The Eleventh Lecture.*
HOSEA 2. 12. 13.
And I will destroy her Vines and her Fig-trees, whereof shee hath said, These are my rewards that my lovers have given me: and I will make them a forrest, and the beasts of the field shall eate them.
And I will visit upon her the dayes of Baalim, wherein she burnt incense to them, and she decked her selfe with her eare-rings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the Lord.
GODS threatning Israel, in taking away spirituall mer∣cies; their Sabbaths, and Ordinances, their solemne Feasts, you have in the former verse; but because they might not be much sensible of such a judgement, to be deprived of Sabbaths, and solemnities of worship, would not be so grievous to many, but the destroying of the fruit of the ground, the spoiling of their land, the losse of those things wherein their riches and outward comforts lay, would be more grievous, therefore God joynes this threat with the former, And I will destroy her Vines and Fig-trees; In these two, Vines, and Fig-trees, there is a Synecdoche, by these are meant, all her outward prosperity; I will not lop their Vines, I will not cut downe some branches of their Fig-trees only, but destroy them.
If God stayes long before a judgement comes,* hee comes fearfully in∣deed, he comes with destroying judgments, then he strikes at the very roo•e of all a peoples prosperity, and leaves them hopelesse of ever recoveriug themselves; It concerns us to humble our selves under Gods hand, when he doth but cut off some branches of our vines and fig-trees, of our outward comforts, lest ere long there followes a destroying judgement, a cutting to the very roote: Doth God come in your families, and cut off a branch or two, a childe or two? Humble your souls before him, he may cut downe the tree, stub up the root ere long, he may come to the Mother, or the Fa∣ther, and so roote out the family: So in a Nation, it is a very remarkable place that you have, Ezekiel, 21. 27. I will overturne, overturne, overturn, when was this spoken, and to whom? It was spoken unto Israel, and to Is∣rael when they were in captivity, and yet God threatens them thus even there, I will overturne, overturne, overturne,
Whereof she hath said, these are the rewards that my lovers have gi∣ven mee;* The word that is translated reward, signifies Merces mere∣tricia, it comes of the Hebrew word that signifies hired with wages, but such wages as are given to harlots, and yet she is so impudent as to make use of that very word, these are my rewards; the word she useth here might upbraid her, but so impudent doth Idolatry make men to bee; Page 334 If we be guilty of whoredome, we have our rewards of whoredome then, (say they:) Whoremasters use to give rewards unto their whores; whore∣dome is a costly sin to many a man; Many men secretly wast, and consume in their estates, and their neighbours wonder how they come to be so low; Uncleannesse is as a Gangrene, as it will consume the body, so the purse, it beggars many men, when the world little thinks of the cause.
Secondly,*These are my rewards, these that you call Idols, give mee libe∣rall rewards, I have what I served them for.
God may suffer men in wickednesse to prosper, to gaine their hearts de∣sire.
Thirdly,* It is a dangerous thing for sinners to look back to their sins com∣mitted, and then to blesse themselves, as if they had gotten by them; In∣deed, before a sin is committed, the sinner by temptation may be perswa∣ded there is much gaine to be had in that way; and in the very act of co∣mission, the sinner may find some flashie false contentment and delight, but usually after the act is over, when the sinner looks back, he sees nothing but shame, guilt and horrour; Sinners scarce dare look back to their sinnes after they are committed, except such as are most desperately hardned in their sins, they dare not think of what they have done: but here you see, they look at what they have done, and blesse themselves, as if they had got a goodly reward by it: As the sight of the evil consequences of sin is a means to hum∣ble, so the apprehending of gayning by sin, is a speciall meanes to harden in sin. Judas thought it a brave thing to get the thirty pieces, yet when hee saw the evill fruit that his sin produced, he looked with horrour upon his sin, his soule sunk under the burden of it: If a Judas looking after sinn, hath his spirit filled with horrour, what hope is there then of such a one, as looking after it, blesseth himselfe as a gainer by it! If a man either prospers at that time he sins, or prospers more a little after he hath committed a sin, then he did before, or so prospers as that he conceives his sin to be some way instru∣mentall to bring in that gain that was got: this hardens exceedingly.
Fourthly,* These are the rewards that my lovers have given me.
