HOMILY ON THE DECLINING FROM GOD
A SERMON HOW dangerous a thing it is to fall from God.
OF our going from GOD, the wise man saith, that pride was the first beginning: for by it mans heart was turned from GOD his maker. For pride (saith hee) is the fountaine of all sinne: he that hath it, shall be full of cursings, and at the end it shall ouerthrow him (Ecclesiasticus 10.13). And as by pride and sinne wee goe from GOD, so shall GOD and all goodnesse with him goe from vs. And the Prophet Osee doth plainely affirme, that they which goe away still from GOD by vicious liuing, and yet would goe about to pacifie him otherwise by sacrifice, and entertaine him thereby, they labour in vaine. For, notwithstanding all their sacrifice, yet hee goeth still away from them. For so much (saith the Prophet) as they doe not apply their minds to returne to GOD, although they goe about with whole flockes and heards to seeke the Lord, yet they shall not find him: for he is gone away from them (Hosea 5.5-6, 6.6, 8.13). But as touching our turning to GOD, or from GOD, you shall vnderstand, that it may bee done diuers wayes. Sometimes directly by Idolatry, as Israel and Iuda then did: sometimes men goe from GOD by lacke of Fayth, and mistrusting of GOD, whereof Esay speaketh in this wise, Woe to them that goe downe into Egypt to seeke for helpe, trusting in horses, & hauing confidence in the number of chariots, and puisance or power of horsemen. They haue no confidence in the holy GOD of Israel, nor seeke for the Lord (Isaiah 31.1-3). But what followeth? The Lord shall let his hand fall vpon them, and downe shall come both the helper, and hee that is holpen: they shall bee destroyed altogether. Sometime men goe from GOD by the neglecting of his Commandements concerning their neighbours, which commandeth them to expresse hearty loue towards euery man, as Zacharie said vnto the people in GOD'S behalfe. Giue true iudgement, shew mercy and compassion euery one to his brother, imagine no deceit towards widowes, or children fatherlesse and motherlesse, toward strangers, or the poore, let no man forge euill in his heart against his brother (Zechariah 7.9-10). But these things they passed not off, they turned their backes, and went their way, they stopped their eares that they might not heare, they hardened their hearts as an Adamant stone, that they might not listen to the Law, and the wordes that the Lord had sent through his holy Spirit, by his ancient Prophets. Wherefore the Lord shewed his great indignation vpon them. It came to passe (saith the Prophet) euen as I told them: as they would not heare, so when they cryed, they were not heard, but were scattered into all kingdomes which they neuer knew, and their land was made desolate. And to be short, all they that may not abide the word of GOD, but following the perswasions and stubbornnesse of their owne hearts, goe backeward and not forward (as it is said in Ieremie, Jeremiah 7.24) They goe and turne a way from GOD. Insomuch that Origen saith, Hee that with mind, with study, with deedes, with thought, and care applyeth and giueth himselfe to GOD'S word, and thinketh vpon his Lawes day and night, giueth himselfe wholly to GOD, and in his precepts and Commandements is exercised: this is hee that is turned to GOD. And on the other part hee sayth, Whosoeuer is occupied with Fables and Tales, when the worde of GOD is rehearsed, hee is turned from GOD. Whosoeuer in time of reading GOD'S word, is carefull in his minde of worldly businesse, of money, or of lucre, hee is turned from GOD: whosoeuer is intangled with the cares of possessions, filled with couetousnesse of riches, whosoeuer studieth for the glory and honour of this world, hee is turned from GOD. So that after his minde, whosoeuer hath not a speciall minde to that thing that is commanded or taught of GOD, hee that doeth not listen vnto it, embrace, and print it in his heart, to the intent that hee may duely fashion his life thereafter, hee is plainely turned from GOD, although hee doe other things of his owne deuotion and mind, which to him seeme better, and more to GOD'S honour. Which thing to be true, wee bee taught and admonished in the holy Scripture by the example of king Saul, who being commanded of GOD by Samuel, that he should kill all the Amalekites, and destroy them clearely with their goods and cattel (1 Samuel 15.3): yet hee, being mooued partly with pitie, and partly (as he thought) with deuotion vnto GOD, saued Agag the King, and all the chiefe of their cattell, therewith to make sacrifice vnto GOD. Wherewithall GOD being displeased highly, sayd vnto the Prophet Samuel, I repent that euer I made Saul King, for hee hath forsaken me, and not followed my words, and so he commanded Samuel to shew him, and when Samuel asked wherefore (contrary to GOD'S word) he had saued the cattel, he excused the matter, partly, by feare, saying, hee durst doe none other, for that the people would haue it so, partly, for that they were goodly beastes, hee thought GOD would bee content, seeing it was done of a good intent and deuotion, to honour GOD with the sacrifice of them.
