Or, A serious and seasonable Caveat to all the SAINTS in this Hour of Temptation.
Wherein their present dangers are detected, and their present duties vigorously urged.
Sometime Minister of Diptford and Dartmouth,
That seeing a Day of great trouble is approaching, and all outward comforts ready to take their farewell of you, you would now give all diligence to clear up your title to Christ, and interest in that Kingdom that cannot be shaken.
London: n.p., 1664.
Or, A serious and seasonable Caveat to all the SAINTS in this Hour of Temptation.
AS God hath stretched out the expansum, or firmament of heaven, over the natural world, so hath he stretched out his word over the rational world; and as in that he hath placed the stars and luminaries to enlighten the earth, and to be for signs and seasons, Gen. 1:14 so hath he placed a constellation of scriptures in this also, by which they that are skillful in the word of righteousness may discern very much the designs and issues of these rolling and amazing providences that are over our heads.
And doubtless, nothing more settles and supports the hearts of saints under terrible and tempestuous providences, than to view them in their reference and relation to the world: for of these we may say, as David doth, Psal. 148:8 of the stormy winds, that they fulfil his word, and are the undoubted accomplishments of its predictions and prophecies.
Now to those that heedfully observe the Scripture-prophecies, relating to the ruin and destruction of antichrist, it cannot but appear that their accomplishment is nigh, and that glorious design come even to the birth.[A] But then, as the darkest part of the night, is that which immediately precedes the dawning of the day, so before the vial of the Lord’s indignation be poured out upon the throne of the beast, it will be a time of trouble to the saints, such as never was since man was upon the earth, Dan. 12:1,[B] Rev. 11:7, 8. The witnesses of Jesus must first be slain, and their dead bodies for a time lie in the streets of the great city: And as the naturalists observe, that a beast never bites more furiously and deadly, than when dying, even so it is with this beast also which hath iron teeth, and is terrible above all that were before it, Dan. 7:7. And when the strong God ariseth to judge Babylon, she shall be found quite drunk with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus, Rev. 17:6. So that we whose lots are fallen into such a day as this, wherein the fiercest rage of the last and most furious of all the beasts, is falling in a dreadful storm upon all the reformed churches of Christ, had need of a more than ordinary degree of faith and patience, to establish us in the truth, and enable us to bear a glorious testimony for the Lord Jesus.
If any man’s heart now shall fail him, and to avoid the fury of antichrist, shall basely betray the truth, and forsake the camp of Christ, and receive the mark of the beast, though not in his forehead, yet in his hand, by a politic and secret compliance with his worship, that man is adjudged, by the dreadful sentence of the great God, to drink the cup of his pure and unmixed wrath and indignation, Rev. 14:10 even such as the devils and damned drink: For we may say of that wrath, which is ordinarily poured out upon sinners in this life, as they say of darkness, Non dantur puræ tenabræ; there is no pure or perfect darkness here; so neither is there any pure unmixed wrath here, it hath in this life an allay of sparing mercy in it; but this is pure.
To prevent this sad issue, and preserve thee from this terrible wrath of the Lamb, are the following counsels and cautions designed and intended: And Oh! that they might be blessed to establish the sliding feet of tempted saints; for I cannot without trembling observe, how many forward professors begin to give ground already and fall into a compliance with antichristian abominations; surely this is the worst time that ever they could have chosen for it, now that the day of vengeance is in the heart of Christ against her, and the year of his redeemed even come; his righteousness so nigh at hand, and his salvation ready to be revealed.
I shall detain thee no longer, but entreat thee to weigh these things, brought to thy hand by providence, and with the spirit of love, to cover the weaknesses of the author, who is sensible of his own infirmities, and continual need of divine assistance, to enable him to stand; and to that end earnestly begs a remembrance in thy prayers, when thy heart is most[C] warmed, enlarged, and raised in communion with thy God.
Antipharmacum Saluberrimum, &c.
After the pattern of those tender bowels of Christ, the chief shepherd, do the bowels of compassion infused by him into his ministers, the under-shepherds, work and move towards the flock, in like cases and exigencies. God is my record (saith that great apostle) how greatly I long after you all [F] [in] or after the manner of the bowels of Jesus Christ, Phil. 1:8.
And truly, considering the deep distresses, and languishing conditions, to which many thousands of the Lord’s flock are at this day exposed, how many among you are wandering from mountain to hill, seeking pasture, but finding none; and like those troops of Tema, Job 6:19 return ashamed, and disappointed, from those places where you were wont to be refreshed, enlarged, quickened: And how your pretended shepherds have taken to themselves the [G] instruments of a foolish shepherd, ruling you with force and rigour, Ezek. 34:4 “not sparing the flock,” it makes my heart melt within me, and my compassions for you flow together.
And further, apprehending what a deep and desperate design your adversary the devil hath upon you, in this hour of temptation, to overthrow your faith, quench your love, and undermine the very foundation of your profession; and what singular and extraordinary advantages he hath now upon you, engaging you singly and apart; your faithful teachers being removed into corners, your societies broken, dangers threatening on every side, carnal neighbours and relations, by persuasions, examples, and dangerous insinuations, digging about, and loosening your root, and so preparing for your utter subversion, by the next gust of temptation: I thought it high time to come into your assistance and relief, with a word of counsel and support, though I venture for you, as David’s worthies did, to bring him the waters of the well of Bethlehem through the host of the Philistines.
And may I but preserve the peace of mine own conscience, by discharging faithfully a duty to which it impels me, and have the blessing of some poor soul ready to perish come upon me, I shall little regard the pains or hazard of this enterprise for you.
The plain design of these few sheets, is to countermine the enemy of your souls in his present grand designs against you; either in point of stability, by unsettling you; or of duty, by affrighting you; or of comfort, by discouraging you.
To prevent the success of the tempter, in all, or either of these, I shall offer you my best assistance under these eight ensuing heads of advice and counsel; beseeching you, by all the dear regard you have to the dreadful and glorious name of God, which is called upon you, Eph. 4:1, Col. 1:10, 11. 2 Tim. 2:19 or to your own precious and immortal souls, whose eternal happiness is not a little engaged in these things, Matth. 10:33, Gal. 6:9 or to the comfort and encouragement of your suffering and afflicted ministers and brethren abroad, a great part of whose joy, yea, life, lies at your mercy, 1 Thess. 3:8, Col. 2:5 and is, as it were, bound up in your stability, that you will heedfully observe and embrace these admonitions, according to the weight and evidence that are in them, and let not any fleshly interest in the world carry you against the convictions that may, hereby, be left upon your consciences.
And the first advice to counsel is this:
Cleave fast to Christ, and the profession you have formerly made of him, what aspect so ever the times have upon you.
Psalm 44:18, 19, 20, 21. “Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way, though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death. If we have forgotten the name of the Lord, or stretched out our hands to a strange god: shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.” Hence those new converts, who were turned to the Lord in a time of great temptation and persecution, were so earnestly persuaded, Acts 11:23. “That with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord;” i.e., as they had made a good choice, so now to stick to their choice, and not repent of it, whatever afterward they should meet with. O take heed, lest after you have lifted up your hand to God, you should lift up your heel against him. Though the [Job 27:10] hypocrite will not pray always, yet [H] the upright soul abhors to flinch from his duty, let come on him what will. It is now autumn with many flourishing professors, but if thou be a tree planted by the river-side, thy leaf shall not wither, Psalm 1. You look for happiness as long as God is in heaven, and be sure God looks for holiness as long as you be on earth. What duty is more importunately urged upon you by every part of the gospel than stability? The preceptive part peremptorily requires it. See Rev. 2:10, Heb. 4:14, Rev. 3:11 these be commands flowing from sovereignty, clothed with the highest authority. The minority part urges us: See Heb. 10:38, Mat. 10:33, Rev. 21:8 and these dreadful threats are discharged against the soul, and levelled at the very breast of the apostate.
The promissory part marvellously encourages it, a sweet voice seems to come down from heaven in these promises, saying, Good souls, hold fast, if ever you hope to possess the glory that is here, hold fast, Gal. 6:9, Mat. 10:22, Rev. 3:12, 21, Rev. 21:7.
Now, lest all this should leave but a floating and ineffectual conviction upon you, give me leave to follow it a little farther, and endeavour to work it in by a few warming considerations upon your hearts.
1. Consider, God hath hanged the whole weight of eternal happiness upon this wire: so that the deepest, dearest, and everlasting interest of thy soul is bound up in thy perseverance, Rom. 2:7, Gal. 6:9, Heb. 3:14 and if so, methinks this should make thee cling fast, despise dangers, face the storm, and make a stand for Christ: let come on thee what will: for, consider soul, what comparison betwixt a moment’s suffering, and this eternal glory? Rom. 8:18, 2 Cor. 4:16, 17, 18. O that vast eternity! that amazing word! which none but he that was from eternity, and is to eternity, comprehensively understands: When a soul is swallowed up in it, yea, or when it sits in a dying hour trembling upon the brink of it, how are its apprehensions of present things altered!
2. Consider how constant and faithful Jesus Christ was to thee, when he conflicted in the days of his flesh, with sufferings, dangers, and difficulties infinitely beyond thine; and what a motive that should be to persuade thee to a bold and constant owning of him in this day of thy trial? 1 Tim. 6:12, 13, 14. “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Jesus Christ, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession, that thou keep this commandment without spot.” He flinched not when the terrors of death and hell beset him round: He was faithful to the trust committed to him, till death beat the last breath out of his breast. If thou now start from him, may not he say to thee as that Roman soldier said to his general, who refused his petition after the war was ended, ‘Well (saith he) I did not serve you so at the battle of Actium.’
3. Never imagine to be owned and acknowledged by him in that great day, if thou desert his cause and interest now, Mat. 10:33. “He that is ashamed of me before men, of him will I be ashamed,” when I come in my Father’s glory, and mine own glory, and the glory of the holy angels. Oh, sirs, one of these days the Lord will break out of heaven with a [1 Thess. 4:16] shout, accompanied with [Jude 14] myriads of angels, and ten thousands of his saints, those glistering courtiers of heaven, [2 Pet. 3:10] the heavens and earth in a dreadful conflagration round about him; [John 5:28] the graves shall open, the sea and the earth give up their dead: [Matth. 25:31] Thou shalt see him ascend the awful seat of judgment, [1 Cor. 6:2] his faithful ones sitting on the bench as assessors with him; [Matth. 25:32] all flesh gathered before him, [Joel 3:14] even multitudes, multitudes in that valley of decision; and then to be publicly disowned by him in the face of that great assembly, and proclaimed a traitor and delinquent to him that fearedst not to deny him, and betray his truths into his enemies hands, because of the frowns of a poor worm that shall die, and be made as grass: O what confusion and everlasting shame shall cover thee! This, this is the portion of all I such from the hand of the Lord, 2 Tim. 2:12. “If we deny him, “he also will deny us.”
4. Consider, e’er thou let go thy profession, how remarkably the righteous hand of heaven hath met with, and paid home the apostates, even in this life; which nevertheless, is but as a few drops upon them before the cloud dissolve, and the whole storm falls; but as the parboiling of them, before they be roasted in the eternal flames. See what is become of Judas, Mat. 27:3, 4, 5 compared with Acts 1:18. Poor Spira, though I determine not of his final state, yet what a living monument of wrath was he whilst he lived; I feel (saith he) ‘the very torments of hell in my soul.’ Lucian and Julian, two scoffing apostates, the one torn to pieces by dogs; the other, when mortally wounded by a dart, flings up his blood towards heaven in a way of revenge, and cries, ‘Thou hast overcome me, O Galilean.’
5. Suppose thou escape such a stroke, yet never expect a comfortable hour in this world any more, unless the Lord give thee unfeigned repentance to life, which, in such cases, is but seldom: Thou mayest have as much comfort in thy enjoyments here, for which thou hast sold Christ, as Judas had in his thirty pieces, or Spira in his wife and children; Mark 8:35. “Whosever will save his life, shall lose it,” (i.e.) at least its comfort.
Touch not with idolatry and superstition; under what name or notion soever it be presented to you.
