Front Page Titles (by Subject) A LEARNED AND COMFORTABLE SERMON OF THE CERTAINTY AND PERPETUITY OF FAITH IN THE ELECT. ESPECIALLY OF THE PROPHET HABAKKUK'S FAITH 1 . - The Works of Richard Hooker, vol. 3
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A LEARNED AND COMFORTABLE SERMON OF THE CERTAINTY AND PERPETUITY OF FAITH IN THE ELECT. ESPECIALLY OF THE PROPHET HABAKKUK’S FAITH 1 . - Richard Hooker, The Works of Richard Hooker, vol. 3 
The Works of that Learned and Judicious Divine Mr. Richard Hooker with an Account of His Life and Death by Isaac Walton. Arranged by the Rev. John Keble MA. 7th edition revised by the Very Rev. R.W. Church and the Rev. F. Paget (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888). 3 vols. Vol. 3.
Part of: The Works of that Learned and Judicious Divine Mr. Richard Hooker with an Account of His Life and Death by Isaac Walton, 3 vols.
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A LEARNED AND COMFORTABLE SERMON OF THE CERTAINTY AND PERPETUITY OF FAITH IN THE ELECT.
Habak. i. 4.
[“Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth.”]
Whether the Prophet Habakkuk2 , by admitting this cogitation into his mind, “The law doth fail,” did thereby shew himself an unbeliever.
SERM. 1.WE have seen in the opening of this clause which concerneth the weakness of the prophet’s faith, first what things they are whereunto the faith of sound believers doth assent: secondly, wherefore all men assent not thereunto: and thirdly, why they that do, do it many times with small assurance. Now because nothing can be so truly spoken, but through misunderstanding it may be depraved; therefore to prevent, if it be possible, all misconstruction in this cause, where a small error cannot rise but with great danger, it is perhaps needful, ere we come to the fourth point, that something be added to that which hath been already spoken concerning the third.
That mere natural men do neither know nor acknowledge the things of God, we do not marvel, because they are spiritually to be discerned; but they in whose hearts the light of grace doth shine, they that are taught of God, why are they so weak in faith? Why is their assenting to the law so scrupulous, so much mingled with fear and wavering? It seemeth strange that ever they should imagine the law to fail. It cannot seem strange if we weigh the reason. If the things which we believe be considered in themselves, it may truly be said that faith is more certain than any science. That which we know either by sense, or by infallible demonstration, is not so certain as the principles, articles, and conclusions of Christian faith. Concerning which we must note, that there is a Certainty of Evidence and a Certainty of Adherence. Certainty of Evidence we call that, when the mind doth assent unto this or that, not because it is true in itself, but because the truth is clear, because it is manifest to us. Of things in themselves most certain, except they be also most evident, our persuasion is not so assured as it is of things more evident, although in themselves they be less certain. It is as sure, if not surer, that there be spirits, as that there be men; but we be more assured of these than of them, because these are more evident. The truth of some things is so evident, that no man which heareth them can doubt of them: as when we hear that “a part of any thing is less than the whole,” the mind is constrained to say, this is true. If it were so in matters of faith, then, as all men have equal certainty of this, so no believer should be more scrupulous and doubtful than another. But we find the contrary. The angels and spirits of the righteous in heaven have certainty most evident of things spiritual: but this they have by the light of glory. That which we see by the light of grace, though it be indeed more certain; yet is it not to us so evidently certain, as that which sense or the light of nature will not suffer a man to doubt of. Proofs are vain and frivolous except they be more certain than is the thing proved: and do we not see how the Spirit every where in the Scripture proveth matters of faith, laboureth to confirm us in the things which we believe, by things whereof we have sensible knowledge? I conclude therefore that we have less certainty of evidence concerning things believed, than concerning sensible or naturally perceived. Of these who doth doubt at any time? Of them at some time who doubteth not? I will not here allege the sundry confessions of the perfectest that have lived upon earth concerning their great imperfections this way; which if I did, I should dwell too long upon a matter sufficiently known by every faithful man that doth know himself.
