The Seventh Lecture.
HOSEA 2. 9. 10.
Therefore will I returne and take away my corne in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wooll and my flaxe, given to cover their nakednesse.
And now I will discover her lewdnesse in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of mine hand.
IN the former verse, Israel is accused for abusing her silver and gold, &c. in the service of Baal; now it followes, Therefore I will take away my corne in the time thereof, &c. if there be a therefore, we must enquire wherefore it was, because they did prepare their corne, &c. for Baal, Therefore I will returne.
1. What is the meaning of returning.
2. What the meaning of the time and season thereof, I will take away my corne in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof.
3. What that phrase imports, I will recover my wooll.
For the first therefore. I will returne, that is, I will change the way of my administrations toward them, I will goe out of my way of mercy, and turne into my way of judgement, I will goe back againe; I was in a way of judgement toward them, and they cryed to me, and I turned into a way of mercy, but I will goe back againe into a way of judgement, I will re∣turne, Arias Montanus hath a good note upon the place, Whereas God hath heretofore bid them not to be afraid of all the tokens of the Southsayers Page 270 that is,* when they say by Astrology some signes of death that might follow, they were afraid; be not afraid, saith the Lord, but know your corne, and wine, and oyle depends on me, not on the second causes; though second causes make against, yet feare not, for I will give you come, and wine and oyle; but now it is quite contrary, though second causes promise all kind of ple•ty whatsoever, that there shall be abundance of corne, and wine, and oyle, yet I will take away your plenty, there shall be a dearth of all things amongst you.
I will take away my corne in the time thereof: that is, first in the times of harvest just when their corne is to be taken in, and in the time of their vin∣tage, I will then take it away, whereas I might take it away in the seed, I will let it grow till the harvest, and then take it away.
2. In the time when they have most need of it, when they are in the greatest straits, and know not what to doe without these creatures,
3. In tempore suo, so some, In the time I have appointed, though I have let them goe on and enjoy the creatures in abundance, yet my time is come that I will take away all.
And will recover, the word signifieth, I will snatch it away, I wil spoyle you of it;* and it hath reference to two things.
First, I will recover it as out of the hands of usurpers, you have my corne, and wo•l, and flaxe as usurpers, but I will recover them out of your hands, as a man that hath his goods taken away from him usurped, hee by some meanes or other recovers his goods againe; so saith God, you have my corne, and wine, and as you have carryed the matter, you are but usurpers, I will sue you for them, you shall not enjoy them long.
Secondly, I will recover, it hath a reference to prisoners and bondslaves, when the enemy shall get any of ours into their power, and make them bond-slaves, a greater power goes against the enemy, and recovers them out of his hands, and gets them again; As Abraham recovered Lot and his goods, Gen. 46. 14. Or as if marriners should get those gally-slaves the Turks have gotten: and recover them out of their hands, as if he should say, these creatures of corne and wine, &c. they are in bondage, and I will recover them out of your hands, you know the creatures groane under their bondage while they are in the possession of wicked men, 8. Rom. my crea∣tures are in bondage to you, and they cry to me, and I will recover them out of your hands. There are many precious and choice truths to be presented to you out of the words.* First, Therefore I will, &c. Whence observe,
Though God gives mercy out of free grace without cause in our selves, yet he takes not away mercy without cause, there is a therefore for taking away mercy, but we have many mercies given without a therefore: When God takes away mercy we have cause to look into our selves to finde out a there∣fore, but you may find out thousands of mercies that God gives to us, and you shall finde never a therefore for them. It is not so great a wonder that thousand thousands are in misery as that any one enjoyes mercy, for misery Page 271 hatha therefore in our selves, for mercy there is reason only in the breast of God.* Secondly, I will returne. Sinne causeth God to change the way of his administrations towards his people. Though God be in wayes of mer∣cy, yet sinne may put him out of those wayes, and make him returne and go in a way of judgement agnine: how much better were it for sinners to re∣turne, then that sinnne should cause God to returne? Oh sinner, returne out of thy evill wayes, if God returne, it will be a sad returne. Not long since God was in wayes of judgement against us, and lately he hath come into wayes of mercy, and now he seemes to returne againe to his former wayes of judgement. Ier. 14. 9. Why art thou as a man astonished? A man a∣stonished stands still; or if he moves, it is up and down, as if he knew not which way to goe, though we have suffered hard things, wee cannot yet say God is returned, but he seemes as a man astonished, and knowes not which way to go. Thus God is pleased of himselfe after the manner of men, to speake; let us cry to him that he may not turne out of his way of mercy, into those sad wayes of wrath that he seems to be looking towards.
