* Lazarus,—all these rose again from death,* yet they died afterward; but "Christ rising from the dead, dieth no more." These two are sensibly different, Lazarus’ resurrection, and Christ’s; and this second is sure a higher degree than the former. If we rise as they did, that we return to this same mortal life of ours again, this very mortality of ours will be to us as the prisoner’s chain he escapes away withal: by it we shall be pulled back again, though we should rise a thousand times. We must therefore so rise as Christ, that our resurrection be not reditus, but transitus; not a returning back to the same life, but a passing over to a new. Transivit de morte ad vitam, saith He.* The very feast itself puts us in mind of as much; it is Pascha, that is, the Passover,* not a coming back to the same land of Egypt, but a passing over to a better, the Land of Promise, whither "Christ our Passover" is passed before us,* and shall in His good time give us passage after Him. The Apostle expresseth it best where he saith, that Christ by His rising hath "abolished death,* and brought to light life and immortality;" not life alone, but life and immortality, which is this our second particular. Risen, and risen to die no more, because risen to life, to life immortal.

But the third is yet beyond both these, more worth the knowing, more worthy our account; "death hath no dominion over Him." Where, as we before said, one thing it was to rise again, another to die no more, so say we now; it is one thing not to die, another not to be under the dominion of death. For death, and death’s dominion are two different things. Death itself is nothing else but the very separation of the life from the body, death’s dominion a thing of far larger extent. By which word of "dominion," the Apostle would have us to conceive of death, as of some great lord having some large signory.* Even as three several times in the chapter before he saith, regnavit mors, "death reigned," as if death were some mighty monarch, having some great dominions under him. And so it is; for look how many dangers, how many diseases, sorrows, calamities, miseries there be of this mortal life; how many pains, perils, snares of death; so many several provinces are there of this dominion. In all which, or some of them, while we live, we still are under the jurisdiction and arrest of death all the days of our life. And say that we escape them all, and none of them happen to us, yet live we still under fear of them, and that is death’s dominion too. For he is, as Job calleth him, Rex pavoris, "King of fear." And when we are out of this life too,* unless we pertain to Christ and His resurrection, we are not out of his dominion neither. For hell itself is secunda mors, so termed by St. John, "the second death,"* or second part of death’s dominion.*

Now, who is there that would desire to rise again to this life, yea, though it were immortal, to be still under this dominion of death here; still subject, still liable to the aches and pains, to the griefs and gripings, to the manifold miseries of this vale of the shadow of death? But then the other, the second region of death, the second part of his dominion, who can endure once to be there? There they seek and wish for death, and death flieth from them.

Verily, rising is not enough; rising, not to die again is not enough, except we may be quit of this dominion, and rid of that which we either feel or fear all our life long. Therefore doth the Apostle add, and so it was needful he should, "death hath no dominion over Him." "No dominion over Him?" No; for He, dominion over it. For lest any might surmise he might break through some wall, or get out at some window, and so steal a resurrection, or casually come to it, he tells them—No, it is not so.* Ecce claves mortis et inferni; see here, the keys both of the first and second death. Which is a plain proof He hath mastered, and got the dominion over both "death and him that hath the power of death,* that is the devil." Both are swallowed up in victory, and neither death any more sting, nor hell any more dominion.* Sed ad Dominum Deum nostrum spectant exitus mortis;* "but now unto God our Lord belong the issues of death;" the keys are at His girdle, He can let out as many as He list.

This estate is it, which he calleth coronam vitæ;* not life alone, but "the crown of life," or a life crowned with immunity of fear of any evil, ever to befal us. This is it which in the next verse he calleth "living unto God,"* the estate of the children of the resurrection, to be the sons of God, equal to the Angels, subject to no part of death’s dominion, but living in security, joy, and bliss for ever.

And now is our particular full. 1. Rising to life first; 2. and life freed from death, and so immortal; 3. and then exempt from the dominion of death, and every part of it; and so happy and blessed. Rise again? so may Lazarus, or any mortal man do; that is not it. Rise again to life immortal? so shall all do in the end, as well the unjust as the just; that is not it. But rise again to life immortal, with freedom from all misery, to live to, and with God, in all joy and glory evermore;—that is it, that is Christ’s resurrection. Et tu, saith St. Augustine, spera talem resurrectionem, et propter hoc esto Christianus, ‘live in hope of such a resurrection, and for this hope’s sake carry thyself as a Christian.’ Thus have we our particular of that we are to know touching Christ risen.

And now we know all these, yet do we not account ourselves to know them perfectly until we also know the reason of them. And the Romans were a people that loved to see the ground of that they received, and not the bare articles alone. Indeed it might trouble them why Christ should need thus to rise again, because they saw no reason why He should need die. The truth is, we cannot speak of rising well without mention of the terminus a quo, from whence He rose. By means whereof these two, 1. Christ’s dying, and 2. His rising, are so linked together, and their audits so entangled one with another, as it is very hard to sever them. And this you shall observe, the Apostle never goeth about to do it, but still as it were of purpose suffers one to draw in the other continually. It is not here alone, but all over his Epistles; ever they run together, as if he were loath to mention one without the other.

And it cannot be denied but that their joining serveth to many great good purposes. These two, 1. His death, and 2. His rising, they shew His two natures, human and Divine; 1. His human nature and weakness in dying, 2. His Divine nature and power in rising again. 2. These shew His two offices; His Priesthood and His Kingdom. 1. His Priesthood in the sacrifice of His death; 2. His Kingdom in the glory of His resurrection. 3. They set before us His two main benefits, 1. interitum mortis, and 2. principium vitæ. 1. His death, the death of death; 2. His rising, the reviving of life again; the one what He had ransomed us from, the other what He had purchased for us. 4. They serve as two moulds, wherein our lives are to be cast, that the days of our vanity may be fashioned to the likeness of the Son of God; which are our two duties, that we are to render for those two benefits, proceeding from the two offices of His two natures conjoined. In a word, they are not well to be sundered; for when they are thus joined, they are the very abridgment of the whole Gospel.

Of them both then briefly. Of His dying first: "In that He died, He died once to sin." Why died He once, and why but once? Once He died to sin, that is, sin was the cause He was to die once. As in saying "He liveth to God," we say God is the cause of His life, so in saying "He died to sin" we say sin was the cause of His death. God of His rising, sin of His fall. And look, how the Resurrection leadeth us to death, even as naturally doth death unto sin, the sting of death.

To sin then He died; not simply to sin, but with reference to us. For as death leadeth us to sin, so doth sin to sinners, that is, to ourselves; and so will the opposition be more clear and full: "He liveth unto God," "He died unto man." With reference, I say, to us. For first He died unto us; and if it be true that Puer natus est nobis,* it is as true that Vir mortuus est nobis; if being a Child He was born to us, becoming a Man He died to us. Both are true.

To us then first He died because He would save us. To sin secondly, because else He could not save us. Yes he could have saved us and never died for us, ex plenitudine potestatis, ‘by His absolute power,’ if He would have taken that way. That way He would not, but proceed by way of justice, do all by way of justice. And by justice sin must have death,—death, our death, for the sin was ours. It was we that were to die to sin. But if we had died to sin, we had perished in sin; perished here, and perished everlastingly. That His love to us could not endure, that we should so perish. Therefore, as in justice He justly might, He took upon Him our debt of sin, and said, as the Fathers apply that speech of His, Sinite abire hos, "Let these go their ways."* And so that we might not die to sin He did. We see why he died once.

Why but once? because once was enough, ad auferenda, saith St. John; ad abolenda,* saith St. Peter; ad exhaurienda, saith St. Paul; ‘to take away,* to abolish, to draw dry,’ and utterly to exhaust all the sins,* of all the sinners, of all the world. The excellency of His Person That performed it was such; the excellency of the obedience that He performed, such; the excellency both of His humility and charity wherewith He performed it, such; and of such value every of them, and all of them much more; as made that His once dying was satis superque, ‘enough, and enough again;’ which made the Prophet call it copiosam redemptionem,* "a plenteous redemption." But the Apostle, he goeth beyond all in expressing this;* in one place terming it ὑπερβάλλων,* in another ὑπερεκπερισσεύων, in another πλεονάζων,—mercy, rich,* exceeding; grace over-abounding, nay, grace superfluous, for so is πλεονάζων, and superfluous is enough and to spare; superfluous is clearly enough and more than enough. Once dying then being more than enough, no reason He should die more than once. That of His death.

Now of His life: "He liveth unto God." The rigour of the law being fully satisfied by His death, then was He no longer justly, but wrongfully detained by death. As therefore by the power He had, He laid down His life, so He took it again, and rose again from the dead. And not only rose Himself, but in one concurrent action, God, Who had by His death received full satisfaction, reached Him as it were His hand, and raised Him to life. The Apostle’s word ἐγερθεὶς, in the native force doth more properly signify, "raised by another," than risen by himself, and is so used, to shew it was done, not only by the power of the Son, but by the will, consent, and co-operation of the Father; and He the cause of it, Who for the over-abundant merit of His death, and His humbling Himself, and "becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross," not only raised Him,* but propter hoc, "even for that cause," exalted Him also, to live with Him, in joy and glory for ever. For, as when He lived to man He lived to much misery, so now He liveth to God He liveth in all felicity. This part being oppositely set down to the former; living, to exclude dying again; living to God, to exclude death’s dominion, and all things pertaining to it. For, as with "God is life and the fountain of life" against death,* even the fountain of life never failing, but ever renewing to all eternity; so with Him also is torrens deliciarum, "a main river of pleasures," even pleasures for evermore; never ebbing, but ever flowing to all contentment, against the miseries belonging to death’s dominion. And there He liveth thus: not now, as the Son of God, as He lived before all worlds, but as the Son of man, in the right of our nature; to estate us in this life in the hope of a reversion, and in the life to come in perfect and full possession of His own and His Father’s bliss and happiness; when we shall also live to God, and God be all in all, which is the highest pitch of all our hope. We see then His dying and rising, and the grounds of both, and thus have we the total of our scientes.

Now followeth our account. An account is either of what is coming to us, and that we like well, or what is going from us, and that is not so pleasing. Coming to us I call matter of benefit, going from us matter of duty; where I doubt many an expectation will be deceived, making account to hear from the Resurrection matter of benefit only to come in, where the Apostle calleth us to account for matter of duty which is to go from us.

An account there is growing to us by Christ’s rising, of matter of benefit and comfort; such an one there is, and we have touched it before. The hope of gaining a better life, which groweth from Christ’s rising, is our comfort against the fear of losing this. Thus do we comfort ourselves against our deaths:* "Now blessed be God that hath regenerated us to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Thus do we comfort ourselves against our friends’ death:* "Comfort yourselves one another," saith the Apostle, "with these words." What words be they? Even those of our Saviour in the Gospel, Resurget frater tuus,* "Thy brother" or thy father, or thy friend, "shall rise again." And not only against death, but even against all the miseries of this life. It was Job’s comfort on the dunghill: well yet,* videbo Deum in carne meâ; "I shall see God in my flesh." And not in our miseries alone, but when we do well, and no man respecteth us for it. It is the Apostle’s conclusion of the chapter of the Resurrection: Be of good cheer yet, labor vester non erit inanis in Domino,* your "labour is not in vain in the Lord," you shall have your reward at the resurrection of the just. All these ways comfort cometh unto us by it.

But this of ours is another manner of account, of duty to go from us, and to be answered by us. And such an one there is too, and we must reckon of it. I add that this here is our first account, you see it here called for in the Epistle to the Romans; the other cometh after, in the Epistle to the Corinthians.

In very deed, this of ours is the key to the other, and we shall never find sound comfort of that, unless we do first well pass this account here. It is I say, first, because it is present, and concerneth our souls, even here in this life. The other is future, and toucheth but our bodies, and that in the life to come. It is an error certainly, which runneth in men’s heads when they hear of the Resurrection, to conceive of it as of a matter merely future, and not to take place till the latter day. Not only "Christ is risen," but if all be as it should be, "We are already risen with Him,"* saith the Apostle, in the Epistle this day, the very first words of it; and even here now, saith St. John, is there a "first resurrection,"* and happy is he that "hath his part in it." A like error it is to conceit the Resurrection as a thing merely corporal, and no ways to be incident into the spirit or soul at all. The Apostle hath already given us an item to the contrary, in the end of the fourth chapter before, where he saith:* "He rose again for our justification," and justification is a matter spiritual;* Justificatus est Spiritu, saith the Apostle, of Christ Himself. Verily, here must the spirit rise to grace, or else neither the body nor it shall there rise to glory. This then is our first account, that account of ours, which presently is to be passed, and out of hand; this is it which first we must take order for.

The sum or charge of which account is set down in these words, similiter et vos; that we be like Christ, carry His image Who is heavenly, as we have carried the image of the earthly, "be conformed to His likeness;" that what Christ hath wrought for us, the like be wrought in us; what wrought for us by His flesh, the like wrought in us by His Spirit. It is a maxim or main ground in all the Fathers, that such an account must be: the former, what Christ hath wrought for us, Deus reputat nobis, ‘God accounteth to us;’ for the latter, what Christ hath wrought in us, reputate vos, we must account to God. And that is, similiter et vos, that we fashion ourselves like Him.

Like Him in as many points as we may, but namely and expressly, in these two here set down: 1. "In dying to sin," 2. "In living unto God." In these two first; then secondly, in doing both these, ἐφάπαξ, but "once for all."

Like Him in these two: 1. In His dying. For He died not only to offer "a sacrifice" for us,* saith St. Paul, but also to leave "an example" to us, saith St. Peter.* That example are we to be like. 2. In His rising: for He arose not only that we might be "regenerated to a lively hope,"* saith St. Peter, but also that we might be "grafted into the similitude of His resurrection," saith St. Paul, a little before, in the fifth verse of this very chapter. That similitude are we to resemble. So have we the exemplary part of both these, whereunto we are to frame our similiter et vos.

"He died to sin:"—there is our pattern. Our first account must be, "count yourselves dead to sin." And that we do when there is neither action, nor affection, nor any sign of life in us toward sin, no more than in a dead body; when, as men crucified, which is not only His death, but the kind of His death too, we neither move hand, nor stir foot toward it, both are nailed down fast. In a word, to "die to sin," with St. Paul here, is to "cease from sin,"* with St. Peter.

To "cease from sin" I say, understanding by sin, not from sin altogether—that is a higher perfection than this life will bear, but as the Apostle expoundeth himself in the very next words,* Ne regnet peccatum, that is, from the "dominion of sin" to cease. For till we be free from death itself, which in this life we are not, we shall not be free from sin altogether; only we may come thus far, ne regnet, that sin "reign not," wear not a crown, sit not in a throne, hold no parliaments within us, give us no laws; in a word, as in the fourth verse before, that we serve it not.* To die to the dominion of sin,—that by the grace of God we may, and that we must account for.

"He liveth to God." There is our similitude of His resurrection: our second account must be, count yourselves "living unto God." Now how that is, he hath already told us in the fourth verse, even "to walk in newness of life." To walk is to move; moving is a vital action, and argueth life. But it must not be any life, our old will not serve; it must be a new life, we must not return back to our former course, but pass over to another new conversation. And in a word as before, to live to God with St. Paul here, is to live secundum Deum,* "according to God in the Spirit," with St. Peter. And then live we according to Him, when His will is our law, His word our rule, His Son’s life our example, His Spirit rather than our own soul the guide of our actions. Thus shall we be grafted into the similitude of His resurrection.

Now this similitude of the Resurrection calleth to my mind another similitude of the Resurrection in this life too, which I find in Scripture mentioned; it fitteth us well, it will not be amiss to remember you of it by the way, it will make us the better willing to enter into this account.

At the time that Isaac should have been offered by his father,* Isaac was not slain: very near it he was, there was fire, and there was a knife, and he was appointed ready to be a sacrifice. Of which case of his, the Apostle in the mention of his father Abraham’s faith,—"Abraham," saith he,* "by faith," λογισάμενος, "made full account," if Isaac had been slain, "God was able to raise him from the dead." And even from the dead God raised him, and his father received him, ἐν παραβολῇ, "in a certain similitude," or after a sort. Mark that well: Raising Isaac from imminent danger of present death, is with the Apostle a kind of resurrection. And if it be so, and if the Holy Ghost warrant us to call that a kind of resurrection, how can we but on this day, the day of the Resurrection, call to mind, and withal render unto God our unfeigned thanks and praise, for our late resurrection ἐν παραβολῇ, for our kind of resurrection, He not long since vouchsafed us. Our case was Isaac’s case without doubt: there was fire, and instead of a knife, there was powder enough, and we were designed all of us, and even ready, to be sacrificed, even Abraham, Isaac, and all. Certainly if Isaac’s were, ours was a kind of resurrection, and we so to acknowledge it. We were as near as he; we were not only within the dominion, but within the verge, nay even within the very gates of death. From thence hath God raised us, and given us this year this similitude of the Resurrection, that we might this day of the resurrection of His Son, present Him with this, in the text, of "rising to a new course of life."

And now to return to our fashioning ourselves like to Him, in these: As there is a death natural, and a death civil, so is there a death moral, both in philosophy and in divinity; and if a death, then consequently a resurrection too. Every great and notable change of our course of life, whereby we are not now any longer the same men that before we were, be it from worse to better, or from better to worse, is a moral death; a moral death to that we change from, and a moral resurrection to that we change to. If we change to the better, that is sin’s death; if we alter to the worse, that is sin’s resurrection. When we commit sin, we die, we are dead in sin; when we repent, we revive again; when we repent ourselves of our repenting and relapse back, then sin riseth again from the dead: and so toties quoties. And even upon these two, as two hinges, turneth our whole life. All our life is spent in one of them.

Now then that we be not all our life long thus off and on, fast or loose, in dock out nettle, and in nettle out dock, it will behove us once more yet to look back upon our similiter et vos, even upon the word ἐφάπαξ, semel, "once." That is, that we not only "die to sin," and "live to God," but die and live as He did, that is, "once for all;" which is an utter abandoning "once" of sin’s dominion, and a continual, constant, persisting in a good course "once" begun. Sin’s dominion, it languisheth sometimes in us, and falleth haply into a swoon, but it dieth not quite "once for all." Grace lifteth up the eye, and looketh up a little, and giveth some sign of life, but never perfectly receiveth. O that once we might come to this! no more deaths, no more resurrections, but one! that we might once make an end of our daily continual recidivations to which we are so subject, and once get past these pangs and qualms of godliness, this righteousness like the morning cloud, which is all we perform; that we might grow habituate in grace, radicati et fundati, "rooted and founded in it;" ἐῤῥιζωμένοι, "steady,"* and ἑδραῖοι, "never to be removed;"* that so we might enter into, and pass a good account of this our similiter et vos!

And thus are we come to the foot of our account, which is our onus, or ‘charge.’ Now we must think of our discharge, to go about it; which maketh the last words no less necessary for us to consider, than all the rest. For what? is it in us, or can we, by our own power and virtue, make up this account? We cannot, saith the Apostle;* nay we cannot, saith he, λογίσασθαι, "make account of any thing," no not so much as of a good thought toward it, as of ourselves. If any think otherwise, let him but prove his own strength a little, what he can do, he shall be so confounded in it, as he shall change his mind, saith St. Augustine, and see plainly, the Apostle had reason to shut up all with in Christo Jesu Domino nostro: otherwise our account will stick in our hands. Verily, to raise a soul from the death of sin, is harder, far harder, than to raise a dead body out of the dust of death. St. Augustine hath long since defined it, that Mary Magdalene’s resurrection in soul, from her long lying dead in sin, was a greater miracle than her brother Lazarus’ resurrection, that had lain four days in his grave. If Lazarus lay dead before us, we would never assay to raise him ourselves; we know we cannot do it. If we cannot raise Lazarus that is the easier of the twain, we shall never Mary Magdalene which is the harder by far, out of Him, or without Him, That raised them both.

