Unknown.

An English Garner Critical Essays & Literary Fragments online

. (page 27 of 31)
Online LibraryUnknownAn English Garner Critical Essays & Literary Fragments → online text (page 27 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Covenant, of Faith. The Old Covenant was by MOSES; The New, by CHRIST.
The Old was heretofore; the New, afterwards. The Old was first; the New
was second. Old things are passed away: behold, all things are become
new." And so the business was very fundamentally done.

I shall say no more upon this subject, but this one thing, which relates
to what was said a little before. He that has got a set of similitudes
calculated according to the old philosophy, and PTOLEMY's system of the
world, must burn his commonplace book, and go a-gleaning for new ones; it
being, nowadays, much more gentle and warrantable to take a similitude
from the Man in the Moon than from _solid_ orbs: for though few people do
absolutely believe that there is any such Eminent Person there; yet the
thing is possible, whereas the other is not.


I have now done, Sir, with that imprudent way of speaking by Metaphor and
Simile. There are many other things commonly spoken out of the pulpit,
that are much to the disadvantage and discredit of the Clergy; that ought
also to be briefly hinted. And that I may the better light upon them, I
shall observe their _common method of Preaching_.

[1.] Before the text be divided, a _Preface_ is to be made.

And it is a great chance if, first of all, the Minister does not make his
text to be _like something or other_.

For example. One, he tells you, "And now, methinks, my Text, like an
ingenious [_clever_] Picture, looks upon all here present: in which, both
nobles and people, may behold their sin and danger represented." This was
a text out of _Hosea_. Now, had it been out of any other place of the
_Bible_; the gentleman was sufficiently resolved to make it like "an
ingenious Picture."

Another taking, perhaps, the very same words, says, "I might compare my
Text to the mountains of Bether, where the LORD disports Himself like a
young hart or a pleasant roe among the spices."

Another man's Text is "like the rod of MOSES, to divide the waves of
sorrow"; or "like the mantle of ELIJAH, to restrain the swelling floods
of grief."

Another gets to his Text thus, "As SOLOMON went up six steps to come to
the great Throne of Ivory, so must I ascend six degrees to come to the
high top-meaning of my Text."

Another thus, "As DEBORAH arose, and went with BARAK to Kadesh; so, if
you will go with him, and call in the third verse of the chapters he will
shew you the meaning of his Text."

Another, he fancies his Text to be extraordinarily like to "an orchard of
pomegranates;" or like "St. MATTHEW sitting at the receipt of custom;" or
like "the dove that NOAH sent out of the Ark."

I believe there are above forty places of Scripture, that have been "like
RACHEL and LEAH": and there is one in _Genesis_, as I well remember, that
is "like a pair of compasses stradling." And, if I be not much mistaken,
there is one, somewhere else, that is "like a man going to Jericho."

Now, Sir, having thus made the way to the Text as smooth and plain as
anything, with a _Preface_, perhaps from ADAM, though his business lie at
the other end of the _Bible_: in the next place; [2] he comes to _divide
the Text_.

_Hic labor, hoc opus
Per varios casus, per tot discrimina rerum,
Silvestrem tenui_.

Now, come off the gloves! and the hands being well chafed [_rubbed
together_]; he shrinks up his shoulders, and stretches forth himself as
if he were going to cleave a bullock's head, or rive the body of an oak!

But we must observe, that there is a great difference of Texts. For all
Texts come not asunder alike! For sometimes the words naturally _fall_
asunder! sometimes they _drop_ asunder! sometimes they _melt_! sometimes
they _untwist_! and there be some words so willing to be parted that they
_divide themselves_! to the great ease and rejoicing of the Minister.

But if they will not easily come to pieces, then he falls to hacking and
hewing! as if he would make all fly into shivers! The truth of it is, I
have known, now and then, some knotty Texts, that have been divided seven
or eight times over! before they could make them _split_ handsomely,
according to their mind.

But then comes the Joy of Joys! when the Parts jingle! or begin with the
same Letter! and especially if in Latin.

O how it tickled the Divider! when he got his Text into those two
excellent branches, _Accusatio vera: Comminatio severa_: "A Charge full
of Verity: A Discharge of Severity." And, I will warrant you! that did
not please a little, viz., "there are in the words, _duplex miraculum;
Miraculum in modo_ and _Miraculum in nodo_."

