Mr. Jenkin’s Afternoon Sermon Preached August 17, 1662 - by William JenkinFarewell Sermons of the Ejected Puritans
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Jenkin’s (Jenkyn’s) Farewell Sermon – Sermon 2, Preached August 17, 1662
Exodus 3:2-5, “And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush, and he looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bushy and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”
Let us take a short view of the foregoing verses: and that this may be the more useful and profitable to us, we may take notice, that as in the former chapter there is described Moses’ preservation to his future employment, so in this chapter there is described his preparation, and his fitting for that employment, i.e. by a vision, or rather a suitable apparition, in which God discovered unto Moses his care of his people, of whom Moses was to be a speedy deliverer. You have here in the words read unto you, the preparation afforded to Moses for the great work of being called to be Israel’s deliverer; and in this preparation you may take notice of three principal parts.
I. An apparition that is here presented to the view of Moses, “a burning, though not a consumed bush.”
II. Moses’s care to observe it, “I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” And then,
III. God’s monitory precept, or admonition, which he afforded unto Moses, when he was drawing near to see this wonder, in which we have principally considered two parts.
1. This precept propounded. 1. Negatively, “That he should not draw near.2. Affirmatively, That he should put off his shoes from off his feet.
2. You have considerable, the reason or argument, whereby God doth back this precept or admonition, i.e. “because the place whereon he stood was holy ground.” The time would fail me if I should go over all these parts, we shall only touch on the two former. The apparition which Moses saw, and Moses’s desire to observe it: of the first I shall speak transitorily, and insist on the latter more fully, which I chiefly intend.
1. For the apparition, or emblematical discovery of the estate of the church in the burning, and yet unconsumed bush. And herein take notice of three things.
1. The low ness and weakness of the church, represented by a bush.
2. The cruelty of the church’s enemies, signified and represented by fire.
The eminency of its preservation; although in the fire, yet unconsumed.
And in this only take notice, that the church is compared to a bush, for two reasons: 1. In regard of its deformity and blackness, and uncomeliness. 2. In regard of its weakness and brittleness. The church is uncomely in regard of sin, and weak in regard of suffering; and God sees it best that it should be thus with them to humble them, and to shew his goodness to accept them, and to love them, and make them Long for their future beauty. And hereby God makes them more conformable to their head, hereby he makes them endeavour to look after inward beauty and glory. Hereby he puts them on a life of faith, and takes them off from living by sense, and creature-comforts, and from being entangled with creature-comforts. And hereby he shews how little he regards the beauty and glory of this life, which he denies; to the best of his people. And hereby he shows, that there is a, better state of appearance and glory approaching: and therefore the people of God are not to be censured under their blackness and deformity, either in regard of sin or suffering. Their happiness is not to be judged by its outward appearance: because this life is but the obscurity of the church: we see them like the tents of Kedar, but we do not see how like the curtains of Solomon they shall be. 2. The people of God should take heed of expecting that glory of this world, which is not promised to them, and to set their hearts on heaven. And you may see the reason why wicked men stumble so much at the outside of God’s worship, because there is no outward bravery and beauty to allure them to the true worship.
2. The church is compared to a bush, in regard of its weakness and brittleness. Note, that it is not com parent to a strong sturdy oak, but to a weak brittle bush. God loves to bring his church into a low estate and weak condition; as it is here compared to a bush, so other-where to a vine, a dove, a lamb, and a sheep, all weak creatures. Sometimes the church is said to be fatherless and destitute; as our Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church, was said to be weak, a worm, and no man; and as the apostle said, “suffered through weakness.” And this makes them to trust in God, and puts them to rest on his strength. “When we are weak, then we are strong.” Outward weakness will make us look the more to Christ for spiritual strength; the weakness of our state doth shew the spiritual strength God gives to his people for the upholding of them. And this weakness of his church doth exceedingly confound his enemies, when so weak a company shall be delivered, not only against, but by the strength of men: and hereby God doth gain to himself the greater glory in their deliverance, for remembering them in their weak estate. Hereby the people of God are made more thankful, both for their preservation in, and deliverance from their powerful adversaries. You see, here is a large field opened unto me, for the discoursing upon the church’s weakness, which whether it be more suitable to the text, or to the times, I leave to you to judge.
2. Consider the cruelty of their opposition, that is set forth and represented by “the fire that burneth in the bush.” Afflictions, and especially persecuting ones, are in the Scripture, frequently set but by fire, as “The fiery trial, the fire of afflictions.” This doth not only discover the rage and cruelty , of men, but also the benefit and utility that comes to the church by affliction; for the afflictions of the church are not as consuming, but trying fire. As the fire in the furnace is to gold, it only takes away the dross: not like the fire of hell, which hath heat without light; but the school of persecution hath light as well as heat: the school of affliction is the school of teaching. God teacheth his saints excellent lessons by the light of that fire. But I pass by, that I might now insist upon the third thing.
