Which was the Psalm for the day, viz. The sixteenth day of the month, on which day the Parliament was first begun.
'God standeth in the congregation of Princes,' &c. Of a 'congregation of Princes' is this Psalm, as you have heard. And behold here such a congregation, and God, I trust. Standing in it. And who then can doubt but this Psalm is for this day?
The words, sure, seems to favour it; the use much more, which hath ever gone with it.
For standing the policy of the commonwealth of Israel, their writers tell us, when ought was to be done, for choosing their rulers, for placing them and giving them their charge; but specially when there was any meeting of them in their synagoga magna, their 'great congregation,' this was ever the Psalm before they sat down. Purposely set, as it seemeth, for the assembly, to set them in tune. For that end set, and to that end ever used.
[203/204] It was Moses the man of God that by special direction from God Himself began and brought up this order first, of making men's duty into music; putting it into their mouths, that so with the sweetness of melody it might be conveyed into their minds. And David since continued it and brought it to perfection, as having a special grace and felicity; he for a song, and his son Solomon for a proverb; by which two--the unhappy adage and a wanton song--Satan hath ever breathed most of his infection and poison into the mind of man.
Now in this holy and heavenly use of his harp he doth by his tunes, as it were, teach all sorts of men how to tune themselves. And there is no estate whatsoever, but in this Book he sweetly singeth their duty into them. Into his court, Psalm the hundred and first, and so severally into the rest. And here now in this Psalm, how to preserve harmony in a congregation.
Of which Psalm this is the first verse, the key and the compendium of the whole. And thus we divide it: 1. Into two parties first; 2. Into two acts, second. Two parties: 1. The first word of it is God, God in the singular; 2. the last is gods, gods in the plural. These two parties are distinct; 1. one from another, 2. one above another.
1. God That standeth, from the congregation He standeth in. 2. God That judgeth, from and above the gods whom He will judge.
The gods we consider two ways, as the word is twice repeated: 1. Deorum, and 2. Deos. 1. In synagogâ deorum, and 2. In medio deos. 1. Deorum in the congregation, 2. Deos out of it. If you will, thus: into the 1. gods of the congregation, and the 2. congregation of the gods.
Now of the first God in and upon the last gods, and in and upon the congregation of them, two acts there are set down; 1. His standing, 2. His judgment.
1. In the congregation He stands: Stat in synagogâ deorum.
2. Out of it, the gods He will judge: deos judicabit, that is, call them to account, every god of them; and even upon this very point, how they carried themselves before Him standing in the congregation. 1. This He will do; and do it in medio, [204/205] not in a corner, but bring them forth into the midst, and do it in the view of all. In medio deos judicabit.
The order lieth plain. 1. Of the gods first; 2. Then of the congregation of them. After of God; 1. His standing, and 2. His judging. Standing now, Deus stat; judging hereafter, Deus judicabit. Judging, 1. Even the gods themselves. And that 2. In medio, that all the world may see it. 1. In the whole course of our lives we may have good use of these two; 2. But the Psalmist seemeth to think not at any time so good as at this.
Therefore whatever else slip you, my desire is these two may stick with you, and be ever in your minds all the session long. Two they be, and short ones and plain ones they be; but two words apiece. 1. Deus stat, 2. Desu judicabit; 1. 'God doth stand,' and 2. 'God will judge,' will take a time to call each party to a reckoning, for every thing shall here pass.
1.The taking to heart, a true impression there of these two, cannot but do much good, keep all in true measure, time, and tune. 2. The ignorantibus or nonn recordanntibus of it, as it is at the fifth verse, like enough to put all out of course; while men run on and carry things away before them, as if there were no judicare in the creed, as if they should never come to account again.
It hath been thought there needeth no more to make a good Parliament, but the due recording of this verse. It will serve as a rest to tune, and to set all right. To set God, 1. First standing, and then 2. Judging, before our eyes.
But specially, standing; for if we shall regard Him well when He stands, we shall need to fear Him when He judges; and then I shall never need to trouble you with that part. The regard then of God's standing to be our only care for the present, and we to commend it your care, and so to conclude.
Of the gods first. And first, on our parts that be men; after on their that be the gods.
