MEROZ Cursed, OR, A SERMON PREACHED To the Honourable House OF COMMONS, At their late Solemn FAST, Febr. 23. 1641 By STEPHEN MARSHALL, B. D. Minister of Finchingfitld in Essex. Published by order of that House.
PSALM. 122. Vers. 6, & 9.
LONDON, Printed by R. BADGER, for Samuel Gellibrand, at the Brasen Serpent in St. Pauls Church yard. 1641.
TO THE Honourable HOUSE of COMMONS. Now ASSEMBLED in PARLIAMENT.
IT is fit my obedience should last as long as your commands, for so I have alwayes interpreted your Requests and desires to be. As I never had the confidence to pre∣sent you with any thing proper∣ly mine, so neither will I bee guilty of that Injustice, as to deny you any thing so truly your own, as is this fruit of my poore yet willing endeavours. It is yours truly, but most princi∣pally Page [unnumbered] the Churches, whose both you, and I, and all that you can doe, or I speak, are. If it may be serviceable to you, and you by it made more serviceable to the Church and cause of God, I have my option. But I am resolved not to make that use of my experience of your patience in hearing the Sermon, as to try it further with the length of a Dedication: Only I thinke it my dutie to second my propositi∣on with my prayers, That God would vouchsafe a blessing to your endeavours for his Church, and to you for your endea∣vours. These shall be the con∣stant and earnest desires of
Your Servant Stephen Marshall.
A SERMON PREACHED At the late FAST BEFORE The COMMONS HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT.
IUDGES V. XXIII.
RIght Honourable and beloved,* it hath been a custome almost amongst all Nations, after any notable Victory, to have their 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, their Trium∣phant Songs, wherein the illustri∣ous acts of their owne worthy Leaders, and the Page 2 shame and confusion of their enemies were cele∣brated, preserved and so delivered over to poste∣rity. The Romans had their Salii Priests, who af∣ter any victory went dancing through the City, singing their Hymes, and Paeans to Mars, and the rest of the favourable Gods. And the Grecians, sometimes in Verses, sometimes by Sculpture, used to set forth their famous Battels and Victories, yet alwayes attributing the highest glory of all to their Gods, who• they supposed to bee present with them, Protectors over them, and fighters for them. This course, I thinke, the Devill learned from the Lord Jehovah's dealing with his owne people, who alwayes directeth them thus to cele∣brate his noble acts, and their great deliverances. Thus Moses and Aaron sang unto the Lord, when he triumphed gloriously over Pharaoh and all his Host,*making them sinke like a stone to the bottome of the Red Sea. Thus the women in their song and dance celebrated their victory over the Phi∣listims.* And this whole Chapter is nothing but a Triumphant song, setting forth in an elegant and lofty verse, the great Victory which Barak and Deborah and a small army with them had gotten, (the Lord marching before them) against King Jabin and his Generall Sisera,*who for twenty yeares had mightily oppressed the children of Israel.
In which song, First, all prayse and glory is given to Jehovah the Lord of hoasts the Prince who lead them, by whose strength alone the victory was obtained. Prayse yee the Lord for the avenging of Israel. I will sing unto the Lord. Lord when thou wentest out of Seir, &c. Then the Song descends Page 3 to the due praises of their generall Barak, and his assistant Deborah, yea the severall Regiments and Companies both of Horse and Foot doe receive the praise and reward of their courage and valour. And not only so, but the Song proceeds to Stig∣matize and brand with reproach, and marke out for punishment all such companies, as had played either the Traitours or the Cowards, or were o∣therwise wanting to their duty in this great ex∣pedition. Reuben had other Sheepe to turne. hee tarried amongst his Sheepfolds to heare the bleating of his flocke.*Gilead durst not crosse the Water: Dan cowardly withdrew into his Ships: Ashur durst not come from his owne coasts. God takes no∣tice and remembers them all, and lets them know he had great thoughts of heart about it, and in time would reckon with them for it.
But above all his wrath was most incensed a∣gainst Meroz,* a people of whom wee finde no mention in the whole Booke of God, nor I thinke in any other Story, but onely in this place, upon this unhappy occasion, you can know no more of them than what this place tels you: and these few reliques of them, remaine as the lake of Sodome as a mounment of their sin, or as a Mast of a Ship swallowed up in the quicksand, to warne passen∣gers to take heed of that dangerous place: or as Lots Wife turned into a Pillar of Salt, to season others. This their short Chronicle I may call their Grave-stone, which seemes to hold out such an inscription, as they say Sennacharibs Tomb had, Looke upon me, and learne to be godly. So theirs, Looke upon mee, and learne your owne duty, Page 4Looke upon me, and take heed of disserting the cause and Church of God, when they stand in neede of you.
A Text and Theme exceeding seasonable.* Season∣able to the times wherein we live, when abundance of mighty enemies rise up against the Lord, and a∣gainst his Church. Seasonable to the temper of most people who generally minde their owne things,* and not the things of Christ. Seasonable to the oc∣casion of this dayes meeting, which is purposely for the helpe of the Lord, and his cause, and peo∣ple now distressed in Ireland. But to me it seemes most of all seasonable for this present honourable As∣sembly who all should be as the Lord: their Horses as his Horses, their Chariots as his Chariots, they being all called to bee Leaders and Captaines of the Lords Host. The Lord make it but as profitable, as I am sure it is seasonable, and I doubt not but we shall be exceeding gainers by it.
In this Text which I may call the doome of Me∣roz,* there are these two things.
First, the Author of the doome or sentence, the Angell of the Lord. Curse yee Meroz said the Angell of the Lord.
Secondly, the Sentence given against them: Curse ye Meroz, &c.
Wherein likewise consider these two things.
First, What their fault was.
Secondly, What their punishment was.
Their Fault yee have in these words, They came not out to the helpe of the Lord, to the helpe of the Lord against the mighty.
Their Punishment was a curse, and a bitter one: Page 5Curse ye Meroz, Curse yee bitterly, or (as the word signifies) in cursing, curse the inhabitants of Meroz, continue to curse them, vehemently curse them, never leave cursing them.
I shall briefly interpret the words,* and so pro∣ceede (with Gods assistance) to some profitable instructions.
First, the Angell of the Lord. I finde great difference among Interpreters, who this Angell of the Lord should be. Some thinke it was De∣borah the Prophetesse who penned this Song. Some thinke Barak the Generall was likewise at this time inspired by the Holy Ghost. Some thinke it was the Angell that led them, Michael their Prince who went out with them. Some thinke the Angell of the Lord, signifies all that have Divine inspira∣tion, but all agree in the intent of it, namely, that the Author is alledged, that all might know that this curse came not from the private Spirit of De∣borah or Barak (as Sauls once did,* when he cursed every one that shall taste any meate untill the e∣vening, that he might be avenged on his enemies) but was pronounced by the direction of God him∣selfe, and so consequently, they who are thus cur∣sed are cursed indeed, The Angell of the Lord, that is divine Authority.
2. Meroz. Who was Meroz, and what people were they? I could never learne whether Meroz were a City or a Province, few or many, rich or poore, weake or strong; in this all agree that they were Jewes; the Canaanites should not have been cursed for not joyning with Israel, in their warres. All likewise agree, that they dwelt neere Mount Page 6Tabor and the River Kison, the place where this battle was fought, and so consequently neere the danger: and in all probability were called by De∣borah and Barak to come and assist them. Which is likewise judged to be the cause, why they had a heavier doome than any other. God can∣not abide to have such ill neighbours to his peo∣ple when they are in distresse.
3. Curse them. The word signifies, Male∣d•cere verbo, malefacere re, to speake evill of them, to revile them, to reproach them and wish mischiefe to them, to doe any evill against them, to execute in deed, what they would wish in words. What the particular Curse was, or what the event of it was, no man can determine; this I finde, which is most probable, It was ordinari∣ly observed among the Iewes, that whatsoever was justly cursed grew unfruitfull presently. If a Woman were cursed shee proved barren. If the Earth were cursed, it brought forth Briars and Thornes, no profitable Seed or Plants would grow there. If Trees were cursed they withered away. If Gods curse fell upon Houses or Cities, the Walles and Foundations would fall downe. Gods curse alwayes wasted that which it fell. So in all likelyhood this curse is the cause wee never read more of them. If they were a Province, their Land proved a desolate Wildernesse. If a City it was destroyed, or grew unpeopled: this bitter curse like the Water of Jelousie made an end of them.*
4. They came not to the helpe of the Lord a∣gainst the Mighty, Who are these Mighty?Page 7 Without all question by the mighty are litterally meant King Iabin, and his Generall Sisera, because these were those potent enemies, against whom the battell was fought. But in Gods intent (this being a propheticall Song) the mighty are all, of what ranke or quality soever, who are eminent in wisdome, strength, authority or riches, and man∣nage an ill cause against the Lord or against his Church.
Lastly, they came not out to the helpe of the Lord by the helpe of the Lord you will easily con∣clude, that in this particular, the helpe of Deborah and Barak are meant. They came not to joyne with the Tribes of Zabulon and Nepthaly, and that small handfull of Israelites who by Gods direction un∣dertooke this battell against the great Captaine Si∣sera. Because they joyned not their strength with Gods people, they are judged not to help the Lord. For (as I shall shew anon) the Lord and his People are so conjoyned, that their friends are his friends, and their enemies are his enemies, and whosoever helpes not them, are interpreted to refuse to assist the Lord himselfe. I know nothing else in the Text, that hath the least shew of diffi∣culty.
