An advice or caution of St. James to those that 'receive the word engrafted.' And that so necessary an advice, as without which all our receiving the word, or hearing sermons, is nothing else, saith he, but a very cozening or deceiving ourselves.
Which I therefore thought very meet to attend upon the former verse so lately handled. That being a commandment to do it, this a caution to do it well.
There is not any time, but this caution of St. James is needful; but the special time for it is, when hearing of the word is growing into such request, as it hath got the start of the all the rest of the parts of God's service. So as, but that sure we are the world will not like any one thing long, it might justly be feared lest this part eating out the rest should grow indeed the sole and only worship of God; which St. James by no means would have it.
Now if this be a proper text for such times, our time are such; this way our age is affected, now is the world of sermons. [186/187] For proof whereof, as if all godliness were in hearing of sermons, take this very place, the house of God, which now you see meetly well replenished; come at any other parts of the service of God, (parts, I say, of the service of God no less than this) you shall find it in a manner desolate. And not here only, but go any whither else ye shall find even the like.
And this, to speak with Solomon, is an evil disease under the sun,' which hath possessed the world, or with St. James, a strong illusion of our ghostly enemy. Who, when he cannot draw us wholly from the service of God, maketh us single out some one part of it from all the rest, and to be superstitiously conceited on that part, to make much of it, and to magnify it highly, nay only, with neglect and even as it were with some disgrace to all besides it.
Of which I may well say with St. James, the third chapter following, at the tenth verse, 'My beloved, these things ought not so to be;' nor they cannot so be, without manifest impeachment of the wisdom of God, Who hath appointed all the rest as well as this, and would have us make a conscience of all the rest no less than of this. And we cannot so sever out one as we do, but this will follow, that God did well and wisely in appointing that one, but not so in the rest. For as for them, they might well have been spared; we can serve God without them well enough.
Truly, though we cannot turn the stream or torrent of the time, (for that men will not hear of ought against hearing) yet sure it is this is 'utterly a fault;' hearing is not the only thing, and so much we must and do testify unto you, though our witness be not received.
But this is not properly St. James' only; this rather, that in hearing, when we have made it the only thing, we so carry ourselves as, when we have heard and heard only, though we do nothing else but hear and only hear, we think we have done enough, we stand discharged before God, no further thing can be required at our hands. This, saith St. James, is certainly an illusion, or 'deceiving' ourselves. For if all other parts be neglected for this, and then in this so great an error be committed, if all we do be hearing, and even in that we be deceived too, what shall become of us?
[187/188] For remedy then of this doth St. James give us this item, 'See that ye be,' &c. In effect as if he should say, You are 'swift to hear,' you receive the word with all gladness, you will not miss a sermon; all this I allow of, and like well. But then see, that is, do it not blindly: to hear the word is not a blind's man work; he had need not only have his ears but his eyes too, that shall do it to purpose; yea both his eyes, for there is work for both; videte quid audiatis, 'to see what he hears;' videte quomodo audiatis, 'to see how he hears.' In any wise to see he be not 'a hearer only,' and nothing but a 'hearer,' and when he hath done that think he hath nothing else to do.
Yet such there were in Ezekiel's time (which place in the Old Testament matcheth this in ther New) that called one to another, Come, let us go to the sermon: Et audiunt saith he, sed nihil faciunt, and heard but did nothing.
Such in St. James' time; else was his caution without a cause. And such in our time; not in dogmate, for they maintain it not, but their practice plainly discovers as much; that so they hear, they care neither what, nor how; ipsum audire, 'very hearing' serves their turn.
Well, whosoever so doth, how sure soever he makes himself, how well and wisely soever he think he carries the matter, it is sure saith St. James, if he see not to do it, he is fallen into deceptio visûs. And if he hear no otherwise, into deceptio auditûs. His receiving of the word is nothing but a deceiving himself.
So have we two principal parts of this text. 1. First his advice or caution; 'See that ye be doers of the word, and not hearers only '2. And secondly, that which giveth an edge to this advice, which is a main inconvenience we fall into if we follow it not: Lest we deceive ourselves.
