Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology
Lancelot Andrewes Works, Sermons, Volume One
SERMONS OF REPENTANCE AND FASTING, PREACHED ON ASH-WEDNESDAY.
Preached before Queen Elizabeth, at Richmond, on Wednesday, the Twenty- first of February, A.D. MDXCIX.
Transcribed by Dr Marianne Dorman
When the host goeth forth against thine enemies, then keep thee from every wicked thing.
Quando egressus fueris adversus hostes tuos in pugnam, custodies te ab omni re mala.
To entitle this time to this text, or to shew it pertinent to the present occasion, will ask no long preface. ‘When thou goest forth,’ &c. This ‘when’ is now. There be enemies, and we have an host; it is going forth. Christ's own application which is the best may be well applied here, ‘This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.’ This our host so going forth, our heart's desire and prayer unto God is, that they may happily go, and thrice happily come again, with joy and triumph to her sacred Majesty, honour to themselves, and general contentment to the whole land. So shall they go, and so come, if we can procure the Lord of Hosts to go forth with, and to take charge of our hosts. ‘It is He That giveth victory to kings,’ saith David; it is He That is Triumphator Israel, saith Samuel. Victory and triumph never fail if He fail not.
Now then that God may not fail them, but go in and out [321/322] before them back with victory and triumph, and that we all desire and pray for may so come to pass, Moses does here out of his own experience bestow an advice upon us. And Moses could skill what belonged to war, as one that forty years together was never out of camp. Which advice is, that among our military points we would reckon the abatement of sin for one; that now this time of our going forth we would go forth against sin too, and keep from it as we would keep us from our enemy. If we could be but persuaded to reform our former custom of sin, it would certainly do the journey good. That therefore with other courses, some remembrance, some regard be had of this; that at this time sin do not so overflow among us, be not so very fruitful as before time it hath.
And this is an use of Divinity in war. And as this an use of Divinity in war, so have we withal an use of war in Divinity. For Moses telling us, that ‘when our forces go forth against the enemy,’—that we then, at that time, are in any wise ‘to keep us from wickedness;’ by sorting these thus together does plainly intimate that when the time of war is, then is a fit time, a very good opportunity, to draw from sin and return to God. These former years, this time of the fast, and this day, the first day of it, both ministered an occasion to call for an abstinence from sin; this day, and this time, being set out by the Church's appointment to that end. Now besides that ordinary of other years, God this year hath sent us another, the time of war; and that a very seasonable time too, wherein to repent and return from sin. As if He should say, If you would forsake sin now you may do it; for ‘behold, now is an acceptable time,’ and a fit season. This time to concur with that time, and both to cooperate to the amendment of our lives.
And what shall I say? O that one of them, the former or the latter, or both might prevail so much with us, that as the forepart this day is fulfilled in our ears, so the latter part might be fulfilled in our lives; that it might not be singly regarded that is thus doubly commended; that the fast at hand might keep us, or the war at hand might keep us, or both might keep us, that we might be kept from sin. That either Joel's triumph proclaiming a fast, or Amos' trump [322/323] proclaiming war, might serve to sound this retreat, might serve to awake us from that now more than sleep, even almost that lethargy of sin which the security of our so long peace hath cast us in.
This is the sum. These the double use, 1. of war in divinity; that our going forth might procure the giving over sin. 2. Of Divinity in war; that our giving over sin might procure good speed to our going forth, even an honourable and happy return.
The part are two; for the verse parteth itself by ‘when’ and ‘then.’ These two; 1. the going forth of the host; 2. the keeping from sin. To express them in the terms of the present business; 1. the former, the commission authorizing to go. 2. The latter, the instruction directing so to go that we may prosper and prevail. In which latter will come to be considered these three points; 1.The conjunction and coherence of these two. 2. The consequence. 3. The contents of the latter, how to keep us from sin.
