The Twelfth Lecture.
HOSEA 2. 14.
Therefore behold I will allure her, and bring her into the wildernesse, and speake comfortably unto her: and I will give her her Vineyards from thence,
HEre begins the second part of this Chapter; the former was in conviction, threatning, pronouncing judgements: this from verse 14. unto the end, is the opening of the free and rich grace of God to Israel. It may be said of this Chap∣ter, as Psalm 85. 10. Mercy and Peace are met to∣gether, Righteousnesse and Truth kisse each other,
There is a blessed conjunction betweene threatning of judgement, and proffering mercy; but where is the copula of this conjunction?
Page 348 What is that knits these two together? Here is a conjunction, but it is very wonderfull, it is in the first word, therefore; that is the copula, [therefore] I will allure her; Wherefore? This therefore hath a very strange and won∣derfull wherefore, if we consider of what went before; the words immedi∣ately before were, She went after her lovers, and forgate mee, saith the Lord, [therefore] behold, I will allure her; there needs an Ecce be put to this [therefore] be hold; Behold, I will allure her. Lyra could not see how these things could bee joyned together, therefore hee thinks that this verse hath not reference to that that immediately went before, but to the words in the beginning of the Chapter, Say to your brethren, Ammi, my people, and to your sisters, Ruhamah, shee that hath obtained mercy, therefore: And Cornelius à Lapide not understanding the cause of such a connection, he would referre the beginning of this verse to the end of the seventh verse: She shall say, I will goe to my first husband, for then it was better with mee then now, therefore also I will allure her; these two, though learned men, yet are Papists, and therefore understand but little of the free rich grace of God, and hence are put to it, so much, to make a connection betweene that that went before, and this therefore; but wee need not go so farre, the right knowledg of the fulnesse, and the riches of the grace of the Covenant, will help us out of this difficulty, and tell us how these two, the greatnesse of mans sin, and the riches of Gods grace may have a connection one to another, and that by an Illative therefore.* I confesse the Hebrew word is sometimes con∣junctio ordinis, rather then causalis, a conjunction that only sets out the or∣der of a thing, one thing following another, rather then any way implying a∣ny cause, but the reading here by way of inference, I take to be according unto the scope of the Spirit of God, and it gives us this excellent note.
Such is the grace of God unto those who are in Covenant with him,* as to take occasion from the greatnesse of their sinns, to shew the greatnesse of his mercy, from the vilenesse of their sins, to declare the riches of his grace. And the Scripture hath divers such kind of expressions as these, as Gen. 8. 21.*The Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for mans sake; VVhy? For the immagination of mans heart is evill from his youth: A strange reasoning; I will not curse the ground for mans sake, for the imagination of mans heart is evill from his youth. One would have thought it should have been rather, I will therefore curse the ground for mans sake, because the imagination of mans heart is evill from his youth; but the grace of God knowes how to make another manner of inference then we could have imagined: So likewise, Isa. 57. 17, 18. For the iniquity of his covetousnesse was I wroth and smote him, I hid me and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart; I have seen his wayes (saith God) Now one would have thought that the next word should have been, I will therefore plague him, I wil destroy him, I will curse him; but mark the words that follow, I will heale him, I will 〈◊〉 him also, and restore comforts unto him, and to his mourners; I will Page 349 create the fruit of the lips, peace to him. This is a consequence at least, if not an inference. David understood this reasoning to be indeed the true rea∣soning of the Covenant of grace, and therefore he pleadeth thus with God, Psal. 25. 11. Pardon my iniquity, for it is great; Lord my iniquity is great, therefore pardon it. Hearken you Saints, (hearken I say) this is the great blessing of God unto you who are in Covenant with him, whereas o∣therwise your sins should have made you objects of Gods hatred, your sins now render you objects of his pitty and compassion, this is the glorious fruit of the covenant of grace.
