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SERMON XLII. .
LIFE A SOJOURNING:
A SERMON PREACHED AT HIGHAM NEAR NORWICH, ON SUNDAY,
JULY 1, 1655.
BY JOSEPH, BISHOP OF NORWICH.
I PETER I. 17. If ye çall on the Father, who, without respect of persons, judgeth ac
cording to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.
W hen our Blessed Saviour called Peter, and Andrew his brother, to their discipleship, he did it in these terms; Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men ; Matth. iv. 19. And, indeed, this was their trade and profession; which they practised constantly and effectually. Neither doubt I to say, that the great draught of fish, which Peter took up, John xxi. 11. when he cast forth his uet at the command of Christ after his resurrection, was a type and emblem of that great capture of souls, which he should make soon after ; when, at one sermon, he drew up no less than three thousand souls; Acts ii. 41. Every exhortation that he made was an angle, or a casting-net to take some hearers; but these two holy Epistles are as some seine, or large drag-net to enclose whole shoals of believers : and this Text, which I have read unto you, is as a row of meshes knit together, and depending upon each other.
First, you have here, THAT OUR LIFE IS A SOJOURNING ON EARTH : Secondly, THIS SOJOURNING HATH A TIME: Thirdly, THIS TIME MUST BE PASSED : Fourthly, THIS PASSAGE MUST BE IN FEAR: Fifthly, THIS FEAR MUST BE OF A FATHER: Sixthly, HE IS SO A FATHER, THAT HE IS OUR JUDGE : Lastly, HIS JUDGMENT IS UNPARTIAL, for he judgets without respect of Persons, according to every man's work.
All which may well be reduced to these Two Heads; a Charge, and an Enforcement; a Duty, and a Motive to perform it: the Charge or Duty is, To pass the time of their sojourning in fear; the Motive or Enforcement, If we call on the Father, &c. The duty though last in place, yet is first in nature; and shall be accorilingly meditated of.
I. First, therefore, our life is but a SOJOURNING here.
Our former translation turns it a dwelling; not so properly. The word is nupornia. Now, Taginɛīv is, “ to dwell as a stranger or sojourner:" so the French hath it sejour temporel. So near together is the signification of words of this nature, that, in the Hebrew, one word signifies both “a dweller” and “a stranger;" I suppose, to imply, that even the indweller is but a stranger at home. But this napornic here doth both imply a home, and oppo es it. The condition of every living soul, especially of every Christian, is, to be peregrinus, as out of his own country; and hospes, as in another's.
Think not this was the case of St. Peter only; who, by the exigency of his apostleship, was to travel up and down the world: for both it is apparent that Peter, after the shifts of our Jesuitical interpreters, had a house of his own to reside in, Matt. viii. 14; and that he writes this to his countrymen, the Jews: amongst whom, notwithstanding their dispersion, there were, doubtless, many rich owners ; as there are still, in many parts of the world, after all their disgraceful eliminations. The Father of the Faithful was so; Heb. xi. 9 : and the sons of that father were so after him. Jacob speaks of the days of his pilgrimage. David was a great king; yet he confesses himself a stranger upon earth, and that this was hereditary to him; for he adds, as were my fathers. He had more land than they : they had some few fields in Bethlehem; he ruled from Dan to Beersheba, yet a professed stranger: wherein, as he was a type of Christ, so an example of all Christians : as strangers and pilgrims, saith the Apostle, abstain from fleshly Lusts.
The faithful man is, according to that of Bernard, the Lord's servant, his neighbour's fellow, and the world's master. All things are yours, saith the Apostle; yet is he, the while, but a sojourner upon his own inheritance: no worldly respects can free-denizen a Christian bere ; and, of peregrinus, make him civis. No; it is out of the power of all earthly commodities to naturalize him : for, neither can his abiding be here, if he should love the earth never so well; neither shall he find any true rest or contentment here below.
If any wealthy citizen, upon the uncertainty of trade, shall have turned his shop-book and his bags into lands and manors; and, having purchased plentifully, and called his land by his name, shall be so foolish as to set down his rest here and say, Hic requies mea ; Soul, take thy ease ; he may well look, that God will give him his own, with a Thou fool, this night, Sc.
