The French theologian and reformer John Calvin (originally Jean Calvin or Cauvin), was born in Noyon, Picardy, to a staunch Roman Catholic family; his father hoped that he would become a priest. He went to Paris to study Latin and theology (and to flee the plague at Noyon) at the age of 14, but after his father was dismissed from the Roman Church by his employers at Noyon Cathedral, the young Calvin, at his father’s urging, shifted his course of study from theology to law. Even as a young man, Calvin was said to be extremely religious. He converted to the Protestant doctrines of the Reformation and was banished from Paris in 1533 with his friend, the rector Nicolas Cop, when the humanist reformers were renounced as heretical by the conservative faculty of the Collège Royal. Having been driven out of Geneva once, in 1538, Calvin succeeded in a second try at establishing the Consistory, an ecclesiastical court, and in 1541, he established government reform in Geneva, which would serve as the focal point for the defense of Protestantism throughout Europe. However, though Calvin had asked for a more humane form of execution, the court also oversaw under Calvin’s direction the burning at the stake in 1553 of a competing reformist theologian, Servetus, on a pile of Servetus’s own books. Strongly committed to the importance of education, Calvin founded the Academy of Geneva (1559), the progenitor of the University of Geneva. In his later years, Calvin suffered from very poor health, including lung hemorrhages, gout, migraines, and kidney stones; he was sometimes carried to the pulpit to preach, and on occasion gave lectures from his bed.
Taking refuge in Basel, Switzerland, Calvin published the first edition of his Instituto Christianae Religionis (in Latin, 1536; in French, 1541; translated into English as Institutes of the Christian Religion), his most famous and extraordinarily influential work. Stressing the total sovereignty of God, especially in determining who is elect and who is granted salvation, the Institutes brought together the scattered and unsystematic opinions of reformist writers of the period into one body of doctrine. Calvin revised and expanded the work throughout his life, with the fifth and final Latin edition of 1559 reaching a total of four books of 80 chapters, five times the length of the first publication. The five central points of Calvinism, including the total depravity or centrality of sin, and what is often called predestination, were later upheld by the Synod of Dort in 1619 in a denunciation of the competing reform ideology of Armenianism.
The excerpts from two of Calvin’s several sermons on Job reprinted here scrutinize Job’s seeming despair and desire to die as he suffers the afflictions God has allowed Satan to impose on him. Calvin argues that afflictions sent by God, however painful, are “for our profit and welfare,” and distinguishes between two radically different sorts of desire to die. One is born of suffering and the fear of future sinning: This sort of desire to die is illegitimate, in Calvin’s eyes, and itself sinful. In contrast, the form of desire to die (exhibited, for example, by St. Paul [q.v., under New Testament]), the desire to employ oneself in God’s service, is legitimate and praiseworthy. Calvin’s text is particularly relevant in exploring negative occasions of suicide, that is, choices made by a person apparently considering suicide but who rejects it.
John Calvin, Sermons of Maister John Calvin, upon the Booke of Job: 13th Sermon on the 3rd Chapter of Job (57a7-60a62); 17th Sermon on the 5th Chapter of Job (75b57 to 76a37); 22nd Sermon on the 5th Chapter of Job (102b11 to 102b60); 24th Sermon on the 6th Chapter of Job (108a6 to 108b14),translated from the French by Arthur Golding, pp. 57-60, 75-76, 102, 108. London: Impensis Georgij Bishop, 1574; facsimile reprint 1993, The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh.
