The Doctrine of Fasting and Prayer and Humiliation for Sin - by Arthur Hildersham (1563-1632)Articles on the Christian Walk, Systematic Theology and Practical Theology
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The Doctrine of Fasting and Prayer and Humiliation for Sin – by Arthur Hildersham (1563-1632)
THE DOCTRINE OF FASTING AND PRAIER, AND Humiliation for Sinne. DELIVERED In sundry Sermons at the Fast appointed by publique authority, in the yeere 1625.
By that Late Faithfull and Worthy Minister of Iesus Christ.
LONDON, Printed by George Miller, for Edward Brewster, and are to be sold at his shop at the great North-doore of S. Pauls at the signe of the Bible. 1633.
THE CONTENTS OF these Sermons.
Doctrine: God’s people ought to take to heart the miseries, and calamities of others; the judgements of God, that are executed upon others.
In respect had. •
- To them that are afflicted. 3
- To the Lord. 4
- To our selves. •
To exhort us to take to heart, gods judgments upon our brethren, visi∣ted with the pestilence. 8
- It is a fearefull judgement, and their case is lamentable. 9
- None of us can tell how farre it may goe, how neere it may come to us. 11
- If this bee neglected by us, it will prove but a forerunner of some more fearefull judgment. 14
- To exhort us to make right use of it. 15
- By examining our owne hearts, whether those sinnes be in us, that are the speciall causes of the Plague. 21
- By taking the right course, speedily to make our peace with God. 21
- By increasing our care to reforme our families. 23
- By being more mercifull to them in distresse. 25
A chiefe duty we are to performe to them in misery, is to pray for them. Pag. 27.
This duty is to be performed.
- Whereby we doe expresse our love to any and whereby wee may doe them good. 27
- For all that are in misery. 27
- Specially for Gods people. 28
- In an extraordinary manner, when their misery is extraordi∣nary. 28
- Publiquely and generally, when the calamitie is common, and generall. 29
- The Lord is he onely that both inflicteth the judgment, and is able to remove it. 30
- He commandes, desires, and lookes for this duty of us, in this case. 31
- There is great power, and force in this, to relieve our afflicted bre¦thren. 31
- To teach us what account is to be made of such as are true Israelites indeed, gracious and mighty with God in prayer. 33
- To reprove such as
- Either cannot pray, or 35
- D•e not use to pray, or 36
- Will not pray. 37
- To examine our prayers, and inquire how they have proved, and what the causes have beene, why they have proved noe better, and these are 5. principally. 39
David did not onely pray for his enemies when they were in misery, but he did it in an extraordinary manner. For his help in this prayer, he clothed himselfe with sackcloth. This was used much then in this case, yet not as a religious, but civill ceremony, which we now are not bound to. 4•. 50
In the dayes of humiliation (besides fervent prayer, and the afflicting of our soules) certaine outward and bodily exercises, are to be used by Gods people; viz. Certaine things are to bee done and perfer∣med, as 51
- Reading, and preaching of the Word. 52
- Singing of psalmes. 53
- Almesdeeds. 53
- Censuring and reforming of grosse sinnes: 53
Certaine things also are to be forborne, in the day of our humiliation, for our better helpe in this duty.
- All manner of meate and drinke. 55
- All costlinesse, and neatenesse in apparell. 55
- Delights of all sortes. 56
- All workes of our calling. And in these 4. points, this abstinence is to be used for a whole day▪ 56
- Yea some abatement there must bee also in our naturall rest, and sleepe, upon this day. 57
Yet are there 3. Cautions to be observed touching this abstinence.
- Outward abstinence is not the chief part of a true fast not the chiefe helpe to our prayers in it. 58
- The outward signes and helpes to humiliation must bee increased, according to the increase, and urgency of the cause thereof. 58
- The Law of outward abstinence in the dayes of humiliation must give place to the necessity and conveniency of man. 59
This abstinence is necessary in the dayes of humiliation. 61
- To helpe forward the inward humiliation of the heart. 61
- To helpe forward the fervency of the heart in prayer. 62
- To professe, and make outward protestation both of our submission to God, and of our repentance and desire to bee reconciled unto him. 62
- To teach us how to keepe our Fasts in the right manner. 64
- To exhort us to conscience and care in all these particular outward, and bodily duties, yet not resting in them, but referring them to the right ends. 65
- To reprove sundry abuses which are chiefe causes of the ill successe of our Fasts. 66
DAvid afflicted his soule in his fast; And what the meaning of the phrase is. 70
The chiefe use of a religious fast is to humble, and afflict the Soule, with sorrow, and griefe; And the chiefe thing that makes 〈◊〉 pray∣ers powerfull with God, at our fasts, or any other time, when they proceed from humbled and afflicted soules. Yet every sorrow, in this 〈1 page duplicate〉〈1 page duplicate〉 case pleaseth not God. 72
Of that sorrow Gods people have expressed at their fasts, &c. And with which God hath beene so much pleased. 75
- The fellow feeling of the miseries of others. 76
- When the Lord, either by his judgements or threatnings hath de∣clared himselfe angry with them. 77
- When they have seene God dishonored by the sinnes of others. 78
4 When themselves have offended, and dishonoured God by their own sinnes. 79
Why the Lord so much desires, and delights to see his people humble themselves with sorrow, and afflict their soules. 80
- The cause and roote from whence this sorrow springs. 80
- The end and effect that it tendes unto. For first, It makes the soule more capable of every grace, and fit to receive it. 80
Secondly, It workes repentance unto salvation. 81•
Thirdly, It makes the Word, and Christ and all Gods mercies sweeter unto us. 81
Fourthly, It makes us pray more fervently. 82
Fiftly, It makes us fitter to converse, and walke with God. 82
- Vse of the former doctrine is to exhort us to strive for this grace of godly sorrow, and to be able to afflict our owne soules as Da∣vid did. 85
Motives to provoke us unto this.
- The example of Gods best servants. 86
- The promises God hath made unto this grace. 91
- THis is the best way to prevent the Lord from humbling, and af∣flicting of our soules with his hand. 99
Meanes to attaine to this grace of godly sorrow, where in we are.
To use the helpe of others.
- A conscionable frequenting of the ministery of the Word. 102
- A willingnesse to bee privately admonished, and reproved by some faithfull friend. 106
THe meanes to attaine to godly sorrow, and tendernesse of heart, wherin we are to be principall agents our selves (for we may do much in this worke our selves) are these. 110
- We must make choise of a fit time, to goe about this worke. 111
- We must separate our selves from company, and make choise of a fit place to doe it. 118
- We must seriously, and impartially, examine our owne hearts. 119
- We must cry earnestly to God to helpe us in this worke, to blesse our indeavours in it. 128
NEcessary to have notes, and signes given us, whereby sincere, and saving sorrow for sinne may be discerned. 130
- He that is truly humbled, mournes more for the evill of sinne, then for the evill of punishment. 133
- He mournes for sinne, not so much in respect to himselfe as unto God, because he is offended and dishonoured by his sinne. 137
And 3. notes to try whether a man doth so. 141. 142
THE AVTHOVRS Prayer, before his Lecture.
THy Word (O Lord) is holy and pure, as is thine owne Majesty, and being sincerely preached, worketh either to the salvation or condemnation of the hearers. And we all that are heere assembled before thee at this time, are of uncircumcised hearts and eares: utterly unworthy by reason of that sinne, wherein we were conceived and borne; and of those actuall transgressions that wee have multiplyed a∣gainst thy Majesty, in thought, word and deed, from our first being, untill this present houre; once to set foot into thy Temple or to heare thy Word at all▪ Vt∣terly unfit and unable by reason of our custome in sinne, and the hardnesse of our hearts to profit by it, when as we heare it. So that (Lord) we are at this time in danger, to be unprofitable hearers of thy holy Word, and by being unprofitable bearers of the same, we are in danger of thy heavy displeasure. Yet for∣asmuch as it hath pleased thee in mercy to command us this exercise, to appoint it to be the onely ordina∣ry meanes, whereby thou wilt worke Faith and repentance in thy children, and the principall meanes whereby thou wilt increase them, to promise also graciously that thou wilt accompany the outward ministery of thy Word, with the inward grace and blessing of thy Spirit, in the hearts of them that shall be reverently and faithfully exercised in the same: We therefore in humble obedience, to this thy holy commandement, and in full affiance and confidence in this thy gracious promise, are bold to present our selves before thee at this time: Beseeching thee in thy sonnes blood to wash away all our si••es, so as they may never bee laid to our charge againe, either in the world to come to our condemnation, or at this time to bring a curse upon this our exercise. Good Lord so sprinckle that blood of thy Sonne upon our consciences, that we may be assured of thy love and favour towards us in him. By it sanctify us at this time, and thy word to our uses, opening and enlight∣ning our understanding so as we may be able to un∣derstand and conceave of thy word aright, strenghte∣ning our memories so as we may bee able to remem∣ber it, softning our hard and stony hearts, so as wee may be able to beleeve it, to yeeld unto it, to apply it to our owne soules, to meditate and conferre there∣upon, to practise it in our lives, and conversations, to stirre up one another to the obedience thereof. That this our exercise may tend to the increase of our knowledge, and of our obedience, of our Faith, and of repentance, the glory of thy blessed name, and the everlasting comfort of our owne soules: Heare us (O Lord) in these our requests, in what else soever thou knowest good for us, or any of thy Church: for Iesus Christ his sake our Lord and only Saviour. In whose name wee continue our prayers unto thee, as he himselfe hath taught us, Saying,
Our Father which art in Heaven, &c.
AVGVST III. MDCXXV.
PSAL. 35. 13.
But as for me, when they were sicke, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my selfe with fasting: and my prayer returned into mine owne bosome.
NOt to take up time in speak∣ing of the former part of this Psalme: these words have this coherence, and dependance on that which went before.
David (as a type of CHRIST) having many mortall enemies, doth in this Psalme (by a Prophe∣ticall spirit) pray against them, or rather foretell what should befall them. In this Verse and the for∣mer (to shew what cause he had to do so) he aggra∣vateth their sin by their unthankfulnesse, in dealing so badly with him, that had deserved so well of them.
The parts of this Verse are two: viz. a professi∣on of 1. The kindnes he shewed to these men: wherin ob∣serve, the Time when he did it, and the occasion he tooke to doe it, When they were sicke.
Dutie wherby he expressed his love; he prayed for them; wch is amplifi∣ed by the extraordi∣nary man∣ner of it; set forth by the Out∣ward helpes he used in it, Sack∣cloth.
Inward dis∣position of his mind in it: he humbled, or afflicted his soule.
- The successe and comfort he found in it.
Observe first Davids practise;* he was wont when these men were sicke to be affected with their mise∣ry: which teacheth us, that,
GODS people ought to take to heart the miseries and* calamities of others, the judgements of GOD that do be∣fall others.
Se• for proofe of this, both the examples of his servants, and then GODS commandement also.
When Eliphaz,*Bildad, and Zophar heard of Iobs misery, they came to mourne with him, Iob 2. 11. But he was a rare man for piety and authority also, (you will say:) see therefore another example of this duty performed towards them that were not so: Did not I weepe for him that was in trouble? (saith Iob, Chap. 30. 25.) was not my soule grieved for the poore? Yea, see an example of this towards most wicked men, Iudg. 21. 2. The people of Israel came to the house of GOD (as we do now) to professe their sorrow for the extreme misery that the wicked Benjamites were most justly fallen into.
Yea we are straityly charged by the LORD to do so,* to remember and thinke of them, as if their case were our owne, Remember them that are in bonds, (saith the Apostle, Heb. 13. 3.) as bound with them: and them that are in adversity, as being your selves also in the body. Yea to do it with hearty commiseration, Rom. 12. 15. Weepe with them that weepe. Yea (if the judge∣ment be famous and exemplary) we are comman∣ded also to make publique and solemne profession (as we do at this day) that we are affected with their misery, Levit. 10. 6. Let your brethren the whole house of Israel bewaile the burning which the LORD hath kindled.
Three speciall reasons and grounds there be for this Doctrine: for we should take to heart the mi∣series and calamities of others.
First, In respect had to them that are afflicted.* For, admit they were not our fellow-members in CHRIST, nor our kindred or acquaintance, nor our country-men; admit they were meere strangers to us, admit they were all most wicked men, yet nature binds us to be affected with their miseries, because they are our owne flesh: Esa. 58. 7. Hide not thy selfe from thine owne flesh. And he that hath not humani∣ty and naturall affection in him, certainly hath no grace, but is given up to areprobate mind, as the A∣postle teacheth us, Rom. 1. 31. Yea it is an argument of a cruell heart to be void of naturall commiserati∣on, and carelesse of other men, whether they sinke or swim. In this Cain first bewrayed his murderous heart when he said of his brother, Gen. 4. 9. Am I my brothers keeper? And so did the chiefe Priests and Elders, when (hearing Iudas cry out of himselfe for his sinne, and beholding him in the pangs of despe∣ration) they said unto him, What is that to us? see thou to that.
Secondly,* In respect had unto the LORD, who by these judgements executed upon others, doth manifest from heaven, that His wrath is kindled, that He is in a fury. So that not to be affected with His judgements executed upon others, is a double contempt done to the LORD Himselfe.
- In that we are not moved, nor tremble to see Him angry, Amos 3. 8. The Lion hath roared, who will not feare? It is hard to find a man so stout and coura∣gious, (shall I say?) nay so senslesse or prophane, that trembleth not sometimes at the fearefull thunder∣claps and lightnings, because GOD therein mani∣festeth His glorious power; and because that though He strike not many with them usually, yet some He doth; but there is much more cause to tremble, and be affected with His generall and extraordinary judgements upon others; for, thereby He doth not onely manifest His glorious power, but His reven∣ging justice also, and anger against sin; which is much more terrible than the other. See a proofe of this, Ezek. 32. 10. The Kings of the nations shalbe horribly af∣fraid for thee, when I shall brandish my sword before them, and they shall tremble at every moment; every man for his owne life, in the day of thy fall. The Heathen (that had no goodnesse in them at all) when they should behold how terrible GOD was in His judgements upon His owne people, should be in continuall feare that He would destroy them also. As the scholler that is himselfe faulty, and obnoxious to the rod, when he seeth his master in a fury against any of his fellowes, cannot chuse but tremble, unlesse he be desperate. This made the Prophet (when GOD had in a vision manifested to him His glory, Esa. 6. 45. when he saw the posts of the temple doore moved at the voice of the Angel that cryed, and the house filled with smoke) to cry out (from the very consciousnesse of his owne sinfulnesse and deserts) Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of uncleane lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of uncleane lips, for mine eyes have seene the King, the LORD of Hosts.
- There is in this another contempt also done unto GOD; because GOD never smites some, but to warne all, what is due to them, and what they must looke for, unlesse they repent. Even those ex∣ecutions which the Magistrate doth by GODS ap∣pointment upon foule offenders, are done chiefly to warne others, Deut. 13. 11. All Israel shall heare, and feare, and shall do no more any such wickednesse as this is, amongst you. But much more those judgements, which the LORD Himselfe hath executed upon a∣ny, (either immediately, or by His destroying An∣gels) 〈1 page duplicate〉〈1 page duplicate〉 are intended chiefly, for the instruction, and warning of others. The righteous shall see and feare, saith David, Psal. 52. 6. The LORD consumed the Sodomites in that fearefull manner to make them an example to those that after should live ungodlily, 2 Pet. 2. 6. And the earth swallowed up Corah, Dathan, and Abiram, not onely out of that respect GOD had to the glory of His owne justice, in taking vengeance on them for all their sinnes, but that they might be∣come a signe unto others, as the HOLY GHOST saith expresly, Num. 26. 10. Every judgement of GOD hath a voice, and is a reall Sermon of repentance: and the more generall and extraordinary the judge∣ment is, by so much the lowder, and more audible voice it hath: and it is therefore a contempt done to GOD, when we regard it not, nor hearken unto it, Mica 6. 9. Heare the rod, and who hath appointed it.
The third and last reason and ground of the Do∣ctrine, is,* in respect had to our selves. For there is no judgement executed upon others, (specially if it be any whit publike and generall, and more than or∣dinary) but we all are to take our selves interessed in it: yea to have had a hand in provoking the LORD unto it. For, as sinne is the cause of all GODS judge∣ments that come upon a land, so we must not judge them the greatest sinners alwayes upon whom they light. Those eighteene upon whom the tower of Silo fell, thinke ye (saith our Saviour, Luke 13. 4, 5.) that they were sinners above all that dwelt in Hierusalem? I tell you nay. Neither must we thinke, that the sinnes of those whom GOD smites with His judgements, are the only cause of the judgements, or that He is angry with them only; but know, that He is aswel angry oft times with those that He spares, as with those whom he smites: and the sins of those whom he spares, have oft a stronger hand in plucking down the judgement, than the sinnes of those whom He smites have had. Two notable examples we have for this in the time of David. It was a fearefull judgement that GOD executed upon Vzza, 1 Chron. 13. 10. The anger of the LORD was kindled against Vzza, and He smote him, be∣cause he put his hand to the arke• and it is said, Verse 12. that the judgement upon Vzza much affected David, and made his heart quake. And why so? Surely, because he knew, that GOD was not angry with Vzza onely, but with the whole congregati∣on. The LORD our GOD (saith David, 1 Chron. 15. 13.) made a breach upon us, for that we sought Him not after the due order. He knew that the sinnes of the Priests, and others that were spared, provoked GOD to that judgement, more than Vzza’s did; as appeares in the beginning of that Verse. For, because ye did it not at the first, the LORD our GOD, &c. The second example is, 2 Sam. 24. It was a fearefull judgement that is mentioned in the fifteenth Verse, When by a pestilence that the LORD sent upon Israel, in three dayes there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men: and they that were slaine, had (doubtlesse) sinne enough in themselves to deserve it: but was their sinne the onely or the chiefe cause of that judgement? no certainly; the sinne of those that were spared was the chiefe cause of it, as David confesseth Vers. 17. Loe l have sinned, and have done wickedly, but these sheepe what have they done? He knew well that (not the sinnes of those that perished in that grievous plague, but) his owne sinnes had a chiefe hand, in provoking GOD unto that judgement. So that we see that there is no one man amongst us all, that hath not just reason to be affected with GODS judgements upon the Land, though himselfe be spared, seeing that he is a cause of it, as well as they that are smitten, and (it may be) as great a cause as they, nay, (it may be) a greater cause than any of them were.
And this was that that made good Nehemiah cry thus in his prayer unto GOD, Neh. 1. 6. Both I and my fathers house have sinned. As if he had said, that Ierusalem prospers no better, I and my fathers house are as great a cause as any other.
We have heard the Doctrine which this example of David teacheth us, delivered and confirmed in a generall manner; let us now come to make use of it, and to apply it to our owne case, and to the occasion of our meeting at this time.
This Doctrine therefore serveth to exhort us un∣to two duties. 1. That we would labour to take to heart, and to be rightly affected with this judge∣ment of GOD that is now upon London, and sundry other parts of the Kingdome. 2. That when we are rightly affected with it, we would make right use of it to our selves.
For the first.* You will say it is a needlesse exhor∣tation: for,* who is not affected with this plague? who is not affraid of it? and wherefore come we hither els, if we be not affected with it?
I answer.* That none of us (I feare) are sufficiently affected with it; and that this is the fountaine and foundation of all good uses we can make of it, either for their benefit that are visited with it, or for our selves, that we would labour to be affected with this judgement of GOD, as we ought to be. I will therefore shew you what just causes we have to be deeply affected with this judgement. And they are principally three.
First, In respect of the grievousnesse of the judgement it selfe. For, wee shall finde this cal∣led one of GODS sore judgements, Ezek. 14. 21. And when the LORD threatens that Hee Him∣selfe would fight against Ierusalem with an out∣stretched hand, and a strong arme, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath, Ier. 21. 5. He tels them in the next Verse, how He would do this, He would smite the city with a great pestilence. Certainly the LORD therefore now fights against our Land, yea He fight∣eth against it in fury, and in great wrath. Observe foure things in this judgement.
- What a waster it is, Psal. 91. 6. it is called the destruction that wasteth at noone-day. In a short time, even in three dayes it consumed seventy thousand in Israel, 2 Sam. 24. 15. A grievous judgement it must needs be, when GOD Himselfe matcheth a pesti∣lence of three dayes continuance (as a thing of equall force to afflict, and destroy) with a famine of seven yeares, and with flying by the space of three moneths before their enemies that pursued them: as we know He doth, 2 Sam. 24. 13. And hath not the pestilence that GOD hath now sent into our Land, proved a terrible waster, when in one weeke in one City it hath swept away three thousand, five hun∣dred, eighty two?
- Consider how suddenly it takes them away that have beene smitten with it: many that were well in the morning have beene dead of it before night: it is therefore called the LORDS arrow, Psal. 91. 5. It strikes and pierceth men suddenly with a deadly wound: and Vers. 6. it is said to walke in darknesse. And certainly, sudden death (though it be not absolutely to be prayed against, yet it) is to be esteemed a temporall judgement, and a signe of GODS anger. Let destruction come upon him at una∣wares, saith the Prophet here, Vers. 8. It must needs add much to the bitternesse of death, when it comes so suddenly, that a man can neither commend him∣selfe to GOD, nor set things in order for the world before he die.
- Consider, it is such a judgement as oft makes men destroyers of them whom they most love, and desire to keepe alive: the father setting at unawares the infection upon the child, the husband on the wife, a man on his dearest friend. A great cause of humbling it is, for a man to have killed any other man at unawares, as you may see by that law, Numb. 35. 28. and what is it then to have killed them that are dearest to them?
- It is such a sicknesse as doth (usually) debarre men of many comforts, that other sicke persons do enjoy. First, many that are visited with this sick∣nesse, do want convenient attendance and lodging, dying in the streets and high-wayes▪ of whom that may be said, Esa. 51. 20. Thy sonnes have fainted, they lie at the head of all streets, the fury of the LORD, the rebuke of thy GOD. Secondly, their friends dare not visit them; which, as it is a worke of mercy, so it is a great meanes of comfort to the afflicted, and such as CHRIST hath en∣joyned us, Mat. 25. 36. 3. Whereas none have so much need of spirituall comfort as they, because the very disease makes them more subject to terrors and feares than others, (and is therefore called the terrour by night, Psal. 91. 5.) they (poore wretches) can have none to comfort them, but may in anguish of soule cry out, Lam. 1. 16. The comforter that should relieve my soule is farre from me. So that in respect of this first consideration, the grievousnesse of the judgement it selfe, they may cry to us all, and to all GODS people throughout the Land, as Lam. 1. 12. Is it nothing to you all ye that passe by? Behold and see, if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, wherewith the LORD hath afflicted me in the day of His anger. And will you not be affected with it?
Secondly, if this will not serve, come to a second cause we have, to be deeply affected with it: because none of us can tell how farre it may go; how neare it may come to our owne dwellings. In which re∣spect, though we may say as Namb. 16. 46. we are sure wrath is gone out from the LORD, the plague is be∣gun, yet as the Psalmist saith, Psal. 74. 9. There is not amongst us any that knoweth how long it will last, or how farre it will spread.
Let no man say, I am farre enough from London; I dwell in a good ayre, and we have taken good or∣der to prevent all danger of this infectio•s disease; no carriers shall come from thence to us, no Lon∣doners shall lodge amongst us. These are good meanes, I will not deny, (if they be used with that compassion that becomes Christians to shew unto them in misery) and must not be neglected. But all these cannot secure us from the plague; if we do not first make our peace with GOD, all these are in vaine. If we beare in our bosome the cause of the plague, if we nourish and increase it daily, (I meane our sinnes) we cannot be sure to keepe it from our townes and houses, do what we can. Know thou for a surety it is GOD that sends the pestilence, as He saith, 2 Chron. 7. 13. In this judgement (above o∣thers) we are said to fall into the LORDS hands, as David speaketh, 2 Sam. 24. 14. And as He sends it, so He onely guides it whither it shall go, and whither it shall not go; whom it shall smite, and whom it shall spare. And though He do usually send it by outward and ordinary meanes, yet alwayes He doth not so. Some that live in the thickest of them that are infected, and in a most corrupt aire, do es∣cape; some that flie from the places infected into the purest aire, are infected, they know not how. How many Physitians, and Chyrurgions, and nur∣ses, and keepers that have beene wont to visit the infected, to sweat them, to dresse their sores, to wash their linnen; yea, how many that have daily conversed with them, and lyen in bed with them al∣so, have beene knowne to have escaped the infection altogether? Whereas many that have beene most carefull to keepe themselves from all that have been infected, and to use all good preservatives against the contagion, have beene taken by it. No man may ar∣gue from hence (as some foolishly have done) that this disease is not in it owne nature more infectious than other diseases are. No more than (from this that the three noble Iewes that were cast into Nebu∣chadnezzars furnace, received no hurt at all by it, Dan. 3. 27. and that oft times one house in a street, or roome in a house escape burning, in the greatest fires that have beene heard of) a man may conclude that fire is not in it selfe of a burning and consuming nature. But in this, as in the other; the finger and power of GOD is to be acknowledged in restrain∣ing, and setting bonds to this heavy judgement, as pleaseth Him. And this the LORD (doubtlesse) doth, to hearten and encourage them that are whole, to performe all necessary duties of mercy and love to them that are sicke. And as the LORD can thus limit the plague of pestilence; so can He (if He please) command it to go through our whole Land before it cease, as He did through the land of Israel, 2 Sam. 24. 15. from Dan to Beersheba. Though we flie from it, He can follow and pursue us with it (as He hath done many, and threatneth) I will persecute (and follow them) with the pestilence, saith He, Ier. 29. 18. Though we shut our doores against it, He can make it come in at our windowes, as they complaine, Ier. 9. 21. Death is come up to our windowes, and is entred into our palaces. Let no man thinke he can be sure to avoid this judgement by flying from it, if he be not carefull to remove the cause of it, and to make his peace with GOD. Do therefore (before it come nearer to thee) as the LORD Himselfe coun∣selleth thee, Amos 4. 12. Prepare to meet thy GOD. And because thou canst have no assurance in thy selfe that thou shalt be able to avoid the danger of the in∣dignation of this King that comes against thee (for ought thou knowest) with so great a power, learne that wisdome that our Saviour directeth thee unto, Luke 14. 32. While He is yet a great way off, send an am∣bassage, and desire conditions of peacewith Him. If thou wouldst be free from the feare of the plague, feare GOD aright. Be not afraid (saith the Prophet, Esa. 8. 12, 13.) sanctifie the LORD of hosts Himselfe, and let Him be your feare, and let Him be your dread. If we could feare the LORD as we ought, we should not need to feare any thing els in the world. Be sure to make thy peace with Him; which, how thou mayest doe, I will tell thee by and by.
Thirdly and lastly, (to cause us to take to heart, and to be affected with this fearefull plague) consi∣der, that if this judgement be neglected, (as great as it is) it wilbe but a fore-runner of some more feare∣full judgement than this is. And as our Saviour speaketh in another case, Matth. 24. 8. this wilbe but the beginning of our sorrowes. There is a judge∣ment (that this nation hath hitherto beene preserved from, to the astonishment and admiration of all the world) that is greater than this; for, it useth to bring this, and the famine also with it, I meane warre. The sword of our bloudy and mercilesse enemies is worse than the plague. This is plaine by Davids choice, 2 Sam. 24. 14. Let us fall now into the hand of the LORD, (for His mercies are great) and let me not fall into the handof man. And surely we have cause to feare, that if this will do us no good, GOD cannot endure to have His judgements despised. Heare what He saith, Levit. 26. 18. If you will not for all this hearken unto Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sinnes▪ And certainly, I may say to all you that heare me this day, if you regard not, nor profit by this fearfull plague you heare of in London, and in other parts of the Land, GOD will either bring it home to you, or a worse plague than it, Luke 13. 3. Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
The second duty that this Doctrine serveth to exhort us to, is, that we would make right use of this judgement of GOD that is upon the Land, unto our selves. And that standeth in foure points.
First, seeing 1. GOD gives us in this judgement such cause of sorrow, seeing He is angry: and 2 not with the Londoners onely, but with us, with the whole Land: and 3. it may be more with us, than with them: and 4. seeing we know not how soon this fire that burnes our neighbours house, may light upon ours: We must therfore examine every one of us our own wayes. This direction is given us, Lam. 3. 39. 40. Wherefore doth a living man complaine; a man for the punishment of his sinnes? As if the Church there should say, why do men mourne, and fret, and take on so for this judgement of GOD that is justly fallen upon them? Why do they not betake them∣selves to the right course for the pacifying of GODS wrath? Which is this, and this onely, Let us search and try our wayes, and turne againe to the LORD. Every one of us should say thus within himselfe, surely the LORD is very angry with the whole Land, with every one of us; and what have I done to anger the LORD thus, to provoke Him to this wrath? Ier. 8. 6, 7. The LORD chargeth the Iewes that they did not know His judgement, be∣cause no man said, what have I done? And so surely will He judge of us. We know not the meaning of the plague, nor make right use of it, unlesse every one of us enter into his owne heart, a•d say, what have I done? To this end it wilbe profitable for us to search the Scriptures, and find out what were the speciall sinnes which either have brought the pesti∣lence upon GODS people in former times, or which the LORD hath threatned to punish in this manner, and with this judgement. For the first, I find five great plagues of pestilence recorded in the holy Scriptures, and the speciall sinnes that were the causes of them, are also plainly set downe. The first great plague we read of, was that which is spo∣ken of, Numb. 11. 33. The wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague. And what was the cause of that plague? Surely their murmuring and discontentment at their present condition, their un∣thankfulnesse to the LORD, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, Vers. 20. their loath∣ing of Manna, Verse 6. (which the Prophet for the excellency thereof calleth Angles food, Psal. 78. 25. and the corne and bread of heaven, Psal. 78. 24. 105. 40.) their lusting after the flesh-pots of Egypt, and longing to be there againe, Numb. 11. 45. Exod. 16. 3. Secondly, Another we find mentioned, Numb. 14. where, although the LORD was stayed by the prayer of Moses from smiting the whole congrega∣tion with the pestilence, and from dis-inheriting them, as He threatned to do, Vers. 6. yet often of those men that were sent to search out the Land, it is said Vers. 37. that they died of the plague before the LORD. And the cause of this is said to be, Verse 36, 37. that they did bring up a slander and evil report upon the promised Land, and thereby made all the congregation to murmure against Moses, who had spoken so much good of it. Thirdly, Another great plague, Moses hath set downe the story of, Numb. 16. 49. wherein there died foureteene thousand and seven hundred; and yet then so soone as wrath was gone out from the LORD: so soone as the plague was begun, as we read, Vers. 46,—48. Aaron (the true •ype of our onely High Priest, and effectuall Intercessour for us unto GOD) went with his incense, and stood betweene the dead and the living, and made an attone∣ment for the people, and so the plague was stayed. How fearefull a pestilence would that have beene, if it had continued any time, if it had not been presently stay∣ed? And the sin that provoked GOD to send this pe∣stilence among His people, we find to have been their murmuring and rebelling against Moses and Aaron the Ministers and servants of the LORD; as it is plain by the 41 and 42 Verses of that Chapter. Fourthly, The fourth memorable pestilence that we read of, is that which is recorded, Num. 25. of which there fell in one day (as the Apostle saith, 1 Cor. 10. 8.) three and twenty thousand. Moses in setting down that story saith Numb. 25. 9. those that died in the plague were twenty and foure thousand; putting all together in that summe, that perished at that time, and for that sinne; as well those whom himselfe and the judges had put to death according to the commandment of GOD, Vers. 4, 5. (which may seeme to have beene in num∣ber about a thousand) as those that perished by that plague which the LORD (in His fierce anger, as it is said Vers. 4.) did send amongst them, which were the three and twenty thousand that the Apostle speaketh of. For that most of them that then perish∣ed, died of an extraordinary pestilence, (and not all by the sword of the Magistrate, as some learned men judge) may appeare by that which the HOLY GHOST speaketh of it in other places, as Numb. 31. 16. There was a plague among the Congregation of the LORD; and Iosh. 22. 17. where the very same words are used by Phinehas, who had a chiefe hand in the staying of it; and Psal. 106. 29, 30. The plague brake in upon them, then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgement, and so the plague was stayed. And what was the cause of this strange and fearefull pestilence that consumed in one day three and twenty thou∣sand? Surely it was whoredome, as both Moses Numb. 25. 1, 6. and the Apostle, 1 Cor. 10. 8. do ex∣presly teach us. Fiftly, the fift and last plague we read of in holy Scripture was in Davids time, the story whereof is set downe, 2 Sam. 24. 15. this went thorough all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba in three dayes, and consumed in so short a time no lesse than seventy thousand men. And the cause of this plague was the pride of Davids heart, and the confidence he reposed in his owne strength, and in the outward meanes he had to defend himselfe by, and to pro∣vide for his owne safety. And besides these five great plagues, I find also mention made of another dangerous and strange sicknesse wherewithall the LORD in his just judgement did smite and afflict his people in the Church of Corinth; which, though I cannot certainly say it was the pestilence, (be∣cause the text doth not expresly say so) yet I may boldly say, it was an epidemicall disease, and grie∣vous mortality, most likely to be it. Many are weake and sicke among you, (saith the Apostle, 1 Cor. 11. 30.) and many sleepe, that is, die of it. And the cause of this sicknesse and mortality the Apostle tels us, was this, that they came carelesly, unreverently, and with∣out due preparation unto the holy Sacrament.