It is a provoking sin to attribute the blessings of God to our own wicked sinfull ways, and thereby to harden our hearts in those ways. It is too much to attribute any of Gods blessings to second causes, to our lawfull endeavors, to our industry, to our care, to any instruments, but to attribute them to our wickednesse,* this is abominable, God expects glory in the acknowledge∣ment of every mercy, and improvement of it unto him: where then there is not only a deniall of this to him, but a giving it to his enemy, to wicked∣nesse, to the Devill, whom he hates, this goes exceeding neer to the heart of God. It is a great part of our sanctifying of Gods name in the use of all the creatures, to acknowledge him in all, that all depends upon him, and thereby to be quickned in his service: but to thinke all depends upon that which is contrary to God, and therefore if we want what we would have, to begin to think we have not served our lust enough, and to be put on to serve Page 335 them more, this exceedingly provokes. Ile give you one notable example of this wretchednesse of mans heart, and indeed it is a very dreadfull one, I had very credible relation from a Minister, who being at Hamburgh, hee was told this story. There was a consultation of many of the Ministers of Germany at that Town in the time of the sorest distresses and calamities that were in Germanie, the Ministers were Lutherans, they consulted to find out what might be the cause why the hand of God was so heavy upon Ger∣many, in those parts where they lived, that so they might reform what was amisse, and make their peace with God, the isse of their consultations came to this, that the reason of their calamities and troubles that were upon them, was because the Images of their Churches were not adorned enough: be∣cause there was not cost enough bestowed upon them, they were not deck∣ed as they thought they should have been: and therefore for the preventing of the continuance of those calamities in those parts of Germany, they una∣nimously consented to improve all the strength they had to beautifie and a∣dorn the Images in their Churches more: this was a sad thing for Ministers who professing against Popery, as the Lutherans do, they indeed keep I∣mages in Churches: But could it be thought that they should be thus vaine, yea wicked, as to attribute the want of their Vines and fig-trees to the want of their superstitious vanities, and to bring up their consultations to this conclusion, that if they were more zealous of the one, they should the more prosper in the other? was not this a sore and grievous evill, going neare to the heart of God?
Many attribute the increase of their estates to their lying, to their over∣reaching, their swearing, and rejoyce in this, this I have got by these wayes; Zeph. 1. 9. God threatens to punish those that leape on the threshold, and fill their masters houses with violence and deceit: That is, the servants of great men, who by oppression and by fraud bring in gain to their Masters houses, and then they leap upon the threshold for joy, applauding them∣selves in the successe they have had in their wicked wayes: It is usuall in whatsoever ways men are, if they meet with any prosperous success, to bless themselves, as if this success came in the rather because of those ways, let the ways be never so wicked: Of late have not some made the world be∣lieve they have had great success, & have made an argument that their ways have been good, and God hath blessed them, because they have done as they have, though we know their ways to be such as brings most fearfull guilt upon themselves, and their families, and we have all cause to have our hearts tremble within us, to think of them; and if it be through seducement, and not through a worse principle, to pray to God, O Lord forgive them, for they know not what they doe: and for the success they boast of, who would not if he might wish such success to his Enemy?
But if Idolaters can encourage themselves in those ways they are in,* from what good they suppose they have by them, for their rewards; how much more then should the Saints encourage themselves in the rewards that they Page 336 have from their lover, from the Lord Christ? Psal. 129. 56. This I had (saith David) because I kept thy word; this is the reward I have had from my lover; I blesse God, I have in some measure got my heart to breake be∣fore the Lord, and to melt after him, and the Lord hath come in mercifully to me, though indeed there be no worthinesse in what I have done, yet the Lord hath beene gracious, he hath encouraged his poose servant in his way; these and these mercies the Lord hath given me as a fruit of seeking him; he hath not said to the seed of Iacob, seeke ye me in vaine; I have sought for comfort, for peace, and at last it is come, I will call upon the name of the Lord, as long as I live; we should consider of Gods mercies we have, and rejoyce in them as the love-tokens that come from our beloved; These are the rewards, these are the love-tokens that come from our dearly beloved. Hereafter when the Saints shall come to heaven, how will they blesse God, and blesse themselves in their God, for those glorious things, those blessed rewards that they then shall receive from their beloved, and enjoy for ever with him! then they shall triumphingly say, the world said heretofore, What profit is there in serving of the Lord? But blessed be God, that I went on notwithstanding in the wayes of God, and now I see there is profit to pur∣pose; O these joyes! O this glory! O this crowne! this happinesse! these are the rewards that I have from my beloved.*
A fift,* what any man gets by sin, or lookes upon as gotten by sin, or uses as a meanes to harden himself in sin, the curse of God is in it, and it will rend it from him, he shall not ever enjoy it; I will destroy their vines & their fig∣trees, whereof they have said, these are the rewards that my lovers have given me, 1 Kings 21. 16. you shall finde that Ahab blessed himselfe in getting Naboths vineyard, by the device of Iezebel, the text saith, He rose up to goe to take possession, but verse 9. Thus saith the Lord, hast thou killed, and also taken possession? in the place where the doggs licked the blood of Nabeth, shall doggs licke thy blood, even thy blood; What, you have got an estate now, you have got the vineyard, you have got possession, how got you it? by wickednesse, though you blesse your selves in it now, as a reward of your vile wayes, certainly the Lord will either force you in the anguish and terrour of your soules, to vomit up those sweet morsells a∣gaine, you shall not hold them, or some fearfull judgement of God up∣you, will rend them from you; that which many have got by unjust and sinfull wayes, they have indeed rejoyced in for a while, but after a while that estate hath beene in their consciences as drops of scalding lead in the very apple of a mans eye; so terrible hath it been unto them.
