A Sermon Preached before the Honourable House of Commons, at their late solemne monethly Fast, Januarie 29th. 1644.
Before your Pots can feele the Thornes, hee shall take them away as with a whirlewinde, both living, and in his wrath.
Or thus, according to the Hebrew Text▪
Before they shall feele your sharp pricks, O Bramble, he will take away everie one of them as with a Tempest▪ or whirle-winde, as well the green as the drie.
IT is one of the Proverbiall sayings of the wise King Solomon, that if a Ruler hearken to lyes, all his servants, that is, Officers and Ministers (Meshart••) are wicked▪ His Father David,* in the dayes of the reigne of the wicked Tyrant Sam, had still experience of this to his grief. For after that God had rejected Saul for his disobedience, from being King over Israel, and had declared his purpose to him by Samuel, an evill spirit of fury, jealousie, and tyranny came upon him, and made him looke upon his faithfull servant David with an evill Page 2 eye of envie and suspition, so that hee hated him to the death, and all good men who did love and favour him for his upright dealing: and his eares were open to hearken to all lyes▪ slan∣ders, and false reports, which wicked flattering Courtiers▪ or o∣ther 〈◊〉••formers would bring against him. Hereby it came to passe▪ that D••g the Edomite, and Cush the Benjamite, and many others, even a whole band of wicked men like unto them, came to be chiefe Counsellors of State, Officers, and Iudges about Saul, chiefe executioners of his unjust and cruell commands, and held the chiefe places of Iudicature under him. David, and all the good people, who had relation to him, and favoured him, were sore afflicted, oppressed, and persecuted by this wicked Band. But the Lord his God, unto whom he had continuall recourse by prayer, did comfort him inwardly, and revealed to him by his Spirit, that though he suffered him to be persecuted; yet he would not destroy him by these wick∣ed instruments, but would preserve him from feeling the evill which they intended, which was to cut him off. And hereupon he doth compose this golden Propheticall Psalme,* the Title whereof is, (Thou wilt not destroy) and a golden Psalme of David▪ for the chiefe Musician, In which:
First, he doth as it were face to face, direct his speech to this wicked band, and doth chide and rebuke them in the two first Verses, saying Doe ye•〈…〉 speak•••ghteousnesse▪ ô band, or Con∣gregation? (The word in the originall signifies, first, and pro∣perly,* a sheafe of Corne, or herbes and flowers bound together in a bundle▪ and metaphorically, a Band of souldiers, or of theeves and robbers combined together in a bond, or league.) Doe yee judge uprightly, ô yee sons of men? yea, in heart yee work wickednesse, you weigh the violence of your hands in the earth. That is, under pretence of holding the scales of justice in your hands▪ you weigh out •o Gods people wrongs, injuries, and violent oppression.
Secondly, he proclaimes to the world their inward and ha∣bituated malice, and iniquity in the third, fourth, and fift ver∣ses. The wicked (saith he) are estranged (that is, alienated from God and all goodnesse) even from the wombe, they goe a∣stray as soone as they are borne speaking lyes. (That is by custome and continuall practice of their naturally inbred malice, they get a habit of lying, and falsehood, and increase their wicked∣nesse) Page 3their poyson (that is of spite and malice) is like the poy∣son of a Serpent, they are like the deafe Adder that stoppeth her eares, which refuseth to hearken to the voyce of the charmers, char∣ming never so wisely. That is, they harden their hearts, and stop their eares against all just reproofes, wise Counsels, whole∣some admonitions, charming and alluring perswasions.
Thirdly, hee breaks out into a Propheticall imprecation, in which he doth by way of wishing, foretell Gods just procee∣ding against them in judgement severall wayes; as first, that though they be armed with power, and weapons of cruelty, as Lyons are with sharp and strong teeth; yet God will break their power, and their strongest weapons in their hands, as if one should breake the teeth of Lyons in their mouthes, and dash out their great jaw teeth, verse 6. Secondly, as waters which runne continually melt and passe away, so shall they va∣nish: and when they attempt to wound or slay the innocent, their purposes and endeavours shall be frustrate like Arrowes cut in pieces, as they are flying out of the bow, verse 7. Third∣ly, They shall be consumed as a Snayle that melteth away, and as the untimely birth of a woman, which never seeth the light of the Sun; so shall they never come to see the light of Gods savour, nor any true blessing, ver. 8. Thus far he proceeds by way of Imprication. But in the fourth place here in my Text, he turnes his Speech again to that cursed crew and band of wicked Counsellors, and comparing them to that great Bramble, or Bryar which is in the Hebrew called Atad,* and in Greek Cynosbatos: That is the Dog-bryar, and of all Brambles is most full of sharp hooked pricks, some hardned and dryed with heat of Sunne, so that they rend and teare where they catch hold; and others, though very sharpe, yet are more green weake and tender: He tells them that before Gods people shal feell the utmost extremity of their malice and furie, or before they can fasten on them the mischiefe they intend; the Lord will destroy, scatter, and take them away all and everie one as with a storm, or whirle-winde, as well the young and greene as the old, dryed and hardned in their malice and crueltie.
Fiftly, in the tenth verse, he comforteth the Church of God with a Prophesie of victorie, and triumph which the righte∣ous shall obtaine over these persecuting enemies. The righteous (saith he) even everie righteous man) shall rejoyce, when hee Page 4 seeth the vengeance, he shall wash his feet in the bloud of the wicked.
Lastly, he sheweth what shall be the end and issue of all, both of the destruction of the wicked in the very height of their persecutions, and in the heat of their rage and fury against the Church, and also of the deliverance of the righteous, and of their victory, joy, and triumph over them: namely this, That the world shall see, and earthly men shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous, verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth. That is, all shall turne to the glory of God at last; and the men of the world shall acknowledge that nothing comes to passe on earth by chance, but in the most troublesome times of greatest confusion, God over-rules all by his wisedome and providence, and hath in store a good reward, which hee will give to the righteous, as a fruit of their faith and patience; and a just recompence of revenge and judgement for the wic∣ked▪ which he will render to them even here on earth. This is the summe of this golden Psalme: And so I passe from the Coherents to the Text it selfe, which in our new English Trans∣lation runnes thus; Before your Pots can feele the Thornes, hee shall take them away as with a whirle-winde, both living, and in his wrath.
In all the Book of God I doe not remember any sentence so variously and differently Translated, as this verse which I have chosen for my present Text.
The Greek Septuagints, and the vulgar Latine, which fol∣lowes them verbatim, doe thus render the words, Before your Thorns can feele the Bramble he will devoure them, as it were alive, and as it were in wrath.
The Chaldee Paraphrase runs thus, When as yet the wicked are not made tender, they grow hard as the great Bramble, as long as they are green, like an unripe sowre Grape, hee will destroy them with a whirle-winde.
But the Translation which Hierome made out of the Hebrew Text, hath the words thus: Before your Pricks grow up into the great Bramble, a Tempest like wrath shall snatch them, as it were alive.
Austine upon this place reads this verse thus, Before the Bram∣ble bring forth your pricks, as it were alive, as it were in wrath he swalloweth them up.
Pagnin thus Translates the words, Before your Pricks under∣stand Page 5 the Bramble, so living, so wrath will with a Tempest snatch him away.
The old English Translation runnes thus, Or ever your pots are made hot with Thornes, so shall indignation vex him as a thing that is raw.
The English made at Geneva is thus, As raw flesh before your Pots feele the fire of thornes: so let him carry them away as with a Whirle-winde in his wrath.
Tremelius and Junius come nearest of all to the originall Hebrew Text, and thus they render the words, When as yet your pricks, which are pricks of the Dog-bryar, are not felt, hee will destroy as with a whirle-winde every one, as well the living, as the parched.
Ainsworth thus, Ere ever they shall perceive your Thornes of the Bramble, even alive, even in wrath he will tempestuously whirle it away. That is, every Thorne or prick of the Bramble.
This variety of Translations ariseth chiefely from the origi∣nall Hebrew word, Sireth, which in the Hebrew tongue sig∣nifies, First, Pots, or Caldrons, wherein flesh is sod,* as Ex. 16.3. and 38.3. Ezech. 11.11. Secondly, Thornes, and pricks of Thornes and Bryars, as Isa. 34.13. Hos. 2.8. Thirdly, be∣cause the pricks of the great Bramble are very sharpe and hoo∣ked: this word is used to signifie fish-hooks, Amos 4.2. In all our English Bibles of the old, new, and Geneva Translation, and some Latine Bibles, this word is taken to signifie Pots or Caldrons. But the Septuagints, Hierome, vulgar Latine Austine, Pagnine, Tremelius, and all others that I have seene take this word in the second sense, for the sharp pricks of Thornes and Brambles. Here certainely this word signifies the sharpe pricks of the great Dog-bramble, which here in the Hebrew Text is Arad, and is used, Iudg. 9.14, 15. in Jothams parable, to sig∣nifie the Bramble, which being made King of the Trees, kind∣led a fire, which devoured the Cedars of Lebanon. Now this Bramble in the body, and every branch of it is beset with sharp hooked pricks, some of which are green, and have life, and moysture in them, and though they be sharpe, yet they are not so stiffe and strong as to make any deep wound in a mans flesh. Others are greater, more hooked, and hardned by drying and parching with vehement heat of the Sunne, and they strike to the quick, and hold fast, or teare where they catch hold of mans Page 4〈1 page duplicate〉Page 5〈1 page duplicate〉Page 6 skin, or flesh. The first are here in my Text called a living or green: The other are called b dryed, parched, and hardned; and the Propheticall Psalmist affirmeth, That God who judgeth in the earth, will take away and destroy as with a tempestuous whirle-winde, every one of them, as well the green, as the dry, as Tremellius out of the originall doth most truely Translate the word. These things well considered, lead us to the full sense and true meaning of the whole Text. First, here is a manifest Apostrophe, that is the Psalmists turning of his speech to the Band or Congregation of wicked Counsellors, unjust Iudges, and violent persecutors, and oppressors to whom he spake be∣fore in the two first verses. For he speaks not of them onely, but to them being a multitude in the second person plurall, say∣ing, Before they feele your pricks. Secondly he cals them, as they are a Band, Atad, which name signifies the great Dog-bram∣ble, and the word here is of the Vocative case, and may fitly be Translated, ô yee Bramble, whom I doe by a Metaphor call a Bramble, for the resemblance and similitude between it and you. Thirdly, he doth not limmit and restraine this Prophesie to himselfe, and his godly friends persecuted by Saul and his wicked Band: but he extends it to all Gods people, persecu∣ted by such Bands in all future times. For he doth not say, Be∣fore we, but before they feele: that is, Gods people in generall, of all ages doe feele the furie of you, and such as yee are. The Hebrew word in the Text containes so much in the full signifi∣cation of it.* Fourthly he doth resemble the severall sorts of Persecutors in such wicked Bands, to the severall sorts of pricks in the great Bramble: for some of them are green-headed, like the green Thornes, not so cruell, crafty, and able to hurt. O∣thers by long custome are hardned in their malice, and habi∣tuated in cruelty, being masters in the art of persecuting. And fifthly, he foretells their destruction, that God will scatter and destroy them all, even every one of every sort, green, and dry, young, and old, weaker and stronger, in these words, hee will take away every one as with a whirle-winde, as well the green, as the dry. And so the whole Text runnes thus, Before they feel your thornes or pricks, ô ye Bramble, hee will take away every one as with a whirle-winde, as well the green as the dry. Before they, That is, the righteous whom yee hate and persecute, doe feele, that is, have a full sense and understanding of your Thorns Page 7 or Pricks: That is, of the sharpnesse, fury, and mischiefe which is in the heart & hand of all and every one among you: for e∣very one in your Band and Congregation, is a grievous thorne, and sharpe prick of the cursed Bramble, sharply set and bent to doe mischiefe in malice and fury to the people and Church of God. He that is God who judgeth in the earth, (as it is expressed in the eleventh verse in the last words) will take away as with a whirle-winde (that is, scatter and destroy tempestuously) eve∣ry one, aswell the living and green, as the dry and hardned. That is, all of every sort banded together, as well the green-headed, and young persecutors sharp set, but not so strong to hurt; as the old and dry who are hardned in malice by long custom, and in power and policy are strong to doe mischief. And so I have done with opening and expounding of the Text. I proceed to the Doctrines which the words and phrases thereof rightly un∣derstood doe offer to us.
And first, in that here the Band of wicked Counsellours, unjust Iudges, corrupt Officers, and violent oppressors, and per∣secutors of Gods Church and people, is resembled to a Bram∣ble, and is by the Spirit of God, which spake by David, called by the name of the Dog-bramble, which is the worst,* and most hurtfull of all Briars and Thornes, which God layd as a curse upon the earth for mans sinne, Gen. 3.18. Hence this Doctrine naturally ariseth, That every Band, Company, and faction of wic∣ked men, whether evill Counsellors, unjust Iudges, and corrupt Of∣ficers [doctrine 1] in a Church or State, or wicked instruments, and men of vio∣lence conspiring and working with them to doe hurt and mischiefe to Gods people, and to persecute his Church, is certainly most hurtfull and dangerous, even a curse and plague in the Land.
Secondly in that all of all sorts more or lesse able to doe mis∣chiefe, [doctrine 2] combined, and banded together in such factions, are cal∣led the Thornes or pricks of the cursed bramble. Hence flowes the second Doctrine, viz. That all persons in every such Band or faction, working together against Gods Church and people, whe∣ther they be more or lesse pernicious, and able to doe mischiefe whe∣ther hypocrites, working under hand, or open profest persecutors, they are all sharers in the same wickednesse with the worst and most ma∣lignant of that cursed crew, and shall perish in the same destruction.
Thirdly, in that it is here said of the righteous, that before [doctrine 3] they feele the pricks of the Bramble, God will take away every Page 8 one, both green and dry, more or lesse grievous and pricking, and hurtfull to them. Hence we garher a third Doctrine, viz. That God is so tender and watchfull over his Church and people, that he frustrates the wicked Counsells and practises of their ene∣mies, and scatters and destroyes their persecutors, before they proceed and prevaile so farre, as to make them feele and undergoe the evill and mischiefe which they are sharply set, and cruelly bent to inflict and bring upon them.
Fourthly, from the words which here threaten destruction to the sharpe pricks, that is, the enemies and persecutors of the [doctrine 4] righteous, that God will take away every one as with a whirlewind, a fourth Doctrine ariseth, which is this; That when Gods Church is most dangerously beset, and assaulted by the bands of enemies, and persecutors of severall sorts, the Lord will terribly, suddenly, and totally scatter and destroy them all, and none shall escape.
Of these foure Doctrines I purpose to speak in order, and to prove and apply them severally, as God shall assist, and time permit.
The first Doctrine which teacheth us, That every Band and Faction of the wicked, who consult, conspire, and worke together a∣gainst the Church and people of God, is most hurtfull, dangerous, and pernicious, even the plague and curse of Lands and Kingdomes in which they are, is aboundantly confirmed by Testimonies and examples, which the holy Scriptures doe plentifully afford and minister to us. For cleare testimonies we have all those places wherein all and every one of these wicked men banded toge∣ther, are called by the name as of Bryars, and Thornes, which are the curse of the earth; so also▪ of Serpents, Scorpions, Wolves, Lyons, Beares, and other hurtfull and noysome Crea∣tures, as Mich. 7.3. the Prophet inveighing against the practi∣ses of such Counsellors, Iudges, Officers, and other wicked persons banded together under an ungodly Prince, saith, They hunt every man his brother with a net, that they may doe evill with both hands earnestly, or cunningly: the Prince requireth, and the Iudge also asketh for a reward, and the great man uttereth the mis∣chiefe of his soule; so they wrap it up and twist it together: The best of them is a Bryar, the most upright is more sharpe and prick∣ing than an hedge of thornes, or Bryars. Also the Lord by the Pro∣phet Ezekiel, Chapt. 2.6. saith of such men, that they are Bry∣ers, Thorns, and Scorpions: And thou son of man be not afraid Page 9 of them, or of their great words, though Briars and Thornes bee with thee, and thou dost dwell among Scorpions, be not afraid of their words, nor dismaid at their lookes, though they be a rebellius house: That is a Band and faction of rebellious men. And in the Pro∣pheticall Song of Moses, Deut. 32.32.33. It is said of such men cleaving together, as Grapes in a cluster, That their Vine is the Vine of Sodome, and of the fields of Gomorah: their Grapes are Grapes of Gall, and their clusters are bitter: their Wine is the poyson of Dragons, and the cruell venome of Aspes. And Ezech. 28.24. The Lord promising to remove the plague and curse from his Land and People, saith: There shall be no more a pric∣king Bryar, nor any grievous Thorne unto them. When he riddeth his Land of such grievous oppressours, persecutors, and such pernicious persons. Likewise Isaiah•9.4, 5. It is said of the men of this ranke, who speake vanity, trust in lyes, conceive mis∣chiefe, and bring forth iniquity, that they hatch Cockatrice Egges, and weave the Spiders web; he that eateth of their Egges dyeth and that which is crushed breaketh out into a Viper. And Isa. 27 4. the Lord saith, that while he keeps the Church, his Vineyard of red Wine, these enemies of it, are Bryars and Thornes set against him in Battaile. This holy Psalmist doth not onely here in this Psalme, verse 4. call them deafe Adders, and saith, their poyson is like the poyson of a Serpent: but in other Psalmes also hee calls them Dogs, and Lyons, as Psal. 22.16.20, 21. Many Dogs are come about me, the assembly of the wicked have inclosed mee, and verse 21. Save me from the Lyons mouth, and Psalme 57.4. though they be sons of men, yet they are said to bee soule-hun∣ting and devouring Lyons, like their Father the Devill, and set on fire of hell. My soule is among Lyons, and I lye among them that are set on fire, even the sonnes of men, whose teeth are Speares and Arrowes, and their Tongues a sharpe sword. And Psalm. 140.2.3. He complaines against them, and calls them men of vio∣lence gathered together to doe mischiefe, who have sharpened their tongues like a Serpent, and Adders poyson is under their lips. And Ezech. 22.27. and Zeph. 3.3. they are called roaring Ly∣ons, and evening Wolves, ravening for the prey, to shed bloud, to de∣stroy soules, and to get dishonest gaine. Besides these, with many like testimonies, we have also most pregnant examples. In the Book of Judges, chap. 9. we read that Abimelech the son of Gideon, by a Concubine, being assisted by a band of wicked Counsellors, Page 10 who were prevalent, and leading men in Shechem; and by the helpe of vaine and light persons, which he hired to be his fol∣lowers with money which they gave him; did usurpe the Kingdome after the death of his father, and slue his seventy brethren, who had more right to reigne than hee; and what a curse and plague by so doing they proved to him & themselves, and to their City and Countrey, the event shewed; for he was the Bramble in his Brother Iothams Parable, and they the trees which anoynted him to be King over them, and by an evill spirit which God sent between him and them, they became Traytors to him, and he destroyed their chiefe City, slue the inhabitants, beat down the walls, and sowed salt in it, to make it a cursed place: and pursuing the rest of the people who be∣tooke themselves for refuge to a strong Tower, he had his skull broken by a stone which a woman cast upon his head: and lest it should be said that a woman slue him, he caused his Armour-bearer to thrust him through with his sword, and so he dyed desperately; and Iothams parable was verified in him, and his Band of wicked Counsellors, and abettors; they proved to be a most pernicious and destroying plague to him, and a curse to their City, State, and Countrey: and a fire came out from him, to devoure them as in that Chapter is shewed at large. In the same book Chapter 20. we read that the banding together of wicked Counsellours, and men of Belial in Gibeah, the chief City of Benjamin, proved destructive to the whole Tribe, and no small plague to all Israel, who lost above forty thousand men in a bloudy Civill war, which by Gods Law they were bound to make and pursue against them for putting away abhomina∣tions, and destroying cursed Malefactors, out of Israel. Those unjust Iudges, and wicked Counsellors, patrons of filthy abo∣mination, refused to deliver up to justice the sonnes of Belial, who had most villanously abus•d the Levites wife unto death; and by their authority stirred up all the Children of Benjamin to take up armes against all their brethren of the other Tribes, who were commanded to execute justice in such cases under paine of a curse, and to cut off such abhominable sinners, though with great dammage and bloud-shed on their own side. But in the end this proved an heavy curse to the whole Tribe, which in that unjust cause which they maintained by the sword, was cut off, and utterly destroyed, except onely five hundred Page 11 men, who escaped by flight unto the Rock of Rimmon, and the wildernesse. Saul also, the first anoynted King over all Israel, when God had rejected him for his disobedience, gathered to himselfe a Band of wicked Counsellors, corrupt Officers, and Iudges, and other instruments of his violence, and of his cru∣elty, to persecute David, and such as favoured his righteous Cause, as Doeg, and others, of whom the beginning of this Psalme speaks. And mention is also made of them, 1 Sam. 22. By them he was stirred up to pursue David his chiefe Cham∣pion against the uncircumcised Philistims, the common ene∣mies of Israel, to drive him out of his Land: So that for want of his helpe, he was in his great straits and feares drawne to consult with the devill, by the witch of Endor, to the destru∣ction of himselfe, and of those his wicked followers, by whose Counsells he was led: For with them, all his valiant Sonnes were slaine in Battaile, the army of Israel routed and smitten; and he himselfe so hotly pursued, that he had no hope to escape: and in bitternesse of anguish hee fell desperately upon his owne Sword, and dyed a selfe-murtherer, 1 Sam. 31. and so this wic∣ked Band proved a curse to him and themselves, and a plague to all Israel.
