Now the God of peace That brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make thou perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to Whom be glory for ever and ever! Amen.
These words, 'Who hath brought Christ again from the dead,' make this a text proper for this day; for as this day was Christ 'brought again' from thence.
And these words, 'the blood of the everlasting testament,' make it as proper every way for a Communion; for there, at a Communion, we are made to drink of that blood. For these together, 1. the bringing of Christ from the dead, [80/81] 2. and 'the blood of the Testament,' and they will serve well for a text at a Communion on Easter-day.
For the nature, it is a benediction. The use the Church doth make of it and such other like, is to pronounce them over the congregation by way of blessing. For not only the power to pray, to preach, to make and to give the Sacrament; but the power also to bless you who are God's people, is annexed and is a branch of ours, of the Priest's office. You may plainly read the power committed, the act enjoined, and the very form of words prescribed, all in the sixth of Numbers. There God saith, 'Thus will you bless the people,' that is, do it, you will, and thus you shall do it, in hæc verba. Neither was this act Levitical, or then first taken up, it was long before: 'while Levi was yet in the loins of Abraham,' even then it was a part of Melchisedek's priesthood, and if the bread and wine were no more but a refreshing, the only part that we read of, to say Benedictus over Abraham, as great a patriarch as he was. There is nothing else mentioned to shew he was a Priest, but that.
This blessing they used first and last, but rather last. For lightly then, the people were all together. They be not so as first, but only a few then. And here, you see, the Apostle makes it his farewell. With this he shuts up his Epistle, and with some other such, all the rest. And that by Christ's example. The last thing that Christ did in this world, was: He lift up His hands 'to bless His disciples,' and so went away to heaven. And so you will find it was the manner in the Primitive Church. At the end of the Liturgy, ever to dismiss the assembly with a blessing, which blessing they were then so conceited of, they would not offer to stir, not a man of them, till bowing down their heads they had the blessing pronounced over them. As if some great matter had lain in the missing of it; as if they had been of Jacob's mind, Non dimmittam Te nisi benedixeris mihi: they would neither let the priest depart, nor depart themselves, till they had their blessing with them; such a virtue they held in it. The blessing pronounced, they had then leave to go, with laoj and [81/82] ¤feotij in the Greek; missa est fidelibus, in the Latin Church; and none went away before.
An evil custom hath prevailed with our people; away they go without blessing, without leave, without care of either. Mark if they run not out before any blessing, as if it were not worth the taking with them.
I marvel how they will be 'inheritors of the blessing,' that seem to set so little by it. If they mean to hear 'Come ye blessed,' they should me thinks love it better than by their running from it they seem to do.
This would be amended. We are herein departed from the Primitive Christians, with whom it was in more regard. Sure there is more in the neglect of it than we are aware of.
This blessing could not be delivered in better terms than in those that came from the Apostles themselves, which accordingly have been sought up here and there in their writings, and by the Church sorted to several days which they seemed best to agree with. As this here, having Easter-day in it, was made an Easter-day benediction. For the special mention in it of Christ 'brought again from the dead,' doth in a manner appropriate it to this feast. Utter it but thus: 'The God of peace Who did now, as upon this day, bring again Christ from the dead'--do but utter it thus, and it will appear most plainly how well they suit, the time, and the text.
For the sum. It is no more in effect but shortly this. That God would so bless them and us, as to make us fit for, and perfect in, all good works. A good wish at any time. But why at this time specially, upon mention of Christ's rising, he should wish it, is not seen at first. Yet there is some matter in it, that at Christ's rising He doth not wish our faith increased, or our hope strengthened, or any other grace or virtue revived; but only, that good works might be perfected in us, and we in them. Surely, this sorting them thus together seems to imply as if Christ's resurrection had some more peculiar interest in good works, as indeed it has. And there hath ever been, and still are, more of them done now at this time, than at any other time of the year.
A general reason may be given. That what time Christ does for us some principal great work, as at all the feasts. [82/83] He doth some, and now at this time sensibly, we to take occasion by it at that time to do somewhat more than ordinary in memory and honour of it. More particularly, some such as may in some sort suit with and resemble the act of Christ then done. As it might be, when Christ died, sin to die in us; when Christ rose again, good works to ride together with Him. Christ's passion, to be sin's passion; Christ's resurrection, good work's resurrection. Good-Friday is for sin, Easter for good works. Good-Friday to bring sin to death, Easter to bring good works from the dead. And we who were dead before to good works, by occasion of this to revive again to the doing of them; and not as the manner is with us, sin to have an Easter, to rise and live again, and good works to be crucified, lie dead and have no resurrection.
For the partition. Two verses there are, and two parts accordingly. 1. the premises, and 2. the sequel. the premises are God, and the sequel good works. The former verse is nothing but God, with His style or addition; 'The God of peace Who hath brought again.' &c. The latter is all for good works, 'Make you perfect,'&c. We may consider them thus. Of the two, 1. one a thing done for us, in the former verse; 2. the other, a thing to be done by us, in the latter verse. The bringing back Christ, the benefit done to Him for it.
The thing done is an act, that is, a bringing back. Which act is but one, but implieth another precedent necessarily, For ¢uagagëu, which is a 'bringing back,' implieth ¢gagëu, which is a 'bringing thither.'