But as out of Christ, or without Christ, we can do nothing toward this account; not accomplish or bring to perfection, but not do—not any great or notable sum of it, but nothing at all; as saith St. Augustine,* upon sine Me nihil potestis facere.* So, in Him and with Him enabling us to it, we can think good thoughts, speak good words, and do good works, and die to sin,* and live to God, and all. Omnia possum, saith the Apostle. And enable us He will, and can, as not only having passed the resurrection, but being the Resurrection itself; not only had the effect of it in Himself, but being the cause of it to us. So He saith Himself:* "I am the Resurrection and the Life;" the Resurrection to them that are dead in sin, to raise them from it; and the Life to them that live unto God, to preserve them in it.

Where, besides the two former, 1. the article of the Resurrection, which we are to know; 2. and the example of the Resurrection, which we are to be like; we come to the notice of a third thing, even a virtue or power flowing from Christ’s resurrection, whereby we are made able to express our similiter et vos, and to pass this our account of "dying to sin," and "living to God." It is in plain words called by the Apostle himself,* virtus resurrectionis "the virtue of Christ’s resurrection," issuing from it to us; and he prayeth that as he had a faith of the former, so he may have a feeling of this; and as of them he had a contemplative, so he may of this have an experimental knowledge. This enabling virtue proceedeth from Christ’s resurrection. For never let us think, if in the days of His flesh there "went virtue out" from even the very edge of His garment to do great cures,* as in the case of the woman with the bloody issue we read, but that from His Ownself, and from those two most principal and powerful actions of His Ownself, His 1. death and 2. resurrection, there issueth a divine power; from His death a power working on the old man or flesh to mortify it; from His resurrection a power working on the new man, the spirit, to quicken it. A power able to roll back any stone of an evil custom, lie it never so heavy on us; a power able to dry up any issue, though it have run upon us twelve years long.

And this power is nothing else but that divine quality of grace, which we receive from Him. Receive it from Him we do certainly: only let us pray, and endeavour ourselves, that we "receive it not in vain,"* the Holy Ghost by ways to flesh and blood unknown inspiring it as a breath, distilling it as a dew, deriving it as a secret influence into the soul. For if philosophy grant an invisible operation in us to the celestial bodies, much better may we yield it to His eternal Spirit, whereby such a virtue or breath may proceed from it, and be received of us.

Which breath, or spirit, is drawn in by prayer, and such other exercises of devotion on our parts; and, on God’s part, breathed in, by, and with, the word, well therefore termed by the Apostle,* "the word of grace." And I may safely say it with good warrant, from those words especially and chiefly; which, as He Himself saith of them,* are "spirit and life," even those words, which joined to the element make the blessed Sacrament.

There was good proof made of it this day. All the way did He preach to them, even till they came to Emmaus, and their hearts were hot within them, which was a good sign; but their eyes were not opened but "at the breaking of bread,"* and then they were. That is the best and surest sense we know, and therefore most to be accounted of. There we taste, and there we see;* "taste and see how gracious the Lord is."* There we are made to "drink of the Spirit,"* there our "hearts are strengthened and stablished with grace."* There is the Blood which shall "purge our consciences from dead works," whereby we may "die to sin." There the Bread of God, which shall endue our souls with much strength; yea, multiply strength in them, to live unto God; yea,* to live to Him continually; for he that "eateth His flesh and drinketh His blood,* dwelleth in Christ, and Christ in him;" not inneth, or sojourneth for a time, but dwelleth continually. And, never can we more truly, or properly say, in Christo Jesu Domino nostro, as when we come new from that holy action, for then He is in us, and we in Him, indeed. And so we to make full account of this service, as a special means to further us to make up our Easter-day’s account, and to set off a good part of our charge. In Christ, dropping upon us the anointing of His grace. In Jesus, Who will be ready as our Saviour to succour and support us with His auxilium speciale, ‘His special help.’ Without which assisting us, even grace itself is many times faint and feeble in us; and both these, because He is our Lord Who, having come to save that which was lost, will not suffer that to be lost which He hath saved. Thus using His own ordinance of Prayer, of the Word, and Sacrament, for our better enabling to discharge this day’s duty, we shall I trust yield up a good account, and celebrate a good feast of His resurrection. Which Almighty God grant, &c.

Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 2). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain)

Thankfulness for Mercies received, a necessary Duty

Thankfulness for Mercies received, a necessary Duty

Thankfulness for Mercies received, a necessary Duty

A Farewel Sermon, preached on board the Whitaker, at Anchor near Savannah, in Georgia, Sunday, May 17, 1738.

Psalm, 107:30, 31

Then are they glad, because they are at rest, and so he bringeth them unto the haven where they would be.

O that men would therefore praise the Lord for his goodness, and declare the wonders that he doeth for the children of men!

NUMBERLESS marks does man bear in his soul, that he is fallen and estranged from God; but nothing gives a greater proof thereof, than that backwardness, which every one finds within himself, to the duty of praise and thanksgiving.

When God placed the first man in paradise, his soul no doubt was so filled with a sense of the riches of the divine love, that he was continually employing that breath of life, which the Almighty had not long before breathed into him, in blessing and magnifying that all-bountiful, all-gracious God, in whom he lived, moved, and had his being.

And the brightest idea we can form of the angelical hierarchy above, and the spirits of just men made perfect, is, that they are continually standing round the throne of God, and cease not day and night, saying, "Worthy art thou, O Lamb that wast slain, to receive power and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." Rev. 5:12.

That then, which was man’s perfection when time first began, and will be his employment when death it swallowed up in victory, and time shall be no more, without controversy, is part of our perfection, and ought to be our frequent exercise on earth: and I doubt not but those blessed spirits, who are sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation, often stand astonished when they encamp around us, to find our hearts so rarely enlarged, and our mouths so seldom opened, to shew forth the loving-kindness of the Lord, or to speak of all his praise.

Matter for praise and adoration, can never be wanting to creatures redeemed by the blood of the Son of God; and who have such continual scenes of his infinite goodness presented to their view, that were their souls duly affected with a sense of his universal love, they could not but be continually calling on heaven and earth, men and angels, to join with them in praising and blessing that "high and lofty one, who inhabiteth eternity, who maketh his fun to shine on the evil and on the good," and daily pours down his blessings on the whole race of mankind.

But few are arrived to such a degree of charity or love, as to rejoice with those that do rejoice, and to be as thankful for others mercies, as their own. This part of christian perfection, though begun on earth, will be consummated only in heaven; where our hearts will glow with such servent love towards God and one another, that every fresh degree of glory communicated to our neighbour, will also communicate to us a fresh topic of thankfulness and joy.

That which has the greatest tendency to excite the generality of fallen men to praise and thanksgiving, is a sense of God’s private mercies, and particular benefits bellowed upon ourselves. For as these come nearer our own hearts, so they must be more affecting; and as they are peculiar proofs, whereby we may know, that God does in a more especial manner favour us above others, so they cannot but sensibly touch us; and if our hearts are not quite frozen, like coals of a refiner’s fire, they must melt us down into thankfulness and love. It was a consideration of the distinguishing favours God had shewn to his chosen people Israel, and the frequent and remarkable deliverances wrought by him in behalf of "those who go down to the sea in ships, and occupy their business in great waters," that made the holy Psalmist break out so frequently as he does in this psalm, into this moving, pathetical exclamation, "O that men would therefore praise the Lord for his goodness, and declare the wonders that he doeth for the children of men!"

His expressing himself in so fervent a manner, implies both the importance and neglect of the duty. As when Moses on another occasion cried out, "O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would practically consider their latter end!" Deut. 32:29.

I say, importance and neglect of the duty; for out of those many thousands that receive blessings from the Lord, how few give thanks in remembrance of his holiness? The account given us of the ungrateful lepers, is but too lively a representation of the ingratitude of mankind in general; who like them, when under any humbling providence, can cry, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" Luke 17:13. but when healed of their sickness, or delivered from their distress, scarce one in ten can be found "returning to give thanks to God."

And yet as common as this sin of ingratitude is, there is nothing we ought more earnestly to pray against. For what is more absolutely condemned in holy scripture than ingratitude? Or what more peremptorily required than the contrary temper? Thus says the Apostle, "Rejoice evermore; in every thing give thanks," 1 Thes. 5:16, 18. "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God," Phil. 4:6.

On the contrary, the Apostle mentions it as one of the highest crimes of the Gentiles, that they were not thankful. "Neither were they thankful," Rom. 1:21 as also in another place, he numbers the "unthankful," 2 Tim. 3:2 amongst those unholy, prophane persons, who are to have their portion in the lake of fire and brimstone.

As for our sins, God puts them behind his back; but his mercies he will have acknowledged, "There is virtue gone out of me," says Jesus Christ, Luke 8:46 and the woman who was cured of her bloody issue, must confess it. And we generally find, when God sent any remarkable punishment upon a particular person, he reminded him of the favours he had received, as so many aggravations of his ingratitude. Thus when God was about to visit Eli’s house, he thus expostulates with him by his prophet: "Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy fathers, when they were in Egypt, in Pharaoh’s house? And did I chuse him out of all the tribes of Israel, to be my priest, to offer upon mine altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod before me? Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice, and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation, and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people? Wherefore the Lord God of Israel faith, I said indeed, that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever; but how the Lord saith, Be it far from me, for them that honour me will I honour, and they that despite me shall be lightly esteemed." 1 Sam. 2:27, 28, 29, 30.

It was this and such like instances of God’s severity against the unthankful, that inclined me to chuse the, words of the text, as the most proper subject I could discourse on at this time.

Four months, my good friends, we have now been upon the sea in this ship, and "have occupied our business in the great waters." At God Almighty’s word, We have seen "the stormy wind arise; which hath lifted up the waves thereof. We have been carried up to the heaven, and down again to the deep, and some of our souls melted away because of the trouble; but I trust we cryed earnestly unto the Lord, and he delivered us out of our distress. For he made the storm to cease; so that the waves thereof were still. And now we are glad, because we are at rest, for God hath brought us to the haven where we would be. O that you would therefore praise the Lord for his goodness, and declare the wonders, that he hath done for us, the unworthiest of the sons of men."

Thus Moses, thus Joshua behaved. For when they were about to take their leaves of the children of Israel, they recounted to them what great things God had done for them, as the best arguments and motives they could urge to engage them to obedience. And how can I copy after better examples? What fitter, what more noble motives, to holiness and purity of living, can I lay before you, than they did?

Indeed, I cannot say, that we have seen the "pillar of a cloud by day, or a pillar of fire by night," going visibly before us to guide our course; but this I can say, that the same God who was in that pillar of a cloud, and pillar of fire, which departed not from the Israelites, and who has made the sun to rule the day, and the moon to rule the night, has, by his good providence, directed us in our right way, or else the pilot had steered us in vain.

Neither can I say, That we have seen the "sun stand still," as the children of Israel did in the days of Joshua. But surely God, during part of our voyage, has caused it to withhold some of that heat, which it usually sends forth in these warmer climates, or else it had not failed, but some of you must have perished in the sickness that has been, and does yet continue among us.

We have not seen the waters stand purposely on an heap, that we might pass through, neither have we been pursued by Pharaoh and his host, and delivered out of their hands; but we have been led through the sea as through a wilderness, and were once remarkably preserved from being run down by another ship; which had God permitted, the waters, in all probability, would immediately have overwhelmed us, and like Pharaoh and his host, we should have sunk, as stones, into the sea.

We may, indeed, atheist like, ascribe all these things to natural causes, and say, "Our own skill and foresight has brought us hither in safety." But as certainly as Jesus Christ, the angel of the covenant, in the days of his flesh, walked upon the water, and said to his sinking disciples, "Be not afraid, it is I," so surely has the same everlasting I AM, "who decketh himself with light as with a garment, who spreadeth out the heavens like a curtain, who claspeth the winds in his fist, who holdeth the waters in the hollow of his hands," and guided the wise men by a star in the east; so surely, I say, has he spoken, and at his command the winds have blown us where we are now arrived. For his providence ruleth all things; "Wind and storms obey his word:" he faith to it at one time, Go, and it goeth; at another, Come, and it cometh; and at a third time, Blow this way, and it bloweth.

It is he, my brethren, and not we ourselves, that has of late sent us such prosperous gales, and made us to ride, as it were, on the wings of the wind, into the haven where we would be.

"O that you would therefore praise the Lord for his goodness," and by your lives declare, that you are truly thankful for the wonders he had shewn to us, who are less than the least of the sons of men.

I say, declare it by your lives. For to give him thanks, barely with your lips; while your hearts are far from him, is but a mock sacrifice, nay, an abomination unto the Lord.

This was the end, the royal Psalmist says, God had in view, when he shewed such wonders, from time to time, to the people of Israel, "That they might keep his statutes, and observe his laws," Psalm 105:44 and this, my good friends, is the end God would have accomplished in us, and the only return he desires us to make him, for all the benefits he hath conferred upon us.

O then, let me beseech you, give to God your hearts, your whole hearts; and suffer yourselves to be drawn by the cords of infinite love, to honour and obey him.

Assure yourselves you can never serve a better master; for his service is perfect freedom; his yoke, when worn a little while, is exceeding easy, his burden light; and in keeping his commandments there is great reward; love, peace, joy in the Holy Ghost here, and a crown of glory that fadeth not away, hereafter.

You may, indeed, let other lords have dominion over you, and Satan may promise to give you all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, if you will fall down and worship him; but he is a liar, and was so from the beginning; he has not so much to give you, as you may tread on with the sole of your foot; or could he give you the whole world, yet, that could not make you happy without God. It is God alone, my brethren, whose we are, in whose name I now speak, and who has of late shewed us such mercies in the deep, that can give solid lasting happiness to your souls; and he for this reason only desires your hearts, because without him you must be miserable.

Suffer me not then to go away without my errand; as it is the last time I shall speak to you, let me not speak in vain; but let a sense of the divine goodness lead you to repentance.

Even Saul, that abandoned wretch, when David shewed him his skirt, which he had cut off, when he might have also taken his life, was so melted down with his kindness, that he lifted up his voice and wept. And we must have hearts harder than Saul’s, nay, harder than the nether milstone, if a sense of God’s late loving kindnesses, notwithstanding he might so often have destroyed us, does not even compel us to lay down our arms against him, and become his faithful servants and soldiers unto our lives end.

If they have not this effect upon us, we shall, of all men, be most miserable; for God is just, as well as merciful; and the more blessings we have received here, the greater damnation, if we do not improve them, shall we incur hereafter.

But God forbid that any of those should ever suffer the vengeance of eternal fire, amongst whom, I have, for these four months, been preaching the gospel of Christ; but yet thus must it be, if you do not improve the divine mercies: and instead of your being my crown of rejoicing in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, I must appear as a swift witness against you.

But, brethren, I am persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though I thus speak.

Blessed be God, some marks of a partial reformation at least, have been visible amongst all you that are soldiers. And my weak, though sincere endeavours, to build you up in the knowledge and fear of God, have not been altogether in vain in the Lord.

Swearing, I hope is, in a great measure, abated with you; and God, I trust, has blessed his late visitations, by making them the means of awakening your consciences, to a more solicitous enquiry about the things which belong to your everlasting peace.

Fulfil you then my joy, by continuing thus minded, and labour to go on to perfection. For I shall have no greater pleasure than to see, or hear, that you walk in the truth.

Consider, my good friends, you are now, as it were, entering on a new world, where you will be surrounded with multitudes of heathens; and if you take not heed to "have your conversation honest amongst them," and to "walk worthy of the holy vocation wherewith you are called," you will act the hellish part of Herod’s soldiers over again; and cause Christ’s religion, as they did his person, to be had in derision of those that are round about you.

Consider further, what peculiar privileges you have enjoyed, above many others that are entering on the same land. They have had, as it were, a famine of the word, but you have rather been in danger of being surfeited with your spiritual manna. And, therefore, as more instructions have been given you, so from you, men will most justly expect the greater improvement in goodness.

Indeed, I cannot say, I have discharged my duty towards you as I ought. No, I am sensible of many faults in my ministerial office, and for which I have not failed, nor, I hope, ever shall fail, to humble myself in secret before God. However, this I can say, that except a few days that have been spent necessarily on other persons, whom God immediately called me to write and minister unto, and the two last weeks wherein I have been confined by sickness; all the while I have been aboard, I have been either actually engaged in, or preparing myself for instructing you. And though you are now to be committed to the care of another (whose labours I heartily beseech God to bless amongst you) yet I trust I shall, at all seasons, if need be, willingly spend, and be spent, for the good of your souls, though the more abundantly I love you, the less I should be loved.

As for your military affairs, I have nothing to do with them. Fear God, and you must honour the King. Nor am I well acquainted with the nature of that land which you are now come over to protect; only this I may venture to affirm in the general, that you must necessarily expect upon your arrival at a new colony, to meet with many difficulties. But your very profession teaches you to endure hardship; "be not, therefore, saint-hearted, but quit yourselves like men, and be strong," Numb. 14. Be not like those cowardly persons, who were affrighted at the report of the false spies, that came and said, that there were people tall as the Anakims to be grappled with, but be ye like unto Caleb and Joshua, all heart; and say, we will act valiantly, for we shall be more than conquerors over all difficulties through Jesus Christ that loved us. Above all things, my brethren, take heed, and beware of murmuring, like the perverse Israelites, against those that are set over you; and "learn, Whatsoever state you shall be in, therewith to be content," Phil. 4:11.

As I have spoken to you, I hope your wives also will suffer the word of exhortation,

Your behaviour on shipboard, especially the first part of the voyage, I chuse to throw a cloak over; for to use the mildest terms, it was not such as became the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, of late, blessed be God, you have taken more heed to your ways, and some of you have walked all the while, as became "women professing godliness." Let those accept my hearty thanks, and permit me to intreat you all in general, as you are all now married, to remember the solemn vow you made at your entrance into the marriage state, and see that you be subject to your own husbands, in every lawful thing: Beg of God to keep the door of your lips, that you offend not with your tongues; and walk in love, that your prayers be not hindered. You that have children, let it be your chief concern to breed them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And live all of you so holy and un-blameable, that you may not so much as be suspected to be unchaste; and as some of you have imitated Mary Magdalen in her sin, strive to imitate her also in her repentance.

As for you, sailors, what shall I say? How shall I address myself to you? How shall I do that which I so much long to do; touch your hearts? Gratitude obliges me to wish thus well to you. For you have often taught me many instructive lessons, and reminded me to put up many prayers to God for you, that you might receive your spiritual fight.

When I have seen you preparing for a storm, and reefing your sails to guard against it; how have I wished that you and I were as careful to avoid that storm of God’s wrath, which will certainly, without repentance, quickly overtake us? When I have observed you catch at every fair gale, how have I secretly cried, O that we were as careful to know the things that belong to our peace, before they are for ever hid from our eyes! And when I have taken notice, how steadily you eyed your compass in order to steer aright, how have I wished, that we as steadily eyed the word of God, which alone can preserve us from "making shipwreck of faith, and a good conscience?" In short, there is scarce any thing you do, which has not been a lesson of instruction to me; and, therefore, it would be ungrateful in me, did I not take this opportunity of exhorting you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to be as wise in the things which concern your soul, as I have observed you to be in the affairs belonging to your ship.

