The Reward of Religion
REWARD OF RELIGION.
Delivered in sundrie Lectures upon the Booke of Ruth, wherein the godly may see their daily and outwarde tryals, with the presence of God to assist them, and his mercies to recompence them:
Verie profitable for this present time of dearth, wherein manye are most pittifully tormented with want; and also worthie to bee considered in this Golden age of the preaching of the word, when some vomit up the loathsomnes therof, and others fall away to damnable securitie.
L v c. 12.32.
Feare not little flocke, for it is your Fathers will to give you a kingdome.
Cyprian in the end of the 6. Epist. lib. 4. Dearely beloved brethren, let this bee rooted in your hearts, let this be the preparation of our weapons, let this bee your Meditation day and night, to set before your eyes, and consider with minde and sences, the punishments of the wicked, with the rewards and deserts of the righteous: what penaltie he threatneth to them that denie him; and what glorie hee promiseth to them which confesse him.
Seene and allowed.
LONDON, Printed by John Windet, 1596.
PUBLISHED BY John Windet
The Booke of Ruth containeth the lively viewe of the Rewarde of Religion in the familiae of Elimetech wherein must be considered their
- famine which bringeth
- intollerable wrath and miserie to the fearefull and pining death
- Utter decay and losse of worldly prosperitie
- Selling and forsaking their patrimonies
- sojourning and wandering ins [...]aunge countries to
- forsake the people of the Lorde with the
Temple and place of Sacrifice
- Lords Ministers and Word.
- to remaine with their enemies infidels
- Manie yeares together
- To dye and be buried among them
- deliverance by
- Hospitality as
- houses for theselves
for their families
- Among strangers in the time of their pilgrimage.
- Among their owne friendes at home the famine being ended.
- Returning To their owne countrie where they are
- joyfully received of their friends
- to the praise of God in his word
- to their own comforts in the Lord
- Readily restored by ye Magistrates to their libertie
- 1 to be present at the Temple
- 2 to have Justice.
- to their lands livings
- With companies gained to the Lord for the
- increase of the Church by
- wholesome doctrine
- sanctified and holy conversations
- reviving of their owne that he dead
to stirre up their names
- in their houses on their insterit[...]ice
- to multiplie their Fathers family for
- wordly honour
- the Rewarde of the Religion.
- In the time that the Judges ruled, there was a famine in the land: and a certain man of Bethleem Judah went for to sojourne in the countrie of Moab, hee and his wife, and his two sonnes.
- And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wyfe Naomi, and the names of his two sonnesMahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of the lande of Judah, and when they were come into the land of Moab, they continued there.
- Then Elimelech the husbande of Naomi died there, and shee remained with hir two sonnes.
- Which tooke them wives of the Moabites, the name of the one was Horpah, & the name of the other Ruth: & they dwelled there about ten yeres.
- And Mahlon and Chilion died also both twaine, so the woman was lefte destitute of her two sonnes, and of her husband.
- Then she arose with her daughters in lawe, and returned from the countrie of Moab: for she had heard saie in the countrie of Moab, that the Lord had visited his people, & given them bread.
ALthough the author of this booke of Ruth hath not expressed his name, yet there is no doubt but it proceedeth from the spirit of God, as well as the bookes of the Judges, Kings, & Chronicles, which have not the names of their authors described: but if it may be lawfull to judge or give anie sentence thereof, it was either Samuel or some other godly prophet under the raigne of Saul, which is proved by the genealogies in the last chapter, where David is by name mentioned, testifying unto us, that it was then written,[Page 2] when he was chosen from his bretheren and anointed king over Israell, and yet before his raigne, or els there had bene added unto it, the title of a King, for the advauncing of the name of Ruth, who was his grande mother, uppon whom this history following dependeth, for the sumne and scope hereof is to shewe the pedigree or ancestry the naturall progenitours of Christe from Judah the fourth sonne of Jacob, untill the time that he beganne to challenge the princelye seate, the royall scepter, & the right of government over the people of Israell, which was at that time, when David was chosen from his fathers house, & anoynted king by Samuel.
Againe, in this history, there is delivered unto us; the hope which the fathers had concerning the calling of the Gentiles, for this mariage of Ruth into the kindred of Christ, who was a Gentile, & by nature none of the people of God, did plainely foretell that the Gentiles shoulde be called in Christ, for as hee tooke parte of his humane nature of them, so he shewed us that hee would give the same for them, that there might be no difference in his bodye, between Jewes & gentiles, but that the power of his death, the graces of the spirite, and the knowledge of redemption might redounde to all.
Now the occasion of this history is delivered unto us in this first Chapter, which is the sojourning of a certaine Jew in the land of Moab, (by reason there was a famine in the land of Judah,) with his familye, and the returne of them that lived, which were onely Naomi his wyfe, and one other, Ruth the Moabitesse the widdowe of his eldest sonne.
This wandering or sojourning is described with all the circumstuances thereof, in these first sixe verses lately read: and generally containe in them, these two parts, the first is theyr travaile to the land of Moab, the second, those things that happened unto them, after they came thither.
The first parte is expressed in these two first verses, first by the occasion, which is declared by the time and by the thing that moved them thereunto, in these wordes,In the time that the Judges ruled there was a famine, &c. Secondly by the persons that travayled, who are described by the place fro whence they were namely of Bethlehem[Page 3] Judah, these were the parents and the children which are named in the 2. ver.
The second part of these woordes, is in the foure other verses following, and it concerneth eyther the parents or the children, the parents, that one of them even Elimelech, the father of the familye dyed, there shor [...]y after their arrivall: the children, first that they married ver. 4: secondly, that they likewise dyed ver. 5: Then remained onely Naomi, with hir two daughters in lawe, and the time of her a bode in Moab, is set downe to be ten yeares ver. 4: secondly, the occasion of hir departure because shee heard say, that God had visited his people, & given them bread, ver. 6: of these partes let us speake in order, as the spirite shall give uttrance, and the time permit.
In the dayes that the Judges ruled. In these wordes the holy Ghoste after his accustomed manner, for the more certaintye of the historye, beginneth at the time as Moses beginneth his booke of Genesis, from the first creation of the world, so the prophets in the beginning of their bookes, set downe under what king or kings they prophesied, so also in the newe Testament we may see how three of the Evangelists beginne their Gospels from the preaching of John Baptist and the raigne of king Herod.
