by Richard Sibbes
For this cause many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.—1 COR. 11:30–32.
AFTER blessed St Paul had sown the seed of heavenly doctrine, Satan had sown some tares. Besides some corruption in doctrine, there was also corruption in life among the Corinthians; whereupon God was forced in mercy to visit them with some judgment: and lest they should be ignorant of the cause, the blessed apostle here doth put his finger to it, 'for this cause.' We have considered these four things in the words: the cause of the judgment; and then the kinds; and the remedy for the prevention, if it had been used: 'If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged;' and the comfort: howsoever, 'when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.' Of the cause, the kinds, and the remedy we have spoken; and now we proceed to the comfort.
Mark here the text that I have read unto you. Though we do all neglect this forenamed remedy in part, yet God is wonderful merciful: 'When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.' We will unfold the comfort, as the text leads us. In the words consider these things especially, these general heads:—*
1. First of all, that there is a world that must be condemned: we shall not be condemned with the world.†
2. And then, God's people shall not be condemned with the world.
3. The third conclusion that ariseth out of the text is this, that the way that God sanctifies to prevent his children from damnation, is fatherly correction and chastisement; and therefore we are judged, that we should not be condemned with the world; in the unfolding of which course that God takes, these three things are to be touched:—
(1.) That God's dealings with his children are but chastisements.
(2.) And his chastisements;‡ 'We are chastened of the Lord.'
(3.) And that* they are blessed for this end, to keep us from damnation. These things we will speak of in order.
Doct. 1. First, There is a world that is to be condemned: God's children shall not be condemned with the world.
What is the world in this place?
The world in this place, it is not the frame of heaven and earth; but (to avoid multiplicity of acceptions, in which were idle to spend time) by world here is meant those that Peter speaks of, the ungodly world, the world of ungodly.† As we see, 2 Pet. 3:7, they are called the world of ungodly; so there is a world took out of the world, the world of the elect. For as in the great world there is the little world—man—so in the great world of mankind, there is a little world—the world of God's people; but here it is the world of the ungodly.
Why are they called the world?
They are called the world, partly because they are great in the world. They swagger in the world, as if they were upon their own dunghill there, and as if they were the only men in the world, as indeed for the most part they are. God's people are a concealed, a hidden people here. And then again, they are the world, because they are the most of the world. But especially they are the world, because the best thing in them is the world. They have their name from that they love. Love is an affection of union. What we love, that we are knit unto. Now because carnal men are in love with the things of the world, being united in their affections to it, they have their name from that they love. And indeed, anatomise a carnal man that is not in the state of grace, rip him up in his soul, what shall you find in him but the world? You shall find in his brain worldly plots, worldly policy and vanity. You shall find little of the word of God there, and scarce any thing that is good, because the best thing in him is the world; therefore he is the world.‡ But to pass from the meaning of the word to the point: This world must be condemned. Why condemned? Mark these four or five reasons.
[1.] First of all, because the world doth set itself upon things that must be condemned, upon present vanities. Why?§ All things in this world must pass through the fire ere long, the frame of heaven and earth and all in it. Now those that love the world especially, and have no better things in their souls, they must perish with the world. He that stands on ice, and on slippery things, he slips with the thing he stands on. So those that fasten their souls upon the world, upon slippery and vain things, they fall, and slip with the things themselves. Now, because the world pitched their happiness║ in the things of this life, they are vain as the things themselves.But to go on.
[2.] A second reason why the world must be condemned is this, because they serve a damned prince, and it is pity that the state of the subject and the state of the prince should be severed. Satan they serve; Satan rules in them according to his own lust; Satan bathes himself in their humour as it were, in their anger, in their pride [in their covetousness**], in their melancholy, in their passion. As Saul, when he was given up to an evil passion, the devil seized upon him; so the devil leads them according to the stream of their own humour and of their own lusts; they are led according to the bent of the prince of the world.* Now, being led by the temptations of Satan, who knows where to have them upon any temptation, and leads them as we lead sheep with a green bough, when he presents anything to them, he knows where to have them; and he being a damned† prince and governor, all that are under him are in the same condition.
[3.] The third reason why the world shall be damned is this, because the world condemns God. It is but quittance. Carnal people in the world condemn God's ways and God's children, and the ways of religion to be nice‡ and foolish. The world hath its conceits of itself, and scorns the sweetness of religion, and accounts the word and obedience to be a weak and poor spirit.§ Considering that the world passeth such censures upon God's ways, and condemns the generation of the righteous, if God condemn the world, do you wonder, when the base and slavish world, led by the devil and by their own lusts, will condemn God and his ways? And certainly, if you would see into the poisonful disposition of persons among whom we live, that are yet in the world, how malicious they are to God's courses, you will not wonder that God hath ordained such to be set on the left hand, to pass the sentence of eternal condemnation upon them; because though the light discover to them which way they should walk, yet they abhor all God's ways, and take ways of their own: as if they would teach God wisdom, and prescribe what he should do; as if they were wiser than God. All your politicians they║ are such: they lead their lives as if they would teach God wisdom: what he should prescribe; as if they were wiser than he a great deal. Do you wonder that he condemns them [then]?
