The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws,
changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.
—Isa. 24.5

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The Third Sermon of


On Hoſea XIII. Ver. IX.

—But in me is thy help.

I come now to the third Doctrine, That the Church of God in her lowest condition, may warrantably look and wait for help from God.  Not only can he help, but she is obliged to wait for it. Take only that Scripture to prove it, Psalm 130, last verse. Let Israel hope in the Lord for ever and ever, that day can never dawn, neither can that case befall Israel, wherein he is not obliged to hope; and if to hope, then to look for help from God. {37}

In speaking to this I shall speak to these things.  1. Shortly to the low condition whereinto the Church may be brought.  2. What grounds of hope hath the Church in her lowest condition to look for help from God.  3. What conditions are required in a Church, which may warrantably look for help from God.  4. How far was this promise verified to the Church of the Jews.  Whether or not it be applicable to the Church of Britain and Ireland.

To the first, The low condition into which the Church may be brought.  1. She may be defaced both as to her Civil and Ecclesiastic Government, the authority of both may be loosed, and the people of God may be as scattered bones about the grave's mouth, [Psalm 141.7,] and few of their own resent this.

2. What are the grounds upon which the Church is to expect help, when thus made low, and there is none to help?  Answer. The Covenant is one ground, you must understand, that God hath made a Covenant with this Church, which is everlasting and perpetual, that he will do such and such things for her, even a Covenant of peace, which shall not be removed. And of the Tribe of Levi he hath said, that it shall not want a man to offer an offering to the Lord for ever: as David shall not want a man to sit on his Throne, which is verified in Christ; so the Tribe of Levi shall not want a man to minister before the Lord from generation to generation. When they were in a low condition, he said, I will remember my Covenant. [Ezek. 16.60.] Many a black thing did the Covenant keep off, and in another place, I will do such and such things to you, after all your whoredoms and adulteries, but not by thy Covenant. [Ezek. 16.61.]  God hath ways of making out his Covenant that we have no skill of; he hath a pose [private stock], and a little purse keeping in his Covenant, that many do not see. Indeed folk that have {38} cast off the Covenant, and have burnt it by the hand of the Hangman, will get sore bones, and sore souls also, but as for these that cleave to it, they may expect help on that ground. Hosea 2.19, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, in loving-kindness & in mercy, not only in righteousness, I will not only do thee all that Law binds a husband to do for a wife, but I will give thee a cast by the Common, I will betroth thee in loving kindness and in mercy.  2. A second ground is the headship and suretyship of Christ under which he is come by an everlasting Covenant of Redemption betwixt him and his Father: once have I sworn to David (good honest David understanding Christ who never wronged man) his seed shall endure for ever, and his Throne shall last as the Sun before me. Psalm 89.36. as for thee also by the blood of thy Covenant I will send out thy prisoners out of the pit, wherein there is no water, Zech. 9.11. Thy prisoners, that is Christ's prisoners out of the pit wherein there is no water, that is, out of Babylon, a comfortless and heartless place, by the blood of thy Covenant, that is, through Christ's Covenant confirmed by his blood.  It was through Christ they were set free. And saith Daniel, Dan. 9.17, Look down upon thy Sanctuary for the Lord's sake, that is, for Christ's sake, the great Prince Michael, that is ay [always] for the Church. Lo Michael one of the chief Princes came to help me. Dan. 10.13. That good honest Angel never fails me, but is ay [always] at my back, when I have any thing to do for you I never miss him.  3. A third ground is the name and glory of God, which is mightily engaged for the help of the Church: what wilt thou do to thy great name [Josh. 7.9]: is a strong Argument, when all weapons have failed, that hath force and virtue in it; we must even have a cast of thy hand for that, seeing thou hast taken us to be thy people, and brought us out of Egypt, thou must not suffer the {39} heathen to say, for mischief thou did it to slay them upon the mountains, [Exod. 32.12,] and that thou wast not able to bring them to the Land thou promised unto their Fathers, [Deut. 9.28]; and sometimes he saith, I wrought for my name's sake, and at other times, for my name's sake I will defer mine anger, I will hold my hand, and not destroy them utterly.  4. A fourth ground is, That free love, which moved him to pity them, when they were lying in their blood, rank, open, and avowed enemies to him, that same love will pity them still; he promiseth this, I will heal their backslidings, and love them freely. Hosea 14.3. I will even do this freely, for ye have neither in you, nor on you, that can help this business. These are most pregnant grounds, whereupon the Church may expect help from God.