The which order they undoubtedly learned of the olde writers, the same spirite guiding them, to one and the same trueth, useth but one and the same manner of speaking. For the almighty desiring to meete with the wrangling objections of humane inventions, so tempereth the texte of everie scripture, as if question were made who did such a thing? He nameth the persons where it was done? He quoteth the place, and when it was done? Hee mentioneth the time. The cause heereof is, that hee might staie the waves of our sickle mindes, upon the piller of truth, his everlasting word. But in this place he chiefly mentioneth the time of the Judges, to shew unto us, that whe religion was corrupted, the worship of God decaied, and idolatrye advannced: when the Lord was forgotten of his owne people, when his lawes were no more observed, but every man did that which seemed good in his owne eyes, yea, when there were almost as many Gods[Page 4] among them as they were men, then even then did the Lord send this plague of famine among them For, Salomon sayth the blewnes of the wounde serveth to purge the evell, and the stripes within the bottome of the belly: as if he had sayd, as the rypenes of a wounde calleth for a corasive, so the fulnes of sinne cryeth for vengeance: by this therfore we note, that the corruption of religion, & neglect of the worship of God, is the cause of all his judgments that are exercised in the world.
For the idolatry of Jeroboam, and his sinnes, whereby hee induced Israell to sinne: did the Lord threaten by Achia the prophet, to scatter the people, so we may reade of Bahascha king of Israell, and so Salomon prayed at the dedication of the temple: when heaven shall be shut and thou give no rayne bicause they have sinned against thee &c. where hee comprehendeth the chiefe & capitall worldly punishementes of sinne, as dearth and famine, sword & pestilence, blindnes & ignorance, which are also the rewards of sin, & the unseparable companions of all unrighteousnes.
And what saith the Lord by the Prophet? Cast fro you all your sins wherewithall you have transgressed, & make you a new hart, for why shuld you die oh you house of Israel: as if hee had sayde, either repent, or else be damned, for it is a fearefull thing to fall into the handes of the living God. And may not wee thinke that all these thunderings out of God his judgements among us, wil stirre up some rain of punishments upon us. Are we not alreadie put into the wine presse, to be brused under the hand of fearefull destruction? How many plagues have come uppon us within these fewe yeeres? Where is become the remembrance of the late enemies pretended invasion? The rumor whereof amazed the harts of our couragious champions, which spend all their daies in pleasure: Oh then they cryed if they might be delivered, they would a lot some time of their dayes to the service of the Lord?
Where is the remembrance of the late plague, which was scattered almost in everie place of the lande? Oh then wee cryed unto the Lord in our distresse, and he delivered us out of all our miseries, Oh that men woulde therefore confesse the[Page 5] Lord, and declare the wonders hee doth for the children of men. But what are we now amended? Is the ungodly person turned from his ungodlynesse, and not rather strengthned in his iniquitie? They which were ignorant are ignorant still, and many like Demas, who seemed religious, have imbraced this present world. As for the prophane both of poore and rich, they have made a league with death, & a covenant with the grave, though a swoord come thorough the land, yet (saie they) it shall not come at them.
And therefore who can without waterye eyes and bleeding heart, tell this present plague of dearth and famine which we now most justly endure, and yet who knoweth how long it shall continue. Now, (as the prophet sayth) wee are gathered together and howle uppon our beds for corne and for newe wine, that is, for the bellye and for the throate, but there is a greater leannes in the soule. Now wee bite the stone which the Lord hath cast at us, but we looke not at the hand, which did sende it, and who thinketh it to bee a punishment of sinne that now raigneth among us? The papists say it is for one heresies, the popishe atheists say, that the world was best when the old religion was, for then all things were cheape, like the idolatrous Jewes, which sayd unto Jeremy, that it was wel with them when they burntincense and made cakes to the host of heaven.
The russians say to the preachers, as Achab said to Eliah, Are not you the troublers of Israel, when it is themselves and there fathers houses, while they have lefte the commaundement of God and followed their pleasures, yea, almost the whole Countrey is so vainely addicted, that among those multitudes of preachers that are abroad, there is not one that saythfully followeth his vocation, but they are molested by the basest, and contemned by the best. So that wee may saye as our saviour sayth, we have piped unto you & you have not daunced, we have mourned, and you have not sorrowed, yet wisedome is justified of her children, who are not ashamed to plead her cause in the gates of the cities, before the face of her enimies, the Lord increase the number of them.
Wee have long retained the name of Christians, that[Page 6] is, the annoynted of the Lord, and yet our lampes are empty, and we deferre our dayes in slumber, thinking our selves as good Christians as the best, till we be utterly excluded from the bridechamber, we have promised the Lorde oftentimes to worke in his vineyarde, but yet who hath entered? we are the vineyarde of the Lord, and he hath dressed us: what fruite have we brone unto him? we are the sheepe of Christ and yet we knowe not his voice: & as Rahel covered hir fathers idolls with sitting on them, and with a lye, so we that are the greatest sinners, cover our iniquities, with hipocrisy and dissembling.
Such pollution of sabbaothes as never was, yea, even in this time of dearth and famine, drinking and drunkennes, dauncing and riot, feasting and su [...]fetting, chambering and wantonnes, swearing & foreswearing, accompting gaine to bee godlines, and godlines to be the burthen of the world, with a thousand greater and more greveous calamities, as if the bird could sing in the snare, or as the fatted oxe that runneth wilfully to the slaughter.
Then beloved let us looke about us, even now is the axe of God his judgments laid to the root of every mans heart, and he is accursed that feareth it not, even now the Lord is knocking at the doore of our hearts, and if ever, let us open unto him, that the king of glory may come in. Even these are the daies wherin iniquity hath gotten the upper hand, and the love of many is waxen colde. Therefore as the Angell warned the godly, so must wee still come out from among them, my people, bee not partakers of their sinnes, least you beare a parte of their plagues.
This is the harvest of the Lord, oh let us that be the Lords servants gather out the wheat, least it bee burned with the tares. There is a holye conuocation to the Lord, & the Lords ministers, found out the trupet, if we appeare not, the earth will open hir mouth, and revenge our rebellion & swallow us up alive. Let us at the length say with the Jewes, Come let us turne unto the Lord, for he hath spoyled us and he shall heale us, he hath smitten us and he shall binde us up: after two dayes he shall give us life, and the third day he shall raise us up and we shall live before him: if with knowledge wee follow him, to[Page 7] know the Lord his rising is like the morning, and he shal come uppon us like raine in a drought, both the first and the latter raine upon the earth.
Let not our righteousnes, bee as the deaw before the sunne rising, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and let none call uppon him, but such as departe from iniquity. Secondly, by this we gather that the Lord is as true in his judgments, as in his mercyes, for hee threatened by Moses saying: if you forsake me & fal to worship strange Gods (as nowe they did) then your heaven shall bee as brasse and your earth as iron, and your raine like dust, til they were consumed from the face of the earth. Of all these mistryes you may see in the booke of Judges, Samuel, and Kings to which I referre you at your leasure, as of Saul, David, Jeroboam, Achab, Zidkia, & others as in this present place: where they are oppressed ten yeares together, so that heaven and earth may passe but the word of the Lord abideth for ever.