Obj. But you will say, 'the world?'** What do you talk? We are baptized. We hear now and then a sermon! Are we the world? The world are Pagans, and Turks, and Jews, and such; perhaps papists. Such as they are the world.
Ans. Oh no, beloved, 'Babylon is in Jerusalem,' as the father saith,†† the world is in the city of God, the world is among you. Nay, and that part of the world that shall be deepest damned is here amongst us. For our damnation shall be deeper than the Turks' or Jews'. 'You have I known of all the nations of the world, saith God; and therefore I will be sure to visit you,' Amos 3:2. The three bad grounds,‡‡ beloved, were the world, Mat. 13:1, seq. Howsoever, all heard the word, yet there was but one good. You may be of the world, and yet live in the midst of the church, as Paul, Phil. 3:18, seq., complains of many, 'of whom, saith he, I have told you often, and now tell you weeping, they are enemies to the cross of Christ,' [they were teachers in the church; they were so far from being aliens], 'whose end is damnation, whose belly is their god, whose glory is their shame, who mind earthly things.' When the guides and teachers of the church, that should give aim at§§ salvation to other people; when they shall make 'their belly their god, and damnation their end;' shall we secure ourselves that we are in a good estate, because we are baptized, and because we hear the word; when the 'three bad grounds' did so? It is another manner of matter to be out of the world, and to be in Christ, than the world takes it for. Beloved, in holy duties there are two things; there is the outward duty, the shell, and the life and soul of the duty. A carnal worldly man may do the outward thing; he may be baptized and receive the communion; he may come to hear the word of God, but there is a life and soul in the duty; to hear as he should; to be moulded into the performance of it; to obey that we hear, and to come to receive the sacrament with reverence and due preparation; and to increase the assurance of salvation, and our comfort and joy. This is the hard part of the duty; this the world cannot do. Let us value ourselves by the practice of the inward part of the duty, the power of the duty, and not rest in the outward performance.
[4.] The next reason to shew that the world must needs be condemned, it is this, because even in the church there are a company of men (I beseech you, let not your thoughts go out of your* congregations and places we live in when we speak of the world) that will be damned. It is a strange thing; that will be damned! Who will be damned? I say, there are a company among whom we live, that resolve to be damned. Why? There are evil courses, which whosoever will take, they will go to hell; they will end in death, as in the Proverbs, Prov. 8:35. 'He that takes such a course, hates his own soul.' God saith thus, that† is Wisdom himself; and therefore if you wilfully walk in those courses that lead to hell, it is as much as if you would‡ be damned. Indeed, there is none but would be saved, if they would be saved in the paths of the broad way, that lead to damnation; they could be content to go to heaven in a race of vanity. Who would not be saved in that sense? But the world will be damned in this sense, if they resolve to take a course to flatter their own lusts, going their own ways in spite of God, in spite of his truth, in spite of conscience, and to despite the Spirit that awakeneth them and tells them that there is another way that they should walk in, and puts them in mind, 'This is the way, walk in it,' Isa. 30:21; and this is not the way, avoid it; and yet they will rush on in their courses, as the horse rusheth into the battle. Say God what he will, the world will be damned. Are there not many that have been told of their pride§, of their vanities, of their lusts, of their sins that their conscience tells them they pamper themselves in? and they will not amend for all this. This, in God's construction (and this conscience will tell them another day), is because they would go on rebelliously in courses tending to damnation. Nay, which is worse, there is a generation of venomous persons, that hate the ministers, hate good people, hate the image of God, and hate anything, that may present to their hearts a dislike of the courses they are wedded to. Oh! I would they would hate the devil so; and do you wonder that these are damned, that hate the image of God, the motions of the Spirit, and raise reproaches upon religion, and make it odious as much as they can, that their vileness may the less appear, and be the less disgraced in their wicked ways? And yet this is the course of many thousands in the bosom of the church, and in the best places, that are guilty of this; whom if one tell, that this temper and frame of soul is contrary to God, and will yield nothing but desperation in the end,║ notwithstanding they will not regard what you say. Well, beloved,I must hasten. Many other reasons there are to shew that the world must be damned, as,
[5.] The world, it is shut out of Christ's prayer. They have no part in the prayer of Christ, in him that died to redeem us. And the world will not receive the Spirit, because they maintain their own lusts. Many other reasons the Scripture heaps upon this, that there are a company of men that must and will be damned. But what is the use of this?
