Project Canterbury
Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology

John Cosin, Works, Sermons, Volume One
pp. 131­142


Branspeth July, 8, 1632.

Adjutorium nostrum in Nomini Domini

Transcribed by Dr. Marianne Dorman
AD 2003

Exodus xx.3.

Thou shalt have no other gods before My face, or, no other gods but Me.

The last time, if you remember, we stood here to shew you the outward frame of the Decalogue; considered how aptly, how orderly, every thing was placed and disposed in it; taught you how to number, how to divide, how to order the commandments. It is time now that we went in to take a view of every several commandment by itself.

That view, God enlightening and assisting us, shall be first set upon these words themselves, to see how they are to be understood and explained in every precept; then upon the several duties of the precept, to see what God in every one requires, and will exact at our hands; and lastly, upon the various violations and transgressions of the precept, to see how and wherein we may, and daily do, offend against every one of them.

And truly I judge this, especially for them that be of the ruder sort and simple, to be the readiest and the fittest way of instruction, that they may plead no ignorance against us, and say they were never taught what the duties and the breaches of the law were, or if they do, that we may plead with Moses against them and say, Behold we call heaven and [131/132] earth this day to record that we have set before you both the one and the other, both life and death, both blessing and cursing, the duties commanded, and the sins forbidden in every precept of the Law.

And we begin this day with the first; wherein to keep the order and method proposed (1.) for the explanation, first, of the words we shall have somewhat to say of habebis, and somewhat of alienos, and somewhat of every word of moment in the text.

(II.) Then for the duties enjoined. Three propositions naturally and plainly arising from the words themselves; the first out of habebis, that we must have a God; the second, out of Me, that we must have the true God; the third out of alienos, that we must have Him alone, and no other;

And (III.) lastly, as many for the sins here forbidden. (1.) Profaneness, opposed to God, (2.) false worship, opposed to the true God, (3.) and mixed worship, opposed to God alone. This is the sum, and these the parts of which we are to speak; though we shall not speak of all to-day, but of some we shall. And of which that we may speak to the honour of Almighty God, &c. &c.

Pater Noster,&c.

There are in this commandment three words, the three first words, Tu non habebis, that would be first observed.

The first, common with this to all the rest, that they all run in the second person singular, Tu; and the other, common to all but two, that they run negatively, 'shalt not,' and run in the future tense, non habebis, non facies, non assumes, non occides, &c. And before we go any further, somewhat would be learnt even out of this.

(1.) Out of the first; that God's law, this and the rest, runs in the second person singular, Audi Israel, tu non habebis, speaking to all Israel, and to all the world besides, as to one single man, this we learn, that God's laws appertain to all men alike. In other laws, some men are excepted; in this of his, not any, but all made equal, all made as one, and in [132/133] respect of the law, or the bond to observe the law, no respect of persons had. Therefore, Tu, here, the word 'Thou,' is as forcible as if there were so Tu's, and the word as oft repeated as there be men and women in the world; Tu to the meanest, and Tu to the greatest among us all; that none of us all might sooner hear it than apply it to ourselves, and say, 'See ye, I am the man the commandment is directed to, is spoken to me as well as to any one besides; for what difference or distance soever there be kept between us in other matters, yet in this of obedience and service to God, Tu makes us all equal. Tu is as every man, and every man as one. Therefore as it was given to the basest and meanest of the army, to the very outcast of the people, (lest they should take themselves to be exempted, as commonly the more base, the more presumptuous and lawless,) so it was given to the captains and leaders of the army, as well, to Moses and Aaron amid to the elders of the people, (lest they also should think themselves privileged,) not one exempted, not one in this made better or greater than another. In other cases, those that are greater than their fellows, and can master others, think themselves free from laws; at least that the laws are made but like cobwebs, for them, where the hornets break through and the poor flies are catched; however the meaner men must hear and suffer for their faults, yet that nobody must say Tu to them, 'Thou art the man.' So is it with us; but so is it not here; for by virtue of this non habebis here, and non mæhaberis afterwards, Nathan would tell David, Tu es homo, and John the Baptist reprove Herod with non licet tibi; kings though they were, yet Tu here was for them both.

(2.) The next is, that both this, and most an end the rest of the commandments, are put and given unto us in the negative, non habebis, and non assumes; telling us what we shall not do, by way of prohibition, rather than what we should do, by way of precept. And therein two lessons have we to learn, two observations to make. The first is, that the commandments are so much the stronger by a rule we have in logic, Quia ad pluma se extendit negatio quam affirmatio; negatives go further than affirmatives, for they bind most strictly, semper et ad semper; and God would have His commandments [133/134] go as far, and bind as sure, as any rules of extension would set them. Whereof one rule is, that qui prohibit impedimentum præcipit adjumentum, the affirmative is included in the negative; another, qui negat prohibens jubet promovens, ye may know what it is God would have you to do, by that which He says He would not have you to do; removing the impediment, by the negative, that the precept may he kept the better, and performed in the affirmative.