For this I will onely give you an example, a late one, that came to my owne hands in restoring that that was wrongfully got many yeeres agoe, from one neere my selfe, I shall the rather name it because the par∣tie desired that the thing might bee made knowne to the glory of God, He sends that that he had wrongfully got; divers yeeres after, with a letter with these expressions; Many a throb of conscience had I about it, ma∣ny Page 337 an •king heart, and many promises have I made of restitution, and thousands of times have I wished unto you your silver againe;* what shall I doe? to keep it, it is to continue in sin; to give it to the poor, alas, it is not mine owne; or at least the evill purchase of gaine hourded up in the stuffe of my iniquity; to send it home, the owner is dead, I would to God I had sent it before, that it might not have layne so hard upon me; but seeing that is past, and cannot be recalled, here I sent it you, I aske God forgive∣nesse, and pray you fayle not to pray for me; Sweet Jesus forgive me: It was kept divers years, but was biting all the while in the conscience of the poor man, and at length it must breake forth in such expressions as these are.
Consider of this, every one who hath got any thing by a sinfull way, and have blest himselfe in it, this is the reward I have got by such a cunning de∣vice, and such an unjust and deceitfull way, you got it cleverly, and have en∣joyed it, and been merry with it, well, one day it may thus lie grating in your conscience, O then how rerrible will it be to you! this is the best way to be rid of the rewards of sin, when they begin to cause aking in your con∣sciences, cast them out your selves, all your praying to God for forgivenesse will never ease you without this way; if you be able to restore, but if you will not doe it this way, God may come by some hideous judgement, and force them from you in spite of your hearts, and then how terrible will it be to you, when you looke upon them as going from you, as being rent by God from you! O now I must part with all that gaine, and sweetnesse that such and such wayes of sin have brought me in; the gain, the sweet is gone, but the guilt, the curse, the dregs, the filth, that remains upon my spirit, and for ought I know must stick by me to all eternity; Gods judgements will be upon you one day, but as strainers to let out whatsoever is sweet, & delight∣full to you, and to keepe in the filth and dregs; Remember this, you that have got rewards by sinfull wayes, your rewards of sinne may now delight you, but there is a time you shall have rewards for your sins, that will not please you. I will make them as a forrest.
God threatens his people to make them as a forrest,* the Seventy they reade it otherwise, I will put those things as a witnesse; you will say here is a great difference; I will make her as a forrest, and I will put those things as a witnesse; Those things, that is, those rewards; they rejoyce in the rewards that they have had of their iniquity, but I will make them to be as a witnesse against them; Certainly there is a truth in this, Those things that you re∣joyce in as got by sin, the Lord will make them to rise up, and witnesse a∣gainst you; be sure now you cast them out, they will be witnesses against you another day else; A man that is guilty, would be glad, when he knows one that would witnesse against him, were dead, or out of the way; have you got any thing by a sinfull way? have you got any thing by a sinfull course? put it out of the way, for otherwise it will bee a witnesse a∣gainst you, either upon your sick-bed, or at the great day of Judge∣ment; but how can thesee-two readings be reconciled, I will makePage 338 them as a witnesse against you,* and I will make her as a forrest? It is true, the words in the English seem to be very wide one from another, but there is an easie mistake that might cause the Seventy to read those words, so as to render them thus, I will put them as a witnesse, for [〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉] signifies a for∣rest in the Hebrew, and [〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉] signifies to witnesse, so it is used, Zach. 3. 6. Montanus reads those words, Contestabatur Angelus; now those that are skilful in the Hebrew know that there being no more difference in the words then in those letters which are so like one another, one is [〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉] the other is [〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉] there might easily be a mistake in that regard; but we take it as it is here, I will make her as a forrest. The Church is Gods garden, hedged in with Gods protection, but God here threatens to take away the hedge, and let in the wild beasts; Concerning the hedg of God about his Church we have spoken before: The wilde Beasts are one of Gods sore judgements often threatned: Those who will not be subject to the blessed holy God, they shall be subject to the ravening and rage of Beasts: And it is like the Seven∣ty understood it, even literally of that judgment of noysome beasts to be let in upon them; for I find that they add to these words [the beasts shall eate them] the fowles of the Heaven, and the creeping things of the earth shall devoure;* but though I find that in the translation of the Seventy, yet I do not find it in the Hebrew Text, and therefore we must let it passe, and only speak of what we have here, of the beasts eating: Now therefore by that according to most Interpreters, I incline to think, and am perswaded, that it is the intention of the holy Ghost to express a judgment beyond the judg∣ment of letting in of noysome beasts, namely the Assyrians, the adversaries of Israel, who should come upon them as ravening beasts to devour them; from whence the words being so opened, you have these three notes of great use concerning us.
