An Homily for the Days of Rogation Week Part II

In the former part of this Homily, good Christian people, I have declared to your contemplation the great goodness of Almighty God in the creation of this world with all the furniture thereof for the use and comfort of man, whereby we might the rather be moved to acknowledge our duty again to his Majesty. And I trust it hath wrought not only credit in you, but also it hath moved you to render your thanks secretly in your hearts to Almighty God for his loving kindness. But yet peradventure some will say that they can agree to this, that all that is good pertaining to the soul or whatsoever is created with us in body, should come from God, as from the Author of all goodness, and from none other; but ford such things as be without them both, I mean such good things which we call goods of fortune, as riches, authority, promotion, and honour, some men may think that they should come of our ‘ industry and diligence, of our labour and travail, rather than supernaturally.

Supernaturally. Now then consider, good people, if any author there be of such things concurrent with man’s labour and endeavour, were it meet to ascribe them to any other than to God? As the pagan philosophers and poets did err, which took fortune and made her a goddess, to be honoured for such things. God forbid, good Christian people, that this imagination should earnestly be received of us, that be worshippers of the true God, whose works and proceedings be expressed manifestly in his word. These be the opinions and sayings of infidels, not of true Christians. For they indeed, as Job maketh mention, believe and say that God hath his residence and resting place in the clouds, and consider nothing of our matters.[1] Epicures they be that imagine that he walketh about the coasts of the heavens and have no respect to these inferior things; but that all these things should proceed either by chance and adventure, or else by disposition of fortune, and God to have no stroke in them. What other thing is it to say than the fool supposeth in his heart there is no God?[2] Whom we shall none otherwise reprove than with God’s own words by the mouth of David. Hear, my people, saith he, for I am thy God, thy very God. All the beasts of the wood are mine, sheep and oxen that wandereth on the mountains. I have the knowledge of all the fowls of the air; the beauty of the field is my handywork. Mine is the whole circuit of the world, and all the plenty that is in it.[3] And again by the Prophet Jeremy: Thinkest thou that I am a God of the place nigh me saith the Lord, and not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in so secret a corner that I shall not see him? Do not I fulfill and replenish both heaven and earth? Saith the Lord.[4] Which of these two should be most believed? fortune, whom they paint to be blind of both eyes, ever unstable and unconstant in her wheel, in whose hands they say these things be? Or God, in whose hands and power these things be indeed, who for his truth and constance was yet never reproved? For his sight looketh thorough heaven and earth, and seeth all things presently with his eyes. Nothing is too dark or hidden from his knowledge, not the privy thoughts of men’s minds. Truth it is that of God is all riches, all power, all authority, all health, wealth, and prosperity; of the which we should have no part without his liberal distribution, and except it came from him above. David first testifieth it of riches and possessions: If thou givest good luck, they shall gather, and if thou openest thy hand they shall be troubled.[5] And Salomon saith, It is the blessing of the Lord that maketh rich men. To this agree that holy woman Anne, where she saith in her song, It is the Lord that maketh the poor and maketh the rich; it is he that promoteth and pullet down, he maketh the rich, he can raise a needy man from his misery and from the dunghill he can lift up a poor personage, to sit with princes and have the seat of glory: for all the coasts of the earth be his.[6]

Now, if any man will ask what shall it avail us to know that every good fit[7]as of nature and fortune (so called), and every perfect gift, as of grace, concerning the soul, to be of God, and that it is his gift only, forsooth for many causes is it convenient for us to know it. For so shall we know, if we confess the truth, who ought justly to be thanked for them. Our pride shall be thereby abated, (perceiving naught to come of ourselves but sin and vice,) if any goodness be in us, to refer all laud and praise for the same to Almighty God. It shall make us not to avaunce ourselves before our neighbour, to despise him for that he hath fewer gifts, seeing God giveth his gifts where he will: it shall make us by the consideration of our gifts not to extol ourselves before our neighbours: it shall make the wise man not to glory in his wisdom, nor strong man in his strength, nor the rich to glory in his riches,[8] but in the living God, which is Author of all these: lest, if we should do so, we might be rebuked with the words of St. Paul, What hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou has received it, why gloriest in thyself as though thou haddest not received it?[9]

To confess that all good things cometh from Almighty God is a great point of wisdom, my friends. For so confessing we know whither to resort, for to have them if we want; as St. James bid us, saying, If any man wanteth the gift of wisdom, let him ask it of God, that gives it and it shall be given him.[10] As the Wise Man, in the want of such a like gift, made his recourse to God for it, as he testifieth in his book. After I knew, saith he, that otherwise I could not be chaste except God created it (and this was high wisdom, to know whose gift it was,) I made haste to the Lord, and earnestly besought him, even from the roots of my heart, to have it.[11] I would to God, my friends, that in our wants and necessities we would go to God, as St. James bids, and as the Wise Man teacheth us that he did. I would we believed steadfastly that God only gives them. If we did, we would not seek our want and necessity of the devil and his ministers so oft as we do, as daily experience declareth it. For, if we stand in necessity of corporal health, whither go the common people but to charms, witchcrafts, and other delusions of the devil? If we knew that God were the Author of this gift, we would only use his means appointed, and bide his leisure, till he thought it good for us to have it given. If the merchant and worldly occupier knew that God is the Giver of riches, he would content himself with as much as by just means, approved of God, he could get to his living, and would be no richer than truth would suffer him j he would never procure his gain and ask his goods at the devil’s hand. God forbid, ye will say, that any man should take his riches of the devil. Verily so many as increase themselves by usury, by extortion, by perjury, by stealth, by deceits and craft, they have their goods of the devil’s gift. And all they that give themselves to such means, and have renounced the true means that God hath appointed, have forsaken him, and are become worshippers of the devil, to have their lucres and advantages. They be such as kneel down to the devil at his bidding, and worship him for he promiseth them for so doing, that he will give them the world and the goods therein. They cannot otherwise better serve the devil than to do his pleasure and commandment. And his motion and will it is to have us forsake the truth, and betake us to false hood, to lies, and perjuries. They therefore which believed perfectly in their heart, that God is to be honoured and requested for the gift of all things necessary, would use no other means to relieve their necessities but truth and verity, and would serve God to have competency of all things necessary. The man in his need would not relieve his want by stealth: the woman would not relieve her necessity and poverty by giving her body to other in adultery for gain. If God be the Author indeed of life, health, riches, and welfare, let us make our recourse to him, as to the Author, and we shall have it, saith St. James. Yea, it is high wisdom by the Wise Man therefore to know whose gift it is.

