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Order, under the stile of liberty to give scope to these unruly humours of men; the issue whereof can be no other than utter confusion. But if any power, besides divine, in heaven or earth, shall challenge to itself this privilege, to put a primary or immediate tie upon the conscience, so as it should be a sin to disobey that ordinance, because it is without relation to the command of the Highest let it be anathema. Our hearts have reason to be free, in spite of any such antichristian usurpation; while the owner of them hath charged us, not to be (thus) the servants of men ; 1 Cor. vii
. 23. So Christ hath, lastly, freed us from the bondage of Human Ordinances.
Lo, now, ye have seen our liberation from a whole heptarchy of spiritual tyranny ; stand still now awhile, Honourable and Beloved, and look back, with wondering and thankful eyes, upon the infinite mercy of our Deliverer. Sin beguiles us, conscience accuseth us, God's wrath is bent against us, Satan tyrannizes over us, the law condemns us, insolent superstition enthrals us; and now, from all these, Christ hath made us free. How should we now erect altars, to our dear Redeemer; and inscribe them Christo liberatori! How should we, from the altars of our devoted hearts, send up the holy sacrifices of our best obediences, the sweet incense of our perpetual prayers ! 0 Blessed Saviour, how should we, how can we enough magnify thee; no, not though those celestial choristers of thine should return, to bear a part with us, in renewing their gloria in excelsis, glory to God on high! Our bodies, our souls are too little for thee. Oh, take thine own from us, and give it to thyself, who hast both made and freed it.
To sum up all, then: we are freed from the bondage of sin, by the Spirit of Christ; from an accusing conscience, by the blood of Christ; from the wrath of God, by faith in Christ ; from the tyranny of Satan, by the victory of Christ ; from the curse of the law, by the satisfaction of Christ ; from the law of ceremonies, by the consummation of Christ; from human ordinances, by the manumission and instruction of Christ : and now, stand fast in all these liberties, wherewith Christ hath made you free.
III. And so, from the Liberty and Prerogative, we descend to the MAINTENANCE OF THIS LIBERTY; Stand fast.
Is it any boot to bid a man hold fast our once recovered liberty? Did ye ever hear of a wild bird,, that, once let out of the cage wherein she hath been long enclosed, would come Auttering about the wires to get in again? Did ye ever see a slave, that, after his ransom paid and his discharge obtained, would run back, and sue for a place in his galley?
Casuists dispute, whether a prisoner, though condemned, may, upon breach of prison, escape; and the best resolve it affirmatively: so Cajetan, Soto, Navarre, Lessius, others. Their reason is; for that he is not sentenced to remain voluntarily in bonds, but to be kept so; neither is it the duty of the offender to stay, but of the keeper to hold him there : hence chains and fetters are or. dained, where otherwise twists of tow were sufficient: but never
any casuist doubted, whether a prisoner would be glad to be free; or, once well escaped, would or ought to return to his gaol: that self-love, which is engraffed in every breast, will be sure to forbid so prejudicial an act.
God himself hath forbidden to deliver back the slave, that is run from his master; Deut. xxiii. 15. Hagar thought it a hard word, Return to thy mistress, and be beaten ; Gen. xvi. 9. If Noah's dove had not found more refuge than restraint in the ark, I doubt whether it had returned with an olive-branch.
( then, what strange madness possesseth us, that, being ransomed by the precious blood of the Son of God, paid down for us upon the Cross, we should again put our neck under the servile yoke of Sin, Satan, Men!
