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first-born, that is zeal: by religion I am an Adam, but by zeal I am an Abel produced out of that Adam. Now if we consider times not long since past, there was scarce one house, scarce one of us, in whom this first-born, this zeal was not dead. Discretion is the ballast of our ship, that carries us steady; but zeal is the very freight, the cargason 7, the merchandise itself, which enriches us in the land of the living; and this was our case, we were all come to esteem our ballast more than our freight, our discretion more than our zeal; we had more care to please great men than God; more consideration of an imaginary change of times, than of unchangeable eternity itself. And as in storms it falls out often that men cast their wares and their freights overboard, but never their ballast, so soon as we thought we saw a storm, in point of religion, we cast off our zeal, our freight, and stuck to our ballast, our discretion, and thought it sufficient to sail on smoothly, and steadily, and calmly, and discreetly in the world, and with the time, though not so directly to the right haven. So our first-born in this house, in ourselves, our zeal, was dead. It was; there is the comfortable word of our text. But now, now that God hath taken his fan into his hand, and sifted his church, now that God hath put us into a straight and crooked limbeck, passed us through narrow and difficult trials, and set us upon a hot fire, and drawn us to a more precious substance and nature than before; now that God hath given our zeal a new concoction, a new refining, a new inanimation by this fire of tribulation, let us embrace and nurse up this new resurrection of this zeal, which his own Spirit hath begot and produced in us, and return to God with a whole and entire soul, without dividing or scattering our affections upon other objects; and in the sincerity of the true religion, without inclinations in ourselves, to induce, and without inclinableness, from others, upon whom we may depend, to admit, any drams of the dregs of a superstitious religion ; for it is a miserable extremity, when we must take a little poison for physic. And so having made the right use of God's corrections, we shall enjoy the comfort of this phrase, in this house, ourselves, our first-born, our zeal was dead; it was, but it is not.
27 Cargason (from the Spanish cargaçon), a cargo. Todd, in his edition of Johnson, says he has not found it except in Howell.-Ed.
Lastly, in this fourth house, the house where we stand now, the house of God, and of his saints, God affords us a fair beam of this consolation, in the phrase of this text also, they were dead. How appliable to you, in this place, is that which God said to Moses, Put off thy shoes, for thou treadest on holy ground; put off all confidence, all standing, all relying upon worldly assurances, and consider upon what ground you tread; upon ground so holy, as that all the ground is made of the bodies of Christians, and therein hath received a second consecration. Every puff of wind within these walls, may blow the father into the son's eyes, or the wife into her husband's, or his into hers, or both into their children's, or their children's into both. Every grain of dust that flies here, is a piece of a Christian ; you need not distinguish your pews by figures ; you need not say, I sit with so many of such a neighbour, but I sit within so many inches of my husband's, or wife's, or child's, or friend's grave. Ambitious men never made more shift for places in court, than dead men for graves in churches; and as in our later times, we have seen two and two almost in every place and office, so almost every grave is oppressed with twins; and as at Christ's resurrection some of the dead arose out of their graves, that were buried again; so in this lamentable calamity, the dead were buried, and thrown up again before they were resolved to dust, to make room for more. But are all these dead? They were, says the text; they were in your eyes, and therefore we forbid not that office of the eye, that holy tenderness, to weep for them that are so dead. But there was a part in every one of them, that could not die; which the God of life, who breathed it into them, from his own mouth, hath sucked into his own bosom. And in that part which could die, they were dead, but they are not. The soul of man is not safer wrapt up in the bosom of God, than the body of man is wrapt up in the contract, and in the eternal decree of the resurrection. As soon shall God tear a leaf out of the book of life, and cast so many of the elect into hell-fire, as leave the body of any of his saints in corruption for ever. To what body shall Christ Jesus be loth to put to his hand, to raise it from the grave, then, that put to his very Godhead, the divinity itself, to assume all our bodies, when in one person, he put on all mankind in his incarnation? As when my true repentance hath re-engrafted me in my God, and re-incorporated me in my Saviour, no man may reproach me, and say, Thou wast a sinner: so, since all these dead bodies shall be restored by the power, and are kept alive in the purpose of Almighty God, we cannot say, they are, scarce that they were dead. When time shall be no more, when death shall be no more, they shall renew, or rather continue their being. But yet, beloved, for this state of their grave, (for it becomes us to call it a state; it is not an annihilation, no part of God's saints can come to nothing) as this state of theirs is not to be lamented, as though they had lost anything which might have conduced to their good, by departing out of this world; so neither is it a state to be joyed in so, as that we should expose ourselves to dangers unnecessarily, in thinking that we want anything conducing to our good, which the dead enjoy. As between two men of equal age, if one sleep, and the other wake all night, yet they rise both of an equal age in the morning ; so they who shall have slept out a long night of many ages in the grave, and they who shall be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord Jesus in the air, at the last day, shall enter all at once in their bodies into heaven. No antiquity, no seniority for their bodies; neither can their souls who went before, be said to have been there a minute before ours, because we shall all be in a place that reckons not by minutes. Clocks and sun-dials were but a late invention upon earth; but the sun itself, and the earth itself, was but a late invention in heaven. God had been an infinite, a super-infinite, an unimaginable space, millions of millions of unimaginable spaces in heaven, before the creation. And our afternoon shall be as long as God's forenoon; for, as God never saw beginning, so we shall never see end; but they whom we tread upon now, and we whom others shall tread upon hereafter, shall meet at once, where, though we were dead, dead in our several houses, dead in a sinful Egypt, dead in our family, dead in ourselves, dead in the grave, yet we shall be received, with that consolation, and glorious consolation, You were dead, but are alive. Enter ye blessed into the kingdom, prepared for you, from the beginning. Amen.
