In a Sermon preached before the Right Honorable
THOMAS ADAMS Lord Mayor, and the Right
Worshipful the sheriffs, and the Aldermen his
Brethren, and the rest of the Common-councell of the
famous City of London, Jan. 14. 1645.
Upon which day the solemn League and Covenant
was renewed by them and their Officers with prayer and
fasting at MICHAEL Basinshaw, LONDON.
EDMUND CALAMY, B.D. and Pastor
of Aldermanbury LONDON.
PSAL. 76.11. Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God.
ECCL. 5.4,5. When thou vowest a Vow unto God, defer not to pay it, for he hath no pleasure in fools; pay that which thou hast vowed. Better it is that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
Printed by M.F. for Christopher Meredith at the sign of
the Crane in Pauls-Church-yard. 1645.
Thomas Adams Lord Mayor, and
to the Right Worshipful the Sheriffs
and the Aldermen his brethren, and
the rest of the Common-council.
I Read in the Book of Nehemiah, that when the wall of Jerusalem was in building, the builders met with so much opposition, that they were forced to build with their weapons in one hand, and with their working tools in the other. They had enemies from without, and they had secret enemies amongst themselves. They met with many discouragements; but God carried them through all, and at last, they finished the wall to the confusion of their enemies, and the rejoicing of their friends. Nehemiah’s condition is our condition. The Discipline and Government of the Church, is to the Church as a wall is to a City. A City without walls is exposed to every enemy: so is the Church without a Government. This wall is now in building: the Parliament (blessed be God) hath contributed very much to this building; but yet we meet with mountains of opposition, and with many discouragements. Our enemies say, What do these feeble Presbyterians mean? will they fortify themselves? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burnt? Even that which they build, if a Fox go up, he shall even break down their stone-wall. Our enemies also raise false reports to weaken the hands of the builders, and to make us afraid, as they did, Neh. 6.6,10. They say, that the Presbyterian Government (which is the Government that comes nearest the Word, and the Government of the best Reformed Churches) will prove Tyrannical, and Episcopal. And that it is better to be under one Bishop than under an hundred. But we answer, as Nehemiah did, Neh. 4.4, Hear O our God, for we are despised; and turn their reproach upon their own head. And as Neh. 6.9, Now therefore, O our God, strengthen our hands. But that which is worser than this, is; that our seeming friends seek to undermine us, and to terrify us, and say, as Neh. 4.11, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease. And others are ready to discourage us, and say as it is, Neh. 4.10, And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish, so that we are not able to build the wall. It is impossible (say some) to purge our Churches according to the rule, they are so full of rubbish, and therefore it is better and safer to study Separation from, rather than Reformation of our Churches. But yet notwithstanding all these oppositions, and discouragements, I doubt not but God Almighty will in his due time finish this wall of his, and so perfect his own work, that all the enemies thereof shall cast down their eyes, and perceive that this work was wrought of our God, Neh. 6.16.
For the effecting of this blessed work, God hath raised us up a happy Parliament. And also God hath raised you up (Right Honourable, Right Worshipful, and the rest of the Common Council) and hath raised up your spirits to strengthen our hands to this work, and to build the wall together with us, (each of us in our places) that so the Church may no longer lie waste, and open to all Errors and Heresies, and that we may be no longer a reproach to all other reformed Churches. This work by your help will quickly be finished, as it is written, Neh. 4.6, So we built the wall, and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof, for the people had a mind to the work.
The times wherein you live are indeed very troublesome: but be not discouraged; for it is foretold, Dan. 9.25, That the wall of Jerusalem shall be re-built, even in troublous times. And let me say to you as Mordecai to Esther, Esther 4.14, Who knoweth whether God hath not raised you up to be Mayor, to be Sheriffs, Aldermen, and Common Council men for such a time as this is? Go on courageously, and God will trouble those that trouble you, and bring good to you, and to the Church out of these troubles. We read of the Pool of Bethesda, that when the water was troubled, then it became a healing water. The untroubled water, was an unhealing water. So will God do with you; he will make the troubled waters of the Sanctuary to become healing waters: Insomuch as we all shall say, Periissemus nisi periissemus; We should have been undone had we not been undone. Only be strong and of a good courage: I say it again, be strong and of a good courage. I say it the third time (for so did God to Joshua in 4 verses, Joshua 1.6-9, Be strong of a good courage. The Lord hath made you instruments to do much good for Church and State; the same God make you every day more and more instrumental.
And be not terrified and dismayed because of the many Heresies and Errors that are in the City. For as when the wall of Jerusalem was once built, all their enemies did immediately vanish into nothing, Neh. 6.16. So when the wall of the Church shall be once erected, I doubt not but these prodigious errours will all vanish.
And as when the Sun ariseth, all wild beasts go to their dens; so when the bright Sun of Christ’s kingly government shall appear in our Horizon, I trust all these beastly errours will betake themselves to their dens of obscurity and oblivion. It was said of Augustus, that when he was first Emperour he found Rome in a poor condition, but he left it in a glorious condition; Invenit lateritiam, sed reliquit marmoream. My prayer shall be (and oh that God would hear me!) that you may be able to say, When I was first Mayor, or first Sheriff, or first Common-Council man, I found the City a City full of division, full of profaneness, full of errors and heresies; but now I shall leave it full of truth, full of holiness, and a City at unity within itself. Inveni lateritiam, reliqui marmoream.
For the better bringing of this to pass, you did lately renew your solemn League and Covenant; at which time this ensuing Sermon was preached. Since which time, not only the Sermon, but the Preacher of it, hath undergone many harsh and bitter censures. It is the wickedness of these days to build their own designs upon the ruin of other mens’ good name. But surely God will never prosper such bloody practices. It is said of Antiochus, a vile person, Dan. 11.28, That his heart shall be against the holy Covenant. We have many amongst us, that in this are like unto Antiochus, whose hearts, tongues, and hands, are not only against our solemn League and Covenant; but against all that preach for it, or write in the defence of it. There is indeed a Covenant that some do much contend for, and make the very form of a particular Church, without which a Church cannot be a true Church, which is called a Church-covenant. For my part, I conceive that whosoever shall say, that a Church-covenant (I mean an oath expressed by formal words) is an ordinance of Christ, and necessary to the very being of a visible Church; doth not only un-church most of the Churches of Jesus Christ, but doth also set up his own invention for an ordinance of Christ. In the New Testament we read of no such Church-oath at the admission of Members. And there is no place in the Old Testament (for ought I could ever read) that speaks of a Church-oath to be taken at our admission into Church-fellowship. Indeed we have mention made of a National Covenant, and of the Covenant of grace, and of subscribing with our hands unto the Lord. But what are these to a Church-oath; without which, no man is to be accounted a Church-member, or to have right to the seals of the covenant of grace? To urge this as an Ordinance of Christ, is to set our posts by God’s posts, and our threshold by God’s threshold, Ezek. 43.8. But if I should expatiate any further in this point, I should exceed the limits of an Epistle, and therefore I forebear.
My hearty desire is, That this Covenant which you have now taken the second time, may be carried about you in continual remembrance. And that it may serve instead of a thousand Arguments to make you zealously serviceable, to God, to Church, and State. It is reported of Theseus, that he was so taken with the wonderful works of Hercules, that he could not sleep for thinking of the wonders of Hercules; and when he slept, he dreamt of Hercules’ wonders; and was never satisfied till he had imitated him in working wonderful things also. And it is also related of Themistocles, that he had always in his thoughts by night and by day, the victories of Miltiades, and this made him insatiable till he had imitated him. Oh that you would thus deal with the Covenant! That you would think of it in your bed, in your closets, in your walks; and think of what particulars you have sworn unto, and never leave thinking until you have fully performed your Oath and Covenant. And if you keep Covenant with God, the great God will keep Covenant with you, and all the blessings of the Covenant which are mentioned in the book of God, which is the book of the Covenant, shall be your portion for ever and ever. Which is the prayer of
Your much obliged
The great danger of Covenant-refusing,
2 TIM. 3.3.
—Truce-breakers; or, Covenant-breakers.
YOU are here met this day, to humble your souls before the Lord, and to renew your solemn League and Covenant; I say, to renew it, and take it the second time. It is no unusual thing for the people of God to repeat and reiterate their Vows and Covenants. The great and solemn vow which we made to God in Baptism, is renewed every time we come to the Lord’s Supper. And upon every Fast-day we bind ourselves anew to God by Covenant. The people of Israel entered into covenant, Ezra 10.3. And the same people (as Chronologers observe) did re-engage themselves in the same Covenant, Neh. 10. [Compare Ezra 7.7, with Neh. 1.1.] The Scripture tells us, that Almighty God did six times make one and the same covenant with Abraham, [Gen. 12.3,7; 13.15; 15.18; 17.7,8; Gen. 22.18.]; and sware the same covenant twice to Isaac, Gen. 26.4,34. And therefore blessed be the great God who hath put it into your hearts to engage yourselves a second time into a National Covenant.
Six Reasons to justify the renewing of the Covenant.
There are six reasons to justify this day’s solemnity before God and all that require satisfaction about it.
1. Because this National Covenant hath been a long time as it were dead and buried and quite forgotten amongst most people. And therefore it is high time to raise it out of the grave of forgetfulness: and I hope this day will be to the Covenant as a Resurrection from the dead.
2. Because of the great scorn and contempt that is cast upon it by diverse sorts of people. The Malignants call it a conspiracy; others, though not Malignants, yet malign the Covenant, and call it a snare, a trap, a temptation, and account it a sign of a tender conscience to boggle at it, and of a loose conscience to swallow it without scruple. And therefore to vindicate the honour and reputation of the Covenant, and to wipe off the aspersions that are cast upon it, you do well to take it the second time.
3. Because there are some that do openly profess their sorrow that ever they took it, and would fain recant and retract what they have done. And therefore to manifest that you are still of the same judgment, and that you do not repent of what you have done, you do well to take it the second time.