The two first shall go together: indeed they cannot be severed: wherever sin is, there is a devil at the end of it. Why will we be the servants of corruptions ? 2 Pet. ii. 19: servants, both by nature and by will
. The philosophers dispute, whether there be servus natură : divinity defines it clearly, servi eratis peccati, ye were the servants of sin; Rom. vi. 17: though not more by nature, than by will. Contrary to the civil condition, there is no servitude here but willing., Št. Paul's thesis, His servants ye are to whom ye obey, is reduced, by our Saviour, to this hypothesis ; He, that doth sin, is the servant of sin ; John viii. 34. Do we then obey the filthy lusts of our brutish sensuality ? how high soever we look, we are but vassals: and our servitude is so much more vile, as our master is more despicable. A prince's vassal may think himself as good as a poor free-man; but a slave's slave goes in rank with a beast : such is every one, that endrudgeth himself to any known sin. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned ; saith the Psalmist : a vile person; who is that ? Be not deceived, it is not the habit, that makes a man vile; but the conditions. No rags can make the good man other than glorious : no robe can make the lewd man other than base: When we see and hear of high titles, rich coats, ancient houses, long pedigrees, glittering suits, large retinues, we honour these, and so we must do, as the just monuments, signs, appendances of civil greatness : but, let me tell you withal, the eyes of God, his saints, and angels look upon any of you as a vile person, if his sin be his master. As they say of Lewis the Eleventh, that he was the slave of his physician Corterius, but a tyrant to others; so, nothing hinders, but that ye may be the commanders of others, and yet, the while, vassals to your own corruptions. It is the heathen man's question : blush, Oye Christians, blush for shame to hear it: An ille mihi liber, cui mulier imperat ? “ Shall he go for a free man, that is a slave to his courtezan?” that is at the command of her eyes, and hangs upon the doom of her variable lips ? Shall he go for a free man, that is at the mercy of his cups; whether for mirth or rage? Shall he go for a free man, that is loaden with fetters of gold; more servile to this metal, than the Indian that gets it? Shall he go for a free man, that is ever fastened upon the rack of envy or ambition ? Hate this
condition, O all ye Noble and Generous Courtiers : and, as ye glory to affect freedom, and scorn nothing so much as the reputation of baseness, abhor those sins, that have held you in a miserable and cursed servitude : Stand fast in the liberty, wherewith Christ hath made you free.
Lastly, what should we, or why do we, enthral our consciences to the sinful yoke of the corrupt ordinances of Men ? That, which the legal ceremonies were to the Jews, popish traditions are to us : yea, more and worse. Those ceremonies were prefigurations of Christ to come: these traditions are defigurations and deformations of Christ exhibited. Those were of God's prescribing these, of that horno delinquentiæ, as Tertullian construes it ; that man of sin : see what a stile here is, as if he were made all of impiety and corruption. That, which Rehoboam said of himself,' we may justly borrow here : The Pope's little finger is heavier than Moses's loins. From these superstitions and antichristian impositions, Christ hath freed us, by the clear light of the glorious Gospel of his Son Christ Jesus: Oh, stand fast now in the liberty, wherewith Christ hath inade you free. Give leave, I beseech you, Most Gracious Sovereign, and ye Honourable and Beloved Christians, to my just importunity ; if, in these cold, slippery, backsliding times, I press this needful exhortation with more than common vehemence.
Hath the Gospel of Christ freed us from the idolatrous adoration of Daniel's Maazim, a breaden God: and shall any of us so fır abdicate, not our religion only, but our reason; as to creep, crouch, and to worship that which the baker makes a cake, and the priest makes a God? Crustum pro Christo, as he said? And if Israel play the harlot, yet oh why will Judah sin ? If the poor seduced souls of foreign subjects, that have been invincibly noursled up in ignorance and superstition, whose woeful case we do truly commiserate with weeping and bleeding hearts, be carried hoodwinked to those hideous impieties, which if they had our eyes, our means they would certainly detest, shall the native subjects of the Defender of the Faith, who have been trained up in so clear a light of the Gospel, begin to cast wanton eyes upon their glorious superstitions; and, contrary to the laws of God and our Sovereign, throng to their exotical devotions? What shall we say? Increpa, Domine; Master, rebuke them. And ye, to whom God hath given grace to see and bewail the lamentable exorbitances of their superstitions, settle your souls in the noble resolution of faithful Joshua, I and my house will serve the Lord. Stand fast in the liberty, wherewith Christ hath made you frec.
Hath the Gospel of God freed us from the worship of stocks and stones ; from the mis-religious invocation of those, who, we know, cannot hear us; from the sacrilegious mutilation of the blessed sacrament; from the tyrannical usurpations of a sinful vicegod; from the dangerous reliance upon the inerrable sentence of him, that cannot say true; from the idle fears of imaginary purgatories; from buying of pardons, and selling of sins; shortly, from the whole body of damnable antichristianism and shall our unstable mouths now begin to water at the onions and garlic of our forsaken Egypt? O Dear Christians, if ye love your souls, if ye fear hell, Stand fast in this liberty, wherewith Christ hath made you free.