To this act there is a concurrence of two agents. 1. One, the party that brought; 2. the other, the party that is brought. The party that brought is God, under the name or title of 'the God of peace.' the party that was brought is Christ, set forth here under the metaphor of a Shepherd, `the great Shepherd of the sheep.'
'The God of peace' did bring again this 'Shepherd;' from whence and how? 3. From whence? 'From the dead.' Then among the dead He was the first. First, brought thither; 4. how from thence? by what means? 'By the blood of a Testament everlasting.' All which is nothing else but the [83/84] resurrection of Christ extended at large through all these points.
The thing to be done, that God would so bless them as 'to make them,' 1. First, 'fit to do;' 2. and then 'to do good works.' 1.'Fit to do,' in the word katsrtsai 'To do.' Wherein we consider two things; 1. the doing. To which doing there is a concurrence of two agents. 1. Eiij tÕ poiÁsai sai Úm©j, what we to do; 2. and poiùu eu Ømu, what He to do. 2. And then the work itself expressed in two words, 1. Qe/llhma, and 2. EÙ£restou--qe/llhma, thati s, 'His Will;' eu£reotou, 'that which is well pleasing' in His sight. These two be holden for two degrees; and the latter of the twain to have the more in it.
And last of all, the sequel. Where is to be shewed, how these two hang together and follow one upon the other. First, the 'God of peace,' and the bringing of Christ from death. Then, how the bringing of Christ from death concerns our bringing forth good works. Which being shewed, what this feast of Easter hath to do with good works will fall in of itself. That with Christ now rising they also should now rise--they are thought as good as dead--that they may be a resurrection of them as Christ's resurrection.
'The God of peace,' &c. Here is a long process, What needs all this setting out His style at length? Why goes He not to the point roundly? And seeing good works'-doing is His errand, why saith He not shortly, God make you given to good works! and no more ado? but tells us a long tale of Shepherds and Testaments, and I wot not what, one would think to small purpose? But sure to purpose it is, the Holy Ghost useth no waste words, nor ever speaks but to the point we may be sure.
Let us see, and begin with His first title, 'the God of peace.' God's titles be divers, as be His acts; and His acts are, as His properties be they proceed from. And lightly, the title is taken from the property which best fits the act it produces. As when God proceedeth to punish, He is called the 'righteous God;' when to show favour, 'the God of mercy,' when to do some great work, 'the God of power.' Now then this seems not so proper; should it not rather have been, 'the God of power Who brought again,' &c. To bring again [84/85] from death seems rather an act of power than of peace. One would think so. But being well looked into, it will be found to belong rather to peace. No power of His will be set on working, will ever bring again from the death, unless He be first pacified and made the Lord of peace. Of His power there is no question; of His peace there may be some. I shall tell you why. For all the Old Testament through you will observe God's great title is 'the Lord of Hosts,' which in the New you will never read; but ever since He rose from the dead it is, instead of it, 'the God of peace.' To the Romans, Philippians, Thessalonians, &c. and now here to the Hebrews; and still, 'the God of peace.' It is not amiss for us, this change. For if the Lord of Hosts come to be at peace with us, His hosts will be all for us, which were against us, while it was no peace. So as make but God 'the God of peace,' and more needs not. For His peace will command His power straight.
When His hosts were so about Him, it seemed hostility; how came He then to lay away that title of 'the Lord of Hosts' to become Deus pacis? That did He by thus doing; He brought again one from the dead, and that bringing brought peace, and made this change stylo novo, 'the God of peace.'
This brings us to the other, the second party; He is not named till all be done, and then He is in the end of the verse, 'our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.' But at first He is brought in as a Shepherd. Think never the meaner of Him for that. Moses and David, the founders of the monarchy of the Jews; Cyrus and Romulus, the founders, one of the Persian, the other of the Roman monarchy, were taken taken all from the sheepfolds. The heathen poet calls the great ruler of the Grecian monarchy but poime/ua laîu, that is, the 'Shepherd of the people.' Christ gives it to Himself and God does not disdain it in the eightieth Psalm. And the name, howsoever it falls to us of the Clergy now, ab initio non fuit sic. Secular men, Joseph, Joshua, and David, were first so termed, and are more often so termed in the Bible than we.
The term of 'Shepherd' is well chosen as referring to 'the God of peace.' Peace is best for shepherds and for sheep. They love peace: then they are safe, they that feed quietly. Yet not so but that shepherds have ventured far to rescue the [85/86] sheep from the bear and from the lion, as did King David, and as the Son of David here Who ventured further than any, Who is brought in here in sanguine, 'bleeding,' howsoever it comes.
But this title was not so much for God as for us--Pastorem ovium; and in ovium are we, there we come in, we hold by that word. For so there is a mutual and reciprocal relation between Him and us; that we whereby may be assured by this very term relative, whither, and whensoever He was brought, all He did or suffered, it was not for Himself. For then an absolute name of His own would have been put. All for this correlative, for ovium, that is, for us. He is no ways considered in all this, as absolutely put or severed from us, His flock, but still with reference and relation unto us.