1 John 5:21. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” Here you had need be exceeding cautelous [cautious], and [I] circumspect, (1.) Because it is a creeping thing which works in itself by plausible pretences and insinuations, 2 Pet. 2:1, Eph. 4:14, Col. 2:23. In which respect [mystery] is written in the whore’s forehead, Rev. 17:5. For as Dr. Usher well observes, ‘The Roman apostasy stole into the church disguised, and by degrees.’ It is a mystery of iniquity (saith the apostle) and a working mystery, 2 Thess. 2:7. Iniquitas, sed mystica, pietatis, et fidelitatis nomine palliata; i.e. iniquity, but a mystical iniquity, because palliated and cloaked under the name and pretence of piety and fidelity. Idolatrous practices have a shew of wisdom, Col. 2:23 (i.e. saith Davenant in loco [on the place]) ‘They are more modest than to pretend an immediate revelation of the Spirit:’ Yet lest their placets [votes of assent or sanction] and inventions should want a pretext of Divine wisdom, they are wont to say, that their doctrines and traditions are not indeed consigned to writing by the apostles, but delivered by lively voice, according to that, We speak wisdom among them that are perfect: And by the name of this wisdom, every one calls his own fictions. Saith Irenæus, lib. 3. cap. 3. ‘Thus sometimes under the pretext of wisdom, order, decency, apostolical traditions, antiquity, the power of the church, &c. it steals upon men [J] insensibly, especially being so advantaged by the proneness of corrupt nature to it.’ To this purpose it is observable, that Babylon, the mother of harlots, is said, Rev. 17:4 to give the wine of her fornication in a golden cup. Wine in itself is temptingly pleasant, but more so when presented in a golden cup; the brims [K] whereof are sugared and sweetened to make it the more grateful. Therefore, little children, I mean you simple, plain, credulous souls, apt to be taken with fine glittering things, look to yourselves; (2.) Because nothing more provokes and inflames the fiery wrath of the Lord, who is a jealous God, than this doth; it makes his anger come up in his face, as that expression is, Ezek. 38:18 and kindles consuming wrath, Ezek. 43:7, 8, 9. Upon this account the blessed God complains, after the manner of men, as if his heart were broken, Ezek. 6:9. “I am [broken] with their whorish heart, and with their [eyes] which go a whoring after their idols.” If it be but an unchaste glance upon an idol, it goes to the very heart of God: When he seeth his people yielding to the temptations of it, he shrieks, as it were, and cries out, Oh! do not this abominable thing that I hate: Oh! if there be in you the hearts of children, do not that which doth, as it were, break the heart of your father.
Quest. But what mean you by idolatry and superstition? We hope there are no such things practised among us; Pagans and Papists may be guilty of it?
Sol. Give me leave here to open these things unto you, and then, perhaps, you may see them nearer to you, than you are aware of; and that this caution is a word in season.
Idolatry then, according to the true and generally received definition of it, is [L] a religious worship, given either to that which is not the true God, or to the true God himself, but otherwise than he hath prescribed in his word. From hence we plainly see that worship may be idolatrous two ways; (1.) In respect of the object: if it have any thing besides the true God for its object, it is gross idolatry; such as the first commandment condemns. Pagan idolatry, which the light of the gospel hath long since profligated and expelled out of these parts of the world. Or, (2.) In respect of the manner, when we worship the true God, but in a way and manner which he hath not prescribed in his word, but is invented and devised by ourselves; and this is condemned as idolatry in the second [M] commandment; Thou shalt not [make to thyself,] i.e. out of thine own brain, or of thine own head, any [graven image;] under which title all human inventions, corrupting the pure and simple worship of God, are prohibited as idolatrous; for images [N] are here, by a synecdoche, put for all false ways of worshipping God, as the best expositors tell us [O]. This inventing or making to ourselves, is that which makes it idolatry, Amos 5:26, Numb. 15:39. Hence the molten calf became an idol to the Israelites, not because it was the object of their worship; for it is plain, it was Jehovah, the true God, they intended to worship by it; appears from Exod. 32:4, 5. “To-morrow is a feast to the Lord.” And, as Dr. Willet observes, it had been impossible, that so good a man as Aaron, would have yielded to them, if they had intended to worship it as a god: But yet it being a way or manner of worshipping the true God, which was of their own devising, it became idolatry. And this worship of God, in ways of our own invention becomes idolatrous upon a double ground: (1.) As it is will worship; i.e. such worship as hath no other ground or warrant but the will of man [P], Col. 2:23 and so dethrones God, by setting up the will of the creature above his, and bestowing the peculiar honour, and incommunicable sovereignty and glory of the blessed God upon the creatures; for the absolute sovereignty of God, which is his glory, 1 Tim. 6:15 is manifested in two things especially; in his decrees, Rom. 9:20 and in his laws, Isa. 33:22. James 4:12. The Lord is our King, and Lawgiver; and there is one Lawgiver. Now, by prescribing any thing by our own authority in the worship of God, the commands of God are made void, Mat. 15:6 his royal law is slighted, the throne of God invaded by the creatures, who will be a lawgiver too, which can no more be borne, than the heavens can bear two suns; and God is hereby forgotten, as Hos. 8:14. “Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and builded temples;” i.e. by building [temples] when God had appointed but one temple. This is, as [Philip] Melancthon observes, Cum Deo certare, alliud instituendo: To strive with God, by instituting something of our own. And [John] Chrysostome notes, Hom. 2 in Rom. That it is a greater sin, in God’s worship, to do what we should not, than to omit what we should: For (saith he) by the one we shew the difficulty of the law; but by the other, we charge the law and lawgiver with folly; make ourselves wiser than God: in the one we shew our weakness, in not doing the will of God; but in the other, our impudence to control the wisdom of God. And it is, as Lactantius phrases it, lib. 3. cap. 13. Summam arrogantiam, sibi vindicare quod humana conditio non recipit: The highest arrogance, to challenge that to ourselves, which the condition of a creature is not capable of. And upon this account it is, that the indignation and wrath of God smokes so dreadfully against such usurpers, as in the sad story of Nadab and Abihu, you see, because God is a jealous God; and jealousy is the rage of a man. Zelotes est, nolens habere consortium in amando, can endure no rival. This God looks upon as the greatest and most daring wickedness that a creature can lightly commit, Hos. 9:15. All their wickedness is in Gilgal; [צל pro summo] i.e. the height of their wickedness is there, because there they worshipped him according to their own devices; which was such an affront to the wisdom and sovereignty of God, that he could by no means bear it. This is called, a setting our threshold besides the Lord’s threshold, Ezek. 43:8 and the nearer this comes to him, the more it provokes him. Therefore it is said in the same text, “There was a wall betwixt me and them;” i.e. either it caused a wall of separation betwixt me and them, as it is generally expounded; or else it notes, how God is provoked, by bringing their own inventions so near him: For in the Hebrew it is, “There was but a wall betwixt me and them.” And hence it is evident that doctrinal, symbolical ceremonies, I mean such rites and ceremonies as are brought into the worship of God, with a spiritual signification, merely upon the authority of man, are idolatrous mixtures and additions, and such by which the Lord is dreadfully provoked. It is true, men pretend order and decency, and the power of the church in such cases: but, as learned Amesius well notes [Q], “Those things which pertain to order and decency, are not so left to the will of man, that they may, under that name, obtrude what they please upon the churches.” All the liberty that scripture, 1 Cor. 14:26, 40 gives us, is but this, to observe and perform those things which God hath instituted, in an orderly and comely manner; and not to innovate new things, what, and as many as we please. And then, (2.) It becomes idolatrous upon this ground also, because this daring impudence of men, in worshipping God in their own way, argues gross and carnal notions and conceptions of God. When we devise a carnal, pompous way of worship for him, it is an argument we have set up an idol god first in our imaginations, one like ourselves, and utterly unlike the true God; who is a most simple, pure, spiritual Being; and, as such, will be worshipped, John 4:24. But by devising such a fleshly way of worship, I say it is manifest, we have fancied to ourselves another god, altogether different from that God revealed to us in the word. Hence it was that Joshua told the people, Josh. 24:19. “Ye cannot serve the Lord, for he is a jealous God, and will not forgive your sins.” i.e.,. You cannot serve the true God, till you have gotten right apprehensions of him: You fancy to yourselves a God made up of all mercy, as if he had no justice nor righteousness to call you to an account for your sins; and so do but worship an idol, formed in your own imagination, instead of the true God. And if the thing be duly weighed, it will appear as well idolatry to submit to, and acknowledge the sovereign [R] authority of a creature, in appointing laws for worship, or falling down before an imaginary god, or idol, formed in our own phantasy, as to bow to, and worship a graven image, or the stock of a tree.
Now, hence you may come to see at once, both the nature of this second sort of idolatry, and also the rise and original of it; which is nothing else but the proud and carnal heart of man, which not willing to contain itself within the limits of the word, wherein a plain, simple, and spiritual way of worship is ruled out, invents to itself new rites, ceremonies, and ways of worshipping God, more suitable and pleasing to the flesh. And hence it is, that idolatry is in scripture reckoned a work of the flesh, Gal. 5:20 because man naturally having a proud heart, and a working imagination, which depending upon sense, and not elevated and rectified by faith, first forms to itself carnal conceptions and notions of God; and then deviseth a way of worship suitable to those notions of him. So that as one well observes; [S] “This is the fountain and principle of all error, that men think that those which please them, must needs please God; and what displeaseth them must also displease him.” So that this brat, idolatry, is begotten betwixt a proud, carnal heart and the devil; who, since he cannot draw men to the former sort of idolatry, endeavours all he can to entangle and defile them with this, and that partly out of malice to God, knowing what a dear thing his worship is to him, and partly out of a design of ruining such as he can entice to it: For he knows their sorrows shall be multiplied Psal. 16:4 and God seldom lets it escape without some remarkable stroke.
Upon the whole then, you plainly see, worship may be right as to its object, and yet idolatrous in respect of the manner; because the assuming of a despotical power in this case, is not only a slighting of that νομον Βασιλικον, that royal law, but as high a piece of treason against Jesus Christ, as can lightly be committed by a creature. I will shut up this with two worthy and full testimonies to the truth of the point in hand. The first is Melancthon [T] in loc Com. de ceremon. humanis. His words are these, and they are grave and weighty.
Accedit et hoc, quod episcopi arrogant sibi potestatem condendi traditiones, quam tamen non concedit eis evangelium, &c. non est leve crimen tentare Deum, est enim non infirmitate labi, sed contemptu Dei, proposito ipsius verbo, quasi cum eo certare, aliud in stituendo, χαι φιλονιχειν, et illius sapientiæ nostram anteferre. ‘The bishops arrogate to themselves a power of making traditions, which the gospel hath not given them. It is no small crime to tempt God, for this is not to slide by infirmity, but by contempt of God, his word being set before them, as it were to contend with it, by instituting another thing, and overcome it. This is to prefer our wisdom to his.’
And a little after (having given some instances of it,) he proceeds thus:
Tales fuerunt et sunt fontes cultus idolorum. Hæc sunt arcana mala, quæ politica sapientia non potest judicare, sed nos in ecclesia, ea consider are debemus; ut moniti, subjiciamus nos verbo Dei, nec nostris opinionibus regi velimus. ‘Such have been, and are the fountain of the worship of idols. These are secret evils, which political wisdom cannot judge. But we in the church ought to consider these things, that being warned, we may submit ourselves to the word of God, and not be willing to be ruled by our own opinions,’ &c.
To this I shall add the most worthy testimony of the right honourable Lord Brook [U].
A bishop’s wearing a surplice, cope, mitre, using the cross, bowing to the altar, &c. (although they may be errors) yet all, or one of these make him not a Pope, or popeling, or properly antichristian; but receiving these from the Pope’s dictates, doing them, because he commands acknowledging him in commanding them, pressing them on others with such a despotical power, makes a true Pope, a real Antichrist! Nor may our bishops evade by this, which I easily see will be answered, that though indeed they do, and command these things, yet they neither do them from the Pope’s command, nor command them in the Pope’s power.’
‘Though I should grant this, which yet many wise men will not grant (for our bishop’s first power came from the Pope; and of late also we have found letters, advice, commands, dictates from the Pope to some of our bishops, and that in matters of greatest consequence, both for the church and state:) But grant all this they say, yet they may be Antichristian, and so such (in re) as the Pope is; though not literally Romanists, except they do or command in the power of Rome. This I shall be bold to affirm and maintain, till I see better reason that he (whoever he be) that commands the least tittle of doctrine or discipline, merely ex imperio voluntatis, in his own power and authority, without license or warrant from scripture, or right reason, (where the scripture hath been silent) though the thing he so commandeth, should happen to be good in itself, yet he, in his so commanding, is not only tyrannical, but antichristian, properly antichristian, encroaching on the royal office of Christ; which is truly high-treason against God, and most properly anti christianism.’
