I have read you a verse out of a Psalm which I find cited by an old provincial council of the ancient Fathers, as no less pertinent and applyable to the Church in all ages under Christ, and so in ours, than it was in any age before under the Jews.
Where the Psalmist, as his manner is, compriseth under one, the type and the truth both; by those things which befel the people of the Jews in their Sion, shadowing and setting out those things which would afterwards and other-whiles happen to the Christians likewise in theirs; for Jury was the scene, or stage, whereon the estate of us all--as we are a society, either in Church or kingdom-was represented to all posterity.
There is in it a prophecy, and a prayer, which belongs to [190/191] them both, and are both directed against the enemies of either; the sum whereof is, that they who would have Sion confounded, that is, Church and kingdom destroyed, for Sion is both, may, by the grace of God, have the same mischief turned back upon their own heads, and so be destroyed and confounded themselves.
Confundantur omnes, qui, oderunt Sion. A prayer and a pre-diction both, for the words which we read here, both in our Psalter and in our church Bibles, as a prayer, the translators that were wont to send us their Bibles here from France; they received it as a prediction; and, to do them right, so they might, and so may we, read it either way; either in the optative, 'So let them be,' or in the indicative, 'So they shall be,' for the verb in the original is of the future tense. And indeed to express their optative, or their wishing prayers in Hebrew, they have no other way but this, that hard it is many times, to say whether that which runs in the future among' them he a prayer or a prediction; and for aught I know, it must be left to our discretion to take which we will, since it may be both; as in the twenty-first Psalm, 'The king shall rejoice,' by way of foretelling, or 'Let the king re-joice,' by way of wishing and in many places besides. It will be best to take it both ways, so we shall be certain not to miss the prophet's meaning. And though either be well, either indicative or optative, that both are best, for both are most tine; it is both a good prayer, mid a good prophecy; which will likewise sort well together by themselves, and please us, if the prayer does prove a prophecy, nothing better. For our wishes, if they be in earnest, we would always have to be ominous; and our prayers to be a kind of prediction ever.
[191/912] Of this text then, we are to treat as a prayer, first, then as a prediction.
A direct prayer it is; but that is not so much, the manner of it is all. And there be two manner of prayers, either for or against, wishing some; good, or wishing some evil, be it of things or of persons. This is of the nature of a prayer against them.
Then secondly, it is not faintly or coldly said; but said it is with very much vehemence and vigour, as the manner of men is when they are in passion and anger; for there is a holy anger too, whereof otherwhiles use may he made, thereafter as the cause is wherewith it meets; and this is such another, it is a kind of prayer that they call an imprecation; confundantur is a kind of curse, an imprecation, or an execration, call it which you will.
And thirdly, two things there are in this prayer, (1.) the parties against whom it is made, and (2.) the persons for whose sake it is made.
1. The parties against whom, are the enemies of Sion, that is, of Church and kingdom both, for in Sion we shall find them both; and those parties be many, and of many kinds, whereof not a man here is left out, sed omnes qui oderunt, where the omnes will reach not only to every private mail, but to whole multitudes besides; and the oderunt will reach not only to the outward violent act, but to the very inward will itself, to 'as many as have any evil will at Sion,' for so our Church-book here hath rendered it, and we may not leave it out.
2. After these, the parties for whose sake this prayer is made, are those that dwell in Sion; and they will prove to be God and the king: we say it now, and will prove it anon. And thus far it will go as a prayer.
Then should we also look upon it as a prediction--but that I think we shall not be able to do so now;--for besides that it is a prayer, it is likewise, as I said, a prophetical prayer; that so the prophet here wished, and, as he wished, so he foretold; and, as he foretold, so it came to pass, to the confusion of them that hated Sion; so did, and so may do yet; for this prayer or prediction was not to he pent up among the Jews only, or to end with them, but hath, and [192/193] shall have, its force and vigour still among us all, even to the world's end.