For this cause the prophets adde to their preaching of judgmentes: (Thus sayth the Lorde) as if they had said it shall never bee altered. And if the lawes of heathen men, such as the Medes and Persians, might not alter, much lesse the word of the Lord which is like silver purified seven times, should have any drosse or changeable substaunce in it. Wee see the law of nature stand injolable for ever, and shall not the law of him which made nature, be also immutable, when the fire ceaseth to bee hote, and the water to be colde, then shall be exception taken against God his judgments, and not before.
The use of this doctrine is to cast downe the presumption of notorious sinners, who, to avoyd the terrors of God his judgmentes, deceive their owne soules wyth this, that God is mercifull. So that in theyr most singular sinnes, they will flye to the mercyes of God, as if they were the verie bonde of all iniquitie, yea, and these kinde of people perswade themselves to bee as good Christians as anie in the worlde, because they can saie the Lord is mercifull. But heare me a little in one word I praie you, I am perswaded[Page 8] that I speake to many these people this daie. What hurt hath the Lorde done unto you, that you rob him of his justice? Shall the Prophet be found a liar that sayth, The Lord is just in all wa [...]es, and holy in all his workes. Or shall the Apostle speake untruth, that sayth: It is a just thing with God to render affliction to them that afflict you, & release to you that are afflicted. Why shall we then spoile God of his judgements, unlesse wee wyll deprive our selves of our owne salvation. But you will saie this serveth for the wicked, as Atheists, Turkes, Pagans, Infidels, and such lyke, which shall have no part with Christ.
I answere, what greater wickednes can there be, than to deprive God of his justice? Would a mortall man indure to be accounted without honestie, and shall the everlasting king abide to be spoiled of his righteousnesse? Nay, the justice of God pertaineth to such as you would be, holy persons, as well as to anie.For what saith the Prophet, When the just man turneth from his righteousnesse to doo iniquitie, he shall die in it. And Peter sayth, that judgement must begin at the house of God.
And a father once saide, God of his most deere justice hath decreed the summe of all discipline, both in exacting and in defending: as if he had sayd, there is no correction of the Lord, but it proceedeth from his justice, now the children of God are corrected, for hee scourgeth everie child whom he receiveth. And therfore the judgmentes of God must bee thundered out as well for the confirming of the faithfull, as the confusion of Infidels.
But others there are that are so farre past feeling of either mercies or judgements, that as soone the deafe adder wil heare the voice of the charmer, as they anie impression of terrour for sinne. Hence commeth this custome of sinning, which everie sabboth commit their wonted iniquitie, everie houre vomit out their poison of blasphemies, and everie daie violate the lawes of charitie, who through their dayly staring on the sonne of righteousnesse, are nowe become starke blinde, and with the continuall noise of God his waters, are made so deafe, that they can heare no goodnesse.
Unto both these sortes of[Page 9] people, hearken what the Lorde sayth in his Gospell, But if that evill seruunt shall saie in his heart, the Lorde deferreth his comming, and shall begin to finite his fellow servants, and to eate and drinke with the dronken. The Lord of that seruvant shall come in a daie that hee looketh not for, and in an houre that hee knoweth not, and shall separate him, and give him his parte with unbeleevers, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. This shall be the end of secure christians, and contemptuous sinners, carnall Atheists, & despisers of wholsome doctrine; which have no part but in this present life, with endlesse and fearefull damnation in the world to come.
Thus much of the first parte, the circumstance of time, now let us go to the thing which is the second parte, of the occasion. There was a famine in the land. This was the chiefe cause which moved these persons to travell, the avoiding of the pinching penurie of fearefull death, by lingering till the end of this pining famine. Of all the punishments of sinne which happen in this life, the [...]e is none more vehement than famine. Therefore the Lord by the Prophet, threatneth to send his arrowes of famine to breake the staffe of bread. Where he alludeth to a maine battell, signifying unto us, first as the arrow is the fittest instrument to break the ranke, so a famine is the sharpest weapon to dismaye the couragious stomackes of rebellious sinners. For as the arrowe is alwaie in sight, so a famine ever in sense, the arrowe hurteth, but not with a speedie death, a famine spoileth, yet with tedious miserie: the arrowe entered doth procure more paine and greater wound at the pulling forth, than the falling in: even so abundance of meate sooner dispatcheth a famished person than lingering hunger.
Therefore David put to his choice of three plagues, famine, flying, and pestilence, chose the last as the most sodainest, and therefore accompanied with lesse griefe, for that disease by the rule of phisicke is most daungerous, which is the longest in growing. Now wee may reade of many famines in the Scripture, one and the first we rearead of, was in the dayes of Abraham, another in the daies of Izhak, his sonne. Seven yeeres famine was in Egypt,[Page 10] where Joseph by the hand of God, succored the Church in his fathers familie. And to omit that in Davids time, and that in Ahabs time, with those in the dayes of Jehoram and Zidkia, with many others. wee reade in the new Testament of a universall famine, in the dayes of Claudius Caesar, prophesied by Agabus, when the Church dyd most notably releeve one another. Unto the which wee may adde that at the destruction of Jerusalem, about fortie yeeres after Christe. All which are most worthie spectacles of humane miserie, and worthy examples of God his judgementes, to terrifie all them which saie in theyr prosperitie, they shall never be moved.
There wee may reade of the pittifull death of many thousands which starved in the streetes, in the face of theyr dearest friendes, and yet were not able to releeve them. There wee may see howe men were driven to eate dogges, cats, rats, mice, and horse flesh: but that which is most miserable, the mothers to succour theyr stomackes and bodies, with the slaughter and eating of their owne children. what heart of Adamant would not weepe, yea, rather bleede at the sight heereof? And yet beholde a greater famine than all these. Is it possible? yea verily, a famine of the worde of God, when men shall goe from one sea to another, and from the North to the East, running to seeke the word of God, & shall not find it? In that daie shall fall both the fayre virgins & the young men, which sweare by the idols of Schomron, & saie, As thy God liveth, O Dan, and as the God of the waie of Beershebah liveth, they shall fal; neither shall they ever rise up again.
Is not this greater than the famine of bread? There was never famine so great, but if liberty were give, the famine was eased: but in this they shall have libertie to runne too and fro, and shall not bee releeved. There was never anie famine wherewith men were so hungerstarved, but some recovered, but in this, sayeth the Lorde, They that fall shall never rise agayne. Oh that the open contemners of God his woorde, woulde drinke but one droppe for a tast of these fearefull judgementes, I am perswaded that the heat of greedie sinne woulde bee so cooled in them,[Page 11] that they shoulde recover the health of their soules, which will never bee, tyll of open prophaners they become publike professours.
But of all these famines there is but one cause, which is the abuse of the creatures of God, for so the equitie of justice requireth, that in the same thing wherein they sinned, they shoulde bee punished. Like as the theese was bound for that which hee stole, to restore foure folde. Fulnesse of bread was one of the sinnes of Sodome, and they understoode not from whome they had it, because they were unmerciful to the poore, and therefore abused it by unthankfulnes. And this is a worthie doctrine to bee urged in our dayes, wherein our abuse is greater than our want, and yet our want is such as hath not beene heard of these many yeeres. The covetous seller keepeth in his corne, and draweth uppon himselfe the curse of the poore, saying it is scantie, it is scantie, when his garners are full: Is not this to tell that the Lorde his hande is shortned, when in deede it is lengthened? Is not this to say, thou openest thy hande and fillest with thy blessing everie living thing? Nay, you plainely accuse the Lorde of illiberalitie. Oh detestable crueltie, who for to fat up their owne posterityes, wyll murther the bodyes of manye thousandes of povertie yea, this is more cruell than murther in the sight of God. why deale you not playnely, and saie, the Lorde hath given abundaunce, yet your price must bee raysed, so you shoulde speake truelye, and excuse the liberalitie of the Lorde in accusing your owne covetous desires.
But oh wretchednesse, you wyll not laye the faulte uppon the guiltie, you justifie the covetous, whome the Lorde abhorreth, and condemne the innocent liberalitie of him, who giveth to all freely, and casteth none in the teeth. Another sorte there are more viler than thase, who of this great want, which if the Lorde suffer to indure, wyll turne to extreme famine, yet they will spend more upon one to make him dronke, than upon one dozen of poore folkes, These are the tiplers, alesellers, & dronkards, the[Page 12] very caterpillers of our countrey, who like the horse, leache are even sucking, and never satisfied, and these onely consume much that other should not be contented with it. Of these both cities and countreyes are replenished, and the magistrates suffer them with little or no punishment at all: but if the poore preachers rebuke the folly, their safety is indangered by this ravenous brood, who are not ashamed to give rayling, yea & threatning speeches.
And magistrates servants are in greatest fault, who are not onely partakers of this unseasonable drinking, but also deale privatly with theyr ma [...] sters, that those which are complained, might escape unpunished. Thus are the poore unrelieved, the countrie unprovided, the people unanswered, the wicked unpunished, the commonwealth unreformed, the godly uncomforted, and the judgments of God haled downe uppon us, that we might be everlastingly confounded There went a certaine man. Now are we come to the persons that traveled, which is the second part of this verse, which we shewed you ended in the second verse: they are first generally described in this verse: and after specially by name in the next verses: They are of two sorts, first the parents Elimelech &Naomi, secodly, the childrenMahlon and Chilion, who are all described by the place from whence they went, Bethlehem Judah: it is so called because there was another Bethlehem, in the tribe of Zebulun: and this is that Bethlehem which in Genesis is called Ephratha, & therefore these persons are in these two verses, called Ephrathits, of the place, where afterward Christ was borne.
Then it is apparaunt by the booke of Josuah, that the tribe of Judah had the fruitfullest posession, in all the land of Canaan, they were the greatest in number, the wysest in pollicy, the richest by inheritance: yet we see when the scourge of God came, the famine invaded their countrie, and crope into the wals of Bethlehem: and made the wealthiest among them to flie: yet this Elimelech, which was as appeareth by his consanguinity of the princes of the whol tribe, such is the vehemency of the Lords arrowes, when he shooteth them abroad, that if king Achab were in his chariot, in the middest[Page 13] of his host, yet one of them shall give him a mortall wound. The use of this doctrine is, to teach us that if the Lord suffer his plague to continue, he will strike downe the chosen men in Israel, the chosen men in England: yea the noblest among us, who thinke themselves in greatest securitie, can he easily bring to greatest misery.
Therfore you whose heads the Lorde hath advauncted over your brethren, look to your calling, for the voice of the Lord shaketh as well the ceders of Libauns, as the little shrubs in the wildernes of Cades: it is as easie with him to bind the nobles in chaines, and the princes in linkes of yron, as to raise up the poore from the dunghill to the throne. Did not his darknesse cover as well the court of Pharao as the countrie of Egypt? Was not the first borne of the king destroyed, as well as of the poore pesants of the dwellings of Ham?
Yea, when the Israelites were carried captive to Babylon, theyr King had his children slaine before his face, his owne eyes put out, and after lead in a chaine, neither was hee spared for his throne, nor you for your dignitie and wealth. Oh that you woulde therefore bee warned of your slipperie estate, that you might avoide the heavy wrath of God, when without respect of persons he shall judge both quicke and dead. Let not the lots of your inheritance deceive you, though their soile bee as fruitfull as this of Judah, and your possessions never so great: he that in one night destroyed all the fruites of Egypt, can also in one houre blast your corne with deawes, & consume your possession with drought, for a fruitful land maketh he barren, for the wickednes of them that dwell therein.
Secondly, we note out of these wordes, when he tooke his wife and children with him, an example of a religious father, and a loving husband: he might (if hee had consulted with flesh and bloud) done like our husbands in these dayes, which had rather in their wandering, shifte about for themselves, and leave wife and children in a sea of troubles, to sinke or swimme to some doubtfull releefe. But the godly in old time knew that their wives and children were as themselves, and as they were carefull to cherish their owne bodyes, so they were mindfull to[Page 14] nourish their owne families. This the Lorde at the first mariage that ever was, comaunded that for a mans wife he should forsake father and mother and they two shall be one flesh, as if hee had sayd, parents must not hinder fellowship of wedlocke, much lesse povertye or temporall wants: as the barke is joyned to the tree & the fleshe to the bone, if one be without the other they both perish, so must husband and wife live and love togither, unlesse they will be the slaughter slaves of their owne destruction. We read of this practise in the scripture when Abraham by reason of a famine went downe into Egypt, hee tooke Sara his wife with him: when I shak by reason of a famine wet to Abimelech the king of Gerar, he took Rebecea his wife with him.
How do we read of Jacob, how twise he sent into Egipt for al his family & the third time hee went down with all his household, his sonne Joseph fed him five yeares of famine: yea the Apostle sayth, that he is worse then an infidel that provideth not for his own family, and Christ going from his disciples asked them if they had wanted any thing, and they answered, nothing. Against this pointe of doctrine there are manye that offend, some that are married by their covetous parents, who respect nothing but wealth, are so matched, as if a vine were planted in the flowing of the sea, which prospereth best whe the water is lowest, even so these are in sweetest fellowship when one is a thousand miles fro the other. Others there are which in theyr marryages, please nothing but their eies; which as old persons cannot see without spectacles, so they cannot find wives without the spectacle of bewty, and these love as long as bewty eudureth, which is till they be sicke, for sicknes is the cutthrote of beauty. Some take wives and husbands, as fooles find pearles, for as they cannot discerne them pebles: so these are ignorant of all kind of dutie towards one another.