The first is,* sin makes men like Beasts, the beasts of the earth, he meanes the Assyrians, great ones, and yet he calls them the beasts of the earth, to be like a beast, is worse then to be a beast; for to be a beast is but to be as God made the creature, it is no dishonour to it: but to be like a Beast, that is the corruption of a creature,* and the deformity of it, the worst deformity that possibly can be: Chrysostome shews it thus, Beasts (saith he) have but some particular evill, take the worst of all, as the Swine, sensuality, the Tyger, and the Bear, cruelty; the Fox subtlety, &c. But wicked men have all evills that all beasts in the world have in them. One wicked man hath the sensua∣lity of a Swine, and cruelty of a Tyger, of a Bear, the subtilty of a Fox, and whatsoever is set out Emblematically by any Beast, a wicked man hath it all in his heart; yea and farther, wicked men are worse then beasts in this, that they doe corrupt themselves in those things that they have common to∣gether with beasts, more then beasts do. As the Drunkard corrupts him∣self in his drink, which a beast will not do, a glutton corrupts himselfe in his mea••ore then ordinarily a beast will do, and that I think is the 〈◊〉〈…〉 in 〈…〉Iude, ver.〈…〉of that they Page 339 know not, and what they know naturally as bruit beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. As for their intellectuall parts, they will be spea∣king evill of what they know not, they will take upon them as if they knew much, but the truth is, they understand little, and yet they will speak evill of that they know not. It is a dreadfull Text against such as will be crying out against men and their ways, when as in truth they know not what they are; but further, in that they know naturally as bruit beasts, in that they corrupt themselves, that is, in things they do know meerly by sense, as bruite beasts do, they know by tasting, and by smelling, as bruit beasts do, in those very things they corrupt themselves more then bruit beasts, that is, by excess in meats and drinks.
Would not any account it to be one of the greatest judgments that could befall him,* if God should turne him into the fashion of a Beast while he lives here in this world, though he should still retain the mind of a man in him? Suppose God should inflict this judgment upon a Drunkard, he should still have his intellectuall parts as now he hath, but yet his body should be turned into the form of a Swine, or a rayler into the form of a dog, as they say Hecuba Priamus his wife was for her rayling; would not this be a fearfull judgment? It is an expression of a heathen, Lactantius hath it from Cicero, (saith he) If it would be such a judgment as a man would be willing to indure any misery in the world, rather then to have his body turn∣ed into the fashion of a Beast, is it not as great a misery to keep the fashion of the body, and to have the mind to become like a beast, to keep a humane shape with the soul of a beast? surely it is worse then to have the shape of a beast with the soul of man.
Secondly,* God looks upon wicked men who do great things in the world with a contemptible eye: the Beasts shall devour, that is, the great King of Assyria, and all his Courtiers about him, and Cavalliers with him, they shall come to devour them, they are but the beasts, God speaks in a con∣temptible manner, as he doth against Senacherib that King of Assyria, in Isa. 37. 29. God threatens to put a hooke in his nostrils, and a bridle in his lips, because of his rage and of his tumult, that is, he would use him as a beast, to hook his nose, & to put a bridle into his jaws. Mark likewise how contemptible God speaks of the King of Babylon, and his whole army, Ioel 2. 20. His stinke and his ill savour shall come up, because hee hath done great things; and so in Psal. 59. 7. They belsh with their mouths (saith David) and they goe up and down the Citie grinning like a dog: these are the expressions of David, and in that Psalm he means no other but those his adversaries, that were about Saul in his Court: and Ezek. 38. 3, 4. To the chief Prince of Meshech and Tubal, I will put hooks in thy jawes (saith God) and in Dan. 7. the four great Monarchs, Babylonian, Persian, Greci∣an, Roman, are set out by four beasts, & the fourth Monarchy which by most Interpreters interpreted the Roman Empire, Dan. 7. 7. it is described to bee dreadfull and 〈…〉 and strong exceedingly, & it had great iron teeth, Page 340 it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it, and it was divers from all things that was before it; Now this beast raged first in the heathen Empire, and after it gave its power to the beast Anti∣christ, as you may reade in Rev. 13. and that beast was like a leopard spot∣ted, full of uncleannesse and filth, or as some translate it, a panther, who by the scent of it drawes other beasts to him, but devoures them, and his feet like a Beare, and his head like a Lyon. Thus you see how God describes the great ones of the world, to be as beasts looking with a contemptible eye upon them.