I am sensible, that the sea is reckoned but an ill school to learn Christ in: and to see a devout sailor, is esteemed as uncommon a thing, as to see a Saul amongst the prophets. But whence this wondering? Whence this looking upon a godly sailor, as a man to be wondered at, as a speckled bird in the creation? I am sure, for the little time I have come in and out amongst you, and as far as I can judge from the little experience I have had of things, I scarce know any way of life, that is capable of greater improvements than yours.

The continual danger you are in of being overwhelmed by the great waters; the many opportunities you have of beholding God’s wonders in the deep; the happy retirement you enjoy from worldly temptations; and the daily occasions that are offered you, to endure hardships, are such noble means of promoting the spiritual life, that were your hearts bent towards God, you would account it your happiness, that his providence has called you, to "go down to the sea in ships, and to occupy your business in the great waters."

The royal Psalmist knew this, and, therefore, in the words of the text, calls more especially on men of your employ, to "praise the Lord for his goodness, and declare the wonders he doth for the children of men."

And O that you would be wise in time, and hearken to his Voice to-day, "whilst it is called to-day!" For ye yourselves know how little is to be done on a sick bed. God has, in an especial manner, of late, invited you to repentance: two of your crew he has taken off by death, and most of you he has mercifully visited with a grievous sickness. The terrors of the Lord have been upon you, and when burnt with a scorching fever, some of you have cried out, "What shall we do to be saved?" Remember then the resolutions you made, when you thought God was about to take away your souls; and see that according to your promises, you shew forth your thankfulness, not only with your lips, but in your lives. For though God may bear long, he will not forbear always; and if these signal mercies and judgments do not lead you to repentance, assure yourselves there will at laft come a fiery tempest, from the presence of the Lord, which will sweep away you, and all other adversaries of God.

I am positive, neither you nor the soldiers have wanted, nor will want any manner of encouragement to piety and holiness of living, from those two persons who have here the government over you; for they have been such helps to me in my ministry, and have so readily concurred in every thing for your good, that they may justly demand a public acknowledgment of thanks both from you and me.

Permit me, my honoured friends, in the name of both classes of your people, to return you hearty thanks for the care and tenderness you have expressed for the welfare of their better parts.

As for the private favours you have shewn to my person, I hope so deep a sense of them is imprinted on my heart, that I shall plead them before God in prayer, as long as I live.

But I have still stronger obligations to intercede in your behalf. For God, ever adored be his free grace in Christ Jesus! has set his seal to my ministry in your hearts. Some distant pangs of the new-birth I have observed to come upon you; and God forbid that I should sin against the Lord, by ceasing to pray, that the good work begun in your souls, may be carried on till the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The time of our departure from each other is now at hand, and you are going out into a world of temptations. But though absent in body, let us be present with each other in spirit; and God, I trust, will enable you to be singularly good, to be ready to be accounted fools for Christ’s sake; and then we shall meet never to part again in the kingdom of our Father which is in heaven.

To you, my companions and familiar friends, who came over with me to sojourn in a strange land, do I in the next place address myself. For you I especially fear, as well as for myself; because as we take sweet counsel together oftner than others, and as you are let into a more intimate friendship with me in private life, the eyes of all men will be upon you to note even the minutest miscarriage; and, therefore, it highly concerns you to "walk circumspectly towards those that are without," I hope, that nothing but a single eye to God’s glory and the salvation of your own souls, brought you from your native country. Remember then the end of your coming hither, and you can never do amiss. Be patterns of industry, as well as of piety, to those who shall be around you; and above all things let us have such servent charity amongst ourselves, that it may be said of us, as of the primitive christians, "See how the christians love one another."

And now I have been speaking to others particularly, I have one general request to make to all, and that with reference to myself.

You have heard, my dear friends, how I have been exhorting every one of you to shew forth your thankfulness for the divine goodness, not only with your lips, but in your lives: But "physician heal thyself," may justly be retorted on me. For (without any false pretences to humility) I find my own heart so little inclined to this duty of thanksgiving for the benefits I have received, that I had need fear sharing Hezekiah’s fate, who because he was lifted up by, and not thankful enough for, the great things God had done for him, was given up a prey to the pride of his own heart.

I need, therefore, and beg your most importunate petitions at the throne of grace, that no such evil may befal me; that the more God exalts me, the more I may debase myself; and that after I have preached to others, I myself may not be cast away.

And now, brethren, into God’s hands I commend your spirits, who, I trust, through his infinite mercies in Christ Jesus, will preserve you blameless, till his second coming to judge the world.

Excuse my detaining you so long; perhaps it is the last time I shall speak to you: my heart is full, and out of the abundance of it, I could continue my discourse until midnight. But I must away to your new world; may God give you new hearts, and enable you to put in practice what you have heard from time to time, to be your duty, and I need not wish you any thing better. For then God will so bless you, that "you will build you cities to dwell in; then will you sow your lands and plant vineyards, which will yield you fruits of increase," Psal. 107:36, 37. "Then your oxen shall be strong to labour, there shall be no leading into captivity, and no complaining in your streets; then shall your sons grow up as the young plants, and your daughters be as the polished corners of the temple: then shall your garners be full and plenteous with all manner of store, and your sheep bring forth thousands, and ten thousands in your streets," Psal. 144. In short, then shall the Lord be your God; and as surely as he has now brought us to this haven, where we would be, so surely, after we have past through the storms and tempests of this troublesome world, will he bring us to the haven of eternal rest, where we shall have nothing to do, but to praise him for ever for his goodness, and declare, in never-ceasing songs of praise, the wonders he has done for us, and all the other sons of men.

"To which blessed rest, God of his infinite mercy bring us all, through Jesus Christ our Lord! to whom with the Father and Holy Ghost be all honour and glory, might, majesty, and dominion, now, henceforth, and for evermore. Amen, Amen."

Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain)

The Parable of the Sower

The Parable of the Sower

The Parable of the Sower

"And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: a sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."—Luke 8:4–8.

IN our country, when a sower goes forth to his work, he generally enters into an enclosed field, and scatters the seed from his basket along every ridge and furrow; but in the East, the corn-growing country, hard by a small town, is usually an open area. It is divided into different properties, but there are no visible divisions, except the ancient landmarks, or perhaps ridges of stones. Through these open lands there are footpaths, the most frequented being called the highways. You must not imagine these highways to be like our macadamized roads; they are merely paths, trodden tolerably hard. Here and there you notice bye-ways, along which travellers who wish to avoid the public road may journey with a little more safety when the main road is infested with robbers: hasty travellers also strike out short cuts for themselves, and so open fresh tracks for others. When the sower goes forth to sow he finds a plot of ground scratched over with the primitive Eastern plough; he aims at scattering his seed there most plentifully; but a path runs through the centre of his field, and unless he is willing to leave a broad headland, he must throw a handful upon it. Yonder, a rock crops out in the midst of the ploughed land, and the seed falls on its shallow soil. Here is a corner full of the roots of nettles and thistles, and he flings a little here; the corn and the nettles come up together, and the thorns being the stronger soon choke the seed, so that it brings forth no fruit unto perfection. The recollection that the Bible was written in the East, and that its metaphors and allusions must be explained to us by Eastern travellers, will often help us to understand a passage far better than if we think of English customs.

The preacher of the gospel is like the sower. He does not make his seed; it is given him by his divine Master. No man could create the smallest grain that ever grew upon the earth, much less the celestial seed of eternal life. The minister goes to his Master in secret, and asks him to teach him his gospel, and thus he fills his basket with the good seed of the kingdom. He then goes forth in his Master’s name and scatters precious truth. If he knew where the best soil was to be found, perhaps he might limit himself to that which had been prepared by the plough of conviction; but not knowing men’s hearts, it is his business to preach the gospel to every creature—to throw a handful on the hardened heart, and another on the mind which is overgrown with the cares and pleasures of the world. He has to leave the seed in the care of the Lord who gave it to him, for he is not responsible for the harvest, he is only accountable for the care and industry with which he does his work. If no single ear should ever make glad the reaper, the sower will be rewarded by his Master if he had planted the right seed with careful hand. If it were not for this fact with what despairing agony should we utter the cry of Esaias, "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?"

Our duty is not measured by the character of our hearers, but by the command of our God. We are bound to preach the gospel, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear. It is ours to sow beside all waters. Let men’s hearts be what they may the minister must preach the gospel to them; he must sow the seed on the rock as well as in the furrow, on the highway as well as in the ploughed field.

I shall now address myself to the four classes of hearers mentioned in our Lord’s parable. We have, first of all, those who are represented by the way-side, those who are "hearers only"; then those represented by the stony-ground; these are transiently impressed, but the word produces no lasting fruit; then, those among thorns, on whom a good impression is produced, but the cares of this life, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the pleasures of the world choke the seed; and, lastly, that small class—God be pleased to multiply it exceedingly—that small class of good-ground hearers, in whom the Word brings forth abundant fruit.

I. First of all, I address myself to those hearts which are like the way-side—"Some fell by the way-side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it." Many of you do not go to the place of worship desiring a blessing. You do not intend to worship God, or to be affected by anything that you hear. You are like the highway, which was never intended to be a cornfield. If a single grain of truth should fall into your heart and grow it would be as great a wonder as for corn to grow up in the street. If the seed shall be dexterously scattered, some of it will fall upon you, and rest for a while upon your thoughts. ’Tis true you will not understand it; but, nevertheless, if it be placed before you in an interesting style, you will talk about it till some more congenial entertainment shall attract you. Even this slender benefit is brief, for in a little season you will forget all that you have heard. Would to God we could hope that our words would tarry with you, but we cannot hope it, for the soil of your heart is so hard beaten by continual traffic, that there is no hope of the seed finding a living root-hold. Satan is constantly passing over your heart with his company of blasphemies, lusts, lies, and vanities. The chariots of pride roll along it, and the feet of greedy mammon tread it till it is hard as adamant. Alas! for the good seed, it finds not a moment’s respite; crowds pass and repass; in fact, your soul is an exchange, across which continually hurry the busy feet of those who make merchandise of the souls of men. You are buying and selling, but you little think that you are selling the truth, and that you are buying your soul’s destruction. You have no time, you say, to think of religion. No, the road of your heart is such a crowded thoroughfare, that there is no room for the wheat to spring up. If it did begin to germinate, some rough foot would crush the green blade ere it could come to perfection. The seed has occasionally lain long enough to begin to sprout, but just then a new place of amusement has been opened, and you have entered there, and as with an iron heel, the germ of life that was in the seed was crushed out. Corn could not grow in Cornhill or Cheapside, however excellent the seed might be: your heart is just like those crowded thoroughfares; for so many cares and sins throng it, and so many proud, vain, evil, rebellious thoughts against God pass through it, that the seed of truth cannot grow.

We have looked at this hard road-side, let us now describe what becomes of the good word, when it falls upon such a heart. It would have grown if it had fallen on right soil, but it has dropped into the wrong place, and it remains as dry as when it fell from the sower’s hand. The word of the gospel lies upon the surface of such a heart, but never enters it. Like the snow, which sometimes falls upon our streets, drops upon the wet pavement, melts, and is gone at once, so is it with this man. The word has not time to quicken in his soul: it lies there an instant, but it never strikes root, or takes the slightest effect.

Why do men come to hear if the word never enters their hearts? That has often puzzled us. Some hearers would not be absent on the Sunday on any account; they are delighted to come up with us to worship, but yet the tear never trickles down their cheek, their soul never mounts up to heaven on the wings of praise, nor do they truly join in our confessions of sin. They do not think of the wrath to come, nor of the future state of their souls. Their heart is as iron; the minister might as well speak to a heap of stones as preach to them. What brings these senseless sinners here? Surely we are as hopeful of converting lions and leopards as these untamed, insensible hearts. Oh feeling! thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason! Do these people come to our assemblies because it is respectable to attend a place of worship? Or is it that their coming helps to make them comfortable in their sins? If they stopped away conscience would prick them; but they come hither that they may flatter themselves with the notion that they are religious. Oh! my hearers, your case is one that might make an angel weep! How sad to have the sun of the gospel shining on your faces, and yet to have blind eyes that never see the light. The music of heaven is lost upon you, for you have no ears to hear. You can catch the turn of a phrase, you can appreciate the poetry of an illustration, but the hidden meaning, the divine life you do not perceive. You sit at the marriage-feast, but you eat not of the dainties; the bells of heaven ring with joy over ransomed spirits, but you live unransomed, without God, and without Christ. Though we plead with you, and pray for you, and weep over you, you still remain as hardened, as careless, and as thoughtless as ever you were. May God have mercy on you, and break up your hard hearts, that his word may abide in you.

We have not, however, completed the picture. The passage tells us that the fowls of the air devoured the seed. Is there here a way-side hearer? Perhaps he did not mean to hear this sermon, and when he has heard it he will be asked by one of the wicked to come into company. He will go with the tempter, and the good seed will be devoured by the fowls of the air. Plenty of evil ones are ready to take away the gospel from the heart. The devil himself, that prince of the air, is eager at any time to snatch away a good thought. And then the devil is not alone—he has legions of helpers. He can set a man’s wife, children, friends, enemies, customers, or creditors, to eat up the good seed, and they will do it effectually. Oh, sorrow upon sorrow, that heavenly seed should become devil’s meat; that God’s corn should feed foul birds!

O my hearers, if you have heard the gospel from your youth, what waggon-loads of sermons have been wasted on you! In your younger days, you heard old Dr. So-and-so, and the dear old man was wont to pray for his hearers till his eyes were red with tears! Do you recollect those many Sundays when you said to yourself, "Let me go to my chamber and fall on my knees and pray"? But you did not: the fowls of the air ate up the seed, and you went on to sin as you had sinned before. Since then, by some strange impulse, you are very rarely absent from God’s house; but now the seed of the gospel falls into your soul as if it dropped upon an iron floor, and nothing comes of it. The law may be thundered at you; you do not sneer at it, but it never affects you. Jesus Christ may be lifted up; his dear wounds may be exhibited; his streaming blood may flow before your very eyes, and you may be bidden with all earnestness to look to him and live; but it is as if one should sow the sea-shore. What shall I do for you? Shall I stand here and rain tears upon this hard highway? Alas! my tears will not break it up; it is trodden too hard for that. Shall I bring the gospel plough? Alas! the ploughshare will not enter ground so solid. What shall we do? O God, thou knowest how to melt the hardest heart with the precious blood of Jesus. Do it now, we beseech thee, and thus magnify thy grace, by causing the good seed to live, and to produce a heavenly harvest.

II. I shall now turn to the second class of hearers:—"And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture." You can easily picture to yourselves that piece of rock in the midst of the field thinly veiled with soil; and of course the seed falls there as it does everywhere else. It springs up, it hastens to grow, it withers, it dies. None but those who love the souls of men can tell what hopes, what joys, and what bitter disappointments these stony places have caused us. We have a class of hearers whose hearts are hard, and yet they are apparently the softest and most impressible of men. While other men see nothing in the sermon, these men weep. Whether you preach the terrors of the law or the love of Calvary, they are alike stirred in their souls, and the liveliest impressions are apparently produced. Such may be listening now. They have resolved, but they have procrastinated. They are not the sturdy enemies of God who clothe themselves in steel, but they seem to bare their breasts, and lay them open to the minister. Rejoiced in heart, we shoot our arrows there, and they appear to penetrate; but, alas, a secret armour blunts every dart, and no wound is felt. The parable speaks of this character thus—"Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth." Or as another passage explains it: "And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended." Have we not thousands of hearers who receive the word with joy? They have no deep convictions, but they leap into Christ on a sudden, and profess an instantaneous faith in him, and that faith has all the appearance of being genuine. When we look at it, the seed has really sprouted. There is a kind of life in it, there is apparently a green blade. We thank God that a sinner is brought back, a soul is born to God. But our joy is premature: they sprang up on a sudden, and received the word with joy, because they had no depth of earth, and the self-same cause which hastened their reception of the seed also causes them, when the sun is risen with his fervent heat, to wither away. These men we see every day in the week. They come to join the church; they tell us a story of how they heard us preach on such-and-such an occasion, and, oh, the word was so blessed to them, they never felt so happy in their lives! "Oh, sir, I thought I must leap from my seat when I heard about a precious Christ, and I believed on him there and then; I am sure I did." We question them as to whether they were ever convinced of sin. They think they were; but one thing they know, they feel a great pleasure in religion. We put it to them, "Do you think you will hold on?" They are confident that they shall. They hate the things they once loved, they are sure they do. Everything has become new to them. And all this is on a sudden. We enquire when the good work began. We find it began when it ended, that is to say, there was no previous work, no ploughing of the soil, but on a sudden they sprang from death to life, as if a field should be covered with wheat by magic. Perhaps we receive them into the church; but in a week or two they are not so regular as they used to be. We gently reprove them, and they explain that they meet with such opposition in religion, that they are obliged to yield a little. Another month and we lose them altogether. The reason is that they have been laughed at or exposed to a little opposition, and they have gone back. And what, think you, are the feelings of the minister? He is like the husbandman, who sees his field all green and flourishing, but at night a frost nips every shoot, and his hoped-for gains are gone. The minister goes to his chamber, and casts himself on his face before God, and cries, "I have been deceived; my converts are fickle, their religion has withered as the green herb." In the ancient story Orpheus is said to have had such skill upon the lyre, that he made the oaks and stones to dance around him. It is a poetical fiction, and yet hath it sometimes happened to the minister, that not only have the godly rejoiced, but men, like oaks and stones, have danced from their places. Alas! they have been oaks and stones still. Hushed is the lyre. The oak returns to its rooting-place, and the stone casts itself heavily to the earth. The sinner, who, like Saul, was among the prophets, goes back to plan mischief against the Most High.

If it is bad to be a wayside hearer, I cannot think it is much better to be like the rock. This second class of hearers certainly gives us more joy than the first. A certain company always comes round a new minister; and I have often thought it is an act of God’s kindness that he allows these people to gather at the first, while the minister is young, and has but few to stand by him: these persons are easily moved, and if the minister preaches earnestly they feel it, and they love him, and rally round him, much to his comfort. But time, that proves all things, proves them. They seemed to be made of true metal; but when they are put into the fire to be tested, they are consumed in the furnace. Some of the shallow kind are here now. I have looked at you when I have been preaching, and I have often thought, "That man one of these days will come out from the world, I am sure he will." I have thanked God for him. Alas, he is the same as ever. Years and years have we sowed him in vain, and it is to be feared it will be so to the end, for he is without depth, and without the moisture of the Spirit. Shall it be so? Must I stand over the mouth of your open sepulchre, and think, "Here lies a shoot which never became an ear, a man in whom grace struggled but never reigned, who gave some hopeful spasms of life and then subsided into eternal death"? God save you! Oh! may the Spirit deal with you effectually, and may you, even you, yet bring forth fruit unto God, that Jesus may have a reward for his sufferings.

III. I shall briefly treat of the third class, and may the Spirit of God assist me to deal faithfully with you. "And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it." Now, this was good soil. The two first characters were bad: the wayside was not the proper place, the rock was not a congenial situation for the growth of any plant; but this is good soil, for it grows thorns. Wherever a thistle will spring up and flourish, there would wheat flourish too. This was fat, fertile soil; it was no marvel therefore that the husbandman dealt largely there, and threw handful after handful upon that corner of the field. See how happy he is when in a month or two he visits the spot. The seed has sprung up. True, there’s a suspicious little plant down there of about the same size as the wheat. "Oh!" he thinks, "that’s not much, the corn will out-grow that. When it is stronger it will choke these few thistles that have unfortunately mixed with it." Ay, Mr. Husbandman, you do not understand the force of evil, or you would not thus dream! He comes again, and the seed has grown, there is even the corn in the ear; but the thistles, the thorns, and the briars have become intertwisted with one another, and the poor wheat can hardly get a ray of sunshine. It is so choked with thorns every way, that it looks quite yellow: the plant is starved. Still it perseveres in growing, and it does seem as if it would bring forth a little fruit. Alas, it never comes to anything. With it the reaper never fills his arm.

