Qui verò hæc audierunt compuncti sunt corde, & dixerunt ad Petrum ac reliquos Apostolos, Quid faciemus viri fratres? Petrus autem ait ad eos Resipiscite &c.
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the Apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent etc.
Our Saviour Christ promised Peter Acts the fift[h] chapter, to make him a fisher of men, and Matthew the thirteenth chapter, That the word of the Kingdom of Heaven is like a draw net cast into the Sea, which catcheth fish of all sorts, both good and bad. The first casting forth of his net, and the first draught that Peter had, by St. Luke set down in these verses, And the draught which he made was of three thousand souls, verse the fourty first. If we ask, of what souls? They were the souls of them that killed the Sonne of God, and wrought despite to the spirit of God, whom they blasphemed; ascribing the gift of the holy Ghost to drunkenesse, verse the thirteenth, saying of the Apostles, these men are full of new wine.
[601/602] Which when we advisedly consider, it cannot but be matter, First, Of great comfort, Teaching us, that albeit, we be great sinners as the Jews that put the sonne of God to death, yet there is a quid faciemus? what to doe, that is, a hope of remission of sinnes. Secondly, Of instruction touching the means, That if we repent and be pricked in heart with the consideration of our sinnes as they were, we shall attain this mercie which they received. First, St. Luke sets down the Sermon of Peter. Secondly, The fruit and effect of it. As the Sermon it self propounds the death and Resurrection of Christ; so is the effect that followed it, we see the means how we are made partakers of his death and Resurrection; and that is set down in these two verses; which contain a question and an answer. In the question is to be observed, First, the cause of it, that is, the compunction of their hearts: Secondly, the cause of that compunction, and that was the hearing of Peters sermon.
Touching this effect, which Peters Sermon wrought in the hearts of his hearers, it is compuncti sunt corde. Wherein note two things, First, the work itself. Secondly, the part wherein (of the work it self) it is said, they were pricked.
Wherein first we are to observe, That the first work of the spirit and operation of the word, is compunction of heart; howbeit the word being the word of glad tidings and comfort, it is strange it should have any such operation, but that Christ hath fortold the same, John, the sixteenth chapter, when the comforter comes, he shall reprove the world of sinne. Now reproof is a thing that enters into the heart; as Proverbs the twelfth chapter and the eighteenth verse, There is that speaketh words like the prickings of a sword; and as Christ gave warning before hand; so now when the Holy Ghost was given, we see that Peters hearers are reproved and pricked in their consciences, that they dealt so cruelly with Christ. As this befalleth the Elect of God; so there is another spirit called by the same name of pricking, pne¦ma katanuxewj [sluggish spirit] Romans, the eleventh chapter and the eighth verse, that is, the spirit of slumber, which shewes itself upon those that shall not be saved.
Touching the manner of this operation, we see it is not a tickling or itching, but a pricking, and that no light one, but such as pearced deeply into their hearts, and caused them to cry: Whereby we see it is not the speaking of fair words, saying with the false Prophets Jeremiah, the twenty third chapter, The Lord had said ye shall have peace; it is not that [flattering speeches] Romans the sixteenth chapter and the eighteenth verse, that makes this effect, but this speaking. The part wherein this work was wrought, was the heart, as Luke the twenty fourth chapter, they burned in their hearts; and Hosea, the second chapter and the fourteenth verse, I will speak to their hearts. So it was no itching of the eares, in the second epistle to Timothie the fourth chapter, or of the brain that they felt, but a pricking of the very heart; and so should we be affected at the hearing of the word. As he that is pricked in the flesh, is disquieted, till he have remedy; so should the [602/603] consideration of our sinnes disquiet us, and make us seek for cure. This is our duty from their example, and it s a good signe of distinction, to shew us whether we be of the number of those that shall be saved; whether of the good fish that shall be gathered together, or the bad fish that shall be cast out, Matthew the thirteenth chapter and the fourty eighth verse: So if we pertain to God, we shall feel this pricking at our hearts, after we have heard the word.
The cause of this compunction is his auditis, that is, they had heard a speech of St. Peter, which did disquiet them, till they asked counsel of Peter and the rest. The word of God of its own nature, hath no such operation, for the Patriarch Job saith, Job the twenty third chapter, It was agreeable to him as his appointed food: And David, Psalm the nineteenth, saith, The Commandements of the Lord rejoyceth the heart, and is sweeter than the honey and the honey-combe: But yet it hath this effect in regard that it meeteth with that which is an enemy to our Salvation, that is sinne, the deputy of Satan, as the word is Gods substitute. Without the Law sinne is dead; but when the Commandement came sinne revived, Romans the seventh chapter and the eight verse; so sinne is a sting, the first epistle to the Corinthians the fifteenth chapter, which lyeth dead so long as it is not reproved: But when it is reproved by the commandement of God, then it reviveth and stings the heart; it makes men have a conscience of sinne, Hebrews the tenth chapter, and when sinne is disquieted, the heart also wherein it resteth is disquieted; for the words of the wise are as goads and pricks, Ecclesiastes, the twelfth chapter, and Matthew the fift[h] chapter, as salt and mustard seed; Matthew the thirteenth chapter, as wine; To a putrified sore, Luke, the tenth chapter. So that whether we respect the old or new Testament, we see the words have this effect to disquiet sinne, especially such words as Peter spake to his Auditors out of the Prophet Joel; where he sheweth, that as Christ hath a day of resurrection, which is past; whereby he gave his Apostles those gifts of the spirit; so he hath another day, which is the fearfull and great day of Judgement; when the word of the Rulers shall not be enough, for them that have killed the Lord of life (though they promised to serve them harmlesse Matthew the twenty eighth chapter): For here they shall give an account of their cruelty to Christ.
