To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken.—Jer. 6.10


A sermon preached on a congregation fast-day
at Ettrick, February 17, 1714.


Thomas Boston
Minister of the Gospel at Ettrick

PSALM. 74.19.—O deliver not the soul of thy turtle-dove unto the multitude of the wicked.

THIS text represents to us the case of Britain and Ireland at this day (which like Rebekah have two parties struggling within them,) and thereupon an application made to the Lord about it. In the words consider,

1. The struggling parties; these are Zion and Babylon; which never could, and never will agree. The Chaldean Babylon and the Jewish Zion are the parties here immediately pointed at: for it is plain, that this psalm was composed on the lamentable occasion of the Babylonians over-running Judea, and destroying Jerusalem and the temple. The Christian Zion and the Antichristian Babylon are the parties now on the field, the former being both gone; and so the text may be, without stretching, applied to them. The one party is,

(1.) The turtle; i.e. the church. She is compared to the turtle-dove for her fidelity to God. The turtle is a creature of admired chastity, has but one mate, and cleaves closely to that, and will take no other. So the true church of God preserves her chastity, worshipping none but the true God. But it is a bird that often becomes a prey, as being harmless and weak. Only it is pleaded on her behalf, that she is God's turtle.

On the other hand is,

(2.) The multitude. This is the Babylonians, ver. 7. An idolatrous cruel people, who of old were so heavy on the church of God. But among the multitude were others, nearer neighbours to the Jews, particularly the Edomites, who, joining with the Babylonian army, were like firebrands among them, to spur them on to do mischief, Obed. 11. Psalm 137.7. This is the case of this church with Papists, the brats of Babylon, with whom join our malignants; not considering, that after they have helped Babylon to destroy us, they will fall on them next: as Edom was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar sometime after the destruction of Jerusalem.

The word rendered multitude, in Hebrew signifies the wild beast, that lives upon other beasts; such as lions, wolves, &c; and so it may be read. And so it points at two qualities of Babylonian enemies. (1.) Their idolatry, being designed a wild beast, in opposition to the chaste turtle. Such are our new, as the old Babylonians were. They are no more the spouse of Christ, but the great whore, that is mad on idols, and multitudes of them; and cannot be at ease with those that will not drink of the wine of their fornication. (2.) Their horrid cruelty; for having divested God of his divine glory, and given it to others, and are divested themselves of humanity, and rage like wild beasts, when they can get their prey, devouring their fellow-creatures.

2. The party holding the balance betwixt the struggling parties; that is, God himself, to whom application is here made. Babylon has not all at will; Zion's God has the balance of power in his own hand, and can cast the scales what way he pleaseth, and give up or preserve the turtle as he sees meet.

3. The address made to the great Arbitrator on the turtle's behalf, which is our work this day, O deliver not the soul of thy turtle-dove unto the wild beast. Do not give up the turtle; she will find no mercy from the multitude, the wild beast. They are not content with the mischief they have done to the turtle; nothing less will satisfy them than her life, her soul. The wild beast is gaping for her, not to pluck off her feathers, and send her away wounded, but to swallow her up quite, to destroy her root and branch; for behold the plot, ver. 8, Let us destroy them together. But, Lord, do not give her up to them. It is a most fervent address, intimated by two words in one in Hebrew. We may take up the import of the whole in four points.

I. The church may be in hazard of falling a prey to her enemies, as a poor turtle to be swallowed up by a devouring beast. The church's lot has been in all ages like Paul's to "fight with wild beasts;" and she may well say, "If it had not been the Lord who was on our side; if it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us: then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us," Psalm 124.1-3. God's enemies, seeing they are not good men, the scripture accounts them beasts. Christ was attacked by bulls and lions, Psalm 22.12,13; for when men turn persecutors, they set up themselves against the Deity, and withal lay aside all humanity. There are five beasts which God's turtle has been specially in hazard to be swallowed up by.

