ŇBy faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.Ó Hebrews 11:5.
The second example of faith is taken also out of the old world before the flood; and it is of Enoch, the seventh from Adam; to whom strange and miraculous things befell by reason of his faith.
I. Let the meaning of the words be first examined:
That is, by his confidence in the Messiah, or his saving faith; he was taken away.
That is, from earth to heaven, not by an ordinary work, but miraculously; this is evident by the next words:
That he should not see death
That is, that he should not feel death, nor any dissolution of soul and body; and therefore his taking away was miraculous. For to be taken away by death is an ordinary work; but to be taken away and yet not die, that is miraculous and extraordinary; and such was Enoch.
So then, the substance of these words is thus much: Enoch having this grace from God, to believe steadfastly in the Messiah to come, was likewise honoured with this high prerogative, to be taken into heaven without tasting of death, and to the end that he might not die. Thus we have the meaning.
Now concerning this translation of Enoch, there are two opinions:
1. Some think he was translated in soul only, and not in body; and they say he died in the translation, so as his soul was only taken up in to heaven, and his body slept in the earth. Though this appears false at first sight, yet let us see their reasons, and what they can say for themselves.
(i) The first reason is this: That no mortal body unglorified can enter into heaven; but there is no mention of his glorification, therefore his body could not come in heaven.
Answer: It is certain it was glorified ere it came in heaven. If they reply, It is not mentioned; I answer, it followeth not, that therefore it was not; for every circumstance of every action is not mentioned. For many circumstances of actions must necessarily be supposed, and such an one was this. Again, the glorification of his body is here plainly enough implied where it is said, he was translated, that he should not see death. Now, if his body saw not death, it was made immortal, which is a special part of glorification.
(ii) Their second reason: Christ was the first that ever entered into heaven both in body and soul; and for proof thereof they bring St. Paul, where he saith: Christ is the firstfruits of them that sleep (1 Cor. 15:20).
Answer: True indeed of them that sleep, that is of all that die; for Christ entered into heaven both in body and soul first of all them; but Enoch never died, as the text here avoucheth. Therefore that place hinders not, but Enoch might be in heaven in his body before ChristŐs human flesh ascended thither.
(iii) Thirdly, they argue out of St John: No man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended; the Son of man which is in heaven (John 3:13). But, say they, this Son of man is not Enoch but Christ; therefore none but Christ ascended bodily into heaven.
Answer: That place is not meant of corporal ascending, but of understanding mystical and heavenly things. No man ascendeth to the full knowledge of heavenly mysteries but Christ alone, who descended from the bosom of His Father.
And thus we see, this opinion hath no strength of argument to rest upon; but we may safely hold (notwithstanding anything that can be said against it) that Enoch was translated both in body and soul. And if any man yet doubt how he could be taken up in body before he was glorified; we are to know, though he died not, yet his body was changed, as those men shall be which shall be found alive at the last day (1 Thess. 4:17).
2. The second opinion is that Enoch was taken up in soul and body into Paradise (some say the heavenly, but the most the earthly paradise), and there lives in his mortal and corruptible body, and must before the last day come again in his body with Elias and fight against Antichrist; and when by their doctrine they have overcome him, he shall by violence kill them, and so they shall die martyrs. And this is the general received opinion of most papists. But it is a mere conceit, and a dream, and there is no ground for it, but good argument against it.
For first, as for the earthly paradise, it was defaced by the flood; nor do we read that ever man was in it but Adam. And some of their own fables tell us that Seth went to the gates of Paradise, when his father Adam was sick, to get some Physick out of Paradise for his father, but he could not get in. Nor do we find any mention of it afterwards. So that it is likely in all reason that it was defaced by the universal flood.
And if they mean he was translated into the heavenly Paradise, I answer, thither can no unclean thing come. But a mortal body is unclean, and themselves say he was taken away in his mortal body, and in it shall come again and die. Therefore Enoch having a mortal and unglorified body cannot be in the highest heavens; into which nothing can enter which is not glorified and made immortal.
If they allege Ecclesiasticus 44:16, Enoch pleased God and was translated into Paradise, etc., I answer, we need not call in question the authority of the book, nor answer that it is not in the canon of faith. For the text is corrupted wilfully by some that shewed themselves in the Latin too bold with the text, both there and elsewhere; for in the Greek original there is no such matter as Paradise, but the words are these: Enoch pleased God and was translated for an example of repentance to the generations. And thus we see this opinion is every way erroneous, and hath no shadow of reason in it, nor for it.
Seeing therefore both these opinions are to be refuted, let us in few words set down the true and orthodox judgment of the church, out of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. And it is this: That this holy man, by GodŐs special favour to him, was assumed into heaven both body and soul; his soul being perfectly sanctified, and his body glorified in the instant of his translation; and there he remaineth in glory, expecting the general resurrection, and the full glorification of all GodŐs elect.
Out of this translation of Enoch, we may learn:
1. First, that there is a life everlasting prepared of God for His children, wherein they shall live forever both in soul and body; for hereof hath God given us most evident testimonies, both here in Enoch and afterwards in Elias; Elias a Jew, Enoch none; Enoch in the first world, Elias in the second; Enoch before the flood, Elias after; Enoch uncircumcised, Elias circumcised; Enoch married, Elias unmarried: and both were assumed into heaven in soul and body, and are there to this day, and tarry for us till the end of the world; assuring us that our souls live forever, and that our bodies, though they die, shall rise again to life. Here therefore we have a notable ground for that last (but not least) article of our faith, where we profess to believe life everlasting.
2. Secondly, in this example we learn that God is not tied to the order of nature. The order which God established and set down concerning all men after AdamŐs fall is this: Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return (Gen. 3:19). By virtue of this decree, all men are to die, as sure as they once lived; and when that time appointed by God is come, all the world cannot save one man, but accordingly die he must. But here notwithstanding we see, God that tied man to this order is not tied Himself. Enoch and Elias are exempted, they die not, their bodies never turned to dust; such is the power of God over the order of nature, in all natural actions.
3. Thirdly, whereas the papists hold that all the fathers who died before Christ were in Limbus (a place out of heaven), and came not into heaven till Christ fetched them thence and carried them with Him at His ascension; here we learn that it is most false and forged. For here we see Enoch, and afterwards Elias, were in heaven both in body and soul, many hundred years before ChristŐs incarnation; whereby (as also by many other evidences that might be brought) it is apparent that Limbus Patrum is nothing but a device of that heretical church of Rome.
II. Hitherto hath the Holy Ghost avouched the translation of Enoch. Now he proveth substantially that he was taken away.
Neither was he found for God had taken him away.
And for his proof he first layeth down his ground; then he thereupon frameth his argument, consisting in divers degrees of demonstration. The ground is the plain and evident testimony of the Old Testament in Genesis; where the words are these: Enoch was not found, or not seen, for God took him away (Gen. 5:24). Against this ground, being the very words of the Old Testament, no man can take exception. And here in a word, let us all mark the high and sovereign authority of GodŐs Word, which even the Holy Ghost Himself vouchsafeth to allege for the confirmation of His own words. It had been sufficient that the Holy Ghost here affirmed Enoch to be taken away; but we see He proves it out of the Old Testament; so also did the apostles, and Christ Himself, all their doctrine.
Let this teach all men to give due reverence to the Holy Scriptures; let teachers allege them, let hearers receive them far above all human testimonies, seeing the Holy Ghost Himself vouchsafeth to confirm His own words by the authority thereof.
Secondly, having laid this ground, the Holy Ghost frames His argument, to prove that Enoch was taken away by faith; and it consisteth of many degrees of evidence.
III. For before he was taken away, he was reported of that he pleased God. But without faith, it is impossible to please God.
The degree of the argument are these:
1. God Himself took Enoch away.
2. Before he was taken away, he pleased God.
3. But without faith, no man can please God.
Therefore Enoch by faith was taken away.
