S. Luke; v. 8.
Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
A strange speech for him that speaks, to him it is spoken, from S. Peter to his Saviour. One would think it were one of the Gadarenes, who thus entreated him to depart the coasts. Strange indeed, to desire him to depart, without whom we, cannot be; stranger to give such a reason for it, a reason that should rather induce us to entreat him to tarry than to go; for being sinful men, we have most need of him to stay with us; but strangest of all it is for S. Peter to desire it, and upon his knees to beseech it. Todesire Christ to go away from us, to go from us because we have need of his being with us; and for such a one as S. Peter, and that so earnestly to entreat it, is a business we well skill not at the first dash.
Yet if we consider what S. Peter was when he so cried out, or what made him to do it, or how unfit he, being a sinful son of man, thought himself for the company of the Son of God, we shall cease to wonder, and know it is the sinner's case for ever so to do,--to be astonished at miracles,--not to bear suddenly the presence of our Lord,--and when we first apprehend it, to cry out to him, with S. Peter here, to with-draw from us for a while, for that we are not able to endure the brightness and terror of his splendour and majesty.
It was a miraculous and stupendous draught of fish (after [283/284] they had given up all hopes of the least) suddenly came to net, which thus amazed S. Peter and his fellows. They had drudged and "toiled all night," and not a fish appeared; but when Christ came to them, then came whole shoals, and thrust so fast into the net that they brake it to get in, as if the mute and unreasonable creatures themselves had such a mind to see him by whose word they were created, that they valued not their lives so they might see or serve his pleasure. And yet S. Peter makes as much means that he might see him no longer, whom if had not seen, and seen again, notwithstanding his desires to the contrary, it had been better he had never seen, and seen again.
But such is our mortal condition, that we can neither bear our unhappiness nor our happiness: unreasonable creatures go beyond us in the entertainment of them both, according to their kinds; though it may be, here S. Peter's humility speaks as loud as his unworthiness or inability to endure the presence of the Lord.
S. Peter, we must needs say, was not thoroughly called as yet to be a disciple; this humble acknowledgment of his own unworthiness to be so was a good beginning. Here it is we begin our Christianity, which, though it seems to be a kind of refusal of our Master, is but a trick to get into his service, who himself is humble and lowly, and receives none so soon as they that are such, none at all but such, whom by the posture of their knees, and the tenours of hearty and humble words, you may discern for such.
And to sum up the whole meaning of the words to a brief head, they are no other, no no more than S. Peter's profession of his own humble condition, that he is not worthy that his God and his Redeemer should come so near him, and therefore --in an ecstasy, as it were, at the sight of so glorious a guest desires him to forbear to oppress his unworthy servant with an honour he was not yet able to bear.
Yet we cannot but confess the words may have a harder sense upon them, as the voice of a stupid apprehension, or an insensibleness of such heavenly favours as our Saviour's company brings with it. We shall have time to hint at that anon. It shall suffice now, at first, to trouble you only with two evident and general parts.
[284/285] Christ's absence desired ; and the reason alleged for it.
1. Christ desire to be gone,--"Depart from me;" and,
II. Why he is so,--"For I am siniful man, O Lord."
The desire seems to be the voice of a threefold person, and such is S. Peter's now:--
1. Of a "man."
2. Of a " sinful man;" and yet,
3. Of an humble man, "me;" that me here, confessing myself as sinful man.
The reasons equal the variety of the desires, or desirers.
Three they are too.
1. For I am a man.
2. For I am a sinful man.
3. For thou, O Lord, thou art God, and I am man.
It is a text to teach us what we are, to whom we speak, and how to speak to him. And if you go hence without learning this, you may say, perhaps, you have heard a sermon, but you have learnt nothing from it. It shall be your faults if you do not.