By all which, you see where the idolatry of worship lies. The instituting of any, though the smallest part of worship, in and by our own authority, without scripture-warrant, makes it idolatrous, as well as if we worshipped an idol. And hence it is, that God gives his people the same call from this latter sort of Romish idolatry; See Rev. 18:4 as he doth from the more gross pagan idolatry, 2 Cor. 6:17. So that if that worship you perform to God, be corrupted by a mixture of mere human, doctrinal, symbolical, rites and ceremonies, which God hath not appointed in his worship by the word; though your worship be right for the object, yet it is idolatrous in the manner. Here you had need to be advised, and careful, for you are upon a ticklish point.
And for superstition, that is nothing else, but an excess in religion, For the better understanding whereof, consider three things.
1. That all, and every part of God’s instituted worship, depends entirely upon his own sovereign will and pleasure: So that no man can appoint any part of it, but God alone, forasmuch as no man knows what will be acceptable to God, but God himself; that which is highly esteemed among men, is an abomination to God: Besides, none can give efficacy to a creature, as bread, wine, water, or raise them up to such high supernatural ends and uses, but God.
2. The will of God, which is the foundation and rule of his worship, is only revealed to us in the scriptures; whence it is manifest, that in worship all men are bound to keep close to the word; and besides the reason that is in the thing itself, the command is express, Exod. 23:13, Deut. 4:2. Gal. 6:10 [τω κανονι τουτω] according to this canon, or rule: This is true canonical obedience. So Rom. 12:7 [λογικη λατρεια] is properly word-service; (i.e.) such as the word prescribes.
3. Hence then you may see the door at which superstition enters, even addition of new and uncommanded things. When we invent new rites and ceremonies, and bring them into the worship of God, with a spiritual signification and use, this is superstition; being (supra statutum) something above and beyond what God appoints and requires. And as all the water in the Tiber cannot wash the Papists from the filth of their idolatry and superstition, in their mass, altars, surplice, cross, &c. So neither can any thing besides the blood of Jesus, cleanse us from the same, if we do like them.
Having thus opened the nature of idolatry and superstition to you. I shall reinforce that apostolical caution upon you; “Little children, keep yourselves from idols;” I beseech you, get senses exercised, Heb. 5:14 and suffer not yourselves to be abused by an easy credulity: “the simple believeth every word,” Prov. 14:15. There is no idolatry or superstition in Rome so gross, but is glossed over with plausible pretenses, and many subtle [V] distinctions invented to defend it. But take not you any thing upon trust in God’s worship; be like those well-bred Beræans, Acts 17:11 examine the grounds of your practice. It was a good saying of Sir Thomas More, ‘I will pin my faith (saith he) upon no man’s sleeve, because I know not whether he will carry it.’ See that you be provided with an answer, if God should speak to you, when you are at your divine service, as he did to Elijah, 1 Kings 19:9 when he was hid in the cave at Horeb, “What dost thou here, Elijah?” Or as to the Jews, Isa. 1:12. “Who hath required this at your hands?” See that you be able by the word, to justify your practice: And as you love your souls, defile them not with idolatry and superstition. And the rather,
Arg. 1. Because, should you be found in a false way of worship, you betray a special trust committed to you by the Lord.
Christians, unto you hath the Lord committed his precious gospel truths and appointments, as precious treasure to defend and keep for him, Rev. 3:10. Jude 3. Phil. 1:7, 17 and one special means of its preservation, is by witnessing against all those errors and innovations, that corrupt and endanger it: O see that none of Christ’s jewels be embezzled, if you can help it. You yourselves have committed a trust to Jesus Christ, 2 Tim. 1:12 and expect he should be faithful in what you have committed to him; and he expects the same from you. O consider what precious things the pure institutions of Christ are: All the good in this world cannot compensate the loss of one of them. “Let heaven rush (said [W] Luther) rather than one crumb of truth should perish.” O what hard things have the saints in all generations suffered, to preserve and transmit it to us: And shall we now betray it? Would not the generations to come curse us, and abhor our remembrance? And then to speak nothing of any solemn bond or engagement under which you have put your souls to the contrary.
Arg. 2. Shall we not hereby oppose and cross the great design which God is carrying on in the world, by his present providences? O it will be sad to be found opposing God’s design. Now what is that but, by [X] shaking heaven and earth, to remove the things that are [made] viz. by man invented in his worship, Heb. 12:27. To pluck up by the roots, every plant; (i.e.) ceremony and tradition, not of his planting, Matth. 15:13. Are not all these things appointed to perdition? Col. 2:22 and darest thou then by thy presence, or pleading for them, go about to support and establish them, and so strive against God! O consider it seriously.
Arg. 3. Is it not dangerous to be found amongst idolaters? Doth not judgment sometimes sweep away the whole community and neighbourhood, of such sinners? Read 1 Sam. 6:19, 20, 1 Chron. 15:13. And hath not God given thee timely warning of the danger before it come? Rev. 18:4. And is it not more than ordinary dangerous, to be found among them now, when God is preparing his troops to invade Babylon; I mean ready to pour forth the vials of his wrath upon her?
Arg. 4. And may not your example have a mischievous influence upon others? May it not harden sinners in their ways? And even compel and draw away the weak Christian? Gal. 2:13, 14 and so draw the guilt of their sins upon thine own soul? And what a dreadful thing is that: ‘[Y] actors and consenters are alike guilty and punishable:’ O you have too much personal guilt of your own; add not the guilt of others’ sins to it: Nay, by this means thou mayest be sinning in another, when thou liest in the dust.
Lastly, Consider how careful God hath always been to keep his people off at the greatest distance from idolatry. Compare these scriptures, 2 Kings 17:15. Ezek. 44:20. Numb. 32:38, 1 Thess. 5:22, Heb. 4:1. O let these arguments be impartially weighed, and let not any low fleshly interest be set up to oppose them.
Beware of such persons as are factors and agents for antichrist, and keep off from such a ministry, the tendency and scope of which, is to entice and draw you to idolatry, Matth. 7:15 and 10:17, Phil. 3:2, Col. 2:8.
There is a [Z] generation of men now abroad, skillful to destroy souls, who would make merchandise of you, and by good words and fair speeches, deceive the hearts of the simple [ακακων] such as mean well, but want prudence to discern such as mean ill. These are of two sorts; the generality of them are, by the righteous hand of God, given over to such dissoluteness and debauchery, that their folly and madness is made manifest to all men, 2 Tim. 3:9. And others that have gifts and parts, how few are there of them, but employ them in defending abominable superstitions, and persuading their congregations to submit to them: So that you have your choice, whether you will drink poison, mixed with water, or infused into brisk and generous wine, which will give it a speedier access to the spirits. These are [AA] wells without water, deceiving the hope of weary and thirsty souls: Clouds they are without rain, that send not forth one gracious shower to refresh the inheritance of the Lord: The best of them is a brier, and the most upright of them sharper than a thorn-hedge, Micah 7:4.
I believe there be many among you that are sharp set, and by this time have felt the misery of a spiritual famine. It is bread you come for, but your Father hath shut up house, and is gone for a time, the glory is departed; they are become wells without water, breasts without milk: Is there not a vanity in these, as well as in the creatures, when God is withdrawn from them? We may say concerning them, as Isaac did to his father, Gen. 22:7. “Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the sacrifice?” Here you may see the skin and shadow of an ordinance, but where is the power? Where is the life, quickening, and soul-refreshment, that was wont to accompany them? Ah poor England! what hast thou lost! what a ministry hast thou sinned away! Wast thou not renowned among the nations for the power and purity of ordinances? Were not thy ministers as sheep coming up from the washing, whereof every one bare twins, and none was barren among them? How was the Lord Jesus lifted up in thy ministry, that all might see the necessity, beauty, and excellency of him! and did not the pangs of the new-birth frequently come upon souls in thine assemblies? But alas, those days are over, they are gone, they are gone; ah wo us, that we must say, so it was! Well then, what will you do in this case? Will you seek the living among the dead? Will you suck empty breasts, whence you can draw nothing but wind or blood? O no, but rather say, as Cant. 1:7. “Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon, for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?” These companions of Christ, must be none of yours.
Arg. 1. Because it is the manifest drift and design of their ministry, to unteach and beguile you of those precious gospel-truths which you have formerly received and learned: this some of them have not shunned to declare in the face of their congregations; and nothing is more apparent, than that it is the design they all manage. I appeal to your own observations, what is more common with them, than to tell you, you have been misguided by your teachers these twenty years, and now must return to the good old way, which themselves are utterly unacquainted with?
Now what do you, by attendance on such a ministry, but run your souls upon a temptation to unsettlement and apostasy, and dig a grave (as I may say) to bury all the precious truths you have learnt under your former faithful ministers? who may sigh over you, and say as Peter Martyr did, when he was in Oxford, at the coming in of queen Mary. He heard a college-bell ring to mass, and looking out at his study-window, saw the scholars flocking apace to it; being struck to the heart with this sight, he brake out into this expression, Hœc una notula (said he) omnem meam doctrinam evertit, (i e.) This bell rings a passing-peal to all my doctrine: And upon serious consideration, this will appear to be no small evil. For you cannot but be convinced, that it is your duty to be immoveably fixed in the truths of the gospel, which you have received, and to suffer no man to spoil you of them: If you doubt that, read 2 Pet. 3:17, 18, Col. 1:23, Eph. 3:17, Col. 2:6, 7, 1 Cor. 15:58.
And if this be your sin, to be moved away from it, then it must needs be your duty, to avoid the temptations, means and occasions of such unsettlement. And this is that which is intended in all those cautions given in the word, and but lately recited.
I am against the prophets that steal the word, every man from his neighbour, Jer. 23:30. He means the false prophets that enticed the people from those truths, which the true prophets had taught them. There be spiritual cut purses abroad, pray look to yourselves: The old Chemarims are revived again in this generation: The word Zeph. 1:4 is conceived to come from כמר incaluit [hot]; (i.e.) Men more zealous and hot than ordinary, for their superstitious traditions; inflamed with desires to draw you to it: Ut multitudine sequocium, sese efferant: Which the apostle englishes, Gal. 6:13 that they may glory in your flesh: And therefore beware of men.
Arg. 2. Doth not your attendance upon, and following of such a ministry, help to midwife and bring forth all those evils with which their ministry travails, and is in pain to be delivered of? Could they do any hurt, if they were generally declined and avoided? Their strength lieth in you: As a great commander once said to his soldiers, ‘That he flew upon their wings.’ Hence it was the Pharisees were so often disappointed in their attempts to lay hands upon Christ; they had a strong design to do it, but the text saith, “They could not because of the people,” Mark 14:2, Acts 4:21. So the false teachers in Jeroboam’s time, Hosea 7:6, 7 were as hot as an oven, with desires and designs to draw the people to false worship, but the people were a great lump, and could not presently be leavened; and therefore in the mean time, till that were done, the baker slept, and ceased from rising. This for a time, obstructed the design; but here is the misery, the people are materia disposita, matter fit for them to work into any form, if they give them but a heat or two in a plausible sermon, they are malleable, and fit to be hammered into any shape, Jer. 5: ult. “The people love to have it so:” And Amos 4:5. This liketh you, O house of Israel. Fear of persecution makes them comply with any thing, Gal. 6:12.
Arg. 3. Can you attend lawfully and comfortably upon such a ministry, upon which you cannot pray for, or expect a blessing? Doubtless, you will readily confess you may not. And can you pray for, or expect a blessing, where you have no promise in all the book of God to warrant or encourage you so to do? It is clear you cannot. Now produce but one promise to the labours of such as God hath not sent. A curse upon their labours you may find, Jer. 23:32 and upon their gifts and parts. And a prohibition of hearing them, you may find, Jer. 23:16. But no promise of a blessing; that only attends a ministry of Christ’s own sending, Mat. 28:19, 20.
Object. But hath not Christ sent them? How shall we be satisfied in that?