I would only the Saints heard me in this thing, but why doe I say so? I will recall my word, let all sinners heare me, let the vilest, the worst sinners in the world heare of the riches of the grace of God in this his Covenant, that if they belong to Gods election, they may see the fulnesse, the glory of Gods grace, to be inamoured with it, their hearts ravished with it, that they may never be at rest till they get evidence to their soules, that God indeed hath actually received them into this his Covenant. If then God be pleased in the riches of free grace to make such an inference, therefore let us take heed that wee make not a quite crosse inference from the greatnesse of our sins, nor on the other side, from Gods grace. As thus, You have followed your lovers, you have forgot me, therefore will I allure you. An unbelieving heart would make this inference: I have followed my lovers, I have follow∣ed after vanity and folly, and therefore God hath rejected mee, therefore God will have no mercy upon me, therefore I am undone, therefore the gates of mercy are shut against me, unbelieving heart do not sin against the grace of God, he saith, you have forgotten me, therefore will I allure, and speake comfortably to you; doe not you say, I have forgot the Lord, and therefore the Lord will for ever reject me; these discouraging, determi∣ning, despairing therefores are very grievous to the Spirit of God.* God would have us have all good thoughts of him. It is a maine thing that God intendeth through the whole Scripture that his people should have good thoughts of him, and that they should not think him a hard master. It is an excellent expression of Luther, (saith he) the whole Scripure doth princi∣pally aime at this thing that we should not doubt, but that wee should hope, that we should trust, that we should believe, that God is a merciful, a boun∣tifull, a gracious, and a patient God to his people. It is an excellent expres∣sion that I have read of Master Bradford, in one of his Epistles, (saith he, O Lord sometimes me thinks I feel it so with me, as if there were no difference between my heart and the wicked, a blind mind as they, a stout, stubborn, rebellions spirit, a hard heart as they, and so he goes on; shall I therefore conclude thou art my Father? nay, I will rather reason otherwise; saith he, because I do believe thou art my Father, I will come unto thee, that thou mightest enlighten this blind minde of mine, that thou mightest soften this hard heart of mine, that thou mightest sanctifie this unclean spirit of mine; I this is a good reasoning indeed, and is worthy of one that professes the go∣spel of Jesus Christ.
Page 350 Again, as the inference of this unbelieving heart is grievous to Gods spirit, so the inference of a prophane heart, an unbelieving heart makes his there∣fore from the greatnesse of sin against Gods mercy, and the prophane heart makes his therefore from the greatnesse of Gods mercy, to the hardening of his heart in his sins; what, shall God make his therefore from our sin to his mercy, and shall we make our therefore from his mercy back again to our sins? where sin abounds, grace abounds, but where grace abounds, sin must not abound, because God is mercifull to us who are very sinfull; let not us be very sinfull against him who is so mercifull. God takes occasion from the greatnesse of our sins, to shew the greatnesse of his mercy; let not us take occasion from the greatnesse of his mercy, to be emboldened in greatnesse of our sins.
Behold. Here is a wonder to take up the thoughts of men and Angels, to all eternity, even that that we have in this inference, behold, notwithstand∣ing all this, yet you men and Angels behold the fulnesse, the riches of Gods grace, I will allure her; what will not God cast us away notwithstanding the greatnesse of our sins? let not us reject Gods ways, notwithstanding the greatnesse of any sufferings we meet with in them; there is a great deale of reason in this that I speak; you may as well beare with sufferings in Gods wayes, and yet embrace them, as God doth beare with sinns in your hearts, and yet embrace you;* but it follows, therefore I will allure; the Heb. word translated allure, signifies to entice, and is used many times in the ill part, blandiendo decipere, to deceive by subtle enticing: the Seventy in their tran∣slation, thus, Therefore also I will deceive them, and the old Latine lacta∣bo, and others seducam,* therefore also I will seduce them, so sometimes the word is: God makes use of this word to expresse a very gracious affection to them, the sweete and gracious wayes that God intendeth to deale with them in.
What God means by alluring of his people, when once he is reconciled unto them, may be expressed in these three things.
[ 1] First, I will open the beauty and excellency of the infiniteness of my grace and goodnesse, and I will set it before them to allure them. I will spread be∣fore their soules the beauty, the glory of the riches of my grace.
[ 2] Secondly, I will out-bid all temptations of their lovers, whereas before they went a whoring from me, because their hearts were allured by their lo∣vers, their lovers proffering unto them such and such contentments,* and so did subtilly draw their hearts from me, I will now deal with them in a more powerfull way then their lovers possibly could, and I will out-bid them all. Did their lovers proffer to them comfort? I will bid more then they; did their lovers proffer gaine? I will bid more gaine; did they proffer more ho∣nour and respect? I will out-bid them in this too: I will bid more honour, and more respect, so as I will perswade their hearts that they shall come to enjoy more in me then possibly they could com•• enjoy in whatsoever Page 351 their lovers could doe for them. And indeed then hath the Gospell the true, full, gracious worke upon the heart of a man or woman, when it yeelds to the profers of the Gospel, as finding that all that the world can bid is now out-bidden; I have a better bargaine here in Christ then the world proffers to me. You know when one comes to offer so much for a commodity, and another out-bids him,* he carries it away: so when the world, and lust, and sin proffers to the soul such and such contents, then comes God, and out∣bids all, and so the bargaine is made up, God carries away the heart.
Againe, further, I will allure, that is, I will come upon them even una∣wares, and as it were steale away their hearts, by a holy guile; as S. Paul tells us, that he caught the Corinthians as it were by guile. I will se∣cretly insinuate my selfe unto them, and I will draw their hearts in such a sweet way, in such a secret hidden way, that I will take them before they are aware.