1. The first degree, that Enoch was taken away, and was not found any more in this world hath been sufficiently spoken of already.
2. The second degree is, that before he was taken away, he pleased God: which is not barely affirmed, but it is further added that he was reported, or he received testimony, that he pleased God.
Now, this report or testimony is taken out of the story of Genesis, where it is affirmed of Enoch that he walked with God; which walking with God is an assured testimony the he pleased God; for (as the prophet Amos sayeth), Can two walk together unless they be agreed? (Amos 3:3). Therefore inasmuch as Enoch walked with God, it is proof sufficient that he pleased God; and because he pleased God, therefore God took him away. So that here are two distinct points in the second degree: First, that Enoch pleased God, Secondly, that there is a report or a testimony given of him that he did please God.
(i) In the first, let us observe these special points of instruction:
First, in that Enoch, before he was taken away, pleased God: let us learn that whosoever looks to have his soul translated into heaven at his death, and both body and soul at the resurrection, must beforehand in this life learn to please God; they must seek to please God, not when the time of translation is come, but before, as here it is said Enoch did.
If any man demand, How shall I please God? My answer is this: Adam pleased God by keeping the Law; but now that is past, that power is lost. We must now please God by direction from the Gospel, namely, by faith in Christ and true repentance, together with a holy life (which must necessarily accompany true faith and repentance), thus God is pleased. And this must we not defer till our death, but do it in our lives. Nor can we look to be inheritors of the kingdom of glory as now Enoch is, unless beforehand we be in the kingdom of grace, by pleasing God as Enoch did. It is lamentable to see men not care for salvation till death, and then they begin to please God, but alas, God will not be so pleased. They begin to learn how to please God, when they have so long displeased Him, as there is then fear they can never please Him; but that man liveth and dieth with comfort, of whom it may be said, as here of Enoch, before he was taken away, he pleased God.
Again, whereas he came not in heaven till he pleased God; this discovers the madness of sinful men, who will look for heaven and yet will leave no sin, but flatter themselves therein. But let all impenitent men here take knowledge that they come not into heaven till they please God; let them therefore cease pleasing themselves, and their corruptions, by living in sin, and learn to please God by a holy life.
And further, in this point, mark how nothing brought Enoch to heaven but his pleasing of God. He was rich, for he was one of the greatest on the earth; he was royally descended, for he was the seventh from Adam in the blessed line; he was learned, for he had the six first Patriarchs to teach him, six such tutors as never man had; and it is likely he had a comely, strong and active body. But see, all these brought him not to heaven; no, he pleased God, and was therefore taken away.
Let this teach us not to rest in wealth, beauty, strength, honour, human learning, nor all these put together, without the fear of God; for some of them may please thyself, and some may please other men; but God must be pleased before thou come into heaven, if thou wert as good as Enoch. Therefore unto all thy outward blessings add this: To please God by faith and repentance. Then as thy pleasing of men may make thee happy in this world, so thy pleasing of God shall translate thee from earth to heaven.
Thus we see, Enoch, before he was translated, pleased God.
(ii) Secondly, as he pleased God, and else could not have been translated; so it is added that he was so reported of, or there was such a testimony of him. That proof or testimony is here concealed, but it is recorded in the story of Genesis where it is said, Enoch walked with God; which as we heard before, was an assured testimony that God was well pleased with him.
But what is this, he walked with God; how can a man be said to walk with God? The meaning is that Enoch lived a godly, righteous and innocent life in this world; for to live in holiness and righteousness is to walk with God. And further, his heart was possessed of two persuasions or resolutions, which were the inducements drawing him to this holy life.
First, that he was always in GodŐs presence, and that God is always ready to dispose of all things to his good.
Again, that God did see, try and discern all his words and deeds, yea, his cogitations and thoughts, and the whole course of his life. These were the holy resolutions of Enoch, and these made him lead an holy life.
This lesson is worth learning, and this example worthy to be followed of us all. Our duty is with Enoch, to walk with God in this life, if we purpose to live with God in heaven. And we walk with God by leading holy and unblameable lives, in holiness towards God, and righteousness towards man. But if we think this hard to do, we must labour to be resolved on these grounds: First, that God and His providence is ever present with us, to dispose of us always to His glory, and of all other things to our good. Secondly, that as we are in GodŐs presence, so God seeth us, and all our thoughts, words and works, bargains and dealings, and will judge them all.
When these two persuasions possess our hearts, it cannot be but that we shall live godly, and fear to offend God; for as a child is dutiful and obedient in his fatherŐs presence, so when a man is persuaded he is in GodŐs presence, it cannot but make him dutiful. When a man is persuaded that God seeth him, he will take heed what he doth; and that God heareth him, he will temper his tongue; and that God beholdeth all his dealings in the world, he will take heed how he borroweth, lendeth, buyeth or selleth, and what he doth in all his actions; and the very cause of all carelessness in these and all other duties in the world is because men are persuaded that God seeth them not.
To urge us therefore to this excellent duty, we have:
(1). First, GodŐs commandment: Walk before me and be upright, saith God to Abraham (Gen. 17:1), and in him to all the children of his faith.
(2). Again, we have the examples of GodŐs children, who are renowned for the obedience of this commandment; Enoch here, after him Abraham, and after him David, who testifieth of himself, I will walk before God in the land of the living (Psa. 116:9).
(3). Thirdly, as it is both commanded by precept, and practiced by example; so the proof of it is most comfortable to all that practice it; for it will make them prosper in all they go about. For, as he that is always in the kingŐs presence and company, cannot but be in his favour, and therefore cannot but succeed well in all his affairs; so he that walks with God, cannot but prosper in whatsoever he sets his heart and hand unto. Blessed Abraham found this most true, when he assured his servant whom he sent to provide Isaac a wife, in a long and doubtful and dangerous journey. The Lord before whom I walk shall send his angel with thee, and prosper thy journey (Gen. 24:40); and even so may every child of God say with confidence: The Lord before whom I walk will send his angel with me, and prosper me in my proceedings.
(4). Fourthly, this walking with God is a good means to make a man bear the cross with patience. For if he be persuaded that God seeth how wrongfully he is persecuted or oppressed, and that GodŐs providence is always present so as no affliction can come unto him but by His appointment; and again that His providence disposeth of all things to his good, how can he but receive with patience that portion of afflictions which God shall lay upon him? For as he that walks with the king, who dare offer him wrong? So, he that walks with God, what evil can touch him? This is JosephŐs argument to his brethren when they were discomforted and feared he would punish them after their fatherŐs death: Fear not (saith he), for am not I under God? (Gen. 50:19). As though he had said, Do not I walk in GodŐs presence and acknowledge myself under His power? And that God, when you thought evil against me, disposed it to good. Where the ground of JosephŐs reason is that he walked with God, his afflictions turned to his good.
(5). Lastly, this is a means to bring a man to make conscience of all sin, in thought, word and deed, and in all his dealings, when he persuades himself to walk in the presence of God. When Joseph was allured to sin by his mistress, his answer was, How shall I commit this great wickedness, and to sin against God? (Gen 39:9). The bridle that restrained him was the fear of that God in whose presence he walked; and because he walked with God, he would not walk with her in her wicked way; and because he kept a holy company with God, therefore he would not keep her company, nor be allured by her temptations.
So then seeing this way of walking with God is every way excellent and so profitable, let us learn it not in judgment and knowledge only, to be able to talk of it (which is soon learned); but in conscience and practice (as dutiful children do before their parents, so) let us in an heavenly awe and child-like reverence walk before God, labouring for a true persuasion of His presence and providence, to be always over us and our whole lives. The want hereof is the cause of all sin, and if we do thus walk with God and so please Him, as Enoch here did, then shall we be sure (though not after the same manner that Enoch was, yet) in soul first, and afterward in soul and body both, to be translated into eternal life. But if we will not walk this way with Enoch in this life, let us never look to live in heaven with him; but assure ourselves that as the way of holiness is the way to glory, so the way of wickedness is the way to eternal perdition. And thus much of the second degree.
