Which is king David's devotion and piety, towards the Church and commonwealth of God. A piety that originally, I confess, and according to the letter, respects the Church of the Jews, and the house of God among them, but in a far better and a higher sense, chiefly, no doubt, and according to the substance, respects also the Church of Christ, and the house of God among us.
For howsoever this Psalm was first penned for the ark of the old covenant, when with a religious solemnity it was brought up to Jerusalem, yet it was not king David's meaning, nor the meaning of the holy Ghost neither, but it might be extended and applied to more covenants than it. This meaning was not to shut up this peace within the walls of the city only, nor to engross this plenteousness unto her palaces alone, but to have both the one and the other as [106/107] diffusive through his own kingdom; so, extensive (and that chiefly) to the kingdom of Christ.
And what should hinder the Psalm, but as it went from the doors of the tabernacle, for which it was first made, to the gates of the temple, where afterwards it became one of their graduate songs, sung upon the third step of their ascent unto it, so it might pass also as well quite through the temple itself; and reach unto the Church of Christ, whereof the Jews' Church was but a shadow. Surely the Psalm was for both; both for Jew and Christian; and so the text for both, both for their Church and ours; and but for them originally only, to last but for awhile neither; but for us intentionally and truly, to last for all ages after that, front the first coming of Christ in grace, to His second coming again in judgment. It might be our care also to pray for the peace and plenty of Christ's Church among us, as it was their care of old to pray for the peace and plenteousness of Jerusalem among them; and that they, above all others, might prosper, that love, and seek to prosper it.
I name the peace and plenty of the Church only, I should name the peace and plenty of the state also; that we are to seek, and to love, and to pray for the quiet prosperity of them both, both of the Church and kingdom wherein we live; for Jerusalem here comprehends them both, and was the seat of them both, of the house of the Lord, at the first verse, and of the house of David at the fifth.
So have we the sum of all, that for God's house and the king's, that is, for the Church and state, wherein we live, our chief endeavours be, even with prayers and love and all that is ours, to procure peace and plenty, and prosperity to them both. 'O pray for the peace of Jerusalem, let them prosper that love it.'
The text delivers itself in the terms of one that is advising and wishing for us somewhat that is most behoveful for us, if his advice might be taken; but inasmuch as we see wishing and advice to prevail so seldom, and all manner of counsel, in matters of religion especially to be so little set by, we must find more in it than so; not wishing only, and matter of [107/108] advice alone, but command also, and matter of precept withal. And that we find in the dignity of his person, that was author to us of this advice. It is votum Davidis, it is votum Spiritus Sancti; it is the advice of king David, and there is much in that, but it is the wish of the holy Ghost too, and therein is more; ever in His optative, there is an imperative; in his wish, there never fails to be a command, never, if he has any wit that hears it. So that these words, rightly understood, 'O pray for,' or, 'Would to God ye would pray for' 'the peace of Jerusalem,' are both an advice, and an injunction withal, of the nature of an edict; we fall into the peril of contempt, and disobedience, and irreligion, if we do it not, if we do not what, we are here advised unto.
And that is not one single duty neither; they are many, and they shall be so many parts of my text.
(1.) That first, our care must be for Jerusalem, the seat of God's house and the king's.
(2.) That this care must be shown by our prayers for it.
(3.) That these prayers must beg the blessing of peace upon it.
(4.) And not peace alone, but peace and plenty too, peace and prosperity withal.
(5.) That there may be, walls about it for this peace, and palaces within it for this prosperity.
(6.) But lastly, that this peace and this prosperity may be the reward only of them that love it; and for them that love it not, but malign, and spite, and hurt it all they can, that they may go seek some other, for lucre we find no reward for them.
And these will fall out to he the heads of our present discourse, of which that we may speak to the honour of almighty God, the peace of our souls, and the prosperity of His Church, I shall, &c.
The Bidding of the Common Prayers.
Pater Noster Qui es in cælis.
(1.) We begin with Jerusalem, the subject upon which we are to work, and the body for which the prophet would have us thus careful. That body consisteth of two parts, and [108/109] these two parts, be the Church of God, and the state of the kingdom, expressed here in this Psalm by the house of the Lord, in the first verse, and the house of king David in the fifth. So that Jerusalem stands not hear for the city and the state alone, nor for the temple and the Church alone, but for both together; and our care, our love, to be showed unto them both; that when any man is busy for the state and the commonwealth of the kingdom, we set not the Church aside, and forget not the commonwealth of it; and when zealous for the Church, the state and the peace of it, that we forget not the state and the peace of the kingdom neither, but, as we are members of both, so to be careful for the good and prosperity of both. Either of them will riot serve the turn, for both together will make up but one Jerusalem, both God's house, and the king's, David's.
