The Fourth Lecture*
HOSEA 1. 8. &c.
8. Now when she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, shee co•ceived and bare a sonne.
9. Then said God, call his name Ly•ammi, for you are not my people, and I will not be your God.
10. Yet the number of the children of Israel shal be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbred, &c.
THe last day was finished the signification of the name of the second childe of Hosea, Lo-ruhamah.
We now come unto the weaning of it, and the begetting of the third, Lo-ammi.
There is much of Gods minde shewed unto us even in this very thing that we ordinarily let slip and passe over.
The reason is, because this second childe Loruhamah was to signifie un∣to the people of Israel their carrying out of their own Countrey into capti∣vity into Assyria: It was to signifie to them that they should be weaned from the comforts and delights that there were in their owne Countrey; they should be taken away from their milke and honey that they had there; and be carryed into Assyria, and be there fed with hard meate, even with the wa∣ter of affliction and the bread of affliction. The first childe did but signifie their scattering, especially in regard of their seditions amongst themselves. But the second childe signified the carrying away all of them wholly into captivity from their own Land,* Therefore the second childe is weaned, Ci∣bis sustent abitur immundis, So. Jerome hath it, They should be carried amongst the Gentiles, and be fed with unclean meat, they should be depri∣ved of prophesie, and of the milke of the word, and of the ordinances that they enjoyed, So Vatablus.
Ordinances are as the breasts of consolation, out of which the people of God suck soul-satisfying comforts. So you have it, Esay, 66. 11. That you may suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations, that you may milke out and be delighted with the aboundance of her glory. And Cant. 1. 4. We will remember thy loves more than wine:* The old latine hath it, Wee will remember thy dugs above wine; and so the words will beare. These people should be deprived of those dugs and breasts out of which they had sucked much sweetnesse before, even deprived of all comfort in God. Gods people hang upon God, and suck comfort from him, even as the infant upon the mothers brest, and sucks sweetnesse, and comfort, and nourishment from thence.
This expression then of weaning the childe, implies these two things.
First,* That the enjoyment of the comforts of a sweet native soile, speci∣ally where there are any ordinances together with it, is a very great blessing of God;* and the being deprived of it is a great affliction, yea to some it comes as a curse. The very sucking of the ayr of a sweet native soile (and especially such a comfortable soile as we have here in England) is certainly a great blessing from the Lord. Those that have been deprived of it, and ba∣nished away, have been more sensible of it than any of you who alwayes have enjoyed it. Many have laine sucking at the sweetnesse of this our En∣glish ayr, and at the comforts that there have been in their accommodations, so long, till they have sucked in that which (if Gods mercy had not preven∣ted) would have proved to have been poyson to them to have baned their soules. But I speak not of all, I make no question but there have beene ma∣ny of Gods dear servants that have tarried in their native soile, and kept the uprightnesse of their hearts and consciences as cleare as others that went a∣way. It is true, the comforts of a native soile are sweet, but except we may Page 62 enjoy them with the breasts of these consolations (or Ordinances of the Church) they are notable to satisfie the soul: yea, except we may suck out such milke of these breasts as is sincere milke, and not soiled nor sowred by the inventions of men, better a great deale that we were weaned from all the sweetnesse and accommodation we have in our native soile by the mortify∣ing of our affections to them, then that God should weane us from them, by sending of us into captivity, or by giving the adversary power over us, or by making the Land too hot for us. But that for the first.
Again,* in that this childe was weaned, and by the weaning was to signify their being carried away out of their own into a strange Countrey; this ex∣pression implies thus much. That it is an evil thing for a childe to be taken from the mothers brest too soone, and sent away to be nursed by others. The expression doth fully imply this, for it is to tell us the evill condition of the people, that they should be taken from their own, and sent to another Coun∣trey: This their affliction is set out by a childes being taken from its owne mothers brest; it could not expresse what it intended, except it were to imi∣tate thus much unto us, that it is an evil thing for a childe to be taken from its own mothers bres•.
It is unnatural then for mothers out of daintinesse, and curiosity to deny the fruit of their wombes,* the comfort of their breasts. It is true, in time of weaknesse and danger, when it may be dangerous to themselves and the childe, God permits it. But when it is meerly (I say) out of daintinesse, and curiosity, certainly it is an evil that is against nature it self. Hannahs care of her sonne Samuel, is recorded by this, & it is mentioned by the holy Ghost, in her commendation, that she gave him suck. 1 Sam. 1. 23, The woman a∣bode and gave her sonne suck untill she weaned him, saith the Text. It is said of the Ostrich, Iob. 39. 16. That she is hardned against her young ones as though they were not hers; and this Ostrich is reckoned among the fowles that are unclean: And Lam. 4. 3. Even the sea-monsters draw out their breasts, they give suck to their young ones, yet the daughter of my people is become cruel, like the Ostridges in the wildernesse, more cruel then the very sea-monsters themselves, that draw out their breasts and give suck to their young ones.
The instruction of the son belongeth to the father, the nursing of the son belongeth to the Mother.*
The Mothers milke is the most profitable and wholesome for any one, (saith Plinie) except it be in some extraordinary case. We read in 2 Tim. 3. 3. that in the latter day, when evil times should come, some should be without natural affection: that 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that is here spoken of, is the affection of the parents to the children,* as well as of the children to the parents.
But enough of this; if not too much, to such that are so pleased with their curiosity and daintinesse (the children of their own fancies) that they neg∣lect the fruit of their wombes & natures duty to the children of their bodies.
Why doth God stay?
This is to shew the great patience of God toward his people:* For God was now about to reject his people utterly, from being his people, God was about to come with the height of his wrath, to declare that they were no more his people; and here God makes a stop, stays till Lo•ruhamah was weaned, I have read of the Jewes, that their manner was to be a long time, three yeeres sometimes, before they weaned their children. God then it seemes stayed long here, before he would have the third childe, (that is Lo∣ammi) born, before he would come with that dreadful sentence, you are not my people, and I will not be your God. First when Jezreel was born, then they are scattered up and down, yea but they are not all carried away captive yet: Then Lo-ruhamah is born, and then they are gone, carried away captive, never to return again. But for all this, God may yet own them in their captivity; This is not so bad as for God to say I will have no more to do with you as my people; Lord though we be under affliction, under the power of our enemies, own us still, acknowledge us to be thine, though we be in the fiery furnace, yet let us have thee to be our God, No (saith God) you shall not onely be scattered, but you shall be all carried away captive, and I will not own you neither, I will cast you off, you shall not be my peo∣ple, neither will I be your God. Now before this God makes a stop.
Hence observe first.
That God stops in his anger for a while as long as he pleaseth.* God is called, Nah. 1. 2. The Lord of anger, so are the words, though translated otherwise. We may apply it at least thus, God is the Lord of his own anger, he can let it out as far as he will, he canstop it when he will, he can command it to come in when he pleaseth.
