* I begin with the first of them, The present happinesse of the Church of the Iewes, Iehovah is with you. Where there is but one question to bee answered for the clee∣ring of the Doctrine, that I shall a while insist upon, and that is, what presence of God is here intended by the Pro∣phet? Iehovah is every where; Whither shall I goe from thy presence?* Nay, he is not onely present every where, but he manifests his presence every where, every herbe shewes it, all the Creatures speake God in them. Nor onely so, but oft-times the manifestation of Gods pre∣sence is the torture and misery of the people to whom he is present. In Isai. 33. 14. when God sends them word that he would come among them, presently it follows, The sinners in Zion are afraid, fearefulnes hath surprized the Hypocrite, who among us shall dwell with devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? And in Jer. 4. 23. the Prophet beheld the earth, and loe it was without forme, and voyd; the mountaines, and loe they trembled; the nations, and they were wasted to no∣thing: what was the reason? because of the presence of the Lord. What presence then is here intended?
For that, through Gods providence, the mornings worke hath saved me part of my labour. For in effect the presence intended in this Text is Gods presence in the Covenant of Grace, in which he is so joyned with a people, that they also are joyned unto him. God to be joyned with a people, and to be in Covenant with them in the Scripture phrase is all one.* So that the lesson which it affords is this.
*The presence of God in his Covenant of Grace with any people, is the greatest glory, and happinesse that they can enjoy.
Page 6 The Prophet here encouraging them to goe on and to feare nothing, useth onely this sentence, that God will be with them: As if he had said, you shall have all the happinesse that you can wish, God will be with you.
In prosecuting this poynt I shall endeavour two things.
First, to demonstrate the truth of it out of the Scripture.
Secondly, to make a briefe application of it.
* For the first, see how cleere it is in the Scriptures, in Deut. 4. 7, 8. Moses speakes of the Israelites after this manner: What Nation (in all the world) is so great as thou art? All their neighbours should say, surely this is a great people, a wise, a happy people: I pray you what was their condition when Moses thus magnified them? there were 600000 men of them in a desolate, barren, howling wildernesse: There was not one house for a man to hide his head; but onely floting Tents, some covered with cloathes, some with boughes: No land that they could either sow, or plough, or reape: No trading; * hardly a man that had two suits to his back, (but as some think) as their bodies grew, their cloaths grew; as their feete grew, their shooes grew: wherein then was their happinesse? Mark what Moses saith verse 7. What Nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them as the Lord our God is in all things, &c? There was their happinesse, that Iehovah was nigh them, and marched up and downe before them. So you shall see in Exod. 33. the Lord was offen∣ded with the people for making of the golden Calfe, In the beginning of that Chap. he speaks after this manner to Moyses. Take this people and carry them to the Land that I have promised to give them: It is a Land flowingPage 7with Milke and Hony. I will send my Angell before you, He shall drive out all the Nations, and plant you in that goodly Country: onely J my selfe will not goe with them, for I shall be so farre provoked by their sinnes, that I shall fall upon them suddenly, and con∣sume them. But my Angell shall not leave them till they be setled in that good Land. One would have thought that this had beene an excellent offer, thou∣sands would have esteemed it a glorious thing to have an Angell of God to goe and plant them in the goodliest Country that was under the cope of Hea∣ven. But marke how Moyses takes it. O Lord rather kill us all in the Wildernesse, let us never stir a foote if Thy presence goe not with us. I pray thee, if I have found favour with Thee, goe with us thy Selfe: well, sayth God, my presence shall goe. Moy∣ses presseth againe, let it be that or nothing: for wherein else shall it be knowne to the World, that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and thy people from all the people that are upon the face of the Earth. This is the summe of that Chapter. A∣gaine you shall finde in Psalme 46. and Psalme 48. Da∣vid strangely magnifies Hierusalem above all the Cities in the World: Excellent are the straines of Rhetoricke flowing from the Spirit of God in setting forth the glory of that City, which in a word was such as All the Kings of the Earth should come and looke on, and stand amazed at it. Without question Baby∣lon, or Niniveh excelled Hierusalem in Davids time for outward glory, as farre as the City of London doth one of our meane Country Townes. What was the glory of Hierusalem then? You shall read in those Page 8 Psalmes God was with them. God is in the midst of her: God is knowne in her Palaces. And every where this is the thing he cries up: it was a glorious place, because Iehovah was there.
