A SERMON PREACHED To the Honorable the House of Commons at the Monethly Fast, Januar. 27. 1647.
MATTH. 11. 12.
THat you may the more cleerly understand the scope of our blessed Saviour in these words, be pleased to observe that in the beginning * of this Chapter, Iohn the Baptist had sent two of his Disciples upon a message to Christ; not for his own information, but for the confirmation of his Disciples, who were too much ad∣dicted Page 2 to himself, that they might be satisfied in receiving Christ to be (as he was) the promised Messiah, by seeing and hearing what he did and taught; as soon as these Di∣sciples of Iohn were gone, Christ turnes to the multitude, that were about him, and from the 7. verse of this Chap∣ter, to the 16. verse, doth make a notable discourse wholly concerning Iohn the Baptist; and there are two parts of Christs speech concerning Iohn; First,
A blaming of the levity, and inconstancie of the people, in their respect towards Iohn, for they had magnified him so (not long before) that they were ready to have recei∣ved him as their Messiah; but now Iohn was grown no body with them; this our Saviour doth bitterly taxe. And the argument whereby he reproves them lies in such a di∣stribution as this is, Either you were very foolish in magni∣fying Iohn, when there was no such worth in him, or you are extreame vaine and light in withdrawing your hearts from him, that was so worthy at first to be received: the first is not to be granted, therefore the second must needs be true; what went you out into the Wildernesse to see? was it a Reed shaken with the wind? did you goe as children doe, to see rattles and toyes? no, but wee went to see and heare Iohn the Baptist; and what in him? a man cloathed in white raiment, alas, Iohn was no Courtier; no, we went to him as to a Prophet; I, so he was (saith Christ) and more then a Prophet, the greatest Prophet that ever the world saw, and the greater is your fault in slighting of him.
In this as in a glasse you may see the levity and inconstan∣cy of people who contemne him to day whom they admired yesterday, and that doctrine which this day they esteeme as a treasure they by and by abominate, because indeed Athenian-like they imbrace it not because true, but Page 3 because new: thus it hath been of old, and thus it is to this day, he who to day is lifted up is to morrow trodden down, who is now accounted cloquent is presently esteem'd a babe, rude or barbarous, and all from their sicklenesse, the Word and Ministers are the same, but the people are changed, like sick peoples palate, who long for that meat one day which they nauseate the next day, or as children who delight in those toyes one day which the next they throw out of the doores.
[ 2] The second part of Christs discourse concerning Iohn is,
A high commendation of Iohn, and of his Ministery, from three notable arguments: First,
[ 1] That Iohn was the Prophet, that was foretold long be∣fore by two emminent Prophets, Isaiah, & Malachi, both of * them shewing that the Lord would send his messenger be∣fore his face, and (saith Christ) if you'l beleeve it, this is he. [ 2] The second is taken from the eminencie of Iohns worke, hee did immediatly goe before Jesus Christ, as a Noble * man that should lead the Prince by the hand, and shew him to every one, This is he; he did not as the other Prophets hold him out in types and shadows, and spake of a Messiah that was to come a long time after, but as another Chri∣stopher did carry Christ upon his shoulders, and held him out in his armes, that every one that came neer Iohn might see him pointed out to the Lambe of God, that took away the sinnes of the world; and the clearer any Ministery is in the discovery of Christ, the more excellent it is; but yet that Christ might set the true bounds to the honour of Iohns Ministery, he adds that though of all the Prophets that ever were before him, there was none like him, yet the least Minister after Christ should have done his worke, the meanest Minister of the Gospel had a more excellent Mi∣nistery then Iohn the Baptist, because the excellencie of a Page 4 Ministery is in the light that it carries: Now Iohns light did farre goe beyond all that went before him; but the least Minister of the Kingdome of Heaven, after Christs work was done on earth, should be able so cleerly to shew forth the life, death, passion, resurrection, ascension, inter∣cession of Christ, sending of the holy Ghost, and all those glorious mysteries, that children might bee able to under∣stand them; and this goes far beyond the Ministery of Iohn the Baptist: This is the second Argument whereby Christ magnifies the Ministery of Iohn; the third is, that that I have chosen for my Text.
[ 3] That from the dayes of Iohn the Baptist the Kingdome of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force: the summe whereof is, that from Iohns time there was raised up in all who truely embrac'd the Gospel, a servent spirit to pursue and advance the Kingdome of Heaven with all eagernesse; no Souldiers are more violent in assaulting and taking astrong hold then Iohns Disciples were in prosecu∣ting the Kingdome of Heaven with all their might, when once it was discover'd to them.
Now all these arguments whereby Christ doth extoll the Ministery of Iohn, are intended not onely as so many te∣stimonies of honour to Iohn, but are also so many Argu∣ments to prove Jesus Christ to be the true Messiah; for whatever proves Iohn to be the Elias, that should make his way ready for him, the same proves Jesus Christ to be the Saviour that should come unto Gods people; and this of my Text as strong and cleare as any other, because it was foretold of him that the people should be willing in the day of his power, should come in as plentifully as the dew out of the wombe of the morning, should flie after*him as the Doves to their windowes. This is the commen∣dation of Iohn; if you would know the fruit of all this, Page 5 what this high encomium of Iohn did work upon the hearers, you may read in the 7. of Luke, where Vers. 29. 30. * this same story is recorded, and the effect of it is there ad∣ded, which our Evangelist doth omit, viz. that when Christ had said these things of Iohn, the Publicans and the rest of the people, who had before been baptized by Iohn Baptist, glorified God, were awaken'd, and brought to sorrow for their neglect of Iohn, and so encouraged to imbrace Je∣sus Christ, whom Iohn pointed out; but the Scribes and Pharisees, the learned Doctors, and others, that had de∣spised the Ministery of Iohn, did no whit regard the ho∣nour that Christ did give to Iohns Ministery, and so nei∣ther accepted Iohn the forerunner, nor Christ the Saviour, * but rejected the counsell of God against themselves; This is the sum of the whole context, Our generall obser∣vation from this commendation which our Saviour gives to Iohn, is, that the Lord Iesus is most ready to honour*them who abase themselves for his sake. Iohn had excee∣dingly abased himself, declaring himself to be but the voyce of a cryer, unworthy to unloose the latchet of Christs shooe, making himself a footstoole to exalt Christ, willing to de∣crease that Christ might increase, and now Christ heaps honour upon Iohn abundantly, so that wee may see that such as honour Christ shall be honoured of him; and that although honour flie from them who vainely seek it, yet it followes them who flie from it. But I come to my Text, which as you have heard is one branch of that honorable testimony which our Saviour gave to Iohn the Baptist, which I shall desire you with me to look upon under a twofold consideration. First,
As they are intended to bee a Crown and an honour to Iohn the Baptist; From the dayes of Iohn the Baptist untill now, the Kingdome of Heaven suffers violence; Secondly, and principally,
Page 6 Wee will consider these words, as they doe containe a description of men, who are rightly affected with the kingdome of heaven; The Kingdome of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. [ 1] Of the first of these, very briefly; the meaning I take to bee this, This eagernesse and fervency of Spirit in the people is to bee looked upon, partly as a fruit of that cleere light, which Iohn Baptists Ministery did hold out; never any discovered * the kingdome of heaven so cleerly as Iohn did, and there∣fore never was there such zeal to presse into the Kingdome of heaven, as was in Iohns time. [ 2] Secondly, and partly as a conformity to Iohns Spirit; Iohn came in the power and Spirit of Elias, a man of mettle and zeal, that did the work of the Lord with all his might, and therefore the people whom his Ministery wrought upon, were moulded into Iohns Spirit, they were made like unto their Teacher, and both these are by our Lord intended as a Crowne to [ 3] Iohn; From the dayes of Iohn the Kingdome of Heaven suf∣fers violence. A word or two of each of these; Take the * zeal and eagernesse of the people after heaven, as a fruit of that clear discovery of the Kingdome of heaven by Iohns Ministery, and it affords us this excellent lesson,
*That the clearer light any people doe receive from Heaven, the more will their zeal bee enflamed towards heaven; never any preached heaven so clearly as Iohn, never any so violent in the pursuit of it, as those that received Iohns Ministery; it was prophesied of Iohn in the 1 of Luke Ver. 15, 16, 17. that he should be filled with the Holy Ghost, and should goe before the Lord to prepare his way, and (saith the Text) he shall thereby turne the hearts of the Fathers to the Children, the hearts of the children to their Fathers, and the disobedient to the wisdome of the wise: the meaning is this, Iohns Ministery should effect this, that if Page 7 Parents heretofore were ignorant of the wayes of God, and so slighted their children, for their childrens godlinesse sake, now the Parents should turn to the wisdome of their children; If children heretofore had slighted their Pa∣rents, for their wisdome and godlinesse, now the children should turn to the wisdome of their Parents; the disobedi∣ent should turn to the wisdome of the wise, whether this wisdome were found in the Fathers, or in the children, in whomsoever wisdome should bee found, the disobedient would turn to them when Jesus Christ should bee clearly discover'd to them; the Apostle in the 2 of Cor. 3. 13. layes this downe most clearly and fully, when hee speaks how gloriously Jesus Christ is revealed in the Ministery of the Gospell, he expresses the fruit of it thus; We all with open face beholding as in a glasse the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same Image from glory to glo∣ry; whoever doth clearly see the glory of Christ in the Gospell, according to the measure of his light, so is the measure of the transforming of his heart into the image of the Gospell; And the reason is, because this light doth not onely discover a supereminent excellency in Christ and his wayes, but also heales the will and affections, and satisfies the whole soul with such a sutable goodnesse, that it can doe no other but fly to it as the Eagle to the car∣kasse.