These are the parts. Of which that we may speak to the honour of God and the preservation of Sion, the Church, and kingdom, and His true religion among us, before I go any further I shall put you in mind both now and always to make your prayers,
For the estate of Christ's Catholic Church, together with the peace and welfare of all Christian kings and princes, more especially--as by common allegiance we are all bound, and myself with others here by more peculiar duty and service--for our sovereign lord Charles, by the grace of God king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and in his own dominions over all persons whatsoever, and in all causes whatsoever, supreme governor; that God would be pleased to preserve him in his royal person, and to protect him in his royal dignities, and to restore him to his royal inheritance; for our most gracious queen M., for our most noble prince James, duke of York, and all the royal progeny, for the king's majesty's honourable council and all the nobility, for the reverend the prelates and the ministers of the Church, for the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, and all the people of the realm; that they may all come together to serve God in peace, to be loyal to their king, and loving to one another.
Rendering always, as we are likewise bound, our praise anti thanksgiving for God's favours and graces conferred upon His Church, for the blessed Fathers of our faith, the saints and servants of God who have been the choice vessels of His grace and the shining lights of the world in their several generations before us, and for the happy [193/194] departure of all other His servants our fathers and brethren in the faith of Christ; most humbly beseeching Him that we may continue in their holy communion and religion here, and that we may at the end be brought to their blessed communion and glory hereafter.
And that, for his merits Who is Christ our Lord, the Mediator and Saviour of us all; in His name offering up that form of prayer which He hath prescribed us in his holy Gospel.
Our Father, &c., &c.
1. 'Let them be confounded.' I begin with the prayer. But confundantur is a prayer and somewhat more be-sides; it is an imprecation, both precatio and imprecatio. Therefore before we say 'Amen' to it, it will not be amiss to enquire whether we may lawfully pray any such prayer, or no.
I move it the rather, because I have heard it said that here our Church is out, that it is not warrantable, that it is altogether Unsuitable for a Christian--whatever the Jews did-to use such prayer or imprecation at all; to wish, as here the prophet does, any evil-minded persons so much evil as to pray that they may come to an evil end, which is their confundantur, 'let them be confounded.'
And truly somewhat it is that they have to say; for did not St. Paul give us a charge not to do it? not to do it to them that did hurt to us? 'Bless them that persecute you; bless, I say, curse not;' that is, use no imprecations at all.
And did not St. Peter set us out Christ's own pattern against it? Qui, cum malediceretur, non maledixit, Who wished not their evil that both wished and wrought him all the evil they could. Again, St. James tells us well it becomes us not that with the same tongue we should bless God and curse men, or pray for evil to come upon them. 'Come and curse me this people,' let that office alone for Balaam the son of Beor; it is an office fitter for him than for any of us. Then Shimei did it; it belongs to such a miscreant as he was, it belongs not to us. Balaam's name and his stand upon record, upon the black roll, to all posterity; the one for doing of it, and tl_e other for but intending to do it; [194/195] and will we he like-minded to them? All this they have against it.
And all this we know; yet all this has been examined by the Fathers of the Church before now, and all this is not so binding neither but that against some persons, and in some special cases, such a prayer hath been, and may still be used well enough. May be? nay, ought to be otherwhiles. For first, such and so evil may the persons be, as for instance, saith St. Peter, those that despise government and speak evil of dignities,--which is all one with them that have evil will here at Sion--so evil may such persons be, that in the same Apostle's own words, they be homines exsecrandi, men that are to be accursed, and maledictionis filii, the very sons and subjects of malediction. Thus execrable may their doings be, that as God himself commandeth Moses, so by him commands us all and gives us licence and a warrant to do it; in such a case to go up into mount Ebal, and there to do as our Church appoints us to do in the commination; that is, against certain persons to pronounce certain curses; the priest is to say maledictus, and all the people to say 'Amen.' He that gave us the charge therefore, St. Paul, not to do it, must be understood to have given it against private revenge; for notwithstanding all his charge given, it is well enough known what he himself did to Elymas the sorcerer, who withstood him in his public service; called him the child of the devil, and struck him blind with an imprecation. And he that set us Christ's pattern, St. Peter, would not be taken in any other sense; for notwithstanding his pattern set us, we know all that he used this kind of imprecation himself against Simon Magus, and gave him his confundantur; against such it both may be done, and ought to be done. Nor let the instance of Balaam and Shimei trouble us; they were two fierce and violent men, and they came out to curse them whom God had blessed, to