A SERMON PREACHED before the Honourable House of COMMONS, at the monethly publick Fast, Septemb. 24. 1645.
2 SAM. 17. 14.
AS Kings have their Counsellors to assist them in the Government of their Kingdoms in peace and war: so Absalom making himself a King had his Councell of War to help him to manage his Rebellion, and to advance his wicked designe a∣gainst his Father, First, he sent for Ahithophel, who perfidiously deserted his Master the Lords Anoin∣ted, and cleaved to his rebellious Sonne. After Hu∣shai D•vids friend by Davids advice came in to him, who did better service for him when he was amongst his enemies, than he could have done if he had con∣tinued Page 2 with him. Ahithophel began first and delive∣red his opinion of David and his company, that they were weak and weary, and he offers to goe against him with twelve thousand men▪ and to surprize him▪ and take away his life; and this his counsell was well liked at the first, but after Ahithophel had spoken, Ab∣salom desired to heare Ha•cats opinion and advice al∣so, who rejecteth, Ahithophels counsell, yet modestly with respect to his place and parts, and delivereth his opinion contrary, that Davids men were not so weak as he thought,* but mighty and in wrath, which is the whetstone of fortitude, as a beare, &c. and for military skill he was no novice now to learne that, but an old experienced Souldier, and therfore would not so easily be found, and that there might be great danger if some of Absaloms men were slain, others would faint and fly, and therefore his counsell was, that they should goe stronger, not with twelve thou∣sand, but rather gather all Israel from Dan to Beer∣sheba, and that Absalom should goe himself in person to countenance the war, and animate the Souldiers, and then which way soever David took for his safe∣tie, they should be able to finde him and overcome him and all his company, and not leave a man of them alive. When Absalom and his party heard this, they generally approved it as the better way, and preferd Hushai's counsell before Ahithophels; Absalom and all Israel, &c. And in the words which I have read, the reason is rendred of this their unanimous approba∣tion of it; For the Lord determined to defeat the good counsell of Ahithophel that he might bring evill upon Ab∣salom. And thus yee see the occasion and coherence Page 3 and summe of the words; They hold forth unto us two things specially; First, Gods action; Secondly, Gods intention: His act was the defeating of Ahi∣thophels counsell; his intention was to bring evill up∣on Absalom: the one made way for the other; and af∣ter the intention soone followed execution, he did bring evill upon him and his partakers. That which is translated, determined, is in the Originall, command∣ed: and so in the Greek, when it is said, his good coun∣sell, the meaning is not that it was so morally, but re∣spectively, it was wise counsell and conduced to his ends and Absaloms, and it had been good for Absalom to have followed that counsell. When he saith evill, he meaneth destructive evill: in the Greek they read, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, all evils; and so much briefly for the sense of the words for the present.
From the connexion of these words with the for∣mer, wee may learne that there is nothing in man in∣dependent, neither his judgement nor his affections, but there is a secret divine operative power that o∣verruleth all sorts of men, and turneth their minds this way and that way, as God seeth good to turne them in mercy or in judgement to themselves or o∣thers. Here are two Counsellors the one against the other, and at the first Ahithophels counsell was liked, and after Hushai had spoken, it was disliked, and re∣jected, and Hushai's counsell was preferd before, for the Lord, &c. A place parallel to this wee have, 1 King. 12. 15. there are two sorts of Counsellors, one old and the other young, and Rehoboam hearkned not to the old men but to the young, and by that meanes lost ten parts of his Kingdome, and the Lord Page 4 said it was of him.*The way of man is not in himself, saith the Prophet Jeremy, neither is it in man to walk and to direct his steps; not the way of his feete, as theirs that say,*they will goe to such a Citie, and get gain, and never ask God leave; he teacheth them to say, if the Lord will, &c.* nor the way of his tongue, the pre∣paration of the heart is in man, but the answer of the tongue is of the Lord.* Which may be seene in Balaam, who intended to curse the Lords people, but being over-ruled, blest them; nor the way of his heart; which may be seene in Ezra,* and Artaxerxes, God put it into his heart to beautifie the house of the Lord;*The Kings heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whither soever he will: the reason is, because as God alone made all the world, so he will be absolute Master over all, and so rule and overrule, that it shall not be in the power of men or Devils to crosse him in any thing, but his will shall be done and not theirs, and his counsell shall stand at all times, maugre all their presumption. But here a question will be about sin and error, whether this do not make God the author of that. I answer, no; he is not the Author, but the Ordinator, or he that ordereth sin, and that alwayes in a righteous way; he constraineth none to doe evill, but restraineth many; he withheld Ahimelech that he should not sin against him;* and he keepeth back his servants from presumptuous sins; he restrain'd Josephs brethren when they would have kild him, and restrain'd Satan when he would have kild Job; and having suffered evill to be done, he draweth good out of evill, and often turneth even the sins of men to his own glory, and to the good of his Page 5 Church and children:* it is said that Josephs bre∣thren sold him, but that God sent him into Aegypt; they thought evill against him, he meant it for good, to save them and much people alive. Here was a gra∣cious ordinating of an ungracious act. When the Sa∣baeans and Chaldaeans plundred Job, he attributeth it to God,* and saith, The Lord hath taken away; now they did it with a felonious intent, and the Devill in ma∣lice against Job set them on work; but God with no ill meaning to him, but to prove the integritie of his servant, when it was questioned by Satan, and to ex∣ercise his patience for a time, and to do him good at his latter end; and therefore as he said, so may and ought we to say in such a case, Blessed be the Name of the Lord.* When Absalom went in to his Fathers Concubines, that was done which God said to Da∣vid he would doe; and as it was the punishment of sin, it was just with God to doe that which he did; David was right serv'd, when he was punished in the same kinde wherein he had trespassed against ano∣ther: as it had rationem peccati, the nature of sin, it was Absaloms; for he knew the Commandements, the fifth, and the sixth, and the seventh, and he had no countermand, therefore he did wickedly, and the worse because he did it with a wicked mind, to make himself abhorred of his Father, and past reconcilia∣tion; the Lord is righteous in all his wayes,* and ho∣ly in all his works, even in the way of punishing one sin with another; as he is magnus in minimo, great in the least work, so he is bonus in possimo, good in the worst act that is done in judgement upon the sons of men.