But Samuel reproouing all such intents and deuotions (seeme they neuer so much to GOD'S honour, if they stand not with his word, whereby wee may be assured of his pleasure) said in this wise, Would GOD haue sacrifices and offerings? Or rather that his word should be obeyed? To obey him, is better then offerings, and to listen to him is better then to offer the fat of Rammes: yea, to repugne against his voyce is as euill as the sinne of soothsaying: and not to agree to it is like abominable Idolatrie. And now forasmuch as thou hast cast away the word of the Lord, he hath cast away thee, that thou shouldest not be king.
The turning of God from man. By all these examples of holy Scripture, we may know, that as wee forsake GOD, so shall hee euer forsake vs. And what miserable state doeth consequently and necessarily follow thereupon, a man may easily consider by the terrible threatnings of GOD. And although hee consider not all the sayd miserie to the vttermost, being so great that it passeth any mans capacitie in this life sufficiently to consider the same: yet hee shall soone perceiue so much thereof, that if his heart bee not more then stonie, or harder then the Adamant, he shall feare, tremble, and quake, to call the same to his remembrance. First the displeasure of GOD towards vs is commonly expressed in the Scripture by these two things: by shewing his fearefull countenance vpon vs, and by turning his face, or hiding it from vs. By shewing his dreadfull countenance, is signified his great wrath: but by turning his face or hiding thereof is many times more signified, that is to say, that he clearely forsaketh vs, and giueth vs ouer. The which significations bee taken of the properties of mens manners. For men towards them whom they fauour, commonly beare a good, a chearefull, and a louing countenance: so that by the face or countenance of a man, it doeth commonly appeare what will or minde hee beareth towards other. So when GOD doeth shew his dreadfull countenance towards vs, that is to say, doeth send dreadfull plagues of Sword, famine, or pestilence vpon vs, it appeareth that hee is greatly wroth with vs. But when he withdraweth from vs his Word, the right doctrine of Christ, his gracious assistance and ayde (which is euer ioyned to his word) and leaueth vs to our own wit, our owne will and strength: he declareth then, that he beginneth to forsake vs. For whereas GOD hath shewed to all them that truely beleeue his Gospel, his face of mercie in Iesus Christ, which doeth so lighten their hearts, that they (if they behold it as they ought to doe) be transformed to his Image, be made partakers of the heauenly light, and of his holy Spirit, and bee fashioned to him in all goodnesse requisite to the children of GOD: so, if they after doe neglect the same, if they bee vnthankefull vnto him, if they order not their liues according to his example and doctrine, and to the setting forth of his glory, he will take away from them his Kingdome, his holy word, whereby hee should reigne in them, because they bring not foorth the fruit thereof that he looketh for. Neuerthelesse, his is so mercifull, and of so long sufferance, that he doeth not shew vpon vs that great wrath suddenly. But when we begin to shrinke from his word, not beleeuing it, or not expressing it in our liuings: first hee doeth send his messengers, the true preachers of his word, to admonish and warne vs of our duetie: that as hee for his part, for the great loue hee bare vnto vs, deliuered his owne Sonne to suffer death, that wee by his death might be deliuered from death, and be restored to the life euerlasting, euermore to dwell with him, and to bee partakers and inheritours with him, of his euerlasting glory and kingdome of heauen: so againe, that we for our parts should walke in a godly life, as becommeth his children to doe. And if this will not serue, but still we remaine disobedient to his word and wil, not knowing him, nor louing him, not fearing him, not putting our whole trust and confidence in him: and on the other side, to our neighbours behauing our selues vncharitably, by disdaine, enuie, malice, or by committing murder, robbery, adultery, gluttony, deceit, lying, swearing, or other like detestable workes, and vngodly behauiour, then he threatneth vs by terrible comminations, swearing in great anger, that whosoeuer doth these workes, shall neuer enter into his rest, which is the kingdome of heauen. (Hebrews 3.11, Psalms 15, 1 Corinthians 6).