‘When thou goest forth,’ &c. In the first is the commission, which is ever the corner-stone of all proceedings. If we take the verse entire, both parts together, it riseth thus; If they which go to war must keep themselves from sin, then is war no sin but lawful, and without sin to be undertaken. Or, if we take the first part by itself, in saying ‘when thou goest’ he implieth a time will come when they may go forth. For vain were the supposal, and far unworthy the wisdom of God's Spirit to say ‘when,’ if never any such time would come; if there were no time for war of God's allowance. We cannot better pattern it than by the Gospel of this day, ‘when ye fast, be not like hypocrites’—by all Divines resolved thus. Fast ye may sometimes; and then fasting, look you fall not into hypocrisy. And as in that, so in this: go ye may sometimes; only when ye go see you ‘refrain from sin' and then go and spare not. Out of which match of these two, fast and war, we may rise higher.
It is no less usual with the Prophets to say sanctificate proelium, as Joel 3. than to say, sanctificate jejunium, ‘sanctify a war,’ as well as ‘a fast.’ And in another, consecrate manus vestras hodie Domino, ‘consecrate your hands this day unto the Lord.’ Which sheweth war is not so secular a matter, but [323/324] that it hath both his lawfulness and his holiness; and that the very hands may be sacred or hallowed by fighting some battles. And therefore, in the Calendar of Saints we have nominated, not Abel, Enoch, and Noah alone, men of peace and devotions, who spent their time in prayer and service of God; but Gideon, Jephtha, Samson, worthies and men of war ‘who,’ saith the Apostle, ‘through faith were valiant in battle, and through faith put to flight the armies of aliens.’ War therefore hath his time and commission from God.
Secondly, I add that this kind of war, not only defensive war, but offensive too, hath his ‘when.’ And that out of this very test; which is, if we mark well, not when they come forth against thee, but ‘when thou goest forth against them,’ paremb£llein says the Seventy, ‘to invade or annoy them.’ Both these have their time; the former to maintain our right, the latter to avenge our wrong. By both these ways doth God send His people forth; both have warrant. Before Moses, Abraham's war to rescue Lot his ally was defensive and lawful; Jacob's war, to win from the Amorite ‘by his sword and bow,’ offensive and lawful too. Under Moses, the war against Amalek who came out again them, and the war against Midian, against whom they ‘went forth to wreak themselves for the sin of Peor,’ both lawful. After Moses, King David, in the battle of Gath, seeking the enemy from their gates; in the battle of Gath, seeking the enemy from their own gates, and giving him battle in his own territory. And this as good law, so Egredere, et compelle eos intrare, ‘Go forth, and compel them to come in,’ is good Gospel too. So that war, and this kind of war, hath his commission.
Thirdly, and to strengthen the hands of our men of war yet farther. As war, and to go forth to war, against our enemies, any enemies, whether foreign foes or rebellious subjects; so of all enemies against the latter, against them to go forth, hath ever been counted most just and lawful. Many commissions are upon record in the law, of journeys in this kind. Against the tribe of Reuben, for erecting them an altar beside that of Moses; and that have these of our done too. Against the tribe of Benjamin, for a barbarous, and brutish outrage committed at Gibeah, and that have these too, and not one, but many. Against Sheba, for blowing a trumpet and crying. [324/325] ‘No part have we in David, no inheritance in the son of Jesse; and so far hath their madness proceeded. And the Gospel is not far behind neither. Against them that send word, nolumus hunch regnare super nos, producite et occidite, saith our Saviour Christ Himself. In effect these say as much as nolumus, and as much may be said and done to them. Nay, if once he say ‘no part in David;’ if he were Absalom, or Adonijah, of the blood royal, he ‘hath spoken that word against his own life;’ much more if but such a one as Sheba the son of Bichri. And yet even he was nothing so deep as this. For neither had King David vouchsafed him any favour any time before, neither offered him peace, or to receive him to grace after he had lift up his heel against him. But here, here have been divers princely favours vouchsafed, and most unkindly rejected; means of clemency many times most graciously offered, and most ungraciously refused; yea, faith falsified and expectation deluded; contempt upon contempt heaped up, that the measure is full. These then are the enemies ‘against,’ and this the time ‘when.’ When not only we may but must, and that not with God's leave only, but with His liking and full commission, ‘go forth’ in this cause. So that war is lawful; and this kind, ‘to go forth;’ and against these enemies most just and most lawful. At this time against these enemies it is a war sanctified; they shall ‘consecrate their hands,’ they shall prĺliari prĺlia Domini, that fight against them. So much for the commission.