Thus you see what sinnes have brought the plague upon men in former times, yea upon such as have beene GODS people by profession, aswell as we. And, This happened unto them for ensample (as the Apostle speaketh, 1 Cor. 10. 11.) and all the seen▪ samples are written and recorded in Scripture of purpose for our admonition.
And although we read of no plagues that are re∣corded in the holy Scriptures, but those that I have mentioned, and for those sinnes; yet find we di∣verse other sinnes also which GOD hath threatned to punish this way. GODS people were afraid that He would fall upon them, and consume them with the pe∣stilence, (as we read, Exod. 5. 3.) even for their neg∣ligence of His solemne worship and service; though they were then in Egypt where they could not per∣forme it without extreme danger. And because Pharaoh had despised and hardened his heart against former and smaller judgements, the LORD threat∣neth (Exod. 9. 15.) to smite him and his people with the pestilence. To conclude, the LORD did by His Prophet Ieremiah 21. 5, 6. threaten in anger, and fury, and in great wrath to smite the inhabitants of Ierusalem both man and beast, and that they should die of a very great pestilence; because they stood out in rebellion against the King of Babylon, and refused to yeeld unto him as GOD had commanded them: whereby it appeareth, that an obstinate refusing to obey the Word and commandment of GOD in any thing, though it be such, as may be coloured with the best pretences, will provoke Him to punish men this way.
So then (to apply all this unto our selves) seeing it is* evident that we and our nation are guilty of all these sinnes, for every one of which, we find in the Word, that GOD hath brought and threatned to bring this judgement upon His people in former times; seeing we have beene 1. most unthankfull unto GOD for our deliverance out of that spirituall Egypt, and house of bondage wherein our fore-fathers lived: and have shewed too much desire to returne thither againe; and have loathed so long the heavenly food of the Gospell of CHRIST more than ever they did that Manna; and 2. have brought up and en∣tertained a most slanderous and evill report of the promised Land, and of that strait way that leads un∣to it; speaking evill of and scorning the life and power of godlinesse, and discouraging others from it; murmuring against, and hating (to the death) such of GODS servants, as either by doctrine, or example, do presse and provoke us unto it; and 3 are so ready (upon every occasion) to murmure and re∣bell against the servants and Ministers of the LORD; content (indeed) to give them the hearing, but apt to tell them (if they shall deale particularly and roundly with us, and require of us obedience to the truth, and practise of that that we heare and professe) that they take too much upon them; seeing 4. whoredome doth every where so increase and a∣bound in our Land; and 5. we are every whit as proud of our owne strength, and as apt to put trust in the arme of flesh, as David was; and 6. the ho∣ly Sacrament is (in all places) so commonly propha∣ned, and those holy things given to and received (without difference) by such dogs and swine as have no care at all d•ly to prepare themselves thereunto; seeing 7. the publique and solemne worship of GOD is every where so much neglected; and 8 we have so hardened our hearts against, and profited so little by many other judgements, whereby the LORD hath witnessed His wrath from heaven a∣gainst us, and sought to bring us unto repentance; and 9. we do continually (with so great obstina∣cy) refuse to yeeld obedience to many of the expresse commandements of GOD.
Seeing (I say) we are guilty of all these sinnes that are the proper causes of this judgement, let us there∣fore impute this fearefull plague whereby GOD •ath smitten the chiefe City, and many other parts of our Land, unto these our sinnes; and justifie the LORD in this judgement, the causes whereof are so evidently to be found amongst us: yea let us all feare, that He will execute His fierce wrath upon us in the same manner, except we repent us of, and forsake these sinnes. And this is the first way where∣by we must make right use unto our selves of this heavy judgement of GOD that is upon the Land.
The second is this, that seeing the LORD doth thus declare and proclaime that His anger and fury is kindled and inflamed against us all, it behooves us (without delay) by all meanes to make our peace with GOD, and to seeke reconciliation with Him. Acquaint thy selfe now with Him (saith Eliphaz to Iob. Chap. 22. 21.) and make peace with Him, thereby good shall come unto thee. This, and this onely is the way unto true safety and comfort. And marke that he adviseth him to do it now. Now is the time to do it, if ever we will do it, now that His hand is so stretched out against us. And we are strangely hardned in our sins, if (howsoever we have wretchedly neglected it hitherto) we will do it now. If any shall aske me what must I doe, and what course must I take to make my peace with GOD?
I answer briefly and plainly, that there be three things thou must do, if thou wouldest obtaine peace with GOD: and if thou canst do these three things, thou needest not doubt to obtaine it.
- Thou must freely, and fully, and particularly confesse thy sinnes unto GOD, even those sinnes which I have shewed to be the chiefe causes of this judgement. I said (saith David, Psal. 32. 5.) I will con∣fesse my transgressions unto the LORD, and thou forga∣vest the iniquity of my sinne.
- Thou must unfainedly and fully resolve with thy selfe to cast off and forsake these and all other thy sinnes, Prov. 28. 13. Who so confesseth and forsaketh his sinne, shall find mercy. Though thou canst not quite leave them (as who can do that in this life?) yet if thou canst unfainedly and without dissimulation de∣sire, and purpose, and resolve with thy selfe to leave them all, begging strength of GOD, that thou mayst be made able to do it, then hast thou forsaken them in GODS account; and they shall not hinder thy peace and reconciliation with GOD. In this Da∣vid tooke comfort. I am purposed, (saith he, Psal. 17. 3.) that my mouth shall not transgresse: and Psal. 39. 1. I said (I fully resolved and determined with my selfe) I will take heed to my wayes.
- And lastly, Thou must strive (by a lively faith) to lay hold on GODS mercy in CHRIST, and to get His bloud sprinkled upon thy heart. CHRIST is our peace, as the Apostle cals Him, Eph. 2. 14. Neither can we (with all that we are able to do) make our peace with GOD, but onely through faith in Him. When the destroying Angell saw the bloud of the lambe sprinkled upon the lintell and side-posts of any doore, he passed by that house, and smote none in it, Exod. 12. 23.
The third way whereby we must make right use to our selves of this judgement that we see upon o∣thers, is this; it must increase our care to reforme (not our selves onely, but) our families. It is a vaine thing for any man to blesse himselfe or take comfort in his repentance without this care; say not, if I use all good meanes to make peace with GOD for my selfe, I hope the faults of my family shall never be imputed unto me. Search the Scriptures, and you shall find there was never any man that was himselfe reconciled and at peace with GOD, but his care was, that his family might feare GOD, and be in favour with Him, as well as himselfe. Cornelius (though he were a Centurion, and kept a great family, and had souldiers to serve him, yet) feared God with all his house, Acts 10. 2. So soone as Zacheus himselfe was become a sonne of Abraham (a true believer) salvati∣on came unto his house too, Luke 19. 9. Christ promi∣sed he should have a faithfull and a religious family. So speaketh Eliphaz also to Iob, Iob 22. 23. If thou re∣turne to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles. No man that is himselfe truly returned unto the Almighty, need to be discouraged in this; if he do his endeavour, God hath promised, that he shall be able (through His gracious assistance and blessing) to reforme his family; though not to convert the heart of every one in it, yet to keepe them from open and scanda∣lous offences. Certainly we do not make the right use we ought, of this heavy scourge of God, unlesse we be made thereby more carefull to reforme our families. For this cause the Lord said He would not conceale from Abraham His purpose against the Sodomites, because He knew that he would make this use of it. For I know him (saith the Lord, Gen. 18. 19.) that he will command his children, and his houshold after him; and they shall keepe the way of the Lord to doe justice and judgement; that the Lord may bring upon A∣braham that which He hath spoken of him. 1. Abra∣ham (upon the knowledge and observation of Gods wrath even upon the Sodomites) would become more carefull to looke to his whole family, and to reforme it. 2. God would assist and blesse him in this his endeavour, and he should see the fruit of it in his family. 3. This care that Abraham had of his family should be a principall meanes to make good unto him all Gods promises, to bring upon him, and make sure unto him all the blessings and good things that God had promised unto him, and without this he could have had no assurance of them.
O that we could once believe and take to heart* these things. Certainly one maine cause of this, and all other judgements that are upon our Land, is the want of care that is in them that professe themselves to be the people of God, in reforming their families; whether they of their family be drunkards, or sober persons; blasphemers, or such as feare an oath; un∣cleane, or chast; prophane, or religious; is all one to them.
The fourth and last way whereby we must make right use to our selves of this judgement, is this: it must make us more mercifull to them that are in di∣stresse, and more ready to relieve them. Nothing will give us more assurance to be freed from the plague our selves, or to find comfort and strength in it, if God shall please to visit us by it, than this. When Gods heavy hand did hang over Nebuchad∣nezzar, Daniel speakes thus unto him, Dan. 4. 27. Wherefore O King, let my counsell be acceptable unto the, and breake off thy sinnes by righteousnesse, and thine ini∣quities by shewing mercy vnto the poore; if it may be a lengthning to thy tranquillity. As if he should have said, if any thing will lengthen thy tranquillity, and keepe off the judgement threatned, this is likely to do it. Remember what ourblessed Saviour hath said of this, Mat. 5. 7. Blessed are the mercifull, for they shall obtaine mercy. Nothing will give a man more assu∣rance to find mercy with God in the time of his di∣stresse, than this will. Remember also what His holy Apostle saith of this, Iam. 2. 13. He shal have judgement without mercy, that sheweth no mercy. If either the plague, or any other judgement seize upon that man that hath beene void of mercy, it shalbe upon him without all mixture of mercy, he shall have no com∣fort of Gods mercy in it; and mercy rejoyceth (or boasteth) against judgement. The mercifull man shall not feare this or any other judgement before it come, as other men do: and if it do light upon him, he shall rejoyce, and find a comfortable sense of Gods mercy in it. And remember this at this time especially, now you have kept a day of humbling your selves before God; know that there is nothing that will more grace our solemne services before God, (specially services of this kind) nothing will make them more acceptable unto Him, than when we shall therein manifest and declare our selves to be mercifull and bountifull unto the poore, Is not this the fast that I have chosen? (saith the Lord, Esa. 58. 6, 7.) to loose the bands of wickednesse, to undoe the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye breake every yoke? Is it not to deale thy bread to the hun∣gry, and that thou bring the poore that are cast out to thine house? When thou seest the naked that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thy selfe from thine own flesh?
Aug. 17. 1625.
FOlloweth the duty whereby David expressed his love and compassion to these men,* he prayed for them. For, though this be not expressed in the first part of the verse where the duty is mentioned that he performed towards these men in their misery, yet is it evident, 1. By the ex∣presse words of the last clause of the verse, where he mentioneth the successe he had in the duty he per∣formed for them: and 2. by this also that he saith he fasted, and humbled his soule for them: for, in all fasts and exercises of humiliation that Gods people have kept, prayer was the chiefe duty they perfor∣med; and all other things they did in those exerci∣ses, they did onely to helpe and further themselves in prayer, Esa. 58. 3. To make their voice to be heard on high: and Ion. 3. 8. to make them cry more mightily unto God. The Doctrine then that we are to learne from this example of David, is this.
That a chiefe duty we are to performe to them that are in misery,* is to pray for them. See the proofe of the point in five degrees.
- This is a chiefe duty whereby we do expresse the truth of our love unto any, and whereby we may do them good. When our Saviour had commanded us to love our enemies, and to do good to them th•t hate us, M•t. 5. 44. He adds, And pr•y for them.
- This is duty that is to be performed by us •owards all men, 1 Tim. 2. 1. Yea even towards the wickedest men that live upon •arth: See how im∣portunate Abraham was with God for the beastly Sodomites, Gen. 18. 32.
- This duty is to be performed specially for s•ch as are Gods people, though it be but in out∣ward profession. This course Moses tooke to relieve Israel in a great extremity. When God threatned He would destroy Israel, Moses st•od before Him in the breach, (by maine force to keepe Him out) to turne a∣way His wrath, Psal. 106. 23. How stood he in the breach? How did he turne away Gods wrath from them? By prayer, Ex•d. 32. 11. Moses besought the Lord his God. This course David tooke to relieve Gods people in the time of a fearefull pesti•ence, that in a short time had consumed seventy thousand, 2 Sa•. 24. 15. He was deeply affected with their mi∣sery, (as appeareth by the story) but what course tooke he to helpe them? he prayed for them, 1 Chro•. 21. 16,—18. and so stayed the plague. So did Moses in the very like case of the pestilence, when •r•th was g•n• out fro• the Lord, and the plague was 〈◊〉, he chargeth Aar•n to t•ke his ce•ser, and put fire therein from the 〈◊〉, 〈◊〉 put ince•se on it, and go quickly to the co•greg•tio•, t• make an attonement for them, N••b. 16. 46. True it is, that signified the in∣tercession of Christ for the people, which indeed is that th•t did the deed: but know, 1. that when in∣cense was offred, Gods people also prayed, L•ke 1. 10. And 2. that Christs intercession goeth with our prayers also, •nd is that that makes them effectu∣all. He off•eth His incense with the prayers of all Saints, Rev, 8. 3.
- In strange and extraordinary judgements that are upon Gods people, we are bound not onely to pray for them, but to do it in an extraordinary man∣ner. When the decree was sealed for the destructi∣on of all the Iewes, and Ester resolved to venture her life for the revoking of it, then ordinary prayer would not serve the turne; but Ester commanded extraordinary prayer to be used in such a case, and that for sundry dayes together, Ester 4. 16. Go fast ye for me, and neither eat no• drinke three dayes, night nor day.
- In publike and generall calamities that are up∣on Gods people, or hang over them, publike and generall prayers should be used for them. This course Ie•os•phat tooke in that case, 2 Chro•. 20. 13. All luda stood before the Lord in that fast. And so did the Ninivites likewise, Ion. 3. 5. They pr•cl•imed a fast and put on sa•kcloth from the greatest of them to the le•st of them. And the more publike and solemne the prayers are that are made in this case, the more plea∣sing they are unto the Lord. This appeareth, l•dg. 20. 26. they had before gone up to the house of God, and asked counsell of God, Vers. 18. they had gone up the second time to seeke the Lord, and then did weepe also before the Lord, Vers. 23. but pre∣vailed not: the third time they prevailed. Why? What did they more now, than they did before? 1. They fasted. 2. All the childre• of Israel, •nd all the people we•t up. An evident proofe of this, that when Gods judgements are publike and generall 〈1 page duplicate〉〈1 page duplicate〉 upon Gods people, our prayers and humiliations should be as publike and generall as is possible: and the more publike, the more pleasing unto God.
Reason. First,* The Lord is He that both layeth the judgement upon any of our brethren, and He that must take it off, and therefore the best way we have to helpe them, is to seeke to Him in their be∣halfe. It is the Lord that sends the pestilence, I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt, saith the Lord, Amos 4 10. And it is He, and He only that moderates and sets bounds unto it. He saith to it as to the sea, Iob 38. 11. Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves •e stayed. He hath set downe in His counsaile and decree, whom it shall smite, and whom it shall spare. The just number that He hath appointed shall die of it, use they what meanes they can (which they are bound to do, because this is a secret unto them) to avoid it. Ier. 15. 2. Such as are for death, (that is, for the pesti∣lence, as it is expounded, Ier. 21. 7.) to death; and such as are for the s••rd, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the cap∣tivity, to the captivity. And it shall not touch any of them whom He will have to be spared, though they live in never so much danger, Psal. 91. 7. A thousand shall fall at Thy side, and ten thousand at Thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh Thee. And it is the Lord onely that removes it when He pleaseth, that saith to the destroying Angell, It is enough, stay now thy hand, 2 Sam. 24. 16. And lastly, it is He one∣ly that can cure those that are smitten with it, 1 Sam. 26. The Lord killeth, and •aketh alive; He bringeth downe to the grave, and brings up againe. So that to conclude this reason, we may say with the Prophet, Amos 3. 6. Shall there be evill in a City, and the Lord hath not done it? The plague is in the City, and that is one great evill; secondly, it increaseth there won∣derfully, that is another evill; thirdly, the people in the out-parishes will not be restrained, nor kept in, that is another evill; fourthly, many perish with famine, that is another evill. And hath not the Lord done all this? What better course then can we take for their good, than to seeke to the Lord for them?
Secondly,* The Lord hath commanded us to do this; He desires and lookes for this at our hands, and is highly pleased with it, when we (seeing his judgements upon our brethren) become suiters to Him in their behalfe. He hath commanded, 1 Tim. 2. 1. Before all things, let supplications, &c. be made for all men. Yea He desires it greatly, and lookes for it, e∣ven when He is most offended with a people, to be thus sought unto in their behalfe, Ezek. 22. 30. I sought for a man amongst them that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it: Es•. 59. 16. He wondred that there was no intercessour. Yea He is highly pleased with this, in which respect Ieremy desires God to take notice of this grace in him, and remember it, Ier. 18. 20. Re∣member that I stood before Thee to speake good for them, and to turne away Thy wrath from them. So that it is a sinne against God to neglect this duty unto our bre∣thren, 1 Sam. 12. 23. God forbid that I should sinne a∣gainst the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.
Thirdly,* The force and efficacy that there is in the prayers of Gods people to helpe and relieve them that are in misery, is very great. The prayers of Gods people have prevailed wonderfully with Him, even for wicked men. How oft did Moses prayer remove Gods plagues even from Pharaoh, Exod. 8. 13. 31. 9. 33. 10. 18, 19. When Ah•• and his land were almost consumed with a drought and famine, Elias prayer delivered him from that judgement, and brought raine; yet he was a man subject to the like pas∣si•ns that we are, lam. 5. 17, 18. Yea in this very judge∣ment of the pestilence, ye shall see the force of pray∣er. For, when God hath drawne out this terrible sword of His in His fierce displeasure, and consumed many by it, and stretched out His arme to smite more, the prayers of Gods people have even stayed Him, and held His hand, and prevailed so with Him, that they have even overcome Him, and com∣pelled Him to change His mind, and put up His sword. When wrath was gone out from the Lord, and the plague was begun, A•r•n stood with his incense be∣tweene the dead and the living, and the plague was stayed, Numb. 16. 48. When God had said unto Moses (a∣gainst Israel for their idolatry) Exod. 32. 10. Let Me alone, that my wrath may waxe •ot again•• them, and that I may consume them: Upon Moses prayer, Vers. 14. The Lord repented Him of the evill which He thought to do unto His people. The like He did upon Davids pray∣er, 2. Sam. 24. 16. The Lord repented Him of the evill, and said to the Ange•• that destroyed the people, it is e∣nough; stay now thine hand. Is it in the power of man to overcome God, to withstand Him when He comes to take vengeance, to cause Him to change His mind? Yes verily; Iacob had tha• power, Gen. 32. 26.when the Lord had wrestled with Him, and said, Let Me go▪ he would not let Him go; but Verse 28. as a prince he had power with G•d, and p•ev•iled. And how did he overcome God th•s? By prayer, as you may see Hos. 12. 4. He h•d power •ver the An∣gell, and prevailed; he wept, 〈◊〉 mad• supplication unt• him. Say not, those were rare men; for all Gods people have this name given them, they are all cal∣led the Israel of God, Gal. 6. 16. and therefore (as Prin∣ces) may prevaile with God this way. And no mar∣vell, though Gods people may thus prevaile with God for the staying of His hand inte•porall judge∣ments, or removing of them from their brethren, seeing they are able to prevaile with God even for the pardon of their sinnes, which are the causes of those judgements, and for the converting and saving of their soules, Iam. 5. 15. The prayer of fai•h shall s•ve the sicke, and if he have committed sin••s, they shalbe for∣given him. And 1 Io•. 5. 16. If any 〈◊〉 see his bro••er sinne• sinne which is not •nto death; he shall aske, and he shall give him life for them that sinne not 〈◊〉 death.
The Use this Doctrine serves unto, is for Instruction.
First,* for instruction. To teach us what account is to be made of such as are true Israelites. And know thou h•st two reasons to mo•e thee to make much of such.
- They are a blessing to the place where they live, Esa. 19. 24. Israel shall be a blessing in the midst of the land. They are the props and pillars of the Land; for their sakes the Land is spared. If there had been butten such in Sodom, Sodom had beene spared, Gen▪ 18. 32.
- They are able (as Princes) to prevaile migh∣tily with God, by their prayers; to stand in the breach, and to hold Gods hands; they are the chari∣o•s of Israel, and the horse•e•• thereof, as they are cal∣led, 2 King. 13. 14. Indeed there are but a few such true Israelites, which makes the Prophet speake in that manner, Psal. 25. 12. What man is he that feareth the Lord? But where thou knowest such, make much of them. Why should not Gods favourit•s be as much honoured, as the favourites of the great∣est King? Get as many such into the towne thou li∣vest in, as thou canst. They are as L•ts in Sodom, Gen. 19. 22. till L•t was gone out of Sodom, the An∣gell could not destroy it. Get as many such into thy family as thou canst. As David professed he would do, Psal. 101. 6. Mi•e eyes shalbe upon the faithfull in the land, that they may dwell with me. Gen. 39. 5. The Lord blessed the Egypti•ns house for Iosephs s•ke. Get such friends as these are. Psal. 119. 63. I am a companion of all them that feare Thee. Vers. 79. Let those that feare Thee turne unto me, and those that have knowne thy te∣stimonies. I tell thee, Paul (as great an Apostle as he was) knew how to esteeme and make use of such friends, Rom. 15. 30. N•w I beseech you, brethren, for the L•rd Iesus Christs sake, and for the l•ve of the spirit, that you strive together with me in your pr•yers to God for mee.
I know I shall offend many of you, in speaking so much for such, whom (above all others) you detest most, and are ready to shew it upon every occasion. And I have wondred much to see the bitter hatred that many (who are otherwise civill men) beare to such as feare God. For think I, Psal. 11. 3. and What h•th the righteous done? B•t I have found in Gods Booke, the true cause of it, and that is this; that e∣very naturall man hateth God, and is an enemy to Him, Rom. 5. 10. and that God hath put enmity be∣tweene the seed of the serp••, and the seed of the wom•n, Gen. 3. 15. and therefore, so long as thou continuest an enemy unto God, and one of the serpents seed, thou must needs hate all such as truly feare God. The good Lord be mercifull to thee, and give thee an heart to take notice of thy wretched estate, that thou maist repent and come out of it.
The second Use is for reproofe of three sorts of men.* I Of them that cannot pray. 2. Of them that do not use to pray. 3. Of them that will not pray.
First of them that cannot pray. O consider how miserable a man thou art. First, thou wantest that whereby thou shouldest helpe thy poore brethren in their misery. A griefe it is to an honest mind, to see his brother in extreme want and misery, and he hath nothing to relieve him with. Therefore is that com∣mandment given Ephes. 4. 28. Let him labour in some honest calling, that be m•y have to give. How much more just cause of griefe is this, when thou canst not so much as pray for him? Secondly, thou wantest that whereby thou shouldest keepe off Gods judge∣ments from thy selfe, or remove them, or yeeld thee comfort in them. For my love th•• were mine •dver∣saries, (saith David, Psal. 109. 4.) but I gave my selfe to prayer. That was his chiefe comfort in all his affli∣ctions. Thirdly, thou wantest that that should give thee comfort in thy present estate. For, thou canst have no assurance that thou art Gods child, or that thou hast any truth of grace in thee, if thou can∣not not pray. The spirit of grace is the spirit of s•pplica∣tion, Zac. 12. 10. Because ye •re sonnes (saith the Apo∣stle, Gal. 4. 6.) God hath sent f•rth the spirit of His S•nne into your hearts, crying Abb• Father. No man is the child of God, nor hath the spirit of Christ in him, that is not able feelingly and fervently to call God•Father, and to pray unto Him. Learne therefore to cry earnestly unto God as the Disciples did, L•k. 11. 1. Lord teach me to pray.
The second sort that are to be reproved by this Doctrine, are such as can, but (through lazinesse and propha•e negligence) do not use to pray. Many there be that seldome or never pray; it may be in their sicknesse, or extreme danger they will, but they beare upon them that brand of an hypocrite that Iob spea•eth of, 〈◊〉 27. 10. Will he call upon God at all times? that is, constantly, and not by fits and starts onely. Many that did once use constantly to pray with their families, and in secret, have now given it over. To whom the Lord will one day say as Esa. 43. 22. Tho• hast not called upon 〈◊〉, O 〈◊〉, but th•••ast bee•e •eary of •e, O Is•••l▪ they that neglect their calling upon God, and are 〈◊〉 of prayer, are weary of God. Ma•y never po••ed out prayer to God for our armies, nor for our brethren visited with the plague: the most of us have neglected it too long, to seeke to God for them in this extraor∣dinary manner. Go quic•ly with thy censer, the plag•e i• beg••, saith M•se• to 〈◊〉, N••b. 16 46, so soon as the plague did begin, we should without delay have importuned the Lord for ou• brethren. Unto these I will say but two words. 1. That God may justly impute to thee the bloud both of our soldiers that died so miserably, and of the many thousands that have perished by the plague, because thou hast not striven by thy prayers with God for them. Ac∣cording to that rule of our Saviour, Mar. 3. 4. He that useth not meanes to save life when it lieth in his power, is a murtherer. 2. That this neglecting of prayer is a dangerous signe that thou hast no feare of God in thee. Thou castest off feare (•aith Eliphaz, Iob 15. 4.) and restrainest prayer before God. It is a signe thou believest not Gods providence. The foole hath said in his heart, There is no God; (saith the Prophet, Psal. 14. 1.) and one argument to prove this, he gives Vers. 4. They call not upon the Lord. Lastly, this is a signe that thou hast no comfort at all in God, no as∣surance of His favour. Will the hypocrite (saith Iob, Chap. 27. 10.) delight himselfe in the Almighty? will he alwayes call upon God? The cause why men keepe not a constant course in prayer, is because they have no delight nor comfort in God. O let us therefore make conscience of this duty to pray, and to pray constantly; praying alwayes, as the Apostle re∣quires, Ephes. 6. 18. & 1 Thess. 5. 16. Pr•y without cea∣sing, not giving over so good and necessary a duty, when we have once begun to take it up.
The third sort of them whom this Doctrine re∣proveth, are such as (through prophanenesse or worldlinesse) will not pray. Though the State have first enjoyned us to keepe these dayes of humi∣liation, and 2. gone before us in it themselves, and 3. published for our helpe a booke of prayers, as ample, holy, effectuall, and fit for the present occasi∣on, as ever were in any Liturgy that I have seene; (for all which we are greatly bound to praise the Lord) yet will they not upon these dayes lend their help to their distressed brethren, nor joyne with us in praier for them. These men certainly are of the mind either of those prophane worldlings that say as Io• 21. 15. What profit shal we have if we pray unto him? Can we get in our harvest, or provide for our families by comming to Church, and joyning with you in pray∣er? Or will our praying keepe away the plague from us? Or els they are of the mind of those des∣perate Atheists that said, Es•. 22. 13. Let us eat and drinke; for, to morrow we shall die. This plague in∣creaseth strangely, and is like enough to reach unto us; let us therefore while we live be merry, and make as much of our selves as we can. I grant, eve∣ry man is not fit to keepe a fast every weeke, special∣ly in this time of harvest; neither did the State in∣tend to enjoyne him to do it: but not to joyne with Gods people sometimes in this duty, specially on these solemne dayes of humiliation, is, First, a great sinne against our distressed brethren, for whom our prayers would the more prevaile, the more generall they were, and the more of us did joyne together in them, as I have proved before out of 2 Chron. 20. 13. Secondly, a matter of great danger to themselves, as that which will provoke Gods displeasure against them. Levit. 23. 29. Whatsoever soule it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, (that the congregation kept their fast on) he shall be cut off from among his peo∣ple. In which respect God commanded them to keepe it in all their dwellings, Levit. 23. 3. And Zeth. 1. 6. The Lord threatneth to stretch out His hand a∣gainst, and to cut off them that have not sought the Lord, then much more such as refuse to doe it, being thus called,* and provoked thereunto.