And unless we cry in a sense contrary to S. Peter's meaning, "Depart from us, O Lord," out of a kind of contempt and weariness of his word, and not out of the conscience of our own worthiness of so great a blessing; then we sometimes speak words notg fitting for our Saviour to hear, though they seem to show a kind of refusal of him, yet being no other than the mere expression of the apprehension of his glorious presence, and our unworthiness, Christ will comfort us, and call out to us presently, as, he doth to S. Peter, not to fear; we shall not lose by his word or presence, nor by our so sensible apprehension of his glory, though we be but a generation of sinful men.
That our desires, first, may b set right, though peradventure not always speak so, the desires being the hinge upon which good and evil move on their courses, to begin to examine S. Peter's desire under a threefold consideration: Of a "man," of a "sinful," of an humble man. For all these S. Peter at this time was capable of; and in which of these he speaks most feelingly will be perhaps anon the quære; and [285/286] how far they may pertain to us, he used or not used by us, will be the business we are to speak of. If we take all, we are sure to be right.
Then, first, of the desire, as it is that of man or human nature, considered simply in its own imperfection, unable to bear the presence of a supernatural honour.
Nature sometimes desires God to depart from it; it loves not to be forced out of its course, to be screwed up beyond itself. Miracles are burdens to nature; and however it be ready to serve the will of the Supreme Mover, yet when it is diverted from its own way, amid strained to a service or quickness, with which its innate slowness is unacquainted, it does even by its lasting back to its old wont, in a manner desire to be freed from the present command of its great controller.
It is so with man, who being, of a corruptible make, cannot endure the presence of an incorruptible essence. Angels and spirits bring affrightment to it when they come; we are terri-fied at the presence of au angel, though he bring us nothing but tidings of the greatest joy. Nay, if we do but think we see a spirit,--as the disciples did when it was no other than their beloved Master,--we are wholly frightened and amazed. There is so great a distance between our corrupt mortality and their immortal conditions, that we desire not to see them.
Yea, the body itself is so little delighted with the presence of its own best companion, the incorruptible soul (though it enjoy all its beauty and vigour by it), that by continual reluctances against it, and perpetually throwing off the com-mands of it, and so daily withdrawing its imaginations from the thoughts of, or converse with, that nobler part, it seems to wish it gone, rather than to be bound to that observance which the presence of that divine parcel requires at our hands.
And if it fare no better with these natures of angels and our own spirits, which are nearer mortality and imperfection, and have more affinity to us, and full natural engagements upon us, because their excellences breed either a kind of envy or terror to us, that we, in a nmnuner, say to those that we cannot sunder from us, our very souls, Go away, trouble us not with these spiritual businesses; how is it otherwise [286/287] likely than that we should he ready to avoid the presence of that Eternal Purity, in whose sight our best purities cannot stand at all ?
We love not to see our own imperfections; that makes us unwilling to endure the presence of any thing that shows us them. Now, the divine excellences, above all the rest, being that which by its exactness discovers the most insensible blemishes we labour with, you cannot wonder that a creature so much in love with itself, should desire the removal of that whose nearness so much debases it.
Nor is this all; there is terror besides at the approach of the Almighty. When God drew near to his people upon the mount, and "the people saw the thunderings and lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking," conceiving him to be at hand, whose voice is terrible as the thunder, at whose presence the mountains smoke, "they removed and stood afar off; and they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear, but let not God speak with us, lest we die:" thus, at least, entreating God to withdraw somewhat farther from them, even lest they should die for fear, if he should come nearer them.
We cannot always say such desires are orderly and good, yet such there are, we may say, in the best created nature. Indeed, we commonly desire what is worst for us; as if we knew not our own good, or did not study it.
Certainly, God's company can do us no harm. "In his presence is life," says the Psalmist, yet say we, we die if we see him. "In him we live, and move, and have our being," says the Apostle; yet say we, if he come too nigh us, or depart not from us, we shall be no more. Thus our thoughts and desires run counter to him.