4. Because of the proneness that is in all men (even the best of men) to break covenant with God. A Covenant indeed is a golden Girdle to tie us fast to God; it is a joining and gluing ourselves to the Lord. The word ὅρκος which signifieth an Oath, comes from ἕρκος which signifieth a Hedge. An Oath and Covenant is a strong hedge to keep us from breaking out into disobedience. It is an entering into bond to become the Lord’s; it is a binding ourselves apprentice to God. Voluntas (saith Aquinas) per votum immobiliter firmatur in bonum [the will is, by the vow, irrevocably settled for good]. But yet notwithstanding, the nature of the best man is very apt to break these bonds, and to run away from his great Lord and Master, to suffer this Hedge to decay, and this golden girdle to loosen and untie, and to disjoin and unglue himself from God. And therefore it is not only commendable, but very necessary (and for this cause you are met this day) to enter into bond the second time, to bind and enroll yourselves again unto the Lord; to make up this hedge, to tie this golden girdle yet faster, and to join and glue yourselves once more unto the Lord in a perpetual Covenant never to be forgotten. It is reported of Bishop Hooper, that when he was at the stake to be burnt, the Officers offered to tie him to the stake: but he said, You need not tie me, for that God that call’d me hither will keep me from stirring; and yet because I am partly flesh, I am willing you should tie me fast, lest I should stir. So may the best Christian here present say: Lord I am carnal, sold under sin, I have broken those golden cords of the Covenant with which I have tied myself unto thee. Though I am spirit, yet am I flesh also: And therefore I come to bind myself anew. As Delilah dealt with Sampson, &c. so do I desire to deal with myself, and to tie myself yet fast and faster to God, if by any means I might be kept firm to him.
5. Because of the many glorious deliverances and salvations which God hath vouchsafed unto us. For since June last, we have had about 60 considerable blessings and mercies, which all are as 60 Arguments to call upon us not only to renew our thankfulness, but our Covenant also. Thus the people of Israel, when God had delivered them out of Egypt, renewed their Covenant at Horeb, Exod. 19. And when they were delivered from their Wilderness-enemies, Deut. 29. And the same people did afterwards, when God had given them the possession of Canaan, re-oblige themselves by a covenant, Joshua 24.
6. Because of the sad condition the Church of God is in at this time. For though God hath given us glorious victories over our enemies, yet the Churches of Christ lie desolate, Church-reformation is obstructed, Church-Discipline unsettled, Church-divisions increased. The famous City of London is become an Amsterdam, Separation from our Churches is countenanced, Toleration is cried up, Authority lieth asleep. And therefore it is high time to take the Covenant again, that so you may endeavour with renewed strength, as one man, vigorously and courageously, for the settling of the tottering Ark according to the sphere of capacity in which God hath put you. You shall read in Scripture, that the people of God did never any great service for the Church till they renewed their Covenant; and you shall never read but that they did very great and glorious services for the Church, after the renewing of their covenant with God. In Zerubbabel’s time the Temple-work ceased for many years; but after Ezra and Nehemiah caused the people to enter into covenant with God, it went on prosperously and uninterruptedly. What famous things did the people of God after Jehoiada had drawn them into a covenant! 2 Kings 11.7,18, All the people of the Lord went into the house of Baal, and brake it down, his Altars and all his Images brake they in pieces throughly, &c. The like we read of Asa, 2 Chron. 15.14-16, and of King Josiah, 2 Chron. 34.31-33. And thus I doubt not but you will endeavour to do in an orderly way according to your places.
These are the Arguments to justify this day’s work before God to all the Christian world.
To help you in this, so pious, so Christian, so necessary, so solemn a business, I have chosen this Text. In the beginning of the Chapter the Apostle tells us the condition that the Church of God should be in, in the last days. This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. In the second Verse he tells us the reason why these time should be such hard and dangerous times; For men shall be lovers of themselves, covetous, &c. The reason is not drawn from the miseries and calamities of the last times. It is sin and iniquity that makes times truly perilous. [2 Chron. 15.1; Isa. 42.24,25; Judg. 6.13; 1 Sam. 28.15,16; Rev. 2.5; Job 5.23.] Sin, and sin only, takes away God’s love and favour from a Nation, and makes God turn an enemy to it. Sin causeth God to take away the purity and power of his Ordinances from a Nation. Sin makes all the creatures to be armed against us, and makes our own conscience to fight against us. Sin is the cause of all the causes of perilous times. Sin is the cause of our civil wars, 2 Sam. 12.11. Sin is the cause of our divisions, James 4.1. Sin is the cause why men fall into such dangerous errours, 2 Thess. 2.11. Sin brings such kinds of judgments which no other enemy can bring. Sin brings invisible, spiritual, & eternal judgments. It is sin that makes God give over a Nation to a reprobate sense. [Rom 1.24.] Sin makes all times dangerous. Let the times be never so prosperous, yet if they be sinful times, they are times truly dangerous. And if they be not sinful, they are not dangerous though never so miserable. It is sin that makes afflictions to be the fruits of God’s revenging wrath, part of the curse due to sin, and a beginning of Hell. It is sin, and sin only, that embitters every affliction. Let us for ever look upon sin through these Scripture-Spectacles.
The Apostle in four Verses reckons up 19 sins, as the causes of the miseries of the last days. I may truly call these 19 sins, England’s Looking-glass, wherein we may see what are the clouds that eclipse God’s countenance from shining upon us: the Mountains that lie in the way to hinder the settlement of Church-discipline. Even these 19 sins which are as an Iron Whip of 19 strings, with which God is whipping England at this day; which are as 19 Fagots, with which God is burning and devouring England. My purpose is not to speak of all these sins: Only let me propound a Divine project how to make the times truly happy, for soul and body. And that is, To strike at the root of all misery, which is sin and iniquity. To repent for, and from all these 19 sins, which are as the Oil that feedeth, & encreaseth the flame that is now consuming of us. For because men are lovers of themselves, Usque ad contemptum Dei & Republicæ. Because men drive their own designs not only to the neglect, but contempt of God, and the Common-wealth;—Because men are covetous, lovers of the world more than lovers of God;—Because they are proud in head, heart, looks, and apparel;—Because they are unthankful, turning the mercies of God into instruments of sin, and making Darts with God’s blessings to shoot against God;—Because men are unholy and heady, and make many covenants, and keep none;—Because they are (as the Greek word Διάβολοι signifieth) Devils, acting the Devil’s part in accusing the brethren, and in bearing false witness one against another;—Because they have a form of Godliness denying the power thereof, &c. hence it is that these times are so sad and bloody. These are thine enemies, O England, that have brought thee into this desolate condition! These are the sins that will recruit the King’s army, if ever it be recruited: and if ever God lead us back into the wilderness, it will be because of these sins. And therefore if ever you would have blessed days, you must make it your great business to remove these 19 mountains, and to repent of these land-devouring and soul-destroying abominations.
At this time I shall pick out the first, and the tenth sin to speak on. The first is self-love, which is placed in the fore-front; as the cause of all the rest. Self-love is not only a sin that makes the times perilous, but it is the cause of all those sins that make the times perilous. For because men are lovers of themselves, therefore they are covetous, proud, unholy, &c. The tenth sin is truce-breaking, and for fear lest the time should prevent me, I will begin with this sin first.
The tenth sin then is truce-breakers, or, as Rom. 1.33, Covenant-breakers. The Greek word is aspondoi, which signifieth three things. First such as are fœderis nescii, as Beza renders it; or as others, infæderabiles; that is, such as refuse to enter into Covenant. Or secondly, such as are fœdifragi, qui pacta non servant, (as Estius hath it) or sine fide, as Ambrose; that is, such as break Faith and Covenant. Or thirdly, such as are implacabiles, or as others, sine pace; that is, such as are implacable, and haters of peace.
According to this three-fold sense of the word, I shall gather these three observations.
Doctrine 1. That to be a Covenanter-refuser, is a sin that makes the times perilous.
Doctrine 2. That to be a Covenant-breaker, is a sin that makes the times perilous.
Doctrine 3. That to be a peace-hater, or a truce-hater, is a sin that makes the times perilous.
To begin with the first:
Doctrine the first: To be a Covenant-refuser, is a sin that makes the times perilous. To be fœderis nescius or infœderabilis. For the understanding of this, you must know that there are two sorts of Covenants. There are devilish and hellish Covenants, and there are godly and religious Covenants. First, there are devilish Covenants, such as Acts 23.12, and Isaiah 28.15, such as the holy league (as it was unjustly called) in France against the Huguenots, and that of our Gunpowder Traitors in England: such are our Oxford Covenants for the destruction of the Parliament, and godly party. Now to refuse to take such Covenants, is not to make the times perilous, but the taking of them makes the times perilous. Secondly, there are godly and religious Covenants; such as Job 31.1, I have made a Covenant with mine eyes, why then should I think upon a maid? Such as Psalm 119, I have sworn I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments; such as 2 Chron. 15.14. And such as this is, which you are met to take this day. For you are to swear to such things which you are bound to endeavour after, though you did not swear. Your swearing is not solum vinculum, but novum vinculum, is not the only, but only a new and another bond to tie you to the obedience of the things you swear unto; which are so excellent and so glorious, that if God give those that take it a heart to keep it, it will make these three Kingdoms the glory of the world. And as one of the Reverend Commissioners of Scotland said when it was first taken in a most solemn manner at Westminster, by the Parliament and the Assembly; That if the Pope should have this Covenant written upon a wall over against him sitting in his chair, it would be unto him like the hand-writing to Belshazzar; causing the joints of his loins to loose, and his knees to smite on against another. And I may add, that if it be faithfully and fully kept, it will make all the Devils in hell to tremble, as fearing lest their Kingdom should not long stand. Now then for a man to be an Anti-covenanter, and to be such a Covenant-refuser, it must needs be a sin that makes the times perilous.
And the reason is,
1. Because you shall find in Scripture that when any nation did enter into a solemn religious Covenant, God did exceedingly bless and prosper that nation after that time; As appears, 2 Chron. 15.19; 2 Kings 11.20. And we have a promise for it, Deut. 29.12,13, That thou shouldest enter into Covenant with the Lord thy God, &c. That he may establish thee today for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, &c. And therefore to be a Covenant-refuser, is to make our miseries perpetual.
2. Because as it is the highest act of God’s love to man, to vouchsafe to engage himself by Oath and Covenant to be his God, so it is the highest demonstration of man’s love to God, to bind himself by Oath and Covenant to be God’s. There is nothing obligeth God more to us, than to see us willing to tie and bind ourselves fast unto his service. And therefore they that in this sense are Anticovenanters, are sons of Belial; that refuse the yoke of the Lord, that say, as Psalm 2.3, Let us break his bands asunder, and cast away his cords from us; such as Oderunt vincula pietatis, which is a soul-destroying, and land-destroying sin.
