An exposition of the prophesie of Hosea begun in divers lectures vpon the first three chapters, at Michaels Cornhill, London
Burroughs, Jeremiah, 1599-1646.
Page  230

The Fifth Lecture.


HOSEA 2. 6. 7.

Therefore behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not finde her paths.

And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and shall seeke them, but shall not finde them: them shall she say, I will goe and returne to my first husband; for then was it better with me then now.

THe last day (you may remember) wee spake of that reason that God giveth in the former verse, why he would shew Is∣rael no mercy, because that she hath done shamefully, and said she would go after her lovers that gave her her bread and her water, her wool and her flaxe, her oyle and her drinke.

There are yet one or two observations (that time would not give us leave to speak of the last day) in those words. I will onely give you a hint of them, and passe suddenly to these two verses.

The first is this,* Prosperity and successe in an evil way is a great hardning of the hearts of men in their evil. I will follow after my lovers, for they give me bread,*and water, and wooll, and flax, and the like. I remember Euse∣bius reports that Maximilian the Emperour in an Edict of his against the Christian, crying out of Christian Religion as an excrable vanity, & seek∣ing to confirme the Heathens in the worshipping of their idol gods. Behold saith he, how the earth bringeth forth fruit for the husbandman in abund∣ance, how our medows are adorned with flowes and hrbs, and moistned with the dews of heaven, what health we have, and what quiet and peacea∣ble lives; and thus he goeth on in seeking to conforme the hearts of Idola∣ters in their wicked wayes. Prosperity in a wicked way is exceeding hard∣ning. That story of Dyonisius is famously known, having committed sa∣crledge against their Idol-gods, robbing their Temples, yet his voyage be∣ing prospetous, after he had ended his journey, hee boasted himselfe that though he did not worship the gods as others did, yet he prospered as much as they. In that yeere when those Innovasions in Gods worship were prin∣cipaly brought in amongst us, especially in that Diocese of Norwich, is pro∣ved to be a very fruitfull yeere; and one Commissary among the rest in his Court, after the harvest was taken in, speakes to the Countrey-men in this way, Doe you not see how God prospereth us? What a plentifull harvest have we had this yeere? This is since you began to worship God with more decency then you we•• wont to doe. Thus attributing all the goodnesse of God to that way. Let it be all our prayers, that God will never prosper us in asinfull way.

Page  231 Further, It is very observable how often this word My is iterated: Give me My bread, and My water, and My flax, and My oyle, and My wooll, nothing but My. We noted the last day, what hurt those little words, those particles [I] and [Will] doe: Now we are to consider what evil there is in this particle [MY]

Hence the observation is,* That carnall heatts looke upon what they en∣joy as their owne, and thinke they may use it as their owne; and especially such as are Idolaters. Though they will acknowledge that that they have commeth from the Idols, (as here they did, for they said their Lovers gave it them, yet when they had these things, they thought they might do with them what they would, then they were theirs, Mine, and mine, and all is mine.

Thus it is usual for carnall spirits to acknowledge in the general that that they have commeth from God, but when they have it, then it is their owne they think; they little thinke that God reserveth the propriety of what they have after he hath given it them. You mistake if you think that that is all the acknowledgement you owe to God for what you enjoy, that you had it from God;* but you must acknowledg like wise that God reserveth his pro∣priety after he hath given it you. God doth never give any thing in that way that one friend giveth to another; a friend may give you a gift, yet when you have it, it is your owne, and you may use it as you please, your friend parteth with his own propriety. God never giveth any thing so, as to part with his own propriety; though he hath given it you, yet you cannot say it is Mine, in respect of God, it is still his. There is no such bond upon consci∣ence as to use all the comforts we have for God as this, & see that all comes from him in the way of a covenant of grace. I say this it is that will lay a bond upon conscience, to make use of your estates, and of all you enjoy for God, and not thinke to employ them for your own ends: It is not the slight acknowledgement that Idolaters have, that all comes from God, will doe it; Carnal men looke upon that they have, comming from God through se∣cond causes, and no further; but a Christian lookes upon that which he hath as coming from God in a covenant of grace, and this engageth the heart strongly to use all for God, from whom all is received in such a way.

Verse 6. Therefore behold, I will hedge up thy way with thornes, and make a wall, that she shall not finde her paths, &c.

These two verses are the workings of Gods bowels of mercy towards his Elect amongst Israel, in the midst of the most dreadfull threatnings against her. They are as it were a Parenthesis of grace (in the Chapter) to the E∣lect, though mingled with some severity.

They are indeed the Epitome of the whole Chapter, for I told you in the division of the Chapter at the beginning, that those were the two parts, declaring Israels sinne, with threatning judgement, and yet pro∣mising mercy unto the Elect, unto some amongst them. The first part is from the beginning to the 14. verse, the second from the 14. verse to the Page  235 end; Only this 6. and 7. ver. commeth in the midst, as it were a parenthe∣sis, and containeth the sum of all the other; for hee was in a threatning way altogether in the 4. and 5. verses, and you shall finde him in the 8. vers. and so on, going in a threatning way again: Onely in this 6. and 7, verses is a∣budance of grace, though mixed with some severity, as you shall see in the opening of them.

For the explication of the words.

Therefore. This must have reference to some-what before, and answer∣eth to a Wherefore, Therefore, Wherefore? Because I have dealt with you by the way of my Prophets; in convincing, in admonishing, in threatning, and all this will not doe, therefore I will deale with you in another way.

Therefore behold.] That way of mine that I now speak of, it is a singu∣lar way, you shall find much of the grace of God in this way, a wonderfull way that I will deale with you in now, Behold.

I will hedge up thy way.] There is a two-fold hedge that God makes a∣bout his people; There is the hedge of protection to keep evill from them, and there is the hedge of affliction to keep them from evill.

First, the hedge of protection, that you have in Isa. 5. 5. where God threatneth that he will take away the hedge from his vineyard, he will take away his protection; and so it is said of Job, that God had hedged him a∣bout; but that is not the hedg heer meant, it is the hedg of affliction. I will hedge up thy way, that is, I will bring fore and heavy afflictions upon you, but yet in a way of mercy, these afflictions shall be but as a hedge to keepe you from evill, they shall not do evill to you, or bring evill upon you.

I will hedge p thy way with thornes.] That is, I see you will be going on in these wayes of Idolatry and false worship, I will make them difficult to you, you shall goe through thornes; if you will goe to your Idols, you shall not get to your Idols, but you shall be pricked. It is a Metaphor ta∣ken from a husband-man, who when the cattle will break over pastures, makes thick hedges that they shall not get over, they shall be pricked, it shal be with much trouble if they do goe over. So I will deal with you saith God. Or when a husband-man seeth passengers make a path in his ground too broad, and so spoile the grasse or the corn, hee layeth thornes in the way that they cannot goe into his corne; or if they doe, they shall goe with some trouble: so saith God, I will hedge up your way with thorns.

And make a wall.] Maceriabo Maceriam, I will wall a wall, so the words are. It may be they will get through the thorns, but though they do get through I have another way to deale with them, I will come with stron∣ger afflictions and they shall be of more power to keepe them from their same, they shal be as a wall, and though they get through the thorns, they shal not get over the wall.

That she shall not find her paths.] Mark the change of the person, that is observable, I will ••dge up thy way, first, and then I will make a wall, and she shall not find her paths; the person is changed, and so wee have it often Page  233 in Scripture, that is to signifie some kind of perturbation of spirit, that man∣ner of speech is usuall amongst men when their spirits are troubled, they speak sometimes in one person, sometimes in another: And indeed the Lord here speaks after the manner of men, as if his Spirit were troubled at the per∣versenesse of his people. Besides the change of the person here is to expresse some indignation of God against their perversenesse, therefore he speakes as if he would turn from them, and rather speake to some body else, as if hee should say, I speake to these, yet they are stubborn and stout, well I will speake to all that are about them, to all the beholders, take notice of their stubbornesse, and perversnesse, and judge between them and me.