3. Consider the eminence of their preservation, “It was not consumed the church of God was hot, but not altogether and wholly consumed. Let the fire be never so hot and spreading, the church of God shall have a being. If the church be less in one place, it will be greater in another. What it loses in one place, it gets in another? and God will have a name among has people on earth: A man may as well attempt to blow out the light of the sun with a pair of bellows, or batter it with snow-balls, as to root the church out of the world; for it is impossible to root Christ’s church out of the world. And if you take notice of particular believers, “it is not consumed” in a way of hurting and destroying them. And consider, their graces are not consumed, their welfare is not destroyed: this fire cannot burn them up, though it burn upon them: but as he will mitigate and allay the fire so as that it shall not decrease their strength, so he will cleanse his people by the fire, so as it shall burn up nothing but their dross, and what makes them offensive unto God, and what may make them hurtful to one another. But I pass by these things to the second general part, viz…
2. Moses’s care to observe God’s admonition, “That he would turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush was not burnt.” Moses was an excellent naturalist, and yet here he was posed; he could see no reason/in nature by all the learning of the Egyptians, how this thing should come to pass, that a flaming fire should be in a brittle bush, and yet the bush not consumed. And yet 1 do not conceive (as some jesuitical expositors upon the place do) that Moses did turn aside so much out of curiosity, as to understand what it was that God did intend by it, and would have, to learn by it And, doubtless, when God’s works are great, our observations should not be small; when his providence is eminently lifted up, we should not be cast down; when the hand of God is upon us, we must not shut our eyes. I am very far from being a fanatic, and to give credit, or be led by unscriptural revelations: but yet, let me tell you, the times wherein we live are strangle times, in regard of strange sights and apparitions, and I question if there have not been some as wonderful as this in our times; but I shall not now mention them; though it be a forfeiture of your modesty to give a reason, for them, yet they do portend some strange things. The hand of God is not to be neglected, though it cannot be perfectly conceived; and it is the nature of a wicked man to have “God’s work far out of his sight.” Be sure to lay them up in your hearts. And thus far you may take notice of them, to trust the God that hath all the elementary meteors in his power, and at his command; and this learn, to tremble and dread before that God that hath you in his power, and can do with you and all other things, as he pleases.
3. You have here considerable, the admonition of God, or the monitory precept God lays down to Moses, i.e. he forbids him to draw nigher, and then bids him to “pull off his shoes;” the reason of the former will be easily understood in the opening of the latter. I shall, therefore, in it, briefly take notice of two things.
1. An injunction, “put off thy shoes.”
2. The argument whereby be doth back this, “Because the place whereon he stood was holy ground.”
For the opening of the former, the injunction, “Put off thy shoes,” I shall not give the divers glosses, and divers interpretations, which men, with more wit than weight, have endeavoured to make of this Scripture. The plain meaning is this, which is given us by Theodore, u Put off thy shoes.” God’s scope, and drift, and intent hereby was, to require of Moses reverence, when be was to receive a message of very great concernment and importance about his church. The design of God was in this, to prepare him to obedience, therefore God required that 9f him then, which servants were wont to do when they came to their Lord and Master, to shew their reverence to them. Servants use to come barefoot to their roasters, to testify reverence to the commands of them on whom they waited: Nudure peeks signum reverentia. And the putting on the shoes is in Scripture, as well as among other writers, held a token of domination or masterly power. Hence some conceive, John spake of Christ, as one that had his shoes on and of himself, as one that was unworthy to untie his shoes. And the prophet Isaiah, by a sign of, “putting off his shoes,” is commanded by God to put off his shoes from off his feet, and to walk naked and barefoot, and he did so, Isa. xx. 2, which denoteth the servility of the people, in token that God’s people were to be in a low condition in captivity- So we read of mourners, in Ezek. xxiv. 17, “that were of a low spirit,” they are said “to go without shoes,” or “as unshod.” And my brethren, on the other side, when God would shew the freedom of his people, and their deliverance from servitude, he is said to “put shoes on their feet,” Ezek. xvi. 10, and the reception of the prodigal into his father’s house, and the freedom and privilege his father intended him, (according to some leaned men, intended by that expression in Luke xv. 22) is set forth by putting on shoes upon his feet. So that I take the meaning of this command to be so much: Shew by this thy reverence, thy humility, thy due submissiveness, thy subjection of spirit, together with thy servile readiness to do whatsoever I shall command thee. Calvin hath this note upon the text: “If so excellent a servant of God as Moses,-had need to be quickened to reverence and obedience by such a ceremony, certainly we that are more backward to humility and obedience, should, by our reverent behaviour, when we come into the presence of God, signify both the reverence of our souls by our outward expression, and likewise quicken and fortify the inward graces of our souls, by those inward gestures of the body; especially in prayer, as kneeling, and lifting up the hands, uncovering of the head, and the like: for the presence of God is great, and it is the presence of the great God indeed.” We that are not only by the law of creation, so infinitely below him, but also in regard of that illegal law of sin, so much against him, should testify our humility before him, and subjection to him when, he calls for it by our reverence.
2. The reason by which this is backed, “Because the place whereof Moses did stand, was holy ground.” The meaning I take to be this, it is holy in regard of that visible and miraculous token, symbol, and sign of his presence, that is here discovered in this place; not because the place was (as I do not understand how any place is) of its own nature holy, but God did testify, that the place being the place of his special presence, had thereby a holiness; there being now a sign given by God to Moses, that he was extraordinarily and miraculously there. And thus I have opened the second branch, whereon this injunction was backed, “This place was holy,” so it was then. Now I do not understand how I can discourse of this so profitably unto you, concerning the holiness of places, unless we take notice of the holiness of places in the time of the gospel, and consider, whether, and how in these times, one place may be said to be holy, or holier than another. And truly I am not put on this employment willingly, nor the handling of this subject; and if it were not extorted from me by something, I do not say that I have seen, but that I have read, that was written by men, and those none of the meanest neither, the learnedest of the papists, I should not now have chosen to have entered upon, this task, concerning the holiness of places; in opposition to whom, I have entered upon this discourse. I will give you expressions, which one of the devoutest, and the other of the learnedest of them hath; the learnadest of them, accounted so at least, (though blessed be God, his weapons have not been formidable to the church; is Bellarmine, his words are these, Templum consecrandum merito venerabile et divina virtute preaditum est: The temple consecrated is deservedly holy, and venerable in worship, and endowed with divine virtue and efficacy; the temple ought to be looked upon as honourable and venerable. And for the other, Durandus, he tells us, “So great is the religion and holiness of churches, that those things should be, and may be forbidden to be done in them,” (he means perpetually, or else said nothing, for we grant as much) “which in other places may duly and lawfully be done.”