For many other skills it is wisdom to know and believe that all goods and graces be of God, as the Author. Which thing well considered must needs make us think that we shall make account for that which God giveth us to occupy and therefore shall make us to be more diligent well to spend them to God’s glory and to the profit of our neighbour; that we may make a good account at the last, and be praised for good stewards; that we may hear these words of our Judge, Well done, good servant and faithful: thou has been faithful in a little, I will make thee rule over much: go into thy Master’s joy.[12]

Besides, to believe certainly God to be the Author of all the gifts that we have shall make us to be in silence and patience when they be taken again from us. For, as God of his mercy doth grant us them to use, so otherwise he doth justly take them again from us, to prove our patience, to exercise our faith, and by the means of the taking away of a few, to bestow the more warily those that remain, to teach us to use them the more to his glory after he giveth them to us again. Many there be that with their mouth can say that they believe that God is the Author of every good gift that they have, but in the time of temptation they go back from this belief. They say it in word, but deny it in deed. Consider me the usage of the world, and see whether it be not true. Behold the rich man, that is endued with substance: if by any adversity his goods be taken from him, how fumeth and fretteth he! How murmureth he and despaireth! He that hath the gift of good reputation, if his name be any thing touched by the detractor, how unquiet is he! How busy to revenge his despite! If a man hath the gift of wisdom, and fortune to be taken of some evil wilier for a fool, and is so reported, how much doth it grieve him to be so esteemed! Think ye that these believe constantly that God is the Author of these gifts? If they believed it verily, why should they not patiently suffer God to take away his gifts again, which he gave them freely, and lent for a time?

But ye will say, I could be content to resign to God such gifts, if he took them again from me; but now are they taken from me by evil chances and false shew by naughty wretches; how should I take this thing patiently? To this may be answered, that Almighty God is of his nature invisible, and cometh to no man visibly, after the manner of man, to take away his gifts that he lent; but in this point, whatsoever God doeth, he bringeth it about by his instruments ordained thereto. He hath good angels, he hath evil angels; he hath good men, and he hath evil men ; he hath hail and rain, he hath wind and thunder, he hath heat and cold; innumerable instruments hath he, and messengers, by whom again he asketh such gifts as he committeth to our trust. As the Wise Man confesseth, the creature must needs wait to serve his maker, to be fierce against unjust men to their punishment: for as the same author saith, he armeth the creature to revenge his enemies.[13] And otherwhiles to the probation of our faith stirreth he up such storms. And therefore, by what mean and instrument soever God takes from us his gifts, we must patiently take God’s judgment in worth and acknowledge him to be the Taker and Giver; as Job saith, The Lord gave, and the Lord took, when yet his enemies drove his cattle away and when the devil slew his children and afflicted his body with a grievous sickness.[14] Such meekness was in that holy King and Prophet David when he was reviled of Semei in the presence of all his host: he took it patiently, and reviled not again; but, as confessing God to be the author of his innocency and good name, and offering it to be at his pleasure, Let him alone, saith he to one of his knights, that would have revenged such despite for God hath commanded him to curse David, and peradventure God intendeth therby to render me some good turn for this curse of him today.[15] And, though the minister otherwhiles doeth evil in his act, proceeding of malice, yet, forsomuch as God turneth his evil act to a proof of our patience, we should rather submit ourself in patience than to have indignation at God’s rod; which peradventure, when he hath corrected us to our nurture he will cast it into the fire, as it deserveth.

Let us in like manner truly acknowledge all our gifts and prerogatives to be so God’s gifts, that we shall be ready to resign them up at his will and pleasure again. Let us throughout s our whole lives confess all good things to come of God, of what name and nature soever they be; not of these corruptible things only whereof I have now last spoken, but much more of all spiritual graces behovable for our soul. Without whose good ness no man is called to faith, or stayed therein, as I shall here after in the next part of this Homily declare to you. In the mean season forget not what hath already been spoken to you, forget not to be conformable in your judgments to the truth of this doctrine and forget not to practise the same in the whole state of your life; whereby ye shall obtain that blessing promised by our Saviour Christ, Blessed be they which hear the word of God and fullfilleth it in life.[16] Which blessing he grant to us all who reigneth over all, one God in Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: to whom be all honour and glory for ever. Amen.

  1. Job xxii, 14
  2. Ps xiv, 1
  3. Ps xiix, 1-12
  4. Jer xxiii, 23-24
  5. Ps civ, 28-29
  6. 1 Sam ii, 7-8
  7. James I, 17
  8. Jerm ix, 23
  9. 1 Cor iv, 7
  10. James I, 5
  11. Wisd viii, 51
  12. Matt xxv, 31
  13. Wisd xvi, 24
  14. Job I, 23
  15. 2 Sam, xvi, 5-12
  16. Luke xi, 28

 



The Editors


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