Thirdly,* It is a sore and a heavy judgement for a people to be delivered up to the rage of cruell adversaries; the beasts shall devoure them. I will give you up to them who will bring you under, you will not be obedient to me, but to them you shall, I will let out cruell wicked men upon you. Hence David prayed, Lord let me not fall into the hands of men, when God would put him to his choyce, to choose what judgement he would have, he was quickly resolved what to refuse, hee would be sure he would not have that judgement, to be given up to the hands of men, that he knew was dreadfull; and Psal. 55. 6. he prayes, O that I had the wings of a dove, that I might flye into the wildernesse, and there abide. Into the wildernesse! Why hee should be among the wilde beasts in the wildernesse, and yet he cryes, O that he had the wings of a dove, he would abide in the wildernesse! VVhy what is the matter here? it was because of the cruelty of Saul, and his cour∣tiers, David apprehended them so cruell,* that he had rather fall into the hands of Tygers, and wilde beasts in the wildernesse, then into theirs. I could give you notable examples of people that would rather endure any misery in the world, then be given up into the hands of their enemies. That story is most famous of Numantia in Spaine, when Scipio came against it, and they were afraid it would be taken, all the young men first took all the old men in the City and killed them with as faire a death as they could; then they brought all the treasure and riches of the City to the market place, and set all on fire, and after that they all took poyson and poysoned themselves, and thus in one day old and young, and all in the City, were quite destroyed, ra∣ther then they would fall into the hands of their enemies. Psa. 22. 20. Deli∣ver my soul, saith David, from the sword, my darling from the power of the dog, the power of the dog, and the sword, is but one the interpretation of the other; and that text is observable, 1 Cor. 15. 32. That I have fought with beasts at Ephesus after the manner of men; some interpret this litterally, that he did indeed really fight with beasts, as being one way of torment they put the Christians to, to fight with beasts; but it is rather thought by most inter∣preters, that the meaning is with men that were beastly, with cruell men, and Esthius thinkes those men to be no other, but those that are mentioned in Acts 19. 9. of whom the text saith there, that divers were hardned, and spake evill before the multitude, Paul then departed from them, and 〈◊〉 he disciples, Paul says that it was a most 〈…〉 to get the Page 341 multitude to be gathered together, and there to speake against him and his doctrine, and against Christ, when all the multitude were got together, now their malice thought that a fit opportunity to vent all their venome against Paul and his doctrine, upon that the spirit of Paul was so provoked (saith the text) that he departed from them, and separated the disciples: he saw them desperately set upon it with malice that they would take such an ad∣vantage, so to speake against him and his doctrine before the multitude; it is thus with many, the more sedition is raised, the better are their designes furthered. Christ tells his Disciples, Marke 16. 18. that Serpents should do them no hurt, and drinking poyson shall not hurt them; yea, in the 19. of Luke the beginning, he tells them they shall have power over divels; Ser∣pents shall doe them no hurt, poyson shall doe them no hurt, they shall have power over Devils: but Mathew. 10. 17. Beware of men; they might say, why blessed Master, what need we be afraid of men? Serpents shall do us no hurt, we shall have power over Devils, and yet for all this, Christ bids them take heed of men; as if there weere more danger of hurt from wicked men, then from Devils, or from Serpents, and therefore S, Paul in the 2. of the Thessalo. 3. 2. prayes that they may be delivered from absurd men; so the words are, that those that had lost the very principle of reason, and were even as beasts. There are a generation risen up amongst us, who have sucked up the poyson of the old Serpent, and are sweld with it, who are set on fire of hel, and the poyson of Asps is under their lips, and in their hands, and as it was said of Romulus and Romus, the founders of Rome, they were suckled by woolves, so are these, who desire to build up Rome againe; much like the first founders of that Rome, they seeme to be men suckled by wolves, or as the Poets faine of Lycaon, turned into a wolfe for his cru∣elty; or as it is said of their S. Dominick, that was the Father of the Do∣minicans, that when his Mother was with child of him, she dreamed that she brought forth a wolfe, with a firebrand in his mouth; according to that representation she had in her dream of her childe, she proved afterwards; and if we look to the cruelty, and the rage of these kind of men, we may e∣ven think, that their Mothers have brought forth wolves with firebrands in their mouths; in these Satan rages, and we hope therefore his time is but very short, because he rages so much; had they prevailed, and brought all under their power, no Chronicle of any Nation under Heaven would afford the like stories of horrid cruelties, as the Chronicles of these times would have done; where they have prevailed, in Ireland, there have beene the beginnings of such barbarismes, as here would have risen to the perfecti∣on of all rage and horrible cruelties; they may be faire a little while, till they get more strength; but certainly had they their will, there would never be parallel examples of that horrible rage and cruelty as you would finde among them, the Lord deliver us from being scourged with these Scorpions; let us humble our soules before God, that God may not humble us before such beasts, that we may not say that England shall Page 342 be as a forrest, and these beasts shall devoure them; in the meane time let us not be offended at their prevailing in some places, for then we should be as beasts our selves, Psal. 73. 22. So ignorant was I, I was as a beast before thee, (saith David) Genesis 9. 5. God saith, He will require of the beasts the blood of his people, Certainly, God will require of these beasts, the blood that hath been shed, it is precious blood that they have drunke; had it beene corrupt blood, God would not so much have cared for it, but it hath beene the blood of his Saints; let us believe that God will turne the rage of man, the rage of beasts, to his praise, Psal. 76. 10. Surely the Lord cannot possi∣bly behold without indignation such vile beasts to worrie his Lambs, who are so deare to him, even such so precious in his eyes, to be torne and wor∣ried by such beasts as these are, the eyes of the Lord are purer then to behold such iniquity as this is, we may well cry out with the Prophet, Haback. 1. 2. 3. How long shall we cry out of violence and wrong? spoilings and vio∣lence are before me, whe•efore lookest thou upon them that deale treache∣rously and holdest thy tongue, when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous then himselfe? The higher the scum ariseth, the nearer we know it is to the fire. I have read of Philo, when the people of the Iewes made use of him to apologize for them unto Cajus the Emperour, Cajus used him very ruggedly, when he came out of his presence, the Iews came round about him, well, (saith he, to encourage them) Surely Cajus will arme God against himselfe for us.
