Upon the Payment of a Pepper-corn
(Photo courtesy of John Lodder)
Logicians have a maxim, Relations sunt minimas entitatis & maxime efficace: relations are the smallest entity, and of the greatest efficacy: the truth which may appear in the payment of a single peppercorn, that freeholders pay their landlord, they do it not with any hope or intent to enrich him; but to acknowledge that they hold all from him. To affect the one it is not have to mean about you, get a preservers the Lord’s right fully as a greater rent, and aggravates the tenant’s folly to withhold more then if the demand had been higher.
What Naaman’s servant spoke on to him, If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, wash and be clean?
The condition which meet bounty happily has so easy had been by the same hand and power restraints to a more costly and ample homage ought it not to have been performed? How much more when nothing is required but what may how inexcusable then must the ingratitude of those men be, receiving all their blessings from God, withhold a peppercorn of praise and honor for him, which is the only thing that they can pay or that he expects? To cast the least mite into his treasury, which may add to its richest, is beyond the line if men or angels, for if it could admit to increase [if the praise could make God’s existing merit and treasure larger than it is at present], the abundance of it were not infinite: but to adore its fullness and to acknowledge that from it they derived theirs is the duty of all the partake of it.
This is the only homage that those Stars of the Morning and Sons of God who behold his face do given in heaven, and this it is which the children of men should give on earth. But alas! From how few are those sacred dues tendered to God, though all be his debtors? Does not the rich man when well flows in on him like a river forget that only the Lord gives him power to get riches? And sacrifice onto his neck, and burn incense onto his drag? Is it not the sin that God charges all Israel with, that they rejoice in the thing of nought, and say have we not taken horns to us by our own strength?
Yea, does he not expressly say that he will not get his glory onto another? Shall any man then take it onto himself? And yet what stolen bread is so sweet to any taste as the secret nimmings and purloinings of God’s glory our onto the palate of most? If any design be effected, they think that their wisdom has brought about; if any difficulties be removed, they ascribed it to their industry; if success and victory due build upon their sword, it is their own arm and right hand that has obtained it. O how great is that pride and on thankfulness which reigns in the hearts of men who affect to rob God, rather than to honor can’t, and she denied him to be the author of what they possess, than to acknowledge the tenure that they hold in capite [a holding immediately from the king; English law].
Stealing from men may be acquitted again with single or double, with fourfold or sevenfold restitution: but the filching from God’s glory can never be answered. For who can give anything to him which he has not received? Others may steal of necessity, to satisfy hungry; but such [as do not praise God] violate out of pride and wantonness the Exchequer of Heaven, and shall never escape undetected or unpunished.
Consider therefore this all you who are ready to kiss your own hands for every blessing that comes upon you, to what danger you expose yourselves, while you rob God – whose name is Jealous, who will vindicate the glory of neglected goodness in the severe triumphs of his impartial justice. It is Bernard’s expression Uti datis, ut innatis est maxima superbia, to use God’s gifts as things inbred in us is the highest arrogance. And what less merit than the very condemnation of the Devil – whose first sin (as some divines [theologians] conceive) was an affection of independent happiness, without any respect or habitude to God. I cannot wonder that the blackness of his sin and the dreadfulness of his Fall should not make all to fear the least shadow and semblance of such a crime in themselves as must bring upon them the like ruin.
Look upon him you proud ones and tremble, who are abettors of Nature against Grace, and resolve the salvation of man ultimately in to the freedom of the will rather than into the efficacy of God’s grace. [The one ] who in the work of conversion make the grace of God to have only the work of a midwife, to help the child into the world but not be the parent and sole author of it. Is not this to cross the great design of the Gospel, which is to exalt and honor God and Christ? That he that glorieth might glory in the Lord? And is not every tittle of the Gospel as dear to God as every tittle of the Law? Can then any diminish aught from it and be guiltless?
Oh fear then to take the least due from God who has threatened to take his part out of the Book of Life and out of the holy City and from the things which are written in the Book of God.
Non test devotions dedisse probe totum, sed fraudis retinuisse vel minimum, It is not devotion, says Prosper rightly against his Collator, to acknowledge almost all from God, but accursed theft to ascribe though but a very little to ourselves.
Lord, therefore, whatever others do
Keep me humble,
That as I receive all from thee,
So I may render that tribute of praise which thou expects from me
Both cheerfully and faithfully;
And though it can add nothing to thy perfection,
No more than my beholding and admiring the Sun’s light can increase it
Yet let me say, as Holy David did,
Not unto us, O Lord,
Not unto us,
But unto thy name be the glory
For thy mercy
And for thy truth’s sake.