<< The First Part
In the former part of this sermon, ye have learned how many manner of ways men fall from God: some by idolatry, some for lack of faith, some by neglecting of their neighbours, some by not hearing of God’s word, some by the pleasure they take in the vanities of worldly things. Ye have also learned in what misery that man is, which is gone from God: and how that God yet of his infinite goodness to call again man from that his misery useth first gentle admonitions by his Preachers, after he layeth on terrible threatenings. Now if this gentle monition and threatening together doe not serve, then God will show his terrible countenance upon us, he will pour intolerable plagues upon our heads, and after he will take away from us all his aid and assistance, wherewith before he did defend us from all such manner of calamity. As the Evangelical prophet Isaiah, agreeing with Christ’s parable doeth teach us, saying (Isa 5, Mtt 21), That God had made a goodly vineyard for his beloved children, he hedged it, he walled it round about, he planted it with chosen vines, and made a Turret in the midst thereof, and therein also a vine-press. And when he looked that it should bring him forth good grapes, it brought forth wild grapes: and after it followeth, Now shall I show you (saith God) what I will doe with my vineyard: I will pluck down the hedges, that it may perish: I will break down the walls that it may be trodden underfoot: I will let it lie waste, it shall not be cut, it shall not be digged, but briers and thorns shall overgrow it, and I shall command the clouds that they shall no more rain upon it.
By these threatenings we are monished and warned, that if we which are the chosen vineyard of God, bring not forth good grapes, that is to say, good works that may be delectable and pleasant in his sight, when he looketh for them, when he sendeth his messengers to call upon us for them, but rather bring forth wild grapes, that is to say, sour works, unsavoury, and unfruitful: then will he pluck away all defence, and suffer grievous plagues of famine, battle, dearth, and death, to light upon us. Finally, if these serve not, he will let us lie waste, he will give us over, he will turn away from us, he will dig and delve no more about us, he will let us alone, and suffer us to bring forth even such fruit as we will, to bring forth brambles, briars, and thorns, all naughtiness, all vice, and that so abundantly, that they shall clean overgrow us, choke, strangle, and utterly destroy us.
But they that in this world live not after God, but after their own carnal liberty, perceive not this great wrath of God towards them, that he will not dig, nor delve any more about them, that he doeth let them alone even to themselves. But they take this for a great benefit of God, to have all their own liberty: and so they live, as if carnal liberty were the true liberty of the Gospel.
But God forbid (good people) that ever we should desire such liberty. For although God suffer sometimes the wicked to have their pleasure in this world, yet the end of ungodly living is at length endless destruction. The murmuring Israelites had that they longed for (Num 11), they had Quails enough, yea, till they were weary of them. But what was the end thereof? Their sweet meat had sour sauce: even whiles the meat was in their mouths, the plague of God lighted upon them, and suddenly they died. So, if we live ungodly, and God suffereth us to follow our own wills, to have our own delights and pleasures, and correcteth us not with some plague: it is no doubt but he is almost utterly displeased with us. And although he be long ere he strike, yet many times when he striketh such persons, he striketh them at once for ever. So that when he doeth not strike us, when he ceaseth to afflict us, to punish or beat us, and suffereth us to run headlong into all ungodliness, and pleasures of this world that we delight in, without punishment and adversity, it is a dreadful token that he loveth us no longer, that he careth no longer for us, but hath given us over to our own selves. As long as a man doeth prune his vines, doeth dig at the roots, and doeth lay fresh earth to them, he hath a mind to them, he perceiveth some token of fruitfulness that may be recovered in them, but when he will bestow no more such cost and labour about them, then it is a sign that he thinketh they will never be good. And the father, as long as he loveth his childe, he looketh angerly, he correcteth him when he doeth amiss: but when that serveth not, and upon that he ceaseth from correction of him, and suffereth him to do what he list himself, it is a sign that he intendeth to disinherit him and to cast him away for ever. So surely nothing should pierce our heart so sore, and put us in such horrible fear, as when we know in our conscience, that we have grievously offended God, and doe so continue, and that yet he striketh not, but quietly suffereth us in the naughtiness that we have delight in. Then specially it is time to cry, and to cry again, as David did: Cast me not away from thy face, and take not away thy holy spirit from me (Ps 51). Lord turn not away thy face from me, cast not thy servant away in displeasure (Ps 27). Hide not thy face from me, least I be like unto them that go down to hell (Ps 143). The which lamentable prayers of him, as they do certify us what horrible danger they be in, from whom God turneth his face (for the time, and as long as he so doth:) so should they move and stir us to cry upon God with all our heart, that we may not be brought into that state, which doubtless is so sorrowful, so miserable, and so dreadful, as no tongue can sufficiently express, nor any heart can think. For what deadly grief may a man suppose it is to be under the wrath of God, to be forsaken of him, to have his holy spirit the author of all goodness to be taken from him, to be brought to so vile a condition, that he shall be left meet for no better purpose, then to be for ever condemned in hell? For not only such places of David doe show, that upon the turning of God’s face from any persons, they shall be left bare from all goodness, and far from hope of remedy: but also the place rehearsed last before of Isaiah, doeth mean the same, which showeth, that God at length doeth so for sake his unfruitful vineyard, that he will not only suffer it to bring forth weeds, briars, and thorns, but also further to punish the unfruitfulness of it. He saith he will not cut it, he will not delve it, and he will command the clouds that they shall not rain upon it: whereby is signified the teaching of his holy word, which Saint Paul, after a like manner, expressed by planting and watering, meaning that he will take that away from them, so that they shall be no longer of his kingdom, they shall be no longer governed by his holy Spirit, they shall be put from the grace and benefits that they had, and ever might have enjoyed through Christ, they shall be deprived of the heavenly light, and life which they had in Christ, whiles they abode in him: they shall be (as they were once) as men without God in this world, or rather in worse taking. And to be short, they shall be given in to the power of the devil, which beareth the rule in all them that be cast away from God, as he did in Saul (1 Sam 15) and Judas, and generally in all such, as work after their own wills, the children of mistrust and unbelief.