1. The Egyptian beast, 'the great dragon,' Ezek. 29.3. This was a cruel beast, that made the Lord's people groan long under the greatest bondage. A bloody beast; see the bloody edict, Exod. 1.16. 'When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women,' said Pharaoh to the midwives, 'and set them upon the stools; if it be a son then ye shall kill him.' It had near swallowed them up, Exod. 15.9. 'The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them, I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.' See how the turtle groans to the Lord against this beast, Psalm 68.30. 'Rebuke the company of spearmen,' Heb. 'the beast of the reeds.' And the people of God comfort themselves under their danger in the text, by the end of the Egyptian beast, Psalm 74.13,14. 'Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragon in the waters. Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meet to the people inhabiting the wilderness.'

2. The Babylonian beast, the lion, Dan. 7.4. Jer. 49.19. Dreadful was the havoc this beast made on them; it burnt the temple and the synagogues, filled the land with blood, spared neither men, women, nor children. See the whole book of Lamentations. And the text lets you see how they were well nigh being swallowed up by him. Yet God broke out the teeth of that fierce lion.

3. The Persian beast, the bear, a bloody beast, Dan. 7.5. This, though it lay quiet for a while, yet hindered the building of the temple and the city a long time, and kept the church sorely under. But under this beast a bloody massacre was set on foot, Esth. 3.

The conspirators have their frequent meetings, ver. 7. the court is friendly to them, and the bloody day is set, ver. 12,13. and all because Mordecai would not bow to Haman an Amalekite, one of those against whom the Lord had sworn he would have war for ever. How near was the church then to be swallowed up? but God broke the plot, and ruined that beast too.

4. The Grecian beast, the leopard, Dan. 7.6. This beast had almost swallowed up the church under Antiochus Epiphanes, who raised a most dreadful persecution against the Jews, polluted the temple, forbade the public worship of God, and set up in the temple the image of heathen Jupiter, and cruelly murdered many that would not comply with idolatry, Dan 11.31-34. Yet they survived that beast.

5. The Roman beast, which is nameless, Dan. 7.7. The scripture speaks of two Roman beasts, that were both heavy to the church.

1st, The great red dragon, Rev. 12.3; that is the Roman empire, headed by the Pagan emperors, whom the devil stirred up to persecute the church for the first three hundred years. Horrible was the havoc of Christians made under ten persecuting Pagan emperors. So that it is reckoned there were as many Christians slain under them, as that, if ye would suppose them at this butchering work for one year, there would be five thousand martyrs for every day of that year.

2dly, The beast with the name of blasphemy, Rev. 13.1; that is, the Roman Christian, or rather Antichristian Empire, headed by the Pope, the Popish kingdom, whereof the Pope is the head. All the rest are gone. Thus is the only remaining beast that is threatening, at this day, the swallowing up of the church in these lands. But this beast, the Antichristian kingdom, is the common sink of all the evil qualities of the other beasts, Rev. 13.2. and has outdone them all. So that eight hundred thousand are reckoned to have lost their lives in thirty years under this beast, which has lasted many hundreds of years. Yet multitudes in Britain and Ireland at this day are doing what they can to run us into the paw of this bear, the mouth of this lion and dragon. But let us cry, O deliver not thy turtle-dove unto this beast. We may see that we are in fearful danger of it. The symptoms of it are,

(1.) The frightful appearance that Papists and Popery are making now in these lands, it is known that great numbers of Papists are come, and are still coming from abroad: that they are drawing together in an unusual manner; that they are arming themselves, no doubt for some bloody design. The locusts spoke of, Rev. 9.3. are swarming in the land, well known in the northern parts; and no doubt through all corners they are trafficking though in disguise. They have dreadful success, perverting many, and mass is said publicly and avowedly in several parts. So that these twenty-five years, since King James1 was on the throne, they have never so lifted up their heads as now.