Sol. Consider what is requisite and necessary in the sending, or due call of a minister. (1.) Whether it be personal qualifications, described, 1 Tim. 3:7, 2 Tim. 3:16, 17, 1 Tim. 3:2, 2 Tim. 2:2, John 21:15, 16, 17. (2.) Or free election by the church, to which the ministry is given: See Acts 1:23, 24 and 6:5. (3.) Or (according to true Presbyterian principles) ordination, by fasting, prayer, and imposition of hands, Acts 6:6 and 13:3 and 14:23, 1 Tim. 5:22 and 4:14, 2 Tim. 1:6.
If the sending or call of a minister, consists in all or either of these, then judge yourselves whether these men are sent. For their gifts and qualifications necessary to fit them for such a work, let their congregation witness, who are fed upon husks, and starved under them.
For their election by the church, let the godly in their respective parishes witness, whether they were elected by them, or obtruded upon them, and so stand upon the ruins of their own lawful and godly pastors.
And for their ordination, their own canons may inform you: Wherein it is ordered, (1.) That they be made deacons: (2.) Then after a year’s space, they must be presented to the bishop, or his suffragan, by an archdeacon or his deputy, saying, ‘Reverend father in God, I present these persons to be admitted to the order of priesthood.’ (3.) Then after the Litany and some collects, the prelate asketh them, ‘Do you think in your hearts, that you be truly called according to the will of Christ, and the (order of this church of England, to the ministry of priesthood?’ And every one of them answers, I think it. (4.) Then they promise reverently to obey their ordinary, and other chief ministers of the church. (5.) And then kneeling down at the prelate’s feet, he, with the priests present, lay their hands on their heads, saying, ‘Receive the Holy Ghost. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain they are retained: and be thou a faithful dispenser of the word of God, and of his holy sacraments, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.’ (6.) Then delivering to each of them a Bible, he saith, ‘Take thine authority to preach the word of God, and to administer the holy sacraments, in the congregation where thou shalt be so appointed.’ (7.) And after all this, by the canons of 1603, none of them are to be admitted to any ecclesiastical living, or suffered to preach, except he be licensed so to do, by the archbishop, or bishop of the diocese, and shall subscribe, ‘That the book of common prayer, and of ordering bishops priests, and deacons, contains in it nothing contrary to the word of God, and that it may be lawfully used, and that he himself will use the same; and that he alloweth the book of articles of religion.’ (8.) And then lastly, having abjured the covenant, &c. he is a complete priest to all intents and purposes.
Judge now what a fair and regular call here is to the ministry. I remember Aquinas tells us, that ‘if the artificer’s hand were his rule, he could never work amiss.’ And if so, if the prelate’s hand be the rule of ordination, they cannot but be well ordained; but if the scriptures be indeed the rule, I am at a loss where to find a text parallel to this practice, unless it be that in 2 Chron. 13:9 which, I confess, suits it to an hair’s breadth.
Object. But this will invalidate and nullify the call of our former ancient and godly ministers, for they came in the same way: yet God hath owned them, and they have made full proof of their ministry.
Sol. Not at all. For, (1.) Though it must be confessed (and themselves will not deny) but there were many grand irregularities in their ordination; yet it was (comparatively) a time of ignorance and darkness; and in such cases, God is more indulgent, and the sin receives not such aggravations, Acts 17:30, Heb. 5:2, Heb. 6:5, 6, 7, James 4:17. (2.) As hard as the terms then were, they are harder now by far; several things since that have intervened, which are considerable. (3.) They were holy men, qualified with graces and gifts, able and apt to teach, which is mainly considerable in a minister’s call. (4.) Lastly, They generally came into their places at the desire, and upon the call of the most godly persons in the places where they lived. And this, if they had no more, makes them true ministers (in the judgment of many judicious divines) although their Episcopal ordination should be a nullity. Let us hear what is said in this case by others.[BB] Amesius’s words are these, speaking to this question; in whom is this right of calling the ministers? He answers; (1.) Summum jus vocationis, est penes Christum solum, qui est Ecclesiæ caput, et ministerii auctor, ac Dominus ministrorum. (2.) Jus delegatum, non potest proprie esse, vel episcoporum diocesanorum, vel patronorum, vel magistratum, qua sunt tales; quia Christus qui ministerium instituit, de istis ordinabus nihil singulare prœscripsit, nihil novi juris ipsis communicavit, et ecclesiam sine illis optime ordinatam reliquit. (3.) Jus delegatum est penes ecclesiam illam totam, cui minister vocandus debet inservire, &c. (1.) The chief right of calling, is the power of Christ alone, who is the head of the church, author of the ministry, and Lord of ministers. (2.) The delegated right cannot properly be either of diocesan, bishops, or patrons, or magistrates, (as such) because Christ, who instituted the ministry, prescribed nothing singular concerning those orders, communicated nothing of any new right to them, and left his church well ordered without them. (3.) The delegated right is in the power of that whole church, to which the minister that is to be called, ought to serve, &c. which he proves by many weighty arguments. To this I shall join the testimony of that blessed man, now with God, [CC] Mr. Jer., Burroughs, his words are these: ‘For their calling, I make no question, but there are many ministers in England, as they were, and as they are, that are the true ministers of Jesus Christ, and have a true call from Christ.’
‘Object. But how can that be? They hold their standing from the bishops, and so from antichrist.’
Answ. Take it for granted, that their authority from the bishops was wholly naught and sinful, yet that doth not follow, but that many ministers, that had their ordination from them, are true ministers of Christ: Why? Not because of that they had from them, but they had their calling likewise from the people of God, as well as in a seeming way from them: For we will take that for granted, that [of] that they had from them, there was such corruption in it, that they sinned against God; but yet mark, that doth not nullify their call, because they had somewhat superadded, wherein they sinned against God.’ This he farther illustrates, in the same place, by this similitude, If a man have two deeds or evidences for a piece of land, and one be naught, yet if the other be good and sound, he hath a true title. [DD] Mr. Collings also, answering this objection, Ministers had their ordination from bishops, and they from Rome, Rome is no true church, and hath no true ministry: and those that were not ministers themselves, could not make others. Having inferred several absurdities from the objection, gives this answer; ‘Suppose the reformers had no ordination but the call of the people, it was a plain case of necessity; and they had power, doubtless, to restore that ordinance to the church again.’
So that as long as they were holy men, so eminently qualified, and fairly called by good people, far be it from me to question the validity of their call. But the case before us differs heaven wide from this.
Object. But they are not worse than the Scribes and Pharisees were? Yet Christ commands his disciples to hear them, Mat. 23:2, 3.
Sol. Because this is the Archillean argument, I shall endeavour to satisfy you in this scripture, and destroy the argument commonly drawn from this place, by these plain and (as I judge) satisfactory replies to it.
1. Those that infer from this text a duty, or a liberty of attending on, or joining with a profane or corrupt ministry, do thereby (though perhaps unawares) gratify the popish cause and interest; for from this very text, they draw many of their arguments to condemn our separation from them, and also to convince us of the necessity of obeying the mandates of their prelates, and hearing their Jesuits and monks, notwithstanding their corruptions in worship, and filthy sodomitical lives. Huc enim torquent verba Christi, saith Calvin, To this sense they wrest the words of Christ. And to the same sense Paræus speaks, Ut hodie papa, ct episcopi clamant omnia, omnia, servate; as the pope and the bishops cry out at this day, all things, all things they bid you do, observe and do. So that by taking the words in such a large unlimited sense, we do the cause of Christ more disservice than we are aware of.
2. It is further considerable, that the arguments drawn from this text, are commonly fallacious, taking it for granted, that religious hearing, as an act of worship, is here enjoined; whereas there is not a syllable of any such thing in the text: Indeed Christ bids them observe and do whatsoever they bid them; but it doth not thence follow, they should religiously attend on their ministry. (1.) Because it is evident, these Scribes and Pharisees sustained a double capacity; they were expositors of the law, that we allow; and they were also of the Sanhedrim, in a civil capacity, as rulers; that appears from John 3:1, 10, Acts 5:34. In this civil capacity, they are most properly said, to sit in Moses’ seat: For the 70 elders which made up this sanhedrim, came in upon a civil score at first, as appears from Numb. 11:16, 17 and so were joined with Moses in the government. Now then this command seems most properly to respect them as rulers; who in that capacity both opened the judicious laws of Moses, and enjoined the people to obey them. (2.) Because Christ had before warned them, to take heed of their leaven, i.e. their doctrine, Mat. 16:6, 12 and told them they were blind guides, and what the fatal issue of them, and their disciples that followed them, would be, Mat. 15:14 both should fall into the ditch; and that their worship was vain, Mat. 15:9 and it is not like he would afterwards encourage them to attend on it.
3. But admit it were so, that Christ gives them liberty to hear them as ministers, though they were corrupt, yet it is no good consequence, that therefore we may hear any ministers, though never so corrupt in principles and practice now. And the reason which destroys this consequence, is this, because there is a vast difference betwixt the infant-state of the gospel-church in the days of Christ on earth, and its more perfect state after his death; we know the first tabernacle was then standing, the vail of the temple not then rent in twain, the gospel-ministry not then instituted: and therefore during that state, as Christ himself submitted to the ordinances of the law, (for it became him to fulfil all righteousness,) so did his disciples submit to them also; yea, and he exhorts others also to observe the rites appointed by it; as Mat. 8:4 bids him that was cleansed, to go and shew himself to the priest, and offer his gift which the law of Moses required. But since the death of Christ, and the taking down of that first tabernacle, and the institution of the gospel-ministry, none of these precepts bind: for as judicious Paræus, on the place, notes, this was but Mendatum temporale, a temporal command; which ceased to oblige upon the commissionating and full instruction of the new gospel-ministry: ‘And then it is manifest (saith he) they made a separation from the Pharisees, and the Jewish synagogue.’
Now we are to attend upon no ministry but of Christ’s institution; for to that only hath he promised his presence, Mat. 28: ult. and none can preach, i.e. lawfully, except he be sent, Rom. 10. And I have proved before, these are not his ministers, nor sent by him.
Give your utmost diligence to promote religion, and the power of godliness, in your respective families, and neighbourhoods; and the rather do this with all your might, because the ordinary and more public means of their conversion and edification is cut off.
This counsel consists of two branches; the first concerns your families, the second your neighbours: a word distinctly to each.
1. As to your families, O shine as lights there; lay out your talents as many ways as they may possibly be improvable for the good of all about you, especially those under your guardianship and charge, Exod. 20:10. By this the power of godliness must be discovered in you, and begotten and kept alive in them. The Jews have a tradition, that the fire of the altar was miraculously preserved under-ground, during the Babylonish captivity. I am sure this is the way to preserve religion alive, now the public ordinary means are ceased. Precepts are not wanting to enforce this duty upon you; Deut. 4:9, 10–6:6, 7. Exod. 12:24, 26, 27, Josh. 4:6, 7, 21, 22, Psal. 78:5, 6, Prov. 22:6, Eph. 6:4 nor yet worthy examples to encourage to it; Gen. 18:19, 1 Chron. 28:9, Prov. 31:20, 2 Tim. 3:15, 2 John 1, 4. Aquila and Priscilla had a church in their house, 1 Cor. 16:19. Nymphas and Philemon in theirs, Col. 4:15, Philem. 2. “Hence it is, saith [EE] Davenant on the place, that the apostle sends a special salutation to them, by name; because of their singular piety which manifested itself in their family government.” And indeed, how fresh and glorious a remembrance in the scriptures have those worthy saints unto this day, and so shall have, where-ever the gospel is preached, unto the end of the world, who have burned with an holy zeal, not only to offer up themselves, but their families also unto God! David well understood how near this duty lay to the heart of religion, when he puts his soul under the bond of such a solemn engagement to the Lord, Psal. 101:2. It doth not a little affect me to read what a [FF] learned man observes of the Jews; ‘Although religion be miserably deformed among them, yet it seems there are some prints of their ancient family-discipline to this day, remaining among them; for (saith he) they are so careful to teach their children in their tender years, the law, and books of Moses, and after that their Talmudica traditions, as that their skill in Judaism at 17, exceeds the knowledge of many among us in Christianity at 70.’ Nay, the very Jesuits boast themselves, the grand conservators of the Romish religion, in that they are catechizers. Oh let this provoke Christians! we see how light breaks out more and more in every age; as Luther said, ‘I see more than blessed Austin [Augustine] saw; and they that come after me will see more than I see.’ And we have great hopes and expectations of the young generation, that they may enter into the good land, though we should die in this wilderness, O then let us labour to prepare and make them ready for the Lord; and that not only by instructing them in the principles of religion in a catechistical way, (though that be an ordinance of God, and of singular use in its kind) but by endeavouring to the utmost, by counsels, persuasions, prayers for, and with them, to have the power of godliness wrought in their hearts, to travail with them, again in pain, till Christ be formed in them. And to this duty, these arguments among many others, may persuade.
