To the Worshipful his worthy Friend Richard Foxton Esquire, one of his Majestie's Justice of Peace for the Town of Cambridg, and others my ingenuous and candid Hearers therein.
IOW you much respect as an an∣cient Imanuël-Colledg man, where (by the good hand of God upon mee) I had both my first Universi∣tie beeing, and wel-beeing; and like-wise, as an old Disciple, a great friend to the most reverend and learned Mr Perkins; yea, and as an Instrument of advancing Justice in the Common∣wealth, of encouraging Religion in the Church, and Learning in the Universitie (according to your sphere) as also my attentive and candid hearer for som years formerly in Cambridg: And I know not how better (for the present) to make any reciprocal return, then by tendering this Sermon (such as it is) to your acceptance; and hopeing that by you it Page [unnumbered] may with the more advantage bee transmitted to others in Cambridg, who are prepared to receive the love of the truth,* though delivered by mee; as also for your Soul-improvement, by raising your thoughts in your declining years to minde Eternitie.
It was the greatest part of it preached by mee at Trinitie-Church in Cambridg, Febr. 13. 1647. and I can truly say, it was both framed at first upon a sick bed, (when such thoughts are very seasonable) and preached when I was under sad symptoms of wel-nigh six months Quartane Ague. So desirous was I to pro∣mote the intended Combination for morning Ser∣mons there, which depended upon mee for the begining of it, that with apparent hazzard to my own health, (being not onely weakened by my desease, but having, upon an occasion of a Commu∣nion, preached three times within a few dayes before in Trinitie-Colledg Chappel) I adventured upon the work out of an honest intention, though I had nei∣ther consent of Friends or Physicians. Admit I were not able to carrie on or finish my discourse, as I desired, should I not rather have been pitied then bespattered, then grosly disparaged by son, and the present prevailing of my disease most shamefully mis-interpreted by others, as if this were a Judgment of God upon mee, for defending the Universitie a∣gainst Page [unnumbered] the Town; wherein they shew as little Christi∣anitie as Wisedom.
As for them, I earnestly desire they would seri∣ously consider what our Savior saith,*Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of Judgment.* And if of every idle word, then undoubtedly of every uncharitable, censorious, lying, and blasphemous word. And likewise often re∣member that of the Prophet Zacharie,*I am very sore displeased with the Heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction. When God whippe's his children, it is most unbecoming brethren to add to their stripes. Hee is no ingenuous servant that triumph's over his fellow (unless hee bee guilty of som offence) when hee is brought low before his Master.
And as for mee, I am not ashamed to bee made comformable to my head Jesus Christ, who was ac∣counted Beelzebub, the prince of devils;* and to bee re∣proached as one that was mad, which was the por∣tion of the most wise and holy Apostle Paul. Nei∣ther shall I deny that this was an humbling Provi∣dence, that such an indisposition should surprize mee then,* (though it might well bee so after a longer and stronger intention of spirits in prayer then my condition would bear) to let splenatick fumes Page [unnumbered] more prevailingly surprize mee in preaching at that time, then in any other imployment since my ague began; wherein I desire to sanctifie God's Name, by abasing my self, and exalting Him without whom wee can do nothing. I wish all may make a right interpretation of his actions which are infinitely wise, and consider that Ministers, being publick persons, as they have consolations that they may com∣fort others,* so have they many times afflictions for the edification and salvation of others:*Paul is an in∣stance of both. And they must make account they may possibly inherit the same Apostle's portion; one while possibly to bee adored, and almost sacri∣ficed unto, Act. 14, 11, 12, 13. and yet soon after to bee stoned, vers. 19.
I were very stupid, did I not observe the various aspect of divers in Cambridg-Town towards mee in som by-past years, wherein I have, and I hope still shall unchangeably endeavor to approve my self a true friend to their best good (in defiance to all un∣kindeness) and a faithful servant to their souls.* Yet, by the good hand of God upon mee, there have been withal a generation of Seekers which have cleaved unto, and with som fruitful acceptance, attended up∣on my Ministerie. I would not value personal re∣spects, in comparison of that acceptance which Page [unnumbered] hath reference unto the glory of Christ in Gospel-success.
