HOMILY ON THE MISERY OF MANKIND
A SERMON OF THE misery of all mankinde,
and of his condemnation to death euerlasting, by his owne sinne.
THE Holy Ghost, in writing the holy Scripture, is in nothing more diligent then to pull downe mans vaine glory and pride, which of all vices is most vniuersally grafted in all mankinde, euen from the first infection of our first father Adam. And therefore wee reade in many places of Scripture, many notable lessons against this old rooted vice, to teach vs the most commendable vertue of humility, how to know our selues, and to remember what wee bee of our selues.
In the booke of Genesis, Almighty GOD giueth vs all a title and name in our great grandfather Adam, which ought to warne vs all to consider what wee bee, whereof wee bee, from whence we came, and whither we shall, saying thus, In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread, till thou bee turned againe into the ground, for out of it wast thou taken, in as much as thou art dust, into dust shalt thou be turned againe (Genesis 3.19). Heere (as it were in a glasse) wee may learne to know our selues to be but ground, earth, and ashes, and that to earth and ashes we shall returne.
Also, the holy Patriarch Abraham did well remember this name and title, dust, earth, and ashes, appointed and assigned by GOD to all mankinde: and therefore he calleth himselfe by that name, when hee maketh his earnest prayer for Sodome & Gomorre. And wee read that Iudith, Esther, Iob, Ieremy, with other holy men and women in the old Testament, did vse sackcloth, and to cast dust and ashes vpon their heads, when they be wayled their sinfull liuing (Judith 4.10-11, Job 42.6, Jeremiah 6.26). They called and cried to GOD, for helpe and mercy, with such a ceremony of sackcloth, dust, and ashes, that thereby they might declare to the whole world, what an humble and lowly estimation they had of themselues, and how well they remembred their name and title aforesayd, their vile corrupt fraile nature, dust, earth, and ashes. The booke of Wisedome also willing to pull downe our proud stomaches, moueth vs diligently to remember our mortall and earthly generation, which we haue all of him that was first made (Wisdom 7.1): and that all men, as well kings as subiects, come into this world, and goe out of the same in like sort: that is, as of our selues full miserable, as wee may dayly see. And Almighty GOD commanded his Prophet Esay to make a Proclamation, and crie to the whole world: and Esay asking, what shall I crie? The Lord answered, Crie, that all flesh is grasse, and that all the glory thereof, is but as the flowre of the field, when the grasse is withered, the flowre falleth away, when the winde of the Lord bloweth vpon it. The people surely is grasse, the which drieth vp, and the flowre fadeth away (Isaiah 40.6-7). And the holy man Iob, hauing in himselfe great experience of the miserable and sinfull estate of man, doeth open the same to the world in these words; Man (sayth he) that is borne of a woman, liuing but a short time, is full of manifold miseries, hee springeth vp like a flowre, and fadeth againe, vanisheth away as it were a shadow, and neuer continueth in one state. And doest thou iudge it meet (O Lord) to open thine eyes vpon such a one, and to bring him to iudgement with thee? Who can make him cleane, that is conceiued of an vncleane seede (Job 14.1-4), and all men of their euilnesse, and naturall pronenesse, be so vniuersally giuen to sinne, that (as the Scripture sayth) GOD repented that euer he made man (Genesis 6.6). And by sin his indignation was so much prouoked against, the world, that he drowned all the world with Noes floud (except Noe himselfe, and his little houshold, Genesis 7.11-24). It is not without great cause, that the Scripture of GOD doeth so many times call all men heere in this world by this word, earth, O thou earth, earth, earth, sayth Ieremy, heare the word of the Lord (Jeremiah 22.29). This our right name, calling, and title, earth, earth, earth, pronounced by the Prophet, sheweth what wee bee indeed, by whatsoeuer other stile, title, or dignity, men doe call vs. Thus hee plainely named vs, who knoweth best, both what we be, and what wee ought of right to be called. And thus hee setteth vs foorth, speaking by his faithfull Apostle Saint Paul, All men, Iewes and Gentiles, are vnder sinne, there is none righteous, no not one: there is none that vnderstandeth, there is none that seeketh after GOD, they are all gone out of the way, they are all vnprofitable, there is none that doeth good, no not one: their throat is an open sepulchre, with their tongues they haue vsed craft and deceit, the poyson of serpents is vnder their lippes, their mouth is full of curling and bitternesse, their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and wretchednesse are in their wayes, and the way of peace haue they not knowen: there is no feare of GOD before their eyes. And in another place, Saint Paul writeth thus, GOD hath wrapped all nations in vnbeleefe, that hee might haue mercy on all (Romans 11.32). The Scripture shutteth vp all vnder sinne, that the promise by the fayth of Iesus Christ, should bee giuen vnto them that beleeue (Galatians 3.22). Saint Paul in many places painteth vs out in our colours, calling vs the children of the wrath of GOD (Ephesians 2.3), when wee bee borne: saying also that wee cannot thinke a good thought of our selues, much lesse can we say well, or do well of our selues.
