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COMFORT AND CROWN
In a SERMON preached December 4th, 1657; before the Honourable East India Company.
TO THE HONOURABLE
THE GOVERNOR AND COMMITTEE
EAST INDIA COMPANY.
In the first entrance upon great actions, it hath been the use of good men to begin at the Sanctuary, and there to seek of the Lord a right way, as knowing that whatever be the services of men, yet the success and blessing must be from God alone. A course which honourable persons amongst the heathens have sometimes used, as Scipio, in consultations of state, went first to the Capitol, and then to the senate. You were pleased in the great work which you have undertaken, thus to do; and what businesses you are to prosecute by the concurrent counsels and services of men, to commend first to the favour and blessing of God. Wherein having used my poor service, you were pleased so far to accept of it, as to desire to have it made more public. Hereunto I was the more easily persuaded, that the great and good example of Nehemiah might be still before your eyes, both to direct you in your
honourable undertakings, and to comfort you in your imitation thereof. The Lord be pleased so to remember you for good, as by his counsel to direct, and by his blessing to reward, whatever you go about in conformity to his will, and in pursuance of his glory. To his most gracious protection I commend your persons and enterprises, and am
Your faithful servant in the work of the Lord,
NEHEM. XIII. 31.
Remember me, O my God, for good.
Though all saints have all the members of the new man, and all the graces of Christ fashioned in them (for there are no monsters in his body); John i. 16, yet, as in the natural body, some excel in sight, or hearing, or swiftness, or strength, or beauty; so, in the mind, one excelleth in one grace,—another, in another, according as the Spirit is pleased diversely to distribute his gifts unto men. (1 Cor. xii. 11. Ephes. iv. 7) Abraham is renowned for faith; Isaac, for meditation; Jacob, for plainness; Joseph, for chastity; Job, for patience; Solomon, for wisdom; Moses, for meekness; Phinehas, for zeal; David, for devotion; Mary, for love; Nathanael, for singleness. And as some are more eminent than others in special graces, so likewise in special services: Joshua, for a warrior; Hushai, for a counsellor; Solomon, for a governor; Paul, for a preacher; and, in this book, Nehemiah, for a wise and a valiant manager of great and honourable actions.
I would send a worldling to read Ecclesiastes, to learn the vanity of the creature; a lover of Christ, to Solomon's Canticles; a devout person, to David's Psalms; an afflicted person, to Job's temptations; a preacher, to Timothy and Titus; a backslider in faith, to the Hebrews; a moralist, to the Proverbs; a justiciary and legalist, to the Romans and Galatians; a libertine, to James, Peter, and Jude; a soldier,
to Joshua and Judges; a man that would study God's providence, to Esther; and those who go about great undertakings, to the reading of this book of Nehemiah.
There are many things, which such men may observe in him for their special direction. And because he desires 'God to remember them,' I shall not look upon it as a departing from my text, if we, upon this solemn occasion, do a little remember them likewise, and consider of what use they may be unto you.
1. Observe his care of foreign and remote intelligence and correspondence; when he was in Shushan, he made enquiry of the state of his brethren in Jerusalem. (Chap. i. 1, 2, 3) You that undertake great actions, must be especially careful to have accurate and distinct intelligence. You have no Elishas amongst you, to save you that labour; (2 Kings vi. 12) and therefore, as the historian said of princes, wool Barixéwv ὀφθαλμοὶ καὶ πολλὰ ὦτα, You had need have many eyes and many ears in many parts of the world, to see and hear by them, what you cannot by yourselves. Abraham's intelligence recovered Lot; (Gen. xiv. 14, 16) Rebecca's intelligence saved Jacob; (Gen. xxvii. 42) the intelligence which the spies brought, animated Israel; (Josh. ii. 23, 24) Abigail's intelligence saved Nabal; (1 Sam. xxv. 14) Hushai's intelligence preserved David. (2 Sam. xvii. 15, 22) Many a man, by speedy intelligence, is enriched, is delivered. It was the way whereby Joshua overcame the kings of Canaan, (Josh. x. 9) by coming suddenly upon them, before they could have intelligence of it; and, in like manner, Abimelech discomfited Gaal by benefit of secret intelligence. (Judges ix. 30, 31, &c.)