3. What are the Conditions that are required in a Church, which may warrantably expect help from God.  Answer. It is required, that she have somewhat of pure ordinances, otherwise she deserves not the name of a Church; for it's not to a Land, or such a multitude of people, as such, that God by his promise is bound to, but to a multitude or incorporation having pure ordinances.  This is that which made Israel a Church, when they were miserably corrupted with Idolatry, they having some of the pure ordinances, as the word, and some of the Sacraments as Circumcision, and until they lost the word, doctrine, worship, and Sacraments altogether, God did never altogether reject them.  2. There must be a remnant, all the promises have always a respect to the remnant, the remnant of grace, though it be but small; hence it is said, if the Lord had not left us a remnant, we had been as Sodom and made like unto Gomorrah.  There must be Intercessors: the Church indeed is in a hard case, that wants them, as is clear, Ezek. 22.30,31, And I sought for a man {40} amongst them that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the Land, but I found none, therefore have I poured out my judgment upon them, I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath, their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord. Yet in some singular cases he helps, when there is none to help, and no Intercessor, Isaiah 59.16, And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no Intercessor, therefore his arm brought Salvation to him, and his righteousness sustained him; and if so, much more when there are Intercessors, although they were but a few. Jer. 5.1, Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and seek and know in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, that seeketh the truth, and executeth judgment, and I will pardon it.  4. It is required, that that incorporation deserves best the title, and name of the true Israel, the Church of God of any incorporation in the world, and that because God hath resolved still to have a Church, and we cannot think that he will cast off a better Church, and keep a worse. You shall find, that although Israel was oftentimes corrupted, yet evil as they were, they were the best incorporation in all the habitable world: and that was the thing that kept them to the fore, and gave them still a right to that promise, let Israel hope in the Lord for ever and ever.  And yet even in their worst case in captivity, and out of it; in well and woe; indeed they were cast off at last, but there was good reason for that, for the Christian Church came in, and took their rights and privileges from them. But put out mine eye with any Instance, that they were wholly put away, while they came in. Hence I conclude, that that Church ought to hope in the Lord for ever and ever, and that even in their lowest condition, when they have destroyed themselves; and if so, I hope our case is the better this day. {41}

4. How far was this promise verified to the Church of Israel?  Answer. 1. In respect that he helped them many times, and delivered them when they were very low, even from eternal judgments, how oft did he deliver them when they cried unto him, when under the feet of their Oppressors.  2. In respect that he kept alway a little stock and stool, and a remnant among them in the captivity, and out of it, which did bring forth a new brood, and multiplied three times more, especially it was made out at the coming of Christ, and the preaching of the Gospel to them.  3. And chiefly, it shall be made out at their ingrafting, when Israel shall return to the Lord.

5. How far may we make use of this promise, and how far is it applicable to the Church of Britain and Ireland?  In Answer to this, we shall first shew how far these conditions, which are required in a corporation which may warrantably expect help, are to be found in the Church of Britain and Ireland.  2. We shall shew some additional things, which may further strengthen our faith in this thing.

