An Homily for the Days of Rogation Week. That All Good Things Cometh from God.
I AM purposed this day, good devout Christian people, to declare unto you the most deserved praise and commendation of Almighty God; not only in consideration of the marvellous creation of this world, or for the conservation and governance thereof, wherein his great power and wisdom might excellently appear, to move us to honour and dread him; but most specially in consideration of his liberal and large goodness, which the Almighty God; not only in consideration of the marvellous creation of this world, or for the conservation and governance thereof, wherein his great power and wisdom might excellently appear, to move us to honour and dread him; but most specially in consideration of his liberal and large goodness, which he deed to praise him and serve him all the days of our life. And to this matter, being so worthy to entreat of, and so profitable for you to hear, I trust I shall not need with much circumstance of words to stir you to give your attendance, to hear what shall be said. Only I would wish your affection inflamed in secret wise within yourself to raise up some motion of thanksgiving to the goodness of Almighty God in every such point as shall be opened by my declaration particularly unto you. For else what shall it avail us to hear and know the great goodness of God towards us, to know that whatsoever is good proceedeth from him, as from the principal fountain and the only author, or to know that whatsoever is sent from him must need to be good and wholesome, if the hearing of such matter moveth us no further but to know it only? What availed it the wise men of the world to have a knowledge of the power and divinity of God by the secret inspiration of him, where they did not honour and glorify him in the knowledge as God? What praise was it to them, by the consideration of the creation of the world to behold his goodness, and yet were not thankful to him again for his creatures? What other thing deserved this blindness and forgetfulness of them at God’s hands, but utter forsaking of him? And so forsaken of God they could not but fall into extreme ignorance and error. And, although they much esteemed themselves in their wits and knowledge, and gloried in their wisdom, yet vanished they away blindly in their thoughts became fools, and perished in their folly. There can be none other end of such as draweth nigh to God by knowledge, and yet depart from him in unthankfulness, but utter destruction. This experience saw David in his days. For in his Psalm he saith, Behold, they which withdraw themselves from thee shall perish; for thou hast destroyed them all that are strayed from thee. This experience was perceived to be true of that holy Prophet Hieremy. 0 Lord, saith he, whatsoever they be that forsake thee shall be confounded; they that depart from thee shall be written in the earth and soon forgotten. It profiteth not, good people, to hear the goodness of God declared unto us, if our hearts be not inflamed thereby to honour and thank him. It profited not the Jews, which were God’s elect people, to hear much of God, seeing that he was not received in their hearts by faith, nor thanked for his benefits bestowed upon them. Their unthankfulness was the cause of their destruction. Let us eschew the manner of these before rehearsed, and follow rather the example of that holy Apostle St. Paul, which when in a deep meditation he did behold the marvellous proceedings of Almighty God, and considered his infinite goodness in the ordering of his creatures, he blast out into this conclusion: Surely, saith he, of him, by him, and in him be all things. And, this once pronounced, he stack not still at this point, but forthwith thereupon joined to these words, To him be glory and praise for ever. Amen.
Upon the ground of which words of St. Paul, good audience, I purpose to build my exhortation of this day unto you. Wherein I shall do my endeavour, first to prove unto you, that all good things cometh down to us from above, from the Father of Light; secondly, that Jesus Christ, his Son and our Saviour, is the mean by whom we receive his liberal goodness; thirdly, that in the power and virtue of the Holy Ghost we be made meet and able to receive his gifts and graces: which things, distinctly and advisedly considered in our minds, must needs compel us in most low reverence, after our bounden duty, always to render him thanks again in some testification of our good hearts for his deserts unto us. And, that the entreating of this matter in hand may be to the glory of Almighty God, let us in one faith and charity call upon the Father of mercy, from whom cometh every good gift and every perfect gift, by the mediation of his well beloved Son our Saviour, that we may be assisted with the presence of his Holy Spirit, and wholesomely on both our parts to demean ourselves in speaking and hearing, to the salvation of our souls.
In the beginning of my speaking unto you, good Christian people, suppose not that I do take upon me to declare unto you the excellent power or the incomparable wisdom of Almighty God, as though I would have you believe that it might be expressed unto you by words. Nay, it may not be thought that that thing may be comprehended by man’s words that is incomprehensible. And too much arrogancy it were for dust and ashes to think that he could worthily declare his Maker. It passeth far the dark understanding and wisdom of a mortal man, to speak sufficiently of that divine Majesty, which the angels cannot understand. We shall therefore lay apart to speak of that profound and unsearchable nature of Almighty God, rather acknowledging our weakness than rashly to attempt that is above all man’s capacity to compass. It shall better suffice us in low humility to reverence and dread his Majesty, which we cannot comprise, than by overmuch curious searching to be overcharged with the glory.