3. Because that the union of England, Scotland, and Ireland, into one Covenant, is the chief, if not the only preservative of them at this time. You shall find in our English Chroniclers, that England was never destroyed, but when divided within itself. Our civil divisions brought in the Romans, the Saxons, Danes, and Normans. But now the Anticovenanter, he divides the Parliament within itself, and the City within itself, and England against itself; he is as a stone separated from the building, which is of no use to itself, and threateneth the ruin of the building. Jesus Christ is called in Scripture the corner-stone, which is a stone that unites two ends of a building together; Jesus Christ is a stone of union, and therefore they that sow division, and study unjust separation, have little of Jesus Christ in them. When the ten tribes began to divide from the other two tribes, they presently began to war one against another, and to ruin one another. The Anticovenanter he divides, and separates, and disunites; and therefore he makes the times perilous.
The use is,
1. To reprove those that refuse to enter into Covenant with God; and more particularly, those that refuse to take this solemn League and Covenant. These are of two sorts. (1.) Such as refuse it out of Malignity: (2.) Such as refuse it out of unnecessary scrupulosity; that raise and foment doubts, to hinder themselves and others from taking it. As for the first, I will not call your goodness and my charity so much in question, as to spend time about them. And for the second, I conceive that those that scruple it, are amongst the number of those that are absent, and therefore I should but idle away precious time to satisfy the objections of those that are not present, to recover satisfaction.
There are some men of whom I may say as the Apostle doth to the Galatians, Gal 1.6, I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you, &c. And as Gal. 4.15, I bear you record, that if it had been possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes, and given them to me; Am I therefore become your enemy, &c. So may I say of many: I wonder and marvel to see how suddenly they are changed from that good opinion they once had of the Covenant; For I bear them record, that there was a time when they not only took it willingly, but would have hazarded their very lives in defence of it; How is it then that the Covenant is become an enemy to them, and they unto the Covenant? Surely the change is not in the Covenant, but in the Covenanters. I have much to say in defence of it, and did say much when it was first taken; which now to repeat will not be useful, and I believe for the company here present, very unnecessary; and therefore I forbear.
The second use is to exhort you to be Covenant-takers this day, and to take it with these qualifications.
1. Solemnly, and seriously, and tremblingly; as in God’s presence, Ezra 10.3.
2. With hearty grief and sorrow for all our former Apostasies and Covenant-breakings, Jer. 50.4,5.
3. With judgment and understanding, Neh. 10.28, rightly informed of the true sense and meaning of every particular.
4. With a full assurance that it is an act very pleasing unto God, and that God is much honoured by it.
5. Freely and cheerfully, as they did, 2 Chron. 15.14.
6. Faithfully and sincerely, with all your hearts and souls, and with your whole desire; 2 Chron. 15.12; 2 Chron. 34.31,32, with a purpose to join yourselves to the Lord in a perpetual Covenant, never to be forgotten, Jer. 50.5.
As for motives to persuade you to the practice of these things, and for rules and directions about the manner of taking of it, I shall leave them wholly to my Reverend brother who is to succeed; who will undertake this work fully and at large. My chief aim is at the second doctrine, which is,
Doctrine 2. That for a Covenant-taker to be a Covenant-breaker, is a sin that makes the times perilous.
For the opinion of this point, I must distinguish again of Covenants. There are civil, and there are religious Covenants. A civil Covenant, is a Covenant between man and man; and of this the text is primarily, though not only to be understood. Now for a man to break promise and Covenant with his brother, is a land-destroying, and soul-devouring abomination. We read 2 Sam. 21, that because Saul had broken the Covenant that Joshua made with the Gibeonites, God sent a famine in David’s time of three years continuance: To teach us, that if we falsify our Word and Oath, God will avenge covenant-breaking, though it be forty [four-hundred] years after. Famous is that text, Jer. 34.17-20, Because the Princes and the People brake the covenant which they had made with their servants (though but their servants) God tells them, Because ye have not hearkened unto me in proclaiming liberty every one to his brother, &c. Behold, I proclaim liberty for you, saith the Lord, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the Kingdoms of the earth; &c. We read also Ezek. 17.18,19,20, That God tells Zedekiah, because he brake the covenant he had made with the King of Babylon, that therefore he would recompense upon his head the oath that he had despised, and the covenant that he had broken, & would bring him to Babylon, and plead with him there for the trespass which he had trespassed against the Lord. David tells us, Psalm 15.4, that it is a sin that shuts a man out of heaven. The Turkish histories tell us of a covenant of peace made between Amurath the great Turk, and Ladislaus King of Hungary; and how the Pope absolved Ladislaus from his oath, and provoked him to renew the war. In which war the Turk being put to the worst, and despairing of victory, pulls out a paper which he had in his bosom wherein the league was written; and said, O thou God of the Christians, if thou beest a true God, be revenged of those that without cause have broken the league made by calling upon thy name. And the story saith, that after he had spoken these words, he had as it were a new heart and spirit put into him, and his soldiers, and that they obtained a glorious victory over Ladislaus. Thus God avenged the quarrel of man’s covenant. The like story we have of Rodolphus Duke of Suevia [Sweden], who by the Pope’s instigation waged war with Henry the fourth, Emperour of Germany, to whom he had sworn the contrary. The Pope sent a Crown to him with this Motto: Petra dedit Petro, Petrus diadema Rodolpho; but in the fight it chanced that Rodolphus lost his right hand; and falling sick upon it, he called for it, and said, Spectate hunc dextram legitima supplicia expendentem, que fidem sacramento munitam, & Henrico Domino meo datam, vobis urgentibus, præter aquum & jus temere violavit. Behold this right hand with which I subscribed to the Emperour, with which I have violated my oath, and therefore I am rightly punished. I will not trouble you in relating the gallant story of Regulus, that chose rather to expose himself to a cruel death, than to falsify his oath to the Carthaginians. The sum of all is, if it be such a crying abomination to break covenant between man and man, and if such persons are accounted as the off-scouring of men, not worthy to live in a christian, no not in a heathen Common-weal: if it be a sin that draws down vengeance from heaven, and excludes a man from heaven; much more for a man to enter into a covenant with the great Jehovah, and to break such religious engagements; this must needs be a destroying and soul-damning sin. And of such religious covenants I am now to speak.
There are two covenants that God made with man, a covenant of nature, and a covenant of grace. The covenant of nature (or of works) was made with Adam, and all mankind in him. This covenant Adam broke, and God presently had a quarrel against him for breaking of it, Gen. 3.8,9. And to avenge the quarrel of the covenant, he was thrust out of Paradise; and there was a sword also placed at the East end of the Garden of Eden, to avenge covenant-breaking. And by nature we are all children of wrath, heirs of hell, because of the breach of that covenant. And therefore we should never think of original sin, or of the sinfulness and cursedness of our natural condition, but we should remember what a grievous sin Covenant-breaking is.
But after man was fallen, God was pleased to strike a new covenant, which is usually called a covenant of grace, or of reconciliation; a copy of which you shall read, Ezek. 16.7,8,9. This was first propounded to Adam by way of promise, Gen. 3. The Seed of the woman shall bruise the Serpent’s head. And then to Abram by way of Covenant, Gen. 17, In thy Seed shall all the nations of the world be blessed. And then to Moses by way of Testament, Exod. 33. It is nothing else but the free and gracious tender of Jesus Christ and all his rich purchases to all the lost and undone sons of Adam, that shall believe in him; or, as the phrase is, Isaiah 56.4, that shall take hold of the covenant. Now you must know that Baptism is a seal of this covenant, and that all that are baptized, do sacramentally at least engage themselves to walk before God, and to be upright; and God likewise engageth himself to be their God. This covenant is likewise renewed when we come to the Lord’s Supper, wherein we bind ourselves by a sacramental oath unto thankfulness to God for Christ. Add further, that besides this general covenant of grace whereof the Sacraments are seals, there are particular and personal, and family, and national covenants. Thus Job had his covenant, Job 20, and David, Psalm 119.106. And when he came to be King, he joined in a covenant with his people, to serve the Lord. Thus Asa, Jehoiada, and Josiah, &c. Thus the people of Israel had not only a covenant of circumcision, but renewed a covenant in Horeb, & in Moab; and did often again and again bind themselves to God by vow and covenant. And thus the Churches of the Christians, besides the vow in Baptism, have many personal and national engagements unto God by covenant, which are nothing else but the renovations, and particular applications of that first vow in Baptism. Of this nature is the covenant you are to renew this day, &c.
Now give me leave to shew you what a sword-procuring, and soul-undoing sin, this sin of Covenant-breaking is; and then the reason of it. Famous is that text, Levit. 26.25, And I will send my sword which shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant. The words in the Hebrew run thus: I will avenge the avengement. In Greek ἐνδικήσω ἐνδίκησιν. The Latin, ulciscar ultionem; which importeth thus much: that God is at open war and at public defiance with those that break his covenant; he is not only angry with them, but he will be revenged of them. The Lord hath a controversy with all covenant-breakers, Hos. 4.1., or as it is, Lev. 26.33. The Lord will walk contrary to them. In the 29th of Deuteronomy, first God takes his people into covenant, and then he tells them of the happy condition they should be in if they did keep covenant. But if they did break covenant, he tells them, verses 20-25, That the Lord will not spare him; but the anger of the Lord and his jealousies shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven. And the Lord shall separate him, &c. And when the nations shall say, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? What meaneth the heat of this great anger? Then shall men say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their Fathers, &c. This was the sin that caused God to send his people of Israel into captivity, and to remove the candlestick from the Asian Churches. It is for this sin that the sword is now devouring Germany, Ireland, and England, &c. God hath sent his sword to avenge the quarrel of his covenant.
The reasons why this sin is a God-provoking sin are,
First, Because that to sin against the covenant, is a greater sin than to sin against a Commandment of God, or to sin against a promise, or to sin against an Ordinance of God. First, it is a greater sin than to break a Commandment of God. For the more mercy there is in the thing we sin against, the greater is the sin. Now there is more mercy in a Covenant, than in a bare Commandment. The Commandment tells us our duty, but gives no power to do it. But the covenant of grace gives power to do what it requires to be done. And therefore if it be a hell-procuring sin to break the least of God’s Commandments, much more to be a Covenant-breaker, Heb. 10.28,29. Secondly, it is a greater sin than to sin against a promise of God, because a Covenant is a promise joined with an oath, it is a mutual stipulation between God and us. And therefore if it be a great sin to break promise, much more to break covenant. Thirdly, it is a greater sin than to sin against an Ordinance, because the Covenant is the root and ground of all the Ordinances. It is by virtue of the Covenant that we are made partakers of the Ordinances. The Word is the book of the Covenant, and the Sacraments are the Seals of the Covenant. And if it be a sin of an high nature to sin against the book of the Covenant and the seals of the Covenant, much more against the Covenant itself. To break covenant is a fundamental sin, it razeth the very foundation of Christianity, because the Covenant is the foundation of all the privileges, and prerogatives, and hopes of the Saints of God. And therefore we read, Ephes. 2.12, that a stranger from the Covenant is one without hope. All hope of Heaven is cut off where the Covenant is willingly broken. To break covenant is an universal sin, it includes all other sins. By virtue of the Covenant we tie ourselves to the obedience of God’s Commandments, we give up our selves to the guidance of Jesus Christ, we take him for our Lord and King. All the promises of this life and that that is to come, are contained within the Covenant. The Ordinances are fruits of the Covenant. And therefore they that forsake the Covenant, commit many sins in one, and bring not only many, but all curses upon their heads. The sum of the first Argument is: If the Lord will avenge the quarrel of his Commandment, if God was avenged upon the stick-gatherer for breaking the Sabbath, much more will he be avenged upon a Covenant-breaker. If God will avenge the quarrel of a promise, if the quarrel of an Ordinance: if they that reject the Ordinances shall be punished; Of how much severer punishment shall they be thought worthy, that trample under their feet the blood of the Covenant? If God was avenged of those that abused the Ark of the Covenant, much more will he punish those that abuse the Angel of the Covenant.
The second reason why covenant-breaking is such a Land-destroying sin is, because it is a most solemn and serious thing to enter into covenant with God; a matter of such great weight and importance, that it is impossible but God should be exceedingly provoked with those that slight it and disrespect it. The Vow in Baptism is the first, the most general and the solemnest vow that ever any Christian took, saith Chrysostom; wherein he doth not only promise, but engage himself by covenant in the sight of God and his holy Angels to be the servant of Jesus Christ, and therefore God will not hold him guiltless that breaks this vow. The solemnity & weightiness of covenant-taking consisteth in three things.
1. Because it is made with the glorious Majesty of Heaven and Earth, who will not be trifled and baffled withal. And therefore what Jehoshaphat said to his Judges, 2 Chron. 19.6, Take heed what you do, for ye judge not for men, but for the Lord, who is with you in judgments; wherefore now let the fear of the Lord be upon you, &c. The like I may say to every one that enters into covenant this day. Take heed what you do, for it is the Lord’s covenant, and there is no iniquity with the Lord, wherefore now let the fear of the Lord be upon you. For our God is a holy God, he is a jealous God, he will not forgive your transgressions, nor your sins, as Joshua saith, Josh. 24.19.
2. Because the articles of the Covenant are weighty and of great importance. In the Covenant of grace God engageth himself to give Christ, and with him, all temporal, spiritual, and eternal blessings, and we engage ourselves to be his faithful servants all our days. In this Covenant we oblige ourselves to do great matters that nearly concern the glory of God, the good of our own souls, and the happiness of three Kingdoms. And in such holy and heavenly things which so nearly concern our everlasting estate, to dally and trifle must needs incense the anger of the great Jehovah.
3. The manner used both by Jews, Heathen, and Christians, in entering into Covenant, doth clearly set out the weightiness of it, and what a horrible sin it is to break it. The custom amongst the Jews will appear by diverse texts of Scripture: Jer. 34.18, it is said, And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the word of the Covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the Calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof. The words they used when they passed between the parts were, So God divide me, if I keep not covenant. Neh. 5.12. Nehemiah took an oath of the Priests, and shook his lap and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out and emptied. And all the Congregation said, Amen. In the 15th of Genesis (verses 10,17,18,) Abraham divided the Heifer, and she-Goat, and a Ram, &c. And when the Sun was down, a smoking furnace and burning lamp passed between those pieces. This did represent God’s presence, saith Clemens Alexandrinus, and it was as if God should say: Behold, this day I enter into covenant with thee, and if thou keepest covenant, I will be a burning lamp to lighten and to comfort thee: But if thou breakest covenant, I will be like a smoking furnace to consume thee. Thus also, Exod. 24.6, Moses makes a covenant with Israel, and offers sacrifices, and takes the blood of the sacrifice and divides it, and half of it he sprinkles upon the Altar, (which represented God’s part) and the other half he sprinkled upon the people, as if he should say, As this blood is divided, so will God divide you if you break covenant. This was the custom amongst the Jews. Amongst the Romans, Cæsa firmabant fœdera porca. And when it was divided, the Feciales gave one half to one party, and the other half to the other, and said So God divide you asunder if you break this covenant, and let God do this so much the more by how much he is the more able. Hinc fœdus à fœdo animali (scilicet porco) diviso. Sometimes they did make covenants by taking a stone in their hands and saying, If I make this covenant seriously and faithfully, then let the great Jupiter bless me. If not, so let me be cast away from the face of the Gods as I cast away this stone. This was called Jurare per Jovem lapidem. All these things are not empty notions, and metaphorical shadows, but real and substantial practices, signifying unto us, That God will, and must (for it stands with his honor to do it) divide and break them in pieces that break covenant with him. This day you are to take a Covenant by the lifting up of your hands unto the most high God, which is a most emphatical ceremony, whereby we do as it were call God to be a witness and a judge of what we do, and a rewarder or a revenger, according as we keep or break the Covenant. If we keep it, the lifting up of our hands will be as an Evening sacrifice; if we break it, the lifting up of our hands will be as the lifting up of the hands of a Malefactor at the Bar, and procure woe and misery and wringing of hands at the great day of appearing.
The Third Reason why God will be avenged of those that are Covenant-breakers, is, because that a Covenant is the greatest obligation, and the most forcible chain that can be invented to tie us to obedience and service. God may justly challenge obedience without covenanting by virtue of creation, preservation, and redemption; he hath made us, and when lost, he hath purchased us with his blood. But being willing more abundantly to manifest his love, and that we might be the more fastened to him, he hath tied himself to us, and us to him by the strong bond of a Covenant; as if God should say, Oh ye sons of men, I see you are rebellious, and sons of Belial, and therefore if it be possible, I will make you sure. I will engage you unto me, not only by creation, preservation, and redemption, but also by the right of covenant and association. I will make you mine by promise and oath. And surely, he that will break these bonds, is as bad as the man possessed with the Devil in the Gospel, whom no chains could keep fast. When we enter into covenant with God, we take the oath of Supremacy, and swear unto him that he shall be our chief Lord and Governour, and that we will admit of no foreign power or jurisdiction, but that God shall be all in all. We likewise take the oath of Allegiance to be his servants and vassals, and that he shall be our Supreme in spirituals and temporals. Now for a Christian that believes there is a God, to break both these oaths of allegiance and supremacy, it is cursed treason against the God of heaven, which surely God will be avenged of. Amongst the Romans, when any Soldier was pressed, he took an oath to serve his Captain faithfully, and not to forsake him, and he was called, Miles per sacramentum. Sometimes one took an oath for all the rest, and the others only said, The same oath that A. B. took, the same do I. And these were called Milites per conjurationem, or milites evocati. And when any soldier forsook his Captain, he had Martial law executed upon him. Thus it is with every Christian: He is a professed soldier of Christ, he hath taken press-money, he hath sworn and taken the Sacrament upon it to become the Lord’s, he is miles per sacramentum, & miles per conjurationem. And if he forsake his Captain and break covenant, the great Lord of Hosts will be avenged of him, as it is written, Jer. 11.3, Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant. To break covenant is a sin of perjury, which is a sin of a high nature; and if for oaths the Land mourneth, much more for breach of oaths. To break covenant is a sin of spiritual adultery; for by covenanting with God we do as it were join ourselves in marriage to God, as the Hebrew word signifieth, Jer. 50.5. Now to break the marriage knot is a sin for which God may justly give a Bill of divorce to a Nation. To break covenant is a sin of injustice; for by our covenant we do enter as it were into bond to God, and engage ourselves as a creditor to his debtor. Now the sin of injustice is a Land-destroying sin.
The Fourth Reason why God must needs be avenged of those that are covenant-breakers, is, because it is an act of the highest Sacrilege that can be committed. For by virtue of the Covenant the Lord lays claim to us as his peculiar inheritance, Ezek. 16.8, I swear unto thee, and entered into covenant with thee, and thou becamest mine. Jer. 31.33, I will be their God and they shall be my people. It is worthy observation, that in the Covenant there is a double surrender, one on God’s part, another on our part. God Almighty, makes a surrender of himself, and of his Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Behold, saith God, I am wholly thy God; all my power, and wisdom, and mercy, and goodness, &c. is all thine, my Son is thine, and all his rich purchases. My Spirit is thine and all his graces. This is God’s surrender. On our parts, when we take hold of the Covenant, we make a delivery of our bodies and souls into the hands of God, we choose him to be our Lord and Governour, we resign up ourselves into his hands. Lord we are thine at thy disposing; we alienate ourselves from ourselves, and make a Deed of gift of ourselves, and give thee the lock and key of head, heart, and affections, &c. This is the nature of every religious Covenant, but especially of the Covenant of grace. But now for a Christian to call in as it were his surrender, to disclaim his resignation, to steal away himself from God and to lay claim to himself after his alienation; to fulfill his own lusts, to walk after his own ways, to do what he lists, and not what he hath covenanted to do, and so to rob God of what is his, this is the highest degree of Sacrilege, which God will never suffer to go unpunished. And surely if the stick-gatherer, that did but alienate a little of God’s time; and Ananias and Sapphira, that withheld but some part of their estate: and if Belshazzar for abusing the consecrated vessels of the Temple, were so grievously punished; how much more will God punish those that alienate themselves from the service of that God to whom they have sworn to be obedient? It is observed by a learned Author, of three famous Commanders of the Romans, that they never prospered after they had defiled and robbed the Temple of Jerusalem. First, Pompey the great, he went into the Sanctum Sanctorum, a place never before entered by any but the High Priest, and the Lord blasted him in all his proceedings after that time. Ut ille qui terram non habuit ante ad victoriam, doesser illi terra ad sepulturam: That he that before that time wanted earth to overcome, had not at last earth enough to bury him withal. The next was Crassus, who took away 10,000 talents of gold from the Temple, and afterwards died, by having gold poured down his throat. The third was Cassius, who afterwards killed himself. If then God did thus avenge himself of those that polluted his consecrated Temple, much more will he not leave them unpunished that are the living temples of the Holy Ghost, consecrated to God by a covenant, and afterwards prove sacrilegious, robbing God of that worship and service which they have sworn to give him.
The Fifth Reason why this sin makes the times perilous is, because covenant-breakers are reckoned amongst the number of those that have the mark of reprobation upon them. I do not say that they are all Reprobates; yet I say that the Apostle makes it to be one of those sins which are committed by those that are given up to a reprobate mind, Romans 1.28,31. The words are spoken of the Heathen, and are to be understood of breaking of covenants made between man and man. But then the Argument will hold à fortiori. If it be the brand of a reprobate to break covenant with man, much more to break a covenant made with the great Jehovah by the lifting up of our hands to Heaven.
The Last Reason is, because it is a sin against such infinite mercy, such bowels of God’s inexpressible mercy. It is said, Jer. 31.32, Which covenant they brake, although I was a Husband to them. That is; Although I had chosen them for my Spouse, and married myself unto them with an everlasting covenant of mercy, and entailed Heaven upon them, yet they have broken my covenant. This was a great provocation. Thus Ezek. 16.4,5, When thou wast in thy blood and no eye pitied thee to have compassion upon thee, I said unto thee when thou wert in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee, Live. It is twice repeated. As if God should say, Mark it O Israel, when no eye regarded thee, then I said unto thee, Live. Behold, saith God, verse 8, Thy time was the time of love, Behold and wonder at it, and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into covenant with thee, saith the Lord, and thou becamest mine. And yet for all this thou hast sinned grievously against me. Woe, woe unto thee, saith the Lord God, Ezek. 16.23. There is a fivefold mercy in the Covenant, (especially in the covenant of grace) that makes the sin of covenant-breaking to be so odious.
1. It is a mercy that the great God will vouchsafe to enter into covenant with dust and ashes. As David saith in another case, Is it a slight matter to be the son in law of a King? So may I say, Is it a slight matter for the Lord of Heaven and Earth to condescend so far as to covenant with his poor creatures, and thereby to become their debtors, and to make them as it were his equals? When Jonathan and David entered into a covenant of friendship, though one was a King’s son, the other a poor Shepherd, yet there was then a kind of equality between them. But this must be understood warily, according to that text, 2 Cor. 1.9, Blessed be God who hath called us into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. He is still our Lord, though in fellowship with us. It is a covenant of infinite condescension on God’s part, whereby he enters into a league of friendship with his people.
2. The mercy is the greater, because this covenant was made after the fall of Adam; after we had broken the first covenant. That the Lord should try us the second time, is not only an act of infinite goodness in God, but of infinite mercy. There is a difference between the goodness and the mercy of God. Goodness may be shewed to those that are not in misery; but mercy supposeth misery. And this was our condition after the breach of the first covenant.
3. That God should make this covenant with Man, and not with Devils.
4. This sets out the mercy of the covenant, because it contains such rare and glorious benefits, and therefore it is called a covenant of life and peace, Mal. 2.5; an everlasting covenant, even the sure mercies of David, Isaiah 55.3. It is compared to the waters of Noah, Isaiah 54.9. Famous are those two texts, Exod. 19.5,6; Jer. 32.40,41. Texts that hold forth strong consolations. By virtue of the covenant, Heaven is not only made possible, but certain to all believers, and certain by way of oath. It is by virtue of the covenant that we call God Father; and may lay claim to all the power, wisdom, goodness, and mercy, &c. that is in God. As Jehoshaphat told the King of Israel, to whom he was joined in covenant, I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses: So doth God say to all that are in covenant with him; My power is thine, my goodness is thine, &c. By virtue of this covenant, whatsoever thou wantest, God cannot deny it thee, if it be good for thee. Say unto God, Lord, thou hast sworn to take away my heart of stone, and to give me a heart of flesh. Thou hast sworn to write thy law in my heart, thou hast sworn to circumcise my heart, thou hast sworn to give me Christ to be my King, Priest, and Prophet, &c. And God cannot but be a covenant-keeper. By virtue of this covenant, God cannot but accept of a poor penitent sinner laying hold upon Christ for pardon, 2 Chron. 7.14; Jer. 3.14, Promissa hæc tua sunt, Domine; & quis falli timet cum promittit ipsa veritas? [The promises are yours, O Lord; & who mistakes fears with the promises of truth itself?] In a word, we may challenge pardon, and heaven by our covenant; 1 John 1.9. God is not only merciful, but just to forgive us. We may challenge heaven through Christ out of justice.
5. Add lastly, that the conditions of the Covenant on our parts should be upon such easy terms, therefore it is called a Covenant of Free-grace. All that God requires of us, is to take hold of this Covenant, Isaiah 56; to receive this gift of righteousness, Romans 5; to take all Christ as he is tendered in the Covenant. And that which is the greatest consolation of all, God hath promised in his Covenant to do our part for us, Jer. 31.33,34. Therefore it is called a Testament rather than a Covenant. (In the new Testament the word διαθήκη, is always used by the Apostle, and not συνθήκη.) Heaven is conveyed unto the elect by way of Legacy; It is part of God’s Testament to write his law in our hearts, and to cause us to walk in his ways, &c. Put these things together: Seeing there is such infinite mercy in the Covenant, A mercy for God to enter into Covenant with us, to do it with us and not the Angels, with us fallen, with us upon such easy terms; and to make such a Covenant, that contains so many, and not only so, but all blessings here and hereafter in the womb of it; it must needs be a land-destroying and soul-destroying sin to be a Covenant-breaker.
The Use and Application of this doctrine is four-fold.
Use 1: Of Information
If it be such a Land-devouring sin to be a Covenant-breaker, let us from hence learn the true cause of all the miseries that have happened unto England in these late years. The womb out of which all our calamities are come—England hath broken Covenant with God, and now God is breaking England in pieces, even as a Potter breaks a vessel in pieces. God hath sent his sword to avenge the quarrel of his Covenant. As Christ whipped the buyers and sellers out of the Temple, with whips made of the cords which they brought to tie their oxen and sheep withal. A Covenant is a cord to tie us to God, and now God hath made an iron whip of these cords which we have broken asunder to whip us withal.
We are a nation in Covenant with God, we have the books of the Covenant, the Old and New Testament; we have the seals of the Covenant, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. We have the Messengers of the Covenant, the Ministers of the Gospel. We have the Angel of the covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ fully and clearly set out before us in the Ministry of the Word. But alas, are not these blessings amongst us, as the Ark was amongst the Philistines, rather as prisoners, than as privileges; rather in testimonium & ruinam, quam in salutem, rather for our ruin, than for our happiness? May it not be said of us as Reverend Moulin said of the French Protestants, While they burned us (saith he) for reading the Scriptures, we burnt with zeal to be reading of them: now with our liberty is bred also negligence and disesteem of God’s word? So it is with us. While we were under the Tyranny of the Bishops, oh how sweet was a Fasting-day! how beautiful were the feet of them that brought the Gospel of peace unto you? How dear and precious were God’s people one to another, &c. But now how are our Fasting-days slighted and vilified? how are the people of God divided one from another, railing upon (instead of loving) one another? And is not the godly Ministry as much persecuted by the tongues of some that would be accounted godly, as heretofore by the Bishops’ hands? Is not the Holy Bible by some rather wrested than read? wrested I say by ignorant and unstable souls, to their own destruction. And as for the seals of the covenant: First, for the Lord’s Supper, How often have we spilt the blood of Christ by our unworthy approaches to his Table? and hence it is, that he is now spilling our blood. How hard a matter is it to obtain power to keep the blood of Christ from being profaned by ignorant and scandalous Communicants? and can we think that God will be easily entreated to sheath up his bloody sword, and to cease shedding our blood? Secondly, for the Sacrament of Baptism; How cruel are men grown to their little infants, by keeping of them from the seal of entrance into the Kingdom of heaven, and making their children (their own children) to be just in the same condition with the children of Turks and Infidels? I remember at the beginning of these wars, there was a great fear fell upon godly people about their little children, and all their care was for their preservation, and their safety; and for the continuance of the Gospel to them, &c. But now our little children are likely to be in a worser condition than ever. The Oxford Army labour to steal away the Gospel from them, and the Anabaptist labours to steal away the seal of the covenant of Grace from them; and that which is worser than all, there are some godly people love to have it so. And all this is come upon us as a just punishment of our Baptismal covenant-breaking. And as for Jesus Christ, who is the Angel of the covenant: are there not some amongst us that un-god Jesus Christ? and is it not fit and equal that God should un-church us, and un-people us? Are there not thousands that have sworn to be Christ’s servants, and yet are in their lives the Vassals of sin and Satan? And shall not God be avenged of such a nation as this? These things considered, it is no wonder our miseries are so great, but the wonder is, that they are no greater.
Use 2: Of Examination, whether we be covenant-breakers or no.
The second use, is an use of examination.
Days of humiliation ought to be days of self-examination. Let us therefore upon such a day as this is, examine whether we be not amongst the number of those that make the times perilous, whether we be not covenant-breakers? Here I will speak of three covenants: First, of the covenant we made with God in our Baptism. Secondly, of the covenants which we have made with God in our distresses. Thirdly, and especially of this covenant which you are to renew this day.
