Durus sermo, a hard text, you will say--a whipping sermon towards, that begins with castigo, and ends with reprobus; that is so rough with us at the first, as to tell us of chastening and "keeping under the body,"--and so terrible at the last, as to scare us with being "castaways" unless we do it. And that too cum allis prædicarem, the greatest preachers; the very Apostles themselves, after all their pains, no surer of their salvation than upon such severe conditions. If the preacher will needs be preaching this--tell us of disciplining our bodies, talk to us of being "castaways,"--quis eum audire potest? who can endure him, who can bear it?
Well, bear it how we can, think of it what we please--be the doctrine never so unpleasing, it must be preached, and bear it we must, unless we know what to preach better than S. Paul, or you what to hear or do better than that great Apostle.
And it is but time for us to preach, for you to hear it. Men daily fool away their souls by their tenderness to their bodies--and their salvation, by the certainties they pretend of it. It is time to warn them of it.
And this time as fit a time as any can be, to do it in, the holy time of Lent; a time set apart by the holy Church [397/398] to chasten and subdue the body in. And the opportunity is fallen into any hand among the rest; mid Væ mihi si non--I cannot excuse myself if I do not take it, if I neglect the occasion to do my utmost to keep myself and you from being "castaways."
I know people do not love to hear of it, and the preacher shall get little by it but hard censures; be as the Apostle speaks--be half a reprobate, a "castaway," himself for preaching it. But seem we what you please, be it how it will, I venture on it upon S. Paul's account; and both you and I, as high as we bear ourselves upon our assurances that we are the elect, if we will be sure indeed not to be reprobates, must be content to hear of it lest we be so.
It is a plain test, the words very plain; need no Philip to expound them. Nothing could be said, nothing can be, plainer. For he that says, "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest I should be a castaway," says nor more nor less than, Unless I do so, so I shall be, for all my great flourish and appearance, for all my other great performances.
And it being an Apostle without exception,--one who knew his office, and performed it beyond all that was required of him; knew his power, and how to stand upon it; understood well his Christian liberty, what he might do, or leave undone; who, notwithstanding all his power, and liberty, and privilege, and performances, falls here to discipline his body, "lest" after all "he should prove a castaway,"" fall short of his crown, and lose the reward of all his labours,--if he can find no other means to avoid the one but by the doing of the other,--says S. Chrysostom, "What can we say for ourselves?" Say, I hope, it concerns us, and we will look to it, will set about it. Better authority we need not than the Church's, as for the time; better example we cannot desire than S. Paul's, as to the thing, and better motive I know none to persuade either, than that we may save ourselves from being "castaways."
[398/399] I shall not obscure the business by any nice division of the words. Two general parts shall serve the turn:
I. S. Paul's wholesome discipline for his body; and,
II. His godly fear for body and soul. Or,
I. His disciplining and strict ordering of his body; and,
II. The ground and reason why he does so.
The first is in those words: "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection." The second in those: "Lest by any means, when I have preached unto others, I myself should be a castaway."
In the first, we have S. Paul, his body, and the work he makes with it, or the discipline he uses towards it. Three points to be considered.
In the second, we have three more to make up the reason, why he does so use it. Because (1) he would not be a "castaway:" mªpwj ¶d"kimoj, "lest I be." Because (2) there may be many ways to make us so: "lest by any means" I be so, supposes by many I may be so. Because (3) there is no avoiding being so without it; all our preaching and doing will not do without it. (1.) "Lest I be a castaway." (2.) "Lest by any means I be a castaway." (3.) "Lest when I have preached to others I should be a castaway " notwith-standing.
I could give you the parts, perhaps, in nearer terms applied to the metaphor couched in the words. But the test is plain, and the parts I would leave plain, and I would be plain, and understood. Yet, under whatever notions I should give you them, this is, and would be still, the sum of all: that the keeping under the body, and the bringing it into subjection, is a business to be mainly looked to, looked to by the best and greatest, the very S. Pauls among us; and that under no less penalty and danger than being "castaways" if we neglect it; our highest privileges, our greatest services, our most Christian liberties, no plea at all to exempt us from it.
I go on now with the parts in order; and begin with the first general, S. Paul's disciplining and ordering of his body.