Use (1.) First, to pull our friends, our children, out of the world; to get ourselves out of the world, as soon as we can. Come out of Sodom, come out of Babylon, make all haste; for, as the angel tells Lot, 'I will destroy this place,' Gen. 19:16. The world is a place that God will destroy. It is Sodom; it is Babylon; get out of it. There is no being there, except you will reap eternal damnation with the world.
(2.) Again, pass* not for the censures of worldly proud people, that think that they are jolly Christians, when they are but in truth damned persons. God may recover them, but yet they are in damnable ways. Who cares† for the sentence of a damned person, till he have gotten his pardon? Such are all profane persons, that have not the work of grace wrought in their hearts in an effectual manner; they are yet in the state of damnation. Why should we pass for their censures? There are a company of weak persons, who reason as weakly, If I do this, the world will say thus and thus. What is the world? The world is a generation of unregenerate wretched people, that must be damned. Who would regard the censure of a damned person? and indeed who would follow the guise of damned persons? And yet of late such is the madness of people, that they take up the fashions, though they be condemned fashions. They‡ do not consider the vanity of it, so to take up the fashions of damned persons.§ The world is a condemned generation; therefore take not up the guise and fashion of the world.║ The world's fashion is the worst fashion of all. I speak not of correspondency with the world in civil actions in the passages of our life. We must 'come out of the world,' as Christ saith, 'if we will not be correspondent in outward things,' 2 Cor. 6:17; and here should be a redeeming of our peace with the world in yielding in lesser matters. But I speak of those things which concern our inward comfort and peace, and that concern the practice of holy duties; let us not stand in it, what the world judgeth or allows, but practise holy duties, though the world censure them; and abstain from wicked courses, though the world applaud them. So we shall have a seal that we are taken out of the world.
Use (2.) Let us make another use of trial, and examine whether we be taken out of the world or no. In brief, therefore, let us askour aims, our ends. For, those that are taken out of the world have aims beyond the world; they frame their courses to supernatural ends to eternity; and labour so to guide themselves in this, that they may be saved in another world. We should steer and guide our actions suitable to our peace here-after. We should have further ends than the world hath. He that is a worldling confines his thoughts within the compass of the world; he hath no further aim. Sometimes he hath by-thoughts of heaven and happiness. But he makes it not his aim, it is not his scope to which he directs his course. In the second place, answerable to our aims, let us examine what our affections are. Our affections will tell us of what city we are, whether of Jerusalem, or of Babylon, as one of the ancients saith well.** Ask thy love, Whither dost thou weigh down in thy love? Doth earthly love as a weight press thee to things below? or is it a sanctified love, that carries thee to Christ, and to the things of God? Examine thy affections of love,* of joy and delight, of what city thou art. Mere earthly actions are hypocritical; therefore the inward affections are the best discoverers of the estate of our soul, where our joy and delight is.† And ask likewise in the third place, our relish, What do we savour most? Come to a carnal man; put him to a course of vanity; he hath learned the language of the times, all your complimental phrases; he hath them exactly; all the language of the time he can speak. But come to him in matters of religion; he is out of his theme there; he savours not those things. Those that are of the world speak of the world. Talk to them of vanity, of this and that, and you put them to their proper theme; but tell them of other things, they are mere strangers; and they speak as if they had never learned anything in that element. And so those that are of the world, they converse with those that are of the same bent; doves flock to doves, and delight in those that are like themselves. Many such arguments of trial we may have, but especially think what I have said before.‡ Look to your aims, to your affections, and to your inward relish and bent of soul, which way your and conversation is bent,§ and how it relisheth; and these will discover to us our state, as in Rev. 13:11, seq., and other places: there antichrist is called the beast that riseth out of the earth; because Romish religion is taken out of the earth, that is, it hath earthly aims, earthly grounds and principles. It is all for the world; it is a fallacy indeed, popery and not religion; and thereupon the pope is called the beast rising out of the earth. All the considerations that feed popery are out of the earth. Oh! a glorious monarch of the church, to have glory; and in the church to have all that may feed the senses, and that may please the outward man. Every thing, I say, is to please the outward man, to get riches, &c. They are called Gentiles; 'the outward court shall be cast to the Gentiles.' He speaks there, that antichrist with his crew that follows him, they should trouble, vex, and persecute the church, and cast it out to the Gentiles. The followers of antichrist are called Gentiles. But I speak not of them. We are earth and Gentiles, if our aims, projects, and affections be towards the earth, as the Scripture useth to speak.║ Therefore,let us examine ourselves by what I have said. I beseech you, let us consider that the world must be condemned. And before I leave it, do but think what damnation is. I beseech you,** have no slight thoughts of it. The Scripture saith, 'We shall not be condemned with the world.'
What is condemnation?