In the handling of this question, “How are we to judge and conceive of the holiness of places, in the time of the gospel? I shall endeavour, first, to explain it, and then faithfully and truly endeavour to resolve and determine the same.
First then, for explanation, I shall here endeavour to open these two things to you: first, what it is for a place to be holy, or wherein the nature of the holiness of the places consists; secondly, what that is, that is the foundation or cause of the holiness of places; and both these must in our discourse, and likewise apprehension, be accurately distinguished.
1. What it is for a place to be holy, this is two way to be considered: 1. Generally; 2. More particularly.
1. More generally. The holiness of a place doth consist in the separation thereof, the setting it apart, the disjunction and discrimination in the way of some excellent preeminence or the exalting of it before and above all Other places. Thus the notion of the holiness of place is taken in scripture, Exod. xxx. 31:37, 38 you shall there read, that the Lord tells them in the 3lst verse, concerning the ointment that he prescribed, and likewise the composition of it for his service, “This shall be an holy anointing oil unto me throughout your generations.” Now see how God doth discover this to be holy, “On man’s flesh it shall not be poured, neither shall you make any other like it, after the composition of it.” Here was a discrimination, as well to the using of it, as to the making and composition of it. As none was to make such an ointment as this was, so none was to use it in their ordinary and common employment, so that now the holiness thereof did consist in the distinction and discrimination of it from other uses, and likewise from all other ointment. And this is further expressed concerning the holy perfumes, in the 37th and 38th verses, there was to be a difference betwixt this and other perfume; and this was the holiness thereof. And so you shall find it not only concerning holy things, but likewise concerning holy persons, Lev. xx. 24, 25, “I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people; you shall therefore put a difference between clean beasts, and unclean.” Mark ye, herein is the holiness of the people, that they were & differenced and several people. And hence it is you read in Deut. xxvi. 18, 19 that God is there said to “avouch his people,” openly to discover himself, to assert it, “that they are his people;” their holiness was a discrimination, a separation from the rest of the people. And in Deut. vii. 6. and xiv. 2. you have there the very same things described and discovered unto you. And now for this, I shall desire you to take notice of comparing two places of scripture, which discovers the holiness of places; in Deut. xix. 2, 3, “Thou shalt separate three cities for thee in the midst of thy land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it.” And at the seventh verse, “Wherefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt separate three cities for thee,” Now you shall have this again propounded to you in Josh. xx. 7, “And they sanctified Kadesh in Galilee iv? Napthali, and Sichem in mount Ephraim, and Kiriath-arba (which is Hebron) in the mountain of Judah.” Mark, the scripture that was called separation in Deut. ix. 2, 7. is here called sanctification; therefore the word in the Hebrew is, “And you 8haiI sanctify,” or make holy these places; that is, holy by the separation of them unto that employment that I shall appoint. Hence a thing is said to be unholy in scripture, when it is common, is not separated and set apart to holy employments and services; and from everything that is of a civil concernment And hence you read in Acts x. 14, in the vision that Peter had, God bids “Peter, kill and eat.” But Peter said, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is commas or unclean.” That is, unclean and unholy, in a way of legal unholiness, is said to be common, not set apart. Heb. x. 29, you shall there read this notion clearly discovered to you in the New Testament, “Of how more sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing?” An unholy thing is a common thing. So that now what is sanctification in the former part of the verse, is called commonness and uncleanness in the latter part. But not to give you any more instances of this nature, the general nature of holiness is discrimination or separation.
2. To answer it more particularly, this setting apart, or discrimination, or separation of places for holy uses, must have these two properties.
1. A place that is holy must have such a separation from other places, as that it must be alienated from all uses but holy uses, it must not at all be employed to civil uses; for the employing of it unto civil uses, must be looked upon as sinful and unlawful. Thus in the scripture, when times, things, persons, are reputed as holy, they are to be exempted from common employment: the sabbath-day, p holy day, “in it thou must not do any manner of work.” The vessels and utensils of the temple were holy, and therefore were not to be used to ordinary uses; and this, as some do think, was the great sin of Belshazzar, that he would offer to drink in the vessels of the temple. And so the garments of the priests were holy, find not to be used by secular persons. And the tabernacle and the temple were holy, and not to be used in1 civil employment.