Arg. 1. From the relation itself, which is betwixt you and them; look but into your own bowels, and you shall find arguments enough to provoke your utmost care and industry for their good: what is a child but a piece of yourself (as one [GG] saith) wrapt up in another skin? What an inestimable value doth nature itself teach you to set upon them? The life of Jacob is said to be bound up in Benjamin’s, Gen. 44:30. This dear and ardent affection to them, we use to express by our earnest desires of them, till we have them, Gen. 15:2. “What wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless,” said Abraham,” Gen. 30:1. “Give me children, or else I die,” said Rachel. 1 Sam. 1:10, 11. How earnestly did Hannah pray, in the bitterness of her soul, for a child. Also by the singular contentment we take in them, when we have them, John 16:21 and the wonderful tenderness of our affections to them, and earnest desires to keep them, no value can be set upon a child, Gen. 42:36, 38, Luke 8:41, 42, John 7:47, 49. Also by our sympathizing with them in all conditions; their comfort is ours, Gen. 45:27, 28 and their misery is ours, Mark 9:21. And lastly, by our extreme grief when we lose them, Gen. 37:33, 34, 35, Mat. 2:18.
Now are they such near and dear things to you? O then how many motives doth this dear and tender relation wrap up in it, to endeavour the eternal salvation of their poor souls! It is the soul of the child that is the child; and if that perish for want of knowledge, where is the mercy of having children? Surely an untimely birth is better than they: ah! when you shall see them enemies to God, those that came out of your bowels to be in rebellion against him; will it not make you take up Job’s wish, Job 3:1, 5 and apply it to them, Let the day perish wherein they were born, and the night in which it was said they are conceived; let the darkness and shadow of death stain it: let a cloud dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it; why died they not from the womb? why did they not give up the ghost when they came out of the belly ?why did the knees not prevent them? or why the breasts that they should suck?—Ah! if you have the hearts of parents in you, think how sad a consideration this will be to you, that those who are so dear to you, should be the objects of God’s wrath: those you have been so tender over, and have so often put into your bosoms, must lie under eternal torments, and their bed be made in hell? If you have any good thing yourselves, you cannot withhold it from them; if you be feasted abroad, and they pining at home, the greatest dainties do you no good. Why now unless they be taught the knowledge of Christ, and a saving change pass upon them, when you shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God, abundantly satisfied with the fatness of his house, and drinking of the rivers of his pleasure, they shall be shut out: nature teacheth you to feel the pains of their bodies, and cannot grace teach you to sympathize with the misery of their poor wretched souls? Well the day is coming, if they die Christless, that they will wish they had been the generation of tigers, or off-spring of dragons, rather than your children: and when you can have them no more, you know who must and will.
Arg. 2. From that exceeding joy, it must needs be to a godly parent to see his children and relations gracious. May not every godly parent say as John did of the children of the elect lady, “I have no greater joy, than to see them walk in the truth,” 2 John 1, 4. Is it pleasing to you to see your own image in them? And will it not much more delight you to see the image of Christ in them? Grace doubles the relation, and so must needs exceedingly increase your joy in them. This is the true way to build up the felicity of our issue. How many anxious thoughts and solicitous cares will this discharge thy heart of! O if thou leave them in the covenant of grace, thy heart may be at rest concerning them; if thou leave them not a groat [penny], they shall not want a father to care for them, when thou art in the dust. Besides, grace will effectually teach them the duties of their relation to you, while you live; hereby you will provide, not only for their eternal good, but your own joy also.
Arg. 3. The work now lies upon your hand more than ever, as I hinted before; and truly you have many singular advantages above all others to do the work. (1.) You are continually with them, and so may take the fittest seasons to drop your admonitions upon them, Deut. 6:6, 7. (2.) You best know their tempers and dispositions, and so can apply yourselves with more advantage to them. (3.) You have the deepest interest in their hearts and affections, which is a great matter; this will make your words (especially if dropt upon them with much affection) sink deep. Oh what child can chose but relent, while a parent is speaking with a melting heart to him about his eternal concernments. I remember Austin [Augustine] writes of his mother Monica, that she planted the precepts of life in his mind by her words, watered them with her tears, and nourished them with her example. A precious pattern for all mothers.
Methinks these arguments should excite you to your duty; O if you have in you the bowels of parents, let them impel you to it; you cannot plead danger here as in other duties; against such there is [yet] no law.
2. As to your neighbourhood. You should study to be useful in your generation; are there any poor carnal neighbours about you? O visit them, and be ever dropping some serious words of counsel upon them: how do you know but there may be some sleeping conviction left upon them by the ministry they once sat under, which you may be instrumental to awaken? And are there any that fear the Lord near you? O be often together, strengthen the hands that hang down. The Jews have a proverb, that one dry stick will set two green ones on fire. A lively Christian may be of singular use in such a day as this. In Mal. 3:16 we find what the practice of Christians was in an evil day, as it appears that was by the 15th verse, “They that work wickedness are set up, yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.” And yet, Then “they that feared the Lord, spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.—And they shall be mine,” &c. Oh how well doth God take it when his people will not be terrified from their duty by the fear of men! “The Lord hearkened and heard it:” ‘They did not whisper so in one another’s ear (saith a modern divine) but God over-heard them,’ the Lord listened, as it were at the key-hole, he was under the window, and kept it upon record; a book of remembrance was written. O how pleasant is it to God to see his secret ones making hard shifts to get together to worship him! Cant. 2:14. “O my dove thou art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.” What are these [HH] clefts of rocks and secret places of the stairs, but those secret retiring places where the people of God get together in difficult times to seek their God? There they [II] poured out their souls together in broken-hearted confessions of sin. ‘The primitive Christians (saith Hilary) were not to be sought in tectis et exteriori pompa, i.e. in palaces and outward pomp, but rather in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth;’ as Heb. 11:38. ‘In Queen Mary’s time, (saith Mr. Fox) there were sometimes forty, sometimes an hundred, sometimes two hundred, came together as they could, in private places in London, for mutual edification.’
And though men call this by hard names, and load it with reproach, as if it were faction and sedition, yet it undergoes another censure in heaven. I remember [JJ] Tertullian, about 1400 years ago, in his apology vindicates this practice of theirs against the calumnies of the heathen; “When good men meet together, (saith he) it is not to be called a faction, but a court. And on the contrary, the name of faction is to be applied to them who conspire in hatred against good and honest men. And what place is accounted so honourable, and abounds with such delight as the courts of princes?” Yea, let us hear what a bishop of our own speaks of such meetings; ‘Sometimes (saith he) the rage of persecution suffers not the church to meet in the public sight of all, but forces them as it were to creep into private holes;’ as Rev. 12:6 as Athanasius and other orthodox Christians, were fain to seek hiding places from the Arians.
[KK] “Every meeting of the faithful, although for their fewness they may be included within the walls of a private house, although by the fury of the enemies they keep their meeting by night, yet it is a true church.” Thus bishop Davenant. And truly if the saints had nothing else but the gracious presence of Christ, (which is by promise engaged to be among them) it were enough to oppose to all the difficulties and dangers attending on such a duty. What a sweet promise is that, Matth. 18:20. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them;” that is, saith Cameron, not only with them, but as a president among them; Christ will be there to defend, teach, and bless them. How often hath this promise been made good to the experiences of the saints? John 20:19. “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut, where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus, and stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” Oh if Jesus be in the midst of you, no matter how many enemies combine against you: if he speak peace to you, no matter who prepares war against you: it is worth the venturing far to meet with Jesus Christ, and enjoy fellowship with him in such duties.
And besides, this is the way to prevent the decay and cooling of thy affections: in times of abounding iniquity, the love of many will wax cold; “but he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.” Lo it is but an [he] (saith one upon the text) a single man, a very few, that hold out in comparison of the apostates. The whole world went wondering after the beast, Rev. 13:3, 4. Such was the paucity and obscurity of Christians in the Arian times, that Basil cries out, An ecclesias suas prorsus dereliquit Dominus? Hath the Lord utterly forsaken his churches? The ship of the church was then almost overwhelmed, saith Hierom; when the storm is at its height, thou shalt see professors fall like the leaves in autumn, or as rotten fruit in a windy day. The dragon’s tail shall sweep down the third part of the stars. Now to fix thee in such a day, the communion of saints is of singular use, they do wedge in and fasten one another; all the enemy’s rage could not sever them; in the primitive times, Acts 4:23 being let go, they went to their company: [LL] “Two (saith Solomon) are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will help up his fellow: but wo to him that is alone,” Eccl. 4:9, 10. “If two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?” Communion with spiritual Christians affords this double benefit; if one stumble, yea, fall, another will recover him; if one’s affections grow chill, another’s zeal will warm them again: the benefit of such society is unspeakable, and truly the nearer you keep to God, the closer you will cleave to one another, as lines are nearer at the centre.
Study to keep yourselves pure from the corruptions of the present world.
It is not only a great sin, but an ill sign, to be carried away with the streams of the times. A sin, because directly opposite to the command, Rom. 12:2. “Be not conformed to this world,” τω αιωνι τουτω, to this age; the meaning is, Do not get into the garb of the times. And an ill sign, because the scripture makes it the character of a wicked man, Eph. 2:2. “They walk according to the course of this world.” In the original κατ αιωνα, according to the age, as the manner of the times went. It is as dangerous living in ill company, as breathing in an infectious air; for as [MM] one observes well, “No pest doth sooner infect the air than sin infects and defiles the mind:” It is as hard a matter to preserve yourselves from guilt among wicked men, as it is to keep yourselves clean, where many dirty dogs are leaping and fawning upon you: The diseases of the soul are very catching [NN]. How great a commendation was it to Noah, that he was upright, and walked with God, when all flesh had corrupted their ways! And how beautiful a sight is it to see Christians shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation! Phil. 2:15 to continue a lily among thorns. The world is a sea, and every particular person in it a drop: Now to see a drop of water in the sea carried in a counter-motion to the tide, is marvellous. Christians are a distinct company of themselves, Acts 4:23. “You are of another world,” John 17:14 and your converses should be in heaven, Col. 3:1, 2 and with heavenly spirits, Psalm 16:3. O how hard is it to escape partnership with them in sin, if we converse unnecessarily among them! If fine bread be in the same oven with coarse, the finer partakers of that which is coarse, but the coarse seldom partakes of the fine: If you lay bright and clear armour among that which is rusty, the rusty armour communicates its rust to the clean, but the bright communicates not its brightness to the rusty. There are more ways than one by which thou mayest be involved into guilt by them. Suppose thou consentest not with them, much less instigatest them to sin, yet mayest thou be defiled by their sin, if it be but by silence when thou oughtest to reprove them, Lev. 5:1 or by not being so grieved, and tenderly affected with their sins as thou oughtest, 1 Cor. 5:1, 2. Thus did David, Psalm 119:136 and Lot, 2 Pet. 2:7, 8 that they might free their own souls. From this I might dissuade you by many arguments: As,
Arg. 1. The express command of God laid upon you; he hath forbidden you to follow a [OO] multitude to do evil, Exod. 23:2 it may be understood either of multitude or magnitude, many men, or great men, (for the will of God is not revealed to men with respect either to their numbers or greatness, but his secret is with them that fear him;) to go in the way of evil men, Prov. 4:14 to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, Eph. 5:11 to save yourselves from this untoward generation, Acts 2:40 with many of like importance. And this is reason enough to make you cautelous, seeing God hath given such express prohibitions in this case.
