A SERMON PREACHED Before the Honourable House of COMMONS. at their publique FAST. April 26. 1643.
MATTH. 3. 10.
Now also the Axe is laid unto the root of the trees, there∣fore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewen down, and cast into the fire.
THese words are part of a penitentiall Sermon, Iohn Baptist, the greatest Pro∣phet borne of a woman, yet the hum∣blest that had to do with Christ, Mat. 3. 11. Preaching repentance to the people v. 2. multitudes flocked to heare him upon that subject, amongst others the Pharisees and Sadduces, which were none of the best, came to heare; and these he exhorts also to bring forth fruit meet for repentance: many arguments he u∣sed to presse on that duty, and this Text is Argumentum ••gens, a strong argument unto it: Beside the Arguments, of the Kingdome of God being at hand, v. 2. and that Page 2 there is wrath to come, v. 7. he saith, Now also is the Axe laid to the root of the Tree▪ if the Kingdome will not draw you, nor the fear of wrath after this life drive you 〈…〉 the present Axe that is laid to the root of the 〈…〉 draw and drive you to repentance.
In the words you have a description of divine seve∣ritie▪ And first in the preparation to it, The axe is laid to the root of the tree. Secondly, in the execution of it, E∣very tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewen down, and cast into the fire.
First, I shall open to you the words, and then draw forth such truths, and Observations, as the words do na∣turally prompt unto you, without any straining, or fet∣ching of blood.
By Axe we understand not Christ▪ as Gregory, nor the Gospell, as some would have it; but any Judgement that God useth to cut down a sinful people by. The Ro∣man forces, under Vespatian and Titus, were Gods Axe, to cut down the Nation of the Iewes, by the warre they made upon them by the famine attended that warre, and the dispertion followed it, they were utterly cut downe I will a little shew you the resemblances between them and an Axe: Because Gods judgements are called Axes.
* First, an Axe is a sharpe and terrible thing, so are Gods Judgements, Psal. 45. 5▪ Thine arrowes are sharpe in the heart of the Kings enemies. Gods Arrowes are not onely his truths, but also his judgements▪ and they are sharpe at distance, but especially upon the entrance when they come into the hearts of Christs▪ enemies they wound, and that dreadfully, Ier. 5•. 20▪ 〈…〉 called Gods battell Axe, and that you know 〈◊〉 a terrible Instrument; God by Babylon did break, and terrifie King∣domes, he dealt sharply, and roundly with them, and his Judgements executed by Babylon were very dreadfull, Psal. 119. 120. My flesh trembleth for feare of thee; and I am affraid of thy Judgements. David that was not affraid of the Beare, of the Lyon, nor of G•liah, yet was affraid of Page 3 Gods Judgements If the giving of the Law made Mo∣ses and the people quake, Heb. 12. 20, 21. surely Gods Judgements which are lexanimata, the execution of the Law, will make Kingdomes to tremble. At the entrance of the law Mount S•na did smoak, and when God shall a∣venge the breach of the Law, Mount Sion will burne, Lament. 4. 11.
When Ananias and Saphira were smitten, great feare fell upon all the Church, and all others that heard of it, insomuch that none of them durst joine themselves with them. Acts 5. 11. 13. So you see Gods Judgements are sharpe and dreadfull.
Secondly, an Axe as its terrible so its strong and weighty, and Gods Judgments have strength and weight in them, Psal. 90. 11. Who knowes the power of thine anger? there is power and strength in the wrath of God, let him use the least creature to execute his judgements, and there is strength enough in that creature to ruine a∣ny: the raine is a weake thing, but if God will use raine as a Judgment, it is strong enough to drown a world▪ Job. 37. 6. It is called the great raine of his strength. God can put that strength into a cloud, into a few drops of raine, that they shall conquer any opposite power; the worms eate up Herod, Act. 12. A humor in the feet tum∣bles *down Asa, 2 Chron. 16. a disease in the bowells con∣sumes Ieh•ram, 2 Chron. 21. And Stories tell us small things have overthrowne men of great renowne, a grape stone▪ a flye, some petty thing: God can arme the wea∣kest creature with that strength, that no man is able to stand against it, not the Princes of the earth, Psal. 76. 1•. Hee cuts off the spirit of Princes, Hee deales with Princes as men deale with a Vine, an Axe is too strong for a cluster of Grapes, or a sprig of a Vine, it easily cuts them off: so God by a Judgement easily cuts off the spirit of Princes, they are not able to stand against the least Judgement of God, when he puts strength in∣to raine, wormes, or any other creature, they fall.
Page 4 [ 3] Thirdly, an Axe is an instrument to hew with, wood and stones they hewed with Axes, Esa. 10. 15. Shall the axe boast it selfe against him that heweth therewith? God by His Judgements hewes Nations and Kingdomes. He hewed Israel by forraigne Nations, when Israel was un∣der the Judges, the Philistimes, and others were Gods Axe to hew them. After they had chosen them a King the Lord also hewed them, 2 King. 10. 32. He cut Israel short in all their coasts; the Hebrew word is to curtaile▪ to cut off the ends: Hazael was sent, and smote them in all their coasts; he took their coast Townes, cut off the supplies and succors, came from thence and much mo∣lested them, Psal. 75. 10. The hornes of the wicked will I cut off; the Lord will deale with them as men doe with Trees first loppe off one bow, then another, then a third, and leave only the trunke: so for wicked men God will loppe off their pride, their strength, their glory, and leave them destitute.
[ 4] Fourthly, againe the Axe is destructive, Trees are cut down by Axes and great woods. The Lord by His Judgements cuts down Kingdomes and Princes, Psal. 110. 5. In the day of thy wrath thou shalt smite through Kings; God shall not only smite, but he shall smite through Kings: an Axe cuts, and cuts through; and Gods judge∣ments cut through the greatest and throws them down, Ezek. 14. 21. Gods Judgements are sore ones, the Sword, Famine, Plague, noysome Beast, they are His sore Judge∣ments to hew down People and Kingdomes; hence it is that God is called a consuming fire, not that He is so in his owne nature, for he is nothing but love and delight: but when He sends out his sore Judgements, then GOD is fire, and will be everlasting burning to the wicked.
The next thing to open in the words is, what is meant by the Tree, and the Root of it. By Tree, we are to un∣derstand the Jewish state principally, they were called Gods pleasant plant, Isa. 5. 7. God had digged, dung'd, Page 5 watered, and shined upon, and done much for them; they were a great and goodly Tree: but now the Lord layes the Axe to the Root of this Tree; and if God cut downe this Tree, his pleasant Tree, then no State, no Family, might ever after look to find Mercy, that was in the condition of this Tree, Every tree that bringeth not forth fruit is hewen down, and cast into the fire.
For the Root of the Tree, some make Man the Tree, the life of Man the Root of it; the Axe to be the sentence of Death, and Death it selfe the cutting down of the Tree. Others make the Root of the Tree to be whatever they built most upon, and confided in: they built upon their Temple, Greatnesse, Strength, Chariots Horses and such things. But I shall commend to you these 4. things, wherin the Root of the Tree did mainly consist.
The First was that Covenant which they had with [ 1] God they were the Lords People, and he was their God; and this was one Root which afforded much sap to this Tree; God being theirs in Covenant▪ He protected them, provided for them, and did wonderfull things among them. Now the laying the Axe to the Root, was the breaking His Covenant with them▪ Zach. 11. 10. & 14 v. there is the staffe of beauty, and bands; saith God, I tooke my staffe, Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might breake my Covenant with all the people; and when God had broken that, it was not long before He brake that other staffe of Bands, viz. the brotherhood between Israel and Iudah, the ten Tribes were dispersed before: but they had some communion with Iudah at Ierusalem: but God would break the staffe of Bands, he would disperse them at Ierusalem, and so there should be no communion be∣tween Iudah and Israel for the future. The Covenant being dissolv'd they were wounded at the Root, and were no longer Gods people.
Secondly, by Root is meant the true Religion, and [ 2] worship that the Jewes had, these are the root of a King∣dome. Page 6 A Kingdome then lives and prospers when Re∣ligion and the Pure worship of God are maintained; this the a Heathens themselves did know, that Religion and worship of their Gods was the onely way to make a Kingdome flourish. Tullie in his Booke (de natura de∣•rum) attributes the felicitie, Empire and Tryumph of the Romans (Religioni.) They saw all things to be rul'd by the Gods, and as we, saith he, excelled all Na∣tions p•etate & Religione, so we excelled them all in plenty; and when the bRomans went out to Warre, they first took care to call the Gods out of that City and Tow• which they went against, and promised them better entertainment at Rome, then at any other place, intimating to us, that while they kept their Gods they could not be overcome: and they conceited Rome in∣vincible, while they had their Palladium: but to leave them, and to look to Gods word. cHosea 13. 1. When Ephraim spake, trembling, he exalted himselfe in Israel. When Ieroboam set up Calves, at Dan and Bethel, and will'd the people to worship there, pretending it was too farre to goe to Ierusalem, these were shorter journeyes, and the worship as warrantable, they spake trembling. What shall we leave our God, shall we give way to Idolatry and worship we know not what? When they spake trem∣bling they exalted themselves; but when he offended in Baal then he died; when Ieroboam prevailed by his pos∣licie and power and brought them to it then they dyed▪ as the worship of God preserved or corrupted, so King∣domes flourish or wither, 1 Chron, 22. 13. 1 Kings 11. 11. 2 Chron 17. 3.
Thirdly, the root of a Kingdome consists in Civill Power, when that is upheld in a Kingdome, it flouri∣sheth, but when that is wounded or destroy'd, the King∣dome is blasted and withers at the root. Gen. 49. 10. the Promise was that the Scepter should not depart from Page 7Iudah till Shiloh come; till Christs comming the Civil Power should not be remov'd. There is a Questionl among great ones, how this can be made good? But I will not dispute that, only take it thus: unto the day of Augustus Caesar the power remained, in the State of the Jewes; he then with the Senate took the power from them, placed it in Herod Ascalonita, and set him up, and then the Scepter departed from Iudah.dThe Sanedrim were most, if not all of the Tribe of Iudah, and had the supreme Authority, they called Herod to Question for his contumacie, and had almost taken away his life, which Herod taking to heart, rooted out the Sanedrim, reigned absolutely over the Jewes, and did what he listed against them, and onely fear'd to displease the Romans; here was the Axe at the root, their Civill Power was taken away.
Fourthly, the Root was the Godly partie among the [ 4] Jewes; They, whether Magistrates, Ministers, or Peo∣ple, are the strength of a Kingdome. Elishah and Elisah were the Chariots and Horsmen of Israel, they were the Militia of that Kingdome; Psal. 75. 3. saith David, I beare up the Pillars of the earth: he maintain'd Religion, their Lawes, and the faithfull, these were the Pillars of the Earth, and his eye was upon the faithfull, Psal. 101. 6. they should dwell with him, he knew they were strong props of the Kingdome. That place is observable, Esa. 6. 13. As an Oake whose substance is in it, when it casts the leaves, so the holy Seed shalbe the substance therof. When the wind, raine and thunder blow off the leavs, break off the branches, yet the life and substance remaines; so here the holy seed shalbe the substance of it. Let Nebuchad∣nezzar come, blow and break off the leaves and bran∣ches of this Vine, throw them into the furnace of Babylon, and make Israel as a dead saplesse thing▪ yet the holy seed shalbe the substance therof; and when they returne againe, it shall spread in the Kingdome, and be a great Tree, and the toppe reach to heaven, and over all Page 8 the borders of the Land, the holy seed being the sub∣stance and root would grow and multiply; when godly Ministers▪ Magistrates and People be struck in a King∣dome, then the Axe is laid to the Root of the Tree. Now they were persecuted and thrust from their place; Herod put by the aAsamonaeans, and suffered none of them to enjoy the Priesthood. Annas was set up, and bCaiphas who according to his name, vomited out ma∣lice against Christ; and before their full cutting down, the voice was heard, Ite pellam, goe to Pella, the godly were removed, and then they were destroyed.
