A Sermon Upon ... Ezechiel
Vpon the xii. xiij. and
xiiij. Verses of the xiiij. Chap-
ter of Ezechiel.
Wherein are chiefly shewed both the ori-
ginall & accidentall causes of euerie dearth
and famine, and especially of this dearth in
England now 1608. and 1609. With
the effects and Fruites of the same, as
also the helpes & remedies ther-
of, if they may be speedily
and effectually pra-
Preached at STROWD in the Countie of Glocester
and published for the good of the church
Wherunto is added a like Meditation of the same
Author, upon the 26. verse of the 11. Chapter of Salo-
mons Prouerbs, which may be called the
Poore mans plea.
By William WOODWALL, Minister and Preacher
of the word. 1609
Printed by E. A. for Ed. White, & are to be solde at his
shop neere the ltttle North doore of S. Paules Church at the
Signe of the Gunne 1609
PUBLISHED BY E.A
PUBLISHED FOR Ed. White
For as much as everie true Minister is the Lords watch-man, and thereapon bound by the band of obedience towards God, to blow the Trumpet, and warne the people, when he seeth the sword of the Lord come uppon the land, that is, the Plague of Pestilence, dearth, Famine, War, or any suchlike: and for that I have not hitherto seene or heard of anye warning given by any brother in publike of this sword of the lord laide uppon this land, by dearth of Corne and other commedities, although I esteemed my selfe the moste unworthie of all others, yet I could not withholde from the publishing of this little paper-worke, hoping that it might be a motine unto those that are better able to take this matter in hand, or at least a discharge unto my self of that Talent that God hath giuen me, the which name end enour if it please Almightie God to blesse, I shall account my trauel wel bastowed. Let that saying therefore of this prophet Ezekiel written in the 33. Ch. ver. 7. & 8, be alwaies before thee, & in thy minde. So thou O sonne of man, I [Page] have made thee a watch-man unto the house Israel, Therefore thou shalt heare the word at my mouth, and admonish them from me, when I shall say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt die the death, if thou doost not speake, nor admonish the wicked of his way, that wicked in an shall dye for his iniquitie, but his blood will I require at thy hands. By both which doctrines or lessons of the Lord, we are taught how needfull and necessary a thing it is for the Minister of God to bestir himself both in season and out of season, in the work and word of the Lord. A sorry watchman would he be counted of his Captaine, that being set to watch the Citty, would sleep in the night and play in the day, and let the enemy come in which way he would: so careles no doubt are many at this day amongst us, who being set to watch over the house of the Lord, let the lords enemies come in and out, which way they list. For could there such crueltie or covetousnes abound as doth, or such dearth and fam in encrease as is like to be, if the Trumpet of Gods word were well sounded, and the people of this land duely admonished? no, no, it could not be, but some hearts would be opened: for doth not the Lord complaine that his people are destroyed for lack of knowledge? Hos. 4. 6. & could they or would they commit such things as are dayly don amongst us, if they were rightly admonished of the same? Therfore looke unto it my bretheren, that ye be not found negligent in the worke of the Lord, I say, that ye be not hot nor cold, but zealous for the Lords glorie. Gine the Lord no rest day nor night, but call upon him continually, call upon them likewise that are comitted to your charge, that euery man may know his own [Page] disease, and break off sins by repeat once, and do the work of the Lord faithfully, as it becometh good disposers of those treasures committed unto your trust, not looking so much unto those things that concerne your own estate in this life, as unto the things of the Lord Jesus, his flocke, his lambes, his sheepe, his People, his Chruch, his king dome; which grace the Lord grant us for his Christs sake. Amen.
Thine now and alwaies in the feare of God.
12, The word of the Lord came unto me, saying:
13. Sonne of man, when the land sinneth against mee by committing a trespasse, then wil I stretch out my hand uppon it, and wil breake the staffe of the bread thereof, and wil send famine upon it.
14. Though these three men Noah, Daniel and Iob were among them, they shold deliver but their owne soules by their righteousnesse, saith the Lord.
THe word of the Lord came unto me, saying: Out of this whole text, do arise three principall or especiall points right necessary of us to be cosidered, both in regard of our owne instruction and admonition, as also in respect of the time present; it beeing a time of dearth and scarsitie, and hunger amongst us, as that was a time of trouble amongst the Israelites, [Page] when the Prophet Ezechiel utttered these wordes unto them, so that this text or parcell of Scripture, as Salomon saith,Of the word spoken in his place or season: Whichis like apples of gold with pictures of silver, meaning, that as the one is pleasant to the eye to beholde and looke uppon, so the other is or ought to be as pleasant and delectable to the eare, heart, and minde of man to cosider of, & ponder upon, or like unto the emplaister or potio, that is rightly imploied of the learned and skilfull phisition, and expert chirurgian, to the party diseased or member affected. For as we say, to come in time is the chiefest thing of al, so to speak in time, that is, aptly & to the purpose, is a point very commendable and no lesse profitable. The principall points or parts heerein to be handled, are these: First, what is both the originall and accidental cause of dearth or famine, declared in the 13. verse, & first part thereof. Secondly what be the effects and fruits thereof, laide down in the latter part of that v. Thirdly what be the helps & remedies of every such dearth, plague, or judgement of God, which are shewed & set down in the 15. v. But before I can coveniently come to entreat of these 3. I must give you a taste of some other maters, such as by the way of a preparatio unto the rest are described by this prophet, in the 12. v. as namely what he meaneth by saying,The word of the lord came unto me, the maner how it came, from whome and unto whome; for like as every Embassador heere on earth, which is sent from one Prince or Potentate to another, upon any embassie or message, doth upo his or their first arrivall unto the person to whome [Page 3] they are sent, make knowne both who sent him, and wherefore, as well for the further credit of his message, as for the better acceptation of himselfe; even so doth this man of God the prophet Ezechiel in this place (being called of God to deliver his word unto the children of Israel) as it is to be seene more at large in the 1. 2. 3. ch. of this prophesie; doth in these words make knowne unto them, not onely what he was to say unto them, or what Embassage he was to deliver, but also who had sent him, and whose Embassador hee was, as out of the words of this text may be gathered.The word of the Lord came unto me, Because everie word of this text is verye pathetical, I wil intreat of them verbatim (as they say) as they come in order. And first, wheras he entituleth his message by the title or name of (the word of the Lord) it giveth us to understand of some necessarie points to be considered of, as namely, and first of al, what the word of the Lord is, & what he meaneth thereby in this place: Secondly what the dignitie or excellencie thereof is: Thirdly what is the vtilitie: and last of all the necessitie.