And in Psalme 144. The Pen-man of it so farre ex∣tols even the common mercies that God oft times bestowes upon a people, that they then become Blessed, When their Sonnes grow up as plants, and their Daughters as the corners of the Temple, polished after the manner of a Palace; their Garners affording all store, their Oxen strong to labour; that there is no breaking in, and carrying into Captivity. Blessed, sayth he, are the people that are in such case. But marke how hee gives a dash to all he had said, in comparison of that he had to say of the blessednesse of Gods people, Yea rather happy are the people whose God is the Lord. You shall see also in the latter end of Ezechiel, Chapter 40. and in Revelation 21. such an Hyperbolicall description of a most glorious City the new Hierusalem, as never had parallell. And what is the Glory of that City? Read but the last words in the Prophesie of Ezechiel, The name of that City from that Day shalbe THE LORD IS THERE. As if he had said, would you have an abridgement of all the excellencies of this City and Temple? This it is, Jehovah is there. And in Revelation 21. The Lord God Almighty and the Lambe are there.
On the other side you shall see it as plaine, when the Lord threatneth the greatest plague and curse that can betide a Nation, he never mentions other, above this, that He will depart from them: As if hee had meant to strike them dead at a blow, by saying, HePage 9will leave them. That place in Hosea Chapter 9. 11. is very remarkable: As for Ephraim (that is, the Children of Israel, the ten Tribes) his glory shall flee away as a Bird; that is, suddainly, swiftly, irrecover∣ably, he shall be utterly undone. What is the mat∣ter? The next Verse tels you, Woe unto them when J depart from them. If God goe, woe comes; all goes, if God goe. It is a knowne story in the 1. Samuel 4. that when the Arke (that was called the glory of God) the visible token of Gods presence in the Covenant of Grace, was taken Captive by the Philistines; Phineas his wife bowed her selfe and travailed, and though they after told her that a Man-child was borne, shee re∣garded it not, but called his name Ichabod, saying, The glory is gone; because then Gods presence depar∣ted from them.
What need I say any more? The worke of the In∣carnation of the Sonne of God, and the Redemption of the VVorld by him, was such, that one maine end of making this goodly frame of Heaven and Earth was, that it might be the stage upon which that Worke should be acted. A worke wherein not onely all mans happinesse lyes, and whence it flowes; but wherein all Gods Attributes are glorified to the highest; and for which the Church Triumphant shall thinke Eternity short enough to prayse God. Of this Worke (I say) the summe is given in one word, Immanuel, God is with us.
* And plaine Reason may demonstrate that it must needes be so. What is glory, but the shining out of excellency? VVhat is happinesse but the fruition of the greatest good? Now there is no Excellency that shines out in any thing, like to that which beames Page 10 out from God in the Covenant of grace to his people. There is no good that any people can enjoy like the fruition of God in that Covenant. It is true, God ma∣nifests himselfe to all the Nations in the World (in him they live, and move, and have their being:) yet it is as in a darke Cloud, they grope after him, and can∣not feele him, but in the covenant of grace men behold him with open face,* like the Sunne shining in his strength, as through a Mirrour: Such a Mirrour as the Prince of Orange had, that would shew the Sunne in his full bignesse and beauty. Thus God shines in the Covenant of grace.
The Prince is virtually present in all places of his Kingdome, but his Court is his Glory: So where God is in his Covenant, there Heaven is; therefore this is usually in the Scripture phrase called the King∣dome of Heaven.
But if yet more particularly you enquire, what Gods presence in his Covenant implyes: As he, who be∣ing askt what God was, required first a day, then two, then three, alledging, that the more he studyed it, the lesse able hee found himselfe to answer it. So the more I thinke of this, the more unable I see my selfe to make a satisfactory answer: what I can, take thus; To the Nation of the Iewes it implyed something which concernes not us, but mystically or analogically: As to have the Arke, Vrim and Thummim: to have God to reveale himselfe in Visions and Dreames: To an∣swer by Thunder, &c. which my haste allowes me not leisure to explaine. But to them, and to all other people Gods presence in the Covenant of Grace implyes these three things.
* First, the owning and acknowledging of them to Page 11 be his owne separated people, knit to him in a league of love: he is their God, they are his people; they have a propriety in God, and God hath a propriety in them, so that they may say of Him, This God is our God; and God of them, This people is my people. Now this is the greatest happinesse, nothing can exceed it: It hath bin often questioned, what was the greatest favour that ever Almighty God did for man? Some preferre Creation wherein man received his being, and excel∣lent endowments: some Redemption, wherein man is recovered to a better and surer estate than hee injoyed in Creation: but out of question to be a Iedediah, belo∣ved of God, to be neare to God as his Children, as his Spouse, is the comprehension of all that can be said or thought of the happinesse of a people. And if you looke into the Scriptures, you shall see that Gods love to his peculiar people, is such a love as carryes with it all relations: It is the love of a Father to his Chil∣dren; I will be your Father and you shall bee my Sonnes and Daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.* It is the love that a man beares to the wife of his bosome: I will marry thee to mee in righteousnes, and truth, and mercy.* It is the love of a friend: I have called you my friends:* And Abraham the Father of all that are in Covenant, he was stiled, The friend of God.
And from this interest in God flow innumerable priviledges, for being thus beloved of God, and preci∣ous to him, it followes that they are accepted in their services, that all their sinnes are pardoned, and that they have liberty to aske any thing that is good for them. When Solomon was beloved of God, 2 Kings 3. 5. God bids him, Aske what I shall doe for thee: It is but aske and have. *And this is the confidence thatPage 12wee have in him, that if wee aske any thing according to his will, he heareth us. They have friendship with all his friends: In Zach. 8. 23. Ten men shall lay hold upon the skirt of one that is a Iew, of whom they be able to say, Wee have heard that God is with you. Indeed, to have God thus making himselfe over to a people, to bee their portion, to love them, and to owne them, is not onely an heaven upon earth, but the very heaven of heaven.
* Secondly, Gods presence with a people in his Co∣venant, implyes Gods assisting them, and prospering all the workes they put their hands unto. This is the ordinary expression of the Scripture: Every thing pro∣spers, where God is. It is said of David, whithersoever (Saul) sent him, he prospered: for God was with him.* E∣very house where Ioseph came prospered, for God was with him.* In all undertakings, in all Counsels for wars, for peace, for trade, &c. Gods aid and assistance comes in. If they decree a thing, God will establish it. If they commit their worke to him, the very thoughts of their hearts shall be established; Whatsoever they doe, God will make it to prosper. Thou O Lord, workest all our workes for us.*
Whereas now if God be absent, all mens endeavours are to no purpose in any kind. Except the Lord build the house, they labour but in vaine that build it.* It is to no purpose to plough that field that God will have lye fallow. Ye earne much saith God, but it comes to no∣thing, ye sow much and bring in little, ye eate and have not enough, yee drinke and are not filled; he that ear∣neth wages, puts it into a bottomlesse purse.* What was the reason? the Lord blasted all. And it must needs be so, all the second causes worke onely by vertue of the Page 13 first, the great wheele carries on all the other.
A notable example of this, that Gods presence is mans prosperity, wee have in Hag. 2. where when God had told them that the reason of all their ill successe in their enterprizes came from Gods withdrawing from them, for their unfaithfull walking with him in the matter of rebuilding his house, and that thereupon the people were stirred up to consider their wayes, and to build Gods Temple, the Lord tells them, vers. 18. that though their seed was not yet in their Barnes, nor any of their trees had brought forth their burthen; and so for ought they could see, they were like to have as hard a year as before: yet now, saith the Lord, from this day I wil blesse you. Now you shall have a crop, that there shal not be roome enough to receive it: for if they would build his Temple, he would come and dwell with them.