SERMONS ON JOB
13th Sermon on the 3rd Chapter of Job
Job complaineth here; as though God did men wrong to put them into the world, and to exercise them with store of miseries. And so he maketh his reckoning, that if God will have us to live, he should maintain us at our ease, and not encumber us with many troubles. Thus we see briefly what is contained here. Verily Jobs intent was not to plead against God, as if he would go to law with him: but yet in the meanwhile, the grief that he sustained carried him so far forth, that these complaints passed out of his mouth. How now? Wherefore hath God set us in this world? Is it not to the end, that we should know him to be our Father, and that we should bless him, because we be sure that he hath a care of us? But contrariwise it is to be seen, that many men are afflicted and tormented with many miseries. To what purpose does God hold them at that point? It seemeth that he would have his name to be blasphemed. What can they do whom he handleth so rigorously? when they see death before their eyes, or rather have it between their teeth, they can not but fret and chafe at it. Thus we see an occasion of murmuring against God, and it seemeth that he himself is the cause of it. Here we have a very good and profitable lesson: which is that we should assure ourselves, that when God scourgeth us, yet he ceasseth not to give us some taste of his goodness, in such wise as even in the middest of our afflictions we may still praise him, and rejoice in him. Yet notwithstanding it is true that he restraineth our joys, and turneth them into bitterness. But there is a mean betwixt blessing of Gods name, and blaspheming of it: which mean is to call upon him when we be oppressed with adversity, and to resort unto him, desiring him to receive us unto mercy. But men can never keep this mean, except God have an eye to it of himself when he scourgeth us. Therefore let us mark first, that whensoever God sendeth us any troubles and sorrows, he ceaseth not to make us taste of his goodness therewithal, to assuage the anguish that might hold our hearts in distress. How is that? We have shewed heretofore, that if men had an eye to Gods former benefits towards them (yea though it were but in that he hath sustained them from their childhood, after he had brought théout of their mothers womb, and given them life : ) it were enough to comfort them, even when they be overloaded with despair, and to make them think: May not God punish us justly? for we be bound to bear patiently the adversity that he sendeth, and nature teacheth us so to do, forsomuch as he bestoweth so many benefits upon us, according as Job hath shewed heretofore. We see then how this only one consideration ought to assuage our sorrows, according as it is to be seen, that if men put sugar or honey into a medicine that is over bitter, it will alay it in such sort, as the patient may the better take it, whereas otherwise it would go near to choke him. But there is yet a further matter in this: namely, that God sheweth us the use of his chastisements which he sendeth us: which is not that he meeneth to destroy us so often as he scourges us: but that it is for our profit and welfare: and he promiseth us, that if we be faithful, he will not suffer [1 Cor 10 c 13] us to be racked out of measure, but will support us. So then, if we be afflicted, there is no reason why we should take pritch against God, as though we found nothing but rigor at his hand. For we be so comforted in our afflictions, as if our unthankfulness letted us not, we might rejoice and say, blessed be the name of God, although he send us not all our own desires. This much for the first point. And how herewithal we must mark also the second article, which I have touched already: which is, that although we have nothing but distress, although we be held as it were upon the rack, and that we have nothing at all to comfort us: yet must we not be hasty to take pritch against God, but we must rather call upon him, according as it is said: let him that is sorrowful pray. Saint James sheweth us the mean which we ought to hold. If we be merry (sayth he) let us sing: [Lar-s 5 t 33]not after the manner of the world (which ruffleth it and royetteth it, without acknowledging that his goods come of God) but in rendering praise to God for our gladness. And if we be in sorrow and heaviness, let us pray unto God, beseeching him to pity us, and to abate his rigor. Thus we see, that when the faithful are at the wits end, so as they can no further go, yet must they not rush against God, and find fault with him: neither must they outrage, as those do which are full of pride and rebelliousness: but rather let us think thus: Lord, I see myself to be a wretched creature. I know not where to become, I wote not what to do, except thou rescue me to mercy, and shewe thyself so pitiful towards me, as to relieve me of my misery, which I can no longer bear: Thus we see that the children of God must bear their adversities patiently, although God chastise them roughly for a time. And it is to be seen, that although Job had continually minded the same lesson: yet was he not sufficiently armed to withstand temptations: for he sayth here, Why doth God give light to such as are of troubled mind? He remembered not that God had just cause to keep men in the middes of many miseries, and that although their state be wretched here below, yet is God righteous still: and that albeit he punish us, and keeps us occupied many ways, yet it becometh not us to hold plea with him, under color that he holdeth us here against our will, and that we be shut up in prison while we be in this life: neither must we conceive any displeasure for all that. Job did not sufficiently consider this. Now is such a person as Job was, happened to overshoot himself, and to kick against God, for want of having the said regard that I have spoken of: much more must we set our minds upon the said two points: that is to