« ElőzőTovább »
prehended in that one word, the shadow of death.' And in that it was only the word, and the Spirit of God which did support him: "This is my comfort in my affliction," When my saith he, "for thy word hath quickened me. afflictions had brought me to the very brink and darkness of the grave, thy word revived me again, and made me flourish. Unless thy law had been my delight, I should have perished in mine affliction."-Now then when I see a man, upon whom so many heavy pressures do meet, the weight of sin, the weight of God's heavy displeasure, the weight of a wounded spirit, the weight of a decayed body, the weight of scorn and temptations from Satan and the world,-in the midst of all this, not to turn unto lying vanities, not to consult with flesh and blood, nor to rely on the wisdom or help of man, but to lean only on this word, to trust in it at all times, and to cast all his expectations upon it, to make it his only rod and staff, to comfort him in such sore extremities; how can I but confess, that this word is indeed 'virga virtutis,' a rod of strength?
Lastly, The gospel of Christ is a rod of strength in sanctifying and blessing of our temporal things; as it is 'baculus panis,' a staff of bread. "Man liveth not by bread alone, but by the word which proceedeth out of God's mouth ';" not by the creature, but by the blessing which prepareth the creature for our use. Now it is the Word of God, namely, his promises in Christ, of things concerning this life, as well as that which is to come, that doth sanctify the creatures of God m, to those who with thankfulness receive them. The fall of man brought a pollution upon the creatures, a curse upon the stone and timber of a man's house, a snare upon his table, a poison and bitterness upon his meat, distractions and terrors upon his bed, emptiness and vexation upon all his estate; which cleaves as fast thereunto, as blackness to the skin of an Ethiopian, or sin to the soul of man. For all the creatures of God are by sin mischievously converted into the instruments and provisions of lust.":-the sun and all the glorious lights of nature, but instruments to serve the pride, covetousness, adultery, vanity of a lustful
i Psal. cxix. 50, 52.
k 2 Chron. xxxii. 8. 1 Mat. iv. 4. n Rom. xiii. 14. 1 John ii. 16.
m 1 Tim.
eye: all the delicacies which the earth, air, or sea can afford, but materials to feed the luxury and intemperance of a lustful body-all the honours and promotions of the world, but fuel to satisfy the haughtiness and ambition of a lustful heart. That Word then which can fetch out this leprosy from the creatures, and put life, strength, and comfort into them again, must needs be virga virtutis,' a rod of strength.
Secondly, The gospel and spirit of Christ, is a rod of strength, in regard of his, and his church's enemies; able both to repel, and to revenge all their injuries; to disappoint the ends and machinations of Satan; to triumph and get above the persecutions of men; to get a treasure which no malice nor fury of the enemy can take away,—a nobleness of mind, which no insultation of the adversary can abate,-a security of condition, and calmness of spirit, which no worldly tempests can any more extinguish than the darkness of a cloud, or the boisterousness of a wind can blot out the lustre, or perturb the order of celestial bodies; a heavenly wisdom able to prevail against the gates of Hell, and to stop the mouths of every gainsayer. The Word hath ever 'a readiness to revenge disobedience,' as the apostle speaks; it hardens the faces of men P, and arms them, that they may break all those who fall upon them.
This power of the Word towards wicked men showeth itself in many particulars: First, In a mighty work of conviction. The Spirit was therefore sent into the world, to convince it by the ministry of the gospel; which one word containeth the ground of the whole strength here spoken of; for all, which the Word bringeth to pass, it doth it by the conviction of the Spirit. This conviction is twofold: A conviction unto conversion, whereby the hearts of men are wonderfully over-ruled, by that invincible evidence of the Spirit of truth, to feel and acknowledge their woful condition by reason of sin, so long as they continue in unbelief,-to take unto themselves the just shame and confusion of face which belongs unto them,-to give unto God the glory of his righteous and just severity, if he should destroy them,—and hereupon to be, secondly, by the terror of the Lord per
• 2 Cor. x. 6.
P Jer. i. 8, 9. vi. 27. Ezek. iii. 8, 9.