Page 6 For the use of this point: first, it serveth for the confutation of some errors; I will name but two; first, of those that deny the divine providence, as if God minded not the things below;* these erre, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power and wisdome of God; they abundantly declare, that there is no∣thing so high that is above it,* nor any thing so low that is beneath it;* that great Creator thinketh it not below his divine Majesty to move all things as he doth;* and it is a vaine thing to thinke that it is any trouble to him, as it would be to men; as he created all things without any servile labour, or any labour, onely by his Word;* so he upholdeth all things by the word of his power; and being an universall Spi∣rit, and omnipotent, it is as easie to him to rule all the world as one man, and to dispose of all things, as it was to create them, and by the same wisdome that he did the one, he doth the other.
The other error touching free will, tendeth to lift up nature and the vain heart of man, as if it were in the power of men to repent, and beleeve, and speake and doe as they see good, pro libero arbitrie, whereas Paul may plant and Apollo water,*but it is God that gi∣veth the increase:*this is the work of God, saith Christ, that yee beleeve;* the thought is the least part of the worke,* and yet the Apostle saith, that wee are not suf∣ficient of our selves to think;* and, God giveth both the well and the deed.*
Therefore in the next place this maketh for our humiliation, to keep us from pride of any thing in us, and from presuming of any power in our selves to doe any thing; wee know not what to pray, nor Page 7 what to think, nor what to judge, but are apt to mi∣stake, and mis-Judge,* and to be misled. Simon Magus was willing to be accounted some great man,* but a better man said,*I am nothing; he that thinketh he knoweth any thing, knoweth nothing as he ought to know,* 1 Cor. 8. 2. And without Christ wee can doe nothing; he saith not, nihil magnum, no great matter, as Augustine observeth, but nothing; and therefore Honourable Senators, yee do well that every morn∣ing before yee goe to the work of the day, yee begin with prayer to God, for his direction, and assistance, and blessing; I hope every Member doth it with an humble heart, apprehensive of his owne impotency, and nothingness; for certainly neither the ablest Church-men in spirituall affaires, nor the wisest Statesmen in temporall, can do any thing well with∣out God,* and therefore it is good to follow the old rule, and that is, to begin with God, lest errors be committed for want of his direction.
Secondly, Observe what humane wisdome is, and all great parts without the feare of God, and learne we hence, that Policy without piety turneth to folly and bringeth misery. What Ahithophel was for wis∣dome, and counsell, and State policy, appeareth by that which is written of him in the end of the former Chapter;*The Counsell of Ahithophel which he counsel∣led in those day•s, was as if a man had inquired at the Oracle of God; so was all the counsell of Ahithophel, both with David, and with Absalom. But what he was for Religion and conscience, may appeare by his for∣saking David, and complying with Absalom his wick∣ed Son, and by giving counsell to Absalom to goe in∣to Page 8 to his Fathers Concubines, and by offering his ser∣vice to kill David; a meer Politician, a Fox, wise to do evill, skilfull to destroy and to doe mischiefe, but not wise towards God, or for his own soule; his wis∣dome turned to folly, his policy proved vanitie in the end. What came of him, yee may reade after; being crost in his expectation, and taking to heart the disgrace done unto him, by their preferring Hushai's counsell before his, he presently rode home in dis∣content, and became selo de se, a self-murtherer. Of Jonadab it is said,*he was a very subtle man, but his counsell that he gave to Amnon came to nought, to his own shame, and his friends destruction, and all for want of the feare of God, which he did not set be∣fore his eyes.* That old Serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field, but his counsell brought evill upon himself.*And the King of Aegypt said, Come on, let us deale wisely with them, lest they multiply, but the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew;* and that Daniels enemies plotted against him, proved against themselves, and for him; and no marvell, for the wisdome of God is infinitely be∣yond the wit of man, and it is for his glory, to defeat the counsell of the wisest of men, and to establish his owne: and the rather, because though they have no∣thing but what they have received from him, and that they have is little in comparison of that which he hath, and they have not, yet cōmonly they are proud of that little, and trust to it; specially if they pro∣sper, they are puffed up, and assume to themselves the glory that properly belongeth to God, and they seek themselves, and not him, and many times worke a∣gainst Page 9 God and his servants and people, and there∣fore they are infatuated and confounded by the hand of Heaven.
Which first may serve for admonition to all that are destitute of the feare of God, and yet are wise in their own eyes,* and superciliously disdain others; Let not the wise man glory in his wisdome;*and let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall. Wisdome, even civill and worldly wisdome, is the gift of God, which he hath given unto the sons of men, and is of necessary use to end Controversies between neigh∣bour and neighbour▪ hence the Apostle writing to the Corinthians, that went to Law one against ano∣ther, reproveth them and saith,*Is it so that there is not a wise man amongst you, no not one, &c? As if it were a shame for them, if there were not; for Religion doth not make men fooles. It is necessary, specially in publick persons,* hence required in the choice, Take yee wise men and understanding;*He that is first in his cause is just, saith Salomon; one would thinke he were as honest a man as liveth, and that he hath had a great deale of wrong, then cometh his neighbour and in∣quireth, and all that heare both finde, that one tale is good till another be told.