From hence proceedeth all the adulteries which are dayly committed, here ariseth the fountaine of strife, contention, debate, jelousie, & also the unhappy blows which many give to their wives, hence it cometh, that so many gentlemen and others are seldome at home, but eyther beyond the sea in warres or in travaile, which in[Page 15] their unmaried estate wanted nothing but wives, but now being maried want all things but wives. Hence it commeth, that they termed them by the odious titles of crosses, plagues, troubles and also as I have heard some say the causes of their undoing, wheras they may as well accuse the eye of his blindnes, as their wives of their own wilfull miserie: and to conclude, there is not one breach of love or kindnes betweene them, but it springeth from these corruptions, which then were sowed, when they intended their mariage.
But oh beloved, let not the godly be drawen away with the crooked conversation of these contentious persons, but let the be armed with the forenamed examples of godly unitie that as their troubled daies were eased in the joy of their owne love, so let our miseries be releeved which you suffer in wedlock, with your comfortable agreement in christian societie, for so saith Salomon, Let thy fountain be blessed, and rejoyce with the wise of thy youth, and thus much of this second doctrine.
Thirdly, by this we may note that the godly are oppressed when the wicked have abundance: heere we see the Israelites which were the Church of God had a famine, but the Moabits, to whom this man descended being a cursed generation, incestuous gentiles, had plentie & abundance, for els Elimelech would not have gone thither to be relieved. This may seeme a strage thing that the godly shuld be oppressed with famine, when worldlings & heathens shall wallow in their wealth: Of these David speaketh. I have seene the wicked strong & spreading himselfe like a bay tree. And in another place, They are inclosed in their owne fat: And againe he saith, They have their portion in this life, whose bellies thou fillest with thy hid treasure, their children have inough, & leave the rest of their substance to their children. And in another place, there are on bands in their death but they are lusty & strog, they are not in trouble like other men: and a litle after, these are the wicked, yet prosper they always & increase in riches. The very like you may heare in Job, & in the prophet Jeremy. But of the rightous he saith & often crieth out of their afflictions, their sorrowes & nakednes, their huger & misery, all the day long are they[Page 16] appointed as sheepe to the slaughter, yea, our saviour Christ pronounceth himself in his members, poore, hungry, naked, harborles, thristy, and imprisoned, the foxes have holes and the birds of the aire have nests, but the sonne of man hath not where to rest his head.
And the authour of the epistle to the Hebrues, sayth of the godly, Some are stoned, some cut asunder, some slaine with the sworde, some wandering abroad in goats skinnes and sheepe skinnes, destitute, oppressed, evill entreated, of whom the world was not worthy, wandering in deserts, in the mountaines, in dennes and caves of the earth. Judge now I beseech you, betweene the outward estate of the godly and the wicked, are they not contrarie? That which of the world is condemned, is of the Lorde commended; yet I beseech you my brethren, be not terrified from godlynes, but rather strengthened in your profession. Then will you say, tel us the cause of all this inequality. Our saviour answereth it very wel, You are not (sayth he) of the world, if you were of the world, the world would love his owne: and David saith, that their portion is onely in this life, but Christ sayth, our reward shall bee great in heaven: and againe, you shall weepe and lament but the worlde shall rejoyse, but your sorrowe shalbe turned to joy, like a woman that rejoyseth at the byrth of her sonne, so as a woman in travaile hath no ease till a sonne is come into the world, neither must we looke for any rest till our soules are delivered out of the wombe of the body into the kingdome of heaven.
Our saviour compareth us to the fruitfull vine, which doth not onely abide frost, snow, storme and heate, but also at the gathering time is broken of that the gropes might be reached. The gold must be tried in the furnace, the silver fined in the fire, the wheate purged in the floore, and before it be meate for man, is also ground in the mil, so must we be proved in afflictio fined in persecution, and crushed to pieces, under the burthen of our own miseries, that we may bee made prepared bread for the Lord his own spending.
Why then doth the Lord make such large promises to his Church of plenty, seeing it endureth continuall[Page 17] poverty? I answere, the Church of God must be considered after two sorts, the first as it is cleansed in the blood of Christ, and washed pure from all outward and notorious offences, unto which estate pertaine all those outward promises of liberality in the scripture. The second is the declined estate or corrupted condition of everie one in the Church, even unto the worldes end, unto this pertaine all the punishments, persecutions and ttibulations, which the godly endure: which the Lord sendeth uppon them, that he might by litle and little scoure us from our transgressions, and weary us with the miseries of this life, that wee might the more ernestly desire the life to come, for the Lord doth here scourge us that we should not be condemned with the world.
Examples of these are most plentifull in the old testament of the Church of the Jews, & for as much as this perfectio of the church being once lost, is like broken glasse, which can never be soldered againe, so the Church shall never attaine those promises in this life, but they are all referred to the life to come, where shal be no hunger, thirst, nakednes, poverty, travaile, famine, or sorrowe, but all teares beeing wiped from the eyes of the faithfull, they shall then rest from their laboures, and receive many thousand times, for every afliction which they heere endured, eternall felicitie in the presence of Christ, when all worldlings shall be burned with unquenchable fire.
Fourthly, in that they went down to the wicked Moabits & there taried, we note that it is lawfull for the godly in the time of necessity, to crave help or reliefe of the very enimies of God, so they bee not polluted with their superstitions. For the proofe hereof we have the former examples of Abraham in Egipt, of Isahac in Gerar, of Moses in Midian, when he fled from Pharao, of the spies of Israel which lodged in the house of Rahab. So did the Lord commaunde Joseph in a dreame, to take Mary and Christ, and to goe into Egipt, to save Christ from Herod. So did Christ aske water of the woman of Samaria when he was wearie, with infinit other testimonies which the godly may find in the scripture. But the use of this point is, that although the Lord hath permitted this[Page 18] libertie, yet we must take heede of two things, first that we never receive any thing with condicion of religion, or dooing the least thing against their owne knowledge, for idolaters desire nothing more then to winne mens soules to the devill.
Secondly, wee may not go unto such when we may bee eased of the godly, for it is free necessitie that constraineth, not necessary liberty that permitteth: By this we learne what to judge of them which are dayly at talke and table with the wealthiest papists, Atheists, and carnall prophane persons, who care not for the losse of religion, so they may gaine by their friendship Esteeming more the feathers of a rich man, though ungodly, than the bloud of a poore godly christian: they use them too commonly for wealth & commoditie, not for need & necessitie: these are seasoned in the leaven of unrighteousnes, baked in the oven of hipocrisie, and shal one day be burned in the fire of everlasting destruction, for they which for gaine love their company in this life, shalbe partakers of theyr rewards in the life to come. Fiftly, by this wee note, that the Lord doth ever provide for his faithfull servaunts in all their miseries. We see heere, these Jewes satisfied with plenty in Moab, that were almost famished with penury at home: therefore sayth David. The Lord knoweth the dayes of upright men, and their inheritance shall bee perpetuall; they shall not be confounded in the perillous time and in the dayes of famine, thay shall have inough.