The other, which we call the Certainty of Adherence, is when the heart doth cleave and stick unto that which it doth believe. This certainty is greater in us than the other. The reason is this: the faith of a Christian doth apprehend the words of the law, the promises of God, not only as true, but also as good; and therefore even then when the evidence which he hath of the truth is so small that it grieveth him to feel his weakness in assenting thereto, yet is there in him such a sure adherence unto that which he doth but faintly and fearfully believe, that his spirit having once truly tasted the heavenly sweetness thereof, all the world is not able quite and clean to remove him from it; but he striveth with himself to hope against all reason of believing, being settled with Job upon this unmoveable resolution, “Though God kill me, I will not give over trusting in him1 .” For why? this lesson remaineth for ever imprinted in him, “It is good for me to cleave unto God2 .”
Now the minds of all men being so darkened as they are with the foggy damp of original corruption, it cannot be that any man’s heart living should be either so enlightened in the knowledge, or so established in the love of that wherein his salvation standeth, as to be perfect, neither doubting nor shrinking at all. If any such were, what doth let why that man should not be justified by his own inherent righteousness? For righteousness inherent, being perfect, will justify. And perfect faith is a part of perfect righteousness inherent; yea a principal part, the root and the mother of all the rest: so that if the fruit of every tree be such as the root is, faith being perfect, as it is if it be not at all mingled with distrust and fear, what is there to exclude other Christian virtues from the like perfections? And then what need we the righteousness of Christ? His garment is superfluous: we may be honourably clothed with our own robes, if it be thus. But let them beware who challenge to themselves a strength which they have not, lest they lose the comfortable support of that weakness which indeed they have.
Some shew, although no soundness of ground, there is, which may be alleged for defence of this supposed perfection in certainty touching matters of our faith; as, first, that Abraham did believe and doubted not: secondly, that the Spirit which God hath given us to no other end, but only to assure us that we are the sons of God, to embolden us to call upon him as our Father, to open our eyes, and to make the truth of things believed evident unto our minds, is much mightier in operation than the common light of nature, whereby we discern sensible things: wherefore we must needs be more sure of that we believe, than of that we see; we must needs be more certain of the mercies of God in Christ Jesus, than we are of the light of the sun when it shineth upon our faces.
To that of Abraham, “He did not doubt1 ;” I answer, that this negation doth not exclude all fear, all doubting; but only that which cannot stand with true faith. It freeth Abraham from doubting through infidelity, not from doubting through infirmity; from the doubting of Unbelievers, not of weak Believers; from such a doubting as that whereof the prince of Samaria is attainted, who hearing the promise of sudden plenty in the midst of extreme dearth, answered, “Though the Lord would make windows in heaven, were it possible so to come to pass2 ?” But that Abraham was not void of all doubtings, what need we any other proof than the plain evidence of his own words3 ?
The reason which is taken from the power of the Spirit were effectual, if God did work like a natural agent, as the fire doth inflame, and the sun enlighten, according to the uttermost ability which they have to bring forth their effects. But the incomprehensible wisdom of God doth limit the effects of his power to such a measure as seemeth best unto himself. Wherefore he worketh that certainty in all, which sufficeth abundantly to their salvation in the life to come; but in none so great as attaineth in this life unto perfection. Even so, O Lord, it hath pleased thee; even so it is best and fittest for us, that feeling still our own infirmities, we may no longer breathe than pray, Adjuva, Domine; “Help, Lord, our incredulity1 .” Of the third question, this I hope will suffice, being added unto that which hath been thereof already spoken. The fourth question resteth, and so an end of this point.