First, of the covenant which we made in Baptism, and renew every time we come to the Lord’s Supper, and upon our solemn days of fasting. There are none here, but I may say of them, The vows of God are upon you. You are servi nati, empti, jurati; you are the born, bought, and sworn servants of God, you have made a surrender of yourselves unto God and Christ. The question I put to you is this: How often have you broke covenant with God? It is said, Isaiah 33.14, The sinners of Sion are afraid: who shall dwell with everlasting burnings? who shall dwell with devouring fire, &c. When God comes to a Church-sinner, to a sinner under the Old Testament, much more to a Christian sinner; a sinner under the New Testament: and layeth to his charge his often covenant-breaking, fearfulness shall possess him, and he will cry out, Oh! woe is me, who can dwell with everlasting burnings? our God is a consuming fire, and we are as stubble before him. Who can stand before his indignation? (Nahum 1.6.) Who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? when his fury is poured forth like fire, and the rocks are thrown down before him. Who can stand? Of all sorts of creatures, a sinful Christian shall never be able to stand before the Lord, when he comes to visit the world for their sins. For when a christian sins against God, he sins not only against the Commandment, but against the covenant. And in every sin he is a commandment-breaker, and a covenant-breaker. And therefore whereas the Apostle saith, Tribulation and anguish upon every soul that sinneth, but first upon the Jew; &c. I may add; First upon the christian, then upon the Jew, and then upon the Grecian; because the covenant made with the Christian is called a better covenant; and therefore his sins have a higher aggravation in them. There is a notable passage in Austin, in which he brings the Devil thus pleading with God against a wicked christian at the day of judgment. Æquissime judex, judica quod æquum est, judica meum esse qui tuus esse noluit post renunciationem; Ut quid invasit pannos meos? Quid apud eum lascivia, incontinentia, &c. quibus ipse renunciaverit? Quid intemperantia, quid gula, quid fastus, quid cætera mea? Hæc omnia mea post renunciationem invasit. Meus esse voluit, mea concupivit; Judica, æquissime judex, quoniam quem tu non dedignatus es tanto pretio liberare, ipse mihi postmodum voluit obligare. That is, Oh thou righteous Judge, give right judgment! Judge him to be mine, who refused to be thine even after he had renounced me in his Baptism; What had he to do to wear my Livery? What had he to do with gluttony, drunkenness, pride, wantonness, incontinency; and the rest of my ware? All these things he hath practiced since he renounced the devil and all his works. Mine he is, judge righteous judgment; For he whom thou hast not disdained to die for, hath obliged himself to me by his sins, &c.
Now what can God say to this charge of the Devils, but, Take him Devil, seeing he would be thine; take him, torment him with everlasting torments? Cyprian brings in the Devil thus speaking to Christ at the great day of judgment, Ego pro istis quos mecum vides nec alapas accepi, nec flagella sustinui, nec crucem pertuli, nec sanguinem fudi, sed nec regnum cœleste illis promitto, nec ad paradisum evoco, & tamen se mihi suaq; omnia consecrarunt. I have not (saith the Devil) been whipt and scourged, and crucified, neither have I shed my blood for these whom thou seest with me. I do not promise them a kingdom of heaven, &c. and yet these men have wholly consecrated themselves to me and my service. Indeed if the Devil could make such gainful covenants with us, and bestow such glorious mercies upon us as are contained within the Covenant, our serving of Satan and sin might have some excuse. But when as his covenant is a covenant of bondage, death, hell, and damnation: and God’s covenant is a covenant of liberty, grace, and eternal happiness, it must needs be a sin inexcusable, to be willingly and willfully such a covenant-breaker.
Concerning our Vows to God in our Distress.
Secondly, let us examine concerning the vows which we have made to God in our distresses: in our Personal distresses, and our National distresses. Are we not like the children of Israel of whom it is said, Psalm 78.34, When he slew them, then they sought him, and they returned and enquired early after God, &c. Nevertheless they did but flatter him with their mouth, &c. for their heart was not right with him, neither were they steadfast in his covenant? Are we not like unto little children, that while they are whipping will promise any thing, but when the whipping is over will perform nothing? Or like unto Iron that is very soft and malleable while it is in the fire, but when it is taken out of the fire, returns presently to his former hardness? This was Jacob’s fault: He made a vow when he was in distress, Gen. 28.22. But he forgat his covenant, and God was angry with him, and chastised him in his daughter Dinah, Gen. 34.5, and in his two sons Simeon and Levi. And at last God himself was fain to call to him from Heaven to keep covenant. And after that time God blessed Jacob exceedingly, Gen. 35.9-12. We read of David, Psalm 66.13-15, that he professeth of himself, that he would go into God’s house, and pay the vows which his lips had uttered, and his mouth had spoken when he was in trouble. But how few are there that imitate David in this thing.
Concerning the Solemn League and Covenant.
Thirdly, let us examine ourselves concerning the solemn League and Covenant which we are to renew this day. And here I demand an answer to these questions.
Questions about the Covenant.
[Quest.] 1. Are there not many amongst us that scorn it and speak reproachfully of it? That deal with it as the Children of Israel did with Manna, which at first they did so highly value, as that they could not be kept within doors from gathering of it, no not upon the Sabbath day; but afterwards they came to loathe it as much as ever before they loved it. And do not we deal so with the Covenant?
[Quest.] 2. Are there not some that write against it, and that say in effect, That the perjury that is committed about it, is rather in taking of it than in breaking of it, and that it was not a right, but a rash oath? which I speak not only to the shame of those that write thus, but also to the shame of those that suffer such things to be written and to go unquestioned.
[Quest.] 3. Are there not some that put corrupt glosses upon it, and deal falsely in the Covenant? that say, that by virtue of the Covenant all Ministers are bound to renounce their ministry, (even that ministry which God hath blessed and put his seal unto by the conversion of thousands) and either to take it up again by Ordination from the people; or if we find no warrant in the Word for that way, then to turn Seekers, and to wait till God send Apostles to ordain Ministers? And yet these men cannot but know that the Parliament in their Ordinance for Ordination of Ministers, have declared that this is not the meaning of the Covenant. Others there are that say, That by virtue of the Covenant no man ought to pay tithes to his Minister unless he will incur the sin of perjury. These men may as well say, That by the Covenant no Tenant ought to pay rent to his Landlord, and that no man ought to keep the laws of the Realm. For we challenge our tithes by virtue of the Laws established, &c. We challenge a sufficient maintenance by God’s law. But as for the tenth part (though there are some that say much out of the Scripture for it) yet we require it as due only by the laws of the Kingdom.
[Quest.] 4. Are there not some that deal hypocritically in the Covenant? that take it merely to serve their own turns, to save their credits, or to save their estates, or to hide their malignancy? That are like unto the Samaritans, of whom it is reported, that when the Jews were in adversity, they would renounce the Jewish religion and all alliance with them, but when the Jews were in prosperity, then they would pretend kindred, and profess themselves to be of the Jewish Religion. Just so do many Oxford-malignants deal with the Parliament. While we are in prosperity, they are Covenanters, and for the Parliament. But if ever God should bring us again into a low condition, they would quickly appear to be Anti-covenanter and Anti-parliamenters. I have heard a story of a Jailer, that being required either to take the Covenant, or to leave his place; he consulted with his fellow drunkard about it; and he answered, That he could not deny but that the taking of the Covenant was a very bitter pill: but seeing there was no remedy, his advice was, To swallow it down and not to think on it. And shall not God be avenged of such a Nation as this?
But the great question, and that which doth most nearly concern us that are here is:
[Quest.] 5. Are we not Covenant-breakers? Do we not make the times perilous by our falsifying of our oath and covenant with God?
Six things Sworn unto in the Covenant.
In our Covenant we swear to six things.
1. That we will endeavour to be humbled for our own sins and for the sins of the Kingdom. But where shall we find a mourner in England for his own abominations, and for the abominations that are committed in the midst of us? It is easy to find a Censurer of the sins of the Land, but hard to find a true mourner for the sins of the Land.
Secondly, we swear that we will endeavour to go before one another in the example of a real Reformation. But who makes conscience of this part of the Oath? What sin hast thou left, or in what one thing hast thou been reformed since thou tookest this Covenant? We read, Ezra 10.3, That they entered into Covenant, to put away their wives & their children by them: which was a very difficult and hard duty, and yet they did it. But what bosom sin, what beloved sin, as dear to thee as thy dear wife and children, hast thou left for God’s sake since thou tookest this Oath? I read Nehemiah 5.13, that the people took an Oath to make restitution, which was a costly duty, and yet they performed it, saith the Text. But alas! where is the man that hath made restitution of his ill gotten goods since he took this Covenant? I read, 2 Chron. 15.16, that King Asa deposed his mother Maachah, her, even her, from being Queen, after he had entered into Covenant: and that the people, 2 Kings 11.18, after they had sworn a Covenant, brake in pieces all the Altars of Baal thoroughly. But where is this thorough Reformation, this thorough amendment of life? Indeed here is much talk of a Reformation, but little practice of a Reformation. We say we fight for a Reformation; but I fear lest in a little time we should fight away all our Reformation: or if not fight it away, yet we should dispute it away. For now all our religion is turned into Vtrum’s, into Questions, insomuch as that there are some that call all religion into question, and in a little while will lose all religion in the crowd of questions. Inter disputandum veritas, & religio amittitur. There was a time not many years ago, when God did bless our Ministry in the City, to the Conversion of many people unto God; but now there are many that study more to gain parties to themselves, than to gain souls to God. The great work of Conversion is little thought on. And never so few (if any at all) converted as in these days wherein we talk so much of Reformation. And is this to keep Covenant with God?
3. We swear to endeavour to amend our lives, and reform not only our selves, but all those that are under our charge. But where is this Family-reformation? Indeed I read of Jacob, that when he went to perform his vow and covenant, he first reformed his family, Gen. 35.3. And that Joshua resolved (and performed it) for himself and his family to serve the Lord. And so did Josiah, 2 Chron. 34. And oh that I could add, And so do we! But the wickedness committed in our families, proclaim the contrary to all the world. What Noblemans, what Aldermans, what Merchants family is more reformed since the Covenant, than before? We speak and contend much for a Church-reformation; but how can there be a Church-reformation, unless there be first a Family-reformation? What though the Church-worship be pure? yet if the worshippers be impure, God will not accept of the worship. And if families be not reformed, how will your worshippers be pure?