And thirdly whereas he moveth them to repentance, First, in this consideration of the day of Judgement: Secondly, of the sinne they committed, that they slue and crucified Christ: Thirdly, of the grievousnesse of their sinne, that he was the sonne of God whom they dealt thus with; and every sinne hath a sting, but especially murther: For the remembrance of it stings the conscience so as it cannot be quiet. Now in that they not only committed murther, but murthered such a one as was both a holy and just one, Acts, the third chapter, and the blessed Sonne of God, this could not but disquiet their hearts; as we see the remembrance of the day of Judgement is such a thing, as made Felix tremble, Acts, the twenty fourth chapter. And when [603/604] we hear of the Judgment to come, it should bring out of us these questions Jeremiah the eighth chapter and the sixt[h] verse, Quid feci? and Isaiah the fifty seventh chapter and the fourteenth verse, Cui fecisti? upon whom have you gaped. To consider not only the sinne we have committed, but the person against whom; that it is God of all Majestie and power: And Matthew the twenty first chapter, Quid faciam? that is, he considers of the Judgment of God which belong to us: For these so grievous sinnes, these are means to prick our hearts at the hearing of the word. But yet we say, though the word of God hath this nature, yet except the work of the spirit doe concur with the word, the consciences is seared, the first epistle to Timothy, and the fourth chapter, and cannot be touched with any thing: the soul is possessed with the gangrene, that is, without life and feeling, so that it hath no sense, be it pricked never so deeply, the second epistle to Timothie, the first chapter; but he that feels himself pricked in the heart for his sinnes may assure himself his conscience is not seared, but hath a heart of flesh easily to be touched with sorrow for sinne, and that his soul is not dead in sinne, but liveth spiritually.
In the Question we have to observe, First, that this compunction made him speak; for, as the Wise-man saith, Qui pungit cor educit sermonem. So here when they were pricked, they said Men and Brethren; as if the holy Ghost should say, if a man say nothing after he is pricked, it is no true compunction: For if when men are moved inwardly with a feeling of their sinnes, for all that, they say nothing nor seek direction of them that are skilfull, they do smother and detein the truth, Romans the first chapter.
Secondly, We must observe what they said, and that was Quid faciemus? what shall we doe? At first the People, the souldiers, and after the Publicans, said to S. John the Baptist, Luke the third chapter; which is the second thing to be noted; that as true compunction is not dumb, so not idle, but would be doing something: they say not, What shall we say? but What shall we doe? Quid faciemus? as if the same spirit which pricked their hearts had also taught them, that something must be done. The like question did St. Paul make, being pricked Domine, quid vis me facere? Acts the ninth chapter and the sixt[h] verse. So the Angel said to Cornelius, Go to Joppa, and Simon shall tell thee what thou ought to doe, Acts the tenth chapter; So said the Jaylor to the Apostles, Acts, the sixteenth chapter, What shall I doe that I might be saved, I and my household, and that I may be rid of the pricking of my conscience? For as compunction must not be silent; so neither must it be idle or unfruitfull in the knowledge of the Lorde, the second epistle of Peter the first chapter.
Thirdly, Observe what manner they said, What shall we doe, and that was not as Cain and Judas said, Genesis the fourth chapter and Matthew the twenty seventh chapter; Their what to doe, Quid faciemus? was a note of desperation: Nor as the Pharisees said desperately in their fury and rage, What shall we doe? John the eleventh chapter. [604/605] If such have their sinnes laid before them, their hearts will not be pricked, but cleave assunder, as they to whom St. Stephen spake Acts the eighth chapter. The heart may be cast down with too much grief, so as a man shall say with Cain My sinne is greater than can be forgiven, or lese moved with malice and be pricked, so as they will prick again: as they that being pricked with the reproof of the Prophet, say, Let us sting with our tongues, as he hath stung our hearts, Jeremiah the eighteenth chapter and the eighteenth verse; for this is the effect which the word of God hath in many that are wicked. But that which Peters Auditors say, is spoken in heavinessse, and a desire to have sinne that doth disquiet them (that which the Apostle calleth the sin that doth so easily beset us, Hebrews, the twelfth and the first verse) taken from them: This is their heavinesse makes them comfortable to Christ, and therefore is commendable in them: For it is God's will, that such as shall be saved, be made conformable to the Image of his sonne, Romans, the eighth chapter and the twenty ninth verse; for Christ was pierced not only with a bodily spear in his side, but with grief of soul; And as he suffered of compassion over us; so we must suffer in compassion with him.