Arg. 2. The special eye of favour with God hath always been cast upon such as have been upright in their generation, and kept themselves pure from the corruptions of the times they lived in. Noah walked with God when the earth was over-spread with an inundation of wickedness, Gen. 6:9. And Noah is saved by the Lord, when the earth is overwhelmed with an inundation of water, Gen. 5:8. Lot’s righteous soul is vexed with the filthy conversation of the Sodomites, and he is graciously exempted from the desolation that came upon them, Gen. 19:16 he would not join hands with sinners, and God will take him by the hand, as a friend, to rescue him out of the danger. Elijah will walk with and appear for God, when he could see none to stand by him, when idolatry had over-spread the face of the whole country; and what miraculous and wonderful providences did he experience in his protections and sustentations! Either the Lord will hide him in the grave, from the troubles that shall be among the living, Isa. 57:1 (so Augustine was taken away a little before the sacking of Hippo; Paræus a little before the taking of Heidelburg; Luther before the wars brake forth in Germany; Methuselah just before the flood) or else he sets some special mark upon them, that they may be distinguished in the general calamity, Ezek. 9:4, 5. “Go through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the fore-heads of them that sigh, and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.” And to the other he said, “Go after him, and smite, let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity.” So Rev. 7 before the vials come to be poured out upon the earth, the servants of God are sealed; even such as had kept themselves pure from antichristian pollutions.
Arg. 3. The danger we run ourselves into thereby, dangers I say, not only of destruction (for “a companion of fools shall be destroyed,” Prov. 13:20) but of defilement also; the devil hath his agents and factors in every corner to entice you to sin, and you have corrupt hearts as apt to receive impressions from the examples and persuasions of sinners, as tinder is to receive fire; and it is no wisdom, you know, for him that carries gun-powder about him, to come too near the fire where the sparks fly.
Now, to prevent this danger of being infected with the sins and evils of the times, I shall lay down a few directions.
1. If you would prevent infection in these evil days, begin every day with God: season your hearts every morning by communion with the Lord. This was David’s practice, Psalm 139:18. “When I awake, I am still with thee.” It was blessed counsel which a worthy person [PP] gives in this case; ‘Before earthly things (saith he) break in upon us, and we receive impressions from abroad, it is good to season the heart with thoughts of God, and to consecrate the early and virgin operations of the mind, before they are prostituted to baser objects. When the world gets the start of religion in the morning, it can hardly overtake it all the day; and so the heart is habituated to vanity all the day long: but when we begin with God, we take him along with us to all the businesses and comforts of the day; which being seasoned with his love and fear, are the more sweet and savoury to us.’
2. Be choice in your company. Christ indeed conversed frequently with publicans and sinners, but it was still in order to their good, and there was no danger of receiving any evil from them, there was nothing in him to fasten a temptation upon, but we can seldom get off without a taint.
3. Quicken up your zeal for God; this will be a spur to the discharge of your duty in all places, times, and companies. ‘Love (saith Mr. Gurnal) ever goes armed with zeal, that is her dagger she draws against all opposers of truth.’ Qui non zelat non amat. Many times we hear the name of God profaned, and dare not take as much liberty and boldness to reprove sin, as they do to commit it: whence is this but from the want of zeal? O it would make thee, as it did Jonathan, to cast a kingdom at thy heels, to appear against sin: And methinks thy interest in God should provoke thy zeal. We must not neglect the duty of a friend, for fear of incurring the suspicion of an enemy: It is better to lose the smiles than the souls of men: If thou discharge thy duty, the sin is his; if not, it is thine too.
4. Furnish your hearts with such principles, as are antidotes and preservatives against infections. As physicians advise in times of infection, to carry some preservatives still about you. Of this sort I shall commend four or five, and shut up this head.
1. Nothing must lie nearer thy heart, if thou be a Christian, than the glory of thy God; all ends, interests, and designs, must be subjected to that; and whatsoever cannot be subordinated, must be rejected. If this principle were but settled upon the heart, what brave spirits would it breed and raise in thy breast! It would untie thy tongue, like Crœsus’ dumb son, to plead for thy father. It was a brave speech of Hierom, in an evil day, when the rage of the enemy was great against the name and people of God; ‘O that they would turn their weapons upon me, and be satisfied with my blood.’ And a sweet one is that of Bernard to the same purpose, Malo in nos murmur hominum, quam in Deum; Rather let their reproach fall on us, than on God. Bonum est mihi si dignetur Deus, me uti pro clypeo; I should account it a mercy, if God would vouchsafe to use me as a shield. Much like that of David, “The reproaches of them that reproached thee, are fallen on me.” If God’s glory be thy principal end, thus it will subject all other ends and interest to it, and then it will open thy mouth to plead for him, and appear in all the concernments of his name.
2. The peace of thine own conscience, is to be preferred to the favour of any man, and will abundantly recompense the frowns of men. “This is our rejoicing, even the testimony of our conscience.” This is the sweetest friend, sacrifice it not to any man’s lust or will.
3. The greatest expression of love to another, is to hate his sin, Prov. 27:6. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend;” and the greatest injury to another, is to connive at his wickedness, Lev. 19:17.
4. No man shall be a loser at last, by being faithful to God, and to his duty; if you have no reward from men, yet be sure you shall from God: And yet God so orders it oftentimes, that men shall love you better for your faithfulness; Prov. 28:23. “He that rebukes a man, afterwards shall find more favour than he that flatters with his lips.”
5. A Christian should do that, and nothing but that now, which he judges will be comfortable to him in a calm review at death and judgment: This would make you accurate Christians indeed. O treasure up these principles, and live in the daily exercise of them.
Prepare for fiery trials, whilst the Lord gives you such a gracious season of peace and liberty.
Eccl. 8:5. “A wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment.” And indeed it is a special point of wisdom, to apprehend and improve seasons aright. Christian, thou must use thy foreseeing faculties, to discover danger at a [QQ] distance, and so prevent surprisals; “A prudent man foreseeth the evil,” Prov. 22:3. Yea, sense itself teacheth the brute beasts to get to the hedge, when a storm is coming; and canst thou not foresee a storm in the clouds, do they not gather blacker and blacker over thy head? O prepare for it; get thy suffering graces, thy winter garments on. “Put them in mind (saith the apostle) to be ready to every good work,” Tit. 3:1, if active or passive obedience, you must be ready for it. Blessed Paul had fitted and provided himself, Acts 21:13. “I am [ready] not only to be bound, but to die at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus:” He had, as I may say, laid his neck on the block before hand, 2 Tim. 4:6. “I am ready (saith he) to be offered up.” Thus Christ was ready for his sufferings, “Lo, I come, (saith he) upon the Father’s call,” Psal. 40:7. And as this is an argument of an heart truly gracious, so it is a singular advantage to the Christian when troubles come; it is as the shoe, Eph. 6:15. “And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” Ah! when you come off these plains of peace and liberty, into the hard, rugged paths of suffering, you will find what a benefit it will be to you, to be well shod with this preparation of the gospel of peace. Habakkuk had it, chap. 3:16. “I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: And when difficulties and straits came, he could go away singing under them”, ver. 17. “Though the fig-tree,” &c. yea, he could walk securely through the thickets of trouble, and over the craggy rocks and precipices of danger, as is intimated, ver. 19. “The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds feet,” i.e. to pass with ease, per montes, per rupta, in such ways of difficulty as would distract others: “And he will set me upon my high places;” i.e. he [RR] will enable me to go without fear over mountains of trouble. O Christian, how soon a storm may rise thou knowest not, Gen. 22:2, Acts 12:1, to be sure it will not be long, the heavens are black, and some drops already fallen: Prepare therefore for it, and have your suffering graces ready.
Quest. But what are they? And how must they he prepared?
Sol. Though every grace is necessary in its place, and in the course of a Christian’s conversation, comes to take his turn; as every spoke in a wheel bears a stress, and is of use in the whole turn and round thereof; yet as those spokes which are undermost at present, do present service, so those graces which are now exercised, and are to bear the present burden of this day, are such as these;
1. Faith. This hath a precedency given it to all other graces; as in point of justification, so of sustentation in a suffering hour; Eph. 6:16. “Above all, taking the shield of faith:” This is like the liver-vein, this goes to Christ, and conveys blood and life to the soul from him;” now “the just shall live by faith,” Heb. 10:38. It was by faith those renowned worthies, Heb. 11 performed such glorious actions. By faith it is that a poor Christian gets a glimpse of the invisible God and glory, which marvelously supports him under distresses, Heb. 11:27, 2 Cor. 4:18. By this the soul is filled with peace, and inward tranquility, Rom. 5:1, 2. And that is a singular preparation for suffering, Eph. 6:15. “Smite, Lord, smite, (said Luther [SS]) for my sins are forgiven me.” By faith a poor soul rolls itself and its burden upon God, 2 Tim. 1:12 and so quits and discharges itself of all that anxiety and perplexity of spirit, which puts the sinking weight into affliction. Oh then look to thy faith, see it be not only alive, but lively; keep that grace in thy heart, and thou shalt do well.
2. Patience: A grace fitted for the purpose: it is not only a grace itself, but the conservatory of other graces. As God hath placed temperance on the right hand of godliness, to defend it from injury by the flatteries and allurements of the world, so hath he placed patience on the left, to defend it from the wrong it might receive by adversity, 2 Pet. 1:5, 6, a grace so necessary in an evil day, that the Spirit hath set it in equipage with faith itself, Heb. 6:12 and the crown promised to it, Rom. 2:7. It is an hardy grace, bred by tribulation, Rom. 5:3 will make a Christian long-winded in his race to glory. Oh then beg that you may be strengthened with all might in the inner-man, unto all patience; if not, though you may be set out with much seeming gallantry of resolution, yet you must needs faint in the way, and fall short at last.
3. Holy courage and magnanimity. This grace must now say in thy heart, as Elijah once did, “As the Lord lives, I will shew my self.” How conspicuous hath this grace been in those worthy heroes that are past on before us! See Dan. 3:16, 17, Heb. 11 per tot. Acts 20:24 and 21:13. When Valens the emperor endeavoured to draw Basil from the faith, he first offers him great preferments, but his spirit was raised above that; ‘Offer these things (said he) to children:’ then he tries him by threatenings of grievous torments, but his spirit was above that also; ‘threaten these things (said he) to your purple gallants, that give themselves to pleasure.’ The same Basil relates the answer of the forty martyrs, (whose story he writes;) when the persecutors, saith he, offered them great preferments to draw them from Christ, this was their answer; ‘Why offer you to us these small things of the world, when you know the whole world is contemned by us?’ One of the nobles of Julian present at the tormenting of Marcus, bishop of Arethusa, was forced to say, ‘We are ashamed, O Emperor, the Christians laugh at your cruelty, and grow the more resolute.’ ‘Our very women and children, not to speak of men, (saith Lactantius) do overcome their tormentors, and the fire cannot fetch so much as a sigh from them.’ The same glorious spirit of courage for the Lord Jesus rested also upon Luther, [TT] Zuinglius, and those blessed souls that freely offered themselves to the Lord in queen Mary’s time. And truly, Christian, not only necessity which lies upon thee, should provoke courage, for there is no retreating, unless thou resolve to perish, Heb. 10:38 but methinks the infinite excellency of Christ, in whose cause and quarrel thou art engaged, exacts it of thee, and should make thee lay down all at his feet, not by constraint, but willingly, looking upon it as thy privilege, Phil. 1:29.
4. Lastly, To name no more, self-denial must now be promoted. “If any man will come after me, he must deny himself,” Mark 8:34. Both sinful self, which must absolutely and universally be denied; and natural, yea, religious self, which must respectively, and in some cases, be denied also. The want of this, hath been the downfall and ruin of many an eminent professor. The most dangerous nick and opportunity of temptation, is, when a man is tried in his darling lust; now he falls by the root, if that be not mortified. This was the ruin of Judas; covetousness was his predominant lust; and when he was tried there, he falls immediately, Mat. 26:16. “What will you give me, and I will betray him?” This overturned Demas also. O consider these things.
Get your hearts deeply affected with Zion’s misery, and strive earnestly with the Lord on its behalf.
Psal. 137:5. “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.” The pouring out of this spirit of compassion, will be a token for good to us; Psal. 102:13. “Thou wilt arise and have mercy upon Zion, for the time to favour her, yea, the set time is come.” But how knew he that? “For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof.” Upon which words one [UU] glosseth thus; ‘It is as if he should say, Would you have me give an account of my hope and confidence, that God will arise and have mercy upon Zion; why (saith he) do you not see the servants of God every where troubled for Zion, and bemoan Zion, and weep over her, crying out over her ruins, O is this Zion! What, the city of our solemnities? What, she that was the praise and beauty of the whole earth! Ah, Lord, who can hold his peace at such a sight as this? Oh, who can look upon Zion with dry eyes? Are these her stones that lie thus scattered in the dust? Oh it is a thousand pities to see Zion in such a sad and mournful condition! Oh that our heads were waters, and our eyes rivers of tears? Come, Sirs, what shall we do for Zion? Is there nothing we can do by our counsels, our prayers, for repairing of these breaches?’ O thus it should be with us at this day: Non sunt ista litigandi sed orandi tempora, as Mr. Perkins said of his day. These are not times of striving, but praying; it is no time now to strive with one another, but to unite our strength, and like the true generation of Jacob, to be striving with our God. To be minding the world, and seeking of great things for ourselves now, is no small evil: God expects his saints should now be clothed in black, and walk as true mourners under the great and sore rebukes of their Father: should we now make mirth? Ezek. 21:10. “It contemneth the rod of my son, as every tree.” God brings it in as an heavy charge upon the people, Amos 6:6 that they “are not grieved for the afflictions of Joseph;” or as the Hebrew, over the rentings and tearings in pieces of Joseph, that is, the church. It is a lively allusion to the sad lamentation that old Jacob made over the supposed renting of his dear Joseph, Gen. 42:21. Joseph is not, I will go down to the grave to my son mourning: but his brethren saw the anguish of his soul, and pitied him not. And may not many of the Lord’s own people charge the same thing upon their hearts at this day, that they did upon themselves, “We are verily guilty (say they) concerning our brother Joseph.” Ah! have we not heard of the anguish of Zion, and the sore distress upon many of her children at this day, and yet have not been so tenderly touched with the due sense of it? Oh write that man bowelless [affectionless], that hath no compassion in his spirit now for Zion: you may promise to yourself immunity from the common calamity, but God hath said, Amos 6:7. “You shall go captive with the first that go captive.” Ah! is this a time, as God said to Baruch, Jer. 45 to seek great things for yourselves; it is enough if you have your life for a prey: are you now building and feathering your nests, when the ax of judgment lies at the root of that tree you build in, to cut it down? Surely we may say of such designs now, as Hushai did of the counsel of Ahithophel, “It is not good at this time.” In that day did the Lord call to mourning; and is there not as loud a call at this day? “The voice of the rod crieth to the city,” Mic. 6:9. Oh! be not deaf to that cry,” now go to the Lord with an holy importunity, under a quick sense of Zion’s misery, and give him no rest till he arise and have mercy on her. And among many other, these arguments may persuade to it.
Arg. 1. The gracious nature of that God to whom you go for help and mercy; Oh remember you lie down at the feet of a tender-hearted Father, willing to be overcome by you: Amos 6:12. “Therefore thus will I do unto thee, and because I will do this, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel,” i.e. in a way of humiliation to prevent him: So Luke 18:7. And shall not God avenge his [own elect] that cry unto him day and night, though he bear long with them? Mark the motive [his own] i.e., Can a father shut up the bowels of mercy from his own flesh? How much less God, to whose compassions the most dear and tender affections of all the parents in the world, is but as a drop to the ocean. This Jonah well understood, Jonah 4:2. “Was not this my saying when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish, for I knew that thou art a gracious God, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil:” i.e., Yea, Lord, I knew before-hand what it would come to; I must go to Nineveh, and denounce thy judgments against it, and then if they do but humble themselves a little, thy mercies and compassions are so tender and abundant, that thou canst not smite them; if they do but come upon the knee, the rod falls out of thy hand: I knew it would be so, I was persuaded before-hand, that free-grace would make me appear as a liar to them, therefore I fled to Tarshish. O what a motive is this to bring you upon the knee before God at this day!
Arg. 2. Consider how dear an interest it is that you espouse and plead for, dear to God, and therefore the greater probability of success; you may say to God, as Mary and Martha did to Christ concerning their brother Lazarus, “Lord, he whom thou lovest is sick.” Ah! the interest of his Son, which I persuade you to plead with him, lies near his heart, and dear to you, if you be real saints: for, alas! what joy can you have to survive Sion’s prosperity? Would you not in such a case say as the prophet, 1 Kings 19:4. “Ah Lord God, it is enough, take away my life also.” O therefore strive with God for it.
Arg. 3. Consider how much you have contributed to the provoking and procuring cause of its present misery; it is Sion’s own sons and daughters that have procured this unto her; and shall there be none among all the sons she hath brought up to take her by the hand, and comfort her! It is our contests and wranglings one with another, our barrenness under the gospel, our abuse of deliverances, and most precious gospel-enjoyments that have procured all this. Ah sirs! will you not strive to pray back the mercies you have helped to sin away?
Arg. 4. Those that are most deeply humbled, and do most fervently intercede for Zion now, shall have a peculiar share in her joy when the Lord restores it: “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Sion, we were like them that dreamed, then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.” Psal. 126:1, 2. But who were these that laugh and rejoice at Sion’s mercy? Were they not such as had mourned for her; yes, yes, they that thus reap in joy, are such as had before sown in tears, ver. 5, 6 to such indeed the promise is made, Isa. 57:18 and 65:10. Rejoice for joy with her all ye that mourn for her. Let these things affect your souls.
That seeing a day of great trouble is approaching, and all outward comforts ready to take their farewell of you, you should now give all diligence to clear up your title to Christ, and interest in that kingdom which cannot be shaken.
If ever we had need to make all honest haste to heaven, and to clear up our interest in it, this is the time; what have we be-sides this to oppose to all our troubles here? what will you do when all earthly comforts are fled? And are they not upon the wing? When it comes to resisting to blood, and giving up all, can you fadge [succeed] with such work as this, while your spirits are dubious and cloudy in this point? O my friends believe it, it is nothing but this that can make a saint triumph and glory in abuses and tribulations, 2 Cor. 4:16, 17, 18, Heb. 10:34. Rom. 5:1, 2, 3. And little do you imagine how insupportable troubles are, when the spirit is low and dubious in point of interest. The devil, like a true coward, falls upon a poor saint, when he is prostrate in his spirit, and under trouble, then he pours in discouragements from all hands; he loves to fall upon them, as Simeon and Levi did upon the Shechemites when they were sore, Gen. 34:25. Satan knows men will hardly part with their present sensible comforts till they be assured of better: it is easier, without doubt, for an assured Christian to lay down his neck for Christ, than for another to part with a piece of his estate, or bear a reproach for him: and truly whether we consult safety or comfort, whether we consider the ineffable sweetness of that peace and joy begotten by assurance; or the misery of being subjected in a day of trouble to the misgivings, doubts, and fears of a perplexed spirit, you will find that all these considerations do put a necessity, a solemnity, a glory upon this work: but O the difficulties and dangers attending it! what judgment, faithfulness, resolution, watchfulness doth it require! such is the darkness, deceitfulness, inconstancy of the heart; and such the malice, policy, and diligence of Satan to improve these, that he who attempts this work, had need both to watch his seasons for it, frequently to look up to God for guidance and illumination; and to spend many sad and serious thoughts before he determine this business.
To the end therefore, that this most weighty and important work may not miscarry in thy hands, I entreat thee carefully to observe these six Directions following.
Be sure thou try thyself by sound, approved marks of sincerity, and not by such as are only probable, and common to hypocrites, for these will fail when any stress is laid upon them, and, like the reeds of Egypt, pierce into thine hand.
To help thee therein, I have collected the best scripture-marks illustrated and prepared for thy use, by the labours of some of our most skilful heart anatomists: The substance of which I shall here transcribe, lest you should not have the books at hand.
Four signs of a sincere heart, by Mr. Gurnal, in the second part of his treatise on Eph. 6: p. 127, &c.
1 Mark. A sincere heart is a new heart, Ezek. 11:19 whereas it was formerly divided among the creatures, now it is gathered unto God: it hath but one design, which above all it pursues; and that is to approve itself to God; as one that having many pieces of old silver lying by him, which he intends to put into one bowl; he first resolves to cast it anew, and to that end throws it into the fire to melt, and so at last shuts up all in one piece.
2 Mark. A sincere heart is a simple plain heart; 2 Cor. 1:12 and this simplicity appears in three things. (1.) In ransacking itself, in which it is exceeding diligent, and fearful of a mistake, willing to know the worst of himself; in judging itself, when the sin is found, he proceeds to sentence a lust, as well as to search diligently for it. (2.) In plain-dealing with God, as well as with itself: an hypocrite asks what he would not thank God to give him, but a sincere soul is deeply affected when his prayers are not answered, and uses the means to obtain his desires. (3.) In plain dealing with men, he will not subject his conscience to fleshly interest, nor shape his course to the times.
3 Mark. The sincere Christian is uniform; and that, (1.) As to the object; (2.) The subject; (3.) The circumstances of his obedience. For the first, his heart lies close to the whole law of God, Psalm 26:11 hath respect to all the commands: as for the subject, the whole man (so far as renewed) moves one way: judgment, will, affections, move uniformly: as to circumstances, he is holy in all times, places, &c.
4 Mark. The sincere Christian is progressive, is not content with any measure of grace, Phil. 3:13, 15 never at his journey’s end, till he get to heaven, Psal. 17:15.
Five marks of uprightness, by Mr. Obadiah Sedgwick, in his anatomy of uprightness, p. 202, &c.
1 Mark. If a man be upright, he will mostly strive for an inward reformation of his heart, Psal. 119:10, James 4:8, Rom. 1:9. It is not sufficient his outward actions look well, unless his heart were better: Oh, saith he, that this heart were better, more holy, more humble, more believing; the principal regard of the hypocrite is to externals.
2 Mark. If a man be upright, a little holiness will not serve his turn, Phil. 3:12, 13, 14, 15.
3 Mark. A person may know his uprightness by the conscionable disposition of his heart about all sins, Psal. 18:23, Job 1:1. Hypocrites have still some way of wickedness. Such a soul as is upright, will make conscience of secret, as well as open sins, Job 31:26, 27, &c. Prov. 12:5 yea, of the least sins; David’s heart smote him for cutting off the skirt of Saul’s garment; yea, of sins which are in a sort more connatural to him, Psal. 18:23. In a word, uprightness appears in nine things about sins. (1.) It will endure trial, Psal. 139:23. (2.) It will often try itself. (3.) It scares itself, and is suspicious. (4.) It will bless God for being kept from sin; as David did for Abigail’s counsel. (5.) It is more severe against its own sins than another’s. (6.) It condemns sin in all; in parents, as Jonathan in Saul; in children, as Jacob in Simeon and Levi: in great ones, as John Baptist in Herod. (7.) It grieves for its own sins, and the sins of others also. Rivers of water ran down David’s eyes upon that account. (8.) It is more moved for sins against God, than injuries done to itself; as David cannot bear Goliath’s blasphemies, yet can bear Shimei’s railings. (9.) Abstinence sufficeth not without hatred; and hatred sufficeth not without mortification.
4 Mark. Uprightness is known by a man’s disposition about holy duties, and in holy duties. Five things manifest the uprightness of the heart.
1. Universality, Psal. 119:6, Acts 24:16, Heb. 13:18. An hypocrite’s obedience cannot be universal, because his grounds and motives are but particular.
2. By its Constancy, Job 2:3 still he holdeth fast his integrity. There are three things in which an hypocrite may express great forwardness; (1.) When straits of conscience are on him, Isa. 26:16. (2.) When duties are not dangerous, Matth. 13:5, 6, 20. (3.) In the presence of others; as Joash while Jehoiadah lived.
3. By simplicity of obedience, when a man looks not at himself, but at God’s command, 2 Cor. 1:12 and 5:14.
4. By the spirituality of obedience, when the very heart and soul, the spirit and affections act themselves, and co-operate with our services, 1 Cor. 14:15, Rom. 1:9, Eph. 6:5, 6.
5. By the humility of obedience, hypocrites are proud of their work. When God enlarges the heart, a saint may rejoice; but the hypocrite will boast. A saint gives all to God, 1 Chron. 29:13, 14.