But the luckiest I have met withal, both for Wit and Keeping of the
Letter, is upon these words of _St. Matthew_ xii. 43, 44, 45: "When the
unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places,
seeking rest and finding none. Then he saith I will return," &c.

In which words, all these strange things were found out. First, there was
a _Captain_ and a _Castle_. (Do you see. Sir, the same letter!) Then,
there was an _ingress_, an _egress_; and a _regress_ or _reingress_.
Then, there was _unroosting_ and _unresting_. Then, there were _number_
and _name, manner_ and _measure, trouble_ and _trial, resolution_ and
_revolution, assaults_ and _assassination, voidness_ and _vacuity_. This
was done at the same time, by the same man! But, to confess the truth of
it! it was a good long Text; and so, he had the greater advantage.

But for a short Text, that, certainly, was the greatest _break_ that ever
was! which was occasioned from those words of _St. Luke_ xxiii. 28, "Weep
not for me, weep for yourselves!" or as some read it, "but weep for
yourselves!"

It is a plain case, Sir! Here are but eight words; and the business was
cunningly ordered, that there sprang out eight Parts. "Here are," says
the Doctor, "eight Words, and eight Parts!

"1. Weep not!
2. But weep!
3. Weep not, but weep!
4. Weep for me!
5. For yourselves!
6. For me, for yourselves!
7. Weep not for me!
8. But weep for yourselves!

"That is to say, North, North-and-by-East, North-North-East, North-East
and by North, North-East, North-East and by East, East-North-East, East
and by North, East."

Now, it seems not very easy to determine, who has obliged the world most;
he that found out the Compass, or he that divided the fore-mentioned Text?
But I suppose the cracks [_claps_] will go generally upon the Doctor's
side! by reason what he did, was done by undoubted Art and absolute
industry: but as for the other, the common report is that it was found
out by mere foolish fortune. Well, let it go how it will! questionless,
they will be both famous in their way, and honourably mentioned to
posterity.

Neither ought he to be altogether slighted, who taking that of _Genesis_
xlviii. 2 for his text; viz., "And one told JACOB, and said, 'Behold, thy
son JOSEPH cometh unto thee!'" presently perceived, and made it out to his
people, that his Text was "a spiritual Dial."

"For," says he, "here be in my Text, twelve words, which do
plainly represent the twelve hours. _And one told JACOB, and
said, 'Thy son JOSEPH cometh unto thee!'_ And here is, besides,
_Behold_, which is the Hand of the Dial, that turns and points at
every word of the Text. _And one told JACOB, and said, 'Behold,
thy son JOSEPH cometh unto thee!'_ For it is not said, _Behold
JACOB!_ or _Behold JOSEPH!_ but it is, _And one told JACOB, and
said, Behold, thy son JOSEPH cometh unto thee_. That it is say,
Behold _And_, Behold _one_, Behold _told_, Behold _JACOB_. Again
Behold _and_, Behold _said_, and also Behold _Behold_, &c. Which
is the reason that this word _Behold_ is placed in the middle of
the other twelve words, indifferently pointing to each word.

"Now, as it needs must be One of the Clock before it can be Two
or Three; so I shall handle this word _And_, the first word of
the Text, before I meddle with the following.

"And _one told JACOB_. The word _And_ is but a particle, and a
small one: but small things are not to be despised. _St. Matthew_
xviii. 10, _Take heed that you despise not one of these little
ones_. For this _And_ is as the tacks and loops amongst the
curtains of the Tabernacle. The tacks put into the loops did
couple the curtains of the Tent and sew the Tent together: so
this particle _And_ being put into the loops of the words
immediately before the Text, does couple the Text to the
foregoing verse, and sews them close together."

I shall not trouble you, Sir, with the rest: being much after this witty
rate, and to as much purpose.


But we will go on, if you please, Sir! to [3] the cunning _Observations,
Doctrines, and Inferences_ that are commonly made and raised from places
of Scripture.

One takes that for his Text, _Psalm_ lxviii. 3, _But let the righteous be
glad_. From whence, he raises this doctrine, that "there is a Spirit of
Singularity in the Saints of GOD: but let the righteous - " a doctrine, I
will warrant him! of his own raising; it being not very easy for anybody
to prevent him!

Another, he takes that of _Isaiah_ xli. 14, 15, _Fear not, thou worm
JACOB_! &c.... _thou shalt thresh the mountains._ Whence he observes that
"the worm JACOB was a threshing worm!"

Another, that of _Genesis_ xliv. 1. _And he commanded the Steward of the
house, saying, Fill the men's sacks with food, as much as they can
carry_: and makes this note from the words.