And she shall follow after her lovers, but shee shall not over take them; and she shall seeke them,*but she shall not finde them. In the 5. ver. it was but I will goe after my lovers, Vadam, but here it is, shee will follow, from that root which signifieth persequor, to follow with eagernesse, it is not on∣ly sectari, but insectari, the word is the very same that is used for persecu∣tors, who eagerly pursue those that they doe persecute. Psal. 7. 5. David speaking of his enemies following of him, the same word is used that is here, save me, saith he, Lest the enemy persecute my soule, It is the same, and so the Seventy turn it.

Yea, and beside the form of the word, it being (in Piel) that signifieth to do a thing auxiously, and diligently, carefully, whereas (in Cal.) it signi∣fieth onely a bare doing of a thing: but when it commeth into forme, as those that are skilfull in the Hebrew tongue know that fignifieth to doe a thing with care, that solicitiousnesse, and diligence, so therefore it is turned by Polanus, anxie prosecutus est, She hath prosecuted or followed with a great deale of care. So that this is more then the other, for it seems that after she had some affliction she grew worse for a while, and was more eager up∣on her Idols then she was before.

But she shall not over take them. Though she be never so much set upon that way of evill, yet I will take a course to keep her from it, she shall not o∣vertake them. Yea

She shall seeke them,*but shall not finde them. The word signifieth to seeke with a great deale of endeavour, not onely to seeke in ones thought and minde, but to goe on to walke up and downe that wee may finde it, is by the Seventy turned by divers words that signifie a seeking more then ordinary.*

But shall not find them. Let them be never so set upon their ways of Ido∣latry, yet I will keep them from them.

Then shall she say, I will goe, &c. This shall be the effect of it.* One would think all this were nothing but threatning, oh no, it is mercy, for it is for this end, that she might at length say, I will goe and returne to my first husband, &c.

You may take them in the meaning of these versus, and the scope of them in this short paraphrase: As if God should say, Oh you Israelites, all you Page  234 have grievously sinned against me in forsaking me, and following of your lovers, sore and heavy evills are ready to befall you, even you my elect ones, upon whom my heart is for good, you have involved your selves in the com∣mon guilt of this wickednesse, therefore even you must expect to be invol∣ved in the common calamity that shall come upon the nation, and when you are under those calamities, know that I know how to make a differ∣ence between sinner and sinner, though guilty of the same sin, though under the same affliction, that what shall be for the destruction of some, shall be in mercy to others, it shall be but to hedg up your ways, to keep you from further sinning, to make your wayes of sinne difficult, that so your soules might be saved: and although your hearts will be a long time perverse, and will not come in and submit to me, yet I will so order things in the way of my providence, that at length I will so worke upon your hearts, that you shall come in and return unto me, you shal bethink your selves and remem∣ber what sweetnesse once you had in my wayes, and you shall take shame to your selves, and acknowledge that it was then farre better with you then it is now, and so I will remain to be your God, and you shall give up your selves to worship and serve me for ever. This is the meaning and scope of the words.

Now then having the words thus opened and paraphrased, take the seve∣rall observations, for they are exceeding full, and very sweet and sutable.

First,* from the generall the observation is,

Though such as are in covenant with God may for their sins be involved in the same judgement with others, yet God will make difference between them and others that are not in covenant with him: God will have other ends in his afflictions towards his people then hee hath towards others, though the difference be not in the things that they suffer,* yet the difference is very broad and wide in the ends for which they suffer. When the bryars and thornes are set before God, it is that they may be destroyed, the fire of Gods anger passeth through them to destroy them; but when God cometh to his people, though some anger be stirred up for a while, yet all the fruit thereof it is to take away their sinne.* See what difference God makes be∣tween some and some even under the same affliction, in that 24. of Jer. ver. 5. I do not know a more remarkable place in the Scripture for this pur∣pose, saith God there, speaking of the basket of good figges, I will acknow∣ledge them that are carried captive of Iudah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Caldeans for their good.* Though they be carri∣ed into the Land of the Caldeans, I will acknowledg them there to be my people, and it shall be for their good. Well now there was likewise a bas∣ket that had very naughty figs, and they were carried away captive too, both went into captivity, what doth he say of them? I will deliver them (saith he, vers. 9.) to be removed into all the kingdomes of the earth for their hurt. I will 〈◊〉 at their hurt when I deliver them into captivity.

This should be a mighty support unto the Saints under all their afflictions,Page  235 though the affliction be the same to sence and view with that of the wicked, yet you see the difference is broad. It is true, may the troubled heart say, there may be different ends of Gods afflicting some & others; hee may af∣flict some for tryall, and others for their sins; but what will you say if an af∣fliction come upon us for our sins? Is there a difference here? Yes my bre∣thren, though your afflictions come upon you from your sins, if you be in co∣venant with God, the difference still may hold, for so it is here, those afflic∣tions that here are spoken of, God calleth the hedge and the wall, they were fore afflictions, and they were for their sins, for their perversness, and yet God intendeth good and mercy to them in those afflictions: Here is the vertue of the Covenant of grace, it takes out the sting, and venome, and curse even of afflictions, that are not onely for tryal but for sin, they are to keepe you from greater misery; if God bring some misery upon you (it so appea∣reth unto you) yet being in covenant with him, this is the blessing of God u∣pon you, that those troubles are to keep you from greater misery that would befall you. That for the general.

Now for the particulars, as the words lye, Therefore behold. This infer∣ence therefore I told you it was as if God should say, thou wilt still goe on, notwithstanding all admonitions and meanes that I shall use by my Pro∣phets, therefore behold I will doe thus and thus, From hence we may ob∣serve, first,* There is even in the Saints such a slavish disposition remaining that they will stand out against God along time even against admonitions exhortations, convictions, and threatnings of his word. Not only the repro∣bate will doe so, but such is the perversnesse of the hearts of men, that even the elect of God will many times do so, this is a sore and grievous evill that it should be said so of them, for if there be ingenuity in the spirit of men, the very notice of the minde of God is enough to cause the heart to yeeld, and surely grace doth make the heart of a man ingenuous, and God expects that there should be melting of spirit at the very notice given of his displeasure,* yet behold even in the hearts of the godly many times there remaineth so much slavishnesse, that they will not come in but upon Gods dealing very hardly with them, they must have many afflictions, they must be whipped home before they will returne home, God must send the dog many times to worry his sheepe before they will come in. This God complains of Jer. 2. 14. Is Israel a servant? is he a homs-borne-slave? why is he spoiled? ver. 17. Hast thou not procured this unto thy selfe? So it may be said of many, even of the Saints when we see how the wayes and dealings of God are toward them, yea even God himselfe speakes thus, What, is such a one a servant? is he a slave? is not such a one my child? how is it then that hee must be dealt with like a slave, like a servant?

Secondly, Therefore, because one meanes will not do it, namely my Pro∣phets admonishing, and threatning, therfore I will do thus & thus, therefore I will consider of some other way to deale with you. The observation is.*

VVhen one means will not keepe from sinne either those that wee have Page  236 to deale with, or our selves, we must not rest there, but set even our braines on work to look after other meanes. What will not this do it? Is there any things else that possibly may doe it? That means then shall be used. Thus God (as we may speak with reverence) even studyes his administrations to∣wards his people when he is frustrated in one, and if that do not do it, he be∣thinks with himselfe, is there any thing else will do it? if there be any thing in the world can do it,* it shal not be left unattempted. God doth not present∣ly cast off his people, because they stand out against him in the use of one meanes. It is true, for others that are not in covenant with him, God is quick with them, and if they come not in presently, he cuts them off, and will have o more to do with them, but for his own people though they stand out long, yet God tryeth one meanes after another, and after that another.

