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still to be as fervent in Christian duties, as they remember themselves were, when affliction did blow the coals. Secondly, not to take the full compass and liberty of their peace : not to eat of all those dishes at table, which even their present health otherwise admits; nor to store their house with all those furnitures which even their present plenty of wealth otherwise admits ; nor when they are among them that are merry, to extend themselves to all that mirth, which the present occasion of wit and company otherwise admits; but to put bounds and hoops to their joys: so will they last the longer, and, when they depart, return the sooner. If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged; and if we would bound ourselves, we should not be bounded. But if they shall fear, that at such or such a time their peace and mirth have carried them further than this moderation, then to take Job's admirable course, who sacrificed lest his children should have transgressed in their mirth: so let them go, and find some poor afflicted soul, and there be bountiful and liberal; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Those that the parson finds in the military state, he fortifies and strengthens with his utmost skill. Now in those that are tempted, whatsoever is unruly falls upon two heads ; either they think, that there is none that can or will look after things, but all goes by chance or wit: or else, though there be a great Governor of all things, yet to them he is lost, as if they said, God doth forsake and persecute them, and there is none to deliver them. If the parson suspect the first, and find sparks of such thoughts now and then to break forth, then, without opposing directly, (for disputation is no cure for atheism,) he scatters in his discourse three sorts of arguments; the first taken from nature, the second from the law, the third from grace. For nature, he sees not how a house could be either built without a builder, or kept in repair without a housekeeper. He conceives not possibly, how the winds should blow so much as they can, and the sea rage so much as it can, and all-things do what they can, and all, not only without dissolution of the whole, but also of any part, by taking away so much as the usual seasons of summer and winter, earing and harvest. Let the weather be what it will, still we have bread, though sometimes more, sometimes less ; wherewith alsó a careful Joseph might meet. He conceives not possibly, how he that would believe a Divinity, if he had been at the creation of all things, should less believe it, seeing the preservation of all things; for preservation is a creation; and more, it is a continued creation, and a creation every moment. Secondly, for the law, there may be so evident though unused a proof of Divinity taken from thence, that the atheist or Epicurean can have nothing to contradict. The Jews yet live, and are known: they have their law and language bearing witness to them, and they to it: they are circumcised to this day, and expect the promises of the scripture: their country also is known, the places and rivers travelled unto, and frequented by others, but to them an unpenetrable rock, an unaccessible desert. Wherefore if the Jews live, all the great wonders of old live in them; and then who can deny the stretched-out arm of a mighty God? especially since it may be a just doubt, whether, considering the stubbornness of the nation, their living then in their country under so many miracles were a stranger thing, than their present exile and disability to live in their country. And it is observable, that this very thing was intended by God, that the Jews should be his proof and witnesses, as he calls them, Isaiah xliii. 12. and their very dispersion in all lands was intended not only for a punishment to them, but for an exciting of others by their sight to the acknowledging of God and his power, Psalm lix. 11. and therefore this kind of punishment was chosen rather than any other. Thirdly, for grace. Besides the continual succession, since the gospel, of holy men, who have borne witness to the truth, (there being no reason why any should distrust St. Luke, or Tertullian, or Chrysostom, more than Tully, Virgil, or Livy,) there are two prophecies in the gospel, which evidently argue Christ's divinity by their success: the one concerning the woman that spent the ointment on our Saviour, for which he told, that it should never be forgotten, but with the gospel itself be preached to all ages, Matthew xxvi. 13. The other concerning the destruction of Jerusalem ; of which our Saviour said, that that generation should not pass, till all were fulfilled, Luke xxi. 32; which Josephus's story confirmeth, and the continuance of which verdict is yet evident. To these might be added the preaching of the gospel in all nations, Matthew xxiv. 14. which we see even miraculously effected in these new discoveries, God turning men's covetousness and ambitions to the effecting of his word. Now a prophecy is a wonder sent to posterity, lest they complain of want of wonders. It is a letter sealed, and sent, which to the bearer is but paper, but to the receiver and opener is full of power. He that saw Christ open a blind man's eyes, saw not more divinity, than he that reads the woman's ointment in the gospel, or sees Jerusalem destroyed. With some of these heads enlarged, and woven into his discourse, at several times and occasions, the parson settleth wavering minds. But if he sees them nearer desperation than atheism ; not so much doubting a God, as that he is theirs; then he dives into the boundless ocean of God's love, and the unspeakable riches of his loving-kindness. He hath one argument unanswerable. If God hate them, either he doth it as they are creatures, dust and ashes; or as they are sinful. As creatures, he must needs love them; for no perfect artist ever yet hated his own work. As sinful, he must much more love them; because, notwithstanding his infinite hate of sin, his love overcame that hate, and that with an exceeding great victory; which in the creation needed not, gave them love for love, even the Son of his love, out of his bosom of love. So that
way soever he turns, hath two pledges of God's love, (that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established,) the one in his being, the other in his sinful being: and this as the more faulty in him, so the more glorious in God. And all may certainly conclude, that God loves them, till either they despise that love, or despair of his mercy: not any sin else, but is within his love; but the despising of love must needs be without it.
