Behold, ye are all children of Israel; give here your advice and counsel.—Judges 20.7.

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Five Sermons
Of Richard Rogers
Upon
The Deliverance of Christ’s Church
From His & Her Enemies,
Wrought by the Faith & Courage
OF EHUD, SON OF GERA.

Excerpted from:

A
COMMENTARY
VPON THE WHOLE
BOOKE OF IVDGES.
PREACHED FIRST AND DELIVE-
RED  IN  SVNDRIE  LECTVRES;    SINCE
collected,  and diligently perused,  and now published.
For the benefit generally of all such as desire to grow in faith
and Repentance, and especially of them, who would
more cleerely vnderstand and make vse of the
worthie examples of the Saints, re-
corded in diuine history.

PENNED BY RICHARD ROGERS PREACHER
of Gods word at Wethersfield in Essex.


HEBR. 12.1.
Wherefore seeing we are compassed with so great a cloud of
witnesses, let us cast off euery thing that presseth downe, &c.
Whatsoeuer is written, was written for our instruction, that wee
through consolation of the Scriptures might haue hope.

LONDON,
Imprinted by FELIX KYNGSTON for Thomas
Man, and are to be sold at his shop in Pater-noster
Row, at the signe of the Talbot.  1615.
 
Contents.

Sermon 19: Judges 3.10-15.
Sermon 20: Judges 3.15-20.
Sermon 21: Judges 3.18-22.
Sermon 22: Judges 3.23-28.
Sermon 23: Judges 3.29-4.1.



THE NINETEENTH
SERMON ON THE THIRD
CHAPTER OF THE BOOKE
OF IVDGES.

WE have heard how God raised up a saviour or deliverer to the people of Israel when they cried to him in their oppression, even Othniel: now it is shewed, how he fitted and furnished him for so great a work. And that was thus: Othniel being a private man, and one of the meanest of his father’s house, only somewhat enriched by his marrying of Achsah, Caleb’s daughter, and a man of some courage, was the person whom the Lord stirred up for this purpose. And he being further off than many other from ability hereunto, it is said, that the Lord gave him his spirit, meaning the fruits of his spirit; as knowledge and judgment to understand the matters of God, and his will; which are things most requisite for a governour, and he gave him also increase of courage, strength and wisdom for war, and besides them all, certified him by his spirit that he was called of God to such a service. Now all things being thus appointed by God, he, as it is said here, judged Israel, that is, he executed his office, in taking upon him the protection of his people; wherein the Lord being with him, he rescued them out of bondage to liberty again, and governed them, and restored the pure worship of God among them: and more particularly concerning the subduing of the adversary of Israel, it is said, that the Lord strengthened him against him, that Cushan-rishathaim I mean, and gave him into his hands.

And this clearly teacheth us, that all gifts of the spirit, and all excellent effects thereof, they are none of ours, they are the Lord’s, he giveth and distributeth them at his pleasure, as we see here, that it was the spirit of the Lord that came upon Othniel, whereby he brought to pass the great things that he did. And whatsoever is of any note in man for price and excellency, it is all of God, and cometh from his mere bounty. Alas there is no bird stripped of her feathers more bare and naked, than man in himself, is void of goodness: for what hath he that he hath not received? Insomuch as all that he hath to glory of is his sin. A most holy and approved truth, which giveth God his due, and layeth out man in his colours, that he is nothing else, if he rob not God of his honour, and prank not up himself in his gifts, he is nothing else (I say) but naked, poor, and a mirror of misery. Saul the King of Israel, when he wrought so great a deliverance for Israel against the Ammonites: Moses and Joshua in the mighty prevailing for them against the Heathen nations, and that in spite of all their teeth, who were the {153} proudest of them; yea and Solomon in all his royalties, what had they to commend & set out themselves withal, but the gifts which God furnished them with? How do numbers jet up and down, vaunting themselves, who having some gifts given them of God, but to a far other end than they use them for, namely to honour him, and not themselves; do never think of any such matter, but dare more boldly sin against him, than otherwise they durst do, and all because he hath bestowed some gifts upon them, as personage, beauty, strength, wealth; even as one should strip a poor body out of his rags, and put costly and comely apparel upon him.

For though men be but earth and worms’ meat, yet how do they set up themselves, some for their high advancement, some for their riches, which yet are but borrowed; and other for their painted sheath, till they take all honour (that they can) from God? yea as if they were petty Gods themselves, and he only to be called God of them. Oh admirable pride, blindness, and forgetfulness in flesh! and oh as great patience and long suffering in God, that he can bear it at their hands! And yet for all that I have said I deny not, but he can afford them these gifts and far greater, if they could give him his due thereby, and use them to set forth his goodness by them, as were meet. The same I might say of learning, and all other gifts of God, they are the Lord’s, and bestowed at his pleasure, not to puff them up that have them, but that in love and humility they should use them for the good of others. And much more then his supernatural gifts of the spirit, as godly zeal, care to please God, and such like ought to be used to the same ends.

Now to proceed, when God had given his spirit to Othniel, it is said, He judged Israel; that is, he did as a valiant captain, pull them out of servitude, and take the yoke of bondage from their necks, and restore to them the true worship of God, and govern them, and so the land had rest. All this, with such like befell them, when God’s anger was turned away from them, at the repentance of the people. In their bondage and misery, who would have said, that it could easily, or in short time have been removed? especially, that such a change might have been seen? But this teacheth, that when God’s anger is removed from a people or person, all things go well there, punishments are turned into blessings, and great heaviness into joy and comfort. Even as a cloudy, dark, and tempestuous day is forgotten, when the clear and fair sunshine overspreadeth and beautifieth the earth: and like as when two great men who by their strife and contention disquieted all, are again made friends, and reconciled; for then the people in that town rejoice, and hold up their countenance. So it is said here of this people, that they having been brought into such extremity for eight years, God sent this Othniel a deliverer and a Judge, to whom he gave courage and wisdom, so that he brought their enemies into subjection, and the people had rest and deliverance. By all these signs of his favour, God declared that his anger was removed. And even so, we shall see good days, if we take heed that God be not provoked to anger by us: and though his anger be kindled, yet if we cry and groan to him under our burthen, lift up our hearts and believe that he will be merciful unto us, (as most certainly he will) and turn away his wrath and displeasure from us: for in his favour is life, and when his loving {154} countenance shineth upon us, all other things shall turn to us for the best. And the Lord doth either remove outward punishments from us, or else uphold us so with his grace to bear them patiently and meekly, that they shall be no burthens, but matter of comfort unto us. Oh, that we should not be so wise as to prevent this one thing, namely, that the wrath of God might be kept from our souls, while the body shall want no looking to, that I say no more, yea, and the meanest have both care and skill, when the tempestuous and unseasonable weather cometh, to shroud themselves from it, and beware that it do not annoy them.

But further here, in that both estates of this people are set down together, as their bondage with their freedom, their rest with their trouble, the time of the one, with the time of the other; the holy Ghost (I say) in setting down both together, doth teach us to consider of both, in the like case, the one as well as the other, and by the grievousness of the calamity to meditate thus: Oh, what should we have done, if we had so long continued in the estate that they were in; we, I say, who by the mercy of God have enjoyed much peace, with plenty of commodities: if enemies even strangers had brought us into subjection to them, how should we have borne the burthen? So likewise by our deliverance from them, we should meditate of God’s goodness to us after trouble, and from enemies, and to bethink us, (which too seldom is done of us) what a great favour of God it is unto us, when pain, penury, or the like are taken from us, and to prize the same at an high reckoning. And he that desireth to stir up himself to true thankfulness to God for such a change and deliverance will do thus, as he seeth good cause, and he shall in best manner perform it, by supposing in our best estate, that the contrary would be very distasteful, painful, and irksome unto us, and yet might have oppressed us, which yet being through his exceeding goodness passed away from us, behold now light and joy is come in the place of it. For as the light is the more esteemed by our being in the dark; and fair weather is the more welcome to us, after tempestuous and unseasonable times: even so is the considering of sore troubles lately oppressing us, an especial mean to bring prosperity into an high reckoning with us; which a man would say, we had need to do, who shall observe, how soon we make it a common thing, and little worth, or rather abuse it to our own great hurt and detriment.

Concerning the time of the people’s rest under Othniel, even forty years, I take it to be the true meaning of the story, and agreeable to the original, howsoever the interpreters differ about it, the best translation maketh for it. But in the story of Ehud, verse 30, more (if God will) shall be said of it, where the use of it shall be also added. So Othniel having served his time, was gathered to his fathers, as we are to look and wait for the same, after the like service in our places. And this of the first example of the three before mentioned.

Verses
  1. Then the children of Israel againe committed wickednesse in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord strengthened Eglon King of Moab against Israel, because they had committed wickednesse before the Lord.
  2. And he gathered unto him the children of Ammon, and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and they possessed the city of Palme trees. {155}
  3. So the children of Israel serued Eglon King of Moab eighteene yeeres.
Now followeth the second: The sum whereof is this, that the people of Israel provoked God to anger again by their sins, when Othniel was dead. And God strengthened the King of Moab against them, with other most wicked confederates; who oppressing them sore a long time, they cried to the Lord as they had done before, and he stirred up another saviour, one Ehud, who delivered them out of their grievous bondage. According to this brief laying out of the story, the parts may be discerned to be four, as in the former. Which being easy to be perceived, I will not stand to set them down, but speak of them as they lie in order.

The first thing here to be noted, is, that the people again wrought evil in the sight of the Lord, as they had done before. And this shews that they broke out further than they did, while Othniel lived, or else nothing should have been said more than before in his days, during whose time though they be not commended, yet neither are they discommended. Therefore to say nothing of either, seeing I have no ground for it, let that be observed whereof the text giveth just occasion how prone and ready we are to break out as soon as we have any opportunity. Oh the flesh is soon weary of pending in. While we are well fenced against falls by good teaching and company, I must needs say, all is much the better with us, and we be the easilier kept from great offences. Here in this land especially, where we have the purity of the Gospel, and of the true worship of God established among us, (for it is gross indeed to fall from a good course, while that is present) and also while godly Magistrates are with us to encourage us, as it was with them while Othniel lived. But for all this, (as gross as it is) when men will let loose themselves with the times to the sins thereof, and such helps fail them, as I have spoken of, what care soever hath been among them of honouring God in former times, they are soon carried away, every man as he is disposed, by his own corruption one to some sin, and another to another. And yet where all the forementioned outward helps be, we being easily brought to make common things of them, the false heart will be ready to break out, and fasten delight in some sinful pleasure or other, if it be not strongly held in by grace, as by a bridle.

Whereas we should rather grow up steadfast in our hope, curbing up our unmortified affections, that so we might be inoffensive in our Christian course, and the better be able to help to shelter other weak brethren from being overcome and led away by strong tentations, rather than ourselves (who have tasted how good and bountiful the Lord is) to be plunged into the depth of them, by what occasions soever to their great offence. I have oft lamented, and still do, the lamentable case, and woeful estate of such, who are easily and readily deceived with the baits of sin, when I see to what shameful shiftings and bondage they bring themselves, by their yielding thereto, who might have walked at great liberty toward God, and with much comfort in their life. But we must confess, that this should be much better done on every side, if diligent teaching were joined with good example in the chief, to give light and encouragement to the meaner sort, and godly Magistrates, according to their duties, encouraging the good, and ready to keep under the bad and disobedient. But oh that many of both {156} sorts were not discouragers. And yet without respect thereof, every particular person should look to his own ways, not promising himself such helps in this evil world to be ever at hand. This be said of the people’s provoking of God again, and of their breaking out, after the death of Othniel. Of other things which might be noted here, having already been spoken of, I will forbear to say any more, both in this place, and throughout the book.