The commission being had, we are not to depart but stay and take our instructions also with us; which is the latter part, of ‘keeping from wickedness.’ Joshua had his commission from God to up against Ai; yet for leaving out this latter, and not looking to Achan better, had not so good speed. This therefore must accompany and keep time with the former, as a ‘then’ to that ‘when.’
1. Wherein first, of the joining these two, 1. that they must go together, 2. and of the reason why they must go together’, 2. And after of the manner, how we may and must ‘keep ourselves from this wickedness.’
The meeting of these two within the compass of one verse, 1. ‘Going forth with an army,’ and 2. ‘forbearing of sin,’ is worth the staying on. [325/326]
Leading an army pertaineth to military policy, forbearing of sin is flat divinity.
For what hath the leading army to do with forbearing of sin? Yet God has thus sorted them as we see. Therefore policy of war whereto the former, and Divinity whereto the latter belongs, are not such strangers one to the other, as that one must avoid while the other is in place. But that as loving neighbours and good friends here they meet together, they stand together, they keep time, consequence, and correspondence, the one with the other. God Himself, in Whose imperial style so often proclaimed in the prophets they both meet, ‘the Lord of Hosts,’ ‘the Holy One of Israel;’—God, I say, Himself in the great chapter of war, the twentieth of this book, assigneth an employment to the Priests as well as the officers of the camp, even to do that which ere-while was assayed, to animate the companies in the Lord, and the power of His might; letting them see the right of their cause, and how ready God is to receive the right under the banner and power of His protection. And from God Himself no doubt was that happy and blessed combination which in most wars of happy success we find, of a captain and prophet sorted together; Joshua, with Moses a Prophet; Baruk, with Deborah a Prophetess; Ezekias, with Esay; Jehoshaphat, with Jahaziel; Joash with Elisha; and one of these doing the other no manner of hurt but good. Joshua lifting up his hand against Amalek, Moses lifting up his hands for Joshua. The one leading against the enemy and annoying him, the other leading against sin and annoying it; against sin, what some reckon of it skills not, but certainly the most dangerous enemy both of private persons and of public states.
These two then, 1. ‘going forth with the host,’ and 2. ‘departing from sin,’ being thus linked by God, our suit is, break not this link; God has joined them that we should join them. And this is a needful suit. For it is one of the diseases under the sun; in war all our thoughts run upon the host, looking to the host only and nothing but the host, and letting sin run thither it will without any keeper. I know well, I both know and acknowledge that the army's going forth is mainly to be regarded, it hath the first place in the verse, and it hath it not for nought. Joshua must choose [326/327] out men first; victuals must be supplied. And nemo militat stipendiis suis, pay must be thought of. We must go forth with our host; they be the words of the text; go—not sit still; and with an host, not a heap of naked or starved men. We must help, and tempt God. To help God is a strange speech, yet said it may be seeing an Angel hath said it; ‘Curse ye Meroz,’ saith the Angel of the Lord, ‘curse the inhabitants thereof.’ Why? ‘Because they came not to help the Lord against the mighty.’ This must first be done. But when this is done all is not done, we are not at a full point, we are but in the midst of the sentence yet. As that part of the host is to be regarded, so this of sin's restraint is not to be neglected. As that hath the first place, so must this have the second, and second the former, or we shall have but a broken sentence without it. There is not, there cannot be a more prejudicial conceit than to say in our hearts, If the first be well all is well, then sin on and spare not, it skills not greatly for the latter. Si putas in robore exercitus bella consistere, faciet te Dominus cadere coram inimicis tuis, saith the Prophet to Amaziah. If this be our conceit, so the host be well all is well, God will teach you another lesson, saith he, which I list not english. A proof whereof we have before Gibeah. Where the whole power of Israel, 400,000 strong, trusting in their going out so strong, fell before a few Benjamites, a small handfull in comparison, and shewed plainly to all ages to come that it is but a part, it is not all, to ‘go forth with an host’ though never so well appointed.