That "great sacks and many sacks will hold more than few sacks
and little ones. For look," says he, "how they came prepared with
sacks and beasts, so they were sent back with corn! The greater,
and the more sacks they had prepared, the more corn they carry
away! if they had prepared but small sacks, and a few; they had
carried away the less!"

Verily, and indeed extraordinarily true!

Another, he falls upon that of _Isaiah_ lviii. 5, _Is it such a fast that
I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his
head like a bulrush?_ The Observation is that "Repentance for an hour, or
a day, is not worth a bulrush!" And, there, I think, he hit the business!


But of these, Sir, I can shew you a whole book full, in a treatise called
_Flames and Discoveries_, consisting of very notable and extraordinary
things which the inquisitive Author had privately observed and
discovered, upon reading the Evangelists; as for example:

Upon reading that of _St. John_, chapter ii. verse 15, _And when
he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of
the Temple_; this prying Divine makes these discoveries, "I
discover," says he, "in the first place, that in the Church or
Temple, a scourge may be made, _And when he had made a scourge_.
Secondly, that it may be made use of, _he drove them all out of
the Temple_." And it was a great chance that he had not
discovered a third thing; and that is, that the scourge was made,
before it was made use of.

Upon _Matthew_ iv. 25, _And there followed him great multitudes
of people from Galilee_, "I discover," says he, "when JESUS
prevails with us, we shall soon leave our Galilees! I discover
also," says he, "a great miracle, viz.: that the way after JESUS
being straight, that such a multitude should follow him."

_Matthew_ v. 1. _And seeing the multitude, he went up into a
mountain_. Upon this, he discovers several very remarkable things.
First, he discovers that "CHRIST went _from the multitude_."
Secondly, that "it is safe to take warning at our eyes, for _seeing
the multitude, he went up_." Thirdly, "it is not fit to be always
upon the plains and flats with the multitude: but, _if we be risen
with CHRIST, to seek those things that are above_."

He discovers also very strange things, from the latter part of
the fore-mentioned verse. _And when he was set, his disciples
came unto him_. 1. CHRIST is not always in motion, _And when he
was set_. 2. He walks not on the mountain, but sits, _And when he
was set_. From whence also, in the third place, he advises
people, that "when they are teaching they should not move too
much, for that is to be _carried to and fro with every wind of
doctrine_." Now, certainly, never was this place of Scripture
more seasonably brought in.

Now, Sir, if you be for a very short and witty discovery, let it
be upon that of _St. Matthew_ vi. 27. _Which of you, by taking
thought, can add one cubit unto his stature?_ The discovery is
this, that "whilst the disciples were taking thought for a cubit;
CHRIST takes them down a cubit lower!"

Notable also are two discoveries made upon _St. Matthew_ viii. 1.
1. That "CHRIST went down, as well as went up. _When he came down
from the mountain_." 2. That "the multitude did not go 'hail
fellow well met!' with him, nor before him; _for great multitudes
followed him_."

I love, with all my heart, when people can prove what they say. For there
be many that will talk of their Discoveries and spiritual Observations;
and when all comes to all, they are nothing but pitiful guesses and
slender conjectures.

In like manner, that was no contemptible discovery that was made
upon _St. Matthew_ viii. 19. _And a certain Scribe came and, said,
"Master, I will follow thee wheresoever thou goest."_ "A _thou_
shall be followed more than a _that_. _I will follow_ thee
_wheresoever thou goest_."

And, in my opinion, that was not altogether amiss, upon _St.
Matthew_ xi. 2. _Now when JOHN had heard in prison the works of
CHRIST, he sent two of his disciples_. The discovery is this. That
"it is not good sending single to CHRIST, _he sent two of his
disciples_."

Some also, possibly may not dislike that upon _St. Luke_ xii, 35.
_Let your loins be girded_. "I discover," says he, "there must be
a holy girding and trussing up for heaven."

But I shall end all, with that very politic one that he makes upon
_St. Matthew_ xii. 47. _Then said one unto him "Behold thy mother
and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee." But
he answered and said, "Who is my mother? and who are my
brethren?"_ "I discover now," says he, "that JESUS is upon
business."

Doubtless, this was one of the greatest Discoverers of Hidden Mysteries,
and one of the most Pryers into Spiritual Secrets that ever the world was
owner of. It was very well that he happened upon the godly calling, and no
secular employment: or else, in good truth! down had they all gone! Turk!
Pope! and Emperor! for he would have discovered them, one way or another,
every man!