We have this class very largely among us. These hear the word and understand what they hear. They take the truth home; they think it over; they even go the length of making a profession of religion. The wheat seems to spring and ear; it will soon come to perfection. Be in no hurry, these men and women have a great deal to see after; they have the cares of a large concern; their establishment employs so many hundred hands; do not be deceived as to their godliness—they have no time for it. They will tell you that they must live; that they cannot neglect this world; that they must anyhow look out for the present, and as for the future, they will render it all due attention by-and-by. They continue to attend gospel-preaching, and the poor little stunted blade of religion keeps on growing after a fashion. Meanwhile they have grown rich, they come to the place of worship in a carriage, they have all that heart can wish. Ah! now the seed will grow, will it not? No, no. They have no cares now; the shop is given up, they live in the country; they have not to ask, "Where shall the money come from to meet the next bill?" or "how shall they be able to provide for an increasing family." Now they have too much instead of too little, for they have riches, and they are too wealthy to be gracious. "But," says one, "they might spend their riches for God." Certainly they might, but they do not, for riches are deceitful. They have to entertain much company, and chime in with the world, and so Christ and his church are left in the lurch.

Yes, but they begin to spend their riches, and they have surely got over that difficulty, for they give largely to the cause of Christ, and they are munificent in charity; the little blade will grow, will it not? No, for now behold the thorns of pleasure. Their liberality to others involves liberality to themselves; their pleasures, amusements, and vanities choke the wheat of true religion: the good grains of gospel truth cannot grow because they have to attend that musical party, that ball, and that soirée, and so they cannot think of the things of God. I know several specimens of this class. I knew one, high in court circles, who has confessed to me that he wished he were poor, for then he might enter the kingdom of heaven. He has said to me, "Ah! sir, these politics, these politics, I wish I were rid of them, they are eating the life out of my heart; I cannot serve God as I would." I know of another, overloaded with riches, who has said to me, "Ah! sir, it is an awful thing to be rich; one cannot keep close to the Saviour with all this earth about him."

Ah! my dear readers, I will not ask for you that God may lay you on a bed of sickness, that he may strip you of all your wealth, and bring you to beggary; but, oh, if he were to do it, and you were to save your souls, it would be the best bargain you could ever make. If those mighty ones who now complain that the thorns choke the seed could give up all their riches and pleasures, if they that fare sumptuously every day could take the place of Lazarus at the gate, it were a happy change for them if their souls might be saved. A man may be honourable and rich, and yet go to heaven; but it will be hard work, for "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 heaven." God does make some rich men enter the kingdom of heaven, but hard is their struggle. Steady, young man, steady! Hurry not to climb to wealth! It is a place where many heads are turned. Do not ask God to make you popular; they that have popularity are wearied by it. Cry with Agur—"Give me neither poverty nor riches." God give me to tread the golden mean, and may I ever have in my heart that good seed, which shall bring forth fruit a hundredfold to his own glory.

IV. I now close with the last character, namely, the good ground. Of the good soil, as you will mark, we have but one in four. Will one in four of our hearers, with well-prepared heart, receive the Word?

The ground is described as "good": not that it was good by nature, but it had been made good by grace. God had ploughed it; he had stirred it up with the plough of conviction, and there it lay in ridge and furrow as it should lie. When the gospel was preached, the heart received it, for the man said, "That is just the blessing I want. Mercy is what a needy sinner requires." So that the preaching of the gospel was the thing to give comfort to this disturbed and ploughed soil. Down fell the seed to take good root. In some cases it produced fervency of love, largeness of heart, devotedness of purpose of a noble kind, like seed which produces a hundredfold. The man became a mighty servant for God, he spent himself and was spent. He took his place in the vanguard of Christ’s army, stood in the hottest of the battle, and did deeds of daring which few could accomplish—the seed produced a hundredfold. It fell into another heart of like character;—the man could not do the most, but still he did much. He gave himself to God, and in his business he had a word to say for his Lord; in his daily walk he quietly adorned the doctrine of God his Saviour,—he brought forth sixty-fold. Then it fell on another, whose abilities and talents were but small; he could not be a star, but he would be a glow-worm; he could not do as the greatest, but he was content to do something, however humble. The seed had brought forth in him tenfold, perhaps twentyfold. How many are there of this sort here? Is there one who prays within himself, "God be merciful to me a sinner"? The seed has fallen in the right spot. Soul, thy prayer shall be heard. God never sets a man longing for mercy without intending to give it. Does another whisper, "Oh that I might be saved"? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou, even thou, shalt be saved. Hast thou been the chief of sinners? Trust Christ, and thy enormous sins shall vanish as the millstone sinks beneath the flood. Is there no one here that will trust the Saviour? Can it be possible that the Spirit is entirely absent? that he is not moving in one soul? not begetting life in one spirit? We will pray that he may now descend, that the word may not be in vain.

Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain)

CHRIST the Best Husband

CHRIST the Best Husband

Christ the best Husband:

Or an earnest Invitation to Young Women to come and see Christ

Preached to a Society of Young Women, in Fetter-Lane

Psalm 45:10, 11

Hearken, O Daughter, and consider, and incline thine Ear: Forget also thine own People, and thy Father’s House: So shall the King greatly desire thy Beauty; for he is thy Lord, and worship thou him.

THIS psalm is called the song of loves, the most pure and spiritual, the most dear and delightful loves; namely, those which are between Christ the beloved, and his church, which is his spouse; wherein is set forth, first, the Lord Jesus Christ in regard of his majesty, power, and divinity, his truth, meekness and equity: And then the spouse is set forth, in regard of her ornaments, companions, attendants and posterity; and both in regard of their comeliness and beauty. After the description of Christ, an invitation to his espousals, is given the children of men, called by the name of daughter; and therefore, particularly applicable unto you, my dear sisters, as being the daughters of men, yet not so as excluding the sons of men.

I shall now, therefore, consider the words, as spoken to you in particular, and containing this doctrine;

That the Lord Jesus Christ doth invite the daughters of men to be his spouse; and is exceeding desirous of their beauty; who, forgetting their people and father’s house, do hearken, consider and incline to his invitation, and join themselves to him in this relation.

I shall shew,

I. How Christ doth espouse himself unto the children, but, more especially, unto the daughters of men.

The Lord Jesus Christ, doth espouse himself unto the children of men, in this world, but the public solemnization of the marriage, is reserved until the last day; when his spouse shall be brought forth to him, in white robes, and a raiment of perfect righteousness, more rich and curious, my dear sisters, than any of your needle-work; and the marriage feast will be kept in his Father’s house, in heaven, where they shall be received into the nearest and closest embraces of his love. The marriage knot is tied here, in which are included four things:

First, Mutual Choice,

Secondly, Mutual Affection.

Thirdly, Mutual Union.

Fourthly, Mutual Obligation.

First, My dear sisters, there is a mutual choice which is not only in Christ, as Mediator, but also by Christ as the eternal Son of God, yea, God himself; notwithstanding all that the polite Arians and Socinians say to the contrary. The Lord Jesus Christ, my dear sisters, doth chuse you merely by his free grace; if is freely of his own mercy, that he brings you into the marriage covenant: You, who have so grievously offended him, yet, the Lord Jesus Christ hath chosen you; you did not, you would not have chosen him; but when once, my dear sisters, he hath chosen you, then, and not till then, you make choice of him for your Lord and Husband.

The Lord Jesus Christ when he first comes to you, finds you full of sin and pollution; you are deformed, defiled, enslaved, poor, miserable and wretched, very despicable and loathsome, by reason of sin; and he maketh choice of you, not because of your holiness, nor of your beauty, nor of your being qualified for them; no, the Lord Jesus Christ puts those qualifications upon you, as may make you meet for his embrace; and you are drawn to make choice of this Lord Jesus Christ because he first chose you.

Secondly, In this espousal of your’s, my dear sisters, there is a mutual affection; this doth accompany the choice. Your hearts are drawn out after Christ; your souls pant and long for him; you cannot be at rest until you are engaged to this Jesus: You are ready to cry out continually, none but Christ, none but Christ: this is the language of your hearts, if you are truly sensible of your need of him. The more acquaintance you have of this Lord Jesus, the more pleased you are with your choice, and the more your affections are drawn towards him. And where can you place your affections better than upon that Jesus who shed his blood for your sakes? Surely he deserves both your loves and affections: Go on, go on, my dear sisters, that your affections may grow stronger and stronger.

Thirdly, There is not only mutual choice, and mutual, affection, but likewise mutual Union: And here doth the marriage lie chiefly, in this union; Christ and souls are contracted, and the knot is tied so fast, that neither men on earth, how great soever they be, nor devils in hell, though they should combine all their wrath and rage together, still they cannot dissolve, they cannot untie it; no, my dear sisters, it is indissolvable, for the union is, by the spirit, on Christ’s part, and by faith on your’s: By the spirit, Christ doth lay hold on you; and by faith, you do lay hold on him; and thus the match is made; Christ becomes your’s, his person, portion, and all his benefits are your’s; and you become Christ’s, your persons, your hearts, and all that you have is resigned up unto him; and O that they may be so more and more.

Fourthly, There is a mutual Obligation between Christ and his spouse. Christ obliges himself to love you here; he will not, indeed he never will leave you, he will protect you from the malice of the Pharisees of this generation, he will provide for you in all difficulties; he will live with you here, and at last he will take you to himself, to live with him for ever. And you are engaged to him to be loving, loyal, faithful, obedient; and you are to stick close to him as long as you live; and then you will find yourselves to be married to the best advantage, both for soul and body, for time and for eternity.

II. Christ doth invite all of you to be his spouse.

And it is on this account that he sends forth his ministers to preach. It is this, that makes me thus come among you; that you would accept of this invitation, to which, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I do call and intreat you to take him, on his own terms. He calls all of you, my sisters, whether elder or younger, whether married or unmarried, of higher degree, or of the meanest quality, the poorest servants, yea, the rabble of this world, as the world calls you, who are willing to be espoused unto the Lord Jesus Christ. I say, the poor are as welcome to be Christ’s spouse as those that are rich. He regardeth not the rich more than the poor: he chose a mean virgin, espoused to a carpenter, to be his mother; and he chuseth and calleth all such to be his spouse; then be not discouraged at your being despised in the world; for if you are but loved by Christ, and espoused to him, it will be an over-sufficiency for all the trouble that you have met with here.

III. Those who would be espoused unto Christ, must hearken, consider, and incline to his invitation, and forget even their father’s house.

Such as would be espoused unto Christ must hearken. "Hearken, O daughter." Many amongst you, my sisters, stop their ears against the calls of the gospel; they shut their ears like the deaf adder, which will not hearken unto the voice of the charmer, though he charm never so wisely. You will not hearken unto the invitations of Christ; you can hearken unto the vanities of the world, and be delighted with the espousals of the world, but never think, or are delighted with the espousals of Christ.

It was by the ear, that the temptation of sin was received by the first man, when he departed from God; and by the ear, the invitation to be Christ’s spouse must be received, before the heart will be opened to receive Jesus Christ in this conjugal relation.

If you would, my dear sisters, be espoused to Christ, you must consider Christ’s invitation. It is not a slight or bare hearing of Christ’s invitation, which will be of any service to you, or make up the match between Christ and your souls; no, you must receive Christ in the heart; you must consider the thing itself, the advantages of it, the difference between Christ’s invitations and the devil’s temptations, or any of the world’s proffers.

Those who would be espoused to Christ, must be inclined to accept of Christ’s invitation. "Hearken, O daughter, consider and incline thine ear." This is to incline your hearts: You must consent with you wills; there must be a compliance to the motion of Christ, and you must have desires after Christ, and then your hearts will say, ‘Lord, let us be thy spouse, and be thou our beloved.’

You must likewise forget your father’s house. "Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and forget thy father’s house." You are not here to cast off all affections unto natural relations; but you must forget all relations, so as to be ready to forego all their favour, when it standeth in competition with that of the Lord Jesus Christ; and do not let your carnal friends and relations hinder you from closing with, and espousing the Lord Jesus. I earnestly beseech you to suffer the loss of any thing, rather than to lose his favours; you must indeed forget your own people, that is you must forget all your evil customs which you have learned in your father’s house, and forsake all your vain conversation, your reading of plays, novels, or romances; and you must keep from learning to sing the songs of the drunkard; for Christ, if you are his spouse, hath redeemed you.

Such of you, my dear sisters, as are espoused to the Lord Jesus Christ are very beautiful. I do not mean in respect of your bodies; you may have less of external comeliness than others, in respect of your bodies, but as to your souls you will exceed in beauty, not so much in the eyes of man, as in the eyes of God; such have the most beautiful image of God stamped upon them; none in the world, beside them, have the least spark of spiritual beauty. Such as are not married to Christ, are unregenerated, they are not born again, nor brought from sin unto God, which must be done before you be espoused to Christ.

And the Lord Jesus Christ desireth to see this beauty in his spouse, for he cries out, "O my dove, thou art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice, for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely." He calleth his spouse his love, being the dear object of his love; and he admireth her loveliness; he repeats it twice in one verse, "Behold thou art fair, my love, behold thou art fair." Thus you see he describes their beauty. And then, my sisters, we have a wonderful expression of Christ to his spouse, "Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse, thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck." Thus you see how pleased the Lord Jesus Christ is with his spouse; and will not you, therefore, be espoused unto the Lord Jesus? I offer Jesus Christ to all of you; if you, have been never so notorious for sin, if you have been as great a harlot as Mary Magdalen was, when once you are espoused to Christ, you shall be forgiven. Therefore be not discouraged, at whatever slights and contempts the world may pass upon you, but come and join yourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ, and all your sins shall be washed away in his blood; and when once you are espoused to Jesus, you are disjoined from sin, you are born again. You are now, as it were, espoused unto sin; sin is your husband, and you are too fond of it, but when once you are married to Christ, when you are born again, then you may be said to die unto sin; but till then, sin liveth in your affections; therefore, my sisters, give sin its death-wound in your hearts; you have been called by the word time after time, and it has had no effect upon you; but when you are espoused unto the Lord Jesus Christ, then you will be brought to him by his Spirit: You will then lay hold on him by faith, his Spirit will draw you unto himself; he will make you to be willing in the day of his power; he will give you faith in him. Faith is the hand of the soul which layeth hold on Christ; therefore, do not rest contented till you have this grace of faith wrought in you with power; do not be contented till you have received the Lord Jesus Christ.

Embrace Christ in the arms of your dearest love; then you love the Lord Jesus Christ with sincerity, when you love and esteem him before father, mother, or all the delights and pleasures of this life; but if you do delight in any thing that this world can produce, more than in the Lord Jesus Christ, you have no true love to him.

If you are espoused to Christ, you have acquaintance and converse with him; you will endeavour to promote his interest, and advance his name in the world; when others are going to the polite and fashionable diversions of life, you will be labouring to bring honour to the Lord Jesus Christ; you will commend your beloved above all other beloveds, and endeavour to bring others into love to him. Can you, my dear sisters, who are now assembled to worship God, shew such evidence of your espousals unto the Lord Jesus Christ? O! how joyful, how comfortable an estate is this! Surely this is a marriage worth seeking after; this is the only desirable marriage, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the only lover that is worth seeking after.

Now, my dear sisters, I shall speak a few words to those of you who have not yet espoused yourselves to the Lord Jesus. It is a great sin, and surely you highly affront the Lord that bought you. It is likewise your folly to refuse and neglect the gracious proffers of being the spouse of Christ; hereby you forfeit all that love which he would bestow upon you; hereby you chuse rags before robes, dross before gold, pebbles before jewels, guilt before a pardon, wounds before healing, defilement before cleansing, deformity before comeliness, trouble before peace, slavery before liberty, the service of the devil before the service of Christ. Hereby you chuse dishonour before a crown, death before life, hell before heaven, eternal misery and torment before everlasting joy and glory. And need there a farther evidence of your folly and madness, in refusing and neglecting Christ to be your spouse.

My dear sisters, I should exceed the limits of your time, should I particularize all the advantages which you would obtain by being espoused to the Lord Jesus. This is your wisdom; they are foolish virgins who refuse; but you are the wise virgins who have accepted of the Lord Jesus Christ, and have disposed of yourselves to him; you have made the wisest choice; and however the blind world may deem you fools, and despise you as being methodically mad, yet you are wise in the esteem of God, and will, one day, appear so in the esteem of them that now despise you. It is your glory that you are espoused unto the Lord Jesus; and therefore glory in your espousal; glory not in yourselves, but in the Lord who hath thus freely and graciously bestowed these favours upon you. It is your safety to be espoused unto the Lord Jesus Christ, he will protect and defend you even from sin and satan, and eternal ruin; and therefore thus far you are safe; he hath a regard for you in times of danger from men, and these times of danger seem to be hastening; it is now arising as a black cloud no bigger than a man’s hand, and by and by it will overspread the heavens, and when it is full it will burst; but if you are espoused to Christ, you are safe.

Now, my dear sisters, I shall conclude with an earnest exhortation to high and low, rich and poor, one with another, to be espoused unto Christ.

Let me speak unto you, young women, who are not yet espoused unto Christ, in an especial manner. It may be to satisfy your curiosity, has brought many of you here; though, perhaps, this may be the time when you shall be brought home to embrace the Lord Jesus, and be espoused to him. And O, that I may persuade you, by his Spirit, to espouse yourselves unto the Lord of life.

And if you are but brought to close with the Lord Jesus Christ, I shall attain my end, and then both you and I shall rejoice that I preached this sermon to you.

Come virgins, will you give me leave to be a suitor unto you, not in my own name, but in the name of the Lord? O! that I may prevail with you for your affections, and persuade you to give them unto Christ! May I be instrumental of bringing your souls to Christ! May I be instrumental to join you and Christ together this day!

Be not coy, as some of you possibly are in other loves: modesty and the virgin blush may very well become you, when proposals of another kind are made unto you; but here coyness is solly, and backwardness to accept of this motion, is shame: you have ten thousand times more reason to blush at the refusal of Christ for your beloved, than at the acceptance; when otherwise the devil and sin would ravish your virgin affections. Never had you a better motion made to you; never was such a match proffered to you as this, of being matched and espoused unto the Lord Jesus Christ.

Consider who the Lord Jesus is, whom you are invited to espouse yourselves unto; he is the best husband; there is none comparable to Jesus Christ.

Do you desire one that is great? He is of the highest dignity, he is the glory of heaven, the darling of eternity, admired by angels, dreaded by devils, and adored by saints. For you to be espoused to so great a king, what honour will you have by this espousal?

Do you desire one that is rich? None is comparable to Christ, the fulness of the earth belongs to him. If you be espoused to Christ, you shall share in his unsearchable riches; you shall receive of his fulness, even grace for grace here, and you shall hereafter be admitted to glory, and shall live with this Jesus to all eternity.

Do you desire one that is wise? There is none comparable to Christ for wisdom. His knowledge is infinite, and his wisdom is correspondent thereto. And if you are espoused to Christ, he will guide and counsel you, and make you wise unto salvation.

Do you desire one that is potent, who may defend you against your enemies, and all the insults and reproaches of the Pharisees of this generation? There is none that can equal Christ in power; for the Lord Jesus Christ hath all power.

Do you desire one that is good? There is none like unto Christ in this regard; others may have some goodness, but it is imperfect; Christ’s goodness is compleat and perfect, he is full of goodness, and in him dwelleth no evil.