This is the grace of God towards his own.

It should be our care to imitate God in this, when you are to deale with others that are under you, with your children or servants, do not satisfie your selves in this, I have admonished them, and threatned them, and perswaded them, What then? yet they will not come in: What will you have no more to do with them then? Will you cast them off presently? You should study what further course may be taken, study their dispositions, What do I think will work upon them if this do not? will faire meanes? will foule meanes? vvill any thing do it? if any thing will, you should labour to deale with them that way. So for your own hearts, when you are convinced of the evill of your own hearts, it is true your consciences will not be quiet unlesse you use some meanes against that sinne that is in your heart, well, but I have used meanes, I have layed the word to my heart, the threatnings, the promises to my heart, and I have followed Gods ordinances: will it not doe? will not my heart come off? Is there no other meanes to be used? what doe you say to the afflicting of your soule? Try that; you have layed the word to your heart, and you finde it doth not work, try the afflicting of your soules in humilliations, fasting, and prayer, for the overcoming of your sinnes.

Thus God doth, when admonitions and exhortations of the Prophets vvill not doe, yet saith God, I will try another way, I will bethinke me of some other course, I will hedge up their way with thorns, & I will see whe∣ther I can bring them in that way. These two from the inference Therefore.

From the note of attention,*Behold, we have an excellent usefull observa∣tion that naturally springeth up.* For God to make the way of sin to be diffi∣cult to sinners, is a most singular mercy. Howsoever alwaies it doth not prove so, but take it at the worst, yet it is better for the way of sin to be hed∣ged with thorns, & to be made difficult to us, then to have the smoothest way that possibly can bee. As it is one of the greatest judgements of God upon wicked men to lay stumbling blocks before them in the way of righteousnesse; so it is one of the greatest mercies of God to his chil∣dren to lay stumbling blocks ••d difficulties before them in the way of sin.

It is an 〈◊〉 way of Gods dealing even with reprobates, with those he Page  237 hoth no love unto, that in the wayes of godlinesse, in the way to life, he in his just judgement layeth stumbling blocks before them, and they ap∣peare very difficult to them, the hedge of thornes compasses about the way of righteousnesse to the wicked, therefore you shall finde it in Pro. 15. 19. that the way of the slothfull man is said to be as an hedge of thornes; that is, a slothfull man (who is a wicked man there) hee lookes upon any duty that he should perform as compast about with an hedge of thornes, God in his just judgement suffereth difficulties at least to appeare to him in the way of his duties, that makes him to have no mind to them. Now this is a grie∣vous judgement of God to cause the way of his feare to appeare so difficult, and so scare them from it, What should I medling with such & such wayes? I see I must suffer thus and thus, there are these and these stumbling blocks that I must go over, these and these troubles that I must meete withall, I were better sit still and be quiet, I shall never be able to goe through. Such stumbling blocks God layes in the way of godlinesse before the wicked, and they stumble at them & fall, and break their necks. On the other side, God in abundance of mercy casteth stumbling blocks in the way of sin before his people that they cannot get over, if they stumble, it is but to break their shins and to save their soules. But when the wicked stumble, they breake their necks, and damn their soules. But now the wayes of God are plaine to the righteous, Prov. 8. 9. They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to him that findeth knowledge. Gods wayes are very plain to the god∣ly, and sins wayes are very difficult;* but on the other side, to the wicked Gods wayes are very difficult, and the wayes of sin are very plain. Oh un∣happy men, sayes Luther, when God leaveth them to themselves, and doth not resist them in their lusts! woe, woe to them at whose sinnes God doth wink, when God lets the way to hell be a smooth and pleasant way. That is a heavy judgement, and a signe of Gods indignation against men, a token of his rejection of them, that he doth not intend good unto them. You blesse your selves many times that in the way of sinne you finde no difficulty; if a whore-master, or a malicious man, who would accomplish his owne ends, find all things goe on as he desires, so that he hath not any rub in his way, no not so much as a prick, he blesseth himselfe. Blesse thy self? If thou knew∣est all, thou hast cause to howle, and wring thy hands, for the curse of God is upon thee, a dreadfull curse to make the way of sinne pleasant. On the other side, perhaps many of Gods Saints when they find the wayes of sinne somewhat difficult to them, they are troubled at it, that they cannot have their will. Troubled? thou hast cause to blesse God who hath thus crossed thee, for it is an argument of much love to thee. There is a Behold put to this, that God should be so mercifull to them, to make their wayes of ido∣latry and supersition difficult to them.

From hence these three observations:*I will hedg up her way with thorns.

First, there is much bruitishness in the hearts of Gods people. Not onely slayishnesse that was before, but bruitishness too: That is thus, they must Page  238 not only be dealt withall as slaves (hardly) and so be brought home, but as brute beasts, they must have some present evill upon them, or otherwise they will not return out of their evill way, except their sin be for the present grievous and troublesome to them. It is not enough (you know) to threa∣ten brute beasts, but they must have some present evill upon them, if wee would keep them from such a place we would not have them goe unto.* A man that hath some understanding, though he hath a slavish spirit, yet he may be kept for feare of future evils; but when a man comes to this, that nothing but present evils will keep him off, hee is worse then a slave in this, he cannot be kept from sinne by the exercise of his reason, God must also deale with him as a brute beast, God must come and let some present evill be upon him to prick him, or else he will goe on in an evill way. This is brutishness, even in the hearts of the Saints.

Secondly,* hence we may see the pronenesse of mens natures to Idolatry the way must be hedged up to keep men from it. It is not enough to fore∣warn men of it, but all means that can be used is little enough to keep off men. How wicked then is the way of many amonst us, who seeke to make the way of Idolatry too smooth, and plain, and open as they can! yea in stead of stopping such as have inclinations to it, they lay before them the inciting and intifing occasions which adde to their owne propension such delectati∣on as putteth them on forward with a swift facility.

Thirdly,* Afflictions to the people of God, are Gods hedges to keep them from sinne. The command of God is one hedge, and affliction is another. Therefore sinne is called by the name of Transgression, Transgression, what is that? That is, going beyond their bounds, going over the hedge; a man that sinneth goes over the hedge. And wee finde, Eccles. 10. 8. Hee that breaks the hedge a serpent shall bite him.;* It is true, in regard of the hedge of Gods command, he that will venture to break that hedge, must expect a serpent to bite him, must expect the biting of Conscience, the anguish and horrour of that: But when that hedge is broke, God cometh with another hedge to keep his people from sinne, so you have it exprest in Job 33. 17, 18. speaking of afflictions, By them, saith hee, hee withdraweth man from his purpose, and he keepeth back his soule from the pit. As suppose a beast be running to such a pasture, perhaps he doth not see the hedge, and it may be if he should run a little further, he would be plunged in a pit, and there destroy∣ed, but now the husbandman setteth a hedge there, and when the beast commeth just to the hedge, to the thornes, then it is withdrawn from what it was about, and so the life of it preserved; so it may be with a man that is running to such a place, when hee meeteth with something that hinders him, he is drawn from his purpose, and his soul is kept back from death.

You use to deale thus with your children, if you live in the Countrey neer ditches and pits of water, you will hedge about the pits, for feare your children should fall into them and so the hedge keepeth the Children a∣ive.