Not much unlike to these wonderful Discoverers, are they who, choosing to
preach on some Point in Divinity, shall purposely avoid all such plain
Texts as might give them very just occasion to discourse upon their
intended subject, and shall pitch upon some other places of Scripture,
which no creature in the world but themselves, did ever imagine that
which they offer to be therein designed. My meaning, Sir, is this.

Suppose you have a mind to make a sermon concerning Episcopacy, as in the
late times [_the Commonwealth_] there were several occasions for it, you
must, by no means, take any place of Scripture that proves or favours
that kind of Ecclesiastical Government! for then the plot will be
discovered; and the people will say to themselves, "We know where to find
you! You intend to preach about Episcopacy!" But you must take _Acts_,
chapter xvi. verse 30, _Sirs, what must I do to be saved?_ An absolute
place for Episcopacy! that all former Divines had idly overlooked! For
_Sirs_ being in the Greek [Greek: Kurioi], which is to say, in true and
strict translation, _Lords_, what is more plain than, that of old,
Episcopacy was not only the acknowledged Government; but that Bishops
were formerly Peers of the Realm, and so ought to sit in the House of
Lords!

Or, suppose that you have a mind to commend to your people, Kingly
Government: you must not take any place that is plainly to the purpose!
but' that of the Evangelist, _Seek first the Kingdom of GOD_! From which
words, the doctrine will plainly be, that Monarchy or Kingly Government
is most according to the mind of GOD. For it is not said, "seek the
_Parliament_ of GOD!" "the _Army_ of GOD!" or "the _Committee of Safety_
of GOD!" but it is "seek the _Kingdom_ of GOD!" And who could expect
less? Immediately after this [_i.e., this argument_], the King came in,
and the Bishops were restored [1660 A.D.].

Again, Sir (because I would willingly be understood), suppose you design
to preach about Election and Reprobation. As for the eighth chapter to
the _Romans_, that is too well known! but there is a little private place
in the _Psalms_ that will do the business as well! Psalm xc. 19, _In the
multitude of my thoughts within me, thy comforts delight my soul_.

The doctrine, which naturally flows from the words, will be that amongst
_the multitude of thoughts_, there is a great thought of Election and
Reprobation; and then, away with the Point! according as the preacher is
inclined.

Or suppose, lastly, that you were not fully satisfied that Pluralities
were lawful or convenient. May I be so bold, Sir? I pray, what Text would
you choose to preach up against non-residents? Certainly, nothing ever was
better picked than that of _St. Matthew_ i. 2. _ABRAHAM begat ISAAC_. A
clear place against non-residents! for "had ABRAHAM not resided, but had
discontinued from SARAH his wife, he could never have begotten ISAAC!"


But it is high time, Sir, to make an end of their preaching, lest you be
as much tired with the repetition of it, as the people were little
benefited when they heard it.

I shall only mind you, Sir, of one thing more; and that is [4] the
ridiculous, senseless, and unintended use which many of them make of
_Concordances_.

I shall give you but one instance of it, although I could furnish you
with a hundred printed ones.

The Text, Sir, is this, _Galatians_ vi. 15, _For in CHRIST JESUS neither
Circumcision nor Uncircumcision avail anything; but a new creature_. Now,
all the world knows the meaning of this to be, that, let a man be of what
nation he will, Jew or Gentile, if he amends his life, and walks
according to the Gospel, he shall be accepted with GOD.

But this is not the way that pleases them! They must bring into the
sermon, to no purpose at all! a vast heap of places of Scripture, which
the _Concordance_ will furnish them with, where the word _new_ is
mentioned.

And the Observation must be that "GOD is for _new_ things. GOD is
for _a_ new _creature. St. John_ xix, 41, _Now in the place when
he was crucified, there was a garden; and in the garden a new
sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There they laid JESUS_.
And again _St. Mark_ xvi. 17. CHRIST tells his disciples that they
that are true believers, shall cast out devils, and speak _with_
new _tongues_. And likewise, the prophet teaches us, _Isaiah_
xlii. 10, _Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise to the
end of the earth_.

