Of Humility, of Submission to God’s Will in respect of Obedience; of Patience in all sorts of Sufferings, and of Honour due to God in several ways, in His House, Possession, His Day, Word, Sacraments, &c.
1. A sixth duty to God is humility, that is, such a sense of our own meanness [lowliness] and His excellency, as may work in us lowly and unfeigned submission to Him: this submission is twofold; first to His will; secondly, to His wisdom.
Submission to God’s will in respect of obedience.
2. The submission to His will is also of two sorts, the submission either of obedience or patience; that of obedience is our ready yielding ourselves up to do His will, so that when God hath by His command made known to us what His pleasure is, cheerfully and readily to set about it. To enable us to do this, humility is exceeding necessary; for a proud person is of all others the unaptest to obey, and we see men never pay an obedience but where they acknowledge the person commanding to be some way above them, and so it is here. If we be not thoroughly persuaded that God is infinitely above us, that we are vileness, and nothing in comparison of Him, we shall never pay our due obedience.
The great distance between God and us.
3. Therefore, if ever you mean to obey entirely (as you must if ever you mean to be saved) get your hearts possessed with the sense of that great unspeakable distance between God and you. Consider Him as He is, a God of infinite majesty and glory, and we poor worms of the earth; He infinite in power, able to do all things, and we able to do nothing, not so much as make “one hair white or black,” as our Saviour speaks (Mt v. 36); He of infinite purity and holiness, and we polluted and defiled, wallowing in all kinds of sins and uncleanness; He unchangeable and constant, and we subject to change and alteration every minute of our lives; He eternal and immortal, and we frail mortals, that whenever He “taketh away our breath we die, and are turned again to our dust” (Ps civ. 29). Consider all this, I say, and you cannot be acknowledge a wide difference between God and man, and therefore may well cry out with Job, after he had approached so near to God as to discern somewhat of His excellency (Job xlii. 56), “Now mine eye seeth thee, wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
The unworthiness of our best works.
4. And even when this humility hath brought us to obedience, it is not then to be cast off, as if we had no further use of it; for there is still great use, nay, necessity of it, to keep us from any high conceits of our performances, which, if we once entertain, it will blast the best of them, and make them utterly unacceptable to God; like the strictness of the Pharisee, which when once he came to boast of, the publican was preferred before him (Lk xviii.). The best of our works are so full of infirmity and pollution, that if we compare them with that perfection and purity which is in God, we may truly say with the prophet, “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Is lxiv. 6); and therefore to pride ourselves in them, is the same madness that it would be in a beggar to brag of his apparel, when it is nothing but vile rages and tatters. Our Saviour’s precent in this matter must always be remembered (Lk xvii. 10), “When you have done all those things which are commanded, say, We are unprofitable servants”; if when we have done all, we must give ourselves no better a title, what are we than to esteem ourselves, that are so far from doing any considerable part of what we are commanded? Surely that worse name of “slothful and wicked servants” (Mt xxv. 26) we have no reason to think too bad for us.
Submission in respect of patience.
5. A second sort of submission to His will is that of patience; this stands for suffering His will, as that of obedience did in acting it, and is nothing else, but a willing and quiet yielding to whatever afflictions it pleased God to lay upon us. This the forementioned humility will make easy for us, for when our hearts are thoroughly possessed with that reverence and esteem of God, it will be impossible for us to grudge or murmur at whatever He does. We see an instance of it in old Eli (1 Sam iii.), who after he had heard the sad threatenings of God against him, of the destruction of his family, the loss of the priesthood, the cutting off both his sons in one day, which were all of them afflictions of the heaviest kind, yet this one consideration that it was the Lord, enabled him calmly and quietly to yield to them, saying, “Let him do what seemeth him good” (v. 18). The same effect it had on David in his suffering (Ps xxxix. 9), “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it.” God’s doing it silenced all murmurings and grumbling in him. And so must it do in us, in all our afflictions, if we will indeed approve our humility to God.
