Victori dabo edere ex abore illa vitæ quæ est in medio Paradisi Dei.
To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
A place of Scripture purposely chosen, that we might not depart from the consideration of those things wherein we have been occupied heretofore, and yet such as may fitly be applyed for our instruction in the Sacrament of the body and blood of Christ: for though we be now in the Revelations, yet are we not gone from the third chapter of Genesis; wherein we learned, that Adam was sent out of the Garden and kept from the tree of life. And for the businesse we intend, there is a great affinity between the tree of life which God set in Paradise, as a quickning means for the coutinuance of life in Adam, if he had continued in his first estate, and the Sacrament of Christ's body and blood; for, as I told you, the causes of that Scripture gives man a hope of restitution to Paradise and the tree of life, which acquisitis novi juris: And that restitution is performed in this place.
There was an Angel set to forbid Adam accesse to the tree of life; which was a sight dreadfull, for that he was armed and with a firie sword: But here we have comfort, that he that makes this promise of restitution, is an Angel as well armed, viz, with a two edged sword, Apocalyps the first chapter and the sixteenth verse, Whose eyes were as a flame of fire, Apocalyps the second chapter and the eighteenth verse. So there is a resemblance between the partie that here gives licence to come to the tree of life, and the other that forbid to come to it. The one threatned with a sword; the other promiseth to the persons that keep the condition here expressed, That they shall eat of the tree of life.
[572/573] The point is next, how these shall prevail: But if we consider how the Angels or Seraphins, Isaiah the sixt[h] chapter and the second verse, (in that they hid their faces before the Lord of hosts; which was Christ, whose glory was then shewed, John the twelfth chapter,) and Cherubins, Ezekiel the tenth chapter, doe reverence this Angel and cast their crowns down before him, as the blessed spirits doe, Apocalyps the fifth chapter, it is like he shall prevail; for the one is the sword but of a ministring spirit, Hebrews, the first chapter, but this is the promise of the Lord of life and glory, Acts the third chapter, and the first epistle to the Corinthians the second chapter.
But the chief point to be enquired is, How the holy Ghost agreeth with himself, that man being debarred of the tree of life, is restored to it: The answer is, Genesis, the third chapter and the twenty second verse, the punishment laid upon him was, That he might not put forth his hand and take of the tree of life: But if there be a power given to man, to eat of the tree, John the nineteenth chapter and the eleventh verse, then he may take of it. Man of himself may not rush into Paradise; but of that power of returning be given him, which Christ gave to the theef, Luke the twenty third chapter, This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise, then he may enter. Now Christ hath purchased to us a new right of returning, and by virtue thereof, we have power to eat of the tree of life, and he gives us licence to enter into Paradise.
But to apply this Scripture to our present purpose, there is something in the Sacrament that disposeth us to life, and gives us a power of life, no lesse than the tree of life. For herein we are partakers of that bread of life which our Saviour speaks of, John the sixt[h] chapter, I am the bread of life that came down from Heaven, he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever, and my flesh is that bread. As I live by Father, so he that eateth me, shall live by me, John the sixt[h] chapter and the fifty seventh verse. So that whether it be the fruit of the tree in Paradise, or the bread of life in the Sacrament, we see there is a great affinity, as appeareth if we compare this bread of life with the hidden manna, Apocalyps the second chapter and the seventeenth verse; which, as the Apostle saith, in the first epistle to the Corinthians the tenth chapter and the third verse, was the same spiritual meat, whereof we are partakers in the Sacrament of Christs body and blood.
This scripture consisteth of two parts, The Condition and the Promise, vincenti & dabo.
Touching the conjunction of these two, we must know, That when Christ promiseth to him that overcommeth, that he shall eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God, this is the gift of God and no matter of sale, and that he will not bestow it on them that doe nothing; for it is not the bread of idlenesse: but this gift is bestowed on them that doe cooperari cibum qui non perit, John the sixt[h] chapter.