Nay, there is a generation, that the Prophet complains of, that say plainly unto the Lord, Depart from us, we will have none of thy laws, we desire not thy precepts, thy word is a burden to us, thy solemn worship we cannot away with, we are weary of thy sacraments, we are sick of thy truth, thy priests are a trouble to us, thy holy days take too much time from us, thy holy service and thy holy things they are too chargeable for us; take them away, and depart from us; we will have none of them any longer. This is more than the [287/288] voice of nature's imperfection; it is the voice of sin and rebellion added to it. But take we heed, lest while we thus thrust God from us, he go indeed and come no more,--go away, and leave us in perpetual sin, darkness, and discomfort. It may please God, peradventure, to construe what we have done hitherto as the rash, hasty words only of affrighted or disturbed nature, not knowing which way to turn itself upon a sudden, being amazed at the things that (we know not how) are come to pass in these days; but if we shall persist to desire him to depart (which of all sins has most unthankfulness and impiety, I may add atheism also in it), he will go, and he will not return; then shall we seek him early, but we shall not hind him; we shall seek him sighing, and weeping, and mourning as we go, but we shall not find him; we shall "eat of the fruit of our own way, and be filled with our own devices," but we shall see him no more for ever; then shall we beg for what we have rejected, but he will not hear us, he is departed from us, and will not come again.
Thus it was not S. Peter's desire. He was not tired with Christ's company, nor glutted with it, as the Israelites with their despised manna; only Christ, by showing a miracle, had so amazed his wits, that he knew not how, on a sudden, to recollect his spirits to entertain so great and holy a guest,---does therefore, not well considering what to say, desire him to divert a little somewhither else, where he might be more honourably entertained, or to stand off a while, and give him breath, that he might recover his spirits, anti be able more worthily to entertain him.
But there was somewhat else which made S. Peter so express himself. He was not only sensible of his mortal lot, but of his sinful condition too. Thus we are to consider it as the voice of "a sinful man," of human nature corrupted with sin.
Though all created substances contract, a kind of trembling or drawing back at the approach of God, the very seraphims "covering their faces with their wings," yet did not sin and folly cover them with a new confusion, the weakest and poorest of them would draw a kind of solace and happiness from the beams of that majesty that so affrighted them. It is sin that [288/299] speaks the text in a louder key, that more actually cries to him, not softly and weakly out of weakness, but aloud and strongly, out of wifulness, to depart.
It does more than so. It drives God from us; not only bids him go, but forces him. It is not so mannerly as to entreat him; it discourteously and unthankfully thrusts him out of doors. Exi a me, Get you out, says the sinful soul to God; no Obsecro, no entreaty added; not, Go out, I pray thee; or, Depart, I beseech thee. We should do well to think low uncivilly we deal with God; we are not content to put him out of his own house and dwelling, the temples of our bodies, the altars of our souls, by our sins; nay, and his holy temples by sacrileges find profaneness; but some-times in ruder terms we bid him begone, and thrust him out by wilful and deliberate transgressions, by solemn and legal sacrileges and profanenesses, which we commit and reiterate in contempt of him, as if expressly we said to him, Go from us, we will have nothing to do with thee any longer; thou shalt not only not dwell, but not stand, or be amongst us. The people of Gennesareth besought Christ to depart out of their coasts. These sinners will out with him whether he will or no; and though he come again, and knock to be let in, and continue knocking till "his head be wet with the dew, and his locks with the drops of the night," yet can he hear no other welcome from us than, Depart from us, we are in bed, well at case in our accustomed sins, and we will not rise to let thee in; we will not be troubled with thy company, with a course so chargeable or dangerous as is thy wonted service.