To be condemned is to be adjudged from the presence of God, and to be adjudged to eternal torment with the devil and his angels. It were somewhat unseasonable to enlarge this point; but I beseech you consider what is wrapped in this word 'condemned,''condemned with the world;' that so if we hate the end, damnation, we may hate the way that leads to it, the ways of the world. But to go on.
Doct. The second general is this, that God's children shall not be condemned with the world.
Ans. 1. Because they are the first-fruits dedicated to God out of the world, and Christ was condemned for them. How can they be condemned for whom Christ himself* was condemned?
Ans. 2. And then a godly man in the state of grace, he is in heaven already; and who shall pull him from heaven? How can he be condemned that is in heaven already? We sit in heavenly places already. Beloved, to hold that an elect Christian may fall away, is to pull Christ himself out of heaven; we are in heaven already in Christ. A Christian being a member of Christ cannot be condemned, no more than Christ can be condemned, be it spoken with reverence to his majesty.
Ans. 3. Again, for whom Christ is a priest, he is a king. He is a king to rule them in this world, and to subdue whatsoever might oppose their salvation. Whom he hath bought with his blood as a priest, he rules as a king, and orders all things to help their salvation. Where Christ is a king, for those he is a priest.† Can those be condemned then?‡ And he vouchsafes them a spirit stronger than the world. God's children have a spirit in them that overcomes the world: 'Stronger is he that is in you,' saith John, 'than he that is in the world,' 1 John 4:4. For the Spirit of God suggests reasons, and arguments, and motives that are stronger to a believing soul than the temptations of the world are; the world biasseth them one way, and the Spirit of God another way. The children of God have the Spirit of God, especially a spirit of faith, therefore they overcome the world. It presents better things in religion than the world can afford. Now those that have the Spirit of God, and a spirit of faith, by which they overcome the world, how can they be condemned with the world? And God takes a safe course with his children.
Note. That they may not be condemned with the world, he makes the world to condemn them; that they may not love the world, he makes the world to hate them; that they may be crucified to the world, he makes the world be crucified to them. Therefore they meet with crosses, and abuses, and wrongs in the world. Because he will not have them perish with the world, he sends them afflictions in the world, and by the world. Thus I might enlarge myself in the condition of God's people, of his saints;§ they shall not be condemned with the wicked world.
Use. The use of it is this, that we should be in love with the state of God's people.║ Who would not be in love with this condition? I may boldly speak it, my beloved. The meanest poor soul that hath the work of grace upon it, that is taken out of the world, is in a better condition than the greatest worldling. Let a man be as happy as a worldcan make him; if he be a condemned man, what is his condition? All the time that other men live, that are not in the state of grace, it is but the time between the sentence passing and the execution. Now, that is but a little time. The life of a carnal man, it is but the life of a man condemned at the bar, and is deferred for the execution a while. Another man, that is in the state of grace, he is safe; he shall not be condemned with the world; he is in heaven already; he is sure of it, as if he were there. I beseech you, let this make us in love with the sincerity of religion, and let us never cease labouring till we have gotten out of this cursed state into this happy estate.* There is but a little flock of Christ. We should never give our temples† quiet, and our souls rest, till we‡ evidence to them that we are of the little number which are taken out of the world; till we see that we are a first-fruits dedicated to God; till we find the beginnings of grace wrought in our souls. Why should we defer one hour till we have gotten this assurance, considering our life is so uncertain?
Doct. 3. The third general thing is this, the course that God takes with his children in this world, whereby they are preserved from damnation, it is corrections and chastisements. We are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world; wherein, as I shewed you, there are these three branches. I will specially speak of the last.§
(1.) First, that whatsoever God's dealings be with his children, it is but a fatherly correction and chastisement; and therefore it is in mercy, in discretion; a little punishment is enough of a mother to her child. God hath the wisdom of a father, but he hath the bowels of a mother; and therefore God║ is pitiful and merciful, because he is a Father. There is a wondrous sweet comfort wrapped in that word Father. The whole world is not worth thisthat is yielded to a Christian from this, that a Christian** is the child of God, and that God is his Father. I might enlarge myself in the point, that all are but fatherly corrections. A father, when he sees his child in an evil way, he corrects him; but it is a preventing correction, it is to prevent execution after. A child set at liberty makes his mother and his father ashamed; and so if we should be set too much at liberty, if God should not meet us with seasonable correction, we should shame religion and shame Christ; and therefore God in mercy corrects us with fatherly correction. Oh! it is a wonderful comfort to think, when we are taken into the covenant of grace, all comes from God as a Father then; and having taken us of enemies to be children, will he cast off his children for infirmities? Will a mother cast off her children for breaches, for something that displeaseth her? No! But rather she will be more merciful and more pitiful. But I will not enlarge myself in this point. It is a familiar point; and, I suppose, you hear it often. But, I beseech you, do but think of it, that it may be ready in your hearts and in your memories against temptation, to have a good conceit of God. It overcomes temptation†† ofttimes to have a good conceit of God, to present God to our souls as a father, whereas the devil would present him as a judge, as one that hates us. Oh! take heed of it, this is but fatherly correction. God is our Father: 'Our Father which art in heaven,' saith Christ. Let us help our souls by presenting God to us in these colours, as a father in temptation, and all that we suffer as fatherly corrections. To speak familiarly, we know in the street,‡‡ when one child is corrected, and another is not, we know he is the father that corrects. God doth not use to correct those that are not his children; he lets them go on still, they are not worth correcting;* because they have abused his mercy before, he lets them go on.† When God takes us in our sinful course, and meets with us, and hedgeth our ways with thorns, he shews himself to be a Father. We are bastards, and not sons, if we have not correction, as at large it is sweetly followed, and many arguments to it,‡ Heb. 12:7, seq. God shews himself a Father when he corrects us, or else we are bastards, and not sons.