1. Where we have these three particulars to treat on--him, his body, and his ordering it. But I begin with him [399/400] first, for so I find him set, set here before his "body." I would we would all set ourselves so too; set ourselves above our bodies, value and prize our souls (for they chiefly are ourselves) before our bodies; at least ourselves, that is, the good of the whole man, before the pleasing of that mortal part: we would not then make ourselves such slaves and drudges to it as we do; face and brave damnation for a petty lust, for a little meat or drink, for the satisfaction of the belly.
Indeed, could we pretend to know how to order ourselves better than S. Paul, I might have spared this note; but all the pretences we have against the strict ordering of the body that S. Paul here takes up, are all answered in his person, his very doing it, if we well consider it. For all the arguments or pretences we have against it, are either (1) our business, we cannot tend it; or (2) our weakness, we cannot bear it; or (3) our holiness, we do not need it; or (4) our Christian liberty, it is against it; or (5) other things will do as well, we may well spare it; or (6) a less matter will serve the turn, we may be saved without it. But all these shall I show you might S. Paul plead; yet, it seems, all would not serve to excuse him from this hard dealing with his body w e read of in the text.
(1.) We plead our weakness: we are not able to use this rigour. "But I:" this "I," S. Paul, was as full of weaknesses as any of us, and yet he could. "Who is weak," says he, "and I am not weak?"--so weak sometimes, that it cast him into a trembling, "much trembling." And S. Paul took this way rather to cure it than to increase it. And, indeed, those very weaknesses we complain of, rise from the pampering our bodies, are cured by our strict ordering them. Nay, those impatiences, and peevishnesses, and nicenesses, and sinful infirmities, which grow so strong upon us in our sicknesses, would not do so were the body kept but a little under when we were well.
But, (2,) though we could bear it, you will say we cannot tend it. Not tend it? Why, S. Paul, upon whom "the care of all the churches" lay, who was in continual "journeyings" and "labours" for it, full of "weariness and painfulness" about it, was yet "in watchings often," "in [400/401] fastings often;" keeping under his body, still, for all his business; notwithstanding all his other business, forgets not this.
Will you say now, (3,) you do not need it, you are holy enough without it; you are God's elect, and do not want it; want no such poor beggarly means to help you out? What are you holier than S. Paul? What! are you better than he that dares avow he was not inferior to the chiefest Apostles? Have you been in more heavens than he; heard more revelations than he? Have you more assurances of your election, or salvation, than he, that was arrived at that height, to be "persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature," could "separate him from the love of God in Christ Jesus?" Are you better than he? If you be not, you had best take the course he did. If you be, you had best yet take his course, to keep you so.
Yea but, (4,) our Christian liberty is intrenched on by it. We must not, by this very same Apostle's advice and counsel, be "subject to those ordinances" of "Touch not, taste not, handle not;" and yet those things seem to make much for the "neglecting of the body," and the not "satisfying of the flesh:" but that we must "not be brought under the power of any." No, but the body must be brought under ours, for all that, says our Apostle. Says he so? He says no more than he does; he does so too. And yet he knew his power amid Christian liberty to the full; had "power to eat and drink," he tells us, and to do neither; power to work and not to work, "to forbear working;" was "free:" yet from this it seems he is not free, unless he will fight "as one that beats the air" (in the verse before the text.) He knows no liberty, that can allow the liberty to his "body" not to be kept under and subjected unless it please.
Nor (5) does he (whatever we think of it) think he may spare it upon the account of other virtues; as if it were enough to be diligent at our prayers, to be frequent at sermons, to be orderly in our families, to be just in our dealings, to be honest in our callings, to be charitable to the poor, to be friendly to our neighbours, or the like; and let [401/402] this subduing the body go whither it will. S. Paul cannot be suspected to have been wanting in any of these; yet lie must needs add this grace also, it seems, to make all sure; keep the body under, that lie may so keep those graces safe.
For a less matter, lastly, will not serve the turn: S. Paul's labours, and journeys, and perils, and stripes, and prison, and deaths, as great and as often as they were, must have this also added to them; the flesh must have some thorn or other to keep it in subjection. If God send it not--if the devil, by his permission, "buffet" not the flesh, we must do it ourselves, lest we he "exalted above measure:" those very performances which we think we have most reason to glory in, will but puff us up and cast us sheer away, if we preserve not our body in that lowliness and subjection that we should.
So now, if we think good to guide ourselves by S. Paul's authority and example, there is none so weak, none so busily employed, none so holy, that can exempt himself; no Christian liberty, no other graces, though never so many, nor any other performances, that can be pleaded against it. All sorts of persons are included in S. Paul's; and in this "I" all objections against it are sufficiently answered, and we all included and obliged; for if such a one as the glorious S. Paul could find no exemption, I know not what Christian can expect it. You will confess it, perhaps, when you have considered what this body is you are to deal with:--the next particular we are to handle.