Let us then, as advice leadeth us, make up our period with taking a course for restraint of sin. For what sin unrestrained can work the valley of Achor may teach us, where the inhabitants of the poor town of Ai put to flight Joshua with all his forces, and all because this second point was not well looked to.
Now this second point being within the compass of our profession, and yet having so necessary an use in war as the sentence is not perfect without it, may serve to answer the question, more usually than advisedly oft cast out, What good do these Churchmen? What use is there of them now at such a time as this? Yes, there is a use of them, and that in war [327/328] we see. The camp hath use of this place, and they that serve there of them that serve here. Which God shewed plainly in the first field that ever His people fought; and when He had shewed it, caused it to be recorded ad pertpetuam rei memoriam–—they be God's own words—that the same course might be ever after holden in all. Where it is thus written, and ‘if we believe not we shall not be established,’ that Joshua's having the better or going to the worse depended not a little on the steadiness of Moses' hands, and that Moses staying behind and striking never a stroke did his part towards the attaining of the victory not much less than Joshua who went forth and fought manfully. Prayer then is of use; and though we be, saith St. Paul, armed at all points from hand to foot, yet must we super omnia, ‘over all,’ draw this, and arm even our very armour with ‘prayer and supplications.’
But what availeth prayer without keeping from sin? Therefore to that armour of St. Paul's we must add St. Peter's too ‘to arm ourselves with this mind of ceasing from sin,’ that our prayers may be effectual. Therefore Moses himself joineth not to our going forth his exercise of keeping up our hands at prayer, but rather of keeping up our hands at prayer, but this rather ‘of keeping our feet from sin.’ The King of Moab, Balak, when he observed what prayer had wrought in the battle of Amalek, thought to take the very like course, and sent for Balaam into his camp, to match prophet with prophet, and to oppose prayer unto prayer. But when all his altars and rams would do no good, Balaam knowing well there is in sin a power to defeat any prayer, he cometh to the dangerous counsel of ‘causing Israel to sin with the daughters of Moab,’ which was found too true. For it turned to their ruin, and all their prayers would then do no good. Here then is another use. For ‘the chariots and horses of Elisha,’ the ‘weapons of our warfare,’ as the Apostle termeth then, though not carnal, if God enable them to cast down such sinful thoughts and wicked desires as exalt themselves daily, and to capitivate them to the obedience of Christ, have certainly their use to second the former; and we in our turns serviceable, as by crying unto God by prayer, and drawing Him to the host Who is our chiefest and best friend, so by crying also against sin and chasing it away, which is our chiefest and worst enemy. [328/329] Since then these two have this mutual use either of other, let this be our petition and withal the conclusion of this part, that we single them not or lean to either alone, but suffer them as they stand together in the verse, so in our care and regard jointly to keep time and go together. So much for them.
And now to enquire into the reason of this coupling. Why now? Why at this time in war. a giving over sin? For that indeed they be not barely joined, but so joined as one is made the antecedent, the other the consequent. One the time, and as it were the reason to infer the other. Truly Moses' word yb will bear both both, either quando or quia; ‘When thou goest then keep;’ or ‘Because thou goest, therefore keep thyself from sin.’ With the same word speaketh the virtuous lady to King David, quia prĺliaris prĺlia Dominii, ideo non inveniatur in te iniquitas, ‘because thou fightest the Lord's battles, therefore let there not any iniquity be found in thee all thy days.’