Use 1. Well, let us take all things therefore the better at God's hands, because they are but corrections; for we need it, the best of us. The best gardens have need of weeding, and the best metals have need of purging, and the best linen hath need of washing. God knows it well enough, and therefore he will purge us. As the Scripture saith, As gold and silver is purged, he will purge out the dross, and all in mercy. We lose nothing by any visitations of God but corruption. The fruit of all his dealing with us is to take sin from us.
2. It is said here in the second place, that as they are corrections, so they are from God. We are chastened of the Lord. I will but touch it in a word, and that to help our forgetfulness in a main point. In the governing of a Christian life we are carried naturally to second causes. Now all second causes are but rods in God's hands. Look therefore to the hand that smites, look to God in all. He chastiseth us, as David said in the matter of Shimei, 2 Sam. 16:10; and as Job, 'It is the Lord that hath given, and the Lord hath taken away,' Job 1:21. And so in benefits we should see God in all things, and think we are to deal with him. Our work lies in heaven, therefore in any visitation or cross, I beseech you, think of it. We are to deal with the great Mover of heaven and earth, that hath all second causes in his hand; that hath the hearts of kings in his hand;§ and let us make our peace with him.
Quest. Why should we go to the serjeant? We should make our peace with the judge; make not peace with the second causes, but with the principal. It is God that chastiseth; let us make our peace there,║ and he will take off the second cause. I cannot follow the point; I beseech you think of it. We forget it in our practice, and that makes us so atheistical, as if there were not a God to govern the world, but we run presently upon second causes.
Let us go on; God's corrections are but chastenings, and they are from him. And they are sanctified of him, which is the main point, to preserve us from being damned with the world. These corrections are sanctified by God for that end.**
Quest. And how is that?
Ans. 1. Because they embitter sinful courses to us. When we are crossed in our sinful courses, sinful courses are embittered unto us; we grow out of love with them.
Ans. 2. And then again, these chastisements, they help us to relish heaven and heavenly things better. Oh! then the word of God is the word of God indeed; then Christ is Christ; then heavenly things are heavenly things; then a messenger, one of a thousand, will be heard, as Job 33:23; then welcome the man of God all that time. When a man cannot relish earthly things, when he cannot take comfort by his friends, then welcome heavenly comforts. Chastisements, therefore, they help us, that we be not damned with the world, by making us out of love with vanities, that we shall not care for them. We see they do us good, to help us to relish heavenly things. Blessed are those corrections that are sanctified that way. We hear with other ears then. When we have been in the fire, and God hath met with us by crosses, we hear with another manner of attention than at other times. Though* I might be large on the point, for it is very large, rather let us think of it to make use of it. But† first to take away all objections, that I may fasten the comfort upon our souls the better, it may be objected,
Obj. 1. Oh! but it is such a correction as takes away my friends from me. I cannot have the use of my friends, as sometime in a noisome contagious disease.
Ans. What if thou hast no friends but God and his angels to help thee to heaven? Whatsoever comfort God conveys by friends, he hath it in himself still; and he can convey those immediate comforts which are most sweet, when they come from the spring; when outward comforts fail, those are the best comforts. It is a greater grace for a prince to visit a sick body himself than to send a messenger to visit him. So when no man can come to us, God himself comes from heaven, and visits us by the comforts of the Holy Spirit; and what do we loose‡ then?
Obj. 2. Oh! but it is a sharp affliction, a sharp cross.
Ans. Oh! but it is a sweet hand it comes from. Shall not I take a cup out of a father's hand? It is a bitter cup, but it is out of a father's hand, and therefore out of a loving hand. It is from love, and it is directed to my good, and it is sweetly tempered and mixed, and moderated; and therefore if it come from love, and be directed to my good, and for the present be mixed and moderated§—why should I complain of the correction, that is for my good, to keep me that I should not be damned with the world?