The third and last Use is for examination whe∣ther our prayers heretofore have beene, or now be such, so powerfull and effectuall as have been descri∣bed in this Doctrine; whether we be such Israelites as (like Princes) have prevailed with God in them. Gods children should inquire after their prayers how they speed. David prayeth oft for an answer, Psal. 143 1. In thy faithfulnesse answer me: and protest∣eth it would be a death to him to find God silent to his prayers, Psal. 28. 1. And what answer hath God given to our prayers? First, we have prayed for the good successe of our armies against the enemies of the Gospell. But the enemy hath still prevailed, so that we may complaine as Psal. 44. 9, 10, 12. Thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies; thou makest us turne backe from the ene∣my; and they which hate us spoile for themselves, thou sellest thy people for nought, and dost not increase thy wealth by their price. Secondly, We have prayed for the good successe of our Parliament, that the King, and Nobles, and Commons might agree together (as one man) for the setling of Gods Arke and Reli∣gion among us, as they did in Solomons time, 1 King. 8. 1. But the Parliament (for all our prayers) hath re∣ceived such an end, as every good heart hath cause to lament. Thirdly, We have prayed unto God to stay His hand in the noysome pestilence. When ••ron stood with his incense betweene the living and the dead, the plague ceased, Numb. 16. 48. and Davids prayer stayed the plague, 2 Chro. 21. 17, 18. Our D•∣vid, and our Aarons, and the whole Land, have oft prayed against this judgement, and ever since we be∣gan to pray, the plague hath increased wonderfully. So that we may complaine with the Church, La•. 3. 8. When I cry and shout, He sh•tteth out my prayer. And Psal. 80. 4. O Lord God of hosts, how long wilt thou be an∣gry against the prayer of thy people? What is the cause of this? I answer, surely (though there may be o∣ther causes) yet this is the chiefe, Iam. 4. 3. We have as∣ked, and have not received, because we have asked amisse. And that we may the better discerne, what hath been amisse in our prayers, I will shew you how those prayers should be qualified that should prevaile with God.
First, We must pray fervently and importunate∣ly, as they that will receive no nay in their suits. The effectu•ll fervent prayer of a righteous man (saith the A∣postle, Iam. 5. 16.) •vail•th much. The pray•r of the most righteous man that is, cannot be effectuall, nor availe much, unlesse it be fervent. And to such pray∣er onely is the promise made, Ier. 29. 13. Ye shall seeke for me, and find me, whe• ye shall s•arch for me with all your heart. The want of this fervency in prayer the Prophet complaineth of, as of the chiefe cause why God did hide His face from His people, and consu∣med them with His judgements, Esa. 64. 7. There is no•e that c•lleth up•n Thy Name, that stirreth •p h•mself to take h•ld of Thee. By prayer the faithfull may as it were take hold on God, they may hold His hands from 〈◊〉 them, as Mo•• did when God said to him, Ex•d 32. 10. Let Me •lone. But none doth thus effectually call upon God, and take hold of Him, that prayeth coldly and drowsily, but he onely that stirreth up, and row•eth himselfe unto this duty, that he may do it fervently. And •urely this m•y be one cause why God hath given no better answer to our prayers hitherto, because he seeth how cold and drows•e we have beene in them, how little affected we have beene with the miseries of our brethren, whom we have seemed to pray for. When our bles∣sed Saviour was in His agony, and his soule was ex∣ceeding sorrowfull even unto death, Mat. 26. 38. His Disciples Peter, and Iames, and Iohn, whom He desired to watch with Him, and to be some helpe to Him in that His distresse, fell asleepe; so little sense had they of His extreme misery, Mat. 26. 40. And e∣ven so have we carried our selves towards our bre∣thren, the members of Christ, we have pretended a willingnesse to yeeld them our helpe in the miseries they are in, but alas in the prayers that we have see∣med to make for them, we have beene overtaken with drowsinesse and sleepinesse, we have beene in them little or nothing at all touched with the sense of their distresse. But as our Saviour said then unto those His Disciples, Mat 26. 41. Watch and pray: So say I unto you beloved, you can never do your selves or your brethren good by your prayers, un∣lesse when you pray you watch, and looke well to your hearts, to keepe them from drowsinesse and senslesnesse, from wandring and roving, that when you pray, you may pray with fervency, and feeling of your owne necessities, and of the necessities of them that you do pray for. Let us not thinke that (because we see no better fruit of our prayers) the Lord hath beene displeased with us for keeping these fasts, and presuming to become s•itors to Him for our brethren. But let us rather judge, that He hath therefore delayed to answer us hitherto, that He might cause us hereby to cry lowder, and to be more importunate and fervent with Him in our prayers. For, so dealt He with the good woman of Canaan, Mat. 15. 22, 24. 26. He did not onely delay to helpe her, but by His neglecting of her, and the rough answers He gave her, seemed angry with her, and willing to discourage her, not out of any dislike He had to her or her suit, (wherewith doubtlesse He was much pleased) but onely to increase her ferven∣cy and importunity in prayer.
Secondly, We must pray in faith, and confidence to be heard, Let him aske in faith (saith the Apostle, Iam. 1. 6, 7.) els let him not think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. And surely we have just cause to pray in faith and confidence that we shall prevaile with God in these prayers that we make for our di∣stressed brethren. Many good grounds of confidence we have.
- We have heard that it is the will and comman∣dement of God that we should pray for them. And this is the confidence that we have in Him (saith the A∣postle I I•h. 5. 14.) that if we aske any thing according to His will, He heareth us.
- These extraordinary prayers and fasts that we keepe, are injoyned us by publique authority of our gracious Soveraigne, and of the State. And even that is a thing highly pleasing unto God, and will much further the successe of our prayers. There∣fore also it is mentioned by the Holy Ghost as a matter of no small impor•ance, in two of the most succesfull fasts; that is, in that of I•dah, 2 Chron. 20. 3. Iehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seeke the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all ludah. And in that of the Ninivites, Ion. 3. 7. He caused it to be proclaimed and published through Niniveh, (by the decree of the King and his Nobles) saying, &c.
- These fasts are kept generally, and every where throughout the Land; and that is also a thing that God is much pleased with; such prayers, and dayes of humiliation that have beene so universall, have beene wont much to prevaile with God: as we have already heard out of Iudg. 20. 26. & 2 Chron. 20. 3, 13. & Ion. 3. 5, 7, 8.
- The nation and people that we pray for, are Gods owne people, and such as beare His Name. Admit our Land be as sinfull as Sodom was, yet re∣member that if there had beene but ten such in So∣•om, as we have many thousands of in our Land, God had heard Abrahams prayer even for Sodom, because of them, Gen. 18. 32. Of our Land (blessed be God) we may yet say, there is no nation in the world at this day, that hath so many righteous per∣sons in it; or that hath the Gospell preached in it in that sincerity and power as we have. Nay, there is no City in the world where the Gospell is so plenti∣fully and so faithfully preached, nor wherein God is so purely worshipped, as in that City that we meet together this day to pray for. And what an encou∣ragement that may be unto us in our prayers, is plaine by that speech of the Prophet in his prayer unto God for Iudah, Ier. 14. 9. Yet thou O Lord art in the midst of us, and we are called by thy Name, leave us not.
And this must be acknowledged for another cause why our prayers hitherto have sped no better, we have not prayed in faith. Many have joyned with us, whose persons God never yet accepted, or was well pleased with. And till God have respect to Abel himselfe, He will never have respect to any off•ing of his, Gen. 4. 4. And such of us as are in the state of grace, yet have we not stirred up our faith, and confidence to speed, in the prayers we have made. Do it hereafter, and thou shalt be sure to speed the better in thy prayers for it. Say unto thy soule when thou preparest thy selfe to pray, as Da∣vid did, Psal. 42. 11, Why art thou cast downe O my soule? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. Put thy confidence in God, hope and expect to receive a gracious answer from Him when thou prayest unto Him, and thou shalt find better successe in thy prayers, than thou hast beene wont to do.
Thirdly, We must pray in sense of our owne un∣worthinesse; no man is fit to pray for Gods peo∣ple, but he that feeles the plague of his owne heart, as Sa∣lomon speaketh, I King. 8. 38.
But how can that be? (will you say) if I have when I pray, a deepe apprehension and sense of mine owne unworthinesse and sinne, how can I be import•nate with God in my prayer? How can I pray in faith, or be confident that He will heare me? This must needs deprive a man of all boldnesse, dis∣courage, and make him afraid to speake unto God. This effect the sense of sinne seemes to have had in David, when he cryed Psal. 40. 12. Mi•e iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to looke up: they are more than the haires of mine head, therefore mine heart faileth me.
But to this I answer, that no faithfull man hath cause to feare this. For, Gods people have never beene so strong with Him in prayer, as when they were most abased and dejected in themselves, insense of their owne weakenesse and unworthinesse. When I am weake (saith the Apostle 2 Cor. 12. 10. weake, and dejected in my selfe through sense of mine owne infirmities and afflictions) then am I strong: strong in the Lord, and fittest to do Him service in an ac∣ceptable manner. See an example and type of this in I•cob, Gen. 32. 25, 26 Never was he so strong with God, as when the hollow of his thigh was out of joynt. He had power over the Angell (over Christ the Angell of the covenant, saith the Prophet, Hos. 12. 4.) and prevailed. He wept and made supplication unto Him, He found Him in Bethel. Why wept he so? Certainly from the sense of his owne infirmity and unworthinesse; but he prevailed with God in his supplications neverthelesse, but much the more for that. See this also in the good woman of Canaan; do you not thinke she was much abased in her selfe upon those three repulses that she had received, Mat. 15. 27. yet was her prayer then most strong and effe∣ctuall with God, Vers. 28. And this is surely ano∣ther cause, why our prayers for our brethren have beene so weake, and without force with God; we are too strong, too well perswaded of our selves, to do Gods people any good with our prayers.
Fourthly, We must bring with us unto prayer an unfeigned desire, and a full purpose and resolution of heart to reforme that that is amisse both in our selves and others, and so to remove the cause of Gods displeasure that is kindled against us. Cer∣tainly, this would give wonderfull force unto our prayers. This was that that gave such force unto the fasting and praying of the Ninivites, Ion. 3. See their care and desire. Let them turne every one from his evill way, (say the King and his Nobles in their proclamation, Verse 8.) and from the violence that is in their hands. See also both the performance of that they resolved to do; and how nothing so much prevailed with God for the successe of their prayers as this, Verse 10. God saw their workes, that they turned from their evill way, and God repented of the evill that He had said He would do unt• them, and He did it not. Therefore hath it been usuall with Gods people in their solemne fasts, not onely to make full and particular confession of their sinnes, but also to vow unto God that they would leave and forsake them; yea they were wont solemnly to bind them∣selves unto this. All this is evident, •eb. 9. 12, 38. & 10. 29. When Phinehas stood up and executed judge∣ment (upon Zimri and Cozbi, as Moses and the Iudges had before done of many others that were joyned unto Baal-Peor, Numb. 25. 4, 5. and so removed the cause of Gods displeasure) the plague was stayed, saith the Prophet, Psal. 106. 30. All the weeping of the whole congregation before the doore of the tabernacle (of which we read Numb. 25. 6.) could do nothing without that. O that God would put into the hearts of all our Magistrates, not onely to appoint and keep solemne and generall fasts, but also (by severe exe∣cution of the lawes) to remove the causes of all our plagues. Our King and State (blessed be God) have made good Lawes against idolatry, swearing, prophanation of the Sabbath, murther, and drun∣kennesse; but (alas) we want such as Phinehas, to see the lawes executed upon any of these offendors; and therefore it is no marvell though the plague be not stayed. While these fowle sinnes are winked at, and go unpunished, what hope can we have that ei∣ther our owne prayers, or the prayers of all the Saints upon earth, should prevaile with God for our Land? Till the Achans be found out and punished, (as found they may easily be, for they do every where declare their sinne as Sodom, they hide it not, as the Pro∣phet speaketh, Esa. 3. 9.) but till they be punished, as God did say to Ioshua, Icsh. 7. 10, 11. Get thee up, where∣f•re lyest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned; so will He to us: why do you thus fast, and pray, and make such shew of humiliation as you do? find out the sinnes, and punish them that are the causes of Mine anger, and then I wilbe appeased toward you, and your Land.
Certainly one chiefe cause why our fasting and praying hath done so little good, is because this •a•h not beene done. Nay, many of these lewd men that are guilty of these foule sinnes, intrude themselves into our assemblies, and joyne with us in these holy duties. And we know that the sacrifice of the wicked is abomination unto the Lord, Prov. 15. 8. Let me therefore exhort you (beloved) that as you desire to please God in this profession of humiliati∣on that you make, and to benefit your selves or your brethren by your prayers; resolve both to forsake every knowne sinne, and vow unto God this day a∣mendment of life, in such particulars as thine owne heart can tell thee thou hast most offended God by; (and which of us all is it that hath not something to reforme?) remembring alwayes that speech of the Prophet, Psal▪ 66. 18. If I regardiniquity in my heart; the Lord will not heare me; as also 2. to do what lies in thee to reforme others.
Fiftly and lastly. We must joyne workes of mer∣cy with our prayers. 1. Let no man thinke he shall be a looser by that that he gives (out of conscience towards God) unto the poore. He that hath pitie up∣on the poore, lendeth unto the Lord (saith the Holy Ghost, Prov. 19. 17.) and that that he hath given, will He pay him againe. 2. Of all almes that is given, that is best and most pleasing unto God, that is gi∣ven in our Church-assemblies: for, it is an ordi∣nance of God (and even a Sabbath-duty) that colle∣ction should be made for the poore when we meet together, as is plaine by that speech of the Apostle, 1 Cor. 16. 1, 2. And of that that is thus given, you may have much more assurance, that it shalbe given to them onely that have need, than you can have of much of that that you give at your doores. 3. There is great force in this worke of mercy to further the good successe of our prayers: els would not the Angell have said thus unto Cornelius, Acts 10. 4. Thy prayers and thine almes are come up for a memoriall be∣fore God. His almes-deeds made his prayers more available with God, than o∣therwise they would have beene.
Sept. 7. 1625.
THe two first points observed in this Verse we have already dispatched: that is, first the time wherein he shew∣ed his kindnesse unto them, and the oc∣casion he tooke to do it, when they were sicke: secondly, the duty and meanes whereby he expressed his kindnesse unto them, he prayed in an extraordinary manner for them. Now this extraor∣dinary prayer he made for them is s•t forth 1. by the outward and bodily helpes he used in this pray∣er; 2. by the inward disposition of his mind and heart in it. The outward and bodily helpes he used in this his prayer were two, the cloathing of him∣••lfe with sackcloth, and fasting. For the first of these, we shall find it was much used by Gods peo∣ple in their extraordinary prayers, Nehem. 9. 1. The children of Israel were essembled with fasting, and with sackcl•athes, and earth upon them: & Ion. 3. 5. The peo∣ple of Niniveh proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even unto the least of them. Yea the Lord Himselfe sometimes commanded them to do so, Esa. 22. 12. The Lord God of hosts called them to girding with sackcloth. Ioel 1. 13. Lie all night in sack∣cloth ye Ministers of my God. And least you should from hence conceive that we also are now bound to use it; you must understand,
First, that in those dayes it was neither enjoyned, nor used as a religious ceremony appropriated to this part of Gods worship, but as a civill signe whereby men were wont to testifie their sorrow; as wearing of blacke is now among us. So in that mourning for Abner (wherein there was no prayer nor religious duty performed) David commanded, 2 Sam. 3. 31. Rent your clothes, and gird you with sack∣cloth, and mourne before Abner. So Hezechia and his nobles upon the hearing of Rabshakehs blasphemy, to testifie their sorrow, (though they kept no fast then) covered themselves with sackcloth, 2 King. 9. 1, 2. Yea Benhad•ds servants (though they knew not what ex∣traordinary prayer meant) when they were to sue to Ah•b for mercy, to professe their sorrow and hu∣mility, put sackcloth on their l•ines, and ropes on their heads, 1 King. 20. 32.
But how should it be so much used in this so so∣lemne a part of Gods worship,* and enjoyned also by the Lord, if it were meerely a civill thing, and no re∣ligious ceremony?
I answer:* We are now enjoyned in our Church-assemblies to weare such apparell as is comely, de∣cent, and fit for our estate and condition; I will (saith the Apostle, speaking of the behaviour of all Gods people in the publike assemblies, 1 Tim. 2. 9.) in like manner also that women adorne themselves in modest ap∣parell, with shamefastnesse and sobriety; and yet is that no Ecclesiasticall ceremony, no matter of religion, but a thing meerly civill.
Secondly, We must understand, that in these ci∣vill things, that might be decent and fit in one Coun∣try, (and consequently commanded of God) which in another Country is utterly undecent, and conse∣quently forbidden. It was a great sinne among the Corinthians for a woman to come into the congre∣gation with her head uncovered; that is, without a veile to cover her whole head, 1 Cor. 11. 5. In our congregations (because it is undecent) it were a sinne for a woman to come so attired. In which respect, though we have oft in the New Testament mention of fasts both publike and private; of sackcloth used in them, we have no mention at all.
Now this being premised for the understanding of the words,* the thing we have to observe in them for our instruction is this; that David in his extra∣ordinary prayer used these outward and bodily ex∣ercises as helpes to his prayer: and from this we have to learne what we should do in the like case: that is,
That in the dayes of our humiliation,* besides fervent prayer, and the inward afflicting of the soule, there are certaine outward and bodily exercises to be used by Gods people.
As in our ordinary prayers there be certaine out∣ward things may helpe us much, and consequently may not be neglected; (as 1. fit time and place, wherein we may be freest from distraction. Our blessed Saviour himselfe in the morning before day, went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there pray∣ed, as we read, Mar. 1. 35. and commands us (Mat. 6. 6.) to go into a closet to make our private prayers, and to shut the doore to us: and 2. fit gestures also; as kneeling when we can. O come let us worship and fall downe; let us kneele before the Lord our maker, saith the Prophet, Psal. 95. 6. and standing up when we cannot conveniently kneele. The Publican (though he were much humbled and dejected in himselfe) stood when he prayed even in the Temple, as we read, Luke 18. 13. For, that also is a signe of reve∣rence and humility. When Eglon heard Ehud say, he had a message to him from God: he arose out of his seat, Iudg. 3. 20.) so in our extraordinary prayers there be certaine outward and bodily exercises that may helpe us much, and are therefore not to be negle∣cted by us. And those are of two sorts; some con∣sist in doing and performing certaine duties; and some in forbearing some such things as at other times we may use.
Foure things I find performed by Gods people at the times of their extraordinary prayers, and dayes of humiliation, specially such as have been publike and solemne.
First, The reading and preaching of the Word. Two notable examples we have for this. Neh. 9. 3. They stood up in their place, and read in the Booke of the Law of the Lord their God one fourth part of the day. And how did they read? That you shall find Neh. 8. 8. They gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. Yea they applied it so effectually, that it wrought marvellously upon the peoples hearts, as appeareth Verse 9. The other example is Ier. 36. 5, 6. Ieremiah commanded Baru•h, saying, I am shut up, I can∣not go into the house of the Lord: therefore go thou, and read in the roll which thou hast written from my mouth, the words of the Lord in the eares of the people, in the Lords house; upon the fasting day. And why did they use this? Not so much for the inlightning and infor∣ming of the judgement, as 1. for to worke upon the heart, and further it in humiliation: for, the Word is powerfull that way, Ier. 23. 29. Is not my Word like a hammer that breaketh the rocke in peeces? It is like Aarons rod, that is able to fetch water out of the rocke, Exod. 17. 6. And 2. to quicken the heart to fervent prayer: This reason Ieremy gives why he would have preached to them on the day of their fast; and when he could not do that, would needs have Baruch read the Word to them, Ier. 36. 7. It may be they will present their supplication before the Lord: this will stirre them up to pray fervently.
Secondly, I find singing of Psalmes used in a most publike and solemne fast, 2 Chron. 20. 19. For, as there be Psalmes of all sorts, of mourning and la∣mentation, as well as of thanksgiving; so is the ex∣ercise of singing them a singular meanes to stirre up holy affections of all sorts, Ephes. 5. 18, 19. Be ye filled with the Spirit: speaking to your selves in Psalmes.
Thirdly, I find Gods people have used to joyne with their extraordinary prayers (as a meanes to make them the more effectuall) almes-deeds and gi∣ving to the poore, Acts 10. 4. Thy prayers and thine almes-deeds are come up for a memoriall before God. And no marvell: for, see what testimony our Saviour gives unto this, Luke 11. 41. Give almes of such things as ye have, and behold all things are cleane un∣to you.
Fourthly and lastly, I find that in their solemne fasts they have beene wont to examine and inquire what foule sinnes have beene committed amongst them, that might be the causes of Gods judgements; and to censure and reforme them. This to have beene the custome of Gods people, may appeare by the fast that was kept in Iezrel, 1 King. 21. 8,—10. Iesabel wrote to the Elders and Nobles there, to proclaime a fast: (upon occasion pretended (as it seemes) of some great judgement on the land, or on that city, present, or feared) In this fast inquiry was made (as it may appeare) what should be the cause of that judgement. Two false witnesses step up, (suborned for the nonce) and charge Naboth to be the cause of that judgement; for he had blasphemed God and the King. And indeed of all things that can be done at a fast, this hath beene held by Gods peo∣ple the principall, and that that would give more force to their prayers than any thing els. See it in Ezra 10. 1,—3. so Ne•. 9. 2. The seed of Israel (upon the day of their fast) separated themselves from all strangers. And Verse 38. they made a solemne cove∣nant with God, and (Cap. 10. 29, 30.) bound them∣selves by an oath to walke in Gods Law, and to observe, and do all His commandements, and that they would no more match with idolaters. Where this was not done (by those whom it concerned) where no care was taken to find out and amend those things that did provoke God to wrath, the prayers of the best men in the world could never prevaile much with God. See a notable example of this, Iosh. 7. A bet∣ter man than Ioshua could not pray; a more fervent and effectuall prayer could no good man make than he did, Iosh. 7. 6,—9. yet the Lord was so farre from hearkening to him, that He checks him for it, Verse 13. Get thee up, wherefore lyest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned, and shall never stand before their e∣•emies, till they have found out, and purged them∣selves from this sinne. And as soone as Achan was found out and punished, Ioshuahs prayer was heard presently, Iosh 8. 1.
I have shewed you what these helpes are that are •o be used in our extraordinary prayers, which con∣sist in doing and performing of certaine duties. There are some other helpes to be used which con∣sist in forbearing and wai•ing our selves from some things upon that day which at other times we may lawfully use. Therefore the fast-day is called a day of restraint, Ioel. 1. 14. & Z•c. 7. 3. The Iewes say that on every fast that they had kept (foure times a yeare during the whole time of their captivi•y, Zac. 8. 19.) they had separated themselves. Now the things we must forbeare on the fast-day are five in num∣ber.
First, All manner of food; all kind of meat and drinke whatsoever. So in the fast that Esther enjoy∣ned they might neither eat nor drinke while the fast lasted, Est. 4. 16. And so in the fast of Niniveh, Ion. 3. 7. Let them not taste any thing, let them not feed, nor drinke water. So of Ezra (Chap. 10. 6.) it is said that on the fast-day he did eat no bread, nor drinke water.
Secondly, All costlinesse and neatnesse in our ap∣parell and attire must be forborne on that day. See such examples for this as are beyond all exception, even of great Princes. In a private and domesticall fast (I meane not a secret fast, of which our Saviour saith Mat. 6. 17. When thou fast•st, annoint thine head, and wash thy face) it is said of David, 2 Sam. 12. 20. and of Esther, Chap. 5. 1. that when their fast was ended, they changed their apparell, and put on that that befit∣ted their degree; which argueth plainly, that while their fast lasted they had forborne to weare it. And in a publike fast we have the like example of the King of Nin•veh, Ion. 3. 6. He laid his robe from him, and c•vered himselfe with sackcloth. For, as bravery, costlinesse, and neatnesse in apparell hath great cause to puffe up our flesh, and make it proud: so the neg∣lect of the costlinesse and neatnesse of our apparell, (when it is voluntary) is a speciall meanes both to te∣stifie and increase the humiliation of the heart. So Mephibosheth sheweth his sorrow for Davids trou∣ble, 2 Sam. 19. 24. He had neither trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day that the King departed, till he came againe in peace. So Exod. 33. 4. When the people had heard those evill tidings, (that God would not go with them into Canaan) they mourned, and no man did put on his ornaments: and this they did by Gods expresse commandement, as appeares in the n•x• Verse.
Thirdly, we must abstaine (while the fast lasteth) from delights of all sorts, from all meanes of joy and gladnesse, which at other times are most lawfull: E∣ven from the delight which is taken in the mariage bed, 1 Co. 7. 5. even the new-maried couple must do it, Ioel 2. 16. much more from musicke, Dan. 6. 18. and from all recreations whatsoever. It is spoken of therefore as a foule sinne, Esa. 58. 3. Behold in the day of •our fasting ye find pleasure.
Fourthly, We must also abstaine from the works of our calling, not onely servil•; (as on other holy dayes, Levit 23 7, 8, 21, 25, 35.) but on the Sabbath, and on the fast day all workes are forbidden, Levit 16. 29, & 23, 28, 31. and that upon no small penalty, Levit. 23. 30. Whatsoever soule it bee that doth any work in that same day, the same soule will I destroy from among his people.
Fiftly, and lastly, We must also upon the fast day make some abatement of our naturall rest, and sleep, 2 Sam. 12. 16. David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth; and Ioel 1. 13. Ly all night in sack-cloth, ye ministers of my God; which it was not possible for them to doe without some abatement of their ordinary rest, and sleep. And the reason of this is evident, because as ordinary, and much sleep is a great means of satisfaction, and contentment to the body (I said my bed shall comfort me, saith Ioel 7. 13. my couch shall ease my complaint) soe doth the want of it afflict the body much, as appeareth also by Iobs com∣plaint. VVearisome nights are appointed to me (saith he Iob 7. 3, 4.) when I lye downe, Isay, when shall I arise, and the night be gone? and I am fall of tossings to and fro unto the dawning of the day.
And this separation, and restraint of our selves from these foure things must continue during the space of one whole day, that is foure and twenty houres. No fast we read of in Scripture continued for any lesse time. And we have expresse commaund∣ment we should keep it as a Sabbath, Levit. 16. 31. It shall be a Sabbath of rest unto you. Yea in this very point we should keep it as a Sabbath, Levit. 23. 32. It shall begin in the ninth day (of the seventh mo••h) at even; from even unto even shall ye celebrate your Sabbath. Now before I proceed to give you the reasons why this abstinence, and restraining of our selves in these foure things should be so necessary upon the day of our fast, I must give you certain cautions to prevent the mistaking of this Doctrine.
First;* That this outward abstinence is not the chief part of a true fast, not the chief help to our prayers, the inward humiliation of the soule is farre more acceptable to God, and hath more force to make our prayers pierce the Heavens then all this. Bodily exercise profiteth little (saith the Apostle 1 Tim. 4. 8. and such are all these foure parts of abstinence that you have heard of) But godlinesse (whereof the inward afflicting of the soule, and mortifying of our lusts is a chief part) is profitable unto all things. Rent your hearts, and not your garments, saith the Prophet Ioel 2. 13. Nay the restraining of our selves in these foure things is in it selfe no service of God nor ac∣ceptable at all unto him, further then as it is a help to the inward humiliation of the heart, and even ani∣mated by it. That that is said of the one of these may bee fitly said of all, Mat. 15. 11. That which goeth into the mouth defileth not a man: and Rom. 14. 17. The Kingdome of God (consisteth not in) meat or drink.
Secondly,* That these outward signes, and helpes to humiliation must bee increased according to the increase, and urgency of the cause. As there bee degrees in Gods judgements on a land, or family, or person, some more generall then other some, some more extreame then other some, seven times more grievous as the Lord speaketh, Levit. 26. 24. and such as doe more deeply affect the heart; so ought these outward signes, and helps of our humiliation, bee proportionable thereunto. Whereas ordina∣rily the fasts wee read of lasted but a day (Levit. 23. 32. from even to even. Iudg. 20. 26. they fasted that day untill even. 2 Sam. 1. 12. they mourned, and wept, and fasted untill even) the fast we read of, Esth. 4. 16. was kept three dayes and three nights together.
If any man shall aske me, doth not that example bind us? I answer three things. 1. That we in these Northerne Climates are not able to forbeare meat so long as they in those Countries were. (Experi∣ence teacheth us that the Spaniard and Italian needs not meat so much as we.) 2. We have not (blessed be God) the like occasion. That judgement was so extreme, generall, presently imminent, as they might well hold out their fast so long with feeling, and affection; which is the maine thing to be looked unto in this case, and without hope, and likelihood of that, the injoyning of the other were but grosse hypocrisie, as is plain by that speech of our Saviour, Matth. 15. 7, 8. 3. From that example we learne, that though we cannot keepe so long a time without any intermission as they did, yet when God shall in∣crease the causes and occasions of our humiliation, we may and ought to increase and multiply our fasts in that manner as the men of Iabesh Gilead did, 1 Sam. 31. 13. they f•sted seven dayes. Which also ju∣stifieth this most Christian and religious decree of our King and State, in injoyning (during this time of so great calamity) a generall fast to be kept every weeke.
Thirdly,* That this law of outward abstinence in the dayes of our humiliation must give place to the necessity of man; necessity (said I) yea even unto decency and conveniency also in some sort. Though we must on the fasting day abridge our selves in our apparell, yet may we have respect to comlinesse in our apparell even on that day. We may not disguise our bodies, or make them ridiculous, as our Saviour noteth it to have beene the fashion of hypocrites to do. They disfigure their faces (saith He, Mat. 6. 16.) that they may appeare unto men to fast. It is required e∣ven of the Minister, and so likewise of other men, to be 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, comely and decent even that way, 1 Tim. 3. 2. So though we must for the whole day of our humiliation abstaine from all food, yet such as can∣not fast so long without evident danger 1. either of their health, or 2 of making themselves unfit to performe the spirituall duties of the day, may law∣fully eat something upon the fast day. Two things will make this evident.
First, The rest of the Sabbath (which is as stri∣ctly injoyned as abstinence at a fast, yet) might be lawfully broken for the preservation of a mans life, as we see in Eliahs travell (1 King. 19. 8.) five or sixe Sabbaths together; yea for the preservation of the life of a beast, Luke 14. 5. yea for the preservation of the health of a beast, Luke 13. 15. For, God de∣lights more in mercy, than in any externall workes even of His owne s•rvice, Mat. 12. 7.
Secondly, This abstinence is injoyned but for a helpe to our prayers, and other spirituall duties; when once it ceaseth to be a helpe, and proves an hinderance to them, then is it of no worth with God. I grant that such as cannot thus abstaine, can∣not keepe a fast; but yet may they keepe a day of humiliation in as acceptable and effectuall a manner, as they that can fast best. Provided, 1. that they ab∣use not this liberty, and pretend necessity when there is none; but remember that they have herein to deale with God which knoweth their heart, 1 Thes. 2. 4. Gal. 5. 13. Brethren, ye are called unto liber∣ty, onely use not your liberty as an occasion to the flesh. 2. That that which they eat upon the day of humi∣liation, be neither for quantity nor quality such, but that they may still preserve in themselves such a fee∣ling of the want of food as may afflict nature, as we see Daniel did, Dan. 10. 3. I eat no pleasant bread, nei∣ther came fl•sh nor wine within my mouth, neither did I annoint my selfe at all, till three whole weekes were ful∣filled.
Now for the reasons and grounds of the Do∣ctrine,* why such bodily exercises (especially this abstinence) must be used upon the dayes of our hu∣miliation, I need go no further than this; that God hath ordained them in His Word, as you have heard; and therefore we may be assured, 1. They are use∣full and profitable for us▪ For, whatsoever He commands us to doe, is for our good, Deut. 10. 13. 2. That He will make them effectuall to His people unto those ends He hath ordained them for. Teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you (saith our Saviour, Mat. 28. 20.) and loe I am with you alway even unto the end of the world. And those ends are three principally.
