... Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.—Revelation 15.3.
POOR MAN'S CUP
Ministered to the Saints and Sufferers for CHRIST
Who are amidst the Scorching Flames of the Fiery Trial.
MUCH honoured, dearly beloved, and longed for in our Lord Jesus Christ, grace from the God of all grace, mercy from the Father of mercies, who is rich in mercy, and peace from the God of peace; whose it is to speak that peace, and to give that peace, which passeth all understanding, together with joy in the Holy Ghost, be multiplied upon you. Though I am unable to do any thing for you, or say any thing to you, which can amount to the equivalency of a relief; now when you are overwhelmed with such an inundation and deluge of calamities; as every one who looks on, yea the very authors and instruments of these miseries and mischiefs, must say, if they speak their soul or sense, you are pressed out of measure and beyond strength: yet your sufferings are such for kind and quality, such for measure and weight, such for substance and circumstances, as might, through a transport of grief and compassion, make the tongue of the dumb, if he have but eyes or ears, to break prison and cry out, Behold, O Lord, and consider, to whom these things are done, and for what, and for whose sake. I dare not, alas! say, that I fill up the just measure of that sorrow for you, and that sympathy with you, which is debt upon my part, and an indispensable duty, in this day of trouble and treading down, and of great perplexity, by the Lord God of hosts, in the valley of vision: yet I desire to be amongst the company of those, who do not, who dare not allow themselves, to carry as unconcerned, now, when his precious interests lie a bleeding, his poor remnant under their pressures as breathing out their last, and such who endeavour to retain their integrity, and to hold fast what they have, that no man take their crown, and to depart from that iniquity, which is the iniquity of our time (a departing from God, and an opposition to Jesus Christ in nature and degree, in height and heinousness, of a tincture and elevation, beyond and above what the departings from God, and oppositions to his son Jesus Christ, have been or were capable of in former times) make themselves a prey; as is manifest in your case, not to be paralleled, if weighted in an even balance.For the now truly honourable, and really happy, that little Flock, and lovely company in Scotland, who are in great tribulation, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ; and more particularly, for his specially endeared friends, the sufferers in the west of Scotland.
1 John 3.13. "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you."
1 Pet. 4.12,13. "Beloved, think it not strange, concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as if some strange thing happened unto you. But rejoice," &c.
2 Thess. 1.6. "Seeing it is a righteous thing with God, to render tribulation to them that trouble you, and to you who are troubled, rest with us," &c.
Luke 18.8. "I tell you, he will avenge them speedily."
Psalm 2.3,4,6. "Let us break their bands asunder.He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh.Yet I have set my King upon my holy hill Zion."
Psalm 132.18. "His enemies will I clothe with shame; but upon himself shall his crown flourish."
I am so much straitened, how to give my shallow and confused thoughts a vent, while I essay to contribute my poor mite, for allaying the bitterness of your cup, and mitigating the greatness of your grief (knowing well how little proportion, what ever I am able to say, keeps to the anguish of your soul, because of what you are put to suffer) as the sight of this indignation, wherewith you are filled puts me to struggle with my inclination, and staggers me in my resolution to speak, as seeming rather to persuade me, because of the heaviness of his hand upon you, to sit alone and keep silence, than to open my mouth, since the moving of my lips cannot assuage your grief; yet affection (which easily procures a pardon, when it misseth the mark it aimed to hit) hath in the present clamant emergent emboldened me, out of my poveray and penury, to offer such as I have; and besides, I hope, both from the conviction of duty and knowledge, how much the depth of your distress is beyond the supplies I can contribute for your ease, and the supportings, of my feeble and feckless pen, to account it my mercy, while you are in that paroxism and agony of misery, through the madness of such, as are incensed against your Lord and Master, to cry, as I can on, your behalf, Arise O Lord, and rescue the soul of thy turtle from the rage of these men of cruelty, and do not give up the beloved of thy soul into the hand of such an enemy, whose way thy soul hateth.
You have often heard, my dear and distressed friends, and you have professed also to be in the faith of this; that men may be more than conquerors when killed all the day long, and that there is an hundred-fold to be reaped in this life, even with persecution: now set yourselves, when killed and crushed, to put the crown upon your profession; now adorn that doctrine of God the Saviour, which you profess, by such a carriage, as will witness, you know, in the midst of what flesh can do unto you, how to be comforted in God, and how to endure the world's hatred and harm, as those whom no affliction can make miserable. O that he may put you in case to seal from your own experience the sweetness of suffering for Christ, and to say, now we know there is a river that refresheth the whole city of God, because he hath made us drink of this river of his pleasure, whereof since we drank, we have forgotten our poverty, and remember our misery no more: now we can affirm from what we find, (whereby our souls are fortified) that as the sufferings of Christ have abounded in us, so our consolation also hath abounded by Christ, for whom we have suffered the loss of these things, and in that loss are so great gainers, as now we know what we have lost is but dung; but what is left us, or rather what we have found in these begun fruitions of Jesus Christ, hath begun our heaven amidst all we suffer, yea, I am hopeful, it shall be with you in your huntings, harassings, and hidings, as it was with Moses in the mount, never so near God, as when at the remotest distance from all creature-converse and comfort; and that while you lie as among the pots, and are black with the smoke of that fiery furnace, heated seven times beyond what you or your fathers have found, or could have feared; if Satan, whose element is fire, had not set the instruments of your calamity on fire of hell, and transported them so far beyond the limits and latitude of all reason, as if the question was asked, why do these heathen rage? the answer behoved to be given, nay, ask them not a reason, for they are in a rage against the Lord, and against his anointed: I say, while you are smothered with this smoke, and made black, yet your faces shall be made to shine, and you put in case to say, though we be black because this sun with its scorching heat hath looked upon us; yet are we comely because the sun of righteousness with healing under his wings hath arisen upon our soul, and under the shadow of his wings we shine and sing, and are comforted.
But to come more closely to what I intend in these lines. Let me tell you, dear friends, that nothing can be more effectual for working up the heart to a right temper at all times, and more particularly in your present case, and for framing aright the ways of a christian, when he must either go with the drove of those who depart from the living God, or expose himself for his adhesion to him, and relinquishing these workers of iniquity: yea opposing of their Christ-opposing courses, to all the effects of their fury, then well to know, and often to consider, what is the nature of that state and condition, whereunto he is called as a christian, to know what is his relation to Jesus Christ, who hath chosen him, and to the world out of which he is chosen: this, if seriously and suitably pondered, would certainly cool his feverish heats, and quench his thirstings after the world. and would quicken his soul, and kindle in his heart much heat and warmth of love to Jesus Christ; it would stablish his heart, strengthen his hands, fortify against fear, and furnish him with what is sufficient for the patient suffering of the worlds hatred and malice at him. How would a solid reflection of his being chosen out of the world, sweetly disengage him from the entanglements of this world; and as one made partaker of the divine nature, make him so mind and so move, as his mindings and movings would make it manifest, whatsoever is below God, is below the designings, the desirings and endeavourings of his soul.
And the true reason, why there is so little of real Christianity to be found among christians, is, we consider not, that christianity is the soul cast in that blessed mould of disconformity to the world, and conformity to Christ, our having his blessed name called upon us; as it supposeth an association with him, so it obligeth to an assimilation to him, in order to the fruition of him, without which we can never make it appear, that we are sharers of that unction, which is the import of the blessed name called upon us. There are few, alas! amongst the many professors of religion, and pretenders to christianity, who study to know the excellency of that state, the special comforts and the proper duties thereof, and the closeness of that connection which is amongst these. O! it must be an excellent state, which imports union with Jesus Christ. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit, saith the Holy Ghost. [1 Cor. 6.17.] And what must the privileges and comforts be, which follow upon and flow from this? for religion, as it relates to these, is the very religation of the soul to God, as a portion, and that good part which cannot be taken from him; and then all the special duties thereof, are but the promoving of that begun conformity to Jesus Christ, till it be carried on, and consummate in a perfect likeness to him. Now he, whose soul hath received just impressions of these things, is in case to carry amidst all surrounding miseries, as one who is happy without the world, and in despite of the world; for he hath a happiness laid up in God and to be laid out for him, according to his need, which the world knoweth not of, and cannot take from him hence it is, that he rejoiceth in hope, and is patient in tribulation: and as for the duties of religion, he is not found of these as of an enemy, even when he is sure he cannot follow them, but his enemies will find him and fall on him: he knows no other question, but Lord what wilt thou have me to do? and when that is clear, set himself to do all things without disputings and murmurings. Neither is he demurred nor diverted, much less turned out of the way of following the Lord fully, because there is a lion in it; but can without fearing the wrath of a king, which is as the roaring of a lion, and must either be encountered, or duty in its proper season deserted, go forward; and when the danger he exposeth himself unto by doing so would be ready, if too much pored upon, to daunt him and draw him into a relinquishing of his master, look upwards, and endure as seeing him who is invisible. [Heb. 11.27.] O noble look! this is that blessed second sight, whereby a saint, in the darkest night of distress, sees that which is soul-supporting: O! the invisible God made visible to the poor persecuted creature, in his omnipotent power, his infinite love, and his unfailing faithfulness, makes all visible dangers evanish into invisibility.
Therefore, dear brethren, since you are not of the world, and since there is so great a change made in your state, and some blessed begun change made betwixt you and the world in your manners, think it not strange concerning these fiery trials, which you meet with from the world, and must go through till you get through the world: he hath not rightly received Christ Jesus, who looks not on suffering as his daily work: he who hath closed with Christ, and is resolved to keep him company to the end, that he may be with him without end, must be at a point in this, that be where he will bonds and afflictions will abide him, in every place, yea, he must resolve with it, and be in readiness for it, not only to be bound, but also to die for the name of the Lord Jesus [Acts 21.13.]: and that not amongst heathens, but in Jerusalem, where also his Lord was crucified [Rev. 11.8.], not only at Rome and amongst professed enemies, but in Scotland, but at Edinburgh, where Christ Jesus our Lord is now crucified again, and put to open shame, not by a foreign enemy, but by those who are rulers (if it be not an abuse of language to call them so, whose government is pure tyranny) and not only by rulers, but by such rulers as have bound their souls by the bond of a sacred and solemn covenant, and stand eternally obliged, under the penalty of everlasting seclusion from the presence of God and from the glory of his power, to maintain that reformation, the ruin whereof they drive with so much vigour and rage, and the razing of the foundations whereof they endeavour with the utmost of professed enmity; to preserve that precious treasure for, and to propagate religion in its purity to posterity; to protect these very persons, whom they persecute for persisting in those ways, wherein they themselves have given it under their hand to God they would walk. Now we are not to think strange, concerning this fiery trial, for whosoever would be the disciple of Christ, must take up his cross daily and follow him; it must be such an one as he pleases to lay on and what he will have it to be; he must not fancy to himself a fool's paradise in Christ's company; nay, the cross is the necessary concomitant of a christian; and sharp conflicting must go before the obtaining of the conqueror's crown: we must not only resolve to meet with such fiery trials, as will consume into ashes our darling idols, (for there is a necessity that some hand be made use of to pluck out that right eye, and cut off that right hand, which hath caused us to offend, that so we may enter into life) but we must and may expect to meet with the saddest trouble, and the most unsufferable sharp trials out of that airth, whence we did not fear, nor could we rationally foresee the storm should blow: these persons and things, which should be most comfortable to the people of God, do often prove the source of their calamity, and the instruments whereby they are afflicted.
We need not go to Jonah's gourd, nor Job's friends, we need not go to Zechariah, slain betwixt the porch and the altar, by Joash, whom he was endeavouring to rescue out of the hands of the living God, by admonishing him to keep the commandment of the Lord and his covenant and coronation-oath, 2 Chron. 23.16, compared with chap. 24.20-22, for though he was the son of Jehoiadah, who had made him king, and slain the usurper; yet he not only forgot the kindness, but slew the son, who was desiring, yea, while endeavouring to keep that crown upon his head (by dissuading him to venture upon God-provoking courses, or to enter the lists of opposition to God Almighty, contrary to all the objective and subjective obligations, under which he was to him, for having set him upon the throne, who could as easily and wonderfully bring him down, as he had set him up) which his father had set upon it. But God forgot neither his forsaking of the covenant, nor his breach of his coronation-oath, nor his forgetting of Jehoiadah's kindness; but put Joash in remembrance of all he had forgotten, and of all he had done, and made him know he had heard the words of dying Zechariah; I need neither tell you how, nor by what monitors he brought these things to his remembrance, nor how plain a parallel it is to our case; only Joash did not kill Jehoiadah himself, who had been the instrument of his settlement in the government. I say, we need not search the records of former generations: (except it be to find some of the saints, and some of the churches of Christ, to whom we may turn. That we may learn at them, and by beholding the end of the Lord, know how to carry and acquit ourselves, though we may long turn over the records of former times, ere we find a parallel to the iniquity of ours) for example; when these very men, with whom we ourselves did once take sweet counsel together, and with whom we walked to the house of God in company, are become such cruel and keen enemies, as it is impossible to describe their rage and cruelty; for a naked representation of matter of fact would certainly pass with such, as were not witnesses to what is done, for a mediate and malicious representation of persons and actions. But I need not tell you stories of what you find beyond my tellings, yea beyond your own expressions. O the crimson iniquity of our times, when such as did but the other day cry Grace, grace unto it, are this day throwing down what they had built, and are crying raze it, raze it, even to the foundations: when these who not long ago did cry up and commend loyalty to Jesus Christ, are not crying crucify him; let us burst his bands asunder, and cast away his cords from us, let us cass and rescind our covenant made to serve him, and be subject to him; and let us set up a new Lord; and let this be the new law, that whoever will not do, according as we have done and decreed, may die.
But alas! have these men forgotten, that this insurrection against him is recorded in heaven, and that this their rage against his followers (upon whom they run with open mouth, and against whom they prepare themselves without their fault, being chargeable with no guilt, abstracting from obedience to their God) is come to remembrance before him; and that the cry of these oppressed ones is come up into the ear of the Lord God of Sabaoth, and will bring him down to execute judgment for the oppressed: but let us not stumble, nor start aside for all this; for how astonishing soever it may be in itself to upright men, yet let the innocent stir up themselves against those, who have dealt thus hypocritically with God; and let the righteous still hold on their way, and such as have clean hands wax stronger and stronger: it is a weakness unworthy of saints, not to carry as those who have laid their account with the cross, a reckoning with flesh and blood (always inculcating that carnal doctrine, spare thyself) is very unwilling to make.
We still think there is a way (because we would have it so, and often make a way where he hath made none) to shift these hard sayings, and shun these heavy things; and yet come at heaven: we fancy a possibility to pass through the world with the world's good will, and be religious too. But this is to be wise above that is written: the devil must first cease to lie, and murder and way-lay them that are going to heaven; and the enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, must first be done away, or changed into perfect amity, (which shall never be) before that day dawn, that the traveler to heaven needs not lay his reckoning to meet with trouble in the way. But passing the general account, that the wicked's hatred against God is so perfect, as they hate his image and picture, in his children; yea they like not the godliness (if I may call it so) of a hypocrite, but hate it; which they do, (whatever they pretend) not for the evil that is under it, but for the good that appears in it: as lions are said to have so perfect a hatred at man, as they will tear the picture, because of the resemblance it hath to a living man: neither shall I insist upon this cause of hatred against the students of holiness, that there is a light, in a christians life, who walks as a child of light, which discovers the spots of the profane world about him; and with that light there is a heat also, which scorches and troubles their conscience; and therefore they cannot endure them, but take all opportunities, to deal with them as persons come to torment them before the time, by their shining and burning. Besides these general and unfailing considerations, which ought to fortify us in a resolution to make ready for the worse the world can do; there is somewhat peculiar in our lot, which should make us resolve and determine not only to suffer, but to have a mixture of gall and worm-wood in our cup, wherewith saints are but at some special times exercised: there is a must be now, for all who will live godly in Christ Jesus to suffer persecution. [2 Tim. 3.12.] And it were a madness to entertain other thoughts, since our time is a time of defection and shameful apostacy, which hath ever been found a time of hot persecution. This hath been ever observed to be the practice of apostates, to hate as hell, and to handle as the worst of men, such as stand fast, fixed in owning that cause of God, which they have relinquished: a man, who resolves to keep a conscience void of offence towards God, must take his life in his hand, and be in readiness to part with it when his lot is to live in a time and place, where there is power in their hand, who have made shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience. For as apostacy is the special sin of devils, and as Satan the great apostate hates all who sets their faces heaven-ward, and are servants of that God and seekers of that blessedness, from which he for his apostacy is everlastingly banished; so whomsoever he withdraws from the ways of the Lord, and draws with him into the guilt of apostacy, he drives them on also to the same sin of persecuting those who hold on their way, and who adhere to those precious truths which they have forsaken, and are followers of God as dear children: and these two have so near and native a connection together, as he doth not only drive, without any difficulty those, over whom for their apostacy he hath obtained a sole sovereignty and dominion, into these desperate and damnable courses of persecuting the truth, which they have forsaken and the professors thereof, who hold fast his name: but which is more strange and sad, and should alarm every man into a watchfulness against the very first and smallest like degrees of defection from the good old ways of God. It is observed, that let a man, though sound in the main, slip from one degree of his zeal and integrity, though it were but in omission to stand up for the defence of the gospel, when the assaultings of adversaries makes it duty; much more if there be a doing of any thing, which will give the enemies of the work of God the least advantage, he forthwith slides, also ere he be aware, into a censuring, despising, contemning (if it stop here and go no farther, it is well) of his brethren, whom he cannot carry along with him, and becomes frequently more active and industrious to draw them, whom he hath in so far left his length, than he is observed to be active in strengthening the things that remain, and are ready to die amongst a people in a declining time.
Now these things are so plain in our case, as it were superfluous for me to make them more plain. Need I tell you, in whose hand the power is, or of what spirit and principles these men are, after all the desolation they have made amongst you? neither are they yet at an end; and therefore you would [best] be preparing for new assaults, and laying in provision against the evil day. O blessed shall the man be, who in this dismal day, shall not be offended in him, but shall endure to the end. Lay your account therefore with the worst, that violence and enmity armed with power, and enflamed to the height of revenge can make you suffer, for withstanding this course of iniquity now carried on by all means and methods in the nation. This fore-sight and providence will be our wisdom; for when we have done so, we will not be amazed, when that comes to pass, we had resolved beforehand to meet with; or put out of our posture when these things do emerge, with which we had laid our reckoning.
