It is well, say I, that Sundays and holidays sometimes meet; that it is as well Sunday as holiday to-day, that so the Lord may be sometimes hallowed in his saints, as here followed by them. David's "praise God" in his saints (for so it is to be rendered), may by this means be sung still, and preached yet sometimes, in spite of that peevishness and malice that has so impudently and ungraciously unsainted all the saints; not so much as an Apostle allowed that name; not a saint left in the whole Christian calendar, if I may call it Christian, that so uses the saints of Christ.
Well, though the course of the times has thus robbed God of his glory in his saints, and the saints of their honour, and of (if it could be) their very "rejoicing in their beds;" yet the course of the years, as it were to confute that frowardness, will bring it about ever and anon that the Master and the disciple, the Lord and his saints, shall rejoice together upon a day; and if they may not be allowed their several feasts, will yet sometimes feast together, be remembered together, as S. Andrew and his Lord to-day, do what they can to hinder it.
For this day, as it now falls out, is solemn both for Lord and saint.
And amongst the saints S. Andrew is the first in order, for here the Christian Church begins her festivals (I know [376/377] not what or whose Church to call it that has none), and fitly too does she begin with him who was the first that followed Christ from Galilee, says S. John. Fit, sure, that he should lead the rank that there begun it, that brought the great S. Peter as his second, though afterward, for that excellent confession of his, made the first. Yet just certainly it is that S. Andrew too should have his primacy, and so the Church has given it him, to begin the army of saints and martyrs in her calendar, that we may see no man shall lose anything by his speed to Christ; the more haste to him, the more honour for it.
I shall not yet, this day, though it be the first of Advent, much meddle with that, or primarily or very particularly set myself to speak of Christ's Advent or coming. I shall be content (because we are not like to meet many such oppor-tunities as this day in conjunction brings us) to speak this day of the disciple, and only glance at his Lord. We shall have many occasions to speak of the Master, few, now a-days, to take notice of the disciples. Yet for all that cannot we well speak of the one without the other. The honour of the servant will redound always to the glory of the Master. It is for that that we commemorate the saints, that we may so magnify the King of saints, both by acknowledging his great-ness and goodness in them, and by doing gloriously to the honour of our Master by their examples.
And indeed we cannot separate them; and as the text falls out, it ends as all the praises and commendations of his saints should end, in him, at And it begins with a con-junctive particle, which will refer us to him. And with an also, or an oÖ dù which, to make the text to be understood, will make us look back to an dö, peripatÓn dö ¦j This OÖ to that 'O, this dö to that dö, this "and" to another "and," this their following to Jesus walking, this "and they left and followed," to "and Jesus walking and calling them to follow," in the two immediately foregoing verses.
We shall then, for the full sense of the text, and the honour of the day, not quite separate the Lord and his saints, but join the 'O and the OÖ together, speak somewhat of Christ's coming as well as of their following; though more fully of this, it being expressly in the words, the other but implicitly [377/378] or implied, yet referring this wholly to the glory of that, their following here to Christ's coming before, S. Andrew's exit to Christ's Advent; join them both, as the day does for us.
For in the words are both, though just as in the day; the one swallowed up by the other, the holiday in the Sunday; only with this difference: S. Andrew's feast in the Advent, in the day; the Advent in S. Andrew's, in the text. The day more evidently for the Lord's day, the text for S. Andrew's.
We will forget neither, but must follow the text, where we are to consider two particulars; the one expressed, the other implied. (1.) S. Andrew's festival; and (2.) the feast of Advent, or the grounds of each; the ground of S. Andrew's festival expressly, his leaving his nets and following Christ; the ground of Christ's Advent implicitly, that it was "straightway" done, that is, presently upon Christ's coming and calling to him. You see Sundays and holidays are at no such variance but they can stand together; their grounds, too, both scripture grounds; both from the same text too. Our new reformers may as well deny the one as the other; and no doubt if they stand but in their way a little, they will too. Only some day must be kept up a while to preach the cause; when that is done, "Ye observe days, and months, and years," will be as good a text against the Lord's day as his saints'.