It was a Band of wicked Counsellors, among whom Achi∣tophel was president, which animated Absalom to become a Traytor to King David his owne Father, and to raise up in Rebellion all Israel against him:* which as it was an heavy plague to David, and a curse to his family and Kingdome: so especially to themselves; for Achitophel the president han∣ged himselfe, and the rest with Absalom were destroyed in Battaile, and miserably perished. The like misery did Rehobo∣ams Band of heady Counsellours, and ill-affected followers, proud young men, bring upon him and his Kingdome, for be∣ing led and ruled by their Counsell, his Kingdome was wo∣fully rent, ten Tribes forsooke him, and great calamity fell up∣on him, and upon Ierusalem, the royall City, which was by this rent left naked of defence, and Sheshak King of Egypt rob∣bed it, and tooke away all the Treasures which Solomon left in the house of the Lord, and in the Kings house, & all the Shield of Gold which he had made, 1 Kings 12. and 2 Chron. 12. Likewise the Princes and flattering Counsellours of Ioash King of Iudah, who conspired together, and were authors to draw Page 12 the King to Idolatry, and to persecute to death the Prophet, who was the sonne of that renouned Priest Jehoiadah, by whom he himselfe had been saved alive, nourished, and set up in the Throne of the Kingdome; they were most pernicious, they brought a curse on the King, his family, and Kingdome, and on themselves: for they were destroyed by the small Bands of the Syrians, which God for their sinnes raised up to cut them off, and their great Host, and the spoyle of them was sent to Da∣mascus: and the King himselfe being left by the enemies in sore diseases, was slain by his owne servants: and this was the plague and curse which his wicked Counsellors, by whom hee was led, brought on him and themselves. 2 Chron. 24. we read also in the Prophesie of Ieremiah, that King Zedekiah was al∣together led and rul•d by a Band of wicked Counsellors, Prin∣ces, Priests, and false Prophets, which at length over-awed him, when they had brought him into great straits, Jer. 38.24, 25. These were the men who persecuted Ieremiah for prophe∣cying to them from God, laid wait to catch him in his words, smote him, put him in the stocks, and caused the King to cast him into the Dungeon. What cursed men these were, and what dreadfull vengeance and wrath of God followed them and their families, the Prophet sheweth, Ierem. 18.21. and 20.11, 12. viz. That their children shall be delivered up to the sword, their wives shall be widdows, and a cry shall be heard from their hou∣ses: Gods vengeance shall be seene on them, and their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten. What a plague and curse they were to the King, to his sons, and to his City, and Kingdome, the same Prophet testifieth: They made him and his people re∣assume their dismissed Bond-servants, and break the Covenant of God, Ier. 34 11. Yea, and the Oath of God which he made to the King of Babylon, when he set him up to be King; and they hardned him by their evill Counsell to stand out against the word of the Lord, untill God gave him and his sons, City, and Kingdome, into the hands of the King of Babylon, who slue his sonnes before his face, then put out his eyes, bound him in Chaines till he dyed, tooke the City, laid it waste, burnt the Temple, led the people captive, and left the Land desolate, as we read Ier. 39. But yet there was another Band and conspira∣cy of wicked Counsellors, unjust Iudges, persecutiong Rulers, and ungodly Officers, and other instruments of violence, more Page 13 pestilent and pernicious then all these who were such a plague and curse to their whole Nation, that they brought the wrath of God on it to the utmost, and on all their posterity untill this day; that was the great Counsell of the Iewes in our Saviours dayes, by which the publishing of the Gospell was desperately opposed, the blessed Messiah persecuted and murthered, his A∣postles and Martyrs scourged, imprisoned, slaine, and scattered, as the History of the Gospell, and of the Acts of the Apostles testifie. For they by their pernicious Counsells and practises, brought a totall destruction upon their whole nation, people, City and Temple; so that a generall curse cleaves to their children, and they have for 1600 yeares been a by-word, a re∣proach and a hissing in all Nations where they are scattered. These dreadful examples are so many lowd voyces proclaiming from God to our eares, and witnessing to our hearts the truth propounded in this Doctrine, viz. That every Band, Company, and Faction of wicked men, consulting to doe mischiefe, and practi∣sing against Gods Church and people, are most pernicious and dan∣gerous Brambles, the plague and curse of Lands and Kingdomes.
I have been large in producing a multitude of examples, be∣cause I would have you take notice, that wicked Rulers and Kings mentioned in Scripture, never wanted pernicious Coun∣sellors, nor Bands of cursed instruments to spur and drive them on to destruction, and to bring a curse on their Kingdomes. This is no new, nor strange thing to be wondred at, and to dis∣may and astonish us. But that, in times when Kings and Prin∣ces were Tyrants, oppressors, and back sliders from true Reli∣gion to Idolatry, and had bands of wicked instruments, and of men of violence at command, God was so mercifull to his Na∣tion, and people of old, as to reserve to himselfe a prevayling party, and to put wisedome and courage into the great Coun∣sell of the Kingdome, to resist their violence, to preserve Reli∣gion from ruine, the people from oppression, the Land from spoyling, to oppose the bands of the wicked, to scatter them, and execute justice on them: this we finde not in the Book of God, in all the Histories from the first to the second Adam: this is a mercy proper to the times of the Gospell, and to those Nations and Kingdomes in which Christ ruleth by his holy Spirit, and his Church is surely established, by the word of God faithfully preached, & true religion is planted in the hearts of the people.
Page 14But now for the cursed Band of pernicious Counsellors, and other agents of violence and iniquity, which here I am to deale with. That we may see most clearely what just cause all Nati∣ons and people have to hate, abhorre, and spue them out, as ene∣mies of all righteousnesse and peace; and the plague and curse of the Lands, states, and kingdome in which they rise up, and beare sway: I will launch forth a little further, to discover the depth of their malice, how pestilent and mischievous they must needs be, wheresoever they prevail, and are countenanced; and this I will doe by three reasons, drawe. First from their o∣riginall and chiefe author. Secondly, from their actions and practises. Thirdly, the unhappy events of their doing.
[reason 1] First, it is most certaine, that all sons of Belial, children of the Devill, and seed of the old Serpent, especially when a facti∣on of them is banded together, are most hurtful and dangerous to the Church and people of God, and a plague and curse to the State in which they rule and have power: For God hath put enmity between them and the elect seed of the woman, Christ, and his true members: there can be no peace, but perpetuall warre with them, till their head be bruised, and their power scattered: which victory for the most part doth c•st Christi∣ans, as it did their head Christ, the bruising of their heele, Gen. 3.15. What a curse the sons of Eli, who are called sons of Be∣lial, 1 Sam. 2.12. did bring upon the Land of Israel, and on their fathers house, we may read at large, chap. 2.11. and chap. 4. The Arke of God could not secure them from Gods wrath∣full stroak, and visiting hand. And I doubt not but the cove∣tousnesse, theft, and treachery of Iudas, who was a Devill in∣carnate, doe discover sufficiently what mischiefe abounds in the children of the devill. Now wicked Counsellors, unjust Iud∣ges, and all other ungodly men banded together, to lye, to se∣duce, and to worke mischiefe in their hearts, are in the Scrip∣tures proclaimed sons of Belial, children of the Devill, and the seed of the old Serpent: So God by Moses calls them, Deut. 13.13. So David in his last words, and saith, That they are all of them as Thornes thrust away, because they cannot bee taken with hands, 2 Sam. 23.6. And our Saviour tells the Iewes banded together to oppresse, hurt, lye, slander, and persecute, that they are of their Father the Devill: they have their originall from Hell, the devill is the chiefe author of their malice, and pre∣sident Page 15 of their conspiracy and counsell, Iohn 8.44. And St. Paul calls Elimas the Sorcerer, who laboured to turne Sergius Paulus from the faith, the enemy of all righteousnesse, the child of the Devill, full of all malice and subtilty, Acts 13.10. For indeed the old Serpent the Devill, inspires subtelty into men, suggests wicked counsells, and draws them into conspiracy in evill; and the more they are banded together, the more hee prevailes in them, and workes more mischiefe by them: and therefore their originall, and the author of their Counsells demonstrates them to be such as this Doctrine teacheth.
The second reason is drawne from their actions, and practi∣ses. First of all their thoughts are against the righteous for e∣vill, [reason 2] Psalme 56.5. They work mischief in their hearts, verse 2. of this Psalme, devise it on their beds, Psal. 30.4. they glory and boast in it, Psalme 52.1. they consult together to cast down the righteous from his excellency, they delight in lyes, blesse with their mouth, but curse with their heart, Psal. 62.3, 4. In the balance of Iustice which they hold as Iudges in their hands, and under colour and pretence of judgement, they weigh out the violence of their hands, (that is, wrongs and injuries) in the earth. Psalme 58.2. They plot against the righteous, Psalme 37.12. They lye in wait for bloud,*Mich 7.2. they talke together of laying snares for the in∣nocent, they consult with one consent, and take crafty Counsell toge∣ther against Gods people, even his hidden ones, who are his jewells and his treasure: they are confederate against God himselfe, Psal 83 3.5. they judge unjustly, accept the persons of the wicked, Psal 82.2. And in a word, there is no evil action, or unjust practice, which men of wicked counsells, banded together, will not doe ear∣nestly with both hands, Mich. 7.3. Let Abimelechs example by evill counsell, and ayd of wicked instruments, slaying his 70. innocent brethren, Iudg. 9. Doegs accusing first, and after murthering the Lords Priests, 1 Sam. 24. and such like, bee an evidence of this. Now what state is not miserable where a Band of such wicked Counsellors rule and judge? What man can securely enjoy his lands, goods, liberty, or life? what peace or safety can be to any righteous man, if God doth not stop these Lyons mouthes, and extraordinarily protect him? Every good man may say with David, My soule is among Lyons, and I lye among them who are set on fire, even the sons of men, &c. Psalm. 77.4. O that I had wings like a Dove, &c. Psal. 55.6. and Ier. 9.2. Therefore this Doctrine is a certain truth.
Page 16 [reason 3] The third Reason is drawn from the bitter fruits, and unhap∣py event and issue of their evill Counsells, and actions. The Prophet David upon certaine knowledge of the evill and mis∣chiefe which followes them, proclaims the man blessed that hath not walked in their counsell, Psal. 1.1. First, they bring woe and misery on themselves; as it is reported of the Dog-bramble, that in hot Countries, being vehemently shaken with the winde, and one branch dashed against another, it teares and grates it selfe, till it sets it selfe on fire, and the woods round a∣bout it: so these men by consulting wickedly together, and by their restlesse rage, they mutually enflame one another, and the Lord against whom they set themselves, conspiring against his anoynted holy ones, will speak to them in his wrath, and vex them in his hot displeasure, Psal. 2.2.5. He will destroy them, and make them fall in their own imaginations, Psal. 5.10. And when they as∣sociate themselves, and take counsell together, their counsell shall come to nought, and they shall be broken in pieces, Isa. 8.10. and the fruit of their Counsells which they seek deep to hide, and of their workes which are in the darke, is woe, Isa. 29.15. Secondly, they in∣volve in the same misery and destruction with themselves, the City and State wherein they act with power, and all those who walke in their Counsells; they bring the sword on their City with Captivi∣ty and slavery, Hos. 10.6. The Counsellors of the King of Assy∣riah, and of proud Babel, brought them downe to hell and destru∣ction, Isa. 10.15. and 47.13. And in all the examples before mentioned, as of Abimelech, of the men of Belial in Gibeah, of Saul, Absolom, Rehoboam, Ioash, and of the wicked Princes, Priests, Rulers, and people in the dayes of Zedekiah, before the captivity to Babel; and in the dayes of Christ and the Apostles, before the destruction of City, Temple, and Nation of the Iewes by the Romans: we may see as in a clear glasse the cursed fruits, and woefull events of the evill counsells, and actions of the wicked banded together in an evill cause: And upon these pre∣misses the Doctrine followes as a necessary conclusion: That the bands and factions of the wicked associated to consult and act a∣gainst justice, religion, and the Church and people of God, are perni∣cious and dangerous, a plague and curse to Lands, States and King∣domes▪
[vse 1] And now I come to the Application: first of all to you the Honourable members of the House of Commons in Parliament, Page 17 not by way of exprobation, but of exhortation: for you are the chosen worthies of this Land and Kingdome, the represen∣tative body of the Common-wealth: And it hath been the an∣cient Priviledge of the great Counsell of this Kingdome, the high Court of Parliament, whereof you are Members; by the supreme power of judicature given you in your Election, to call to account all unjust Iudges, corrupt Officers, and the wicked Counsellors of your Kings, to depose them from their Offices, to strip them of their power and authority, to dissolve their Courts, and for treacherous Counsells and attempts against the Lawes, Liberties, and Religion, sometimes to cut them off by the sword of Iustice. I hope that you who are so vigilant over others, will be as watchfull to keep all such out of your assemb∣ly; or if any such be discovered, to note and observe them, and upon the first occasion and opportunity, to remove them, lest they band themselves together, make divisions, and prove pric∣king Bryars, and grievous thornes among you. And it is my hearty desire, and prayers to God for you, that no Prophet, Preacher of the Word, or faithfull Messenger of God, may have any cause or colour to speake to you, as here the Prophe∣ticall Psalmist doth to King Sauls great Counsell, in the two first Verses of this Psalme, Doe yee indeed speak righteousnesse, ô Congregation? doe yee judge uprightly, ô yee sonnes of men. Yea, in your heart yee worke wickednesse, and weigh the violence of your hands in the earth. I dare be bold on the contrary to speake to you, and that in the common voyce of all that are godly, and well-affected to Religion and Iustice. O yee Honourable As∣sembly, the great Counsell of this Kingdome, and noble Wor∣thies of this Land, that yee have not onely spoken righteous∣nesse and upright judgement, but also by your zealous Votes, as by the voyce of Thunder, you have scattered the Bands of wicked Counsellors, and corrupt Offices, dissolved some ty∣rannicall Courts, hurled downe unjust Iudges from the seats of justice, who had set up wickednesse for a Law. You have dri∣ven away as with a whirle-winde all those malignant and factious spirits from among you, who have opposed your god∣ly and religious endeavours to relieve the oppressed, to reforme both Church and State, and to purge out all corruptions, and intollerable geievances out of both. And you have for the ter∣rour of the present, and future Ages, cut off many malignant and Page 18 desperate instruments of violence, rebellion, and treason hy the sword of justice and warre. The Lord is with you, the migh∣ty men of valour goe on in this your might, and Gideon-like yee shall save from destruction this perishing State, and shall set up the Kingdome of Christ over us. Though you meet with many difficulties, and great opposition of crafty, subtle, fierce, and cru∣ell enemies, yet be not discouraged; but perswade your selves, that these are the dayes of the devills rage, who hath great wrath, because he knoweth that he hat but a short time. While he fights against you in the forme of a great red Dragon, with all the power of the beast, and assailes you openly on all sides, with all the forces of the Romish Antichrist, raised up at home, and from abroad; he sends in among us grievous Wolves in sheeps cloathing, who by faire shewes of more refined Religi∣on, piety, and godly life, seek to insinuate themselves into your favour, and under pretence of new light, and tender conscien∣ces, to purchase at your hands liberty to live as they list, under no rule or government, but every company and particular Con∣venticle to doe what seems good in their owne eyes, without controll of any superiors: others rise up dayly, and speak perverse things, that they may draw Desciples after them. The severall Bands of Anabaptists, Antinomiaur, Familists, Libertines, and Separatists, are so multiplyed, that they begin to threaten, and speake big words. And besides these we have blasphemous He∣reticks, or rather Atheists, who begin to gather Assemblies, and to teach people, that one Spirit rules in all living Creatures, men and beasts; and the Spirit which dwells in the Saints is no other but the same which worketh in the children of disobe∣dience. And that the Doctrine concerning the person of Christ, God and man, as it is preached in all Orthodox Churches, is but a fiction; for every man, by the Spirit of new light comming into him, becomes a Christ, God and man in himselfe. That mens souls dye as beasts doe with their bodies, and live not till the day of resurrection: As for hell, damnation, and diffe∣rences of Elect men blessed, and reprobate cursed, they hold them to be Dreams, fictions, scar-crowes, and idle fancies. There is also a new Sect of Seekers, who renounce the Scriptures as blinde guides, and wait for new lights to lead them to the true Religion▪ which (as they conceive) is not yet to bee found, while the Temple is full of smoak: and in the mean time they Page 19 will seek, and suspend, and fasten on no Religion, till the new lights appeare. But such is the efficacy of Satan in all these Sects, of so contrary opinions, that in the maine they are not divided: but all agree in this, that with lyes, slanders, revilings, and re∣proaches they strive to over-lade, teare and rend the true Or∣thodox reformed Churches, and spare not Christs pure redee∣med flocke: but by flatteries, forgeries, and new fangle opi∣nions, draw away many well-meaning people, and steale away and destroy the sheep of his fold. Now these many factions and Sects, with all their favourers and abettors, (if any such should rise up among you) they are the Bands of the wicked, and the Brambles of which my Text speaks: which I have in the Do∣ctrine now in hand proved to be most pestilent and dangerous, even the very curse of the land in which they get footing, and increase. And yee renowned Worthies, as yee tender the good and welfare of your Countrey, and of those who have entrusted you with defence and safety of their Religion, Lawes, Liberty, and Lives, and as God hath called you to the highest place and Court of Iudicature: so let it be your first care and worke of Reformation, to remove all such Brambles out of the way: and because some are but green thorns, or pricks, seduced and drawn into the faction by the sleights and subtelty of deceivers, have compassion on them, and put a difference, pulling them out of the fire, by the hand of justice tempered with mercy: and by the rod of correction; but others who are men of Belial, hard∣ned in their malignity, such as David in his last words resem∣bles to Thornes, thrust away, because they cannot be taken with hands, but the man that will touch them, must be fenced with Iron, and the staffe of a Speare, and they shall be burnt with fire in the same place: cut them downe with the sword of Iustice, root them out and consume them as with fire, that no root may spring againe; let their mischiefe fall upon their own heads, that the Land may be eased, which hath a long time, and doth still groane under them, as under an heavy curse. I doe not use this exhortation, as a Spur, but as an incouragement to you, who are wise, and of your selves willing and forward; that when you are put in minde, and have it set before your eyes, what a plague and curse such bands of wicked men are in a laud, and to what misery and mischiefe all their counsels and doings tend; and what woefull events follow their cursed designes; Page 20 you may proceed with courage to quell, scatter, and destroy them, never doubting, but that in so doing you doe the worke of God, and judge, and execute justice for him, and he is with you in the judgement, and by cutting off such Achans, you turne away his wrath from the Land.
Secondly, this Doctrine serves for wholsome admonition to us all this day; For by discovering to us the evil, and mischief of wicked Counsells; and what a plague and curse the Bands of the ungodly are in a Land, when they are combined toge∣ther to worke wickednesse in their hearts, to oppresse and per∣secute Gods people by injustice and violence, and to oppose ne∣cessary Reformation: It puts us in minde of the plague & curse which still presseth sore, and lyeth hard and heavy upon the Kingdome at this time; and of our sinnes which have procu∣red all this evill unto us, which great sinnes we have not yet subdued, neither have so washed our hearts from wickednesse by true and sound repentance, as to make our selves ripe for deliverance. Although the Lord by our Parliament hath wrought wonderfully in scattering the bands of wicked Coun∣sellors, unjest Iudges, and corrupt Officers, in removing them from their Assembly, and from the seats of Iustice, and Courts of judicature: yet they are still combined together to do mischiefe in severall parts of the Land; they have raised up, and doe still maintaine a most unnaturall bloudy civill warre, and have brought upon us the great and sore judgement of the sword: they have also subservient Bands of malignants, who do work for them secretly under-hand, and are ready upon every occasi∣on to helpe forward their cursed designe: we have but few gar∣rison Townes, or fortified places, wherein they have not had some Band of combined Traytors, plotting to betray them, as we have seen in many former and late discoveries. And as the whole Kingdom groaned under the pressure of those tyranni∣call Courts lately dissolved; so many parts of the Land are still miserably oppressed by their scattered Bands, and we all sigh and groane with our oppressed brethren, and have a fellow-fee∣ling of their calamities▪ Surely our great sinnes have pulled this plague and curse upon the Land; and it is still continued, be∣cause wee continue in our sinnes. The unclean spirits which vex us are not to be cast out, but by faithfull fervent prayers, and such holy Fasts as God hath chosen, and we have not kept. Page 21 For we have not loosed the bands of wickednesse, wee have not undone the heavy burthens, nor relieved the oppressed, nor broken every yoke. Many people in the Countrey are intolle∣rably eaten up with free Quarter of our Souldiers, and yet have as heavy taxes laid on them as any others. The laborious Mini∣sters are robbed of their livelihood by bands of Anabaptists, Separatists, and other profane covetous persons; and have no reliefe, nor remedy, but that which is worse than the disease: And yet when any taxe is layd on their parishes, they are as∣sessed more deeply, than some of double and trible ability. This I speak, not that I have any cause to complaine, but I am grie∣ved to see the palpable wrongs, and to heare the complaints of my suffring brethren. The Church of Christ is wofully rent and torne by the bands of of Schismaticks, and blasphemous Here∣ticks, who when they have rob'd the folds of the Pastors, and stollen away their sheep, do raise up Hue and Cry against them, for demanding their owne: and while they persecute with the sword of their slanderous tongues all godly Orthodox Mini∣sters, who desire to walk in the beaten way of all Reformed Churches, and to be guided therein by the cleare light of Gods word and spirit: they cry out, persecution, persecution, worse than Prelaticall; we are persecuted, imprisoned, banished, for our Consciences, and not suffered to enjoy Christian Libertie. Indeed if heresie, blasphemy, mutiny, raised up in the Church and State, and open affronts offered to this religious Parlia∣ment be Christian Liberty and Conscience: some of them have been lightly imprisoned for such doings a few dayes; but of a∣ny other persecution for Conscience, we have not yet heard. These great and scandalous sinnes, with horrid blasphemies bel∣ched out against Christ, the Gospell, the Law of God, and the holy Scriptures, while they are not punished by the Magistrate, nor by the offenders repented of, nor generally mourned for by us all, nor with godly griefe and sorrow bewayled, they pro∣voke God to continue our plagues, and to strengthen the hand of the wicked against us, and his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. Besides, it is to be feared, that we have not throughly repented, nor so grieved, and bitterly mourned for our iniquities, which provoked God to give us in his wrath tyrannicall Lords and Lordly Prelates to rule over us with rigour: neither have we humbled our soules as we ought, even Page 22 to shame our selves by publike confession, and open detestation of those offences and crimes whereof we are generally guilty in one measure or other, in that out of cowardly feare we yeel∣ded our necks to the Antichristian yoke of Prelaticall Tyrants, receiving without contradiction, or resistance, their Popish Ce∣remonies, superstitious Rites, and Idolatrous Innovations, and too many soothed them in their usurped power, and Lordly dominion over Gods inheritance, fathering it on them by Di∣vine Right. Some have out of wilfull ignorance, and some out of flattery, some out of ambition, and a covetous desire of pre∣ferment by their means been instruments to confirme them in their pride, and power unlimitted: As the Lord by the Prophet Ieremiah complained against the Iewes, in a time when their Church and State were desperately corrupt, and incurable, rea∣dy to be wholly ruined,* saying: A wonderfull and horrible thing is committed in the Land, the Prophets prophesie falsely, the Priests rule, and take power into their hands by their means, and my people love to have it so, and what will yee do in the end thereof. So it might have been truely said of us, our Prophets prophesied falsely, they preached for the pompe and Lordly power of Bishops, and Me∣trapolitanes, proclaimed them to be Lords over mens conscien∣ces, and the onely Pastors of all the Churches in their Diocesses and Provinces, and all other Ministers to be no Pastors, but onely their Curats and slavish vassalls, bound by oath to obey their Dictats and Canons. By this meanes they took into their hands the whole power of Church and State: they tyrannized, and Lorded it in their high Commission Courts, not only over Ministers and their flocks, but also over the Nobility and Gen∣try, who were compelled to crouch to them: they haled men to prison, & by hard and close imprisonment murthered the inno∣nocent, they robbed men of their estates by arbitrary fines, they over-awed Iudges, Counsellors, and Officers of state, so that by them they made their owne will and lust law, just judgements were restrained, and wrong judgment proceeded at their com∣mand, the wicked were favoured and promoted, and all godly people, especially faithfull Orthodox Ministers were hated and hunted after with nets; and the people loved to have it so: for they were ready to seeke their favour by accusing and slan∣dering their Preachers, exposing them to their fury, and betray∣ing them into their mercilesse hands: And what remained then Page 23 for us to doe, but in anguish of soule to cry out and complain in the words of the Prophet Isaiah, chap. 59.11, &c. We roar like Bears, and mourne sore like Doves: we looked for light, and behold obscurity, justice is turned backward, equity cannot enter, truth fai∣leth, and he that departeth from evill maketh himselfe a pray. And except the Lord of Hosts had left unto us a small remnant of faithfull praying people, we should have beene as Sodome, and we should have been as Gomorah. But when he saw our aflicti∣on, he looked on us with compassion, and seeing that there was none to help, his own arme brought salvation to us, & his righ∣teousnesse it sustained us; hee put on garments of vengeance for cloathing, and was clad with zeale as with a Cloak; and ac∣cording to their deeds, accordingly he hath repayed fury to our oppressors, and recompence to his and our enemies: hee hath broken rheir nets, and we are delivered.
Here if any object and say, If the Lord be with us to deliver us, why are we thus troubled and vexed stil with feares of open enemies; and with dangers of Malignants among us? I must say againe, I feare wee have not rendred to God thanks and prayse, with the slaughter of our sinnes and lusts, and the sacri∣fice of new obedience, and the honour due to his name for these beginnings of his mercy: neither haue we sorrowed and mour∣ned to amendment of life: our former sinnes and iniquities are too many and great to be with so few teares and sighes wa∣shed and blowne away: If we could weep teares of bloud for them, and rend our hearts with godly remorse, and be ashamed, and confounded in our selves for our unthankfulnesse to so gra∣cious a God, so bountifull a Father, and so mercifull a Lord and Iudge, al is too little. Let us therefore in these our publike Fasts, both Ministers and peope, powre out our soules in humble con∣fession of our vilenesse, and by aggravating our unworthinesse, let us labour to make our selves and others more sensible of the greatnesse of his mercy to us, and the prayse of his goodnesse and bounty to such vile sinners more admirable and glorious: Let us loose the bands of wickednesse, and the more cowardly, rnd fearefull we have been, like Peter in the dayes of tryall, the more bitterly let us weep with Peter: the more share and hand we have had in soothing Prelates, and promoting their pride, the more zealous let us be in trampling their pride under foot, and in abhorring all appearance of it, and in shewing open Page 24 detestation of all their Iniquity, Superstiton, and Idolatry. Da∣vid was a man after Gods heart, and when through fleshly frailty, he had fallen into great and scandalous sinnes, adding to his adultery, murther; though upon his confession of his sin, the Lord forgave the iniquity of it; and the Prophet told him, that the Lord had taken away his sin, he should not dye, nor under∣goe any destroying punishment of wrath and vengeance: yet he rested not in confessing, fasting, mourning, and praying for a day; but out of loathing, and abhorring his sinfull corrupti∣on, he afflicted his soule seven dayes, lying upon the ground, fa∣sting, weeping, and making supplication with strong cries, and saying, Have mercy upon me ô God according to thy loving kindnes, according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out all my transgressions: wash me throughly from my wickednesse; deliver me from bloud-guiltinesse, create in mee a cleane heart, restore to me the joy of thy salvation, Psal. 51▪ And againe, O Lord rebuke me not in thy wrath, I am troubled, I am bowed greatly, I goe mourning all the day long: As wee may more at large see in his penitential Psalmes, in which his sorrowes are ingraven and recorded to all posterities. And all this repentance proceeded not from hor∣rour of conscience or feare of death and hell, as that of Ahab, and Iudas did: but out of true remorse and godly sorrow, for that he had sinned against a God, so gracious and full of tender compassion: His owne words shew the true ground of his griefe, where he saith, Against thee, thee only have I sinned. It was his love of God, and sense of Gods love and mercy to him, which made him so hate his sinnes, and loath himselfe. And indeed this is true Evangelicall repentance, which works effectually to the mortifying of the old man, killing the body of death, and sub∣duing the rebellious lusts of the flesh: this makes our former sins hatefull and grievous to us; and terrifies us from falling in to the like againe. O how happy should we be, if we could thus repent, if we could thus humble our soules in these our Fasts, Gods bowels of compassion would yearn towards us, as the bowels of tender parents doe over a deare child when they see him grieving at the heart, and mourning for his offence of them, and disobedience to them, When the Lord our God sees us thus penitent, he will answer us graciously, meet us, and embrace us with love, make us behold his face with joy in the righteousnesse of Iesus Christ, accept his ransome for us, and Page 25 will say to your soules, I am your salvation. His scourging rod, the cursed Bramble, with all the Thornes and Pricks thereof, all the bands of the wicked which trouble us, shall be thrown away into the fire, burnt and consumed.
I proceed to the second poynt, which is the resemblance of the severall sorts of ungodly, malicious, and ill-affected per∣sons banded together to consult, devise, and practise evil against the Church of Christ, & to oppresse, persecute, and doe mischiefe to Gods people, unto the severall sorts of pricks on the great Bramble, of which some are green and more tender, others dry∣ed and hardned, but all sharp pricking and hurtfull, and are all to be taken away as with a whirle-wind. This ministers to us the second Doctrine.
That all persons combined in any Band or faction, consulting and working together against Gods Church and people, whether they bee [doctrine 2] more or lesse pernicious, and able to do mischiefe, whether Hypocrites, working under hand, or open profest persecutors, they are all sharers in the same wickednesse, and being all of the same cursed Band and crew, they shall perish in the same destruction.
This is further confirmed by Gods own words, Psal. 50.16, &c. But unto the wicked said God, what hast thou to doe to declare my Statutes, and to take my Covenant in thy mouth, seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my word behinde thee? when thou sawest a Thiefe thou consentedst to him, and hast beene pertaker with the a∣dulterers, thou givest thy mouth to evill, and thy tongue frameth de∣ceit: thou sittest and speakest against thy brother, and slanderest thine owne mothers son. In which words I observe, that some wicked men make a profession of Religion, declare Gods Statutes, and take his Covenant in their mouth. Secondly, that they hate in∣struction, oppose Reformation, and break their Covenant with God. Thirdly, that by sitting in Counsell with persecutors, speaking evill with their mouthes, and framing deceit with their tongues, and consenting to the deeds of evill-doers, they are pertakers of their sinnes. Fourthly, that Gods wrath is kindled against them, and if they doe not repent he will teare them in pieces, and none shall deliver them. And Psalme 26.4.5. The holy Psalmist pleading immunity from sliding, and that God will not take him away, nor gather his soule with sin∣ners, nor his life with men of bloud, in whose hand is mischief, because he hath not sate with vaine persons, nor gone in with Page 26 dissemblers, but hath hated the Congregation of evill doers, and will not sit in Counsell with the wicked; doth necessarily inti∣mate, that all they who do joyn in counsel with the wicked, & help forward their designes, are pertakers of their sinnes, and shall perish with them. And to the same purpose the Prophet Ieremy speaks,* saying, I sate not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoyced: why is my paine perpetuall, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? which words import, that they who are of the Band of Scorners, and rejoyce in their evill do∣ings, are pertakers of their wickednesse, and their wages shall be perpetuall paine and wounds incurable. All in Corah's con∣spiracy,* even women and children, were found guilty before God of that rebellion and perished in it. And in a City falling a∣way to Idolatry,* all in it, yong & old are guilty, and to be cut off.
And indeed there is good Reason grounded on the word of [reason 1] God, to prove this: For if childred are punished for the sins of their fathers unto the third and fourth Generation; because so long they may by sight or hearing know them, and see the prints and monuments of their fraud, violence, oppression, pride, and the like, and wittingly hold and possesse their ill-got∣ten goods, of which they having knowledge, become perta∣kers of their sinnes, and make themselves guilty by approving, or imitating them, or neglecting to grieve and mourn for them, and to make restitution, and not removing their cursed things out of their families. Then much more they who are Counsel∣lors, abettors, actors, and promoters of ungodly actions, and have an hand in the doing of them are pertakers, and guilty of them as being their owne sins for which they are justly puni∣shed. Now the first is manifest, Exodus 20.5. by the expresse words of the Law, where the Lord saith, He will visit the sins of the Fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generati∣on: which sins they had no finger in when they were first com∣mitted; but onely approved them by imitation, or did not sor∣row and mourn for them; nor shew open detestation, nor make restitution. Therefore much more they who joyne in Coun∣sell with the enemies of Gods Church, and further and helpe forward their malicious designes, let them seem never so mode∣rate and zealous for Religion, and the welfare of Church and State: they are all hurtfull and dangerous pricks of the cur∣sed Bramble, brethren and companions with the malignant Page 27 in their mischiefe, guilty of the same sins, and shall perish in the same destruction, if they do not repent, and separate themselves from their Congregation.
The common Law of Nations also confirmes this, which makes accessaries, though not desperately cruell, nor so hardned [reason 2] in malice, as the chiefe principalls guilty of murther, robbery, treason, and the like crimes.
This Doctrine is of good use. For it serves to admonish us [vse 1] all to be vigilant and watchfull against all hurtfull persons, dan∣gerous sons of Belial, who are so many thornes and pricks of the cursed Bramble, yea far more dangerous; for their teeth are Speares, and Arrowes, and their tongue a sharpe sword. Psalme 57.4. They doe not onely catch and wound, and teare all that come within their reach, and touch them, as the Pricks of Brambles doe: but they have bent their tongues like a Bow for lies, and shoot forth their poysoned arrowes, bitter words of slander, to hurt and wound at a distance, Psal. 64.3. The Pro∣phet Ieremiah living in a dangerous time, in which there were many assemblies of such treacherous men, cryed out in great feare and anguish, O that I had in the wildernesse the lodging place of wayfaring men, that I might leave my people, and goe from them. Ieremiah 9.2.3. David also, beset with such Bryars, as a man possest with horror, and trembling, wished that hee had wings to flye away. O that I had wings like a Dove, for then would I flye away and be at rest: Lo, then would I wander farre off, and re∣maine in the wildernesse. Thus Gods deare servants were more afraid of these pricking Brambles than of the briars and thorns in the wildernesse: wherefore let me exhort you in the words of the Apostle, to see that yee walke warily and circumspectly, not as fooles, but as wise, because the dayes are evill, Ephes. 5.15. Let us not be deceived with the faire shewes of those instruments of Satan, who are outwardly Saints and Angells of light, pro∣fessing aboundance of new light, every sort and Sect of them, but inwardly are ravening and grievous wolves, not sparing the flock of Christ, his true Church planted in this Land, and like stinging and tearing pricks of the bramble wounding and tearing the high Court of Parliament, and the Assembly of Di∣vines, with the speares and arrowes of bitter words. Although the great Band of wicked Counsellors, Iudges, and Officers, which did tyrannize over our soules, as much as our bodies, and Page 28 was like a great Bramble overspreading the whole Land, dark∣ning our light with the shadow of it, is by Gods mighty hand working with this happy Parliament, hurled out of all high Courts of Iustice, and removed further from us, and some noy∣some and dangerous pricks thereof broken off and destroyed: yet let us not dreame of peace, nor suffer security to creep upon us: for it doth get root and strength again in other places round about us, and doth prevaile to doe misciefe, not a little in the North, the South, the West, and middle Countries: And the Lord calls us to fasting and prayer, and to great humiliation, that we seeking to him may finde deliverance from the cruelty of that devouring Bramble; the sharpe hooked pricks whereof doe sting, wound, catch, and hold whatsoever comes within their reach, as appeares by their robbing and plundering, and haling men to prison, slaying and murthering many harmlesse people where they come: yea, this Bramble shrouding it selfe under the shadow of the great Cedar of Lebanons regall power and presence, rules over many great trees and Oaks of Bashan: and therefore still troubles us, and puts us in feare, and Satan, and Antichrist fore-seeing the fall of their Kingdome in the full, and destruction of it, combine all their forces to support it: And hence it is, that besides forraigne forces, Satan hath raised up from among our selves bands of Malignants, A∣nabaptists, Antinomians, Libertines, Schismaticall Separatists, all which are so many treacherous enemies at home, and do all worke together to strengthen the popish Faction, and to lay us open and naked to their fury and violence, by opposing and re∣tarding the blessed worke of Reformation, deviding us among our selves, and rending the Coat of Christ without seame. And every one in these severall factions, is like a sharpe venemous Thorne or Prick of the cursed Bramble, stinging and wounding the Church and Common-wealth, and all that are faithfull in both. And therefore to me it is not grievous, but to you it is safe to admonish you againe in the words of the Apostle, to beware of these Dogs, to beware of these evill workers, to be∣ware of the concision: never had we more need to be firmely united in hearts, soules, and affections, that with joynt strength, and one shoulder wee may labour and strive to dissolve these wicked Bands, and to scatter them: for they are a heavy curse to all our Land.
Page 29Secondly, this Doctrine serves as to stirre us all up as to be∣ware [vse] lest these men of Belial, who are combined together in hurtfull Counsells, and practises catch hold of us to hurt us; so also it gives a Caveat to all men to take heed, that they be not so deceived with the seeming moderation and faire shewes of any sort of them, as to seek or hope for any helpe from them, either for resisting the Popish faction, or for furthering the true reformation of the Church, and setling of the Land in peace. For certainly, whether they be of the Band and Sect of Ana∣baptists, or Antinomians, or Libertines, or separating Schisma∣ticks, or Seekers of new light, they are all of them hurtful pricks of the cursed Bramble, and all their counsells and designes tend to crosse and hinder all sound Reformation, and to further the grand Antichristian faction, in their desperate attempts to ru∣ine Religion, Church, and Common-wealth. Can any be so blinde and voyd of understanding, as to expect any blessing or good at all from them who are the curse of the land? will the pernicious enemies of Reformation, and peace, contemners of Lawes, and lawfull authority, cordially joyne to defend our Lawes and Religion, and helpe forward the reformation of the Church from corruptions, errors, and abuses, which abound chiefely in themselves, and they are the authors and abettors of them? Is there any hope that they who exclude and cast out from their Communion, as unclean Dogs, all reformed Churches, will fight for any Reformation which comes neare to them, though it be never so well warranted and held forth in the Word of God? We read of Manasseh, the King of Iu∣dah, that when the Captains of the host of the King of Assyria, came against him, they took him in the thorns, bound him in chaines, and carryed him to Babylon, where he was in great af∣fliction, 2 Chron. 33.11. When the City could not defend him, he fled for shelter into the Briar bushes, and there he was caught, and held fast by the hooked pricks, for the enemies to take him: and even so it will be with us,* if wee trust in these pricking thornes, and betake our selves to them for helpe, they will be∣tray us into the enemies hands. Wherefore let us set our hearts to rest wholly on our God, and to seek to him with fasting, prayer, and humiliation for deliverance from these Bryars, and Thornes, and from their hooks and snares. And because while we regard iniquity in our hearts, the Lord will not heare us; Page 30 let us confesse our sins with mournful hearts, and forsake them, and the Lord will forgive the iniquity of them, and will be our refuge and strength, and a present helpe in all our troubles. For if we could but prepare our hearts, and fit our selves for delive∣rance by obtaining mercy to have our sinnes and transgressions blotted out, and could wash our hearts from wickednesse, and put away by repentance our sinnes which doe strengthen the hands of our enimies against us, God would quickly scatter all them that rise up to vex us, and not spare nor indure them for one moment, they are all even the best of them, the hatefull pricks of the cursed briar, fully ripe for destruction. Sin is that which brought them for a curse upon the ground; and repen∣tance and putting away of our sins is the onely way to rid the land of them; the Lord is ready and waiteth for our amend∣ment, that instantly and without delay he may scatter them as with a whirlewinde both the green and the dry.
The third point in my Text is; That God will not suffer the righteous to feel the evill and mischiefe intended and plotted against them, by the bands of their enemies and persecutors, but will most timely and seasonably take away and destroy all and every prick of that cursed bramble and spare none, neither greene nor dry. There are two kinds of feeling; one is by out∣ward and bodily sense of things which touch us, and we touch and handle them; this is expressed in the Originall Scriptures by an Hebrew word which implies bodily touching; The o∣ther is the inward sense of feeling by knowledg and under∣standing.* This feeling reacheth beyond bodily sense of the flesh, even to the soule and spirit, and it is expressed in the Ori∣ginall by the hebrew words Iadagh and Iabin,* which signifie to know and understand the thing bodily felt. Of this feeling we read Prov. 23.35. where it is said of a drunken man; That he is stricken, and yet is not sick of his blow; he is beaten, but he feels it not. It is certaine his flesh feeles it, and the stripes leave a print behind; but he hath not for the present the use of his rea∣son to know and understand, because his spirits are drowned in drink, and oppressed with moist vapours. Also Eccles. 8.5. it is said; that he that keepeth the Commandement shall not feele e∣vill, that is, not evill as a plague or curse reaching to the soule, nor as an evill of wrath and revenge, for so the righteous doe not feele any evill, though they feele in the flesh many afflicti∣ons Page 31 of tryall and chastisement, which are not evill but good to them. Wee read that Isaac did bodily feele Iacob by touching his hands and neck, but he did not know nor understand that it was Iacob whom he felt, and so he had a feeling of him in part only by bodily sense, but not a full and perfect feeling of him in soule and spirit by knowledg and understanding. Here my Text speakes of a full sense and feeling, aswell inwardly in soule and spirit, as outwardly in the flesh;* For the word Jabi∣•u, which signifies such a feeling is here used: the words thus opened minister the third Doctrine, viz.
That God out of his tender love and watchfull providence over his Church and people, doth frustrate the wicked counsels and purposes [doctrine 3] of their Enemies, and scatters their persecutors before they proceed, and prevaile so far as to make them feel the evill and mischiefe which they are sharply set and cruelly bent to inflict and bring upon them.
The full Scope and intent of this Doctrine is to shew, and to hold out unto us these 3 things,
First, that God is ready to prevent the evills intended a∣gainst his Church and People by their enemies, and delivers them from them oftentimes before they have any sence or fee∣ling of them at all. Secondly, that though the Lord suffers the wicked to afflict his Church, and to be his rod to scourge his People, either for their sins by way of sharp correction, or for tryall of their faith and patience; yet he never leaves them in their hand to feel their worst, nor gives them to their lust, rage and fury to be devoured and swallowed up of them, or to bee put to sense and feeling of paine intollerable. Thirdly, though the cruell enemies of Gods Church, and persecutors of his peo∣ple, may proceed so far as to kill their bodies with sense of out∣ward torment and violence done to the flesh; yet they shall ne∣ver reach to their soules and spirits, nor prevaile so farre as to make them feele the evill and mischiefe intended against their inward man, the soule and spirit. For the confirming of this Doctrine in all these particulars, we have cleare testimo∣nies, and pregnant examples in the sacred Scriptures. First, that God prevents the evil intended by the enemies against his people, so that they doe not feele it, neither doth it touch them at all, it is plainly affirmed, Psalme 91.2, 3. where it is said of them that trust in the Lord, and make him their refuge, that he will deliver them from the snare of the Fowler, and from all other Page 32 evills which are most terrible, so that no evill shall befall them, nor plague come neare their dwelling: onely with their eyes shall they behold, and see the reward of the wicked their enemies. Also Psalme 27.2. When the wicked, even mine enemies, saith David, came a∣gainst me to eate up my flesh, they stumbled, and fell. And Psalme 37. The wicked plotteth against the righteous, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth, he hath drawne out his sword, and bent his Bow to cast downe, and to slay such as be upright: but the Lord shall laugh at him, for he seeth that his day is comming. His sword shall enter into his owne heart, and his Bow shall be broken. Thus when they have travelled with iniquity, and conceived mischief, they bring forth falsehood, and when they have made a pit and aiggedit, they fall into the ditch themselves, and their mischiefe returnes upon their owne head, Psalme 7.14. and in the net which they hid is their owne foot taken, and they are snared in the worke of their hands, Psal▪ 9.15, 16. Besides these, and many such testimonies, we have preg∣nant examples, as that of Iehoshaphat, 2 Chron. 20. when three nations were banded against him and his people, and they had no might to resist, neither knew what to doe, they betooke themselves to seek the Lord with fasting and prayer: and the Lord set ambushments against the enemies, and made them slay one a∣nother till they were all destroyed: so that Iehosophat and his people had no need to fight, but did only stand and see the salvation of the Lord. Another example is that of Hezekiah, when the Assyrian King Senacharib came against him to besiege Ierusalem, and by Rabshekeh, threatned to drive his people to that extremity, as to eate their owne dung, and to drinke their owne pisse, 2 King. 18.27. The Lord suffered him not to come to the City, nor to shoot an arrow into it, but sent a blast upon him, and by his An∣gel slue in one night, 185. thousand in his host, and drove him back with shame.
Secondly, though the Church and children of God, may be sore afflicted by the Bands of the wicked, yet before they feele that destruction and misery which is intended and plotted a∣gainst them, and Lord will send deliverance by scatrering, and destroying their cruell persecutors. We see this verified in the Israelites, who saw and felt much affliction in Egypt: but when it came to the upshot, that Pharaoh and his Host pursued them to cut them off, and destroy them with the sword, God over∣threw them all in the sea, and suffered not his people to feele Page 33 their cruell hand, Exod. 14. Also in the dayes of the Iudges, the Israelites were often oppressed and afflicted by divers enemies, which sought to cast them out and destroy them: but before they felt this evil which their enemies attempted with all their power, the Lord delivered them, and scattered and destroyed their oppressors. In the 83. Psalme mention is made of many Nations which were consederate against Gods Church and people, and said, Come let us cut them off from being a Nation, that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance: but when they invaded the land, and began to cast fire into their Sanctuaries, God made all those Nations as stubble before the wind, and per∣secuted them with his storme, and scattered them, before his people felt the evill which they conspired to bring upon them. David and his followers were pursued for their lives, and suffe∣red hard things at the hand of Saul, and his wicked Band, but the evill which they chiefely sought, which was to kill and cut them off, they could never bring upon them, nor make them feel, for they themselves were first destroyed. In a word, God so armes his people with patience and courage, that they goe through all the sharpest afflictions, and persecutions of the ene∣mies with joy, & that peace which they have with God, makes them rejoyce in tribulations, and the inward spiritual comforts which fill their soules, doe swallow all pains and sorrowes, that they have no such sense and feeling of them as others have.
The third perticular in the Doctrine is, that though the Bands of the wicked do persecute the Saints for their true faith in Christ, to their own destruction: and are permitted to afflict and torture their bodies, even to the murthering and killing of them: yet they can never bring them under the sense and feeling of soule-murther, by compelling them to deny the faith, and to imbrace Idolatry, or any soule-killing errors and heresies. This is consonant to the words of the Apostle, Rom. 8.35. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distresse, or perill, or sword, or life, or death, (as it is written for thy sake are we killed all the day long, and are counted as sheep for the slaughter.) Nay in all these we are more than Conquerors, through him that lo∣ved us. And Heb. 1•. we have a Cloud of witnesses who were tortured, and had tryall of cruell mockings, and scourgings, and of bonds and imprisonment, and were stoned, sawn assun∣der, and slain with the sword, and yet they felt no evill in their Page 34 soules, which in all these temptations did remaine untouched: Though the stiff-necked Iewes were cut to the heart at the hea∣ring of Stevens words, and they gnashed on him with their teeth, and ran upon him all at once, with purpose to destroy him soule and body, yet his soule was not touched with the sense and feeling of their malice and fury, and being commended into the hands of Christ, whom it saw and enjoyed in death, it ascended triumphantly into glory.
[vse 1] This Doctrine thus confirmed in all particulars, is of singu∣lar use: First, to magnifie in our eyes Gods tender love to his Church, and his watchfulnesse over his people, for the pre∣servation, defence, and upholding of them in a world so full of the Bands of wicked sons of Belial, and in a land so over-spread with the curse and plague of Bryars and thornes. First, in that he keeps many of them from being caught or touched at all. Se∣condly, in that he supports them when they are caught, and armes them with strength, faith, patience, and courage, to goe through the Briars and Thornes, without any sense and feeling of the sting and venome of their sharp pricks: as wee read of one of our blessed Martyrs, who professed that in the midst of burning flames, consuming his body, he felt no more pain, than if he had layn on a feather-bed. Thirdly, in that hee limits and restrains the power, rage, and fury of the sharpest, and most cru∣ell pricks of the cursed Bramble, that they cannot strike and wound them to the quick, that is, not reach unto their soule. Of this the Church and people of God in this land have had here∣tofore, and have at this day most comfortable experience. First, in the yeare 88. when the flouds of Belial made us afraid, and the armed Bands of Antichrist came against us with an invin∣cible Armado, (as they proudly boasted) armed with sharpe hooks, stabbing knives, and all weapons of cruelty, and instru∣ments of death,* the Lord did blow upon them with his migh∣ty whirlewinde, scattered them upon the face of the great deep, the sea covered them, and they sunk as Lead in the mighty wa∣ters, and so he saved us from the sharp hooks and pricks of the e∣nemies, their murdering and destroying weapons and instru∣ments of cruelty did not touch us at all. Likewise in the Pow∣der Treason, and many other treacherous plots of late time, when wee were encompassed in the net, ready to fall into the Bryars, and to be caught in the snares of the wicked, the Lord Page 35 suddenly brake the snares, and we were delivered, before their hooked pricks could fasten upon us, or tear us. Secondly, though the Lord hath suffered us for our sinnes, and for the tryall of our Faith, to fall of late into the Bryars, and we have undergone sharpe and cruell prickings in this bloudy civil war kindled in our Land, yet he hath so armed us with Faith in Christ, and strengthned us with courage, and with confidence, and with full assurance of his love, that wee goe through all cheerefully and comfortably, as if we felt no hurt: yea in all the afflictions we feele no stroke of wrath and revenge at all, but only cha∣stisements of love, fatherly corrections and tryalls, which are the faithfull wounds of a lover, better and more safe then the deceitfull kisses and embracings of our enemies. Thirdly in the midst of Thornes and Bryers, when the Lord suffers the swords of the enemies to cut our flesh, and to wound and kill our bo∣dies, and to shed our bloud, that they may fill up to the full the measure of their iniquities; yet he suffers not their violence to reach unto our soules, we stand firme and stedfast in faith; and so far are we from wavering in Religion, inclining to Popery, forsaking the cause of Christ, and suffering our soules to be be∣trayed, wounded, and slaine, that wee have renewed our Co∣venant with God, & have bound our selves to stand for a more full Reformation of Church and State, and to maintain the true Reformed Religion with our bodies, lives, and goods, and to oppose popery, and all other Sects, and Opinions, contrarie to true godlinesse, O how are we bound to admire the love, mer∣cy, bounty and goodnesse of the Lord our God in all these no∣table passages of his providence, watchfulnesse, and provident care over his Church and people in this land: how ought we to love▪ honour, serve, and obey him to seek continually to him for help, and to call upon his name, and to humble our selves even to the dust, for our many sinnes and provocations, by which we have most unthankfully borne our selves towards him, and ill-requited all his kindnesses to us. Let these our monethly Fasts heave us up every one a step and degree higher in our devotion, zeale. and reformation of life: and the oftner we are put in re∣membrance of Gods mercies to us, and our sins against his ho∣ly Majesty, the more let us be humbled, the more let us crye mightily to God in confession, prayer, and supplication, which if he gives us grace to doe, we shall have no need to feare or Page 36 doubt, but may be confident, that he will scatter the bands of our enemies, and all the cursed pricks of the cursed Bramble, he will take away every one as with a whirle-winde; as my Text here speaks.
Secondly, this Doctrine is of use to strengthen the faith of [vse 2] weake Christians, and to put courage into them that are feare∣full and cowardly in our Land, now in these perillous times, wherein so many pricking Bryars, and grieving Thornes are suddenly growne up among us, and severall bands of desperate sons of Belial are multiplyed within us, and round about us on every side. Gods love to his Church, and his care for his peo∣ple, and watchfulnesse over them, doth not alwayes consist and appeare in suffering no hurtfull Bryars to be at all▪ (or if such happen to grow up and increase) in ridding the land of them speedily: for this is the way to make us grow secure, and cold in prayer and seeking to him: sinne not corrected will increase, and faith not tryed nor exercised, wil grow rusty, and there will be no manifestation of them that are approved. But herein especially is Gods love and care for his people ma∣nifested, when hee suffers Bryars and Thornes to grow up and multiply in the land till they grow terrible, and dangerous, and yet preserves his Church as a Lilly among thornes, safe and un∣touched, and his people from all sense and feeling of any hurt from them; or if the sharpe hooked pricks catch hold of them, they cannot enter so far, nor strike so deep as to wound them mortally, and to make them feele the smart of a wrathfull and revenging stroak, because they are girded with the whole Ar∣mour of God: or if they wound them mortally in their bodies, and in their fraile flesh; yet in their soule and spirit they feele no hurt at all: they are so firmly built on Christ the Rock, and sustained by his righteousnesse, and by his spirit, that they can∣not waver, nor be moved from their stedfastnesse. Hereby God doth manifest himselfe to be our refuge and strength, and a pre∣sent helpe against all troubles, never failing, no• neglecting us in time of need, and firme friend in all adversities. Wherefore let no mans heart faile because of the Bands of the wicked, Papists, or prophane Atheists, gathered together to make open war against us, or malignants working under hand, or hereticks and Schismaticks, making rents and divisions which tend to weaken us, and to expose us to the rage and fury of Antichrist, Page 37 and his Bands. But let us all put on courage and strength in these perillous times, and the more that evills and dangers en∣crease, the more stout & resolute let every man be to resist them in his place and ranke, and according to his ability. Feare not them that can kill the body, and can doe no more, but feare him ra∣ther, who can destroy both soule and body in hell, Matth. 10.28. Cowards and fearefull persons have no place in the new Ieru∣salem, but are shut out with unbeleevers, and the abominable, and murderers, and whore-mongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and ly∣ers, which have their portion in the Lake which burneth with fire and brimstone for evermore. Rev. 21.8.
The fourth and last poynt in my Text, is the destruction of the enemies and persecutors of Gods Church and people, in these words, He will take them away with a whirle-winde, as well the green as the dry. The Doctrine which hence ariseth is:
That when God Church is most dangerously beset, and most fierce∣ly [doctrine 4] assayled by the bands of enemies and persecutors of all sorts, the Lord will terribly, suddenly, and totally scatter and destroy them all, and none shall escape.
First, he will terribly scatter and destroy them, as with a tem∣pestuous whirle-winde, which commeth with great violence and terrour, as we all know by experience.
Secondly, he will destroy them suddenly: for nothing riseth up, nor rusheth in more suddenly than a whirle-winde.
Thirdly, he will destroy them totally, all, and every one, aswell the green as the dry. As all have a share in the persecution of the Saints, and in opposing true godlinesse, so all shall perish in the same destruction.
First, that the destruction of the wicked, who band them∣selves together against Gods Church and people, shall be dread∣full and terrible, the Scriptures aboundantly testifie: For the day of Gods vengeance on them is sayd to be a wofull day, Ier. 17, 16. A day of wrath, a day of trouble and distresse, a day of wastnesse and desolation, a day of thick darknesse, clouds, and gloomi∣nesse, Nah. 1.15. All which are dreadfull and terrible. The Pro∣phet Isaiah ca•ls it devouring by that fire wherewith God de∣vowreth his enemies: the fire of thine enemies, ô Lord,*shall de∣voure them. The Lord is said to whet his sword, and bend his bow, and prepare the instruments of death, and ordain his Ar∣rowes against the persecutors, Psal. 7.12. Hee will make his Page 38 arrowes drunke with their bloud, and his sword shall devoure their flesh, and he will render vengeance to them, and give them the reward of his enemies, Deut. 32.41. And in a word, the soule of the Lord so hateth these wicked men which love violence, that he will rain up∣on them snares, fire, brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup, Psal. 11.6.
Secondly, that their destruction shall come suddenly, the Lord himselfe testifieth, Deut. 32.35. saying, To mee belongeth vengeance and recompence, their foote shall slide in due tyme (that is, there fall shall be sudden, as the fall of a man when his foote slideth, and downe he comes at once) the day of their calamitie is at hand, and the things which come upon them make haste. And Psal. 64.7. It is said of them that bend their bowe to shoote at the perfect, that the Lord shall shoote at them with his swift ar∣row suddenly, suddenly shall their stroke be: And the wise preach∣er resembles the fall of the wicked in the evil day,* to fishes taken in an evill net, and to birds that are taken in a snare be∣fore they know and be a ware, and their snare and destruction falleth suddenly upon them. The Prophet Isaiah saieth, that the multitude of the terrible ones, shall bee as chaffe which passeth away; and it (that is their scattering) shall be at an instant suddenly. And because they hate preaching of the truth, and de∣sire that God may cease from them, and that they may no more heare of him, and trust in oppression and perversenesse, Therefore their fall and breach shall be suddenly as the swelling in an high wall, the breaking whereof commeth suddenly at an instant Isa. 30.13. And for an instance he brings in Babilon the type of Rome. And of the Kingdom and Faction of Antichrist, and the pattern of the whole body of the enimies of Gods people, and persecutors of his Church Isa. 47.1. Whose destruction cometh on her suddenly, and she shall not know from whence it riseth, and desolation shall come on her suddenly when she shall not know, nor be aware. And in this respect, the Lord comming to take vengeance on the Romish Beast, and on all his agents, saith, Behold, I come as a Thiefe, that is, suddenly and unexpected, Rev. 16.15. And when the wicked say, Peace, and safety, then shall destruction come upon them suddenly as travaile upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape, 1 Thes. 5.3.
Thirdly, that their scattering and destruction shall be totall of all, and every one of all sorts the Psalmist testifieth, Ps. 62.3. Page 39How long (saith he) will yee imagine, or devise mischiefe? ye shall be slain all of you, as a bowing wall shall yee be, and as a tottering fence. And Ier. 11.12. and 18.21. and divers other places. An utter destruction is denounced against all of all sorts, who are banded together against God and his people, men and wo∣men, yong and old. Priests and Prophets. And it is the Lords commandement, Deut. 13.15. That the whole City following the Counsell of the wicked, and taking part with them to set up Idolatry shall be destroyed, and all the inhabitants slaine by the sword. The whole family of Achan, the troubler of Israel was destroyed, Ios 7 24. Corah, and all that conspired with him, of all ages and Sexes were at once swallowed up, Num 16. And of all Ahabs fam•ly, and persecuting house, there was not a man left to make water against the wall. Nor one man of all Baals Priests escaped, but were cut off. And of all the wicked Faction which conspired against Ieremiah, the Lord saith, Cast them out of my sight, let them goe forth, such as are for death, to death, and such as are for the sword to the sword, and such as are for the Famine to the famine. And though Moses and Samuel stood before mee, saith God, my minde could not be towards them, Ier. 15.1, 2. Be∣sides these testimonies, we have also good reasons to confirme this truth, all grounded on the word of God.
First, it is the way & course of Gods proceeding, so to deal with men as they deale with others, to pay them home in their kind, and punish like with like: Adoni bezek felt this, and had full ex∣perience of it: for as he had cut off the Thumbs, and great Toes of seventy Kings; so his Thumbs and great Toes were cut off, and then he, though an heathen King, confessed and said,*As I have done, so God hath requited me. The Law which God gave to Noah and his sons, that whosoever sheds mans bloud, by man shall his bloud be shed, is also a proofe of this assertion; besides many examples in Scripture. Now the enemies and persecutors of Gods people, they are called the terrible ones, Iob 27.13. & Isa. 29.20, because they exercise cruelty, that they may bee a greater terrrour to the meek Saints: they count it their glory to be terrible, and band themselves together for that purpose: And therefore just it is for God, and his justice requires it, that he shall lop them off with terrour, and consume them all toge∣gether, branch, rush, and root most terribly.
Secondly, when the wicked set themselves against God, and Page 40 are at open defiance with his Majesty, his honour is enraged, and his great name will be blasphemed, if hee doth not speedily take terrible revenge: yea, his jealousie will break out like a fire, and his anger will smoak against them, and move him to de∣stroy them, as we see by his owne words concerning Pharaoh, Exod 14.17. and Senacharib, Isa. 37.29. Now when the bands of the wicked set themselves against Gods people, they set themselves against God, and touch the apple of his eye, where he is most tender, and cannot abide to be touched, Zac. 2.8. And if he should suffer them any longer, and not scatter them when they are swollen with malice, pride, power, and like raging waves, and proud waters, are ready to over-flow and drowne his people, what would become of his servants? how would the enemy rage more against his holy Majesty? and what would they doe to his great name; but blaspheme it, and say, Where is their God? or what is hee that wee should stand in awe of him, Therefore the Lord for his names sake, as well as for his tender compassion to his people, will suddenly and totally scat∣ter them, and destroy them with terrible destruction.
Thirdly, terrible wrath and vengeance are laid up in store with God for the wicked, who provoke God every day, and multiply their provocations without repentance: and they, af∣ter their hardnesse, and heart that cannot repent, heap to themselves wrath against the day of wrath and visitation, Rom. 2. And such are all the enemies & persecutors banded against Gods Church and people: they are all impenitent persons, they doe not perse∣cute ignorantly, as Paul did, out of blind zeale for God and his Law. But of purpose, and with counsell, being banded with desperate enemies, and men of Belial, and of the same faction, and there is no hope of mercy to them, that they may repent as Paul did. Therefore all of them being pricks and thornes of the cursed Bramble, they shall perish and be terribly destroyed, even the best as well as the worst, as well the green as the dry.
Fourthly, it is Gods wisedome, will, and delight, so to doe his great works, that he may shew his justice and power in them, and may have the glory to himselfe. This he testifieth a∣boundantly, Iud. 7. and in divers other places. Now when he scattereth the enemies, and persecutors suddenly, terribly, and totally, in the height of their pride and power, it appeares to all to be his worke, and the honour and glory redounds wholy Page 41 to his Majesty. Therefore it is the Lords wisedome and delight so to scatter and destroy them.
First, this Doctrine is a singular antidote and preservative a∣gainst the poyson of envy, impatience, fretting, and grudging [vse 1] at the power, prosperity, and prevailing of the wicked against Gods people, even to persecute, vex, and afflict them. The Pro∣phet Ieremies spirit was so stirred up in him at the sight here∣of, that he expostulated with God, but yet in an humble and submissive way, Ier. 12.1, 2. Righteous (saith he) art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judge∣ments: Wherefore doth the wicked prosper? and why are they blessed that deale treacherously: Thou hast planted them, they have taken root, they grow and bring forth fruit: thou art neare in their mouth, but farre from their reines.* The Prophet Habakkuk useth greater boldnesse, saying, O Lord how long shall I cry unto thee, and thou dost not heare? even cry out of violence, and thou dost not save? Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoyling and violence are before me, and there are that raise up strife and contention. Therefore is the Law slacked, and judgement doth never goe forth, for the wicked doth encompasse about the righ∣teous. But the hypocrites, and carnall professors used more stout words against the Lord, Mal. 3.14. and said, It is vaine to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his Ordinance, and walked mournfully before the Lord of Hosts. And now we call the proud happy; yea they that worke wickednesse are exalted: and even they that tempt God are delivered. And this holy Psalmist David was overtaken in this kinde, as himself acknowledgeth, Psal 73.2 3, &c. But as for me, my feet were almost gone, my steps had welnigh slipt: for I was envious at the foolish, when I beheld the prosperity of the wicked: for their strength is firme, they are not in trouble, pride compasseth them as a chaine, violence covers them as with a garment; they speake wickedly concerning oppression, they set their mouth against heaven. And it is an infirmity unto which we are all subject. But this Doctrine is a remedy to cure this disease: It teacheth the same lesson which David did meet with in the house of God, viz. that God will terribly▪ suddenly,* and totally destroy them: He setteth them in slippery places, and casteth them downe into destruction. How are they brought into desolation as in a moment, they are utterly consumed with terrors.*And when the wicked spring as the grasse, and the workers of iniquity flourish, Page 42 is then that they shall be destroyed for ever. Wherefore let us beare this lesson in minde, that we may not be over-taken with envy and fretting at the pride and power of ungodly persecutors for a little while, but tremble rather to think of their wofull end. And if we have slipt in this kinde, let us here see our folly, and condemne our selves, as David did, saying, verse 22. So foolish and ignorant was I, as a beast before thee.
Secondly, this Doctrine, which speaks nothing but terrour [vse 2] to the enemies and persecutors of the Church, affords matter of comfort to the faithfull in times most feareful and comfortlesse, when they are beset with feares and dangers by reason of the multitude, and power and the wrath of the enemies kindled a∣gainst them, and ready to swallow them up. If their hearts be troubled, and their soules grieved to see the world pestered, and the Land over-growne with cursed Bryars and Thornes; here is comfort, that God will in due time take them away, and rid the land of them: and the more terrible they are to the god∣ly, the more terrible will the Lord be to them, and more ter∣ribly will he destroy them. If they be so multiplyed and increa∣sed in power, and sharp set to swallow all up at once, and we have no might to withstand their fury; Let this comfort us, that God is more ready at hand to scatter them in a moment suddenly, and will doe it for his owne names sake: he will bring suddain destruction upon them, when we are in great ex∣tremity, then it is Gods opportunity, to make bare his mighty arme, and to cut them off in a moment. If we feare, that after the old Lyons are destroyed, the young will grow up: and when the hardned pricks are consumed, the green will remaine to continue our troubles, feares, and dangers, let us pluck up our heart, and be confident, that God will take them all away, both the green and dry: none shall escape. If there be any failing, or any delay, the fault is in us: because we have not put away our sins, we binde Gods hands that he cannot strike, as he would spee∣dily do, if we were as fit to receive, as he is to give deliverance. Wherefore for a conclusion, let us call upon the Lord, and sue unto him earnestly in these dayes of publike fasting, prayer, and humiliation, for the assistance and grace of his Spirit, that wee may fast from sin, and by true repentance wash our hearts from wickednesse, that we may be saved. We cannot more earnestly desire and long for the downfall and destruction of our despe∣rate Page 43 and deadly enemies, those hurtfull and dangerous Thorns and Brambles, which are the plague and curse that lyeth heavy upon our land, nor more heartily wish for full deliverance from their rage and fury, than the Lord wisheth and desireth, that we by repentance, holy obedience, newnesse of heart, and up∣rightnesse of spirit, were ripened, and fitted for deliverance: so he himselfe sheweth and testifieth by his owne words, Deut. 5.29. O that there were such an heart in them, that they would feare me, and keep my Commandements alwayes, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever. And Deut. 32.29. O that they were wise, and understood this, that they would consider their latter end. How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight. And Ps. 81.13, 14. O that my people would harken unto me, and Israel would walke in my wayes. I should soone subdue their e∣nemies, and turne my hand against their adversaries. And now, see∣ing the Lord is so ready, so willing, and so desirous to save us: Let us take heed, lest by not puting away our sins, and amen∣ding our lives, we put away salvation from us, and judge our selves unworthy of it: and so provoke the Lord to turne away his face, and favour from us, and leave us in the hand, and to the will of them, who are so ready to swallow us up in a mo∣ment, and whose will is to cut off the name and remem∣brance of us from the face of the earth. From which heavy curse and judgement the Lord deliver us, for his mercies sake in Iesus Christ.