wit, that we bear in remembrance, that God never forsaketh us, and therefore that we may not be oversorrowful when God sendeth us any adversities, because we be sure that his chastising of us is after such a sort, as therewithal he relieveth our grief, at leastwise if it be not long of ourselves, and of our own unthankfulness: And secondly, that when we be distressed that we can no more: God calleth and allureth us friendly unto him, yet I say he provoketh us to resort unto prayer as often as we be as it were utterly stripped out of all that we have. Lo hear the true remedy: which is to call upon our good God to have pity upon us, and not to suffer us to be so dismayed as to say, I wote not what to do, and it is to no purpose to go unto God. Let us keep ourselves from such encumbrance, and persuade ourselves that we shall always be sure to fare well, if we call upon God, who will be always merciful to us, even in the middest of our afflictions. When we have these two points well settled in our remembrance, we shall no more say: Wherefore is it that God holdeth those here which are in sorrow of mind? For we see wherefore he doth it. There is great reason why God should chastise men. For how great are our sins? the number of them is infinite. Again, if we look upon our lusts, there is also a very bottomless gulf, which hath need to be mended. God therefore must mortify us. Furthermore, if we consider how much we be given to the world: we shall find that our affections had need to be plucked from it by Gods chastisements. Moreover how great is our pride and presumptuousness? And therefore must God needs humble us. Besides all this, how cold are we to crave his help? and therefore he must be fayne to enforce us to it. Finally, ought not our faith to be tried and made known? Then see we not reasons inowe why God holdeth us here, and will have us to be miserable, so as there is nothing but pain, trouble, torment, and anguish in all our whole life? Is there not sufficient reason why God should do this? Mark here a special point. And sithe that he continually calleth us unto him, and maketh us free passage unto him, and that we have such a remedy in our miseries: may we not hold ourselves well appayed? We see how we ought to be armed and fenced against the said temptations, which reigned overmuch in Job, howebeit that he was not utterly overcome of it. For when Job speaketh here of such as desire the grave, and which willingly dig for it as for some hidden treasure, longing to die and can not: he putteth himself in the same rank, as we shall see by the sequel: wherein he confirmeth his own infirmity and vice. For it is not lawful for the faithful to mislike their own life, and to wish so for death. True it is that we may wish for death in one respect: which is, in consideration that we be hilde here in such bondage of sin, as we can not serve God so freely as were to be wished, because we are overfraught with vices. In respect hereof it is certain that we may sigh, and desire God to take us quickly out of the world. But (as is said afore) it may not be for that we hate our life, or for that we be weary to be hilde here because we be handled over rigorously: but we must bear our lot patiently, in waiting Gods leisure to deliver us. And we see that Paul holdeth the [Rom 7 d 24.25] self same measure when he sayth to the Romans, Alas, who shall deliver me from this mortal body? For I am unhappy. But yet therewithall he sayth, Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Lo here how Saint Paul on the one side calleth himself unhappy, and desireth to be taken out of the world: and on the other side is contented and at rest, because God prefereth him, and he knoweth that God will never forsake him, howbeit that he be subject to many miseries. We see here his contentation. And that we may the better understand the whole: let us mark how Job hath done amiss in two points. That is to witte, in not having the regard that he ought to have had in desiring death: and also in not keeping measure. Here we see two faults that are very gross. When I say that Job had not his eyes fastened upon the mark that he ought: I mean that his wishing for death, was not because he saw himself to be a miserable sinner, and could not attain to the perfection which all of us ought to labor for: but because he was weary of the nipping griefs, as well which he presently endured in his person, as which he had sustained before in his goods. And so he desired death, because it seemed to him that God pressed him overfore. Thus we see the first fault that I spake of. But if we apply the same to our own use, it will be yet better understood and apparent. If a man search and try himself thoroughly, and think thus with himself: I am given to such a vice, and I fight against it, but I can not come to my purpose: and the matter is not for one vice alone, but I have two or three that torment me. Surely yet I will not give myself the bridle, neither will I wound myself, I fear the vengeance of God, and will hold myself in such sort as I be not utterly vanquished: I see I must be much more earnest in serving God, and in fighting against the world and mine own flesh, as it is very requisite I should be, for I am hilde back and hindered by mine own lusts. I say, if a man acknowledge himself such a one: after he hath well examined his life, he sayth thereupon: yea my God, I see myself in miserable plight, and when shall I be delivered out of it? For needs must I bear sin in me, and although it reign not in me, yet doth it dwell in me. And what else is sin, but the devils scepter, whereby he reigneth over us? Then am I the bondslave of Satan and of death. O my God, must I tarry evermore in this wearisome plight? A Christian man may well have such sighs, and beseech God to set him free from such a bondage wherein he seeth himself to be. But if the matter concern adversity: we must regard neither cold nor heat, nor poverty, nor sickness: but we