4. We swear to endeavour to bring the Churches of God in the three Kingdoms, to the nearest conjunction and uniformity in Religion, confession of Faith, form of Church-government, Directory for worship and catechizing, &c. But are there not some that write against an Uniformity in Religion, and call it an Idol? Are there not many that walk professedly contrary to this clause of the Covenant? There are three texts of Scripture that people keep the quite contrary way. The first is Matt. 6.34,31,25, Take no thought what you shall eat, &c. take no thought for tomorrow. And most people take thought for nothing else. The second text is, Matth. 6.33, Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, &c. And most people seek this last of all. The third text is, John 6.27, Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for the meat that endureth forever, &c. And most people labour not for the meat that endureth for ever, but for the meat that perisheth. As these three texts are kept, so do many people keep this part of the Oath; for there were never more divisions and differences in the Church, never more difformity, and pleading against Uniformity, than now there is.
5. We swear to endeavour the extirpation of Popery, Prelacy, Superstition, Heresy, Schism, &c. And yet notwithstanding there are some that have taken this Oath, that contend earnestly for a Toleration of all Religions: which (as I conceive) is as contrary to this clause of the Covenant as Heaven is to Hell.
6. We swear against a detestable indifferency and Neutrality in this cause which so much concerneth the glory of God, &c. And yet how many are there amongst us that are like unto Gallio, that care not what becomes of the cause of God, so they may have peace and quiet? That will not be the backwardest of all, and yet will be sure not to be too forward, for fear lest if the times turn, they should be noted amongst the chief of the faction? That are very indifferent which side prevail, so they may have their trading again? That say as the Politician, That they will be careful not to come too near the heels of Religion, lest it should dash out his brains: And as the King of Arragon told Beza, That he would wade no farther into the sea of Religion, than he could safely return back to shore?
In all these six particulars let us seriously search and try our hearts, whether we be not amongst the number of those that make the times perilous.
Use 3: Of Humiliation.
The third use is for Humiliation. Let the consideration of our Covenant-breaking, be a heart-breaking consideration to every one of us this day. Let this be a mighty and powerful Argument to humble us upon this day of Humiliation.
There are five considerations that are exceedingly soul-humbling, if God bless them unto us.
1. The consideration of the many Commandments of God that we have often and often broken.
2. The consideration of the breaking of Jesus Christ for our sins, how he was rent and torn for our iniquities.
3. The consideration of the breaking of bread, and the pouring out of the wine in the Sacrament, which is a heart-breaking motive and help.
4. The broken condition that the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and that of Germany is in at this time.
5. The many Vows and Covenants that we have broken; our Sacrament-Covenants, our Fasting-Covenants, our Sickbed-Covenants. And especially the consideration of our often breaking of our National-Covenant which you come this day to renew. This is a sin in Folio, a sin of a high nature: and if ever God awaken conscience in this life, a sin that will lie like a heavy Incuba upon it. A greater sin than a sin against a Commandment, or against an Ordinance. A sin not only of disobedience, but of perjury. A sin of injustice, of spiritual adultery. A sin of Sacrilege. A sin of great unkindness. A sin that makes us not only disobedient, but dishonest. For we account him a dishonest man that keeps not his word. A sin that not only every good Christian, but every good Heathen doth abhor. A sin, that not only brings damnation upon us, but casteth such an horrible disgrace and reproach upon God, that it cannot stand with God’s honour not to be avenged of a Covenant-breaker. Tertullian saith, that when a Christian forsakes his covenant, and the colours of Christ, and turns to serve as the Devil's soldier, he puts an unspeakable discredit upon God and Christ. For it is as much as if he should say; I like the service of the Devil better than the service of God. And it is just as if a soldier that hath waged war under a Captain, and afterwards forsaking him turns to another, and after that, leaves this other Captain and returns to his former Captain. This is to prefer the first Captain before the second. This makes God complain, Jer. 2.4, What Iniquity have your Fathers found in me that they are gone far from me, &c. And in the 11th verse, Hath any Nation changed their Gods, which are yet no Gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. Basil brings in the Devil insulting over Christ, and saying, I never created nor redeemed these men, and yet they have obeyed me, and contemned thee, O Christ, even after they have covenanted to be thine. And then he adds, Equidem ego istam futuram adversus Christum gloriationem hostis insolentem gravius longe esse statuo quam Gehenna supplicia. That is, I esteem this insulting of the Devil over Jesus Christ at the great day, to be more grievous to a true Saint, than all the torments of hell. A saying worthy to be written in letters of gold. Seeing then that covenant-breaking is so great an abomination, the Lord give us hearts to be humbled for this great abomination this day. And this will be a notable preparation to fit you to the renewing of your Covenant. For we read that Nehemiah first called his people to fast, before he drew them into a Covenant. According to which pattern you are here met to pray, and fast, and humble your souls for your former covenant-breaking; and then to bind yourselves anew unto the Lord our God. As wax when it is melted will receive the impression of a seal, which it will not do before: So will your hearts when melted into godly sorrow for your sins, receive the seal of God abidingly upon them, which they will not do when hardened in sin.
Objection. Is every man that sins against the Covenant to be accounted a Covenant-breaker, and a perjured, sacrilegious person?
Answer. By no means. For as every failing of a Wife doth not break the Covenant between her and her Husband; but she is to be accounted a Wife till she by committing adultery break the Covenant, So every miscarriage against the Covenant of grace, or against this National covenant, doth not denominate us in a Gospel-account Covenant-breakers. But then God accounts us according to his Gospel to break covenant, when we do not only sin, but commit sin against the Covenant, when we do not only sin out of weakness, but out of wickedness; when we do not only fail but fall into sin: when we forsake & renounce the Covenant, when we deal treacherously in the Covenant, and enter into league and covenant with those sins which we have sworn against. When we walk into Anti-covenant paths, and willingly do contrary to what we swear; then are we perjured, & unjust, and sacrilegious, and guilty of all these sins formerly mentioned.
Use 4: An Exhortation unto Covenant-keeping.
The fourth Use presents unto you a Divine, and therefore a sure project to make the times happy. And that is, Let all Covenant-takers labour to be Covenant-keepers. It hath pleased God to put it in your hearts to renew your Covenant. The same God enable you to keep Covenant. It is said, 2 Chron. 34.31,32, The King made a covenant before the Lord, &c. And he caused all that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to it. And 2 Kings 23.3, The King stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, &c. and all the people stood to the covenant. This is your duty, not only to take the Covenant, but to stand to the Covenant; and to stand to it, maugre [in spite of] all opposition to the contrary. According as we read in 2 Chron. 15.12,13. And they entered into a Covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers, &c. that whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel, should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. For it is not the taking, but the keeping of the Covenant that will make you happy. God is styled, A God keeping covenant, Deut. 9.4; Neh. 1.5. O that this might be the honour of this City! That we may say of it, London is a City keeping covenant with God. Great and many are the blessings entailed upon Covenant-keepers. Exod. 19.5,6, Now therefore if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of Priests, and an holy Nation, &c. Psalm 25.10, All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant, &c. Psalm 15.4.
There are three Covenants I shall persuade you in an especial manner to stand to.
1. The covenant you made with God in Baptism. A Christian (saith Chrysostom) should never step out of doors, or lie down in his bed, or go into his closet, but he should remember that word Abrenuncio; that is, He should remember the time when he did renounce the Devil and all his works. Oh let us not forget that which we ought always to remember! Let us remember to keep that Covenant, as ever we desire God should remember us in mercy at the great day.
2. The covenants which we have made unto God in our afflictions. Famous is that passage of Pliny in one of his Epistles to one that desired rules from him how to order his life aright. I will (saith he) give you one rule which shall be instead of a thousand; Vt tales esse perseveremus sani, quales nos futuros esse profitemur infirmi. That we should persevere to be such when we are well, as we promise to be when we are sick. A sentence never to be forgotten. The Lord help us to live accordingly.
3. The covenant which you are to take this day. The happiness or misery of England doth much depend upon the keeping or breaking of this Covenant. If England keep it, England by keeping covenant shall stand sure, according to that text, Ezek. 7.14. If England break it, God will break England in pieces. If England sleight it, God will sleight England. If England forsake it, God will forsake England. And this shall be written upon the Tomb of perishing England: Here lieth a Nation that hath broken the covenant of their God. Remember what you have heard this day, That it is the brand of a Reprobate to be a Covenant-breaker, &c. It is the part of a Fool to vow, and not to pay his vows. And God hath no delight in the sacrifice of fools. Better not vow, than to vow and not to pay, Eccl.5.4,5. It is such an high profanation of God’s Name, as that God cannot hold a Covenant-breaker guiltless. It is perjury, injustice, spiritual adultery, sacrilege, &c. And the very lifting up of your hands this day (if you do not set heart and hand on work to keep covenant) will be sufficient witness against you at the great day. We read, Gen. 31.44,45,46,48,49,52,53, That Jacob and Laban entered into a covenant, and took a heap of stones, and made them a witness, & said, This heap is a witness, &c. And they called the name of the place Mizpah: The Lord watch between me and thee, &c. The God of Abraham judge betwixt us, &c. Such is your condition this day. You enter into Covenant to become the Lord’s, and to be valiant for his truth, and against his enemies. And the very stones of this Church shall be witness against you, if you break covenant. The name of this place may be called Mizpah. The Lord will watch over you for good, if you keep it, and for evil, if you break it. And all the curses contained in the book of the Covenant shall light upon a willing Covenant-breaker. The Lord fasten these meditations and soul-awakening considerations upon your hearts. The Lord give you grace to keep close to the Covenant; & in keeping of it to keep God and a good conscience, which are both lost by covenant-breaking.
Six things to be done in Pursuance of our Covenant.
There are six things which I shall persuade you unto in pursuance of your Covenant.
1. To be humbled for your own sins, and for the sins of the Kingdom; & more especially, Because we have not as we ought valued the inestimable benefit of the Gospel, that we have not laboured to receive Christ in our hearts, nor walk worthy of him in our lives, which are the causes of other sins and transgressions so much abounding amongst us. Gospel-sins are greater than legal-sins, and will bring Gospel-curses, which are greater than legal-curses. And therefore let us be humbled according to our Covenant for all our Gospel-abominations.