THE SECOND PART OF THE SERMON OF FALLING FROM GOD.
IN the former part of this sermon, yee haue learned how many manner of wayes men fall from GOD: some by idolatrie, some for lacke of faith, some by neglecting of their neighbors, some by not hearing of GOD'S word, some by the pleasure they take in the vanities of worldly things. Yee haue also learned in what misery that man is, which is gone from GOD: and how that GOD yet of his infinite goodnesse to call againe man from that his miserie vseth first gentle admonitions by his Preachers, after he layeth on terrible threatnings. Now if this gentle monition and threatning together doe not serue, then GOD will shew his terrible countenance vpon vs, hee will powre intolerable plagues vpon our heads, and after he will take away from vs all his ayde and assistance, wherewith before hee did defend vs from all such manner of calamitie. As the Euangelicall prophet Esay agreeing with Christ's parable doeth teach vs, saying, That GOD had made a goodly vineyard for his beloued children, hee hedged it, he walled it round about, he planted it with chosen vines, and made a Turret in the middest thereof, and therein also a vine-presse. And when he looked that it should bring him foorth good grapes, it brought forth wild graps (Isaiah 5.1-2, Matthew 21.33): and after it followeth, Now shall I shew you (saith GOD) what I wil doe with my vineyard: I will plucke downe the hedges, that it may perish: I will breake downe the walles that it may bee troden vnder foot: I will let it lie wast, it shall not be cut, it shall not bee digged, but briers and thornes shall ouergrowe it, and I shall command the cloudes that they shall no more raine vpon it.
By these threatnings we are monished and warned, that if we which are the chosen vineyard of GOD, bring not foorth good grapes, that is to say, good workes that may bee delectable and pleasant in his sight, when hee looketh for them, when he sendeth his messengers to call vpon vs for them, but rather bring foorth wild grapes, that is to say, sowre workes, vnsauery, and vnfruitfull: then will hee plucke away all desence, and suffer grieuous plagues of famine, battell, dearth, and death, to light vpon vs. Finally, if these serue not, he will let vs lie waste, he will giue vs ouer, he will turne away from vs, he will dig and delue no more about vs, hee will let vs alone, and suffer vs to bring foorth euen such fruite as wee will, to bring foorth brambles, bryers, and thornes, all naughtinesse, all vice, and that so abundantly, that they shall cleane ouergrow vs, choke, strangle, and vtterly destroy vs. But they that in this world liue not after GOD, but after their owne carnall libertie, perceiue not this great wrath of GOD towards them, that he will not digge, nor delue any more about them, that hee doeth let them alone euen to themselues. But they take this for a great benefit of GOD, to haue all their owne libertie: and so they liue, as if carnall libertie were the true libertie of the Gospel. But GOD forbid (good people) that euer we should desire such libertie. For although GOD suffer sometimes the wicked to haue their pleasure in this world, yet the ende of vngodly liuing is at length endlesse destruction. The murmuring Israelites had that they longed for, they had Quailes ynough, yea, till they were weary of them. But what was the end thereof? Their sweete meate had sowre sauce: euen whiles the meate was in their mouthes, the plague of GOD lighted vpon them, and suddenly they died (Numbers 11.31-33). So, if wee liue vngodly, and GOD suffereth vs to follow our owne willes, to haue our owne delightes and pleasures, and correcteth vs not with some plague: it is no doubt but hee is almost vtterly displeased with vs. And although hee be long ere he strike, yet many times when he striketh such persons, hee striketh them at once for euer. So that when he doeth not strike vs, when he ceaseth to afflict vs, to punish or beat vs, and suffereth vs to runne headlong into all vngodlinesse, and pleasures of this world that wee delight in, without punishment and aduersity, it is a dreadfull token that hee loueth vs no longer, that he careth no longer for vs, but hath giuen vs ouer to our owne selues. As long as a man doeth prune his vines, doeth dig at the rootes, and doeth lay fresh earth to them, hee hath a mind to them, he perceiueth some token of fruitfulnes that may be recouered in them, but when hee will bestow no more such cost and labour about them, then it is a