* This Lesson which is of singular use for many things, I note it onely to bee a direction to us, how wee may try both our own and the pretended light of others, concern∣ing the Kingdome of heaven in our dayes, especially in these late yeares, wee have more discourse then ever of New Lights, and new Gospel discoveries, and all our old Preachers and professors are by a great many accounted to be legall men, Morall men, who doe not see into the Page 8 mysteries of heaven, and Jesus Christ, as some of late, thinke themselves have attained unto, this you know is spoke of very much amongst many people: Now I doe willingly acknowledge, that day unto day utters knowledge, and night unto night discovers wisedome, every new day, and every new year, the nearer wee come to Christs last appearing, will certainly discover Gospell Truths more clearly then they have been understood before; yea, and I as willingly and readily acknowledge every one to have received more light then formerly, or more light then his brethren, when I see any mans heart enflamed with more zeale, transformed into more holinesse, and humility, and gratiousnesse of spirit, then others doe attaine to; this is cleare in my Text; A cleare light did kindle a great deale of zeale: but when you meet with any that speak of disco∣veries, of glimpses of glory, and new light, and in the meane time, with all their light and knowledge doe walke licenciously, and reject the ordinances of God, and walke in wayes that are contrary to the cleare dispensation, and counsell of the Gospel, I will never feare to say, that that light what ever it be, proceeds from the Prince of dark∣nesse, from which the Lord deliver all his people. Second∣ly, as this violence of their spirit was conformity to *Iohns spirit, who walked in the power and spirit of Elias, a man of zeale, we may learn, That the Image of the spirit of Teachers frequently appeares in their Disciples. If you search the Scriptures, you'l finde nothing more usuall then the people moulded into the spirit of their Teachers & Ru∣lers: It's worth your observation that all the Epistles writ∣ten to the seven Churches, wherein some of them are con∣demned to be dead, and some to bee cold, and some for loosing their first love, and some commended for their pu∣ritie and sincerity, and watchfulnesse, &c. all this is spoke Page 9 to the Angel, that is, to the Colledge of Ministers to them that were their leaders; yet therein the holy Ghost intends that Character of the whole Church, although hee names onely the Angel, because of old it hath been a Proverbe, as is the Priest, so are the people; like Minister, like * people; like Magistrate, like flock; and although no man can communicate his own spirit unto his Schollers, but onely our Lord Iesus, who can powr out his spirit at his pleasure; yet all experience shews us, that the frame of spirit that is in superiours, whether Magistrates or Mi∣nisters, hath a wonderfull influence upon the molding of those that are under them; Magistrates and Ministers in this sense may be truely said to be set for the rising and fall of others, their vertues and vices are imitated by them who are under them, if they fall they draw many down with them, as the Dragon drew the third part of the stars, and great Cedars crush many lower Trees and make them fall with them; if Peter temporise with the Jewes, his example compels others to doe the like; so also is their zeale for * God a great provocation to their Schollers and others who are under them; but I intended onely to point at these two things. * The third which I chiefly ayme at in this first con∣sideration of the words, is, That this excellent spirit that was found in the people, is here set upon the head of Iohn the Baptist as his Crown, this is made Iohns glory, that the Epoche of a new world, or a newface of a Church did take the date from the Ministery of Iohn; From the dayes of Iohn the Kingdome of Heaven suffers violence; and the Lesson that I observe from it is,
That the greatest glory that ever the Lord sets upon any whom he useth is, that the Kingdom of Heaven is advanced by their Ministery or service. This I think you see plain in the Text, & this I shall indeavour a little to open and apply Page 10 unto you: it is true, that when the servants of God are faithfull, they are accepted with God, and shall be glo∣rious with him, though there bee no successe of their la∣bours; the Prophet Isaiah saith, though Israel be not con∣verted, and Iudah not gathered, yet I shall be glorious with my God; and Paul saith, Wee (that is, wee faithfull * Ministers) are a sweet savour unto God, in them that perish, as well as in them that are saved: the servants of God lose not their labour with God, when they are unprofitable to∣wards man; but if the Lord doe please to use any as means to advance the Kingdome of Heaven, hee never conferres a greater glory upon any of his creatures: Daniel faith in the 12. of Daniel, whether they bee Magistrates or Mini∣sters, or private men, They that turne many to righteousnesse,*shall shine like the Stars; you know the Stars are the bright∣est part of the whole Creation; they that are meanes to win people to righteousnesse, shall shine like Stars. Observe also what an honorable name the Lord gives to such in the 58. of the Prophesie of Isaiah: Thou shalt be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to walk in, the*raiser up of the foundations for many Generations: intima∣ting that a greater name of glory cannot bee given them. There is an excellent story in the sixth Chapter of the Pro∣phesie of Zechariah, the Lord appointed that Ioshua the high Priest, (who was a type of Christ, and was then building the Temple, and setting up the worship of God) should have crownes of Gold and Silver set upon his head, typifying thereby the glory that shall bee set upon the head of the Lord Jesus, that is the great builder of his * Church: but in the same Chapter the Lord commanded the Prophet to take of them that are of the captivitic, and names Helem, and Tobijah, and Hen, and some others, who (as some Interpreters) think were Ambassadors sent by Page 11 the rest of the scattered Jewes to bring their oblations; active men that came to helpe forward the work of God: others thinke they came as private men enflamed with zeale to set a good example unto others, and brought their Silver and Gold that they might further the work that was in hand; implying thus much, that these excellent men to whom God had given a spirit to helpe forward that work, and had brought their Silver and Gold, and other gifts, the Lord would have their gifts turn'd into Crowns, and have their names written upon their Crownes, and these should be hung up in the Temple of God, as an everlasting me∣moriall of the glory that God put upon these forward men. Truly thus doth the Lord deale with all his servants, if he give the talents of authority, of Magistracy, of Mini∣stery, of wisedome, of wealth, or whatever may be usefull, to any, and they obtaine a heart to employ these to advance the Kingdome of Christ, the Lord turnes their talents into crownes, and engraves their names upon their crownes, and hangs them up as a memoriall before the Lord: and this I could shew you out of 100. examples in the Scripture, especially of those two sorts of great instruments, Magi∣strates and Ministers, that it hath been the greatest glory that ever God put upon any of them, that they have bent themselves to advance the Kingdome of Heaven; What is the great glory of Moses? but that he brought Israel out of bondage, and brought them into a covenant with God, and gave them statutes, and oracles, and ordinances; What is the glory of Ioshua? but that hee did plant Israel in their owne possession, and brought them into a covenant, and there set them into a way that they served God all his dayes: What was the glory of David? but that being raised (from being a Shepheards boy) to bee a King, hee did doe good unto Gods people, and provided beyond all Page 12 measure, whatsoever might build a Temple for God, and set the orders to the Priests, and enabled the servants of God to serve him with liberty and cheerfulnesse: And what was Solomons, but the building Gods house, &c? And so I might go on with Asa, and Iehosaphat, and Iosiah, and Ezrah, and Nehemiah, all these great Worthies, their glory hath been that the Kingdome of God was advanced by them: the like of Ministers, Iehojada the Priest, buried among the Kings, because hee had done good to Israel, and honored God and his house, hee had helped Religion won∣derfully forward; and Iohn the Bap ist here in my Text, it was prophesied of him by the Angel, He shall be great in the sight of God, Iohn shall be a very great man; Alas, what was Iohns greatnesse? hee was a Priests sonne, lived in a kind of Hermits life, and went in a leather girdle, and eate countrey fare, and went in course apparell: wherein was his greatnesse? It was this, many of the hearts of the chil∣den of Israel shall hee turne unto the Lord his God; and so Samaria it is Philips crowne, and all the countries and ci∣ties that Paul wonne to Jesus Christ are so many crownes to him: and you shall reade of the Church, the woman in the twelfth of the Revelations when she was cloathed with the Sunne, that is, Christ Jesus her Lord, his rightcousnesse was her glorious rayment, yet shee had a crowne of 12. Stars upon her head, that is, the 12. Apostles of Christ, that had laboured to bring her to that light and grace: these were set upon the Churches head, and shee wore them as a crowne: Many more instances might bee given, but to cleare it a little further, consider but these two grounds for it: First,
