To the KIRKE and KING∣DOME of SCOTLAND, Grace to you, and Peace from God our Father and the Lord Iesus Christ.
THree reasons have prevailed with me, to set your Honourable and Reverend name before this Sermon: One is, That having Preached it before the Honourable Houses of the Par∣liament of England, I conceived it more convenient to send it to you in Print, then to direct it to them the second time, and in so doing I cannot apprehend any danger of censure: Because the ground of my Calling to joyne in so solemne an action, was rather a Nationall concernment then any personall respect to me, or ex∣pectation of any thing that could proceed from my weaknesse, worthy of such an Auditory; as is one of the greatest, and gravest on earth. In this therefore (if I mistake not) I doe com∣ply with their intentions, and still follow their respects. Another Reason is, that after so long absence not onely from my personall charge, but from you my mother Church, and Native Countrey, I doe willingly take hold of this opportunity to t•stifie that we your servants for Christ, who have the honour to be in this imploy∣ment, doe bow our knees to the Father of our Lord Iesus Christ, of whom the whole family of heaven and earth is named, that hee would grant unto you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthned with might by his Spirit in the inner man▪ that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith a: And that wee cannot enough render thanks to God for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy, for your sakes before our God, night and day praying ex∣ceedingly, that we might see your face, and (according to our cal∣ling and measure) might perfect that which is lacking in your Page [unnumbered] faith. b The opinion of the merit of prayer is abomination, but the principall Theam and matter of the solemnitie of the day, wee take for an answer of the prayers of the godly in the three Kingdomes, and in all the Reformed Kirks; And the desire we have to see you, is not onely that naturall instinct, which is to be found in all of our Nation, whom the cause of God hath brought from their owne homes and habitations; but our longing to come unto you with rejoycing, bringing our sheaves with us, c and to find you such as we would: for now we live if yee stand fast in the Lord d. The third reason is, that I may, upon this occasion which God hath put in my hand, communicate unto you my humble thoughts for your good, unto which 〈◊〉 thousands of your sonnes, worthier, then I can have any 〈…〉 think my selfe to be, have according to the commandment of 〈◊〉 and their manifold obligation, devoted and sacrificed themsel••• and all that they have; For my part, since I am not able to 〈◊〉 my duty to the full, I shall still acknowledge my Obligation, c••∣fesse my debt, and what I have (which is a small proportion to that which I owe) I shall willingly offer.
The Lord hath done great things for you▪ and by you. His Spi∣rit speaking in your faithfull Pastours, and working in your owne hearts, will teach you and give you grace in wisedome and humi∣litie, to compare your present estate under the light, puritie, liber∣tie, and blessings of the Gospell, with the darknesse, corruptions, tyrannie and miseries, which our forefathers were covered with under Paganisme of old, and under Antichrist afterwards, and which our selves did endure under Antichristian Prelacy of late. It is true, the present times are full of sufferings, calamities, losses, and feares; all the three Kingdoms have drunken, although by equall draughts, of a very bitter cup, such as the Lord propineth when he is angry with his people, and no man knoweth when the end shall be: Yet if we consider what our miseries might have been, if these our miseries had not been, that we ought to choose affliction, and not impiety or iniquity, and that all our troubles are but the travellings of child-birth, to bring forth a Reformation; We will take the saying of Ecclesiastes to be spoken to every one of us: Say not thou, what is the cause that the former dayes were 〈◊〉 better then these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning Page [unnumbered] this e. I intend not to see forth the great power and mercifull providence of God in the late seasonable Deliverance, and notable victory never to be forgotten, that being recent in your minds, and the intent of the following Sermon; We ought to be thankefull for the undenyable presence of God, to stir up our selves to take hold of him, lest he hide his face and depart from us, and to goe on here∣after with confidence in his Name against the greatest difficulties.