(2.) The just fears there are of the Pretender's getting into the throne, a Papist bred up in the maxims of Popery and French government, from whom nothing can be more expected than the ruin of the Protestant religion. To this Papists and malignant Jacobites are bending their united endeavours, and have so far ripened their accursed project, that they are very confident of success.

(3.) The formidable power of France, from whence our enemies have their great encouragement. That cruel tyrant is by the late peace now at more leisure to enslave us, and landing an army for setting the Pretender on the throne, to be a tool, (in his hand) to ruin our liberties and our holy religion, as he has done at home with his own.

(4.) Many vile men are exalted to power and trust, keen for the Popish Pretender, though they have abjured him, for no greater end than that they might thereby get into places to do him service, and further his interest. What wonder then that the wicked walk on every side, and that God's turtle be in hazard of being swallowed up by the Antichristian beast?

II. God may justly give up a sinful church and a sinful people into the power of the multitude of this beast. They have nothing to plead but free mercy, why they should not be so given up O deliver not the soul of thy turtle-dove unto the wild beast. What has Britain and Ireland, what has Scotland to plead this day, why they should not be delivered into the power of the wild beast that is gaping to suck their blood, and devour us? We may see we deserve it, if we consider,

1. The sins of the late times. These nations were some time in a thriving condition, having proclaimed war against the beast, and married themselves to the Lord in a solemn covenant for reformation, to cast off and out all Antichristian corruption in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, life and manners, to banish the false prophet and the unclean spirit out of them. But behold, by a heaven-daring wickedness, the same generation in the three kingdoms publicly renounce and break that covenant, and for the greater solemnity it is burnt, and of late the ashes of it were gathered by authority, and thrown into the river of the sinful union between Scotland and England. Is it any wonder that God is now rising up to pursue for the penalty, according to that threatening, Lev. 26.25. "I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant?" This is the head of God's controversy with the nations; this was the inlet to other abominations: for that being done, the nations run back to Antichrist again. Scotland takes back the horns of the beast. England and Ireland the horns and the attire of the whore. Profaneness breaks in like a flood; the faithful are persecuted, oppressed, and murdered; and most part of all ranks make fearful apostasy and defection from the ways of truth.

2. The sins of the present times. We have entered ourselves heirs to the guilt of former times, by not mourning over the same by a woful slackness in not pursuing reformation, and heartlessness and faintness in the cause of God. We have gone far to betray the covenanted work of reformation; and enemies want not ground to say, that they have bought the truth of many in the generation, who are not yet convinced they have sold it. If we look to,

(1.) A great man in our land, we will see inordinarily monstrous wickedness, especially, though not only among the nobility and gentry. Atheism and Deism, I believe have made greater advances in our day, than ever they did since the Christian religion was known in the world. All revealed religion and the scriptures are ridiculed; and they that have any sense of religion on their spirits, are reckoned to have been foundered in their education. Hence loose reins are given to all manner of profaneness and debauchery. Whoredom and adultery, and filthiness not to he named, have made inordinary advances, especially since the union was set on foot; for having drank of the cup of English filthiness, they have been made mad. If for these things God have not a sacrifice of the best Blood in Scotland and England, it will be strange.

(2.) To the body of the land, we will find them either profane drunkards, swearers, Sabbath-breakers, dishonest, or ignorant, carnal worldlings, that mind nothing but the world, living in a woful neglect of all religion, from whose heart their own case and that of the church lies far off, slighting the precious offers of Christ, and not bettered by all the means of grace which they have been long living under.

(3.) To professors, we will see the provocation of sons and daughters increased to heaven. How have we left our first love? where is the tenderness that we sometimes have seen? A general deadness, formality, and lukewarmness has seized them. Carnality and worldly mindedness has eaten out the life of religion. A light, vain and frothy spirit has got in among them, pride and self-conceit prevail, ordinances are slighted, sermons and sacraments treated as things common and unclean.

