Do not err, my beloved brethren.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
And, if 'every good giving and every perfect gift,' what giving so good, or what gift so perfect, as the Gift of Gifts, this day's gift, the gift of the Holy Ghost? There are in it all the points in the text. It is 'from above,' it 'descended' visibly this day, and from 'the Father of lights'--many 'tongues,' so many `lights;' which kindled such a light in the world on this day, as to this day is not put out, or will ever be to the world's end.
First, the Holy Ghost is oft styled by his very name or title, of 'the Gift of God.' 'If ye knew the Gift of God,' saith our Saviour to the woman at the well's side. What gift was that? It is plain there, 'the water of life.' That 'water' [361/362] was the Spirit. 'This He spake of the Spirit,' saith St. John, who knew His mind best, as then 'not yet given;' but since, as upon this day, sent into the world.
Secondly, this 'gift' is both 'good' and 'perfect'--so good, as it is de bonis optimum, 'of all goods the best;' and of all perfects, the most absolutely perfect, the gift of perfection, or perfection of all the gifts of God. What should I say? Not to be valued, saith St. Peter; not to be uttered, saith St. Paul: as if all the tongues that were on earth before, and all that came down this day, were little enough, or indeed were not enough, not able any way to utter or express it.
Thirdly, nay it is not one gift among many, how complete soever, but it is many in one--so many tongues, so many gifts; as so many grapes in a cluster, so many grains in a pomegranate. In this one gift are all the rest. 'Ascending up on high,' dona dedit, 'He gave gifts:' all these dona were in hoc Dono, all those gifts in this Gift; every one of them folded up as it were inclusive. The Father, the Fountain; the Son, the Cistern; the Holy Spirit the Conduit-pipe, or pipes rather, (for they are many) by and through which they are derived down to us.
Fourthly, and lastly, not only in him, and by Him, but from Him too. For He is the Gift and the Giver both. 'There is great variety of gifts,' saith St. Paul, 'but it is one and the same Spirit That maketh distribution of them to every man severally, even as Himself pleaseth.' Both the thing given, and the Party that giveth it, all derived to us from Him, wrought in us by Him, and by us to be referred to Him.
At the time of any God's gifts sent us by Him, to speak of Scriptures of this nature, cannot seem unseasonable; but of all other, at the time of this gift, most properly. Dona dedit hominibus; what day was that? even this very day. Dies donorum hic; so many tongues, so many gifts. This day I say, whereto Donum Dei and Donum diei fall together so happily. We have brought it to the day.
It will mot be amiss to touch the end a little, which the Apostle aimeth at in these words. It is the old, it is the new Commandment, Mandatum vetus et novum, to make us love God. The point whereto the Law and the Prophets drive, [362/363] yea the Gospel, and the Apostles and all. We cannot love him well, whom we think not well of. We cannot think well of him, whom we think evil comes from. Then to think so well of God, as not to think any evil. Not any evil? No, but instead thereof, all good cometh to us from Him. So thinking, we cannot choose but we must love Him.
And to this end, at the thirteenth verse before, St. James had told us plain, God is not the Author of evil; not tempted Himself, not tempting any to it. As at that verse, not the Author of evil, so at this, the Author of all, and every good. Men, when their brains are turned with diving into God's secrets, may conceit as they please; but when all is said that can be, no man can ever entirely love Him Whom he thinks so evil of as to be the Author of evil. We are with St. James to teach, and you to believe that will procure you to love God the better; not that will alien your minds, or make you love Him the worse. That therefore St. James denies peremptorily. No evil; nemo dicat, 'let no man speak it,' let it not once be spoken. But let this be hardly, [i.e. strongly insisted on] that all the good we have or hope for, descends down from Him. St. James here affirms as earnestly, 'Err not, my dear brethren.' It is to 'err,' to think otherwise; for that absolutely, 'every good giving,' and again over, 'every perfect gift,' there is not one of them all but from Him they come. And so we in all duty to love Him from Whom all, and all manner good proceedeth. This is His end, love; and that falls fit and is proper to this feast, the feast of love. For love is the proper attribute and proper effect of the Spirit, (per charitatem Spiritûs) 'the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost' this day 'given unto us.'
The verse, to the chapter, is a clear and a strict proposition, but hath in it the force or energy to make a complete argument. For if all good from God, then no evil. St. James lays it for a ground: salt or 'bitter water and sweet cannot issue both from one fountain' not the works of darkness, from 'the Father of lights,' never.