Sometimes there is no witness, as when the two Harlots appeared before Salomon,* and both claimed the living childe. Sometimes there are false witnes∣ses, as in the case of Naboth:* and therefore there is need of a great deale of wisdome to finde out the truth: and to doe Justice in warre it is necessary; therefore Salomon saith,*By counsell make warre; for wisdome is better than strength.*A poore man by his wis∣dome Page 10 delivered the Citie.*A woman also by her wisdome. But if the feare of God be wanting in those that are worldly wise, they will not prove very wise in the end, for themselves, or for their own good, or others. Thou foole,* witless man, saith the voice, this night they shall fetch away thy soule,*&c. They have rejected the Word of the Lord,* saith the Prophet, and what wisdome is in them? The Word is that which teacheth wisdome, therefore David made that his Counsellor;* and that made him wiser than his enemies.
Secondly, This may keepe us from feare of our adversaries, in regard of their wit, and policy, and counsell against us.*The wisdome of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.*The Lord bringeth the counsell of the heathen to nought; he maketh the devises of the people of no effect. As he did to Ahithophel, so he will doe to those that are like unto him; their policy shall turn to folly.
Thirdly, Therefore such as are not to be too much esteemed or followed, what ever abilities they have, specially in things pertaining to God & his Church and Ordinances, having no power of godlinesse in them. Meer Politicians are not good Interpreters of Scripture, though they have read the Scriptures, nor are they fit Judges in spirituall matters; they sa∣vour not the things of the Spirit,* they cannot relish them;*they perceive not the things of the Spirit, they have not the capacitie, they are beyond them; they cannot have right hearts to Christ and to his Mini∣sters, and to the pure Ordinances. Give me favour for an observation or two, in a way inoffensive to candid hearers.
Page 11 The French have a Proverb, that a Minister should know nothing but the Scripture. Well, let that be free to us to know that, and to teach that in one thing as well as in another, and prove all things, and hold that which is good.
The observation is this, that S. Paul was as much for the civill Magistrate as any man;* I will, saith he, that prayers and supplications, with thankesgiving, be made for all men,* for Kings, and for all in authoritie un∣der them: and, Let every soule be subject to the higher powers:*and, Put them in remembrance, that they be sub∣ject to principalities and powers, and that they obey Ma∣gistrates: but withall,*he saith, Obey them that have the oversight of you, that watch for your soules: and, the spirits of the Prophets are subject to the Prophets:*teaching us that Preachers should be referd to Preachers, that can best judge of their doctrine, & Preachers should refer themselves to Preachers, and submit to their judgement; if they will not, there is an appearance of a great deale of arrogancy in them.
Moreover, When there was an incestuous person in Corinth,* that had his Fathers wife, the Corinthians had him not before a Justice to have him imprisond or otherwise punished by the Magistrate, but they informed the holy Apostle of him, and he tooke or∣der that he should be censur'd by the Church, that he might be brought to repentance, and saved. And Christ, in whom were all treasures of wisdome, was for Caesar, and would have him to have all that was due unto him; but in case of trespasse between brother and brother, after graduall admonition, he saith, Tell the Church▪ and if he will not beare the Church, let him Page 12 be unto thee as a Publican, and an heathen. Where by Church, cannot be meant the Sanedrin, greater or les∣ser; for those Councels consisted of unbeleeving men, which refused Christ the Head of the Church, and persecuted his members; and it is not likely that he would have Christians to tell one anothers faults to unbeleevers, and so expose themselves to derision and abuses; and sure he would not have them accounted as heathen, and no Church-members, that would not heare such a Councell. The name of Church is appropriated to Christian Congregations throughout the Acts of the Apostles; and neither one Justice or the whole Bench is ever called the Church in the Scripture. And compare that place in Mat. 18. with that of Mat. 5. 25. and Luk. 12. 58. and there will appeare a manifest difference between civill Officers and Church-Officers. In Luke, the ci∣vill Magistrate is called the Magistrate; in both pla∣ces, the Judge; and he speaketh of his Officer, and of the prison, the place of punishment for malefactors, plainly putting a difference between those Gover∣nours of the Common-wealth, and Church-Gover∣nours.
Compare place with place, and consider; for our part, we give unto the civill Magistrate, as much as the word of God giveth them, and if any give more, the more shame for them, there is more flattery than honesty in it; for my own part, I had rather be under government, than put to governe: if I did not speake as I think, I durst not speake it in this place. My rea∣son is because of the burden, and the account to be given to Christ for miscariages, for every Steward Page 13 must give account of his stewardship; the civill Ma∣gistrate of his,* and Church-governours of theirs; and if the same men will take both temporall and spirituall government upon them, they will have such an account to make in that day, as few are sensi∣ble of for the present. Therefore let all be advised what they doe, and take heed how they leane to the wisdome of naturall men, what parts so ever they have: in things of this nature rather hearken to those that are religiously wise, and judicious, and consci∣entious; so Christ shall have his right, and the civill Magistrate shall have no wrong, but power and ho∣nour, though without trenching upon the Churches right, and God be glorified, and many trespassers shall be brought to repentance, and their spirits sa∣ved in the day of the Lord Jesus, which was that which the holy Apostle aymed at in all Church-cen∣sures, and which we ought all to ayme at, in the feare of God. And thus much touching the act of God in defeating the good counsell of Ahithophel, the great Politician of Israel.
Before I come to the processe of the judgement against Absalom, a question may be touching that which Hushai did, whether it were lawfull or no.
I answer, it was a military stratageme, and he had instruction from David to doe what he did.* And in sundry places of Scripture we find examples of such practises.* God taught Joshua to lay an ambush for those of Ai:* as such things have been done by Alex∣ander, and other famous men of warre among the heathen;* so by the Israelites, and their Leaders of e∣minent note: having to deale with such enemies as Page 14Hushai was to deale with, it was no time for plain dealing: not that it is lawfull for men in warre to say and doe any thing: there are certain cautions to be observed.
1.* That no poysoning be used, or privie murthe∣ring.
2.* That faith once given, be not broken.
3.* That the law of armes be kept & not violated. There must be respect had to Honour and Honesty. There is no comparison between that which Ahitho∣phel did, and that which Hushai did: there was cun∣ning, but honest cunning; for it was in a good cause, and for the publick good: it was to save David and the godly partie with him, and he shewed fidelity to his friend that confided in him. Let there be a faire interpretation of his words, and a favourable judge∣ment given of his doings, and that which Hushai did, is rather imitable than culpable, and may be done in the like case without offence to God; and it may be observed in the text, that God owned that which he did, as his act and deed; had any serv'd David as Hu∣shai did Absalom, it had been wicked: the wicked may not doe that to the righteous, which the righteous may do to them:* the righteous may pray against the wicked, so may not the wicked against the righteous: the righteous may and ought to despise the wicked,* but the wicked may not despise the righteous:* the righteous may hate the wicked, as David did, but the wicked cannot hate the righteous without sin: it is said,*they that hate the righteous shall be desolate; it is never said, they that hate the wicked shall be desolate: a charge is given to Kings not to touch his anointed ser∣vants,*Page 15and to doe his Prophets no harme, and he reproved Kings for their sakes:* he that toucheth the righteous, toucheth the apple of his eye: to those that speak evill of them,* it is threatned that they shall give account at the day of judgement. God would have them know that he puts a difference between the Aegyptians and Israel,* and he would have all to know that he putteth a difference between the righteous and the wicked;* therefore we are to judge the best of that which Hu∣shai did for the righteous against the wicked, and ra∣ther justifie it, than condemne it.
I come now to the end for which the Lord defea∣ted the counsell of Ahithophel, that is, that he might bring evill upon Absalom,* which was both the end of the worker, and of the worke.
I might hence deliver, That God will surely bring evill upon those that doe evill, but then I should enter into a large field, and now I have not time to expa∣tiate so much; I shall therefore keepe me to that which is punctually pertinent to the Text, and to the present occasion: and the point is this; That God will finde a time and way to bring evill upon those that rise up against the righteous, and are the authors and fo∣mentors of an unjust war, and that without respect of per∣sons. Absalom for birth, was the son of a King, and one of the best Kings that ever reign'd; for person, he was extraordinary; in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for beautie, from the sole of his foot, even to the crowne of his head, there was no blemish in him;* for his attendance, it was Prince like, he had chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him; for fair carriage and winning be∣haviour, Page 16 he exceeded other Princes, to ingratiate himself with the people, so as he was the Favourite of Israel: but aspiring to be King before his time, and to drive his wicked designe, raising an unjust war in Israel, God determined to bring evill upon him, and did it; coming forth to battle against David in his own person, God so ordering it, that riding un∣der an Oke, his head light within a thick bough, so as he could not get it out again, and the beast he rode on going away, he hung between heaven and earth, till Davids servants came and smote him dead; Be∣hold the judgement of God upon him for his wick∣ednesse; the tree caught him, the Mule left him, Joab darted him, the young men slew him, the com∣pany earth't him, and there lay Absalom, the young man Absalom, his Highness beautifull Absalom, in a deep pit, with a great heap of stones cast upon it. Ahitho∣phel was his Counsellor, and fomented the war, to make way for that which he intended against Absa∣lom; God defeated his counsell, which Ahithophel so took to heart, that thereupon he went home and hanged himself, and there lay Ahithophel, with a hal∣ter about his neck. The Israelites that took part with Absalom were routed and slaine, and there lay 20000 of them dead corpses: the sword devoured them, and the wood devoured more than the sword; and though Amasa escaped in the battell, and was after spared through Davids clemency, yet he was soone cut off by the deadly hand of Joab, who smote him under the fifth rib, and shed out his bowels on the ground, and there lay the Generall. Sheba also after this being seditious, and rebelling against David,Page 17 they soone took from him his head, and cast it over the wall. Saul rising up against him unjustly, when he was his servant, and pursuing him without cause, he came to an ill end, and Doeg and other of his ene∣mies that incensed Saul against him; and Sauls house after, warring against him, God cut them off also, one after another, Ishbosheth and Abner, &c.
Not to speak of heathen Kings and Armies that warred against Israel, and fell before them, of which yee may read frequently in the Scripture, it came thus to those that caused civill warres in Israel,*Ado∣nijah exalting himself, to prevent Salomon, it was to his owne ruine and theirs that were his abettors. The Benjamites would protect abominable Delin∣quents,* and rather take armes against all Israel, than deliver those wicked men, that Justice might be done upon them, and evill taken away, but they paid deare for it in the end, it cost many thousands of them their lives, and in a manner the whole Tribe was cut off through the just judgement of God upon them,* in so much as the Israelites bewaild the breach. Jero∣boam rebelling against the house of David in Abiiab his time,* though he had the ods by far for number of men, 800000 against 400000, he was overthrowne, and it is just with God that it should be so:
First, Because of their unthankfulnesse to him, when they are not content with their estate, but seek to advance it by unlawfull meanes, and the better their condition, the greater their ingratitude. Ahi∣thophel lived well enough under David, in great e∣steeme, and could not serve a better Master. Absa∣lom lived like a Prince, & his Father was at first but a Page 18 Shepheard that follow'd the Ewes great with young, and yet he was not content, but would be greater by violence. And as no Son had a more indulgent Fa∣ther, so no people had a better King than David; He fed them according to the integritie of his heart,*and guided them with the skilfulnesse of his hands; and there∣fore it was execrable ingratitude in them all to rise up against him, and they were worthy to suffer all they suffered, and more; and so others that take the sword without a just cause and calling.
Thirdly, War is of all evils of this life the grea∣test; the first of those foure judgements mention'd, in Ezekiel:* and civill warres are worse than forein, and tend to the ruine of the State and Kingdome; hence called,*The great evill: experience sheweth that in time of war, houses and townes are set on fire, and many persons and families impoverished, and undone, and Counties desolated; and therefore the authors and fomentors of civill warres are of all ill members and instruments the worst, and no punish∣ment is too much for them.