Strange it is that we should thus deal with God, but thus we do; yet no man lays this unkind usage to his heart, never considers how he thus daily uses God. If good motions arise within us, we bid them be gone; they trouble us, they hinder our sports or projects, our quiet or interest. If good opportunities present themselves without, we bid them go, we are not at leisure to make use of them, they come unseasonably. If the word preached desire to enter in, if it touch our consciences and strike home, we hid that depart too; it is not for our turn, it crosses our interests or our profits, or our pleasures; we will not therefore have it [289/290] stay any longer with us. If God, by any other way, as of afflictions or of deliverances by blessings or curses or any other way come to us, they are no sooner over, nor these any sooner tasted, but we sell them gone to purpose, and think of them again no more; our sins return and send them going, make us forget both his justice and his mercies.
This is the course the sinner treads Godward. From whence it is, that the soul thus ill apparelled with its own sins, dares not look God in the face without the mediation of a Redeemer. She has driven God from by her sins, and having thus incensed him, flees away when he draws towards her. Thus Adam and Eve, having by sin disrobed themselves of their original righteousness, when they hear the voice of God, though but gently walking towards them, and calling to them, they run away and "hide themselves from the presence of the Lord amongst the trees of the garden." They felt, it seems, they wanted something to shelter them from the presence of God, into the thickets, therefore, they hid themsleves, as if they then foresaw they had need of the "rod out of the stem of Jesse," the "branch out of his roots," as the Prophet calls Christ, to bear off the heat of God's anger from them.
Under the leaves of this branch alone it is that we are covered, sheltered from the wrath to come. His leaves, his righteousness, it is that clothes our nakednes; the very garments which our first parents were fain to get to them-selves, before they durst venture again into his presence. There is no enduring Gods presence still, no coming near him, unless we look upon him through these leaves, from under the shelter of this "branch of Jesse."
Tell the sinner, who keeps not under his shelter, that lies not at this guard, of God's coming to him, of his looking towards him, of his approach to judgment, and with Felix he trembles at it, puts off the discourse to another time, refuses to hear so terrible news as God's coming is, if Christ came not with him. Such a one has sin made him, that he desires not to see him, whose eyes will not behold sin; "Depart from me, O Lord," instead of, "Thy kingdom come," is his daily prayer.
Yet, as hardly or unadvisedly as nature or corruption may [290/291] deliver this speech of S. Peter's, it may be delivered in a softer, sweeter tone, and so it was by him. It may be the voice of the humble spirit, casting himself down at the feet of Jesus, and confessing himself altogether unworthy of so great a favour as his presence.
If we peruse the speeches of humble souls in Scripture, by which they accosted their God or their superiors, we shall see variety of expression indeed, but little differences in the upshot of the words. "I am but dust and ashes," says Father Abraham. Now, how came dust and ashes, with their light scattering atoms, endure the least breath of the Almighty? The Prophet Isaiah "saw the Lord" in a vision, "sitting upon a throne," and presently he cries out, "Woe is me! For I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." What! undone, Isaiah? Yes, "Woe is me, I am undone; for mine eyes have seen the Lord of hosts," who certainly cannot but consume me, for so boldly beholding him. "I am not worthy," says the centurion to Christ, "that thou shouldest come under the roof of my house: speak the word only;" as if his presence were so great he might not bear it. And S. Paul, as soon as he had told us that he had seen Christ, tells us he was "one born out of due time;" was "the least of the Apostles," and "not meet to be called an Apostle;" as if the very seeing of Christ had made him worth nothing. Indeed it makes us think ourselves so, of whom we ever think too much, till we look up to God. Then it befalls us, as it fell out to Job, "I have heard thee by the hearing of the ear,"--but that was nothing,--"now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Hither it is always that the sight of God depresses us, to think humbly of our-selves, that we profess our just deserts to be no other than to be deprived of his presence.
There are like expressions of humble minds towards our superiors too in Holy Writ. "When Rebekah saw Isaac coming towards her, she lighted down from her camel, and covered herself with her vail;" as if either her humility or her modesty would not suffer her suddenly to look upon his face, who was presently to be her lord. But Abigail's compli-mental [291/292] humility surpasses, When David sent to take her to him to wife, "she arose and bowed herself to the earth, and said, Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord." And Mephibosheth, though not so courtly, yet as deeply undervalues himself in the sight of his lord and king, when he thus answers David's proffered kindness, "What is thy servant that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?"