Page  239 As afflictions keep the Saints from sinne, as a hedge to them, so the diffi∣culties in Gods wayes keepes the wicked from God. VVhen difficulties therefore do fall out, it should teach us to consider what way we are in, why? for God useth to compasse about sinfull wayes, with difficulties, on purpose to keep his people from them. Well, I am in a way going on in it, I am sure I am compast about with difficulties, it may be these difficulties are but Gods hedges to keepe me from sinne; how shall I know that? for sometimes dif∣ficulties are but tryals of our graces, and they may be such as call for the stir∣ring up of our graces to breake through the hedge, so Pro. 8. 19. difficulties are said to be a hedge of thornes; they lye in the wayes of Gods people that are blessed wayes, then the worke of the Saints should be to stirre up their graces, and to breake thorough the hedge, though they be pricked, and their flesh torne, that is, their excellency, that they can breake thorough those difficulties, faith will carry through all difficulties in Gods wayes.

Therefore here is the triall, when I meet with difficulties, I must not for∣beare because there are difficulties, but I must examine, Is it the way of God or not? If it be the way of God, then lay aside the thought of diffi∣culties, if I have a rule for it let the difficulties be never so many, and the hedge never so thicke, yet I must breake through, and God is so much the more honoured by it: but on the otherside, if upon examination I finde the way I am in is not warrantable by God, then I must know that Gods end in laying difficulties in the way, is to stop my going on in it, and it is desperatenesse in me to seeke to breake thorow, in seeking to break thorow I may break my neck, therefore I must look to it that I have warrant from God for those waies I am in.

Oh that men would think of this when they meet with difficulties in their wayes! I might shew how the Saints have many times met with difficulties in their wayes, and yet have gone on with strength; That of Jacob is one of the most famous examples we have in the Book of God, the difficulties he met withall, and that in the way that God himselfe bad him go in. God bade him returne to his Father Isaac, and yet he met with sixe or seven pro∣digious difficulties, that one would have thought should have made him doubted whether he was in Gods way or not, and have caused him to re∣turne back againe. First, Laban pursueth him, and intends mischiefe gainst him; and Esau he in that journey comes to meet him with a purpose to destroy him,* his wives nurse dyed, and Rachell her selfe dyed in that jour∣ney, he had his daughter Diana defloured, his two sonnes committed that horrible wickednesse, in murthering the Sechemites: All these fell out in Jacobs journey; he might have said, Am I in the way that God would have me? Yes, Jacob was in his way, hee had an expresse warrant from God to goe that journey. Difficulties therefore must not discourage us, but we must breake through them; especially in these times. It were a low and poor spi∣rit, to be kept from a good way because of ••ew thorns, because of some dif∣ficulties that we meet withall in the way.

Page  240 If we know it be Gods way, goe through it in the name of God, let the difficulties be what they will. But if they be not warrantable by God, let the difficulties we meet withall stop us, for God intendeth them to be a hedge to keepe us from sin.

Againe, it should make us be content when any affliction befalls us; why, because it is more then we know that God intends abundance of good to us; It may be, if this affliction had not befallen thee, thou hadst undone thy self: If this affliction that thou doest sor riggle to get out of, and thinkest thy selfe so miserable under it, if it had not befalne thee, thou mightest have faln into the pit and beene lost, therefore be not troubled so much at the affliction, but examine whether it be not a hedge that God hath set, to keepe thee from a further misery. But it seemes that this will not serve, there must be a wall, as well as this hedge. Hence the observation is this,

The perversnesse of mans heart is such,* that he will breake through many difficulties to get unto sin.

We reade of Idolaters, who would cause their children to passe through the fire to their Idols, that was more then a hedge of thorns. We see it of∣ten that mens hearts are so strongly bent upon their sins, that though it were to passe through a great deale of trouble, though they prick and tare them∣selves, yet they will have their sin.* As that notable story that Ambrose tells us of, of one Philotimus who brought his body to grievous diseases, by un∣cleannesse and drunkennesse, and the Physitians told him, that if he did not abstain he would certainly lose his eyes, there was no help for him; as soone as ever he heareth this, he answereth thus, Valeat lumen amicum. Farewell O pleasant light, rather then I will deny my self in this, I will never see light more; he would venture the losse of his eyes, rather then lose the satisfacti∣on of his lusts. Thus it is with many, O what do they venture for their lusts! What an argument should that be to us to venture much for God, to indure hard things for the blessed God: though there be some hardship between us and our duty, breake through all to get to that duty; wicked men will break through great difficulties to get to their sins. There need be a wall as well as a hedge. VVell, if there be need of a wall, I will have a wall, saith God, I will wall up her way, though she may make a shift to breake downe the hedge, she shall not breake down the wall, it is too strong, and too high.

Hence the Observation is,

God when he pleaseth will keepe men from their sinnes in spight of their hearts,* they shall not have their way, they shall not have their desire do what they can. VVhen God sees Men set upon their wicked desires, if they be those that belong not to him, perhaps God may damne them for their wic∣ked desires, and yet they shall not have them neither; they shall goe to hell for them and never come to accomplish them. Saul, how desperately set was he to mischiefDavid? but God made a wall that he could not get to have his desire doe 〈…〉, Many, especially great Men, how strong∣ly are they set upon their desires! they must have it, and they will have it, Page  241 and they must and must, nothing commeth from them but must and will; well, they may be deceived, God knoweth how to crosse the most stub∣born and stout hearts that live upon the earth, that they shall not have what they would have in this world. I will make a wall. God doth thus make a wall about mens sinnes,* by sending sore and heavy afflictions, as about the drunkards way, when God brings some grievous disease upon his body, perhaps he is so stopped that he cannot drink, that is a wall about his sinne, that he cannot goe to it according to his desire: so the unclean person, God brings such a disease upon him, that hee cannot have the pleasure of his lust, though hee would never so faine: so when God brings poverty upon others, that they caunot follow their ambition and pride, doc what they can, these are as walls to them; but God doth not alwayes doe this in a way of mercy.*

I will make a wall. First, a hedge, and then a wall. Hence observe when lesser afflictions will not serve to keep men from their sins. God usu∣ally cometh with greater and sorer; I see some of them will break through the hedge, I will make a wall therefore, that is, I will come with stronger and greater afflictions, and so keep them off. Levit. 26. 18. If you will not for all this, saith God, turne unto mee, I will punish you seven times more, and I will breake the pride of your power; you thinke there is a power in your hand, and there is pride in your power, for power raiseth the heart up to pride; I will break it, I will never leave till I have broke your hearts in spight of you; and you shall find ein that Chapter four or five times mention of se∣ven times more. This is after the hedge, then there cometh a wall.

And they shall not find their paths.

Hence,

God is able to strike men with blindness that they shall not see their way.* Though there be an evill way of mischief before them, yet God knows how to strike them with blindness, though there be nothing to hinder them in it, God can strike men with blindness one way or other, that they shall not bee able to see their way before them. We have this, this day exceedingly ful∣filled in our eyes, how doth God blind and befot our adversaries, that they cannot see their way? the truth of that Scripture, Job 5. 13. is this day be∣fore our eyes. He taketh the wise in their owne craft inesse, and the counsel of the froward is carried head long. How hath God taken wise men in their own craftinesse? & the counsell of froward men, their spirits are froward, be∣cause they are crost, they are vexed, & their counsell is carried headlong; God takes away their understanding, and doth baffle them in their own counsels. A notable Text we have in Psal. 75. 6. The stout-hearted are spoiled,*they have slept their sleep, and none of the men of might have found their hands. They are cast into a slumber, and know not what in the world to doe, they know not how to make use of that power they have in their hands; It fol∣loweth further in that Psalme, At thy rebuke O God of Iacob, both the charet, and horse are cast into a dead sleep.