* Who ever are instrumentall in advancing, and building up, and furthering the Kingdome of Heaven, the Lord gives them to partake with himself, in that which is his Page 13 own greatest glory, and the greatest glory of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, when Satan had ruin'd mankind, and himself become the God upon earth, and drawn all men off from God to worship Devils, the great designe of God was to set up another Kingdome, that should bee called the Kingdome of God the Kingdome of his Christ, the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus, the Kingdome of Heaven; and for the erecting of this, Christ did all his work, came from Heaven, became a man, died, rose again, sent out his Spirit, it is the great designe of Heaven, that this King∣dome should bee erected and advanced; Now when any are found to help forward this, they are associated with the Lord Jesus, in this great Work; and therefore you shall read in the Prophesie of Obadiah, the last verse of it, where the Lord speakes of winning both the Jews and other Na∣tions home to Christ, Saviours shall come upon Mount Zion, Saviours shall be there; Who are they? the Jew∣ish Interpreters say, that the Saviours there meant are, Rex Messias, & ejus socii; these Saviours are, King Messiah*and his Companions that should work with him; and most interpreters do agree, that the Saviours are the Apostles, and the Apostolicall men, and others, that should bring * the people homeagain to God, and help to convert the Na∣tions, the Lord calls them by the name of Saviours, and many are said to be fellow-workers with Christ, and the A∣postle saith of Timothy, See that Timoty bee without any molestation with you, (in the •. of the Cor. 16) for he works the Worke of God, as I doe; and of Epaphroditus, it is said of him, that for the Work of Iesus Christ, hee was sick unto death; the work then that they are imployed in, to build up the Kingdome of Heaven, is the same work that God and the Lord Iesus Christ work: and can there be a great∣er glory communicated unto any creature, then to bee Page 14 tooke into association with God, in a service that is for his highest glory? Secondly, as they are associated with God, so
* They make the people to whom they are instrumentall, beholding to them, for the greatest benefits that people are capable of receiving; Seneca saith, Nihil in rebus humanis praeclarius quam de republica bene mereri, There is nothing in all the affaires of mankinde more honorable then to de∣serve well of the Common-wealth, to be instrumentall of good to others, it is the glory of man in all hu∣mane societies; and you shall find that Tubal-Cain, and others that did invent instruments of Brasse, and Musick, * are numbred among those that have done good to the world: and Hezekiah hath a Crowne of praise, that hee * did build a poole, and brought water to the Citie of Ierusa∣lem: But for a man to be instrumentall to helpe forward the Kingdome of Heaven, to advance it, to draw people out of the snares of Satan unto God, to help them with the pardon of sin, and right to everlasting life, these are mercies with a witnesse, no wonder though the Galatians could have pull'd out their eyes, and have given them to Paul, when he had been a means to help them to the know∣ledge of Christ, and so to Heaven: so that whether you re∣gard the glory of being associated with God, or the good that they convey unto others, there can be no such honour, as to be instrumentall in helping forward the Kingdome of Heaven. *
* This Lesson is of excellent use, especially to two sorts of men, that are or may be publikely instrumentall in it, I mean Magistrates and Ministers, I am called at the present to speak onely to the first, therefore I'le say nothing of the latter, but for you Honourable and beloved, that are the Patriots of the Kingdome, is it not in your heart, to do all Page 15 the good that is possible to poor England? I dare say you are deeply affected with the distresses of it, and would not count your lives deare, so you might but promote the good of it; shall I tell you what that thing is, which above all things in the world, will be advantagious to England, and glorious to your selves, lay the cause of the Kingdome of Heaven to your hearts, more then ever you have done, endeavour to be instrumentall to make Religion thrive and prosper, that the Kingdome of Heaven may suffer violence under your service; so shall your names bee ingraven with the name of God, and numbred among the Saviours of this Land: Let me speak freely to you, you have conten∣ded long and vehemently for rescuing the Kingdome of England from the bondage and pressures that it lay under, and that England might be a free people, herein you have wrought in the fire, and because the cure hath been hard & costly woe and alas (I must speak it) the Patients are weary of it, and could rather wish to bee under their old Soares, then under such Physitians, and are ready to say with the murmuring Israelites, Let us make us a Captain and return againe unto Egypt, would be againe at their flesh pots and onyons though under bondage: your selves doe know how much ingratitude is shewed, and all because there is not that event and successe that hath been hoped for, but would the Lord make you instrumentall to advance the Kingdome of Heaven really, there should never bee found one among those that should partake the benefit of it, that would be weary of you, but would for ever blesse the Lord for you. If the generations to come, and future Chroni∣cles may but be able to say, From the dayes of such a Parlia∣ment, the hearts of the people of England were turned to God, from the dayes of such a Parliament the Ministery was reformed, setled, encouraged, with countenance, with Page 16 maintenance; Ʋniversities were reformed, heresies, blas∣phemies, every thing contrary to Christs truth, was dis∣countenanced, suppressed, beaten down, and the glory of the Lord Christ was laid to heart; might but this bee said of you, after all your toyle and blood, and after all your being cast down; and laden with reproach and scorne, your names should revive, your glory should be eternall, this and the everlasting world would number you among the repairers of the breaches of Gods people, and you shall bee called Saviours of the Kingdome of England, if the Lord doe but direct you to doe this worke; but in the meane time, should the Lord leave you that it should bee otherwise, that the affaires of Christ should prove retroomnia, that the Kingdome being overspread with blasphe∣mies and heresies, and the poysoning of the soules of peo∣ple, &c. should bee concurrent with your worke, and you not endevour to administer the best helping hand you can to it, it would bee said of you, as Ecclesiasticall writers do of one age since Christ that was overspread with heresies, and destitute of worthy men to oppose them, it was called Infoelix seculum, an unhappy age: so would you be accoun∣ted Infoelix Parliamentum, an unhappy Parliament: if this should happen under you, and you not indevour to the utmost to redresse it. I pray the Lord, and it is my prayer when ever I can pray, that God would give that glory to you, and set that crowne upon your heads, that with Ioshua and Zerubbabel, and and the rest of those whom God hath counted fit to bee numbred among his Worthies, you might make this the great designe, that from the dayes of this Parliament, the Kingdome Heaven might bee set up, and flourish in England: and so I have done with the words in the first consideration of them, as they are a crowne set upon the head of Iohn the Baptist: From thePage 17dayes of Iohn the Kingdome of Heaven suffers violence.