This sheweth what we may expect touching the authors and fomentors and promoters of the pre∣sent wars in this Land.* It is written by a forein Wri∣ter, Page 19 that there were never civill Wars in England, but the lot of mis-fortune (so he expresseth it) light upon the authors and fomentors of the warre: and God is the same that he was, and loveth righteous∣nesse, and hateth iniquitie as much as ever he did; he is the Lord of hosts, and the God to whom ven∣geance belongeth, and he will repay, and render unto all men according to their workes.
The adversary party say, they are for the King.
I answer,* If any should doe to the King as Ishbibe∣nob did to David, that would have slain him, he were worthy to be commended, that would do as Abishai did, that succour'd him; but who goeth about to take away the Kings life?
Secondly, If any be for the King in a way for his good, and the good of the Kingdome, it were praise∣worthy in them; but many are for the King without wit, and honesty: without wit, that make Kings more than men, and in a manner deifie them, as if they had absolute power over their Subjects to cōmand what they will, without any limitation by any laws of God or man.* Whereas Princes and Rulers have received power and dominion of God, to rule under him, not over him, and to command for him, not against him, and to be obey'd after him, and not before him. Without honesty, as Doeg that incensed Saul against David,* and fell upon the Priests of the Lord, when honester men refused to doe it; he was for the King; and so are many that are given to plundring, & serve the King as the Hawke serveth the Fawkner, that be∣ing let loose, flieth at the Fowle, not with any intent to serve his Master, but to get a prey for himselfe, Page 20 by meanes whereof, many goe now in scarlet, that be∣fore the warre could not be trusted for a frieze coat. It is further said, that he is a good King, but may not a good King be led to do unwisely?* good King Asa is charged with that, and in broader termes than I speak.* And may not a good King love his enemies, and hate his friends? Good King David was charged with that;* And may not a good King help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? Good King Jehosha∣phat was charged with that by a Prophet of the Lord; And may not a good King be led to shed much inno∣cent bloud? The good Emperour Theodosius did so, and was zealously reproved for it by Ambrose, and kept from receiving of the Sacrament for that fact; and Theodosius liked him never the worse for it, but professed he liked arguentem magis quam adulantem, him that reproved him better than him that flatter'd him;* as did David. Beloved, wee are all for the King, or else we dissemble with God, and the world; for we pray for him, for the preservation of his body, and for the salvation of his soule: He is prayd for constantly in our Churches and families, and in both Houses of Parliament. Yea we pray for him and his children, and some of them are with us, and educated like Kings children, and like Gods children. And hath not the Parliament bound all the Kings subjects by a solemne Covenant, to preserve the Kings Per∣son, and to testifie that they have no thought or in∣tention to diminish his Majesties just power and greatnesse? And how often have they sought peace and his Returne? But it is objected, that they have taken Armes, and this is aggravated, as if it were pia∣culum,Page 21 in any case, though it be se desendendo. But what did David when he was a subject, and Saul sought his life? though a godly man and a Prophet, and Sauls son-in-law, to which he had preferd him who before was but a Shepheard, he took armes for his necessary defence, and was never reproved for it of God, but blest and prosperd; and worthy men sided with him.
It is said, the Spirit came upon Anasa,*who was chief of the Captains, and he said, Thine are we David, and on thy side thou son of Jesse, Peace, peace be unto thee, and peace be unto thine helpers,*for thy God helpeth thee: A di∣vine motion put him on to expresse himselfe in such a manner, that his words, took impression in David, and caused him firmely to beleeve that he and those that were with him were reall to him, and not to question their fidelitie. The Priests of the Lord were for him,* eighty-five of them sufferd for him; Abime∣lech received him and his company, and gave them hallowed bread,* and Goliahs sword, and Abiathar esca∣ping from the slaughter, fled to David for refuge, & he undertook to protect him. Jonathan the Kings Son was for him, a vertuous Prince, next heire to the Crowne, had it gone according to the course of na∣ture, he was for him, and spake for him to his Fa∣ther, and loved him exceedingly, and gave intelli∣gence from the Court when danger was towards him, utterly disliking the Kings proceedings against him; nay, what say you to Saul himself, when he was himself? he Justified him upon triall of his loyaltie and integritie;* saying, Thou art more righteous than I; for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded Page 22 thee evill. And was it lawfull for David when he was a subject, and but one man, to take armes to save his life, and is it unlawfull for the Parliament of Eng∣land to take that course to save theirs, & those whom they ought to protect? May not the State, and such a State that hath such power in their hands, doe more than one man, of what rank so ever? And what if they send forth to suppresse insurrections, and to pursue Delinquents, that fly the justice of that high Court? Doth it not pertain to them to do it, even ex Officio? And what if the great Councell of the Kingdome seek to remove wicked Counsellers from the King, that usurpe their Office to themselves? He was a King, and the wisest of Kings, and upon a ponderous reason, much concerning the good and honour of every King,* that saith, Take away the wicked from before the King, and his throne shall be established in righteous∣nesse. Must the State and those that hold with them, learne of Delinquents that have deserved death, how to be for the King? or of perfidious Covenant-break∣ers, to whom an oath of God is no more than a col∣lar to a Monkey, that he can slip at pleasure? or of rapacious Courtiers, and their Public•n-Officers, that would exact upon the subject, and have no Par∣liament, that they might never be question'd for any thing they doe? Must they learne of damme-swear∣ers, that familiarly sweare themselves into hell? or of Papists, who are pleased so long as the King ser∣veth their turne, but would blow him up with pow∣der if they could, if he should execute the lawes a∣gainst them? or of the wild Irish, & other Irish mur∣therers, that first kill a hundred thousand of the Page 23 Kings Protestant-subjects in Ireland, and then come and offer their service to him in England, with a de∣sire to do as much here, if they can? All these would teach & tutor their betters in this matter; but those that are wise will learne rather of David, and Salo∣mon, and other Prophets and good men what to do; the judgement and way of such is much to be esteem∣ed; and better it is to suffer adversitie with the people of God,*than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.