In the Promise we are to know, That the Paradise and tree of life [573/574] which Christ promiseth, is not that earthly Paradise planted as the beginning of Adam, nor that tree of life appointed for the prolonging of his natural life, but a better Paradise; the other was Adams Paradise, but this is called God's Paradise; the other was a Paradise on earth, but this is a celestial Paradise, that into which the Apostle was caught up, in the second epistle to the Corinthians the twelfth chapter, which he himself saith, was the third Heaven: the Paradise which Christ here promiseth is that wherein he himself is a Paradise of all joys and happinesse; of which he saith, Father I will that they be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory, John the seventeenth chapter and the twenty fourth verse: For as God himself is a spirit, so his joy and happinesse is spiritual; and the place wherein he is, a spirituall Paradise: Such joy was that he speaks of Matthew the twenty fifth chapter, Intra gaudium Domini: So are we to think the throne of God the Father where Christ sitteth, Apocalyps the third chapter and the twenty first verse, that it is the heavenly joy and glory which he enjoyeth in heaven: So saith the Wise man, Proverbs the thirteenth chapter, that there is ordained this tree of life, wherein we have the accomplishment of all our desires, which is no where but in Heaven, where God is all in all.
For the tree of life, which Christ promiseth to him that overcommeth, It is another manner of tree than that in the garden of Eden: That was a natural tree appointed to preserve Adams natural life, but this is a spiritual tree, and preserveth supernatural life: And albeit Man being debarred of this natural tree in the Garden, dyeth a bodily death; yet this tree in the Paradise of God keeps us from being hurt of the second death, Apocalyps the second chapter and the eleventh verse. Christ himself saith of himself, I am alive, but I was dead, and behold I live for evermore, Apocalyps the first chapter and the eighteenth verse; that is, he lost the natural life, but now he lives a supernatural life: and so shall all his members that eate of the tree of life which he promiseth.
Well is the state of our death and rising again, shadowed out by a tree; for as Job speaks, Job the fourteenth chapter, There is a hope of a tree, that though it be cut down, yet it will sprout out and the branches thereof will shoot forth; So though we dye a bodily death, yet there is hope that we shall rise again, and live a supernaturall life, which we obtain by eating of this true of life: The center of our desire is the tree of life, the circumference is Paradise wherein we have promised us, not only coronam vitae, Apocalyps the second chapter, [verse] 10. But the crown of glory, the first of Peter and the fifth chapter; And the crown of joy and happinesse, the first of the Thessalonians the second chapter, and the nineteenth verse, We shall have our saciety of pleasure, and whatsoever mans heart can desire; for we shall be in the presence of God, whose right hand is pleasure for ever Psalm 16.
From the condition we are taught, that this promise is not be cast upon us but given, and it is not a generall promise, but made particularly to him only that overcometh: Which condition carrieth us [574/575] to the promise of virtues made by God, Genesis the third chapter, where God proclaimeth war between the woman and the serpent; between the womans seed and the serpents seed. And Christ tells us here, that he which is conqueror in this war, shall injoy Paradise and be restored to the tree of life; for no man is crowned except he both strive and strive lawfully the second of Timothy the second chapter.
The battail that we are to fight, is either with the serpent himself or with his seed. With the Serpent we are at warre as the Apostle sheweth, Ephesians the sixt[h] chapter and the twelfth verse, We fight not with flesh and blood but with principalities and power: Such a fight did the Apostle feel, when the Angel or Satan was sent to buffet him, the second epistle to the Corinthians the twelfth chapter: And of the victory against this enemy the Apostle saith, Young men I write to you, because you are strong and have overcome that wicked one, the first epistle of John the second chapter and the fourteenth verse.
The warre which we have with the Serpents seed is, First, within us; for his poyson infecteth our inward parts, not only the Reins, by stirring in us fleshly lusts, which fight against the soul, the first epistle of Peter the second chapter, which must be overcome as the Apostle exhorts, Colossians, the third chapter, Mortifie your earthly members; but the heart also, by that boyling lust of revenge which made Cain one of the Serpents sees to kill his brother, the first epistle of John the third chapter and the twelfth verse: which inward desire of revenge must likewise be overcome, as the Apostle willeth, Romans the twelfth chapter, Avenge not your selves, sed vinc malum bono; we must overcome the evil of our fleshly lusts and desires of revenge, with the grace of mortification and patience.
