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CMF eZine


The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship.


Author: RobertFlynn

Bob FlynnBob Flynn was born and raised in Los Angeles County, California.  He is the son of a watchmaker and jeweler.  He spent 23 years in the Navy where he enjoyed flying on the P-3 Orion as a flight engineer and serving as a manager in aircraft maintenance.  He has been married to his high school sweetheart, Nancy, for 51 years and they have two grown sons.  Bob came to the day of salvation as an adult while caring for his mother as she was dying of cancer.  Bob joined the Christian Military Fellowship in 1981 and served as Local Representative and then later as President of the governing Counsel.  Upon retirement from the Navy, Bob was called to serve on the staff of CMF as the Coordinator of Ministries, later Chief Operating Officer, and then  President and Chief Executive Officer.  After retirement from the CMF staff, he served a season as Chairman of the Board of Directors.


Psalm 14

Psalm 14

Psalm 14

Human Depravity and Destructive Judgements

“To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD. There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous. Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge. Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.” (Psalm 14, AV)

We have first a description of human depravity as universal, ver. 1–3; then a confident anticipation of destructive judgments on the incorrigibly wicked, ver. 4–6; and an earnest wish for the speedy deliverance of God’s elect from the evils of their natural condition and from the malice of their unconverted enemies, ver. 7.

There seems to be no reference to any particular historical occasion. The psalm was, no doubt, originally written to express the feelings of God’s people, in all times and places, with respect to the original depravity of all men, and the obstinate persistency in evil of the greater number. The points of resemblance and of difference between this psalm and the fifty-third will be considered in the exposition of the latter.

1. To the Chief Musician, by David. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They have done corruptly, they have done abominably (in) deed (or act); there is none doing good. Sin is constantly held up to view in Scripture as the height of folly, and the sinner as the fool by way of eminence. See Gen. 34:7, Josh. 7:15, Ps. 39:9 (8). The term is here collective and applied to the whole race, as appears from the plurals which follow, and the negative statement in the last clause. The preterites include the present, but suggest the additional idea, that the truth here asserted is the result of all previous experience and observations.—In his heart, to himself, if not to others, as above, in Ps. 10:11. That the error is one of the affections, and not merely of the understanding, is supposed by some to be implied in the use of the word heart, which is often used, however, to denote the mind or soul in general.—אֵין is properly a noun, and means nonentity or non-existence: “nothing of God,” or “no such thing as God.” It cannot be explained as a wish—“No God!” i.e. Oh that there were no God!—because אֵין in usage always includes the substantive verb, and denies the existence, or at least the presence, of the person or thing to which it is prefixed. This is also clear from the use of the same word in the last clause, where its sense is unambiguous.—The addition of the word act or deed shews that the atheism described is not merely theoretical but practical.—There is obvious allusion in this verse to the description of the general antediluvian corruption in Gen. 6:12. This makes it the more certain that the description here was not intended either for Jews or Gentiles, as such, but for wicked men of either class, and that Paul’s application of the words, in Rom. 3:10, 12, is perfectly legitimate, and not a mere accommodation of the Psalmist’s language to another purpose.

2. Jehovah from heaven has looked down on the sons of man, to see if there were (one) acting wisely, seeking God. While the fool denies the being of a God, Jehovah’s eye is on him and his fellow-men. Yet even that omniscient eye can discern no exception to the general depravity and folly. The earnestness of the inspection is suggested by the verb in the first clause, which originally means to lean or bend over, and is peculiarly appropriate to the act of one gazing intently down upon a lower object. The force of the preterite tense is the same as in the preceding verse. The inquiry has been made already, and proved fruitless. It is no longer a doubtful question, but one definitively settled.—Acting wisely, in contrast to the atheistical folly mentioned in ver. 1. The test of wisdom is in seeking God, whether in the general religious sense of seeking his favor and communion with him, or in the special sense of seeking proofs of his existence. As if he had said, Even those who think there is no God, if they were wise, would seek one; but these fools take pleasure in the hideous negation. The image presented in this verse may be compared with that in Gen. 6:12, 11:5, 18:21. See also Ps. 33:13, 14.

3. The whole has apostatized; together they have putrefied; there is none doing good; there is not even one. Total and universal corruption could not be more clearly expressed than by this accumulation of the strongest terms, in which, as Luther well observes, the Psalmist, not content with saying all, adds together, and then negatively, no not one. It is plain that he had no limitation or exception in his mind, but intended to describe the natural condition of all men, in the widest and most unrestricted sense. The whole, not merely all the individuals as such, but the entire race as a totality or ideal person.—The whole (race) has departed, not merely from the right way, but from God, instead of seeking him, as intimated in ver. 4. Together, not merely altogether or without exception, but in union and by one decisive act or event. The etymological import of the verb נאלחו is to turn sour, to spoil. It is applied to moral depravation not only here, but in Job 15:16. The Septuagint version of these words is quoted by Paul in Rom. 3:12, as a part of his scriptural description of human depravity, the rest of which is taken from Ps. 5:10 (9), 10:7, 36:2 (1), 140:4, Isa. 59:7, 8. Under the false impression that he meant to quote a single passage, some early Christian copyist appears to have introduced the whole into the Septuagint version of this psalm, where it is still found in the Codex Vaticanus, as well as in the Vulgate, and even in one or two Hebrew manuscripts of later date. The interpolation is also retained in the Anglican Psalter. It is evident, however, that the apostle’s argument is strengthened by the fact of his proofs being drawn, not from one, but several parts of the Old Testament.

4. Do they not know, all (these) workers of iniquity, eating my people (as) they eat bread, (and) on Jehovah call not? The question is elliptical: the object of the verb must be supplied from the context. Do they not know that they are thus corrupt and estranged from God, and therefore objects of his wrath? Is it because they do not know this or believe it, that they thus presume to oppress and persecute his people? The figure of devouring occurs often elsewhere, e.g. Prov. 30:14, Mic. 3:3, Hab. 3:14. See below, on Ps. 27:2 (1). As they eat bread may either mean for their support—living on the plunder and oppression of my people; or for pleasure—feeding on them with delight; or with indifference and as little sense of guilt as when they take their ordinary fond.—Call not on Jehovah, do not worship him, as they were before said not to seek him, nor even to acknowledge his existence, all which are periphrastical descriptions of the wicked as a class. The general description of their wickedness is here exchanged for a specific charge, that of persecuting the righteous. The mention of two classes here is not at variance with the universal terms of the preceding context, nor does it render any limitation of those terms necessary. All men are alike “children of wrath,” but some are elected to be “vessels of mercy,” and thereby become objects of hatred to the unconverted mass who still represent the race in its apostasy from God.—My people does not make it necessary to regard these as the words of God himself, who is nowhere introduced as speaking in this psalm, and is spoken of in the third person in the very next clause. The Psalmist, as a member of the body, calls it his, and the same form of expression occurs elsewhere. See 1 Sam. 5:10, Isa. 3:12, 53:8, Micah 3:3.—For the meaning of the phrase, workers of iniquity, see above, on Ps. 5:6 (5).

5. There have they feared a fear, for God (is) in the righteous generation. A later period is now present to his view. They who seemed incapable of fear have now began to be afraid at last. There, without any change of place or outward situation. Where they before denied the being of a God, even there they have began to fear. See below, on Ps. 36:13 (12). The reason is given in the next clause. God, though denied by them, exists and is present, and will manifest his presence by the protection and deliverance of his people. Feared a fear, is a common Hebrew idiom for greatly feared, were sore afraid. Generation, contemporary race, as in Ps. 12:8 (7).

6. The plan (or counsel) of the sufferer (the afflicted) ye will shame, because Jehovah is his refuge. The workers of iniquity are here addressed directly. The sufferer is the persecuted innocent. Poor is too restricted a translation. See above, on Ps. 9:13, 19 (12, 18). The plan or counsel is described in the last clause, to wit, that of trusting in Jehovah. This very trust is an object of contempt to the wicked. Until they are made to fear by the manifestation of God’s presence with his people, they will continue to despise it. The Psalmist here seems to revert to the interval which should precede the divine interposition. As if he had said, You will one day be made to fear, but in the mean time you will shame the counsel of the poor. Some, however, give תבישו its usual sense of putting to shame, disappointing, and understand the clause as an ironical concession: you may shame his counsel if you can.

