(A friend of the poet John Donne, and preacher in early 17th England. He had a remarkable way with a phrase. Even if one did not care for his theology, his words of words would win a hearing)
The sermon concerns the interactions between Jacob and Esau. In this sermon Adams discusses that relationship and does a great deal to defend Jacob’s actions with his brother.
All that can be said is this, Esau preferred his belly before his birthright; Jacob his birthright before his belly. The one sold spiritual things for temporal; the other with temporal bought spiritual. (23)
As Jacob’s deception, he notes, “Chrysostom thus mitigates it: that he did not deceive with a mind to hurt, but only with respect to the promise of God.” (24)
He does spend quite a bit time working through the possible understandings and moral measurements of Jacob’s deception.
But what is most interesting are the observations he makes of the Christian life, using Jacob and Esau as an illustration.
He moves into this sense by means of some help from Origen, who took the “mystical sense” of the story to be “two combatants to be within us.” (21)
But in men called and justified by the blood of Christ, yet in a militant state, there is a necessity of this combat. No strife, no Christian….Disturbance is a sign of sanctification; there is no grace where there is all peace. No sooner is the new man formed in us but suddenly begins this quarrel. The remaining corruption will fight with grace, and too often prevail against it. Indeed it hath lost the dominion, but not the opposition; the sovereignty, not the subtlety; it will dwell in us, though it cannot reign. (21)
But God is often better with us than we would, and with his preventing grace stops the precipitation of erring nature. So sweet is the ordination of the divine providence, that we shall not do what we would, but what we ought; and by deceiving us us, turns our purposed evil into eventual good. (23)
The church esteems heaven her home, this world but a tent, a tent which we all must leave, build we as high as Babel, as strong as Babylon. When we have fortified, combined, feasted, death comes with a voider, and takes away all….He that hath seen heaven with the eye of faith, through the glass of Scripture, slips off his coat with Joseph, and springs away. They that live thrice our age, yet dwelt in tents as pilgrims that did not own this world. The shortness and weakness of our day strengthens our reasons to vilipend it. The world is the field, thy body the tent, heaven thy freehold. The world is full of troubles; winds of persecutions, storms of menaces, cold of uncharitableness, heat of malice, exhalations of prodigious terrors, will annoy thee. Love it not. (27)
When the heart is a good secretary, the tongue is a good pen; but when the heart is a hollow bell, the tongue is a loud and lewd clapper. (29)