curse the ruler of his people, and to curse Sion itself; which brought therefore a curse upon their own heads for it. But there were two other men, as meek men and as mild as ever the earth had; and yet, as we read, they came to their imprecations for all that. Moses for one, who prayed it against a crew of rebels that they [195/196] should not die the common death of all men, but go down quick into hell; and David for another, who prayed it against a counsellor of rebels, that cursing might come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones. Witness first, one Psalm all of bitter imprecations and scarce of any thing else, all penned against Achitophel and against all such as be like him; then another against those that were con-federate against his crown and dignity; and this verse is the sure of them both. But in these Psalms themselves they are set forth in such high and passionate expressions, that they had been held, both by Jews and Christians, to be the most heavy and bitter curses that were to be found in all the volumes of the world besides. The one is the hundred and nineteenths, the other the eighty-third Psalm; and I am apt to believe that whosoever shall take the book into his hands, and at some retiring time read with heed and mark well against what manner of persons those two Psalms of imprecations are penned, he would love both them and their fellows, whosoever they be, the worse for it while he lived.
Now what should I tell you of the Angel of the Lord, of the Lord Himself, that cursed the inhabitants of Meros, and thereby gave us a warrant to do the like after him? that is, that we may lawfully bring forth an imprecation, not only against them that are open enemies and have an evil will at Sion, but against them likewise that are indifferent and bear it no good will at all. All is thereafter as the cause is, and as the persons be against whom the prayer is made; if the cause be right the imprecation is not wrong, and the cause is all. [Now put all this together and it is enough, this, notwithstanding all that useth otherwhiles to be said against it, to show that this kind of prayer is also lawful among others, and to justify the practice of the Church, if at any time you meet with it there, for it is the practice of the saints; we may well pray it, for herein we do but tread the [196/197] steps of our holy Fathers, and follow them who were followers herein of God Himself.]
Nor need we, nor will we, go out of the text to seek it.
For first, you will mark it here, that it is for the safety of Sion, for that cause, and then that it is against them that have an evil will to Sion, against such persons only and for their confusion who either violently oppose it or secretly undermine it. In which eases it is not only lawful but needful, not only may be done but sometimes ought to be done; for prayers arc to be made for Sion, that is, once and for all that belong to it. But for Sion we cannot pray, not as we should do, unless we pray withal against them that are enemies to Sion; who, if they may have their will, will be the utter confusion of Sion itself. Therefore in this ease, confundantur qui oderunt is no more than needs, and is plainly forced from us, specially then, when we have scarce any other way left but that, as with the Jews it was the ease often, and is not with us much unlike it now. All is there-after as the necessity and the occasion or the cause is; if that be right, we may be sure the prayer, and this kind of prayer too, will not be wrong.
And indeed this is the chief point of advice for us, that we use it not but when we are forced to it; that we take not a licet for it without an oportet come before it; that is, that we use it not upon every slight and trifling occasion, as our evil custom is, against every thing that comes cross to our own private humour. But when the public safety of the Church and kingdom, when the safety of Sion and the bad practices of Sion's enemies shall require and exact it at our hands, then may we be bold to do it. And this advice is not amiss, the rather because our common and fearful profana-tion of this kind of prayer, our bitter curses and imprecations that come from us daily where no need is, may well be thought to be one main reason, among others, that where and when need is, the very lawful use of it in our prayers finds no better effect with us than it does.
Again, it is not amiss we took notice of an old saying [197/198] among the Hebrews which is pertinent to this case. They had in their country two mountains, one where they went to bless, at mount Garizim, and another where they went to curse, at mount Ebal; of which two their proverb was, that they, came time enough to mount Ebal that crept thither, but to mount Garizim that they could not leap too fast; that is, that men must be swift to do the one and slow to do the other. To conclude this point; we are then, as not to be so forward to leap into mount Ebal and fall to our prayers and impreca-tions there, upon every thing that angers us, so not to be so froward neither, as when we are directed and bidden go, not to come there at all, but to be well advised ere we go; and then we may both safely go thither, and go to some purpose cause it is, and the heed it is against what persons it is made, which maketh the prayer lawful; otherwise if it be either used without cause, or done without care, it will be done amiss, and have little or no effect at all; therefore to know well both the men and the matter against whom we do it, and then we may say this prayer every syllable of it, confundantur omnes qui oderunt Sion.