Concerning the first point what it is, being considered in the whole, it is reuerenced with many titles, as the Lambes booke: the Librarie of the holy Ghost: fountaines of Israel, waters of life: the two edged sword, Vrim and Thumim. So it being considered in part, is called the power of God unto saluation, to everie one that beleeveth. But what the Prophet meaneth in this place by it, you must understand, that he meaneth no other thing but onely an holy Lesson, counsell, Doctrine or admonition, [Page 4] or else an earnest and sharpe commination and dreadefull denunciation of Gods judgement (such as is contaiued in these words which I have reade unto you) inspired or taught of God himselfe, that is, by his holy spirit, for their instruction, admonition, or amendment, to whome it was then sent, as likewise unto us, & the church militant, to whom it shold at any time hereafter be preached. And this is both the meaning and signification of it in this place. Now concerning the dignitie or excellencie therof, although there can be no greater a praise or commendation be given thereof, then that which you have alredy heard. Ro. 1. 16. &c. Yet because the word it selfe is pregnant in this point, it shall not be teadious unto me to give some tast therof. Worthie therefore is that to be called to minde that the Prophet DAVID hath left recorded in Ps. 19. ver. 7. 8. &c. saying: The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soule; the testimonie of the Lord is sure, and giveth wisdom unto the simple: the statutes of the Lord are right and rejoice the heart: the Commaundements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether, more to be desired then golde, yea then much fine golde: sweeter then honye and the hony combe, yea dearer unto me then thousands of gold and silver. All which is spoken of the word of the Lord, either in generall or particular, or in both, that men might make good use thereof, and give good regard thereunto, when it is sent or preached unto them. A common fault amongst manye at this day, which esteeme of it no better then of a tale of Robinhood, or as this Prophet sheweth of the people in his time, Ch. 33. ve. 31. 32. who esteemed therof, [Page 5] none otherwise then of a song of one that hath a pleasant voice to sing wel, for the utilitie or profit thereof. The Apostle Saint PAUL will tell us, that the whole Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable to teach, to convince, to correct, and to instruct in righteousnes, that the man of god may be absolute and perfect unto all good workes. 2. Tim. 3. ver. 16. 17. And Saint JAMES will say that it is able to save our soules if it bee received with meekenes. 1. JAM. 1. 21. And for the necessitie therof, let that be remembred which Salomon hath left recorded; namely, that where the word of the Lord is not preached, there the people perish, but he that keepeth the law shall be blessed, Pro. 29. 18. These things being thus laide down, doe give us to understand not onelye what it is that heere the Prophet hath to say, but also who this Lord is, whose word is so powerfull, precious & profitable: for although he is heere but barelye named Lord, without anye further addition of this Title or declaration of his Majestie; yet this his word heere mentioned (if we will search it well) will teach us and tell us, that it is even that Lord of Lords, and King of Kinges, that onely hath immortallitie, and dwelleth in light that none can attaine unto, whome never man sawe nor can see, unto whome bee honour & power everlasting. Amen. Even the God of Gods, the Lord who hath spoken and called the earth from the rising up of the Sunne, unto the going downe thereof. The Lord of hoasts who buildeth his sphears in the heauen, and hath laide the foundation of his Globe of elements in the earth. He calleth the waters of the Sea, and powreth them out upon the earth.
The Lord is his name (Came unto me) How, and after what manner this word or message of the Lord came unto the prophet EZECHIEL, not only himselfe sheweth moste plainely, Chap. 1. verse 3. and 29. Whereas he testifieth that the hand of the Lord was upon him: that is, the spirit of Prophesie, and that he heard a voice of one that spake to him: But also the Authour to the Hebrewes, Chap. 1. verse. 1. 2 teacheth that the Almightie God at sundrie times and in divers maners, spake in olde time to our fathers the Prophets, as in the first age to the Patriarkes by himselfe personally; as to ABRAHAM, MOSES, &c. So afterwards to the Prophets ESAY, JEREMIE, EZECHIEL and the rest, by dreames, visions, and inspirations. But in the fulnesse of time (which the Apostle calles the last daies,) hath hee spoken to us by his Sonne, whome hee hath made heyre of all things, like as in these our daies (which are the last daies indeed) he doth speake unto us, the holy ministers of his word, as unto your selves by us, by his holy and divine spirit, according as the Prophet JOEL fore-tolde. Cha. 2. 28. saying: And after those daies I will poure out of my spirit upon all flesh, & your Sonnes and your Daughters shall prophesie, and your olde men shall dreame dreames, and your yong men shall see visions. Agreeable, whereunto our Saviour in the gospel saith, Mat. 23. 34. Behold I send unto you prophets and wisemen, and Scribes &c. And againe,it is not you that speake but the spirit of your heavenly father that speaketh in you. Mat. 10 20. From whence commeth this observation, that our moste gratious God in all ages hath had such a care in building up his Church, that he hath vouchsafed to speake unto the same, & [Page 7] to send forth labourers into his vineyard from time to time, that like as in the beginning & creation of all things, he saidLet there be light, & there was light, let there be a firmament, &c. I say, as in the creation of the materiall frame and substance of this externall and visible world, God made al things by his word, (for he spake the word and they were made) Ps. 148. 5. So in the new regeneration & building up of the New Jreusalem, he sendeth forth his word, that is, he speaketh by his spirit in the heartes & mindes of his holy Ministers, that they should speake unto the congregation that which he enjoyneth them.
The second observation is, that in as much as, it is not simply we that speake unto you, but the spirit of our heavenly father that speaketh in us) whereupon the Prophet saith: The word of the Lord came unto me) that you yeelde such attention to the word spoken by us, as unto the word of the eternal & living God, as Christ himselfe teacheth, saying: He that heareth you heareth me, &c. Mat. 10. and that especiallye because we are unto you, as this prophet was unto the people of ISRAEL, the Embassadors or Legates of the Lord, as Saint PAUL plainely prooveth, saying: Now then are we Embassiadors of the Lord, as though God did beseech you through us, wee pray you in his steede that you would bee reconciled unto God, for hee that made him to be sinne for us, which knew no sinne, that we might be the righteous of God through him. 2. Cor. 5. verse 20 21. And therfore to conclude of this point, I say, let him that hath an eare heare what the spirit speaketh unto the congregation.
Thirdly, by this we may obserue and learne how farre foorth the Almightie God (whome the heaven [Page 8] of heavens cannot hold or conteine) doth conforme himselfe, to our weakenes, vouchsafing to speake to us, & to talk with us familiarly, according to our capacities, whose voice otherwise is so mighty & so strong, that it is compared to the thunderclaps which breaketh the Cedars of Libanus, renteth the Rockes, and maketh the Mountaines to cleave in sunder. This theIsraelites make plaine, who when they had heard the Lord speake unto Moses, and saw the thunder and the lightning, they desired that Moses might speake unto them, affirming that if God spake unto them they should dye, Exo. 20. 19. so terrible is the voice of the immortal creator to the mortall creature. And yet notwithstanding for our instruction, admonition, & amendment, he vouchsafeth to speake unto man, sometimes sencibly, & sometimes secretly even in his eare, as our Saviour sheweth, Mat. 10. 27. sayingWhatsoever you shall heare in the eare that is whatsoever I shall privately by my selfe, or secretly by my spirit instill into your eares, hearts or mindes (for thus doth the word of the Lord come unto us at this day) I meane the knowledge & intelligence of his word, even when we are lying in our beds, walking on the way, looking on our bookes, or otherwise sequestred from the affaires of this world, in reading, preaching, meditating, or conferring, Then I say, are our hearts ascending up to God, and his spirit discending downe to us, as the Angels on Jacobs ladder, for even as the naturall mans delight is in those things wherein his corrupted nature taketh pleasure, And as the worldely minded mans [Page 9] thoughts, do runne upon his monies and his markets, his buyings, buildings, bargaines, brablings, profits, pleasures, or any such like vanities:
Even so are the spirituall mans cogitations, totally and continually exercised, and meditating in the lawe of the Lord, and in the misteries of godlines, as the ProphetDavid manifesteth, in the first ps. v. 3. where he shewing how the godly man bestoweth his talent, saith That his delight is in the lawe of the lord, and in that law doth exercise himselfe both day and night. Or if at any time he doth stoope so low, as to associate or busie himselfe with the affaires of this worlde, as to eat, drinke, talke, walke, laugh, buy, sell, or recreate himselfe with any the creatures (for that cause subdued unto vanitie, it is none otherwise, then as the Apostle S. Paul saith, 1. Co. 7. 31. Using this world that is this pleasure, or that profit, as though he used it not, for why? his hart is stablished in the Lord, and his principle joy is in the holy ghost, I would say in the law of the Lord or word of God, unto me, that is to me Ezechiel the strength of the Lord (for so my name dooth signifie).