I now proceed to the words as they containe a descrip∣tion of a people really converted and brought home to Christ, The Kingdome of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force; take but the Rhetorick off from these words, they signifie no more then that which is said in the 1 of Luke 16. Many of the children of Israel he shall turne to the Lord their God:* many shall bee converted by him, but the holy Ghost expresses it in these Metaphori∣call termes, because they doe fully set out the true Genius of every soule who is aright instructed of the Kingdome of Heaven. In the words there are two things:
[ 1] First, what the frame of spirit is, which possessed the people under Iohns Ministery, in these words, the King∣dome of Heaven suffers violence. Secondly,
[ 2] The successe of this frame of spirit, the violent take it by force. For the first, the Kingdome of Heaven suffers violence, wherein there are two things to bee interpre∣ted. [ 1] First,
What is meant by the Kingdome of Heaven. [ 2] Secondly,
What by the Kingdome of Heavens suffering violence.
[ 1] By the Kingdome of Heaven, in one word, both here * and at least in 100. other places of the New Testament, is meant the administration of the Covenant of grace, after Jesus Christ was exhibited in the flesh; the last & best admi∣nistration of the covenant of Grace; The Kingdome of Hea∣ven is come to you; The Kingdome of Heaven is like a Mer∣chant man; The Kingdome of Heaven shall be taken from you, &c. all these expressions are nothing but the administration of the Covenant of Grace under Messiah; and this is called the Kingdome of Heaven, not onely in opposition to the kingdomes of the world, other politique Commonwealths, but principally (I thinke) in opposition to the spirituall Page 18 kingdome of the Devill, which is the kingdome of dark∣nesse, and leads people to destruction, and this admini∣stration is called the Kingdome of Heaven, partly, because the Prince and Soveraigne Lord of it, is the Lord from Heaven, and hath his throne in Heaven, and partly be∣cause all the subjects of it, are made Heavenly in their con∣versations;* partly, because all the good things communi∣cated to them doe come from Heaven; and principally, be∣cause the Kingdome of glory, that is to be injoyed in Hea∣ven, and the administration of the Covenant of Grace here upon earth, are all but one and the same thing, onely that is the upper Region, this the inferior, there is the Metro∣politicall Citie, and these are (as it were) the Suburbs, and the Countrey Villages, but all is one Kingdome; there is nothing there, but what is enjoy'd here, only with these two differences, that here the Kingdome of Heaven is mix'd and imperfect; mix'd with corruption, mix'd with afflicti∣on, and the graces of it not perfectly communicated; and there it is simple, and pure, and entire, without any defect or mixture; and here it is administred in ordinances, and re∣ceived by faith, there it is administred immediatly, and enjoy∣ed by sight; but otherwise I know no difference, Heaven there, and Heaven here to the Saints is all but one King∣dome; therefore it is called the Kingdome of Heaven.
* Secondly, and what is meant by the Kingdome of heaven suffering violence; I confesse some Interpreters say that Heaven suffers violence, that is, suffers persecution; adver∣saries doe rush upon it: but so it cannot be said, that the violent take it, for these violent men doe not take but lose the Kingdome of Heaven, who persecute it: but my Text speakes of such violent men as take and enjoy it. The Armi∣nans say, that by the suffering violence is meant, the per∣secuting of it to the taking of it away, not the taking of itPage 19to themselves, but the taking of it away from others, and will not let people lay hold upon it: nor enter into it, but our Lord himself interprets the meaning in the 16. of Luke 16. * where that of this story is related: There Christ saith, and from the dayes of Iohn the Kingdome of God is preached, and every one presseth into it: So that the suffering of vio∣lence here, is, that the Kingdome of Heaven is assaulted by violence of those that will have it, what ever it cost them: all who are rightly informed and instructed in the Kingdome of Heaven, doe with contention and earnestnesse of spirit, break through all difficulties, use all diligence, that they may enjoy the Kingdome of Heaven as their portion, what ever it cost them. In a word, what Paul saith of his own practice, Philip. 3. is a cleere interpretation of this Text, I do*count all drosse and dung, that I might gaine Christ, I make shipwrack of all, I looke at nothing that I have already got, but I still looke for that which is before me, I presse forward, if by any meanes I may attaine to the resurrection of the dead. Now you have the meaning, since Iohn hath cleerly discover'd the Kingdome of Heaven, the spirits of men are so fired, that there is no taking of them off, but with all the violence possible they all labour and endeavour to advance it, and to get into it; and from this there are two excellent lessons to be handled, I'le onely name one of them, and handle the other. The first is,
That the administration of the Covenant of grace in the*Gospel of Christ, is no other thing then the very Kingdome of Heaven: nothing lesse then the very Kingdome of Hea∣ven: let the men of the world slight it, esteeme it a bondage, a drudgery, yet it's no lesse then a Kingdome, yea a King∣dome of Heaven, which doth transcend all the Kingdomes of this world as far as Heaven is above the earth: that is Page 20 one; I dare say nothing of that, lest I bee prevented: the other is,
*That all who are rightly affected to the Kingdome of Hea∣ven, offer violence to it. Violence it is a motion above the meane, beyond mediocrity, it is a motion with greatest intention and indeavour, this is the lesson I would Preach to you, that whoever are rightly affected to the Kingdome of Heaven doe use their utmost endeavour, and offer violence to it: let mee first make it cleer to you that it is so: and then I'le hasten to the Application; That it is so, if you please but to weigh these three or foure things, it will bee beyond all question.
That every where in the Booke of God, where the en∣deavours of men are described who look after Heaven; * these endeavours (I say) are expressed, by all the indefatiga∣ble paines that are laid out about any thing in the world, the most laborious trade of a Husbandman, of a Traveller, of a Warfaring man, of a Merchant are usually brought to expresse the labours of men that look after heaven, yea such exercises which are too violent for any to make a trade or ordinary practise of, are used to set out the violence of their labour who strive for the Kingdome of heaven as run∣ning a race, striving for masteries or victories in the Olym∣pick games, 1 Cor. 9. 24. &c. Know yee not that they who*run in a race ran all, but one receiveth the Garland: so run that yee may obtain, &c.