I remember, not without thankfulness to my good God, with what welcom entertainment ma∣ny entertained my weak and plain preaching here in former years,* when I was your preacher at An∣drew's. I hope I shall never forget how much of God's goodness I found amongst you both in his assistance and your acceptance in the great plague;* (hee can make by his presence a Wilderness prove a Para∣dise) neither must I pass by with what readiness of minde you attended upon my occasional ministerie in 1643, when Providence cast mee for som time amongst you, the sons of violence having forced mee from the place I then had in North-Hampton-shire.*
But whence is this Eclipse? whence this black cloud? (God and som mens conscience know) which I doubt not but it will soon vanish, as A∣thanasius said of Arrius.* Shall I trust God for my soul, and not for my reputation, for a crown, and not for a crust?
It was indeed my portion to bee involved in those unhappy differences between the Universitie and Town of Cambridg, about their Priviledges, when I had the honor to serve them as Vice-Chancellor. Is that a suffi∣cient ground of such an unkinde alteration, that they Page [unnumbered] calumniate and traduce the Innocent thereupon? Alas! poor Universitie, how hast thou offended the Town of Cambridg which live's so much upon thee? (as by woful complaints appear's when a great plague scatter's the scholars) that as of old it was in Tertullian's time, a crime to bee a Christian: so it's now little less (amongst som for want of Chri∣stian charity) to bee an engaged Universitie-man, and to stand for that, though hee bee obliged thereunto by the Rules of Ingenuitie and Conscience.
I do heartily wish, where our priviledges are not subservient to the publick good, they were regulated and bounded by those who have power as our competent Judges; but neither Universitie nor Town must bee Judges in their own case. Wee cannot give them away, they must not take them away, till the Parlia∣ment (to whom wee have appealed) do determine the controversie. In the mean while, till they can have leisure to minde it, why should it bee offensive for us to act soberly, according to that which the Univer∣sitie hath been so long invested with, by the donation of Princes, confirmation of Parliaments, or by a volunta∣ry composition betwixt both Corporations.
Certainly, this is no sufficient ground for such passionate unchristian invectives, whereby they fret themselves to do evil,* gratifie him who is the Accuser of Page [unnumbered] the Brethren,* and the father of lyes. Were it my porti∣on onely to bee thus injured,* I should suspect my self; but my reverend Brethren, who deserve much better then I can, fare as ill from som, when one of them lately was forced by a violet fit of an ague, be∣ing preaching at the Universitie-Church, to break off not long after hee began; it would make one tremble to hear what language was spoken thereupon a∣aginst him, for the holy hand of God upon him, which might have befallen an Apostle; and against others of us engaged as Masters of Colledges with him.
O that I knew what language to speak, to win them to terms of amitie with the Universitie: Surely the Devil get's much advantage by these diffe∣rences; they are most unhappy Instruments who ever do enflame them, whether Universitie or Towns∣men.* Is not this sad, that men, whose ministerie they have valued, that they can scarce bring off your spirits to hear them preach. This is the devil's plot, in fomenting those prejudices to hinder the good of their souls, and the spreading of the Gospel. Herein mistake mee not, I do not complain for want of Auditors. Yet it grieve's mee to see som of more eminent abilities, whose gifts were formerly highly valued, now to bee sleighted, because engaged in Universitie-employment, as Masters of Colledges.
Page [unnumbered] Yet, what ever som think of mee, and how un∣kindely soever they have dealt with mee, I will ap∣ply my self to you (whose Christian candor, and Gospel-ingenuitie, I have had som years experience of) not without respect to their good, who wish mee none. I doubt not but you will bear my wonted plainness I can give you no more real testimonie of my cordial love unto you, then by suggesting som few things, which, by God's blessing, may ad∣vance the good of your souls.
[ 1] I will begin with your dutie towards God,* who is our Alpha, and Omega; our first cause, and last end: as all the good wee receive is derived from him,* so all the good wee receive must bee resolved unto him.*Trust in the Lord with all your hearts, and lean not to your understanding: In all your waies acknowledg him, and hee will direct your paths.
[ 2] Acquaint your selvs more and more with wor∣shipping him purely, according to his will. I doubt Cam∣bridg hath been too patient (I mean the Saints there) of sinful mixtures, not mindeing sufficiently the simplicitie that is in Christ.* If you would have much of the presence of Christ, love purity, hee walketh in the middest of the golden candlesticks;* expect much of the presence of his Spirit, where there are pure golden Ordinances.