As if he would say, though I be of my selfe a weak, poore, simple, & sinfull soule, yet by his grace I am such a one as it hath pleased him to make choise of for the ministery of his word (for such is his maner to chuse) as S. Paul sheweth, 1, Cor. 1. 27. 28. saiing, But God hath chosen the foolish thinges of this world to confound the thinges which are mightie, and unnoble thinges of the World, and thinges which are[Page 10] despised hath God chosen: you, and things that are not, to bring to naught things that are. So I by the Lord, (though small in the sight of man) am now called unto this holy function, to be the Lords Embassador: or thus, whereas by my naturall Parents and birth, I was the childe of death, sinne and corruption, (for I was defiled in the wombe and euer since) but now sanctified by the Spirit of sanctification, & begotte of the immortal seed of Gods word, & enabled to the ministery therof by my heavenly father, both Name & Nature is changed, and by his grace I am that I am, (saying:) If anye demaunde whether this speech unto the prophet was sencible or secret, it is not much materiall whether either; for that God useth to speake both waies unto his Servants, as before is prooved; but seemeth in this place rather to be audible then intellectuall, as appeareth in the first Chapter, verse 29. where as he saith, hee heard a voice of one that spake (Sonne of man) as if he would say, Thou which art but earth and ashes, though I vouchsafe to speake to thee in familiar maner, & to manifest my glorie to thee, as in chap. 1. verse 3. 4. 5. & 6. &c. Yet be not thou proud thereof, as some of thy fellowes before thee have bene, (for knowledge puffeth up) but rather goe and doe thy message that I shal enjoine thee: & be not as JONAS, who being sent to Niniuie went to Tharsis: neither as ADAM, who beeing charged not to taste of the tree of knowledge of good and evill, tasted of the forbidden fruite: Neither as that man of God mentioned in the first booke of Kinges, Cap. 13. ver. 1. 2. &c. that came out of Juda, and prophesied [Page 11] against the Alter that Jeroboam had set up. Who beeing charged by the word of the Lord, not to eate breade nor drinke water, nor to turne again the same way that he came; who though he denyed the King, requesting him so to doe, yet afterward yeelded unto the olde Prophet, and was destroyed of a Lyon for his labour. Whose example I counsell thee Ezechiel to marke, that thou doe not the like, least I destroy thee before them, as I destroied him before thee: for thou art of no better substace nor strength the he was, or the rest before named; nor more able to withstand or resist mee then they were. Remember therefore that I tell thee before hand, what thou art, and who. Even the Sonne of a finfull man; whether thou have respect untoAdam thy first parent, or to bnzie thine immediate parent (which signifieth contempt) thou art but an earthen vessell full of contempt, more ready to disobey then to obey my commandement, therfore take heed. A Caveat to all the servants of God how great soever their guiftes bee, that they shewe not themselves careles of their calling, nor forgetfull of their maisters busines, as Christ himselfe advertiseth, saying: Whosoever shall put his hand to this plowe (meaning the ministerie and preaching of the word) and looke back, that is, by any kinde of negligence, or disobedience, is not fit for the Kingdome of heaven.
This I take partly to be the reason of this Title (Sonne of man) attributed unto the Prophet Ezechiel, & as a pulback, to the end he shold not be too much exalted with the multitude of visions & Revelatios[Page 12](such as were shewed unto him at his first calling) as in the first chapter are to be seene. Like as Saint Paul recordeth, how in the like case, There was given unto him the messenger of Sathan to buffet him, 2. Cor. 12. 7. From whence we learne, that before a man can be apt for the kingdome of heaven, I mean capable of devine misteries, he must be throughly mortified & schooled in Gods schoole house, that is, in the furnace of some affliction or great dejection; so as we see in S. Paul, at his conversion, how he was cast downe to the ground, and strucke blinde for three daies, &c. Act. 9. 4. &c. The like we read of Esay, whose mouth was touched with a fire coale taken from the Alter: that is, sanctified and regenerated by Gods spirit, before his iniquitie could be taken away, and his sins purged, that he might be worthy to goe on the Lords busines: which is or may be an advertisement unto all such as seeke to enter into the ministery, before they finde or feele in themselves any sufficient guift to discharge the same, As also an item to those of superiour place, that they admit not any into any pastorall place or cure, that are not qualified thereunto. All which is & may be comprehended & included under this title of Son of man: which title I also finde atributed to Jesus Chr. as in Mat. 24. v. 30. & 37. 44. to declare his humanity, as in this place to this prophet, to teach him his infirmitie. It followes, When the Land sinneth against me, By land, heere you must understand the people, for the land or earth sinneth not, how beit, it was once cursed for sinne. A figuratiue speech very usuall in the Prophets & word of God, as we [Page 13] read inEsay, Chap. 11. v. 9. & 4, where it is sayde Repleta est terra scientia domini, that is, The earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord. And againe, He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth: where he nameth the earth, yet meaneth the people: and rod, yet meaneth the word. And so heere, whereas he saith land, it being figurative, giveth us to understand, that there is more meant, then if he had simply saide, the people: for it implieth not only that one sort or part of the people, as the higher powers onely, or the middle part should so sinne against the Lord, but even all: as if he should say, both king, & subiect, priest and people, poore and rich, young and olde, all which are but earth dust and ashes, the works of my hands, as the vessels of clay in the hands of the potter, The land q. d. The land that I have long time tilled and sowne with the best seed, the land that I have alwaies loved: or thus, the people that I have created in mine own Image, delivered from the hands of their enemies, fed with the finest flower of wheat, preserved and kept as the apple of mine eye, &c. yet see how grieuously they have sinned against me, and provoked me to wrath, in such wise that I am ready to breake their staffe of bread, therefore (Against me) like as it is saide, Mat. 12. 30. He that is not with me, is against me, and provoketh me to punish him: so contrary is sinne vnto God, that he holdeth him to be his enemy (as it were) that committeth any sinne.
And wold not any of us be loath to have his Majestie, our soveraigne (I meane the king of England) to be his enemie? we see by common experience,[Page 14] if a man purchase but the il wil of a Justice of peace in his countrie, or of some other superior person, how it is requited againe one time or other. But to provoke the Lord of Hoastes against him (who is a consuming fire) who can but looke for a requitall at his hands, who saith: and that of right: Revenge is mine, and I will repay, and of whome it is also saide, It is a fearefull thing to fall into the hands of the Lord, As we may see by example, how severe he hath shewed himselfe even towards his moste deere children, Adam, David, Paul & others: for can any of the say but as they sinned against him, so he punished the for it even to the eating of a peece of an Apple: as Saul would have sometime done to Jonathan for tasting a little hony, and yet good Lord what sinnes are here committed amongst us on everie side against the Lord, not in the singuler number as the prophet noteth saying (Atrespas) but in the plural number, even to Milions and multitudes: it followes Then will I stretch out my hand upon it. q. d. or declare and shewe foorth my power, my Iustice, my judgement, and my wrath.
Two manner of waies may it bee saide that the Lord God Almightie dooth stretch foorth his hand, that is to say, eyither to save or to destroy, as in the 136. Psalme, verse 12. where it is said, that hee brought out Israell from amongst them, (meaning the Egiptians) with a mightie hand and stretched out arme. So in the Prophet Hose. 11. Chap: 3. vers. I led Ephraim also as one should beare him in his armes: but they knew not that I healed them. AsDavid againe likewise saith. Ps. 77. verse 15.Thou hast redeemed thy people[Page 15]with thine arme, even the Sonnes of JACOB and JOSEPH.
As since that time, how hath the Lord stretched out his arme for us, and for our deliverance,Anno 1588. when the great invasion was pretended by the Spanish Navie. And againe, since that 1605. when the Gun-powder treason was prepared for to have made havocke of us all? The Lord lifted up his mightie and stretched out arme for our defence and succour, Osanna his holye name have the praise for it.
Now as for the defence and preservation of his people, the Lord stretcheth out his arme, when they walke in his waies, and turne to him by repentance. So likewise when he intendeth to correct or punish his people for their Rebellions against him, he is saide to stretch out his hand, as we read in Job. when Sathan saide to God concerning Job.Stretch out thyne hand, and touch all that hee hath, &c. q. d. punish and plague him. &c. Likewise in Jeremy the 15. Chap. verse 6. We reade thus. Thou hast forsaken me saith the Lord and gone backward (meaning the Jewes) therfore wil I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee, for I am wearie of repenting. (Uppon it) By these words we learn, that whether they are taken literally or figuratiuely, that both the earth it selfe, and the people which dwell on the earth, and are earthlye minded, are in the hand of the Lord, & subiect unto his correction, for as he correcteth the one by famine, dearth, Pestilence, warre, &c. So hee smiteth the other and the fruites thereof with blasting, drought, Mildew, Caterpillers and such like.
