Die Mercurii, 14. Augusti, 1644.
ORdered by the Commons assembled in Parlia∣ment, That Master Rous doe give the Thankes of this House to Master Palmer and Master Hill, for the great paines they tooke in the Sermons they preached before both Houses on Tuesday the 13. day of August, 1644. being a speciall and peculiar day of Humiliation appointed by both Houses, and that they be desired to print their Sermons, and that none presume to print their Sermons, or either of them, but such as shall be authorised under their hand writing.
H. Elsynge Cler. Parl. D. Com.
I doe appoint Thomas Vnderhill to print my Sermon,
THE GLASSE OF GODS Providence TOWARDS HIS FAITHFVLL ONES.
Held forth in a Sermon preached to the two Houses of Parliament, at Margarets West∣minster, Aug. 13. 1644. being an extra∣ordinary Day of Humiliation.
Wherein is discovered the great failings that the best are liable unto; upon which GOD is provoked some∣times to take Vengeance.
The whole is applyed specially to a more carefull obser∣vation of our late COVENANT, and particularly against the ungodly Toleration pleaded for under pretence of LIBERTY of CONSCIENCE.
By HERBERT PALMER, B. D. Minister of GODS Word at Ashwell in Hertford-shire: A Member of the Assembly of Divines.
Prov. 11. 31.
1 Cor. 10. 11.
Rom. 15. 4.
LONDON, Printed by G. M. for Th. Vnderhill at the Bible in Woodstreet. 1644.
TO THE RIGHT HONOVRABLE The House of PEERES AND TO THE HONOVRABLE The House of COMMONS Assembled in Parliament at Westminster.
THe Records of Holy Scripture, whether they con∣cerne the Actions of GOD or Men, are not onely Stories of things done in that Age, but Prophe∣sies also of future events in succeeding Generati∣ons. This GOD hath been pleased to exempli∣fie particularly in that Word, which divers weekes agoe on a Solemne Day appointed for extraordinary Humiliation He sent to be preached in your Eares. While some bodily Indis∣positions hindred me from a speedy obeying the Call of tendring it also to your hands and eyes: It seemed good to Him, (who doth all things wisely and faithfully,) to give Instances of His fulfilling both parts of it; affording some answers of Grace, and expressions of Pardon and favour in Wales and the parts thereabouts; and yet withall taking some Ven∣geance upon our untowardnesses, by the sad blow given us in the West. I hope that as we shall all learne by it, even more and more, thataGOD lets none of His Words fall to the ground, but whatsoever He speakes to us hath its effect upon Page [unnumbered] us, andbtakes hold of us, even whether we take hold of it or no: So we will beleeve also, that the effect of it will never be spent as long as we live, or any of mankind, in as much as all the Word of GOD lives and abides for ever, as both thec Prophet andd Apostle tell us. And this Beliefe will both make all the Word profitable to us, and make us Happy by the Word: The Promises and Expressions of Grace in the Word ne∣ver doing us good, never being fulfilled to us compleatly, but by our beleeving them: And the Threatnings or Ex∣pressions of Severity never endangering us, never being ful∣filled at all upon us, but when we beleeve them not. We have all need to Pray,eLORD Encrease our Faith! even in relation to Terrifying Truths, as well as to Comforting. And though Faith most commonly comes by Hearing, yet unquestio∣nable Experience telling us, that it is partly encreased by Rea∣ding also, (specially of what was once attentively heard) I can∣not doubt, but this Paper-remembrance of matters of so grand Importance, will be blessed by GOD, as to some others into whose hands it shall come, so specially to your selves, according to Your Leasure for making use of it, unto your Furtherance and Joy of Faith. Which that it may be continually augmented in You, who have so great businesses to goe through, and so great Adver∣saries to encounter, and all Calling for Faith in the strength and Glorie of it, through Iesus Christ the Author and Finisher of our Faith, is and shall be the earnest Desire and Prayer of Him, who is for IESVS sake
Your ever most Devoted and Humble Servant HERBERT PALMER.
THE GLASSE OF GODS Providence TOWARDS HIS FAITHFVLL ONES.
PSAL. 99. ver. 8.
*BEhold an Apostrophe to GOD, in the midst of an Exhortation to Men! whatever else we learn from it, this we should improve it to, to make us remember, That we have now to doe with GOD; that looking Him in the face may awe us, and the Consideration that we are now speaking to Him, and from Him, and of Him, may Affect our spi∣rits to Regard what He doth toward the children of men, For these words are the Glasse of GODS Providence towards men, towards His Owne, those that are most faithfull to Him. Would you know Page 2 who they are? See ver. 6. Moses and Aaron among His Priests, and Samuel among those that call upon His Name, &c. Their Faithfulnesse is exprest, not only in their Calling upon GOD, in the next words, They called upon the LORD, and He heard them; but also by their Obedience, ver 7. They kept His Testimonies, and the Law that he gave them: and then followes GODS Dealings with them, in the words of the Text, Thou answeredst them, &c.
I will sing of Mercy and Judgement, unto Thee, O LORD, will I sing, saith the Royall Psalmist, Psal. 101. 1. He doth so here, his song is plainly of Mercy and Judgement, and that Vnto the LORD, as he there also expresses it. GODS Great Mercy is set forth towards His Servants, in Answering and Forgiving them; and with all His Judgement: His Heavie Judgement in taking Vengeance on their inventions.
Behold then the Goodnesse and severitie of GOD, saith the Holy Apostle, Rom. 11. 22. so say I, and that not relating to two sorts of persons, as there; Transgressours and Beleevers: But both towards men of approved avowed faithfulnesse, even toward one and the same person; in Goodnesse answering, and forgiving; and yet in some severity taking Vengeance also.
There are but two maine Dispositions in mens minds, that sway our practises and regulate our lives, keeping them within compasse, that is, Faith (or Comfort) and Feare, according to the intimation Act. 9. 31. They walked in the Feare of the Lord, and in the Com∣fort of the Holy Ghost. The Comfort of the Holy Ghost, or Faith (which is all one in Effect) on the one side, and Feare on the other, doe compasse us in, We walke uprightly and safely in the wayes of Our GOD. And to this purpose are these Words we have before us, none being more proper to settle us in Faith and Comfort; then these which proclaime GOD to be a GOD Answering and Pardo∣ning, and nothing more fit to strike us with a Holy Awe and Reve∣rence; with a Godly Feare, then that to the Mention of such Gra∣ciousnesse is added the Remembrance of His taking Vengeance also, even upon those who He yet Answers and Forgives.
If therefore it shall please GOD to set home these words upon our Hearts, we shall doe that which the Psalmist intended to per∣swade and work men to, when he first penned them; We shall fulfill the Scope of the Whole Psalme, and withall answer the Scope of Our appearing before GOD this day, and find GOD Himselfe an∣swering Page 3 it, and Our desires and prayers in it, even with Gracious pardoning and forgiving, former and present failings in us, all who are or will be faithfull to Him.
*In the 1. verse the Soveraigne Authoritie and Royall Majestie of GOD Governing the World and His Church in speciall, Cals us (and all men) to Feare and a Holy Consternation at His Glorie. The LORD reignes, Let the people Tremble: He sits between the Che∣rubims, Let the earth be Moved. This is enforced, ver. 2. from His Greatnesse and Power manifested toward His Church; and His Actuall Rule Over all People; The LORD is Great in Zion, and He is High above all People. Whence we and all men are expresly summoned to Praise Him and Give Him Glory, ver. 3. Let them Praise Thy Great and Terrible Name: for it is Holy. Though His Power be never so great, and He never so terrible in His Wayes and Workes; yet doe they all Challenge Praise, because in All He mani∣fells Himselfe to be Holy, Unblameable and beyond all Controll. Which also the 4. ver. confirmes, The Kings strength also Loves Judgement, Thou dost establish equity; Thou executest Judge∣ment and Righteousnesse in Jacob. He hath all Authoritie in His hand as King, and strength sufficient to doe what He pleases, yet He Delights to doe Right; and to settle it both by His Word and His Works; and doth continually exercise Himselfe in doing Justice and Right among His People particularly. Whereupon, it is againe required that Honour be given to Him above all Others, ver. 5. Ex∣alt ye the LORD our GOD, and Worship at His Footstoole, for He is Holy. Which with a Word or two altered is againe repeated in the last Verse of the Psalme, ver. 9. and made as the burden of the Song: Exalt the LORD our God, and Worship at His Holy Hill, for the LORD our GOD is Holy. Where is given us to Under∣stand, that then onely we Exalt, or Praise, or Feare GOD aright, When we Worship according to His Will, and in His owne Or∣dinances, set out by the Phrases of Worshipping at His Footstoole (that is the Arke) and at His Holy Hill, that is, Zion, both according to His appointment, and expresse charge and command. And His Holinesse stands upon this, that Men should to Worship Him, if they Worship Him at all. And of all this We have Moses, Aaron, and Samuel for Examples, ver. 7, 8. Moses and Aaron were among His Priests, and Samuel among them that called upon His Name. These were Great Favourites of His, and eminent in their Fidelitie, Page 4They called upon the LORD, and He answered them. He spake unto them in the cloudy Pillar, they kept His Testimonies, and the Law that He gave them. But yet not so, but they failed sometimes and needed forgivenesse, provoking Him to bring Judgements upon them. And accordingly He did shew Himselfe variously to them; sometimes in Displeasure, but alwayes with Mercy. And that is it which Our Text holds forth apparently to all our Eyes, Eares, and Hearts. Tending, with all the rest of the Psalmes, to perswade us to Feare, and Praise, and Exalt, and Worship our Gracious and Holy GOD aright according to His Divine Pleasure. As we shall see by the more distinct handling of it, unto which now I come.
*The Words of this Verse have in them three remarkable parti∣culars. 1. The Behaviour of the Men it speakes of, which is partly Good, and partly evill. The former verse saith, They kept GODS Testimonies, and the Law that He gave them, This insinuates (what was also exprest ver. 6.) that they used to Call upon GOD, All this was very good, But withall, they did sometimes some things amisse, some inventions, by-paths, or steps awry they had, which as they needed pardon, so they incensed Him against them, so much now and then, as He would not let them escape altogether, without ta∣king some vengeance for such untowardnesse. 2. GODS Graci∣ousnesse, in a double respect: 1. in Answering them, granting their sutes and supplications ordinarily. 2. in Forgiving them, pardoning their failings and faults evermore; never dealing with them alto∣gether according to their sinnes, but in the midst of any offence of theirs, or Judgement of His, remembring Mercy. 3. His Holy Justice, notwithstanding, Taking Vengeance on their inventions: Chastening them for some faults sometimes; and not letting them alwayes goe unpunished, how faithfull soever they were generally, Or how Gracious soever He was eternally.* These are the maine parts of the Text, which will afford us so many Doctrines clearely and plainly after we have but a little explained the latter Clause of Taking Vengeance on their inventions. Which is the only Difficulty in the Language of the Text, and it indeed sounds so strangely at the first hearing,* as I may well put this Expression among the Riddles of the Scripture. It is seldome found else-where, (if at all) when applyed to the faithfull Servants of GOD, as it is here; and therefore it is an Amazing Notion; and worthy to be considered, for the sense of it, and the reason why it is used. The Sense of it Page 5 is not to be taken in the ordinary rigour of the phrase,* as we use it among men, for an act done, either according to the extremity of the desert of a fault, or with a mind possest with malice or hatred against the oftender, or both together. For neither of these will stand with GODS affections or actions towards His faithfull ones; nor with the very words of the Text foregoing these. He who for∣gives, never deales according to extremity of desert of a fault, which deserves destruction (as all our sins doe in extremity of Ju∣stice,) much lesse doth he doe any thing with malice or hatred. Forgivenesse and malice are no lesse contradictory then light and darknesse, life and death. Whatsoever therefore be meant by taking of vengeance here, it must be understood, with miti∣gation and mixture of favour; and this favour eminent, even notwithstanding the vengeance taken, For so speakes the Text undeniably, Thou answerest and forgavest, though thou too∣kest vengeance, As forgivenesse did not altogether hinder the vengeance, so the vengeance did not disparage the forgivenesse. The meaning then may be conceived to lye in two things.* First, That whatsoever they did feele from His hand it was but according to their deserts, not beyond; They had [ 1] first provoked Him, before He strooke them, they had offered Him some indignity before He afflicted them; and when they did abuse Him, then he did some∣times take some vengeance upon their Inventions, or their Workes or Deeds as the word properly signifies. [ 2] 2. This Correction, was somewhat smart and severe, both in their own apprehensions that suffered it, and in the eye and observation of any that had notice of it: in so much as if one had not knowne and had assurance of His Mercy to them from other grounds, His manner of dealing with them in this particular case would seeme to them to savour altoge∣ther of vengeance, and extremity of rigour and displeasure. Now the reason, why this is thus exprest, We may conceive to be, pur∣posely to insinuate more effectually, That GOD lookes upon sinne with an other eye then men doe; and that even in His Owne dearest servants, He sees matter enough of deepe displeasure which He will let men know, and themselves feele now and then in a quickning and awakening manner. Terrible words are not without their ef∣ficacie, specially when deeds answer them; The proper Reasons and Uses of both, We shall see anon. But this language is used to help to make GODS deeds more affecting.
Page 6 Withall this may well be added to cleare this phrase from all exception, that if we observe the words narrowly, a manifest diffe∣rence seemes to be even here, in this harsh expression, from that which is elswhere spoken of GODS dealings with His Enemies, with the wicked. It is not said GOD tooke vengeance on them, on the persons of His faithfull servants, but on their inventions. He shewed mercy to their persons, (which the Text it selfe expresses) but yet He shewed displeasure against their sins, He would not spare the offence, and yet it is certaine He spared the offenders. But when the ungodly are spoken of, there vengeance is expressely said to be taken on them, Deut. 32. 41. I will render vengeance to mine ene∣mies, and vers. 43. will render vengeance to His adversaries, and will be mercifull to His land, and to His people. So Ezek. 25. 14. I will lay my vengeance on Edom. And in divers other places of the Prophets: So in the N. T. 2 Thes. 1. 7. Taking vengeance on them that know not GOD, &c: In all these the vengeance so falls upon the sinne that the sinners themselves are destroyed with the waight of it; which never is, when GOD hath to doe with His Owne, how severe soever He seeme to be in the vengeance He doth take: As will further appeare in the prosecution of the Doctrines afforded to us in the whole verse,* which are plainely three.
[ 1] 1. That even the faithfull servants of GOD may so provoke Him, as to need His pardon, and even to give Him occasion to take vengeance on their practises.
[ 2] 2. Though they doe provoke Him, and He doe thereupon take vengeance, Yet is He ever a GOD of Grace to them, answering their prayers, and affording them pardon.
[ 3] 3. Though GOD doth answer the prayers and forgive the sins of His faithfull ones, Yet they may so provoke Him, as He sometimes takes vengeance on their misdoings.
Before I come to handle these points in a Doctrinall way,* It will be very profitable; first, to handle the Text Historically, a little to looke after and consider the story of these holy men; as other Scrip∣tures have recorded it; and see their faithfulnesse with their fai∣lings, and GODS answers and pardon with His taking ven∣geance.
Moses,* who is the first man concerned in it, was one whom GOD honours as much for his faithfulnesse,* as any man under the Old Testament. No man actually forsooke so much for GOD, Page 7 nor ventured so much for Him, as Moses did; Which the Apostle excellently summes up, Heb. 11. 24, 25, 26. No man had so hard a taske of it, for so many yeares together, being to deale first with hardhearted Pharaoh, and then with stiffenecked Israel. And he hath, besides all others, an high Eulogy of faithfulnesse in all GODS House, Heb. 3. 2. in all his offices between GOD and His people, being not only a Propet, but the Chiefe Governour of Israel, and stiled a King in Jesuran,*Deut. 33. 5. Yet even Moses had his fai∣lings and weaknesses.
[ 1] 1. When GOD would imploy him towards Pharaoh, We find him making excuses; so long till the Text saith, GOD was an∣gry, Exod. 4. 14.
[ 2] 2. In the same Chapter, we find him to have neglected the Cir∣cumcision of his sonne, the reason is not exprest, (perhaps it was because he was loath to displease his wife Zipporah; who was a Midianite:) But whatever it was it had like to have cost him his life, GOD begun to take some vengeance, upon his neglect, ver. 24.
[ 3] 3. In the fifth Chapter, he doth in a manner expostulate with GOD in a kind of discontent and distrust, as though GOD had not done well in sending him to Pharaoh, who tooke occasion by that to oppresse Israel the more; and no deliverance likely to come: Which yet he had no reason to count strange, if he had well remem∣bred and observed what GOD had said to him, chapt. 3. that Pha∣raohs heart would be hardned, and he would not let them goe at the first. But Moses had forgotten this, and so complaines, as if GOD had done him and Israel both wrong in it, ver. 22, 23.
[ 4] 4. In Numb. 11. 11, &c. 14. 15. We find another fit of discon∣tent: he cannot endure with patience any longer the frowardnesse of the people, who murmured against him at every turne; he would be out of his life, and prayes to GOD even to take his life away, ra∣ther then to abide such continuall vexation; and againe, vers. 21. he hath a pang of distrust, and can scarce t•ll how to beleeve GODS Word to be true of such a large provision to be made for the people as GOD hath told him of: So that GOD is faine to answer him with His Almighty Power, Is the LORDS hand waxed? short Thou shalt see now whether my words shall come to passe to thee or not, vers. 23. These passions and expressions of Moses, were not like a faithfull servant of GOD, but thus the infirmity of a faithfull man discovers it selfe.
Page 8 5. Once more we find Moses faulty; and that in a further de∣gree then any that hath been yet named: his great failing, and for which GOD was most highly displeased with him above all other times, is recorded, Numb. 20. The people murmured for water, and GOD bids Moses take the rod and speake to the rock and it should give forth water. Moses goes with the rodde, but instead of spea∣king to the rock, he speakes to the people, and that unadvisedly with his lipps, saith the Psalmist, Psal. 106. 33. and with a provoked spirit, overcome with anger and passion; and instead of speaki•g to the rock, he strikes the rock, and that twice, vers. 11. And this GOD takes so hainously, that He charges him with not sanctifying Him before the children of Israel, and not beleeving Him, and that therefore he should not goe into the promised Land. So that here is a three-fold fault noted in Moses, in the story (written by him∣selfe) and in the Psalme. 1. Some unbeliefe, and distrusting that speaking to the rock would not suffice to fetch water thence, not∣withstanding GODS Word. 2. Some impatience of spirit, against the peoples untoward murmurings, His spirit was provoked by them, more and otherwise then it should have been. 3. This exprest, by unfitting and unadvised speech, the story saith, he call'd them Rebels, and saith, Must we fetch you water, &c. which language though they well enough deserved (and worse) yet it appeared GOD was not pleased with it in Moses. And so you have the account of his faults, as the Scripture registers them.
Then for Aaron,* [ 1] 1. This we find in him throughout, that what is noted of him, is being a second in evill, an accessary, consenter and actor with others, but never alone in any remarkeable fault. But particularly three speciall failings are recorded of him, 1. Exod. 32 1, 4. there is a very great fault, that at the peoples sollicitation and importunity, he made them an Idol, a Golden Calfe, and joy∣ned with them in the honouring of it: for which GOD was ex∣ceeding angry with him to have destroyed him; but that Moses in∣terceded for him, Deut. 9. 20. [ 2] A second is, Numb. 12. Where he joynes with his sister Miriam, (who is first named and noted, ver. 1.) in murmuring against Moses. It was strange that he should speake against his own brother so, whom he saw GOD had so ho∣noured above him, and who had before (as was observed but now) been a meanes to save him from GODS wrath by his prayers. And yet by his sister is he drawne away and become a partner with her Page 9 in this unnaturall Mutiny. And for this GOD is againe angry with him, though he layed then no punishment upon his Person, yet Aa∣ron confesses himselfe stricken in the leprosie suddenly inflicted for this upon Miriam, ver. 10. and 11. [ 3] His third fault was in consen∣ting to Moses his Distrust (and Passion) in that 20. of Numb. The Charge was given to both together;* and GOD blames and threa∣tens them both; and accordingly soone after took Vengeance up∣on Aarons offence, and he dies before the end of that Chapter, as He did after upon Moses his, Of which we have divers Memoran∣dums afterwards, shewing the more GODS displeasure against him for this Transgression; and of this specially, the Text we have in hand speakes. This GOD remembers Numb. 27. 12, 13, 14. And Moses afterward speakes of it with sorrow, Deut. 1. 37. and againe, Deut. 3. 23, &c. where he tels the people how he made a solemne sute of it, and prayed earnestly to GOD that He would spare him, and shew him that favour, that he might goe into the Land of Pro∣mise; and that GOD would not grant his sute, and forbids him to mention it any more to Him, ver. 26, 27. and once more Moses speakes to Israel of it, Deut. 4. 21, 22. as shewing how neere it was to him, and how great a Judgement he tooke it to be. And so we see GODS taking Vengeance upon his inventions also, as well as upon Aarons, and the Text verified of two of those it speakes of.
We have a third to looke after, whom we must not forget, and that is Samuel,* He was the Judge of Israel by GODS appoint∣ment, and trained up to be a Prophet from his childhood under the Wing of GOD in Shiloh, and he was a very faithfull Servant of GOD: Yet there is a fault of his insinuated 1 Sam. 8. that When he was growne old, he was partiall towards his children, he made his Sons Judges over Israel, and they walked not in his wayes, but tooke bribes and perverted Justice; and it appeares by the sequele that Samuel was too indulgent and favourable to them; and therefore the people tooke such a discontent, that they would not have his Sons nor himselfe neither, rule any more over them, but would needs have a King to rule over them; and, though this was ill done of the people, to reject Samuel himselfe, and specially to aske a King, as appeares by GODS words in that Chapter,* and by His Displeasure manifested from Heaven, 1 Sam. 12. Yet we may read in it GODS Just Vengeance on the misbehaviour of Samuels sons, and so of his partialitie toward them, and we may see in both places that it struck Page 10Samuel very deeply, 1 Sam. 8. 6. in reference to Himselfe, and Chap. 12. 2. he cannot forbeare mention of his Sons, who were wholly laid aside ever after, though himselfe was not altogether. And thus we see all these three faithfull men, Moses, Aaron, and Samuel made Examples of Justice in some Vengeance taken on their In∣ventions and offences notwithstanding GODS favour to them.
Now we must adde a word,* how notwithstanding their failings and GODS severity, yet He was a GOD answering and forgiving them.
1. For Moses,* he is so famous for GODS answering him, that GOD once doth as it were sue to Moses to forbeare Praying for Israel, as implying that He could not but answer Moses, if he did Pray: Let me alone, that I may consume them, Exod. 32. 10. and accordingly when Moses, for all this, did pray, GOD did answer, and spare Israel upon his request, ver. 14. and many other times Moses his Prayers were heard and answered.
2.*Moses and Aaron together in the universall Murmuring and Mutiny, Numb. 14. 5. And Aaron specially when after the Rebelli∣on of Corah, Dathan, and Abiram, and the horrible Judgement of GOD upon them, the earth swallowing them up alive, and fire from GOD breaking out and burning up the 250 Princes, that stood to be Priests, in opposition to Aarons Calling, and the next day all the Congregation murmured and mutined againe against Moses and Aaron, as if they had been in fault for the death of those outragious sinners: Aaron then, at Moses his direction, runs to the Altar, and fetches fire thence, and puts on incense, and with that runs among the people; and though the wrath of GOD were so hot against them, as that while he was hasting to the Altar and coming backe againe 14700. were dead of the Plague, yet as soone as he comes among them, and as a Priest, offers incense (and so Prayers) for them, suddenly the plague ceases, Numb. 16. 47, 48.
3. For Samuel,* he was a knowne favourite in the Court of Hea∣ven, so that the Israelites ranne to him, when the Philistines came against them, and they put more confidence in his Prayers alone for them, 1 Sam. 7. 8. then in all theirs; and GOD then answered him with Thunder from heaven against the Philistines, ver. 10. and again after the Israelites had rejected him, yet they begge his Prayers with great Submission and Importunity, 1 Sam. 12. 19. And both he and Moses are remembred long after by GOD, as two of the greatest Page 11 Favourites that ever He had in this kind, when He tels Jeremy, He would not heare even them, if they were now alive, Jerem. 15. 1. Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be to this people, Cast them out of my sight. If He would have heard any body, it should have been Moses and Samuel: Whom He was wont so constantly to Heare and Answer.
Withall we have manifest assurance of His Forgiving them,* not∣withstanding the Vengeance He tooke on those faults of theirs, which we even now mentioned, besides all other times. He that re∣members that GOD had a better place to which He removed Mo∣ses and Aaron when He tooke them from the earth; and an hea∣venly Canaan into which GOD received them, when He denied them entrance into the earthly Canaan; And that this must needs be that recompence of Reward, which Moses had an eye to, when he esteemed the reproch of Christ, greater riches then the Treasures of Egypt, Heb. 11. 26. And that Moses is after his death, often owned by GOD as His Servant, as His Chosen; and Aaron is named, Psal. 106. 16. the Saint of the Lord; He (I say) that remembers these things cannot doubt of GODS Forgiving them. Considering also, how Moses appeared in Glory (with Elias) at Christs Transfigura∣tion, Luke 9. 30, 31. And for Samuel, he was not quite put from his Office of Judge, for it is said, 1 Sam. 7. 15. that he Judged Israel all the Dayes of his Life; and besides GOD often imployed him as a Prophet in most remarkable Services; which proclaime GODS Graciousnesse to him also, and forgiving him as well as the Others.
And so you have the Story of the Text set before you; and the Doctrines observed out of it, confirmed (each of them) by this Historicall Exemplification, Of their Behaviours and GODS Dealings.
I come now to a more generall handling of them; And the 1. of them is this.*That even the Faithfull Servants of God may so provoke Him, that they may neede His pardon, and even give Him Occasion to Take Vengeance on their Inventions and Practises.
For the further proofe of this, I may say (as indeed of the other points also, though specially of the middlemost, which holds forth GODS Answering and Pardoning Mercy to His Faithfull Ones) that there is scarce any Record of any of the Servants of GOD, even the most eminent, but there is somewhat or other of this kind noted Page 12 of them. But for the further Evidencing of it, and Affecting every one of us with it, (it being a point of very great concernment and use to us all) You may take notice but of these generall Reasons.
1.* That the very best Servants of GOD have the very same corruption by nature that the worst have. It is all alike in the one sort and in the other. There is no difference naturally betweene the one and the other. That place Prov. 27. 19. deserves to be remem∣bred for this purpose, As in water face answers to face, so doth the heart of man to man. They then used to view their faces much in Water (as we now doe in Glasses,) and as in Water, or in a Glasse, the Image of the true face represents all the features, lineaments, moles, spots, deformities, that are in the face it selfe, and the one an∣swers the other exactly, what is in one is in the other: So is it with the heart of one Man (naturally) answering to another. There are the same spots and wrinckles, and blemishes in every heart that is in any one ; and to have a true representation of the evill that is in any one heart, We must looke upon all the evill that is in all other hearts naturally. The Apostle, Ephes. 2. 2, 3. makes himselfe and the (now) Christian Ephesians, and the Unconverted Impenitent Unbeleevers all alike by Nature.
2.*In the best Servants of GOD this corrupted Nature is not utterly abolished: The Grace which they have received (and which makes them to differ from other men) doth not so farre sanctifie them, but that the Seeds and Roots of sinne, of all sinne doth still re∣maine in them: A Flesh they have, which though Crucified with the aff•ctions and lusts in all that are Christs, is not quite dead, not altogether mortified, but that lies upon them as a daily and perpetu∣all dutie to mortifie their earthly members, and to be cutting off of hands and feet and pulling out of Eyes; which yet, contrary to the course of Common Nature, will be growing againe, or others in the roome of them: There is a continuall danger of Rootes of bitter∣nesse (of any kind) springing up to trouble and defile even them. The Apostle, you know, complaines of his flesh, that he could not do the Good he would, and that he did the evill he would not due, and was carried captive unto the Law of sinne, and had a body of death which he carried about him, and grones, and cryes out to be delive∣red from; and tels the Galathians, that the flesh, in them did lust against the Spirit, so that they could not doe the things they would. And this corruption, alwayes dwelling even in the best, and too often Page 13 prevailing,* is that which not only ever needs pardon, but oftentimes greatly provokes GOD to take vengeance upon their misbeha∣viours.
1. This Corruption may yet be further apprehended by us,* by this one Observation following. That, as there is scarce any of the servants of GOD storied of in the Word, but with their faithfulness, their failings are enrolled, (as was intimated before) Paul him∣selfe not excepted: So, (which is very remarkeable and deserving most serious consideration,) That scarce any of them is noted to be eminent for any vertue or Grace, but somewhat of the contrary is observed in them, some failing even in that very particular.
1.*Noah is owned by GOD Himselfe to be eminently righteous in his generation, Gen. 7. 1. in a generation that abounded with luxury, eating and drinking and jollity, as our Saviour assures us, Mat. 24. 38. and so Noah was a patterne of Temperance and so∣brietie; and yet we find even Noah once overtaken, and making himselfe drunke with his owne wine.
2.*Lot is praised by the Spirit of GOD guiding St Peters pen, 2. Pet. 2. 5. for a Righteous man, preserved safe by GODS Grace in the midst of filthy Sodome; and yet you know what befell him afterward, when Sodome was destroyed and himselfe delivered out of it.
3.* We reade that Abraham is called the Father, (the Patterne) of the Faithfull: It is said, he staggered not at the Promise of GOD through unbeleefe, but was strong in Faith giving Glory to GOD, Rom. 4. 20. and yet Faithfull Abraham, twice for feare, denies his Wife, and pretends her to be his sister, Gen. 12. and Gen. 10. 2.
4.* So of Moses, one of the Men our Text speakes of, it is said, that he was meeke above all the men that were on the earth, Numb. 12. 3. and yet this meeke Moses overshootes himselfe by passion, and that which brought the evill upon him, was (as you have heard) his spirit being provoked and so he spake unadvisedly with his lipps▪ And withall he that had shewed so great faith in so many mighty works to be done by him,* and difficulties to be passed through, for so many yeares together; and had so greatly and perpetually ho∣noured GOD in the sight of Israel; now is challenged of GOD (as you saw) that he did not beleeve Him to sanctifie Him before the children of Israel; and therefore he should not bring them into the Land.
Page 14 5. David,* who of all the people of GOD in his time, had been longest in the schoole of Affliction and Patience, and shewed great proficiencie in it, upon all occasions; as his Psalmes beare witnesse, and the story together: Yet when he received a rude repulse from churlish Nabal of a kind message and faire request, 1 Sam. 25. he hath so farre his Lesson to seeke, that he breakes out into violent passion, and resolves and sweares he will have his bloud, and the bloud of all his family, and marcheth against him to that purpose. Thus you see faults breaking out in the servants of GOD, and even in those things wherein they were famous for Fidelity.
6.* So in him who of all others is set forth as the Patterne of Pa∣tience, holy Job; You have heard of the Patience of Job, saith St James, chapt. 8. 11. But we have heard (and read in his Booke) of his Impatience too: and, we would think him a man very impa∣tient, from whom we should heare such language, as he speakes, chap. 3. and afterward.
7.* And what say you to Jonah, one whom GOD owned and em∣ployed to be a Prophet; But first he runnes away and will not goe on GODS errand; whereupon GOD takes vengeance upon his invention and transgression, in a most terrible manner: He first persecutes him with a Tempest and makes him afraid with a storme, and then forces him to be his own accuser and Judge, to condemne himselfe to be throwne into the sea, and there he is cast as it were alive into Hell (as his owne Phrase is in his Prayer, chap. 2.) by being swallowed up by the Whale, and living in that most noisome stinking prison so long:* And yet after his repentance and GODS marvellous mercy to him, and imploying him againe in his worke, he breakes out into fearfull distempers againe; even to justifie his former fact, and he is angry, and he will be angry, and he doth well (he saith) to be angry even to the death, with GGDS crossing of his mind and expectation. How contrary was all this to the duty of a Prophet, to the disposition of a Penitent received to mercy, and yet thus it was with him: This is our corruption remaining even in a faithfull mans heart.
8.* Looke upon Jeremie also, and you shall see a wonderfull exam∣ple. First, He was indeed very hardly used, Jer. 20. and he saith, he was in derision daily, every one mocked him, ver. 7. and there∣fore he is weary of his office and employment, and resolves he will preach no more: Then I said, I will not make mention of Him, nor Page 15 speake any more in His Name, ver. 9. A strange distemper to be in a Prophet, who had preached so long, but that GOD cures sudden∣ly, with some kind of vengeance, by making His Word as a fire in His bones, that he could not forbeare giving it vent, and then he recovers himselfe and comforts himselfe that GOD would take his part against his enemies and persecutours; The LORD is with me (saith he) as a mighty terrible one, &c. and so he gets so migh∣ty a victory against this temptation, that he sings a Song of tri∣umph,* and calls others to joyne with him in it, ver. 13. Sing unto the Lord; praise ye the Lord, for He hath delivered the soule of the poore from the hand of evill doers: And now you would thinke he were for ever delivered from all impatience. But marke the very immediate next words, Cursed be the day wherein I was borne, &c. And, which is worse, Cursed be the man that brought word to my Father, &c. O strange! Can this be possible, that from a heart so calmed and setled in Faith and Joy, such a suddaine storme should arise of monstrous and horrid impatience? But such is man; such is even the best man, when his corruption is let out, and his ill nature is suffered to discover it selfe. I shall not need to tell you of Peters falls.
But 9.* I have one example more to set before you, of Paul and Barnabas together; two that were as much united together by all manner of Religious considerations, as almost any two can be. Barnabas tooke Paul then named Saul newly turned from being a persccutour, when the Disciples were afraid of him, Acts 9. and brought him to the Apostles, and is his witnesse how he was conver∣ted and how he had preached; and after that he makes a journey as farre as Tarsus from Antioch to seeke Saul, and brings him to Antioch, and there they preach together a whole yeare and taught much people; and after that they were sent together to carry Almes to Jerusalem: and being returned to Antioch, they were sent out together, by the expresse charge of the Holy Ghost, to preach, and after great and happy successe, they were imployed by the Churches to goe up to the Councell at Hierusalem about the Question of Circumcision. And now after all this stictnesse of Union, being about to goe forth againe to visit the Churches, they fall at oddes about a small matter, as one would thinke, Whether such an one should goe along with them, or not; and the contention was so sharpe betweene them, as neither the Church, nor any of the Page 16 brethren could reconcile them at that time; but they part asunder, and goe one one way and the other another; and perhaps never saw one another again. This is a very great and a sad proofe, of the great corruption of nature, still in the very best of GODS Saints, and faith∣full ones.
3.* To all which we may adde both the violent and cunning im∣portunity of Satan, who makes it a continuall businesse of his, to tempt them to all manner of sins, that if he cannot prevaile in one thing he may in another; and if he cannot (as he cannot) regaine them under his tyranny and dominion, he may yet doe them what mischiefe he can, disturbe the peace of their consciences, dishonour GOD, and promote his own kingdome, by their ill examples es∣pecially.
4.* Withall he can and doth very much make use of Men, evill men (and sometimes even of good) as his instruments, who not seldome doe even take it to taske and make it a maine part of their businesse, to draw the servants of GOD to sinne, to sinnes of scan∣dall, thereby to promote their own lust by their assistance, or to en∣courage and beare out themselves in their own evils, by such pra∣ctices of better men, and sometimes even in very malice to the ser∣vants of GOD, that they may have advantage to reproach them, and the very profession of Religion which they make; And to this purpose they lay snares in their way continually, sometimes offe∣ring worldly advantage, otherwhiles threatning worldly incon∣veniences, and alwayes straining their witts to pursue them with importunities and subtilties, to seduce them. All these laid toge∣ther, their own corruption, Satans suggestions, and Mens instigation doe so unhappily verifie our first point, and afford such continuall ex∣periments of it, that I shall need to say no more of it at the present in a Doctrinall way. I come to the second.
Though GODS servants doe provoke Him,*and He doe there∣upon take vengeance, Yet is He ever a GOD of Grace to them, answering their prayers, and affording them pardon. I shall not illustrate this by examples at this time, further then I have done al∣ready, every one of the fore-named Instances making it plaine. But I shall give you some Reasons of it.
First,* GOD uses to answer His servants, because it is one of His Titles which He takes to Himselfe, and His servants give Him the Name of, That He is a GOD hearing prayers; Which is Page 17 therefore exprest because He would encourage all men, (much more those that are already His servants) to come unto Him, Psal. 65. 2. O thou that hearest prayers! to Thee shall all flesh come. So David assures himselfe and his enemies both, that he should find in his own particular. The LORD will heare (that is answer) when I call upon Him, Psal. 43. And Psal. 10. 17. a demonstration is given of it, in that it is said to GOD, Thou hast heard the desire of the humble, Thou preparest their heart, and Thou causest Thine eare to heare. Which is as much as if it had been said, Thou bespeakest, and even inditest their Petitions (GODS Spirit doth so, Rom. 8. 26, 27.) and therefore as Thou hast ever done, so unque∣stionably thou wilt still afford them a gracious Answer.
2.* This is the more certaine, Because GOD hath alwayes in His hand a sufficiency of Power (and Wisedome,) to grant their faith∣full desires, by Over-ruling all things for their good, even notwith∣standing all that they have done against Him, and so against them∣selves, or that He hath done against them. This is the great dif∣ference between GOD and Men, that men oft times, when others sue to them, find things in so ill a condition, partly through the fault of those that now sue for their favour, and partly through their own rashnesse or severity, that they know not how to help them, nor which way to make them any amends for any thing they have made them to suffer. As the Israelites, Judg. 21. would willingly have done more for Benjamin, against whom they had been ri∣gorously cruell; But they knew not how to doe it, they had no power to recompence their own excessive severity, upon the Ben∣jimites perverse obstinacy. But it is never so with GOD. He never powers out so much wrath upon any of His servants (what∣ever He doe upon His enemies in conclusion.) But He hath still in His hand to make them amends. Even though He take away their lives: He hath so much good to bestow upon them, as He may still be said to forgive them, He hath a better life for them; an Eternall life, of perfect Happinesse. And in the meane time, witnesse Jo∣seph and Job, and many others of His Saints, They are never so low nor so afflicted in this world, but He hath power enough to raise them up againe to comfort and honour. And therefore He doth certainly afford them answer of Grace to all their faith∣full prayers.
3. He doth also forgive them without faile; because He hath re∣ceived Page 18 a Ransome for them.* It is Elihu's phrase, Job 31. 24▪ De∣liver his soule (saith GOD) from going downe into the pit▪ for I have received a Ransome. GOD Himselfe hath set forth Christ (provided Him, sent Him, declared Him,) to be a Propiti••ion through Faith in His Bloud, to declare His Righteousnesse or Ju∣stice for the Remission of sinnes that are past, through the forbea∣rance of GOD, Rom. 3. 25. So that GOD in His taking vengeance upon the offences of His servants, doth it not for the satisfaction of His Justice. For Christ hath made that satisfaction, He is ous Surety, Heb. 7. 22 and gave His life a Ransome for us, Mat. 20. 28. And so notwithstanding all the Chastisements He layes upon them (which are for an other end, as we shall see in the next Point by and by,) The Chastisement of our peace, by way of satisfaction, was upon Him, He hath borne the burden of them all. And by His stripes, (not our own) are we healed. Therefore how much so∣ever GOD corrects any of those that are in Christ, yet He pardons them. The Lord hath chastened me sore, saith the Psalmist, Psal. 118. 18. yet hath He not given me over unto death. Holy Job goes further, chapt. 13. 15. Though He kill me; yet will I trust in Him. That must needs carry with it, assurance of for∣givenesse, in the most deadly blowed that GOD can give His servants. And indeed the Apostle makes this an argument of GODS graciousnesse, and forgiving the iniquities of His servants; that, when otherwise they would be hardned in their sins which would turne to their destruction, if not remedied, that He corrects them severely, even to death sometimes. So he tells the Corin∣thians who had prophaned the Lords Supper greatly, For this cause many are weake and sick among you, and many sleepe, that is, are stricken with death, 1. Cor. 11. 30. and after followes, ver. 32. When we are judged, (even so severely) we are chastened of the LORD▪ that we should not be condemned with the world. Here is undoubted forgivenesse notwithstanding deadly severity.
4.* GOD therefore forgives, because. He will glorifie himselfe in the Repentance of His servants, after their provocations and His taking ve•geance. And ordinarlly He doth this visibly, when He layes any great correction upon His servants, He makes them give publicke and open testimony of their Repentance. This is remar∣keably insinuated, for the thing it selfe, Isa. 57. Where first GOD is angry with one of His and smites him for the sinne of his cove∣tousnesse,Page 19 and hides His face from him; And for a while this doth him no good; but he goes on frowardly in the way of his own heart: Hereupon GOD, (in the riches of His Grace) resolves to take an other course with him; and to manifest such love to him, as should overcome him with kindnesse. I have seen his wayes, and I will heale him, &c. Here is forgivenesse and Grace for Repen∣tance undeniably, notwithstanding all forgoing sinne and judge∣ments.
5.* And indeed if GOD should not vouchsafe pardon, when His servants have provoked Him, He would have none left upon earth to serve Him; If thou Lord shouldst marke iniquities, saith the Psalmist (that is, if Thou shouldest deale with us without any mercy, according to our iniquities,) O LORD who shall stand? Then followes. But there is forgivenesse with Thee, that thou maist be feared, Psa. 130. 3, 4. No man could have any heart to serve GOD, if knowing that he should, through his corruption, oftend in many things, he should have no forgivenesse at all, but only corrections and punishments, and finally death and damnation, for his reward. And this must be the portion of all those at last, that have no for∣givenesse. Therefore GOD Himselfe gives this reason of His mer∣cy, in the forementioned, Isa. 57. 16. I will not (saith He) contend for over, neither will I be alwayes wroth, for the spirit would faile before me and the soules that I have made. Therefore saith David, Psal. 103. 10. He hath not dealt with us after our sinnes, nor re∣warded us according to our iniquities, and vers. 13. As a Father pitties his own children, so hath the LORD compassion on them that feare Him; For He knowes our frame, He remembers that we are dust, &c. And therefore, with this the Church comforts herselfe in the midst of GODS most terrible corrections, Lam. 3. 32. Though He cause griefe yet will He have compassion, according to the multitude of His Mercies.
6.* There is one Reason more insinuated in the very Text, which may not altogether be forgotten, and that is, The Covenant, whereby GOD hath engaged Himselfe unto His servants to be their GOD, Thou answeredst them ô LORD our GOD. For GOD to be our GOD, is to be a GOD answering prayers and forgiving sinnes,, Psal. 50. after He had mentioned the Covenant between GOD and His people, vers. 7. It is said, vers. 15. Call upon Me in the time of trouble and I will deliver thee, &c. And for forgive∣nesse,Page 20 we know, besides the manifold particular expressions of Pro∣mises of this kind, The Covenant made with Abraham, was a Co∣venant of Grace in Christ, the Promised Seed, in whom all the Na∣tions of the earth should be blessed, Gal. 3. 16. and an everlasting Covenant: And both these inferre certainly forgivenesse, to all the faithfull seed of Abraham. And so this second Point is also in some proportion illustrated and cleared. The third and last followes, namely—
3.* Though GOD doth answer the prayers and forgive the sins of His faithfull ones, Yet they may so provoke Him, as He sometimes takes vengeance on their inventions, inflict; very severe punish∣ment, on their misbehaviour.
The Reasons of this are:* 1. The Holinesse of GOD, which allowes not sin in any one; but shewes some displeasure against it wherever He finds it, even where He loves the persons, and so pardons for His beloved Sons sake, Yet He will make them know their sins are odious to Him, and they shall feele the smart of it. We should not at all be apprehensive of the Holinesse of GOD, and His detestation of sinne, if He did not take vengeance upon some trans∣grestions in some persons; and we find by experience, that we are but little apprehensive of it, when we feele no tokens of His dis∣pleasure against us for our sinfull carriages. He therefore in refe∣rence to the glory of His Holinesse, doth not altogether spare sin, no not in His own.
2.* As the Holinesse of GOD, so His justice calls for it : Namely that He should not see His Holy and Righteous Law broken, and give the transgressours no remembrance for it: Whether the trans∣gression be more immediately against Himselfe the Soveraigne LORD and Law-giver, or against the subjects of His Kingdome. If any of His servants so farre forget themselves and Him, as to dishonour Him by trespassing upon any thing that is His; or doing any thing that reflects upon His Majesty; It is most just, that they should be so dealt with, as it may appeare to them (and all men) that GOD is not one fit to be abused any way; and that His Infinite Goodnesse and Mercy ought not to be esteemed an encouragement to any to set light by His Authority and Soveraignty. Againe, If they misbehave themselves one to another, It is most just that GOD should distribute Justice among them so farre, as to discountenance the wrong doer, and make him afraid of doing the like againe, that Page 21 GOD should so set them to rights when they are quarrelling one with another, or abusing one another; as that it may appeare He gave them no such leave; and that His Laws to the contrary were not given in vaine.* Only in all this, we are to remember, that the Justice we are now speaking of, is not the Justice of a Judge, that lookes barely to the rigour of the Law and the desert of the offence; But the Justice of a Father; Who though he scourges and cor∣rects his child, even to bloud sometimes, for untowardnesse rela∣ting to himselfe, or to any of the family, or even strangers, yet he doth it not to satisfie his own spleene, nor in malice against his child; but to make him sensible of his fault and carefull to amend, and to shew himselfe in his Paternall authority, rightly dispensing favours and corrections according to the behaviours of every one of his children. Thus it is with GOD, And this is so certaine, that it is expressely contained within the Covenant of GOD and a part of it, Psa. 89. 30, 31, 32, &c. If his children forsake my Law and walk not in my judgements, if they breake my statutes and keepe not my Commandements, Then will I visit their transgression with the rodde, and their iniquitie with s•ripes: Neverthelesse my loving kindnesse will I not utterly take from him, &c, It is made to all the children of David, that is of Christ, whose Type David was here∣in. And though Mercy (the sure Mercies of David, as Esays phrase is, Esay, 53. 3. applied by St Paul, Acts 13. 34.) be infal∣lible and unchangeable to them; yet doth GOD, as we see, ex∣pressely reserve to Himselfe the right of correcting them when they provoke Him.
3.* And this is further Confirmed, by the Need that the very faith∣full have of being thus dealt with. Now you are in Heavinesse (if need be) saith St Peter, through manifold Temptations, (that is af∣flictions and corrections) 1 Pet. 1. 6. Experience shews this but too much; that our children doe not more need correction in their yonger yeares, then all Gods children neede it, now and then all their Life. it, the one and the other are and will often be froward and wanton, and proude, and selfe-willed, and quarell∣some, and untoward to learne any thing that is good. And GOD hath Ordained and sanctified Corrections to be a meanes both to the one sort and to the other, to make them weary of doing amisse, when they shall find that Verified to them which GOD bids his people take notice of Jer. 2. 19. Thine owne wickednesse shall cor∣rect Page 22 thee and thy backslidings shall reproove thee; Know therefore and see, that it is an evill thing and bitter, that thou hast forsa∣ken the LORD thy GOD, and that my feare is not in thee, saith the LORD GOD of Hosts. GOD will make all his Servants find and feele and acknowledge this in their Degree. And to this speakes the Apostle Heb. 12. both for GODS Intention in cor∣rections and for the successe of them. Having compared GODS fatherly corrections with our Naturall Parents dealing with us in our Minority, He saith expressely, He doth it for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holinesse, v. 10. For our profit, I say, and not to satisfy his owne mind, or wreake his owne displeasure upon us, as earthly parents not seldome doe, as he had intimated in the be∣ginning of that Verse. And as GOD meanes no otherwise but thus; So his Intentions doe not faile of a sutable Successe in the Is∣sue, as is assured us. v. 11. Now no chastisement for the present seemes to be joyous but Greevous: neverthelesse afterward it yeelds the Peaceable fruit of righteousnesse to them that are exerci∣sed thereby.
Finally,* GOD deales thus with His owne Faithfull Servants, very much in reference to standers by, strangers and even enemyes; and that in a double respect 1. to Let all the World know that He hath Iudgements in store for the Wicked, which shall not faile to fall upon their heads with violence, according to those cleare Sentences Prov. 11. 31. Behold the Righteous shall be recompen∣sed in the earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner? and 1 Pet. 4. 17, 18. The time is come that Judgement must beginne at the House of GOD, and if it first beginne at us what shall be the end of those that Obey not the Gospell of GOD? And if the Righ∣teous shall scarcely be saved where shall the Vngodly and the Sinner appeare? And as our Saviour urges from His owne Sufferings, Luk. 23. 31. If these things be done in the greene Tree, what shall be done in the Dry? So may we well argue, in our proportion, If GOD will not endure alwayes provocations from His owne, though He love them so well as to forgive them ever: then doubtlesse. He will never Suffer the Obstinate Impenitents to goe allwayes unpu∣nisht. If He lay stripes on the back of His Children for their Fol∣lies, He will infallibly, (as the Threatning is in expresse▪ Termes Psal. 68. 21.) Wound the head of His enemies, and the Hairy scalpe of such an one as goeth on still in his Trespasses. Whether Page 23 evill men will learne this from GODS correcting His owne, or no: yet by all this it is manifest that it is done partly for that end to teach and warne them.
2.* But withall there is another maine end, why GOD doth this, oft times within the sight and hearing of evill men; namely that He may let them see, That they have no Reason to Blaspheame or Re∣proach the Name or Religion of GOD, or speake evill of His wayes; because of any scandals that any of His servants runne into. For if they can truly and really blame them for any such misbehaviour; they may also, within a while be able to discerne, (if they will mind it, and not wilfully shut their eyes against the light of GODS Providence) that GOD is no favourer of sinne in the best of His owne; and that as they that offend, doe not therein walke according to the Principles of their own Profession: So no blame can be char∣ged upon GOD for it, Who takes vengeance upon such misbeha∣viours; and makes them ashamed of their misdoings, and afraid of doing the like againe. And this is expressely signified to David, after his great scandall, That though GOD had pardoned him and put away his sinne, that he should not die: Yet the threatned cor∣rections should come upon him; and that particularly the mis∣begotten child should be taken away. Howbeit because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blashpheme, the child also that is borne to thee shall surely di•, 2 Sam. 12. 14. This being GODS manner in all such cases, is ground enough (though mens wickednesses will not regard it) for ever to stop the mouthes of all those that would blaspheme, when any of GODS people, are guilty of any scandalous offence. And so we see on all hands Reasons for GODS severity, as well as for His pardoning Mercy: And all the three Points are dispatcht, for the Doctrinall part of them. I now come to the Application of them all three together: but in a threefold distinct Use.* 1. Of Humilia∣tion, 2. Of Exhortation, 3. Of Consolation.
1.*For Humiliation. As the day specially, and extraordinarily calls for it; and we make speciall profession of it in this present continued meeting: So doe all the three Points that have been handled meete to recommend and reinforce it. For 1. if we have learned and are sensible how corrupted we all are, notwithstanding any Grace we have recived from GOD; and how prone to offend and provoke Him notwithstanding any faithfulnesse we have shewedPage 24 toward GOD; And secondly, If we be apprehensive of GODS answering and pardoning Mercy, and that we are not yet destroy∣ed, though we have provoked GOD with many of our inventions; and doe still expect Mercy from Him, though we know we shall still offend Him in many things; And thirdly, If we feele withall for the present somewhat more, and feare for the future, GODS taking vengeance on our inventions and misbehaviours; Then surely we have all cause to be humbled in each one of these respects severally, and much more of all of them together, and this will be a necessary and profitable foundation for the other two Uses which are to follow. We call this day a day of Humiliation, GOD grant it may prove so in His eye and esteeme: But the truth is, I feare our dayes of Humiliation, are not reckoned by GOD to be such; and that He may put that question to many of us, and pose us with it; with which He checkes the Jewes, Zach. 7. 5. When you fasted and mourned (so long and so often as you have done) did you at all fast unto me! even unto me! We come indeed and give attendance upon GOD outwardly; and we sit (and stand, and kneele) before Him, as His people, (as the Prophets phrase is, Ezek. 33.) But GOD that searches the hearts,*and will be worshipped in spirst and in truth, can tell how untowardly men come, and sees much untowardnesse (I am afraid) in very many of us, even in our so∣lemnest Humiliations, and saddest expressions of it. And if we our selves may judge by the consideration how men carry themselves immediately before, and immediately after, we have little ground to beleeve, there is any great Humiliation in mens hearts when they seeme to be most abased before GOD. The day before, or even the morning before, who makes so much as any shew by his dis∣course, that his thoughts are setling toward the humbling of him∣selfe? when women dare come hither with their bare breasts, and spotted faces, and garish apparell, is not this as it were to outface GOD? and tell Him they meane nothing lesse then to be humbled in heart before Him? while people sitting here, before the publike Services begin, and in the spaces between, shew pleasantnesse in their looks, and their words savour of nothing but worldly matters; and as soone as they are gone hence, what ever they have heard or made shew of in publike, their language at home, and all their be∣haviour, even the same night, and much more next morning, have no tincture of any such thing as affliction of spirit; what can we Page 25 beleeve, but that they doe not so much as (that which the Prophet mentions and rejects, Isa. 58.) Afflict themselves for a day, and bow downe their heads like bull-rushes. For with them it is but a few houres, and not a whole day, and when they are over, then they are as jolly againe, and hold their heads as high as they did before, and all their pretended Humiliation is gone and forgotten, and not a shaddow of it remaining. Beloved if we doe thus, we may please our selves with calling this a day of Fast and Humiliation, but I am sure there is little Humiliation in that soule that behaveth it selfe after this manner.
There was a happy and pious Exhortation to Humiliation set forth some Moneths agoe by the Authority of the Parliament; I could heartily wish it might be enjoyned to be read every where every Fast-day, in the beginning of the day; and that to this were added a Charge, that one of the Sermons at least in every Congre∣gati•n, might be expresly made to move to Humiliation and Re∣pentance: for I must needs professe, that I much feare that the greatest part, even in the greatest and best Congregations, can scarce∣ly instruct themselves sufficiently in the businesse of such a day, Therefore,* if when we come to humble our selves, there were not only solemne Confession of sinnes by the Ministers, but some earnest and vehement Exhortation to mourne for the sinnes confessed and to be confest, this might perhaps fasten some better thoughts in the minds of most men, then now, I doubt, doe ever so much as come∣crosse their minds. For, though we call the businesse of such a day, Prayer and Fasting, yet I verily believe, the most of men doe much more mind the Sermons and Exhortations, then they doe the Prayers;* and mens very countenances declare it, and their de∣meanour to any one that doth but cast his eye upon them: Some are plainly gazing up and downe; and others put themselves into such a posture, as if they be not extraordinarily zealous, must needs dispose them much to fall asleep, they could not doe otherwise; But if they be attentive at all, they make some shew of it during the Sermon: and therefore, if some serious thoughts of Humiliation were offered to them in the Sermon each day, it might put every ones spirit into a much better frame then now usually they are in.
Let me therefore endeavour this a little: And, though our Mer∣cies have not been so miraculous, as those the Text speakes of in Page 26 answering, yet I am sure our pardons are to be acknowledged very admirable: considering that the sins of every one of us may be found upon a carefull inquiry, to be worse then theirs who are poin∣ted at in the Text; our evill hearts have found out worse inven∣tions, and the vengeance that GOD hath taken upon those inven∣tions, hath, at least in our conceit, been terrible enough; all which require us to be greatly humbled for our offences this day.* To which purpose, let me chiefly touch upon three things. 1. Some Personall sins, that we may be remembred of. 2. Some Nationall sins. 3. How farre any of us may be charged with being guilty of these Nationall sins.
First,* For our Personall sins, I would wish all but to remember, generally, our Covenant, and enquire about breaches of that; and particularly, to see whether we are not guilty of such kind of sins as we have noted before in any of the persons whom the Text speakes of. When we entred into our solemne Nationall Covenant, we even in it publikely professed that we had a serious apprehension of our own sins and the sins of the Nation calling for GODS wrath against us; and there is mention made of some speciall sins, as that we have not as we ought, valued the inestimable jewell of the Go∣spell, that we have not laboured for the purity and power thereof; that we have not endeavoured to receive Christ in our hearts, nor to walke worthy of Him in our lives: and we there also under∣take many things, which I am afraid we have much forgotten: and I am perswaded that there are many,*that never so much as read it over once since they tooke it, so little regard have they of it; and that they cannot name so much as any one sinne that they have for∣borne, or one duty that they have performed the more for their Covenants sake: And if this be true, have not such great cause to be humbled, and to be afraid least GOD take vengeance upon their breach of Covenant? And indeed how few of us, if we view our faces but in that glasse of our Covenant, can chuse but be asha∣med and afraid of our not having been true to it and stedfast in it as we should have been?
But let me instance rather in those kinds of sins,* that the Wor∣thies in the Text were found faulty in, and aske every conscience whether it hath not somewhat to charge upon it selfe, in one or o∣ther of those errours?* 1. We find Moses neglectfull of the Seale of the Covenant for his child, omitting the Circumcision of his sonne. Page 27 I know not why he did so, unlesse it were to please his wife; (for he had a Zipporah in his bosome, a Midianitish wife;) but how∣ever, he was too blame in it, in not dedicating his child to GOD, not valuing the Seale of His Covenant as he should have done.* Now is there not among us a great deale of guilt in this kind? The little use that most have made, or doe make of their own being baptised, and being made partakers themselves of that Seale of GODS Co∣venant, in their childhood, (which succeeds Circumcision under the Gospell,) and carrying themselves never a whit the better to∣wards GOD for His receiving them as His so long agoe in that Sa∣crament; is it not unhappily punisht in more then a few,* with their calling in question, whether children should be so dedicated to GOD, and partake of that Seale of His Covenant? and so because they have themselves abused GODS goodnesse to themselves, they come to deny their own and others children to have any right to that pledge of His goodnesse; and so make amends for one sin with another.* And doe we not see the like in the other Sacrament? Because very many even the most have had little regard to prepare themselves for the LORDS Supper, and have come many a time unduely,*unworthily without examination of themselves; and now is it not come to that passe,* that great numbers fall off from it altogether, and question, whether they may come with such and such persons (as they like not,) and if any thing be there done which they like not of; and so because they never got any good by coming (as some have not stuck to confesse,) they make amends by staying away altogether, and so are wanting still to the Honour of Christ, and the good of their own soules; to the augmentation of which that Sacrament was ordained; and to which it is effectuall in all those, that come with faithfull and prepared hearts to it, what ever become of other men.
2.*As we find Moses unwilling to venture himselfe upon the wrath of Pharaoh, and to undertake a troublesome and difficult worke: So may we not find among us a great deale of guilt in this kind? How few are there of us, that can afford to venture upon un∣dertakings that are like to provoke the wrath of men, specially great men, against us? How doe we shrinke, and draw back, and make excuses when we fore-see any difficulty more then ordinary in the imployment? Or who can almost find in his heart to engage himselfe in a taske, whose certainest wages from men is like to be displeasure and rage?
Page 28 3.* As we find Moses complaining, in a sort, even of GOD Himselfe, that he was by Him set about a Thanklesse and Fruit∣lesse Imployment, and that things were worse now after his set∣ting upon it then before (though GOD had forewarned him it would be so at the first,) and afterward, that he was not able to endure it any longer, and desires to be out of his Life: So are not these the Vsuall complaints of many of us, in our severall businesses, though gone about at the Vndoubted Command of GOD? Doe we not often wish that we had never undertaken them. (How many speake so of this most necessary defence, which their owne Consciences still tell them is the Command of God?) and frequent∣ly cry that things grow every day worse and worse; and that we are not able to abide it if it continue thus with us but a while lon∣ger? and we would gladly runne any whether, if we knew whe∣ther: and sometimes wish we could runne out of the World, So impatient are we of the frowardnesse of the generation, with which GOD will have us to wrastle: Even though His Word and all Ex∣perience proclaime to us, that every worke, and every Generation hath its difficulties: and that reproaches have ever attended the most noble enterprizes, and the Speciall Nature of those we are set about, does oftentimes forewarne of speciall difficulties to be Vndergon•, as certainely as foule wayes in the depth of Winter. But when these come upon us, doe we not very often expresse a great deale of discontent, and impatience, in our families, and to others, and scarce forbeare repining at GODS owne dealings with us, or know how to make a composed Prayer to GOD, So dis∣quieted are our minds with disturbances.
4.* Againe as we find Moses Distrusting GOD, the rather be∣cause the Perversenesse of the people provoked his spirit; So that he Discovers Passion and some Unbeleefe both together, even be∣fore the people: which was to the Dishonour of GOD, as GOD Himselfe charges him and Aaron both, in the forecited, Numb. 20. Yee beleeved me not to sanctify me before the Children of Israel &c. And so he takes away, which GOD had not appointed him; All which together Provoked GOD •o against him: So doe we not every one of us, more then Once in our lives, even in the sight of others, in whose Eyes we should be specially carefull to Sanctify and Glorify GOD, Breake out into some impatiencies? Specially when men deale perversely with us? (not to speake of many of our Page 29 frowardnesses, when our selves only are in fault) and even visibly manifest Vnbeleefe and Distrust? and upon this Venture upon Actions which GOD hath not allowed us? And if we find these things in our selves, (as very few are able to pleade Not guilty,) We have surely great cause to Humble our selves for them this Day, and hereafter; and the rather because of the Vengeance we find to our Cost, that GOD takes upon our Inventions and Practises in this kind. And specially when our Sinnes are such, as come into publike View. GOD bore with Moses his Impatience and pang of Vnbeleefe Numb. 11. when it was only in secret betweene GOD and Moses: But when it came to the Notice of Israel Numb. 20. Then GOD was pleased even to make so faithfull a Servant an Example, Then which there is scarce a greater in all the booke of GOD, to make us Humble; and affraid of any Miscarriage in the sight of Men. And if we would observe it narrowly; We should find, that though GOD be not so severe altogether in out∣ward respects now to the generality of His servants, as He was then to some, of whom we have the records in Scripture (for We have the records but of some, and those few, in the Scripture that are owned as faithfull; and but of some failings of theirs; and now and then of some Vengeance taken on those failings;)* Yet sel∣dome doe any of His Servants breake out into faults before the Eyes of by-standers; but Some kind of Vengeance or other, is (ere long) taken on those faults, even before the Eyes of those that saw their Miscarriage: Though this the corrupt and carelesse Heart of Men Seldome observes so much as they doe the other.
5.* Againe, as Aaron severall times is found faulty in yeelding to and complying with others in their practises of untowardnes: So how frequently do we the like? Those that can and do keep themselves up∣right when they are alone, or in good company, out of Temptation; Yet are they not very many times overcome with the Importuni∣ties of Ill companions, (Specially of a Multitude) to comply with them in their Ills? and possibly even to be their Agents and In∣struments to doe very badde Acts for them and with them? But much more, if those that are our neere and deare friends, and spe∣cially being themselves godly, prove to be Tempters to us any way, and give us ill example; how seldome doe we stand out against such a Shocke? But we murmurre against our Superiours and betters, as they doe; and we distrust GOD, and discover our Incredulity Page 30 to others, as they doe before us. And indeed doe we not very of∣ten thinke this excuse enough for us; that the generall Sway of peo∣ple goes thus, and they will have it so and so? or that such and such thinke or speake so as well as we, and gave us the example be∣fore we ventured upon it? But GOD by His dealings with Aaron for these failings, would humble us for ours in like kind, and make us know, that this will not stand for an excuse with Him; and that if we follow others Sollicitations or practises in evill, GOD at His pleasure may make us lead the way to them in Correction, as Aaron suffered before Moses, for the same fault, wherein Moses gave the Example, and was (as it should seeme) the cheefe in the Offence.
6.* Finally, as Samuel appeares to have been faulty, in putting his Sonnes into great Offices, and places of Iudicatory; and not so carefull (as he should) to punish or remove them, upon complaint of their Miscarriages: So are we not much and often too blame in this kind? how partiall are we to those that are our own? How doth our affection oft commend them to places of Imployment and Trust, beyond their abilities or merit? And afterward, how ill can we endure to have any complaint against them, when yet there is all the reason in the world to complaine? Even when we our selves can be severe enough against such a fault in the Abstract, or in one altogether a stranger to us. But how is the case altered if it prove to be a child or a kinsman, a friend or even but a ser∣vant? Doe we not often take it very hainously, that men should find any fault with such? and if we be Innocent our selves (as Samuel was in his personall Iudicature altogether) doe we not con∣ceit (as he seemes to speake somewhat that way, 1 Sam. 12. 2.) That our vertue should beare out their vice. But this GOD will have us know to be a miserable delusion; and that He will take it the more hainously at their hands that are so badd, when we give them better example; and at ours too, in fine, if we let them alone; and doe not improve our vertue to correct their vice: For then their vice in the practise will prove ours in the connivence; and they and we together may be made to smart for it; as it was in Samuels case; but specially in Elies in the first chapter of that booke. And now let us (as we were well warned in the mor∣ning,) consider our wayes and humble our selves before GOD for any of these evils that may be found in us personally, or for any Page 31 other, for which our consciences use to flye in our faces in any re∣spect: and let GODS Mercies and Corrections both, helpe on our Humiliation for them, this day and henceforward.
Hereunto let us adde in the next place,* the consideration of Na∣tionall sinnes, and be humbled for them also. And there is a neces∣sity of this also, both in reference to the publike judgements and calamities lying upon the Nation; and our publike fastings and supplications for the Nation. Otherwise in both, we take GODS Name in vaine: His Providence in the one, His Ordinances in the other. We are not rightly affected with GODS Corrections upon the Nation; nor can we Pray, as becomes us for the Nation, if we be not humbled for the sinnes of the Nation, generally in those manifest particulars which we our selves are not ignorant of; or of which at least, there is a cry, by such as are concerned in them, or observant of them.* These let me set before you in a three-fold con∣sideration. 1. Relating to the better party among us. 2. To the generality of people in City and Country, every where. 3. To our Armies, which maintaine our Cause, and the cause of Religion, and our Lawes and Liberties, and all that is deare to us.
Of the first sort,* I am the more occasioned to speake, because our Text points at the sinnes even of faithfull men, as we have often said: and therefore we may well think upon the sins, of such as would seeme to be faithfull. And there is yet a further consideration that may move us to lay them sadly to heart, namely, That 1. How∣ever some now adayes preach and proclaime, that it is only for the sinnes of those that are notoriously prophane, drunkards, swearers, &c. and not for sinnes of beleevers and justified persons, that GODS judgements are upon the Land: Yet the word of GOD makes it evident, that it is otherwise,*and that the sinnes of those that are GODS people by more speciall profession, (and some∣times even of His most faithfull servants, As Davids numbring the people, and Hezekiahs pride and vaine-glory undeniably) have especiall influence to bring Nationall judgements. 2. And we have very great cause to judge so at this time; and to be humbled in a speciall manner in that regard. For if we consider that the stroke of GODS displeasure lights not only upon our enemies, the enemies of GOD and His true Religion; nor only upon the prophaner sort of the people of the Land, but generally upon all, and in some re∣spects more heavily upon the well-affected party of the Kingdome:*Page 32 We must needs acknowledge (unlesse we will disparage at once, both GODS Mercy and His Justice too) that not only the enemies and the prophane sort have provoked Him with their inventions: But even those that have given up their Names to Him in a peculiar manner have given Him just occasion to take vengeance on their in∣ventions too, and to punish all sorts, one with another, and one by an∣other. It could not else be, that GOD should so long and so much ap∣peare to be angry with His people that prayes; to overlook so much so many solemne Fasts and seekings of Him; to regard no more such beginnings of Reformation as are among us: None therefore can be excused of any of these sorts; And they that are, or seeme to be best, are most hopefull to take this to heart, and to helpe (consequently) to reforme themselves and others too, by being thus put in mind of the evils that even the Religious party are guilty of.
And here let me begin with this Question first, that whereas my Reverend Brother that spake in the morning, put it to our conscien∣ces, that we should not rest in the enquiry, whether we were not better then some others, or only better then what we had been be∣fore, but whether we were answerable to the Rules of the Word; I would goe a steppe back;* and put it to every conscience, whether people are not worse then they have beene? Even many of those that still professe to retaine some good, and perhaps some greatly zealous of the publike Cause. I must needs speake it, though with a great deale of griefe of heart, that to my eye and observation, and of divers very judicious and observant men who complaine much and often of it; That a number of those that professe GODS Name very forwardly in some things, are yet growne worse, rather th•n better, in divers others:* 1. That apparell, those fashions, and those garbes of behaviour, that would have been accounted abho∣minations 7. or 10. years agoe, are now taken up without seruple, by those that will goe for Religious people: and if pride did testifie to men and womens faces in former times; it doth much more now▪ when so many solemne dayes of Humiliation kept by them, pub∣likely and privately, hath wrought no amendment, but while many complaine of their being poorer, every one may see them as proud as ever,* if not rather more. 2. Those that, some yeares ago, made great conscience of the Sabbath, and of Family-duties, are now, many of them, come even to question, Whether the Sabbath be at all to be observed or no? and though they deny not, that family-devotions Page 33 are duties, yet they themselves doe little regard that their families should observe them; and their families scarce seem to have any desire of them.* 3. Some that were, by their own confession, so greatly conscientious of secret Prayer,* as that they could never omit it without an inward check, now doe not make any the le•st shew that they take any time for it day or night: I am afraid I am now in the bosomes of some that heare me this day; and I wish every conscience to examine themselves, whether in these things they are not grown worse then they were wont to be? whether (I say) though they keep many a solemn Fast, not only publikely at home and abroad, yet they doe not pray lesse at home with their families, and lesse in their clossets? And it is said, that some are growne such enemies to sanctification and duties of holinesse, and so impudent, that they dare professe openly,*They thanke GOD, they can now goe a whole fortnight without prayer and it never troubleth them. Is this, think we, the amendment that GOD lookes for at our hands? Are not here fearefull inventions for Him to take vengeance upon?* 4. Is there not much selfe-seeking ap∣parant in all kind of undertakings? ambitious putting themselves forward, and practises to make themselves rich, by every imploy∣ment? 5. How many Errors,* and strange opinions are there to be found even among such as are all pretenders to the way of Truth? (besides many usurping Ministeriall Offices, and exer∣cising Ministeriall acts without any Calling, and not a few with∣out so much as a shew of any competent Gifts.*) 6. Is there not extreme censoriousnesse, and a spirit of bitternesse, in very many seeming good, against all those that agree not with them in every one of their opinions, even so far as to throw them off as no Chri∣stians; how much soever they evidence of vertue and piety in other respects? Certainly this is not according to the word of Christ: Nor are these behaviours becomming a people that desire to Honour that Royall Name by which they are called. And therefore these call for speciall Humiliation at our hands. In conclusion this I am forced to say, with the great griefe of my soule, that so farre as I am able to judge by all that I see and heare where ever I come, The Religion and devotion of a great many even of those who for∣merly gave better hopes of their being sincere, doth now empty it selfe, into formalities, solemne Fasts and speaking for the publike Cause, and withall being violent for their own opinions and Page 34 interests and those that maintaine them with them. But withall this I must needs adde, that the more any of us is convinced, that this is true, the more cause have we, and all that truly feare GOD to be humbled before Him for these generall evils, of the Religious part of our Nation; and the more cause to be afraid, that we are not so neare a deliverance, as we sometimes would gladly thinke: But rather to be perswaded that before GOD will deliver us, He will put us into another frame and temper of spirit, then we are now in, that He will marre our pride, and tame our wildnesse, and curbe us in our pursutes of selfe-respects, quell our scandalous behaviours, and (as He promises more then once by His Prophets) give us one heart and one way; All which as yet, after all warnings and shewes of humiliations, and blowes, and favours, we seeme very farre from; and therefore still it is fit to call us to sad humiliation for these provocations, in the first place.
The second consideration of Nationall sins,* referres to the body of the Nation. Of whose sins I will not now take upon me to give you a large catalogue. But they generally empty themselves into these three capitall evils: Ignorance,*Covetousnesse and Pro∣fanenesse. Of the first, I confesse I can never thinke seriously, with∣out trembling and scarce with any patience, that no more is done any where to dispell that horrid mist of darknesse that covers the faces and hearts of very many thousands in these dayes of light: while in the meane time, they themselves, scorne and hate know∣ledge, specially because they see they may be let alone in it.* For the second, It is apparantly the sinne of the Country; and of the City too, and the generall sin, that at least all men well nigh are accused of and cried out upon for. And apparantly in the most there is too much reason for such a cry. Goe but into any place, and what is the great businesse that you find every one almost set upon? study∣ing how to be a gainer even by others losses, at least to ease him∣selfe in publike payments and taxations, and lay great loade upon others, specially upon those that are faithfull. If they can but get into an Office, have any thing to doe in Sequestrations, what is the improvement that is made of it by too many (alas▪) but to fill their own purses, with extortion, oppression, delaying and perver∣ting Justice; and withall ordinarily to favour Malignants, and overburden the best Affected and most forward for the publike Service? And above all others, setting themselves to make the Page 35faithfull Ministers that are among them beare the greatest loade that may be;* If there be any way to eate out the heart of his meanes of subsistance, and even of all his comforts, he shall be sure to find this measure at their hands, his Taxations shall be heavier then any other, Store of Souldiers biletted and quartered in his house; and withall his Tithes and dues withheld and denyed, with pretence one while that they are Jewish, another while that they are Popish; any thing that they may weary him out, and that they may either have no Minister at all, or only one altogether accor∣ding to their own lusts.* 3. And this falls into the consideration also of their Prophanenesse, which is most notorious every where. Formerly, even in the ill times, a conscionable Minister in some places could doe somewhat toward the bringing his people to knowledge, who now wholly cast off the yoake, (because there is no Government neither Ecclesiasticall nor Civill, that they think will at all meddle with them how refractory soever they be,) and grow more brutish and barbarous, every day then other. And now above all former times, whoredome and adultery, doe fearfully abound and grow impudent; even Incest is to be found in divers places, and no punishment to be found for it. What should I speake of Oathes, Cursings and Blasphemies? which are notoriously known to be most rise among all sorts, old and young, even children not excepted, that with their first language, have learned this lan∣guage of Hell, and never forget it all their lives long. In a word, what outrage of wickednesse is there that we have not just cause to beleeve to be too ordinary among our people? In this common lawlessenesse and licentiousnesse of the times, how few are there, that are not altogether unbridled in their lusts, and audacious in their profanenesse?* They that were wont to make great out∣cryes against those hungry soules, that went abroad to other Chur∣ches to seek their spirituall food, when they had not sufficient Pro∣vision at home; are now themselves become runners away from their own Parishes if there be a faithfull conscionable Minister there, that they may goe to one that is Malignant, superstitious or scandalous, (or all this) or under pretence of going abroad, and taking their liberty, (as others doe) they altogether stay at home, as specially they doe upon the Fast-dayes, and are not ashamed or afraid to be known to be at work; Or else goe and spend their time in Tavernes or Alehouses, or other places of lewdnesse; as it were in contempt Page 36 of GOD, and of all His Judgements, as well as His Ordinances. And this is the wofull account that a generall survey of the general∣lity of our people can bring in to a conscientious inquirer after their spirituall condition.* Not but that there is unquestionably a num∣ber of faithfull ones, that doe (as the Church expresses, Isa. 26.) waite for GOD in the way of His Judgements, and are better'd by His chastisements that now lye upon us: But yet the corruption of all sorts is a thing, that we all use to complaine of by fitts, and is so notoriously apparant that we cannot deny with any conscience, but that the evils upon the Nation are most righteously inflicted by GOD, as a just vengeance taken on the manifold evill inventions that provoke Him throughout the Nation. And this still addes to the necessity of our humiliation before Him, and under His migh∣ty hand for these things.
3.* Thirdly, We have yet the consideration of our Armies to be affected with: The sins of our Armies doe in a speciall manner call us to humiliation. And we our selves doe in effect professe and proclaime so much. Our assembling together this day, and joy∣ning in Prayer and Fasting, (and so in humiliation, at least in pre∣tence) is specially to obtaine a Blessing upon that Army which is Commanded by his Excellency our Noble Lord Generall. This is well. But if we meane to get good by it; to prevaile with GOD for them, and in them for our selves, we must lament and be hum∣bled for their sins as well as our own; and so for the sins of out other Armies. Observe the Records of GODS Providence in His Sacred Word, the Epitomie of all His Providence throughout all ages,* and you ever shall find, That where there was no speciall sin in the Armies of His people, or in those that sent them forth, there they ever prevailed; and never were they foiled, but you shall read• either before hand, or shortly after the mention of the defeate, the sinne that so provoked GOD to take vengeance. Therefore as we feare any overthrow, and pray against it, we must acknowledge both our own sins, and theirs who are engaged to fight for us. And if we consider the matter rightly, It is a fearfull thing, that among those, who professe to maintaine the common Cause of the Nation, there should be such quarrels and dissentions, such emulations and heart-burnings, as if men sought nothing but themselves, their own Honours and advantages; that they that fight for the Liberties of the Nation, should commit so many outrages, and practice such Page 37 rapine and spoile, as it is most certaine many of them doe; and it is said,*there is little difference between their plunderings and the enemies, whom all cry out upon as very barbarous: that among those who pretend to have taken Armes to defend Religion and the Gospell, there should be a loud noyse of their swearing, and drun∣kennesse, and profanenesse, of whoredome, and of doing injury to our own friends, and specially to those that are greatest friends and best affected to the Gospell and Religion; as if they were gaged to fight against it, and to eate them up. If these things be so, (as there is nothing more certaine then that they are too too common in our Armies,) If our Armies goe forth and manage the Wars (as there is too evident signes of it,) with very much carnall con∣fidence in themselves and their strengths and worldly advantages, (the common fault of us all in a great measure,) And if there be among them, men that desire and designe, to prolong our troubles, and lengthen out the Warre, that they may make the better pur∣chase of their imployments and charges, of which there is but too much cause of suspition: We cannot justly wonder, that our Ar∣mies prosper no better, we may rather wonder, GOD hath taken no more vengeance hitherto upon their sinnes and ours together: And we cannot expect that GOD should goe forth with them any more, except we and they be truly and sadly humbled for their sins and ours, and on all hands there be an endeavour of amendment; of which more by and by.
Meane time,* I have a word to adde of the third sort of sins which require our present humiliation, namely our own being guilty of others si•s, of the sins of the Nation, of which whatsoever we find lying upon us, ought very much to presse us downe, and en∣crease our humiliation before GOD, and our feare of His ven∣geance upon our untowardnesses. And here, truly, I doubt we must all lay our hands upon our hearts, and acknowledge a great deale more guilt, then we use to take notice of: Even therefore a great deale of guilt in our selves, both because we use to take so lit∣tle notice, of much of that Nationall guilt that oppresses us; as also because we are so little affected with godly sorrow, for those evils which we seeme to take some notice of.* I know that by fitts we all abound in complaints, of the generall depravation, and oversprea∣ding corruption of all sorts and rankes among us; and that there is much hearing and little practising, much outward humiliationPage 38 and little reformation, that one knowes not whom to imploy and whom to trust, that all seek their owne and not the things of Jesus Christ, that there is a great deale of pretence of conscience, and pleading for Reformation; and very little signes of conscience, or of reall intention or desire of any Reformation, more then of th•se things that have been or are like to be troublesome to themselves. These and many such like complaints (with a great deale of more bitternesse, and many sharper accents) worse to utter often, in dis∣courses one among another; And specially, when we heare any in newes. when GOD gives us any blow, we are ready to flye upon some sins that doe most displease us in other men, in the generality perhaps:* But how little doe we take notice of any of these things, when we are alone? when none is with us, but GOD and our own consciences?* When we are to pray to GOD for the Nation, and that His wrath may be turned away from it; how seldome then doe we think of these things, and spread them before the Lord, with an humble and afflicted spirit, begging of Him pardon and healing? Is it not rather true, that in His presence, and before His Tribunall, we dare not owne the charging of others with such and such things,* about which we sometimes make lowde outcries in the eares of men? we either dare not avouch the very things to be crimes, in the account of GOD; or else know we have no sure ground or warrant to accuse such and such persons or multitudes as guilty of them. Againe, even those things that are undeniable faults and notoriously practised, even by the generality, yet how little doe we take them to heart,* when we should most? On such a day as this, when we all solemnely professe our businesse to be hu∣miliation, even for others sins as well as our own; and when the Ministers of GOD bemoane them in their confessions and prayers, and set out the aggravations of them, how few hearts joyne affe∣ctionately with them? and how little doe we usually tremble at the hearing of them? Even when in the Sermons preached on these dayes, (though seldome sufficiently pointed this way) we have any catalogue, breefer or larger, of Nationall wickednesse set before us, with any exaggerations of the evils of them, and any inferences from hence of the great danger we are in of GODS heavy wrath, to abide still upon us, and be multiplied upon us; how doe our hearts then shrinke from the consenting to the truth of such charges and threatnings? and we are ready to deny or mince our former com∣plaints, Page 39for feare least GOD should judge us out of our own monthes as a Nation worthy to be destroyed. And the cause of all this, is a further evill in our selves,*a want of true zeale to endeavour a through Reformation, (though we have all Covenanted and sworne it to GOD' before His people) so much as by words. Ra∣ther when any kind of necessity presses us, be it but the importu∣tunity of a godly Christian, or the exhortation of a faithfull Mini∣ster, to doe something more then we have done towards an effe∣ctuall Reformation; We fall to fancying and framing excuses, not for our neglect only, but oftentimes for others evills; and so make them greatly ours, by our want of care to apply some vigorous re∣medy to them according to our places, (I excuse not the most zealous faithfull Ministers, much lesse my selfe herein,) whereby we might suppresse them, and prevent GODS vengeance upon them. Therefore this againe summons us to reinforce our humi∣liation, our sorrow and our feare. And I cannot forbeare putting you in mind of that expostulation of the Prophet, Ezek 33. 24▪ &c. though with variety of instance, and enlargement of the application. The people there flatter'd themselves with a conceit that GOD intended to give them peace in possessing the Land, from whence their brethren were driven,* or carried away captives. Abraham (say they) ver. 24. was one, and he inherited the Land, but we are many, the Land is given us for an inheritance. But GOD an∣swers them with an appeale to their own consciences first, and then with a peremptory threatning of the contrary, ver. 25, 26, 27. You eate with the blood, and lift up your eyes toward your Idols and shedde blood, and shall ye possesse the Land? Ye stand upon your sword, ye work abomination and ye defile every one his neighbours wife, and shall ye possesse the Land? Say thou thus unto them, Thus saith the LORD GOD, surely they that are in the waste shall fall by the sword, &c. Have not wee too much of such confi∣dence as they expressed? And yet no lesse cause to feare such an an∣swer from GOD as that was. You thus and thus misbehave your selves, and shall you have peace? shall you have setling? shall you possesse the Land? May we not also much rather admire the pa∣tience and long suffering of GOD towards us all this while, that a complete vengeance hath not beene taken upon our mis-doings as well as upon Germanies and Irelands? and even upon some parts of our owne Kingdome and Nation? And if we sadly consider Page 40 how GOD did not spare those faithfull men, the Text points at, did not let faithfull Moses and Aaron the Saints of the LORD, live to see the happinesse of His people inheriting the Land of Pro∣mise, may we not upon the remembrance of our greater provo∣cations, tremble least, none of us should be suffered to live to see an end of our troubles? and the Church of GOD peaceably setled in a holy Reformation? Sure we have no reason to expect it, unlesse we live to see (and helpe to procure) our own hearts, and lives, and families, and whole party, to be apparantly more faithfull. Oh that we could lament for these things this day, and be possest with a holy feare, and amazing trembling! That we could apply in proportion, that speech of our Saviour to our selves, Luk. 23. Weepe for your selves and for your children, for if these things be done in the greene tree, what shall be done in the dry? If Moses, Aaron and Samuel escaped not, but GOD tooke vengeance on their inventions, notwithstanding His Grace in answering and par∣doning them, how shall we or our people escape? Let us therefore all lay our hands on our hearts and say at once, The LORD is Righteous in all that He hath done, or threatens to doe to us, and withall, that it is of the LORDS Mercies that we are note consu∣med, because His compassions faile not; As the Prophet teaches the Church to say in the book of Lamentations. And this will pre∣pare us for a wise consideration of what we are farther to doe upon these grounds. To which the second Use, namely of Exhortation tends, To which now I come.
The Exhortation* proceeds againe upon the Grounds of all the three Doctrines forementioned, and the humiliation insisted upon in the former Use together. For, if we be all so prone to sinne, even though we have some faithfulnesse; and if GOD, be so Gracious; and yet so severe toward His faithfull ones; of all which our own and our Nations experience at this day, hath forced us to this dayes outward humiliation, and calls us to be deeply humbled in our in∣ward spirits both this day and hereafter: Then certainely we are all to be most earnestly exhorted, to be more watchfull and resolute then ever, to keepe close to GOD, and to be in all things constantly faithfull with Him. Some vigilancy and some resolution all the faithfull servants of GOD have, to keep themselves from those wayes and practises which displease GOD and would provoke Him against them. But they are often wanting in both, and sometimes Page 41 specially in the one, and sometimes in the other. We are not al∣wayes so watch full over our selves and mindfull of our duties, as we should be; and sometimes when we are not ignorant or forgetfull altogether, yet we are transported with sinfull distempers, whereby we offend GOD and draw downe His Judgements. As therefore we are apprehensive of our own sinfull corruptions inclining us to transgresse, and as we love GOD who hath been ever kind to us, and answered, and even pardoned us many a time, forgiven many a sinfull invention of ours; and as we dread His severe correction, the vengeance that may light upon our untowardnesse: As we ac∣knowledge our selves to be either in GODS debt, or in His danger (as indeed our Text and all experience tells us we are both) Let us •emember to walke circumspectly,* and watchfully over our selves and humbly with GOD,* in His feare,*all the day long,* and all our lives long: And as our Saviour speakes to His Disciples, He speakes to us, Mark. 13. 37. What I say unto you, I say unto all, watch. GOD hath deserved it at our hands, and He will doe againe: And if we will not regard it, we shall be made weary of the contrary. Let me therefore pursue this Exhortation unto some speciall Appli∣cations. In which I may be (I hope) a little bolder then might perhaps seeme fit in the former Use. If we be wanting but in a de∣gree, Exhortation is not only necessary, but the least that can be, in the totall silence whereof, (besides the sinne of it,) there is no ground of hopes of amendment. And if we be already forward, we shall yet be the better, if the wise man have any skill in reason or experience, when he faith in the Name of Wisedome, that is of Christ Himselfe, Give instruction to a wise man, and he will yet be wiser, teach a just man and he will increase in learning, Prov. 9. 9.
Let me therefore againe put you in mind of that which undeni∣ably,* we ought all to remember this day, namely, Our Solemne Covenant, our Nationall Covenant, wherein specially we are en∣gaged both to GOD and to His people, even to three Nations, to expresse our faithfulnesse both in generall and in maine particulars; which doubtlesse it well remembred and effectually applied to our consciences and practises will prove a matter of very great blessing to us, and of prejudice and mischiefe otherwise. You had many excellent remembrances in the morning, Give me leave to adde a few more. And as I desired before, that the Exhortation to Humi∣liation Page 42 might be constantly read (and commented upon, I meane the matter of it) every Fast day; So let me now make an other humble motion, for the Covenant to be also read in the close of every such day.* I cannot but againe say, I am much afraid, it hath been little pondered by the most of us since we have taken it. And undoubtedly the great businesse aimed at in every rightly observed Fast, is the renewing of a Solemne Covenant with GOD, It is a duty altogether indispensible. And unto this Covenant we have ve∣ry great bonds lying upon us to tye us most strictly. We lifted up our hands to GOD in it, in the day of our calamity, in the time of our feare and trouble, when we were very low. And since that time GOD hath raised us up very high; in comparison of our con∣dition then, and afforded us a great deale of helpe, from men, and from Himselfe; and it containes both the generall of all our duties to GOD and man, and very maine and most necessary particulars, justly and wisely limited. We may then assure our selves, that GOD will require it, (in whole and in part) at all our hands. And we cannot think lesse in reason and Religion, then that this is one of the causes why the warre continues, to fulfill the threatning, Lev. 26. 21, I will send a sward among you, to avenge the quarrell of my Covenant? I doe not forget that the sword was unsheathed and raging among us, before this Covenant was entred into. But I must needs beleeve, that the cause why the Covenant hath not overcome the sword, is because we have not kept it so faithfully as we should, and that upon this not keeping it me are to charge all the vengeance that we have smarted with, ever since we tooke it, and so it will be fit for us to doe, ever hereafter. Let me beseech every one therefore againe and againe to be watchfull and resolu•e in clea∣ving closer to it hereafter, and to GOD in it. We all pretend, all our hopes to be in GOD, and doubttesse we have reason to place them all upon Him, and His keeping Covenant with us. If we then doe not keepe Covenant with Him, He will make us know, that it is even a part of His Covenant, Psal. 89. 30 & •. 〈◊〉 scou•ge us and correct us for it. And this may be 〈…〉 If we put Him to it, any one of us may be made an example, and even all of us, if we will needs provoke Him. Let us therefore, (I humbly pray every one that heares me this day,) Take he•d of that s•a•e mentioned, Prov. 20, 25. Of making inquiry, after we have made so solemne a Vow to GOD; that is, of setting our wits upon the rack, and our Page 43 consciences upon the tenterhookes, how we may invent shifts to be loose from the bond of it, in generall or in any particular.* Let us not seeke evasions to elude the plaine meaning of the words in any phrase, nor the known sense of those that offred it to us, or our own reall meaning (according to both those) when we first entred into it. We would not, (we doe not, I am sure, in any thing that con∣cernes ourselves) endure this in any other. Can we think then that GOD will endure it in us. We know, each one of us must needs be undone,* if others whom we suppose firmely tyed to us (even by this Covenant, in City and Country,) should prove treacherous to us. Yet what juster vengeance can there be, then that GOD should punish our falsenesse to Him, (if we should preve false,) with other mens treacherousnesse towards us? Let us not then put off the observation of it to others, we our selves being engaged in it as deeply as they; and specially those that have been Authours and promotours of others to take it, are to be mindfull of their own greater obligation to be exemplary in the keeping of it.* Else that of the Apostle, Rom. 2. 1, &c. will be unhappily applicable to us. Thou art therefore inexcusable ô man whosoever thou art that judgest, for wherein thou judgest another thou condemnest thy selfe, for thou that judgest dost the same things. But we know that the judgement of GOD is according to Truth against them that doe such things. And thinkest thou this ô man that judgest them, that doc such things, that thou shalt escape the judgement of GOD, &c. There are some (and but some as yet) against whom there hath been proceedings for refusing to enter into this Covenant,*and yet they all have pretended conscience for refusing it. Certainly they, (or at least some among them) will rise up in judgement against us, if we make not the more conscience of keeping it. Bet∣ter it is that thou shouldst not Vow, (saith the Kingly Preacher, Eccles. 5. 5.) then that thou shouldst Vow and not pay. Let me therfore conclude this generall Exhortation with the words of the verse be∣fore,* ver. 4. When thou hast vowed a Vow to GOD, deferre not to pay it, for He hath no pleasure in fooles, pay that that thou hast vow∣ed. Adding hereunto the latter part of the sixth verse, Wherefore should GOD be angry with thee and destroy the work of thy hands? In some things delay is an apparant breach of a Vow, or Covenant, to GOD or Men, In m•st things, it endangers a breach. Let us therefore looke what we have done all of us in pursuit of our Co∣venant? Page 44 and what we are yet a doing? What we have neglected? or delayed? and be quickned by all this, to reinforce our watchful∣nesse and resolution to stick to it and fulfill it to the uttermost here∣after.
In particular,* Let me first begin with the latter part, with that which concernes, the personall Reformation, of every one of us. And indeed, unlesse every one doe begin here (begin at home) it is to no purpose to thinke (or talke) of reforming others. And here∣in, as we need not, so we must not stay for others, but strive to ex∣cell others, (the only lawfull ambition, and to which our Cove∣nant doth in expresse termes tye us, to goe one before another in the example of a reall Reformation,) and to be patternes to others, and lights to direct and excite others to follow us. If we doe not this, none of us knowes, but GOD may single us out to be ex∣amples of vengeance taken on our misdoings in a sudden and terrible manner. And this the sooner and the sorer the more Sermons we heare, and the more Fasts we keepe, In all which we doe then but adde more danger to our selves, and treasure up more wrath against the day of wrath. What shall GOD doe with us, if all these things will not amend us? added to the examples of (at least) some o∣thers, that are and will be eminently faithfull, whatever we are, or list to be; and added to our own feares, even testified by this dayes extraordinary humiliation, and our attendance upon it, so many houres? How (can we think) GOD will or can endure us, if we dishonour Him, even but secretly (if wilfully) and much more if openly, when He would not endure it at Moses, Aarons, Samuels hands, as our Text tels us? When He broke Davids bones, for his misdoings, (though He loved him more dearely and owned his fidelity most eminently) as David himselfe tells all the world, Psal. 51. And the more eminent any are for their ranke, abilities, imployments, profession, the worse would their mis∣behaviours be, because the more noted, and so the more scanda∣lous. And there is nothing that disposes people of meane quality to be atheists,*ox live like such, then to see eminent persons breake solemne Covenants with GOD and Men: This therefore we may infallibly conclude, GOD will not faile to take vengeance upon, soo∣ner or later, in whomsoever it be found.
2.* Let us remember, that our Covenant also reaches to a care of our families, and a Reformation of them (all others under our Page 45 power and charge both in publike and private, are the words of our Covenant;) and we make our selves transgressours, if we looke not to them also, as well as to our own persons. And now I am spea∣king of families,* I professe the thought of it makes me tremble, what conceit soever others have of this matter; and I cannot con∣taine my selfe from falling againe into a sad complaint of it, though but in a word. I thinke there was never much Religion in fami∣lies, in this Kingdome, (though perhaps not more in other pla∣ces,) But I am verily perswaded that of many yeares there was ne∣ver lesse then now. In that little observation that I have been able to make, of late; I cannot see that which I expected in divers pla∣ces, but lesse care even of Family-Devotions, and scarce any care at all of particular instruction or inspection. Doe not divers, who seeme very forward themselves for the Cause of GOD among us, harbour those in their houses, whom they know to beare no good will at all to it, but to favour and even pleade for our enemies; and yet they use no endeavour to put them into a better mind? But specially how many are there that know their very children and much more their servants, have no savour at all of Religion: and yet they cannot find in their hearts to attempt in the least to Prin∣ciple or perswade them better? Is this the fruit of our Covenant? Was this the meaning of any in this particular, to promise enough, but intend to performe nothing? or at least now are they at liberty to doe nothing of what they have so solemnely and sacredly promi∣sed and sworne? I confesse, I see no very great fruits of our Co∣venant in any respect among the most, But of all other things, as little in this matter of Family-Reformation as any thing; not to say lesse. But how will GOD take this at our hands, doe we thinke?* or how did GOD take it at Samuels hands, that he was so partiall to his sons, as hath been noted? But specially how did GOD take it at Elies hand, though a good man? You know the story in the be∣ginning of the first book of Samuel, what terrible vengeance GOD threatned and took upon the inventions, the wicked practises of Elies sons and his indulgence to them, and yet he gave them a se∣vere and grave admonition, 1 Sam. 2. which is much more then a great many doe, who know (or heare) enough of the ills of their families, which yet they overlooke and silence, as if it did not at all concerne them, as if their good or ill were nothing at all to them. But so thought not Abraham, the Father of all Covenanters with Page 46 GOD, he not only at GODS command brought all his family (though so numerous as it exceeded 300. who were able to beare Armes, Gen. 14.) into Covenant with GOD, Gen. 17. But GOD takes notice of his care and conscience to charge and command them all to keep GODS wayes, and promises him and them spe∣ciall favour for it, Gen. 18. 17, 18. And Joshuah the Governour of Israel, undertakes for all his house, and family, (what ever Israel did or would doe) that they should serve the LORD, Josh. 24. 15. So we have Davids Vow for himselfe, and family (and King∣dome also) Psal. 101. and the story of all the Saints and Converts in the New Testament insinuates a care in them to draw in their housholds with them. Zacheus, Lidia, the Jaylour (the most un∣likely family of all others) and divers more. This was the very reason why GOD commanded, that all, (even the servant's bought with money) should be Circumcised, as well as the Master of the family himselfe, to shew that he would have none neglected in matter of Religion, as not belonging to him. And if we will not looke to this, specially have such an engagement upon us (as David speakes in another case, Thy Vowes are upon me ô GOD, Psal 56. 12.) GOD can, and we have cause to expect that He will, as He may most justly, raise up evill unto us out of our own houses, make our servants or even our children plagues and mischiefes to us. As many of our brethren in Ireland found from their servants, and many in England find now from their very children.
3.* The same clause of our Covenant calls upon those who have the regulating of our Armies, to extend their care to Reforme them also. I have not wisedome enough to prescribe the particular way how this may be done. But this I may be bold to say, that if we wittingly suffer wickednesse to be in our Camps, or Garrisons, or Quarters, we cannot expect that GOD should prosper them, any where. GOD Himselfe gives the warning, Deut. 23 9. And He tells Amaziah, 2 Chron. 25. that He was not with Israel, nor with all the house of Ephraim, that was because they were wilfull Ido∣laters, and obstinate in other wickednesses. And certainely if GOD be not with our Armies, any where, they were better stay at home. And if their sins fight against Him, (as all allowed sins doe) there is no reason to thinke He will fight for them. He hath given them di∣verse blowes at sundry times, and in severall places, Scarce any one of our Armies hath escaped a blow alwayes: Doubtlesse then it Page 47 was their sins that had a share in provoking that vengeance. If we pray to GOD to blesse them (as we doe specially this day) and fast and humble our selves before GOD for their sins also as well as our own, and yet doe not labour to reforme them, (though we know that prayer is vaine that is not seconded with endeavours) what doe we lesse then even tell GOD, that we desire His blessing upon them, though they continue still in their wickednesses: And then if they prove cowards or treacherous, or that GOD give their enemies the upper hand of them, we can thanke or blame none more then our selves. And truly this (to me) is one of the great causes, why the people of GOD that maintaine His cause here and in other Nations, have fewer victories, and more frequent over∣throws now adayes then they had under the Old Testament, that we suffer those notorious wickednesses in our Armies, that were not suffered then, and that we even make up our Armies much of the vilest of men, knowingly and professedly. If it be unpollitick to speake in this manner, I am sure it is ungodly to let manifest wickednesse altogether alone upon any pretence whatsoever; and much more to imploy such to be GODS Champions, as we know actually fight for the 'Devill and their own lusts, more then they can pretend to doe for GOD, or His cause. And if they should now conquer for us, what shall we doe with them afterward? Doe we intend to keepe them in order then? or suffer them to plead that they have merited an exemption from all restraint of their licen∣tiousnesse? to which they have been so long enured by the length of the warres (which certainely they will the rather lengthen out, if they still find they may doe what they list without controll) that it is next to impossible for them to be reclaimed of it. Finally if God looke upon their faults, as ours in part, (while we doe not what we can to amend them) how shall He blesse them, were it but because punishment is due to us, for such neglect? And if He take vengeance upon their sins, even as theirs, shall not we be enwrapped in the mischief of in?
4.* This care is yet further to be enlarged, for the Reformation of that prophanenesse and ignorance, that is still to be found in City and Country. The Land is to be cleansed, before we can ex∣pect that the Land should be heated. Our endeavours cannot as yet reach to all parts of the Land: But therefore▪ we should be the more carefull of those that are under our power. And though we Page 48 cannot reforme all things so well and throughly in these times of confusion and warre as we may doe hereafter, when we shall ob∣taine by GODS Goodnesse a setling; Yet certainly a great deale more may be done then yet is; and so much as may make ungodli∣nesse pull in her hornes much, and be ashamed and afraid of those wicked practises, that now outface all controll: If speciall men, were appointed for this, (as there are for secular businesses, and for matters of Money, as is fit and necessary) too see all good Laws and Ordinances for the Sabbath and Fasts, and other matters of Re∣formation put in execution; and to give encouragement to faith∣full Ministers; and that order were taken effectually and impar∣tially with scandalous people (and Malignant opposers of consci∣entious Ministers) as well as there is, most necessarily, with scanda∣lous Ministers; It would mightily lessen the number and weight of the Nations sins, and dispose all places to receive a full and perfect Reformation in due time.
5.* Againe, Look upon your Covenant, I beseech you, and doe Ju∣stice upon Delinquents impartially and without respect of persons. In that Psalme of confession and prayer, Psal. 106. (whereof I mentioned the Psalmists supplication, which we all must needs wish to have granted us, namely to have the favour to live to see the Church happy.) The first sentence, after the giving praises to GOD by way of entrance, is, Blessed are they that keepe Judge∣ment and he that doth righteousnesse at all times, ver. 3. And then followes, remember me with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people, &c. ver. 4. and then, that I may see the good of thy chosen, and rejoyce with the gladnesse of thy Nation, and be glad with thine inheritance, ver. 5. None of us can rightly expect to be let live to see the desire of our soules, in the Churches felicity, unlesse we be zealous (all of us in our places) for the keeping of Judgement and doing of Righteousnesse at all times. Is not this the quarrell of the warre, because Delinquents are protected against the hand of Justice? And doe not, the first Protestation, and first and second Covenant, all expressely and explicitely mention the bringing of Offenders to condigne punishment, &c? why should any thinke, that GOD will give into our hands, those Delinquents that are in Armes against the great Judicatory of the Kingdome; if Justice be not done upon those that are in our hands already? and so purposed, and practised from time to time? Is it not for this that GOD hath Page 49 put the sword of Justice into your hands? according to Rom. 13. 5. he beares not the sword in vain, for he is the Minister of God, a Revenger to execute wrath upon him that does evill. This is Your Office, and GOD and Mens expectation of you, and Blessed shall you be (as the Psalmist hath told you but now) if that be verified of you which you have heard both from the Psalmist and from the Apo∣stle. You know how Israels sparing the Canaanites, Judg. 1-2. cost them full deare: They proved continually thornes in their sides, and prickes in their Eyes, snares and temptations to them: as GOD tels them, that for this He would not deliver their enemies into their hands any more, and that they should prove snares to them, &c. Indeed so we find it. The Canaanites familiarity corrup∣ted and seduced Israel, and then afterward GOD delivered Israel into the Canaanites hand to be oppressed by them, Judg. 4. Looke we to it, lest it prove so with us. How can we expect, but if such as have done wickedly, opposed all Reformation, be let alone without just punishment; they will help to marre the Reformation when it comes to be setled? and prove corruptors of others, that now seeme to be of a better temper? And then we may be sure that they will prove Scourges to us by GODS just judgement in other Respects. I take not upon me to tell you what must be done with this or that particular person: but this I say in the generall, that neither Re∣ligion nor Reason will perswade, nor so much as allow, that they who have been notorious enemies, or offenders, should be suffered to have power to doe mischiefe hereafter, where there is no ground of perswasion that their hearts are truly turned from all Desire of doing future mischiefe.* And in the meane time, this I am most sure of, that while any are under restraint in expectation of a sentence, they ought at least to be kept from notorious provocations of GOD by riots and other disorders, of which (they say) our prisons are full; and that GOD is well neere as much dishonoured by them while they are under our Custody, as He would be if they were at their owne liberty. If this be so, and that we know it, or may know it, I know no Argument that can excuse their sins from being ours in these matters; nor how we can reply to that which GOD may most justly say to us, Why should I deliver any of your enemies any more into your hands, while you let them act those villanies in your prisons, for which your selves thinke, I should not blesse them in their Camps?
Page 50 6.* Unto this let me adde a word of Exhortation in relation to an evill a kinne to the former, namely the Disorders and Oppressions that are said to be acted by those that you imploy in divers places. There is a great cry of this, how truly and justly I am not able to say. But certainly, it were a most worthy act, that some choise men of unquestionable integritie were appointed to make inquiry and take knowledge of it. There is One that doth without all perad∣venture, He that is higher then the Highest regards, and there be higher then they, saith the Wise and Kingly Preacher, when he speakes of Oppression and violent perverting of judgement and ju∣stice in a province, Eccles. 5. 8. And GOD oft saith elsewhere, that He doth and will heare the Cry of oppression. Now if He doe lo, there is but one of two to answer the Cry, and stop the Mouth of it. Either mans Justice or GODS. Mans Justice, that is in your Hands mainly. And that is the easiest and the safest way, for you, and even for the oppressours themselves; For by your doing Justice, You may possibly not only right those that have suffered wrong, but perhaps also Work so upon those that have done the wrong, as to bring them to Repentance, and so (as I may say) you save GOD a labour, and with-hold His Hand from taking Vengeance, Into whose Hands it is a fearefull thing to fall, saith the Apostle. But we doe as it were force GOD to take Vengeance Himselfe, if we will not; and then we our selves are like to feele the smart of it too, as abettors and accessaries. You know the Accent put upon the neg∣lect of Eli in this kind 1 Sam. 3. 13. His sons made themselves vile and he restrained them not: and how fearefull the Vengeance was that GOD tooke both of the Sons and the Fathers faults together. And so Samuel payed (as hath been noted) for his favour to his bribe-taking and Justice-perverting sons, by him put into Office. In all these things, our own Interest is concerned, as well as GODS or His Peoples, and therefore, I beseech you, Suffer and (embrace) the Word of Exhortation in these things.
7.* And give me leave, I humbly pray, to proceed a little further in a particular or two more specified in our Convenant for Reforma∣tion. One is that we may ever remember that Clause in the first Article, To endeavour the Reformation of Religion in the King∣domes of England and Ireland in Doctrine, Worship, Discipline and Government, according to the Word of God, You heard some∣what of this in the morning, but I crave your patience that I may Page 51 adde a little to it. Doubtlesse the Word of GOD is the only Rule unto which we are all tyed. He only is the Soveraigne Law-give• to appoint how He will have His Church governed. And so He hath left a sufficient Ride in His Word for all Matters of Sub∣stance and of Necessity, (though all men doe not see it, and though Circumstantials are left to be varied by a Humane, though not car∣nall, Prudence) sufficient, I say, to preserve Truth, and Piety, and Peace in His Church, and to expell the contrary, by His Blessing. And no Authority of man may presume to reject or over-rule in those things. Where GODS Word gives out His Will, Mans busi∣nesse is only to acknowledge, and submit, and call others to doe so too. All mans Authoritie is to be employed only to promote GODS according to His Word. And therefore, I beseech you, Let me branch my Exhortation from this into three particulars. *1. Doe not in any wise hearken to the suggestions of any that would say, That there is no Discipline or Government of the Church to be found in the Word. If any did thinke so, and yet have Covenanted, as is before exprest, I doubt they will hardly excuse themselves from having taken GODS Name in vaine in it. And I conceive not how, if they urge others to covenant in that manner, they doe lesse then cause them to sin, by urging to make GODS Name in vai•. But however, surely there was a time when the Church of GOD, the Church of the N. T. had a Government; and that with∣in it selfe, an Ecclesiasticall Government, and not meerly Civill, from the Civill Magistrate, for there was none such that professed Christianity, till •oo, yeares after Christ. To say, that there was no Government in the Church (after the Apostles were gone to Hea∣ven, and the Power of Miracles was also ceased) for so long a time, is to suppose them to be left to an horrible Confusion, which is ex∣ceedingly dishonourable to Christ the LORD and King of His Church, so much as to imagine. And if there were a Government appointed by Christ, then certainly the Apostles and Evangelists re∣corded it in the Word in the N. T. For to imagine it left only to Tradition is as contradictory to Christs Care of His People, as the supposall of a meere Anarchy. (And the very Papists themselves ofter to pretend Scripture for the Popes claime, and dare not sticke wholly to Tradition.) And if it were once in the Word, then it is there still doubtlesse, for we have the selfe some Word that the first Christians had, and then doubtlesse it binds us still, as well as it Page 52 bound the Christians in those first times. Unlesse any can shew, that it was to continue but so long, but till there should be Christian Magistrates, and then to give place, and be no longer in force. And this generall Rule give me leave to assert and commend to your most serious considerations and consciences.*That whatsoever Law of GOD, or Command of His, we find recorded in the Law∣booke, in either of the Volumnes of GODS Statute, the N. T. or the Old, Remaines obligatory to us, unlesse we can prove it to be ex∣pired, or repealed. So it is with the Statute-Law of this Nation, or of any Nation; What I can prove to be once enacted, I may urge. as still in force, unlesse any one can answer me with a just proofe that it is now out of date, or Repealed by a latter Law. And so men (I forewarne them) shall find one day urged upon them, for all those Lawes that stand upon Record in GODS sacred Volumnes, however now many take Liberty to reject what they please, with∣out any just ground, that GOD hath discharged them: And the Deniall or Neglect of this (in matter of Church-Government) is the Rock that we have dashed upon formerly; and therefore we had need to take the more heed of it for time to come.
2.* But withall this must be added, that it concernes us as well to own what we find in the Word of GOD, to be from GOD, as to re∣ceive it and set it up. It is necessary to hold it out and establish it, as commanded of God, if it appeare clearely to us to be so. Else we doe not give GOD and His Word that due honour which it be∣comes us to give. It is indeed most dangerous to assert Mans in∣ventions to be Jure Divino, or necessary. But it is also dangerous and sinfull to make GODS Appointments to be bus humane and arbitrary. If in any thing We see not that. GOD doth certainly re∣quire it, We are to forbeare asserting it to be Divine. But we must acknowledge it, when we doe see it. If it have the stamp of GODS. Authoritie upon it, no man may say, We will not owne this as Jure Divino. GOD will not be satisfied (nor men neither) that the things be done, or established, if His Authority be overlooked, and mans only be pretended for it. Nothing is pleasing to GOD, which is not done in obedience to Him some way. If therefore He require parti∣cular obedience, in this or that particular matter held forth in His Word, it will not content Him, that we only be taught it, and pra∣ctise it by the precepts of men. Neither will this awe any froward spirit, as GODS Authority will; and doth where men are not despe∣rately Page 53 prophane. And the Consciences of the most conscientious will find no satisfaction in it upon those Termes. Let therefore no man say, that if we once acknowledge it as from GOD, then it is unalterable; and we would not have it so. I beseech you, if GOD will have it to be unalterable, (as He will if His Word tell us so much) shall we dare to say, We will not have it so? If GOD saith, It shall continue, it shall continue, that is the Obligatory to us, and all posterities. And GOD forbid any of us should ever say the con∣trary! And our very Covenant also in the 6. Article, and in the Close of it, hath words enough and emphaticall enough, to bind us for ever, and unalterably to a Reformation according to the Word of GOD. I say therefore againe and againe, so much as we see to be according to GODS Word, and His Command, we must owne as such, and not thinke of altering it but by, His Consent and accor∣ding to His Word still.
3.* We are therefore by all this charged, to use all possible Dili∣gence, and Care, and Industry to prove and examine all things, and not to put more weight upon any thing (to be sure) then GOD hath put upon it: But then when we, have found out the Truth, to hold it fast, and not to sell it againe, or part with it upon any Termes.* Where the voice is doubtfull, whether GOD speakes or not, or how farre He speakes in this or that, there we have still so much libertie to dispute and debate, not to account it necessary, and where there must be a Determination one way in Practise, to inter∣pose Our Prudence and Authoritie in a humane manner. But▪ whatsoever comes to be knowne to be from GOD, there all must be silent and obedient, lest otherwise the sword, even of Rebels, take Vengeance upon such our Rebellions against GOD, according to the Threatning Isai. 1. 20. If ye be willing and obedient, you shall eate the good of the land: but if you refuse and rebell, you shall be devoured with the sword, for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. You that have Authority doe expect Obedience to. Your Or∣dinances and Commands; GOD therefore much more to His. All your Authority is from GOD, and therefore unquestionably it is all to be imployed for GOD, and to that end that His Commands may take place among all that are under your command. The Noti∣on of Humane Authority in the Hand of one, or of a few, as it is acknowledged in the hearts, and so in the outward subjection of many thousands, of a whole Nation, is a strange thing, and worthy Page 54 of deepest consideration;* And which the Wisest Philosophers and greatest Polititians have never been able to give a satisfactory Ac∣count of upon Humane Grounds. But those that have learned from the Word of GOD, the meaning of those Sentences, By me Kings reigne, and Princes decrce Justice; By me Princes rule, and N•∣bles, even all the Judges of the earth, Prov. 8. 15, 16. And, There is no Powers but of GOD, the powers that be are ordained of GOD, Rom. 13. 1. may say something of it. Namely, That the Ground of Humane Authority, is that GOD is pleased to print some Chara∣cters of the Image of His Majestie in the faces of Superiours, and stamp the counter-part of it upon the hearts of the Inferiours▪ Whereby it comes to passe that they Reverence, even a Wom•n, and sometimes an Infant in a Cradle, as GODS Deputy and Vicege∣rent among them; and so all Others that have Authoritie in their Proportion. And if it please GOD (as sometimes it doth for the just punishment of abused Authoritie) to blot out that stamp which was upon Inferiours hearts; they presently withdraw all r•spect from such Superiours, how high soever they were before, and make no more reckoning of them, then of the most ordinary person among themselves. Which therefore should be of marvellous Ope∣ration upon the spirits of all that have any Authoritie, that as they are wholly beholden to GOD for it, so they would wholly imploy it for GOD, and particularly to set up, so farre as their Authoritie can command, whatsoever Command of GOD they can find in His Word, and to set it up as His Command, as hath been said.
7.* Another thing which I would also recommend from our Co∣venant is in the second Article, out of which as my Reverend Bro∣ther singled out the Mention of Popery and Prelacy, so doe I spe∣cially of Here sie and Schisme, taking in whatsoever shall be found contrary to sound Doctrine, the Power of Godlinesse. Remember, I beseech you, that we have Covenanted with GOD and Men, to ex∣tirpate these without respect of Persons. And thou, let us but think in our Consciences,* what we judge to be Heresie or Schisme. Is Antinomianisme, at least as it is professed, preached, and main∣tain'd by some, according as it hath been publikely proved, any thing lesse then Heresie? and however, is it not apparently most contrary to the Power of Godlinesse? And is not Anabaptisma, at least as, maintain'd by divers, Schisme, and contrary to sound Doctrine? What greate• Schisme can there be, then to deny both you your Page 55 selves, and all the Land besides to be Christians, or that there is any Ministery or Church among us, because none rightly baptised, by their saying? And how can these then be tolerated without Breach of Covenant? If GOD were so angry with Moses for a single neglect of Circumcision, and you your selves beleeve that He hath put Baptisme in the roome of it; and commanded Chil∣dren to be baptised now, as well as to be circumcised then; Will not (doth not) not only the neglect, but so outragious a contempt of it, (as administred to Children) provoke Him, even against you, if you connive at such reproach of His Ordinancs? If Christ him∣selfe hath so threatned all those that breake one of the least Com∣mandements of the Law, and teach men so, as you reade Matt. 5. 19. Will He endure that those should be let alone that Preach against the Whole Law, all, and every one of the Commandements, of the MORALL Law,* and say, That Christians are freed from the Mandatory Power of it, and that It is no Rule for a Beleever to Walke by, or examine his life by, even that it is of no use at all to a Beleever? Will Christ, I say, endure these things? Or may We endure them, without His displeasure against our selves? I know a difference is to be put, when we come to deale with persons tain∣ted with these dangerous opinions.* Some are to be handled with all compassionate tendernesse, as being scrupuled, through Weaknesse and Infirmity; But others, who are not only obstinate, but active to seduce and breed confusion, must be saved with Feare, as pulling them out of the fire, and that they may not set others afire also. Though still a spirit of Meeknesse is requisite, even toward such, in regard to their Persons. But the Spirit of Judgement, and of Bur∣ning (that is Holy Zeale) promised by GOD to His People, Isai. 4. 4. against their endangering Doctrines and Practises.
Hearken not then,* (I earnestly exhort every one that intends to have any regard at all to his solemne Covenant and Oath in this se∣cond Article) to those, that offer to plead for Tolerations; which I wonder how any one dare write or speake for (as they doe) that have themselves taken the Covenant, or know that you have. The Arguments that are used in some bookes (well worthy to be pub∣likely burnt) plead for Popery, Judaisme, Turcisme, Paganisme, and all manner of false Religions,* under pretence of Liberty of Conscience. Which if they can make good (or have) then surely We, and You specially, have need to repent of that solemne Cove∣nantPage 56 and recant it before all the World, to whom you have pub∣lisht it. But if not, then surely, even that Covenant will enforce you to shew your steadinesse in unpartiall extirpating (without re∣spect of persons,) all such most pernicious and pestiferous books and opinions, which if they might once take place among us, would more advance Satans kingdome, then any booke hath done that hath been written this 1000. yeeres. Surely the Extirpation of He∣resie and Schisme, (besides that Popery is abjured by name) and such an universall Toleration, and pretended Liberty of Consci∣ence, are as diametrically opposite and contradictory one to the other, as Light is to darknesse, and strict Justice to licentious law∣lesnesse. If therefore you be true to your Covenant, your hand must needs be against such Doctrines and the Promoters of them. And those Clauses of [Whatsoever shall be found contrary to found Do∣ctrine, and the Power of Godlinesse] doe lay yet a stricter bond upon you, to make you take great heed how you beare with any opinion or opinionist altogether.* Though, if any such be found dif∣fering from the received opinions and practises, that are neither Schismaticall in disturbing the Churches Peace, nor Opposite to sound Doctrine, or the Power of Godlinesse, they may be borne with, notwithstanding the Covenant. But I see not how it allowes any more. Onely still the Wayes of dealing with opinions and opi∣nionists, who are not altogether to be borne, must be sutable to the Nature of the opinions, and of those also that hold them, and not in all matters nor to all persons alike; as was noted before. But a∣gainst a Toleration in generall, even the Covenant it selfe, in that very Article hath a Reason sutable to the Text, Lest we partake of other mens sins, and thereby be in danger to receive of their plagues, saith the Covenant; which in the Language of the Text, is Lest GOD take Vengeance on their Inventions, and ours toge∣ther.* It is true that the name of Conscience hath an awfull sound unto a Conscientious Eare. But I pray, judge but in a few Instances, whether all pretence of Conscience ought to be a suffici∣ent plea for Toleration and Liberty? 1. There be those that say their Conscience is against all taking of an Oath before a Magi∣strate? Will you allow an Vniversall Liberty of this? What then will become of all our Legall and Judiciall proceedings, which are confined to this Way of proofe; and so it was by GOD appointed, and hath been by all Nations practised. 2. There be Page 57 some that pretend Liberty of Conscience to Equivocate in an Oath even before a Magistrate, and to elude all Examinations by Mentall Reservations, will you grant them this Liberty? Or can you, without destraying all bonds of Civill Converse, and wholly overthrow of all Humane Judicature? 3. If any plead Conscience for the Lawfulnesse of Polygamy; (or for divorce for other causes then Christ and His Apostles mention; Of which a wicked booke is abroad and uncensured; though deserving to be burnt, whose Au∣thor hath been so impudent as to set his Name to it, and dedicate it to your selves,) or for Liberty to marry incestuously, will you grant a Toleration for all this? 4. If any say, Their Conscience allowes them not to Contribute to your Just and Necessary Defence, shall they be allowed this Liberty? Where then will your Armies be paid? 5. If others say, their Consciences allow not them to beare Armes for you, shall they have altogether their Liberty? (every one that will say so) How then shall your Armies be made up? 6. If any goe further, (as some doe in effect even in print,) and say their Consciences allow not any Magistrates at all; nor 7. Propriety of goods: Will you afford them their Liberty herein? What would become then of all your own Authority, and of all Lawes, and Li∣berties of the Kingdome? Or what Bounds or Limits can there be set to men any way, if this opinion of Liberty of Conscience, as it is pleaded for, shall be admitted?
Object.* If any say, these all, or most of them, are belonging to the Second Table, and the Liberty pleaded for, is onely in matters of the First Table?
Ans. To this I answer, 1. The Arguments, if strong for the One, will be no lesse for the other. The Conscience must have regard to the second Table as well as the first,* and must not be violated nor forced in matters of the second Table, no more then of the First. And in all the Instances formentioned, it is certaine, some have hereto∣fore, (if not also now) pretended Conscience about them. Also E∣quivocation in an Oath, will concerne the 1. Table the third Com∣mandement; and yet I dare say,* you will not Tolerate that. Ans. 2. Are mens matters worthy more regard then GODS? that the pretence of Conscience shall claime a Liberty in that which con∣cernes GODS Honour, and not in that which concernes men? Or are not mens Souls, both theirs that are first in the Errour, and theirs also whom they endevour and endanger the infection of, Page 58 more to be regarded then any thing that meerly concernes civill matters? Also are not mens Souls in greater Hazard (rather then lesse) in sins against the 1. Table (Idolatries, Blasphemies, Heresies, &c.) then in those against the second? How then shall it be more allowable to give Liberty and Toleration against the 1. Table, then against the second?* And what Idolater, or seduced Prophet, might not (or may not) plead his Conscience? And yet you know GODS Sentences of old against such even to extremities, extirpa∣tion, Deut. 13. throughout the whole Chapter, and elsewhere, and so against other breaches of the first Table. The Baalites whom Elijah caused to be put to death (according to the Law of GOD) 1 Kings 18. did certainly thinke in their Consciences that Baal was a true GOD, and theirs the true Religion. And so, those that caused their children to passe through the fire to Molech (which GOD expresly commands to be punisht with death,* even though they were Strangers and Sojourners in Israel, and not of GODS professed people, Lev. 20. 2.&c.) did, what they did, out of Con∣science. And these Lawes of GOD never were repealed as yet, and therefore they will bind all His Servants still. His Honour requires still the same Severity against such kind of Offenders. And what can it be lesse then to betray such to damnation, who are Tolerated to professe and promote those opinions or practises, that are abso∣lutely destructive unto their owne or others Soules.
And if it be objected (as it is) that no punishment or Restraint can work upon men to convert them.*Ans. It is true, No more can Exhortation or Preaching, Arguments (in Word or Writing) convert men,* without GODS Blessing. But yet they must be used, as meanes appointed by GOD, (and sanctified, and accor∣dingly Blest when He sees fit) even to convert men, and so are Re∣straints and Punishments too (proportionable to Mens Errours and Practises,) appointed of GOD, and sanctified also, and often, even in experience blest to make men, who before were misled, or perhaps mis-leaders of others, to consider, and hea•ken, and learne, and be willing to embrace, and cleave to the Truth. And I doubt not but if we be all carefull in our places, to performe our Covenant in this Article, we shall find a blessed effect of it in our three Kingdomes, as the Conclusion of it speakes, That the LORD may be One, and His Name One in the three Kingdomes.
8. The last particular, I would offer to you at this time, is that Page 59 for all these things you would get hearts armed with Trust in GOD,* and so with Courage and Zeale for GOD, and that there may be no Cowardly spirits among us. Every Ruler should be a man of Courage, and specially when he hath enemies to encounter. Josh. 1. GOD and men there ver. 6, 7, 9, 18. call upon him for it. And so when ever Reformation is undertaken, there is speciall need of Courage.* See the Instance of Hezekiah: His father had been a most desperate wicked man, and corrupted Religion, worse then all that were before him. Yet Hezekiah made the greatest Reforma∣tion that had been since Solomons time, and lost not a day, after he came to the Crowne, for he begun in the first yeere of his reigne, in the first Month, and, as it appears by a Chron. 29. v. 17. the very first day of the month; and carried all before him. Now what was that which made him doe thus? See 1 Kings 18. v. 5. He trusted in the LORD GOD of Israel, so that after him there was none like him among all the Kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. This was that which made him not Feare the peoples discon∣tent, nor the great Ones, nor the Priests neither, whom he found universally drencht over head and eares in superstition and idolatry. Oh that we, who have much more strength of men, to stand by us, then he had, had but halfe his Courage! Or rather, that we would remember, that when many of Israel mocked and laughed His Mes∣sengers to scorne, whom he sent to invite them to the Passeover; yet not only divers others came in and submitted themselves; But that in Judah, the hand of God was to give them one heart to doe the Commandement of the King, and of the Princes by the Word of the LORD, a Chron. 30. 12. And why should not we looke for the like, if we were as Zealous for GOD, and trusted as much in GOD, as he? How excellent an Example and Encouragement doe we again find recorded concerning him in the next Chapter, the two last verses? Thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good, and right, and truth before the LORD his GOD. And in every Worke that he began in the Service of the house of GOD and in the Law, and in the Commandement, to seeke his GOD, he did it withall his heart and prospered. Happy we, if of us as much may be said for our parts; for then we shall be sure to have GODS part fulfilled to us, and our Prosperity assured and establisht fully.* This we have confirmed by Salomon, while he gives us a pertinent warning of the mischiefs of the contrary Cowardise. Page 60 Prov. 29. 25. The feare of man brings a snare, but who so puts his trust in the LORD shall be safe. While we are afraid of men, this or that Person, or such a Number, or party, (how considerable so ever they may be thought.) It brings a snare, makes us fall into sin, and so into mischiefe. There is no Sanctity, nor safety, but in Trusting in GOD. If we would examine our selves impartially, we should find, that whatsoever we have neglected, or doe yet neglect, in the matter of Reformation, hath been and is caused very much, by an unworthy feare of men, and want of Faith, and Trust in GOD. How often hath it been said, and by how many, that if we should be too severe in parging the Armies, we should want souldiers; If too strict in suppressing the worst opinions or practises, we should loose a considerable party, and not be able to carry on the worke without them. And what is this but want of Faith in GOD? and in stead thereof to have our spirits ensnared (enslaved) with the Feare of Men? Certainly, if it be not GODS Will and Command that Justice should be done, and Martiall Discipline observed, and disorders and errours supprest, then let us let them alone, and never stand to plead the Inconvenience of medling with them. But if it be GODS Will and Command, then I beseech you, Let none ven∣ture to provoke GOD, for feare of provoking men. I dare be bold to promise in His Name, You shall not want men non h•lpe, if you will be ruled by Him, and venture your selves for Him. But withall I say, It were better that every 1000. were reduced to an 100. and every 100 even to a single man, then that out of a feare of loosing a numerous party of souldiers, or others, to take your part, you should endanger the loosing of GOD, even in any degree. And is it not recorded (even for our Admonition, as is intimated, 1 Cor. 10. 6, 11.) that for One Achan not sought out,* Israels Army was overthrowne? Josh. 7. and GOD saith, Neither, will I be with you any more, except you destroy the accursed from among you, ver. 12. And did not the 9. Tribes and halfe upon this Example arme them∣selves to have fought against their own brethren, supposing them revolters from GOD, though they had but even then taken their leave of them, after they had, for many yeares together, ventured their lives to settle them in their possessions▪ Josh. 22. They urge Achans Example; as shewing them, that if they should suffer a sin apparently even in their Brethren, GOD would be angry with them all, ver. 18. 20. It is good then to be affraid, but of Him of Page 61 whom we have cause to be affraid, as Esay warnes the Faithfull in his time, Isai. 8. 12, 13. Say you not a Confederacy to whom this people say a Confederacie, neither feare ye their feare, neither be affraid, but sanctifie the LORD of Hosts Himselfe, and let Him be your Feare, and let Him be your dread. And remember withall, how ill GOD takes it at His Servants hand, when they are basely Affraid of men, Isai. 51. 12, 13. I even I am He that Comforteth you, who art thou that thou shouldest be affraid of a man that shall dye, and of the son of man that shall be made as Grasse? And forget∣test the LORD thy Maker? &c. Here is not indeed a Multitude named; but here is Man indefinitely, and if there be never so many of them, it is but man still, and so never the more allowable to feare them more then GOD, and to please them with displeasing of GOD.
If any shall say,* But would not GOD have a Multitude for∣borne, if they be in an Errour, or Disorder? I answer, Sure GOD never told those that are in Authority so. And, among men, if a Multitude appeare in a Tumult, although it may after pleade for a mitigation of punishment toward the Whole Number,* except the chiefe ring-leaders; Yet it both makes those that have Authority and strength to suppresse, put forth both, the more▪ speedily and ef∣fectually; and afterward to take the more exact care for the pre∣venting of the like, even for the Multitudes sake. And this is most sure, that with GOD the greater the Multitude is of those that pro∣voke Him, the greater is His Displeasure. And therefore His De∣puties ought to be more affraid to Tolerate a Multitude in evill, then a few.* 2. And if at other times a Multitude, or a few, might be borne with and let alone, in that which is contrary to GODS Will, Yet certainly not then When GODS Judgements are abroad in the Land. Then all should, and then the faithfull will learne Righteousnesse, and doc Justice in their places, according to GODS appointment. It is so with us now, that GODS Judgements are abroad in Our Land: Oh that we were so wise; as to learne the right cause, and the right Remedy! Let me to this purpose, againe put you in mind of that of the Prophet, which you were happily remembred of in the Morning, Jer. 9. 12, 13, 14. Who is the wise man that may understand this? and who is he to whom the mouth of the LORD hath spoken, that he may declare it? for what the land perisheth, &c. And the LORD saith, Because they have forsaken Page 62 my Law which I set before them, and have not obeyed my Voice, nor walked therein:*But have walked after the imagination of their own heart, &c. Sure the Meaning of this is not, that every man should be let alone in doing what they lift under pretence of Liberty of Conscience: For that is neither more nor lesse in plaine words then to leave every man to walk after the Imagination of their own heart: Much lesse is it, that men should be suffered to cry downe the Law of GOD, (the Law delivered by GODS owne Voice to all His People,) as no Rule for Christians to Walk by. If for forsaking it the Land perisheth, and for not walking therein: The open and bold-faced opposition against it, must needs aggravare the Transgression, and increase the mischiefe. But the Prophet meaning is, that GOD would have an Observation made. 1. That all the Misery of the Land (though there were very few so wise as to consider it) is for sin, for the transgression of GODS Law, and eve∣ry one doing too much what they list. And then that in the second place, Enquiry should be made for what Speciall Provocations it is that there are such heavy Judgements on the Land? They have walked (saith GOD) after Baalim, which their fathers taught them. Whether any old superstitions, or any Prophane Customes and Practises, received by Tradition from our Fathers; Or any other new invented Idoll or Fancy, any Imagination of our own hearts, be the Grand Evill that provokes GOD so against us; as that after all our seekings of Him and suings to Him, His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still. To find out this, (or these, for they may be many,) were certainly the greatest piece of Wisdome one of them in the World, and to be taught it, one of the Greatest Honours from GOD that could be, and then to Declare it one of the Greatest Pieces of Faithfulnesse to GOD and His People. Oh that you, who are Our Wise Men, the Great Councell of the Kingdome, would specially set your Wits a work, and bend your Thoughts most serious to search and find this out. And you may call whom you will to your Assistance herein. You have called an Assembly of Divines to Consult with in matters of Religion,* and they attend daily upon the worke you have entrusted them with. If now you should think fit to send to them expressely to make this their worke for the present, to give you the Vttermost of Advice with all Faithfulnesse, What might be the Cause or Causes, Why Judgements, and Feares, and dangers still continue Page 63 and multiply rather then decrease: Certainly they could not be better imployed for the time: And if GOD should vouchsafe to shew them the right: Nothing could prove more Advantagious for the publike good. If they be not Wise or Faithfull enough, Or you should not be satisfied with their Advice: You may aske of whom you will besides. And you may, if you please, give every one Liberty (in an humble manner) for once to tell you, what their Ap∣prehension is. But certainly it is a thousand pitties, that among so ma∣ny Wise men, and Pious men, as GOD hath yet reserved in our Land, none should be set a worke expressely about this most impor∣tant and every day more and more most necessary Work. And, after all, it belongs to You, whom GOD hath Entrusted with the Power to Reforme, whatever shall be found to be a Cause of our Perpetua∣ted mischiefe, to judge impartially of all; and then sentence and ex∣ecute according to the Will of GOD a righteous Judgement upon all, whether things or Persons, without Feare or Favour. And this is the Way, and the only Way, to partake of that Blessing fore∣noted to be all Our Desires, according to Psal. 106. 3, 4, 5. Which I again beseech every one to reade over most seriously, and apply to their hearts most faithfully.
And to this tends the third and last Use of Consolation,* which you will give me leave to adde a word of,* and then I shall commit you and all that hath been spoken to GODS Blessing. Our Text in the frame and scope of it tends as much and as fully to Comfort and Encourage all GODS faithfull Ones (as I hope I speake to many such) even notwithstanding their own failings and His Severity upon it, as it doth to Warn and Exhort them to take heed of such failings, and of provoking Him to shew Severity. For it tels us absolutely, that being His, though we doe amisse against Him, and He deales severely with us, yet still He is a GOD that Answeres, and a GOD that Forgives. Our failings not allowed nor persi∣sted in, when we know them, disparage not Our faithfulnesse in GODS Account; and His Judgements, His Vengeance on our In∣ventions, how severe soever, disprove not His Favour, argue not Rejection nor Purpose of destruction. Though He kill, yet He may pardon and save. And the Experience of His Providence may as∣sure us, that He will not be henceforth rigorously severe, if we this Day renew our Faithfulnesse. He is very rarely so, even to a Single Person. If their Visible Repentance prevent the Exeution of any Page 64 Sentence of His against them. Much lesse to a Nation, to the Body of a people that returne to Him. The Case of such is never (can ne∣ver be) desperate,* when ever they have a Heart to look unto Him againe after a Revolt. Let me give you two famous Instances in two Words. David, after many great Experiments of GODS marvellous Deliverances; and proofes of His owne Faith and Trust in GOD, fals at last into a Pang of Feare, 1 Sam. 27. and saith in his heart, I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul. ver. 1. And thereupon doth little better then runne away from GOD, for he runnes out of the Land of Israel from among the people of GOD, whither GOD once sent him when he was abroad, 1 Sam. 12. 5.) and flyes into the Philistines Countrey, the professed and greatest Enemies of GODS Church: and so he goes, as our Pro∣verbe is, as it were Out of GODS Blessing into the warme Sun. And while he is among them he does not very well, for he is faine to keep up his Credit with Achish, with much Dissimulation, and many fained Expressions. Hereupon, at last GOD meets with him, with no small Severity; You may well call it, as the Language of the Text is, a Taking Vengeance on his Inventions. He is hunted by the envy and jealousie of the Philistine-Lords, from the Court and Camp of Achish, and when he returnes to his home in that strange land, he finds his City burnt to ashes, his Wives carried a∣way, captive, and all his Followers likewise undone and robbed of all, and none knew by whom: and unto all this is added the Mutiny of all his Souldiers, the people spake of stoning him, 1 Sam. 30. 6. But then he recovers himselfe; and in that most extreme danger shewes a greater Faith then ever before, But David, say the next words, encouraged himselfe in the LORD his GOD. And then immediately you find upon his enquiring of GOD about pursuing those unknowne Enemies; he receives a most full and gracious an∣swere, and Assurance of Favour, exemplified by most Complete, Speedy, and Rich Victory (nothing lost of their substance, not any one of all their Wives, or Children missing,) and great spoiles, and within a few dayes, he is certified of Sauls death, and is made King of Judah. So abundant are GODS Mercies to His faithfull Ones, even after their failings, and His Displeasure upon them. 2. And so it was with Israel.* Judg. 10. They Revolting after sundry Deli∣verances, GOD gives them into the hands of their enemies, the Am∣monites, & others, who mightily oppresse them 18. yeeres together. Page 65 At last they bethinke themselves, and fall to Pray to GOD; but we reade not (at the first) of any further Repentance then a bare Confession of their sins. And therefore also at the first GOD gives them a most terrible Checke in stead of an Answer, upbrai∣ding them with His former favours, and their reiterated Rebelli∣ons, and concluding with a (seeming) absolute Refusall to Forgive them, or deliver them any more, and sending them to their false gods for help, ver. 13, 14. But then see how upon their Submission, and Reformation, GODS Compassions are againe manifested to them; It is said His Soul was grieved for the misery of Israel, ver. 16. and shortly after they had, under Jephthah, whom GOD raised up to be their Deliverer, a very great Victory over their ene∣mies. And have not we our selves found somewhat like this, more then once? *How low had our sins brought us the last yeere about this time? And how much Vengeance did GOD take upon our Vntowardnesse within a few Months. Our Armies broken in the West, and broken in the North, Bristoll lost, and Glocester and Hull besieged; and with us very little strength and very few spirits. But GOD gave us Grace to bethinke our selves, and humble our selves, and to enter into a more strict, and solemne, and Complete Covenant with Him, then ever before. And how many gracious Answers, and Pardons, and Victories, He hath granted us since, Our Souls know, and all the World sees and admires.
How should we then improve all this, to Strengthen Our Faith in GOD, and to Comfort Our selves in His Grace, All whose paths are Mercy and Truth to such as keep His Covenant and His Testimonies, Psal. 25. 10. and to set to our Seale to that Voice of Faith and Experience. Psal. 9. 10. They that know Thy Name will put their Trust in Thee. For Thou LORD hast not forsaken them that seek Thee.* I will conclude all, with that most remarkable place of the Prophet, Isai. 30. 18. When he had fore∣told, for their carnall Confidences, and Rejecting of the Faithfull Prophets admonitions, and seeking to get Flatterers to preach to them, very great Judgements, so as to reduce them to a very low Condition and small Number, he addes. And therefore will the LORD wait that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have Mercy upon you, for the LORD is a GOD of Judgement: Blessed are all they that wait for Him.Page 66 The LORD is a GOD of Judgement, Righteous and Wise. He will not endure Our Vntowardnesse, which he sees and knowes, more then We our selves doe, or will take notice of: and He knowes, that if he should deliver us too soon, we would grow 〈◊◊〉again as ever, or worse; that if He should deliver us, what we have a great deale of Humane strength (at least, while we have so much Carnall Confidence) that He should loose the Honour of it. Therefore He Waites, and Therefore He will be Exalted. But both shall be in Graciousnesse and Mercy to us, to all His faithfull Ones, that Wait for Him, even in the Way of His Judgements (as was noted before, Isai. 26. 8.) And if His Judgements, His Ven∣geance, worke Repentance and Faithfulnesse in us, we may and should take even that as a Pledge of His Answering and Forgi∣ving Mercy in Christ. Amen, Amen!
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