The thrusting away of his arm makes us only not embraced.
The parson's condescending. The country parson is a lover of old customs, if they be good and harmless; and the rather, because country people are much addicted to them, so that to favour them therein is to win their hearts, and to oppose them therein is to deject them. If there be any ill in the custom, which may be severed from the good, he pares the apple, and gives them the clean to feed on. Particularly, he loves procession, and maintains it, because there are contained therein four manifest advantages. First, a blessing of God for the fruits of the field : Secondly, justice in the preservation of bounds: Thirdly, charity in loving, walking, and neighbourly accompanying one another, with reconciling of differences at that time, if there be any: Fourthly, mercy in relieving the poor by a liberal distribution and largess, which at that time is or ought to be used. Wherefore he exacts of all to be present at the perambulation; and those that withdraw, and sever themselves from it, he mislikes and reproves as uncharitable and unneighbourly; and if they will not reform, presents them. Nay, he is so far from condemning such assemblies, that he rather procures them to be often, as knowing that absence breeds strangeness, but presence love. Now love is his business and aim; wherefore he likes well, that his parish at good times invite one another to their houses, and he urgeth them to it: and sometimes, where he knows there hath been, or is, a little difference, he takes one of the parties, and goes with him to the other, and all dine or sup together. There is much preaching in this friendliness. Another old custom there is of saying, when light is brought in, “ God send us the light of heaven;" and the parson likes this very well; neither is he afraid of praising or praying to God at all times, but is rather glad of catching opportunities to do them. Light is a great blessing, and as great as food, for which we give thanks: and those that think this superstitious, neither know superstition, nor themselves. As for those that are ashamed to use this form, as being old and obsolete, and not the fashion, he reforms and teaches them, that at baptism they professed not to be ashamed of Christ's cross, or for any shame to leave that which is good. He that is ashamed in small things, will extend his pusillanimity to greater. Rather should a Christian soldier take such occasions to harden himself, and to further his exercises of mortification.
The parson blessing. THE
country parson wonders, that blessing the people is in so little use with his brethren: whereas he thinks it not only a grave and reverend thing, but a beneficial also. Those who use it not, do so either out of niceness, because they like the salutations, and compliments, and forms of worldly language better: which conformity and fashionableness is so exceeding unbefitting a minister, that it deserves reproof, not refutation : or else, because they think it empty and superfluous. But that which the apostles
used so diligently in their writings, nay, which our Saviour himself used, Mark x. 16. cannot be vain and superfluous. But this was not proper to Christ, or the apostles only, no more than to be a spiritual father was appropriated to them. And if temporal fathers bless their children, how much more may and ought spiritual fathers ? Besides, the priests of the Old Testament were commanded to bless the people, and the form thereof is prescribed, Numb. vi. Now as the apostle argues in another case, if the ministration of condemnation did bless, how shall not the ministration of the Spirit exceed in blessing? The fruit of this blessing good Hannah found, and received with great joy, 1 Sam. i. 18. though it came from a man disallowed by God: for it was not the person, but priesthood, that blessed; so that even ill priests may bless. Neither have the ministers power of blessing only, but also of cursing. So in the Old Testament Elisha cursed the children, 2 Kings ii. 24. which though our Saviour reproved as unfitting for his particular, who was to shew all humility before his passion, yet he allows it in his apostles. And therefore St. Peter used that fearful imprecation to Simon Magus, Acts viii. Thy money perish with thee : and the event confirmed it. So did St. Paul, 2 Tim. iv. 14. and 1 Tim. i. 20. Speaking of Alexander the coppersmith, who had withstood his preaching, The Lord, saith he, reward him according to his works. And again, of Hymeneus and Alexander, he saith, he had delivered them to Satan, that they might learn not to blaspheme. The forms both of blessing and cursing are expounded in the Common Prayer Book, the one in The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, &c. and, The peace of God, &c. The other in general in the Commination.
Now blessing differs from prayer in assurance, because it is not performed by way of request, but of confidence and power, effectually applying God's favour to the blessed, by the interesting of that dignity wherewith God hath invested the priest, and engaging of God's own power and institution for a blessing. The neglect of this duty in ministers themselves hath made the people also neglect it; so that they are so far from craving this benefit from their ghostly father, that they oftentimes go out of church, before he hath blessed them. In the time of popery, the priest's benedicite, and his holy water, were over-highly valued; and now we are fallen to the clean contrary, even from superstition to coldness and atheism. But the
parson first values the gift in himself, and then teacheth his