Do you desire one that is beautiful? His eyes are most sparkling, his looks and glances of love are ravishing, his smiles are most delightful and refreshing unto the soul: Christ is the most lovely person of all others in the world.

Do you desire one that can love you? None can love you like Christ: His love, my dear sisters, is incomprehensible; his love passeth all other loves: The love of the Lord Jesus is first, without beginning; his love is free without any motive; his love is great without any measure; his love is constant without any change, and his love is everlasting.

It was the love of the Lord Jesus Christ, my dear sisters, which brought him down from heaven; and which veiled his divinity in a human soul and body; for he is God over all blessed for ever: It was love that made him subject to hunger, thirst and sorrow; he was humbled, even unto death for you; for you who are espoused to him, he underwent the painful, shameful and ignominious death of the cross: and can you, my sisters, hear this, and not be concerned to think that the blessed Jesus underwent all this for such sinful creatures as you and I are? And when out of love he had finished the redemption on earth, as to what was needful for satisfaction; it was his love that carried him back to heaven, where he was before, that he might make application of what he had purchased, that there he might make intercession for those whom he had redeemed, and prepare a place for them, even glorious mansions with himself, in the house not made with hands, which is eternal in the heavens. It is out of love that he sendeth such tokens to his people from heaven to earth, which he conveyeth through his ordinances, by his Spirit unto them. Surely then none is so deserving as the Lord Jesus Christ for you to espouse yourselves unto: if you be espoused unto Christ he is your’s, all that he is, all that he hath; you shall have his heart, and share in the choicest expressions of his dearest love.

The Lord Jesus Christ, my dear sisters, doth beseech you to be his spouse. We ministers have a commission from the Lord Jesus Christ to invite you, in his name, unto this very thing; and Christ’s invitations are real; general; frequent; earnest; free.

Christ’s invitations of you, to be his spouse, are real; and as the thing is real, so you, my dear sisters, are really invited unto it. The Lord doth not mock and dissemble with you, as some pretending lovers, who dissemble love unto virgins, until they have gained their affections, and then falsely and basely relinquish them, never really intending either to espouse, or marry them: but the Lord doth really intend the thing, in his invitations of you; he never cast off any whose consent and affections he had gained. Again,

Christ’s invitations of you, my dear sisters, are general. All of you are invited, none of you are excluded; all sorts of sinners are invited; the most vile and abominable sinners, the most notorious transgressors are invited to be Christ’s spouse, and shall be as welcome as any unto the embraces of his love.

Christ’s invitations of you are frequent: Jesus Christ calls on you frequently; he hath waited on you time after time, one year after another; and he doth now invite you, by me this day, to come unto Him. Do not slight this invitation, but receive it with joy and thankfulness. Come, I beseech you, to this Jesus, who thus invites you to be his spouse. Again,

Christ’s invitations to be his spouse are earnest; he doth call upon you, and not only call, but call earnestly too; yea, he useth many arguments with you: he will press you to come unto him; he is loth to take any denial from you: he knocks, and knocks hard at the door of your hearts for entertainment; and surely you will not deny the Lord of life and glory who died for you, and gave himself for you: O my dear sisters, let this be the evening of your espousals to the Lord Jesus Christ.

He invites you freely to be his spouse, for all his invitations are free; he doth not expect a portion with you, as worldly lovers do; He wants nothing of you: nay, you must have nothing, if you be espoused unto the Lord Jesus Christ. If you be poor, miserable, blind, naked, Jesus Christ will supply all these defect of his own free mercy; he will fill and supply you with all things out of his treasury; he will make you meet for himself; he will prepare you to live with him for ever.

Consider, if you be once espoused unto Christ, if once joined in this relation, you shall never be separated from him; neither men nor devils shall be able to separate you: none, none, shall disjoin you; and when death doth break all other bonds, it shall not break the conjugal bond between you and Christ, but bring you unto the most full and everlasting possession of your beloved.

And what do you now say, young women? shall I have a grant for my master, or be sent away with a repulse and refusal; no, I cannot carry such a message to my master; I hope better things of you, my sisters, and things which accompany salvation: methinks by this time ye should begin to have a mind unto Jesus Christ; you look as if you did desire; you hearken as if you would consent. What do you say? Shall the match be made up this evening between Christ and your souls? O that I may be instrumental in joining your hands, or rather your hearts together: O that I may be instrumental to tie that knot, which never can be unloosed.

Some marry in haste, and repent at leisure; but if you were once espoused unto Jesus Christ, you would never repent; nothing would grieve you, but that you were not joined him sooner; and you would not be disjoined again for all the world.

Shall this be the day of your espousals? Some of you have stayed a long time; and will you defer any longer? If you will not now, perhaps you may never have another opportunity; this may be the last time of asking; and therefore it is dangerous to refuse: some of you are very young, too young for other espousals; but none of you, my dear sisters, are too young to be espoused unto the Lord Jesus Christ: in other espousals, you must have the consent of your parents; but in this you are at your own disposal; you may give, and ought to match yourselves to Christ, whether parents do consent or not.

But if any of you should ask, what you must do that you may be espoused unto Christ? You must be sensible of your need of being espoused to him; and untill you are sensible of your need of the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot be espoused to him: You must have desires after this Jesus, and seek unto him for an interest in him; you must cry nightly unto him to espouse you to himself: put off the filthiness of sin and all its defilements; and then, my sisters, put on the white raiment, and clean garments, which Christ hath provided for you, the robes of his righteousness; in these garments you shall be beautiful; and in these garments you shall be accepted: you must have the wedding garment on; you must put off all your own good works, for they will be but a means to keep you from Christ; no, you must come as not having your own righteousness, which is of the law, but you must have the righteousness of Christ. Therefore, come unto the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will give it to you; he will not send you away without it. Receive him upon his own terms, and he is your’s for ever: O devote yourselves to him, soul and body, and all, to be his for ever; and Christ will be your’s, and then happy, happy you, that ever you were born! But if any of you die before this espousal unto the Lord Jesus Christ, then woe, woe, unto you, that ever you had a being in life; but if you go to Christ you shall be espoused unto the Lord Jesus: though your sins have been never so great, yea, the blood of Christ will cleanse you from them; the marriage covenant between Christ and your souls will dissolve all your sins; you will then be weary of your old ways, for all things will become new in your souls.

Now, my dear Sisters, I shall conclude by just speaking a word or two to those of you, who are already espoused unto the Lord Jesus Christ.

O admire, admire the rich and free grace, which hath brought you to this relation: Is not this an instance of the greatest of love, that you should be the spouse of the Lord Jesus Christ? You that had no beauty, you that had no comeliness, that was full of sin, that He should embrace such as you and I are; that we should be taken into the embrace of this Lord Jesus. O infinite condescending kindness! O amazing love! Reverence, reverence, I beseech you, this Lord Jesus Christ.

He is your Lord, and you must reverence him, love and be faithful unto him, be subject to him, and careful to please him in every thing; endeavour to keep up a daily communion with him; look, long and prepare for Christ’s second appearance, when the nuptials between you shall be solemnized, and you live with him in mansions of everlasting joys, where you shall love and live with this king of glory for ever and ever.

I know not how to conclude; methinks I could speak to you till midnight, if it would bring you unto the Lord Jesus Christ, and make you be espoused to him, for indeed, that will be the espousal which will turn to the greatest advantage, as you will find by experience, if you will but make the trial; and that you may do so, my prayers and my constant endeavours shall be used.

I will, my dear sisters, spend and be spent for you, and by the assistance of God, will persevere in this that I have begun; and as many of you may have opportunity some evening in the week, without breaking in on the business of life; I shall therefore, my sisters, either be here, or where you shall be publicly acquainted with: I will not mind being reproached or despised: the men of this world may use what language they please; they may say I am a Methodist. Indeed, my sisters, I am resolved, by the grace of God, to use all methods I can, to pluck you from Satan, that you may be as brands plucked from the burning fire: this shall be my method, which I hope will be the means of effectually saving your precious and immortal souls.

And if I am the instrument of this, I shall rejoice, yea, and I will rejoice in spight of what men, or devils, can say or do to the contrary: and may the Lord Jesus Christ direct, and assist me at all times, to act what will be most for his glory, and the welfare of your souls: and may you all say a hearty Amen thereto.

"Now the Lord Jesus Christ, who is God over all, blessed for ever, assist and watch over you, keep you from all evil and sin here, and present you before his Father faultless at the great day of account! To this Lord Jesus Christ, the Father, and the blessed Spirit, three persons and but one eternal and invisible God, be ascribed all honour, power, glory, might, majesty and dominion, now, henceforth, and for ever more. Amen, Amen."

"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost be with you all, to comfort under, and deliver you from tribulation; to preserve you to your respective places of abode; and when there, to keep you in his fear, that you may live to his glory; that to live may be Christ’s, and to die be your eternal gain; so that you may live with him through eternal ages, and sing Hallelujahs to him for ever. Amen."

Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain)

Ploughing the Rock

Ploughing the Rock

Ploughing the Rock

"Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plow there with oxen?"—Amos 6:12.

THESE expressions are proverbs, taken from the familiar sayings of the east country. A proverb is generally a sword with two edges, or, if I may so say, it has many edges, or is all edge, and hence it may be turned this way and that way, and every part of it will have force and point. A proverb has often many bearings, and you cannot always tell what was the precise meaning of him who uttered it. The connection would abundantly tolerate two senses in this place. An ancient commentator asserts that it has seven meanings, and that any one of them would be consistent with the context. I cannot deny the assertion, and if it be correct it is only one among many instances of the manifold wisdom of the Word of God. Like those curiously carved Chinese balls in which there is one ball within another, so in many a holy text there is sense within sense, teaching within teaching, and each one worthy of the Spirit of God.

The first sense of the text upon which I would say just a word or two is this: the prophet is expostulating with ungodly men upon their pursuit of happiness where it never can be found. They were endeavouring to grow rich and great and strong by oppression. The prophet says, "Ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock." Justice was bought and sold among them, and the book of the law was made the instrument of fraud. "Yet," says the prophet, "there is no gain to be gotten this way—no real profit, no true happiness. As well may horses run upon a rock, and oxen plough the sand: it is labour in vain."

If any of you try to content yourselves with this world, and hope to find a heaven in the midst of your business and your family without looking upward for it, you labour in vain. If you hope to find pleasure in sin, and think that it will go well with you if you despise the law of God, you will make a great mistake. You might as well seek for roses in the grottoes of the sea, or look for pearls on the pavements of the city. You will find what your soul requires nowhere but in God. To seek after happiness in evil deeds is to plough a rock of granite. To labour after true prosperity by dishonest means is as useless as to till the sandy shore. "Wherefore do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not?" Young man, you are killing yourself with ambition; you seek your own honour and emolument, and this is a poor, poor object for an immortal soul. And you, too, sir, are wearing out your life with care; your mind and body both fail you in endeavouring to amass riches, as if a man’s life consisted in the abundance of the things which he possesses: you are ploughing a rock; your cares will not bring you joy of heart or content of spirit; your toil will end in failure. And you, too, who labour to weave a righteousness by your works apart from Christ, and fancy that with the diligent use of outward ceremonies you may be able to do the work of the Holy Spirit upon your own heart, you, too, are ploughing thankless rock. The strength of fallen nature exerted at its utmost can never save a soul. Why, then, plough the rock any longer? Give over the foolish task.

So far, I believe, we have not misread the text, but have mentioned a very probable meaning of the words; still, another strikes me, which I think equally suitable, and upon it I shall dwell, by God’s help.

It is this. God will not always send his ministers to call men to repentance. When men’s hearts remain obdurate, and they do not and will not repent, then God will not always deal with them in mercy. "My Spirit shall not always strive with man." There is a time of ploughing, but when it is evident that the heart is wilfully hardened, then wisdom itself suggests to mercy that she should give over her efforts. "Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plow there with oxen?" No, there is a limit to the efforts of kindness, and in fulness of time the labour ceases, and the rock remains unploughed henceforth and for ever.

I. Taking that sense, we shall speak upon it, and remark, first, that ministers labour to break up men’s hearts: the wise preacher tries by the power of the Holy Ghost to break up the hard clods of the heart, so that it may receive the heavenly seed.

Many truths are used like sharp ploughshares to break up the heart. Men must be made to feel that they have sinned, and they must be led to repent of sin. They must receive Christ, not with the head only, but with the heart; for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness. There must be emotion: we must cut into the heart with the ploughshare of the law. A farmer who is too tender-hearted to tear up and harrow the land will never see a harvest. Here is the failing of certain divines, they are afraid of hurting anyone’s feelings, and so they keep clear of all the truths which are likely to excite fear or grief. They have not a sharp ploughshare on their premises, and are never likely to have a stack in their rickyard. They angle without hooks for fear of hurting the fish, and fire without bullets out of respect to the feelings of the birds. This kind of love is real cruelty to men’s souls. It is much the same as if a surgeon should permit a patient to die because he would not pain him with the lancet, or by the necessary removal of a limb. It is a terrible tenderness which leaves men to sink into hell rather than distress their minds. It is pleasant to prophesy smooth things, but woe unto the man who thus degrades himself. Is this the spirit of Christ? Did he conceal the sinner’s peril? Did he cast doubts upon the unquenchable fire and the undying worm? Did he lull souls into slumber by smooth strains of flattery? Nay, but with honest love and anxious concern he warned men of the wrath to come, and bade them repent or perish. Let the servant of the Lord Jesus in this thing follow his Master, and plough deep with a sharp ploughshare, which will not be baulked by the hardest clods. This we must school ourselves to do. If we really love the souls of men, let us prove it by honest speech. The hard heart must be broken, or it will still refuse the Saviour who was sent to bind up the broken-hearted. There are some things which men may or may not have, and yet may be saved; but those things which go with the ploughing of the heart are indispensable; there must be a holy fear and a humble trembling before God, there must be an acknowledgment of guilt and a penitent petition for mercy; there must, in a word, be a thorough ploughing of the soul before we can expect the seed to bring forth fruit.

II. But the text indicates to us that at times ministers labour in vain. "Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plow there with oxen?" In a short time a ploughman feels whether the plough will go or not, and so does the minister. He may use the very same words in one place which he has used in another, but he feels in the one place great joy and hopefulness in preaching, while with another audience he has heavy work, and little hope. The plough in the last case seems to jump out of the furrow; and a bit of the share is broken off now and then. He says to himself, "I do not know how it is, but I do not get on at this," and he finds that his Master has sent him to work upon a particularly heavy soil. All labourers for Christ know that this is occasionally the case. You must have found it so in a Sunday-school class, or in a cottage meeting, or in any other gathering where you have tried to teach and preach Jesus. You have said to yourself every now and then, "Now I am ploughing a rock. Before, I turned up rich mould which a yoke of oxen might plough with ease, and a horse might even run at the work; but now the horse may tug, and the oxen may wearily toil till they gall their shoulders, but they cannot cut a furrow; the rock is stubborn to the last degree."

There are such hearers in all congregations. They are as iron, and yet they are side by side with a fine plot of ground. Their sister, their brother, their son, their daughter, all these have readily felt the power of the gospel; but they do not feel it. They hear it respectfully; and they so far allow it free course that they permit it to go in at one ear and out at the other, but they will have nothing more to do with it. They would not like to be Sabbath-breakers and stop away from worship; they therefore do the gospel the questionable compliment of coming where it is preached and then refusing to regard it. They are hard, hard, hard bits of rock, the plough does not touch them.

Many, on the other hand, are equally hard; but it is in another way. The impression made by the word is not deep or permanent. They receive it with joy, but they do not retain it. They listen with attention, but it never comes to practice with them. They hear about repentance, but they never repent. They hear about faith, but they never believe. They are good judges of what the gospel is, and yet they have never accepted it for themselves. They will not eat; but still they insist that good bread shall be put on the table. They are great sticklers for the very things which they personally reject. They are moved to feeling; they shed tears occasionally, but still their hearts are not really broken up by the word. They go their way, and forget what manner of men they are. They are rocky-hearted through and through: all our attempts to plough them are failures.

Now this is all the worse, because certain of these rocky-hearted people have been ploughed for years, and have become harder instead of softer. Once or twice ploughing, and a broken share or two, and a disappointed ploughman or two, we might not mind, if they would yield at last; but these have since their childhood known the gospel and never given way before its power. It is a good while since their childhood now with some of them. Their hair is turning grey, and they themselves are getting feeble with years. They have been entreated and persuaded times beyond number, but labour has been lost upon them. In fact, they used to feel the word, in a certain fashion, far more years ago than they do now. The sun, which softens wax, hardens clay, and the same gospel which has brought others to tenderness and repentance has exercised a contrary effect upon them, and made them more careless about divine things than they were in their youth. This is a mournful state of things, is it not?

Why are certain men so extremely rocky? Some are so from a peculiar stolidity of nature. There are many people in the world whom yon cannot very well move, they have a great deal of granite in their constitution, and are more nearly related to Mr. Obstinate than to Mr. Pliable. Now, I do not think badly of these people, because one knows what it is to preach to an excitable people, and to get them all stirred, and to know that in the end they are none the better; whereas some of the more solid and immovable people when they are, moved are moved indeed; when they do feel they feel intensely, and they retain any impression that is made. A little chip made in granite by very hard blows will abide there, while the lashing of water, which is easy enough, will leave no trace even for a moment. It is a grand thing to get hold of a fine piece of rock and to exercise faith about it. The Lord’s own hammer has mighty power to break, and in the breaking great glory comes to the Most High.

Worse still, certain men are hard because of their infidelity—not heart-infidelity all of it, but an infidelity which springs out of a desire not to believe, which has helped them to discover difficulties. These difficulties exist, and were meant to exist, for there would be no room for faith if everything were as plain as the nose on one’s face. These persons have gradually come to doubt, or to think that they doubt, essential truths, and this renders them impervious to the gospel of Christ.

A much more numerous body are orthodox enough, but hard-hearted for all that. Worldliness hardens a man in every way. It often dries up all charity to the poor, because the man must make money, and he thinks that the poor-rates are sufficient excuse for neglecting the offices of charity. He has no time to think of the next world; he must spend all his thoughts upon the present one. Money is tight, and therefore he must hold it tight; and when money brings in little interest he finds therein a reason for being the more niggardly. He has no time for prayer, he must get down to the counting-house. He has no time for reading his Bible, his ledger wants him. You may knock at his door, but his heart is not at home; it is in the counting-house, wherein he lives and moves and has his being. His god is his gold, his bliss is his business, his all in all is himself. What is the use of preaching to him? As well may horses run upon a rock, or oxen drag a plough across a field sheeted with iron a mile thick.

With some, too, there is a hardness, produced by what I might almost call the opposite of stern worldliness, namely, a general levity. They are naturally butterflies flitting about and doing nothing. They never think, or want to think. Half a thought exhausts them, and they must needs be diverted, or their feeble minds will utterly weary. They live in a round of amusement. To them the world is a stage, and all the men and women only players. It is of little use to preach to them: there is no depth of earth in their superficial nature; beneath a sprinkling of shifting, worthless sand lies an impenetrable rock of utter stupidity and senselessness. I might thus multiply reasons why some are harder than others, but it is a well assured fact that they are so, and there I leave the matter.

III. I shall now ask everybody to judge whether the running of horses upon a rock, and the ploughing there with oxen, shall always be continued. I assert that it is unreasonable to expect that God’s servants should always continue to labour in vain. These people have been preached to, taught, instructed, admonished, expostulated with, and advised; shall this unrecompensed work be always performed? We have given them a fair trial; what do reason and prudence say? Are we bound to persevere till we are worn out by this unsuccessful work? We will ask it of men who plough their own farms; do they recommend perseverance when failure is certain? Shall horses run upon the rock? Shall one plough there with oxen? Surely not for ever.

