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To Sir H. Wotton
To Mr. J. W.
To the Lady Carey and Mrs.
To Mr. Silman, after he had taken
A sheaf of Snakes, used heretofore
A SERMON PREACHED TO QUEEN ANNE, AT DENMARK-HOUSE,
DECEMBER 14, 1617.
PROVERBS viii. 17.
I love them that love me, and they that seek me early shall find me.
As the prophets, and the other secretaries of the Holy Ghost in penning the books of Scriptures, do for the most part retain, and express in their writings some impressions, and some air of their former professions; those that had been bred in courts and cities, those that had been shepherds and herdsmen, those that had been fishers, and so of the rest ; ever inserting into their writings some phrases, some metaphors, some allusions, taken from that profession which they had exercised before ; so that soul, that hath been transported upon any particular worldly pleasure, when it is entirely turned upon God, and the contemplation of his allsufficiency and abundance, doth find in God fit subject, and just occasion to exercise the same affection piously, and religiously, which had before so sinfully transported, and possessed it.
A covetous person, who is now truly converted to God, he will exercise a spiritual covetousness still, he will desire to have him all, he will have good security, the seal and assurance of the Holy Ghost; and he will have his security often renewed by new testimonies, and increases of those graces in him; he will have witnesses enough; he will have the testimony of all the world, by his good life and conversation ; he will gain every way at God's hand, he will have wages of God, for he will be his servant; he will have a portion from God, for he will be his son ; he will have a reversion, he will be sure that his name is in the book of
life; he will have pawns, the seals of the sacraments, nay, he will have a present possession; all that God hath promised, all that Christ hath purchased, all that the Holy Ghost hath the stewardship and dispensation of, he will have all in present, by the appropriation and investiture of an actual and applying faith; a covetous person converted will be spiritually covetous still.
So will a voluptuous man, who is turned to God, find plenty and deliciousness enough in him, to feed his soul, as with marrow, and with fatness, as David expresses it; and so an angry and passionate man, will find zeal enough in the house of God to eat him up.
All affections which are common to all men, and those to which in particular, particular men have been addicted to, shall not only be justly employed upon God, but also securely employed, because we cannot exceed, nor go too far in employing them upon him. According to this rule, St. Paul, who had been so vehement a persecutor, had ever his thoughts exercised upon that; and thereupon after his conversion, he fulfils the rest of the sufferings of Christ in his flesh”, he suffers most, he makes most mention of his suffering of any of the apostles.
And according to this rule too, Solomon, whose disposition was amorous, and excessive in the love of women, when he turned to God, he departed not utterly from his old phrase and language, but having put a new, and a spiritual tincture, and form and habit in all his thoughts, and words, he conveys all his loving approaches and applications to God, and all God's gracious answers to his amorous soul, into songs, and epithalamians, and meditations upon contracts, and marriages between God and his church, and between God and his soul; as we see so evidently in all his other writings, and particularly in this text, I love them, &c.
In which words is expressed all that belongs to love, all which, is to desire, and to enjoy; for to desire without fruition, is a rage, and to enjoy without desire is a stupidity: in the first alone we think of nothing, but that which we then would have; and in the second alone, we are not for that, when we have it; in the first, we are without it; in the second, we were as good as we
* Col. i. 24.
were, for we have no pleasure in it; nothing then can give us satisfaction, but where those two concur, amare and frui, to love and to enjoy.
In sensual love it is so; Quid erat quod me delectabat, nisi amare et amario? I take no joy in this world, but in loving, and in being beloved ; in sensual love it is so, but in sensual love, when we are come so far; there is no satisfaction in that ; the same father confesseth more of himself, than any commission, any oath would have put him to, Amatus sum, et perreni occulte ad fruendum, I had all I desired, and I had it with that advantage of having it secretly; but what got I by all that, Ut cæderer virgis ardentibus ferreis, zeli suspicionis et rixarum; nothing but to be scourged with burning iron rods, rods of jealousy, of suspicion, and of quarrels; but in the love and enjoying of this text, there is no room for jealousy, nor suspicion, nor quarrelsome complaining
In this text then you may be pleased to consider these two things, Quid amare, quid frui, what the affection of this love is, what is the blessedness of this enjoying: but in the first of these, we must first consider the persons, who are the lovers in this text; for there are persons that are incredible, though they say they love, because they are accustomed to falsehood; and there are persons which are unrequitable, though they be believed to love, because they love not where, and as they should. When we have found the persons, in a second consideration we shall look upon the affection itself, what is the love in this text; and then after that, upon the bond, and union and condition of this love, that it is mutual, I love them that love me; and having passed those three branches of the first part, we shall in the second, which is enjoying, consider first, that this enjoying, is expressed in the word finding; and then that this finding requires two conditions, a seeking, and an early seeking, And they that seek me early shall find me.
The person that professes love in this place is wisdom herself, as appears at the beginning of the chapter; so that sapere et amare, to be wise and to love, which perchance never met before nor since, are met in this text : but whether this wisdom, so 2 Augustine.
frequently mentioned in this Book of Proverbs, be sapientia creata or increata, whether it be the wisdom, or the root of wisdom, Christ Jesus, hath been diversely debated : the occasion grew in that great council of Nice, where the catholic fathers understood this wisdom, to be intended of Christ himself, and then the Arian heretics pressed some places of this book, where such things seemed to them to be spoken of wisdom, as could not be appliable to any but to a creature; and that therefore if Christ were this wisdom, Christ must necessarily be a creature, and not God.
We will not dispute those things over again now, they are clearly enough, and largely enough set down in that council; but since there is nothing said of wisdom in all this book, which hath not been by good expositors applied to Christ, much more may we presume the lover in this text, (though presented in the name of wisdom) to be Christ himself, and so we do.
To show the constancy and durableness of this love, the lover is a he, that is Christ ; to show the vehemency and earnestness of it, the lover is a she, that is wisdom, as it is often expressed in this chapter, she crieth, she uttereth her voice; yea in one place of the Bible (and only in that one place I think) where Moses would express an extraordinary, and vehement and passionate indignation in God against his people, when as it is in that text, his wrath was kindled, and grievously kindled, there, and only there', doth Moses attribute even to God himself the feminine sex, and speaks to God in the original language, as if he should have called him Deam Iratam, an angry she God; all that is good then, either in the love of man or woman, is in this love ; for he is expressed in both sexes, man and woman ; and all that can be ill in the love of either sex, is purged away, for the man in no other man than Christ Jesus, and the woman no other woman, than wisdom herself, even the uncreated wisdom of God bimself.
Now all this is but one person, the person that professes love ; who is the other, who is the beloved of Christ, is not so easily discerned : in the love between persons in this world, and of this world, we are often deceived with outward signs; we often
3 Numb. xi. 15.