Gods Providence. A Sermon preached at the late Fast, before the Honourable House of Commons.
1. Cor. 1.27.
—God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.—
HAD we no other light but that of Nature, and no other writings but the book of the world we might read a God and see his Providence: But to find a Saviour, to know a Gospell, to understand the my∣steries of Salvation,* is above the Art of humane learning, the spirit of God must be our Tutor therein, and the Holy Scriptures only can teach and give us such a lesson: For God hath hid those secrets from the Scribes and great Philo∣sophers of the earth, he hath cast away the understanding of the Prudent as the Apostle speaks.* And hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.
My text is of that Nature as will not easily admit a Division. I shall therefore insist upon three Propositions, which I conceive do naturally arise, and which I hope will give the full sense and scope of the words.
First 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 hath chosen: Imports Gods eternall choice, the Page 2 Councell of his will, his Providence by which he rules and go∣verns all things, and therefore thence I shall take this for my 1. Proposition.
PROP. 1. Gods will hath an effectuall Influence upon all the Creatures.
Secondly, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 the foolishnesse of the world: that which in the Iudgement of worldly men is vaine and foolish by Gods power is of great value and vertue: whence I raise this 2. Proposition.
PROP. 2. Foolish things in the Judgement of the world, are in great esteeme with our wise God.
Thirdly, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 to confound or make ashamed: That which is weak, and foolish and nothing regarded by carnall Eyes, con∣founds many times the greatest power and wisdom; and by the hand of Providence brings ruine and shame upon that which wordly-men most glory and confide in: whence I shall infer my 3. Proposition.
PROP. 3. God can effect great and glorious designes by weak and improbable meanes.
Every proposition would afford abundant matter for a distinct Sermon. I can therefore only point at some generall heads, and as it were give you a little map of this great Country, taking my propositions in that order which I have mentioned.
1.Gods will hath an effectuall Influence upon all the Creatures.
The Nature and Condition of Gods will, with those distin∣ctions and difficulties disputed amongst the school-men, and be∣twixt the Arminians and Contra-Arminians, are either too high for humane understanding to reach, or else are piously resolved by Page 3 learned pens already.* I shall only touch upon the power and pro∣vidence thereof, so far as may conduce to the quieting of our thoughts in these distracted times, and to give us patience & com∣fort in the middest of all afflictions. And to this purpose David assures us, that our God is in heaven, he doth whatsoever he will, and S. Paul that God worketh all things according to the coun∣sell of his own will: And Iustin Martyr, with Saint Aug. that Gods will is the cause of all things. What confusion cannot he order? what wisdom cannot he frustrate? what weaknesse cannot he enable? Nothing so high that is above his command, nothing so low that is beneath his Providence. If the Potter have power of the same lumpe to make one vessell to honour, and another to dishonour, and to preserve or break in pieces what he hath made, when as the vessell depends upon the earth of which it consists, of the water by which it was tempered, of the wheele which fa∣shioned it, and of the fire which baked and hardened all: How much more shall the God Almightie who giveth to every crea∣ture matter and forme, vertue and activity and beautie, exercise his will upon them? How much more shall he build up and pull down, save and destroy, and dispose them as seemeth good unto him? Neabuchodonezor (one of the greatest and proudest Kings that ever was) will confesse as much. Dan. 4.32. according to his will he worketh in the Army of heaven, and in the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand or say unto him what dost thou? the Armies of heaven do acknowledge God in all their wayes, Legions of Angells who excell in strength, who are as full of power as of glory, and know no Law but their makers plea∣sure: The inhabitants of the earth, Men and Divells, whatsoever the Sun hath looked upon, or the creation hath raised from no∣thing, have this necessity upon them, to obey the Almighties will,* and while they rush against his Counsell, to fulfill it, which may appeare more distinctly by considering three particulars.
1. Every Creature depends on God.
Every creature is the effect of God secundum esse, essentially de∣pends upon him, or as Scotus speaks is dependance it self: of ne∣cessity Page 4 then they stand in need of Gods perpetuall help, the hand which made must support, and the power which raised from nothing must still preserve from nothing. Which Christ confirmes John. 5.17. My Father worketh hitherto and I work; and Saint Paul H•b. 1.3. He beareth up all things with his mightie word:*He beareth up all things with his mightie word: He beareth up all things, 1. Sustinendo as a pillar & sure foun∣dation upon which they stand. 2. Influendo as a fountaine from which they derive all their vertue and operations. 3. Constringen∣do as a soveraign bond by which the parts of all things hold to∣gether and are preserved as water in a vessell from dissolution and running into nothing, and he beareth up all things without any la∣bour or difficulty 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 only by his pleasure, his will by the same word,* and breath, by which they were first made. The creature cannot stand one moment without Gods actuall suppor∣tance; All things would run into confusion without his power∣full influence who created all things. For the frame of the world, is not like a House which will stand it self after the Carpenter hath raised it, but receives continuall subsistence from the Au∣thor, must be preserved in being & working or else will suddain∣ly break and fall in peeces: It depends upon the Almightie as the figure of a Seale imprinted upon the water,* which being with∣drawn, the Impression is instantly defaced, or as the light in the aire which upon the Suns removall is presently extinct. Vpon which grounds the school-men affirme that preservation is a con∣tinued creation, that every thing is as it were newly borne, new∣ly produced; And although in themselves permanent yet in res∣pect of God are quasi in fieri: they are as it were under the hammer, they are in a perpetuall forge and dependance.