That which cometh last of all in this first branch to be considered concerning the weakness of the Prophet’s faith, “Whether he did by this very thought, The law doth fail, quench the Spirit, fall from faith, and shew himself an unbeliever or no?” The question is of moment; the repose and tranquillity of infinite souls doth depend upon it. The Prophet’s case is the case of many; which way soever we cast for him, the same way it passeth for all others. If in him this cogitation did extinguish grace, why the like thoughts in us should not take the like effect, there is no cause. Forasmuch therefore as the matter is weighty, dear, and precious, which we have in hand, it behoveth us with so much the greater chariness to wade through it, taking special heed both what we build, and whereon we build: that if our building be pearl, our foundation be not stubble; if the doctrine we teach be full of comfort and consolation, the ground whereupon we gather it be sure; otherwise we shall not save but deceive both ourselves and others. In this we know we are not deceived, neither can we deceive you, when we teach that the faith whereby ye are sanctified cannot fail; it did not in the Prophet, it shall not in you. If it be so, let the difference be shewed between the condition of unbelievers and his, in this or in the like imbecility and weakness. There was in Habakkuk that which St. John doth call “the seed of God2 ,” meaning thereby the first grace which God poureth into the hearts of them that are incorporated into Christ; which having received, if because it is an adversary unto sin, we do therefore think we sin not, both otherwise, and also by distrustful and doubtful apprehending of that which we ought steadfastly to believe, surely we do but deceive ourselves. Yet they which are of God do not sin either in this, or in any thing, any such sin as doth quite extinguish grace, clean cut them off from Christ Jesus; because the “seed of God” abideth in them, and doth shield them from receiving any irremediable wound. Their faith, when it is at the strongest, is but weak; yet even then when it is at the weakest, so strong, that utterly it never faileth, it never perisheth altogether, no not in them who think it extinguished in themselves. There are for whose sakes I dare not deal slightly in this cause, sparing that labour which must be bestowed to make it plain. Men in like agonies unto this of the Prophet Habakkuk’s are through the extremity of grief many times in judgment so confounded, that they find not themselves in themselves. For that which dwelleth in their hearts they seek, they make diligent search and inquiry. It abideth, it worketh in them, yet still they ask where? Still they lament as for a thing which is past finding: they mourn as Rachel, and refuse to be comforted, as if that were not, which indeed is, and as if that which is not, were; as if they did not believe when they do, and as if they did despair when they do not. Which in some I grant is but a melancholy passion, proceeding only from that dejection of mind, the cause whereof is the body, and by bodily means can be taken away. But where there is no such bodily cause, the mind is not lightly in this mood, but by some of these three occasions. One, that judging by comparison either with other men, or with themselves at some other time more strong, they think imperfection to be a plain deprivation, weakness to be utter want of faith.
Another cause is, they often mistake one thing for another. St. Paul wishing well to the Church of Rome prayeth for them after this sort: “The God of hope fill you with all joy of believing1 .” Hence an error groweth, when men in heaviness of spirit suppose they lack faith, because they find not the sugared joy and delight which indeed doth accompany faith, but so as a separable accident, as a thing that may be removed from it; yea, there is a cause why it should be removed. The light would never be so acceptable, were it not for that usual intercourse of darkness. Too much honey doth turn to gall; and too much joy even spiritually would make us wantons. Happier a great deal is that man’s case, whose soul by inward desolation is humbled, than he whose heart is through abundance of spiritual delight lifted up and exalted above measure. Better it is sometimes to go down into the pit with him, who, beholding darkness, and bewailing the loss of inward joy and consolation, crieth from the bottom of the lowest hell, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me1 ?” than continually to walk arm in arm with angels, to sit as it were in Abraham’s bosom, and to have no thought, no cogitation, but “I thank my God it is not with me as it is with other men2 .” No, God will have them that shall walk in light to feel now and then what it is to sit in the shadow of death. A grieved spirit therefore is no argument of a faithless mind.
A third occasion of men’s misjudging themselves, as if they were faithless when they are not, is, they fasten their cogitations upon the distrustful suggestions of the flesh, whereof finding great abundance in themselves, they gather thereby, Surely unbelief hath full dominion, it hath taken plenary possession of me; if I were faithful, it could not be thus: not marking the motions of the Spirit and of faith, because they lie buried and overwhelmed with the contrary: when notwithstanding as the blessed Apostle doth acknowledge3 , that “the spirit groaneth,” and that God heareth when we do not; so there is no doubt, but that our faith may have and hath her privy operations secret to us in whom, yet known to him by whom, they are.