But because others enter common in this and other His names with Him, He bears it with a difference; Pastor Magnus, the great Shepherd. Not, as Diphilus said to Pompeuis Magnus, Nostrâ miseriâ magnus es, 'great by making others little,' but misericordiâ suâ magnus, 'by making Himself little to make us great.'
The gradual points of His greatness, in respect of others, are these. Great first, for totum is parte majus; greater is He That feeds the whole, than they that but certain parcels of the flock. All else feed but pieces; so they be but petty shepherds to Him. But He, the whole, main entire flock; He and none but He. So He 'the great Shepherd' of the great flock.
Again, greater is He That owns the sheep He feeds, than they that feed the sheep they own not. All others feed His sheep; none can say, pasce oves Meas. His they be; and reason. For 'He made them,' they be 'the sheep of His hands;' He feeds them, so the sheep of His hands, and of 'His pasture' both.
But this is not the greatness here meant. But Ecce quantam charitatem, 'see the great love' to His sheep! Others sell and kill theirs. He is so far from selling or killing as He, this Shepherd, was sold and slain for them, though they were His own. Paid for them, bought them again, and then 'He brought them again.' It may be there were others had ventured their lives, but not lost them and so lost them as He [86/87] did. Which makes Him not only great, but primae magnitudinis, that is, simply the greatest that ever was.
Of which greatness, two great proofs there are in the two words: 1. Sanguis, and 2. Testamentum. Sanguis, a great price; Testamentum, a great legacy. Sanguis, what He suffered; Testamentum, what He did for them.
The next word is in sanguine, a Shepherd 'in His blood.' So this Shepherd sweat blood, ere He could bring them back. It was no easy matter, it cost blood; and not any blood, such as He could well spare, but it cost Him His life-blood. It could not be the blood of the Testament, but there must be a Testament; and a Testament there cannot be, but the Testator must die. So He died, He was brought to the dead for it. This blood brought Him to His testament, which is further than blood.
We said there were two acts; 1. One expressed 'brought Him thence,' ¢uagagèu. The other implied, 'brought Him thither,' ¢gagèu. But first, brought thither,' before 'brought thence.' We will touch them both. 1. Why brought thither, and how? 2. and why brought thence, and how?
If when He was 'brought thence' it was peace, when He was 'brought thither,' it was none. How came it there was none? What made this separation? That did sin, sin break the peace.
Why, sin did not touch Him, 'He knew no sin.' True; it was not for Himself or any sin of His. Whose then? Here are but two, 1. Pastor, and 2. ovium; Pastor He, ovium, we. If not the Shepherd's then the sheep's sin; if not His, ours. And so it was; peccata vestra, saith God in Esay, and speaks it to us. No quarrel He had to the Shepherd; nothing to say to Christ, as Christ. But He would needs be dealing with sheep, and His sheep fell to straying, and light into the wolves' den; and thither He must go to fetch them, if He will have them.
For ovium then is all this ado, and that is, for us. For all we, 'as sheep, had gone astray.' I may say further; all we, as sheep, were appointed to the slaughter. So it was we should have been carried thither, and the Lord laid upon Him the transgressions of us all, and so He was carried for us. This Pastor became tanquam ovis, 'as a sheep,' for His sheep, and [87/88] was brought thither, and the wolves did to Him whatsoever they would.
As if God had said: Away with these sheep, incidant in lupos, quia nolunt regi a pastore, 'to the wolves with them, seeing they will be kept in no fold.' But that the Shepherd endured not; but rather than they should, He would. When it came to this, who will go thither, Pastor or ovium, the sheep or the Shepherd? Sinite hos abire, they be His own words, 'Let them go their way,' let the sheep go, and 'smite the Shepherd,' sentence Him to be carried thither. The sheep were to be, they should have been; but the Shepherd was. In sanguine nostro it should have been; in sanguine suo, 'His blood,' it was. So to spare ours, He spilt His own.
Thither now He is brought, brought thither by His own blood-shedding. We can understand that well, but not how He should be brought thence by His blood. Yet the text is plain, how He was brought again, in sanguine, by His blood.
First then, let us make God, 'the God of peace,' and when He is so, you soon see Him 'bring Him back again.' That which broke the peace as we said, the very thing that carried Him to the cross, took Him down thence dead, carried Him to His grave, and there lodged Him among the dead, was sin. Away with sin then, that so there may be peace. But there is no taking away sin but by `shedding of blood' -the blood either of Pastor or of ovium, one of them.
Why then here is blood, even the Shepherd's blood; and shed it is, and by the shedding of it sin is taken away, and with sin God's displeasure. It is the Apostle's own word. 'Hatred was slain,' and so hatred being slain, peace followed of her own accord. 'He was our peace,' saith the Apostle, in one place; 'He made our peace,' or pacified all 'by His blood,' in another.
Now then, upon this peace, Who was before carried away was brought again, and so well might be. For all being discharged, He was then to be inter mortuos liber, no longer bound, but 'free from the dead;' not to be kept in prison any longer, but to come forth again. And by His very blood to come forth again. For it was the nature of a ransom which being laid down, the Prisoner who was brought thither is to go thence, whither He will. For a ransom hath [88/89] potestatem eductivam or reductivam, 'a power to bring forth, or bring back again' from any captivity.
