Die Mercurii 30. Decemb. 1646.
ORdered by the Commons Assembled in Parliament, That Sir William Massam doe from this House give thankes to Mr. Marshall and Mr. Newcomen for the great paines they tooke in their Sermons they preached this day before the Com∣mons at St. Margaret Westminster (being a day of their publique Humiliation) and desire them to Print their Sermons.
H. Elsynge Cler. Parl. D. Com.
I appoint Stephen Bowtell to print my Ser∣mon.
THE RIGHT VNDERSTANDING OF THE TIMES: OPENED In a Sermon preached to the Honorable House of Commons, De∣cember 30. 1646. at Margaret Westminster, Being the day of their solemne Monethly Fast. By Stephen Marshall, B. D. Minister of Gods Word at Finchingfield in Essex.
Jer. 8. Vers. 7, 8.
LONDON, Printed by Richard Cotes, for Stephen Bowtell, and are to bee sold at the signe of the Bible in Popes-head Alley, 1647.
TO THE HONORABLE The House of COMMONS Now Assembled in PARLIAMENT.
IT hath been much lamented by learned men, that the times where∣in things have been done in the world, are no more truly computed, and that thereby all Histories of times are very imperfect, Apud quos ratio temporis non cohaeret, apud illos ne∣que veritatis neque fidei historicae ratio ulla constare potest; How much more is it to bee la∣mented, that so few have any understanding of the times in reference to the things which concerne their Page [unnumbered] everlasting peace? because no lesse mischiefe then ruine of soules, of Nations and Churches unavoi∣dably breake in upon them, who know not the time of their visitation; If this plaine Sermon may help this way to mend the times, and promote the right and best study of them, especially if God vouchsafe to blesse it to bee in any degree usefull to you in your great worke, for whose Meridian it was calculated, for whose use it was composed, to whom it was preached, and by whose order it is now made pub∣lique, it will bee a great comfort to the spirit, and a blessed answer from heaven to the Prayers of
Your unworthy and most devoted Servant, STEPHEN MARSHALL.
A SERMON PREACHED Before the Honorable House of Com∣mons, at their Monethly Fast, Decemb. 30. 1646.
1 Chron. 12.32.
THis whole Chapter (Beloved) doth containe a List or Catalogue of all the men of warre which did cleave to David, their names, their qualities,* their Number; and there is a double Catalogue of them: First, a Cata∣logue of them that did cleave to him, before Saul was dead, while he was in a defensive warre for his owne safetie; for although Da∣vid for a great while, had not above six or seven hundred Page 2 with him, yet in the end they fell to him, especially out of the Tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Gad, and Manasseh, so many that his Army grew to be like an Army of God. And lest any man should thinke that it were no better then re∣bellion in him and them to beare defensive Armes against his Prince,* it is said in the 18 Verse, That the Spirit came upon one of the chiefe Commanders, and told him they were his, and would live and die with him, and that God was with him, they knew him innocent; they saw he was un∣justly persecuted, they came to rescue him as a Partridge out of a Falcons Talons, and in so doing they did no more, then the whole hoste did at another time, when they saved Jonathan out of the hands of his father Saul, who would unjustly have put him to death.* The other part of the Chapter beginning at Verse 23. containeth the Catalogue of the Commanders and Souldiers that fell in to him to make him King, after the death of Saul, and there you shall finde that the excellent qualities of all the Leaders, and of many of the Souldiers are described; some of them were excellent Archers, some were exact Slin∣gers who could throw and hit at a haires breadth, some of them were as couragious as Lions, some of them were as swift as the Roes upon the Mountaines, but none of them all came neere the Tribe of Issachar, in that which makes a people strong and happy both in the time of warre and peace; They were men of understanding, who knew the times what Israel had to doe; and of this excellent commendation of this Tribe of Issachar, as of a Theame that very much concernes us, I have chosen to treate this day before this great Assembly by the assistance of Al∣mighty God;* wherein there are three things to bee handled. First,
The persons spoken of, the Tribe of Issachar, and their [ 1] heads and leaders especially. Secondly,
Page 3Their singular commendations, they had understanding to [ 2] know the times, what Israel, had to doe; the whole Tribe, but especially their Leaders, who were about two hun∣dred, knew the times in reference to their duty. Thirdly,
Here is the interest which these Leaders had in the hearts [ 3] of their Brethren, and this procured principally by their wisedome and understanding; all their Brethren were at their command, or as the word signifies, depended on their mouth. I begin briefly to speake of the first.
The persons, they were the men of Issachar; Issachar you know was one of the twelve Tribes,* one of Iacobs sonnes by Leah, and their lot in the land of Canaan fell betwixt the halfe Tribe of Manasseh and Zebulun, and their province was bounded by the mountaines of Gilboa on the one side, and mount Hermon on the other; all that goodly part of the Countrey, that was called the fat valley of Jezreel, was the inheritance of this Tribe of Issachar, a rich in-land Country, and formerly their Spirits and Genius was like to that of Country Farmers.* They min∣ded nothing but their back and their belly, and so Jacob himselfe did foretell of them, in the 49. of Genesis, when he said, that Issachar was like a strong Asse that couched downe betweene two burthens, and saw that rest was good, and gave himselfe willingly to beare Tribute: The meaning was, that this Tribe would bee like unto that dull, simple, slothfull creature the Asse, that minded nothing but his belley, give him but meate enough for his belly and lay what you will upon his back; so this Tribe, if they might not be outed or plundred in their rich Country, but might follow their businesse, and gather wealth, lay any thing upon them they would beare it: this of old was the Genius of this Tribe, but now another manner of Spirit possessed them; none of all the Maritine townes nor Cities where the peo∣ple are most active, and fit for Negotiation, went beyond,*Page 4 or came neere to the Tribe of Issachar, now (I say) they had learned that that makes a people happy, they had wisedome and unitie, they had understanding to know the times and their dutie, they had many thousands of eyes to see into the true state of affaires, and then they had as many thousand hands ready to execute; they could pre∣sently fall upon that which belonged to them; they had understanding of the times, and knew not onely what them∣selves, but what all the Country, what all Israel had to doe; this was the people, and this strange alteration that God had made in the Spirit of this Tribe of Issachar, doth afford us this excellent lesson.
That the Lord can at his pleasure inable and raise up the spi∣rits of persons,**and people to doe worthily, from whom no body would expect any thing. Moses had foretold that Issachar would bee but a dull Asse, but you see how the Lord had altered, and raised him up to doe excellently; hee went beyond all the other Tribes; and God hath often done so, hee takes Moses a Shepheard, a man slow of speech, sends him and makes him a fit man to deliver a whole nation out of bondage and captivitie; at another time, hee raises Gideon, a private Gentleman, it may bee but a Yeomans sonne,* from his Flayle when hee was threshing of Wheat, and makes him a Captaine to route the whole Army of the Midianites and to judge his people; at another time takes Saul, a Private Gentlemans sonne, who was seeking for his fathers Asses, and makes him fit to governe a kingdome; takes David a young youth from following his Ewes great with Lambe, and presently enables him to cope with the Gyant Goliah, and to destroy him, and afterwards to bee the ruler over Gods people;* hee takes Amos from being a Neatheard, and a gatherer of Sum∣mer fruit, to bee a Prophet, and to preach in the Kings Chappell; takes Fishermen who were never bred in Uni∣versities, Page 5 and sends them into all the world with the power of the Gospel to subdue the Nations to Jesus Christ. Thus the Lord hath raised up instruments, and hee can ea∣sily doe it, for there is a spirit in man,* but the inspiration which gives understanding and gifts comes onely from the Almighty; the Lord hath abundance of the Spirit, and powres it out where, and how, and in what manner hee pleaseth.*
This may bee a great incouragement to us in all our extremities and exigents, let us doe our dutie, and let us never feare Gods wanting of instruments for his worke; when wee are low, wee presently cry out, Lord by whom shall Jacob arise, by whom? by stones raised up to bee children, and by children inabled to doe the worke of men: Wee should never bee at our faiths end, though sometimes wee are at our wits end, let us doe our dutie, and leave it to God, who can easily raise up instruments to do his worke, from whom wee would never expect it; wee our selves have had a great deale of blessed experi∣ence of it. In the beginning of our publique troubles, our question was, by whom shall England arise now it is thus low? Wee demanded, where shall wee finde Captaines and Commanders for a warre in a Nation where all men have been bred in ease and peace? God hath found them, and tooke Gentlemen from following their Hawkes and Dogs, and Tradesmen from their shops, and Husband∣men from their Ploughes, to bee able to cope with the most expert Commanders in the world: and now wee are at another losse, now wee are demanding, where shall we find Ministers for eight or ten thousand Congregations, to instruct them in the way of life? Feare not, if God for our sinnes deny us not this mercy,* hee can fulfill that in the 68. Psalme; The Lord will give the Word, and great shall be the multitude of them that shall publish it, the Lord can raise Page 6 them up unexpectedly; and so in all other our difficulties.
*But this I purposely onely point at, that I might not bee straightned in the second, which is the singular com∣mendations of this Tribe, They were men of understanding to know the times, and what Israel had to doe.
That it is a great and high commendation of any people, espe∣cially of their Heads and Leaders,*to know the times in refe∣rence to their dutie:* These men of Issachar had understan∣ding of the times, to know what Israel had to doe; this God sets downe as their high commendation; in the hand∣ling of it I shall indeavour these three things. First,
I shall interpret the meaning of it, make you see what it is to know the times in reference to duties. Secondly,
*I shall indeavour to prove it out of the Scripture, and illustrate the truth of it, that you may see, that it is a high commendation, and a matter of extreme consequence; and thirdly, and principally,
*I shall indeavour to make Application of it for our own good. For the first,
*What it is to know the times in reference to dutie; you may please to observe that in the Scripture, and in the practise of men, there is found a fivefold knowledge of the times.
*There is an Astrologicall knowledge of the times, such a knowledge as the Starre-gazers do boast of; a knowledg whereby a company of vaine men doe undertake out of the bookes of the Starres to tell you whatsoever God hath decreed concerning Men or States: this knowledg is so condemned in other places of Scripture that none of you will imagine, that this was the commendation of this Tribe. Secondly,
*There is another knowledge of the times, which I may call a Diabolicall knowledge of the times, whereby wicked and ungodly men do studie to improve all advan∣tages Page 7 of time to further their own lusts and wickednesses; the study and knowledge of time-servers, who indeavour to make the times further them in their cursed designes; men who like Willowes or Bulrushes in the water will bow which way soever the streame runs, and dance after the present Fiddle of the times for their owne ends. I am certaine none of you think that this was the commendati∣on of this Tribe; such Temporizers & Time-servers, how∣ever they may for a while applaud their own wisedomes, will one day know, they have served but an ill Master; this was farre from the Tribe of Issachar. Thirdly,
You shall read of a Propheticall knowledge of the times,* that is, such a knowledge as wherein the Lord by revela∣tion doth in able some of his servants, I meane the Pro∣phets, to know what shall afterwards come to passe; and this kinde of knowledge, though every man hath an itch after it, and many doe as Nebuchadnezzar did,* when his thoughts troubled him in the night, that hee might know what should come to passe afterwards; yet our Lord hath told us, That it is not for us thus to know the times and seasons, which the Father hath kept in his owne hand;* there is fourthly,
Another knowledge of the Times, and study of it,* which is, an Historicall knowledge of the times, or an Astronomicall knowledge of the times; a knowledge which is extremely and deservedly cried up by learned men; a knowledge wherein many men of choycest wits, both among Heathens and Christians, have tooke very great paines, wherein they have much advanced wisedome and learning, especially in our latter age. Many rare men of choycest abilities have set downe in a continued Series, a Chronologie of all the yeers, that have been since the Creation, and of the most memorable things and per∣sons that have fallen out, or lived in the severall ages, and Page 8 yeeres; and this they have done to their owne everlast∣ing honour, rectifying the accompt of time, and extreme∣ly advantaged even the studie of the Scriptures; now this knowledge, though it bee excellent, yet my Text hath nothing to doe with it, and truly though it bee an excel∣lent thing, men may have it, and yet die fooles, and be mi∣serable for want of that knowledge which I am this day to speake of. The Nation of the Jewes were admirable in that kind of accompt of times: Scaliger saith of them, they were exact even to admiration; and Sethus Calvisius one of the most learned writers of that kind, though hee goe another way to worke, yet confesses that in the Jewes accompt, they did not lose above the accompt of one houre in the space of 1500. yeers; yet because they had no better knowledge of the times then that, the Lord in the eighth of Jeremiah saith,* they were fooles, and had not so much wisedome, as the Crane and the Storke, and the Swallow, those irrationall Animals, who had so much sagacitie, as to know the times of their comming into a Countrey, and leaving a Countrey; but this people knew nothing of the times in reference to Gods judge∣ments, and their owne duties: the Lord counted them fooles for all their other learning; And therefore there is, fiftly,
*Another knowledge of the times, which I may call a Theologicall knowledge, or rather a gratious and a practicall knowledge of the times, which is, so to know the times, as to understand the moment and exigence of all affaires which fall within the times in reference to their owne dutie, that they may improve all occurrences which fall out to the right end. This is the knowledge that I am to speake of, and this knowledge infinitely goes be∣yond that other; I confesse I finde a great many learned Volumes writ for the helpe of the other, to further the Page 9 Chronologicall, or Historicall wisedome of the times, abundance of Astronomicall Tables have been compiled, and other helpes set forth; but for this latter, I hardly know one little Pamphlet extant about it, and yet this in∣finitely goes beyond the other; for though a man should die ignorant of the other, and never know the Julian Ac∣count, or wherein the new & old stile differ one from ano∣ther, if hee have but learned to number his dayes, so as to apply his heart to wisedome, hee will honour God here, and bee happy for ever; but without this, what learning soever hee had in the other, his life will be wic∣ked, and in the end hee will die a foole: And this was the knowledge of this Tribe, this Practicall knowledge, so that when the other Tribes some of them stood for the house of Saul, to continue the government there, others of them inclined to David to make him King, and others pro∣bably were unsatisfied in their thoughts concerning ei∣ther of them, possibly thinking it would bee best to con∣tinue their old Aristocraticall government, in their seve∣rall Tribes, and to waite that God should raise them up extraordinary Judges in difficult times, and so they stood in a kind of indifferency and neutralitie; these men of Issachar, especially their Leaders, had so studied the times, that they did not onely know what was lawfull and ex∣pedient in this huge turne of theirs,* in this great businesse that was before them, but they knew what was their du∣tie, yea what all the kingdome, all the Common-wealth ought to doe with them, they knew the times, and what Israel had to doe.
Now this knowledge that I have brought you to, is not a mentall or speculative understanding of humane affaires, or things belonging either to Church or Com∣mon-wealth, but it is a Practicall knowledge, which is a wise abilitie to manage all the understanding that they Page 10 have in reference to their dutie; in one word, it is to ob∣serve all Gods administrations, wherewith the present time is filled, his providences, his mercies, his judgements, his words, his workes, to observe them (I say) so as there∣by to bee inabled seasonably and timely to performe their owne duties, and to regulate their conversations accor∣ding to the exigence and juncture of times, for the glory of God, the good of their brethren, and the salvation of their owne soules, and this is the Theame wherein I now proceed.
*To give you some evidence out of the Scripture, to make it apparent to you, that it is the highest commendations that can bee given of any people, to have this understan∣ding of the times, in reference to their dutie: and for the proofe of it, I shall indeavour these two things. First,
[ 1] To shew it you plainely out of the Scriptures, that it is a marvailous high commendation, and a deserved one. And secondly,
[ 2] I shall indeavour to make a further illustration of this Doctrine, of knowing the times, out of Gods Word.
*To prove that it is such a high and deserved commen∣dations, take but these three proofes. First, every where in the Scripture this is counted true wisedome, and in the accompt of God, they goe for wise men, who under∣stand the times in reference to their duties; looke first in∣to the fift of the Ephesians, at the eight verse, and so for∣ward,* the Apostle layes downe this great Doctrine, That now God had sent the light of the Gospell amongst them, they must not for time to come walke as other Gen∣tiles did walke in the vanitie of their minds, but they must leade a life worthy of the Gospell; and this hee proves by many Arguments, which when hee hath pro∣ved, then in the 15. and 16. verses, hee sets downe what this life is, see then, that you walke 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, exactly, not as Page 11 Fooles but as Wise men; wherein lies that? redeeming the time, because the dayes are evill; there is all required, there is the manifestation and demonstration, that you do not walke like Fooles, but as Wise men, if you have but once learned to redeeme the time in these evill dayes; the dayes are naught, the times are evill, full of snares to be avoyded, many duties to bee done; now herein will ap∣peare Gospell-wisedome, to walke so as that in these evill dayes, you may redeeme the time: and Solomon hath an excellent discourse of the same subject, in the eighth of Ecclesiastes, in the beginning of the Chapter,* hee gives a high Encomium of a wise man; Who is (saith hee) as the wise man? that is, no •an can bee compared to a wise man, what is hee? 〈◊〉 that knowes the interpretation of a thing, hee that knowes what every businesse doth truly signifie and call for, that is the wise man; then hee tells you, this mans wisedome will gaine him courage and cre∣dit, hee will bee honored and esteemed; then brings it downe, to manifest the excellency of this wisedome in one particular case, which is the most tickle businesse in the world for men to bee imployed in, and that is in at∣tending upon the affaires of supreme Governors in doing that which the higher powers command them, for they will quickly bee angry and take offence, therefore doe their businesse carefully and speedily as you should, and if they bee angry, goe not away in a pet, &c. But now lest some body should say, Doe you meane that a man should doe all that Kings, and supreme Magistrates doe command, without further enquiry or delay? No, saith Salomon in the fifth Verse, the wise man knowes both time and judgement; the wise man that hath the interpretation of a thing, knowes what is to bee done, what is to bee refused, and when things are to bee done most fitly or op∣portunely; therefore none like the wise man. So like∣wise Page 12Moses in the 32. of Deuteronomy,* about the 19. Verse, O that this people were wise, that they did but understand their last end; that they but rightly knew their time: and in the 90. Psalme, which is another prayer of Moses, Lord teach us so to number our dayes,* to make such a compute of our times, that wee might apply our hearts to wisedome. I might give you many other Scriptures which show that the Lord counts this to be true wisedome; nay, I'le add this further, the very light of nature hath taught the Heathens to judge this to bee true wisedome: the seven Counsellors of that great Emperour of Persia, in the first of Ester are said to bee men that knew the times, the meaning is, that they were wise Counsellors;* and among the Romans it is a Proverbiall Adage, homo omnium horarum, that is, hee is a wise man that is a man for all houres, knowes the busi∣nesse of every time, of every place, whatsoever hee is called to, hee understands his affaires; and in truth this may well bee called wisedome, for it is wisedome; it is not onely a part of wisedome, but it is the very Systeme and comprehension of all wisedome: I know there is a particular wisedome that men may have in some affaires, as a Husbandman that knowes but how to plough his ground seasonably,* &c. that is called his wisedome; and the women that did but know how to spin finely, &c. Men may have a kind of wisedome in this or that particu∣lar trade,* and yet all the world may know him to bee a foole in everything else; but that that is the true and re∣all wisedome which properly sets a man out to goe for a wise man,* properly stands in the true understanding of the times, in reference to mens duties.
For both Philosophers and Divines doe agree, that wisedome is made up of these two things; the one is, Intelligence, which is nothing but the understanding of things in their nature, as they are good or evill; the Page 13 other is Sapience, which is the same understanding ap∣plyed to particular businesses, as they stand vested with all their circumstances: and that man that hath the un∣derstanding of affaires, as they are circumstantianted with all things that goe with them, and knowes how hee may dexterously and opportunely apply himselfe to them, hee is the wise man, that is the first proofe, that the Spirit of God every where calls this wisedome. Secondly,
The same Spirit of God doth •sually call the want of [ 2] this, folly; whatsoever other excellencies meete in any man, if they want this, the Scripture calls them fooles; yea hypocrites, wicked ones, in the 8. of Jeremiah, the Lord speakes in the 6, 7, 8, 9. Verses, after this manner,*How doe you say you are wise? why doe you pretend to wise∣dome, (and hee speakes not to the vulgar people, but to the Scribes, their learnedst men, that could handle their tongues and their pens best) there was no wisedome in them, they were fooles; Why? because (saith God) the Storke, and the Crane, and the Swallow know their seasons, but this people knowes not the time of my judgements; and therefore the Lord would not have them pretend to any wisedome, but bee contented to bee counted fooles, be∣cause they were ignorant of this: and our blessed Savi∣our in the 16. of Matthew,* when the Scribes and Phari∣sees, and the learned Doctors of the Law came and de∣sired to have some further evidence from him, by some signe from heaven, that hee was the Messias; Christ told them they were Hypocrites, they were a sinfull and an adulterous Generation, meerely because they did not un∣derstand the signes of the times, A wicked and an adulte∣rous generation would have more light: you can tell by the Clouds when it will bee faire weather next morning, and you can guesse by the morning whether it will be rain; but yee hypocrites, yee fooles (saith hee) you cannot Page 14 discerne the signes of the times, what the times signifies, and calls for at your hands, you have no understanding of this, and therefore you may goe for a company of fooles, and hypocrites, and so left them and departed. Nay, thirdly, which makes it yet more cleare,
The want of this knowledge of the times in reference [ 3] to mans dutie, is that which the Spirit of God uses to render as the onely cause of a peoples ruine: whensoever a people are brought to ruine, if they be a people to whom God afforded meanes to save them, when they come to be ruin'd, the Lord layes it wholly upon this, that they knew not the times of their visitation.* This you'le find in the 19. of Luke, and the latter end of it, when Christ about the 41. Verse, came to take his farefull of Jerusalem and to die there; from the top of the Mountaine he looked over the Citie and fell a weeping, O (saith hee) that thou hadst but known in this thy day the things that belong to thy peace, but they are hid from thy eyes; then hee goes on and tells them what shall become of them, the enemies shall cast a banke and not leave one stone upon another, levell them to the ground and their Children in them; for what I pray? because thou knew'st not the time of thy visitation: destruction came in onely at that breach, they knew not the time of their visitation;* and elsewhere our Lord saith, in the latter end of the world, when ruine shall come, it will bee then, as it was in the dayes of Noah, and as it was in the dayes of Lot, men shall bee eating and drinking, and marrying wives, but know nothing they should do for their sal∣vation till utter ruine come upon them. I hope now the truth of this Lesson is cleare out of the Scripture.
But if you please to goe a little further yet, and consider the excellency and difficulty of this wisedome to know the times, how much depends upon it, & how much is required to it, you'l bee fully satisfied, that a greater com∣mendation Page 13 can never bee given of any man, or any peo∣ple, then this, that they know the times in reference to their duties: and that I may open what belongs to the making up of this worke,* I beseech you give mee leave to open these six Conclusions out of the Scripture, which all much concerne this wisedome of knowing the times in reference to dutie. First,
That time is one of the most pretious treasures that ever God bestowes upon any man, or any people;* 1. because time is the onely measure out of which God powres out all his administrations. 2. Time it is the onely space in which men are to doe all their worke.* 3. It's so pretious that God would have men value it one to another: if any man had hurt another, hee must not onely pay for his healing, but hee must pay for the losse of his time. Yea, 4. God calls upon his people to redeeme it at any rate; Redeeme the time,*re∣deeme the time, as if there were no commoditie, that the God of heaven would so commend unto men (next to his truth) that wee should buy so eagerly, as wee should purchase time. Yea, 5. it is so pretious, that Hee who is at that great cost to make and contrive it, as to cause the Sunne every day to run about the world, and all those excellent creatures in the firmament to make it their work, for the continuation of time will call men to accompt for every moment, for every minute of it: That is my first Conclusion, that time is a pretious Jewell in Gods ac∣count, and ought to be so in all people's. Secondly,
God hath joyned time and dutie inseparably one to another; so that there is no dutie,** but it hath an appointed time for it, and there is no time, but it, hath an appointed dutie for it; it's disputable whether there bee a vacuum in nature or no, it is most certaine there is no vacuum in time: No man ever lives to see that minute of time, nor that ragge or cranny of time, of which hee may truely say at this Page 16 time, I have nothing at all to doe; but the Lord hath measured out to all times some dutie or other: this our Sa∣viour saith expresly,*Matth. 6.34. when hee would dis∣swade men from troubling themselves to day with the duties that belong to to morrow, hee useth this argument among others, Trouble not your selves for to morrow, for to morrow day hath trouble enough of its owne, sufficient for every day is the trouble of it; the care, the worke, the dutie of every day that passeth over our heads is enough to fill the day, that is the second, that God hath joyned time and dutie together. Thirdly,
*There are some great duties that are to bee concurrent in the practise of all men, with every moment of their lives: My meaning plainly is this, the great businesse of glorifying God, of saving our immortall soules, of keeping a good conscience, of working out our salvation, these great things are not set off by God to any set time, but they are to be concurrent with every moment of a mans time; Trust in the Lord at all times;* have respect to Gods Comman∣dements at all times; Blessed are they that doe justice and judgement at all times; bee yee alwayes ready for your masters comming: And of those excellent men Josiah and others, it is recorded that they looked to Gods Com∣mandements all their dayes; so that the great matters of glorifying God, saving our soules, looking for our Masters comming, &c. these duties are to bee concurrent with all our time. Fourthly,
Severall times, I meane the severall compositions of times,* or Scenes, or Junctures of times, have their seve∣rall and peculiar duties laid out for every man by God himselfe: my meaning is this, there is a time of youth, a time of age, a time of prosperitie, a time of adversitie, a time of comfort, a time of trouble▪ a time of warre, a time of peace, and a hundred other severall frames, and compositions, and Page 17 junctures of time. Now so often as God doth make a new Scene of the time, every man hath some new duty or other to act; his part requires that hee should act some new thing; the Scripture is full of such expressions as these, in the times of prosperitie doe thus, in the time of adver∣sitie doe thus, in the time of the Gospel doe thus, &c. Now to know the time, and the severall duties belonging to every time, is one of the hardest things that belong to the taske of man, this wisedome lies in the deepe; it is a diffi∣cult thing to find out what the duties are that belong to the severall times. But then fiftly,
That the Booke of God, and onely the Booke of God,*is able to informe them who faithfully study it, in all the duties that doe belong to every new posture or face of time. First I say, onely Gods Booke can do it, there are Bookes of excellent wise∣dome written by other men, but take them all together, let a man bee never so versed in them, they will never discover to him every duty that belongs to every time, but the Booke of God can doe it if men have their senses exercised in the study of it; there is no time so intricate, no dutie so arduous, but the booke of God will teach all men, from the Minister to the Hearer, from the Prince to the Subject, to make every one of them perfect in all the workes which belong to them. Psalme 19.7. it is said,*the Word gives understanding to the simple; and in the third of the Proverbs, Vers. 21, 22, 23 In all thy wayes acknowledge her, and thou shalt walke in thy way safely,*and thy foot shall not stumble; when thou liest downe thou shalt not bee afraid, &c. Doe but get wisedome into thy heart, get acquaintance with Gods Word, it will direct thee in all thy w••es, whether to the right hand or to the left, at every turning place it will say, here is thy way,* and these must bee thy steps. Sixtly, and principally,
As there are severall times,* and severall duties annex∣ed Page 18 to these times, so in every time for any duty, there is some particle of that time, which is the opportunitie of the du∣tie, the season of the dutie there is the space of time, and there is the season of time; the space of time is nothing but the continuation and succession of so many minutes and moments one of another; but the season of time, or op∣portunitie of it, is time apted and fitted, to doe a busi∣nesse. Now these two doe very much differ one from another, the one of them the length, the duration of time, the Greeks calls 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, but the season, the opportunitie is called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, which is the tempus commodum, the tempe∣stivitie of time, the ripenesse of time: and this indeed is pro∣perly time in reference to dutie. And concerning these seasons of time or times fitted for businesse, be pleased to consider these five things, I shall need onely to name them, because I speake to an understanding people.
That any worke to be done is done easily if the opportunitie be taken; take opportunitie by the forelock, and any busi∣nesse whatsoever is to bee done, will bee done with ease; not onely because opportunitie is the ripenesse of time, but because in opportunities God offers to worke with us, and for us: Now you know any businesse that must bee done by the helpe of another, is then easily done, when both parties joyne in it. Two Men that are to lift up a burthen, if they both lift together, and take the Hae, now, it goes up easily. A vessell that is to be driven, if the Water∣men ply the Oares, the wind & tide go with them, the ves∣sell is carried easily; Now (I say) the Lord offers himselfe to come in to a people when there is a fit opportuni∣tie▪ •hen he holds up his hand, and saith, Now lift, and I'le lift with you, now row, and my Word shall blow with you; such Scripture as these are frequent, In an accep∣ted time I have heard thee;*and I will heare thee in an accepta∣ble time; In a day of salvation I will succour thee, in an op∣portune Page 19 time: God offers to come in and helpe, if oppor∣tunitie bee taken; This made the heathens esteeme op∣portunitie a goddesse.
As things are easie when men take opportunities, so [ 2] they are then beautifull; the beautie and grace of every du∣tie, both with God and man, is, when it is done in its fit season; the righteous man in the first Psalme, is compa∣red to the Tree that brings forth his fruit in his season, su∣um in suo, his owne fruit, and in his proper season;*God (saith Solomon) hath made every thing beautifull in its season;* all Gods works are beautifull in their season, and so are all mens workes too: A word spoke in season,*is like Apples of Gold in pictures of Silver; and a good word in season, O how comfortable it is. Thirdly,
But know, that these Opportunities are wondrous hard to find out; very difficult it is for men to know the true sea∣son [ 3] or opportunitie of a businesse: men may know times and seasons wel enough in particular businesses, the seasons for tilling the ground, and breeding and breaking of Cat∣tle, &c. In such low and triviall things in comparison, seasons may easily bee knowne, but in the great morall affaires, that concerne God and mens soules, the difficul∣test thing that lies before man, is, to finde out the true season when they are to bee done; this Solomon sets downe most excellently in the eighth of Ecclesiastes,* Verse 6. Because to every purpose there is required time and judge∣ment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him; marke that expression, most men are miserable, because a busi∣nesse cannot bee done, without a fit season and judge∣ment to know it: as if Solomon had said thus, The truth is, opportunities are so rare, oft-times so sudden, so violent, so short, the wind seldome blowing long in an opportune point, and men so ignorant, so blinded with prejudice, with vaine hopes or feares, that most men are miserable in that they cannot find out the true season of a businesse, Page 20 and thereby intimates that in every businesse the most difficult part of the worke is the right timing of it. I adde fourthly,
That when opportunities are past, if they bee let slip, they are oftentimes altogether irrecoverable; and the businesse is ei∣ther wholly lost, or never better then halfe done; it may cost more to patch up a businesse out of season, then requi∣red to have done it beautifully if the season had been taken; As the story goes of the Sibylls bookes, they were faine to give the full price for one, which would have bought all three, when two of them were burnt. Post est occasio calva. Unlesse God make another opportunitie, man can never call opportunitie back againe. Opportunities are Gods fitting of time to businesse,* & none but God can thus fit it; therefore you shall find Esau would have repented and got the blessing,* he wept and cryed for it, yet missed it, he might have had it once without weeping and crying, but he lost the season, and the season being gone, hee could never re∣cover it with all his weeping: So the foolish Virgins came with their Lampes, pretending to have got some oyle, and cryed, Lord open to us, but the season was past, and there was no entrance; the truth is, seasons are to businesses as money is to wares, hee that would buy a commoditie up∣on a market day, when possibly the commoditie is very cheape, may then have it for laying out his money, lose but that market, possibly ten market dayes will not helpe him againe with it, and either never buy it or give a greater rate for that which is not so good as the other would have been; if opportunities bee once past over, without the Lord create them againe, men are utterly lost in their [ 5] businesses. Fiftly, and lastly,
As these opportunities are excellent, and hard to find, and irrecoverable if they bee lost: So in the last place, know, that no wisedome, no learning, nothing but a gratious heart guided by the Spirit of God, doth know how to take op∣portunities Page 21 in time, for the great businesses that concerne God and his glory, no wisedome but the wisedome of grace, and Gods Spirit guiding the heart, doth ever know to doe businesses in their right seasons. In other things (as I said before) they may bee taken, naturall men may plow and sow in season, &c. Yea, men may sensibly un∣derstand the times, so as to mourne for the afflictions of them, so as to rejoyce in the good of them; and wicked men by a devillish wisedome can take the seeming oppor∣tunities, to promote their owne wicked designes; the harlot can take the opportunitie of her husbands absence, the thiefe the opportunitie of the twilight, and so every man the seeming opportunitie of things that are of the De∣vill, for Satan helpes them; but to know the opportuni∣ties of the things that concerne God and our soules, no∣thing but a gratious heart enables a man to doe it: the Scripture is very plaine for this, Solomon expresses it no∣tably in the tenth of Ecclesiastes, Vers. 2. A wise mans heart is at his right hand, but a fooles heart is at his left;* the meaning is this, when a businesse is to be done, & the right season for it, the wise man, a gracious man hath his hand ready, and his heart to joyne with his hand, he is alwayes dexterous at it, but a fooles (i. e. a wicked mans) heart, when his businesse is to bee done, his heart is at his left hand, every finger is a Thumbe, hee cannot manage it: but more clearely Solomon expresseth this,*Prov. 17. Vers. 16. Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a foole to buy wisedome, seeing he hath no heart to it? Let a wicked man have opportunities, give him wealth, give him honour, give him meanes of grace, give him any thing that may helpe to wisedome, hee hath no heart to it: So also saith Daniel, Dan. 12.10. speaking of understanding the times,*none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall, the godly shall.
Page 22Thus I have done with the Doctrinall part of it, and by this time I hope you all grant, that it is a matter of wonderfull concernement, of admirable wisedome and commendation, to have understanding of the times and seasons, so as rightly to discharge their owne duties: I now come to the Application of it,* wherein I shall one∣ly insist upon two Uses, the one is,
For Humiliation, in reference to time past, to seasons and opportunities which are past and lost. The other shall be,
For Exhortation, in reference to the time to come, that wee may learne this excellent wisedome to know the times and seasons so as to lose no more of them. For the first,
*Is it such a singular commendation, so excellent a wisedome, a matter of so great moment and consequence, to know the times in reference to duty? O what cause of lamentations is there: First,
*In generall to us all? a man might in this case fill such a booke as Ezekiels roule was, wi•h weeping, and lamen∣tation and mourning: Here is a great Assembly gathered together to mourn upon a day of mourning, and if ever any Doctrine that ever I have preached might call for mour∣ning at all your hands, I am perswaded this doctrine calls for it from every one of us; God bee mercifull to us, wee have all been fooles, we have not knowne the times of our visitation, wee have knowne the times to talke of them, sometimes to inveigh against them, crying out, they are the worst times that ever were; but for this knowledge of my Text (wherein true wisedome should appeare) to know the times in reference to our duties, I feare I may say as Paul said of the Corinthians, hardly one wise man to bee found amongst us. One said, (I know not how truely) of the Helvet•ans, that he travelled through their Country, and found that there are toti pagi repleti fa∣tuis, whole Villages inhabited by none but fooles; Truly Page 23 (beloved) not onely our Country Villages, but our market townes, and our Cities, and I pray God it prove not that our Parliament and Assemblies are all filled with fooles in this great point, few or none of us know the times in reference to our duties. Let mee speake free∣ly to you, God hath cast the lot of all of us in such times as have been filled with such administrations, as the like could not have been in the space of these 1000 yeers; and confident I am, that hee that loses these times wherein we have lived, would never have redeemed any time; and yet notwithstanding, have not wee, O have not wee all usually put off to the future, the duties that belong to the present time, and done in the present time, the things that should never have been done at all? Have not most of us lived all our dayes, as if God had made us for the World, as Leviathan for the Sea, onely to take our plea∣sure in it? others of us to fill our shops with commodities, our purses with money, our houses with stuffe and pro∣vision, as if there had been no better things to have been regarded? when in the meane time for the admirable op∣portunities wee have had for the glorifying of God, and the saving of our soules, as if these had been nothing worth; woe unto us, wee have done any thing rather then make improvement of them: and as rich people will give any poore people leave to goe into their Pease-fields to gather lapfulls of their Pease, as being things of little worth, so have wee allowed any thing to take up our time, sporting, and eating, and prating, and sleeping, and such things that are of little concernment. O how much of our pretious time have they devoured and wee regard it not? what cause have we to tremble at the thought of it? I beseech you tell me, if God should come now, and say to any Nobleman, Gentleman, Minister, Citizen, or other that is here, I have given thee 20. yeers, 40. yeers, three∣score Page 24 yeers of time, I have filled thy time with glorious opportunities, as excellent as ever I gave to any, the least of them worth a world, give in your Bill of accompt what you have done with these? what improvement you have made of them? how have you walked I beseech you? what accompt could you make? would it not appeare that you have spent many houres and dayes in riot and wantonnesse, sporting and playing, in swearing and cur∣sing, in contriving and acting that which is evill and mis∣chievous, and very few minutes for your God, & for your soule, for obtaining eternall life, happinesse, or doing good to your brethren: God bee mercifull to us, wee could not answer him one word for a thousand, wee have all cause to lie in the dust, and acknowledge we have been fooles, and not knowne the things that belonged to our peace, not regarded the time of our visitation.
*But (Honorable and beloved) give me leave to bring this lesson nearer to you, who have called mee this day to preach, and let me make a more through enquirie after your wisedome in this particular, because you are look'd upon as the wise men of the Land that know the times better then others; I am confident you doe not desire to bee flattered any day, but this day I hope that will bee most acceptable which in a way of God could most effe∣ctually humble and abase you, and you have put a necessi∣tie upon mee, to deale freely and faithfully with your soules. Have not you, honored and worthy Patriots and Senators, infinite cause to bemoane this, that you have not knowne the times in reference to your duties?
First, be pleased to view the times you lived while you were private Gentlemen, before you were called to these publique services, when you lived in your severall Coun∣tries; where I know by reason of your wealth, and parts, and interests, and states, you had abundance of opportu∣nities Page 25 more then other people had, to have done much service, to have made the times and places better for you. Did you then thus know the times? did you then walke as wise men, redeeming the times? did you know what God expected from you in your places, and have you done it? O blessed yee, if you have: But (I beseech you) will it not rather appeare upon a true search, that many of you in those dayes walked in the wayes of riot, in unclean∣nesse, in drunkennesse, possibly in swearing, in propha∣ning Gods holy time, in opposing and scorning Religion, was it not thus? it behoves you to search; did you not make your owne Families, the Townes and Lordships where you lived the worse for you, as so many Jeroboams causing Israel to sinne? did not you thereby helpe to pull downe those judgements that have beene like to devoure and destroy this whole Land? and if so, have you beene humbled under these things? have you since repented of them? or do they still stand upon your score before that God that keeps an exact accompt of all the Talents that ever hee hath put into your hands? I beseech you enquire into it; but let me goe further, and enquire whether since the time that God hath separated you from your brethren, and by a notable providence called you out to be the heads of all our Tribes, have you since that time knowne the times in reference to your duties? It is now above six yeers since many of you have beene called to this worke, one of the greatest workes that mortall men have beene imployed in these many hundreds of yeers, a work wherein you have beene assisted not onely with the prayers and teares of those that feare God, throughout the Christian world, but with the states and blood of many, and God himselfe hath carried you in his bosome, and made you the most remarkable handfull of men, that I thinke this day breath upon the earth, in regard of the mercies that hee Page 26 hath shewed you, and in this time (certaine I am) hath put into your hands as many golden opportunities, not onely required as many duties, but put as many golden opportu∣nities into your hands to establish our wretched king∣dome, and to rescue a decayed, lukewarme, Apostatized Church, as ever were put into the hands of a Parlia∣ment. Now (beloved) have you known your times, and taken your opportunities? I know it well, that you have wrestled with huge difficulties, infinite oppositions, and I know that oft-times the perversnesse of a Patient poyso∣ning his owne disease or wounds may frustrate the care of the best Physitians; and God forbid, that that which is onely your misery, should ever bee imputed to you as your sinne; but suppose upon a diligent search, any of you that are called to bee our wise men, to know the times for us, that at your doore it should lie in great part, that our miseries are not yet healed, how sad would that bee? To this end I most humbly pray you inquire, if upon a diligent search there should bee found among you any who at this day live in the same sinfull, riotous, ungod∣ly, wicked conversation that they led, before God called them to this publique service: that after your solemne oath, with your hand lifted up to the most high God for the reformation of your wayes, that you should bee found still with Zimri and Cozbi, to live in those sinnes for which God is judging this Nation; Were this to know the times, and what Israel hath to doe? Suppose further, there should bee found amongst you any such as should ordinarily neglect the publique service, and turne your backs upon it, to attend your own private affaires, after that the Kingdome hath put into your hands whatsoever under God is pretious and deare unto them; were this to know the times and what Israel hath to doe? Suppose there should bee found amongst you any that should seeke ad∣vantage Page 27 to themselves out of publique calamities, or should sinfully helpe to undoe those for whom they are called to bee Saviours; were this to know the times? Sup∣pose that any of you should bee found unjust in judge∣ment, and favour an unrighteous man in his cause, either for corrupt gaines or out of opposition to them you like not, and so prostrate the untainted honour of the Parli∣ament to the reproach of the adversaries, the scandall of the Nation, the teares and griefe of them who love you; were this to know the times, and what Israel hath to doe? Sup∣pose it should bee found that there should bee any that in matters of Religion should side with a partie for corrupt and sinfull ends, and make Religion but an Engine to carry on some other sinfull designe; were this to know the times and what Israel had to doe? Suppose yet further, that upon a diligent search there should be found among you any that doe retard matters of the greatest moment; that the setling of Religion should bee obstructed by you, that many people abroad are remisse in it, because they judge you have no heart to it; were this to know the time, and what Israel hath to doe? Suppose that the cries and teares of the oppressed▪ I meane not the fatherlesse and widowes, (whom I am confident the Houses of Parli∣ament would helpe this very day, if it lay in their power) but the cries of some oppressed by Committees or others in the Countrey, should come up to you and seeke for succour, and it should bee found that some of you should patronize the wrong-doers, and keepe them off from comming to a hearing, and thereby from redresse; were this to know the times, and what Israel had to doe? Honora∣ble, and Worthy, doe not mistake mee, I am farre from saying it is so, I onely suggest these things to your owne search, and if in naming the particulars I mistake any of them, God knowes it is with the same singlenesse of Page 28 heart, wherewith Job sanctifyed his Children, sacrificed for them, saying, Peradventure my sonnes have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts; sure I am it concernes you all to search and try; for if it should be so, wee are all like to smart for it, for as he said of the Roman Senate, Ita nati est is ut bona malaque vestra ad rempub. pertineant, Your con∣dition is such, that your good and your evill, is the good and evill of the Commonwealth; it belongs to us all: and should the great God find any of you walking thus unworthy of the great trust hee hath committed to you, when hee hath put (as it were) the fates of his Church and Kingdome in your hands, under him to dis∣pose of them, h•s wrath would bee kindled against you, these things would lie very heavy upon your score, and wee and you should dearely rue it. Sure I am, there is not a man of us, but for some or other of these things, hath just cause to lay his hand upon his heart with sorrow, and to put his mouth in the dust, and this day to bee very deepely humbled and abased before God. And this is the first Use, a Use of Humiliation, that wee have not in time past, so knowne the times as wee should in reference to our duties. There is one more, and that is,
*A Use of Exhortation; Is this so excellent and neces∣sary a dutie, to know the times in reference to our duties? O that I knew how to speake somewhat in the name of the Lord,* that might promote this wisedome in you for time to come, that in this our day wee might know the things that concerne our peace, that they may not be for ever hid from our eyes; O that I could say to you, as Paul said to the Thessalonians:*Concerning the times and sea∣sons, it is superfluous for mee to write to you, for you your selves know perfectly. To this end I beseech you take briefly these foure Meditations to provoke you to study this wisedome in time to come.* First,
Page 29Often consider how much time, & how many golden op∣portunities [ 1] thou hast lost already; how oft there hath been in thy hands a price to purchase Wisdome, and thou hast lost it for want of a heart; and then thinke whether it bee not more then needfull that thou shouldest lose no more. Secondly,
Consider how much doth depend upon that moment [ 2] of time that yet is behinde; It is an old saying, Our life is but a moment▪ but Ex hoc momento pendet aeternitas, Eter∣nity dependeth upon this moment; no lesse then the glo∣ry of God, and the saving of thy immortall soule, and it may bee of thy family, it may bee of the Church and Kingdome, dependeth upon thy knowing the times. Thirdly,
Consider thou canst not tell, whether ever thou shalt [ 3] enjoy after this day one opportunity more; the Angel may quickly come and sweare concerning thee and mee, Time shal be no more. And then Fourthly,
Consider when Time ceases to bee any more, thou [ 4] must give an accompt for all the time that hath been; that certainly at the barre and Tribunall of God, all the Times and seasons that God hath trusted thee with, stand upon thy score, and will bee exacted of thee: Rejoyce O young man (saith Solomon in the 11 of Ecclesiastes) in thy youth, and let thy heart cheare thee in the dayes of thy youth, and walke in the wayes of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes; take thy pleasures, waste thy seasons, but know that for all these things thou must come to judge∣ment. Such Meditations as these would provoke your hearts to bee very carefull to lose no more time▪ but ra∣ther to enquire what you should doe for time to come, and how you might learne this Wisdome: And truly, it would fill a Volume, to tell what every one should doe, from what wee should redeeme our time, and to what wee Page 30 should redeeme it, and by what meanes wee should doe it. I dare not enter upon that discourse:* But there is one thing wherein I desire freedome, that I might be as help∣full as I can to the Honourable Senate that hath called me to the service of this day: Honourable and Beloved, God hath cast your lot so, that if you be rightly instru∣cted in this one Lesson, you may make our times differ as much from former times,* as Nebuchadnezzars Golden head did from the feet of iron and clay; Golden times indeed might bee brought about, if God vouchsafed but to teach you this one Lesson. Your duties are many, for whatsoever lies upon any other, lies eminently upon you; You are to doe all those things in every time, that others are to doe; and you are to doe many things that others cannot doe, and may not doe: That you may therefore know your duty, give mee leave to represent before you the true face of our Times wherein wee live,* and shew what in these Times you have to doe, and herein I will not presume to put any Prudentialls upon you, (we ought all to thinke that Prudentialls are better understood by you, then by us) but what shall I say, shall (God willing) appeare to be matter of Conscience, matters of necessi∣ty, and things that may not bee left to liberty; Know then our present times.
*First in generall, are such Times, as I thinke never were before us in the World; I may say of our times, as the Prophet Joel saith in the 1 of Joel, Heare O yee old men, was it ever thus in your dayes, or in the dayes of your fore∣fathers? I meane, our times are so full of various admini∣strations, such a concurrence of all kinde of Providences and Administrations, as seldome were ever knowne in so few yeares; Wee have been sometimes full of hopes of recovery, sometimes at the brinke of despaire, sometimes dawnings of light, by and by all clouded over againe Page 31 with utter darknesse; sometimes we see a people draw∣ing nigh to God that hides his face from them, by and by God drawing nigh to a people that run away from him; such alterations, such vicissitudes of all kindes of admini∣strations, that truly I may compare our times to the wind mentioned in the first of Ecclesiastes, It whirles about conti∣nually, now in the North, and then in the South,*and never a∣bides in one Point: So hath it been with us for these foure or five last yeares: this day of ours hath been like that day in the 14 of Zachariah, neither night nor day, nor light nor darknesse, but a strange kinde of mixture of all these,* and in such various and uncertaine Times as these are, what have the heads of our Tribes to doe? I answer plainly, all others with you, and you with others,* are in such dayes to stand and behold the Workes of God, viewing and admiring, and adoring these Mosaick works, these Checquer workes of God, but it concernes you a∣bove all others, to stand constantly upon your watch, and employ all your Parts and Wisdome, and Faithfulnesse, lest a change of time take you upon a sudden. As when a Ship is at Sea, if it saile to the Westward, and once get beyond the Canaries, where the Sea sets constantly one way, and state-winds blowing for so many Moneths to∣gether in one Point, a moderate skill and care of him that guides the Helme, wil carry them on with ease; but in va∣rious winds, and tumultuous Seas, when they saile some∣times among Rocks, and sometimes among Quicksands, sometimes in Gulfes, sometimes in the Ocean, sometimes almost at the Shoare, if the Pilot be not extreame skilfull and carefull, himselfe, his Barque, and all that are with him are quickly cast away: So I am assured is it now with us in these various administrations; you that are our Pi∣lots, that sit at the Sterne, must shew more then ordinary skill and diligence, or we may quickly perish. But
Page 32*More particularly, there are seven severall Scenes of the Time (if I may so call them) or sorts of things, that eve∣ry day are acted upon our Stage, and in every one of them I shal shew you, what you that are the Heads of our Tribes have to doe. First,
*Our times are times of most prodigious wickednesse, horrible abominations in mens manners; I am confident, never such abominable drunkennesse, and generall loose∣nesse in that kinde; never more universall liberty of who∣ring▪ Incestuous mariages, oppressions, cruelty, injustice, malice, revenge, and every thing that might fill a Land with ungodlinesse. Since wee or our fore-Fathers were borne, never was there a greater deluge of wickednesse, then in these our times;* and what have the Heads of Israel to doe at such a time? Certainely you, and all o∣thers at such times are called to mourne for all the abomi∣nations of the Times;* and you, and all others are cal∣led to walke more exactly, in that time, to redeeme the time when the dayes are evill: But You above all others are called out by God, in such times, to be his instruments, to oppose these things,* the Ministers of God, to execute vengeance upon those that do evill: For these things, I think you shall not need to trouble your selves to make new Lawes, as excellent Lawes are already made against them all, as I thinke any Common-wealth in the world hath, but it concernes you to see that these bee put in exe∣cution; It concernes you in times of oppression to deli∣ver the poore and the oppressed, out of the Talons and Pawes of them, who teare them and crush them in pieces; It concerns you to see that the Justices and other offi∣cers in the Countrey, set not up these houses of Sinne, Alehouses and Tavernes, nor that when some well-affe∣cted put them downe, Great men set them up againe; and so in other abominations it concernes you to see that ince∣stuous Page 33 Mariages and such ungodlinesses, go not unbranded and unpunished; the Lord kindle zeale in your hearts, that you may doe it: that is one, Our Times are times of abominable wickednesse. Secondly,
Our times are times of Errors, horrible Errors, I meane not such Errors as are to bee found among Gods people,* to whom hee never hath given an equall light, and not∣withstanding which Errors himself beares with them, and would have his people bear one with another; but I meane our times are times of such Errors as are heretical and blas∣phemous, such as concern our Christian faith, and holy conversation, in a very high degree; it would weary you, but to tell you, the things that are generally knowne to spread as a Gangrene, a new generation of men are ri∣sen up, and spread all the points of Arminianisme, univer∣sall Redemption, Apostasie from grace, Mans free-will; multitudes of others cry downe the Law, as not having any thing to do with Gods people; others denying that the Saints of God should ever any more confesse sinne to God in prayer; others questioning whether there bee any Church or Ministery this day upon the face of the earth, and whether there shall bee any till new Apostles arise: Nay, beyond all these, many denying the Lord Je∣sus, that bought us with his blood, to bee God; or the Holy Ghost to bee God; others denying the three Per∣sons in the Trinity; and consequently affirming that we, and all the Christian world with us, doe worship Idols in stead of God, for if these men bee right, they are Idols whom wee worship. These, and abundance of such hor∣rid things as these are, doe spread and scatter like wilde∣fire every where in all corners of the Land, to the great provocation of Gods wrath, & our reproach through the Christian world. And what have our Heads to doe at such a time? Certainly you, and al others ought to mourn for these Page 34 things, and teare your clothes, and your haires, and your hearts, that God should be so dishonored, but for your du∣ties who are in high Places, for what is peculiar to you, I'll not dispute any controversie at this time, but set down Two things which I know you must yeeld to. One is,
[ 1] Certainly you must search diligently into the Scrip∣tures, and enquire whether Jesus Christ would have you oppose your selves against these things that are so opposite to him; If upon a diligent search, you finde that hee hath not authorized you, doe not you arrogate any authority that Christ hath not given you; my Lie will never honour God, though I should tell it for Gods glory, and your thrusting your selves into an office, Christ hath not cal∣led you unto, will never be accepted by him. But if Se∣condly,
[ 2] Upon a diligent search, it appeares hee hath given au∣thority unto you, then I am as assur'd that hee hath not left it to your arbitrement, whether you'll use it, or no; hee hath not left it to your will, whether you will punish them, but if you have power to stop them, and doe not, hee will lay them all at your doores, and require them at your hands; therefore search diligently what you have power to doe, and then let not these things goe on, to Gods dis∣honour. But supposing you have authority. What then is to be done? I answer, you must not take Blasphemies, Er∣rors, and Heresies to bee such upon the reports of other men, but as the Lord ordered them in the 13 of Deutero∣nomie,* so likewise must you doe, Search diligently whether indeed such and such things are done; and when they ap∣peare to bee done, out of the zeale of God, doe that a∣gainst them which the Lord would have you doe; let not your Religion be thus contaminated, suffer not your children, to whom you ought to bee nursing Fathers, to bee thus poisoned by such corrupt Doctrines, nor devou∣red Page 35 by such wolves: This I know you will all subscribe unto; This I desire above all may sticke with you, that if the Lord hath given you power, hee hath not given you libertie to forbeare such men; God in mercy make you zealous for him, that hath been zealous for you in all your troubles. Thirdly,
Our times are times of wrath, a great deale of wrath from the Lord is gone forth;* you know what dreadfull Vialls of wrath, have been poured out in blood; terrible quivers of destroying arrowes have been shot out in Pe∣stilence, all which tell you God is angry: And what then have our Heads and Leaders to doe? certainly all people should tremble when God is angry; The Lyon roares,*what beast doth not tremble? and every one must labour to pa∣cifie him when hee is angry; but you whom the Lord hath placed under him in such high place and authority, must with Moses at such a time, call to Aaron to run with his Censer,* you must labour to enquire out the Cau∣ses of it, and execute the judgement and vengeance that God would have executed upon them who have procured it; You must with Josiah,* 2 Kings 22.13. inquire what will appease him, and with the King of Nineveh, call upon every one to turne from the evill of his doings, and your selves bee examples to the rest. Fourthly,
Our times are times of Warre, terrible warres, unna∣turall warres, bloody warres, as ever England knew,* and as yet the Armies are in the Field, and though there bee no open Enemy, the Sword is not put up; and in Ireland, poor wretched Ireland, the warre is more terrible, where if we labour not to end it by sending our brethren timely suc∣cours, the bloody enemy is like to come to make a new war upon us ere it be long; And in the times of warre, What have the heads of our Tribes to do? Certainly all people in a time of warre, should make it a time of mourning; Eze∣kielPage 36 saith,*The Sword is furbished▪ and drawne, and made bright for slaughter, should wee then make mirth? Should this bee a time of jollitie? and all should labour to finde out the Causes of the warre, what the Sword-procuring sins are, and every one to repent and turne from them. But you that are our Heads, are to look to these 2 Things principally. First,
[ 1] That while the warre doth last, and must last, that our Campes and Armies may bee in such a condition, that God may not abhorre our Armies; When the Host goes forth to the battail,*keepe thee from every evill thing. And Secondly,
In the times of Warre, you should alwayes labour after [ 2] an honourable, safe, and just Peace; peace is the end of warre; Pax una triumphis, One peace is worth 100 Victo∣ries; and therefore you must principally addresse your selves to God, who alone can give us Peace: Kings and States may begin a warre, but God onely must end it; we may daube up a peace, and get counterfeits of peace, but all will bee arena sine calce, Sand without lime, a mortar which will not hold, but as a swelling in a high wall, whose breach comes suddenly: Therefore remember againe and againe, your work lies with the God of Peace, pacifie him, and hee will create peace for you. Fifthly,
Our Times are times of Divisions; such Divisions, as (I thinke) were hardly ever knowne in the Christian World;* Divisions every where, divisions in Parliament, divisions in the Assembly, divisions in the Citie, divisions in State affaires; but woe and alasse, most of all, and worst of all, divisions among Gods people, the Servants of God who heretofore prayed together, fasted toge∣ther, could have been banished together, now, as if the curse of Simeon and Levi were fallen upon them, they are divided in Jacob, and scattered in Israel; Manasseh is a∣against Page 37Ephraim, and Ephraim against Manasseh, and every one eates the flesh of his owne arme, and through the wrath of the Lord, the Land is darkened and infatuated, by the miserable divisions of Gods owne people; and these divisions are fomented, encouraged, and back'd by a Third il-affected party, who desires that these Two, like wilde beasts, may teare one another, and weaken one ano∣ther, that they may devoure them both; and all this goes on thorough our sinne: And truly wee are in my poore thoughts, as if God had left us to bee as Moab,* and Am∣mon, and Mount Seir, where two stood up against one to destroy it, and then the other two to destroy one another; as the foolish Woman, wee are pulling downe our house with our owne hands. And now (Honorable and Belo∣ved) in such sad & uncomfortable times as these are, what have the Heads of our Israel to doe? what doth the Lord looke for at your hands? Certainly you with others, and you above all others, should labour to bee our Physitians, our Aesculapiusses, to joine our dissever'd limbes, and if it bee possible, to make us one againe: Noble Senators, is there no way that your Wisdome can contrive to make Pacification, Accommodation, and Reconciliation, but must wee goe on thus to ruine one another? Any ordi∣nary head may serve to embroyle things, but here would bee the Master-piece of your Wisdome, if you could find out a way how the envie of Ephraim, and the ill will of Manasseh might cease, and that Gods people might yet bee reconciled and united, of one minde as farre as is possible, and made of one heart in those lower things, wherein they cannot bee of one minde: Would God put this in your hearts, that you might speedily and earnestly set about it, that if there should be found any Animosities amongst your selves, you would lay them down first, & all agree to study the Publike good, and then see what you Page 38 can doe to reconcile others in the Ministery, in the City, in the Countrey; o that you could doe as Constantine did, who burnt all the Libells that were presented to him from one Bishop against another, and never left till hee had made peace among them. O that God would both ina∣ble you, and provoke you to set speedily upon this worke, God, and his people have their eyes upon you, and expect you should imploy all your Wisdome, Piety, Parts, and Authority to extinguish those flames which threaten spee∣dy ruine to us all.
*Our times are times of Reformation; As they are times of sinne and errour, and wrath, and warre, and di∣visions, which all five are very sad, so the other two are excellent, our times are times of Reformation; I mean, they are times not onely of much Gospell light, but they are times of growing, and increasing light, wherein the light of the Gospell spreads more, and the Lord as in other parts of the world, so especially amongst us, seemes to bee laying out the platforme of his Temple, and to set out a new edition of his Church, fairer and more beautifull then ever; and what have the Heads of our Tribes to doe at such a time? without all question, very much of it will lie upon your hands under God, you have contended stifly and couragiously for our liberties, and properties▪ and to recover us from bondage and slavery, and God hath been with you in it; and although the king∣dome doth not yet feele it, and so it may bee doth not greatly thank you, because in desperate diseases, the cure is commonly more costly and more tedious then the dis∣ease is, but I doubt when God vouchsafes a settling they will finde the fruit of what you have done for them, and blesse God for you that are their healers. But know (I beseech you) that our Religion is our most Orient Pearle, and that whereupon our heart Page 39 is most set▪ and if there should bee any miscariage in it all will perish with it, wee should call every thing else Ichabod, if Religion miscarry, all is gone; and therefore to provoke you to helpe us in this thing, let mee leave these two Conclusions in your bosomes. First,
A Reformation begun, and not carried on▪ alwayes brings more wrath from God; you have begun the Re∣formation, you are engaged in it by oath and Covenant, and some happy proceeding and progresse you have made in it, God grant you slack not in it: For you•l finde in the Scriptures, a reformation begun and laid aside is a peoples undoing; In Elijahs dayes there was a Reformation be∣gun, it fell downe and the Kingdome perished with it. In Josiah's time a Reformation was begun, and quickly laid aside with the death of that good King, and the King∣dome was ruined presently after it. In Haggai his dayes, the Reformation was begun, then laid aside; God pre∣sently smote them with Blasting and Mildew, and would have undone them, if they had not taken it up againe: God lookes you should carry this work on. And I adde,
Without setling Religion, you shall never settle the Common-wealth; Hee that writes a Booke of the cor∣rupt and troubled state of the Church, will hardly ever write a Booke of the quiet and setled State of the Com∣monwealth; Christ is King of Nations and Common∣wealths as well as King of Saints: Now the glory of Christ is so much concerned in the matter of Religion, that they shall never finde him propitious to them, for their good in humane affaires, who neglect him in that that is dearest to him. But what have our Heads and Ru∣lers to doe in that? I feare not to say confidently, that they are mistaken who say, you have nothing to doe with it; All the good Kings that ever I read of in the booke of God, thought not onely they had to doe with it, but it Page 40 was their first work a Jove principium, they all began with it, they ever accounted the Reformation, & preservation, & propogation of Religion to be their Crown: but what have you to doe? I answer, you must with David, set your whole hearts to the house of your God,* really and seriously; with Solomon set as many on worke as you can possibly, to prepare materialls for Gods house;* with Jehosaphat send abroad as many faithfull Preachers as you can, to goe about and instruct the people from Towne to Towne, and Citie to Citie, till you can get Ministers to bee setled. With Nehemiah labour to build the walls of Jerusalem, though in a troublesome time, with a Sword in one hand and a Trowell in the other, set up discipline to bee a hedge and fence to the Churches. With Hezekiah la∣bour to provide honorable maintenance for Gods house and his Ministers, that young men may not bee discoura∣ged in their studies. For when young Students can see, Galen and Justinian, the study of the Law or Physick can give them wealth and honour, and the Ministry nothing but beggery, it will bee a great snare to them, though the worke of the Ministry bee honorable, and hath an abundant reward with God, yet for want of maintenance the house of God will bee forsaken;*Sint Maecenates, non deerunt marones: Men of parts must have incouragement, and in your provision for them forget not the Schooles of the Prophets, remember the Universities: Indeavour to car∣ry on the worke, that the beautie and power of Religion may be promoted, and the Lord direct you to it. Seventh∣ly, and lastly,
*Our times are times of Deliverances, the greatest deli∣verances that I thinke the Lord hath wrought, since hee brought Israel out of Egypt; such deliverances as we our selves are like men in a dreame, such deliverances that there hath beene but few footsteps of ordinary Provi∣dence Page 41 in them; deliverances that have beene the fruit of Prayer, the fruit of Covenanting, the fruit of Fasting, and in all these the fruit of free grace, wherein the Lord hath exceeded not onely our Faith, but our Prayers, and hath measured out to us all that hee hath done by the shekel of the Sanctuary, his own shekel that is double of ours; I know, you forget not the wonderfull things the Lord hath done, and what have our Heads to doe at such a Time? Truly, all others with you, but you more then all, at such a time must bee carefull of these foure things;
First, God expects when hee workes deliverances, that his people should consider his workes, and stand amazed [ 1] at it; When the Lord turned the captivitie of Zion,*wee were like men in a dreame, our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with joy; The Lord (say they) hath done great things for us; Thus let us admire his works.