To the first, what of the conditions which are required in an incorporation which may warrantably expect help, are to be found in the Church of Britain and IrelandAnswer 1. That a Church must have pure ordinances; and we say, we have pure ordinances, and much more pure than God gave Israel ground to hope in him for; who will say against it? we have the pure Word of God Preached, and pure Sacraments, and it is not long since we had pure worship, pure Doctrine, and pure Discipline and Government, all very near the pattern.  Indeed there were very great corruptions now brought in; but from whence have they come? from the Church of Britain and Ireland? we deny that; for we declare before Heaven and Earth, that these who {42} deserve best the name of the Church of Britain and Ireland, that they do adhere to the Doctrine, worship, Discipline, and Government sworn to in our solemn League and Covenant; but these Corrupters have come from a party, whom we have opposed since the year [16]38, who have violently riven [torn] pure ordinances form us. When Israel was cast off, their defection was universal and arbitrary, voluntary and by choice; but we by violence and force are driven from pure ordinances by an ungodly party, whom we have striven with from the womb. They shall find that the Church of Scotland wants not pure ordinances, but that ungodly party hath violently rugged [taken] them from the true Dispensers and Stewards of them, and hath intruded a pack of profane perjured slaves to dispense them; the Lord is our witness, we have not done it by choice.  2. There must be a remnant; I never bade better, for we plead, that there is a numerous remnant in the Church of Britain and Ireland, and such a remnant as was never found, for anything we know in any Nation or Kingdom at once. I grant the remnant is far from their duty, but what can ye conclude from that; that God will leave that Church? I deny that to follow; I will indeed conclude the cloud to be growing, and that it is not at it's height, but not that God will give up with that Church. I will get you Scriptures to speak the Contrary, particularly Jer. 5.1, and Isa. 6.ult., the remnant shall be as a teil tree: it is a significant word, it signifies the terrace that was on the North of Jerusalem, which kept the storm off the Temple; and shall be as an Oak, whose substance is in them, the holy seed shall be the substance of the Land, and if so, then God and the Church of Britain and Ireland cannot shed [part], for that condition is mightily verified in it.  3. There must be Intercessors, I grant, that gives {43} a dash to our faith: but although we have been in the sense of our sin, granting that we are far from what we should have been at, yet God and the World knows that there are Intercessors for the Church of Britain and Ireland, in the Land, and out of the Land.  And if God sought but one, and would have spared for one's sake; I dare say, there are many thousands lamenting over the condition of Britain and Ireland. Do not think that God will shut out their prayer: he will regard the prayer of the destitute, [Psalm 102.17], there hath been many a sappy [substantious] prayer put up, and many a tear shed within these four years; and the people of God have been filling God's bottle with them, and we hope it shall be full ere it be long. Every one of his should be helping to fill it.  It is a strange thing, though there be so many Godly folk, that we cannot get God's bottle filled up amongst us: when it is full, they will make the wheel of providence go about to the confusion of enemies, and the redemption of his people.  4. The Church which may warrantably expect help, must have the best claim to be called the true Church of any Church in the World. And I presume, that this Condition stands mightily verified in the Church of Britain and Ireland. I say it, with submission to others who know better the affairs of other Churches abroad than I do.  We have pure ordinances, and are under Covenant with God. We have infeft [invested, assigned] our seed in them, and have laid all to the staik for them, and have been signally owned of God in that work, and the rumour hath gone abroad through the Reformed Churches, that we are the purest Church, wherein we will find the best title and claim: if that will not do it, ye may think men may take their word again in their Covenanting, but that cannot be without consent of parties.  Ye will say, that the Church of Britain and Ireland hath broken Covenant with God.  I grant, {44} that is a great Objection.  I grant indeed our Rulers have judicially broken Covenant to their shame, and the Prelatick party hath voluntarily and deliberately done it: but is that the deed of the Church of Scotland? I deny; for these that best deserves the name of the one, do abominate that deed of theirs, and do cleave to the Covenant, and are suffering, because they will not break it. That the purest remnant may deservedly be called the Church, Read Psalm 22.penult. a seed shall serve him, and it shall be counted to the Lord for a generation. The seed that serves him is counted the Church; these who adhere to him, his Covenant and ordinances, and bear Testimony against all that breaks his Covenant, and are backsliders, and they shall declare his righteousness to the generation to come, that he hath done this. Hold your tongue; They are not yet born, but in their mother's womb, and their father's loins, who shall reap the good of this work, that we are suffering for.  Take up your heart then, and be not discouraged, seeing we have such access to these four conditions, for as they have advanced, they shall get all we have ere they get them.  Yet let us hold to our claim, while [until] a better come, and take it from us.  I shall in the next room, give you some few Items that every lass & lad may make use of for strengthening their faith that God will help.  