2. More particularly concerning this holiness, I desire to shew you what it is, by shewing you it must be such a holiness and separation as that the service done to God in those places must be accounted and looked upon as a better service, and more acceptable than if so be it had been elsewhere, more acceptable to God, and advantageous to ourselves. Now, as places are said to be holy in regard they are only to be for holy purposes, so…
2. Holy, in regard that holy services _are only to be done there, with acceptation or advantage, at least with so great acceptation. And therefore, I desire you to take notice, that places in scripture are said to be holy, which did sanctify the worship which was done in them and sanctify the worshippers, and so the very places are part of worship; and so not only places in which God was worshipped, but by which God was worshipped. And thus the sabbath was sanctified, and so the performance of God’s worship therein, made God’s service more acceptable and sanctified. And so the altar, when it was holy, it made the gift the more holy and sanctified, and so the more acceptable, the altar sanctified the gift, Matt, xxiii. 18, 19. And so the incense was acceptable to God, as being put into such a censer: and so the service done to God in such garments was more acceptable, because done in them which God had instituted and appointed for Aaron and his sons to wear. And so I have opened the first thing in the explanation, and that is to shew you wherein holiness consists, and how it is that places or things may be said to be holy; and I think I have sufficiently cleared the notion to you…
2. To shew what the cause or the foundation of this holiness is; for this, my brethren, I shall desire you also to take notice of it more generally, and then more particularly.
1. More generally, that the cause and the foundation of a place, or any other thing’s holiness is its belonging to God, God’s peculiar relation to it, and propriety in it, declared as he shall please; and therefore to be holy, and to be God’s, are the words of the like importance, or equivalence; its being God’s, and his having a relation to it, is the foundation and cause of its holiness. And therefore if you look into Exod. xv. 2, you shall there find God commands that “they should sanctify to him all the first-born, it is mine.” There now is that which is the cause, and reason, and ground of its being sanctified, or holy,—it is God himself; God hath a propriety in it. And therefore I desire you to look into Luke ii. 23; it will open this notion to you; there you shall see that this command is again repeated, but yet in other words. And therefore he saith, “As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.” That which is said in one place to be sanctified or separated, is here said to be holy, and therefore holy, because separated to God, Levit. xxvii.30: “All the tithes of the land is the Lord’s, it is holy unto the Lord,” it is holy, and therefore holy because it is the Lord’s. So that here is the general answer. This is the foundation, ground, and cause of its holiness, God’s peculiar propriety in it, it is the Lord’s.
2. More particularly, that the declared propriety that God hath in any place, or his relation to a place, or its belonging unto God, that is the foundation of its holiness. This belonging unto God, or God’s propriety in it, is declared two ways.
Its belonging unto God is declared,
1. From his presence.
2. From his precept.
1. By his presence. Now the presence of God, that was the foundation of the holiness of a place, was twofold.
1. The extraordinary presence of God was by his miraculous apparitions, and discovering himself by some miraculous token, vision, sign, or manifestation of his presence, as now here in this burning, and not consuming bush.” Here was a miraculous token of God’s presence. We shall find in the fifth of Joshua, and the last verse, God commands Joshua to put off his shoes: “Loose thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. And Joshua did so.” And therefore, as I conceive, hence it is, the mountain in which Christ was transfigured is called “the holy mountain,” 2 Pet. i. 18. “And this voice which came from heaven, we heard when we were with him in the holy mount.’’ Why holy? Not as if it were holy at that time when the apostle writ that epistle, but it were manifest, there was an extraordinary manifestation and sign of God’s presence, and so long as this extraordinary manifestation of God’s presence continued it was called holy. And this miraculous manifestation of the gloriousness of Christ’s Godhead ceasing, the holiness of the place ceased also. And remember this place now, of God’s extraordinary miraculous manifestation of himself in the bush, was holy for that time, and no longer, herein he did manifest himself; for otherwise, in the time of the law, it were unholy to offer up sacrifice there.
2. As the presence of God was extraordinary, so it is ordinary, which is two-fold,
1. The presence of his standing residence in a place, by some visible or external symbol; or else,
2. The presence of God is a spiritual presence, in the religious services and performances of his people, in the place of their meetings and assemblies. Now concerning the first of these.
1. The presence of God by the more visible and lasting tokens of his presence, which was chiefly afforded in the time of the Levitical pedagogue; so the altar, temple, ark, and mercy-seat, were symbols of God’s presence among that people. By them, God signified his presence, he recorded his name there by those visible tokens of his presence; and therefore the ark was said to be God’s face. And when the ark was lifted up, it was said, “Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered.” Hence they so much rejoiced when the ark came into the city of David, because it was the sign of God’s presence, and mourned when it was taken away captive. And God is said “to deliver his glory into captivity,” that is, the token of his glorious presence; and as long as this continued, God was looked upon as there present, and thither the people went to pray, and offer sacrifice. And thus God more fixedly declared his durable relation to £ place by these tokens, and while these continued in a place, he was looked upon to be there.
2. God’s ordinary presence is considerable in the religious service of his people, and this I call the rather the more spiritual presence of God; that is, that presence of God in the ordinances, which we have, we hope this day, and which Christ did promise, Mat. xviii. 20; “Wherever two or three are met together in my name, there am I present in the midst of them.” Not in the midst of the place, but of them, when they do perform holy and instituted worship. This spiritual presence of God is that, that is afforded in the use of those ordinances of praying, hearing, and administration of sacraments; his presence is there to accept of these, and bless them, and make them operative, and to assist in these, and to enable both minister and people to go through their duty by his own power. Nor can God’s presence be ordinarily expected, but in this his own way. Now then…
2. You must know, that as the presence of God is the foundation of a place’s sanctity, and as it is several, so you must know, God’s propriety in, and relation to a place, is declared by his precept; the precept of God is God’s propriety in a place, as well as his presence; thus it belongs to him by command to make it holy, he may do what he will, and choose out what places he will to be holy. He to whom all things belong, surely may have some places and things more proper to himself and peculiar; so the Temple of old, and the Tabernacle, those places of Levitical and ceremonial worship were separated and set apart by God by divine institution. Hence we have many commands.
