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A Cross and Crooked Generation

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A Cross and Crooked Generation

Psalm 78:34

When He slew them, then they sought Him; and they returned, and enquired early after God.

This Psalm is a calendar or roll of reports, how from Moses to David the Jews carried themselves to God in matter of religion. And this verse a report how in the matter of repentance, expressed here under the terms of seeking and turning to God. Wherein this they did, this was their fashion: while He spared them, they sought Him not; “When He slew them, then they sought Him.” Cum, &c. These words then are a report.

A report; but such an one as when St. Paul heard of the Corinthians, he could not commend it. “What shall I say? Shall I praise you in this? No; I praise you not.”* Neither he them for that, nor I these for this. Rather, as old father Eli said to his sons;* Non est bonus sermo hic quem audio de vobis, “this is no good report I hear,” cum occideret, &c.

Whether good or whether evil it pertaineth to us. For to us of the Gentiles hath St. Paul entailed whatsoever well or ill befell the dissolved Church of the Jews. These, “all these came unto them for examples, and are enrolled to warn us that grow nearer and nearer to the ends of the world.”*

Both pertain unto us, the Scripture hath both; and in it draweth out our duty to us in both, in good and evil reports—as it were in white work and black work. And we to have use of both; yet not of both reports alike, but diversely, as our instructions upon them are diverse. For we are not so much to regard the bare report, as the instruction of it. For which cause Asaph hath entitled this Psalm, not Asaph’s report, but Asaph’s “instruction.”

Now we have here our report. May we find what our instruction is touching it? We may. Asaph expressly hath set it down in the eighth verse before. That this and other errors of theirs are here upon the file, ne fiant sicut patres eorum,* “that we should not be like our forefathers, a cross and crooked generation.” Not like them in other indignities, and among other in this cum occideret, &c. Never to seek God but when He kills us.

In which foul indignity our age is certainly as deep as ever was that, and we need Asaph’s instruction no less than they.

For as if there were no use of religion, but only cum occideret, so spend we all our whole time in the search of other things. Not caring to ask, or seek, or confer about the state of our souls, even till occideret come. And then, peradventure, sending for Asaph, and hearing him speak a few words about it, which we would fain have called seeking of God. I can say little to it, I pray God it prove so; but sure, I fear, it will be found minus habens, “far short of it.”*

Which is so usually received that, take a survey, not one of an hundred ever think of it before. So securely practised, as if we had some supersedeas lying by us, not to do it till then. As if there were no such Scripture as this upon record; “which turned to their destruction,” and must needs lie heavy upon us, when we shall remember it. Cum occideret, &c.

Now sure, this course must needs be prejudicial to our souls, and a number perish in it daily before our eyes. Yet we sit still, and suffer this custom to grow and gather head. Neither delivering their souls, or at least our own, by telling them seriously this is not the time, and then to seek is not the seeking God will allow. That this is a ne fiant, “such a thing as should not be done in Israel.” That it is upon record πρὸς ἐντροπὴν, to their disgrace and destruction. And it cannot be to our comfort or commendation to do the like. Out of which their destruction, Asaph frameth an instruction for us; and as it is well said and fitly to this day, ex cinere Judæorum lixivium Christianorum, ‘of the Jews’ ashes maketh a lye1 for Christians,’ to cleanse us from this foul indignity. Ut videntes cadentes, videant ne cadant, ‘that heeding their fall, we take heed we fall not;’ that is, seek not as they sought, lest we perish by like example of seeking too late.

Therefore, that we set ourselves to seek before this cum come; that is, in a word, seek God, as by repentance and the fruits, so by undelayed repentance, and the timely fruits of it; and be not like the Apostle Jude’s δένδρα φθινοπωρινὰ, our seeking all summer withered and dry,* and beginning to shoot out a little about Michaelmas spring. Of which kind of shooting fruit can never come. This is the sum.

The words consist of two parts. Two parts; but these two evil matched, or as St. Paul “unequally yoked together.”* For where our chief actions, of which I take it our seeking of God is one, should have the chiefest time; here is the first and best of our actions sorted with the last and worst part of our time. Quærebant Eum with cum occideret.

And not only missorted, but misplaced. For cum occideret, “His killing” standeth before “our seeking;” whereas our seeking should be first, and His killing come after. This was never God’s fiant, they must have a ne fiant.

Of these two then. First by way of report jointly that de facto thus it is—thus they, and thus we seek.

Then if we take them in sunder, and as Jeremy saith “separate the precious from the vile,”* quærebant Eum the flower of our actions, from cum occideret, the dross, dregs, and very refuse of our time. Consider them apart, and shew, 1. That this time is not the time; 2. and that this seeking thus sorted and thus placed is no seeking, nor ever shall find. Therefore, with Asaph’s instruction, to settle our seeking upon some other time, and to resolve to begin it before.

Two powers there are in cum; 1. a privative, of all times before; 2. a positive, of that instant time then. No time before we seek, at that instant time then we do. On which two consisteth theatrum vitæ, ‘the very theatre of our life.’ Our case before that time is lively expressed in the words immediately precedent; “They spend their days in vanity, and their years in turmoil in the world.”* Our case then at that time in these words, cum occideret eos. Yea, by implication they are both in this verse; by what they do now is implied what they did before. 1. Now “they sought Him,” so that before they lost Him. 2. Again, then “they turned to;” so that before they turned away, and not once looked toward Him. 3. Now “they rose up early,” so that before they put it off till twilight. 4. Now “they remembered,” so that before they forgat Him clean—no speech, no question, nay no thought about Him.

Thus it was, saith Asaph, under Moses. While His hand was not upon them, they regarded Him not, as not worth the seeking; perdebant Eum, it was their losing time. But “when He slew them,” they fell to seek, and well was he that might find; quærebant Eum, is was their seeking time.

Before, quærebant alia, ‘they found themselves other matters more meet to seek.’ Then quærebant Eum, “they gave over all to seek Him only.”

Before He sought them; and they gave Him good leave so to do. Then all is turned out and in. As He them before, so they Him now.

And is it not thus with us that are now in theatro, ‘upon the stage?’ Yes indeed; and more, if more may be. This is but vetus fabula per novos histriones, ‘the same play again by other actors.’ For in public, when in the days of safety plenty and peace, we are in the sixth of Amos,* and are best at ease when quærebant is farthest from us; but if war, famine, or contagion come, then we run to the second of Joel, “Sanctify a fast,”* and call for the Ark, and grow all godly on a sudden. What is this but cum occideret? And in private, when while youth and strength and health doth last, while the evil day is far off, we are even at cessare fac Sanctum Israel a nobis, “cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from us;”* but when distress, danger, or death come, when Rabshakeh is before the walls, then we cry, “Now is the day of tribulation and anguish; now the children are come to the birth, and there is no strength to be delivered.”* Now send to Esay, “Now lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left.” What is this but cum occideret? Surely this is our case; our seeking goeth wholly by our killing—waxeth and waneth, is out and in, as that is near at hand or farther off. I need not tell it, your ears and eyes are daily witnesses that this is a true saying, cum occideret Eos, &c. No killing, no seeking.

“This is a true saying,” but all true sayings are not by all means, nay some not by any means, “to be received.” The report indeed is, thus it was. But the instruction is ne fiant,* “that it should not be.” To the end then we may know what to receive and what to refuse, we will take it in pieces, and melt the dross from the silver metal. Quærebant Eum, by itself is good. Put occideret to it, it is base. Of these then in order.

Of quærebant Eum we shall soon agree, if it be quærebant Eum, that it is a fiat, ‘a thing to be done.’ Which many other ways might be made to appear, but by none better than this here; that at last all come to it. Sooner or later all seek it, all men if not before yet cum occideret, then certainly.

All seek; and among all “they” sought, which word is not without his weight here. For what are these that Asaph here meaneth by “they?” Not saints, not generatio quærentium, “the generation of them that seek God.” But “they”* that in the verse before “wasted all their days in vanity, and their years in turmoiling in the world.” “They,”* idle, riotous persons—“they” sought.

“They” that in a verse after “flattered Him with their lips,” and gave Him all the good words that might be,* and meant no such thing. The hypocrites, “they” sought.

“They” that a little before “grievously provoked the Most High God” with speeches little better than blasphemy; “can God do this? Is there a God amongst us,”* or is there none? And so, instead of quærebant Deum, quærebant an Deus, ‘made a question, whether there were any to seek.’ That is, even the very wicked, and of all wicked the worst, the profane atheists, “they” sought—even at last “they” sought. This is the triumph of religion; the riotous person, the hypocrite, the atheist, all shall seek.

And herein is folly condemned even of her own children, and wisdom justified of her very enemies; that they that greedily seek sin, at last would be glad to be rid of it, and they that merrily scorn religion at last are glad to seek to it.

“They” shall seek; and the time is set down when they shall seek, and when you shall not fail but see them seek that never sought before. In diebus juventutis, not then. Sanus factus est, nor then neither; but cum occideret, then certainly. Cum occideret, mark this cum when it cometh, and you shall see them that stood out all their life long then come in.

The heathen man saw it with his eyes. O, saith the Persian messenger in Æschylus, when the Grecian forces hotly pursued our host, and we must needs venture over the great water Strymon, frozen then but beginning to thaw, when an hundred to one we had all died for it—that is, cum occideret, with mine eyes I saw saith he,* when Θεοὺς δέ τις, &c. Of those gallants whom I had heard before so boldly maintain there was no God to seek; τότʼ ἤυχετο λιταῖσι, ‘then every one of them on their knees, and full devoutly praying the ice might hold till they got over.’ Moses saw it with his eyes. Pharaoh,* who was at high terms, “Who is the Lord you talk of?” and answered himself, “he knew none such,” nor nothing would do for Him:—when cum occideret came, he took notice there was a Lord higher than he; “that that Lord was righteous, and he a wretched sinner”* that sought for grace at His hands. Mark but the shutting up of dixit insipiens, their own Psalm. When,* saith David, they have in heart sought to persuade themselves, non est—seek none, “none there is;”* and thereupon “corrupted themselves,” and became most loathsome in their lives, “eat up their tenants as they would do so many morsels of bread;” made a mock of such holy men as set themselves seriously to seek God: when all is done and occideret come, trepidabunt timore ubi non erat timor, “they shall begin to be afraid, where they held before no fear needed;” and here shall be the last verse of their Psalm; quis dabit e Sion salutem, “to wish for the salvation of Sion,” which they have so oft derided. “They shall seek,” and “then they shall seek.” Till then possibly you shall lose your labour, if you tell them of seeking of God, but and how good it is. They are, saith Jeremy, “like the dromedary of the wilderness,”* a beast of exceeding swiftness, the female specially; “over hill and dale she goeth,” saith the Prophet, “and snuffeth up the air at her pleasure, and who can overtake her? They that seek her will not weary themselves till her month.” And in her month when she is bagged, then they will find her, and deal with her well enough. The case is like. Age, sickness, death, are far off; youth, health, and strength, possess them; there is no coming to them then. The month, cum occideret, is not yet come; but come that once as once it will to all, you shall find quærebant will have his place—fiat. It is therefore God’s own resolution, thus He resolveth: “I will go,” saith He, “and return to My place, till they acknowledge their faults and seek Me.”* And when will that be? He addeth, in novissimo quærent me diligenter, an end will come, and when that cometh “they will seek Me diligently,” even the best of them. And even so we are fain to resolve; for our lot is God’s lot, and when He sought to them, we go to our place, and there stand till their month, expectantes aquæ motum,* waiting till the destroying Angel come and stir the water, and then quærent Eum will be worth the seeking after.

Then, according to St. Paul’s disjunctive,* we that all other times mente excedimus Dco, at that time sobrii sumus vobis. Divinity, which in our ruff1 is sophism and school-points, and at the best a kind of ecstasy about God, is and shall be then, “the words of truth and soberness.”* For God and His seeking will have their time; before if it may be, but if not before, then at the farthest. First or last, all shall confess by seeking God is to be sought. Some before He kill, and happy are they; but “when He killeth,” all;—hypocrites, heathens, atheists, and all.

And I would pray you in a word but to note, in seeking then how many things they confess. For there be I take it four potential confessions in it.

That such an One there is to be sought. A Power above us Whose being and sovereignty all, first or last, shall seek.

That somewhat there is to be found, some good to be done in seeking; as Esay saith, non frustra dixit, “He hath not in vain said to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye Me.”* For were it to no purpose, they would not then do it; but as at other times they did, so let it alone then too.

That whatsoever that good is, hit upon it,* or stumble on it we shall not; it will not be had in parergo, but seek it we must. For without seeking it will not be had. If it would they might sit still, and let it drop into their laps.

That seeking at this time when He slayeth them, they that shew what that good is they seek; even that the Psalmist saith, “Seek the Lord, and your soul shall live;”* that whatsoever become of their body, at least their soul may live; that we may lose not both, that “He kill not both, and cast not both into hell fire.”* And this, even when we come within the hemisphere of the other life, the sense we then have of somewhat that should have been sought before; the misgiving of our hearts, they shall come to a reckoning for not seeking sooner; and this, that not one of us would die suddenly of our good-wills, but have a time to seek God, before we lose ourselves. This, that we desire to die seeking, howsoever we live; all shew certainly it is a fiat, ‘a thing to be done,’ a good thing to seek God, even the enemies of it being judges of it.

So then; quærebant Eum is as it should be. But I add: 1. If it be quærebant, seeking indeed. 2. And if it be quærebant Eum, and not aliud in Eo, seeking, not Him, but somewhat else by Him.

If it be seeking indeed. For they to whom the Prophet Esay said, Si quæritis quærite, “if ye seek, why then do it,” sought so as it seemeth their seeking deserved not the name of seeking. So loosely, so slightly, so slenderly they did it;* as if that they sought were as good lost as found. So sought the party that said, In lectulo quæsivi Quem diligit anima,* that lay in bed and sought. So he that asked our Saviour Quid est veritas? a very good question; and when he had asked it another thing took him in the head and up he rose and went his way before Christ could tell him what it was. Such is our seeking for the most part. Some idle question cast, some table-talk moved, some Quid est veritas,* and go our way—all by the way, in transcursu; and never, as if it were about some matter of special moment, set about it and seek it out indeed.

1. They turned them, saith the text, as if before they sought without so much as turning them about.

2. They rose up, as though before they sat still and sought.

3. They did it early, and did not tarry till cum occideret, the sun were set, and no light to seek by, but their “feet stumbled in the dark mountains.”*

4. They “enquired;” so that before if you had ought to say to them you might, they had nothing to say to you. To seek then is to turn, to rise, to rise early, to enquire after it. O si quæritis, quærite, saith Esay, “the morning cometh, and so doth the night;”* that is, our days spend apace, and we say we will seek; if we will seek, let us once do it indeed.