But not to trouble you with the division of days, we will afford you another division of the text.
I. St. Andrew's, and together with him his brother's obedience express: "They straightway left their nets, and followed him."
II. The ground of it in dö and at, in the first words and the last, intimated and applied. Jesus cane first, and walked by the sea, and looked upon them and spake to them. And--and what then? "And they straightway followed." Followed whom? " Him," says the text. Who is that? One that was worth all their nets, one that would make them fishers indeed--Jesus; for him it is they leave their nets, and him they follow.
In their obedience there are three particulars: (1,) the readiness; (2,) the sincerity; (3,) the rightness of it.
1. It was "straightway;" there is the readiness.
2. It was to the "leaving of their nets," their very life and living, all the poor living they had; there is their sincerity.
[378/379] 3. It was "to follow him;" there is the right placing and bestowing their obedience.
In the ground of it we shall see their obedience was not groundless; for that it was, --
1. Not without a just and lawful call: Jesus called then first, and then they followed, and not till then.
2. Not without a powerful, effectual, and enabling call, which so soon and suddenly could make and enable them to leave their whole course and means of life, and very "straightway" follow him.
3. That it was not any but Christ; not any thing, or hope, or interest, but only "Jesus," the true Messiah, him they followed, whom, you shall see anon, they had good reason to conceive was worth all they could leave or do. The ground of their obedience was neither rash, nor light, nor sinister. It was discreet, and wise, upon just call; it was powerful, upon a strange, sudden, powerful change of their affections; and it was right and due to him they paid it, Jesus the Christ.
I begin with the express parts of the test, with S. Andrew's and his brother's great and ready obedience to Christ's com-mand and call, which is the lesson you are to learn upon S. Andrew's day, that which you are to learn now particu-larly from him, as upon the days of other saints, their particular virtues and graces, which is or should be our holiday business; and if it had been but so taught and learned, we had never seen profane calendars for Christian, these unhallowed days, or our holidays unhallowed, God deprived of the glory, or we of the examples, as much as lies in these men's power, of his saints.
Two there are in the text, S. Andrew and S. Simon, though but one in the day. Christ calls by couples, that the one might help the other, if the one should fail the other might help him up; that S. Andrew's fortitude-for that is the interpretation of his name-might strengthen S. Simon's obedience, which is the English of his; and a courageous obedience, the meaning of both together, the proper lesson for the test and day.
Three points we promised you to consider in their obedi-ence--readiness, sincerity, and rightness; we now prosecute [379/380] them in order; and their readiness first: "And they straight-way followed Him."
Verus obediens nescit moras. True obedience, says S. Je-rome, knows no delays. He that stands disputing with his Lord, or bargaining and conditioning with his Master, or long consulting with flesh and blood, will scarce deserve the inure of obedient, even when he after so long does what he is bidden. The temper of the obedient soul is far other. S. Paul tells us, when it pleased God to call him, and reveal his Son in him, that he might preach him among the heathen, he did not immediately "confer with flesh and blood," nor go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles to be resolved, but into Arabia, and so again to Damascus, about the work that God did send him. When God sets us about his business, our own fleshly interests, or carnal friends, are not to be consulted with, lest they hang upon us and hold us back; nor are we to stay the calling of a council, even of spiritual friends, before we set to our obedience in things so evident as God's commands; but into Arabia the desert rather; that is, to throw off all delays, to desert those petty demurs that rise always upon a change. After that, indeed, after we have first broken the threads that held us, and made worldly affairs and rela-tions stand off a little, we may return to Damascus, with S. Paul, to that succus sanguinis, as it is interpreted, to the juice of our blood, to consider and weigh our strength to particular points of our obedience; but we must thence to Jerusalem to the Apostles, and Such as have been before us, and such as are set over us, to confer about the ways and means to correct and purity our blood, to refine our flesh, to get strength of counsel and direction how to break through all lets and obstacles, and obtain strength! against our weak-ness; and so return again to Damascus, after the other inter-pretation of the words, incendii similitudo, to burn up, as it were, the stubble of our affections, to purify and inflame then with the divine love, with holy charity, which with its active flame will enliven and quicken us, that we shall "straightway" follow- our Lord whithersoever he will, without delay, demur, or disputation.
