TIMES OF PERSECUTION IN SCOTLAND,
SUFFERERS FOR THE ROYAL PREROGATIVES OF JESUS CHRIST.
Sermons & Lectures by Donald Cargill.
HERE we see the Lord is sending out a young prophet, and He is giving him great charges, and great promises, and great power. He gives him a great charge:
- The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin:
- To whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.
- It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month.
- Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
- Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
- Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold I cannot speak: for I am a child.
- ¶But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.
- Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.
- Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.
- See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.Jeremiah 1.1-10.
First, In these three things especially:1st, He gives him in charge, that he is to be at His bidding or command. 2ndly, He gives him in charge to be faithful in whatever he doth. And 3rdly, He is to be without fear, and ye know that, in effect, fear binds up a man from freedom. But I say,
1. Ye must go at His command, and ye must go, says the Lord, where I send you. This is not the least property of a servant to obey his Master: he must do his Master's bidding, and must never err in obeying his Master's command. But the thing that I observe is this, that the ministers of the Gospel should speak. I say they should be at command.
Now, it is our duty to speak what God bids and commands us. We shall say this one word, we must speak what God commands. We are sure that God is either bidding ministers do little, or else they do not that which He bids them doindeed, in effect, God bids them do little. We fear, God has given up with the most part of the ministers in Scotland. He hath dealt with us, like a man who has a stubborn servant. He bids him until he is wearied with bidding of him, and still he will not obey. Now he gives over speaking to him, and tells him to take his will; and his will is his work, and so comes of it. So the Lord seems to have left off bidding the ministers of Scotland. He will bid them do no more. Ah, He is now saying to those who have gone out of His way, "Now do what you please next." Oh then, be not disobedient! The Master must be obeyed; His commands must be done. We shall say this that we are sure of; as we should never run uncalled, so we should never sit when our Master commands us to run. We say then, when God is bidding us run and fitting us for our work, as Jeremiah here was, then should we run. When the Master bids, then the servant ought to be at command.
2. The next thing He gives him in charge, is, to be faithful, and that in these two things wherein every minister ought to be faithful.
1st, They should be faithful in their commission.
2ndly, In what is committed unto their trust.
1. We say, we are to be faithful as to what we get in our commission. We shall not keep back one word, for the failing in one word may occasion the staggering of many. I say, a person may stagger upon one word kept back. Indeed the keeping back, or failing of many words, makes ministers greatly faulty and unfaithful to the people. And this, in effect, is one cause, amongst many others, that has procured the Church's ruin, and the people's sinning makes it so. They desire no other, and the Lord in His just anger trysts [meets] you with the desire of your hearts. Oh, ye that are unfaithful, ye will not abide by God! and He gives you ministers that come and go as you please. The
2. Thing wherein the prophet was to be faithful, viz., in what was committed to his trust. The Spirit of God hath this: "Keep that which is committed to thy trust." Ye that are faithful men, that is your trust, that is your commission. But ah! the Lord has departed from ministers and Christians; because they have not kept that which was committed unto them, but have let it fall unto and before their enemies, for the more we are witnessing against His enemies the more pleading we are to Him.
3. But a third thing here enjoined, is, freedom to all the ministers of the gospel, and that without fear. You must not be afraid. Fear binds up freedom. Oh, it does not become a minister of the gospel to be moved with fear! It sets not a minister of the gospel to be either overcome with fear, or counsel. He is to be holy, to be an overseer, watchman, leader, therefore it is unsuitable for him to be overcome with such things. Nay, Christ their Master often forbids them to fear, and foretells them what they are to meet with when about His work, and yet not to fear or succumb under either fears or favours. Here Jeremiah is forbidden to fear. "Be not afraid of their faces, for I am with thee," &c. Oh, this should be looked unto! But we will say this; when a minister of the gospel is tender, and has the awe of God upon his spirit, and His glory before his eyes, he will not be much afraid. And this charge binds him, first, by the awe of God; and then from a love and desire to have others get good of Christ, with a thirsting after the salvation of many.
Now, I say, where fear is, this will have but little access. Here the prophet has a charge, which the awe of God upon him, and love to the salvation of souls, bind upon him. For, says the apostle, "Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." He knows what his charge and commission bears, even the gathering in of souls to God, and he thirsted to have this fulfilled. His zeal and thirst so bound him in the work that he could stand at nothing to have souls made good and their salvation accomplished.
Here we see also that it was a suffering time in which Jeremiah. the prophet was brought out. In the 3rd verse we see that there were three kings, Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah, whom he had to speak untothe father and the sons, the father good, the sons evil. One while, he has a good king to deal with, to encourage him to be faithful and free; and then for a long time of his life, he has two wicked kings that were always against him. And when he wanted a wicked king, he had a wicked people to deal with, who made him a sad life and a great work, as he was still striving to get them brought off their wicked and evil courses. We may therefore observe this from it:
1. That when once ministers are set out, they ought to be content with their lot, and not to be afraid. We shall say only this, that ministers of the gospel have in their commission three encouragements not to fear by which they may the better face the storm, and which for their greater encouragement they may set in opposition to it.
2. The next thing observable is the time or continuance of his commission, which was to the carrying away of the captivity. He preaches them to captivity. There are some who preach to captivity, others preach to plagues, others to judgments. Some preach people to hell. Alas! there are some who think nothing of the word of God preached unto them! but it will possibly continue, till it preach some of you to captivity, to hell, and to wrath. We acknowledge with grief of heart, and we say it as before the Lord, the Lord is now preaching judgment and ye may look to meet with it. Yea, ye need scarcely look for a change to the better till some of you and judgment meet together.
But more particularly, the Lord speaks to Jeremiah, and makes known His great kindness unto him; "Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee." Now, there are three things here observable:great manifestations, great promises, and an ample commission. The first two of these are granted for his greater encouragement; but the thing that we say is, that the Lord ordinarily manifests Himself much more at one time than at another, as at the time of conversion He will not only communicate His mind to some concerning His eternal purposes towards them, but His purpose as to what He will make of them in the world, yea, His thought as to their office and what they shall do for Him. These come all at one time here. He instructs this holy man about his sanctification and election, calling and conversion, and about His providences that he is to meet with, and all the favours and mercies he is to receive from God; and all these he hath here at once for his encouragement. But it may be here asked, "What is the reason the Lord does so with one, and not with another?" One reason is, that they may lay aside their own particular concerns, and that their whole care may be about the public work of the ministry. I say that their whole care may be about the public work, and that himself with the salvation of his own soul may be laid aside as insured. Till this be once sure, they are ever unable for the public work of the ministry, and this being once made sure, they are to lay it by till they go before the tribunal of God. Has God once said it? let it stand so.
But there is another thing we may observe from this, that when the Lord sanctifies any, and deals thus singularly with them, it is clear He hath some extraordinary thing ado with them. There are many who come out at random to the ministry. But what comes of them! Some run one way and some another, and when brought unto any eminent piece of service they soon turn aside. And what is the cause of it? Is it not because they were not sure themselves, and so could not deal with others, being unprepared for the work? Well, says the Lord, "Ye shall not continue, ye shall turn your backs upon ityea, stumble, fall, and break your necks upon it." Some seek unto strange shelter for fear.
But to speak more particularly concerning these words, "Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee." Here we have these two things. First, his predestination, and then his formation. I say, before God's hand was at the forming or creating of him in the belly, His mind was upon him. "I knew thee"that is, I had thee upon mine heart. In a word, there are some folk that the Lord hath such a respect unto that He beholds them soon. How does He see them? Even in the womb, and He sets His heart upon them before they have a being. "I knew thee before ever I formed thee in the belly; and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." He sees him both in respect of his calling, and in respect of the providence he should meet with, and that before ever he came into the world. He also beholds the wicked to their terror throughout eternity, and reserves them unto the day of wrath; but here, says He, "I knew thee." And oh, but it must be an unspeakable joy to souls to have this made known to them, that God saw what they should be before He formed themI say, to have the Lord manifesting unto them not only what they have been, but also what they shall be, making them see that ere ever He formed them He ordained them unto eternal life. Comfortable is that word of Job, "Thou hast granted me life and favour, and thy visitation hath preserved my spirit." [Job 10.12.] And oh, what ground of hope for the soul to know that it was upon God's heart at the beginning! and that he was predestinate from eternity unto grace and glory. "Before I formed thee I knew thee." We shall not say any more on this, as to what thoughts God hath for eternity to His people. He Himself can only manifest them to the soul, and His manifesting of them is such as makes the soul as sure and certain of them as of their own being. And their being upon God's heart from eternity makes them sure of life eternal. "Before thou camest out of the womb, I sanctified thee." Well, ye see here that the Lord soon puts to His hand. Some folk are careless about assurance until the end of their days. But here is sanctification in the womb. We shall only say this: it is well if they can say they are sure of sanctification before they go out of the world. But that sanctification is best that is begun early; yea, we may say of this sanctification from the womb, they who share of it may be sure that they are never behind in the way, neither will they stumble so soon as others do; yea, where this is tenderly and lively entertained, all things in a world bulk but little with them. But what the Spirit of God looks upon is this: "I have sanctified thee before thou camest forth of the womb"sanctified very soon after formation. We shall say this: so soon as parents know of the formation of the child, so soon should they be holding up its case to God. Parents' prayers ought to begin with their beginning. Why so? Here is the answer, that they may bring them forth sanctified, for there have been some brought forth sinners, and some saints into the world.
Another thing considerable is, "And I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations," so, in effect, he needed not fear. The Lord let him see beforehand that he is as sure as to his part, that he might refuse nothing He commanded him to do; as if He would say, "Ye must not refuse to do anything for Me, that have done so great things for you. I have given thee grace in the belly, and sanctified thee from the womb, for preventing thee from great fears and great falls, that thou mightest be sure every way, and thou must not think to refuse My bidding, but ever be at My call and command."
And then we see his commission; "And I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." We shall not speak here what are ministers' commissions; but we are sure that the Lord lays more upon them than upon others, and they should see to it. Yea, ministers are under a charge that no particular person under heaven is able to do or perform.
But here is the prophet's answer. Ye see a wonder here, which is this. After the Lord hath sanctified and done all for him, hear what he says: "Ah! Lord God, behold I cannot speak, for I am a child." Is it not strange to hear such an answer as this? But it is not strange, considering the reasons he gives; it was only the fear he had of himself, it was not his unwillingness. He was not unwilling, but afraid that his message would not be taken off his hand, as if he had said, "There is nothing hinders me from doing whatever the Lord commands me but the fear of its not being taken off my hand." After all, we see that the Lord accepts of this answer. We shall say of it, that being fitted of Him, and our commission made manifest by Him, we ought to go on acting faith upon Him, undertaking what He calls us to, against all infirmities within and opposition without. I say, ye should try and make sure your evidence, and so go forward in His strength. For we are sure of this, that those who being under such favours receive, and yet are unwilling to comply with the Lord's call, do in that respect act contrary to their charge and obligation. And would we not be offended, and highly displeased, if one did so unto us? However, we see here that the prophet makes these two excuses after all, "I cannot speak: I am a child." Indeed, his answer was enough, considering that as the Lord gave him a great charge, so He gave him great promises comprehended in these words in "Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth." Let us never stand, then, when God calls; for here is the promise sufficient to bear all charges: "Lo, I am with you always unto the end of the world." Here is furniture. Here is fullness of comfort and consolation in this one promise, that He will be with us. Nothing should frighten us. Here is a sufficiency, "He will never leave us, nor forsake us." It is true, ministers have not the promise of worldly ease, or of safety from trouble; but they have the promise of safety in troubles, and deliverance out of them. We will say this one word, that when ministers have great promises from God, they are not to look for exemption from trouble. That is not the promise to be accomplished to us while in time. Fightings and victory here, and the crown above. We have then the promise of assistance and protection in trouble. Let us then look unto Him for determination and furniture in duty, and "thus go on in [the] strength of God the Lord."
But another thing the prophet is furnished with is, Power. He gives him great power: "See, I have this day set thee over the nations To root out, to pull down, to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant." This is a great power indeed, for a creature to have the power of heaven, power to plant, pluck up, and to destroy. We shall only say this of it, that ere all be done great men shall know that there hath been a prophet and a minister that hath had the mind of the Lord in what he hath done; and that as we have cursed or excommunicated, so the Lord hath cursed or excommunicated; and as we have denounced wrath, so the Lord has denounced wrath; and as we have pulled down, so the Lord will pull down; and as we have laid houses desolate, so the Lord will lay many houses desolate; and as we have cursed many that have turned their backs upon Him, His cause and interest, so the Lord has cursed them, and they shall be cursed, and that shall be heard of to succeeding generations.N.B.Here Mr. Cargill refers to the foregoing excommunication at Torwood, Stirlingshire, 1680, where he excommunicated Charles II., the Duke of York, James, Duke of Monmouth; John, Duke of Lauderdale; the Duke of Rothes, Sir George M'Kenzie, and Thomas Dalziel of Binns, for their apostacy, treachery, bloodshed, and other enormities.
1. The above lecture and two sermons (being Mr. Cargill's last public day's work), were preached at Dunsyre Communion, July 10, 1681, two days before he was apprehended.