In both these bringings, God had His hand; God bringeth to death, and bringeth back again. True, if ever, in this Shepherd. Brought Him to the dead, as 'the Lord of Hosts;' brought Him from the dead, as being now pacified, and 'the God of peace.' Out of His justice, God smote the Shepherd; out of His love to His sheep, the Shepherd was smitten. But Quem deduxit iratus, reduxit placatus; 'Whom of His just wrath against sin He brought thither, now having fulfilled all righteousness He was to bring thence again.' And so brought back He was, and the same way that He was carried thither. Carried the way of justice, to satisfy for them He had undertaken for. And having fully satisfied for them, was in very justice to be brought back again. And so He was; God accepted His passion in full satisfaction, gave present order for His raising again.
And let not this phrase of God's bringing back, or of Christ's coming back, of God's raising Him, or of Christ's rising, any-thing trouble you. The resurrection is one entire act of two joint Agents, that both had their hands in it. Ascribed one while to Christ Himself, that He rose, that He came back; to shew that He had 'power to lay down His life, and power to raise it again.' Another while to God, that He raised Him, that He brought Him back; to shew that God was fully satisfied and well-pleased with it, reach him His hand, as it were, to bring Him thence again.
To show you the benefit that riseth to us by this His rising. Brought thither He was to the dead: so, it lay upon us; if He had not, we should. We were ever carrying thither; and that we might not, He was. Brought thence He was, from the dead: so it stood us in hand; if He had not been brought thence, we should never have come thence, but been left to have lain there world without end.
Brought thither He would be--He and not we; He without us. So careful He was not to spare Himself that we might be spared. Brought thence He would not be, not without His sheep we may be sure. He would bring us thence too, or He would not be brought thence without us. You may see Him in the parable, coming with His lost sheep on His shoulders. That [89/90] one sheep is the image of us all. So careful He was, as He laid him on His own neck, to be sure; which is the true portraiture or representation of His ¢uagw». That if 'the God of peace' bring Him back, He must bring them also, for He will not come back without them. Upon His bringing back from death, is ours founded; in Him all His were brought back. In His person our nature, in our nature we all.
Think you after the payment of such a price He will come back Himself alone? He will let the sheep be carried thither, and not see them brought back again? He did not suffer all this we may be sure, to come away thence, and leave them behind Him. It was never seen that any who paid after so high a rate for any, be it what it will, that when He had done would not see it brought away, but lose all His labour and cost. No; as sure Himself was brought, so sure He will bring them whom He would not part from, He will die first. Nothing will part them now. Pastor and ovium, or no bargain. He with His flock, and His flock with Him; it with Him and He with it; He and they, or nor He Himself; both together, or not at all.
But when He had brought us thence, what shall become of us trow? Will He leave us at random to wander in the mountains? No; but ubi desinit pastor, ibi incipit testator; 'where the Shepherd goes out, the testator comes in.' Which we find plainly in the word testament. For though peace be a fair blessing in itself, if no more but it; and bringing back be worth the while, yet here is now a great matter than so. There is more in the blood than we are aware of. This is also meant; that there is the blood of a testament, which bodes some further matter. There should need no testament, if it were for nothing but to make peace. A covenant would serve for that; 'My covenant of peace would I make with you,' saith God. Sanguis foederis would have done, if there had been no more but so. But here it is the blood of a testament.
It is sanguis cum testamento annexo, 'blood with a testament annexed.' [90/91] Beside the pacification and back-bringing, this Scripture 'offereth more grace;' even a testamentary matter to be administered for our further behoof.
For I ask. Every drop of this blood is more worth than many worlds: will this blood then so precious, of so great a Person as the Son of God, be spent to bring forth nothing but pardon and peace? Being of so great a value, will it produce but so poor an effect? Pity it should be shed, to bring forth nothing but a few sheep from death. There is enough in it to serve further to make a purchase, which He may dispose of to them He will vouchsafe to bring again from the dead. For when He has brought them thence, how He will dispose them, that would be thought on too.
I find then ascribed to His blood, a price; not only of ¢polÚtrrwsij, that is a 'redemption or ransom,' but also, peripohsij, that is, of 'perquisition or purchase.' And I find them both in one verse. So that this blood availed, as to pay our debt, so over and above to make a purchase; served not only to procure our peace, but to state us in a condition better than ever we were before. Not only brought us, but bought us; no not only bought us and brought us back, but bought for us further an everlasting inheritance and brought us to it.
Two powers were in it; 1. as sanguis foederis, 'the blood of the covenant,' the covenant of peace, for in blood were the covernants made; that with Abraham in Genesis fifteen, that with Moses in Exodus twenty-four, in blood both; and among the heathen men, never any covenant of peace but in blood. 2. Now for peace this were enough; but it is sanguis testamenti too, which is founded upon better promises, bequeaths legacies, disposeth estates--matter far of a higher nature than bare peace. As the blood of the testament, so it pacifieth and appeaseth; as the blood of the testament, so it passeth over and conveyeth besides.