It is not so with us; our anger, our passions are Lords over us; if we once let our anger our passions arise, we cannot get them down againe when we would, we cannot still them when we please; if we let our affections run, we cannot call them in when we will, but are sometimes slaves to our own passions,* and they lord it over us.
This is that frame of spirit that we should all labour for, to be like to God, though angry, yet sin not, so as we can stop when we will, and command our anger as we please. As it is said of God, that he sayes to the proud waves, Hi∣therto shalt thou go & no further: Oh that we were able to say to those proud waves of our passions,* Hitherto are you gone, but you shall goe no further!
Againe,* mark here, God stoppeth in his anger for a while. When this dreadful judgement was come to be executed, God is even ready to say (as he saith afterward in this Prophesie) How shall I give thee up? Oh Ephra∣im? How shall I deliver thee, O Israel? Teaching us thus much,
That those that have been once the people of God must not be suddenly rejected from being Gods people: but when we are about any such thing, Page 64 either to reject any particular man or woman (who have made profession of Religion) from being Gods, or to reject a Church from being Gods; we had need make a stop, we had need pause, we had need examine the mat∣ter very well; yea and when we have examined, and are ready to doe it, to make a stop againe, and to bethink our selves what we doe. We must not be too sudden in rejecting those that have been once the people of God. from being the people of God now: It is Gods way you see here.
Many men are too hasty in this point, in rejecting both particular servants of God, and particular Churches from belonging to God, assoone as they see some few things amisse in them, especially if there be any thing grosse, presently they are no Churches at all, they are altogether Antichristian, they belong to the Beast; and so while they strike at the Beast, they wound the Lamb. Certainly there is to be acknowledged much of Christ, not onely in particular Saints, but in regard of the Church Ordinances of many par∣ticular congregations in England: we must take heed therefore of too sud∣den rejection of them from belonging to God, to be his people in that way of Church fellowship.
We come now to the conception of the third childe. It was a sonne, and his name was Lo-ammi. The second childe a daughter, but the third a Son: What is the meaning of this? I told you (the last day) that by the second childe was noted the state of the people at that time, that it grew weaker and more effeminate: weaker in regard of their outward strength, and more ef∣feminate in regard of their spirits: And that I made good to you out of the History of those times in the book of the Kings. Well, but now it is a son, what doe they grow stronger then before, now they are come neerer to de∣struction then before? Yes, though neerer to ruine and destruction, and more heavy wrath then they were before, yet they get up a little strength be∣fore that time: Therefore the third childe is a sonne. Concerning the strength that this people had got at this time, a little before this their utter rejection, upon which their spirits were raised, you shall finde the History of it in 2 Kings 17. 4. where you have a declaration of the state of the ten Tribes then when Lo-ammi was borne; for the Text tells us, that they be∣gan to joyne in confederacy with the King of Egypt; and so whereas former∣ly they had done homage by presents to the King of Assyria, now being con∣federate with the King of Egypt, they refused to bring any more presents to him; they begin now to be a jolly people, and hoped to cast off that yoke of bondage under which they were in regard of the Assyrians.
God sometimes letteth men,* and Nations, and Churches to rise a little out of their affliction, before their utter ruine: he gives them a little reviv∣ing, they have a little lightning before their death. Many men think them∣selves in a very good condition, if having been in affliction, their afflictions doe begin once to abate, and they begin to get a little up; now they think they are safe, and they are ready to say with Agag, Surely the bitternesse of death is gone,* surely the worst is past. But you may sometimes be recover∣ed, Page 65 when God intendeth you should be suddenly rejected. Many may be preserved from some judgements, because they are reserved to greater judg∣ments. The Lord hath begun indeed to give us in England a little reviving, a little strength to enable us to rise against the oppressions of our Adversa∣ries, those cruel oppressions. But let us not be secure, notwithstanding this; for though we have some little reviving, if we follow not God on in the way of humiliation and reformation, this our little reviving may be but a light∣ning before our death.
And yet further, it is very observable, when the condition of Israel was at this time when God was about to say, Lo-ammi, they are not my people; what it was not only in regard of their strength, but what it was in regard of their sins. For you shall finde (if you examine the History) that the people of Israel were at this time somewhat better then they had been before: not on∣ly had gotten somwhat more strength, but they were somewhat better in re∣gard of their sins then they had been; Imeane they had lesse sins then they had before: yet now God is saying to them, Lo-ammi, You are not my peo∣ple. And for that observe, 2 Kings 17. 2. if you reade that Chap••, you shall finde that the very time of the utter rejection of Israel was in the dayes of Hoshea, and the Text saith, He did evil in the sight of the Lord; the King in whose dayes they were so rejected, did evil in the sight of the Lord, but not as the Kings of Israel that were before him. He was not so bad as the for∣mer Kings of Israel, and yet in his dayes there comes utter destruction upon Israel. Yea and as the King was not so bad then as others before him; so it may seeme the people were not so bad as in former time, for ver. 9. the Text saith, That the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right, against the Lord their God. Indeed they were sinful, but their sinfulnes was secret, they did not sin with such an open impudent face, as it seemed, as heretofore. Yet in this Kings time, and when these people were thus, commeth their utter ruine.
What may we learne from hence?
This, That sometimes when there are greater sinnes, patience stayes judgement;* and yet afterward when a people seeme to be in a better con∣dition, not onely in regard of their outward strength,* but then in regard of their sins too, yet then God cometh with his wrath upon that people.
Let us not flatter our selves, although we can say that some things here a∣mongst us are not so bad as heretofore they have beene. Suppose there be some partial reformation, this is not ground enough to secure us. We cannot reason thus, Why heretofore the Land was more sinful then now; and the Governours were more oppressing then now, there hath been (thanks be to God) much reformation. This is not enough, we may be neerer the forest misery at this time (if our reformation be not a through reformation) then we were before. And the reason is this because God when he comes against a Nation, he doth not onely come against it for the present sins that they are actually guilty of at that time, but to reckon with them for their sins comited Page 66 fore, though the judgement falls out to be inflicted just at that time. It may be a concourse of many passages of Gods providence might so fall out as might su•e with Gods ends, that the destruction of this nation should be at this time rather then before, yet the nation not more sinful then before, but to fulfill other passages of providence that God intends; and then he comes to reckon with them for sins that were along time ago committed, & for their present sinnes altogether. As hee doth sometimes with particular persons: perhaps they have been drunkards, unclean, wicked, 20. yeers agone, God hath spared them, afterward upon some lesser sins, God may take advan∣tage to come against them for all their other sins together. We use to say, It is not the last blow of the axe that fells the oak,* perhaps the last may be a weaker blow then any of the former, but the oake was a felling down all the while before, the other blowes made way for the felling of it, and at length a little blow comes and doth it. So our former sinnes may be the things that make way for our ruine, and then at length some lesser sinnes may do it.