And the Wise man sayth in the booke of Prouerbes, The iust man falleth seuen times a day (Proverbs 24.16). The most tried and approoued man Iob, feared all his workes. Saint Iohn the Baptist being sanctified in his mothers wombe, and praised before he was borne, being called an Angel, and great before the Lord, filled euen from his birth with the holy Ghost, the preparer of the way for our Sauiour Christ (Luke 1.15, 76), and commended of our Sauiour Christ to bee more then a Prophet, and the greatest that euer was borne of a woman: yet he plainely granteth, that he had need to bee washed of Christ, he worthily extolleth and glorifieth his Lord and master Christ, and humbleth himselfe as vnworthy to vnbuckle his shoes (Matthew 3.11, 14), and giueth all honour and glory to GOD. So doth Saint Paul both oft and euidently confesse himselfe, that he was of himselfe, euer giuing (as a most faithfull seruant) all prayse to his master and Sauiour. So doth blessed Saint Iohn the Euangelist, in the name of himselfe, and of all other holy men (bee they neuer so iust) make this open confession: If wee say wee haue no sinne, wee deceiue our selues, and the trueth is not in vs: If we acknowledge our sinnes, GOD is faithfull and iust to forgiue our sinnes and to cleanse vs from all vnrighteousness: If wee say we haue not sinned, we make him a lyer, and his word is not in vs (1 John 1.8-10). Wherefore, the wise man in the booke called Ecclesiastes, maketh this true and generall confession, There is not one iust man vpon the earth that doeth good, and sinneth not (Ecclesiastes 7.20). And Dauid is ashamed of his sin, but not to confesse his sin (Psalms 51).
How oft, how earnestly, and lamentably doth hee desire GODS great mercy for his great offences, and that GOD should not enter into iudgement with him (Psalms 143.2)? And againe, how well weigheth this holy man his sinnes, when hee confesseth that they be so many in number, and so hid, and hard to vnderstand, that it is in a maner vnpossible to know, vtter, or number them? Wherefore, hee hauing a true, earnest, and deepe contemplation and consideration of his sinnes, and yet not comming to the bottome of them, he maketh supplication to GOD, to forgiue him his priuy, secret, hid sinnes: to the knowledge of which we cannot attaine vnto (Psalms 19.12, 40.12). Hee weigheth rightly his sins from the originall roote and spring head, perceiuing inclinations, prouocations, stirrings, stingings, buds, branches, dregges, infections, tastes, feelings, and sents of them to continue in him still. Wherefore hee sayth, Marke, and behold, I was conceiued in sinnes (Psalms 51.5): Hee sayth not sinne, but in the plurall number, sins, for as much as out of one (as a fountaine) springeth all the rest.
Our Sauiour Christ sayth, There is none good, but GOD (Mark 10.18, Luke 18.19): and that we can doe nothing that is good without him, nor no man can come to the father but by him (John 15.5, 14.6). Hee commandeth vs also to say, that wee be vnprofitable seruants, when wee haue done all that wee can doe (Luke 17.10). Hee preferreth the penitent Publicane, before the proude, holy, and glorious Pharisee (Luke 18.14). Hee calleth himselfe a Physition, but not to them that bee whole, but to them that bee sicke (Matthew 9.12), and haue neede of his salue for their sore. Hee teacheth vs in our prayers, to reknowledge our selues sinners, and to aske righteousnesse and deliuerance from all euils, at our heauenly Fathers hand. He declareth that the sinnes of our owne hearts, doe defile our owne selues. Hee teacheth that an euill word or thought deserueth condemnation, affirming that wee shall giue account for euery idle word (Matthew 12.36). He saith, He came not to saue, but the sheepe that were vtterly lost, and cast away (Matthew 15.24). Therefore few of the proude, iust, learned, wise, perfect, and holy Pharisees, were saued by him, because they iustified themselues by their counterfeite holynesse before men. Wherefore (good people) let vs beware of such hypocrisie, vaine glory, and iustifying of ourselues.