7. Who will give out of Zion salvation to Israel, in Jehovah’s returning the captivity of his people? Let Jacob exult, let Israel joy! The phrase who will give is an idiomatic optative in Hebrew, equivalent to Oh that with a verb, and Oh for with a noun in English. Oh for the salvation of Israel! Or, Oh that the salvation of Israel (might come) out of Zion, as the earthly residence of God and seat of the theocracy. The same local designation is connected with the prayer or promise of divine help, in Ps. 3:5 (4), 20:3 (2), 128:5, 134:3. (Compare Ps. 28:2). This shews that the psalm does not belong to the period of the Babylonish exile, and that the captivity referred to is not literal, but a metaphorical description of distress, as in the case of Job (42:10). The same idea is elsewhere expressed by the figure of confinement and incarceration (Ps. 142:8, Isa. 42:7, 49:9). The sense remains essentially the same in this case, whether the verb return be transitive or intransitive. Most interpreters prefer the former sense, and understand the clause to mean, “in Jehovah’s bringing back the captivity of his people.” But as שׁוּב in every other combination means to come back, and, like other verbs of motion, often governs a noun of place directly (Exod. 4:19, 20, Num. 10:36), it is better to understand the words as meaning that the salvation wished for would consist in God’s revisiting his captive or afflicted people. The sense is also admissible, if not necessary, in such places as Deut. 30:3, Ps. 85:5 (4), Isa. 52:8, Hos. 6:11, Nah. 2:3 (2). Let Jacob shout (for joy)! This is both an exhortation and a wish, but the latter is the prominent idea, as the parallelism of the clauses shews. Oh that the salvation of Israel were come! corresponds exactly to, May Jacob exult, may Israel be glad! The common version is forbidden by the optative form (יָגֵל) of the Hebrew verb, and by the masoretic interpunction, which connects in the Lord’s returning, &c., not with what follows as a specification of time, but with what goes before as an explanatory clause. The whole may be paraphrased as follows: “Oh that Jehovah, from his throne in Zion, would grant salvation to his, people, by revisiting them in their captive and forsaken state, and that occasion of rejoicing might be thus afforded to the church!” Or more closely thus: “Oh may Israel’s salvation (soon) come forth from Zion, in Jehovah’s return to the captivity of his people! (In such a restoration) may Jacob (soon have reason to) exult and Israel (to) triumph!”[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 60–63). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

A Cross and Crooked Generation

A Cross and Crooked Generation

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

A Cross and Crooked Generation: Psalm 78:34

A Crooked and Perverse 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.

1 [Here used apparently forengine.]

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

Miracles of Healing

Miracles of Healing

Miracle of Healing

Matt. 8:13

“And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.”

From the consideration of the nature and use of our Blessed Lord’s miracles in general, and the example of that first great miracle of turning water into wine, we now come to speak of those which have a more particular character. And the Gospel to-day brings before us two of these, the cleansing of the leper and the recovering of the centurion’s servant, both belonging to the same class: that of the healing of disease.

In order to understand the bearing of these on Christian doctrine, let us first enquire, what disease is: what place it holds with reference to the office and work of the Redeemer. That it does hold some important place, is evident, from the great number of His wonderful works which had respect to the healing and removing of it. Disease, then, is simply the beginning of death. It is, in its various forms, that part of the dark procession of miseries consequent on sin, which ushers in the dread executioner of the primitive sentence, “Thou shalt surely die.” So that He who came to abolish death, and to bring life and immortality to light through the Gospel, might well be expected, among his wonderful works performed in confirmation of this his mission, to heal diseases. For He would thus be shewing the great restoration which He came to effect in our whole nature: the health, and life, and vigor, which accompany His presence, and His touch, and His word. And He was not content with healing every sickness and disease among the people: He even exerted his power over the king of terrors himself, and His voice was heard by the spirit of man in the realms of the departed, and He was obeyed.

All these miracles form one great class, and that by far the largest, of those which our Lord wrought on earth. And the lessons taught by them are manifold.

There is first the plain fact, that the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. How familiar this is on our tongues, but how little do we really think of it in our secret hearts! Many are the works related of him: why should by far the greater number of them be miracles of healing? Was there nothing more important to do in the world? One of the bitterest enemies of Christianity in ancient times, Julian the apostate, denied that our Lord ever did any really wonderful works: “He only cured a few sick people in villages like Bethsaida and Bethany.” Why, if our Lord had been pleased, He could have done works which would have struck with terror every caviler at His Gospel. But He mainly confined himself to these, wrought on obscure persons, and in obscure places, because He wanted, not to be glorified of men, but to teach and bless and console His people to the end of time. And when we see Him thus laying out the precious days of his ministry, and inspiring his Evangelists to write these accounts of his works of healing, and providentially preserving the books in which they are related down to these latter days, we ought to feel thankfully convinced that He came, and wrought his works, and had his Gospels written, to help us, to heal us, to make us sound and happy, and to prolong and cheer our lives, not to bring misery and fear and weakness of purpose and terror of death among us, as some would have us believe. What a comfort, my brethren, this might be to us, if we would but think ever of Him thus; as of one waiting to heal and to bless! How would pain be lightened and sickness patiently borne and death lose its terrors, if we always saw His hand stretched forth to heal us, His form standing by the sick bed, or walking on the waves of affliction, and saying to us “It is I, be not afraid!”

It may however be said, But He does not do this now: we are left to bear our pains and troubles without Him. Not indeed without Him, for He is ever thinking of every one of us: but in part, the remark is most true. He did not come into our world to work miracles, to heal diseases, or to raise the dead. There were thousands of sick in Judæa and Galilee during His ministry, who never saw His face nor partook of His healing power: of all that died in those three years, He raised but three, that we are told of. He came into the world to do that far greater work of which these were but the signs and tokens;—to put out and abolish forever the great disease of our nature;—to take away the sin of the world. And this He has done once for all, and is ever applying the blessed fruits of His work to the members of His Church. It was to shew you His gracious mind in doing this, not to lead you to expect bodily healing or raising from the dead, or to murmur, because such blessings are now withdrawn, that I dwelt on the consolation which these His miracles may afford us.

Another lesson which His wonderful works teach us, and which we deeply need, is, the importance of these our bodies, in the great process of Redemption. It is a very common mistake to imagine that the saving of the soul is to be the great object of religion. Nay, religion itself is called the interest of the soul: and by many Christians the body is as little regarded as having any share in it, as if it were to be left behind in the grave, and a blessed eternity would be passed without it. Yet nothing can be more contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture, than such a way of viewing the subject. In Scripture Christ is called the Savior, not of the soul, but of the body: that for which St. Paul tells us the whole Church of God is waiting, is, the redemption of the body: when the same Apostle has finished the great argument concerning salvation by grace through faith in the Epistle to the Romans, he beseeches us by the mercies of God to yield, not our souls, but our bodies, a living sacrifice to God: when he warns the Corinthians against sins of uncleanness, he says, “Know ye not that,” not your souls, but “your bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost?” And the one distinctive doctrine of Christianity, by which it was different from every other religion in the world, was, not the future life of the soul: this was known to Jew and to heathen long before: but it was, the resurrection of the body: that all men should come out of their graves with their bodies; and that the entire man, body, soul, and spirit, should live for ever in bliss, or endure for ever in woe, without separation or diminution.

Our modern religion is become far too spiritual—far too much a matter of thought, and opinion, and inward feelings and experiences, and this has led men to unite it so little with their common lives, and make it a matter of such convenient secrecy and mystery, that they may do and say just what they please in the body, without their religious profession being affected by it. And another result of this so-called spiritual view of religion is, that in treating of the heathen abroad, or the far worse heathen at home, those who hold it will almost forbid, or at any rate depreciate, the attempt to better their bodily state by civilization, by sanitary improvements, by elevating arts and kindlier habits; and tell us we must care for their souls first, if not only. To all such views I conceive our blessed Lord’s own practice is our best as it is our most decisive answer. He preached the Gospel of the kingdom: but while He did it, He went about doing good:—healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, making the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, restoring the withered limb, and the uprightness of the bowed-down frame. These were the ways in which He prepared men for His Gospel, and in which He has taught us to prepare them: not by putting it in contrast to all our blessings, but by making it the crown and topstone to all our blessings: not by giving out that health, and spirits, and the use of our senses, and the information of our minds, and the decencies and courtesies of life, are all bad, and religion only is good; but by ourselves feeling, and telling others, that all these are good, very good,—rich gifts of our merciful Father,—but that faith in Christ, obedience to Christ, is better than all of them, best of all of them;—and Christ Himself the gift of gifts,—God’s unspeakable gift.