The punishment which God inflicted upon the people for their renewed sins, which is the second thing in this example, followeth in this and the next two verses: and it was this; that the King of Moab, and other who assisted him, held them in bondage eighteen years; and took Jericho, which was called the city of Palm trees, and set aid there, the more to oppress Israel, seeing it was by the passage over Jordan toward Moab. Where we see again, that if we shall wax bold to sin against the Lord, he will smite, as we have heard, come it sooner, or come it later. But in that he is said here to strengthen Moab, and as it were to furnish him against his own people (the wicked Idolaters against his true worshippers) only for breaking forth now at this time here mentioned, to offend the Lord more than commonly; it may seem somewhat strange. For these Ammonites and Amalekites were most vile enemies of God, and gross Idolaters. But he will have us to know this, that he doth often punish his own people, by them that are worse than they. And as we see he sendeth these cursed nations upon them, so we need not doubt but that he can and will send the very Papists, (as little as many loose Protestants fear it) to vex us, if we provoke him, even as he hath done heretofore, when the sin of men, and their knowledge was lesser than now it is. And so the Lord speaketh in Deuteronomy, Because ye have provoked me by that which is no God, I will provoke you by them, whom ye have despised as no people. It is as harsh a thing to suffer by the means of such as be worse than ourselves, as it is for a child to be beaten by the servant. But God will suffer them, partly because he knows that to be the way to abase men, partly because their enemies will set it on to the purpose when they are let loose to hurt them, through the malice that is in them; even as their father the devil doth when he can. But God would have his own learn by the smart which they sustain by their trouble, that their sin is far more odious than they account it, yea than theirs who whip them, because they have been taught to know the Lord, and covenanted to serve him, but the other are strangers, who are unacquainted with his ways. And all this is well to be marked, because this errour sticketh fast and deep in the minds of some, that we need not fear the Papists, Spaniards, Jesuits, or any such Hereticks, because we profess the true religion that they hate, and worship Christ Jesus whom they dishonour. And therefore having a good cause, they say, why should we fear, God will fight for us. I answer, they must have with their good cause, a good conscience also: for else they may as truly say, that God will not suffer a good man and true, to be robbed of a thief, or hurt by a witch, which Scripture and experience doth sufficiently confute: but as God exercised holy Job by the devil, the head: so he doth other of his dear ones by witches and other wicked people, which are his [the devil’s] members: and that he suffereth (as he seeth cause) {157} worse people than his own to domineer over them: the Egyptians tyranny over Israel, the Canaanites cruelty, and the examples of other nations in this book against God’s people after both; with the experience of all ages are sufficient to testify.

That is clear enough, but let us further see the reason thereof, and God’s meaning therein. For he doth not punish his own people by the wicked, his enemies, because they are in better account with him than they: neither to put them in hope that they shall go unpunished in the end, because he useth their service (as he did Satan against Job, to try him,) but because he will hereby manifest how great a sin it is to abuse, and live unworthy the Gospel; therefore he beginneth first to visit his own people, and oft times even by them. But afterwards, as Amos saith, he will visit Damascus, Moab, and Ammon, and make them drink of the dregs: for if he do this to a green tree, in comparison of them, how much more will he do it to the withered? And as the Lord will be avenged of his enemies, so after he hath corrected his own he will again return to them. Therefore the Church is brought in by the Prophet Micah [7.7.] to say thus: Rejoice not over me, O mine enemy, for though I fall yet shall I rise again: as the Prophet speaks, meaning that the Lord would find a time, both to take corrections of them, and yet to be pitiful to them again; even as the father will burn the rod when the child relenteth, and promiseth amendment. And this, if the wicked will not see that he chastiseth even his own, having sinned against his known truth, but once (as it were) and therefore he will much more have a day for them, to pay them to the full for their manifold and long continued rebellions: if they (I say) will not regard it, let God’s servants profit by it every way, both they who are justly visited for their sins, and also they who are more free; who know that he doth use to begin judgment with his own house, that they may thereby return unto him. [1 Pet. 4.17.]

Besides that which hath been said of these nations, how the Lord strengthened them against Israel; so we may further note here how they were confederate together against God’s people: whereby we may further learn, how the wicked who can seldom agree together betwixt themselves, (for their leagues are soon broken) can yet easily join together to vex God’s people. And thus these three nations did consent in one to smite them. Even as we read that Herod and Pilate, which had been enemies one to the other, were made friends by joining both against Christ. As two dogs that fight each with other for a bone, yet both join in biting the passenger. Or as thieves who consent to rob the true man, though they cannot agree in dividing the spoil: for in that they disagree each from other, it is because they want the true band of union: but in that they consent, it comes from their mutual hatred of virtue, and fear lest their own kingdom should be overthrown. And we find it as true in these our days, that they who cannot brook one another, but have sharp contentions and broils betwixt themselves, can yet with free consent, band themselves against God’s servants. Which, (to leave them to repent for it if God give them grace) one would think should make us cling and cleave fast unto the Lord, that yet we may have him on our sides, and to stand with us against them, whensoever they shall strengthen one another to molest and oppress us; and also {158} to maintain our Christian amity with our brethren the more strongly, by breaking off contentions, which easily arise, lest the children of this world condemn us.

The punishment is bondage, and as the former generation was to the King of Aram, so now they were in bondage to the Moabites: the time that it continued was more than double in respect of the former, even eighteen years. The people that now were brought into bondage, though they were neither all that were in the former calamity, nor they only, yet the rest who were grown up at this time, had seen the works of God, and received the religion of their fathers; and therefore they smarted justly with the rest, with whom they had sinned. By them both we learn, that they provide ill for themselves, who make slight use of God’s former corrections for sin, and that thereby they bring and pull down upon themselves greater judgments. As Christ said to the man that was healed, Go thy way and sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee, [John 5.14], so he threatened in Leviticus, that if they did not amend by the former punishments, he would add seven times more, [Leviticus 26.18.] And did not Pharaoh find it, who for his mocking of God, and hardening his heart against him, when he confessed that God had been just in sending upon him so grievous judgments at the first, provoked him to send many more upon him afterwards?

And we at this day, who have had deliverance from trouble, which our sins procured and brought upon us, have too good proof of this that I say: that we smart more by the after sins, and those which we renew daily, than by the former: even as a renewed wound is more smarty and dangerous. And stands it not with the righteous judgment of God, that it should be so? Is it meet that we should tempt God in such a manner, and that we should not bear the mark of it about us in our flesh, or in our consciences? And so we do. For to say nothing of those who sin more willingly, in whom this is more clearly verified, it appeareth in the weaker sort of God’s children evidently, who sin but of negligence and some carelessness rather than wittingly, that they smart also for the same. For beside their outward crosses, their oft doubtings also of their salvation, whereof yet they have had assurance before, do testify as much, and their many great fears they have oft times, that all is not well with them to Godward: the which (for the most part) do come of the slight and slender use that they make of their deliverance from their first fear and trouble of mind which they sustained. And it would much more appear in many others, that their latter troubles which they bear, and by which they smart; for their latter and new provokings of God are far more grievous than the former, and they far hardlier recover out of them, if they did not bury the remembrance of them, and willingly forget them, through the hardening of their hearts: when yet if they could consider aright of it, even that is the greatest punishment of all. And although they rise out of it again in time afterwards, yet it is done confusedly; or if they see their sin and repent of it, it is after a good space, and so, much time hath at the least been lost, or unprofitably passed over by them.

And whereas this punishment that was cast upon them, was bondage to a foreign nation, both cruel and idolatrous; Oh it was a yoke most unwelcome: {159} and so we are to account of it, whensoever, and whomsoever of us it shall fall upon. Subjection in children to parents; in servants to masters; in subjects to Princes, is natural and kind. But no such thing is bondage to strangers, but fearful and tedious, as we have heard oft times, when some persons here among us have been taken by the Turks, yea and Dunkirks, into what woeful state they have been brought. And although God hath mercifully preserved our nation itself from it; yet we know in what danger we have been, especially to the Spaniard; and namely in that year, 1588. And let us not be senseless in hearing this, or careless: for if these revoltings in the better sort, and profaneness (with many particular sins) in the common sort, continue, if the Lord punish us not, with that one kind, we may be sure that some one or other shall be in the room of it; yea and if we be not blind in beholding it, the plague and dearth hath already seized upon many thousands, whatsoever be behind to arrest such as remain.

Verse
  1. But when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord stirred up a saviour to them, Ehud the sonne of Gera, the sonne of Iemini, a man lame of his right hand: and the children of Israel sent a present by him to Eglon King of Moab.
The third point and fourth in this second example follow, namely, the cry of the people, testifying their repentance, and the Lord’s mercy, who pitying them, sent them another like Othniel, who should deliver them. The man is named and described in the text. He first slew the King of Moab, and after, ten thousand men of his, strong and good warriors, and so delivered Israel out of bondage. This followeth in the story, but it was necessary for me to mention it here, seeing otherwise, this sending of a present by him to the King of Moab, which the people of Israel are in this verse said to have done, should have been hard to understand, to what end it is set down: whereas the sending of it to him by the men of Israel, was the mean of killing the King of Moab, and the pretence that they had to cover their intent. But more of this afterwards, as the words of the text when I come to them, shall offer occasion. But now let us handle the points that are in this verse, as they lie in order, and as for this time we shall be able.

First, it is said that the people cried to the Lord from under their sore bondage, wherewith they were oppressed. And had it not been better for them to have been without it, and to have served the Lord with comfort, as they did while Othniel lived with them? so should they not have needed to cry. How this their crying was a sign of their repentance, I have largely shewed in the former example, verse 9, and that may serve for both. But that which I will note now from their crying, is this; that the best end of our pleasures of sin, is howling and crying; which though it did here accompany repentance, (as seldom it doth) yet is it painful, but without it, dreadful and deadly: neither do many meet with that (as I said) though too many have their part in this. For the times that follow sin, when it is done and ended, are not like the time in which it is committed: they full of smart and sorrow, this taken up in deceivable pleasure.

Consider this all you that are given to your appetite, and will have your pleasure, where ye can come by it, howsoever the Lord forbids it, and how dear soever it cost you. If ye may end with crying (which yet they can ill away with, who hunt after vain pleasure, I mean, that which is companion {160} to repentance) ye have infinitely to thank God for it: but who can assure you that ye shall speed so well, and have so good an end thereof? who may justly fear (an hundred to one) that painful crying, which maketh way to perpetual howling and gnashing of teeth. As your sins have been great, so shall your cries be great, saith the Lord; as namely he doth by Abraham to the rich man: Son, in thy lifetime thou enjoyedst thy pleasure, but now thou art tormented, [Luke 16.25.] Is not this lamentable, when we might live comfortably, enjoying our health, peace, liberty, and welfare with God’s good liking? But oh woeful it is, that none of his benefits, how precious soever, are commonly accounted of us according to their value; to wit, thankfully, nor used soberly and aright, but so as we are enforced to cry out at the last (at least we have cause so to do) of our abusing of them. For there cannot a jot or tittle of God’s word fall to the ground, who saith, Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thine heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thy heart, and in the sight of thine eyes, but know that for these things he will bring thee to judgment, [Eccles. 11.9.] But I cannot go through this whole verse at this time. But thus much of this third point beside that which I have spoken of it elsewhere.



THE TWENTIETH
SERMON ON THE THIRD
CHAPTER OF THE BOOKE
OF IVDGES.

NOW followeth the fourth point in this example, and that is; how God had mercy on the people when they cried unto him, and gave them another deliverer, this Ehud by name, of the family of Jemini, which pertained to the tribe of Benjamin, and lame on his right hand. And by this, as it appears that God’s hand is not shortened in raising up one deliverer after another; so we may see how good and kind the Lord is, in hearing the cries and groans of his people, and that often times; even again and again, when they make their complaint unto him. And this he doth as well in the daily pardoning of our infirmities which are innumerable, (for who can reckon them?) as also in such falls as are more grievous, if it repent us from our heart, as he willeth us to do in Hosea [14.1,2.] Which doctrine is warily to be received, for we are ready to fall into extremities on both sides. For some doubt and fear that God will not receive them again, though they return to him, remembering their former shameful and willful transgression: but that errour of theirs must be amended. Other are ready, when they hear of God’s receiving sinners graciously, and that again and again, (they lamenting after him,) they are ready (I say) to think that they shall easily be forgiven, without any remorse or {161} prick of conscience for their sin: which is a gross abusing of God’s patience and his readiness to receive sinners, who have offended: and differeth not much from them, who say, Let us sin, that grace may abound. The middle way betwixt both is safest to go in: to wit, not to cast away their confidence, when they unfeignedly turn to God, and yet not to take or arrogate to themselves the believing of pardon, while they continue bold in sinning, without broken and relenting hearts.

And this lesson being learned of us, as God teacheth it, and hath himself given example unto us, is a sound and certain rule to guide us toward our neighbours who have offended us: that is to say, that as he embraceth and forgiveth sinners returning unto him; so we should not be cruel or hard-hearted toward them, but readily to receive them, when they submit themselves. According to that which our Saviour answered to Peter, when he asked him, how oft he should forgive his brother, unto seven times? he answered him, I say not unto seven times, but seventy times seven. [Matt. 18.21.] We ought therefore to forgive them: but what? not the transgression of God’s law, for we cannot do that, for none can forgive sin but God. [Matt. 9.3; Mark 2.7.] But the wrong and injury done unto us, and the evil mind they bear toward us, (I say) that we ought (as we profess in the fifth petition [of the Lord’s Prayer]) to remit. As for satisfaction, if he have taken away our goods, we may, in the remitting that, do, as the repentance and ability of the party shall give occasion; and so I say of the punishment which he hath deserved, if he have hurt us in our body, name, or otherwise; yet if it be expedient, and that we sustain not any great detriment thereby, we may remit it. But yet in some case, though we forgive the wrong, yet we may urge the party that is culpable, to satisfaction and punishment, according to the law of God, and the nation where we live; lest men should be emboldened to sin thereby: yea and sometime we who are wronged, ought so to do necessarily: otherwise we should sin against God, and the Common-wealth. And thus Achan by Joshua [Joshua 7.25], and the thief on the cross [Luke 23.41], were justly punished and put to death, for why? both God’s law and man’s had else been broken. This I have said of this matter, there being some difficulty about it, that we may see what we are bound to remit unto our neighbour, and how far.