Were this Text to bee handled at large in many Sermons, such Observations as these could not briefly be passed over: as first,
That although Gods people must (〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉) blesse, blesse I say, and not curse. Curses are edged tooles, dangerous to be medled with, yet there may fall out such cases, that Gods blessed servants must come downe from Mount Gerizim, the Page 8 Mount of blessing; and go up on Mount Ebal, the Mount of Cursing; and there curse, and curse bitterly. Curse yee Meroz said the Angell of the Lord.
Secondly, That although it bee true that the curse causelesse shall not come, yet when Gods people according to Gods direction, (clave non er∣rante) do curse, their curse is like the flying Roule which we read of,*it consumes the house it lights up∣on, the timber thereof, and the stones thereof. It is like the Wolfes foot, of which they say, that no herbe upon which it hath once trod will grow af∣terwards.
Thirdly, That the mighty do frequently op∣pose the Lord: it is no new thing to finde the Mighty in strength, the Mighty in authority, the Mighty in wealth, the Mighty in parts, in Learn∣ing, in Counsell, to engage all against the Lord, his Church, and Cause. The Lambes followers and servants, are often the poore and off-scouring of the World,* when Kings, and Captaines, Mer∣chants, and Wisemen, being drunke with the Wine of the Whores fornications, proceed to make warre with the Lambe, and to give all their strength unto the Beast, till the Words of God shall be fulfilled.
Fourthly, That when the mighty of the World do oppose the Lord, Gods meanest servants must not be afraid to oppose the Mighty.
And fifthly, That whosoever come out to joyn their strength, and to give assistance to the Lords people, the Lord doth interpret them all to give helpe and assistance to himselfe.
Page 9 But because my Discourse upon this Text, in this place must be hedg'd into one Sermon, I may not let it out into such a spacious field. I shall passe by all these and many other seasonable truths, which in this Text are obvious to all your eyes, and betake my selfe to cleare one lesson only; which you will quickly see to be the maine scope and intent, not only of this verse, but of the greatest part of this Chapter, and most sea∣sonable for these times, for this Assembly and occasi∣on,*viz.
I beseech you see how cleare this is,* not only in this verse (God laid nothing else to Meroz charge but only this, they came not out to help the Lord against the mighty) but in other passages of this Chapter.*My heart is toward the Governors of Israel, that offered them∣selves willingly among the people. Hallelujah, Praise the Lord.* They are not so much as named without an Euge. The Princes of Issachar are blessed for being with Barak. Zebulun and Nepthali were a people that jeo∣parded their lives to the death in the high places of the field. These are blessed also. Blessed above women was Iael the wife of Heber the Kenite.* What made Jael such a blessed woman?* Even this, she put her hand to the naile, and her right hand to the workmans hammer, and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and smitten through his temples. On the other side see the displeasure that there is against the Tribes who came not out to helpe in this expedition. Ruben had busi∣nesse of his own, his flocks were to be attended. Gilead could plead that the River Jordan divided him, from Page 10Barak and his company:*Asher had his own breaches to make up, and the Sea coasts to looke to. A man might think, these were faire excuses. But God had great thoughts of heart against them all. And wo to him, or them, against whom God hath great thoughts. The whole Chapter runs in this straine, they are cryed up, they are honoured and blessed: not only the heart of Gods people, but the soule of God himselfe (as I may say) tooke pleasure in them, who appeared on the Churches side; his displeasure, indignation, wrath and curse did rise against all, who came not to the helpe.
This is most plaine in many other Scriptures. I shall cull out but three among three hundred, Jer. 48. 10. That whole Chapter containes the doome of Mo∣ab.* Gods curse was now to be executed upon Moab, and you may read of Moab, that the Lord once sent to him when his people were in distresse.*Let my out∣casts divell with thee Moab, be thou a shelter to them in the time of a storme. But Moab was too proud to listen to Gods counsell. Moab was alwaies an ill enemy to Israel. Now God comes to reckon with him for it. Now the spoyler shall come upon all his Cities. And to them who were to execute this vengeance of God against them, marke what a charge is given in the tenth verse, Cursed is he that doth the worke of the Lord negligently, or fraudulently, or deceitfully, as the word signifies; Now what was the worke which was to be done? the next words will tell you, Cursed is e∣very one that withholds his hand from shedding of bloud: the strangest reason of a curse that ever was read of, if ever a man might have pleaded (with Peter when the voice said unto him. Arise Peter kill and eate) not so Page 11 Lord.* I have not beene accustomed to this, here were roome for such a plea, when his worke was to go and embrew his hands in the bloud of men, to spill and powre out the bloud of women and children, like wa∣ter in every street. But he is a cursed man that with∣holds his hand from this, or that shall do it fraudulent∣ly, that is, if he do it as Saul did against the Amalekites, kill some and save some, if he go not through with the work: he is a cursed man, when this is to be done upon Moab the enemy of Gods-Church. So that whatsoe∣ver imployment men are put to, they are cursed men, that take not part with God in his worke. Another place you shall find in Psal. 137. v. 8, 9. The daughter of Babylon was there to be destroyed, observe now the epithete which God gives to the executioners of his wrath against Babylon. Blessed is the man that rewar∣deth thee, as thou hast served us. Blessed is the man that makes Babylon drinke the same cup, which Babylon had made Gods people to drinke. Now he that reades the booke of the Lamentations, may finde how Babylon had used the Church of God, they had broken their bones as a Lion breakes the bones of a Lamb, brought their necks under persecution, made their skin blacke like an oven, hang'd up their Princes by the hand, and which is most of all cruell, had dashed their children against the stones. Now saith the Spirit of God, Bles∣sed is the man, that thus rewards Babylon, yea, blessed is the man that takes their little ones and dashes them against the stones. What Souldiers heart would not start at this, not only when he is in hot bloud to cut downe armed enemies in the field, but afterward deliberately to come into a subdued City, and take the little ones upon the speares point, to take them by the heeles and Page 12 beat out their braines against the walles, what inhuma∣nity and barbarousnesse would this be thought? Yet if this worke be to revenge Gods Church against Ba∣bylon, he is a blessed man that takes and dashes the little ones against the stones.
But there is one Text of Scripture (if no other were to be found in the whole booke of God) which is a sufficient proofe that all are blessed or cursed, accor∣ding as they doe or doe not helpe the Church of God in their need: and that you shall finde, Matth. 25. 33. &c. The summe whereof in a few words is this, At the latter end of that Chapter is a description of the day of judgement, and of the manner of Christs proceeding at that day. First, that when Jesus Christ shall come in the glory of his Father, he will divide all the godly to the right hand, and all the wicked to the left hand, as the Shepheard divides the Sheep from the Goates. Secondly, he pronounces all on his right hand blessed, all upon the left hand cursed: Come yee blessed, goe ye cursed. Here are all the blessed, and there are all the cursed. Marke now what is assigned as the on∣ly reason and evidence why the one sort are blessed, and the other cursed. It is most plaine in the Scripture, that at that day the Lord will call people to an ac∣count for all they have done in their whole course, whe∣ther good or evill: but in this place, Christ gathers all that shall be opened and come to receive blessing or curs∣ing, reward or punishment to this one head, according as they did or did not helpe and succour his Church and people in their time of need. To, the one side, Come yee blessed, receive the Kingdome prepared for you, for you vi∣sited my Church when it was sicke, you gave meale to my Church when it was hungry, you gave my people Page 13 drinke when they were thirsty, you tooke them in when they were strangers, you cloathed them when they were na∣ked, you came to them when they were in prison: Inasmuch as you have done it unto these, even unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me. On the other side, Go ye cursed▪ Why are they cursed? I was hungry and ye gave me no meat, I was thirsty and ye gave me no drink, I was a stranger and ye took me not in, naked and you cloath∣ed me not, sick and in prison and ye visited me not: Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as you did it not unto the least of of one of these, ye did it not to me. As if the Lord at that great day did take notice of nothing, but what the car∣riage of all people hath been to or against his Church and children. What greater evidence can there be in the world, that men are blessed or cursed, than this? that they either do, or do not help the Church of God.
This will yet be clearer if we consider the Church,* First, as it stands in relation to God. Secondly, as we stand in relation to the Church.
First,* as the Church stands in relation to God: when I speake of God in relation to the Church, or the Church to God; you must alwayes under∣stand God in Christ,*Emanuel. God is in Christ reconci∣ling the world unto himselfe. And thus the Churches relation to God, gives us two excellent grounds of this doctrine.