Page [unnumbered] Let the Ministerie of the Gospel bee more precious unto you, [ 3] receive the love of the truth, and attend upon preaching without respect of persons. Do not yee blush to remember, that when the truly Noble Earle of Manchester had picked a choice combination of most able Ministers out of the Country, that they should ride a dozen or twentie miles to preach a Ser∣mon to you, and somtimes so few hearers that they were discouraged to preach? What ever you say or think of Scholars, did not they help to fill up Assemblies, there would bee thin Auditories at week dayes Lectures. Remember (I pray) our Savior's words, Hee that heareth you,*heareth mee, and hee that despiseth you, despiseth mee, and hee that despiseth mee, de∣spiseth him that sent mee.
Maintain Christian Communion, whereby you may [ 4] joyn your gifts, experiences and prayers. O the ami∣able beauty of the spirits of primitive saints, who did so sweetly close,* as, They continued stedfastly in the Apostles doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and prayers.
I can remember, when, in the most corrupt and dangerous times, som of you would adventure even your all, (so destructive was then the high Com∣mission Court) to enjoy a praying-day together; Page [unnumbered] what hath now deaded your spirits, that now these things are so much neglected?
Is there not as much need as ever? Doth not the Churches exigents bespeak your wrestling importunities at the throne of grace.
Chide your selves, and one another out of this dulness, or disjointing, and labor to remove the obstructions what ever they are. Often remember their pra∣ctice, when one Apostle was in prison (wee have many in persecution) instant prayer was made for him by the Church,* they prayed earnestly, and sped succesfully.
[ 5] Yet, in your Christian communion, act soberly, and with a godly prudence. There are that admit young Scholars into fellowship with them in private duties, or rather into publick: I dislike it not, that any Saints joyn to provoke one another to love and good works.* But do not encourage them to do any thing be∣yond the proportion of their gifts, and without a call from God. Far bee it from mee to snib the movings of God's Spirit in the weakest and meanest of his Saints. I desire to live no longer then I cherish the least good in any, if indeed it bee good duly cir∣cumstantiated.
I know the direction Peter give's,*Use hospitali∣tie Page [unnumbered] one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God, (which is a place they alledg for that purpose.) But,
1. It may bee this grace here mentioned, is chiefly the grace of Bountie.
2. If it bee meant of spiritual gifts and graces, and their exercise in prophesying, I grant, in Ecclesiâ consti∣tuendâ, in a Church to bee constituted, occasionally, especially when upon triall by competent Judges of their abilities for the ministerie, (with learned Dr Ames) somthing may bee don that way,*sine singulari voca∣tione, without a singular call. But that the admiration of som few ignorant (though honest) women, who judg much by quick expressions; (which are often beyond the experience and judgment of the spea∣ker himself, being borrowed rather from others) or that one young scholar applauding of another, should bee the call of Christ, I am not yet satisfied; but shall welcom any light that shall clear up any truth of Christ, though never so much against my pre∣sent opinion. I do not lay the strength of a Mini∣ster's call upon a Prelate's blessing of him; nor upon a concurrence of all external circumstances and formalitie;* (though I heartily love and desire order in the Churches) neither must any judg of their call by Page [unnumbered] their assistance. Many dear Saints call that a spiritual desertion of God in prayer, which is rather som darkness by the clouding of Melancholie. Other Novices account that assistance from God in preaching oftentimes, which is ra∣ther heat of phansie, som warmth by applause, mixed indeed with som stirring affections.