The young man that proferred fair to fellow Christ, but first desired to go and bury his father, was forbidden it. [380/381] Even an act of charity, such as is the burial of the dead, must not be preferred before obedience. Indeed, with Elisha, peradventure we may have leave to go kiss our father and mother at our parting, to use civilities to our friends, and with some little solemnity leave the world and them. God's work does not make us unnatural or uncivil; it is none of his, whatsoever is pretended, that makes us unnatural, that makes us disrespective of our friends, or uncivil to them, or utterly renounce the bonds of nature and relation. It only requires that they should not hinder us, that they should not stay or let us from our Master's business. Kiss them we may, but kiss and part, not stay long upon ceremonies when we are about our Master's business, much less deter our following him till they are dead and buried, till they forsake us first. We must first be of the parting hand, and let nothing keep us from him any longer than necessities and just civilities do exact.
Nay, for these too, we are to ask his leave. And if he answer us, as Elijah did him, "Go back again; what have I done unto thee?" Go, but consider what I have done; Go, but consider--quod meum erat feci tibi, I have done my do; thou must make haste if thou wilt find me, or overtake me; thou must not look for a second call: their go back we may, and slay our oxen, and boil their flesh with their instru-ments, and give unto the people that they may eat; dispose of our affairs, but with what haste we can; not stay the rest-ing or fetching so much wood to boil it, but with their own instruments at hand; boil them all in haste, take the quickest course we can imagine to despatch; to give away much of our substance also to the poor and needy to make more haste; and then arise and go after him, and administer to him of the rest.
But if he answer us, as Christ did the young man, "Fol-low me, and let the dead bury their dead," there is no striv-ing then. If, as sometimes he does, he calls us in a nick of time, where the opportunity of doing good is now in prime, and if we stay but a little it will be gone; then " let the dead bury their dead," let even that natural charity be performed by somebody else; go we whither we are sent; do we what we are bidden, and think we that Christ says to [381/382] us what he said to S. Peter upon some such like dilatory query, What is that to us? follow we him.
Let us always think, when we hear him calling us to his service, whether the call be inward or outward, within us by his Spirit, or without us by his minister, that we cannot make too much haste to follow him. It may be he has called his last, and will call no more; or he will be gone if we make not haste, and we shall then at least have much ado to find or overtake him. It is no easy overtaking him that "rides upon the wings of the wind," if he be once gone out before us. It is not safe to loiter by the way- for fear of tempta-tions that may prevent our good purposes and quite over-throw all holy resolutions. It is an unworthy usage and unmannerly to stand talking to anything else when God is speaking to us to conic to him. It is dangerous to play away our precious time in excuses and follies, in other business, nay, even in good business of our own, even in an act of private charity or devotion, when God calls us to his public service and obedience. Christ calls even Judas to do his business quickly; you may well think he would have S. Simon and Andrew be as quick in theirs; nay, they were, for in the midst of their work he called them, and in the midst they leave; away with nets, come Christ; fish who will, for them, they will follow Christ, not so much as stay to draw up their nets, be what will in them they care not; let all go so they may catch him. Nay, more, and if the Spirit of Christ be in us, we will, with him, be pained and straitened till his business be accomplished, though it be such a baptism as he was then to be baptized with, even suffering and dying for his name. There can be no excuse from our attendance upon him with the first, who will not at all stay with us if he be not the first in all our thoughts, if we prefer anything before him, or any business before his; nay, if we leave not, secondly, our nets too, all our own business for his.