Obj. 3. But how can death itself be a correction, when it takes away life, that we have no time to be better?
Ans. I answer, God, to his children, before he takes them out of the world, he║ gives them his Spirit, that they sharply repent, and put much to a little time; and God requires rather truth of heart than length of time. As we see sick bodies shoot out suddenly that did not grow before, so a sick afflicted soul it shoots out suddenly. God visits it with sharp repentance, though it be short, perhaps that they call their ways to account;and though he take them out of the world, yet he saves their souls.
Obj. 4. But perhaps it is but hypocritical repentance before my death (because many recover, and shew themselves to be hypocrites after); and so if I should die, perhaps I should die an hypocrite.
Ans. Oh! take heed of that. Many do so; as an ancient saith, He that is never good but under the cross (he means only), is never good.** He that is good under bonds is never good; if he doth it from fear, and not from hatred of sin. But thou shalt know that it was not in hypocrisy that now thou hast repented in thy sickness, if thou desire rather the grace of God, than to recover. A soul that is sanctified had rather have pardon of sin, and strength against corruption, than to have recovery; and he desires God from his soul: Now, Lord, sanctify this sickness, and this cross before thou take it away; for the plaster would fall off if the wound were healed; and the malady would cease if there were not a ground. I beseech you therefore, those that make that objection, let them consider whether they desire the removal of the cross rather,* or to have it sanctified, before it be removed from them. A true heart doth so; and it were better that we should be under the cross all the days of our lives, and to have the cross laid more heavy upon us, than that we should grow worse under it, as many do, and are not the better for it. But say thou, 'Nay, Lord, rather sear me, and burn me, and chastise me; save my soul and do what thou wilt.' That is the disposition of a Christian; for God takes a great deal of liberty with our carcases, and in our outward estate. Such things we must leave behind us, we know not how soon; and† therefore he takes liberty to correct us in them sharply; but so he saves our souls, all is in mercy. It is a blessed correction that draws us nearer to him, that makes us hate sin more, and love the ways of God more.
Obj. 5. But it will be objected again, but I am accessary to my own death, I have been an intemperate man, I have shortened my own days.
Ans. Beloved, a heavy temptation at the hour of death! But be not discouraged. For so blessed Josiah shortened his own days; for he went rashly when he had counsel to the contrary; and so 'the good prophet' shortened his own days when the lion met him and slew him by the way for his disobedience, 1 Kings 13:24; and so the good thief. Therefore despair not at that, if the thing should be that thou shouldst fall into some course whereby thou shouldst shorten thine own days, and be accessary to thine own death; as these Corinthians, they were accessary to their own deaths,‡ and they slept before their time; they cut the thread of their own life and they put out their own candle. No question but this was heavy upon the conscience; I brought myself to it. This is the hell of hells of the damned souls; I brought myself hither. So when we are guilty of the punishment and affliction of ourselves, it is most bitter unto us. But, I say, consider the former examples, God hath strange ways to bring his children home to him, and sometimes the furthest way about is the nearest way home.§ God suffers his children to sin, and by sin to shorten their days, and all to occasion repentance and a sight of their corruption, and a hatred of themselves, and of their base courses, and to give themselves to him more thoroughly than before. So infinitely wise and gracious is God to those that belong to him. So that, notwithstanding all objections to the contrary, the position laid down before is true, that God sanctifies corrections to us, that we should not be damned with the world.
Uses of all. Use 1. Now to make some general use of all that hath been spoken, and so to end all. Is this so? Here we might stand upon a point to instruct our judgment, to shew that all the corrections of God's children, they come not from vindictive justice, but from a fatherly affection, against that doctrine of popery that maintains satisfaction; that judgments are for satisfaction. A proud and damnable point. Can a man with a penny deserve a thousand pounds? Sin deserves eternal damnation. Can we with a little suffering satisfy that? 'The wages of sin is death,' Rom. 6:23, eternal death. It is a gross position. No! They are corrections, not satisfactions; they come from fatherly affection. This is to rectify our judgment in that point.
Use 2. And then again, to help us against Satan's temptations. He useth afflictions as temptations to weaken our faith.
Obj. If God did love thee, he would never do so and so; God hates thee;* why doth he follow thee with his judgments, but that he hates thee and hath no delight in thee? And why should he single out thee more than others?