We shall rather turn our whole contemplation to answer a while his goodness towards us; wherein we shall be much more profitably occupied, and more may we be bold to search. To consider this great power he is of can but make us dread and fear; to consider his high wisdom might utterly discomfort our frailty to have any thing with him: but in consideration of his inestimable goodness we take good heart again to trust well unto him; by his goodness we be assured to take him for our refuge, our hope and comfort, our merciful Father, in all the course of our lives. His power and wisdom compelleth us to take him for God omnipotent, invisible, having rule in heaven and in earth, having all things in his subjection, and will have none in council with him, nor any to ask the reason of his doing: for lie may do what liketh him, and none can resist him. For he worketh all things in his secret judgment to his own pleasure, yea, even the wicked to damnation, saith Salomon. By the reason of this nature he is called in Scripture consuming fire, he is called a terrible and fearful God. Of this behalf therefore we may have no familiarity, no access unto him: but his goodness again tempereth the rigour of his high power, and maketh us bold, and putteth us in hope that he will be conversant with us and easy unto us.
It is his goodness that moveth him to say in Scripture it is my delight to be with the children of men. It is his goodness that moveth him to call us unto him, to offer us his friendship and presence. It is his goodness that patiently suffereth our straying from him, and suffereth us long, to win us to repentance. It is of his goodness that we be created reasonable creatures, where else he might have made us brute beasts. It was his mercy to have us born among the number of Christian people, and thereby in a much more nighness to salvation, where we might have been born (if his goodness had not been) among the pagans, clean void from God and the hope of everlasting life. And what other thing doth his loving and gentle voice, spoken in his word, where he calleth us to his presence and friendship, but declare his goodness only, without regard of our worthiness? And what other thing doth stir him to call us to him when we be strayed from him, to suffer us patiently, to win us to repentance, but only his singular goodness, no whit of our deserving?
Let them all come together that be now glorified in heaven, and let us hear what answer they will make in these points afore rehearsed, whether their first creation was of God’s goodness or of themselves. Forsooth David would make answer for them all, and say, Know ye for surely even the Lord is God, he hath made us and not we ourselves. If they were asked again, who should be thanked for their regeneration, for their justification, and for their salvation, whether their deserts or God’s goodness only; although in this point every one confess sufficiently the truth of this matter in his own person, yet let David answer by the mouth of them all at this time; who cannot choose but say , Not to us, 0 Lord, not to us, but to thy Name give all the thank for thy loving mercy and for thy truth’s sake. If we should ask again, from whence came their glorious works and deeds, which they wrought in their lives, wherewith God was so highly pleased and worshipped by them, let some other witness be brought in to testify this matter, that in the mouth of two or three may the truth be known. Verily that holy Prophet Esay beareth record, and saith, O Lord, it is thou of thy goodness that hast wrought all our works in us not we of ourselves. And, to uphold the truth of this matter against all justiciaries and hypocrites, which rob Almighty God of this honour and ascribe it to themselves, St. Paul bringeth in his belief. We be not, saith he, sufficient of ourselves, as of ourselves, once to think any thing, but all our ableness is of God’s goodness. For he it is in whom we have all our being, our living, and moving.
If this holy company therefore confesseth so constantly, that all the goods and graces wherewith they were endued in soul came of the goodness of God only, what more can be said to prove that all that is good cometh from Almighty God? Is it meet to think that all spiritual goodness cometh from God above only, and that other good things, either of nature or of fortune (as we call them), cometh of any other cause? Doth God of his goodness adorn the soul with all the powers thereof, as it is and cometh the gifts of the body, wherewith it is endued, from any other? If he doeth the more, cannot he do the less? To justify a sinner, to new create him from a wicked person to a righteous man, is a greater act, saith St. Augustine, than to make such a new heaven and earth as is already made. We must need agree, that whatsoever good thing is in us, of grace, of nature, of fortune, is of God only, as the only Author and Worker.
And yet it is not to be thought that God hath created all this whole universal world as it is, and, thus once made, hath given it up to be ruled and used after our own wits and devices, and so take no more charge therefore: as we see the shipwright, after he hath brought his ship to a perfect end, then delivereth he it to the mariners, and take no more cure thereof. Nay, God hath not so created the world, that he is careless of it ; but he still preserveth it by his goodness, he still stayeth it in his crea- tion: for else, without his special goodness, it could not stand long in his condition. And therefore St. Paul saith, that he preserveth all things and beareth them up still in his word, lest they should fall without him to their nothing again, whereof they were made. If his special goodness were not every where present, every creature should be out of order, and no creature should have his property, wherein he was first created. He is therefore invisibly every where and in every creature, and fulfilleth both heaven and earth with his presence ; in the fire, to give heat ; in the water, to give moisture ; in the earth, to give fruit ; in the heart, to give his strength ; yea, in our bread and drink he is , to give us nourishment ; where without him the bread and drink cannot give sustenance, nor the herb health, as the Wise Man plainly confesseth it, saying it is not the increase of fruits that feedeth men, but it is thy word, O Lord, which preserveth them that trust in thee. And Moses agreeth to the same, when he saith, Man’s life resteth not in bread only, but in every word which proceedeth out of God’s mouth It is neither the herb nor the plaster that giveth health of themselves but thy word, O Lord, saith the Wise Man, which healeth all things. It is not therefore the power of the creatures which worketh their effects, but the goodness of god which worketh in them. In his word truly doth all things consist. By that same word that heaven and earth were made, by the same are they upholden, maintained and kept in order, saith St. Peter, and shall be till Almighty God shall withdraw his power from them and speak their dissolution.