Regnum Dei tantum valet quantum habes, says S. Gregory, "The kingdom of heaven is worth all we have," must cost us so, be it what it will. And alas! what have we, the best, the richest of us, as highly as we think of ourselves and ours, more titan S. Andrew and his brother, a few old broken nets?
What are all our honours but old nets to catch the breath [382/383] of the world, where the oldest is the best, and that which has most knots, most alliances and genealogies, the most honourable?
What are our estates but nets to entangle us? It is more evident now than ever; to entangle us in strange knots and obligations, in vexations and disquiets, in fears and dangers; to entangle silly souls beside in vanities and follies.
What are all our ways and devices of thriving but so many several nets to catch a little yellow sand and mud? and if you will have it in somewhat a finer phrase, a few silver scaled fishes, in which yet, God knows, there are so many knots and difficulties, so many rents and holes for the fish to slip out of, that we may justly say they are but broken nets, and old ones too, the best of them, that will scarce hold a pull, all our new projects being but old ones new rubbed over, and no new thing under the sun.
What are all those fine catching ways of eloquence, know-ledge, good parts of mind and body, but so many nets and snares to take men with? It may be finely spun, neatly woven, curiously knotted, but so full of holes, vanity, and emptiness, that no net is fuller than these things we take so much pride in, so much delight in. Nay, this very body itself is but a net that entangles the soul; and the rational soul itself, too, we too often make but a net to catch flies, petty buzzing knowledges only, few solid sober thoughts; at the best but a net for fishes of that watery and inconstant element, watery, washy, slimy notions of I know not what, of flitting worldly things; so full of holes, too, that all good things slip out of them.
Our very life, lastly, what is it but a few rotten threads knit together into veins and sinews: the strings and powers of a thin and immaterial soul knit to the threads of a feeble body, so slender and full of holes, and the knots so loose, that the least stick or stone can unloose it or break it all to pieces.
And are not these pretty pieces, think you, now to stand so much upon the leaving, that we will rather leave our Master's service than these broken nets that will bring us up nothing but slime and mud, a few fins and scales, a few sticks and weeds, a few stones and gravel, things only that will dirty us, or delude us, or run into our hands and pierce [383/384] them, or into our feet, like gravel, and race them; or, at the utmost, but a few fish, slippery or watery comforts, that will either quickly leave us, or but slenderly comfort us whilst they stay? Are not these fine things to quit heaven for? Oh, blessed saint of the day, that we could but leave these nets as thou didst thine, that nothing might any longer entangle us, or keep us from our Master's service!
Not that we must presently quit all honours, estate, and ways of gain, bodies, and souls, and life, and throw ourselves into dishonour, poverty, and death, in that instant we propose to follow Christ; but that we must know we cannot follow him if we cast not off our inordinate affections to all of these, use them as if we used them not, enjoy them as if we had them not; so humbly bear our honour as if we sought none else but God's; so manage our estates as to give an account to him for every farthing; so use our trades as if our whole business were to trade for heaven; so feed our bodies as if their chief food were the bread of heaven; so employ our understandings as if they were to mind nothing but heavenly things, and so live as if we had nothing else to do but die; so cast away our nets as if we had nothing now to do with them, now we had caught Christ, or but to catch and hold him.
Worldly honour may consist with Christ's; our greatest estates with the true riches; our lawful busiest vocations with his service; our secular learning with heavenly knowledge; the care of our bodies with the salvation of our souls; our lives with his death: only they must not stand in compe-tition for time and place, but be all left to his disposing; and when at any time they cannot either stand with his service, or will hinder it, then leave them all we must to follow him, as occasions and opportunities shall require the forsaking any of them, be it life itself. Alas! he loves not Christ at all that loves anything above him, anything equal with him, that prefers anything to him, or will not readily leave it for him.
