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and obedient man is the best scholar:“For the Spirit of God is a loving Spirit, and will not enter into a polluted soul: but he that keepeth the law, getteth the understanding thereof; and the perfection of the fear of the Lord is wisdom,” said the wise Ben-Sirach. And now give me leave to apply the doctrine to you, and so I shall dismiss you from this attention.
Many ways have been attempted to reconcile the differences of the church in matters of religion, and all the counsels of man have yet proved ineffective: let us now try God's method, let us betake ourselves to live holily, and then the Spirit of God will lead us into all truth. And indeed—it matters not what religion any man is of, if he be a villain ;the opinion of his sect, as it will not save his soul, so neither will it do good to the public: but this is a sure rule, if the holy man best understands wisdom and religion, then by the proportions of holiness we shall best measure the doctrines, that are obtruded to the disturbance of our peace, and the dishonour of the Gospel. And, therefore,
1. That is no good religion, whose principles destroy any duty of religion. He that shall maintain it to be lawful to make a war for the defence of his opinion, be it what it will, his doctrine is against godliness. Any thing that is proud, any thing that is peevish and scornful, any thing that is uncharitable, is against the iraivovoa didaonanía, that “ form of sound doctrine” which the apostle speaks of. And I remember that Ammianus Marcellinus, telling of George, a proud and factious minister, that he was an informer against his brethren, he says, he did it "oblitus professionis suæ, quæ nil nisi justum suadet et lene;" “ He forgot his profession, which teaches nothing but justice and meekness, kindnesses and charity.” — And however Bellarmine and others are pleased to take but indirect and imperfect notice of it, yet goodness is the best note of the true church.
2. It is but an ill sign of holiness when a man is busy in troubling himself and his superior in little scruples and fantastic opinions, about things not concerning the life of religion, or the pleasure of God, or the excellencies of the Spirit. A good man knows how to please God, how to
b Ecclus. xxi. 11.
converse with him, how to advance the kingdom of the Lord Jesus, to set forward holiness, and the love of God and of his brother; and he knows also that there is no godliness in spending our time and our talk, our heart and our spirits, about the garments and outsides of religion: and they can ill teach others, that do not know that religion does not consist in these things; but obedience may, and reductively that is religion: and he that, for that which is no part of religion, destroys religion directly, by neglecting that duty that is adopted into religion, — is a man of fancy and of the world; but he gives but an ill account, that he is a man of God and a son of the Spirit.
Spend not your time in that which profits not; for your labour and your health, your time and your studies, are very valuable; and it is a thousand pities to see a diligent and a hopeful person spend himself in gathering cockle-shells and little pebbles, in telling sands upon the shores, and making garlands of useless daisies. Study that which is profitable, that which will make you useful to churches and commonwealths, that which will make you desirable and wise. Only I shall add this to you, that in learning there are variety of things, as well as in religion: there is mint and cummin, and there are the weighty things of the law; so there are studies more and less useful, and every thing that is useful, will be required in its time: and I may in this also use the words of our blessed Saviour,“ These things ought you to look after, and not to leave the other unregarded.” But your great oare is to be in the things of God and of religion, in holiness and true wisdom, remembering the saying of Origen, “ That the knowledge that arises from goodness is θείοτερόν τι πάσης áncdeitews, something that is more certain and more divine than all demonstration,' than all other learnings of the world.”
3. That is no good religion that disturbs governments, or shakes a foundation of public peace. Kings and bishops are the foundations and the great principles of unity, of peace, and government; like Rachel and Leah, they build up the house of Israel: and those blind Samsons that shake these pillars, intend to pull the house down. My son, fear God and the king,” saith Solomon; "and meddle net with them
that are given to change.” That is not truth that loves changes; and the new nothings of heretical and schismatical preachers are infinitely far from the blessings of truth.
In the holy language, truth hath a mysterious name, ndx, 'emet;' it consists of three letters, the first and the last and the middlemost of the Hebrew letters; implying to us, that truth is first, and will be last, and it is the same all the way, and combines and unites all extremes; it ties all ends together.—“Truth is lasting, and ever full of blessing :"For the Jews observe that those letters which signify truth, are both in the figure and the number quadrate, firm, and cubical; these signify a foundation, and an abode for ever. Whereas, on the other side, the word which in Hebrew signifies a lie, nw secher,' is made of letters whose numbers are imperfect, and their figure pointed and voluble ; to signify that a lie hath no foundation.