On our parts. When we read, and weigh well with ourselves this high term and title of gods, given to them that are in authority, we learn to hold them for gods, to owe and to bear all reverend regard to their places and persons. And above [205/206] all, highly to magnify such assemblies as this. So taught by the Prophet here, who once and twice, over and over again, so styleth them, their persons themselves, deos, their assembly, synagogam deorum. In the congregation they are so, out of it they are so. Add to these a third yet, more authentical, and it is in this Psalm too. The Prophet speaketh here, God Himself there; Ego dixi dii estis. This, saith our Saviour, is sermo Dei. The other two may seem to drop out of the Prophet's pen, but this came from God's own mouth: the more, say I, to be regarded, And this is not Old Testament, as say our Anabaptists. Our blessed Saviour in the New comments upon these words--the best Commentor that ever was--and two things He tells us. 1. One, we thought it to be but a Psalm, He tells us it is a law, Nonne scriptum est in Lege? And so gives it the force of a law. 2. The other, that it is a binding law still; so binding, that Non potest solvi, (they be His own words) 'it cannot be loosed.' Was not by Him, nor can by any other; and so is in full force still.
These then, dii deorum, and deos, are not St. Peter's Øp_rogka mataothtoj,' swelling words of vanity.' This is not to give titles but of God's own giving; not to say one syllable more than God hath said before us. Said it must be that God hath said, Who never gives titulum sine re. So they are by Him intituled, and so they are.
But I take it my duty not to keep from you all that are comprised here under, dii, deorum, and deos, are not all gods alike. No: in this godhead some are before or after other, some are greater and lesser than another. There are some higher than other saith Solomon. And there are others yet 'higher than they.' For 'the powers that are, are by God' both 'ordained' and set in order, saith St. Paul. So in order, saith St. Peter, as there is one Øper_cwn, and that he saith is 'the King' by name, supereminent above the rest, and the rest ab eo missi have their mission and commission from him. Many superiors, but one sovereign.
Ego dixi was said to all, but not to all at once. To some one before the rest' even to David, to whom before the writing of this Psalm, 'God,' saith he, 'even the strength of Israel, spake to me and said, Thou shalt bear rule over men.' Nor did all the 'sons of the Most High,' as they are after called [206/207] at the sixth verse, come into the world at one time. There was primogenitus inter fratres; of whose primogeniture or birthright this was a part, 'Be thou Lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow unto thee.' And take even the word synagoga; never was there a synagogue heard of, but there was an archisynagogus, a ruler of it.
Nazianzen, speaking of Magistrates as of the images of God, and sorting them compareth the highest to a picture drawn clean through down to the feet; the middle sort, to half pictures drawn but to the girdle; the lowest, to those same Idyllia, no farther but to the neck and shoulders. But all in some degree carry the image of God, as all have the honour to be called by His Name. This for our parts. Now for theirs, the gods.
What infer we of this? Nothing, but that what they are they would be; 'having obtained so excellent a name,' they would be even what their name bodeth. They that wear God's name, hold God's place, represent His person, 'what manner persons' ought they be? Choice persons they would be, taken as the fat from the sacrifice, having more sparks of the Deity, a larger portion of the Spirit of God, more lively expressing the image and similitude whereto man was made, than the rest. It if were possible, such as of them might be said in the Lycaonian tongue, 'Gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.' Sure they that are styled gods, somewhat more than men they would be; as like, come as near rem nominis, 'the truth of that they are named,' as human frailty will permit.
But have they been ever so? I cannot say it. Assemblies there have been; Abimelech had one, and Rehoboam his, and Jeroboam his. But Abimelech with his needy indigent Shechemites, Rehoboam with his youth that never stood before Solomon, Jeroboam with his crew of malcontents, 'sons of Belial,' shall I call any of these synagoga deorum? I cannot, I see no lineaments, no resemblance at all, nothing for which this name should once be vouchsafed them, of Gods. Nay, nor scarce of synagoga neither; as deserving not only to be left out of the list of gods, but even to be put extra synagogam. Scarce a synagogue, much less of gods.
After, in this Psalm. At the fifth verse, they are told as [207/208] much, when by their ignorantibus, or non intelligentibus, things were grown 'out of course.' And told it by God Himself, and that with a kind of indignation, that He had said they were gods, and they carried themselves scarce like men; gone from their names quite.
But I leave them, and come to this of ours. There is not in the world a more reasonable request than this, what you would be, that to be; what you would be in name, that to be in deed; to make good your name. Every one to be homo homini Deus, by doing good; specially that good which is the good of all, that is, the good of the assembly. This the time and place for it. And so my wish is you may, and my trust is your will. And so I leave deorum, the gods of the congregations, and come to synagoga, 'the congregation' itself.