1. The former of the advice thus we put in order: 'Be not hearers only of the word, but doers.' So is the true placing of the words, though it stands otherwise in the text. No he that saith, 'Be not hearers only, saith two things: 1. Be ye hearers; 2. but not hearers only. So that the point grow to be three: 1. an allowing us to be hearers, first; 2. But 'not hearers only;' but somewhat else, the second; 3. thirdly, what that is, namely, to be 'doers of the word;' which is [188/189] nothing else but the fruit of that graft which so lately ye heard of. And this is the caution.
Then secondly, he giveth it an edge by saying, If we follow not his caution, we fall into a flat paralogism, we make a false conclusion or fallacy. Yea, a double edge: 1. first, that we are deceived; 2. the 2nd, that we deceive ourselves.
We begin with this, that St. James in saying 'Be not hearers only,' this he saith, Be hearers, but not only hearers, be ye doers too; but be hearer still.
For in dealing with Scriptures that consist of negatives by comparison, 'not hearers but doers,' and such like, we had need walk warily; and, as the schoolmen say, resolve them cum grano salis, lest we cast out one devil with another, as the manner of some is; the devil of hearing only with the devil of not hearing at all, and so the last error prove worse than the first. We must take heed we preserve both, both hearing and doing, each in their several right; and so do the former, that the latter we leaven not undone.
For St. James, by opening our hands to do, hath no meaning to shut our ears to hear; by wishing us to fall to doing, he willeth us not to give over hearing; by bringing in the latter, taketh not away the former. But, as I said, to hold on our hearing still, only with this caution, that we reckon not that for all, or to be the thing soley or wholly to be intended by us. This being seen unto, to hear on as we did.
For he that had, two verses before, willed us to be 'swift to hear;' he that, the very next verse before, 'meekly to receive the word;' he could not possibly so soon forget himself, as to have any such meaning. No certainly, he had given it the honour of the first place, and his purpose is not to take it away again.
God from heaven so began His law with hearing: 'Hear O Israel.' God from heaven too so began His gospel: 'This is My beloved Son, hear Him.' So God began, and so must we begin, or else we begin wrong.
And not begin only, but continue still hearing; for so doth the Apostle comment on the place of the Psalm, To-day if you will hear His voice, that by to-day is meant donec [189/190] cognominatur hodie, 'while it is called to-day.' And to-morrow and every day, when it comes, is called 'to-day;' so that 'to-day' is all the days of our life.
The reason of which our continual being hearers is the continual, necessity of hearing of the word of God. Which necessity our Saviour Christ Himself setteth down; in express terms speaking of Mary's choice to sit and hear His words, Unum est necessarium, one of the necessary things it is, and for such we may boldly affirm it.
What that necessity is He tells us, when He calls it, 'the key of knowledge.' That there is a door shut, this is the key; no opening, no entrance without it, none at all. For Quomodo possunt saith St. Paul, How can they possibly be saved, except they call upon God; or call upon Him, except they hear? It seems he knew not hoe, and if not he not any man else. For if we must be 'doers of the word,' as by and by he tells us we must, we must needs hear first what to do before we can do it.
At the first, we are in his case that said Domine quid me vis facere? We know not what to do: then it is necessary to teach us.
After we know, we forget again: then it is necessary to call us to remembrance.
When we remember, we grow dull in our duty: then it is necessary 'to stir up' and quicken us. So every way it is necessary, and we cannot be quit of it, donec cognominatur hodie, 'while it is called to-day.'
As the philosopher said of the celestial bodies and lights that they were dignum et idoneum spectaculum, si tantum præterirent, (it is Seneca) 'if they only passed by over our heads,' and we received not the benefit of their motion and influence, which we do, yet were they a spectacle worth the beholding; so may we justly say of the word, though it only disclosed the high and admirable treasurer of wisdom and knowledge it doth, yet were it worth the while to hear it. For the 'Queen of the south,' came a great long journey only to be partaker of Solomon's wisdom, and for nothing else; et ecce major Solomon hîc, and He That was the Author of this word 'is greater than Solomon.'
How much more then, when besides this excellency we [190/191] have further so necessary use of it. It serves us first as a key, or special means, whereby we may escape the place of torments. So saith Abraham to him that was in them: If your five brethren would not come where you are, 'they have Moses and the Prophets,' audiant ipsos, 'let them hear them;' that shall quit them for ever coming there.
