*THis portion of Scripture, is a part of a Sermon preached to the whole body of the Kingdome of Judah; and a fitter I do not know in all the Bible to be preached upon to the Representative body of a Christian State; especially on a day when they are drawing nigh to God. The more inexcusable should I be in adventuring to shew my weaknesse at this time, in this place, were I not able to call the most High to Page 2 witnesse, that nothing but conscience of my duty kept me (with Jonah) from running away from the Lords worke. But Amos the herdsman* must prophesie at the Kings Chappell when God commands him.
The speciall end of your meeting this day, is to af∣flict your soules before God, that so with Ezra, you might seeke a right way for your selves, and the weighty af∣faires of his Majesty, and the whole State: and the speciall errand I have to deliver from the Lord, * is to assure you of the same truth, although in other words, which Ezra told the Persian Emperour, that the hand of God is upon them for good that seek him; but his power and wrath against all them that forsake him,* viz. That God will be with you, while you be with him.
* Which Text that you may the better understand, give me leave to carry you a little back, and give you a plain view of the state of the Church of Iudah at that time.
In the dayes of Rehoboam there had beene an hor∣rible apostasie from the purity of Gods worship: Re∣ligion was very much corrupted, and the forces of the Kingdome were exceedingly weakned. And in Abijahs time things grew worse and worse. But now when Asa (being a godly man) came to the Crowne, he begins at the right end, and makes it his first work to set upon reformation of Religion, taking away the Altars of the strange Gods and the high places, brake down the Images, cut downe the Groves, commanded Judah to seeke the Lord God of their Fathers, and to doe the Law and the Commandements,* casting out whatsoever was a stench in the Lords nostrills, and he prospered in whatsoever he put his hand unto.
This done, hee then calls all his Nobles and Prin∣ces, and Elders together, and tells them that they had Page 3 sought the Lord in matters of Religion, and God had beene found of them, and that now they should goe and fortifie the Kingdome; and so they did in all the Cities and prospered.* But in the midst of this worke comes out Zerah the Cushite, the Ethiopian (or rather the Arabian, Ethiopia lying beyond Egypt) with an Ar∣my of a thousand thousand, and three hundred Chariots, (it may be the greatest Army that ever you read of in any story) with these he breakes in suddenly upon Asa. But he humbles himselfe before God, betakes himselfe to prayer, tells the Lord that it was all one with him to helpe by many or few. And in the Lords name hee went out to encounter with that huge Army; over which the Lord gave him a glorious victory, and the spoyle of the enemies Country to boote.
* Now as they were comming backe to Hierusalem, the Lord calls out Azariah the sonne of Oded, to make the gratulatory Oration for their safe returne and con∣quest, in these words that I have read, and so forward to verse the eighth; and so I am come to my Text.
In which (that I may make as briefe a way as I can possibly to the matter that I shall insist upon) two things are to be unfolded.
First, the scope and intent of the Prophet, and that is laid downe in the latter end of his speech, Bee strong therefore, and let not your hands be weake:* that is, goe on with the good worke of Reformation of Religion, wherewith you were in hand before the enemy inter∣rupted you.
Secondly, the arguments whereby this is pressed, and they are two.
The first is taken from their owne present happinesse who were in Gods wayes: The Lord is with you whilePage 4yee are with him, and if yee seeke him hee will be found of you: but if yee forsake him he will forsake you.
The second is taken from the misery of the ten Tribes, who were out of Gods way, concerning whom he speaks to this effect, That for a long time Israel (that is the ten Tribes) had bin without God, & without a teach∣ing Priest, and without law: and as they had cast off God, so God had cast off them: howbeit, if they would have sought to God, and turned to him, God would have bin found of them: but they going on in the way of desperate apostasie, the Lord vexed them every where, in the City, in the Country, in the Family; every where God was too strong for them, (as certainly God will make every one to know that he hath a hard match to encounter with, that dares to beare Armes against the Lord.) And so from their misery hee presseth Asa and his people to go on in the right course, to prevent the like for comming upon themselves.
This second Argument of the misery of the ten Tribes belongs not to my worke.
* I betake my selfe therefore to the other, wherein I shall spend the allotted time for this exercise, namely, The present happinesse of the Church of the Iewes, that were in Gods way: in which observe these two things.
First, what the happinesse was that they enjoyed, in these words, The Lord is with you.
Secondly, the Condition upon which they enjoyed this happinesse, or the termes upon which they held it; and that is
First, more generally propounded, The Lord is with you, while you are with him.
Secondly, more particularly and exegetically ex∣pounded in the next words, If yee seeke him, hee willPage 5be found of you; but if yee forsake him he will forsake you.