I will take away my corne, and my wine.
Abuse of mercy causeth the removing of mercy, 11 Zach. 17. Woe to the idoll shepheard that leaveth the flocke, the sword shall be upon his arme, & upon his right eye, his arme shall be dryed up, and his right eye shall be ut∣terly darkned. Hath God given any a right hand, any abilities? take heed God doth not strike that right hand, or right eye, any quickness of parts, let them take heed that thorough abuse it be not put out:* how many shepherds when they were young had many excellent parts, great abilities, but having abused them to their lusts, God hath taken them away! So in children, there is no such way to lose your children, as to abuse them, if your hearts be in∣ordinately set upon them, God takes them away. I will tell you of a speciall passage of providence concerning this, & I speak it the rather, because I was an eye and eare witnesse of it, living not far from the place, A godly man desiring his friends to meete to blesse God for his blessings in a plentifull Harvest, after dinner was done comes in a little child, who was indeed a very lovely child, Oh saith the father, I am afraid I shal make a God of this child; by and by the child was missing, and presently they went to looke him, and hee was found sprawling drowned in a pond. Consider this ye parents who have your hearts inordinately set on your children.
Againe, I will take away my corne, and my wine, and my wool, and my flaxe. Marke, before they made them their own, in the former verse, they said they are theirs, now God challenges them for his, here we have, My, My, My, repeated on Gods side, as frequent as before it was on theirs.
Fourthly,* God keepes the propriety of all that we have; though God gives all, yet he keepes the propriety of all in his own hand: God hath another propriety in our estates, then any Prince in the world hath.
Subjects have propriety in their estates, and enjoy them with as true a right as their Soveraignes, but no creature hath any propriety in Page 272 what it hath in reference to God, this great Soveraign of all the world holds the propriety of all his hands,** not onely what we have, but what we doe, and what we are is all Gods: yea sayes Luther, even our thanksgiving to God for gifts is a gift of God: It is therefore a very vile thing to attribute to our selves what is Gods, when God hath enriched us we adde this odious parti∣cle, sayes Luther, I have done it, yea, sayes he, men do so often say, Feci, Feci, I have done, I have done it, that Fiunt faeces, they are as dregs before the Lord; By this you may see they are not your goods that you abuse it is a great argument to be bountifull and free for good uses; because what wee have is Gods. I will give you a notable Text for this, 1 Chron. 29. 14. For all things come of thee, and of thine own we have given thee. David thought not much of his bounty towards the Temple, because all was Gods.
Therefore I will take away. This [Therefore] hath not onely reference to the abuse of them, but to that in the 7. ver. and she shall follow after her l•vers, but shall not overtake them, &c. then shall she say, I will goe and return to my first husband, for then it was better then now. God makes this to be a meanes of working that frame of spirit in them of returning to their first husband. And from hence the note is.
Fifthly, The taking away those good things we enjoy, is a meanes of ma∣king us returne to God, it is a speciall meanes of conviction, to convince us of sinne, when God comes with some speciall worke of his against us, it workes more upon us when we see some reall expression of Gods displea∣sure, when God takes his mercies from us then when we heare the threat, now wee come to be sensible of our sinnes. You that are tradesmen and runne into debt, and your Creditors tell you they will come upon you, yet you goe on, till the Bailife comes into your shop and seizeth upon all, and goes into your house and takes away your bed from under you, and all your goods; when you see all goe out, then you thinke of your negligence, and then the husband and wife wring their hands. So though God threaten you for the abuse of the creature that hee will take it away, yet you are not sensible of it till God indeed takes away all, and then conscience begins to be awakened and fly in your faces.
