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A SERMON OF COMMEMORATION
OF THE LADY DANVERS, LATE WIFE OF SIR JOHN DANVERS.
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
2 Pet. iii. 13.
I PROPOSE to myself, and to this congregation, two works for this day; that we may walk together two miles in this sabbath day's journey; first, to instruct the living, and then to commemorate the dead; which office, as I ought, so I should have performed sooner, but that this sad occasion surprised me under other preobligations and precontracts in the services of mine own profession, which could not be excused nor avoided. And being come now to this double work, whether I look up to the throne of heaven and that firmament for my first work, the instruction of the living, or down to the stones of the grave and that pavement for my second work, the commemoration of the dead, I need no other words than these which I have read to you for both purposes: for to assist the resurrection of your souls I say, and to assure the resurrection of your bodies she says, Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. But first let us do our first work, and pursue the literal purpose of the apostle in these words; which words, out of their connection and coherence, be pleased to receive thus spread and dilated into this paraphrase: Nevertheless, that is, though there be scoffers and jesters that deride and laugh at the second coming of Christ (as the apostle had said verse 3); and nevertheless again, though this day of the Lord will certainly come, and come as a thief, and as a thief in the night, and when it comes the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and all the works that are therein, shall be burnt up (as he had also said verse 10); though there be such a scorn put upon it by scoffers and jesters, and though there be such a horror in the truth of the thing itself; yet nevertheless, for all that, for all that scorn, and for all that horror, we, we, says the text, we that are fixed in God, we that are not ignorant of this one thing (as he says verse 8), that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day; we that know that the Lord is not slack in his promise, though he be long-stiffering to usward (as he also says verse 9); we, according to his promises, that is, building upon that foundation his Scriptures, presuming upon nothing that is not in that evidence, and doubting of nothing that is there, we expect, we look for something, "says our text, which we have not yet; we determine not ourselves, nor our contentment, in those things which God gives us here; not in his temporal, not in his spiritual blessings in this life; but we expect future things, greater than we are capable of here, for we look for new heavens and new earth, in which that which is not at all to be had here, or is but an obscure inmate, a short sojourner, a transitory passenger in this world, that is righteousness, shall not only be, but dwell for ever; nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. So then in this our voyage through this sea, which is truly a Mediterranean sea, a sea betwixt two lands, the land of possession which we have, and the land of promise which we expect, this old and that new earth, that our days may be the better in this land which the Lord our God hath given us, and the surer in that land which the Lord our God will give us; in this sea voyage be these our landmarks by which we shall steer our whole course: first, the day of judgment is subject to scorn, some laugh at it; and then (in a second consideration) it induces horror, the best man, that is but man, trembles at it; but we (which is a third branch), those that have laid hold upon God; and (in a fourth place) have laid hold upon God by the right handle, according to his promises; we (which will constitute a fifth point), we expect, we bless God for our possession, but we look for a greater reversion, which reversion (in the next room) is new heavens and new earth; and (lastly) such heavens and such earth as may be an everlasting dwelling for righteousness. And through all these particulars we shall pass with as much clearness and shortness as the weight and number thereof will admit.
First then, to shake the constancy of a Christian there will always be scorners, jesters, scoffers, and mockers at religion. The period and consummation of the Christian religion, the judgment day, the second coming of Christ, will always be subject to scorns; and many times a scorn cuts deeper than a sword. Lucian wounded religion more by making jests at it, than Arius, or Pelagius, or Nestorius, with making arguments against it; for against those professed heretics, and against their studied arguments which might seem to have some weight, it well beseemed those grave and reverend fathers of the church to call their councils, and to take into their serious consideration those arguments, and solemnly to conclude and determine and decree in the point. But it would ill have become those reverend persons to have called their councils, or taken into their so serious considerations, epigrams, and satires, and libels, and scurril and scornful jests, against any point of religion. Scorns and jests are easilier apprehended and understood by vulgar and ordinary capacities than arguments are; and then learned men are not so earnest nor so diligent to overthrow and confute a jest or scorn as they are an argument, and so they pass more uncontrolled, and prevail further, and live longer, than arguments do. It is the height of Job's complaint, that contemptible persons made jests upon him; and it is the depth of Samson's calamity, that when the Philistines' hearts were merry, then they called for Samson to make them sport1. So to the Israelites in Babylon, when they were in that heaviness that every breath they breathed was a sigh, their enemies called to sing them a song2. And so they proceeded with him who fulfilled in himself alone all ' types and images and prophecies of sorrows, who was (as the prophet calls him) Vir dolorum3, a man composed and elemented of sorrows, our Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus, for they platted a crown of thorns upon his head, and they put a reed into his hand, and they bowed the knee before him and mocked him'. Truly the conniving at several religions (as dangerous as it is) is not so dishonourable to God, as the suffering of jesters at religion; that may induce heresy, but this does establish atheism: and as that is the public mischief, so for the private there lies much danger in this, that he that gives himself the liberty of jesting at religion, shall find it hard to take up at last; as when Julian the Apostate had received his death's wound, and could not choose but confess that that wound came from the hand and power of Christ, yet he confessed it in a' phrase of scorn, Vicisti Galileee, "The day is thine, O Galilean," and no more. It is not, Thou hast accomplished thy purpose, O my God, nor O my Maker, nor O my Redeemer, but, in a style of contempt, Vicisti Galileee, and no more. And therefore, as David begins his psalms with blessedness, so he begins blessedness with that, Blessed is he which sitteth not in the seat of the scornful. David speaks there of walking with the ungodly, but walking is a laborious motion; and he speaks there of standing with the sinner, but standing is a painful posture. In these two, walking and standing, there is some intimation of a possibility of weariness, and so of desisting at last. But in sitting in the seat of the scornful, there is denoted a sinning at ease, and in the Vulgate edition, at more than ease, with authority and glory; for it is In.cathedra, in the chair of the scornful, which implies a magisterial, a doctoral kind of sinning, that is, to sin, and to provoke others by example to sin too, and promises no return from that position. For as we have had divers examples, that men who have used and accustomed their mouths to oaths and biasphemies all their lives, have made it their last syllable and their last gasp, to swear they shall die; so they that enlarge and ungirt their wits in this jesting at religion," shall pass away at last in a negligence of all spiritual assistance, and not find half a minute between their last jest and their everlasting earnest. Vee vobis qui ridetis," Woe be unto you that laugh so," for you shall weep, and weep eternally.