The next remark which I have to make on this class of our Lord’s works will of necessity introduce us to the particular character and features of the former of those related in our Gospel to-day. The remark is, on the typical import of these healing miracles, as pointing to the Lord’s power over the diseases of our souls and spirits: and the miracle which best illustrates this is the cleansing of the leper, with which our gospel begins. It can be no new thing to you to hear, that this disease of leprosy was chosen for notice in the ancient law, and a special set of enactments made concerning it, not for any sanitary reasons, but purely because it was taken as a type of man’s great disease of sin. Although one of the most loathsome and terrible of bodily plagues, it was not contagious:—there was no fear of its spreading from man to man. This would be plain, by merely observing that in cases when it could not be helped, the leper was employed in high offices: in cases which were perfectly hopeless, he was, even by the law, relieved from many of the restrictions laid on his fellow-sufferers, and was allowed to mingle in the haunts of men. The whole treatment of the leper, his separation, the multitude of precautions taken concerning his examination and his cleansing, appear to have been imposed by the law to set forth the impurity and loathsomeness in God’s sight, and the difficulty of removal, of the deeper and more fatal spiritual disease of man. It was fitting then that the Lord should exercise His power of healing prominently on the leper, and should leave us an express record of his grace and power in dealing with this disease. It was just as He had ended that great discourse known to us as the Sermon on the Mount,—that discourse in which He describes himself as come not to destroy the law but to fulfil it. Having exhibited this character in his teaching, He descended from the mountain, great multitudes following him. As He was entering a certain city a man met him full of leprosy. With a wonderful simplicity combined with strength of faith, falling down before him he cried, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” We may observe that long before this Jesus had made circuits in Galilee, teaching and healing. So that it was no new thing that the leper was announcing;—no new thing that the Lord did. But this Evangelist, who loves to set forth the kingly office and majesty of Christ, was directed to put this miracle in the very forefront of those recorded by him, doubtless because it was so direct an appeal to our Lord’s will and power, and because that appeal was so plainly and undoubtingly answered by Him. For He does not say, “Go pray to God who alone can heal thee:” He does not reply, as Joseph did, “It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace:” nor as Peter did to Cornelius, “Stand up, for I also am a man:” but He at once claimed and proved what the leper asserted him to possess, by the open and immediate exercise of it. He put forth his hand, and touched him: thus Himself by imputation partaking of our uncleannesses,—for whosoever touched a leper became himself unclean. Moreover He said “I will: be thou clean.”

My brethren, what an assertion of power, what an exertion of it is here! He will: of His own authority and of His own good pleasure He doeth that which is done. And the same mighty will which in our miracle last Sunday had silently and without expression changed the element of water into the juice of the grape, and had superseded the slow work of human manufacture and the ripening processes of time, now by a spoken word purified the tainted juices of the body, annihilated the loathsome traces of disease and decay, and recreated that frame which His power had originally made. “Immediately his leprosy departed from him.”

And, if we come to consider the miracle in its deeper import, O what is leprosy of the body, loathsome and fatal as it was, to the ruin and decay of man’s soul by sin? We hear indeed, that the wretched persons who were thus afflicted carried about with them a living death; that the body under its influence lost its sensation part by part, and dropped into decay and dissolution: but does not all this happen more dreadfully and more hopelessly to the victim of sin? When the heart hardens, the pure affections become polluted, the will enfeebled, the judgment impaired, personal freedom of action lost owing to the bondage of long prevalent evil habit, what is it but a leprosy of the soul,—the sign and the precursor of eternal death? Yet if out of this depth of misery the sinner turn to Him who healed the leper, not doubting, but receiving with simple faith His power and will to cleanse him, then has the Lord taught us by this miracle, that He can and will heal and cleanse: not indeed now by a touch, nor in a moment: this kind cometh not out thus: but as surely, as graciously, as completely: by the gradual means of grace, by His word and His ordinances, and the purifying influences of His blessed Spirit, renovating him as the flesh of a little child in the new life unto God.

Let us now turn to the lesson prominently taught us by the latter of these miracles, in our gospel of this day. I say nothing at present of the secondary instruction to be derived from the remarkable faith of the centurion, who was a Roman and a heathen: I am in these sermons more concerned with that which has respect to our Lord Himself, as testimony to us of the doctrines regarding His Sacred Person. Looking then at this only, our lesson is, the absolute command which He has over all diseases as His servants, going and coming at his bidding. The faithful centurion compares Him to the captain of a great army, having soldiers under him and at his beck. He himself knew something of this, being one whose position required him both to obey and to command. That obedience which he yielded to his tribune or his general, that obedience which his subordinates yielded to him, the same obedience the painful disease of his favorite servant, the same obedience all diseases, would yield to Christ. And this again is not treated as a fond and superstitious view of the matter: our Lord does not take him up and explain to him how the fact really stands by depreciating His own power or limiting it. But he turns and says to those around him, “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel.” And then to the centurion, “Go thy way, and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee.” “And his servant was made whole,” we read, “in the selfsame hour.”

Now doubtless this narrative does not relate to us the same fact as that occurring at the end of John 4, and there stated to be our Lord’s second miracle after He was come from Judæa into Galilee: any one may become convinced of this by carefully reading and comparing the two. But it is remarkable, that the two, the healing of the nobleman’s son and this of the centurion’s servant, have one particular in common, lying at the very root of the character of the miracles. In both, the healing is wrought without any contact, without our Lord even being on the spot: in one, in the same town, but far from the centurion’s house: in the other, at the distance of Cana in Galilee from Capernaum, about twenty-five of our miles. In the cleansing of the leper, as in so many of His works of healing, He establishes a communication between Himself and the person healed,—“He put forth his hand, and touched him:” there is a lesson for us in that:—the life and health which come from union with Him. In this miracle, He speaks at a distance and the effect follows: and we may learn from that too: He is absolutely master of all:—near or far, present or apparently absent, on earth or in heaven, by his word or by his look or by his will, or entirely as He pleases, He can and He will cleanse and purify and save. It is that we may rest on Him, wait for Him, lie content in His hands, that these miracles, these signs of His power and love, are given us: that we may imitate the faith which He praised, and the earnestness of supplication to which He was pleased to yield: that we may bring all our diseases to Him, all our troubles, all our cares. “If thou wilt,” is no longer needed now: the manger at Bethlehem, the subjection at Nazareth, the temptation in the wilderness, the agony in Gethsemane, the cross on Calvary, the ascension from Bethany, all these declare “I will.” He triumphs to help us: He reigns, that we may reign with Him: He intercedes, that our faith may not fail. What more can invite us? What more can assure us?

Alford, H. (1862). Sermons on Christian Doctrine (pp. 97–107). London: Rivingtons. (Public Domain)

Matt. 8:13

“And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.”

From the consideration of the nature and use of our Blessed Lord’s miracles in general, and the example of that first great miracle of turning water into wine, we now come to speak of those which have a more particular character. And the Gospel to-day brings before us two of these, the cleansing of the leper and the recovering of the centurion’s servant, both belonging to the same class: that of the healing of disease.

In order to understand the bearing of these on Christian doctrine, let us first enquire, what disease is: what place it holds with reference to the office and work of the Redeemer. That it does hold some important place, is evident, from the great number of His wonderful works which had respect to the healing and removing of it. Disease, then, is simply the beginning of death. It is, in its various forms, that part of the dark procession of miseries consequent on sin, which ushers in the dread executioner of the primitive sentence, “Thou shalt surely die.” So that He who came to abolish death, and to bring life and immortality to light through the Gospel, might well be expected, among his wonderful works performed in confirmation of this his mission, to heal diseases. For He would thus be shewing the great restoration which He came to effect in our whole nature: the health, and life, and vigor, which accompany His presence, and His touch, and His word. And He was not content with healing every sickness and disease among the people: He even exerted his power over the king of terrors himself, and His voice was heard by the spirit of man in the realms of the departed, and He was obeyed.

All these miracles form one great class, and that by far the largest, of those which our Lord wrought on earth. And the lessons taught by them are manifold.

There is first the plain fact, that the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. How familiar this is on our tongues, but how little do we really think of it in our secret hearts! Many are the works related of him: why should by far the greater number of them be miracles of healing? Was there nothing more important to do in the world? One of the bitterest enemies of Christianity in ancient times, Julian the apostate, denied that our Lord ever did any really wonderful works: “He only cured a few sick people in villages like Bethsaida and Bethany.” Why, if our Lord had been pleased, He could have done works which would have struck with terror every caviler at His Gospel. But He mainly confined himself to these, wrought on obscure persons, and in obscure places, because He wanted, not to be glorified of men, but to teach and bless and console His people to the end of time. And when we see Him thus laying out the precious days of his ministry, and inspiring his Evangelists to write these accounts of his works of healing, and providentially preserving the books in which they are related down to these latter days, we ought to feel thankfully convinced that He came, and wrought his works, and had his Gospels written, to help us, to heal us, to make us sound and happy, and to prolong and cheer our lives, not to bring misery and fear and weakness of purpose and terror of death among us, as some would have us believe. What a comfort, my brethren, this might be to us, if we would but think ever of Him thus; as of one waiting to heal and to bless! How would pain be lightened and sickness patiently borne and death lose its terrors, if we always saw His hand stretched forth to heal us, His form standing by the sick bed, or walking on the waves of affliction, and saying to us “It is I, be not afraid!”

It may however be said, But He does not do this now: we are left to bear our pains and troubles without Him. Not indeed without Him, for He is ever thinking of every one of us: but in part, the remark is most true. He did not come into our world to work miracles, to heal diseases, or to raise the dead. There were thousands of sick in Judæa and Galilee during His ministry, who never saw His face nor partook of His healing power: of all that died in those three years, He raised but three, that we are told of. He came into the world to do that far greater work of which these were but the signs and tokens;—to put out and abolish forever the great disease of our nature;—to take away the sin of the world. And this He has done once for all, and is ever applying the blessed fruits of His work to the members of His Church. It was to shew you His gracious mind in doing this, not to lead you to expect bodily healing or raising from the dead, or to murmur, because such blessings are now withdrawn, that I dwelt on the consolation which these His miracles may afford us.