But it may be said by some, surely these men are not beasts, for they are skilfull warriers, they are not so bruitish as you take them to bee, but are skilfull enough in their wayes; marke that text of Ezekiel 21. 31. I will deliver thee into the hand of bruitish men, skilfull to destroy; they are skil∣full to destroy, and yet bruitish men; we have a promise from God, and our prayers should hasten the fulfilling of it, in Ezek. 34. 25. He will cause the evill beasts to cease out of the land, and ver. 28. the beasts of that land shal no more devoure them; O that that time were come! O that the Lord would so worke for us as to cause our beasts to cease out of our land, that they might no more devoure! Isaiah 35. 9. No Lyon shall be there, no ra∣venous beast shall be found there, but the redeemed shall walke there; there is such a time coming; let us be patient in the mean time, and comfort our selves in these Scriptures, though our brethren endure hard things, by these cruell beasts, and though God may perhaps bring some of us under the rage of them, yet there is an estate of the Churches, that will be ere long that they shall be troubled no more with such uncleane, such outragious beasts.
VERSE 13. And I will visit upon her the dayes of Baalim, wherein she burnt incense to them, and she decked her selfe with her eare-rings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, (saith the Lord.)
Here is the conclusion of the threatning part of the Chapter; Now God will come upon them for all their sinnes together, if a generation shall suc∣ceed 〈…〉 esse, God may justly come upon 〈…〉, for all the Page 343 suns of the former generations; all the blood from Abel to Zechariah shall be required of this generation; I will visit all the dayes of Baalim, ever since they served Baal,* let men take heed of continuing in the wayes of sin, who can tell what sin may put a period to the time of Gods bringing his judgement upon a Nation, a family, or a particular person? though God hath spared heretofore, upon the next sin committed, there may be such a period put, as God now may come upon the family, not onely for that sin, but for all the sins of the family, that ever have been committed since it was a family, and so upon a Nation, for all the sins of a nation, since it was a na∣tion, and all thy sins, ever since thou wast a sinner. Men goe on a while in the wayes of sin prosperously, but when God commeth to visit, what will become of them? Isaiah 10. 3. What nill you doe in the day of your visi∣tation, and in the desolation which shall come from far, to whom will ye flee for help? and where will you leave your glory? Now you are merry, and laugh, now you feare nothing, but what will you do in the day of visitation? what will become of you then? whether will you flee then? and where will you leave your glory?
I will visit upon them the dayes of Baalim; in the plurall number Baalim, by which some think and that not improbably, that it is meant of their un∣der Gods that they had, which they called Baalims, for the Heathen had their chiefe Gods, and their Dii minores, their lesser Gods, that were unto them, as mediators to their chiefe Gods, and so our Papists have, they have their Diiminores,* lesser Gods, who are tutelar Gods, either over Nations, or over families, or over particular diseases, &c. As they say, for England, S. George, for Erance, S. Dennis, for Ireland, S. Patrick, for Wales, S. David, for Scotland, S. Andrew, &c. These Saints they are in imitation of the Heathens, Baal, or in the Caldee dialect Bel, was the King of Baby∣lon after Nimrod, the first that was deified, and reputed as a God after death, whence those men that were deified after their death, and worship∣ped as Gods, as the Papists worship their Saints, they called Baalims, as from Iulius Caesar, the other that followed after, were called Caesars: This interpretation gives unto us much light to understand that Scripture that you have in the first of the Corinthians, 8. 5. 6. Though there be that are called Lords whether in heaven or in earth, as there be Gods many, & Lords many, but to us there is but one God the Father, and one Lord Iesus Christ; If the Apostle had spoke in Hebrew, it would have been thus, though there be many Baalims, there is to us but one God, and one Baal; for in Hebrew, Ba∣al is Lood, there are many Gods, (say they) there were divers greater Gods, and there were many Lords, many Baalims, that is, there are many a∣mongst the Heathens that are mediators to their other chiefe Gods; But to us (saith he) there is but one God, and but one Lord, but one Baal, we have not Baalims, wee have not many mediators, to mediate between us and God, but as we have but one God, so we have but one Lord, but one Me∣diator, who indeed in regard of his humane nature is inferiour to the Fa∣ther, Page 344 but yet such a Lord by whom are all things, and we by him, we ac∣knowledge not greater Gods, and lesse Gods: the Papists acknowledge but one God, but they have many Lords, many Mediatours, many that must be between God and them, but this is a heathenish opinion.