But we take it only as a proposition, with a little item at the end of it. If we ask the questions of art concerning it, Quæ, quanta, qualis? Quæ? It is categorical. Quanta? [363/364] It is universal. Qualis? First, it is affirmative; then true 'err not' goes before it. So true, as to think the contrary is a flat error.
I. The rules of logic divide a proposition to our hands, into the fore-part, (in schools they call it subjectum) and into the after-part, which they call preædicatum. 1. The subjectum here is omne datum, &c. The prædicatum, desursum est, &c. The subject is double: 1. datum bonum, and 2. donum perfectum, with an universal note to either. 'Every good and every perfect,' to be sure, to take in all, to leave out none. 2. The prædicatum, that stands of three points: 1. whence? 2. how? and 3. from whom? 'from the Father of lights.'
II. Then comes the item I told you of, provisionally, to meet with an objection, a thought that might rise in our hearts peradventure; that is, It may be as the lights of the world, or the children, have their variations, their changes, so the Father also may have them. But that he puts us out of doubt of too, with as peremptory a negative. Be it with the lights as it will; with 'the Father of lights,' with God, there is no variation, no change, no not so much as a shadow of them. In effect, as if he should say: From 'the Father of lights,' Which is unchangeable; or From the unchangeable 'Father of lights;' and so it shall be mere affirmative, but that there is major vis in negatione, 'denial is stronger.'
And all these he brings in with a nolite errare; and that not without just cause. For, about this verse and the points in it, there are no less than seven sundry errors. I shall note you them as I go, that you may avoid them, together with such matter of duty as shall incidently fall in from each; specially touching the gift of the day, the gift of the Holy Ghost.
To take the proposition in sunder. The subject first, and that is double; 1. datum , and 2. donum; and either of them his proper epithet; 1. 'good,' and 2. 'perfect.' Jointly, of both together first; after, severally of either part.
Datum, and donum, they both come of do, given they are both. Where first, because it is the feast of tongues, to set our tongue right. For the world and [364/365] the Holy Ghost speak not one language; not with one tongue both. There should not else have needed any to have been sent down. The world talks of all, as had; the Holy Ghost,-- as given. Look to the habendum, saith the world, the having:--that is the spirit of the world. Religion; look to donum and datum, the giving:--that is His. The heathen calls his virtue xij, 'a habit;' that comes of habendo. The Christian, by St. James here, dÒsij, dèrrhma,. datum and donum; all which come of dando. Thus doth the Holy Ghost frame our tongues to speak, if we shall speak with tongues of this day. They who do not, they are of Galilee, and their speech 'bewrayeth' them straight..
Will you hear one of them? You know who said, 'Soul thou hast enough' 'hast,' and you know who spake otherwise, Quid habes quod non accepisti? 'What but that you have received.' Receiving and giving you know are relatives, which the other little thought of. You may know each by their dialect.
From the beginning. Esau he said, Habeo bona plurima frater mi, 'I have good enough;' that is his phrase of speech, that the language of Edom. What saith Jacob at the same time? Esau asking him, what were all the droves he met, They be, saith he, the good things that 'God hath given me.' 'Have,' saith Esau; 'given me,' saith Jacob. Nonne habeo? 'Have not I power to crucify thee, and have not I power to deliver thee?' You may know it, it is Pilate's voice. But our Saviour, He tells him, non habes potestatem; power should he have had none, if it had not been 'given him,' and 'given' him 'from above.' St. James' very phrase here from Christ's own mouth. So must we speak, if we will speak as Christ spake.
This then is the first error. To have our mind run and our speech run, all upon having. Men are all for having, think and speak of what they have; without mention of whence, or how, or from whom they receive it, or that it is given them at all. Nolite errare, 'be not deceived,' for all that you have is datum or donum, all; and they both are of free gift, given all. Thus the tongue that sat this day on St. James' head, taught him to call them. Thus far jointly; now severally.