And as our Nature, so are our actions; we cannot utter one word, thinke one thought, turn our Eye, or move a finger, with∣out the concurrence of his power who giveth life and breath, and all things; much lesse can we of our selves performe any thing which is good, direct a wish, or tread one step towards heaven. As the Axe is in the hand of him that heweth, without whose eleva∣tion it neither cuts nor sinks into the timber, so are we all in the hand of that Master builder of Heaven and earth, we are dead and uselesse tooles without his Influence,* who giveth as well the Page 5 will as the work,* and in whom we live and move and have our being. Heavy bodies cannot sinke in the water, nor the fire burn that which is most combustible, if the God of Israel speak the word; the Watry Ocean becomes a dry pavement and the hard rock a springing well at the pleasure of the Almightie: the Sun of Heaven refreshed as a Giant to run his course, must stand still un∣till the God of heaven concur to the motion, the consideration whereof made Saint Ambrose break out into this language, Non minus est conservare mundum quam creare, it is as great a work to preserve the world as to create it: and Saint Chrysost.〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 it is a greater work: As it is more labour and strength to support a burden long in the aire, then at first to raise it from the earth, which may teach us:
To deny our selves, to yield up and resigne our soules unto Gods disposing Providence,* Every one professing with David here am I, let the Lord deale with me as seemeth good unto him. For Dependency is very humble and respective, it studies contentment and care to Comply, it commands the soule a holy silence, and in all afflictions keeps under the least rising of our hearts against the Almightie: It makes us kisse the rod,* and with the Christians in Tertullian, thank our Executioners. For shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evill? Is it his great mercy that we do not f•ll into nothing, or which is worse into eternall flames? and shall the calamities of this world which crosse perchance our hopes, & so prevent our pride, or draw from us some guilded earth, which happily would have made us more wicked, or at most destroy these Houses of clay which of themselves will fall in sunder? shall (I say) a temporall bodily chastisement,* the scourges of a loving father drive us to impatiency, or distrust,* or make us curse the day of our Nativi∣ty? A Souldier is tried in a conflict, and a Mariner shews his skill in a tempest. And shall a Christian faint or fear in the Seas of Adversitie, in the battels of affliction? we see, the candle shines brightest when the aire is darke and the fire burnes hottest when the weather is cold. Nature teaching these inanimate crea∣tures to rejoice as it were in danger, and to triumph over op∣pression: Page 6 It is emptie chaff which is tost up & down with the wind, not sound corne, and they are rotten trees which a storme over∣throwes. Let us consider that smooth and golden steps, lead for the most part unto lust and carnall securitie, they make us insen∣sible of Gods mercyes, and lesse regardfull of his Iudgements, and more conceited of our own greatnesse:* let us consider that the ways of the wicked prosper, they gallop over the green plaines of pleasure and plentie, their Houses are peaceable, and the rod of God is not upon them. And shal we envy the condition of wicked men? shall we complaine because our Kingdom is not of this world? shall we be angry with our blessings? Indeed when we consider the grievance it self we may look after a change of our Condition, for we carry about us flesh and bloud and who can say his heart is cleere? But yet we must remember the Author of our afflictions the hand which strikes, and the providence which directs them: we may with our Saviour desire the Cup to passe from us, but we must with our Saviour also desire not our own wills,* but Gods be done: Murmuring may enrage our Crosses and make them more heavie, but cannot remove them, it may encrease our guilt, and bring upon us new Iudgements, it cannot take them off, like a bird that is entangled in the lime twigs, the more shee struggles, the more shee doubles her danger.
2.God is All-knowing and Omnipresent with the Creatures.
What power of Man or Angell can cloud the Eyes of the Al∣mightie? what darknesse hideth from his face with whom the night shineth as the day;* the darknesse and light are both a like. A heathen will tell thee God is neare thee, he is with thee, he is with∣in thee; a father will tell thee, God is never from thee, the Shool∣men will tell thee, God is more present with thee then thou art with thy self, and give good reasons for what they say: And a∣bove all Saint Paul will tell thee Heb. 4.13. All things are naked and open unto the Eyes of him, with whom we have to do: No∣thing can escape his knowledge,* we are as it were divided and bowelled, without our clothes, without our skin, in the sight of Page 7 God. But when we are lockt in our chambers, the windowes shut, the curtaine drawn over our heads, when we are compassed about with stone walls, who then shall see us? Nemo te videt (saith Saint Bernard) non tamen nullus: No man indeed can see thee, but he seeth thee before whose tribunall thou must one day stand and give an account for every idle word. Thy good Angells see thee, and greeve at thy sinne, the Divell seeth thee, and rejoyceth at thy follie. The stones in the wall see thee, and are ready when God pleaseth to fall upon thee and to grinde thee to powder. But Gods power doth not rest here, his all seeing Eye is not termi∣nated in words and actions. He searcheth the raines,* he reads cleer∣ly the book of our soule, he heares our thoughts. this House of our body, walls of flesh cannot exclude the rayes of that Omnipotent Majestie, David in the 94. Psa. 81. will call them fools, who think o∣therwise; & he will give a reason for it in the 92. v. He that planted the eare shall not he heare? or he that formed the eye shall not he see? he that made the heart, shall not he know the wayes and works thereof? But Gods Eyes are purer yet, and I have not ex∣pressed the least part of their brightnesse: God understands our thoughts a far off Psal. 139.2. from all eternitie, saith Lyranus up∣pon that place, as soone as he had existence himself, and he was never without existence, he did know all the purposes, the secret motions, the deepest roote and grounde of all our cogitations. But alas who can measure that which is infinite? Our great God knoweth more yet, and which may make us adore and admire and tremble, beholds us in our proper and corrupt condition, he discerns much filth and great staines in the fairest soule, he seeth our carnall thoughts, our worldly thoughts, our presumptuous thoughts, our suspitious thoughts, our partiall thoughts, our curi∣ous thoughts, our vaine thoughts,* he seeth our wisest thoughts are foolishnesse, and our best thoughts have enough to condemne us. But O worme that I am, ashes, and nothing, and worse then nothing; why do I endeavour to fathome the depth of Gods knowledge, to describe that light which looketh further and further and hath no end of looking further. Whatsoever God seeth (and he seeth whatsoever hath been, and whatsoever is, Page 8 whatsoever will be or may be, he seeth whatsoever is to be seene and whatsoever is not to be seene) he rules and governs and com∣mands,* he directs to his own glory and mans salvation. Philoso∣phy will teach us that Angels can discover bad thoughts, by wicked actions, and judge of the soul by the temper of the body: But to see us from everlasting, and to see us in our. native fowle∣nesse and deformity, to know our thoughts before they were and so long before they were to dispose of them to his own ends, this is that altitudo of which Saint Paul speaks, into which the further we descend, the lower we may sink, and the more we know, the more we are ignorant.