ŇBut without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek himÓ Hebrews 11:6
3. But without faith it is impossible to please God.
These words contain the third degree, or the third part of the reason. And this degree consists of a general maxim or canon of divinity, and the Holy Ghost first layeth it down, and then, because it is one of the weightiest principles in religion, he proveth it substantially in the words following.
In the canon itself, let us first examine the meaning, and then unfold the manifold use of it.
By faith is meant here the same faith as before; true saving faith in the Messiah. And without this saving faith:
It is impossible to please God.
Impossible. How? Not in regard of the absolute, infinite and indeterminable power of God, which hath no limits but his own will; but in regard of that order of the causes and means of salvation set down by God in His Word, which is this:
1. Man by sin hath displeased God.
2. God must be pleased again, else a man cannot be saved.
3. He that will please God must please Him in Christ the Mediator, else he cannot; therefore he that will please God and be saved, must need believe in Christ. And thus by this order it is impossible. We deny not, but in regards of GodŐs absolute power, he could save a man without faith; as He can lighten the world without the sun. But as (if He keeps that order of nature, which His own wisdom hath appointed), it is impossible to give light to the world without the sun; so if He keep that order for salvation which His own justice hath appointed, it is impossible to please God without faith in Christ. So then the meaning is laid down; and now appears the strength and force of the Holy GhostŐs argument:
He that will be saved and come to heaven must first please God. But without faith it is impossible to please God. Therefore without faith no man can be saved nor come into heaven; and by consequence therefore, Enoch being taken into heaven, needs be taken away by faith.
Now the use of this canon, rightly understood, is manifold and of great profit.
(1). First, here we learn that faith is simply and absolutely necessary to salvation, and most necessary of all other gifts and graces of God whatsoever. And though many be required, yet amongst all holy graces this is the principal, and more necessary in some respects than any other. For howsoever hope and love and zeal and many other graces of God are required to make the state of a Christian complete; and though they all have their several commendations in the Word; yet of none of them all is it said in the whole Scripture, as it is here of faith, that without it, it is impossible to please God. And no marvel, for it is the root and ground of all other graces, and gives them their life and being; for therefore doth a man fear God, therefore doth he love God, therefore is he zealous for GodŐs glory, because he believeth that God loveth him in Christ the Redeemer.
Now then, if faith be thus necessary, then it followeth that those that live in ignorance, and so have no sound faith but a foolish presumption, are in a miserable case; for however they may flatter themselves with conceits of their devotions and good meanings and good intents; it is faith with which they must please God, and nothing can without it. It stands them therefore in hand to lay off ignorance and presumption, and labour for a sound and saving faith; and that will bring them to the favour of God.
And again, as for such as have received grace to believe, seeing faith is of such necessity, and that they having faith must needs have knowledge, they therefore must look and examine by their knowledge whether their faith be a sound faith or not; for herein many that have knowledge deceive themselves, and think they have true faith when they have not. Now if any man would know whether his faith be sound and saving or not, it is known by this: If it purifies the heart. For so saith St Peter, that God by faith did purify the hearts of the profane and filthy Gentiles (Acts 15:9). If then thy faith do not purify thy heart, and cleanse thy life, and cause thee to abound in good works, it is no sound nor saving faith; it is but a general faith, it is but an historical knowledge, and cannot save the soul. He therefore that upon examination of his heart and life findeth his faith to be such, let him not content himself, but turn his general faith into a saving faith, which in this world will purify his heart, and at the last day will save his soul. And this must every man the rather do, because what knowledge, or what other gifts of God soever any man hath, without faith in Christ all are nothing; for it is faith that seasoneth them all, and makes both them and the person himself to please God.
(2). Secondly, if it be impossible without faith to please God, then here we see the fond and foolish hypocrisy of the world, who will please God by other means; some think if they be glorious in the world, either for their wealth or their wit or their honour or their authority or their learning, they presently bring themselves into a fools paradise; and because the world makes account of them, and they please themselves, therefore they think it certain they must needs please God. But alas, though all the world admire them, and they be never so far in love with themselves, He that sits in heaven laughs them to scorn (Psa. 2:4). For, not all the pomp and glory, nor all the millions and mountains of gold in the world can please the Lord for one of the least of their many thousand sins wherewith they have provoked him. Let these men ask Nebuchadnezzar if his pompous pride; or Ahithophel if his active head and crafty wit; or Absalom if his golden locks; or Jezabel if her painted face and courtly attire; or Nabal if his flocks of sheep; or the philosophers if their natural learning: if all of these or any of these did ever please God. Nay, alas, they have all found and felt that without faith, it is impossible to please God.
(3). Thirdly, it is the opinion, not of the Turk alone in his Alcoran, but of many others as well, that every man shall be saved by his own religion if he be devout therein; be he Turk, Jew or Christian, Papist or Protestant. But this is a ground and rule of Atheism, and appears here to be most false; for there is no salvation without pleasing of God, and without faith it is impossible to please God. Therefore no religion can save a man but that which teacheth a man rightly to believe in Christ, and consequently to please God. But every religion teacheth not to believe in Christ; some not at all, and some not aright; and therefore it is impossible for such a religion to save a man. Again, be a man what he can be, unless he be within the covenant of grace, he cannot be saved; but he cannot be within the covenant but by faith, therefore no man can be saved by any means but by true faith; not in any religion, but that which teacheth true faith.
Here therefore not only Turks and Jews are excluded, but this also sheweth many papists and many carnal gospellers in our church, how short they come of that religion which must save their souls. For this is the conceit of the most men, that if they do some good works, which carry a fair shew to the world, as liberality to learning, or charm to the poor; straight [away] they think they have leave to live as they list, and God is bound to forgive their sins, and to give them heaven; and this they imagine, though they know not what it is to believe in Christ or to repent of their sins. One of this religion came to the prophet Micah in his days, and asked him this question (uttering that plainly which all such men think in their hearts): Wherewithal shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with thousands of rams, and ten thousand rivers of oil? (Micah 6:6,7). But the prophet answers him, shewing him his folly and how little God doth regard such works without a contrite heart; He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requireth of thee. Surely to do justly, to love mercy, to humble thyself and to walk with thy God (v.8). Mark how that answer fits this example of Enoch. He pleased God, he walked with God, and was taken away. So answereth the prophet, if thou would please thy God and come to heaven by His favour, never stand upon thousands of rams and rivers of oil, upon thy gay and glorious works; but humble thyself, and walk with thy God. No walking with God (saith Micah), no pleasing of God; what is it but all one as if he had said, without faith it is impossible to please God? Here then is no disallowance of good works, but of works without faith and true repentance; which though they be never so fair and flourishing, yet it is impossible that without faith they should please God.
Hereby it is also manifest that all the virtues of the heathen, and the works of such men who either know not Christ or, knowing Him, acknowledge Him not their only Saviour or, acknowledging Him, do not truly believe in Him with such a faith as purifieth the heart; are nothing else but, as the fathers called them, splendida peccare, gilded and glittering dross, and beautiful deformities. And howsoever this seems harsh, yet it must needs be true seeing, without faith it is impossible to please God.
And here also the vanity of some popish writers appears, who presumptuously make some philosophers saints; whereas they should first have shewed that they believed in Christ; and then we would believe and teach it as willingly as they. But else, if they had all the learning and all the moral virtues in the world, this must stand for a truth: Without faith, it is impossible to please God.
(4). Lastly, here we learn that the Word of God registered in the Holy Scriptures, doth contain in it sufficient direction for all the actions and duties of a manŐs life; for without faith, no man can please God. And if no man, then no manŐs actions can please God which are not of faith; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23).
