Images de page
PDF
ePub

none of their designs should be ineffectual. Or, had we to do with a powerful agent that were not also infinitely wise, we might think he might be overreached in his plot. But now, that infinite power and wisdom are the very essence of God, let us, whatever doth or may befall us, take up that holy resolution of good Eli, It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good; 1 Sam. iii. 18.

But, in the mean time, let not those wicked wretches, by whose unjust hand the just God thinks good to scourge his own, comfort themselves, with the hope of an impunity, because they are unwittingly used in his executions: no; they are no whit the more innocent, because God beats his own with their malice: neither shall they be less avenged, because they have heedlessly done God's will, while they despitefully do their own. Ashur is the rod of God's wrath : when God hath sufficiently whipt and drawn blood of his Israel by him, he casts him into the fire: the fire of that wrath, which Åshur feels from God, is a thousand times hotter, than the fire of that wrath, which Israel feels from Ashur. Shortly, God will have his due honour, both in afflicting his own, and in plaguing those that afflicted them: his agency is equal in both; He turneth a fruitful land into barrenness.

III. Hitherto the Agent: now follows the MERITING CAUSE of this Change; The wickedness of them that dwell therein.

God is an absolute Lord; Domini est terra. He is not accountable for any reason of his change. Whether of barrenness or plenty, there needs no other ground to be given, but, Quia voluit. And even so it is in this stirring piece of earth, which we carry about us. Why this womb or those loins are sterile, that fruitful; yea, why this or that soul is so; he needs not give any reason, but his will.

Yet, so far doth he condescend to us, as to impart to us an account of the ground of his proceedings. Man suffereth for his sin, saith the Prophet; and the earth suffereth here, for the wickedness of the inhabitants. Evermore God hath some motive for the inficting of evil. As it is in the main point of a man's eternal estate, man's salvation is ex mero beneplacito, The gift of God is eternal life; but his damnation is never without a cause in man, The soul ihat sinneth shall die : so it is in this case of lesser good or evil; when God speaks of turning wildernesses into ponds of water, in the following words

ye hear no cause assigned but mere mercy; but, when he speaks of turning fruitful lands into barrenness, now it is for the wickedness of in-dwellers. This is a most sure rule therefore ; All judgments are inflicted for sin : Chastisements are out of love, but punishment out of justice. Yea, so doth God order his judgments commonly, that in the punishment we may read the sin; and in the sin we may foresee the punishment: and can confidently define, where punishment is, there hath been sin; and where sin is, there will be punishment.

I have heard and seen some ignorant impatients, when they have found themselves to smart with God's scourge, cast a sullen frown back upon him, with Cur me cædis? or with the male-contented mother of the striving twins, Why am I thus? Alas, what mere; what miserable strangers are these men at home? There is nothing in the world, that they do more mis-know, than themselves: had they ever but looked in, if but at the door, yea at the window, yea at the key-hole of their own hearts or lives, they could not choose but cry out with holy Job, I have sinned, what shall I do to thee,

thoi Preserver of Men? They would accuse, arraign, and condemn themselves; and would rather bethink, which of those many thousand sins, which they have multiplied against heaven, they are called to reckoning for; and would have no word in their mouth; but mea culpa, mea culpa.

Now, as where punishment is there was sin; so, where sin is there will be, there must be punishment. If thou dost ill, saith God to Cain, sin lies at the door; Gen. iv: 7. Sin, that is, punishment for sin: they are so inseparable, that one word implies both: for the doing ill is the sin, that is within doors; but the suffering ill is the punishment, and that lies like a fierce mastiff at the door, and is ready to fly in our throat when we look forth : and, if it do not then seize upon us, yet it dogs us at the heels; and will be sure to fasten upon us, at our greatest disadvantage: Tum gravior, cùm tarda venit, &c. Joseph's brethren had done heinously ill: what becomes of their sin? it makes no noise; but, follows them slily and silently in the wilderness: it follows them home to their father's house: it follows them into Egypt. All this while, there is no news of it; but, when it found them cooped up three days in Pharaoh's ward, now it bays at them, and fies in their faces : We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the ans guish of his soul, &c. Gen. xlii. 21.