Sin certainly at all times is to be forborne. When it is war, and not only when it is war, but when it is peace too. ‘Take heed, lest at any time,’ saith Christ, ‘your hearts be overlaid with surfeiting, with drink,’ &c. Not allowing us anytime to be wicked in. But though at all times we be to refrain sin, yet not at all times alike, saith Moses here. For it is as if he should say, Be it at other times, sin may better be borne with, it is less perilous; but ‘when thou goest forth with an host, then’--then, with an high accent, with an emphasis, that is then especially; then above all other times, then, if ever, it importeth you to have least to do with it.
Good Lord, how cross and opposite is man's conceit to God's, and how contrary our thoughts unto His! For even ad oppositum to this position of His, we see for the most part that even they who are the goers forth seem to persuade themselves that then they may do what they list; that at that time any sin is lawful, that war is rather a placard than an inhibition to sin. A thing so common that it made the heathen man hold that between militia and malitia there was as little difference in sense as in sound; and the Prophet David to call Saul's companies in his days,torrentes Belial, ‘the land-floods of wickedness.’ Which being well considered, we may cease to murmur or to marvel, if our going [329/330] forth have not been ever with such success as we wished. God Who should give the success commanding then a restraint, and man that should need it then taking most liberty. Verily if we shall learn of God, if He will teach us, sin is never so untimely as in the time of war, never so out of season as then; for that is the time of all times we should have least to do with it. To insist then a little upon this point, because it is the main point, and to shew the vigour of this consequent.
1. From the very nature of war first, which is an act of justice, and of justice corrective, whose office is to punish sin. Now then consider and judge even in reason, what a thing this is, how great, gross, and foul an incongruity it is to pour out ourselves into sin at the very time when we go forth to correct sin; to set forth to punish rebels, when we ourselves are in rebellion against God, His Word, and Spirit. Which, what is it but ‘to cast out devils by the power of Beelzebub?’ Sure our hearts must needs strike us in the midst of our sin, and tell us we are in a great and grievous prevarication, allowing that in ourselves that we go to condemn and to stone to death in others. Therefore, since to go to war is to go to punish sin, certainly the time of punishing sin is not a time to sin in.
2. Secondly, from war in respect of God I know not what we reckon of war; peace is His blessing we are sure, and a special favour it is from Him as the Prophets account it, for a land to spend more iron in scythes and plough-shares than in sword-blades or spear-heads. And if peace be a blessing and a chief of His blessings, we may reduce from thence what war is. To make no otherwise of it than it is, ‘the rod of God's wrath,’ as Esay termeth it; His ‘iron fail,’ as Amos; ‘the hammer of the earth,’ as Jeremy, whereby He dasheth two nations together—one of them must in pieces, both the worse for it. War is no matter of sport. Indeed I see Abner esteem of it as of a sport; ‘let the young men rise,’ saith he to Joab, ‘and shew us some sport.’ But I see the same Abner before the end of the same chapter weary of his sport, and treating with Joab for an end of it; ‘How long shall the sword devour,’ saith he, ‘shall it not be bitterness in the end?’ So it may be ‘sport’ in the beginning; it will be [330/331] ‘bitterness in the end,’ if it holds long. War then being God's rod, His fearful rod, and that so fearful that King David though a warrior too, when both were in his choice, preferred the plague before it and desired it of the twain; when God's hand with this rod, this fearful rod, is over us, to be so far from fear and all due regard as then not to shun sin any whit the more, but to fall to it as fast as ever; it cannot be but a high contempt, yea, a kind of defiance and despite then to do it: ‘Do we provoke the Lord to anger, are we stronger than He?’ Then since war is God's rod, choose some other time; under the rod sin not, then forbear it. Certainly that time is no time to sin.