Generally the ungodliest of the Clergie ran to Oxford when the warre began; the best of the Mini∣stry out of all Counties throughout the Kingdome, came to the Parliaments quarters for protection; if any of better note went the other way, it was small for their credit or comfort, and it is supposed they repent it.* That unparalleld Saint of the Church of England, lately deceased full of dayes, died an Ortho∣doxe Presbyter, and Presbyterian, constant against all sects and sectaries, faithfull to Christ, and firme to the Parliament. And it is your honour and may be your comfort, Honourable Senators, that the hearts and prayers of such men are for you, and that yee have the prayers of the best affected in Scotland also, and in all Reformed Churches. Such as were for Da∣vid, are for you; such worthies as are like to Amasa when the Spirit came upon him, Commanders in chief, eminent for valour and piety, fidelitie and hu∣mility, desiring that all glory may be given unto God in our dayes of thankesgiving, and that they may be forgotten; pitie it is that such Noble Patriots that fight for their Countrey, should want any incou∣ragement that the Kingdome can give them. Ho∣nourable Page 24 Gentlemen, discourage not the godly par∣ty, quench not any degree of their zeale for you, by suffering any Officers in Commission under you to favour Malignants, and to oppresse your friends, by neglect of widows, that are brought to that sad con∣dition, having lost their husbands in the Parliaments service, by rejecting just and lamentable complaints, or by sending away sad Petitioners, crying one af∣ter another.*The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me, saith Job, and I made the widowes heart to sing for joy.* Fasts do well, but I will have mercy and not sacrifice,* saith the Lord. And to do judgement and ju∣stice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Yee all stand in need of mercy, practise mercy, that yee may find mercy in that day, and this day, and all the dayes of your lives. If yee do well, shall yee not be accepted? if yee do evill, sin lieth at the dore, at the Parliament dore as well as other mens dores, for ought I know.
To returne to our adversaries that are Protestants, with what comfort can they help the ungodly, and such as seek the extirpation of the Protestant Religi∣on in all the three Kingdomes? The Pope is much beholding to them, they do as he would have them; all the Priests, and Jesuites, and Papists in England, are beholding to them, they do as they would have them: the Irish cut-throats are beholding unto them, they doe as they would have them, when they fight against Protestants, and against the most zealous Pro∣testants: but their Countrey is little beholding to them, and the Church of God hath little cause to thanke them, or the Lord Jesus the Head of the Page 25 Church, for any service they have done to him, to∣wards the advancing of his Kingdome.
But many will say, they stand for the Common Pray∣er Book, and they will fight for that as long as they can stand on their legges. A resolution fitter for the vulgar Welch, than for understanding Englishmen; for that book was never of Gods making, and no wise man will venture his life, and shed his bloud, for any book made by man, were it never so good, for he can look for no reward of God for it; therefore though some that be wise may talke for it, yet it is folly to fight for it. But it hath been often said, Take away the Common Prayer Book, take away our Religion. Nay, our Religion is in the Bible, there is our God, and our Christ, and our faith, & our Creed in all points. The whole Bible was St Pauls beliefe;* there are the Psalmes of David, and his prayers, and the Lords Prayer, and other prayers, by which wee may learne to pray; we have still the Lords songs, the songs of Sion, sung by many with grace in their hearts, making melody to the Lord, though without Organs; there we have all the Commandements, though they be not read so often as they have been; but when they were ordinarily read, were they better kept? Were the se∣cond, the seventh, the fourth, better kept then in Westminster, then they are now? Sure I hope, as some other Commandements, so the Sabbath is much bet∣ter kept now. Our Court-Prelates made the King Lord of the Sabbath, and themselves Lords of mis∣rule: Compelling Parents, and Masters, and Mini∣sters, and Magistrates, to suffer their sons and daugh∣ters, and servants of both sexes, to play, and sport, and Page 26 dance, if they had a mind to it, and to prophane a great part of the day. Here was trenching upon Gods Prerogative: God must stand to their courte∣sie, how much of the day he must have: had it not been for the Parliament, wee had lost a Commandement. They that were for the book of sports, would not indure the name Sabbath. As for the Sacraments, yee have them still reverently perform'd without the book; and that is the old way; that which they call the new way,* is the old way; for two hundred yeares after Christ,* they had no set forme of prayer; they buried without the book, and baptized, and administred the Lords Supper, and prayd and gave thankes without it; so as the alterations are for the better, and none have just cause to clamor against them, much lesse to fight.
Though there be lesse painting, there is more light; though there be lesse ceremony, there is more sub∣stance; though there be lesse superstition, there is more Religion; though there be lesse piping, there is more preaching; though there be lesse of man, there is more of God, and of Christ, and of the Spirit, therefore be patient and content. Beloved, it is Da∣vids Religion that we contend for,* & Davids Lord, even the Lord Jesus, the Son of David, that he may have his throne amongst us, and rule by the Scepter of his Word; wee are for Christ and Sion, they are for Antichrist and Babylon that are against us, there∣fore side not with them, but rather help the Lord a∣gainst the mightie. And let those that are about his Majestie, if they love him, perswade him to quit the sword, and to hearken to Propositions for Peace, Page 27 and to returne to his Parliament, and sit there in royall Majestie with his Peeres, as he hath done. There was a good Motto written over the gates at Yorke, at King James his first entrance into that Ci∣tie, Suavis victoria, amor populi, the sweet victory is the love of the people; to win that, then come and welcome, the sooner, the better. If a King will come like a King, with royall attendance, he will be re∣ceiv'd with all love and joy, and honour will be done unto him by all sorts; but if they perswade him to come like an Enemy, with martiall attendance, with wicked company, skilfull and ready to plunder and to destroy, so as good people must stand to their mercy, that have no mercy; other Cities will an∣swer, as one did in that case;*Wee will rather live Soul∣diers, than die slaves. Pray for his Majestie, that his heart may be turned the right way, for his own good, and the Publick. Let those that have mis-led him, and animated him to proceed in this war, beware lest evill pursue them till they perish. Let the young Germane Princes beware, who have rewarded evill for good unto this Nation. Let all that have been active against the righteous in a hostile way, be war∣ned by the examples in this Text,* and Story. Behold the man that made not the Lord his strength, but trusted to his own wisdome, and the arme of flesh, his counsell being defeated, he went home and hang∣ed himself.* Behold the man that was proud of his hair, and beauty, and favour, and friends, and exalted himself, and caused an unjust war, without any respect of his person, he was cast in and buried in a pit. Be∣hold the men that took part with the ungodly against Page 28 the righteous, and sought to shed innocent bloud, they were beaten, and perished by the sword: even so let all the enemies of the King and Parliament be as that young man Absalom, and that old Fox Ahitho∣phel, and those infatuated Israelites, that followed them; but let those that are found faithfull to God, and their Countrey,*be as the Sun when he goeth forth in his might.
