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tice: Why rather suffer ye not wrong, saith the Apostle? “This is durus sermo;" says some brangling parishioner, that fetches up his poor Minister, every Term, for trifles: yet, in St. Paul's judg. ment, A slight injury is better than a scandalous quarrel.
(3.) The third, is a meek complying with each other; relenting, so far as we may with all possible safety, on either part, if the dif. ference be between unequals; charitable and merciful, on the superior's part; humble and submiss, on the inferior's.
Abraham and Lot fall upon a difference. Abraham is the better man : he is the uncle; Lot, but the nephew: yet Abraham seeks the peace, and follows it with him; whom, one would think, he might have commanded. Good Dayid had done his master and father-in-law no wrong; unless it were, tu pugnas, ego vapulo: and yet, after good demonstration of his loyalty, how humbly doth he beg a reconcilement at the hands of Saul! Wherefore doth my lord the king pursue after his servant ? Nou', therefore, let my lord the king hear the words of his servant: If the Lord have stirred thee up against me, let him accept an offering. Harsh contestations never did good.
The ball rebounds from the floor, to the face of him, that throws it; whereas, a lock of wool falls without noise, and lies still. Those, that would take birds, imitate their language; do not scare them with shouting. Bitter oppositions may set off; but cannot win, either a hollow friend, or a known enemy.
(4.) The fourth and last, must be a charitable construction of each others' acts and intentions. There is nothing in the world, which may not be taken with either hand; whether the right hand of favour, or the left of malice. We see the Son of God himself, in whom the Prince of this World could find nothing, yet was exposed to mis-construction. Doth he dispossess devils it is by magic; by Beelzebub, the prince of devils. Doth he frame himself, other than his fore-runner, to a sweetly-sociable conversation with men for their conversion behold a glutton, a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners; Matth. xi. 19. Doth his Chosen Vessel, St. Paul, desire to comply with the Jews, in purifying himself with the votaries in the Temple? he is cried out on, for an enemy to · the Law; for a profaner of the Holy Place; Acts xxi. 28. Away with him; he is not worthy to live.
Good Lord! what uncharitable censure are men apt to pass upon each other! Let a man be strict and austere, in moral and divine duties : though never so peaceable, he is a Puritan; and every Puritan is a Hypocrite. Let him be more free, and give more scope to his conversation: though never so conscionable, he is a Libertine: let him make scruple but of any innovated form, he is a Schismatic: let him stand for the anciently-received rites and government, he is a time-serving Formalist. This is a Diotrephes; that, an Arius: this, a scorner; that, a flatterer. .
In the mean time, who can escape free? Surely, I, that tax both, shall be sure to be censured of both: shall be? yes am, to purpose; and therein I joy, yea and will joy. . “What!” a “neuter !" says one: “What! on both sides !". says another. This is that, I looked for. Yes truly, Brethren, ye have hit it right. I am, and profess to be, as the terms stand, on neither; and yet, of both parts: I am for the peace of both, for the humour of neither. How should the mortar or cement join the stones together, if it did not lie between both ?
And, I would to God, not you only, that hear me this day, but all our brethren of this land were alike-minded: we should not have such libellous presses, such unquiet pulpits, such distracted bosoms; for the truth is, there is no reason we should be thus disjoined, or thus mutually branded.
“This man is right,” ye say; “ that man is not right: this sound; that rotten.” And how so, Dear Christians ? What! for ceremonies and circumstances, for rochets, or rounds, or squares? Let me tell you, he is right, that hath a right heart to his God, what forms soever he is for. The kingdom of God doth not stand in meats, and drinks; in stuffs, or colours, or fashions; in noises, or gestures: it stands in holiness and righteousness; in godliness and charity; in peace and obedience: and, if we have happily attained unto these, God doth not stand upon trifles and niceties of indifferences; and why should we?
Away then with all false jealousies, and uncharitable glosses of each others' actions and estates. Let us all, in the fear of God, be entreated in the bowels of our Dear Redeemer, as we love ourselves, our land, our Church, the Gospel, to combine our counsels and endeavours to the holding of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace : and labour and study, not how to widen or gall and rankle, but how to salve and heal these unhappy sores of the Church and State; by confining our desires within the due bounds, free from encroachments, from innovations; by a discreet moderation in all our prosecutions; by a meek relenting even in due challenges; by a fair and charitable construction of each others' acts and intentions; and, lastly, by our fervent persuasions and prayers: and so many as are thus minded, peace be upon them, and upon the whole Israel of God, this day and for ever. Amen.
THE WORKS OF THE LORD, IN JUDGMENT AND
MERCY. A SERMON PREACHED IN THE CATHEDRAL. AT EXETER, UPON THE SO.
LEMN DAY APPOINTED FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE PACIFICATION BETWIXT THE TWÓ KINGDOMS, VIZ. SEPTEMBER 7, 1641.
BY JOSEPH EXON.
PSALM xlvi. 8. Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in
the earth. He makelh wars to cease unto the ends of the earth.
It was doubtless upon the happy end of some war, and the renovation of an established peace, that this gratulatory psalm was penned; and therefore fits well with our occasion.
My Text then is an earnest invitation, to a serious and thankful consideration of the great works of God, in his contrary proceedings with men; Desolations of War, and Restorations of Peace. We are called, first, to a GENERAL SURVEY OF GOD'S WONDERFUL WORKS: and, then, to a SPECIAL VIEW OF THE WORKS OF HIS JUSTICE, FIRST, what desolation he hath made upon earth ; THEN, OF HIS MERCY, in composing all the busy broils of the world, He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth. These must be the subject, both of our eyes, and of my tongue, and your ears, at this time.
I. We inust, then, BEHOLD THE WORKS OF THE LORD. But, that we may behold them, we must come; and, that we may both come and behold them, we are invited to both: Come, and behold.