Ans. Retort back again, Nay! because God loves me, he deals thus with me; because he means† to save my soul, therefore he will not suffer me quietly to run the broad way to destruction. Therefore it is rather an argument of love, from that, whereby Satan would shake our faith. Doth not Satan set upon Christ with this temptation? He comes with an 'if.' 'If thou be the Son of God,' Matt. 4:3, seq. If thou wert the child of God, shouldst thou be so afflicted? Whereas, indeed, because we are the sons of God, therefore we are afflicted. Beat back therefore Satan's weapons into his own bosom again. If God corrected his own Son, that is, the author of our salvation (when yet under the signs of his greatest displeasure, his Father loved him), let us think that we may be beloved of God in the signs of his greatest displeasure, as Christ upon the cross, 'My God, my God,' &c.‡ He apprehended, in the signs of greatest displeasure, God's love, and so should we. Let us answer God's dealing with the like. His dealing is this.§ In the worst condition he calls us children, and he is our father, and loves us. Therefore, in the worst condition, let us trust him, and say with Job. 'Though thou kill me, yet will I trust in thee,' Job 13:15.
Ans. Because thou mayest kill me, and yet be a father, and mayest do it in love. I will answer thy dealing by my faith again; therefore though thou kill me, yet will I trust in thee.
Use 3. Again, this strengthens our judgment in the point of perseverance, that being once in the state of grace, we shall hold out still. For rather than God's children shall fall away, God will take a course that they should not be damned with the world; he will correct them. It is most divinely set down, Rom. 8:35. Saith he, among other things, 'Neither life nor death shall be able to separate us from the love of God;' neither life, nor the vanities of this life.
Quest. And what if we give God cause to visit us with death.
Ans. 'Yet neither life nor death shall separate us from the love of God,' as here the Corinthians they were visited with death; yet neither life nor death shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ; and therefore be stablished in the truth of that point.
Use 4. Then again, for a further use, it fenceth the soul against the scandal** of the cross, and of visitations and sicknesses and crosses that we meet withal in the world; for the scandal is this: shall we be in love with the ways of God, wherein we meet with these and these corrections? Oh, yes! take not scandal* at that which is sanctified by God to be a means to preserve us from being damned with the world. And the child of God, take him at the lowest, take him at the worst, he is better than a worldling at the best. Take no offence, therefore, at God's dispensation with his children. All is, that they may not be damned with the world. Do not only justify God, but magnify God for his corrections, and after thou shalt receive fruit by them. And we have reason, when we find ourselves more mortified to the world, and to have the quiet fruit of righteousness to magnify God. Hath the Spirit sanctified it to thee to make thee lead another course of life? Say, Blessed be God for sending this cross, for indeed we have ofttimes occasion to bless God more for crosses than for comforts. There is a blessing hidden in the worst things to God's children, as there is a cross in the best things to the wicked. There is a blessing in death; a blessing in sickness; a blessing in the hatred of their enemies; a blessing in their losses whatsoever. There is a blessing hidden in the worst things; and therefore let us not only justify God, but glorify and magnify God for his mercy, that rather than we shall be condemned with the world, he will take this course with us.
Use 5. And then here again, you have a ground of impregnable comfort in all temptations whatsoever; a wondrous comfort, that God will take a course with his to bring them to heaven. What a blessed course is this, that† the time to come we may take in trust of God, as well as the time past? That now in the state of grace, rather than he will condemn us, he will take one course or other to bring us to heaven? Rather than David shall live in his sin, he will send Nathan to him; rather than Peter shall not repent, Christ will look back upon him; rather than God's children shall go the broad way, God‡ will send the devil himself to annoy them, and to infest them, and to vex them. God will be sure to lose none of his. What a comfort is this? and therefore never think that we can be in such a condition wherein there is true ground of despair. No! We cannot. We are under hope in the most woeful condition in the world. We are under hope still;§ for there is more mercy in God than can be sin and evil in us; and he is infinitely wise to rule all to his own ends. What if things seem untoward? They are in his hands; he hath a powerful hand to manage the worst things to good. So gloriously wise and powerful is God, that he sways the worst things. 'All things work for the best for those that love God,' Rom. 8:28, even the worst things in this world.
Obj. Oh! but profane spirits will object and say, 'If this be so, we may be careless; if our salvation be made sure, that we shall not be condemned with the world, that God will take care even to bring us to heaven.
Ans. Oh! but the text takes away that objection of profane spirits that take liberty from this blessed truth of God. For though God do not damn his with the world, yet he sharply corrects them here.By a careful sober life they might obtain many blessings, and prevent many judgments, and make their pilgrimage more comfortable. Therefore it argues neither grace, nor wit to argue so, because God will save me, therefore I will take liberty. No! Though God will save thee, yet he will take such a course that thou shalt endure such sharpness for thy sin, that it shall be more bitter than the sweetest of it was pleasant. There is no child of God that ever came to heaven, but God hath made their sinful courses more bitter to them than ever they have had benefit by them, though their souls have been safe. Put the case a man were sure not to be executed, yet to be branded, to be stigmatised, or to be disgraced in the country, would he for a paltry thing, not worth the speaking of, do wrong, because he should not be executed, and have friends to keep him from that? Who would* do such a thing as that, to bring himself to shame for a thing of nothing? So put the case thou shalt not be damned, thou art sure of that; yet thou mayest fall into such a course as God may brand thee; and thou mayest bring disgrace to religion; and mayest weaken the comfort of thine own soul; and mayest make Satan rejoice; and mayest grieve the angels about thee; and mayest vex the Spirit in thee; we may put a sting to the affliction we suffer, we may deprive ourselves of comfort in the midst of comforts for our boldness. Who, that hath the use of his wits, would do this for the pleasures of sin for a season?