Another thing in this verse is, that this Ehud, who was given them as a deliverer, is said to have been lame, but in what part of his body? even on his right hand, that member which might worst be missed, especially in a valiant captain and man of war, as he was, and now called to shew his strength and skill, wherein we can say no less, but that God doth that which is strange and marvelous in our eyes. For he sheweth us hereby, that he when it pleaseth him, (and that is most commonly) useth weak means to effect and bring great matters to pass, that his glory may be more easily seen, and given unto him: yet flesh and carnal reason will not yield easily thereunto. But for proof of the doctrine, look what base and weak instruments the Lord used to vex a mighty King (I mean Pharaoh) namely, Frogs, Lice, Locusts, & such like. So Jonathan & his armor-bearer slew many of the Philistines: David [slew] Goliath. In the Prophet Joel’s time, how did the Lord plague the drunkards, and the sinners of the land, who were so jolly, having the fruits of the earth in plentiful manner to serve their turn, as though there {162} had been none that could have resisted them; how did he (I say) plague the stoutest and the mightiest of them by the like weak means, spoiling thereby the fruits of the earth, without the which their jollity must fall to the ground? Thus the Prophet speaketh: Hear ye this, O Elders, and hearken all ye inhabitants of the world; whether such a thing hath been in your days, or in the days of your fathers: That which is left of the Palmerworm, hath the Grasshopper eaten, and the residue of the Grasshopper, hath the Cankerworm eaten, and the residue of the Cankerworm, hath the Caterpillar eaten. And to see the mighty hand of God in other matters, which far exceed these, (for God can and doth this often, but this ought not to cause us therefore to be slight in means using to serve his providence,) How did he by his Apostles, who were simple men, and of no great account in the world, yet how did he by their ministry and weak preaching, (as it was accounted) subdue the proud and stately world to the obedience of the Gospel? Even Paul, but one man, how many cities, yea countries did he bring from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan, unto God; insomuch as whole Asia was filled with his doctrine, and both Jews and Grecians heard the word of the Lord, [Acts 19.10.] And so in our days he hath persuaded many to become true Christians by the ministry and labours of them, who are of small reputation in the world.

And why he bringeth to light such excellent tidings of the kingdom of glory, by so weak means; Paul sheweth the reason in these words: We have this treasure in earth vessels (saith he) that the excellency of that power might be of God, and not of us. [2 Cor. 4.7.] Therefore despise not the weak, by whom God worketh; neither let such discourage themselves, who by the grace of humility, meekness, love, and such like, with their small gifts, shall edify and build up the Church of Christ, when the knowledge in the bare letter, of such as are thereby puffed up, shall do little good. And as it is in the ministry, so shall it be seen in the people, that true godliness accompanying the knowledge of Christ, though ridiculous among men, shall do much in persuading and drawing many to the love of the Gospel, and fellowship therein; which as it is the greatest, so it is (doubtless) the rarest thing that is to be seen among the people. As in the example of the woman of Samaria is to be seen, who brought her neighbours to Christ, being converted herself: yea, and this may be seen still at this day, that even private persons truly religious, shall with their humility, diligence, and love, do much more good than they who have variety of knowledge and utterance, being destitute of those graces, thought they be little accounted of. The use of all that I have said of this point is, that we have the works of God (how meanly soever accounted of) and specially his work of grace in men, that we have them (I say) in most high reverence, in comparison of the gloriousest acts of men. And this of the four points in this story, from the 12th verse; namely, (1.) the revolting of the people from God; (2.) the Lord’s punishing them; (3.) their crying to God; and (4.) his sending a deliverer to them. And thus much of this matter.

But these four things in this second story thus ended, there remaineth somewhat in this verse, that hath not yet been spoken of, and much in the whole chapter, by occasion of the last point, I mean of Ehud’s delivering them; with which I will proceed; and first with that part of this 15th verse {163} that remaineth. The words are these: And the children of Israel sent a present by him to Eglon King of Moab. Here, if this trouble any, that the largest part of this story remaineth behind unhandled, and wherefore it should be so, seeing the four material points or parts of the chapter have (as we have seen) been handled already: I answer; all that is behind to the 31st verse, doth issue and grow out, and by occasion of the last point of the 4, namely, of the deliverer whom God raised up to the people, I mean Ehud, and is set down to illustrate and amplify the deliverance of the people, as shall appear, even how God delivered them from the bondage of the Moabites, and gave them rest. The person being this Ehud, as hath been said, the story shews how he wrought this their deliverance; and it was thus: first, by slaying the King of Moab himself, which reacheth to the 27th verse; then by killing ten thousand of the men of Moab, which is to the 30th verse; after the which followeth the subduing of the Moabites, and the deliverance and rest of the people, to the 31st. Now of the first of these in the first place; namely, of killing the King. For the laying forth of the which we are to consider, first, the things that went before it, namely, by what means he wrought such a great work, and they are set down to the 21st verse: then the act itself, which is to the 23rd, and the things that followed, to the 27th. The things that went before it, as the means to work it by, were the double going or journey of Ehud to the King of Moab: the first when he delivered the present to him only: to the nineteenth verse: the last, when he did the act itself, to the 21st: In his first journey to him, note these three things: one, the occasion of it, that was, a carrying of a present to him: the second, his furnishing himself to do the deed, with a short and sharp dagger: then the delivering of the present. Thus the story being set down at large in the text, I have laid it forth in the several parts of it, so far as in this place is expedient for the better understanding of the reader. Now let us go through them all in order. And first, whereas it is said in the latter end of this 15th verse, That the children of Israel sent a present by Ehud to the King of Moab, for so it was indeed, as the word in Hebrew signifieth, and not tribute: this (as I said) was the occasion by which he went to him: so by this present, the King of Moab was blindfolded, that he might not suspect any such matter afterward, to be intended by Ehud, when he attempted and went about the fact indeed. For though it was lawful for him and the Israelites to go about to kill him, yet it was nothing meet, that they should by any indiscreetness, give him occasion to suspect it. And by this which was allowed in them, we may see, that it is lawful and not displeasing to God, for a good man being in danger or displeasure with another, and namely a superiour, to remove it (if he can) by a gift or present. I know presents may be lawfully sent in other respects, namely, to shew thankfulness for kindness received: and I know also that a gift sometime is sent to the helping forward of a bad matter, and for the corrupting of judgment, which is most odious; neither of both these is meant here. But to get favour, and namely, with our betters, by such means, when we know no other to be like to prevail, there is nothing against it, but that we may serve God’s providence that way, for the removing of displeasure. And so did our father Jacob seek to put away the wrath of his brother Esau, and to procure his favour, [Gen. 32.13.] And {164} although he who receiveth it, doth oftentimes offend therein, for that he should yield favour without it, yet for the giver we know what Solomon saith; A gift in secret pacifieth wrath. And it doth as well pull down the heart of him that sendeth it, as mollify him that receiveth it, which is far better than that both, or either of them should rankle and be inflamed, each against the other. And this may suffice to have been said of this matter, and so of the whole 15th verse.

Verses
  1. And Ehud made him a dagger with two edges, of a cubit length, and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh.
  2. And he presented the gift unto Eglon King of Moab, and Eglon was a unry fat man.
  3. And when he had now presented the present, he sent away the people that bare the present.
  4. But he turned againe from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, I haue a secret errand to thee O King, who said, keepe silence, and all that stood about him went out from him.
  5. Then Ehud came to him (and he sat alone in a sommer parlor which he had) and Ehud said, I haue a message to thee from God. Then he arose out of his throne.
EHUD, whom God had given to the people for a deliverer, was by the consent of them, chosen to go with the present to the King of Moab, and he knowing that he was to deliver the people out of his hands, did thus go about it; namely, to provide him a sharp dagger for more speedy expedition thereof, and girded the same under his right thigh, that there might be the less suspicion of that he intended. For though the danger could not be but very great, and he doubted not of good success from God, yet he cast with himself how many and great the perils were in going about it, that he might the wiselier avoid them. I confess, that this act that they intended to do, namely to kill the King of Moab secretly, and thus to provide for it, and to cover it by the present that he offered him, I confess (I say) that if God had not called him to it, and set him about it, it had been an action (in many respects) odious, and highly to be condemned. But God raising him up to such an end, he was approved of him therein, and that was his encouragement and emboldening, that God had called him to accomplish that work.

And here note from that which I have now said, that this is that which must encourage us in the difficultest matters; that we in taking them in hand, are set a-work by God, and do know, that he is pleased with the things that we go about: this (I say) is that which we must be persuaded of, that we have him with us, to the end we may cheerfully go through with them. Look we carefully to this, and we shall prosper, and make we it our common practice in our affairs, and we shall throughout see good days. But if we have no allowance from him in doubtful cases, and much more in such as have apparent shew of evil, we may not enterprise them any more than Ehud might here without his warrant. And where we have no commandment for that which we take in hand, as in a thing that is different, let us know our liberty, and that we do that which we are persuaded doth {165} please God best, and so we shall have peace in that we go about. But how little this is regarded, and how men take in hand the things which they do of their own head, and to their own liking, and how ill success they have in such of their actions, as it is lamentable to behold it; so I refer the reader that is desirous to know more of it, to chap. 1. verses 19, 22, where I have said more of it. This be said of the first thing of the three, in sending the present.

In this second of the three things, in that he went so well appointed; let us mark, that when Ehud was sure of good success in this great work, and that God would be with him, he was not idle nor careless, but had greater regard how to go about in the best manner, furnishing himself, and providing this weapon for the purpose. Wherein again we must learn, that it behoveth us to use all good means, as diligence, providence, and wisdom, for the well bringing to pass even of those things wherein God hath promised good success, and to be with us. Yea and further to do them with readiness and cheerfulness as we see we have good cause, being so well encouraged. And so all may see, and we ourselves may know that we go not to work as men of the world do: I mean coldly and deadly, only for the hope of profit, pleasure, or such like whetting us on, which are the motives and persuasions that earthly minded and worldly men have in doing their business. And what a grace and blessing is that, in our earthly business and common works, that we may be so heavenly minded in them? for much more we may look and hope to be well assisted, as the works which we go about, are more heavenly. But thou mayest read more of this, Chapter 1, verse 4.

The third thing of the three now followeth, which was the presenting of the gift, in carrying and offering this present to Eglon the King of Moab, (which seemed, to such as hear of it, no matter commendable, that Ehud should kill him under pretence of kindness) yet he intending a further matter thereby, than he shewed, to wit, the delivering of God’s people by killing him their enemy, it was not only lawful, but also praise-worthy in him. And this act of his teacheth, that when we do such things as are not of best note, nor most commendable in the eyes of men, such as this of Ehud seemed, yet lawful & allowed of God, we should (if it may be) intend some further and better thing thereby, as Ehud here did. And although it have no effect for the present time; I mean, that good which we purpose and aim at, yet to wait opportunity to bring it so to pass. But this will be better understood by laying it out in particulars. As for example; if a man be in the company of a bad person, which in itself is no credit to him, (& yet it is not unlawful) or if a man give alms to a poor man who hath no goodness in him, (which may be thought of some to be a maintaining of him,) in both these cases and the like, he that I speak of, ought to have a further reach and meaning, that is, a desire and endeavour to do the party’s good; as to admonish and reprove as there shall be cause seen, or exhort & seek to draw them (as he shall see best opportunity) to repentance; and thereby to stay all from taking offence thereat. And so I say of all such actions: Esther, as we read, [Esther 5.5,] bade Haman, the enemy of God’s people to a banquet. It was like to savour ill to the godly that should hear of it: but at his first coming thither, {166} though she spake nothing against Haman to the King, yet at the second banquet she obtained deliverance to God’s people, who were appointed by Haman to be slain: and beside that she procured his overthrow. To both which, she made way by bidding him to the first banquet, and intended it, though she made no shew then of any such thing. So our Saviour did eat and drink with the publicans and sinners. It was hardly thought of by the Pharisees [Matt. 9.10; Luke 19.7.]: but he sought their conversion by it. Therefore in such actions as have not the best shew of goodness (to the end we may bring no violence to our consciences, nor disquiet to the godly, and the better also to stop the mouths of others) it shall be meet for us to aim at and intend better things than are seen at the first shew. But then it may be truly said on the contrary, that they who do things in shew, scarce honest; as to haunt suspicious places, and the company of those who are of ill note and name, and yet mean worse than is seen, namely to practice whoredom, and fall to drunkenness and ill rule, it may (I say) truly be affirmed, that such are vile persons, and very bad indeed. And most of all they who will shew signs of goodness, as of love by friendly familiarity, sobriety and religion, and yet spite us and our holy profession behind our backs, and carry themselves lewdly, are of all other the worst. But to return, the like we see in Jehu, who although he seemed cruel to the view of the world in murdering the house of Ahab, yet having an eye to the calling of God, went through it with courage, which was to be commended, [2 Kings 10.] But here must be a caveat observed, that is, that no man presume by these examples to enterprize such like matters without warrant from God, alleging for himself that his end is good and profitable: this is to go to work of our own head, yea to call evil good, and to do evil, that good may come of it. As in a man’s private case to take upon him to revenge his own wrong, which belongs to the Magistrate. For as the Lord warrants a man by the sincerity of his intention, to go forward, when the thing is lawful (as we see in that act of the two tribes and an half building an altar, [Josh. 22.30,]) so when we have no word to bear us out, we run into the lapse and offend against the express prohibition of the Scriptures, which is, Thou shalt not do thine own will, [Matt. 6.10; 1 Pet. 3.17,] whereas that it is written, we should avoid all appearance of evil, [1 Pet. 3.11; 1 Thess. 5.22.] It is not unlawful simply for a good man to be in the company of one that is evil; but this excuseth not him, who observeth no circumstances herein, but shall associate himself with such as are of bad note, in gaming, drinking, or haunting of suspected places (as I have said) although he abuse the extraordinary fact of Esther, and the example of our Saviour, or pretend (as some will) the good of the party.

But as Ehud was appointed to present the gift to the King of Moab, so it is said here he did: which we know was a great honour and credit unto him. And he was worthy of it, who did afterward adventure so great danger with it. So God alloweth to them that serve him in high places, and perform great duties in Church and Common-wealth, he alloweth them much credit, honour, and dignity. And for the one as Princes and noble persons, such as David was, Solomon, Hezekiah, and Josiah, with Moses, Joshua, and others, have enjoyed the same, in respect of some that were as great as they, but not as godly: Even so it is with us: For they that truly honour and favour learning, and good ministers, and make much of them that fear {167} the Lord; resisting and opposing the common adversary; they are highly honoured of the Church of God: and so it is also in the ministry: for (as the Apostle saith) they that rule well, are worthy of double honour [1 Tim. 5.17,]: If they labour painfully and faithfully in the word, and go before their flock, as good shepherds [John 10], and so rule and guide them by both, and by other censures, as occasion shall be offered, they worthily enjoy love & reverence, with the fruit of both, as credit, and maintenance. And good reason there is why it should be so with both: for the one laboureth and watcheth directly for the people’s souls: the other, in their kind and place, for the maintenance of their peace, lives, and goods. And that which I say of these I may say proportionably of meaner persons, and lower places: that as they do service to God in their lives, places, and employments; so are they of greater account, and more set by, (and well worthy) than other who do not so. For their care, faithfulness, and travail for the honour of God is much; and the Lord hath promised to honour them who honour him, and to leave the other without honour. And so it was here, that Ehud had great honour in that he was appointed to deliver the Present to Eglon the King of Moab: And who worthier than he? For beside his other many worthy acts that he did for the people’s peace and deliverance: who among them all would have adventured their lives for the rest? Of whom it may be said, as Pharaoh said of Joseph [Gen. 41.38,]: when he directed him how to provide in the seven years of plenty, for the seven years of famine, a wise man that should be fit for that business; Pharaoh said to his servants, where shall we find a man of understanding like this? let him be set over the land of Egypt about this work.

Here the holy Story setting this down, that Ehud presented the gift to Eglon, addeth this, that he was a very fat man, which may seem to be uttered to no end, seeing it is neither set down to his commendation, nor to his discommendation; but this is mentioned, that we may see a reason of that which is in the 22nd verse. And as it is not commended or discommended in him; so by occasion hereof, this I will say, that fatness of body is to be thought of, as a thing neither with a man nor against him in itself. For some are more disposed thereto naturally than other, though they have both one diet, and alike kind of easy life; even as we see how one tree waxeth great and tall in the same soil, where another is both small and low, as one Oak in comparison of another. But where men are naturally apt thereto, good keeping doth set one forward. And therefore no marvel that it is so with such as lived deliciously, eating and drinking, and using other liberty at their pleasure. But this may not be spoken without use and profit: this let us learn, that such, either Ministers or other as give over themselves, and let the bridle loose to excess in eating, drinking, sleeping, playing, idleness, ease, and such like, and get fat that way, may little rejoice in it, and shall wish that they had by labour in their callings, and other good means, taken themselves down, as Paul chastised his body, or at least have good testimony that they have not grown to that point through their own sin; therefore that proverb is used by Paul [Titus 1.12,] against the Cretians, out of Epimenides, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies, or Epicures. And their commendation shall be no greater, who in the profession of the Gospel, fat {168} themselves through idleness, sloth, ease-seeking, and shunning labour in their callings. And this of Ehud’s first going to Eglon to deliver the Present.

The second followeth, in which he slew him. Wherein we may observe, first his conveying home of the men that came with him, and brought the Present (which he delivered) that they might be out of peril, when he should do that work of God, so full of difficulty and danger. Secondly, how he came back again to Eglon, telling him he had a secret errand and message to him, and this was to remove the company which attended on the King, from the place of his presence. Thirdly, when he had obtained that, he repeated his words, adding this, that his message was from God, that so the King might attend to it with more reverence (as he did, and in token thereof stood up,) and that he might the less suspect any danger, and Ehud might have advantage thereby, the more easily to dispatch him. Thus much is in these three verses. Concerning the first, of sending away the people unto the quarries, a place where stones were digged up, near to Gilgal, a city of the Israelites near Jordan. In that he followed them after the present was delivered, till they were past danger, he respected many things; and namely, that he might be freer from care of them, as also lest their tarrying still whiles he went about that work, might have been a means of bewraying it; and further he was loathe to bring any more into danger than he must needs. All these reasons moved him to send the people away, and tended to the quiet and peace of his conscience. And his example herein ought to be our instruction; that we may learn to go about weighty matters with all possible deep and due consideration, wisdom, and wariness, as Ehud here did. And if we be not sufficient of ourselves hereunto, then take we advice of those that be wiser than we. For the which purpose Solomon saith, [Proverbs 15.22,] Without counsel thoughts come to naught, but in the multitude of counsellors, there is steadfastness. So we must be sure that special care be used, as I have said, that when great and weighty business is imposed upon us, all possible regard be had to see it well brought to pass, and gone about.

This lesson being ill learned of Peter, Christ’s beloved Apostle, may warn us, by the exceeding danger that befell him thereby, to put it better in practice. For when Christ told him of a most weighty matter; namely, that he should deny him: Peter most sleightly regarded it, answering rashly without consideration, that he so little feared that which Christ told him of, that he was ready to go to prison, and to death with him, [Luke 22.33.]: and so resting in his bold answer, and deceivable confidence that he had of his own strength, for want of advised deliberation, he fell into the sin that his Master foretold him of, and by a very small occasion, denied him indeed: and so his example is set down and left to us, to learn wisdom thereby. Moses did otherwise and far better: for when he was told that he must be sent to Pharaoh by the Lord to do his message unto him, which seemed to him over-difficult and weighty, yet considering thereof advisedly, when he saw it was imposed upon him by the Lord, he stooped to it, fitted himself for it accordingly [Exod. 3.13,] and well discharged it, and prospered. And let these two examples be duly weighed and regarded of us, though contrary the one to the other: and the more urge us to practice this doctrine: and otherwise let us {169} not marvel that we thrive not in our weighty attempts, if God be not reverently hearkened unto in his watchword and warnings, and (as it is most meet) duly attended upon of us. And this for the general. Now particularly let this teach us, that in doing those actions, which specially tend to the glory of God, we have an eye also to the good of our brother. Let us carry ourselves so in our zeal toward God, that in the mean season we neglect not duty toward men, neither cause our love towards our brethren to be called into question. This is to build in heaven, and pull down as fast upon earth. Ehud here did far otherwise. It was highly commendable in Paul, and became him well, that he desired King Agrippa’s conversion, without enjoining him with that benefit, his own bands, [Acts 26.29.] And it becommeth us to be so wisely fervent in God’s cause, that yet we would not willingly hazard the safety, liberty, credit, wealth, and welfare of others, by our zeal and suffering for it: nay rather, (if there be cause) redeem their freedom by our own damage and detriment. Many are of this preposterous opinion, that because they think themselves strong enough to undergo trouble and reproach for the Gospel, and a good cause; therefore they look that all other zealous persons should do so too, and are ready to censure them sharply who are not as they themselves seem to be, not regarding their weakness (who not finding themselves fit to bear the burden, should be pitied in that behalf,) or else they think that it is a discredit to their good cause, to suffer for it alone: and thus they wind them into a dangerous snare with themselves by drawing them to promise and undertake that which they be unfit for. Whereas we read that some of the ancient, and some of our late Martyrs, who wisely and charitably tendering the peace and good of their weak brethren, resolved to bear the brunt themselves, and counseled them to provide for their conscience, by flight from persecution, if they felt not themselves fit to go under it. For the rest, look in the next Sermon.



THE ONE AND TWEN-
TIETH SERMON WHICH IS
THE FIFTH ON THE THIRD CHAP-
ter of the booke of IVDGES.

OF Ehud it followeth still of his conveying away the men when the Present was delivered, that all inconvenience might be avoided on both parts: of whom let us learn, not only to be wary that we bewray not secrets indiscreetly to any (which he wisely prevented by sending them away) and therefore much more not to many: But also as he did, so let us do; it agreeing with the rule of charity, namely, that if danger, trouble, or sorrow must needs ensue and follow by doing such things which we go about, and must needs take in hand, yet let our care be that the trouble be no more to {170} any than it must needs be, nor the danger or heaviness take hold of no more than must of necessity have their part therein. As Ehud saw the burden lay upon him, he might if he would, have laid it upon other beside himself, but that in no wise he would do, but sent the rest of the company home, that they might be out of danger. Which thing I well remember our Saviour also most carefully practised, and that with no less tender love and kindness toward his weak Disciples. For when the Priests and Jews with their band of soldiers came to apprehend and take him, they telling him, when he demanded of them whom they sought, that they sought him: he answered them, If ye seek me, let these (meaning his Disciples) go their way [John 18.8]: and the reason of that speech was, that they might escape danger.

Much like to both these examples, was the doing of the Shunamite in the second book of the Kings. For when her child was dead, which the Prophet Elisha obtained of God for her, she having none before, and she knowing and believing, that it should be restored to life again unto her; when she had talked with the Prophet, and made her moan and complaint unto him, which she saw she might do, and yet return home again the same day: what did she, think we? Surely this, she locked up the dead child in the Prophet’s chamber, (which she had persuaded her husband to build for him in their own habitation, to rest at, when he passed by) [2 Kings 4.21,22,] and made his death known to none, lest trouble and sorrow should thereby have been caused to the whole family, and neighbours thereabout, and by faith had the child restored alive unto her again. The grief and care for it must needs light on her, and she sustained it herself, and would have no other to sorrow for it, or be troubled about it. But our sin about this thing is great, that when we might with a little trouble to ourselves, free and ease many others, yet we raise and procure it to others also: yea and we be not satisfied, unless they smart as well as we. So far are we off from regarding others, and from seeking their peace, who would live peaceably by us. As for example, it is commonly to be seen, how many rough and boisterous husbands grieve and disquiet both wife and family, by their loud and unbeseeming as well as unseasonable complaints and outcryings, (whereby they disquiet the whole family) for some oversight which they espy; yea they have ofttimes no cause at all to do so; or at least if they had any just cause to be grieved, yet a little patience and bearing with the trespassers (as the cause requireth) and sober and kind telling them of it, might have done far more good, and have kept the whole family quiet. The same I may say of the wife, if she be given to waspishness, and be shrewish, hot, and wrathful, who thereby troubleth both husband and the whole house: and this accusation reacheth yet further; even to the spiteful and malicious, who are not only oft jarring, and at strife with their neighbours upon small or no occasions, but are ready to sue them at the law for every trifle, and so trouble both them, and themselves also. Whereas the virtuous Queen Esther [4.16,] beholding how she was the only hope and help under God of the Church’s deliverance from Haman’s plot and devising to waste and destroy it utterly; took upon her the going about it, though it was with most likely peril of her life, and that without the hurt of any one beside; saying in so doubtful a case, If I perish, I perish. Yea, Saul himself, who yet had no commendation {171} through the story for uprightness and goodness, would not suffer any of the murmurers and repiners against his entering in, to be punished at his first coming to his kingdom, as some would have had it, but chose rather to put up the disgrace, saying: there shall no man die this day; for today the Lord hath saved Israel, [1 Sam. 11.13.] And this [let be observed] by occasion of Ehud’s sending the people away that went with him, being the first of the three things mentioned, to be contained in these 3 verses.

Now followeth the second thing, to wit, of Ehud’s second going to Eglon, and what he said. He returned in haste from the place near Gilgal in the land of Israel, whither he had conducted the people, which could not be far from the place where King Eglon lay: for he having brought the Israelites into subjection to him; it is clear that he lay near their borders, the better to see them kept under: and he coming to him, told him he had a message which was of secrecy to do unto him. Whereat the King required him to stay the uttering of it, till the company standing by, were commanded out of the place. For he having so lately received a present at his hand, had no suspicion of any treachery to be intended by him. The company being gone, Ehud was admitted to come near unto him. And telling him that his message was from God, he stood up to do reverence at that name: and so by this means he had the way made more easy for him, and the better opportunity to do the work he went about.

And in these two verses we may see, considering that the Lord called Ehud to this work, for the destroying of that his people’s enemy, and to deliver them out of his hands, (for else it had been a most bloody and treacherous act) we may see (I say) the courage and confidence that was in him, to adventure that great danger that he did, by going about to kill Eglon the King: who, if before his attempt he had been detected and found out, had been put (who doubteth?) to most extreme tortures among enemies, and no friend of his standing by or in presence. And what had he to uphold himself by, in that great difficulty and fearful danger, but his trust in God, and confidence, that he who laid that work upon him, would bring him well through it? And yet how hard a thing it was for him, who seeth not, if he will rightly consider it, in that difficulty and great strait that he was in, to believe that God would make way for him, and enable him to such a work, all likelihood thereof being taken away. And this teacheth us, what the nature of faith & confidence is, wheresoever, and in whomsoever it is to be found: that they look not upon things that are seen, which may work deadly discouragement and anguish: but upon that which is not seen with mortal eye [2 Cor. 4.18,] and that is God’s power and willingness ready at hand to help us forward, and to encourage us (to wait for the accomplishing of that which we believe and look for) in our greatest need.

This it was that animated and strengthened Ehud to attempt this dangerous work. And this faith and confidence heartened and emboldened the Priests [Joshua 3.13,14,] when the Lord by Joshua commanded them for their passing into the land of Canaan, to set their feet on the water, to go over the river Jordan, (how unlikely soever it was) their believing (I say) the Lord by the mouth of Joshua, that a way should be made for them to pass through safely, as on dry land, even that it was that heartened [encouraged] them to do it, who yet in so {172} doing, must of necessity have been drowned by man’s reason and judgment. And this faith made Peter bold to pronounce to the lame and diseased, even while they lay visited, to pronounce (I say) in the hearing of all that stood by, when he saw no likelihood thereof appear: Jesus Christ maketh you whole, arise and walk, [Acts 3.6, and 9.34.] For he believed Christ who had said to him that he should work a miracle, whensoever it was expedient, and that faith made him bold to say so: whereas if that had not been immediately done indeed, which he foresaid should come to pass, that the parties should be healed; he should have been utterly discredited, and laughed to scorn, and cast out from men’s company, as a deceiver.

This faith made the holy Martyrs yield their bodies to the fire, for the defence of God’s truth, while they believed, not only that they should be received after into glory; but also that God would strengthen them for the present time to endure the flame. And this it is that enableth us to suffer the hardness which we willingly sustain throughout our lives, even this, that we trust and rest persuaded, that God will bring us well through it, and afterwards receive us into his eternal kingdom. Which caused Paul to utter these words, [Acts 21.13]: Why weep ye thus, and rend my heart? for I am resolved and ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus: and even so he taught, writing to Timothy; Therefore we suffer because we believe in the living God, who is the saviour of all, but especially of them that believe. [1 Tim. 4.10.] And this of Ehud in these two verses, and of his words spoken to the King. And as for such as ask why he deluded the King with a lie, while he went about to kill him, seeing he uttered no message to him at all; when yet he told him he had a message from God unto him: to them I answer; the word which is translated message or errand, doth not only signify a word or message by mouth, but also a thing or deed, such as that was which he did unto him; for he was sent from God to kill him, even as among the Latins, Verbum & res. Quid hoc verbi est? Quid hoc rei est? both are one.

Now followeth the third thing, and that is in this 20th verse, namely, of Ehud’s last words to the King immediately before he killed him, and of Eglon’s behaviour thereat, as it is here set down, let us consider the first: of which this I say; In that he should so simply hearken to, and believe him, admit him into his secret parlour, and that Ehud being a stranger, should neither be suspected, nor searched (as the manner is, and great reason was for it) before he should have access to the King, and that none of all the King’s attendants should advise such a matter, that he should not be suffered to stand on his feet before the King, (which was more suspicious,) but rather commanded to be upon his knees before him, and then that he should cause his own company to go out of the place, and leave them two only together; but especially to let Ehud depart, before they saw all to be well: These (I say) and such like, if the Lord had not blinded, and cast a mist before them, could never have passed as they did. And we may say, it was much like that which we read [1 Sam. 26.15,] of Abner, captain of Saul’s host, and all his men; to wit, that when he imagined that David pursued him, and sought his life, and should therefore have more specially watched and attended the King’s person, than at other times; yet that even then all the army should be asleep together where they lay; insomuch that David challenged Abner for it; was it not admirable? {173} For it could not have been so in any reason, except God had cast a sleep upon them, to the end that David’s integrity and innocency toward Saul, might be known, when there was seen no other way to shew it, and all saw (that would) how he might have killed Saul.

And hereby let us learn, that when God will have any work wrought, or any thing brought to pass for his glory, the good of his Church, or destruction of his enemies, he having many ways to bring it to pass, will effect it through infinite difficulties, without our troubling ourselves about it. For his providence always ministereth to, and makes way for his purpose till it be executed. David was so coped in by Saul at one time, that there seemed no hope of escape: but then the Lord whistled him away, and set him about other business. What lets and discouragements (think we) had Noah [Gen. 6.13,14,] to hold him from that great work of building the Ark to the preserving of the world, and the Church of God? I will leave it to the consideration of the reader, rather than spend the time in laying it forth. In the bringing to pass God’s promise to Joseph in his dream, what a long time was it before it was effected? even well nigh twenty years: and how unlike, and in the mean while, how many difficulties were raised and set in the way to the frustrating of it? as the malice and envy of his brethren, some of them intending and seeking to kill him, but all the company consenting that he should be sold to strangers afar off, from whence they thought he should never have been any more seen of them [Gen. 37], neither his dreams come to pass: and then his imprisonment also after all, by the false accusation of his whorish mistress: who would not have said, that by the means of all these, he should have been utterly deprived of the benefit of the promises which God had made to him? But could they prevail? was any jot of God’s word made void, so that it came not to pass?

And was all the cruel malice of Haman easily avoided in plotting the destruction of all the Jews God’s people: the day thereof being appointed, the King persuaded by him to let all be as he would have it, and no friend to them, (but they were as sheep appointed to be slain) but they that were in as great danger themselves, that is to say, Esther and Mordecai: and when she the Queen, who was all their hope under God, should go about to help them out of the danger, she brought herself thereby into the present peril of her life. And yet because it could not be possible that the Church of God should be overthrown, did not he most strangely deliver it? But to let pass examples in Scripture; even thus the Lord hath and doth uphold his Church here and there for a time against all enemies and lets, and will do, till he hath accomplished, and made up his number. And when we see that he continueth his favour more specially to any place or people, through many trials, let us say, the Lord hath done great and marvelous things for them, and they had need to acknowledge his kindness, and profit by it more than in common manner, lest their account be harder to be made than other men’s. And to come to shew it more particularly, and so to conclude this point; if every private person whom this concerneth, could weigh through what difficulties, (as tentations and discouragements,) God hath brought him to hold and keep faith and a good conscience, both in the beginning, middle part of his combat and conflicting days, and more specially {174} when he hath well nigh run his race, and finished his course with joy; oh what thanks would he render to the Lord for it? For all such may well remember how oft they have said within themselves, that they shall never be stablished and persevere to the end, and that the promise of heaven made to them, is too good to be true. And yet God hath so mixed his power with their weakness, and so upheld them beyond their expectation, that he hath brought them safely through all that they feared. Oh I cannot sufficiently magnify and commend this goodness of the Lord, and withall, the glorious work of faith, and what wonders they effect! and yet little known or asked after. But seeing the arm of the Lord is no more shortened now, than in times past, but he doth great things for them that believe at this day; let us also learn David’s lesson [Psalm 37.5.]: Commit thy way to the Lord (saith he) and believe that he will effect it, and he will do it indeed, without any needless and indirect trouble, or fretting care of thine: but if we believe not, I deny not but that we may see (as Elisha told the Prince of Israel [2 Kings 7.2], and Mordecai [told] Esther [Esther 4.14]) God’s promises performed to others which he made, as the unbelieving Prince did, but we shall have no part therein ourselves, nor cause of sound rejoicing thereat, inasmuch as we had no exercise of our faith in believing them. Therefore this worthily deserveth at the hands of all the children of God (to whom the fruit of this doctrine hath in any measure been granted, and who have any proof of their faith at all, that at least they yield the Lord thus much; that as they be thankful (yea even with admiration) to consider how he hath brought matters to pass for them beyond hope: so that they arm themselves to believe still, and that more assuredly that God is able and willing to make way for them in all their desires, or distresses, without which yet they shall lose the benefit of this his power and love. But more of this, as occasion shall be offered.

As for Eglon’s rising up at the mention of God, as though he had reverenced him, (for this is the next thing that followeth in the text) howsoever they used to do so at that time who were but heathen Kings, as Baalam before, when Balak then King of Moab, came to him, and his Princes with him, to ask what God’s answer was to him, Baalam (I say) then spake thus unto him: Arise Balak to hear God’s voice and to give reverence to it. Concerning his rising up (I say at the naming of God) that we may make some good use of it, we are sure it serveth to convince Atheists, and profane ones, who are far from yielding any. But if ye will say, what reverence was that which they gave, seeing they were Idolaters, and did it at the naming of God, whether it were the true God Jehovah, or any other, I say, sufficient to condemn these. But some make shews of reverence when in truth they offer disgrace. So we read [John 9.24,] of the Pharisees, that when it was proved to them by the blind man, that Christ had opened his eyes, which they could not abide to hear, they would not take knowledge of it; but as though they might boldly and freely detract from him whom they hated, (so that they gave words of honour to God) bewrayed their hypocrisy, who would seem holy, and therefore said, give glory to God, we know that this man is a sinner: and so bewrayed that they had no religion, when yet they would seem to go before others therein: seeing this is true, that he that honoureth not the son, neither doth he honour the father. Let all this {175} then, both serve to shame all brutish and profane persons, (who yet are in the visible Church) who ascribe not so much to the word preached, neither regard the message of God, with so much reverence as this heathen Eglon did; who in token thereof stood up when Ehud told him that he had a message for him from God. But to leave these, let it be a watchword to use that profess the true worship of God, that we please not ourselves in the work wrought; I mean in giving outward and bodily worship to God, and in calling him father [Matt. 15.9]; seeing neither they who draw near to him with bodies only, do please him; neither all that say, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doth the will of the father that is in heaven [Matt. 7.21]: and again, seeing it is written, that all who call on the name of the Lord, must depart from iniquity [2 Tim. 2.19]: let us regard that duly, without which we shall have no more to commend us to God, than this Heathen King had. But of this enough before, chapter 1, verse 4. It followeth:

Verses
  1. And Ehud put forth his left hand, and tooke the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly.
  2. So that the haft went in after the blade, and the fat closed about the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly, but the dirt came out.
OF Ehud’s intent and preparation to kill Eglon King of Moab, we have heard: now followeth the execution of it. For as Jael was strengthened by God, to destroy and kill Sisera, captain of Jabin King of Canaan; so the Lord strengthened Ehud here, to bring down Eglon King of Moab, that Israel his people who cried unto him, might be delivered out of the bondage that he had brought them into. And thus God in a moment took away the life and honour of him both together, by one deadly blow, wherein he would shew us the woeful estate of those, who have nothing but in this world, to what end they may come even here, they know not how soon and suddenly, beside the irksome desolation that shall meet with them when they go hence. Oh the base and loathsome death that God would have him brought unto, and yet in his flourishing estate, so far from likelihood of any change or decay at all! If we regard anything, we will consider this: examples are infinite. Thus Belshazzar and Herod were taken down in the midst of their jollity. Add to these, Nabal for the uncomfortableness of his death [1 Sam. 25.37,38], with Zimri that burned himself, to burn the King’s palace in Tirza, and so died [1 Kings 16.18,19]; and with Joash the King of Judah, who was slain of his servants [2 Kings 12.20], and Jezebel, whose blood was without compassion dashed against the stones [2 Kings 9]. Even so, do we not daily see the flourishing estates of men turned to most desolate decay? insomuch as they be justly reproved for making them their Paradise; and that by the words of our Saviour, are these the things ye look after? and also when he bewailed them, for that they died without hope. And here by so fit an occasion as is offered by Ehud’s killing of Eglon this King of Moab: I think it not unfit in this place, (though in a word, and by way of execration) to note and bring to the remembrance of the Reader, the cursed practice of the Jesuits in murdering, and bringing untimely death upon the Lord’s anointed, Kings and Princes, under the colour of their {176} heresy (as they call it) or lest they should incur some way the Pope’s displeasure for not doing so; as though they would help the Lord to cut off such as flourish and prosper. And the rather I mention them, because they defend themselves by this fact of Ehud, and such like, most impudently and absurdly, to cover their horrible treasons and murders. The two last Kings of France were thus handled, and the facts with the doers highly extolled by these that heartened them on thereto. Oh villainy intolerable! whereby, as by their persecuting the Gospel, they most lively shew themselves to be utter adversaries to Christ, and to be most near akin to them who commit the sin against which we should not pray, that cannot be forgiven. But to leave them whom God alloweth not to be instruments of such bloody acts and treacheries, let us return to the persons before mentioned, who lived here in pleasures of sin for a season, and were without God in the world, and soon perished miserably.

These with many other mentioned in the Scriptures, and in later Chronicles (for I speak of the chief and greatest persons, seeing they do most move affection,) so highly advanced in this world, and yet so soon and suddenly spoiled and bereaved of all their honour and excellency (as I have said) and to change it with a base death, and a worse estate afterwards; do lively set before our eyes the misery of all such, as look no further, than after bravery, jollity, vain pleasure, and large possessions, which they can neither keep, when their deadly blow is given them, and when their dreadful woe cometh, so that they might be any comforts to them; nor lose and part from them (if they have any time to think thereof) without deadly dislike, and most bitter vexation. So that it may worthily warn all such as be of high degree, and much more us that are inferiour persons; and therefore ought first to stoop to consider of, and provide for our end, that when we must depart hence, (which time is most uncertain) we may be prepared to die happily, and provide to be received into heavenly habitations. For we see what a pitiful and dangerous thing it is to rest upon that which we enjoy here, as wealth, pomp, young years, or any other earthly prosperity. The Lord scatters men in the imaginations of their hearts. He sweeps down their warped thoughts, as cobwebs with besom. It had been well with Eglon, and such as he was, (all that hear of him will say,) if he had enjoyed nothing; and much better if he had been nothing. Even thus the hand of God is against all his enemies, and when the day of reckoning cometh, they perish. It is reported (in the history of that time) that an Emperour of Rome, Adrian by name, when he should die, and leave all his jollity, being suddenly stricken with great terrour, used these words: Oh my poor wandering silly soul, which hast been long a companion and guest of my body, what shall hereafter become of thee, or whither wilt thou go? Thou hast been jolly, merry, and full of sporting and pleasures, but now thou must go where there is no such matter, forlorn, desolate, and forsaken. Behold in this great man, the woeful apprehension and fearful presage of the woe to come, even while he lived: the which doubtless seizing upon the mighty and glorious (when no outward thing can comfort them) should frighten and terrify all sorts and degrees of men from resting upon any earthly props, wanting God’s favour for their chief stay and refuge. {177}

And here in laying out the fearful manner of killing Eglon, occasion being offered to make mention of that which was loathsome to the ear, [the dirt came out], in that it was uttered in more seemly terms and words: we may learn how warily we should speak of things more unseemly, or which are more harsh in the hearing; and follow the Holy Ghost in our terms, namely to utter that (which might else offend the ears of the most) in more seemly and honest words. So the action of the marriage bed is usually expressed by the Holy Ghost in most chaste and seemly words. As it is said of David [1 Kings 1.4], when Abishag the Shunamite was brought unto him to minister to him, though she cherished him, and lay in his bosom in his extreme age, that he might get heat by her, it is said in modest words, that the King knew her not: so Mary, [Luke 1.34,] how can this be, seeing I knew not a man? Such are the terms used by the Holy Ghost, of discovering the shame and covering the nakedness of Noah our father, as Shem and Japheth did. And although education and good manners teach us modesty, yet grace must teach the language of Canaan, whereof this is a part. The Lord commanded Israel to cover their excrements with their paddle, because he walked among them [Deut. 23.12,13,14]: and so ought we to behave ourselves, especially Preachers must beware of broad [gross, coarse], unseemly, and offensive speech in this kind, because they are to utter the will of God, in the most seemly and reverent phrase and manner. And divers other such might be brought forth, but that I would not be long in this matter, where fewer words may serve. Which is to the just reproof of many in our time, who as they are rude and brutish in their behaviour, so have they as beastly and filthy tongues to utter their minds by, in too unseemly manner, as they know who are their companions, and like unto them. And this of Ehud’s killing Eglon.



THE TWENTIE TWO
SERMON ON THE THIRD
CHAPTER OF THE BOOKE
OF IVDGES.

Verses
  1. Then Ehud got him out into the porch, and shut the dores of the parlour upon him, and locked them.
  2. And when he was gone out, his seruants came, who seeing that the doores of the parlour were locked, they said; surely hee doth his easement in his sommer parlour.
  3. And they tarried till they were ashamed: and seeing he opened not the doores of the parlour, they tooke the key and opened them, and behold their Lord was fallen dead on the earth.
  4. So Ehud escaped (while they tarried) and was passed the quarries, and escaped to Seirah.
NOW of the things that followed this action, and pertained to it, according to the division made in the end of the fifteenth verse: they are set down in these four verses, and tend all to this end, to shew how God made way for Ehud’s safe escaping. And therefore first note we somewhat generally, and then more particularly afterward. For his coming forth, in that none of the King’s servants were at hand to go into the King’s parlour presently, or if they were there attending, yet that they should be so negligent and forgetful to go in forthwith, but to tarry till Ehud might be gone past all danger, it was as I said of his going about it, so ordered by God, that all might say, thus he would have it, and then we know, that none can withstanding or resist it. To teach us the same so that although a man would think, that there might be many ways to overthrow and frustrate God’s purpose, yet none of them shall stand, for why? there is no counsel against the Lord, [Prov. 21.30.] Who would not have thought, but that Pharaoh might have kept the people of Israel still in his land, and that none could have brought such a mighty people, (even many hundred thousands) out of it against his will? [Exod. 12.41.] But yet behold, seeing God would deliver them, it was not he, nor all his chariots, no nor all the Kings in the world, if they had joined with him, that could have hindered it.

It might likewise have been thought an easy matter for King Ahab and Jezebel, full of spite and cruelty, with all their strength, friends, and retinue, whom they might have commanded and set about it, to root out and take out of the way, the poor Prophet of God Elias, which they desired most earnestly to have done [1 Kings 19.1,2]: but seeing God would preserve him to honour his name, it was in vain for them to attempt or go about it. So for Paul, one {179} silly Apostle to conquer so great a part of the world by the preaching of the Gospel, which it had utterly rejected, how admirable a thing was it? seeing it is manifest, that the malicious Jews resisted, and came against him in all places: but who might withstand God, when he would have it so? For in that one city at Corinth, he bade him go forward in preaching, and faint not, where he had much people [Acts 18.9-11]; adding this for encouragement thereto, that none should be able to hinder it. And let us in these days be wise by so many fair warnings. It cannot be that one of God’s faithful shall perish, therefore let us not smite at such, with tongue nor hand as he loveth: he will fight for them, and curse them that curse his, and they shall repent it, if not too late, that they went about to hurt them. But of this I spake before in the former Sermon, though not in the same words, nor making the same use thereof: therefore thus much briefly of these verses in general.

Now that it is said in this verse, that Ehud, when he had done this work upon God’s enemy, came forth neither in fear, nor any great haste, in any disguised manner, but as though he had done nothing worthy suspicion, neither gave any token of a guilty conscience, but as one that had served God in that work. It lively setteth before our eyes the peaceable fruit of an excusing and quiet conscience. Behold the like in Jael, the wife of Heber [Judges 4.22], who having slain Sisera, whereas any other doing such an act of his own head with a murdering mind in such a matter, could hardly have avoided it, but he should have bewrayed himself easily and palpably: as is to be seen in Judas betraying his master, who cried out of his own fact, saying; I have sinned in betraying the innocent blood. [Matt. 27.4.] And it may teach us how greatly the quiet and excusing conscience of the innocent and righteous man differeth from the guilty and accusing conscience of the ungodly. And it agreeth with the words of the Wise man, who saith; The righteous is bold as a Lion, but the wicked fleeth when no man pursueth him, [Prov. 28.1.] The ground of this his peace, was the discharge of that duty which the Lord imposed upon him, in this extraordinary case, the which otherwise had been abominable patricide. And although this viperous brood of Jesuits pretend the like dispensation from their petty god the Pope, and thereupon harden their hearts, and set an impudent face upon the matter, as if they had no wound or terrour of conscience: yet the truth is, their ground being naught, the cause of this boldness is shamelessness, impudency, and want of conscience at all, if they be not wounded. Hell can only terrify these hellhounds, for God they fear not, and they have hardened their faces (as it seemeth) to regard no man. Where we may see a double benefit that the godly reap and enjoy by having allowance and warrant from God for the duties they do: to wit, inward quietness of mind, and strength and courage thereby to bear any outward danger or trouble, if need should be, and both the contraries to pursue and take hold of the other, that is, an hellish mind toward God, and terrour and dread though they bite it in, in regard of the world, or an hardened heart which is worse than both.

As for those which waited on the King, they did foolishly: they should have cast [judged, considered] the hardest, when Ehud came forth of the parlour, and have stayed him, and not have kept out so long, and have made such delay as they did: for delays are dangerous where the matter is weighty, in which they are used. {180} And they being thought so wise that the keeping of their Lord and master was committed to them: they failed greatly and grossly in their duty; and therefore they reaped the fruit thereof, when after their long tarrying, they came in at the last and found him slain. This is that which delay breedeth in all things, (not in their doings only) and the more danger, the greater the things are, as I have said. Thus Baanah and Rechab [2 Sam. 4,] by the negligence of the King’s officers, slew him on his bed. And as this teacheth every private man to be diligent and wary about the duties that belong to his function and calling, to prevent loss and damage; so especially it commendeth vigilance and circumspection in all such, as through whose hands great matters of state and government do pass, that neither by their carelessness, connivance, or other sinister respects, they suffer that mischief to grow upon Church and Common wealth, which by their providence might in season be prevented ere it be helpless. The fit season therefore is to be taken in earthly business and our common affairs, as this was here by Ehud: we must use the opportunity; reap the corn when it calleth for the sickle, and strike the iron while it is hot: so our market must be made, while a good pennyworth may be had. Do all thou hast to do with diligence, while the day lasteth: the night will come, wherein such works cannot be done. Remember the rich man, who being in hell in torments, was denied a drop of cold water, because he avoided them not while he enjoyed plenty. [Luke 16.25.] So Haman made request for his life too late. And by their slackness and delay we may much more be warned in the weighty affairs that concern our happiness, to take the fit season [2 Cor. 6.2]: that is, to seek the Lord while he may be found [Isa. 55.6], and not drive off from day to day, but to remember our maker in the days of our youth [Eccles. 12.1], and today, while we hear his voice, not to harden our hearts [Psalm 95.7,8,] but embrace his message both in the Law and promises of God by faith unto salvation. The servants that kept not Saul, but slept in great danger, were accessaries (as David tells Abner in Saul’s case [1 Sam. 26.16,]) though they betrayed him not, even so the careless delayer to get faith and repentance, shall perish [Luke 13.3], as he that hates to be reformed [Psalm 50.16.] The five foolish Virgins knocked to be let in, when the door was shut, [Matt. 25.11,12.] Even so in all particular actions of our life, look we before all other things to keep our conscience pure and good. To the like purpose much might be said. And this by occasion of the servants delay, and their astonishment, when they saw how it fell out to them thereby.

Ehud reaped the benefit of this their delay, for while they thus drave off and lost the time in which they should have carefully attended upon their Lord, he escaped out of their hands, and wound out of all danger, he passing the quarries, which it seemeth were places betwixt Gilgal of the Israelites, and the Moabites, which before he could get beyond, he was not past danger: and so coming to Seirath, a place here mentioned in the borders of Israel, further off from danger, he was in safety. And thus we see again, that they who are wise and speedy in their business, do thrive and prosper, when they who delay the time, do apparently sit in their own light, and work their own sorrow and annoyance, as we have heard: even as he who having foolishly refused a good bargain, which might have been for the benefit and maintenance both of him and his long after, mourneth {181} and despaireth of the like offer and opportunity. The diligent hand maketh rich, and he that watereth shall also have rain. [Prov. 10.4; 11.25.] Cursed is he that doth the Lord’s business negligently. The people in John Baptist’s time [Matt. 11,] received the word with greediness, happy was he that could enter first into the kingdom of God, and they that make no haste do never come thither. And yet they that strive to enter in at the strait gate shall be received into glory: when others shall seek to enter afterward (too late) and shall not be able. And therefore the Apostle tells us, that such as can redeem the time, are wise men; the foolish believe everything, and so drive off, and are taken in the snare. [Eph. 5.15,16.] Thus we see the wise take the opportunity, and bring their matters thereby to a good pass. But for all that I have said of speediness, yet understand me thus: that rashness is as far from commemoration, as driving off the time, and delay. Thus much of Ehud’s first work in killing the chief enemy of God’s people, that Eglon the King; which was a great mean of their deliverance and rest.

Verses
  1. And when he came home, he blew a trumpet in mount Ephraim, and the children of Israel went downe with him from the mountaine, and hee went before them.
  2. Then said he unto them, follow mee, for the Lord hath deliuered your enemies, euen Moab, into your hands. So they went downe after him, and tooke the passages of Iordan toward Moab, and suffered not a man to passe ouer.
  3. And they slue of the Moabites the same time about ten thousand men, all fed men, and all warriors, and there escaped not a man.
  4. So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel, and the land had rest fourscore yeeres.
THE second mean of Israel’s deliverance followeth; and that was, the cutting off of ten thousand of the valiant men of Moab, which was the other good help toward their deliverance beside the killing of the King, which now followeth to the ending and making up of this Story, to verse 31. But first it is shewed what Ehud did to the bringing of this to pass. The things that Ehud went about, whereby so many of the Moabites were slain and Israel was delivered, were these three: first, as he was a valiant man, so he coming to the place here mentioned, Seirath by name, (it was not Seir in Idumea, but near to mount Ephraim in the land of Canaan, as was said before) he did not leave the work unperfect, which he had begun in killing the King of Moab, but 1. with a trumpet he called together the men of Ephraim, and by his authority stirred them up to war: and 2. to encourage them the better thereto, he assured them from God of the victory: and 3. with this, they took up and beset the fords of Jordan, where the Moabites passed over to and fro out of Israel into the land of Moab: and by this means they stayed such of them as were on that side the river, that they could not escape and go over, and those that came out of the land of Moab over the river to relieve their fellows, and pursue Israel, they slew also, till ten thousand men of good courage were cut off. And this if they had not done, the Moabites being so enraged against them for that which was done to their King, they had made spoil and havoc of them, whereas {182} now they subdued them, and obtained a long time of rest themselves. Thus much for the clearing of these 4 verses.

Now of that which we are to learn out of them. Ehud did not delay, as we see, for that had been full of danger, but now while the Moabites through astonishment at that which was befallen them, could not by and by see and determine what was best to be done, he plied it, and went to work, as we have heard. It is as hard a matter to use an opportunity wisely, and pursue the occasion effectually when it is offered, as it is at first to get and take it. But Ehud lost no time, but followed it hard: and as he had escaped while the servants delayed; so now he gathers his army together, while the Moabites (being amazed with terrour) were fit by passing to and fro to be pursued, and discomfited. And as this doth shew how unwearied we ought to be in those actions that tend to the glory of God, the good of the Church, and the confusion of the enemies thereof; so, more generally it teacheth us, when we have made a good beginning in anything, that we should not be slack in going forward, and following it: but as Ehud here did, wisely and carefully labour to bring our work unto an end. It is a thing much more common to begin well, than to go forward so, whether we understand it generally, to make a beginning in Christianity, or in any particular part thereof, it is most true. For the foremost, many of us come to profess the Gospel indeed, and embrace it commendably, by hearing it joyfully, in conversing with God’s people kindly, & in forsaking many parts of our former bad lives. But when we should hold on in this good manner to search further into ourselves, to find out our rank corruptions, and to purge our selves of them [Judges 19,] and to be grounded in our most holy faith, and stablished as we may attain so, we wax soon weary, and begin to stand at a stay, and so we lose all our labour that we have bestowed already, and frustrate the work that was well begun.

And so to say the same of particulars, it is well seen, that many attempt sundry good actions commendably; as the labouring for a good Minister, and the drawing of the people to godly society and love in a town, and to have an eye to the unruly: other begin good exercises and orders in their family, and namely, prayer morning and evening; and some use good means for the well ordering, and good governing of their lives, and labour to root out particular abuses out of them, and to entertain grace and good duties, and many such like I might mention. But I cannot tell how it cometh to pass, that as if they thought these good things should last but for a while, or as though they would hold in good plight without means (wherein they shew that they are not well grounded, though they did well for a season) so they go to work, and what with discouragements and crosses on the one side, and allurements and provocations on the other side, they faint and break off: whereas that should not be, till the work were brought to a good end, that so they might go forward in other duties in like manner. Neither should we look to the things past, what good we have done more than others, to become less careful thereby in going forward; but what remaineth yet to be done till we have brought our good attempts to pass; and one good duty should follow after another, until we have finished our course with joy. [Phil. 3.13,14.] We must remember that the Merchant {183} went and bought the pearl when he had found it [Matt. 13.46]: and the wise Virgins kept oil in their lamps. [Matt. 25.4.] And here it were to good purpose to think of Ehud’s unwearied care and labour, till he had brought all to a good end, and of such other as did the like; and to consider with ourselves (as he and such did) how all that hath been done of us in such cases, should be but in vain; and beside, great danger and detriment must needs come upon us, if we should (as too many do) break off in the mid way. Oh what do men lose hereby: even beside all their labour, the fruit of it also. But of this we have occasion to speak often elsewhere.

Further, in that it is said that he heartened them on against the Moabites, assuring them that the Lord had delivered them into their hands, and that he drew them after him, and they did as he willed them; we see the worth of a good guide, what he may do with those which he is set over, and how much, strong, and well grounded persuasions prevail, where they be used in season and good manner, God blessing them as he hath promised. Heathen Captains have done much with their soldiers, and Princes and lawmakers with their subjects: who yet (we know) could neither certify them of the things they promised, and encouraged them to hope for, neither if they could; were the things of any other sort or kind, than temporary. Now then how much more are they like to prevail with men, who both bring infallible promises from God, and also of things which please him (as Ehud here doth) and they do not only glad the hearts of the persons therewith, inasmuch as they understand thereby that God will bless them here abundantly, and also that their reward is great in heaven.

As the Lord spoke to Joshua saying: Be valiant and of good courage, for I have given the whole country of the Canaanites into thy hands [Joshua 1.6]: so spake Ehud here unto the men of Ephraim in the name of God, and by his authority. And these are the persuasions that are like to prevail, I say not with the faithful only: but (if any may be) these are of force to move even other also. Not that they can be throughly persuaded thereof without faith, but for that they do very much move their minds, and the rather by the example of better than themselves, and also they do cause them the more to enquire into such things, and how they should be done, till they grow acquainted with them, that so they may in time believe and so do them in faith also. And let this which I say be better considered in two things: the one in the promises of eternal life, the other in those which belong to this present life.

For the first, when God shall by some faithful messenger of his, assure the hungering soul, and the man of an afflicted spirit of pardon of his sins, and eternal life, and that he shall undoubtedly enjoy them, requiring this withall, that he give credit thereto, and believe the same; how greatly (think we) do they move and prevail with him, as we see Christ’s words did with Zacchaeus [Luke 19.8,9,] and Paul’s with the Jailor [Acts 16.33,] and with many other? And for the second likewise, I mean the temporary promises of this present life (as this was one, that Ehud here offered and set before the people) as the promise of blessing and good success to such as obey God, by walking diligently in their particular calling, and the promise of a good end and issue out of trouble to them which commit their way to God, and are well occupied under {184} it in the mean season: to these, I say, how forcible are such promises, and what power have they to uphold the hearts of such, in a comfortable expectation of the things promised? whereas without them, nothing could do the same. Oh therefore what good may a godly Minister do in both (even as other superiours also, especially being men endued with the gifts of the spirit) if he continue in love to put the poor people daily in remembrance of these things, in the midst of the manifold changes of this life? And therefore as God shall impart to any man in the ministry or otherwise; more light, wisdom, experience, and grace, either in believing or obeying, the more must he apply himself to enlighten, advise, and strengthen those whom God hath set him over for that purpose; knowing that it is not every man’s case, to be able to minister unto himself or other, advise or direction, (though it were much to be desired) especially in a matter of difficulty, and in a doubt of conscience, or in tentation, or under the cross. Peter therefore is betrusted with this office, to confirm his brethren [Luke 22.32,] as a man of a thousand, as David, Psalm 51, [verse 13,] undertook it, who had himself first well learned it, and was the better able to perform it to others. Neither let any man think it a disgrace to himself thus to see, and walk, by the eyes, and upon the feet of others. It is a man’s wisdom, and a great portion from God, to receive direction by such means. Here I will stay.



THE TWENTIE THREE
SERMON ON THE THIRD
CHAPTER OF THE BOOKE
OF IVDGES.

NOW to go forward; the valiant warriours of Ephraim being encouraged thus by Ehud, and other help being called together therewith, as we have heard, and they keeping the passages to and fro, betwixt Israel on their own side, and Moab on the other side of Jordan, they killed all the Moabites that offered themselves to stir and be helpers in that time of their great calamity and abasement, wherein they had lost their King: these (I say) whom Ehud drew together, so bestirred themselves, that ten thousand of the best warriours of the Moabites were put to the sword. Thus they of Moab were weakened, and Ehud and the people of Israel did more and more prevail. By all this we see that as there is a time of affliction and calamity to the people of God (as it had been here to Israel) and that is, when they have provoked God, and their sins have made them naked before the Lord, that is to say, destitute and void of the grace and help of God, (as it is said of their fathers, when they had made a Calf in Exodus [Exod. 32.25,]) as I say, there is such a time; so there is a time again of deliverance and joy, and that is, when the people rise out of their {185} sin penitently, and seek the Lord with their whole heart, then he most graciously returneth to them again, in whose favour is life.

And this comfortable estate may we enjoy from time to time, to have the Lord’s loving countenance to shine upon us, far more delightful to our soul, than the fairest and sweetest weather can be to the creatures of the earth, if we can like to prefer it, as it is the best before all other: and we having obtained grace to do so, if we shall go a step further, and can think it our best wisdom to continue in so doing, we shall abide in God’s favour also, and keep ourselves well when we are well, which is the happiness that can in this life be enjoyed. [John 15.10.] The Lord doth not stint and tie us to times, in which only we may have peace with him, and see good days; but he would that we should live in safety under his protection all the day long: and so from time to time, that we may have proof how good and bountiful he is. But we are waily and inconstant, and abuse his lenity and kindness toward us, when he not only holdeth many troubles and sorrows from us, but also loadeth us with the benefits of health, and welfare, inward and outward, and that also while others smart and are in heaviness. [Psalm 68.19.]

We deal with him, as pampered horses, and children much made of, who right soon wax loose and wanton. And we cause the Lord to turn our good and joyful days into glooming and sorrowful times: as through the stories of the book of God doth every where appear, that many after good beginnings did so, though little to their comfort. Oh how soon did this people mentioned in this book, and their fathers, as we read in Deuteronomy, with sundry other generations following, as the stories do testify, kick up their heel against the Lord, when he did yet feed them with the fat of wheat, and make them drink of the sweet? And this revolting worketh such a change in our best states and seasons, as causeth to complain and cry. Let it therefore cause us to be resolved upon this, and that in due and good consideration, so that we may constantly hold the same: to wit, that if we desire to see good days here, and enjoy long life with the Lord hereafter: that (I say) we fly [from] evil, and follow that which is good [1 Pet. 3.11]: and herein let us see that we deal not hollowly with the Lord: and if by occasion we slip or fall, and forget ourselves (as this people here did, verse 7,) yet let us take heed that we harden not our hearts, and so lie still, but bear our punishment contentedly, because we have sinned [Micah 7.9], and make speed to turn again to the Lord our first husband, who will receive us graciously: and as he hath smitten us, so he will heal us; and as he did before comfort us, so he will restore joy and gladness to us, as in time past. And this being done daily in the smaller slips, shall the easilier be gone about in greater falls, and shall also be a mean to keep us from them. Yea doubtless the Lord will do great things for us; and as he abased the enemies of this people, the Moabites here, so will he bring the wicked under us, and leave them afflicted and scourged in our room.

Now followeth the third and last thing mentioned in this latter part of the story, and that is, rest after, for a good while.

This long time of peace the Lord granted them, and could willingly afford it them, and it is all one to him to give a long time thereto as a short. And as it was a great blessing, so it was more than was promised. Indeed {186} the Lord said, that he would give Moab into their hands, and the people enjoyed that (as a fruit of their faith) which laid hold on God’s promise. But besides, he lengthened out the time of their rest, further than he promised them. To teach us that God never cometh short or behind hand with us in performing his promises, but giveth us good measure, heaped up, and running over [Luke 6.38]; and thereby sheweth that he is liberal and bountiful toward us. And this is his usual manner of dealing with his, to give more than they ask or look to receive; for he giveth more than he himself promiseth. The prodigal child asked, that he might be received but as an hired servant [Luke 15.19], but his father, who resembled the Lord in kindness, received him for his son, and declared it by entertaining him gladly, with all things agreeing thereto, [verse 22, &c.] So the woman of Canaan came to Christ for help for her daughter; but he not only granted her that, but also bade her take what she would. [Mat. 15.22,28.] Even as father Jacob, who feared that he should never see Joseph’s face, thinking he had been devoured of some wild beast, did yet see his children’s children. [Gen. 37.33,34, compared with 48.11.]

This if it were believed, were able to make our lives comfortable: For to say the truth, all our welfare is according to our faith, and yet the Lord giveth far above that which we can believe. Therefore this ought to encourage us, to labour to give him credit in all that we see he imposeth upon us, and requireth of us, in that we understand and see, and rest persuaded that he will have us to go about it. For we may know, that our reward shall be exceeding great in so doing. Let us instance this in two or three particulars, and we shall find the same that others have done before us. If we mark it, we may perceive, that when we have sometime in our afflictions besought the Lord but for some ease and mitigation of the force of them, whether sickness, pain, disease, or any such like, he hath delivered us altogether, and besides, blessed us abundantly. And so to shew it in any other particular, when great sorrow hath been rising toward us, he hath oft times turned our sorrow into joy. And even so, as long-continued peace was to this people unlooked for, when their very deliverance from subjection to the Moabites, would have been full welcome, though it had been but for a short time, that they might have had but some breathing from their bondage: so the Lord dealeth with us, that whereas in some of our troubles, we have feared as Hezekiah did, that we should never see light, nor good days any more; yet the Lord of his exceeding goodness hath restored us to our former sweet liberties for a long time after. [Isa. 38.11.] But oh what might be said of this argument? Although we must also know, that he seeth reason sometime, and that for good cause, to hold us off and defer us. But more of this in chapter 1, verse 2. And here an end of this story.

Verse
  1. And after him was Shamgar the sonne of Anath, which slew of the Philistims sixe hundred men with an oxe goade, and he also deliuered Israel.
THIS short story of Shamgar, is the third and last story mentioned in this chapter of the Israelite’s deliverance, by another Judge. But who this Shamgar was, or of what tribe he came, the Scripture doth not set down. But it appeareth, that when they had enjoyed long peace under Ehud, after {187} his death, the Philistines began to vex and oppress them, and then the Lord stirred up this Shamgar to defend them, that they might not again be brought into bondage as they had been before. And among other of their victories which were many, this one is brought in, as most admirable, though it be but briefly mentioned. For a great number, even hundreds to be slain by one man, and he using so weak an instrument, and the whole nation of the people to be preserved thereby from so fierce enemies, what is in this whole book spoken of, of the like kind, to be so strange and admirable? unless it be the like act of Samson.

Wherein we may see, that every slight thing may be a weapon of war for God’s people, when he will say, it shall prevail: and that it is not the number of men, nor the means, that God regardeth when he will get the victory. Therefore David’s small and smooth stones to throw in his sling, were sufficient furniture and armour to slay the Philistines’ champion Goliath [1 Sam. 17.40,49]: and Samson with the jaw bone of an Ass slew a thousand men [Judges 15.15]: and Jael with a bare nail, killed Sisera, that valiant captain of Jabin King of Canaan. And so great an act did this Shamgar, by so weak an instrument, when the Lord pleased to give the victory. And this truth should we see verified as clearly as ever they did, if we would hold this sure and constant [by faith], that we are his, and dear unto him: secondly, when we feel our outward oppressions and discouragements, or our inward infirmities, fears, and temptations, if then (I say) we did not look how weak we ourselves are, and unfit to wade through them all, and bear them, forgetting God’s power, which serveth for the use and comfort of his weak servants, and to be made known in their infirmities: even so we see David did [1 Sam. 30.6], namely in his sore distress, comfort himself in being wearied with Saul’s pursuing of him. And yet what a grace that was in him, we may see by this, that he being at another time, and forgetting himself, in a sore combat, brake out thus, and in his rashness said, I shall one time or other fall by Saul [1 Sam. 27.1]: But we should look how strong the Lord is who loveth us: who also looks down from heaven, to see who are weak, that he may be strong with them. [2 Chron. 16.9.] For indeed when we see our own impotency, this should lift up our heart, and cause us to reach out our hand to God’s mercy, which is in a readiness for us. So that if he be able to help us, that should be enough for us, how unable soever we be to bear the burden ourselves. So we have learned to believe, and to speak, The Lord is my light and salvation, whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? [Psalm 27.1.] Remember we also what the Apostle said: I am able to do all things through him that maketh me able. [Phil. 4.13.] And again, I will rejoice in mine infirmities: for when I am weak, then am I strong [2 Cor. 12.10]: even so we not fainting in our many troubles, but by faith, drawing and deriving God’s power unto us, as we have good leave to do, yea as we are commanded by himself to do, we may rest quiet for God will not disappoint us, and in that respect the Apostle James willeth us to be greatliest comforted, when we fall into diverse temptations, that so our faith may be tried to be sound (and that is better than gold) bringing patience with it. [James 1.3.] And yet if the Lord be not with us, nor we cling not to him by faith, no munition or warlike furniture when it is needed, nor the strongest nor surest help in time of peace shall be able to do us any good. Therefore neither could the {188} walls of Jericho preserve the city when God went against it [Josh. 6.2], nor Goliath’s sword defend him, but turn against him; nor Pharaoh’s Chariots get victory for him, but fail him when the Lord would not go with them. And therefore even as it is said in the Psalm [33.16,] that a King is not saved by the multitude of an host, neither is the mighty delivered by his great strength; so an horse is but a vain help to save a man. And so we may say of all creatures. If the Lord be at peace with us, they are on our sides, to stand with us; but if he frown upon us, they shall be against us. Lo such a thing it is to be in league and favour with him, that all shall turn to the best unto us, thereby; yea even the fierceness of our enemies: the heavens, the earth, the creatures shall be all at one with them, who are in covenant with him, who is the Lord of them. [Hosea 2.21-23.] But I will proceed in the next chapter.



THE FOVRTH CHAPTER OF THE
booke of IVDGES.

Verses
  1. And the children of Israel began againe to doe wickedly in the sight of the Lord when Ehud was dead.
  2. And the Lord sold them into the hand of Iabin King of Canaan that raigned in Hazor, whose chiefe captaine was called Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.
  3. Then the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, for he had nine hundred Chariots of iron, and twentie yeeres he had vexed the children of Israel very sore.
  4. And at that time Debora a Prophetesse, the wife of Lapidopth iudged Israel.
  5. And this Debora dwelt under a Palme tree betweene Rama and mount Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for iudgement.
IN this Chapter is set down another falling of the children of Israel from God, and God’s correcting of them: their repentance also: and lastly his delivering of them by Debora, Barak, and Jael. The first of these is in the first verse, the next in the second verse, their repentance in the third: and their deliverance in all the rest of the verses, to the end of the chapter.

The first part of the Chapter.

In that this relapse of theirs was said to be after Ehud was dead, as though Shamgar had not been betwixt both, it was most likely it was for that, he was but a very short time a deliverer unto them. But yet he was after Ehud a deliverer of the people, though but for a short time, as appeareth in the last verse of the former chapter.

For the first of the four things, I mean, the sin of the people of Israel, which again they committed (for so it is said here, that they did again that which was evil in the sight of the Lord) understand it of them who had seen the former deliverance, and also of their posterity who enjoyed the blessing. Of the phrase or manner of speech uttered by the holy Ghost, to wit, that they did evil in the sight of the Lord; I will not speak any more, having handled it twice before. But of their sin let us consider. And that is, {189} that they abused their long enjoyed peace and rest under Ehud. The sum of it is, that they did leave the right way of serving God, and increased their sin sundry ways. And this is indeed the disposition and common practice of men, who are not led and governed by God’s grace, that they are not the better for their prosperity, but much worse: for by adversity they are held down, and disabled from much sin, and so are restrained at least; so that, as the way is shut up to them from thence by affliction, so their appetite is much abated thereby also. But in liberty, peace, and abundance of God’s benefits, they are more easily led on, and enticed, and so the way is set open to them, and they do as readily walk in it; and being ungoverned, they are soon let loose. And we must know, that it is not thus with the wicked only, but even with such as have been sometime under God’s direction, that even they are ready to forget themselves, yea and the most do, and waxing bold, break out by means of their prosperity after the same manner.

And so it fell out with David himself, who when he had subdued his enemies under him almost on every side, even to his heart’s desire, he fell most dangerously to the great provoking of God. [2 Sam. 11.4.] And Jehoshaphat, otherwise a godly King, when he was lifted up and made drunk as it were, with the company and fellowship of wicked Ahab, did sore forget himself, so that he was fain to be reproved for it of the Lord by his Prophet. [2 Chron. 19.2.] A lamentable case, that when they be so sore oppressed either by enemies, or other crosses, that their life waxeth wearisome to them, and their distressed estate causeth all that look on them to pity them: and when the Lord shall in that misery of theirs have compassion of them, and set them at large, it is a lamentable case (I say) that they should become so grossly unthankful, forget their late adversity, and as soon in a manner as God hath enlarged them by his benefits, that they should thus unnaturally (as I may say) disguise themselves, even as if they would set themselves to grieve the Lord for his gladding and comforting of them. This may (I think) be a watchword to us, to take heed how we use our prosperity, and to teach us to make small haste to be made great in the world by God’s preferments, great wealth and commodities, unless we lay faster hold of grace whereby we may use them rightly; that is, to be humble under them, and thereby forward and fruitful in doing the good that we may. Let us then take heed seriously, that we count it not happy in itself to live delicately for a season; from whence it cometh through our corrupt nature, that we contemn others, give our selves to vanity, pleasures, wantonness, and delights, and some of us also to profit-seeking and gain, though never so filthy and gross, as our chief treasure, whereby godliness decays, and the use, at least the power of all good means.

But what should we do (ye will ask) when God giveth us such a wealthy and a comfortable outward estate? I say we should be rich in good works [1 Tim. 6.18], and do works to necessary uses. [Titus 3.8,14.] Oh, men so well provided for, what good might be done to their own souls, and to the souls and bodies of their brethren. But to this point (alas) things are now come, that we may say with grief, that few have any mind to use their liberties aright, or (almost) to do any good. And this being duly considered, should cause {190} our wonderings to cease, why so few godly Christians enjoy any great portion of outward blessings in comparison, (for it is so) even because the Lord provideth a better thing for them, when he giveth them a mediocrity in them all, as of maintenance, of credit, account and favour with their betters, and mixeth each hour of sunshine with another of cloudy and unpleasing weather; and all to keep their affections from growing too rank, and intemperate, and to contain them within their bounds in that condition, which is best for them, and fittest to serve the Lord in, without loathing or weariness. The earth which is too strong and lusty, runneth up into weed and stalk, but the well tilled and compassed, bringeth forth a plentiful crop. And rare is the man, whose fruits are not more gracious and constant in a moderate estate, than in a mighty, which caused the wise man to say; Neither too much, Lord, neither too little, for I shall run into the extreme of unthankfulness or discontentment. [Prov. 30.8,9.] Doubtless, if as prosperity groweth, so piety increased withall, and the love of the giver waxed stronger, as his gifts are multiplied, and wax greater, God would not stint men as he doth. But it is clear, men can bear no excess or abundance in this kind, without notorious defect or decay in godly duties: outward welfare or body (like the spleen) causeth a leanness and evil-favouredness of soul, as most men use the matter. But this be said of the first of the four things contained in this Chapter; namely, of their sin.