« PreviousContinue »
KIND, AND OF HIS CONDEMNATION
BY HIS OWN SIN.
The Holy Ghost, in writing the Holy Scripture, is in nothing more diligent than to pull down man's vainglory and pride; which of all vices is most universally grafted in all mankind, even from the first infection of our first father Adam. And therefore we read in many places of Scripture, many notable lessons against this old rooted vice, to teach us the most commendable virtue of humility, how to know ourselves, and to remember what we be of ourselves. In the book of Genesis, Almighty God giveth us all a title and name in our great grandfather Adam, which ought to warn us all to consider what we be, whereof we be, from whence we came, and whither we shall (go), saying thus, In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread, till thou be turned again into the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; inasmuch as thou art dust, into dust shalt thou be turned again (Gen. iii. 19). Here (as it were in a glass) we may learn to know ourselves to be but ground, earth, and ashes, and that to earth and ashes we shall return.
Also, the holy patriarch Abraham did well remember this name and title, dust, earth, and ashes, appointed and assigned by God to all mankind : and therefore he calleth himself by that name, when he maketh his earnest prayer for Sodom and Gomorrah. And we read that Judith (iv. and ix.), Esther [iv. 3], Job (xlii. 6), Jeremiah (vi. 26 ; xxv. 34), with other holy men and women in the Old Testament, did use sackcloth, and to cast dust and ashes upon their heads, when they bewailed their sinful living. They called and cried to God for help 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 themselves, and how well they remembered their name and title aforesaid, their vile corrupt frail nature, dust, earth, and ashes. The book of Wisdom (vii.) also, willing to pull down our proud stomachs, moveth us diligently to remember our mortal and earthly generation, which we have all of him that was first made: and that all men, as well kings as subjects, come into this world, and go out of the same, in like sort: that is, as of ourselves, full miserable, as we may daily see. And Almighty God commanded his prophet Isaiah to make a proclamation, and cry to the whole world : and Isaiah asking What shall I cry
? the Lord answered, Cry, that all flesh is grass, and that all the glory thereof is but as the flower of the field : when the grass is withered, the flower falleth away, when the wind of the Lord bloweth upon it. The people surely is grass, the which drieth up, and the flower fudeth away (Isaiah xl. 6–8). And the holy man Job, having in himself great experience of the miserable and sinful estate of man, doth open the same to the world in these words, Man, saith he, that is born of a woman, living but a short time, is full of manifold miseries : he springeth up like a flower, and fadeth again ; vanisheth away as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one state. And dost thou judge it meet, O Lord, to open thine eyes upon such a one, and to bring him to judgment with thee?' Who can make him clean, that is conceived of an unclean seed? (Job xiv. 1-4). And all men of their evilness and natural proneness be so universally given to sin, that (as the Scripture saith) God repented that ever he made man (Gen. vi. 5—7). And by sin his indignation was so much provoked against the world, that he drowned all the world with Noah's flood, except Noah himself and his little household (Gen. vii. 23). "It is not without great cause that the Scripture of God doth so many times call all men here in this world by this word, earth: 0 thou earth, earth, earth, saith Jeremiah, hear the word of the Lord (Jer. xxii. 29). This our right name, calling, and title, earth, earth, earth, pronounced by the prophet, sheweth what we be indeed, by whatsoever other style, title, or dignity men do call us. Thus He plainly named us, who knoweth best, both what we be, and what we ought of right to be called. And thus he setteth us forth, speaking by his faithful apostle St. Paul, All men, Jews and Gentiles, are under sin : there is none righteous, no not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God: they are all gone out of the way, they are all unprofitable ; there is none that doeth good, no not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre, wiih
their tongues they have used craft and deceit, the poison of serpents is under their lips; their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness, their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and wretchedness are in their ways, and the way of peace hare they not known : there is no fear of God before their eyes (Rom. iii. 9–18). And in another place St. Paul writeth thus, God hath wrapped all nations in unbelief, that he might have mercy on all (Rom. xi. 32). The Scripture shutteth up all under sin, that the promise by the faith of Jesus Christ should be given unto them that believe (Gal. iii. 22). St. Paul in many places painteth us out in our colours, calling us the children of the wrath of God, when we be born (Ephes. ii. 3): saying also, that we cannot think a good thought of ourselves, much less can we say well, or do well of ourselves [2 Cor. iii. 5]. And the wise man saith in the book of Proverbs, The just man falleth seven times a day (Prov. xxiv. 16). The most tried and approved man Job feared all his works. St. John the Baptist being sanctáfied in his mother's womb, and praised before he was born, being called an angel, and great before the