For when we consider these gods each apart, they are as in Ezekiel, every spirit on his wheel, and every wheel in his own course, when they are at home in their several countries. But when as in a congregation, then are they to come and to be together.
And this, if cause be, God alloweth well of. 1. For He hath to that end left with his lieutenant a power to blow the trumpets, one or both, to call together a part or the whole congregation. By the trumpets, while they were all within the trumpets' sound; but after, when they were settled all Canaan over, to call them by 'the pen of the writer,' that is, by writ; of which we have a fair example, Judges the fifth chapter and fourteenth verse. 2. For secondly, He hath willed the Angels of His Church, by the Angel's example, to lay Meroz's curse to them that come not to it. 3. For thirdly, He here calleth their meeting by the name of synagogue, which is a holy place, a sanctuary, a high place, or court of refuge: - hr[ signifies all these. 4. For fourthly, He hath to that end spared them a piece of his own Temple to have their meetings in, on the south side of it, called twice by the name of Asuppim--which was to them as the Parliament-house is to us--that so their feet might stand on holy ground. And they knew themselves to be no lhm, common or profane, but hr[, a sacred assembly to Him. 5. For fifthly, He hath set them there a monitory Psalm of this, to put them in mind how to bear themselves in it, like gods, that is, divinely. [208/209] 6. For last, when they are together, He comes Himself in person and stands among them. All which shew He favours and likes well such assemblies as this.
But then there must be cause; and indeed else, it is Concursus atomorum rather than congregatio deorum. Thus many, so goodly a company to meet to no end, God forbid. If the Apostle had not, nature doth teach us, 'when we come together, to come to come together for the better, not for the worse.' And nothing is worse than to come together for nothing. Better, as Deborah saith well, stay at home, and 'hear the bleating of their flocks.' This be far from any assembly, especially the assembly of the gods, who are herein to imitate God, Who doth nothing in vain, or without a cause.
If you ask me the cause, the two words themselves, synagoga and deorum, contain either of them a cause of it. As a congregation, for the good of the congregation; as gods, cætus deorum cætus Dei, saith St. Hierom, 'the congregation of gods is God's congregation.' As His, for Him, for His honour, Who gave them theirs; to the high pleasure of that God Whose Ego dixi goded them all. And so, as I remember, it is written in capite libri, the first page or front of your Acts, To the high pleasure of Almighty God--there lo, is God; and for the weal public--there is the congregation. Not this only here, the congregation of gods, but the congregation of men (I know not how many) all the land over, even the great congregation.
Learn a parable of the natural body. If there be no other cause, each member is left to look to itself; but if there be any danger toward the whole body, presently all the parts are summoned as it were to come together, and every artery his spirits, and all draw together about the heart for awhile, till the safety of the whole be provided for, and then return back every one to his place again. So is it with the body civil, in case of danger; and never but in it.
But is there any danger then towards? There is, and that to both. To the synagogue first, and that from a twofold synagogue, and of two sorts: 1. One continual or ordinary; 2. The other not so, but special and upon occasion. The danger this Psalm expresseth thus, that 'things are brought [209/210] out of course,' yea 'foundations' and all. Thus, there be (I may call them a synagogue, for they be many) of these same mali mores, that like tubera terræ shoot out daily, no man knows whence or how; never heard of before. These, if they suffered to grow, will bring all 'out of course.' And grow they do; for even of them, some that have penalties already set (I know not how) such a head they get as they outgrow their punishments; that if this congregation grind not on a new and a sharper edge, they will bring things yet further 'out of course.'
Besides, those that should keep all in course, the laws themselves are in danger too. There be a sort of men (I may well say of 'the synagogue of Satan') that give their ways and bend their wits to nothing, but even to devise how to fret through the laws as soon as they be made, as it were in scorn of this congregation, and of the gods in it. These go the foundations, (for so are the laws) undermine them, and in a sort, though after another manner, seek to blow up all. Great pity but this congregation here should look well to the foundations of all. Great pity that it should be 'overcome of their evil,' but that 'evil should be overcome of our good.' And this of yours go beyond them.