If therefore menŐs actions must proceed from faith, then consequently must they have their ground and warrant from the Word; for faith and the Word are relatives, and the one depends upon the other. No faith, no word to bind; no word, no faith to believe. But all actions that please God must be done in faith, therefore all actions that please God have some ground and direction in the Word of God, without which Word of God there can be no faith. And this is true not only in holy actions, but even in the common actions of menŐs lives and lawful callings. This is a principle which we must firmly believe and receive. And besides this argument here, it is also proved by the evident testimonies of the Holy Ghost. St. Paul to Timothy, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable to teach, improve, correct and instruct in righteousness, that the man of God may be absolute, and made perfect unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:16,17). How can the sufficiency of Scripture be more sufficiently in words expressed? Again, Every creature and ordinance of God is good, É.. for it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer (1 Tim. 4:4,5). Now if the Scripture makes a Christian perfect in all good works, how can it be but to give him sufficient direction for all his works? And if every action be sanctified by the Word, how can that be but the Word hath warrant and direction for every action and duty which may fallout in the course of a Christian life? And upon these grounds we have good reason to be resolved of this truth.
But now if any man ask how this can be, for the Scriptures were written long ago, and the stories are of particular men, nations and times, and the Commandments are known to be but ten; how then can the Scriptures yield sufficient directions for every manŐs particular actions? I answer, the Scripture gives directions for all actions in two ways: either by rules or by examples.
1, Rules. Rules are of two sorts, general or particular.
Particular rules for particular callings are many: For kings, they must read GodŐs book and not have many wives nor gather too much silver and gold; They must be wise and learned and kiss the Son of God, Christ Jesus, and many other. For ministers, they must be apt to teach, watching, sober, not young scholars, and many other. And so consequently, the most of the callings that are in the commonwealth have their particular directions in plain rules.
General rules are first the Ten Commandments, which are directions for all sorts of men in all times, what to be done, what not to be done in all actions towards God and men; and besides in the New Testament there are some few rules which are general directions for all men in all ages, such as: Whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you the same unto them (Matt. 7:12). Again, Whether you eat or drink or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). Again, Let all things be done to edification, and without offence of thy brother (Rom. 15:2). Again, Let your works be done in love (Eph. 5:2). Lastly, Let no man seek his own (alone), but every man anotherŐs wealth (1 Cor. 10:24). Now, there is no action in the world, nor any duty to be done of a Christian man, be he a public or a private person, be it public or private action, be it towards God or man; but if he have not a particular direction, yet it falls within the compass of some of these rules; and by the tenor of some of these he may frame his work in such manner as shall be pleasing to God and comfortable to himself.
Secondly, besides rules, there are examples, which are special directions; and they are either of God or good men.
Extraordinary examples of God, namely such as He did in extraordinary times, or upon extraordinary occasions, they concern us not; for these He did by the power and prerogative of the Godhead; as bidding Abraham to sacrifice his son, bidding the Israelites spoil the Egyptians, and such like. But the ordinary works of GodŐs wisdom in His creatures, of His justice towards sinners, of His mercy towards His children, or His care and providence towards all, are excellent rules of direction for us. Hence we have these rules: Be ye holy, for I am holy (1 Pet. 1:16); Be ye merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful (Luke 6:36).
So for the actions of Christ, who was God and man; the miraculous actions of His power which argued His Godhead, as His walking on the water and such like, are no directions to us. Nor, again, His actions and works done as He was Mediator, as His fasting forty days, His passion and His merits; these are no directions for us to do the like. But, as the first give us instruction, so these procure us justification. But the third sort of His actions done by Him as a man, or as a Jew born, they are both our instruction and imitation, and they are good directions for our actions; as His obedience, His zeal, His patience, His humility, and all other virtues. Concerning all which He saith unto us: Learn of me for I am humble and lowly (Matt. 11:29). And again, when He had washed His apostlesŐ feet, He bade them learn of Him to love one another, for, saith He, I have given you an example that ye should do even as I have done unto you (John 13:15), These His examples are rules of direction to all men in the like case.
(2). Good men.
Now as for the examples of men, as the examples of wicked men are every way to be eschewed, so good men are to be followed; for whatsoever is written is written for our learning (Rom. 15:4). And so for them we are to know that their examples or actions, contrary to the Word, are therefore to be avoided, because they be contrary; as NoahŐs drunkenness, LotŐs incest, DavidŐs adultery; and many others his infirmities, and such like. Such as are directly agreeable with the Word of God are to be embraced and received as direction for our lives, not for their own sake, but because they are agreeable to the Word. But as for such as are neither commanded nor forbidden, and being done were neither allowed nor disallowed; these being done by godly men and such who for their faith were approved of God, against which no exception can be taken in the Word, they be as rules and directions for us in the like cases.
Now there is no action that can fall out in the life of a Christian man for which he hath not out of the Scripture either a rule, general or particular, or else some example to follow, which is as good as a rule unto him. And thus we see how the Scripture affords direction for all our actions. In the demonstration whereof we have stood the longer, because it is a principle of great moment. The use hereof is double:
First we must therefore in all the actions of our lives and callings take consultation with the Word of God, and for our direction therein, we must search for either general or particular rules, or at least for examples of godly men in like cases. And without the warrant and direction of some of these, we are by no means to enter into anything, or to do any work. If we do, then we cannot clear ourselves from sin in so doing; for we sin because we please not God in doing that action. We please not God because we have no faith for the doing of it. We have no faith because we have no warrant nor ground in the Word for it. Therefore whatever a man presumeth to do, without some warrant in the Word for his direction, he sins in so doing.
Secondly, here ministers must learn their duty; for if no action can possibly please God that is done without faith, nor can be done in faith without warrant from the Word, then must they be GodŐs mouth unto the people, to be able to tell them what is lawful and what is unlawful by the Word; that so their people may perform their actions in faith, and consequently please God.
II. Proof of the canon.
Now having laid down this rule, because it is a principle of so great moment, the Holy Ghost in the next words proceeds to the proof of it:
For he that cometh to God must believe that God is, and that He is a rewarder of them that fear Him.
These words are a proof of the former rule, and the reason stands thus:
He that cometh to God must needs believe. But he that pleaseth God cometh to God. Therefore he that pleaseth God must needs believe; and so, without faith it is impossible to please God.
He that cometh to God.
To come to God in the Scriptures, but especially in this example, is to labour to have fellowship with God in Christ; as is manifest in three places more: In the fourth chapter we are bid (v.16) to come boldly to the throne of grace; and in the seventh, God is said (v.25) to be able perfectly to save them that come unto God by Him; and in the tenth, we are called (v.22) to draw near with a true heart in assurance of faith. Out of all which places it appears that to come to God is to have fellowship with God by Christ. And the reason why that phrase is often used to the Hebrews is, for that many of them having received the profession of Christ, afterward forsook Him again, and fell from His religion, and by renouncing Christ fell away from God. Therefore He exhorted them to take heed lest there be in any of them an evil heart, and unfaithful to depart from the living God (Heb. 3:12). Now, by the contrary, if to renounce Christ is to fall or go away from God, then we may gather that to come to God is to cleave to Christ, and to God by Christ. So then, the meaning is, He that will have any fellowship with God in Christ, he must believe.
What must he believe? Two things:
That God is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek Him.
1. He must first believe that God is:
That is, not so much that there is a God, for that we are taught by the very light of nature; but that this God, whom in Christ he labours to know and come near, is the true and only God.
This is a notable point in Christian religion to believe, that God is God indeed; not a fiction, a shadow or imaginary God, but God indeed; for it is the scope of the first Commandment that God gave mankind.