3. The rather, for that sin it is and the not keeping from sin, but our keeping to it and with it, that hath made this rod and put it into His hand. For sure it is, that for the transgression of a people, God suffereth these ‘divisions of Reuben’ within; God stirreth up the spirit of Princes abroad to take peace from the earth, thereby to chasten men by paring the growth of their wealth with this `hired razor;' by wasting their strong men, the hand of the enemies eating them up; by making widows and fatherless children, by other like consequent of war. If then our sins common unto us with other nations, and that our unthankfulness peculiar to us alone have brought all this upon us; if this enemy have stirred up those enemies, if war be the sickness and sin the surfeit, should we not at least-wise now while the shivering fit of our sins is upon us, diet ourselves a little and keep some order? But ‘drink iniquity as water,’ and distemper ourselves as though we were in perfect state of health. Shall we make our disease desperate, and hasten our ruin by not containing from sin that has cast us in it? Know we what time this is? Is this a time of sin? Certainly, we cannot devise a worse. In the time of war it is high time to ‘keep us from sin.’
4. But above all, which will touch us nearest, and therefore again and again must be told us over, that the safe and speedy coming again of them that now go forth, whose prosperity we are to seek with all our possible endeavours—that their good speed dependeth upon God's going forth with them; and God's going or staying dependenth very much upon this point. Most certain it is the event of war is most uncertain. [331/332] When Benhadad went forth with an army that ‘the dust of Samaria was not enough to give every one in his camp a handful,’ it was told him and he found it true, Ne glorietur accinctus, &c. ‘He that buckleth on his armour must not boast as he that puts it off.’ They that fight can hardly set down what name the place shall have that they fight in; it may be the valley of Achor, that is ‘sorrow,’ by reason of a foil, as that of Joshua; it may be the valley of Berachah, that is ‘blessing,’ by means of a victory, as that of Jehoshaphat. All is as God is, and as He will have it. Once, twice, and thrice, by David, by Solomon, by Jehoshaphat, we are told it that ‘it is neither sword nor bow,’ ‘it is neither chariot nor horse,’ ‘it is neither multitude nor valour of an host will serve;’ ‘but that the battle is God's,’ and He giveth the upper hand. We need not be persuaded of this, we all are persuaded I hope, and we say with Moses, ‘If Thy Presence go not with us, carry us not hence.’ Then if we shall need God's favour and help in prospering our journey, and to make that sure which is so uncertain, it will stand us in hand to make sure of Him in this, this needful time, and to keep Him sure if it may be. For if He keep with the host, and take their parts, Rebelles tui erunt quasi nihil, saith Esay; and ‘these smoking tails of firebrands’ shall quickly be quenched. But if God either go not with them, or retire from them, if there were among them but naked or wounded men—what speak I of men? if but frogs or flies—they shall be sufficient to trouble them.
Now then we are at the point. For if we shall hold of God, make Him sure, be certain of Him, we must break with sin needs. Sin and Satan are His enemies, and no fellowship nor communion, no concord, no agreement, no part, no portion between them. If we shall draw Him into league, we must profess ourselves enemies unto His enemies, that He may do the like to ours. At one and the same time enter as an outward war with wicked rebels, so an inward hostility with our wicked rebellious lusts. For that if we keep ourselves from the one, He will keep us from the other, and these being suppressed those shall not be able to stand. Thus doing, ‘the sword of the Lord shall be with the sword of Gideon:’ God shall be with us, Ithiel; and we shall prevail, Ucal. For [332/333] where Ithiel is, Ucal will not be away. But if we shall needs hold on our league with hell, and continue our wonted intercourse with wickedness still, and go forth unto it when it beckons or calls, and be so far from keeping from it that we keep it as the apple of our eye, and cherish it between our breasts; for not keeping from it He will keep from us, and withdraw His help from us, and put us clean out of His protection.
Therefore, without keeping from sin there is no keeping God, out of Whose keeping there is no safety.