It is not to go through all. Generally, Quid populo quod flet? What the congregations of men have just cause to complain of, the congregation of gods sit to redress. Whatsoever synagoga Satanæ per malos mores doth put out, synagoga deorum per bonas leges is to set in joint again. And that is the proper work of this assembly, to make laws. And that is the properly the work of God, His work at Sinai and at Sion both. And in truth that 'there is but one lawgiver,' and that is God, saith St. James; as till Ego dixi, till then, there was but one God, but together with his name He imparted also His power, and made you a congregation of lawgivers and of gods, both at once. A high power, the highest in earth save one; next to the 'sceptre' in Judah's hand is the 'lawgiver between his feet,' even with Jacob. And so with Solomon. After Per Me Reges regant, presently follows Et legum conditores justa decernunt. To this so high a work a whole synagogue of wisdom is little enough, to bring into course that is out, to set the foundations fast against this synagogue of Satan. [210/211] And this lo, is the ordinary and continual danger I spake of.
But for all this danger, we might well enough stay a longer time and not come together, there is no such present haste to meet with that. There is another I take it more pressing, as I said before, upon a more special and present occasion. Will you but look over into the next Psalm following, into the beginning of it? There you will find another congregation, a second, 'casting their heads and confederate together,' able to put 'foundations' and all 'out of course.' And then he reckons up a rabble of them. Edomites: the Edomites first, and you know what they cried, Exinanite usque ad fundamenta, 'Up with all, foundations and all.' 'The Edomites and Ishmaelites, and Moabites and Hagarenes, Gebal and Ammon and Amalek.' And at last 'Ashur also was joined with them;' Ashur that even then purposed, and after did eat them all up one after another; yet he was then 'joined with them.' Such a congregation, it is said, there is now abroad; and what will they do? No harm, bring nothing 'out of course,' they say. But it will be the wisdom of this congregation to be provided for them, if they should not do as they say. This Psalm stands before that, that this congregation may be beforehand with that.
Peace and perfect amity to be wished before all; no man doubts of that. 'If it be possible as much as in us lieth, peace with all men.' But peace will be had with never the less assurance, and with never the worse conditions, if the congregation be well appointed that seek it.
And this is the second work of this congregation, if not the first. Therefore (it may be thought) at this time called together that there may be multitudo consilii, soundly to advise of it, and multitudo auxilii, roundly to go through with it. The text intends this of help specially, for in some translations it is 'the congregation of the mighty;' but howsoever, the very name is taken from la, that name of God that is given Him for His strength and power. Of those that are mighty and so can shew themselves, of those is this congregation. Ever remembering this, that they who assemble for an end assemble also to devise how to furnish means to compass that end; and indeed of the end properly we consult not, but of the means [211/212] rather. Our Saviour Christ spake with His own mouth, Who will ever resolve upon war but they will sit down first and set down what forces will be needful? And how much they will stand in? and how that is to be had or levied that, as the Wise Man saith, respondit omnibus, 'answers, takes order for all.'
Thus for the synagogue. What for God? There is no doubt, blessed be God for it, but what Moses said of Judah ('His own hands shall be sufficient for him, if thou, Lord, help him against his enemies') may be said of this our land: if God help us, ' sufficient' enough. And He will help us, if we help Him. Help God? What a word is that? Even the very word the Angel used, when he had laid a curse upon Meroz, for not coming 'to help the Lord.' Again, lest we might think it scapd him, upon the deliberation he saith, 'to help the Lord against the mighty,' that is Sisera and Jabin's mighty preparations. Ever where the right is, there God is; when that in danger, God in danger; they that help that help him, and He will help them. If the congregation God, God the congregation. 'They will fight from heaven then, the stars in heaven will fight in their courses for us,' and then it will be an auxiliary war right. And in sign that He will so, when they are met together about these matters God comes Himself here in person, and stands among them. God in the congregation of gods, what more proper and kindly? And so much for the gods and for their congregation.
Now for the two acts of God, in and upon this congregation: 1. His standing, and 2. judging; first jointly, after apart. 1. His standing, and 2. Judging; first jointly, after apart. 1. Jointly. They are thought to be set first, these two, as two correcters of the two former, deorum and deos, lest the gods of the congregation should be exalted above measure with this deifying revelation. Secondly, as two marks of difference between the first God and the last gods, so to let them see what manner of gods they be indeed, how differing from Him. 'God stands:' this may well refer to that in the seventh verse, 'but you shall fall.' A standing God! He Who only stands, and will stands, when they all shall fall even to dust, every god of them. And this could not be told in a fitter place: the place where we stand is compassed about with a congregation of these fallen gods, these same dii caduci; with [212/213] monuments of the mortality of many a great Elohim in their times. And let me tell you this, that in the Hebrew tongue the grave is called a synagogue as well as the Church. All shall be gathered, even the gods, even the whole synagogue of them, into this synagogue at last. So this first shews them their godships give them no immortality. Gods; but mortal, temporal gods they be.