But say it did not, were for nothing else but our peace, yet it is much better for us, than our peace go by testament rather than by a covenant. Leagues, covenants, edicts of pacification, have often been, and are we see daily broken. Small hold of them; a stronger hold than so behoved us. A stronger hold there is not than that of a testament. That is [91/92] held inviolable, never to be reversed. Nothing in rebus humanis is held more sacred; so as peace by a testament is far the surer of the twain.
Of which testament, and the greatness of it, there is much to be said, for it is not as other testaments, to be fully 'administered;' this shall never be so, it is 'everlastingly.' 'Everlastingly,' for so is He Who made it; 'His goings out are from everlasting.' 'Everlasting,' for so is the testament itself; though it be executed in time, it was made ab æterno, and lay by him all the while. 'Everlasting,' for so is the blood wherewith it is sealed, the virtue and vigour thereof does continue as a fountain in-exhaust, never dry, but flowing still as fresh as the very first day His side was first opened. We that now live, come to it of even hand with the Apostles themselves, that were then at the opening. And they that come after us, will not come too late, but to full as good a match as either they or we. 'Everlasting,' for the legacies of it are so. Not as with us, of things temporal; nor as of the former testament of the land of Canaan, now grown a barren wilderness; but of eternal life and joy and bliss, of eternity itself. And lastly, 'everlasting,' that we may look for no more; our Gospel is Evangelium æternum, none to come after it. This is the last, and so to last for ever.
Now lay these together, and tell me, Was He not 'the great Shepherd' indeed That endured this carrying thither, whence this day He came? Who paid this great ransom, purchased this great estate, made this great will, disposed these great legacies, even His heavenly kingdom to His little flock? Was He not every way as good as great?--which is the true greatness, eu ù eÃ tÕ me/ga. Here with us, men be good because they be great; with God they be great because they be good; for this His great love, His great price, His great testament, was He not worthy to wear His title of Pastor magnus, of 'Pastor' and of 'Testator' both? For so both He was, and we not only His sheep but His legatories, both in His Pastorship, and in His testatorship; in His bringing forward and in His bringing backward, no ways to be severed from us. He procured no peace, shed no blood, made no testament; was neither brought to the dead nor from the dead for Himself, but for His flock, for us still. All [92/93] He did, all He suffered, all He bequeathed, all He was, He was for us.
And now when all is done, then now, lo, He is the 'Lord Jesus Christ.' Till then a Shepherd, wholly and solely; the more are we beholden to Him. Then lo, He tells us His name, that He is 'the great Shepherd,' He Who was brought back; the blood His, His the Testament. Truly called 'the Testament;' there can no inventory be made of this. It has not entered in the heart of man to conceive what things God has prepared for those who have their part in this Testament, above all that we can desire or imagine. Upon earth there is no greater thing than a kingdom; and no less than a 'kingdom it is His Father's will to dispose unto us.' But a kingdom eternal, all glorious and blessed, far above these here.
All this is a good hearing; hitherto we have heard nothing but pleaseth us well. God at peace; the Shepherd brought to death, that we might not; and brought from death, that we also might be brought from thence; and not brought and left to the wide world, but farther to receive those good things which are comprised in his Testament. This is done, done by him for us. Now to that which is to be done, to be done by us. Not for Him--I should not do well to say so- but indeed for ourselves. For so, for us in the end it will prove; both what He did, and what we do ourselves.
That which on our part the Apostle wisheth us is, that we may be so happy as that God would in effect do the same for us He did for Him, that is, bring us back; back from our sinful course of life to a new, given to do good works.
The Resurrection is here termed ¢uahwg_, 'a bringing back.' So that any bringing back from the worse to the better carries the type, is a kind of resurrection, refers to that of Christ Who died and rose that sin might die, and that good works might rise in us. Both the time and the text lay upon us this duty, to see if good works that seem to be dead and gone, we can bring life to them and make them to rise again.
The rule of reason is, Unumquodque propter operationem suam, 'everything is, and has his being for the work is to do.' And these are the works which we were born, and came [93/94] into the world to do. The Apostle speaks it plainly; we were created for good works, to walk in them. And again, 'That we were redeemed to be a people zealously given to good works.' So they come doubly commended to us, as the end of our creation and redemption both.
In this text we see, it is God's will, it is His good pleasure we do them, if we anything regard either His will or pleasure.
In this text, the Apostle prays that we may 'be made perfect in them.' So, imperfect we are without them; imperfect we, and our faith both. 'For by works is our faith made perfect,' even as Abraham's faith was. And the faith that is without them, is not only imperfect, but stark dead; so as that faith needs a resurrection, to be brought from the dead again.
And whatsoever become of the rest, in this text it is that He hath not left them out, nor unremembered in his testament. They are in it, and divers good legacies to us for them. Which, if we mean to be legataries, we must have a care of. For as His blood serveth for the taking away of evil works, so doth His testament for the bringing again of good. And as it is good philosophy, unumquodque propeter operationem suam, so this is sure, it is sound divinity, unusquisque recipiet secundum operationem suam. At our coming back from the dead whence we all shall come, we shall be disposed of according to them; receive we shall, every man, 'according to his works.' And when it comes to going, they who have done good works will go into everlasting life; and they, not who have done evil, but they who have not done good, will go--you know whither. Let no man deceive you; the root of immortality, the same is the root of virtue--but one and the same root both. When all is said that can be, naturally and by very course of kind, good works, you see, do rise out of Christ's resurrection.