signe that hee thinketh they will neuer bee good. And the father, as long as he loueth his childe, he loketh angerly, he correcteth him when hee doeth amisse: but when that serueth not, and vpon that he ceaseth from correction of him, and suffereth him to do what he list himselfe, it is a signe that he intendeth to disinherit him and to cast him away for euer. So surely nothing should pearce our heart so sore, and put vs in such horrible feare, as when wee know in our conscience, that we haue greeuously offended GOD, and doe so continue, and that yet he striketh not, but quietly suffereth vs in the naughtines that wee haue delight in. Then specially it is time to cry, and to cry againe, as Dauid did: Cast mee not away from thy face, and take not away thy holy spirit from mee (Psalms 51.11). Lord turne not away thy face from mee, cast not thy seruant away in displeasure. Hide not thy face from mee, least I bee like vnto them that goe downe to hell. The which lamentable prayers of him, as they doe certifie vs what horrible danger they be in, from whom GOD turneth his face (for the time, and as long as he so doth:) so should they mooue and stirre vs to cry vpon GOD with all our heart, that wee may not bee brought into that state, which doubtlesse is so sorrowfull, so miserable, and so dreadfull, as no tongue canne sufficiently expresse, nor any heart canne thinke. For what deadly greefe may a man suppose it is to bee vnder the wrath of GOD, to bee forsaken of him, to haue his holy spirit the authour of all goodnesse to bee taken from him, to bee brought to so vile a condition, that hee shall bee left meete for no better purpose, then to bee for euer condemned in hell? For not onely such places of Dauid doe shew, that vpon the turning of GOD'S face from any persons, they shall bee left bare from all goodnesse, and farre from hope of remedie: but also the place rehearsed last before of Esay, doeth meane the same, which sheweth, that GOD at length doeth so forsake his vnfruitfull vineyard, that hee will not onely suffer it to bring foorth weedes, bryers, and thornes, but also further to punish the vnfruitfulnesse of it. Hee saith hee will not cut it, hee will not delue it, and hee will commaund the cloudes that they shall not raine vpon it: whereby is signified the teaching of his holy word, which Saint Paul, after a like manner, expressed by planting and watering, meaning that hee will take that away from them, so that they shall bee no longer of his kingdome, they shall bee no longer gouerned by his holy Spirit, they shall bee put from the grace and benefits that they had, and euer might haue enioyed through Christ, they shall bee depriued of the heauenly light, and life which they had in Christ, whiles they abode in him: they shall bee (as they were once) as men without GOD in this world, or rather in worse taking. And to be short, they shall bee giuen into the power of the deuill, which beareth the rule in all them that be cast away from GOD, as hee did in Saul and Iudas (1 Samuel 15.23, 16.14), and generally in all such, as worke after their owne willes, the children of mistrust and vnbeliefe. Let vs beware therefore (good Christian people) least that wee reiecting or casting away GOD'S word (by the which we obtaine and retaine true faith in GOD) bee not at length cast of so farre, that wee become as the children of vnbeleefe, which bee of two sortes, farre diuerse, yea, almost cleane contrarie, & yet both be very farre from returning to GOD; the one sort, onely weighing their sinfull and detestable liuing, with the right iudgement and straightnesse of GOD'S righteousnesse, bee so without counsaile, and bee so comfortlesse (as they all must needes bee from whom the spirit of counsell and comfort is gone) that they will not bee perswaded in their heartes, but &that; either GOD can not, or else that hee will not take them againe to his fauour and mercie. The other, hearing the louing and large promises of GOD'S mercie, and so not conceiuing a right faith thereof, make those promises larger then euer GOD did, trusting, that although they continue in their sinfull and detestable lyuing neuer so long, yet that GOD at the end of their life, will shew his mercie vpon them, and that then they will returne. And both these two sortes of men be in a damnable state, and yet neuerthelesse, GOD (who willeth not the death of the wicked) hath shewed meanes, whereby both the same (if they take heede in season) may escape (Ezekiel 18.32, 33.11).