And a happy conjunction it is, whom God's house and the king's are met together in Jerusalem, in Jerusalem or in any city, in any state besides; that where the kingdom is ready to serve God, and to love the prosperity of His Church, God also may be ready to preserve them and to love the prosperity of the commonwealth, et propter domum Domini, so the Psalm here endeth, even for the Church's sake, may seek to do them good. This where they meet; but where they meet not, where either serves the turn, and under a pretended care of the one, the other comes clean to be despised and set at nought, I knew not what else to say of it, but unhappy is that Jerusalem, unhappy are the people that be in such a case.
Yet in all ages there have been some, amid are too many in this, who are well content to be for the prosperity of the state, for they know well their livelihoods and means must depend upon it; but, then let the Church sink or swim, since they can live without it, they care little for it; prosper themselves and their own houses, they can never have enough of it, but (hear ye!) prosper no church, no house of religion; they have too much of it already. This is one kind, all for the temporal state, for Jerusalem the kingdom. We will deal justly with you. They have their opposites, another kind, peradventure as ill as themselves, that are all for the spiritual state, for Jerusalem the Church, that cry up domus Domini [109/110] so fast, as if domus Davidis were not worth the looking after; that so their state be well, no matter how the kingdom fires, but kingdom, power, and glory, and all, must be all swallowed up by them; that think there can be no love shewn to set up the house of God, unless there be some stratagem invented to pull down the house of David; so hard a matter is it to keep Jerusalem as a city that is at unity within itself, or for factious minded men to hold a mean. But I shall tell you the truth; in the one of these there is but a false religion, that are all for Jerusalem the Church; in the other there is no religion at all, that are all for Jerusalem the State.
Yet such there are, and an evil use it is that has possessed the world. Commonly we cannot affect one part, but we must despise the other; we cannot raise the price of one virtue, but we must cry down all the rest. Ye may see it in many other cases besides this; when some men would exalt the pulpit, they cannot do it without disgracing the desk; when they would canonize their preachers, they cannot do it without disgracing their readers; unless prayers and common service may be clean brought out of credit whom inward worship is cried up, all outward reverence must be laid down; we cannot give God our souls but we must keep our bodies to ourselves; and if He has the heart, some of us will have the hat, say what ye will. So we cannot possibly bring in alms and works of mercy but offerings and works of devotion must be quite thrown away for relics; and but by the sale of Christ's ointment we know no way to provide either for ourselves or others.
Sensible enough are we in other matters, in this we are all too dull; of two duties that are set forth, we commonly regard but one, and that one we make a means also to depress and hold down the other, as if both could not stand together. It is the case in hand, as if the care of Jerusalem the, city, and the good of the commonwealth were a supersedeas to any man from the care of Jerusalem the temple, and the good of God's Church. But king David's care, here was for both. And Christ's precept is for both, and there is a due regard to [110/111] be had of both, that what God hath joined together, we presume not to part asunder; anal what care the prophet here would have extended to both, we engross not to out alone, for both we may do, and both we must. To be careful for God's house and the Church, is to be a good Christian to be careful for the king's house and the state, is to be a good subject; and both these are in God's eyes most acceptable. Nay it will ever be found true likewise, the better Christian the better subject, the more we love God's house the more will we love the king's also. Enough for Jerusalem.
(2.) The next is Rogate, that how well we love this body, we would shew it first by praying for it. In which word I include, and the original will do as much, a care to endeavour and seek out what good for it we may, to study and procure what peace for it we can, as well as sit still and wish it well with good prayers for the kingdom first, to come hither and cry Da pacem in diebus nostris, Domino, 'Give it peace in our time, O Lord,' and then to run out into the streets, and when we hear of any stirs abroad, to throw up our caps at it, and think the world will be all ours. This may well be Rogare pacem; but we never meant it, I am sure it is not qærite et persequemini pacem, as the Holy Ghost meant it. Nothing so. Then for the Church; to wish it well, ay, ay, 'For the whole estate of Christ's Church militant here on earth, and especially for the Church wherein we live,' we can all say the prayer by heart to wish it well, I say to pray for the peace, unity, and concord, and prosperity of it, and when we have done that, to go hence and do it all the evil we may, and to seek both the disquiet and the poverty, both the defrauding and the ruin of it, this is so far from Rogate pacem, that it cries defiance both to the Church and to the text itself.