We have read of many who have left their thrones and cast away their sceptres; many who have thrown away their riches, and deserted their estates; ninny who have given over all their thriving ways; many w ho have bid adieu to all [384/385] secular studies; many who have in strange austerities and mortifications neglected, nay, crucified their bodies, and others that have run to death as to a wedding, that so they might the easier follow, or the more happily attain to their Master's steps: but these are singular and particular heights; the ordinary course of Christianity is by a lower way. Yet is the way good too. Et omnia deserit qui voluntatem habendi deserit, says S. Jerome; he also verily forsakes all that desires none, nothing but Jesus Christ; who "has crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts," as the Apostle speaks, the world with all the desires thereof; who though he has all he can desire, yet desires nothing but what God will have him.
Sometimes it may fall out that we must leave our callings to go after him, when they be either truly sinful or evidently dangerous; and our wealth, when it is unjustly gotten or unrighteously held, we must restore and leave to the right owners of it. Sometimes again it may he lawful for us to leave both estates and callings, though we be not bound to it; as when we plainly see we can thereby serve our Master better, and he seems to point us to it; when we perceive we cannot else perform the task or calling he has designed us to, or the business he has already set us upon. Otherwise, "Let every man," says the Apostle, "abide in the calling wherein he is called," and stir not from his station but when he may lawfully and orderly be made free from it. It is not presently from the counter to the desk, from the loom into the pulpit, from the shop into the church, from our nets to our books, from secular trades to the holy function, that we are to run: there is something more than so when the Apostle bids men stay and continue in their callings. And to follow Christ is not only to be apostles and teachers,--for who then shall there be to be taught? And to satisfy all from the example in the test, this is the third time of S. Andrew's being called. To the knowledge of Christ he was called, John i. 38; to his familiar acquaintance, S. Luke v. 10; and here, thirdly, and S. Mark i. 17, to the apostleship; so many steps even these here made ere they came to be apostles, and not till now threw they quite away their nets to return no more unto them. It is no such hasty business [385/386] to become apostles or succeed them in any point of their office. Yet truly, when Christ shall give any of these hasty heads power to do wonderfully, to show miracles, to manifest their calling, and to do extraordinarily, as he did to these, then we were much to blame if we would not allow them that God has extraordinarily called them to it; and what were we that we should oppose against it? But in the meantime let us see them leave their "nets,"--their private interests and hopes of gain, and repute, and fame,--that we may have reason to think they follow Christ, and not their own bellies, fancies, and humours.
Yet we can tell them too of those who have done more than the most they dare pretend, have left all, expressly all, and yet no followers of Christ. Heathens have done it, Socrates, and Bias, and Thales, and Crates the Theban, and Fabricius the Roman, yet Christ not followed by it. And I know they will say as much of the hermits of the desert, and the brethren of the cloister, that-though they have done what they dare not think for Christ--yet they have not followed him. And could these great confidants show what they have done or suffered, or lost or left for Christ, yet by the same argument, their own, they cannot prove they follow him the while. But, alas! they have left nothing but what they should not, their proper callings wherein S. Paul would have them abide with God. And it is not Christ but the loaves they follow, not God's glory but their own. For if we but examine what was their following in the text, and the grounds of their so doing,--as we shall anon,--it will appear quickly whom they seek, what they follow too, who pretend only, or rather only pretend, so much now-a-days to follow Christ. Let us next see whom S. Andrew followed when he left his nets, and how he followed.
