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to give up my accounts with joy; and when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, I may lift up my head in the day of redemption, and receive a crown of glory which fadeth not
THUS let your moderation be known unto all men, because "the Lord is at hand," in his future approaching judgements. But hath not the Lord been at hand, near us, in the midst of us already, by many strange intermingled providences, by a series of glorious mercies, and a vicissitude of dreadful judgements? as if he would both ways try, whether by the one we would be led unto repentance, or by the other learn righteousness. Is it a small mercy, that we have had the gospel of salvation, in the purity of the reformed religion, for so long a time in this land? having brought forth so little fruit in answer to the light and grace which hath been therein revealed unto us? I have read an observation in one of the homilies of our church (if my memory do not greatly fail me) "That we shall not often find, that a nation which had the gospel in purity, and not brought forth the fruits thereof, hath enjoyed it much longer than one hundred years." I do not mention this as a sad presage; for I dare not set bounds to the infinite mercy and patience of God; his judgements are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out; the secret things belong unto him, and things revealed, to us and our children: it is not for us to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power:- only I desire, by this sad observation, to awaken both myself and you, timely to "consider the things that do belong unto our peace, before they be hidden from our eyes." For this is a sober and certain truth, that the sins of a church, as the fruits of a well-ordered garden, do ripen much faster than those of a wilderness: and therefore the prophet Amos calleth them by the name of 'summer fruit.' (Amos viii. 2) The prophet Jeremiah compareth the judgements threatened against them, unto the rod of an almond-tree,' (Jer. i. 11) which shooteth forth her blossoms before other trees. And therefore when we have reason to fear that God will hasten judgements, we have great reason to resolve with holy David, "to make haste and not to delay to keep his commandments.” Again; Was it not a great and eminent mercy, when God commanded up into the scabbard the sword of violent men,
swelled into pride and arrogance with their many successes? when he infatuated their counsels, shattered and dissipated their undertakings, and swallowed them up in the confusion of their own consultations?
Was it not a glorious and wonderful mercy, that, after a long and bitter banishment, the Lord brought back our dread Sovereign in the chariots of Aminadab, upon the wings of loyalty and love, unto his royal throne, without the effusion of one drop of blood,' and thereby made way for a stable and durable settlement both of church and state; to say nothing of the other ordinary mercies, of flourishing of trade, and plenty of provisions, wherewith this nation hath been for a long time blessed. And may it not be said of us, as it was of Hezekiah, that we have "not rendered again according to the benefits done unto us?" but we have surfeited and played the wantons with these great mercies? so that the Lord hath been provoked to lift up his hand in many sore and dismal judgements against us.
For after that thousands and ten thousands had fallen by the sword of an unnatural war in the high places of the field, he hath stirred up potent adversaries abroad against us; though (blessed be his name!) we have not hitherto been delivered to their fury, but by signal successes have had good reason to hope, that the Lord hath owned our righteous cause.
"Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still;" for he hath, in these two years last past, emptied this city and nation in very many parts thereof; as we may (I presume) with good reason compute, above a hundred thousand of her inhabitants, by the fury of a raging and contagious pestilence; the like whereunto possibly cannot be paralleled for some hundred of years. And yet after all this, "his anger hath not been turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." He hath likewise contended by fire; and, by the late direful conflagration, hath laid in ashes the glorious metropolis of this nation; hath made desolate almost all her goodly palaces, and laid waste almost all the sanctuaries of God therein. Thus "the Lord hath come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire; for by fire and by sword hath he pleaded with us; and the slain of the Lord have been many."
We e see how the Lord hath been near us both in ways of mercy and of judgement: as if he would say of us as of Ephraim, "Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I speak against him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore my bowels are troubled for him. I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord."-And again; "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim ? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me; my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger; I will not return to destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man," &c. (Jer. xxxi. 20. Hos. xi. 8, 9)
I shall limit the inference from all this, to the first acception, which I gave of the original word in the text, namely, to teach us from hence to walk, as becometh the dignity of our high calling; according to that exhortation of the apostle, "Let your conversation be, as becometh the gospel of Christ." For every thing of the gospel doth call upon us for holiness of life. The author of it a pattern of holiness; "He that saith he abideth in him, must walk even as he walked." (1 John ii. 6) The end of it a design of holiness; that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness' before him all the days of our life.-The doctrine of it a mystery of godliness; (1 Tim. ii. 16) there is not an article of the creed, which hath not holiness a consequent of it. The laws of it prescripts of holiness: "Be ye perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matth. v. 48) The cardinal graces of it, faith, love, and hope, all principles of holiness; Faith purifieth the heart and worketh by love;' (Acts xv. 9. Gal. v. 6) Love is the fulfilling of the law,' (Rom. xiii. 10) 'Herein is love, if we keep his commandments.' (1 John v. 3) And, Every one that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as be is pure.' (1 John iii. 3) No man can rationally hope to be like unto Christ in glory hereafter, who resolves to be unlike unto him in grace and holiness here; for glory is the consummation and reward of grace. All the precious promises of the gospel invite unto holiness; Having these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holi
ness in the fear of God." (Cor. vii. 1) Lastly, the dreadful threatenings of the gospel drive unto holiness: since we know, that "without holiness, no man shall see the Lord;" Heb. xii. 14) and that "he will come in flaming fire, to take vengeance on those that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thess. i. 8) And therefore as ever we expect to enjoy the benefits of the gospel, (without which we are, of all creatures, the most miserable) we must show forth the efficacy and power of the grace of the gospel in our hearts and lives," which teacheth us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world :" (Tit. ii. 11, 12) which that we may all do, the God of Peace, who brought again from the dead the Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the Sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make us perfect in every good work to do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
PREACHED BEFORE THE
At Whitehall, on March 22, 1667, being Easter-Day.
HEBREWS xiii. 20, 21.
Now the God of Peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the Sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ.
THE efficacy of the gospel dependeth not on the wisdom, industry, or ability, of man; but on the blessing and power of God; who only can open the heart to attend unto the word spoken.
And, therefore, the apostle doth often begin and end his epistles with prayer, as the best key to open, and the best seal to close, the doctrine taught.
Now because the sum of our happiness here standeth in two things, That God is at peace' with us, and that we live in obedience' to him,--and both these founded in the covenant of grace, sealed by the blood' of Christ, the great Apostle, High-priest, and Shepherd of the Church,—and ratified by the power of his 'resurrection; therefore the apostle hath so couched these things in this prayer, that it may be a summary both of his doctrine touching the person and offices of Christ in this epistle, and of the exhortations unto
A Acts xvi. 4.