To pray for it then, it is not only to speak for it, to speak a good word for it, and to do it a worse mischief, but to speak for it, and to do for it as well; to speak, and seek: and sue, and labour to procure it all the good we are able. But when all is done by men, a hearty prayer to God is like to procure it most good, that what they are not willing to do, He may be pleased to do Himself, by inclining their hearts and making them willing to do it also. And therefore, when all [111/112] the good is done to it that may be done, besides that, the prophet yet calls out for prayer, as the most requisite for Church and state of all other duties that we may do for them, and the most available means to procure that good unto them from men, which otherwise they are not so likely to do of themselves.
Which St. Paul knew well, when above all other things conducing to a quiet and peaceful life, his exhortation was to make prayers, and supplications, and intercessions for all men, but specially for kings, and them that bear rule over us in the state.
Nor does the Church less want our prayers than the kingdom does, against which the enmity of the world is more fierce, the devices of men more subtle, and the gates of hell set wider open than against any other state of the world besides. For while Christ tells St. Peter that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church, He tells us withal that these gates of hell, they gape not wider for any thing than they do for it, even for the mischief and the ruin of the Church, with that which will surely follow it, even the desolation of all religion and piety. We see then the necessity of prayer for Jerusalem; and from it we pass to the third thing, which is the necessity of her peace; for there be two blessings here, which our prayers are to beg at God's hands, and which our endeavours are to procure at all hands, both to the Church and state wherein we live, which is peace and plenty. And peace is the first.
(3.) Of which we cannot say less, than that it is one of the greatest blessings that either a state or a Church can enjoy; for let them have other blessings never so many, plenty and prosperity never so much, yet if they have them and have no peace with them, they are but nominal, they are no real blessings. The blessing of peace is that only which blesseth and crowneth all other blessings whatsoever.
It is not so easily conceived, this, by them that live in peace already, but of them that want it, it is known full well; and what would not they give to have it, that at any time have it not?
I would therefore, while we are telling of this blessing of peace, that you would look not upon yourselves in a quiet [112/113] state at home, but upon others in a troubled state abroad; upon a kingdom in war and blood, upon a Church in schism and persecution; that you would ask them which are hewn asunder by the sword, and roasted to ashes with the flame, that you would conceive but their case once to be your own; and then tell me whether it be not good advice or no, by all means quærere et rogare pacem Jerusalem, to seek for and to sue, to pray for and to preserve, the peace of the state and Church wherein we live.
I begin with the state first, the civil peace; for when we do but hear the word spoken, even that peace comes first into our minds, even Augustus' peace, and the shutting up of Janus, and the ceasing all noise of war.
Wherein I shall never fear to make civil peace a part, as of David's here, so of Christ's wish in the Gospel, nor of His beati pacifici neither; to say that happy they be that have it, and blessed for ever that are the procurers of it.
I have told you before, that Christ would be born in this time of civil peace over the world; you may know by that what account He made of it; and by His account what we are to do likewise.
Therefore Orbem pacatum, as Tertullian tells us, that the world might be at peace, was ever a clause in the prayers of the primitive Church, and is still kept in ours.
But there are some that delight themselves in broils and contentions, and say it is but the coward's prayer this, to pray all for peace; and that it never was, nor never will be, good world again, till this desire of peace be laid down, and war set up, with all her colours and ensigns about her. Others that are bold to tell us so, the prophet David gives you but had counsel and Christ Himself no better; the Apostles were out, the old Christians wrong, and the Church of England as ill as they, when in her public Litanies she appoints us to pray, 'that we may all he delivered from battle and murder,' and that we may be hurt by no persecution.
But we are men that from Christ's mouth preach Beati [113/114] pacifici, and from David's mouth Rogate pacem Jerusalem, which we are to make good against both these opposers, both the one and the other. Those that think it a cowardly, first, then those that think it an unlawful prayer.