This advice being so full of behoof, so agreeable to reason and religion both, so every way for their and for our good, it remaineth we set ourselves to think of it and keep it. ‘Every one returning to his own heart, to know there,’ as Solomon saith, ‘his own plague,’ even the sins wherewith he hath grieved God, and. to make a covenant with himself, from henceforth more carefully to stand upon his guard, and not to go forth to sin or entertain it as a friend, but to repute it as an enemy and to keep him from it.
First, for the term of keeping. ‘When thou goest forth against thy enemy,’ go forth again sin. We should indeed go forth against sin, and practise those military impressions that are done in camp against the enemy; give it the assault, annoy it, pursue it, never leave it till we have driven it away. These we should do against it. But the Scripture ‘offereth more grace;’ and bids us, if we list not go forth against it, only not to go forth to it, but keep ourselves, that is, stand upon our defence, to keep good watch, that it surprise us not, that it ‘get not dominion over us:’ do but this against sin, and it shall suffice.
But this must extend to all wickedness. Wherein yet we do humanum dicere propter infirmitatem nostram, ‘speak after the manner of men because of infirmity,’ that the frailty of our nature will bear, than this corruptible flesh wherewith we compassed, and this corrupt world in the midst whereof we live, will suffer and give us leave. In the body, we put a difference between the soil which by insensible evacuations goeth from our bodies, keep we ourselves never so carefully, [333/334] and that which is drawn forth by chafing or sweat, or otherwise gotten by touching such things wherewith we may be defiled. That cannot be refrained, this falleth within restraint. And even so, there is a soil of sin that of itself vapoureth from our nature, let the best do his best. I say not, we should keep ourselves from this, but from provoking it by suffering our minds to wander in it; by not keeping our ears from such company, and our eyes from such occasions, as will procure it, as the Prophet speaketh, ‘by putting the stumbling-block of iniquity before our faces.’ From that by the help of God we may keep ourselves well enough. From sins lighting upon our thoughts it is impossible, it cannot be; but from making there a nest or hatching ought, that we are willed to look to, and that by God's grace we may. And the word that Moses useth here [r rbr is not without a dixit at least in corde; not without a saying within us, This or that I will do. It must be dictum, or condictum, ‘said to,’ and ‘said yea to,’ or else it is not [r rbr. The heart not resolving or saying content, but keeping itself from going forth to any act; though wickedness be not kept from us because of the temptation, yet we are kept from it because of the repulse; and with that will Moses be content at our hands as our estate now is.
But with these proviso. We say generally, They that go forth keep from all; from all such both deeds and words as justly may be censured to be wickedly, either spoken or done. Words, I say, as well as deeds. For the word rbr bear both. And indeed, if in good words as in prayers there be force to help, I make no question but in wicked words, as blasphemies, irreligious sayings, there is force also to do mischief. Therefore keep from all; all those especially, as very reason will lead us, which have been the ruin of armies in former times; a view whereof we may take when we will out of Liber bellorum Domini, ‘the Book of God's battles.’
Wicked words first, presumptuous terms of trust in our strength; ‘I will go, I will pursue and overtake, I will divide the spoil’—Pharaoh's words, the cause of his perishing and all his host. To keep them from that. Rabshakeh's black-mouthed blasphemy; ‘Let not Hezekiah cause you to trust in God over much’ [334/335]—the eminent cause of the overthrow of the host of Ashur. To keep them from that.