But, dear friends, for fixing yourselves into a firmness of resolution to hold out and hold on, though it should come to a resisting unto blood, after you are robbed and spoiled of your goods, consider that there is nothing in all these fires and waters, you have to pass through, in all these dangers and deaths, which are before you; in all these trials, in all these hazards, nay in all these hells that are betwixt you and heaven, which can prevail with a soul that knows in whom he hath believed, or persuade him to cast the blessed bargain, or go back from his master, and walk no more with him. Wither shall we go from thee, for thou hast the words of eternal life? [John 6.68.] was the disciples deliberate and warm answer to that heart moving question, will ye also leave me? leave thee Lord? leave thee who will, we are forever tied to an attendance upon thee, and a continuance with thee, both by choice and by the chain of our advantage; that eternal life which is in thee, and is to be had by abiding with thee, arrests us with a pleasant violence to wait upon thee, while we must forsake all in following thee, and be forsaken of all.
But Secondly, let us exercise spiritual reason, and reckon right, and we will perceive, there is much of present and real advantage to be found in, and reaped from the world's hatred: and the greatest heat of persecution; who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? [1 Pet. 3.13.] is a question that puts it out of question, they cannot be harmed even when hurt, and therefore it is immediately added, verse 14, But, and if ye suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye &c. It is true, there are none to whom more injuries are done, than to the poor persecuted people of God; for as men, they are not only born to trouble, but as christians they are born again unto trouble and appointed thereunto: but it is as true, that there are none who are so little injured by injuries; for they get meat out of the eater, all these things work together for their good. [Rom. 8.28.] For first, hereby the saints are kept in a right temper towards the world and the things thereof; whereas if they met with kind usage in it, and from it, they would take too well with it, and sit down short of heaven, and forget to say, Arise, let us go hence, for this is not the place of our rest: there remains an unrenewed part in the saints, which would agree too well, and comply with the courses and customs of the world; and therefore it is their special advantage to be driven off from it by being distressed by it; this bitter potion, which the world prepares for the people of the Lord, and puts all the gall and wormwood in it they can, to make it deadly poison, when drunk down and digested by faith and patience, dissipates and discusses these ill humours, which did weaken the vitals of religion, and brought a consumption upon the inward man; and so proves a sovereign antidote to drive out that poison, which would have killed the soul, if not purged out. And as it serves for dissolving that union between the saints and the world, so Secondly, it knits them the more closely to him, who hath chosen them out of the world; for when they find themselves dealt with as strangers and pilgrims in the earth, exposed to all manner of hurt and hardship, they then are in earnest in seeking that satisfaction in God, which they miss in this howling wilderness [Deut. 32.10.] of sorrow; and as they never seek it so earnestly and ardently, as at such a time; so they never so readily find it, that they may have a proof that their own portion is fat enough, and can still afford them royal dainties; and so sit down satisfied with the enjoyment of God, even their own God, and sing amidst all wants and miseries, The lines are fallen to us in pleasant places. [Psalm 16.6.]
The reason then why the people of God are often in so much heaviness, and frequently hunted and harassed with troubles and tentations, is, that they may be hunted by the world's hatred and evil handling of them, out of the world, home to heaven; that since they see what they have to expect here, they may gird up the loins of their mind, and set their affections on things that are above, where Christ is and their treasure: and hence it is said, When the scourge slayeth suddenly, he laugheth at the trial of the innocent; which is not for want of affection, being afflicted in all their afflictions; but if I may say so, besides that he means them not to command a calm in the greatest storm, and to have a concert of most sweet music in their soul, amidst all their miseries, who have an interest in him as their God, he rejoiceth to think how the happiness of his people is promoved by their pressures and persecutions; and how much their persecutors are befooled, who contrary to their purpose contribute their service to the saints, whom in their rage they intend to ruin. All men of reason have judged the mustering and marching of this host against you, a high transport of malice and madness; in the time you mourn, and the enemies laugh amongst themselves, and the Lord, notwithstanding he takes pleasure in the prosperity of his people, he rejoiceth also: but why is it so? It is so, not only in regard of your adversaries, at whom he laughs, because he sees their day is coming, but because he hath such a complacency in the soul-prosperity of his people, that court and council and all the nation must be set a-work to scoure the saints, the vessels of honour, that they shine in the beauty of holiness, and sing in the begun fruitions of God: and thus by the effects of this fury, this malice and madness of persecutors, a company of his poor people, whom they intended to eat up as bread, and to destroy, are made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; the place to which neither they who gave the orders, nor they who obeyed and put them in execution, shall ever be admitted, except they mourn and amend their manners too; for heaven is not a place for impure and polluted persons; there is nothing that defileth or worketh abomination that can enter in into that city, there is neither swine nor puddle there.
But to come more particularly to the purpose, and to show and set before you what grounds of strong consolation you may have, while handled as you are, by the persecuting enemy, consider first, That it ought not only to remove the strangeness, and to allay the bitterness of your present sad lot; but also comfort you over it, and while under it, that your sweet Lord and Master was handled by the world, as you are? If the world hate you, saith Christ, you know that it hated me before it hated you. [John 15.18.] And therefore for sweetening your lot and supporting you, consider him, least you be weary and faint in your minds. [Heb. 12.3.] O what weight of sorrows and variety of sufferings did he undergo, both in his life and at his death? What pinches was he put to? What pressures were upon him? Reproach, shame, calumny, hatred, persecution met upon him, to make it appear, he was a man of sorrows [Isa. 53.3.]: What allay is this to your grief, under your pressures and persecutions, that your Lord and Master drank of the same cup? He met with much worse handling: cease then to think strange concerning this fiery trial; but rather rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of the sufferings of Christ, this may comfort you, that herein you are conform to your Lord and Master, If they have persecuted me, says he, they will also persecute you. [John 15.20.]
But Secondly, to make the consolation strong indeed, consider that he not only was hated of the world, and persecuted by them, before you were; but he is such a feeling head as he still suffers with you: for all the after sufferings of his servants do first light upon him; there is never a stroke given to one of his members upon the earth, but the stound of it is felt in heaven. Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me [Acts 9.4.], being the word of our glorified master, puts the matter beyond debate. The quarrel is at him, and he will own it as such, in as much as you did it unto one of these little ones, you did it unto me [Matt. 25.40.], holds true here: and this is so clear in your case, as it passeth the parts of your most pregnant adversaries, to palliate this persecution with any colourable pretence, which will hide it from being a plain fighting against God. Is it not the purity of their malice and perfection of their hatred against Christ as King, which pusheth them on, and prompts them to this persecution? Let them render any other reason for what they have done, if they can. For when to complete the revolt of the nation from its sworn subjection and obedience to Jesus Christ, as supreme in his own house, they have substitute another in his place, and have framed a supremacy into a law, to be the rule and standard, according to which our kings, in all succeeding generations, shall of right, king it over the house of God, as knowing no superior, with a more simple absoluteness, than the law of the nation will permit them to do over the house, inheritance, interest or concern of the meanest subject in the kingdom: by which law our Lord Jesus Christ is explicitly exauctorate; he is declared to have neither house, people, nor property in Scotland. Let any read over our late supremacy, and sense it, and consider if its lowest amount be not this, we have no king but Cęsar. [John 19.15.]
And to make it emphatically expressive of this, whereas other acts of supremacy (whereby yet our Lord Jesus Christ was wronged, and his royal prerogative encroached upon) did still for shame leave him the title; and a supremacy was pretended unto under God, and his Son Christ, and a derivation and conveyance from that fountain was in words acknowledged; that the iniquity of our supremacy might be supreme, and absolute, independent, arbitrary dominion is attributed to our kings, settled upon them by law: and for the more security, this power is declared to be the intrinsic right and the inherent prerogative of the imperial crown of the nation, whereby all church-matters are subjected to their imperial wisdom, to do in all these as they think fit; and the management of these are so solely in his majesty's power, that whereas the council acts in civils, in a subordination to his majesty according to the law of the land, his majesty may make use of what kind of persons soever he will; passing by parliament or council, to put all the incontrollable dictates and decrees of his majesty's wisdom and good pleasure concerning church-matters, in execution; and therefore that we may be no longer in suspense, nor solicitous about the sense of our supremacy, and that the church may henceforth know and acknowledge, who is her Lord and undoubted superior, whose it is to give laws and appoint officers, to put them in execution; and that there may be none in heaven or earth, to pretend to any part of this power, or party in this supremacy, the name of God and of his Son Christ is omitted in it, and, (because mentioned in other supremacies) must be conceived to be delete out of ours. (O! the patience of God, that their names, yea that the name of the nation, where such a wickedness was decreed, is not before this perished from under the heavens!) It is true, this pleased me best in all that supremacy, because it was plain dealing, without all cloak or compliment; for now Jesus Christ hath neither thing nor name of kingly power left him, but is most explicitly put from the exercise of his royal government; and church laws are no more to pass in the old stile, nor are things as formerly to be done there by virtue of the authority of this one Jesus, who calleth himself a King: but according to the new stile. And so henceforth, church laws must bear the datum of the Julian account. Now our ruler, having framed this law, for heinousness of hatred and height of opposition to the Lord's anointed, whom he hath made King in Zion, beyond the most supreme supremacies, that ever were framed or moulded into laws, since God made man upon the earth, or Satan that he might destroy the church, prompted men to compete with the Mediator and strive with him for state, yea even in its prodigious shape and feature, beyond what was arrogate by the man of sin; the antichrist that son of perdition. [2 Thes. 2.3.]
Our blessed Lord Jesus, who hath all his enemies in derision [Psalm 2.4; 59.8.], stirred up the spirits of some of his zealous ambassadors, to go forth and give a testimony against the heinousness of this usurpation of their master's crown and scepter (which will be their crown, and which should be now our main question upon which we act and suffer, as we expect his presence and supportings, either in doing or suffering) and in pursuance of that commission which they had received from him, to preach in season and out of season [2 Tim. 4.2.], and to negotiate a peace betwixt this great and glorious King and poor guilty sinners. Whereupon our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, though slighted and set at naught by our rulers, both to signify his complacency in the zeal of his faithful servants, fired into an holy fervor for the prerogative of their exalted prince, from the observation of the fury, whereby they saw he was opposed; and to refute, till more come (O! that is coming, which may and certainly would make theirs souls to tremble, if thought upon, the apprehensions of the righteous revenges he will take for this contempt cast upon him, and when he will return their reproach upon them, by speaking unto them in his wrath, and vexing them in his sore displeasure [Neh. 4.4; Psalm 2.5.]) the folly and infatuation of that new pretence to his incommunicable prerogative royal, framed into a law; and that by an argument easy to be understood by the poorest lass and lad in the nation, He goeth forth conquering and to conquer [Rev. 6.2.], by the ministry of these his despised servants: and thus he reigns as king in the midst of his raging enemies, and acts wondrously; so that to the conviction of all, he holds the hands of his servants, upholds them at his work, and doth from that day greater things by them, than ever, in regard of many circumstances, were done in the nation: he makes such noble and notable inroads upon Satan's territories, and these dark places of the land, where the prince of darkness had an undisturbed dominion: as multitudes are made, in this day of his power [Psalm 110.3.], to follow after and fall in love with ordinances, dispensed by his own officers, and flock unto the standard of their exalted Prince.
A proof as great as ever was given of his reigning, and that his people shall be willing in the day of his power, though all the powers of the earth were on a conspiracy against him, and abused that power to the fainting of his followers, and the frightening of them into a disloyal relinquishing of Jesus Christ: which the adversary perceiving, and finding that to no purpose they had crucified Christ again, and put him to open shame [Heb. 6.6.], by taking his crown and scepter from him, and burying his supremacy in the grave, which they had made for it, under the fabric of their newly erected one, and that in vain they had set a watch to keep the grave [Matt. 27.66.], and fearing withall that this reviving of his work, and resurrection of his cause, might prove to them a second error, worse by far than the first [Matt. 27.64.]; therefore, that rovers may not be ruers, and to fortify themselves in the possession of what they had taken by their law from our Lord Jesus Christ, and to prevent his returning to his throne, and his reassuming the exercise of his royal government (O let their fear come upon them, who fear lest Christ should reign!) an host must be gathered, on purpose to march into the west, as that part of the nation (O happy and honourable cognizance!) where Jesus Christ had most remarkably reigned, and which still was looked upon by them, as the king's headquarters; whereupon it is resolved, that that poor country shall be invaded, the people in the mean time, (having behaved themselves as peaceably as any part of the nation, being amazed at the rumour of this rage against them, and the resolution taken to pour in upon them such a company of barbars, as their carriage and cruelty is beyond my describings) sent some of their number, To declare that they were most peaceable. But to bind themselves to such a compliance with the course of the times, (that is, upon the matter, to cooperate with the workers of iniquity, and to stop Christ's ambassadors from delivering their message, and to hinder the people from meeting together to hear what he would say unto them, by such as he hath clothed with a commission, and called to speak in his name) was a thing no more in their power (O! let it never be in the power of these abusers of their power, for hindering the word of the Lord to have a free course, and to be glorified) but as to the securing of themselves against all these groundless apprehensions of an insurrection, there was no way so proper, as to suffer the sent servants of Jesus Christ, to preach and persuade the things belonging to the kingdom of God.
But this seemed so insufferable, and such a plain and practical contradiction to the supremacy, in its now (O! let it never wax old; Overturn O Lord, overturn, overturn, till he come whose right it is! [Ezek. 21.27.]) elevation, as the same real and practical return was given to it, which Pharaoh gave to that request Exod. 5.1, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness: And verse 2, Pharaoh said, who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice, to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go, I say, the thing sought on the behalf of that poor people, seems to be of a piece with that of Moses and Aaron; for it was this upon the matter, if you have taken all the houses of God in possession, if you have driven Jesus Christ out of all the cities of the nation; yet will you leave him, will ye allow him some place in the open fields to meet with his followers in? Will you suffer him and his to hold their assemblies in the wilderness, in some moss or mountain? No, that may not be heard, it hath a hatefulness in it, as implying a proper and peculiar sovereignty still ascribed unto Jesus Christ as King, inconsistent with and subversive of our new supremacy. And therefore nothing is nor heard but muster and march.
And thus a host is raised with as great solemnity and celerity, with as great pomp and parade of artillery, &c. to invade that poor peaceable company, as if the land had been invaded by the most formidable and furious foreign enemy; and empowered withal to do and act at the rate of violence, as the actors of all imaginable mischiefs are secured by law from all fear of future hazard, for whatever violence they commit, or wickedness they can perpetrate, if they have but the wit to say in their own defence, It was done to answer the end of that expedition, and for his majesty's service, against those who profess subjection to another in soul-concerns.
Now as there was never an act of supremacy so explicitly in all points opposite to the Kingly power of our Lord Jesus Christ, as this late one of ours (an act only definable by its own wickedness, for this is that supremacy;) so besides the stupendous unreasonableness of this course without a parallel, for a magistrate to run upon and ruin his own peaceable subjects, without a provocation on their part, or the least ground of law to justify the cruelty of this procedure on his part; besides this, I say, no man, who doth narrowly look into the matter, and consider the quarrel, but he must see it, he must say it, that, since God made man upon the earth, since soldiers were mustered and marched under colours and command, never was there an army raised, or an host put so formally to march up with displayed banners against Christ, as King; for this is the sum, substance and soul of all that can be said, as the genuine import of this expedition; Christ Jesus, from whom we have taken the crown by law, is yet like to keep some possession of the nation, come therefore let us march into the fields; and since he calls himself a King, and will trouble us with conventicles and field meetings, and since his followers, and these who flock unto him, affirm him both to be a King and Captain, yea that King against whom there is no rising up, because he is the Lord of hosts, let him meet us in the fields, and maintain his title, and vindicate his prerogative; for as we have no king but Cęsar, so this is our quarrel: and if he will not draw out and draw up, if he will not measure swords with us, then as we have taken his house in possession, so we shall fall on, and by the strong hand take the houses of all into possession, who will not renounce their dependence upon him as sovereign and supreme, and shut them out, either to die in the fields with him, or stab or starve them in their houses, who will not applaud our having taken his house into possession. My soul trembles to give the obvious sense of those our rulers proceedings; nor dare I give my pen its just liberty to unbowel this course, and lay open the blasphemies wherewith it is big even to a bursting: neither is it necessary for me, for every one who doth not shut his own eyes, must see; that hatred against Christ and the coming of his kingdom, expressed in this expedition, which he cannot, he dare not, without horror and amazement express: who can suffer himself to resolve the practice of rulers (who have bound their souls to obedience, fidelity, and loyalty to Christ as King, under the penalty of the forfeiture of their immortal souls) into this, which is its native and necessary sense: We are now wearied of the government of Jesus Christ: it is a yoke we cannot bear, we will not bear, we are resolved once for all, to burst these his bonds, and cast away these his cords from us: we are wearied of this his church jurisdiction: let him be gone therefore out of our borders: let his name as King and Sovereign be no more in remembrance: we have set up another in his place, and have soudered into a sameness his crown, with the imperial crown of the nation, and have settled that upon the head of our king, and whosoever shall succeed him; (the most dangerous and deadly decree, that ever was made for that succession) so that now, all his old pretences to a royal prerogative amongst us for the future are cut off; or if he will claim any interest, notwithstanding of this our law; let him now appear to try the justice of his title and pretence by the sword: we are now drawn into the fields, to maintain what we have done: Where is he? If his followers meet together to oppose us, we have what we would, for then we will make a breakfast of them: and if not, we shall put all who will not bow before the Dagon of our new erected supremacy once for all and for ever out of case to appear afterward. For this end have we gathered our host: for this end do we march: Fall on, red-shanks: Fear not, have not we bid you: You are pitched upon as the most qualified soldiers for this expedition against the Mediator, (whom we have denied to be a monarch) and proper instruments for our purpose, for we know you well to be such as these must be, who will do our business, even men who fear not God, nor regard not men; March therefore, right trusty, and well beloved Saracens, ye who call not upon the Lord (and so are only fit to be at our call and bidding) and eat up his people in the west who call upon him, as bread: make these the Mediator's subjects smart for it; and either bring them to bind themselves no more to own him nor his ambassadors; or leave such monuments of your savage cruelty behind you, as will answer the keenness against Christ, of those who send you in this expedition, we have secured you against all hazard (hell excepted; and we know, you no more fear that, than we do) of future danger or pursuit, for what destruction you bring upon these against whom we send you; only destroy!