  1. We have a very insolent party to deal with, who have made void God's law, and established iniquity by a law.  And shall the throne of iniquity have place with God? No it cannot be, they are bloody and deceitful men, and shall they live half their days? No, they shall not: they have broken Covenant, and committed the most horrid breach that ever was heard tell of, they have not only broken it, but burnt it with the hand of the hangman. Shall they break the Covenant and prosper? shall they burn it, and be delivered? no, they shall {45} not, and their fall is like to our rising. 
  2. They are become grievous Oppressors: they have little more ado now but draw Gentlemen and others to their unhappy ensnaring courts to fine & confine,—for the sighs of the poor and the cries of the needy God will arise. [Psalm 12.5.] 
  3. This quarrel and controversy betwixt them and us is no new thing, and God hath not yet fully decided it, whether they be right or we. We have been fighting with them these several years, and have been setting the work of Reformation up the bray [slope], and ay [always] as we set it up, they dang [knocked] it down.  Now it stands God on his credit to carry the day freely from them without a start of them, for his work is perfect. 
  4. There is a number of Godly, able, and faithful Ministers in the Land.  The people of God in all generations did look on that as a sign of an harvest.  Alas! if there be no more to follow, It shall be a sign of our ruin.  Hath he polished so many shafts, to let them lie by, and hath no more ado with them? that we can neither think nor say. 
  5. I know no place in all the World, where there is a work of God breaking up. If there were a work breaking up elsewhere, indeed I would be feared [afraid], they would come and inhaunse [appropriate] the rights, and take away the inheritance from us; but since there is not a place in the World, where there is a work of God breaking up, but all the powers of the earth are against our Lord Jesus Christ, and nothing but darkness covering the earth,  Therefore we cannot think that God hath a mind to throw down his Temple here, till we know of a better set up elsewhere. 
  6. The hopes of the people of God saith somewhat: they have hopes that cannot fail. Though many think little of their hope, and though they cannot give a solid reason of them, yet they cannot be put off it, but God will send help. You must let them {46} alone, for the expectation of the poor shall not fail. [Psalm 9.18.] God that hath wrought that impression of hope in them, he will not suffer them to be ashamed, if it will but answer their expectation. 
  7. I apprehend that the name of God is singularly engaged for the Church of Britain and Ireland.  I will tell you, how I think the Name of God is singularly engaged, the word is gone through all the Churches, that these three Kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland have entered into a Covenant with God to reform Religion to the utmost pin, and that they have laid all to the stake for that work, and that God did own them singularly in it, and many a carcass fell to the ground for it and many a pound and penny was spent for it. And though many did not what they did with a perfect heart, yet there were many honest. The word now runs again, that that same very party, who did engage their lives and fortunes for that work are brought into slavery and bondage by a prevailing party, the vilest of men, and off-scourings of the Land, and that for their adhering to the Covenant, they are now brought under contempt by that same very thing, whereby they were made honourable;—rid your feet of that my dear hearts if ye can. It may be ye will say, that that party hath fallen from their first love.  I grant that, but these are cases of Conscience we must keep amongst ourselves.  What knows the Nations abroad of that?  I cannot see how he can live and not help us (with reverence be it spoken) without a mighty disparagement to him.  O Lord, what wilt thou do to thy great name? [Joshua 7.9.]

I have reckoned it a special providence of God, that hath led me to this Text, to fix these two Truths upon you.  The one is, that you are to be blamed for your own destruction.  And the other, that your help is in God.  I take them all in {47} hand, be they Ministers or people who clear themselves of the first, that they have taken with their sins, that have destroyed them, then God shall clear himself of the second.  Let us hope and wait for it, seeing Israel may hope in the Lord forever and ever.

F I N I S.