« PrécédentContinuer »
Spirit; instance but in this one. Alas, my Brethren, what is become of that charitable and Christian carriage of men towards one another, which God requires of us; and which was wont to be conspicuous amongst Christian compatriots? Woe is me! instead of that true and hearty love, which our Saviour would have the Livery of our Discipleship, the badge of our holy profession; what do we see but emulation, envy and malice, rigid censures and rancorous heart-burnings, amongst men? Instead of those neighbourly and friendly offices, which Christians were wont lovingly to perform to each other; what have we now, in the common practice of men, but underminings, oppressions, violence, cruelty ? Can we think, that the Spirit of Him, who would be styled Love itself, would lead us in these rugged and bloody paths? No; no: this, alone, is too clear a proof, how great a stranger the Spirit of God is to the hearts and ways of men, and how few there are, that, upon good and firm grounds, can plead their right to the sonship of God. Alas! alas! if these dispositions and practices may bewray the Sons of a holy God, what can men do to prove themselves the children of that hellish Apollyon, who was a inan-slayer from the beginning?
For us, my Beloved, Oh, let us hate and bewail this common degeneration of Christians; and, as we would be and be acknowledged, the Sons of God, Let us put on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another; forgiving one another, if we have a quarrel against any, even as Christ forgave us : and, above all these things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness ; Col. iii. 12, 13, 14.
And, lastly, forsaking the mis-guidance of Satan, the world, and our corrupt nature, which will lead us down to the chambers of death and eternal destruction, let us yield up ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit of God, in ail the ways of righteousness, and holiness, of piety, justice, charity, and all manner of gracious conversation; that we may thereby approve ourselves the Sons and Daughters of God; and may be feoffed in that blessed inheritance, which he hath laid up for all his. To the possession whereof, may he happily bring us, who hath dearly bought us, Jesus Christ the Righteous: To whom, with the Father and the Blessed Spirit, One Infinite God, be given all praise, honour, and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
THE MOURNER IN SION.
ECCL. iii. 4. [There is) a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn,
and a time to dance. I need not tell you, that Solomon was a wise man. His wisdom, as it was in an extraordinary measure put into him, by Him, that is wisdom itself; so was it in a more than ordinary way improved, by his diligent observation. His observation was universal; of times, things, persons, actions, events: neither did he lock his experiments up in the closet of his own breast; but, by the direction of God's Spirit, laid them forth to the world in this Divine Sermon; which, not as a king, but as a prophet, he preached to all posterity. Every sentence here, therefore, is a dictate of the Holy Ghost.
It is not Solomon then, but a greater than Solomon, even the Holy Spirit of the Great God, that tells you there is not a time only, but a season too, for every thing and for every purpose under heaven: that is, as I hope you can take it no otherwise, for every good thing, or indifferent; as, for evil things or actions, if men find a time, yet sure God allows no season: those are always damnably-unseasonable abuses of times, and of ourselves.
Not to meddle with other particulars; our thoughts are now, by the Divine Providence, pitched upon, a time to wrep, and a tiine to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance ; or rather only upon the time to weep and mourn, for our time of laughing and dancing is past already: and perhaps we have had too much of that in our former times; which makes the causes and degrees of our now weeping and mourning, as more uncouth, so more intensive: we must be so much deeper in our mourning, by how much we have been more wild and wanton in our laughter and dancing.
I. To fall right down therefore upon our intended discourse, without any previous circumlocutions; There is a THREEFOLD TIME OF JUST MOURNING: 1. When a man is sensible of his Punishments; 2. Of his Sins; 3. Of his Dangers.
1. Of his PUNISHMENTS, first; or rather, which is more general, of his AMictions; for all afflictions are not intended for punishments: some are fatherly chastisements only for our good, whereas all punishments are afilictive. When we are whipped then, when we smart with the rod, we have cause to weep; and if, in this case, we shed no tears, it is a sign of a graceless heart. VOL. V.
It is time, therefore, to mourn, when we are pressed by sufferings; whether from the immediate hand of God, or mediately by the hands of men; whether by private or public calamities.
Are we smitten in our Bodies, by some painful and incurable diseases? Doth the pestilence rage in our streets? Hath God forbidden us the influence of heaven, and cursed the earth with barrenness? Hath he broken the staff of bread, and sent leanness into our souls? Hath he humbled us with the fearful casualties of fire or water? by wrecks at sea; by lightnings and tempests by land? Hath he sent murrain amongst our cattle, and destroying vermin into our barns and fields? now God tells us, it is a time to mourn.
Are we disquieted in our Minds, by some overmastering passions of grief; for the miscarriages of children, for the secret discontents of domestical jars, for unjust calumnies cast upon our good name? Are we molested in our minds and spirits with impetuous, and no less importune than hateful temptation? now it is a time to mourn.
Do we find in our Souls a decay and languishment of grace; a prevalence of those corruptions, which we thought abated in us? Do we find ourselves deeply soul-sick with our sinful indispositions? Shortly, do we find the face of our God for the time withdrawn from us? now, now it is a time to mourn.
If we turn our eyes to those evils, which are cast upon us by the hands of men: Do men find themselves despoiled of their estates, restrained of their liberties, tortured in their bodies? Do they find the woeful miseries of an intestine war; killings, burnings, de populations? Do they find fire and sword raging in the bosom of our land! Now it is a time to mourn. Were these evils confined to some few persons, to some special families, they were worthy of the tears of our compassion; for it is our duty to weep with them that weep: but, where they are universal, and spread over the whole face of any nation, there cannot be found tears enough to lament them.
