[Sidenote: Arguments of commendation.]
Oh that I had so much zeale, as to steep it in it owne liquour; to set it forth in it owne colours, that the Lord would touch my tongue with a coale from his Altar, that I might regaine the decayed credit of it, with the sons of men.
[Sidenote: 1. From God's excellency whom zeale only becomes unworthily placed elsewhere.]
It is good to bee zealous in a good things: and is it not best, in the best? or is there any better then God, or the kingdome of heaven? Is it comely what ever we do, to do it with all our might? onely uncomely when wee serve God? Is meane and mediocrity, in all excellent Arts excluded, and onely to be admitted in religion? Were it not better to forbeare Poetry or Painting, then to rime or dawbe? and were it not better to bee of no religion, then to be colde or lukewarme in any? Is it good to be earnest for a friend, & cold for the Lord of hosts? For whom doest thou reserve the top of thy affections? for thy gold? for thy Herodias, &c. O yee adulterers and adultresses, can yee offer God a baser indignity? What ayleth the world? Is it afrayd thinke we, that God can have too much love; who in regard of his owne infinite beauty, & the beames he vouchsafeth to cast upon us, deserves the best, yea all, and a thousand times more then all? Ought not all the springs and brookes of our affection, to runne into this Maine? may not hee justly disdaine, that the least Riveret should bee drained another way? that any thing in the world should bee respected before him, equalled with him, or loved out of him, of whom, for whom, and through whom are all things? Who, or what can bee sufficient for him our Maker and Saviour? In other objects feare excesse: here no extasie is high enough.
[Sidenote: 2. From his spirituall nature.]
Consider and reason thus with thy selfe (O man) canst thou brooke a sluggard in thy worke, if thou bee of any spirit thy selfe? is not a slothfull messenger as vinegar to thy teeth, and as smoake to thine eyes? Hast thou any sharpnesse of wit, is not dulnesse tedious unto thee? And shall hee that is all spirit (for whom the Angels are slow and colde enough) take pleasure in thy drowzie and heavie service? Doe men choose the forwardest Deere in the heard, and the liveliest Colt in the drove? and is the backwardest man fittest for God? Is not all his delight in the quickest and cheerefullest givers and servitors? Even to Judas he saith, That thou doest, doe quickely; so odious is dulnesse unto him: what else mooved him to ordaine, that the necke of the consecrated Asse should bee broken, rather then offered up in sacrifice; doth God hate the Asse? Or is it not for the sake of the quality of the creature; which hath ever among the Heathens beene an Hieroglyphick of heavinesse and tardity?
[Sidenote: 3. Effects of zeale. Revel.12.]
[Sidenote: Opus operatum.]
Thirdly, this zeale is so gracious a favorite with God, that it graces with him all the rest of his graces. Prayer if it bee fervent, prevaileth much: the zealous witnesses had power to shut and open heaven: by this, Israel wrastled with God, overcame, and was called a Prince with God: this strengthned the heart of Moses (as Aaron and Hur supported his hands) till the Lord sayd, Let me alone: this made Cornelius his prayer to come into heaven; whither our colde sutes can no more ascend, then vapours from the Still, unlesse there bee fire under it: Repentance, a needefull and primary grace, which the Baptist so urged: but then wee must bee zealous and repent (as my text joynes them) or else no repentance pleaseth God; nor are there fruits worthy repentance. Almes and good deeds are sacrifices pleasing to God; but without zeale, the widowes mites are no better then the rest; It is the cheerefull loose, that doubleth the gift. Generally, as some mans marke and name, furthereth the sale of his commodity; so zeale inhanceth all the graces of God. It pittieth me for Laodicea that lost so much cost; had as many vertues, did as many duties as other Churches: but for want of this, Christ could not sup with them. Furnish a table with the principallest fare, and daintiest dishes that may be had; let them be rosted & boyled to the halves, or stand on the table till they bee lukewarme; what will the guests say? All that we can doe is but the deede done, unlesse zeale conferre grace.
[Sidenote: 4. Baptismus Flaminis & Fluminis.]
Fourthly, zeale is the richest evidence of faith, and the cleerest demonstration of the Spirit: The Baptisme of water, is but a cold proofe of a mans Christendome; being common to all commers: but if any bee baptized with fire, the same is sealed up to the day of Redemption. If any shall say, friend, what doest thou professe a religion without it; how can hee choose but bee strucke dumb? Can wee suppose worme-wood without bitternesse, a man without reason? then may wee imagine a religion, and a Christian, without spirit and zeale.