Question. Was not the Axe laid to the root of the Tree before this time? was it not at the Root, when the ten Tribes were cut off? Why then is it said, Now is the Axe laid to the root of the Tree?
The Answer is, it's true the Lord did lay the Axe to the root of it before this time, and that heavily, in the dispersing of the ten Tribes; therfore its said Now also: but he did not so lay the Axe unto the root of the tree, as that it was wholly destroyed; often times they were hewed with the Judgements of God, yet alwayes there was semen, a seed left: and when they came out of Baby∣lon there was a glorious Church, and God delighted in them: but now the Axe was so layd to the Root, that they bwere utterly cut down, and made no People. Now the Lord did unconvenant them, unchurch them, unpower them unsaint them; now the Lord cast them off; they had no Root left, no god for their God, but were made a reproach and curse among all Nations.
Secondly, Now the Axe is laid, because the Lord hath another People to graft in; before he took no care of the Gentiles, but left them to perish in their way; now he would take this wild Olive, and graft it into the Root: therfore saith Christ Iohn 9. 39. I am come for Judgement, to cut off the Jewes by the Root, and to graft in the Gentiles, that I may try them, and see whether they will beare better fruit then the Jewes have done, ActsPage 9 opening of the words. Now I come to give you those Observations which doe naturally flow from the word.
* And first observe, that God beares long with a sinfull peo∣ple: Now is the axe layd to the root of the tree, I have borne a long time, been patient, but now I come with the axe, and doe lay it to the root of the tree. God is a patient God toward his people, and toward the world, a God that beares with sin and sinners beyond our expectation: three yeares God bore with the Fig-tree, Luk 13. 7. I came these three yeares and have found no fruit: Fourty yeares God bare with them in the Wildernesse, Heb 3. 9. a hundred yeares God bare with a sinner, Esa. 65. 20. an hundred and twenty yeares with the old world, Gen. 6. 3. and after Noah was shut into the Arke, God bare seven dayes, to see if they would repent and turne, as some collect from Gen. 7. 4. God goes further then this, he bare three hundred and ninety years with the idola∣trous passages of Israel, Ezek. 4. 5. three hundred and ninety dayes taken for yeares, that God had borne with them. Foure hundred yeares did God beare with the Amorites, Gen. 15 16. God hath borne with Antichrist above this 1200. yeares: God bare with the Gentiles be∣fore Christ came, more then 2000. yeares, Acts 17 30. God is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a God of patience, Rom. 15. 5. long-suf∣fering, Exod. 34. 6. he doth beare, and forbeare with sin∣ners, and Kingdomes, and a world full of wickednesse and vanity, Esa. 42. 14. saith God there, I held my peace, yea I held my peace a long time, and was silent and refrained: God held his peace, said nothing to Kingdomes, nothing to Families, nothing to particular persons; he held his hand also, did not strike a long time: God is patient, and with-holds so long, as (patientia Dei turbat pios) the Saints are troubled at Gods patience, it makes them to cry, How long, how long how long shall the wicked triumph, utter and speak hard things! it's thrice repeated, Psal. 94. 3. 4. the Saints are troubled that God doth not come Page 10 and destroy the wicked: and not onely the Saints on earth, but the Saints in heaven, Rev. 6. 10. they cry, How long, how long wilt not thou avenge our bloud! We have been slaine by Cains, by Pharaohs, by Nimrods, by Herod, How long, how long Lord wilt thou not avenge our bloud. Not one∣ly the Saints, but the sinnes of wicked men, they cry for vengeance; the sinnes of Sodom cryed for vengeance a∣gainst Sodom: Not onely sin, but the whole Creation, heaven and earth groanes, Rom. 8. The Land mournes for oaths, and other iniquities, Jer. 23. 10. Satan, the accuser of the brethren, cryes; Gods Justice cryes all his Attributes cry, to destroy sinners, to destroy the whole world; yet God seemes deafe, and will not heare; yet *he is patient, and holds his hands: What should the pa∣tience of God produce? The Apostle tells us Rom. 2 4. Knowest thou not that the long-suffering and goodnesse of God should lead (the word is drive) thee to repentance? the patience of God should constraine us to repentance. What▪ shall God hold the Candle of our lives in his hand, and we sin against him? there is much in Gods patience to constraine us to repent, its patience beares with all our sinnes; if Gods patience were at an end sin would be heavie; it's patience that lengthens out our lives, Lam. 3. 22. it's divine patience that keepes us out of hell; it's that keepes open the doore of common and choice mercies; the doore of grace and salvation had been shut long since, if Gods patience had ceased, 2 Pet. 3. 9, 15. God is willing we should all come to repentance, let us reach to it this day, and make his long-suffering salvation to us. Oft we have grieved his Spirit by sin∣ning and abuse of his patience, once let us rejoice it by repentance, the improvement of patience.
* Againe, observe that great severity goes along with the greatest mercy. The Gospel is the greatest mercy that ever came into the world, and there is the greatest seve∣rity with the Gospel, that ever came with any mercy into the world; now is the axe laid, when the Gospel is Page 11 comming. Func•ius observes that John began his Mini∣stery in the fifteenth yeare of Tiberius, Augustus died the twentieth of August, Tiberius succeeded him, whose reigne is reckoned from that of August, and not from Ja∣nuary; on the first of September, which was the feast of Trumpets, and on which day was the promulgation of the yeare of Jubile, then was the voice of the Cryer first heard: At this time, which was very festivall, Iohn preach'd and said, Now the axe is laid to the root of the tree, at the yeare of Jubile, and comming of the Gospel it's done. Here was the acceptable yeare, and the day of *vengeance together; the acceptable yeare of Christs comming▪ and the day of vengeance, the axe is layd to the root of the tree. To give more light and strength to this point, be pleased to take into your thoughts these passages in the Gospel, Mark 16. 16. Goe (saith Christ) preach the Gospel, he that beleeves shall be saved, he that be∣leeves not shall be damned: upon non-believing presently is damnation entailed. Iohn 3. 18. he that beleeveth not is condemned already. Matth. 10. 14. Shake off the dust of your feet against that City and Towne that doth not receive you: Shake off the dust of your feet against them, that shall bee a testimony against them: It shall be more easie for Sodom and Gomorrah in that day, then for that Town, that City, that, Peo∣ple, that Christian, that refuseth the meanes of grace, and the Gospel of Christ. Is not here the greatest severity with the greatest mercy in the world? And the reason is, because the Gospel is the heigth of Gods mercy; the Angels they had simplicem misericordiam, bare and naked mercy; but men have divitias miserioordiae, the riches of mercy: in the Gospel, as there is plenitudo gratiae, so plenitudo irae, plenty of mercy, and plenty of wrath too: If there were a sword on Moses thigh, there is an axe in Christs hand; if there be fire in the Law, there is fire and brim∣stone in the Gospel. In the Law God kept Assizes once a yeare; in the Gospel he keeps Sessions every moneth: If he died without mercy that despised Moses Law, Page 12 he must die with all severity that despises Christ; Luk. 19. 27. Bring those mine enemies, that will not that I should reigne over them, and stay them before me: Rev. 8. 13. dread∣fuller woes are pronounced under the Gospel then un∣der the Law, Woe, Woe, Woe, to the inhabitants of the earth: so Mat. 18. 7. Woe to the wo ld: there was never a generall Woe pronounced upon the world before this time; but now, Woe unto the world: and the plagues since the com∣ming of Christ have been greater upon the world then before as the Trumpets and Vials in the Revelation do manifest. Till Christ was come, and the blessings of the Gospel were tendred to the Jewes, they never had a perfect bill; but after hee was come, and the grace of the Gospel refused, then the bill of Divorce was perfe∣cted, •Thes. 2. 16. they cast out of Gods family, and his wrath came upon them to the utmost, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, to the utmost, even to perfection: God would beare no more, but cut them off presently, and with as much severity as ever we read of any.
* We should learne hence, to take heed how we slight and refuse the Gospel of Christ: in it there is the choice love of God, the precious bloud of the Sonne of God; in it is the Spirit of grace and glory, the exceeding great and precious promises, all spirituall excellencies and eter∣nall life: if you refuse these, you provoke God to lay the axe unto the root of the tree; you provoke Christ to say, Bring him and them hither, and slay them before me, that would not have me to reigne over them. The Gadarenes preferred their Swine, the Capernaites their Loaves, the Jewes Barabbas, before Christ; but it cost them all deare when the axe came. Let not a Gadarenish, a Capernaiticall, a Jewish spi∣rit be found amongst us; let us say, Pereant porci, pereant panes, pereat Barabbas, & regnet Christus, let all goe, so Christ may reigne. The Jewes stucke so to Moses and Mosaicall things, so to the Temple and the Rites of it, so to superstitions and the traditions of their Fathers, that they would not receive Christ and the truths of Page 13 the time present, and therefore God dealt so severely with them, as to cut them downe by the Romish axe. There be truths of Christ reserved for some times and when those truths are discovered, wee should examine them, and labour to bee established in present truths, 2 Pet. 1. 12. as the Apostle speakes Are there not truths now on foot, concerning Christs Kingly Office, and his government in the Church? hath hee not powred out his Spirit upon men eminently, and brought light out of darknesse? Shall wee reject truth and light, it's feared we stick too much to Mosaicalls, Prelaticalls, and Tr∣ditionalls: Let us prove all things, and hold fast that is good; let us receive the truth with the love of it▪ lest we be given up to strong delusions, 2 Thes. 2 10. 11. and strange judgements, Acts 2. 13. 17. 28. when the Spirit was given, choice truths presented and they not received, there is mention of turning the Sunne into darknesse, and the Moone into bloud; which notes some dreadfull judge∣ments▪ that should darken and imbitter their best com∣forts: The like may we feare, if we refuse any truths of Christ.