It is true the worldly man is at home, in respect of his affec. tions ; but he is and shall be a mere sojourner, in respect of his transitoriness. His soul is fastened to the earth : all his substance cannot fasten himself to it. Both the Indies could not purchase his abiding here.
This is our condition, as men ; but much more, as Christians, we are perfect strangers and sojourners here in the world : and, if we be no other than such, why do we not demean ourselves accordingly ?
1. If then we be but sojourners, and that in a strange nation, here must be an at payuosúvn, an “ UNMEDDLINGNESS” with these worldly concernments. Not that we should refrain from managing the affairs of this present life; without which, it were no living for us upon earth. There is a difference, betwixt apáluata and is perusteid, “ necessary business” and “ unnecessary distractions." A man, that sojourns abroad in a strange country, finds himself no way interested in their designs and proceedings. What cares he, who rises or falls at their Court? who is in favour, and who in disgrace? what ordinances or laws are made, and what are repealed? He says still to himself, as our Saviour said to Peter, Quid ad te? What is that to thee? Thus doth the Christian here: he must use the world, as if he used it not: he must pass through the affairs of this life, without being entangled in them; as remembering, who and where he is ; that he is but a sojourner here.
2. Here must be a LIGHT ADDRESS. No man, that goes to sojourn in a strange country, will carry his lumber along with him; but leaves all his houshold stuff at home: no; he will not so much as carry his stock of money or jewels with him, as knowing he may meet with dangers of thieves and robbers in the way; but makes over his money by exchange, to receive it where he is going. Ye Rich Men cannot think to carry your pelf with you into heaven : no; it were well, if you could get in yourselves, without that cumberous load : it may keep you out; ye cannot carry it in. If you will go safe and sure ways, make over your stock by exchange : that is, as our Saviour tells you, Make you friends of the unrighteous Mammon, that when ye go hence they may receive you into everlasting habitations. Those riches, which So. lomon saith have wings, and therefore may fly up, and, being well used, may help to carry up your souls towards heaven; if you clip their wings, may prove as clogs to weigh your souls down to hell. Dispose of them, therefore, where you may be sure to find them with a happy advantage to yourselves; 1 Timothy vi. 18, 19. and do not think to keep them still in your hands ; remembering that you are but sojourners here.
3. If ye be but strangers and sojourners here, you must MAKE ACCOUNT OF NO OTHER THAN HARD USAGE IN THE WORLD. It is the just epithet of the world, which Julius Scaliger gives unjustly to London, Torra peregrinis ; but we cannot add that, which follows: sed non et inhospita : for, surely, there is nothing to be expecten here, but unkind and churlish entertainment. We know that God still puts together the Stranger, the Widow, and the Orphan : these are every where most exposed to wrong; as men are still apt, to climb over the hedge, where it is lowest. The good Shunamite, when the prophet offered her the favour to speak to the king for her, could say, I dwell amongst my own people ; intimating, that, while she dwelt at home amongst her good neighbours, she had no need of a friend at Court. But, when she had been abroad, sau
journing in the land of the Philistines; and, in her absence, was stripped of her house and land; she is fain to come with an humble petition in her hand, suing to be righted against the injurious usurpation of her cruel oppressor; 2 Kings viii. Do we, therefore, find harsh usage at the hands of the world? Are we spitefully intreated by unjust men, our reputation blemished, our profession slandered, our goods plundered, our estates causelessly impaired, our bodies imprisoned, and all indignities cast upon us and ours ? let us bethink ourselves, where and what we are; strangers and sojourners here: and, let us make no reckoning to fare any otherwise, while we sojourn in this vale of tears.
