THe consideration whereof dis∣covers* to us the singular provi∣dence of God in ordering the world, and his wonderfull wisedome, good∣nesse and mercy in preparing and giving meanes of grace and salvati∣on fitted for the people of every Age according to their severall dispositi∣ons, and the necessity of every Age and generation. In the first ages next unto the state of Innocency, when men lived divers hundreds of yeeres, and had the helpes of long ob∣servation and great experience, be∣sides the instructions and historicall relations of long-lived Progenitors; who, as eye and eare-witnesses, could from Adam, Methushelah and Noah, rehearse Gods great workes from the Creation, and teach them Page 155 the knowledge of God; then the Lord dealt more sparingly, and afforded but small and rare meanes, even a few visions, revelations, and generall and obscure promises to turne men from their owne wayes, and draw them to seeke salvation in him. But when mens ages and lives were shortned by the increase of corruption, and by mens multi∣plying of iniquity, and growing more hard, stubborne, and rebel∣lious; The Lord, to the former pro∣mises made to the Fathers, added a fiery Law which he gave from mount Sinai, in thunder and lighte∣ning, and with a terrible voyce to the stubborne and stiffenecked Israe∣lites; whereby to breake and tame them, and to make them sigh and long for the promised Redeemer, when they were pressed with the bondage of the Law, and with the intolerable burden of Rites and Ce∣remonies. And when after many ages they were growne so desperately rebellious, that they scorned Gods Messengers, rejected his Lawes and Page 156 Commandements; misused and persecuted his extraordinary Pro∣phets, who wrought wonders in their sight, and slew his servants which he sent unto them; Then at last hee sent his sonne in whom hee fulfilled all the promises made to the Fathers, who also fulfilled the Law both Morall and Ceremoniall, and made reconciliation for sinne and iniqui∣ty, and brought in eternall righte∣ousnesse, and hath made with all the world the New Covenant of the eternall Gospell of peace, by which we receive the promise of the Spirit, who workes in us all grace to the mortifying of the Old man, subdu∣ing the rebellious flesh, casting downe of the strong holds of sinne and Satan, and bringing all thoughts in captivity to the obedience of Christ.
Thus as the world hath had more need of stronger helpes and power∣full meanes, God in his wise pro∣vidence hath increased and supplied them in severall Ages; and as sinne hath more abounded, and stubburn∣nesse Page 157 and hardnesse increased; so God hath more shewed his good∣nesse, magnified his mercy, and en∣larged his bounty, by giving more powerfull meanes, by renuing and explaining the Covenant of life and salvation, and making his Grace more to abound towards the sonnes of men. And therefore let us hereby be stirred up to take notice of Gods speciall providence, how he respecteth the sonnes of sinfull men, and is mindfull of them to visite them, and take care for them in all Ages: Let us admire his wisedome, extoll his goodnesse and mercy, and labour to bring forth a∣bundance of fruit, according to the culture and tillage, and the power∣full meanes of Grace which God hath bestowed upon us under the Gospell.
Let us be ashamed and confoun∣ded in our selves, for our barren∣nesse after so many plentifull showers powred downe upon us; and acknowledge and con∣fesse that we had long agone beene Page 158 over-growne with all wickednesse, and swallowed up of our sinnes and iniquities, if the Lord had not by the strong hand of his glorious Gospell, and his mighty and powerfull Spirit shed forth plentifully through Iesus Christ in these last dayes, stopt the current of our sinfull corruption, and staid us from running headlong into destruction. As for them who in this great light of the Gospell, mul∣tiply their workes of darknesse, and make their sinnes and transgressions ascend up in great multitudes like thicke cloudes towards heaven, and doe hate and persecute the truth which shineth unto them, and love the darknesse of errours more then the light of sound doctrine; Let them know that their rebellion against the light deserves the reward of the mist and blacknesse of dark∣nesse for ever; Let them feare and justly suspect that they are the ground which the Apostle speakes of, Hebr. 6. 8. which when it hath drunken in the raine which oft com∣meth upon it, doth bring forth no Page 159 good fruit, but thornes, briers, and poysonfull stinking weedes, and therefore is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned. And just it is with God, that hee should send such persons strong de∣lusions, that they should beleeve the lies of the man of sinne, and dote af∣ter errours and heresies, that they all may be damned who have not re∣ceived the love of the truth that they might be saved; but have taken pleasure in unrighteousnesse, as the Apostle hath foretold, 2 Thess. 2. 11, 12.