Most dear brethren, what miseries you have endured by the barbarity of these monsters, let loose upon you, are the matter of amazement, mourning, and lamentation to all, who in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and yours, to whose ears the report of your sufferings is come. But amidst all these calamities and cruelties, you are not without comfort: O what a cordial may this be, to remember and consider, both who suffers with you, and for whose sake you suffer these things! You cannot consider this, but it will comfort you over your loss: when this is laid to heart, you will not so much bemoan the loss of what is robbed from you, as you will bless that ever you had anything to lose for his sake, who saved you when ye were lost: you will then wonder at the honour, and rejoice that you are counted worthy to suffer these things for his sake, who for your sake suffered far other things: you will take joyfully the spoiling of your goods for him, who for your sakes became poor, that you through his poverty might be made rich: O what will not be easy and sweet to suffer for that sweet names sake, which is as an ointment poured forth, by the savour whereof, your dead souls have been quickened, and your drooping and desponding spirits revived, cheered and comforted! Consider then, since Christ your King, your Captain and Saviour, neither did, nor does escape the world's malice and persecution; and since he was hated and handled as the worst of men, and now again in the worst of times, is so dealt with; if it be not reasonable, that we should provide for the like, and resolve to go through the many tribulations, which may befall us in his company, and for his sake: if we intend to follow him to the place of fruition, we must go that way, which he hath paved before us; it cannot be avoided; yea, how incongruous were it, if we could? How unsuitable were it? That the Lord and master should meet with so much suffering, for the servants sake, and rejoice amidst it all, as knowing he should see a seed, and have this recompence and satisfaction for all the travail of his soul, that the souls of his servants should reap the advantage of what he underwent for them: that he should be beaten for the servants sake, that through his stripes the servants might be healed; and the servants to be always favoured, and applauded in that world, which had put the master to shame and suffering, while he was negotiating his servants business? And as he hid not his face from shame and spitting for their sake, so he laid down his life upon their interest.
Were it seemly, that he who bore their burdens, should wade and swim through seas of sorrows, and they sail in streams of pleasure? That he should be crowned with thorns, to purchase them an immortal crown, and they crowned with roses? That he should be hunted, and had not where to lay his head, that he might by being handled so, purchase a kingdom to his followers: that he should go through death, and such a death, and be laid in the grave, that he might have access to go and prepare a place for them, and take possession of the undefiled inheritance, as their common head and trustee, in whom and with whom they now sit in heavenly places;and they dwell at ease in their own house? Truly, to say nothing of the after-glory (for who can say what it is, since it is above apprehensions? Only this is sure, That they who suffer with him, shall also reign with him) if there were no more than the present sharing and partaking in his sufferings, it were honour enough; O how much above all regal dignity is it! And how incomparable beyond the fancied honour of a diadem, to be crowned with thorns for Christ's sake! There is an inherent glory for suffering in Christ, beyond all the ambition of the world, after that painted and putrid glistering bubble, with the glancing whereof vain men are so much taken up. If this were kept in the view of the soul, what strength would it furnish? What support would it supply the spirit of a sufferer for Christ with? But, dear friends, the word of your testimony and patience hath somewhat of a precious peculiarity in it, not only in regard that it is the presently opposed truth, you are persecuted for, and so must be sweet because seasonable; but the word of your testimony, and that truth, for owning of which, you are put to suffer the loss of all things, is that very truth, for which Christ himself suffered as a martyr: viz. That he was a king: this question is put today unto his followers, with greater contempt than Pilate put it, What, and is Jesus a King then? O noble cause! O who would not rejoice to enter the lists of contradiction with these his enemies, and have once an opportunity, to say, Yea, he is a King, and will be a King, when you are gone, and will prove himself higher than the kings of the earth, by rescinding your supremacy, that idol of his indignation, and object of his revenge! O what ambition should this raise in the soul of every saint? What patience in tribulation should this produce? What holy courage? What humble boasting? What triumphing and rejoicing to be offered up a sacrifice upon the interest of this King's crown? Can you consider, that your present sufferings, and losses are a seal to that great truth, which Christ sealed with his blood, and not blush at the honour, and bless him forever, that now the source, rise, and conduct of the rulers procedure against you, and their barbarous cruelty, give you not only confidence to pour out your heart before him, and present your case and cause in this general, For thy sake we are killed all the day long, we are counted as sheep for the slaughter. [Psalm 44.22.] But more particularly, when you can sift yourselves before him, and sob out your sorrows in these words; Of a truth Lord, against thy Holy Child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, are all these gathered together, and it is for our owning of him, as thy anointed, and refusing to be on that conspiracy, that we are thus used: I know not what can give ground of gladness in a man's life, or what can be cause of gloriation in death, if resisting unto blood upon such a quarrel, and not loving a man's life unto death in such a cause, will not give ground for it?
Beloved friends, and much honoured sufferers for Christ, you know since you are taught of God, that the way to overcome all trouble here, and to carry as becometh saints under it, is to look above it, and beyond it; above it, to the high and supreme hand that sends it, and disposeth of it, so as it may subserve your great interest (for in despite of the malice and madness of all inferior agents, all these dire and dreadful things shall together with him, who worketh mightily in his people and for them, work together for your good) and beyond it, and above it, to the end of it, and the recompence of reward following after it: this is the way to profit by pressures, to be gainers in all losses; this is the ground of sweet peace, and serenity of mind, amidst all trouble; and the solid foundation for patience of spirit: for, he is only in a capacity to possess his spirit in patience, whose spirit hath received these impressions, without which the soul will be still disquieted: trouble will still toss it, as a ball in a large place, and it will prove unstable as water. I suppose since you are saints, and so must have some impressions of the absolute sovereignty of God, that though in your searchings, you could not find out, or fix upon the cause of his contending with you thus; yet you would either be silent, or say, It is the Lord, let him do unto us what seemeth him good [1 Sam. 3.18.]: and if he have no pleasure in our living, and dwelling in our little huts, and houses; but will drive us thence, the will of the Lord be done. But not to insist on this, which yet you will grant to be infinitely rational, (for who hath enjoined him his way? Or who may say unto him, what doest thou?) there is sufficient to keep you and me, and the christians of this generation from fretting, and saying (while in the fire, and while the rod of the wicked rest upon your lot, and these plowers plow upon your back, and make their furrows longer and deeper, than all these plowers, which went before them did: O when will God loose the plough, by cutting asunder the cords of the wicked, and confounding and turning them all back that hate you? He is the Lord, who will hasten it in his time, to shew that he is righteous: let us weep for what we have done; and wait and hope for what he will do) Why are we thus? Surely a sight of our sin would make us wonder that we are not worse: yea admire his goodness, who will be at all this pains about us, to heal us of these mortal diseases whereof our immortal souls are sick even unto death: I am sure that the crimson dye of our crying iniquities will curb our impatience, and cure us of that evil of quarreling with him, because of our sufferings. Consider therefore, however you suffer very unjustly from men, against whom you have done nothing to procure their just indignation; yet if you look within you, and lift up your eyes above you, and consider how the cry of your transgressions is come up into his ear, you will be constrained, not only to justify him, in this seeming severity, but to confess, from clearness and conviction, you are punished less than your iniquities deserve: and that it is of the Lord's mercy you are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. [Ezra 9.13; Lam. 3.22.]
Hence is it, that when the Apostle Peter hath been speaking of the fiery trial, 1 Pet. 4.12-16, (which this day is your case) and hath been encouraging and comforting them to a patient enduring (while scorched by these flames) by many noble arguments; yet when he looks upon these heavy afflictions as coming from God, he calls them, verse 17, Judgments: intimating thereby, that his precious and peculiar people, how upright and innocent soever as to men; yet they are guilty before God the righteous judge: and that they must acknowledge when they sift themselves in his sight, that whatever they suffer is the fruit of their own doings, and that by their provocations they have procured these things, and rewarded all those evils unto their own souls, by not walking worthy of him, nor before him to all-pleasing. If his people by their multiplied and manifold sins, did not extort (if I may say so) strokes out of his hand, he, who doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men, but hath pleasure in the prosperity of his people, would not so often take the rod in his hand, or would soon cast it into the fire: for he doth not love to lash beyond necessity; and therefore when he hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion, he casts the rod into the fire, and punisheth the fruit of the stout heart of his and his people's enemies, and the glory of their high looks. The saints you know, brethren, how gracious and grown soever, they are but children, and therefore must be under chastisement: the best of them are given to many childish toys, and not a few of them (in whom the root of the matter may be, yea will be found) are so far from abiding with God in their callings, and from adorning the doctrine of God the Saviour, that so, men, by seeing their good works, may glorify their Father which is in heaven [Matt. 5.16.]: that there is a grossness in their way, their iniquity is often found upon the skirts of their garments, and their spots are so unlike the spots of the people of God, and persons made partakers of the divine nature, that because of these the mouths of enemies are opened to blaspheme the name of God, and reproach the blessed profession. But setting these aside, alas! how do they who escape such gross pollutions, yea, often trifle in the matter of communion with God? How formal and lukewarm in their addresses; so that he who seeks the heart, and will be worshipped in spirit and in truth, misseth their soul in their service. How seldom are they in heaven? How little dwelling upon the thoughts of Jesus Christ, and the great salvation purchased by him, on purpose to have him precious in the soul's esteem, and endeared according to his infinite preferableness to all other things, unto the heart? How few serious designs? And how little solid endeavours to be like him, and to have every thought of the heart brought in captivity to his obedience? How little meditation upon the glory to be revealed, till the heart be ravished, and transported into admiration at its inconceivable greatness and infinite goodness? How seldom in soliloquies with him?
Whence, alas! it comes to pass, that men, having through carnality of converse with other things, disframed their heart from duties, do not pray and jest with the same seriousness; but there is more of their soul in a vain sport, than in prayer: which when rightly performed, is the pouring out of the heart to God, and the wringing of the man's suits through his soul, carrying the affections thereof with it. Nay, what of desire and love to the world and the things thereof? What lusting and longing after the things of this life? What stretching (even to the dislocation of the soul, and putting it out of case for converse with God, wherein the soul of religion lieth) what grasping to get a grip of these things, which when got hold of, can neither be held nor make happy? What wrestling? What strugglings? What striving to get on a load of thick clay, whereby the soul of him who is thus loaded, is put often out of case for following hard after God, and so running as he may obtain? [1 Cor. 9.24.] How are they often swallowed up in the cares of this life? With what complacency do they frequently sink themselves in the dunghill of this world, into the inconsideration and oblivion of the other world, and their eternal interest? How are they hurried with their passions? How puffed up with pride? How unmortified to the delight of the sons of men? [Eccl. 2.8.] How irregular in their motions? which shews the irreligiousness of their mindings. Alas! their love and hatred (which gives the best account of a christian) do seldom run in the right channel, or are rarely terminate upon the proper objects; or when it falls so out that their face is in the right airth, yet how slow is their motion in following their look? How languid are their pantings? What lifelessness? What listlessness appears in their pursuings? Yea how quickly do they sit up, or turn aside out of the way of following the Lord fully? But who can reckon these things up in order? Alas! that which is wanting to fill up the just import of exercising ourselves to godliness, can not be numbered! And therefore, seeing these things are to be found with his people, must he not visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes, and that because he will not take his loving kindness from them, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail: It is needful, that they be often in the fire, for burning away their dross, and in the water for washing off their defilements; yea their propension to depart from him, and to pollute themselves in the puddle, preacheth, in order to the prevention of this, the necessity of keeping his people always under the rod, though not always under the stroke of it: for then the spirits should fail before him, and the souls that he hath made. Consider therefore, dear friends, the procuring cause of this deep distress, and if we be impartial in the search, we will find an accursed thing with us [Josh. 7.1.], and this will provoke us to do the greatest haste first, which is, the taking vengeance on our own inventions against him; and impose the necessity upon us, to turn away from the evil of our ways, that he may turn from the fierceness of his anger [Jer. 26.3; Deut. 13.17.]: Let us, even in the midst of our trouble, rise up above the thoughts, and consideration of lower agents and instruments of our suffering, which are the devil and the world, who are his trustees, and acted by him, in the work of persecution, Rev. 2.10. (For it is not suitable for saints nor safe for them to dwell long there) and take a view of our own guilt, that our being punished as our congregations have heard, may preach unto us the doctrine of the evil of sin, and make us instead of our woe's me's for other things, cry out, woe unto us that we have sinned! [Lam. 5.16.] Our not walking as became the gospel, if thought upon, will put us in the penitents posture, (and surely he is out of his posture this day, who is not in that posture, and till we be in it, in vain do we expect, to hear him say that word, as ye were) which is a looking unto him whom we have pierced, and a weeping [Zech 12.10.]: and it is in order to the producing of these noble, and necessary effects, that there is a must be for judgment its beginning at the house of God.
I cannot in these few pages, follow this matter at any length; but let this abrupt hint put you to the work of searching, and exercise of godly sorrow; and to make this work both profitable to you, and pleasant to him, but not jealous of his love, because of what he hath laid upon your loins: for all this rough-like dealing and seeming severity, bowels of tender mercies yearn over you in these agonies: love, though the noise and sound of its feet be not heard, because of the noise of the enemy, doth both walk and work, in these your sufferings: as many as I love I rebuke and chasten [Rev. 3.19.], is the word of him who is love itself, to them whom he most dearly loveth: the principle and the period of all his procedure is love, even when he lasheth; for this is written on every lash, I love so well as I will not lose, I love so well as I must embrace; and therefore, by purging I must put the beloved party in case to embrace and be embraced; I purpose to dwell in them [2 Cor. 6.16.], and to let them know by my familiarity, how much I delight in them; and therefore I must cleanse them from all these idols, and all these filthinesses, which separate betwixt me and them: in a word, as in the jeweler's shop and work-house, there lies, besides the rough diamonds, the chiefest jewels, and richest rings, his cutting irons, files, and other sharp pointed instruments, under which they must all pass, and whereby they must be polished; so in this life, where he is melting his gold, to cleanse it from its dross, and making up his jewels, to the end their beauty may be perfect; yea, that they may shine in the beauties of holiness [Psalm 29.2.], they must be under his cuttings, his carvings and the point of his sharpest instruments: whosoever shall be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of their God, must pass under the purgings and polishings of his hand: there are none whom he minds to make pillars in his temple to go no more forth, but he works them for the selfsame thing, by making them pass under his instruments, that so they may be made to shine as the sun in the firmament, and put in case to see God, when made like him:
But besides that his purpose of having them in his company forever, puts him to be at the pains of making them meet, even by the things that they suffer, (as the mean which he graciously and wisely useth and ordereth for that end) to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: as is clear, comparing Col. 1.11, with 12, he minds to be familiar with them here also, and admit them sometime, while in the way, and in the wilderness, to eat manna, and to feast their souls in the begun fruitions of God; and therefore to commend and endear this life unto them, he makes the world mingle a cup of gall and wormwood, and put it in their hand, and hold it to their head, he beats them off from the world, that would wrong them, in into his own bosom; O blessed repose! the place indeed, where the weary find rest and refreshing.
But here I must be abrupt, and leave the matter to be dilated and dwelt upon by you in your meditation: only let me say, that the serious minding of these things would not only prove happy diversion, and prevent the frettings of your mind, by an unprofitable poring upon your fiery affliction; but, it would be the certain way to give you meat out of this eater [Judges 14.14.]: your mind would not only be kept from being gangrened into impatience, and galled with the load which lies upon your loins; but you would be made glad and comforted over all your sorrows, and sufferings, by beholding the end of the Lord, and the gracious design he is driving about you, which is to make you up forever, by being thus undone: and to order these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, so as they shall work for you a far more exceeding, and eternal weight of glory. [2 Cor. 4.17.] This is that wheel within all these wheels [Ezek. 1.16.]; and this is his purpose towards you, the thoughts of whose heart take place in all generations: these things are upon his heart, and he cannot miss what he aims at, and therefore you cannot be miserable, amidst all the miseries you suffer for them, who cast iniquity upon you, and in wrath hate you: nay therefore you cannot miss to be happy, amidst all these, for he hath blessed you, and you shall be so.
But, dear friends, besides this general consideration of your sin and mine, which is necessary for our profiting by every touch of his hand, suffer me to suggest the necessity of a particular enquiry: for, whenever the Lord doth pursue a church or a land, with such a church-desolating and land-destroying stroke, as we have been under these so many years (though wickedness and violence in this assault upon you, is come to such a prodigious height, as it is a surprise and matter of astonishment to all who look on; nay I am persuaded, if not many years ago it had been told these who have given the orders, that they would do what now they both do and defend, they would have given Hazael's answer [2 Kings 8:13.]) he is then particularly pointing at some high and public provocation, which his soul hates, wherein that church and nation is involved, and whereby they have made themselves deeply guilty. There is some accursed thing amongst the people and church, when he breaks down what he had built, and gives up the dearly beloved of his soul into the hands of her enemies: (which is our present condition) and when it is thus, it is high time to awake out of sleep, and to consider what this is, and to enquire and accomplish a diligent search for finding that out for which his anger is fallen upon them, lest God both search out the iniquity of that people, till he find none; and search out the iniquity of their refusing to search, and then sweep them away as a generation of his wrath, and separate them for evil, as those in whom his soul hath no pleasure: nay, that which will certainly make a generation, a generation of his wrath, and cause him heap mischiefs upon them, and spend his arrows upon them, is, when after such a fire is kindled, as threatens the consumption of all with its flame, men are not awakened to enquire, What meaneth the heat of this great anger? [Deut. 29.24.] O! when they are so unfaithful, as either to be silent, when they see it, or are so oraculous [ambiguous] in their hintings at the guilt, (instead of acquitting themselves so faithful to God, and so affectionately to the souls of the unconcerned, as to point it forth, and be so plain, as they may thereby cause them to know their abominations) as if they designed not to be understood. I grant, men may mistake in assigning causes; and happy is that land which hath these among them in such a day, to whom the mouth of the Lord hath spoken, that they may declare it, for what the land perisheth. [Jer. 9.12.] And yet, if we will search the scriptures, and consult the records of the church in her several periods, we will find, that public church-desolating judgments, had ever the guilt of that people so evidently engraven on them, as he who did run might have read it; so that the dispensation seemed to cry every one into the consideration of the clearly procuring provocation, and say, O generation see the word of the Lord! [Jer. 2.31.] When he executes the judgment written, then he clothes his word with such a visible garment, as the man of wisdom must read his name of righteousness upon his rod, and the guilt of that people whom he so punisheth.