And by the "body" here may be understood either the flesh itself, or the fleshliness of it; the body itself, or the sinful passions and affections rising in it. To be sure, take we both.
And, indeed, we can neither be sure nor safe, if (1) the passions and of affections be not kept within their bounds; if we suffer our appetites to rule us, our angers to transport us, our desires to harrow us, our fears to distract us, our hopes to abuse us, or any other of that impetuous crew to overbear us. They must all be made underlings, kept within rule and compass, or we are lost.
Nay, and to keep them so, this very bulk of flesh (2) must [402/403] be kept so too; for keep this but high, it is impossible to keep them low. Stuff the body with meat and drink, let it lodge soft and lie long, let it have the fill of ease and pleasure,--et facile despumat, it froths into lust, it boils into anger, it swells into pride, it rises into rebellion, it leaks into looseness, it mosses into idleness; it fills the brain with fogs, the heart with filth, the liver with wanton heats, the mouth with unsavoury language, and all the members with disorder and confusion. Do but take away the meat, and let if fast awhile,--take it from the bed, and let it watch another while; take it from ease and tenderness, and set it to some hard and unpleasing work; let it feel a little cold, a little labour, a little coarse and rough usage for a time,--and you shall see how humble it will grow, how much under you shall have it, how orderly it will be; it will do anything you would have it.
But, to make all sure, every part must have its share the eye must be watched, the heart kept under guard, the tongue bridled, the palate curbed, the ears fenced, the hands restrained, the knees bowed down, the feet kept in, and all the members under; for they are all but one body, this body that is to he brought into subjection; make up but that jumentum anmæ, that beast that carries the soul; and is therefore to be rid like a beast, "with bit and bridle," with whip and rod, "lest it fall upon us," or fall with us and cast us.
Be S. Paul's body, never so good, so orderly, so chaste a body, so, it seems, it must be used; nay, such it cannot be unless it be so used. Let no man be so bold to think his body in better order than S. Paul's; and yet here is for his, a kind of fear of some miscarriage, a fear some evil may rise from it.
Yea, even that very body of his, which had been at so many posts, endured so many lashes already, been in so many prisons, so many perils, so many storms and colds and shipwrecks, so many necessities and infirmities, this very, this very body, as much as it has suffered and as much as it has done, I must yet "keep under," says S. Paul; still more and more keep under, for all that. "My body," says he, and mine, say I; and mine, must [403/404] every one say, though we were all S. Pauls--as holy as he, had done and suffered as much as he.
But what, yet must it suffer more? Yes, more; for, as near us as it is, it is our adversary, and the worse the nearer. There are nothing but daily contentions and jars between this "I" and this "body" are at continual odds; this "I" delights in the law of God, and would do good; this body, this "flesh," there is no good dwells in it; this is for one thing, and that is for another; this for good, and that for evil; and the feud oft grows so high, that this poor "I" is fain to cry out miserably sometimes "Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death," this body that is like to kill me? And S. Paul brings in here himself and his own body--whosoever it was he brought in there--as two combatants a-wrestling; and the words here applied to them are agonistical, drawn from the measure and fashion of combatants and wrestlers.--And now we are coming next to treat of them. "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection."
Now the business stands thus:--Our Apostle, being under-valued by the false apostles, has been vindicating his pri-vilege, his power, and his labours, all along the chapter till verse 24. Yet, lest for all his privilege, power and pains, he should yet lose his reward and himself, his soul and his crown, heaven and glory at the last, by some miscarriage of his body, he betakes himself to the course of such as strive for other crowns, orders his body as they do theirs; denies it the full liberties it would take, the fullest liberties he might lawfully give it too; deals with it as his adversary, does what he can to get it under his command; beats and buffets it, and bears hard upon it till he has brought it fully into subjection.
Shall I show you how he does it? I will not stir out of the text to do it. The words, in one sense or other, after one reading or will do it for me. Two words there are here, ÿpwpi£xw or ÿpopiwpiöxw or doulagwgÓ, upon which the business hangs; "keeping under" and "bring into subjection."