What mercy soever may abide well-meaning ignorance, let the wilful revolter make account of damnation. I cannot, without yearning of bowels, think of the dear price, that our holy forefathers staked down for this liberty of the Gospel ; no less than their best and last blood. And shall we, their unthrifty progeny, lavish it out carelessly, in a willing neglect; and either not care to exchange it for a plausible bondage,
or squander it out in unnecessary differences?
Do but cast your eyes back upon the fresh memory of those late flourishing times of this goodly kingdom, when pure religion was not more cheerfully professed, than inviolably maintained : how did we then thrive at home, and triumph abroad! How were we then the terror, the envy of nations ! 'Our name was enough to affright, to amate an enemy. But now, since we have let fall our first love, and suffered the weak languishments and qualms of the truth under our hands, I fear and grieve to tell the issue.
Oh then, suffer yourselves, Oye Noble and Beloved Christians, to be roused up from that dull and lethargic indifferency, wherein ye have thus long slept; and awake up your holy courages for God, and his sacred truth. And, since we have so many comfortable and assured engagements from our pious Sovereign, Oh let not us be wanting to God, to his Majesty, to ourselves, in our utmost endeavours of advancing the good success of the blessed Gospel of Christ. Honour God with your faithful and zealous prosecutions of his holy truth, and he shall honour you; and, besides the restoration of that ancient glory to our late-clouded nation, shall repay our good offices done to his Name, with an eternal weight of glory in the highest heavens: To the possession whereof, he, that hath ordained us, in his good time mercifully bring us, for the sake of the Son of his Love, Jesus Christ the Just: To whom, with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, one Infinite God, be given all praise, honour, and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
SALVATION FROM AN UNTOWARD GENERATION: ONE OF THE SERMONS PREACHED TO THE LORDS OF THE HIGH COURT
OF PARLIAMENT, IN THEIR SOLEMN FAST, HELD ON ASH-WEDNES. DAY, FEBRUARY 18, 1629*; AND, BY THEIR APPOINTMENT, PUBLISHED,
BY THE BISHOP OF EXETER.
ACTS ii. 37, 38, 40. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts, and said
to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, Men and Brethren, what shall we do? Then said Peter unto them, Repent and be baptized, &c. And with many other words did he testify, and exhort them, say
ing, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Who knows not, that Simon Peter was a fisher? that was his trade both by sea and land: if we may not rather say, that as Simon he was a fisherman, but as Peter he was a fisher of men: he, that called him so, made him so.
And, surely, his first draught of fishes, which, as Simon, he made at our Saviour's command, might well be a true type of the first draught of men, which, as Peter, he made in this place: for as then the nets were ready to crack, and the ship to sink with store; so here, when he threw forth his first drag-net of heavenly doctrine and reproof, three thousand souls were drawn up at once.
This Text was as the sacred cord, that drew the net together; and pulled up this wondrous shoal of converts to God. It is the sum of St. Peter's Sermon; if not at a Fast, yet at a general Humiliation, which is more and better: for wherefore fast we, but to be humbled? and, if we could be duly humbled without fasting, it would please God a thousand times better, than to fast forınally without true humiliation.
Indeed, for the time, this was a Feast, the Feast of Pentecost: but, for the estate of these Jews it was dies cinerum, a day of contrition, a day of deep hunger and thirst after righteousness; Men and Brethren, what shall we do? Neither doubt I to say, that the festivity of the season added not a little to their humiliation: like as we are never so apt to take cold, as upon a sweat; and that wind is ever the keenest, which blows cold out of a warm coast.
* The date of the year is not given in the folio, but I have ventured to add it, as the Ashwednesday which fell on February 18, was in the year 1629; or, 1628, as perhaps the Bishop would call it, the Church of England then beginning the year on March 25. See Notes to che Dates of Sermons XXIX and XXXVI.