All of us therefore are called to a serious consideration of the causes of God's displeasure, drawn out to such a length, and arisen to such a height against us: what then doth such a stroke speak? What doth such a church ruin, after such a blessed reformation (I neither fear nor blush to call it blessed, notwithstanding of an act rescissory made to bury it, and the belchings forth of enemies against it, and all the blasphemings of that great and good work of God by the adversaries thereof) I say what doth it say to us? I cannot give the answer, in more proper and plain terms, than in the prophet Jeremiah his words, chap 22. Where the question is proposed, verse 8, By all that pass by wherefore hath the Lord done this unto this great city? The answer is given, verse 9, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God: which is this upon the matter, they had made themselves monsters for sin, and God hath made them marvels for judgment, and set up a monument to the commendation of his righteousness, over the ruin of these covenant-breakers: what means this sad change; that the Lord, Who rejoiced over us to do us good and to multiply us, is now turned against us, as if he were rejoicing over us to destroy us, and to bring us to nought? [Deut. 28.63.] Oh! this his anger with such a witness doth give a distinct sound! It palpably declares, and plainly proclaims our defection from God, and apostacy from him, after we had bound our souls with an oath to the contrary: it is not only, because we were not answerable to our covenant-engagements, to study holiness in the fear of God, and walk like a people dedicate and devoted to him, (though such a breach goes always before, and the other follows after) but because we dealt unfaithfully in that covenant made for reformation in his house; we became lukewarm in the cause, and so the curse of detestable neutrality hath overtaken us: our solemn acknowledgment of sins and engagements to duties were forgotten: yea we proceeded from one degree of unfaithfulness and unfixedness in our covenant with the most High, to another, till the whole of that covenanted work of reformation was surrendered, and put in their power, who have destroyed all, and razed and overturned the blessed foundations of that beautiful structure: and this was done, with such a haste and precipitation; as he was looked upon as a peevish ridicule, who would have advised in that day, to see previously to the security of religion, before these were put in power, who were its known and constant enemies: and so, what our worthy fore-fathers (of truly blessed memory) by their zeal, their wisdom, their courage for God, their valiant contendings for the truth, their prayers, their witnessings, their sufferings, had by the good hand of their God upon them wrought out for us, and put us in possession of, we blindly and basely abandoned all; and suffered ourselves to be fooled out of the cause, and out of our faithfulness to Christ, with a flourishing or small parcel of good words.
And it is for this iniquity, that the holy and righteous Lord pursues us this day: it is for this, that he doth punish us by these very hands, into whose hands we put power, to overturn his work, and left them at liberty to do so. Now O generation, see the word of the Lord. [Jer. 2.31.] It is not my purpose here, to give an account of the several steps of our defection, or to draw the lineaments of its black visage: that is an undertaking above my pen and parts: let the Lord, with whom is the residue of the Spirit, find out and furnish some for it: and O that for my interest in the defection, and my accession to the cause of God's contending this day with poor Scotland, I may obtain mercy to go mourning to my grave! This may be cried out upon as treason: well if the mentioning of the land's treacherous dealing with God be called treason, all my apology is, that that makes the necessity of doing it double, and indispensable duty. Let me be a traitor, if that be treason: but I know this may be particularly boggled at, and abominate, as if it were the reviving and raking again out of the ashes, wherein they were burnt, and by the burners designed forever to lie buried, of the causes of wrath: I need say little as to this; but that the causes of wrath need neither my patrociny [support], nor apology; they carry alongst their own sad and certain evidence with them: and I judge many, who did not then see so far, as these Seers did, who drew them up, and mourned before the Lord, under the conviction of the guilt therein held forth, have since been convinced to their cost, that the secret of the Lord was with these his servants, and that they stood in his council: and if any of them be not, they may be ere all be done. O the burning of the covenant in England, and the causes of wrath in Scotland, shall certainly be followed with such a fire and fierceness of indignation, as shall make authors, actors, abettors, and rejoicers thereat, know what it is, to give such an open defiance to the Almighty. A covenant burnt! and burnt by authority! in the sight of heaven! with such hell-black solemnities, where the great God is altera pars contrahens, for reformation of religion according to his word, and righteousness in walking before him, is such a sin, as may make every soul to tremble, at the fore-thoughts of what God will do, for vindicating his glory from that contempt thereby cast upon him.
My present business is not to address myself by way of testimony, or representation to them, who have done such horrid things. Only I wish, that the burning of that city into ashes, where that covenant was burnt, together with that non-such plague, and war, may make them take warning, ere it be too late, who did this wickedness: for alas! all that is come, will be forgotten, when the wrath and vengeance that is yet coming shall be executed and mentioned. O England, England, I fear, I fear thy woe hasteneth! The wrath of God is upon the wing against thee, both for breach of covenant, and wiping thy mouth, as if thou hadst done nothing amiss! Thou hast stood and seen thy brothers day: alas for the day, when others shall stand aloft from thee, for fear of sharing in thy judgments! O how unexamplified must the plague be, wherewith they shall be pursued, whose wickedness hath such a singularity of heinousness in it, on the ground of the righteousness and veracity of God! The burning of a covenant made with God, is a sin, which I believe never had precedent or parallel, and I also believe, that the terrible tempest of the wrath of God, falling from heaven, and following this guilt, shall for ever fright men, from following their steps, who for this shall be made spectacles of his displeasure, and documents to the coming of Christ, what a dreadful and fearful thing it is, for me, taken red-handed in this wickedness, to fall into the hands of the living God! And as for burning the causes of wrath, I grant that wickedness hath a perfect parallel, but of a tremendous consequence in Jehoiakim's practice recorded Jer. 36.23, Where that ungodly king (of unhappy memory) upon his apprehended restitution to freedom, and delivery from the judgment of God, pursuing him for his wickedness, is so grated with the prophet's faithfulness, as he burnt the causes of wrath.
Now let it be it be taken notice of, how the anger of the Lord burnt against this bold burner: see his burial and epitaph, Jer. 22.18,19. But more particularly, see how for this very consummating wickedness, he, and his posterity forever, are deprived from crown and sceptre, Jer. 36.30. & 2 Chron. 36. His brother Zedekiah, it is true, was made king for a time; but he also continued to do evil in the sight of the Lord, and broke the covenant of God (though he burnt it not) and then, the Lord sweeped that race, for these rebellions against him, together with the throne, off the face of the earth: thus the burning of the causes of wrath, and the breach of God's covenant brought down the fire of the wrath of God from heaven, which consumed with its flame these, who had dared the Almighty after such a manner. As the kingdom of Israel was put to a period and perished, because of Hosheah his breach of covenant; so the throne of Judah was riding post the last stage to ruin, when it came to the breaking of covenant, and burning of the causes of wrath: God would bear with them no longer; but for adding this evil to all the other evils they had done in his sight, he overturned that throne of iniquity [Psalm 94.20.], and cast them out of his sight forever:
But, my friends, that which we are called to mind, in this day of our visitation is, seriously to recollect our thoughts, and remember, what was our frame in the day, when these things were carried on, and done before our eyes; what were our fears for the work of God; what were our cares and solicitousness about the preservation of that precious interest. I judge you will allow me to say it to you that it might have been expected from the west of Scotland, in a particular manner; that they would have given some evidences of a peculiar concernedness in the interest of Christ: and for the preservation of our pure and blessed reformation purged from the plague of usurping erastianism, and its wretched brat abjured episcopacy. Let us call ourselves to the remembrance of our carriage, in that day; were we frighted at the dismal appearances of these dangers, wherewith the work of God was threatened, by incarcerating some of the most eminently faithful and useful instruments in that work? Or were we wakened out of our dream of halcyon days of liberty &c. when the blood of these worthies was shed? Where are the evidences of our love and loyalty to Jesus Christ? are they extant? are they upon record? can we say in this day, when we are broken in the place of dragons, and covered as with the shadow of death, that we did neither deal faintly nor falsely in his covenant? Alas! what can we say? what should we say? shame and confusion of face belongs to us: a blushing silence will be a fit expression, for a stupidity, which we cannot sufficiently lament by words, nor make language of: we were in that day under such an universal distraction as both did presage and procure the desolations of this day: we were fooled into such a frolic, as in these irreligious transports, we never remembered there was an interest in Christ to be seen to, or secured in the first place, till we saw it was irrecoverably lost: and now God is righteous, in lashing us by these very hands, into which we put power to destroy that which we were bound to have preserved, with the loss of all things, life itself not excepted. O for the spirit of repentance to be poured out upon all of us that remain! For if we were weeping upon him for pardon, taking vengeance on our own inventions, and wrestling with him by prayer and supplication; if we were much upon our knees before him, when we are fallen into the hands of these from whom we are not able to rise up, our enemies should not stand long upon their feet, who now tread under foot his precious interests and people; for a saint is a Hercules in genu; that foot of pride come against us should soon slip, if the slippings of our feet, and backslidings were mourned over.
Secondly, My dear friends, let me beseech you, without being mistaken, as if I talked to the grief of those whom he hath wounded, seriously to reflect on your frame and carriage afterward; and let us consider, whether we walked mournfully before the Lord, and endeavoured to make our sorrow swell to a just proportion with the growing desolation of the sanctuary, and the growing defection and grievous apostacy of the nation from our covenant, and solemn engagements to God: for, of whom and from whom might this have been expected, if not of us? We saw the blood of these precious saints and martyrs of Jesus, shed! we saw the frame of our government dissolved and overturned! we saw an Act Rescissory (the wickedness whereof reached heaven:) we saw abominable and abjured episcopacy re-established by law and the faithful ministers of Christ driven from their flocks: thus we saw Jericho rebuilt, and so the nation became a curse, being so deeply and so deliberately involved into the guilt of open, owned, avouched, and by law established perjury. Now what did we in the meantime? Alas we had not the spirit of the day in its day! We carried not as knowing the times, and what the Israel of God ought to have done: but for all that was yet acted and done, Satan had not driven our apostacy from God the full length he intended; and therefore he still drove on; and remembering well how he had been put to flee often seven ways, before the flaming zeal and holy fervour of these worthies, who had wrestled that poor church into a state of freedom from an exotic headship, and the base bondage of prelacy; and how it had come to that amongst us, that Jesus Christ was owned by all the authority in the nation; as sole and absolute sovereign in his own house; and how his throne, crown, and sceptre had been secured unto him, and that prerogative, only competent to the Son of God, settled upon him by law, which was a national declaration, emitted in the sight of the world, of this import, Let him who built the house bear the glory: let him sit and rule upon his throne. Satan, I say, envying that blessed settlement, which he had found so hurtful to his kingdom of darkness, and which was the crown of that poor church, whose reformation in this was beyond all the churches of Christ I know upon the earth (though now alas! we may take up this lamentation over ourselves, the crown is fallen from our head, woe unto us for we have sinned) to the end the mountain of Zion might once for all be desolate; and the foxes, with every beast of prey, be at liberty to walk upon it, prompted men, having once set them a-going in a course of defection to run to such a height of opposition to the Lord's anointed, as never since man was upon the earth, was there such a supremacy framed into a law, whereby name and thing of all kingly power, is plainly and explicitly taken from, and extorted out of the hand of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, and given unto, and settled upon the king: (O dangerous and unsettling settlement!) now the incommunicable prerogative of him, who is King in Zion, and whose right it is to give laws to rule his own church and house, is alienate, and appended to the imperial crown of the nation: and it is now declared forever, to be its inherent right, to dispose of, and do all church matters as our king in his royal wisdom shall think fit: the most manifest, unmasked, high, and horrid usurpation of the throne of Christ, that ever the world saw: and the most down-right contradiction to that declared decree, Psalm 2, that ever was framed or cast into the mould of a law, or emitted to the view of men. Nay, let any man of judgment read our supremacy and that Psalm, and he must say one of two; that either this supremacy is meant of Christ (though his name be not in it, as was above noted) seeing it comprehends all that church-power, and ascribes it unto some one person, without competitor, which only belongs to him, whose throne is set in Zion, by an everlasting decree: for his is the kingdom, his is the power, and his is the glory; or he must confess, that it is the most pure, perfect, and unparalleled contradiction to that decree, that ever the world saw: neither do I remember anything so like it, in sense and sound, as what is recorded by the Holy Ghost, Isa. 14.13,14, to have been the language of the heart of the king of Babylon: thou hast said in thy heart (saith the Holy Ghost) I will ascend into heaven: I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds: I will be like the most High: It was certainly a very congruous and happy notion to come into a heathen's head, that whosoever sets his throne in the mount of the congregation, and sits supreme in the sides of the north, which is the city of the great King, who hath there settled his throne, and set the ornament of his beauty in majesty amongst his subjects, should also ascend above the height of the clouds, and be like the most High; but it was an unhappy mistake in him, to think he would set himself down in that chair of state, and sit upon that royal throne: but to curb this insolence, and to cure him of this madness, the Lord set him somewhere else; and therefore it is added with an emphasis, declarative of his high indignation against the pride of that petulant Babylonian, verse 15, Yet shall thou be brought down to hell to the sides of the pit: And thus his majesty became a mocking stock, and the nations are brought in insulting over him and singing in derision: How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, &c. O it is impossible he can sit long, who sets himself down upon the Mediator's throne! for, the arm of Jehovah shall snatch and hurry him thence; and he must catch a sore fall, whom the great God throws down, in his indignation! Be wise now therefore, O ye kings, &c. is a necessary caution here.
But to my purpose: you and I saw all this perpetrate in our sight; we saw also what ways and methods were taken, to flatter or force us into some compliance with this usurpation: how did we behave, while we beheld this idol of jealousy and abomination set in the holy place? Did our eye affect our heart, to see our blessed Lord Jesus put to more open shame, in our land, than ever he had been put to in the earth? To see the exalted Prince Messiah so formally divested, and spoiled of his sole sovereignty, and that by that very power, and principally by these very persons, who had sworn fidelity, subjection, and loyalty to our Lord Jesus Christ as King in his own house: whose alone it is to give laws to his church, yea to give the law to kings, as church-members, if they have that honour to be members of his church: now when this iniquity reached unto heaven, were the rendings of the cauls of our hearts heard also in heaven, because of the heinousness of this high wickedness! Did we tremble at the thoughts of what the zeal of the Lord, for the establishment of the Mediator's throne, will do, against the nation and church, where this wickedness had been done, and Christ so dealt with? What stirring up of one another to mourn together and apart, was there, when now the glory was departed? Were we ashamed to be seen without the tear in our eye? Yea or with our heads upon us, when the Crown was taken from our Master's head? Or had no use for them, but that they might keep two eyes in them to mourn? Or did our carriage witness we were willing to lay them down, and lose them, as a testimony against the wrong done to our Master? Alas had we neither tears or blood, to bestow upon such an honourable cause and quarrel.
Let me tell you, my dear friends, that as I see cause of wondering and weeping over my own stupidity, who was so little affected with such a heart melting sight, and can attribute it to nothing but want of a proportioned zeal, that I did not either die for grief, or only lived by choice, to lament the departing of the glory; so I cannot forbear to tell you (and now is the proper time for you to think on it, and be touched with it) that I beheld the strange unconcernedness of many amongst you, in that day, with amazement: will you not blush to remember that the parliament of England, though for the most part highly Erastian, were yet so surprised at the sight of our supremacy, being then apprehensive of a design to introduce popery amongst them, as they no sooner saw it, but they perceived that Scotland, by their newly moulded supremacy, so prodigious for size and shape, had not only empowered his majesty for doing that, but more also, if so be he in his royal wisdom saw it fit? This I say, together with that act, for having so many thousand men ready to march at his majesty's call into any part of his dominions, did much startle that parliament. But what did you in the mean time? Alas! it was observed particularly of not a few amongst you (I do not charge all, nay nor any person in particular, let every one reflect upon himself) that never was there more grasping after the world, never more eagerness to build your own houses, than in that day, when before your eyes the house of your God that was taken in possession, together with an unbrotherly unconcernedness in sufferings of such, who were most active in testifying against this wickedness, and counteracting its design. And, my friends, I must be thus far plain with you, that as with much grief of soul, I then beheld this amongst you; so, I then said it, and often have said it and thought it since, that, for all that your carriage in such a day, when we should all have been crying, And what wilt thou do for thy great name? and such a manifest leaving of our first love, if God should bring an enemy from the rising of the sun, to punish the west of Scotland with a witness, they should smart, for what had been observed among them, in that hour: he should so order the matter, as escape who would, they should not. But the judgment of God which begins at his own house, should either land and light there, or lie and rest there. My dear brethren, mistake not the design of this plain dealing, I dare not daub with untempered mortar, because I would not have you dally in the matter of repentance: I may say, my record is in heaven, that I have not allowed myself to be at ease, since you were in trouble. Let me speak therefore to you, in the words of the Holy Ghost, Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it. [Micah 6.9.] Learn to understand the language of this dispensation, which if you do, your finger will certainly be upon this sore, and your eye toward the alone remedy; so shall you comply with his noble design, and bless him eternally for what hath befallen you.