Therefore every commandment being negative but two, Christ in the Gospel has reduced them all to their two affirmatives; and as much may be said for them that are affirmative likewise, by the, rule a contrariis, so that every commandment indeed is both the one and the other. And by the use of these rules it is, that the Rabbins have gathered two hundred and forty-eight affirmative commandments from the books of Moses, answerable to the number of the members and joints in a man's body, which they call Præcepta facies, the duties that we are to do, and three hundred and sixty-five negatives, answerable to the number of the days of the year, which they call Præcepta non facies, the offences and sins that we are to avoid, (both the numbers making up the number of the letters that are contained in the Decalogue,) and thereby teaching us (though in a mystical yet in a good sense) that all the members of the body and all the days of our life are to he employed and spent in the diligent study and observation of the holy commandments of God.

Besides this, there is another note to be taken from this negative; and it is to shew us how unfit our nature is to receive a commandment to do any thing, till by a countermand the opposite impediments, and such things as will hinder us from doing, be first removed from us. Such is the evil indisposition of our corrupt and depraved nature, full of weeds and thorns as it is, that being incapable of good seed, before the ground be cleansed and the weeds rooted up, God [134/135] saw it good and requisite thus to proceed with us; like as when we are to rear a building ourselves, if any thing has taken up the place already, where it is to stand, we pull it down, or cut it up, and remove all impediments out of the way; if the ground be not steady to build, we drain it; if the body be not fit to receive nourishment, we purge it; if the field be not fit to sow on, we lay it fallow and weed it. It is the course God has taken here in the very beginning, removing that by a negative, which might otherwise hinder the affirmative precepts of His law; that because we are born in evil, and are naturally more prone unto it than unto any good, therefore by these prohibitions we are called from all corruption to the integrity wherein He first created us.

(3.) And now we come to the third; that this and the rest of the commandments (all but two, the fourth and the fifth, and the fourth but in part, excepted neither) are given us in the future tense, 'Thou shalt not;' not in the imperative present, as other laws of our own run; which, as it is ever a secret exprobation of our sins and transgressions past, that whatsoever we will be for the time to come, it may well be known by this, what we have been in tithes before; so it is a good admonition to us withal, for the time still future, for the days that we have to live hereafter; though we have done amiss and dealt wickedly in times past, and therefore should now give over, yet such is the growing and successive wickedness of our nature, that even in time to come we are then as ready to do wickedly, and to break the commandments of God as we were before; we are caught in our own speech, we say we will do it even when we are but now about to do mischief, as if we meant not to leave off for once, but continue so doing still. Therefore to our faciam and our habebo, that occurs so often in our speech and actions, for the future it was requisite that God should set His non facies and non habebis in the future tense too, to meet with us both now and hereafter, as long as we thrall have any future time to live; and to warn us withal, that thought we do well never so long, yet if we continue not so doing till there be no more future note to come with us we shall not be discharged of the law, but non habebis and non facies will be of force against us still. Now we have done with these three, which as [135/136] they have served for this, so they shall serve for all the rest of the commandments; I will repeat them no more.

This commandment is against idolatry. Idolatry is either inward or outward; for the mind and the heart can set up an idol, and commit idolatry within, as well as the body and the knee without; therefore for outward idolatry, order is taken in the second commandment, for inward in this; and God would the rather make two commandments of them, for that the world might know all idolaters are not alike, nor all idolatry condemned and left when men have left off bowing to images, or condemn them that so do never so fast, for thou the hypocrite might go free, and at home in secret commit what idolatry he listed. The heart makes the idol as well as the hand, and God hates the one as well as the other.

All such idols are here termed deos alienos, strange gods; quasi res alienates a Deo, things that withdraw us from the love, or honour and worship of the true God.

We say deos alios, 'no other gods,' as the Septuagint renders it, and it is the fuller expression, that is, none at all besides, for that He is all in all Himself. 'None but Me,' as the Greek and Chaldee translate it; 'none before Me,' as the Latin; 'none against Me,' 'None before My face,' as the Hebrew, the original, bears it; that hereby we may know, in all tines, and in all places, God will never endure to have anything either more or as much regarded as He is to be Himself; coram faciebus meis, says the Hebrew, in the plural number, for the gods we use be many, and the looks He has no less, to eye them all, though never so secret, and to out face them all, though never so many.