(4.) Look where we will, guilt stares us in the face. We have all sinned. God has a controversy with magistrates, ministers, and people; for we have all gone back from the Lord, been unthankful for, and have miserably misimproved our privileges, and opportunities of advancing the kingdom of Christ within us and without us. Let us then conclude, that God may justly deliver us up unto the multitude, the Antichristian beast.

III. If God give up his turtle unto the wild beast, the multitude of her enemies, it will be a dreadful upgiving. When God let his people fal1 into the hands of the old Babylonian beast, terrible was their case. And now the Antichristian beast, to which the malignant party lend a helping hand, is going to devour us; and if God give us up into their hand, it will be a dreadful upgiving. A Popish Pretender mounting the throne, a French army in our country, together with an army of British Papists and malignants, must needs be a thought of horror to us. It will be a dreadful upgiving. For then,

1. Religion is ruined. The Babylonian beast will make sad work of our holy religion, as Psalm 72.4-8. King James was not well warm on the throne, till by his absolute power free liberty was given to Popish idolatry through the nations. But what can we expect in the case before as, but the overturning at first dash all that we have had, yea, and the extirpation of northern heresy, as they call it; We must in that case lay our account with the silencing of ministers, silent Sabbaths, and closed church-doors, till they be opened again for the mass, or at least for the English service which yet will be but an expedient for a time to prepare us for Popery.

2. Liberty and property is ruined. We must lay our account with French government. Our all must be at the disposal of our arbitrary prince, whose will must be our law, to use us, and what is ours, according to his pleasure. We must no longer look for the liberty of free-born subjects, but must be content to be slaves: and our laws may be burnt, for all law then must be locked up in the breast of the prince. And the doctrine of passive obedience and non-resistance, that enslaving notion, must be quietly learned.

3. Ourselves and our families are ruined in our souls or bodies, or both. We must lay our account to feel the teeth of the Babylonian beast, to swim in blood to glut the scarlet coloured whore, already drunk with the blood of the saints. The Papists are a bloody generation, and we may expect to see our land filled with blood and desolation, if the Lord deliver us into the hand of the wild beast. Let us look about us, and take notice of their cruelties exercised upon the churches of Christ, to awaken us to a sense of our danger from that bloody, generation.

In the valley of Piedmont they raised a most barbarous persecution against the church, where simple death would have been a great kindness. But some were flayed alive, and some were buried alive; the mouths of some were filled with gun-powder, and then fired. They beat out the brains of some, then fried and ate them. They, ript up women, fixed them on spits, roasted them, and ate their breasts. Maids were carried by the soldiers with spits stuck up through them. Infants were taken out of their cradles, and torn to pieces. I am not speaking, my brethren, of devils, but of Papists.

In Calabria they drave them out of their houses to the woods and mountains. The aged and children that could not flee, they murdered by the way, pursuing the rest like wild beasts. Those that could recover the mountains, being on the top of rocks, besought their enemies to let them but out of the country, and they would leave them their towns and estates. But the barbarian Papists would not hearken, but still cried, Kill, kill. Eighty had their throats cut, and then they were quartered, and set upon stakes all along the way for the space of thirty miles.

In the valley of Loyse all the inhabitants, being about thirty thousand, fled, upon the approach of the Papists, to the clifts and caves of the rocks and mountains, whither their enemies pursued them, and set on fire great quantities of wood at the mouth of the caves; some were forced to leap out, and were broken to pieces falling over the precipice; the rest were stifled, among whom were four hundred infants.

In the massacre of Ireland there perished above 150,000, some say 154,000 Protestants in a few months, men, women, and children. Some they buried alive, with their heads above the ground. Others they ript up, tied the end of their guts to trees, and forced them round about till their guts were so drawn out of their bodies. Infants were held up on their swords and daggers, to sprawl there. Children were forced to murder their parents, women to hang their own husbands, and mothers to drown their own children; and when they had so far satisfied the bloody beasts, they were murdered themselves. The posterity of these murderers still subsist, and may be got over, if an occasion offer here.