Page  242 A strange expression, that a Charet should be cast into a deepe sleepe; the meaning is, they can no more tell how to make use of them, then if they all lay for dead, or asleepe. Let us not be afraid of the power of adversaries; suppose they had power in their hand, God can strike them with blindnesse, & they shall grope to find the door, they shall be baffled in their own waies, they shall not tell how to make use of their own power. Isa. 29. 14. Be∣hold (saith God) I will proceed to doe a marvailous worke, even a marvai∣lous work and a wonder: What is it? The wisedome of their wise men shall perish, & the understanding of their prudent men shal be hid: This is a won∣derfull thing that God will doe; yea, and he will mingle a perverse spirit in the midst of them, so you have it, Isa, 19. 11. Surely the Princes of Zoan are fooles, the counsell of the wise counsellours of Phaaoh is become brui∣ti; and verse 12. Where are they? where are thy wise men? And againe verse 13. The Princes of Zoan are become fooles, the Princes of Noph are deceived; and verse 14. The Lord hath mingled a perverse spirit it in the midst therof, they have caused Egypt to erre in his worke, as a drunken man that staggereth in his vomit. Here is the judgement of God upon Men, when he list he can blind them in their way that they shall erre in their worke, and they shall stagger in their own counsels and designes as a drunk∣en man in his vorit, they shall not finde their paths, they shall not know in the world what to doe.

VVell, Thus God dealeth with wicked men: But now let us consider this in reference to the Saints, to Gods own people, they shall not finde their paths; then the Observation is,

It is a good blindnesse for men not to see the way of sinne: It is promised here in a way of mercy, that they shall not finde their paths; this darkeness, it is not the shadow of death, but the way of life. It is rich mercy. I have read of one Maris, a Bishop of Calcedon, a blinde man, to whom Julius the Apostate giving some opproptious words, and calling him blinde foole, because he had rebuked Julian for his Apostacy; the good man answered thus, I blesse God that I have not my sight to see such an ungracious face as thine: So many may blesse God for their bodily blindnesse, because, it may be it hath prevented abundance of sinne that might have beene let in at the casements of their eyes; But especially for blindnesse, not to see the way of sinne, if we may call that blindnesse; It is a mercy that God doth not grant to all, it is a singular mercy to the Saints: For you shall finde there are a∣bundance of people exceedingly quick-sighted in the way of sinne that can finde the path there, and yet are exceedingly blinded in the way of God, and cannot find the path there: On the other side, that Saints are blinded in the way of sinne, but are quick-sighted in the wayes of God. How many men are wise to do evill, as the Scripture saith, they are able to see into the depths of Satan, they are profound to damn themselves, they can finde out such ob∣jections against the 〈…〉, & answer such things that are said against 〈…〉 devises & contrivances how to get Page  243 to their sinfull wayes, but when they come to the wayes of God, as blind as Moles, they cannot see such necessity of such strictnesse, they cannot under∣stand, men of great parts, great Rabbies, of great understanding otherwise, they have no skill in the wayes of God. I thank thee, O Father Lord of hea∣ven and earth (saith Christ) that thou hast hid these things from the wise and learned, and hast revealed them unto babes: Whereas on the other side, you shall find that the Saints are able when they come to Gods waies, to see farre into the excellency and glory of them, they have understanding there, though they be but weake otherwise, they can see into the great my∣steries of God,* into the beauty of his wayes, so that it dazeleth all the glory of the world in their eies, they are not easily catched with temptations, but can see into the subtilties of the devill that would draw them out of Gods waies; but when they come to the wayes of sin, there they want understan∣ding, and it is Gods mercy to them to doe so; there they are but bunglers, they do but grope as blinde men, they are not their crafts masters, they are not cunning artists in those waies, but as the Apostle saith, 2 Cor. 1. 1. Wee have not received the spirit af the world, wee cannot shift for our selves as the men of the world can, we cannot be so cunning to contrive such plots, & tricks, and devices for our owne ends as the men of the world can, but wee have received the Spirit of God, we can understand things there (through Gods mercy) to eternal life. There are many men cunning for their own destruction, they can find every secret path of sin, though sin be a labyrinth, they can goe up and down in it, finde out ever by-path in that way. When the waies of God are propounded to wicked men, there is a mist before their eyes, they cannot see, & when the wayes of sin are propunded to the Saints, God in mercy cafteth a mist before their eies that they cannot see. Eccles. 10. 15. The foole knoweth not how to goe to the City; wicked men they know not the path to the Church of God, to the Ordinances of God, they talke much about such and such Ordinances, and setting up of Christ in the way of his Ordinances, but they doe not see the way of it, they know not what the true worship of God meaneth; No, a foole doth not understand the way to the City of God, he cannot finde out that path.

But the Saints, though they know not the wayes of sinne, yet they can finde out the paths of God, they know the way to the City, Possidonius tells us a Austin, that when there was wait laid for his life, thorough Gods providence he mist his way, and so his life was preserved, and his enemies disappointed. So many times when you are going on in such a way of sin, perhaps you little thinke what danger there is in it; God in mercy therefore casteth a mist before your eies, and you misse that way and save your lives.

Ver. 7. She shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them, &c.*The Observation is,

Untill God subdues the hearto himselfe, men will grow worse and worse in their sinnes; yea, even Gods Elect ones to whom hee intendeth mer∣cy at last, yet till God commeth with his grace to subdue their hearts, Page  244 they may grow worse and worse: they would before goe after their lovers, and now here commeth afflictions upon them, yet still they will follow their lovers, and that with more eagernesse of affection, and with more violence then before. Afflictions in themselves are part of the curse of God, and there is no healing vertue in them, but an inraging quality to stir up sinne, till God sanctifie them by his grace, & God may suspend for a time the sancti∣fying worke of his grace to those he intended good to at last. Isa, 51. 20. The Text speakes of some whose afflictions were not sanctified, That they lye as a wild bull in a net in the streets, and they were full of the fury of the Lord; They were full of the fury of the Lord, and yet lay like a wild Bull in a net, in a raging manner. This distemper of heart proceeds from two grounds.

1. When outward comforts are taken away by affliction, the sinner ha∣ving no comfort in God, he knows not where to have comfort but in his sin, if conscience be not strong enough to keep from it, he runs madly upon it.

2. Because he thinks that others looke upon him as one opposed by God for his sin, therefore that he may declare to all the world that he is not daun∣ted at all, nor that he hath no misgiving thoughts, (though perhaps hee hath nipping gripes within) yet he will put a good face upon it, and follow his wayes more eagerly then formerly.

A second observations; She shall follow, but she shall not overtake,

A man may follow after the devises of his owne heart,* and may be disappointed; he may not overtake them. There is a great deale of diffe∣rence betwixt following Gods wayes, and our owne wayes; there was ne∣ver any in the world that was disappointed (if he knew all) in following Gods wayes, but he got, either the very thing he would have, or something that was as good, if not better for him: but in the wayes of sinne, in our owne wayes we may meet with disappointment; why should we not then rather follow God then follow our own desires? The desires after sin, as they are Desideria futilia, so they are Desideria inutilia, as one speakes; as they are foolish, so they are fruitlesse desires, they doe not attaine what they would have. How hath God disappointed men in our dayes they have not over∣taken what they greedily sought after; Our adversaries blessed themselvs in their designes, they thought to have their day, they propounded such an end, and thought to have it, but how hath God disappointed them! But whether God hath done this in mercy to them, (as it is spoken of here) that we know not, we hope God hath crost some of them in a way of mercy, though per∣haps he may deale in another way with other of them.