Another lesson which His wonderful works teach us, and which we deeply need, is, the importance of these our bodies, in the great process of Redemption. It is a very common mistake to imagine that the saving of the soul is to be the great object of religion. Nay, religion itself is called the interest of the soul: and by many Christians the body is as little regarded as having any share in it, as if it were to be left behind in the grave, and a blessed eternity would be passed without it. Yet nothing can be more contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture, than such a way of viewing the subject. In Scripture Christ is called the Savior, not of the soul, but of the body: that for which St. Paul tells us the whole Church of God is waiting, is, the redemption of the body: when the same Apostle has finished the great argument concerning salvation by grace through faith in the Epistle to the Romans, he beseeches us by the mercies of God to yield, not our souls, but our bodies, a living sacrifice to God: when he warns the Corinthians against sins of uncleanness, he says, “Know ye not that,” not your souls, but “your bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost?” And the one distinctive doctrine of Christianity, by which it was different from every other religion in the world, was, not the future life of the soul: this was known to Jew and to heathen long before: but it was, the resurrection of the body: that all men should come out of their graves with their bodies; and that the entire man, body, soul, and spirit, should live for ever in bliss, or endure for ever in woe, without separation or diminution.

Our modern religion is become far too spiritual—far too much a matter of thought, and opinion, and inward feelings and experiences, and this has led men to unite it so little with their common lives, and make it a matter of such convenient secrecy and mystery, that they may do and say just what they please in the body, without their religious profession being affected by it. And another result of this so-called spiritual view of religion is, that in treating of the heathen abroad, or the far worse heathen at home, those who hold it will almost forbid, or at any rate depreciate, the attempt to better their bodily state by civilization, by sanitary improvements, by elevating arts and kindlier habits; and tell us we must care for their souls first, if not only. To all such views I conceive our blessed Lord’s own practice is our best as it is our most decisive answer. He preached the Gospel of the kingdom: but while He did it, He went about doing good:—healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, making the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, restoring the withered limb, and the uprightness of the bowed-down frame. These were the ways in which He prepared men for His Gospel, and in which He has taught us to prepare them: not by putting it in contrast to all our blessings, but by making it the crown and topstone to all our blessings: not by giving out that health, and spirits, and the use of our senses, and the information of our minds, and the decencies and courtesies of life, are all bad, and religion only is good; but by ourselves feeling, and telling others, that all these are good, very good,—rich gifts of our merciful Father,—but that faith in Christ, obedience to Christ, is better than all of them, best of all of them;—and Christ Himself the gift of gifts,—God’s unspeakable gift.

The next remark which I have to make on this class of our Lord’s works will of necessity introduce us to the particular character and features of the former of those related in our Gospel to-day. The remark is, on the typical import of these healing miracles, as pointing to the Lord’s power over the diseases of our souls and spirits: and the miracle which best illustrates this is the cleansing of the leper, with which our gospel begins. It can be no new thing to you to hear, that this disease of leprosy was chosen for notice in the ancient law, and a special set of enactments made concerning it, not for any sanitary reasons, but purely because it was taken as a type of man’s great disease of sin. Although one of the most loathsome and terrible of bodily plagues, it was not contagious:—there was no fear of its spreading from man to man. This would be plain, by merely observing that in cases when it could not be helped, the leper was employed in high offices: in cases which were perfectly hopeless, he was, even by the law, relieved from many of the restrictions laid on his fellow-sufferers, and was allowed to mingle in the haunts of men. The whole treatment of the leper, his separation, the multitude of precautions taken concerning his examination and his cleansing, appear to have been imposed by the law to set forth the impurity and loathsomeness in God’s sight, and the difficulty of removal, of the deeper and more fatal spiritual disease of man. It was fitting then that the Lord should exercise His power of healing prominently on the leper, and should leave us an express record of his grace and power in dealing with this disease. It was just as He had ended that great discourse known to us as the Sermon on the Mount,—that discourse in which He describes himself as come not to destroy the law but to fulfil it. Having exhibited this character in his teaching, He descended from the mountain, great multitudes following him. As He was entering a certain city a man met him full of leprosy. With a wonderful simplicity combined with strength of faith, falling down before him he cried, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” We may observe that long before this Jesus had made circuits in Galilee, teaching and healing. So that it was no new thing that the leper was announcing;—no new thing that the Lord did. But this Evangelist, who loves to set forth the kingly office and majesty of Christ, was directed to put this miracle in the very forefront of those recorded by him, doubtless because it was so direct an appeal to our Lord’s will and power, and because that appeal was so plainly and undoubtingly answered by Him. For He does not say, “Go pray to God who alone can heal thee:” He does not reply, as Joseph did, “It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace:” nor as Peter did to Cornelius, “Stand up, for I also am a man:” but He at once claimed and proved what the leper asserted him to possess, by the open and immediate exercise of it. He put forth his hand, and touched him: thus Himself by imputation partaking of our uncleannesses,—for whosoever touched a leper became himself unclean. Moreover He said “I will: be thou clean.”

My brethren, what an assertion of power, what an exertion of it is here! He will: of His own authority and of His own good pleasure He doeth that which is done. And the same mighty will which in our miracle last Sunday had silently and without expression changed the element of water into the juice of the grape, and had superseded the slow work of human manufacture and the ripening processes of time, now by a spoken word purified the tainted juices of the body, annihilated the loathsome traces of disease and decay, and recreated that frame which His power had originally made. “Immediately his leprosy departed from him.”

And, if we come to consider the miracle in its deeper import, O what is leprosy of the body, loathsome and fatal as it was, to the ruin and decay of man’s soul by sin? We hear indeed, that the wretched persons who were thus afflicted carried about with them a living death; that the body under its influence lost its sensation part by part, and dropped into decay and dissolution: but does not all this happen more dreadfully and more hopelessly to the victim of sin? When the heart hardens, the pure affections become polluted, the will enfeebled, the judgment impaired, personal freedom of action lost owing to the bondage of long prevalent evil habit, what is it but a leprosy of the soul,—the sign and the precursor of eternal death? Yet if out of this depth of misery the sinner turn to Him who healed the leper, not doubting, but receiving with simple faith His power and will to cleanse him, then has the Lord taught us by this miracle, that He can and will heal and cleanse: not indeed now by a touch, nor in a moment: this kind cometh not out thus: but as surely, as graciously, as completely: by the gradual means of grace, by His word and His ordinances, and the purifying influences of His blessed Spirit, renovating him as the flesh of a little child in the new life unto God.

Let us now turn to the lesson prominently taught us by the latter of these miracles, in our gospel of this day. I say nothing at present of the secondary instruction to be derived from the remarkable faith of the centurion, who was a Roman and a heathen: I am in these sermons more concerned with that which has respect to our Lord Himself, as testimony to us of the doctrines regarding His Sacred Person. Looking then at this only, our lesson is, the absolute command which He has over all diseases as His servants, going and coming at his bidding. The faithful centurion compares Him to the captain of a great army, having soldiers under him and at his beck. He himself knew something of this, being one whose position required him both to obey and to command. That obedience which he yielded to his tribune or his general, that obedience which his subordinates yielded to him, the same obedience the painful disease of his favorite servant, the same obedience all diseases, would yield to Christ. And this again is not treated as a fond and superstitious view of the matter: our Lord does not take him up and explain to him how the fact really stands by depreciating His own power or limiting it. But he turns and says to those around him, “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel.” And then to the centurion, “Go thy way, and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee.” “And his servant was made whole,” we read, “in the selfsame hour.”

Now doubtless this narrative does not relate to us the same fact as that occurring at the end of John 4, and there stated to be our Lord’s second miracle after He was come from Judæa into Galilee: any one may become convinced of this by carefully reading and comparing the two. But it is remarkable, that the two, the healing of the nobleman’s son and this of the centurion’s servant, have one particular in common, lying at the very root of the character of the miracles. In both, the healing is wrought without any contact, without our Lord even being on the spot: in one, in the same town, but far from the centurion’s house: in the other, at the distance of Cana in Galilee from Capernaum, about twenty-five of our miles. In the cleansing of the leper, as in so many of His works of healing, He establishes a communication between Himself and the person healed,—“He put forth his hand, and touched him:” there is a lesson for us in that:—the life and health which come from union with Him. In this miracle, He speaks at a distance and the effect follows: and we may learn from that too: He is absolutely master of all:—near or far, present or apparently absent, on earth or in heaven, by his word or by his look or by his will, or entirely as He pleases, He can and He will cleanse and purify and save. It is that we may rest on Him, wait for Him, lie content in His hands, that these miracles, these signs of His power and love, are given us: that we may imitate the faith which He praised, and the earnestness of supplication to which He was pleased to yield: that we may bring all our diseases to Him, all our troubles, all our cares. “If thou wilt,” is no longer needed now: the manger at Bethlehem, the subjection at Nazareth, the temptation in the wilderness, the agony in Gethsemane, the cross on Calvary, the ascension from Bethany, all these declare “I will.” He triumphs to help us: He reigns, that we may reign with Him: He intercedes, that our faith may not fail. What more can invite us? What more can assure us?