2. The special point of advice then being thus provided for, it will concern us now to know the parties well against whom we are to pray it, and to take some notice of them; and we cannot better know them than if we take our light from this book, and, as they shall have reference to this text, apply them as you shall see causes.
They offer themselves to us here in a general term, 'as many as have evil will at Sion;' but those many are many and sundry ways to be known by the character's that are elsewhere given of them.
You will know them the better if you know first, what Sion is, and how far it extends. I told you before that Sion would be found to be both the house of God and the house of David, that is, both the religion of the temple and the government of the kingdom; Church and state both; the Church of God amid the state of the icing; so that they which have any evil will at either of these are the parties here against whom this prayer is to go out.
First, and to prove what I say, 1 demand first, why the [198/199] prophet hath made choice of Sion only, to name that? why not Judah and Israel? or why not Jerusalem, as well as Sion? for they were the greater places of the two, and the more general by far, and, as one would think, the more worthy to be conned. Why then is not the prayer and imprecation made against the haters of them? but against those that have an evil will at Sion only?
It should seem there was somewhat more in Sion than there was in all the rest, somewhat more to be regarded there, than any where else; the choice is made of Sion before them all. Yet to give Jerusalem and Judah, the city and the country, their clue, it is not exclusive this of either; but yet it is preferred before them both, for somewhat that there is in Sion more than in the city and country too, and that are they to bear as they can; for it is not in our power to mend the text for them, nor in theirs, neither. The pro-phet hath made choice of Sion, and we may not change his word, nor teach him how to use his terms, he names nothing but Sion. I ask then, what was Sion? what was it but a hill, a little hill in Jerusalem, with two tops upon it, on the south side of the city? And what reason then was there that this hill should be so much magnified as it was? seldom or never mentioned in Scripture but with honour and regard had to it? Truly no reason in the world but this, that upon one top of this mountain, the temple of God was built; and upon another, the throne of the king. For these two it was that it is here named before all the rest, and so that Sion is so much spoken of and so much made of, all the Psalms and all the prophets over; it is first and chiefly, for the temple's sake, for God's religion and service that was there kept up among them; for Whose salve it is, even for His Church's sake, as poor and low a regard as the world has for it now, that Sion is said to be his holy mountain, a fair place, and the joy of the whole earth, that God is well known in her palaces as a sure refuge, and that He loveth the gates of Sion, more than all the dwellings of Jacob besides, loves it more, and therefore will be the more displeased with them here that love it not. For in that it is chiefly mentioned, it shews both what is chiefly regarded by God, and what is chiefly also to be regarded by us, as we know it was by them [199/200] at the remembrance of it, when they were forced to be absent from it, 'we sat down and wept, when we remembered thee, oh Sion;' that their greatest grief when they could not come at it, and their greatest joy when news came that they should return thither again.
Where there lays a note, by the way, for their joy; it was not, saith the Psalm, quia in domos nostras ibimus;--they did not listen, as we listen for our news, to hear chiefly when we shall go every one to his own house and to his own honour and lands again, and I am afraid fare the worse for it too,- but, quia in domum Domini ibimus, 'when we shall go into the house and honour of the Lord, and appear every one of us before the God of gods in Sion.' That was their joy and that their chiefest desire, of all other, to have the true and pure services of God set up at home in peace among them; and if our thoughts went more that way than they do, certainly God would be better pleased with us than He is, Who, as He hath given us his promise for it, that for Sion's sake and for the house of the Lord our God, if we would set our affections there, He will seek to do us good,--so for want of those affections, our affections to the gates of Sion, it is still to be feared lest we be yet kept back from the dwellings of Jacob.