So it is with many a soule; God takes it before it is aware, though it is true, that afterward the soul comes to understand things more clearely a∣bout Gods grace, but at the first, God hath taken the heart even almost be∣fore it thinks of him. Indeed the sinner sees himselfe, he is not where he was before, surely there hath been here something working upon my heart; I finde it otherwise with me now then it hath beene, but how this comes to passe, I scarce understand for the present, but shall understand more; like that expression we have in the 6. of Canticles, ver. 12. Ore ever I was a∣ware, my soule made me as the chariot of Aminadib: That is, the chari∣ots of a willing people, so the word Aminadib signifies. My heart was caught, and run amaine to God, and this was before ever I was aware, there came such wayes of Gods grace into my heart more then I thought of, and caught my soul, that my soul run mighty freely, swiftly after the Lord, and this is a blessed deceit, when the heart is so deceived, so allured, so enticed; As sometimes it is with an Adulterer, he doth but give a glance of his adul∣terous eye, and catcheth the Adulteresse before she is aware; it may be she never thought of any such thing; but there is a glance of an uncleane eye that catcheth the heart secretly. Thus with Christ, hee sometimes gives such a glance of his eye upon the heart of a sinner, as takes the sinner before he is a∣ware; the sinner is brought in love with the wayes of God, and with the truths of God, even before he thinks of it. We are to know that the grace of God hath a subtilty in it, as well as the Serpent; The Scripture, Pro. 1. 4. attributes a subtilty to Gods grace; It is a blessed thing to be thus out-sub∣tilled, (as I may so speake) for the grace of God to be too subtile for our sins; As I remember Luther, when he was charged for Apostacy, he ac∣knowledged it, (saith he) I confesse I am an Apostate, but how? an Apo∣state from the devil, falling off from the devill, & returning unto God, such an Apostate I am; So many a mans heart may be deceived, but if he can say, Blessed be God, I am deceived indeed, but so deceived that my sin is beguiled; I am seduced, but it is out of the wayes of sin, into the wayes of God.
Page 352 Many are easily allured by temptations, they are presently taken by the de∣vills allurements, but they are very subtile in objecting against all the allure∣ments of Gods grace, but he is subtile enough to put off the allurements of sin and of the devill.
Therefore behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wil∣dernesse.
Here is some difficulty in this; how comes this in? Therefore I will al∣lure her, and bring her into the wildernesse, and speake comfortably to her. How can this,*to bring into the wildernesse, be between alluring, and speaking comfortably? I told you, that this second part of the Chapter was altogether mercy: what can be meant then by bringing into the wilderness? Some for the shewing that yet it is a way of grace that God intendeth in this phrase, I will bring them into the wildernesse, translate the words, After I have brought them into the wildernesse, Postquam per duxero eam, so T•emelius, he was a Jew, and therefore could well understand the Hebrew tongue, he tels us that Vau, that is translated and, is as much as postquam, after I have brought them into the wildernesse, and then the meaning is thus. After I have humbled them throughly, as I did their fore-fathers in the wildernesse, then will I speake comfortably unto them: God humbled their forefathers in Egypt, yet that was not enough, hee humbled them af∣terwards in the wildernesse, and then he brought them into Canaan; many times God brings one affliction after another upon his own people to break their hearts, to humble them throughly, and at last he speaks comfortably to them. It hath been so with us, the Lord not many yeares since brought us into bondage, it might have humbled us, & broke our hearts before him; but when wee began to bee delivered a little out of our bondage, the Lord brings us into the wildernesse, and follows us with afflictions to this day, that he might throughly break us, and yet we hope all this while, it is but making way unto Canaan.
But in the second place, take it as you have it here, I will allure her and bring her into the wildernesse. Then wee may take the scope of it to be not the afflicting part of the wildernesse, but only the manifesting this unto Is∣rael, that he would shew unto them great & wonderfull works of his power, & wisdome, and goodness, as he did unto their forefathers in the wildernesse. What ever your conditions shall be into which you shal be brought, yet you shall have me working in a glorious way for your good and comfort, as ever I did for your forefathers when they were in the wildernesse: and this ex∣position is rather strengthened from that we have ex Thargum Ionathae,* I will work miracles, and great wonderfull, famous things for them, such as I did work in the desert: hath God wrought gloriously for his people hi∣therto in the wayes of his mercy? if reconciled to him, they may expect the fame wonderfull works of God for their good even to the end of the world We may read the stories of Gods wonderfull power in deliverances of his people in their straits in the wildernesse, and make them to be our own, and Page 353 pleade with God, that he would shew forth that old, that ancient power, and wisdom, and goodnesse of his, as he did unto his people formerly,* this is the ground of that excellent prayer, that we have Esay 51. 9. 10. Awake, awake, put on strength O arme of the Lord, awake as in the ancient dayes, in the generations of old; Art thou not it that hast cut Rahab, and wound∣ed the Dragon? Art thou not it that hath dryed the sea, the waters of the great sea? Awake, awake, thou art he who hast done such great things for∣merly; it is a great help to our Faith to consider what God hath done for the Church of old.