Now if Rebekah descend from her camel, and vail her face at the sight of her designed husband; if Abigail term herself the servant of the servants of David, even to the meanest office, to wash their feet; if Mephibosheth count himself a dog in the presence of King David, each of these thus expressing their humility, it is no wonder if S. Peter, at the presence of his Saviour, it is but just that we, in the presence of our God and Saviour, descend from our camels, from our chairs of state, from our seats of ease, from the stools whereon we sit, and bow down our eyes, our hearts and, bodies in all humility, as unworthy to look up to heaven, to look him in the face whom we have so offended, willing to wash the feet bf his poorest servants to serve him in any-thing, in the poorest, meanest way or office, ready to profess ourselves amongst the vilest of his creatures, who cannot so much as expect a good look from him.
You may surely guess by the frame of speech,--though nature and sin may sometimes use some of the same words, --that the tenor of them altogether is no other than the expression of S. Peter's humble acknowledgment of his own vileness.
Ho confesses plainly, he is "a sinful man;" how could he more depress himself? _______________ a man that was nothing but a sinner, a very sinner.
Thence it is that he thinks himself unworthy that he should stay with him; therefore desires him to quit his ship, but much more his company, as far unfit to receive him, or be near about him.
And whilst he thus confesses himself to be a sinful man, he speaks somewhat doubtfully, at least, to him, as if he conceived him to be the Lord his God. Thus much how-ever: he acknowledges so great a disproportion between [292/293] himself and Christ, that whilst he knows what to call himself, he knows not well what to style him: to be sure knows not how to speak; speaks indeed, but knows not what he says; whilst humbly desiring him to depart, he unwittingly parts with his own happiness, not knowing what he desires or does in this distraction.
These three, an acknowledgment of our own wretchedness; a sensible apprehension of our own unworthiness and Christ's greatness; and a kind of troubled expression of them, without art or study, are the signs and effects of true humility, and are here caused by the consideration of God's miraculous dealing with us, which commonly shows us God's goodness and grace, his glory and majesty, our own weakness, sinfulness, and misery, and by so setting them so suddenly together, render us unable to express either.
In some perverse natures there arises, we must confess, sometimes a pride upon the receipt of divine favours, so that we may say S. Peter's behaviour after so great a miracle showed towards him, makes his humility the commendable. A great and wonderful draught of fish he had taken, and he had labouored hard for it; somebody would have given at least part of the glory of so good success to his own labour, or at least triumphed and gloried highly in it, as if he had been the only favourite of heaven, the only saint for his good success; but S. Peter saw by his lost labour all the by-past night, and the uncouth multitude of fishes now against hope taken up, that his labour did but little here; there was one with him in the boat he saw at whose command the fish came to it in such number; so that now he sees little, by himself or his own endeavour, but that he was not fit company for the Lord that was with him, neither worthy of that miracle nor of that Master.
Thus, good men are humbled even in their prosperous successes, whilst nothing but miraculous miscarriages can humble the ungodly, and not then neither, to think ere a whit the worse of themselves or the better of others; or understand but that God himself is, notwithstanding, bound still to tarry with them before all the world besides. He is truly humble whom prosperity humbles, who, in the midst of his accomplished desires, casts himself below all, acknowledging [293/294] he is less than the least of God's mercies, or gracious looks towards him any ways.
There is yet a way that perfect souls--souls elevated above the height of ordinary goodness--have spoke these words. There is sometimes a rapture in heroic souls, overborne, as it were, with the torrent of the contemplations of the divine beauty, and the delights flowing in abundance from it, that some glorious saints in their several times have been heard to say sometimes, Depart from us, O Lord; we have enough, we have enough, oppress us not with pleasure which our earthen vessels are not able to hear.