Tell this to a man that hath a mind deceived by too hard an opinion of himself, and it doth but augment his grief: he hath his answer ready, Will you make me think otherwise than I find, than I feel in myself? I have thoroughly considered and exquisitely sifted all the corners of my heart, and I see what there is; never seek to persuade me against my knowledge; “I do not, I know I do not believe.”
Well, to favour them a little in their weakness; let that be granted which they do imagine; be it that they are faithless and without belief. But are they not grieved for their unbelief? They are. Do they not wish it might, and also strive that it may, be otherwise? We know they do. Whence cometh this, but from a secret love and liking which they have of those things that are believed? No man can love things which in his own opinion are not. And if they think those things to be, which they shew that they love when they desire to believe them; then must it needs be, that by desiring to believe they prove themselves true believers. For without faith, no man thinketh that things believed are. Which argument all the subtilty of infernal powers will never be able to dissolve.
The faith therefore of true believers, though it have many and grievous downfalls, yet doth it still continue invincible; it conquereth and recovereth itself in the end. The dangerous conflicts whereunto it is subject are not able to prevail against it. The Prophet Habakkuk remained faithful in weakness, though weak in faith.
It is true, such is our weak and wavering nature, we have no sooner received grace, but we are ready to fall from it: we have no sooner given our assent to the law, that it cannot fail, but the next conceit which we are ready to embrace is, that it may, and that it doth fail. Though we find in ourselves a most willing heart to cleave unseparably unto God, even so far as to think unfeignedly with Peter, “Lord, I am ready to go with thee into prison and to death1 ;” yet how soon and how easily, upon how small occasions are we changed, if we be but a while let alone and left unto ourselves? The Galatians2 to-day, for their sakes which teach them the truth in Christ, content, if need were, to pluck out their own eyes3 , and the next day ready to pluck out theirs which taught them. The love of the Angel of4 the Church of Ephesus, how greatly inflamed, and how quickly slacked5 .
The higher we flow, the nearer we are unto an ebb, if men be respected as mere men, according to the wonted course of their alterable inclination, without the heavenly support of the Spirit.
Again, the desire of our ghostly enemy is so uncredible, and his means so forcible to overthrow our faith, that whom the blessed Apostle knew betrothed and made hand-fast unto Christ, to them he could not write but with great trembling: “I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, for I have prepared you to one husband to present you a pure virgin unto Christ: but I fear, lest as the Serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity which is in Christ6 .” The simplicity of faith which is in Christ taketh the naked promise of God, his bare word, and on that it resteth. This simplicity the serpent laboureth continually to pervert, corrupting the mind with many imaginations of repugnancy and contrariety between the promise of God, and those things which sense or experience or some other fore-conceived persuasion hath imprinted.
The word of the promise of God unto his people is, “I will not leave thee nor forsake thee1 :” upon this the simplicity of faith resteth, and it is not afraid of famine. But mark how the subtilty of Satan2 did corrupt the minds of that rebellious generation, whose spirits were not faithful unto God. They beheld the desolate state of the desert in which they were, and by the wisdom of their sense concluded the promise of God to be but folly: “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness3 ?”
The word of the promise to Sara was, “Thou shalt bear a son.” Faith is simple, and doubteth not of it: but Satan, to corrupt the simplicity of faith, entangleth the mind of the woman with an argument drawn from common experience to the contrary: “A woman that is old! Sara now to be acquainted again with forgotten passions of youth4 !”
The word of the promise of God by Moses and the prophets made the Saviour of the world so apparent unto Philip, that his simplicity could conceive no other Messias than Jesus of Nazareth the son of Joseph. But to stay Nathanael, lest being invited to come and see, he should also believe, and so be saved, the subtilty of Satan casteth a mist before his eyes, putteth in his head against this the common-conceived persuasion of all men concerning Nazareth: “Is it possible that a good thing should come from thence5 ?”
This stratagem he doth use with so great dexterity, the minds of all men are so strangely ensorceled6 with it, that it bereaveth them for the time of all perceivance of that which should relieve them and be their comfort; yea it taketh all remembrance from them, even of things wherewith they are most familiarly acquainted. The people of Israel could not be ignorant, that he which led them through the sea was able to feed them in the desert: but this was obliterated and put out by the sense of their present want. Feeling the hand of God against them in their food, they remembered not his hand in the day that he delivered them from the hand of the oppressor. Sara was not then to learn, that “with God all things were possible1 .” Had Nathanael never noted how “God doth choose the base things of this world to disgrace them that are most honourably esteemed2 ?”