Now it is observable, that that which God did to Ahithophel, and so consequently to Absalom, was the effect of Davids prayer and request to God.
David said,*O Lord, I pray thee, turne the counsell of Ahithophel into foolishnesse; and according to his de∣sire he defeated his counsell. The point hence is this, That prayer with the use of the means, is prevalent against those that rise up against the righteous.*David us'd the meanes,* and neglected it not; He sent out a tripar∣tite Army, under three Captains, and that speedily; that was Alexanders way,* and by that meanes he was victorious, and won much by making no delay, but pursuing his conquests; but withall, David pray'd, and thereby prevailed mightily, as we see, and ob∣tain'd of God a great matter. Three circumstances illustrate the work of God mention'd in the Text.
First, That he defeated Ahithophel, famous Ahitho∣phel, that was so renowned for his policy.
Secondly, That he defeated the good counsell of Ahithophel, his wise counsell.
Thirdly,* That he did it by his Word, onely com∣manded, and it was done.
Moses crying to the Lord,* the Israelites saw the sal∣vation of God;*and lifting up his hands, and praying, Page 29 the Israelites prevail'd against Amalek. When a thou∣sand thousand came against Asa, and his people, he cryed to the Lord,*and the Lord smote the Aethiopians be∣fore Asa, and before Judah, and the Aethiopians fled. When multitudes came against Jehoshaphat,*he feared and set himself to seeke the Lord, and proclaim'd a fast: As a man he feared, as a godly man he sought the Lord, as a godly King he proclaim'd a fast, and his enemies were miraculously overthrowne. When the mightie Hoste of Senacherib came against Jerusa∣lem, in Hezekiahs time, he sent to the Prophet Isaijah, To lift up a prayer,* and he prayed and made his suppli∣cation to the Lord, and in the morning fourescore and five thousand were all dead corpses, being smit∣ten by an Angel of the Lord. Thus the righteous have prevailed mightily against their enemies by prayer to God.
The reason is,* the Lord is their God, and they are deare unto him, and he hath undertaken their protection,* and to be an enemy unto their enemies, and he hath set them this course to call upon him,* and to seek his face in their trouble, and it is a com∣mandement with promise:* and he hath said, He will not fail them, nor forsake them; and he the rather hear∣eth them,* because they heare him, and will glorifie him for that he doth for them,* being sensible of his mercy, and of their own unworthinesse.
This sheweth the happie priviledge that the righ∣teous have above others.*The prayer of the righteous availeth much,*if it be fervent;* yea, the prayer of the up∣right, is his delight. It is not so with the wicked, when they pray and cry to God,* the Lord is far from Page 30 the wicked.*Davids enemies cryed, but there was none to save them, even to the Lord; but he answer'd them not; they are in no such esteeme with God, they have no such interest in him,* they will not heare him, there∣fore he abhorreth their prayers,* and will not heare them;* no, when they fast, he will not heare their cry. Therefore godly men have this way a great advan∣tage of their enemies, though their outward strength be much short of theirs.
When David went out against Goliah,* it was thought a bold adventure, considering the disparitie between those two for bulk of body, but calling on the name of the Lord, and trusting in him, he soone laid the gyant along.* When Saul pursued him, he prayd unto the Lord, and made him his refuge, and his enemy had no power to do him hurt; when he was neere unto him,* and ready to surprize him, he was taken off, through the providence of God, by newes that the Philistims invaded the Land, and re∣turned from pursuing after David. When Absalom prepared a great Army against him, he prayed and prevailed. Ahithophel looked upon Davids compa∣ny as a weak company, and undertaketh with twelve thousand to vanquish him: but the man that was so confident, because of the strength of the enemy, and the weaknesse of David, never thought what power David had with God by prayer; but behold, though his Army was weak, his prayer was strong, and God hearing his prayer, wrought for him, and defeated his enemy. And it is said of Theodosius, that being in the field,* & having the worst, he lighted off his horse, and kneeled downe and said, Where is the God of Theo∣dosius?Page 31 And after that his enemy fell before him; his prayer was short, but fervent, and faithfull. This maketh much for the comfort and incourage∣ment of all the Lords servants, that in these times follow Davids way; it is a way very prevalent for defence and offence. There is the more comfort in the present example, because he prayd & sped thus, after he had cōmitted an atrocious sin in the matter of Vriah: the fact was soule, and the aggravation of it may be taken from the Parable of Nathan,* and the sentence that proceeded out of the mouth of David himself against himself, little thinking then that he had been the man that had done so wickedly against so honest a servant as Vriah was. When I think of his killing that man, it putteth into my mind Alexanders killing of Calisthenes, and of his words to one that magnified his Conquests,* He slew, saith he, many thousands of the Persians; and Calisthenes, saith the opponent: and saying further, He killed Darius that had a great Kingdome; and Calisthenes, said he that answered him. And again, saying, He conquered all from the Ocean, and exceedingly inlarged his Em∣pire; the opponent still answereth, but he kild Ca∣listhenes. So if one would magnifie David for his pie∣ty and zeale for the house of God, and for his valour and exploits; some may answer as that opponent did, and object his killing Vriah: He slew Goliah, that Monster, that was such a terror to the Army of Isra∣el; and Vriah, may an opponent say: He kill'd many Philistims, that they sung, Saul his thousand, and Da∣vid his ten thousand; and Vriah, may he say; and if o∣ther of his victories he alledged, tending to his ho∣nour, Page 32 this might still be opposed, yea but he kill'd his servant Vriah the Hittite: yet notwithstanding the atrocity of the