A Sermon : How dangerous a thing it is to fall from Go
Of our going from God, the wise man saith, that pride was the first beginning: for by it mans heart was turned from God his maker. For pride (saith he) is the fountain of all sin: he that hath it, shall be full of cursings, and at the end it shall overthrow him. (Ecclus 10) And as by pride and sin we go from God, so shall God and all goodness with him go from us. And the Prophet Hosea doth plainly affirm (Hos 5), that they which go a way still from God by vicious living, and yet would go about to pacify him otherwise by sacrifice, and entertain him thereby, they labour in vain. For, notwithstanding all their sacrifice, yet he goeth still away from them. For so much (saith the Prophet) as they do not apply their minds to return to God, although they go about with whole flocks and herds to seek the Lord, yet they shall not find him: for he is gone away from them.
But as touching our turning to God, or from God, you shall understand, that it may be done divers ways. Sometimes directly by Idolatry, as Israel and Judah then did: sometimes men go from God by lack of Faith, and mistrusting of God, whereof Isaiah speaketh in this wise (Isa 31), Woe to them that go down into Egypt to seek for help, trusting in horses, and having confidence in the number of chariots, and puissance or power of horsemen. They have no confidence in the holy God of Israel, nor seek for the Lord. But what followeth? The Lord shall let his hand fall upon them, and down shall come both the helper, and he that is helped: they shall be destroyed altogether. Sometime men go from God by the neglecting of his Commandments concerning their neighbours, which commandeth them to express hearty love towards every man, as Zechariah said unto the people (Zech 7) on God’s behalf. Give true judgement, show mercy and compassion every one to his brother, imagine no deceit towards widows, or children fatherless and motherless, toward strangers, or the poor, let no man forge evil in his heart against his brother. But these things they passed not off, they turned their backs, and went their way, they stopped their ears that they might not hear, they hardened their hearts as an Adamant stone, that they might not listen to the Law, and the words that the Lord had sent through his holy Spirit, by his ancient Prophets. Wherefore the Lord showed his great indignation upon them. It came to pass (saith the Prophet) (Zech 7) even as I told them: as they would not hear, so when they cried, they were not heard, but were scattered into all kingdoms which they never knew, and their land was made desolate. And to be short, all they that may not abide the word of God, but following the persuasions and stubbornness of their own hearts, go backward and not forward (as it is said in Jeremiah) (Jer 7) They go and turn a way from God. Insomuch that Origen saith, He that with mind, with study, with deeds, with thought, and care applieth and giveth himself to God’s word, and thinketh upon his Laws day and night, giveth himself wholly to God, and in his precepts and Commandments is exercised: this is he that is turned to God. And on the other part he saith, Whosoever is occupied with Fables and Tales, when the word of God is rehearsed, he is turned from God. Whosoever in time of reading God’s word, is careful in his mind of worldly business, of money, or of lucre, he is turned from God: whosoever is entangled with the cares of possessions, filled with covetousness of riches, whosoever studieth for the glory and honour of this world, he is turned from God. So that after his mind whosoever hath not a special mind to that thing that is commanded or taught of God, he that doeth not listen unto it, embrace, and print it in his heart, to the intent that he may duly fashion his life thereafter, he is plainly turned from God, although he doe other things of his own devotion and mind, which to him seem better, and more to God’s honour.