Secondly, The seed of the Serpent is without us; for there are filii Belial, of whom were those to whom Christ said, John the eighth chapter, You are of your Father the Devil: Such as will doe mischief for doing well, such enemies are men of corrupt mindes and understandings that are destitute of the truth, and are bold to say that gain is godlinesse, from which we must separate our selves, the first epistle to Timothy the fifth chapter and the first verse. And if we overcome, then we shall be partakers of this promise. But who overcommeth in this warre? and who can say, he is a conqueror in this battail? The Apostle saith, That he that sinneth is overcome of sinne, and brought into bondage of the sinne the second epistle of Peter the second chapter and the nineteenth verse: Therefore where the promise is here made only to him that overcommeth, we must see if the Scripture offereth more graces, James the fourth chapter and sixt[h] verse: And if we look in Apocalyps the second chapter and the fifth verse, we shall finde there he makes this promise offers more graces, that is, Remember from whence thou art fallen and repent, and doe thy first works. So there are two victories, the first is continere à peccato; the other is poenitere de peccato. If we cannot get this victory over the Serpent, that he doe not cause us to sinne at all, yet if we so farre overcome him, that sinne reign [575/576] not in our mortal bodies, Romans the sixt[h] chapter and the twelfth verse, if we wound his head, which was promised, Genesis the third chapter and the fifteenth verse; so as though he cause us to sinne, yet he get not the head or set up his throne in our hearts, then we are to hope that we shall be partaker of this promise, if we return from whence we are fallen, and repent us of the sinnes we have committed, and doe the first works, then no doubt we shall be restored to our first estate, and Christ shall give us a new right in the tree of life. But he that either fighteth not at all, but is at league with Hell, and hath made a covenant with death, Isaiah, the twenty-eighth chapter; he that will deny sinne nothing, but will fulfill the lusts of the flesh; or if he fight yet he fight not lawfully, nor strive to overcome, but is content to follow every temptation, as an oxe led to the slaughter, Proverbs the seventh chapter; and not only so, but put stumbling block before himself, which may make him fall, Ezekiel the fourteenth chapter, and use all means that he may be overcome: And if, having fallen, they labour not to get the victory after, by repenting of his former sinnes, and doing the first works, then they have no part in this first promise. Men may draw neer to the holy mysterie of Christs body and blood, and snatch at the tree of life; but Christ gives it not, except they be such as overcome, either by grace of abstinence from sinne, or of repentance and sorrow for sinne: They may be partakers of the tree of life de furto, but not de jure: The bread of life is to them as the bread of wrong, Proverbs the fourth chapter and the seventeenth verse, and the bread of deceit which shall in the end fill their mouths with gravell, Proverbs the twentieth chapter.
So both the promise and condition are touched: But the question is, How we shall overcome? that we learn, Apocalyps the twelfth chapter; where the Saints are said to overcome the great dragon, the old Serpent, with the bloode of the Lambe: Which blood hath two uses: First, that which the Apostle calls the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, the first epistle of Peter the first chapter and the second verse. Secondly, That by receiving the cup of blessing we are partakers of the blood of Christ, the first epistle to the Corinthians the tenth chapter and the sixteenth verse. So that in these words is a reciprocation, vincenti ut comedat, & comedenti ut vincat, dabno edere; the body and blood of Christ is the fruit of that tree of life which the Apostle speaks of, the first epistle of Peter the second chapter and the twenty fourth verse, That he bare our sinnes in his body upon the tree; Of which fruit whosoever are partakers in the Sacrament when it is ministred to them, doe receive power to overcome, that so they may eate of the tree of eternal life: For in this Sacrament we have both a means of victory and a pledge of our reward, that is, the life of grace begun in us here, to assure us of a glorious life in the world to come. Every tree must have a root, and the root of that tree which Christ speaks of is here in this Sacrament; for in it is sown in the hearts of the receivers, as it were, a kernel, which in time shoots forth and becomes a tree; for as there was a death of the soul by sinne, before God inflicted [576/577] a death of the body; so answerable to that first death of sinne, there must be in us a life of grace, which is the root of that tree from whence we shall, in due time, receive the life of glory.