But further,

Disappointment in the way of sinne is a great mercy.*

As satisfaction in sin is a judgement of God, and a fearfull judgement, so disappointment in sin is a mercy and a great mercy, Prov. 14. 14. there you shall find, That the back-slyder in heart shall be filled with his own wayes: A dreadfull threatning to back-slyders and apostates; when God hath no Page  245 intention of love and mercy for backsliders, God will give them their owne devices, they shall have their fill in their owne wayes; you would have such a lust, you shall have it, you shall be satisfied to the full, and blesse your selves in your owne wayes. This is the judgment of God upon backsliders: but for the Saints, when they would have such a way of sin, God will disap∣point them, they shall not have it. We account it ordinarily very grievous to be disappointed of any thing, and many times I have had this meditation upon it; What, doth it trouble the hearts of men to be disappointed almost in any thing? Oh what a dreadfull vexation and horror will it be for a man to see himself disappointed of his half hopes! Remember when you are trou∣bled at any disappointment, what will be the terrour then and anguish of spirit if it should prove that any of you should be disappointed of your hopes for eternity! But those whom God doth often disappoint in the way of sin, they may have hope that God will deliver them from that great disappoint∣ment.

And againe yet further, Shee would have her Idols, but God will take them away, shee shall not have them saith God, though shee follow after them, and have a great mind to them, yet they shal not overtake them. God will remove them from their Idols, or their Idols from them, (that is the meaning) they should not come to their Dan or Bethel, they should either be removed far enough from their calves, or the calves from them.

Thus it should be with Governours,* they should take such a course as to take away Idols and superstitious vanities from those that will be worship∣ping of them, and sinning against God by them; Either take them away from those vanities, or their vanities from them, they should not so much as suffer those things to stand to be inticements and snares for the hearts of people, though they be very brave, and abundance of gold and excellent artificiall work be about such things, yet Deut. 7. 25. Thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein, but thou shalt utterly destroy it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it, for it is a cursed thing. You shall not look upon the bravery of the worke of their Idols, and upon the great cost that is bestowed upon them, and there∣fore spare them because of that, oh no, but take them away, that men may not be insnared by them; So God will do.

Further in the fifth place,*They shall follow after their lovers, but shall not overtake them. Idolaters hearts are after their Idols when they cannot get them.* Though they cannot get them, yet they will be following of them. It is of an excellent use for us, so it should be with us in the pursuing after Gods ordinances; though perhaps for the present we cannot enjoy the Ordinances of God, yet be sure to keep our hearts working after them. Ma∣ny deceive themselves in this, they think, we would have all the Ordinances of God, but we see we cannot, and so upon that we sit still & mind no more seeking after them, neither doe they labour to keepe their hearts in a burn∣ing desire after them; and hence many times it is, that the opportunities of enjoying them are let slip.

Page  246 But now if thou canst not have the beauty of an ordinance, if thou keep∣est thy heart in a burning desire after it in the use of all means for the attain∣ing it, know then, that the want of an ordinance is an ordinance to thee.

You shall finde in the English Chronicle of Edward the first, that he had a mighty desire to goe to the holy land, and because he could not goe thither, he gave charge to his sonne upon his death-bed that he should carry his heart thither, and he appointed 32000. pound to defray the charges of carrying his heart to the holy land, out of a superstitious respect he had to that place, though hee could not attaine it his heart should. Thus should our hearts worke after Ordinances.

And now we come to the close, and that is the blessed fruit of all this, she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them, and shee shall seeke them, but she shall not finde them.

VVhat followeth after all this? Now commeth in the close of mercy, for saith the Text, Then shall shee say, I will goe and returne to my first hus∣band, for then was it better with me then now. Now they shall returne, at length they shall bethinke themselves.

Hence we have likewise many sweet and excellent Observations.

As First,* In times of affliction the only rest of the soul is to return to God.

They keepe a rigling, and a stirre, and a shifting up and downe to provide for themselves, yea but they could finde no rest in what they did, but as a poor prisoner that is shakled keeps a stir with his chaines, but instead of get∣ting any freedom he galls his legs: but when the poor soul after all shiftings, and turnings, and vexings, comes to thinke of returning to the Lord, and of humbling and repenting it selfe before him, now it findes rest. Returne to thy rest, O my sole; so the words are. Remember after all your afflicti∣ons here is your rest in returning to the Lord.

Secondly,*Then they shall say, that is when they are so stopped in their way that they cannot tell in the world what to do, when they are hedged, and wal∣led, and cannot overtake their lovers, then they shall returne to the Lord.

Hence the Observation is, so long as men can have any thing in their sin∣full way to satisfie themselves withall, they will not returne to God: There is that perversnesse of spirit in men: Onely when men are stopped in the way o sinne, that they can have no satisfaction nor no hope, then they begin to think of returning to God.

This is the vilenesse of the spirits of men, they never or very rarely will come off to God till then. As the Prodigall, what shift did he make? hee goes to the farmer, to the swine, to the huskes to fill his belly, and it is likely if he had had his belly full of them he would never have thought of going to his father, but when he came to the huskes and could not tell how to fill his belly there, when he was in a desperate estate, then he beginneth to thinke of returning to his father. So you have it Isa, 57. 10. Yet saidest thou not, where is no hope, thou hast found the life of thy hands, therefore thou wast not grieved; thou wast not brought to such a desperate stand as to say the Page  247 is no hope, that noteth that till men be brought to such a stand that they can say, certainly there is no hope or helpe this way, they will seldome thinke of returning to God.* Thus is God infinitely dishonoured by us, It is very strange how the hearts of men will hanker after their sinne this way, and that way, till God take them quite off from hope of comfort by it, they will ne∣ver have a thought to returne unto God; God is faine to be the last refuge, we account our selves much dishonoured when we are the last refuge, when no body will I must. It seemes God is saine to yeeld to this, when no body will give satisfaction to the soul,* then men come to God, and God must.

But you will say, will ever God accept of such a one? Marke the next ob∣servation; returning to God, if it be in truth, though it be thus after wee have sought out for all other helpes, yet God is willing to accept of it.

This is an observation full of comfort, the Lord grant it may not be abu∣sed, but it is the word of the Lord, and it is a certaine truth, that returning after men have sought other meanes, and can finde no help, though they are driven to it by afflictions, yet it may be accepted by God. It is true, man will not accept upon these termes, but the thoughts of God are as sarre a∣bove the thoughts of men as the heaven is above the earth. It is true indeed some time God will not, nay God threatneth Pro. 1. 28. though they call upon him he will not answer, though they seee him early, yet shall not finde him. God is not thus gracious to all, therefore you must not presume up∣on it: God some time at the very first affliction hardneth his heart against men, that he will never regard them more, for his mercy is his owne; but those that are in covenant with him, though they come to him upon such termes, yet they may be accepted of him; therefore take this trueth for helping of you against this fore temptation, when you are in affliction, which will be apt to come in, Oh I cry to God now in my affliction, I should have done it before, surely God will not heare me now.

This may be a temptation; I confesse I cannot speake in this point with∣out a trembling heart lest it be abused, but the Text presents it fairely to you, and you must have the minde of God made known unto you though others abuse it,*Psal. 88. 9. Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction, Lord I have called daily upon thee: This is spoken of Heman, and God did accept of him as it is apparrent in the Psalm, yet he cryed by reason of affliction; and Psal. 120. 1. In my distresse I cryed unto the Lord and he heard me; though it were in my distresse, yet the Lord heard me.

Onely take this one note about it,

It is true, Though our being stopped in all other wayes may make us cry to God, and God may heare us, but when God doth hear us, he works more then crying out by reason of that affliction; though at first our af∣fliction be the thing that carryeth ns unto God, yet before God hath done withus, and manifest and any acceptance of us, hee workes our hearts to higher aymes then deliverance from our affliction.

Againe further, I will goe and returne.

Page  247 A heart effectually wrought upon by God is a resolute heart to returne to God. As they were resolute in their way of Idolatry, I will follow after my lovers; so their hearts being converted, they shall be as resolute in Gods wayes, she shall say, I will returne to my first husband.