First, to further and helpe forward the inward [ 1] humiliation of the heart, to make us the better to feele what sinne is, and what it hath deserved at Gods hands. For, as the full feeding and pleasing of the body in these things, is a meanes to increase cor∣ruption, Ier. 5. 7, 8. When I fed them to the full, then they committed adultery, &c. they were as fed horses in the morning, &c. so the abridging of it in these things is effectuall to weaken and abate the strength of sinne, 1 Cor. 9. 27. I keepe under my body, and bring it into sub∣jection. By this we take revenge of our selves, which is a great helpe unto true repentance, as the Apostle sheweth, 2 Cor. 7. 11.
[ 2] Secondly, To further and helpe forward the fer∣vency of our hearts in prayer. This is evident by that speech of Christ, Mar. 9. 29. This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.
[ 3] Thirdly, To professe and make outward prote∣station of our repentance and submission unto God, and humble desire to be reconciled unto Him. And even this is highly pleasing unto God, as we may see in the example of Ahab, 1 King. 21. 29. Because he humbleth himselfe before me, therefore I will not bring the evill in his dayes; and of Rehoboam and his Prin∣ces, They have humbled themselves (saith the Lord, 2 Chron. 12. 7.) therefore I will not destroy them: and Verse 12. When Rehoboam humbled himselfe, the wrath of the Lord turned from him; and yet had these no truth of grace in them. In which respect (Though 1. No man can please God in his fast, nor find sound comfort to his soule in it, that is not in his heart troubled for his sinne, doth not unfainedly repent, that cannot pray, that doth not believe. We know (saith the man that was borne blind, Ioh. 9. 31.) that God heareth not sinners. And without faith it is impossible to please God, saith the Apostle, Heb. 11. 6. 2. Though no man be fit to keep a private and vo∣luntary fast, that is a novice in religion, and hath not attained to some good measure of grace, for feare of taking hurt, and being made the worse by it; accor∣ding to that speech of our Saviour, Luke 5. 36, 37. The new piece will make the rent greater, the new wine will burst the bottels. Yet) in publique and generall calamities they may be injoyned to keepe a fast that have no such measure of grace in them, as we see, Ioel 1. 14. Gather the Elders, and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord: & 2 16. Gather the children, and those that sucke the breasts. Yea it hath g•eatly furthered the efficacy of the prayers of Gods owne people, when in such a case all have come (tag and rag, as we say) to joyne with them in this service, as I noted to you the last day out of Iudg. 20. 26.
If any man shall object,*God will not heare hy∣pocrites and wicked men, Iob 27. 9. Will God heare his cry? and if I regard iniquity in my heart (saith David, Psal. 66. 18.) the Lord will not heare me.
I answer, It is true; such can have no assurance that God will heare them or respect their prayers,* because they have no promise. Godlinesse hath the promises, saith the Apostle, 1 Tim. 4. 8. All Gods pro∣mises belong to the godly, and to them onely. But yet for temporall blessings God hath oft had respect to the cryes even of such as have had no truth of grace; as is plaine Gen. 21. 17. God heard the voice of Ishmael: and Psal. 78. 38. Many a time (upon their prayers whom he had described, Vers. 37.) turned He His anger away.
For, 1. in this they were thus farre no hypo∣crites, because they were heartily sensible of Gods judgements, and desired unfainedly to be eased of them. Therefore it is said, 2 Chron. 12. 6. The Princes of Israel and the King humbled themselves.
- This taking to heart of Gods judgements, and professing their humiliation, and their yeelding to the commandement of authority in this case (as in the dayes of the Iudges and Iehoshaphat we heard all the people did) these (I say) were good things, and remainders of Gods image in them. In which re∣spect the Holy Ghost saith, 2 Chron, 20. 12. In Iudah the hand of God was to give them one heart, to do the commandement of the King and of the Princes by the Word of the Lord. And these remainders of His owne image God loves wheresoever He sees them, Marke 10. 21. Iesus beholding him loved him.
The Use this Doctrine serveth unto, is,
First,* For instruction to direct us how we should keepe our fasts. Though this be a Doctrinall point, and not so fit haply to worke upon our affections as some other might be, and such as doth also concern but the outside of the true fast, yet have I beene the larger in it, because it may serve for a preparation to all the fasts we shall keepe hereafter; and the fruit and successe of our fasts depends on our performing of them in that manner God hath appointed. Many that are willing to obey God in this duty, may through ignorance faile in the right manner of per∣forming it, and so not onely lose their labour, but offend God further, 1 Chron. 15. 13. The Lord our God (said David) made a breach upon us, because we sought Him not in due order. And though God have in our fasts a principall respect to our hearts, 1 Sam. 16. 7. yet lookes He also for the service of our bodies, spe∣cially in such exercises of publike and solemne pro∣fession, 1 Cor. 6. 28. Glorifie God in your bodies, saith the Apostle. And though these you have heard be not the chief dutys to be performed at a fast, yet are they duties commanded, and hee that makes not consci∣ence of the least Commandement of God, can have no comfort in his estate, Psal. 119. 6. Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect to all thy commandments.
Secondly, For exhortation to us all to make conscience of every one of these outward duties that have beene commanded to us; that is
- Of joyning with the congregation in hearing the Word, even read aswell as preached. See what a reverend respect Gods people shewed even to the Word read, Nehem 8, 3. The eares of all the people were attentive unto the booke of the Law; and ver. 5. When Ezra opened the booke (to read it) all the people stood up. Make conscience to joine with the congrega∣tion in those prayers that are read aswell as in those that are cōceaved. For those that are read are holy, & good prayers, and all the congregation should make their prayers and supplications with one accord, as they did, Act. 1. 14. Hold thy selfe bound to joine with the congregation in singing of Psalmes also. See how well God shewed himselfe to bee pleased with this duty, 2 Chron. 20. 22. When they began to sing, and to praise; the Lord set ambushments against the chil∣dren of Ammon, &c.
- Of giving according to thy ability some what to the poore, Luk. 21. 23. Christ tooke notice of them that contributed, and praised the poore widdow.
- To make it a day of restraint in the matter of food of all sorts, so farre as thy health will permit; in the matter of thy apparell so farre as decency will permit; in the matter of thy delights of all sorts; and in the matter of thy worldly affaires.
Yea 4. Of holding out in these duties a whole day.
- Take heed of hypocrisy, and thinking that thy performance of these outward things will serve thy turne, and merit at Gods hands. When our Sa∣viour saw what an innumerable multitude of people came to heare him, in so much that they trode one upon an∣other (Luk. 12. 1.) hee began to say to his Disciples, first of all, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees which is hy∣pocrisy. And this caveat we have all just cause to give to you in such great assemblies as this is (specially at our solemne feasts) take heed of hypocrisy, Rest not in, nor blesse your selves in the deed you have done; but referre these outward things unto those right ends, which I have told you they were ordained for. And remember alwayes that speach of the Apostle, Rom. 2. 29. Hee is a lew which is one inwardly, and cir∣cumcision (so is humiliation also) is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter, whose praise is not of men but of God.
Thirdly,* For reproofe of sundry abuses which are chief causes why our fasts prevaile no more with God.
First, Such are to bee reproved as refuse to joine with Gods people in this duty, and will not separate themselves from their profits, and delights, no not so much as one day in a month, though God calls them to it, and the King also commaunds them to doe it. But like them of Ephraim and M•nasseh (of whom we read, 2 Chron. 30. 10.) are ready to laugh the officers to scorne, and to mocke them that in the Kings name require them to doe it.
Let no man say, had we not better have their room then their company? What good can wee hope to receive by having such as they, to joyne with us in our fasts? For (as you have heard) the coming of all in this case, would do us good, and further our prayers; and this open contempt that such men in all parts doe shew, may make us all fare the worse. You there∣fore that are officers doe what you can to restraine them from their labours, and to bring them hither. Remember that you are also comprehended in the number of those servants to whom the charge is gi∣ven, Luk. 14. 23. Goe out, and compell them to come in that my house may be filled.
Secondly, Such as doe come, and joyne with us (though they doe that also but by the halves) but so soone as they are gone forget the occasion of our fasts, remember no longer the affliction of Ios•ph, give themselves as full liberty to all delights and jolli∣ty as if there were no judgement at all upon the land. Marke well how God complaines of them that in a time of common calamity, did give themselves li∣berty even in lawfull delights. Marke well that speach, that you shall find, Esa. 22. 14. Surely this ini∣quity shall not bee purged from you till yee dye, saith the Lord of Hosts. Why what had they done? See that verse, 13. Behold joy, and gladn•sse, slaying of Oxen, and killing of Sheep, eating of Flesh, and drinking of Wine. Why what evill, or unlawfulnesse was there in all this? True; but this was that that so much provo∣ked the Lord that they gave themselves to this jollity at such a time as the Lord God of Hosts did (by his judgements) call them to weeping, and to mourning, to baldnesse, and to girding with sack cloth; as wee read, verse 12. That they did this, with contempt of Gods judgements, saying and resolving with themselves thus profanely, and desperately, as verse 13. Let us eate and drinke, for tomorrow we shall dye. And what un∣lawfulnesse was there in that which Amos so much complaineth of Ames 6. 4. 6. In lying upon beds of lvory, or in stretching themselves upon their couches, or in eating the Lambs out of the flock, and the Calves out of the midst of the stall; or in chaunting to the sound of the Viol, and inventing to themselves instruments of musick like David; or in drinking Wine in bowles, and annointing themselves with the chiefe ointments? Were any of these things un∣lawfull? No, but because they did this in such a time, as Ioseph (the Church of God) was in great affliction; because they did hereby declare that they were not grieved for the affliction of Ioseph; because they did by th•se meanes put farre away from them the evill day, as the Prophet speaketh, vers. 3. and made themselves forgetfull, and senselesse of Gods judgement; there∣fore was the Lord so highly offended with them for it. Consider of these places (well beloved) and you will easily discerne, that in such evill times as these are, in times of great calamity, either upon our selves or upon our brethren, wee must all of us some what abridge our selves both in our feasts, and in our bra∣very, and in our lawf•ll delights of all sorts whatso∣ever. When the Lords sword is sharpened to make a sore slaughter (saith the Prophet Eze. 21. 10.) when it is fur∣bished that it may glister (much lesse when wee see it hath a••eady made a great slaughter among our bre∣thren, as we now see it hath, and is even dyed red with their blood) should wee then make mirth? And if the Lord will not allow us in such times the free use of our most lawfull delights, what will the Lord say then to the mirth used even in this time of common calamity in our alehouses, and at our wakes where lewd men of all sorts assemble themselves by troupes, Ier. 5. 7. to provoke one another to all kind of lewd∣nesse? Will there bee any hope our fasts shall doe much good while our disordred wakes are cōtinued, and frequented so in such times as these are?
Thirdly, Such as having power in their hand doe not endeavour to find out, and reforme the causes of the plague. Though Ioshua, and all the Elders of Israel should fall upon their faces, and cry never so fervent∣ly, they can doe no good till Achan be found out, and punished, Iosh. 7. And what hope then can we have to prevaile in our fasts, while no care is taken to find out Achan? The idolater is an Achan; and so is the murtherer; and so is the adulterer, and so is the bl•s∣phemer, and so is the drunkard. And there is power not in Ioshua onely, but in every officer among us, yea in every man almost to find out our Achans, and bring them to punishment. Our Achans are not so close as that man was; our Achans do not hide their accursed things as he did, Iosh. 7. 21. Endeavour every one of you to finde them out and sup∣presse them, or else our fasts will bee of small force with God.
Sept. 14. 1625.
NOw it followeth that we observe fur∣ther the inward affection, and disposi∣tion of Davids heart in this his extra∣ordinary prayer, hee humbled, or affli∣cted his soule. And heere we must (for the opening of the words and phrase) see what is meant by the humbling, and afflicting of his soule; and how that is done, for the understanding whereof three things must be observed.
- irst, That the soule aswell as the body is subject both to prosperity (a blessed, and comfortable estate) and to adversity also, a wofull and afflicted state and condition; and that not onely in the life to come but even in this life also. For the first, See 3. Ioh. 2. I wish thou maist prosper, and be in health even as thy soule pro∣spereth; and for the other, See Psal. 31. 7. Thou hast considered my trouble, thou hast knowne my soule in adver∣sities.
Secōdly, That as the prosperity, happines, & glory of the soule consisteth in inwardpeace, trāquility and joy, Rom. 14. 17. The Kingdome of God is righteousnesse, and peace and joy of the Holy Ghost; so that which hum∣bleth, and afflicteth it is sorrow and feare, and such like affections, which are therefore called the passi∣ons and perturbations of the soule, Prov. 12. 25. Hea∣vinesse in the heart of man maketh it stoop, that is that that humbleth it. Yea these affections of sorrow and feare doe afflict the soule, and put it to paine even as pricks, and wounds and the stinging of a Serpent would doe the body. So it is said. Act. 2. 37. They were pricked in their hearts, when by Peters sermon they were brought to sound griefe of heart for sinne, and feare of Gods wrath. So Prov. 23. 32. Sinne is said at last to bite like a Serpent, and sting like an Adder, by reason of the extreame anguish which through sor∣row, and feare i• puts the soule unto.
Thirdly, That sometimes the Lord himselfe doth thus afflict, and humble the soule with sorrow, and feare, Iob 5. 18. Hee woundeth, and his hands make whole; and the strokes that hee gives prove usually extreame, and intollerable, Psal. 51. 8. That the bones that thou hast broken may rejoyce. The Lords strokes broke his bones, Prov. 18. 14. A wounded spirit who can beare? That is when the wound is given by Gods hand, Heb. 10. 31. It is a fearefull thing to fall in∣to the hands of the living God; and sometimes Gods people (for the preventing of this) have voluntarily afflicted, and humbled their owne soules, by provo∣king themselves to sorrow, and feare whereby their soules might bee humbled, knowing well, 1 Cor. 11. 31. If we would judge our selves we should not be judged of the Lord. And so did David in this place, I humbled, and afflicted my soule by fasting. So saith hee also, Psal. 69. 10. I wept and chastned my soule by fasting. And this the Apostle in joines the faithfull to doe, Iam. 4. 9. Be afflicted (he meanes not beare or suffer the affli∣ctions God layeth upon you, but afflict your selves, as appeares in the next words) and mourne and weep, let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into heavinesse.
So then if wee would know the reason why David did fast at this time,* it was to humble, and afflict his soule, to work his soule to sorrow, and griefe: And what meant hee in this his extraordinary prayer for these men to afflict his soule thus? Surely it was to make his prayer more available with God for them. And from this his practise & example, this Doctrine ariseth for our instruction.
That the chief use of a religious fast is to humble,* and afflict the soule with sorrow, and grief; and a chief thing that makes our prayer effectuall with God is the inward humiliation, and sorrow of our soules from whence they do proceed. Two branches there be (you see) of this doctrine, and I will handle them distinctly.
First,* A religious fast serves chiefly to this end, to humble, and afflict the soule. So Esa. 58. 5. The fast that God hath chosen (is called) a day for a man to afflict his soule in. This is a duty commanded upon the fast day, Ioel 2. 13. Rend your hearts, and not your garments. See how this is injoyned, Levit. 23. 29. Whatsoever soule it bee that shall not be afflicted upon that day, shall bee cut off from his people. So our Saviour gives this for a reason why his Disciples could keep no fasts because they could not mourne while the bridegroom was with them, Math. 9. 15. So that no man can keepe a fast well that cannot mourn, that hath not an humbled and troubled soule in him on that day.
Therefore we read that Gods people in their fasts were wont to weep much, and that not onely in pri∣vate, and secret fasts, as Nehem. 14. I sate downe, and wept, and mourned certaine dayes and fasted, and prayed before the God of Heaven; but in publique also, Ezr. 10. 1. When Ezra prayed, and made confession of sinnes weeping, and casting himselfe downe before the house of God, there assembled unto him a very great congregation, and the people wept very sore. Yea God cōmaundeth his people to doe so at such times. When God cals us to keepe fasts he cals us to weeping, and to mourning, Esa, 22. 12. So Ioel 2. 12. Turne you to mee with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.
And for the second branch of the Doctrine. A chief thing that makes the prayers of Gods people at a fast or at any other time most powerfull and effe∣ctuall with God, is the humiliation, and sorrow of the soule, from which those prayers doe proceed. See the proofe of this in the most powerfull fasts that wee read of, I•dg. 20. 26. In that fast wherein Israel prevailed with God for successe against the Benja∣mites after two notable foils before, there were many teares shed, all Israel wept before the Lord, yet were there above ten thousand of as valiant men as ever drew sword. In the fast that was kept in Samuels time at Mizpeh, whereby Israel obtained a marvellous victory against the Philistines, 1 Sam. 7. 10. The Lord thundred with a great thunder upon the Philistines on that day, the people wept so aboundantly that they are said, verse 6. to have drawne water (as by bucket fuls) and to have powred it out before the Lord. Neither hath this beene found true at fasts onely, but at all times the more the heart of him that prayeth is hum∣bled, the more power shall his prayer have with God. See this in foure notable examples.
- It was a powerfull prayer that Iacob made when hee had power over the Angel, and prevailed, Hos. 12. 4. But marke the story and you shall find he was marvellously humbled, when hee did so marvel∣lously prevaile: Christ wrastled with him, and smote his thigh out of joint, Gen. 32. 25. and Hos. 12. 4. it is said he wept, and prayed.
- It was a powerfull prayer that Hannah the mother of Samuel made, when shee that was barren by nature, obtained a sonne by it; but Anna was greatly humbled, and afflicted in soule when shee made that prayer, 1 Sam. 1. 10. She was in bitternesse of soule, and prayed to the Lord, and wept sore.
- It was a powerfull prayer that Hezekiah made in his sicknesse, which reversed the sentence that God had given him notice of, by his Prophet, and procured fifteene yeeres more to bee added to his life, 2 King. 20. But what was it, that made it so powerfull? Surely it was the sorrow, and humilia∣tion of his heart. For so the Lord bids the Prophet tell him, 2 King. 20. 5. I have heard thy prayer and have seene thy teares.
- Lastly, It was a most powerfull prayer whereby Manasseh (one of the horriblest sinners that ever lived) prevailed so farre that God was en∣treated of him, and heard his supplication, 2 Chron. 33. 13. But when made hee that prayer? See verse 12. When he had humbled himselfe greatly before the Lord. Therefore it is noted by the Prophet to bee the ordinary course of the afflicted soule, that hee may prevaile in his prayer, Lam. 3. 29. Hee putteth his mouth in the dust, if so bee there may bee hope. To breed hope in himselfe, that God will regard and shew respect to his prayer, he abaseth, and humbleth himselfe in the lowest manner that hee can. In so much as upon these manifold experiments, Gods people have growne wonderfully confident in this, that when they could bring their hearts to this hu∣miliation and sorrow, their prayers then should cer∣tainly prevaile with God. See therefore how they have pleaded teares even before God, Psal. 39. 12. Heare my prayer O Lord, give care to my cry, hold not thy peace at my teares, & Psal. 6. 6. All the night long I make my bed to swimme, I water my couch with my teares, & verse 8. The Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping. As if he should have said, My teares cryed louder then my tongue could doe, and the Lord had more respect to my teares then to my words. The Lord (I tell you) makes precious account of the teares of his people, Psalm. 56. 8. Put thou my teares in thy bot∣tle, are they not in thy booke?
The reasons,* and grounds of this Doctrine are worthy to bee inquired into; and the reason of two things must bee inquired of. 1. What have beene the causes of that sorrow, and humiliation that Gods people have beene wont to afflict their soules with, and which God hath had so much respect unto. 2. What are the reasons why God hath had such delight in this to see his people thus humbled, and afflicted in their soules.
For the first, we shall find that the reason, & ground of the sorrow of Gods children, that God hath beene so much delighted in, hath beene no wordly thing. I deny not but they have also their worldly sorrowes, but those make them never a whit the more acceptable to God. Wee read of diverse that have had their hearts afflicted, and humbled in great measure, and yet their sorrow pleased God never a whit, nor made their prayers ever a whit the more powerfull with him. Nabals heart was heavy, and sorrowfull enough, 1 Sam. 25. 37. It dyed within him, for griefe, and feare, and became as a stone: and so was Iudas his heart heavy enough, Mat. 27. 34. And when Esau had lost the blessing, and birth-right irrecoverably, Gen. 27. 34. He cryed out with a great and exceeding bitter cry. Yea, even at fasts many have afflicted their soules with sorrow, and pleased God never a whit, nor prayed ever a whit the better, Esa. 58. 3. Wherefore have wee afflicted our soule and thou takest no knowledge? & Zach. 7. 3. Should I weep in the fift month separating my selfe as I have done these so many yeeres? The Lord denies not that they afflicted their soules, and wept in their fasts, but saith, Zach. 7. 5. they did it not unto him, they respected not the Lord, but themselves in their sorrow, it was not a sorrow according to God. Marke therefore the difference of this sorrow of the godly, from the other in foure grounds, and reasons of their sorrow.
First, The godly have afflicted their soules with sorrow, for the afflictions of others out of a compas∣sion, and fellow f•eling they have had of their mise∣ries. So did David heere. This pleaseth God well as wee may see, in the comfort that Iob tooke in it, Iob 30. 25. Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? was not my soule grieved for the poore? So Ier. 13. 17. Mine eye shall weep sore, and runne downe with teares, because the Lords flock is carried away captive. This would please God well, if we could afflict our selves. 1. For that fearefull sicknesse, whereby God sweeps away so many of our brethren, in so uncomfortable a manner, they dye in our high wayes, and in our fields without all meanes of comfort. 2. For the poverty this brings on them that escape. 3. For the captivity of the Lords flock in Bohemia, and the Pala∣tinate.
Secondly, The godly have afflicted their soules with sorrow, when the Lord hath shewed himselfe to be angry with them, either by threatning them by his Word and Prophets, or by executing his judge∣ments upon them.
For the first, see two notable examples. The one, Iudg. 2. 2, 5. When the Lord by his messenger had chidden Israel, for making a league with the Cananites, and not throwing down their altars; and threatned that therefore he would not drive them out of their land, but they should bee as thornes in their sides, and their Gods should be a snare to them, they lift up their voice and wept, and there was such weeping there, as the name of that place was called Bochim. The other example is Iosia, hee was humbled in his soule, and wept when he but heard the Lords threats against Iuda, read out of the booke of the Law, 2 Chron. 34. 27. Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thy selfe before the Lord thy God, when thou heardst his words a∣gainst this place, and humbledst thy selfe before me, and didst rent thy clothes, and weep before me, I have even heard thee saith the Lord. Wherein also we may ob∣serve, how well God is pleased to see his people fall into these passions of feare, and sorrow when he by his word doth rebuke and threaten them. Which the Lord also professeth, Esa. 66. 2. But to this man will I looke, even to him that is poore, and of a contrite spi∣rit, and trembleth at my Word. So when God hath shewed himselfe to bee angry, and displeased with them by executing any of his judgements upon them, they have then beene wont, and it was their duty then, to afflict their soules. If her father (saith the Lord of Miriam, Num. 12. 14.) had but spit in her face should shee not be ashamed seven dayes? See a plaine proofe of this, 2 Chron. 7. 13. If I send pestilence a∣mong my people, if my people shall humble themselves, and pray, and seeke my face. Marke, not their owne losse by the judgement should trouble them so much, as Gods anger, and therefore in their prayer they seeke Gods face, and favour above all things. And this is very pleasing unto God, to see his people humble themselves so under the strokes of his hand. See a notable example of this, 2 Chron. 12. 3, 4. Shishak King of Egypt came against Ierusalem with a mighty Army, and tooke the fenced Cities that pertained to Iudah, and came to Ierusalem. See what followed, 2 Chron. 12. 6. The Princes of Israel, and the King humbled themselves, and they said, the Lord is righteous. And what followed upon that, verse 7. And when the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemajah, saying, they have humbled themselves, therefore I will not destroy them.
Thirdly, When they have seene God dishonored by the sins of others, then have they also mourned, and afflicted their soules. Ieremy professeth, 13▪ 17. If you will not heare, my soule shall weep in secret places for your pride. So David professeth, that the Zeale of Gods house (the inward vexation of his soule through zealous sorrow, and indignation for the neg∣lect, and profanation of Gods worship) had even eaten him up, and consumed him, Psal. 69. 9. Spe∣cially the foule sinnes that they have knowne in the places (Townes, Congregations, Families,) where themselves lived. So it is said of Lot, 2 Pet. 2. 8. That righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing, and hearing vexed his righteous soule from day to day, with their unlawfull deeds. So Paul saith, the Corinthi∣ans should have done, 1 Cor. 5. 2. Ye are puffed up and have not rather mourned. And see how highly God is pleased with this when his people can mourn for this cause, Ezek. 9. 4. And the Lord said unto him (that was clothed with linen, and had the writers inkhorne by his side) Goe through the midst of the City, through the mids of Ierusalem, and set a marke upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and that cry for all the abo∣minations that be done in the midst thereof.
Fourthly and lastly, The chief cause why they have beene so given to mourning, and weeping, why they have afflicted themselves so much, hath beene their owne sinnes, whereby themselves have offended, and dishonoured God. This David professeth was the cause why his sorrow was continually before him, he was sorry for his sinne, Psal. 38. 16. 17. This was the cause why Mary Magdalen wept so abundantly that shee was able to wash Christs feet, with her teares, shee was a sinner, Luk. 7. 37, 38. This sor∣row God wonderfully delights in more then in all outward worship whatsoever, Psal. 51. 17. The Sa∣crifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Now come we to the second inquiry, to find out the true causes and reasons of this, why God should so much desire and delight to see His people hum∣bled with sorrow, to see them afflict and chasten their soules in this manner. It is said of Him, that He hath pleasure in the prosperity of His servants, Psal. 35 27. that He doth not afflict willingly, Lam. 3. 33. that in all the afflictions of His people He is afflicted, Esa. 63. 9. And indeed it is true that our sorrowes in themselves please not God, but onely in respect.
First, of the causes and fountaines from whence they proceed; that is, 1. They are the worke of His owne Spirit. It is the Spirit of God onely that gives to any man such a fleshy and soft heart, as we may see by that promise, Ezek. 11. 19. I will give them one heart, and will put a new spirit within you: and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: And I will powre upon them my spirit, and they shall mourne abundantly, saith the Lord, Zach. 12. 10. And God must needs take plea∣sure in the worke of His owne grace and holy Spi∣rit. 2. These teares proceed from our love to God. Kindnesse (you know) causeth teares more than any thing els; so it is in this case. Christ saith of the woman that wept so abundantly, that she loved much, Luke 7. 47. And that which makes men most of all to mourne for sinne, is the Spirit of grace, which perswades us of Gods free love to us, and that Christ was pierced by and for us, Zach. 12. 10. And this (above many other workes of His Spirit) God greatly delighteth in, 1 Cor. 8. 3. If any man love God, the same is knowne of Him.
Secondly, In respect of the end that this sorrow tends unto, the issue and effect of it the Lord greatly delighteth in it. He seeth we have need of it, 1 Pet. 1. 6. Now for a season (if need be) you are in heavinesse. The Lord seeth it will do us much good, and there∣fore He is so well pleased with it, Eccles. 7. 3. By the sadnesse of the countenance the heart is made better. 1. It makes us more capable of every grace of God, and fitter to receive it. As the vessell that is full can receive no good liquor, but all is spilt that is powred upon it, and the emptier it is, the more it will receive. So is it in this case, Iam. 4. 6. God will give grace to the humble. For knowledge, Psal. 25. 9. The meeke will He teach His way: and for comfort, 2 Cor. 7. 6. God comforteth those that are cast downe. 2. It worketh repentance unto salvation; and the heart is never wont to be truly turned unto God and changed, but the change begins here, 2 Cor. 7. 10. Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of. 3. It makes Christ and Gods Word and Promises sweet unto us, and all Gods mercies to relish well, as hunger makes us relish our meat, and thirst our drinke, Prov. 27. 7. The full soule loatheth an hony-combe, but to the hungry soule every bitter thing is sweet. The prodigall, when he had beene pinched with hunger, would have beene glad with all his heart to have fared as his fathers servants did, Luke 15. 19. O what sweetnesse found Paul in Christ? I determined (saith he) not to know any thing among you, save Iesus Christ, and Him crucified, 1 Cor. 2. 2. And what made his tast so good? He had been deeply humbled in sense of his sinnes, as appeares plainly by this, that he counted himselfe lesse than the least of all Saints, Eph. 3. 8. and the chiefest of all the sinners that Christ came to save, 1 Tim. 1. 15. And what sweetnesse did David find in Gods Word, and promises, Psal. 119. 103. How sweet are thy words unto my taste? Yea sweeter then hony to my mouth. And how came he to this? O he had beene greatly hum∣bled with sense of sinne as appeares, Psal. 40. 12. In∣numerable evils have compassed me about, mine iniquities have taken hold upon me so that I am not able to looke up: they are more then the haires of mine head, therefore my heart faileth me. Yea this makes all Gods mercies relish well, and our hearts to rejoyce, and be thank∣full for them; a farthing token, is to a very poore man most acceptable. This we shall see in Iacobs example, hee vowed great thankfulnesse to God if hee would give him but bread to eate and raiment to put on, as wee see, Gen. 28. 20. because hee was so humbled in the sense of his owne unworthinesse, and could say, Gen. 32. 10. I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies.
- It makes them seeke to God more earnestly, and pray more fervently. As it is said of our Savi∣our himselfe, Luk. 22. 44. that being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly; his inward abasement through anguish of soule did adde much to the fervency of his prayer; So it is also with all his members, they never pray so fervently, as when they are most hum∣bled and afflicted in spirit: Lord in trouble have they visited thee (saith the Prophet Esa. 26. 16.) they pou∣red out a prayer when thy chastning was upon them.
- And lastly, It makes a man fit to walke, and converse with God, no man can be fit to doe so till then, Mic. 6. 8. The Lord requires we should humble our selves to walke with our God. We can never walke, nor converse with God til we can humble our selves. And that both, 1. In respect of the Lord, who can not delight to converse with any till he be humbled; as no great man will be familiar with a saucy unman∣nerly foole, that knowes not how to carry himselfe before his betters, nor to give due respect unto him. God cannot abide that flesh should glory in his presence, 1 Cor. 1. 29. & 2 Sam. 22. 28. The afflicted people thou wilt save: but thine eyes are upon the haughty, that thou maist bring them downe. The more we are humbled in our selves, the more the Lord delights in us, to bee, and converse with us. Though the Lord be high (saith the Psalmist, Psal. 138. 6.) yet hath hee respect unto the lowly, but the proud he knowes afarre of. And Esa. 57. 15. He will dwell with him that is of a contrite, and humble spirit.