If any man object, there is no man that knows God but confesseth God to be God. No man was so mad as ever to think otherwise. I answer, to believe the true God to be God indeed is a matter of great difficulty. For though a man by nature think there is a God, yet do we not by nature think the true God to be God. Nay, by nature every man is an atheist, and denieth in his heart the true God to be God, and doth impugn the first Commandment above all others. And this may truly and safely be affirmed of all men that ever came of Adam (Christ alone excepted) that by nature they are atheists; and it may be proved thus:
By nature, though, we know and believe there is a God, yet the corruption of our nature is such that we frame and fain Him to ourselves to be such a one as we please; for we deny in our hearts His power, His presence and His justice. But to take away these three from Him is to deny the true God to be God indeed.
First, men by nature deny GodŐs presence; for men would be ashamed to do many things in the presence of any man, even the basest in the world which, when they are out of menŐs sights and yet in GodŐs presence, they commit carelessly and boldly. I speak not of natural affections, which are lawful; and yet in many whereof there is none so great shame as men naturally refuse to do them before others; but I mean sinful affections, which not for any natural unseemliness, but even for their foulness and ugliness, because they are heinous sins, men would fear to do if any man were present. Seeing then men fear not, nor shame not to do them though they be in GodŐs presence; it followeth, how therefore they naturally imagine, that God would be present; for if they were so persuaded, they would not commit them, though they esteemed God no better than a man.
Secondly, men by nature deny GodŐs power thus: When a man offends a magistrate by breaking any law which may deserve death, or some great punishment, he is sore afraid; and all his care is how he may escape his punishing hand. But let a man offend God neversomuch by breaking carelessly all His holy Commandments, he never fears at all, nor trembles at the punishment belonging unto them. How can this be? But that howsoever he grants there is a God, yet he is not persuaded that God hath power to revenge the contempt of His laws, and therefore he never fears nor shrinks at the remembrance of Him, nor flieth at all from His revenging hand, but ploddeth on in sin without fear.
Thirdly, man by nature denies GodŐs justice, for the justice of God is to wink at sin in no man, but to condemn and punish it wheresoever He finds it, by inflicting the curses of the law upon it. But man denieth this justice; for though he sin against GodŐs law, and his conscience tell him of it; yet he persuades himself that there is no curse or punishment due for it, or at least that he shall escape it; nay, though he see never so many before him punished for the same sin (yet our nature is so blind and so corrupt), he thinks for all that, it shall not light on him. And it is lamentable, yet most true, that the god of the ignorant men is a mere idol, a god made all of mercy, and which hath no justice in him at all, and their sins they carelessly lay all on Christ, and say God is merciful, and in this conceit they care not how ignorantly, how loosely, how profanely they live; and their hearts never have a reverent and aweful thought of the justice of God.
These are the pitiful imaginations that all men by nature have of God. All these may be proved by evident Scripture: The first in the psalm where David brings in the wicked, saying to themselves, God hath forgotten, He hides His face, He will not regard (Psa. 10:11). The second, by the blasphemy of Rabshakeh, who uttered with his tongue that which all menŐs hearts think by nature, What god can deliver you out of my hands? (2 Kin. 18:35). The third, Isaiah proves apparently, where he tells us that the wicked say, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell we are in agreement; though a scourge run over, and pass through, it shall not come at us (Isa. 28:15).
Thus both Scripture and plain demonstrations prove this to be true, that every man by nature denieth GodŐs presence, power and justice; and therefore is by nature a plain atheist, not believing that God is God indeed. Now furthermore, there are four sorts of people that put in practice this atheism:
(1). First, such as are not ashamed to say openly, Is there a God or no? and there dispute the question, and at last avouch there is none; but that all matters concerning God and His worship are nothing but devices of politick men to keep simple men in awe, and to make fools fain; but these themselves are fools of all fools, and the devil devised that impious conceit to keep them in miserable blindness. There have been such fools in all ages, yet in old time David saith: These fools did but say in their hearts; but now the fools of these last and rotten ages are ripe in their folly, and they dare say with there mouths, There is no God (Psa. 14:1). These are monsters in nature, and devils incarnate, worse than the devil himself; for he in judgment never was an atheist. These are to be marked and hated worse than toads and adders; and if such a one can be convicted by any lawful evidence, if ever heretic or traitor deserved death, such a one deserves ten deaths; as being a traitor to God, to mankind and to nature herself. And though these wretches say, There is no God, yet make they a god of themselves, sacrificing all their affections to their pleasure and their profit.
(2). The second sort are such as acknowledge and worship a god, but a false god. These have been in all countries and most ages, as histories do shew; some worshipping the sun, some the moon, some stars, some beasts, birds, fishes; some dead idols of wood or stone or metal. And of this sort, and no better, are some in these churches where the true God is worshipped; the apostle saith, Covetousness is idolatry (Col. 3:5); for if a manŐs heart be set wholly on riches, then the wedge of gold is his god. And to others, whose affections are all on pleasure, their belly is their god (Phil. 3:19). Let these men hold in judgment as they can, their practice I am sure proclaims atheism.
(3). The third sort are such as acknowledge and worship the true God, but in a false manner; and of these there are three principal sorts: First, Turks; secondly, Jews; who hold the true God but deny the trinity of persons and the deity of Christ. Thirdly, the true papist holds in word one God and the trinity of persons as we do, but look at their doctrine, and (if their words have any natural meaning) they deny it; for if the Second person be true Christ, then hath He two natures, Godhead and manhood; but by their famed transubstantiation they quite take away the truth of the manhood. And again, Christ hath three offices, He is the true King, Priest and Prophet of His church; and if He be not so, He is not Christ; but the papistŐs doctrine in plain words and necessary consequence denieth them all, as hath been often proved unto their shame, and published to the world; and they never yet to this day could or durst answer it; for if they do, they shall soon either hear us again, or else we will recant it. But till then it appears that their god is by their doctrine not the true God, but an idol; for he that denieth the Son, denieth the Father also, as saith St. John (1 John 2:23).
(4). The fourth sort of atheists are such as acknowledge and worship the true God, and worship Him in true manner, for the outward worship; but in their lives and deeds deny Him. And these are not to be sought for in Turkey or Jewry or Italy, for all churches are full of such Protestant atheists. Italy may have more atheists in judgment than we, but these hypocrites and atheists in life are here also; those tares we have amongst our corn. Of these speaks the apostle that they profess to know God, but dent Him in their works (Tit. 1:16). Let this seem no wonder that such men be called atheists, for the apostle saith plainly, He that careth not for his family, is worse than an infidel (1 Tim. 5:8); whereby it appears that a man may be a professor of the gospel, or a Christian in profession, and an infidel or atheist in his practice; and it is certain, let any man profess what he will, if his life be nought, his religion is a false religion in him.
Now then, to shut up this point with the use thereof; If this be true, that there are so many sorts of atheists that almost the world is full, and that we are all so by nature; then, first, let us see how hard a matter it is to believe in God aright; and if no man come to God but he that believeth God aright, then we see it is no marvel that so few come to God. Let us therefore go to God by earnest prayer, to give us His Spirit to work true faith in our hearts, and to make us of a true belief. And, secondly, seeing men may be Christians in profession and atheists in practice, let us all look narrowly to ourselves, and join with our profession conscience and obedience; for else the more we know God, the worse we are. It may please God after to give us better minds, but as yet we are no better than deniers of God; and though we come near God in profession and in His outward service, yet indeed we are far from Him, because we want that true faith which must profess God not in judgment alone but in practice; and that will bring us near unto God, for he that cometh unto God must believe that God is. And thus much for the first thing to be believed by him that will come to God and please Him.
2. The second is,
And that he is a rewarder of them that seek Him.