* Thirdly, Gods presence in his Covenant implyes his protection, and defence of that people against all ene∣mies. It is said of Joseph, he went into Aegypt, he was sold for a slave: but saith the Text, God was with him, and delivered him out of all his afflictions:* None could hurt him, while God was with him. Aboun∣dance of excellent Scriptures speake this truth. Ob∣serve two or three comparisons which the Holy Ghost frequently useth, in Isai. 4. the later end, the Lord speaks thus of the Churches of the Gentiles, that he would create upon all the assemblies (upon all the pla∣ces where the people should assemble to serve him) a pillar of a Cloud, and a fire to keepe them safe day and night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence. Marke, Gods presence in his Ordinances, is their Glory, and upon all the Glory GOD would cre∣ate a Defence. *Hee compareth Himselfe to a Page 14 Shield, I am thy Shield. Now the nature of a Shield is to take all the blo vs, that the body cannot be hurt, till the shield be pierced through. In Zach. 2. 5. God saith he will bee a wall of fire round about them: allu∣ding to the custome of Travellers in waste wildernes∣ses, who used to make fires round about them in the night, and then none of the wilde beasts durst come neare them; such a defence is God to his people: And he often saith, he beares them upon Eagles wings. Some observe, that other birds carry their young ones in their clawes, (and then the young one may bee killed, and the old one not hurt) but the Eagle carries her young upon her back, upon her wings, and so they can∣not be hurt till she be shot through. Excellent is that expression in Isaiah the 46. where God comparing him∣selfe with the Idols of the Heathens, speakes to this purpose, Their Idolls must be borne: but God beares his people: They must be set in their place, and bee kept least they be stolne or broken; they must defend their gods: but Iehovah defends his people: In many places God calls himselfe the Watch-man of his people, the Leader of them, the Defender of them: all signi∣fying thus much, that the safety and defence of his people rests upon his presence with them.
Some where I have read a Dialogue betwixt a Iew and a Heathen: After the Iewes returne from the Cap∣tivity, all the Nations round about them (being ene∣mies to them) a Pagan asked a Iew how they could have any hope of safety: because (faith hee) every one of them is as one silly sheep compassed about with fifty wolves? I, but saith the Iew, wee are kept by a shep∣heard that can kill these fifty Wolves when hee plea∣ceth. This God, where ever he comes is the protector Page 15 of his people; who, if he but speake the word, all the enemies of his people are consumed and brought to nothing. And this is the summe of all Balaams answer to Balaak, Numb. 23. and 24. that neither force nor fraud could hurt the people of Israel while God was with them.
On the other side, if God leave a people, all their strength is gone, as Sampsons was when his Locks were cut of. A notable instance of this you shall find in Ier. 37. God was then withdrawing from his people, tooke away the signes of his presence, and told them they should be delivered up into the hands of the Chal∣deans: they thought yet to hold it out. But saith the Prophet, If yee had smitten all the army of the Chalde∣ans, and none of them had beene left but a few wounded men, they should come and burne your City.*Amaziah's case* also is most famous; hee had warre with a great company of malicious neighbour Princes that hated him, and he hires 100000 valiant men of Israel, and joynes them with his owne forces: But there comes a Prophet, and bids him send these 100000 people backe; why? for God is not with the Armies of Israel; As if he had said, Amaziah, it were all one for thee to carry 100000 wisps of straw, or a hundred thou∣sand dead Carkasses into the Field to fight, as a hundred thousand valiant men, if God bee not with them.
While God was with Sampson, he could carry the gates of a City upon his shoulders; when God left him, when his Locks were cut (which were a pledge of Gods presence) then they took him and made a foole of him at their pleasure.