Thirdly, observe that God doth premonish before he [ 3] doth punish. Now the Axe is laid to the root of the Tree, Iohn tells them, there was an Axe laid, the newes of the Axes comming was heard before the noise of its cutting. The Lord tells Delinquents before he strikes them, Yet forty dayes, and Nineveh shall be destroyed. Men are close, *their designes are underneath, they oft storme, surprize, and plunder Towns without giving the least notice but when God intends judgements, he sends his Heralds to warne Kingdomes and Nations. Hath not God given warning to all Nations? hath he not within these hun∣dred yeares, given us 100. warnings? have not the Hea∣vens seemed on fire? have not there bin foure or five bla∣zing Stars? Herlicius Stargardensis held that the influence of the Comet 1618. upon the christian world would last to between 20 & 30▪ yeares, which is already verified 〈1 page duplicate〉Page 12〈1 page duplicate〉Page 13Page 14 at last is blaz'd over England and expired, intimating that England should take warning by it. Besides these, have we not had Earth-quakes? great frosts, deep snowes, un∣seasonable weather, and is it not fresh in your memorie how God had a quarel with your Steeples▪ and Churches for the corruptions and Innovations in them, when di∣vers of the• were smitten, broken and burnt by thun∣der and lightning: not onely by prodigies, hath God warned us, but by his Prophets also Ezek. 33. 3. they have bin telling you of a stroak that would come, Elishahs sword hath bin drawne, and brandished before us, and because we would not take warning by that, Iehnes and Hazaels swords are in the midst of us; Its undeniable the cocks have crowed and told us of this storme of bloud above this thirty yeares, all exceptions are taken away, none can quarrell with God, he hath warned us, he is just and will overcome in Judgement, he hewed Ierusa∣lem by his Prophets, before he cut it downe by his Axes, Ier. 1. 10 The Prophet did root up by his Prophecy & af∣ter that Nebuchad▪ cuts down by the sword. Further God hath warned us by his judgements on others. Germany these 20. years hath bin a Beacon to us, Scotland was late∣ly a Land of darkenesse, and Ireland is still a Land of wrath, and must England be secure. Awake, awake, O England, there be Armies within thy bowells, Parlia∣ment Citie, Kingdome, are all in danger. God hath long threatned and is now upon execution. Use of the point, Amos 4. 12. Thus will I doe unto thee, and because I will doe this, prepare to meet thy God: Its dreadfull to heare God is in a way of Judgement, especially when we are not in a way of repentance: If I whet my glittering Sword, and my hand takes hold of Iudgment, I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will make mine Arrowes drunke with bloud, and my Sword shall devoure flesh, &c. Deut. 32. 41, 42. When God whets his Sword, and shoots his arrowes, he will make them eate flesh, and drinke blood, yea be fild with blood, and grow fat with fatnes, Esa. 34. 6. Now Page 15 God hath given a Commission to the Sword to eate English flesh, and drinke English blood; and I feare the Sword having bin starved a long time, will now eate to purpose, it comes hungry, and is like to eate much flesh, it comes dry, and is like to drinke much blood▪ before it be put up again: Let us therefore meet God in this way with sighs and teares, let us take warning in time, praemo∣niti pr•muni•i, men that are forewarned should be fore∣armed. In these times men are arm'd to goe to battle with men, but are you arm'd to meet God? have you on the girdle of veritie? the Breastplate of righteousnesse? are you shod with the preparation of the Gospell of peace? is the helmet of salvation on your heads? is the shield of Faith on your hearts, and the sword of the spi∣rit in your mouthes? If you be thus arm'd you may meet God marching in flames of fire, and that without pre∣judice. The Lord of Hosts is come, if we bee not prepared wee cannot stand in the evill day, read Ezek. 22. 14 but the soul that takes warning shall deliver it selfe, Ezek. 33. 5. Let us all then, lay it to heart, that the sword is drawn, hath dranke the blood of our friends, and may drinke ours, The Axe is laid to the root of the tree, and threatens the downfall of Church and State, if we do take warning and meet God the right way, we may de∣liver our owne souls, the souls of those that belong un∣to us, and probably the whole Land.
Fourthly, God begins with lesser judgements, and af∣terward [ 4] with greater▪ Now the Axe is laid to the root of the Tree. First there was Culter pota•orius, the pruning hooke, and when that would do no good, then comes the Axe, Gods Judgements are graduall not superlative at the first upon Kingdomes and families Sodom was first plundered by the foure Kings, after that rescued by A∣braham, and set in Statu quo, Gen. 14, 15, 16. This Judge∣ment doing little good, they were smitten with blindnes Gen. 19. and when that did no good then came fire, and Brimstone, and consumed them from before the face of Page 16 the Lord. The Romans had their Fasces, and their Secu∣ris, first their Fasces came, and then their Securis: God hath his Fisces, his Rods before his Securis, his Axe, if lesser judgements will prevail, the Axe shall never come, Hos. 5. 12. 14. there is mention of a moath, rottennesse, and a Lyon, first the Moath a lesser fretting judgement, then comes rottenesse▪ a soarer judgement, the word for rottenesse signifies a Worme also that eates into Trees, and causeth rottenesse. God would send such judgments as should eat into the heart of the Jewish State, and af∣ter that he would be as a Lion, tear in pieces and devoure *them.
This shewes that God is not willing to cast off, and destroy a people that have bin his, Hos. 11. 6, 7, 8. How shall I give thee up Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee Is∣rael? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? &c. The Sword was to abide upon their Cities. their goodly branches were to be lopped off, they followed their owne Councells, went backward from God, they were call'd to by Prophets and Judgements, to exalt God, but would not, yet saith God, how shall I give thee up, &c. There was a contention between mercie and justice, the one pleaded as much for them as the other against them. Judgment is opus alienum, Gods strange worke, mercy comes out sweetly, but judgement constrainedly (as a sting from a Bee:) the Woman con∣strained the unjust Judge to doe her Justice, so wicked men constraine God to destroy them. If the Sodomites would have amended upon the first or second Judge∣ment, *God would have stayed the Plague; but ipsi ex∣torserunt ut perirent, they constrained God to destroy them. Shall God be unwilling to destroy us, and shall we destroy our selves? Let not such a perverse spirit be in us. God is loath to cast men into hell, and yet they de∣sire God to damne them▪ and sweare themselves many miles into hell. O horrible wickednesse! many a man is ready to make away himselfe, when God steps in, and Page 17 prevents the mischiefe. God is willinger to keepe many out of Hell then they are themselves.
Fiftly, God hath Soveraigne Authority over all King∣domes, [ 5] Now is the Axe laid unto the Root of the Tree, this axe was the Roman State, this Tree was the Jewish State. God hath the Authority of all in his hand, hee sets one Kingdome against another. Babylon must ruine Sion: Titus and Vespatian, are stir'd up by God to cut down and destroy the Jewish Nation: God hath Sover∣aignty over all Kingdomes, Psal. 103. 19. and can imply them to execute his judgements. Senacherib was his axe, Esa 10. 15. to cut downe Nations. God makes one Kingdome an Axe to hew downe another, hee makes one part of a State to hew downe another part of the same. The Jewish Common-wealth was now under the Roman Empire; it's so in England at this day, hath not God mingled a perverse Spirit amongst us, Esa. 9. 21. Ephraim against Manasseth, Manasseth against Ephraim, and both against Iudah; They sought each others destruction as we do at this day; a perverse Spirit was mingled a∣mong them▪ and among us. Kingdomes depend upon God, Dan. 4. 32. 2 Chap. 21. and where there is the great∣est dependancy, there is the greatest Soveraignty. Now Kingdomes depend upon God, quoad omnia, for their beings, upholdings and blessings, and therefore he hath, jus utendi, he may do with his own what he list, hee can and may dash one Family, one Towne, one Country, and one Kingdom against another, and that without con∣troule. Who shall say to him, what doest thou?
* What should this beget in us, but to feare this God that hath Soveraign authori y over all flesh, over all Kingdoms; let us feare this God, Ier. 10. 7. Who would not feare thee O King of Nations? for to thee doth it appertain: Shall God be the King of Nations, the King of all Kings and not be feared? to the doth it appertaine, not to men to be feared but to thee doth it appertain: The great God must be feared. Ye that are petty Kings on the Earth, you that are Gods on the Earth, you must know that this God hath Sover∣aigne Page 18 Authority over Nations, Persons, lives▪ conscien∣ces, hee is the everlasting King or King of eternity, Ier. 10. 10. Hee can, will, and must, dispose of you ere long eternally in heaven or hell, Iob 36. 8, 9, 10. When Families and Kingdomes are in fetters under the afflict∣ing hand of God, then Hee shewes them the excessive∣nesse of their sins, and commands them to returne from iniquity. Did not God command them before? yes, but then they slighted God, being at ease and in prospe∣rity, His commands were not regarded, but when God cast into streights, fetters and afflicts Families or King∣domes, their eares are opened, they harken to Discipline? What they formerly contemned, is now pretious, and they see Authority and Majesty in the command of *God, Mic. 6. 9. The King of Nations is wroth with this Kingdome, Hee hath it in fetters, let us hearken to His commands, and tremble at his Soveraignty. Psal. 99. 1. The Lord Raigneth let the Earth tremble; let all the Potentates and Inhabitants of it tremble and quake before him: It's for our advantage to do it. Hab. 3. 16. when the Cal∣deans were to come up and besiege Jerusalem, the Pro∣phet apprehending it before-hand, quivered and quaked, and why was it? that hee might rest in the day of trou∣ble: that soule which trembleth when judgement is in the Cloud▪ when the Axe is at the root of the tree, shall have rest in the day of trouble: Isa. 66 2. To him will I looke that is of a contrite Spirit, and trembleth at my word: God will looke to him, that the flood shall not drowne him, nor the Axe cut him downe. Lot is sav'd when the fire consum'd Soddom; God was to him a Sanctuary, he feared God and God was his defence, Esa. 8▪ 13, 14. When we have frames of Spirit suitable to the Authori∣ty and Majesty of the great God, that is Lord of King∣domes, that raises and ruines them at his pleasure, then we sanctifie God in our hearts, and he will be a Sanctua∣ary unto us, and such a Sanctuary is needfull for these times.
Page 19 Sixtly observe, That after warning, and waiting, God [ 6] will deale severely with Kingdomes and Persons. Now the Axe is laid to the Root of the Tree, I have warned you long, and waited long, and I see no good fruit, now therefore I intend to cut down the Tree by the Root. Isa. 42. 14, 15. I have been silent a long time, and held my peace, and refrained, and said nothing, but now I will cry like a Woman in Travell, I will destroy, and devoure at once saith GOD, I will stay no longer, I will lay wast Mountaines, and hills, I will dry no Rivers and •ooles: Great and small should now feele the stroake of Gods hand; where Gods long suf∣fering ends, there his fury begins, and hee will deale se∣verely with Kingdomes, and with particular Persons.
This severity appeares in three particulars: First, in that it is an Axe, is used. Secondly, it is the Root it's laid too. Thirdly, in the impartialnesse, the root of every Tree. First, it is an Axe not Culter putatorius, a pru∣ning [ 1] knife, that will cut down some little Branches, and no more; it is not Falx a Bill or Hooke, to chop off some Armes or Bowes, but securis, an Axe, some sharp, strong, hewing, destroying Judgement. Secondly, It's [ 2] layd to the Root, not to the branches bowes, not to the great Armes; not to the toppe, not to the Trunck▪ but to the Root of the Tree is the Axe laid. God will deale roundly with them. Now the Lord would un-covenant them, un-church them, unpower them, and un-saint them. Here it's inquirable.
* What makes God to lay the Axe to the Root of a Tree or Kingdome?
* There are 4 things make the Gardener, and so God, to lay the Axe to the Root of a Tree. First, Deadnesse. Secondly, Rottennesse. Thirdly▪ Barrennesse, Fourth∣ly, Evill fruitfulnesse.