And it serves us not only as a 'key' to lock that place, but to open us another, even the kingdom of heaven. For not so few as twenty times in the Gospel is the preaching of the word called the kingdom of heaven, as a special means to bring us thither. It is that which St. James in the verse before saith, 'It is able to save our souls.' The very words which the Angel used to Cornelius, that when St. Peter came he should speak words by which he and his household should be saved. Such and so necessary is the use of hearing the word both ways.
I conclude then with St. Peter, Cui bene facitis attendentes, 'that ye do well in giving heed to it;' as St. James here saith, not a s¢kousta, 'bare hearers,' but as ¢kroata, 'attentive hearers;' that in so doing you do well.
But St. Paul is so far carried with this desire to have us hear that he saith, Let the word be preached, and let it be heard; be it sincerely, or be it pretensedly, so it be done, it is to him, and should be to us, matter (not only of contentment, but also) of rejoicing. As much to say as, Let them come and be hearers, though it be but to mock; let them come and be hearers, though it be but to carp, so they come and be hearers. And it is not amiss. They that came to mock the Apostles, as men gone with drink, were caught by their hearing. They that came to take our Saviour Christ were taking themselves by their hearing. Therefore Quocunque modo saith St. Paul, and though it be more than St. James seems to warrant say we, Howsoever and with what condition soever it be, be ye hearers of the word, still.
Hearers, but hearers of the word. For it should be the word we hear. Words we hear, every foot; but I dare not say the word always. Much chaff is sown instead of right grain; many a dry stick engrafted, instead of a scion with life and sap in it. This was it our Saviour Christ willed us to [191/192] look to; quid, 'what' we heard as well as quomodo, 'how.' And indeed, for all our hearing, few have exercised senses to discern this point. Whatsoever it be that we hear out of the pulpit, it serves our turn, it is all one: there is much deceit in this point. But a point it is that would be saluted afar off, or touched lightly, but the very core of it searched, if it were dealt with as it should. But indeed it is not so pertinent to St. James' purpose in this place; therefore I will not enter into it, but go on the second.
Hearers of the word; 'but not hearers only,' for all the matter is the word 'only.' The more hearers the better; the more 'hearers only,' the worse. We cannot say so much good of hearing, as we must speak evil of such as content themselves with hearing only.
And why not 'only?' Because to hear is somewhat, nut it is not all. A part it is, but in no wise the whole. It is one thing, but not the only one thing. And therefore we must not stay in it, there is a plus ultra; when we have done hearing, somewhat else is to be done.
This appeareth plainly from our Saviour Christ's own mouth, even in that very place where He so much commendeth hearing, and so setteth out the necessity of it. He commendeth it by saying 'Mary hath chosen the better part:' the better part is but a part yet; therefore not the whole then. He setteth out the necessity of it by saying, Unum est necessarium. Unum He saith, not unicum; that 'one thing' it is, but not 'the only one thing' that is 'necessary,' nor so to be reputed.
But of all other St. Paul doth best shew the absurdity of them that so esteem it. What, saith he, is all the body and ear? Is all hearing? As if he should say, That is too gross. Yet thither they must come, even to make all the senses hearing, and all the body an ear, that place all religion in lectures and sermons.
This then being a part only, being but one thing, we must not stay here; we must not stay, for the Scripture itself (mark it where you will) never maketh a stay at this of hearing. Even the sentence is suspended; ever there followeth a copulative, and in the neck of it. It never cometh to a pause or full point, till somewhat else be supplied.
[192/193] 'This people hath well said,' said God in Deuteronomy. What was that, that we may so too? This it was; they said to Moses, 'Bring thou God's word to use, and we will hear it, and do it.' Not hear it only, for then it should not have been commended, but 'hear it and do it.' And so it is 'well-said' and not otherwise. I will tell you, saith our Saviour Christ, who is a wise builder; 'He that heareth My words and'--no period there, but--'and doeth them.' And to the woman that heard His words with a great passion, 'Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.' And not to trouble you with many allegations, so concludeth he in the Revelation.: 'Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep the thing written therein.' Mark it well; never a pause, a breath, a full point, or staying at hearing, but still an 'and;' 'and do,' 'and keep,' 'and fulfil,' 'and 'somewhat else. To shew it is neither the sole nor the whole thing, there remaineth still for us some further duty behind.