Secondly, if it be quærebant, and if it be Eum; another point to be rectified. Non vestra sed vos, saith the Apostle, is the right seeking.* Not seek Him for somewhat we would have of Him, but to seek Himself for Himself. It is one thing, say the schools, to seek God for fruition; another to seek Him to make use of Him. One thing, saith Christ,* to seek for the miracle, another for the loaves.* One thing to “seek His face,” another to seek His fingers’ ends. One thing to consult with Him only for conscience, to know and do; another to consult with Him—if it hit our humour to make our advantage of it, if it go against us to set light by it. Such is our seeking for the most part; cum occideret, to have our turn served, to have our health restored, that we may seek Him no longer, but to our former riot again, “and to-morrow may be as yesterday and much more.”*

Seek Him indeed; seek Him for Himself. These two points being agreed of, we shall throughly agree of quærebant Eum. And so much for it, and for our fiat. Now to our ne fiat.

For when we have agreed of our seeking, we have not done. With diligence it would be, and due respect. Our seeking, as all things, the best things under the sun, must have τὴν ὥραν καὶ τὴν χώραν, ‘their due time and place.’* Wherein appeareth the abating power of circumstances,* that they are able to bring down the substances. Namely, of the time; and that mis-timing marreth not only music, but all things else. The thing is right, the cum is wrong, and so all is wrong.

To find out the time, we agree first that as every weighty thing hath, so the seeking of God is to be allowed a time too.

What time is that? Verily, we should do it absolutely, all our life long; quærite faciem Ejus semper. Not when? but when not? without limitation, continually.*

And in this sense we grant cum occideret; then, and at other times too. But not (as Asaph) then, and never till then; so, we deny it.

God indeed is so to be sought, but we cannot so seek Him; other our affairs crave allowance out of our time, and we are well content to yield it largely. Only that God have a set time left when to seek Him. That is but reason; all will yield to it. All grant a cum.

But come to know when that “when” shall be; here we vary first. We cannot be brought to set down any certainty, but love to be left at large. Do it we will, but indeed we cannot shew when; but even Felix his “when,”* ὅταν εὐκαιρήσω, ‘when we have leisure.’ I cannot now stand to seek, saith he; I hope one day to be at leisure to do it, but that day never came.

Urge them, press them “when?” No other resolution but omnis peccator dicit, aliquando Deum sequar sed non modo; ‘sometime still, but not this time.’ Never in the present, but sometime hereafter.

Follow them all along their life, they find not this cum, but put it from one cum to another, till there be none left but only cum occideret, even that very time against which God layeth His exceptions. Every time before we say, nondum tempus, ‘it is not time yet;’ every hour before, nondum venit hora, ‘the hour is not yet come.’

Not to leave God’s seeking thus at random, but to grow to some certainty. I demand, will any time serve? Is God at all times to be found? It is certain not. The very limitation of dum inveniri potest,* sheweth plainly that other times there be wherein seek Him you may, but find Him you shall not.

Then if at all times He is not to be found, we are to make choice of a certain cum, cum inveniri potest, “when He may be found,” and then seek Him.

Many returns there be in the term of our life, many cums; all are reduced to two: 1. cum servaret, and 2. cum occideret. Or if we will needs be wedded to a cum occideret, 1. Cum occideret hostes eorum, 2. not eos; ‘when He scattereth and slayeth our enemies’ and saveth us. One of these two it must needs be.

Cum occideret, it is not. Christ Himself expressly limiteth it before; Dedi ei tempus ad pænitendum, saith He, “I gave her a time to repent.”* What time is that? Lest we might mistake it to be cum occideret, He adds, if we do it not in that time so by Him given, He will “cast us down on our beds,” the beds of affliction and sickness, and there “kill us with death.” So that the time He alloweth us to repent, is before we come thither. For thither we come because we did it not in the time He gave us to do it in. Indeed our bed is not the place: in lectulo quæsivi, “I sought Him in my bed;” quæsivi sed non inveni, “I sought Him but I found Him not.”* The place of slaughter is not the place, nor the time of killing is not the time. We may take that time, but it is not dedi illis, none of “His giving.” The time He giveth us is before we come there.

Then if when He kills us is not it, when He saveth us it is? It is indeed; and a cluster of it, an hour of cum servaret then is better than a vintage, a whole day of cum occideret.

Upon these two the whole Psalm standeth, and the part before sheweth when it should have been. When “He overwhelmed the Egyptians in the sea,”* when “the pillar of the cloud was over,”* when He not only saved them but served them, “raining down manna”* for their need, and giving them quails for their lust;* then was the time with them and then is the time with us.

For sure as we seek God to save us, so He saveth us to seek Him; if when we seek Him we are saved, when we are saved we should seek Him. The time of His saving is the time of our seeking; and one hour then is better than four and twenty.

All that while what seek we? Why, as Jeremy saith,* we do then quærere grandia. Other greater matters we have in hand, matters of more weight than the seeking of God. As if His seeking were some petty business, slightly to be sought, and lightly to be found. Any time good enough for it.

Nay not that, but so evil are we affected to seek Him then, that quærebant is occideret; we indict Him of our death, it is death to do it—as lieve die as seek; it maketh us old, it killeth us before our time. We digest not them that call on us for it, but seek ourselves, as the Apostle speaketh,* Magistros secundum desideria, that may entertain us with speculations of what may be done by miracle at the hour of death; that may give us days and elbow-room enough to seek other things, and to shrink up His seeking into a narrow time at our end, and tell us time enough then. For thus then we reckon; all the time we spend in it we lose the fruit of our life, and the joy of our hearts shall be taken from us. As if the fruit of life were not to find God, or as if any true hearts’ joy God being not found. Call we this our fruit and joy not to seek God? call it not so; lætetur cor quærentium Deum, saith the Holy Ghost, “let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.”* Yea in lachrymis peccatorum, ‘in the very tears of a penitent,’* there is, saith St. Augustine, more sound joy than in risu theatrorum, ‘in all the games the theatre can afford:’ Da Christianum, et scit quid dico. But our taste is turned, and we relish not this seeking. By our flesh-pots we have lived, and by them we will die, and so we do. Lust hath been our life, and we will be buried in the graves of lust; and so we shall, and never know what that joy meaneth, Lætetur cor quærentium Deum.

Cum servaret then will not serve. Nay, cum occideret will scarce serve, it hath much ado; let Him draw His sword and come amongst us. For if, as of His goodness He doth not, He rush not on us at first, but begin with others; if it be cum occideret alios, we seek not. See ye the thirty-first verse: He took away others before their faces, and those not weak or sickly persons, but the goodliest and strongest of all Israel, and least likely to die. Here is occideret. Now did this move? No. See the thirty-second verse: for at this they “sinned yet more,” and went about their seeking never the sooner. It must be cum occideret eos, “themselves,” their own selves, or it will not do it.

Come then to themselves and smite them with the edge, not with the point; with the edge to wound, not with the point to dispatch outright; will that serve? cum cæderet eos, ‘when He wounded them with some mortal sickness the messenger of death, would they seek Him then?’ No: not then, not for all that would they frame to it. For quærebant medicum then, I say, as Asa sought medicos, et non Deum.* Not God and them, but them first; and let God stay till they be gone. And till they give us over, and tell us plainly occideret is now come indeed, no smiting or wounding will send us to seek. So that it is not either 1. cum servaret eos, or 2. cum serviret eis, His saving, or serving us; nay it is not, 3. cum occideret alios, or 4. cum cæderet, ‘His killing others, or wounding us’ with any but our deaths-wound, will do it.

Tandem then, when we are come to the very last cast, our strength is gone, our spirit clean spent, our senses appalled, and the powers of our soul as numb as our senses, when a general prostration of all our powers, and the shadow of death upon our eyes, then something we would say or do which should stand for our seeking; but, I doubt it will not serve. This is the time we allow God to seek Him in.

Is this it? Would we then seek Him when we are not in case to seek any thing else? Would we turn to Him then when we are not able to turn ourselves in our bed? Or, “rise early to seek Him” when we are not able to rise at all? Or “enquire after Him” when our breath faileth us, and we are not able to speak three words together? Neither before, nor with, but even at the end of occideret? No hour but the hour of death?* No time but when He taketh time from us and us from it, et tempus non erit amplius? What shall I say? Shall I commend this seeking, turning, rising, enquiring? No; I cannot commend it either in itself or to any. I commend it not.

That that may be said is this, and it is nothing: true; some one or two of a thousand and ten thousand that have. How then? Shall we not therefore follow our instruction and seek Him before? Nay then,* “some have found and never sought;”—let us not seek Him at all if that will hold. Thus it is: some going a journey have found a purse by the way—it were mad counsel to advise us to leave our money behind upon hope of like hap in ours. No; this is safe and good; though some one or two have found and not sought, yet let us seek for all that. Though some one or two have then sought and found, yet let us seek before. Though some have found a purse in their way, let us not trust to like hap, but carry money with us. This is a privy-door on special favour open to some few. There lieth no way by them. “This is the way,” you have heard, “walk in it and you shall find rest to your souls.”*

To speak then of safe seeking and sure finding, I say, as Asaph saith, it is a ne fiant. This time is not the time Christ giveth us; He assigneth us another. Yea we condemn ourselves in that we would seek to allow it ourselves. If we were put to it to say plainly, “not till He kill me,” it would choke us. We neither have heart nor face, we would not dare to answer so, we dare not avow it. And if it be a ne dicant it is a ne fiant. The time of God’s quærite is primum quærite.* This cum is the last of all our cums; all other before it. First and last are flat ad oppositum. This is not it.

The time of seeking God must be δεκτὸς, such as is meet to be received. This is not: therefore, I hope, we will not offer it God.* If we do, take heed He scorn not this time as He doth their price in Zachary; “A goodly time1 that I have assigned Me.”* Take heed He stand not upon His reputation, as in Malachi, and bid us “offer our service”* at this hour, “to any great man and see, whether he will be content with it,” and not reject both us and our seeking then. This is not, cannot be but a great ne fiant, to offer God that no man is so mean but would take in evil part.

This time is the time when all hypocrites, atheists, tag and rag, come in and seek Him in a sort; and shall not we be confounded to see ourselves in their number? Nay to say that must be said for true it is, It is past the Devil’s time. They be his words, cur ante tempus?* and he seeketh to make them ours, that it is ever too soon to seek God. At the hardest I trust we will not keep time with him.

And to seek Him then is not to seek Him; not quærebant Eum. No; they seek Him not, they “dissemble with Him,” saith Asaph, in the next verse. For when God to try them reprieved them never so little time, they fell to their old bias;* and when as He ceased killing, their seeking was at an end. So are all forced seekings, like to a bow-string brought to his full bent, but remit you never so little it starteth back again.

Nay it is not quærebant, no kindly seeking, but a base ignoble creeping to, without all ingenuity1, when we must either die or do it. Neither χάρις nor κλέος to do it then.

But in very deed it is no “seeking”* at all, as before we defined quærebant to “seek indeed.” There is a diameter between occideret and quærebant, and therefore between it and quærebant Eum. Men cannot then seek; if they must rise up and turn them that must do it, they are not able for their lives to turn or stir themselves to do it. Nay, nor to “enquire.” For what is our “seeking” then? Is it not to lie still on our bed, and suffer a few words to be spoken in our ears? Have a little opiate divinity ministered to our souls, and so sent away? Sure this is rather to be sought than to “seek.” There goeth more to quærebant then thus. We must then “seek” when we are in case to give sentence and to do judgment on ourselves, when we are able to take up our cross before it be laid on us. Quærebant Eum must stand before cum occideret.

Lastly, it would be known what became of this quærebant? What they found that sought thus, and then and not before? “They found not Him,”* the Prophet saith plainly. They go then “with sheep and bullocks,” and all manner of sacrifice, “to seek the Lord; but find Him not, for He hath withdrawn Himself before.”

And justly they find Him not ex lege talionis. God Himself answers them; nay their own hearts answer themselves. Go: whom you have spent your life in seeking, seek to them now. Let them save you at this, whom ye sought at all other times. As for Me, it shall come to pass, as I cried and you would not hear, so you shall cry and seek and shall not find or be heard, saith the Lord.

Yes—they found Him, but with a door shut between Him and them. But what found they? The parable of the ten virgins tells us, which is the Gospel for this Psalm, they found that which we I hope shall never find, a nescio vos.* Where, that we may see that this course is folly and therefore indeed a ne fiant sicut, that which putteth the difference of those that be wise and go in, is that they had sought “and looked to their oil ere the Bridegroom came;”* and those that were foolish and shut out when the Bridegroom was even coming, that is, cum occideret, were to seek their oil then—had not looked to it till then. Nescio vos is their answer, He knoweth them not; they took too short a time to breed acquaintance in. Nescio vos they find that so seek. Profecto ad hoc tonitru, &c. ‘At this clap he that waketh not is not asleep but dead.’

To conclude then with our instruction. If this time and this seeking have so many evil marks, the time so unseasonable, the seeking so many ways to seek; if the success to this seeking be no better but nescio vos, why then ne fiat. If these here were not well advised, if those virgins were foolish, why then ne fiant sicut, “not to be like.”

Secondly, to sever the silver from the dross: the seeking is good, keep it; the time is wrong, change it; either into antequam occideret or into cum servaret. Fiat to the action, ne fiat to the time.

Thirdly, as we confess that there is One to be sought, and that with the turning of a gin1 we cannot have Him when we list, but seek Him we must; that His seeking is worth the while, and that it is not dispatched in a minute, but must have time; so to think His seeking worthy a better, and to allow it a better time than this to do it in.

Fourthly, seeing “yet is the acceptable time,” yet “He may be found,”* yet it is cum servaret, occideret is not yet come—how near it is it is hard to say; our Saviour Christ saith it is quâ horâ nescis,* it may be nearer than we are aware; lest it come upon us before we seek, let us seek before it come upon us. So seeking we shall safely seek; safely seek and surely find God, and with God whatsoever is worth the finding. But, that which we seek, we shall after occideret is past find ourselves in His presence and at His right hand; “in Whose presence is the fulness of joy,”* not as ours here joys half empty; and at “Whose right hand there are pleasures for evermore,” not as ours here for a time and a short time, God knoweth. That which here we seek and cannot find with Him we shall, if we shall here indeed and in due time seek Him by the timely fruits of an undelayed repentance. Almighty God, lighten our minds, kindle our affections, settle our hearts so to seek, &c.[1]

 

 

1 Liter. water impregnated with alkaline salts imbibed from the ashes of wood. Webster.

* Isa. 37:3.

1 i.e. pride. The ruff of their glory. L.’Estrange.

* [ἐκ παρέργου Thucyd. vii. 27.]

* Joh. 18:38.

* Ps. 105:3.

1 [price.]

1 [i.e. ingenuousness.]

* Mat. 25:12.

