Front Page Titles (by Subject) A SERMON, FOUND AMONG THE PAPERS OF BISHOP ANDREWS. - The Works of Richard Hooker, vol. 3
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A SERMON, FOUND AMONG THE PAPERS OF BISHOP ANDREWS. - 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 SERMON, FOUND AMONG THE PAPERS OF BISHOP ANDREWS.
Matth. vii. 7, 8.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For whosoever asketh, &c.
SERM. VII.AS all the creatures of God, which attain their highest perfection by process of time, are in their first beginning raw; so man, in the end of his race the perfectest, is at his entrance thereunto the weakest, and thereby longer enforced to continue a subject for other men’s compassions to work upon voluntarily, without any other persuader, besides their own secret inclination, moving them to repay to the common stock of humanity such help, as they know that themselves before must needs have borrowed; the state and condition of all flesh being herein alike. It cometh hereby to pass, that although there be in us, when we enter into this present world, no conceit or apprehension of our own misery, and for a long time after no ability, as much as to crave help or succour at other men’s hands; yet through his most good and gracious providence, which feedeth the young, even of feathered fowls and ravens, (whose natural significations of their necessities are therefore termed in Scripture “prayers and invocations1 ” which God doth hear), we amongst them, whom he values at a far higher rate than millions of brute creatures, do find by perpetual experience daily occasions given unto every of us, religiously to acknowledge with the Prophet David1 , “Thou, O Lord, from our birth hast been merciful unto us,” we have tasted thy goodness, hanging even at our mothers’ breasts.SERM. VII. 1. That God, which during infancy preserveth us without our knowledge, teacheth us at years of discretion how to use our own abilities for procurement of our own good.
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” For whosoever doth ask, shall receive; whosoever doth seek, shall find; the door unto every one which knocks shall be opened.
In which words we are first commanded to “ask,” “seek,” and “knock:” secondly, promised grace answerable unto every of these endeavours; asking, we shall have; seeking, we shall find; knocking, it shall be opened unto us: thirdly, this grace is particularly warranted, because it is generally here averred, that no man asking, seeking, and knocking, shall fail of that whereunto his serious desire tendeth.
1. Of asking or praying I shall not need to tell you, either at whose hands we must seek our aid, or to put you in mind that our hearts are those golden censers from which the fume of this sacred incense must ascend. For concerning the one, you know who it is which hath said, “Call upon me2 ;” and of the other, we may very well think, that if any where, surely first and most of all in our prayers, God doth make his continual claim, Fili, da mihi cor tuum3 , Son let me never fail in this duty to have thy heart.
Against invocation of any other than God alone, if all arguments else should fail, the number whereof is both great and forcible, yet this very bar and single challenge might suffice; that whereas God hath in Scripture delivered us so many patterns for imitation when we pray, yea, framed ready to our hands in a manner all, for suits and supplications, which our condition of life on earth may at any time need, there is not one, no not one to be found, directed unto angels, saints, or any, saving God alone. So that, if in such cases as this we hold it safest to be led by the best examples that have gone before, when we see what Noah, what Abraham, what Moses, what David, what Daniel, and the rest did; what form of prayer Christ himself likewise taught his Church, and what his blessed Apostles did practise; who can doubt but the way for us to pray so as we may undoubtedly be accepted, is by conforming our prayers to theirs, whose supplications we know were acceptable?
Whoso cometh unto God with a gift, must bring with him a cheerful heart, because he loveth hilarem datorem1 , a liberal and frank affection in giving. Devotion and fervency addeth unto prayers the same that alacrity doth unto gifts; it putteth vigour and life in them. Prayer proceedeth from want, which being seriously laid to heart, maketh suppliants always importunate; which importunity our Saviour Christ did not only tolerate in the woman of Canaan (Matth. xv.), but also invite and exhort thereunto, as the parable of the wicked judge sheweth (Luke xiii).