But further, Poreus saith this expression is taken from the condition of a poor man that is drawne aside out of his way by a thief, a thief comes and entices him out of his way, and carries him into some desolate place, & when he hath carried him thither, then the manbegins to bethink himself, where he is, and sees himself in a sad condition, and knows not what in the world to do, and yet at that time there comes in supply, comfort, and help for him; so (saith God) I will bring you into the wildernesse, that is, I will put you into the same condition, that such a poor man is put into, I will allure you, as the thief allures, I will make proffer to you of abundance of good, and by that I will draw you into such and such wayes, wherein you shall meet with very great straits, for a while, and you shall be put into an amazed condition, as not knowing what in the world to do, and when that is done, then I will come with the fulnesse of my grace, and speake comfortably to your hearts.
Thus though God speakes of bringing into the wildernesse, yet still it is with an intention of shewing mercy there; and is not this just to a very haire for all the world our condition? have not the ways of God toward England for these two or three years been alluring wayes? God hath made proffer unto us of a great deale of mercy, and raised the hopes of his people, and the Ministers of God have spoken encouraging words to his people, that surely the Lord intends great goodnesse to us, and because Gods wayes have been such towards us, as they have been, we have endeavoured (God knowes) to follow him in those ways of his, to do that, that for the present those present ways of his called for: and yet we are even brought into the wilderness now, even into a kind of desolate condition,* that for the present we even are at a stand, & we see afflictions to be round about us, & the very beasts to be rea∣dy to come & teare us, and pull us in pieces, and yet we can say to the com∣fort of our hearts, Lord, if we be deceived, thou hast deceived us, for (Lord) thou knowest that whatsoever we have done, it was our duty to doe, and al∣though we be brought into great straits, for the present, yet we repent not of what we have done, nor of what we have said, for thou hast allured us into this condition, thy gracious wayes of mercy towards us in the beginning of the Parliament, and so on hath allured us, and hath brought us into what we have done. Wee will not therefore say, what is now become of all our hopes? but wee expect God even in this wildernesse, to speake comfortably unto us, let not men upbrayde us for what wee have done, Page 354 we would doe as we have done, if it were to do again, for God hath brought us into these wayes, and if he hath allured us into the wildernesse, the next words shall be made good unto us, he will speake comfortably to us: if we be in no other then that wildernesse he hath allured us into, then we may ex∣pect fully that he will speake comfortably to us.
Here is the difference betweene men bringing themselves into trouble; or being brought by the Devils or worlds allurements, and by Gods. In the one we cannot expect comfort, but in the other we may confidently.
Further, There is yet another interpretation that I think is most genuine, and full; For the ground of that I shall say in this, we must know that from the beginning of this part of the Chapter to the end, God is expressing himselfe unto his people in a conjugall way; that is, whereas his people had gone a whoring from him, yet he would receive them againe into a conju∣gall affection, and communion: all along God expresses himself thus, from the fourteenth verse to the end. Now this being laid for a ground; In this expression of Gods bringing into the wildernesse, the Prophet alludes unto the custome of the Jewes, that they had in their marriages. Their custome that I reade of, was, that the Bride-groom used to take his Bride, and carry her out of the City, into the fields, and there they had their nup ti∣all songs, and delighted themselves in some place there, one with another, & afterward he brought her back againe, leaning upon him, into the City, to his Fathers house, and there they rejoyced together, and solemnized the fur∣ther nuptials: now these fields are called the wildernesse, either because they might be some champion dry fields that were about the City; or otherwise, let them be what they will be, yet because he would allude unto the mercy of God in bringing of his people out of Egypt, into Canaan, and would put them in minde of that mercy of his, therefore he gives these fields this title, calls them by this name, and this custome of the Jews seemes to have war∣rant from Scripture it self, Canticles 8. 5. Who is this that commeth up from the wildernesse, leaning upon her beloved? That was the way of mar∣riage, they came out of the fields, leaning upon their beloved, and so were brought unto the Bridgegroomes Fathers house: So Christ brings his Spouse through this world, which is as the wildernesse, and Christ is here solemni∣zing his espousals, and hath his nuptiall songs in this world; and the Church leanes upon Christ, all the while she is in the world, but Christ is carring her to his Fathers house, and ere long we shal be with him there, solemnizing the marriage of the Lambe in a more glorious way: This expression goes on clearly thus, I will allure her, and bring her into the wildernesse; As the Bridegroome speakes sweet and comfortable words to his Bride, and car∣ries her abroad into the fields, and there solemnizes the nuptials, and so comes back againe, having his Spouse leaning upon him, and bringing her to his Fathers house; so I will deale with you in the fulnesse of my grace. I will performe all the nuptiall rites with you. I will be married againe unto you, and looke what the most solemnity in your City of Jerusalem, or any of Page 355 your Cities, there is in any nuptials, I will make as great a solemnity in the nuptials betweene you and me: It is true, when a marriage is such as peo∣ple are loath to make it known, then there is no such solemnity, but when it is a great marriage indeed, and such as marry together with their friends would glory in it, then there is the more full solemnity; so saith God, I will not be ashamed to take you againe, but I will take you openly; I wil have the solemnity of my marriage with you as publickly as may be, I will car∣ry you abroad into the fields; and look what rights soever there are in the most solemne marriages amongst you, those rights I will performe unto you, that it may be a most glorious marriage solemnity between you and me again: thus I will bring into the wildernesse, and speake comfortably unto them.