First, Deadnesse: When the Tree is dying or dead, [ 1] the Gardener layes his Axe to the Root of it, and God when a State is dying or dead, layes his Judgements to the root of it. 13 Hosea 1. When Ephraim sinned in BaalPage 20 then he died. Ephraims death being pronounc'd, Gods Axe was presently prepared, v. 3. Therefore they shall be as the morning Cloud, &c. God would scatter them as Clouds, Chaffe, Smoake, and dry them up as dewe. Sardis one of the 7 Churches in Asia, had a name to live but was dead, Rev. 3. 1. What saith the Lord to Sardis? Re∣member what thou hast received and heard hold fast, repent, watch, else I will come on thee as a thiefe in the night, v. 3. that is, suddenly and cut thee downe: and you know that God did lay wast that and the other Churches not long after; when Churches or Kingdomes are dying or dead, the Axe is not far from the Root of them.
Hath not our Kingdom bin languishing and dying ma∣ny *yeares together; you know what was said at a Com∣mencement some yeares since, our Church and State li∣berties lay a dying: some reviving through the meanes, blessed be the Lord we have had, but our fainting and feares are not over, England is in a consuming dying con∣dition, [ 2] and the Axe is at our root. Secondly, Rotten∣nesse or corruption, that makes the Axe to be laid to the Root of the Tree; the Gardner cannot endure to see a Tree rotten at the heart, though the bowes be greene, and it beare some small fruit▪ yet if rotten▪ he will down with it, 6. Gen. 12 All flesh hath corrupted their way, and the end of all is come before me▪ I have looked upon all flesh, and finde that great and small have corrupted their way, and there∣fore the end of all is come before me, I am resolved to send a Flood to drowne the World and its corruptions together. It was not some particular corruption among them, but an universall one. There was corruption in faith and life, in their Religion, Worship, and manners, and when a State is generally corrupt in those, the Heavens grow black, and either a flood or fire comes, a flood to the old world, a fire to Sodom. Trees naturall or politicall be∣ing rotten, call for the Axe, and God hastens it to the [ 3] Root. Thirdly, Barrennesse makes the Axe to be laid to the Root of a Kingdome. 13 Luk 7. I came and found Page 21 no fruit, cut it down why cumbreth it the ground: a barren Tree cumbers the ground. Some observe, that if the *Fig-tree beare not fruit in three yeares, it will never beare fruit, and therefore it's said, this 3. yeeres I come seeking fruit and finde none, cut it downe. A Barren Tree must be cut down. God waited long on them when under the Judges, under the Kings, when under the High Priests after their captivity, in Moses dayes, in the Prophets, in Christs, and still they were barren, therefore downe they must. Fourthly, Fruitfulnesse▪ but its an ill fruitfulnesse, Hos. 10. 1. Israelis an empty vine, [ 4] he brings forth fruit to himselfe; Emptie and yet fruitfull, it seemes to be a contradiction▪ but God accounts that no fruit, is fruit to our selves. Barrennesse and basenesse is all one with God, when our fruit is not for God and the publique, it's selvish, and tends to ruine. Such fruit Israels Tree was full of, and if a barren tree cumber the ground, what doth a tree loaden with cursed fruit.
*Its demanded, What fruit was it, which brought the Axe to the Root of the tree?
* 1. It was prophanation of the Sabbath, Ierem. 17. 24, 25. 27. If they made conscience of Gods Sabbath, hee would take care of their City: If they would hollow that day with pious duties, he would honour them with choice Princes; but if they would defile his day, hee would fire their Citie▪ and that with unquenchable fire. This made Nehemiah so zealous for the Sabbath, after the returne from Babylon, Neh. 13. 17, 10. hee conten∣ded with the Nobles, and said, What evillthing is this that ye doe, and prophane the Sabbath day? did not your Fathers thus, and did not our God bring all his evills upon us, and upon this City? yet yee bring more wrath upon Israell, by prophaning the Sabbath day. He knew that sin had formerly laid them wast, and would therefore stand for the Sabbath, that the Lord of Sabbaths might stand for and by them. England is not innocent in this thing. The Booke of Sports (a Monster that Heathen and Idolatrous King∣domes Page 22 never produced) that opened a wide doore to pro∣phane the Lords day, hath kindled a fire in our Land, which is not like to be extinct till that Booke be burnt by publique Authority.
2. Idolatry, that is a Kingdome destroying sinne. Jeroboams two Calves eat up the 10. Tribes, and Manasses Idols devoured Juda, Hos. 13 1. When Ephraim sinned in Baall then he died. Idolatry is the death of a Land, it divides betweene God and Kingdomes, it breakes the Covenant, and causes God to give a Bill of Divorce, and that is not all, it calls forth Gods furie upon a Land, Ezek. 36. 18. 19. and that is a destructive thing.
3 Neglect of justice, when sinne abounds, execution of justice saves Kingdomes, and want of it hastens their ru∣ine. Ierem. 5. 1. •un•e yee too and froe saith God, through the streets of Ierusalem, and see now and know, and seeke in the broad places thereof, if you can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgement, that seeketh the truth, and I will pardon it. Doubtlesse there was some godly man in Jerusalem, but there was none of a publique Spirit, that did execute Judgement in the broad places, neither King, Councel∣lors, Priests or Prophets did execute Judgement▪ and therefore hee could not pardon; when none appeare to cut down sin, God will appeare to cut down sinners. Isa. 5. 7. • looked for judgement: ludah was his pleasant plant, he had hedg'd, dig'd, dung'd, watered, shined up∣on them, and looked for Judgement, but there was none, therefore God would breake downe the hedge, and lay them wast. If God could have found 10 righteous per∣sons in Soddom, he would have spared it. You may take the word righteous not onely for godly men, but for men executing Judgement▪ there were none such: Lot could have no Justice from them, and that inforc'd God to execute Justice on them.
4. Blood, oppression, uncleannesse, hatred of truth and such like, which I put together because I cannot in∣large upon all particulars, Hosea. 4. 2. 3. By swearing, Page 23 lying, killing▪ stealing, and committing adultery, they breake out, and blood toucheth blood; Therefore shall the Land mourne, God will destroy because of these sinnes, Ezek. 36. 18. When the Brittains called in the Saxons to helpe them against the Scots and Picts, God who hath power over Kingdomes and people made them his Axe, to how and destroy the Brittains, for they soone joyned with their adversaries and picked quarrels against the Britains, and God so stirred up their Spirit against the Brittains, that they spoyled them in many places, drove them into corners of the Land, made them flee into for∣raine parts▪ and destroyed the Country with fire and Sword. The asinnes then observable, were such as were not among the Gentiles, hatred of the truth; and the patrons of it drunkennesse, contention, crueltie, un∣cleannesse countenancing of lies, and the forgers of them, respect to lewdnesse more then goodnesse, the better things wrought most discontent; all vice was in the Clergie and people: Princes were Tyrannicall Murthe∣rers, Adulterers, Soddomiticall: and the last of the bBrittish Kings flying into France said woe to us for our great iniquities, we had time to repent but did it not, therefore justly now the wrath of Godrootes us out. When the cDanes conquered England the Land was guilty of blood and un∣cleanesse, it was in d•theldreds time, whose wayes were cruell, miserable and shamefull; his eares were open to to accusers to calumniations, and no mans life was in security.
When Roderick King of Spaine deflowred the Daugh∣ter of Count Iulian, who in revenge stir'd up the Moores, shewed them the way to get Spaine, which they conque∣red and possest above 600. yeares At the Conquest by Page 24 the Normans the sinnes were prophanesse ignorance, un∣cleannesse, neglect of Justice and Religion, the people were a prey to the Nobles, which made Edw: the Confes∣sor say before his death, that England should be given in∣to the hands of Divills and wicked Spirits. You see what sins made the great changes in this Kingdome, sins not unlike the Amorites, which from Levit. 18. Deut. 2 & 12. are conceived to be Idolatry, oppression and filthinesse, *which are destructive of Religion, Justice and holynesse of life, the onely bands of humane Societies; and when these sinnes of theirs were full▪ God cuts them off, for when sinnes become destructive to Societies, they whet Gods Axe and hasten it to the root, and now you have heard what are the sinnes bring the Axe thither. It fol∣lowes that I shew you the third thing sets out the severi∣tie of God and that is, Thirdly, the impartialnesse of God in the worke, Every Tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewen down and cast into the fire; let it be an Olive Tree, or a Bramble, a Fig tree or a Vine no exception excuse, e∣vasion, pretence, or priviledge or plea is admitted, but the axe is laid to the root of every one, it referres to that in Deut. 20. 20. The trees thou knowest be not for meat thou shalt destroy, such trees must not be spared though great and goodly: In particulars you may see this truth more cleerly: Looke at Kings, they are tall Cedars, Dan. 4. 14. Hew downe the Tree: Nebuchadnezzar himselfe must downe, Herod, Pharaoh, Belshazzer were cut off by the root. Gods axe neither feares nor spares the proudest, Psal. 76. 12. Not Prophets, Balaam is slaine by the Sword, Num. 31. 8. Not Priests, 1 Kin. 18. Not Nobles, Zimri and Cozbi are runne through, Num. 25. Not Apostles, Iu∣das falls headlong▪ and bursts in pieces, Act. 1. 18. Not Statists and great Counsellors, Ahitophel is smitten, a Sam. 17. Not Tribes, Iudg. 21. 3. A Tribe was lack∣ing in Israel, afterwards ten were wanting. Not Cities, Sodom, Ierusalem, Babylon, are layd wast. Not a World, 1 Pet. 3. 20. That is drown'd; no priviledge will advan∣tage. Page 25Abrahams seed, Children of the Kingdome, are cast out, Mark. 8. 12. No place secures; Ioab is taken at the hornes of the Altar, Angels in heaven are thrown down, 2 Pet. 2. 4. the Figtree in the Garden is not spared, Luke 13. 6 That of Coniah is most observable, Ierem. 22. 24. Though Coniah be as the signet on my right hand, yet would I pluck him thence: though he be much esteemed and very deare, as Signets on Princes hands are, yet it shall not privi∣ledge him; you may thinke his nearnesse and my af∣fection to him may preserve him in his place, but be not deceived, as I live saith the Lord I will pluck him thence. Thus you see the severity of God in his impartiallnesse to∣wards every tree. Now I come to make application of the point.
* I might here first shew you that all Kingdomes have their Periods, and learned writers tell us, that there are no Kingdomes so great, so glorious, so powerfull, that extend their duration above 500. or 600. yeares at most, but are either ruinated and fall to ashes, or else suffer some great change. The Jewish State from Egypt to the Temple, was 480. yeares, from Saul their first King, to Zedektah the last of Judah, were 480. yeares, and then they were led into Captivitie, and after their returne within 500. yeares, they were cut off by Vespasian and Titus, the Axe in my Text, and are not a Tree to this day. And the ten Tribes after their division 260 yeares were carried away: the Assyrian, Persian, Grecian▪ and Roman Monarchies had their Periods, and were cut downe by one Judgement or another; the Britaines after 500 years *were quit of the Romans tyranny in England, and Athens from the time of its Monarchy, to the time of its De∣mocracy had 490. yeares. The Lacedemonians flourished 491. yeares. The Saxons had to do here 469. years The Danes 242. And then there was an end of them, and it is known to all of you, how long we have been since the conquest, but I doe not desire to prophesie, and foretell things to come, all seasons are in the hand of God, but Page 26 its thought we are upon the Tropicks, if we be not rui∣ned altogether, certainely there will be some great al∣teration in the Kingdome.
