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No day could be more afflictive, than an Ashwednesday, that should light upon a solemn Pentecost : so it was here.
Everything answered well. The Spirit came down upon them, in a mighty wind; and, behold, it hath rattled their hearts together: the house shook in the descent; and, behold, here the foundations of the soul were moved: fiery tongues appeared; and here their breasts were inflamed: cloven tongues, and here their hearts were cut in sunder. The words were miraculous, because in a supernatural and sudden variety of language; the matter divine, laying before them both the truth of the Messiah, and their bloody measure offered to that Lord of Life.
And now, Compuncti cordibus; They were pricked in their hearts. Wise Solomon says, The words of the wise are like goads and nails : here they were so. Goads, for they were compuncti, pricked: yea, but the goad could not go so deep, that passeth but the skin: they were nails, driven into the very heart of the auditors, up to the head: the great master of the assembly, the divine Apostle had set them home; they were pricked in their hearts. Never were words better bestowed. It is a happy blood-letting, that saves the life : this did so here. We look to the sign commonly in phlebotomy: it is a sign of our idle and ignorant superstition. St. Peter here saw the sign to be in the heart; and he strikes happily: Compuncti cordibus; They were pricked in their hearts, and said, Men and Brethren, what shall we do?
Oh, what sweet music was this to the Apostle's ear! I dare say none but heaven could afford better. What a pleasing spectacle was this anguish of their wounded souls! To see men come, in their zealous devotions, and lay down their monies, the price of their alienated possessions, at those apostolic feet, was nothing to this, that they came, in a bleeding contrition, and prostrated their penitent and humbled souls at the beautiful feet of the messengers of peace, with Men and Brethren, what shall we do?
Oh when, when shall our eyes be blessed with so happy a prospect? How long shall we thunder out God's fearful judgments against wilful sinners? How long shall we threaten the tiames of hell to those impious wretches, who crucify again to themselves the Lord of Life, ere we can wring a sigh or a tear from the rocks of their hearts or eyes ? Woe is me, that we may say too truly, as this Peter did of his other fishing, Master, we have travailed all the night, and have caught nothing. Surely, it may well go for night with us, while we labour and prevail not. Nothing? not a soul caught? Lord, what is become of the success of thy Gospel? Who hath believed our report, or to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed ? () God, thou art ever thyself: thy truth is eternal: hell is where it was. If we be less worthy than thy first messengers, yet what excuse is this to the besotted world, that, through obduredness and infidelity, it will needs perish? No man will so much as say with the Jews, What have I done? or, with St. Peter's auditors, What shall I do?
O foolish sinners! shall ye live here always ? care ye not for
your souls? is there not a hell, that gapes for your stubborn iinpenitence? Go on, if there be no remedy, go on, and die for ever: we are guiltless : God is righteous: your damnation is just. But, if your life be fickle, death unavoidable, if an everlasting vengeance be the necessary reward of your momentary wickedness; oh turn, turn from your evil ways, and, in a holy distraction of your remorsed souls, say, with these Jews, Men and Brethren, what shall
This from the general view of the occasion; we descend to a little more particularity.
Luke, the beloved physician, describes St. Peter's proceeding here much after his own trade, as of a true spiritual physician; who, finding his countrymen, the Jews, in a desperate and deadly condition, gasping for life, struggling with death, enters into a speedy and zealous course of their cure.
And, first, he begins with the chirurgical part; and, finding them rank of blood, and that foul and putrified, he lets it out: coinpuncti cordibus.
Where we might shew you the incision, the vein, the lancet, the orifice, the anguish of the stroke. The Incision, compuncti; they were pricked. The Vein, in their hearts. Smile not now, ye Physicians, if any hear me this day, as if I had passed a solecism, in telling you these men were pricked in the vein of the heart: talk you of your cephalica, and the rest; and tell us of another cistern, from whence these tubuli sanguinis are derived: I tell you again, with an addition of more incongruities still, that God and his divine physician do still let blood in the median vein of the heart. The Lancet is the keen and cutting reproof of their late barbarous crucifixion of their Holy and most Innocent and Benign Saviour. The Orifice is the ear; when they heard this. Whatever the local distance be of these parts, spiritually the ear is the very surface of the heart; and, whosoever would give a medicinal stroke to the heart, must pass it through the ear, the sense of discipline and correction. The Anguish bewrays itself in their passionate exclamation, Men and Brethren, what shall we do?