It is a notable sentence, and one of the most comfortable in the book of God; and contains the second thing to be believed. The parts are naturally two:
I. How a man doth seek God.
II. How God rewards them that seek Him.
I. For the first, a man truly seeketh God by doing four actions:
(1). First, a man must forsake himself, go out of himself, and as it were lose himself in his own judgment, when he intends to seek God. If any ask, How may that be? I answer thus: A man must labour to see his sins fully and distinctly, and in sight thereof be cast down in himself, as a man is when he seeth his debts; then let him look into himself, and see if he can find in himself any ability to pay those debts, or any means in the world to satisfy GodŐs justice and purchase pardon. And if upon due examination he find none at all, no not the least, nor anything in himself but an accusing and raging conscience; let him then fall out of all love with himself, nay, hate and abhor himself and his own baseness; and lastly, let him despair of his own salvation in or from himself; and thus doing he forsakes himself, denieth himself, and even loseth himself. And thus necessarily must he do to himself, that will set his heart to seek the Lord. For God will be found of none that hope to find help at any hand but his; they therefore that seek God but will seek themselves too, do justly lose both God and themselves.
(2). Secondly, he that will seek God aright (when he hath lost himself) must hunger in his heart and soul, not after wealth and honours, ease or pleasures; but after the favour and mercy of God in Christ for the forgiveness of his sins; and one drop of ChristŐs blood to wash away the guilt and stain of his defiled and sinful soul, must be dearer to him than all the pomp and glory of ten worlds. Look how a hungry soul hungers after meat, and a fainting soul thirsteth after drink; so must his soul hunger after GodŐs mercy, and thirst for ChristŐs blood; and these are necessary, for as a man that undertakes a long journey must be provided of meat and drink, so he that undertakes the journey to go seek the Lord, must have this provision for the diet of his poor soul: GodŐs mercies and ChristŐs merits. And he that seeks without a soul hungering after these, may seek long and find nothing.
(3). Thirdly, if he will truly seek God, he must not go in every path, but take the true and living way which Christ hath consecrated by His blood. Nor take any guide, but trust to ChristŐs Spirit alone to be his guide. Nor make many mediators or messengers to God, but make Christ alone to God the Father. We must therefore go to Him and yield up ourselves to be taught and guided by Him and leave our suit to be preferred by Him. We must not look to come to God by running on pilgrimages to this or that saintŐs picture or bones; or to our Lady of Loretto. Many have sought God in these, but who ever found Him? Nay, alas; thou mayest lodge in her forged tabernacle at Loretto all thy life, and lie in hell for all that when thou art dead; and mayest kiss all the saintsŐ pictures and bones and hair, and all their relics in Spain and Italy, and all cannot get thee one sight of GodŐs favourable countenance. Nor again must we look to come to God by our good works, though we are to do them; they are good marks in the way, and good evidences of a right way, but they cannot open heaven and let thee in. And therefore, when thou hast done all thou canst, thou must forsake them all in matter of justification and coming to God. Only thou must go to God by Christ, and cleave to Him alone. He is the door, the way, the truth, the life; and certainly, never man found God that sought Him not in Christ alone. And when popish devices and distinctions have done all they can, men will be found liars, and Christ to speak the truth, saying, No man cometh to the Father but by me (John 14:6).
(4). Lastly, when all these are done, then must thou believe that God is become thy merciful Father in Christ, and is reconciled unto thee in Him; for there is no fear, but if thou seek God in Christ, thou shalt find Him; and when thou hast done the three former things, thou mayest safely and assuredly believe that thou hast truly sought God. And after all these, if thou have not sin and a lively faith, thou dost not seek God. For as it is impossible without faith to please God, so it is impossible without faith to find God. Thus if a man lose himself, long after GodŐs mercy, take Christ alone for his guide and Mediator, and steadfastly believe his reconciliation with God by Christ, then he seeks God aright. And to this seeking belongs a reward and blessing. Now then, if this be to seek God, here is some light given to a great question, Whether the church of Rome be a true church, and their doctrine truly catholic, or erroneous and failing in fundamental points? For answer: Can that be a true church which doth not bring her children to seek God? Or that catholic doctrine which teacheth not her children to seek God the right way, but sends them into a thousand by-ways? Surely, if this be to seek God, then search all the popish doctors, and almost all their writers, and see whether a man be not taught to seek God quite in another walk. Which way of theirs, whether it ordinarily brings the seekers to God or no, we leave to GodŐs merciful judgment. But for ourselves, as we see we have the true and living way, the sure and infallible way by Christ to God, by the Son to the Father; let us rejoice in the comfort of so rich a mercy, and be thankful to the Lord for revealing Himself unto us, and opening unto us the true way to Him and His glory. And thus much for the first point, how we must seek God.
II. The second is, how that He is a rewarder of them that seek Him. I answer, God rewards them that seek Him:
(1). First, by offering Himself graciously to be found of them that seek Him; for He never hides Himself, nor turns away from the soul that seeketh Him; but rather turns to him and meets him that comes to Him. He is that good Father which saw the prodigal son afar off, and met him and received him (Luke 15). Yea, rather it is true that He is found of them that sought Him not (Isa. 65:1), than ever sought by any that found Him not. And hereby God much magnifieth His grace and mercy to mankind, in being so assuredly found when men seek Him. For in this world it is not so; All men seek the face of the Prince, saith Solomon; true, but all men find it not. No, access to great men is not so easy. They and their favour are so enclosed that men may long seek before they find either them or it; but God here is not so enclosed as He will not be seen or spoken to; He is found of them that seek Him. And as hereby He honoureth Himself, so He highly rewardeth His servants; for there is no greater contentment to a subject than to perceive his service pleaseth his Prince, nor greater joy than to find His gracious favour when they seek it.
Let then this practice of the great God of heaven, first of all, teach the great ones of this world to be willing to be found when they are sought unto; thereby they shall honour themselves, and cheer up the hearts of their people who seek unto them. And again, it may be a rich comfort to the poor ones of this earth, who, when they see they must long look, and wait, and pray, and pay, and seek the favour and grace of great men, and cannot find; may then remember yet they have a God who will not shut the door upon them, will not turn away, will not keep secret, will not fear them away with a rough answer, or a sour look, but hath this honourable and princely grace, He will be found of them that seek Him.
(2). Secondly, He rewardeth them that seek Him by bestowing His love and favour on them; not only He, but His favour shall be found of all that seek Him. It is GodŐs favour that GodŐs children seek, and His favour they shall be sure to find. This is no small reward unto them, for in this world a man thinks he hath enough if he hath the PrinceŐs favour; and therefore it was the common phrase in old time, Let me find grace or favour in the eyes of my Lord the king. So speak GodŐs children unto the Lord. It is not wealth, nor honours we seek for at GodŐs hand, but let us find favour in the eyes of the Lord our God; and so they do, whatever they find in this world.
(3). Thirdly, He rewardeth them not with His naked favour, but with the most gracious testimonies thereof that can be; which are two: Forgiveness of their sins and eternal life and glory with Himself. This is all a Prince can do to His subject who hath offended Him; to forgive him the fault and remit the punishment, and to advance him to honour. This doth the Lord to all that seek Him. He forgives them the debt they owe Him, whereby life, and soul, and all was forfeited to Him, and gives them also life everlasting. So plentiful a reward is given them from their God, under whose wings they are come to trust.
(4). Fourthly, He rewardeth them with the beginnings of heaven and happiness, even in this world: A good conscience and joy in the Holy Ghost; the comfort whereof is more, even in the bitterest affliction, than all the pleasures and contentments in the world.
(5). Lastly, with the appurtenances of heaven and of eternal life; namely, the good blessings of this life, a competent portion whereof God giveth His children in this world as tokens of His favour, and as rewards of their service and seeking Him.
Now as this place doth aim at all these rewards; so principally and directly the Holy Ghost meaneth eternal life; as though He had said, He that cometh to God must steadfastly believe that God is able and most willing to reward all that come to Him with a better reward than this world can yield, even with eternal life and glory for His SonŐs sake.