Oh! therefore, when you go about to sin, consider what you go about. I go about to grieve God's Spirit, to provoke my heavenly Father; I go about to force out of his hand some rod, some correction; I go about to rejoice Satan; to grieve the angels, that are about me for my custody; to put a sting to my trouble, and to embitter it. This is the ill of ills, when a man is in affliction; my own wickedness brought me to this. Let us wisely consider this: though God save our souls, yet he will take such a course in this world, as we shall wish that we had not tried conclusions with God. David gave liberty to his lusts, but he wished (no doubt a thousand times), that he had not bought his pleasure at so dear a rate. Therefore, this I add, to fence this truth from the offence that a carnal heart takes at it. But to come to the proper and native use of it. Consider, I beseech you, how this doctrine is a fence against the rock of despair, and against the rock of presumption.
First, Against the rock of presumption. The soul may say, shall I be bold to sin? Surely I shall buy the pleasures of sin at a dear rate;† God will correct me sharply. And shall I force‡ God for such a pleasure, and for such a profit? No! I will not buy sin at that rate. So it fenceth the soul from presumption.
Again, it fenceth the soul from despair. Oh! but I have sinned; my own weakness hath given me the foil; and Satan he joins with my weakness and hath foiled me. Oh! but do not you yet despair, for therefore we are corrected, that we should not be condemned with the world; as I said before,§ a Christian is never so low, but mercy triumphs over the ill in him. There is more abundant mercy║ in God, than there can be ill in us. So happy a condition it is to be in Christ, thatin the covenant of grace, God sets himself to triumph over the greatest ills, over sin, and over affliction. There can be no ill so great, but it yields to his mercy in Jesus Christ, and therefore be not discouraged,* whatsoever ill we suffer. And so it keeps us from these two rocks of presumption and despair. Let us therefore for a conclusion of all take this course.
First of all, be sure, beloved, that we get out of the world,† get out of Sodom, get out of the condition we are in by nature. Trust not to a formal profession of religion. Do not deceive your souls; it will deceive you. Get out of the world, and get into Christ; get something by attending upon the means, and by prayer, and by crossing your corruptions; get somewhat in‡ you, that may evidence that you are taken out of the world, and that you are in Christ, being led with a better spirit than your own.
In the next place, when you are in the state of grace, honour that condition. Walk worthy of that glorious condition.§ Oh! the state of a Christian, it is a glorious state. It requires much holy wisdom to manage the state of Christianity. If we be Christians, let us carry ourselves like Christians worthily; if we will have good of our profession. Let us carry ourselves so, as that we may not go so far in religion, as may minister God more matter to damn us. What good is it to have so much knowledge, and so much profession as shall damn us the more? But if we will be religious, let us be religious to purpose, and let us walk worthy of this glorious state.
Obj. Oh! but in the next place, I have not done it,I have forgotten my condition, forgotten my hopes, forgotten my state, and** regarded my base lusts more; I have been surprised, and catched.
Sol. Then take this course: judge yourselves, if you have been overtaken; take the counsel of the apostle, while there is hope, and judge yourselves.
Obj. But I see now, God is ready to take me out of the world, and I have not judged myself as I should; though I be out of love with my courses, and am in league with no evil course, yet I have been‡‡ faulty.
Sol. Oh! comfort thyself, let not Satan swallow thee up in despair; mark what the apostle saith, God sends this, that we should not be condemned with the world; and therefore presently make a covenant with him, renew thy purposes presently, as Ps. 25:1, seq. All his ways to his children are mercy and truth; his ways of correction and his ways of love, all his ways§§ are mercy. And therefore take heed that we never deny our own mercy, that we never forsake our own mercy; let not Satan prevail so much. We have need of all this, beloved, especially to remember it in the time of temptation, in spiritual desolation, when we gasp for comfort; let us labour to learn this spiritual wisdom, to present to our own souls the promises of the gospel, and the relation that God hath put upon himself, to be a father; his dealings to us, that they are fatherly corrections. Let not Satan wring these comforts out of our souls. But let us honour God by trusting him in life and death, and say with Job, 'Though he kill me, yet will I trust in him,' Job 13:15. So sweet and powerful is the death of Christ, that it turns all things, even the bitterest, to the greatest good. But this may be sufficient by the blessing of God's Spirit.
Sibbes, Richard. The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes