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authority in the execution of justice. For it is with the magistracy herein, as with the ministry, the way to preach, is to preach ; the way to prayer, is prayer; Iter ad gratiam est gratia, the way to grace is grace. God is pleased some
. times to come in with fresh strength, and to give new assistance in the heat of preaching. So in the acts of magistracy, God comes in also in the dispensation thereof.
In that case present your souls with that great trust that is committed to you, and put upon you. If a minister when he is banding away his precious hours between this and that play-book; or when he is most prodigal of his people's time, for it is their's not his; if then I say when he is most idle, and indisposed to those great services, he could but realize a congregation, and present before him the many souls that depend upon him, and as it were hear them calling out unto him: Oh, sir, study, study for our souls, study for our eternity; certainly this would awaken, move, and put life into him. So if those that are in authority and place of magistracy, would but present themselves with those many thousands that have entrusted them with their liberties, estates, lives, I had almost said consciences, and eternities, surely it would be exceeding quickening and helpful.
Consider your present opportunity. Opportunity once lost, is never recovered. My words shall know no flattery; never did England see a parliament more fitted for the service and work of God than this now is. A quiver so full of chosen and polished shafts for the Lord's work. I have often thought that God would deal by our present parliamentary assembly, as Samson did deal with the jaw-bone, wherewith he had slain heaps of the Philistines, which when he had done, he threw it away ; but afterwards thirsting, and being like to die for want of water, God sent him back to his jawbone again, and tells him that he would cleave that, and open a fountain of water to him from thence. So hath God used this great parliamentary ordinance for the slaying of many Philistines ; but, in these latter times, this jaw-bone of ours hath been thrown away, and despised in the eyes of the world; and it may be now God will open a fountain of water from hence, that we may all be revived and live thereby. Wherefore then let all those that are of this honourable assembly think: It may be God hath raised me up to this
time, all the while I was at the university, God was laying in of abilities in my education for this occasion ; and shall I lose this opportunity, Opportunitas indicat virum, opportunity shews the man, and makes the man, and sometimes bath the casting voice for man's eternity.
Consider this also, that if reformation be not now wrought, our sin and guilt will be greater than ever it was. This parliament time is a commencement time for good or evil; take a good work, and though it were never so private, and personal, yet if it pass in this house, it does commence national: so take an evil, and though it were never so private before, yet if it pass here, it will take a higher degree, and commence national wickedness; this is a fearful evil, and very dreadful, that a personal sin should become national. I know you are unwilling that any sin should steal its degree; as therefore you do desire that no personal sin shall become national, I beseech you in Christ's stead, let the reformation be full and perfect, and let every man say: Babylon shall fall, I also will have a hand in it, and shoulder at it. “Down with it, down with it, even to the ground.”
And if you be a minister, you know your duty; only, as Luther phrases it, let your knowledge be incarnate into godly practice; good works are faith incarnate, knowledge incarnate. Now you read Joshua iii. 13, 15, 17, that when the children of Israel went through Jordan, these priests that bare the ark of the Lord, were first to enter upon the waters, and to stay in the midst of them, till all Israel passed over.
The water doth note affliction, the feet of those that bare the ark are to be first in danger, and there to stand till all be over. In the place before mentioned, Ezek. xliv. 10—12, God's threatening is very terrible. As if he should say, As for those Levites that go astray when Israel goes astray, and do admit the uncircumcised in heart to mine holy things, though they be suffered in mine house, yet they shall but do the out-works thereof, as for those inward things of mine house and self, they shall not be admitted to them, nor trusted with them. Though they may preach some outward truths, which they may read of in books, yet for those inward secret heart things of the covenant, I will never trust them with them, they shall not draw near to me. Oh, therefore beloved, that we could deny our own knowledge,
wisdoms, parts, gifts, liberties, and all that is ours in this great service.
But if a man's condition and state be private, what must he do to help forward the fall of Babylon?
Take heed that thou do nothing to hinder God's public design by your private practices, put away the evil of all your doings, lest your private wickedness do ponere obicem to God's providence.
Achan's wickedness was committed in the dark, and with much privacy, yet what influence had it into public misery.
Miriam and Aaron murmured against Moses, and envied at him, for which she was stricken with leprosy whereby the whole congregation was stayed, and their march hindered. It is said, 2 Chron. xx. 33, that the high places were not pulled down, “ because the people were not prepared for the Lord;” not because the prince was not prepared, or the great ones not prepared, but because the people were not prepared. It is in regard of truth, as in regard of error in this particular, though the baker may have kneaded his dough, that is, his false opinion, and made it ready, yet as the prophet Hosea speaks, and as Zanchy interprets the place, he sets not in, till the oven be heated, that is, the heart of the people warmed and prepared for it. So for truth also, or a public mercy and deliverance, though God have provided it for a people, yet it is not handed to them, and set in, till their hearts be warmed and prepared for it. You may observe therefore, that when David had made his penitential psalm for his own sin, Ps. li., after much supplication for the pardon of his own evil, and for grace, and comfort he comes at last in the 18th verse to this petition : “Do good in thy good pleasure unto Sion,” &c. How comes that in here? Yes, when a man hath once repented of his own sin, and cleared that reckoning, then he is fittest to ask mercy for the church, and till then unfit. Therefore though in regard of your own souls, your own eternity, you will not part with your own sins, yet if you have any pity, any compassion, any bowels towards your own country, or churches of God, put away the evil of all your doings.
Though your condition be never so private, you may discover the ways of Babylon, the works and complotments of the Babylonish party : and the discovery of evil is half its
ruin, as the apostle speaks, 2 Tim. iii. 9, “ They shall proceed no further, for their folly shall be made manifest to all."
You may believe down the walls of Babylon. Faith removes mountains, though it be but a grain; hy it the walls of Jericho fell, in the blowing of those poor rams' horns. And the walls of Jericho were built up to heaven, surely then the walls of Babylon cannot be higher. Wherefore seek out those promises and threatenings, set your heart towards them, bear yourselves upon them, urge, and press God by virtue of them, and say, though it be very unlikely that Babylon should fall, yet God hath thus and thus promised, thus and thus threatened, and he is faithful, here I will stay, and here I will wait.
You may spread the blasphemies of the Babylonish faction in the eyes of heaven. Thus did Hezekiah when Rabshakeh blasphemed, and we know how it prevailed. Great and grievous have the blasphemies been wherewith the men of Babylon have blasphemed the saints of God, and the footsteps of his anointed, which God takes as done against himself, and so repays them, Ezek. xxxv. i2, compared with the 13th verse.
In the 12th verse it is said, “I have heard all thy blasphemies which thou hast spoken against the mountains of Israel, saying, they are laid desolate, they are given us to consume :" but in the 13th verse these words are charged upon them, as if they were spoken against God himself: “That with your mouth you have boasted against me, and have multiplied your words against me.” Therefore at the 14th verse follows the punishment. The spreading of their hellish blasphemies, is exceeding prevalent with God, and very potent.
You may use all the interest you have in heaven, and whatsoever credit you have there, improve it, which we beseech you do now in this particular. Your prayers puts them under God's curse.
Though your condition and station be never so private, you may according to your place, curse the practices and complotments of all the enemies. Doth not Jacob seem to pronounce a curse upon the practices of Simeon and Levi, though his own children, Gen. xlix. 7, “Cursed be their wrath for it was cruel, &c., for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they digged down a wall.” What is the endeavour of the Babylonians, but to dig down the walls of Jerusalem, and of our protection. Oh, my soul come not thou into their secret. God hath commanded that Meroz should be cursed, and cursed bitterly ; because they went not forth to help the Lord against the mighty. How bitterly then are they to be cursed, that go forth to help the mighty against the Lord. It was a statute and a law in Israel, that if any
removed the ancient landmarks, he shall be cursed. “ Cursed,” says the text,
“ shall he be that removes the ancient landmarks, and let all the people say Amen." What is the ancient landmark of England, but our laws and religion ? and therefjre if any man shall remove this our landmark, cursed shall he be, of the Lord cursed, and let all the people say Amen.
Whatever personal injury hath been done unto you by any of the enemies of the churches, you may, you must pass them by, so far as it is a private concernment, and you shall not lose hereby, your forgiveness hastens their ruin. For this cause, as you may read Numb. xii. 2, 3, 4, God himself took vengeance on Miriam, because Moses was a meek man. See how the mention of his meekness is brought in by way of parenthesis at ver. 3, as the cause of God's proceedings against her, ver. 4. Wherefore, my beloved, have any been wronged and injured by your and God's enemies, carry it meekly, carry it humbly, no revenge, no revenge, but all forgiveness. And have they begun to fall before you, let there be much rejoicing, but no insulting ; praises, but no insulting; prayer still, but no insulting. Let your moderation be known to all, for God is at hand. These are your duties; which things if they be in you and abound, in due time Babylon shall fall, and you shall see it; for the next doctrine tells us it :
Though antichristian and Romish Babylon be never so great, yet it shall fall, and fall assuredly.
This is but equal: those that have fallen from God, shall fall by God; those that have made others to fall, shall fall themselves. Now the man of sin is the star that is fallen from heaven, who in 2 Thess. ii. 3, as some observe, is called in the abstract, apostacy, not an apostate, a falling away, not one that is fallen away, so notorious is he for sinful falling,