'Make you perfect'--so we read it; which shews we are, as indeed we are,in state of imperfection till we do them. Nay, if that be all, we will never stick for that; cognoscimus imperfectum nostrui, we yield ourselves for such, for imperfection; and that is well. But we must so find and feel our imperfection, that as the Apostle tells us in the sixth chapter [94/95] before, we strive to be carried forward to perfection' all we may. Else, all our cognoscimus imperfectum, will stand us in small stead.
Why, is there any imperfection in this life? There is: else, how should the Apostle's exhortation there, or his blessing here take place. I wot well, absolute, complete, consummate perfection, in this there is none. Non puto me comprehendisse, saith St. Paul, 'I count not myself to have attained?' No, more must we, not 'attained.' What then? 'But this I do,' saith he, and so must we; 'I forget that which is behind, and endeavour myself, and make forward still, to that which is before.' Which is the perfection of travellers, of wayfaring men; the further onward on their journey, the nearer their journey's end, the more perfect; which is the perfection of this life, for this life is a journey.
Now good works are as many steps onward. The Apostle calls them so, 'the steps of the faith of our father Abraham,' who went that way, and we to follow him in it. And the more of them we do, the more steps do we make; the further still shall we find ourselves to depart from iniquity, the nearer still to approach unto God in the land of the living; whither to attain, is the total or consummatum est of our perfection.
But not to keep from you the truth, as it is, the nature of the Apostle's word katarti/sai is rather to make fit' than 'to make perfect.' Wherein this he seems to say; That to the doing of good works, there is first requisite a fitness to do them, before we can do them; katarti/sai and poiiÁsai are both in the test. Fit to do them, ere we can do them. We may not think to do them hand over head, as the first dash. In an unfit and indisposed subject, no agent can work; not God Himself, but by miracle. Fit then we must be.
Now of ourselves, as of ourselves, we are not fit so much as 'to think' a good thought; it is the second of Corinthians, the third chapter, verse five. Not so much as to will, for it is God That worketh in us to will.' If not these two, 1. neither 'think,' 2. nor 'will,' then not to work. No more we are; neither to begin, nor having begun to go forward, and bring it to an end. Fit to none of these. then made [95/96] fit we must be, and who to reduce us to fitness but this 'God of peace here That brought again Christ from the dead.'
Now if I shall tell you, what manner of fitness it is the Apostle's word katarti/sai here doth impart, it is properly the fitness which is in setting that in, which was out of joint, in doing the part of a good bone-setter. This is the very true and native sense of the word: 'set you in joint' to do good works. For the Apostle tells us that the Church and things spiritual go by joints and sinews whereof they are compact, and by which they have their action and motion. And where there are joints, there may be, and otherwhiles there is a disjointing or dislocation, no less in things spiritual than in the natural body. And that is when things are missorted, or put out of their right places.
Now that our nature is not right in joint is so evident, that the very heathen men have seen and confessed it.
And by a fall things come out of joint, and indeed so they did; Adam's fall we call it, and we call it right. Sin which before broke the peace, which made the going from or departure which needed the bringing back; the same sin, here now again, put all out of joint. And things out of joint are never quiet, never at peace and rest, till they be set right again. But when all is in frame, all is in peace; and so it refers well to 'the God of peace' Who is to do it.
And mark again. The putting in joint is nothing but a bringing back again to the right place whence it slipped, that still there is a good coherence with that which went before; the peace-maker, the bringer-back, the bone-setter, are all one.
The force or fulness of the Apostle's simile, 'out of joint,' you shall never fully conceive till you take in hand some good work of some moment, and then you shall for certain. For do but mark me then, how many rubs, lets, impediments, there will be, as it were so many puttings out of joint, ere it can be brought to pass. This wants, or that wants; one thing or other frames not. A sinew shrinks, a bone is out, somewhat is awry; and what ado there is ere we can get it right! Either the will is averse, and we have no mind to it; or the power is shrunk, and the means fail us; or the time [96/97] serves not; or the pace is not meet; or the parties to be dealt with, we find them indisposed. And the misery is, when one is got in, the other is out again. That the wit of man could not have devised a fitter term to have expressed it in. This for the disease.
What way doth God take to set us right? First, by our ministry and means. For it is a part of our profession under God, this name katartiismÕj to set the Church in, and every member that is out of joint. You may read it in this very term prÕj katartismÕu. And that we do, by applying outwardly this Testament and the blood of it, two special splints as it were, to keep all straight. Out of the Testament, by 'the word of exhortation,' as in the next verse he calls it, praying us to suffer the splinting. For it may sometimes pinch them, and put them to some pain that are not well in joint, by pressing it and putting it home. But both by denouncing, one while the threats of the Old Testament, another while by laying forth the promises of the New, if by any means we may get them right again. this by the Testament, which is one outward means. The blood is another inwards means. By it we are made fit and perfect, (choose you whether,) and that so, as at no time of all our life we are so well in joint, or come so near the state of perfectness, as when we come new from the drinking of that blood. And thus are we made fit.