`Tpwpo£xw comes from ÿpËpia, blue marks under the eyes; and signifies primarily to give blue eyes, as those do [303/305] one another who go to cuffs. `Tpwpo£xw, as others read it, (from piöxw,) or popiwpiöxw in the Doric dialect, is strigendo premo, crucio, onero, strictâ, manu teneo; is to suppress, or press and straighten, vex, torment, or burden, or carry a straight hand over. Both these go to the keeping under of the body. Some ÿpËpia we must give it, some marks by which we may know it again, by which it may remember us, "the marks of the Lord Jesus:" such S. Paul "bare about him in his body." And a straight hand over it we must keep, give it but hard usage, if we intend to keep it under.
From this various writing and rendering of the word, three several ways we have painted to us to keep the body under--watching, fasting, and hard usage. Nothing (i.) commonly makes us look bluer under the eyes, sets those pËpia upon us, than watching: that does properly pwpi£xw. Nothing (ii.) more afflicts and brings down the body, brings us p', as the combatant strives to do his adversary, more suppresses the heat and insurrection of it, than fasting does. Nothing (iii.) more straightens, vexes, and torments it, does more popiöxeiu, that the holding a strict hand over it, and using it to hardships and severities, crossing and thwarting the rebellious and insolent humours of it. These the means the Apostle uses to keep his body under. Watching first.
(i.) And truly I put it first because I find it so in the Apostle's practice, "in watchings, in fastings;" nay, and "in watchings often, in fastings often." And in the first and best times, when Christianity was in its glory, when men were Christians--for I know not that to call us now--it was much in use;-so much in use, that S. Chrysostom tells us they made their little children rise at midnight, set them up in their beds when they had new left their cradles, there upon their knees to say their prayers. The holy watches were in those times so notable, that the very heathens took notice of their hymnos antelucanos, their night offices; and not only their early hymns before the light broke in, but whilst the night itself was in full course. Nor was it a piece of superstition, or a religion of their own inventing. They thought they [405/406] had Christ's command to settle it, where he commands his disciples themselves to "watch;" and where he complains of them that they did not: "Could ye not watch with me one hour?" There is no evasion left to fancy it only a spiritual watchfulness commanded there, for there it is plainly bodily. And the reason rendered for it being "lest they enter into temptation," must needs suppose it necessary still to be con-tinued so long as the danger of temptation shall continue; which will be as long as the flesh continues, or any of us continue in the flesh. Nor did this watching begin with Christians; we find the law of nature had taught it Jacob ere Law or Gospel came: he "wrestles" all night with the angel "until the breaking of the day;" and off he comes not without some marks, though not under the eye yet under the thigh, and he halts for it, yet a blessing he got by it, a new name of honour, the name of "Israel," and the glory of prevailing with God and men. Go we on and we shall find a course of watchers, "such as by night stand in the house of the Lord." We shall find David himself too at his "night watches," often at them; nay, even in his very bed watching too, it seems, when we find him washing that, and "watering his couch with tears." S. Paul and Silas we hear after that at their prayers and guises, whilst the dull heaviness of the night had lapped the rest of the world in sleep and silence. Yea, Christ himself, whose holy body needed no such correctives, we have many times at his mountain devotion watching in them. And all to us good example--who so much need it--that we would put a penance upon our wandering eyes, watch this wild beast our body (for it is no other) and make it tame, (so they do wild beasts when they intend to tame them,) and thereby frame it into a posture fit to entertain the Master at his coming; who can never come so much to our joy and comfort as if he come and find us watching, find us thus marked in the eye with his own mark: "Blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when he cometh, shall find watching."
But is there not (ii.) a blessing belongs to fasting too? Sure, they are blessed that are not castaways; and fasting is a way to keep us that we be not such: if it but keep the body under, the soul will surely soar to heaven and dwell [406/407] among the blessed. And it is the second means we have here pointed to us to keep that under by. It was one of S. Paul's, in the forfeited places; so proper to the purpose, that it is called an humbling of it; an "humbling " of the very soul too; a chastening of ourselves, well answering to the Vulgar Latin castigo here. Indeed, "turned" it was, the Prophet says, "to his reproof;" men laughed at him for it,--as they do still commonly at those that do so,--yea, and the "drunk-ards made songs upon him" for it: yet do it he would for all that; he would not be jeered out of his religion by any of the wits, as they call them, any of the pot-com-panion or trencher-men of them all. And I know not why Christians, who are to pass through ill report as well as good, should be so sensible of the scoffs of a profane buffoon, as to be jeered out of their devotion by a little scurrilous, frothy language, any more than he. We have (1) our Master's example for our fasting; even for the fast we are in,--if we have leave with the ancients to draw it thence,--for forty days together. We have (2) his precept and prediction for fasting too, when he should be gone; we have (3) his order and direction how to do it "When you fast," do thus and thus. We have (4) S. Paul telling us of a giving ourselves to it, making a business of it. We have (5) all the ages of our Christianity severely using it. We have (6) here an excellent end of it, the keeping under of the body: and indeed that I need not prove; it is the fault we find with it "that it weakens the knees and dries up the flesh,"--that it agrees not with our bodies. No more it should: that is the virtue of it. And it being of that virtue, and we having so good example, so plain precept, so sober direction, so strict practice, so long custom, to commend us to it, I know not where it sticks that it is performed no better.