First, the Church and the meanest member of it is united to him, made one with him, they are not only his servants, his friends, such as he loves, but he and they make but one person, I meane one mysticall person. Insomuch that throughout the whole Scripture he that blesseth them blesseth him, he that curseth them curseth him, he that relieveth them relieveth him, he that Page 14 fights against them fights against him,* he that touches them touches the Apple of his eye, all the re∣lations which argue intimacy, tendernesse and deare∣nesse, meete in this conjunction betwixt God and his Church, he is their Father they are his children, he is their head, they are his members, he is their husband, they are his wife, yea they are called by his name and he vouchsafes to be called by their name. Take but this for granted, and you will make no doubt, but all men are blessed or cursed, as they do or do not help the Lord. The Lord Jehovah is the fountaine of all blessednesse more than the Sunne is the fountaine of light, from his favour and good will necessarily flows all happinesse, and consequently all are blessed or cur∣sed, according as the aspect betweene God and them is malignant or benevolent. This ground is fully laid downe in that forementioned placed, Matthew 25. You did it to them, therefore you did it to me, you refused it to them, therefore you refused it to me. It is clearely there taught, but I believe there is no man on earth that un∣derstands it, or believes it fully. And that very Text gives me a hint to thinke so. Because the very righte∣ous themselves, though they do all to the Saints out of the good will they beare to Christ, yet when Christ shall acknowledge this and say, Come ye blessed, you fed me, you cloathed me, you visited me, They shall answer, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or thirsty, or a stran∣ger, or naked, or sicke, or in prison and administred unto thee? It shews that themselvs did not fully understand how neare they were to Christ for whom they did all these things. I have somewhere read a story of a Sarazen Embassador, who being with a Christian Prince, and seeing Nobles and great men to wait upon Page 15 him,* and the Prince himselfe to waite upon a Table full of poore ragged people, desired to know what they were, to whom he shewed so much respect, he answered to this effect, they were the servants of his Lord, and that he served his Saviour in them. Well said the Embassador, if your Lord have no bet∣ter servants than these, I desire to be none of them. I care not for your Religion. And truly it is a hard thing to perswade not only Sarazens but even Christi∣ans themselves, that whatsoever is done to poore ab∣jects, the off-scouring of the world should be done to Christ himselfe. No earthly Prince would do so, equally to accept and reward him, that should give a nights lodging or any succour to one of his meanest and basest groomes, as if it had beene done to the per∣son of himselfe or of his son. Yet this is the very case betwixt Christ and his Church.
Secondly, another ground from the Churches re∣lation to God, is this, that as their persons are neerely united to him, so their cause is his cause. As they ac∣count every cause of God to be their cause, so God accounts every cause of theirs to be his cause,* 2 Chro. 20. Moab and Ammon and they of Mount Seir, came with a huge army against Jehoshaphat, hee and his people being suddenly surprised betake them∣selves to prayer, and seeke helpe from God: Now marke what Gods answer was,*Be not you afraid nor dismaied by reason of this great multitude, the battell is not yours but Gods. Was not the battell theirs, all they were worth lay upon that battell, their wives and children, their lives and liberties, their countrey and religion, lay all at the stake, and yet the battell none of theirs, that is, not so much theirs as Gods, so in Page 16 the 74. Psalm. When Asaph had laid down all the Churches sufferings, the pulling down of their Syna∣gogues, the wasting of their Countrey, the reproach and scorn cast upon them by their enemies,* he interests God in all this, Arise O God, plead thine own cause, remem∣ber how the foolish man reproacheth thee, forget not the voyce of thine enemies. Thus is their cause Gods cause, their enemies Gods enemies: and indeed, if we look in∣to it narrowly, whatsoever is done to them and their cause, good or evill, is done for Gods sake. This then is a strong argument to prove men blessed or cursed, ac∣cording as they joyn with, or oppose the cause of God. Because first, if it be Gods cause, it is a good cause. Se∣condly, it is a noble cause. Thirdly, it is a successefull cause.
First, I say it is a good cause. The just Lord that is in the midst of his Church will do no iniquity.*The righteous Lord loveth righteousnesse.* Now you know it is a bles∣sed thing to have a good cause,* though it be a meane cause.*David often pleaded this before God, that his cause was just, his cause was upright. Let them shout for joy, that favour my righteous cause. And on the other side it must needs be a cursed thing to manage a cursed cause: when David's cause was good, his adversaries must needs bee evill, and then he could foretell that they should be ashamed and brought to confu∣sion,*clothed with reproach and dishonour who opposed themselves against him.
Secondly,* being Gods cause, it is a noble cause: a man may possibly among men have a good cause and the thing but a trifle, a thing of no great consequence: but if it be Gods cause, let it appeare never so contem∣ptible, it is subservient to the highest end, that can pos∣sibly Page 17 be thought of.* The salvation of soules, the glory of God, &c. Honour uses to put men upon hard and desperate services, men will runne, wrestle, fight for a crowne,* though but a corruptible crowne. There is com∣fort in doing good to one, but to advance the good of many, especially of the Church of God, how honou∣rable, how glorious is it?
Thirdly,* Gods cause is a successefull cause, no weapon can prosper that is formed against it,*and every tongue that rises up in judgement against it shall be condemned. The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.* This Gamaliel saw, when he advised the councell of the high Priests, and Pharisees, and Rulers, to refrain from opposing the A∣postles, If this work be of men it will come to nought, but if it be of God ye cannot overthrow it, it is in vaine to fight against God. Since then the Churches cause is Gods cause, and consequently a good cause, a noble and succes∣ful cause, you may easily hence conclude the happinesse that accompanies the promoting of it. And on the contrary as easily discern, how cursed a thing it is, not only to undergo the disgrace of mannaging a wicked and base enterprise, but to fail of that which wicked men use to cherish themselves with, the hopes of the comfort of reward and obtaining their desires.
Secondly,* consider our relation to the Church. And that affords three other excellent arguments to prove men blessed or cursed, according as they help or help not the Church of God.
First, whatsoever abilities any man enjoyes, where∣with he may any wayes be usefull,* they are all gi∣ven him to this very end, to make him serviceable to the Church. All the manifestations of the spirit are given to profit withall.* All the gifts which Christ powred out Page 18 when he ascended up on high, are for the perfecting of the Saints, and the building up of the body of Christ. As e∣very one hath received a gift, so let him minister, as good stewards of the manifold graces of God.* The Church is the common storehouse to which all our wealth must be carried.*Salus Ecclesiae suprema lex. Which being so, the happinesse of every thing being the attaining of the end for which it was appointed, and the curse of it the perverting of it to a wrong end, they must needs be blessed who serve the Church, and he must needs be cursed that deprives the Church of its own due. Salomon saith, that he that withholds corne in a time of fa∣mine,*the people shall curse him, though it were his owne corne, but suppose a man had the keeping of the pro∣vision of the whole town corne, which were none of his owne, he only intrusted with the keyes of it, and should let the people starve for want of that food▪ which he should keepe purposely for them: or that a man had the keeping of a Magazen for an Army to furnish them with what might make them victorious, and their safety and victory hazzarded, if not lost through his default, were not this man a villaine and a traitor to his country?
Secondly,* Consider how neare the relation is be∣twixt the Church and us, (except we be of the malig∣nant Church, of the Dragons army, and then no more need be said to prove men cursed.) The Church is our Mother, and all the Saints are our Brethren, a Relation which all Lawes of God and man do fasten duty up∣on.*The eye that mocketh at his father or despiseth to obey his mother,*the Ravens of the vally shall picke it out, and the young Eagles shall eate it. Paul thought he did no more than his duty, when he had great heavines and continuall Page 19 sorrow in his heart, and could wish himselfe accursed from Christ for his Brethren his kinsmen, who were Israelites.
Thirdly, All our own blessednesse stands or falls with the blessednesse of the Church.* The Church is such a corporation or mysticall body, as hath in it all the properties of a naturall body wherein no members can be happy in an abstracted sense,* but as parts con∣joyned with the whole: because every part hath be∣sides the neare relation to the whole a subsistency in it, which is the foundation of any other good it receives. And so consequently, the good or gaine of the whole is the gaine of every member, and whatsoever tends to the dissolution of the whole, cannot but be de∣structive to all the parts. As when a company of Merchants have but one joyned stocke, every penny gained or lost is gaine or losse to them all. Or as it is with a company of passengers in the same Ship, save the vessell and you save all, sinke the Ship, and every mans Cabbin is cast away. Now this is a more prevai∣ling argument than reason can make, it is grounded in nature which must prevaile with all; Nature makes heavy things to ascend, rather than the whole should be endangered by a vacuum. Nature teaches the tongue to cry out, when the toe is trod upon, the hand to work, that the belly starve not, the feet to runne, that the back be not cold. Every man finds this in the natu∣rall body; and Gods Spirit dwelling in all the Saints workes the same spirituall disposition in them that are partakers of the divine nature,*That there be no Schisme or division in the body of Christ, but that all the members may have the same care one for another, That whether one member suffer, all the members should suffer with it, or one member be honoured, all the members should rejoyce with it.
Page 20 By this time I hope it is cleare, that if we look upon Gods promises or threatnings, mens experience in all a∣ges, or the Churches interest in God, his neare union with it, his affection to it, his owning the Churches cause, or if we consider our own engagements to the Church, our neare conjunction with it, and under God the dependance of all our comforts and wellfare upon it, we may and must conclude, that all men are blessed or cursed according as they help or help not the church of God.*
The rest of the time I shall spend in the Application of it, that what is thus cleare to your judgement and conscience, may by Gods blessing take due place in your hearts and conversations. And there are but two collections which I shall make for use. The first, brief∣ly for terrour and reproof, the second more largely, for exhortation and duty.