O thou Christian then whosoever thou art, having fought a good fight, made conscience of thy ways, and kept thy selfe straight in the middest of a crooked generation, do not hang down thy head or remit one jot of thy zeale in goodnesse for the reproaches of Men, or the unjust censures of all the world, rather revive and quicken thy industry in every good cause, inflame thy holy life, and in despite of all the sharp arrowes of calumniation, run joyfully in the race of Gods service, raise thy languishing thoughts with David in the consideration of thy own sinceritie and innocence and single heart, comfort thy self with the ex∣ample of Christ,* who despised the shame for the joy which was set before him, and satisfie thy soule with Jobs resolution, behold now my witnesse is in Heaven, and my record is on high. When thou art going to any lewd Act, profane company, vaine pleasure, remember the God of Israel looks upon thee: If profit unhappily move thee to injustice, oppression or any other service of the Divell, if rotten lusts, unconstant honour, base ends, lay siege unto thy soul and endanger thy spirituall safety call to mind the presence of the Almightie. This one weapon of Divine Ar∣mory is powerful enough to confound a whole world of tempta∣tions and to conquer Hell it self. For will any man cut a purse be∣fore the Iudges face, and when he is sitting upon the Bench? will any man commit adultery in the open streets? Nothing hinders vice so much as nakednes: & if Seneca speak true, the greatest part of sins are committed for want of witnesses. How tender were Page 9 the primitive Christians herein? Who would not tell a lie to save their lives as Justin Martyr relates.* Saint Augustin proceeds further and will not admit a lie for the salvation of a mans soule. But Job hath a straine above all and will not have a lie told for the glory of God: that glory which is the greatest Good, which is the end of all things, which Moses preferr'd before his own e∣verlasting happinesse. O mercyfull Father how are we degene∣rated from those pious resolutions! what Spirit hardens our hearts? and devoures the conscience of these later generations which make lying a Profession, and are constant in nothing else? which maintaine the lawfulnesse thereof, and confirme on truths with Oathes and Imprecations. In Davids time the fool said in his heart there is no God, he durst not speak it with his tongue: But our Atheisme is raised to that height and boldnesse that we dare professe it in our words and Actions, we dare brag of our un∣cleannes in contempt as it were of heaven and in scorn of the Al∣mightie. Adde to this the filthines of sinne which our Saviour tells us Math. 15. defiles the Man, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 makes him Common which, by an Hebraisme, is profane, uncleane, beastly. Agreeable to which is that of Saint James lay aside all filthines and super∣fluitie of naughtines, filthines in the abstract, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 naughtines which is an excrement a nastie thing as odious and detestable in the nostrills of the Almightie, as our very excrements are to us. Vpon which ground Devout Anselme professed that he would rather be in Hell and free from sinne,* then polluted with the fil∣thines thereof possesse the Kingdome of Heaven. Now if every sinne be of this blotting beastly condition, if the Almightie be∣holds them in their vilest shape, in their greatest deformitie, what shall we think of those crying sinns, of unfaithfulnesse,* blasphe∣my, whoredom, murther, how do they difile us? what beasts and black Divells do they make us? what shall we think of this great and famous City lately the Governernesse of Truth, and Crown of true Religion, but now the sink and stinking dirt of all Heresies? My Author is in print and passeth without contradiction, and in a lan∣guage which forraigne Nations may understand: And this he further speaks as neare as I can translate him. I dare be bold to say Page 10 that more sects are risen in London in a yeare and half past then in the whole Christian world since the Apostles times in 1600 yeares: Irenaus reckons up about 20 diverse sects of Hereticks, Tertullian 27. Theo∣doret 76. Epiphan. 80. August. 88. Damas. 100. Philast. 128. All which being dead and buried many centuries of yeares since, are raised at this time and recalled from Hell by Handicrafts men, and the baser sort of people not without the great evill of the Londoners; Neither is there yet an end of multiplying Religions. I must confesse I stand amazed at the relation. And know not whether I should be angry with the book, or sorry for the Author, wish to the one lesse bitter∣nesse, or to the other more charitie.
3.God governs all things to their ends.
*Gods Providence is as generall as his Creation, governing all things by the same infinite power by which they were made. This glorious fabrick of the world would soone lose its beautie and the great familie and rich furniture thereof fall into confu∣sion, if the hand of Providence did not guide their motions and by a sweet command conduct them to their ends.* The waters would overflow the earth, the fire would ascend above its proper spheare, Lions and beasts of strength and Crueltie would quickly devoure the generations of Men: Nay the creatures have destru∣ction enough within themselves, and for want of enemies abroad would become their own Executioners.* Divines & naturalists have spoken so much of the parts of man, the use & order of the actions and fabrick of rationall creatures, of the vertue of plants & stones, that wonder is fitter herein then words, &, he doth best relate that storie who most admires it; I shall therfore only tell you, Galen by the light of Nature did extoll the wisdom of Godin the making of a Gnat, in the very thigh of a Gnat that which we do so little re∣gard, which we do so much scorne, which many of us never took notice of, the thigh one of the least & low'st parts of a gnat, a poor, imperfect creature, yet confesseth the hand of God and magni∣fieth that Name which Christians many times blaspheme; the Page 11 basest worme which creepeth in the dust hath matter enough to silence the wisest Man, and by how much the lesser any creature is, by so much it raiseth the greater wonder. As a small watch re∣quires a curious hand, and pictures of the least volume shew most of all the limners skill. Let us consider the whole species of man∣kind, every child of Adam from the Creation to the last Iudge∣ment, and when we have considered let us be astonished, and cry out with Saint Paul, How unsearchable are his Iudgements who gives to so many millions of millions a distinct Face?* by which the Husband knowes his wife, the Father his Child, the Creditor his Debter, the Magistrate the Delinquent, the Subject his Prince, by which we know our Friends from our Enemies: and without which Treason, Incest, Parricide, Every wicked∣nesse would fill the world, and confusion overwhelm all Govern∣ment, there is not a Lillie grows in the Field,* not a drop sinks from the cloudes, not a haire falls from our Head or a sparrow lights on the ground without the Eye of Providence; grasse hath measure and the sands of the Sea are numbred, the whole disposing of a Lot is of the Lord. He guideth the stroke of every sword in a battel, and not a bullet flies to any other place then he hath appointed.
Those things which be most free and absolute, the hearts and wills of Men follow the Influence of Divine Providence, they do whatsoever liketh them, But yet they can do no more and in no other manner then God hath Decreed, He guideth them to his own Ends yet guideth according to that Nature he hath put into them, they voluntarily performe, what certainly shall come to passe. He causeth good actions, he permitteth bad actions, he rules and orders all. Absolon shall refuse the good Counsell of A∣chitophell if God have so determined,* and Elie's Sonnes shall not obey the voyce of their Father if the Lord resolve to slay them. The Heart of the King is in the hand of God as the Rivers of water, the Kings heart, who hath all things at command, and is of all men most free, and whose wrath is as the roaring of a Lion,* his heart, his will, his favours, his frown, his power, his pur∣poses, are call'd by Gods Providence as the waters are carried in Page 12 their channels at the pleasure of those who have skill to derive them. Posidonius in the life of Saint Augustine gives us two me∣morable examples to this purpose The good Father being to vi∣sit and instruct the people of a certaine place,* and having a guide to direct the way and conduct him thither, did notwithstanding mistake the Common and usuall roade and ignorantly fall into a by-path and so escaped the bloudy hands of some Donatists who knowing of his journey lay in ambush to take away his life:* At an∣other time this Holy Bishop preaching to the Congregation, and forgetting the Argument, which first he proposed, fell upon the Errors of the Manichees, which he never intended, and by that meanes converted one Firmus his auditor who afterwards fell down at Saint Augustines feet,* weeping and confessing that he had lived a Manichee many yeares, and now, by Gods mercy and his last Sermon was reduced to the Catholick beliefe. We all know that Augustus made the generall taxe to enrich his own coffers, but God used it as a meanes to fulfill the Prophesie of Christs birth at Bethlahem. Nay God is the cause why things are not, why a wise Councell of State-Physitians cannot cure the wounds of a bleeding Kingdom, why a peace desired betwixt two contrary Armies finds no successe, why the Enemies which were round about the People of Israel could not desire their Land, the men being absent thrice every yeare,* and none but women to op∣pose them. It is God who hinders and gives way to every work, nothing is independant on him who depends on nothing.