I think we shall all agree that labour in vain cannot be continued for ever if we consider the ploughman. He does not want to be much considered; but still his Master does not overlook him. See how weary he grows when the work discourages him. He goes to his Master with, "Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" "Why hast thou sent me," says he, "to a people that have ears but hear not? They sit as thy people sit, and they hear as thy people hear, and then they go their way and they forget every word that is spoken, and they obey not the voice of the Lord." See how disappointed the preacher becomes. It is always hard work when you appear to get no forwarder, although you do your utmost. No man, whoever he may be, likes to be set upon work which appears to be altogether a waste of time and effort. To his own mind it seems to have a touch of the ridiculous about it, and he fears that he will be despised of his fellows for aiming at the impossible. Shall it always be the lot of God’s ministers to be trifled with? Will the great Husbandman bid his ploughmen spill their lives for nought? Must his preachers continue to cast pearls before swine? If the consecrated workers are so bidden by their Lord they will persevere in their painful task; but their Master is considerate of them, and I ask you also to consider whether it is reasonable to expect a zealous heart to be for ever occupied with the salvation of those who never respond to its anxiety? Shall the horses always plough upon the rock? Shall the oxen always labour there?

Again, there is the Master to be considered. The Lord—is he always to be resisted and provoked? Many of you have had eternal life set before you as the result of believing in Jesus; and you have refused to believe. It is a wonder that my Lord has not said to me, "You have done your duty with them; never set Christ before them again; my Son shall not be insulted." If you offer a beggar in the street a shilling and he will not have it, you cheerfully put it into your purse and go your way; you do not entreat him to have his wants relieved. But, behold, our God in mercy begs sinners to come to him, and implores them to accept his Son. In his condescension he even stands like a salesman in the market, crying, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." In another place he says of himself, "All day long have I stretched out my hands to a disobedient and gainsaying generation." If the Lord of mercy has been refused so long in the sight of you who reverence him, does not some indignation mingle with your pity, and while you love sinners and would have them saved, do you not feel in your heart that there must be an end to such insulting behaviour? I ask even the careless to think of the matter in this light, and if they do not respect the ploughman, yet let them have regard to his Master.

And then, again, there are so many other people who are needing the gospel, and who would receive it if they had it, that it would seem to be wise to leave off wearying oneself about those who despise it. What did our Lord say? He said that if the mighty things which had been done in Bethsaida and Chorazin had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented. What is more wonderful still, he says that if he had wrought the same miracles in Sodom and Gomorrah which were wrought in Capernaum, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes. Does it not occur to us at once to give the word to those who will have it, and leave the despisers to perish in their own wilfulness? Does not reason say, "Let us send this medicine where there are sick people who will value it"? Thousands of people are willing to hear the gospel. See how they crowd wherever the preacher goes—how they tread upon one another in their anxiety to listen to him; and if these people who hear him every day will not receive his message, "in God’s name," saith he, "let me go where there is a probability of finding soil that can be ploughed." "Shall horses run upon the rock? Will one plough there with oxen?" Must I work always where nothing comes of it? Does not reason say, let the word go to China, to Hindostan, or to the utmost parts of the earth, where they will receive it; for those who have it preached in the corners of their streets despise it?

I shall not lengthen this argument, but shall solemnly put the question again. Would any of you continue to pursue an object when it has proved to be hopeless? Do you wonder that when the Lord has sent his servants to speak kind, gracious, tender words, and men have not heard, he says to them, "They are joined unto their idols; let them alone"? There is a boundary to the patience of men, and we soon arrive at it; and assuredly there is a limit, though it is long before we outrun it, to the patience of God, "At length," he says, "it is enough. My Spirit shall no longer strive with them." If the Lord says this, can any of us complain? Is not this the way of wisdom? Does not prudence itself dictate it? Any thoughtful mind will say, "Ay, ay, a rock cannot be ploughed for ever."

IV. Fourthly. There must be an alteration, then, and that speedily. The oxen shall be taken off from such toil. It can be easily done, and done soon. It can be effected in three ways.

First, the unprofitable hearer can be removed so that he shall no more hear the gospel from the lips of his best approved minister. There is a preacher who has some sort of power over him; but as he rejects his testimony, and remains impenitent, the man shall be removed to another town, where he shall hear monotonous discourses which will not touch his conscience. He shall go where he shall be no longer persuaded and entreated; and there he will sleep himself into hell. That may be readily enough done; perhaps some of you are making arrangements even now for your own removal from the field of hope.

Another way is to take away the ploughman. He has done his work as best he could, and he shall be released from his hopeless task. He is weary. Let him go home. The soil would not break up, but he could not help that; let him have his wage. He has broken his plough at the work; let him go home and hear his Lord say, "Well done." He was willing to keep on at the disheartening labour as long as his Master bade him; but it is evidently useless, therefore let him go home, for his work is done. He has been sore sick, let him die, and enter into his rest. This is by no means improbable.

Or, there may happen something else. The Lord may say, "That piece of rock shall never trouble the ploughman any more. I will take it away." And he may take it away in this fashion: the man who has heard the gospel, but rejected it, will die. I pray my Master that he will not suffer any one of you to die in your sins, for then we cannot reach you any more, or indulge the faintest hope for you. No prayers of ours can follow you into eternity. There is one name by which you may be saved, and that name is sounded in your ears—the name of Jesus; but if you reject him now, even that name will not save you. If you do not take Jesus to be your Saviour he will appear as your judge. I pray you, do not destroy your own souls by continuing to be obstinate against almighty love.

God grant that some better thing may happen. Can nothing else be done? This soil is rock; can we not sow it without breaking it? No. Without repentance there is no remission of sin. But is there not a way of saving men without the grace of God? The Lord Jesus did not say so; but he said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned." He did not hint at a middle course or hold out a "larger hope," but he declared, "He that believeth not shall be damned," and so he must be. Dream not of a back door to heaven, for the Lord has provided none.

What then? Shall the preacher continue his fruitless toil? If there is only half a hope left him, he is willing to go on and say, "Hear, ye deaf, and see, ye blind, and live, ye dead." He will even so speak this day, for his Master bids him preach the gospel to every creature; but it will be hard work to repeat the word of exhortation for years to those who will not hear it.

Happily there is one other turn which affairs may take. There is a God in heaven, let us pray to him to put forth his power. Jesus is at his side, let us invoke his interposition. The Holy Ghost is almighty, let us call for his aid. Brothers who plough and sisters who pray, cry to the Master for help. The horse and the ox evidently fail, but there remains One above who is able to work great marvels. Did he not once speak to the rock, and turn the flint into a stream of water? Let us pray him to do the same now.

And, oh, if there is one who feels and mourns that his heart is like a piece of rock, I am glad he feels it; for he who feels that his heart is a rock gives some evidence that the flint is being transformed. O rock, instead of smiting thee, as Moses smote the rock in the wilderness and erred therein, I would speak to thee. O rock, wouldst thou become like wax? O rock, wouldst thou dissolve into rivers of repentence? Hearken to God’s voice! O rock, break with good desire! O rock, dissolve with longing after Christ, for God is working upon thee now. Who knows but at this very moment thou shalt begin to crumble down. Dost thou feel the power of the Word? Does the sharp ploughshare touch thee just now? Break and break again, till by contrition thou art dissolved, for then will the good seed of the gospel come to thee, and thou shalt receive it into thy bosom, and we shall all behold the fruit thereof.

And so I will fling one more handful of good corn, and have done. If thou desirest eternal life, trust Jesus Christ, and thou art saved at once. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth," says Christ, "for I am God, and beside me there is none else." He that believeth in him hath everlasting life. "Like as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life."

O Lord, break up the rock, and let the seed drop in among its broken substance, and get thou a harvest from the dissolved granite, at this time, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain)

Good Friday 1605 - Lancelot Andrewes

Good Friday 1605 - Lancelot Andrewes

Good Friday 1605 — Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Hebrews 12:2

Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, and despised the shame; and is set at the right-hand of the throne of God.

St. Luke, though he recount at large our Saviour Christ’s whole story, yet in plain and express terms he calleth the Passion,* θεωρίαν, "a theory or sight," which sight is it the Apostle here calleth us to look unto.

Of our blessed Saviour’s whole life or death, there is no part but is "a theory" of itself, well worthy our looking on; for from each part thereof there goeth virtue to do us good. From each part;—but of all, from the last part, or act of His Passion. Therefore hath the Holy Ghost honoured this last part only with this name, and none but this. This is the "theory" ever most commended to our view. To be looked on He is at all times, and in all acts; but then, and in that act, specially, "when for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, and despised the shame." Then, saith the Apostle, "look unto Him." St. Paul being elsewhere careful to shew the Corinthians, and with them us, Christ; and as to shew them Christ, so to shew them in Christ what that is that specially concerneth them to know or look unto, thus he saith: that though he knew many, very many things besides, yet he "esteemed not to know any thing but Jesus Christ,"* et Hunc crucifixum, Him, "and Him crucified." Meaning respective, as they term it, that the perfection of our knowledge is Christ; and the perfection of our knowledge in or touching Christ, is the knowledge of His Cross and Passion. That the chief "theory." Nay, in this all; so that see this, and see all.

The view whereof, though it be not restrained to any one time, but all the year long, yea all our life long, ought to be frequent with us;—and blessed are the hours that are so spent! yet if at any one time more than other, certainly this time, this day may most justly challenge it. For this day was this Scripture fulfilled, and this day are our ears filled full with Scriptures about it. So that though on other days we employ our eyes otherwise, yet that this day at least we would, as exceeding fitly the Apostle wisheth us, ἀφορᾷν "cast our eyes from other sights," and fix them on this object, it being the day dedicate to the lifting up of the Son of Man on high,* that He may draw every eye unto Him.

The occasion of the speaking is ever the best key to every speech. The occasion then of this speech was this. The Apostle was to encourage the Hebrews, and in them us all, to hold on the well-begun profession of Christ and His faith. This our profession he expresseth in the former verse in the terms of a race or game, borrowing his similitude from the games of Olympus. For from those games, famous then over all the world, and by terms from them taken, it was common to all writers of that age, both holy and human, to set forth, as in the running the laborious course, so in the prize of it, the glorious reward of a virtuous life.

Which race, truly Olympic, because they and we, the most of us, either stand still, or if we remove do it but slowly, and are ready to faint upon every occasion; that we may run the sooner, and attain the better, two sights he sets before us to comfort us and keep us from fainting. One, a cloud of witnesses, in the first verse, that is the Saints in Heaven—witnesses as able to depose this race may be run, and this prize may be won, for they have run the one, and won the other long ago. These look on us now, how well we carry ourselves; and we to look to them, that we may carry ourselves well in the course we have undertaken.

On which cloud when we have stayed our eyes a while, and made them fit for a clearer object, he scattereth the cloud quite, and sets us up a second, even our blessed Saviour His Ownself. And here he willeth us, ἀφορᾷν, "to turn our eyes from them," and to turn them hither, and to fasten them here on Jesus Christ, "the Author and Finisher of our faith." As if he should say; If you will indeed see a sight once for all, look to Him. The Saints, though they be the guides to us, yet are they but followers to Him.* He the Ἀρχηγὸς, "the Arch-guide," the Leader of them and us all—Look on Him. They but well willers to our faith, but neither authors nor finishers of it; He, both. Both Author to call us to it, and set us in it; and Finisher to help us through it, and reward us for it:—Look to Him. Hunc aspicite is the Apostle’s voice, the voice that cometh out of this cloud, for it is the wish of them all, even all the Saints;—Hunc aspicite. At His appearing therefore the cloud vanisheth. There is a time when St. James may say,* "Take, my brethren, the Prophets for an example." But when He cometh forth That said, Exemplum dedi vobis,* "I have given you an example," exemplum sine exemplo, ‘an example above all examples;’ when He cometh in place,* Sileat omnis caro, "Let all flesh keep silence." Let all the Saints,* yea, the Seraphins themselves cover their faces with their wings, that we may look on Him, and let all other sights go.

Let us then turn aside to see this great sight. The principal parts thereof are two: 1. The sight itself, that is, the thing to be seen; 2. and the sight of it, that is, the act of seeing it or looking on it.

The whole verse, save the two first words, is of the object or spectacle propounded. "Jesus the Author, &c." The two first words, ἀφορῶντες εἰς, is the other, the act or duty enjoined.

But as in many other cases,* so here, Et erunt primi novissimi, "the first must be last." For though the act, in the verse, stand foremost, yet in nature it is last, and so to be handled. We must have a thing first set up before our eyes, before we can set our eyes upon it.

Of the object then first: this object is Jesus, not barely, but with His double addition of 1. "the Author," 2. "the Finisher of our faith, Jesus." And in Him more particularly, two theories or sights: 1. Of His Passion; 2. Of His Session. 1. His Passion, in these words: "Who for the joy," &c. 2. His Session, in these; "And is set," &c.

In the Passion, two things He pointeth at: 1. What He suffered, 2. and what moved Him to it. 1. What He suffered; the cross and shame. The cross He endured, the shame He despised. 2. And what moved Him; "for a certain joy set before Him."

Then is to follow the act or duty of looking on this sight, ἀφορῶντες εἰς. 1. Wherein first the two prepositions, 1. Ἀπὸ and 2. Εἰς, "from" and "to:" to look "from," and to look "to." 2. Then the two verbs: 1. One in the verse expressed, that is, ὁρᾷν in ἀφορῶντες. 2. The other of necessity implied, for we have never a verb in all the verse. Ἀφορῶντες is a participle, and but suspendeth the sentence, till we either look back to the verb before; and so it is 1. Ut curramus: or to the verse next after, and so it is 2. Ne fatigemur. In the one is the theory or sight we shall see, thus looking. In the other the praxis of this theory, what this sight is to work in us; and that is a motion, a swift motion, running. So to look on it that we run, and so to run that we faint not.

And if the time will give leave, if our allowance will hold out, then we will take a short view of the session; that He "is set down." Wherein is 1. rest and ease opposed to His cross, where He hung in pain. 2. And in "a throne;" wherein is glory opposed to shame. 3. And "at the right hand of God," wherein is the fulness of both the joy wherein He sitteth, and the joy which was set before Him, and which is set before us.

To give the better aspect to the party Whom he presenteth to our view, that with better will we may behold Him, before he name His Name he giveth Him this double addition, as it were displaying an ensign, proclaiming His style before Him; whereof these two are the two colours, 1. "The Author," 2. "The Finisher of our faith, Jesus."

"Author and Finisher" are two titles, wherein the Holy Ghost oft setteth Him forth, and wherein He seemeth to take special delight. In the very letters, He taketh to Him the name of "Alpha"* the Author, and again of "Omega" the Finisher of the alphabet.* From letters go to words: there is He Verbum in principio,* "the Word at the beginning."* And He is "Amen" too, the word at the end.* From words to books.* In capite libri scriptum est de Me, in the very "front of the book"* He is; and He is Ἀνακεφαλαίωσις, "the Recapitulation," or conclusion of it too. And so, go to persons: there He is Primus and novissimus,* "the first and the last." And from persons to things:* and there He is, "the beginning and the end;" whereof ἀρχὴ, "the beginning," is in Ἀρχηγὸς, the Author; and τέλος, "the end," is in Τελειωτὴς, the Finisher.* The first beginning a Quo, He "by Whom all things are made;" and the last end He, per or propter Quem, "by, for, or through Whom" all things are made perfect.

Both these He is, in all things. And as in all things else, so in faith, whereto they are here applied most fully and fitly of all other. Therefore look not aside at any in Heaven or earth for matter of faith, look full upon Him. He is worth the looking on with both your eyes, He hath matter for them both.

The honour that Zerubbabel had in the material, is no less truly His in the spiritual temple of our faith.* Manus Ejus, "His hands" have laid the corner-stone of our belief, and His hands shall bring forth the head-stone also,* giving us "the end of our faith, which is the salvation of our souls."

Of our faith, and of the whole race of it He is the Author, casting up His glove at the first setting forth. He is the Finisher, holding out the prize at the goal end. By His authority it is our course is begun; we run not without warrant. By His bounty it shall be finished and crowned in the end; we run not in vain, or without hope of reward.

But what is this title to the point in hand? So, as nothing can be more. "Author and Finisher," they are the two points that move us to look to Him. And the very same are the two points wherein we are moved to be like to Him.

To fix our eye, to keep it from straying, to make us look on Him full, He telleth us He is both these. In effect as if He said, Scatter not your sight, look not two ways, as if He I shew you were to begin, and some other make an end. He I shew you doth both.

His main end being to exhort them, as they had begun well, so well to persevere; to very good purpose, He willeth them to have an eye to Him and His example, Who first and last, ἀπὸ φάτνης ἄχρι σταυροῦ, ‘from the cratch to the cross,’* from St. Luke’s time quo cœpit Jesus facere et diocere, "that He began to do and teach,"* to St. John’s time that He cried consummatum est,* gave them not over sed in finem usque dilexit eos, but "to the end loved them." And so must they Him, if they do Him right. Both set out with Him, as "Author" by a good beginning; and hold out with Him, as "Finisher," to a far better end; and follow Him in both Who is both. Were He "Author" only, it would serve to step forth well at the first. But He is "Finisher" too: therefore we must hold out to the last. And not rend one of them from the other, seeing He requireth both—not either, but both—and is indeed Jesus, a Saviour of none but those, that follow Him as "Finisher" too, and are therefore marked in the forehead with Tau the last letter of the Hebrew, as He Himself is Omega, the last of the Greek Alphabet.* This is the party He commendeth to our view; "Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of our faith." For these two to look upon Him, and in these two to be like unto Him.

Our sight then is Jesus, and in Jesus what? you have called us hither, say they in the Canticles, to see your Shulamite;*—"what shall we see in Him?" What? saith the Spouse, but as "the company of an army," that is, many legions of good sights, an ocean or bottomless depth of manifold high perfections. We shall lose ourselves, we shall be confounded to see in Him all that may be shewed us, the object is too great. Two pieces therefore He maketh choice of, and but two, and presenteth Him to our eye in two forms only: 1. As hanging on the cross; 2. as sitting on the throne. 1. His Passion, and 2. His Session; these two. And these two, with very good and perfect correspondence to the two former. By the "cross," He is "Author;" by the "throne," He is "Finisher of our faith." As Man on the "cross," "Author;" as God on the "throne," "Finisher." "Author," on the "cross"—there He paid the price of our admitting. "Finisher," on the "throne"—there He is the prize to us of our course well performed, of the well-finishing our race, the race of our faith.

And sure, with right high wisdom hath the Holy Ghost, being to exhort us to a race, combined these twain. For in these twain are comprised the two main motives, that set all the world on running, 1. love, and 2. hope. The love He hath to us in His Passion on the cross; the hope we have of Him, in His Session on the throne. Either of these alone able to move; but put them together, and they will move us, or nothing will.

1. Love first. What moveth the mother to all the travail and toil she taketh with her child? She hopes for nothing, she is in years, suppose; she shall not live to receive any benefit by it. It is love and love only. Love first.

2. And then hope. What moveth the merchant, and so the husbandman, and so the military man, and so all the rest? All the sharp showers and storms they endure, they love them not. It is hope, and hope only, of a rich return.