You that have been guilty of grosse sins, take heed of small sins; for though God hath pared you when you were guilty of great sins, do not say that he will spare you now you commit lesser sins; but at this time of committing lesser sins, you may be called to an account for grosser. Did you never know a house stand out against many strong and blustring winds, yet afterward some little puffe of wind hath tumbled it down? So it is with Nations and people that somtimes stand out (through Gods patience when their sins are grosse and vile, & afterwards upon some lesser sins they are utterly undone.
VVhat is the name of his son?*
The name of this son is Lo-ammi, and the word signifieth (as it is inter∣preted here by God himselfe) You are not my people, and I will not be your God.
The people to whom Hosea prophesied, they might have objected against him thus: What, Hosea doe you say that God will not have any more mer∣cy upon us? what will not God have mercy upon his own people? Is not God our God? What doe you threaten such-things as these are?
The Prophet answers, It is true, God hath been your God, and you have been his people, but there is an end of those dayes, God now degradeth you from those glorious priviledges that formerly you had, he willowne you no more to be his, and you shall have no further right to own him to be yours.
First this, A people that have been once a people dear to God, may be so rejected as never to become a people of God more:* For so these did not, though afterwards wee shall bear of the promise for others in other Ages. God hath no need of men. God is able to raise up a people what wayes he pleases, even from the very stones in the street, to raise up children unto A∣braham. Though Rome may boast that they have been a glorious Church; True, there hath been heretofore a glorious Church in Rome, what then? Those that were his people are now no more his people.
Page 67 VVe shall meet further with this in the next Chapter.
Only in this Note, observe but this thing, The great difference betweene the estate of a Christian in communion with Christ by grace,* and a Church estate. Men and women may loose their Church estate, and that for ever; but their estate in communion with Jesus Christ by grace, they can never lose that: And this is a great difference, and affordeth abundance of com∣fort. True, our Church state (I mean in regard of an instituted Church in Congregations) it is a great priviledge, a great mercy; but our Commu∣nion with Jesus Christ is a higher priviledge, and that priviledge gan never be lost; we may be cut off from the one, but never cut off from the other.
Secondly,* yet it is a most heavy judgemen• for any to have been hereto∣fore the people of God, now to be unpeopled, for God to be no more theirs, and for them to be no more the Lords. A heavy judgement for the Lord to say, Well, I will be no more a God to you whatsoever I am to others, no more yours in my goodnesse, in my mercy, in my power, or whatsoever I am in my selfe.
The being cast off from God.
First takes us off from that high honour that was before upon a people; for so in Esay, 4. 4. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou host beene honourable, The people of God gathered together in Church Communi∣on, certainly are in an honourable condition; when they are dispeopled, they are cast off from this their priviledge, from their honour.
Secondly,* They have not the presence of God with them as before, not the care of God towards them, nor the protection of God over them, not the delight of God in them, nor the communication of God to them. What should I speake of all these particulars?* But among other priviledges they want this, namely that great priviledge of pleading with God for mercy u∣pon this relation, which was the usuall way of the Prophets to pleade with God, because they were the people of God. So Esay, 64. 9. Be not wroth very sore O Lord; neither remember iniquity for ever: upon what ground? Be∣hold, see we beseech thee, we are all thy people. This is a good Argument Againe, Jer. 14. 9. Why doest thou stand as a man astonished amongst us, as a mighty man that cannot save? Yet thou O Lord art in the middest of us, and we are called by thy name, leave us not. This Text is ours this day, and well may we say, O Lord why doest thou stand as a man astonished? Oh yet if we can but take up the second part, and say, We are called by thy name, we may make more comfortable use of the former, Why doest thou stand as a man astonished? How doth a man astonished stand? He stands still in a place, as if he knew not which way to goe, he is in a kinde of destraction. first he goes one way, and by and by he returns again. The Lord, we know, knoweth his purpose from eternity, but the Scriptures are pleased to expresse Gods wayes towards us in the similitude. Hath not God stood amongst us as a man astonished? God hath beene in a way of mercy, and then stood still, and then gone forward a little, and afterward gone back again; and yet Page 68 back and back still, and we have prayed and cryed, and God hath stood as a man astonished, as if he were not yet resolved which way to goe. Let us pray earnestly to God that he would not stand as a man astonished, but that the way of the Lords mercy may be made cleare before him, and cleare be∣fore us. But this I bring in to shew that the relation that people have to God, is the ground of their encouragement to pray to God, and when a peo∣ple is rejected they lose this priviledge.
Our relations to God are very sweet things, though ordinarily they are exceedingly abused;* yea they are glorious things. As it is said of other re∣lations. Relations are of the least entity, but of the greatest efficacy; so it is here, Our relations to God are of very great efficacy, whatsoever the entity be: and therefore to lose our relations to God, especially this relation of Gods being ours, and we being his, is a sore and he avy curse.
Again, You are not my people, and I will not be your God. Marke here, the first is, you are not my people, before the second commeth, I will not be your God.
VVe first begin with God in our apostacy,* before God begins with us in his rejection; I would not have withdrawn my self from being your God, if you had not first rejected me, and would not be my people. When God loveth, he begins first; we love not him, but he loveth us first: But when it comes to departing, it then begins on our side, wee first depart before the Lord doth: and this is that which will be a dreadful aggravation to wicked men another day to think with themselves. This evil is come upon us, God is gone, mercy is gone, but who began this first? where is the root and prin∣ciple? Thy perdition is of thy selfe:* I begin first, and therefore all the losse of that grace and mercy which is in God, I may thanke this proud, this di∣stempered, this base, passionate, wretched heart of mine owne for it.
Again, I will not be your God. He doth not say, you shall not have the fruite of my patience to be yours, you shall not have my creatures to be yours, you shall not have those fruites of my bounty to be yours: No, but I will not be yours, I my selfe will not be yours. This is the sorest threatning that posibly can be to a gracious heart.
It is a greater misery to lose God himself,* then to be deprived of whatsoever commeth from God. And this indeed is one special difference between an hypocrite, and a true gracious heart; an hypocrite is satisfied with what cometh from God, but a true gracious heart is satisfied with nothing but God himselfe: though God lets out never so many fruits of his bounty and goodnesse to him, yet he must have union with God himselfe, or else he is unsatisfied.* It is a notable speech of Bernard, Lord, saith he, As the good things that come from me, please not thee without my selfe; so the good things that come from thee please not me without thy selfe. This is the ex∣pression of a gracious heart. Let us tender up to God never so much, never such duties, with never so great strength, except we tender up to God our selves, they never please him: So let God bestow never so many favours Page 69 upon us, except God give us himselfe, they should never pleaseus; I mean please us, so as to satisfie us, so as to quiet us, if for our portion.