Indeed Ticho-Brach, and Kepler two famous Mathematicians, seeme to Crosse this doctrine, attributing much to the Influences of the Starrs, and to that great conjunction of Saturne and Jupiter. From whose pens some in these times give out many ominous conjectures: and in truth few can be ignorant that the heavenly bodies have great power over inferior Creatures and are the par∣tiall causes of many alterations here below; but such crosse acci∣dents do frequently happen in the Matter on which they work, especially in the bodie and actions of men which are swayd by reason and education and Religion. And God doth so controll and check them at his pleasure, that our sinns are more to be Page 13 feared then the Starrs,* and nothing certaine can be concluded from their aspects, but that they work together for the best to them that love the Lord.* They make somewhat to fore-tell Mans inclination▪ and are signes of spirituall events, but they bring no fatall necessity with them, and things contingent are as far above their power, as they are below the Almightie's. If we can be∣leeve that the 1000. yeares mentioned in the Rev. for the binding up of Sathan, is yet to come as divers do strongly perswade us,** we need not cast the great fury and confusion of all the world, upon the starrs, we need not wonder at those Civill dissentions by which we devoure our selves, and when no other enemy could do us any harme, we labour our own destruction. For the old Serpent is such an enemy to goodnesse and is now so madly furious because his time is short, that he brings foorth all his wicked instruments which are in the 4. quarters of the world to compasse the Tents of Saints about and the beloved City, to strik Religion at the heart, and to banish, if it were possible, the Church of Christ from off the earth; & yet thankes be to our gra∣cious God his power is limited both in regard of time and mea∣sure and manner, he can go but to the end of his chaine, witnesse Jobs afflictions; He may expresse his malice, he cannot effect his will: For wickednesse it self is under subjection, and all the strength the Divell hath rests in God; I am confident that these rageing waters which do so overflow the banks of Christendome are trialls of the Godly, punishments of sin, and instruments of Divine Providence. I do not more beleeve that the sun is in the Heaven, or that I am speaking to this Congregation then I do be∣leeve that all the calamities which are fallen upon this Land, shall turne to the benefit of Gods people,* that Antichrist shall concur to his own subversion, and the very enemies of Truth shall ad∣vance it, then that scarlet whore, who hath so long made the Nations drunk with her fornications shall fall, and it is most pro∣bable that her ruine is neare at hand: when a more full and entire calling of the Gentils then hitherto hath been, shall be accom∣plished, and their reasons are prevailing with me, who yet expect such a calling: when the Iewish Nation shall be fully reduced to Page 14 Christian Religion and it is a granted truth amongst the best Di∣vines that such a conversion is yet to come,* then shall the Church of Christ break through the clouds of affliction, prevaile over Antichrist and all the instruments of hell, and flourish more in do∣ctrine and manners,* in peace and power and glory then ever it hath done since men first inhabited the earth. What Aristotle therefore relates of Phydias the famous Carver, I shall apply to Divine Providence, for as he being to make the Image of Mi∣nerva, did with such curious Art work his own face upon the sta∣tue, that whosoever should scrape out the face, must of necessitie deforme the whole Image: so the great Architect of Heaven and earth, hath in such a wonderfull manner engraven as it were his own glorious face, his power, his wisdom, his goodnesse, upon the whole fabrick of the world, and upon every part thereof, that this Divine face of God cannot be separated from any Creature without the Creatures ruine and annihilation. I will conclude this point, and my first Proposition with Davids Confession. Psal. 40. v. 5. O Lord my God thou hast made thy wonderfull works so many that none can count in order thy thoughts towards us, I would declare and speak of them, but they are more then I am able to expresse.
PROP. 2. Foolish things in the Judgement of the world are in great esteeme with our wise God.
How much the heathens of old did contemn the Iews for Cir∣cumcision that seale of the covenant in the flesh, Poets and pro∣fane writers do sufficiently manifest. And although the Soci∣nians of later times do not plainly deride Baptisme the Sacrament of Christianity and new birth, yet they place it amongst unneces∣sary ceremonies,* and account it rather a matter of forme and cu∣stome then of use and power. What wicked titles doth Muncer that great Anabaptist give to Matrimony the holy Ordinance of God,* and, which is honourable in all, calling it fornicem and Sa∣thanae lupanar, the stew, and whore-house of the Divell, from whose opinion Coster the Iesuit doth not much dissent professing, Page 15 that a Clergie-man who keeps concubines and commits sacri∣ledge, offends lesse then he who is married to a wife:* And do not many amongst us think coursly of the blessed Eucharist,* not discerning the Lords body as the Apostles speaks, who profane those sacred mysteries with carnall thoughts, and unprepared hearts, and rather feed their bodies then their faith? The Holy Scripture, which is the word of Grace, the word of life,* the power of God unto salvation, by the Iews is lesse valued then the Talmud, and in the esteem of Papists, is an imperfect leaden rule, a dead and dangerous letter, a nose of waxe. That God should be incarnate, and suffer is madnesse in the judgement of Festus: A Virgin to beare a sonne, or a resurrection from the dead is abun∣dant Matter of laughing at Athens.
What better entertainment hath the preaching of the Gospell? which is the ministery of reconciliation, and the ordinary meanes of eternall happinesse, opening the eares, enlighting the eyes, softning the heart, and sanctifying the whole man. How is it ac∣counted by too many, ludibrium & probrosum artificium, as Gerson speaks, a vaine work, a dishonourable profession? how do we loath this heavenly Manna? What a foolish unnecessary businesse do we make it, preferring our ease, our profit, our private reading before the bread of life and the publick worship and service of the Almightie. Such is the condition of the flesh, and corrupt rea∣son and wordly wisdom that they cannot rellish matters of greatest weight of highest excellency, they cannot discerne the doctrine of faith, the mysteries of salvation, some reasons may be these.
REAS. 1. God seeth not as Man seeth.