And speake comfortably to her.
These words that are translated here,*speake comfortably, in the Hebrew are, loquar super cor, or ad corejus, I will speake to her heart, I will speak to her, either so as to prevaile with her heart, or speake to her so as to do her good at the very heart: Many Scriptures may be brought to shew, that speaking kindly, friendly, or comfortably, the Hebrews expresse by speak∣ing to the heart; I will give you two or three instances, Genesis 34. 3. She∣chem spake kindly to the Damosell, the words are in the Hebrew, Shechem spake to the heart of the Damosell; So Ruth 2. 13. Thou hast comforted me, for that thou hast spoken friendly to thy handmaid; thou hast spoken to the very heart of thy handmaid; there are two more remarkable places for this, one is Esay 40. 2. Speak comfortably to Jerusalem, the words are, speak to the heart of Jerusalem; What should be spoke to the heart of Jerusa∣lem? Cry unto her, her warefare is accomplished, her iniquity is pardoned; These are the comfortable words that God required should be spoke to the heart of Jerusalem: O that God would speak thus to England! this would do good at the very heart, if God would speake thus from heaven, Her ini∣quity is pardoned, and her warefare is accomplished. But yet a place that is more suitable unto this expression in the text, it is Iudges 19. 3. There you have the story of a Levite, whose wife having played the harlot, yet he was willing to be reconciled to her, & the text saith, that he went & spake friend∣ly to her; Now the words are in the Hebrew, Hee went and spake to her heart; And indeed it is a word to the heart of an adulterous spouse, if her heart be humbled, when she knows that her husband will be willing not∣withstanding her playing the harlot to be reconciled to her, this was the con∣dition of Israel, who had gone a whoring from God, yet when God promi∣ses a renewall of the marriage rites he saith he will speake to her heart; from whence we might observe this note.* That an Apostatizing people, or an A∣postate soul, had need have words of comfort spoke to their hearts, or else there can be little ease to their terrified consciences. We read of Spira that fa∣mous Apostate, he had words of comfort enough spoke to his eare, but they did him little good, God did not come in and speak to his heart, therefore Page 356 his conscience could not be quieted, the throbs of it could not be eased: How many lie under the troubles of an accusing conscience,* and have the throbs and bitings of a guilty spirit, because they have been back-sliders from the truth; and though they come to Sermons, one after another, & hear the Cove∣nant of grace opened to them in the fulnesse of it, & the riches of Gods good∣nesse set before them in the beauty of it, yet they goe away without com∣fort, why the words come to the eare, God all this time speaks not to the heart; sometimes it pleases God to take but the hint of a truth, and dart it upon the heart of a troubled sinner, that he feeleth it at the heart, and sayes, Well, this day God hath spoken to my heart, so he goes away rejoycing, eased, comforted, pacified; when as perhaps such an one had heard a hun∣dred Sermons before, wherein there were blessed and glorious truths presen∣ted to him, and it did no good untill Gods time; and when the time of Gods love is come, some little hint of a piece of a truth God darteth to the hearts and that doth the thing. God shews hereby that it is not in the word of man to comfort an afflicted conscience.
Hence an expression Luther hath in his Comment upon Genesis,* It is far harder to comfort an afflicted conscience, then to raise the dead; you think it is nothing to Apostatize from the Lord, you thinke it is easie to re∣ceive comfort, you will find it is not so easie, you will find it as easie to raise the dead as to comfort your afflicted consciences. But you told us before, how rich the grace of God was, that God tooke advantage from the great∣nesse of our sins, to shew the riches and greatness of his mercy: grant it, let the grace of God be never so rich, but till this grace be applyed to the heart, till God be pleased to speak himself to the heart of a sinner, it will not do. I remember a story of one who had made profession of Religion, and after∣wards Apostatised and made little of it, when his acquaintance told him that those things he now did he would smart for one day, he thought because he had some knowledg in the Gospel, that it was but to believe in Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ came to pardon sinners, &c. when he came upon his sick bed, he was in great torment of conscience,* and grievous vexation, and cryed out bitterly of his Apostacy, there came some of his acquaintance to him, and spake words of comfort, and tells him that Christ came to save sin∣ners, and he must trust in Gods mercy, &c. At length he begins to close with this, and to apply this to himself, and to have a little ease, upon which his companions began to be hardned in their ways, because they saw after so ill a life it was so easie a matter to have comfort; but not long before he dyed, he brake out roaring, in a most miserable anguish, O! (saith hee) I have prepared a plaister, but it will not sticke, it will not sticke: wee shall find though the grace of God be rich, and the salve be a soveraign un∣lesse God be pleased to make it stick by speaking to our hearts, nothing can be done. From hence further, learn this note.
