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THE DISEASES THAT MAKE A STOPPAGE TO ENGLAND'S MERCIES DISCOVERED, AND ATTENDED WITH
DeliverED IN A SERMON AT ST. MARGARET'S ON FISH STREET HILL,
“ Thy destruction is of thyself. but thy salvation is of me."
PREACHED IN 1642.
TO THE READER.-It is God's wont to warn before he smite a people, thereby walking himself after his own rule, Devt. xx. 10, 13, who would have no city to be destroyed until peace lath first been offered to it. The sword of the Lord is ever drawn, his bow bent, his arrows prepared, his instruments of death made ready, his cup mingled ; yet be doth not use to pour down bis plagues, until he hath rained a shower of mercy before them: be doth not surprise men at
God never discharges bis murthering pieces, until he hath first dis. charged his warning ones : pax domini, Luke 8., Peace to this bouse," was srunded at every door where the apostles came. All ages and nations will bear witness to this truth; the old world, Sodom, Pharaoh, &c. : but no na:ion or age can better subscribe to God's goodness and fair dealing in this. than we, who bave been warned sometimes by prodigious signs, as by the appearance of that wonderful comet, A. D. 1618, as importing some strange changes which we have seen and heard since; and as if its last influence might seem to end in this island when it blazed over England, it was seen no more; and Herlicius Stargardersis, a noted astrologer. beld, that its influence was like to continue between twenty and thirty years. Sometimes by his ministers, by bis administration of justice, and dealing with other nations : how long buih the sword walked circuit in Germany and in Ireland ? Sometimes by lesser and lighter judgments : how long hath the plagne continued in this city without intermission ? Sometimes by taking many godly out of the world, and the removing many others out of the kingdom, wbo were wont to stand in the gap; sometimes by a general withdrawing himself, pulling down his hangings, not assisting his ordinances, &c. And unless we will wilfully shut our eyes, how hath the goodness, patience, bounty, mercisul and powerful dealings of God towards us, and for us of late, been as an band put forth to lead us home unto him, to cause us to meet him, and take warning, that we might prevent these wasting calamities that are gathered together in a black cloud, as though they meant to empty themselves in a shower of olcod upon our heads ? But we are so far from taking warning. that we study to hasten our own ruin : almost every one instead of bringing his bucket of water to quench the fire that is already flaming about our ears, brings their bellows in their hands to blow up these coals of dissension in all places, 80 that now not only is there a kingdom divided, but the head and the members di. vided, and the members among themselves, cities and towns divided, yea families divided, parents against children, brother against brother, and familiar friends become bitter enemies one to another; the most sure symptom and presage of a fearful desolation to fall upon all, unless some speedy remedy be applied to this desperate disease, and the great God himself become our physician and heal our distempers. I shall desire to commend these two Sermons (the third and fourth of this volu ze) to thy serious consideration : in the one thou shalt see there is a stoppage made of God's mercies, who was coming to heal us but we would not be healed; the causes are discovered and the remedies prescribed, that could we so go to work to open these stoppings, and bring God again into the way of his mercies ; could we see our sins removed and God returned, I might then truly say that there would be yet hope for England : the other Sermon is a preparative to bear that cross that so many have already on their backs, viz. of being turned out of all our earthly comforts; a sad calamity indeed, but now too usual ; and when so many of our neighbour's houses are on fire, why should we think to escape scot free that are as deep in sin as they? Being, therefore, forewarned, let us be forearmed, and get into God and his favour, as that one necessary thing for us all to look after, as the only means to keep us from sinking under the waves that flow in vpon all, especially on God's people; experience shewing, that if we will live in the power of godliness, and not walk in the same excess of riot with the world, we shall make ourselves a prey, and had need to have our helmets on to catch the blows that fall upon us, and resolve to sit loose from the world, that we may suffer the spoiling of our goods with joy, and be able to say with that noble Spartan, who being told, of the death of his children, answered: I knew well they were all begot mortal. 2. That his goods were confiscate: I knew what was but for mine use was not mine. 3. That his honour was gone: I knew no glory could be everlasting on this miserable earth. 4. That his sentence was to die : That is nothing ; nature hath given the like sentence both of my condemners and of me. Now should we get a stock of faith, and learn how to use it, to live by it when our lands, our stocks, our trades, our friends, our wit, our shifts (as the ordinary means of our livelihood) shall fail us. That we may live not only above our fears and troubles and doubts, but above the world, above ourselves, in God and in Christ, in whom we may see supply to all our wants, satisfaction to all our desires, and have recompense for all our losses, and every thing that may make for our good and welfare : light in our darkness, life in our death, strength in our weakness, riches in our poverty; and comfort ourselves, that we serve a Master that will one day right all our wrongs, reckoning the injuries that be done to his as done to himself ; so that we should not think much to part with our country, our children, our possessions, our life, if the world will take them from us, for Christ and his gospel's sake. All these, and much better than these shall be restored to us one day; and we may say thus to ourselves : Yet I am not miserable so long as my Redeemer is happy; he lives, and I shall live with him. Men may take from me my goods, but they cannot rob me of my grace; they may banish me from my country, but not from heaven ; take from me my life, but not my happiness : no, my faith, my heaven, my soul, my happiness is in his keeping, that will safely preserve them for me, and me for them. But I fear I have held thee too long in the porch, I shall now open thee the door and let thee in, praying God to make those lessons as profitable to thee, as the Author's desire was they might both in his preaching them and his willingness to have them published for the public good.
“ So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men, and they fled before the men of Ai.”-Josh. vii. 4.
In this chapter you have a treatise concerning Achan's sin, branching itself into three parts; one concerning the commission of the sin, the second concerning the discovery of it, and the third concerning the punishment thereof. As for the sin itself, the commission thereof, what it was, you read in the first verse, that the children of Israel had committed a trespass. God had commanded that all the spoil of Jericho should be consecrated unto himself, and that the first fruits of all should be his. Jericho being the first city that they took in the land of Canaan, by right it did belong unto God; all the treasure, silver and gold, wealth and goods that was therein, properly it did belong untu God. Now Achan he plays the thief, and does appropriate some of God's goods and wealth unto himself. This was charged upon him as a sin, and so upon all Israel, as at the first verse : keeping from God any thing that does belong unto him, is a sin. Now in the second place this sin was discovered by occasion of the defeat that was before the town of Ai. They passing on from Jericho, at the second verse, unto the town of Ai, they laid siege to it; but their siege was broken up, and three thousand men fled, and thirty-six men were slain, verses 4, 5. Sins committed in one city, will follow us unto another, and overtake us there. Oh what unexpected ways and means hath God for to bring out men's sin to light. Three thousand men flee before the men of Ai, and thirty-six men are slain, and this was made the means of discovery
of Achan's sin ; who would have thought that there should have been such a discovery as this?
The work was hindered by this defeat, and that sets them on work to search out the cause, and shews,
That afflictions should set us on work, to search out our sins, and the cause of them.
That sins shall not always be pocketed up, but shall be discovered, though never so secret.
That God hath strange ways to discover men's sins.
But why must the children of Israel be beaten here by the men of Ai, and why must one man's sin be punished upon all? Surely the children of Israel were in covenant one with another, and so being in covenant together, the sin of the one not being punished by the rest, was charged upon all the rest. As for England, either we are in covenant one with another, or else we are not; either there is a national covenant, or else there is not. If there be not a national covenant, as was among the Jews, why do we not rather say, the churches of England, than the church? And if there be a national covenant, the sin of one is made the sin of the rest, what sins do we bring upon ourselves. But they must flee before the men of Ai; why? Because that the men of Ai were to be destroyed with a great destruction. Therefore God does first suffer them to prevail, the more to embitter and stir up the spirits of Israel against them: this did provoke them.
Whence I take up these two observations :
mercy towards a people, there sin makes a stoppage in his proceedings.
The second is this : When God intends utterly to destroy his enemies, he does first suffer his own servants, and dearest children to flee and fall before them.
Concerning the first:
First, Where God is in a way of mercy towards his people, there sin does make a stoppage in his proceedings; so here God was in a way of mercy towards his people, carrying of them into the land of Canaan, but in the way they sin, Achan plays the thief; mark what a stoppage this made in the way of mercy; so you have it in Josh. xxiv. 20. Though God be about to do you good, and have done you good, yet “ if you forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, he will turn” from the good he is a doing, “and do you hurt, after he hath done you good.” So in Jer. xxviii. 9, “ At what instant I shall say or speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build, and to plant it :” that is, at what time I shall give sensible testimony of good to a land or nation: “If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good,” &c. So that sins committed against God when he is in a way of mercy, do
make a stoppage in those proceedings of mercy. . There are these two or three reasons for it:
Sins committed when God is in a way of mercy, are a slighting of mercy. Amongst yourselves, if you be doing any special work before others, that they may take notice of you, and they slight your work, you will leave off work, and work no more; now, I say, when as God is in a way of mercy, and you then sin against him, your sins do slight mercy, nay then, says God, I will turn away; it will make a stoppage in this work.
Again, those mercies that come unto God's people, come unto them in the way of a promise. And God's promises they are either spiritual, concerning spiritual things, or temporal, concerning temporal things. If they be spiritual promises, concerning spiritual things, then they are absolute, bottomed and grounded upon no condition ; as the promise he made that “ he would drown the world no more," says the prophet Isaiah ; such a covenant as he made with Noah, he makes with his people, that runs upon no condition : he doth not say, If the world goes on and serve me, I will drown it no more: but the promise runs upon no condition, and so the promise of grace runs upon no condition : for if it runs upon a condition of faith, God promises to give faith, God promises perseverance, upon the exercise of grace he promises to give the exercise of grace, all spiritual promises run upon no condition. But now outward promises run upon condition, and therefore if men do not keep the condition, God takes himself free, and will turn himself out of the way of his mercy. You have an expression to this purpose, Num. xiv. 34, “ After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days (each day for a year) shall you bear your iniquity, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise.” Will God break his promise? As much as if he should have said, I have promised to bring you into the land of Canaan, upon such and such conditions ; but now, if you do not perform the condition, I count myself free, and you shall know my breach of promise, that I will not give you the thing that I am about to give you.
God never gives his people any mercy, but he gives it them in a way in a way of mercy. He does not think it