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that reads the woman's ointment in the gospel, or sees Jerusalem destroyed. With some of these heads enlarged, and woven into his discourse, at several times and occasions, the parson settleth wavering minds. But if he sees them nearer desperation than atheism; not so much doubting a God, as that he is theirs; then he dives into the boundless ocean of God's love, and the unspeakable riches of his loving-kindness. He hath one argument unanswerable. If God hate them, either he doth it as they are creatures, dust and ashes; or as they are sinful.. As creatures, he must needs love them; for no perfect artist ever yet hated his own work. As sinful, he must much more love them; because, notwithstanding his infinite hate of sin, his love overcame that hate, and that with an exceeding great victory; which in the creation needed not, gave them love for love, even the Son of his love, out of his bosom of love. So that man, which way soever he turns, hath two pledges of God's love, (that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established,) the one in his being, the other in his sinful being: and this as the more faulty in him, so the more glorious in God. And all may certainly conclude, that God loves them, till either they despise that love, or despair of his mercy: not any sin else, but is within his love; but the despising of love must needs be without it. The thrusting away of his arm makes us only not embraced.
The parson's condescending. The country parson is a lover of old customs, if they be good and harmless; and the rather, because country people are much addicted to them, so that to favour them therein is to win their hearts, and to oppose them therein is to deject them. If there be any ill in the custom, which may be severed from the good, he pares the apple, and gives them the clean to feed on. Particularly, he loves procession, and maintains it, because there are contained therein four manifest advantages. First, a blessing of God for the fruits of the field : Secondly, justice in the preservation of bounds: Thirdly, charity in loving, walking, and neighbourly accompanying one another, with reconciling of differences at that time, if there be any: Fourthly, mercy in relieving the poor by a liberal distribution and largess, which at that time is or ought to be used. Wherefore he exacts of all to be present at the perambulation; and those that withdraw, and sever themselves from it, he mislikes and reproves as uncharitable and unneighbourly; and if they will not reform, presents them. Nay, he is so far from condemning such assemblies, that he rather
procures them to be often, as knowing that absence breeds strangeness, but presence love. Now love is his business and aim; wherefore he likes well, that his parish at good times invite one another to their houses, and he urgeth them to it: and sometimes, where he knows there hath been, or is, a little difference, he takes one of the parties, and goes with him to the other, and all dine or sup together. There is much preaching in this friendliness. Another old custom there is of saying, when light is brought in, “God send us the light of heaven;" and the parson likes this very well; neither is he afraid of praising or praying to God at all times, but is rather glad of catching opportunities to do them. Light is a great blessing, and as great as food, for which we give thanks : and those that think this superstitious, neither know superstition, nor themselves. As for those that are ashamed to use this form, as being old and obsolete, and not the fashion, he reforms and teaches them, that at baptism they professed not to be ashamed of Christ's cross, or for any shame to leave that which is good. He that is ashamed in small things, will extend his pusillanimity to greater. Rather should a Christian soldier take such occasions to harden himself, and to further his exercises of mortification.
The parson blessing. The country parson wonders, that blessing the people is in so little use with his brethren: whereas he thinks it not only a grave and reverend thing, but a beneficial also. Those who use it not, do so either out of niceness, because they like the salutations, and compliments, and forms of worldly language better: which conformity and fashionableness is so exceeding unbefitting a minister, that it deserves reproof, not refutation : or else, because they think it empty and superfluous. But that which the apostles used so diligently in their writings, nay, which our Saviour himself used, Mark x. 16. cannot be vain and superfluous. But this was not proper to Christ, or the apostles only, no more than to be a spiritual father was appropriated to them. And if temporal fathers bless their children, how much more may and ought spiritual fathers ? Besides, the priests of the Old Testament were commanded to bless the people, and the form thereof is prescribed, Numb. vi. Now as the apostle argues in another case, if the ministration of condemnation did bless, how shall not the ministration of the Spirit exceed in blessing ? The fruit of this blessing good Hannah found, and received with great joy, 1 Sam. i. 18. though it came from a man disallowed by God: for it was not the person, but priesthood, that blessed; so that even ill priests may bless. Neither have the ministers power of blessing only, but also of cursing. So in the Old Testament Elisha cursed the children, 2 Kings ii. 24. which though our Saviour reproved as unfitting for his particular, who was to shew all humility before his passion, yet he allows it in his apostles. And therefore St. Peter used that fearful imprecation to Simon Magus, Acts viii. Thy money perish with thee: and the event confirmed it. So did St. Paul, 2 Tim. iv. 14. and 1 Tim. i. 20. Speaking of Alexander the coppersmith, who had withstood his preaching, The Lord, saith he, reward him according to his works. And again, of Hymeneus and Alexander, he saith, he had delivered them to Satan, that they might leurn not to blaspheme. The forms both of blessing and cursing are expounded in the Common Prayer Book,
the one in The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, &c. and, The peace of God, &c. The other in general in the Commination.