There is none of these, which my speech might not well take up; if not as a house to dwell in, yet as an inn to rest and lodge in. But I will not so much as bait here: only, we make this a throughfare to those other sacred prescriptions of saving remedies, which are Three in number.
The first is, Evacution of sins by a speedy REPENTANCE, MelævoETTE.
The second, the sovereign Bath or Laver of Regeneration, BAPTISM.
The third, dietetical and prophylactical receipts of wholesome CAUTION; which I mean, with a determinate preterition of the rest, to spend my hour upon: Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
But, ere I pitch upon this most useful and seasonable particularity, let me offer to your thoughts the speedy application of these gracious remedies.
The blessed Apostle doth not let his patients languish under his hand, in the heats and colds of hopes and fears; but, so soon as ever the word is out of their mouths, Men and Brethren, what shall we do? he presently administereth these sovereign receipts, Repent; be baptized; save yourselves. In acute diseases, wise physicians will lose no time: only delay makes some distempers deadly. It is not for us, to let good motions freeze under our fingers. How many gleeds have died in their ashes, which, if they had been speedily blown, had risen into comfortable flames! The care of our zeal for God must be sure to take all opportunities of good. This is the Apostle's reigos de hellery, serving the time; that is, observing it: not for conformity to it when it is naught; (fie on that baseness : no; let the declining time come to us upon true and constant grounds, let not us stoop to it in the terms of the servile yieldance of Optatus his Donatists, Omnia pro tempore, nihil pro veritate:) not, I say, for conformity to it; but for advantage of it. The emblem teaches us to take occasion by the fore-lock; else we catch too late. The Israelites must go forth and gather their manna so soon as it is fallen: if they stay but till the sun have reached his noon-point, in vain shall 'they seek for that food of angels. St. Peter had learnt this of his Master: when the shoal was ready, Christ says, Laxate retia; Luke v. 4: what should the net do now in the ship? When the fish was caught, Christ says, Draw up again: what should the net do now in the sea?
What should I advise you, Reverend Fathers and Brethren, the princes of our Israel, as the doctors are called Judges v. 9, to speak a word in season? What should I presume to put into your hands these apples of gold with pictures of silver? What should I persuade you to these fred FlegóevTA, to wing your words with speed, when the necessity of endangered souls calls for them? Oh, let us row hard while the tide of
grace serves. When we see a large door and effectual opened unto us, let us throng in, with a peaceable and zealous importunity to be sure. Oh, let us preach the word sünnipus, inccipws, in season, out of scason; and carefully watch for the best advantages of prevailing : and, when the iron of men's hearts is softened by the fire of God's Spirit, and made flexible by a meet humiliation, delay not to strike, and make a gracious impression, as St. Peter did here, Repent, be baptized : Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
Now to the main and all-sufficient Recipe for these feeling distempers; Save yourselves. This is the very extracted quintessence of St. Peter's long Sermon; in which alone is included and united the sovereign virtue of Repentance, of Baptism, of whatsoever Help to a converting soul: so as I shall not need to speak explicitly of them, while I enlarge myself to the treating of this universal remedy, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
Would you think that St. Luke hath given me the division of this, whether Text or Sermon of St. Peter? Ye shall not find the like otherwhere: here it is clearly so: Διεμαρίύρετο, και παρεκάλε; he testifies, he exhorts. He testifies, what he thinks of the times; he erhorts, or beseeches, as the Syriac turns it, to avoid their danger: both of them, as St. Austiu well, refer to this one divine sentence. The parts whereof then are, in St. Luke's division, Peter's repre. hensory ATTESTATION, and his OBTESTATION: his reprehensory At. testation to the common wickedness; yevɛà cxonid: his Obtestation of their freedom and indemnity; Eubnte, Save yourselves.
I. To begin with the ATTESTATION.
What is a generation? what is an untoward generation ? Either word hath some little mist about it.
The very word generation hath begot multiplicity of senses. Without ail perplexedness of search, we will single out the properly-intended for this place. As times, so we in them, are in continual passage. Every thing is in motion: the heavens do not more move above our heads in a circular revolution, than we here on earth do by a perpetual alteration. Now, all that are contained in one list of time, whether fixed or uncertain, are a generation of men, Fixed: so Suidas under-reckons it by seven years; but the ordinary rate is a hundred. It is a clear text, Gen. xv. 16. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: when is that? to the shame of Galatinus, who clouds it with the fancy of the four kinds or manners of man's existence, Moses himself interprets it of four hundred years; verse 13.