VVhen David saw God taking away his people, then his heart smote him for numbring them; hee was told of the evill of that way of his before by Ioab, but he goes on in it. VVhen Samuel prayed for raine in wheat harvest, and there came thundring and lightning, then the people feared ex∣ceedingly, and acknowledged their sin in asking a King. Those who have abused their estates in these times, when the enemy comes, what gratings of conscience will they have? Then these thoughts will arise, Have I used my estate for God? have I done that I might doe? have I not satisfied my lusts with those things God hath now taken from me? There is usually a gra∣ting of conscience for the abuse of any thing, when God takes it away.
When God takes away a wife, if the husband hath a tenderness of consci∣ence, his first thoughts are, Have I performed the duties of my relation to Page 273 my wife as I ought? have I not neglected my duty towards her? and this causeth sad thoughts.**
And when God taketh away a child. Have I done my duty towards this child? have I prayed for it, and instructed it as I ought?
Againe, I will take away your corne in the time thereof, and your wine in the season thereof. This presents this truth to you.
That there is an uncertainty in all things in the world; Though they pro∣mise faire, yet they are ready to faile us, when they promise most. A hus∣bandman that hath a good seed time, promiseth much to himselfe, it comes up and thrives, and yet at harvest it is all blasted. Habak. 3. 17. Though the labour of the olive faile, The phrase is, Though the Labour of the olive lye, that is, the olive promised faire, it grew up, and looked very faire, and ripened, but it did lye, that is, it did not performe what it seemed to pro∣mise, for in the time thereof it vanished and came to naught. I had certain information from a reverend Minister, of a strange work of God this way; The thing was, in his owne Towne there was a worldling who had a great crop of corne; a good honest neighbour of his walking by his corne, saith he, Neighbour you have a very fine crop of corne, if God blesse it: Yea, saith he, I will have a good crop, speaking contemptuously and before he could come to get it into the barne, it was blasted, that the corn of the whole crop was not worth six pence. Here we see the uncertainty of the creature in the time thereof, when it seemes to promise never so faire, when wee are ready to take it into the barne, it depends on God, as well as when it is un∣der the clods. Oh the blessednesse of Gods servants, who are sure of their good for time to come! We may promise our selves certainty, even for the future in the things of Christ; but for outwards they are never sure, no not when men have them in their hands. Many things fall out betweene the cup and lip, as we have it in the proverb.
I will take away my corne in the time thereof, and wine in the season thereof. Hence Observe.
God lets out his displeasure many times to those that provoke him,* when they make account of the greatest mercy, when they are at the greatest height of prosperity, when afflictions seems to be the farthest off from them, then it comes heaviest upon them: When they thinke least of it, when they thinke all sure, then God comes upon them by his displeasure, when his dis∣pleasure shall be most bi•ter to them: for that is the strength of the point, he will not onely take them away in the time thereof, but when the afflicti∣on shall be most grievous to them.
That in the 20. of Job, ver. 22. is a most notable Scripture for this, In the fulnesse of his sufficiency he shall be in straits. A man may seeme to have sufficiency of the creature, and may have his fulnesse of sufficiency, yet God saith he shall be in straits in the fulnesse of his sufficiency, I can give you another admirable work of providence in this very things wherein you may see God to come in sore affliction at such a time, when it is most bitter: Page 274 it came from that worthy Divine Doctor Preston, it was in the Towne where he was born; There was a man who of long time had no childe, but when God gave him one,* at the weaning of it hee called his friends and neighbours to rejoyce with him for this great mercy: and the Nurse going to dandle the child in her arme, and wearing a knife in her bosom, the point of the knife being upward, while she was dandling of the child, runs into the belly of the child, at that time when all his friends were about him to rejoyce with him. When men thinke the bitternesse of death to be past, (as Agag did) the curse of God comes on them. Ps. 78. 30. While the meate was in their mouths, the wrath of God fell upon them.
I have read of Pope John the 22. that he said he knew by the position of the Stars he should live a long time, and boasted that he could cast his nati∣vity, and the same night by the fall of a chamber he had newly built for his solace, he was s•ain. Another example in this kind I have heard credibly reported of a drunken fellow in an Inne was swearing most dreadfully, and one comes in and saith, Sir, what if you should dye now? saith hee, I shall never eye, and going down the stairs when he went out of his chamber, he presently feldown and broke his neck.