6. For surely you will not think that child hath due humility to his parent, or that servant to his master, that when they are corrected, shall fly in the father’s and master’s face. But this do we whenever we grudge and repine at that which God lays upon us. But besides the want of humility in our doing, there is also a great want of justice in it; for God hath, as we are His creatures, a right to do with us what He will, and therefore for us to resist that right of His, is the highest injustice that can be; nay, farther, it is also the greatest folly in the world for it is only our good that God aims at in afflicting us; that heavenly Father is not like our earthly ones, who sometimes correct their children only to satisfy their own angry humour, not to do them good. But this is subject to no such frailties. “He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men” (Lam iii. 33). They are our sins, which do not only give Him just cause, but even force and necessitate Him to punish us. He carries to us the bowels and affections of the tenderest father. Now when a father sees his child stubborn and rebellious, and running on in a course that will certainly undo him, what greater act of fatherly can he do than chasten and correct him, to see if by that means he may amend him; nay, indeed, he could not be said to have true kindness to him if he should not. And thus it is with God when He sees us run on in sin. Either He must leave off to love us, and so leave us to ourselves to take our own course, and that is the heaviest curse that can befall any man; or else, if He continue to love us, He must correct and punish us to bring us to amendment.
Thankfulness for God’s corrections.
Therefore, whenever He strikes, we are, in all reason, not only patiently to lie under His rod, but (as I may say) kiss it also; that is, be very thankful to Him, that He is pleased not to “give us over to our own heart’s lust” (Ps xviii. 12), but still continues his care of us; sends afflictions, as so many messengers to call us home to Himself. You see, then, how gross a folly it is to murmur at those stripes which are meant so graciously; it is like that of a froward patent, which reproaches and reviles the physician that comes to cure him, and if such a one be left to die of his disease, every one knows whom he is to thank for it.
Fruitfulness under them.
7. But it is not only quietness, no, nor thankfulness neither under afflictions, that is the full of our duty in this matter; we must have fruitfulness also, or all the rest will stand us in no stead. By fruitfulness I mean the bringing forth that which the afflictions were sent to work in us, viz. the amendment of our lives. To which purpose in time of affliction it is very necessary for us to call ourselves to an account, to examine our hearts and lives, and search diligently what sins lie upon us, which provoked God thus to smite us, and whatsoever we find ourselves guilty of, humbly confess to God, and immediately to forsake for the rest of our time.
In all sorts of sufferings.
8. All I shall add concerning this duty of patience is, that we are as much bound to it in one sort of sufferings as another, whether our sufferings be so immediately from God’s hand, that no creature hath anything to do in it, as sickness, or the like; or whether it be such, wherein men are the instruments of afflicting us. For it is most sure when any man both us hurt, he could not do it without God’s permission and sufferance, and God may as well make them the instruments of punishing us as do it more directly by Himself; and it is but a counterfeit patience, that pretends to submit to God, and yet can bear nothing from men. We see holy Job, who is set forth to us as a pattern of true patience, made no such difference in his afflictions; he took the loss of his cattle, which the Chaldeans and Sabeans robbed him of, with the very same meekness with which he did that which was consumed by fire from heaven. When therefore we suffer anything from men, be it never so unjustly in respect of them, we are yet to confess it is most just in respect of God, and therefore instead of looking upon them with rage and revenge, as the common custom of the world is, we are to look up to God, acknowledge His justice in the affliction, begging His pardon most earnestly for those sins which have provoked Him to send it, and patiently and thankfully bear it till He shall see fit to remove it; still saying with Job, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Submission to God’s wisdom; in His commandments.
9. But I told you humility contained in it a submission not only to His will, but also to His wisdom; that is, to acknowledge Him infinitely wise, and therefore that whatever He doth, is best and fittest to be done. And this we are to confess both in his commands, and in His disposing and ordering of things. First, whatsoever He commands us either to believe or do, we are to submit to His wisdom in both, to believe whatsoever He bids us believe, how impossible soever it seems to our shallow understandings, and to do whatever He commands us to do, how contrary soever it be to our fleshly reason or humour, and in both to conclude, that His commands are most fit and reasonable however they appear to us.
In His disposals.
10. Secondly, we are to submit to His wisdom in respect of His disposal and ordering of things; to acknowledge He disposes all things most wisely, and that not only in what concerns the world in general, but also in what concerns every one of us in particular; so that in what condition soever He puts us, we are to assure ourselves it is that which is best for us, since He chooses it for us who cannot err. And therefore never to have impatient desires of anything in this world, but to leave it to God to fit us with such an estate and condition as He sees best for us, and there let us quietly and contentedly rest; yea, though it be such as of all others we should least have wished for ourselves. And this surely cannot but appear very reasonable to any that hath humility: for having taught him, that God is infinitely wise, and he very foolish, he can never doubt but that it is much more for his good that God should choose for him than he for himself; even as it is much more for the child’s good to have the parent choose for it, than to be left to those silly choices it would make for itself. For how many times would it cut, and burn, and mischief itself if it might have everything it desires? And such children are we, we many times eagerly desire those things which would undo us if we had them. Thus many times we wish for wealth, and honour, and beauty, and the like, when, if we had them, they would only prove snares to us, we should be drawn into sin by them. And this God, who knows all things, see, though we do not, and therefore often denies us those things which He sees will tend to our mischief, and it is His abundant mercy that He doth so. Let us therefore, whenever we are disappointed of any of our aims and wishes, not only patiently but joyfully submit to it, as knowing that it is certainly best for us, it being chosen by the unerring wisdom of our heavenly Father.
