George Abbot (1562-1633): This is the Christian’s surest anchor

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George Abbot (1562-1633) was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1611 to 1633. He had previously been master of University College, Oxford, bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, and bishop of London. He was furthermore part of the translation committee which translated the Gospels, Acts, and the Book of Revelation for the Authorized Version of the Bible (a.k.a. the King James Version).

In 1600, Abbot published his Exposition upon the Prophet Jonah, which consisted of sermons/lectures preached to the University of Oxford in the University Church (St Mary’s). In Lecture XII Abbot preached on Jonah 2:5-6, culminating with Jonah’s calling upon the LORD as “LORD my God”:

20 The only thing now remaining, is the confident appellation, which he useth to the Lord, Jehovah o my God. This sheweth a faith beyond faith, and a hope beyond hope: when he knew that the Lord was angry, and extremely wrathful at him, yet to cling in so to his mercy, as to appropriate to himself a portion in his maker. For what greater insinuation of confidence can there be, than by particular application to apprehend God’s mercy: to lay hold upon him as on a father; and that not as we say, with a reference to the communion of saints, Our father which art in heaven (Matt. 6:9), but my father and my God. This hath been the perfect trust of the faithful in all ages, which hath encouraged them to approach with boldness, unto the throne of grace. My God, my Godsaith David (Ps. 22:1). And, thou that art the God of my salvation(Ps. 51:14). And Job, I am sure that my Redeemer liveth(Job 19:25). My spiritsaith the Virgin Mary, doth rejoice in God my Saviour(Luk. 1:47). My Lord and my God, saith Thomas (Joh. 20:28). Paul saith of himself, I live by faith in the Son of God, who hath loved me and given himself for me(Gal. 2:20). This true faith doth close with God, and incorporateth itself into the body of the Redeemer.

21 And this is it, which bringeth comfort unto the wounded soul, and afflicted conscience, not that Christ is a Saviour, for what am I the better for that? but a Saviour unto me. That I am one of the adoption, reconciled and brought into favour, sealed up against that day, when the quick and dead shall be judged: my portion is with the Highest, mine inheritance with the Saints. How could flesh and blood ever bear the heat of strong temptation, without this firm persuasion? What is it to my belly, that bread is prepared for [an]other, unless I be assured that my part is therein? What is it to my soul, that Christ hath died for [an]other, unless I know that my sins are washed away in his blood? It may be good for Moses, it may be good for Paul, or Peter, or James, or Stephen, but what is it unto me? It is Meusthen and Tuus, as Luther did well teach, it is my God and thy Saviourwhich doth satisfy thirsty consciences (Luther in Epist. ad Galatas). There is the joy of the Spirit, when men come to that measure. Then it is a blessed doctrine which instilleth that faith into us; and in that, if in anything, doth appear the fruit of the Gospel, which is preached in our days: that people sick and dying, being taught before in their health, can give [the] most divine words, and right admirable speeches, in this behalf whereof I speak, sayings full of holy trust and assurance; which as it is a thing most comfortable to themselves (beyond all gold and treasure, which are but as dung and dross to a man yielding up the ghost), so it bringeth good meditations unto the standers by, in causing them to acknowledge very evident and plain arguments of election in the other, whom they see to be so possessed with joy in the holy Ghost, and so rapt up, as if they had already one foot within the heaven.

22 But it is otherwise with the ignorant; they lie grovelling upon the ground, and cannot mount up with the eagle. So is it in that doctrine which the Church of Rome doth maintain, when their people are taught, that they must believe in general, that some shall go to heaven, that some belong to God: but to say or think, that [they] themselves shall be certainly of that number, or constantly to hope it, that is boldness overmuch, that is over-weening presumption. They are to wish and pray, that it may be so with them, but yet it appertaineth to them evermore to doubt because they know not the worthiness of their merits: a most uncomfortable opinion, which cannot choose but distract the heart of a dying man, that he must not dare to believe with confidence, that he shall go to God: that Jesus is his Saviour, & the pardoner of his faults. No marvel if the life and death of such who hearken unto them, be full of sighs and sobs, & groans, and fears, and doubts, since quietness and settled rest cannot be in their hearts. They have a way to walk, but what is the end they know not. They are sure of their departure, but whither they cannot tell. A lamentable taking, and wherein of necessity must be small joy. How contrary hereunto doth Saint Paul speak, being justified by faith we have peace toward God, through our Lord Jesus Christ(Rom. 5:1). How contrary to this doth Saint John speak in the name of the faithful, we know that we are of God(1 Joh. 5:19). How doth dejected Jonah yet keep him fast to this tackling, when he crieth o Lord my God?

23 And this is the surest anchor, whereunto a Christian man may possibly know how to trust. This is it which in the blasts of adversity, will keep him fast at the root; which in the waves of temptation, will hold him fast by the chin, which in the greatest discomforts, and very pangs of death, will bring him to life again: To ground himself upon this, as on a rock assured, that his God is his father, that Jesus is his redeemer, that the holy Ghost doth sanctify him, that although he sin oft-times, yet evermore he is forgiven; and albeit he do transgress daily, yet it is still forgotten; that whether he live or die, yet ever he is the Lord’s. Good father lead us so by thy most blessed Spirit, that we never do fall from this. But although sin hang upon us, as it did upon the Prophet, yet raise us so by thy love, that laying hold on thy promises, and the sweetness of thy favour, we may reap eternal life, to the which o blessed Lord bring us for thine own Son Christ his sake, to whom with thee and thy Spirit, be laud for evermore.

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