Lord, filled even from his birth with the Holy Ghost, the preparer of the way for our Saviour Christ, and commended of our Saviour Christ to be more than a prophet, and the greatest that ever was born of a woman (Luke i. 15; (vii. 24--28; Mal. iii. 1]): yet he plainly granteth that he had need to be washed of Christ : he worthily extolleth and glorifieth his Lord and Master Christ, and humbleth himself as unworthy to unbuckle his shoes, and giveth all honour and glory to God (Matt. iii. 11, 14; [Mark i. 7]). So doth St. Paul both oft and evidently confess himself, what he was of himself, ever giving (as a most faithful servant) all praise to his Master and Saviour [e.g. 1 Cor. xv. 10; i Tim. i. 15). So doth blessed St. John the evangelist, in the name of himself, and of all other holy men (be they never so just) make this open confession: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us: if we acknowledge our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1 John i. 8—10). Wherefore the wise man, in the book called Ecclesiastes, maketh this true and generas confession, There is not one just man upon the earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not (Eccles. vii. 20). And David is ashamed of his sin, but not to confess his sin (Psalm li. 3, 4). How oft, how earnestly, and lamentably doth he desire God's-great mercy for his great offences, and that God should not enter into judgment with him! (Psalm cxliii. 2). And again, how well weigheth this holy man his sins, when he confesseth that they be so many in number, and so hid, and hard to understand, that it is in a manner impossible to know, utter, or number them! Wherefore, he having a true, earnest, and deep contemplation and consideration of his sins, and yet not coming to the bottom of them, he maketh supplication to God to forgive him his privy, secret, hid sins; to the knowledge of which he cannot attain (Psalm xix. 12; [xl. 12]). He weigheth rightly his sins from the original root and spring-head; perceiving inclinations, provocations, stirrings, stingings, buds, branches, dregs, infections, tastes, feelings, and scents of them to continue in him still. Wherefore he saith, Mark and behold, I was conceived in sins (Psalm li. 5): he saith not sin, but in the plural number, sins ; forasmuch as out of one, as a fountain, spring all the rest. Our Saviour Christ saith, There is none good but God; and that, We can do nothing that is good without him, and No man can come to the Father but by him (Mark x. 18; Luke xviii. 19; John xv. 5; [John xiv. 6]). He commandeth us also to say, that we be unprofitable servants, when we have done all that we can do (Luke xvii. 10). He preferreth the penitent publican before the proud, holy, and glorious Pharisee (Luke xviii. 14). He calleth himself a Physician, but not to thein that be whole, but to them that be sick, and have need of his salve for their sore (Matt. ix. 12). He teacheth us in our prayers. to acknowledge ourselves sinners, and to ask righteousness and deliverance from all evils, at our heavenly Father's hand. He declareth that the sins of our own hearts do defile our own selves. He teacheth that an evil word or thought deserveth condemnation, affirming, that we shall give account for every idle word (Matt. xii. 36). He saith, He came not to save but the sheep thut were utterly lost and cast away (Matt.
24). Therefore few of the proud, just, learned, wise, perfect, and holy Pharisees were saved by him, because
they justified themselves by their counterfeit holiness be
Wherefore, good people, let us beware of such hypocrisy, vain-glory, and justifying of ourselves.
THE SECOND PART OF THE SERMON OF THE MISERY
FORASMUCH as the true knowledge of ourselves is very necessary to come to the right knowledge of God; ye have heard in the last reading, how humbly all godly men always have thought of themselves; and so to think and judge of themselves, are taught of God their Creator, by his holy word. For of ourselves we be crab-trees, that can bring forth no apples. We be of ourselves of such earth, as can bring
forth but weeds, nettles, brambles, briers, cockle, and darnel. Our fruits be declared in the fifth chapter to the Galatians. We have neither faith, charity, hope, patience, chastity, nor any thing else that good is, but of God; and therefore these virtues be called there the fruits of the Holy Ghost, and not the fruits of man (Gal. v. 19-23). Let us therefore acknowledge ourselves before God (as we be indeed) miserable and wretched sinners. And let us earnestly repent, and humble ourselves heartily, and cry to God for mercy. Let us all confess with mouth and heart, that we be full of imperfections. Let us know our own works, of what imperfection they be, and then we shall not stand foolishly and arrogantly in our own conceits, nor challenge any part of justification by our merits or works. For truly there be imperfections in our best works: we do not love God so much as we are bound to do, with all our heart, mind, and power: we do not fear God so much as we ought to do: we do not pray to God, but with great and many imperfections : we give, forgive, believe, live, and hope imperfectly: we speak, think, and do imperfectly : we fight against the devil, the world, and the flesh imperfectly. Let us therefore not be ashamed to confess plainly our state of imperfection : yea, let us not be ashamed to confess imperfection, even in all our best works. Let none of us be ashamed to say with holy St. Peter, I am a sinful man (Luke v. 8). Let us all say with the holy prophet David, We have sinned with