11. A seventh duty to God is honour, that is, the paying Him such a reverence and respect as belongs to so great a majesty. And this is either inward or outward. The inward is the exalting Him in our hearts, having always the highest and most excellent esteem of Him. The outward is the manifesting and showing forth that inward; and that is the first general in the whole course of our lives, the living like men that do indeed carry that high esteem of God. Now, you know if we bear any special reverence but to a man, we will be careful not to do any foul or base thing in his presence; and so, if we do indeed honour God, we shall abhor to do any unworthy thing in His sight. But God sees all things, and therefore there is no way to shun the doing it in His sight if we do it al all; therefore, if we do thus reverence Him, we must never at any time do any sinful thing.
Several ways of honouring God.
12. But besides this general way of honouring God, there are many particular acts by which we may honour Him, and these acts are diverse according to the several particulars about which they are exercised. For we are to pay this honour not only immediately to Himself, but also by a due estimation and account of all those things that nearly relate or belong to Him. Those are especially six: First, His House; secondly, His Revenue or Income (as I may say); thirdly, His Day; fourthly, His Word; fifthly, His Sacraments; and sixthly, His Name; and every one of these is to have some degree of our reverence and esteem.
In His House.
13. First, His House, that is, the church, which being the place set part for His public worship, we are to look on it, though not as holy in respect of itself, yet in respect of its use, and therefore must not profane it by employing it to uses of our own. This Christ hath taught us by that act of His (Mt xxi. 12) in driving the buyers and sellers out of the Temple, saying, “My house is called the house of prayer.” And again (Jn ii. 16), “Make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise.” By which it is clear churches are to be used only for the services of God, and we are to make that the only end of our coming thither, and not to come to church as to a market to make bargains, or dispatch businesses with our neighbours, as is too common among many. But whenever thou enterest the church, remember that it is the house of God, a place where He is in an especial manner present, and therefore take the counsel of the wise man (Eccles v. 1), and “keep thy foot when thou goest into the house of God”; that is, behave thyself with that godly awe and reverence which belongs to that great majesty thou art before. Remember that thy business there is to converse with God, and therefore shut out all thoughts of the world, even of thy most lawful business, which though they may be allowable at another time, are here sinful. How fearful a guilt is it then to entertain any such thoughts as are in themselves wicked? It is like the treason of Judas, who pretended indeed to come to kiss his Master, but brought with him a band of soldiers to apprehend Him (Mt xxvi.). We make show in our coming to church of serving and worshipping God, but we bring with us a train of His enemies to provoke and despite Him. This is a wickedness that may outvie the profaneness of these days, in turning churches into stables, for sinful and polluted thoughts are much the worse sort of beasts.
14. The second thing to which respect belongs is His revenue or income; that is, whatsoever is His peculiar possessions set apart for the maintenance of those that attend His service; those were the priests in time of the law, and ministers of the gospel now with us. And whatever is thus set apart, we must look on with such respect as not to dare to turn it to any other use. Of this sort some are the freewill offerings of men, who have sometimes of their own accord given some of their goods or land to this holy use; and whatsoever is so given, can neither by the person that gave, not any other be taken away, without that great sin of sacrilege.
15. But besides these, there was among the Jews, and hath always been in all Christian nations, something allotted by the law of the nation for the support and maintenance of those that attend the service of God. And it is but just and necessary it should be so, that those who by undertaking that calling are taken off from the ways of gaining a livelihood in the world, should be provided for by them whose souls they watch over. And therefore it is most reasonable, which the Apostle urges in this matter (1 Cor ix. 11), “If we have shown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” That is, it is most unreasonable for men to grudge the bestowing a few carnal things, the outward necessaries of this temporal life, on them from whom they receive spiritual things, even instruction and assistance towards the obtaining of an eternal life.
The great sin of sacrilege.