So that to whether of either he stretcheth out his hand, they must indure and suffer it, which may teach us in due time to fly unto the lord for succour, helpe and favour, especially when wee see his hand stretched fourth both towards the one & the other. For not onely our staffe of bread is broken, whereby many of the poorer sort of people are plagued, but also the earth it selfe is smitten, wherby in many places her fruites & encrease have failed, it cannot be denyed. (And I will breake the staffe of bread therof) q. d. I will punish the people of that place with dearth and scarsitie of corne, and with hunger and famine. These words are partly figurative as the former, & therfore the more deeply to be considered. For many waies is the lord said to break the staffe of bread, acording as I finde in his holy writ, as now I wil declare unto you, to the end that you may perfectlye understand the meaning of these wordes, and the will of the Lord contained in them.
Three maner of waies doe I finde that these words may conveniently be taken: as first, when the Lord doth diminish or abate the fruites of the earth, as of Wheate, Barly, Rye, &c. and so bring in a dearth & famine amongst the people, as he foretelleth by Moses, saying, The Lord shall smite thee with a consumption, and with the Feaver, and with a burning Ague, and with fervent heate, and with the sword, and with blasting & myldew, &c. This also he foresheweh by Ezechiel to come upon the Jewes in their Captiuitie, saying, Thou shalt also take unto thee Wheat, & Barly, and beanes, and Lintell and Millet and Vetches, and put them in a vessel, and make thee bread thereof, according to the number [Page 17] of the daies, that thou shalt sleep uppon thy side, &c. And in the 16. verse of the same Chapter, he saith; I wil break the staffe of bread in Jerusalem, and they shall eate bread by weight, and drinke water by measure, and with astonishment: meaning through the rarity & scarsenes of Corn, & this is the first way of breaking the Staffe of bread. And after the which way or maner, the Lord hath broken our staffe of bread in some measure in this Land, by causing the earth to faile of her encrease of some sort of graine, as Wheate especially.
The second way or meane, whereby the staffe of breade is broken, is, when though there bee Corne sufficient in the land, (as yet is) notwithstanding the earth failing her encrease, (through the charitable assistance of some other Nations) yet the price therof is so enhaunsed and raised up through the covetousnes and cruelty of the Corn-breeders, buyers and sellers, Conveyers and Corn-mongers, that the poore are not able to compasse it. And though they do for a time hold out by selling and pawning all that they haue, yet at the last they can hold out no longer, but miserably die of the dearth and famine.
Indeed I think that many of superiour place have not seene so much: for as the common saying is, Aquila non capit muscas, the Eagle taketh no Flies, because shee soareth so hye. And so doe many of the richer sort of this world, sildome or never beholde nor heare, or thoroughlye feele and understand the State of the poore distressed: As Dives little felt what were Lazarus paines or huger. But in as much as the Lord hath said he wil send famine upon the land that committeth a trepasse against him, let that bee one proofe. Like as that wofull fact of that Woman in Samaria, that sodde her Sonne one day, and complained to the King that her Neighbour would not doe the like for her next day.
But heere it may be demaunded unto what maner of persons this dearth of ours is a Plague, or a famine? Ans. Not unto the rich I suppose, for they feele it not, no more thenPharaoh did the dearth in Egipt, and therefore it may well be called the poore mans plague, for so it is: But what? you wil then say have not the rich sinned as well as the poore? yes. And have not they procured this plague as wel as the poore? yes. Why then are not they punished as the rest? My censure you shall see.
First I say with the Apostle Saint Peter, that judgement beginneth at the house of God. Secondly like as Pharao felt not the stroake of dearth in Egipt, nor his jolly courtiers about him, yet you see how afterward [Page 31] hee and they were all destroyed in the red sea. So when God hath visited the poore (which are his owne house) hee will come uppon the mighty with greater judgemets afterwards: for as Salomon saith, the mighty shal be mightily tormented, Sap. 6. 6. And David saith: He will not verily cleere the wicked. It followeth. And I wil destroy both man and beast forth of it: Such is the jealousie and wrath of Almightie God, that when sinners will not repent, he not onely doth punish their sinnes to the third and fourth generation; but also extendeth the same, aswell unto the unreasonable creatures, such as the Beasts and Birdes are, as unto the unsensible earth and fruites thereof, by making it either as hard as yron under foote, or else the Heaven as brasse ouer head. q. d. Both shall bee unfruitefull and unseasonable; so that by their distemperature, the Beastes or Cattel shall likewise be destroyed, As for example, what murrens of Cattel, and rots of Sheepe have wee had in this Land, within the space of these fewe yeares past? And as for the persons that dyed that way, who can tell the number or names of them? And so I come to the third and last part of this Text, wherein are set downe the helpes and remedies of this dearth now beeing, if they may be effectually put in practise. It followes: Though these three men, Noe, Daniel and Job were amongst them, they shall deliver but their owne soules by their Righteousnes, saith the Lord: But mee thinkes I heare some say, what helpes or remedies are to be found or gathered from these wordes? or what point of doctrine or knowledge is heere to be had concerning the same?
Answere. Surely all that ever the word of God teacheth to be done in such a case; and that is enough and sufficient, if wee had eyes to see, or hearts to understand. But in as much as many have eies and see not, and hearts and understand not, (for the natural man perceiveth not the things that pertaine to the spirit of God) for how can he, seeing that they are spiritually discerned? Therfore have I thought good at this time to lay ope more at large the sence, Doctrin, & uses of this Scripture. But first let us consider what coherence or reference, it may have with other places of like nature: for in Jeremy the 15. Chap. v. 1. it is saide upon like occasion, Though Moses & Samuel stood before me, yet mine affection could not bee toward this people. The sence or meaning of both which places is thus: that there is no entreatie with the Lord for the wicked and unrepentant people of the world: But in no case anye prejudice unto the faithfull flocke of Jesus Christ. For, as we may see how absolutely the Lord refuseth to heare Moses and Samuel, praying for them, yet it shutteth not the dore of repentance to the faithful, and penitent, as we finde in verse 15. & 19. where the Lord both promiseth untoJeremy, that if hee would returne unto him, and the people with him, they should bee brought againe, and stand before the Lord.
And Jeremy for his owne part (notwithstanding the former communication) prayeth saying: O Lord, thou knowest, remember mee, and visite, and revenge mee of my persecutors, take mee not away in the continuance of thy wrath, &c. Even as in this place it is [Page 33] saide, though Noe, Daniel, andJob were amongst them, &c. where againe we learne, that as there is no place nor reason of reconciliation, left unto the wicked, cotinuing in their wickednes, yet the faithfull and repentant (how few soever they be) have alwaies free accesse unto the throane of grace, so oft as they shal return unto the Lord their God, which maketh much for the consolation of the godly, as on the contrary part, it may increase the terrour & trouble of the wicked, more and more: which doctrine the Prophet David maketh plaine, ps. 32. 10. saying; Many sorrowes shall come to the wicked, but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall imbrace him on euery side. A most evidet example we have of this, in the destruction of Core, Dathan and Abiram, with their copany: & the deliverance of Moses and Aaron, with their partakers, notwithstanding there was offring of Incense on both sides, yea, and that at one & the selfe same time, yet the rebellious part onely perished and the obedient were preserued and deliuered.
Againe, when the plague was begunne, and the wrath of the Lord gone foorth, for the murmuring of those that escaped the swallowing of Corah (as were read in the same chapter, v. 14. so that there died 14. thousand and seaven hundered in a short time, and the Lord had saide, that he would destroy even the whole congregation; yet when Aaron at the commaund of Moses, had taken a Censer, & put fire therein of the Altar, with Incense, and made the attonement, hee standing betweene the dead and the liuing, the plague ceased.
FOr as much as it is saide by Christ our Sauiour, in his holy Gospell, that it is easier for a Camell to goe through the eye of a needle, then for a rich man to enter into the kingdome of GOD, And againe, in the selfe same place, That it is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdome of heaven. I marvaile that the rich men of these our daies do no better looke unto it, then many of them doe, especiallye such as having the substance of this world in such superfluitie and aboundance as they have: for was it not uppon great reason that our Saviour did so say, seeing that the desire of money is the root of all evill, and they that will be rich fall into teptation [Page 46] and snares, and into manye foolish and noysome lusts, which drown me in perdition & destructio~: as we may easily see & perceive both by the manifolde vanities they doe embrace and maintaine, as also by the sundrie wickednesses and corruptions they doe commit through the power and strength, I would say, the vaine hope & confidence they have in their wealth: some building Babel or Towers of confusion, some heaping up Mydaes mountaines, and cannot tell who shall inherit or dispend them: Some as Dives in vanities of apparell, some in superfluitie of meats wines, drinks: &c some in hawking, hunting, Cock-fighting, Beare-bayting, Dycing, dauncing: and others in Tobacco taking, dispending their revenewes, or the greatest part thereof, (for what is it to see a yong man of twentie foure yeres, healthy in body, sound in constitution, to dispend an hundred markesper annum in Tobacco, when as his Father, Grandfather & whole generation before him, happilye neuer in all their time spent one farthing that way? What a vanitie is it then for a man to spend so much that way, without the which hee may live wel enough? Besides, if a man should rip up the treacheries and treasons that have beene from time to time complotted amongst the richer sort, we shall finde it moste true that Salomon saith. Pro. 10 16. The labour of the righteous tendeth to life, but the revenues of the wicked to sin, As if hee would say more plainly, the wicked spend al their lands, rents, revenues & livings, for the most part in evil & ungodly waies. 1. In one kinde of vanity or other, such as I have shewed, which how true it falleth out in these [Page 47] daies, who seeth not? Amongst all which wickednesses, vanities, or sinnes, there is not a greater in mine opinion, then this that is heere mentioned in this sentence following. Him that with draweth the Corne the people wil cursse, &c. For how be it that other vanities and corruptions doe bring destruction to the dooers thereof, and to some few of their posteritie This reacheth further even to the whole multitude or number of the poore, which is so infinite, that it cannot easily be numbred. And by how much the more any evil sparseth it selfe abroad, or groweth more generall, by so much the more it is reprooveable, and to be condemned.
Then high time it is for the greate ones of this world, the greate rich Diveses I meane, that spend so manye poundes and pence in meere vanities, in effecting or bringing to passe so many great & greenous corruptions, (as many of them do) to looke & consider with themselves in time, what will bee the end of all this? verilye none other then what is expressed in this proverb & sentence ofSalomon heere following. First, that they shall but gaine the curse of the people; Secondly of God: for the preventing and avoiding of both which, I have thought good to give this admonition to all that have their eyes open, I meane any sparke of grace, that they might yet in time bethinke themselves, and turne to the Lord from their evill waies. Be counselled therefore Oye rich, & receive the word of exhortation, make friendes of your unrighteous Mammon, sell that you have and give almes, For what avantageth it a man to winne the whole world, and to loose his owne soule?
Attend unto the voice of him that once saide Woe be unto you rich for you haue your consolation. Wherefore learne to suffer some affliction heere in this life, that yee bee not afflicted in the world to come: We are taught in the word of God to beare one anothers burden, beare ye therefore some part of this crosse with your poore bretheren that are so hardlye pressed with pennurie, dearth and famine. Bethink with your selves how many good dueties yee have beene called unto: how many good occasions have bene ministred, and how many by you omitted; of every of which ye shal be sure one day to give an account. But yet me thinks I heare the voice of Christ, saying in mine eare, Tis easier for a Camell to goe through the eye of an needle, then for a rich man to enter into the kingdome of heaven, Yea, but what do the rich men pleade for themselves in this case? namelye thus: that although it be unpossible with men, yet not unpossible with God: well, I graunt it, yet I say, were it not better for a man to make his election sure and certaine vnto him, then to stand upon possibilities? wee commonlye say, better is one bird in hand then two in the bush; so I say, it were far better for men to make their election sure by dooing of good works, while space & grace is offered, then with the five foolish virgins to runne up and down from one to another, to buy oyle for their lampes, when none can be had for any money. Who knoweth not that there is nothing impossible with God? Christ saved the theese upon the gallowes repenting; that was one of his possibilities, to approove himselfe to bee God, but shall men therefore play the theeves all the daies of [Page 49] their lives, and rob God of his honour, as many doe the poore of their goods, and say nothing is unpossible with God? is not this rather to tempt God then to serve him? to resist the Lord then to obey him? he so dayly calling upon them by the Doctrine of his word to be liberall, to be mercifull, to bee louvng, kinde, and naturally affected one towards another, and yet it cannot be obtained at our hands, nor wrung out of the hearts of many, who are so wonne by the world, that they will not leave off to treasure up vengeance for themselves against the day of the wrath of the Lord, who will reward everye man according unto his workes: which one found of the Lords Trumpet were sufficient to make a breach in our obstinate soules (if it were well attended unto) and to cause us to abhorre sinne as a Serpent, or at the least to conceive some feare in committing thereof, and continuing therein so resolute as many do. God for his mercies sake in Jesus Christ vouchsafe to lighten the eyes, and open the hearts of those that are either so wilfullye blinde or hardned in heart, that they will not see nor understad those things which are so apparat before their faces, that they may in good time bee converted from their evill waies, to serve the Lord in all holy obedience and newnesse of life. Amen.
Your well willer in the Lord.
3.1. A Meditation upon the 26. verse of the 11. Chap. of the Proverbes; which may fitly be called, The poore-mans Plea.
Pro. 11. verse. 26.
He that withdraweth Corne, the people will curse him, but blessing shall be vpon his head that selleth Corne.
LIke as for the incitation and stirring up of good men, unto vertue & godlines, there are many priviledges and promises set downe in Gods worde, for their further encouragement and going forward therein, So againe on the other side, for the terrour and reproofe of the wicked, there are many sentences and sayings recorded, to the end they might desist & leave off their wickednes, and turne to the Lord their God. Amongst which, this is one that I have read unto you, and yeeldeth most evident demonstration, as in the severall parts thereof (which are a curse and a blessing) may ealsiy be gathered. For in the first part it is saide: He that withdraweth Corne, the people will curse him: from whence we may first learne, that like as it is not vnlawfull to keepe or lay up Corne in time of plenty, against a time of scarsitie, and dearth, or want (as Joseph did in Aegipt) so in time of scarfitie [Page 52] and dearth, when we may conveniently spare it, & others doe want it, then to with-holde the selling of, or to keepe it hutched up in our barnes, Ricks or Garners, in hope to raise the price of it, and to enrich our selves by undooing or famishing of others, is a verie inhumane and unchristian part. And this is it, that the Holy Ghost reporteth in this place, a common fault at this day, for as wee are taught by the Lawe and the Prophets, To doe as wee would bee done unto, as we reade in Mat. 7. verse 12. Now say then that this were thy case, or mine, (as it is of manye thousands) that either of us did want foode or rayment, would we be content so to be dealt withall, as to give or paye double or treble the price for eyther, as they were used to be sold at, or as in any equitie or conscience they are worth, for so are many compelled to do, or else they cannot have them. And all because that many through covetousnesse and crueltie, and hardnes of heart are given so many waies to with-drawe their Corne from their Bretheren as they doe. For not only doe they hutch and hide it up in their Barnes, Rickes, and Garners, not vouchsafing to store the Markets with it as they ought; But also when they bring out any, it is in so scant and pinching a manner and measure, and at so hie a price, that the poore who moste do want it, are never the neere, beeing not able to compasse it. Besides this, when they cannot sell it at their own price, that they would have for it, they set it up, or send it home againe, and then transport it by water beyond Seas unto some other place of Marte, where they may sell it at their pleasure. And by all [Page 53] these waies may it be said that they with draw their Corne from the people: as first, when they bring it not to the market, secondly when they sell it or hold it at too deere a price, and thirdly when they transport it to other places: and therefore it were good that all such with-drawers of Corne from the people, or from the Market, did well consider of this, that the holy Ghost hath heere left recorded for the opening of their hearts, if they be not past cure, as I feare me many of them be; for he that doth either miserably hutch it up in his Barne, as the rich man mentioned in the 12. of S. Luke, that built his barnes bigger, or hold the price so hie, that the poore cannot reach it, as many did in the daies of the prophet Amos, Chap. 8. 5. saying: When will the new Moone be gone, that we may sell Corne, and the Saboath, that we may set foorth wheate, and make the Ephah small, and the shekel greate, and falsifie the weights by deceit? or unneighbourly transport it un to other nations or people (as many amongst us do at this day) the which how dreadfull and damnable a thing it is, we may learne by these manifolde Doctrines and divine dueties, which Christ our Saviour hath left recorded in his holyword, teaching us the contrary. As namely & first of all, to be merciful, and therfore saith, Bee mercifull as your heauenly father is mercifull: meaning thereby, that wee should rather giue Corne, and other foode franckly and freelye vnto those that want it, then by any cruell and couetous meanes, to with-draw it from them: as our Saniour plainely in an other place saith: Give to everie man that asketh, & fro him that wold borrow, turn not thy face away.