Psalm 78:34

When He slew them, then they sought Him; and they returned, and enquired early after God.

This Psalm is a calendar or roll of reports, how from Moses to David the Jews carried themselves to God in matter of religion. And this verse a report how in the matter of repentance, expressed here under the terms of seeking and turning to God. Wherein this they did, this was their fashion: while He spared them, they sought Him not; “When He slew them, then they sought Him.” Cum, &c. These words then are a report.

A report; but such an one as when St. Paul heard of the Corinthians, he could not commend it. “What shall I say? Shall I praise you in this? No; I praise you not.”* Neither he them for that, nor I these for this. Rather, as old father Eli said to his sons;* Non est bonus sermo hic quem audio de vobis, “this is no good report I hear,” cum occideret, &c.

Whether good or whether evil it pertaineth to us. For to us of the Gentiles hath St. Paul entailed whatsoever well or ill befell the dissolved Church of the Jews. These, “all these came unto them for examples, and are enrolled to warn us that grow nearer and nearer to the ends of the world.”*

Both pertain unto us, the Scripture hath both; and in it draweth out our duty to us in both, in good and evil reports—as it were in white work and black work. And we to have use of both; yet not of both reports alike, but diversely, as our instructions upon them are diverse. For we are not so much to regard the bare report, as the instruction of it. For which cause Asaph hath entitled this Psalm, not Asaph’s report, but Asaph’s “instruction.”

Now we have here our report. May we find what our instruction is touching it? We may. Asaph expressly hath set it down in the eighth verse before. That this and other errors of theirs are here upon the file, ne fiant sicut patres eorum,* “that we should not be like our forefathers, a cross and crooked generation.” Not like them in other indignities, and among other in this cum occideret, &c. Never to seek God but when He kills us.

In which foul indignity our age is certainly as deep as ever was that, and we need Asaph’s instruction no less than they.

For as if there were no use of religion, but only cum occideret, so spend we all our whole time in the search of other things. Not caring to ask, or seek, or confer about the state of our souls, even till occideret come. And then, peradventure, sending for Asaph, and hearing him speak a few words about it, which we would fain have called seeking of God. I can say little to it, I pray God it prove so; but sure, I fear, it will be found minus habens, “far short of it.”*

Which is so usually received that, take a survey, not one of an hundred ever think of it before. So securely practised, as if we had some supersedeas lying by us, not to do it till then. As if there were no such Scripture as this upon record; “which turned to their destruction,” and must needs lie heavy upon us, when we shall remember it. Cum occideret, &c.

Now sure, this course must needs be prejudicial to our souls, and a number perish in it daily before our eyes. Yet we sit still, and suffer this custom to grow and gather head. Neither delivering their souls, or at least our own, by telling them seriously this is not the time, and then to seek is not the seeking God will allow. That this is a ne fiant, “such a thing as should not be done in Israel.” That it is upon record πρὸς ἐντροπὴν, to their disgrace and destruction. And it cannot be to our comfort or commendation to do the like. Out of which their destruction, Asaph frameth an instruction for us; and as it is well said and fitly to this day, ex cinere Judæorum lixivium Christianorum, ‘of the Jews’ ashes maketh a lye1 for Christians,’ to cleanse us from this foul indignity. Ut videntes cadentes, videant ne cadant, ‘that heeding their fall, we take heed we fall not;’ that is, seek not as they sought, lest we perish by like example of seeking too late.

Therefore, that we set ourselves to seek before this cum come; that is, in a word, seek God, as by repentance and the fruits, so by undelayed repentance, and the timely fruits of it; and be not like the Apostle Jude’s δένδρα φθινοπωρινὰ, our seeking all summer withered and dry,* and beginning to shoot out a little about Michaelmas spring. Of which kind of shooting fruit can never come. This is the sum.

The words consist of two parts. Two parts; but these two evil matched, or as St. Paul “unequally yoked together.”* For where our chief actions, of which I take it our seeking of God is one, should have the chiefest time; here is the first and best of our actions sorted with the last and worst part of our time. Quærebant Eum with cum occideret.

And not only missorted, but misplaced. For cum occideret, “His killing” standeth before “our seeking;” whereas our seeking should be first, and His killing come after. This was never God’s fiant, they must have a ne fiant.

Of these two then. First by way of report jointly that de facto thus it is—thus they, and thus we seek.

Then if we take them in sunder, and as Jeremy saith “separate the precious from the vile,”* quærebant Eum the flower of our actions, from cum occideret, the dross, dregs, and very refuse of our time. Consider them apart, and shew, 1. That this time is not the time; 2. and that this seeking thus sorted and thus placed is no seeking, nor ever shall find. Therefore, with Asaph’s instruction, to settle our seeking upon some other time, and to resolve to begin it before.

Two powers there are in cum; 1. a privative, of all times before; 2. a positive, of that instant time then. No time before we seek, at that instant time then we do. On which two consisteth theatrum vitæ, ‘the very theatre of our life.’ Our case before that time is lively expressed in the words immediately precedent; “They spend their days in vanity, and their years in turmoil in the world.”* Our case then at that time in these words, cum occideret eos. Yea, by implication they are both in this verse; by what they do now is implied what they did before. 1. Now “they sought Him,” so that before they lost Him. 2. Again, then “they turned to;” so that before they turned away, and not once looked toward Him. 3. Now “they rose up early,” so that before they put it off till twilight. 4. Now “they remembered,” so that before they forgat Him clean—no speech, no question, nay no thought about Him.

Thus it was, saith Asaph, under Moses. While His hand was not upon them, they regarded Him not, as not worth the seeking; perdebant Eum, it was their losing time. But “when He slew them,” they fell to seek, and well was he that might find; quærebant Eum, is was their seeking time.

Before, quærebant alia, ‘they found themselves other matters more meet to seek.’ Then quærebant Eum, “they gave over all to seek Him only.”

Before He sought them; and they gave Him good leave so to do. Then all is turned out and in. As He them before, so they Him now.

And is it not thus with us that are now in theatro, ‘upon the stage?’ Yes indeed; and more, if more may be. This is but vetus fabula per novos histriones, ‘the same play again by other actors.’ For in public, when in the days of safety plenty and peace, we are in the sixth of Amos,* and are best at ease when quærebant is farthest from us; but if war, famine, or contagion come, then we run to the second of Joel, “Sanctify a fast,”* and call for the Ark, and grow all godly on a sudden. What is this but cum occideret? And in private, when while youth and strength and health doth last, while the evil day is far off, we are even at cessare fac Sanctum Israel a nobis, “cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from us;”* but when distress, danger, or death come, when Rabshakeh is before the walls, then we cry, “Now is the day of tribulation and anguish; now the children are come to the birth, and there is no strength to be delivered.”* Now send to Esay, “Now lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left.” What is this but cum occideret? Surely this is our case; our seeking goeth wholly by our killing—waxeth and waneth, is out and in, as that is near at hand or farther off. I need not tell it, your ears and eyes are daily witnesses that this is a true saying, cum occideret Eos, &c. No killing, no seeking.

“This is a true saying,” but all true sayings are not by all means, nay some not by any means, “to be received.” The report indeed is, thus it was. But the instruction is ne fiant,* “that it should not be.” To the end then we may know what to receive and what to refuse, we will take it in pieces, and melt the dross from the silver metal. Quærebant Eum, by itself is good. Put occideret to it, it is base. Of these then in order.

Of quærebant Eum we shall soon agree, if it be quærebant Eum, that it is a fiat, ‘a thing to be done.’ Which many other ways might be made to appear, but by none better than this here; that at last all come to it. Sooner or later all seek it, all men if not before yet cum occideret, then certainly.

All seek; and among all “they” sought, which word is not without his weight here. For what are these that Asaph here meaneth by “they?” Not saints, not generatio quærentium, “the generation of them that seek God.” But “they”* that in the verse before “wasted all their days in vanity, and their years in turmoiling in the world.” “They,”* idle, riotous persons—“they” sought.

“They” that in a verse after “flattered Him with their lips,” and gave Him all the good words that might be,* and meant no such thing. The hypocrites, “they” sought.

“They” that a little before “grievously provoked the Most High God” with speeches little better than blasphemy; “can God do this? Is there a God amongst us,”* or is there none? And so, instead of quærebant Deum, quærebant an Deus, ‘made a question, whether there were any to seek.’ That is, even the very wicked, and of all wicked the worst, the profane atheists, “they” sought—even at last “they” sought. This is the triumph of religion; the riotous person, the hypocrite, the atheist, all shall seek.

And herein is folly condemned even of her own children, and wisdom justified of her very enemies; that they that greedily seek sin, at last would be glad to be rid of it, and they that merrily scorn religion at last are glad to seek to it.

“They” shall seek; and the time is set down when they shall seek, and when you shall not fail but see them seek that never sought before. In diebus juventutis, not then. Sanus factus est, nor then neither; but cum occideret, then certainly. Cum occideret, mark this cum when it cometh, and you shall see them that stood out all their life long then come in.

The heathen man saw it with his eyes. O, saith the Persian messenger in Æschylus, when the Grecian forces hotly pursued our host, and we must needs venture over the great water Strymon, frozen then but beginning to thaw, when an hundred to one we had all died for it—that is, cum occideret, with mine eyes I saw saith he,* when Θεοὺς δέ τις, &c. Of those gallants whom I had heard before so boldly maintain there was no God to seek; τότʼ ἤυχετο λιταῖσι, ‘then every one of them on their knees, and full devoutly praying the ice might hold till they got over.’ Moses saw it with his eyes. Pharaoh,* who was at high terms, “Who is the Lord you talk of?” and answered himself, “he knew none such,” nor nothing would do for Him:—when cum occideret came, he took notice there was a Lord higher than he; “that that Lord was righteous, and he a wretched sinner”* that sought for grace at His hands. Mark but the shutting up of dixit insipiens, their own Psalm. When,* saith David, they have in heart sought to persuade themselves, non est—seek none, “none there is;”* and thereupon “corrupted themselves,” and became most loathsome in their lives, “eat up their tenants as they would do so many morsels of bread;” made a mock of such holy men as set themselves seriously to seek God: when all is done and occideret come, trepidabunt timore ubi non erat timor, “they shall begin to be afraid, where they held before no fear needed;” and here shall be the last verse of their Psalm; quis dabit e Sion salutem, “to wish for the salvation of Sion,” which they have so oft derided. “They shall seek,” and “then they shall seek.” Till then possibly you shall lose your labour, if you tell them of seeking of God, but and how good it is. They are, saith Jeremy, “like the dromedary of the wilderness,”* a beast of exceeding swiftness, the female specially; “over hill and dale she goeth,” saith the Prophet, “and snuffeth up the air at her pleasure, and who can overtake her? They that seek her will not weary themselves till her month.” And in her month when she is bagged, then they will find her, and deal with her well enough. The case is like. Age, sickness, death, are far off; youth, health, and strength, possess them; there is no coming to them then. The month, cum occideret, is not yet come; but come that once as once it will to all, you shall find quærebant will have his place—fiat. It is therefore God’s own resolution, thus He resolveth: “I will go,” saith He, “and return to My place, till they acknowledge their faults and seek Me.”* And when will that be? He addeth, in novissimo quærent me diligenter, an end will come, and when that cometh “they will seek Me diligently,” even the best of them. And even so we are fain to resolve; for our lot is God’s lot, and when He sought to them, we go to our place, and there stand till their month, expectantes aquæ motum,* waiting till the destroying Angel come and stir the water, and then quærent Eum will be worth the seeking after.

Then, according to St. Paul’s disjunctive,* we that all other times mente excedimus Dco, at that time sobrii sumus vobis. Divinity, which in our ruff1 is sophism and school-points, and at the best a kind of ecstasy about God, is and shall be then, “the words of truth and soberness.”* For God and His seeking will have their time; before if it may be, but if not before, then at the farthest. First or last, all shall confess by seeking God is to be sought. Some before He kill, and happy are they; but “when He killeth,” all;—hypocrites, heathens, atheists, and all.

And I would pray you in a word but to note, in seeking then how many things they confess. For there be I take it four potential confessions in it.

That such an One there is to be sought. A Power above us Whose being and sovereignty all, first or last, shall seek.

That somewhat there is to be found, some good to be done in seeking; as Esay saith, non frustra dixit, “He hath not in vain said to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye Me.”* For were it to no purpose, they would not then do it; but as at other times they did, so let it alone then too.

That whatsoever that good is, hit upon it,* or stumble on it we shall not; it will not be had in parergo, but seek it we must. For without seeking it will not be had. If it would they might sit still, and let it drop into their laps.

That seeking at this time when He slayeth them, they that shew what that good is they seek; even that the Psalmist saith, “Seek the Lord, and your soul shall live;”* that whatsoever become of their body, at least their soul may live; that we may lose not both, that “He kill not both, and cast not both into hell fire.”* And this, even when we come within the hemisphere of the other life, the sense we then have of somewhat that should have been sought before; the misgiving of our hearts, they shall come to a reckoning for not seeking sooner; and this, that not one of us would die suddenly of our good-wills, but have a time to seek God, before we lose ourselves. This, that we desire to die seeking, howsoever we live; all shew certainly it is a fiat, ‘a thing to be done,’ a good thing to seek God, even the enemies of it being judges of it.

So then; quærebant Eum is as it should be. But I add: 1. If it be quærebant, seeking indeed. 2. And if it be quærebant Eum, and not aliud in Eo, seeking, not Him, but somewhat else by Him.

If it be seeking indeed. For they to whom the Prophet Esay said, Si quæritis quærite, “if ye seek, why then do it,” sought so as it seemeth their seeking deserved not the name of seeking. So loosely, so slightly, so slenderly they did it;* as if that they sought were as good lost as found. So sought the party that said, In lectulo quæsivi Quem diligit anima,* that lay in bed and sought. So he that asked our Saviour Quid est veritas? a very good question; and when he had asked it another thing took him in the head and up he rose and went his way before Christ could tell him what it was. Such is our seeking for the most part. Some idle question cast, some table-talk moved, some Quid est veritas,* and go our way—all by the way, in transcursu; and never, as if it were about some matter of special moment, set about it and seek it out indeed.

1. They turned them, saith the text, as if before they sought without so much as turning them about.

2. They rose up, as though before they sat still and sought.

3. They did it early, and did not tarry till cum occideret, the sun were set, and no light to seek by, but their “feet stumbled in the dark mountains.”*

4. They “enquired;” so that before if you had ought to say to them you might, they had nothing to say to you. To seek then is to turn, to rise, to rise early, to enquire after it. O si quæritis, quærite, saith Esay, “the morning cometh, and so doth the night;”* that is, our days spend apace, and we say we will seek; if we will seek, let us once do it indeed.