There is likewise a history of one Bibulus a Roman, that riding in tri∣umph in all his glory, a tyle fel from a house in the street and knockt out his brains. As on the contrary, Gods wayes and dealings with the Saints are such, as what time their condition is most sad, God comes in with mercy to them, when they are in the most dark condition and gloomish, Gods face shines on them; so when the wicked are in their prosperity, God smites them, When the irons entred into Iosephs soule, God delivered him. When the Apostle had received the sentence of death in himself, God comforred him 2 Cor. 1. 9. When Abraham was lifting up his hand to slay Isaac, the An∣gel of the Lord stayed his hand.
As it is observed in nature, a little before day breake it is darker then be∣fore, so a little before the happinesse of Gods people,* there are some great afflictions. Zech. 1. 7. At the evening time it shall be light.
I will recover. From this phrase of [recovering] observe, First, when men abuse mercies, they forfeit their right in their mercies, they come then to be but usurpers; they are not usurpers of mercies, meerely for the use of mercies, but for the abuse of them; they are not charged for their right to use them, but for their not right using them, there is great difference be∣tween these two.
It hath beene taught by many,* that all wicked men have no right at all to use any creature, but are to answer as usurpers before God. But certainely there is a mistake. It is certain man hath forfeited all, but God hath given a right to all that they do enjoy in a lawful way, a right by donation. They have not such a right as the Saints have, a right in Christ, once being in Christ we may challence of God all things that are good for us. Another man hath right, but how? as a malefactor is condemned to dye by his offence, being Page 275 condemned, he hath forfeited all his estate, and all the benefit of a subject; But if the King be pleased to allow him provision for a day or two, till the time of execution, he cannot be challenged as an usurper, for that he hath, he hath it by donation, and it is such a right that all wicked men have; all wic∣ked men in the world are under the sentence of condemnation, & have for∣feited their right, and all the good of the creature, only the Lord is pleased out of his bounty to give such and such enjoyments, they shall have such and such houses, and such and such lands for a time, till the day of execution comes.
This might daunt the hearts of wicked men: you look upon your selves as great men, you have your shops full, you have large estates, you are like some malefactors, who have a better supper before execution then others. But still your not right using may make you usurpers before God. You give your servant order to buy such and such commodities, suppose your servant run away with your money, or bestow it on his whores, &c. if he run away do you not follow him as a thiefe? you trust him with such a stock, to keepe such markets, now he hath right to use your estate; but if he run away with your estate, and use it against you, if you meet with him again, you will say, what a thief are you to run away with your Masters estate, and abuse it a∣gainst him? I will recover, &c.
All the time the creature serves wicked men,* it is in bondage, and God looks upon it with a kinde of pitty. God hath made all things for his owne praise, and he gives the children of men many mercies, but it is for his owne glory; but when these creatures which were given for the glory of God, are abused to thy lust,* the creature groanes under thee. Thou drinkest wine, but the creature groans under thy abuse; never any gally-slave did groan more under the bondage of the Turks, then thy wine and thy dishes on thy table groan under thy abuse, Rom. 8. 22.
As God hears the cry of the widow and fatherless, so he hears the groans of the creature.
Cornelius a Lapide tels a story that he heard of a famous Preacher, shew∣ing this bondage of the creature, brings in the creatures complaining thus, Oh that we could serve such as are godly! Oh that our substance & our flesh might be incorporated into godly people, that so we might rise into glory! but if our flesh be incorporated into the flesh of sinners, we shall go to hell, and would any creature go to hell? The very creatures shall be in hell eter∣nally, when wicked men consume them on their lusts, being incorporated into their bodies. Certainly, the creature one day wil have a kind of revenge upon ungodly men, & divers think that hell will be a turning all creatures in∣to a Chaos, into a confusion again as it was at the first, and the wicked put into that, and so tormented there, there shal not be an annihilation, but God shall take away the beauty, comfort & glory of the creature, and whatsoe∣vershal be for the torment of ungodly men shal abide, and so they shall bee tormented eternally by the creatures they do abuse.
Page 276 As in such a building as this is, there is lime and stone, and morter, but now the art of man puts a beauty upon them; but suppose all the art of man were taken away from this building, at an instant, what would become of us then? it would bury us in the rubbish of it; now it is usefull and delight∣full, but if the art were taken away, it would be our destruction. So the creatures of God have much of Gods wisedome, power and goodnesse in them, which God suffers wicked men to enjoy; but God will take away all his wisdome, beauty and goodnesse, so that nothing but the confusion & rubbish of the creature shall be upon the wicked to all eternity.