This also was the meaning of Saint John, when he saide, Whosoever hath this worlds goods and seeth his brother want, and releeveth him not, how dwelleth the love of God in him? Beside, our Salomon heere, v. 25. saith to the same purpose,That the soule of the liberall waxeth fat, and he that giveth plentifully shal poure foorth. As if he would say, as we commonly say, he shall have never the lesse at the yeres end: yet so diffident and distrustfull are many in this case, that they will rather say with the Prince, mentioned in 2. Reg. 7. 2. who whenEliza prophesied of plenty, the day folowing, answered the man of God thus: Though the Lord would make windowes in heaven, could this come to passe? so diffident I say are many now adoies, especially of these withdrawers of Corne, that if a man speake to them in the word of the Lord, that is, perswading or exhorting them to liberallitie towards the poore, or unto destributing of their Corne to the needy, at a reasonable price, by any the sentences or sayings of Christ, or manner of his miracles wrought unto that end (as we may beholde by the encrease of the five barly-loaves, & two fishes, & seaven loaves, and a few fishes at an other time) they wil answer, as the prince before named, answered Eliza, Though the Lord would make windowes in heaven &c. For which cause let this be knowne againe unto them, that he which soweth sparingly, shall reap sparingly. As by the example of Dives that rich withdrawer of Corne and bread (for by Corne heere, you may understand bread, drink, cloth, coin, or any such like thing) that would not vouchsafe pooreLazarus the crustes nor crummes of his trencher, [Page 55]when he lay at his gate, begging for them: how righteously was he rewarded againe, when he would haue had of Abraham but one drop of water to coole the heat of his tongue, being tormented in hell fire, and could not haue it? a speciall document or warning to all with-drawers of Corne, Coyne, Cloth, or comfort from their bretheren, in time of necessitie and distresse.
Other examples are left recorded in Gods word, to this end and purpose, viz. to stir up the hard hearts of such pittilesse persons, as having aboundance of Corne, Cloth, &c. in possession, will not, notwithstanding al that can be saide unto them, depart from one mite thereof to the perishing people of this world. I will rehearse but onely that so memorable a fact of Joseph, as it is recorded in Gen. 45. 28. Unto whome when his brethren came for Corne in time of scarsitie and dearth, he not only filled their sacks with Corn sufficient, but also gave them their mony backe againe, which they had brought with them. And is this recorded in vaine (troe yé) and not for our imitation, aswel as for our instruction? as Saint Paul teacheth, saying Ro. 15. 4 Whatsoever things are written afore time (meaning in the word of God) are written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scripture, might have hope. But alas, no examples can moue the mindes of mortall men, to depart from this transitory trash, though it were to the saving of their soules. Earthy men earthly mindes: if men would but lift up their hearts a little toward the Lord, and beholde the senselesse earth with the flowers and fruits therof, [Page 56] consider the the Sunne, Moone and Starres, how everie one of these in their kinde doe yeelde their sent, savour, taste, light, heate, and comfort to man; it might something moove them to shewe pittie and compassion towards their poore bretheren, standing in neede thereof.
Of thePellican, (a poore Bird) it is reported, that when shee hath brought foorth her young ones, they die, the which when she perceiveth, shee lamenteth their death three daies, and then for their recoverie unto life againe, what doth shee? even stab her selfe in the brest with her beake, until the blood drop out, which she letting fall uppon her young ones, they doe immediately revive againe, but shee dies for it her selfe.
What a motive might this bee to such unmercifull men, (as wee have many amongst us) that in the like case, beholding many of their Bretheren and Sisters, even (as it were) deade at their doores, or little better, will not droppe nor let fall one pennye out of their Purses, nor abate one shilling of their prices, nor one bushell of their corne, toward the releefe, comfort, or reviving of so manye hunger-starved soules as daily pine away & perish, and all by reason that they so with-drawe their Corne from them so many waies as they doe? For restraint of whose cruel & covetous conceites, let it be considered what the holy ghost hath heer left recorded, saying:Him that with draweth the Corne, the people will curse. But is this such a matter (wil they say) to have the cursse of the people? what care I for the curse of a thousand of them, when all their curses [Page 57] wil not doe mee so much harme, as one of my bushels of wheate or Barlie will do me good.
These and such like are the speeches of those whose hearts are glewed to their golde, corne, and earthly commodities, in such wise as that they make them their God, and so care not for the counsell of the Lord their God. But like as it was once to that great with-drawer of corne mentioned, Luk. 12. 18. whose groud brought forth fruits plentiously, in so much that hee saide, What shall I doe, because I have not roome where I may lay up my fruites? and hee saide, this will I doe, I will pull downe my Barnes, (as manye set up their ricks for like purpose) and builde greater, and therein will I gather my fruites, and my goods.And I will say to my Soule, thou hast much goods laide up in store for manye yeares, live at ease, eate, drinke, and take thy pastime (or as wee say) be merrie, and make good cheere, as many doe at this day: but what was said to him in the end?God saide to him, O foole, this night will they fetch away thy soule from thee: then whose shall those things be that thou hast provided? So it is with him that gathereth riches to himselfe, and is not rich towards God, and so it is with al these, none so merrie with-drawers of corn, sellers, or senders away therof, they are now Jocond and merrie, but the time will come, when they shall mourne and lament.
And heere it is worth the nothing, that the Text faith. They shall fetch away thy Soule, whereby is ment the Devill and his Angells: for like as it is recorded of Lazarus that pore begger when he died, that he was caried by the Angels into Abrahams bosome, [Page 58] but of the rich man there metioned, the first newes that we heare of him after he was dead, he was in hell torments. Let every one therefore that liveth in his pleasures, or covetous desires (as this rich man did, and as many other rich men doe at this present) make good use heere of and take heed of withdrawing their Corne, Cloth, Coyne, or any thing els, from their poore bretheren: for, say they live never so pleasantly or happy, in the mean time the people do curse them, which althogh they care litle for; yet behold how great & grievous a thing it is to have the peoples curs deseruedly: for although it be saide pro. 26. 2. The curse causeles commeth not, or shal not hurt: yet the curse that is caused deservedly, by crueltie, oppression, covetousnes, or by any other kinde of rigorous dealing, or violent meanes, shal not passe with out perril & paine. For why, the reason is evident: the poore crie and the Lord heareth them, ps. 10. 17. as if he would say, he revengeth them, as he did the Israelites against the Aegiptians, we commonly say, a common Proverb, Vox populi, vox dei, that is, the voice of the people is the voyce of God, or that which the people doe most agree upon or speake is the voice of God, q. d. whome the multitude did curse, God himselfe doth curse. For as he is cursed of God that remooveth the land marke, that is the Merestone or ridge of his neighbour, so as he that remooveth or withdraweth the Corne from the people: at the least we must take it for a grievous plague, to be justly prosecuted or persecuted with the outcries of the people: for like as a good name is mote ptetious then [Page 59] oyntment, and to be preferd before gold or silver: So to be justly reproached, maligned, or cursed of the people is a thing very loathsome and worse then the losse of any worldly thing beside, as it is well noted by the holy ghost in this place. The last of al Gods judgements against sinners, & the greatest is,Ite maledicti, that is, go ye cursed: that's Gods curse: from whence we may learne, how grievous a thing the curse of man is. Even the greatest grievance or injury that man can doe to man, as we may gather by the words of Jobs wife, who seing her husband plagued, her goods and children destroyed, bids him curse God and dye: As if she would have sayd, spit out all thy venome or, seeing thou canst doe nothing els in the way of revenge, curse God and die. Like unto that of Sampson, who when he pluckt downe the pillar of the Temple, slewe both himselfe and the Philistines also. For what doth a man or a woman intend, or mean, or desire, when they curse their neighbour or adversary, but even the greatest mischiefe, plague, or punishment that they can devise in the bitternes of their soules, to light upon him or her whome they curse.
And therefore, it is recorded of the holy ghost in Jude, v. 9. as a caveat to all christians, to take heed of cursing others, or causing others to curse them. By the example ofMichael the Archangell, who when he strove about the body of Moses, would not blame him with cursed speaking, but only said The Lord rebuke thee. But happily heere some will demaund how it falleth out that the deere Saints and servants of God do many times feele the stroak [Page 60] of this sting, I meane the curse of the people? for answere whereunto, it is not so much to be considered who are cursed (for all are subject to the tiranny of the tongue) (as we see by Christ himselfe) as wherefore they are cursed: for if it be for righteousnes, or reprooving of sinne, it commeth not, but is a blessing rather, as our Saviour sheweth it saying, Mat. 5. 11. Blessed are ye, when men revile you, and persecute you, and shall falsely say all manner of evill against youfor my names sake, &c. for in this case, they are blessed of God himselfe: but if it be for secret sinnes against God, or for open injuries, oppressions, and trespasses against our neighbours; then let them take heed least (as they say) God say Amen: for although it be heere said, The people will curse him, yet as it apeareth by David, 2. Sam. 16. v. 10. 11. God himselfe dooth permit and suffer it, it being his just judgement against such persons as have sinned against him. The which the Prophet David wel considering, would not suffer Shimei, when he cursed him to be smitten, but rather saide, What if God hath bidden him, it may be that God will looke upon mine affliction, and do me good for his cursing.
This Moses maketh manifest in the 27. of Deu. where he denounceth even from God himselfe, many sorts of people accursed, which would not walk in the waies of the almightie, but transgresse his commaundements: as thus, Cursed is he that curseth father or mother: cursed is he that maketh the blinde to goe out of his way.
This dooth Saint James also confirme, saying, that such men as hourd up their riches, garments, [Page 61] gold or silver, or with-hold the wages of the hireling even til it rust or canker by them, or the moath doth fret or eat it, having no compassion on the poore that want it, are no better then accursed with the rest, even of God him selfe, as appeareth by his words, Chap. 5. v. 1. 2. 3. saying,Goe to now ye rich men, weepe and howle for the miseries that shall come upon you: your riches are corrupt, your garments are moath-eaten, your gold and silver is cankered, and the rust of them shall be a witnesse against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were with fire, ye haue heaped up treasure against the last daies.
As if he would say, ye are accursed all and every one of you, like as they that with-draw their Corne from the poore, and keepe it in their Barnes, Rickes, or Garners, untill it be so mouldie or fustie, that the Rats and Mice wil scant eat it. Therefore let them take good heed, I meane al cruel & covetous Cornbreeders, buyers, Cornemasters, corne-mongers, cloath-maisters, and every other pinching pennyfather, who are such lovers of themselves, and shew so little pittie towards others, not withstanding that they swim in their Superfluities and aboundance of all wordly treasures and pleasures, do not so much as bring forth their corne, coyne, nor cloath nor any thing els to releeue them that want, and stand in destres.
But haply, it may heere be saide, are there not many good lawes and orders made for the releeving and keeping of the poore in every Parish, and every Parish hath over-seeers, to provide them harbour and sustenance? yes it is [Page 62] so I graunt, and yet for all this, the poorelie still & complaine in vaine, without both house-roome and food. Though the King make his statute, and the Justice send his precept, yet saith Christ, The poore ye shall have alwaies with you, and so we have, as poore as ever were, and as I suppose never more: and all by reason of such with-drawers of Corn, as be now a daies many amongst us; who notwithstanding the people do daily curse them, and the Lord doth curse them, and the devill be ready to fetch them; yet there is no compassio, pittie, nor redresse. But what will all these with-drawers of Corne, and with-holders of comfort from the poore do, when he shall come in place that shal say unto them, when I was naked ye cloathed me not, when I was hungry ye fed me not, when I was harbourlesse ye housed me not, nor so much as vouchasafed me a nights lodging in their Barnes, &c.Goe ye cursed into hell fire prepared for the Deuill and his angels.
Now if God reward these with-drawers of Corn so heavily, that famish or starve the bodies of their bretheren and sisters, by with-drawing or keeping from them their corporall foode, what will he do to those that with-draw and with-hold from them the spiritual foode of their soules? and do not break to them the bread of life, I meane that do not preach the Gospell of Jesus Christ; having received a talent that way, or holding the place of such as should do it? An Item to all Parsons, Vicars, Patrons, and Fermors of spirituall livings, which live by the sweat of other mens soules; & yet notwithstanding so muzzell up the mouth of the Oxe that [Page 63] treadeth out the Corne, that where the Parsonage is many times worth two or three hundreth pounds by the yeare, the Oxe I say that treadeth out the Corne, that is, the Minister that breaketh and bringeth the foode that perisheth not, hath not above ten pounds or twenty markes by the yeare, and that but sorily paid too: If this be not a with-drawing of Corne and all other necessaries, I can not tell what is.