There have been those that have died with excess of joy, but it was temporal joy; spiritual joy is not so violent to rend the body, yet it even sometimes oppresses the soul into a kind of death, and wraps it beyond itself into an ecstasy, and after that it is in danger to be strained into another excess of pride or vain-glory. S. Paul was near it. " Lest I should be exalted above measure," (it seems there was great fear of it,) there was given him something to humble him, to bring him down from so dangerous a height. It is necessary, it seems, sometimes, if not such a desire, yet such a condition to the most perfect souls, that Christ should depart from them now and then, lest they should be "puffed up with the multitude of those revelations" by which Christ reveals his presence in them and his favour towards them.
There are delights in heavenly joys which these old bottles are not yet able to hold; and hence it is, that some have desired God to depart a while, to hold a while, lest they should overflow at least and lose so precious a liquor, if not break in pieces and lose themselves in so vast a depth, or at so forcible a pouring in of heavenly pleasures upon them.
But I am too high now for that lean, meagre, creeping goodness, which is only to be found among the sons of men in these latter days, where we meet with this desire in a lower key, if at all. Our souls, you know, are the vessels of divine grace, old crazy ones, God wot, and there is a danger lest the new liquor of celestial grace should cause them to crack and break at its approach. There is something which we are not able to bear away at first. Christian profession must come in to us by degrees. Christ must come a little [294/295] and go a little, or come a little and hold a little; "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little," not all at once; no, go away a little, turn aside a little, O Lord, and require not of us all at once, but by degrees visit us and bear with us. With this kind of entreaty we may desire him to withhold now and then in mercy from us, for we are sinful men, and not able to endure other fuller dealings with us.
And, lastly, in humility we may desire God to depart from us, when he approaches to us in thunder and lightning, when he comes armed like a man of war: then we may cry, and not without cause, Oh, come not to us! or, Go from us, for we are sinful men, O Lord; have thou therefore mercy upon us, and forbear us.
We have seen by this time how we may use S. Peter's words and how we must not use them. We may in humility desire God to withdraw his judgments, to proportion his mercies, and to distil them by degrees, to forbear to over-throw our nature or overwhelm our souls with a happiness above our mortal capacity. We may, lastly, by such a kind of speech declare the sense of our own unworthiness to receive so glorious a guest home to us, so even wishing him to choose a better house to be in, or make ours such. But we must not, through natural imperfections or impatience, draw back ourselves from the service of God, or desire him to withdraw back from us; nor must we at any time, by sin, cause him to depart, or by perverseness thrust him out of doors; nor yet, lastly, grow weary of the gracious effects and tenders of his presence, in his sacraments, word, and worship: for so we do not so much confess, as profess, and make ourselves to be sinful men; in humility you may sometimes use the words, in impatience never.
We cannot, now you see, say always he does well, that, with S. Peter, says to Christ, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord;" yet there is something to make the desire at least seem reasonable, and often be so, when he says it as S. Peter did.
And the first reason why S. Peter desires Christ to depart here, is for that he is a man; and the first reason why we are all so willing to have God gone from us is because we [295/296] Firstly, mutable and inconstant pieces, which are neither well when God is with us, nor when he is from us. If he be with us, then presently, Fac cessare sanctum Israel a nobis. "Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us." We cannot say with that strictness and exactness he requires of us, his ways are not pleasing to us. As soon as he is departed then we are at another cue, "Thou turnedst away thy face, and I was troubled." "Why art thou absent from us so long?" "Why hidest thou thy face from me?" and the like.
Secondly. Man is a mortal nature, a piece of clay. Now earth cannot contain heaven. We cannot endure the thunder as it roars or lightnings as they glitter, much less him whose presence is more terrible, whose voice moree dreadful, who even shakes the wilderness with his breath, at whose presence the earth removes, and hailstones and coals of fire tumble down.