[ 2] Secondly, Doth God lay the Axe to Kingdomes? are they lyable to destruction? then take counsell this day, let every one provide for a Kingdom that cannot be sha∣ken make sure of that Kingdom which no Axe can cut, make sure of eternity for your soules. It is not long be∣fore we must be cut downe all by death, you know that night and day, are Axes constantly hewing at the root of your Trees, besides other casualties which may take away your lives, if you have no other Kingdome but this Kingdome to helpe you, you will droppe into *a Kingdome of darkenesse. where will be waiting and gnashing of teeth for ever. When Noah heard of a flood to drowne the world, he prepared an Arke presently to preserve himselfe and his family: when you heare the Axe is laid to the root of Kingdoms and they be terribly shaken, see you provide an eternall Kingdome, for the safety of your soules, and those are yours. Christ hath a Kingdome to bestow that is not to be hewen or shaken by the power of men or divels get Christ and that King∣dome is yours. They have interest in Christ, are of the Blood royall, and Co-heires with him. Christ is the roote of Iesse, Rom. 15. 12. desire the Father to draw you and to ingraft you into that root that being rooted in him as it is, Col. 2. 7. you may be out of all dan∣ger, for Romans 8. 1. There is no Condemnation to them that are in Christ: 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, not one condemnation, neither the Divill nor the World, nor their owne hearts, nor God himself▪ shall, or can justy condemne you with one condemnation. And if there bee no condemnation, there is no Axe, *Hee that believes in mee, an• keepes my sayings, saith Christ, shall never see death, if then you be not in Christ, if you be Christians in name, and not in truth, Christians in Page 27 the forehead and not in the heart, if you have the sprink∣ling of water in the face, and not that of blood in the conscience, you are dead men, 1 Iohn 5. 12. He that hath the Sonne hath life, and he that hath not the Sonne, hath no life in him: If it be so, you are dead Trees and must be cut downe, and cast into the fire, and there will be no re∣medy, looke narrowly therefore to your interest in Christ, and right to the Kingdom of Heaven seeing the Kingdoms of the earth are sopping and cutting down by the Axe of God. And to help you a little in this maine point: which way do the branches of your trees tend? is it upwards or downwards? the branches are desideria & af∣fectus: are your desires and affections to promotion plea∣sure, profit, content in the creature and upon things be∣low? then will you fall downward into the lake of fire, when the Axe doth his office, for the tree ever fals that way, the boughes and branches most incline: but if your desires and affections are after and upon the things above, Christ and his Kingdom, the riches pleasures, honours and excellencies thereof you shall not be cut down only be transplanted, the Lord will take you out of his kit∣ching Garden, and plant you in Paradise, by the Ri∣vers of pleasure at his right hand for evermore.
Thirdly, as this day requireth, let us all humble our [ 3] selves under the hand of God, is the Axe laid at the root of the Tree, and shall we be insensible of it? It was the Ordinance of this Honourable House, exhorting to re∣pentance, and deepe Humiliation, that strongly inclined me to fall upon this Text: You saw the Kingdome in eminent danger, without repentance, and like to perish, what you have cal'd for, and my Text points at let us reach after and practice this day. It's a day for mour∣ning and afflicting of our spirits, Levit 16. 29. 3•. and Chapt. 23. 29. if they be not afflicted, wee and the King∣dome may be cut off together. The soule most affected with the time, and most afflicted for the sinnes of them, will doe the Kingdome most service. There is Page 28 sinne and miserie enough in the Land to breake and humble us. Besides our deadnesse, rottennesse, barren∣nesse, are we not sinfully fruitfull? Have we no▪ such sinnes and sinners among us as bring destruction unto Kingdomes? Hath not the Lords day beene constantly prophaned? Hath not Idolatry and Superstition bin entertaind, countenanc'd and practis'd? Hath not Justice bin neglected? hath not blood, oppression, drunken∣nesse, swearing, Blasphemy, uncleannesse, contention *and scoffing at holynesse overspread the Land? England is become like Israel a Rebellious House, the Hebr. is, a House of bitternesse, or an imbittering House; sinne is such gall, such worme-wood, that it imbitters Gods *Spirit against a Kingdome, Hosea 12. 14. Ephraim provo∣ked him to anger most bitterly, the word is, with bitternesse: they thrust Religion, Justice and God Himselfe out of place, they set up Idols, forsooke God, and oppressed the people, which things were very bitter. It was a bitter provocation when they gave Christ hanging on the Crosse gall and vinegar to drinke. A land doth worse when it sinnes against God in such sinnes as have bin mentioned; they give him pure gall to drinke, Lamentation, 1. 18. The Originall runnes thus, the LORD is righteous, for I have imbittered his mouth. The sinnes of a Kingdome and Families, imbitter the mouth of God; and the Lord pronounces wrath, curses, and judgement against that Kingdome, that imbittereth his heart, his mouth, and hand; he will come, deale se∣verely with that Kingdome, and cut it downe by the *roots: Hos. 13. 16. Samaria shall become desolate, for she• hath rebelled against her God, shee hath dealt bitterly with her God; and what then? they shall fall by the sword, their Infants shall be dash't in pieces, and their Women with Childe shall be rip't up: This was bitter to have their Children dash't in pieces, their Young-men to fall by the Sword, their Women to bee slaughter'd and rip't up like Beasts, their Country and Land to be laid desolate; Page 29 but it was not so bitter as mans dealing is with God, it is a greater evill for u• to sinne, it crosses the will of the blessed God it darkens his glory strikes at his life and be∣ing▪ it murdered his Sonne, vexes his Spirit, defaces his worke, and presses him as a Cart i pressed with sheaves, and this is worse then any or all the Judge∣ments of God upon us They are to purge us, to heale us, and to prevent the greatest punishments in Hell, and this is not so bitter, but when we deale so with God, as to darken his glory, to slight his love, to crucifie his Son, to grieve his Spirit, to undervalue the glorious excel∣lencies in the Gospell, this imbittereth the heart of God, and should imbitter and afflict ours.
There is a bitternesin sin as well as for sins: men may be humbled but not be humble; at the sense of Judgments most are humbled, there is the bitternesse for sin: but at the sight of the great wrong to God, men are humble, there is the bitternesse in sin. Let us then consider seri∣ously of our sinnes, and throughly view the enmitie that is in them to God, to Christ, and to his Holy Spirit; let us goe downe to the root of all, even originall corrupti∣on, and charge the enmitie which is in that sin to God, and in all those have sprung thence deeply upon our hearts, that feeling the wrong they have done to God, and the reall bitternesse is in them, we may be truely and throughly humble. If the bitternesse in sinne will not do it, let thoughts of Judgement and bitternesse for sinne helpe on and perfect the worke. Consider, is there not an Axe in the Land and an Axe at worke? is not God hewing and lopping of us? are not hundreds and thou∣sands cut off? Are not Townes, Counties and the King∣domewounded? doth not Ireland lie bleeding to death? Is it not drawing its last breath? Shall a Tribe be lost in our Israel and we not be sensible of it? Shall the Chri∣stian world be shaking, and cutting downe as it is at this time? and shall we not lay it to heart? Are we Christi∣ans? where is the Spirit of Christ? He wept over Ie∣rusalemPage 30 before the Axe came, we weep not over Ireland or England now the Axe is come. If we will be slight and formall in our humiliations, we provoke God to be reall and severe in our destructions, Iob 36. 18. Because there is wrath, beware lest hee take thee away with his stroke, his hand is lifted up and where his stroakes fall they are deadly; let us therefore humble our selves un∣der his mighty hand that we may not be cut down.
When the Axe is at the root, the danger is great, and Repentance necessary, if teares flow not the chips must flie, the tree must downe. aChrysostome saith, the Text is compulsorie, John constraines them to repentance, can you endure to see your wives and chil∣dren cut down? your habitations laid wast? your Tem∣ple and worship destroyed? your City to be burnt? most of your selves to be slaine or enslav'd? the Axe is at the root, if you repent not these things you must see and feele. Repentance now may prevent all. Smite upon your breasts and say woe is me its my sin hath provoked God to anger, and brought the axe to the root of the tree that hath endangered all, and now through the helpe of God I will doe what lyeth in mee to save all. If we were hum∣ble, and broken with the bitternesse of sin, and weight of judgements, wee should find mercie, 2 Chron. 12. 56, 7. There was a great Army came up against Ierusalem, She∣miah tells them, they had forsaken God, and therefore he had left them to the spoile of their enemies: upon this the King Princes and people humble themselves and ac∣knowledge the righteousnesse of God in his Judgements upon them and what followed, presently upon their hu∣miliation comes deliverance▪ God saw and sent, he saw them humble, and sent them mercy and in Iudah things went well, v. 12. If we would have things goe well in the Parliament, well in the Armie, well in the King∣dome then must we humble our selves and suitably to our sins 2 Chron. 7. 14. If there be through humiliation God will heare, helpe, and heale our Land, if we be tru∣ly Page 31 humble Gods Axe shall not cut us downe, but his hand shall lift us up in due time, 1 Pet. 5. 6.