Provided that katarrtsai do end, as here it doth, in poiiÁsai and eu rgJ; that all this fit-making do end in doing and in a work, that some work be done. For in doing it is to end, if end aright; if it end as the Apostle here would have it. For this fitting is not to hear, learn, or know, but 'to do His will' at that lesson. there is another in Psalm one hundred and forty -three, 'Teach my Thy will,' and 'Teach me to do Thy will' are two distinct lessons. We are all our life long about the first, and never come to the second, eij ttÕ poiÁsai. It is required we should now come to the second. Eij tÕ poiÁsai. We are not made fit, when we are so, to do never a whit the more; atartsai is to end in ppoiÁsai. which is doing, and in rgou , that is, in a 'work.'
In work, and 'in every good work,' we must not slip the [97/98] collar there, neither. For if we be able to stir our hand but one way and not another, it is a sign it is not well set in. His that is well set, he can move it to and fro, up and down, forward and backward; every way, and to every work. There be that are all for some one work, who single some one piece of God's service, wholly addicted to that, but cannot skill of the rest. That is no good sign. To be for every one, for all sorts of good works, for every part of God's worship alike for no one more than another, that sure right. So choose your religion, so practise your worship of God. It is not safe to do otherwise, nor to serve God by Synecdoche; but eu paur, to take all before us.
But in the doing of all or any, beside our part, eij tÕ poiÁsai, here is also poiîu eu Ømu, a worker besides. When God has fitted us by the outward means, there is not all. He leaves not us to ourselves for the rest, but to that outward application of our joins His poiiîu eu Ømu, an inward operation of His own inspiring, His grace, which is nothing but the breath of the Holy Spirit. Thereby enlightening our minds, inclining our wills, working on our affections, making us homines bonae voluntatis; that when we have done well, we may say with the Prophet, Domine universa opera nostra operatus Es in nobis, 'Lord, all our good works You have wrought in us.' Our works they be, yet of Thy working. And with the Apostle, 'we did them, yet not we, but the grace of God who was with us.' Both ways, it is true: what He works by us He works in us, and what He works in us He works by us. For evverrgei, sunerge, take not away one the other, but stand well together. This for the doing.
Now for the work. In every good work we do His will; yet, it seemeth, degrees there are. For here is mention of qlhma, 'His will;' and besides it, of eÙ£restou, 'His good pleasure,' and this latter sounds as if it did import more than a single will. One's good pleasure is more than his bare will. So in the chapter before he wisheth, latp_usai eÙar_stwj, that is, we may serve and please; that is, may so serve as that we may please. Acceptable service then is more than any, such as it is. There is no question but that, as of evil works some displease God more than other, so of [98/99] good works there are some better pleasing, and that He takes a more special delight in.
And if you would know what they be, above at the sixteenth verse it is said, that 'to do good and to distribute,' that is, distributive doing good, it is more than an ordinary service; it is a sacrifice, every such work. It is of the highest kind of service, and that with that kind, (eÙarestetai, our word here) 'God is highly pleased.' So doth St. Paul call the bounteous supplying of his wants from the Philippians, qusau dekt_u 'a sacrifice right acceptable and pleasing to God,' and Ñssm_u eÙwdaj, 'a most delightful sweet savour.' And that you may still see He looks to the Resurrection, He saith, the Philippians had lain dead and dry a great while, as in winter trees do use. But when that work of bounty came from them, they did ¢uaq£lleiu, 'that is shoot forth, wax fresh, grow green again,' as now at this season plants do. That so the very virtue of Christ's resurrection did shew forth itself in them; so fitting nature's resurrection time, the time of bringing things as it were from the dead again, with this of Christ. Which time is therefore the most pleasing time, the time of the greatest pleasure of all the times of the year. So, we know, how to do that is pleasing in His sight.
Yet even this pleasing and all else is to conclude, as here it does, with 'through Jesus Christ our Lord:' He is in here too. In, at the doing; in, at the making them to please God, ut faciat quisque per Christum, quod placeat per Christum, 'that what is by Christ done, by Christ may please when it is done.' In at the doing, 'by infusing, or dropping in His grace active;' making us able and fit to do, and so to them. In at the pleasing, 'by pouring on His good grace and favour passive,' as it might be some drops of His blood, whereby it pleases being done. Gracing His work, as we use to say, in God's sight, that so He of His grace may crown it.
We have gone through with both points. Now comes the hardest point of all, the sequel, to couple them and make them hang well together.
First then, they be ascribed to 'the God of peace.' There are but three things to be done in the text, and peace doth [99/100] them all. And if peace, then God by no other title than 'the God of peace.' 1. Peace bringeth from death; for war, I am sure, brings to death many a worthy man. There is little question to be made of this; that 'the God of peace' doth the one, but the devil of discord doth the other.
Secondly, peace sets in joint, war brings all out of joint; war is not good for the joints as we see daily, peace does them no hurt.
Thirdly, peace makes us fit for good; war for all manner of evil works, saith St. James in the third chapter, verse sixteen. Therefore 'the God of peace,' say we. And if it He take it from us for a time, that He bring it quickly back to us again. For when He was first brought into the world, among the living, at His birth, Janus was shut; the Angels, they sung 'peace upon earth.' And when He was 'brought again from the dead' this day, He was no sooner risen but the first news was, the soldiers ran all away--a sign of peace. And indeed, when He had slain hatred, it was most kindly then, to bring peace. At this evening with His own mouth He spoke it once and twice, pax vobis, over and over again, which is the Apostle's benediction here. So resurrection and peace, they accord well.