In the meanwhile clear it is to you, who be the chief per-sons that are said here to have an evil will at Sion; that they be the maligners of the Church, the haters of His temple, and the enemies of His true religion, against whom this confundantur may by good warrant be given out, and the prayer go forth against every one that loves not the peace and prosperity of them all. For as for God himself, He is too high for them, either for any good they can do him or for any evil or enmity that can reach him; therefore lie reckons of no enemies but His Church's enemies, or at least of none so much, as being that for which we were all, world and all, made, and by which we and all the world are still upholder; for were this Sion, this Church of This once gathered, the world would dissolve straight; nor is it long neither, before we are like to hear of it, when there be no more enemies to molest it. These are one sort of them.
(2.) But Sion had two tops; as one whereon the temple [199/200] stood, so another whereon the throne and palace of the king were situated. Posui regem in monte sanctitatis mea, 'I have set My king also upon My holy hill of Sion,' as we read in the second Psalm; which, though it was mystically under-stood of Christ, yet it was literally true of David. So near neighbourhood was there between the king and the Church, as there was between his palace and the temple. They stood both upon one and the same hill.
And it cannot but weigh much with all that shall weigh this point well, that kings are taken into so near a society and conjunction with God in Sion, that the league is so firm and the knot so strait between them, as one cannot have ill will to the one but he must have it to the other also. So they that are enemies to David or the king, are enemies to God and to Sion.
Another reason why Sion is here mentioned, that all may know what regard they are to have of kings, whom God hath placed so close to Himself, as there is but one name here both for his Church and for them, so inseparably are they linked together, and the prosperity of the one so much depending upon the welfare of the other.
I cannot tell--some certain men may entertain what speculations they please--to think that David's throne may stand well enough though the temple be pulled down, or the Church destroyed; but when we come at any time to see these speculations of theirs brought into practice, to view them in the fore-past ages of the world, or to look upon them in these days of ours and see how we like them now, sure we arc we cannot find it so. Indeed, experience, daily and sad experience, hath taught us that the safety of Sion depends upon the two hills of Sion; and that they that are not for both are, to speak truth, for neither, but like to carry Sion into Babel and to turn all into confusion. Against such well and fitly may we pray this prayer, and say confundantur to all of them.
So have we two manner of persons that be here meant; but there is yet somewhat more in the text against them.
(3.) They are said here to be many, nay they are said to be all, omnes qui oderunt, not a man left out. Where, that we may take all in, we will take omnes in the two several [201/202] notions or acceptions of the word, either omnes, collective, in a sense collective of all together, or omnes, distributive, in a sense distributive of the sundry and divers kinds of them, of them that be enemies unto Sion.
From the first acception this we have, that it extends not only to single and private persons, but reacheth to whole multitudes, he they never so many; omnes will serve to take in cities and towns and countries both, the whole body of the people, and all that would be independent of any, and suffer neither God nor the king to rule them. It hath been thought, and it bath been taught likewise, that vex populi night carry all, was as good as vox Dei might come up into mount Sion in multitudes, and there do with religion and government what they pleased themselves. The prophet here foresaw what it would come to, that the body and multitudes of the people might chance this way to take a liberty to themselves, and think to be privileged by their very number; therefore to make sure, he puts in a number here that encloseth them all; for be they many or be they few, as many as they be omnes will exempt none. And let them look to it that think to bear themselves out and to avoid it with company; there is nothing so near a confundantur as the multitude.
2. But from the second acception of omnes, they are brought in every one in his kind. I will but mane them briefly. The Jews had not a few of them, and I think we have had as many. For first they had the sons of Belial, who lived within their own quarters; and those were men that had no religion at all and eared neither for the temple of God nor for God himself. We call them the atheists, the worst enemies that we, or they, had; for I wish the like were not to be found in our Israel.