The Lord beholds the heart,* he regardeth sinceritie and faith∣fulnesse, he loves a willing mind, a cordiall wish, when all things else are wanting: But men have base and bastard principles by which they judge and by which they are led, they look upon the Garment and outward appearances, either blessing themselves in their policie with Achitophel, or in their power with Nebuchad∣nezzar,Page 16 or in their full barnes with the Rich-man in the Gospell▪ soule take thy ease thou hast goods laid up for many yeares, when alas the whole world, is nothing to the happinesse of the soule & Gold can no more fill the spirit of man then grace can fill his purse. Eliab looked more like a King then David in the eyes of Samuel, yet David was elected and Eliab refused. 1. Sam. 16. v. 6.7. And that which is highly esteemed amongst men is abomination in the sight of God, Luke 16.15 How doth the face and outward splendor of the Romish Church prevai•e with carnall minds? How many owe their Religion more to education then to the Scripture•, and are rather born in good opinions then chuse them? veritas & veritas was never out of the mouth of the Manichees, when they spak those things which were most false▪ and their ma∣ny and great books were full of the Name of Truth when their hearts were emptie of the Nature.* Look upon those vast and Giantlike Volumes of Baronius, Vasquez, Suarez, and many o∣thers of that Ignatian Order: how are they composed with Iudg∣ment, strengthened with reason, confirmed with antiquitie? what tongue do they not speak, what art do they not know, what san∣ctitie do they not professe? And if you desire to understand what Policie they use to establish the Kingdom of darknesse, to en∣deere their name and credit to the world, I refer you to three books, the one intituled Arcana Jesu•tarum, the other, Mysteria Jesuitarum, the third Historia Jesuitarum. Proceed a little fu•ther and take notice of those lesser, but no lesse pernicious works of Socinus, Volkelius, and some other pettie primer tracts of their ad∣herents: their rationall discours•s would invite and feast any man who is not nourished with Grace and disciplin'd by Scripture, their smooth and insinuating language would deceive if it were possible the very Elect: So that if we should judge our cause and Religion by the face and eye of man, if Bulke or Policie or ex∣ternall glory were the only arguments of Truth, and characters of the Gospell, our state were desperate, and as the Apostle speaks in another case, we were of all men most miserable.
Saint Chrysostome in his third Hom. on the 1 to the Cor. compar∣ing Page 17Paul and Plato together prefers the Heathen before the A∣postle in point of reason and in the knowledge of Nature,* not∣withstanding gives the victory to Saint Paul and lays the Philo∣sopher in the dust. And I beleeve if we examine the whole Cata∣logue of Martyrs, and take an exact view of those good soules who did put on the whole armour of God, & have wrestled with the rulers of darknesse,* and spirituall wickednesse we shall find the unlearned but religious tradsemen professing Christ, and enter∣taining death when the Scribe and disputer have renounced their faith, and forsook their colours, we shall find the wisdom of the wise destroyd and sillie women and children putting their hands into those flames which the Doctors refused. An Ignorant laick at the Councell of Nice confounded and nonplust many Scholers. And how many of Christs Apostles were fisher-men, learned only in goodnesse, & better read in sinceritie then books? what can be more plaine then that of Saint Paul, not many wise men after the flesh, not many mightie, not many noble are called. And Saint Chrysostome will give us the reason, because the great, and studied Scholler blessing himself for the most part in the proud swellings of his deepe learning, stands upon his own strength and excellency, and will do nothing without a reason: when the illitterate Countryman, the poore snake abhors himself, is contemptible in his own eyes, and with all humilitie and fear casts himself down at the Almighties feet.* Saint Paul goes fur∣ther, and tells us that the wisdom of the flesh is death, is emnitie against God, neither is or can be subject to the Law of God.*Rom. 8. All which is to be understood of wisdom and knowledge so long as they continue carnall, carried away with pride, and self-sufficiencie; For we must know that many of Gods dearest chil∣dren have been and still are as able schollers, as glorious lights, and as eminent in every outward excellency as any in the world; who ever more eloquent then Esay? more profound then Saint Paul? more renowned for all learning then Moses and Salomon? wisdom and knowledge, are happy instruments of salvation when they are guided by truth and steered by Religion, they are great vertues in themselves, and if there were no other world but this, I would Page 18 account my study, my heaven, and my books everlasting life, but when the text tells me 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 not many wise: when Philosophie teacheth corruptio Optimi est pessima, when experience sheweth no wickednesse to the wickednesse of a Scholler, I must conclude that Piety is the greatest Policie, and the best Christian, the wisest Man.
REAS. 2. Foolish things are made wise by Gods effectuall calling.
When God calls any Man effectually, he puts his fear into his heart as Jerem. speaks; And Salomon assures us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom:* when we delight in the com∣mandements of God, & devote our selves to the obedience there∣of, when we are eminent in good works, and abundant in service, and embrace Religion with any danger, with any difficultie, then are we wiser then our adversaries,* our teachers, our Elders, as David speaks, wiser then the great Achitophels the Pharisees of the world, who being puffed up with the pride of their strong braine, and blinded with an opinion of their profound knowledge will deride Christ himself when he tells them that it is impossible to serve God and Mammon.* For wisdome is the fruit of Devotion, and because David was holier therefore he was wiser then his E∣nemies: Piety raiseth the soule of man, and purgeth it from those lusts which do besot our knowledge, it inspires the understand∣ing with a high and heavenly light by which we discern the sub∣tilitie of the Divel, the corruption of our own hearts, the mistery of salvation; it breaths into our Actions sinceritie, and watchful∣nesse, and the life of wisdom. Though we understand the depths, and secrets of State, excell in Iudgement, sharpenesse of wit, faith∣fulnesse of memorie and in varietie of experience and observa∣tions; though we be living libraries, and have not Religion, we are blinde and stupid, and fooles in any true knowledge, the flower and spirit of all our wisdom is but learned follie, and beau∣tifull simplicitie. For tell me, O thou mightie Man of knowledge, who dost trample upon the Counsels of others with contempt, Page 19 and art the Oracle of God in the esteeme of Men.* Can thy Policie resist the Divell? or find out the wiles and devises of the old Ser∣pent, who is well read in all the Arts and advantages of the earth, and is as full of knowledge as of malice? Can thy worldly wisdom preserve thy life one moment longer then God hath decreed?* can it conduct thee the way to Heaven? or preserve thy soule from Hell? that pretious soule, which Saint Basil calls the delight of the Almightie, and Saint August. the miracle of miracles, that Di∣vine, spirituall, eternall soule, I tremble to speak it, our soules are eternall: when we have continued as many yeares, as there are drops in the Sea, we have not continued one moment in compa∣raison of Eternitie; were all the world a Mountaine of sand, and every thousand yeares one of those sands removed that Moun∣taine would have an end, but Eternitie would be no lesser; After all the ages which Men or Angels can number or conceive, Eter∣nitie doth but begin, it doth alwayes begin, and is nothing but beginning. And now let the eye of reason judge betwixt a Child of God, & a man of the world, betwixt the providence of heaven, and the wisdom of the flesh: what learning is it, to know all the secrets of Nature, and to be a very fool in the mysteries of Grace? What Policie is it to have a cleere sight into all the Kingdomes of the earth, and to be stark blinde in the Kingdom of Heaven? what profit is it to gaine the whole world and to lose our eter∣nall soules?* All the admirable knowledge and vertues of the Heathen are but glorious abominations in the judgement of Saint Aug. and Nicodemus one of the best of the Pharisees,* a Ruler of the Iews and a profest Doctor in the Law is stupid and childish in the principles of Christianitie;* if our Saviour talk to him of being borne againe, he presently thinks of entring into his Mothers wombe, the naturall Man, the Man endowed with all the excel∣lencies of which the soule is naturally capeable,*perceiveth not the things of the spirit of God, hath neither wisdom to make a right choice of the best end, nor understanding to find out the true meanes; Nay he esteems them foolishnesse, and so changeth the greatest blessing into a fearfull curse. Saint Paul will give us the reason of all because they are spiritually discern'd, they require single Page 20 eyes and soft hearts, and humble thoughts, they require a sancti∣fying spirit. The wisdom of Heaven, proceeds only from the God of Heaven, and therefore,