The Jesuite saith, I am zealous; the Separatist, I am zealous; their plea is more probable, then the lukewarme worldlings, that serve God without life. If the colour bee pale and wan, and the motion insensible, the party is dead or in a swoune; if good and swift, wee make no question. The zealous Christian is never to seeke for a proofe of his salvation: what makes one Christian differ from another in grace, as starrs doe in glory; but zeale? All beleevers have a like precious faith: All true Christians have all graces in their seedes; but the degrees of them are no way better discerned then by zeale: Men of place distinguish themselves, by glistering pearles: A Christian of degrees shines above other in zeale. Comparisons I know are odious to the world, that faine would have all alike: but the righteous is better then his neighbour: All Christians are the excellent of the earth, the Zelot surmounteth them all, as Saul the people by the head and shoulders; hee is ever striving to excell and exceeds others and himselfe.
One of these is worth a thousand others, one doth the worke of many: which made him speake of Elisha in the plurall number, The horsemen and Charriots of Israel; besides his owne worke, hee winns and procures others, makes Proselytes. It is the nature of fire to multiply, one coale kindles another: his worke so shines, that others come in and glorifie God; marvelling and enquiring what such forwardnesse should meane, concluding with Nebuchadnezzar, Surely the servants of the most high God.
These are good Factors and Agents, doing God as good service, as Boutesewes doe the Divell, and Jesuites the Pope, sparing no cost, nor labour; and what they cannot doe themselves, they doe by their friends, Who is on my side, who? &c.
As for lets and impediments, they over-looke and over-leape them, as fire passeth from one house to another; neither is there any standing for any Gods enemies before them: they make havock of their owne and others corruptions. If you will rightly conceive of Peters zeale in converting & confounding, you must imagine (saith Chrysostome) a man made all of fire walking in stubble. All difficulties are but whetstones of their fortitude. The sluggard saith, There is a Lyon in the way; tell Samson & David so, they will the rather goe out to meet them. Tell Nehemiah of Samballat, hee answereth, Shall such a man as I feare? Tell Caleb there are Anakims, and hee will say, Let us goe upp at once, &c. Let Agabus put off his girdle and binde Paul, let him be told in every City, that bonds await him, hee is not onely ready for bonds, but for death; tell Jubentius, hee must lay downe his life, he is as willing as to lay off his clothes: tell Luther of enemies in Wormes, hee will goe if all the tiles of the houses were Divells. The horse neighs at the trumpet; the Leviathan laughs at the speare. They that meane to take the Kingdome of God by violence, provide themselves to goe through fire and water, carry their lives in their hands, embrace faggots; they say to father and mother, I know you not: to carnall Counsellers and friendly enemies, Get you behinde mee Sathan. Zeale is as strong as death, hot as the coales of Juniper; flouds of many waters cannot quench it. Agar, Pro.30. speakes of foure things, stately in their kinde; I will make bold to add a fift, comprehending and excelling them all namely the zealous Christian, strong and bold as the Lyon; not turning his head for any; as swift as the grey-hound in the waies of Gods commandements; in the race to heaven, as nimble as the Goat climbing the steepe and craggy mountaines of pietie and vertue; A victorious King, overcoming the world and his lusts: Salomon in all his royalty, is not cloathed like one of these in his fiery Charriot.
To cut off the infinite praises of zeale, let us heare what honourable testimonies and glorious rewards, it pleaseth God to conferre upon it; Davids ruddy complexion and his skill in musique, made him amiable in the eyes of men: but the zeale of his heart, stiled him a man after Gods owne heart; and the sweet Singer of Israel. Abraham, that could finde in his heart to sacrifice his Isaack, was called the friend of God. The same vertue denominated Jacob a Prince with God. Elisha, The Charriots and horse-men. Paul, A chosen vessell, &c.
[Sidenote: Revel.7.3. Ezek.9. Exod.12.]
Neither doth God put them off, with names and empty favours, but upon these he bestowes his graces: David dedicateth his Psalmes to him that excelled: God in dispensing of favours, observeth the same rule, to him that overcommeth will I give, &c, To him that hath, shall bee given. Husbandmen cast their seede uppon the fertilest ground, which returnes it with the greatest interest: God gives most talents to those that improove them in the best banke. Joseph shall have a party coloured coat, of all kindes of graces and blessings: And because he knowes this will purchase them hatred and envy, hee takes them into speciall tuition; if any will hurt his zealous witnesses, there goeth out a fire out of their mouthes, to devoure their enemies. A man were better anger all the witches in the world then one of these. If God bring any common judgements, he sets his seale and Thau on their fore-heads, & sprinkles their posts; snatcheth Lot out of the fire (who burneth in zeale, as Sodome in lust) as men doe their plate whiles they let the baser stuffe burne. In fine, hee taketh Enoch and Eliah in triumphant Charriots up to heaven, and after their labours and toyles, setteth them in speciall Thrones, to rest in glory; The Apostles in their twelve, the rest in their order, according to their zeale. And though hee may well reckon the best of these, unprofitable servants; yet such congruity (not of merits, but of favour) it pleaseth him to observe in crowning his graces, that the most zealous heere, are the most glorious there.