ESTHER iv. 16. Go and assemble all the Jews that are found in Shushan, and fast ye for me,
and eat not, nor drink in three days, day nor night: I also, and my maids will fast likewise ; and so also I will go in to the king, which is not
according to the law: And if I perish, I perish. Next to the eternal and co-essential word of God, Christ Jesus, the written word of God, the Scriptures concern us most; and therefore next to the person of Christ, and his offices, the devil hath troubled the church with most questions about the certainty of Scriptures, and the canon thereof. It was late, before the spirit of God settled and established an unanime, and general consent in his church, for the accepting of this Book of Esther: for, not only the holy Bishop Melito (who defended the Christians by an apology to the emperor) removed this book from the canon of the Scripture, one hundred and fifty years after Christ, but Athanasius also, three hundred and forty years after Christ, refused it too : yea, Gregory Nazianzen (though he deserved, and had the style and title of Theologus, the divine ; and though he came to clearer times, living almost four hundred years after Christ) did not yet submit himself to an acceptation of this book. But a long time there hath been no doubt of it; and it is certainly part of that Scripture which is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, and to instruct in righteousness'. To which purpose, we shall see what is afforded us in this history of this heroical woman, Esther ; what she did in a perplexed and scrupulous case, when an evident danger appeared, and an evident law was against her action; and from thence consider, what every Christian soul ought to do, when it is surprised and overtaken with any such scruples or difficulties to the conscience.
For Esther in particular, this was her case. She being wife to the king, Haman, who had great power with the king, had got from him an edict, for the destruction of all her people the Jews. When this was intimated to her by Mordecai, who pre
1 2 Tim. iii. 16.
ring uncalled particular law. Tund it accepte
sented to her conscience, not only an irreligious forsaking of God, if she forbore to mediate and use her interest in the king for the saving of hers, and God's people; but an unnatural and unprovident forsaking of herself, because her danger was involved in theirs; and that she herself being of that nation, could not be safe in her person, though in the king's house, if that edict were executed, though she had not then so ordinary access to the king, as formerly she had had : yea, though there were a law in her way, that she might not come till she was called, yet she takes the resolution to go, she puts off all passion, and all particular respects, she consecrates the whole action to God: and having in a rectified and well informed conscience found it acceptable to him, she neglects both that particular law, That none might have access to the king uncalled, and that general law, That every man is bound to preserve himself; and she exposes herself to an immipent, and (for any thing she knew) an unescapable danger of death: If I perish, I perish.
For the ease of all our memories, we shall provide best, by contracting all, which we are to handle, to these two parts; Esther's preparation, and Esther's resolution : how she disposed herself, how she resolved: what her consultation was, what her execution was to be. Her preparation is an humiliation ; and there, first she prepares, that that glory which God should receive, by that humiliation, should be general; all the people should be taught, and provoked to glorify God; Vade congrega, Go, and assemble all. Secondly, The act which they were to do, was to fast, Jejunate: and thirdly, It was a limited fast, Tribus diebus, Eat not, nor drink in three days, and three nights : and then, this fast of theirs, was with relation, and respect to her, Jejunate super me, Fast ye for me. But yet so,' as she would not receive an ease by their affliction ; put them to do it for her, and she do nothing for herself; Ego cum ancillus; I and my maids will fast too : and similiter, likewise, that is, as exactly as they shall. And so far extends her preparation: her resolution derives itself into two branches. First, That she will break an human and positive law, Ingrediar contra legem, I will go in, though it be not according to the law; and secondly, She neglects even the law of nature, the law of self-preservation, Si peream peream.