THE Parliaments Commission: Delivered in a SERMON, UPON
NEHEMIAH Chap. 2. Vers. 19, 20.
Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobias the servant an Ammonite, and Gesem the Arabian heard it, and they mocked us, and said: what is this thing that ye doe? do ye fall away from the King?
And I answered them, and said unto them: the God of heaven is he that hath granted us prosperity, and we his servants will rise up and build: and as for you, there is no portion and right, nor remembrance in Ieru∣salem.
THese men, as they were sad at Nehemiahs first coming, when they see that any man found such favour with the King to do good to Je∣rusalem, so now were they almost mad for anger, when they heard that they went about to build the wals of Jerusalem. Openly to withstand them, or forbid them to work, they durst not, because they had the Kings Commission to do so: but so much as they durst, they discourage them, they mock them, they threaten to accuse them, and, of that which would make any man afraid, they lay re∣bellion to their charge, and say, They would build that City for no other cause, but that they would make themselves strong against the King, fall away from him, set up a King amongst themselves, obey none, but use their old liberty, and rule all about them, as they did afore. These men bear some authority in the countrey, and like proud beggars, and dissembling malicious enemies to God and his Word, they would hinder so much as they could this building. The world is too full at this day of such like dissembling hypocrites. The one sort if they come up of nought, and get a badge pricked on their sleeve, though they have little, yet they look so big, and speak so stoutly, that they keep the poor under Page 2 their feet, that they dare not route. All must be as they say, though it be neither true nor honest, none dare say the contrary. But the dungeon dissembling Papist is more like unto them, for he careth not •y what means to get it, by feare, or by flatterie, so that he can obteine his purpose. These men first mocke the Iewes, and scornefully despise them for en∣terprising this building, thinking by this means to discourage poor soules that they should not go forward in this worke: After that they charge them with Rebellion. These two be the old practises of Sathan in his members to hinder the building of Gods house in all ages. Iudas in his Epistle saith, that in the last dayes there shall come mockers, which shall walk after their own wicked lusts. Peter and Paul foretold the same, 2 Pet. 3. 2 Tim. 3. Our Saviour Christ, though he was most spitefully misused many ways, yet never worse, then when they mocked him, both Herod, Pilate, the Priests and the Iewes. It is thought but a small matter to mocke simple soules and so withdraw them from God: but Salomon saith, Prov. 3. He that mocketh shalbe mocked: and David, Psal. 2. He that dwelleth in the heavens shall mock them, and the Lord will laugh them to scorne. This shalbe the just reward of such scorners. It is justly to be feared, that as the Iewes were given up to Nebuchadnezzar, for mocking the Prophets and Preachers of their time, as it is written 2 Chro. 36. so we, for our bitter taunting, scoffing, reviling, disdaining and de∣spising Gods true Ministers in these dayes, shalbe given into our mortall enemies hands. What is more common in these days then when such hick-scorners wilbe merry at their drunken bankets, to fall into talk of some one Minister or other: nay they spare none, but go from one to another, and can spie a mote in other men, but cannot spie their own abominations. Christ was never more spitefully and disdainly scoft at, then when these lusty ruffians open their mouths against his Preachers: but the same Lord Christ saith of his disciples, that he which despiseth them, despiseth him. What reward the mockers of Christ shall have, every man knoweth. Good men with heavy hearts commit them∣selves and their cause unto the Lord, and pray with David, Lord deliver my soule from wicked lips, and from a deceitfull tongue. Salomon saith, God will laugh when such shall perish. Michol wife to David was barren all her life for mocking her husband when he played on his harpe, and danced before the ark of God, 2 Sam. 6. The children that moc∣ked Elizeus, and said, Come up thou bald pate, come up, were all devoured suddenly of wild beares, that came out of the wood hard by, 2 King. 2. David, amongst other mise∣ries that he complaineth of, saith, That the scorners made their songs of him when they were at their drunken feasts, Psal. 69. and when he seeth no remedy how to escape their poysonfull tongues, he patiently turneth him unto the Lord, committeth all to him; and in the latter end of the Psalme: God comforteth him, and telleth him, what sundry mis∣chiefs shall fall on them, for their despitefull dealing. When Baltshazzar King of Baby∣lon made his drunken feast to his great men, and called for the vessels and jewels which Ne∣buchadnezzar brought from Ierusalem, that he and his harlots might eat and drink in them in despite of the living God of Israel, Dan. 5. A hand appeared writing on the wall, which Daniel expounded, when none of his Southsayers could do it, and said, His Kingdome should be taken from him, and so it came to passe: for the same night Balteshazzar was slain, and Darius King of the Medes possessed his Kingdome: A just reward for all such drunken mockers of God, his people, Religion, and Ministers, and yet our merry tosse∣pots will take no heed. Sarah saw Ismael playing with Isaac her sonne, and said to Abra∣ham, Cast out the handmaid and her sonne, for he shall not be heire with my sonne: Page 3 Gen. 21. but S. Paul alledging the same text calleth this playing persecution, Gal. 4. and saith: As he that was borne after the flesh did persecute him that was borne after the spi∣rit, so it is now, but the Scripture saith, Cast out the handmaid and her son, for he shall not be heire with the son of the free-woman: so shall all scornfull mockers, jesters and railers on God, his Word, Religion, and People be cast into utter darknesse, and not be heires of Gods Kingdome with his children. This playing and mocking is bitter persecu∣tion, and therefore not to be used of good men, nor against good men and lovers of re∣ligion, yet at this day he is counted a merry companion, and welcome to great mens ta∣bles, that can raile bitterly, or jest merrily on the Ministers: such is our love towards God, his Word, and Ministers: but surely he that loveth God and the Word indeed, cannot abide to hear the Preachers ill spoken of undeservedly: I cannot tell whether is worse, the scoffer, or the glad hearer: if the one had no pleasure in hearing such lewd talk, the other would not tell it. The other thing they charge the Jewes withall is Re∣bellion, falling from the King, and setting up a Kingdome amongst themselves. When Elias exhorted Achab and the people to return unto the Lord, Achab saith unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? nay, said the Prophet, It is thou and thy fathers house: rebuking him, and teaching truth, was counted troubling of the commonwealth and the King. What was the cause that King Saul and his flatterers hated poor David so much, and so cruelly sought his death, but that the people sung after that Goliah was slain, that Saul had killed a thousand, and David his ten thousand: which was as much to say as they thought that David was a mightier man than Saul, and meeter to be King. Daniel set open his windowes, and contrary to the Kings commandement, prayed thrice a day unto the living Lord, Dan. 6. and therefore was accused of disobedience to the King, and cast to the lions den to be devoured of them. The Israelites in Egypt Exod. 1. when God blessed them, and increased them to a great people, were accused that they waxed so many and wealthy, that they would rebell against the King: and therefore to keep them under, were oppressed by the task-masters, and set to make brick for their buildings. When our Lord and Master Christ Iesus was born, the wisemen asked where the King of the Iewes was: Herod was mad, and killed all the children of two yeares old and under, Mat. 2. lest any of them should come to be King, and put him down. When our Savi∣our Christ said, His Kingdome was not of this world, then said Pilate, Thou art a King then: whereupon the Jewes took occasion to accuse him of treason, and said, Every one that maketh himselfe a King speaketh against the Emperour, for we have no King but the Emperour. The Apostles were accused that they had troubled the commonwealth by preaching Christ, and filled Ierusalem with their doctrine, contrary to the commandement of the Priests and Elders. Iason was drawn out of his house for lodging Paul, being ac∣cused that he had troubled the world, and disobeyed the Emperour. When S. Paul had preached Christ in Athens, He was accused for troubling the state by teaching his new do∣ctrine: thus ever the building of Gods house by preaching of the Gospell hath been charged with rebellion, disobedience to Princes, and troubling of the common-wealth and peace. But good men have not been dismaid at such big words, but with good cou∣rage have proceeded in their work, having the testimony of a good conscience, that they be not guilty of any such thing.
20 And I answered. This was the first push, but not the worst that they had to discourage them from proceeding in this building, and not unlike but it made some afraid, Page 4 to hear such big words, and so great matters laid to their charge, by men of such autho∣rity as they were. But as they were not ashamed so unjustly to accuse Gods people, so Nehemiah steppeth forth, as boldly answereth for them all, and defendeth their doings: A worthy example for all those that be in authority to follow: they have not the sword committed to them in vain, they ought to defend both by word and deed, in their wel∣doings, those that be committed unto them. Their duty is not to suffer Gods enemies to invade or hurt, slander or blaspheme those, that they have charge over, but draw the sword, if need be, to drive away such wolves and punish such wicked tongues. It is not as we commonly say, when any danger or persecution ariseth for the doctrine, or that the Ministers are untruly reported of, let the Preachers defend it, it is their duty and vo∣cation, we are not learned, it belongeth not to us, our care is for the common-wealth on∣ly. Religious Magistrates will neither do so, nor say so: they will not suffer, as much as in them lieth, the Church, Religion, doctrine, nor the Ministers to be evill spoken of, reviled, defaced, nor over-run. They be mouthes, to speak for Gods people, as Moyses was unto Pharaoh they be hands to fight for them, they be Rulers to defend the good, and punish the evill. Iephthe when the Ammunites fought against Israel, Iudg. 11. defended the cause in disputation by words, and after in battell with the sword. The good King Ezechias, 2 King. 18. when he received the blasphemous message and letters from Rabshakeh against God, his Temple, people and Religion, he seeketh by all means to defend them all, and encourage the people not to fall away from their God in that great danger. When Holophernes railed on God and his people, Achior and Iudeth defend them, and she cutteth off his head. When the great Giant Golias (1 Sam. 14.) revi∣led the people of God, and provoked them to sight with him hand to hand, if they durst, for the victory, none was found that durst doe it but poore David, who with no weapons but his sling and a few stones, killed that lusty champion, and delivered his people. When Dathan, Chorah and Abiram, with their fellowes, railed against Moses and Aa∣ron, Gods true Ministers, Numb. 16. Moses committing the revenge of it to the Lord, warned the people to depart from their company, lest they perished with them by that strange death: and straight wayes the earth opened, and swallowed up them, and their goods, and tents, where they dwelt, quicke into hell▪ nay women were not spared: for Miriam, Moses sister, was smitten with a leprosie for railing on Moses her brother, Gods lievtenant over them. As the Magistrate therefore both with word and sword must defend Gods cause, his Religion, Temple, People, Ministers and Doctrine, so must the Preacher, and those that be learned, with their paines, prayer, prea∣ching, and all other meanes that they can: yea if our goods or lives were required for the defence of it, no state of men ought to refuse it. For this end are we born and live, to glorifie our God, and set forth his praise: for this purpose are all things given us, and therefore must not be spared, but spent and bestowed, when his glory requireth. I or this cause Esaias the Prophet gave his body to be sawen in sunder with a saw of iron: for this cause Ieremiah was cast into a dungeon of mire and filth, Ier. 38. Daniel into the Li∣ons den; Saint Paul pleadeth his cause oft in chaines at Ierusalem, and at Rome, afore Festus, Felix and Agrippa: and our Lord and Master Christ Iesus afore Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate and Herod: Iohn Baptist lost his head for this quarrell and no good men will think any thing too dear to spend in Christs cause. For this cause Tertullian, Irenaeus, Iustinus, Athanasius, Chrysostom, Nazianzen, writ great books against the heathens, which railed on Page 5 our Religion. What infinite numbers of Martyrs have stood stoutly aud given their lives in the same quarrel? he that hath seen any learning, can bttter tell where to begin, then where to make an end of reckoning, the number is so infinite, and our late daies have gi∣ven sufficient proof thereof under that bloody butcher Bonner, that the most ignorant, if he will open his eares and eyes, might heare and see great plenty. But alas the fiery fagots of those dayes were not so grievous then, as the slandrous tongues be now in our dayes. Nebuchadnezzar made a Law, that if any did blaspheme the God of Sidrach, Misach, and Abednego, he should be slaine, and his house made a dunghill. Moses made a law, that every blasphemer should be stoned to death. Seeing God and Princes have made such straight Laws against such lewd railers, good Rulers should see some correction done, and not with si∣lence to suffer ill men to talke their pleasure on Gods City, Religion and ministry: while others possibly made courtesie to speak and answer these busie braggers and quarrelers, Nehemiah steppeth forth boldly, defendeth this cause stoutly; answereth their false accu∣sation truly, incourageth the people manfully to go forward with their work, despiseth their brags and telleth them plainly, that they have no part, nor right, nor are worthie to be remembred in Ierusalem. The effect of Nehemiahs answer was, that the God of heaven had given them good successe hitherto in moving the hearts of King Cirus and Darius first to the building of the Temple, and now of Artaxerxes to restore the City: they were his servants, and worshipped him, and he stirred them up to this work, for of themselves they were not able to do such things. They served no Idols nor false Gods, they needed not to be ashamed of their master, the God of heaven was their Lord, and they his people, he was their Master and they his servants, he their King, and they his subjects, they would go forward with their work, they must have a City to dwell in to serve their God, who would defend them in this their wel doing: these men had no au∣thority to stop or forbid them to worke, they had nothing to do in Jerusalem, nor any authority, they would not obey them, but with all diligence apply this work until it be finished. T•e Apostles when they were forbidden, preached, and would not obey, but said, they must obey God that bad them, thus must all they, that take Gods work in hand, confesse it to come from God, and that he blesseth their doings, that all the praise may be his, and that they of themselves be weak and unable to doe such things, without his spe∣ciall grace and assistance. All good men in such enterprises wil say with David; not unto us O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give all •he glory, Psalm. 125. If these wicked men had had any worldly shame or fear of God in them, they would have quaked and trembled, as the good men rejoyced to heare God on their side to further them, so they, when they heard the God of heaven named to be against them, and that it was his doing, they would have forsaken their Idols, and have furthered thi• building, or at least have sitten stil, and not hindered it. For who is able to withstand his will, or hinder that he wil have forward? The devils in hel quake and tremble at the naming and considering of Gods Majesty, but these wicked Imps not only now, but sundry times as appeareth here∣after in this book, most cruelly, spitefully and craftily go forward in their old malice, and by al means seek the overthrow of this building, so far worse is a devil incarnate in an ill man, then by himselfe in his own nature. When the Devil wil worke any great mischief, he taketh commonly one man or other, Angel or creature to doe it by, knowing that hee shall doe it more easily that way, then if he should attempt it by him- Page 6 himselfe. How is every murther, false witnesse, whoredome, robbery, &c. committed, but when the Devill stirreth up one man against another; Let every good man therefore take heed unto himselfe, how he yeeldeth unto sin. For in so doing, he maketh himselfe a slave to the Devill, and his instrument to worke by. One Devill will not offer that villa∣ny to another Divel, to make him his slave, but if he can bring men unto it, there is his rejoycing. Take heed therefore, O man. In that they confesse themselves to be the ser∣vants of the God of Heaven: it is as much to say, as they wrought not for themselves, nor at their owne appointment, nor for their own profit, they wrought for their masters cause, and for his glory. Gods servants in all their doings will seek their masters profit and praise, not their owne: they live not for themselves, but all the profit of their do∣ings returneth to their Masters. If they take any thing to themselves more then their master giveth them, they be theeves unto him, they do him no true service. Let all the builders of Gods house therefore, whether they be rulers in the Common-wealth, as Ne∣hemiah was now, or of the learned sort in the Ministry, or elsewhere, not only confesse in words that they be servants to the God of heaven, but most humbly, simply, and bold∣ly shew