For the better conceiving whereof, and of the sense of this whole commandment, it is needful we ask and resolve two questions; the first, how we may be said to have another God, when there is no other to have but him? the second, how we may be said not to have him to be our God, when, whether we will or no our God He is?

Other gods are no gods at all, are nothing, ('We know that an idol is nothing,' saith St. Paul,) and where nothing is, we say nothing can be had. This is the question; the resolution is, that though in themselves they be nothing, yet in [136/137] our account and estimation they may he somewhat. Therefore the words are, non erunt tibi. Ye shall have no other to yourselves, for without this, sure and true it is, that there are no others to have. Is then thereafter as a man's regard is, so is his god; not so, simply, but so had, or not had, that is, had, or set up in our own account; or not had, neglected and thid aside, as not esteeming them at all. And thus answers both tje questions at once. If we regard any thing more than God, it is another god unto us; and again, if we regard not Him and His will above all, He is no God to us at all, none as far as we can make Him, none, for otherwise our only God He is, and shall be so for ever. It is in this case, as between a rebel and his prince, he would have another to be king, that other is as good as nothing, for the prince says there is no other king but himself; and though the rebel would not have it so, would set up another, and therefore hath him not, or at least, would not have him to himself, yet the truth is, he hath no other king but him indeed, and shall still have him to be his king, whether he accounts him so or not; and this is the case between God and us. When we would exempt ourselves from this service we rebel against him, we set up another God at home in our heart, and we regard him not, we have Him not, that is, we have him not as we should have Him, in that honour, and fear, and regard, as becometh us; for otherwise we have Him and shall have Him, whether we will or no. And again the philosophers say well, that then a thing is had when it is known to be had, otherwise not; for if a man hath a treasure hid in his ground which he knows not of, he is never said to have it. And then a people that know not God, that are ignorant both of Him and his precepts too, how can they be said to have Him? Again, no man is said to have that whereof he makes no account, as of cobwebs and straws in our houses; we are not reckoned to have them in our inventory, because we make no reckoning of them at all because we care not whether we have them or no, we had rather be rid of them than have them to trouble us. Into either of these two then if we fall, either not knowing God, (as the nations that knew Him not, saith the Psalmist,) or not regarding His will, as the worldly men that despise Him, to [137/138] have their own, fill we upon the breach of this first commandment. And now we come to our propositions, that naturally arise out of the precept. Three affirmative first, and then three negative.

(1.) That plain it is, out of this precept we are to have a God, opposed to atheism, that has none.

(2.) Then the true God, opposed to a false religion, that sets up the wrong one.

(3.) And lastly, the true God alone, opposed to a mixed religion, that sets up many besides Him.

The first is for religion itself, the second for the truth of religion, and the third is for the sincerity and integrity of religion; all which we shall be bound to learn and observe, if we mean to learn and keep this first commandment of the law. I will despatch one of them to-day, and by the rest ye may know my method and intent hereafter.

Erewhiles I compared the law of God to a building; in a building the foundation must be first laid, and this is the foundation here of all that follows, the first proposition, that we must have a God; wherein I doubt not but we shall all agree with the Psalmist, to condemn him for a fool that says, There is no God. The very heathen themselves would not say it; and if any did, says Tully, there was a fire made to make him away. But then, if there be one, and in the meanwhile we have Him not, we are never a whit the nearer. The duty here is to 'have' Him. What is that? To know Him, to acknowledge and love Him, to recognise His supreme dominion over us, to give him worship and honour, to yield Him fear and obedience, to be ruled by his will, to live by His laws; this is to have a God.

Indeed this to have Him, that we have not ourselves, and become our own gods; for our own gods we become when we be not guided by Him. If there be not a superior will over us to rule and control ours, or if our wills be our down, and (as the devil told the woman) if we may judge of good and evil, as we like best ourselves, according to the mind we have, or [138/139] have not, towards it, in any duty that belongs us; then are we the gods ourselves, and a God above us acknowledge we none. Therefore eritis dii struck right here, and the devil said true in that sense, that they should be gods; for they did their own will, and not his; and in that very respect were gods to themselves.

The duty then enjoined, ye see, that the will of God be our will; that His law he our rule and guide, and then we have Him.