In times of deliverance, you must bee very carefull to [ 2] pay your vowes;* the vowes that you made in the time of your low condition; the vowes you made, when your Selves, and Liberties, and Religion, and the Kingdom were all like to bee buried quicke together; God expects in times of deliverance to have those vowes remembred and paid; consider what they were. Thirdly,
When the Lord workes such deliverances, hee expects, and it will very well become the Heads of our Tribes, to [ 3] keepe the same lowly and humble spirit, that they had while God kept them under afflictions; to have their eares as much opened to good counsell, when God hath exal∣ted them, as when hee abased them; this is a hard lesson to learne: I finde the best of all Gods servants have much failed in this particular. Good David himselfe in the day of his prosperity kept not alwayes that humble spirit which hee had in his low estate, nor Asa, nor Uzziah, nor Hezekiah; and wee know the story of that famous Queen, Page 42 whose motto in the time of her afflictions was Tanquam ovis, as a sheepe for the slaughter, yet afterwards it was thought needfull to intreate that it might not bee tanquam indomita juvenca, as an untamed Heifer. Men are infinite∣ly prone to bee lifted up, when God enlarges them, but God infinitely detesteth it, and will not put it up at the hands of any. Therefore I most humbly beseech you, (Right Honorable, and Honorable and beloved) let Da∣vid and Solomon his sonne, and Uzziah, and Hezekiah bee warnings to you, and doe you labour to maintaine the same lowly spirit, that you had when you could keepe dayes of mourning for the sinnes of the Kingdome, for your personall sinnes and Parliament sinnes, such a spirit would infinitely please God. And lastly,
In the time of deliverance, God expects of those that [ 4] are the Heads and Rulers of a people, that every delive∣rance should by them bee improved to the utmost, for the end for which it is given; every Rod hath a voyce and calls for some dutie, and every mercy and deliverance hath a voyce and calls for a dutie, every victory your Ar∣mies have got, and every towne hath beene surrendred, every plot that hath been discovered hath some dutie written upon it, which God expects you should learne: All these things without question lie upon you, and God doth and will expect them at your hands, and what heart would not tremble to thinke how much lies upon you? my soule is deepely affected with your taske, more then hu∣mane strength must carry you on, or you will bee impares oneri, never able to goe through your work. VVhat grati∣ous man who understands this, would ever pray to God in his Chamber without remembring you, and your work? and for you your selves▪ O what need is there that you should call in the Payers and supplications of all Gods people to helpe you; and that every one of you, Page 43 lay aside any businesse of your owne, all self-interest, and count it to be but catching of Flyes, in comparison of the worke you are called to; and that you lay aside all carnall confidence of any power or wisdome of your owne, or relying on any Arme of flesh, that is never a∣ble to carry you thorough all your worke: But in stead hereof, to relie wholly upon the wisdome, promise, and power of God, submit your selves to him, and trust to him alone, who onely is able to carry you thorough all. Thus of the second part of my Text, the excellent com∣mendation of this Tribe of Issachar, They had understan∣ding to know the times, and what Israel had to doe. Spare mee libertie for a few words of the Third, and I have done; which is,
The interest that they had in their Brethrens hearts,*all their Brethren were at their command, or at their mouth, hung upon their mouth: certainly it is not meant of any compul∣sion, but a power they had got in their brethrens hearts by their Wisdome and faithfull carriage; they saw that they were wise and faithfull men, and that set them up high in their esteem, and by this inward respect, the lif∣ting up of their hands, was as good as the displaying of a Banner, to make all their brethren come out and spend their lives, and whatsoever they had in their Countreys service; which affords us this Lesson,
That when the Heads and Leaders of a people are wise,*to doe their duties, it gives them that interest in their Bre∣threns hearts, that they will bee at their disposing.
Of this I could give you abundance of evidence;*Mo∣ses reigned as King in Jeshurun, his wisdome and grace was the things which set him so high. Joshua that had beene but Moses servant, had the same power with them, because they saw the wisdome of God in him: This was it got Job that authority, that the young men feared him,* and Page 44 the aged, reverenced him, and every eye which saw him, blessed him; because hee put on righteousnesse, and wis∣dome; and judgement was to him as a robe and diademe. David a man of a meane family, from a Shepheard, was feared by Saul,*loved by the people▪ even while hee was but a Captaine, because they saw hee behaved himselfe wisely. Solomon a childe, and being but a childe, very sub∣ject to be contemned, swayed all Israel, they honoured him and feared him, When they saw the wisdome that God had given him to doe Justice and Judgement;* abundance of other instances there are of it, and David expresseth it notably in the 2 of Samuel 23. He that rules over men must bee just, ruling in the feare of God; if hee bee such an one, hee shall bee like the light of the morning, like a cleare bright morning without clouds, as the tender grasse that growes by the sweet showers of raine; such a one shall bee amiable,*desirable, beautifull, comfortable, hee is every thing you can wish, if hee bee a good Man ruling in the feare of God; and Solomon proves it notably by the contrary, in the 4 of Ecclesiastes, Better is a poore and wise Childe, then an old and foolish King, who will no more be admonished, &c. A childe, a poore childe that hath wisdome, will have more love and honour, then a King, though an old man, and a great Prince, if hee bee doting and foolish, and will not receive Counsell, nor learne wisdome to discharge his duty; 'Tis wisdome will winne hearts, and one dram of this wisdome and grace will do more then a whole pound of greatnesse: And the reason is plaine,
Because this Wisdome that I have spoken of, is the I∣mage of God, which cannot bee contemned, but will bee feared by them that are bad, and honoured and embraced by them that are good; and therefore it is said of most of them I instanced in, that the people would say, God was w•th them, when they saw their wise behaviour. I winde up all with a brief Application.
Page 45To you our Heads and Leaders,* give me leave to instruct you, how you may keep England to be yours; how you may have your Brethren at your Command, not out of Rules of State-policy, but as a Minister of Christ, out of the Word of God, know the times and your duties, and walk as Men fearing God, taking the counsell of his Word as your onely guide; This will make the worst of men feare you, and the best honour and love you, your Brethrens hearts will hereby bee at your command, and your interest in their hearts will rule them better then Armies or Garri∣sons: Many great Politicians go another way to worke, they thinke the affections of people are not to bee valued, they say, Populus humiliter servit, superbe dominatur, that the People (like fire and water) are good Servants, but evill Masters; and therefore the best way is to subdue them and keep them under, but I am assured that you detest these Rules; you know well enough, that the Peoples love is the best Exchequer; and this Lesson teacheth you the surest way how to hold that firme, and close to you, even your wise walking and working in your great Trust; Herein lies the difference between Wisdome and Policy, VVis∣dome makes a man constantly keep the high road-way of Justice and Judgement, doing every thing upon Scripture grounds and rules: Policy directs men, when need is, to turne into odde by-paths, sometime taking in the helpe of the Foxes skin, sometime of the Lions paw; But (Belo∣ved) you shall certainly finde the way of VVisdome to bee the safest and most successefull; Politicians may deceive others for a while, but themselves for ever: You your selves have had much experience of it, you know what it is to command in the hearts of your Brethren, had you had all the Port Townes in England, in the beginning of your Troubles, and Garisons wheresoever you could have de∣sired, it would never have done you the service 〈◊〉 the Page 46 hearts of your brethren have done; you were in their hearts, and they have been at your command, and wha• gave you this interest? VVhy, they saw you were set upon Judgement and Justice, breaking their yoakes, removing their grievances, they saw your hearts were set to it; and while you goe on in the same wisdome, pietie, singlenesse and integrity; You will preserve your interest in God and his people, and while you have Gods favour, and your brethrens hearts, all confederacies against you will bee broken,* all conspiraeies come to nought, No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that riseth up against you shall bee condemned. But should they ever finde, (which God forbid) that you turne out of the right way of VVisdome and Piety, of Judge∣ment and righteousnesse, that you grow injurious, that op∣pression and injustice should bee found among you, that you should favour evill men in evill causes, grow to bee self-seekers, or not cordially indeavouring to settle Peace and Religion, you would then certainly engage God a∣gainst you, and lose the hearts of your brethren, and you will be undone, and wee shall be undone with you. But I am perswaded better things of you, and such things as be∣come a Parliament of England; yea, a Parliament thus blessed and magnified by God. But consider what I have said, and the Lord give you understanding in all things.