Adeo provocantes Deum ad indignationem factis suis, ut irrumperet in eos plaga; donec consistente Pinchaso & judicum exercente, coercita esset plagilla.
Thus they provoked him to anger with their own inventions: and the plague brake in upon them.
Then stood up Phinehas and executed judgment and so the plague was stayed.
There is in these two verses, mention of the plague. And as it is here said, the plague was great among them, so great, as there dyed of it four and twenty thousand, Numbers the twenty fifth chapter. And now God hath laid the same axe to the root of our trees, and the same rasor to cut off some of our number, Isaiah the seventh chapter and the eighth verse. Therefore our state being like theirs, while they wandered in the wildernesse, Everything in the Scriptures be written for our instruction, Romans the fifteenth chapter. We must take direction from this principle, what to doe in this case.
[652/653] That which is set down touching them is of two sorts: First, The cause of this plague, they provoked God with their inventions: Secondly, the Cure, Phinehas stood up and prayed, and it ceased.
The cause is double, First, Their inventions: Secondly, Gods Anger, provoked by them. And from these two come both, The wrath of God is the immediate Cause, per quod; and their inventions, the Cause propter quod. So a double Cure: Against Gods anger, is opposed, as a remedy, Prayer; and against Inventions, the executing of judgment upon these sinners.
The Prayer is qualified in two sorts: First, that is Phinheas prayers: Secondly, He stood up in the cause.
The first thing to be set down is, That sicknesse and mortality of people is causall, and not casuall; for nothing is more contrary than Chance or Fortune and Judgement. For seeing a sparrow cannot light on the ground, without Gods providence, such is Gods care for them, though two of them be soled for a farthing, Matthew the tenth chapter, is a senseless thing to think that sicknesse can befall a man by chance. Therefore the Philistims, being plagued by God would try whether that disease came of Gods hand, or by chance, the first book of Samuel the sixth chapter and the ninth verse. But the very name of plague signifying originally judgement, shews it is no casual thing, as in the first epistle to the Corinthians the eleventh chapter, where he saith, they did eat and drink their own judgment, that is, that many were sick among men and many slept. So the mortalities at Corinth, was Gods judgment: and so the Latin word plaga being a stripe, sheweth the same. If a stripe, there is a striker: so then, they are not casual. If a Surgeon, Physitian, or Philosopher, were to give a reason hereof, he will impute the cause to the infection of the aire, the putrefaction of the bodies by humours, and to conversing one with another; and they are good causes of it: For so saith God, Exodus the ninth chapter and the tenth verse, Moses took the ashes of the furnace and cast them up in the aire, and they caused a stink. And David in his sicknesse saith, Psalm the thirty second, His moisture was like the drought in Summer. Therefore in the plague of Leprosie, Leviticus the thirteenth chapter and the fourty fif[th] verse, the Leper was to have his mouth shut up. David, in that great mortalitie, spoken of in the first book of Chronicles, the twenty first chapter and the thirtieth verse, would have gone to Giboah, but he found he should not, feared with the Angel: Therefore the servant of God saith, Proverbs the fourteenth chapter, A wise man seeth the plague, and shunneth it, but the foolish goeth on still.
But these are not the only causes: For besides nature, there is some divine things to be considered: for there is no infirmity, but a spirit belongs to it, as Luke the thirteenth chapter and the eleventh verse, a spirit of infirmity. So are we to conceive, that besides natural causes, there is some spiritual, of the sicknessse, as Exodus the twelfth chapter, a destroying Angel. So in David's plague in the second book of Samuel the twenty fourth chapter: And Isaiah the thirty seventh [653/654] chapter and the thirty six verse, the Angel went forth and slue: And Apocalyps the sixteenth chapter and the second verse, The angel poured out the Vials of the wrath of God, and there fell a noysome sore: So it is Gods hand that brings these plagues.
The cause stands on two parts, First. Gods wrath, from which all evil things proceed, for affliction commeth not from the earth, Job the fift[h] chapter and the sixt[h] verse, They are sparks of his anger. And he is not angry with the waters, that they should drown Habakkuk the third chapter, nor with the aire, that it should corrupt, but for these things commeth the wrath of God, that is, for our sinnes, Ephesians the fifth chapter. He doth but make a way to his wrath, and then the earth swalloweth up, the aire infecteth, Psalm the seventy eighth. The sinnes of the people are the cause of Gods wrath. Peccata morum, goe before peccata humorum. There is first corruption of the soul, Michah the first chapter and the third verse: All flesh had corrupted their wayes, Genesis the sixt[h] chapter: So there is infection in mens wayes, before the streets be infected. There is plaga animæ, the plague in the soul, before it appear in the body. It is sinne that bringeth sicknesse, Romans the sixt[h] chapter. So they are both joyned, Psalm the thirty eighth chapter and the third verse, there is no rest in my bones, because of my sinne: Therefore our sinne and infection of the soul, that must be looked into. If it were some outward cause only, it could not be but the plague should stay, seeing there is so great store of means, Jeremiah the eighth chapter, Is there no balme in Gilead: But he saith, Jeremiah the fourty sixt[h] chapter and the eleventh verse, Frustra multiplicas medicanda, sinne being not taken away, physick will doe no good. First, the corruption of manner must be holpen, and then bodily help will follow; Psalm the fourty first, Heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee. And that course our Saviour keeps, Matthew the ninth chapter, first he saith, thy sinne is forgiven; and then, Take up thy bed and walk.