As when God speaks comfortably to his people,* he speaks to their hearts: so Gods Ministers, when they come to speak in Gods name, should labour Page 357 to speak so, as to do what they can to speak to hearts. It is true indeed, it is impossible that any man of himselfe can speake to the heart of another, but yet he may endeavour, and aime that way, there is a kind of speaking that God doth assist, so as to bring it to the heart of his people.
What speaking is that? you will say.
That that cometh from the heart, will most likely go to the heart, though I know God can take that which comes but from the lips, and carry it to the heart when he pleases, yet ordinarily that that comes from the heart, goes to the heart, therefore Ministers when they come to speak the great things of the Gospel, they should not seeke so much for brave words, and enticing ways of mans wisdome, but let them get their own hearts warmed with that grace of the Gospel, and then they are most like to speak to the hearts of their Auditors. It is a good note that I have met with from Ribera, let Minist∣ers remit (saith he) of their care of fine curious words,* of brave neate phrases, and cadencies of their sentences, but let them bend their studies to manifest humility, and mortification, and to shew love to the soules of people; otherwise, though they speake with the tongues of men and Angels, they shall become but like the sounding brasse, and the tinckling cymball: this is an expression even of a Jesuite, it were then a great shame that Gods Ministers should not labour to speak so, as that they may speak to the hearts of people: you must be de∣sirous of such kind of preaching as you find speaks to your hearts, not that that comes meerly to your eares: how many men love to have the word jingle in their ears, and in the mean time their hearts go away, and not one word spoke to them? but when you finde a Ministry speake to your hearts, close with it, bless God for it, and count it a sadd day when you goe from a Sermon, and there is not one word spoke to your hearts in that Sermon.
From the connection of these two, I will bring them into the wilder∣nesse, & speak unto their hearts: if we should take the wildernesse for brin∣ging into affliction (because there are so many interpreters that are very godly men, & learned men, go that way) I dare not wholy reject it, but that there may be some intention that way.
Hence the first note is,
Afflictions make way for Gods word to the hearts of sinners;* there are many obstructions at the hearts of men while they are in prosperity, but when afflictions come, God by them opens those obstructions, and so gets his word to their hearts; afflictions cannot convert the heart, but they can take away some obstructions that did hinder the word from coming to the heart. Many of you have heard thousands of Sermons, and scarce know of any one that hath come to your hearts, but when God casts you upon your sicke beds, and you apprehend death, then you feele the same truthes, Page 358 that you were not sensible of before, they lie upon your hearts, the threatning word of God, that went but to the ear before, now it is got to the heart, now it terrifies, now you cry out of your sins, and rellish the sweet promises of the Gospel that afflictions make way for. I remember an expression that I have read of Bernard, he had once to a brother of his, who was a Souldier, but riotous and prophane, Bernard gives him many good instructions, wholsome admonitions, and counsels, his brother seemed to slight them, he made nothing of them, Bernard comes to him, and puts his hand to his side; one day (saith he) God will make way to this heart of yours, by some speare, or launce, he meant God would wound him in the Wars, and so hee would open a way to his heart, and then his admonitions should get to his heart, and as he said, so it fell out; for going into the Wars, he was woun∣ded, and then he remembers his brothers admonitions, they got to, and lay upon his heart to purpose. It God should let the enemy in upon us, their swords or bullets may make way to our hearts, that so Gods word may come to have entrance there, the Lord rather pierce our hearts by his spirit, then that way to our hearts should be made thus.
Secondly,* when we are brought to great affliction, that is the time for Gods mercies. This should make us not to be so afraid of afflictions, how afraid are we? how do we hang back when we see afflictions coming? why art thou so loth, O thou Christian, to come to affliction! the time of afflicti∣on is the time for God to speake to the heart of a sinner; many sinners may say that their condition hath been like Jacobs, he never had a more sweete vision of God, then when he lay abroad in the fields, with no other pillow under his head then a stone, it may be God will take away all your outward comforts, and when they are all gone, then may be Gods time to speake comfortably to your heart.
Thirdly, the words of mercy, O how sweet are they, when they come to the heart after an affliction!*Psam 141. 6. Thy Judges shall be over∣thrown in strong places, they shall he are my words, for they are sweet.
If the words be taken, for bringing into the wildernesse, that is, for Gods wonderfull workings for the good of his people, then the note is,
When God works great and wonderfull things amongst a people,* then God speaks to the heart of that people: then surely God hath spoken to our hearts, for he hath done great and wonderfull things amongst us; he did not more wonderfull things amongst his people in the wildernesse, then he hath done omongst us here in England. But from that meaning, of bringing in∣to the wildernesse, as the custome of marriage, of solemnizing of nuptials, then the note is this,
When God is reconciled once to a people,* they may expect full manife∣stations of his love unto them, one manifestation after another, as alluring, and carrying abroad into fields, and nuptiall songs, all kind of manifestati∣ons of Gods love: A people, a soule that was never 〈◊〉 sinfull before, and is new reconciled, may expect it.