Now for the sequel of good works, upon Christ's bringing from the dead. Being to infer good works, He would never put in all this, of Christ's bringing back again from the dead, if there had not been some special operative force to, or towards them, in Christ's resurrection. If Christ's rising made not for them, had not some special reference to them, some peculiar interest in them, all this had not been ad idem, but idle, and beside the point quite. We must take heed of this error, to think the passion or resurrection of Christ, though it be actus transiens that with the doing passes away, that it hath not a virtue and force permanent; that it left not behind it a virtue and force permanent to work continually some grace in us; as to think His resurrection to be actus suspensus, an act to have his effect at the latter day, and in the mean time to serve for nothing but to hang in nubibis, as they say. But that this day it hath an efficacy continuing, that sheweth forth itself; and, as the rule is, in the soul, before it doth on the body. We shall leave the heathen to their [100/101] habits and habitualities, but with us Christians this is sure: whatsoever in us, or by us is wrought, that is pleasing to God, it is so wrought by the virtue of Christ's resurrection. We have not thought of it perhaps, but most certain it is so. So God hath ordained it. Whatsoever evil is truly mortified in us, it is so by the power of Christ's death, and thither to be referred properly. And whatsoever good is revived or brought again anew from us, it is all from the virtue of Christ's rising again. All do rise, all are raised, thence. The same power that did create at first, the same it is that makes a new creature. The same power that raised Lazarus the brother from his grave of stone, the same raised Mary Magdalene the sister from her grave of sin. From one and the same power both. Which keeps this method; works first to the raising of the soul from the death of sin; and after, in the due time, to the raising of the body from the dust of death. Else, what hath the Apostle said all this while?
Now this power is inherent in the Spirit as the proper subject of it, even the eternal Spirit, whereby Christ offered Himself first unto God, and after raised Himself from the dead. Now as in the texture of the natural body ever there goes the spirit with the blood; ever with a vein, the vessel of the one, there runs along an artery, the vessel of the other, so is it in Christ; His blood and His Spirit always go together. In the Spirit is the power; in the power virtually every good work it produceth, which it was ordained for. If we get the Spirit, we cannot fail of the power. And the Spirit that ever goes with the blood, which never is without it.
This carries us now to the blood. The very shedding whereof upon the cross, primum et ante omnia was the nature of a price. A price, first, of our ransom from death due to our sin, through that His satisfaction. A price again of the purchase He made for us, through the [a]vail of His merit, which by His testament is by Him passed over to us.
Now then, His Blood, after it had by the very pouring it out wrought these two effects, it ran not waste, but divided into two streams. 1. One into 'the laver of the new birth'--our baptism, applied to us outwardly to take away the spots of our sin. 2. The other, 'into the Cup of the New Testament [101/102] in His Blood,' which inwardly administered serveth, as to purge and 'cleanse the conscience from dead works' that so live works may grow up in the place, so to endue us with the Spirit that shall enable us with the power to bring them forth. Hæc sunt Ecclesiae gemina Sacramenta, 'these are,' not two of the Sacraments, but 'the two twin Sacraments' of the Church, saith St. Augustine. And with us there are two rules. 1.One, Quicquid Sacrificio offertur, Sacramento confertur; 'what the Sacrifice offereth, that the Sacrament obtaineth.' 2. The other, Quicquid Testamento legatur, Sacramento dispensatur; 'what the Testament bequeatheth, that is dispensed in the holy mysteries.'
To draw to an end. If this power be in the Spirit, and the blood be the vehiculum of the Spirit, how may we partake this blood? It will be offered you straight 'in the Cup of blessing, which we bless in His name.' For 'is not the Cup of blessing which we bless, the communion of the Blood of Christ,' saith St. Paul? Is there any doubt of that? In which Blood of Christ is the Spirit of Christ. In which Spirit is all spiritual power; and namely, this power that frames us fit to the works of the Spirit, which Spirit we are all made there to drink of.
And what time shall we do this? What time is best? What time better than that day in which He first shewed forth the force and power He had in making peace, in bringing back Christ That brought peace back with Him, That made the Testament, Who sealed it with His Blood, That died upon it, that it might stand firm for ever? All which were done upon this day. This day then somewhat would be done, somewhat more than ordinary, more than every day. Let every day be for every good work, to do His will; but this day to do something more than so, something that may be well-pleasing in His sight. So it will be kindly, so we shall keep the degrees in the text, so we shall give proof that we have our part and fellowship in Christ, in Christ's resurrection;--grace rising in us, works of grace rising from it. That so, there may be a resurrection of virtue, and good works at Christ's resurrection. That as there is a reviving ¢uaqala in the earth, when all and every herbs and flowers are 'brought again from the dead,' so among men good works may come up too, that we be not found fruitless at our bringing back from the dead, in the great Resurrection, but have our parts as here now in the Blood, so there then in the Testament, and the legacies thereof, which are glory, joy and bliss, for ever and ever.