must have our eye only on our sins. And specially when God punisheth us, in what wise so ever it be, we must mount up higher, without any resting upon the bodily adversity, and think thus with ourselves: behold the fruits of our sins: forasmuch as we have done against Gods will, it is good reason that he should shew himself a judge towards us. When we have thus acknowledged our sins, the same worketh a remorse in us, and provoketh us to conceive the sorrows whereof S. Paul speaketh. And thus much as concerning the first point. But it is not inoughto think as afore is said [2 Cor 7 c 11]: that is to wit, to wish death is such wise as I have earst shewed: but it behoveth also to keep measure. I say, we must not only wish it upon good cause, but we must also bridle our desires, for as it be ruled by the good pleasure of God. And this will bring to pass, that the outrage which is shewed here in Job, shall be restrained as with a bridle. I have already touched this point in the text which I alleged out of S. Paul. For after he had made his moan, and wished to be delivered out of this prison of death: he addeth, I thank my God: and he ceasseth not to be quiet, even in the midst of those complaints and longings. And why so? for he seeth it is good reason that God should be the master, and govern us at his pleasure: and that we should patiently wait for such end as he listeth to give us. S. Paul perceiving this, concludeth immediately, that although he be a wretched sinner: yet notwithstanding he is sure that God will guide him in such wise, as his salvation can not miscarry. S. Paul then had an eye to those two things. And therefore he sayth that he yeldeth God thanks, not withstanding that he be in misery. Even so must we do. And is so doing, we shall not only be the readier to endure all the miseries of this world for the honor of God, that he may be glorified both in our persons, and in our humility: but also we shall be willing to suffer for our neighbors, as Saint Paul also sheweth us by his own example. He sayeth to the Philippians that as for himself, it should be far better for him to be taken out of the world: but for your sakes (sayth he) it is requisite that I live, because I know that you have as yet need of my labor, and that God employeth me about the edifying of your faith, and unto him do I submit myself. And afterward he sayeth: Although it were for my behoofe to go hence out of hand, yet am I willing to abide here still. Lo how faint (59a15) Paul exhorteth all men to submit themselves in such way unto Gods pleasure, as while they live in this world, they may not only bear their afflictions patiently, but also be ready to suffer for their neighbors, so as their labor may be profitable to the common weale, and they themselves do service to the church of God. Thus we see what we have to mark. But what? This lesson is not yet understood, forasmuch as there are very few that put it in use: for if God leave us in rest, ye shall see us so blended with vain and fond ioye and we be so oversotted, as we know neither death, nor our own frailty any more, neither have we any discretion at all. And if God visit us with any afflictions: it needs not to be asked whether we blasphemy or no, or whether any other pass out of our mouth or no: there will be store of misliking, of murmuring, and of impatience, which shall be full of sturdiness. And when the wind is in that door with us, how many be there that think upon their sins, and that groan under such a burden, and therewithall look unto the aide that God giveth them, how he suffereth them not to be utterly overcome by Satan, and thereupon do quiet themselves and take comfort in that he preferreth them? The number of them is very small: and yet is not this written in vain. But in general we have now to consider, that the faithful may well sigh and groan all their life long, till God have taken them out of the world, always wishing for their end, that is to say, for death: and yet not withstanding they must restrain themselves in such wyse, as they may wholly submit themselves to Gods good pleasure, knowing that they are not made for themselves. First I say, that the faithful may well sigh as folk that are weary of their long pinning in this prison of their flesh: namely for the cause that I have touched, which is, because they serve not God in such freedom as were requisite, but draw their lines amiss, so as they work awry, and oftentimes swerve aside. And (which more is) we must sigh but so farforth as is lawful for us: which is to be done so often as we enter into the consideration of our own overweariness when the matter standeth upon the serving of GOD. For, that must spur us to desire God to take us out of this world, and make us have an eye to the life that is prepared for us in heaven, which shall be fully shewed upon us at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And hereby we see how it is not only granted to Gods children to wish for death, but also that they ought to wish for it. For they shew not a good proof of their faith, except they seek to go out of this world, according as in deed all things hast and labor toward their mark. But our mark is aloft, and therefore must we never leave running till we come to our ways end which GOD hath set us: and we must desire that that may be quickly. Nevertheless let us always bear in mind the cause that I have spoken: namely, that we must not be provoked to wish for death, because we be subject some to sickness, some to poverty, some to one thing, and some to another: but because we be not fully reformed to the image of God, and because we have many imperfections in us. Mark well (I say) the cause that must spur and provoke us to desire death: namely, to the end that being rid of this mortal body (which is like a cabane full of stench and noisomeness) we may be fully reformed to the image of God, so as he may reign in us, and all the corruption of our nature be utterly done away.