1. Do not contemne thy weak brother.
God can raise his thoughts, or direct his follie to a happie end, he can make him an Instrument of glorie,* who is now a subject of weaknesse, and can strike a streight stroake with a crooked stick.* Let us remember that we our selves in times past were un∣wise, disobedient, deceived, serving lusts, and divers pleasures, that we continue clay of the same lumpe, branches of the same root, and the same Grace which supports one, may raise another: For who made us to differ? or what have we that we have not recei∣ved?* Although the Iews be now a by-word amongst the heathen, and have lien long under Captivitie: Although they are broken off from the stock,* yet God is able to graff them in againe and to let the day of his glory shine forth upon them. Nay God will re∣member his covenant with Abraham and Jacob, his calling is without change, No sin can frustrate his Election. Those who are Enemies to the Common-wealth of Israel, and are darknesse it self, may be enlightened by the sunne of righteounesse: God may have Children amongst Turkes and Pagans, the wildernesse may nourish sheep,* and the hard Iron afford soveraign spirits: The theef upon the Crosse became a Saint, and persecuting Saul was changed into Paul an Apostle. Other mens imperfections therfore may be our instructions, they may be arguments of great devotion, they must not be objects of any derision: the least sin deserves contempt, but the greatest sinner charitie: let us hate the vice but help the man, pittie him, pray for him, let us ex•end our breasts of compassion, wheresoever is hope of Conversion. But above all let us not despise our zealous brother, who out of a pious apprehension of the joys of Heaven and of the torments of Hell, of the love of Christ, and wickednesse of sin, makes a consci∣ence of the least transgression, startles at all appearance of evill, is strict and tender, and fearefull in all his conversation, who lookes upon the world with contempt,* and for the Gospell sake will kisse the rod, and welcome death. Calvin dedicates his Commentary Page 21 on the 1. to the Cor to one Caracciolus a Marquesse of Italy, of great honour and Estate, blessed with a noble and chast wife, and with many sweet Children, and full of peace and earthly happi∣nesse; notwithstanding parted with his Countrey, bid fare-well to his pleasant and rich possessions, forsook his wife and children, and friends, and all for the love of Christ and libertie of his con∣science; following the Counsell of Saint Hieron,* to his beloved Heliodor, if thy little Grandchild hang about thy neck, if thy mother with her haire untied and her garments rent, shew thee those breasts which gave thee suck, if thy father cast himself down upon the threshold to keep thee in, tread upon thy father and with drie Eyes flye unto thy Saviour. It is Religion in this case to be cruell, and the greatest pittie to be pittilesse.*Ignatius the Martyr was of the same minde, I would to God (saith he) I might enjoy those beasts which are prepared to eate me up, I will make much of them, and use them with all kindnesse, that they may devoure me presently: Let the fagot, the gallowes, the furie of wild beasts, the rack, the tearing and unjointing of all the body, let the tor∣ments of the Divell come upon me, so that I may gaine Christ Iesus: it is better to dye for Christ, then to be Emperour of the whole world. Call not then devotion weaknes, or zeale folly, rank not them in the Kalender of fooles who prefer Salvation be∣fore the world, and by a bold assertion of the Truth, fight for Mar∣tyrdom. God is never more honoured then when the Kingdom of Heaven suffers such violence: The Church never shewed more wisdom than when her zeale flamed highest. It was an ancient Complaint of Justin Martyr in the behalfe of the primitive Chri∣stians, that they were condemned and put to death,*〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 upon an ill report, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 for the Name of Christian, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 for the profession of goodnesse: And in this kingdom there was a time when vertue and pietie were accoun∣ted crimes, and the Name of Puritan a greater accusation than drunkennes or whoredom: Luther that glorious light of the Gos∣pell, was called the Trumpet of rebellion.* The Prophet Eliah the Troubler of Israel, and Saint Paul was made the filth of the world and the off-scouring of all things.
Page 22Take heed therefore of rash and ungodly censures in matter of Religion, which requires our prayers, and patience, and charitie, abhorres reproaches:* Thou mayst abuse a Court with the Name of faction; and under the calumnie of Brownist condemne a Saint: Salvation ought to be the businesse of our whole life: We cannot be more studious to preserve our soules then the Divell is to de∣stroy them, we cannot be too carefull about that work, in which our greatest care is not enough.
2. Do not undervalue Gods Ordinances.
Divine Institution adds a price, and holy regard to every work: The time, the place, the matter, the manner, every circum∣stance receives weight from Gods command, and he who is not carefull to observe the least, doth not obey God when he per∣formes the greatest:* If Naaman wil be cleansed, he must wash seven times in the water of Jordan,* six times washing will not remove the Leprosie: whosoever will be cured must enter, First into the Poole after the Angel hath troubled the water; he that comes after shall have no benefit; Gods order must be observed, his number regard'd contempt in any circūstance ruines all the work; It is no just excuse to prefer some before others when all ought to be done, it is not the Dutie of a Servant to chuse his work, and rather to dispute his Masters will, then obey it. Let the Ordi∣nances of Heaven be never so meane, so poore in regard of their outward condition; They are worthy of pretious account, of ho∣nourable esteeme, of carefull observance, in respect of their Au∣thor, and those sacred ends for which they were injoyn'd: Com∣mon bread becomes the food of life in the Sacrament of the Lords supper,* and water, a vulgar and corruptible Element, Seales in Baptisme the remission of sinns:* The very same words of Man which passe as wind and only beate the Aire, comming with Gods Authority and blessing shall melt a heart of Flint,* shall prosper in the work for which they were sent, are sharper then any two edged sword, are lively and mightie in operation If the liquor be cordiall, what matter if the vessell be earthen? If the Page 23 Tabernacle be all gold within, what though the covering be of badgers skin? A Scholler will not judge a book by the bulke and out-side, but by the contents. A Souldier will not chuse a sword by the luster of the hilt, but by the goodnesse of the blade. The Author legitimates the work, the will and end is All in every a∣ction. Crassus whip'd his Mason,* because he sent him a fitter Mast for his service, but not the same he required: and Manlius be∣headed his sonne because contrary to command he gave battel to the enemy & obtained the victory. And will God endure disobe∣dience at the hands of sinfull Men? Is he lesse jealous of his ho∣nour then the Creature? shall he command, and threaten, and be∣seech? Shall he bring salvation to our doores, to our bosomes and shall we despise it? Take heed, curses attend contempt,* Famin fol¦lows abuse of fulnesse, and unthankfulnesse in Peace & knowledge, brings war and ignorance.* Our Saviour only called John and James, and they without tarrying left their ship and their Father, and followed him: Parents, and Fortunes, and Lives give place to Gods command, we must disprove nothing which he approves, nor like any thing which he dislikes. For we are not our own, and therefore we must not set up our own wills, nor judge by our own reason, nor work for our own ends: but we must sacrifice our selves to God, our wills to his will, our reason to his knowledge, our whole endeavours to his Glory. It is enough for us that he would have it so: His will is wisdom, and Justice, and power, and rea∣son, and all things.