First,* for reproofe. This speaks very sadly against two sorts of people whereof (God knowes) there are many hundreds of thousands who yet professe themselvs to be Christians. As first, Are all they cur∣sed that doe not thus helpe the Lord against the migh∣ty? what then are they, who instead of helping the Lord against the mighty, do help the mighty against the Lord? who instead of joyning all their strength, and giving all their assistance to the Church in her distresse, doe give all the assistance they can to the enemies of the Church, that they may do mischief against the Church? What shall we thinke of these men? How many are there who have as it were entred their names into the Dragons muster-book, openly bidding defiance against the Church of Christ, in every good cause? who walke Antipodes against the cause of God, like Antiochus, making war against the Saints, like the little horne in Page 21Daniel, wearing out the Saints of the most high in all pla∣ces where they can prevail? how many others, like the Kings and Princes in the 2. Psal. Set themselves, and take counsell against the Lord and against his Annointed, digging as deep as hell for counsell to do all the mischiefe they can to the servants of the Lord Iesus Christ? How many others with Balaam, doe what in them lies to curse them for reward, who for very malice raile up∣on and revile the children of the most High? How many others, with Edom, look upon the affliction of Is∣rael, rejoycing over them in the day of their destruction, speaking proudly in the day of their distresse,*crying out a∣gainst Ierusalem,*down with it, downe with it even to the ground How many others, with Amal•k, smite the hind∣most of Gods Church, all who are weake and feeble, when they are faint and wearie, adding sorrowes and increas∣ing the burthen of the afflicted? How many, with San∣ballat and Tobiah, are grieved when any are found to doe good in Israel, endeavouring to hinder the build∣ing of Sion, and to further the repairing of the walls of Babylon? God knowes there are too many such, I hope not many such present here this day before the Lord. But concerning these, if there should be any such here by what name or title shall I call them? The Gyants who make war against heaven, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, fighters against God, I know no appellation fitter for them. But what∣soever they delight to be called, I most earnestly be∣seech them in their most secret thoughts to answer these few questions. By what injurie hath the Lord provoked thee thus against him? what iniquitie hast thou found in him? what hurt hath Christ done to thee? what evils are his righteous servants guilty of against thee? Or if thou canst give no reason of Page 22 this, but only, non amo te, nec possum dicere quare. I know no reason, but my heart stands against them. What ho∣nour or reward dost thou expect for this desperate ser∣vice? What hope hast thou of speeding? Canst thou make thy forces strong enough to carry the day? O friend though thou beest proud and daring, yet be not mad, no weapon will prosper which is formed against them God hath sworne it against all the people who fight against Jerusalem,* that their flesh shall consume whilest they stand upon their feet, their eyes shall rot in their holes, their tongue shall consume away in their mouth. O set not Briars and Thornes to fight against devouring fire. Let the potsheards strive with the Potsheards of the Earth, but let not a poor worm fight against his maker.* Thou art too weake to strive with God.* Kicke not against these prickes, abstaine, abstaine from those men of whom the Lord hath said, he that touches them, touches the ap∣ple of mine eye.
Secondly,* There are others (not open enemies pro∣fessing to take part against the Church) who stand as neuters, who stand a loofe off, shewing themselves nei∣ther open enemies nor true friends, like the Samari∣tans, who feared the Lord and served their Idols, of whom also Josephus saith, that when the Jewes were in prosperity the Samaritans were their friends,* but were ever severed from them in their adversity. But as the Lord said of them when they feared the Lord and served their Idols, they feared not the Lord: so he will one day say of these, they love not the Lord. They say such as stand neuters are ordinarily crushed, which side soever wins, but the Lord acknowledges no Neu∣ters. This text curses all them who come not out to helpe him, as well as those who came to fight against him, Page 23 And our Saviour at the last day will as well denounce go ye cursed against them, who gave them not bread when they were hungry, as them who plucked their bread a∣way from them. And in this case it is a certaine rule, for it is Christs rule, he that is not with me, is against me. And of these Neuters there are two sorts. First, some stand Neuters out of policy,* because they will see which side shall prevaile,* that they may be sure to joyne with the winning side;* of these we have a notable example Judg. 8. when Gideon was pursuing Zeba and Zalmun∣nah the Kings of Midian, he cals to the men of Succoth, and the men of Penuel, to help to victuall his Army. Give, I pray you, loaves to them that follow me, for they are faint. But they would first see what would be the event of the war,*Are the heads of Zeba and Zalmunnah in thine hands, that we should give bread unto thine Army? As who should say, if you gave gotten the day, we are for you; if not, you must pardon us, we will looke on a while longer; and even so do many falsehearted friends deale with the Church of God, turne Jewes, when they have an honoured Mordecai, and as ready to cut their throats when Haman prevailes against them. They will be sure to be of the winning side, that they may save their own stake; but what Gideons answer was to the men of Succoth and Penuel, when the Lord hath delivered Zeba and Zalmunnah into mine hand,*then then will I teare your flesh with briars and thornes of the wildernesse, then will I beate down your Towers, and slay the men of your City, and accordingly did it: such like doom and execution shall all politick Neuters receive from the hand of Christ.
2 There is a second sort of Neuters who neither oppose the Church nor helpe it;* not out of policy, Page 24 but meere sluggishnesse and desire of ease or basenes of spirit: loving only their worldly profits and sensu∣all pleasures, nothing regarding what concernes reli∣gion, or the Church: like Gallio the Deputie of A∣chaia, who when the Iewes, one while beat Paul, ano∣ther while the Ruler of the Synagogue (as the Text sayes) cared for none of these things.* If it had beene a matter of right or equitie, things belonging to the Ro∣man lawes, he was ready to appeare, but if it be a mat∣ter of Religion, it was out of his element, he is indiffe∣rent, whether the Beare bite the Dog, or the Dog bite the Beare, it is all one to him. Abundance of these are to be found every where, of whom we may say, as Sa∣lomon in another case, The heart knowes his owne bitter∣nesse, &c. They neither know the Churches bitter∣nesse,* nor are acquainted with the joy of it.* Such (I thinke) were the men of Iabesh Gilead, who when all the Tribes of Israel had bound themselves by oath to prosecute that bloody murder of the Levites Concu∣bine, against the Benjamites, and never to returne untill they had avenged it, they let both sides alone, they had businesse enough of their owne at home, not doubting but there were men enough to do the work, though they kept themselves quiet. But this neutrality of theirs cost them deare in the end, their owne heart blood paid for it: and it is most probable, that Meroz in this Text was guilty of no other fault. The Lord grant that they may be warnings to us, that we bee not made warnings to others. I hope this may suffice for reproofe.
The second Use,* and that which I most aime at, is for exhortation. Oh that I were able to speake some∣what to raise up your spirits, to make you these bles∣sed Page 25 men who willingly helpe the Lord against the mightie: I confesse the day, the occasion of our meet∣ing, this Text, and your place and office. (Right Ho∣nourable and beloved) give me an infinite advan∣tage to speake,* if I were able to improve all for your good. The thing I aime at, is, to send you home with Luthers resolution, who protested to God, that no portion, which God could give him in this world should content him but onely this, to bee Gods Servant, to bee a usefull man in his Church, he would care neither for silver nor gold, neither for honour nor reproach: ease and labour should bee all one, so that hee might bee accepted and usefull. And would the Lord vouchsafe to make my la∣bour effectuall with you in this thing, I should bee a blessed man in my worke, and you should goe home the blessedest company that ever met in such an Assemblie. To this end I shall endeavour two things,
First,* to give you motives or incentives to inflame your hearts after such a temper of spirit, that you may be willing to give up your selves to the help of the Lord and his Church.
Secondly, some directions to enable you in truth and realitie to be usefull. And although most of the things that I shall speake doe chiefely concern you, our honourable Worthies, yet they will in their pro∣portion reach the meanest in the congregation.
To stir you up,* consider these three motives.
First, the honour of God. Certainly the highest end of our living in this world, is to honour God. Hallowed be thy name, is the first petition of every one that saith the Lords Prayer. Now a man Page 26 never gives glory to God as God, never sets up God in his right place, till he have devoted himself whol∣ly and absolutely to serve him in what is most acce∣ptable with him. And I have made it apparent that the Church of Christ is that field from which he expects the most plentifull crop of glory, and and therefore would have the most cost bestowed on it; He gets glory by all our actions, but in what wee doe for the Church, wee give him glory and that in the highest degree.
Secondly,* as for Gods sake, so for the Churches sake. It is ever well with the Church, when the members of it, doe preferre the Churches good a∣bove their owne. Polititians and Historians observe this of States and Empires, that they usually thrive when the Subjects are Common-wealths men, every one endeavouring to promote the publick good. Livie observes this of Rome, that so long as men would leave their trades, farmes and merchandise, Ladies part with their Jewels and ornaments, rather than a∣ny detriment should come to the Citie, all Nations were subdued to them: But when they grew pri∣vate, wealths men, every one labouring to preserve and adorn his owne Cabbin only; the ship presently was endangered and went to decay. This is as true of the Church. In all the rising times of it, God hath ever stirred up such noble and generous spirits, who have given themselves to the Lord, and the service of the Church. In the Acts of the Apostles you shall find that they were all of one heart and one mind.*No man said that ought of the things that he possessed was his own, they had all things common. Sold their possessions and goods, distri∣buting them as every man had need, and lived so, as if Page 27 one soule possessed them all: This was the thriving time of the Church. Then their multitude increased by thousands and ten thousands and walking in the feare of the Lord, and the comfort of the Holy Ghost were multiplyed. But when once men grew to seeke their owne things, and not the things of Iesus Christ, and his Church, the Church soone fell into a languish∣ing condition.* As therefore you desire to keepe up the spirits and strength of the Church, so labour to keepe up your own spirits for the Church, as you de∣sire that may not faint, so doe you take heed of faint∣ing in the service of it.
Thirdly, as for Gods sake, and the Churches sake, so for your owne sake,* for your owne comfort and benefit, and that in many respects. As first, Such a frame of Spirit as this will bee the best evidence of your owne safe condition, of your peace with God; tis a comfortable thing for a man to hate his lusts, to strive against them, to waite upon duties, to attend upon Ordinances,* to bee often enquiring, What shall I doe to bee saved? but all this may bee but selfe love (although such a love God ap∣proves of) but when the soule comes to enquire, what shall I doe that Christ may bee glorified, that his Church may bee edified? to know no crosse but the Churches crosse? to preferre the joy of the Church before all his owne peace and wellfare? this is not only an Argument of a man looking Heaven-ward, but one that hath pro∣ceeded farre in the way; A Scholler of the first and highest forme; and this is that which Saint Iohn meanes, when hee doth so frequently ang all our evidence to Heaven, upon Love of the Page 28 brethren, Hereby wee know that wee are translated from death to life, because wee Love the Brethren▪ In this are the Children of God manifest from the children of the Divell: Hee that loves not his bro∣ther,*is not of God: Hereby wee know that wee are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. Every one that loves God,*loves him also that is be∣gotten of him. And many other expressions, as if Saint Iohn knew no other evidence but Love; now what Love is it? Hee meanes it not of an inward affection only, to wish well to them, and so forth, but by love to serve our brethren, to lay out our selves, our lives, and parts, and all to serve them, To lay downe our lives for the Brethren, as Christ laid downe his life for us.* This was that that bore up Hezekiahs heart in the time of his sick∣nesse,* when hee could pleade, Lord, remember that I have done that which is good in thy sight. What was the good that Hezekiah had done? e∣ven this, Hee had set himselfe to purge Religion, to set up Gods Ordinances, to make the Church prosper, given up himselfe to the publick service of the Church of God, This made Nehemiah com∣fortably to goe to God; Oh my God, wipe not out the good deeds, that I have done for the House of my God,* And indeed, there neither is nor can be, any more certaine or infallible signe of a living member of Christs body, and of our communion with Jesus Christ in his holy Spirit, that Spirit which dwels and acts in his whole mysticall body, then this, to sympathize with the Church, to suffer in the sufferings of it, to rejoyce in the consolations of it and to preferre the good of it, before that of Page 29 our owne soules: Secondly, the honour of it may provoke you. Ingenuous and Noble Spi∣rits will doe more for their honour than for their gaine, now if you waigh it in the Ballance of the Sanctuary,* you shall finde, that to bee a publick servant of the Church, to have an influence into the wellfare of many,* is the greatest honour which God communicates to any Creature; The Creatures which are for publick and universall use, are most noble and excellent, the World might stand well enough without Pearles and Jewels, and a thousand such like things, but the fire, the water, the Sunne, the Earth, which are servants to all, the World were ruined without them. Yea this will make us like to the Angels, the ex∣cellentest of all Gods creatures, whose delight∣full employment is to bee Ministring Spirits, sent forth to Minister for them, who shall bee heires of salvation. What shall I say, this makes us (more than any thing else) like unto God himselfe, thou art good and doest good: almost all the knowledge which we have of the glory of God, comes from the good which God diffuseth into the Creature, and they partake most of Gods nature, and most eminently beare his Image, who are his most usefull instruments in doing good to his Church and people; and if we marke it, wee shall seldome finde the Holy Ghost in the Scripture, to point out any as truly honourable, but under this notion, that they study the wellfare and good of Sion. Marke them whom Saint Paul commends in the twelfth to the Romans, and yee shall see this is the matter of their praise; Phaebe was a servant of Page 30 the Church at Cenchrea, shee was a favourer of many: Aquila and Priscilla were Pauls helpers, ready to lay downe their neckes for a publick good. Mary, Andronicus, Vrban, Triphena, Triphosa, and ma∣ny other, this is their commendation, They labou∣red much in the Lord. So the houshold of Stepha∣nus, Paul would have all of them subject to the houshold of Stephanus, he would have them num∣bred among the Patricii.* What was the house-hold of Stephanus? It may bee some honest Tradesman in his Civill ranke: but here is the Crowne: They addicted themselves to the service of the Saints:* and of the messengers of the Chur∣ches, some good men that came on the Churches errand, the Apostle saith, if any inquired what they were, what ranck or qualitie they were of, hee answers, they were The Messengers of the Churches, the glory of Christ. Yea Saint Paul of himselfe, who seldome gloryed of himselfe, who though hee were the greatest Apostle, esteemed himselfe the greatest sinner, yet could not for∣beare glorying in this, That hee laboured more a∣bundantly than any others, that the Care of all the Churches lay upon him, that hee became all things to all men, that hee might save some, and the Stigma∣ta, the brands or markes that hee bore about his body for his service in the Church, hee did more glory in, than any Noble man can of his George or Blew Ribband: You shall see it, Galathians 6. verse 17. The Galathians had used Saint Paul somewhat coursely, judged his actions and intenti∣ons, and marke how Saint Paul seemes to take state upon him, from henceforth let no man trouble mee;Page 31 What made him thus high in his Spirit? I beare in my body, the Stigmata, the markes of the Lord Iesus: this was a badge of his honour, and therefore they must use him honourably, and indeed if wee compare the honour and glory that rests upon men for the service of Christ and his Church, and that which vaine men seeke in other things, the truth of this would easily bee seene. Suppose one man could say, this would I received in fighting for a Mistris in a Duell: Another thus, my state is empaired in brangling suites at Law, Another in gameing and Whoreing. What fruit? what glory is in these things? but now on the o∣ther side, when a servant of God can say, Haec manus ob Ecclesiam pugnando, &c. these offices I lost, this preferment I went without, thus was I scorned, thus is my body wasted for Christs sake and for his Churches sake; this is glory indeed, this glory exceeds the happinesse of mortalitie, and will outlive all wealth and pleasure. And all expe∣rience shewes us, that however such men are most opposed and scorned by the enemies of the Church, who alwayes most fight against the Ca∣praines and Leaders, yet among the Saints these are the most precious men, one of them esteemed worth a thousand of others: and this some thinke Saint Paul to aime at in the fifth to the Romans, when he saith, scarcely for a righteous man will one dye, yet peradventure for a good man, that is, a usefull Man, a serviceable Man, a Man whose life and labours benefits many,*Some would even dare to die. Thirdly, nor is the Reward lesse,* at the present it may bee such instru∣ments Page 32 may loose Houses, or brethren, or children, or lands, and their owne lives, but they shall finde it againe, in this life a hundred fold besides the inheri∣tance of everlasting life. Bread cast upon these wa∣ters is seed sowen in fertile ground; the bosome of the Church is the most fruitfull soile in the world. Flesh and blood will never believe this, but Jesus Christ the Lord of Life and Glory, whose all the Silver and Gold in the World is, who hath power enough to promote his servants and sa∣vourites, hath sufficiently assured us of this in his Gospell; Men will securely adventure their e∣states upon Ropes and Cables in the deepe Seas, when the ensuring office is ingaged for their securi∣tie; if yee dare trust the insureing office of Hea∣ven, goe on, serve the Church, I promise in the Name of Christ to you, yee shall bee paid e∣very penny, every houres sleepe which yee have broken, every gray haire which is hereby scatte∣red upon your head, every disease which yee have contracted, every reproach which you have suf∣fered, ye shall loose nothing by all or any of these, he will repay it you in this world an hundred fold in better things, it may be with trouble and perse∣cution, but in the world to come ye shall have life everlasting; Thus farre the motives, which would the Lord let sinke into your hearts: how would yee with Paul rejoyce to be offered up a Sacrifice for the Church of Christ? how willingly would yee continue to spend, and to bee spent in so good worke?
Secondly, some directions how we may be able to doe this: where
Page 33 First, I shall shew what is requisite to prepare us and fit us to bee the Churches servants. Secondly, how and wherein they that are fit should help the Church.
First,* men must bee fitted for it; this Mercury is not made of every wood; the Lord needs no In∣struments; if hee use any, it is propter munificen∣tiam, not propter indigentiam; because hee meanes to honour them, not because they can benefit him: and therefore hee will make them choice spirits, rare and singular men,* to whom he will thus com∣municate his owne glory, and three things must meet in them.* First, They must be godly; a Ge∣nerall in an Army neither gives pay nor command to any, untill they bee duly entred into his muster∣book: Now men are never numbred among the Lambs followers, their names are not entred into his List, untill they be Saints. Read Revelation, where ever the Lambs followers are described,*They are such as have washed their Robes, made them white in the blood of the Lamb,*serving him night and day; they are redeemed from the earth; in their mouth is found no guile. They that are with the Lamb are called, and chosen, and faithfull. And it must needs be so; for so long as men are in their unregenerate condition, they are Satans vassals in the maine; there is not in them a substratum of reall usefulnesse to the Church; their heart cannot be with the Lord nor his people: 'Tis only the new life which is the right principle of this service which is here expected: If therefore the Lord hath kindled in any of your hearts a desire to doe him service, I Page 34 beseech you, first, humble your souls deeply before God for your sinnes; get your Robes washed in the blood of the Lamb, rest not till the Spirit of Christ come to dwell in you, and when yee have, once with the Thessalonians, given your selves first to the Lord, then yee are fit to give your selves to the Church for the Lords sake.
Secondly,* as they must be godly, who would be servants to the Church; so they must learn to deny themselves; they must be taken off from all private selfe-engagements; they must set light by their own ease, their own profit, and their own life: If any man (saith Christ) come to me,*and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot bee my Dis∣ciple. Search through all the Scriptures, you shall hardly finde a man who ever was fitted to bee use∣full in the Church, till he had set himselfe aside; No man that warreth,*entangleth himselfe with the af∣faires of this life, that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a souldier. And therefore it was the A, B, C, which Christ taught all his followers, even this lesson of selfe-deniall: You shall read Mat. 20. v. 22. That when the mother of Iames and Iohn came to seek preferment at Christs hand for her two sonnes, that the one might sit at his right hand, and the other at his left in his Kingdome; Christ presently nips that motion in the head, and tells them, that instead of expecting such high and pleasant things in this world, they must (if they meant to be his Apostles) prepare to drink of his cup, and to be baptized with his baptisme; that is, take paines and suffer trouble. Page 35 And verily sad experience hath taught this, that men are never cordiall to the Church of Christ, who embrace this present world. It is recorded of the King of Navarre then a Protestant, being pressed by Beza, to appeare more in the cause of God, and to owne religion to the purpose: He makes him an∣swer to this effect, That he was their friend, but he resolved to put no further to Sea, than that he might get to shore if a storme should rise; he resolved not to hazzard his hopes of the Crown of France, and you know what became of him. So when men will make religion as twelve, and the world as thirteene, they will in sad tryals,* with Demas, forsake the cause and servants of God, and embrace the present world: Like those Potters recorded in the first of the Chro. who dwelt among plants and hedges: There they dwelt with the King for his work. A brand which the holy Ghost sets upon them, who when Cyrus proclaimed li∣berty and encouragement to returne to Ierusalem; to rebuild the Temple, and set up the worship of God, refused to goe back with their brethren, and chose rather to dwell among plants and hedges, than to hazzard a gainefull trade, which they made of the Kings work. O beloved, take heed of these choaking thorns, the riches, cares, and pleasures of this world; especially beware of the world, when it comes with flattering allurements: Many ships have been swallowed in a calme, when they have out∣rid severall stormes. Troubles and persecutions, (like the wind in Plutarchs Parable) make men gird their cloak (their profession of religion and service to the cause of God) closer to them, when the Page 36 warme Sunne-shine of preferments steales it from them:*
There is a notable story of a souldier of Antigonus, one whom the Prince observed to be a very valiant man, ready to adventure upon any desperate service, and therefore much favoured him; and observing that he still looked pale and lean, would needs know what he ayled, and finding that he had a secret and dangerous disease, he caused all possible meanes to be used for his recovery; which when it was accom∣plished, the Prince observed him to be lesse forward in service than formerly, and demanding the rea∣son, he ingenuously acknowledged that now he felt the sweetnesse of life, and was loth to lose it. And thus doe many thousands, who with Ionathan when they come into a wood that drops with honey, leave the chase of Gods enemies, and feed upon the sweetnesse of worldly advancement. But, O yee Worthies,*fly all these things; with Paul, esteem your lives not deare to you: Let no earthly thing move you, so you may finish your course and service appointed you from and for the Lord Iesus Christ: and conclude with Esther, if I perish, I perish.
Thirdly,* whosoever would bee a reall usefull in∣strument for the good of the Church, must get an unfaigned love to the Church planted in his heart, that it may beare fruit in his life and actions. All we do is nothing but our labour of love. Love will force more than the strappado, draw more than a yoke of Page 37 oxen; It is a sweet and strong tyrant. When the Apostle Paul had pressed the Corinthians earnestly to study for the best gifts to make them usefull in the Church: and to this purpose gives them a cata∣logue of the severall gifts and graces which Christ, for this end, had shed abroad, when hee ascended up on high:* Yet in the last verse of that chapter hee promiseth to shew them a more excellent way, and that is the way of love, which he layes downe in the thir∣teenth chapter: which will doe all things, endure all things, without which if men had the tongues of men and Angels, all other gifts of prophesie, know∣ledge, &c. they are but as sounding brasse, or tinckling cymbals. This is the reason why Saint Iohn through∣out all his Epistles calls for almost nothing but love; because in that he calls for all. My little chil∣dren, love one another. And this is also the reason why the Devil doth so infinitely labour to sow the tares of division in the field of the Church; hee knowes if he can break the bond of love, he breaks the bond of perfection, and opens the flood-gates to confu∣sion. Rest not therefore, who ever thou art that de∣sirest to do good in the Church, till the love of it be fixed in thy breast, as deeply as the love of the Ark was in the heart of the wife of Phinehas, who died for griefe when the Arke of God was taken: Or as Calice is said to have been in Queen Maries, who affirmed, that if her body were opened Calice would bee found in her heart. To this end, consider often how deare the Church is to thy deare Redeemer; how comely and beautifull it is in it self; comely as the cur∣tains of Solomon, even when it is black as the tents of Page 38 Kedar with persecution: How deformed, uncleane, and every way vain all other societies are in compari∣son of this; As the Lilly among the thorns; How near to thy selfe, begotten of the same seed, laid in the same womb with thee, and thou also wert laid in its womb, and sucked its breasts, redeemed with the same blood, enjoyest all the same priviledges, hast all thy welfare in this world wrapt up in its welfare, and expectest to live with it to all eternity in the same glory. These thoughts rightly working upon thy heart, would make thee willingly spend and be spent for the Churches good: thy services would not be as the motion of a stone cast out of a sling, at first swift by virtue of a violent impression; but con∣stant, and strongest rather toward the later end, as those motions are said to be which proceed from a naturall inward principle. So then you easily ap∣prehend the excellent use, and indeed the necessity of the concurrence of these three qualifications of godlinesse, self-deniall, and love, to the making up of a good Chruch-man: the Lord make them evident in all your hearts and wayes.
Next followes,* What men thus accomplished may and must doe for the Church. The service re∣quired may be reduced to these two heads:
First, somewhat to prepare us for action.
Secondly, to act as we are prepared.
By way of preparation three things are requisite. First,* carefully to informe our selves of the state and condition in which the Church is, otherwise wee deprive our selves of all possibility of being help∣full to it. Be a man never so willing, and never so Page 39 able to relieve the distresses of his brethren, hee can neither heal the sick, nor help the poor, unlesse hee knew who and where they were that needed,* and what helpe they wanted. This made Nehemiah so diligently to enquire concerning Ierusalem,*and his brethren which were left of the captivity. This made Daniel search into Ieremiahs Prophesies,* to know the condition of the Church, and learn his own duty.
2. This enquiry must not be out of Athenian cu∣riosity,* as most people enquire after newes; but so to know, as to work our hearts to a fellowfeeling of their condition, otherwise all our intelligence will be as dry clouds, flying over our heads without a drop of raine. Thus did Nehemiah as soone as hee understood that his brethren were in great affliction and reproach,*the wall of Ierusalem broken downe, and the gates thereof burnt with fire, he sate down and wept: this prepared him for the good service he did after∣ward.* Thus also did Daniel, who when God had shewed him, though but in a vision, the calamities that were to come upon the Church of the Jewes by Antiochus Epiphanes, he fainted, and was sick certain dayes. And the want of this fellow-feeling is both taxed and threatned by God in Amos 6. No man is sorry for the affliction of Ioseph. God esteeming it an argument of little love to sit downe with Ha∣man at a banquet, when the City of Shushan is in perplexity.
3. As wee must know and bee affected with the Churches want,* so we must enquire what is in our power to do for it, wherein we may be helpfull. This I shall have occasion to speak of afterward.
Page 40 The second sort of directions are for action. And these may be brought to two heads.
First,* somewhat we must do immediately to God for the Church.
Secondly, somewhat wee must doe for the Church from God.
First,* that which wee are to doe to God for the Church is to pray for it. I name this first, because it is the first and chiefest service that we can perform. If any other talent bee a penny, Prayer is a pound. This is the talent of all talents: concerning which I shall speak a little more fully, as the seasonablenesse of it requires.
First it must be granted, that all the friends of the Church may help it with their prayers: if with Peter they have no silver nor gold, but will give such as they have, they may afford a subsidy of prayer. They have all the spirit of adoption, enabling them to cry, Abba, Father: So that what the Master of the ship said to Ionah, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise and call upon thy God: (though he could neither sit at sterne, nor handle the tacklings, yet he might pray;) may be said to any man in regard of the Church; though thou canst neither runne, nor ride, nor write, nor fight, yet thou canst pray: Awake, awake. And as plaine it is, that God requires it should bee so. O pray for the peace of Ierusalem.*You that make mention of the Lord keep not silence:*give him no rest, till hee establish and make Ierusalem the praise of the earth. You that have escaped the sword remember the Lord afar off,*and let Ierusalem come into your minde. But the chiefe thing I aime at is, to discover the power of Page 41 Prayer. Which I shall never bee able fully to ex∣presse: None can tell what Prayer can do, but he that can tell what God can do.* Yet these few conclusi∣ons may give some light toward it.