O consider this, ye that swallowe up the poore, and make the needy of the land to faile. These are such with-drawers as ye heard of even now, that hyre labourers to reap downe their fields and then will not pay them their wages. O King consider: O King of Kings remember thy chosen flocke, and send us some releefe, I meane thy chosen Israell from all our paine and griefe. O consider this both priest and people, for where the word of God is not preached, the people perish, not in body but in soule, as the apostle St. Paul proveth plainly: saying How can they call on him in whome they haue not beleeved: how can they beleeve in him of whome they have not heard? how can they heare without a preacher? how can they preach except they be sent? Ro. 10. 14. And yet so mindefull is he of his promise, that once said, I am with you to the end of the world, that now and still he saith unto his little flocke Beholde I send unto you Prophets, and wisemen, and Scribes, & what followes? thus,and of them you shall kill and crucifie, and some of the you shal scourge in your Sinagogues (not with whips of cords, so much as with the whips of your whipping) tongues, and of them you shall persecute from Cittie [Page 64] to Cittie. &c. and who do all this now adaies, but these with-drawers of Corn, which with-draw not onely from the market, but from the minister; not onely from the poore, but from the preacher, and from the church and all: may I not complaine with the Prophet Amos 7. 8. once again & say; Shall not the land tremble for this. & everyone mourn that dwell therin? and it shall rise up as a flood, and it shall be cast out and drowned, as by the flood of Aegipt, that is, destroyed with one judgement or other. It followes, But blessing shalbe upon his head that selleth corne. Hitherto ye have heard of the curse that commeth downe on the heads of the with-drawers either of Corn from the poore people or of mainteinance from the minister. Now of the blessing that belongeth to both or all of them, that sell their Corne at a reasonable rate, and in due time, or breake the bread of life, or give competent mainteinance to the Minister. And first, whereas Salomon seemeth to utter his speeche in the singular number, as appeereth by the words,Blessing, and, his head, yet it shal appeere unto you, that they include and comprehend, both a pluralitie of blessings, and a multiplicitie of heads, or parts both of soule and body: for such is the wisedome of God, that under the number of few words, yea & those most commonly darke and obscure (to the naturall man) are conteined many misteries, much doctrine, and great knowledge: as we see in Christ his parrables, sweet sentences, and holy sermons, uttered in the gospell: and all to this end, that like as we say a man must cracke the Nut before he can eat the kirnell, so he would have us to study, pray, [Page 65] meditate & exercise our selves in the word of God before we can come to the depth of knowledge & understanding of his truth. This our Saviour maketh manifest, in Mat. 13. v. 11. and 13. saying, To you it is given to know the misteries or secrets of the kingdome of heaven, q. d. To you my desciples that followe me, and heare my voice, and doe seeke for the kingdome of God, But blessing shalbe upon his head, or blessings, for God is not as man, who when he hath blessed one, can blesse no more asIsaac blessed Jacob, and after had scant a blessing for Esaw, But rather as Moses, who, when he had blessed one tribe, blessed an other, and never left untill he had blessed them all. Or as Christ himselfe, who when he had pronounced the poore in spirit blessed; he proceeded to the pure in hart, then to the meeke, then to the mourners, hungrie and thirstie, mercifull, peacemakers, and patient; and pronounced them all blessed. Even so here, though he spake in the singuler number, saying. Blessing shalbe uppon the heade: yet, he meaneth many blessings, or that he shalbe many waies blessed, according as he hath promised unto Israel, saying, If thou shalt obay dilligently the voice of the Lord thy God, and observe and do all his commandements which I have commaunded thee this day, the Lord thy God, will set thee up on high above all nations of the earth, and all these blessings shall come upon thee: Blessed shalt thou be in the Cittie, and blessed in the fielde, blessed shalt thou he in the fruit of thy body, and of thy ground, blessed in thy cattell, and in the encrease of thy kine, and in the flockes of thy sheepe &c. and blessed shalt thou be in all that thou puttest thy hand unto.
Thus we see how many waies almightie God blesseth all those that keepe his commaundements: This the prophet David confirmeth, saying, Blessed is the man that considereth the poore and needy, the Lord shall deliver him in the time of trouble. Yea, the Lord will helpe him and preserve him alive. He shalbe blessed upon earth, and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him on the bed of his sorrowe, & make his bed in his sicknes.
Now, as by this we learne, what blessings shalbe on the head, heart, and soule of such a man, as ministreth comfort unto them that be in necessitie. So on the other part we may gather what curses shall come on such as with-drawe corne, coyne, or comfort from them by any manner of meanes. For like as it is said of the mercifull man,The Lord shall deliver him &c. the Lord shall blesse him on earth and not betake to the will of his enemies: so contrarywise shall it befall the unmerciful, that have no bowels of pittie nor compassion in them. Letthe example of holy Job be our comfort in this case, who was a stasse unto the lame, an eye vnto the blinde, and a father vnto the fatherles, &c. All which his kindenes how the Lord requited, and what end he made, who knoweth not? Unto this patterne of pittie, I might ad the examples of Abraham, Lot, the Shunamite woman,Lidia, Cornelius and the rest, whose charitie, hospitalitie, kindenes, and comforting the needy members of Jesus Christ, is yet much spoken off & recorded in holy writ unto this end, and for the same shall be had in an everlasting remembrance. Let us therefore heerewithal looke up on the Navigators [Page 67] and Seafaring men of this world, who for the preservation of their lives in time of tempest or danger on the Sea, doe not sticke to cast out their Corne, or whatsoever commoditie else they have ballast their Ships withall, although it bee to their great detriment and losse, rather then they will lose their lives. And shall not Christian men sayling amidst the manifold tempests of this world, and the temptations of this life, in the greatest danger of their soules, unballast their Barnes of that which lyeth behinde the doore in the Chaffe? I doe not see with what words I may better reproove their hardnes of heart, then with that verse that the Poet Persius made upon the like consideration, & exclaming after this manner: O curuae in terr as animae et celestium inanes! that is, O crooked soules upon earth, and devoide of heavenly things. Againe, if men would but consider with themselves, how willing and forward they are many times in purging, casting foorth and cutting off the verie substantial parts and humors of their bodies, being either infected with some incurable disease, or otherwise corrupted through overmuch aboundance and all for the preservation and continuance of their temporall and momentarie lives, it might happily moone them, to the dispensing & laying out of these other inferior things, for the salvation of their soules. Aman would think that so many examples of so many holy men & women, might allure and procure us to change our mindes, & to set our affections on heavenly things, or else that so many cosifels of Christ himself would costraine us to make us friends of our unrighteous [Page 68] Mammon, or that rich and heavenly blessing which Christ shall bestow on all those that have releeved his needy members, and comforted the comfortles, when he shall say to them, Come ye blessed of my father and possesse the kingdome prepared for you from the beginning of the world, For when I was naked ye cloathed mee, when I was hungrie ye fed me, when I was harhourlesse yee housed me, when I was sicke and diseased ye visited and refreshed mee with Corne, coyne, cloath, and all other comforts. And if they shall answere and say, when sawe wee thee naked and cloathed thee, or hungry and fed thee, or sicke and visited thee. &c. Then shall he answere them againe, and say to them, In as much as ye haue done it to one of these little ones which have beleeued in me, ye haue done it vnto me, Come ye blessed, &c.
EVen as I had finished this travell, there came unto mee certaine persons of the Countie and confines where I dwelled, with a written Paper in their hands, signifying therein what paines and cost they had undertaken, and what troubles they had endured in seeking to redesse, or at the least to restraine the Transportation of Corne, and all other victualls, (fruite only except) from the Townes of Bewdley, Tewxburie, and the Citties of Worcester and Glocester, unto Bristowe, &c. wherein also it appeared, that by the good meanes & care of some of the higher powers; they had obtained Letters of commannd to the Justices of Peace within the countie of Glocester, to appoint certaine honest and [Page] substantiall men to be searchers of all such boates or vessels as should passe on the river of Seaverne, fro any of the foresaid places to another place, by which good means it hath pleased God somewhat to mittigate the dayly encreasing price of corn & graine amongst us.
But for as much as it was given mee, to understand at the same time, by those parties that came to sollicit this cause; that the most part of those persons so appointed by the Justices to be searchers, were very wealthy men; that is to say either great Cornemaisters, or cloathiers, & therfore for their owne parts, had no greate cause to indure the paines, which was needeful in this busines to bee taken; & the rest of the being of meaner condition & state and therfore not so wel able to beare the daily charges about this employment (as beeing more desirous to have it better effected, then the rest) craved the Assistance of the Parishes and Towne-shippes adjoyning, by some benevolent collection, for the suppliing of their expences, promising with all, a more diligent and dayly attendance uppon [Page] the said search. The which their so honest, needfull, and necessarie a Petition, I not only presentlye tendered to make knowne; but also for the better continuance therof, I thought good to give some intelligence heerein, that everie good Christian, that either regardeth the crie of the poore, or the love of his Neighbour, may put to his helping hand, to so good and charitable an action. Wherefore now in as much as it hath pleased God by the Doctrine of his word to give us the true knowledge and understanding of the verie originall cause of this present dearth, and both opened and offered unto us the meanes to prevent and take away the same; Let us not be slacke to joyne both heart and hand, purse and prayer, minde & money for the speedy redressing of this evill, so justly imposed and laide upon us, for such causes as have bene by us committed.
God graunt that wee bee not receivers of the grace of God in vaine, nor turne his gace into Wantonnesse, least while we say peace, peace, the Lord of Hostes come [Page] against us with his great Armie, the sound of a Trumpet, voice of an Arch-angell, consuming fire, and such like.