For there is a cleft in these tongues. The cleft is datum and donum. Would not wrap them all up in one word, but expresses them in two. Somewhat there is in that. We may not admit of [365/366] any idle tautologies in Scriptures. Two several sorts then they be, these two, not opposite, but differing only in degree, as more and less. 'Every gift' is a giving; not every giving a gift. Every 'perfect,' 'good;' not every 'good,' 'perfect.' We are not to think, either all our sins, or all our gifts to be of one size. St. Matthew's talent is more than St. Luke's pound; Caesar's penny, than the widow's two mites, yet good money all, in their several values. Of these two, 1. datum and 2. donum, 1. bonum and 2. perfectum, one is greater or less than another.
He begins with the less, datum. Weigh the word, it is but a participle; they have tenses, and tenses time. So that is only temporal.
But donum imports no time; so, a more set time, hath more substance in it, is fixed or permanent. One, as it were, for terms of years; the other, of the nature of a perpetuity. A datum, that which is still in giving, that perishes with the use, as do things transistory; and be of that sort that Job spoke, God 'hath given,' and God 'hath taken away.' Donum is not so, but of that sort that Christ speaks, in Mary's choice, so given as it 'should never be taken from her.' So one refers to the 'things which are seen, which are temporal;' the other, to the 'things not seen, that are eternal.' One to the body, and to this world; the other to the soul rather, and the life of the world to come.
We shall discern it the more clearly, if we weigh the two adjectives, 1. 'good,' and 2. 'perfect:'--they differ. Every 'good' is not 'perfect.' We know the Law is good, saith the Apostle, but we know withal, 'the Law bringeth nothing to perfection:'--so not perfect. Nature, quà natura, is 'good' yet imperfect; and the Law in the rigour of it not possible, through the imperfection of it. Nature is not, the Law is not taken away 'good' both; but grace is added to perfect both, which needeth not, if either were perfect. This 'world's good;' so doth St. John call our wealth. No, 'bread,' 'fish' and 'eggs' we give our children, our Saviour Himself calleth good gifts. But what are these? not worthy to be named, if you speak of donum Dei æternum and the perfections there.
Before I was aware, I have told you what is 'perfect.' [366/367] The glory, the joys, the crown of Heaven. 'For when that perfect is come, all this imperfect will be done away.' But St. James seems not to speak of that; he speaks in the present, what now is, what 'perfect' in this life. And this, lo, brings us to donum diei, the gift of the Holy Ghost. For 'to be partakers of the divine nature,' is all the perfection we can here attain. No higher here. Now to be made partakers of the Spirit, is to be made partakers 'of the divine nature.' That is this day's work. Partakers of the Spirit we are, by receiving grace; which is nothing else but the breath of the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of grace. Grace into the entire substance of the soul, dividing itself into two streams: 1. one, goes to the understanding, the gift of faith; 2. the other to the will, the gift of 'charity, the very bond of perfection.' The tongues, to teach us knowledge; the fire, to kindle our affections. The state of grace is the perfection of this life, to grow still from grace to grace, to profit in it. As to go on still forward is the perfection of a traveller, to draw still nearer and nearer to his journey's end. 'To work to-day and to-morrow as Christ said, and the third day to be perfect, perfectly perfect.'
Now as we are to follow, 'the best gifts,' --it is St. Paul's counsel,--'the best,' the most 'perfect;' so are we to take notice too of the 'good,' though not all out so 'perfect' as St. James adviseth us; knowing this, that be it giving or be it gift, be it 'good' or be it 'perfect,' he puts an omne to both, comes over twice, 1. 'every good,' 2. 'every perfect' both we receive, both are given us. Set down that. There was among the heathen one that went for wise that said, to become rich he would pray and sacrifice to Hercules; but to be virtuous or wise, he would do neither, neither to Hercules; nor to any good of them all, he would be beholden for that to none but himself. Look, in this cleft he took to himself the more, left God the less. This was a gross error; so gross, I will not bid you take heed of it. But there be, that will not stand with God for the greater; but for the less, that they may be bold with, and take those to themselves. This is an error too:--err not this. No, datum hath his omne as well as donum; the 'good,' no less than the 'perfect;' given both, one as well as the other. St Paul puts us to it with [367/368] quid habes? that is, nihil habes. 'What have you?' that is you have nothing, 'but you have received it,' but has been given you; lÁyij and dÒij are relations, one confers the other.