FOrasmuch as the true knowledge of our selues is very necessary, to come to the right knowledge of God, yee haue heard in the last reading, how humbly all godly men alwaies haue thought of themselues, and so to thinke and iudge of themselues, are taught of GOD their Creator, by his holy word. For of our selues wee bee crabtrees, that can bring foorth no apples. We be of our selues of such earth, as can bring foorth but weedes, netles, brambles, briers, cockle, and darnel. Our fruits be declared in the fifth chapter to the Galathians. We haue neither fayth, charitie, hope, patience, chastitie, nor any thing else that good is, but of GOD, and therefore these vertues bee called there, the fruits of the holy ghost, and not the fruits of man (Galatians 5.19-23). Let vs therefore acknowledge our selues before GOD (as wee bee indeede) miserable and wretched sinners. And let vs earnestly repent, and humble our selues heartily, and cry to God for mercy. Let vs all confesse with mouth and heart, that we be full of imperfections: Let vs know our owne workes, of what imperfection they be, and then wee shall not stand foolishly and arrogantly in our owne conceits, nor challenge any part of iustification by our merites or workes. For truely there be imperfections in our best workes: wee doe not loue GOD so much as wee are bound to doe, with all our heart, minde, and power: we doe not feare GOD so much as wee ought to doe: we doe not pray to GOD, but with great and many imperfections: we giue, forgiue, beleeue, liue, and hope vnperfectly: we speake, thinke, and doe imperfectly: we fight against the deuill, the world, and the flesh imperfectly: Let vs therefore not be ashamed to confesse plainely our state of imperfection: yea, let vs not bee ashamed to confesse imperfection, euen in all our best workes. Let none of vs be ashamed to say with holy Saint Peter, I am a sinfull man (Luke 5.8). Let vs say with the holy Prophet Dauid, We haue sinned with our fathers, we haue done amisse and dealt wickedly (Psalms 106.6), Let vs all make open confession with the prodigall sonne to our father, and say with him, We haue sinned against heauen, and before thee (O Father) wee are not worthy to be called thy sonnes (Luke 15.18). Let vs all say with holy Baruch, O Lord our GOD, to vs is worthily ascribed shame and confusion, and to thee righteousnesse: Wee haue sinned, wee haue done wickedly, wee haue behaued our selues vngodly in all thy righteousnes (Baruch 2.6, 12). Let vs all say with the holy Prophet Daniel, O Lord, righteousnesse belongeth to thee, vnto vs belongeth confusion. Wee haue sinned, wee haue beene naughtie, wee haue offended, wee haue fled from thee, wee haue gone backe from all thy precepts and iudgements (Daniel 9.7, 5). So we learne of all good men in holy Scriptures, to humble our selues, and to exalt, extoll, praise, magnifie, and glorifie GOD.