- In respect of our selves wee are never fit to walke with God, till we be truly humbled. We can∣not serve God so as to please him till we can doe it with reverence, and feare, Heb. 12. 28. Till then we cannot heare the word as we should. All thy saints are in thine hands (saith Moses, Deut. 33. 3.) and they are humbled at thy feet, to receive thy words. Till then we can never pray as we should. Till we can consi∣der▪ God is in the heaven (of high and incomprehen∣sible majesty) and we upon earth, base and vile worms, wee shall bee apt to bee rash with our mouths, and our heart will be hasty to utter any thing before God, as Salo∣mon speaketh, Eccle. 5. 2. Till then men will never bee fearefull to offend him; no wee can never know him nor our selves rightly till we have beene sound∣ly humbled. I have heard of thee (saith Iob 42. 4.) by the hearing of the eare, but now mine eye seeth thee. Iob had a true, and saving knowledge of God before (as he had also beene truly humbled in soule before) but nothing to that he had, when God had thorow∣ly humbled him. And so it is said of Manasseh. 2 Chron. 33. 12. 13. That when he was in affliction, and had humbled himselfe greatly; then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God. Till then we cannot yeeld any acceptable and constant obedience unto God. Ier. 44. 10. They are not humbled even unto this day, neither have they feared, nor walked in my Law, nor in my statutes, that I set before you, and before your fathers.
Octob. 12. 1625.
TWo Uses this Doctrine serveth unto principally,* First for exhortation, and then for comfort.
And first to exhortus,* that we would all of us strive to a•teine to this grace that David heere speaketh of, and hath beene com∣mended unto us in this Doctrine; that is, to be able to afflict our owne soules with godly sorrow. And for my better proceeding in handling of this use, and for the help of your memory, and edification, I will deliver unto you, 1. The motives whereby you may be provoked to seeke this grace. 2. The meanes you must use for the atteyning of it. 3. The signes and tokens whereby you may discerne it.
First, Motives, I say; for you had need to have forcible reasons shewed you why you should desire it; none of us desire it as we ought, most men abhorre all sorrow; they put farre away the evil day, Amos 6. 3. and give themselves to all meanes of mirth, that they can devise Amos 6. 5, 6. And even in these times wherein the Lord by so many meanes cals to mourning, and to weeping, behold joy, and gladnesse, every where as it was in the Prophets time, Esa, 22. 12, 13. Every mans heart is in the house of mirth, Eccle. 7. 4. You had need therefore have forcible motives given you to persuade you to seeke, and labour for godly sorrow, for an afflicted and humbled heart. In the stone of the kidny or bladder men need not be persuaded to desire or seeke remedy, but in the stone of the heart they doe.
First,* Consider the examples of Gods servants, whom God in his Word hath commended to us, and whom we count happy men, as the Apostle spea∣keth, Iam. 5. 11. and we shall see they were men of tender hearts, they were deeply humbled, and much given to mourning and weeping for their sinnes, David was much given to weeping for sinne, he spent whole nights in weeping abundantly, Psal. 6. 6. And Peter when he repented wept bitterly, Mat. 26. 75. & Paul was so humbled all his dayes for the sins he committed before his calling, that hee counted himselfe not worthy to be called an Apostle, 1 Cor. 15 9 Yea he judged himself lesse then the least of all Saints, Ep. 3. 8. Yea they have been brought to the very point & brink of despaire, before they could come to com∣fort. So was Asaph when he cryed, Psal. 73, 26. My flesh and my heart faileth. And so was Heman when he complained, Psal. 88. 15. While I suffer thy terrours, I am distracted. And so was David also when he said thus in his prayer unto God, Psal. 40. 12. Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so as I am not able to looke up, they are more then the haires of my head, therefore my heart faileth me.
But these were fouler sinners (thou wilt say) then ever thou wert. I will shew thee therefore examples of such as whose sinnes were as small as thine. Iob was never tainted with so fowle sinnes as thou hast been; and yet his eyes were wont to poure out teares unto God, 16. 20. He for that very forwardnesse and impatiency he shewed in so great affliction ab∣horred himselfe, and repented in dust, and ashes, Iob 42. 6. Davids heart was so soft and tender, that it smote him when he had but cut off the skirt of Sauls gar∣ment, 1 Sam. 24. 5. The poore man whose child Christ dispossessed burst out into teares even for the weakenesse of his faith, Mar. 9. 24. Paul was mar∣vellously humbled even for his originall sinne, Rom. 7. 24. O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Consider these examples well, and thou must needs conclude with thy selfe; 1. Surely it must needs be a good thing; 2. Surely it must needs be a necessary thing, that all Gods people have beene so much given unto; Surely I have as much cause as they had to weepe, and bee deeply humbled for my sinnes.
But I will give thee another example farre grea∣ter then all these thy blessed Saviour that had no sin, was much given to mourning, and weeping for the the sinnes that thou, and such as thou art have com∣mitted, Mar. 3. 5. He mourned for the hardnesse of the hearts, even of his enemies; He wept over Ieru∣salem, Luc. 19. 41. His soule was exceeding sorrowfull, unto death, Mat. 26. 38. He offred up prayers and sup∣plications, with strong crying, and teares, Heb. 5. 7.
Say not I have the lesse cause to grieve for my sinnes, because hee grieved so much for them, Esay 53. 4. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrowes.
For thou must become conformable unto him in his sufferings, or thou shalt never have comfort in them, Rom. 8. 29. & 6. 5.
Say therefore to thine owne soule, if all Gods peo∣ple have beene so apt to weep and mourne, what am I?
But before I proceede to the second Motive, two questions and doubts must be ansvered, that may a∣rise from the first.
Can I not be in the state of grace,* unlesse I match these examples, and be so tender hearted, and apt to mourne as they?
I answer,* first thou mayest. All Gods children have not beene humbled, nor broken in heart in the same measure, and degree, and two reasons there be of the difference.
First, In the persons themselves. Some of them have beene more hainous sinners then others. And according to the proportion of mens sins hath, and must be the measure of mens humiliation. The hai∣nouser the sinne, the deeper, and of the longer con∣tinuance must the sorrow be.
Of Manaf•es it is said, 2 Chron. 33. 12. He humbled him∣selfe greatly before God. Of David, Psal. 51. 8. that his anguish and sorrow for sin, was like to the paine a man feeleth that hath his bones broken. Of Mary Mag∣dalen that she wept so aboundantly as she could wash Christs feet with her teares, Luc. 7. 38. Thinke up∣on this thou that hast beene guilty of murther, per∣secution, whoredome, or such like hainous sinnes, thy sorrow must be proportionable to the hainous∣nesse of thy sinnes.
The second reason of the difference is in the Lord, who is the only worker & giver of this grace. For as in other graces he is pleased to give them in greater measure to some of his elect, then to others, Mat. 13. 23. In some elect ground, the seed of the Word yeelds but thirty, in some sixty, in some an hundred fold. So is it in this.
Ordinarily the Lord useth by the spirit of bon∣dage, and legal terrors to prepare men to their con∣version, and deeply to humble them, to give them the spirit of bondage, Rom. 8. 15. But we read of no such thing in the first conversion of Matthew: though he had beene a Publican. For at his very first conversion he made a great feast to Christ, Mat. 9. 9, 10. nor in those that Peter converted, for though they were pricked in their hearts and deeply hum∣bled before they beleeved, Act. 2. 37. Yet did their sorrow, and feare continue nothing so long upon them, as Davids did, they quickly attained to comfort in the assurance of pardon, Act. 2. 41. 46 Lydias e∣xample I doe of purpose omit, for shee (though shee beleeved not in Christ till she heard Paul, Act. 16. 14. yet) was converted, and feared God before Verse 13.
Secondly,* Yet know this that all Gods elect. 1. Find in themselves this humiliation even with legall terrours at one time or other. For Christ was sent to preach the Gospell to none, but to the broken-hearted, to the captives, to the bruised, Luk. 4. 18. that is to such as had the spirit of bondage, Rom. 8. 15.
- All Gods faithfull, and true hearted people are in some true measure humbled, and can mourne, and afflict their soules for sinne, for they are all oft in scripture stiled by this title. They are called the hum∣ble, Psal. 34. 2. an afflicted and poore people, Zeph. 3. 12. the poore of the fl•ck, Zac. 11. 7. 11. poore (he meanes) in spirit, Ma•. 5. 3. Psal. 34 6, 3. They hold them∣selves bound to aime at the best marks, and to strive to be like them that have most excelled in this grace of brokennesse of spirit, & ability to mourne for sin, Phil. 3. 17. Brethren be followers together of mee, and marke them that walke so, as ye have us for an ensample. Thou art then in a wofull case if thou neither canst mourne for thy sinne, nor strivest to doe it.
But yet there is a second question to be resolved.* For we heare (may some say) that Iob, and David, & Peter, and Paul, and Hezechia, and Iosia, and Christ, have been much given to weeping, in their mourning for sinne they have wept much. Can I not bee in the state of grace, can I not have truely repented, nor beene humbled for my sinne, unlesse I can doe as they did, unlesse I can weepe for my sinne?
I answer▪* First, That the griefe, and mourning for sinne be absolutely necessary unto unfained re∣pentance, teares are not alwayes so. And I will shew you two reasons of the difference that is to be obser∣ved betweene Gods people in this point.
First, The constitution of some mens bodyes makes them much more unapt to weepe then others are.
Secondly, The very extreamity of griefe some∣times so oppresseth, and overwhelmeth mens hearts (as David complaineth of himselfe, Psal. 143. 4. My spirit is overwhelmed within me, my heart within mee 〈◊〉 desolate) as they cannot ease themselves either by words or teares. Gods people have beene oft in that extreamity of griefe as they could not pray, I meane not expresse in words the desires of their heart, but with sighes, and groanings, Rom. 8. 26. In extrea∣mity of sorrow some men cannot weepe. It is said of David, and his company, 1 Sam. 30. 4. they had no more power to weepe. So that I may say to thee that if thou canst, by the signes that I shall by and by give thee, approve that thou art able soundly to mourne, and bee humbled for thy sinnes, though thou canst not weepe for them, thou mayst be in the state of grace for all that.
But secondly,* I answer, That if the constitution of thy body will serve thee to weep for other things and yet thou couldst never weep for thy sinnes, surely thy case is fearefull. As to the man that can re∣member other things well enough, a tale, a play, but a sermon, a chapter of the Bible, he cannot remem∣ber, and excuseth the matter thus, my memory is naught, I may say it is naught indeed with a witnes, it is sinfully, it is damnably naught; so to thee that canst weepe for other things but not for sinne, I may say, flatter not thy selfe but strive to bee able to doe as thou hearest other the good servants of God have done, and that God hath beene so highly pleased with them for, strive to bee able to weepe for thy sinnes.
The second motive to persuade you to seeke for this grace,* is the consideration of the manifold pro∣mises God hath made in his word to them that can afflict their soules, and be rightly humbled for sinnes, and the great benefite that this grace will bring with it.
First,* This sorrow shall not be everlasting, Rev. 7. 17. but it shall end in comfort, Iohn 16. 20. Yee shall be sorrowfull, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy, Psal. 126. 5. They that sow in teares, shall reap in joy. It is appointed unto them that mourne in Zion, that they shall have the •ile of joy given them for their mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heavines, Esa. 61. 3. The Lord who is the father of mercies, & God of all consolation is cald a God that comforteth al those that are cast downe, 2 Cor. 7. 6. Never found Gods people that cōfort in Gods mercy & in the assurance of the pardō of their sins as when they have beene most humbled, and able to weep most for their sinnes, Esa. 29. 19. The meeke shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poore among men shall rejoyce in the holy one of Israel. The day of humiliation when Gods people afflict their soules before him, is called a day of attonement, Levit. 23. 27. For so is Gods promise, Zac. 13. 1. In that day there shall be a fountaine opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Ierusalem, for sinne, and for unclean∣nesse.
First, No man need feare hee shall bring himselfe to desperation if he give way to this tendernesse of heart, and sorrowing for sinne. For there is no such medicine in the world to free thy heart from legall, and desperate feares, and sorrowes, and to bring thy heart to sweet peace, and comfort in God, as this is, if thou couldst rightly mourne, and be humbled for thy sinne. When those poore wretches that had cru∣cified Christ, and were pricked in their hearts, with intollerable feares, and sorrowes, and anguish of soule for it, and cried out to the Apostles what shall we doe? Act. 2. 37. Marke what remedy Peter prescribes them, verse 38. Repent, saith he. Why? Did they not repent already, of that they had done? Yes, with le∣gall repentance for endaungering themselves, but his meaning is, repent and mourne that you have of∣fended God. And indeed so is Gods promise. Esay 57. 15. I will dwell with him that is of a contrite, and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. He may be sure to have his heart revived, and comforted that can be humbled enough.
Secondly, Yea there is no such remedy against wordly sorrow as this; if when we feele our hearts dejected with any sorrow for any worldly crosse, we would labour to turne our heart from the considera∣tion of the crosse, to the consideration of our sinne that hath beene the cause of it. And this remedy you shall finde prescribed, Lam. 3. 39. Wherefore doth a living man complaine, (chafe, and fret, and disquiet himselfe) a man for the punishment of his sinnes? let us search, and try our wayes.
I beseech you lay this second Motive to your hearts every one of you.* 1. Many of you never yet had any comfort in God, in the assurance of the pardon of your sinnes, never found sweetnesse in Christ nor in Gods promises. 2. Many of you are much disquieted with legall and desperate feares. 3. Many of you are alwayes heavy hearted, som∣times by reason of crosses you meet with, and sometimes you know not why. And what is the true cause of all this? You were never yet rightly humbled for your sinnes. Why will you continue in this uncomfortable estate? Learne to mourne and weepe for thy sinnes, and that will help all.
The second promise made unto it,* and benefit this sorrow will bring, is, that it will make us capable of, and able to thrive in every saving grace. This benefit you shall find pressed as a motive unto this, 1 Pet. 5. 5, 6. God giveth grace to the humble, humble your selves therefore (saith the Apostle) under the mighty hand of God. Iam. 4. 6, 7, 9. God giveth grace to the humble, submit your selves therefore to God, bee afflicted, and mourne and weep. Men use not to come to the rock to be well grounded, and setled in grace till they have digged deep, Luk. 6. 48. Such shall attaine to a cleare and certaine, and sanctified knowledge of the truth, Psal. 25. 9. The humble he will teach his way. Such shall get power over their corruptions, 2 Cor. 7. 10. Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repen∣ted of. Eccle. 7. 3. Sorrow is better then laughter: for by the sadnesse of the countenance, the heart is made better. These teares are of a purging, and cleansing nature; no sope, no nitre is so effectuall to get the spots, and staines out of cloth, as these are to wash out the spots of thy soule. That which Salomon saith of a slan∣derer, Prov. 25. 23. An angry countenance will drive him away; may be said of this: if sinne be not cockerd, and made much of, if we would shew our selves dis∣contented, sad, and heavy, while it tarrieth with us, this would drive it away.
Take this also to heart,* I pray you. 1 Many of you complaine, or have just cause to complaine, you thrive not in any saving grace, you are like Pharaohs kine, though you live in never so good pasture, yet are you still as ill favoured, and leane as ever you were, Gen. 41. 19. 21.
- Many of you are extreamely ignorant, and unsetled in your religion, unstable soules, as the Apo∣stle speakes, 2 Pet. 3. 16.
- Many of you complaine you cannot overcome nor get power over any corruption; you cry with the Apostle (though not with that successe that hee did) Rom. 7. 15. That which I doe I allow not; for what I would that I doe not, but what I hate that doe I. Learne to know the true cause of all this, you were never yet rightly humbled for sinne. If thou couldst be hum∣bled and learne to mourne for thy sinne, God would give thee more grace.
Thirdly,* The Lord hath promised his speciall protection, assistance and mercy in the evill day, the day of his wrath, and judgements, unto such as are rightly humbled, and can mourne for their sinnes, Psal. 18. 27. Thou wilt save the afflicted people, and 34. 18. He saveth such as be of a contrite spirit, Iob 22. 29. When men are cast downe then thou shalt say, there is a lifting up, he shall save the humble person. And this pro∣mise God hath been wont to make good, one of these three wayes.
- Either by turning away the judgment that he had threatned as 2 Chron. 32. 26. Hezechia humbled himselfe for the pride of his heart (both he, and the inha∣bitants of Ierusalem) so that the wrath of the Lord came not upon them in the dayes of Hezechia. Yea to shew what sound humiliation is able to doe, the very coun∣terfait of it hath beene very effectuall this way for the turning away of judgements, 2 Chron. 12. 12 When Rehoboam humbled himselfe, the wrath of the Lord turned from him, so that he would not destroy him altogether, and also in Iudah things went well. The like we may see in the example of a worse man then hee, 1 King. 21. 29. Seest thou how Ahab humbleth him∣selfe before me? therefore I will not bring the evill in his dayes.
Or 2. by hiding his servants from the judgement, and providing for their safety in the common calami∣ty, as he did Iust Lot, that was vexed with the filthy conversation of the Sodomites, 2 Pet. 2. 7. This our God can doe, verse 9. The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of tentations; For to him belong the issues of death, Psal. 68. 20.
Or 3. (if he see it not good to do either of the former) by sealing them, & setting his mark upon them, giving them by his spirit further assurance of his favour, and strength of grace to indure the calamity (for that is Gods seale, and marke, Ep. 1. 13.) and so did the Lord with those humbled soules that went into captivity, Ezek. 9. 4. Goe through the midst of the City, through the midst of Ierusalem, and set a marke upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and that cry for all the abhominations that be done in the midst thereof.
Consider well of this benefit I pray you.* 1. We live now in an evill time: The plague hath de∣voured many thousands already; and we all may see cause enough to feare, it may come neerer to every one of us then yet it hath done.
- The Lord doth also threaten us with the sword. You have heard of the intentions of our enemies a∣broad.
- All mens hearts are disquieted with feare; few have any inward peace, and security in their minds. Learne therefore to know how wee might remedy this. Certainly if we could learne to afflict our selves and mourne for our sinnes, we need not feare either the plague, or the papists: God would be a refuge for us, a refuge in times of trouble, Psal. 9. 9. O that Gods people throughout the land could humble themselves more for sin, for the sinnes of the land, and for their owne sinnes. O that we could doe it, that are here now. Remember what is said, Prov. 14. 26. In the feare of the Lord is strong confidence, and his children shall have a place of refuge.
Fourthly,* The Lord hath promised that the pray∣ers of such shall prevaile mightily with him both for themselves, and others. You know what is said of Iacob, Hos. 12. 4. He had power over the Angel, and prevailed, he wept and made supplications unto him. And of Hezechiah, Esa. 38. 5. I have heard thy prayers, I have seene thy teares, behold I will adde unto thy dayes 15. yeeres. And what need we more examples when we have the Lords expresse Word, and promise for this, Psal. 10. 17. Lord thou hast heard the desire of the humble, thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine eare to heare, Psal 34. 17. When the Prophet had said, The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth them, he giveth this for the reason, verse 18. The Lord is nigh to them that are of a broken heart, 2 Chron. 7. 14. If my people that are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, then will I heare from Heaven. Yea for others also, God will heare them, Iob 42. 8. My servant Iob shall pray for you, for him will I accept.
- Wee all complaine,* and not without cause, as Iob did, Iob 30. 20. I cry unto thee, and thou dost not heare me: I stand up, and thou regardest me not.
- And we account it (if we be as we should be) the cheif priviledge, and comfort we have in this life to have audience and respect with God in our prayers, 1 Iohn 5. 14. This is the confidence that wee have in him, that if wee aske any thing according to his will, he heareth us.
- Take notice of a cheif cause thereof: and as thou desirest God should have more respect to thy prayers, la∣bour thou to be more hum∣bled for thy sinnes.
Novemb. 9. 1625.
FOlloweth now the third and last mo∣tive;* that this is the best way to prevent the Lord from afflicting, and humbling our soules with his owne hand, when we have learned to humble, and afflict our owne soules. For this is a certaine truth; sinne will bring sorrow sooner or later, that cannot bee a∣voided. Sinne is therefore called sorrow; because sorrow is an inevitable effect, and consequent of it, Eccl. 11. When he had said, verse 9. Rejoyce, O young man in thy youth, and let thy heart cheere thee in the daies of thy youth, and walke in the waies of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes, but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgement: he addes verse 10. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evill from thy flesh. When sinne hath gone before, sorrow (even sorrow and affliction of soule for sinne) will follow, Prov. 29. 6. In the transgression of a wicked man there is a snare; that is, that that will fill their hearts with deadly sorrow and heavinesse, as appeares by the next words, but the righteous sing, and rejoyce, Ier. 2. 19. Thine owne wickednesse shall cor∣rect thee, know therefore, and see that it is an evill thing, and bitter that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my feare is not in thee. Thy sinnes certainly will be bitter to thee one day, sooner or later. Take this for an undoubted truth, thou must either temporal∣ly heere or eternally hereafter in hell, lament, and be waile, and weepe for thy sinnes, Luc. 13. 28. There shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Iacob, and all the Prophets in the Kingdome of God, and your selves thrust out. How much more when they shall see, and feele the torments that are prepared in hell for them? Now when God as an angry judge strikes, and afflicts the soule with sorrow for sinne, even in this life; ô that sorrow is terrible, and intolerable, when hee smites the heart, he so sets it on as no man is able to abide it, Heb. 10. 31. It is a fearefull thing to fall into the hands of the living God, Prov. 18. 14. A wounded spirit (that is, which God in his anger hath wounded) who can beare? Nah. 1. 6. Who can stand before his indignati∣on? and who can abide in the fiercenesse of his anger? his fury is powred out like fire, and the rocks are throwne down by him.
And the best way to prevent the Lord from wounding, and afflicting our soules, is to smite, and afflict our owne hearts for our sinnes; the way to prevent those intollerable, and everlasting sorrowes which God in his fury will bring upon wicked men, is to worke our hearts to this godly sorrow our selves, and to humble our owne soules: this is plaine by that speach of the Apostle, 1 Cor. 11. 31. If wee would judge our selves, wee should not bee judged of the Lord, hee meanes as appeares in the next verse.
O thinke of this thou merry Greeke,* that art all for mirth, and pleasure; thou drunkard and whore∣maister that findest such joy, and sweetnesse in thy sinne; thou pleasant witted fellow, that canst so wit∣tily breake jests upon religion, and the servants of God, that thou canst set all the company on laughing; the time will come when thy sinnes which thou canst not abide to thinke of, shall be set in order before thine eyes, that thou shalt not be able to looke of from them, they shall never out of thy thought, Psal. 50. 21. Thou that canst not abide to heare of thy sinnes, nor to be told of them, nor reproved for them by any of Gods servants, who are (as Elihu speakes, Iob 33. 6, 7, 8.) in Gods stead unto thee, formed out of the clay, aswell as thy selfe: whose terror need not make thee affraid, shalt one day heare the Lord him∣selfe reproving thee for them, Psal. 50. 21. I will reprove thee, saith he, and that will be such a kind of reproving as is mentioned, Psal. 2. 5. Then shall hee speake to them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore dis∣pleasure; better to have an hundred of Gods poore servants, to reprove thee, then to have the Lord doe it. Thou that canst not abide to let any sadnesse or sorrow for sinne to come neare thy heart, but hatest sorrow as the Devill, and abandonest it from thee with all thy might, doe what thou canst sooner or la∣ter it will seize upon thee. When Gods servants (that have beene much given to mourning for sinne) shall sing for joy of heart, thou shalt cry for sorrow of heart, and howle for vexation of spirit, Esay 65. 14. Luke 6. 25. Woe unto you that laugh now; for ye shall mourne and weepe.
Yea 2. thinke of this all you that feare God, were it not much better for you to take paines with your owne hearts to humble, and afflict them, then to leave it to God to doe it in his wrath. You have heard hee will certainly doe it if you doe it not, and the way to prevent him from doing it, is to doe it your selves.
And these are the motives that may stir up in e∣very one of us a desire to seeke for this grace, of an humbled and broken heart.
It followeth now,* that I shew you the meanes whereby you may atteine it. And these are of two sorts.
- Some such as wherein you must use the helpe of others.
- Some such as wherein you must be the agents your selves.
Of the first sort,* I will name to you, but two.
The first is the ministery of the Word.* If thou wouldst have a soft heart, able to mourne for sinne, thou must conscionably frequent the faithfull mini∣stery of the Word, strive to live under a forcible mi∣nistery, such as will search thy heart. No meanes in the world have ever wrought so mightily to the sa∣ving, humbling, and afflicting of the soule as this hath done. By this meanes they that had crucified Christ, and were so hardned in their sin, that when they saw that wonderfull miracle, even the Apostles that were poore Galileans speake in all languages the wonder∣full things of God, they mocked them, and said, these men are full of wine, Act. 2. 13. were so pricked, and wounded in their hearts, that they knew not what to doe till the same hand that wounded them had healed them againe, as you may read, Act. 2. 37, 41. And what was it that brought David to such a saving sense of his sinne in numbring of the people, that his heart smote him for it, and he cryed, I have sinned greatly in that I have done, I have done very foolish∣ly? 2 Sam. 24. 10. Surely God had sent G•d the Pro∣phet unto him, as you may see in the next words, verse 11. For when David was up in the morning, the Word of the Lord came unto the Prophet G•d, Davids Seer, saying, &c. and though it be said of Manasses, 2 Chron. 33. 12. that when he was in affliction he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himselfe greatly before him: yet if you looke into the 18. verse of that chap. you shall find, he had a mightier and stronger meane to worke that humiliation in his heart, then his affliction was, the Lord had sent to him Seers, and Prophets that spake unto him in the name of the Lord. His affliction was but a subordinate meanes, to make him the better able to receive profit by the word; the words and ministery of the seers, was that that wrought this mighty work. There is more force in the ministery of the Word, to worke sound, and saving humiliation then in all the afflictions in the world, Psal. 94. 12. Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy Law. See a notable experiment of this in Reho∣boam, and the Princes of Iudah, 2 Chron. 12. 2, 6. When God had for their apostacy, sent Shishak King of Egypt, with a mighty and invincible army against them, and brought them thereby into extreame perill and distresse, hee sent Shemaj•h the Prophet unto them, to declare unto them the true cause of that judgement, and to bring them to an effectuall sight and sense of their sinne, and then (not before) they humbled themselves, and confessed that the Lord was righ∣teous. Gods judgements and corrections without the word, vse not to worke savingly. Indeed they serve, 1. to prepare and make the heart fitter to receive, and profite by the word, 2. to stirre up those sparks, and make them to burne, which the word had before cast into the heart, and were covered as with ashes; but without the word, they use not to worke savingly. But the word even without affliction, hath done mighty things this way, Ier. 23. 29. Is not my Word like as a fire, saith the Lord? and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Wouldst thou then have thy heart softned? Bring it to this fire, if it be as hard as iron it will soften it, and make it plyable; bring it to this anvile where the hammer smiteth, and it wil breake it. For first this is ordained, and sanctified of God to bee a glasse that will cleerly, and evidently discover to us all our spots and deformities, as the Apostle teacheth us, Iam. 1. 23. Secondly, God hath promised to accompany this ordinance of his, with the divine power and efficacy of his holy Spirit, I will be with you (saith our Saviour, Mat. 28. 20.) unto the end of the world. And therefore it is no marvell though it be so mighty this way.
A likely matter will you say:* for where have you harder, and profaner hearts, then such as are daily beaten upon by this hammer?
I answer,* First, That the hardned, and reprobate heart is made the harder by the strokes of this hāmer specially such hearts as once were softned, and are growne hard againe: even as the Smiths iron is. To 〈◊〉 the word is a savour of death unto death, 2 Cor.〈…〉
Secondly,* The true cause why so many heare us daily, and their hearts are never a whit mollified by it, is this, in many of our hearers the Lord works not with us, no alas, in these dayes the Lord works with us, but in few; and if he be not with us, if hee worke not with us, we can doe nothing. When God bad Moses take his rod, and smite the rock in Horeb, he told him he would stand before him on the rock; and then when God stood upon the rock Moses smote the rock, and water gushed out of it aboundantly, Exod. 17. 5, 6. If God had not beene there, Moses smiting the rock would have done nothing; so is it in this case.
Thirdly,* This I say, that such as God hath in mer∣cy ordained to give a soft heart unto, shall feele their hearts mollified more by this then by any other meanes. And if this will not soften thy heart, I as∣sure thee nothing will doe it.
This being so;* Oh that we who are Gods ministers would more diligently, & carefully apply our selves to this worke, and stir up our selves in our ministry not onely to reprove sinne, but to doe it feelingly and conscionably, so as may be most effectuall, to bring Gods people to sound humiliation for sinne. If we would bring them to lament for sinne, we must mourne to them our selves, as our saviour speaketh, Mat. 11. 17. and not by our Epicurisme, and riotous lives proclaime unto them, that we are far from ha∣ving humbled soules, in our selves for our owne sinnes.
And O that you that are Gods people,* would seek for, and desire this helpe from us in our ministry to soften your hearts, and further you in this worke of humiliation of foule for sinne. Certainly you should desire and seek for all good helpes this way. When God denounced against his people the heavy judge∣ment of the Babilonish captivity, and provokes them to humiliation, and repentance for the preventing of it. Consider yee (saith he, ler. 9. 17, 18.) and call for the mourning women, that they may come, and send for cun∣ning women that they may come, and let them make hast, and take up a wailing for us that our eyes may runne down with teares, and our eyelids gush out with waters. He al∣ludes to the custome they had in funerals, and such occasions of mourning to hire certain women, that by their skill in singing dolefull songs might increase their heavinesse, and make them more apt to mourn. But his meaning is to teach them that in such a time as that was, wherein they had also just cause to mourne, and humble themselves, they should use all the best helps they could to provoke themselves un∣to sorrow. And surely we should all learne to doe so in this case, seeing humiliation for sinne is so necessa∣ry, and the ministry of the word is a singular meanes to worke our hearts to it, we should therefore desire (so far as the good order that God hath established in his Church will permit) to heare such as whose ministry is most powerfull, and effectuall for the soft∣ning of a hard heart.
The second meane wherein we must use the help of others is the benefit of private admonition, and reproofe. They that would have their hearts softned to be able to mourne, and weepe for sin must not bee unwilling to be admonished and reproved for sin in private by some faithfull friend, either Minister or other, but count it a great benefit, and desire it rather.
First, certainly God hath given authority and a straight charge to all his people to watch one over another; and to call upon, and admonish, and re∣prove one another, Heb. 10. 24. Let us consider one a∣nother to provoke unto love, and to good works. 2 Thes. 3. 15. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. Levit. 19. 17. Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart, thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sinne upon him.
Secondly, God hath sanctified and ordained this for a meanes to reclaime poore sinners, to bring them to a saving sight and sense of their sinne, and keepe them from hardning their hearts in it, Matth. 18. 15. If thy brother shall trespasse against thee, go, and tell him his fault betweene thee and him alone: if he shall heare thee, thou hast gained thy brother; but if not, then (Verse 16. 17.) take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be esta∣blished. And if he shall neglect to heare them, tell it un∣to the Church; but if he neglect to heare the Church, let him be to thee as a Heathen man, and a Publicane. As if he had said, count not his case desperate till this course have been taken with him.