Away then with this second error. He that made the elephant, made the ant; He That the eagle, the fly; He That the most glorious Angels in Heaven, the poorest worm that creeps on the earth. So He That will give us the kingdom of Heaven, He it is That gives us every piece of bread and meat, and puts us to acknowledge it, in one and the same prayer making us to sue for regnum Tuum, and for panem nostrum. Be not deceived to think otherwise. And hear you, you are to begin with datum, 'not to despise the day of small things.' It is the Prophet's counsel, to learn to see God in them. 'Cæsar's image,' not only in his coin of gold, but even upon the poor 'penny.' See God in small, or you will never see Him in great; in 'good,' or never in 'perfect.' This for the subject. There is a cleft, all are not of one sort; some less, some greater: greater or less, both are given. Not less had, and great given, but given both. And every one of both kinds, of the one kind as well as of the other.
We have talked long of 'good:' 'Who will shew us any good?' there be many that will say, nay there is not any but will say. That will St. James here. And first, to shew us, turns our eyes to the right place, whence it comes. That is ¥uwqeu 'from above.' There are two in this ¥uwqeu:- 1. qeu 'from,' 2. and ¥uw 'above.' 'from,' that is from somewhere else, not from ourselves: from without, and not out of us, from within. Aliunde, ¥xwqeu. and that aliunde is from ¥uw 'above,' not from k£tw, those lower parts upon the earth.
Err not then, either of these two ways: 1. First, not to reflect upon ourselves, to look like swans into our own bosoms. It grows not there, out of yourselves, 'it is the gift of God,' saith St. Paul. The very giving gives as much. Of our own we have it not.
2. If we look forth, let it not be about us, either on the right hand, or on the left, on any place here below. Look up, turn your eyes thither. It is an influence, it is no vapour; an inspiration, no exhalation; thence it comes, hence it rises not: 'our spirit lusts after envy,' and worse matter. 'Why [368/369] should thoughts arise in your hearts,' saith Christ? If they 'arise,' they are 'not good,' if they be 'good,' then they come down 'from above.' St. John Baptist is direct: 'A man can receive nothing, unless it be given him, and given him from above.' And, of all other, not the gift of this day; the Dove, the tongues, came from on high both. From ourselves, is one error; from any other beneath here, is another. Err not then, the place is desursum, without and above us.
Next, the manner how, that it descends; for even that word wants not his force. Descending is a voluntary motion; it concludes the will and the purpose of him who so descends. It is no casualty, it falls not down by chance; it comes down, because it so will. A will it has, et ubi vult spirat, 'it blows not, but where it will;' and it distributes to every one the Spirit, but prout vult, 'as it pleaseth Himself,' not otherwise.
And this you may observe; the Scripture makes choice ever of words sounding this way. He gives it. He casts it not about, at all adventure. He opens His hand, it runs not through His fingers. Sinum habet facilem, non perforatum, 'His bosom is open enough, yet hath no hole in it,' to drop through against His will. He 'sent His Word,' it came not by hap, that is Christ. And 'I shall send you another Comforter,' that is, 'the Holy Ghost.' Nor He neither. 'Of His own will He begat us'--they be the words that follow.
It is the fifth error, to ascribe to fortune either datum or donum. Err not then: as the place is from above, so the manner, descendens, not decidens; they come, they are not let fall.
Whence, we see, and how: now, from whom. The Party in a word, is God. He had said as much before, verse the fifth, 'If any lack wisdom, let him ask it of God;' how comes He here to use this somewhat unusual term, 'the Father of lights.' It had been to our thinking, more proper to have said, from God the Author of all good things. No, there is a reason for it for say, they are, they came down from above: when we cast up our eyes thither, we can see no farther, our sight can reach no higher than the lights, than the lights there above. And so, some you have that hold they come from them, de luminibus, 'from the lights,' that such a conjunction or aspect of them, such a constellation, or horoscope, such a [369/370] position of such and such planets, produce very much good. This is in astrology, but not in theology. M_plau©sqe--of which word come the planets--saith St. James, wander not after the wandering stars; de luminibus is not it, de Patre luminum is the right. So, 'the Father of lights' was purposely chosen, to draw us from the 'lights.' That not they, they are not--not the children; 'the Father,' He it is, from Whom they come, the 'lights.' Nay, them He made to do service. No 'the Angels' above them, He made to be 'ministering Spirits' for our good. Be not deceived with this neither; to lift up our eyes to the host of Heaven, and no further; but beyond them to 'the Father' of them all, and then you are where you should be.