The other is of judging. That as they have no exemption from the first statute, Statutem est omnibus semel mori, so neither from the second, Et post mortem judicem.they be dii sub judice; they be not gods absquue aliquo computo reddendo. When they have done judging others, they shall come to be judged themselves. Dii caducii, dii judicandi, 'gods that shall fall, gods that must come to judgment.' From neither of these shall their godhead excuse them.
These two then sever them from the first God, the eternal God, and the sovereign Judge of all. And shew, the one, their judging, that their glory is not equal; the other, their falling, that their majesty is not co-eternal, that so they may understand themselves aright.
And now to standing and judging, either of them apart by itself. Standing first. The members of man, the eye, hand, and foot; and the acts of them, seeing, doing, standing, are not in God--to speak properly; only by them is noted in God the efficacy of those acts and members. By the eye His knowledge, by the hand His power, by the foot His presence. The meaning then is first, that God is present. It is not enough for Him to look down from heaven and behold us afar off, but He comes and stands here. And not, as in the Canticles, 'behind the wall,' and looks in by the grates, but it is even in the assembly itself, even in the place where the gods are.
Present? Why what great matter is that? Where is He not present? Heaven and earth He fills, 'the earth is His footstool'' where then stands He not? Indeed God is present in all places; yet not in all alike. In some by a more special presence than in other some. And among all, and above all, there where the gods are together.
For though God be both in heaven and earth, yet we say 'Which art in heaven;' intending that there He is with a far [213/214] more high and glorious presence. And so here is He in a more eminent sort. For nowhere on earth doth His glory shine and shew forth itself so, as in a well-ordered assembly.
And if 'where two or three' common Christians 'be together in his name, there is He in the midst of them,' when three or four hundred, and those no common ordinary persons but of His own name, 'gods,' even a whole 'congregations' of them--are together, in most solemn manner assembled, and to do His work; shall He not much more be there, and in a much more excellent manner of presence, to assist them? Yes sure, it toucheth His providence in the highest degree.
Present then. And secondly, the manner of His presence; standing. And that is a world site. Standing is a site, and it is a site of attention. When we sit and hear ought that we would listen better to, up we stand and leave sitting. So do we, without the occasion, usually; even to stir up ourselves, for sitting we may fall on sleep. This to shew we shall not need to say to Him here, as in another Psalm they do, 'Up Lord, why sleepest Thou?' For He stands, and they never sleep. The truth is, to be present, as good be absent if we do not attend. This then sheweth God is so present, as He is also attentive; nothing passes but Deo astante et attestande, but He is an ear, nay an eye-witness, nay more than that, a heart-witness of all.
Stands then. And thirdly, the manner of His standing. Which is, as is observed, ban; and that is not the ordinary word for standing when one flits, so stands as he will remove; no, but as one fixed, not to start. It is statio militaris this, that pitch about their standard not to remove thence, but still to maintain and keep their standing. So He, where you leave Him, you shall be sure to find Him. He makes it His rest, means to stand it out to the very last.
These three, 1. presence, 2. attendance, 3. perseverance, be in this standing of His. Present, for He stands; and standing, marks, and will mark from the beginning to the end. So we not to conceive of Him, 1. as if He were away, 2. or here stood and noted not, 3. or did for a time, but would leave off and give over and not stand it out. This for standing.
[214/215] And so long as it is but standing and no more, it is no great matter, so He suffer them to go on quietly and trouble them not.. And indeed so long as God doth no more, He may be said to stand, and but even to stand. But saith the text, when He hath not done. Stay a while, you shall see He so stands as He will judge also before He have done.
The congregation will not always sit, nor God always stand. When that is over and past, the Prophet here begins to set Him a throne to sit down and judge in. And then lo, the courses will change. We sit now and He stands; He will sit then, and we all shall stand. All, omnes stabimus ante tribunal, 'before His judgment-seat.' His first act, standing, then to take an end; and His latter act, judacabit, to have his turn too.