Most notable is that speech of Joseph to his brethren; telling them, that God sent him before to provide victualls for them in that seven yeeres famine. So hee stirred up Obadiah which hid fifty prophets in one cave, and fiftie in another, feeding them with bread and water, during the time of famine. Hee provided for Eliah first by the ravens, and after by the widdow of Zarephtha multiplieng her oyle and meale, for Eliah her selfe, and her sonne. So hee sent Elisa to warne the Shunamite woman of the seven yeares famine, that shee should flye for her selfe, and live where shee could. I might bee infinite in this pointe, to declare the bountifull liberalitie of the Lord, who ever provideth one remedie or other,[Page 19] to satisfie the continuall prayers of them that feare him: for we may say as Paul sayth, Wee are afflicted, yet wee are not in distresse, in poverty, yet not overcome of poverty, we are persecuted, and yet not forsaken, cast down but we perishe not. This is the mercifull kindnes of him who giveth foode to the young ravens that call uppon him, & maketh his sun to rise & shine both uppon good & bad.
Yea wee our owne selves have experience in our owne countrey, for we which were wont with our abundaunce to helpe other nations about us, yet now in our want we are succoured by them. How should the poore in many places be relieved, if it were not for the corne which commeth oversea: therefore as the seven plentifull yeares in Egipt, succoured the seaven deare yeares: even so the Lord relieveth the misery of one time by the multitude of another. Therefore my brethren, let us not say, the Lorde hath forgotten, for although our desires be not satisfied, yet our bodies are not famished; yea the Lord testifieth that he is as unwilling to punishe our deserts, and utterly to deprive us of our maintenaunce, as we are to departe from our pleasant pastime or dainty belly cheere. Poore Lazarus that was not releeved with the rich mans crummes, yet was he comforted with the licking of the dogs, so much doth the Lord affect liberality and kindnes, that he commandeth brute beasts to execute his goodnes upon his servants:
Now let us proceed to the second part of this scripture, and seeing we have brought these strangers to their Inne t Moab: let us heare their intertainment, & those things that happened unto them after they came thither: for the parts wee have in the beginning set downe, which I trust you remember, and therefore we will to the words. And they continued there.
This is as much to say, as they found entertainment answerable to their expectation: they had liberty of residence granted, and obtained a place for their dwelling in safety. Where wee first note the gentlenes or humanity of these heathen Moabits. who had learned by nature this pointe of curtesie, which is, friendlye to succour poore harbourlesse straungers: and no doubte but hee that watcheth the[Page 20] descending of sparrowes on the ground, directed this journey to Moab, for the accomplishing of his owne counsell, and prepared the heartes of these people, with favour to relieve them. For as before he guided the journey of Abrahams servant to the citie of Machor, where Rebecca was, & framed hir answere according to his praier, eve~ so he co~ducted these to Moab where Ruth was, and tempered the hearts of the wicked to give these pilgrims a dwelling place among them. By the which we are taught what friendship or love we owe to strangers which are come among us, yea though we know not the purpose of their harts, yet we must doo good unto them for the proportio~ of their bodies, that is, because they are men. This is not a law written only in the booke of God but imprinted in the verie nature of every one. Wee see these Moabits do it by nature & yet they had no religion in them, we know how the king of Fgipt gave commandement for Abraham, that none should hurt him or any of his possessions. Read but the Acts of the Apostles, you shal see how barbarous nations received the church with curtesy, and some uppon their reporte beleeved the doctrine of Christ. What shall we then say to this beastlike behaviour of many among us, who will hardly permit poore Christian straungers to harbour among us; if it were not for that they are men, & the children of Adam like our selves, yet because they call uppon the name of Christ, being of the household of sayth, let us doe good unto them. But some will say, what shall wee doe unto them if they will not joyne with us in our religion? I answere, none must bee of Abrahams familye but those which wil be circumcised, that is, none must dwell with thee, but such as wil be of thy profession.
Yet thou maiest for humanity or curtesy receive a Turke or a pagan, a Jew or an infidell, papist or heretike, to talke or table for a night or a small time, so thou kepe they selfe from his pollutions. So did Jacob feast his idolotrous father in law and kinsmen when they pursued him to the mount of Gilead, with purpose to hurt him, and our saviour Christ biddeth us to feede our enimies and to give them drinke if they thirste. So did Elischah, to the host of Sirians,[Page 21] who being sent to take him, yet when he had taken them and lead them to the city, he suffered the king to do them no hurt, but refreshed them with meat and drinke, and sent them away in safety. For our outward curteous receving of infidels is like coales of fire, to draw them in love with our inward religion, we know how the Lord commaunded the Jewes to be good unto strangers, because they were strangers in Egipt. We know how the Lord commendeth the stranger Samaritan beyond the priest and the levite, beccause he succoured the poore wounded Jewe, which had fallen among theeves. And truely wee our selves may bee strangers in other Countreies, therefore let us doe good unto them now that we may receive the like of them againe, for this is the law and the prophets.
Then Elimelech: when they had escaped one daunger, they fell into another sorrow, when by the mercifull kindnes of the Lord they were joyntly come togither into Moab, and there quietlye seated, scaped the arrowes of famine, by the hand of God, the father of the family, the nerest and derest unto them, dieth in plenty. Where we note the verie lot of all the godly, namely, that the end of one sorrow is the beginning of another, like the drops of raine distilling from the top of a house, when one is gone another followeth, like a ship uppon the sea, being on the top of one wave, presently is cast downe to the foote of another, like the seede which being spread by the sower is hanted by the foules, beeing greene and past their reache, is endaungered by forste and snow, being passed the winter s hurt by beasts in sommer, being rype is cut with the sickle, threshed with flaile, purged in the floore, ground in the mill, baked in the oven, chewed in the teeth, and consumed in the stomacke. This made David say, Great are the troubles of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth out of all. But be not discomforted oh my brethren, for thorough many afflictions must we enter into the kingdome of heaven, and by affliction we are made like to the sonne of God. But to the matter. We see here their sweet fellowship is prevented by death, which in deed is the end of al worldly[Page 22] friendship. This is a good lesson for all worldlings to remember, how the Lord disappointeth all their purposes, and overthroweth their counsells more vainer then vanity. The merchant having obtained his banke, promiseth rest and security to himselfe; the husbandman having gathered his fruits, never doubteth but hee shall spend them, & provideth for more; the Gentleman comming to his landes, thinketh his revenewes and pleasant life, will indure alway: like the apostles when Christ was transfigured in the mount; presently they would builde tabernacles of residence; but as the cloude came betwixt them and heaven, and bereaved them of their purpose: even so sodainly will death come and deprive you of your profits, call the marchant from his banke, the husbandman from his farme, the Gentleman from his lands, the noble man from his honour, the prince from his kingdome, the Lady from her pleasures, as this Elimelech was sodainly from wife and children. Secondly, by these words we note the goodnes of God toward both the dead man, and also wife and children: for no doubte but they all desired, to bee seiled in some place or other; and here the Lord suffereth the husband with wife and family, to bee quietly feared before their separation. He might have called him away in his journey, as he was comming, & then oh how would it have grieved hoth him and them: him, to leave a poore comfortles widdow and children behind, without dwelling or maintenance, for home again they could not returne, by reason of the famine, and to goe forth on the journey without a guide, was like as if a ship were set on the sea without a mariner. Therefore in suffering them all to come safe to Moab, and there to live till they got favour and dwelling, and also maintenance, was a singular favour of the Lord towards both; that howsoever they were afflicted, yet they were not lefte destitute. And this teacheth us, that in al our afflictions we receive especiall blessings at the hands of God, for this end that we should not bee swallowed up of sorrowe.