But when I call to minde what hath come to passe in these dayes, since the beginning of our troubles, and begin to consider the proceedings and results of Divine providence, contrary to the de∣signes and devices of the Enemies, which they cannot d•ny, and farre beyond the first intentions and particular desires of such as the Lord hath used for instruments in his work, which they do re∣verently acknowledge, I may make use of the grave and serious warning of the Apostle: Behold therefore the goodnes and se∣verity of God: on them which f•ll, severity; but towards thee, goodnes, if thou continue in his goodnes: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off f. And that we may the more value the goodnes of God to our selves, we ought the more to behold the severitie of God cutting off the pompe, the pride, the tyrannie, and power of the Enemies. I may also with him (although writing of a matter of another kinde) cry out: O the depth of the riches both of the wisedome and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are his judge∣ments, and his wayes past finding out! for who hath knowne the minde of the Lord or who hath been his Counsellour g? Not only in the matter of salvation and damnation; but in the admi∣nistrations of his providence, the Lord useth his Soveraigntie, and doth what seemeth good unto his wisedome: and although we know not the particular reason of every thing, yet this we know, whatsoever be the weaknesse of men upon the one hand, or the wic∣kednesse of men o• the other, that all things are done by him that ruleth the world, in great wisedome and Iustice, to his own glory and the good of his Church. Againe, when from my sense of my self, & of my own thoughts & wayes (which many thousands may observe, and no doubt doe observe of themselves) I begin to re∣member, how men who love to live obscurely and in the shadow, are brought forth to light, to the view and talking of the world, how men that love quietnes are made to stirre, and to have a hand Page [unnumbered] in publique busines; how men that love soliloquies and contem∣plations are brought upon debates and controversies, how men who love peace, are made to war and to shed bloud; and generally how m•n are brought to act the things, which they never determined, nor so much as dreamed of before; The words of the Prophet Je∣remie come to my remembrance: O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himselfe: it is not in man that walketh to di∣rect his steps (h): which imply the positive part: That the way of man is in the hand of God, and that the Lord directeth his steps to his owne appointed ends; according to the saying of the wise So∣lomon (whether speaking of the Decrees of God or of the word of God) There are many devices in a mans heart, neverthelesse the Counsell of the Lord, that shall stand (i). Experiments of things past, are documents of things to come. Let no man thinke himself absolute master of his own actions or wayes: When thou wast young thou girdedst thy self, and walkedst whither▪ thou wouldst: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not (k). Let no man say; I shall die in my nest, in mine owne house with my children about me and under my vvings (l). We will learne I hope by time (if wee be not unteachable) to distinguish betwixt our first and naturall will, and our second, our Spirituall, and more deliberate will; and to say: Not my will, but thy Will be done (m). The seven yeers of ensuing Providence, may carry us as far beyond the present in∣tentions, whether of the enemies of Religion, or our own, as the sea∣ven yee•s past have done, beyond our former intentions and theirs. The pulling down of Poperie in the Christian world, and the put∣ing down of Prelacie, and the supporters thereof in Britaine, are equally feasible to the Almighty, who delighteth to turn our diffi∣culties and impossibilities into the glorious demonstrations of his Divine Power, and who putteth motions into the hearts of men, which they turne into Petitions, and indeavours, and God by his Power, bringeth forth into reality and action, the conception; birth, and perfection is all from himself.
When I speake of the future, and that which afterwards may come to passe, my meaning is, not that God will alwayes, and throughout the whole work, use the same individuall instruments, Page [unnumbered] experience hath already proved the contrary: I speak of the Collective and successive body, which like a flood, runneth in a continuall course, but the severall parts passe by very quickly; Joshua must succeed to Moses, and Eliazar to Aaron, before the people of God be brought into Canaan, and others must come after them, before the Temple be builded; each one whom the Lord calleth, hath his own part. As the course of generall Providence in the World, and of speciall Providence in the Kirk, goeth on constantly, according to the Eternall Decrees of God, which men may oppose and clamour against, but can no more hinder then the rising of the Sun, and his ascending to his strength: So doth the course of particular Providence in the lives of men, which he cutteth off, or continueth at his pleasure: Nor should any man, who hath seen the beginnings of this worke, offend, or be displeased, that his days are ended, before it end▪ more then others, who shall be honoured to be the witnesses of the glo∣rious conclusion thereof, have cause to be grieved, that they have not seen, or had a hand in the beginnings of it: even as we have no more reason to be grieved, that our life lasteth not longer, then that it did not begin sooner. No man could know, but his life might have been as short in Peace, as it hath been in warre; nor was it in any mans power in the time of Peace, to choose the man∣ner of his death. It should be sufficient for us, that wee follow the calling of God, that our life is not deare to us, when he, who spa∣red not his life for us, calleth for it, that wee are ready to lay it down in his Cause, and that it shall adde to our blessednesse, if wee die not only in the Lord, but for the Lord.
Let us therefore observe the Lords Providence, admire his wisdome, & goodnesse, adore his Soveraignty and greatnesse, and cheerfully offer, and give up our selves to be disposed upon at his will, seeking his glory, and not our owne, and to approve our selves to our own consciences, and not to the world: This will make us syncere and straight in our course, when others are seeking them∣selves, quiet and secure in the midst of dangers, when others, like Magor-Missabib, have feare round about, and contented in con∣fidence* of a recompence of reward from God, against the ingrati∣tude of men, when Mercenaries have not the patience to beare it, because they served no other master, and had no other thing in their eye, but their wages: a poor compensation of their paines, Page [unnumbered] and no proportion to the adventuring of their lives. It is a freq•••• observation in history, upon a world of examples, that such as have deserved best of the publik, have met not only with priv••i•• ingratitude, but have often been recompenced evill for good▪ which hath given occasion to Politicians to enter upon the debate of two questions: One is: what can be the cause of this so universally known and confessed ingratitude, not onely from particular per∣sons, but from the publick. The other is: how it commeth to passe, that notwithstanding this knowne ingratitude, there be same found in every age and State, that are more stirred up to deserve well of the publick, nor discouraged, or deterred, by what hath befallen o∣thers before them. Concerning the first, amongst other answer• taken from that corruption, malice, and envie, which poysoneth the nature of man they alleage, that it proceedeth from covetousnesse, which maketh the publick to quarrell with them, that such may seem unworthy of reward, whose great merits they are either willing or unable to reward. The other they attribute to an hero∣ick desire of immortall praise, and a divine disposition to doe good to all. But our Profession can answere both in a word, that by a speciall providence, such as have deserved well, come short of their rewards from men, that they may learne in serving of men, to serve God, and by Faith and Hope to expect their reward from himself, and in end himself for their reward; and that notwith∣standing all the ingratitude of the world, the Lord giveth generous spirits to his servants and stirreth them up by his Spirit (the mo∣tions whereof, they neither can, nor will resist) to doe valiantly in his Cause. God hath made you a fruitfull Mother of many Sonnes, as England, France, and Ireland may this day beare witnesse. Never had your Sonnes more cause to rejoyce in their Mother; for God hath made you honourable: No• you the Mo∣ther more cause to rejoyce in your Sons; for God hath put it in their hearts, to offer themselves willingly in & for the cause of Christ. If some have proved sonnes of Beliall, void of grace and naturall affection and have provoked you to pronounce a malidiction upon them, the Grace of God which hath made the difference, is the more to be magnified; and they that stand, as they are the more to be ho∣nored, so are they warned; to take heed lest they fall.