If it were not thus, that the goodness of God were effectually in his creatures to rule them, how could it be that the main sea, so raging and labouring to overflow the earth, could be kept within his bonds and banks, as it is? That holy man Job evidently spied the goodness of God in this point, and confessed, that if he had not a special goodness to the preservation of the earth, it could not but shortly be overflowed of the sea. How could it be that the elements, so diverse and contrary as they be among themselves, should yet agree and abide together in a concord, without destruction one of another, to serve our use, if it came not only of God’s goodness so to temper them? How could the fire not burn and consume all things, if it were left loose to go whither it would, and not stayed in his sphere by the goodness of God, measurably to heat these inferior creatures to their riping? Consider the huge substance of the earth, so heavy and great as it is: how could it so stand stably in the place as it doth, if God’s goodness reserved it not so for us to travail on? It is thou, O Lord, saith David, which hast founded the earth in his stability; and during thy word it shall never reel or fall down. Consider the great strong beasts and fishes, far passing the strength of man: how fierce soever they be and strong, yet by the goodness of God they prevail not against us, but are under our subjection, and serve our use. Of whom came the invention thus to subdue them and make them fit for our commodities? Was it by man’s brain? Nay, rather this invention came by the goodness of God, which inspired man’s understanding to have his purpose of every creature. Who was it¸ saith Job, that put will and wisdom in man’s head, but God of his goodness? And as the same saith again, I perceive that every man hath a mind, but it is the inspiration of the Almighty that giveth understanding. It could not be verily, good Christian people, that man of his own wit unholpen should invent so many and diverse devices in all crafts and sciences, except the goodness of Almighty God had been present with men, and had stirred their wits and studies of purpose to know the natures and disposition of all his creatures to serve us sufficiently in our needs and necessities, yea, not only to serve our necessities, but to serve our pleasures and delight, more than necessity requireth. So liberal is God’s goodness to us, to provoke us to thank him, if any hearts we have.
The Wise Man, in his contemplation by himself, could not but grant this thing to be true, that I reason unto you. In his hands, saith he, be we, and our words, and all our wisdom, and all our sciences and works of knowledge. For it is he that gave me the true instruction of his creatures, both to know the disposition of the world, and the virtues of the elements, the beginning and end of times, the change and diversities of them, the course of the year, the order of the stars, the natures of beasts, and the powers of them, the power of the winds, and thoughts of men, the differences of plants, the virtue of roots; and, whatsoever is hid and secret in nature, I learned it. The artificer of all these taught me this wisdom. And further he saith, Who can search out the things that be in heaven? For it is hard for us to search such things as be on earth and in daily sight afore us. For our wits and thoughts, be imperfect, and our policies uncertain. No man can therefore search out the meaning in these things, except thou givest wisdom, and sendest thy Spirit from above. If the Wise Man thus confesseth all these things to be of God, why should not we acknowledge it, and by the knowledge of it to consider our duty to Godward to gives him thanks for his goodness ?
I perceive that I am far here overcharged with the plenty and copy of matter, that might be brought in for the proof of this cause. If I should enter to shew how the goodness of Almighty God appeared every where in the creatures of the world, how marvellous they be in their creation, how beautified in their order, how necessary they be to our use, all with one voice must needs grant their author to be none other but Almighty God ; his goodness must they needs extol and magnify every where. To whom be all honour and glory for evermore.
- Rom 1, 19-23 ↑
- Ps lxxii ↑
- Jer xvii, 13 ↑
- Rom xi, 36 ↑
- James I, 17 ↑
- Ibid ↑
- Gen xvii, 27 ↑
- Prov xvi, 4 ↑
- Heb xii, 29; Deut v, 24; Exod xv, 11 ↑
- Prov viii, 31 ↑
- Ps c, 3 ↑
- Matt xvii, 16 ↑
- Is xxvi, 22 ↑
- 2 Cor iii, 5; Acts xvii, 18 ↑
- Heb i, 51; iii, 4 ↑
- Wisd xvi, 16 ↑
- Deut vii, 3 ↑
- Wisd xvi, 12 ↑
- 2 Pet III, 7 ↑
- Job xxviii, 11 ↑
- Ps ciii; civ, 5 ↑
- Job xxxvii, 36 ↑
- Job xxxii, 8 ↑
- Wisd, vii, 16-22; ix, 14-17 ↑