Christ it was he followed, for this "him" is "he." (1.) Not his own profit sure; he could hope for little from him who had not where to lay his own head. (2.) Not his ease and pleasure in his company, who was always hungering and thirsting, and yet had scarce bread to eat or water to drink, or time to do either, watching, and walking up and down about his Father's business till he was faint and weary, and yet nor place nor time to rest in, not to sleep but he [386/387] must be awaked as soon almost as he is laid down. (3.) Not his own honour certainly under a Master who was the most rejected ad despised of men, as the prophet styles him; called "wine-bibber," and a friend of sinners, and deceiver of the people, and a worker by the devil. Not his own humour or fancy, but Christ's powerful call that so straight transformed his mind, and raised him to a faith that could so suddenly part with all without murmuring, reasoning, or taking care for a future living. In a word, not anything but him. But him, then, how did he follow?
1. He followed him with his body, gives himself to be one of his menial servants and continual attendants, content with such coarse fare and clothing as his poverty would allow him; partaker of his fastings, and watchings, and jour-neyings, and hard lodgings, and painfulness, and weariness, and reproaches, to teach what our bodies must be content to endure for his service, and in following him.
2. He followed him with his mind, gave up his under-standing to be informed, his will to be directed, his affections to be ordered by his doctrine and precepts; for to follow Christ is to resign up our understandings to the obedience of faith.
3. He followed him in his life in patience, and meekness, in humility, in poverty of spirit, in mercifulness, and doing good, in the life and practice of Christian virtues, lived an admirable holy life; went up and down from country to country, into Macedonia and Achaia, into Scythia and Ethiopia, preaching Christ, and following Christ whither-soever he called him; and this is properly to follow Christ, to imitate him. And
4. He followed him in his death too, was also crucified for him; followed him so cheerfully to that, "that," says S. Ber-nard and the story of him, "he seeing the cross afar off thus joyfully saluted it, Salve crux diu desiderata et jam coneupi-scenti animo præparata! ecce gaudens et exultans ad to venio; 'Welcome, sweet cross, so long desired and wished and longed for, and now come at last; I come rejoicing, I come leaping to thee; I come, I come.'"
Thus I have showed you how S. Andrew followed Christ; [387/388] how we also are to follow him; to throw away our nets, not only all unlawful ways of gain and preferment; nor all things that stay and hinder us from the service of our Master, but anything, everything, that may entangle us, or keep us from the readiness and exactness of our attendance; and having so prepared ourselves, to conform ourselves presently, after his example, to humility, to patience, to meekness, to doing good, to obedience, to acts of mercy, to fastings, to watchings, to praying, to any hardship or affliction; no more now to seek ourselves, but him; not our own praise, but his glory; not our own profit, but the profit of our brethren; not our own private fancies, but Christ's precepts and the saints' examples; so to follow in their track, in the ways, and orders, and obediences that they have traced us, and to be content to part with anything,, with all our own magnified imaginations, all our own desires, our goods, and estates, and repute, and ease, and quiet, and life, and all, whensoever he pleases to call for it. This is truly following Christ. And whatsoever else we have in S. Andrew, following him as an Apostle is particular, and concerns not any at all but those who by some signal outward visible call are commanded to a more immediate attendance on their Master. To thrust ourselves into that without that ground is both impudence and presumption; to follow our own proud hearts and giddy heads, and not him that they here followed, who followed him not either as disciples or apostles without good ground. Let us else examine it.
He came himself, and publicly and professedly called there to him. "In secret," he tells Pilate, "he had said nothing." All the people could bear witness to his doings, that his followers might know for ever lie would have none to enter into such offices without a solemn and public calling. To his doctrine, to be his scholars and disciples, perhaps he will admit us in private, or by night, as he did Nicodemus, or in the crowd and multitude together; but to be apostles and preachers of that doctrine, not without a public and particular ordination and authority, that shall equivalently say, as he did to these brothers, in the verse before the text, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of amen." Nay, more, he picks them out that he calls apostles; does it with great solemnity. Goes [388/389] up into a mountain,--that was then, as it were, his Church,--and calls unto him whom he would, not who would them-selves; and they came unto him, they, and none else. And them he ordained,--the very word the Church uses still. He ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach. Lo here, what a solemnity Christ makes of it, of making ministers, who cer-tainly, had he intended any should make themselves or any ministers but those teachers and preachers who from him and his Apostles derive their power, the Bishops and Fathers of his Church, would not with so much solemnity, so cere-moniously, so publicly, so punctually have thus ordained those whom he intended should be in nearer attendance to him than others, to whom he would commit the preaching of his Gospel, and the dispensation of his ordinances to the world.