16. Now whatsoever is thus appointed for this use, may by no means be employed to any other. And therefore those tithes which are here by law allotted for the maintenance of the ministry must by no means be kept back, nor any tricks of shifts used to avoid the payment either in whole or in part. For first, it is certain, that it is as truly theft as any other robbery can be, ministers having right to their tithes by the same law which gives any other man right to his estate. But then, secondly, it is another manner of robbery than we think of, it is a robbing of God, whose service they were given to maintain; and that you may not doubt the truth of this, it is no more than God Himself hath said of it (Mal iii. 8), “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me; yet ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.” Here it is most plain that in God’s account the withholding tithes is a robbing of Him. And if you please you may in the next verse see what the gain of this robbery amounts to, “Ye are cursed with a curse.” A curse is all that is gotten by it; and common experiences shows us that God’s vengeance doth in a remarkable manner pursue this sin of sacrilege, whether it be that of withholding tithes, or the other of seizing on those possessions which have been voluntarily consecrated to God. Men think to enrich themselves by it, but it usually proves directly contrary; this unlawful gain becomes such a canker in the estate, as often eats out even that we had a just title to. And therefore if you love, (I will not say your souls, but) your estates, preserve them from that danger by a strict care never to meddle with anything set apart for God.
The times for His service.
17. A third thing wherein we are to express our reverence to God, is the hallowing of the times set apart for His service. He who hath given all our times requires some part of it to be paid back again as a rent or tribute of the whole.
Thus the Jews kept hoy the seventh day, and we Christians the Sunday or Lord’s Day; the Jews were in their Sabbath especially to remember the creation of the world, and we in ours the Resurrection of Christ, by which a way is made for us into that better world we expect hereafter. Now this day thus set apart is to be employed in the worship and service of God, and that first more solemnly and publicly in the congregation, from which no man must then absent himself without a just cause; and secondly, privately at home in praying with and instructing our families, or else in the yet more private duties of the closet; a man’s own private prayers, reading, meditation, and the like.
And that we may be at leisure for these, a rest from all worldly business is commanded; therefore let no man think that a bare rest from labour is all that is required of him on the Lord’s Day, but the time which he saves from the world of his calling he is to lay out on those spiritual duties. For the Lord’s Day was never ordained to give us a pretence for idleness, but only to change our employment from worldly to heavenly, much less was it meant that by our rest from our callings we should have more time free to bestow upon our sins, as too many do, who are more constant on that day at the alehouse than the church. But this rest was commanded, first, to shadow out to us that rest from sin which we are bound to all the days of our lives; and secondly, to take us off from our worldly business, and to give us time to attend the service of God and the need of our souls.
18. And surely if we rightly consider it, it is a very great benefit to us that there is such a set time thus weekly returning for that purpose. We are very intent and busy upon the world, and if there were not some such time appointed to our hands, it is to be doubted we should hardly allot any ourselves: and then what a starved condition must these poor souls of ours be in, that shall never be afforded a meal? Whereas now there is a constant diet provided for them. Every Sunday, if we will conscionably employ it, may be a festival day to them, may bring them in such spiritual food, as may nourish them to eternal life. We are not to look on this day with grudging like those in Amos viii. 5, who ask “When will the Sabbath be gone, that we may set forth wheat?” As if that time were utterly lost, which were taken from our worldly business. But we are to consider it, as the gainfullest, as the joyfullest day of the week, a day of harvest, wherein we are to lay up in store for the whole week, nay, for our whole lives.
Feasts of the Church.
19. But besides this of the weekly Lord’s Day there are other times which the Church hath set apart for the remembrance of some special mercies of God, such as the Birth and Resurrection of Christ, the Descent of the Holy Ghost, and the like; and these days we are to keep in the manner which the Church hath ordered, to wit, in the solemn worship of God, and in particular thanksgiving for that special blessing we then remember. And surely whoever is truly thankful for those rich mercies, cannot think it too much to set apart some few days in a year for that purpose.
But then we are to look that our feasts be truly spiritual, by employing the day thus holily, and not make it an occasion of intemperance and disorder, as too many, who consider nothing in Christmas and other good times but the good cheer and jollity of them. For that is doing despite instead of honour to Christ, who came to bring all purity and soberness into the world, and therefore must not have that coming of His remembered in any other manner.
20. Other days there are also set apart in memory of the Apostles and other Saints, wherein we are to give hearty thanks to God for His graces in them, particularly that they were made instruments of revealing to us Christ Jesus and the way of salvation, as you know the Apostles were by their preaching throughout the world. And then farther, we are to meditate on those examples of holy life they have given us, and stir up ourselves to the imitation thereof. And whoever does uprightly set himself to make these uses of these several holidays, will have cause, by the benefit he shall find from them, to thank, and not to blame the Church for ordering them.