Secondly, if it be quærebant, and if it be Eum; another point to be rectified. Non vestra sed vos, saith the Apostle, is the right seeking.* Not seek Him for somewhat we would have of Him, but to seek Himself for Himself. It is one thing, say the schools, to seek God for fruition; another to seek Him to make use of Him. One thing, saith Christ,* to seek for the miracle, another for the loaves.* One thing to “seek His face,” another to seek His fingers’ ends. One thing to consult with Him only for conscience, to know and do; another to consult with Him—if it hit our humour to make our advantage of it, if it go against us to set light by it. Such is our seeking for the most part; cum occideret, to have our turn served, to have our health restored, that we may seek Him no longer, but to our former riot again, “and to-morrow may be as yesterday and much more.”*

Seek Him indeed; seek Him for Himself. These two points being agreed of, we shall throughly agree of quærebant Eum. And so much for it, and for our fiat. Now to our ne fiat.

For when we have agreed of our seeking, we have not done. With diligence it would be, and due respect. Our seeking, as all things, the best things under the sun, must have τὴν ὥραν καὶ τὴν χώραν, ‘their due time and place.’* Wherein appeareth the abating power of circumstances,* that they are able to bring down the substances. Namely, of the time; and that mis-timing marreth not only music, but all things else. The thing is right, the cum is wrong, and so all is wrong.

To find out the time, we agree first that as every weighty thing hath, so the seeking of God is to be allowed a time too.

What time is that? Verily, we should do it absolutely, all our life long; quærite faciem Ejus semper. Not when? but when not? without limitation, continually.*

And in this sense we grant cum occideret; then, and at other times too. But not (as Asaph) then, and never till then; so, we deny it.

God indeed is so to be sought, but we cannot so seek Him; other our affairs crave allowance out of our time, and we are well content to yield it largely. Only that God have a set time left when to seek Him. That is but reason; all will yield to it. All grant a cum.

But come to know when that “when” shall be; here we vary first. We cannot be brought to set down any certainty, but love to be left at large. Do it we will, but indeed we cannot shew when; but even Felix his “when,”* ὅταν εὐκαιρήσω, ‘when we have leisure.’ I cannot now stand to seek, saith he; I hope one day to be at leisure to do it, but that day never came.

Urge them, press them “when?” No other resolution but omnis peccator dicit, aliquando Deum sequar sed non modo; ‘sometime still, but not this time.’ Never in the present, but sometime hereafter.

Follow them all along their life, they find not this cum, but put it from one cum to another, till there be none left but only cum occideret, even that very time against which God layeth His exceptions. Every time before we say, nondum tempus, ‘it is not time yet;’ every hour before, nondum venit hora, ‘the hour is not yet come.’

Not to leave God’s seeking thus at random, but to grow to some certainty. I demand, will any time serve? Is God at all times to be found? It is certain not. The very limitation of dum inveniri potest,* sheweth plainly that other times there be wherein seek Him you may, but find Him you shall not.

Then if at all times He is not to be found, we are to make choice of a certain cum, cum inveniri potest, “when He may be found,” and then seek Him.

Many returns there be in the term of our life, many cums; all are reduced to two: 1. cum servaret, and 2. cum occideret. Or if we will needs be wedded to a cum occideret, 1. Cum occideret hostes eorum, 2. not eos; ‘when He scattereth and slayeth our enemies’ and saveth us. One of these two it must needs be.

Cum occideret, it is not. Christ Himself expressly limiteth it before; Dedi ei tempus ad pænitendum, saith He, “I gave her a time to repent.”* What time is that? Lest we might mistake it to be cum occideret, He adds, if we do it not in that time so by Him given, He will “cast us down on our beds,” the beds of affliction and sickness, and there “kill us with death.” So that the time He alloweth us to repent, is before we come thither. For thither we come because we did it not in the time He gave us to do it in. Indeed our bed is not the place: in lectulo quæsivi, “I sought Him in my bed;” quæsivi sed non inveni, “I sought Him but I found Him not.”* The place of slaughter is not the place, nor the time of killing is not the time. We may take that time, but it is not dedi illis, none of “His giving.” The time He giveth us is before we come there.

Then if when He kills us is not it, when He saveth us it is? It is indeed; and a cluster of it, an hour of cum servaret then is better than a vintage, a whole day of cum occideret.

Upon these two the whole Psalm standeth, and the part before sheweth when it should have been. When “He overwhelmed the Egyptians in the sea,”* when “the pillar of the cloud was over,”* when He not only saved them but served them, “raining down manna”* for their need, and giving them quails for their lust;* then was the time with them and then is the time with us.

For sure as we seek God to save us, so He saveth us to seek Him; if when we seek Him we are saved, when we are saved we should seek Him. The time of His saving is the time of our seeking; and one hour then is better than four and twenty.

All that while what seek we? Why, as Jeremy saith,* we do then quærere grandia. Other greater matters we have in hand, matters of more weight than the seeking of God. As if His seeking were some petty business, slightly to be sought, and lightly to be found. Any time good enough for it.

Nay not that, but so evil are we affected to seek Him then, that quærebant is occideret; we indict Him of our death, it is death to do it—as lieve die as seek; it maketh us old, it killeth us before our time. We digest not them that call on us for it, but seek ourselves, as the Apostle speaketh,* Magistros secundum desideria, that may entertain us with speculations of what may be done by miracle at the hour of death; that may give us days and elbow-room enough to seek other things, and to shrink up His seeking into a narrow time at our end, and tell us time enough then. For thus then we reckon; all the time we spend in it we lose the fruit of our life, and the joy of our hearts shall be taken from us. As if the fruit of life were not to find God, or as if any true hearts’ joy God being not found. Call we this our fruit and joy not to seek God? call it not so; lætetur cor quærentium Deum, saith the Holy Ghost, “let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.”* Yea in lachrymis peccatorum, ‘in the very tears of a penitent,’* there is, saith St. Augustine, more sound joy than in risu theatrorum, ‘in all the games the theatre can afford:’ Da Christianum, et scit quid dico. But our taste is turned, and we relish not this seeking. By our flesh-pots we have lived, and by them we will die, and so we do. Lust hath been our life, and we will be buried in the graves of lust; and so we shall, and never know what that joy meaneth, Lætetur cor quærentium Deum.

Cum servaret then will not serve. Nay, cum occideret will scarce serve, it hath much ado; let Him draw His sword and come amongst us. For if, as of His goodness He doth not, He rush not on us at first, but begin with others; if it be cum occideret alios, we seek not. See ye the thirty-first verse: He took away others before their faces, and those not weak or sickly persons, but the goodliest and strongest of all Israel, and least likely to die. Here is occideret. Now did this move? No. See the thirty-second verse: for at this they “sinned yet more,” and went about their seeking never the sooner. It must be cum occideret eos, “themselves,” their own selves, or it will not do it.

Come then to themselves and smite them with the edge, not with the point; with the edge to wound, not with the point to dispatch outright; will that serve? cum cæderet eos, ‘when He wounded them with some mortal sickness the messenger of death, would they seek Him then?’ No: not then, not for all that would they frame to it. For quærebant medicum then, I say, as Asa sought medicos, et non Deum.* Not God and them, but them first; and let God stay till they be gone. And till they give us over, and tell us plainly occideret is now come indeed, no smiting or wounding will send us to seek. So that it is not either 1. cum servaret eos, or 2. cum serviret eis, His saving, or serving us; nay it is not, 3. cum occideret alios, or 4. cum cæderet, ‘His killing others, or wounding us’ with any but our deaths-wound, will do it.

Tandem then, when we are come to the very last cast, our strength is gone, our spirit clean spent, our senses appalled, and the powers of our soul as numb as our senses, when a general prostration of all our powers, and the shadow of death upon our eyes, then something we would say or do which should stand for our seeking; but, I doubt it will not serve. This is the time we allow God to seek Him in.

Is this it? Would we then seek Him when we are not in case to seek any thing else? Would we turn to Him then when we are not able to turn ourselves in our bed? Or, “rise early to seek Him” when we are not able to rise at all? Or “enquire after Him” when our breath faileth us, and we are not able to speak three words together? Neither before, nor with, but even at the end of occideret? No hour but the hour of death?* No time but when He taketh time from us and us from it, et tempus non erit amplius? What shall I say? Shall I commend this seeking, turning, rising, enquiring? No; I cannot commend it either in itself or to any. I commend it not.

That that may be said is this, and it is nothing: true; some one or two of a thousand and ten thousand that have. How then? Shall we not therefore follow our instruction and seek Him before? Nay then,* “some have found and never sought;”—let us not seek Him at all if that will hold. Thus it is: some going a journey have found a purse by the way—it were mad counsel to advise us to leave our money behind upon hope of like hap in ours. No; this is safe and good; though some one or two have found and not sought, yet let us seek for all that. Though some one or two have then sought and found, yet let us seek before. Though some have found a purse in their way, let us not trust to like hap, but carry money with us. This is a privy-door on special favour open to some few. There lieth no way by them. “This is the way,” you have heard, “walk in it and you shall find rest to your souls.”*

To speak then of safe seeking and sure finding, I say, as Asaph saith, it is a ne fiant. This time is not the time Christ giveth us; He assigneth us another. Yea we condemn ourselves in that we would seek to allow it ourselves. If we were put to it to say plainly, “not till He kill me,” it would choke us. We neither have heart nor face, we would not dare to answer so, we dare not avow it. And if it be a ne dicant it is a ne fiant. The time of God’s quærite is primum quærite.* This cum is the last of all our cums; all other before it. First and last are flat ad oppositum. This is not it.

The time of seeking God must be δεκτὸς, such as is meet to be received. This is not: therefore, I hope, we will not offer it God.* If we do, take heed He scorn not this time as He doth their price in Zachary; “A goodly time1 that I have assigned Me.”* Take heed He stand not upon His reputation, as in Malachi, and bid us “offer our service”* at this hour, “to any great man and see, whether he will be content with it,” and not reject both us and our seeking then. This is not, cannot be but a great ne fiant, to offer God that no man is so mean but would take in evil part.

This time is the time when all hypocrites, atheists, tag and rag, come in and seek Him in a sort; and shall not we be confounded to see ourselves in their number? Nay to say that must be said for true it is, It is past the Devil’s time. They be his words, cur ante tempus?* and he seeketh to make them ours, that it is ever too soon to seek God. At the hardest I trust we will not keep time with him.

And to seek Him then is not to seek Him; not quærebant Eum. No; they seek Him not, they “dissemble with Him,” saith Asaph, in the next verse. For when God to try them reprieved them never so little time, they fell to their old bias;* and when as He ceased killing, their seeking was at an end. So are all forced seekings, like to a bow-string brought to his full bent, but remit you never so little it starteth back again.

Nay it is not quærebant, no kindly seeking, but a base ignoble creeping to, without all ingenuity1, when we must either die or do it. Neither χάρις nor κλέος to do it then.

But in very deed it is no “seeking”* at all, as before we defined quærebant to “seek indeed.” There is a diameter between occideret and quærebant, and therefore between it and quærebant Eum. Men cannot then seek; if they must rise up and turn them that must do it, they are not able for their lives to turn or stir themselves to do it. Nay, nor to “enquire.” For what is our “seeking” then? Is it not to lie still on our bed, and suffer a few words to be spoken in our ears? Have a little opiate divinity ministered to our souls, and so sent away? Sure this is rather to be sought than to “seek.” There goeth more to quærebant then thus. We must then “seek” when we are in case to give sentence and to do judgment on ourselves, when we are able to take up our cross before it be laid on us. Quærebant Eum must stand before cum occideret.

Lastly, it would be known what became of this quærebant? What they found that sought thus, and then and not before? “They found not Him,”* the Prophet saith plainly. They go then “with sheep and bullocks,” and all manner of sacrifice, “to seek the Lord; but find Him not, for He hath withdrawn Himself before.”

And justly they find Him not ex lege talionis. God Himself answers them; nay their own hearts answer themselves. Go: whom you have spent your life in seeking, seek to them now. Let them save you at this, whom ye sought at all other times. As for Me, it shall come to pass, as I cried and you would not hear, so you shall cry and seek and shall not find or be heard, saith the Lord.

Yes—they found Him, but with a door shut between Him and them. But what found they? The parable of the ten virgins tells us, which is the Gospel for this Psalm, they found that which we I hope shall never find, a nescio vos.* Where, that we may see that this course is folly and therefore indeed a ne fiant sicut, that which putteth the difference of those that be wise and go in, is that they had sought “and looked to their oil ere the Bridegroom came;”* and those that were foolish and shut out when the Bridegroom was even coming, that is, cum occideret, were to seek their oil then—had not looked to it till then. Nescio vos is their answer, He knoweth them not; they took too short a time to breed acquaintance in. Nescio vos they find that so seek. Profecto ad hoc tonitru, &c. ‘At this clap he that waketh not is not asleep but dead.’

To conclude then with our instruction. If this time and this seeking have so many evil marks, the time so unseasonable, the seeking so many ways to seek; if the success to this seeking be no better but nescio vos, why then ne fiat. If these here were not well advised, if those virgins were foolish, why then ne fiant sicut, “not to be like.”

Secondly, to sever the silver from the dross: the seeking is good, keep it; the time is wrong, change it; either into antequam occideret or into cum servaret. Fiat to the action, ne fiat to the time.

Thirdly, as we confess that there is One to be sought, and that with the turning of a gin1 we cannot have Him when we list, but seek Him we must; that His seeking is worth the while, and that it is not dispatched in a minute, but must have time; so to think His seeking worthy a better, and to allow it a better time than this to do it in.

Fourthly, seeing “yet is the acceptable time,” yet “He may be found,”* yet it is cum servaret, occideret is not yet come—how near it is it is hard to say; our Saviour Christ saith it is quâ horâ nescis,* it may be nearer than we are aware; lest it come upon us before we seek, let us seek before it come upon us. So seeking we shall safely seek; safely seek and surely find God, and with God whatsoever is worth the finding. But, that which we seek, we shall after occideret is past find ourselves in His presence and at His right hand; “in Whose presence is the fulness of joy,”* not as ours here joys half empty; and at “Whose right hand there are pleasures for evermore,” not as ours here for a time and a short time, God knoweth. That which here we seek and cannot find with Him we shall, if we shall here indeed and in due time seek Him by the timely fruits of an undelayed repentance. Almighty God, lighten our minds, kindle our affections, settle our hearts so to seek, &c.[1]

 

 

1 Liter. water impregnated with alkaline salts imbibed from the ashes of wood. Webster.

* Isa. 37:3.

1 i.e. pride. The ruff of their glory. L.’Estrange.

* [ἐκ παρέργου Thucyd. vii. 27.]

* Joh. 18:38.

* Ps. 105:3.

1 [price.]

1 [i.e. ingenuousness.]

* Mat. 25:12.

1 [Here used apparently forengine.]

[1] Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 1, pp. 305–320). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain)

1 [Here used apparently forengine.]