If either of these will serve us, will prevail to move us, here it is.* Here is love, love in the cross: "Who loved us, and gave Himself for us, a sacrifice" on the cross. Here is hope,* hope in the throne. "To him that overcometh will I give to sit with Me in My throne." If our eye be a mother’s eye, here is love worth the looking on. If our eye be a merchant’s eye, here is hope worth the looking after. I know it is true, that verus amor vires non sumit de spe;—it is Bernard.* ‘Love if it be true indeed, as in the mother, receiveth no manner strength from hope.’ Ours is not such, but faint and feeble, and full of imperfection. Here is hope therefore to strengthen our weak knees, that we may run the more readily to the high prize of our calling.

To begin then with His love, the love of His Passion, the peculiar of this day. In it we first look to what He suffered, and that is of two sorts. 1. "The cross He endured;" 2. "The shame He despised." 3. And then with what mind, for the mind is worth all; and love in it sheweth itself, if not more, as much as in the suffering itself:—but certainly more. And this is His mind, proposito Sibi gaudio, as cheerfully as if it had been some matter of joy. Of both first, jointly under one. Then severally each by itself.

Two things are to us most precious, 1. our life and 2. our reputation. Pari passu ambulant, saith the lawyer, ‘they go arm in arm,’ and are of equal regard, both. Life is sweet: the cross cost Him His life. Honour is dear: shame bereft Him His honour. In the race which, before us and for us, our blessed Saviour ran, these two great blocks, 1. death, and 2. disgrace were in His way. Neither stayed Him. To testify His love, over both He passed. Put His shoulders under the cross and endured it, to the loss of His life. Set His foot upon shame and despised it, to the loss of His honour. Neither one nor other, life or honour, held He dear, to do us good. O, if we should hazard but one of these two, for any creature living, how much ado would we make of it, and reckon the party eternally obliged to us! Or if any should venture them for us, we should be the better every time we saw him. O that it might be so here! O that we would meet this love with the like measure! Certainly in His Passion, the love of us triumphed over the love of His life and honour both.

One view more of both these under one, and we shall by these two discover two other things in ourselves, for which very agreeable it was He should suffer these two, that by these two of His for those two of ours He might make a full satisfaction. It will shew a good congruity between our sickness and His salve, between our debt and His discharge.

The mother-sin then, the sin of Adam and Eve, and their motives to it, are the lively image of all the after-births of sin, and the baits of sin for ever. Now that which moved them to disobey, was partly pleasure, and partly pride. Pleasure—O the fruit was delightful to see and to taste.* Pride—eritis sicut Dii, it promised an estate equal to the highest. Behold then in His Passion, for our pleasure His pain, and for our pride, His shame and reproach. Behold Him in His patience, enduring pain for our wicked lust; in His humility, having shame poured on Him for our wretched pride.* "The Lord of life,"* suffering death; "The Lord of glory," vile and ignominious disgrace.* Tanquam agnus, saith the Prophet of Him, "as a lamb,"* pitifully slaughtered. Tanquam vermis, saith He of Himself, "as a worm," spitefully trod upon. So, by His enduring pains and painful death, expiating our unlawful pleasure; and by His sustaining shame, satisfying for our shameful pride. Thus may we under one behold ourselves, and our wicked demerits, in the mirror of His Passion. Gregory saith well: Dicendum erat quantum nos dilexit, ne diffidere; dicendum erat et quales, ne superbire et ingrati esse. ‘How greatly He loved us, must be told us, to keep us from distrust; and what we were when He so loved us, must be told us, to hold us in humility, to make us everlastingly thankful.’ Thus far both under one view.

Now are we to part them, to see them apart. We shall have much ado to do it, they are so folded and twisted together. In the cross there is shame, and in shame there is a cross, and that a heavy one.

The cross,* the Heathen termed cruciabile lignum, ‘a tree of torture;’ but they called it also, arborem infælicem, et stipitem infamem, ‘a wretched infamous tree’ withal. So it was in His crown; the thorns pricked Him—there was pain; the crown itself was a mere mockery, and matter of scorn. So in His robe; His purple body underneath in great pain certainly, His purple robe over it, a garment of shame and disgrace. All along the Passion, thus they meet still together. In a word,* the prints of His Passion, the Apostle well calleth stigmata Christi. Both are in that word; not only wounds, and so grievous, but base and servile marks, and so shameful, for so are stigmata. Thus shame and cross, and cross and shame run interchangeably.

Yet since the Holy Ghost doth shew us them severally, so to see them as He shews them. Enduring is the act of patience, and patience hath pain for her object. Despising shame is the property of humility, even of the highest humility; not only spernere se, but spernere se sperni. First then we must see the pain His patience endured—that is meant by the cross; and then see the dispising His humility despised—that is meant by the shame. First then of His cross.

It is well known that Christ and His cross were never parted, but that all His life long was a continual cross. At the very cratch, His cross first began. There Herod sought to do that which Pilate did, even to end His life before it began. All His life after, saith the Apostle in the next verse, was nothing but a perpetual "gainsaying of sinners,"* which we call crossing; and profess we cannot abide in any of our speeches or purposes to be crossed. He was. In the Psalm of the Passion, the twenty-second, in the very front or inscription of it, He is set forth unto us under the term of a hart, cervus matutinus, "a morning hart," that is, a hart roused early in the morning; as from His birth He was by Herod, and hunted and chased all His life long, and this day brought to His end, and as the poor deer, stricken and wounded to the heart. This was His last, last and worst; and this we properly call His cross, even this day’s suffering. To keep us then to our day, and the cross of the day. "He endured the cross."

"He endured." Very enduring itself is durum, durum pati. Especially for persons of high power or place as the Son of God was. For great persons to do great things, is no great wonder; their very genius naturally inclineth to it. But to suffer any small thing, for them is more than to do many great. Therefore the Prophet placeth his moral fortitude, and the Divine his Christian obedience, rather in suffering than in doing. Suffering is sure the more hard of the twain. "He endured."

If it be hard to endure, it must be more hard to endure hard things; and of all things hard to be endured, the hardest is death. Of the philosopher’s πέντε φοβερὰ,* ‘five fearful things,’ it is the most fearful; and what will not a man, nay what will not a woman weak and tender, in physic, in chyrurgery, endure, not to endure death? "He endured" death.

And that if He endured, and no more but that, it might suffice; it is worth all we have, for all we have we will give for our life. But not death only, but the kind of death is it. Mortem, mortem autem crucis, saith the Apostle,* doubting the point; "death He endured, even the death of the cross."

The cross is but a little word, but of great contents; but few letters, but in these few letters are contained multa dictu gravia, perpessu aspera, ‘heavy to be named, more heavy to be endured.’ I take but the four things ascribed by the Holy Ghost to the cross,* answerable to the four ends or quarters of it.* 1. Sanguis Crucis,* 2. Dolores Crucis,* 3. Scandalum Crucis, 4. Maledictum Crucis: that is, the death of the cross is all these four; a 1. bloody, 2. doleful, 3. scandalous, 4. accursed death.

1. Though it be but a cold comfort, yet a kind of comfort it is, if die we must, that our death is mors sicca, a dry, not sanguis crucis, not a bloody death. 2. We would die, when we die, an easy, not ὠδῖνες σταυροῦ, not a tormenting death. 3. We desire to die with credit if it might be; if not, without scandal—scandalum crucis. 4. At leastwise to go to our graves, and to die by an honest, ordinary, and by no means by an accursed death—maledictum crucis. In the cross are all these, all four. The two first are in "the cross," the two latter in "the shame." For "the cross" and "the shame" are in very deed two crosses; the shame, a second cross of itself.

To see then, as in a short time, shortly. That of the poet, nec siccâ morte tyranni,* sheweth plainly, it is no poor privilege to die without effusion of blood. And so it is. 1. For a blessing it is, and our wish it is, we may live out our time, and not die an untimely death. Where there is effusion of blood, there is ever an untimely death.

2. Yet every untimely death is not violent, but a bloody death is violent and against nature; and we desire to pay nature her debt by the way of nature.

3. A violent death one may come to, as in war—sanguis belli best sheweth it—yet by valour, not by way of punishment. This death is penal; not, as all death, stipendium peccati, but, as evil men’s death, vindicta sceleris, an execution for some capital offence.

4. And not every crime neither. Fundetur sanguis is the punishment of treason and other more heinous crimes, to die embrued in their own blood. And even they that die so, die not yet so evil a death as do they that die on the cross. It is another case where it is sanguis mortis, the blood and life go away together at once; another, when it is sanguis crucis, when the blood is shed, and the party still in full life and sense, as on the cross it was; the blood first, and the life a good while after. This is sanguis crucis, an 1. untimely, 2. violent, 3. penal, 4. penal in the highest degree; there bleeding out His blood before He die, and then die.

When blood is shed, it would be no more than needs; shed it would be, not poured out. Or if so, at one part, the neck or throat, not at all parts at once. But here was fundetur, havoc made at all parts; His Passion, as He termeth it, a second baptism, a river of blood,* and He even able to have been baptized in it, as He was in Jordan. And where it would be summa parcimonia etiam vilissimi sanguinis, ‘no waste, no not of the basest blood that is,’ waste was made here. And of what blood? Sanguis Jesu, ‘the blood of Jesus.’ And Who was He? Sure, by virtue of the union personal, God; and so this blood, blood of God’s own bleeding, every drop whereof was precious, more precious than that whereof it was the price, the world itself. Nay, more worth than many worlds; yea, if they were ten thousand. Yet was this blood wastefully spilt as water upon the ground. The fundetur and the Qui here, will come into consideration, both. This is sanguis crucis, and yet this is not all neither; there is more yet.

For the blood of the Cross was not only the blood of Golgotha, but the blood of Gabbatha too. For of all deaths, this was peculiar to this death, the death of the Cross; that they that were to be crucified, were not to be crucified alone, which is the blood of Golgotha, but they must be whipped too before they were crucified, which is the blood of Gabbatha; a second death, yea worse than death itself. And in both these places He bled, and in either place twice. They rent His body with the 1. whips; they gored His head with the 2. thorns—both these in Gabbatha. And again, twice in Golgotha, when they 1. nailed His hands and His feet; when He was 2. thrust to the heart with the spear. This is sanguis crucis. It was to be stood on a little, we might not pass it. It is that whereon our faith depends, per fidem in sanguine Ipsius. By it He is "Author of our faith," faith in God,* and peace with God, both; pacificans in sanguine crucis,* "pacifying all with the blood of the Cross."

Now this bloody whipping and nailing of His, is it which bringeth in the second point of pain; that it was not blood alone without pain, as in the opening of a vein, but it was blood and pain both. The tearing and mangling of His flesh with the whips, thorns, and nails, could not choose but be exceeding painful to Him. Pains, we know, are increased much by cruel, and made more easy by gentle handling, and even the worst that suffer, we wish their execution as gentle, and with as little rigour as may be. All rigour, all cruelty was shewed to Him, to make His pains the more painful. In Gabbatha they did not whip Him, saith the Psalmist,* "they ploughed His back, and made," not stripes, but "long furrows upon it." They did not put on His wreath of thorns, and press it down with their hands, but beat it on with bats, to make it enter through skin, flesh, skull, and all. They did not in Golgotha pierce His hands and feet,* but made wide holes like that of a spade, as if they had been digging in some ditch.

These were pains, and cruel pains, but yet these are not ὠδῖνες, the Holy Ghost’s word in the text; those are properly "straining pains, pains of torture." The rack is devised as a most exquisite pain, even for terror. And the cross is a rack, whereon He was stretched, till, saith the Psalm,* all His bones were out of joint. But even to stand, as He hung, three long hours together, holding up but the arms at length, I have heard it avowed of some that have felt it to be a pain searce credible. But the hands and the feet being so cruelly nailed, parts of all other most sensible by reason of the texture of sinews there in them most, it could not but make His pain out of measure painful. It was not for nothing that dolores acerrimi dicuntur cruciatus,* saith the heathen man, ‘that the most sharp and bitter pains of all other have their name from hence, and are called cruciatus,’ "pains like those of the cross." It had a meaning that they gave Him, that He had for His welcome to the cross, a cup mixed with gall or myrrh, and for His farewell, a sponge of vinegar; to shew by the one the bitterness, by the other the sharpness of the pains of this painful death.

Now, in pain we know the only comfort of gravis, is brevis; if we be in it, to be quickly out of it. This the cross hath not, but is mors prolixa, ‘a death of dimensions, a death long in dying.’ And it was therefore purposely chosen by them. Blasphemy they condemned Him of: then was He to be stoned; that death would have despatched Him too soon. They indicted Him anew of sedition, not as of a worse fault, but only because crucifying belonged to it;* for then He must be whipped first, and that liked them well, and then He must die by inch-meal, not swallow His death at once but "taste" it, as chap. 2:9,* and take it down by little and little. And then He must have His legs and arms broken, and so was their meaning His should have been. Else, I would gladly know to what purpose provided they to have a vessel of vinegar ready in the place,* but only that He might not faint with loss of blood, but be kept alive till they might hear His bones crash under the breaking, and so feed their eyes with that spectacle also. The providence of God indeed prevented this last act of cruelty; their will was good though. All these pains are in the cross, but to this last specially the word in the text hath reference; ὑπέμεινε, which is, He must μένειν ὑπὸ, "tarry, stay, abide under it;" so die that He might feel Himself die, and endure the pains of an enduring death.

And yet all this is but half, and the lesser half by far of cruciatus crucis. All this His body endured. Was His soul free the while? No; but suffered as much. As much? nay more, infinitely much more on the spiritual, than His body did on the material cross. For a spiritual Cross there was too: all grant a Cross beside that which Simon of Cyrene did help Him to bear. Great were those pains, and this time too little to shew how great; but so great that in all the former He never shrunk, nor once complained, but was as if He scarce felt them. But when these came, they made Him complain and cry aloud κραυγὴν ἰσχυρὰν,* "a strong crying." In all those no blood came, but where passages were made for it to come out by, but in this it strained out all over, even at all places at once. This was the pain of "the press"—so the Prophet calleth it, torcular,* where-with as if He had been in the wine-press, all His garments were stained and gored with blood. Certainly the blood of Gethsemane was another manner of blood than that of Gabbatha, or that of Golgotha either; and that was the blood of His internal Cross. Of the three Passions that was the hardest to endure, yet that did He endure too. It is that which belief itself doth wonder how it doth believe, save that it knoweth as well the love as the power of God to be without bounds; and His wisdom as able to find, how through love it might be humbled, as exalted through power, beyond the uttermost that man’s wit can comprehend.

And this is the Cross He endured. And if all this might have been endured, salvo honore, ‘without shame or disgrace,’ it had been so much the less. But now, there is a farther matter yet to be added, and that is shame. It is hard to say of these two, which is the harder to bear; which is the greater cross, the cross or shame. Or rather, it is not hard. There is no mean party in misery, but if he be insulted on, his being insulted on more grieves him than doth the misery itself. But to the noble generous nature, to whom interesse honoris est majus omni alio interesse, ‘the value of his honour is above all value;’ to him the cross is not the cross, shame is the cross. And any high and heroical spirit beareth any grief more easily, than the grief of contemptuous and contumelious usage. King Saul shewed it plainly, who chose rather to run upon his own sword,* than to fall into the hands of the Philistines, who he knew would use him with scorn, as they had done Samson before him.* And even he, Samson too, rather than sit down between the pillars and endure this, pulled down house and all, as well upon his own head, as theirs that so abused him. Shame then is certainly the worse of the twain. Now in his death, it is not easy to define, whether pain or shame had the upper hand; whether greater, cruciatus, or scandalum crucis.

Was it not a foul disgrace and scandal to offer Him the shame of that servile base punishment of the whip, not to be offered to any but to slaves and bondmen? Loris? liber sum,* saith he in the comedy in great disdain, as if being free-born he held it great scorn to have that once named to him. Yet shame of being put out of the number of free-born men he despised, even the shame of being in formâ servi.*

That that is servile, may yet be honest. Then was it not yet a more foul disgrace and scandal indeed to appoint Him for His death that dishonest, that foul death, the death of malefactors, and of the worst sort of them? Morte turpissimâ, as themselves termed it; ‘the most shameful opprobrious death of all other,’ that the persons are scandalous that suffer it? To take Him as a thief, to hang Him between two thieves; nay, to count Him worse than the worst thief in the gaol; to say and to cry, Vivat Barabbas, pereat Christus, ‘Save Barabbas and hang Christ!’ Yet this shame He despised too, of being in formâ malefici.

If base, if dishonest, let these two serve; use Him not disgracefully, make Him not a ridiculum Caput, pour not contempt upon Him. That did they too, and a shame it is to see the shameful carriage of themselves all along the whole tragedy of His Passion. Was it a tragedy, or a Passion trow? A Passion it was, yet by their behaviour it might seem a May-game. Their shouting and outcries, their harrying of Him about from Annas to Caiaphas, from him to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, and from him to Pilate again; one while in purple, Pilate’s suit; another while in white, Herod’s livery; nipping Him by the cheeks, and pulling off His hair; blindfolding Him and buffeting Him; bowing to Him in derision, and then spitting in His face;—was as if they had not the Lord of glory, but some idiot or dizard in hand. "Died Abner as a fool dieth?" saith David of Abner in great regret. O no.* Sure, our blessed Saviour so died; and that He so died, doth equal, nay surpass even the worst of His torments. Yet this shame also He despised, of being in formâ ludibrii.

Is there any worse yet? There is. For though contempt be had, yet despite is beyond it, as far as earnest is beyond sport; that was sport, this was malice. Despite I call it, when in the midst of His misery, in the very depth of all His distress, they vouchsafed Him not the least compassion; but as if He had been the most odious wretched caitiff and abject of men, the very outcast of Heaven and earth, stood staring and gaping upon Him, wagging their heads, writhing their mouths, yea blearing out their tongues; railing on Him and reviling Him, scoffing at Him and scorning Him; yea, in the very time of His prayers deriding Him, even in His most mournful complaint and cry for the very anguish of His Spirit. These vile indignities, these shameful villanies, so void of all humanity, so full of all despite, I make no question, entered into His soul deeper than either nail or spear did into His body. Yet all this He despised, to be in formâ reprobi. Men hid their faces at this; nay, to see this sight, the sun was darkened, drew back his light, the earth trembled, ran one part from the other, the powers of Heaven were moved.

Is this all? No, all this but scandalum, there is a greater yet remaining than scandalum, and that is maledictum crucis; that the death He died was not only servile, scandalous, opprobrious, odious, but even execrable and accursed, of men held so. For as if He had been a very reprobate, in His extreme drought they denied Him a drop of water, never denied to any but to the damned in hell, and instead of it offered Him vinegar in a sponge; and that in the very pangs of death, as one for whom nothing was evil enough.

All this is but man, and man is but man, his glory is shame oftentimes, and his shame glory; but what God curseth, that is cursed indeed. And this death was cursed by God Himself, His own mouth, as the Apostle deduceth.* When all is said we can say, this, this is the hardest point of His shame, and the highest point of His love in bearing it. Christus factus est maledictum. The shame of a cursed death, cursed by God, is a shame beyond all shames, and he that can despise it, may well say consummatum est, there is no greater left for him to despise. O what contempt was poured upon Him! O how was He in all these despised! Yet He despised them all, and despised to be despised in them all. The highest humility, spernere se sperni; these so many ways, spernere se sperni.

So have we now the cross, ξύλον δίδυμον, ‘the two main bars of it,’ 1. Pain, 2. Shame; and either of these again, a cross of itself; and that double, 1. outward, and 2. inward. Pain, bloody, cruel, dolorous, and enduring—pain He endured. Shame, servile, scandalous, opprobrious, odious—shame He despised. And beside these, an internal cross, the passion of Gethsemane; and an internal shame, the curse itself of the cross, maledictum crucis. Of these He endured the one, the other He despised.