You know what God said to Abraham,*Fear not, I am thy exceeding great reward: But Lord what wilt thou give me, seeing I goe childelesse? What is all this to me so long as I have not the promise fulfilled, that so I may come in Christ to enjoy thy selfe?* And Moses would not be content∣ed though God told him his Angel should goe before them; No, saith hee, Except thou goe with us thy selfe, let us not depart hence. It is the difference between the Strumpet and the loving wife, the strumpet careth not so much for the person of her lover, as for his gists, for what she hath by him: but the true lover cannot be satisfied with lovetokens, but she must have the person himselfe. So it is with a gracious heart. It is very observable that of David in Psal. 51. 9. Turne away thy angry face from my sins. It seemes Gods face was angry;* and yet presently, ver. 11. Cast me not away, a facie tua, from thy face. Gods face was an angry face, yet David would not be cast away from this face of God: Oh no, rather let God be present with a gracious heart, though he be angry; though his anger continue, yet let me have his countenance. This is plainly gathered hence, in that God saith not, I will not give you these and these favours, but I will not be your God, that this is the sorest threatning that possibly can be to a gracious heart.
5. This is the judgement for sin,* Gods not being their God. It hence ap∣peares that sin carryes along with it in it selfe its own punishment. How is that? Thus, By sin we refuse to have God to be our God; by it we depart from God, we do not trust God, nor love him, nor fear him. The very na∣ture of sin hath this in it, that it causeth a sinner to depart from God, yea to reject God from being a God unto him, and this is the punishment, I will not be your God. And this is the sorest punishment to a sinner, that he shall not for ever have God to his God.
Lastly, You are not my people, and I will not be your God. Hence learn this.
When any forsake God from being their God,* we should do as God doth, reject them from being ours, if they will not be Gods, neither should they be ours: will not such a man have acquaintance with God, will he forsake him and his wayes, then he shall not have our acquaintance, we will forsake him. How far we may withdraw from a Church that it shall not be ours, we shal fully meet with all in the second Chap. somewhat will be said about it there: Onely now thus much, though it be true when a people forsake God, we are to forsake them, yet let them grow never so wicked, our natu∣ral and civill relations cannot be broken because of their wickednesse; but the relations of husband and wife, father and childe, master and servant must be acknowledged: servants must be dutiful to their masters though never so wicked; And the wife must be loving and dutiful to her husband, though he be never so wicked a man. But for any inward intimate familiarity with those, not thus joyned in such Relations, ought not to be; if they reject God, if they will not be Gods, they should not be ours. It is said Iob. 8, 20. That Page 70God will not take the ungodly by the hand; It should be true of us all, wee should not take the ungodly by the hand.
Thus much for the name of this third childe Lo-ammi, you are not my people, and I will not be your God.
That which remaineth in the Chapter, it is a promise of mercy, both to Israel, ver. 10. and afterwards to Israel and Judah together, ver. 11. To Israel first, and that is,
Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the Sea, which cannot be measured or numbred, &c. And so he goeth on with won∣derful gracious promises of mercy to Israel in future generations, though for the present God had determined what to do with this Israel.
Here then we have first a promise of mercy to Israel, in the middest of the sorest judgement that God threatneth, he comes in with promises of mercy even unto Israel. And Secondly, this mercy to be in future generations. And thirdly, to consist in the multitudes that should be gathered to Israel.
These three things are observable in general.
First, That there is such a gracious promise immediately after such a sore and dreadful threatning as this, as indeed it is one of the most dreadful threat∣nings we have in all the Book of God; yet here in the close of the Chapter, we have as gracious a promise again as is in the whole Book of God. From whence we may observe thus much.
That the Lord in Judgement remembreth Mercy.* It is a sore thing when God in mercy shall remember judgement, but it is as comfortable when God in judgement remembers mercy. When God threatneth most dread∣fully yet he promiseth most graciously. Wee should therefore when we most feare the threats of God, yet looke up to the promises of God, looke up to see when wrath is denounced in the most hideous and dreadfull way, whether we cannot spie a Promise,* whether there be not yet a little cloud, though but as big as a mans hand, whether there be not yet a little crevis through which we may see whether God doth not break forth with a little light in a way of promise.
It is a usual thing when we are in prosperity to forget all threatnings, and fo it is as usual when we are in adversity to forget all promises. When wee hear of mercy to Gods people, we are taken up and never thinke of Gods wrath; and on the other side when we heare of his wrath on unbeleeving hearts are taken up as wel, and never think of his grace and mercy. We ought to sanctifie the name of God in both: when God is in away of justice, look up to his grace; and when he is in a way of grace, look upon his justice, and sanctifie that name of his likewise. And for that end, I shall give you two notable Texts of Scripture; there are many of this kinde, but two I shall give you, that are as famous as any I know in the book of God: the one that declareth to you that when God expresseth the greatest mercy, yet then hee doth expresse greatest wrath; and the other when God expresseth greatest wrath he then expresseth greatest mercy: And I shall shew you the name of God oughto be sanctified in both.
Page 71 The first is in that 34. of Exod. 6. 7. The Lord there when he passed by before Moses proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodnesse and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, for giving iniquity, & transgression and sinne. What abundance of mercy is here exprest? Now it followes. And that will by no meanes cleare the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the childrens children unto the third and fourth generation. Here is an expression of great wrath. And then for our sanctifying of Gods name in this, it followes, ver. 8. And when Moses heard this, he made hast and bowed his head toward the earth and worshipped before the Lord. Thus we must bow and worship before God in our sanctifying his Name in both together, both his mercy and justice.
On the other side, Nahum. 1. 2. and soon, God is jealous and the L•rd re∣vengeth, the Lord revengeth and is furious, the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies, dreadful ex∣pressions, yet ver. 8. The Lord is slow to anger; there is a mittigation at first. Then he goeth on still in expressions of wrath, But he is great in pow∣er, and will not at all acquit the wicked: and ver. 5. The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burnt at his presence, yea the world and all that dwel therein: who can stand before his indignation, and who can abide the feircenesse of his anger? his fury is powred out like fire, and the Rocks are throwne downe by him. What more terrible expressions of wrath then these that come from God here? Now marke. ver. 7. The Lord is good and a strong hold in the day of trouble, and he knoweth those that trust in him. What a strong expression of grace is here? observe it my brethren, that in the middest of Gods anger, yet God is good still; a graci∣ous heart must acknowledge God, though he be provoked to anger, yet to be a good God still; and it is a good signe for the soul to fall downe before God when he is in the way of his wrath; and to say, the Lord is good. As that good old man Eli did after the denuntiation of that dreadful sentence against him and his house by Samuel, The word of the Lord is good, let him doe what seemes him best.