Uncertain: so Solomon; One generation passeth, another cometh. The very term implies transitoriness. It is with men, as with rasps : one stalk is growing, another grown up, a third withered, and all upon one root. Or, as with flowers, and some kinds of Aies: they grow up, and seed, and die. Ye see your condition, () ye Great Men of the earth. It is no staying here: Orimur, morimur. After the acting of a short part upon this stage, ye must withdraw for ever. Make no other account but, with Abraham, to serve your generation, and away. Ye can never more fitly hear of your mortality, than now, that ye are under that roof, which covers the monuments of your dead and forgotten progenitors.
What is an untoward generation ? cuonid: It is promiscuously turned frouard, perverse, crooked. The opposition to Ta onora is, εις ευθειαν. All is as one: whatever swerves from the right is crooked. The Law is a right line: and, what crookedness is in nature, frowardness and untowardness is in morality. Shortly, there is a double crookedness and untowardness: one, negative; another, positive. The first is a failing of that right we should either have or be; the second, a contrary habit of vicious qualities: and both these are either in credendis, or agendis; in “ matter of Faith,” or “ matter of Fact.” The first, when we do not believe or do what we ought; the second, when we misbelieve or mislive.
The first is an untowardness of Omission; the second, of Commission.
1. The OMISSIVE UNTOWARDNESS shall lead the way; and that,
(..) In matter of Belief. This is it, whereof our Saviour spake to the two disciples in their warm walk to Emmaus, O fools, and slow of heart to believe ! whereof the proto-martyr Stephen to his auditors, onlypoipoxylos. The stiff neck, the uncircumcised ear, the fat heart, the blinded eye, the obdurate soul (que nec movetur precibus, nec cedit minis, as Bernard) are wont to be the expressions of this untowardness. · If these Jews then, after so clear predictions of the prophets; after so miraculous demonstrations of the divine power of Christ; after so many graves ransacked, dead raised, devils ejected, limbs and eyes new-created; after such testimonies of the Star, Sages, Angels, God himself; after such triumphs over death and hell; do yet detrect to believe in him, and to receive him for their Messiah, most justly are they, in this first kind, ononded yeved, a froward generation. And so is any nation under heaven, that follows them in the steps of their peevish incredulity; more or less shutting their eyes upon the glorious light of Saving Truth: like that sullen tree in the Indies, which, they say, closes itself against the beams of the rising sun, and opens only to the dampish shades of the night. Where we must take this rule with us, a rule of most just proportion, That the means of light to any nation aggravate the heinousness and damnableness of their unbelief. The time of that ignorance God regarded not, but now; saith St. Paul to the Athenians; Acts xvii. 30. If I had not come and spoken to them, they should have had no sin; saith our Saviour, John xv. 22. Those, that walk in Cimmerian, in Egyptian darkness, it is neither shame nor wonder, if they either err or stumble; but, for a man to stumble the sun in the face, or to grope by the walls at noon in the midst of Goshen, is so much more hateful, as the occasion is more willing:
(2.) The latter, which is the negative untowardness in Action, is, when any nation fails palpably in those holy duties of piety, justice, charity, which the Royal Law of their God requireth. Of this kind, are those usual complaints; The fear of God is not before their eyes. God looked to see if there were any that looked after
. God, and behold there was none. The righteous is perished from the children of men. Behold the tears of the oppressed, and none comforted them. The prophets are full of these querulous notes: there is not a page of them free; yea, hardly shall ye meet with one line of theirs, which doth not brand their Israel with this defect of holiness.
2. From the Negative, cast your eyes upon the POSITIVE CROOKEDNESS or UNTOWARDNESS. That is, in matter of Faith; the maintenance of impiety, misbelief, heresy, superstition, atheism, and whatever other intellectual wickedness : in matter of Fact; idola. tries, profane carriage, violation of God's days and ordinances, disobediences, murders, adulteries, thefts, drunkenness, lies, detractions, or any other actual rebellion against God. Behold, I have drawn forth before you a hellish rabble of sins, enough to mar a world. Whatever nation now, or succession of men, abounds, either in these sinful omissions or these heinous commissions, whether in matter of judgment or manners, is cxorde zeved, an untoward generation. That, which makes a man crooked or untoward, makes a generation so; for what is a generation, but a resultance of men? their number doth not vary their condition. But let not our zeal,