Indeed, were it for "the destruction of the flesh," though that "the spirit might be saved" by it, as the Apostle speaks, we might peradventure boggle at it; but it being only for the keeping it under rule and order, "that the spirit may be saved," methinks we should not stick at it, at least not stickle against it. There are but two kinds of fasts in Scripture--a total and a partial; a total, from all kind of meat till even, and that was David's; a partial, from some kinds only, and [407/408 that was Daniel's--from flesh, and wine, and pleasant meats. For his three weeks' mourning there, was his so long fasting--according to the Hebrew manner of expression, lugebam for jejunabam: neither of these so grievous, especially if but for a time; the latter of them mild and gentle. And if that will do it, if our abstinence from flesh and wine and delicates will keep under the body, the Church, it may be, by reason of our weakness, will be content with that. Somewhat, sure, it will do towards it, and somewhat however should be done in the point. We should do all of us as much as we can; will do so too, if we think S. Paul worth following, the soul worth saving, the being castaways worth preventing.
But besides this watching, and this fasting, there is a third way to keep our bodies under-by using them to some hardships and restraints. Will you see S. Paul's way, how he used his? You may in the forementioned places. (2 Cor. vi. 4, 5, 6, 8, and xi. 26,27.) He brings us up to labour and travail, to "weariness and painfulness," to "hunger and thirst," to "cold and nakedness." And when we feel this beast of ours begin to kick, or lest it do so, we must take his way; keep it down with labour and employment, lash it hard, tire it out, and weary it with some busy work, make it sometimes feel cold and pain, (we will the better understand what the poor man feels, and the easier pity him,) keep it sometimes at least hungry and a-dry; clothe it with coarse gear, break its sleeps, abate its provision, displease it in the diet, debar it sweet odours and perfumes, deprive it of the fine dresses, bring it out now and then in a mean garb and fashion; and let it not continually please itself, but be forced sometimes to sad and displeasing objects, and to dwell upon them to see or feel or do something or other that will afflict and grieve it, that it may learn to know itself and to submit. This is a third way, or rather many ways together; a part of the business o£ those ancient ¢skhtaà, those severely religious men of old, to bring it under. But when "under" it is, we must have a care also to keep it so, in "subjection;" an eye to doulagwheãn, as w ell as to popi£xein; to lead it away as the conquering combatant does his conquered enemy, for his servant or his captive; for that is the true meaning of the word,--and the second point of S. Paul's discipline.
[408/409] Now, two ways there are to bring the body into this full subjection, after that by fasting and watching, and some seventies, we have first got it down and kept it under for a while: the one is temperance, the other is exercise; both used by those that "strive for masteries," and taken up from them here by S. Paul in his spiritual combat with his body.
(1.) "They that strive for masteries arc temperate in all things." And he that will have the full mastery of his body, must possess it continually in temperance and sobriety; must p£nta ôgkratesqai, get all into his power; and resolve not to be mastered either by a straggling eye, or a liquorish palate, or an unruly tongue, or a fond desire, or a foolish fashion, or an impetuous passion, or any importunate temptation, but make his body to foot and lacquey it after his soul, and think it glory enough that it may be allowed to serve it.
But to make it a good servant, we are also (2) to exercise it; exercise it to do, and exercise it to suffer. That can neither do¦lou ·gein, do like a servant, nor we doulagwgeãn, use it like one, else; that cannot be a servant, or we masters, else.
Exercise it, then (i.) we must, to do what we would have it; accustom it to obey, inure it to our commands; habituate it to God's service; set it to good works, and ply it hard; tie it to order, and bind it to rule; bring it upon the knees, employ it continually in some acts of virtue, piety, or obedience, and let it never be idle.