2. His extraordinary love, zeal, and tender-heartedness towards his country, and the honour thereof; and his zealous prayer unto God night and day for it. (Chap. i. 4, 6) Men of great and remote employments, should be very careful, by their vigilance, to prevent any reproach and injury against the land of their nativity; and to manage all their dealings with such honour and integrity, as that the very nation which brought them forth, may have renown in the remotest parts of the world. (Deut. iv. 6) "Keep the statutes and judgements which the Lord commanded," saith Moses, " and do Xenophon. Cyropæd.
them; for this is your wisdom, and your understanding in the sight of nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people."
3. His not being contented with his own honour and greatness, who was in so near attendance upon the greatest prince on the earth, and was sure enough to live in plenty and prosperity himself, though his brethren were in affliction, but his improving that interest for the service of the community, and particular comfort of God's people. Men of great and public undertakings, should not look only after narrow and domestical interests; but should make use of their own greatness, power, wealth, prevalency with potent persons, to do real offices of love and service to the poor church of God. Esther might possibly have lived in splendour and royal majesty, though her people had been destroyed; but she chooseth rather the danger of perishing, than to neglect their salvation. "If I perish, I perish." (Esth. iv. 16) And so, Moses chose "rather affliction with the people of God, than to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter." (Heb. xi. 24, 25) Nature hath implanted even in senseless and inanimate creatures, such a love of community, as makes them forget their own proper motions, to preserve them whole from violence or reproach. How much more should we lay to heart public evils, even then when our own condition may seem prosperous!
4. His prudent vigilance, in viewing the state of the city secretly, and then imparting his commission to his brethren. (Chap. ii. 12, 18) In great works, personal prudence and joint communication, are singularly necessary for the happy management of them: For "in the multitude of counsellors is safety." (Prov. xi. 14)
5. His pious courage, animating his brethren, bearing up himself against envious aspersions of the enemy, and drawing in his brethren into an unanimous society in great and honourable works, and all upon grounds of faith, giving assurance of divine help. (Chap. ii. 17, 18, 20, and Chap. iii. per tot. and Chap. iv. 1, 5, 14) Faith is a foundation of courage; (no grace so valiant as that, Heb. xi. 33, 34. 1 John v. 4) and courage a foundation of constancy. (2 Tim. iv. 17, 18)
And therefore faith and fortitude are necessary graces for those, who will go, with resolution, through great and difficult undertakings. And therein a special wisdom to work all in a sweet and amicable concurrence, to draw one way, and to join with special accord hearts and hands in the same work for differences and divisions will unjoint the frame of great actions, and as a breach in a wall, will minister unto adversaries an occasion of advantage.
6. His wise discovery of adverse counsels and preparations. (Chap. iv. 8, 9, 15) There never was any great enterprise without special opposition. Zerubbabel met with mountainous obstructions in the great work which he went about; (Zech. iv. 7) only these obstructions are more secret and visible than mountains; and therefore men that engage in great works, must ever have their eyes running to and fro' to discover dangers, that they may prevent them. (Prov.. xxii. 3)
7. His special care upon all emergent occasions, to call the people together for new and further counsels. (Chap. iv. 19, 20) Great businesses, being full of variety of incidental and circumstantial contingencies, will frequently call for fur ther resolutions and renewed consultations; will, like great vessels, many times spring a leak, and require immediate application of remedies. And therefore it is a part of necessary wisdom, as in great cities, so in great actions, to have physicians always within call, who may timely advise upon all needful expedients for safety. (Judges xix. 13)
8. His indefatigable labour night and day, being not only a commander, but an example of unwearied patience to all the people. (Verse 22, 23) And all great actions will require this part of self-denial. A man, either of sensual or sluggish principles, is very unfit for the management of any arduous and weighty affairs. It was a great business, but one would think a sad one, for a man to sacrifice his beloved son, and yet Abraham rose up early' to go about it. (Gen. xxii. 3)
9. His compassionate zeal, mixed with wisdom, impartiality, and self-denial, for the poor which were oppressed, rebuking the oppressors, and forbearing his own just allowances, and preventing the injuries of servants and officers. (Chap. v.