Thirdly, God hath oft blessed this course won∣derfully, Mel. 3. 16. Then they that feared the Lord, spake oft one to another, and the Lord hearkned, and heard it, and a booke of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. This was the meane whereby Gods people were kept from the prophanenesse and security of those times, and God was wonderfully pleased with it. Yea many a heart hath been molli∣fied this way, which the publique Ministry could not soften. Nathans private dealing with David prevailed more with him than all the publique meanes he had enjoyed in a whole yeare, 2 Sam. 12. 7. 13.
Fourthly, Count it therefore a great blessing of God to thee to have such a friend or such a Minister as will watch over thee, and deale thus privately and plainely with thee: yea seeke for such friends. It is said of Ion•than, 1 Sam. 20. 8. that he had brought David into a covenant of the Lord with him. We should labour to get such friends as we might make this co∣venant with▪ Yea we should beg of God to give us such a friend, Psal. 141. 5. Let the righteous smite me, it shalbe a kindnesse; and let him reprove me, it shalbe an excellent oyle that shall not breake my head. And we have all great need of it: for selfe• love so blinds us, as we cannot see that that is amisse in our selves. In these last times especially men shalbe lovers of them∣selves, as the Apostle teacheth us, 2 Tim. 3. 2.
And what marvell then if there be now adayes so much security and hardnesse of heart among Chri∣stians.* No man holds himselfe bound to watch o∣ver his brother, to admonish or reprove him, but e∣very man saith in his heart as Cain, Gen. 4. 9. Am I my brothers keeper? The Papists shall rise up in judge∣ment against us in this: for, they take all opportuni∣ties to gaine others to Antichrist. They (like the Scribes and Pharises of whom our Saviour speak∣eth, Mat. 23. 15.) do compasse sea and land to make one proselyte; but we have no care at all to gaine any un∣to Christ. And on the other side, all men are unwil∣ling to be admonished and plainly dealt with in pri∣vate, even by the Minister of God: but are apt to say to any that would admonish them, as the Sodo∣mites did to Lot, Gen. 19. 9. Stand backe, this fellow will needs be a Iudge. But know for a certainty, that thou that art so unwilling to heare of thy sinne, and to be plainly dealt with about it, art in love with thy sinne, and hast no desire to bring thy heart to godly griefe and sor∣row for it.
Decemb. 7. 1625.
IT followeth now that we come to those* meanes wherein we are to be principall agents our selves.
For, though this (to speake proper∣ly) be the mighty work of God to humble and mol∣lifie the heart of man, and make it able to mourne for sinne, according to that promise Ezek. 11. 19. I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and I will give them an heart of flesh; yet may we (after we are once regenerated) do much to further this great worke of God in our selves. Therefore we see David profes∣seth here that he afflicted his owne soule: and Psal. 69. 10. that he chastned his soule. And of Iosi•h it is said, that he did humble himselfe before God, 2 Chron. 34. 27. and of Manasses, 2 Chron. 33. 12. that he hum∣bled himselfe greatly before the God of his fathers. Yea Gods people are commanded in the day of their fast Levit. 23. 27. to afflict their owne soules: and Ioel 2. 13. to rent their hearts. And I••. 4. 3, 4. to breake up their fallow ground, and to circumcise and take away the fore∣skin of their owne hearts. By all which places it appea∣reth we may our selves do much in this worke, yea that we must be doers in it our selves, or els it will never be well done. And certainly, if we would do what we might, our hearts would be much softer, and better able to mourne for our sinnes, than they are.
If any of you shall aske me,* Why what can we do, or what should we do to worke our hearts to this godly sorrow?
I answer:* There are foure principall things that we may doe, and that we must do, if we would get broken and humbled hearts. For, 1. We must make choice of a fit time. 2. Of a fit place. 3. When we have so done, we must examine our hearts seriously and impar•ially. 4. We must pray to God for his assistance in this businesse.
First,* We must take a fit time to go about this worke. For, though this be but a matter of circum∣stance, yet have Gods people found much helpe un∣to spirituall duties even in this. Daniel for his private prayer made choice of the time that God had ap∣pointed for the evening sacrifice, Dan. 9. 21. And so did Cornelius, as will appeare if you compare Act. 10. 30. and 31. together. Our blessed Saviour made choice of the evening for this purpose sometimes, Mat. 14. 23. and sometimes of the morning early be∣fore day, Mar. 1. 35. And as all our time is not to be spent in mourning; so are there some times and sea∣sons fitter for this purpose, and such as will yeeld us more helpe in this worke, than other-some will do. Eccles. 3. 4. There is a time to weepe, and a time to laugh; a time to mourne, and a time to dance. And it is the wis∣dome of a Christian, to discerne and take the fittest time for this purpose. Eccles. 8. 5. A wise mans heart discerneth both time and judgement, saith Salomon. Eph. 5. 15, 16. Walke not as fooles, but as wise men, re∣deeming the time. The wisdome of a man (you see) consisteth much in the husbanding of his time well, and making choice of the fittest time fore every pur∣pose and action that he takes in hand.
And what times are the fittest (may you say) for this purpose?
I answer, it is profitable for a man every day to be doing somewhat in this worke, by observing his owne wayes, and calling himselfe to an account for them. For,
First, The Apostle tels us we are in danger to be hardned through the deceitfulnesse of sinne if we do not exhort or stirre up our selves daily, Heb. 3. 13.
Secondly, The time of our death is very uncer∣taine; and such servants (we know) as have great dealings for their master, and looke to be called to a strict account they know not how soone, will looke every day into their accounts, and have them in area∣dinesse continually. And surely this is our case; we know not how soone our accounts will be called for, Mar. 13. 35, 36. Watch ye therefore (for ye know not when the master of the house will come) least comming suddenly, he find you sleeping.
Thirdly, This would helpe us greatly in our daily prayers unto God. The more sense and sorrow for sinne we have when we pray, the more acceptable certainly would our prayers be unto God. Psal. 34. When David had said Vers. 17. The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth them; he tels us Verse 18. what cries and prayers of the righteous they be that the Lord hath such respect unto. The Lord is nigh (saith he) to them that are of a broken heart. If we would strive in our daily prayers when wee make confession of our sinnes to doe it with feeling, and not formally, it would not onley make our prayers more effectuall with God, but keepe our hearts from hardning, and bring them to a good temper, Luk. 18. 13, 14. When the Publican made confession of his sinnes with that feeling, smiting upon his breast, and saying, God be mer∣cifull to mee a sinner; It is said, •ee went home to his house justified rather then the other.
Fourthly, This daily accustoming our selves unto this worke of calling our selves to account, and affli∣cting our hearts for our sinnes, would make it more easy and familiar unto us, when we shall have ex∣traordinary occasion to betake our selves to it. That which is said by the Prophet of the Lords chaste∣ning of us, may fitly be applyed to this chastening of ourselves, Lam. 3. 27. It is good for a man that he beare the yoke, in his youth; and to have beene accustomed to stoop unto, and to beare patiently the Lords affli∣cting hand. By this that hath beene said you see it is good for us to be doing somewhat in this worke eve∣ry day.
Yet are there five speciall times,* and seasons that will yeeld us great helpe in this businesse more then other times will doe.
The first fit time to worke our hearts to godly sorrow, is presently after some fall we have received some grosse sinne we have slipped into. A great ad∣vantage it will be unto us, to humble our soules for it presently and without delay.
For first, sinne newly committed may be better knowne, and remembred, with all the circumstances whereby it is aggravated. And that is a great helpe to the humiliation of the soule, as wee may perceive in Davids speech, Psal. 51. 3. For I ac•nowledge my trans∣gressions, and my si••e is ever before me.
Secondly, The heart will not be so hardned by sinne that is newly committed, but more easily wrought upon, and softned then when sin hath lyen long upon it. As a bone that is out of joint the lon∣ger it is neglected, will be set againe with more diffi∣culty and paine. A Leopard may as soone leave his spots, an Ethiopian his blacknesse as he can do his sinne, that hath lyen long in it, Ier. 13. 23.
Secondly, Another fit season for this worke is, when wee prepare our selves to renew our covenant with God in the holy Sacrament.
For 1. at that time God requires of us a speciall care to examine our selves and call to mind our sins, and to judge our selves for them, else it is not possi∣ble we should receive worthily, 1 Cor. 11. 28. 29, 31. When thou bringest thy gift to the altar (saith our Savi∣our, Mat. 5. 23. as at the Lords table we doe offer, and present our selves unto God, our soules, and bodyes as a holy, reasonable, and lively sacrifice un∣to him) and there remembrest that thy brother hath ought against thee. Teaching us that at that time specially we should remember, and call to mind what our bro∣ther and much more what our heavenly father hath against us.
- At that time men (if they have any spark of grace in them) are apt to find in themselves some stirrings of their affections unto goodnesse, some motions of Gods spirit, some dispositions unto de∣votion, and remorse for sinne. Ministers that use to deale privately with their people at that time shall find them more easie to be wrought upon (and so shal every man his own heart) then at other times. These good motions should bee followed without delay. As it is said that they that lay at the poole of Bethes∣da, stroue to get in so soone as euer the Angell had stirred the water, Iohn 5. 4. And Iosuah so soone as God by a vision had stirred him up to search and find out the sinne that had provoked God against Israel, Iosh. 7. 16. went without delay immediatly about it. So should we doe in this case. When we feele God begins to soften our hearts, and to stirre up these good dispositions to devotion in us, then should wee set our selves seriously to this worke, of calling to mind our sinnes, and bringing our hearts to sorrow for them.
For 1. when God stirs up such motions he knocks at the doore of our hearts, and sheweth himselfe wil∣ling to enter in, Rev. 3. 20.
- Satan will bee ready to quench the spirit in these good motions. As it is said, he watched the in∣fant to devoure it so soone as ever it should be borne, Rev. 12. 4.
Thirdly, The dayes, and times wee set apart for fasting, and prayer (upon whatsoever just occasion) are a most fit season for us, to goe about this work.
For 1. we find Gods people have had their hearts wonderfully softned at such times. The Israelites in the fast that they kept for successe against Benjamin, came into the house of God, and wept, Iudg. 20. 26. And in the fast they kept as Mispeh, they wept so a∣bundantly that they are said, 1 Sam. 7. 6. to have drawne water, as by buckets full, out of their hearts, and to have poured it out before the Lord.
- This exercise of a religious fast is a great help, and furtherance to this work. As wee see heere in Davids example, Psal. 35. 13. I humbled my selfe with fasting, & 69. 10. I wept, and chastened my soule with fasting.
Fourthly, When any judgements of God lye heavy upon our selves or our brethren, that is a fit season to goe about this work. When these men were in misery David fell heere to afflicting of his soule, Psal. 35. 13.
For 1. the Lord by every one of his judgements, doth testify from Heaven that he hath matter against us, as Nao•i saith, Ruth 1. 21. Why doe you call mee Naomi, seeing the Lord (by taking away my husband and my children) hath testified against me, and the Al∣mighty hath afflicted me?
- God by his judgements doth call upon us to examine our wayes, and humble our selves before him, Hag. 1. 5, 6, 7. Now therefore saith the Lord of Hosts, co•sider your wayes; yee have sowen much, and brought in li•le, thus saith the Lord of Hosts, consider your wayes. And Esa. 22. 12. In that day did the Lord God of Hosts call to weeping, and to mourning.
- God by his judgements softneth the hearts of men, and worketh in them more remorse, more pronenesse and aptnes to repent then at other times, Iob 23. 16. God maketh my heart soft (saith Iob) and the Almighty troubleth mee. A man shall find himselfe fitter to pray then, then at other times: and we should take the advantage, and opportunity of this time for it, Iam. 5. 13. Is any afflicted? let him pray. This hath beene oft seene even in many notable hypocrites, who (how profane soever their hearts have beene at other times yet) in their affliction have found in themselves a disposition to pray, and to repent, Psal. 78. 34. When he slew them then they sought him and re∣turned. And Esa. 26. 16. Lord in trouble have they vi∣sited thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastning was upon them. And we find by experience that at such a time a faithfull Minister may much better worke up. on the hearts of men to bring them to remorse and repentance then at another time. According to that speach of Elihu, Iob 33. 22, 24. When a mans soule draweth neere to the grave; if there bee then a messenger with him, an interpreter, one of a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightnesse, then he is gracious unto him. And so speaketh David•lso, Psal. 94. 12. Blessed is the man whom thou chastnest ô Lord, and teachest him out of thy Law.
This is a singular favour of God, when correction, and instruction goe together. And herein wee are bound to acknowledge the great mercy of God to our Land, that (in the time of so generall, and grie∣vous visitation as hath been upon it) he hath put it into the Kings heart, to command so much preaching that thereby the hearts of the people might bee effe∣ctually wrought upon, now the Lord hath so by his judgement prepared them. And certainly if in such a time the word doe not work upon mens hearts, it will never doe them good.
Fiftly, and lastly, When wee feele a secret pen∣sivenesse, and sadnesse to come upon our hearts so as they even melt within us like ground that thaweth after a frost, so as we could even weepe abundantly, this is an excellent season, and opportunity, to bring our hearts unto godly sorrow in.
For 1. sadnesse and heavinesse, maketh the heart more apt to bee wrought to goodnesse, Eccle. 7. 3. Sorrow is better then laughter, for by the sadnesse of the countenance, the heart is made better.
- This is the way to turne the streame, and cur∣rent of our sorrow the right way, by making our sin our greatest sorrow (as indeed it ought to bee) be∣cause it is the onely just cause of all other our sor∣rowes, Lam. 3. 39. 40. Wherefore doth a living man complaine? a man for the punishment of his sinnes? Let us search, and try our wayes and turne againe unto the Lord.
And surely (to conclude this first point) in this we* have all cause to acknowledge our owne folly, and to bee humbled for it; and to impute that want of grace, and ability that is in us to mourne for our sins, unto this, that wee have neglected these times, and seasons whereby we might have beene so much hel∣ped in this work.
We know the fittest seasons for the plowing, and breaking up of our ground, and we carefully observe them; but we know not, or care not to observe the fittest seasons for the breaking up of the fallow ground of our hearts, which (yet) concerneth us much more then the other doth. Breake up your f•llow ground (saith the Prophet Ier. 4. 3.) and sow not among thornes.
The second thing wee must doe to worke our hearts to godly sorrow is this;* after we have made choise of a fit time to goe about this work, we must also make choise of a fit place for it, even such as wherein we may be most free from all distractions. For though this also be but a circumstance yet may it yeeld us some help in all exe•cises of devotiō▪ Christ bids us make choise of a secret place for our private prayer. Mat. 6. 6. And so did he hims•lfe, Mar▪ 1. 35. Hee went out, and departed into a solitary place and there prayed. And Act. 10. 9. Peter went up to the top of the house to pray. So though it be no shame for a man to weepe for his sinnes as we have heard Gods people have done abundantly in their solemne fasts, yet is a solitary, and secret place the fittest to worke our hearts unto godly sorrow, Commune with your own hearts upon your beds (in secret saith David, Psal. 4. 4.) and be still. H•Zechiah turned his face to the wall when he prayed, and wept so sore, Esa. 38. 2, 3. And Ieremiah 13. 17. saith, his soule should weepe in secret. And Z•ch. 12. 12. it is said, they should mourne every family apart, the husband apart, and the wife apart. And Ieremy de∣scribing the man that is humbled under Gods hand aright, saith Lam. 3. 28. Hee sitteth alone, and keepeth si∣lence.
Thirdly, When wee have made choise of a fit time, and a fit place also for this businesse, then must we examine our hearts seriously, and impartially. And in this examination two things are to be perfor∣med by us.
- We must labour to find out, and call to mind our sinnes, for which wee should bee hum∣bled.
- We must lay them to our hearts, and so consi∣der, and weigh with our selves the hainousnesse of them, and aggravate them against our selves, that we may be affected with them.
For the first, Hee that desires to have his heart humbled, and to bee able to mourne for his sinnes, must labour by diligent search, and examination to finde out his sinnes, and call them to mind, and set them before his face. Bring it againe to mind ô yee transgressours, saith the Lord, Esa. 46. 8. Let not man be affraid or unwilling to doe this. To commit sinne is dangerous, and hurtfull to thy soule, but to call thy sinnes to remembrance hath no danger in it, will doe thee no hurt at all; to have an enemy, or a mor∣tall disease upon thee is dangerous, and hurtfull, but to be aware of them, to know them, when thou hast them, may doe thee much good. Iob knew this well and therefore prayeth earnestly to God to helpe him in this, Iob 13. 23. Make mee to know my trans∣gression, and my sinne.
For 1. till then thou canst never truly mourne for thy sin, and repent of it, Ier. 8. 6. No man repented him∣selfe of his wickednesse, saying what have I done? To know in generall, and in grosse that thou art a sinner wil never hūble thee aright, thou must know thy sins in particular, or thou canst never truely repent. This was that that humbled Gods people so, in the dayes ofSamuel, 1 Sam. 12. 19. Wee have added to allour o∣ther sinnes, this evill, to aske a King. This was that that humbled those 3000. mentioned, Act. 2. 36, 37. and pricked them at the heart, God made knowne to them their sinne in particular, even that hainous sinne of crucifying the Lord of life.
- It is profitable for us in another respect. For the more carefull we are to remember our sinnes, and call them to mind, the more ready will the Lord bee to forget them, and cast them behind his back. This is plaine by that prayer David maketh, Psalm. 51. 1, 2, 3. Have mercy upon me ô God, wash me through∣ly from my iniquity, for I know my transgressions, and my sinne is ever before mee. But if thou strive to forget them, never to thinke of them, to cast them behind thy back, bee thou sure God will remember them, and never have them out of his eye, Thou hast, (saith Moses, Psal. 90. 8.) set our iniquities before thee, our secret sinnes in the light of thy countenance).
But thou wilt say to me.* What sinnes should I call to mind? all? that is an endlesse worke. I know not where to begin, nor where to make an end, Psal. 40. 12. They are more in number (saith David) then the haires of my head. How much more (wilt thou say) are my sins innumerable?
I answer,* 1. The more sinnes thou canst call to mind the better it will be for thee. This we may see, Ezek. 20. 43. where this is promised as a singular grace, God would worke in his peoples hearts. You shall remember your wayes, and all your doings, you have beene defiled and yee shall loath your selves in your owne sight, for all your evils that ye have committed. There∣fore also when the Lord prescribeth unto Aaron the course hee should take in making an attonement betweene God and the people, he tels him, Levit. 16. 21. he must confesse over the live goat, all the ini∣quities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressi∣ons, in all their sinnes. And therefore it is good when thou goest about this worke to take the helpe of the glasse, set the glasse of Gods Law before thee, and examine thy wayes according unto it. Rom. 3. 20. By the Law commeth the knowledge of sinne.
Secondly,* take heed thou dost not in thy exami∣nation willingly forget or passe by any sinne: Either 1. out of a conceit that it is but small. For Gods curse is due to the smallest, Deut. 27. 26 Nor. 2. out of fa∣vour thou bearest to it, and loathnesse to leave it: For if thou regardi niquity in thine heart: the Lord will not regard thee, Psal. 66. 18. and Prov. 28. 13. Hee that hideth his sin, shall not prosper.
Thirdly and l•stly,* Be thou (yet) in this exa∣mination of thy selfe specially desirous, and carefull to call to mind, the foulest, and grossest of all thy sinnes that ever thou commiettdst, though it were long agoe. Deut 9. 7. Remember, and forget not how thou provokedst the Lord thy God to wrath in the wi•dernesse. Thus did David in the exercising of him•selfe unto repentance, thinke oft of the sinnes of his youth, Psalm. 25. 7. Remember not the sinnes of my youth, nor my transgressions: So did Paul oft call to mind his foulest sinnes, 1 Tim. 1. 13. I was a blasphe∣mer, and a persecuter. For the heart will sooner bee brought to remorse, and sorrow by remembrance of these then of smaller sinnes; which was the cause why the Publicans, and Harlots those grosse sinners, repented sooner then the civill Pharisees, Matth. 21. 32.
No hard matter for you that have beene adulte∣rers,* blasphemers, persecuters, theeves, oppres∣sours, drunkards, to bring your hearts unto god∣ly sorrow, if you would take but a little paines with them. You that have lived more civilly (as that rich young man had done, that concerning the Commandements of the second Table, could say unto Christ, Matthew 19. 20. All these things have I kept from my youth up) must take the more paines in this work.
The second thing we must doe in this examina∣tion of our selves, is this: When we have found out, and called to mind our sinnes then must wee consider, and weigh with our selves the hainous∣nesse of them, aggravate them against our selves, and lay them so to heart as we may bee affected, and moved to remorse, and sorrow for them. Men are oft blamed for this, that they laid not their sinnes to their heart, considered not so of them as to bee affected with them, Esay 47. 7. The Caldeans are blamed that they did not lay to their hearts the op∣pressions they had done to Gods people. And the Iewes, Esay 57. 11. that they laid not to heart their Idolatry.
Now the way to lay them to our heart, is to con∣sider well the hainousnesse of them, and the circum∣stances whereby they are aggravated. Pa•l did use thus to aggravate his sinnes against himselfe, Ephe. 3. 8. I am lesse then the least of all Saints, 1 Tim. 1. 15. I am the chief of all sinners.
The circumstances whereby sinne is aggravated* are many▪ I will name a few of them.
First, Consider thy sinnes have beene commit∣ted against many, and strong meanes of grace. Re∣member what Christ saith, Matth. 11. 24. to Capernaum because of this, I say unto thee, that it shall bee more tolerable for the land of Sodom, in the day of judgement then for thee. Oh! consider with thy selfe that if the sinnes of Indians, and other barba∣rous people that never enjoyed any ordinary meanes of grace, shall justly be punished in Hell fire, as doubtlesse they shall. For as many as have sinned without Law, shall also perish without Law, saith the Apostle, Rom. 2. 12. If the sinnes of Infants doe justly deserve damnation, as certainly they doe. Death hath raigned (saith he, Rom. 5. 14.) even o∣ver them that have not sinned after the similitude of A∣dams transgression, that is not actually. What degree and measure of punishment, and torment thinkest thou, is most justly due to thy sinnes that have beene committed against such meanes of grace as thou hast enjoyed?
Secondly, Thy sinnes have not beene commit∣ted upon ignorance but against thy knowledge. And if the elect Iewes were so pricked in heart for the sinne they committed ignorantly, Act. 3. 17. how much more cause hast thou? Remember what Christ saith of this circumstance, Luk. 12. 47. That servant which knew his Lords will and prepared not him∣selfe, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
Thirdly, How voluntary thou hast sinned, how weake, and light the tentations have often beene that have drawne thee to it, nay how thou hast drawne, and provoked thy selfe to it. And say thou to thine owne heart, If God were so much of∣fended with Ahab though he had so strong a tem∣pter as Iesabel his wife, I Kings 21. 25. Alas what cause hath he to bee offended with mee, that have beene mine owne tempter? Remember what the Holy Ghost speaketh of this circumstance, Esay 33. 1 Woe to thee that spoilest, and wast not spoiled: & 5. 18. Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, & sin as it were with a cart rope.
Fourthly, The•〈◊〉••mber of thy sinnes. Say they were in their 〈…〉 so small, yet the number of them, and thy multiplyi•g of them so of•, makes the burden •f them intolerable. Con∣sider how the Lord aggravates sinne by this circum∣stance, Ier. 5. 6. A Lyon out of the forrest shall slay them, and a Wolfe of the evening• shall spoile them, a Leo∣pard shall watch over their cities, every one that goeth out thence shall be torne in pieces; because their transgressions are many, and their backslidings are increased. See what weight this very circumstance gave unto Davids sinne in the sense of his Conscience, Mine iniquities (saith he, Psal. 40. 12.) are more then the haires of mine head, therefore mine heart faileth mee. The sands though taken severally they be very small, yet many heaped together, will make an intollerable burden, Iob 6. 3. Iob saith his grief was heavier then the sand of the Sea▪ If for one sinne Adam was so terrified that he fled from God, Gen. 3. 8. what cause of ter∣rour have I, maist thou well say to thine owne soule?
Fiftly, How oft thou hast relapsed, and fallen backe againe into the same sin that thy heart hath smitten thee for, and thou hast repented of, and co∣venanted with God that thou wouldst forsake it, re∣turning with the dogge, to that thou hast loathed, and vomited up, 2 Pet. 2. 22. An arme once broken cannot be cured without paine, but if often, the cure will be more dangerous, and painefull. If thou hadst broken thy promises, and covenants with men thou wouldst count it a matter of infamy and shame unto thee, what cause of shame is it then that thou hast broken thy promises unto God? See also how this circumstances doth aggravate sinne, Eccle. 5. 4. When thou vowest a vow unto God deferre not to pay it, for hee hath no pleasure in fouls.
Sixtly, How thou hast by thy sinne corrupted o∣thers, whereof it may bee some are in Hell already, and some in the way to H•ll, and thou canst not draw them unto repentance? Indeed if thou canst truly repent, this shall not hinder thy salvation that thou hast beene a meane of the damning of others, for so was Paul, Act. 26. 11. Yet must it needs be a heart∣breaking to thee, whensoever thou dost seriously thinke of it all the dayes of thy life: and so was it unto Paul, If thou hadst beene the meane to undoe another in his outward estate, much more if thou hadst taken away his life, it would be a just cause of heavinesse to thee, how much more cause of hum∣bling is it that thou hast beene a meane of destroying the soule of any, Matth. 18. 7. Woe to the man by whom the offence cometh, Ier. 6. 28. they are brasse and iron, they are corrupters.
Seventhly, consider the person against whom thou hast sinned, Psal. 51. 4. Against thee, thee onely have I sinned.
And consider the Lord, 1. in his greatnesse, and excellency of power, and justice. If one man sinne a∣gainst another. (saith Ely to his sonnes, 1 S•m. 2. 25.) the judge shall judge him, but if a man sinne against the Lord, who shall intreat for him?
- But specially in his goodnesse towards thy selfe. Consider that that God whom thou hast offend•d, thou dost not onely live by, Act. 17. 28. but also hee is of that gracious difposition, that notwithstanding all thy rebellions he would not have thee perish.
For, 1. he is apt to forgive thee upon thy repen•ance, Esa. 55. 7.
- He hath proclaimed a generall p•rdon, and not excluded thee, Ioh. 3. 16. but will have it offred unto thee, Mar. 16. 15.
- Hee se•kes to thee to be reconciled, 2 Cor. 5. 20.
4 He hath done more for thee, hee loves thee with the love of a father (for to such specially I speake) and thou hast received the spirit of adoption, whereby thou art able to cry, Abba father, Rom. 8. 15. Consider well of this and it will have more force to mollifie thy heart, then any thing else in the world.
The sense of our desperate estate, without this may make us roare, and rave, and rage against the Lord, like a wild Bull in a net, as the Prophet speaketh Esay •1. 20. but nothing will humble the heart so kindly, nor make it melt in godly sorrow as the true consideration of this love of God, Psal. 130. 4. there is forgivenesse with thee: that thou mayest bee feared. It was not the crowing of the Cock twice, that made Peters heart melt, but the gracious looke that Christ cast upon him, Luke 22. 61, 62. The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter, then Peter remembred the Word of the Lord, and Peter went out, and wept bitterly. This was that that wrought upon the heart of the prodigall, Luk. 15. 18. I will arise, and goe to my father, and I will say, father I have sinned. And so must thou say to thine owne heart, if ever thou wouldst have it to melt, and thine eyes shed teares for thy si•nes, It is my father, my father that I have so offended. Say to it as Moses doth to the Iewes, Deut. 32. 6. Have I 〈◊〉 requited the Lord, O foolish, and ungratious wretch that I am, Is hee not my father? hath he not made mee, and established mee?
The fourth and last thing we must doe, to bring our hearts unto this godly sorrow, is fervent prayer.
For thou must 1. complaine to God of the hardnes of thy heart, as Esa, 63. 17. O Lord why hast thou hard∣ned my heart from thy feare?
- Begge this grace of him and cry to him for it. That which the Apostle saith of wisdome, may bee said of this grace also, Iam. 1. 5. If any of you lacke a soft heart, let him aske of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.
- Challeng him with his promise, and (in a holy reverence) charge him with that covenant mentio∣ned, Ezek. 36. 26. I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And Zach. 12. 10. I will poure upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Ierusalem, the spirit of grace, and of supplications, and they shall looke upon mee whom they have pierced, and they shall mourne for him as one that mourneth for his onely sonne, and be in bitternesse for him, as one that is in bitternesse for his first borne.
- Bee importunate in this suite as one that will take no nay, nor give it over till thou hast obtained it, as David, Psal. 27. 4. and the woman of Canaan, Mat. 15. 27.
- Waite for an answer, and pray still; limit not the Lord his time, L•ke 18. 1, Wee ought al∣wayes to pray, and not to faint. Consider how oft the Lord called upon thee before thou didst an∣swer him, and how long hee waited for thee, Romans 10. 21. All the day long have I stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient, and gaine-say∣ing people. Remember that promise, Esay 49. 23. They shall not bee ashamed (or disappointed) that wait for mee.
August 2. 1626.
IT followeth now that we proceed to •hew you the signes and notes whereby wee may bee able to discerne whether wee have beene yet rightly humbled for our sinnes, whether that sorrow for sinne, that we have felt in our selves be unfeigned yea or no, whether it be that saving sorrow of Gods elect, unto which all these promises of comfort, and mercy that we have heard of doe belong. And surely it is a matter of great use and necessity to have notes given us out of Gods Word to try our humiliation, and sorrow for sinne by.
First, Because as it is certaine, our sinnes are not pardoned unlesse we have truly repented of them, Act. 5. 31. Christ giveth repentance to Israel, and for∣givenesse of sinnes: Soe is it as certaine we never truly repented of our sinnes, if wee have not unfeignedly sorrowed and mourned for them, 2 Cor. 7. 10. God∣ly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation. Wee must be made (though not equall, yet) conformable to Christ in his death and passion; as the Apostle speaketh Phil. 3. 10. or we shall never reigne with him. This is a faithfull saying, (saith the Apostle, 2 Tim. 2. 11. 12.) if wee •ee dead with him, wee shall also live with him, if we suffer with him, wee shall also reigne with him. And this was a cheif part of his passion wherein we must be conformable unto him. When he suffred for our sinnes, Mat. 26. 37. He began to be sorrowfull, and very heavy, insomuch as he could not containe but must needs acquaint his three Disciples with it, verse 38. Then saith he unto them, my soule is exceeding sorrowfull, even unto death. When he suffred for our sinnes hee wept abundantly as the Apostle saith, Heb. 5. 7. He offred up prayers and supplications with strong crying and teares. We cannot sorrow and weepe in that measure as he did for our sinnes, but we must sorrow in our measure as he did, we must be made conformable to him in his passion as you have heard, or wee shall ne∣ver have part in him. We must either mourne as Pe∣ter did with a saving sorrow, Mat. 26. 75. or wee shall mourne as Iudas did with a desperate sorrow, Mat. 27. 3, 5. We must either now in this life mourn for our sinn•s (as we have heard all Gods servants have done) or we shall certainly herafter cry for sor∣row of heart, (as the Prophet speaketh, Esa. 65. 14.) and houle for vexation of spirit in Hell where shall bee nothing but weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, as our Saviour speaketh, Luk. 13. 28. where their worme never dyeth, and the fire never shall be quen∣ched, Mar. 9. 44.