[ 2] The affections with which they are carried to it, are ordi∣narily so expressed, that all the love they beare to any thing else is hatred, if compar'd with the love they beare to this: Christ saith in the 14. of Luke; If any man will bee*my disciple, and hate not father, and mother, and wife, and children, and life, and all that he hath, and himselfe also, hee cannot be my Disciple. Now certainly the Lord doth not Page 21 meane positively, the Gospel doth not teach any man to hate his father or his mother, or his wife or children, it is against nature, and against the Gospel; but the Lord meanes comparatively, that take all the love that they bear to their own lives, or to what ever is deare to them, as Ia∣cobs love to Leah was hatred, when compar'd with his af∣fection to Rachel, so all their love to these things is hatred if compared with the love that they beare to the Kingdome of Heaven; and this Chrysostome expresses very elegantly when he saith, in his pursuit of banishment or martyrdome for Christ, if his father should meet him and stand in his way, he would throw his father upon the ground; if his mo∣ther lay in his way, he would tread upon his mothers belly: meaning whatever it was, that should be an obstacle to him, they should be all scorn'd and hated by him, if their interest in him should offer to stand in competition with the affecti∣on hee bore to the Kingdome of Heaven. [ 3]
It is ordinary with Christ to expresse it thus, that whoe∣ver * mindes the Kingdome of Heaven, and embraces it aright, will forsake all for it, they sell all for it; in the 13. of Matthew, the man that found the Treasure, sold all with joy, the man that found the pearle of great price, sold all, and the Disciples were able to speak it, Master we have for∣saken*all to follow thee: How is that? how doe they sell all? the meaning is, they forsake all, First, [ 1]
In their judgments, and estimation of all other things, they * are nothing in their thoughts, when compared with this: I account all losse and dung for Christ. Secondly, fell and forsake all.
[ 2] In their affections, that they care not for them, they doe not love them, nor delight in them, when compar'd with this. Thirdly, sell all,
In their resolution and purpose of their spirit; they being prepar'd to part with all, either by degrees; or all at a clap, Page 22 according as their interest in the Kingdome of Heaven doth call for any of them: And as the Scripture is plain, that it must be so, so if you look but into the examples of all that have imbrac'd it, you shall see de facto that it hath been so; look upon the examples, read those Holy men of God, of old, that saw not the Kingdome of Heaven so cleer∣ly, as now it is discover'd: Abraham assoon as ever this City and Kingdome was discover'd to him, left Mesopota∣mia, left his Father, his kindred, the Land of his Nativity, his estate, went hee knew not whither, onely to follow a word that directed him to this Kingdome: Moses whose * practice is epitomized in the 11. of the Heb. 24. that he did count the honour of being Pharaohs daughters Son, hee counted the pleasures of the Court of Egypt, hee esteemed the wealth of Egypt, the treasures of it, he counted them all as nothing in comparison of this; there is the Worlds Tri∣nity, honour, pleasure, wealth, troden under foot, by a man, that had but set his heart to the Kingdom of Heaven. The time would fail me to relate unto you what all the Wor∣thies have done: But look a little into Christs time, that wch my Text doth more immediately intimate, what violence they used, how the people trod one upon another, to attend upon the Ordinances: how they would tarry sometimes 3. dayes together, without eating a bit of bread or drinking any thing but a cup of water, only that they might get some acquaintance with Christ, and the way to life; how his Di∣sciples for sook their Callings and Nets to follow Christ, and doe what hee would have them doe; how Paul made ship∣wracke of whatsoever was dear unto him, and pressed for∣ward, onely that this might bee made good to their soules, that Heaven was theirs; how the Virgin company who follow Christs loved not their lives to the death: huge *clouds of witnesses there are whose examples prove clearly Page 23 that who ever are rightly affected to the Kingdome of Hea∣ven, will doe what ever they can in this worke, with all their hearts, and all their might, and all their strength. Further∣more this violence and eagernesse of affection towards the Kingdome of Heaven, in all into whose hearts the knowledg of the Kingdom of Heaven doth come,
Expresses it self in two things: First, [ 4]
[ 1] In labouring by all meanes possible to make it sure to their own soules, to work out their salvation with seare and with trembling, to make their interest in the Kingdome of God, the unum necessarium, the one thing that is necessary, to part with all other things, that this may be their absolute portion; that is one, and the other,
[ 2] Wherein they are equally set, with eagernesse of spirit, in endeavouring within their power and calling, is, that all Mountains may be made plain, al obstacles removed, al further∣ances added, which may advance the Kingdome of Heaven, that other Flesh as well as their selves, may see the Salva∣tion of God. Read your Bibles, I affirme it confidently, you shall finde that all that have been eager for themselves, so far as it hath lien in their lot and way, have express'd at least the same eagernesse to advance it, and set it up for others; Abraham that all his children might know the Lord: Moses though hee minded his own interest in Heaven far beyond all the world, (as I shew'd you) yet preferd the salvation of Israel before it: Lord rather rase me out of the Book thou hast written then for sake thy people; hee was more for Israel then for himself. And so all those other Worthies, David never did that for himself, nor for all his children, in providing for them, as hee did for advancing Religion, the zeal of Gods house eat him up: and so did Asa, Iehosophat, Hezekiah, Iosiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, and many others of the old; and those of the New Testament, with what violence did the Page 24Disciples of Iesus Christ, all of them goe up and downe, that they might gaine others to the Lord Christ to winne them to him? how did they goe about preaching, and do∣ing good every where: being contented to be thought vile, to be in their wits, or out of their wits, to bee made a ga∣zing stock to men and Angels, to be made the refuse and offscowring of the world, to bee anything, so they might promote and advance the Kingdome of Heaven? I know you are able to prove these things yourselves, and therefore I doe not insist upon them, the ground of all this, is,
* Because the Kingdome of Heaven, to all who are rightly informed in it, doth appeare not onely to bee a matter of absolute necessity, but so absolute good, such superlative excel∣lency in such ravishing sweetnesse, such in expressible conso∣lation that the soule that hath but once discover'd it, cannot forbeare, but fly upon it, as the Eagle flyes to the prey; and if with Sampson they find this Hony combe, they must eate themselves, and give to their Father, or their Mother, or their children, and all that are about them. If you would know what they are, truely a little time will not so much as name them; but they are such as these, to bee delivered out of the power of darknesse, and dominion of the Devill, to be reconciled to God, to have the pardon of their sinnes, and the imputation of Christs righteousnesse, to bee made Gods adopted sonnes and daughters, to have peace with God, and peace with our conscience, and peace with the creatures, and joy in the holy Ghost, to have all things in this world turn'd to their good, and in the end to be deli∣vered from death and hell, and to reigne with God and our Lord Jesus Christ in heaven for evermore; such things as these, the Kingdome of Heaven doth bring with it; now would you wonder that any man should be sick of love, (as the Church said shee was) that doth but see this face? Page 25 wee use to say that for the summum bonum, for the chief good, excesse of affection, can have no excesse, the high∣est affection that any living man can expresse, cannot bee supposed to have an excesse in it, when it is for that is the superlative good of all others; I have but one Question or two briefly to cleare, and then my way is plaine to the Ap∣plication. It may be demanded, First,
* What use is there of a violent spirit in the pursuit of the Kingdome of Heaven? Can wee by searching finde out the Almighty? is this Race to the swift? or this Battle to the strong? doth any mans eagernesse and violence of spirit purchase this at Gods hand? is it in our power, by our la∣bour to carry it? is not all in this work of Gods free Grace, who shewes mercy to whom hee will shew mercy? and to what purpose then is that violence of the spirit?
* To that I answer, it is certainly true, that no wisedome of man can search the Kingdome of heaven out; the Vul∣tures eye never saw it, it is a path that the Lion never wal∣ked in, and the wayes of it are hid from all flesh; it is as high as heaven; wee can doe nothing, the search of it is deeper then the Center of the earth, wee cannot know it, Man knoweth not the price of it, neither is it found in the land of the living; the depth saith, It is not in me, and the*Sea saith, It is not in me, it cannot be gotten for gold, nei∣ther shall silver be weighed for the price of it, it is hid from the eyes of all living; God onely understandeth the wayes thereof, and giveth it to whom hee pleaseth, and if any man should thinke that his eagernesse, or violence of spirit could purchase it, he and his labours must perish together: this is certaine; but though this bee true, yet the Lord who is the free giver of it, hath order'd that it shall bee sought after this manner partly as a signe and token, that wee esteeme it in its due place, and partly as the meanes Page 26 that he pleaseth to blesse, and his promise is, that they who seeke it as silver and search for it as for hid treasure, shall find*understanding and the fear of the Lord; and besides all this, there is that reason in nature for it, that whatever the heart doth once place the greatest felicitie in, it can doe no other, but it must follow it with all its might. But it may be once again demanded.