But Thirdly, beloved sufferers for Christ, as a further proof I have not mentioned these things, on purpose you should be grieved, and have sorrow upon sorrow, suffer me to add, That as I had often been made sad, by that unconcernedness in the matters of God, and that in the sufferings of your brethren, observed with much sorrow and regret amongst you, unanswerable to the kindness of your youth, and the love of your espousals; so, I was refreshed upon your behalf, and comforted to hear, that there was a begun reviving for some time, observed amongst you, and that now at last, your care of, and concernedness in the precious interests of Christ, began to flourish again, and something of old life and lustre began to appear, before this enemy broke in upon you, and that he who had been riding prosperously in many places of the land, going forth conquering souls, to a compliance with the blessed design of the gospel (which is to crown the conquered) was returning, to give you a new visit, and to make you savoury, as in the days of old: but more particularly, whatever be the wickedness of men, and your innocency as to them, that our blessed Lord Jesus hath graciously condescended to take a great testimony at once, from his old friends and followers in the west of Scotland: he would not put such a discredit and discountenance upon you, as to have you behind other parts of the land, in filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ, in your sufferings for his name's sake, and the noble interest of his crown. O now happy and honourable favourites of so glorious a King! Would ye have wished, that the delivery of Scotland should have gone before this your distress? And that it should have been your reproach, that you had been last in bringing home the King and had suffered least for his sake? But now he hath rolled away your reproach, and enrolled you amongst the honourable company of his witnesses: O! what would you think to hear the Mediator make such a report of you in heaven (for his commendation makes believers and sufferers famous there) as this? Now, what was lacking of a full and faithful testimony, what was wanting in witnessing a good confession, amongst my disciples and friends in the west of Scotland, is supplied with full measure, heaped up, shaken together, and running over: they have not only given, and given cheerfully, but the very poor amongst them have given as kings unto God, because they have given him themselves, and their little all. O my friends, if you knew what report he is making of your sufferings in heaven, instead of sinking into despondency, you would be in hazard to be distracted with joy! However, now brethren rejoice, and now be glad, in as much as he hath counted you worthy to suffer for his sake? He hath set a crown and garland upon your head, which is not set on the head of every one, whom he yet crowns with loving kindness and tender mercies, and which is denied to many, who will yet get the immortal crown.
To you it is now given (O blessed be the giver, and happy are the receivers!) not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake: to you it is given, not only to lodge him in your house and heart, but because ye have done so, you are honoured to have your houses taken in possession by others, and your bodies, which are the temples of the Holy Ghost, trod upon and abused by such, who while they have the faces of men, have the fashions of devils. But, dear friends, you are not so much debased and humbled, when you lay your bodies as the mire, and as the street to those that go over, and when men do the equivalent of riding over your head, as you are highly honoured and exalted: you are not so much hurt, whatever harm they have done you, as you are made happy. Remember whose these words are (which contain in them a noble cordial for you, and an excellent remedy, swallow it down, and it will seek to the sore, and make an inward jubilee in your soul.) Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven: look upward you may and laugh: look upward, that you may be in case to look all your trouble out of countenance: look upward, and see who is looking downward, and his heart in his eye, on purpose to take notice of all that is done to you for his sake; their very hard speeches shall be remembered, none of your sorrows nor sufferings escape his observation, but he takes notice of all these, on purpose to comfort you over them, and support you under them: many a poor man among you durst never have evened himself to this degree and height of honour, as either to have been driven out of his hut, or little hole house, or to have been oppressed in it, and that upon so noble an account, as it shall be recorded in heaven, and reckoned as his testimony against the usurpation of the Mediator's throne: this is so great an honour, I say, and a thing of so noble an import, as many a poor man dare not suffer himself, to believe it for joy: he dare not allow himself to think, that his name, who had so little to lose, will be enrolled amongst the company of confessors: but do not wrong his love, nor rob thyself of the rich consolation, he allows upon thee: for if thou hast lost but a hair for him, if one of these have fallen, or hath been plucked from thy head, let be thy old blue bonnet, he will both record it and reward it: he will not only remember, who have taken joyfully he spoiling of their goods, but who, when they had nothing of their own to lose, had compassion upon them who were spoiled, and became companions, by choice, of them who were so used: you cannot without blushing think upon the value he will put upon your suffering: and how (if I may say so) he will magnify your poor mite, which you are ashamed to mention.
Can thou think, without a kind of pleasant confusion, of the warm and wonderful welcome, you will get in the other world; when you shall be advanced to reign with him, and hear him speak these words to you, you are they who have continued with me in my tentations, and I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my father hath appointed unto me, that you may eat and drink at my table, in my kingdom [Luke 22.28-30.], and judge them, who now judge and condemn you: you are the poor company; who were not ashamed to be put to shame for my sake, and therefore I will not be ashamed of you; but I will confess you before my father and before his angels: you are they who have witnessed your love and loyalty to me, and your zeal for my crown and sceptre, when your rulers, are incensed against me, did by their law un-king me, and in persecuting of you crucified me again; come, you shall enter into my joy, you shall sit with me upon my throne, and to the everlasting confusion of these my enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, they shall not only see you crowned; but crowned upon the account of what they put you to suffer: yea, in the day when they shall be sifted before my tribunal, sentenced and shut out of my sight forever, they shall have this added to make their shame unspeakable, they shall not only see you glorified with me, when I am set upon the throne of my glory, but sitting also as my assessors to judge these your proud persecutors, and saying, Amen, to the righteousness of my sentence: all their savage severities, and all your sorrows and suffering, will come in remembrance in that day, to be accordingly rewarded: not only shall you, much honoured gentlemen, who in testimony, that you dare not concur in this opposition to Christ, and give it under your hand to obstruct the coming of his kingdom, by subscribing such bonds, as tests of your loyalty to men, which would bring upon your soul, the crime of lęse majesty; and conclude you guilty of disloyalty against the Lord's anointed (for which noble opposition to that course of iniquity, some of you are shut up in prison, others are denounced) not only shall you have all your losses made up, by that far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory: O the eternal weight, and the infinite worth of that glory, to which all the sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared! O how much is the inheritance of the saints in light, and that hope laid up for you in heaven, above your houses and inheritances and lands, which you have ventured to lose for him! But you, tenants also yea the poorest cottar likewise, who hath suffered anything for him, shall have no lower reward, than the confessors crown, that crown of glory, that fadeth not away: he will not only take notice of all the horrid plunderings, of all the barbarous and inhuman beatings, wounds and unheard of insolences, of these savage Saracens who have been made use of against you; but of all your sore hearts, of all your smothered sighs (for he does not hide his ear at his peoples breathing, when the enemy cuts off their life in the dungeon, and casts a stone upon them) of all your overwhelming griefs and tears shed, not so much because that the enemy had entered into your houses, and eaten up your bread, as because they had robbed you of the gospel, caused your solemn and sweet assemblies to cease, and did not suffer your bread for your soul to come into the house of the Lord: for though the Lord had given you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction; yet, if the gospel had been left you, if your teachers had not been removed into corners, if your eyes had seen these and if you did still hear the joyful sound, and had access to be made glad in his house of prayer, it would have comforted you over all these things you have suffered: but it is for being robbed of the bread of life you weep, the desolation of the mountain of Zion makes your eyes dim: and will he hold his peace at such tears? Will he not hear the voice of such weeping? nay all your wanderings are marked, and all your tears, if there were but one that had trickled down from your eye, as well as your blood is regarded: Thou tellest my wandering, said that persecuted man, thou puttest my tears, the word is my tear, to shew that not one drop falls by; and that if it were but one, it is kept and well kept, in thy bottle: he doth in great tenderness towards you, keep all the tears you weep in his bottle, that in due time he may pour them out to you, in the wine of strong consolation. His eye hath seen who have been made to suffer these things from the enemies of humanity, as well as christianity, which I forbear to mention by their proper names, as not knowing (if I should) how to comfort those who have suffered such things, leaving that to him who can, and who will. He hath taken notice of all the thefts committed amongst you, the least brat of old cloths that hath been stolen from you, or stript off you, hath not escaped his observation; this is marked by him, and marked on purpose, that he may in place thereof clothe you with rich and glorious robes, and class you in that beautiful company, Rev. 7., of whom it is said, these are they who came out of great tribulation, &c. You are now princes in pilgrims weeds, because under your rags lies hid a title to the glorious crown; but in that day your rags will be taken away, and you will appear illustrious princes indeed: nay the beatings, yea outrageous boastings and threatenings of the poorest lad or lass shall not be forgotten; it had been better for them who gave the orders, and put them in execution, that a millstone had been hanged about their neck, and they cast into the midst of the sea, than thus to have handled one of his little ones; upon such an account: nay, the weeping of poor little children, for want of food (while the mother's milk was dried up, or was as poison) their pale faces, partly with fear, partly with famine, shall be remembered as part of your testimony, and that which shall certainly fill up the cup of these Amorites.
But what should I say? beloved sufferers, right honourable nobles, (if any of your names be found in that roll, and found out of the roll of the banders; for now, it is not many noble, and the more the shame, and pity; but if there be but one or two of that tribe, the more noble) much honoured and happy gentlemen, who to make it appear you have first given your own selves unto the Lord, would not prig with him, about your houses, your inheritances, nor your lands; but carried as at a point, to part with these things for him, which you had received from him, as having but little pleasure to be possessed of any thing, after he was dispossessed by law of his house, and heritage; (O wicked and vain attempt! Their hands shall not be able to perform their enterprize, but the council of these forwards, who will wrestle with him, to wring the sceptre out of his hand, shall be carried headlong: hath he said it, and will not do it? hath he purposed it, and shall it not come to pass? And you tenants, who are turned out of all, and put in the condition of beggars (O rich and to be ambitionate beggary) yea you poor labourers and servants, who have parted with your poor all; and it may be, you thought it too little.
For when love to Christ gives, it is so liberal and open handed, as it gives all; it first gives the heart to him, and then the house and goods for him, and hath a kind of sorrow it hath no more to give; and therefore at last to fill up the measure, the giver throws in himself, and that with a blush, to be made use of in doing and suffering for God: and therefore did it with a kind of shame and regret you had no more to lose for him. Be assured he will not forget this your work and labour of love, shewed for his name's sake: nay, be assured he will repay it with an inconceivable overplus of everlasting advantage: Fear not, little flock, it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom, are the words of your Lord and Master. O! how great is your reward in heaven! It exceeds both your faith and your fancy, both your imagination and expectation, in the dimensions of infinite goodness, and eternal endurance! O how great is that goodness which he hath laid up for you, (where thieves cannot break through nor steal, nay it is above the rage of men, or loose handed devils to reach it) who now have been helped to give such a proof, that he, who alone is to be feared, is your fear and your dread; and which he hath wrought for you, who have witnessed before the sons of men, that you can follow him withersoever he goeth, and that where the King is, there will you be, whether in life or in death, and trust him with all your concerns, when exposed to the worst that the violence of the vilest of men can make you suffer. What should I say? He hath pronounced you blessed, who makes you so amidst all your miseries, and therefore blessed you must be and shall be; so that you have not more to say, but be it unto thy suffering servants according to thy word, neither have I, but Amen and Amen.
Now, dear brethren, though your not having kept, as became you, the word of his patience hath provoked him, not to keep you from this hour of temptation, which is come upon you; yet, how hath he both multiplied to pardon, and magnified his grace, even while he punished, in keeping you in it? And as the observation of your former way occasioned great fears on your behalf, lest there should have been a further defection; so, when it was seen and put beyond all debate (though no man would suffer himself to believe, that ever such a thing, which had no colour of reason to cover the barbarity of its rage, would be put in execution; lest an easy credulity of what was not to be believed, till rage had quite extinguished reason, should have argued a weakness unworthy of a man: for to have said they are men, who rule, though stated enemies to the ways of God, might have secured a person against the fears of such a course) that this evil was determined against you, wherein religion and reason had the defiance at once, in the resolution of your ruins: I judge, there were never more prayers put up to God, on the behalf of a party in the land, than there were for you, that you might be kept in this house of temptation and strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, and helped without fearing the wrath of those, whose fury was armed with all the force of the nation, and to be execute by the most formidable and barbarous instruments, to stand it out, and to endure as seeing him who is invisible. And now, in that God hath not turned away these prayers, nor his mercy from you; but hath stood by you, helped you, held your hand, with-held you from that bond of disloyalty to Christ, strengthened you, and kept you from the snare laid for you, and this gin of these workers of iniquity [Psalm 141.9.]: for this gift, I say, bestowed upon you by the means of many persons, thanks also are given unto God by many on your behalf, and this abundance of heart-establishing and hand-strengthening grace bestowed upon you, by the thanksgiving of many, redounds, to the glory of God.
Dear brethren, you are now in a manner become our joy and crown: this eminent exercise of your faith and patience, in that, while crushed by these cruel men, you have carried as not being moved by any of these things, which have befallen you, but as knowing you are appointed thereunto, hath comforted your brethren over you, in all your affliction and distress: and your standing fast in the Lord, hath put many who stood in doubt of you, lest the tempter by this means should have tempted you, and turned you aside to a compliance with the crooked ways of these workers of iniquity, who shall be led forth with all that join them to condign punishment [Psalm 125.5.], (but what that shall be is unutterable) hereby, I say, your friends, the favourers of the dust of Zion, are put to a new difficulty on your behalf; for his doing for you, above what you could ask or think. Now, this is the echo of their pulse: O what thanks, can we render again to God for those, who have been thus helped to glorify him, by standing and withstanding in this evil day! and for all the joy wherewith we joy for their sakes, before our God: yea, what gladness, what glorying is there among the saints for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure.
But now dear brethren, to the end that you may hold on, and hold out, and so be more than conquerors, through him that hath loved you, let me put you in mind, you have not yet done, although you have been helped to do much, by suffering much; yet, there is a much behind to be done and suffered [Col. 1.24.]: having therefore taken joyfully the spoiling of your goods, and carried as knowing in yourselves, that in heaven, you have a better and an enduring substance: now consider, that you have yet need of patience; for you see, that the enemies teeth is hereby set on edge to tear you, they are still eager in the pursuit: there is need of patience, I say therefore, that after ye have done the will of God (which hath been by a suffering of his will in this juncture) you may receive the promise. Now take unto you the whole armour of God that you may be able, having done all these noble things, to stand: stand therefore, as resolved through grace, and in the power of his might, to keep your ground, and to withstand, that you lose not the things which you have wrought, and let not go a victory so near gained. Read over Revelation 12, and see how that after Michael and his angels have encountered the dragon and his black legions (and I must say, however these who marched against you were called a glorious host, I doubt if ever there were legions, who more completely were clothed in Satan's livery; and it was very suitable, since there was never a company of men gathered together, since man was upon the earth, wherein the quarrel was so formally stated against the Prince Michael) and have overcome by the blood of the Lamb, &c. A victory, in kind and quality, much like yours. Now take notice, that the devil thus cast down: even while he cast them down that withstood him; and thus defeat in the death of those who loved not their lives unto the death, studies a revenge: and comes down having great wrath: be sure therefore, he will endeavour to be avenged upon you, for the broken head got, at this bout: he will make war upon you, and manage it with all the force and fury he can, yea with all the fraud and hellish stratagems (whereof yet I am most afraid) against that remnant, by whose keeping the commandment of God, and holding fast the testimony of Jesus Christ, he finds himself cast down. He hath had great wrath against a poor feeble company, these many years: by whom after he had hurried all the representatives of the nation, into this ditch of dreadful defection, and apostacy, and carried them the length, of that heaven-daring act of supremacy, he found himself resisted: all the homage he got by this apostacy did avail him nothing, so long as these base-like and beggarly Mordecaies did not only not bow the knee to him; but resisted him, and withstood him; and by their running to and fro, he found the knowledge of God (his great eye-sore) increased, his old nests harried, his ordinary haunts invaded, and these dark dens wherein he had dwelt without disturbance, taken in possession; and his old servants and slaves vindicate into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Seeing himself at such a loss, and that by a company of undoughts as they are judged, yea nothings (the fittest things for this opposed Christ to work by, and the fittest time too, for by his reigning and conquering thus, and by these noble in-roads he makes upon Satan's territories, he proves himself the captain of salvation, and that King who is in Zion, against whom there is no rising up, against whom there is neither council nor strength, and so no prevailing; however exauctorate by our law, and that law put in execution by all the methods and strength, that they who framed the law can enforce it by) he is more incensed: and as to you, my dear friends, of the west of Scotland more particularly, suffer me to say, that he seems to have devised that this storm should have first fallen upon you, not only because of old long-syne; but as hoping, that now after so much ease you have had, while others were in trouble, and some remarkable abatement of that zeal, which sometime was observed to be amongst you (O let never such a sight be again seen) he would find you unprepared to stand it out, and withstand such a furious assault; and so, by your fainting and being foiled, he expected, that all the rest of your brethren should have been either frighted into the like compliances, with this course of defection, and have been made to couch as asses between the burdens; or their resistance, when relinquished by you, to be but feeble at best, and at last such as would end in their ruin.
But now, being so far disappointed, in finding that you have been helped, not with a little help, but with a great help; and that you have been enabled through grace; to shake yourselves, as at other times, and that the Lord hath stood by you, while such a lion was let loose upon you, and hath strengthened you, and helped you, to acquit yourselves, in this conflict, as the good soldiers of Jesus Christ, he hath now more wrath against you, than ever: how doth he now meditate revenge? How doth he now grin and gnash his teeth upon you? When having stretched out his hand against you, as nothing doubting of the victory, he finds himself foiled, and made to draw in a stump. You may expect then, to meet with all that the gates of hell can do to undo you: therefore, be upon your guard: you may expect to be attacked upon all quarters, now battered with fury, then underminded by fraud: Be sober therefore, be vigilant, for this roaring lion is walking about, seeking how he may devour you: whom resist steadfast in the faith [1 Pet. 5.8-9.]: and to the end he may get no advantage against you, see that you carry as not ignorant of his devises, beware of his wiles, beware of his smoothness; for when he speaks you fairest, then there are seven abominations in his heart: be sure wherever you watch, or whatever you do, to double your guards at this pass; for it may be, you shall be yet assaulted at this post, and be in greatest hazard, to be put out of your posture by his smooth insinuations: and in order to your resistance, and standing it out, both against the wiles of the devil, and against his own wrath, let me drop these things, and bring them to your mind.
First, Let me beseech you to consider, what your treasure is, and see to the securing of that, in the right hand and the right place: for if that be safe, and well laid up, all is well: you may then suffer and sing, we will not fear what flesh can do unto us: I need not tell you, that your treasure is your precious and immortal soul: and that you have nothing worth keeping, nay, nothing that is truly tenable, or that can be kept, but that; for that is Christ's own account, who knew the worth of souls, What hath a man profited, saith he, if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul? And the words added, or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Are resolvable in this other question, What hath a man lost, if he should lose the whole world, and save his own soul? O what can he gain, where the gainer is eternally lost? Or what can be loss, where the loser is saved, and forever made up! Nor need I tell you, that it is for this precious treasure, that loose-handed devils hunt; and to the end your enemy may get hold of this, and run away with it, he hounds out such emissaries, as you had to deal with, that you may be hurried, by their horrid savageness, into a solicitousness, how to preserve some things out of their grips; till he run away with the prey; while you are noised into an oblivion of your great interest.