Fourthly, as there must be humiliation, so there must be Reformation: let us lay the Axe to the root of our sinnes this day, if God lay it to the root of Kingdoms, its time for us to lay it to the root of our sins, Prov. 28. 13. it's said▪ he that confesseth his sinne, and forsaketh it shall have mercy. It's without question we have often times in publique confessed our sinnes, but if heaven should now demand of us whether we have forsaken them? I feare there would be a generall silence. Its a vaine thing to expect mercy and live in sinne: if we do not forsake them they will stop the sluces of mercy, and hasten in destruction upon you, us, all. Humiliation without Reformation is a mocking of God, and provokes much. Hath sinne brought us low, let the Axe of Reformation bring sinne low this day, lay it to the root of sinne and cut that down. Psal. 110. 5. It's said of Christ, In the day of thy wrath thou shalt smite through Kings. Is not this the day of your wrath with your sinne? are you not angry with them? do you not hate them? if it be so, shew your selves Christians, that you have the Spirit of Christ in you. Smite through Kings, I meane your kingly lusts; There be kingly reigning sinnes in men, lusts that do command and imbondage their Spirits to base things, coveteousnesse, pride, uncleannesse, selvishnesse, incon∣stancie, unfaithfulnesse, unbeliefe, carnall reasonings, creature feares, and such like, which are predominant in the brests of men, and indanger their eternall con∣dition, these we must mortifie else we dy for it, and that eternally Rom 8. 13. Let this therefore be one of our great works to mortifie our sinnes, and to destroy them utterly. Many deale too kindly with their sinnes, they do by them as you do by Malignants in prison, they have their friends come to them, they have their wine, their feasts and what they will, onely they are a little re∣strained of their liberty, so some restraine them of their Page 32 lusts and that is all the Martyrdome and Mortification they have, their fantasies give them frequent visits, and feast them with delightfull meditations, and so in spa∣ring of their lusts they ruine themselves. When Ioab went out against Absalom, what said David, Deale gently with the young man for my sake, and beware that none touch him, 2 Sam. 18. 5. 12. He would have Absolom spared though it tended to the ruine of the Kingdome. And thus is it when we come out against mens Absoloms, their lust, they would have us deale gently with them, not touch them; especially not wound them, their lust they would have spared, though a Kingdom by them should be rui∣ned. But you know how Ioab dealt with Absolom, v. 14. he thrust him thrice through the heart while hee was alive in the midst of the Oake, hee made sure work and prevented future commotions in the Kingdome. You are caught in an Ordinance this day of Prayer and Fasting, it's our aime and desire to strike through the heart of your lusts by the darts of divine truth, that for the future there may be no commotions in your soules. O suffer us to doe it and helpe on the worke, for it lyeth most in your hands. You know what lusts are strong and living in you, set upon them▪ spare them not. It was an Argument of wickednesse in Saul that he spared Agag, of righteousnesse in Samuel in that he hewed him to pieces; if you spare your lusts, your great and fat ones, it will be an Argument of your wickednesse, but if you hew them in pieces and make a generall slaughter of them, it will be an Argument of your righteousnes, and may produce the good and safety of the whole Kingdome. I beseech you therefore in the name of Christ, spare not one Achan, one lust, that one may be the ruine of all, one sinner de∣stroyes much good, Eccles. 9. 18. and any sinne may hinder much mercy, Ier 18. 10. Now the Axe is laid to the root of every Tree, we must therefore lay it to the root of every sinne sinnes of constitution, sinnes of cust ome, sinnes against heaven and earth, God and man, the least, Page 33 the greatest, let them all feele the sharpnesse and strength of the Axe. He that spares any sinne, doth what lyeth in him to ruine Parliament, Army, Citie, Kingdome, King and all, Ion. 3. 8. 10. When every one turned from his evill way, so that there was no way of wickednesse left unturn'd from, then God turn'd away his fierce anger and spared their Citie; if we turne every man from his evill wayes, and all those wayes, we may cer∣tainly and suddenly expect Gods turning from his fierce wrath, and his walking in wayes of peace and mercy with us. Peace is a desirable thing, yet not that peace will whet the Axe sharper, and make it cut deeper; such peace we desire as will keep the God of peace with us; we take the wrong course for peace if we go on in our sinnes, Es. 57. 21. Ps. 68. 21. He that cries for peace with his lips, and destroyes it with his life, he maintaines the Warrs, divides betweenethe King and Parliament, and widens the breaches of the Kingdome. If we will fast and goe on in sinfull wayes, we may have a dubious and dangerous peace with men, but it's impossible we should have any with God. I shall shut up this point with that of Samuel to the people, 1 Sam. 12. 24, 25. Onely feare the Lord and serve him in truth with all your heart, for he hath don great things for you, but if you shall still do wickedly, yee shall be consumed, both yee and your King: progresse in wickednesse pro∣duceth not peace. The true product of it is destruction to people, Parliament, King and Kingdome. If we would therefore have all safe, peace be in our Borders, and the God of peace be propitious to us, let us depart from all iniquitie.
Hitherto I have spoken to all, give me leave now Honourable and worthy Senators, to commend some things to your considerations. My first and humble request is, that the Axe of your power may not ly still, but that Justice may be done. God is a God of Justice, he makes it knowne to all the world he layes his Axe to the root of the Tree, shew your selves a Parliament of Page 34 Justice, let the world know it, lay the Axe to the root of Delinquencie. Neglect of Justice, as you heard before, indangers a Kingdome, Iudah was layd wast because there was no Judgement executed▪ Es. 5. 67. Suffer not a Kingdome to perish upon that ground. It brings your Authority into contempt, and renders you despicable in the eyes of many: whereas if justice were done, Au∣thority would be more dreadfull and your persons more Honourable, 1 Kings 3. 28. when Judgement was given between the two Harlots, its said, all Israel heard and feared; that act struck feare into a whole Kingdom. We do not read what became of the Harlot which took away the Child from the true mother, but it is concei∣ved, and very probably, that she died for it, according to the Plagiarian Law, of which you may read, Exod. 21. 16. Deut. 24. 7. It a man did steale an Israelite, or the Son of an Israelite, any soule, and the party were found in his hand, he was surely to be put to death; whence we may conclude, the Harlot suffered▪ the whole Kingdom feared, and Solomon was honoured for that act of Justice; it's execution of justice makes Authority to be regarded, and a Kingdome to feare: when your justice fell upon that great Cedar above a yeare and halfe agoe did not England tremble? did not it make many feare and flie? Justice secures a Kingdome, but neglect of it makes Courts contemptible and Kingdomes hazardable.
Againe, the neglect of Justice enboldens men to goe on in wicked practises, Eccles. 8 11. because sentence against an evill worke is not executed speedily, there∣fore the hearts of the Sonnes of men is fully set in them to doe evill, they are void of all feare saith one aTransla∣tion, bfild with boldnes saith another; and the cFrench is fild to doe evil. Impunity fills the sailes of wicked men, and drives them against Parliaments, Kingdomes, and Heaven it selfe. When great Delinquents go unpunished, ddivine providence is brought to the Bar and question∣ed, men upon it become Atheisticall, heady, outragious, Page 35 dissolute. Who knowes it not saith eTullie, that impuni∣ty is the greatest incouragement to impiety. The Hea∣then with his dark Lanthorne could see the truth of this, and shall wee Christians that have the light of life, Iohn 8. 12. not see it? fAugustine long since saw it, and said, take away Justice, and what are Kingdomes but Dens of theeves and places for plunder? wee find and feele the re∣alty of this truth at this day, and are like to lye under guilt till Justice be done.
Lastly, want of justice, increases the number of De∣linquents, Iudg. 17. 6. there was no Justice, and now they were all delinquents, every man did what he list. The words are, there was no King in Israel, and yet they were all Kings in Israel. They had not then had any King in a astricke sence. Judges were their Governours, and because they did rule and execute Justice, they are stiled Kings, and now they had no Judge no King, and yet they were all Judges, all Kings their lusts were their Lawes, and bevery man did what was right in his owne eyes. Nature is corrupt, nothing sweeter to it then li∣berty, and where Justice is suspended, there is a cCom∣mission to be wicked, but where is most Justice, there are fewest Malefactors and least mischiefe: The dTurkes are severe and speedy in their Justice which prevents in∣crease of Delinquents and danger. Those Nations are remisse in Justice: besides the sadding of those are inno∣cent, they abound in Delinquents and dangers, its our case at this present; Englands dangers are many, because Englands Delinquens are not a few, and its not like to be better with us till the justice of a Parliament be so fea∣red, that no Delinquent may expect safety in any part of our Kingdome. Let Justice therefore, O you heads of Israel run down as waters, and righteousnesse as a migh∣ty streame: we have mighty sinnes and mighty sinners which make mightie dangers, and if there be not, *tor∣•ens iustitia, a streame of Justice, yea a mighty streame, that may erunne downe and runne over the Sonnes of Page 36B•••al, will not be taken away, our guilt and spot will not be purged, nor our Land secured. You are the Supreme Court of Justice, let the Sunne be darke and the Sea dry before your streams doe cease flowing. In Moses dayes men wondred at the drynesse of the Red Sea. In Christs dayes they wondred at the darkning of the Sunne, but let none wonder for want of Justice. Open your Sluces, and let the floods of Justice carry down the floods of I∣niquity. fLewes one of the Kings of France having spa∣red upon intreaty a man deserved death, and reading that in the 106. Psa me 3. Blessed are they that keep Iudge∣ment, and he that doth righteousnesse at all times, this doing righteousnesse at all times, so wrought upon him, that presently he reversed what he had granted, and said, He that hath power to punish sin and doth it not, becommeth a Pa∣tron of it, and is as guilty before God▪ as if himselfe had com∣mitted it; and that its Piety not Cruelty to execute Ju∣stice. If the spirit of this Prince were in all the Prin∣ces and Magistrates of the Christian world, what a sud∣den change should we see. The Lenitie many propound and plead for, proves cruelty to particulars, to whole E∣states: It made gCato say that those powers did not pu∣nish Delinquents▪ were not onely to be rejected, but to be ston'd, least their indulgence might damnifie the State. He saw neglect of Justice did prejudice King∣domes, and wee see, the want of it hinders much, if not all our good I speak not this from mine own head, but I will give you the warrant of a Prophet for it Ierem. 6. 29. The founder melts in vaine, for the wicked are not pluckt a∣way: Ministers are Founders▪ they are to melt, make men fit for a spirituall estate; you are Founders are melting and making men fit for a Politique condition, but both you and we melt in vaine, and the reason is gi∣ven, the wicked are not pluckt away, while they stand, the labour is in vaine: and what can an Army do, if Justice march not with them? Achan will sooner overthrow Is∣rael then take At: but when Justice was executed and he Page 37 ston'd, At was easie to take, God was then with Israel and fild them with spirit to do exploits. Its thought by men of wisdome that if your power had acted more and penlesse, we had bin in a safer condition, and God more propitious. Justice pacifies wrath, when neglect there∣of provokes it. Some fear execution of Justice will kin∣dle a fire, and make stirres in Kingdomes: but Fiat ju∣stu•a, & ruat mun•as, Gods way will never destroy Gods worke; let Justice be done, and God will looke to the world, and Kingdomes of it. Further see how crosse mens thoughts are to divine, Ph••chas executes justice upon great ones, and what followed? a Commotion? no, Gods wrath was turned away, and a Covenant of peace made, Numb. 25. 8. 11, 12. Seeing hee hath executed ju∣stice and honour'd me, saith God, behold I give unto him my Covenant of peace, and will honour him. In publique calamities the hSacrifice of a wicked man is a Peace Offering, and may prevent great wrath.
If Powers will winke at wickednesse, they may remedy, the time may quickly come, they shall smart for judge∣ments they cannot prevent. It's injustice and want of justice that disturbs Kingdomes and Cities: doth not that treacherous plot of Bristoll justifie what is said? Doth it not cry alowd for justice? and shall it be forgot∣ten? Let the waters of justice flow and they will refresh. It was the River in Eden that made Paradise so sweet and flourishing, and streames of Justice may make us a Paradise once againe▪ being almost a Wildernesse. When Ioab, Sh•mei and Adon•jah were cut down by Solomons axe, then was the Kingdom established▪ 1 Kings 2. 46. If Justice be at a stand, and cannot take hold of living De∣linquents, to keepe the Axe from rust, let Justice be ex∣euted upon livelesse Delinquents. Are there no Altars? no high places? no Crucifixes? no Crosses in the open streets that are bow'd unto and Idoliz'd? lay your Axe to their rootes and hew them downe. In Ezek. God threatens the destruction of their Cities, because they Page 38 spared their Altars, Idols, Images, and owne works, chap. 6. 6. Let us secure our Cities and save God that labour, down with all is suspitious, scandalous, and su∣perstitious. Thus have I done my first motion.
* The second is, that the Axe of God being layd to the roote of our Kingdome, you would have a speciall care of the root, while that is safe there is hope. Job. 14 7.
1. Do your utmost to keepe God with us, yet he, is in the midst of us, Ier. 14. we are his people, hee is *our God, yet we have no Bill of Divorce, and L•••mm• is not written over our Gates▪ do what lies in you to keepe off such a mischiefe. If God should depart and disanull his Covenant with us, most dreadfull things would be∣tide us, Hos. 9. 12. Woe to them when I depart from them, all evills presently step, croud in upon a people left of God, then publique enterprises prosper not, •Chron. 24. 20. 24. then Counsell failes, 1 Sam. 28. 15. Then protection ends. Esa 50. 5. Then peace▪ loving kindnesse and mer∣cy goe, Ierem. 16. 5. And such Judgements are as taking the Sunne out of the firmament, and the Soule out of the Body. Popery is the thing produceth such effects, *it's like 〈…〉 Chambers full of abhominations, and hath that malignity in it as to drive God from his peo∣ple. You have bin prest to the iextirpation of it▪ had thoughts to effect it: Let them not die in you but come to perfection, and ingage us yet in a more firme Cove∣nant to the Lord, that we may for ever be the Lords, and the Lord ours, according to what you heard out of kIer. 50. 5.