(2.) Then they had the children of Edom, a kind of wicked and spiteful men, a people that neighboured upon them and were somewhat allied to them besides, but such mortal--such immortal-haters of Sion and of the religion professed there, as that we arc told by many of the old writers, both Jews amt Christians, that this verse, and this Psalm, was penned of chief [202/203] purpose against them. I will give you a note or two of them, that you may know both them and their venemous natures. First, they were the wickedest matured people under the sun, and if ever there were any devils upon earth they were the men; which was the original of the Hebrew proverb, that if the devil would choose to be of any country, he would choose to he an Edomite. For no place on earth resembled bell more for all manner of malice and wickedness, as we may read of it in the prophet Malachi, than that country did. Then were they the nearest to their borders, and the nearest akin to the Jews of all nations besides, and so should have been their best friends, and have borne no evil will to their Sion; but the quarrel was that the Jews had a larger and a better country by far than they, the Edomites, had, and that their temple was too mach talked on abroad, got away the glory from them all. From whence grew their envy; and an enemy out of envy, though never so near a neighbour, nor never so near akin, proves ever to be the worst. Yet once more, they were always waiting to do Sion a mischief, and when they were not able to do it alone of themselves, they set on others from abroad, and then came in and helped them; and when the temple was plundered and fire set upon the holy places, they were the men that cried out so fast 'down with it to the ground, down with it,' and let not stone remain. For the next words of the Psalmist are, 'Remember the children of Edam, O Lord, how they said,' as he says there, and for so saying gives forth this confundantur here against them.
(3.) But thirdly, their next enemies were them of Babel, men of another country and another religion, and I number than among the enemies of the Church (though they did the kingdom too all the mischief they might) not so much for the spoils of the temple, that were carried thither at the captivity, as for the cruelty that was used against them in matters of religion, when they must either fall down before an image and do as they did in all things, that he, he of the new religion and follow the new laws that Nebuchadnezzar and his captains had lately set up, or endure the trial of the fiery furnace; ye know who used to do so by us. They come [203/204] all out of Babylon, but 'Babel' is 'confusion.' Against all such it is lawful to say a confundantur.
(4.) Besides these, Sion had others also that bare it no good will at home neither, who by raising up factions and schisms among themselves thereby disturbed that peace and unity of the Church which the prophet calls the blessing and the dew of Sion. Of whom utinam abscindantur, saith the Apostle, qui conturbant vos; where we have St. Paul's warrant that this prayer may be said in the New Testament as well as in the Old, both against heretics and against schismatics that raise tumults in religion and disquiet the peace of Christ's Church; a kind of people that do nothing else but study to maintain their own faction, and make the breaches of Sion wider than they are already.
To these might many more be yet added than have been named, but you know them as well as I, what manner of enemies and persons they are of whom this Psalm was made, and against whom this prayer may be said, no less than it was against the other. The conclusion would be, that against there all, all are bound to say 'Amen' to this prayer. And in the name of God, so let it be.
In the meanwhile, let it not seem strange to us that such enemies there are, for Sion will never be without them, and the best men on earth have been put to their trial with them. It is some adversity that we suffer from them, but it is sons sanctorum, it hath been the lot of many a saint of God before us, and of far more worth and dignity than any we are, to be in adversity, to be persecuted, afflicted, tormented, to be robbed of goods, and lands, and lives and all. Nor did they love Sion, either Church or kingdom, ever a whit the worse for it all the while.
Sion God loved and favoured very high, yet, how clear soever Sion is in his sight, it had no promise made but that such kind of enemies it should otherwhiles meet withal. Even icing David himself, a man after God's own heart, he had them, had those that persecuted, hated him gratis, hated him though they had many favours done them by him, and though they were fed with his milk yet was he bitten by them for all that. Facient enim quod suum est iniquitatis filii, saith St. Austin, 'the sons of wickedness will be doing their kind,' [204/205] though it be against king David or against any king besides, though it be against Christ himself. Let not this make us stumble either in our religion or loyalty, but that we may be firm to our trial, and constant to our profession; still, above all, loving the gates of our Sion, that is, of our religion, more than all our other dwellings in Jacob; which, by the grace of God, may be a fair means to bring us back again both to the one and to the other, there, if it be His blessed will, to serve him in peace and piety all the days of our life, that so serving him we may in the end of our days be translated from our dwellings here below to his everlasting tabernacles above.
To which, &c.