This may be one reason. But further if you ask, why not rather of all good, as He began; why is He gone from that term, to this of lights? The answer is easy. If we speak of gifts, light it is princeps donorum Dei, the first gift God bestowed upon the world, and so will fit well. If of 'good,' the first thing of which it is said, vidit Deus quod bona, was 'light;' and so, fit that way too. If you speak of 'perfect,' so perfect it is as it is desired for itself, we take comfort in seeing it, we delight to see it, though we see nothing by it, nothing but the light itself--observed by Solomon.
And for 'good:' such is the nearness of affinity, such I may say, the connaturality between 'light' and 'good,' as they would not be one without the other. All that good is, loves the light, would 'come to the light,' would be 'made manifest,' desires no 'bushel' to hide it, but a 'candlestick' to show it forth to all the world, that they might be searched with lanterns; to have the secrets, the hidden corners of their hearts looked into, that 'the Father of lights' would grant them so to be.
For 'perfect:' so 'perfect' a thing is the light, as God Himself is said to be 'light.' His Son our Saviour, to be light of lights, 'the true light that lighteneth every one that cometh into the world.' His Spirit, 'light'--so is our collect: 'God Which as upon this day hast taught the hearts of Thy faithful people, by sending them the light of Thy Holy Spirit.' The Angels that be good, be 'Angels of light.' [370/371] Yea, whatsoever here on earth is perfect: the King is called 'the light of Israel;' the Apostles called luces mundi; and the Saints of God, wherever they be in the world, shine as lights in it. That upon the matter, Father of good, and 'Father of light' is all one.
Pater luminis would have served, if we respect but this, but the nature. What say you to the number? It is luminum: why of lights in the plural? that is, to give light to what we said before, of the divers degrees of the givings, and of the gifts of God. In the firmament, there is one light there is one light of the sun, another of the moon, and yet another of the stars; and in the stars, 'one differs from another in glory.' 'Good' every one, though not 'so perfect,' one as another. He That made the bright sun in all his glory, He made the dimmest star; all alike from Him, He alike the Father of all.
Besides, He sets them down in the plural 'lights,' for that the opposite, tenebrae, is a plural word, and indeed has no singular, for they are many, and so need many 'lights' to match them. There is the senses' outward darkness, there is the darkness of the inward man; both the darkness of the understanding by ignorance and error, and the 'darkness' of the will and heart by hatred and malice. There is the darkness of adversity in this world, the hither darkness, there is some little light in it; and there is the 'blackness of darkness,' the utter darkness of the world to come--no manner of light at all. Nothing to be seen, but to be heard; nor to be heard, but 'weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.'
To match these so many darknesses, there behoved to be as many 'lights,' and so Pater luminum comes in, not luminis. As to match the many miseries of our nature, there were as many mercies requisite; and so He, Pater miscericordiarum, not misericordiæ, with the Apostle; of many, not of one alone. We need the number as well as the thing; to have a multitude, a plurality of mercies, to have 'plenteous redemption,' to have £riu polupokilou,. 'great variety of grace,' and that 'over-abundant grace,' that we might rest assured there is enough and enough, in 'the Father of lights,' to master and to overmatch any darkness of the prince of darkness, what or how many soever.
[371/372] Shall I shew you these lights? Not the visible, of the sun, moon and stars or fire of candle; I pass them. Besides them there are two in us 1. the light of nature, for rebelling against which, all that are without Christ suffer condemnation. Solomon calls it 'the candle of the Lord searching even the very bowels,' which though it be dim and not perfect, yet good it is; though lame, yet, as Mephibosheth, it is regia proles, 'of the blood royal.' 2. There is the light of God's Law. Lex lux, saith Solomon, totidem verbis; and his father, 'a lantern to his feet.' Nay, in the nineteenth Psalm what he saith at the fourth verse of the 'sun,' at the eighth he saith the same of 'the Law of God'--lights both. 3. The light of prophecy, as of 'candle that shineth in a dark place.' 4. There is the 'wonderful light' of His Gospel, so St. Peter calleth it, the proper light of this day. The tongues that descended--so many 'tongues,' so many 'lights;' for the tongue is a light, and brings to light what was before hid in the heart. 5. And from these other is the inward light of grace, whereby God, Which commanded 'the light to shine out of darkness,' He it is 'That shineth in our hearts;' by the inward anointing, which is the oil of this lamp, the light of His holy Spirit, chasing away the darkness both of our hearts and minds. 6. There is the light of comfort of His Holy Spirit, 'a light sown for the righteous' here in this life. And 7. there is the light of glory which they shall reap, the light where God dwelleth, and where we shall dwell with Him; even the 'inheritance of the Saints in light,' when the righteous shall shine as the Sun, in the kingdom of their Father, 'the Father of lights.' Moses' candlestick with seven stalks and lights in each of them. Of all which seven 'lights' God is 'the Father,' acknowledges them all for his children, and to His children will vouchsafe them all in their order.