Nor need I tell you; that the alone way to secure this your treasure, is, to commit the keeping of it to Jesus Christ: for when it is in his hand and custody it is sure, as no man, no devil, can pluck it out; for he is stronger than all: ye see, that in a day of fiery trial, and when judgment must begin at the house of God, and when there is a must be of suffering according to his will, for all that would do his will, this is the happy advise given, and alone expedient that will answer the end propounded, 1 Pet. 4.19, wherefore (saith he) let them who suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their soul to him in well doing, i.e. in doing these very things, for which they suffer all these evils of affliction; for that is particularly the present well doing according to his will: and so often as the doing of his will may infer danger; let this act of committing the soul to him be renewed; that so his will may only be done, and his way kept, with a holy undauntedness of courage in the day of most desperate danger. O! but the soul is safe that is committed unto him: we cannot possess our souls in patience, while we keep them in our own possession in such a day, because we cannot secure them; but, then are they truly our own, when we have given them away to him to keep, and we may then possess them in patience, when they are in his possession; this made the apostle, 2 Tim. 1.12, enjoy a sweet serenity in a very stormy day, the persuasion of his being faithful to his trust, and able to keep that, which he had committed unto him, fortified his soul against all fear of what could befall him in following the Lord, and hardened him, into a holy misregard and contempt of the shame of the cross. Therefore, dear brethren; let this be the greatest haste with you, and the first haste too; for he will do nothing for a man, nor undertake to concern himself in him, or his affairs, till he have committed his soul to him in the first place: and when you have done this, and to the end you may in this warfare attend upon the Lord without distraction, commit all beside to him, that you would have safe: If a man love anything, then the only way to keep it from being lost, is to put it into his hand; for he not only keeps all their bones who entrust him with their persons, that none of them are broken (when he intends not a greater good to them by the contrary) but the very hairs of their head are numbered, and not one of them can be touched, or fall to the ground without him. Therefore having trusted him with your soul, which is your treasure, trust him with all your other little trifles too: he will take it ill, if you do otherwise: and if it be good for you, to have these preserved, he will keep them, even to your old shoes: the angel will not let Peter loose his sandals, or leave them behind him, in the prison: put your wives, your children, your estates, your names and reputation, yea, whatsoever is dear unto you, in his hand; and all is safe. O but that person may be secure, amidst the boisterous blasts of affliction, and them tempestuous rowlings of the raging seas of trouble, whose person and estate is insured in the insurance chamber of heaven! Sure, he who hath committed all to him may sleep sweetly (because he is safe) amidst all dangers; since the peace of God (flowing from, and following such a commitment) which passeth all understanding, guards the heart and mind through Christ Jesus.
Secondly, When you have thus committed all you would have to his keeping, to the end you may keep his way, when assaulted by adversaries, and carry with that gallantry, which becomes the soldiers of the Captain of salvation, make use of your allowed strength and furniture: for you are not called to this warfare on your own charges: the King bears all the cost; so that you have a broad board to take a sufficiency of supply for all wants and weakness off: and therefore you are not so much to consider what you have or want in yourselves, in order to your through-bearing, and what you can do or endure, in order to the obtaining of the victory; as what he will be to you in that hour, and do for you; and according to this reckoning you may say, When we are weak then are we strong: and when we can do nothing, yet we can do all things, and endure all things through Christ strengthening, or putting power in us: and we may reckon also upon the victory; You, (even you, little ones) have overcome them (saith he) because stronger is he that is in you, than he that is in the world: be strong therefore in the Lord and in the power of his might: lay in store of suffering graces, put on the whole armour of God (saith the apostle) that you may be able to stand: he hath prepared that armour for you, and it is proof, and he orders you to put it on, and therefore he doubles the exhortation, Take unto you the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. I shall not insist on the particulars; but leave that known place Eph. 6, to your meditation: only see well to these three cardinal graces, as ever ye would look for the conquerors crown: first, see well to your faith, above all (saith he) taking the shield of faith.
I cannot here hint the universal usefulness of faith, in this warfare; nor how it steels the soul with so much stoutness; as it can make a person look the very king of terrors out of countenance, with a fearless misregard: In God I have put my trust (saith that holy man, in a very desperate danger; and then he adds) I will not fear what flesh can do unto me: faith not only sees that, through all dark and dismal appearances, which is of infinite value above all sufferings; but as it interesseth the soul in that great goodness, it prompts with a holy fortitude, and with a peremptoriness of resolution and courage forceth its passage, in order to possession, through devils, dangers, and death itself: but consider particularly, how faith is a shield, that you may use it as such. (O blessed be he eternally, though your enemies can take your old rusty swords, they cannot spoil you of your faith, and so they cannot conquer you: for this is the victory whereby you overcome the world, even your faith) Now faith is a shield, and a shield of salvation, because it interposeth God and his omnipotent power dto protect betwixt the man and all that oppose him, and whatsoever would hurt him: when David is put to flee from the face of ungodly Saul and his court grandees, and hides himself in the cave, Psalm 57.1, My soul trusteth in thee (saith he) yea in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge till these calamities be overpast. O when there is nothing standing up between God and the soul and God stands up between it and all that would harm it, but the man is safe! This blessed shield, it both bears the man who bears it, and it beats back all the blows of adversaries, so as by a rebound their sword enters into their own heart: he knew of what use this was to a soul who said, I have prayed that thy faith fail not: and the person to whom this was said, having got a dangerous fall, and having been shamefully foiled, through the failing of his faith, yet being by grace recovered, gives this advise to those who would stand, when the devil is assaulting them on all hands: 1 Pet. 5.8,9, Whom resist steadfast in the faith: and when he is thus resisted, he flees: he sees, it is in vain to throw his fiery darts at him, who can make use of this shield: hold up thy shield, and Satan cannot hold up his face; but will flee: Why? Because, as God hath in mercy and love engaged himself to the soul, to stand by it, and with his omnipotent strength support it in the evil day; so faith lays hold on his promise, and takes him at his word, and thus interposeth an omnipotent God, betwixt it and all enemies, and then he stretches out his right hand against the wrath of an enraged enemy: hence, amongst the rest of the great things ascribed to faith, Heb. 11, These are not the least, verses 33-34, Who through faith subdued kingdoms, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight: turned to flight the armies of the aliens: in a word, he that makes use of this shield is safe, and completely sheltered, with the saving strength of the right hand of an omnipotent God: and shall be made to sing, when all his enemies, that compassed him about as bees buzzing and burning in their hatred, are quenched, as the fire of thorns; The right hand of the Lord hath done valiantly, the right hand of the Lord is exalted, the right hand of the Lord hath done valiantly. O what a complete security is this shield, in an ill day; and therefore, when the apostle was solicitous about the Thessalonians at a time, when their adversaries dealt with them, as men of the same spirit, and malice deal with you, he says, 1 Thess. 3.5, For this cause when I could forbear no longer, I sent to know your faith: importing, that all would be well, and they would be victors, if that was well.
Secondly, See well to faith's companion, and that is love; that is faith's second: or the way how faith engages and goes to action, is by affection: O love is a great companion! it will not be boasted or buffeted into a base deserting of the beloved, by what all the power on the earth in a conjunction with the gates of hell can do: it hath said it, and sworn it, wherever Jesus Christ is, there will I be, whether in life or in death: and Satan is so wise as not to assault a soul in its warm fits, knowing well, that many waters of affliction cannot quench that flame; but resistance will make love the more fervent, and the lover the more fervid and forward; and therefore to the end he may prevail, his method is, how to make souls first lukewarm, by stealing away the fuel, whereby that holy fire is fed: or by his flight, turning the current of the affections that they may run in another channel, than God-ward, and Christ-ward, and heaven-ward: as knowing well how poor and pusillanimous creatures they quickly become, when their coal is cooled or quenched, and how easily they are overcome and foiled, when they fall from first love: O my brethren, see to get and keep your hearts warm, work hard in gathering fuel for love's fire. O how much is it of the concernment of every saint, to have fire burning in his bosom in this day, when the fire of fiery trials is burning abroad, and about him; when enemies are in rage, and hell-hot; this flame of God, this holy love, burning heaven-hot, will afford the soul true courage to resist that rage, whereby they assault and are acted. And to this purpose, it is remarkable, that the apostle Jude, having written his epistle for this end alone, to excite to an earnest contending for the faith; In order to a readiness and resoluteness to undertake this heavy work of holy contention, he only exhorts to this one for all, verse 21, Keep yourselves (saith he) in the love of God: It is true, he mentioneth faith in the foregoing verse, but it is as relating to this love, and as that which furnisheth fuel to its fire: and he speaks of prayer in the Holy Ghost also, as that, which blows away the ashes, and blows up that fire into a holy flame: and then he subjoins hope, as that, which pours oil upon the fire, and makes the soul throughly candent. And this leads me in the Third place, to say, see to your hope also: whenever you get an alarm, or a calling to the conflict, call for your helmet, and clap it on your head, and clasp it well, and so the head being guarded, the heart is much without fear: while love to Christ makes a man venture upon swimming through the salt sea, in following of him: and faith is his skill in swimming, and the strength of his arms; so when the waters go over his head, hope is the cork that keeps his head above, till he swims safe to the other shore, and through all the seas betwixt him and heaven, and therefore the psalmist, perceiving himself ready to sink, saith, Why art thou cast down O my soul? Hope thou in God, &c. O how well will this helmet of lively hope guard the head, against all the darts shot from the fury of enraged adversaries, and likewise against all their fraud and flattery (for these are the two deadly enemies hope hath to deal with) by raising the soul into a contempt what the world can offer, from the noble and none such expectation it hath laid up in heaven! Nay this grace is of so much use to the saint, as the apostle saith, We are saved by hope: now therefore make use of your hope, yea, Hold fast the rejoicing thereof firm unto the end, and it shall prove to you a helmet of salvation indeed: its exercise is, to raise up the desponding soul above all dark and dismal appearances, and to strengthen faith, and therefore we are said, In hope to believe against hope.
Now dear friends, having interjected these few things of many, with a necessitate briefness, and blunt abruptness: let me return, to where I left, viz: resolve for suffering, and fear none of these things which you shall, or can suffer: only fear to offend your God, and grieve your blessed guide: only fear that fearful and great name, which these men, who would put you in fear, have taken in vain: fear God, and then you need fear nothing else: for he, even he alone is to be feared: you may be bold as lions, whose blessedness is both heightened and hastened by the worst the world can do unto you, because you fear him: let that blessed fear of God guard you against that base fear of man, which even bringeth a snare. Oh the want of this which hath been amongst us, hath rendered us unfit for this holy war, wherein we should have played the men, for our God, and the glorious concerns of his crown and kingdom! O when will our heartsome, hardy, and resolute putting to our hand to his work, in the face of the greatest hazard, prove that he hath put his fear in our hearts? for this fear not only furnisheth with reason against the fear of frail feckless man, who cannot, when he hath done what he can, reach his hand beyond the grave: and therefore our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, arguing his disciples, whom he sent out to preach the gospel, into an holy courage, when persecute by the rage of kings and councils for preaching (which is this day our case: O when will he shorten these days for the elect's sake?) he doth it by this argument, Matt. 10.28, and Luke 12.4, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that, have no more that they can do: (O blessed be he for that cannot; and for this also, that these upright ones, whom they for this persecute, shall have dominion over their persecutors in the morning!) but I will forewarn you whom you shall fear, fear him, which after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell: yea I say unto you, fear him [Luke 12.5.]: but as it furnisheth with reasons, it fortifieth also, with rich and refreshing supplies: for it hath the goodness of God as well as the greatness of his terrible majesty, for its object: and hereby is the heart emboldened, and the hand strengthened to struggle with whatsoever difficulties and dangers: now therefore, my friends, to make it appear, that God in making you new creatures, hath made you men of other metal, and spirit, than the men of this world, and cast you into another mould; whereas, their transgressions say plainly within the heart of every man (who hath not the heart of a beast) That there is no fear of God before their eyes [Psalm 36.1.]; so, let your fear of him, and your fear because of that to comply with their wicked laws, which they have made, make it appear, you have set the Lord always before you: let whatever you do or say, when called to a compliance with the present course of iniquity, have this plain import and practical sense, How can we do this great evil, and sin against God? He is a great God, and he is a good God, and he is our God, and therefore we dare not, we cannot, we will not offend him, to please our persecutors.
But, dear friends, what have you to fear in following him? give it a name if you can, that the names of sweetness, and salvation, which are in him (and as his name is, so is he) answering the name of whatever you have to fear, may make it a nothing: or if it be any thing, such a thing, as he changeth its very nature and quality, and makes it pay the toll and tribute of good to you. Do you fear, they will lash you with their tongues, which are as arrows shot out, and load you with reproaches? Remember then, whose words these are: If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you: you may not only despise this shame, but wear it as your crown, and humbly boast of such cognizance of your love and loyalty to Christ: because the reason, adduced by the Holy Ghost, doth put the happiness of such beyond debate: for says he, the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: as the spirit of Satan and of shame rageth in these reproaches; so the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you. Are you afraid that besides these lashings, you shall also be put to lose, for his sake? But why are you afraid of an impossibility? If God hath said it cannot be, it shall not be: why do you give it a being in your imagination to torment yourselves? Or why are you not rather afraid, to lose the hundredfold in this life, even than persecution, and then that eternal life, and that immortal crown, which is ensured, by the unfailing faithfulness of God, to such losers (if I may abuse language, in calling so great gainers, losers) in the other life? For if you suffer with him, you shall reign with him: what, will you be frighted out of the way, because of the manifold temptations, and troubles you are exposed unto, by keeping of it? No, let this fortify against that frighting fear, that as you are partakers of the suffering, so shall you be of the consolation: you ought rather to fear, to rob and deprive yourselves, in a day, when such favours are a-dealing, of that ground of rejoicing, that a participation of the sufferings of Christ affords: O happy and blessed participants of his sufferings! for, when his glory shall be revealed, you also shall be made glad with exceeding joy: O how cordial! O how corroborating is such an expectation? it will make the expectant rejoice, with joy, unspeakable and full of glory: this is heaven (in all the hells of trouble, on this side of heaven) antedated: for this is to be partakers already (as the apostle's phrase is) of the glory to be revealed. Do you fear suffering, for that very cause, which he hath not only so often owned; but for owning of which your blessed Lord and master died, as a martyr? Or are you not rather afraid, (I hope you are) that when Jesus Christ shall come to judgment, and sit on the throne of his glory, and bring forth Scotland's covenant made with him, to be found amongst those, whose sentence is sealed under their own hand; for their sin is open, and gone beforehand to judgment? O dreadful may the expectation of the hearts of every man of them be, in that day, who have had hand in that heinous wickedness, when the act rescissory shall be brought forth, and laid besides that covenant; and the question put to these panels, trembling before the tribunal of Christ; is this the performance of your oaths, vows, and covenant engagements to me; are you not afraid in that day to be classed (if but for the least compliance) amongst those, who shall be found guilty of lęse majesty against the Son of God? against him, who then shall judge them? Will there be a soul at that appearance, who dare avouch his having had a hand in framing such a mischief as our supremacy into a law? Or would it not rather be terrible to you, to think, that living in such a time, you should not have witnessed against these high and heinous wickednesses? Would you want the share of the commendation, and the glorious reward, that shall be given his witnesses? What if you should weep, yea and die in prisons? Besides, that there you may enjoy the glorious liberty of the sons of God, and be feasted in your fetters, with the fruition of himself, and have your dark dungeon hung (if I may say so) with the very arras of heaven, which is the presence of God, that can make these nasty and noisome holes, wherein you are as buried alive, preferable incomparably to all the palaces of those who persecute you. O there is no comparison! Besides this I say, which is the hundredfold ten thousand times told, out of these your prisons, you shall be brought to reign, and have all your tears wiped away, and your prison rags taken off, and your rich robes, wherein forever you shall reign put on. Nay, what if you should be slain for the word of God, and put to swim into eternity, in a sea of your own blood? What have you to fear? Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no ill, (saith the Psalmist) for thou art with me. O the presence of God with you in that hour, will make it a sweet and short passage! Would you not rather choose (if you durst make a choice) to enter eternity, at this passage, and go and take up your place, amongst the souls of your brethren, under the altar, and there to cry with them, How long, Lord God holy and true, &c. Than to be found in the crowd and company of these kings, captains and counsellors, &c. Who shall be made to cry to the mountains, and to the rocks to fall on them, and hide them, from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb? O the wrath of this Lamb, in that day, falling upon those his now stated, and stout-hearted enemies, will make them change their note! The haughty mockers at the prerogative of this exalted Prince Jesus, who then shall judge these jesters the menacers of his subjects, and the persecutors of his saints; for not complying with their God-dishonouring, Christ-dethroning courses, and contrivances, shall then know what it is, to have lifted up their head against heaven, and their heel against his poor people, whom they tread under foot! O the yelloch, that will be amongst kings, captains, and counsellors, when he shall speak to them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure, for having said (and essayed it too) Let us burst their bonds asunder, &c.