Exercise it (ii.) to suffer too; use it to bear affronts, to put up indignities, to be crossed in the desires, to be thwarted in the ways, to be contraried in the sayings, to be disobeyed in the commands, to be diverted from the bent, to be mortified in the lusts, to be moderated in the passions, to be straitened in the liberties; to be delayed, put off, contradicted in all the motions of it: a way S. Paul takes pleasure in. This is the way to subject the body thoroughly; another part of the gumnaoÖa or ·skhsij of the holy men of the first ages, of the way they took to bring their bodies into order and their souls to salvation; a way for us to lead the body captive to our will, to make an excellent servant of it too, that shall both help us and accompany us to heaven.
[409/410] For it is not to destroy it, it is not to trample on it, it is not to tyrannize and triumph over it, but to bring it thither--not to hasten it to its grave, but to conduct it into the seats of rest--that we use it thus; that we preach to you to watch, and fast, and be severe upon yourselves, to be temperate in all things, and keep all this ado; it is only that nor that nor we, neither soul nor body, prove castaways at last. That is my second general; the ground and reason of keeping under the body, and bringing it into subjection: "Lest when I have preached," &c.
II. And a good reason too it is. Take the word £d"kimoj, "castaway," how you will, it is so.
1. Take it (i.) first, for such in the sight of men; we would do much, rather than be cast in their conceits. A "good report" is worth all the pains we speak of; necessary, too, to those that are to be employed in holy business; they should be men of good report. Certainly our own doctrines should not reprove us, or we think it hard to do ourselves what we require of others; it is a point of honour we may be allowed to stand on, not to be outgone and cast by our own scholars. And, I must confess, watching and fasting are two of the ways by which S. Paul "approves himself to be a minister of God." But this falls short of the Apostle's meaning.
Take it (ii.) for a "castaway" in the sight of God; for a reprobate, a wicked, au extremely wicked person: that is a second sense, and nearer his--the sense of ¶d"kimoj, and other places. And it is a thing we must take heed of; for if the body be not kept under, but let have its swing, wicked enough we may be quickly: and lest we grow so by it, a good reason, I think, to deal strictly and severely with it.
To be a "castaway" (iii.) from the sight of God, that is a third acception of the word; and his fear, indeed, to fall short of that incorruptible crown he strives for. This best answers to the metaphor he is in, of running, and fighting, and wrestling for the mastery, where it is not only reasonable but necessary to take care that the body be in order, if we look to gain the prize: and we may well fear to lose all if it be not.
But what, can this great saint, after he has been caught [410/411] up into the third heaven, fear any thing? Can he be so a poor-spirited as to doubt of his salvation, and fear to be a "castaway?" It seems here he was, and that after that time he had been there, as may appear by the time of writing the Epistles. He did not, indeed, much fear the Ëj ¢d"kimoj be reprobated by men; to be cast in their opinion; but for ¢d"kimoj, indeed, to be so by God, to be a "castaway" in his--lest his body should cast him into sin, and his sin cast him of his reward, and he be cast so from the face of God---that, fear he does. And if it be possible, after we are "once enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and have been made partakers of the holy Ghost, and have tasted of the good word of God, and of the [very] powers of the world to comb" after that to fall away,--(and we find it is so, Heb. vi. 4, 5, 6,)--it is time for all of us to fear, to "pass the whole time of our sojourning here" in it too, as S. Peter counsels us: and good reason we have to do all we can possible to prevent it; not spare our bodies, if we can so save our souls from being "castaways."
2. Especially having mªpwj next; so much ground to fear it, seeing there are many ways to be so; for, "lest by any," may suppose many, by some or other of which we may miscarry. Shall I name you some, and not wholly out of the test (i.) The frailties of our nature: it is a "body" here we have to deal with. The multitude (ii.) of temptations: some things there are supposed too, here, may some way or other get the power over it, if we look not to it. The uncertainty (iii.) of the strongest titles that w e hold by: this very "I" in the test, it seems, a very Apostle, may be a "castaway," else why does he set this "lest" upon it? The very manner of the working (iv.) of grace itself: that this "I" must give its help; any other way it will not do it: our bodies we may fear, they want keeping under; temptations we may fear, they may doulagwgeãn, lead them away; this very "I," as great as he is, may be led away too, and overcome; and the grace of God, it seems, will not hinder it but by the ordinary way of our working; with it. All which may tell us, S. Paul fears all upon good ground; fears not being; "cast away" for nothing; fears these very grounds we are to speak of. And,
[411/412] The frailty of nature, that (i.) may well be feared: so much flesh there is about us, and so little spirit; a weak and yet unruly body; where there are so many natural weaknesses, so many acquired infirmities, so many necessities hang upon us, so much dulness, so much perverseness, so much disorder in all our powers, that I cannot but wonder that any should be so foolhardy as not to fear, where there are so many inlets and outlets, so many windows and posterns, so many gaps and breaches, and easy batterings and easier underminings, to let in the enemy.