And furthermore, let us keep us within the compass of desiring to live and die at Gods pleasure, so as we may not be given to our own will, but so as we may make as a sacrifice of it in that behalf, that our living may not be to ourselves but to God, so as we may say, Lord, I know mine own frailty. Nevertheless it is thy will to hold me in this world, and here I am, and good reason it is that I should tarry here: But whosoever it shall please thee to call me hence, I make no great accompt of my life, it is always at thy commandment, to dispose of it at thine own pleasure.
Behold (I say) how we ought to deal in this case. And herewithall, let us have our affections evermore quieted, yea even in such sort, as we may continually praise Gods name, assuring ourselves, that both in life and death, he will always shewe himself a Father and Savior towards us. But after that Job hath spoken so, he addeth: That such as are so distressed in their hearts, would be full glad and faine, if they might find their grave. Wherein he betrayed himself to speak through a brutish and unadvised affection, and that he keepeth neither measure nor modesty. For he confesseth that we come to naught there. So then we see how he is falne, howebeit not with a deadly fall, but with a half fall, and God raiseth him up again afterward as we shall see. Yet nevertheless the case standeth so, as we must verily condemn this infirmity here in Job: that is to say, he was so dismayed with heaviness, as he could no more taste of Gods goodness, thereby to gather never so little comfort to sustain himself by.
But forasmuch as we see that this befell unto him: so much the more must we be earnest in praying unto God, that sorrow may not overmate us so, as we should be utterly overwhelmed by it. Therefore let us always be so underdropped and stayed up, as we may fight against sorrowfulness, and feel that it is good for us to live here according to Gods will, and that although we have great griefs and troubles here, yet must we stand fully resolved upon this point, that is it good for us to continue here still in this world. And wherefore? To the end that God may be glorified in us, to the end that our faith may be tried, to the end we should call upon him, and profess him to be always our father, notwithstanding that he scourge us, and to the end that by means thereof we may be prepared to the heavenly life. This taste of the said fatherly goodness, must always make us desirous to go unto God, & not suffer us to give bridle to any one outrageous and beastly affection, as we see that Job hath done here. And by the way he sheweth, whence this heaviness came upon him, that had so wholly swallowed him up, and from whence also it proceedeth in those that are so dismayed as they can not admit any comfort to assuage their miseries. He sayth, To the man whose way is hidden and which God hath shut in, as if he had made hedges round about it, that no man should enter into it.
This is well worth to be noted. For Job sheweth wherein he failed: namely in not yielding himself inough to Gods providence. Yet notwithstanding, herewithall he discovereth a disease whereunto all of us are subject. That is to wit, that we be desirous to know all that must befall us, and what our state shall be: and all this we would have declared to us: in so much that when we are in perplexity, so as we know not what shall become of us, and that the inconvenience pincheth us, and we see no end of it: then are we at the point of utter despair.