I will recover my wooll and my flaxe given to cover their nakednesse.
God gives his blessings to us, not for luxury, but for necessity; I gave them to cover your nakednesse.* Therefore when our Saviour teacheth us to pray▪ it is for dayly bread, or bread which is for our substance, so much bread as serves for our substance,* and that but for a day neither. Most are abusive in their desires, after, and use of the creature, they looke at bravery rather then necessity; As Cyprian hath an expression, It is not the heat of their cloathes, nor calor, but color, the colour is rather regarded by many. God lookes now especially that we should cut of our superfluities, when our br•thren want necessareis.
To cover your nakednesse. It seemes that our nakednesse needs a cover. Sin hath made nakednesse shamefull.* Hence therefore our bodies are cal∣led vile bodies; those bodies that we study so much to pamper and adorne, they are bodies of vilenesse, as the Apostle speakes, Phil. 3. 21. yea, of that vilenesse with an article, or of the vilensse; to be proud of our cloathes that cover our shame, that cover our nakednesse is an unreasonable thing.
Would you have your bodies adorned? labour for godlinesse, and then you shall have bodies like the glorious body of JESUS CHRST; you may have bodies that shall not need a covering.
Lastly,* when abundance is abused, it is just with God that we should want necessaries, I will take away their corne, &c. how many are there who have lavished out their estates, upon whom you may see Gods judgement so grievous, that they want a piece of bread; now you often tell your lavish wasting servants, they will be glad of a crust before they dye; It proves true often of Masters and Mistresses also, who out of pride and delicacy of spi∣rit, will be so fine & brave above their ranks, that God doth blast them that they have not to cover their nakednesse. Those in the third of Isa, who had that gorgeous and brave attire, are threatned with baldnesse, and grinding with sackcloath, ver. 24. and such as come to misery by their wasting super∣fluity have none to pitty them. I have read of Alfonsus a King of Spaine, who when a Knight falling into want and being arrested for debt, there was a petition to the King to succour him, I saith the King, if he had spent his e∣state in mine, or in the common-wealths service, it were reason he should be provided for, by me or the common-wealth, but seeing he hath spent all in rio•ousness, let him suffer.
Page 277 Consider this you who are so loath to part with your estates for the pub∣licke, you murmure at every thing that is required of you for that, but you are profuse in expences for your lust, God hath wayes to bring you low e∣nough in your estares.
Ver. 10. And now I will discover her lewdnesse.
And now, that is, when I recover my wooll, and flaxe, I will discover her lewdnesse, I will take their covers from their own eyes, and from the eyes of others. Wicked men, and especially Idolaters have divers covers for their lewdnesse. There are especially three covers that these people had for their lewdness. The first was their outward prosperity: do you speak so bitterly against us, as if we were Idolaters, as if we had forsaken God, are we not in as good a condition as Judah, who you say hath not forsaken God?
Secondly, Their externall worship is that yet they kept something accor∣ding [ 2] to Gods own mind, they yet kept the Sabbath and some solemn dayes according to the law, this cover they rested in; as if they should say, What doe you accuse us as if we did not worship the true God, have not we Gods service with us, and our solemne assemblies?
Thirdly, They had other services which were not Gods, yet they did cover [ 3] them, with glorious pompous shewes, they had pompous dayes of solem∣nity, pretended for God, but being of their own invention, they were hate∣full. Well saith God, I will take away your prosperity, and I will take a∣way those things you thinke to put me off with, I will take away your so∣lemnicies, and all the pomp in your services.
I will discover their lewdnesse.