But (ii.) bring up now the forces that are laid against it; the strong enticements and allurements, the hopes, the fears, the desires, the joys, the sorrows, that on this or that side do continually assault it; the innumerable occasions, the infinite opportunities that are against it and who is it that dares think to withstand them all?
Add, thirdly, the strongest titles that we hold by, and we have yet a cause to fear: "saints" and "servants," and "sons" and "heirs," and being "sealed to the day of redemption,"--these and all those happy names and interests besides we read of, cannot put us above fear. Servants may be turned away; saints may turn sinners; sons may be cast off; heirs may be disinherited; seals may be broken up; elect we are no further than good works--created, ordained, predestinated no further: and good works, I am sure, have uncertainty enough verebar omnia, Job feared the best of them: nothing will more assure us than this godly fear.
Nay, add we, lastly, the very way of the working of God's graces in us, and yet we have reason to fear still. We are told, indeed, by some, his grace is irresistible; but God knows, we find it otherwise. Why does S. Stephen tell us, else, that we "resist the Holy Ghost"--or S. Paul wish us not to "quench the Spirit"--if we cannot do it? Do it alas! we do too often. One there was that said, he should "never be removed;" God of his goodness had made his hill so strong:" yet removed he quickly was,--fell, and fell foully too; and had he not wept and chastened himself to purpose, had lain low enough for ever, for all his hill so strong. Nemo tanta est firmitate suffultus, ut de stabilitate sua debeat esso securus, [412/413] says S. Augustine, Ser. 7:2 Who can look upon Noah's drunkenness, Lot's drunkenness and incest, David's adultery and murder, Solomon's carnality and idolatry, Adam's fall in Paradise, and the angels' in heaven itself, and not fear his own poor, easy, brittle earth? We may well fear being "castaways" upon such grounds as these, and fear the very grounds that thugs sink under us; not only the sad upshot at the last, but the means that bring us to it all the way.
III. But besides, if there be no way of keeping from being "castaways" without this keeping under of the body, if all our preaching and our great doings will not do without it, we have a third reason to fear ourselves, and set seriously about it. For if S. Paul, here, not only fear his being a "castaway," and fear that by some means he may come to it, but fear also that all means besides this harshness towards his body will scarcely hinder it,--if, after all his preaching, from Jerusalem round about unto Ilyricum, his preaching gratis too, after all his labours, all his sufferings, all his persecutions upon the Gospel score, he fears yet that the best he has done else, the best he can do else, will not save him, for all his haste,--where are our great assurers of themselves and others of heaven and glory? Why, it is not our preaching, it is not our praying" it is not our prophesying, it is not our doing wonders neither, even to the casting out of devils, that can save us from being cast out ourselves at last with a Non novi, the sad sentence of "never knew you: depart from me." indeed, we have so little reason to be confident that we shall not be "castaways" by reason of any of those performances, that our very preaching, or prophesying, as we call it, nay, and praying too, may bring us to it. We may preach rebellion, heresies, and schisms,--nay, and pray them too, (some have done so long,) and so preach away both ourselves and others. Nay, though we preach others into heaven, we may preach out ourselves. We may preach freely, and preach constantly, and preach long, and preach sound doctrine too--preach with the [413/414] tongues of angels--and yet prove devils at the last, grow proud upon it; light others up to heaven, and yet go down to hell ourselves; shine gloriously for a blaze, and go out in a stench; have our d"kimoj here, and be ¢d"kimoj for ever; have our reward and glory here, and be cast away for ever.