Alford, H. (1862). Sermons on Christian Doctrine (pp. 97–107). London: Rivingtons. (Public Domain)

 

The Strait Gate

The Strait Gate

The Strait Gate

OR

Great Difficulty of Going to Heaven

Plainly proving, by the Scriptures, that not only the rude and profane, but many great professors, will come short of that kingdom.

‘Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.’—Matthew 7:13, 14

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If any uninspired writer has been entitled to the name of Boanerges, or a son of thunder, it is the author of the following treatise. Here we have a most searching and faithful display of the straitness or exact dimensions of that all-important gate, which will not suffer many professors to pass into the kingdom of heaven, encumbered as they are with fatal errors. Still ‘it is no little pinching wicket, but wide enough for all the truly gracious and sincere lovers of Jesus Christ; while it is so strait, that no others can by any means enter in.’ This is a subject calculated to rouse and stimulate all genuine professors to solemn inquiry; and it was peculiarly intended to dart at, and fix convictions upon, the multitudes of hypocritical professors who abounded in Bunyan’s time, especially under the reigns of the later Stuarts.

During the Protectorate, wickedness was discountenanced, and skulked in the holes and corners of Mansoul; but when a debauched monarch, who had taken refuge in the most licentious court in Europe, was called to occupy the throne of his fathers, the most abandoned profligacy and profaneness were let loose upon the nation. Vice was openly patronized, while virtue and religion were as openly treated with mockery and contempt. Bunyan justly says, ‘The text calls for sharpness, so do the times.’ ‘With those whose religion lieth in some circumstantials, the kingdom swarms at this day.’ When they stand at the gate, they will ‘shake like a quagmire—their feigned faith, pretended love, shows of gravity, and holiday words, will stand them in little stead; some professors do with religion just as people do with their best apparel—hang it on the wall all the week, and put it on on Sundays; they save it till they go to a meeting, or meet with a godly chapman.’ This state of society called for peculiar sharpness, and Bunyan preached and published, in 1676, this awful alarm to professors. No subject could be more peculiarly applicable than ‘The Gate of heaven,’ and ‘the difficulties of entering in thereat’; a subject of the deepest interest to all mankind—to stimulate the careless to find, and to enter the gate of this the only city of refuge from eternal misery—to fill the heart of God’s children with love and joy in their prospects of a blessed immortality—and to sting the hypocrites with the awful thought of finding the gate shut against them for ever. Their cries and tears will be too late; they will stand without and vehemently cry, ‘Lord, Lord, open unto us’; in vain will be their outcry, ‘the devils are coming; Lord, Lord, the pit opens her mouth upon us; Lord, Lord, there is nothing but hell and damnation left us, if thou hast not mercy upon us.’ These were professors who pretended to have found the gate and way to heaven; who passed for pilgrims who were seeking a better, even a heavenly country; such deluded victims must be, of all men, the most miserable.

Faithfulness becomes the ministers of Christ in dealing with the souls of men; and pre-eminently faithful is John Bunyan in this treatise. Reader, he will be clear of thy blood. Enter upon the solemn inquiry, Have I sought the gate? Shall I be admitted into, or shut out from, that blessed kingdom? The openly profane can have no hope. Are you a professor?—there is danger sill. In vain will it be to urge, ‘We have prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils.’ To the secretly profane, whatever may be their profession, there can be no well-grounded hope of entrance in at this gate. Those only will be admitted whom the Lord knows to be his—the sheep of his pasture, who have heard his voice, and obeyed it. Against all others the door will be shut, and the awful words, ‘I know you not—depart, ye cursed,’ will hurry them to eternal darkness. The question, ‘Are there few that be saved?’ will suggest itself to our minds; may the answer fix upon our conscience, ‘STRIVE to enter in.’ It is very probable that it was in preaching upon this text, Bunyan was assailed with a want of charity. The anecdote is thus narrated by Mr. Doe in The Struggler:—‘As Mr. Bunyan was preaching in a barn, and showing the fewness of those that should be saved, there stood one of the learned to take advantage of his words; and having done preaching, the schoolman said to him, You are a deceiver, a person of no charity, and therefore not fit to preach; for he that [in effect] condemneth the greatest part of his hearers hath no charity, and therefore is not fit to preach. Then Mr. Bunyan answered, The Lord Jesus Christ preached in a ship to his hearers on the shore (Mat 13), and showed that they were as four sorts of ground, the highway, the stony, the thorny, and the good ground, but those represented by the good ground were the only persons to be saved. And your position is, That he that in effect condemneth the greatest part of his hearers, hath no charity, and therefore is not fit to preach the gospel. But here the Lord Jesus Christ did so, then your conclusion is, The Lord Jesus Christ wanted charity, and therefore was not fit to preach the gospel. Horrid blasphemy; away with your hellish logic, and speak Scripture.’ Of one thing we are certain, that while hollow-hearted hypocritical professors will ever complain of faithful dealing with their soul’s eternal interests; the sincere and humble Christina will be most thankful for searching inquiries, that, if wrong, he may be set right before his final destiny is irrevocably fixed. May our souls submit to a scriptural measurement of this gate, and the terms upon which alone it can be opened unto us.

The difficulties that prevent ‘the many’ from entering in are, 1. Forgetfulness that we can only enter heaven by the permission of the law—every jot and tittle must be fulfilled. Now, if we could live from our conversion to our death in the holiest obedience to all its precepts, yet, having previously violated them, the stain must not only be washed away in the blood of atonement, but we, as part of the body of Christ, must, in him, render perfect obedience. 2. In addition to the disinclination of our hearts to submit to this perfect righteousness, we have outward storms of temptation and persecution. ‘The world will seek to keep thee out of heaven with mocks, flouts, taunts, threats, jails, gibbets, halters, burnings, and a thousand deaths; therefore strive! Again, if it cannot overcome thee with these, it will flatter, promise, allure, entice, entreat, and use a thousand tricks on this hand to destroy thee; and many that have been stout against the threats of the world have yet been overcome with the bewitching flatteries of the same. O that we may by grace escape all these enemies, and so strive as to enter into the joy of our Lord.’

GEO. OFFOR.

To the Reader:

COURTEOUS READER,

God, I hope, hath put it into my heart to write unto thee another time, and that about matters of greatest moment—for now we discourse not about things controverted among the godly, but directly about the saving or damning of the soul; yea, moreover, this discourse is about the fewness of them that shall be saved, and it proves that many a high professor will come short of eternal life; wherefore the matter must needs be sharp, and so disliked by some, but let it not be rejected by thee. The text calls for sharpness, so do the times, yea, the faithful discharge of my duty towards thee hath put me upon it.

I do not now pipe, but mourn; and it will be well for thee if thou canst graciously lament. (Matt 11:17) Some, say they, make the gate of heaven too wide, and some make it too narrow; for my part, I have here presented thee with as true a measure of it as by the Word of God I can. Read me, therefore, yea, read me, and compare me with the Bible; and if thou findest my doctrine and that book of God concur, embrace it, as thou wilt answer the contrary in the day of judgment. This awakening work—if God will make it so—was prepared for thee: if there be need, and it wounds, get healing by blood: if it disquiets, get peace by blood: if it takes away all thou hast, because it was naught (for this book is not prepared to take away true grace from any), then buy of Christ ‘gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear, and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see.’ (Rev 3:18) Self-flatteries, self-deceivings, are easy and pleasant, but damnable. The Lord give thee a heart to judge right of thyself, right of this book, and so to prepare for eternity, that thou mayest not only expect entrance, but be received into the kingdom of Christ and of God. Amen.

So prays thy Friend,

JOHN BUNYAN

The Strait Gate

‘STRIVE TO ENTER IN AT THE STRAIT GATE; FOR MANY, I SAY UNTO YOU, WILL SEEK TO ENTER IN, AND SHALL NOT BE ABLE.’—LUKE 13:24

These are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and are, therefore, in especial manner to be heeded; besides, the subject matter of the words is the most weighty, to wit, how we should attain salvation, and therefore also to be heeded.

The occasion of the words was a question which one that was at this time in the company of the disciples put to Jesus Christ; the question was this, ‘Lord, are there few that be saved?’ (verse 23) A serious question, not such as tended to the subversion of the hearers, as too many now-a-days do; but such as in its own nature tended to the awakening of the company to good, and that called for such an answer that might profit the people also. This question also well pleased Jesus Christ, and he prepareth and giveth such an answer as was without the least retort, or show of distaste; such an answer, I say, as carried in it the most full resolve to the question itself, and help to the persons questioning. ‘And he said unto them, Strive to enter in,’ &c. The words are an answer, and an instruction also. First. An answer, and that in the affirmative; the gate is strait—many that seek will not be able, therefore but few shall be saved. Second. The answer is an instruction also; ‘strive to enter in,’ &c., good counsel and instruction; pray God help me, and my reader, and all that love their own salvation, to take it.