Page [unnumbered]Two things there be chiefly, which will give you peace for the present, and through the blessing of God, will bring your troubles to a comfortable end; one is, that when yee heare of Separatists, Semi-separatists, Anabaptists, Antinomians, Libertines, Soci∣nians, and of the many sects, which Satan the father of Haeresies and Schismes, in opposition to the intended Uniformity in religion, hath raised in this Kingdome, and which no wisedome under hea∣ven is able to cure, but by setling the true government of the Kirk by Presbyteries and Synods: Yee may call to minde, and ap∣ply to your selves the wholsome Counsell of the Prophet Micah, All people will walk, every one in the Name of his God, and wee will walk in the Name of the Lord our God, for ever and ever (n); Hee will not have us to promise to our selves an universall consent in Religion through the whole earth; nor to suf∣fer our selves to be driven away by the example or sleight of men, and cunning crastinesse, whereby they lie in wait to de∣ceive (o): But will have us to walk in the Name of our God, which is nothing else but to understand, beleeve, and obey his word, by which he is knowne as by his Name; and this he will have us to doe, not for some time, but for ever and ever; and with the coun∣sell of the Prophet joyne the example of the Kirk of God, All this is come upon us, yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have wee dealt falsly in thy Covenant; our heart is not turned back, nei∣ther have our steps declined from thy way, though thou hast sore broken us in the place of Dragons, and covered us with the sha∣dow of death (p). This testimony of your uprightnesse and con∣stancy, that no trouble could move you, so much as in heart, to turne away from the way of God, will bee a well spring of com∣fort to you in all your troubles, and this comfort (I speak it to the praise of the free grace of God) belongeth unto you: for would ye have dealt falsly in the Covenant, and forsaken the truth, yee might not onely have escaped all the troubles which ye have su∣stained at home and abroad, but also have enjoyed all the Peace and plenty that the world could promise; This I speak as a naturall man, and this indeed is the iudgement of the naturall man, look∣ing no higher then this world, and the second causes: But as the Messenger of God, I may say, had yee dealt wickedly against his Covenant, and blest your selves in your owne heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walke in the imagination of mine heart, the Page [unnumbered] Lord would not have spared you, but the anger of the Lord, and his Iealousie would have smoaked against you q.
The other thing that I would to this purpose commend, is that ye would remember, that besides Haeresie, which opposeth the truth professed by the Kirk, and beside Schisme, which destroyeth the Unity of the Kirk, Profanenesse of heart and life, which is a third p•st, hath ever spoiled the holinesse of the Kirk, and is a most high provocation against the most holy Lord God, which we are all to strive against, as vvell as against Haeresie and Schisme, by joyning the povver of Godlinesse with the Profession and forme thereof r, and by holding the mystery of the Faith in a pure Consciences, which some sometime amongst you, having put away (and that with violence done to their conscience, as the Word dimporteth) concerning Faith have made shipwrackt, and have endeavoured to bring others upon the Rocks, that they might perish with them. Spirituall judgements are to be observed no lesse then temporall, both because there is more wrath in them, and they are more hardly discerned. Pelagianisme of old, and Arminianisme of late, is the just punishment of a formall Profes∣sion, Socinianisme, of the neglect of the Sonne of God, Antino∣mianisme, of turning the grace of God into wantonnesse, Ana∣baptisme, of Baptizing of Infants in private, and of the slighting of the Baptisme in publick, as if it did not concerne the whole Congregation; and Separation, of the despising of the true Government of the Kirk; so doth the Lord send strong delusions upon them that receive not the love of the truth, and take plea∣sure in unrighteousnesseu. I will not excuse the length of this Epistle, because I intended it. I am not bounded to a time in wri∣ting, as I behoved to be in Preaching. I am bold with you, be∣cause I know you. To save you from spirituall judgements, to deliver you comfortably from your present troubles, and to make you walke worthy of the grace wherein the Lord hath abourded toward you, that you fall not, and that you may be presented fault∣lesse before Christ with joy, is and shall be the humble and earnest desire, and prayer of
Your humble Servant, and obedient Son, in and for the Gospel of CHRIST.