21. Another sort of days there are which we are likewise to observe, and those are days of fasting and humiliation; and whatever of this kind the Church enjoins, whether constantly at set times of the year, or upon any special and more sudden occasion, we are to observe in such manner as she directs, that is, not only a bare abstaining from meat, which is only the body’s punishment, but in afflicting our souls, humbling them deeply before God in a hearty confessing and bewailing of our own and the nation’s sins, and earnest prayer for God’s pardon and forgiveness, and for the turning away of those judgments which those sins have called for; but above all, in “turning ourselves from our sins, loosing the bands of wickedness,” as Isaiah speaks (lviii. 6), and exercising ourselves in works of mercy, “dealing our bread to the hungry,” and the like as it there follows.
22. Fourthly, we are to express our reverence to God by honouring His word, and this we must certainly do if we do indeed honour Him, there being no surer sign of our despising any person than the setting light by what he says to us; as, on the contrary, if we value one, every word he speaks will be of weight with us.
The Holy Scriptures.
Now this word of God is expressly contained in the Holy Scriptures, the Old and New Testament, where He speaks to us to show us His will and our duty. And, therefore, to this word of His we are to bear a wonderful respect, to look upon it as the rule by which we must frame all the actions of our life: and to that end to study it much, to read in it as often as we can, if it may be, never to let a day pass us without reading or hearing some part of it read.
23. But then that is not all: we must not only read, but we must mark what we read, we must diligently observe what duties there are which God commands us to perform, what faults they are which God there charges us not to commit, together with the rewards promised to the one and the punishment threatened to the other. When we have thus marked, we must lay them up in our memory, not so loosely and carelessly that they shall presently drop out again, but we must so fasten them there by often thinking and meditating on them, that we may have them ready for our use. Now that use is the directing of our lives; and therefore whenever we are tempted to the committing of any evil, we are then to call to mind, this is the thing which in such a Scripture is forbidden by God, and all His vengeance threatened against it; and so, in like manner, when any opportunity is offered us of doing good, to remember, this is the duty which I was exhorted to in such a Scripture, and such glorious rewards promised to the doing of it; and by these considerations strengthen ourselves for resistance of the evil and performance of the good.
24. But besides this of the written Word, it hath pleased God to provide yet farther for our instruction by His ministers, whose office it is to teach us God’s will, not by saying anything contrary to the written Word (for whatsoever is so, can never be God’s will), but by explaining it, and making it easier to our understandings, and then applying it to our particular occasions, and exhorting and stirring us up to the practice of it; all which is the end at which first their catechising, and then their preaching aimeth. And to this we are to bear also a due respect by giving diligent heed thereto, not only being present at catechisings and sermons, and either sleep out the time, or think of somewhat else, but carefully marking what is said to us. And surely if we did but rightly consider how much it concerns us, we should conclude it very reasonable for us so to do.
25. For first, as to that of catechising, it is the laying the foundation upon which all Christian practice must be built; for that is the teaching us our duty, without which it is impossible for us to perform it. And though it is true, that the Scriptures are the fountains from whence this knowledge of duty must be fetched, yet there are many who are not able to draw it from this fountain themselves, and therefore it is absolutely necessary it should be thus brought to them by others.
26. This catechising is generally looked upon as a thing belonging only to the youth, and so indeed it ought, not because the oldest are not to learn, if they be ignorant, but because all children should be so instructed, that it should be impossible for them to be ignorant when they come to years; and it nearly concerns every parent, as they will free themselves from the guilt of their children’s eternal undoing, that they be careful to see them instructed in all necessary things; to which purpose it will be fit early to teach them some short catechism, of which sort none so fit as the Church catechism; yet are they not to rest on these endeavours of their own, but also to call in the minister’s help, that he may build them up farther in Christian knowledge.
27. But alas! it is too sure that parents have very much neglected this duty, and by that means it is that such multitudes of men and women, that are called Christians, know no more of Christ or any thing that concern their own souls, than the merest heathen.