Again, Baalim in the plurall number. Another reason given by some, and not improbably, is, that in regard of the severall images they had of their Baal, in severall places, even in their private houses; for Idolaters would not satisfie themselves in worshipping their Gods in publicke, but would worship them in their private houses also.
Now though the Jewes had onely two Idols set up, one in Dan, another in Bethel; yet they had some representations of those images in their pri∣vate houses, which may be grounded upon that text Hosea 10. 5. Because of the calves of Bethaven,* that is of Bethel, calves of Bethel. Why, how ma∣ny calves were there? there was but one calfe set up there, and yet here it is in the plurall number: now the reason of that is given, because though there was but one calfe set up for the publicke worship, yet they had in their pri∣vate families, the picture of that calfe, and so would bring the worship of their Baal into their families. A good lesson for Christians, not to satisfie themselves with publicke worship, but to bring as much of the worship of God as they can into their families. Wherein she burnt incense to them.
Incense was a typicall signification of prayer, in two respects. First, in the sweet savour of it. And secondly, in the ascending of it by fire, so all our prayers should be as incense, sweet before the Lord, and ascend up with the fervency of zeale, and Faith; it is properto God alone to have incense burnt unto him in a religious way, the heathens burnt incense to their Idols, imita∣ting the worship of God. She decked her selfe with her eare-rings, and her jewels: they worshipped their Idols in sumptuous manner, adorning themselves with as costly apparell as they could, especially their foreparts: the word that is translated jewels, signifies the nose jewel, the same word that you have in Isay, 3, 21. nose jewels, they hanged upon their faces, jew∣els to make themselves beautifull before their Idols: whores use to adorne themselves more pompously then grave matrons, by this many simple peo∣ple are drawn to the love of Idolatry,* which is spirituall whoredome; out∣ward braveries draw the sences; they thought God would accept of their service the rather, because of their costly jewels, that hung about their eares and nostrills. From hence this note.
To thinke that God will accept our service the rather,* because of any ap∣parel, or any thing of our own devising, is to deale with God as the heathens with their Idols; we must take heed of that: the Heathens instituted gar∣ments, that so they might be accepted. There was a Councel in the 333. year of Christ, that hath this Canon in it, it anathematizes all those that shal judge one vesture, one garment more holy then another, & make more for piety then another doth. We are to learn from Idolaters thus much, to 〈◊〉 adorn our souls, when we come into the 〈◊〉 of God; did they Page 345 deck their bodies, and hang jewels about eares and noses when they came before their Idols for acceptance?* Let us beautifie our souls every time we come before the living God; and would you know what fine cloathes you should have, when you come into Gods presence? I will tell you, and espe∣cially women who delight so much in fine cloaths, 1 Pet. 5. 5. Be yee cloa∣thed with humility; so the word is to dresse with a dresse that Gentlewomen used to weare in those times, with ribband; about their heads; well (saith the Apostle) would you have a fine dresse ye women? be ye cloathed with hu∣mility; the finest dresse you can possibly have: and I will tell you another dresse too, in 1 Pet. 3. 4. Adorned with a quiet and meeke spirit, which is with God of great price;* it is much set by of God, so translated in some of, your books. You love to be fine, if you come into Gods presence with qui∣et and meek spirits, and cloathed with humility, you will be as fine as can be in the very eyes of God; but withall remember, both men and women, the robes of Christs righteousnesse, except you come cloathed and decked with that garment also, certainly you can never find acceptance.
They followed after their Idols, but forgot me (saith the Lord.) Their lovers were remembred, but I was forgotten, saith God; God speakes here in a lamenting way, as a man bemoaning his sad condition: as if he should have said, how am I flighted by my people? the Idols can be followed, they can be remembred, but I am neglected, I am forgotten, they have a∣ctivity for their Idols, none for mee, memory for them, but none for mee.
God takes it very ill,* when men can find memory, strength, and activity enough for their sinfull wayes, but none for him; many complain of strength, they are weak, but who was ever so weak, but had strength enough to sin? though memories be weak, yet sinfull ways can be thought on.