Lo here a mischief that is overcommon and ordinary. And we must mark it well, to the end we may seek the remedy on the contrary part. What then is the inclination of men? It is, that they could well find in their hearts to leap up to the clouds, to know what shall be the course of their whole life. And we see how they determine with themselves, I will do this and that. [Prov 16 a 1] Salomon mocking at the overweening that is in men, sayeth that they determine upon their whole life: and whereas they can not move the tip of their tongue without God do guide it: yet determine they upon this and that. And what a mockery is it? They are not able to move the tip of their tongue, and yet they presume to say, Behold I will do this a ten years hence: according also as [Lam 4 d 13]Saint James agreeth with Salomon, in scorning of the said presumptuousness which is in men. For so long as God letteth us alone at our ease, every man believeth what he lifteth himself, and we take ourselves to be petigoddes. But as soon as God turneth his hand, and beateth us with his rods: ye shall see us so amazed, as we wote not where to become: we think it not possible for us ever to scape out of our miseries, we look on the one side and on the other, and we see no end at all of them: we be as it were so shut up in them, that we cannot take hold of the goodness and mighty power of God to succor us. And this is the very affection that Job sheweth us here, which is an overcommon disease as we find well enough by experience. For there is not anything that troubleth and tormenteth us so much, as when we see ourselves shut up, and know not what what will be the end of our miseries, nor what shall become of us, in so much as being assailed on all sides, we conclude with ourselves, that we can never get away without utter oppression and overthrow. Have we this sayd disease? Then let us resort to the remedy. For if the disease be not cured, we must needs fall into the sayd excessive passion, whereof mention is made here: namely that we shall wish for death, as men in despair, and shall have no assuagement of our miseries, but only to desire God to overwhelm us out of hand. But the convenient remedy of this disease is, to refer ourselves to Gods providence, that he may see brightly for us, and that sith we be blind, and in darkness, our God may guide us as he knoweth is good for us, and lead us forth in all our enterprises. Behold also whereunto the holy scripture bringeth us back. Jeremy sayeth [Jer 10 d 23], O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in his own power, neither is it in man to walk and direct his own steps. This is as much to say, as a man taketh too much upon him, when he purposeth to dispose of his own life.
17th Sermon on the 5th Chapter of Job
Afterward Eliphas addeth: That men perish and are consumed from morning unto the evening. Some expound this, as though it were meant that men perish in small time: and that is very true. But herewithall there is yet more: that is to witte, that we pass not a minute of our life, but it is as it were in approaching unto death. If we consider it well, when a man riseth in the Morning, he is sure he shall not step forth one pace, he is sure he shall not take his repast, he is sure he shall not turn about his hand, but he shall still wex elder and elder, and his life ever shortneth. Then must we consider even by eye sight, that our life fleeteth and slideth away from us. Thus we see what is meant by being consumed from Morning to Evening. And it is said afterward, that men perish for ever, because no man thinks upon it. We must treat of these two points, that we may profit ourselves by this doctrine. The one point is, that whatsoever we do, we should always have death before our eyes, and be provoked to think upon it. This (as I have said) is well known among men: the very Heathen had skill to say so. But what for that? Every man can play the Doctor in teaching other men that, which is contained here, and yet in the mean while there is never a good scholar of us all in this behalf. For there is not any man which showeth by this doings, that ever he knew what it is to be consumed from Morning to Evening: that is to wit, that all his lustiness is but feebleness, and that there is no steadfastness in us, to hold ourselves in one continual state: but that we always haste toward death, and death towards us, so as we must needs come thither at length. Verily if we had no more but this single doctrine alone: It would stand us in no stead, but to make us storm and torment ourselves. Like as when the Paynims knew that our life was so flightful, they concluded thereupon, that it was best never to be born, and that the sooner we died the better it was for us. Lo how the Paynims rejected the grace of God, because they knew not the honor that he doth us when he sendeth us into this world, even to shewe (show) himself a father towards us. For in as much as we be reasonable creatures, and have the Image of God printed in our nature: we have a record, that he holdeth us here as his children. And to despise such a grace, and to say, it had been better for us never to have been created: is it not apparent blasphemy? So then it is not enough for us to know, that so long as we be in this world, we be consumed every minute of an hour.