1. God commands that such a house, and such a tabernacle shall be built, and this had been unlawful to do had it not been commanded.
2. He directs the manner, and the mode, and that all things should exactly be done according to the pattern in the Mount. And,
3. God doth command it should be in such a place, in the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite, and that place that himself had chosen.
4. He commands that he will be served in these places peculiarly, rather than in any other place, he would not have these places changed for others. Herein this place typified Christ, one that is only able to make our services acceptable. Hence it is said, Exod. xxiii. 17, “Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord.” And Acts xxvii. the eunuch there went unto that place that God had commanded.
5. He doth command, that he would have these places reverenced, and no civil employments used there when the holy service was doing; and that after the service was done, at that very time the place should be only for God.
6. And lastly, he annexed a promise unto that place, that he would accept of a duty done there rather than in any other place, even because it was done there; hence they prayed in the temple, rather than in their private houses, Luke ii. 27; and when they could not be present, by reason of God’s providence, in the temple, if they do but look to the city and the temple, God accepted of their duty, 1 Kings viii. 48. So that God did promise that that place that he had instituted for his worship and service, that the service performed there should be more acceptable to him than elsewhere. This shews the reason and foundation of a place’s holiness, the precept of God, and the promise and presence of God. And thus I have opened to you the second thing. Now having thus explained and opened the question to you;
2. I come to resolve the question, according to what I think in my conscience to be the truth of God; and this I shall do two ways.
1. By granting that which must not be denied.
2. By denying what must not be granted.
1. By granting what must not be denied: and here I grant willingly these four things.
1. That in the time of the gospel, it is not only lawful, but it is often very commendable and necessary, to design and dedicate places unto God. Now when I say, it is lawful to design them and to dedicate them, I pray you bear me witness, I do not say it is lawful to consecrate them, or to sanctify them; but I say it is lawful to design and dedicate them. Now for this take notice, that between 1. The designing and appointing of a place; 2. The dedication of a place; and 3.The consecrating of a place, there are these differences.
1. Concerning the designation of a place, then is a place designed, when it is appointed to be made use of for the most convenience for such a service, as Tuesday and Wednesday may be appointed for lecture-days, not consecrated. Now you must know, that this designation of a day may be altered, and so may a place: if such a place be designed, it is in our power to make use of it, to as to leave off the use of it when we please.
2. As to dedication, I mean so lawfully to dedicate a place, which is of our own right to dispose of; so to dedicate it, as not again to be able to revoke it, or call it back from such a use and purpose. It is lawful and commendable for a rich man to dedicate so much ground, or money, for building a house for a free school, or for the poor, and to give it away from ourselves, and fro» our own right and power: and if so be that a man hath power or propriety over a place or thing, it is lawful for a man to alienate such a thing. And yet this you must know by the way, that this dedication that now is in the time of the gospel, doth very much differ from that dedication of free-will-offering unto God in the time of the law; for they were dedicated to God in the time of 4he law immediately, that is, to his immediate worship; it was part of God’s worship, it was a part of religion to do that thing; whereas it is not now dedicated to the immediate worship of God, but it is dedicated immediately to such a priest, or minister, or place, or company of people, that we have a good will to gratify; and as it more remotely redounds to God’s glory not immediately. For God hath not declared in his word the same acceptation in the gospel of things done in an immediate way, as he had in the time of the law, of which acceptation now we have no such promise. And therefore it is observable, as one speaks concerning that benefactor in the
Gospel to the Jews, “He hath loved our nation, and builded us a synagogue;” it is not said, for God, but for us: this man out of love to us hath bestowed these things to God; which though a giving ourselves out of our own power, yet it doth differ from the free-will-offering in the time of the law. Aye, but now, Sirs, ye must know, that sanctification, or consecration, that is a great deal more; when we sanctify a thing, or consecrate a thing, this thing that is so consecrated, it is so holy, that there must nothing at all of unholiness, or of a civil or secular employment and concernment be done in it. Now we do not dedicate a thing, but there may be secular things in an ordinary and civil way done in them; and our services are not more acceptable for the place, nor the places less holy because of those civil employments. There is the first concession, that in the time of the gospel there may be a designment and dedication of places, and it is not only lawful but commendable.
2. I grant, that in times of the gospel some places are to have religious services performed in them, rather than in other places; I mean places of natural conveniency and fitness for the meeting of people together, whereby they may be free from disturbance, from the violence of enemies, and from tempestuous weather. As public meetings, whereby we have the society of God’s people, their examples to stir us up to zeal, and their joint help in prayer and holy performances, to go along with us, that we may join our, forces together, and with a great force wrestle with God, and overcome him which is invincible. And therefore, my brethren, I desire you to bear me witness this day, that I plead for public ordinances, and for the purity of God’s ordinances to be administered m public places, rather than other places; so that ‘I do here profess, that I do avowedly and openly declare my judgment to he for public meetings in public places, and the purity of God’s ordinances, if they may been joyed without human mixture, which may hurt and pollute them.
3. I grant, that in the time of holy service, we are not then to we secular employments at that time in those places, as eating, drinking, and talking, it being unsuitable to the work in hand: and howsoever they may be lawful at another time, yet unlawful then, because against the apostle’s command, “Let all things be done in decency, and in order;” and that which is unsuitable to the commands of God, the taking his name in vain. My brethren, I will go further with you, we are to abstain from all other religious services, when not in season; and therefore when the minister is in preaching, we must not run into our places and kneel down, as some people do, and fall a praying. And I cannot but wonder, that they that do so much cry up uniformity and sanctity of places, that yet they should confute their judgment by their practice, that they should pray secretly, when the whole congregation is a praying vocally; and it may be the congregation is singing a psalm, or the minister preaching, and then they go to their prayers. I pray, where is the uniformity, decency, and order they so much stand for?