First, God hath not promised to do any thing without it. It is confest, he doth many things without Pray∣er, but he hath not promised to do any thing for his Church without it.*All this will I doe, (saith the Lord) but for all these things will I be enquired by the house of Israel. Secondly, As he hath promised to do nothing without,* so he will do all things by it: I will visit you (saith God) and performe my good word toward you; but you must performe your good work to∣wards me: Then shall ye call upon me, and you shall goe and pray unto me.*Aske and you shall receive: this is the confidence that we have, that whatsoever we aske ac∣cording to his will, we know that we have the petitions that we desire of him. What cannot Prayer doe? It is able to overthrow all enemies:*When I pray, mine enemies shall turn back.* An hundred eighty five thousand were overthrowne in one night,* after the Prayer of Hezekiah. It is able to turne away all plagues, pestilence, famine, sword, wild-beasts; what∣soever plague or sicknesse there be, prayer aud sup∣plication will heal all. It is able to bring downe all mercies; it is the key of heaven: Eliah, a man sub∣ject to the same infirmities with us, hee prayed, and the heaven was shut; he prayed again, and the heaven was opened. It is the most efficacious engine in the world; it opened the prison doores, and the iron gate, to set Peter at liberty. It is the summe of all wisdome, strength, and policy. What should I say Page 42 more? It prevailes over God himselfe. Iacob wrastled with God, and prevailed: What was his wrastling? What was the strength,* whereby, as a Prince, he had power with God? Even this, hee wept and made suppli∣cation to him. It will not only stop the Sun in his course, as Ioshua did, Sun stand thou still in Gibeon, and thou Moon in the valley of Ajalon; but (with re∣verence be it spoken) it holds that hand which rules heaven and earth. Let mee alone, said God to Mo∣ses,*that I may destroy them: Moses prayer hindred God from doing what hee seemed resolved to doe. Hee said hee would have destroyed them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the gap, to turn away his wrathfull indignation▪ And thus some interpret that place of the Prophet Isaiah,*Ask mee of things to come, concerning my Sonnes; and as concerning the works of my hands command ye me: as if God had made over his own omnipotency to Prayer.
But whence is it that Prayer becomes thus effica∣cious?* What is there in the submissions and suppli∣cations of poor worms to work such wonders?
I answer,* These four things meet in prayer, which are the strength of it, and may be your satisfaction. First, The persons who pray are Gods owne children, dearer to him than heaven and earth, tender as the apple of his own eye: and we who are parents know how prevalent the cryes of our own children are: we being evill can give good things to our children. Se∣condly, Gods owne Spirit dictates and endites their prayers for them: Wee know not what to pray for as wee ought,*but the Spirit it selfe makes intercession for us. Now as it is said of the Sonne, I know thou hearest me Page 43 alwayes; so may it be said of the Spirit. What regard soever he may bear to us poore sinners, he will cer∣tainly regard the intercessions of his owne Spirit. Thirdly, The Prayers of Gods people they are offe∣red up and presented to God by his owne Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the high Priest of our profession, the Angel of his presence, who is at the right hand of God, who daily makes intercession for us, as the Spirit makes intercession in us, and mingles his incense, with the prayers of the Saints,*upon the golden altar which is be∣fore the throne. Fourthly, There is this in prayer, that it gives the greatest glory unto God. Of all gifts or graces which God hath given to any creature, ne∣ver any thing (except faith only) was found to give that glory to God which prayer doth: especially in these two things. First, it brings God into the field to fight the battell for them, makes him to work all their works for them; as indeed he doth. Whatso∣ever a man prayes for, he doth by interpretation say, Lord, I never shall have this, unlesse thou give it me; I never shall do this, unlesse thou doe it for me. And that is the reason why in 2 Chron. 20. after He∣zekiah and his people had prayed, and professed they had no strength of their owne, left the worke only and wholly upon Gods hand. Then God tells them, The battell is not yours, but Gods; Now you have put it into my hands, you shall see what I will doe for you. And secondly, When the work is done it ascribes the praise and glory of all to him, to whom alone it is due. If we mark it, God hath little glory in the world for those good things which men receive without Prayer; their friends, parts, wit, industry, Page 44 must share with God; but what is won by Prayer is worn with thankfulnesse; there being a naturall relati∣on betwixt praying and praising, as the rivers returne by the sea from whence they come.
O that I were able to teach you the right use of this engine.* And first let mee speake to you (right Honourable and Beloved) the Lords and Commons assembled in this Parliament: Give mee leave to shew you the true spring of all that good, which hath come through your hands,* since your happy entrance upon your great work. God knows I would not eclipse your worth nor due praise: We rejoyce in you,* and blesse God for you; wee have received great mercies by your means: but are you the cause of them? Have they been done by your wisdome and forecast, or for any worthinesse found in your selves? Hath not God done them all almost by con∣traries? Have not you been many times at a losse, even at your wits end? Hath not God marvellously discovered wicked enterprises against you, and al∣most miraculously preserved you by his own naked arme, ever since the beginning of your meeting? Give therefore the glory where it is due, you shall have the honour of excellent instruments, but this honour is too high for you. Know therefore, Belo∣ved, (and it will encrease your honour to acknow∣ledge it) that Prayer, and God by Prayer hath done all this: While you have been with Ioshuah fighting in the valley, Moses, Aaron and Hur have been at prayer upon the mountain. God hath poured out upon ma∣ny parts of the Kingdome, but more especially in and about this great City, a most fervent Spirit of Page 45 Prayer: In many thousand families you are every day mentioned at the throne of grace; few dayes of your Sessions have passed over, without extraor∣dinary fasting and prayer, either publike or private on your behalfe: And when prayer doth thus as∣cend, mercies must needs descend. Let God therfore have the chiefe honour for pouring out the spirit of prayer and supplication, the fruit whereof is the up∣holding your hearts and spirits daily in your work.
And this also intimates the best hope wee have of your good successe for the time to come,* even because God hath put it into the heart of the Kings Majesty and your selves, to put the whole kingdome into a posture of prayer; we hope your care in put∣ting the Kingdome into a posture of defence, will be serviceable: but wee expect our greatest help and advantage, as from our daily prayers, so more especi∣ally from those solemn monthly dayes of humiliation, that are afforded and appointed us.
William the Conquerour, when he was Duke of Normandy (according to the superstition of those times) builded many Abbies, Monasteries and Nun∣neries, and told his friends he was at this cost to strengthen his Kingdome, esteeming them as strong fortifications, wherein he provided many to fight against the devill, the world, and the flesh: this he said according to his light. I can more truly speak from God that in every congregation where godly Ministers and godly people shall, according to pub∣lick direction, ly in the dust, fasting, and mourning, and praying before the Lord; there are strong holds set up for the safety of the Kingdome.
Page 46 Secondly, how sadly doth this speak against ma∣ny thousands of professed Christians! some cannot pray,* some will not pray, sure I am many doe not pray, who in all this long time of Germanies afflictions have never separated themselves to afford one dayes prayer for the help of their brethren: and in all our owne exigents and darknesses have never stood upon the walls to help either England, Scotland, Ireland, King, or Parliament: these are a miserable generation. And this their not praying for the Church is a sad token against them, that when the Church of Christ shall sing for joy of heart, them∣selves shall cry for sorrow of heart,*and howle for vexa∣tion of spirit.
What remaineth then,* but that all you who make mention of the Lord, and bear his Name, who have received this mercy, that you may have accesse to the throne of grace, be quickned up, for the time to come, to stand upon the walls, to give God no rest night nor day, to let Ierusalem come into your mind, constantly to do that which Master Bradford made the subscription of his letters,*pray, pray, pray. God hath done great things for us; but many great things are yet to bee done; much rubbish to be re∣moved; many obstructions to bee cleared, many enimies to be overthrown. Ireland is to be relieved, Religion to bee established; Prayer may doe all this; wee may overmatch all our enimies by prayer, discover all their plots by prayer. Let us not bee traitors against the Church and State, in slighting or forbearing the use of that, which may work all our works for us; this is to betray the forts of the King∣dome, Page 47 But remember when I exhort you to pray, I mean, First, it must be prayer indeed; many can read prayers, say prayers, sing prayers, many can conceive or utter prayers, who yet cannot pray: Prayer is a pouring out of the soul to God. And secondly, this spirit poured out in prayer must bee a pure spirit: If I regard iniquity in my heart,*the Lord will not hear my prayer. And thirdly, this prayer must bee a pray∣er of faith; Pray in faith and waver not: And in a prayer of faith three things must meet. First, That the things begg'd bee according to the will of God. Secondly, That they bee begg'd in the name of Christ. Thirdly, that we rely upon the faith∣fulnesse of God, for the performance of them. This is to pray in faith. Fourthly, Our prayers must bee fervent, humble, constant; and when we have prayed, wee must remember, that though prayer be the great means, yet prayer is not all the means. Prayer must quicken us up to the use of other means, and sanctifie us in the use of other means; other means are fruit∣lesse without prayer, and prayer not seconded with the use of o•her means, where they may be had, pre∣vailes not. These things you cannot bee ignorant of, and therefore I only point at them, especially in these streights of time.