And for the former; we know not what some men call courage and valour, but sure we are king David was one that wanted neither, famous in Israel for his valour, and renowned through the world for his victories, that made single combat with the giant, and dyed the Philistines in their own blood, that made war with a witness, and proved most victorious in it; yet he it is here, as great a sword-man, as stout a warrior as he was, that comes in upon Rogate pacem, and not only bids us pray, but prays also for peace himself. It is the conqueror's prayer. Again, with the poor, weak shepherds, that perhaps had no valour in them, there was a company of heavenly soldiers, saith St. Luke, and sure we are that they had valour and courage in them enough; yet their prayer was for peace too, Gloria in excelsis Deo, et pax in terris. It is votum militare, it comes from the mouths of soldiers them-selves; they praise it, and pray for it, they sing of it, and wish it, where they wish any good; neither know they what better thing they should wish to men, than peace upon earth. So it is the soldier's prayer also, not the gown-man's alone, nor the weak man's prayer only, but the wise and the valiant and the stout man's too. And being so, we may be certain it is neither cowardice to pray for peace, nor courage to call for broils and troubles.
For what greater happiness can there be, than that it should be with us here on earth, as it is with the Angels in heaven? and with them it is all peace, as Nazianzen well observes from their prayer in the Gospel, pugnas et dissidia nescire Deum et Angelos, no broils, no brabbles in heaven, but all at quiet there, and all wishing for peace here. So that a kind of heaven there is upon earth, when there is peace upon earth; and justly are they blessed and rightly are they called the children of God that are, or shall be at any time, the procurers of it.
Not that it is unlawful to enter upon a war neither, (as [114/115] the Anabaptists hath sometimes fondly taught,) when nor peace nor right cut otherwise be performed; but that in the midst of such troubles, our desires and ends be still for peace; that howsoever the sword may be put into the hand, yet that Rogate pacem, the prayer for peace, be never put out of the heart.
And absque hoc I cannot tell what account men make of contentions and garboils and mischief done to the other. For if peace be God's blessing, as a chief of His blessings it is, we may reckon by that what contention, what no peace is; no less than the curse of God, than the rod of his wrath, as Isaiah termeth it, whereby men are scourged for their pride and for their weariness of a peaceable and godly life. No, it is but a sport, says Abner, for men to go together by the ears; but he: found it, as ye all find it, even in any breach of the peace whatsoever, a little sport in the beginning, but bitterness in the ending, not to fail. Whereupon we bring in king David's advice, both for the state in general, and for every one of you in particular; 'Pray for the peace;' seek her out wherever she is to he found; and if she hides herself; enquire after her; if she flies from you, give her not over yet, but follow her to the end, and when you have gotten her, you have got a blessing, the greatest blessing that this world can afford.
In regard whereof those other men leave but little to do, it seems, who are finding fault with the public prayers of the Church, when, according to the prophet's rule here, we pray for time continuance of our peace, and desire to be kept front battle and persecution. Nay, when we do as king David adviseth, and as St. Paul enjoineth, and must be blamed for that, I know not what to say to them. This I will say, we need not wonder at their other cavils, when these be so unchristian. 'pray for the peace of Jerusalem,' saith the prophet here: pray that you may live a peaceable and a godly life; under your king, saith St, Paul. No; pray for no peace, pray not against any battle, saith our Puritan, directly against the text; and for so saying let us ever think what spirit governs the sect, we shall be sure to find that it is none [115/116] of the Spirit of peace. They are all for contentions and brabbles, both at home and abroad, and He every where against them, as we also ought to be; and let this be enough for the first point.
I should now come from the civil peace, the peace of the state, to the religious peace, the peace of the Church; and the peace that we are to preserve, one Christian with another; but of that, there is somewhat more to be said than the time will now allow, which will force us to reserve it till, by God's grace, we have another.
Only for a conclusion at this time, let us ever and always remember that without peace abroad we shall never be in peace at home; and if the state has no quiet, we cannot choose but want that blessing ourselves. That therefore, being subjects under a blessed and a gracious and a peaceable king, we pray for the continuance of his peace, and for the prosperity of this Jerusalem, all our life long; that we join with Christ in his wish, pax terris, and with David in his, pax in Jerusalem, and with St. Paul in his, 'peace with all men in as far as lies in us,'- that God would put it into our hearts, and into the hearts of all that profess His Name, so to affect his peace, that the prophet here may have his wish that as the old Christians said, Orbis pacatus, there may be peace through the Christian world. Indeed such desires may speed or miss thereafter, as they meet with the sons of peace; but howsoever such good desires, such holy prayers, shall always return into our own bosoms, and the God of peace will never fail to reward them with peace and joy hereafter, that love righteousness and peace here. To which peace and joy He bring us, That hath prepared the same for us, even Christ our Lord and Saviour.