Lastly, I grant, that after the performances of holy duties, in places wherein we meet for the worship and service of God, it is our duty to abstain, not only from filthy and indecent actions of a natural or moral filthiness, unseemly, as looked upon by men against God’s laws; but from all those civil, moral, lawful actions, at other times, they may reflect dishonour upon the work that hath been done, or upon the work that shall be done, or that may render the place meet for religious services afterwards. And this is that, that one calls a negative, or private reverence, a reverence or not doing something; not because the place is more holy, but for decency and order, considering the religious duties performed in that place. So that things subservient to religion call for a negative reverence, and are not so to be used, as that the religious services which are there performed and transacted, should be made disgraceful and dishonourable; as the bread of the sacrament, after the sacrament is done, is not lawful to be cast unto unreasonable creatures, because it reflects dishonour upon the religious service which we were before doing; so, dirty water is not to be put into the communion-cup; not that the cup is holy, but because it is a reflection of disgrace upon that holy service wherein that cup is made use of; and that cup is not to be made use of to drunkenness. But in all this bear me witness that I say, all this is but a civil reverence, and so due to any place where there is any honourable convention, as in the parliament-house, or presence-chamber, or the like.—Having yielded this…
2. I must come now to deny what must not be granted, and I likewise deny four things.
1. It is not now in the times of the gospel in any man’s power to set apart a place for religious duties, so as that it should be unlawful upon a due occasion to use it for civil employments, or that it should be always unlawful to alienate to other uses, besides those uses that are divine. The bread and wine sanctified by God’s own institution, by the minister, after the public use and administration of them in the ordinance, are not now holy, but they may be eaten in a civil use and way as our ordinary and common food: The synagogues among the Jews were as holy as our churches; they were for holy duties, as prayer, preaching, and the like, and dedicated to God’s worship, and yet you must know there were civil employments used in those places after the religious worship was done; and therefore in Matt xxiii. 34, saith our Saviour, “Some of them you shall scourge in your synagogues.” Hence we used to keep courts and consistories in churches amongst us, and some of them none of the best; and we use here among us in this city constantly in our churches, (and I doubt not but it is lawful,) for an alderman in his ward to meet about secular business, as to choose common councilmen, or the like. But where there hath been a dedication of a place to God’s worship, it is only God that can make it so holy, as that it should be sinful to employ it to other uses; and if the governors of the church, upon due occasion and reason, shall substitute other places more fit than the former for divine worship, then the former places may return to their former proper uses; but it is not so in things consecrated by God. If the font, table, or pulpit wax old, they may be laid aside, and looked upon as common things, and may be used for other employments. And suppose the surplice be a lawful garment in God’s worship, (which yet I am persuaded none of you believe,) doubtless it is not to be burned when it is old and past wearing, and the ashes put into a pot, or some such like thing, and be buried under the altar; but it may be used as other linen may. And so the common utensils, as the cup, and the like, when they are come to be old, they may be used for other employments, without fear of sin. And therefore it is an excellent speech of one. Saith he, So to consecrate moveable or immoveable goods, as that it should be a sin for the church to use them in any secular employments, it is an execrable and. abominable superstition. God hath not consecrated anything in the gospel so, as that it is a sin to use it otherwise. It was a sin in them to make use of the cups in the temple in any secular way, but it is not so for us. The reason is, because those things were set apart by God’s own institution. But there can be nothing so consecrated by men, as that it may not be made use of in secular things without sin.
2. A second thing I deny is, that no place new in the time of the gospel hath such an holiness, either from institution or use, as to sanctify or make more acceptable or effectual the services therein performed. This is not in the time of the gospel. God is present at places of religious performances, not with respect unto the place, but the performance by him instituted and enjoined; and therefore he doth not say, “Where two or three are met together, I will be in the midst of that place among them.” God will be present in the place for the duty’s sake, not among them for the place’s sake, but the duty’s sake in the place, to bless the ordinance for his own institution sake. Prayers and other duties in the ceremonial law were regarded for the place’s sake, but now we must abhor this piece of Judaism. For a man to set a place apart by consecration, that this place makes the duty any thing the more excellent, or acceptable to God, this is to make the traditions of men equal to the institution of God. The temple sanctified the duty, but not the synagogue; and the altar did sanctify the gift and the person and service, because it was by God’s institution and so the temple and altar did add efficacy and worth to the Work; but for men to consecrate the church, it is to make the appointment of men equal with the institution of God. Our churches and meeting-places are not holy, if they be holy at all, without relation to the duties performed; but our duties are holy, without relation to the church or the place. None but God can consecrate a place to be an effectual means of worship. The Jews worshipped God by the temple, but we worship God in the church, as the place doth afford a natural conveniency for our meeting together. The place, then, hath no influence at all upon our duties; and if any of you should think so, you do err exceedingly. It is but only a physical act of duty, or a natural adjunct of duty, which is but at the most helpful to the body’s conveniency.
