The way of God with his people in these nations opened in a thanksgiving sermon, preached on the 5th of November, 1656, before the Right Honorable the High Court of Parliament
Sterry, Peter, 1613-1672.
Page  43

Vse 2. A Caution to beware of four things.

Caut. 1. Limit not God. This was the sin of the Jews in the Wilderness: They limited the Holy One of Israel, Psal. 7. 41. Princes love not to be prescribed, much less doth God. To what will ye liken God, and to what likeness wil ye compare him? Es. 40. 18. If the Lord be doing Great things among us, according to the Exaltation of Christ, if he doing New things according to his own Spirit; what measure will ye take, what President wil ye make, what likeness wil ye frame of his Way, by things past, or present?

Take heed of Two Wayes of Limiting God.

First, Shut not the Lord up into any Form, or way of Wor∣king. The Holy Ghost complains of the Jews, Psal. 78. 19. They spake against God, they said, Can God furnish a Table in the Wilderness? Let us take heed, that the Language of our hearts and actions be not like to this, that we say not; If we have no set Form, no Establisht way of Religion, or Civil Government, Can God in the Wilderness, and Confusion of such a Condition, continue, or encrease Truth, Holiness, Prosperity, and Peace? Thus to limit God, is to speak against him.

Secondly: Shut not God out of any Form, or Way of wor∣king. I speak here of the Lords Working in Love, not Wrath: and accordingly of those Forms, and Waies, out of which he hath not excluded his Love, by the con∣trariety between them, and his Divine, Holy Nature. Nathaniel himself had like to have stumbled at Christ by his narrow-sightedness in this kind. Can (said he) any good come out of Nazareth? John, 1. 46. Yet, as Chrysostom tels us, Nazareth signifies a flower, Christ out of Nazareth,Page  44 was Flos è Flore, a Flower out of a Flower. That form, or way which seems to thee most uncapable of having any good in it may be made by God a Sweet, and flourishing flower, out of which another more glorious flower may spring, even Jesus Christ in the spiritual, Civil, and na∣tural Image of things. This is the first Caution.

Caut. 2. Murmure not against the Lord. When Jesus Christ had sent this marke of his being come to John Bap∣tist; That, To the poor the Gospel was preached, or as some read it, and the Greek ful, as wel, bears it, The poor preach the Gospel, he ads, and blessed is he, that is not offend∣ed at me; Matt. 11. 5, 6. How apt are men to murmure against, to stumble at, to reject Jesus Christ himself, even then, when he comes with glad tydings, with peace, and glory from the Father in the Gospel, if the way, by which he conveighes these things to them, answer not their imagination, and expectation, but be in any kind poor, obscure, and dis-esteemed. There are two Cases, in which we are apt to be ensnared in this kind.

First, The Jews had setled their expectation of the Messiah upon the Pompe, and Power of an outward King∣dom. He comes with his cross instead of a Throne. They therefore are offended at him, reject, and perse∣cute him. So men generally fix the accomplishment of promises, the answer of prayers, the works of God, the administration of Christ, the operations of the Spirit in Religion, and Civil things, upon some way, that is fairest in their fancyes, or understandings. If God come not to bless them, and to save them in this way, but by some other Person, or Thing, which is without com∣liness in their Eye, they murmur and refuse him.

Page  45Secondly, When the Soldiers had our faviour in their hands, they put a Crown of Thornes upon his head, a Reed for a Scepter into his hand, a purple robe upon his back, then they mock him, and spit in his Face. I humbly pray, that this spirit be not powerful in us, who profess our selves Saints, and peace-makers, that we do not after the same manner, when the Lord makes any person, or way, which we have a low esteem of, to be the instrument of his power, Majesty, and love, cloath it with the most contemtuous disguises of Hypocrisie, delusion, Ambition, Licentiousness, falshood, Atheisme, and then spit in the Face of it, persecute it with al bit∣terness, and scorne under this Disguise.

Cant. 3. Judg not things by the outward apperance, but by the inward principle. Solomon saith: Al the waies of a man are clean in his own eyes: but the Lord weigheth the spirit: Prov. 16. 2. I have heard of a blind man, who could distinguish, and judg of al mettals or precious stones by weighing them in his hand. Thus judg alwaies, not by the beauty of the outward forme, but by the weight of the inward pinciple.

It was a Starr in the Region of the Ayre above the Earth, that led the wise men to the House, where Christ was borne. So should it be the light of a principle in the spirit above the outward form, by which we should be gvided in our esteem, affections, and pursuits.

Cant. 4. Judg every principle in the Light of the Holy Spirit. Psal. 73. 16, 17. Asaph professeth that it was too painful for him to understand things in this world by their outward Appearances, until he went into the San∣ctuary of God, then he understood the end, by discov∣ring the principle, or beginning. Before this he was Foolish, and Ignorant, as a beast, vers. 22. The Sanctuary Page  46 was a Figure of our Savior in his Holy Spirit.

Agur Complaines, Prov. 30. 2, 3. That, He was more brutish, than any man; and had not the understanding of a man. He gives the reason of this, because, He had not learned Wisdom, which is the Knowledge and judgment of things in their inward principles, and he was without this wisdom for want of the Knowledge of the Holy. This expression of, the Holy, in Scripture signifies Glorified Natures in Heaven somtimes, whether Angels, or Saints, somtimes Saints on Earth, Whatever it be, the Knowledg of the Holy, is that alone, which comes by the Infusion, and Illumination of the Holy Ghost. Cant. 1, 2, 3. For the Savour of thy good Oyntments, saith the Spouse to Christ, thy name is, as an Oyntment powered forth. Therefore do the Virgins love thee. Draw us, and we wil run after thee. The spirit of Christ in the brightness, and sweetness of its light, Purity, Love, Joy, is this Oyntment powered forth. No Savour is good to a Virgin-Spirit, but that alone of these Oyntments. Where there is a Virgin love to Jesus Christ, the Soul is drawn, to run after any excellency, only by this Savor, by the light, and sweetness of the spi∣rit, as this Oyntment is poured forth there.

As it is in the Objects of sight, there is the Material Ob∣ject, and the Formal. The Material is the thing seen, as a flower, a Picture. The Formal is the colors, by which it is seen. Besides these is the Light in the Ayre, which actuates these colors, and makes them to appear. So is it in things pertayning to the understanding, and Judgment. The outward appearance is but the Mate∣riality of the Object, the shinings forth of the inward principle is the Formality, the Color. But the Holy Spirit is the only Light, by which the discoverys of the princi∣ples of things are drawn forth, and laid open. I have Page  47 done now with the Second Vse, and come to the Third.

Vse, 2. This is for Exhortation. If God go forth in New waies, let us be New, that we may be fit to meet him, and go along with him. We read in the Gospel of the Pool of Bethesda. John, 3. 2. An Angel at certain times came down into this Pool, and troubling the waters in∣fused a healing vertue into them. Many sick persons lay round about the Pool ready to step in. There was also a House to receive the poor, diseased waiters. This House was called Bethesda, which signifies the House of Free Grace.

You who have the blackest Guilt, the deepest brand of any Lust, the darkest despair upon your Spirits, be∣hold here a way for you to be made new this very mo∣ment. The Blood of Christ is before you, as a Healing, and Clensing Pool. Your Savior himself is every moment descending into it from Heaven, and ascending out of it to Heaven, by the Vertue of his Death, Resurrection, and Ascention, to impart the Efficacy of al these to it, himself to take you into his bosom in the midst of these Waters, to bath you throughly in them till you become quite new; then to carry you up with himself into the Newness of the Spirit, of Heaven, and of the Glory of the Father. But perhaps you wil say; you are so sick, so dead in sin, that you cannot move toward this Healing Pool. Let not that discourage you, the Father himself is ready to take hold of you, and by his strength to put you in. He draws us to Christ. It may be you wil say, that you are under the Wrath of the Father, and therefore cannot hope, that he should give you his helping hand. To answer this, he hath built a House of free Grace, a Bethes∣da; he hath called this Pool of most precious Blood, the Pool of Bethesda, the Pool of free Grace. The Doors of this Page  48 House stand continually open, day and night. All Per∣sons are invited, and press'd to come in. All, whom the Father finds here, he himself takes, and carries in his own Arms to this Pool, and laies them in the Arms of his Son, who is alwaies descending into it, waiting in the midst of it, and rejoycing exceedingly, when any sinful, sick Soul comes thither to him. Open your Eyes, and see Oye Sons and Daughters of Men. Here, now, in this place, at this very hour, is the House of free Grace, the Healing Pool before you, if you will enter into them. Nay, even here, and now, you are already in the house of Free Grace, and in the Arms of the Father; you are in this healing Poole of your Saviors blood, you are in your Saviors Armes, he is come down to you, he is carrying you up with himself thither, where al things are New, your being, Beauty, Life, company, delights new; if only you wil beleeve, if only you wil open the Eye of your spirit to see the truth, as it is in Jesus. The Lord Jesus is set down upon the Throne of Grace, and fils the whol Earth with the Glory of his Mediation. Only the Eyes of men are held, that they see not this Glory.

Vse, 4. This is my last Vse, which is for Consolation, and Encoragement. You have now a warr with the most potent Prince in the whol Christian world, who is Cheif staff of the Papal, Anti-Christian strength. You have reason to expect a Combination of al the powers of darkness, and this world, Visible, and Invisible, with∣in, and without, from at home, and from abroad, a∣gainst you. But fear them not. This warr shal not be like other warrs, but after a new manner. It shal be with the burning of a spiritual, and divine Fire.

Take notice here for your Comfort, that this Fire shal have contrary effects upon the Saints, and upon their enemys.

Page  49First, This Fire upon your enemys shal have these Propertys; It shal be; First, Dreadful, Secondly, Irresistible, Thirdly, Devouring, Fourthly, Tormenting, Fiftly, Sodeine.

Secondly, This Fire to its friends shal have these Property. It shal be: First, Cherishing, Secondly, Enlightning Thirdly, Defensive, as a Wal of Diamonds, Fourthly, Heightning, Fiftly, Transforming into one glorious, Heavenly, immortal nature with it self, Sixtly, Separating al dross from the Gold, Seventhly, Vniting, melting the Gold, til it al run into one undivided mass

I shal conclude this use, and my Sermon with an allusion to the story of Eliah, who sat upon the top of Mount Carmel, when the Captaines, and their fiftys in the name of the King commanded the man of God to come down. But he answered; if I be a man of God let fire come down from Heaven, and destroy you with your fiftys. Carmel signifies the Vineyard of God. This top of Mount Carmel is the Church in the spirit of glory, in the glorified person of Christ her head, where she is as a flourishing Vineyard to God upon the top of a Mount of spirituality. Let Kings with their Armys encompass us, if we be men of God, the seed of God, if this be Mount Carmel, on the top of which we stand, the cause of God, the Church, the spirit, the Mediation of Christ: then shal the Holy Angels, the spirit, Christ himself, come down, as Fire from Heaven, upon our enemys to consume them, but upon us to carry us up on high, as in the Charriot of Eliah, burning with the Love, and Glory of God.