Forgot me, that is, First, they have forgot what a God I am. Secondly, what I have done for them, the great works I have done befor them. Third∣ly, all their engagements to mee; many follow wicked wayes, yet so as sometimes they have checks of conscience, they have somewhat of God yet sticking upon their hearts, some remembrances of God, and so long there is hope; but when a sinner hath so far departed from God, and follow∣ed on his ungodly ways, as God is quite worn out of his thoughts, then hee is in a sad case indeed. I appeal to you, is it not the case of some here? there was a time that you had mighty impressions of God upon your spirits, and then you could never go up and down in your shops, streets, fields, but the thoughts of God were in your minde, and when you awaked in the night season, the thought of God was in your hearts; but there was some haunt of wickedness that your hearts hankered after all that while, temptation came, and you have given way to it, and now (friend) you can go up and downe, one day after another, and scarce think of God at all? what is the matter that you have no thoughts of God now, as you were wont to have? yet perhaps you are not gone so farre, but that now and then there commeth Page 346 in some darting thoughts of him,* but so as your conscience knowes they are very terrible to you, you can never now have a thought of God, but it is as a clagger at your heart, and indeed it must needs be terrible to a guilty consci∣ence that is departed from God. Well, take heed what thou doest O thou sinner,* goe not on so long in thy sinfull wayes, till thou wearest out all the thoughts of God, for some have done so, though they had checks of consci∣ence, when they have beene in wicked company, God hath come into their thoughts, and troubled them, but they have gone to wicked company a∣gaine, and some thoughts of God have yet followed them, but they have gone again and again, and now they have forgot God, as if there were no God at all in heaven, as if God had nothing to doe with them, and they no∣thing to doe with God, O this is a sad condition indeed. If any of you be de∣clining into such a condition as this is, the Lord stop you, this day the Lord awaken your consciences. Ordinarily the more prosperity men have, the more forgetfull they are of the Lord; They forgat me, as Genesis 48. 20. Jacob set Ephraim before Manasses, first Ephraim, then Manasses; E∣phraim signifies fruitfulnesse, and Mansses signifies forgetfulnesse; thus it is with men, Ephraim comes first, f•uit fulnesse, God is fruitfull to you, and blesseth you in your estates, & then comes Manasses, forgetfulness; you are forgetfull of his goodnesse to you:
My brethren, if always we had such impressions of God, as we have some∣times, O how happy were it! It will terrifie hereafter, when God shall a∣gaine so present himselfe to you, and cause you to remember what impressi∣ons of his divine Majesty once you had; let us hold forth our continuall re∣membrance of God, so as all that behold our conversaions, may say, sure∣ly the thoughts of God are mighty upon the spirits of these men; thus we should live before our brethren: I will give you this one rule for your lives; Live such lives as by them you may hold forth before your brethren such re∣membrances of God, as they may conclude by that they see in your con∣versations, Certainly there are deepe thoughts of God upon the heart of this man, there was a time indeed he walked lightly; vainly, foolishly, but now he is serious in his way, he is considerate, he is heavenly, he walks with feare; Certainly there are great impressions of the divine Majesty upon his heart; if it be so with us, how joyfull will it be to us hereafter, when God shall ap∣peare in his glory, then to have our consciences tell us, the impressions of the Majesty of this God, that now I see so high and great have beene upon my soul, in the whole course of my life, I now see the glory of the great God shining, and blessed be his name, even this God that appeares so glo∣riously, hath appeared often to my soul before, and I have kept the im∣pressions of his glory upon my heart, and he was continually in my thoughts. It is a wonder that God should ever thinke of us, who are so forgetfull of him as we are; Psalm 8. What is man that thou remembrest him? (saith the text) what is man? The word there that is translated man, some would bring forth the Hebrew roote which signifies forgetfulnesse;* I finde Eusebi∣usPage 347 taking it thus, What is man O Lord, that thou shouldst remember him? that is, what is forgetfull man, that thou shouldest remember him? yet I confesse the Hebrew word that is there translated man, comes from another roote that signifies weakelinesse, sicklinesse; what is weake man, what is sick-man; yet if this word come not from that roote that signifieth to forget, yet I am sure there is a word that commeth from that roote that signifies to forget, that is used for women, because of their forgetfulnesse; we would be glad to have God remember us, in the day of our adversities, let us remember God now; all you young ones, remember God, remem∣ber your Creator in the dayes of your youth; you old people, whatsoever you forget, forget not the Lord; let us all remember the Lord, who hath re∣membred us all; who hath remembred England, in its low estate. for his mercies endure for ever.
We have done with the threatning part, now it followes, Therefore, be∣hold I will allure her, bring her into the wildernesse, and speake comforta∣bly to her; [Therefore] Beloved, it is a strange therefore; what, they fol∣lowed after their Idols, they have said, that all their prosperity was a reward of their Idols, they have forgot the Lord, they have decked themselves with their jewels, to honour their Idols; (and marke) it comes presently, There∣fore I will allure her, and I will speake comfortably to her; one would ra∣ther have thought it should have followed; Therefore I will yet plague her, therefore my judgements shall pursue her, and cut her off; but marke it fol∣lowes, Therefore I will allure her, and speake comfort ably unto her; O the rich and free grace of God to his people! But of that the next day.