Inasmuch then as it is never put alone, but still coupled with some other, and it is a rule--not only for marriage, but for all things else--'What God hath couple, let no man put assunder,' let us see what that other thing is which God hath coupled, and St. James supplieth to be joined with it.
What is that? Is it to be moved a little with that we hear? Upon our hearing to say with Agrippa, n ÑlhJ, Somewhat I was, I was a little moved with it? No, this is to suffer, not to do. St. James speaketh of doing.
What is it then? Is it to cry Magister bene dixisti, 'Sir you well said,' you have made us a good sermon? Nay then, what say you to Nunquam quiquam,' we never heard a better.' Is not that it? No, for this is to say and not to do. St. James speaketh of doing.
What say you to conferring of it by the walls of our house, and making that we have heard matter of discourse or question? I can tell what I would say, if our questions and discourses tended to that of St. James here, to doing; that then we were in a good way. But ye shall observe for the most part they be about some pretty speculative point, some subtle objection; somewhat ever tending to curiosity of knowledge, [193/194] rather than conscience of practice. But if we did so, yet it were but to talk of doing, not to do. Still we are short of St. James, who whatsoever we do to satisfy him besides, will not leave us till we be doers of it. And sure any that observeth it shall find those I have named, 1. to hear, 2. to be moved with it a little, 3. to commend it, 4. to spend a little talk about it, this is all. And that all these be but bye-ways which the enemy of our souls seeketh to lead us into, so to divert us from the true end, that we may rest in these as in our final conclusion, and never come to this of St. James, which is the point indeed, to be doers.
We see then what the other part is; to hear that we may do, to receive that we may bring forth, to be grafted that we may fructify.
And that our care of it may be according, I add that this is not only a part, but far 'the better part of the twain.' For though Mary's part was better than Martha's--Mary's in hearing, than Martha's in entertaining--yet Mary's part in doing, that is, in anointing Christ, was better than her part in hearing Christ, and hath a greater praise and promise from Christ's own mouth: 'This that she hath done shall be spoken of through the world.' It is our rule: Unumquodque propter quid, et illud magis In that doing is the 'propter quid,' the end of hearing, and we therefore hear what to do that we may do what we hear; in that, as the schoolmen say, Scire est propter ire, we know the way to go the way, doing must needs be the worthier of the twain; worthier in itself, and consequently worthier our care and intendment.
To make it plain, do but take them in sunder, and sever them: St. Paul saith plainly then, non auditores, hearing is nothing, sed factories but doing is all. And when they be joined, still there is a mark set upon this part, to shew it for the chief. As here, at the twenty-fifth following, he saith plainly, Beatus erit in opere suo, he that shall be blessed 'shall be blessed in his work,' not in anything else. Our Saviour Himself saith the same in express terms: 'If ye knew these things'--How then? 'Blessed shall ye be if ye do them.' Mark, 'Blessed, if ye do them.' Otherwise, if ye know them never so much, never the more blessed. Never the more blessed? Nay, scienti et non facienti saith [194/195] St. James, 'knowing and not doing' is an increase of our sin, and consequently a greater heap of our condemnation. This therefore is the principal part, be ye doers.
If then we would fain be doers, and ask what that is, it is a material point to know. There are two kinds of doers; 1. poihta, and 2. Prsktiko, which the Latin likewise expresseth in 1. agere, and 2. facere. Agere, as in music, where, when we have done singing or playing, nothing remaineth; facere, as in building, where, after we have done, there is a thing permanent. And poiihta, factores, they are St.James' doers. But we have both the words in the English tongue: actors, as in a play; factors, as in merchandise. When play is done, all the actors do vanish; but of the factors' doing there is a gain, a real thing remaining.
To be a doer of the word is, as St. Gregory saith well, convertere scripturas in operas, to change the word which is audible into a work which is visible, the word which is transient into a work which is permanent.
Or rather not to change it, but, as St. Augustine saith, accedat ad verbum, unto the word that we hear let there be joined the element of the work, that is, some real elemental deed; et sic fit magnum sacramentum pietatis, and so shall you have 'the great mystery' or sacrament of 'godliness.' For indeed godliness is as a sacrament; hath not only the mystery to be known, but the exercise to be done; not the word to be heard, but the work also to be performed: or else, if it be not a sacrament it is not true godliness.