Who would not now wonder, how ever this royall vertue should have lost it grace with the world; how ever any should admit a low thought of it? But what? Shall all the indignity which hell can cast upon it, make it vile in our eyes? or rather, shall wee not reason from the opposition, as Tertullian did of Nero: That religion which Nero so persecutes, must needs be excellent.
[Sidenote: 1 Object. Zeale is madd, and makes men mad.]
[Sidenote: Acts 26.24 1 Cor.]
If zeale were not some admirable good, the Divell and World would not so hate it; Yet lest silence should bee thought to baulke some unanswerable reasons, let us see how they labour to be madd with reason: Let Festus bee the Speaker for the rest, for hee speakes what all the rest thinke; you know his madd objection, and Pauls sober answer in that place, and the like, 2 Cor.5.13. whether hee bee madd or sober, it is for God and you.
This text bids us bee zealous and repent; the word signifies be wise againe, or returne to your wits. The prodigall is sayd to come to himselfe, when he was first heat with this fire. Wee may well answer the world as old men doe young: You thinke us Christians to bee madd that follow heaven so eagerly; but we know you to bee madd, that run a-madding so after vanity.
A Christian indeed is never right, till he seeme to the world to be beside himselfe; Christs owne kindred were afrayd of him. The Apostles are sayd to be full of new wine; besides, with these the world is madd: they runn with Stephan like madd men; Nichodemus and such as he, never offends them.
[Sidenote: 2 Object.]
[Sidenote: A makebate.]
[Sidenote: Tenterden steeple.]
You know also what Ahab laid to the charge of Eliah; with the Apologie hee made for himselfe. This is a stale imputation in ages. Haman accused Mordechay and the Jewes of it. The Apostles are sayd to bee troubles of the whole earth. In the Primitive Church all mutinies and contentions were layd to the Martyrs. True it is, where zeale is, there is opposition, and so consequently troubles: Christ sets this fire on earth, not as an author, but by accident: The theefe is the authour of the fray, though the true man strike never so many blowes: but the Ahabs of the world, trouble Israel; then, complaine of Eliah: The Papists will blow upp the State, then father it upon the Puritans. It is not for any wise man, to beleeve the tythe of the tales and slanders, which flie abroad of the zealous: Lewd men would fain strike at all goodnes through their sides.
[Sidenote: 3 Object. Proud.]
You may remember also Eliabs uncharitable censure of David, I know the pride of thine heart. So doe all worldlings measure others by their owne length; if they see any forwardnesse in the peaceablest spirit, they ascribe it either to vaine-glory, or covetousnesse; the onely springs that set their wheeles on going: but of this the knower of the hearts must judge betweene us.
[Sidenote: 4 Object. They keep no meane.]
When slaundering will not serve, then fall they to glavering, cunningly glancing at zeale, whiles they commend the golden meane wherein vertue consists. But Christians, take heede none spoyle you through such Philosophy; or rather Sopistry: for true Philosophy will tell you that the meane wherein vertue is placed, is the middle betwixt two kindes, and not degrees: And it is but meane vertue that loves the meane in their sense.
[Sidenote: 5 Object. Undiscreet.]
Oh say they, but some discretion would doe well; It is true, but take withall Calvins caveat to Melancthon: That he affect not so the name of a moderate man, and listen to such Syrens songs, till he lose his zeale.
I have observed, that which the world miscalls discretion, to eat upp zeale, as that which they call policy, doth wisdome. As Joab stabbed Abner under a colour of friendship: Antichrist undermineth Christ, by pretending to be his Vicar. The feare of overdoing makes most come too short; of the two extreamities, wee should most feare lukewarmnesse: rather let your milke boyle over then be raw.
From glavering, they fall to scoffing; yong Saints, will prove but olde Divels; these hot-spurrs will soone runne themselves out of breath. But wee say, such were never right bred; such as proove falling starres, never were ought but meteors; the other never lose light or motion: spirituall motions may be violent and perpetuall.
When none of these will take, they fal to right downe rayling; these Puritans, these singular fellowes, &c. unfit for all honest company. I hope the states Puritan, and the common Puritan bee two creatures. For with that staffe the multitude beats all that are better then themselves, & lets fly at all that have any shew of goodnes. But with that which most call Puritanisme, I desire to worship God. For singularity, Christs calls for it, and presseth & urgeth it; What singular thing doe you, or what odde thing doe you? Shall Gods peculiar people, doe nothing peculiar? The world thinkes it strange, wee runne not with them into excesses, and doe not as most doe, that wee might escape derision: Judge you which of these men shall please: I beleeve none shall ever please Christ, till they appeare odde, strange and precise men, to the common sort; and yet neede not bee over just neither Let them that have tender eares stop them against the charmes of the world, and scornes of Michol, unlesse they were wiser: Let him that hath a right eare, heare what Christ saith to the Churches, Be zealous.