When God will worke upon the heart to purpose, he causeth strong argu∣ments to fasten upon the spirit, and nothing shal hinder it, no not father, nor mother, nor the dearest friend. Perhaps the Lord beginneth to worke upon the child, and the father scornes him, and the mother perhaps saith, What shall we have of you now? a Puritane? This grieveth the spirit of the child, yet there are such strong arguments fastned by God upon his heart, that it carryeth him thorough, he is resolute in his way, he will returne.

Further, Those who have ever found the sweetnesse of Christ in their hearts, have yet something remaining, that though they should be apostates, will at length draw them to him. Christ hath such hold upon their hearts as at one time or other he will get them in again, there will be some sparkes under those embers that will flame and draw the soule to returne againe to Christ. Therefore if any of you ever had any friends in whom you were ve∣rily perswaded there was a true work of grace, though they be exceedingly apostatized from Christ, do not give over your hope, for if ever there were any true tast of the sweetnesse that is in Christ, Christ hath such a hold upon their hearts, that he will bring them in again one time or other.

Further, I will return to my first husband, for them was it better with me.

There is nothing gotten by departing from Christ.* You goe from the bet∣ter to the worse when ever you depart from him; What fruit have you in those things,*whereof you are now ashamed? I the Lord (saith God, Isa, 48 17.) teach to profit; sinne doth not teach to profit, you can never get good by that, but the Lord teacheth to profit. It may be you may think to gaine something by departing from Christ,* but when you have cast up all the gain, you may put it into your eye, and it will doe you no hurt. Job, 27. 8. It is a notable place. What is the hope of the hypocrie, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul? Perhaps a hypocrite that is departed from God, a back-flider, that was forward before in the way of godlinesse, and now like Dema he hath forsaken those wayes and cleaved to the world, he thinkes he hath gained, and perhaps is grown richer, and liveth braver then before, yet what hope hath this back-slyder, this hypocrite, when God tak∣eth away his soul? then he will see that he hath gotten nothing. As it is said of the Idolater, Isay, 44. 20, A deceived heart hath turned him aside, he feeds upon ashes, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lye in my right hand? What shall there be more in a lust then in the blessed God? then in JESUS CHRIST who is the glory of Heaven, the de∣light of Angels, the satisfaction of the Father himselfe? Can a lust put thee into a better condition then Christ, who hath all fulnesse to satisfie the soul of God himself? certainly it cannot be.

Againe,* There must be a sight and an acknowledgement of our shame∣full Page  249 folly, or else there can be no true returning unto God; I will goe and re∣turn to my first husband, for then it was better with mee then now. As if the Church should say, I confesse I have plaid the foole, I have done shame∣fully, I have loft by departing from Christ, it was better farre then it is now. Ier. 3. 25. We lie downe in our shame, and our confusion covereth us, for wee have sinned against the Lord our God, saith the Church there; so it should be with all that come in to return to Christ, they must lie downe in their shame.

This I note as very seasonable in these times, we have many now who not long since have been very vile apostates, they have gone with the times, they saw preferment went such a way, and their hearts went that way; Now they see they cannot have preferment in that way they went, and God of his mercy hath changed the times, they will bee Converts: Wee have in England many parliamentary Converts, but such as wee are not to confide in.

Why should wee not confide in them?* If they will repent and returne, God accepteth them, and why should not we? It is true, such an one was before an enemy, and followed superstitious vanities, but now he is grown better, and preacheth against them, and why should not wee receive him?

To that I answer,* It is true, if deep humiliation have gone before that re∣formation, if together with their being better they have been willing to shame themselves before God and his people, to acknowledg their folly in departing from God, and be willing to professe before all that knew them, and have been scandalized by them.* It is true, God began with mee, and shewed me his wayes when I was young, I began to love them, and to walk in them: but when I saw how the times went, and preferment went, the Lord knows I had a base time-serving heart, I went away from God, they were no arguments that satisfied my conscience, but meerly livings and pre∣ferment, and now I doe desire to take shame and confusion of face to my selfe: Woe unto me for the folly and falsenesse of my heart, it is the infinite mercy of God ever to regard such a wretch as I. If they do thus take shame to themselves, and acknowledg their folly, this were something. We read in the Primitive times of one Ecebolius, who when he had revolted from the Truth, he cometh to the congregation, and falling down upon the threshold, cryeth out, Calcate, Calcate insipidum salem, tread upon me unsavory salt, I confesse I have made my selfe unsavory salt by departing from the Truth, let all tread upon me. This was a signe of true returning when this went before, we have done foolishly, it was better with us then now.

Againe, I will goe and returne, for it was better with mee then it is now:

Hence,

Though acknowledgement must goe before,* yet returning must follow that. It is not enough to see and acknowledg, but there must be a returning: Page  250 For as reformation without humiliation is not enough, so humiliation with∣out reformation suffices not.* And I speak this the rather, because these are times wherein there is a great deale of seeming humiliation, and wee hope true humiliation: but you shall have many in their fasting days will acknow∣ledge how finfull,* how vile, how passionate they have been in their families, how worldly, what base selfe-ends they have had, and they will make such catalogues of their sins in those dayes of their humiliation, as causes admirati∣on: the thing itselfe is good, but I speak to this end, to shew the horrible wickednesse of mens hearts, that after they have ripped up all their sinnes, with all aggravations, acknowledged all their folly of their evill ways against God, yet no returning, after all this as passionate in their famlies, as frow∣ard, as peevish, as perverse as ever, as earthly as ever, as light and vaine in their carriage as ever. They will acknowledge what they have done, but they will not returne. Remember humiliation must goe before reforma∣tion, but Reformation must follow after Humiliation.

But the chiefe point of all is behind,* that is, The sight of this, how much better it was when the heart did cleave to Christ, over it is now, since depar∣ture from Christ, it is an effectuall meanes to cause the heart to returne to him. This is the way that Christ himselfe prescribed, Rev. 2. 5. Remem∣ber whence thou art falne, and repent. Thou wert in a better condition once then now thou art, oh come in and return, and that thou maist returne, re∣member whence thou art falne.

I will give but a little glimpse of what might be said in this point more largely.

The reasonings of the heart in the sight of this may briefely bee hinted thus:

Heretofore I was able through Gods mercy to look upon the face of God with joy.* When my heart did cleave to him, when I did walke close with God, then the glory of God shined upon mee, and caused my heart to spring within me every time I thought of him: But now, now, God knows, though the world takes little notice of it, the very thoughts of God are a ter∣rour to mee, the most terrible object in the world is to behold the face of God. Oh it was better with me then it is now.

Before this my apostasie I had free accesse to the Throne of Gods grace, I could come with humble and holy boldnesse unto God, and poure out my soule before him, such a chamber, such a closet can witnesse it: But now I have no heart to pray, yea I must be haled to it, meerely conscience pulleth me to it; yea every time I goe by that very closet where I was wont to have that accesse to the throne of grace, it strikes a terrour to my heart; I can ne∣ver come into Gods presence but it is out of slavish feare. Oh, it was better with me then, then it is now.

Before, Oh the sweet communion my soule enjoyed with Jesus Christ! one dayes communion with him, how much better was it then the enjoy∣ment of all the world! But now Jesus Christ is a stranger to mee, and I a stranger to him.

Page  251 Before, oh those sweet enlargements that my soule had in the ordinances of God! when I came to the word, my soule was refreshed, was warmed, my heart was inlightned; when I came to the Sacrament, oh the sweetness that was there! and to prayer with the people of God, it was even a heaven upon earth unto me: but it is otherwise now, the Ordinances of God are dead and empty things to me. Oh it was better with mee then, then it is now.