Let us beware therefore (good Christian people) least that we rejecting or casting away God’s word (by the which we obtain and retain true faith in God) be not at length cast of so far, that we become as the children of unbelief, which be of two sorts, far diverse, yea, almost clean contrary, and yet both be very far from returning to God; the one sort, only weighing their sinful and detestable living, with the right judgement and straightness of God’s righteousness, be so without counsel, and be so comfortless (as they all must needs be from whom the spirit of counsel and comfort is gone) that they will not be persuaded in their hearts, but that; either God can not, or else that he will not take them again to his favour and mercy. The other, hearing the loving and large promises of God’s mercy, and so not conceiving a right faith thereof, make those promises larger then ever God did, trusting, that although they continue in their sinful and detestable living never so long, yet that God at the end of their life, will show his mercy upon them, and that then they will return. And both these two sorts of men be in a damnable state, and yet nevertheless, God (who willeth not the death of the wicked) hath showed means, whereby both the same (if they take heed in season) may escape. (Ezek 18 & 33)
The first, as they doe dread God’s rightful justice in punishing sinners (whereby they should be dismayed, and should despair indeed, as touching any hope that may be in themselves) so if thy would constantly or stedfastly believe, that God’s mercy is the remedy appointed against such despair and distrust, not only for them, but generally for all that be sorry and truly repentant, and will therewithall stick to God’s mercy, they may be sure they shall obtain mercy, and enter into the port or haven of safeguard, into the which whosoever doth come, be they before time never so wicked, they shall be out of danger of everlasting damnation, as God by Ezekiel saith (Ezek 33), what time soever a sinner doth return, and take earnest and true repentance, I will forget all his wickedness.
The other, as they be ready to believe God’s promises, so they should be as ready to believe the threatnings of God: as well they should believe the law, as the Gospel: as well that there is an hell and everlasting fire, as that there is an heaven, and everlasting joy: as well they should believe damnation to be threatened to the wicked and evildoers, as salvation to be promised to the faithful in word and works, as well they should believe God to be true in the one, as in the other. And the sinners that continue in their wicked living, ought to think, that the promises of God’s mercy, and the Gospel, pertain not unto them being in that state, but only the law, and those Scriptures which contain the wrath and indignation of God, and his threatenings, which should certify them, that as they doe over boldly presume of Gods mercy, and live dissolutely: so doth God still more and more withdraw his mercy from them, and he is so provoked thereby to wrath at length, that he destroyeth such presumers many times suddenly. For of such Saint Paul said thus (1 Thess 5), When they shall say it is peace, there is no danger, then shall sudden destruction come upon them.
Let us beware therefore of such naughty boldness to sin. For God, which hath promised his mercy to them that be truly repentant (although it be at the latter end) hath not promised to the presumptuous sinner, either that he shall have long life, or that he shall have true repentance at the last end. But for that purpose hath he made every mans death uncertain, that he should not put his hope in the end, and in the mean season (to God’s high displeasure) live ungodly. Wherefore, let us follow the counsel of the wise man, let us make no tarrying to turn unto the Lord: let us not put off from day to day, for suddenly shall his wrath come, and in time of vengeance he will destroy the wicked. Let us therefore turn betimes, and when we turn let us pray to God, as Hosea teacheth, (Hos 14) saying, Forgive all our sins, receive us graciously. And if we turn to him with an humble and a very penitent heart, he will receive us to his favour and grace for his holy Names sake, for his promise sake, for his truth and mercy’s sake, promised to all faithful believers in Jesus Christ his only natural Son: to whom the only Saviour of the world with the Father and the holy Ghost, be all honour, glory, and power, world without end. Amen.