I shall not here trouble you, with the observation of the tremendous judgment of God, whereby some, that have been active in these cursed courses, have been hurried out of the world; nor with an account of the anguish and agonies, under which others of them, have died; nor yet of the rare testimonies, which some, who obtained mercy and grace to repent, gave against this wicked course, wherein they had concurred, and for that cause, which they had persecuted: though he, who regards not these works of the Lord, nor considers these operations of his hand, hath bewrayed sad symptoms of blindness and obduration: neither shall I here further than hint, to the end you may, for your establishment, take notice of it, how wickedness hath abounded amongst, and had a dominion over those, who have broken his covenant: as if, all former restraints being taken off, he had said, henceforth my Spirit shall no more strive with them [Gen. 6.3.]: For alas iniquity of all sorts hath so abounded, since the nations enacted revolt from God, as the way of the generality (O that they, whose feet go down to death, and whose steps take hold on hell, may consider it, and be reclaimed!) if the word of the Lord be true, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord, and that heaven is such a place, as there shall in no wise enter therein, anything that defileth, neither abomination, &c. hath everlasting seclusion from the presence of his glory, written on it: so that he who would be saved, must save himself from this generation, who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the forwardness of the wicked. Since we broke our covenant made with God, binding us to nothing, but an abiding with him, and walking before him, in our respective capacities; Satan hath got leave, to open the very sluice of hell, and drown Britain with such a deluge of profanity, that the multitude (yea and they who are chief in these rebellions against God, are chief in all these other provocations) are carried down the current, swimming and singing, in this impure puddle of all impiety against God, never considering, that this stream will at last sweep them down, and swallow them up, in the lake of fire and brimstone: all these put together may make you fear, to fall in with their way, lest you fall with them, in the hands of the living God. If they cannot give you security against this, and that is impossible; for the redemption of their own soul must cease forever, if they both cease not to go on, and sorrow not for what they have done: fear you not therefore their fear; only fear to forsake God, as you would not be forsaken of him: nay, let your fortitude in refusing their black bonds, whereby, as the binder binds himself to an opposition to Christ, and the coming of his kingdom, so he binds over himself to the curse of a broken covenant, either fright them, into a forbearance, or put them under the dreadful apprehensions of what they may expect, for opposing his Christ, persecuting the gospel, and using his servants so, who dare not, in running with them to these excesses of wickedness, run upon the bosses of the Almighty his buckler; but rather did choose to suffer anything, that they might be found upright and innocent from these great transgressions, and so escape that wrath of the living God, wherewith all the contrivers, all the pressers of these bonds of iniquity, all the persecutors for not complying with that decreed wickedness, all the pleaders for it, all the palliaters of this impiety, all the instruments made use of to help forward the affliction of his poor people, for their refusal, all the rejoicers at his people's calamities, and connivers at these courses; yea, and all who according to their place, and station, as they are called, do not faithfully witness against this course of iniquity, shall be certainly pursued, if repentance prevent it not, overtaken, and so perish eternally: there is no law-borrows against the written vengeance, for the persons of these practices.
But, that which I would more particularly point at, to fortify your hearts against the fear of what you may be put to suffer, even though it should come to the laying down of your lives, is the refreshful and reviving remembrance of his great goodness to them who went before you: you need not, in order to your establishment, run so far backward as to the records and experiences of former generations; but I may say, as you have heard, so have you seen in the city of our God: call to remembrance what you have been witnesses to, what not a few of you have seen with joy, and all of you heard with gladness; yea, your enemies have beheld it with confusion of face, shame, grief, and astonishment: to wit, that singular heart-solacing and shining presence of God, under which your martyred brethren were at their death, it was evident, he did not so much leave them into the hands of them who hated them, to take away their lives; as, because he was so well pleased with their zealous fervour, their fidelity and fixedness in his way, (which made them, give testimony of their love to him, not to love their lives unto death) he therefore brought them forth to crown them, in the sight of these who killed them, and in that, crucified their Master again; while they with a keen cruelty killed, he crowned with loving kindness and kissed their souls out of them; kept them, as they fell; carried them off the scaffold in embraces, to present them to his father, and set the martyrs crown upon their head. I need not insist in a matter so manifest, as it is beyond the hidings or denyings of those, who put them to death, and hath also caused so many thanksgivings unto God amongst the saints; so that I may ask you, what do you fear? Do you fear fruition? Do you fear that they who cast you in the fiery furnace, shall see the Son of God walking with you in the midst of the flames? Do you fear, to be seen made more than conquerors through him who hath loved you? Do you fear, that when the incensed world hath yoked a fiery chariot for you, to carry you out of the world, that the world who hate you and hurry you thus off the stage, shall see the king come, and pave the bottom thereof for you with love? Do you fear, that while they stretch out their hands against you, to take away your life, he manifest his love in putting his left hand under your head, and in embracing you with his right? Do you fear, that while your blood is shed, he give convincing significations to all that look on, of his shedding abroad his love in your heart, and that your blood is precious in his sight? Are these things to be feared, which have been the ambition of many righteous men; yea and a piece of so great honour, as they durst scarce even themselves to a sharing in it? Or hath he deserted one of all the sufferers? See if you can say it: Why then are you daunted with danger? Why do you doubt; but he who hath glorified his name in others, will glorify it again, in you? Nay, did he not most signally defeat the expectation of adversaries, and out-do the hope of his poor servants, by the remarkableness of his assistances, given to some, who were looked upon as such weak wriglings, as they could not stand it out? But how by standing by them, and strengthening them; did he still the enemy and avenger? And how did he, by the marvelous supportings of his grace, perfect praise out of the mouth of such babes and sucklings? I may appeal to the conscience of any present at these executions, who savour the things of God, and saw, under what a shining presence, and with what joy unspeakable and full of glory, these dying men went out of the world, and these murdered martyrs mounted their triumphant chariot; if they would not at that time, upon assurance to be carried off the stage, under the same sun-shine and sweetness, have left all they had in this world and gone with gladness in their company, into the other world? If any one of all that now glorified company, had been deserted, you might be discouraged and shrink away; and say, What is our strength that we should hope? But since everlasting arms underneath have been so visibly seen supporting every one, whom he called to suffer, it saith nothing, if it say not this, Fear none of those things which you shall suffer: for my grace shall be sufficient for you: and my strength shall be made perfect in your weakness. Therefore be not afraid, but approach your duty with humble confidence and courage, even when death itself is in the way, and you shall find it with you, as it was with the priests, before whom Jordan recoiled not, till their feet were within the brink. Wait for your assistances, and supports in the hour of conflict, and in that very hour, it shall be given you: and you put in case to say, When we are weak, then are we strong.
And, to complete this account, and make it appear, that the most daring and desperate enemy cannot ease his own soul, by giving one instance to the contrary: I cannot here pass by the death of Mr. Mitchel which the Lord hath so excellently ordered, both as to time and circumstances; for, whereas they, who put him to death, did hope, to give thereby a dash to the people of God at this time, and by their severity exercised upon him, to make them shrink into a fearful compliance, with their iniquitous contrivances, but the supporting presence of God with him was such, as no man needs for fear to forsake the way of the Lord, because of what befell him: I mention not here the cause, but leave the world to the account, himself hath given thereof, with what his advocates had to plead on his behalf: and shall only, without making a parallel, or instituting a comparison between the two allude to Samson's death, in this execution: not, that I may take occasion to tell the world, that he who was aimed at, may pass any day of the year, for a lord amongst the uncircumcised Philistines: for, that is no news; nay the world may judge, I do these lords wrong, and him too, in not associating him with But First, Samson was a rackel and rough-handed saint, ready to pelt the Philistines upon all occasions; yet, Secondly, the Holy Ghost for all the faults that followed him hath recorded his name, and enrolled him, in the number (even while the names of many others are out) of these eminent worthies, Heb. 11. And so, he hath made the name of Mr. Mitchel savoury; and as he took many testimonies from him at all his appearances, to the cause; so he owned him in the end, and honoured him to die witnessing a good confession, which will be on record to posterity. Thirdly, as Samson did more mischief to the enemies of the people of God, at his death, than in all his life, (for when they sent for him to make themselves merry with a sight of his misery, the Lord helped him to spill their sport) so I judge it is beyond question, with every sober man, that Mr. Mitchel's death hath done more hurt to its contrivers, and furious drivers, than ever his life could have done, even though he had shot again, and hit that unhallowed mark: for, now, whereas he hath died desired, they who drove it, have in breathing out their cruelty against him, brought an indelible infamy upon themselves, and entailed upon their posterity a reproach, never to be rolled away! Yea they have missed their mark so far, in hitting him; as I suppose, the most confident scoffer amongst all those, who promised themselves matter of mirth by his death, and some thing on which they might break their jest will be more loath, to hear Mr. Mitchel's death mentioned, than the death of any of those worthies, that went before him; lest, concerning themselves, it also be remembered, howAnd thus, was the prediction fulfilled, with a witness contrary to the mind of him, who in saying so, did both mock and menace at once, that God did glorify himself by Mr. Mitchel's death in the grass market: yea, glorify himself he did, and glory to him for having done so. Is not this then brethren, heart-comforting and hand-strengthening that, all who went off the stage, thus died, under these refreshing manifestations, and ravishments of spirit; as their enjoyments would be the measure of men's desires, for their own soul, as they were the measure of the desires of these dying martyrs, for all the people of God; for what could they wish more, or seek more, on the behalf of these, but, O that it were with them, in all things, as it is with us, except, as to this scaffold! which yet to us, while under these manifestations, is preferable to all the thrones of the earth, and the paradises and pleasures, wherein they live, who put us to death? Nay, so marvelous was the presence of God, with these his dying witnesses, as I doubt nothing; but, some of the enemies, who looked on, and had a hand in shedding that innocent blood, have said with themselves, since, O, let me die the death of these righteous men, and let my latter end be like theirs! And I much doubt, when death shall look the greatest desperado amongst them, in the face, and he finds himself ready to be dragged before the judgment seat of Christ, if the question were asked him, whether he would have his soul now gathered, with the souls of these sufferers? or, with their souls, who shall be brought in before the tribunal, with their fingers dropping with the blood of those, whom they killed upon such an account, that he would be at any demur what to choose.
Fear not to follow, dear brethren, since you see how honourably the charges of all that have gone before you, have been born: you have the same good God, the same Christ, the same Spirit, the same cause, the same covenanted strength: have therefore the same confidence and courage, as they did so do you carry, as in nothing terrified by your adversaries; which as it was in them so it will be in you, and evident token of perdition to your proud and implacable persecutors, but to you of salvation, and that of God.
Suffer me, ere I close, to put one drop more in this cup, to make it cooling (and nevertheless cordial for that) endeavour, dear friends, with a zealous prudence, while you are in this fire of fiery trials, to prevent or extinguish the wild fire of unnecessary and hurtful animosities amongst yourselves, by the flame of fervent and true love to God, and one another: that fire will burn out the other! You see, the enemy thrusts sore at you, that you may fall; therefore, to the end they may miss their mark, and you may stand fast in the Lord, stand close together: I shall not enlarge upon this head, only let me put you in mind of that notable place to this purpose, when the Apostle, Phil. 1. (after what he had said to himself, verse 20. O! for a company in case to say the like) comes to persuade to a carriage such as becometh the gospel, he pitcheth particularly upon this piece of a gospel-becoming conversation, and persuades to it: That I may hear (saith he)that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel, &c. And knowing well how much true unity did strengthen the saints, while put to this striving, he doth in the following chapter, viz. chapter 2, verses 1-3, with a marvelously sweet emphaticness, inculcate and commend the same thing, with such a warm variety of heart-melting and affection-moving words and arguments, as are sufficient (or nothing can be) to cement, and solder into a sameness, the souls and affections of all saints: If there be therefore, saith he, any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy: that you be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind: let nothing be done through strife, or vain glory: but in lowliness of mind, let each one esteem other, better than themselves: Now what can be said after this? here you have union nobly qualified, and arguments powerfully quickening to pursue after it; O fall a-striving therefore, while put to strive against enemies, who shall love God and his precious interests most, and one another best: who shall be most ready to forbear, and to bear one another's burdens; that so, in fulfilling this law of Christ, all may the more cheerfully bear the cross of Christ: have there been amongst you animosities, contentions, jealousies, whisperings, evil surmisings, &c. (the more is the pity?) well, then now is the time, to confirm your love one towards another: now, set yourselves to provoke one another to love, and good works: now see, if you, who have discoursed, and disputed yourselves asunder, can pray yourselves together, and so meet in that blessed center: I little doubt, if your hearts be heaven-hot, in praying together, in weeping before God together, in wrestling with him together; but you will walk after the Lord together, in a sweet zealous singleness of frame: when your hearts have been warmly poured out together before God, a spiritual harmony, and sameness of soul, in working the work of the Lord, will follow upon it: and if my observation do not fail, our contentions never began hot, till we were cooled and much taken off, from praying together: consider what your enemies are doing, driving, and designing: is it not to make you fall asunder, that you may not be able, when divided amongst yourselves, to stand before them! or to withstand them? Take that door of them, by shutting the door upon them, at which you see they design to enter: and that their access may be the more easy, they will flatter some of you, or forbear some of you, while they fall upon others, that so they may run down and ruin all, and raze foundations at last with ease: set yourselves therefore, with an oneness of soul and shoulder, to defeat this desperate design, and in order to the frustrating of the prospects of these perverters of the right ways of God, let union in the Lord, amongst his servants and people, be studied, and endeavoured: let us carry in this day, as men of understanding; who know the times, and how the true Israelites of God ought to behave one towards another, while the adversaries, lie in wait to prey upon our divisions: and is it suitable, while they gnash upon us with their teeth, that we should bite and devour one another? Or, is it more christian and Christ-like, that while we suffer together, we smile one upon another, and support one another, yea, and if it should come to dying, die, embracing one another? Let therefore all unsuitable and unseasonable striving and unbrotherly and unchristian contending be prevented, or extinguished, ere they come to a flame: for that is fatal.
It is well known, how small a wedge of the same timber, driven by the policy of an enemy, especially when in power, hath made great and grievous breaches, amongst such, who once took sweet council together, and walked to the house of God in company: how frequently, in all ages of the church, have they carried away many, first to a connivance, then to a compliance (for he who is once cheated into a connivance, is easily charmed into a compliance) with their designs, and so rendered the opposition of the rest, who stood and withstood, less significant. Let us therefore be wise: let us take notice of the adversaries stratagems, whose maxim is, divide et impera: and in this they are so cunning and close; as sometime they can personate a division amongst themselves, that they may the more certainly effectuate it, amongst us; which when it come to pass, it hath ever deplorable and dismal effects: for there is ever a sad and certain connection observed, betwixt a dividing time in the church, and a further departure from the truth, and a hotter persecution of those, who cleave to God and his truth, with purpose of heart. But because I know, the greatest pretenders to what is now pleaded for, and persuaded unto, are really the greatest enemies to that union and concord, intended by the Spirit of God; and to the end they themselves may be applauded, in their not-strivings, as becomes, for the truth; they of all men, are most ready to represent such as do, as firebrands and church renters. And therefore, let none mistake what love to union, amongst all the serious servants of Jesus Christ, in such a day, hath caused me to drop; as if thereby, I did intend to plead for, or persuade unto an union, with a disadvantage to the precious truths of God, and the true interest of the gospel; or did insinuate, in order to peace and union, either an approbation of forbearance of duty, in its proper season; or of taking such courses, as in regard of circumstances may be construed, a compliance with the men, who have made themselves, and the nation, guilty before God of this high transgression, viz. of destroying what they once built, and building again what they destroyed: What? shall we leave any thing undone, or shall we do any thing, under what specious pretext soever that may seem to say, we have said a confederacy to such as call us to a confederacy, after God hath instructed us with a strong hand, not to say so, since that confederacy will be found a conspiracy against him? Should we join again with the persons of these abominations, and break his covenant? Would he not be angry with us till he had consumed us? The woe upon woe, and wrath upon wrath which was denounced against Scotland by a great seer, and eminently faithful master-builder amongst us, upon the apprehension of a relapse into a compliance with the haters of the Lord and the work of reformation, whereto he perceived a propension, and saw the nation begun already to be leavened with the dreadful leaven of apostacy, is so sadly accomplished upon us, that, unless we be a people devoted to ruin and utter destruction, we will learn from what is past, to stand aloof, and stop our ears, at the syren-songs of those who pipe to us, that we may dance a compliance with them, in their breach of covenant with the Most High, and secure them, into a quiet possession of all, which they have taken from our blessed Lord Jesus Christ: for, this is the substance and sense of this now pressed bond, and these newly required law-borrows. O if ever there was a day, to be unite in crying, Unite our hearts to fear that glorious and fearful name, the Lord our God; If ever there was a day to be unite in watching, in standing fast in the faith, in quitting ourselves like men, this is that day: when these God-provoking courses are carried on, and our compliance and concurrence therein required! O, now, when there is such a combination against the Christ of God, such an oneness in opposing his anointed, let us study an union, in abiding with him, in owning of him as King and Supreme! Let us continue with him in these temptations, and contend for him; let us contend with one another (for that confirms true union) to excite to this contention: let us study and promove oneness in walking in the good old way, without turning aside to the right hand or to the left; because of the lion that is in it, and without laying other foundations, in whole or in part, than what were laid: let us not disorder these foundations, nor pick a stone out of that beautiful fabric, and then put our invention upon the rack, to forge a consistency, betwixt some cessions to the adversary, and old principles and find out a way, how to go some length with them, or how not to oppose them, while they with so high a hand overturn the work of God, and yet retain our integrity, and set off this our noval intention to our brethren, with the embroidery, and vermilion of union; and think, there is sufficient ground, to call all dividers, and stigmatize them as such, who will not, with us, gad about, to change their way, and lay as much weight upon our notions, and dark, yea benighting distingees, as we do.
Let us study an oneness in promoving the opposed work of God (alas! under the pretence of being unite amongst ourselves, we were charmed, and chained, into a forbearance of many things, in their proper season, which may, and ought, to send us mourning to our grave, and keep a close union, between sorrow and our soul, till death make a divorce between soul and body) let us study an oneness in endeavouring something, to signify our sorrow and shame, for the ground which we have lost, and the advantage the adversary, by our faintings hath got, to trample upon, and triumph over the cause: an oneness in seeking of God a right way, by fasting and prayer, not daring to listen unto, rush upon, or receive overtures, without consulting God, since the concern is his; and communing with our brethren, not only actually concerned, but countenanced of God, in their endeavouring to hold fast their integrity, and hold on in the good old way. Let us study an oneness, in remembering whence we have fallen, and in admonishing and being content to be admonished; lest we be hardened, through the deceitfulness of sin, into a defence of it. Let us be followers of others, forsaking them in no case, nor under no pretext, in as far, as they are followers of Christ: let these be the men, whose practice we propose as a pattern for imitation, whose carriage all along, whose constancy in the cause, whose courage in continuing at the work of the Lord, when hazard did attend duty, spoke them, to hate the way of them who turn aside: and let us not count that the making of a breach, to forsake (for then we count without God, and have not the mind of Christ) any, or not to fall in with them and follow them in that, wherein they forsake the way of God, and cease to be what they were, and begin to be, what once they were not, and to do or leave undone, what they condemned, as defection or detestable neutrality.