This is not all: they had another ground of their calling, a second reason of their following; they were enabled to it by a strange and sudden change within them, whereby they found they could now already do what he called them to. They were now become quite other men, merely spiritual, no longer seculars; away with temporal business, they minded worldly things no more, but straightway to him without delay. This inward call, though alone it be not sufficient, yet joined together with the outward, is good ground indeed to follow Christ any whither soever. And unless thus God either on a sudden, or by time, by extra-ordinary or ordinary means, shall enable any man for his service and ministry, and by the outward power also call him to it, he shall bear his sin that undertakes it, whoever he be, that he did not send; he is one of those that God complains of, that runs when he is not sent; and though the pretence he to stay the falling Ark--the Church--from perishing for want of teaching, his sin is Uzzah's, that touches holy things without this double commission. Perez--Uzzah is his place; a breach he makes in the Church, and God will one day break out upon him that thus breaks into the Church, not by the door, but some other way; that neither being enabled within, nor from without, or within and not from without, or without only and not from within, [389/390] whom God has not given both inward abilities and outward calling to the handling of his holy mysteries and dis-pensations.
They have a third ground yet why they leave their nets, and it is, to follow Christ. They know and are assured who it is they do it for, and why they do it. "It is the Messias, it is the Christ," says S. Andrew to his brother Simon. And so stands the case; they can no longer tend his business and their nets together. This is the third time they were called, we told you. To the mere knowledge of him they were called first in that place of S. John; to a nearer fami-liarity, S. Luke v., where, though they leave their nets, yet it is only for a while; but here being called to follow him to the apostleship, they wholly leave them altogether. They saw his power before in the miraculous draught of fishes, which made them leave their work for a time to follow him but now they feel it warm within them, they cannot stay, shall I say? to draw up their nets, or to cast them in, though they were now casting and about it, but "straightway,"--the word no sooner out of his mouth but they at his heels. When we are sure it is Christ that calls, that him we follow, no haste too much, no leaving too much, no following too much for him. For him if it be, we may leave all without danger; but if we be not sure it is, it would do well to have a net to take to. I speak this for that too many leave their nets, their business, their work, and bestow themselves and theirs upon things that are not him, nor his; upon false Christs, upon deceivers, upon such as, whatever show they make, will be found upon examination to seek their own and not Jesus Christ. It is fit we should look it be Christ indeed, not our own ends; not leave catching fishes to go lead silly women captive, laden more with sins than ever S. Andrew's net with fishes. If it be for some new device of late, which our fathers have not known, which Christ's Church has not received, some new-sprung pattern in the Mount, it is some new Christs, not the old ones, some false ones, not the only true ones, who being God blessed for ever is always like himself. He that leaves anything to follow those new calls or callers, either to be a teacher or a follower of them, had better keep his nets, though broken ones.
[391/392] The sum is, we are to have good ground for what we do, an "and" to begin with, and a "him" to end in, good authority (1) to go upon, and the right end to go to; sufficient abilities, and lawful authority to send us if it be as labourers into the vineyard, and a true Christ to serve with them: good reason too (2) we must show for all our actions in Christ's religion and worship, though we be but to follow only as disciples; just power to commend it, and the infallible glory of Christ and his Church to design it to. So our obedience to be ready, sincere, and upright, when we can perform and are required it by Christ, and those that under him have the commission to call us to it, or command it for his service, or his Church's; and we not to undertake it till we find ourselves truly enabled, rightly called, and uprightly intending in it.