2. Punishments then are a just cause of our sorrow and mourning: but, to a good heart, sie is so much greater cause of mourning, by how much a moral evil is more than a natural; and by how much the displeasure of an Almighty God, is worthy of more regard than our own smart. Doth thy heart then tell thee, that thou hast offended the Majesty of God by some grievous sin? now is thy time to weep and mourn; as thou wouldest for thy only son ; Zech. xii. 10: now it is time for thee to be in bitterness, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. Thy soul is foul, wash and rinse it with the tears of thy repentance: go forth with Peter, and weep bitterly. Dost thou find in the place where thou livest, that sin, like some furious torrent, bears down all before it? now it is time for thee to mourn for the sins of thy people; and to say, as the holy Psalmist did, Rivers of water run down mine eyes, because men keep not thy law; Psalm cxix. 136.
3. Lastly, as our sufferings and our sins make up a due time for our mourning, so do our DANGERS also; for fear isno less afflictive than pain: yea, I know not whether there can be a greater pain, than the expectation of imminent mischiefs. Do we therefore see extremities of judgments hovering over our heads, ready to fall down, like Sodom's fire and brimstone, from heaven upon us? now is it high time to mourn, for the anteverting of a threatened vengeance. Shortly, therefore, to sum up all that we have spoken, whether we feel evils of punishment or fear them, or be conscious of the evils of sin that have deserved them, we cannot but find it a just time to weep and mourn.
And now, to come home close to ourselves; can any man be so wilfully blind, as not to see that all these are met together, to wring tears from us; and to call us to a solemn and universal mourning?
1. What single men SUFFER, themselves best feel; and our old word is, The wronged man writes in marble. I meddle not with particulars. Our pains of body, our losses in our estate, our domestic crosses, our wounds of spirit, as they are kept up in our own breasts, so they justly call us to private humiliations.
If we cast abroad our eyes to more public afflictions; have we not seen, that God hath let his sea loose upon us in divers parts of our land? as if, for a new judgment upon us, he would retract the old word of his decreed limitation; Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed; Job xxxvij. 11. Hath not God given us, in divers parts of our nation, a feeling touch of some of the Egyptian plagues; in the mortality of our cattle ; in the unusual frequency of noisome and devouring vermin? But woe is me! all these are but tlea-bites, in comparison of that destructive sword, that hath gone through the land; and sheathed itself in the bowels of hundred thousands of brethren. Oh, that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people ; Jer. ix. 1. Was there ever a more fearful example of divine vengeance against any nation, than to be armed against each other to their mutual destruction ? that Christian compatriots, brethren, should pour out each others' blood like water in our streets, and leave their mangled carcasses for compost in our fields ? that none but the sharper sword should be left to be the arbiter of our deadly differences ? that fathers and sons should so put off all natural affection, as to think it no violation of piety to cut the throats of each other? Oh, that we have lived to see the woeful havoc, that the hellish fury of war hath made, every where, in this flourishing and populous island; the fames of hostile fury rising up in our towns and cities; the devastation of our fruitful and pleasant villages; the demolition of our magnificent structures ; the spoils and ruins of those fabrics that should be sacred; in a word, this goodly land, for a great part of it, turned to a very Golgotha and Aceldama! These, these, my Brethren, if our eyes be not made of pumices, must needs fetch tears from us; and put us into a constant habit of mourning.
2. And, if our Punishments deserves thus to take up our hearts, where shall we find room enough for sufficient sorrow, for those horrible sins, that have drawn down these heavy judgments upon us?
Truly, Beloved Brethren, if we were wholly resolved into tears, and if every drop were a stream, we could not weep enough for our own sins, and the sins of our people. Let every man ransack his own breast, and find out the plague of his own heart; 1 Kings viii. 38: but, for the present, let me have leave a little to lay before you, though it is no pleasing object, that common leprosy of Sin, wherewith the face of this miserable nation is overspread; whether in matter of Practice, or of Opinion.
(1.) For the Former; should I gather up all the complaints of the prophets, which they have taken up of old against their Israel and Judah, and apply them to this Church and Nation, you would verily think them calculated to this our meridian: as if our sins were theirs, and their reproofs ours.
What one sin can be named, in all that black bead-roll of wickedness, reckoned up by those holily querulous censors, which we must not own for ours?
Of whom do you think the prophet Isaiah speaks, when he says, Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and yur sins have hid his face from you, that ho will not hear; for your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniqui y, your lips hare spoken lies; your tongue hath inuttered perverseness? Isaiah lix.
Of whom do ye think the prophet Micah speaks, when he says, The rich men therenf are full of violence, and ihe inhabitants thereof have spoken lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouths ? Micah
Do we think of epicurism and self-indulgence? Whom do we think the prophet Amos speaks of, when he says, Woe be to them, that ure at ease in zion; that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near; that lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches; that drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointment; but they are not grieved for the apliction of Joseph ? Amos vi. 1, 3, 4, 6. Tell me, Brethren, was there ever more riot and excess in diet and clothes, in belly-cheer and back-timber, than we see at this day?
Do we think of drunkenness and surfeits? Of whom do we think Isaiah speaks, when he saith, They have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way: the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink : (Indian smoke was not then known:) they are swallowed up of wine; they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision ; they stumble in judgment, for all tables are full of vomit and filthiness? Isaiah xxvii. 7, 8.
Of whom doth the prophet Hosea speak, when he says, Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart? well may two be put together, for they seldom go asunder. But tell me, Brethren, was there ever such abominable beastliness in this kind,