3. God can effect glorious designes by weak and improbable meanes.
What cannot the God of Heaven compasse to set forth his own glory and to advance his servants good?*Flies and Frogs and Lice the very corruption and dung of the earth are too strong for Pharaoh a potent Prince: these vile and loathsome Creatures shall conquer a Nation of armed Men. When all Aegypt and any ground upon which an Aegyptian breath'd did swarm with Flies,* the Land of Goshen, a little spot of earth and in the middest of the Page 24 Countrey was not molested with any: Not with Flies which of all Creatures are most passeable and least to be resisted: Walls and Rivers, and Armies cannot oppose their motion, denie them en∣trance: And yet these active irrationall Creatures did not touch upon Goshen when they were round about it, they did know the people of God, and distinguish betwixt his Friends and Enemies. Read the 2. Cap. of Joel,* how a great and mightie people were prepared for battel, before whom the Land was as a garden of Eden, and behinde whom a desolate wildernesse. V. 3. They shall come as the noise of a flame of fire, and devoure men like stubble; V. 5. they shall march like strong men, & go forward in their way without resistance; V. 7. they shall fall upon the sword and not be wounded. V. 8. The earth shall tremble before them, and the Hea∣vens shake. V. 10. And yet this powerfull terrible Army, in the 25. V. consists only of Grashoppers,* and Caterpillars, vile despi∣sed wormes, which are strong to execute the word of God. V. 11. & are invincible Souldiers when the Lord of Hosts is Generall. What more contrary to good than evill? or what more opposeth happinesse than sinne?* Yet the evill of Joseph's brethren, God dis∣posed to good, and the greatest sinne that ever was, the Crucifying the Lord of life by the Divine Counsell produced the greatest blessing. Nay, the bitter waters shall be made sweet by salt, and the sacrifice shall burne when water is powred upon it:* our very afflictions as over mastered and rul'd by God have this injunction upon them to further our salvation: Our wounds are remedies, and those who contradict the precepts of the Almightie obey his Providence. Reasons may be these.
1. No meanes are Helpes to God.
The Lord of Hosts can conquer without an Army (Zach. 4.6. Neither by power nor might, but by his spirit he can subdue e∣very Mountaine of opposition) and bring about whatsoever he hath determined. Indeed in the ordinary course of Providence, second causes do concur, and in their spheare derive to every ef∣fect a proper vertue: Yet here also the God of Providence hath Page 25 the governing power; he is the Author of all the good which is produced, and may be said to work himself though with other meanes: For all the world of Creatures are but Instruments at the most such as contribute no assistance to the Almightie God; they depend upon him for their Being, they work by his conti∣nuall influence, and receive their ends from his eternall Order. The same reasons which moved God, to make the Creatures, move him still to use them, not necessitie or want of power, but love & goodnesse. Did he cast out Divels with his finger, Luke 1. and can he not beate down Men with his hand? Did he make the world when there was no help, and can he not rule the world without any help? Is his arme shortned who is omnipotent? or his Providence decayd who is wisdom it self? The shadow of Peter shall heale multitudes of all diseases, Act. 5.* And the letter Thau upon the foreheads of his people shall preserve them; Ezech. 9. God is not like the Children of Men, who can do nothing without their Tooles; he can work above meanes, and he can work against meanes: sometimes he disableth the greatest meanes, and sometimes he useth no meanes at all.
2. God can help the meanes.
He that can work without meanes, can improve and advance the weakest meanes, can raise and quicken every temper, and dis∣pose little occasions to great purposes. Luther an obscure Fryer, did shake the whole Kingdom of Hell and Antichrist, by whom God gave Truth a resurrection, & a conquest over heresie. The whole world against Athanasius, and Athanasius against it;* half a hundred of yeares spent in doubtfull triall, which of the two in the end would prevaile, the side which had all, or that part which had no Friend but God and Death. And to come a little nearer home, and it would be strange ingratitude in this place, to forget that general deliverance which this whole land obtain'd by the doubt∣full language of a few carelesse syllables:* And which is more to be ad∣mired, when the vault was ready, the powder laid, the trayne made, the match prepared, the Executioners of all bloudy in re∣solution Page 26 and in the rage of their Fury. Then the hand of God made a scrip of Paper to frustrate all the work, and to vanquish Rome and Hell it self:* we all know that Ezechias being sick unto death, was cured with a bunch of Figgs, which having a pecu∣liar Nature to drie Vlcers, in time would have Matured the Boyl; but the suddaine cure was the hand of God; if the Iron be blunt, God puts more strength unto it: If our gracious Creator will fa∣vour the building of the Temple, no raine shall fall for ten yeares space, in the day-time to hinder the workmen. The woman in the Revel. the Spouse of Christ shall be holpen by the Earth, the dullest of Elements, the basest of the people· Naaman shall be healed by the common waters of Jordan, the blinde-man cured by clay and spittle, Physick fitter in common reason to have de∣stroy'd the Eyes, than to have restored the sight. When God speaks terror, 300. Men shall vanquish a mightie Hoast, and emptie pitchers shall affright an Army as much as roring Cannons: Nay a blast, a rumor, a Fancy, shall overthrow the greatest power on earth; The Moabites had a Fancy that they saw the bloud of their Enemies, when they saw nothing but the sun shining in the water: And yet this Fancy was their overthrow,* 2. King. 3.22 So easy it is for God to raise strength out of weaknesse, to pull down the pride of flesh and bloud, and to make a shadow, a trifle the In∣strument of great Deliverance. And therefore,