3. The third thing I deny is this, that there is no place as holy as to exclude another place from being as holy in a way of proper sanctity and holiness, which we have seen now opening. God now makes not one place properly more holy than another. There is not now properly any religious difference of places. We have not now the precept of God to sanctify and separate one place from another—to prefer one place before another. We have not now the miraculous presence of God, his appearing as at the bush. God hath not given us under the gospel those symbols of his standing presence and residency, as by the ark, and mercy-seat, and altar of old, be gave unto his people. And as for his ordinances, if they make a place holy in regard of performance of duty to God there, and his spiritual presence in that place, then my parlor, chamber, or closet are holy where I use to pray, and where God doth afford his assisting blessing and comforting presence. So that if you make the spiritual presence of God to make a thing holy, in regard of God’s spiritual presence going along with those services, then your houses are holy, and the field is holy where you walk when you meditate; and praying by the river side makes it holy. Human consecration makes no place truly holy. If the spiritual presence of Christ makes one place more holy than another, then the communion-table and font are more holy than any other place in the temple. And so, when God’s presence hath been enjoyed at the font, that is more holy than the communion-table; and so, when the presence of God hath been enjoyed at the communion-table, that is more holy than the font, and so you must bring in Judaism. If the presence of God makers a thing holy, a new communion, table, upon which, the sacraments was never administered, cannot he so holy as the old table. Nay, by this the mouths of the communicants are holy, eaten the bread and drank the wine which was dedicated to an holy use, and so it will be sinful for you to eat any other food. I conclude all with this, that the difference and holiness of religious plates in the times of the gospel, is not given, but taken away by the gospel, 1 Tim. ii. 8: “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” You may pray, and that with as much acceptableness to God, in one place as in another. John iv. 21, Christ saith, “The time comes when you shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.” That is, God’s worship and service shall not be confined and limited to those places, as if others were not as good and holy, as they. 1 Cor. i. 2: “To them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” One place for the calling upon Christ is as good as another; and therefore” Where two or three are gathered together, I will be in the midst of them.” And this is foretold in Zeph. ii. 11 and in Mal. i. 11. So that this is the sum of all: God’s institution makes the Sabbath holy, and the bread and the wine set apart by God’s own institution, after the duty, may be used in secular uses.
But fourthly and lastly, to name no more, no place is o sanctified by God, as that after the ceasing of that presence of God, any holiness should belong unto it, as now when the signs and tokens of God’s presence ceased and was gone, the holiness of that place was gone, and then it was lawful for Moses to “put on his shoes.” And so when God’s presence ceased in the ark, the altar, and mercy-seat, the places became no other than secular and civil. And now for us to go about (as the Papists do,) a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as if that place had any more holiness than others, is a foolish and abominable thing. How many bloody battles have been fought, to the disgrace, as well as the loss, of Christianity, for the regaining of the Holy Land!
Nay, let me add, those places where the presence of God hath been formerly, when it hath taken away, and those places have been used to idolatry, they are the worse, and the more unholy; for this is turning the house of God into vanity.
The conclusion of all is this—whatever places are in holy duties, out of them they lose and leave all their holiness; and therefore I say it is boldness for us to go about to tie God’s presence to a place where God hath never tied it. I cannot but wonder how it is possible for men of reason and learning to be so blind as to hold that the Lord’s day (which was set apart by God for the sabbath, as you may see in the fourth commandment, and afterwards by Christ and his apostles, which doth amount to no less than an institution) is not holy after the service or sermon is ended, but then you may go play at football and cudgels, and drinking, and what not; and yet they should say that the place of performing religious duties in, is so holy after religious performances as that you cannot come into it without bowing the knee, and putting off the hat, and bowing to the altar and communion-table, and the like; this I cannot apprehend how it should be, and I wish any of you that are of this mind, would privately give me your reasons for it why it should be so.
Now having explained the point, and given you a resolution of the question, in these particulars, give leave to wind up all with some uses.
First, We infer the great difference that is between sanctity of places under the Old Testament, and sanctity and holiness of places under the New Testament. They under the Old Testament had the immediate presence of God, the standing symbols, and visible signs of his presence, so long as these lasted: which was set apart by God’s special commandment, and so they were holy, though they were not employed in a way of worship; but you cannot say so now, our places for performance of holy duties have no such holiness; places now differ from places then.
Secondly, By way of inference, I note the great goodness of God to give us such a sweet and gracious indulgent dispensation in the time of the gospel under the New Testament, as that he doth not tie us to ceremonies or places; he doth not bind us as he did the Jews to go three times in the year to the furthermost part of the nation to worship. No, my brethren, no land, no ground, is now unholy, as famous old Doctor Reynolds said, every place is now a Judea, no coast but is a Judea every house is a Jerusalem, every congregation is now a Zion. See here the goodness of God in indulging us so far as to take any service done by us in a solemn and real manner, as if it had been done in those places which were formerly appointed for it to be done in.
Thirdly, I infer hence, there are several persons to be reproved.
1. We find hereby that all the holiness of relics of saints doth fall to the ground, and we see the folly of those that make pilgrimages unto saints and relics as the papists do. There was a time (say they) when such a, saint’s relics were laid up in such a place, and these are more holy than other places: so that this you see falls to the ground in itself. I might tell you concerning their lying about their relics, as one said, that there were as many relics as would fill an hundred carts; but sup posing so, all that would not make that place the more holy.
2. Hence the superstition of those is to be reproved, which put holiness in place of burial, and make it more holy to be buried in one place than in another: it is most holy (say they) to be buried in the church than in the church-yard; and more holy under the communion table than in any other part of the church.
3. This reproves them which cannot pray anywhere but in the temple, and they that use private prayers in churches. If you have houses and rooms at home, what is the reason that if Paul’s or any other church stand open you must run in thither, and drop down behind a pillar to say your prayers.