My manner of handling the words will be—FIRST, By way of explication; and then SECOND, By way of observation.

Is Your Light Shining Bright, Dim, Flickering or Hidden?

Is Your Light Shining Bright, Dim, Flickering or Hidden?

Is Your Light Shining Bright, Dim, Flickering or Hidden?

You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. Psalm 18:28

Many who grew up in Sunday school may remember the children’s song ‘This little light of mine’ which basically taught young children to not be ashamed of Jesus. 

If you are a believer you are to be like a city set on a hill that can not be hidden for instance  picture Manhattan(NYC) at night to get the word picture. Be that bright, Times Square and all!  You are not to be ashamed and choose to be one way with one group of people and totally different with others. 

How is your light? Do people know you are different? Can they tell you are a believer or do you compromise your walk or try to snuff out your light sometimes? Never be ashamed but brightly shine God’s love to everyone you encounter. It is going to be a bright, bright, sun shiny day! 

PRAYER: I want to say I am sorry if I have ever tried to dim my light depending on where I am. Once a person accepts Christ the job for them just begins and that is to shine for Jesus’ to try to win others into the kingdom. Help me do kingdom work wherever I go. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Becky Juett Miller

God's Lemonade Stand

https://www.facebook.com/GodsLemonadeStand/

https://www.godslemonadestand.blogspot.com

Psalm 13

Psalm 13

Psalm 13

“To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me? Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved. But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13, AV)

This psalm consists of a complaint, ver. 2, 3 (1, 2), a prayer for deliverance, vers. 4, 5 (3, 4), and an expression of strong confidence that God will grant it, ver. 6 (5, 6).

There is no trace of a specific reference to any particular period in the life of David, or to any persecution of the ancient Israel by heathen enemies. The psalm appears to be intended as a vehicle of pious sentiment, for the church at large and individual believers, under any affliction of the sort here described, namely, that arising from the spiteful hostility of wicked men. The tone, as in several of the foregoing psalms, varies from that of deep depression to that of an assured hope, connected, as in actual experience, by one of strong desire and fervent supplication.

1. To the Chief Musician, a Psalm of David. This title differs from that of the fourth psalm, as the title of the twelfth does from that of the sixth, to wit, by the omission of בנגינות.

2 (1). Until when, how long, Jehovah, wilt thou forget me for ever? Until when wilt thou hide thy face from me? The refusal or delay of the divine help is here, as often elsewhere, represented by the figures of forgetfulness and an averted countenance. See above, on Ps. 9:13, 19 (12, 18), 10:11, 12. The apparent solecism of combining how long with for ever may be avoided by supposing two interrogations, how long? for ever? It may also be avoided by giving to נֶצַח the sense of continuously, uninterruptedly. But even the obvious construction, which is more agreeable to usage and the masoretic interpunction of the sentence, may be justified as a strong but natural expression of the conflict between sense and faith. To the eye of sense and reason, the abandonment seemed final; but faith still prompted the inquiry, how long, which implies that it was not to last for ever. As if he had said, How long wilt thou persist in the purpose of forgetting me for ever?

3 (2). Till when, how long, shall I place (or lay up) counsels, plans, in my soul, grief in my heart by day? Till when shall my enemy be high above me? The idea in the first clause seems to be that of accumulating methods or expedients of escape, as in a storehouse, without finding any that will answer the purpose. The same figure may be continued in the second clause: (how long shall I lay up) sorrow in my heart? The sense is then that the multiplication of devices only multiplies his sorrows. Or the figure of laying up may be confined to the first clause, and the noun grief governed by a verb understood: (how long shall I feel) sorrow in my heart? The common version, having sorrow, conveys the same idea, but supplies a verb unknown to the Hebrew and its cognate languages.—By day is elsewhere put in opposition to by night, as for instance in Ps. 1:2 above. Here it may possibly mean all day, but more probably means every day, daily, as in Ezek. 30:16.—Be high: the original expression is a verb alone. How long shall my enemy soar or tower above me, i.e. be superior, prevail? This clause determines the precise form of suffering complained of, namely, that occasioned by the malice of a powerful persecutor or oppressor. In all such cases, Saul was no doubt present to the mind of David, but only as a specimen or type of the whole class to which the psalm relates.

4 (3). Look, hear me, Jehovah, my God, lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the death. The complaint is now followed by a corresponding prayer. In allusion to the hiding of the face in ver. 2 (1), he now beseeches God to look towards him, or upon him, to shew by his acts that he has not lost eight of him. As he before complained of God’s forgetting him, so here he prays that he will hear and answer him. See above, on Ps. 3:5 (4). The idea of Jehovah as a God in covenant with his people, is brought out still more fully by the phrase my God, i.e. one on whom I have a right to call, with a well-founded hope of being heard. See above on Ps. 3:8 (7).—Enlighten my eyes, or make them shine, is by some understood to mean, Dispel my doubts, and extricate me out of my perplexities, with reference to the plans or counsels mentioned in the preceding verse. Others, with more probability, suppose an allusion to the dimness of the eyes produced by extreme weakness or approaching death, and understand the prayer as one for restoration and deliverance from imminent destruction. Compare 1 Sam. 14:27, 29, where the relief of Jonathan’s debility, occasioned by long fasting, is described by saying that his eyes were enlightened.—Lest I sleep (in) death, or lest I sleep the (sleep of) death, as in the common version. Compare the beautiful description of death as a sleep of perpetuity, a perpetual or everlasting sleep, in Jer. 51:39, 57.

5 (4). Lest my enemy say, I have overpowered him (and) my adversaries shout when I am shaken, or because I shall be shaken.—The verb יכלתי strictly means, I have been able. The unusual construction with a pronoun (יכלתיו) cannot be literally rendered into English, but the meaning evidently is, I have been able (to subdue) him, or, I have been strong (in comparison with) him. As to the combination of the singular and plural (enemy and adversaries), see above, on Ps. 10:11 (10).—Shout, i.e. for joy, or in a single word, triumph. See above, on Ps. 2:11.—The last verb (אֶמּוֹט) has the same sense as in Ps. 10:6, viz., that of being moved or cast down from one’s firm position.

6 (5, 6). And I in thy mercy have trusted; let my heart exult in thy salvation; I will sing to Jehovah, for he hath done me good, or acted kindly towards me. The transition indicated by the phrase and I, is the same as in Ps. 2:6 above. Such are the enemies and dangers which environ me, and (yet) I have trusted in thy mercy. The past tense of the verb describes the trust, not as something to be felt hereafter, or as just beginning to be felt at present, but as already entertained and cherished, and therefore likely to be still continued. I have trusted, and do still trust, and will trust hereafter.—There is a beautiful gradation in the clauses of this verse. First, a fact is stated: ‘I have trusted in thy mercy;’ then a desire is expressed: ‘let my heart rejoice in thy salvation;’ then a fixed purpose is announced: ‘I will sing unto Jehovah.’ The reason annexed to this determination or engagement, implies an assured expectation of a favorable issue. As if he had said, I know the Lord will treat me kindly, and I am resolved to praise him for so doing.—In thy salvation, not merely on account of it, but in the contemplation, the possession, the enjoyment of it. See above, Ps. 5:12 (11), 9:3 (2). The verb גָּמַל, which occurs above in Ps. 7:5 (4), corresponds most nearly to the English treat, in the sense of dealing with or acting towards; but when absolutely used, as here, almost invariably has a good sense, and specifically means to treat well or deal kindly with a person. The idea of requital or reward, which is frequently attached to it in the English version, is suggested, if at all, not by the word itself, but by the context.

The Septuagint has an additional clause, which is retained in the Prayer Book version, and thus rendered: Yea, I will praise the name of the Lord most Highest. The words are not found in any Hebrew manuscript.

Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 58–60). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

 

Colossians 1:28

Colossians 1:28

Colossians 1:28

Whom we preach. Here he applies to his own preaching everything that he has previously declared as to the wonderful and adorable secret of God; and thus he explains what he had already touched upon as to the dispensation which had been committed to him; for he has it in view to adorn his apostleship, and to claim authority for his doctrine: for after having extolled the gospel in the highest terms, he now adds, that it is that divine secret which he preaches. It was not, however, without good reason that he had taken notice a little before, that Christ is the sum of that secret, that they might know that nothing can be taught that has more of perfection than Christ.

The expressions that follow have also great weight. He represents himself as the teacher of all men; meaning by this, that no one is so eminent in respect of wisdom as to be entitled to exempt himself from tuition. “God has placed me in a lofty position, as a public herald of his secret, that the whole world, without exception, may learn from me.”