* Doth not the Scripture say, it is easie? and if it bee so, quors•m haec? to what purpose should violence be ufed, to take a Fort, that will be taken without violence? Christ saith, my yoke is easie and my burthen light, a slight labour may serve for an easie yoak, a weak shoulder is enough for a light burthen: To which I answer.
* Never did yet any man read in Gods book, that the obtai∣ning of the Kingdome of Heaven was an easie matter; Christ-saith, it is hard to be saved, that straight is the way, and narrow is the gate, and wee must labour at it, and many will cry, Lord, Lord, that shall not finde it; many shall seek* but not enter, because they strive not to enter; but neverisaith it is easie. Indeed when once the soule hath learned to conforme to Christ, when they have learned of him to bee humble and meek, then Christs yoak is easie, and so it is in other things, if a man have given his heart to doe the De∣vills drudgery, it is an easie thing for him to sweare, and whore, and drinke, and drab, and dice, and commit villa∣nies, this abominable drudgery is easie to a mans spirit, that delights in it; and to travell from countrey to countrey, to fight, and be wounded, and all these things are easie to spirits that suit them; it was easie for Iacob 14. yeers toge∣ther to watch and toyle, when it was for his beloved Ra∣chel. In all things finis dat medi is amabilitatem & facilita∣tem, the pleasing end propounded and aimed at makes the meanes sweet and easie, though difficult and hard in them∣selves: So when the love of heaven is got into the heart of Page 27 man, then it is easie with him, it is pleasing to his nature, suitable to his spirit, to spend, and be spent, to be any thing, to doe any thing, that he might get it: but otherwise the things themselves are hard to be got: I have nothing be∣hind, but the Application of it, and that shall bee in these two Uses. First,
* This Lesson doth afford us very much matter of humi∣liation and mourning upon this day of our soule affliction; and secondly, it is a Lesson that affords us excellent directi∣on for discharge of our necessary dutie for time to come.
First, for mourning: Doe all that are rightly affected with the Kingdome of Heaven, offer violence to it, in this way that I have discover'd to you? how sad then is the condition of most in England this day? wee all professe our selves to bee the children of the Kingdome, wee are by a certaine generall profession of Christianitie, numbred among them that call our selves the servants and follow∣ers of this Kingdome, but are wee true borne, or are wee Bastards? This lesson will determine it. First,
* How many are there to bee found in England, who in stead of offering violence to get the Kingdome of heaven, doe offer violence against the Kingdome of heaven, and doe all they can to rush upon the kingdom of heaven, to destroy it, and beat it down; who do not only with the Gadarens in∣treat Christ to be gone from them, but with those disobedient subjects, send him word he shall not paign over them, & with them of Nazareth, seek to tumble him downe the brow of the hill, upon which their Citie was built: willing to use all labours, and travell, yea all violence, that the Gospel and Ordinances, wherein this Kingdome is administred, might bee disgraced, crushed, banished, beaten downe? Of these men I can say no more, but this, their damnation sleepeth not, they may in words professe Christ, but certainly in their Page 28workes they absolutely deny him, and ruine will be their end; Secondly,.
* How sadly doth this speak against the generality of peo∣ple? yea I fear against the greatest part of our selves, who are here before the Lord this day, & God in mercy open al our eyes to see it, and powre so much grace into our hearts, that wee may aright apprehend and be sensible what our estate is; you heare that all who are rightly affected to Heaven, doe offer violence to it in all the wayes I have open'd; Bre∣thren, doe you so? say every one for your owne soules, doth your conscience witnesse, that you offer violence to the Kingdome of Heaven? Compare a little what violence you use for other things, and what you use to obtaine a part in the Kingdom of Heaven: Can you not watch, and work, and toyle, and spend and be spent for some earthly thing or other? For your wealth, or your pleasure, or your ho∣nour? Doe you not drive like Iehu, furiously, as if you would break your Chariot wheeles into peeces? doe you not thus for the world? And doe you thus also for your immortast soules? Are you not like David in his old age, when no cloths could make him warm? are you not like the Egyptians when their Chariet wheeles were taken off, when they drove slowly and heavily? are you not like Snailes in the pursuit of the things of Gods Kingdom? my heart could bleed in the serious thoughts of these things, O wretched creatures that wee are, that we should thus deceive our selves! There is a notable story of a poore wretched woman, whose house was on a fire, and shee seeing her house would bee burn'd down, bestir'd herselfe, to the utmost, to save what shee could, gets out her linnen, gets out her pewter, and what ever else shee was able, and all this while this poore creature had a Babe lying in a Cradle, which shee never thought of, (indeed some others did see it, and carry it out,) but Page 29 when all was consumed, it came into the womans mind, O Lord (saith shee) I have forgot my child, I have saved my brasse, and my pewter, and my child is burnt, and fell mad immediately, at the apprehension of her desperate neglect of her Babe; O beloved, we are (the Lord knowes) no lesse mad, here is a poore Tabernacle of ours, it is of a light fire, here is a World on a fire, and a Kingdom on a fire, and we have somewhat that wee would all save, and one man saith, I must have this Money, and the other, I must save so much Land; and another, I must save such an Office; and saith a∣nother, I must get such a preferment, and in the mean time there is a poore immortall Soule, like a Babe in a Cra∣dle, and a Kingdome of Heaven, that is onely a suitable portion to it, this we wholly neglect, we doe nothing for it; it may be, come to Church, and hear Sermons, and joyne in Prayer, and attend upon Duties, but with such dull spirits, that if a man would aske his soul the question, his Conscience would say, this is not to strive as for ma∣sterie, this is not to run in a race, this is not to strive as if a man would obtain: Miserable that we are, the Kingdomes of the Earth suffer violence, our Farmes suffer violence, our Trade suffers violence, but Heaven suffers no violence; the Lord forgive us, and help us to lay these things to our hearts, and to be humbled for them this day: and Thirdly, yet one thing more,
* What great cause have wee to be humbled, when wee look upon that other branch of it, the little vigor ánd fer∣vency of Spirit, that men have to advance the King∣dome of Heaven, in reference to the good of others? in other things, every good Common-wealths-man is dili∣gent, some would advance Trade to the utmost, and others would advance Liberty to the utmost; indeed all other things men seek to improve them to the utmost, but O Page 30 the little care is found among men to advance the King∣dome of the Lord Iesus Christ, to the utmost: Many oppo∣sing it as a dangerous thing, they say of it as Haman, of the Jewes, It is not for the Kings profit to suffer it; and others as Herod, seek to strangle it in the Cradle; others who will not appeare enemies to it, yet O how little will they now doe for it? Is it nothing to them that passe by the way to see godliness trod under foot, to see Ministers trod down, to see Heresies and Blasphemies spread, to see all goe backward in the things of Heaven? it takes not the hearts of a great many; God grant that many of your selves, who are our Reformers, have not great cause to put your mouths in the dust for these things this day, when you are before the Lord our God; you know how zealous you have been in your own work, if you have had the like af∣fections in advancing the Kingdome of Christ, lift up your heads and take the comfort of it this day: but if you like that cold Worshipper of Baal, Gideons Father, who had an Altar for Baal, yet when one had it broken down, and hee perswaded to punish him that had done that deed, an∣swered, Let Baal plead for himselfe, let him revenge his own quarrell: so if you deal for the Kingdom of Christ, let it shift for it self.