Our fervency sheweth us sincerely affected towards that we crave: but that which must make us capable thereof, is an humble spirit; for God doth load with his grace the lowly, when the proud he sendeth empty away: and therefore to the end that all generations of the world might know how much it standeth them upon to beware of all lofty and vain conceits when we offer up our supplications before him, he hath in the Gospel both delivered this caveat, and left it by a special chosen parable exemplified. 2 The Pharisee and publican having presented themselves in one and the same place, the temple of God, for performance of one and the same duty, the duty of prayer, did notwithstanding, in that respect only, so far differ the one from the other, that our Lord’s own verdict of them remaineth as (you know) on record, “They departed home,” the sinful publican, through humility of prayer, just; the just Pharisee, through pride, sinful. So much better doth he accept of a contrite peccavi, than of an arrogant Deo gratias.
Asking is very easy, if that were all God did require: but because there were means which his providence hath appointed for our attainment unto that which we have from him, and those means now and then intricated, such as require deliberation, study, and intention of wit; therefore he which emboldeneth to ask, doth after invocation exact inquisition; a work of difficulty. The baits of sin every where open, ready always to offer themselves; whereas that which is precious, being hid, is not had but by being sought. Præmia non ad magna pervenitur nisi per magnos labores, Bernard: straitness and roughness are qualities incident unto every good and perfect way. What booteth it to others that we wish them well, and do nothing for them? As little ourselves it must needs avail, if we pray and seek not. To trust to labour without prayer, it argueth impiety and profaneness; it maketh light of the providence of God: and although it be not the intent of a religious mind, yet it is the fault of those men whose religion wanteth light of mature judgment to direct it, when we join with our prayer slothfulness and neglect of convenient labour. He which hath said, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask”—hath in like sort commanded also to seek wisdom, to search for understanding as for treasure. To them which did only crave a seat in the kingdom of Christ, his answer, as you know, in the Gospel, was this1 ; To sit at my right hand and left hand in the seat of glory is not a matter of common gratuity, but of Divine assignment from God. He liked better of him which inquired, “2 Lord, what shall I do that I may be saved?” and therefore him he directeth the right and ready way, “Keep the commandments.”
I noted before unto you certain special qualities belonging unto you that ask: in them that seek there are the like: [in] which we may observe it is with many as with them of whom the Apostle speaketh3 , they “are alway learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Ex amore non quærunt, saith Bernard; they seek because they are curious to know, and not as men desirous to obey. It was distress and perplexity of mind which made them inquisitive, of whom St. Luke in the Acts4 reporteth, that sought counsel and advice with urgent solicitation; Men and brethren, sith God hath blessed you with the spirit of understanding above others, hide not from miserable persons that which may do them good; give your counsel to them that need and crave it at your hands, unless we be utterly forlorn; shew us, teach us, what we may do and live. That which our Saviour doth say of prayer in the open streets, of causing trumpets to be blown before us when we give our alms, and of making our service of God a means to purchase the praise of men, must here be applied to you, who never seek what they ought, but only when they may be sure to have store of lookers on. “On my bed,” saith the Canticles1 , “there did I seek whom my soul doth love.” When therefore thou resolvest thyself to seek, go not out of thy chamber into the streets, but shun that frequency which distracteth; single thyself from thyself, if such sequestration may be attained. When thou seekest, let the love of obedience, the sense and feeling of thy necessity, the eye of singleness and sincere meaning guide thy footsteps, and thou canst not slide.