2. Looke to the Civill power, let not that be rested out of your hands, your Magna Charta, the Position of Right, your Parliament •riviledge•, what have bin taken from you recover, what have layen dormant and tend to publique good revive▪ what obtrusions and bonds have bin put upon you ad••be•e securim & imputate▪ You are a free Parliament, preserve your freedome, our Laws and Liberties are in your hands, let them not suffer: The Page 39 being and lively-hood of the Kingdome depends much thereon. Loges terra & Statuta •egn•, are the Sinewes and Bon•s of the body politick, wound them and the King∣dome bleeds, loose them and the life of it's gone. Arbi∣trary Government is a dangerous thing; a Comet that threatens destruction to the Country, it's over: you tell us lThat acts of will and Tyranny are the ingredients into it, that neither Parliament nor Kingdome can •e safe with it: Let your convictions cause prevention, improve your pow∣er; let not Eng: become a house of bondage a 2d. Aegypt.
3. Let Religion and truth be pretious in your eyes, they are of msuch consequence, as that without them is little peace or safety to Kingdomes That state preserves truth, will the God of truth preserve. When Ieroboam gave way to plausible inventions, he layd the foundati∣on for his own and the Kingdomes ruine, 1 King 14. The Church of Philadelphia had a speciall care of Gods word, Rev. 3. 10. and found the fruit of it, because thou hast kept the word of my patience, not onely in their hearts, in their practise, but also because nthey had kept it from being taken away, from corruption there∣fore God would keepe them from the houre of tempta∣tion▪ Gods word is in danger oft by Haeresies, Schismes, Persecutions, if we will ingage our selves for it, GOD will ingage himselfe for us, but if we de∣sert the truth, both God and truth will be against us. *The Danish Prelats stood not for pure Religion, but chiefly for that was their own, and therefore were cast out by Prince and people in the yeare, 1537 God priseth his truth at a high rate, he will destroy Nations for the safety of his people. Es. 43. 3. and he will destroy heaven and earth for the safety of his truth, Mat. 5. 18. that he Magnfies above all his name, Psal. 148. 2. This whole Creation, this visible name of GOD is little to his eternall Truths. Let truth therefore be gracious with you, and contend with all your might for the faith *that it be not pul'd from us. The onely wise God bids Page 40 you by the wisest of men, to buy the Truth and not to •ell it, Proverbs 23. 23. it's worth all mens labours, liber∣ties and lives, it cannot be over bought; loose Religi∣on and Truth, and we have lost all that is considerable; where these go, the Blessing goes, Ier. 31. 23. The Lord blesse thee O habitation of Iustice, and Mountaine of Holynesse. Where the Laws are executed, and pure Religion is maintained▪ there is a habitation of Justice, a Mountain of Holynesse, and the blessing of God upon them both. If you love blessings and would avoyd curses, keep Re∣ligion in it's own lustre, and rather let Men and King∣domes, then Truth fall to the Earth; yet the way to make earthly Kingdoms happie, is to uphold the King∣dom of heaven.
Fourthly, The godly in the Kingdome, Magistrates, Ministers, and people, let them be preserved, they are the root of a Kingdome: it was Ioseph preserved Egypt, and the Kingdome of the Egyptians: when the Israelites were driven out of Egypt, the Egyptians were quickly de∣stroyed, and their Kingdome ruined: for Pauls sake all the soules in the Ship were kept alive, Act. 27. Moses kept Gods hand in Heaven that he did not destroy his people on earth, Exod. 32. 10. A godly man is of great worth, Elijah did more good by his fasting, and Prayer, by opposing Ahab, and destroying Baals Priests, then the Chariots and Horsemen of Israel. The godly are the Forts and Magazines of a Kingdome: It was Lot upheld Sodome, when he was gone, the brimstone came and the City was turned into ashes, the place is very remarkable Gen. 19. 22. Hast thee, escaped to Zoar, I cannot doe a∣ny thing till thou comest thither; what the righteous∣nesse of one Lot to preponderate the Iniquities of all Sodom, where were thousands? O wonder! O the weight of one Saint! away Lot, escape to Soar, I cannot doe any thing till thou comest thither: but were not their sins great and many? be it so yet I cannot doe any thing till thou comest thither: but were not their sins full? Yes, Page 41 they were, yet I cannot doe any thing till thou come to Zoar. I but Lord art thou not come downe to execute Judgement without mercy: Its truth yet I cannot do it till hou come to Zoar; my hands are tyed, fire and brim∣stone will not come downe from Heaven while Lot's in Sodome. Thou art the man that hinders all, Bee gone, hast to Zoar, but Lot lingers and will not make hast, then I must linger also saith God, if he stick my Judge∣ments must sticke, till he be gone I cannot doe any thing. Here's the worth and excellencie of a righteous man, he keepes off Judgements, even brimstone Judgements from a City and a Kingdome.
Great things will God doe for a good mans sake, 2 King. 2•. 6. I will defend this City for mine owne sake, and for my servant Davids sake, God joynes David with himselfe, and puts great honour upon him, its▪ •swell for his sake as for Gods, that Ierusalem is defended. The Saints are deare to God, he doth much for them, and for their sakes and shall they not be deare to you: there is a choice Prophecy in 1 Zach. 12. 5. the Governours of Iudah shall say in their hearts, the Inhabitants of Ierusa∣lem my strength in the Lord of Hosts their God, they were newly come out of Babylon, their enemies that op∣posed them in the worke of the Temple, and Reforma∣tion were many, the number of the godly was few, yet their eyes were upon them. The Governours of Iuaah said in their heart, the Inhabitants of Jerusalem, my strength in the Lord of Hosts their God, every Gover∣nour looked at all the godly in Ierusalem, and ac∣count of them as his strength in particular, and they look't not at the godly in themselves as poore few, weake and despicable but they looked at them in the Lord of Hosts, their God. They saw that those persons had in∣terest in the Lord of Hosts, that he was their strength and defence: Whereupon they own'd them, clos'd with them, and countenanc'd them, knowing that these men and their God would bee assured strength and sufficient Page 42 defence unto them. You that are the Governours of our Iudah, cast your eyes upon the godly, and say in your hearts, these are our strength in the Lord of Hosts their God, these have bin faithfull unto us, and wee will be shields unto them, for so the word Ruler signifies, Hos. 4. 18. *Victor Vicensis tells of one that had a vision, of a Tree that reached up to Heaven, and spread its bran∣ches farre, so that all delighted in the greatnes and beau∣ty of it, but suddenly there came a wild beast and rub'd at the root of it, and overthrew the same. This Tree was the Church which spread through all Affrica, Hun∣nerick; an A•ria• Prince was the wild Beast, who ba∣nished and martyred the Orthodox amongst them, and laid all waste; where the Godly are driven out there Judgements are drawn in, if mens Axes cut downe the trees are green: Gods Axes must and will cut down the Trees are dry.
[ 3] Thirdly, The next thing I humbly desired of you is that seeing God layes his Axe to the root of the Tree, that there may be a through Reformation of all evills in the Kingdome, but especially in the worship of God, partiall reformation makes way for a future desolation. Our Reformation was conceived heretofore in sinne, and now hath brought forth Iniquity, if it had bin for∣med according to the mind of God, we should not have had such stirs and troubles in these daies; if any therefore have built up Hay, Straw, and Stubble, let your fire burne up such combustible matter; if bryars and thornes do grow in the Sanctuarie, let your Axe cut them downe, 2 Chron. 14. 3. 5. When Asa tooke away Altars, high places, brake the Images, cut downe the Groves then had the Kingdome quiet before him, its such trash as Altars, Images, Ceremonies and inventions of men, which do disquiet Kingdomes, Churches, Con∣sciences. Mens thoughts are, that removall of them will breed disturbance, its their standing not their ta∣king away doth it. When we go in Gods way, breaking Page 43 and banishing out of Gods worship the needlesse, scan∣dalous, and accursed things, God overules spirits which are opposite, and a Kingdome is at rest.. Asa tooke the Images and high places out of all the Cities of Judah, and yet the Kingdome was quiet; the more exact in the things of God, the better successe. God would not have the names of Idols and superstitious things left amongst us, Hos. 2. 16, 17, 18. Thou shalt call mee no more Baali, Baalim must be no more in their minds or memories, It was a good pname, but because abus'd to Idolatry, God would not endure it. A great name is no great matter in mans judgement, it was much in Gods, and hee would have a perfect Reformation, not tollerate the least evill▪ and thereupon he makes a Covenant with all creatures for them, and promises to breake the bow, sword, battle out of the earth, and to make them lye down safely. You see a through reformation is the readiest way to greatest se∣curity. The qPapists hope by names and termes of theirs to worke in their faith amongst us▪ they call our words novita•es vocum, and keep the old termes, Penance, Priest, Masse, Altar, Sacrifice, &c. These words▪ say they will bring us to the faith of our first Apostles, I beseech you therefore to dash their hopes, take away these names and dayes, they so confide in Neast-eggs, yea cockatrice eggs, they are and may rbreed Serpents, tread them un∣der your feet, shew your selves children of that Father who hates superstitious names, times, things, and loves a perfect worke, Esa. 1. 25. I will turne my hand upon thee and purely purge away thy drosse, and take way all thy sinne. God will not endure drosse and sinne in the Shekells of the Sanctuarie, those things dim the glorie and imbase the substance, they must out; and because there be many adversities and great opposition to works of Reformation therefore saith God in the vers. before, I will ease mee of mine adversaries, doe they hinder so needfull so good, so great and so glorious a worke▪ ah I will ease my selfe of such adversaries; and if men will 〈1 page duplicate〉Page 44〈1 page duplicate〉Page 45Page 44 not do the worke my hand shall do it and do it, through∣ly. It's mans wisdome to do that aforehand which God will doe by his judgements. In this 3 of Math 12. Christ is presented with his Fanne in his hand, and resolution to purge it to purpose. The Jewes would not part with their Mosaicall Worship, they stuck to the Ceremonies and Rites of the Temple, but because they would not purge out the corruptions crept in, nor part with the shaddow for the substance now come▪ therefore Christ fann'd them by a terrible judgment destroy'd, them, their Temple, and all the Formalities of it, setting up pure and Spirituall Worship, which had they admitted, their de∣struction might have bin prevented. Luke 13. 33. 34.
What corruptions are got into the worship of God, is not unknowne to you, the Worthies of our Israel, turne your hand upon us and purely purge out all the drosse is there. If things be not evident to you, make an exact scrutinie, and whatever you finde without Christs su∣perscription, is adulterate, he will not owne nor blesse it. Ius divinum, is his stampe, and what hath that Christ will owne. O suffer nothing to be in his House, which hath not a divine impression upon it, which is not after Christ, Col. 2 8. and for the future let nothing be brought in which is after men and not after Christ; let no world∣ly rudiments approach his presence, when Nadab and Abihu, brought strange fire into the worship of God, fire went out from the Lord and made them a Sacrifice; there was nothing against their fire, but this was it, they had no Warrant for it, God commanded it not, Levit. 10. 1, 2. Let some fiery law go forth from you that may scorch all such as shall hereafter dare to joine their posts with Gods, and mingle their chaffe with his Wheate, and let not any lawes be of force, that may countenance such evills, uphold suspected things, or prejudice the liberty of tender consciences, yea wayes of worship which may prove snares to you, or your Posterity; put the Axe of your power unto them, and hew them down.