But by this we see, as before I told you while He stood He stood attentive; He stood not like an idol, was all the while no idle stander by or looker on, but as the writing was on the wall, 'Mene, Mene,' He told and numbered; and 'Tekel,' Stetit cum staterâ, He weighed and pondered well every motion that was made, every bill that was read, every consent or otherwise passed upon it. And weighed withal whence every of them proceeded, whether from a dutiful regard of Him and His presence, or otherwise for some by-respect of our own. Stetit ut testis, 'as a witness He stood;' Sedet ut judex, 'now sits as a judge,' and will give His doom accordingly. And upon whom He will give it? Not upon the meaner sort, upon inferior persons, but even upon the greatest; upon deos, the gods themselves. For even to them doth this His judgment extend. They that sit and judge others, shall then stand and be judged themselves. They be gods, but He is Deus deorum. They are judges, but he Judex judicum; judex judicem and judiciorum 'both Judge of judges and of courts,' and even of this High Court and all. Men may not, God may and will convent even the conventions themselves, if they forget themselves. Yea even the rather, for that they are gods, shall He judge them. And namely, how they used themselves in their deity, when they sat in his place and went under His Name.
And not for any fault they ever have made, as for those [215/216] they have made here, in synagogâ. Above all, for them; for not regarding His presence and standing here.
And because there is here a double mention of deorum and deos, deorum in synagogâ and deos in judicia, it will not be amiss to set them before us both at once. Now when they sit in synagogâ, how glorious; but when in judicio they shall stand to be judged, how poor then! When God but stands and looks one, how secure; when He shall take, and they shall give account of abusing His presence here. For a special judicabit to that, and remains for them that so do. They that despise God's long-suffering when He stands here, shall find and suffer His severity, and suffer it long, when He sits to judge there.
But I cannot say this will be presently, or out of hand. It may be, it will be deferred yet for awhile; it is not judicat in the present, but judicabit in the future, 'He will judge;' Cum accepero tempus, as he saith Psalm the seventy-fifth, and second verse, 'He will take a time for it.'
But take a time He will, and judge He will. Even the heathen, that have written de serâ numinis vindictâ, are clear for this point, that you may well account of it, He that stands will sit, and sitting judge; judge, and never a god of then all shall escape Him.
And in medio He will do it; in the midst it shall be. The midst, either inwardly of the gods' ownselves, even of their own hearts--brqb will bear it, and so it is taken, Jeremiah the thirty-first chapter, and thirty-third verse. There in the midst, in their heart, their conscience accusing them, and a worm there gnawing, when they shall see the evil that doth follow of their carrying matters unduly; see any foundation shaken by it.
Or in the midst, that is, openly; as openly He hath ever made it appear that evil counsel, first or last, shall prove worst for them that gave it.
Or in medio, referring it to the parties; that is, in the midst between them both. Those that regard, and those other that never looked after nor cared for Him nor His standing.
And it is well for us it is judicabit; for so we have a time to bethink us of it, and to prevent it. And again it is well [216/217] for us that it is inmedio, for so we may yet choose our side, which side we will fall on; for indeed, judicare is actus in medio, it may be for, and it may be against. It is not necessary it should be against, God forbid. We may not prejudice it then.
All is as we carry ourselves here. For as we here, so He there. They that saw Him standing, and demeaned themselves accordingly, a judicabit for them. Those other that ran on their own courses (His standing there notwithstanding) a hard judgment will they have, they that be loath to endure it. And this for God, His standing and His judging.
And now to ourselves, and to our duty to God, thus standing and judging.
To avoid God's judgment, the Apostle tells us there is but one way, To 'judge ourselves.' And here now in this, not upon many, but upon this one point only of God's standing--for I will be bold to cut off the other, His judging--regard His standing, and you shall never need to fear His judging.
To regard that, do but these four: 1. Set down this and believe it, that He is present. 2. So behave yourselves, as it you did so believe. 3. To do that, shew yourselves well affected to His standing. 4. To shew that, procure but those means that He may take pleasure in his standing. These four.
First, never imagine this, that God is far enough off, or hath otherwise to busy Himself than to have a hand or foot in these assemblies, but with Job believe He is hard by us though we perceive Him not; or, as the Baptist said of Christ, Medius vestrûm stetit Quem vos nescitis, 'He standeth in the midst of us, though we know not so much.' To see Him so standing with the eyes of faith, with which, the Apostle saith, 'Moses saw Him That was invisible.'