[1] Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 1, pp. 305–320). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain)

A Cross and Crooked Generation

Psalm 78:34

When He slew them, then they sought Him; and they returned, and enquired early after God.

This Psalm is a calendar or roll of reports, how from Moses to David the Jews carried themselves to God in matter of religion. And this verse a report how in the matter of repentance, expressed here under the terms of seeking and turning to God. Wherein this they did, this was their fashion: while He spared them, they sought Him not; “When He slew them, then they sought Him.” Cum, &c. These words then are a report.

A report; but such an one as when St. Paul heard of the Corinthians, he could not commend it. “What shall I say? Shall I praise you in this? No; I praise you not.”* Neither he them for that, nor I these for this. Rather, as old father Eli said to his sons;* Non est bonus sermo hic quem audio de vobis, “this is no good report I hear,” cum occideret, &c.

Whether good or whether evil it pertaineth to us. For to us of the Gentiles hath St. Paul entailed whatsoever well or ill befell the dissolved Church of the Jews. These, “all these came unto them for examples, and are enrolled to warn us that grow nearer and nearer to the ends of the world.”*

Both pertain unto us, the Scripture hath both; and in it draweth out our duty to us in both, in good and evil reports—as it were in white work and black work. And we to have use of both; yet not of both reports alike, but diversely, as our instructions upon them are diverse. For we are not so much to regard the bare report, as the instruction of it. For which cause Asaph hath entitled this Psalm, not Asaph’s report, but Asaph’s “instruction.”

Now we have here our report. May we find what our instruction is touching it? We may. Asaph expressly hath set it down in the eighth verse before. That this and other errors of theirs are here upon the file, ne fiant sicut patres eorum,* “that we should not be like our forefathers, a cross and crooked generation.” Not like them in other indignities, and among other in this cum occideret, &c. Never to seek God but when He kills us.

In which foul indignity our age is certainly as deep as ever was that, and we need Asaph’s instruction no less than they.

For as if there were no use of religion, but only cum occideret, so spend we all our whole time in the search of other things. Not caring to ask, or seek, or confer about the state of our souls, even till occideret come. And then, peradventure, sending for Asaph, and hearing him speak a few words about it, which we would fain have called seeking of God. I can say little to it, I pray God it prove so; but sure, I fear, it will be found minus habens, “far short of it.”*

Which is so usually received that, take a survey, not one of an hundred ever think of it before. So securely practised, as if we had some supersedeas lying by us, not to do it till then. As if there were no such Scripture as this upon record; “which turned to their destruction,” and must needs lie heavy upon us, when we shall remember it. Cum occideret, &c.

Now sure, this course must needs be prejudicial to our souls, and a number perish in it daily before our eyes. Yet we sit still, and suffer this custom to grow and gather head. Neither delivering their souls, or at least our own, by telling them seriously this is not the time, and then to seek is not the seeking God will allow. That this is a ne fiant, “such a thing as should not be done in Israel.” That it is upon record πρὸς ἐντροπὴν, to their disgrace and destruction. And it cannot be to our comfort or commendation to do the like. Out of which their destruction, Asaph frameth an instruction for us; and as it is well said and fitly to this day, ex cinere Judæorum lixivium Christianorum, ‘of the Jews’ ashes maketh a lye1 for Christians,’ to cleanse us from this foul indignity. Ut videntes cadentes, videant ne cadant, ‘that heeding their fall, we take heed we fall not;’ that is, seek not as they sought, lest we perish by like example of seeking too late.

Therefore, that we set ourselves to seek before this cum come; that is, in a word, seek God, as by repentance and the fruits, so by undelayed repentance, and the timely fruits of it; and be not like the Apostle Jude’s δένδρα φθινοπωρινὰ, our seeking all summer withered and dry,* and beginning to shoot out a little about Michaelmas spring. Of which kind of shooting fruit can never come. This is the sum.

The words consist of two parts. Two parts; but these two evil matched, or as St. Paul “unequally yoked together.”* For where our chief actions, of which I take it our seeking of God is one, should have the chiefest time; here is the first and best of our actions sorted with the last and worst part of our time. Quærebant Eum with cum occideret.

And not only missorted, but misplaced. For cum occideret, “His killing” standeth before “our seeking;” whereas our seeking should be first, and His killing come after. This was never God’s fiant, they must have a ne fiant.

Of these two then. First by way of report jointly that de facto thus it is—thus they, and thus we seek.

Then if we take them in sunder, and as Jeremy saith “separate the precious from the vile,”* quærebant Eum the flower of our actions, from cum occideret, the dross, dregs, and very refuse of our time. Consider them apart, and shew, 1. That this time is not the time; 2. and that this seeking thus sorted and thus placed is no seeking, nor ever shall find. Therefore, with Asaph’s instruction, to settle our seeking upon some other time, and to resolve to begin it before.

Two powers there are in cum; 1. a privative, of all times before; 2. a positive, of that instant time then. No time before we seek, at that instant time then we do. On which two consisteth theatrum vitæ, ‘the very theatre of our life.’ Our case before that time is lively expressed in the words immediately precedent; “They spend their days in vanity, and their years in turmoil in the world.”* Our case then at that time in these words, cum occideret eos. Yea, by implication they are both in this verse; by what they do now is implied what they did before. 1. Now “they sought Him,” so that before they lost Him. 2. Again, then “they turned to;” so that before they turned away, and not once looked toward Him. 3. Now “they rose up early,” so that before they put it off till twilight. 4. Now “they remembered,” so that before they forgat Him clean—no speech, no question, nay no thought about Him.

Thus it was, saith Asaph, under Moses. While His hand was not upon them, they regarded Him not, as not worth the seeking; perdebant Eum, it was their losing time. But “when He slew them,” they fell to seek, and well was he that might find; quærebant Eum, is was their seeking time.

Before, quærebant alia, ‘they found themselves other matters more meet to seek.’ Then quærebant Eum, “they gave over all to seek Him only.”

Before He sought them; and they gave Him good leave so to do. Then all is turned out and in. As He them before, so they Him now.

And is it not thus with us that are now in theatro, ‘upon the stage?’ Yes indeed; and more, if more may be. This is but vetus fabula per novos histriones, ‘the same play again by other actors.’ For in public, when in the days of safety plenty and peace, we are in the sixth of Amos,* and are best at ease when quærebant is farthest from us; but if war, famine, or contagion come, then we run to the second of Joel, “Sanctify a fast,”* and call for the Ark, and grow all godly on a sudden. What is this but cum occideret? And in private, when while youth and strength and health doth last, while the evil day is far off, we are even at cessare fac Sanctum Israel a nobis, “cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from us;”* but when distress, danger, or death come, when Rabshakeh is before the walls, then we cry, “Now is the day of tribulation and anguish; now the children are come to the birth, and there is no strength to be delivered.”* Now send to Esay, “Now lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left.” What is this but cum occideret? Surely this is our case; our seeking goeth wholly by our killing—waxeth and waneth, is out and in, as that is near at hand or farther off. I need not tell it, your ears and eyes are daily witnesses that this is a true saying, cum occideret Eos, &c. No killing, no seeking.

“This is a true saying,” but all true sayings are not by all means, nay some not by any means, “to be received.” The report indeed is, thus it was. But the instruction is ne fiant,* “that it should not be.” To the end then we may know what to receive and what to refuse, we will take it in pieces, and melt the dross from the silver metal. Quærebant Eum, by itself is good. Put occideret to it, it is base. Of these then in order.

Of quærebant Eum we shall soon agree, if it be quærebant Eum, that it is a fiat, ‘a thing to be done.’ Which many other ways might be made to appear, but by none better than this here; that at last all come to it. Sooner or later all seek it, all men if not before yet cum occideret, then certainly.

All seek; and among all “they” sought, which word is not without his weight here. For what are these that Asaph here meaneth by “they?” Not saints, not generatio quærentium, “the generation of them that seek God.” But “they”* that in the verse before “wasted all their days in vanity, and their years in turmoiling in the world.” “They,”* idle, riotous persons—“they” sought.

“They” that in a verse after “flattered Him with their lips,” and gave Him all the good words that might be,* and meant no such thing. The hypocrites, “they” sought.

“They” that a little before “grievously provoked the Most High God” with speeches little better than blasphemy; “can God do this? Is there a God amongst us,”* or is there none? And so, instead of quærebant Deum, quærebant an Deus, ‘made a question, whether there were any to seek.’ That is, even the very wicked, and of all wicked the worst, the profane atheists, “they” sought—even at last “they” sought. This is the triumph of religion; the riotous person, the hypocrite, the atheist, all shall seek.

And herein is folly condemned even of her own children, and wisdom justified of her very enemies; that they that greedily seek sin, at last would be glad to be rid of it, and they that merrily scorn religion at last are glad to seek to it.

“They” shall seek; and the time is set down when they shall seek, and when you shall not fail but see them seek that never sought before. In diebus juventutis, not then. Sanus factus est, nor then neither; but cum occideret, then certainly. Cum occideret, mark this cum when it cometh, and you shall see them that stood out all their life long then come in.

The heathen man saw it with his eyes. O, saith the Persian messenger in Æschylus, when the Grecian forces hotly pursued our host, and we must needs venture over the great water Strymon, frozen then but beginning to thaw, when an hundred to one we had all died for it—that is, cum occideret, with mine eyes I saw saith he,* when Θεοὺς δέ τις, &c. Of those gallants whom I had heard before so boldly maintain there was no God to seek; τότʼ ἤυχετο λιταῖσι, ‘then every one of them on their knees, and full devoutly praying the ice might hold till they got over.’ Moses saw it with his eyes. Pharaoh,* who was at high terms, “Who is the Lord you talk of?” and answered himself, “he knew none such,” nor nothing would do for Him:—when cum occideret came, he took notice there was a Lord higher than he; “that that Lord was righteous, and he a wretched sinner”* that sought for grace at His hands. Mark but the shutting up of dixit insipiens, their own Psalm. When,* saith David, they have in heart sought to persuade themselves, non est—seek none, “none there is;”* and thereupon “corrupted themselves,” and became most loathsome in their lives, “eat up their tenants as they would do so many morsels of bread;” made a mock of such holy men as set themselves seriously to seek God: when all is done and occideret come, trepidabunt timore ubi non erat timor, “they shall begin to be afraid, where they held before no fear needed;” and here shall be the last verse of their Psalm; quis dabit e Sion salutem, “to wish for the salvation of Sion,” which they have so oft derided. “They shall seek,” and “then they shall seek.” Till then possibly you shall lose your labour, if you tell them of seeking of God, but and how good it is. They are, saith Jeremy, “like the dromedary of the wilderness,”* a beast of exceeding swiftness, the female specially; “over hill and dale she goeth,” saith the Prophet, “and snuffeth up the air at her pleasure, and who can overtake her? They that seek her will not weary themselves till her month.” And in her month when she is bagged, then they will find her, and deal with her well enough. The case is like. Age, sickness, death, are far off; youth, health, and strength, possess them; there is no coming to them then. The month, cum occideret, is not yet come; but come that once as once it will to all, you shall find quærebant will have his place—fiat. It is therefore God’s own resolution, thus He resolveth: “I will go,” saith He, “and return to My place, till they acknowledge their faults and seek Me.”* And when will that be? He addeth, in novissimo quærent me diligenter, an end will come, and when that cometh “they will seek Me diligently,” even the best of them. And even so we are fain to resolve; for our lot is God’s lot, and when He sought to them, we go to our place, and there stand till their month, expectantes aquæ motum,* waiting till the destroying Angel come and stir the water, and then quærent Eum will be worth the seeking after.

Then, according to St. Paul’s disjunctive,* we that all other times mente excedimus Dco, at that time sobrii sumus vobis. Divinity, which in our ruff1 is sophism and school-points, and at the best a kind of ecstasy about God, is and shall be then, “the words of truth and soberness.”* For God and His seeking will have their time; before if it may be, but if not before, then at the farthest. First or last, all shall confess by seeking God is to be sought. Some before He kill, and happy are they; but “when He killeth,” all;—hypocrites, heathens, atheists, and all.

And I would pray you in a word but to note, in seeking then how many things they confess. For there be I take it four potential confessions in it.

That such an One there is to be sought. A Power above us Whose being and sovereignty all, first or last, shall seek.

That somewhat there is to be found, some good to be done in seeking; as Esay saith, non frustra dixit, “He hath not in vain said to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye Me.”* For were it to no purpose, they would not then do it; but as at other times they did, so let it alone then too.

That whatsoever that good is, hit upon it,* or stumble on it we shall not; it will not be had in parergo, but seek it we must. For without seeking it will not be had. If it would they might sit still, and let it drop into their laps.

That seeking at this time when He slayeth them, they that shew what that good is they seek; even that the Psalmist saith, “Seek the Lord, and your soul shall live;”* that whatsoever become of their body, at least their soul may live; that we may lose not both, that “He kill not both, and cast not both into hell fire.”* And this, even when we come within the hemisphere of the other life, the sense we then have of somewhat that should have been sought before; the misgiving of our hearts, they shall come to a reckoning for not seeking sooner; and this, that not one of us would die suddenly of our good-wills, but have a time to seek God, before we lose ourselves. This, that we desire to die seeking, howsoever we live; all shew certainly it is a fiat, ‘a thing to be done,’ a good thing to seek God, even the enemies of it being judges of it.

So then; quærebant Eum is as it should be. But I add: 1. If it be quærebant, seeking indeed. 2. And if it be quærebant Eum, and not aliud in Eo, seeking, not Him, but somewhat else by Him.

If it be seeking indeed. For they to whom the Prophet Esay said, Si quæritis quærite, “if ye seek, why then do it,” sought so as it seemeth their seeking deserved not the name of seeking. So loosely, so slightly, so slenderly they did it;* as if that they sought were as good lost as found. So sought the party that said, In lectulo quæsivi Quem diligit anima,* that lay in bed and sought. So he that asked our Saviour Quid est veritas? a very good question; and when he had asked it another thing took him in the head and up he rose and went his way before Christ could tell him what it was. Such is our seeking for the most part. Some idle question cast, some table-talk moved, some Quid est veritas,* and go our way—all by the way, in transcursu; and never, as if it were about some matter of special moment, set about it and seek it out indeed.

1. They turned them, saith the text, as if before they sought without so much as turning them about.

2. They rose up, as though before they sat still and sought.

3. They did it early, and did not tarry till cum occideret, the sun were set, and no light to seek by, but their “feet stumbled in the dark mountains.”*

4. They “enquired;” so that before if you had ought to say to them you might, they had nothing to say to you. To seek then is to turn, to rise, to rise early, to enquire after it. O si quæritis, quærite, saith Esay, “the morning cometh, and so doth the night;”* that is, our days spend apace, and we say we will seek; if we will seek, let us once do it indeed.