Thirdly. "Flesh is grass,"' we are butg hay and stubble, and "God is a consuming fire;" well may mortality, then, desire him to depart, lest it should consume it in a moment.
Fourthly. It was the opinion of the Jew that man could not see God and live, as appears by Manoah's speech, in Judges xiii.22, and several other places. S. Peter, it may be, had such an imagination, whence it is he desires Christ to depart from him, being no other than God himself, after whose sight he was perhaps afraid he had seen his last.
Thus (1) man, as man, thinks he can spare the presence of his Lord, as feeling his earthly cottage altogether unable in itself to entertain him. But (2) reflecting upon his sin, whereby he is yet; made far more unfitting and undeserving such an honour, he desires the absence of God by reason of his sin.
(1). He loves his sin, and is loath to forego it, and knows God will not be content to dwell with it, so he wretchedly chooses rather the company of sin than of his God; this is the way that mien of the world only speak the text. (2.) Sin even bids defiance to the Almighty, and turns him out of doors, that is the reason men so readily bid God to depart from them. (3.) Sin so disenables the powers of soul and body to any handsome attendance upon heaven, that neither of them [296/297] know how to receive him if he should come; and besides such a stench and filth there is from it in all the soul that the divine purity cannot endure then. Thus sinful man bids God go from him, because he is a sinful man.
Now comes the last reason why God is entreated to depart; because he is the Lord our God: a reason not readily conceived, yet this it is. Thou art the Lord, a God of pure eyes, a strict Master over thy servants, a person far above the reach and quality of thy vassals under thee; they are, therefore, no fit company for thee, thou so infinitely transcendest them. These are the reasons which S. Peter seems to allege, to persuade Christ from his poor wretched com-pany, because both his natural imperfections and his sinful weaknesses made him unfit for the company and unworthy the favour of his Saviour's glorious presence.
If we consider the same reasons they will serve to humble us as low as S. Peter did himself, to think ourselves unworthy of the least glance of our Saviour's eye: we will confess, if we remember that we are but men, that our frail, inconstant, corruptible nature is not answerable to the glory of so great a blessing; we will acknowledge, if we recollect we are sinful men, that we are not worthy that those eyes should look upon us, that infinite beauty come near our polluted ugliness. We will; in a word, profess, if we believe he is our Lord, we can no less than even desire him to depart, lest he should see too many errors and miscarriages in his servants. Indeed, the whole sum of all is, but to teach us humbly to confess ourselves unworthy of such a Lord and Master, not worthy of his miracles, not worthy of his mercies, not worthy of his presence, and ways or methods of his presence, being no better than sinful men. This if you carry home, and lay it up, and practise it, you carry enough for once, and this well done will be a sure foundation for all Christian virtues.
Yet I will not bid you say, with S. Peter, expressly, "Depart, O Lord:" or at least when you have said so in humility, say presently again with faith, rather "Tarry with us, O Lord, for we are sinful men." Say to God, as Jacob did to the angel that wrestled with him, "I will not let thee go unless thou bless me;" or else, Lord, if thou wilt depart, [297/298] yet come again and take me with thee, though I be a sinful man; or, depart, O Lord, as thou art angry with us, let thine anger go, but turn thyself again in mercy, and be pleased to stay. What though we be sinful men, O Lord? Yet we are men, thy creatures, the work of thine own hands, the price of thine own blood. Spare us, therefore, good Lord, and though thou hast departed from us, for a long, too long a season, return again and save us, for we are sinful men, people that have need of thy presence, never so much as now, who cannot be without it, who though we are not worthy to be with thee, yet we cannot but desire to be with thee for ever and ever. Turn thee then, O Lord, and be gracious unto thy servants, cleanse us from our sins, free us from our iniquities, fit us for thy presence, compass us with thy mercy, and visit us with thy salvation; salvation here and salvation hereafter, where we may enjoy thy blessed and glorious presence for evermore.