Then will it follow of itself, to do all we do tanquam Deo stante et inspectante, 'as if God stood and beheld us.' This we behove to think: when He comes thus to stand among us, He will say as much for Himself as He did for His Son in the Gospel, Certe reverebuntur Me, 'Surely they will yet reverence Me;' My standing, My being there, will make them the more careful; if I come and stand among them, all will go the better, if it be but because I am there. Not any thing [217/218] at all shall I trust, but if ought should be moved against His good liking, shall not our own hearts smite us, and tell us straight, What, God standing and looking on, shall we offer this? What, give Him an affront in his own presence, to His own face? Nonne judicabit super hoc? What, will He never judge for this gear? And when He doth, shall it go for nought? Thus, to behave ourselves as in His presence.
But yet, I know not how, this is not it, to do it for fear of Him or of His judicabit; but to do it willingly, that is it. For as if some were not willing to allow Him a place not so much as to stand in, with a kind of irony, some think, he saith: Well yet howsoever, God stands in the congregation, though against somebodies' will, that would be content if they durst say with them in Esay the thirtieth chapter, and eleventh verse, 'Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from us,' get Him away; or with them in the Gospel, the Gergesites, not only give Christ good leave, but even to pray Him fair to be gone and take His ease somewhere else, their matters would speed better if He were out of the way.
Never speak of that: there He stands and there He will stand; He ought not, cannot be excluded. To endure Him, that is not it. The point is, how we stand affected to His standing: whether we be willing with it; whether it be the desire of our hearts that He should, and the joy that He doth stand and will stand there.
Put case He stood not; would we earnestly entreat Him to vouchsafe us His presence, to take up His standing among us? If He made as if He would be gone--as Luke the twenty-fourth chapter, and twenty-eighth verse--would we be instant with Mane nobiscum Domine, 'Stay with us still, good Lord?' Moses said, 'If Thou go not with us, carry us not hence:' would we say, If thou, Lord, stay not with us, what do we here? If God be gone, migremus hinc, 'let us be gone too,' and never hope for good of that assembly where He is not.
Now fourthly, if we be willing and glad, if we take comfort in his standing, hereby shall we be tried; if we use all means as will procure Him to stay in our assembly the more willingly, as will make His standing pleasant and not grow tedious to Him. And such things there are, and these they are.
[218/219] One special thing that gives Him content, is a place where there is concord and unity. 'At Salem,' that is, where peace is, In pace factus est locus Ejus--so read the Fathers--there 'is His tabernacle;' and that tabernacle is the tabernacle of the congregation; His feet and our feet both stand willingly in the gates there. The reason; for it is 'at unity within itself.' There loves He to stand; and there His Spirit, where 'they were all with one accord in one place.' Qui facit unanimes habitare in domo, if He make 'all of one mind that are in one house,' if 'brethren to dwell together in unity,' O how good, O how pleasing is that standing to Him! It passes Aaron's perfume, his ointment is nothing to the delight of it.
And in very deed, if we consider it well, it is the virtue (this of concord) that is most proper, nay essential then, to a congregation: without it, a gregation it may be, but no congregation. The con is gone, a disgregation rather. Enough to make Him to be gone, that. For if there 'spring up a root of bitterness,' if the 'evil spirit' get in that was 'sent upon Abimelech and the men of Shechem;' if 'the divisions of Reuben do make great thoughts of heart,' there God stands upon thorns. But where the 'hearts of all the congregation are bowed as the heart of one man,' there stands God, and there He delights to stand.
Another: He takes pleasure to stand among them that are good and true of heart. Where He finds 'truth in the inward parts; where without art or artificial glossing or cunning carrying of things under-hand men go plainly to work, every one in the sincerity and singleness of an honest upright meaning. And the more plainness, ever the more pleasure God takes there to stand. Truth, as it is the mightiest, so is it the wisest thing, when all is done. They that love it not, but to cover and colour and carry all by cunning, they shall never stand in God's 'tabernacle.' Neither they in His, nor He in theirs.