All of you will say when God bestoweth avours upon you,*The Lord is good, oh blessed be God he is a good God: but when God revealeth his greatest wrath, truely then the Lord is good. Luther saith he will acknowledge God to be a good God, though he should destroy all men in the world: much more then is he to be acknowledged in a day of trouble, when indeed he ap∣pears most graciously to his Saints. The Lord is good, and a strong hold in the day of trouble: Is God a strong hold now when such wrath is revealed? yea, and specially now, a strong hold to his Saints in the day of trouble, and he knoweth those that trust in him; for all his wrath is abroad in the world; he knoweth those that trust in him. Many men when they are angry they scarce know the difference betweene their foes and their friends: Many when they go abroad if any displease them, they come home and are angry Page 72 with their wives, with their servants, with their children, with their friends, with every one about them, they know not then who is a friend and who is not when they are in their passion, their wives, and children, and servants wonder what the matter is with them. Sure some body or other hath dis∣pleased my master abroad to day he is so touchie, so angry upon every little thing. My brethren, It is a dishonour to you in the eyes of your servants, and it layes low your authority in your families, for them to see you come home in such a per that you know not how to be pleased, though they have done nothing to displease you.
God doth not so, though he be never so angry, yet hee knowes those that trust in him. Let Gods anger be never so publick, and general abroad in the world, if there be but a poor soul in the world that lies in a poor cottage, in a hole, that is gracious, the Lord knowes it, and takes notice of it, and that soul shal know too that God doth know it. It is true, when the wrath of God is revealed abroad in the world, & seemes as if it would swallow up all those of the Saints, whose spirits are weake and fearfull, they are then afraid of Gods wrath, that they shall be swallowed up in the common calamity: be of good comfort, God knowes those that trust in him, even when his wrath is never so dreadful and general abroad in the world.
It is in this case with Gods children, as it is with a childe in the mothers Armes; if the father violently layes hold upon his servant and beates him, and thrust, him out of doores for his demerits, there is such a terrible reflecti∣on from the fathers anger against the servant upon the childe, that the poor childe falls a crying. So it is with the children of God, when they see God in a terrible way, •aying hold upon wicked men, to execute wrath upon them, they cry out, they are afraid lest some evil should befall them too. Oh no, be of good comfort, The Lord is good, and a strong hold in the day of trouble, and knoweth them that trust in him, when his anger is never so great and general. So it is here; though this Israel be not my people, yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the Sea for all that, so you shall find it in the 15. ver. of that first of Nahum, Behold (saith the Text) upon the mountains, the feete of him that bringeth good tidings. What at this time though Gods way be in the whirl-winde and so terrible, yet now behold the feete of him that bringeth good tydings, that publisheth peace. God abroad publisheth war, yet he hath a messenger to publish life and peace to some.
Is it not so this day? It is true, the wrath of the Lord is kindled, the wrath of the Lord burneth as an oven, and it is hot, but it is against the ungody, but peace shall be upon Israel. And let us sanctifie the name of God in this too, for so it followes in this very Chap. of Nah. ver. 15. Oh Iudah keepe thy solemne feasts, performe thy vowes, for the wicked shall no more passe through thee. And because God revealeth such rich grace in the middest of judgement, let this engage your hearts to the Lord for ever.
Yea a little further (because it is an instraction of great use in these times, Page 73 and may be yet of further use in times we may live to see (not onely when God threatneth judgements, let us sanctifie Gods name in looking up to promises: but when judgements are actually upon us. Suppose we should live to have most fearful judgments of God upon us, yet even then we must look up to promises,* and exercise our faith, and have an eye to God in the way of his grace at that time, this is harder then in threatnings. You have an notable place for that in Esay, 26. 8. In the way of thy judgements, O Lord, have we waited for thee, the desire of our soule is to thy name. Oh blessed be God (my brethren) the Lord calleth us to wait upon him in the wayes of mercy for the present. It is true, there was a time not long since, that the Lord was in a way of judgement toward England; and there were some of Gods people, when he was in the wayes of his judgements amongst us, yet would wait upon God and keepe his wayes; though there were many be∣cause Gods judgements were abroad, and they saw that they were like to suffer, departed from God and declined his wayes. Much cause of bitterness of spirit, and of dread of humiliation have they that did so: But others may have comfort to their soules, that in the very wayes of Gods judgments they waited for him, & they can now with more comfort wait upon God when he is in the ways of his mercy. But if God should ever come untous in the ways of his judgments, let us learne even then to wait upon God & keep his way.
And yet another Text that may seeme to be more notable than this for this purpose, and that is Iere. 33. 24. Consider est thou not what this people have spoken, saying, the two families which the Lord hath chosen, he hath even cast them off; thus they have despised my people, that they should be no more a nation. Marke the low condition the people were in at this time: Oh, God hath cast them off, they are despised & contemptible, not worthy to be accounted a nation. This condition was very low: but though they were brought low, & in a condition contemptible, yet now God confirms his Co∣venant with them at this time. For observe, ver. 25. Thus saith the Lord. If my Covenant be not with day & night, and if I have not appointed the ordi∣nances of heaven & earth, then will I cast away the seed of Iacob, ond Da∣vid my servant. As if God should say, let them know that whatsoever their condition is now, yet my love, my mercy, my faithfulness is toward them as sure as my covenant with day & night, and as the ordinances of heaven and earth. An admirable Text to help not onely nations, but particular persons when they are cast under contempt by wicked & ungodly men; yet at that time the Lord is most ready to confirm his covenant with them, to be as sure as his covenant with day & night, and heaven & earth. This bringeth honour to God when at such times we can looke up to God and exercise our faith. And indeed this is the glory, and dignity, and beauty of faith to exercise it then, when Gods judgements are actually upon us.
But what promises are these? They were not promises to any that then lived: the promise that is here made, was to be fulfilled in future Ages, yet it is brought in by the Prophet as a comfort to the people of God living Page 74 then in that time. Hence this excellent note that nearly concerns us.
Gracious hearts are comforted with the promises of God made to the Church,* though not to be fulfilled in their dayes. If the Church may pros∣per and receive mercies from God, though I be dead and gone, and rotten in the grave, yet blessed be God. When Jacob was to die, saith he unto Jo∣seph. Behold I dye,*but God shall be with you and bring you again unto the land of your fathers; he will fulfill his promises to you though I am dead. Our fore-fathers, that generation of the Saints that lived a while since, how comfortably would they have dyed if God before their death had revealed to them, that within 3. or 4. or 7. yeares so much mercy should come to England as we now have seen in these dayes! Yea how comfortably should any of us have died (I appeal to any gracious heart here) suppose God should have taken thee away but this time two yeares, and he should have said thus to thee, Go and be gathered to thy fathers in peace, within these two years such and such things shall be done for England, as we now live to see; would not we willingly have dyed? would it not have been comfort enough against the fear of death but to have had revealed to us what should have been done in after time to our posterity? what mercy then is it now, that it is not one∣ly revealed to us but enjoyed by us? That is the second Note.