The sin opposed and forbidden, other men call atheism but because we all confess a God, whether we have him or no, we will call this sin profaneness. When though there be a God, we will have none for all that; no god, nor no law to control our own liking; but every man will he a god and a law to himself; to do that only which seems good in his own eyes, like the sorts of Belial in the hook of Judges, that did every one what they had a lust to do themselves, when there was no king in Israel to rule them. It is that the world labours for, and every man studies with himself how to bring it to pass, even at this day; not to he in subjection under any commandments whatsoever, not to have a yoke upon then, nor to be forced nor bound to any thing but what they are willing to do of themselves, and then they say it would be a merry world. A merry, or a miserable? for then the first thing they did, they would surely raze out this first commandment, they would have no director, no lawgiver, no commander, no God at all; or if they had, he should be such a one as would take care to provide only for their case, and not for his own honour; and that would exact no service from their hands, nor no works from their hands, but specially and above all, no tribute from their purses; one that would fill their bellies and clothe their bodies, and not be too curious about their souls, or their religion howsoever; in sum one that would command them nothing which is unpleasing, nor forbid them any thing which they have a mind to follow. But be it far from the just to harbour these thoughts, or to follow the gross and bestial conceits of these ungodly men.

It is the sin of profaneness, forbidden here with the first, and directly opposed to the having and acknowledging of a God over us, that gives Him honour neither quem, nor quantum oportet [139/140] but as if all were nothing; make no more of His laws, nor no other esteem of religion, than Esau did of his birthright, that sold it all away to fill his belly; but whom the Holy Ghost, notwithstanding, for setting so light a price upon it, hath condemned for a profane person by the words of St. Paul.

Indeed profaneness, in our usual apprehension and language, is now-a-days restrained to the fury only of that wicked brood, whose irreligious humour is boldly to scoff at Heaven; and by their wicked and licentious mouths every where to set abroach what their untamed lust suggesteth to them. But there be more profane persons than they. Those that shut their mouths never so soberly, and yet carry the bit; in their teeth within, that they may run where they list and have none of these laws, we preach to them to bridle them, and to keep them in, either to the shewing of any honour to God, or to the due performance of his worship and service, (which are the duties of this precept,) they come within the number of profane persons, express breakers of this commandment, as well as the rest; and though, peradventure, their sayings be not so open and so gross, yet, in another kind, their doings, their wilfulness, their neglect, their grudging, their contempt and slighting of things sacred, is as ill as theirs This is their sin; and if the punishment were now added that of old was annexed to this sin, ut ne profanus intra fanum venerit, that they who so lightly regard their God, should have no benefit from Him, should never come into His courts, nor know what religion nor things sacred were, there might be some hope of amends; and yet the punishment most an end is slighted as much as the sin itself is, while common people account it rather a pleasure than a punishment to be kept from the temple; and therefore, if nobody will do it for them, they will do it without you of themselves. And think ye that they have a God that do so? Let them answer the prophet Malachi, whether they have or no. If He be a God, where is his honour? where the honour of his person or the fear of His laws; and ye have scoffed, ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of Hosts. In effect, such men would he gods to themselves, and have none besides to govern them.

[140/141] The punishment we spake of before, of being kept from God or His worship, that care not for it, works but little I will tell you of another kind of punishment usually annexed to this sin, more likely to work upon the common people, and to affect them to some better purpose than the other; it shall be corporal punishment, if that or the fear of that may do any good (for other punishment regard they none;) and with that will we end both this point and this time together.

The Scripture tells us of such sons of Belial that scorned all religion, and would have neither God nor Lord over them; and what became of them? the flood came and swept them away; the fire came and devoured them up; the sea opened and carried them quick into hell. So heinous a sin was it, not to acknowledge their God, or to dally with religion.

The historians tell us no less. Diagoras was a professed atheist, we will not mention him; but Phericydes the Syrian, of whom Diogenes Laertius writes that he was never so impudent as to deny there was a God; but one day making jollity among his fellows, and boasting that God never got either prayer, or offering, or gift, or sacrifice from him, the word was no sooner gone from him, but as Herod in the Acts, he was smitten by an Angel of God, and eaten up with lice. Lucian was another of the brood, a profane scoffer that neither regarded God nor any of His precepts; being once abroad and having newly vented his scorn of religion, to others that stood by, the very dogs (wherein his chief delight was) being fast shut up at home, brake all loose on the sudden, and came and tare him in pieces. Julian the apostate was such another as he; his lewdness this way was notorious, his end was no less, when in his army being stricken with an arrow, he rent out his own guts with it, and cast his blood into the air with blasphemy. I could tell you of the Florentine abroad that rotted away by piece-meal, and of Hackett here at home, that would needs have no other [141/142] God but himself, and died upon the gibbet, no wretch more miserable. I say no more, but fælix quem faciunt, and that which the heathen man set upon Sennacherib's tomb, ej eme tiV orewn eusebh j estw. Whosoever sees or hears any of these, let him learn to acknowledge a God, to have Him in regard, and to be ruled by his laws; which God of his infinite goodness grant that we may, and by the power of His grace and Spirit work in us effectually to perform, even for His mercy's sake in Christ Jesus. To which undivided Trinity, three persons and one God, &c. &c.

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