Page 359 Let all back-fliders then, whom God is about to draw again to himself, listen and hear what God saith unto their hearts; if they come in and repent let them know that God is willing to manifest all expressions of love and goodnesse to them.
Againe, there is yet one note more from this expression of bringing into the wildernesse, and speaking to the heart; yet because it is the most im∣probable, I will onely but mention it to you, there may be yet some good use made of it, and therefore I will set it before you; I finde divers going that way, it is this (say they) by bringing into the wildernesse, God meanes that he would take them off from their engagements in their own Country, carrying them to a strange place, and so take them off from their houses. lands, shops, estates, friends, acquaintance, from the pomp, the glory, and all the clutter of the world, that they enjoyed, and were snared by in their owne Countrey, and so he will carry them aside into desolate places, and there he will instruct them, when he hath got them as it were alone; That hath been Gods way in making himself known unto his people, whom hee hath had a love unto, to draw them aside from the clutter of the world, from their engagements, and there to speak to their hearts. We have a fa∣mous place for that, Mar. 8. 23. the poor blind man, whose eyes Christ in∣tended to open, the Text saith, Christ took e him by the hand, and carryed him out of the City, and there fell a working upon him, and opened his eyes; he carryed him from the clutter of people, from his friends and acquain∣tance, and there opens his eyes. While we are in the midst of engagements here in our owne land, while we have our estates, and all well about us, wee are scarce fit to hearken what God hath to say to us: Many of Gods people have found it by experience, that whereas there were many truths of God, that they had some incklings 〈◊〉 while they were here, and read books about them, and heard much of them, yet they could not be convinced of them, and their consciences tell them, while they were here they did not go against the light of their consciences, but how ever it came to passe, convinced they were not; but when God took them aside from their engagements, and from the pomp and glory of their land, and carryed them into the wildernesse, or into some remote places, where the glory of their own Countrey did not so glister before their eyes, they then could see into truths, that they never saw before; those things that could not get into their hearts before, now when God drew them aside got in; and it is not now their conceit, but they knovv certainly,* that they do understand much of Gods minde, that they did not understand before; vvhen God hath taken them aside, then God hath ope∣ned their eyes.
Vers. 15. I will give her her vineyards from thence.
Vinatores, so some translate the vvord, her vine-dressers, and indeed the Heb. vvord that is for vine-dressers, & vines, or vine yards, is the very same letters, only the puncta are different, but vve vvill read it as it is here, from thence; illinc, ibi, either from that time that they are in the vvildernesse, or Page 360 from that condition of their affliction in the wildernesse, wherein I will speak comfortably to her, thence I will give her her vineyards; God threatned to destroy her vineyards, now God saith, he will give vineyards.
Observe, God can as easily restore, as he can destroy: It is an easly thing for men to make havock, to do mischief, but it is not so easy a thing for them to restore all again; they can easily spoile a Country, but they cannot so ea∣sily raise a Country again. Psal. 52. 1. Why beastest thou thy selfe in mis∣chiefe, O mighty man? There is no reason that a man should boast that he can do mischiefe; we have some who make their boasts in nothing but this, that they can go up and down the Country, and plunder, spoile, and make havock,* but can they make all up againe, that they undo? Plut arch tells us of one commending the power and valour of Philip, for that he had utterly destroyed Olynthus, a City of Tracia; a Lacedemonian standing by ans∣wered, but he cannot build such a City. A foole may breake a glasse, and all the wise men in the Countrey are not able to make it up againe. Men may do a great deale of hurt and mischiefe, but it is not their lives, nor the lives of a thousand such as they are, can make up againe what hurt is done by them: But it is Gods property, he can destroy vineyards, and he can re∣store them againe; I will give them their vineyards againe, when I am re∣conciled to them: Suppose there be the greatest Pacification that can be, yet all this while, who shall make up the hurt is done? if there be reconcili∣ation with God, he will make up all our hurts again.
Secondly, I will give her her vineyards. It is a note of Calvin, God saith not, I will give them their corne, that is for necessity, but I will give them their vineyards, that is for delight: the note is,
When God is reconciled to a people, hee will not onely give them sub∣stance, but abundance, even for delight, as well as for necessity.