9 Mat, xxi. 44.
suaded to count worthy of all acceptation any deliverance out of that estate, which shall be tendered unto them;-to admire, adore, and greedily embrace, any terms of peace and reconciliation which shall be offered them ;-to submit unto the righteousness, and, with all willing and meek affection, to bend the heart to the sceptre of Christ, and to whatsoever form of judicature and spiritual government he shall please to erect therein. And this magnifies the strength of this rod of Christ's kingdom, that it maketh men yield upon any terms: When we see the little stone grow into a mighty mountain, and eat into all the kingdoms of the world; when we see emperors and princes submit their necks and sceptres to a doctrine, at first everywhere spoken against, and that upon the words of a few despicable persons,-and that such a doctrine too as is diametrically contrary to the natural con-→ stitution of the hearts of men, and teacheth nothing but selfdenial, and this for hope of reward from one, whom they never saw, and whom if they had seen, they should have found, by a natural eye, no beauty in him, for which he should be desired; and this reward too, whatever it be, deferred for a long time, and in the interim no ground of assurance to expect it, but only faith in himself that promiseth it, and, in the mean time, a world of afflictions for his name sake;-How can we think that a world of wise and of great men, should give ear most willingly unto such terms as these, if there were not a demonstrative and constraining evidence of truth and goodness therein, able to stop the mouths, and to answer the objections of all gainsayers? Of this point, I have spoken more copiously upon another Scripture.-Secondly, there is a conviction unto condemnation of those, who stand out against this saving power of the gospel and Spirit of grace, driving them from all their strong holds, and constraining them perforce to acknowledge the truth which they do not love. Thus we find our Saviour' disputing with the Jews, till no man was able to answer him a word: and as he did so himself, so he promiseth that his messengers should do so too; "I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay, nor resist." And this promise we find made good: the ene
mies of Stephen' were not able to resist the Spirit by which he spake: and Apollos" mightily convinced the Jews, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ. And this the apostle numbereth amongst the qualifications of a bishop, that he should be able, by sound doctrine, to convince the gainsayers, and to stop the mouths of those unruly deceivers, whose business it is to subvert men: for this is the excellent virtue of God's word, that "it concludeth y" or shutteth men in, and leaveth not any gap or evasion of corrupted reason unanswered, or unprevented. Thus we find how the prophets in their ministry did still drive the Jews from their shifts, and press them with dilemmas, the inconveniences whereof they could on no side escape:-either there must be a fault in you, or else in God who rebuketh you; but now, "What iniquity," saith the Lord, "have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me? Have I been a wilderness unto Israel, or a land of darkness? Wherefore say my people, We are Lords, we will come no more unto thee? O my people, what have I done unto thee, and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me. I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites: Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel?" Here the Scripture useth that figure which is called by the rhetoricians communicatio,' a debating and deliberating with the adverse party; an evidencing of a cause so clearly, as that at last a man can challenge the adversary himself to make such a determination, as himself shall, in reason, judge the merit of the cause to require: "How shall I pardon thee for this?" and "How shall I do for the daughter of my people d?" Set me in a way, determine the controversy yourselves; and I will stand to the issue, which your own consciences shall make. “O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, between me and my vineyard;" that is, do you yourselves undertake the deciding of your own cause. When a band of armed men came against Christ to attack him, and at the pronouncing but of two words, I am he', fell all down backward to the earth; we must needs confess, that there
• Aets vi. 10. z Jer. xxv. 31. d Jer. ix. 7.
u Acts xviii. 28. a Micah vi. 3, 4. e Isai. v. 3.
f John xviii. 6.
× Tit. i. 9, 11.
y Gal. iii. 22. • Jer. v. 7.
was some mighty power and evidence of majesty in him that uttered them. What, think we, can he do, when he reigneth and judgeth the world, who did let out so much power when he was to die and be judged by the world? Now Christ reigneth and judgeth the world by his word, and that more mightily after his ascending up on high; and therefore he promiseth his apostles, that they should do greater works than he himself had done. When I shall see a man, -armed with scorn against Christ in his word, standing proudly upon the defence of his own ways, by his own wisdom, and wrapping up himself in the mud of his own carnal reasonings, by a few postulata, and deductions from God's word, to be enforced to stop his own mouth, to be condemned by his own witness, to betray his own succours, and to be shut up in a prison without bars; when I shall force such a man, by the mighty penetration and invincible evidence of God's word, to see his own conscience a hand subscribing to the truth which condemns him, and belying all those delusions which he had framed to deceive himself withal; who can deny but that the rod of God's mouth is indeed virga virtutis,' a rod of strength; a rod of iron, able to deal with all human reasonings, as a hammer with a potsherd ? which though to the hand of a man it may feel as hard as a rock, yet it is too brittle to endure the blow of an iron rod. Strange it is to observe how boldly men venture on sins, under the names of custom, or fashions, or some other pretences of corrupted reason, contrary to the clear and literal evidence of holy Scripture: the most immediate and grammatical sense whereof is ever soundest, where there doth not some apparent and unavoidable error in doctrine, or mischief in manners, follow thereupon". Men will justify the cause of the wicked for reward, and by dexterity of wit put a better colour upon a worse business, as hath been observed of Protagoras and Carneades P: and yet the Lord saith expressly, "Thou shalt not speak in a cause to
g Quid judicaturus faciat, qui judicandus hoc fecit? quid regnaturus poterit, qui moriturus hoc potuit? Aug. John xiv. 12. í Luke xix. 22. k Tit. iii. 11. 1 Wis. xvii. 11, 16. m Jer. xix. 11. n Aquin. par. 1. qu. 1. art. 10. ad primum.-Alphons. à Castro contra Hæres. lib. 1. cap. 3.-Glass. Philog. Sacra, lib. 2, page 338.-Hooker lib. 5. sect. 59. o Isai. v. 23. Exod. xxiii. 2, 7. P Τὸν ἥτλω λόγον κρείττω ποιῶν. 4. Gell,