And this very observation will give good light in our questions and disputes : and I give my instance in episcopal government, which hath been of so lasting an abode, of so long a blessing, hath its firmament by the principles of Christianity, hath been blest by the issues of that stabiliment; it hath for sixteen hundred years combined with monarchy, and hath been taught by the Spirit which hath so long dwelt in God's church, and hath now-according to the promise of Jesus, that says, “ the gates of hell shall never prevail against the church"-been restored amongst us by a heap of miracles ; and as it went away, so now it is returned again in the hand of monarchy, and in the bosom of our fundamental laws. Now that doctrine must needs be suspected of error, and an intolerable lie, that speaks against this truth, which hath had so long a testimony from God, and from the wisdom and experience of so many ages, of all our ancestors, and all our laws.
When the Spirit of God wrote in Greek, Christ is called A and N; if he had spoken Hebrew, he had been called
and n, that is, ons 'emet;' he is “truth,' “ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever:” and whoever opposes this holy sanction, which Christ's Spirit hath sanctified, his word hath warranted, his blessings have endeared, his promises have ratified, and his church hath always kept; he
fights against this non emet,' and ' secher' is his portion; his lot is 'a lie;' his portion is there, where holiness can never dwell.
And now to conclude: to you, fathers and brethren, you who are, or intend to be of the clergy; you see here the best compendium of your studies, the best abbreviature of your labours, the truest method of wisdom, and the infallible, the only way of judging concerning the disputes and questions in Christendom. It is not by reading multitudes of books, but by studying the truth of God: it is not by laborious commentaries of the doctors that you can finish your work, but by the expositions of the Spirit of God: it is not by the rules of metaphysics, but by the proportions of holiness : and when all books are read, and all arguments examined, and all authorities alleged, nothing can be found to be true that is unholy. “Give yourselves to reading, to exhortation, and to doctrine,” saith St. Paul. Read all good books you can; but exhortation unto good life is the best instrument, and the best teacher of true doctrine, of that which is according to godliness.”
And let me tell you this, the great learning of the fathers was more owing to their piety than to their skill; more to God than to themselves : and to this purpose is that excellent ejaculation of St. Chrysostom“, with which I will conclude: “O blessed and happy men, whose names are in the book of life, from whom the devils fled, and heretics did fear them, who (by holiness) have stopped the mouths of them that spake perverse things ! But I, like David, will cry out,
Where are thy loving-kindnesses which have been ever of old ? Where is the blessed quire of bishops and doctors, who shined like lights in the world, and contained the word of life? "Dulce est meminisse;' their very memory is pleasant.' Where is that Evodias, the sweet savour of the church, the successor and imitator of the holy apostles ? Where is Ignatius, in whom God dwelt? Where is St. Dionysius the Areopagite, that bird of Paradise, that celestial eagle? Where is Hippolytus, that good man, ávñp xpnotòs, ' that gentle sweet person? Where is great St. Basil, a man almost equal to the apostles? Where is Athanasius, rich in
• Lib. de Consummat. Seculi, inter opera Ephrem Syri.
virtue? Where is Gregory Nyssen, that great divine? And Ephrem the great Syrian, that stirred up the sluggish, and awakened the sleepers, and comforted the afflicted, and brought the young men to discipline; the looking-glass of the religious, the captain of the penitents, the destruction of heresies, the receptacle of graces, the habitation of the Holy Ghost ?" These were the men that prevailed against error, because they lived according to truth : and whoever shall oppose you, and the truth you walk by, may better be confuted by your lives than by your disputations. Let your adversaries have no evil thing to say of you, and then you will best silence them: for all heresies and false doctrines are but like Myron's counterfeit cow, it deceived none but beasts; and these can cozen none but the wicked and the negligent, them that love a lie, and live according to it. But if ye become burning and shining lights; if ye do not detain the truth in unrighteousness; if ye walk in light, and live in the Spirit; your doctrines will be true, and that truth will prevail. But if ye live wickedly and scandalously, every little schismatic shall put you to shame, and draw disciples after him, and abuse your flocks, and feed them with colocynths and hemlock, and place heresy in the chairs appointed for your religion.
pray God give you all grace to follow this wisdom, to study this learning, to labour for the understanding of godliness; so your time and your studies, your persons and your labours, will be holy and useful, sanctified and blessed, beneficial to men, and pleasing to God, through him who is the wisdom of the Father, who is made to all that love him wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: “ To whom with the Father," &c.