There is no sicknesse but it is eyther short and sharpe, or els tedious and light, if it bee sodaine and verie extreame,[Page 23] the continuance of it is but short, if it belong and tedious, it hath some time of ease, some time of more quietnes, so that in all our miseries we may say with the godly, If the Lord had not bene on our side we had bene swallowed quick: he tempereth the sodainest showres with least continuande, and the longest winter hath many faire dayes. Be strong therfor my brethren and sisters, for sure the Lord will stablishe your hearts, feare not all the daungers of the world: though as many troubles compasse us, as there were Sirians about Eliseah, yet lifte up your eyes, there are many thousands more with us then are against us. He that suffereth none to bee tempted above their power, will not lay more uppon us then we are able to beare: but as he wrestled with Jacob with one hand, he held him up with the other, so though hee afflict with one arme, he shall sustaine with the other. Which tooke them wives Now we are come to the childre~, & the holy ghost expresseth the frendship which they receaved of the Moabits after the death of the father, which is, their mariage with their daughters: Where first of all it may be demanded in this place, (seeing the Lord forbideth all strange mariages, whither these sons of Elimelech did not offend against this law: we know that the unmaried are at liberty, to mary whom they will onely in the Lord: now the Moabits were heathen people, and strangers from God his covenant, and therefore these persons maried not in the Lord. To which, I answere briefly, that the Lord forbiddeth mariages with infidells, for two causes, first when wee may lawfully and without daunger joyne our selves to them that are godly, and wil presumptuously for worldly respects, run to the daughters of men: secondly that wee should refraine from all such mariages where wee are like to bee drawne away from our profession, as wee see in Salomon. But these sonnes of Elimelech offended in none of these. For first they were now straungers and had no other choise, and secondlie it appeareth by that which followeth that they were both well perswaded in religion. For as Moses marryed a Madianitish woman, and was blamelesse, and Salman the sonne of Nahasson, the prince[Page 24] of the Jewes, maried with Rahab, (which both were the parents of Boaz mentioned hereafter) and was faultles, nay it was done by the permission of Josuah, & therefore lawfull; even so these straunge Jewes moved with the same reasons, chused the like mariages. But some wil say, the Jewes which had maried strange wives, in the captivity of Babilon, might have alledged this against Nehemiah, that they were in captivitie, & had no women to take but strangers. To the which I answere, if they had so objected, they had spoken untrueth, and so would Nehemiah have replyed, for there were Jewishe women captives as well as men; and further I say, that this their marying of strange women, was the cause of the destruction of many Jewish women, who being forsaken of their owne people, must of necessity bee maried to infidells, which could never returne to Jerusalem. Again, these sons of Elimelech by their mariage, gayned greater favour of the Moabits; but especially the hande of God was in it, that when they both should be dead, Ruth might be maried to Boaz, and be made a mother of Christ. First therfore we note out of this, that as these Moabits were kind to the father in giving him residence, so they were loving to the sons in giving them wives: a notable example of humane curtesy, given unto us by these heathens, that we with the like favour should entertaine strangers. But manie covetous parents in these dayes, which would be accompted Christians, are so farre from doing this unto strangers, that they will hardly doe the like to their natural Countriemen, rather imitating that ungodly Laban, who made marchaundise of his daughters, then godly Caleb in beestowing them on Othniell be he never so poore, if they have deserved well of Church or co~mon wealth, rather desiring to advance their postiritie in the glory of the world, the~ to discharge their duetyes in the presence of God.
They will say they ayme at this, the feare of the Lord, when as if they had matched their children with Turkes or infidells they would not or could not be more profane then those, saving onely these are outwardly obedient to a Christian prince,[Page 25] that they might with more libertie followe theyr licentious Atheisme, when as peradventure the other woulde not so dissemble: so that goods, and not goodnesse, the worlde and not the woorde, earthly vanitie, and not heavenly felicitie our parents ayme at. But what shall wee saie to them that force theyr children not onely to match agaynst theyr mindes, but to marrie with publike papists and knowen recusants, onely for thinges of this lyfe. Truely I aunswere, that it is agaynst these that the Lorde speaketh, when hee sayth, You shall not take theyr daughters to your sonnes, nor give your daughters to theyr sonnes, but as they have marryed wythout the counsell of the Lorde, in murdering the fruites of theyr owne bodyes, even so they shall prosper wythout the blessing of God, in confounding the soules of theyr owne posteritie: and as the children of the Jewes which were borne of strange women, were separated from the newe founded temple, even so these shall bee excluded from the everlasting Jerusalem. And they tarryed there. This time of theyr abode in Moab, signifieth the great continuance of this miserie.
First for the Jewes at home, who indured famine: and secondly for these abroade, which lived among Infidels tenne yeeres together. It is a fearefull thing wyth us that wee have but one yeeres famine, oh then wee thinke that the Lorde hath forgotten to bee mercifull. But we have heard alredie of famines of great continuance, that in Josephs time was seaven yeeres together, that in Davids time was three yeeres and a halfe, and this miserie lasted tenne yeeres together. Wherein many godly persons dyd patiently indure it. Howe is it then that for this lyttle dearth among us, there are so great exclamations for corne and plentie, such horrible blasphemies agaynst the Lorde himselfe, saying: Shall this indure alwaie? Was there ever anie poore people thus afflicted? Is this the fruit of the Gospell? Are these the favours of God and his righteousnesse, in keeping his promise? with such lyke, too horrible to bee suffered[Page 26] as if the Lorde were not able to releeve us; or else were unjust in punishing our sinnes, howe can that bee, seeing hee calleth for repentaunce and amendement, and then promiseth plentye and abundaunce. These saintes endured some three, some seven, and other tenne yeeres famine, and yet wee saye, was there ever such a people thus afflicted like to us with one yeres dearth?