Which very sacrament of godliness is there said to be the manifesting of the word in the flesh; which itself is livelily expressed by us when we are doers of the word, as it is well gathered out of our Saviour Christ's speech to them which interrupted Him in His sermon, and told His mother was without. 'Who is my mother?' saith He. These here, that hear and do My words are My mother, they 'travail' of Me till I am fashioned in them. Hearing, they receive the immortal seeds of the word; by a firm purpose of doing they conceive, by a longing desire they quicken, by an earnest endeavour they travail with it, and when the work is wrought, verbum caro factum est, they have incarnate the word. Therefore to the woman's acclamation, 'Blessed be the womb that [195/196] bare Thee;' True, saith Christ, but that blessing can extend but only to one, and nor more. I will you how you may be blessed too: blessed are they that so incarnate the written word by doing it, as the blessed Virgin gave flesh to the eternal Word by bearing It.
It is that which St. James meaneth in the next chapter, where he saith, Ostende mihi fidem, 'Faith cometh by hearing; shew me thy faith,' and thy hearing, saith he in the person of a heathen man. The Christian faith is, quando creditur quod dicitur; the heathen saith, quando fit quod dicitur; for so they define it in their books of offices. Ye shall never shew them your faith, cum creditur quod dicitur, but by that they understand, that is, their own faith, cum fit quod dicitur, by doing the word. Enough to shew what is meant by doers of the word.
And lest we excuse ourselves by this, that all sermons are not de theologiâ practicâ, 'entreat not of matters of action,' and so not to be done, by this that hath been said of the sacrament of godliness we may easily understand that there is no article of faith or mystery of religion at all, but is as a key to open, and as a hand to lead us to some operative virtue; even those mystical points being by the Holy Ghost's wisdom so tempered, that thy minister every one of them somewhat to be doing with, somewhat pertaining to the exercise of godliness no less than the moral points themselves. So that if we would dispose ourselves to keep St. James; caution, I make no question we might well do it through all. At least when the points are plainly practical, mere agends, then to make a conscience of doing them, and to call ourselves to account of what we have heard, what we have done, till as St. James' term is we find ourselves to 'be doers of the word;' till as St. James's term was the verbum institum, 'the engrafted word,' have his fruit in a work suitable to the seed or scion it came of. And this is the sum of his caution.
II. What if we do thus, what then? So doing, saith St. James, we shall do wisely and make sure work, in saying that not doing so, we shall but beguile ourselves. For indeed, those are the only hearers that are doers too; the other that are 'hearers only' as good not hear, for when all is done doing must do it. That is plainest that Scripure telleth us, how it [196/197] shall go at last: 'they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil go'--I need not tell you, you know whither well enough.
This very thing had David said long before of the word: 'A good understanding have all they that do thereafter. And so had our Saviour Christ, Who saith of him that heareth and doeth, that he approveth himself for as wise builder. Which is that and nothing else which St. James here implieth, that they make a sound conclusion or true syllogism.
As, on the other side, supposing they do it not, they foolish builders, 'foolish virgins,' saith Christ; saith St. James, they fall into a flat fallacy or paralogism, are deceived by a piece of the devil's sophistry.
And the Apostle could not possibly devise to speak more fitly, or to give his caution a better edge. For these great hearers, nothing so much nettles them as to be accounted men deceived, unwise, or overseen. Men are deceived for want of knowledge: they reckon themselves the only people, as if knowledge, consequently freest from error of any men alive. They pity much the blindness of the former times; but as for them they see light clearly, and are not deceived you may be sure. Therefore this seemeth very strange to them, and in evil part they must needs take it, to be holden for men deceived. The more it moveth them, the liker it is to work with them, and therefore St. James the rather chooseth it.