In all wisdom. This expression is equivalent to his affirming that his doctrine is such as to conduct a man to a wisdom that is perfect, and has nothing wanting; and this is what he immediately adds, that all that shew themselves to be true disciples will become perfect. See the second chapter of First Corinthians. (1 Cor. 2:6.) Now, what better thing can be desired than what confers upon us the highest perfection? He again repeats, in Christ, that they may not desire to know anything but Christ alone. From this passage, also, we may gather a definition of true wisdom—that by which we are presented perfect in the sight of God, and that in Christ, and nowhere else.

Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (pp. 170–172). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain)

 

Ver. 28. Whom we preach, &c. Under the above considerations; as the riches, the glory, and the mystery of the Gospel; as the hope set before lost sinners to lay hold upon; as the only Savior and Redeemer, by whose righteousness believers are justified, through whose blood their sins are pardoned, by whose sacrifice and satisfaction atonement is made, and in whose person alone is acceptance with God: Christ and him crucified, and salvation by him, were the subjects of the ministry of the apostles; on this they dwelt, and it was this which was blessed for the conversion of sinners, the edification of saints, the planting of churches, and the setting up and establishing the kingdom and interest of Christ: warning every man; of his lost state and condition by nature; of the wrath to come, and the danger he is in of it; of the terrors of the Lord, and of an awful judgment; shewing sinners that they are unrighteous and unholy, that their nature is corrupt and impure, their best righteousness imperfect, and cannot justify them before God; that they stand guilty before him, and that destruction and misery are in all their ways; and therefore advise them to flee from the wrath to come, to the hope set before them in the Gospel: teaching every man in all wisdom; not natural, but spiritual and evangelical; the whole Gospel of Christ, the counsel of God, the wisdom of God in a mystery, and all the branches of it; teaching them to believe in Christ for salvation, to lay hold on his righteousness for justification, to deal with his blood for pardon, and with his sacrifice for the atonement of their sins; and to observe all things commanded by Christ, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly: by these two words, warning and teaching, the several parts of the Gospel ministry are expressed; and which extend to all sorts of men, rich and poor, bond and free, greater and lesser sinners, Gentiles as well as Jews; and who are chiefly designed here, and elsewhere, by every man and every creature: that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus; not in themselves, in which sense no man is perfect in this life; but in the grace, holiness, and righteousness of Christ, in whom all the saints are complete: or it may regard that ripeness of understanding, and perfection of knowledge, which, when arrived unto, saints become perfect men in Christ; and is the end of the Gospel ministry, and to which men are brought by it; see Eph. 4:13 and to be understood of the presentation of the saints, not by Christ to himself, and to his father, but by the ministers of the Gospel, as their glory and crown of rejoicing in the day of Christ.

Gill, J. (1809). An Exposition of the New Testament (Vol. 3, p. 181). London: Mathews and Leigh. (Public Domain)

 

Psalm 12

Psalm 12

“To the chief Musician upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David. Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men. They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us? For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him. The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.” (Psalm 12, AV)

This psalm consists of two parts easily distinguished: a complaint with an expression of desire, and a promise with an expression of confidence and hope. The Psalmist laments the waning number of good men, ver. 2 (1), and the abounding of iniquity, ver. 3 (2), to which he desires and expects that God will put an end, ver. 4, 5 (3, 4). In answer to this prayer, he receives an assurance of protection and deliverance for the righteous, ver. 6 (5), on which he rests as infallibly certain, ver. 7 (6), and consoles himself under present trials, ver. 8 (7).

There seems to be no specific reference to the persecution of the Jews by the Gentiles, or of David by Absalom or Saul. The contrast exhibited is rather that between the righteous and the wicked as a class, and the psalm seems designed to be a permanent vehicle of pious sentiment for the church or chosen people under persecution by malignant enemies. It contains an unusual number of difficult expressions in proportion to its length; but these are not of such a nature as to make its general import doubtful or obscure.

1. To the Chief Musician, on the eighth (or octave), a Psalm of David. This title is identical with that of the sixth psalm, except that Neginoth is here omitted.

2 (1). Save, Jehovah, for the merciful (or the object of divine mercy) ceaseth, for the faithful fail from (among) the sons of men. The adjective הָסִיד, whether taken in an active or a passive sense, is descriptive of the pious or godly man; see above, on Ps. 4:4 (3). The preterite form of the verbs (has ceased, have failed) represents the fearful process as already begun. The word rendered faithful in the last clause may also have the abstract sense of truth, fidelity; see below, Ps. 31:24 (23), and compare Isa. 26:2. In either case, the whole verse is a strong hyperbolical description of the small number of good men left in the community, and their consequent exposure to the malice of the wicked. Such expressions, as Luther well suggests, are too familiar in the dialect of common life to be mistaken or produce perplexity.

3 (2). Vanity, i.e. falsehood, they will speak; as they now do, so will they persist in doing; (each) man with his neighbor, not merely with another man, but with his friend, his brother, towards whom he was particularly bound to act sincerely; compare Eph. 4:25. A lip of smoothness, or of smooth things, i.e. flattering; see above, on Ps. 5:10 (9). This may be connected either with what goes before or with what follows: “They speak falsehood, each to his neighbor, with a flattering lip;” or, “(with) a flattering lip (and) with a double heart will they speak.” A heart and a heart, i.e. a double heart, as a stone and a stone means “divers weights.” Deut. 25:13. By a double heart we are probably to understand, not mere dissimulation or hypocrisy, but inconsistency and instability of temper, which leads men to entertain opposite feelings towards the same object. Compare the description of the “double-minded man” in James 1:8.

4 (3.) May Jehovah destroy all lips of smoothness, flattering lips, (and every) tongue speaking great things, i.e. speaking proudly, boasting. The form of the Hebrew verb is one commonly employed to express an optative meaning; but as this form is often poetically used for the future proper, it might be rendered here, Jehovah will destroy. There is no inconsistency between the flattering lips and the boastful tongue, because the subject of the boasting, as appears from what follows, is the flattery or deceit itself. As if he had said, Jehovah will destroy all flattering lips, and every tongue that boasts of their possession or use. For an example of such boasting, see Isa. 28:15.

5 (4). Who have said, By our tongues will we do mightily; our lips (are) with us: who is lord to us, or over us? This is an amplified specification of the phrase speaking great things in the preceding verse. By our tongues, literally, as to, with respect to our tongues. The idea of agency or instrumentality is suggested by the context. Do mightily, exercise power, shew ourselves to be strong. Our lips are with us may either mean they are our own, at our disposal, or, they are on our side. The idea of the whole verse is, by our own lips and our tongues we can accomplish what we will.

6 (5). From the desolation of the wretched, from the sighing of the poor, now will I arise, shall Jehovah say, I will place in safety him that shall pant for it. The preposition from has a causal meaning, because of, on account of. The wretched, afflicted, sufferers; see above, on Ps. 9:13 (12). I will arise; see above, on Ps. 3:8 (7). The future, shall Jehovah say, implies that the promise is not yet uttered, much less fulfilled. An analogous use of the same form of the same verb runs through some of the prophecies, and especially the later chapters of Isaiah.—The last clause is obscure, and may also be translated, “from him that puffeth at him,”—“him at whom they puff,”—“him whom they would blow away,” &c. The most probable meaning is the one first given, according to which the verse contains a promise of deliverance to those who especially desire and need it.

7 (6). The sayings of Jehovah are pure sayings, silver purged in a furnace of earth, refined seven times. The Psalmist does not use the term commonly translated words, but one derived from the verb to say, with obvious allusion to the use of the verb itself in the preceding verse. What Jehovah there says, the promises there given, are here declared to be true, without any mixture of mistake or falsehood. This is expressed by the favorite figure of pure metallic ore. The idea of extreme or perfect purity is conveyed by the idiomatic phrase, purified seven times, i.e. repeatedly, or sevenfold, i.e. completely. Compare Dan. 3:19. The general meaning of the verse is clear, but it contains one phrase which is among the most doubtful and disputed in the whole book. This is the phrase בעליל לארץ. To the common version above given, in a furnace of earth, and to another somewhat like it, purged in a furnace as to (i.e. from) the earth, or earthy particles, it has been objected, that ארץ never means earth as a material. Some avoid this difficulty by translating, in a furnace on the earth (or ground), or, in the workshop (laboratory) of the earth, i.e. the mine; but this is not the place where ores are purified. It is further objected to all these translations, that they attach a supposititious meaning to the noun עליל. It is therefore explained by some as a variation of בעל, lord or master, and the whole clause made to mean, purified silver of a lord of the earth, i.e. refined not for ordinary use, but for that of some great prince or noble. The obscurity which overhangs the meaning of this clause is less to be regretted, as the main idea must, on any supposition, still be that of unusual and perfect purity.

