More Than We Can Tell

From “Sermon LII, Miracles of the Divine Mercy” (1653)

After all this, we may sit down and reckon up great sums and conjugations of his gracious gifts, and tell the minutes of eternity by the number of the Divine mercies. God hath given his laws to rule us, his word to instruct us, his Spirit to guide us, his angels to protect us, his ministers to exhort us; he revealed all our duty, and he hath concealed whatsoever can hinder us; he hath affrighted our follies with fear of death, and engaged our watchfulness by its secret coming; he hath exercised our faith by keeping private the state of souls departed, and yet hath confirmed our faith by a promise of a resurrection, and entertained our hope by some general significations of the state of interval.

His mercies make contemptible means instrumental to great purposes, and a small herb the remedy of the greatest diseases. He impedes the devil’s rage, and infatuates his counsels; he diverts his malice, and defeats his purposes; he binds him in the chain of darkness, and gives him no power over the children of light; he suffers him to walk in solitary places, and yet fetters him that he cannot disturb the sleep of a child; he hath given him mighty power, and yet a young maiden that resists him shall make him flee away; he hath given him a vast knowledge, and yet an ignorant man can confute him with the twelve articles of his creed; he gave him power over the winds, and made him prince of the air, and yet the breath of a holy prayer can drive him as far as the utmost sea; and he hath so restrained him, that (except it be by faith) we know not whether there be any devil, yea or no; for we never heard his noises, nor have seen his affrighting shapes.

This is that great principle of all the felicity we hope for, and of all the means thither, and of all the skill and all the strengths we have to use those means. He hath made great variety of conditions, and yet hath made all necessary, and all mutual helpers; and by some instruments, and in some respects, they are all equal in order to felicity, to content, and final and intermedial satisfactions. He gave us part of our reward in hand, that he might enable us to work for more; he taught the world arts for use, arts for entertainment of all our faculties and all our dispositions; he gives eternal gifts for temporal services, and gives us whatsoever we want for asking, and commands us to ask, and threatens us if we will not ask, and punishes us for refusing to be happy.

This is that glorious attribute that hath made order and health, harmony and hope, restitutions and variety, the joys of direct possession, and the joys, the artificial joys of contrariety and comparison. He comforts the poor, and he brings down the rich, that they may be safe, in their humility and sorrow, from the transportations of an unhappy and uninstructed prosperity. He gives necessaries to all, and scatters the extraordinary provisions so, that every nation may traffic in charity, and commute for pleasures.

He was the Lord of hosts, and he is still what he was; but he loves to be called the God of peace, because he was terrible in that, but he is delighted in this. His mercy is his glory, and his glory is the light of heaven. His mercy is the life of the creation, and it fills all the earth; and his mercy is a sea too, and it fills all the abysses of the deep: it hath given us promises for supply of whatsoever we need, and relieves us in all our fears, and in all the evils that we suffer.

His mercies are more than we can tell, and they are more than we can feel; for all the world in the abyss of the Divine mercies is like a man diving into the bottom of the sea, over whose head the waters run insensibly and unperceived, and yet the weight is vast, and the sum of them is unmeasurable; and the man is not pressed with the burden, nor confounded with numbers; and no observation is able to recount, no sense sufficient to perceive, no memory large enough to retain, no understanding great enough to apprehend this infinity; but we must admire, and love, and worship, and magnify this mercy for ever and ever; that we may dwell in what we feel, and be comprehended by that which is equal to God, and the parent of all felicity.

Jeremy Taylor was an Anglican cleric, the author of the twin devotional manuals, The Rules and Exercises of Holy Living and Holy Dying. Classed among the Caroline Divines, he was famed in his time as a preacher and moral theologian, Taylor served as chaplain to King Charles I, and after the Restoration, became Bishop of Down and Connor in Ireland. He is commemorated on August 13 on the liturgical calendars of many Anglican churches.


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