What should I instance in that, whereof not Scripture, not books, but the whole world is full; the inevitable sequences of sin and punishment? Neither can it be otherwise. Shall not the Judge of all the Earth do right? saith Abraham; Gen. xviii. 25. Right, is to give every one his due: wages is due to work; now the wages of sin is death; so then, it stands upon no less ground, than very necessary and essential justice of God, that, where wickedness hath led the way, there punishment must follow.

There is more need to apply than to prove so clear a truth. How then, I beseech you, Honourable and Beloved, stands the case with

Where is the man, that dare flatter us so much, as to say there is not store of wickedness found in our hands ? Woe is me! we are in the eyes of all the world, no less eminent in God's favours, than our own sinfulness. It is past our power, to either conceal, or deny, or excuse our abominable iniquities. Certainly, if we change not, we are sure God will not. What can we then expect from

that just hand of the Almighty, but that he should turn our fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of us that dwell in it? I may not be so saucy, to presage by what course he will do it. That Almighty Arbiter of the World hath a thousand ways to his own ends: but it is not an improbable note of the author of our Fasciculus Temporum, that there is Trifarius cursus rerum ;

us ?

abundantia, indigentie, temperantia ; A threefold course of things; of abundance, want, temj.erance.” From abundance or excess, arise animosity and delicacy; from these, arise discord and quarrels; and from these, want: from want, we begin to learn wit; and compose ourselves to temperance: that thrifty course raises abundance: In circuitu ambulant impii, as he speaks. Now what shall we say? of the abundance and delicacy, we have surfeited already too long: we are now in the quarrelsome part, that arises from our pampered animosity; and what can follow next, but our miserable indigence and distress? we may please ourselves in the secure condition of our happy union, in the strength of our wooden walls, and our natural bulwarks; but I remember what I have read of a noble and wise captain, who, when he was vehemently moved to take upon him the defence of a strong city, which was enforced to him by the safe site, strong fortifications, plentiful ammunition, and inexpugpable walls of it; “Yea," saith he, “but tell me I pray you, have you any covering betwixt it and heaven? have you any defence against the vengeance of that God, whom your sins have provoked? If those sins of yours shall draw down God's curses upon your heads, to what purpose shall it be to endeavour to keep your enemy out of your gates?” The story applies itself. In vain shall we think to secure ourselves and our state from earth, if we irritate heaven.

There is no sin, that is dumb: there is none, that whispers : every one is vocal, loud, clamorous to solicit heaven for vengeance; but some are more shrill and importunate than others. God hath been pleased to distinguish their noise.

Oppression is one, that he hears above the rest : that hath two tongues; both loud ones, both prevalent; the cry of the Oppressed, and the cry of the Oppression. The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof. Wherefore ? The spoil of the poor is in their houses. What mean you, that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor, saith the Lord God of Hosts? Isaiah iii. 14, 15.

Contempt of God's ministers is another: and that's a paying sin, wheresoever it is; Jer. xxv. 4. Even Moses himself, that was initissimus super terram, yet, when he comes to speak of affronts offered to Levi, can say, Smite through the loins of them that rise against him, and of thein that hate him, that they rise not again; Deut. xxxiii. 11.

What should I particularize? The Lord hath a controversy with the land, saith the prophet Hosea: by swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood; Therefore shall the land mourn; Hos. iv. 2, 3. Doth he not speak of our times, think you?

But, above all these, there is a sin, which, wheresoever it is, drowns the noise of all the rest, and that is Sacrilege; which certainly, in what hand, in what nation soever it is found, hurries down an inevitable judgment. It was a fearful word, that of the Psalmist, Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, yea, all their princes like Zeba

VOL. V.