Secondly, Because men are very apt to bee decei∣ved in this point and to thinke they have beene right∣ly humbled, and have rightly sorrowed for their sinnes when indeed they have not. We read of the hypocrites expostulation with God, Esa. 58. 3. They had afflicted their soules, and God tooke no knowledge of it, & Zach. 7. 3, 5. They had mourned, and wept in their fasts, and the Lord saith of them they had not done it unto him, they had their owne ends in it. Yea it is certaine many hypocrites doe indeed mourne and are exceedingly humbled sometimes. You know the Lord giveth this testimony of Ahab himselfe that he was humbled, 1 Kings 21. 29. And yet as good never a whit as never the better, their sorrow and hu∣miliation is to no purpose at all, because it is not sound, and sincere.
Thirdly, Because many of Gods children that are indeed true mourners are apt to doubt of themselves and to complaine their hearts are so hard, that they cannot mourne for their sinnes, ô if they had soft, and melting hearts that they could sorrow, that they could weep for sinne they were in an happy case, but (alas) they cannot.
Thus Gods Church, and people complaine unto God, Es•. 63. 17. O Lord why hast thou hardned our heart? Seeing therefore it is as you see (in these three respects) a matter of so great necessity to have a sure direction given us out of Gods Word, how to dis∣cerne that humiliation of soule and sorrow for sinne, that is sincere and saving from that that is counter∣fait, I will give you some principall notes of diffe∣rences betweene them whereby they may be judged of. And these are to bee referred to foure heads.
The first is from the object of our sorrow and hu∣miliation,* the thing the matter that we are grieved, and humbled for.
The second from the measure, and degree of our sorrow.
The third from the cause that breedeth it in us, and fountaine from whence it floweth.
The fourth and last, from the effects and fruits that proceed from it.
For the first, If we desire to know whether we were ever yet rightly humbled, or whether we doe still remaine in the hardnesse and impenitency of our hearts we must examine what it is that hath troubled us and made us to mourne.
First, He that is truly humbled mourneth for the evill of sinne, rather then for the evill of punishment. It is no ill signe to mourne, and to be humbled under the judgements of God. Nay it is our duty to be so, and a passing ill signe it is of an ungratious heart, not to be affected with the judgements of God, not to be troubled when the Lord sheweth himselfe to be angry with us.
The Prophet complaineth of this as of a great sinne, Ier. 5. 3. O Lord thou hast stricken them and they have not grieved. It is said of Gods people, Ezr. 10. 9. that they trembled because of the great raine. And David, and the Elders of Israel humbled themselves greatly for the plague that God sent upon the land, 2 Sam. 24. 17. And so did Iehoshaphat, when God threatned an invasion, 2 Chron. 20. 3. When the state and government of the Kingdome of Israel, in the dayes of Saul, was so broken and out of order, had so many breaches in it that it did even shake and totter as ready to fall, and come to ruine, as the Pro∣phet complaineth, Psal. 60. 2. Gods people were so troubled with the sensible token of Gods displeasure that they were euen astonished with it, thou hast made us to drinke the wine of astonishment, as the Prophet spea∣keth, verse 3. And certainly this is a dangerous signe, that our people generally are given up of God to a marvellous hardnesse of heart, that the Lord having by all these tokens of his anger cald us to weeping and to mourning, as the Prophet speaketh, Esa. 22. 12. we have beene generally given to asmuch jollity in these times as ever we were, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you, till you dye, saith the Lord God of Hosts, as it followeth there, verse 14. Yet though it be a good thing to be humbled under Gods judgements, this is not enough to prove our humiliation to bee sound and sincere. Many an hypocrite hath gone so farre. Thus farre Ahab went, ô how he was hum∣bled at the hearing of that fearefull judgement that God threatned by the Prophet to bring upon him and his house? 1 King. 21. 29. Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himselfe? Thus farre Iehoram his sonne and as bad a man almost as he went; when a grievous fa∣mine was upon the land, he greatly humbled him∣selfe, for though he were a King, he wore sackcloth, not as his upper garment as the manner was to ex∣presse their humiliation outwardly, but secretly next his skin, 2 King. 6. 30. See how farre an hypocrite may goe in humbling himselfe under Gods judge∣ments. But the true repentant though he is humbled for and can mourne for Gods judgements, yet, that is neither the onely nor the chief cause of his sorrow, his sinnes that have provoked God to those judge∣ments trouble him most. I will declare mine iniquitie (saith David Psal. 38. 18.) and be sory for my sinne. And Ezek. 7. 16. They shall be on the mountaines like the d•ves of the valleyes, all of them mourning, every man for 〈◊〉 iniquity. Yea even whē Gods judgements do presse and humble him most, yet •he is more troubled for his sinne, then for the affliction that is upon him, as wee shall see in that prayer of David, Psal. 25. 18. Looke upon my affliction, and my paine, and forgive all my sinnes. And so it is said of Gods people in Ezras time when the Lord by a judgement of immoderate raine had testified his displeasure against them, Ezra. 10. 9 They trembled because of this matter (their sinne in mar∣rying Idolaters) and for the great raine. Their sinne was the chief thing they trembled for.
Let us then examine our sorrow by this first note,* alas, many blesse themselves in this that they have beene much given to sorrow and heavinesse.
- If sorrow be good (saith many a one) I have had enough of that. Yea upon this they ground their hope that they shall escape the wrath to come be∣cause they have endured so much sorrow in this life. I have had my punishment in this life, saith he. Alas poore wretch of all thy sorrowes that thou hast en∣dured, I may say as our Saviour doth in another case Mat. 24. 8. All these are but the beginning of sorrows; worldly sorrowes are but the beginning of hellish sorrowes. The Devils also beleeve and tremble, after this sort, as the Apostle speaketh, Iam. 2. 19. They are troubled exceedingly (more then ever thou couldst be) with the apprehension and sense of the punishment, which they undoubtedly b•leeve is prepared for them.
- Many of you are oft troubled with sadnesse and heavinesse of heart, and can say as Iob 23. 16. God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me. O that thou couldst turne the streame of thy sorrow the right way from sorrowing for thy affliction to sor∣rowing for thy sinne. One houre spent in sorrow∣ing for thy sin, will yeeld thee more true comfort, then a thousand spent in sorrowing for thy affliction will doe.
- And we all now assembled to professe our hu∣miliation for the manifold tokens of Gods anger upon his Church, and this land, must examine the truth of our hearts in this, whether we can aswell mourne for the sinnes of the land, as for the judge∣ments of God that are upon it, and are threatned a∣gainst it. See a notable example of this in Nehemiah, Chap. 1. when he heard of the great affliction, and re∣proach Gods people were in at Ierusalem, verse 3. How the wals of Ierusalem were broken downe, and the gates thereof burnt with fire, he sat downe and wept, and mourned certaine dayes, and fasted and prayed before the God of Heaven, as he saith, verse 4. But what is it, that most humbled and troubled his heart in this his fast? Surely not so much the judgement whereby God had shewed himselfe to be angry with them, as their sinnes whereby they had made him angry, as you shall see verse 6. 7. and surely the sinnes of the land ought to trouble us more then any of the judge∣ments either persent or imminent (though they bee very great and fearefull.)
For 1. they give us cause to feare far heavier then these be, and God hath said of England as hee said once of the Kingdome of Iuda, Ezek. 21. 27. I will overturne, everturne, overturne it, and it shall be no more.
- If it were not for the sinnes of the land, these judgements would vanish, or doe us no hurt at all, 1 Cor. 15. 56. The sting of death is sinne. And of one sinne, the sinne of Idolatry (specially being openly committed, and alas, our land standeth guilty of that and of many more) it is said, Exod. 32. 25. Moses saw (though every blind foole could not see it) that the people were naked, for Aaron had made them naked to their shame before their enemies. Alas, the sinnes of the land make us naked to our enemies abroad, and to our treacherous, and bloudy Papists at home; do what we can to defend and arme our selves, till our sinnes be repented of, till they be removed we shall be found to be a naked people. We cannot stand be∣fore our enemies, till the accursed thing (till Ach•n) betaken away, Iosh. 7. 13. and alas, we have many Achans amongst us. So many of you therefore as have hearts that can mourne, that can be humbled, mourne for the sinnes of the land, and by the first note approve unto God and to your owne hearts the truth of your humiliation that you professe this day. And so much for the first note.
Secondly, He that is truly humbled mourneth for sinne, not so much in respect to himselfe, of the hurt, and danger that his sinne bringeth upon himselfe, as in respect to God, because he is of∣fended and dishonoured by his sinne. Saving sorrow is therefore called, 2 Cor. 7. 10. Godly sorrow,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 sorrow that respecteth God, and is oppo∣sed to worldly sorrow that respecteth onely the cros∣ses and miseries that sinne maketh us subject unto.
I graunt, 1. It is not unlawfull to bee troubled for sinne, even out of respect to the punishment, and misery that it will bring upon us. As a man may have respect to this in his feare that keepeth him from committing sinne; so may he also in his sor∣row for it, after it is committed. Iob giveth this for a reason why he durst not sinne. For destruction from God (saith he, Iob 31. 23.) was a terrour to me. And so doth Paul. 2 Cor. 5. 11. Knowing therefore the terrours of the Lord, we persuade men.
- Sound and saving humiliation for sinne useth to begin in this legall compunction and terror, which hath respect onely to the misery that sinne bringeth us to. And not one of an hundred doe ever come to mourne for sinne in respect to God, till they have first learned to mourne for sinne in respect to them∣selves: this prepareth, maketh way for, and draweth in the other, as the prick of the needle doth the threed. So it is said of those three thousand that were con∣verted by Peter, Act. 2. 37. that they were (first) pricked in their hearts, that is with this legall sorrow and feare. But though this bee a lawfull and good thing to mourne, and be troubled for sinne, even in respect of the misery it maketh us obnoxious unto, yet is not this sufficient to prove our humiliation and sorrow for sinne to be sound and sincere, for many an hypocrite hath gone so farre, they have beene greatly humbled and troubled for their sinnes. O how Pharaoh complained and cried out of his sinne, Exod. 9. 27. He saith to Moses and Aaron, I have sinned, the Lord is righteous and I and my people are wicked. And so did Iudas, Mat. 27. 3. 4. He repented himselfe, & cryed out, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood. Did not these men mourne for their sinnes thinke you? Yes that they did, but it was not out of any respect to God whom they had offended, but onely out of respect to themselves and the hurt they had done themselves thereby, as appeareth plainly in their stories.
Now the true repentant though he be humbled for his sinne in respect to himselfe, and the danger and hurt that he feareth his sinne will doe him, yet he resteth not there, but he is also humbled for his sinne in respect to God; and chiefly because he hath offended and dishonoured God by his sinne. This was that that troubled David most, Psal. 51. 4. A∣gainst thee, thee onely have I sinned. When God had threatned heavy things against him by God he cry∣eth (not as Pharaoh, Exod. 10. 17. Take away from mee this death only but as) 2. Sam. 24. 10. I beseech thee ô Lord take away the iniquity of thy servant. Yea he was well content to beare that punishment, so his sinne might be pardoned that he might have Gods favour verse 17. Let thy hand I pray thee be against me, and my fathers house. The punishment that his sinne hath brought or is like to bring upon him troubleth the true penitent nothing so much as the offending of God and losse of his favour, Hee lamenteth after the Lord, as it is said, Gods people did, 1 Sam. 7. 2. And as he mourneth for his sinne in respect to God more then to the punishment of his sinne, so doth hee joy and take more comfort in the assurance of the pardon of his sinne, then in deliverance from any judgement whatsoever. This is the thing that David gloried in Psal. 32. 5. Thou forgavest (not the punishment as the old translation reads, but) the iniquity of my sinne.
O let us examine our selves by this second note* whether we have sorrowed for oursinnes in respect unto God, or to our selves onely. Thy sinnes doe trouble thee because thou knowest they deserve hell and damnation, thou knowest they deserve Gods curse in thy children, in thy estate, in every thing thou takest in hand. Thou dost well in this, but if this be the onely thing, or the chief thing that ma∣keth thy sinne such a burden to thy heart, thou hast not yet repented aright. When those that heard Peter were pricked in their hearts with these legall sorrowes, and asked him what they should doe to come to comfort, he bad them repent, Act. 2. 37. 38. As if he had said, This is a good preparative, but this is not repentance.
This is a chief note of sincerity in every grace, and so in this, when we doe that that God requireth, when we mourne for our sinnes in respect unto God, and not to our selves. Thus God upbraideth the hypocrites, Zac. 7. 5. When yee fasted and mourned, did yee it at all to mee, even to mee? Rom. 14. 6. He that regardeth a day, regardeth it unto the Lord. I will give you therefore three other notes to try this by whether your sorrow for sinne be in respect to the Lord because you have offended, and dishonoured him, or noe.
First, Then your sinnes will trouble you aswell in the days of health, and prosperity as in sicknes, and affliction, else you doe no more then an hypocrite may doe. For it is said of the wicked Israelites, Psal. 78. 34. When he slew them, then they sought him, and returned and enquired early after God.
Secondly, Then you will be troubled for one sinne aswell as for another, for every thing you know to be a sinne, for God is offended and disho∣noured by one aswell as by another. Whosoever shall keepe the whole Law (saith the Apostle, Iam. 2. 10.) and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. I doe not say we should be troubled so much for one sinne as for another, for God in his Law hath put a difference betweene sinnes; and as some dutyes that God re∣quireth of us, so some sinnes are weightier then o∣thers (Mat. 23. 23. Iudgement, Mercy, and Fidelity are called by our Saviour the weightier matters of the Law) and it is made there the note of an hypocrite to be more troubled for small sinnes then for great, Matthew 23. 24. to straine at a gnat, and swallow a camell.
But this is also certaine that he that is troubled for sinne, because it is sinne in resepect unto God because he is offended and dishonoured by it, will be trou∣bled for one sinne aswell as for another. So we shall find David was humbled, not for his adultery and murder onely, but for all his sinnes, Psal. 51. 9. Hide thy face from my sinnes; and blot out all mine iniquities.
The Apostle speaking of the loose performing of spirituall duties, of coming to the sacrament with∣out due preparation saith, we must judge our selves even for that, 1 Cor. 11. 31. And saith that even for this sinne God strucke many with sicknesse and mor∣tality, because they would not judge themselves for such sins God did judge them, 1 Cor. 11. 30. Davids heart smote him even for cutting of the lap of Sauls garment, 1 Sam. 24. 5. When Saul counted the spa∣ring of Agag, and of the fattest of the cattell (special∣ly for sacrifice) but a matter of nothing, Samuel telleth him, disobedience to God is as bad as witchcraft and idola∣try, 1 Sam. 15. 23. O therefore know thou art not troubled for any sinne in respect to God, if thy very unprofitablenes, idlenesse, peevishnesse, unconstancy, playing fast and loose with God, do not trouble thee.
Yea the man whose heart is truly humbled for sin is conscious of the sinfull depravation of his nature, and is humbled for that (which is the root) asmuch (if not much more) then for his actuall sinnes which are the fruits of it. All sins that defile a man, come from within from this fountaine, Mar. 7. 23. David was hum∣bled for this, Psal. 51. 5. Behold I was shapen in iniqui∣ty and in sinne did my mother conceive me. And so Paul though he had lived a most innocent life even before his calling to Christ, Phil. 3. 6. Yet see how he was troubled even for this, Rom. 7. 14, 24.
Thirdly, If you be humbled for your sinne out of respect to God, because God is offended, and disho∣noured by it then will you be able to mourne for the sins of other men, for God is aswel offended and dis∣honoured by them as by your own. 1. I shewed you before that the man that is truly hūbled for the Iudg∣ments of God upon this land, will mourne more for the sinnes of the land, then for the Iudgements themselves. So must we, 2. bee able to mourne for the sinnes of the places, and townes we dwell in, spe∣cially if they be of note for religion. This is prescri∣bed as a duty, 1 Cor. 5. 2. Ye should have mourned, that he that hath done this deed, might be taken away. This is commended by the Holy Gost as a great vertue and grace in Lot, 2 Pet. 2. 8. that in seeing and hearing, hee vexed his righteous soule from day to day, with the unlaw∣full deeds of the Sodomites. This hath a great promise of speciall protection in the dayes of common calami∣ty. Goe through the midst of the City, through the midst of Ierusalem (saith the Lord to the man clothed in linen with the writers inkhorne by his side, Ezek. 9. 4.) and set a marke upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. 3. For the sins especially of our owne families, for they should trouble us most; Nehemiah in his fast complained chiefly of his owne, and of the sinnes of his fathers house, Neh. 16. And it is said that when God should poure the spirit of grace and of suppli∣cations upon his people, they should mourn every fami∣ly apart, Zac. 12 12. And Iob evē out of the feare that his sons in their feasting might have sinned, offred burnt offrings (which were alwayes accompanied with profession of humiliation) for them, Iob 1. 5.
Certainly he that careth not how much lewdnes there bee in the towne where he liveth,* nor in his owne family, and that is not unfai∣nedly troubled for it nor endeavou∣reth to reforme it, was never yet rightly humbled for any sinne of his owne.
A SERMON PREACHED IN Ashby-Chappell, Oct. 4. 1629.
BY ARTH. HILDERSAM.
LONDON, Printed by George Miller, for Edward Brewster. 1633.
A SERMON PREACHED in Ashby-Chappell.
Octob. 4. 1629.
Eccl. 11. 8.
But if a man live many yeeres, and rejoyce in them all; yet let him remember the dayes of darkenesse, for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.
THe occasion of these words, and the de∣pendance they have upon that went before is this. Salomon in the six first verses of this Chapter, had earnestly exhorted to the works of mercy and charity, and enforced his exhortation by many strong and perswasory arguments. In this verse and that which goeth before it, hee concludes that exhortation, with another forcible argument, taken from the consideration of our future estate. And the summe of his argument is, as if, he should have said thus: Doe all that thou art able to doe, that thou maist provide well for thy future estate. It is the very same argument in effect which our blessed Saviour useth to the same purpose, Luk. 12. 33. Sell that yee have and give almes: provide your selves bagges that wax not old, a treasure in the Heavens that faileth not, where no theef approacheth, ne•ther moth corrupteth. As if he should say, bestow your goods so while you live here, as you may have most use and comfort of them in the life that is to come. As our Merchants that trade into Turky or Persia will lay out their mony there upon those commodities, that will bee most beneficiall to them heere, when they shall come home againe.
This argument Salomon propounds heere by way of answer, to an objection that men (specially volup∣tuous men) are apt to make against all this that he had said to perswade them to workes of charity and mercy, and whereby they are made most backward unto this duty. The Objection is set downe in the 7. verse, Truely the light is sweet and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sunne. Where it is to bee observed (for the opening of the words) that by light is meant, a pleasant and prosperous, and com∣fortable life. For as our life is called in Holy Scrip∣ture, the light of the living, Psal. 56. 13. because life it selfe is sweet and comfortable to man; so is a com∣fortable estate in this life oft set forth and resem∣bled by this metaphore. When Eliphas would perswade Iob how beneficiall a thing it would be un∣to him to returne unto the Almighty, not onely in respect of spirituall and eternall, but even of worldly and temporall blessings also, that he should be sure to receive by it, he expresseth it thus, Iob 22. 28. thou shalt decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee; and the light shall shine upon thy wayes, that is thou shalt pros∣per in whatsoever thou takest in hand, and have com∣fort in it. The Iewes (saith the sacred Story, Est. 8. 16. upon the advancement of Mordecay, and the re∣versing of Hamans letters) had light and gladnesse and joy and honour. So that the Objection which the vo∣luptuous man maketh, verse 7. is in effect thus much, Certainly life is sweet, and it is a great happinesse, to live plentifully, and prosperously, neatly, and pleasantly in this world, which I can never doe, if I should not bee carefull to keepe that I have, If I should hearken to thy counsaile, and be so liberall and bountifull to the poore, as thou wouldst have me to be.
This Objection Salomon gives answer to in this verse. And in his answer 3. points are to be obser∣ved.
- A supposition of two things, 1. Suppose (saith he) that a man doe live many yeeres, which (yet) no man (specially no voluptuous man) hath cause to looke for, For what is your life? (saith the Apostle Iam. 4. 14.) It is even a vapour that appeareth for a litle time, and then vanisheth away.
- Suppose also that he rejoyce in them all; which (yet) is more unlikely and (in a manner) impossible; for all men (good and bad) are subject in their whole life, to many occasions of sorrow, which they can by no meanes avoid. Man is born unto trouble (saith Eliph. Iob 5. 7. as the sparkes fly upward. Yea every day of mans life, will bring forth some new occasion of sorrow unto him, or other sufficient unto the day is the evill thereof, saith our Saviour, Mat. 6. 34. Yea it is thus even with the best men, all the day long have I beene plagued (saith the Prophet, (Psal. 73. 14.) and chastened every morning.
Then followes the 2. point to be observed in the words, and that is a charge or admonition; as if he should say, admit both those things that I have thus suppo∣sed; yet for all that, I advise and charge him, Let him remember the dayes of darkenesse. Wherein also observe (for the opening of the words) 1. that by the dayes of darkenesse he meanes all that time that we shall spend in the estate of the dead. For though the godly (in respect of their soules) be presently after death, translated into Paradise, according to that speach of our Saviour, Luk. 23. 43. this day shalt thou be with me in Paradise; and there is no darknesse there, nothing but light and comfort unspeakable, (the inheritance of the Saints is in light, saith the Apostle, Col. 1. 12. In thy presence is fulnesse of joy (saith David, Psal. 16. 11) at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore) yet (in respect of the bodyes of all men) as this life is fitly compared to light, so is the state of the dead unto darknesse. And so speaketh Iob of it, Iob 10. 21. Before I goe whence I shall not returne, even to the land of darknes and to the shadow of death, that is before I dye: yea e∣ven the souls also of all wicked men, shall after death abide in darkenesse everlasting. And so their misery is expressed, Mat. 22. 13. Cast him into outer darknesse, there shall bee weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Secondly, Observe the reason why he would have these dayes of darknesse to be remembred and thought upon, because they are many, saith he, a great many more then the time we can hope to spend here. In which respect death is called, Ier. 51. 57. a perpetuall sleepe, and we use to call our grave our long home. And e∣ven for this cause it behooves us to be more careful to provide well for our future estate, then for this pre∣sent life. As all wise men, will care more for, and bestow more cost upon that house and land, which they hold in free hold or by inheritance, then upon that where they are but tenants at will, or hold for term of life onely.
Thirdly and lastly, observe the conclusion which he infers upon this admonition and charge, all that cometh that man getteth and enjoyeth heere is vanity, and emptinesse, no sound comfort or contentment of heart is to be found in it.
The principall point then that is to be observed (you see) in these words is the admonition and charge, that Salomon gives heere, to remember the dayes of darkenesse; and from thence this Doctrine ariseth for our instruction: That it is profitable and necessary for all men even in their best health, in their greatest prosperity, to remember and thinke oft of their death, and of their future estate.
Two sorts of witnesses I will produce for the con∣firmation of this.
The first is of good men, who have thus judged of the meditation of death.
This appeareth 1. by their practise; they have beene wont to thinke much of their change. This was Iobs daily meditation, All the dayes of my warfare, (saith he, Iob 14. 14. for so I read it with sundry of the best interpreters, *) will I waite till my change come. Neither did he onely in the times of his misery and affliction thinke thus of his change and wait for it, but in the dayes of his greatest prosperity also, as appea∣res by that which he saith, Iob 3. 25. the thing that I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of it come unto me. When he was in the height and strength of his peace and health, hee lived in con∣tinuall feare and expectation of a change.
Secondly, It appeares that they judged it profi∣table and necessary to thinke much of their end, by the helps they were wont to use to keepe their death alwayes in their remembrance.
For 1. they counted it their wisdome to visit the sick, and goe oft to the house of mourning, even for this purpose. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, saith Salomon, Eccl. 7. 4. and why did they account it their wisedome to do so? he had given us the reason of that in the 2. verse for this is the end of all men (saith he) and the living will lay it to his heart.
Secondly, to this end also they were wont to make their sepulchers in their lifetime, so did Asa one of the good Kings of Iuda, 2 Chro. 16. 14. and so did good Iosia also, 2 Kings 23. 30. and so did Ioseph of Arimathea, Mat. 27. 60.
Thirdly and lastly, they were wont in their pray∣ers earnestly to beg helpe of God this waye, Teach us to number our dayes, say Gods people to God in their prayer, Psal. 90. 12. that is, teach us to consider the shortnesse and uncertainty of our life, as David inter∣preted that prayer of Moses, in another prayer of his to the same effect, Psal. 39. 4. Lord make •ee to know mine end, and the number of my dayes what it is, that I may know how fraile I am. Because they knew well, on the one side, how usefull and necessary it was for them, oft to thinke of the uncertainty and shortnesse of their life, and on the other side how hard a thing it was for them to keep this in their mind, how apt they were to grow forgetfull of it, therefore they did earnestly sue unto God that by his Holy Spirit, he would please to helpe them in this case. And this is my first sort of witnesses.
The second is the Lord himselfe, for hee hath also declared himselfe to judge so of the benefit and ne∣cessity of this meditation. 1. By that earnest charge which our Saviour giveth to his Disciples concerning this, Mar. 13. 35. Watch yee therefore, for ye know not when the master of the house commeth, at even, or at mid-night, or at the cockerowing, or in the morning, and verse 37. And what I say unto you, I say unto all; that is live in a continuall expectation of your end and of the ac∣count you must bee called unto, because you know not how soone and suddaine it may be.
- By that patheticall with the Lord uttereth, Deu. 32. 29. O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! He wisheth his people would understand and consider also, think and meditate seriously of their latter end, and he ac∣counts it a high point of wisdome for them, to doe so.
I know well that the meditation and thought of death is bitter to the flesh,* and useth to breed much heavinesse and feare in the heart. And this is a chief thing that makes men unwilling to entertaine it.
But as many other bitter things are most wholsom and soveraigne,* even so is this. Thus doth Salomon answer this very objection which hee knew men would be apt to make, against that which he had said shewing the benefit of going to those houses, where people are mourning for the sicknesse or death of their friends. Alas, (will men say) if we should use to doe so, we should never be merry, but sad, and pensive, and melancholick. O saith he, Eccl. 7. 3. but sorrow is better then laughter; for by the sadnesse of the countenance, the heart is made better.
Three great benefits we may receive by thinking oft and seriously of our latter end. Which may serve for the Reasons and Grounds of the Do∣ctrine.
- This would season all our pleasures and earth∣ly contents,* so as we should be kept from surfetting of them. He that is perswaded of the necessity of watching continually for the Lords comming, and resolved to doe so, will keepe himselfe sober from being overcome with the immoderate love of any earthly thing. As he that knowes he must keepe the watch in a besieged City, will be sure to keepe himselfe from taking too much drink. Because the time is short (saith the Apostle 1 Cor. 7. 29.) therefore let him that rejoiceth, be as though he rejoiced not. As if he should say, take heed of rejoycing too much in any earthly thing, because our time here is but short. Therefore our Saviour at a great feast, Mar. 14. 5. 8. fals into a meditation and speech of his death and buriall.
And this was also (it seemes) the reason why sun∣dry good men were wont to make their sepulchers in their gardens the places of their greatest solace and delight. So we read that M•n•sses did after his humiliation and repentance, 2 King. 21. 18. And so did Ioseph of Arimathea also, as wee may see, Ioh. 19. 41.
Secondly, nothing would have more force then this to restraine us from sinne; and to breed in us a care to please God in all things. This reason is gi∣ven in that prayer; Psal. 90. 12. So teach us to number our dayes, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdome. If we could number our dayes well, and consider how few they are like to be, this would make us apply our hearts to wisdome and piety more seriously than we do. Experience shewes this, even in the worst men. O what Saints seeme many of them to be in their extreme sicknesse? How fearfull are they then to offend God in any thing? Nay, no man (almost) is so desperately wicked, that durst do any thing his conscience knew to be sinne, if he thought he must die instantly, so soone as he had done it. Durst any man give himselfe liberty to be drunke, if he considered he might die while he is drunke, as Elah did, 2 King. 16. 9, 10. Or durst any man commit whoredome, if he could seriously thinke of this, that God might strike him suddenly, even while he is in that filthy act, as he did Zimri and Cozby, Numb. 25. 8. Therefore also we shall find this oft noted for a chiefe cause of many grosse sins that men live in, even the wilfull forgetting of their change, and putting it out of their mind. David speaking of the prophane man Psal. 10. 4. who through the pride of his countenance will not seeke after God; God is not in all his thoughts; giveth this for a reason of all this prophanenesse, Verse 6. He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved, I shall never be in adversity. And the Prophet speaking of unjust and cruell men that did oppresse the poore, gives this for the reason of it, Amos 6. 3. because they did by all meanes put out of their minds the thought of their death, and the judgement that they must come unto, Ye put farre away (saith he) the evill day, and cause the seat of violence to come neare.
Thirdly and lastly, nothing would be of more force to worke in us a care to prepare our selves for death, that it may not take us at unawares before we be ready for it, then this, if we would oft and seri∣ously think of it. And this would be (doubtlesse) a great benefit and advantage unto us. This is a point of true wisdome, and ought to be the chiefe care of every Christian, to provide, that he may die well. Heare couns•ll, and receive instruction (saith Salomon, Proverb. 19. 20.) that thou maist be wise at thy latter end. This is one maine end we should aime at in all our hearing and seeking knowledge, that we may learne to die well. This was the Apostles chiefe care, that he might finish his course with joy, Act. 20. 24.
And on the other side, it is the most dangerous and wofull negligence that a man can fall into, not to prepare before hand, and provide that he may die well. O it is a most miserable thing for death to take us at unawares before we be ready. Take heed to your selves (saith our Saviour, Luke 21 36.) that that come not upon you unawares.