Now this only remaineth, why He is not called the Author, but the Father of these? In this is the manner of their descending. And that is, for that they proceed from Him per modum naturæ, as the child from the father; per modum emanationis, as the beams from the sun. So both 'Father' and 'light' shew the manner of their coming. Proper and natural for Him it is, to give good. Good things come from Him as kindly, as do they: therefore said to be, not the Author, the Lord and Giver, but even the very Father of them. It is [372/373] against His nature to do otherwise, to procreate or send forth aught but good; His very loins, His bowels are all goodness. Father of darkness He cannot be, being 'Father of lights,' nor of aught that is evil. For they two, dark and evil, are as near of kin as light and good. This is the message, saith St. John, that we heard of him, and that we declare to you, that 'God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.' Neither in Him, nor from Him, nemo dicat, let never any say it, let it never sink into you; 'tempted' He is not 'with evil, 'tempt He doth not to evil.' Ascribe it not to Pater luminum, but to princeps tenebrarum; to 'the prince of darkness,' not to 'the Father of lights.' But ascribe all 'good,' from the smallest spark to the greatest beam, from the least 'good giving' to the best and most perfect gift of all, to Him, to 'the Father of lights.' So we see 1. why 'light,' 2. why 'lights,' 3. why 'the Father of lights.' So much for the predicate and whole proposition.
And all this may be, and yet all this being, it seems, some reply may be made, and stand with the Apostle's term of 'lights' well enough. That what befalls the 'lights,' the children, may also befall 'the Father' of them. The great and most perfect light in this world, is the sun in the firmament; and two things evidently befall him, the two in the text. Parrallag_u, 'variation,' he admits, declines and goes down and leaves us in the dark;--that is his parallax, in his motions from east to west. And turning he admits, turns back, goes from us, and leaves us to long winter nights;--that is his trop_, in his motion from north to south. One of these he doth every day; the other, every year. Successively removing from one hemisphere to the other; when it is light there, it is dark here. Successively turning from one tropic to another; when the days be long there, they be short here. And if we shall say any thing of the shadow here, that way we lose him too in part, by interposing of the clouds, when the day is overcast. So the night is his parallax, the winter his trop_, dark weather his shadow at least. Shadows do but take him away in part--that is not good. But darkness takes him away clean--that is perfectly evil.
That it may be even so with 'the Father of lights,' as with this it is. Good and evil come from Him alternis vicibus, 'by turn;' [373/374] and, as darkness and light successively from them. That it may fare with Him as with the heathen Jupiter; who had, say they, in his entry, two great vats, both full, one of good, the other of evil; and that he served them out into the world, both of the good and of the evil, as he saw cause; but commonly for one of good, two of evil at least.
It was more than requisite he should clear this objection. So doth he, denieth both--all three if you will. That though of man it be truly said by Job, 'he never continues in one stay;' though the lights of Heaven have their parallaxes; yea, 'the Angels of Heaven, he found not steadfastness in them;' yet, for God, He is subject to none of them. He is Ego sum Quim sum; that is, saith Malachi, Ego Deus, et non mutor. We are not what we were a while since, nor what we shall be; a while after, scarce what we are; for every moment makes us vary. With God, it is nothing so. 'He is that He is, He is and changeth not.' He changes not His tenor, He changes not His tense; keeps not our grammar rules, hath one by Himself; not Before Abraham was, I was; but, 'Before Abraham was, I am.'