But thirdly,* What was this promise? This promise was that Israel should be a multitude, that the number of them shall be as the sand of the sea shore. VVe shall examine the excellency of the mercy of God in this promise by and by. Onely for the present, enquire we a little why God would expresse himselfe in this, that his grace should be manifested, in this to multiply them as the sand of the sea shore.
If we compare Scripture with Scripture, we shall finde that God there∣fore promiseth this, because he would thereby shew, that he did remember his old promise to Abraham, for that was the promise made to Abraham that God would multiply his seed as the starres of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and now God along time after commeth in with renewing this promise. Hence we are to observe this Note.
That the Lord remembers his promises though made a long time since.*God is ever mindful of his Covenant, as it is, Psal. 111. 5.
When we have some new and fresh manifestations of Gods mercy, our hearts rejoyce in it, but the impression of it is soone gone. Many of you when you have beene seeking God, have had many manifestations of his love, and God hath entred into Covenant with you, & for a while you have been comforted, but you lose all your comfort againe within a short time: Oh remember,* God is ever mindefull of his Covenant, though made 20. 40. years agoe, he remains the same still, be you the same still; be you ever mindful of your Covenants. When men are brought into the bond of the Covenant, their consciences are awed with it, and they walke very strictly, and they clare not in the least thing goe from the Covenant at first: But af∣ter a few moneths or weekes are over their heads, they forget their engage∣ment, Page 75 their Covenant they made with God, there is not such a strong bond upon their spirits as there was before. Oh my brethren, know that this is a great and sore evil in you; God is ever mindfull of his Covenant, so you should be. And as of his Covenant, so of his threats too, by way of pro∣portion: God remembreth his threats that were made many years agoe; we are affected with Gods threats for the present, but within a while, the im∣pression is gone. But let us know, time altereth not God as it doth us.
But yet we must enquire a little further,* because it is often in Scripture that the children of Israel should be like the stars of the heaven and as the sand upon the Sea shore; Why did God expresse this covenant to Abra∣ham? what was the matter?
Thus,** First, Abraham hee left his fathers house and all his kindred at Gods command, and upon that first God made this covenant wi•h him that he would make his seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand of the Sea. As if God should have said to Abraham; Abraham be willing to leave your fathers house, I will make a great house of you, a great family of yours.
Secondly, you shall observe that afterwards God confirmed this covenant to Abraham, and that with an oath. It is very observable, when he came first out of his countrey, and left his fathers house, God made this promise of the encreasing of his seed, but not with an oath; but afterwards in Gen. 22 16. God renews this promise of multiplying his seed, and that by an Oath; for saith he, By my selfe have I sworne, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not witheld thy sonne, thine onely son, that in blessing I will blesse thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the Sea shore. Marke here, It was upon Abrahams being willing to offer up his son Isaac, his onely son Isaac. Abraham was willing at Gods command to offer • ship own son, and up∣on that God promiseth to multiply his seed as the stats of heaven, and as the sand of the sea. Yea he comes in with an oath, By my selfe I sweare, saith the Lord, that I will do it, because thou hast done this.
We have two most excellent notes from hence.
First,* there is nothing lost in being willing to lose for God. Abraham was willing to lose his fathers house, the comfort of his family for God: I will make thee a glorious family as the stars of heaven, saith God.
Againe, Abraham was willing to lose one son, his onely son for God. Art thou willing to lose one son for me▪ thou shalt have ten thousand sons for this one thou losest, yea though it be lost but in thy intention. Thou shalt have thy own son, and yet have ten thousand sons besides. Oh let us not be afraid to part with any thing for God: Gods people they know how to make up in God what ever they lose for God: But God will not onely make it up in himselfe, but will make it up even in the very thing it selfe, the creature it selfe thou losest for God. Art thou willing to lose a little of thy e∣state? Thou mayst with comfort expect (so far as if thou knewest all thou thy selfe wouldst desire) to have it made up in abundance, even in that very Page 76 way. You know the promise, He that forsaketh father, or mother, or wife or children, or lands, or houses for my sake, shal have an hundred fold in this world, and in the world to come life everlasting. How hath God fulfilled this this day in many of our eyes, and too many of our experiences! how many have you known who have beene willing to part with that they had, and to put it out (as it were) to the wide world; God hath made it up not onely in himselfe, but in the very thing it selfe, and thereby taught them and all the world to be willing to venture for God, to part with any thing for him and his cause.
Secondly,* When we are willing to lose for God, then is the time when God will renew and confirm his Covenant with us. Then God confirmed his covenant with Abraham when he was willing to part with his sonne, to be deprived of all his seed. The way to be made sure of what we have is to be willing to part with it. You all desire to be sure of your estates, oh that we could in these times, wherein we see nothing sure make our estates sure! this is the desire of every one. Would you make sure of your estates? sure! illing to imploy your estates for God & for a good cause: This is the way to have God to renew his covenant to you for an assurance of that way. Here is the best assurance office in the world.
But how comes this in at this time, & to his people in Hosea his Prophesie?
Thus it comes in now, because the Lord by the Prophet would answer an objection of the people. They might have said thus, What Hosea, doe you thus threaten judgement, the destruction of Israel? why, you promise mer∣cy to Judah, and Judah is but a handful to us, we are the ten Tribes, & with us are the chiefe, the greatest part, almost all the seed of Abraham, and yet you threaten our destruction, it can never possibly be: What will become of Gods promise then? Did not God promise Abraham, that his seed should be as the stars of heaven, & as the sand on the sea shore? you seeme to goe crosse to God, God saith that he would multiply that seed, and you take a course to make men beleeve that the seed of Abraham should bee brought into a narrow compasse and be nothing. Thus doubtless they were ready to pleade against the Prophet. The Prophet answereth thus.
What doe you say, what will become of Abrahams seed? Know that God can tell how to provide for his Church and fulfill his promise made to Abraham whatsoever becomes of you, for you are mistaken in thinking you alone are the seed of Abraham; for you shall know that Abraham hath not onely a carnal but a spiritual seed; all those that shal come to joyne in the faith of Abraham, and subject themselves to the God of Abraham, they shall be the seed of Abraham, and so they shall be the children of Is∣rael as well as you, and thus God will make good his word. And so the A∣postle, Rom. 9. doth quote this Scripture about Gods casting off of the peo∣ple of Israel threatned here by Hosea (ver. 25. As he saith also in Hosea, I will call them my people that were not my people: This is the very Text that the Apostle there quoteth, though all the words are not quoted, and it is Page 77 a very good thing to acquaint your selves with the Scripture, and to see how one Scripture lookes towards another, and specially in the new Testament to see how the old Testament is quoted.) This I say the Apostle applyeth to the Gentiles; and the holy Ghost (who is the best interpreter of Scriptures) there shewes, that it is at least in part fulfilled in so many of the Gentiles comming in, and being converted to the faith of the true Messia.