If any of you have such a cold heart for Religion, and let it goe at six and sevens, bee permitted to lie in the dust, and be deeply humbled; if not, I must tel you from the Lord, that lie will not onely not delight to use you, but hee will spew you out of his mouth, for hee had as willingly have a dead Asse offer'd in a Sacrifice to him, as a dull Spirit to set upon his work: for these things let our soules be hum∣bled this day; and that is the first use; the second is a use of exhortation in two branches: *
Is the Kingdome of Heaven a businesse of that nature, Page 31 that all who are rightly informed about it, will seek it vio∣lently, eagerly, with all their strength? * O that the Lord would leave that impression upon every one of our soules this day, I desire that for the time to come we might make it our onely worke for our selves, to worke out our salvation with feare and trembling; Would I knew what to say, to inflame your hearts about it, would the Lord did please to open your eyes, and shew you how little the World is worth, and how little good is to be found in it, and how far below your soules, and how much your immorall soules are worth, and how excellent a thing the Kingdome of Heaven is, that you might be contented with Paul for time to come, to make it your work to pursue after it, to account all losse to win Iesus Christ, doe any thing, or be any thing, so it bee in the pursuit of the Kingdome of Heaven; Much I might say, to stir you up, but I am afraid I should be burthensome to you, and would not be straightned in the last branch of all; and therefore I come to
An exhortation to this honorable Assembly, by whom I am called to be helpefull to this day, that in that part of their work which concernes the Kingdome of Heaven, they would doe it with all their might, labouring to advance it, as all those Worthies have done whom God hath thought fit to register in his Book, as men accepted with him: Beloved, if you please to open your eyes, and look abroad into the Kingdome, into every corner of it, you'l see lamentable objects every where, afflicted crea∣tures of all kindes, crying to you, that you would reach out a helping and healing hand to them, but in nothing so much is the Kingdome desolate this day, as in the things that doe properly belong to the Kingdome of Heaven, the Faith of Gods people, I mean the doctrinall part, is woe∣fully overthrowne, in many places by blasphemous and he∣reticallPage 32doctrines which are got in, and sown through the cun∣ning craftinesse of them that have lien in wait to beguil unsta∣ble s••les the Worship of God is woefully neglected and troden under foot; Fast Dayes, and Sabbath Dayes, in most places not one whit regarded, the Ministery not more contemned, nor so much under reproach in the hottest persecutions that they have lien under heretofore, the Glory of the Lord marvellously abused in point of Religion: England is this day an amazement to the Nations round about it, to the insulting and rejoycing of all the enemies of it, and the mourning and sadding of heart unto all that love it. Could you but (as in a glasse) behold the unsetled case of the Kingdome of Heaven in this Land, you would quickly grant there is a great deal of work to be done, by those that have any vigorous spirits, any bowels in them to rowle to∣wards the helping forward of this great work. Now that you may administer a healing hand, I shall endeavor to say somewhat that may quicken you up, and I beseech you give me leave to lay before you, these following considerations: * eight things I would have you all seriously to think upon, to provoke you to be vigorous, and violent in advancing the Kingdome of Christ: First,
[ 1] Certainly there is not onely such a thing as zeal for God, but it is a grace of absolute necessity in all the services of God, and so lovely, that it is the lustre, and the varnish, the glosle, and beauty of all performances unto God, that which sets them off with glory in the eyes of God & man. Gods work requires it; every cause which concernes the Kingdome of Heaven, must either be done with zeal, or meddle not at al with it, a lukewarme spirit in the service of God, is worse to God, then a spirit that will doe nothing, hee will spue it out of his Mouth, as abominable meate; Now then, because Religion is a work for God, the proper Page 33 cause of God, the cause wherein his glory is most interessed, associated with God, you must needs doe it with zeale, with all vigor, and best intention of your spirit; Secondly,
[ 2] Consider further, you all have lifted up your hands to the most high God, and that in the day of your distresle, you have bound your selves by an Oath of God, and you have brought the Kingdome into an Oath of God with you, you have sworne that you will willingly, cheerfully, constantly, to the utmost of your power, within your callings, beat down what is contrary to Religion, that you will study the advancement of Reformation, according to the Word of God, and the pattern of the best reformed Churches: this in the day of your distresse, you have sworn: you have since told the Kingdome you forget it not, you have order'd the Ministers oftentimes to read it upon the Fast dayes, that it might be in the eyes of all▪ Now I beseech you know, that the keeping Covenant with God is a matter of a high con∣cernment; and the breaking of your Covenant with man, uses not to goe unrevenged, but the breaking Covenant with God, is a thing will never escape the wrath of God. Thirdly,
[ 3] Consider that this work of advancing the Kingdome of Heaven, is a work that belongs to you; I told you before, you have sworn to doe it, within the compasse of your cal∣ling, now it is a work within the compasse of your calling, it belongs to you; the Lord hath not trusted you onely with Civill liberties, and to beat down oppression and inju∣stice, and outward wickednesse against the second Table, (in which the Lord make you more zealous) but besides this, the things of Gods Kingdome are committed to you. You shall read, if you look into Gods Book, all the Worrhies whom God hath taken notice of, their Crown & glory hath been, that they did beat downe Idolatry, opposed and sup∣pressedPage 34 what ever was contrary to Religion, built up Gods house, set up his Ordinances, encouraged his Ministers, and for the doing of these things, they were approved, commended, rewarded, and such as neglected them were by God blamed, branded, punished: so many examples are extant in the Scripture of the Old Testament, that I need not name them, and the same is prophesied to be done by Magistrates under the New Testament, Kings shall be Nursing Fathers*to it, and Queenes shall be Nursing Mothers to the Church; they shall give it bread & milk, and provide for it, and nou∣rish * it: and for punishing the oppressors of it, there is a Go∣spell Prophesie, in the 13. of Zechariah, When any shall pro∣phesie falsly, his Father and Mother that begat him, shall thrust him through, and say, Thou shalt not live, for thou speakest lies in the name of God; Now then since this belongs to your place, and work, I beseech you for the Lords sake, be zealous in it: and Fourthly, consider,
[ 4] As it is for Christ, and for his Kingdome, so Iesus Christ hath very well deserved at your hands, to have you vigo∣rous in his cause, hee hath earned it; hee is before hand with every soule of you; look upon the zeal hee shewed, when hee came to doe your work for you, how did he bow the heavens and come downe upon the earth? and from the throne of glory came, and lay first in the wombe of a Vir∣gin, and then in swadling bands in a Manger, and afterwards lived a poore life, and then pray'd, and preached, and wrought Miracles, with indefatigable paines, with burning zeal, yea, gave his life a ransome, he gave his soule to the death, that hee might be a ransome for you, and thereby *purchase you to be a people to himself, zealous of good warkes, hath he not deserved it? I, and he hath deserved it at your hands in this great work hee hath set you about, in this great concussion and earth quake of the Kingdome, wherein you have been Page 35 so farre imployed; What mischiefs hath he discover'd, which have been contrived against you? What seasonable Mercies hath he sent you? What unexpected victories hath he given you? How hath the Lord made Mountains plain before you, and brought you into the condition wherein you are, and made you enjoy that, which many times (I dare say) you were past all hope of seeing? the Lord then deserves his cause should be thought upon by you. Fifthly, consider,