If you be not yet satisfied, that all these three things Page 16 are implyed in Gods presence: observe further that not onely of Jehovah, but even of all the Idoll gods of the Nations, the like things are spoken.
As first, they are said to be fathers and friends of the people that worshipped them. Thus the people of Moab who worshipped Chemosh, are stiled the people of Che∣mosh.* When Iudah joyned himselfe in marriage with Idolaters, God saith of him, He hath taken the daughter of a strange god:* And elsewhere when God chargeth his people with Idolatry, the Indictment runnes thus: They say to a stocke, thou art my Father;* that is, thou art my God, as neare unto mee as a Father to his Children.
Secondly, all their prosperity was said to come from their gods supposedly present among them, and pro∣pitious to them. Wilt thou not possesse that which Chemosh thy god gives thee to possesse? said Iepthah* to the King of Ammon, who tooke Chemosh for his God.
Thirdly, their safety, their victories are ever at∣tributed to their gods whom they tooke to be among them; Our God hath delivered into our hands (Sampson) our enemy.* And the attempts against the Heathen, are said to be made against their gods: as in Isaiah 46. 2. where there is a prophesie of the taking of Babylon by Cyrus, it is thus expressed, Bell boweth downe, Nebo stoopeth, &c. Their gods are gone into captivity. So in 2. King. 18. 34. Rabshakeh vants that, in his Masters name, Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Ar∣pad, &c. And it is observed as an ordinary practice of the Romans, that when they came to besiege any Ci∣ty, they would first intreat the gods of that City to leave the protection of it, and come over to them: Page 17 as who should say, leave you off their protection, and then let us alone with them: So then, the summe of all this put together, amounts to thus much, that Gods presence in his Covenant with any people implyes that they are dearly beloved of him, that hee workes all their workes for them, and shields and defends them a∣gainst all their enemies.
I come now to the Application of it, wherein (be∣cause I chiefely intend the next poynt, the Condition of Gods presence) I will briefely make two or three Collections onely, which I conceive may be most sea∣sonable and sutable to your office, and to the occasion of your meeting here this day.
* First, is it so, that the glory and happinesse of a nation stands in the presence of God in his Covenant: Then, I humbly pray you all to take notice, what are the grea∣test Evills, and who are the most desperate Traytors, against the King, Church, and State of England at this day. I doubt not but you have a multitude of complaints of Grievances presented to the Parliament house: all (at least pretended to be) contrary to the welfare of the State: give mee leave to put up one Great One; and to informe you who bee the Authors of the greatest Grievances, and Evills that can pos∣sibly betide the Kingdome of England, even they that would rob us of our God. Solomon saith, A man that wasts his Father, and chaseth away his mother, is a miserable wretch. And I know, if evidence should he brought into this Honourable assembly against any one that had deprived the King of a Subject, you would think him worthy of severe punishment. But higher, if you should light upon one, that should endeavour to de∣prive the King and Kingdome of a wise Counsellour,Page 18 and States man, in the multitude whereof is the safety of the Kingdome. But higher yet, if any should be found that had lift up his hand against his Majesty, the Lords anoynted, who is the breath of our nostrills; if any such should be discovered, would you not say of them as she said to David, Let the soule of my Lord bee bound up in the bundle of life, and let the Lord sting the soules of his enemies as out of the middle of a sting?* yea would not every true hearted subject in the Kingdome say thus also? O but (Honourable and beloved) they that would rob us of the glory of our King, and King∣dome, that would take away all our happinesse, and protection, and prosperity, that would leave us naked to our shame, that wee should become a scorne and spoyle, are not they worse than any of the former? You will say, Who is he? and where is he that dares presume in his heart to doe so?* (I pray stay for a full answer till the next poynt touching the Condition of enjoying God be unfolded: in the meane time) take this in part: I pray God there bee none such met this day to fast and pray before the Lord. Every sonne of Belial, every one that is a Rebell against God, every one that workes wickednesse, is that wicked Haman, that sells Hester, and all her people to destruction. If there be any such here, you will give me leave (being Gods Minister, and your Servant) to discharge my Office faithfully. Should there bee but one such, I say, among you that are called together to bee the Re∣pairers of the breaches, to such a one let me thus speak; If thou be found to bee the Achan, that keepes God from going out with our armies; the Jonas, that art rea∣dy to cast away the ship, so that there is no hope of our safety till thou be cast out; if thy conscience accuse Page 19 thee that thou art a child of Belial, an Idolater, a su∣perstitious person, a prophane Esau: lay this close to thy heart, how miserable and wretched a man thou art, that not onely adventurest thine own soule to most certaine ruine in opposing the Lord; but, as another Sylla, thou pluckest out thy fathers purple haire, and deprivest the Kingdome of the glory of it: so that it may be written upon thy Grave-stone, This man was the ruine of his King and Countrie.*
And for the Lords sake (Honourable and beloved) take it to heart, and lay it up with you, that if Gods presence be our glory, then those that would robus of it are our greatest enemies. Think of them all, as he (upon lesse ground) said of the Children of Dan. You have taken away my God, and what have I more?