They were driven to wander abroade in their enemies Countrie for manie yeeres together; shall wee then thinke it such a miserye to goe two or three miles for our corne? They adventured the losse of their lives, and wee are afraide of the lessening or diminishing of our goods. And shall wee yet saye, there was never anye people tormented like unto us? Yea, I adde this, that even at this daye there are people in the worlde, which s ant in all their lives doe eate anye bread, but onely the barke of trees, with some other unseasonable fish; others live on the rootes of the earth, some on the fruites of trees. And what shall I saye more our wickednesse is greater then our want, our sore is smaller then our sinne, our transgressions have deserved to bee punished with the scourge, and yet wee are scarce corrected with the rodde, our complaintes are greater then our hu te, and our murmuring exceedeth our misery: therefore wee have greater cause to tremble at that which hangeth over our heades, then to feare or crye for this which wee already suffer, for it is hardly the beginning of sorrow. So Mahlon and Chilson. Now when they were compassed about with the friendes of their wives, which did promise securitie, then after a fewe yeeres, spent in safetie, the Lorde called them away after their father. Where wee see our former doctrine justified, that the end of one sorrowe was the beginning of another. When they were most like to continue, then they gave over, as it were, in the armes of theyr wives, and the sight of their aged mother, to whome no doubte, this was the greatest griefe of all other, that now beeing[Page 27] lefte destitute both of husbande and children, she should without comfort live with the Moabites, and without joye returne agayne unto her owne Countrey, as a bird robbed of her young ones. Yet seeing this is our worldly lot still to endure misery, let us set both our shoulders under the burthen, if it be too heavy, let us flee to the finisher of our faith with zealous and earnest prayers, desiring him eyther to ease or to remoove his hande. But seeing wee have spoken of this before, this shall suffise at this time to serve for a remembrance.
Then shee arose. When her friends were departed, and her selfe lefte comfortles, yet the Lord remembred her, for even then came the rumor unto her, that the famine was ceased in Jewry, that the Lord had visited the sicknes of his people, and restored the plenty of the earth againe, and therefore it is time for her to bee hasting home againe, for here the holy Ghost setting downe her returne and the cause of the same, sheweth that it was even then when her children were dead, for what should a godly woman live there, where were non that could strengthen hir in the wayes of the Lord, but rather provoke her to imbrace infidelity; And againe, even at that time when shee was most comfortlesse for the losse of her children came this rumor unto her of the restoring of her Countrey, so that now Naomi, thou art here in Moab a sorrowfull pilgrime, go home to thy Countrey and bee a joyfull inhabitant: indeede thy children are dead, but thou shall have greater comfort of thy ancient acquaintaince. What knowest thou, but now the Lord hath called thee to consolation, whereas of late, thou mightest thinke, hee had wrought thy confusion: By this wee note, that the Lord deferreth to helpe till greatest necessity, even as hee stayed the stroke of Abraham when hee was at the verie instant to cut of little Isaks necke. So wee read that when the king of Assiria had invaded the kingdome of Ezechia, wonne his cities, subdued his Country, conquered his people, and had not lefte him two thousand horsmen, & being destitute[Page 28] of all helpe, then the Lord raised up the king of Ethiop, who called the Assyrians from the siege of Jerusalem. What shall I saie of Lazarus raised from death? Of the deliverance of Peter out of the handes of Herod, the daie before he should have bene martyred? Of the shipwracke wherein Paul was, and yet not one of them were lost.
And excellent is that of Christ, sleeping in the shippe on a pillowe, suffered his disciples to bee so long tossed with the violence of the sea, till they cryed out, Lord save, we perish, and then hee awaked, rebuked the rage of the windes, and stilled the stormes of the sea, and a peaceable calme followed. This is that preservative agaynst desperation, which must staie our mindes on the leasure of the Lorde: wee must not at the first look for our desires, but as Abraham and Zacharia were old before they had any children: and yet in the end the Lord promised and also perfourmed, even so when wee have least hope, for obtaining of our desires, wee most often receive them. For the Lord desireth our requests for the triall of our fayth and pacience, that like as the wheate corne groweth not, till it bee dead, even so his works doe not answere our expectation, till they seeme to us impossible: that as the most precious pearles are farthest brought, and longest in comming, when wee have them we keepe them more carefully: even so his excellent mercies, being with difficulty obtained should be esteemed more thankfully. Therefore be of good comfort, you that now sorrow, for you shall bee comforted, you that now hunger for you shal be satisfied, you that nowe weepe for you shall laugh; the Lord will shortly come, beare but a litle and he will wipe away all teares from your eies, & then oh how happy shal they be which have trusted in him. That the Lorde had visited. This is the last parte of this scripture, being the reason that moved her to returne into her Countrey. O it is as if the holy ghost had sayd. The Lord looked upon the afflicted estate of his people, & supplied their want of food. To visit, in the scriptures is taken two wayes, first to punishe, as when God sayth in the second commaundement, that he will visite the[Page 29] sinne of the fathers uppon the children, unto the third & fourth generation: secondly it signifieth some times to pardon or to show mercy, as that of Zachary. The Lord hath visited and redeemed his people, that is, hee hath shewed mercy in redeming his people. In this later sense it must be taken in this place. Now the word properly signifieth to goe to see, and is referred to them that are sicke, which by a metaphor is applied to sinne, for sinne is the sicknes of the soule, and is very fitly applied to punishments sent of God, for when he scourgeth he cometh to see, as he sayd of Sodome: I will go downe and see whither it be altogether so, if not, that I may know; for hee commeth to see us in our miseryes, as a phisitian to his patient, whom he hath first or before made sick with his potion or corasive, & bringeth a wholsome or speedy remedye with him. Where wee note the miserable estate of men in the sicknes of sinne, or under any of God his judgments, as dearth & famine, warre or pestelence; that even as sicke personnes are not able to helpe or comfort themselves, or to take any pleasure in their wealth, though they possessed the whole world: so if we be oppressed in the punishment of our iniquities, we can not or maye not rest in our selves but in the Lord our phisitian and watchman, for if the Lord shut who can open, if hee wound who can heale, if hee curse who can blesse, he that hath the bond or writing must discharge the debt, & the Lord that stroke must bind us up again. Oh my dearly beloved brethren, now are the childern come to the birth, and there is no strength to be delivered, for this is the day of tribulation. Now are wee in the ballaunce of the Lord eyther to visite our offences with his famin, or to scourge our sinnes with the rod of dearth if either of both continue, what end can we looke for but the pining of our bodyes, and the consuming of our soules? Whither shall we go to escape the judgments of the Lord, we are already clogged with his irons and fast bolted, if wee strive to shake them of, what doe wee els but rebell against the power of the highest? if they continue,[Page 30] we are but miserable prisoners and can looke for nothing but the fearfull day of execution. Let us turne to the Judge before that daie, and send up our prayers as our dearest friendes unto his sonne, that hee may visite us with the forgivenesse of our sinnes, that hee may sue out our pardon, and bee intreated for our transgressions, that wee may obtaine the release of our present miserie, the removing of his judgementes, the increase of the fruites of the earth, that hee would visite us, in giving our dayly bread, to satisfie the poore with his goodnesse, and give us all the bread of this lyfe to banish our dearth, and the bread of lyfe to escape damnation. And thus much for this time. Now let us give praise to God.