There are this and many other excellent Prophesies concerning the glo∣ry of Israel, that were made good in part in the first times of the Gospel; but that was but as the first fruites of the fulfilling of those promises & Pro∣phesies; the accomplishment of them is yet certainly to come, when the fulnesse of the Gentiles shall come in, and the Jews be converted; then not onely the spiritual seed, but the very carnal seed of Abraham shall have this promise made good, and shall be multiplyed and come into the faith too. Rom. 11. 26. The Apostle speakes there of a general salvation of Israel, that was yet to come after the fulnesse of the Gentiles. So it appears plainly, that those Prophesies concerning the glory of Israel, though they were in part made good in the first times of the Gospel, yet there was a further ac∣complishment of them after, when there should be a fulnesse of the Gentiles come in, and then Israel should be saved too.
I might spend a great deale of time in shewing how many promises con∣cerning the excellency of the Church were made good in part in the first times of the Gospel, and yet that but as the first fruites, and to be fully made good afterwards. And certainly this promise (as we shall afterward come to know) it is not yet throughly fulfilled: though it was in part made good at the calling of the Gentiles, there is a further degree of it to be accomplish∣ed another day, of which hereafter.
From hence (the words being thus opened to you) take these observati∣ons as they do immediately spring from them.*
First, that all beleevers, though of the Gentiles, are of the seed of Abraham, they are of Israel, and therefore have the same priviledges with Israel, the same in effect, yea (as we shall see afterward) better. They are all the heirs of Abraham, who in Rom. 4. is said to be the heir of the world, they have the dignity of Israel, to be the peculiar people of the Lord, to be the treasure, to be Gods portion. Whatsoever you reade of Israel, of excellent titles and ap∣pellations about Israel. they belong now to all beleevers, though they be the children of the Gentiles. A comfortable & sweet point to us of the Gentiles
Secondly, God hath a time to bring in abundance of people to the profes∣sion of the faith, to bring in multitudes, even as the sand of the sea-shore. He will do it, and he hath wayes enough to accomplish it. Though there is for the present this reproach upon the way and people of God,* that they are but a few, a company of poore mean kinde of people, a handful, and what are they in comparison of the rest? This reproach (my brethren) will be wiped away, & we may yet expect that before the world be come to an end, that the greatest part shall come in & imbrace the faith of Christ, and come to be godly too.
Page 80〈2 pages missing〉 ful vision, in which he saw a man of Macedonia, appearing to him, and pray∣ing him to come over to Macedonia & help them; one would have thought that when Paul had gone to preach there, all should have come flocking in, and there should have beene a glorious worke done, that hee should have brought in a great number to the faith: But when he came to Macedonia, he was faine to go into the fields by a rivers side to preach, and onely a few women came there to heare him (there was all the Auditory he had) and a∣mongst them, there was but one poor woman wrought upon. God opened the heart of Lydia, Here was all the great do that was upon such a mighty call; and yet we know how gloriously God went on with Paul. This I note to confirm you in this, that though the beginnings be very small, yet we may expect a glorious increase afterward. As it was with the Church at the be∣ginning, so it will be here: That which Bildad said of Job, Chap. 8. 7. may well be applyed to the Church, Though the beginning of it be small, yet the latter end of it shall greatly increase.
But thirdly,* As God hath a time to multiply his Church, so it is a great blessing to the Church of God when it is multiplyed. It is a fruite of Gods great grace and mercy to make the Church to be a numerous people: As the multitude of Subjects is the glory of a Prince,* so it is the glory of Jesus Christ, and therefore it was prophesied of him, that the Church should come in as the dew of the morning. Psal. 110. 3.
Thus it began in the Primitive times in the Apostles dayes, and presently after multitudes came into the Church. I remember Jerome Writing to Cromatius, saith that there might be computed for every day in the yeere (except in the first of January) five thousand Martyrs: therfore the Church was grown to a numerous multitude. And Tertullian speakes in his time that they were become so numerous then, that in his Apologetiques he tells the Heathen that they had filled their Cities, and that if they would they had strength enough to make their party good against them, but they were pa∣tient and submitted themselves to their Tyranny.
I know many make this of Tertullian an argument that men must lay down their necks, and suffer their throats to be cut, if those that are above them will it, and if they cannot obey actively, they must obey passively any thing that is acording to the will of such as are over them. Why (say they) did not the Christians so in the Primitive times? Yes, the Christians did so, they though they were under Idolaters, and were commanded to deny Christ, which was utterly unlawful; yet though they could not obey actively, they obeyed passively, they did subject and submit themselves to all their rage; and though they had strength, yet they would not resist. Why should not Christians do so now? You are exceedingly gulled with this argument ma∣ny times: true, we are bound to obey authority actively or passively, and yet this argument doth not serve the turne. There is a great deale of differ∣ence between authority abused, & men that are in authority commanding; here the difference lies not in authority abused, but in that which is no autho∣rity Page 81 at all. For there is no authority that we are subject to now, but (as I have said heretofore) according to the Laws and constitutions of the Countrey where we live.* Not to the commands & meer wils of men till it be brought to a Law are we bound in conscience to submit, no way, neither actively nor passively; though it be a good thing that is commanded, Conscience doth not bind to it, earatione, to yeeld to it, because it is commanded, till it be brought to a Law. Now when things are brought into a Law, & be accor∣ding to the agreements and covenants of the place and countrey wherein we live. And then suppose this authority be abused, & there be an ill Law made, then I confesse (if that Law be of force) wee must either quit our selves of the Countrey or else submit or suffer, for then the power of God is in it, though it be abused, and we are to be subject to all powers. When then it comes once to be a power, to be a Law, it is authority, though abused, and we must yeeld obedience to it either actively or passively. But we must en∣quire whether it be a power; It is not because the man that is in authority commandeth it, except he command it by vertue of that authority, which is according to the nature and condition of the fundamental constitutions of the Countrey where he liveth.
Now in the Primitive times they submitted themselves to suffer when they could not do the things that were commanded (as to deny Christ) be∣cause by the constitutions of that Countrey they had such a kinde of power given to them, a legal power to proceed against them; so that they had a power in their way given them, and they had authority, but they abused it in that they did. And therefore the Christians were so willing rather to suffer a∣ny thing than to resist, and were ours the same case wee should do so too, if once it come to passe that mischiefe be established by a Law, though it be mischiefe, yet if we cannot obey it actively we are bound to suffer or else to quit the Countrey, one of the two, if it be urged upon us: We may seek what we can to get it alleviated, but we must either do or suffer if once it be framed into a Law, otherwise we are not bound in conscience, bound wee may be in regard of prudence, and in regard of preventing other disturban∣ces, but conscience doth not bind to wils of men, but binds to Laws.