22nd Sermon on the 5th Chapter of Job
When God suffereth his children to be taken out of the world betimes: it is for their profit. For God provideth better for the faithful man when he calleth him to him at the age of twenty or thirty years, than when he letteth him live till threescore. And specially when we see the world flowing out into such corruption, that all is confounded now a days: I pray you ought we not to esteem them more happy in that God hath drawn them away to himself, than if they had longer time to languish here? It were a miracle if men could continue here and come all too old age. For we see what snares Satan layeth for us, and how it is right hard to walk through so many outrages. Therefore if God pull away his children quickly: let us be sure that he dooth it for their greater benefit. And specially we have hereupon to understand, that although they be bereft of this blissing which is small in respect of that which God will give them: yet doth he not cease to love and favor them by suffering them to fall so into speedy death, like as those that are persecuted by tyrants, have a most precious death. For they offer up a sacrifice which is most acceptable to God: and it is an offering of sweet savour when he seeth his world sealed up with the blood of Martyrs. So then, when we compare the less with the greater, we shall find that this promise of feeling continually the sayde blissing of God in sending them to their grave as come that is gathered in his due time, is not in vain towards the faithful. For how soever the world go, he repenteth them continually. If a faithful man die at the age of thirty years, what doth he? It seemeth not that he is greatly sorry for it, he maketh no great struggling against it as we see the unbelievers do, yea when they be even as stale as earth, as the Proverb sayeth. Behold a despiser of God and a worlding, which never thought upon death: and when it commeth to the point that God will pinch him in good earnest, it will make him grind his teeth and fret with himself, weening too withstand death, and saying: Can I not prolong my life one year longer? He takes himself to be a piece of green wood that crackleth on all sides. Contrariwise when a faithful person dieth, although he endure much, yet he betaketh himself unto God, and comforteth himself in him: and although there be stryuing seen in his body, yet hath he his mind quiet, and he desireth nothing but to frame himself to Gods good will, choosing rather to die when God calleth him, than to live here. To be short he desireth nothing but to obey his good heavenly father.
24th Sermon on the 6th Chapter of Job
We have to go forward with the matter that I began already: which is, that Job tormenteth himself here, not for the misery which he endureth in his body, but because God hilde him as a poor condemned person, and because he dealeth as a judge with him, and is altogether against him. Ye see then wherefore Job is more grieved that for all the rest that he could suffer. That is to wit, because he feeleth Gods hand heavy upon him, as David speaketh in the two and thirty Psalm. [Psal 32 a 4] And let us mark this well always. For otherwise we shall not know to what purpose he sayth, I would I were dead, I would God would kill me, I would I were cut off from the world, for then should I have some ease, and I should be no more so sore pressed. And could there befall him any worse thing than death, specially than a death of Gods sending, wherein he should know that God would utterly overwhelm him? And were not that the extremist of all miseries? and yet for all that he sayth, that if God would dispatch him at one blow, he could well bear it: but to linger pyning death as he doth, and to be preseed so long a while, he sayth it is impossible for him to keep measure, for it is all one as if he were hilde in a burning fire. Then let us mark well this diversity which is between a man that is overwhelmed at the first stroke, and another whom God holdeth (as it were) upon the Rack, whom he scourgeth a long while without giving him any respite, and which is not relieved in his misery, but must be fayne to abide it out continually. Let us now come to the ripping up of the case that Job pleadeth here. First he sheweth that his chief desire should be to die and to be cut off. True it is (as I have touched heretofore) that Gods children may well wish death: howbeit to an other end, and for another respect [than he doth here,] like as all of us must with S. Paul [Ro 8 d 24, Phil 1 c 23]desire to be let loose from the bondage of sin wherein we be held prisoners. Saint Paul is not moved there with any temptations of his flesh: but rather, the desire that he hath to employ himself in Gods service without let, driveth him to with that he might pass out of the prison of his body. Why so? For so long as we be in this world, we must always be wrapped in many miseries, and we cease not to offend God, being so weak as we be. Saint Paul then is sorry that he must live so long in offending God, and this kind of desire is good and holy, and proceedeth of the holy Ghost. But there are very few that desire to go out of the world in this respect. For so long as we be at our ease, we care not a whit what vices and imperfections we have, nor to be so foreward in serving God as were requisite: this geere toucheth us not a whit. What then? If there betide us any trouble, if we fall into any disease, if matters fall not out as we would have them: then we wish our selves out of the world, and there is none other talk but of our weariness in despising of our life. Ye see then what Jobs wishing was. It was not chiefly because he knew what his state was: but because the misery that he felt did nippe him, therefore he was desirous to have his request at Gods hand. For he not only desireth it [in his heart,] but also addresseth himself to God to make sute for it. And this is yet another mischief, that a man wishing death, as Job doth here, shall be as ye would say, shut up and shrunk into himself, so as he shall not dare present himself unto God to pray for it, though it so be that he have committed a great offence before. For we must not presume to hide ourselves, nor to have any back nookes wherein to make wishes that are wicked and rejected of God. But yet when a man shall come so far forth as to make such request unto God: no doubt but he sinneth double.