Page 45 There is another thing yet, and very desirable, you have been faithfull to the Kingdome hitherto, go on still to be faithfull: you are Ambassadours of the great∣est King, the great things of heaven and earth are com∣mitted to your care; the glory of Iehovah, the Gospel of Christ, the welfare of Churches, the good of King∣domes; and in some respect of the whole Christian world is in your hands. Olives and Figgetrees will not let go their fatnesse and sweetnesse, do not you let goe your faithfullnesse: put forth your selves, and do what you can for the glory of God, the Gospel, the Churches, the Kingdome, the world.
All these waite and expect much at your hands, Prov. 13. 17. A wicked messenger falleth into mischief, but a faithfull Ambassadour is health. Messengers of a State have power to doe great things, if men will be byassed with feare, promises and selvish respects, importunities of friends, and the like, they shall fall into mischief: God hath said it, and well it shall not be with them, but a faithfull *Ambassadour he is health, health to his own conseience, he is health to a Kingdome, health to the Churches, health to all. God calls to you to help Him against the mighty; the Churches call to you to help them against corruptions, Innovations, impositions; this Kingdome, Ireland cryes to you for help against distractions, oppres∣sions, bloud, ruine: now shew your selves Helpers and Healers. In Prov. 25. 12. it's said A faithfull messenger re∣fresheth the soule of them that send him: It's not the head, but the soule, the heart is refreshed by such a man; the Hebrew is, He causeth the soule of his Lord to returne: and we may truly say to your comfort and honour, that the soule Religion and the Kingdome hath, you have caused it under God to returne. We were dying, Religion and Kingdome were dying, and you have given us a little reviving the Lord reward you fully for it: go on and shew your faithfullnesse, bring it to perfection, Esa. 11▪ 5. faithfullnesse is the golden girdle of Christ.
Page 46 Some Expositors understand by righteousnesse and faithfullnesse, righteous and faithfull men, which are as neare and deare to Christ as his girdle; a great and glorious ornament unto him. There is much difference between those are for Christ, and those are newters or against him: in the 17. Rev. when the Kings of the earth shall give their power to the Beast, and make warre with the Lamb, the victory is the Lambs, and they that are with him are call'd, chosen and faithfull. Let not a neu∣tralizing or oppressing spirit be found amongst you: shew your selves All now to be with and for the Lamb, His cause, His Churches, His People and you shall have that honour as to be stil'd call'd chosen faithfull. It's good being with the Lamb when the Axe is at the root, and having honour from Christ when contempt is powring down upon the heads of others. Faithfull men have the blessings, when others have blowes and curses, Prov. 28. 20. A faithfull man abounds with blessings, his blessings are without number; he shall have the blessings of the pre∣sent people; the blessings of Generations to come, the blessings of heaven, the great God will powre forth his blessings upon such, and say to them as to faithfull Abra∣ham, Gen. 12. 2. I will blesse you and make your names great, and you shall be a blessing, and those that blesse you shall be bles∣sed: the great God will powre forth great blessings up∣on you, and mens curses shall never come neere you; If emergents of time should prove such as that you should not accomplish what you intend, yet you shall not goe without a blessing, Psal 84. 5. Blessed is the man in whose heart are the wayes of God.
There is another observation for all, in which I will be briefe, it's this, That the way to save a dying Kingdome from ruine, is by bringing forth good fruit: Now the Axe is layd to the root of the Tree, every Tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewen downe and cast into the fire. There is fruit unto Death, Rom. 7. 5. this the King∣dome abounds withall, and hath brought us under a Page 47 sentence of death. There is fruit unto Holynesse, Rom. 6. 22. and fruit unto God, Rom. 7. 2. these last are the fruits we must beare; If our fruit be unto holynesse, it's fruit unto God, and will reprive us from death. But to beare such fruit more then nature is requisite, Semen naturae non consurg•• in fructum Gratiae, It is not naturall a∣billities be they never so great and excellent, it is not Morall principles and vertues which will suffice: If a *man have not aliquid ampl•••, all is nothing, his fruit is sowre, Rom. 8. 7. the wisdome of the flesh is enmity against God. If you would bring forth fruit to save your soules and a Kingdome also, you must get into Christ, Iohn 15. 4. Labour to be rooted in him. Col. 2. 7. who is the root of Iesse, Rom. 15. 12. you must have divine faculties, 1 Iohn 5. 20. divine habits, Eph. 2. 8. divine moti∣ons and operations, Phil. 2. 13. and after all this you must act by a divine rule, and for a divine end and then your fruit is good, even such as will keep the Tree from cut∣ting down. There is great difference in trees and fruits, there is a Vine of Sod•me as well as of Sibmah, De•t. 32. 32. Esa 16 8. both are Vines, have their leaves and clust∣ers: but in the one is a blessing, on the other is a curse.
Cain and Abel goe forth to Sacrifice, the one is accep∣ted, the other despised, the Pharisee goes to Prayer with the Publican, the one is justified, the other condemned: The Egyptians went the same way with the Israelites, but they were drown'd where the Israelites were saved, looke narrowly to your selves therefore what trees you are, what fruit you beare. There will be distructum judicium, and the waies seem right in a mans own eyes may prove death. Prov. 14. 12. Let not flatteries and vaine preten∣ces undoe you: what if you have been baptised? So was *Simon Magus. What if you keepe fasts? So did the▪ Iewes, and yet not fast unto God. If you heare the Word gladly▪ and reforme in many things so did Herod: if you pray, Matth. 7. 21. Its not every one that saith Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdome of Heaven; there Page 48 is more then all these to be looked after, you must be in Christ, not have a name to be in him, but see to it in truth, that you be in him: The great worke is to make out that you are in Christ, most presume and are un∣done *by it. Gods judgement and mans differ much, and you will finde it when you come to die, his thoughts are not ours. Many that thinke themselves figtrees will be found brambles, and the fruit of many trees will bee found naught, which hath now an excellencie upon it▪ if you walke after the flesh and not after the spirit, you are not in Christ, and that man is not in Christ, is Arbor •amnab•lis a Tree for the fire.
I should now exhort all to be fruitfull, time permits it not. I will onely turne my speech a little unto you, O Noble Senators, seeing bearing of good fruit is a spe∣ciall meanes to save a Kingdome, labour to abound in e∣very good word and worke, to beare much fruit, and fruit answerable to your opportunities. God hath plan∣ted you in this Parliament to beare some choice fruit. If any should aske what doe you here? Let your answer be, We are zealous for the Lord of Hosts. When Esther was advanced she would not loose her opportunities. She will in to the King, although contrary to a Law, she will have the liberty of her people and Hamans head off, and venture Her life to accomplish it. If I perish, I perish, chap. 4. 16. Iosia, Hezek•ah, tooke their opportu∣nities and make a thorough reformation in Iudah: you know what great things Elijah did i•spiciente & reluctante rege, 1 Kings 18. Nehemiah and Ezra, for all the enemies scoffing cunning complyances to build with them, tak∣ing up Armes to subdue them, they tooke their times, improv'd their opportunities and brought forth fruit answerable to the expectation of heaven and earth, they built up the Temple and walls of Ierusalem. It was Ahabs sinne, he lost his opportunity, in letting Ben∣hadaa go a man that God had appointed unto death and it cost him his life for it, 1 Kin 22. 31. Men are snared Page 49 in an evill time because they know not their time, Eccl.*9. 13. You may be timeservers and observers without sin. The richest opportunities that ever men had are in your hands, observe them and serv the Lord in them. It's good fruit for a Parliament to set up a faithfull conscientious Ministry all the Kingdome over, to have a care of all Schooles of learning, that no corrupt opinions or practi∣ses be there: it's good fruit to abrogate ill Laws▪ to see to execution of those are good, to call for an exacter Translation of Holy Scripture, to helpe Ireland, to in∣quire after and countenance the Gouernment of Christ and al those particulars you have bin prest unto by those you have cal'd to preach before you on these dayes. *Have you not found the materialls of our Jerusalem rubbish, iron, and brasse, now give us gold for brasse, silver for iron, and pretious stones for rubbish. Now lay the Foundations thereof with Saphires▪ make the win∣dowes of Agates, the Gates of Carbuncles, and all the Borders of pleasant stones; then shall you set the priso∣ners of hope at liberty. These things are foretold, in their time are to be fulfil'd, and we desire your hands may helpe on so great and glorious a worke. The whole *Creation groanes to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, and we groan to be delivered from such bon∣dage: If you shall deliver us and set us in such a conditi∣on, you shall be as Gods unto us you shall be our Ioshuahs, though not our •esusses, Saviours of our liberties, lives. Kingdom, Religion, All onely not of our Soules.
Lastly, let not the frut of Prayer be wanting in any: it's choyce fruit, and of great efficacie. The Ninivites *cryed mightily and obtained mercy. The foundation of the Jewes deliverance was layd in Morde•aies, Esthers,*and the peoples Prayers. Asaes prayers overthrew the greatest Army we read of▪ 2 Chron. 14. 9. 11. The preva∣lencie of Prayer is yet unknowne▪ When the Master bid the Gardner cut down the Tree▪ Luke 13. 7. The Gard∣ner being tender of it, interceeds, and interceeding gets Page 50 the Axe removed. We are dressers of the Garden, and shall cry to God to spare it, and give him no rest: You likewise are principall dressers, and we hope will not faile to inter•eed for this Land and People; the want of your prayers may retard it not ruine the businesse, Exod. 32 10. Others prayers may doe somthing▪ they may doe much: but when Moses prayers come they doe all, Let me alone (saith God) that my wrath may wax hot against them and I will make of thee a great Nation. Behold a won∣der, the great God petitioning sinfull man! and that which is yet more, man denying Gods petition. Moses would not let God alone he would not be hired or byafled by God himselfe to loose the people▪ he would not com∣pound or comply with God himselfe. If God would not blot out the peoples sinnes, he requests God to blot him *out of his Booke. Moses knew he had brought them out of Aegypt, ingaged them in a Warre with A•a•••k, ex∣pos'd them to many difficulties and dangers, and there∣fore he is tender of the people and could not leave them, or any part of them, (when he had a great opportunity to do it) unto the wrath of a provoked King and God.*He puts God in minde of his Name and Oath, What will the Aegyptians say, and didst not thou sweare to Abra∣ham Is•a•k and Israel when thou tookest them and their Seed to be thy people and promisedst them to be their God and Soveraigne, that thou wouldest multiplie them and wilt thou now destroy them; Lord do it not, provide for thy Name, thine Oath, thy people; and what was the issue? The Lord repented of the evill in∣tended and spared the people. You that are the Moses∣ses that sit at the Sterne, and know all passages, hasten to the Lord, poure out your hearts before him your sighs teares, prayers may remove the Axe and secure the Kingdome, presse him with Moses his Arguments and you may have his Answer, and make us all happy by your prayers and endeavours.