You see what it is to ask and seek; the next is “knock.” There is always in every good thing which we ask, and which we seek, some main wall, some barred gate, some strong impediment or other objecting itself in the way between us and home; for removal whereof, the help of stronger hands than our own is necessary. As therefore asking hath relation to the want of good things desired, and seeking to the natural ordinary means of attainment thereunto; so knocking is required in regard of hindrances, lets, or impediments, which are doors shut up against us, till such time as it please the goodness of Almighty God to set them open: in the mean while our duty here required is to knock. Many are well contented to ask, and not unwilling to undertake some pains in seeking; but when once they see impediments which flesh and blood doth judge invincible, their hearts are broken. Israel in Egypt, subject to miseries of intolerable servitude, craved with sighs and tears deliverance from that estate, which then they were fully persuaded they could not possibly change, but it must needs be for the better. Being set at liberty, to seek the land which God had promised unto their fathers did not seem tedious or irksome unto them: this labour and travel they undertook with great alacrity, never troubled with any doubt, nor dismayed with any fear, till at the length they came to knock at those brazen gates, the bars whereof, as they have no means, so they had no hopes, to break asunder. Mountains on this hand, and the roaring sea before their faces; then all the forces that Egypt could make, coming with as much rage and fury as could possess the heart of a proud, potent, and cruel tyrant: in these straits, at this instant, Oh, that we had been so happy as to die where before we lived a life, though toilsome, yet free from such extremities as now we are fallen into! Is this the milk and honey that hath been so spoken of? Is this the paradise in description whereof so much glosing and deceiving eloquence hath been spent? Have we after four hundred and thirty years left Egypt to come to this? While they are in the midst of their mutinous cogitations, Moses with all instancy beateth, and God with the hand of his omnipotency casteth open the gates before them, maugre even their own infidelity and despair. It was not strange then; nor that they afterward stood in like repining terms: for till they came to the very brink of the river Jordan, the least cross accident, which lay at any time in their way, was evermore unto them a cause of present recidivation and relapse. They having the land in their possession, being seated in the heart thereof, and all their hardest encounters past, Joshua and the better sort of their governors, who saw the wonders which God had wrought for the good of that people, had no sooner ended their days, but first one tribe, then another, in the end all, delighted in ease; fearful to hazard themselves in following the conduct of God, weary of passing so many strait and narrow gates, [they] condescended to ignominious conditions of peace, joined hands with infidels, forsook Him which had been always the Rock of their salvation, and so had none to open unto them, although their occasions of knocking were great afterward, moe and greater than before. Concerning Issachar, the words of Jacob, the father of all the patriarchs, were these; “Issachar, though bonny and strong enough unto any labour, doth couch notwithstanding as an ass under all burdens; he shall think with himself that rest is good, and the land pleasant; he shall in these considerations rather endure the burden and yoke of tribute, than cast himself into hazard of war1 .” We are for the most part all of Issachar’s disposition, we account ease cheap, howsoever we buy it. And although we can happily [i.e. haply] frame ourselves sometimes to ask, or endure for a while to seek;SERM. VII. 2. yet loth we are to follow a course of life, which shall too often hem us about with those perplexities, the dangers whereof are manifestly great.
But of the duties here prescribed of asking, seeking, knocking, thus much may suffice. The promises follow which God hath made.
2. “Ask and receive, seek and find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” Promises are made of good things to come; and such, while they are in expectation, have a kind of painfulness with them; but when the time of performance and of present fruition cometh, it bringeth joy.
Abraham did somewhat rejoice in that which he saw would come, although knowing that many ages and generations must first pass: their exultation far greater, who beheld with their eyes, and embraced in their arms, Him which had been before the hope of the whole world. We have found that Messias; have seen the salvation: “Behold here the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world1 .” These are speeches of men not comforted with the hope of that they desire, but rapt with admiration at the view of enjoyed bliss.
As oft therefore as our case is the same with the prophet David’s; or that experience of God’s abundant mercy towards us doth wrest from our mouths the same acknowledgments which it did from his, “I called on the name of the Lord, and he hath rescued his servant: I was in misery, and he saved me: Thou, Lord, hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling2 :” I have asked and received, sought and found, knocked and it hath been opened unto me: can there less be expected at our hands, than to take the Cup of Salvation, and bless, magnify, and extol the mercies heaped upon the heads of the sons of men? Are we in the case of them, who as yet do only ask and have not received? It is but attendance a small time, we shall rejoice then; but how? we shall find, but where? it shall be opened, but with what hand? To all which demands I must answer.