In this sacrament of the tree of the life of Grace is sown in us, that is, a measure of grace wrought in our hearts by the power of Gods spirit, by which we shall at length attain to eate of that tree which shall convey unto us the life of glory. As there are two trees of life; so we must have a double Paradise: We must have liberty to be of the Paradise on earth, that is, the Church militant, which is called hortus conclusus, Canticles the second chapter, before we can be received into the heavenly Paradise, that is the Church Triumphant. So there is a plain analogie between those. A when we are dead in sinnes and in the uncicumcision of the flesh, Colossians the second chapter and the thirteenth verse, we receive the life of grace by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ in Baptism; so when we are fallen from the life of grace and are restrained from the life of God, Ephesians the fourth chapter and eighteenth verse, and dead in trespasses and sinnes, Ephesians the second chapter, then we obtain victory again sinne and death by the blood of the Lamb, being drunk in the Sacrament, Apocalyps the twelfth chapter and the eleventh verse. For if the material tree of life in Paradise received such influence from God, Genesis the third chapter, that being dead in itselfe, it had power to convey the natural life of our Parents, while they eat of the fruits thereof, then is God able as well to give such a power to the Creatures of Bread and Wine in the Sacrament, that albeit they are dead of themselves, to convey into us the life of grace, even as the tree of life did prolong natural life; for so saith Christ, John the sixt[h] chapter and the fifty third verse, Except ye eat the flesh of the sonne of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateh my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life; he that eateth me shall live by me; And he that eateth of his body shall live for ever. There is no life but in Gods first, Deuteronomie the thirtieth chapter, ipse enim est vita mea, and he committeth life to the sonne: Therefore it is said, There is a River of water of life proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb, Apocalyps the twenty second chapter and the first verse: And as the Father hath life in himself, so he hath given to the Sonne to have life in himself, John the fift[h] chapter and the twenty sixt[h] verse: And as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickneth whom he will John the fifth chapter and the twenty first verse. God being the fountain of life, draws life to his sonne, as into a Cistern, from whence we draw life; therefore it is said of the wisdome of God, that is Christ, that he is a tree of life, Proverbs the third chapter and the eighteenth verse; of whom it is now said, in ipso erat vita, John, the fourteenth chapter; and therefore he calls himself this life, John the fourteenth chapter. This is the Cistern of life, to give life to them that are dead in original sinne, by the sprinkling of his blood in baptism: And when they are dead in actual sinnes, he gives new life to them are partakers of his body and blood in the Sacrament of the Supper. In this Sacrament [577/578] Christ hath provided a tree of life of graces against the death of sinne, whereof they must be partakers that will eat of the tree of life, which Christ here promiseth: So that whereas the Wise man saith Fructus justi est lignum vitae, Proverbs the eleventh chapter and the thirtieth verse. The seed of this tree is here sown, and bringeth forth the root of a better tree; for as grace is the root of glory, so glory is the fruit of grace. Here in this life the root of grace is planted in us, and brings forth the fruits of righteousnesse that in this life to come it may make us partakers of the tree of glory; and to assure us of this life, we are sealed with the holy spirit of promise, as the earnest of our inheritance, Ephesians the first chapter and the thirteenth verse, and the second epistle to the Corinthians, the first chapter and the twenty second verse: That albeit we are fallen and can be overcome of sinne, yet if we fight better, and doe the first works, we shall be partakers of the life of glory: The kernel of grace is planted in us by the participation of the body and blood of Christ; of which kernel commeth a tree, which bringeth forth the fruits of holinesse and righteousness in our whole life: Which God will in due time reward with the Crown of life and glory in the world to come.