Secondly, if it be quærebant, and if it be Eum; another point to be rectified. Non vestra sed vos, saith the Apostle, is the right seeking.* Not seek Him for somewhat we would have of Him, but to seek Himself for Himself. It is one thing, say the schools, to seek God for fruition; another to seek Him to make use of Him. One thing, saith Christ,* to seek for the miracle, another for the loaves.* One thing to “seek His face,” another to seek His fingers’ ends. One thing to consult with Him only for conscience, to know and do; another to consult with Him—if it hit our humour to make our advantage of it, if it go against us to set light by it. Such is our seeking for the most part; cum occideret, to have our turn served, to have our health restored, that we may seek Him no longer, but to our former riot again, “and to-morrow may be as yesterday and much more.”*

Seek Him indeed; seek Him for Himself. These two points being agreed of, we shall throughly agree of quærebant Eum. And so much for it, and for our fiat. Now to our ne fiat.

For when we have agreed of our seeking, we have not done. With diligence it would be, and due respect. Our seeking, as all things, the best things under the sun, must have τὴν ὥραν καὶ τὴν χώραν, ‘their due time and place.’* Wherein appeareth the abating power of circumstances,* that they are able to bring down the substances. Namely, of the time; and that mis-timing marreth not only music, but all things else. The thing is right, the cum is wrong, and so all is wrong.

To find out the time, we agree first that as every weighty thing hath, so the seeking of God is to be allowed a time too.

What time is that? Verily, we should do it absolutely, all our life long; quærite faciem Ejus semper. Not when? but when not? without limitation, continually.*

And in this sense we grant cum occideret; then, and at other times too. But not (as Asaph) then, and never till then; so, we deny it.

God indeed is so to be sought, but we cannot so seek Him; other our affairs crave allowance out of our time, and we are well content to yield it largely. Only that God have a set time left when to seek Him. That is but reason; all will yield to it. All grant a cum.

But come to know when that “when” shall be; here we vary first. We cannot be brought to set down any certainty, but love to be left at large. Do it we will, but indeed we cannot shew when; but even Felix his “when,”* ὅταν εὐκαιρήσω, ‘when we have leisure.’ I cannot now stand to seek, saith he; I hope one day to be at leisure to do it, but that day never came.

Urge them, press them “when?” No other resolution but omnis peccator dicit, aliquando Deum sequar sed non modo; ‘sometime still, but not this time.’ Never in the present, but sometime hereafter.

Follow them all along their life, they find not this cum, but put it from one cum to another, till there be none left but only cum occideret, even that very time against which God layeth His exceptions. Every time before we say, nondum tempus, ‘it is not time yet;’ every hour before, nondum venit hora, ‘the hour is not yet come.’

Not to leave God’s seeking thus at random, but to grow to some certainty. I demand, will any time serve? Is God at all times to be found? It is certain not. The very limitation of dum inveniri potest,* sheweth plainly that other times there be wherein seek Him you may, but find Him you shall not.

Then if at all times He is not to be found, we are to make choice of a certain cum, cum inveniri potest, “when He may be found,” and then seek Him.

Many returns there be in the term of our life, many cums; all are reduced to two: 1. cum servaret, and 2. cum occideret. Or if we will needs be wedded to a cum occideret, 1. Cum occideret hostes eorum, 2. not eos; ‘when He scattereth and slayeth our enemies’ and saveth us. One of these two it must needs be.

Cum occideret, it is not. Christ Himself expressly limiteth it before; Dedi ei tempus ad pænitendum, saith He, “I gave her a time to repent.”* What time is that? Lest we might mistake it to be cum occideret, He adds, if we do it not in that time so by Him given, He will “cast us down on our beds,” the beds of affliction and sickness, and there “kill us with death.” So that the time He alloweth us to repent, is before we come thither. For thither we come because we did it not in the time He gave us to do it in. Indeed our bed is not the place: in lectulo quæsivi, “I sought Him in my bed;” quæsivi sed non inveni, “I sought Him but I found Him not.”* The place of slaughter is not the place, nor the time of killing is not the time. We may take that time, but it is not dedi illis, none of “His giving.” The time He giveth us is before we come there.

Then if when He kills us is not it, when He saveth us it is? It is indeed; and a cluster of it, an hour of cum servaret then is better than a vintage, a whole day of cum occideret.

Upon these two the whole Psalm standeth, and the part before sheweth when it should have been. When “He overwhelmed the Egyptians in the sea,”* when “the pillar of the cloud was over,”* when He not only saved them but served them, “raining down manna”* for their need, and giving them quails for their lust;* then was the time with them and then is the time with us.

For sure as we seek God to save us, so He saveth us to seek Him; if when we seek Him we are saved, when we are saved we should seek Him. The time of His saving is the time of our seeking; and one hour then is better than four and twenty.

All that while what seek we? Why, as Jeremy saith,* we do then quærere grandia. Other greater matters we have in hand, matters of more weight than the seeking of God. As if His seeking were some petty business, slightly to be sought, and lightly to be found. Any time good enough for it.

Nay not that, but so evil are we affected to seek Him then, that quærebant is occideret; we indict Him of our death, it is death to do it—as lieve die as seek; it maketh us old, it killeth us before our time. We digest not them that call on us for it, but seek ourselves, as the Apostle speaketh,* Magistros secundum desideria, that may entertain us with speculations of what may be done by miracle at the hour of death; that may give us days and elbow-room enough to seek other things, and to shrink up His seeking into a narrow time at our end, and tell us time enough then. For thus then we reckon; all the time we spend in it we lose the fruit of our life, and the joy of our hearts shall be taken from us. As if the fruit of life were not to find God, or as if any true hearts’ joy God being not found. Call we this our fruit and joy not to seek God? call it not so; lætetur cor quærentium Deum, saith the Holy Ghost, “let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.”* Yea in lachrymis peccatorum, ‘in the very tears of a penitent,’* there is, saith St. Augustine, more sound joy than in risu theatrorum, ‘in all the games the theatre can afford:’ Da Christianum, et scit quid dico. But our taste is turned, and we relish not this seeking. By our flesh-pots we have lived, and by them we will die, and so we do. Lust hath been our life, and we will be buried in the graves of lust; and so we shall, and never know what that joy meaneth, Lætetur cor quærentium Deum.

Cum servaret then will not serve. Nay, cum occideret will scarce serve, it hath much ado; let Him draw His sword and come amongst us. For if, as of His goodness He doth not, He rush not on us at first, but begin with others; if it be cum occideret alios, we seek not. See ye the thirty-first verse: He took away others before their faces, and those not weak or sickly persons, but the goodliest and strongest of all Israel, and least likely to die. Here is occideret. Now did this move? No. See the thirty-second verse: for at this they “sinned yet more,” and went about their seeking never the sooner. It must be cum occideret eos, “themselves,” their own selves, or it will not do it.

Come then to themselves and smite them with the edge, not with the point; with the edge to wound, not with the point to dispatch outright; will that serve? cum cæderet eos, ‘when He wounded them with some mortal sickness the messenger of death, would they seek Him then?’ No: not then, not for all that would they frame to it. For quærebant medicum then, I say, as Asa sought medicos, et non Deum.* Not God and them, but them first; and let God stay till they be gone. And till they give us over, and tell us plainly occideret is now come indeed, no smiting or wounding will send us to seek. So that it is not either 1. cum servaret eos, or 2. cum serviret eis, His saving, or serving us; nay it is not, 3. cum occideret alios, or 4. cum cæderet, ‘His killing others, or wounding us’ with any but our deaths-wound, will do it.

Tandem then, when we are come to the very last cast, our strength is gone, our spirit clean spent, our senses appalled, and the powers of our soul as numb as our senses, when a general prostration of all our powers, and the shadow of death upon our eyes, then something we would say or do which should stand for our seeking; but, I doubt it will not serve. This is the time we allow God to seek Him in.

Is this it? Would we then seek Him when we are not in case to seek any thing else? Would we turn to Him then when we are not able to turn ourselves in our bed? Or, “rise early to seek Him” when we are not able to rise at all? Or “enquire after Him” when our breath faileth us, and we are not able to speak three words together? Neither before, nor with, but even at the end of occideret? No hour but the hour of death?* No time but when He taketh time from us and us from it, et tempus non erit amplius? What shall I say? Shall I commend this seeking, turning, rising, enquiring? No; I cannot commend it either in itself or to any. I commend it not.

That that may be said is this, and it is nothing: true; some one or two of a thousand and ten thousand that have. How then? Shall we not therefore follow our instruction and seek Him before? Nay then,* “some have found and never sought;”—let us not seek Him at all if that will hold. Thus it is: some going a journey have found a purse by the way—it were mad counsel to advise us to leave our money behind upon hope of like hap in ours. No; this is safe and good; though some one or two have found and not sought, yet let us seek for all that. Though some one or two have then sought and found, yet let us seek before. Though some have found a purse in their way, let us not trust to like hap, but carry money with us. This is a privy-door on special favour open to some few. There lieth no way by them. “This is the way,” you have heard, “walk in it and you shall find rest to your souls.”*

To speak then of safe seeking and sure finding, I say, as Asaph saith, it is a ne fiant. This time is not the time Christ giveth us; He assigneth us another. Yea we condemn ourselves in that we would seek to allow it ourselves. If we were put to it to say plainly, “not till He kill me,” it would choke us. We neither have heart nor face, we would not dare to answer so, we dare not avow it. And if it be a ne dicant it is a ne fiant. The time of God’s quærite is primum quærite.* This cum is the last of all our cums; all other before it. First and last are flat ad oppositum. This is not it.

The time of seeking God must be δεκτὸς, such as is meet to be received. This is not: therefore, I hope, we will not offer it God.* If we do, take heed He scorn not this time as He doth their price in Zachary; “A goodly time1 that I have assigned Me.”* Take heed He stand not upon His reputation, as in Malachi, and bid us “offer our service”* at this hour, “to any great man and see, whether he will be content with it,” and not reject both us and our seeking then. This is not, cannot be but a great ne fiant, to offer God that no man is so mean but would take in evil part.

This time is the time when all hypocrites, atheists, tag and rag, come in and seek Him in a sort; and shall not we be confounded to see ourselves in their number? Nay to say that must be said for true it is, It is past the Devil’s time. They be his words, cur ante tempus?* and he seeketh to make them ours, that it is ever too soon to seek God. At the hardest I trust we will not keep time with him.

And to seek Him then is not to seek Him; not quærebant Eum. No; they seek Him not, they “dissemble with Him,” saith Asaph, in the next verse. For when God to try them reprieved them never so little time, they fell to their old bias;* and when as He ceased killing, their seeking was at an end. So are all forced seekings, like to a bow-string brought to his full bent, but remit you never so little it starteth back again.

Nay it is not quærebant, no kindly seeking, but a base ignoble creeping to, without all ingenuity1, when we must either die or do it. Neither χάρις nor κλέος to do it then.

But in very deed it is no “seeking”* at all, as before we defined quærebant to “seek indeed.” There is a diameter between occideret and quærebant, and therefore between it and quærebant Eum. Men cannot then seek; if they must rise up and turn them that must do it, they are not able for their lives to turn or stir themselves to do it. Nay, nor to “enquire.” For what is our “seeking” then? Is it not to lie still on our bed, and suffer a few words to be spoken in our ears? Have a little opiate divinity ministered to our souls, and so sent away? Sure this is rather to be sought than to “seek.” There goeth more to quærebant then thus. We must then “seek” when we are in case to give sentence and to do judgment on ourselves, when we are able to take up our cross before it be laid on us. Quærebant Eum must stand before cum occideret.

Lastly, it would be known what became of this quærebant? What they found that sought thus, and then and not before? “They found not Him,”* the Prophet saith plainly. They go then “with sheep and bullocks,” and all manner of sacrifice, “to seek the Lord; but find Him not, for He hath withdrawn Himself before.”

And justly they find Him not ex lege talionis. God Himself answers them; nay their own hearts answer themselves. Go: whom you have spent your life in seeking, seek to them now. Let them save you at this, whom ye sought at all other times. As for Me, it shall come to pass, as I cried and you would not hear, so you shall cry and seek and shall not find or be heard, saith the Lord.

Yes—they found Him, but with a door shut between Him and them. But what found they? The parable of the ten virgins tells us, which is the Gospel for this Psalm, they found that which we I hope shall never find, a nescio vos.* Where, that we may see that this course is folly and therefore indeed a ne fiant sicut, that which putteth the difference of those that be wise and go in, is that they had sought “and looked to their oil ere the Bridegroom came;”* and those that were foolish and shut out when the Bridegroom was even coming, that is, cum occideret, were to seek their oil then—had not looked to it till then. Nescio vos is their answer, He knoweth them not; they took too short a time to breed acquaintance in. Nescio vos they find that so seek. Profecto ad hoc tonitru, &c. ‘At this clap he that waketh not is not asleep but dead.’

To conclude then with our instruction. If this time and this seeking have so many evil marks, the time so unseasonable, the seeking so many ways to seek; if the success to this seeking be no better but nescio vos, why then ne fiat. If these here were not well advised, if those virgins were foolish, why then ne fiant sicut, “not to be like.”

Secondly, to sever the silver from the dross: the seeking is good, keep it; the time is wrong, change it; either into antequam occideret or into cum servaret. Fiat to the action, ne fiat to the time.

Thirdly, as we confess that there is One to be sought, and that with the turning of a gin1 we cannot have Him when we list, but seek Him we must; that His seeking is worth the while, and that it is not dispatched in a minute, but must have time; so to think His seeking worthy a better, and to allow it a better time than this to do it in.

Fourthly, seeing “yet is the acceptable time,” yet “He may be found,”* yet it is cum servaret, occideret is not yet come—how near it is it is hard to say; our Saviour Christ saith it is quâ horâ nescis,* it may be nearer than we are aware; lest it come upon us before we seek, let us seek before it come upon us. So seeking we shall safely seek; safely seek and surely find God, and with God whatsoever is worth the finding. But, that which we seek, we shall after occideret is past find ourselves in His presence and at His right hand; “in Whose presence is the fulness of joy,”* not as ours here joys half empty; and at “Whose right hand there are pleasures for evermore,” not as ours here for a time and a short time, God knoweth. That which here we seek and cannot find with Him we shall, if we shall here indeed and in due time seek Him by the timely fruits of an undelayed repentance. Almighty God, lighten our minds, kindle our affections, settle our hearts so to seek, &c.[1]

 

 

1 Liter. water impregnated with alkaline salts imbibed from the ashes of wood. Webster.

* Isa. 37:3.

1 i.e. pride. The ruff of their glory. L.’Estrange.

* [ἐκ παρέργου Thucyd. vii. 27.]

* Joh. 18:38.

* Ps. 105:3.

1 [price.]

1 [i.e. ingenuousness.]

* Mat. 25:12.

Psalm 78:34

When He slew them, then they sought Him; and they returned, and enquired early after God.

