Upon Perching a Piece of Cloth
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Upon a Counterfeit Piece of Coin
by William Spurstowe (1666)
What physicians say of some diseases, that they are most dangerous which seem to imitate and come nearest unto health, may be applied fitly to adulterous and spurious coins, that the greater resemblance and likeness they have to the true and genuine, the more pernicious and destructive they are to the public; wasting though insensibly not only private estates, but the common treasure and riches of a nation. And therefore, the falsifying of coin, which bears the image or arms of the prince, as the general warrant to ratify the goodness of it, has been made a crime of the same complexion, with the highest attempt or act done against his person, the same capital punishment being inflicted upon him that is found guilty of the one, as is upon him that is guilty of the other. What can be done more to deter any from such practices, than the loss of name, estate, life, in a ghastly and ignominious death? And yet, these severities, which should be as the boundaries at the foot of the mountain, to keep all from offending, are insufficient to restrain many whom the love of gain, and the hope of secrecy do embolden to run a sad hazard, that they may enjoy the sweet.
Secrecy in sinning, though in some respect it extenuates a sin, as making it less scandalous, and less contagious, yet it is a powerful attractive to incline to the commission of a sin. Potiphar’s wife was most vehement in her soliciting of Joseph to folly, when none of the men of the house were within. The harlot in Proverbs makes that as her plea to the young man to hearken her, that “the good man is not at home, he is gone a long journey, he hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come at the day appointed” (Prov. 7:19-20). It was that which put an edge upon the covetousness of Achan, to take the “goodly Babylonish garment, the two hundred shekels of silver, and the wedge of gold” (Josh. 7:21), that he could do it without the privity of any, so that none could charge him with the breach of that strict command which God had given, of not taking the accursed thing, lest they make themselves accursed, and the camp of Israel accursed, and trouble it.
Usually when shame and punishment are the sole motives to deter from sin; the secrecy of doing it, by which both may be declined, sways prevailingly to the commission of it. But how far more presumptuous are they, who adulterate not the coins of princes, but the truths of God, and stamp his name upon their inventions, to give a credit and value unto them? Have such workers of iniquity any darkness and shadow of death where they may hide themselves? Do they think, that though kings cannot discover those oft times that violate the dignities of their crown, that they also can escape the knowledge of the most High? Or is not he as jealous of his Word, which he has magnified above all his name, as they are of every piece that carries their image and inscription upon it? Has he not declared himself to be against those that prophesy the deceits of their own heart, and use their tongues, and say, the Lord God, that they may the more easily deceive the incautious?
As Pompeii built a theater cum titulo temple, with the title of a temple, and Apollinaris the heretic a school cum titulo orthodoxi, with the title of orthodox: What prevalency such arts in this kind have had, the defections of many particular persons, yea of churches, do abundantly witness. Was not the whole church of Galatia soon removed from him that had called them into the grace of Christ unto another Gospel, by their false teachers blending the necessity of circumcision with the Gospel and of works with faith? And did not the Corinthians comply more readily with the false apostles than with Paul? “Ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man do smite you on the face” (II Cor. 11:20).
It is the temper and disposition of most to be far more circumspect and jealous in the concernments of their estates, than of their faith, and to use both scale and the test to find out false and light coins, when in matters of faith, the question is seldom made, as to whose image and superscription do they bear. It is enough if they please fancy, or else have the allowance of such whom they have in admiration. Can I then do less than bemoan the slightness and indifferency of Christians about truth, which is the only deposit that God has credited to the saints, and awaken both myself and others to buy the truth at any rate, but to sell it or debase it at no rate. Rob but God once of his truth, and what riches of glory do you leave him? Is not he the God of truth, and are not ye witnesses, chosen by himself, to give testimony unto it? And can you dishonor him more, than to make him like the father of lies, while you either spread the infection of error to others, or receive it from others into your own bosom?
Bethink therefore yourselves, you who deliver the oracles of God, that you be not as the lying vanities of the heathen, which deceived those that repaired unto them. What comfort can you ever have in departing from the form of sound words, and in speaking affected and swelling words, which are one of Satan’s lures to seduce into errors? Let not such arts, which serve only as the light of the fowler in the night, first to amaze the birds, and then to bring them into the net, ensnare and captivate you. Keep untainted from errors, the doctrines of faith that you profess, which will be your glory; and the duties that you perform to God from hypocrisy, which will be your comfort.
Let not your intercourse with heaven be in such services that are gilded only with words of piety, which make them specious to men, and wholly destitute of sincerity, which can alone commend them to God. Would it not be a piece of inexcusable folly, for any to heap up a mass of counterfeit coin, and then to value himself to be worth thousands? And is it not far greater for men to think that they have laid up much treasure in heaven, and are rich towards God, by the prayers that they have made, and other services that they have done, which will all be found at the last day dross, and not gold, and will produce no other return than the increase of a sore condemnation? O the thoughts of it are dreadful, to think, how many will be found poor, miserable, and naked Laodiceans, who confidently presume that they are rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing. I cannot therefore but pray, Lord help me to buy of thee gold tried in the fire; and to get such truth of grace into my heart that I may never be amongst the number of those who are justly hated by men for hypocrites in this world, and condemned by God for hypocrites in the other world.
This article is taken from: Spurstowe, William. The Spiritual Chymist: or, Six Decads of Divine Meditations on Several Subjects. London: Philip Chetwind, 1666. A PDF file of this book can be downloaded, free of charge, at http://www.ClassicChristianLibrary.com