The prophet Habakkuk knew that the promises of grace, protection, and favour, which God in the law doth make unto his people, do not grant them any such immunity as can free and exempt them from all chastisements: he knew that as God said, “I will continue my mercy for ever towards them;” so he likewise said, “Their transgressions I will punish with a rod3 :” he knew that it cannot stand with any reason we should set the measure of our own punishments, and prescribe unto God how great or how long our sufferings shall be: he knew that we were blind, and altogether ignorant what is best for us; that we sue for many things very unwisely against ourselves, thinking we ask fish when indeed we crave a serpent: he knew that when the thing we ask is good, and yet God seemeth slow to grant it, he doth not deny but defer our petitions, to the end we might learn to desire great things greatly: all this he knew. But, beholding the land which God had severed for his own people, and seeing it abandoned unto heathen nations; viewing how reproachfully they did tread it down, and wholly make havock of it at their pleasure; beholding the Lord’s own royal seat made a heap of stones, his temple defiled, the carcasses of his servants cast out for the fowls of the air to devour, and the flesh of his meek ones for the beasts of the field to feed upon; being conscious to himself how long and how earnestly he had cried, “Succour us, O God of our welfare, for the glory of thine own name4 ;” and feeling that their sore was still increased: the conceit of repugnancy between this which was object to his eyes, and that which faith upon promise of the law did look for, made so deep an impression and so strong, that he disputeth not the matter; but without any further inquiry or search inferreth, as we see, “The law doth fail.”
Of us who is here which cannot very soberly advise his brother? Sir, you must learn to strengthen your faith by that experience which heretofore you have had of God’s great goodness towards you: Per ea quæ agnoscas præstita, discas sperare promissa; “By those things which you have known performed, learn to hope for those things which are promised.” Do you acknowledge to have received much? Let that make you certain to receive more: Habenti dabitur; “To him that hath more shall be given.” When you doubt what you shall have, search what you have had at God’s hands. Make this reckoning, that the benefits, which he hath bestowed, are bills obligatory and sufficient sureties that he will bestow further. His present mercy is still a warrant of his future love, because, “whom he loveth, he loveth unto the end1 .” Is it not thus?
Yet if we could reckon up as many evident, clear, undoubted signs of God’s reconciled love towards us as there are years, yea days, yea hours, past over our heads; all these set together have not such force to confirm our faith, as the loss, and sometimes the only fear of losing a little transitory goods, credit, honour, or favour of men, a small calamity, a matter of nothing to breed a conceit, and such a conceit as is not easily again removed, that we are clean crost out of God’s book, that he regards us not, that he looketh upon others, but passeth by us like a stranger to whom we are not known. Then we think, looking upon others, and comparing them with ourselves, Their tables are furnished day by day; earth and ashes are our bread: they sing to the lute, and they see their children dance before them; our hearts are heavy in our bodies as lead, our sighs beat as thick as a swift pulse, our tears do wash the beds wherein we lie: the sun shineth fair upon their foreheads; we are hanged up like bottles in the smoke, cast into corners like the sherds of a broken pot: tell not us of the promises of God’s favour, tell such as do reap the fruit of them; they belong not to us, they are made to others. The Lord be merciful to our weakness, but thus it is.