And now, if the strongest cedars shake, what shall the reeds do? If the first preachers of the Gospel, the grand Apostles, those stars and angels of the churches, stand so trembling, and must deal so roughly with their bodies, for fear of being "castaways," who is it can dream himself exempt? Unless ye "mortify the deeds of the body," (it is to all of us it is said so,) there is no living. If we keep not our bodies low, they will keep us low; if we bring not them into subjection, they will bring us into slavery; they will cast us away, if we cast away too much upon them. There is no way to cure our fears, to confirm our hopes, to help our weaknesses, to beat back temptations, to establish our titles and rights to heaven, to make God's grace effectual upon us,-to sanctify our prayers, and preachings, and all our labours, to the glory of a reward,-but to watch, and fast, and deal severely with our bodies; to study temperance, and exercise ourselves to do and suffer hard things. It is no will-worship, surely, (as men brand it,) that is pressed and practised here, under so great danger of being "castaways" if we do it not: it is not, sure. Nor is it so hard a business as men would seem to make it: none of all the ways I told you of for the subduing of the body are so at all. We can sit up whole nights to game, to dance, to revel, to see a mask or play; make nothing of it. We can rise up early and go to bed late, for months together, for our gain and profit, and be never the worse. We can fast whole days together, and nor eat nor drink, when we are eager upon our business or sport, and never feel it. We can endure pain and cold and tendance, affronts and injuries and neglects, slightings and reproaches too, to compass a little honour and preferment, and not say a word. We can be temperate too, when we please, for some ends and purposes. Only the soul's business is not worth the while; whether "castaways" or no, is not considerable; all is too much, on that account: mole-hills are mountains, and there [414/415] is a lion always in the way,--watching will kill us, fasting will destroy us, any kind of strictness will impair us; temperance itself will pine us into skeletons; every good exercise takes up too much time; every petty thing that crosses but the way is an unconquerable difficulty, a lion,--when the soul's business is to be gone about. Hear but S. Austin chide you, as once he chid himself: Tu non poteris quod istæ et istæ et istæ; "What," says he, "canst not thou do that, which so many weak and tender women, so many little children, so many of all sexes, ages, and conditions, have so often done before thee, and thought so easy? It is a shame to say so."
But suppose thou art infirm indeed, and canst not do so much as perhaps thou wouldst do else, canst thou do nothing? If thou canst not watch, canst thou not fast sometimes? If thou canst not fast, canst thou not endure a little hunger, thirst, or cold, or pains, for heaven, neither? If all these seem hard, canst thou not be temperate neither? canst thou not bring thyself to it by degrees, by exercise, and practice, neither? Or if thou canst not watch a night, canst thou not watch an hour--do somewhat towards it? If thou canst not fast from all kind of meat, canst thou not abstain at least from some from dainties and delicates? If not often, canst thou not at such a time as this, when all Christians ever used to do it? Sure, he that cannot fast a meal, may yet feed upon coarser fare. He that cannot do any of these long, may do all of them some time; may exercise himself in a little time to the hardest of them all. Let us, then, however, set a-doing somewhat; for God's sake let us be Christians a little at the least; let us do somewhat that is akin to the ancient piety-watch, or fast, or somewhat, in some degree or other--that the world may believe that we are Christians. Why should we be castaways from the profession too?
But, indeed, he that will do nothing for fear of being a "castaway" in the text, I despair he should do any thing upon any other concernment. He that values his body above his soul, his ease and pleasure above heaven, his temporal satisfaction above his eternal salvation, there is no more to [415/416] be said of him: if S. Paul say true, he must be a "castaway."
I am too long, but I must not end with so sad a word. All that has been said or preached, is not that any should be, but that not any should be "castaways,"--only "lest" they should. It is in our hands to hinder it: it is but a few hours taken from our sleep and employed on heaven-it is but a little taken from our full dishes and groaning tables and gorged stomachs, taken from our own bodies and bestowed upon the poor's--it is but a little strictness to our bodies, that sets all straight; it is but the keeping the body under, and the soul in awe, and all is safe. The keeping down the body now, shall raise up both soul and body at the last; the holy fear of being castaways, shall keep you safe from ever being so; the bringing the body into subjection here, shall bring it hereafter into a kingdom where all our fears shall he turned into joys, our fasting into feasting, our watching into rest, all our hardships into ease and pleasure; and these very corruptible bodies here kept under, shall be there exalted into incorruption, where we shall meet the full reward of all our pains and labours--we, of our preaching--you, of your hearing--all of us, of all the good works we have done, all the sufferings that we shall suffer--the everlasting crown of righteousness, the incorruptible and eternal crown of glory.
Which He give us at that day, who expects such things from us in these days to approve us at that--God the Father, Son, and holy Spirit. To whom be all glory, &c.