And if from words, from wicked works much rather. Achan's sin, that is sacrilege; Anathema in medio tui, non poteris stare coram hostibus tuis, God's own words to Joshua,—the cause of the army's miscarrying before Ai. To keep them from that wickedness. Such shameful abuses as was that at Gibeah;—the expressed cause of destruction of a whole tribe. To keep them from that. Profaning holy vessels or holy places with unholy usage;—the ruin of Belshazzar, and with him of the whole Chaldean monarchy. To keep themselves from that. Corrupting our compassion, and ‘casting off pity quite,’ and spilling blood like water;—the sin of Edom, and the cause he took such a foil as he was never a people since. To keep them from that wickedness. From these and from the rest, you shall have a time to read them, I have not to speak them. Arming themselves with a mind to cease from sin, keeping their vessels holy; having pay wherewith they may be content, and being content with their pay; et neminem concutientes, saith St. John Baptist; not being torentes Belial, ‘land-floods of wickedness. Or if this will not be that private conformity will not keep them, at least that public authority do it; that kept they may be one way or other from it. If Achan will so far forget himself as ‘to sin in the execrable thing;’ or Zimri to play the wretch, and abuse himself in the camp; let Joshua find out Achan, and see him have his due; and Phinehas follow Zimri, and reward him for his desert. That the ravine of the one, and the villany of the other be removed as it is committed, and so kept from polluting and pulling down God's wrath upon the whole host. For sure it is, ‘Phinehas’ standing up and executing judgment’ hath the force of a prayer no less than Moses' ‘standing in the gap’ to make intercession, and both alike forcible to turn away God's anger and to remove evil from the midst of Israel.
This advice is to take place as in them that go, as before hath been touched, so in us likewise who stay home; that what the one build the other destroy not. Not by Moses' exercise of prayer and incessant prayer, or Jehoshaphat's exercise of fasting and abstinence; both are out of the compass of the [335/336] text; but that which is in it, by turning from sin to God, and that with a serious not shallow, and an inward not hollow repentance. Not confessing our sins to-day and committing them to-morrow, but everyone saying, Dixi custodiam, ‘I have said, I shall henceforth more narrowly look to my ways,’ at least while the sound of war is in our ears. Thinking with ourselves it is now war, it is now no time to offend God, and separate between Him and us in this needful time of His help and protection, by entering into that good and virtuous consideration of Uriah's; ‘The Ark of the Lord and all Israel and Judah dwell in tents, Joab and the servants of our sovereign abide in the open fields,’ and shall we permit ourselves as much as we would in the time of peace, and not conform ourselves to enjoy the ‘pleasures of sin for a season?’ To conclude, if we shall, or when we shall be tempted to any of our former sins, to think upon God's counsel, even God's own counsel from God's own mouth, memento belli et ne feceris, ‘to remember the camp and not to do it;’ to think upon them in the fields and their danger, and for their sakes and for their safeties to forbear it.
Thus, if we shall endeavour ourselves and eschew our own wickedness, our hosts shall go forth in the strength of the Lord, and the Lord shall go with them and order their attempts to an happy issue.
He that made our foreign enemies ‘like a wheel’ to go round about us, and not tome near us, shall make these ‘as stubble before the wind;’ causing fear and faintness of heart to fall upon them as upon Midian; sending ‘an evil spirit’ of dissension among them, as upon Abimelech and the men of Shechem; causing their own woods to devour them, as rebellious Absalom; and their own waters to sweep them away, as it did Sisera; yea, ‘the stars of Heaven, in their course to fight against them,’ as under Deborah's conduct He did. Many such things are with Him, many such He hath done and can do again, if to our going forth we join a going from sin.
Even so Lord, so let it be. Those whom you now carry forth by Thy mercy, bring them back by Your might in this place of Your holy habitation. That Deborah [336/337] may praise Thee for the avenging of Israel, and for the people that offer themselves so willingly; for letting her ear hear, and her eye see the fall of the wicked that rise up against her; that she may praise Thee, and say, ‘The Lord liveth, and blessed be my strong help, and praised be the God of my salvation.’
‘Even the God that seeth I be avenged, and subdueth the people unto me. It is He that delivereth me from my cruel enemies, and setteth me up above all my adversaries.’
Great prosperity giveth He unto His hand-maid, ‘and sheweth still and continually His loving-kindness to His anointed.’ Praised be the Lord for evermore!
To this God, ‘glorious in holiness, fearful in power, doing wonders, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, &c.