[ 6] Bee whetstones to sharpen one another to raise som monument of your thanksgiving and thanksdoing, for God's distinguishing goodness to Cambridg. When other parts of the Kingdom were steeped in blood, you were drie; when destroying Angels swept away many in other places, you were but scratched. O never let it bee forgotten how God snatched Cam∣bridge out of the fire, in staying the plague these two last years; should not you now provoke your Magi∣strates more to minde the sanctifying the Lord's day, to restrain by their power those profane pollutions which cry for another more sweeping plague? Because they may not do all, but the Universitie must share in power, therefore will they do nothing? This, I doubt will bee no satisfying answer, when the Lord shall say to a Magistrate, Give an account of thy stewardship.*
I could likewise wish there were a greater har∣monie of Judgments amongst you; however let not dif∣ference of opinions breed difference of affections.Page [unnumbered] Love the meanest Saints more for that of God you see in them, then you neglect them for what they differ from you that is not sinful. Convers meekly together, (di∣stance encreaseth difference) you may possibly sa∣tisfie one another. As long as wee nourish prejudices, and take it for granted, there is no possibilitie of re∣conciliation, the devil blow's the coal more, and exaspe∣rate's the flame, till (it may bee) men bite and devour one anothers names and reputations; at least, do not suddenly excommunicate all you account carnal;* for Re∣probates, though you cannot embrace them with a love of Complacencie, yet must you with a love of Pi∣tie; there is not onely Brotherly kindness,* but Cha∣ritie: so will you commend Religion to them who judg more of it by what they see, then by what they heare.
Finally, as for my self, when they speak evil of mee,*I will satisfie my self with that of the ancient Writer, If the things thou producest bee true, thou hast not hurt but ad∣vantaged mee, whilest thou by reproving faults, may'st pro∣cure reformation: if they bee fals, thou do'st more advan∣tage mee; for thou makest mee more watchful to abstain, not onely from such actions, but even from such thoughts; onely, the more vigilant others are over mee, pray the more for mee,*because of my observers. I must say with the Father, I thank as wel God for the crueltie of my Page [unnumbered] Adversaries, as the love of Friends. It hath been my por∣tion to suffer much by tongues amongst you, since my being Vice-Chancellor, and to receive more unkinde and unjust censures from som of Cam∣bridg, then ever in all my life before; (my comfort is they are but few, and men whose interest was crossed, and therefore Self will bee angry, and re∣venge often, though never so injuriously) yet no∣thing shall it discourage mee from serving your and their souls. Let them mis-interpret the hand of God upon mee in my sickness, and the effects thereof; yet when ever God please's to restore my bodily health, by preaching to promote the health of their souls: I will beg by prayer the best good from God for them, who cannot speak a good word of mee be∣fore men. I had enemies enough because I appeared for Reformation, which I would not decline (if I know my heart) out of love to my God, though I had not been (as I am) under the bond of a solemn Cove∣nant obliging mee thereunto. When the competition comes between God's will and man's, Peter hath taught how to resolve, Act. 4. 19. yea, that heroical Heathen Socrates,* (which may make us blush) be∣ing accused, said, If upon such conditions (they being dishonorable) you Athenians will absolve mee, I embrance you, I love you well, yet I will rather obey God then you.
Page [unnumbered] None need (especially not such as I think fear God) express more passion, because I would not, contrary to my oath betray (which it may bee they expected from mee, having been their preacher, with more acceptance formerly then it is fit for mee to mention) priviledges with which I was betrusted as Vice-Chancellor, lifting up my hand to the most high, that I would maintain the statutes (which include's them) so far as they were agreeable to the Statutes and Or∣dinances of the Kingdom which are or shall bee extant. If the Parliament had altered them, or when they shall please to bound them any way, the matter of my oath being taken away, I am at libertie. In the mean while, why may not the Vice-Chancellor act for the Universitie, as well as Mr Major for the Town of Cambridg, in pursuance of his Oath? The Mighty God of Peace, dry up the spring of these most unhappy and unseasonable differences, when there are so many dissensions abroad; which shall bee my prayer and endeavor till the Lord please to accom∣plish it.
If I must still suffer under the uncharitableness of a∣ny, I shall desire to kiss the rod of my Heavenly Fa∣ther,* who hath appointed it in this place where hee hath been good unto mee; and earnestly labor, that overcoming my self,* I may overcom evil with good, and Page [unnumbered] not suffer my self to bee overcom of evil, that in so do∣ing, I may heap coals of fire upon their head, not to destroy them by burning,* but coals of charitie to melt them, and so mould them into an unfeigned love of all the Brethren who love the Lord Jesus Christ sincerely.
If this prevail not, I will make use of Paul's so∣veraign cordial, Rejoycing in the Testimonie of my con∣science, that in simplicitie and godly sinceritie, and not in fleshly wisedom, but by the grace of God I have had my conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you∣wards.
Trin. Col. Camb. June the 7th 1648.
Yours in the Gospel of Christ Jesus, Thomas Hill.