The word lewdnesse,* that comes of Nabal, that signifieth to fall, it signi∣fies the falling of the spirit low, poor, vile, and unworthy things. Hence the Hebrews use that word for a foole, one that hath a vi•e spirit, set upon base contemptible things, is Nabal, a foole. Hence that speech of Abigail con∣cerning her husband, as is his name, so is he, he is Nabal, and folly is with him.* The Seventy turne this by another word, that signifieth uncleannesse, the mixture of their spirits with vile things that make their spirits to be un∣clean. The English word Lewd comes from Loed an old Saxon word, which signifieth one that is of a servile disposition, of an under spirit; some are of servile spirits naturally, they are born to a kind of servility, & bondage, they are inclined to baseness, and vileness, by their natural genius: others are of more sublime spirits naturally, as if they were borne for great things; these people are lewd, they have vile spirits, forsaking the blessed God, & his glo∣rious wayes,* turning to vanities that can doe no good. So we say of many, they are lewd base fellowes, that is, they are of such sordid dispositions, that they seeke only after such things as have no worth in them, & satisfie them∣selves in things beneath the excellency of a man, unbeseeming a ratio∣nall creature to take content in. Act. 18. 14. we finde this word lewdnes, the Greek word translated there lewdness doth elegantly set forth the dispo∣sition of a lewd man, namely, such a one as is easily drawn to any wicked way.
Page 278I will discover her lewdnesse in the sight of her lovers. In the sight; this is a great aggravation of their shame. God will cast filth on them, not be∣fore those that are strangers, but those before whom they would be honou∣red. It is a note of Calvin upon this, that seemes to reach the meaning of the holy Ghost, alluding to the way of whores, who having great men for their lovers, favourites with Princes at the Court, they rest on their power, and confide in their greatness, they care not what their husbands can doe a∣gainst them, and so grow proud against their husbands, because their lovers have great power. There was a remarkable example of this here in Eng∣land, that you may remember, it were but to •ake in a filthy dunghill to mention it.
I will take away their confidence, though their lovers be never so great, the Assyrians, and Aegyptians, whosoever they be, they shall have no power to help you, but I will discover their lewdnesse before their face. From hence take these observations.
First, all wickednesse, and especially Idolatry, hath many covers for it; except we looke very narrowly to those that are superstitious and idolatrous, we shall not see the evill of that sin. Some covers are subtilly woven, but it may be said of them all as Isa. 28. 20. The bed is shorter then that a man can stretch himselfe on it, and the covering narrower then that he can wrap himselfe in it.
Secondly,* Prosperity in a sinfull way is a great cover; though it be a very vile and sinfull way, yet prosperity is a cover to it: This glisters so in many mens eyes, that the filth of sin is hid, many a foule hand is under a faire per∣fumed glove, an ill complexion may have a painted face, and prosperity is no other to wicked men,* then a painted face to a foul woman. As a pain∣ted face is no argument of a faire complexion, so neither is prosperity of a good condition. Crooked diseased bodies, halfe rotten, may have fine cloths. Green leaves on a tree may hide the rifts, the mossiness, and blackness of the body which appears in winter.
Many men are abominable false in all their wayes, cruell, and bloody in their hearts against God and good men, their spirits are invenomed, and they have given up themselves to most horrible sins, yet so long as they have power about them all is covered, were all their prosperity taken from them, and all their glory and greatness, and nothing but their falshood, and hatred of the wayes of God appeared, what dreadfull creatures would they bee? There is many a man that is taken with a strumpet, when shee hath painted her selfe bravely like Iezebel, but if he should see this whore whipped up & down the streets, and full of botches, how odious would this strumpet be in his eyes? take away her bravery, and she is to him the Ioathsomest creature upon earth.
Thirdly,* Retaining some truths in the way of worship is a great cover to much falsenes. When some of you are to pay a great sum, you can shuffle in a brasse six pence or shilling, or a light piece of gold: so some, though they Page 279 retaine many errors,* yet because they keep some truths, they think to cover much superstition. False wares will be holpen off amongst good, and a man that useth to lie will sometimes tell some truths to put off a lie.* A man that is a base selfe-secker, will many times deny himselfe; many times you shall have the proudest spirits that are, to bee as crowching and subject to those that are their superiours as any, and so by seeming humility, cover a great deale of pride. So the evill of ceremonies, and false discipline, passe without much contradiction, you must not trouble your selves about these things, and why have not we as wholsome soule-saving doctrine as in any Church in the world? because of this the corruption of the other is covered, much hypocrisie is covered under excellent gifts, the gifts are gifts of Gods Spirit, but they oftentimes cover much vileness.
Further observe,* Outward pompous devotion in Gods worship is a great colour of notorious Idolatry, as gilded Crosses, painted Churches, pompous Ceremonies: how hath it covered the most desperate hatred to the power of godlinesse that ever was?