One thing more I must needs advise about,* before I passe from this great help of prayer. And that is, in what esteem praying spirits should bee had amongst all wise men; I know the world slights and scornes them, but in truth they are the very Cha∣riots and Horsemen of Israel: Ten praying men might have saved Sodom, and the Cities round about. Page 48Solomon saith, There was a little City and few men it, and a poore wise man by his wisdome delivered this City from the siege of a great King;*Yet no man remem∣bred that same poore man. Truly thus it is with poore praying Christians, they deliver the Iland and yet no man regards them. David knew how to prize such spirits, who, though hee were a King, thought them fit to bee his companions who cal'd upon the name of God.*Paul knew how to prize them who begged for prayers, as a prisoner for a ran∣some, Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Iesus Christs sake, that you pray for me. Yea, Ioash though an Idolater, when the praying Prophet Elisha lay a dying, wept, and cryed, as sensible of loosing the chiefe support of his Kingdome,*O my father, my father, the Chariots of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. Nay, which is yet more, a heathen Emperour Marcus Aurelius, finding by experience the power of the prayers of Christians, gave all the world notice of it, staid the persecution against the Christians, and call'd that band of Chri∣stians Legio fulminatrix, the thundring band. Let us therefore not fall short of heathens, let us not undervalue or slight them, who carry the Keyes of heaven at their girdle.* Verily (Right honourable and beloved) if you knew what blessings they are in the midst of the land, you would take pleasure in them, you would seek for praying friends, praying servants, praying tenants; you would desire to have a stock goe in every one of their vessels. You would say to them all, as they to their companions going up to the house of God,*To pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hostes, I will go also. Yea, you would lay Page 49 hold upon the skirt of these men, saying we will goe with you, for we have heard that God is with you. This is the greatest help which we can give to the Church of Christ. This wee doe immediately to God for the Church.
There are some things also which we must doe for the Church from God:* The particulars are in∣numerable, but in regard the time is wholly spent, I shall give you the summe of all in one short conclusion. And indeed a little time may make it cleare to your understandings, although the practise of it require the study of your whole lives.
The conclusion is this, Whatsoever abilities any have received in any kind, they are given to them to this very end, to be serviceable and usefull to the Church of Christ with them:*All the manifestations of the spirit in gifts and graces, are chiefly given for this end to profit the Church with; all the lively∣hood of our naturall faculties, of our actions, of our wordly wealth, of office or authority, are given us, not for our own carnall ends, no nor primarily for our own salvation; but that with them all wee should be as good Stewards of the manifold graces of God.* So that our hands if skilfull to write, should be employed as Secretaries of the Church, our feet as Messengers of the Church, our tongues as Ad∣vocates for the Church, our Wisdome and learning as Counsellors for the Church, our wealth as Stewards or Almoners for the Church. Whatever any man hath, the Lord would have his Church to be the Common-storehouse, into which all should bee brought, the body to which all should be servicea∣ble: Page 50 just as it was when the Tabernacle was to be built:* Not only Bezaleel and Aholiab, men skilfull in all manner of work,* were to bestow their labours upon it; but all with whom any thing was to be found, whether silver or brasse, or fine linnen, or Goats haire, or Badgers skins, or Rams skins; all with a willing heart were to bring it in; yea, the very wo∣men, that could spinne either linnen, or woollen, or haire, were all to be employed to further the work of the Tabernacle.
This needs no proofe, every mans spirit carries him to do all this for whatsoever is his summum bo∣num, his chiefest happinesse; such as make Mam∣mon their God, or their belly, do readily contribute all they have or can doe to the service of them. I shall shut up all with a briefe application,* First, for reproofe, Secondly for duty.
How sadly doth this speak concerning them whose serviceablenesse to the Church consists only in empty and barren wishes!* the same which they can and doe afford to any creature which they see to be in distresse; they love the Church, they pity the miseries of the Church, they are sorry for Germany, when they think on it, and that is but seldome: They grieve for Ireland; but require either their hands to underwrite, their legs to walk, their purses to contribute, their authority to command or countenance, &c. they can spare none of all these. They have a bottomlesse gulfe called selfe, which swallowes all they are, have, or can doe, and yet is never satisfied. Aske them if they have a heart to do nothing for the Church, they answer readily they Page 51 pray for it with all their heart, and that is all they can doe. But let all such false-hearted Christians know, that the Lord needs none of their help, and cares as little for their dry barren prayers, as the poore beggar did for the Bishops blessing, who begging for a peny, but denyed that, and put off with the offer of a benediction, told him that hee perceived his peny was better than his blessing, o∣therwise he had denyed him that also. In the meane time think how thou wilt appeare in the day of thine account, when the not having much, but the improving of what we had to our masters advantage, will bring the Euge bone serve; when others shall come in and say, Lord thy pound hath gained five pounds; when (as Gregory sayes) Peter shall come in with his gaine of Iudea, Andrew of Africa, Thomas of India, Paul, and the rest, of many Nations; Mini∣sters bring in their sheaves of soules, private Chri∣stians their gleanings and bundles; And thou ap∣peare empty, thy talent buried or embezelled, thy age spent, thy candle burnt out, nothing done by thee for the Church; when it shall appeare that thou hast had gold and silver to feather thy own nest, power and authority to terrifie thy neighbours; like a great Tree crushing or overdropping all that stand neare thee; and hast had this worlds goods, as the Leviathan the Sea, onely to take thy pleasure, and satisfie thy lusts in them.* Woe unto thee if thy Master finde thee thus doing. This gaine of thy Talents,* will be the losse of thy own soule.
Secondly, for exhortation to all, especially to you Right honourable, and beloved; What words Page 52 shall I use? How shall I make up a strength to pre∣vail with you, to give up your selves and all you have so wholly to the Lord and to his Church, that all your other outward occasions may not so much as dare to expect any thing from you, so long as the Church hath need of it; that your pleasures and su∣perf•uities, nay your profits & sometimes necessities, may never offer to come in competition with the Church of God, for any thing which you call yours. O that you could hear the Lord speaking to you in the same language as once he spake to Cyrus, For Jacob my servants sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by the name! I confesse that instead of exhorting we have just cause to blesse God for you, when we consider how you, who heretofore have lived at ease and in pleasure enjoying the delights of the sons of men, have now changed your pleasures for paines, your delights for dangers, your profits and gains for expences, your houses for lodgings, and still continue to deny your selves in all these things, and goe on in your unwearied labours for the Church and cause of God. This is great matter of praise to God, and honour to your selves. Generous plants and odori∣ferous spices (they say) grow onely in hot regions: such fruits as yours are not brought forth by every plant, such plants as you grow not on every ground. But go ye on, ye Nobles and Worthies, forget what is behind; God and his people will not forget it: look and presse to the work which yet remains: Get the resolution of Zisca that brave Bohemian Cap∣tain, who not onely was willing to fight while he li∣ved, but be queathed his skin when he died, to bee Page 53 made a drum head for the service of the warre. Hold out to the end, Cloath ye with zeale as with a cloak, put on righteousnesse as your ornament: Bee good shep∣herds still,* to rescue and feed the flock committed to you:* Be so many Saviours upon mount Sion. All this shall be done for the best Master; all this seed will be sown in the most fruitfull ground, the bo∣some of the Church: and to quicken you the more, remember how much of the golden time which is gone you have wasted, with Domitian, in catching of flyes; how much of your estate hath bin spent need∣lesly in pictures, feastings, buildings, sportings, if not worse, in riot and disorder; how much of your strength hath been bestowed in the service of this world, and the God of it: and now when the gray haires are scattered upon many of you, and God might justly cast you aside as broken vessels, the Lord should choose you, and accept you in the most ho∣nourable service that the sons of men are capable of; nay that service which he employed his owne Son in. How readily and cheerfully ought you to consecrate your selvs and service to this work▪ you should come from your habitations and countries, as the Levite from the place where he so journed,*with all the desires of your minds to serve the Lord your God.
And to you the rest,* beside your Prayers, the exi∣gence of the Church at this present time requires from you many otherthings. It may be some of you may be called, as souldiers, to spend your blood in the Churches cause: If you knew the honour and the reward that belongs to such a service, you would say, as the Martyr once, Had every haire on your Page 54 head a life, you would venture them all in the Chur∣ches cause. It may be others of you may, with Ne∣hemiah, be called from your own ease and honour to some wearisome task, embrace it readily. It is like your collections and contributions will be more fre∣quent than ordinary, and very shortly in an extraor∣dinary occasion, for the relief of our distressed bre∣thren in Ireland: many in the City of London have set excellent examples, let me provoke you by their pattern, as the Apostle Paul did the Corinthians to the like work, by propounding to them the example of Macedonia: Onely remember this, that what you give in this case is interpreted by Christ as gi∣ven to his owne person;* and whom would not this provoke? It is reported of Master Fox, that when a poore man asked something of him for Christ Jesus sake, he questioned with the man, whether hee knew Jesus Christ; and finding signes that the man was a Beleever, hee gave him his horse, when hee had no money. I commend not his discretion, but his zeal and charity were admirable. Do somewhat propor∣tionable to the distresse of your brethren; Behold your Saviour comming naked, and hungry, and ba∣nished in these his afflicted members. And in what∣soever else the Lord and his Church may have any need of you, remember that Gods blessing is up∣on them that come to helpe him: and that Meroz, and with Meroz all others are cursed, who come not out to the help of the Lord against the mighty.
Die Veneris 25. Febr. 1641.
IT is this day ordered by the House of Commons, that no man shall Print the Sermons Preached on the last Fast day, before the House of Com∣mons, by Master Calamy and Master Marshall, besides themselves, for the space of these two moneths, without the particular Licence and Ap∣probation of the said House of Commons.
H. Elsynge Cler. Parl. D. Com.
THese are to give notice, that I appoint Samuel Gellibrand to print my Sermon.