28. But although it were their parents’ fault that they were not instructed when they were young, yet it is now their own, if they remain still ignorant; and it is sure it will be their own ruin and misery if they wilfully continue so. Therefore, whoever it be, of what age or condition soever, that is in this ignorant estate, or in any such degree of it, that he wants any part of necessary saving knowledge, let him as he loves his soul, as ever he would escape eternal damnation, seek out for instruction, and let no fear of shame keep any from it: for first, it is certain the shame belongs only to the wilful continuing in ignorance, to which the desire of learning is directly contrary, and is so far form a shameful that it is a most commendable thing, and will be sure to be so accounted by all wise and good men. But secondly, suppose some profane senseless people should deride it, yet surely that shame were in all reason to be undergone joyfully, rather than venture on that confusion to face which will at the day of judgment befall those, who to avoid a little false shame amongst them, have gone on a wilful ignorance of their duty, which ignorance will be so far from excusing any sins they shall commit, that it adds one great and heavy sin to all the rest, even the despising that knowledge which is offered to them. How heinous a sin that is you may learn in the first chapter of the Proverbs, where hating knowledge (verse 29) is said to be the thing that draws down those sad vengeances forementioned, even God’s forsaking men, laughing at their calamity instead of helping them; which is of all other conditions in the world the most miserable, and surely they are madly desperate that will run themselves into it.
29. As for those who have already this foundation laid by the knowledge of the grounds of the Christian religion, there is yet for them a farther help provided by preaching. And it is no more than needs, for, God knows, those that understand their duty well enough are too apt to forget it; nay, sometimes by the violence of their own lusts to transgress it even when they do remember it, and, therefore, it is very useful we should be put in mind of it to prevent our forgetting, and also often exhorted and assisted to withstand those lusts which draw us to those transgressions. And to these purposes preaching is intended; first, to warn us to be upon our guard against our spiritual enemy, and then to furnish us with weapons for the fight; that is, such means and help as may best enable us to beat off temptations and get the victory over them.
30. Since, therefore, this is the end of preaching, we must not think we have done our duty when we have heard a sermon, though never so attentively, but we must lay up in our hearts those instructions and advices we there meet with, and use them faithfully to that end of overcoming our sins. Therefore, whenever thou comest to the Physician of thy soul, do as thou wouldst with the physician of thy body; thou comest to Him not only to hear Him talk and tell thee what will cure thee, but also to do according to His directions; and if thou doest not so here, thou art as vain and ridiculous, for what, though it do him no good will do him no harm; he shall never be the worse for having been taught a medicine, though he use it not. But in these spiritual receipts it is otherwise; if we use them not to our good they will do us a great deal of harm; they will rise up in judgment against us, and make our condemnation so much the heavier. Beware, therefore, not to being that danger upon thyself, but when thou hast heard a sermon, consider with thyself what directions there were in it for enabling thee to eschew evil or two do good. And if there were anything that especially concerned thin own bosom sin, lay that close to thy heart, and all the week after make it matter of meditation. Think of it even whilst thou art at thy work, if thou wantest other time, and not only think of it, but set to the practice of it; do what thou wert advised to for the subduing sins and quickening grace in thee. Finally, look carefully to practise the counsel of the Apostle (James i. 22), “Be ye doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving your own souls.” To hope for good from the Word without doing it, is nothing but a deceiving ourselves. Let us never, therefore, measure our godliness by the number of sermons which we hear, as if the hearing many were the certain mark of a good Christian; but by the store of fruit we bring forth by them, without which all our hearing will serve but to bring us into that heavier portion of stripes, which belongs to him that “knows his Master’s will and does it not” (Lk xii. 47). But this reverence which is due to preaching we must not pay to all that is nowadays called so, for God knows there are many “false prophets gone out into the world,” as the Apostle speaks (1 Jn iv. 1). And now, if ever, is that advice of his necessary, “To try the spirits whether they be of God.” But what I have said, I mean only of the preaching of those who first have a lawful calling to their office; and secondly, frame their doctrine according to the right rule, the written word of God. But if any man say he is not able to judge whether the doctrine be according to the word or no, let him at least try it by the common known rules of duty which he doth understand, and if he find it a doctrine giving me liberty to commit those things which are by all acknowledged sins, such as rebellion, injustice, unmercifulness, uncleanness, or the like, he may conclude it is utterly contrary to God and His word, and then abhorrence and not reverence belongs to it.
31. Fifthly, we are to express our honouring of God by reverencing His sacraments: those are two, baptism and the Supper of the Lord. And this we are to do, first, by our high esteem of them; secondly, by our reverent usage of them. We are first to prize them at a high rate, looking on them as the instruments of bringing to us the greatest blessings we can receive. The first of them, Baptism, that enters us into covenant with God, makes us members of Christ, and so gives us right to all those precious benefits that flow from Him, to wit, pardon of sins, sanctifying grace, and heaven itself, upon condition we perform our parts of the covenant. And for the Lord’s Supper, that is not only a sign and remembrance of Christ and His death, but it actually the giving Christ and all the fruits of His death to every worthy receiver, and therefore there is a most high estimation and value due to each of them.