Now blessing differs from prayer in assurance, because it is not performed by way of request, but of confidence and power, effectually applying God's favour to the blessed, by the interesting of that dignity wherewith God hath invested the priest, and engaging of God's own power and institution for a blessing. The neglect of this duty in ministers themselves, hath made the people also neglect it; so that they are so far from craving this benefit from their ghostly father, that they oftentimes go out of church, before he hath blessed them. In the time of popery, the priest’s benedicite, and his holy water, were over-highly valued; and now we are fallen to the clean contrary, even from superstition to coldness and atheism. But the parson first values the gift in himself, and then teacheth his parish to value it. And it is observable, that if a minister talk with a great man in the ordinary course of complimenting language, he shall be esteemed as an ordinary complimenter; but if he often interpose a blessing, when the other gives him just opportunity, by speaking any good, this unusual form begets a reverence, and makes him esteemed according to his profession. The same is to be observed in writing letters also. To conclude, if all men are to bless upon occasion, as appears Rom. xii. 14. how much more those who are spiritual fathers ?
Concerning detraction. THE country parson, perceiving that most, when they are at leisure, make others' faults their entertainment and discourse, and that even some good men think, so they speak truth, they may disclose another's fault, finds it somewhat difficult how to proceed in this point. For if he absolutely shut up men's mouths, and forbid all disclosing of faults, many an evil may not only be, but also spread in his parish, without any remedy, (which cannot be applied without notice,) to the dishonour of God, and the iðfection of his flock, and the discomfort, discredit, and hinderance of the pastor. On the other side, if it be unlawful to open faults, no benefit or advantage can make it lawful: for we must not do evil, that good may come of it. Now the parson taking this point to task, which is so exceeding useful, and hath taken so deep root, that it seems the very life and substance of conversation, hath proceeded thus far in the discussing of it. Faults are either notorious or private. Again, notorious faults are either such as are made known by common fame, (and of these, those that know them, may talk, so they do it not with sport, but commiseration ;) or else such as have passed judgment, and been corrected either by whipping, or imprisoning, or the like. Of these also men may talk, and more, they may discover them to those that know them not; because infamy is a part of the sentence against malefactors, which the law intends, as is evident by those, which are branded for rogues, that they may be known; or put into the stocks, that they may be looked upon. But some may say, though the law allow this, the gospel doth not, which hath so much advanced charity, and ranked backbiters among the generation of the wicked, Rom. i. 30. But this is easily answered: as the executioner is not uncharitable that takes away the life of the condemned, except, besides his office, he add a tincture of private malice in the joy and haste of acting his part; so neither is he that defames him, whom the law would have defamed, except he also do it out of rancour. For in infamy all are executioners, and the law gives a malefactor to all to be defamed. And as malefactors may lose and forfeit their goods or life, so may they their good name, and the possession thereof, which before their offence and judgment they had in all men's breasts : for all are honest, till the contrary be proved. Besides, it concerns the commonwealth, that rogues should be known, and charity to the public hath the precedence of private charity. So that it is so far from being a fault to discover such offenders, that it is a duty rather, which may do much good, and save much harm. Nevertheless, if the punished delinquent shall be much troubled for his sins, and turn quite another man, doubtless then also men's affections and words must turn, and forbear to speak of that, which even God himself hath forgotten.