These sinnes he calls inventions. Inventions please us greatly, and all new things; our new omnia, better than old manna, Numbers the eleventh chapter. But if it be our own inventions, then we goe a whoring after it. Such is the delight we take in it, verse the thirty ninth. Our first Parents were of this minde, so proud they would not take a rule of life from God, but would sicut Dii, Genesis the third chapter; they set up to themselves graven Images, Exodus the twentieth chapter. They have Dii alieni, such as their Fathers had. Not when men living otherwise then God commands shall say, I shall have peace, Deuteronomie the twenty ninth chapter and the thirtieth verse, These webbs that we weave ourselves, and these eggs that we hatch, Isaiah the fifty ninth chapter, are our confusion, and displease God, and great reason: For Exodus the fifteenth chapter and the sixteenth verse, he saith, If thou wilt hearken to my voice, I will lay no disease, Ego Dominus curator tuus: But if we follow our own inventions, we can look for nothing but disease, quid tibi præcipio, hæc tantum fac, Deuteronomie the twelfth chapter, if men will be wiser than God; [654/655] that was Sauls rebellion; he would not destroy all, as God commanded, he was wiser than so. But what were these inventions? It is said, verse the twenty eighth, they joyned themselves to Baal Peor, Numbers the twenty first chapter, that is, the sinne of whoring and fornication; and that impudently before the congregation, committed by Zimry and Cosby. It was the adoring of an abominable Idoll, a sinne so grievous, as it is said many years after, Have we not enough of the sinne of Peor? Joshuah the twenty second chapter; it is a sinne that will not be cleansed at the first. And we see daily the sinne of uncleannesse ends with a plague that is infectious.
For the cure, it is certain, As there are naturall causes, so naturall cures of this disease, Hezekiah as some writers doe hold, had this disease, and used not only prayer, but a plaister, by the prophets direction, Isaiah the fifty eighth chapter. But as the cause of the plague is not only natural, so here is used a spiritual remedy, that is, in as much as contrary curantur contrariis viis. If he provoking of Gods anger be the Cause of the plague, the appeasing of it by prayer must be the remedy. These two remedies are out of the double sense of the word, which signifieth pryer and punishing. Prayer is an appeaser of God's wrath, not only in other points, but in this, Numbers the twenty first chapter. They all wept and prayed: And David in the second book of Samuel the twenty fourth chapter and the seventeenth verse, fled to this remedy. I have sinned, but these sheep what have they done? And Hezekiah being infected with the plague, turned himself to the wall, Isaiah the thirty eighth chapter. And in Salomons prayer, the first of Kings the eighth chapter, where plagues or corrupt agues shall hop, here then in heaven. And there is a good proportion between this remedy and the disease. For if there be a corrupt smell, the way to take it away is by a good smell of incense or perfume. So, as our sinne doth give an evil favour, and stink in Gods nostrils, so the spiritual incense will remove it, and that incense is prayer, Psalm the fourty first. Therefore the prayers of the Saints are called odours, Apocalyps the fifth chapter. But it must be prayer, qualified in two sorts.
First, Phineas prayer, that is, the prayer of the priest. So David had Gad to pray for him, Hezekiah, Isaiah, Lift thou up thy prayers, Isaiah the thirty eight chapter. The Corinthians had Paul to pray for them, the first epistle to the Corinthians the eleventh chapter. The prayers of all the just are available, but specially of the elders, therefore send for them, James the fifth chapter. A Serjeant, Constable or Scrivener, by virtue of his office may doe that which a greater man cannot doe; so the prayer of a person called to that holy function, may prevail more. The Priests are appointed to offer up prayers, and the calves of the lips Hosea the fourteenth chapter. So Genesis the twentieth chapter Abraham is a Prophet, and shall pray for thee; Leviticus the sixt[h] chapter and the seventh verse he shall pray for thee Orabit pro eo Sacerdos. Therefore Hezekiah saith, Lift up thou thy prayers, Isaiah the thirty eighth chapter. And Saint James [655/656] saith in his fifth chapter, The prayer of faith made by the Elders shall save the sick. The prayer of the just avails much, but especially of the elders and Priests; for to such a grace is given, as in the first epistle to the Corinthians the fifteenth chapter, Gratia data est mihi, and this grace is not in vain.
Secondly, But it must be oratio cum statione, Phinehas stood up and prayed. For, as in the first to the Corinthians the eleventh chapter, of a woman uncovered, judge whether it be a comely thing to sit still in prayer. All things in the Church must be done, the first epistle to the Corinthians the fourteenth chapter. We must please and serve God, etiam habitu corporis. The Angels of God stood before God, Job the first chapter. The Cherubims stood and hid their faces, Isaiah the sixth chapter: And millions of Angels stood before the seat, Daniel the seventh chapter. Therefore we must conclude our sitting is not pleasing to God: Sedentes oraore extra Discipulum est. The other sense is, the execution or judgement: And it hath a good relation to sinnes, they prayed and wept, Numbers the twenty fifth, but that prevailed not, till Phinehas executed vengeance upon the sinne: but the vengeance being performed by Phinehas the plague ceased, verse the eighth. So then the wrath of God will cease, if people cease to sinne, or if Phinehas the Magistrate, begin to punish sinne in the people. For punishment is of two sorts: First, Every man in himself, is to punish sinne, as David smit his heart, in the second book of Samuel the twenty fift[h] chapter and the twenty fourth verse, and the first epistle to the Corinthians the eleventh chapter, judge your selves. But if Moses, the Magistrate must take vengeance of sinne, for if he will not, God himself will set his face against that magistrate, Leviticus the twentieth chapter. When the people look not at him that strikes them, but to natural causes, then shall the hand of God be stretched out still, Isaiah the ninth chapter and the thirteenth verse. The wrath of God for our sinnes being the cause of this plague, we must appease him with prayer and repentance. If we fail to doe this, the devotion of the Priest, and the zeal of the Magistrate must look to it, else the plague cannot but still increase. Amen. Amen.