To join now the two points of the test together, to know our right grounds, and settle our obedience right upon then, that we may know what we undertake, when we undertake to follow Christ, and do accordingly, not pretend above our strength, but keep Advent and S. Andrew both. We are (1) to provide, by S. Andrew's obedience, for Christ's Advent, that he, when he at any times comes to us, either in his Spirit or in his Word, in humility or glory, in our lives, or at our deaths, may find us ready straight to follow him. No so acceptable entertainment for him, no so fit preparation for him, as a ready, entire, well guided obedience; none so fit to receive him as S. Andrew, the soul so fitted and resolved to all obedience. Thus we are to make our way for Advent by S. Andrew.
And (2) to keep S. Andrew's feast, to give ourselves up to this obedience, we must remember Christ's advent to us, that we cannot follow till he first cone to us,--acknowledge all our motion is from his. Look he first upon us, and speak to us, and we straightway run; but if he come not, there is no following to be expected, much less haste to do it. All is from him; to him therefore be all the praise, if at any time, or wherein at any time, we follow him; it is his grace that does it, that comes first before we follow.
And then, thirdly, to keep time, to join both feasts together in our hearts all the days of our life, as well as in this [391/392] day of the year, magnify we him in his saints, follow we S. Andrew as he did Christ; follow him to Christ, cheerfully without delay, to-day, whilst it is day, begin our course; let us not think much to part with anything for him; lay our honours, riches, souls and bodies at his feet, and with pure and unmixed intentions study we wholly his service, not our own.
Let not any be discouraged, that perhaps he has nothing worth the leaving, nothing but a few old broken nets. Be it never so little we have left, if we have left ourselves nothing, but given ourselves and all to Christ, we have given much; lie that, with these saints here, leaves nothing but a few knotty threads, if he has no more to leave, has left as much as he that leaves most, for he has left all, and he that leaves most can do no more. It is the mind, not the much, that God values. Remember the poor widow's mites accepted by Christ above far greater gifts, for they were all she had, and who could give more? The poor man's all is as much to him, and as much all to G_d, as the rich man's all; his tattered nets as much all his living as the other's lands and seas are his; and the poor man can as hardly part with his rags and clouts, his leather bottle, his mouldy bread, and clouted shoes, as the rich man with his silks, and state, and dainties; so much perhaps the hardlier in that they are more necessary.
Yet that I may not seem to leave you upon too hard a task to scare you from following Christ, I shall now tell you, you may keep all, and yet leave your nets. You may keep your honours, you may preserve your estates, you may enjoy your worldly blessings, only so keep a hand upon them, or upon yourselves, that they be not nets and snares unto you; let them not take your hearts, or ensnare your affections, or entangle your souls in vanities and sins; let them not hold you from following Christ--and keep them while you will. Cast but off time networks, the catching desires of the flesh and world, and so von also may be said to have left your nets. And having so weaned your souls from inordi-nate affections to things below, let Christ be your business, his life your pattern, his commands your law. Be ye fol-lowers of Christ, and let S. Andrew this day lead you after [392/393] him into all universal obedience, ready, pure, and sincere: think not much to leave your nets for him that left heaven for you; you will gain more by following him than all the nets and draughts of the world are worth. You may well throw away your nets, having caught him in whom you have caught glory, and immortality, and eternal life, and by following him shall undoubtedly come at last out of this sea of toil and misery, where there is nothing but broken nets, and fruitless labours, or but wearisome and slippery fruits of them, into the port and haven of everlasting rest, and joys, and happiness.
And that it may be so, let us pray with the holy Church in the two Collects for Advent and S. Andrew:
"Almighty God, which didst give such grace to thy holy Apostle S. Andrew, that he readily obeyed the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him without delay; grant unto us all, that we, being called by thy holy Word, may forthwith give over ourselves obediently to fulfil thy holy commandments; that we may cast away the works of dark-ness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in the which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us with great humility, that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever."