THE PROGRESSE OF Divine Providence, SET OVT IN A SERMON PREACHED In the Abbey Church of Westminster before the house of PEERS, on the 24th of September, 1645. being the day of their Monethly FAST.
By William Gouge, one of the MEMBERS of the ASSEMBLY.
ECCLES. 7. 8.〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉
Bem. de diligendo Deo.
LONDON, Printed by G. M. for Ioshua Kirton next Goldsmiths-hall in Foster-lane, MDCXLV.
Die Veneris 26. Sept. 1645.
IT is this day ordered by the Lords in Parlia∣ment assembled, That M. Doctour Gouge, who preached on Wednesday last before the Lords of Parliament in the Abbey Church, Westminster, it being the day of the publike Fast, is hereby thank∣ed for his great pains he took in his said Sermon, and desired to print and publish the same, which is to be done only by authority under his hand.
Iohn Brown, Cleric. Parliamentorum.
I Appoint Joshua Kirton to print my Sermon, and none else.
TO THE RIGHT HONOVRABLE House of PEERS Assembled in PARLIAMENT.
AS in sundry other ages and places, so in this age and place wherein we now live, hath my Text been verified: and that within the compasse of these last five years; in every of which God hath done better unto us then at our beginnings: and we have great and just cause to hope that he will yet continue to doe better and better.
It was an especial evidence of Gods good providence, that the great Counsel of England was called at that time, that it was called.
The State of Church and Common-wealth was so farre out of order, and the disorder in both so backed, as, with∣out a Parliament, it would not, it could not (in mans apprehensions) have been redressed.
The Reformation that was then intended by that Page [unnumbered]Parliament, being by some envious eyes espied, a dissolu∣tion thereof was procured.
But that, and other former dissolutions of Parlia∣ments (necessity forcing another Parliament soon after to be called) occasioned an Act to prevent inconve∣niencies, which may happen by the untimely Ad∣journing, Proroguing, or dissolving of this present Parliament.
What better thing (rebus sic stantibus ut tunc & nunc) could have happened to this State? The good consequencies, that have happened thereupon, are evident demonstrations of Gods minde, still to do better and bet∣ter for us.
It would exceed the proportion of a Dedicatory E∣pistle, to reckon up the particular instances of the Divine Providence, encreasing time after time for the better un∣to us, and that by vertue of this present Parliament: they are so clear and evident, as none, but such as take notice of nothing, can be ignorant of them: and none, but envious and malignant spirits, can conceal or pervert them.
When might the good Providence of God have been better discerned, in protecting the persons, upholding the spirits, directing the counsels, and prospering the endea∣vours of such as were assembled in a Parliament, then in this? When might the like Providence of God have Page [unnumbered] been better discerned in stirring up mens mindes, encou∣raging their spirits, enabling their bodies, and preserving their persons for maintaining a cause, then in this cause that is now maintained by the Parliament? Of them who with a single eye behold the footsteps of the Lord in the Counsels of our Parliament, it may justly be said, They have seen thy goings, O God, the goings of my God,* my King.
Have not our Armies had successe beyond expectati∣on, even to admiration?
What a stop hath been set to Superstition? How good a progresse hath been made in Reformation? And may we not yet hope that God will doe better unto us then at our beginnings? Gods promise is the ground of hope: and my Text sheweth that God hath promised as much.
Goe on, Right Honourable, and put forth your ut∣most endeavours,* for bringing on those better things that yet remain. Where their is Hope, there endea∣vours use to be most earnest: For Hope stirreth up mens spirits to set upon great things.
Though the full accomplishment of the remaining bet∣ter things should be reserved to a future age, yet it be∣comes us, to be as earnest in prosecuting them, accord∣ing to the ability and opportunity that God doth give us, as if we our selves were sure, while we live, to have Page [unnumbered] the fruition of them. Experience sheweth that to be true, which of old was said of the provident husband∣man, that he planteth trees which may be usefull in an other age. But I hope that God will let you see and enjoy the fruit of your Counsels, and of our desires. This shall be the continuall prayer of
Your Honours humble Servant and Oratour, William Gouge.
THE PROGRESSE OF GODS Providence.
EZEK. 36. 11. I will doe better unto you then at your beginnings.
AMong other evidences of Gods speciall provi∣dence,* and care over his Church, this is an e∣speciall one, that he ever afforded unto it sufficient means to instruct it in his will, and to direct it in the way to happinesse.
When,* at the beginning he made man, he did not only write his law in his heart, but also revealed means of stand∣ing in his happy estate, or falling from the same. Instance the two Sacraments in Paradise, the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
When the Church multiplied into a Nation, God set Page 2 apart the twelfth part thereof, namely one Tribe of twelve, to be ordinary Ministers therein. These he di∣stinguished into Priests and Levites.
When that Politie ended,* be ordained Pastors and Teach∣ers to be ordinary Ministers in his Church, to the end of the world.
Of old in extraordinary times,* and upon extraordinary occasions, God endued men with an extraordinary spirit, who were stiled Prophets; such an one was Ezekiel, to whom, I suppose, more extrordinary visions and revelations were made known, then to any other.
He was raised up in most corrupt and said times,* even when God was forced to doe his work, his strange work, and to bring to passe his act, his strange act.
He prophesied in Babylon, whither he was carried ca∣ptive, when the Babylonians first entred into Jerusalem, and took away many of the sacred and precious vessels of the Temple; together with a great part of the treasures of that house, and of the King and Princes, and carried them, to∣gether with Jehoiakim the King, and many of the Princes, Priests and people into Babylon, There he also continued after that the said Babylonians had again entred into the said City, broke down the walls thereof, burnt the house of God,* and all the houses in the City, and carried away the remainder of the vessels of the said Temple, and of the treasures therein, together with Zedekiah another King, and the remainder of Princes, Priests and people.
About the same time Jeremiah was raised up to bea Pro∣phet among that remnant of Judah, which was left in Judaea. They both prophesied the same things for substance, though they were far distant in place, and so ratified each others prophecies.
As other Prophets,* so this our Prophet had to doe with Page 3 two sorts of people, impious and pious. The impious were openly prophane, and impenitently obstinate, or covertly hypocriticall and deceitfull. The pious were righteous, upright and humble. In which respect his prophecies were of a mixed kinde.* In regard of the former sort, he had such a spirit as was given to Boanerges, sonnes of thun∣der, to denounce Gods terrible judgements against them;* in regard of the later, he had such a spirit as was given to Barnabas a sonne of consolation,* to pronounce sweet pro∣mises. Hereby the obstinate were the more terrified and kept down; the humble and penitent were supported.
The spirit of consolation did sweetly breathe forth in this Chapter, out of which I have taken my text. It is full of very comfortable promises.
In the beginning of it,* he pointeth at the insultations of enemies against the Church of God in their troubles: with which weak spirits use much to be perplexed. The Lord therefore to keep their spirits from fainting, by this his Prophet maketh known before hand the good which he intended unto them. Many particular promises are set down, both before and after my text; but the summe of them all is couched in these words, I will dot better unto you then at your beginnings.
The Hebrew is so excellent in compounding words, as it compriseth the ten words of my text in two, which are these 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 word for word, I will doe good above your beginnings.
The first word compriseth under it all the blessings which God intended for his Church, not of Jews only, but of Gentiles also, and that from time to time; even from their return out of captivity, till the comming of Christ; not in the flesh only, but in glory also. The later word noting out a comparison between times and times, Page 4 hath relation to all the former ages of the Church, even unto those very times of their great troubles.
The main scope of all is,* to set out
The Progresse of Divine Providence.
This is done by five particulars.
1.* The Authour or fountain. He is not expressed in the text, but clearly intimated: for the verb is of the first per∣son: besides the copulative particle [and] doth intend the same person that is mentioned before, thus, I will multiply, I will settle, and will doe; that is, and I will doe. In the se∣venth verse the person intended is plainly expressed to be the Lord God. And in the next clause after my text, the Lord Jehovah is expressed. For where this word LORD is set down in four Capitall letters, it sets out Jehovah.
2. The Act whereby the foresaid providence is exerci∣sed, Doe good. The word is in the third active conjugation of the Hebrew tongue, called Hiphil, which signifieth an efficiency.
3. The encrease of that providence, in this note of comparison 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉above, or more then. Our English compri∣seth the act, and the encrease thereof under this word bet∣ter: for better sets out more good, or greater good.
4. The parties to whom that good is intended, Vnto you. I must confesse that the parties are not ex∣pressed in the Originall, but yet implied under this copu∣lative particle [And:] which sheweth that this promise is made to the same parties to whom the former were made; and they are thus expressed, I will multiply upon you, and I will settle you, so here, I will doe better unto you. Besides, the affix after the later word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉your, sheweth what parties are here intended. They are in one word stiled Israel, under which is comprised the Church of God.Page 5
5. The times, which are the later times; for this pro∣mise is made in opposition to former times, expressed un∣der this word beginnings.
These five points afford five usefull instructions.
1.*The Lord is the fountain of all good. I may well say all, for the indefinite particle good, intendeth as much. Besides all the particular good things promised, before and after my text, are applied to this Authour the LORD. So other good things also in other places. Pertinently to this pur∣pose saith an Apostle,*Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and commeth down from the Father of lights.
2.*God causeth his goodnesse to flow forth. He is, not only a full fountain,* but an open and over-flowing fountain. David speaking to the Lord of his goodnesse,* thus saith, Thou art good, and doest good.
3.*Gods goodnesse ever increaseth. It's like the waters that came down from the Lords Sanctuary, and increased from ankle-deep, to knee deep; from knee-deep, to middle-deep; from middle-deep, to an impassible river. In this respect, this word of comparison, better, useth to be ad∣ded to the good things which God provideth in later ages. I intend to exemplifie this in sundry particulars here∣after.
4.*The Church is the proper object of Gods goodnesse. Israel, to whom this promise was made,* is put for the Church of God. This is further evidenced by that great difference which is made between Jacob and Esau, thus expressed, I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau.* This the Apostle applieth to Gods chosen children on the one side, and all the other, on the otherside. Thus there is an especially put upon Gods mercy in relation to the members of the Church;* for he is said to be the Saviour of all men, especially of those that be∣lieve.Page 6
5.*The best things are reserved for the last times. The be∣ginnings here mentioned, comprising all former ages and times, the great encrease of goodnesse here intended, must needs be referred to the later times. This, a Prophet thus expresseth, It shall come to passe in the last daies, that the moun∣tain of the Lords house shall be established in the top of the moun∣tains, and shall be exalted above the hils,* &c.
Time will not suffer me distinctly and fully to handle all these points; neither indeed is it needfull; for the last compriseth all the other under it: which will the better ap∣pear, if we do somewhat more largely expresse it, thus; The Lord hath provided his better things for the later times of his Church. Here have we,
1. The Person that is the fountain of goodnes expressed, the Lord.
2. The Act of goodnes flowing from him, in this word, provided.
3. This comparison, better things, declareth the In∣crease of his goodnesse.
4. The mention of his Church sheweth the proper Ob∣ject, or parties to whom his goodnes is extended.
5. The times are here expresly set down, in these words, later times.
Thus, in handling this Doctrine, God hath provided his better things for the later times of his Church, all the for∣mer will be handled; and the proofs alleadged for this, will prove all the rest. My purpose therefore is to insist upon the last Doctrine. You heard it before, hear it again, God hath provided his better things for the later times of his Church.
Well observe the particular good things,* which God hath provided for the Christian Church, which is the Church of the later times, and you shall finde them stiled, better.Page 7
The Testament given to the Christian Church is a bet∣ter Testament.* It is made by the Sonne of God, Immanuel, God with us, and ratified by his death, wherein an e∣ternall inheritance is bequeathed unto us. Was there ever such a testament before?
2.* The Covenant made between God and his Church in these later times, is a better Covenant. Give me here leave, because mention is made both of a Testament and a Covenant, to shew you the difference between them.
1.* A Covenant is an agreement between two: a Testa∣ment is the declaration of the will of one.
2. The two between whom a Covenant passeth must be both living: a Testament receiveth force by the death of him that made it.
3. A Covenant is ratified by the mutuall consent of both parties: a Testament, by the will only of him that made it.
4. A Covenant useth to be made upon conditions on both parts: a Testament is made upon the meer favour and grace of the testatour.
Now the Covenant made with Christians is better then the two former Covenant:* both called old, because they are both in such respects nulled.
The first was a Covenant of works made with man in his entire estate: which by his fall he made impossible for man to keep.* But this Covenant giveth ability to keep it with much alacrity.
2. There was a Covenant indeed of grace made with the Church before Christ exhibited; but set out in such ob∣scure promises and prophecies, and dark types and sha∣dows, as it was needfull in time to be abolished: but the new Covenant made with the Christian Church, is so clearly and plainly revealed, as it may well in that respect also be called better.Page 8
3. The Promises now made,* are better Promises: most of the Promises before Christ exhibited were of temporall good things: I will not deny, but that spirituall and cele∣stiall good things were prefigured under them; but now spirituall and heavenly good things, are more expressely, perspicuously and plentifully promised to the Church.
4.* The hope that now we have, is a better hope, Pro∣mises are the ground of hope. The better the promises, the better must hope needs be: and that in those respects wherein the Promises are better. Christians may more immediately, directly and steadily, hope for all spirituall and heavenly blessings, then they that lived before Christ could.
5.* The sacrifice that now we have, is better then the former sacrifices. He that considereth the difference be∣tween the bodies of unreasonable creatures, & the body of Christ the Sonne of God, cannot but know, that there is an infinite excellency in this sacrifice over and above those: If any thing under the Gospel may justly be stiled, better, then the like under the Law, surely this sacrifice may most of all be stiled better then those.
6.* The blood of Christ, in regard of the crie of it, is stiled better. It is said to speak better things then that of A∣bel: because Abels blood cried for vengeance; Christs, for pardon. Christ when he was upon the crosse, where he shed his blood,* thus cried, Father, forigive them. Yea fur∣ther Christs blood is better then that blood which was shed on the Altars under the Law:*For it is not possible that the blood of buls and goats should take away sins:* but the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.
7.* To insist upon no more particulars, the Apostle un∣der this indefinite phrase 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, some better thing, com∣priseth all those good things, which in comparison of the Page 9 Church of the Jewes are bestowed on the Christian Church.* For thus he saith, God hath provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
In such a respect,* as Gospel-blessings are called better, they are also called new, as A new Covenant, a new Testa∣ment, a new Hierusalem, a new Heaven and earth, a new name, a new commandement, a new way, a new heart, a new spirit, and a new song. These and other like things are called new, in opposition to old things,* which decaid and vani∣shed away: so as there was a necessity of new things to succeed in their room. These new things shall never wax old: they are new, not only in their beginning, but also in their perpetuall continuance; They shall ever be fresh and flourishing,* like Aarons rod which budded, and bloomed blossomes, and yeelded Almonds: and so al∣wayes continued, even as long as the Arke of the testimo∣ny, before which it was set, remained. The new Cove∣nant and the new Testament are the same, which were before stiled better, and in such like respects called new. Of them therefore I shall need to say no more then what hath been said. The rest that follow are these.
1.* A new Jerusalem. The old Jerusalem was of senseles corruptible materialls. The new Jerusalem is of lively stones, a spirituall house: It is stiled the City of God, in regard of the excellency thereof, (for excellent things, in Canaans lan∣guage, are said to be things of God)* and in regard of that care which God taketh of it, and delight which he takes to be in it.* The old Jerusalem was but a type and figure of this.
2. New Heavens, and a new Earth: Hereby is meant a new face of a Church, farre more glorious in the spiritu∣ality of it, then the former before Christ. The phrase is hyperbolicall: it is used to set forth not only a renovation Page 10 of the Church, but such a renovation as should put the world as it were into a new forme and frame; insomuch as he that should attentively look upon it, might say, Behold new Heavens and a new Earth. If it be objected,* that an Apostle, speaking of the times of the Gospel, saith, We looke for new Heavens and a new Earth, and thereby intends the glory of the world to come. I answer, that excellent matters are some times spoken of in their inchoation and progresse, and sometimes in their perfection and consum∣mation: so as the new Heavens and the new Earth, in their beginning and increase, may be under the Gospell, and in their consummation and perfection, after the day of judge∣ment.
3.*A new name. This Christ stileth, his name, (Rev. 3. 12.) This name is to be a sonne of God: For as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sonnes of God. Of old, they were called children of Israel; now, Christians: yea the Apostle giveth the name Christ to the mysticall body of Christ, consisting of many Saints, (1 Cor. 12. 12.)
4. A new Commandement.* Another kinde of Com∣mandement then that which was written in tables of stone. For that exacted an impossibility, (Rom. 8. 3.) by reason of the weaknesse and corruption of our flesh: But the New Commandement is written in the fleshly tables of our heart, whereby ability is given unto us cherefully and accepta∣bly to performe the same.
5. A new way.* This is also called a living way, which Christ by his flesh hath consecrated for us. For Christ himselfe, having with his own bloud entred into the most holy place, hath thereby made full satisfaction for all our sins (which causes the way to Heaven to be impassible,) and made the way easy for us to walke in. Thus is he the Page 11 way, the truth and the life: the only true way that leadeth us unto life.*
6.*A new heart. This is opposed to a mans naturall heart, which is stiled an heart of stone, in that it is so obdurate, that it will sooner (like a stone) be broken all to pieces, and utterly confounded with Gods judgements, then yield to him and his word. This new heart, is not only freed from that obstinacy, but also made flexible and pliable to the Word of God, and worke of his spirit, and there∣upon called an heart of flesh.*
7. A new spirit.* This also is opposed to a mans naturall spirit,* which in all things resisteth the good Spirit of God. Such a spirit the Jewes of old had, of whom Stephen, the first Martyr for Christ, thus speaketh, Ye do alwayes resist the holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. But this new spirit readily and willingly yeeldeth to every good moti∣on of the Spirit of God.
8. A new song.* A song which shall sound forth, (as the Prophet expounds himselfe) Gods praises from the end of the earth, by reason of the Gospel, whose sound, as the sound of the heavens, hath gone forth thorow all the earth: The sum and substance of this new song was sung out by an hea∣venly quire at the birth of Christ.* It was this: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.*
Finally, to insist on no more particulars, there is a promise made, of making all things new. If any shall thinke that this is meant of the world to come: let him consider how expressely the Apostle applyes it to the time of the Gospell; saying of that time, Behold, all things are become new, 2 Cor. 5. 17.
Thus we see how this promise of Gods doing better for his Church in the later times, is evidenced by sundry particulars, of better, and new things.Page 12 Yet further, as if ordinary words and usuall compari∣sons were not sufficient to set forth the great increase of Gods providence,* the Prophets use very transcendent, and hyperbolicall expressions, to set it out the more to the life, and that according to our capacity. To which purpose this increase of Gods Providence is thus expressed: For brasse I will bring gold,*and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brasse, and for stones iron: Hereby he sheweth, that as wood is better then common stones, and iron better then wood, and brasse better then iron, and silver better then brasse, and gold better then silver, so much better, yea infinitely more, are the good things of these later times, better then the good things of former times. Yet further is this increase thus heightened,* (Isa. 30. 26.) The light of the Moone shall be as the light of the Sun, and the light of the Sun shall be seven fold, as the light of seven dayes. Who knowes not how great a difference there is, between the two lights of the Moone and the Sun? to make the light of the Moone as great as of the Sun, must needs be a wonderfull great increase. And because there can be no greater light then the light of the Sun, he multiplieth that light to the number of perfection, saying, The light of the Sun shall be seven fold, as the light of seven dayes. And to shew that no comparisons are sufficient to set out the in∣crease of Gods goodnes to the full: it is further said, The Sun shall be no more thy light by day, neither for brightnes shall the Moone give light unto thee: But the Lord shall be un∣to thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory, Isa. 60. 19.
If we take a view of the increase of Gods good Provi∣dence, generation after generation, even from the be∣ginning of the world to the end thereof, it will yet more clearely appeare, that as Gods goodnes hath ever increa∣sed more and more, so the greatest increase thereof hath Page 13 been in later times, and so the better things reser∣ved for us, and others who have lived therein.
For the clearer exemplification hereof, we will ac∣count the whole continuance of the world,* together with the world to come, as one great week: And distinguish the whole course thereof, from the creation to the day of judgement, into six long dayes, the seventh, being an e∣ternall 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a keeping a Sabbath, or rest after the day of judgement.
The six forementioned dayes may thus be distin∣guished.
The first from Adam to Noah:* Wherein, besides Gods goodnes in creating the world, was manifested that great evidence of mercy, in promising a Redeemer to free man from his miserable bondage under Satan, whereinto he had implunged himself; the words of the promise are these;*It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heele.
By this relative particle It, the seed of the woman, the Lord Jesus Christ is meant. The words being spoken to Satan under the serpent, by thy head, is meant Satan, and all his power: by bruising, an utter subduing of the same. The next words, Thou shalt bruise his heele, set forth Sa∣tans attempts against the mysticall body of Christ and his annoying of the same in many respects: But so as the heele only the externall condition of the foresaid body, not the head,* the soule of it, can be crushed. This was a very gracious promise, and a great good.
The second day lasted from Noah to Abraham: wherein the Church had that memorable type of Gods preserving it out of that common deluge which destroyed the whole world besides. This type was the Arke. This the Apo∣stle calls, in relation to Baptisme, a like figure. For it did lively set forth to the Church such a preservation and de∣liverance Page 14 from sinne and destruction, as Baptisme doth. In this respect a more expresse evidence of Gods goodnes was given in this day, then in the former.
The third day was from Abraham to David,* wherein that precious and expresse promise of blessing all Nati∣ons in Abrahams seed, was made: wherein also Israel was brought out of the Egyptian bondage, (a type of the re∣demption of the Church from her spiritual bondage un∣der sinne and Satan.) In this day the Tabernacle, with the many other types of Christ, his offices and benefits to his Church were first ordained, and Israel setled in the land of Canaan, a type of their heavenly rest. Thus did this third day farre exceed the former in glory.
The fourth was from David to the carrying of Israel into captivity.* Herein a royall government was given to Gods people (a type of Christs royall Kingdome.) Herein most of the extraordinary Prophets (speciall types of Christs propheticall office) were raised up: and most cleare prophe∣cies made of the better things to come in the Christian Church. Herein also Solomons Temple was built, and sundry new and more glorious types of Christ were made, then in the Tabernacle. So much therefore as this Tem∣ple of Solomon excelled the Tabernacle of Moses, and the Cherubins, Tables, Altars, Pillars, and all manner of sa∣cred instruments in the Temple, surpassed them that were in the Tabernacle: so much more did Gods goodnesse in this day exceed the goodnesse of former dayes.
The fifth day was from Israels going into captivity to Christs ascension into Heaven.* This day, for the greatest part thereof, was indeed a dismall day. Yet the delivering of Israel out of the Babylonish captivity, was a more cleare and full type of our redemption by Christ, then any for∣mer deliverance:* whereupon it is said, It shall no more be said, Page 15 The Lord liveth that brought the children of Israel up out of the land of Egypt: but the Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel from the lands of the North, and from all the land whither he had driven them. The re-edifying of the Temple, was also a principall type of Christs resurrection: and of this Temple it is said,*The glory of this later house, shall be greater then of the former: so as these added much to the glory of this day. But in that the Lord Christ was in the evening of this day actually exhibited: and the things accomplished, which were perfigured by the legall types, and fore-told by the ancient Prophets, the goodnesse of God manifested in this day, farre exceeded that which was in former dayes. In this respect it is said of John the Baptist, who saw and made known that promised Messiah, and was the first that di∣rectly pointed him out,* saying, Behold the Lambe of God: Of him it is said, among them that are borne of women, there hath not risen a greater. This was the surpassing glory of the fifth day.
The sixth was from Christs ascension into Heaven,* to his second comming unto judgement. This is the day of the cleare and full revelation of all the glorious mysteries that were hidden from the beginning of the world till then. This is the day wherein all the forementioned new things, and better things were conferred upon the Chri∣stian Church. In this day, as better things shall not be given, so better things cannot be expected while the world lasteth.* This is the day whereof we may say, This is the day which the Lord hath made: we will rejoyce and be glad in it.
Thus from this exemplification of the increase of Gods goodnesse in the severall ages of the world, we may well inferre, that God hath provided better things for the later times.Page 16
Questionlesse, God thus ordereth his good providence upon just and weighty reasons:* and though his counsell be unsearchable, and his waies past finding out, in regard of the full latitude of them, yet hath he left some foot∣steps; wherein and whereby we may observe some grounds of his wise proceedings therein. Among others, I suppose, these may be some.
1. That the extent of his goodnesse may be more di∣stinctly considered,* more clearly discerned, and more transcendently admired. Gods governing of his Church in the world by his providence, is ordered in such a man∣ner, as his prudence in creating the world was manifested.
In that first great work,* he still put off the better things to the later daies. He could, if it had pleased him, have created all the things that he did create, at once. Had he at once said, Let there be light, firmament, waters, earth, all manner of trees, and herbs bearing seed, Sunne, Moon and Stars, fowls, fishes, beasts and man, they had instantly been all; but voluntarily and purposely he took up six daies in crea∣ting them, and in each day made severall and distinct creatures, but ever the better, for the reason before speci∣fied. This will evidently appear by an induction of par∣ticulars, which follow in order.
1. The light which he created in the first day,* was in∣deed a glorious creature. But either it was the element of fire (for no where else we read of creating fire) or else it was some other light, which was of use but for three daies: for in the fourth day those lights were made, which have hitherto continued, and shall continue to the worlds end. So as either this light was annihilated, when those were made, or else it was setled in the body of the Sun.
2. In the second day the firmament or air was made,* and called heaven: then also were the seas and earth made. If Page 17 we mark the Text, we shall finde that the blessing of the second daies work is not expressed,* till the seas and earth were made, Genes. 1. 10. These three, air, water, earth, are the three elements, of which all bodies are compound∣ed. These are more excellent then the fore-said light, in re∣gard of their continuall use.
3. In the third day all the grasse and herb yeelding seed, and the tree yeelding fruit after his kinde were made. These being vegitable creatures,* by reason of that life which is in them, excelled the former.
4. In the fourth day the host of heaven was made.* This daies work in the glory and immutability of it, and in the constant perpetuall motion, running most swiftly round about the world every day, without wasting or wearinesse, excelled all that went before.
5. In the fift day all the fowl of heaven,* and fish in the sea were created. These having life and sense in them, and voluntarily moving from place to place, surpassed the very host of heaven.
6. In the sixth day,* besides other creatures living on the earth, Man was made: Man, in the image of God. This was Gods master-piece, and reserved unto the last work∣ing day. By this distinct encrease of Gods goodnesse, God comes the more to be admired, and his wisdom, power and other excellencies the better discerned. The like course therefore God took in his providence.
2. God provides better things for the later times,* to make those better things to be the more earnestly desired and longed for, before they come: and to be the more highly prized, and the better esteemed, after they are exhi∣bited. It is said, That many Prophets and righteous men desi∣red to see and hear the things which were seen and heard in Christs daies, which were the last daies. It is also said, Page 18 that the Prophets searched diligently, what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signifie,*when it testified before hand the sufferings of Christ, and the glorie that should follow. Certainly the putting off the great bles∣sing of the exhibition of Christ to the later times, made it to be the more desired, and the better esteemed. When he was exhibited, the Angel that brought the first tidings thereof,* thus expresseth it, Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. And the blessed Vir∣gin, so soon as she conceived him in her womb, thus breaks out, My soul doth magnifie the Lord, and my spirit hath re∣joyced in God my Saviour.* And good old Zacharie, when the fore-runner of Christ was born, thus in great joy breaks out,*Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, &c. And an∣other good old man, having embraced Christ, when he was but a little infant, sweetly sings forth this Swan-like song,*Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation. Their long expectation of Christ thus affected them, when at length their long∣ing was satisfied.
3. God put off his best things to the last times,* because in his unsearchable wisdom he ordained, that his Sonne should be sent into the world in the later age thereof; that thereby he might be known to be the best of Gods gifts, and to excell all other gifts, that were before conferred upon the Church.* He is said to be sent forth when the full∣nesse of time was come. The Church had been as a breed∣ing woman.* She began first to conceive, when God made the promise of the womans seed. She grew bigger and bigger through many other promises, prophecies, types and figures, whereby her hope in the Messiah was nourished. At the fullnesse of time she travelled, and brought forth this long expected man-childe. The bet∣ter Page 19 things, which were now brought to passe in this full∣nesse of time, added much to the honour of him that was then born: then was the fulnesse of Gods grace and good∣nesse manifested: so as this God thus ordered even for the honour of his Son.
Hitherto of the Doctrinall part of my Text.* It is time to come to the Application thereof. The Uses of Gods providence in reserving better things to the later times, are of manifold and singular Use. For,
1. It affords a Demonstration of the detestablenesse of the Romish religion,* which hath directly perverted the fore-mentioned course of Gods providence to his Church. For, where God provides better for the later times, they make these later times to be farre the worse. As they han∣dle the matter, their Church under the Gospel is many waies in a worse case then the state of the Church was un∣der the Law. Among many other instances I will note on∣ly four.
1. Their publike reading of Gods Word,* administring the Sacraments, praying and performing other divine services in an unknown tongue, make the mysteries of the Gospel lesse intelligible, more obscure, and every way lesse edifying then all the rites, types and shadows under the Law did.*Except ye utter by the tongue words easie to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air, saith the Apostle. And again, If I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a Barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a Barbarian un∣to me.
2. Their unbloudy Sacrifice (as they stile it) of a feign∣ed transubstantiated body,* is farre worse then if they had such Sacrifices of beasts and fowls, as were under the Law. Those sacrifices, at that time, did set out the vertue Page 20 of Christs death, and nourish their faith and hope in the benefits thereof.* But the fore-said Popish sacrifice would take away the vertue and efficacy of Christs sacrifice, if it could be taken away. For I demand, whether the sacrifice that they pretend to offer up, be the very same, that Christ himself offered upon the crosse. If they say, the same, what need is there that it should be offered up again?* Was not Christs once offering of it up sufficient? The Apostle doth assuredly intend as much by his frequent mention of this word once, which is exclusively to be ta∣ken: once for all, and not to be reiterated. If it be another sacrifice, then the sacrifice of Christ was not perfect. For hereby the Apostle proveth the Priesthood of the Law to be unperfect; because another was to succeed in the room of it. Whereas some say, that their offering up of the bo∣dy of Christ, is but by way of application; that seems to contradict their own position; for they teach that the fore-mentioned transubstantiated body, offered up by a Priest, is a true, reall, propitiatory sacrifice for the quick and dead. Besides, the end of Christs intercession, and the vertue thereof is made void by that which is avouched of the applicatory vertue of their sacrifice. For the continu∣all application of Christs own sacrifice, is the end of Christs intercession. They think to evade all these absur∣dities by a distinction betwixt a bloody and unbloody sa∣crifice, saying, that the sacrifice which Christ himself offered up was a bloudy sacrifice, but that which they offer up, unbloody. To this distinction I answer.
1. It's without any warrant or ground from Scripture.
2. It being applied, according to their position, to one and the same thing (for they say that the body of Christ, which their Priest offereth up, is the very same that Christ offered upon the crosse) it implieth contradictory terms, Page 21 namely, that the same thing should be bloody and un∣bloody.
3. According to their own position, their sacrifice can∣not be unbloody: for they hold that the wine is transub∣stantiated into blood, as well as the bread into a body, and both make one sacrifice. How can that be unbloody, which consists of bloud? Yea, of blood poured out, as their wine is into the chalice, and out of the chalice into the Priests mouth.*
4. If it be unbloody,* it hath no vertue for the taking away of sin: For without shedding of blood is no remission.
3. The third instance of their making the state of the Christian Church worse then of the Jewish,* is their un∣warrantable and inhumane penance (which oft they en∣joyn to their penitents, for satisfaction) and other barbarous courses, whereunto they perswademen upon pretence of merit and perfection. They have in these cases some whom they stile Eremites, who live in remote places from all society, and feed upon such fruit, roots, and other things that the earth bringeth forth, lodging in Caves, Dens or Cellars, digged out of the ground. Others they call Anchorites, who live enclosed betwixt walls, and on the Sabbath receive their sustenance for the whole week. Others they either enjoy, or perswade to whip their naked backs with scourges of cords, wyers, and sharp rundals, till the blood run down, and skin and flesh be torn from their backs. Others must lie in shirts of hair cloth. Others go bare foot and bare legged to such and such shrines. O∣thers undertake long pilgrimages to remote lands; nay, they stick not to send a Queen to Tiburn upon penance. Did the Law ever impose such hard tasks upon any that were under the pedagogy thereof?*
4. The last instance that I will give of putting an hea∣vier Page 22 yoke upon the necks of Christians, then the Law did upon the Jews,* shall be the innumerable, unwarrantable, and intolerable rites, which on meer humane inventions are obtruded upon their people. These must needs be heavier burdens then the rites of the Law, in three respects especially.
1. In that they lie as dead things on mens shoulders, which make them the heavier. The life of rites in Gods service, consisteth in divine institution, and warrantable signification. But Popish rites are neither instituted of God, nor have any warrantable signification, whereupon he that useth them may rest. The rites of the Law had both their institution and signification from God.
2. There is no set stint of them. For mans inventions are endlesse. They have no set and certain rule to be order∣ed and moderated by. But God set down a distinct num∣ber of rites to the Jews, whereunto there was no need to adde any other.
3. When all is done that can be done about the fore∣said Popish rites, they can give no sound satisfaction to the conscience. If the doers thereof should plead them be∣fore God, what other answer could they receive, but this, Who hath required this at your hand?* Or thus, In vain they worship me, &c.
Much more might be said in manifesting the wrong, which in this kinde our Adversaries doe to the Christian Church, and in manifesting the blindenesse of those, that suffer themselves to beled with such blinde guides. Blessed be God that hath delivered us out of that worse then Egy∣ptian darknesse.
The progresse of Gods providence unto the better,* gives us information in their folly, who on too great ad∣miration of those externall glorious types, which were Page 23 under the Law, doe wish the continuance of them still: as such a Temple as Solomon built, such Cherubims, such Altars, such Tables, such Candle-sticks, such Lavers, such Priestly vestments, and other such vessels and instruments, as were precious in their matter, being of pure and fine brasse, silver, gold, fine linnen, silk, skarlet, pearls, pre∣cious stones, and very curious in their workmanship, and glorious to the sight. Herein they manifest their folly, in that they doe not understand nor discern the excellency of those spirituall and coelestiall things which God hath now provided for his Church: whereof those externall and earthly, though seemingly glorious types,* were but sha∣dows and figures; herein they shew themselves like to our first Parents, who were deceived with the fair shew and pleasant taste of the forbidden fruit.
Some,* whom we may well stile Jewish Christians, so farre manifest their folly in this kinde, as they doe not on∣ly wish those former times, but also actually conform themselves to that servile pedagogy.* For what fish, fowl and beast were then forbidden, they still hold unlawfull to be eaten, though God hath forbidden us to call that unclean which he hath cleansed, and reckons abstaining from meats, which God hath created to be received, a∣mong doctrines of devils.* The last day also of the week they still keep for their Sabbath, though the first day of the week, in memorial of Christs resurrection, be expresly set down in the new Testament,* for Christians holy assem∣bling together.
Too near to these doe they come,* who though they do not tie themselves to the very same rites and ordinances, whereto the Jews were bound, yet tread too near upon their heels, and too apishly imitate them: and that in matters about divine Service: as in fair embroidered Page 24 Copes, and other Ministers-vestments; in high standing Altars; in low cringings and bowings; in turning to the East, as they to the Temple, when they pray; in variety of musicall instruments and artificiall anthems; in multi∣tude of holy daies, with the like; whereof even this Church stood formerly too guilty. These Jewish Christi∣ans doe both justifie the poor blinde Jews, who yet retain as many of the Mosaicall Ceremonies as they can (in that Christians have a greater light, the light of the Gospel, to discover unto them the abrogation of that Law, together with the reason thereof) and also doe harden their hearts, and make them bold in cleaving to their Law, when they see such as professe themselves Christians, come so near there unto.
3. Gods encreasing goodnesse may give some satisfacti∣on to such as make question of Church Governours,* proper and peculiar to the Church.
Of such I demand, whether it be a good, usefull, and needfull thing, for the Church to have Governours of its own; and secondly, whether the Church of the Iews had such Governours, or no. Surely, me thinks neither of these should be denied. Have not families, schools of learning, Colledges, Universities, Cities, Towns, all man∣ner of Corporations, Companies and Societies, Govern∣ours proper and peculiar to themselves: besides the pub∣like Magistrates, who are also over them? Is it not by ex∣perience found, that such proper and peculiar Governours are needfull and usefull, and so good in their severall sphears? And shall the best Society on earth, the militant Church, be without Ecclesiasticall Governours, proper and peculiar to it? I suppose none will deny, but that the Church of Israel had such Governours: instance their Priests and Levites. In Iehoshaphats time there is an ex∣presse Page 25 distinction made betwixt Ecclesiasticall and Civill Governours under these two phrases,*matter of the Lord, and matters of the King. If Church-Governours were an evidence of Gods good Providence under the Law, surely his Providence in this kinde, would not be more scantie to the Church under the Gospel: for he hath promised to doe better then at her beginnings. A change of Govern∣ours there may be, and that for the better; but an utter abolishing of all Governours, proper and peculiar to the Church, cannot be to the better. We expressely reade that God hath set in his Church,* among other good functi∣ons, Governments. If it be said, that under that word, Governments,* civill Magistrates are understood: I answer, that first this phrase, God hath set in the Church, and then the other particulars, among which Governments are reckoned, being all proper and peculiar to the Church, admit not such an interpretation thereof. To them which aske where any mention is made of a ruling Elder, I al∣leadge these words of an Apostle, (1 Tim. 5. 17.) The El∣ders that rule well, &c. Apply them as you please, to Mi∣nisters or others: there are ruling Elders. The word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 twice used by an Apostle, (Heb. 13. 7, 17.) and tran∣slated by our last and best Translators of the Bible, them that have rule, sheweth, that Ministers of the Gospel are Church-Governours: for Christians are required to obey them. And that Ministers are there meant, is evident by these phrases, They have spoken unto you the word of God, and they watch for your soules.
To shew that this kinde of Government doth not in∣trench upon the authority of the civill Magistrate, let the difference betwixt them be well observed, and that in these three particulars.
1. Civill Magistrates command in their owne name, or Page 26 in the name of a superiour civill Magistrate, thus, I charge you in the name of the King. But Church-Governours, in the name of Christ.
2. Civill Magistrates require obedience to themselves, Church-Governours, to Christ.
3. Civill Magistrates presse on their subjects their own Lawes, as Statutes and Ordinances made by them∣selves. Church-Governours, the Ordinances of Christ.
4, The progresse of Gods Providence to the better,* is a great aggravation of the ungracious and ungratefull di∣sposition of many people, if not of most, whom God hath reserved to these later times. God hath graciously done better for them, and they deale worse with God. Such are,
1. They who remaine blinde and ignorant under the cleare light of the Gospel.* A wonder it is, that there should be so little knowledge, where there is so plentifull means of knowledge. Note an Apostles doom of such, If our Gospel be hid,*it is hid to them that are lost, whose eyes the God of the world hath blinded.
2. They who are unstable,* and carryed about with e∣very winde of doctrine, notwithstanding the evident de∣monstration of the truth now made known unto us. The Apostle resembles them to children,* whereas for the time we ought to be as grown strong men.
3. Such as are ever weak in faith,* full of doubts and fears. Oft doth Christ check his Disciples for this. Such come farre short in strength of faith, of those who lived before these better times. Witnesse that catalogue of be∣lievers which the Apostle maketh, Heb. 11.
4. Such as take advantage,* from the abundance of Gods mercy, to exceed in sinne. In the Apostles time, upon this gracious extent of grace to great sinners, Where sin abound∣ed Page 27 grace did much more abound; some made this impious and unjust inference, let us continue in sinne, that grace may abound. These make sinne the proper procuring cause of Gods grace,* which is every way free: only God takes occasion from the misery whereinto sin implungeth man, to extend mercy unto him: and that abundance of sinne may not hinder the current of his grace, he causeth it to abound.* Besides, they who inferre the fore-said unjust consequence, apply that to sins future, which is spoken of sins past;* and extend that to obstinate and impenitent sinners, which is intended to such as groan under the bur∣den of their sins.
5. Such as from the comfortable Doctrine of Election to life,* inferre that they shall assuredly be saved, though they live never so lewdly: not considering that they who are ordained to the end,* are ordained to the means that bring to that end.
6. Such as from Gods wisdom in bringing good out of evil,* take occasion to do evil, upon this pretence, that good may come. The Apostle most justly makes this inference upon theirs,*whose damnation is just: implying thereby, that damnation is their due, and that most justly.
7. Such as upon Gods pardoning a sinner,* whensoever he repents, put off their repentance: not considering that men have not power to repent when they will: so as such may never repent, and never be pardoned.
8. Such as from that liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,* imagine that they are freed from all obedi∣ence to the morall Law:* whereas that liberty is only from the rigour of the Law, which bindes to a perfect fullfilling thereof in every part, point and degree of it, and from the curse thereof.
9. Such as deny the morality of the Christian Sabbath,*Page 28 and profane it with all manner of sports, because the an∣cient day is changed by vertue of Christs resurrection. All these and other like them turn the grace of God into lascivi∣ousnesse;* that is, into all kinde of licentious living. An A∣postle gives this verdict of them, They were of old ordained to condemnation.
10. All that having escaped the pollutions of the world,*through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, are again entangled therein, and overcome, and willfully sinne, after they have received the knowledge of the truth.* In a word, all apostates from the true faith, deal most ungraciously and ungratefully with God. I may well use Moses his expro∣bration against them,*Do yee thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise? The fore-mentioned Gospel-sins, and others like unto them, doe much grieve the good Spirit of God, and they that commit them go far in treading under foot the Sonne of God,*and counting the blood of the Covenant wherewith they were sanctified an unholy thing. By the means of grace they are exalted unto heaven:* but by their abuse thereof they are brought down unto hell. So as the woe de∣nounced against those, among whom Christ much conver∣sed, may be applied to these. The inference which the A∣postle maketh upon Gospel-sinners, cannot but terrifie such as heed it,* it is this, He that despised Moses Law died without mercy. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose yee, shall he be thought worthy, who hath treden under foot the Sonne of God? &c.
But from these Uses of errour and terrour, I proceed to Uses of another kinde.
5.* Much consolation may be gathered by faithfull ones, from the continuall encrease of Gods providence, in such sad, doubtfull, dangerous daies, as these our daies are. For we may with confidence expect better things. The Page 29 daies wherein the Prophet first uttered this prophecy were worse daies then ours are; and to comfort the faithfull that then lived, and such others as should from age to age live after them, he revealed this promise. There are more particular promises concerning a future glory of the Chri∣stian Church, set down by the Prophets in the old Testa∣ment, and by Christ and his Apostles in the new, especi∣ally in the book of the Revelation, then we have either heard of, or seen in our daies to be accomplished. The glo∣rious City described, Revel. 21. 10, &c. is by many judi∣cious Divines taken for a type of a spirituall, glorious e∣state of the Church of Christ under the Gospel yet to come, and that before his last comming to judgement. I passe by all conceits of our later Chiliasts or Millenaries, (whom in English we may call Thousandaries) who ima∣gine, that Christ shall personally come down from hea∣ven, in that nature in which after his resurrection he as∣cended into heaven, and raign here a thousand years with his Saints. The certainty of this I leave to be proved by them who are the broachers thereof. But this is most cer∣tain, that there are yet better things to come then have been since the first calling of the Gentiles.* Among other better things to come, the recalling of the Jews is most clearly and plentifully fore told by the Prophets. Many apply sundry prophecies that tend that way, to the delive∣ry of the Jews from the Babylonish Captivity; and others, to the spirituall Israel, consisting of Gentiles. But assuredly such prophecies as fore-tell the re-uniting of Judah and E∣phraim together, have especiall reference to the fore-said recalling of the Jews: as that Parable, whereof this our Prophet maketh mention, about joyning two sticks, on the one whereof was written,*For Judah, and for the chil∣dren of Israel his companions: and on the other, For Joseph Page 30 the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his compa∣nions. That Parable the Prophet thus applieth, I will make them one Nation, and one King shall be King to them all, &c.
But if any shall question this and other prophecies of the ancient Prophets. The Apostle Paul hath so expresly fore-told a recalling of the Jews, and thereupon, a bringing in a fullness of the Gentiles, as no question can be made thereof: and he doth after such a manner expresse these, as appa∣rently declareth a future glory of the Christian Church. Some particular expressions of his in the 11. to the Romans, are these.
1. Vers. 11. Having propounded this Question con∣cerning the Jews, Have they stumbled, that they should fall? (namely, totally and finally, never to be raised again.) He gives this answer, God forbid. Whereby he implieth, that assuredly they shall be raised again, that is, they shall be made a visible Church of Christ, and submit themselves to his ordinances.
2. Vers. 12. This supposition, If the fall of them be rich∣es of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles: how much more their fullnesse? By their fullnesse, he meaneth their bringing them in to the Church of Christ, consisting of Gentiles, and thereby making that Church full, when both Gentiles and Jews shall be joyned together.
3. Vers. 15. This Question (What shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?) doth take it for grant, that they shall be received, and taken into the Church of Christ; and that this restauration of theirs will be as a new glori∣ous resurrection.
4. Vers. 23. It is said, They also shall be graffed in; name∣ly, into the body of the Christian Church; and a proof thereof is taken from Gods omnipotency, For God is able to graff them in again.Page 31
5. Vers. 24. This emphaticall Interrogation, How much more shall these, which be the naturall branches, he graf∣fed into their own Olive-tree? doth put it out of all questi∣on, that the Jews shall again be brought to be of the true Church, which is the Olive-tree here intended.
6. Vers. 25. This restrictive particle, In part (blinde∣nesse in part is happened unto Israel) doth import, that they shall not be finally blinded, but that at length they shall come to have their eyes so opened, as they shall know and believe in Jesus Christ. This is further manifested by ex∣pressing the period of this limitation, thus, Vntill the fulnesse of the Gentiles be come in.
7. Verse 26. This generall phrase; All Israel shall be saved, sheweth, that there is a time to come, when not only two or three, or a few Jews here and there thorow∣out the Christian Church (as have been in all ages there∣of) but the whole Nation shall be called.
8. Vers. 31. This phrase, Through your mercy they also may obtain mercy; sheweth, that God purposely suffered them sometime to abide in unbelief, that when they should be brought to believe, this grace and honour might ap∣pear to arise from Gods meer mercy and free grace. The words following in the next verse doe shew as much: They are these, For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
Thus we see that there is a calling of the Jews to come, and that their calling shall be as a resurrection from the dead, as an incision of many more branches into a glori∣ous tree, that it shall be an universall, conspicuous calling of a whole Nation, wherein the freenesse and largenesse of Gods grace and mercy shall be evidently manifested. At which time there shall be also such a number of Gen∣tiles brought in, as may well be called the fulnesse of the Page 32 Gentiles, vers. 25. This certainly shall be a most glorious condition of the Christian Church, and this is yet to come: therefore God will yet doe better things for us. In expectation whereof we may comfort our selves, though for a while thick clouds of troubles doe over-spread the face of the Church, and somewhat eclipse the glorious brightnesse thereof.
Yea further,* we may expect better things then yet we doe enjoy, upon the fore-mentioned progresse of Gods good providence, before that glorious calling of the Jews be accomplished. For the Jews, after this promise made, before the first comming of the Messiah, and calling of the Gentiles, had conferred upon them many better things then before. They were brought out of Captivity to their own Land. A second Temple was built. The Law was restored unto them by Ezra, and many other blessings. So after Christs first comming, the Gospel was preached in many Nations, multitudes of Churches were erected and established, the Gospel confirmed by many undaunted Martyrs. Yea, after much persecution, the Church had great rest and liberty in Constantines, and other Christian Emperours times. And though that rest and liberty were in time exceedingly abused, by the ambition of Prelates, which at length brought it to the height of Papacy, yet God by a Reformation in these later times, shewed that he was mindefull of this his promise, and did better things for her then before.
This may further be exemplified by Gods doing better for us here in England then at our beginnings.* For as the thick dark cloud of Antichristianisme over-spread the skie of the whole Christian Church for many years together, so did it clean keep away the bright shining of the Gospel from England. But it pleased God almost three hundred Page 33 years agoe,* in the raign of Edward the third, to raise up John Wickliff, a Professour at Oxford, to hold out the light of the Gospel, so as many in those daies were much en∣lightned thereby.
Among other principles wherein he instructed the peo∣ple, these were some.
1. The Eucharist,* after consecration, is not the very bo∣dy of Christ, but figuratively.
2. The Church of Rome is not the head of all Churches, more then any Church is. Nor hath Peter any more pow∣er given of Christ, then any other Apostle hath.
3. The Pope of rome hath no more in the keyes of the Church, then any other within the order of Priest∣hood.
4. The Gospel is a rule sufficient of it self to rule the life of every Christian man here, without any o∣ther rule.
5. All other rules, under whose observances divers religious persons be governed, doe adde no more perfe∣ction to the Gospel, then doth the white colour to the wall.
These and other like positions wrought so effectually upon the hearts of noble and mean persons, as this may be accounted a good beginning, wherein many rejoyced; but no publike reformation was wrought thereupon.
About an hundred and fifty years after, the Lord did better then at that beginning.* For he stirred up both King and Parliament to goe further in suppressing Popery, and advancing the Gospel. Witnesse that Act of Parliament, in Henry the eight his dayes, whereby the Popes usurped au∣thority in England was taken away; and liberty given to the King to reform abuses crept into the Church. The King, by vertue thereof, sent out injunctions for removing Page 34 images, reading the holy Scriptures, and performing all divine Service in English: preaching Gods Word, Cate∣chising children, and observing other duties of piety: so as the Gospel began to shine forth somewhat brightly in England. Only it was much obscured by an other Act of Parliament, even in that Kings time, which established Transubstantiation,*communion in one kinde, private Masses, Auricular confession, Vowes of chastity and prohibiting Priests marriages.
3. About seven yeares after, that King being dead, and his Sonne,* King Edward the sixth, a childe of nine yeares old, (yet another Iosiah) set on the throne, God did better for England then before. For the foresaid Act (common∣ly called the scourge with six strings) was repealed: and a more thorow reformation established. But even then, ma∣ny of the peoples hearts so lingred after Romish superstiti∣on, as the Israelites did after the high places, in the raigne of Asa,*Iehoshaphat and other good Kings: so as this good∣ly reformation continued but six yeares; For God tooke away that good young King.* After whose death a po∣pish bloody Queen utterly defaced the foresaid Reforma∣tion, and brought in that darke cloud of Popery, which overshadowed this whole Land.
4. God being mindefull of his goodnes to his Church, within five yeares after raised up blessed Queen Elizabeth, in whose raigne that darke cloud of Popery was more tho∣rowly dispelled then ever before: and Religion, in regard of the truth and soundnesse of doctrine was restored to as full an integrity, as ever it was in the Christian Church since the Apostles time. A grave, learned and judicious out-landish Divine giveth this testimony of Queen Eli∣zabeth, that under her that was granted to her Kingdome, which he knew not whether it were given to any other Page 35 Kingdome or no, namely, an intire profession of the pure and sincere doctrine of the Gospel. More learned and stout Champions, were in her raigne raised up to main∣taine the same faith, then ever before in this King∣dome.
5. There is yet another reformation now begun in this Land,* which being added to the former, evidently de∣monstrates that God doth intend better things then at our beginnings. This is the Reformation of the Discipline and Government of the Church: concerning which the foresaid judicious Divine thus saith, If to the profession of true Doctrine, a full reformation of Ecclesiasticall Dis∣cipline be also added, surely I see not what England can more desire.
If any shall object,* that in many respects the state of our Church hath growne worse and worse. I answer, that by reason of our sluggishnesse, want of zeal, and unworthy walking of that light which. God graciously afforded, clouds of errour and superstition gathered together: as by the negligence and wickednesse of the Israelites, the Cana∣anites were not utterly destroyed,* but proved to be snares and traps unto them, and scourges in their sides, and thornes in their eyes. Yet God did time after time remove those impediments, and cause the light of his Gospel more and more brightly to shine forth.
Why then may not we yet looke for better things then at the beginning of our Reformation, and hope that as then the Doctrine of the Gospel was restored to the purity of it: so the Government also of the Church be restored to its purity. Comfort your selves in these sad times with this hope.
6. Gods reserving his better things to the later times,* ministreth unto us, who have been reserved unto these la∣ter Page 36 times,* much matter of gratulation. The least of us, which live in this Kingdome of God (stiled, for the celesti∣all excellency thereof, the Kingdome of Heaven) The least of us, I say, is greater then he of whom it is said, Among them that are borne of women, there hath not risen a greater. Had we lived in the ancient former times, and believed the promises of things exhibited in these times, how should we have enquired and searched after them?* The Prophets so did. How should we have desired to see them? Ma∣ny Prophets and Kings so did.* How should we have re∣joyced to see this day?*Abraham so did. Now that we are reserved to live in this time, to hear, see and enjoy these better things, should not our hearts be filled with praises, and our mouths opened to utter the same? God hath made an abundant recompence unto us, who live in these later dayes, for putting off our time of living in this world so long. It is to our unspeakable advantage and benefit; and shall not God have the praise thereof? True believers now have greater cause then old Zachary had to sing and say, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and redeemed his people.* Yea, then old Simeon had to say, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation. These old men saw but the Sunne-rising of the Gospel. We see it shining forth in the full brightnesse thereof. Should not we then be thankfull, even for the times wherein we live?
Well may I,* from the fore-mentioned Doctrine, raise an Exhortation of worthy walking, that is, of carrying our selves answerably to this good Providence of God, in re∣serving us to the enjoying of better things. This worthy walking in generall is much pressed in Scripture, We charge you that you would walke worthy of God, who hath cal∣led you to his Kingdome and Glory.*We cease not to desire that Page 37 you might walke worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing.*I beseech ye that ye walke worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.
This word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, worthy, doth not intend any merit, but a meer meetnesse; no condignity, but a congruity and correspondency to that whereunto it is referred. This is evident by that phrase which the Baptist useth, where he exhorteth to bring forth fruits worthy repentance,* which our last and best Translators thus turne, Fruits meet for re∣pentance. And in the margin thus, Fruits answerable to a∣mendment of life. If in that place 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, worthy, should be taken for any matter of desert, it might be thus translated, Fruits which deserve repentance, that is, such as are to be repented of. And what are those fruits, thinke ye? surely evil,* such as those whereof the Apostle thus saith, What fruit had you then of those things, whereof you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. A catalogue of them is reckoned up, Gal. 5. 19, 20, 21. But the word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, is de∣rived from 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, which signifieth to poise: and the Me∣taphor is taken from things equally poised: there being the like weight in each balance, they stand even. Thus when mans inward disposition, and outward conversation is answerable to Gods gracious dispensation, it is in Scri∣pture dialect called a worthy walking. Hereby therefore it i• intended, that we who live in these later times, and en∣joy the better things which God hath provided for his Church, should more abound in knowledge, be more strengthened in faith, be more established in hope, be more enlarged in our hearts with a zeal of Gods glory, be more conformable in our lives to his holy will, be more charitable to such as stand in need, be more diligent and faithfull in imploying and improving our talent, more pa∣tient under crosses, more ready and forward to suffer for Page 38 the name of Christ, and to seale up our holy profession, even with our blood, if we be called thereunto. It is not enough for us to be followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises;* but we must strive to outstrip them. As we have more meanes of grace, so we must more abound in the measure of all Christian graces. The forementioned worthy walking intends thus much.
But may some say,* Is this possible? Can the best of us now come neere to Abraham, other Patriarks and Prophets, in knowledge, faith, parience and other like graces?
I answer first, that indeed some had the Spirit in such an extraordinary manner and measure bestowed on them, as they might excell such as live under the Gospel. But the comparison is not so much betwixt person and person, as betwixt body and body. So as the point intended is, that Gods people in these times should excell his people in those times.
Againe, though in some particular extraordinary gifts and revelations, some of them excelled, yet in a full and distinct knowledge of all the mysteries of the Gospel, and in other graces, we may and ought to excell them.
If you be perswaded to the foresaid worthy walking,* I will make bold to set before you a direction, whereby you may be much helped thereunto.
In generall it is this, that in every of the foresaid dayes of the great weeke of the world, you observe the most e∣minent persons recorded in the sacred Scripture, and the most excellent graces for which they are commended, and thereby be stirred up to an holy emulation.
This that ye may the better doe, I will endeavour to set before you (as the Apostle doth, Heb. 11.) some of the prime paterns, in every day.Page 39
1. In the first day note especially Abel,*Enosh and Enoch. Abel so ordered his offering, as his person and offering was accepted. His faith occasioned it. Enosh gathered assemblies together to worship God, and frequented the same. Enoch in all that he did had his eye on God, to ap∣prove himself unto God.
2. In the second day observe Noah,*Japhet, Shem, Mel∣chisedech. Noah shined as a bright light in a dark and wic∣ked world. Japhet with his brother Shem, covered his Fa∣thers infirmity. Melchisedech blessed God for Abrams vi∣ctory, and encouraged his souldiers.
3. In the third day very many are set before us,* as the three great Patriarks: who all with much patience passed thorow many trials, and long lived, and died in the faith of those Promises, which after their daies were to be ac∣complished. Joseph in an impious and idolatrous Land kept his integrity.*Caleb was a man of an invincible spi∣rit in Gods cause, Joshua also with his houshold would serve the Lord,* though none else did it. How carefull were the Iudges to draw the people from idolatry, and to keep them close to God? Ruth, after she had been instru∣cted in the true Religion, went from her own Countrey, with a poore Mother in Law, to the true Church.
4. In the fourth day we have excellent paterns of singu∣lar Governours, as David, Solomon, Iehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Iosiah and others, who made it their main end, and put forth their utmost power to advance Gods glory, settle and re∣store true Religion and peace, and procure good to their people. In that day also, there were multitudes of faithfull Prophets, who held close to Gods Word, and would not falsifie it for fear or favour. Such were Elijah, Elisha, Mi∣caiah, Isaiah, Ieremiah, &c.
5. In the fifth day there were worthy restorers and re∣formers Page 40 of Religion, builders up of the house of God, and redressers of grievances in State, and preservers of Gods people from pernitious plots of Adversaries. Such were Zerobabel, Iehoshua, Ezra, Nehemiah, Mordecai, Esther, &c.
6. In the beginning of the sixt day, there were painfull and faithfull preachers of the Gospel, zealous and pious professours of the true faith: mercifull and charitable bre∣thren: constant and couragious Martyrs.
These being reserved to the beginning of the last day, wherein the better things were exhibited, answerably carried themselves, and were in many respects better then such as lived before them.
Should not we then who live in the later part of the last day (to which better things are reserved then in the for∣mer part) endeavour to be better then all the former? What a shame is it to us to be so ignorant, so superstitious, so doubtfull, so fearfull, so cold and backward to good, so impatient, so discontent, so worldly, so wicked, as many of us are?* If the men of Nineveh, and Queen of the South shall rise up in judgement against the Jews, who lived in Christs time: much more shall such as lived either in the begin∣ning of this last day, or in other daies before it, rise up in judgement against us. I will conclude this point, and my Sermon too,* with that inference which an Apostle makes upon a like ground, in these words, Wherefore seeing we al∣so are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us runne with patience the race that is set before us.