This Psalm is a calendar or roll of reports, how from Moses to David the Jews carried themselves to God in matter of religion. And this verse a report how in the matter of repentance, expressed here under the terms of seeking and turning to God. Wherein this they did, this was their fashion: while He spared them, they sought Him not; “When He slew them, then they sought Him.” Cum, &c. These words then are a report.

A report; but such an one as when St. Paul heard of the Corinthians, he could not commend it. “What shall I say? Shall I praise you in this? No; I praise you not.”* Neither he them for that, nor I these for this. Rather, as old father Eli said to his sons;* Non est bonus sermo hic quem audio de vobis, “this is no good report I hear,” cum occideret, &c.

Whether good or whether evil it pertaineth to us. For to us of the Gentiles hath St. Paul entailed whatsoever well or ill befell the dissolved Church of the Jews. These, “all these came unto them for examples, and are enrolled to warn us that grow nearer and nearer to the ends of the world.”*

Both pertain unto us, the Scripture hath both; and in it draweth out our duty to us in both, in good and evil reports—as it were in white work and black work. And we to have use of both; yet not of both reports alike, but diversely, as our instructions upon them are diverse. For we are not so much to regard the bare report, as the instruction of it. For which cause Asaph hath entitled this Psalm, not Asaph’s report, but Asaph’s “instruction.”

Now we have here our report. May we find what our instruction is touching it? We may. Asaph expressly hath set it down in the eighth verse before. That this and other errors of theirs are here upon the file, ne fiant sicut patres eorum,* “that we should not be like our forefathers, a cross and crooked generation.” Not like them in other indignities, and among other in this cum occideret, &c. Never to seek God but when He kills us.

In which foul indignity our age is certainly as deep as ever was that, and we need Asaph’s instruction no less than they.

For as if there were no use of religion, but only cum occideret, so spend we all our whole time in the search of other things. Not caring to ask, or seek, or confer about the state of our souls, even till occideret come. And then, peradventure, sending for Asaph, and hearing him speak a few words about it, which we would fain have called seeking of God. I can say little to it, I pray God it prove so; but sure, I fear, it will be found minus habens, “far short of it.”*

Which is so usually received that, take a survey, not one of an hundred ever think of it before. So securely practised, as if we had some supersedeas lying by us, not to do it till then. As if there were no such Scripture as this upon record; “which turned to their destruction,” and must needs lie heavy upon us, when we shall remember it. Cum occideret, &c.

Now sure, this course must needs be prejudicial to our souls, and a number perish in it daily before our eyes. Yet we sit still, and suffer this custom to grow and gather head. Neither delivering their souls, or at least our own, by telling them seriously this is not the time, and then to seek is not the seeking God will allow. That this is a ne fiant, “such a thing as should not be done in Israel.” That it is upon record πρὸς ἐντροπὴν, to their disgrace and destruction. And it cannot be to our comfort or commendation to do the like. Out of which their destruction, Asaph frameth an instruction for us; and as it is well said and fitly to this day, ex cinere Judæorum lixivium Christianorum, ‘of the Jews’ ashes maketh a lye1 for Christians,’ to cleanse us from this foul indignity. Ut videntes cadentes, videant ne cadant, ‘that heeding their fall, we take heed we fall not;’ that is, seek not as they sought, lest we perish by like example of seeking too late.

Therefore, that we set ourselves to seek before this cum come; that is, in a word, seek God, as by repentance and the fruits, so by undelayed repentance, and the timely fruits of it; and be not like the Apostle Jude’s δένδρα φθινοπωρινὰ, our seeking all summer withered and dry,* and beginning to shoot out a little about Michaelmas spring. Of which kind of shooting fruit can never come. This is the sum.

The words consist of two parts. Two parts; but these two evil matched, or as St. Paul “unequally yoked together.”* For where our chief actions, of which I take it our seeking of God is one, should have the chiefest time; here is the first and best of our actions sorted with the last and worst part of our time. Quærebant Eum with cum occideret.

And not only missorted, but misplaced. For cum occideret, “His killing” standeth before “our seeking;” whereas our seeking should be first, and His killing come after. This was never God’s fiant, they must have a ne fiant.

Of these two then. First by way of report jointly that de facto thus it is—thus they, and thus we seek.

Then if we take them in sunder, and as Jeremy saith “separate the precious from the vile,”* quærebant Eum the flower of our actions, from cum occideret, the dross, dregs, and very refuse of our time. Consider them apart, and shew, 1. That this time is not the time; 2. and that this seeking thus sorted and thus placed is no seeking, nor ever shall find. Therefore, with Asaph’s instruction, to settle our seeking upon some other time, and to resolve to begin it before.

Two powers there are in cum; 1. a privative, of all times before; 2. a positive, of that instant time then. No time before we seek, at that instant time then we do. On which two consisteth theatrum vitæ, ‘the very theatre of our life.’ Our case before that time is lively expressed in the words immediately precedent; “They spend their days in vanity, and their years in turmoil in the world.”* Our case then at that time in these words, cum occideret eos. Yea, by implication they are both in this verse; by what they do now is implied what they did before. 1. Now “they sought Him,” so that before they lost Him. 2. Again, then “they turned to;” so that before they turned away, and not once looked toward Him. 3. Now “they rose up early,” so that before they put it off till twilight. 4. Now “they remembered,” so that before they forgat Him clean—no speech, no question, nay no thought about Him.

Thus it was, saith Asaph, under Moses. While His hand was not upon them, they regarded Him not, as not worth the seeking; perdebant Eum, it was their losing time. But “when He slew them,” they fell to seek, and well was he that might find; quærebant Eum, is was their seeking time.

Before, quærebant alia, ‘they found themselves other matters more meet to seek.’ Then quærebant Eum, “they gave over all to seek Him only.”

Before He sought them; and they gave Him good leave so to do. Then all is turned out and in. As He them before, so they Him now.

And is it not thus with us that are now in theatro, ‘upon the stage?’ Yes indeed; and more, if more may be. This is but vetus fabula per novos histriones, ‘the same play again by other actors.’ For in public, when in the days of safety plenty and peace, we are in the sixth of Amos,* and are best at ease when quærebant is farthest from us; but if war, famine, or contagion come, then we run to the second of Joel, “Sanctify a fast,”* and call for the Ark, and grow all godly on a sudden. What is this but cum occideret? And in private, when while youth and strength and health doth last, while the evil day is far off, we are even at cessare fac Sanctum Israel a nobis, “cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from us;”* but when distress, danger, or death come, when Rabshakeh is before the walls, then we cry, “Now is the day of tribulation and anguish; now the children are come to the birth, and there is no strength to be delivered.”* Now send to Esay, “Now lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left.” What is this but cum occideret? Surely this is our case; our seeking goeth wholly by our killing—waxeth and waneth, is out and in, as that is near at hand or farther off. I need not tell it, your ears and eyes are daily witnesses that this is a true saying, cum occideret Eos, &c. No killing, no seeking.

“This is a true saying,” but all true sayings are not by all means, nay some not by any means, “to be received.” The report indeed is, thus it was. But the instruction is ne fiant,* “that it should not be.” To the end then we may know what to receive and what to refuse, we will take it in pieces, and melt the dross from the silver metal. Quærebant Eum, by itself is good. Put occideret to it, it is base. Of these then in order.

Of quærebant Eum we shall soon agree, if it be quærebant Eum, that it is a fiat, ‘a thing to be done.’ Which many other ways might be made to appear, but by none better than this here; that at last all come to it. Sooner or later all seek it, all men if not before yet cum occideret, then certainly.

All seek; and among all “they” sought, which word is not without his weight here. For what are these that Asaph here meaneth by “they?” Not saints, not generatio quærentium, “the generation of them that seek God.” But “they”* that in the verse before “wasted all their days in vanity, and their years in turmoiling in the world.” “They,”* idle, riotous persons—“they” sought.

“They” that in a verse after “flattered Him with their lips,” and gave Him all the good words that might be,* and meant no such thing. The hypocrites, “they” sought.

“They” that a little before “grievously provoked the Most High God” with speeches little better than blasphemy; “can God do this? Is there a God amongst us,”* or is there none? And so, instead of quærebant Deum, quærebant an Deus, ‘made a question, whether there were any to seek.’ That is, even the very wicked, and of all wicked the worst, the profane atheists, “they” sought—even at last “they” sought. This is the triumph of religion; the riotous person, the hypocrite, the atheist, all shall seek.

And herein is folly condemned even of her own children, and wisdom justified of her very enemies; that they that greedily seek sin, at last would be glad to be rid of it, and they that merrily scorn religion at last are glad to seek to it.

“They” shall seek; and the time is set down when they shall seek, and when you shall not fail but see them seek that never sought before. In diebus juventutis, not then. Sanus factus est, nor then neither; but cum occideret, then certainly. Cum occideret, mark this cum when it cometh, and you shall see them that stood out all their life long then come in.

The heathen man saw it with his eyes. O, saith the Persian messenger in Æschylus, when the Grecian forces hotly pursued our host, and we must needs venture over the great water Strymon, frozen then but beginning to thaw, when an hundred to one we had all died for it—that is, cum occideret, with mine eyes I saw saith he,* when Θεοὺς δέ τις, &c. Of those gallants whom I had heard before so boldly maintain there was no God to seek; τότʼ ἤυχετο λιταῖσι, ‘then every one of them on their knees, and full devoutly praying the ice might hold till they got over.’ Moses saw it with his eyes. Pharaoh,* who was at high terms, “Who is the Lord you talk of?” and answered himself, “he knew none such,” nor nothing would do for Him:—when cum occideret came, he took notice there was a Lord higher than he; “that that Lord was righteous, and he a wretched sinner”* that sought for grace at His hands. Mark but the shutting up of dixit insipiens, their own Psalm. When,* saith David, they have in heart sought to persuade themselves, non est—seek none, “none there is;”* and thereupon “corrupted themselves,” and became most loathsome in their lives, “eat up their tenants as they would do so many morsels of bread;” made a mock of such holy men as set themselves seriously to seek God: when all is done and occideret come, trepidabunt timore ubi non erat timor, “they shall begin to be afraid, where they held before no fear needed;” and here shall be the last verse of their Psalm; quis dabit e Sion salutem, “to wish for the salvation of Sion,” which they have so oft derided. “They shall seek,” and “then they shall seek.” Till then possibly you shall lose your labour, if you tell them of seeking of God, but and how good it is. They are, saith Jeremy, “like the dromedary of the wilderness,”* a beast of exceeding swiftness, the female specially; “over hill and dale she goeth,” saith the Prophet, “and snuffeth up the air at her pleasure, and who can overtake her? They that seek her will not weary themselves till her month.” And in her month when she is bagged, then they will find her, and deal with her well enough. The case is like. Age, sickness, death, are far off; youth, health, and strength, possess them; there is no coming to them then. The month, cum occideret, is not yet come; but come that once as once it will to all, you shall find quærebant will have his place—fiat. It is therefore God’s own resolution, thus He resolveth: “I will go,” saith He, “and return to My place, till they acknowledge their faults and seek Me.”* And when will that be? He addeth, in novissimo quærent me diligenter, an end will come, and when that cometh “they will seek Me diligently,” even the best of them. And even so we are fain to resolve; for our lot is God’s lot, and when He sought to them, we go to our place, and there stand till their month, expectantes aquæ motum,* waiting till the destroying Angel come and stir the water, and then quærent Eum will be worth the seeking after.

Then, according to St. Paul’s disjunctive,* we that all other times mente excedimus Dco, at that time sobrii sumus vobis. Divinity, which in our ruff1 is sophism and school-points, and at the best a kind of ecstasy about God, is and shall be then, “the words of truth and soberness.”* For God and His seeking will have their time; before if it may be, but if not before, then at the farthest. First or last, all shall confess by seeking God is to be sought. Some before He kill, and happy are they; but “when He killeth,” all;—hypocrites, heathens, atheists, and all.

And I would pray you in a word but to note, in seeking then how many things they confess. For there be I take it four potential confessions in it.

That such an One there is to be sought. A Power above us Whose being and sovereignty all, first or last, shall seek.

That somewhat there is to be found, some good to be done in seeking; as Esay saith, non frustra dixit, “He hath not in vain said to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye Me.”* For were it to no purpose, they would not then do it; but as at other times they did, so let it alone then too.

That whatsoever that good is, hit upon it,* or stumble on it we shall not; it will not be had in parergo, but seek it we must. For without seeking it will not be had. If it would they might sit still, and let it drop into their laps.

That seeking at this time when He slayeth them, they that shew what that good is they seek; even that the Psalmist saith, “Seek the Lord, and your soul shall live;”* that whatsoever become of their body, at least their soul may live; that we may lose not both, that “He kill not both, and cast not both into hell fire.”* And this, even when we come within the hemisphere of the other life, the sense we then have of somewhat that should have been sought before; the misgiving of our hearts, they shall come to a reckoning for not seeking sooner; and this, that not one of us would die suddenly of our good-wills, but have a time to seek God, before we lose ourselves. This, that we desire to die seeking, howsoever we live; all shew certainly it is a fiat, ‘a thing to be done,’ a good thing to seek God, even the enemies of it being judges of it.

So then; quærebant Eum is as it should be. But I add: 1. If it be quærebant, seeking indeed. 2. And if it be quærebant Eum, and not aliud in Eo, seeking, not Him, but somewhat else by Him.

If it be seeking indeed. For they to whom the Prophet Esay said, Si quæritis quærite, “if ye seek, why then do it,” sought so as it seemeth their seeking deserved not the name of seeking. So loosely, so slightly, so slenderly they did it;* as if that they sought were as good lost as found. So sought the party that said, In lectulo quæsivi Quem diligit anima,* that lay in bed and sought. So he that asked our Saviour Quid est veritas? a very good question; and when he had asked it another thing took him in the head and up he rose and went his way before Christ could tell him what it was. Such is our seeking for the most part. Some idle question cast, some table-talk moved, some Quid est veritas,* and go our way—all by the way, in transcursu; and never, as if it were about some matter of special moment, set about it and seek it out indeed.

1. They turned them, saith the text, as if before they sought without so much as turning them about.

2. They rose up, as though before they sat still and sought.

3. They did it early, and did not tarry till cum occideret, the sun were set, and no light to seek by, but their “feet stumbled in the dark mountains.”*

4. They “enquired;” so that before if you had ought to say to them you might, they had nothing to say to you. To seek then is to turn, to rise, to rise early, to enquire after it. O si quæritis, quærite, saith Esay, “the morning cometh, and so doth the night;”* that is, our days spend apace, and we say we will seek; if we will seek, let us once do it indeed.