These, all these, and yet there remaineth a greater than all these, even quo animo, ‘with what mind,’ what having in His mind, or setting before His eyes, He did and suffered all this. That He did it not utcunque, but proposito Sibi, ‘with an eye to somewhat He aimed at.’

We handle this point last, it standeth first in the verse. And sure, if this as a figure stand not first, the other two are but ciphers; with it of value, nothing without it.

To endure all this is very much, howsoever it were. So to endure it as to make no reckoning of it, to despise it is more strange than all the rest. Sure the shame was great; how could He make so small account of it? and the cross heavy; how could He set it so light? They could not choose but pinch Him, and that extremely; and how then could He endure, and so endure that He despised them? It is the third point, and in it is adeps arietis, ‘the fat of rams,’ the marrow of the Sacrifice; even the good heart, the free forward mind, the cheerful affection, wherewith He did all this.

There be but two senses to take this ἀντὶ in, neither amiss, both very good, take whether you will. Love is in both, and love in a high measure. Ἀντὶ, even either pro or præ; pro, ‘instead;’ or præ, ‘in comparison.’

Ἀντὶ, pro, "instead of the joy set before Him." What joy was that? Ἐξῆν γὰρ Αὐτῷ ἐν οὐρανοῖς, saith Chrysostom, ‘for He was in the joys of Heaven: there He was, and there He might have held Him.’ Nothing did or could force Him to come thence, and to come hither thus to be entreated. Nothing but Sic dilexit,* or Propter nimiam charitatem quâ dilexit nos; but for it. Yet was He content,* "being in the form of God," ἀντὶ "instead of it," thus to transform,* yea to deform Himself into the shape of a servant, a felon, a fool; nay, of a caitiff accursed. Content to lay down His crown of glory, and ἀντὶ "instead of it," to wear a crown of thorns. Content, what we shun by all means, that to endure,—loss of life; and what we make so great a matter of, that to despise,—loss of honour. All this, with the loss of that joy and that honour He enjoyed in Heaven; another manner joy, and honour, than any we have here; ἀντὶ "for this," or "instead of this."

But the other sense is more praised, ἀντὶ, præ, "in comparison." For indeed, the joy. He left in Heaven was rather περικειμένη than προκειμένη, joy ‘wherein He did already sit,’ than "joy set before Him." Upon which ground, ἀντὶ, they turn præ, and that better as they suppose. For that is, in comparison of a certain joy, which He comparing with the cross and shame and all, chose rather to go through them all than to go without it. And can there be any joy compared with those He did forego? or can any joy countervail those barbarous usages He willingly went through? It seemeth, there can. What joy might that be? Sure none other, but the joy He had to save us, the joy of our salvation. For what was His glory, or joy, or crown of rejoicing, was it not we? Yes truly, we were His crown and His joy. In comparison of this joy He exchanged those joys, and endured these pains; this was the honey that sweetened His gall. And no joy at all in it but this—to be Jesus, "the Saviour" of a sort of poor sinners. None but this, and therefore pity He should lose it.

And it is to be marked, that though to be Jesus, "a Saviour," in propriety of speech be rather a title, an outward honour, than an inward joy, and so should have been præ honore, rather than præ gaudio; yet He expresseth it in the term of joy rather than that of honour, to shew it joyed Him at the heart to save us; and so as a special joy, He accounted it.

Sure, some such thing there was that made Him so cheerfully say to His Father in the Psalm,* Ecce venio, "Lo I come." And to His disciples in earth, This, this is the Passover that desiderio desideravi,* "I have so longed for," as it were embracing and even welcoming His death. And which is more, quomodo coarctor! "how am I pinched, or straitened,"* till I be at it! as if He were in pain, till He were in pain to deliver us. Which joy if ever He shewed, in this He did, that He went to His Passion with Psalms, and with such triumph and solemnity, as He never admitted all His life before. And that this His lowest estate, one would think it, He calleth His exaltation, cum exaltatus fuero.* And when any would think He was most imperfect, He esteemeth and so termeth it, His highest perfection; Tertio die perficior. In hoc est charitas,* "here is love."* If not here, where? But here it is, and that in his highest elevation. That the joys of Heaven set on the one side, and this poor joy of saving us on the other, He quit them to choose this. That those pains and shames set before Him, and with them this joy, He chose them rather than forego this.

Those joys He forsook, and this He took up; and to take it, took upon Him so many, so strange indignities of both sorts; took them and bare them with such a mind, as He not only endured but despised; nor that neither, but even joyed in the bearing of them, and all to do us good. So to alter the nature of things as to find joy in death whereat all do mourn,* and joy in shame which all do abhor, is a wonder like that of the bush.

This is the very life and soul of the Passion, and all besides but the σκελετὸς only, ‘the anatomy,’ the earcass without it.

So have we now the whole object, both what, and with what mind. And what is now to be done? shall we not pause a while and stay, and look upon this "theory" ere we go any farther? Yes, let us. Proper to this day is this sight of the cross. The other, of the throne, may stay yet his time a day or two hence.

We are enjoined to look upon Him. How can we, seeing He is now higher than the heavens, far out of our sight, or from the kenning of any mortal eye? yes, we may for all that. As, in the twenty-seventh of the chapter next before, Moses is said to have seen "Him That is invisible;"* not with the eyes of flesh—so neither he did, or we can; but, as there it is, "by faith." So he did, and we may. And what is more kindly to behold "the Author" of faith, than faith? or more kindly for faith to behold, than her "Author" here at first, and her "Finisher" there at last? Him to behold first and last, and never to be satisfied with looking on Him, Who was content to buy us and our eye at so dear a rate.

Our eye then is the eye of our mind, which is faith; and our aspicientes in this,* and the recogitantes in the next verse, all one; our looking to Him here, is our thinking on Him there; on Him and His Passion over and over again, Donec totus fixus in corde Qui totus fixus in cruce, ‘till He be as fast fixed in our heart as ever He was to His cross,’ and some impression made in us of Him, as there was in Him for us.

In this our looking then, two acts be rising from the two prepositions: one before, ἀπὸ, in ἀφορῶντες, "looking from;" the other after, εἰς, "looking upon, or into."

There is ἀπὸ, "from," abstracting our eye from other objects to look hither sometime. The preposition is not idle, nor the note, but very needful. For naturally we put this spectacle far from us, and endure not either oft or long to behold it. Other things there be, please our eyes better, and which we look on with greater delight. And we must ἀφορᾷν, ‘look off of them,’ or we shall never ὁρᾷν, ‘look upon’ this aright. We must, in a sort, work force to our nature, and per actum elicitum, as they term it in schools, inhibit our eyes, and even wean them from other more pleasing spectacles that better like them, or we shall do no good here, never make a true "theory" of it. I mean, though our prospect into the world be good, and we have both occasion and inclination to look thither oft, yet ever and anon to have an eye this way; to look from them to Him, Who, when all these shall come to an end, must be He that shall finish and consummate our faith and us, and make perfect both. Yea, though the Saints be fair marks, as at first I said, yet even to look off from them hither, and turn our eye to Him from all, even from Saints and all. But chiefly, from the baits of sin, the concupiscence of our eyes, the shadows and shows of vanity round about, by which death entereth at our windows; which unless we can be got to look from, this sight will do us no good, we cannot look on both together.

Now our "theory," as it beginneth with ἀπὸ, so it endeth with εἰς. Therefore look from it, that look to Him; or, as the word giveth it rather, "into Him," than to Him. Εἰς is ‘into,’ rather than ‘to.’ Which proveth plainly, that the Passion is a piece of perspective, and that we must set ourselves to see it if we will see it well, and not look superficially on it; not on the outside alone, but, ὁρᾷν εἰς, ‘pierce into it,’ and enter even into the inward workmanship of it, even of His internal Cross which He suffered, and of His entire affection wherewith He suffered it.

And we may well look into Him; Cancellis plenum est corpus, ‘His body is full of stripes,’ and they are as lattices; patent viscera per vulnera, His wounds they are as windows, through which we may well see all that is within Him. Clavus penetrans factus est mihi clavis reserans,* saith St. Bernard; ‘the nails and spear-head serve as keys to let us in.’ We may look into the palms of His hands, wherein, saith the Prophet,* He hath graven us, that He might never forget us.* We may look into His side, St. John useth the word, "opened." Vigilanti verbo,* saith Augustine, ‘a word well chosen, upon good advice:’ we may through the opening look into His very bowels, the bowels of kindness and compassion that would endure to be so entreated. Yea that very heart of His, wherein we may behold the love of our salvation to be the very heart’s joy of our Saviour.

Thus "looking from," from all else to look "into" Him, what then? then followeth the participle, we shall see. What shall we see? Nay, what shall we not see? What "theory" is there worth the seeing but is there to be seen? To recount all were too long: two there are in especial.

There is a theory medicinal, like that of the brazen serpent, and it serveth for comfort to the conscience, stung and wounded with the remorse of sin. For what sin is there, or can there be, so execrable or accursed, but the curse of the cross; what so ignominious or full of confusion, but the shame of it; what so corrosive to the conscience, but the pains of it; what of so deep or of so crimson a dye, but the blood of it, the blood of the Cross, will do it away? What sting so deadly, but the sight of this Serpent will cure it? This is a principal theory, and elsewhere to be stood on, but not here. For this serveth to quiet the mind, and the Apostle here seeketh to move it and make it stir.

There is then another "theory" besides, and that is exemplary for imitation.* There He died, saith St. Paul, to lay down for us, ἀντίλυτρον, our "ransom;"—that is the former. There He died,* saith St. Peter, to leave unto us ὑπογραμμὸν, relinquens nobis exemplum, "a pattern," an example to follow, and this is it, to this He calleth us; to have a directory use of it, to make it our pattern, to view it as our idea. And sure, as the Church under the Law needed not, so neither doth the Church under the Gospel need any other precept than this one,* Inspice et fac, "see and do according to the theory shewed thee in the mount;" to them in Mount Sinai, to us in Mount Calvary.

Were all philosophy lost, the theory of it might be found there. Were all Chairs burnt, Moses’ Chair and all, the Chair of the Cross is absolutely able to teach all virtue new again. All virtues are there visible, all, if time would serve: now I name only those five, which are directly in the text.

1. Faith is named there; it is, it was most conspicuous there to be seen, when being forsaken of God, yet He claspeth as it were His arms fast about Him, with Eli, Eli, "My God, My God,"* for all that. 2. Patience in "enduring the cross." 3. Humility in "despising the shame." 4. Perseverance, in that it was nothing for Him to be "Author," unless He were "Finisher" too. These four. But above these and all, that which is the 5. ratio idealis of all, the band and perfection of all, love, in the signature of love, in the joy which He found in all this; love, majorem quâ nemo, to lay down His life;* nay, parem cui nemo, in such sort to lay it down. Majorem quâ nemo, to do this for His friends; Parem cui nemo, to do it for His enemies. Notwithstanding their unworthiness antecedent to do it, and notwithstanding their unkindness consequent, yet to do it. This is the chief theory of all, but of love, chiefly, the most perfect of all. For sure, if ever aught were truly said of our Saviour, this was: that being spread and laid wide open on the cross, He is Liber charitatis,* wherein he that runneth by may read, Sic dilexit,* and Propter nimiam charitatem, and Ecce quantam charitatem;* love all over, from one end to the other.* Every stripe as a letter,* every nail as a capital letter. His livores as black letters, His bleeding wounds as so many rubrics, to shew upon record His love toward us.

Of which love the Apostle when he speaketh, he setteth it out with "height and depth,* length and breadth," the four dimensions of the cross, to put us in mind, say the ancient writers, that upon the extent of the tree was the most exact love, with all the dimensions in this kind represented that ever was.

Having seen all these, what is the end and use of this sight? Having had the theory, what is the praxis of this theory? what the conclusion of our contemplation? "Looking into" is a participle; it maketh no sentence, but suspendeth it only till we come to a verb to which it relateth. That verb must be either the verb in the verse before, ut curramus, or the verb in the verse following, ut ne fatigemur; that thus looking we run, or that thus looking we tire not. This is the practice of our theory.

We said the use was, and so we see it is, to move us, or to make us move; to work in our feet, to work in them a motion; not any slow but a swift motion, the motion of running, to "run the race that is set before us." The operation it hath, this sight, is in our faculty motive; if we stand still, to cause us stir, if we move but slowly, to make us run apace; if we run already, never to tire or give over till we do attain. And by this we may know, whether our theory be a true one: if this praxis follow of it, it is; if not, a gaze it may be, a true Christian "theory" it is not.

And here first our ἀφορᾷν, that is, our "looking from," is to work a turning from sin. Sure this spectacle, if it be well looked into, will make sin shall not look so well-favoured in our eyes as it did; it will make us while we live have a less liking to look toward it, as being the only procurer and cause of this cross and this shame. Nay, not only ἀποτρέπειν, ‘to turn our eye from it,’ but ἀποτρέχειν, ‘to turn our feet from it’ too; and to run from, yea to fly from it, quasi a facie colubri, ‘as from the face of a serpent.’

At leastwise, if not to run from it, not to run to it as we have; to nail down our feet from running to sin, and our hands from committing sin, and in a word have St. Peter’s practice of the Passion,* "to cease from sin." This abstractive force we shall find and feel; it will draw us from the delights of sin. And not only draw us from that, but draw from us too something, make some tears to run from us, or, if we be dry-eyed that not them, yet make some sighs of devotion, some thoughts of grace, some kind of thankful acknowledgments to issue from our souls. Either by way of compassion as feeling that He then felt, or by way of compunction as finding ourselves in the number of the parties for whom He felt them. It is a proper effect of our view of the Passion, this, as St. Luke sets it down at the very place where he terms it θεωρίαν,* that they returned from it "smiting their breasts" as having seen a doleful spectacle, themselves the cause of it.

Now as the looking from worketh a moving from, so doth the looking to a moving to.

For first, who is there that can look unto those hands and feet, that head and that heart of His that endured all this, but must primâ facia, ‘at the first sight’ see and say, Ecce quomodo dilexit nos? If the Jews that stood by said truly of Him at Lazarus’ grave,* Ecce quomodo dilexit eum! when He shed but a few tears out of His eyes, how much more truly may it be said of us, Ecce quomodo dilexit eos! for whom He hath "shed both water and blood," yea even from His heart, and that in such plenty? And He loving us so, if our hearts be not iron, yea if they be iron, they cannot choose but feel the magnetical force of this loadstone. For to a loadstone doth He resemble Himself,* when He saith of Himself, "Were I once lift up," omnia traham ad Me. This virtue attractive is in this sight to draw our love to it.

With which, as it were the needle, our faith being but touched, will stir straight. We cannot but turn to Him and trust in Him, that so many ways hath shewed Himself so true to us. Quando amor confirmatur, fides inehoatur, saith St. Ambrose, ‘Prove to us of any that he loves us indeed, and we shall trust him straight without any more ado,’ we shall believe any good affirmed of him. And what is there, tell me, any where affirmed of Christ to usward, but this love of His, being believed will make it credible.

Now our faith is made perfect by "works," or "well-doing,"* saith St. James; it will therefore set us in a course of them. Of which, every virtue is a stadium, and every act a step toward the end of our race. Beginning at humility, the virtue of the first setting out,—"let the same mind be in you,* that was in Christ Jesus, Who humbled Himself,"—and so proceeding from virtue to virtue, till we come to patience and perseverance, that keep the goal end. So saith St. Peter, Modicum passos perficiet, "suffering somewhat,* more or less; some crossing, if not the cross; some evil report, though not shame; so and no otherwise we shall come to our race end, our final perfection."

And as the rest move us if we stand still to run, so if we run already, these two, patience and perseverance—patience will make us for all our encounters, μὴ κάμνειν, saith the Apostle in the next verse,* "not to be weary." Not in our minds, though in our bodies we be; and perseverance will make us, μὴ ἐκλύεσθαι, "not to faint or tire," though the time seem long and never so tedious; both these in the verse following. But hold on our course till we finish it, even till we come to Him, Who was not only "Author," but "Finisher;" Who held out till He came to consummatum est. And so must we finish, not stadium, but dolichum; not like those, of whom it was said, currebatis bene, "ye did well for a start,"* but like our Apostle that said, and said truly, of himself, cursum consummavi,* "I have finished my course, I have held out to the very end."

And in this is the praxis of our first theory or sight of our love. But our love without hope is but faint: that then with better heart we may thus do and bestir ourselves, it will not be amiss once more to lift up our eyes, and the second time to look on Him. We have not yet seen the end, the cross is not the end; there is a better end than so, "and is set down in the throne." As the Prophet saw Him, we have seen Him, in such case as we were ready to hide our faces at Him and His sight. Here is a new sight; as the Evangelist saw Him, so we now may;* even His glory as the "glory of the only-begotten Son of God."* Ecce homo! Pilate’s sight we have seen.* Ecce Dominus et Deus meus! St. Thomas’ sight we now shall. The former in His hanging on the cross, the beginning of our faith. This latter sitting on the throne, the consummation of it.

Wherein there is an ample matter of hope, as before of love, all being turned in and out. He sits now at ease That before hung in pain. Now on a throne, That before on the cross. Now at God’s right hand, That before at Satan’s left. So Zachary saw Him;* "Satan on His right hand," and then must He be on Satan’s left. All changed; His cross into ease, His shame into glory.

Glory and rest, rest and glory, are two things that meet not here in our world. The glorious life hath not the most quiet, and the quiet life is for the most part inglorious. He that will have glory must make account to be despised oft and broken of his rest; and he that loveth his ease better, must be content with a mean condition far short of glory. Here then these meet not; there our hope is they shall, even both meet together,* and glory and rest kiss each the other; so the Prophet calleth it a "glorious rest."

And the right hand addeth yet a degree farther, for dextera est pars potior. So that if there be any rest more easy, or any glory more glorious than other, there it is on that hand, on that side; and He placed in it in the best, in the chiefest, the fulness of them both. At God’s right hand is not only power, power while we be here to protect us with His might outward, and to support us with His grace inward; but at "His right hand also is the fulness of joy for ever," saith the Psalm;* joy, and the fulness of joy, and the fulness of it for evermore.

This is meant by His seat at the right hand on the throne. And the same is our blessed hope also, that it is not His place only, and none but His, but even ours in expectation also. The love of His cross is to us a pledge of the hope of His throne, or whatsoever else He hath or is worth. For if God have given us Christ, and Christ thus given Himself, what hath God or Christ They will deny us? It is the Apostle’s own deduction.*

To put it out of all doubt, hear we His own promise That never brake His word.* "To him that overcometh will I give to sit with Me in My throne." Where to sit is the fulness of our desire, the end of our race, omnia in omnibus; and farther we cannot go. Of a joy set before Him we spoke ere-while: here is now a joy set before us, another manner joy than was before Him; the worse was set before Him, the better before us, and this we are to run to.

Thus do these two theories or sights, the one work to love, the other to hope, both to the well performing of our course; that in this theatre, between the Saints joyfully beholding us in our race, and Christ at our end ready to receive us, we may fulfil our "course with joy," and be partakers of the blessed rest of His most glorious throne.

Let us now turn to Him and beseech Him, by the sight of this day, by Himself first, and by His cross and throne both—both which He hath set before us, the one to awake our love, the other to quicken our hope—that we may this day and ever lift up our eyes and heads, that we may this day and ever carry them in our eyes and hearts, look up to them both; so look that we may love the one, and wait and hope for the other; so love and so hope that by them both we may move and that swiftly, even run to Him; and running not faint, but so constantly run, that we fail not finally to attain the happy fruition of Himself, and of the joy and glory of His blessed throne; that so we may find and feel Him as this day here, the "Author;" so in that day there, the "Finisher of our faith," by the same our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.

Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 2). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain)


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