Use the words of our Saviour Christ;SERM. VII. 3.Quid hoc ad te1? what are these things unto us? Is it for us to be made acquainted with the way he hath to bring his counsel and purposes about? God will not have great things brought to pass, either altogether without means, or by those means altogether which are to our seeming probable and likely. Not without means, lest under colour of repose in God we should nourish at any time in ourselves idleness: not by the mere ability of means gathered together through our own providence, lest prevailing by helps which the common course of nature yieldeth, we should offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving for whatsoever prey we take to the nets which our fingers did weave2 ; than which there cannot be to Him more intolerable injury offered. Vere et absque dubio, saith St. Bernard, hoc quisque est pessimus, quo optimus, si hoc ipsum quo est optimus adscribat sibi3 ; the more blest, the more curst, if we make his graces our own glory, without imputation of all to him; whatsoever we have we steal, and the multiplication of God’s favours doth but aggravate the crime of our sacrilege. He, knowing how prone we are to unthankfulness in this kind, tempereth accordingly the means, whereby it is his pleasure to do us good. This is the reason why God would neither have Gideon to conquer without an army, nor yet to be furnished with too great an host. This is the cause why, as none of the promises of God do fail, so the most are in such sort brought to pass, that, if we after consider the circuit, wherein the steps of his providence have gone, the due consideration thereof cannot choose but draw from us the selfsame words of astonishment, which the blessed Apostle hath: “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom of God! how unsearchable are his counsels, and his ways past finding out4 !” Let it therefore content us always to have his word for an absolute warrant; we shall receive and find in the end; it shall at length be opened unto you: however, or by what means, leave it to God.
3. Now our Lord groundeth every man’s particular assurance touching this point upon the general rule and axiom of his providence, which hath ordained these effects to flow and issue out of these causes; gifts of suits, finding out of seeking, help out of knocking: a principle so generally true, that on his part it never faileth.
For why? it is the glory of God to give; his very nature delighteth in it; his mercies in the current, through which they would pass, may be dried up, but at the head they never fail. Men are soon weary both of granting and of hearing suits, because our own insufficiency maketh us still afraid, lest by benefiting of others we impoverish ourselves. We read of large and great proffers, which princes in their fond and vain-glorious moods have poured forth: as that of Herod; and the like of Ahasuerus in the Book of Hester. “Ask what thou wilt, though it reach to the half of my kingdom, I will give it thee1 :” which very words of profusion do argue, that the ocean of no estate in this world doth so flow, but it may be emptied. He that promiseth half of his kingdom, foreseeth how that being gone, the remainder is but a moiety of that which was. What we give we leave; but what God bestoweth benefiteth us, and from him it taketh nothing: wherefore in his propositions there are no such fearful restraints; his terms are general in regard of making, “Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name2 ;” and general also in respect of persons, “whosoever asketh, whosoever seeketh.” It is true, St. James saith3 , “Ye ask, and yet ye receive not, because you ask amiss;” ye crave to the end ye might have to spend upon your lusts. The rich man sought heaven, but it was then, when he felt hell. The virgins knocked in vain, because they overslipped their opportunity; and when the time was to knock, they slept: but Quærite Dominum dum inveniri potest4 , perform these duties in their due time and due sort. Let there, on our part, be no stop, and the bounty of God we know is such, that he granteth over and above our desires. Saul sought an ass, and found a kingdom. Solomon named wisdom, and God gave Solomon wealth also, by way of surpassing. “Thou hast prevented thy servant with blessings5 ,” saith the prophet David. “He asked life, and thou gavest him long life, even for ever and ever.” God a giver; “He giveth liberally, and upbraideth none in any wise1 :” and therefore he better knoweth than we the best times, and the best means, and the best things, wherein the good of our souls consisteth.
[1 ][Psalm cxlvii. 9.]
[1 ]Psalm xxii. 9.
[2 ]Psalm l. 15.
[3 ]Prov. xxiii. 26.
[1 ][2 Cor. ix. 7.]
[2 ]Luke xviii. 10-14.
[1 ]Matt. xx. 23.
[2 ]Matt. xix. 16, 17.
[3 ]2 Tim. iii. 7.
[4 ]ii. 37.
[1 ]iii. 1.
[1 ]Gen. xlix. 14, 15.
[1 ]John i. 29.
[2 ]Psalm cxvi. 4-8.
[1 ]John xxi. 22.
[2 ]Habak. i. 46.
[3 ][In Cantica, Serm. lxxxiv. 2.] 1887.
[4 ]Rom. xi. 33.
[1 ]Mark vi. 23; Esther vii. 2.
[2 ]John xvi. 23.
[3 ]James iv. 3.
[4 ]Isa. lv. 6.
[5 ]Psalm xxi. 3, 4.
[1 ]James i. 5.