Thirdly, When God is reconciled to a p••ple, he comes with present reall evidences of his love,* he reserveth indeed abundance of mercy after∣wards, but he is never reconciled, but he comes presently with some reall e∣vidences and demonstrations of love; God saith not onely, I will speake comfortably to them, and there is an end, and they shall expect mercy along time after; No, but I will speake comfortably to her, & I will give her her vineyards againe: I will give unto them reall manifestations of my love; so it should be with us, when we come in to God, to be reconciled to him, we should come in with reall expressions of our repentance, of our respects unto God. Here is a deceit, (I beseech you confider of it) many when they lye upon their sick beds,* will promise what they will doe for God, if God re∣store them, but they doe nothing for the present, and so they are deceiv∣ed. When you therefore finde your hearts wrought upon, broken, and melting, take heed of this deceit, doe not satisfie your selves in promising what you will doe for God, if you be in such a condition, and such a conditi∣on, but doe something presently, set upon the work presently, and so engage your hearts to God; if once you be engaged by doing something, the Page 361 worke will goe on:* It is a great matter when we can engage the heart of a man to God in any businesse, suppose a man promise to doe this or that, yet if all this while he have done nothing, he lookes not upon himselfe so re∣ally engaged, as when something is done, he therefore sooner flies off again; but if together with his promise he be brought to do, hee will not so readily flye off; God doth so with you, he together with his promise, gives some re∣al evidences of his love.
Againe,* After God speakes to the heart, and then restores vineyards, then they are blessings, then they are sweet indeed, for then God restores them as fruits of reconciliation with him; Many a poor afflicted soul know what belongs to this comfortable note: I thought my sinfulnesse forfeited all my comforts, all mercies, and God indeed tooke away this, and the o∣ther comfort from me, but it pleased God to come in graciously upon my heart, and to speake to my heart, and in some measure to breake it, and to humble it before him, so that I hope peace is made up, and notwithstanding those great offences of mine, he hath now restored mercies; he took away a childe, but he hath given another, a be••e•; he hath took away one mercy, & he hath given a better; & this I can (though with holdness, yet with humility) say it is as a fruit of my reconciliation with my God; O how sweetly may such a one enjoy that mercy from God! If after the meltings of thy heart af∣ter God,* he then comes in with mercies to thee, thou mayest take them, as tokens of love to thee; now thy house is a comfortable blessing to thee, & thy yoake-fellow, & thy children about thee; O how comfortable blessings are they! yea, the meat on thy table, is sweet with a double sweetness, when thou canst looke upon all, as the fruit of Gods reconciliation with thee; As the Christians Acts 2. 46. 47. when they once believed in Christ, they did eate their bread with gladnesse & singlenesse of heart, praising God. We may enjoy all our common mercies in another manner then other men can they will be blessings doubled, yea a hundred fold encreased; I will speake to her heart, and then, I will give her her vineyards.
Perhaps God hath given thee an estate in the world, more then thy neigh∣bors, more then thy brother; But hath God spoke to thy heart? Are Gods blessings upon thee as a fruit of Gods speaking to thy heart, in away of re∣conciliation with thee? otherwise it is but a flat dry comfort, to have an e∣state, and not to feele God speaking to our hearts.
I will restore unto you your vineyards from thence: From whence? From the wildernesse. There the Note is,
God can bring vineyards out of wildernesses.* Let us not be afraid, onely let us make up our peace with God, and then though we be in a wilderness, God can from thence bring us vineyards. Our brethren have found vine∣yards in the wilderness, and many of Gods people in the midst of their straits have found abundance of mercy.
Further,* From the wildernesse; they shall have more love, mercy wor∣king more strongly for them now it seems, then they had before; They Page 362 had vineyards before,* but they had none in the wildernesse. Now God will dravv mercies out of those things that were unlikely, he will bring forth good unto them, out of things that seemed to goe quite contrary to them: the Lord hath done so for us, out of those things that seemed to goe quite con∣trary to us, God hath brought much good to us, as if hee had made vine∣yards to spring out of a wildernesse. But the close of all is.
Those mercies that come to us out of great difficulties,* and seeme to be rai∣sed out of contraries, are the sweet mercies indeed, those we are to rejoyce in; and therefore it followes, and they shall sing. Deut. 32. 13. God made them to suck honey out of the rock, and oyle out of the flinty rock; When did God doe so? where did you ever reade, that God did cause his people to suck honey out of the rock, or oyle out of the flinty rock; wee reade indeed, that the rock was smote,*and the water did gusb out of it, but when did we reade that ever oyle or honey came out of the rock? there was never any such thing that we reade of; but the meaning thereof is, because they be∣ing in necessity, God brought forth water, yet being brought out of the rock by such a mighty hand of God, it was oyle, it was honey to them, it was as good as if God had given them oyle and honey; Why? because it came out of so much difficulty: So all the mercies that God gives to his people, when he brings them out of difficulties and straits, they are sweet and glorious mercies. Let us be patient a while, though we seeme to be in the wilderness, and we see nothing to fetch out water from, but onely rocks, stones, and dif∣ficulties, yet God at length will bring mercies out of those difficulties, and they will be honey mercies to us, then we shall sing and praise the name of our God with joyfull hearts.