Against desperation. The first, as they doe dread GOD'S rightfull iustice in punishing sinners (whereby they should bee dismayed, and should despaire in deede, as touching any hope that may be in themselues) so if thy would constantly or stedfastly beleeue, that GOD'S mercy is the remedy appointed against such despaire and distrust, not onely for them, but generally for all that bee sorry & truely repentant, and will therewithall sticke to GOD'S mercie, they may be sure they shall obtaine mercie, and enter into the port or hauen of safegard, into the which whosoeuer doth come, bee they before time neuer so wicked, they shall be out of danger of euerlasting damnation, as GOD by Ezechiel saith, what time soeuer a sinner doth returne, and take earnest and true repentance, I will forget all his wickednesse (Ezekiel 33.19).
Against presumption. The other, as they be ready to beleeue GOD'S promises, so they should bee as ready to beleeue the threatnings of GOD: as well they should beleeue the law, as the Gospel: as well that there is an hell & euerlasting fire, as that there is an heauen, and euerlasting ioy: as well they should beleeue damnation to be threatned to the wicked and euill doers, as saluation to be promised to the faithfull in word and workes, aswell they should beleeue GOD to be true in the one, as in the other. And the sinners that continue in their wicked liuing, ought to thinke, that the promises of GOD'S mercy, and the Gospell, pertaine not vnto them being in that state, but only the law, and those Scriptures which contayne the wrath and indignation of GOD, and his threatnings, which should certifie them, that as they doe ouer boldly presume of Gods mercy, and liue dissolutely: so doth GOD still more and more withdraw his mercy from them, and he is so prouoked thereby to wrath at length, that he destroyeth such presumers many times suddenly. For of such S. Paul sayd thus, When they shall say it is peace, there is no danger, then shall sudden destruction come vpon them (1 Thessalonians 5.3). Let vs beware therefore of such naughty boldnesse to sinne. For GOD, which hath promised his mercie to them that bee truely repentant (although it bee at the latter ende) hath not promised to the presumptuous sinner, either that he shall haue long life, or that he shall haue true repentance at the last end. But for that purpose hath hee made euery mans death vncertaine, that hee should not put his hope in the ende, and in the meane season (to GOD'S high displeasure) liue vngodly. Wherefore, let vs follow the counsell of the wise man, let vs make no tarrying to turne vnto the Lord: let vs not put off from day to day, for suddainly shall his wrath come, and in time of vengeance hee will destroy the wicked. Let vs therefore turne betimes, and when wee turne let vs pray to GOD, as Ose teacheth, saying, Forgiue all our sinnes, receiue vs gratiously (Hosea 14.2). And if wee turne to him with an humble and a very penitent heart, hee will receiue vs to his fauour and grace for his holy Names sake, for his promise sake, for his trueth and mercies sake, promised to all faithfull beleeuers in Iesus Christ his onely naturall Sonne: to whom the onely Sauiour of the world with the Father and the holy Ghost, be all honour, glory, and power, world without end. Amen.
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