Sudden death certainly is a kind of temporall judgement, even unto the best men (and so farre forth may be prayed against) because the best man is not so well prepared for death in the time of his health and prosperity, but he hath just cause to desire and endeavour also to prepare himselfe better for it before he die. True it is we should be at all times (as Gods people were when they did eat the passeover, Exod. 12. 11. with their loines girded, their shoes on their feet, and their staves in their hand.) ready to passe from this Egypt unto our heavenly Canaan. But (though every man should be, yet) no man is so well prepa∣red at all times, as he ought to be. But sudden death is to a wicked man that is not at all prepared for it, more then a temporall judgement. Though a man have made his will before-hand, and have it in a rea∣dinesse lying by him, yet may he esteeme it a good temporall blessing, when his last sicknesse whereby God visits him, is not so violent, but he may be a∣ble to review it, and adde or alter some small things in it before his death. And on the other side it may justly be accounted a temporall judgement upon him, when God takes him away with a dead Palsie or Apoplexy that would disable him from doing so much. And yet if he do die of such a disease, the matter is not great, because he had made his will be∣fore, and disposed of his maine estate according to his mind. But it is (we know) a matter of great dan∣ger and inconvenience for a rich man that hath not made his will before, to be taken with such a sick∣nesse at his end. And even so is it in this case. Sud∣den death is no such judgement to Gods child, who is for the maine prepared for it, as it is to the wicked man, who is not at all prepared for it. It is certainly a dangerous and fearfull thing for a man to live out of Gods favour, and void of grace, at any time; but to die in that estate, is the very up-shot of all mi∣sery. And so the Holy Ghost speaketh of it. Eliphaz speaking of the extreme unhappinesse of wicked men, he concludes it thus, Iob 4. 21. They even die without wisdome, (saith he) as if he should say, and what can be said more to prove them most wretched men? So speaketh the Prophet when he would describe the misery of the man that hath gotten a great deale of wealth by oppression and fraud, Ier. 17. 11. at his end he shall be a foole, saith he; he shalbe utterly void of true wisdome and grace, even when he dies. And this must needs be so, because there is no possibility of repenting and turning unto God, of recovering his favour, or obtaining any grace from him after death. He that dies without grace, must to judge∣ment presently so soone as he is dead, Heb. 9. 27. And hell followes with death, saith the Holy Ghost, Rev. 6. 8. q. d. they go hand in hand; as judgement is immediately passed upon them that die out of Gods favour, so hell is ready presently •o receive them.
Now this Doctrine which you have heard thus o∣pened and confirmed unto you,* is of great use,
First, to reprove and condemne us all of great fol∣ly and madnesse. 1. None of us are so carefull to nourish this thought and meditation in our hearts, so desirous or willing to thinke of our death and future estate as we ought to be. Nay, 2. Most of us do wilfully refuse to thinke of death, but abandon this thought by all meanes, and use our utmost endea∣vour to keep it out of our hearts; as the Persian Kings were wont to keep all mourners out of their gates, Esth. 4, 2. Nay, 3. (which is worst of all) many of us for this very cause, will not think of our end, but banish by all meanes this meditation out of our hearts, that we may sinne the more freely. And with those vile men (that I told you the Prophet complaines of, Amos 6. 3.) we put farre away the evill day of purpose, that we may cause the seat of violence to come neare, that without feare and checke of conscience we may run headlong into all excesse of riot, that we can devise.
Secondly,* this Doctrine serves to exhorte us all to prepare for death. For that is the chief reason (as we have heard) why we should remember and thinke of it so oft. And this preparation consisteth in two things principally.
First, We must labour to weane our hearts dai∣ly, from the overmuch love of all earthly things; and inure our selves to beare willingly the daily and ordinary crosses we are subject to in this life, nothing makes us so unwilling and unfit to dye, as the immo∣derate love of earthly things. They are in them∣selves (certainly) Gods good blessings, and he doth (of his goodnesse and bounty) allow us to use and enjoy them, not for our necessity onely, but even for our delight and comfort also he giveth us richly all things to enjoy, saith the Apostle, 1 Tim. 6. 17. But the love of them is a most deadly enemy to grace, specially unto this grace of dying willingly and com∣fortably. That which the Apostle saith of the love of mony, 1 Tim. 6. 10. that it is the root of all evill, and cause why many are even pierced thorow with many sorrows, (the truth whereof is never more seene then when they are to dye) may be likewise said of the love of any other worldly thing. Love not the world (saith the Apostle 1 Iohn 2. 15.) neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the father is not in him. For this cause it was that our bles∣sed Saviour, when he would prepare his disciples for persecution & death, bears so much upon these points
First, That they would take heed of esteeming too highly of, or overloving any of the comforts of this life.
Secondly, That they would learne to beare wil∣lingly the ordinary crosses God is pleased to exercise them with. He that loveth father or mother (saith he, Mat. 10. 37, 38.) more then me is not worthy of mee; and he that loveth sonne or daughter more then me, is not worthy of mee. And he that taketh not his crosse, and fol∣loweth after me, is not worthy of me. And he said to them all (Luke 9. 23.) if any man will come after me, let him deny himselfe, and take up his crosse daily and follow mee. And so the Apostle saith of himselfe, 1 Cor. 15. 31. that he did dye daily; that is, by his willing forsaking of the comforts of this life, and bearing of those dai∣ly crosses that he was subject unto, he learned to dye every day.
Secondly, Our preparation for death consisteth in our care to dispatch without delay and with all di∣ligence, those things of most importance which must needs be done before we dye. Because we doe not know how soone, nor how suddenly death may take us.
Thus wee see the harvest man, and travailer that are afraid to be benighted, are wont to doe. And we have Christs owne example for this, I must worke the works of him that sent me (saith he, Iohn 9. 4.) while it is day, the night commeth when no man can worke.
And what is that businesse of importance (will you say) that we must thus dispatch without delay, if we would be well prepared to dye? Surely to make this sure to our selves, that whensoever we dye, our soules shall goe to Heaven: When this bu∣sinesse is once done, we shall be able to dye confi∣dently and comfortably, when once we know (as the Apostle speaketh of himselfe and of others of the faithfull also, 2 Cor. 5. 1.) that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were disolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternall in the Heavens, then we may s•y as he also doth there, verse 8. Ther∣fore we are alwayes confident; knowing that whilest wee are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. It is held a good point of wisdome, for a man (specially, if he be one that hath much to dispose) to have his will alwayes in a readinesse. And indeed so it is; for it is commanded of God, set thine house in order, saith the Lord by his Prophet unto Hezechia, Esa. 38. 1. for thou must dye, and not live.
But there is one thing more needfull then that is, even to set oursoules in order, and to have them al∣wayes in a readinesse. This is that one thing that is needfull, of which our Saviour speaketh, Luke 10. 42. It stands us upon to make our peace with God, and to acquaint our selves well with him before we dye, or else with what comfort can we goe unto him, and appeare before him then, yea we had need do it now in time of our health and without delay. Acquaint thyselfe now with God (saith Eliphas to Iob 22. 21) and make peace, I because death commeth upon many and may doe upon us, sodenly, for man knoweth not his times (saith Salomon, Eccl. 9. 12.) as the fishes that are taken in an evill net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, so are the sonnes of men snared in an evill time, when it cometh suddenly upon them.
- When extremity of sicknesse comes, we shall be most unfit then to set our soules in order, to begin our acquaintance with God, or to make our peace with him. Remember now thy Creatour (saith Salomon, Eccles. 12. 1.) in the dayes of thy youth, while the evill dayes come not, nor the yeares drawnigh when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them. He thought age an un∣fit time to begin this worke in; but our last sicknesse is (certainly) a more unfit time for it, than age is. Then the mind of man is wont to be so distracted and troubled, what with worldly cares for them that he shall leave behind him, what with the extremity of paines that use to accompany sicknesse; and spe∣cially with the terrours that rise from the apprehen∣sion of his future estate, and from Satans temptati∣ons, that he is not made uncapable of comfort or direction, by the best meanes that can bee brought unto him. When Moses that excellent ser∣vant of God, one of a thousand, came to the Israelites at such a time, though the message he brought to them were as comfortable as any that they could heare, yet could they receive no comfort or benefit at all by it. Moses spake so (saith the text, Exod. 6. 9.) unto the children of Israel; but they hearkned not unto Moses, for anguish of spirit, and for cruell bon∣dage.
- Admit we were never so able and fit to minde this matter then, and to go about this weighty busi∣nesse; admit we could be then more apt to seeke re∣conciliation with God, than at any other time, yet have we just cause to feare that (because we have wilfully neglected this worke so long, and presump∣tuously put it off till the last houre) the Lord (in his righteous judgement) will refuse to be found of us at that time. Thus we shall find the Lord hath threat∣ned to do, Prov. 1. 24, 26, 28, 29. Because I have called (saith he) and ye refused, I have stretched out mine hand, and no man regarded, I also will laugh at your ca∣lamity, I will mocke when your feare commeth. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seeke me early, but they shall not find me; for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the feare of the Lord.
Now if you shall aske me, how may this be done?
I answer, That he that would make this sure to himselfe, that when he dies he shall go to heaven, must do these three things.
- He must repent of all his knowne sinnes. He must call them to mind, bewaile them unfainedly, confesse them to God, and crave earnestly of him the pardon of them: and resolve with himselfe to forsake them all. For, 1. Sinne is the s•ing of death, as the Apostle cals it, 1 Cor. 15. 56. And if that be once done away and forsaken, death can never hurt a man, nor hath he any cause to feare it at all. 2. On the other side, no man can hope to go to hea∣ven with his sinnes unrepented of. Know ye not (saith the Apostle 1 Cor. 6. 9.) that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdome of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor theeves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdome of God.
Any one of these sinnes unrepented of, will certain∣ly exclude a man utterly out of the kingdome of heaven. 3. Though it be dangerous for a man to live in sinne, yet is it a matter of farre greater danger to him to die in sinne, and to be over-taken by death before he have repented of it. This our Saviour noteth as the extreme unhappinesse of the wicked Iewes, and repeats it often, Iohn 8. 21. 24. that they should die in their sinnes.
- Get good assurance (by a lively faith) that Christ is thine, and then shalt thou be able to die in peace, and in a certaine hope to go to heaven when thou art dead. When old Simeon had seene Christ, (whom he had waited for by faith, and longed to see) and was thereby confirmed much in that faith he had in him before; He blessed God an• said, (Luke 2. 28, 29, 30.) Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seene thy salvation. They that have once seene and embraced Christ as he did, spi∣ritually by faith, (I meane) and not corporally one∣ly, shall die in peace; and none but they can do so. For, 1. It is Christ onely that hath overcome death for us, and taken away the sting of it. When the Apostle had said 1 Cor. 15. 56. that sin is the sting of death. But thanks be to God (saith he, Verse 57.) which giveth us victory through our Lord Iesus Christ. Death is overcome, so that it cannot hurt the true be∣liever at all; but him that is nor in Christ, it will sting unto death, even unto the second death. 2. We can have no hope to come to heaven but onely through him Christ is in you (saith the Apostle, Col. 1. 27.) the hope of glory. There is no hope to come to glory, but onely by Christ. Nay, there is no hope to come to glory through him, unlesse he be in us, unlesse he dwell in us by a lively faith.
- If thou wouldst be sure to go to heaven when thou diest, labour whilest thou livest to lead an un∣blameable, a godly and fruitfull life; even to do all the good that God gives thee power and opportu∣nity to do. As we have opportunity (saith the Apostle Gal. 6. 10. which none of us can tell how soone it may be taken from us) let us do good unto all men, espe∣cially unto them that are of the houshold of faith. See what comfort Hezechia found in this when he was to die. Remember now O Lord I beseech thee (saith he, Esa. 38. 3.) how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, & have done that which is good in thy sight. Now (on his death-bed) his conscience gave this comforta••e testimony unto him, that he had lead a holy life; and now doth he (even before the Lord) comfort himselfe in that against the feare of death. See also what a testimony the holy Apostle gives unto good workes, even to the workes of charity and mercy in this case. Charge them that are 〈◊〉 in this world (saith he, 1 Tim. 6. 17,—19.) that they 〈◊〉 good, that they be rich in good workes, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternall life. Workes of charity (not as a meritorious cause of salvation, but) as a sure evi∣dence that by a lively faith we have interest and title to the merits of Christ, shalbe rewarded with stable and durable riches in time to come, and will make a man able with confidence of hope to lay hold on e∣ternall life. And that which the Apostle saith of certaine bad men, 2 Cor. 11. 15. that their end shalbe according to their workes, may be said of all good men also, their end shalbe according to their workes. A good life will certainly end in a blessed and comfortable death.
Foure things are wont to be objected against this, which I will briefly give answer unto.
Experience sheweth daily that many do die wil∣lingly,* and quietly, and comfortably also, that have neither lived so unblameably and fruitfully, nor u∣sed any such means to prepare themselves for death, as you have prescribed.
To this I answer,* 1. That we may not thinke that every one that dies quietly, and speakes glori∣ously of his willingnesse to die, and of the peace and comfort that he finds in the assurance of his salvati∣on, doth die happily and comfortably indeed. For, the Holy Ghost speaks of some that were most w•c∣ked and wretched men, that have no bands in their death, Psal. 73. 4. In outward things all things (aswell in death as in life) fall alike to good and bad, as Salo∣mon saith, Eccles. 9. 2. 2. We have just cause to suspect the peace and quietnesse of conscience that seemes to be in that man, that was never troubled nor disquieted in his mind for his sinnes. Because the spirit of bondage and feare useth to go before the spirit of adoption and comfort, as is plaine by the A∣postles speech, Rom. 8. 15. 3. And lastly, it is cer∣tainly a grievous judgement of God, and such as we should all tremble at, to see a man that hath beene in his whole life time notoriously wicked, to have no sight at all nor trouble of mind for his sinnes before he dies. Our Saviour pronounceth them to be hap∣py men. Mat. 5. 3, 4, 6. that are so poore in spirit, that they mourne for it, and hunger and thirst after righte∣ousnesse. And if this be a blessed thing in every child of God (how unblameable and civill soever his life hath been) at all times (even in the time of his best health and prosperity) to see and feele in himselfe so just cause of mourning and trouble of mind, as breeds in him an unsatiable desire after the righte∣ousnesse of God in Christ; then must it needs be a most wofull and cursed thing in a man that hath been notoriously wicked, to be void of all sight and sense of his sinnes, of all trouble of mind for them, e∣ven then when he is summoned by sicknesse and death to appeare before the judgement-seat of God; to go to hell in a sleep, and never to have his consci∣ence awakened till he come there. And indeed so the Prophet speaketh of this as of a most dreadfull judgement of God, when he gives up wicked men unto this blindnesse and senslesnesse of heart. The Lord hath powred out upon you (saith he, Esa. 29. 10.) the spirit of deepe sleepe, and hath closed your eyes, so as you cannot see nor be sensible of your owne estate.
But we see also on the other side in daily experi∣ence (say some) that many who have seemed most religious in all their life time,* and carefull to live well, have (yet) shewed very great unwillingnesse and feare to die; more a great deale then other men usually do.
To this I have two things to answer. First,* that it is indeed possible enough, even for a faithfull and godly man to feele in himselfe an unwillingnesse and feare to die. Good Hezechia wept sore, Esa. 38. 3. when the Prophet brought him word in his sicknesse that he must die and not live: and David also prayed oft against death, and that he might live still, Psal. 6. 4, 5. and 30. 8, 9. and 88. 9, 12. It is with many of Gods people in this case, as it was with Lot when he would leave Sodom. Though Lot had so small comfort in Sodom while he lived in it, 2 Pet. 2. 8. yet see how unwilling he was to part with it, Gen. 19. 16. He lingred so, that the Angels were faine to pull him out (as it were) by strong hand: they laid hold upon his hand (saith the sacred text) the Lord be∣ing mercifull unto him, and brought him forth, and set him without the City. Some unwillingnesse to die our Saviour tels Peter he should find in himselfe, even then when he should suffer martyrdome for his sake. When thou shalt be old (saith he, Ioh. 21. 18.) thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carie thee whither thou wouldest not. And there is good reason to be given for this. For, 1. Death being a great enemie to the nature of man, and even the dissolution of it, there must needs be in all men (naturally) some feare of it. Such as haue beene long, and inward, and deare friends, cannot part for adieu (as we say) without much unwillingnesse, and expression of griefe; as we see in the example of Iona∣than and David, 1 Sam. 20. 41. And where were ever found in the world so long & inward & dear friends, as the soule and body have beene? 2. Who can thinke of his personall appearance before the Maje∣sty of God without some feare? 3. Lastly, the best of Gods servants, though they know and be∣lieve that when they die they shall not come into con∣demnation (as our Saviour speaketh, Iohn 5. 24.) but are already passed from death unto life; and therefore have no just cause (in respect of their future estate) to feare death at all, but rather to welcome it, and to rejoyce in it, yet are they regenerated, and (conse∣quently) do believe but in part. And though the spirit (the regenerate part) indeed be willing (as our Saviour speaketh, Mat. 26. 41.) yet the flesh (the un∣regenerate part) will be apt to shew it selfe weake and unwilling to die.
But then I answer secondly,* that there is no man that hath lead a godly life, but 1. He discernes and bewailes his owne corruption in this his unwil∣lingnesse to die; he yeelds not to it, but strives a∣gainst it by all meanes; and even in this case finds in himselfe that combate betweene the flesh and the spirit, that the Apostle speakes of Gal. 5. 17. The flesh lus•eth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other. 2. He doth in the end overcome this corruption; and is (by Gods grace) made most willing and desirous to die, before God cals and takes him away, according to that gra∣cious promise made unto all Gods people, to all that have been carefull to serve and please him, Psal. 29. 11. The Lord will give strength unto his people, the Lord will blesse his people with peace.
But then there is yet another thing objected a∣gainst this that hath been said touching the assurance* they may have to die happily and well, that have been carefull to live religiously and well; namely, that many who have beene most precisely religious, have not onely beene void of comfort when they should die, but full of terrour in their conscience, calling in question the truth of their faith, and of whatsoever goodnesse hath seemed to be in them, apt to despaire utterly of the mercy of God in Christ.
My answer to this objection must consist of three branches.*
1.* It is possible indeed even for a man that hath lived a most innocent and holy life, to expresse in his 〈1 page duplicate〉〈1 page duplicate〉 last sicknesse much terrour, and to breake forth into speeches that tend unto desperation, and even unto blasphemy also against God. For, 1. There is no disease so violent and extreme, but the child of God may be subject unto it, and die of it also aswell as any other man. All things come alike to all in this respect, as Salomon speaketh, Eccl. 9. 2. And these things that are objected (as causlesse feares and ter∣rours, ravings, blasphemies, fierce speeches and a∣ctions both against themselves and others) are knowne to be the very naturall effects of some vio∣lent and extreme diseases. 2. It cannot be denyed but that Satan also is wont to shew the uttermost of his fury and power against Gods servants in their last sicknesse. The last combate that they have with him, is wont to be the sharpest of all other. The A∣postle telleth us Col. 2. 15. that our blessed Saviour spoiled the principalities and powers, and made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in his crosse. All the principalities and powers of hell did then set upon him, and shewed their uttermost strength and rage against him. This Christ did fore-see, and told his Disciples of also before hand, The prince of this world commeth (saith he, Iohn 14. 30.) and hath nothing in me: as if he should say, I know well that Satan in my pas∣sion (which is now at hand) will come and assault me with all his forces, but he hath nothing (nothing of his owne, no corruption at all) in me, and therefore shall lose his labour, and do me no hurt at all. And as he did with Christ our head, so hath he been wont to deale also with the best of his members and ser∣vants, even to set upon them most fiercely in their •ast sicknesse: and that for two causes. 1. Because he sees his time and opportunity that he can have with them is now so short, having great wrath (saith the voice from heaven, Rev. 12. 12.) because he know∣eth that he hath but a short time. 2. Because he knoweth we are then (through paines, and feares, and distempers of body and mind) like to be most weake and unable to resist him.
Secondly, though godly men may have such conflicts with Satan, and experience of his most fie∣ry assaults upon their death-beds; yet the Lord, the God of peace is wont to tread downe Satan under their feet, (as the Apostle speakes, Rom. 6. 20.) before they die. He useth to make them (even in this life) mor• then conquerours over that distresse and anguish which his assaults hath brought them unto. In all these we are more than conquerours (saith he, Rom. 8. 37.) through him that loved us. Yea the experience of many of Gods servants hath proved, that these bitter con∣flicts of theirs have ended in more abundance of peace and comfort, than ever they found in their lives before; and that not inwardly onely in their owne feeling; but God hath made them able also to expresse it outwardly, to the exceeding comfort and admiration of them that have beene about them.
Thirdly and lastly, although it should so fall out, that the Lord (for the further hardning of wicked men, or for some other causes best knowne to him∣selfe, whose judgements are unsearchable, and his wayes past finding out, as the Apostle speaketh, Rom. 11. 33.) should take away any of his servants in these fearfull fits and conflicts, and utterly disable them from expressing by word or gesture the victory over them, and the comfort that they have ended in; yet are we to rest confidently assured of this, that every one that hath lead a good and godly life, doth cer∣tainly die blessedly and comfortably, though we cannot perceive it. Because we are to walke by faith and not by sight, as the Apostle teacheth us, 2 Cor. 5. 7. and more credit is to be given to the word of God, than to all sense and experience of men: and there∣fore whatsoever we heare them speake, or see in the manner of their death, we should resolve with Salo∣mon Eccl. 8. 12. Yet surely, I know that it shall be well with them that feare God, which feare before him. For the Lord hath expresly said of every godly man, Prov. 14. 32. The righteous hath hope in his death. And com∣manded us Psal. 37. 37. to marke the perfect man, and behold the upright, assuring us that the end of that man is peace.
The fourth and last thing that may be objected a∣gainst that which hath been said,* is this; if the death of all the godly be so blessed and happy, why hath there beene such mourning and lamentation for their death among Gods people, as we see there was both in the old Testament for the death of Iacob, Gen. 50. 10. and of Samuel, 1 Sam. 25. 1. and of many more: and in the new Testament also, for the death of Ste∣ven, Acts 8. 2. and of Tabitha, Acts 9. 36. and sun∣dry others?
To this I answer,*
- That the happinesse of the godly in their death makes nothing against our mourning for them; but it is both lawfull and fit for us to mou•ne for the death of our Christian friends, (for all that.) 1. Out of the respect we owe unto them, and out of that love and affection we are bound to shew unto them. And the Apostle noteth it (Rom. 1. 31.) for a signe of one that is given up of God to a reprobate mind, to be void of natural affection towards them that God hath linked him unto. 2. Out of respect to our selves, and therein unto the Lord also: for, we are to take it for an argument of Gods displeasure against us for our sinne; when he deprives us of such friends as were his good instruments of our comfort any way. So Naomi, when God had taken from her her husband and her two sonnes, said Ruth 1. 21. that the Lord had testified against her, and the Almighty had afflicted her.
Secondly,* though it be lawfull and fit we should mourne for the death of our Christian friends, yet may we not mourne for them immoderately, but take heed that we exceed not this way. They that weepe (saith the Apostle, 1 Cor. 7. 30.) should be as though they wept not. They must take heed their hearts be not too much taken up and oppressed with griefe: I would not have you to be ignorant brethren (saith he 1 Thess. 4. 13.) concerning them which are asleepe, that ye sorrow not even as others which have no hope. And we should moderate our griefe in this case, 1. Out of our respect unto the Lord, who is the doer of this. It is he that gives, and it is he also that takes away our friends from us. This quieted Iobs mind, and moderated his sorrow when he had lost all his sonnes and daughters; The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, saith he, Iob 1. 21. It be∣comes us all to stoope and submit our selves to his will in all things, and to say with old Ely, 1 Sam. 3. 18. It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good. And immoderate sorrow in any of our losses, must needs argue a kind of murmuring and impatiency a∣gainst God. 2. Out of our respect unto our Chri∣stian friends whom we mourne for: for death is to them (we know) a great advantage: to die is their gaine, as the Apostle speaketh, Phil. 1. 21. Death makes them happy and blessed, Write, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, saith the voice from hea∣ven, Rev. 14. 13. For, 1. Death puts an end to all their sorrowes, afflictions and tentations that they were vexed with continually in this life; now they rest from their labours, Rev. 14. 13. 2. Death puts an end to all their infirmities, which they so much complained of; and perfecteth their sanctification, which they so much longed after while they lived: The spirits of just men (saith the Apostle, Heb. 12. 23. when they are once separated from their bodies and translated to heaven, and not before then) are made perfect. 3. And lastly, their workes follow them, Rev. 14. 13. Death puts them in possession of their eternall happinesse, and of that blessednesse where∣by God hath promised to reward their obedience, and all that care they have had to please him. Cer∣tainly the least thing that any child of God hath done in love and obedience unto him, shall not be forgotten, nor unrewarded of God: no not the du∣tifulnesse, and diligence, and faithfulnesse of a poore servant to his master. Knowing (saith the Apostle to such, Col. 3. 24.) that of the Lord ye shall receive the re∣ward of inheritance; for ye serve the Lord Christ. And whosoever (saith our Saviour, Mat. 10. 42.) shall give to drinke unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water onely in the name of a Disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. But this reward is many times not given to Gods servants in this life. When the even is once come, and we have done working, then will the Lord of the vineyard (as we read Mat. 20. 8.) give unto all his labourers the wages he hath covenanted to give unto them.
Now because of this great advantage and benefit that (in all these three respects) comes to our Chri∣stian friends by their death, we faile much in the love we pretend to have borne unto them, if we mourne immoderately for their departure from us. Old Barzillai was willing (even out of his love to his sonne) to part with him, and forgo the great helpe and comfort he might have had from him in his age, because of the great preferment he knew it would be to his sonne to leave him, and live with David in his court, 2 Sam. 19. 37. And what comparison is there betweene that preferment and this, that every child of God is advanced unto by his death? 3. And lastly, out of respect unto ourselves, we should mo∣derate our griefe for the departure of our Christian friends; because we have not quite lost them, but we shalbe sure to enjoy them againe, with much more content and comfort in their society than ever we did here. By this consideration David moderated his sorrow for the death of his child, 2 Sam. 12. 23. I shall go to him, but he shall not returne unto me. For, though we shall not know one another, nor enjoy the society and company one of another in the life to come in that naturall and carnall manner as we did in this life; yet shall we certainly rejoyce much more one in another, than ever we did in this world. And this comfort that the faithfull shall have in heaven in their mutuall society, is oft mentioned in the holy Scripture as one part and degree of that un∣speakable happinesse that they shall enjoy there. They shall sit downe with Abraham, Isaac, and Iacob (saith our Saviour, Matthew 8. 11.) in the king∣dome of heaven. They shall be admitted in∣to the general assembly and church of the first-born which are written in heaven,—and to the spirits of just men made perfect. And the Apostle saith of the Thessa∣lonians (who were won to God by his ministry, and in whom he had taken great comfort in this life) 1 Thess. 3. 19, 20. that he knew well that in the life to come, even in the presence of our Lord Iesus, and at his comming they ••ould be his glory, and joy, and crowne of rejoycing: he should take farre more com∣fort in them then, than ever he had done in this world. And this may suffice for answer to all th•se foure things that have been objected; and to settle your hearts in this truth, that the man that lives a godly and fruitfull life, may be sure to die happily and comfortably; and none but he. And thus much also shall serve to have been spoken at this time. Let us now praise God for his mercy, and commend this that we have heard to his blessing by hum∣ble and faithfull prayer.
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TO HIS MOST WORTHY, AND MVCH HONOVRED PA∣trone Master William Cokayne, Merchant, at his house in Austine Fryers in London.
I Hope the world will not blame me, for increasing the crowd of Englishwriters, with which, it is so much troubled: nor censure me of folly for thrusting this little Booke into the throng, where it is like to be smoothered, if I may be admitted to put in this plea. To the first, that as a dutifull sonne, in honour of my deare fathers Name and memory, I strive for some place for this Monument, which may be some meanes to perpetu∣ate the same in Gods Church: as a faithfull Exe∣cutor, I am carefull to discharge this part of his (though but nuncupative) will, to endeavour the publishing of this, and some other of his Workes, which himselfe intended and had prepared for the presse▪ To the latter, I plead, that though it be in it selfe but small, yet will it finde in the throng, a booke to which it is neerely allyed, a childe of the same Authors braine and heart (the Lectures on Saint Iohn 4.) which having found free and speedy passage, will make way for this, and easily procure it welcome and entertainment, where it selfe hath found the like; and I presume elsewhere also: for somuch as the company of this may be procured at a farre easier charge then the former, and as it hath one already to lead the way, so (God willing) ere long (I hope) it shall be seconded by another of later b••th, but greater growth. It no way becometh me to commend this, or any other worke of his (let me rather strive to imitate him my selfe, then to commend him, or any thing of his to others) his ve∣ry name will commend them. And least under that name, the reader should suspect he may bee abused: I heere solemnly promise, that what is or shall be▪ by me published under his name, shall not be loose notes (that have beene taken by some ignorant Scribe) nor shall it be made up with additions, and alterati∣ons of my owne▪ bu• the Copies under his owne hand carefully transcribed.
And as for publishing these Sermons, I have good reason, so for dedicating them, to your selfe. The occasion of them was that heavy Visitation, which was then upon your City; the drift of one part of them, was to moove his auditors, to commi∣serate the (then) wofull estate of it, to you there∣fore as a Citizen (of no meane note) have I directed them, but principally to you as my Patrone I have not, nor expect anything of mine owne worthy pu∣blique view: this I owne not as Authour, but as Heire to the Authour: and it being in mine hands, I thought it my duty (being the first booke▪ I had to dispose of) to present it first into those hands, which freely bestowed the Presentation to this Par∣sonage upon me. I have beene for above these foure yeeres, covetous of some faire opportunity to wit∣nesse to the world, my thankfull acknowledgement of your favour to me; and to give publique testimo∣ny of your worthy and exemplary integrity, in dis∣charging the trust reposed in you (to dispose of this Benefice) without respect to your owne gaine, or pleasuring of your friends, neglecting bribes of breath or money. You intended not to enrich your selfe by this part of the Churches Patrimony, nor to make up other losses by gaining by this. It was your care not onely to shunne the grievous sinne of Simony and corruption, but to avoide all suspiti∣on of it, you passed by the neere relation of kindred, the importunate solicitation of freinds, the mediati∣on of great Personages, and were pleased in your choice to crave the direction of your pious, learned and most industrious Pastour, the great blessing and ornament of your City and Parish: his love (which I may never forget, though I shall not in any degree requite) induced him to nominate mee, your confidence in his judgement and uprightnesse, made you upon his commendation to make choice of mee a meere straunger, for your Clarke. Never had any Parson or Parish more cause thankfully to acknowledge the religious care, and pious inte∣grity of a Patrone, then wee heere have: or take any occasion to lay this your good worke open to wide report, and to propound you as a patterne, to them that are entrusted with such charges. I doe and shall praise GOD, as long as I live, for raising you (beyond my thoughts and expectations) an instrument of so great good to mee: by your meanes hee hath freed mee from those snares, wherein many of our coate are (in these corrupt times) intangled▪ I doe not eate the bread of (either direct or indirect) Simony, but that which by GODS providence, your uncorrupt hand hath reached out to mee, a morsell of which will give mee more content, then abundance of the former sort. I doubt not, but GOD will aboundantly requite your kind∣nesse to his house, that hee will blesse you in your Merchandise, and exchanges, who have beene so carefull not to make Merchandise of the Soules of men, or to make sale of the Patrimony of the Church, and portion of GODS Ministers; that hee will continue and increase your comfort in your hopefull children, who have beene so faith∣full a Guardian to this people; but principal∣ly that hee will blesse you in your Soule with Spirituall and Heavenly graces and com∣fort, the meanes of which, you have beene so carefull to provide for this place. For all which (as I hope) soe I shall continual∣ly pray; and such prayers are the best, and onely requitall, I can make, and that I know, which you will accept of, together with this mine acknowledge∣ment, before witnesse, and upon record, that I am
West-Felton in Salop. Decemb. 8. 1632.
Yours in the bonds of thankfulnesse most obliged, SAMVEL HILDERSAM.