5 Mark. A fifth trial of uprightness is, if the bent and purpose of the heart be unto God, Psal. 119:5, Psal. 90:8, 1 Chron. 19:11, Acts 11:23. And this bent or purpose of the heart implies three things. (1.) An inward desire, joined with love, Psal. 119:5. (2.) An habitual inclination, not a sudden pang, Psal. 119:20. (3.) An active purpose, Acts 24:16.
Six trials of sincerity, such as no hypocrite in the world can have, by Mr. Sydenham, in his treatise of hypocrisy.
Trial 1. To hate sin as sin, to hate it in its whole nature, in its first motions, not because it troubles the conscience, or brings me to hell, or renders me unsuitable to my designs and relations in the world, but as it is sin.
Trial 2. No hypocrite can delight to be made ashamed by God in its duties, to be made purely nothing in its own eyes, and the eyes of others. This a sincere soul can do; he can take pleasure in the Lord’s humbling of him. An hypocrite cannot endure to be outshone; the principle that acts him is self-love: but a saint loves to be laid low before God.
Trial 3. No hypocrite can bless God, and love him from his heart, when God smites him in his dearest enjoyments or nearest lusts; strike him in any thing that the eye or heart of him is upon, and he secretly hates Christ. Now a saint, in such a case, will cling to Christ; he cannot but love him for all that.
Trial 4. No hypocrite can love the person of Christ, nor a saint as a saint; he only loves to be pardoned by him, and have some comfort from him; but never finds his heart to work in love to Christ, and have union with him, as the ground of all his comforts. And so, for a saint, loves him not as such, but as so and so tempered and qualified.
Trial 5. No hypocrite can go on in any spiritual work or service for Christ with any contentment, without sensible comforts or outward respects, the wind of men fills his sails: but a saint can take pleasure in the poorest work of Christ, wherein he is least seen.
Trial 6. No hypocrite in the world can long to be like Christ, as to be respected by Christ; he cannot love the holiness of Christ, as the good things he gets by Christ: but a sincere heart, if he have never so much comfort, yet if he be not like Christ, is not pleased. And this is the first direction, try, by sound evidences, sincerity.
Make choice of the fittest seasons for this great work, and set about this when you find your hearts in the most quiet and serious frame; for as he that will see his face in a glass must be fixed, and not in motion; or in the water, must not disturb or make any commotion in it; so is it in this case, Psal. 4:4. “Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still”.
Endeavour to cast out and watch against self-love, lest thy heart being prepossessed thereby, thy judgment be blinded, and become partial in passing sentence upon thy estate: labour to bring thy heart to be willing to know the worst of itself: yea, and if thou hast all this while been deceived, to bless the Lord, that now, at last, thy mistake is discovered, and to be willing to lay the foundation new again. This you must do, for he that will put on the person of a judge, must put off the person of a friend.
Labour to keep upon thy heart a deep and lively sense of the approaching judgment, throughout this work, knowing what a potent influence this hath upon the conscience to make it deliberate, serious, and faithful in its work; and therefore demand of thine own conscience, upon the resolution of each question. Whether it will own and stand to that it now speaks in the great day, when the counsels of all hearts shall be made manifest.
Go to the Lord by prayer when thou art going about this work, and earnestly beg guidance and assistance from him therein: it is the work of the Spirit to seal and assure thee: and he hath promised him to that purpose to such as seek him, Luke 11:13, John 14:26.
Condemn not thyself presently for an hypocrite, upon the discoveries of thy many weaknesses and imperfections in obedience; these should humble, but not discourage thee; it is not thine inevitable weaknesses, thy sensible dulness, thy lamented rovings, thine opposed distractions, thy mistaken unbelief (as one well notes) that argues thee christless, or excludes thee from the promises, Numb. 15:27, 28, 29, 30, Heb. 5:2. These break not the bond of the covenant: the Lord expects no angelical perfection from you in this estate, but looks at your sincerity, and knows, as a father, how to pity your lamented infirmities, Psal. 103:11, 12, 13, 14.
And now I have given you my best advice and counsel, to preserve you from the snares and evils that are, and are coming upon the world; what use you will make of it, I know not. I doubt not but it will find a welcome reception among humble and hungry souls, though the full and wanton soul despise it. “He that hearkeneth unto counsel (saith Solomon) is wise,” Prov. 12:15. And if thy heart be shut by pride or interest against it, it is an ominous sign to thy soul, 2 Chron. 25:16 and presages ruin. Which sad event, I shall beg the Lord in mercy to avert.
A. All right and laws shall perish and be confounded; there shall be no faithfulness in men; no peace, nor shame, neither safety nor order; and of this confusion this shall be the cause, that the Roman name, by which the world is now ruled, shall be taken away from the earth.
B. It is observable, that Rome, in this prophecy, bears the name of Egypt and Babylon, in respect of the misery and bondage exercised upon God’s people by it; by which also is not obscurely hinted, the time and manner of their deliverance from it. For both from the one and the other, were the Jews delivered, when reduced to the greatest extremity, Exod. 6:9 and Ezek. 27:11, 12.
C. Dulce commercium, sed breve momentum, cum talis fueris, memento mei. [It is a sweet exchange, for a brief moment, with such a one as thee, remember me.]—Bern[ard, of Clairvaux].
D. His bowels yearned, εσπλαγχνιθη. Bowels are a metaphor, to signify motherly and tender mercies, Luke 1:78.
E. Εκλελυμενοι και ερριμμενοι, quite spent, tired, and fallen down.
F. [In] put for [instar.]
G. Forcipes, et mulctræ. [shears and milk pails; cf. Zech. 11:15]
H. Dan. 6:10. Excepting cowardice, or flinching from God’s cause, you may suppose any thing of me who have borne the hatred and outrage of the whole world. Luther.
I. Qui cavet ne decipiatur, vir cavet; cum enim cavet, et cum cavisse ratus est, sæpe is cautor captus est. When a man watches against being deceived, he does it with human infirmities, when he even actually watches and apprehends he hath done it to purpose, yet such an one is often ensnared.
J. It gradually began to be had in esteem by long use, and the tacit approbation of the learned, increasing in esteem insensibly.
K. Veluti pueris absynthia tætra medentes, cum dare conantur prius oras pocula circum: Contingunt dulci mellis, flavoque liquore. [but as with children, when physicians try to administer rank wormwood, they first touch the rim of the cups all about with the sweet yellow fluid of honey]—Lucr[etius] [On the Nature of Things] lib. IV.
L. Cultus religiosus qui exhibetur rei, quæ non est verus Deus: Vel etiam ipsi vero Deo, sed aliter quam ipse præscripsit in verbo suo. [Religious worship which is offered to a thing which is not the true God: Or, even of the true God, yet otherwise than he himself has prescribed in his Word]—Ravanelus.
M. Est autem idololatria, cum vel fingitur esse Deus, et colitur pro Deo quod non est, vel cum verus Deus colitur aliter quam vult coli. [It is idolatry, when either what is imagined is God, and worshipped as God is that which does not exist, or when the true God is worshipped otherwise than he wants to be worshipped]—Paræus com. in Rom. 1:23.
N. In this command the question is answered, which hath so disquieted the church in all ages, sc. Who shall prescribe the form of God’s worship, shall angels? shall men? shall the church? shall councils? The answer is, that when we have chosen Jehovah for our God, and rejected all false gods, according to his first law, lest our minds should invent him any service, he hath here prescribed laws himself for his own most divine and spiritual service. [Henry] Holland’s [The Historie of Adam] fourfold state of man, (1606) pag. (mihi) 31.
O. See Ames. Medulla, lib. 2. p. 334. Holland on the second command. Willet. Hexapla in loc.
P. (It is true) that God loves indeed a willing worshipper, that is, one who cheerfully and willingly does whatever God has commanded him to do; but it is as true on the other hand, that he hates will-worship, that is, those services that are performed to him for immediate worship, when as they were not prescribed and commanded by him for that end; because this, as they were not prescribed and commanded by him for that end; because this, as it is expressed Psal. 106:39. “is to go a whoring with their own inventions.” [John] Davenant on the place.
Q. Illa igitur quæ pertinent ad ordinem & decorem, non ita relinquenter hominum arbitrio, ut possint quod ipsis libet, sub illo nomine ecclesiis obtrudere. Medulla. p. 345.
R. Hence (even by God’s own interpretation of the case) we implicitly make any one a god to us, and give him the homage due to a Deity, when we subject ourselves to his authority and institutions in the matter of religious worship. Ames. Medulla, l. 2. page 535.
S. Erroris hoc est principium quod quæ nobis placent, Deo etiam placere putamus: et quæ nobis displicent Deo etiam displicent putamus.
T. Phil[ip]. Melan[cthon]. in loc com. p. 631, 632.
U. Lord Brook’s Treatise of Episcopacy, [i.e., A Discourse Opening the nature of that Episcopacie which is Exercised in England] p. 60, 61.
V. Additio corrumpens, et conversans. Additio accidentalium, et essentialium. [The addition of corruption, or association. The addition of accidentals, or essentials.]
W. Ruat cœlum potius quam una mica veritatis pereat. Luth[er].
X. By such a shaking he prepared the way for Christ’s first coming, and in like manner he will prepare the way for his second appearance. Great have been the changes he has made in the world before this, but there is still to come a much greater. Grotius.
Y. Accessorium sequitur naturam principalis. Agentes et consentientes, pari poena plectuntur.
Z. It is not my design to asperse any godly person, that by the prevalency of temptation may join with them; The Lord, I hope, will recover such out of the snare: But I speak of the body and generality of them.
AA. They boast and make no small noise about scripture, but understand it not; yea, they prevert it, they open, as it were, fountains of learning, who, however, are destitute of the wholesome waters of sound doctrine.
BB. Ames. Cas. conscien. lib. 4. p. 233.
CC. Burroughs on the xi. of Mat. 12. second book, p. 110.
DD. Mr. Collings Vindiciæ. minist. [Vindiciae ministerii evangelici a vindication of the great ordinance of God] p. 73.
EE. Abjungit saecialem salulationem, ob specialem et eximiam hujus veri pietatem, œquum enim est extraordinarium illis deferre honorem, quorum egregia virtus prœ cœteris eminet et effulget in ecclesia. Dav[enant]. in loc.
FF. Buxtorf in synag. Judaic. cap. 3.
GG. See exhortation to catech. by the ministers of the isle of Wight. [The Addresse of some Ministers of Christ in the Isle of Wight & County of Southampton to the People of their respective charges, by Way of Exhortation, to Discharge their Parts of those Two Duties, Private Conference and Catechising (1658)]
HH. He does not stay in a dwelling-house, but in lurking-place. Brightman on the place.
II. That is, the whole face covered over with tears, at the sight of which God is wonderfully delighted. ibid. Acts et Mon. fol. 1881.
JJ. Cum boni, cum probi cœunt non est factio dicenda, sed curia, et e contrario, illis nomen factionis accommodandum est, qui in est dium bonorum et proborum conspirant. Tertul[lian]. Apol. cap. 39.
KK. Quævis collectio fidelium, etiam sic ob paucitatem suam intra privatæ domus parietes includi possit etiamsi ob furorem hostium nocturnos conventus agant, est vera ecclesia. Dav[enant]. in loc. p. 410.
LL. In religious societies this is a chief advantage, that by mutual, seasonable exhortation, we may banish from our minds all coldness and lukewarmness in our love to God, and may be clothed with zeal towards him. Cartwright on the place.
MM. Peccatum adeo facile alios invadit, ut nulla pestis tantopere, œrem inficere potest. Chem[nitz]. Har.
NN. No body was so much master of himself as to hinder his own folly from infecting his intimates. Seneca.
OO. רבים It may signify either quantitatem continuam, or discretam; either magnitudinem, or multitudinem.
PP. Mr. T[homas] Case in epistle to the morning exercise.
QQ. It is difficult to find shelter in adversity, which was not sought after in times of peace and prosperity. Aug[ustine].
RR. To go freely and without fear upon the high places.
SS. Feri, Domine, feri, nam a peccatis meis absolutus sum. Luth[er].
TT. What death would I not choose! What punishment would I not undergo! yea, into what vault of hell would I not rather choose to be thrown, than to witness against my conscience? Zuing[li]. 3 epist.
UU. Mr. Case in England’s encouragements, p. 74.