It is the course the Holy Ghost still keeps with them. For such were, in our Saviour's time, the Pharisees. None such men of knowledge as they, they were knowledge all over; in their foreheads, at their wrists, down to the very fringe and skirts of their garment. Notwithstanding, upon this very point of non faciunt, our Saviour Christ lets not to call them 'fools and blind,' though they took themselves to be the only eagles of the world. Even so were those in the Psalms when they had head the Law, sabbath after sabbath, forty years together, yet saith He, 'It is a people that do err in their hearts,' for all that; and though they have heard so long, yet 'they know not My ways.' And even so St. Paul [197/198] with some in his time, whom though he terms 'always learning,' continually hearing, still at sermons, yet for all that he saith they never came to 'the knowledge of the truth;' not the true knowledge which consisteth in the practice, but a kind of jangling knowledge, and holding of 'opposition' which he calleth 'knowledge falsely so called.' Therefore for all their sermons and all their lectures, a deceit there is certainly.
For let us examine it. If that which is heard be therefore heard that it may be done, and it be not done, as deceit there is; somebody there is deceived, light where it will. Now there be but three in all that be parties to it; 1. God, 2. the preacher, 3. the hearer. One of these it must be.
'Be not deceived,' saith the Apostle, 'God is not mocked:'- no deceiving of Him. It is not He sure.
Then it is we. So one would think, so thought Esay. 'Alas,' saith he, 'I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength in vain,' I find I am deceived. But he receives answer of God it was not so. That neither he had preached the word, nor the word he had preached had been or should be in vain. For himself, that his reward was with God, whether the hearer profited or no. For the word, that as the rain or snow going forth, it 'should not return empty' without his effects.
Which answer to Esay was it which put comfort in St. Paul; that were his preaching the savour of life or of death, both ways it was in him a sweet smelling savour, accepted of God. And if neither God nor the preacher, then must the deceit fall on the hearer, and he it is that is deceived.
Deceived? Wherein or how? Many way. And first, in grossly mistaking the very nature of sermons. Upon audiunt et non faciunt, Ezekiel saith plainly of those in hid days, they seemed to reckon of sermons no otherwise than of sons; to give them the hearing, to commend the air of them, and so let them go. The music of a song, and the rhetoric of a sermon, all is one. A foul error, even in the very nature of the word; for that is a law, a testament, and neither song nor sonnet. A law, enacted to be done. For it shall [198/199] not serve the three 3 children to say of Nebuchadnezzar's law, they have heard it proclaimed from point to point; but do it they must or into the furnace, for such is the nature of a law. A testament; which 'though it be but a man's as St. Paul saith, must be executed, and we are compellable to the execution of it; and to God's much more.
To speak but according to the metaphor in the verse before. It is a plain mistaking of the word--which is as seed in a soil, or as a scion in a stock--to take it for a stake in a hedge, there to stick and stand still, and bring forth nothing. Or according to the metaphor in the verse next after, where it is termed 'a glass,' which we should look in to do somewhat by; to take away some spot, to men somewhat amiss, to set somewhat right; and it is plainly to mistake it, to look in it and look off it, and forget our chief errand to it.
As this is a manifest mistaking in the nature, so is there a like in the end. For whereas they hear to do, and to do is the end why they hear, these auditores tantum do, even as St. Paul saith requiescunt in lege, 'make the law their pillow,' lay them down upon it, and there take their rest; never seek farther, and so miss their mark quite.
But a worse error yet than this is, that they which when they have heard have done, seem to think that hearing and doing is all one, inasmuch as all they do is only that they hear, and so grossly confound the two parts that are plainly distinguished. For hearing is a sense, and sense is in suffering; but the hearing of the word is so easy a suffering, as if we look not to ourselves we often fall asleep at it. Now suffering and doing are plainly distinguished; and not only plainly distinguishes, but as we flatly opposed by St. James in the text, either to other.
Not to hold you over long, seeing the Apostle borrowed his term of paralogism from the schools, to speak in school terms. In hearing only and not doing, there is, first, the elench. A sensu compositio ad divisum; which they fall into that, where two things are required, rest in one. And again, the elench, A| dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter, wherewith they are deceived, that having a part think that part shall serve them instead of the whole. Which two are a [199/200] piece of the devil's sophistry; and so you see, both 1. that they are deceived, 2. and how they are deceived that rest upon hearing only.
But to be deceived simply, is no great matter; wise men, many of them, are so, and any of them may be. This is that which edgeth it yet more, which giveth it a double edge, that they deceive themselves.