One more. There is a word, and it is a great word in this book, p tÕ ¢utÕ, in idipsum; that is, to look to the thing itself, the very point, the principal matter of all; to have our eye on that, and not off it upon alia omnia, any thing but it. So say I again, upon the thing itself, not upon some persons or personal respects: God accepts no person, nor [219/220] love them that do. The very first thing that in the very next verse He finds fault with and charges them with, is this: when men are for or against a thing, be it what it will be, and neither for itself, but only because it proceeds from such or such persons, neither of these is in medio. Idipsum, that is the centre, that the middle, that place is God's place. To go to the point, drive all to that; as also to go to the matter real, without declining from it this way or that, to the right hand or to the left, for any personal regard.
And last of all, that which pleaseth Him best of all; and that is, where He finds a ready well-willing mind, His heart is upon such. And where His heart is, ever His feet stand at ease; Calcat rosas, ' He treads upon roses' there. In the Song of Deborah it is thought there is set down a pattern of the virtues or faults of an assembly. In that Song there are two Hallelujahs, two Benedicites for it. First, at the very beginning, 'Hallelujah, praise the Lord.' Why? For the 'people' that came off, and 'offered themselves' so 'willingly.' And again seven verses after, 'My heart is upon the government that offered themselves,' and made the people to offer so willingly, 'Hallelujah, praise the Lord.' Hallelujah for the princes, Hallelujah for the people; blessed be God for both.
Then have you again after those, two verses together; in the one Meroz cursed for their backwardness, and Jael for her forwardness blessed and blessed again. For this indeed is the marrow of the sacrifice, the fat of the offering; and without this all is poor and lean.
This is sure, God loves not to dwell in Mesech; that is interpreted, prolongatus est. And His Son calling on Serve nequam et piger, shews He loves piger as evil as He does nequam. And His Spirit cannot skill of these same tarda molimina. In a word, none of them to be wearied with standing I know not how long.
And see the very next word of all, the next that follows these immediately is, 'How long?' So He begins His complaint the first word of the next verse, which shews He loves it not.
Not that He can be weary. It is an infirmity that, and so is grief, and so repentance, and they cannot fall into God; they are attributed to Him though. And God is said as to [220/221] repent and to be grieved, so to be stark 'weary,' in no other sense but this, that if He be not weary no thanks to us; for if it were possible, if the divine nature were or could be subject to it, if God could be weary, if 'His feet' were not 'of brass,' we would put Him to it; we do even what in us lieth to tire Him outright, to make Him cry, Usquequo, 'How long?'
But, 1.where there is accord without 'Reuben's divisions;' 2. where plain meaning and dealing without, as Esay calls them, these same deep-digged devices; 3. where the eye is upon idipsum, and ipsum, else; 4. where God is not constrained to dwell in Mesech, but the people and their government offers willingly; there stands God, and there will He ever stand. Of that place He saith, Hæc est requies mea, 'This is My rest, here will I stay, for I have a delight therein.'
Thus doing then, thus procuring, our assembly thus qualified, we perform our duty to God and to His standing. And this done we shall never need to fear judicabit, come when it will.
And now to conclude. Mine unfeigned hearty prayer to God is, and daily shall be, that if ever in any, He would stand in this congregation; and if ever any used the means so to procure Him, we may use them. The rather that ecclesia malignantium,' the malignant synagogue' may not ask with derision, Where was then their God? Where stood He? Behind the wall sure, not in the assembly; such proceedings and His standing will never stand together.
But rather that all may say, Verily God was among them, of a truth God stood in that congregation, where with so good accord so good things so readily were passed. Christ was in the midst of them, His Holy Spirit rested on them.
Yet I know, what men say off or on is not it; what God saith, that is all in all. To men we do not, to God we stand or fall, Whose judicabit we cannot escape either the one way or the other; but have a judicabit for us that we may, if we yield His standing all due respect, even Euge serve bone, intra in gaudium Domini, which in the end will be worth all.
But if any shall say, O the time is long to that--peradventure not so long though as we reckon--well yet in the mean time, now for the present, it stands us in hand to use Him well, and ourselves well to Him. For if He stand not to us we [221/222] shall not subsist, we shall not stand but fall before our enemies. This time is now, this danger is at hand.
Use Him well then; stand before Him thus standing, with all due reverence and regard; that as by His presence He doth stand among us, so He may not only do that, but by His mercy also stand by us, and by His power stand for us. So shall we stand and withstand all the adverse forces, and at last (for thither at last we must all come) stand in his judgment, stand there upright; to our comfort, for the present, of His standing by us, and to our endless comfort, for the time to come, of His judging for us.