I will discover thy lewdnesse.
God hath a time to discover wickednesse,* it shall appeare one day in its colours, vile and abominable wickednesse shall not always goe uncovered. God will not discover her infirmities, neither should we; wee should doe as God doth,* discover the lewdnesse of men, but not their infirmities Love co∣vers a multitude of faults, if they be but infirmities. And when you disco∣ver the lewdnesse of others, take heed you do not discover your owne lewd∣nesse in the mean time. Many when they go about to discover the lewdnesse of other men, do it with such bitternesse of spirit, and with rejoycing, that they have got any advantage against those that are religious, if they heare a∣ny reports against such, whether true or false they care not, they relate it con∣fidently, something will stick. This is for men to discover their own lewd∣nesse, when they cry out against the lewdnesse of others. Those who are wise and understanding, are able easily to see it; but if wee would not have God discover our lewdnesse, let us get such a cover as shall never be unco∣vered▪ You may have many shifts to cover your sinnes that are not large e∣nough, but I wil tell you of a cover that is large enough to cover all: What is that? The righteousnesse of Jesus Christ. Psal. 32. 1. Blessed is he whose transgresison is forgiven, whose sin is •overed. There is a cover that covers from the eyes of God and man for ever.
I will discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers.
I will take such a way to manifest her vile lewdness before her lovers, that she shall neither prevail with them, nor be upheld by them.
When God discovers mens lewdness,* they shal do little hurt. 2 Tim. 3. 6. But they shall proceed no farther, for their folly shall bee made manifest to all men. There are many who have secretly gained on the spirits of other men, by faire pretences, that they will doe nothing but thus and thus, Page 280 and they seek nothing but the publicke good,* and they desire the furtherance of the Gospel, but when opertunity shall serve, there shall be a ciscovering that their intentions goe another way then their words seemed to import, and then they shall proceed no further, for they shal be vile and contemptible in the eyes of those with whom they prevailed before.
Againe, further, I will doe it in the sight of their lovers.
When God sets himself against his enemies,* he will goe through his work in the face of all those that seekes the contrary, doe what they can. God needs no shifts, no tricks nor devices to carry on his work, but he can carry it on in the sight of his adversaries, he will carry on his worke, and shame them in the sight of their lovers,* and bring them downe low, doe what they can. God can make use of the wisedome and policy of men, and hee can make as much use of their indiscretion, as he hath done of late. The great workes of God amongst us of late have been carryed on with a high hand in the sight of those that have been our adversaries; what discoveries have there been of the filth of men? how hath their nakedness been made naked? what charges in their conditions? what contempt hath God cast in the face of those that were the great champions sor lewdnesse, and that in the very face of their lovers? Their lovers looked on them, and had as good a heart to them as ever, there was little or no change in the hearts of their lovers; and though their lovers were as eager for them as ever, yet their shame hath been discovered. This Scripture is as cleerely made good this day, as any Scripture in the Book of God. Againe, In the face of their lovers.
Dishonour before those we expect honour from,* is a sad, a great evill. Oh, saith Saul, Honour me before the people. Saul cared not much if hee were dishonored before strangers, but he would be honored before the peo∣ple. It is such a thing to be dishonoured before those that we would be ho∣noured before, that the stronger a mans spirit is, the more intolerable the burden is; one of a mean and low spirit, doth not much care for dishonour any where, but a man that hath strength of spirit indeed, counts it the worst thing that can be to be dishonoured before those that love him.
This we finde among many Tradesmen that are civill at home,* but if they get among strangers, oh how lewd are they in an Inne! those that love God and the Saints, are most afraid to have their evill discovered before God and the Saints, for a gracious heart desires honour from them most. One that is godly can beare disgrace, any contemptuous abuse from many of those that are profane, rather then from one that is godly. Wicked men care not for dishonour among the Saints, because they care not for their love. If dis∣honour before lovers be such a shame, what will dishonour before God at the great day be, and before the Saints and wicked men too who were your lovers? I will discover their lewdness in the sight of their lovers.
When I take away their corne, and wine, and flaxe, and these things, their lovers will be ashamed of them.