Objection: But then will some object; God rewardeth us, therefore we merit; therefore good works deserve.
I answer, this place indeed is grossly abused by the papists for that purpose; but we are to know that the truth is far otherwise; for God rewardeth men for two causes: 1. First, for His promise sake, and that is for His own sake, for it was His own goodness that made Him promise, and no former debt He owed to man. 2. Again, He rewardeth our good works, not for our merits (for they are nothing, but of death and curses), bur for Christ and His merits; for their worthiness are our good works rewarded. So then here are two causes of GodŐs rewarding, and yet manŐs merits are neither or both; and so the argument is nought, that God rewardeth therefore we merit; for God doth it for other causes. Thus these spiders gather poison out of this flower, but let us suck the honey, for this notable sentence hath excellent use:
(1). First, if God be a rewarder of them that seek Him, then not of them that seek Him not. Who seek not God? Wicked and ungodly men seek Him not, but rather seek to avoid Him and His service; this sentence therefore is heavy against them. For when they hear it, their conscience answereth: But we seek not God, therefore we can look for no reward from Him. Doest thou seek the world? Then must the world be thy rewarder. Doest thou seek to please thyself? Then must thou reward thyself. And if thou wilt please the devil by living in sin, then must he be thy paymaster. Alas, pitiful and fearful will these rewards be. Again, if God rewards none but them that seek Him, here appears the reason why so many papists die in our religion, and (with us) cleave to ChristŐs merits alone when they come to die; because their conscience then tells them that by their pilgrimages, relics, will-worships, and many more of their courses (ordinary in popery) they did never seek God, but themselves and their own honour, gain and credit; and full well know they that there is no reward for such service; and therefore by their practice they make it a true saying, that it is good living a papist but dying a Protestant.
(2). Secondly, if God be a rewarder of them that seek Him, then we see that it is most true which the apostle sayeth, It is not in vain to serve God (1 Cor. 15:58), for God is a rewarder of them that seek and serve Him. Therefore the atheists and profane men of this world (who say it is vain to serve God, and what profit is there that we have kept His commandments?) are here convinced to be liars against the truth.
Then seeing it is so, let this admonish us all to seek and serve God in all truth and sincerity, knowing we serve Him who will regard it. Nothing more encourageth a man to serve his Lord and King than to see that his pains are regarded, and his service rewarded, nor more discourageth a man than the contrary. If therefore God did ever forget any that served Him, let us bestow service elsewhere, and think Him unworthy to be sought to; but if contrariwise, He never forgot, nor deceived, nor disappointed any that served Him, then is He most worthy to have the service both of our souls and bodies. David indeed once said, In vain have I cleansed my heart, and washed my hands in innocence (Psa. 73:13). But he was then in a strong temptation, as himself there confesseth; but afterwards when he went into the sanctuary of God and searched the truth of the matter, he confesseth he was deceived. And therefore as in the first verse he had acknowledged that God was good to Israel, so in the last he concludeth, that it is good for him to draw near unto God; and so though the temptation was very vehement, yet as faith appeared in the beginning, so it had victory in the end, and testified that God is good to all that seek Him. Another time also (for he was a man of many sorrows and temptations) being in some great distress, his corruption so prevailed that he said, All men are liars (Psa. 116:11); whatsoever Samuel, or Gad, or Nathan and other prophets have told me of GodŐs love, and mercies, and of His promises, and providence, and fatherly care; I see it is all false and nothing so. Now surely if David, or all the kings in the world can prove this, then God is not worthy to be sought after; but great men think they may say anything, especially when they are moved, as David here was. But when David entered into himself, and considered the words he had so presumptuously uttered; upon better advice he confesseth, and writes it up for all posterities to GodŐs glory and his own shame, that it was in passion, I said in my fear, all men are liars. This he said in his haste, or in his fear; but upon advice in the next verse, he confesseth GodŐs benefits were so many and so great to him, as he cannot tell what to render to the Lord for them. And in another place, he crieth out in admiration, O how great is thy goodness which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee, and put their trust in thee, even before the sons of men (Psa. 31:19).
We see then, that merciful promise of Christ is ever made good, Seek and ye shall find (Matt. 7:7). None ever sought God, but found. We may seek our own pleasures and live loosely, and be deceived, and hear that fearful question, What profit have ye of these things? (Rom. 6:21). What reward but shame and sorrow? But if we seek God aright, we never lose our labour. Let us therefore seek God, let the hand of our hearts knock at GodŐs mercy gate in Christ, and we shall not go away without a reward. The prodigal child fled from his father, spent all, and lost his favour; but he no sooner said, I will return and humble myself to my father; but he found him, and won his fatherŐs favour again. So let us but offer ourselves to God (God understandeth our thoughts long before), He will meet us, and receive us, and give us a reward.
(3). Thirdly, as God rewardeth them that seek Him, so of all that seek Him, none miss Him; all find that seek. Great ones have not access, and the poor kept out; but all receive as they come: no difference; but the more carefully any seek, the more welcome are they. Here let princes and great men learn their duties at God, by whose grace and permission they are what they are.
(i) First, let them think it unbeseeming their greatness, to let any serve them without a reward; and a stain to their honour, not to let well-deserving subjects find their favour. Let them not daunt their hearts by not regarding them, and their pains; but let them encourage them to serve them, by looking at them, by good countenances, and good speeches, and by rewarding every one according to his worth. All great men should esteem this, as one of the pearls of their crowns, to have it said of them, Such a one is a rewarder of them that serve him.
(ii) Again, let them learn to dispense their favour according to reason, and not affection only. God is indifferent and equal to all that serve Him. So let princes be; for that is true honour and justice to reward each one as he deserves. And that he may find the best, who doth best, this will make every one strive, who should be first, and forwardest, in all serviceable duties.
(iii) Further, this must teach them not to despise them that are under them in this world; for howsoever the state of this world requires that difference of persons, else it cannot stand; it is nothing so with God, nor in the world to come. For there, the subject, the servant, the poor man, may challenge his part in GodŐs favour as well as the best; nay, whosoever seeketh the most carefully, shall find the best reward.
(iv) Moreover, here is a comfort to the poor, and the meaner sort of men, who are appointed by God to be underlings in this world. Seek they favour here and find it not? Work they here and do their duties, and are not rewarded? Let them learn to seek God, who will assuredly both regard what they do, and abundantly reward it.
(4). Fourthly, seeing God is a rewarder of them that seek Him, here is comfortable encouragement against two great impediments, which hinder many a man from serving God:
(i) First, to seek God is but a matter of mockery to profane men; for let a man set his face to Jerusalem, there are presently Samaritans, which for that cause will hate and mock him. Let a man set his heart to seek God, by hearing the Word more carefully, praying to God, instructing His family, or keeping the Sabbath more carefully than before; and forthwith he is the laughing stock, and the by-word to profane men. But, lo, here is comfort: The God whom thou seekest will reward thee, and that so richly that thou will think thyself well recompensed, both for thy service, and their mocks. In this world, men care not who think or speak evil of them, so the prince like them; and shall it not encourage us to seek God, though the world mock us, seeing so doing we please God, and so far doth please Him as He will highly reward us? Those therefore that fall from religion for those mockers, it appears they seek not to please God but men.
(ii) Secondly, for a man that is a magistrate or a minister, to do his duty carefully is the high way to undergo a burden of contempt and hatred; insomuch as many good men are afraid to be either magistrates or ministers; for, first, wicked men must needs hate them, because the one is to rebuke and the other to punish their faults. And again, even good men are too respectless of them that are in these places, and so the most part neither yield them that reverence, nor reward, that is due unto them; but oftentimes a man for all his pains and care taken for church or commonwealth, is recompensed with hatred, envy, grudges, evil words, and slanderous reports. In this case, the comfort is this: that though a man be in the world neither regarded, nor rewarded, as his desert is, yet the Lord seeth what he doth, and is a plentiful rewarder of all that seek and serve Him; and therefore especially of them, who not only themselves serve Him in His chief places of service, but also do win many others to seek and serve God.