[ 5] That the setting up of the Kingdome of Heaven, the ad∣vancing of it, is a matter of the greatest concernment unto the whole Kingdome, of any thing that ever you can be employ∣ed in; when you have thought all that lies within your compasse, there is nothing of that concernment to the Kingdome, as the Kingdome of Heaven is; for why? you know the greatest part of our well being here upon earth, lies in the things of Gods Kingdome, and the whole sum of our everlasting well being in Heaven to eternity, is whol∣ly to be taken from the Kingdome of Heaven, not from any outward things that you can helpe us with; and as the things concerne us for our well being, so these are the things will bring other things with them; set up the King∣dome of Heaven throughly in the Kingdom of England, and you shall say of it, as Nabals servants said of Davids men,* when they lay with them, all the while the men were with us, they were a wall about us, that we lost nothing, none could hurt us, nay it wil be a wal of fire to England; Salvation will God provide for wals and Bulwarks to you; I fear not to speak * it to wise men, that the four Seas of England, and if to them were added wals of brasse of 20. cubits high & thick about England, and all your Souldiers as the sons of Anak, they could not give that security to the Land which the King∣dome of Jesus Christ would be to it: Let the Gospell flou∣rish, let Religion prosper, let that goe on, and salva omnia, that will secure all other things to you; the very HeathensPage 36 saw this by the light of nature, you cannot read of one Lawgiver amongst them, but ever counted the matters of the worship of their Gods, and of Religion to be of greatest advantage to their states, and therefore counted Religionso sacred a thing, that they made their Kings & Princes alwaies their chief Priests, that the care of the Gods might not be neglected: it is true, these poore blind wretches knew not God, and worshipped Devils, and therefore miscarried, but yet thus much we may learn from them, that even in their judgments, nothing so secures a Nation as Religion; Now when wee have the cleer light of the Gospel, and so many examples before us, and so many promises from Heaven, can we expect the like succor and help from any thing else, as from the advancement of that: Sixthly,
Know ye for certain, you never shall bee able to breake through your difficulties, and to settle this poor Land in Peace, unlesse your whole heart be sincerely set to advance the Kingdome of Heaven; you shall not prosper in other work; I know it grieves your hearts, and it grieves those that love England, to see how you labour in the fire, and what pains you take, and still the end of one trouble, is the beginning of another, our clouds return after the rain, and when wee think we are going to moore our ship, wee are instantly rea∣dy to dash against new rocks, up and down we are, and En∣gland appeares to our eyes, as a dying fading plant; cer∣tainly the Lords anger is not yet turn'd away from England, there is somewhat provokes him, God grant that we may search whether it be not somewhat like that in the 1. of Haggai, that the house of God was not regarded, as it should be: I doe acknowledge here before you, my heart is over∣whelmed with grief oftentimes, when I look upon our un∣setled condition, but could I once see, and might it appear, that the Lord had let it so really into the hearts of our Par∣liament, Page 37 that they could with all their might, buckle to the work of God sincerely and faithfully, to enquire what God would have them doe in the cause of Religion, and doe it to the utmost, I think all my feares would vanish; I should say we went forward, when wee seemed to goe backward; wee prospered, when we seemed to be overthrown; I could say to my own melancholy spirit, as Luther said to Melanc∣thon, Ego miserrimas istas curas quibus te consumi scribis vehementer odi, &c. I doe extreemly hate (saith he) those cares that thou sayest doe consume and tear thee; it is not the greatnesse of our danger, but the greatnesse of thy infide∣lity, that is the cause of it, it is the cause of God that we are ingaged in, So mee thinks, I could resolve that the e∣nemies of England & of the Church of God, would quick∣ly bee where they should bee, that is, made the Lords foot∣stoole, and we should triumph over them, & break through all, if the Lord would but incline the hearts of those hee hath called to it, to goe through-stitch with the things of the Kingdome of Heaven; and therefore I most humbly beseech you fall to it, and in it doe as Baruch did, of whom you may read in the 3. of Nehem. 20. that he did build the * wal earnestly, and Tremelius reades it, accendit se he sets him∣self a fire to it, he stirred up himself, he did not stay till others stirr'd him up, but hee provok'd himselself to it; doe it with all your might, and doe it throughly too, do not make * a patch'd businesse of it; the Lord made that once a curse to the Ministers of Israel, that they healed the wounds of the people slightly; therefore that I may speak plain English, search Gods Word, and find, not what may be agreeable to humane policy, but search what God would have you own, and set up, what he would have you oppose, and what hee would have you beat down, what hee would have you indulge, how far hee would have you indulge it, by what Page 38 rules it should be done, get a clear light in these things, for the Scripture is able to make every man of God perfect in all his workes, get this, and fall to it throughly, and God Almighty will be with you; the Lord will yet blow over the clouds you are afraid of, and will prosper your work in your hand, but truly, if you doe neglect it, and shall not bee faithfull to the Lord in it, beleeve it, though our misery and ruine may be protracted and beaten off, and kept off for a time, it wil return upon us, and come in like the huge break∣ing in of waters, and like a great breach in a high wall, whose mine comes suddenly; therefore because you cannot do the rest of your work without it, let this be the main. Seventh∣ly, I'le but name the two other, and lay this to heart like∣wise,
[ 7] That a great part of those miseries that the Kingdom of Heaven lies under at this day in England, have broke out since the cure of it was committed to your hands: I doe not say through your fault, the root of these humors was in the sick bodie before; and in such confused times, (as hath ap∣pear'd in Germany and other places) abundance of disorders doe come in, especially in times of War; but because God hath blessed you, and inabled you to afford a healing hand in many things, to take off the bridle of bondage, which lay upon our necks, and to pull down huge Mountains, and that Gods people injoy a great deal of liberty in many things, more then they did heretofore, be provoked to help in this also: A mercifull good Physitian, who hath begun a cure, if any new disease break out, while the Patient is under his cure, he would be very loth any thing should fall out to be the Patients ruine, while under his hand, and therefore let this also provoke you earnestly to carry this work on: and Lastly,
[ 8] Know that if the Husbandman will sleep, the envious manPage 39sleeps not; Gebal and Ammon, and the children of Lot, and Ashur, and Tyre, and all that are enemies to the Kingdom of Christ, bestir themselves against it: Cataline watches, ut perdat rempubliam, omits no endeavour to destroy Religi∣on, Sanballat and Tobiah, doe all that ever they can to hinder the building of the wall; shall not Nehemiah, shall not Ezra, shall not the rest of Gods people, put to their hand too? Vt jugulent homines surgunt de nocte latrones, If theeves watch by night to kill men, shall not honest men watch to preserve their own lives? When there is such a marvellous endeavor to corrrupt our Faith, to take away Government, to take a∣way Worship, to take out the power of godlinesse, to discou∣rage all that fear God, to doe any thing against them, shall not they that are the servants of the Lord doe the utmost that they can to encourage them? For the Lords sake, consider of these things, and God Almighty give you a right understanding in them; this is the first thing, what they did, they offered violence to the Kingdome of Hea∣ven, the Kingdome of Heaven suffers violence.
The second part you have in the next words, the successe of their violence, they take it by force, Rapiunt; It is a Meta∣phor taken from a Castle taken by storm, by the violence of those that will it take or loose their blood, so the violent doe take the Kingdome of Heaven; and these words are both Restrictive, and they are Promissive; they are restri∣ctive, they are the violent men and no other, that get it; if of any work in the world it be true, that the sluggard is cloath∣ed with rags, it's true here; hee that onely cries, Lord, Lord, shall never come into the Kingdome of Heaven; this is a peculiar mercy in store for these violent spirits, that the violent, and no other shall get into Heaven: and then as it is restrictive, so it is promissive, though carelesse en∣deavours and slight labours may prove abortive, vigorous Page 40 prosecution of it shall not miscarry; they that seek shall find, to them that knock it shall be open'd, to them that aske it shall be granted, they that seek wisdome, as men seek Silver and Gold, the Lord will give it them; he hath laid it up in store, * let them that have violent hearts, offer violence to it, and the Lord hath promised they shall not misse of it: but this (the time being gone) I dare not handle.