Yet are there 'varying and changes,' it cannot be denied. We see them daily. True, but the point is per quem, on whom to lay them. Not on God. Seems there any recess? It is we forsake Him, not He us. It is the ship that moves, though they be in it think the land goes from them, not they from it. Seems there any variation, as that of the night? It is umbra terrae makes it, the light makes it not. Is there anything resembling a shadow? A vapour rises from us, makes the cloud; which is as a penthouse between, and takes Him from our sight. That vapour is our lust, there is the apud quem. Is any tempted? It is his own lust doeth it; that entices him to sin, that brings us to the shadow of death. It is not God. No more than He can be tempted, no more can He tempt any. If we find any change the apud is with us, not Him; we change, He is unchanged. 'Man walks in a vain shadow;' His ways are the truth. He cannot deny Himself.
Every evil, the more perfectly evil it is, the more it is from below; either rises from the steam of our nature corrupted, [374/375] or yet lower, ascends as a gross smoke, from the bottomless pit, from the prince of darkness, as full of varying and turning into all shapes and shadows, as God is far from both, Who is uniform and constant in all His courses.
Shall we now cast up all into one sum, the errors by them, and the verities by themselves, and oppose each to each? The first error: to be all for having--never speak of it. The verity: that all is giving, or gifts--to be for it. The second error: to think great matters only are given, the meaner we have of ourselves. The verity: 'perfect' as well as 'good,' and 'good' as 'perfect,' they be given both. The third error: to think they are from us, not elsewhere from others. The verity: they are _xwqeu, they grow not in us, we spin them not of ourselves. The fourth error: they be from below, we gather them here. The verity: they be from 'above,' not here beneath. The fifth error: to think that from thence they fall promiscue, catch who catch may, haphazard. The verity: they fall not by chance, they descend by providence, and that regularly. The sixth error: they descend then from the stars or planets. The verity: not from them or either of them, but from the Father of them. The seventh and last error: to think that by turns He sends one while good, other while bad, and so varies and changes. The verity: He doth neither. The 'lights' may vary, He is invariable; they may change, He is unchangeable, constant always, and like Himself. Now our lessons from these.
1. And is it thus? Are they given? Then, quid gloriaris? let us have no boasting. Are they given, why forget you the Giver? Let Him be had in memory, He is worthy so to be had. 2. Be the giving as well as the 'gift,' and the 'good' as the 'perfect' of gift, both? Then acknowledge it in both; take the one as a pledge, make the one as a step to the other.3. Are they from somewhere else, not from ourselves? Learn then to say, and to say with feeling, non nobis Domine, quia non a nobis. 4. Are they from on high? Look not down to the ground then, as swine to the acorns they find lying there, and never once up to the tree they came from. Look up; the very frame of our body gives that way. It is nature's check to us, to have our head bear upward, and our heart grovel here below. 5. Do they descend? [375/376 Ascribe them then to purpose, not to time or chance. No table, to fortune, saith the Prophet. 6. Are they from 'the Father of lights?' then never go to the children, a signis cæli nolite timere, 'neither fear nor hope for anything from any light of them all.' 7. Are His 'gifts without repentance?' Varies He not? Whom He loves doth 'He love to the end?' Let our service be so too, not wavering. O that we changed from Him no more than He from us! Not from the light of grace to the shadow of sin, as we do full often.
But above all, that which is ex totâ substantiâ, that if we find any want of any giving or gift, good or perfect, this text gives us light, whither to look, to Whom to repair for them; to the 'Father of lights.' And even so let us do. Ad Patrem luminum cum primo lumine, 'Let the light every day, so soon as we see it, put us in mind to get us to the Father of lights.' Ascendat oratio, descendet miseratio. 'Let our prayer go up to Him that His grace may come down to us,' so to lighten us in our ways and works that we may in the end come to dwell with Him, in the light which is fîj ¢v_perou, 'light whereof there is no even-tide,' the sun whereof never sets, nor knows tropic--the only thing we miss, and wish for in our lights here, primum et ante omnia.
But if we sue for any, chiefly for the best, the most perfect gift of all, which this day descended and was given. The day was, and any day may be, but chiefly this day will be given to any that will desire, as our Saviour promises, and will be as good as His word.
Within us there is no spirit but our own, and that 'lusts after envy,' and other things as bad; from beneath it cannot be had. It is donum cæleste: Simon, if he would give never so largely for it, cannot obtain it. It descended ad oculum this day; it was seen to descend, and so will.
Which descents from on high, from the 'Father of lights,' there in the tongues of light, light on us, to give us knowledge, a gift proportioned to light, and to give us comfort, a gift proportioned to light; by faith, to lighten, by grace to stablish our hearts!