Secondly, if it be quærebant, and if it be Eum; another point to be rectified. Non vestra sed vos, saith the Apostle, is the right seeking.* Not seek Him for somewhat we would have of Him, but to seek Himself for Himself. It is one thing, say the schools, to seek God for fruition; another to seek Him to make use of Him. One thing, saith Christ,* to seek for the miracle, another for the loaves.* One thing to “seek His face,” another to seek His fingers’ ends. One thing to consult with Him only for conscience, to know and do; another to consult with Him—if it hit our humour to make our advantage of it, if it go against us to set light by it. Such is our seeking for the most part; cum occideret, to have our turn served, to have our health restored, that we may seek Him no longer, but to our former riot again, “and to-morrow may be as yesterday and much more.”*

Seek Him indeed; seek Him for Himself. These two points being agreed of, we shall throughly agree of quærebant Eum. And so much for it, and for our fiat. Now to our ne fiat.

For when we have agreed of our seeking, we have not done. With diligence it would be, and due respect. Our seeking, as all things, the best things under the sun, must have τὴν ὥραν καὶ τὴν χώραν, ‘their due time and place.’* Wherein appeareth the abating power of circumstances,* that they are able to bring down the substances. Namely, of the time; and that mis-timing marreth not only music, but all things else. The thing is right, the cum is wrong, and so all is wrong.

To find out the time, we agree first that as every weighty thing hath, so the seeking of God is to be allowed a time too.

What time is that? Verily, we should do it absolutely, all our life long; quærite faciem Ejus semper. Not when? but when not? without limitation, continually.*

And in this sense we grant cum occideret; then, and at other times too. But not (as Asaph) then, and never till then; so, we deny it.

God indeed is so to be sought, but we cannot so seek Him; other our affairs crave allowance out of our time, and we are well content to yield it largely. Only that God have a set time left when to seek Him. That is but reason; all will yield to it. All grant a cum.

But come to know when that “when” shall be; here we vary first. We cannot be brought to set down any certainty, but love to be left at large. Do it we will, but indeed we cannot shew when; but even Felix his “when,”* ὅταν εὐκαιρήσω, ‘when we have leisure.’ I cannot now stand to seek, saith he; I hope one day to be at leisure to do it, but that day never came.

Urge them, press them “when?” No other resolution but omnis peccator dicit, aliquando Deum sequar sed non modo; ‘sometime still, but not this time.’ Never in the present, but sometime hereafter.

Follow them all along their life, they find not this cum, but put it from one cum to another, till there be none left but only cum occideret, even that very time against which God layeth His exceptions. Every time before we say, nondum tempus, ‘it is not time yet;’ every hour before, nondum venit hora, ‘the hour is not yet come.’

Not to leave God’s seeking thus at random, but to grow to some certainty. I demand, will any time serve? Is God at all times to be found? It is certain not. The very limitation of dum inveniri potest,* sheweth plainly that other times there be wherein seek Him you may, but find Him you shall not.

Then if at all times He is not to be found, we are to make choice of a certain cum, cum inveniri potest, “when He may be found,” and then seek Him.

Many returns there be in the term of our life, many cums; all are reduced to two: 1. cum servaret, and 2. cum occideret. Or if we will needs be wedded to a cum occideret, 1. Cum occideret hostes eorum, 2. not eos; ‘when He scattereth and slayeth our enemies’ and saveth us. One of these two it must needs be.

Cum occideret, it is not. Christ Himself expressly limiteth it before; Dedi ei tempus ad pænitendum, saith He, “I gave her a time to repent.”* What time is that? Lest we might mistake it to be cum occideret, He adds, if we do it not in that time so by Him given, He will “cast us down on our beds,” the beds of affliction and sickness, and there “kill us with death.” So that the time He alloweth us to repent, is before we come thither. For thither we come because we did it not in the time He gave us to do it in. Indeed our bed is not the place: in lectulo quæsivi, “I sought Him in my bed;” quæsivi sed non inveni, “I sought Him but I found Him not.”* The place of slaughter is not the place, nor the time of killing is not the time. We may take that time, but it is not dedi illis, none of “His giving.” The time He giveth us is before we come there.

Then if when He kills us is not it, when He saveth us it is? It is indeed; and a cluster of it, an hour of cum servaret then is better than a vintage, a whole day of cum occideret.

Upon these two the whole Psalm standeth, and the part before sheweth when it should have been. When “He overwhelmed the Egyptians in the sea,”* when “the pillar of the cloud was over,”* when He not only saved them but served them, “raining down manna”* for their need, and giving them quails for their lust;* then was the time with them and then is the time with us.

For sure as we seek God to save us, so He saveth us to seek Him; if when we seek Him we are saved, when we are saved we should seek Him. The time of His saving is the time of our seeking; and one hour then is better than four and twenty.

All that while what seek we? Why, as Jeremy saith,* we do then quærere grandia. Other greater matters we have in hand, matters of more weight than the seeking of God. As if His seeking were some petty business, slightly to be sought, and lightly to be found. Any time good enough for it.

Nay not that, but so evil are we affected to seek Him then, that quærebant is occideret; we indict Him of our death, it is death to do it—as lieve die as seek; it maketh us old, it killeth us before our time. We digest not them that call on us for it, but seek ourselves, as the Apostle speaketh,* Magistros secundum desideria, that may entertain us with speculations of what may be done by miracle at the hour of death; that may give us days and elbow-room enough to seek other things, and to shrink up His seeking into a narrow time at our end, and tell us time enough then. For thus then we reckon; all the time we spend in it we lose the fruit of our life, and the joy of our hearts shall be taken from us. As if the fruit of life were not to find God, or as if any true hearts’ joy God being not found. Call we this our fruit and joy not to seek God? call it not so; lætetur cor quærentium Deum, saith the Holy Ghost, “let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.”* Yea in lachrymis peccatorum, ‘in the very tears of a penitent,’* there is, saith St. Augustine, more sound joy than in risu theatrorum, ‘in all the games the theatre can afford:’ Da Christianum, et scit quid dico. But our taste is turned, and we relish not this seeking. By our flesh-pots we have lived, and by them we will die, and so we do. Lust hath been our life, and we will be buried in the graves of lust; and so we shall, and never know what that joy meaneth, Lætetur cor quærentium Deum.

Cum servaret then will not serve. Nay, cum occideret will scarce serve, it hath much ado; let Him draw His sword and come amongst us. For if, as of His goodness He doth not, He rush not on us at first, but begin with others; if it be cum occideret alios, we seek not. See ye the thirty-first verse: He took away others before their faces, and those not weak or sickly persons, but the goodliest and strongest of all Israel, and least likely to die. Here is occideret. Now did this move? No. See the thirty-second verse: for at this they “sinned yet more,” and went about their seeking never the sooner. It must be cum occideret eos, “themselves,” their own selves, or it will not do it.

Come then to themselves and smite them with the edge, not with the point; with the edge to wound, not with the point to dispatch outright; will that serve? cum cæderet eos, ‘when He wounded them with some mortal sickness the messenger of death, would they seek Him then?’ No: not then, not for all that would they frame to it. For quærebant medicum then, I say, as Asa sought medicos, et non Deum.* Not God and them, but them first; and let God stay till they be gone. And till they give us over, and tell us plainly occideret is now come indeed, no smiting or wounding will send us to seek. So that it is not either 1. cum servaret eos, or 2. cum serviret eis, His saving, or serving us; nay it is not, 3. cum occideret alios, or 4. cum cæderet, ‘His killing others, or wounding us’ with any but our deaths-wound, will do it.

Tandem then, when we are come to the very last cast, our strength is gone, our spirit clean spent, our senses appalled, and the powers of our soul as numb as our senses, when a general prostration of all our powers, and the shadow of death upon our eyes, then something we would say or do which should stand for our seeking; but, I doubt it will not serve. This is the time we allow God to seek Him in.

Is this it? Would we then seek Him when we are not in case to seek any thing else? Would we turn to Him then when we are not able to turn ourselves in our bed? Or, “rise early to seek Him” when we are not able to rise at all? Or “enquire after Him” when our breath faileth us, and we are not able to speak three words together? Neither before, nor with, but even at the end of occideret? No hour but the hour of death?* No time but when He taketh time from us and us from it, et tempus non erit amplius? What shall I say? Shall I commend this seeking, turning, rising, enquiring? No; I cannot commend it either in itself or to any. I commend it not.

That that may be said is this, and it is nothing: true; some one or two of a thousand and ten thousand that have. How then? Shall we not therefore follow our instruction and seek Him before? Nay then,* “some have found and never sought;”—let us not seek Him at all if that will hold. Thus it is: some going a journey have found a purse by the way—it were mad counsel to advise us to leave our money behind upon hope of like hap in ours. No; this is safe and good; though some one or two have found and not sought, yet let us seek for all that. Though some one or two have then sought and found, yet let us seek before. Though some have found a purse in their way, let us not trust to like hap, but carry money with us. This is a privy-door on special favour open to some few. There lieth no way by them. “This is the way,” you have heard, “walk in it and you shall find rest to your souls.”*

To speak then of safe seeking and sure finding, I say, as Asaph saith, it is a ne fiant. This time is not the time Christ giveth us; He assigneth us another. Yea we condemn ourselves in that we would seek to allow it ourselves. If we were put to it to say plainly, “not till He kill me,” it would choke us. We neither have heart nor face, we would not dare to answer so, we dare not avow it. And if it be a ne dicant it is a ne fiant. The time of God’s quærite is primum quærite.* This cum is the last of all our cums; all other before it. First and last are flat ad oppositum. This is not it.

The time of seeking God must be δεκτὸς, such as is meet to be received. This is not: therefore, I hope, we will not offer it God.* If we do, take heed He scorn not this time as He doth their price in Zachary; “A goodly time1 that I have assigned Me.”* Take heed He stand not upon His reputation, as in Malachi, and bid us “offer our service”* at this hour, “to any great man and see, whether he will be content with it,” and not reject both us and our seeking then. This is not, cannot be but a great ne fiant, to offer God that no man is so mean but would take in evil part.

This time is the time when all hypocrites, atheists, tag and rag, come in and seek Him in a sort; and shall not we be confounded to see ourselves in their number? Nay to say that must be said for true it is, It is past the Devil’s time. They be his words, cur ante tempus?* and he seeketh to make them ours, that it is ever too soon to seek God. At the hardest I trust we will not keep time with him.

And to seek Him then is not to seek Him; not quærebant Eum. No; they seek Him not, they “dissemble with Him,” saith Asaph, in the next verse. For when God to try them reprieved them never so little time, they fell to their old bias;* and when as He ceased killing, their seeking was at an end. So are all forced seekings, like to a bow-string brought to his full bent, but remit you never so little it starteth back again.

Nay it is not quærebant, no kindly seeking, but a base ignoble creeping to, without all ingenuity1, when we must either die or do it. Neither χάρις nor κλέος to do it then.

But in very deed it is no “seeking”* at all, as before we defined quærebant to “seek indeed.” There is a diameter between occideret and quærebant, and therefore between it and quærebant Eum. Men cannot then seek; if they must rise up and turn them that must do it, they are not able for their lives to turn or stir themselves to do it. Nay, nor to “enquire.” For what is our “seeking” then? Is it not to lie still on our bed, and suffer a few words to be spoken in our ears? Have a little opiate divinity ministered to our souls, and so sent away? Sure this is rather to be sought than to “seek.” There goeth more to quærebant then thus. We must then “seek” when we are in case to give sentence and to do judgment on ourselves, when we are able to take up our cross before it be laid on us. Quærebant Eum must stand before cum occideret.

Lastly, it would be known what became of this quærebant? What they found that sought thus, and then and not before? “They found not Him,”* the Prophet saith plainly. They go then “with sheep and bullocks,” and all manner of sacrifice, “to seek the Lord; but find Him not, for He hath withdrawn Himself before.”

And justly they find Him not ex lege talionis. God Himself answers them; nay their own hearts answer themselves. Go: whom you have spent your life in seeking, seek to them now. Let them save you at this, whom ye sought at all other times. As for Me, it shall come to pass, as I cried and you would not hear, so you shall cry and seek and shall not find or be heard, saith the Lord.

Yes—they found Him, but with a door shut between Him and them. But what found they? The parable of the ten virgins tells us, which is the Gospel for this Psalm, they found that which we I hope shall never find, a nescio vos.* Where, that we may see that this course is folly and therefore indeed a ne fiant sicut, that which putteth the difference of those that be wise and go in, is that they had sought “and looked to their oil ere the Bridegroom came;”* and those that were foolish and shut out when the Bridegroom was even coming, that is, cum occideret, were to seek their oil then—had not looked to it till then. Nescio vos is their answer, He knoweth them not; they took too short a time to breed acquaintance in. Nescio vos they find that so seek. Profecto ad hoc tonitru, &c. ‘At this clap he that waketh not is not asleep but dead.’

To conclude then with our instruction. If this time and this seeking have so many evil marks, the time so unseasonable, the seeking so many ways to seek; if the success to this seeking be no better but nescio vos, why then ne fiat. If these here were not well advised, if those virgins were foolish, why then ne fiant sicut, “not to be like.”

Secondly, to sever the silver from the dross: the seeking is good, keep it; the time is wrong, change it; either into antequam occideret or into cum servaret. Fiat to the action, ne fiat to the time.

Thirdly, as we confess that there is One to be sought, and that with the turning of a gin1 we cannot have Him when we list, but seek Him we must; that His seeking is worth the while, and that it is not dispatched in a minute, but must have time; so to think His seeking worthy a better, and to allow it a better time than this to do it in.

Fourthly, seeing “yet is the acceptable time,” yet “He may be found,”* yet it is cum servaret, occideret is not yet come—how near it is it is hard to say; our Saviour Christ saith it is quâ horâ nescis,* it may be nearer than we are aware; lest it come upon us before we seek, let us seek before it come upon us. So seeking we shall safely seek; safely seek and surely find God, and with God whatsoever is worth the finding. But, that which we seek, we shall after occideret is past find ourselves in His presence and at His right hand; “in Whose presence is the fulness of joy,”* not as ours here joys half empty; and at “Whose right hand there are pleasures for evermore,” not as ours here for a time and a short time, God knoweth. That which here we seek and cannot find with Him we shall, if we shall here indeed and in due time seek Him by the timely fruits of an undelayed repentance. Almighty God, lighten our minds, kindle our affections, settle our hearts so to seek, &c.[1]

 

 

1 Liter. water impregnated with alkaline salts imbibed from the ashes of wood. Webster.

* Isa. 37:3.

1 i.e. pride. The ruff of their glory. L.’Estrange.

* [ἐκ παρέργου Thucyd. vii. 27.]

* Joh. 18:38.

* Ps. 105:3.

1 [price.]

1 [i.e. ingenuousness.]

* Mat. 25:12.

1 [Here used apparently forengine.]

[1] Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 1, pp. 305–320). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain)

1 [Here used apparently forengine.]

[1] Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 1, pp. 305–320). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain)



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