fact, and all the anger about it, and all the threatning of him and his houshold, in his adversitie he cryed to God when his enemies rose up against him, and his prayer was heard. At his lat∣ter end,* he could say, that the Lord had redeemed his soule out of all adversitie. This much illustrateth the grace of God, and may strengthen our consolation in these times. Surely there is hope for England and Scotland, wee have had and have so many praying dayes, and have so many praying men, praying Com∣manders, praying Souldiers, praying Parliament men, a praying Assembly, and other praying Mini∣sters, and praying people, and we have had comfor∣table experience of the good effects & events of our prayers, specially after our extraordinary Fasts. After that which was kept before the battell at Nase∣by, when the Armies were to be ingaged, and the Go∣spel lay at stake, and wee were in distresse and feare, wee sought the Lord, and he heard us, and wee had a great deliverance, and a glorious victory; and a lit∣tle after when our Army marched towards Taunton, then strongly besieged, and were to ingage againe, wee prayed, and the Lord gave a gracious returne to our supplications; the good people in those parts were relieved by our men, and a formidable Army of the enemy was routed. Wee have sundry times seene the salvation of God, when there have been failings on our part, and great advantages on the o∣ther side, and when we have been in a low condition, and the enemies in the height of their strength and Page 33 confidence, the Lord of Hosts hath appeared for us, the God of our salvatiō hath favour'd our righteous cause, and brought out adversaries to confusion. After the extraordinary Fast kept for Scotland, wee soone had intelligence of a great overthrow given to Montrosse, God did great things for our brethren of that Nation, whereof we have cause to rejoyce; they are our brethren and confederates of the same faith with us, and have deserved our prayers and good en∣deavours for them, by their prayers for us in our trouble▪ and the great service they have done to this Kingdome, and to the Church of God amongst us; they shewed zeale and courage, and quicken'd us when wee in a manner had lost our selves, and there was little life in us; they have been instruments to promote the Reformation which wee have; that Church was famous in the Reformed Churches, for doctrine, worship, government, and discipline, when ours was in an ill name for corruptiōs; that Church had the honour to be in the Antitype to Philadelphia,* the best of those Churches of Asia, when ours was made the Antitype to Laodic•a, the worst of the se∣ven; and they have had the happinesse to keep their Church without heresie, or sectaries, for above fifty yeares; and greater love than this hath no man, than to lay downe his life for his friend, and that they have done for us; and many thousands in and about the Citie, that now sit warme, might have sit cold, had it not been for them and had they been overthrown, their fall, would have been our fall; therefore wee have cause to pray for them, and to rejoyce that God of his 〈◊〉 hath heard their prayers and ours.
Page 34 It will be said by our adversaries, that they pray too, and why may not they be heard as well as wee?
It is true, they pray, some of them to our Lord, and some to our Lady, as they call her: some say, Our Father, some, Pater noster, and Ave Maria, and some make use of their Beads and Crucifixes when they pray; and many revile and curse the godly par∣ty, yea they curse them bitterly that have come out to help the Lord against the mightie: the generalitie of them read somewhat in a book, but how many of them pray in the Spirit? Certainly, there is great difference between their praying, and the praying on this side, and there is great difference between the men that performe prayer on both sides, and those they pray for: and were their praying in some respect better than it is, their cause is nought, and their Ar∣mies are too like the Absalomian Army to prosper; they are risen up against the righteous, and help the ungodly to destroy godly men, and are bloudy-mind∣ed, as they were, and being like them in other vices, they will be like Absalom to a hair, as I may say, affe∣cting long hair, as he did, not regarding what St Paul saith,* that it is a shame for a man to weare long hair; making it a shame rather not to weare it long. In some respects many of them are worse than the Ab∣salomians, namely, for superstition and damme-swear∣ing, therefore God will not heare them,* no when they fast, he will not heare their cry. To us, there is more ground of hope for good, because there is more of David in our Commanders, and many of our Officers and Souldiers, and in those that have sent them forth for the defence of our Religion, Page 35 and Lawes, and Liberties, and of those that stand for them, and wee have seene that God hath heard our prayers, and prosperd our Armies in all parts of the Kingdome: Wee have had great incouragement from heaven, and what if we have not obtained yet a cessation of the warre, no more did David in the war between the house of Saul and him? though he prayd at first and constantly,* yet there was long warre between the house of Saul and the house of David; but he obtained, that he grew stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul weaker and weaker; and the like wee have obtained to our comfort, through Gods great mercy, notwithstanding our sinnes▪ One circum∣stance more we are to take notice of, and that is, that as David prevailed so with the Lord by his prayer, after that he had sinned against him,* so it was after his repentance,* & humble confession of it unto God; after that he was in statu quo with him, upon as good termes as ever,* and had mercy upon mercy to his dy∣ing day. Beloved, Repentance obtaineth audience and pardon,* that maketh every sin veniall, that sa∣veth the soule,* and that saveth a Nation from ruine and destruction;* Repentance causeth God to repent, & maketh him better than his word,* when he threat∣neth evill,* as both the Israelites and Ninivites found him; therefore to conclude, repent, and pray, and waite, and yee shall still see the salvation of God.