Which thing to be true, we be taught and admonished in the holy Scripture by the example of king Saul, who being commanded of God by Samuel (1 Sam 15), that he should kill all the Amalekites, and destroy them clearely with their goods and cattle yet he, being moved partly with pity, and partly (as he thought) with devotion unto God, saved Agag the King, and all the chief of their cattle, therewith to make sacrifice unto God. Wherewithal God being displeased highly, said unto the Prophet Samuel, “I repent that ever I made Saul King, for he hath forsaken me, and not followed my words”, and so he commanded Samuel to show him, and when Samuel asked wherefore (contrary to God’s word) he had saved the cattle, he excused the matter, partly, by fear, saying, he durst doe none other, for that the people would have it so, partly, for that they were goodly beasts, he thought God would be content, seeing it was done of a good intent and devotion, to honour God with the sacrifice of them. But Samuel reproving all such intents and devotions (seem they never so much to God’s honour, if they stand not with his word, whereby we may be assured of his pleasure) said in this wise, Would God have sacrifices and offerings? Or rather that his word should be obeyed? To obey him, is better then offerings, and to listen to him is better then to offer the fat of Rams: yea, to repugn against his voice is as evil as the sin of soothsaying: and not to agree to it is like abominable Idolatry. And now forasmuch as thou hast cast away the word of the Lord, he hath cast away thee, that thou shouldest not be king.
The turning of God from man.
By all these examples of holy Scripture, we may know, that as we forsake God, so shall he ever forsake us. And what miserable state doeth consequently and necessarily follow thereupon, a man may easily consider by the terrible threatenings of God. And although he consider not all the said misery to the uttermost, being so great that it passeth any mans capacity in this life sufficiently to consider the same: yet he shall soon perceive so much thereof, that if his heart be not more then stony, or harder then the Adamant, he shall fear, tremble, and quake, to call the same to his remembrance.
First the displeasure of God towards us is commonly expressed in the Scripture by these two things: by showing his fearful countenance upon us, and by turning his face, or hiding it from us. By shewing his dreadful countenance, is signified his great wrath: but by turning his face or hiding thereof is many times more signified, that is to say, that he clearely forsaketh us, and giveth us over. The which significations be taken of the properties of men’s manners. For men towards them whom they favour, commonly bear a good, a cheerful, and a loving countenance: so that by the face or countenance of a man, it doeth commonly appear what will or mind he beareth towards other. So when God doeth show his dreadful countenance towards us, that is to say, doeth send dreadful plagues of Sword, famine, or pestilence upon us, it appeareth that he is greatly wroth with us. But when he withdraweth from us his Word, the right doctrine of Christ, his gracious assistance and aid (which is ever joined to his word) and leaveth us to our own wit, our own will and strength: he declareth then, that he beginneth to forsake us. For whereas God hath showed to all them that truly believe his Gospel, his face of mercy in Jesus Christ, which doeth so lighten their hearts, that they (if they behold it as they ought to doe) be transformed to his Image, be made partakers of the heavenly light, and of his holy Spirit, and be fashioned to him in all goodness requisite to the children of God: so, if they after doe neglect the same, if they be unthankful unto him, if they order not their lives according to his example and doctrine, and to the setting forth of his glory, he will take away from them his Kingdome, his holy word, whereby he should reign in them, because they bring not forth the fruit thereof that he looketh for. Nevertheless, his is so merciful, and of so long sufferance, that he doeth not show upon us that great wrath suddenly. But when we begin to shrink from his word, not believing it, or not expressing it in our livings: first he doeth send his messengers, the true preachers of his word, to admonish and warn us of our duty: that as he for his part, for the great love he bare unto us, delivered his own Son to suffer death, that we by his death might be delivered from death, and be restored to the life everlasting, evermore to dwell with him, and to be partakers and inheritors with him, of his everlasting glory and kingdom of heaven: so again, that we for our parts should walk in a godly life, as becommeth his children to doe. And if this will not serve, but still we remain disobedient to his word and will, not knowing him, nor loving him, not fearing him, not putting our whole trust and confidence in him: and on the other side, to our neighbours behaving ourselves uncharitably, by disdain, envy, malice, or by committing murder, robbery, adultery, gluttony, deceit, lying, swearing, or other like detestable works, and ungodly behaviour, then he threatneth us by terrible comminations, swearing in great anger, that whosoever doth these works, shall never enter into his rest, which is the kingdom of heaven. (Heb 3, 1 Cor 6, Ps 95)
>The Second Part