"Whence it is plain that CHRIST is not for _old_ things. He is not
for an _old sepulchre_. He is not for _old tongues_. He is not for
an _old song_. He is not for an _old creature_. CHRIST is for a
_new creature! Circumcision and Uncircumcision availeth nothing,
but a new creature_. And what do we read concerning SAMSON?
_Judges_ xv, 15. Is it not that he slew a thousand of the
Philistines with one _new_ jawbone? An _old_ one might have killed
its tens, its twenties, its hundreds! but it must be a _new_
jawbone that is able to kill a thousand! GOD is for the _new
creature_!

"But may not some say, 'Is GOD altogether for new things?' How
comes it about then, that the prophet says, _Isaiah_ i. 13, 14,
_Bring no more vain oblations! &c. Your new Moons, and your
appointed Feasts, my soul hateth!_ And again, what means that,
_Deuteronomy_ xxxii. 17, 19, _They sacrificed unto devils, and to
new gods, whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up....
And when the LORD saw it, He abhorred them!_ To which I answer,
that GOD indeed is not for _new moons_, nor for _new gods_; but,
excepting _moons_ and _gods_, He is for the _new creature_."


It is possible, Sir, that somebody besides yourself, may be so vain as to
read this _Letter_: and they may perhaps tell you, that there be no such
silly and useless people as I have described. And if there be, there be
not above two or three in a country [_county_]. Or should there be, it is
no such complaining matter: seeing that the same happens in other
professions, in Law and Physic: in both [of] which, there be many a
contemptible creature.

Such therefore as these, may be pleased to know that, if there had been
need, I could have told them, either the book (and very page almost) of
all that has been spoken about Preaching, or else the When and Where, and
the Person that preached it.

As to the second, viz.: that the Clergy are all mightily furnished with
Learning and Prudence; except ten, twenty, or so; I shall not say
anything myself, because a very great Scholar of our nation shall speak
for me: who tells us that "such Preaching as is usual, is a hindrance of
Salvation rather than the means to it." And what he intends by "usual," I
shall not here go about to explain.

And as to the last, I shall also, in short, answer, That if the
Advancement of true Religion and the eternal Salvation of a Man were no
more considerable than the health of his body and the security of his
estate; we need not be more solicitous about the Learning and Prudence of
the Clergy, than of the Lawyers and Physicians. But we believing it to be
otherwise, surely, we ought to be more concerned for the reputation and
success of the one than of the other.


I come now, Sir, to the Second Part that was designed, viz.: _the Poverty
of some of the Clergy_. By whose mean condition, their Sacred Profession
is much disparaged, and their Doctrine undervalued. What large
provisions, of old, GOD was pleased to make for the Priesthood, and upon
what reasons, is easily seen to any one that but looks into the _Bible_.
The Levites, it is true, were left out, in the Division of the
Inheritance; not to their loss, but to their great temporal advantage.
For whereas, had they been common sharers with the rest, a Twelfth part
only would have been their just allowance; GOD was pleased to settle upon
them, a Tenth, and that without any trouble or charge of tillage: which
made their portion much more considerable than the rest.

And as this provision was very bountiful, so the reasons, no question!
were very Divine and substantial: which seem chiefly to be these two.

First, that the Priesthood might be altogether at leisure for the service
of GOD: and that they of that Holy Order might not be distracted with the
cares of the world; and interrupted by every neighbour's horse or cow
that breaks their hedges or shackles [_or hobbled, feeds among_] their
corn. But that living a kind of spiritual life, and being removed a
little from all worldly affairs; they might always be fit to receive holy
inspirations, and always ready to search out the Mind of GOD, and to
advise and direct the people therein.

Not as if this Divine exemption of them from the common troubles and
cares of this life was intended as an opportunity of luxury and laziness:
for certainly, there is a labour besides digging! and there is a true
carefulness without following the plough, and looking after their cattle!

And such was the employment of those holy men of old. Their care and
business was to please GOD, and to charge themselves with the welfare of
all His people: which thing, he that does it with a good and satisfied
conscience, I will assure he has a task upon him much beyond them that
have for their care, their hundreds of oxen and five hundreds of sheep.

Another reason that this large allowance was made to the Priests, was
that they might be enabled to relieve the poor, to entertain strangers,
and thereby to encourage people in the ways of godliness. For they being,
in a peculiar manner, the servants of GOD, GOD was pleased to entrust in
their hands, a portion more than ordinary of the good things of the land,
as the safest Storehouse and Treasury for such as were in need.

That, in all Ages therefore, there should be a continued tolerable



Online LibraryUnknownAn English Garner Critical Essays & Literary Fragments → online text (page 27 of 31)