4. This reproves them that have reverence towards any place more than another, as if they did deserve more holiness in one part than another, as bowing to the altar, or communion-table, or the like.
5. It reproves those that have reverence for situation of these places, they must stand east and west, and why not north and south? All these things fall off, like fig-leaves, if what I have said be true, that there is no holiness in places; and this I have made known to you not only as my judgment, but as my duty.
Now for exhortation, I shall desire you to take notice of four things, and I have done, and shall leave you to God, and commit you to the word of his grace. If this be so, that there is no holiness in places, then first of all, be the more encouraged to serve God in your families, in those places where God hath set you, where God is as well pleased with your service as in public places, serve God upon your knees with devotion, humility and reverence. And therefore, though I am against superstition, and popish practices, and (those wicked cursed traps of innovations, that the men of the world have disturbed the church of God with; yet I am against putting on your hats in prayer; and sitting in prayer. Those that are for holiness of places, do not, with Abraham, in every place they come build God an altar. But let us in every closet and room build God an altar; let no morning nor evening go without a prayer in thy family, pray often, and pray continually, let your houses be as so many churches, as you read in Rom. xvi. 5. “Likewise greet the church that is in their house:” and in the second verse of Philemon’s Epistle, “To the church that is in thy house.” There the houses of the saints are called churches. This will bring a blessing upon your families. And if you be not willing to have that curse denounced against you, in Jer. x. 25. “Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not upon thy name,” then neglect not family-prayers, be much in prayer, and pray with frequency and encouragement, because God binds you to no place.
The second exhortation is this, labour to promote personal holiness, as well as family devotion. I am against local holiness: As one said, (that I heard once when I was a youth) happy are those garments that can carry away any of the dust of the temple; but they think not that any of their garments are unclean in wallowing in the mire of sin. But I say, do you labour to promote holiness in your lives, in your hearts and conversations. The Holy Ghost saith, “Unless you be pure in heart you shall not see God.” And therefore put away sin, for if you regard iniquity, God will not hear your prayers: It is not your ducking, or bowing, or cringing never so much, or your going with your hat off through the church, that will make God – hear your prayers, these will but dishonour you, because you live not accordingly.
3. Love the holiness of the living members, be not so much in love with the holiness of wood and timberbricks and stones; but wheresoever you see the image of Christ, be in love with that soul. Wherever the presence of God shines, and wherever thou seest one that gives up himself to God in holy duties, do thou say, Oh! my soul, delight to come into the company of these men, “The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour.” If there be a heaven upon earth, I tell you, it is in the company of godly men. I remember a famous man hath this expression, saith he, When I was in the company of the saints and people of God, I was as a living coal; but when I was separated from them, and was among the wicked swearers and drunkards, me thought there was a spiritual coldness and frozenness went over my soul. Though the people of God are best company in Heaven, yet they are very good company here on earth. And Christians should stir up one another, and be provoking one another to love and good works; and wherever you have grace, be sure to impart it to others. Endeavour to love the holiness of saints, and be willing to impart your experiences to others, for this is your duty. Do not make a monopoly of holiness, but carry company with you to Heaven.
Lastly, to name no more, labour to preserve the holiness of God’s true institutions, those things which are of divine consecration. What is human consecration, without divine institution? The sabbath day is of divine institution, labour to keep it holy; this is a holy day indeed, and this labour to keep your families from profaning of; but for other holy days, and holy things, they are much alike for holiness: the Lord’s day is a holy day indeed, and for shame, do not let your children gad abroad on this day. Truly, I do verily believe, that though here be a great company of people in the congregation, yet they are but a handful in comparison of what are drinking in ale houses, and walking in the fields, that one can hardly get home to their house for the crowd of the people that are going thither. For shame let not this be told in Gathnor published in Askelon. What! shall we stand up for the holiness of places, and yet oppose the holiness of the Lord’s day, which God hath enjoined and instituted? Oh! that the magistrates of London—Oh! that England’s king—Oh! that England’s parliament would do something for the reformation of this, to oppose wickedness and profaneness, which will otherwise bring upon us the judgments of Sodom and Gomorrah, and make us guilty and worthy of a thousand punishments. And labour by prayer in your families to overcome that flood of profaneness, which you cannot by your strength prevent. And then for the sacraments of Christ, baptism, and the Lord’s supper, these are ordinances of God’s appointment, they are holy, and therefore should not be given to those that are unholy; and yet those who are so much for the holiness of places, do not care who come to the sacrament, if they have but a nose on their face, they shall come and partake of the ordinances, let them be what they will; this is to prefer man’s institution before God’s institution. And then for the Lord’s message and word, that is a holy thing, and therefore love his messengers: the messengers of God delivering his message with fear and reverence, you are to hear them with the same fear, reverence, and resolution to be holy, as if Christ were present. And for the word of God, it is not enough for you to have a choice sentence written upon the walls of your churches, but let God’s law be written in your hearts and consciences, and practised in your lives, that all the world may see you live as men dedicated to the true God, in all the duties of his ways and obedience. Many of these things might have been enlarged. What I have given you with the right hand, I pray you Christians, do not take with the left; for if you do, you will make yourselves guilty of a double sin.
First, because you do not obey the truth you hear.
And secondly, for putting a wrong construction upon it.
But I have better hopes of you, my beloved hearers, and hope that the Lord will be better unto your souls than his ministers, than his word, or any thing else can be. God bless you and his ordinances, and discover his mind and will at this time to you.