2. You must be ambitious to go before one another in an example of real reformation. You must swear vainly no more, be drunk no more, break the Sabbath no more, &c. You must remember what David saith, Psalm 50.16, But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? verse 17, Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee. To sin willingly after we have sworn not to sin, is not only to sin against a Commandment, (as I have said) but to sin against an Oath; which is a double iniquity, and will procure a double damnation. And he that takes a Covenant to reform, and yet continueth unreformed, his Covenant will be unto him as the bitter water of jealousy was to the woman guilty of adultery, which made her belly to swell and thigh to rot, &c. Numb. 5.22.
3. You must be careful to reform your families according to your covenant, and the example of Joshua, and Jacob, and the godly Kings forementioned.
4. You must endeavour according to your places and callings to bring the churches of God in the three Kingdoms to the nearest conjunction & uniformity in religion, &c. O blessed Unity! how comes it to pass that thou art so much slighted and contemned? Was not unity one of the chief parts of Christ’s prayer unto his Father when he was here upon earth? John 17.11. Is not unity amongst Christians one of the strongest arguments to persuade the world to believe in Christ Jesus, John 17.21. Is it not the chief desire of the holy Apostles, that we should all speak the same things, and that there should be no divisions amongst us, but that we be perfectly joined together in the same mind & in the same judgment? 1 Cor. 1.10; Phil. 2.1,2,3, &c. Is not unity the happiness of heaven? Is it not the happiness of a City to be at unity within itself? Is it not a good & pleasant thing for brethren to dwell together in unity? How comes it then to pass that this part of the Covenant is so much forgotten? The Lord mind you of it this day! And the Lord make this great & famous City a City of holiness, and a City at unity within itself! For if unity be destroyed, purity will quickly also be destroyed. The Church of God is una as well as sancta. It is but one church as well as is it a holy church. And Jesus Christ gave some to be Apostles, some Evangelists, some Prophets, some Pastors and Teachers, &c. till we all come to the unity of the faith. Not only to the purity, but to the unity of the faith. The government of Christ is appointed for the keeping of his Church in unity as well as purity. Those things which God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. That government which doth not promote unity as well as purity, is not the government of Christ. Oh the misery of that kingdom where Church-divisions are nourished and fomented! A kingdom or church against itself cannot stand. Would it not be a sad thing to see twelve in a family, and one of them a Presbyterian, another an Independent, another a Brownist, another an Antinomian, another an Anabaptist, another a Familist, another for the Prelatical government, another a Seeker, another a Papist, and the tenth it may be an Atheist, the eleventh a Jew, & the twelfth a Turk? The Lord in his due time heal our divisions, & make you his choice instruments according to your places, that the Lord may be one, & his name one in the three kingdoms.
5. You must endeavour in pursuance of your Covenant to extirpate Popery, Prelacy, Heresy, Schism, Profaneness, & whatsoever shall be found contrary to sound doctrine and the power of godliness, &c. That so this City may be a City of holiness, unity, and a City of truth, as is prophesied of Jerusalem, Zach. 8.3. Oh blessed truth, how is it that thou art so lightly esteemed of! Is not truth more precious than gold, and more to be prized than Rubies? Are we not to buy the truth and sell it not? Did not Christ come into the world to bear witness to the truth? Did not grace and truth come by Jesus Christ? Is not Christ the way, the truth, and the life? How is it then that truth is fallen in the streets, and equity cannot enter? how is it that truth faileth, and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey? Isaiah 59.14,15. How is it that men bend their tongues like bows for lies, but they are not valiant for the truth upon earth? [Jer. 9.3.] The Lord make you lovers of truth and peace.
6. You must take heed of that cursed monster of Indifferency & Neutrality. Study these six texts of Scripture, Judges 5.23; Judges 8.6,7,16; Deut. 23.3,4; Jer. 48.10; Matt. 12.30; Mark 8.38. O that these Scriptures were written in your hearts with a pen of iron! A Neuter in God’s cause is a lukewarm Christian, whom God will spew out of his mouth; he is a dead member of Christ’s body, fit to be cut off. Oh that the Lord would raise up your hearts this day (Right Honourable, Right Worshipful, and Well-beloved) to a high pitch of zeal for him and his cause! God hath made you instruments to do wonderful things for this kingdom: you have been the Saviours of the kingdom; you have vindicated the liberties of the Parliament, and your own liberties; and the King’s army by your means in a great measure is brought very low. But yet as Christ said to the young man, so do I to you: There is one thing wanting: and that one thing is the one thing necessary; The Church is unsettled, Discipline unerected, Religion is tottering. For Zion’s sake hold not your peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake keep not silence, stir up your zeal and your strength. Use your interest and your power in an orderly, and regular, and peaceable way according to your places. And what can you not do?
You have ventured one arrow already, shoot another, and if that miscarry, shoot another, you will speed at last. He that cuts down a tree though he cuts it not down at the first and second blow, yet the first and second and third blow prepare to the speeding blow, to that blow that cuts it down. You have delivered one petition already, deliver another, and if that speed not, deliver another. The speeding petition will come at last. In a word, do your duties according to your oath, and according to your capacities, (and all in a regular way) and leave the issue to God.
Question. But some will say, How shall I do to get up my heart to this high pitch that I may be a Covenant-keeper?
Answer. I will propound these four helps.
1. Labour to be always mindful of your Covenant, according to that text, 1 Chron. 16.15, God is always mindful of his Covenant. It was the great sin of the people of Israel, that they were unmindful of the Covenant, Neh. 9.17. They first forgat the Covenant, and afterwards did quickly forsake it. He that forgets the Covenants, must needs be a Covenant-breaker. Let us therefore remember it, and carry it about us as quotidianum argumentum, and quotidianum munimentum. First, let us make the Covenant a daily argument against all sin & iniquity, and when we are tempted to any sin, let us say, I have sworn to forsake my old iniquities: and if I commit this sin, I am not only a Commandment-breaker, but an Oath-breaker; I am perjured. I have sworn to reform my family, and therefore I will not suffer a wicked person to tarry in my family. I have sworn against neutrality, and indifferency, and therefore I will be zealous in God’s cause, &c. Secondly, let us make this Covenant a daily muniment [means of defense], and armour of defence, to beat back all the fiery darts of the Devil. when any one tempts thee by promise of preferment to do contrary to thy Covenant, or by threatening to ruin thee for the hearty pursuing of thy Covenant, here is a ready answer; I am sworn to do what I do, and if I do otherwise, I am a perjured wretch.
This is as a wall of brass to resist any dart that shall be shot against thee for well-doing according to thy Covenant. Famous is the story of Hannibal, which he told king Antiochus, when he required aid of him against the Romans. When I was 9 years old (saith he) my Father carried me to the Altar, and made me take an Oath to be an irreconcilable foe to the Romans. In pursuance of this Oath, I have waged war against them these 36 years. To keep this Oath I have left my Country, and am come to seek aid at your hands, which if you deny, I will travel over all the world to find out some enemies to the Roman State. Odi, odioque sum Romanis. If an Oath did so mightily operate in Hannibal, let the Oath you are to take this day, work as powerfully upon you; And make your Oath an argument to oppose personal sins, and family sins, and to oppose Heresy, Schism, and all profaneness, and to endeavour to bring the Churches of God in the three Kingdoms to the nearest conjunction, and uniformity, &c. And let this Oath be armour of proof against all temptations to the contrary. And know this one thing, that if the Covenant be not a daily argument and muniment against sin, it will become upon your breaking of it, quotidianum testimonium, & æternum opprobrium. A daily witness against you, as the book of the law was, Deut. 31.26, and an everlasting shame and reproach unto you and yours.
2. Let us have high thoughts of the Covenant. Actions, and affections follow our apprehensions. If thy judgment be belepered with a corrupt opinion about the Covenant, thy affections and actions will quickly be belepered also. And therefore you ought to endeavour according to your places, that nothing be spoken, or written, that may tend to the prejudice of the Covenant.
3. You must not take it in your own strengths, but in God’s strength. As it is taken in God’s presence, so it must be taken with God’s assistance, with self-abasing, self-denying, self-humbling hearts; you must take it joyfully and tremblingly; rejoicing in God and in his strength, and yet trembling for fear of your own unworthiness and unsteadfastness in the Covenant.
4. You must take heed of the cursed sin of self-love, which is placed in the fore-front as the cause of all the Catalogue of sins here named; Because men are lovers of themselves, therefore they are covetous, &c. and therefore they are Covenant-breakers. A self-seeker cannot be a Covenant-keeper; this is a sin that you must hate as the very gates of hell. And this is the second sin I promised in the beginning of my Sermon to speak on: but the time and your other occasions will not permit. There is a natural self-love, and a divine self-love, and a sinful self-love. This sinful self-love is when we make ourselves the last end of all our actions, when we so love ourselves, as to love no man but ourselves, according to the Proverb, Every man for himself, &c. When we pretend God and his glory and the common good: but intend our selves, and our own private gain and interest; when we serve God upon politic designs; Of this sinful self-love the Apostle speaks, Phil. 2.21, For all seek their own, and not the things of Jesus Christ. And if we had a window to look into the hearts of most people, we should find their hearts made up all of this Idolatrous self-love. Men deal with God as it is reported of Cnidius a great Architectist, who building a sumptuous Watch-Tower for the King of Egypt (a Tower to discover the rocks to Mariners) such was his craft, that he caused his own name to be engravened upon a stone in the wall, in great letters, and over that stone he caused it to be plastered with lime and mortar, and upon the outside wrote the name of the King of Egypt, as pretending that he should have all the honour. But here was his cunning: he knew that in time the water would consume (as it did) the plastering, and afterwards his own name and memory should appear and abide. Just so do most people deal with God and with his religion, and with the public. If we look without doors, we shall see nothing written but pro bono publico, &c. All their discourse is for the better promoting of Godliness: but if we could look within, we should see written, Pro bono privato, &c. All their designs are for to promote themselves. They monopolize and engross all to themselves, as if made for themselves. Where this sinful self-love dwells, there dwells no love to God, no love to thy brother, no love to Church nor State. This sinful self-love is the Caterpillar that destroyeth Church and Common-wealth. It is from this sinful self-love that the public affairs drive on so heavily, and that Church-government is not settled, and that our Covenant is so much neglected. Of this sin I cannot now speak: but when God shall offer opportunity, I shall endeavour to uncase it before you. In the meantime, the Lord give you grace to hate it as hell itself.