Thus we haue heard how euill we be of our selues, how of our selues, and by our selues, we haue no goodnes, helpe nor saluation, but contrariwise, sinne, damnation, and death euerlasting: which if we deeply weigh and consider, we shall the better vnderstand the great mercie of GOD, and how our saluation commeth onely by Christ. For in our selues (as of our selues) we find nothing (2 Corinthians 3.5), whereby we may be deliuered from this miserable captiuitie, into the which we were cast, through the enuie of the deuill, by breaking of GODS commandement, in our first parent Adam. We are all become vncleane, but we all are not able to cleanse our selues, nor to make one another of vs cleane (Psalms 51.1-10). Wee are by nature the children of GODS wrath (Ephesians 2.3), but we are not able to make our selues the children and inheritours of GODS glorie. Wee are sheepe that runne astray (1 Peter 2.25), but we can not of our owne power come againe to the sheepfold, so great is our imperfection and weakenes. In our selues therefore may we not glorie, which (of our selues) are nothing but sinfull: neither may we reioyce in any works that we do, which all be so vnperfect and vnpure, that they are not able to stand before the righteous iudgement seat of GOD, as the holy Prophet Dauid saith, Enter not into iudgement with thy seruant (O Lord:) for no man that liueth shall be found righteous in thy sight (Psalms 143.2). To God therefore must we flee, or else shall we neuer finde peace, rest and quietnes of conscience in our hearts. For he is the Father of mercies, and GOD of all consolation (2 Corinthians 1.3). Hee is the Lord, with whom is plenteous redemption (Psalms 130.7): Hee is the GOD which of his owne mercie saueth vs, and setteth out his charitie and exceeding loue towards vs, in that of his owne voluntarie goodnes, when we were perished, he saued vs, and prouided an euerlasting Kingdome for vs. And all these heauenly treasures are giuen vs, not for our owne deserts, merits, or good deeds, (which of our selues we haue none) but of his meere mercy freely. And for whose sake? Truely for Iesus Christes sake, that pure and vndefiled lamb of GOD. He is that dearely beloued Sonne, for whose sake GOD is fully pacified, satisfied, and set at one with man. He is the Lambe of GOD, which taketh away the sinnes of the world (John 1.29), of whome onely it may be truely spoken, that he did all things well, and in his mouth was found no craft nor subtiltie (1 Peter 2.22). None but he alone may say, The prince of the world came, and in mee he hath nothing (John 14.30). And he alone may also say, Which of you shall reprooue me of any fault (John 8.46)? He is the high and euerlasting Priest, which hath offered himselfe once for all vpon the altar of the crosse, and with that one oblation hath made perfect for euermore them that are sanctified (Hebrews 7.27 and 10.14). He is the alone mediatour betweene GOD and man, which paid our ransome to GOD with his owne blood, and with that hath he cleansed vs all from sinne. Hee is the Phisition which healeth all our diseases. He is that Sauiour which saueth his people from all their sinnes (Matthew 1.21): To be short, he is that flowing and most plenteous fountaine, of whose fulnesse all wee haue receiued. For in him alone are all the treasures of the wisedom and knowledge of GOD hidden. And in him, and by him, haue wee from GOD the Father all good things, pertaining either to the body or to the soule. O how much are we bound to this our heauenly Father for his great mercies, which he hath so plenteously declared vnto vs in Christ Iesu our Lord and Sauiour! What thanks worthie and sufficient can we giue to him? Let vs all with one accord burst out with ioyfull voyce, euer praising and magnifying this LORD of mercie, for his tender kindnes shewed vnto vs in his dearly beloued Sonne Iesus Christ our Lord.
Hitherto haue we heard what we are of our selues: very sinfull, wretched, and damnable. Againe, wee haue heard how that of our selues, and by our selues, wee are not able either to thinke a good thought, or worke a good deed, so that wee can finde in our selues no hope of saluation, but rather whatsoeuer maketh vnto our destruction. Again, we haue heard the tender kindnesse and great mercy of GOD the Father towards vs, and how beneficiall he is to vs for Christs sake, without our merits or deserts, euen of his owne meere mercy & tender goodnes. Now, how these exceeding great mercies of GOD, set abroad in Christ Iesu for vs, be obtayned, and how we be deliuered from the captiuity of sinne, death, and hell, it shall more at large (with GODS helpe) bee declared in the next Sermon. In the meane season, yea, and at all times let vs learne to know our selues, our frailty and weakenesse, without any craking or boasting of our owne good deedes and merits. Let vs also knowledge the exceeding mercy of GOD towards vs, and confesse, that as of our selues commeth all euill and damnation: so likewise of him commeth all goodnesse and saluation, as GOD himselfe sayth by the Prophet Osee, O Israel, thy destruction commeth of thy selfe, but in me only is thy helpe and comfort (Hosea 13.9). If we thus humbly submit our selues in the sight of GOD, we may be sure that in the time of his visitation, hee will lift vs vp vnto the kingdome of his dearely beloued sonne Christ Iesu our Lord: To whom, with the Father, and the holy Ghost, bee all honour and glory for euer. Amen.
The Anglican Library, This HTML edition copyright 1999.