We are naturally full of distractions: ready to mind any thing, but what we should. Unless we be called, we shall not come; and, unless we come and behold, we shall behold to no purpose. That, which our Saviour saith of Martha, is the common case of us all, we are troubled about many things: one is carking about his household affairs; another is busying his thoughts with his law-suits; another is racking his mind with ambitious projects; another is studying which way to be revenged of his enemy; and some other, perhaps, rather than want work, will be troubling themselves with matters of state, or other men's affairs that concern them not; emotgienicnoTOL, “ busy bishops in other men's dioceses.”
We had need to be called off from these vain, unmeet avocations; ere we offer to behold the works of God: else, it will fall out with us, as it doth ordinarily with our bodily sight, that, while we have many objects in our eye, we see nothing distinctly at all. Away, therefore, with all the distractive, yea divulsive thoughts of the world; and let us Cone, and behold the works of the Lord : as the Vulgate hath it in the next verse, vacate et videte. Come, then, from thy counting-house; thou, from thy shop-board; thou, from thy study; thou, from thy bar; thou, from the field; and behold the works of the Lord.
Indeed, how can we look beside them? What is there, that he hath not done? What thing is it, that he hath not created? Or what event can befal any of his creatures, which he hath not contrived? Or what act can fall from any creature of his, wherein he is not interested? So as, unless we will wilfully shut our eyes, we cannot but behold the works of the Lord.
But there is more in this charge, than so. As these works are not meant of the ordinary occurrents, so it is not a mere sight that is here called for; but a serious and fixed contemplation. It is not δραν, but βλέπαν; that is βάλλειν ώπας, as I remember Beza diss tinguishes upon another occasion; a bending of our eyes upon this holy object." Solomon, the son, interprets his father David; Eccl. vii. 13: Consider the work of God. This beholding, therefore, is with mental eyes: and not with every sudden glance, but with deep considerations; so to see them, as both the Hebrew and the English phrase elsewhere, to lay them to heart.
Wherefore hath God set us here on this great stage of the world, but that we should be spectators of the marvellous acts that are here done?
1. Surely, THEY ARE WORTH BEHOLDING; for they are all like his; well becoming his infinite power, wisdom, justice.
So hath God done his wonderous works, that they ought to be had in perpetual remembrance. Beauty, and excellence, is abstractive, wherever it is. There is not one act, of either his creation or administration, wherein there is not the footsteps of an Omnipotence, and an infinity of Providence. Every thing works according to his ability: as the man is, so is his strength; and, as his strength, so his actions. Alas! we, weak creatures, produce weak and feeble and imperfect acts: neither can we possibly do other; for, such as the cause is, such must the effects needs be. God, therefore, who is all power, justice, wisdom, goodness, must needs produce acts answerable to such an agent: therefore, behold the works of the Lord.
2. WHEREFORE WERE OUR EYES GIVEN US, but for this very purs pose? They were not given us, for the beholding of vanity; not for the ensnaring or wounding of the soul: but for the use and honour of the Creator; and wherein is that attained, but in the beholding of the works of the Lord? Hence it is, that they can be hold all things, but themselves; and discern those things worst, which are closest to them; and see, not by sending forth any virtue from themselves, but by intromitting of those species which are sent in to them. Shortly, that God, who hath made all things for himself, hath, in the making of this most excellent and useful piece, had an eye to his own glory in our beholding of his works; which if we neglect to do, we do, what in us lies, frustrate God's purpose and intention in creating them.
3. Add to this, that THE LORD DELIGHTS TO HAVE HIS WORKS BEHELD: for he knows the excellency and perfection of them; and knows, that the more they are seen and noted, the more honour will accrue to the Maker of them : like as some skilful artizan, some exquisite limner or carver, when he hath made a master-piece of his art, he doth not hide it up in some dark corner, where it may not be seen; but sets it forth in the best light, and rejoices to have it seen and admired. Thus doth the Almighty. When the creature was first made, because there were no other eyes to see it, he looked upon it with great complacency, and rejoiced in his own handywork: it being the epiphonema to every day's work, when he comes to the relation of the particularities of his workmanship, And God saw that it was good : and, in a recapitulation or winding up all, God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good; Gen. i. 31. But when the angels were created, and saw the glorious handywork of God, they did presently applaud the marvellous works of their Maker; when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy; Job xxxviii
. 7. And when, after that, man was created, he joined with those glorious spirits, in viewing and magnifying the works of his Creator. And so he should do. God was well pleased, that he should do so. Alas! we men, who are conscious to our own infirmity, let pass many things from us, which we care not how little they are viewed and scanned: for we know there may be flaws found in our best performances, which at the first blush appear not. We hear, sometimes, a discourse; which, as it passes through the ear, sounds well, and seems to carry a good show of exquisiteness: which, if it be set down and come to an accurate examination, may be found defective, in this point; in that, redundant; here, misplaced; there, inconsequent. Even coarse tapestry may afar off show well; which, when it comes to be close viewed, discovers a homeliness in texture, and faults enough both in shapes and colours. But as for the works of God, In wisdom hast thou made them all; saith the Prophet. The more they are scanned and tried, the more pure and precious they will appear: and, as Solomon expresses it, Ilan shall find nothing after him; Eccl. vii. 14. And the God, that knows this, loves that we should, in all humble and modest diligence, search into, and behold his works.
4. There is great reason, that we should carefully behold the works of the Lord, because NONE BUT WE CAN DO IT. Of such infinite variety of creatures, there is none but the rational and intelligent, viz. angels and men, that can so much as take notice of what God'lsath done; no, not of themselves. That sense, whereby they are led, cannot reach so high as a thought. What is before them, they see, so far as their downward eyes will reach; and make to