* And secondly, let me beseech you all in this your great Nationall Councell, and Assembly, to take seriously into your thoughts what may be the best way of leng∣thening out our tranquillity. Beloved, all the Nations in Christendome have beene in grievous perplexities many yeares round about us: wee have beene hitherto kept as another Land of Goshen, where light hath still shined, when all others have beene in darknesse. And I know the hearts of some of you have sadly expected when God should come and erect his Iustice seat among us, or give the sword a Commission against us: now you are met for this very thing, to provide for our welfare: for the Lords sake take care to keepe him with us: if he goe, all goes: wee can never light our Candle, if this Sunne bee set: wee shall never fill our Buckets, if this Fountaine bee shut up. All your counsells and advising will be nothing, if God say, I will stay no longer in England: * Wee shall then bee a Page 20 spoyle to any enemy; a few unarmed men will bee too hard for us all.
It is recorded of the Palladium in Troy, that while that Image remained there, the City was impregnable, and that till the Greeks lighted on that stratagem to steale that Idoll away, they could never winne the City. What ever fancy there was in that, you know how much it concernes us to keepe our GOD with us; let your maine care bee to fixe and settle him therefore among us, and then wee are safe: if you let him goe, we are an undone people.
* Thirdly, if Gods presence in his Covenant bee the glory and safety of a people; then may all of you, undertaking any service for GOD, and his Glory, most comfortably and securely rest on God to de∣fend and protect you against all dangers. It is no que∣stion but your enemies are mighty, malicious, and cunning; and it may bee they are digging as deepe as Hell for Counsell to doe you mischiefe in this great way and work that you are in. But while you are with God, God will bee with you. Are not five Sparrowes sold for a Farthing, saith our Saviour? Are not you more worth than all the Sparrowes in the World? are you not in Gods Worke? As Ca∣leb said, The Lord is with us, feare not them, They shall all be bread for us.* Goe on boldly, use what pro∣vidence you can to prevent dangers, but comfortably remember, that the Name of the Lord is a strong Tower, the righteous runne to it, and are safe.*
* I will conclude this with a story of Luther, which he tells of a Bishop of Magdenburg. A Duke of Saxony prepared warre against him: the Bishop hearing of it, falls to praying, reforming of his Church, and amen∣ding Page 21 what was amisse. One of the Dukes spies then in that City, when he saw him make no preparation for defence, came and asked him, if he did not heare what the Duke was preparing against him? Yes, saith he, I doe; but Ego curabo Ecclesiam meam, & Deus pro me pugnabit. I must looke to my worke, and the defence of me belongs to God; which when the Duke heard, he disbanded his forces, and acknowledged that hee should prove too weak to deale with that man that in∣gaged God in the quarrell against him. So follow you on the work, be yee for the Lord, and comfortably rest your selves under Gods wing, to prosper and protect you. So much for their present happinesse. The Lord is with you.