4. If we be strangers and pilgrims here, we cannot but have a -GOOD MIND HOMEWARD. It is natural to us all, to be dearly affect. ed to our home: and, though the place where we sojourn be hand. somer and more commodious than our own; yet we are ready to say, “ Home is homely, and our heart is there, though our bodies be away.” And this is a difference, betwixt a banished man, and a voluntary traveller. The exiled man hath none but displeasing thoughts for his native country ; would fain forget it; and is apt, as we have had too much proof, to devise plots against it : whereas, the voluntary traveller thinks the time long, till he may enjoy his long desired home; and thinks himself happy, that he may see the smoke of his own chimney : and, if our lot be fallen upon a stony and barren Ithaca, yet it is not all the glorious promises of a Calypso can withdraw us from desiring a speedy return to it. Beloved, we know we are strangers here : our home is above. There is our Father's house ; in which there are many mansions, and all glorious. If this earth had as many contentments in it, as it hath miseries and vexations; yet it could not compare with tbat region of blessedness, which is our only home. Oh then, if we believe ourselves to have a true right to that abiding city, to that city which hath foundations where our Father dwells, why do we not long to be possessed of those glorious, and everlasting habitations? We find it too true, which the Apostle says, That while we are present in the flesh we are absent from the Lord; 2 Cor. v, 6. Why are we not heartily desirous to change these houses of clay, for that house not made with hands eternal in the heavens? We may please ourselves in formalities; but I must tell you, it is no good sign, if we be loth to go hoine to our Father's house.
Methinks, this word here should be emphatical. Indeed it is not in the original text, but it is both sufficiently implied, and would seem to intimate a kind of comparison between the place of our sojourning and the place of our home. Here, is trouble and toil; there, is rest : here, is disorder and sin; there, perfection of order and holiness : here, we live with men, yea beasts, yea, if, on some hands, I should say with incarnate devils, I should not be uncharitable; there, with God and his blessed angels, and the souls of righteous men made perfect: here, are continual changes and successions of sorrow; there, an eternity of unintermitted and un. conceivable joys. Oh then, how can we choose but say with David, As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so doth my soul pant after thee, O God? Psalm xlii. 1: and, with the Chosen Vessel, I desire to depart hence, and to be with Christ? Phil. i. 23. This, for our sojourning here.
II. Nov, for the TIME of our sojourning.
Time is the common measure of all things; the universal metwand of the Almighty ; Eccl. iii. 1. There is a time for all things, saith wise Solomon ; and but a time : for the motions of time are quick and irrevocable. Ye cannot think of it but with wings. It is but a short word, a monosyllable; yet, while we are speaking of it, it is gone.
As for the Time of our sojourning, Moses reckons it by years; Job, by months, and those of vanity ; oid Jacob and David, by days: the Apostle shuts it up closer; and calls the very age of the world, hora novissima, the last hour": all imply a quickness of passage.
It is a true observation of Seneca: l'elocitas temporis, saith he, “ The quick speed of time is best discerned, when we look at it past and gone:” and this I can confirm to you by experience. It hath pleased the Prov.dence of my God so to contrive it, that this day, this very morning, fourscore years ago, I was born into the world. “ A great time since," ye are ready to say : and so indeed it seems to you, that look at it forward; but to me, that look at it as past, it seems so short that it is gone like a tale that is told, or a drean by night, and looks but like yesterday. It can be no offence for me to
you, who hear me this day, are not like to see so many suns walk over your heads, as I have done. Yea, what speak I of this? There is not
us, that can assure himself of his continuance here one day. We are all tenants at will; and, for ought we know, may be turned out of these clay cottages at an hour's warning. Oh then, what should we do, but, as wise farmers, who know the time of their lease is expiring and cannot be renewed, carefully and seasonably provide ourselves of a surer and more during tenure ?
I remember our witty countryman Bromiard, tells us of a lord in his time, that had a fool in his house; as many great men in those days had, for their pleasure : to whom this lord gave a staff; and charged him to keep it, till he should meet with one that were more fool than himself, and, if he met with such a one, to deliver it over to him. Not many years after, this lord fell sick ; and indeed was sick unto death. His fool came to see him; and was told by his sick lord, that he must now shortly leave him.
< And whither wilt thou go?" said the fool. “ Into another world," said his od " And when wilt thou come again ? within a month ?” 6 No.” “ Within a year?” “ No.” " When then?” “Never." “ Never? and what provision hast thou made for thy entertainment there, waither thou goest?” “ None at all." "No!" said the fol, none at all? Here, take my staff. Art thou going away for ever; and hast taken no order vor care how thou shalt speed in