Before, oh the gracious visitations of Gods Spirit that I was wont to have! Yea, when I awaked in the night season, oh the glimpses of Gods face that were upon my soule! what quicknings, and refreshings, and inlivenings did I finde in them! I would give a world for one nights comfort I some∣times have had by the visitations of Gods Spirit, but now they are gone. Oh it was better then, then it is now.

Before, oh what peace of conscience had I within! whatsoever the world said, though they rayled and accused, yet my conscience spake peace to me, and was a thousand witnesses for me: but now I have a grating conscience within me, oh the black bosome that is in me, it flieth in my face every day, after I come from such and such company; I could come before from the society of the Saints, and my conscience smiled upon me: Now I go to wicked company, and when I come home, and in the night, Oh the gnaw∣ings of that worm! it was better with me then, then it is now.

Before, the graces of Gods Spirit, how were they sparkling in me, active and lively! I could exercise faith, humility, patience, and the like: Now I am as one bereft of all, unfit for any thing, even as a dead logg. Before God made use of me and imployed me in honorable services, now I am un∣fit for any service at all. Oh, it was better with me then, then it is now.

Before I could take hold upon promises, I could claim them as mine own, I could looke up to all those blessed, sweet promises that God had made in his word, and look upon them as mine inheritance. But now alas the pro∣mises are very little to me: before I could look upon the face of all troubles, and the face of death, I could look upon them with joy, but now the thought of affliction and of death, God knows how terrible they are to me. It was better with me then, then it is now.

Before in all creatures I could enjoy God, I tasted the sweetnesse and love of God, even in my meat and drinke: I could sit with my wife and chil∣dren, and see God in them, and looke upon the mercies of God through them as a fruit of the Covenant of grace; Oh how sweet was it with mee then! But now the creature is an empty thing unto mee, whether it come in love or hatred I do not know. It was better with me before then now.

Before I was under the protection of God where ever I went, but now I do not know what danger and miseries I am subject unto daily, what may befall me before night. God only knows.

Before the Saints rejoyced with mee in my company and communion, now every one is shy of me.

Page  252 Before I was going on in the wayes of life, now these wayes I am in, God knows, and my conscience tels me are wayes of death. It was better with me then, then it is now.

Now then put all these together, as I make no question these thoughts are the thoughts of many Apostates; if wee knew all that were in their hearts, we should find such thoughts as these. As the Prodigall, when hee was feeding upon the husks, he began to bethink himselfe; What, is not there food enough in my Fathers house? every servant there hath food enough, and here I am ready to starve, I feed upon huskes, when there is bread e∣nough in my Fathers house; So may many Apostates say, Alas! before I had seetnesse enough, and was satisfied with those abundance of plea∣sures that were in the house of God, in his Word and Ordinances, now I feed upon husks, and amongst swine, Oh that it were with me as it was be∣fore! As Job speaks in another case concerning his afflictions, Iob 29. 3. Oh that it were with me as in moeths past, as in the dayes when God pre∣served me, when this candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darknesse. Before I had some afflictions, but I could walk through all afflictions by that light which I had from God; Oh that it were with me now as it was then, as in the dayes of my youth, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle, when the Almighty was yet with me! It may be said of many Apostates, as Lam. 4. 8. They were once as polished Sa∣pirs, but now they are become as blacke as a coale.

But h that you had hearts to say, let me return, let me returne, because it was otherwise with mee heretofore then it is now! Oh that this day there might an Angel meet thee, as he met with Hagar when shee fled from Sa∣rah▪ the Angel sad to her, Hagar, Sarahs maid, whence comest thou, & whether wilt thou goe? So I say, oh Apostate, whence commest thou, and whither wilt thou goe? Marke, Hagar, Sarahs maid, whence comest thou? Dost thou come from Sarah? from Abrahams family where God is wor∣shipped? where the Church of God is? and whither goest thou? canst thou be any where so well as there? So I say to thee, Thou who wert a forward professor before, Whence comest thou? Dost thou come from such Ordi∣nances, from such communion with the Saints?* What hast thou gotten by those base wayes? Thou canst eate, and drink, and laugh a little, and have some esteem with such as are carnall; Oh whither wilt thou goe? Oh that God would shew you this day whither you goe!

There followeth yet another Observation,

Seeing there is so much grief and shame in complaining of our apostati∣zing when ever God awakeneth us, it should teach all that are not yet A∣postates to take heed what they doe, that they may never bring themselves into such a condition that they may not be forced to complaine. Oh it was better before then it is now. It is a note of Caution to you who are through Gods mercy in his way, you are now well, know when you are well, and keep you well. And you young ones who are beginning to give up your Page  253 names to God, take heed you do not decline from what now you doe, that you doe not apostarize and fall off from God afterward, lest this be your condition that you shall be brought to at best, for this is at best, thus to la∣ment the change of your condition, perhaps you shall goe on, and God will never cause you to see your shame and folly, till you be eternally undone; but at best you must be brought to this shame and confusion of face, to ac∣knowledg how much better it was with you before then now; how much better was it when I lived in such a family, under such a Master, in such a Towne, Oh it was better then with me then it is now! Oh the precious days that once I had when I was a young one, those dayes are gone, and whethr ever they will come again, God knows.

Yet further, when the judgement passeth on Gods side, that it was bet∣ter before then now, then the soul is in a hopefull way. So long as the judg∣ment holdeth for God and his wayes, though thou beest an Apostate, though perhaps thy heart be drawn aside from God, and thy affections be unruly, thou art not in a desperate condition, there is hope of thee. There are two sorts of Apostates. There are some Apostates, who though they are so through the unrulinesse of their affections, and the strength of temp∣tation, yet they keep their judgements for Gods wayes, and acknowledge Gods people to be best, and his Ordinances to be best, and themselves in the danger. But now there are some Apostates, who do so fall off from God and his wayes, that they begin in their very judgements to thinke that those wayes they profest before were but fancies, and that the people of God are but a company of humerous people, and blesse themselves in their owne wayes, and think that they are better now then they were before: oh this is a hideous thing. If thy judgement be once taken, that thou thinkest the wayes of sinn to be better then those wayes of God that before thou profes∣sedst, then Lord have mercy upon thee, thou art a gone man, wee doe not know that God will doe with thee, but in the judgement of man thou art even a gone man.

I remember Latimer in a Sermon before King Edward hath this pas∣sage. I have known (saith he) many Apostates, but I never knew any more then one that proved a scorner, and yet returned again. Take heed there∣fore, saith he, of apostasie. Though a man may fall off from God, and pos∣sibly return; but yet if he fall off, so that his judgement is taken that he is be∣come a scorner, that is a wofull condition, such a one scarce ever returneth. Many such Apostates you have in England, & I would challenge you all to give me one example of any one that ever returned again that so fell. I know many scorners are converted, but they that have beene forward in profes∣sing, and then fall off, and prove scorners, where have you any of them come in?

You have a notable place for this, Levit. 13. 44. there you shall finde when the Priest shall come and see a man that hath got the leprosie in his head, the Priest shall pronounce him utterly uncleane, for the plaguePage  254 saith the Text, is in the head. You shall observe in all the Chapter, when the Priest found uncleannesse in any other thing, he was to pronounce it un∣clean, but if the leprosie be in the head, he shall pronounce the party ut∣terly uncleane, for the plague is in the head, there is not that utter unclean∣nesse any where as when the plague is in the head, So I may say here, when a man falleth off from the wayes of God by some strong temptation or un∣ruly affection, this man is uncleane, verily he is uncleane; but when it com∣meth to the head, that his judgement is against the wayes of God, and so commeth to contemne them and those that follow them, and to thinke his own wayes better, this man is utterly unclean, for the plague is in his head, The Lord deliver you from that plague.