it in their deeds, that they seek their masters praise and glory, the common pro∣fit of their Country and not their own, that they worke for him and not for themselves, and that they serve him not for any worldly respect, or gaine, or honour, but uprightly for conscience sake serve and obey him, yeeld all praise to his glorious name, taking no∣thing to themselves, and being not afraid to go forward in his building for any braggers, knowing that all the pride of mans heart, which setteth up himselfe against the God of Heaven, is vile and vaine, and that their God will defend his servants and confound his foes. It is no rebellion against Princes to do that which God commandeth: for Princes themselves are bonnd as well as other meaner degrees to serve the Lord God of Heave• with all their might and maine, and unto the same God they must make account of their doings as all other must. For this building they had the Kings Commission, and there∣fore it was no Treason to do it: It is more glorious to be called Gods servants, then to have all the titles of honour and dignity that the world can give. He that serveth the Lord truly is master of sin, hell, death and the divell, and by the assistance of Gods holy spirit shall not be overcome of them, but shall overcome and conquer them: which is a greater honour then any worldly Prince can give. The woman that had an evill spirit in her, confessed Paul and his fellowes to be the servants of the mighty God, and that they taught them the way of salvation, Acts 16. See then how devils are affraid of Gods ser∣vants. Paul in all his Epistles rejoyceth in nothing more then terming himselfe an Apostle and servant of Christ Iesus. The holy Ghost told Paul, Acts 20. that in every City where he should come, there were chayns and troubles ready for him: but he said he cared not for them for his life was not dear to him, so that he might run his race, and testifie the glorious Gospel of God. Be not ashamed of thy master: for our Saviour Christ saith, that whosoever deni∣eth him before men, he will deny him before his father in Heaven. Worldly masters will not cast a way their faithfull servants, but maintaine them as they may, and thinkest thou that God will forsake his servants? Thinkest thou a mortall wretched man to be more loving to thee then the eternall God and mercifull father that made thee, feedeth thee, and defendeth thee, when man cannot help thee? yea loveth the better then thou lovest thy selfe, and stayeth thee from running from him, when thou wouldest willingly seek thine Page 7 own destruction wilfully. Stand to him boldly, forsake him not cowardly. Polycarpus, an old man, when he should suffer martyrdome, was advised by some to have pitie on his old age, and not so stiffely to stand out. Nay, saith he, I have served my Master Christ these 86. yeares, and he did me never harme, I will not forsake him now in my last dayes. Thus Nehemiah stoutly answering them, and boldly incouraging his fellowes, goeth for∣ward with the work, contemneth their mocking and false accusations, and falleth to his building again; so must all good builders of Gods house neither be afraid nor weary of scornfull mockers, threatnings, accusations or violence, but manfully go forwards to the end, knowing that their God is stronger, wiser, and more willing to defend his people, then his enemies shall be to hurt them. He that putteth his hand to the plough, and look∣eth backward, is not meet for the Kingdome of God, saith Christ our Lord, Luke 9. And he that continueth to the end shalbe safe, Mat. 25. 20. Our Saviour Christ, when he prea∣ched; that whatsoever went in at the mouth did not defile a man, was told by his disciples, that that doctrine offended the Pharisees: but he answered them and said, Every plant that my father hath not planted shalbe plucked up, &c. As though he should say, their doctrine is not from my Father, and therefore cannot stand: let those blind guides alone, seeing they wilbe wilful and obstinate, and will not learn: go ye forward with preach∣ing of the Gospel, care not for them. So every good man must continue that he may say with S. Paul, I have kept my faith, I have run my race, the crown of righteousnesse is laid up in store for me, &c. After that Nehemiah had thus boldly answered them, and en∣couraged his countrey-men to their work, he now turneth him to Sanballat and his fel∣lowes, and sheweth himselfe to make as little account of them, as they made of him, and saith: As for you, ye have no right, part, nor remembrance in Ierusalem: as though he should say, what have you to do with us in this building? ye are not Iewes borne, as wee bee, yee belong not to Israel, nor are partakers of his blessing. Yee bee Sa∣maritans, strangers to his City and common-wealth, ye be none of Gods houshold: if ye will be doing, meddle where ye have to do. This City God himselfe did chuse for his people to dwell in, and serve him. Ye be idolaters, and worship not the true God of heaven: if ye will be building, build ye Samaria your own head City: ye are no Citi∣zens here, nor have any freedome, liberty or priviledge granted unto us, ye be none of our corporation, nor denizons, ye shall have nothing to do here. All that build here, have their portion of land and living in this city and countrey appointed for them: they shall have justice, right and law ministred unto them, and for a perpetuall remembrance of their faithfull service unto the living God, their names shalbe registred, that all posterity may know their doings, and praise the Lord that strengthened them to this building: but ye have none of all these: for when the land was divided by lot and measure by Ioshua, ye had no part appointed for you: under the Law ye do not live, but have lived after your own device; nay, ye beare such hatred unto us, that ye will not willingly eat, drink, nor keep company with us friendly: let us alone, trouble us not, get you hence, and let us fall to our building again. It is no small blessing of God when he calleth any to be a builder of his house, for both in this world his name shalbe had in perpetuall remem∣brance, and he is written in the book of life, where no death can prevaile. David saith, The righteous man shalbe had in perpetuall remembrance, Psal. 112. and S. Iohn saith, that He that is not found written in the booke of life, shall be cast into the fierie lake, Rev. 20. Page 8 The builders of this city now have their names written in the next Chapter following for their perpetuall praise in this world, to teach us that as the builders of this worldly Jerusalem have their names registred here, much more the builders of the heavenly Jeru∣salem have their names written in the Book of life for their salvation. Ill men and trou∣blers of Gods building have their names written in this book too. What more blessed then is he that hindreth? Salomon teacheth and saith: The remembrance of the righte∣ous is to his praise, but the name of the wicked stinketh. This is then the difference, and thou mayest chuse whether thou wilt be remembred to thy praise, or to thy shame, and with the good will of the living, or hatred. But by this answer of Nehemiah when he saith, that they have no part, right, nor remembrance in Ierusalem, it is partly given us to understand, that when they could not hinder this work by big brags and threatnings, they offered themselves to joyn with them in this building, to take their part, and beare the charges fellow-like: for why should he deny them these, except they required it. But Nehemiah a wise man would neither be afraid of them, as open enemies nor receive them into his fellowship, as feigned friends: wherein he teacheth all true Christians how to behave themselves in building of Gods house: that is, neither to fear the one, nor to receive the other. S. Paul saith, Be not yoked with infidels: what hath righteousnesse to do with unrighteousnesse, light with darknesse, or Christ with Belial? Gods people are knit together with two bonds, the one is Christ their head, who giveth life to all mem∣bers of the body, the other is brotherly love among themselves: but neither of these can be found in Idolaters; for they neither take Christ for their head and live by him, nor they love not Christians as their brethren, but dissemble with God and man. All Chri∣stians have one God, one faith, one baptisme, one Religion, one law to live under, and one heavenly Kingdome to look for: but infidels and hypocrites have many gods, all religi∣ons be alike unto them, they live as they list, and that is their law and will, to go to hea∣ven after their own device, if they can get it. Yet they have a delight to thrust them∣selves in among Gods people, pretending a love unto them, where indeed it is for no good will, but to learn their secret counsels and purposes, that by such means they may betray them when occasion serveth. But wise builders wil admit them into no fellow∣ship nor friendship, as Nehemiah here utterly refuseth them, and wil have nothing to do with them. But this case is more plainly propounded to Ezra, and there I have spoken more largely of it, and Ezra plainly determineth the matter there, who so list to read and consider. God be praised.
Printed by R. AUSTIN, and A. COE. 1643.