R

and Zalmunna, who said, Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession: (ny God, make them like a roheel; Psalm lxxxiii. ll, 12. Indeed, how can it be otherwise? Will a man rob God, says the Prophet, Ye are cursed with a curst, for ye have robbed me; Mal. iii. 9. What should I tell you the stories of Balthasar, of Heliodorus, of Crassus, of Julian, of the Templars, of Wolsey, and of his Master Henry VIII.? Shortly, shew me the man, the family, the nation, that ever prospered after sacrilege. I am sure I have a great author to the contrary, no less than one of the nine worthies, Charles the Great: Novinius, saith he, multa regna et reges corum propterea cecidisse, quia Ecclesias spoliárunt, resque earum alienarunt, et militibus loco stipendii dederunt : “ We have known," saith he,

great kingdoms and the kings of them therefore to have miss carried, because they spoiled Churches, and alienated their possessions, and gave them to their soldiers for their pay." If any man have a mind to feoff a curse upon himself and his posterity, let him defile his fingers with the holy things of God. Oh, let this portion be to the enemies of my Lord the King and our dear Country: but upon him, and his friends, and his peers and people, that abhor this wickedness, let there be blessings from God, even upon them and their seed for ever and ever!

Finally then, since there is no wickedness which doth not mainly contribute to the pulling down of God's vengeance upon us and our land, let us, in the fear of God, join all our forces together against all the reigning sins of the times: let us never think we can spend ourselves better, than in striving against the stream of our pressing iniquities. Wherefore hath God put the sword into the hands of you Great Men, but that you should use it to the effectual cutting down of all wickedness and vice? Wherefore hath God put the two-edged sword of the Spirit into the mouths of us his Ministers, but that we should lay about us zealously, in season, and out of season; to the hewing down of the over-grown abominations of this sinful age? Yea, how doth it concern every

one of you, who hear me this day, if you would be but wise men and good patriots, to put your hand to the work, and to bend your utmost endeavours to the beating down of your own sins; and carefully to ransack all the blind corners of your hearts, to find out the cursed Achan in your own bosoms? Oh, that each man would thus undertake to reform one! How sure should we be that the God of Heaven would divert his fearful judgments; and graciously continue the blessing of peace, plenty, prosperity; and, together with them, of a happy government, and the freedom of the blessed Gospel to us and our posterity after us! Which God vouchsafe unto us, for his mercy's sake, and for the sake of the Son of his Love, Jesus Christ, the Just, &c. To whom, &c.

SERMON XVI.

PUBLIC THANKSGIVING FOR THE WONDERFUL

MITIGATION OF THE LATE MORTALITY.

PREACHED BEFORE HIS MAJESTY, UPON HIS GRACIOUS COMMAND, AT

HIS COURT OF WHITEHALL, JANUARY 29, 1625, AND UPON THE SAME COMMAND PUBLISHED.

PSALM lxviii. 19, 20. Blessed be the Lord, who loadeth us daily with benefits, even the God

of our Salvation. Selah. He that is our God is the God of Sal

vation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death. Yra, blessed be the Lord; who hath added this unto the load of his other mercies to his unworthy servant, that the same tongue, which was called, not long since, to chatter out our Public Mournings, in the Solemn Fast of this place, is now employed in a Song of Praise; and the same hand, which was here lifted up for Supplication, is now lift up in Thanksgiving. Ye, that then accompanied me with your tears and sighs, accompany me now, I beseech you, in this happy change of note and time, with your joyful smiles, and acclamations to the God that hath wrought it.

It is not more natural for the sun, when it looks upon a moist and well-fermented earth, to cause vapours to ascend thence, than it is for greatness and goodness, when they both meet together upon honest heart, to draw up holy desires of gratulation. The worth of the agent doth it not alone, without a fit disposition in the subject. Let the sun cast his strongest beams upon a flint, a pumice; he fetches out no stream: even so the greatness and

good. ness of the Almighty, beating upon a dry and hard heart, prevails nothing. Here all three are happily met: in God, infinite greatness, infinite goodness; such greatness, that he is attended with thousand thousands of angels, a guard fit for the King of Heaven; such goodness, that he receives gifts even for the rebellious: in David, a gracious heart, that, in a sweet sense of the great goodness of his God, breathes out this Divine Epiphonema, Blessed be the Lord, who loadeth us daily with benefits, even the God of our Salvation, &c.

Wherein, methinks, the sweet Singer of Israel seems to raise his note to the emulation of the Choir of Heaven, in the melody of their Hallelujahs: yea, let me say, now that he sings above in that

« PrécédentContinuer »