32. And not only so, but in the second place we must show our reverence in our usage of them, and that first, before; second, at; thirdly, after the time of receiving them. It is true that the sacrament of Baptism being now administered to us, when we are infants, it is not to be expected of us that we should in our own persons do anything either before or at the time of receiving it; those performances were strictly required of all persons who were baptised when they were of years. But for us it suffices to give us this right to baptism, that we are born within the pale of the Church, that is, of Christian parents, and all that is required at that time is what we can only perform by others, they in our stead promising that we we come to years we will perform our parts of the covenant. But by how much the less we are then able to do so much, the greater bond lies on us to perform those after-duties required of us, by which we are to supply the want of the former.
Vow of Baptism.
33. Now, if you would know what those duties are, look over those promises which your godfathers and godmothers then made in your name, and you may then learn them. I cannot give you them in a better form than that of our Church’s catechism, which tells us, “That our godfathers and godmothers did promise and vow three things in our names: first, that we should forsake the devil and all this works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh.” Where by the devil is meant, first, the worshipping of all false gods, which is indeed but worshipping the devil: a sin which at the time of Christ’s coming into the world was very common, most part of mankind then living in that vile idolatry. And, therefore, when baptism was first ordained it was but needful to make the forsaking of those false gods a principal part of the vow. And though those worships are now much rarer, yet there was one special part of them, which may be feared to be yet too common among us, and that is all sorts of uncleanness, which though we do not make ceremonies of our religion, as the heathens did of theirs, yet the committing thereof is a most high provocation in God’s eyes, such as drew Him to destroy whole “cities with fire and brimstone,” as you may read (Gen xix.), nay, “the whole world with water” (Gen vi.), and will not faith to bring down judgments, and strange ones, on any that continue therein; and therefore the forsaking them well deserves to be looked on as an especial part of this promise. Besides this, all dealing with the devil is here vowed against, whether it be by practising witchcraft ourselves, or consulting with those that do, upon any occasion whatever, as the recovery of our health, our goods, or whatever else; for this is a degree of the former sin, it is the forsaking of the Lord, and setting up the devil for our God, whilst we go to Him in our needs for help.
34. But we also renounce all the works of the devil; and those are either in general all those that the devil tempts us to to, or else those particular kinds of sin which have most of his image on them; that is, those which he himself most practises, such are pride (which brought him from being an angel of light to the accursed condition he is now in) and lying; he is, as our Saviours saith (John viii. 44), “a liar, and the father of it”; and such also are malice and envy, especially killing and destroying of others, for he was a “murderer from the beginning: (John viii. 44). But above all, there is nothing wherein we become so like him, as in tempting and drawing others to sin, which is his whole trade and business, and if we make it any part of ours, we become like that “roaring lion, that goes about seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter v. 8).
35. The second thing we vow to forsake, is the “pomps and vanities of this wicked world.” By the pomps and vanities there are several things meant; some of them such as were used by the heathens in some unlawful sports of theirs, wherein we are not now so much concerned, there being none of them remaining among us; but besides that, there is meant all excess, either in diet, in sports, or apparel, when we keep not those due measures, which either by the general rules of sobriety, or the particular circumstances of our qualities and callings we are bound to. Next, by the wicked world, we may understand, first, the wealth and greatness of the world, which though we do not so totally renounce, that it is unlawful for a Christian to be either rich or great, yet we thus far promise to forsake them, that we will not set our hearts upon them, nor either get or keep them by the least unlawful means. Secondly, by the wicked world, we may understand the companies and customs of the world, which so far as they are wicked, we here renounce; that is, we promise never to be drawn by company to the commission of a sin, but rather to forsake the most delightful company than to be ensnared by it; nor yet by custom, but rather venture the shame of being thought singular, ridiculous persons, walk as it were in a path by ourselves, than put ourselves into that “broad way that leads to destruction,” by giving ourselves over to any sinful custom how common soever it be grown. If this part of our vow were but thoroughly considered, it would arm us against most of the temptations the world offers us; company and custom being the two special instruments by which it works on us.