Well, let the frailty of our nature, the subtilty of Satan, the force of our deceivable imaginations be, as we cannot deny but they are, things that threaten every moment the utter subversion of our faith; faith notwithstanding is not hazarded by these things. That which one sometimes told the senators of Rome1 , Ego sic existimabam, P. C. uti patrem sæpe meum prædicantem audiveram, qui vestram amicitiam diligenter colerent, eos multum laborem suscipere, cæterum ex omnibus maxime tutos esse; “As I have often heard my father acknowledge, so I myself did ever think, that the friends and favourers of this state charged themselves with great labour, but no man’s condition so safe as theirs;” the same we may say a great deal more justly in this case: our Fathers and Prophets, our Lord and Master hath full often spoken, by long experience we have found it true; as many as have entered their names in the mystical Book of Life, Eos maximum laborem suscipere, they have taken upon them a laboursome, a toilsome, a painful profession, sed omnium maxime tutos esse, but no man’s security like to theirs. “2 Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to winnow thee as wheat;” here is our toil: “but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not;” this is our safety. No man’s condition so sure as ours: the prayer of Christ is more than sufficient both to strengthen us, be we never so weak; and to overthrow all adversary power, be it never so strong and potent. His prayer must not exclude our labour. Their thoughts are vain who think that their watching can preserve the city which God himself is not willing to keep. And are not theirs as vain, who think that God will keep the city, for which they themselves are not careful to watch? The husbandman may not therefore burn his plough, nor the merchant forsake his trade, because God hath promised “I will not forsake thee.” And do the promises of God concerning our stability, think you, make it a matter indifferent for us to use or not to use the means whereby, to attend or not to attend to reading, to pray or not to pray that we “fall not into temptation?” Surely if we look to stand in the faith of the sons of God, we must hourly, continually, be providing and setting ourselves to strive. It was not the meaning of our Lord and Saviour in saying3 , “Father, keep them in thy name,” that we should be careless to keep ourselves. To our own safety, our own sedulity is required. And then blessed for ever and ever be that mother’s child whose faith hath made him the child of God. The earth may shake, the pillars of the world may tremble under us, the countenance of the heaven may be appalled1 , the sun may lose his light, the moon her beauty, the stars their glory; but concerning the man that trusteth in God, if the fire have proclaimed itself unable as much as to singe a hair of his head, if lions, beasts ravenous by nature and keen with hunger, being set to devour, have as it were religiously adored the very flesh of the faithful man; what is there in the world that shall change his heart, overthrow his faith, alter his affection towards God, or the affection of God to him? If I be of this note, who shall make a separation between me and my God? “Shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword2 ?” No; “I am persuaded that neither tribulation, nor anguish, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor peril, nor sword, nor death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature,” shall ever prevail so far over me. “I know in whom I have believed;” I am not ignorant whose precious blood hath been shed for me; I have a Shepherd full of kindness, full of care, and full of power: unto him I commit myself; his own finger hath engraven this sentence in the tables of my heart, “Satan hath desired to winnow thee as wheat, but I have prayed that thy faith fail not.” Therefore the assurance of my hope I will labour to keep as a jewel unto the end; and by labour, through the gracious mediation of his prayer, I shall keep it.
TO THE CHRISTIAN READER1 .
WHEREAS many, desirous of resolution in some points handled in this learned discourse, were earnest to have it copied out; to ease so many labours, it hath been thought most worthy and very necessary to be printed: that not only they might be satisfied, but the whole Church also hereby edified. The rather, because it will free the author from the suspicion of some errors, which he hath been thought to have favoured. Who might well have answered with Cremutius in Tacitus, “Verba mea arguuntur; adeo factorum innocens sum2 .” Certainly, the event of that time, wherein he lived, shewed that to be true, which the same author spake of a worse, “Cui deerat inimicus, per amicos oppressus3 ;” and that there is not “minus periculum ex magna fama, quam ex mala.” But he hath so quit himself, that all may see how, as it was said of Agricola, “Simul suis virtutibus, simul vitiis aliorum, in ipsam gloriam præceps agebatur4 .” Touching whom I will say no more, but that which my author said of the same man, “Integritatem, &c. in tanto viro referre, injuria virtutum fuerit.” But as of all other his writings, so of this I will add that, which Velleius spake in commendation of Piso, “Nemo fuit, qui magis quæ agenda erant curaret, sine ulla ostentatione agendi5 .” So not doubting, good Christian reader, of thy assent herein, but wishing thy favourable acceptance of this work, (which will be an inducement to set forth others of his learned labours,) I take my leave; from Corpus Christi College in Oxford, the 6th of July, 1612.
Thine in Christ Jesus,