The way of carnall friends are to esteem of men when they are in prosperi∣ty, Page 281 but when they are down in adversity, then they contemn them.
Huntsmen when they would single out a Deer, they shoot her first, and as soon as the blood appears, all the rest goe out of her company, and push her from them. It is so with carnall friends, if a man be in affliction, if they see their friend shot, they look aloofe from him. Wee have had wofull ex∣perience of this of late, when many godly Ministers were persecuted, those who before had seemed to be their lovers, grew strange unto them. In a sun∣shine day, men that passe by look on a dyall, but in a darke stormy day, a hundred may ride by it and never look to it.* When wee are in a Sun-shine day of prosperity, men will look towards us; but if the gloomy day of ad∣versity come, then they passe by without regard to us. I• a man of fashion come to a house, the dogs will be quiet, but when a beggar comes in raggs, they flye upon him. It is apparant by this, that men in their prosperity are not regarded for any thing in themselves, but for their prosperities sake, for their moneys sake, for their cloathes sake. Suppose any of you have a ser∣vant goes up and downe with you, and you know whither soever you goe, the respect that is given, is not for your sake, but for your servants sake, you go to such a house, and they use you kindly, only for your servants sake, you take it very ill. This is all the respect that men have from false lovers, it is not for any good in them, it is for their prosperity, for their servants sake; O how vaine is respect from the world! If you be gracious, God will not deal with you thus; if you have your estates taken from you, God will not despise you as carnall friends doe. Psal. 22. 24. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted. When the Saints are afflicted, God doth not hide his face from them, but when they cry to him he hears them.
Yet further we see here, carnall hearts have a great deale of confidence in many things they trust to,* in time of danger they will not believe but they shall escape. Let us not be troubled at the confidence our enemies have, they doubt not but to prevaile; this is from the curse of God upon them; their case is never so desperate, but they have something to shelter themselves in their own thoughts: Oh what a shame is it that any thing is rather trusted in, then God! the husbandman casts seed-corn that costs dearer then any other corne into the ground: The Merchant trusts all his estate to the winds & waves of the sea, & if they saile, all is gone; you trust servants with busines of weight. If you goe to Westminster, you trust your lives in a boat halfe an inch thicke, God is not trusted so much, that blessed God who is the only true object of soule-confidence.
Lastly, when God sets himselfe against a generation of men, or any par∣ticular, all the means in the world shall not help. Ezek. 9. the Prophet had a vision of six men with weapons of war in their hands; there were six prin∣cipall gates in Jerusalem, and God would set these sixe men with weapons in their hands at each gate, that if they run to this, or the other, or any gate, the man with the weapon in his hand should be sure to take them, they should not escape.
Page 282Amos, 5. 8. Seeke him that maketh the seven Stars and Orion; Why are these named seven stars and Orion; the one is the extreame of cold, and the other of heate; The Lord hath the power of both: if they escape the heat, the cold shall take them; if the cold, the heate shall take them: and I like∣wise, saith the Lord, can make both these helpfull to you as I please.
Hence there is such blasting of means, for the cursing of those whom God sets himselfe against; let us not be afraid of the great assistance that our ad∣versaries have, though they have great assistance, they are in Gods hand, and none can deliver out of Gods hand; all their strength is but as tow and flaxe before the flame of fire. If God be in a way of mercy, none can take out of his hands, Isa. 43. 13. There is none can deliver out of my hand, I will worke, and who shall let it?
Wherefore it is a fearfull thing to fall into the hand of God when he is in a way of wrath, and it is a blessed thing to be in his hand when he is in a way of mercy, for none can deliver out of either. Christ holds the stars, not on∣ly Ministers, but all his Elect in his hand, and none can take them out. I will give you a notable example in Gods preservation in times of danger: In the time of the Massacre at Paris, there was a poor man, who for his de∣liverance crept into a hole, and when he was there, there comes a Spider and weaves a cobweb before the hole; when the murtherers came to search for him, saith one, Certainly he is got into that hole: No saith another, he can∣not be there,* for there is a cobweb over the place; and by this meanes the poore man was preserved. The hope of the wicked, Job saith, is as the Spi∣ders Web; yet if God please he can make a cobweb to deliver his people.
The least things shall deliver when he will, and the greatest meanes of de∣liverance shall not deliver when he pleases.