(5). Fifthly, if God be a rewarder of them that seek Him, then doubtless He is a revenger of them that hate Him; for He that can mightily reward His followers, can also mightily be revenged of His enemies. These two are the two parts of a kingŐs power, to be able highly to advance his friends, and mightily to punish his enemies; therefore principally this belongs to the King of Kings. This sentence therefore is a thunderbolt of a most fearful threatening against all impenitent sinners; assuring them that if they persist to profane GodŐs holy name by their careless sinning against Him, they shall be sure to find and feel Him a powerful revenger of them that hate Him. Thus He promiseth Himself (Deut. 32:40-42), I lift up my hand to heaven, and I say, I live for ever. If I whet my glistering sword, and my hand take hold on judgment, I will execute vengeance on my enemies, and reward them that hate me. Where also note how the same phrase is used; for here the apostle saith, God is a rewarder of them that seek Him. So in Deut. A rewarder of them that hate Him. If any object how these two can stand together; for a man had as good hate Him as seek Him, if the same reward belong to both; I answer, A reward, but not the same, belongs unto them. Thieves and murderers are justly rewarded when they die for their acts; and the king rewards a good servant, when he advances him to honour. They that seek God are rewarded with mercies and favours above their desert; they that hate God are rewarded with vengeance and torments according to their desert; and this shall all wicked men, and enemies of God, be as sure to find as ever any that sought God obtained mercy.
But worldly men will say, we hate not God, we are no Jews nor Turks, we are christened and come to the church, according to the law, as good subjects do. I answer, Neither do Turks nor Jews hate God, if this be all; for they deny not the Godhead, but acknowledge it, and are circumcised and live more strictly in their devotions than most Christians. Here is therefore more required, or else we shall make them also good friends with God. But a man may hate God, and neither be Turk nor Jew; he may acknowledge Christ and the Trinity, and yet hate God. For, as Christ saith, He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth (Luke 11:23); so it is here; he that seeketh not, serveth not; and loveth not God, hateth God; for there is no man that can know God but must needs either for His mercies love Him, or else hate Him for His justice against sin and sinners. Again, Christ bids us, If you love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15). If then to keep GodŐs commandments be a sign of one that loves God, it is a sign that one loves not God when he hath no care to keep them. By which two places it appears that whosoever makes not conscience of sin is GodŐs enemy, and that God so reputes him; therefore let this fear every man from living carelessly in his sin, and drive him to true repentance; for else let him assure himself that God is not so plentiful a rewarder of them that seek Him, but he is as powerful a revenger upon those that hate Him.
(6). Lastly, if God be a rewarder of them that seek Him, we learn the great difference between GodŐs service and the devilŐs. The devilŐs servants are fed with fair words but get nothing; the devil is able to give them nothing; but GodŐs servants (as we see here) are plentifully rewarded. God is a rewarder of them that seek Him; but the devil is a deceiver of them that serve him. But some will say, There is none so mad to be the devilŐs servants. I answer, He that doth any manŐs work, is either his servant or his slave; but every sinful, wicked man doth the devilŐs work, for sin is the devilŐs work; therefore all impenitent sinners are the devilŐs servants. It is ChristŐs argument to the Jews, You are of your father the devil, for the works of your father you will do; murders and lies are his works, you live in these sins, and do these works; therefore you are his servants (John 8:44).
Again, the Holy Ghost teacheth us that whosoever committeth sin (and liveth therein without repentance), the same is the servant of sin (John 8:34). Now sin is but the bawd or broker to the devil; they that are the servants of sin, sin prefers them to the devil, and so they become his servants. Therefore, whosoever becomes the servant of sin, is by that means the slave and servant of the devil also. Which, if it be true, it will fall out upon the reckoning, that the devil hath more servants in the world than God hath; which is so much the more lamentable inasmuch as he deludeth all his servants, and is not able to reward them, nor to give them any good thing.
But some will say, This is nothing so; for contrariwise, who have the honours, pleasures, and wealth of this life, who have heartŐs ease and the world at will, but such men? I answer, True, it is commonly so; but have they those from Satan? No, not the least of them all, but all is from God; for every man is GodŐs child by creation, and some by grace. To every one of His children He ordains and gives a portion, but to His children by grace a double portion; both here, and in heaven. The wicked men, they will not fear nor serve Him; therefore they have no part nor portion in heaven, but here they have it; so saith David, there are some men, which are men of this world, and have their portion in this life; these menŐs bellies God filleth with His hidden treasures, they and their children have enough, and leave the rest for their children after them (Psa. 17:14). Where it is manifest that wicked men have their parts and portions of GodŐs blessings in this world, and that all their wealth and pleasures are granted them by and from God, as their portion; reserving the principal part of the portion of His children for a better life. Therefore, all the good things of this life which Dives received, and all the wicked men do receive in this life, are not any rewards of Satan, but gifts of God; so unworthy a master is the devil to serve. Indeed he will promise his poor slaves anything, but can perform nothing, but will lie unto them and deceive them. He told Christ confidently, when he let Him see the glory and greatness of this world, All this is mine and I give it to whom I will (Luke 4:6); but he was a liar from the beginning, and so he is here. He lied to the first Adam, and no marvel that he dare avouch so fond and loud a lie in the presence of the second Adam, Jesus Christ. He promised the first Adam to make him God, and here the second Adam to make him King and Lord of all the world, and the glory of it; but he performed both alike, he deceived the first, and so had the second also if He had trusted him. Nor did ever any trust him, but he deceived him (I mean even for the base things of this life); witness else all his witches (his most devoted and professed servants of all others) if ever he made any one of them wealthy; all ages are not able to shew one. Whereas, on the other side, there was never man that served God, but had a competent measure of comforts for this life (and some abundance) and yet all that is but the firstfruits and beginnings of that reward which is laid up for them in another world. Which being true, is it not a strange and lamentable case to see men (for all this) debase themselves to this base and slavish service of Satan, and to refuse this high and honourable service of almighty God? A common servant in this world hath more wit; he, if he can hear of a better service, a master who gives better wages, and who better prefers his servants, will leave his old master, and make means to get the other. And shall not we be as wise both for soul and body as they for the body alone? Shall they leave a man for a man, and shall not we leave the devil for God?
Let us therefore abandon the base service of Satan, who neither can, nor will reward them that serve him; put away so ill a master who hath not so much as meat and drink to give us (for we have even that from God; but of his own, he hath nothing to give us, save in this world sorrow, and shame, and an ill conscience; and in the world to come, the torments of hell with himself); and let us all seek the blessed service of God. If we know not how to attain it, go to Christ by hearty confession of thy sins, and earnest prayer, and He will prefer thee to God His Father; for never was any denied, that with a good and true heart offered himself to GodŐs service. The shall we feel and find what a blessed thing it is to be GodŐs servant; of whom it was ever true, which the Holy Ghost here saith, and is and ever shall be, that He is an honourable rewarder of them that seek Him.
And thus we have (in some part) the measure and use of this notable sentence; wherein we have stood the longer, because it is one of the most excellent principles of all practical divinity.
Now, put all together, and we shall see how it proves Enoch to be taken away by faith, which is the first ground and the main matter of all this example, and of these two verses.
God is a rewarder of all His children that seek Him by faith; therefore it is faith by which GodŐs children please God; and therefore holy Enoch, who was taken up by God from earth to heaven, both pleased God by faith, and by faith was taken away.
And thus much for the commendation of EnochŐs faith, and consequently the examples of such as lived in the first world before the flood.
Now followeth the example of Noah, who lived in both worlds, both before and after the flood.