Thus much still, for the satisfaction of Conscience in this case.
But to come to what I brought this in for. The Christians were wonder∣fully encreased at this time. Now we know this is the point; We are to re∣joyce when the Church is increased, and to esteeme it as the great blessing of God when they are made as the sand upon the sea-shore. There is an ad∣mirable place for this in Psal. 72. where there is a large prophesie made of the Kingdome of Christ and of his Glory in this particular, ver. 8. He shal have dominion from sea to sea, and from the rivers to the end of the earth, then ver. 11. All Kings shall fall downe before him, and all Nations shall serve him: and ver. 17. His name shall endure for ever, and shall continue as long as the sunne, and men shall be blessed in him, all Nations shall call him blessed. Now marke upon this, how the Saints rejoyce and bless God, Page 82 VVhat shall all Nations come in and serve Christ? shall there come multi∣tudes in and joyne with the Church?*Oh blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel who onely doth wonderous things, and blessed be his glorious name for ever and ever, and let the whole earth be filled with his glory, Amen & Amen saith the Church of God then, let all the Saints send forth their eccho. Amen, yea and Amen to this, that all the earth shall be filled with the glory of Christ, this is that they are affected with, this is that they desire much, as if they should say, this is a blessed thing indeed.
My brethren this is a good and consely sight in a gracious eye to see mul∣titudes come in & to flock to Christ and to his Ordinances. It is true indeed, the spirit of Antichrist that is in many makes them that they cannot look up∣on his but with a malevolent eye, and their hearts do vexe, and rage, and fiet at this, as much as at any thing, they love scattering of them up and downe, but to see people come flocking to Ordinances, to see multitudes come in and joyne themselves to Christ, this they cannot endure.
The same malicious spirit that was against Christ, that we reade of in the Acts of the Apostles, yea, and in the Gospel too, wee finde it still in such kinde of men. Marke that Text, Act. 13. 44, 45. There it is said that almost the whole Cittie came together to hear the word of God, to heare a Sermon. Now the Pharises when they saw the multitude they were filled with envie: Why what hurt was there done? They saw no hurt done, but meerely saw the multitude, and they speake against those things that were spoken by Paul contradicting and blaspeming: When they saw the multitude, they could have borne it otherwise.
Marke againe the vile spirits of the Pharisees that envied at the multitude that followed Christ himselfe: not onely did they envy at the Apostles, for they might be factious and singular men in their esteem, but what say you to Christ himselfe? John. 12. 19. The Pharisees said, behold, perceive yee how ye prevaile nothing? behold, the world followes him.
Certainly the same Pharisaical spirit hath beene a prelatical spirit in our dayes. We know it hath beene matter enough for a godly, painful, conscio∣nable Minister to be outed of all he hath at an instant, and his mouth to be stopped, meerly upon this, though they had nothing against him, no, not for their own Laws, but because he was a popular man, and multitudes fol∣lowed him. What a dangerous thing hath it beene of late times for men to be popular, that is, to bee such as multitudes shall come and flock to the word preached by them. Certainly it is an evil spirit, for the promise of God to his Church is, that there shall come multitudes and joyne with the people of God in the way of his Ordinances.
Yea but it may be they do not envy at all that multitudes should follow that that is good,* but it is the humour and pride of such men to have multi∣tudes to follow after them.* Take heed first of putting this off with such a plea. Consider whether it will hold at that great day. The Devil himself did never plead against Christ or any of his wayes, but with some colour or o∣ther. Page 83 And surely these men they judge thus by looking into their own hearts, because they know that if multitudes should come to them, it could not be but their hearts would be lifted up, and so they judge accordingly of others.
But suppose it be so (for men are men) that they through corruption should have any such workings of pride, yet do they say anything that is not justi∣fyable? do they preach any thing that is not according to Christ? If they do not, then thou shouldest encourage that which is good, and for that which is evill leave it to the comming of Christ, except thou canst by prayer and in∣struction helpe it, have it I say till then. It is worse to envy at multitudes now then it was for the Jewes to envy Paul for multitudes following him, for they thought they could contradict him in what he said, and therefore for multitudes to follow such as should preach false doctrine (as they thought Paul did) they had some colour to contradiet it, & to envy at the multitudes following of him. But here it is nothing else in the World but meerely be∣cause multitudes come to heare the world, for though men first preach in corners privately, where they have but a few auditors, they will cry out of that, well, if they preach publikely, and multitudes come to hear them, then they cry out of that too. Nothing at all will please them, nothing can please envious & malicious spirits.* If we keep our selves retyred, that hath excepti∣ons enough, and then if we come in a publicke way, they have exceptions at that too. Here the grosse malice of Satan appeareth, because when the thing it selfe cannot be excepted against, he runs to the intention of the heart. and to mens inward aymes, and bringeth an argument of that which he knows no man can confute him in: For who can say that that is either true or false that men have inward aymes of pride, and vaine glory, and selfe-seeking in multitudes, flocking after them?
Here is the wisdome of the serpent too, because if they goe upon other ob∣jections they may be answered by all the world that there is no such thing as they pretend, but put them from those, and you may be sure to have such ob∣jections as no man can answer: Oh but (say they) their hearts are lifted up and they have ill aymes and ill intentions. Who can answer this objection? no body can confute this. Nay suppose we professe before the Lord & Christ as we desire to stand before him, and answer it at that day what our aimes are, this will not serve the turne. Why then (my brethren) if men will choose such an argument as cannot possibly come to be answered before the com∣ing of Christ, and so make a stumbling-block, there is no help but men must stumble and fall, and many do stumble and fall, and break their necks.
How ever let wisdom be justified of her children; Let the Saints rejoyce in this, that multitudes come in to the ministery of the word and to the Or∣dinances of Christ. Be careful and wise in this, and give no just occasion, and therefore give all due respect that possibly can be to those you have the most relation unto.
This you see is the promise that there shall come in such multitudes to the Church. But marke then how the promise runnes;
Page 84 As the sand of the sea.
Rabbin Ezra makes an allusion from hence, as the sand (saith he) keepes the waves of the sea from breaking in,* and drowning the world: so Israel, so the Saints keep the world from being drowned by the waves of Gods wrath.
I doe not say that this is the intention, but surely the intention of God is mainly this, to signifie the multitudes that should come into the Church: Onely this allusion we may make use of, as being a comfortable and pretty allusion, and it is a truth that Israel is as the sand of the sea, not onely in re∣spect of multitudes, but as the sand to keepe in the waves of Gods wrath from drowning the world: and indeed were it not for the Church of God, the waves of Gods wrath that are abroad would overflow all the world, and the world would quickly be confounded. So saith hee,
When the waves of Gods anger seeme as if they would overflow all the world; they doe but see Israel, and they returne back presently, they re∣tire and are not able then to overflow the world as they do desire.