36. A third thing we renounce, is all the sinful lusts of the flesh; where the flesh is to be understood in that sense wherein the Scripture often uses it, for the fountain of all disordered affections. For though those unclean desires which we ordinarily call the lusts of the flesh are here meant, yet they are not the only things here contained, there being diverse other things which the Scripture calls the “works of the flesh.” I cannot better inform you of them than by setting down the list Saint Paul gives of them (Gal v. 19-21), “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like.” This, with those other descriptions you will find scattered in several places of Scripture, will show you there are many things contained in this part of your vow, the forsaking all the sinful lusts of the flesh.
37. The second thing our godfathers and godmothers promised for us was that “we should believe all the articles of the Christian faith.” These we have summed up together in that which we call the Apostles’ Creed, which, since we promise to believe, we are supposed also to learn from, and that not only the words but likewise the plain sense of them, for who can believe what he either never heard of or knows not anything of the meaning of it? Now, by this believing is meant not only the consenting to the truth of them, but also the living like them that do believe: as for example, out believing that God created us should make us live in that subjection and obedience to Him which becomes creatures to their Creator; the believing that Christ redeemed us should make us yield up ourselves to Him as His purchase, to be disposed wholly by Him, and employed only in His service. The believing a judgment to come should give us care so to walk that we may not condemned in it. And our believing the life everlasting should make us diligent so to employ our short moment of time here, that our everlasting life may be a life of joy, not of misery, to us. In this manner from all the articles of the creed we are to draw motives to confirm us in all Christian practice, to which end it is that our learning and believing of them tends, and therefore with it we are very far from making good this part of our vow, the believing all the articles of the Christian faith.
38. The last part of our vow is, that we “should keep God’s holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of our lives.” Where by our keeping God’s holy will and commandments is meant out doing all those things which He hath made known to us to be His will we should perform; wherein He hath given us His holy word to instruct us, and teach us what it is that He requires of us, and how He expects that we should faithfully do it without favouring ourselves in the breach of any one of His commands. And then in this entire obedience we must walk all the days of our lives, that is, we must go on in a constant course of obeying God; not only fetch some few steps in His ways, but walk in them, and that not for some part of our time, but all the days of our lives, never turn out of them, but go on constantly in them as long as we live in their world.
The strict obligation of this vow of Baptism.
39. Having now thus briefly explained to you this vow made at your baptism, all I shall add concerning it, is only to remember how nearly you are concerned in keeping it. And that first, in respect of justice; secondly, in respect of advantage and benefit. That you are in justice bound to it, I need say no more but that it is a promise, and you know justice requires of every man the keeping of his promise. But then this is of all other promises the most solemn and binding, for it is a vow, that it, a promise made to God; and therefore we are not only unjust but forsworn whenever we break any part of it.
40. But, secondly, we are also highly concerned to keep it in respect of our own benefit. I told you before that baptism entered us into covenant with God. Now, a covenant is made up of two parts, that is, something promised by one party, and something by the other of the parties that make the covenant. And if one of them break his part of the covenant, that is, perform not what he hath agreed to, he can in no reason look that the other should make good his. And so it is here. God doth indeed promise those benefits before-mentioned, and that is His part of the covenant. But then we also undertake to perform the several things contained in this vow of baptism, and that is our part of it; and unless we do indeed perform them, God is not tied to make good His, and so we forfeit all those precious benefits and advantages. We are left in that natural and miserable estate of ours, “Children of wrath, enemies to God, and heirs of eternal damnation.” And now what can be the pleasure that any or all sins can afford us that can make us the least degree of recompense for such a loss, the loss of God’s favour and grace here, and the loss of our own souls hereafter? For, as our Saviour saith (Mark viii. 36), “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Yet this mad bargain we make whenever we break any part of this our vow of baptism. It, therefore, most nearly concerns us to consider sadly of it, to remember that every sin we commit is a direct breach of this our vow, and therefore when thou art tempted to any sin, seem it never so light, say not of it as Lot did of Zoar (Gen xix. 20), “Is it not a little one?” But consider that, whatever it is, thou hast in thy baptism vowed against it; and then, be it never so little, it draws a great one at the heels of it, no less than that of being forsworn, which, whoever commits, God hath, in the Third Commandment, pronounced “He will not hold him guiltless.” And, that we may the better keep this vow, it will be very useful often to repeat to ourselves several branches of it, that so we may still have it ready in our minds to set against all temptations; and surely it is so excellent a weapon, that, if we do not either cast it aside, or use it very negligently, it will enable us, by God’s help, to put to flight our spiritual adversary. And this is that reverence we are to pay to this first sacrament, that of Baptism.