But if ye will believe our Jacobites, the French are a more civil sort of Papists. O horrible civility! Are not the galleys, a civil sort of business, the breaking on the wheel, and the dragooning, all used by this present tyrant? Can we reflect without horror on their blowing up men and women with bellows till they be ready to burst, pulling off the nails of fingers and toes, sticking them with pins from head to foot, &c. beating twelve drums about the beds of the sick, &c. till they should change their religion? It is not many years since a company of these poor people being met in a barn, the barn was beset by soldiers, and set on fire; and when any put out a hand to escape, the soldiers were ready to cut it off, till they were consumed.

In the Netherlands 18,000 were dispatched. The laws of the inquisition there were, that if they recanted, women were to be buried alive, and men killed with the sword. If they would not recant, they were to be burnt. So that denying the faith will not always do with them. So in Ireland they murdered them after they had got them to abjure.

What should I speak of their cruelties? Death is terrible: but a simple death will not satisfy them, but barbarous cruelty, yea, and villainies worse than death, as binding husbands and fathers to bed posts till they abused their wives and daughters before them, which was done in the dragooning under this present tyrant in France, and in the massacre in Ireland. Now upon all this let me notice a [two]fold infatuation.

1. Are not those infatuated, who being Protestants are for bringing a Popish Pretender to the throne, or are indifferent about it? Will the laws bind him, and secure us? But had not the Protestants in France such a security, when thirty thousand of them were massacred in thirty days; and the Protestants in Ireland too. Will we bind him with terms? Had not the Suffolk men Queen Mary's promise ere she came to the throne? Had not the church of Scotland King Charles II. by solemn oath of the covenant? Will we flatter ourselves with hopes of his becoming Protestant? Is it not known that a little before his pretended father came to the crown, some were put to trouble for saying he was a Papist? Look to the flames of martyrs in England in Queen Mary's days, in whose reign, and her father's eight thousand were put to death. Let us call to mind the cruelty of our own Queen Mary, and with what satisfaction she beheld from the castle of Edinburgh the dead bodies of her Protestant subjects laid out by the French on the walls of Leith.

2. Is not our present security an infatuation? Is it not time now for sleepers to awake? Is it not time now to be stirring ourselves in our several stations for the preservation of religion, and the getting it felt in power in our own hearts? For a bare profession will expose you.

IV. Unless the Lord give up his turtle to the multitude, all their power and force shall not be able to hurt her. However we are beset with enemies this day, our God must give us up ere they can reach us. This is comfortable. Therefore let me say,

1. Let us make up our peace with Heaven: for if God be for us, who shall be against us? O that the nations were now so wise as to repent and reform, and renew their covenant with God. We would then have ground to hope, that the Lord would not give them up. But if this cannot be had, be ye so wise, each of you for yourselves, as to lay hold on the covenant and Mediator of peace, repent and reform; and let there be no standing controversy betwixt God and you, come what will.

2. Let us pray much for the church of God. In the year 1588, when the Spanish Armado set off to sink England, to ruin the Protestant religion in Britain, great was the consternation on the spirits of Protestants then; but there were wrestlers then in Scotland and England; and God armed the winds and waves against them, and made that proud monarch see that his Armado was not invincible. The outpouring of the Spirit of prayer would do more this day against our enemies than all the power of France is able to do for them.

3. Lastly, Let us encourage ourselves in the Lord: prepare for the worst, yet hope that God will plead the cause that is his own. We have a good cause, and a good God to look to, who keeps the balance in his own hand. And we have the sworn enemy of Christ, even Antichrist to oppose; and better die in Christ's cause than live on Antichrist's side; for the day is hasting on, when the Roman beast and its adherents shall get blood to drink for the blood they have shed, Rev. 19.17,18,19,20.

1. James VII, a papist, was illegally set upon the throne contrary to the Word of God and our Covenants. See "A Cloud of Witnesses" for an account of the bloody and beastly persecutions which he led against the people of God in Scotland until the revolution.—JTK.