It is a great abuse of language (to give it the best name) to put the name, or notion of union, upon that, which if searched to the bottom, would make it appear, that in this the uniters are rather dividers from the Lord, than endeavourers to keep the unity of the spirit, in the bond of peace: it was not against this union nor inconsistent with it, for Paul, to withstand Peter to the face, when he saw, that he walked not uprightly, according to the truth of the gospel, and when his way had carried away others, into a dissimulation: if God have said, If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him; Let never our soul enter into their secrets, who would seduce us, into a relinquishing of the cause; or into a connivance even at a discovered propension to that, in others: let us study the import of the place above adduced; to wit, a standing fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together, for the faith of the gospel; striving and standing up together for those things, in the faith whereof, we professed ourselves fixed, beyond the unfixings of contrary laws, execute with all cruelty: nay for the faith, which we ourselves delivered to the saints, and for which we should contend with all flesh; though for that, we should be counted schismatics, and men of contention, with the whole earth. There was an union amongst the disciples, when they all forsook him and fled. O let us beware! and have a care, lest, while we cry up and commend union amongst ourselves, that in keeping one another company, we leave not Christ Jesus, our Lord and Master, to walk alone: unity amongst brethren is a very desirable thing: (and the Lord will require it at his hand, who endeavours it not, in his way) but there is a jewel, of infinite more value, oneness with God, and oneness with and in the truth, and if our pursuings of the one be not minded, in its just subordination unto, and for the promoving of the other, it loses its intrinsic value, and becomes a plague; and thus, that which should have been for our welfare, is made our trap: let union amongst brethren be accounted the ring never to be broken: but let union in the truth, and with God, be counted the ruby and diamond: if this be lost, our union loseth its name, and changeth its nature, and passeth with him, for a conspiracy: and so should it do with us. This ought to be our first care, yea and next care too, how to keep him company, and to continue steadfast and immovable, abounding in the work of the Lord, and if herein our fellow servants desert us, or our brethren be otherwise minded; yet we must go on, hoping and praying that God will reveal the same things to them, and grant them, to be like minded with us, according to Christ Jesus, if we have attained to clearness in duty: and here by the way, I must say, though I hate and abhor rash courses, and I hope would not stand, to condemn in myself, as well as in others, a running upon; and rushing into untrodden paths; yet God hath made our way so plain of old, as the wayfaring man, though a fool, needs not err in it: these are no novelties or notions; these are no new and dark things, we have to contend for. Is covenant keeping with God a disputable point? Is it doubtful, whether Christ be absolute in his own house? Or falls it under debate, whether he is to be obeyed, rather than men? And truly of late, the course and carriage of our enemies, so directly opposite to the ways of God, hath left no place, for doubting about duty, if we be but delivered from fear of danger. If then, I say, we have attained unto clearness in duty, let us shut our eyes upon all dangers, difficulties, and discouragements, arising from the unclearness or reluctancy of brethren, yea of fathers, and hold on in our way: let us stop our ears, and become deaf to insinuations, however coloured, which would foreslow us, in following and serving him. If we must desert, and be deserted of others, for doing so; O then, but the presence of God appearing with, and for them, who in such circumstances appear for him, as it hath, so it will make up, to the satisfaction of men's souls and senses, the want of other company. Paul's notwithstanding, made all odds even [2 Tim. 4.16,17.] It was no reproach to Athanasius, that it was said of him, unus Athanasius contra totum mundum [Athanasius alone, against the whole world]; but rather did perpetuate his renown, and made his name savoury, to all the lovers of our Lord Jesus Christ; nor shall it be to any, who walk in the same spirit, who walk in the same steps.
And to this union of heart amongst yourselves, suffer me to append this word: let their be a communion of all good things amongst you also, for supplying the wants and necessities of your suffering brethren: ought you in some cases to lay down your lives for the brethren; then I pray such, who shut their eyes, that they may not open their hands to minister to their necessities, to think how they shall answer that question, when put to them (for put to every one, and more particularly to all that have a profession of love to Christ in the nation, it shall be) 1 John 3.17. It may be some of you have much taken from you, and so think yourself exempted, but have you more than what is simply necessary (and in this God will be judge, who will cut off all your superfluities out of reckoning) for the present support of yourselves, while others have nothing? then consider the place, 2 Cor. 8.1-3, &c. for I cannot enlarge; nay read that whole chapter and the next; and the consideration of what the Holy Ghost hath there said, if any of his words have weight with you, must powerfully persuade to this duty: remember what is said of the believers, Acts 2.41, &c. and consider what the parity of the case pleads. But I may not insist (yea, and dare I say, I hope it is needless) only let me ask you what you would do for Christ himself, if he were so dealt with? then consider the place, Matt. 25.35, &c. and see how he reckons, and reckon that he will reckon with you in that day, according to that reckoning, and your carriage in this. I hope, this is one place for all, if ever you look to have a place with him; and suffer me to leave you with a desire to consider that place also, Heb. 13, and if you will compare what is said of that great duty of suffering for Christ, verse 13, and of that high duty of praising God, verse 15, and compare what is said of both, with what is said of the duty now persuaded to, verse 16, and you will both know what is to be done, and carry as believing, he is not unrighteous to forget the work and labour of love of such, who minister to the necessity of those, who for his name's sake have been spoiled of all: only persuade yourselves, God is taking particular notice of the carriage of every man and woman in Scotland, this day; and accordingly as he observes, he will repay; he that soweth sparingly, shall reap sparingly, and he that soweth bountifully, shall reap bountifully.
I shall shut up all, in answering two questions briefly: First, What now should be our carriage in reference to enemies? Secondly, What may be our hope of a delivery from them?
To the first I say shortly, let us be moved, out of compassion to their precious souls, First, to pray much for them: while they stretch forth their hands against you, study ye this blessed revenge of good will: lift up your heart, with your hands unto God in the heavens, on their behalf; that the spirit of repentance may be given them: do this, and fulfill his law, whose injunction it is, Pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you: It may be, there are some of the elect, so far left at present, as to run alongst with this course, pray, that these may be reclaimed: and however, it will afford you much sweet peace, to have this testimony, That, while their rage and malicious rancour, were pursuing you to heaven's gates, you, in love and compassion to their souls, endeavoured to cry to him to catch them, and carry them with you to the fruition of himself, and to share in with you, in the glory to be revealed: and though as to them, you should not prevail; yet, besides that your prayer shall be set forth before him as incense, it shall return into your own bosom.
Secondly, Henceforth stand aloof, from all listenings to proposals coming from them, or making any to them: for whatever freedom and clearness godly and wise men might formerly or hitherto have had, without scruple in this matter, before they had made such a clear discovery of their perfect and stated opposition to Christ as King, and of the purity of their enmity at, and implacability against all, who desire to be faithful and loyal to him; yet now, I conceive us called of God, to take this course; as that way, wherein alone we can expect his approbation, and countenance: First, As the most proper mean, to convince them of their wickedness: this now, seems to be the most proper testimony, against their way, to stand at such a distance from them. Secondly, As the alone expedient, how to preserve ourselves free from all compliances with them, and in good terms with Jesus Christ: for, seeing it is his presence we need, it is sure best policy, to beware of sinning him out of soul or sight by touching with that, which his soul hates, and for which his soul will be avenged. Thirdly, This is the way, to preserve unity amongst the remnant: do we not know that their dainties are deceitful meat; do we not know, that their most seemingly tender mercies are really keen cruelty? Do they offer us anything, that looks like a favour; but upon design, that they may more certainly ruin the work of God, by our divisions about it? I shall give but two instances, to evidence what their purposes are, in their treatings with us: the first, I had from a great man now in glory, who had it from the mouth of that nobleman, who then was active above all others, in bringing the indulgence first upon the stage (I abstract wholly from the thing itself, for that is not my business now, to say either good or ill of it; I only intend here to discover, what they design by their favours) when he said to him, What my lord intend you by this indulgence? and what do you think to gain by it? If, said the nobleman, we gain no more, we shall certainly gain this, it shall separate between the mad-cap, and the moderate fanatics (I give it in the very words, wherein I had it) this was plain dealing indeed, and a palpable discovery of the desperateness of the design: a second instance is this, when that work of darkness, our supremacy, was brought to light, to the end we should not according to the merit of the cause, be alarmed and give the alarm (which it is like from the knowledge of our principles, their consciences indited to be our duty) some were set on work, to whisper us into the ear, and mumble us into a muteness, that we should not meut, nor whimper, at the sight of this prodigious monster; though, for face and feature, and opposition to Christ as King beyond whatever had appeared upon the stage.
But why forsooth must we be silent? O! because favour to the fanatics is hereby intended for whatever appeared at brim, there was some special advantage to them, at bottom: the lessening of the Episcopal power, which did so lash the fanatics, and the curbing of their cruelty, was intended: by which means, they were sure, that so many, as they could fool into this fancy, or please with this nothing, or if any thing, the most wicked of all things, would not only divide, and be divided from their brethren; but they know very well also, that the more seeing and serious servants of Christ, who adhered to former principles, would count themselves called of God, to look upon such, whatever names they assume to themselves, as manifest deserters of the cause of the church of Scotland, and betrayers of it. And for my own part, how much soever I am for union; yet I scruple not to let the world know, that be who he will, that hath beaten his brains, to shape a beautiful mask, for hiding the hell blackness of this monster's face, which should be the abhorrence of all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and hath strained his wit, to put a sufferable sense, upon a supremacy, whereby our Lord is put again to suffer:
I say, I scruple not, to let the world know, that this is the echo of my soul, as to him, or them; O let never my soul enter into the secrets of that man! and let him (who while he thus seeks to cile the eyes of others, bewrayeth this secret, he is no seer: nay that some finger, is put into his eye; I shall not say, whose it) never be the man of my council! Nay, let all the servants and all the people of the Lord, stand aloof from him, and his whisperings, because instead of being in case to give wholesome advice, as one who stands in his masters council, he will by his palliatings and perverse mutterings, seduce, pervert, and ensnare: his breath will be contagious, since his speech must bewray him, to have the botch of the Court-Creed running upon him. Hence, 4thly, I must profess (and I desire to say it as in the presence of God, and as writing that which I must carry in, in my hand before the tribunal of Christ: whatever prejudice should be taken up against the speaker, or the thing spoken) that it passeth the ken of my poor shallow capacity, after all the discoveries the enemies have made of the desperateness of their design; how by all possible means and malicious methods, to ruin the work of God and after the Mediator's Crown is so formally set upon the head of another, and all that is now done and driven, in destroying the remnant, is in order to the establishing of that invasion of his crown and sceptre; what address is possible to be made to him who is thus set down in the Mediator's chair of state, and wears his crown in our sight, without sin: except it be to tell we can make none: or to beseech to forbear to persecute the Mediator's ambassadors, who must continue to preach the gospel by virtue of their commission: yea, who dare not think of appearing before Christ, without having given such a testimony of their resentment of the usurpation of their master's throne and sceptre: and who dare never present themselves to God, without doing the equivalent of spreading that supremacy before him; and praying that he would take unto him his great power and reign, and possess himself again of his own throne, and, dispossessing these who have usurped it, shew his zeal for his prerogative royal: and, how such a declaration before men, and such dealing with God, can consist with address to them in church-matters, who have taken to themselves his house in possession, and yet be free from all compliance with, countenancing of, and connivance at, that great wickedness, I see not: and I hope never to see with his eyes, who saith he sees it. They have now stated the quarrel clearly for us: and as ever we would have Christ to stand by us, and stand up to plead his own cause, when we are not able to withstand the power of the enemy; let us stand by him, and stand aloof from them. As we have neither hoof nor hair to part with, in this matter, so we have nothing to seek from any that sits in our master's chair of state. God forbid, that ever we should be seen to bow or beg before them, while they sit there! However, when we are passive, we may make use of what liberty is given: yet it is our safety, it is our peace, it is the interest of the gospel and for the glory of our exalted Prince, to abstain from seekings and receivings from those who stand in such terms of opposition to him.
As to the Second question: What hopes we may entertain of a delivery, from our persecutors? First, I say, there is nothing in my judgment which can deliver me, or any who consider the nature of our national revolt, in all its God-provoking circumstances, and how deeply everyone is guilty, from him who sitteth upon the throne to him who grindeth behind the mill; and how this sin is now become the sin of the nation; whereby the whole is made a curse, without meditating terror, at the apprehensions of the fierceness of the wrath of God Almighty against Britain: less than such a signification of his displeasure, that we are the people, against whom the Lord will have indignation forever: less than utter ruin and perishing of that name of that nation, that generation and people, from under the heavens of the Lord, who have so contemned his covenant, and taken his name in vain, is less, sure, than what our iniquity gives ground to fear, is but hovering over us and ready to fall upon us; It is true, not a few (and blessed be he for that!) have found mercy, not to go along, with all these courses; but yet, let me say even to these, it becomes us to be very sober, in our expectations, and submissive; passing the example of Ephesus, &c. let us persuade our own souls into this submission, and sobriety, from the example of God's holy procedure with Moses, Deut. 3.23-26. Oh, if but for an unadvised word! If but for a little smoke about the fire of his holy and fervent zeal for God, he who next to the Mediator, was reckoned faithful, in all the house, and matters of God, was kept out of Canaan? May not that holy peremptoriness, in the just and jealous God, whereby he refused to be importuned by such a servant, make us in remembrance of what we have unworthily done and left undone, very sober in our expectations, and silent, though he should cause us fall in the wilderness, and make our death prevent the dawning of that blessed and desirable day? O that we could in the mean time, learn with that holy man, to be solicitous how to transmit pure ordinances to the posterity, as we see he was; that if we must go off the stage, yet we may live and die witnessing, how desirous we are that God may be great amongst the posterity, when we are gone: and that an example of witnessing for our wronged Lord and Master, may be transmitted to those who shall succeed; withal, warning them that they do not follow our example, wherein we have not contended valiantly, for Christ and the interest of his crown.
Secondly, I cannot forbear to say, that if in the sovereignty of his grace, he should go out of the common road of his ordinary providence, and make the delivery come in our days; yet I am sure (at least I may say it as to myself) a sober reflection upon what we have been and done, may make us fear that we shall have no other interest in it, but to be spectators: and that if he make use of instruments, it shall be of such (how few soever, how base and feckless soever before men, how weak and witless soever) as are free of what myself and many are guilty of: and with whom there hath been a fire of zeal for God, witnessed by their faithful forwardness, while, with myself and others, there was scarce the smoking of a flax: though yet, he may graciously condescend even to make our hair grow again, and so make use of our hands about his work, and put us in case to shake ourselves, as his servants have done at other times.
Yet, Thirdly, To the end the poor people of the Lord may not be frighted, nor fainted into a despondency: let me add this, that deliverance to the people of God in his own time, way, and manner (which I leave wholly to himself) and that a great and glorious one shall come. And this is no less certain, than that Jehovah cannot fail to establish the throne of his anointed: nay, if all the kings of the earth should agree among themselves, to set up one monarch, and invest him with the power of our supremacy; yet all the power they could make, managed with all the policy in hell, or out of hell, should not be able to settle that crown upon the head of that mortal; but the immortal God should, with the omnipotent power of his right arm, shake that usurper out of his seat, and settle the throne of his anointed upon the ruin of his adversaries. Hath he said it? hath he sworn it? and shall not the zeal of Jehovah perform it? Hath Christ bought his crown and sceptre with his blood? and hath he such a title and right to it? and hath he all power in heaven and in earth, for securing himself in the possession of his purchase? and shall any mortal offer to mount his throne? Shall any mortal offer to strip him of his glory, pull the crown from his head, and clothe himself with the spoils of the Mediator's honour, and be able to keep himself in possession of what he hath taken from the Son of God? O vain attempt! Let them answer these questions put unto them, Psalm 2.1,2, and read their doom in verses 4 and 5. O! the Mediator's iron rod put in his hand, for securing to him his royal sceptre, shall make the potsherd of the earth, by dashing them in pieces, know what it is to strive with him for state! And here, let me add these things shortly: First, as in the way he shall take to accomplish our delivery, his holy and hot indignation against breach of covenant with God, shall be witnessed to the conviction even of such who decreed it, (for the breach of covenant with him, shall either break Britain's heart or head), so 2ndly, It shall be seen to have a most convincingly close connection with the vengeance, wherewith our supremacy shall be pursued. The Mediator's zeal against this idol of indignation shall be written on the revenges he will take for it: and in the day, when he raiseth up a party to state the quarrel upon this head; how despicable and contemptible soever they may appear: then it shall appear he is about rescinding your supremacy (for rescinded it shall be, and if they will not, he will: nay, because they will not, he shall, for his crown must flourish on his own head, and all his enemies must be clothed with shame) and setting that crown of pure gold upon his head, from whose head it is taken off by our law.
And 3dly, Let me add this (and so I have done) that as their rage and violence, in this late invasion made upon you, in pursuance of the design of a full and final settlement of themselves, in the possession of what they have taken from Jesus Christ, by the ruin and overthrow of all, whose way speaks the least resistance, even to a non-compliance, hath been an high transport of rage, whereby they have been carried, beyond all the boundaries of law and reason; so I have as little doubt, but God shall make the connection, betwixt his arising to deliver his people, and their having risen up thus, to delete and destroy them at once, so close and so clear, (how long soever he delay it) as it shall be no matter of difficulty; for any who wisely considers these things, to observe what dependence upon, and connection with, the deliverance of the people of the Lord, hath as to its visible rise, and this their horrid and inhuman violence. He is the Lord, who will hasten these things in his time.
Do not therefore, beloved sufferers for Christ, suffer your hearts, to sink into a despondency: the cause is his, and he will plead, yea throughly plead that cause, which is his own: and this shall be your crown and comfort, to continue contending for him (for so the cause that is so purely his becomes the cause of your soul) and if you should fall in this conflict, and die suffering; besides, that you fall in the bed of honour and fall asleep, in the blessed expectation of the conquerors crown, this the cause will out-live all its enemies, and have a glorious resurrection, and your wrestlings, and witnessings, and sufferings, as they will be rewarded in heaven, so they shall be recorded on earth: therefore, lift up the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees: the same, yea greater, afflictions have been accomplished, in your brethren, which have been in the world; and as the God of all grace, after they had suffered a while, made them perfect, and put them in possession of that eternal glory, to which they were called by Jesus Christ, so shall he stablish, strengthen, settle and keep you from falling, and after all your sorrows and sufferings, present you faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy:Pray for,
Your poor Well-wisher and
Companion in Tribulation.[Robert M'Ward]