1. In which point, first, certain it is there is no man that willingly would be deceived, can endure to be deceived himself. Saith the first and greatest deceiver to Eve, even then when he came purposely to deceive her, 'Is it for a truth, that God hath forbidden you to eat of all the trees?' As if he should say: I would not have you deceive me, tell me true, whether it be so or no. Lo, he would not be deceived himself, though he came merely about deceit.
2. But then, secondly, if deceived we must be, of all men we would not be deceived of such as we trust; that grieves us exceedingly. Saith David :'He hath beguiled me whom I trusted; my guide, my counsellor, my familiar friend.' He can never say enough of it, for it is a grief above all griefs to be so deceived.
3.Thirdly then, if not by one we trust, least of all by that party whom most of all we trust, that is, by ourselves; for we trust none better, I suppose. If we must be decieved, of another, of any other rather than of our selves. For he that deceiveth himself, is both the deceived and the deceiver too. The deceived may be pitied, the deceiver is ever to be blamed; therefore he is utterly without excuse, that is the author of his own deceiving. And there is no man pitieth him, but every one mocketh him, and takes up proverbs over him of, Self do self have, and I wot not what. So that this of all other is the worst. 1. To be deceived, 2. to be deceivers, 3. to be their own deceivers.
Will ye see an example of this, that they do but deceive themselves that build upon auditores tantum? You may, Luke the thirteenth, where you shall see some that upon their bare hearing bare themselves very confidently, as if they could by no means be deceived in it, and yet they were. Christ saith to them, Nescio vos. They think very strange of that speech, and reply, Lord, why hast not Thou preached in [200/201] our streets, and have not we heard Thee daily, and never missed? Well for that, for all their hearing, He telleth them again ,Nescio vos. Though He had seen them at never so many sermons, He taketh no notice of them by their being or hearing there, but by their doing afterward. By which it appeareth, that upon this very point they promised themselves very much, but found at last they had but deceived themselves.
And which is worst of all, found it then when it was too late; when no writ of error could be brought, when it was part time, and they no way to be relieved.
And yet to go further. If this deceit of themselves were in some light matter, of no great importance, it were so much the more tolerable; but so it is not here. The last words of the last verse are, as you remember, salvare animas vestras, so that it is a matter of saving our souls, a matter as much as our souls or salvation are worth. Life or death, heaven or hell, no less matters, depend upon our being deceived here; things which most of all it concerneth us not to be deceived in.
One point more, and so an end. They will be hearers of the word, and not do it: what say you to this, that when they have been 'hearers' only al their life long, they shall in the end be forced to be doers, and doers of that word which least of all others they would do. Is not this evidently to deceive themselves? In the Prophet Jeremy, they say, they will God the hearing, but not do any of His words. But they shall not go away with it so; for when they have done what they can, they shall find themselves deceived in that too. A word there is they shall not hear only, but hear and do, whether they will or no. And what is that word? Even, Discedite, maledicti in ignem æternum. For they that will do none else, that they shall do, and fulfil that commandment that break all the rest. And who is able to fulfil, nay to abide that word? Who can endure to go whither that will send him? Of all words, that is durus sermo, nay durissimus, the hardest to do of all; better do any, year, better do all than do that.
You see then what an edge the Apostle hath set upon his advice, how great an inconvenience they run themselves into that be 'hearers only. Which if it be intolerable, as sure [210/202] it is, it will import us to take heed to the caution, that so we may avoid this double edge.
First then, that we do as we do, hear still. For, benefacitis attendentes.
Yet not to be carried away with the common error, that sermon hearing is the conusmmatum est of all Christianity; and so we hear our sermons duly, all is safe, more needs not. But to resolve with ourselves that only will not do it, somewhat there must be besides. And when all is done, it must be factores verbi.
Lastly, that we may, if we please, entertain other opinions touching this point, but they will deceive us, and we in holding them be deceived. And that in a matter of great weight and consequence, which then we shall find and feel when it will be too late to help it.
Then, that hearing and not doing, we shall in the end be forced both to hear and to do a word, the heaviest to be heard and the worst to be done of all others. Therefore, that we see to it in time, and keep the caution, that we may avoid the penalty. Which Almighty God open our eyes that we may see, &c.