8 (7). Thou, Jehovah, wilt keep them; thou wilt guard him from this generation to eternity, i.e. for ever. In the first clause, though not in the second, the pronoun thou is expressed in Hebrew, and may therefore be regarded as emphatic; see above, on Ps. 2:6, 3:4 (3). Thou, and no other, or, thou without the aid of others, wilt preserve them. The plural pronoun in the first clause, and the singular in the second, refer to the same persons, viz., the sufferers mentioned in ver. 7 (6). By a license common in the Psalms, they are first spoken of as a plurality, and then as an ideal person; see above, on Ps. 10:10. This generation, this contemporary race of wicked men, with reference perhaps to the description, in ver 2 (1), of the disproportion between these and the righteous. For ever, as long as the necessity or danger lasts, so long shall the injured innocent experience the divine protection.

9 (8). Round about will the wicked walk. This may either mean that they shall walk at liberty and have full license, or that they shall encompass and surround the righteous. Compare Ps. 3:7 (6). The other clause is one of the most doubtful and disputed in the whole book. The particle כ may denote either time or resemblance, and the noun זֻלּוּת, which occurs nowhere else, has been variously explained to mean a storm, an earthquake, vileness or contempt, &c. Among the different senses put upon the whole phrase are the following: “When the vileness (or vilest) of men is exalted.” “Like the rising of a storm upon the sons of men.” “When they rise (or are exalted) there is shame (or disgrace) to the sons of men.” “When disgrace arises to the sons of men.” “Like exaltation is disgrace to the sons of man.” In favor of this last it has been urged, that it gives to each word its most natural and obvious sense, and that it closes with a prospect of relief, and not with an unmitigated threatening, which would be at variance with the usage of the Psalms. The meaning of the verse is then, that although the wicked are now in the ascendant, and the righteous treated with contempt, this disgrace is really an exaltation, because only external and in man’s judgment, not in God’s, who will abundantly indemnify his people for the dishonor which is put upon them. The unusual and almost unintelligible form in which this idea is expressed, is supposed to agree well with David’s fondness for obscure and enigmatical expressions; see above, on Ps. 5:1 and 7:1.

Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 55–57). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Take Heed Acts 20:28

Take Heed Acts 20:28

Acts 20:28

“Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son.” (Acts 20:28, RSV)

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28, NASB 2020)

“Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God that he obtained with his own blood.” Do you see how [Paul] gives two orders here? Success with others alone does not bring any benefit—for I fear, he says, “lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Cor 9:27) Equally, caring only for oneself brings no benefit. For such a one is selfish and seeks only his own good, like the man who has buried his gold. He says this not because our own salvation is more precious than that of the flock but because when we attend to ourselves, the flock also benefits.  (John Chrysostom (344/354–407; fl. 386–407). Bishop of Constantinople who was noted for his orthodoxy, his eloquence and his attacks on Christian laxity in high places.)

28. Take heed, therefore. Attend to; be on your guard against the dangers which beset you, and seek to discharge your duty with fidelity.

To yourselves. To your own piety, opinions, and mode of life. This is the first duty of a minister; for without this all his preaching will be vain. Comp. Col. 4:17; 1 Ti. 4:14. Ministers are beset with peculiar dangers and temptations, and against them they should be on their guard. In addition to the temptations which they have in common with other men, they are exposed to those peculiar to their office—arising from flattery, and ambition, and despondency, and worldly-mindedness. And just in proportion to the importance of their office is the importance of the injunction of Paul, to take heed to themselves.

And to all the flock. The church; the charge entrusted to them. The church of Christ is often compared to a flock. See Notes on Jn. 10:1–20; also Jn. 21:15–17. The word flock here refers particularly to the church, and not to the congregation in general, for it is represented to be that which was purchased with the blood of the atonement. The command here is, (1) To take heed to the church; that is, to instruct, teach, and guide it; to guard it from enemies (ver. 29), and to make it their special object to promote its welfare. (2) To take heed to all the flock—the rich and the poor, the bond and the free, the old and the young. It is the duty of ministers to seek to promote the welfare of each individual of their charge—not to pass by the poor because they are poor, and not to be afraid of the rich because they are rich. A shepherd regards the interest of the tenderest of the fold as much as the strongest; and a faithful minister will seek to advance the interest of all. To do this he should know all his people; should be acquainted, as far as possible, with their peculiar wants, character, and dangers, and should devote himself to their welfare as his first and main employment.

Over the which the Holy Ghost. Though they had been appointed, doubtless, by the church, or by the apostles, yet it is here represented as having been done by the Holy Ghost. It was by him, (1) Because he had called and qualified them for their work; and, (2) Because they had been set apart in accordance with his direction and will.

Overseers—ἐπισκόπους. Bishops. The word properly denotes those who are appointed to oversee or inspect anything. This passage proves that the name bishop was applicable to elders; that in the time of the apostles, the name bishop and presbyter, or elder, was given to the same class of officers, and, of course, that there was no distinction between them. One term was originally used to denote office, the other age, and both were applied to the same persons in the church. The same thing occurs in Tit. 1:5–7, where those who in ver. 5 are called elders, are in ver. 7 called bishops. See also 1 Ti. 3:1–10; Phi. 1:1.

To feed—ποιμαίνειν. This word is properly applied to the care which a shepherd exercises over his flock. See Notes on Jn. 21:15, 16. It is applicable not only to the act of feeding a flock, but also to that of protecting, guiding, and guarding it. It here denotes not merely the duty of instructing the church, but also of governing it; of securing it from enemies (ver. 29), and of directing its affairs so as to promote its edification and peace.

The church of God. This is one of three passages in the New Testament in regard to which there has been a long controversy among critics, which is not yet determined. The controversy is, whether is this the correct and genuine reading. The other two passages are, 1 Ti. 3:16, and 1 Jn. 5:7. The MSS. and versions here exhibit three readings: the church of God (τοῦ Θεοῦ); the church of the Lord (τοῦ Κυρίου); and the church of the Lord and God (Κυρίου καὶ Θεοῦ). The Latin Vulgate reads it God; The Syriac, the Lord. The Arabic, the Lord God. The Ethiopic, the Christian family of God. The reading which now occurs in our text is found in no ancient MSS. except the Vatican Codex, and occurs nowhere among the writings of the fathers except in Athanasius, in regard to whom also there is a various reading. It is retained, however, by Beza, Mill, and Whitby as the genuine reading. The most ancient MSS., and the best, read the church of the Lord, and this probably was the genuine text. It has been adopted by Griesbach and Wetstein; and many important reasons may be given why it should be retained. See those reasons stated at length in Kuinoel in loco; see also Griesbach and Wetstein. It may be remarked, that a change from Lord to God might easily be made in the transcribing, for in ancient MSS. the words are not written at length, but are abbreviated. Thus, the name Christ (Χριστός) is written ΧΟΣ; the name God (Θεός) is written ΘΟΣ; the name Lord (Κυρίος) is written ΚΟΣ; and a mistake, therefore, of a single letter would lead to the variations observable in the manuscripts. Comp. in this place the note of Mill in his Greek Testament. The authority for the name God is so doubtful that it should not be used as a proof text on the divinity of Christ, and is not necessary, as there are so many undisputed passages on that subject.

Which he hath purchased. The word here used (περιεποιήσατο) occurs but in one other place in the New Testament: 1 Ti. 3:13, “For they that have used the office of deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree and great boldness in the faith.” The word properly means to acquire or gain anything; to make it ours. This may be done by a price, or by labour, &c. The noun (περιποίησις) derived from this verb is several times used in the New Testament, and denotes acquisition: 1 Th. 5:9: “God hath appointed us to obtain [unto the obtaining or acquisition of] salvation;” 2 Th. 2:14, “Whereunto he called you by our gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ;” 1 Pe. 2:9; Tit. 2:14; Ep. 1:14. In this place it means that Christ had acquired, gained, or procured, the church for himself by paying his own life as the price. The church is often represented as having thus been bought with a price, 1 Co. 6:20; 7:23; 2 Pe. 2:1.

With his own blood. With the sacrifice of his own life; for blood is often put for life, and to shed the blood is equivalent to taking the life. See Notes on Ro. 3:25. The doctrines taught here are, (1) That the death of Christ was an atoning sacrifice; that he offered himself to purchase a people to his own service. (2) That the church is, therefore, of peculiar value—a value to be estimated by the price paid for it. Comp. 1 Pe. 1:18, 19. (3) That this fact should make the purity and salvation of the church an object of special solicitude with ministers of the gospel. They should be deeply affected in view of that blood which has been shed for the church; and they should guard and defend it as having been bought with the highest price in the universe. The chief consideration that will make ministers faithful and self-denying is, that the church has been bought with a price. If the Lord Jesus so loved it; if he gave himself for it, they should be willing to deny themselves; to watch, and toil, and pray, that the great object of his death—the purity and the salvation of that church—may be obtained. (Barnes, A. (1884–1885). Notes on the New Testament: Acts. (R. Frew, Ed.) (pp. 295–297). London: Blackie & Son. (Public Domain))


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