The way to have any thing taken from us, and not blest, is to trust in it, and depend too much upon it: The Prophet Ierem. is po∣sitive herein,* cursed be the Man who trusts in Man, and who maketh flesh his Arme. The reason followeth, and which draw∣eth his heart from God: For when we make flesh our arme, ac∣count it our support and strength, and relie upon it for delive∣rance. Our hearts are withdrawn and departed from the living God, we Deifie the Creature and as much as in us lies we unGod that Creator. The Lord himself in effect, speaks as much in his discourse with Gedeon, Iudg. 7. The people which are with thee Page 27 are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands lest Israel make their vaunt against me, and say my hand hath saved me.*Self-sufficiency and Creature-confidence is of a vaunting and re∣bellious Spirit. It sets up it self, and De-thrones the Almightie. Woe to them, saith Isay. in the 31. C. that go down into Egypt for help, and trust in charets because they are many, and in horses because they are strong: And if you would know what this woe is, the Prophet will acquaint you in the 3. V. When the Lord shall stretch out his hand, the helper shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall, and they shall all together faile. Curses and woes fol∣low them which rest in, and lean to earthly things, and the fruit of carnall confidence is destruction. Out of God there is nothing but the Creature, which is changeable, emptie, and insufficient, which borrowes all the worth it hath, and by very trusting in it, proves uncomfortable. How many Parents lose their children, by setting their hearts too much upon them? who miscarry oftner than Men of the greatest parts? Let us not therefore cry up the hands of Zerubbabel, nor the greatnesse of an Army, nor the wisdom of a Parliament, but let us exalt the power of the Almightie, adore his Providence, trust in his goodnesse; let every Christian endea∣vour to joyne his soule close unto God, and as it were to square it fit for him, to bring his trust only to the God of trust, and to set him in his own place, the highest in the heart. For the conjunction of the soule with God is the life thereof, and while we be care∣full to preserve that union, the Gates of Hell cannot prevaile a∣gainst us, we stand impregnable. But if the Divell come once be∣twixt God and our soules, and it is his greatest study so to Do. If the love of the creature and confidence therein make the least separation and unloose our hearts from their chiefest good, then our rock and sure footing is gone: we lie open to that roaring Lion and to those waters of iniquity, which will quickly sink us in per∣dition: Despaire, Idolatrie, Atheisme, and the whole bodie of sin have free passage into our soules: We cannot step from God, but Sathan steps to us; Every degree of departing from God is distrust and unbeliefe, and what will not an unbelieving heart commit?
So far as God affords us helpes and meanes, we must not be wanting in our Dutie to actuat their power, and to employ them to the best advantage; we must go along with Providence, and serve occasion and opportunities, and be exactly carefull of all meanes,* although we must not trust in any. God promised Josuah, not to leave him nor forsake him, yet he bids him be strong and of a good courage: the Israelites must fight it out, when God had given the Enemy into their hands. Indeed sometimes he will have us only spectators of his Actions, he will tell Jehosaphat and the people of Judah,* they shall not need to fight in the battel; stand still, move not, and behold the salvation of the Lord towards you: when he is pleased to shew a strange deliverance, and to get honour in the confusion of his Enemies, as he did on Pharaoh in the red Sea;* then there shall be no concurse of second causes, he will fight himself, and do his own work with his own hands; but most commonly he requires the service of the Creatures, which he doth not want, and sets down a course of meanes which he will not alter; and then it concerns us to answer Providence with in∣dustrie, to put forth our strength, and to use such meanes as God vouchsafes. If we have the honour to be Gods Instruments, we must do the office of Instruments and be active: we must cast our care on God for the issue, but we must sweat our selves in the prosecution. Hell it self shall never prevaile against the flock of Christ,* yet they must strive to enter in at the narrow Gate, they must work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. Ele∣ction to the end, includes the meanes, & whosoever will be happy in another world, must first be good in this. Presumption is as dangerous as distrust, and he may justly lose the fruite of a happy end, who neglects the use of lawfull meanes.
It was a pious speech of Luther in an Epistle to Melancton, God is able to preserve his own cause from falling, or to raise it when it is Page 29 fallen, God is never more neere his people, than when deliverance seemes furthest off, they can be in no condition where he is at a stand and cannot help them. This war which, we think, will de∣voure us all, may be an Instrument of preservation as the whale which swallowed up Jonas,* was a meanes to bring him to the shoare. The depths of Mercy are beyond the depths of misery, and God hath his own ways of helping his Children, when all things else deny them help. The violence of the wind turn'd back the Darts of Bugenius his Armie into their own faces for the vi∣ctory of Theodosius.* A number of little fishes will come to feed the Rochellers in a hard siege. Moab and Ammon, the Enemies of Ju∣dah, shall destroy one another. So mightie is God in power, and ex∣cellent in working. Say that our sins are many and our transgres∣sions great, yet Gods mercys are more, and his glory will be greater in pardoning. No faults, can damme up the endles good∣nesse of the Almightie, we cannot offend so much as he can par∣don. Say that our enemies are many, and mightie, and cruell, yet Ahab with a few yong Men,* vanquished Benhadad's great Ar∣my, and 32 Kings with him. The Divell is stronger by Man's wickednesse than by his own power. Say what we can, and say the worst we can, that England is sore wounded, and poore Ire∣land is giving up the Ghost. Yet remember that Repentance pre∣serv'd Ninive which in 40 days was to be destroy'd,* that Fayth delivered Daniel out of the Lions mouth. That he, who will raise our bodies, can mend our worst condition. Was Abraham decei∣ved, who trusted in God for a Sonne against the course of Na∣ture? Or David, who being compassed about with the waters of affliction hoped for better times?* Or the 3 Children who beleev'd that God would deliver them out of the fiery furnace?*O Lord my God in thee have I put my trust, save me from all that persecute me and deliver me. And deliver us all he will, if we all pray unto him; for faithfull prayer is Omnipotent. And pray unto him we shall,* if we all trust in him, for trust is the roote and life of succesfull prayer: Let us all therefore Pray, and Trust, and Trust, and Pray, that our heavenly father would work a good understanding betwixt King Charles and his great Counsell, that he would look with the Eye of Page 30 compassion upon dying Ireland, that his mercyfull hand would make up the breaches of distracted England, that his goodnesse would take away the cause of all calamities, our many, and great, and crying sins. And after our prayers let us trust againe, that see∣ing it is all one with the Lord, to save with many or with few, to help with meanes or without meanes: He will in due time produce a sweet correspondence betwixt the King and people; he will deliver bleeding Ireland, out of the hands of bloudy Rebells. He will re∣store distressed England to a happy condition, he will pardon our iniquities, and remember them no more. Let us pray therefore, and trust continually, and let us never cease to trust and pray.