Out of that which the ancient Fathers observe in sorrow, we have five things to note: First, That something may be done as a remedy against sinne. For albeit we have sinned never so grievously, yet there is hope, tamen adhuc spes est, Esdras the tenth chapter and the second verse; there is hope of some means to be used; which if it be done, as Ezekiel the eighteenth chapter, privata vestra non erit vobis Domine scandalum. Secondly, By that which they say is to be gathered, that as something may be done, so it ought to be done, that the terror of minde being removed, wee may be assured of the favour and grace of God. Thirdly, They shew they are ready to doe it, not the like those of whom the Prophet saith, I know when I have shewed you what you should doe, you will not doe it, Jermeiah the fourty third. But these are ready to doe whatsoever shall be appointed as a remedy for them. Fourthly, As they are ready, so withall they confesse their ignorance, that of themselves they know not how to rid themselves from sinne: As the Eunuch said, Acts, the eighth chapter, How can I understand without an Interpreter? Fift[h]ly, They seek to Peter and the other Apostles, because God had lately enlightened them with the grace of his spirit, and consequently were skilfull, and could tell them what to doe; and therefore they are bound to commit themselves to them, as to themselves to them, as to their Physitian, to do whatsoever they shall prescribe for the cure of their souls. So that if there by any, that being in state of sinne, doe for all that either think that nothing can, or that nothing ought to be done, but shall say desperately, Jeremiah, the eighteenth chapter: or as if it were not needfull to be done, shall refuse to doe it; or think they know well enough what to doe without direction, contrary to the Apostles opinion, in the first epistle to the Corinthians the twelfth chapter, Are all Apostles? For though first we say meerly, We know we all have the knowledge, the first epistle to the Corinthians, the eight chapter [605/606] and the first verse; yet after he saith, every one hath not knowledge, and therefore must ask counsell of those that can give it; or else shall refuse to be directed by such as doe know, therefore are not like to be eased of the sting of conscience gnawing at them, and ever be disquieted.
The Apostles answer to this question is, in the fifty eighth verse, Resipiscite & that is, there is something to be done, which is an argument of the great Mercy of God, and the virtue and power of the Sacrifice of Christ, not withstanding the greatnesse of their sinnes. Here are two things set down, First by way of precept, Repent and be baptized. Secondly, Things by Christs promises, Yee shall have your sinnes forgiven, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
First Peter prescribes them what to doe, and so shewes that their sinnes are remitted, which is a signe of God's great mercy, though their sinnes were grievous: For he that shall offend his better, a man of credit, can hardly hope for pardon; much lesse if they offend the Prince or some noble person; But these offend the Majesty of God himself, which doth farre exceed the Majesty of earthly princes: For of Christ the elect Sonne of God they said, in the twenty sixt[h] chapter of Matthew, His blood be upon us, and they wrought despight to the spirit of Grace, Hebrews the tenth chapter; when they blaspheme the holy Ghost, accusing them of drunkenesse, which were inspired with the holy spirit, Acts the second chapter and the thirteenth verse; Yet the Apostle telleth the grievous sinnners, there is hope of forgivenesse, that to them which are yet scarce cold from the slaughter of the Sonne of God, there is a remedy to help them. Wherein the Apostle followeth the rule which Christ had before given to the Apostles, in the twenty fourth chapter of Luke, to preach repentance and remission of sinnes to mankinde, beginning at Jerusalem. If the doctrine of remission of sinnes be first to be preached to them, among whom Christ was crucified, much more to the ends of the world: and that likes us well.
But secondly, He tells us what we must doe, he saith not, you shall live to doe nothing, but repent and be baptized. It is not enough to be pricked in the heart for sinne past, but we must doe something. And he speaks first by way of precept, Repent and that is, rest not in that passive part, but know that when you are pricked in your hearts, repentance must be shewed in your life: Wherewithall he sheweth, that compunction is not repentance, for here to these that were already pricked, he saith, Repent, and Jeremie the thirty first chapter, After I converted, I repented, so in the third chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, Repent and turn, that your sinnes may be done away: so it was given in charge to St. Paul, Acts, the twenty sixt[h] chapter, Repent and turne, and doe workes worthy of eternall life: so these men shewed forth these workes; for, as followeth they were devout and liberal, distributing to all as they had need; the principall actions, either removing of the ill, that is sinne, which did disquiet their consciences, or the positive benefit, that is, the gift of the holy Ghost, which should work [606/607] in them the fruits of the spirit, meeknesse, patience, Galatians 5. And be unto them an earnest and pledge of their Redemption and Salvation in the second epistle to the Corinthians, the first chapter and the fift[h] verse, Ephesians, the first chapter and the thirteenth verse.