Wherein humble Christians (as in a
Mirrour) may view the verity of their saving Graces,
and may see how to make a spirituall im-provement of all opportunities and advan
tages of a pious proficiencie (or a
holy Growth) in
Grace and goodnesse.
And wherein is layd open many errours incident to
these declining times,
By ELIZABETH WARREN,
a lover of Truth and Peace.
Whatsoever thine hand findeth to doe, doe it with all thy might, for there is no worke nor device, nor knowledge nor wisdome, in
the grave whither thou goest.
Whatsoever thine hand findeth to doe, doe it with all thy might, for there is no worke nor device, nor knowledge nor wisdome, in
the grave whither thou goest.
LONDON, Printed by R. L. for Henry Shepherd, and are to be sold at his shop at the signe of the Bible in Towre-street, 1647
PUBLISHED BY R.L.
1. TO THE CHRISTIAN READER.
THE pious improvement of precious time, is one main businesse and worke of our day, requiring sincerity in retired Meditations, and also sedulity in the progresse of our actions, my deepe ingagements to divine bounty, call me to consecrate my selfe and my time in all humble gratefulnesse to his sacred Majesty, from whom I have received such ample favours: I omit all apology for defence or excuse, as nothing pertinent to the end proposed, craving only a suspension of uncharitable censures, which proceed from a root of murmuring misprision: The Theame propounded in my poore meditations, was a worke designed by our blessed Saviour, even the gathering up of[Page]fragments, from that plentifull saciety which expressed his bounty in supplying our wants: Some spirituall uses were extracted from it, by vertue of an argument from the lesse to the greater, wherein I humbly submit what I have done to the judgement and practice of the godly in like causes: for being conscious to my mentall and bodily weaknesse, I went in the most facile and familiar way, to expresse what I collected from that frugall precept, as an incitation to others, who have geater abilities, still constantly declining to fall on any subject, which such have treated of in their learned labours, and only gathering quotations from them, to illustrate the matter wrapt up in my brevity, but my dull Meditations appearing unpolished, are produced like abortives in an houre unexpected, and may seeme unseasonable, when the beams of new light are admired or adored, as the rare rising Sun, for nothing now relisheth the curious palate, save the Nectar and Ambrosia that affront the poore Manna, which will marre the acceptance of my labours with many, from whom I must looke for distastefull prejudice, yea although here be water which is drawn from the fountain on purpose to quench the very flames of contention, yet possibly producing an Antiperistasis, it may by accident be totally inverted, Well moderation hath matter sufficient, for modesty to act, in an indigence of merit, and hath learned this lesson in vertues Academy, to suffer rather then doe any evill, A continued memento of my mortall condition, calls me to labour while my day doth last, because in the grave unto which I am going, there is neither
counsell, wisdome, nor worke, we are mutually obliged to our God by covenant, continually to endeavour the totall extirpation of that root of bitternesse, from whence proceedeth, Schisme, Errour, and Heresie, to the scandall of the Gospel: Good Reader, my leasure admits no enlargement, only I entreat thy fervent Petitions, for my pious perseverance in the present truth, which tendred unto thee declares that I am
Thine truly in the Lord,
Gather up the fragments which remaine, that
nothing be lost.
OUr blessed Saviour both feasting fainting souls,and feeding hungry bodies in their severall exigencies, presenteth to our due and serious meditation, a precious mirrour of miraculous mercie, in the first by his word hee raiseth the dead, in the latter he graciously preserves the living, his esteeme of our soules is revealed in the one, his care of our bodies is expressed in the other, which sacred Pillars like Jachin and Boas, may support the fabrike of our weak infirm faith, yea cause us by a holy and humble dependance, to cast our care on him that careth for us.
His mercy thus extended hee calleth for duty, a debt ever owed to divine bounty, his command is to gather up the fragments which remain, his reason is annexed that nothing be lost.
The words of this Scripture in their litterall sense, are an oecumenicall precept from the master of the family, even that great Creator and feeder of creatures, who designeth to his servants their severall imployments, and now having satisfied a multitude of guests, with plentifull refreshment from such poore and mean provision, he illustrateth the miracle by [Page 2] this passage of providence, that so much should be collected, from what was before so little.
Our blessed Saviour commands to gather up, what lay on the ground as rejected and contemptible, even those crums and fragments of fish and barly bread,the scattered remainders of their abundant faciety, that we who have forfeited our right in the creatures conferred once on man by free donation, may humbly conceive how unworthy we are, to enjoy refreshment from the meanest of them, viewing them now not only as a gift, from the gracious hand of Gods rich and royall bounty, but also as a purchase bought in again by him, who sacrificed himselfe as the price of our redemption, sith none could so well set a rate on the creatures, or value them rightly at their just esteeme, as he who bought in with invaluable merit, lost men, who did forfeit himselfe and his patrimony.
quo fibi quotianium
cerronem hanc vitam cxlefti posthaben
damme effe oporter,quia
Christ calls for this duty from his dear Disciples, teaching them the price and use of the creatures, and in directing them instructeth us also, in the thriving trade of considerate collection, for as we are bound by this precept and practice, to gather up necessaries for our bodily subsistence, so are we to labour in improving time and means, for soule refreshing food, which abides to eternity, the argument is drawn from the lesse unto the greater, and is pressed home in this ensuing precept,John.6.27
Vivendi pia causa
vft,ut in mundo pe
in exleftem patiam Calvin Job. Labour not (sayth Christ) for the meat that perisheth, but for that which endureth to eternall life, which the Son of man shall give unto you, for him hath God the Father sealed.
He doth not prohibit us to looke or labour, for the necessary nourishment of our frail and brittle bodies, but here and also in divers places, expresseth his care for their competent provision, these earthly Tabernacles being the present residence of the precious soule in her transitory pilgrimage, and therefore must be soberly and reverently respected, yea supported and refreshed with fit accommodations, Now if the body in which the soule resides (as in a ruinous mansion) must continually be repaired, that it may be fit for those severall imployments which God and nature hath designed it [Page 3] unto, no doubt the Divine and Immortall Spirit, immediately infused by himselfe into it, hath most precious cates provided by his care to sustain it in life, even to all eternity.
Our weak meditations reflecting on this subject,find various excellencies comprized in collection, which for our more methodicall and orderly proceeding, wee reduce into two propounded generals.
First, we handle temporals because this Scripture calleth us to gather up the fragments that remayne, and by this frugall precept of universall use, directs us in collecting and reserving the creatures. Secondly, by vertue of the former argument, drawn as I said from the lesse to the greater, sith we must not neglect the care of our bodies, then much more must our souls have their due and fit provision.
The food of our bodies is one of those requisites,which nature cals for to support her being, under which is comprized when we crave our daily bread, all conducible necessaries for our comfortable subsistence, and for this wee must labour in our lawfull callings, working with our hands the thing that is good, and humbly submitting to Christs sacred precept, in gathering up remaynders oft lost by remisnesse.
Wee see his Disciples were designed to the work, which was presently performed by their painfull industry, who did not procrastinate nor delay the duty, imposed upon them by their Lord and master, his oecumenicall authority was no whit gainsayd, nor quarrell they at all with his sacred precept, or affront they it by arrogance as any way incompatible, with the eminence and dignity of their high and holy calling.
Their practice presents us with profitable instructions, of humility, industry, and universall obedience,that stooping to the ground for our necessary nourishment, wee might duly consider our dusty pedigree,earth being the materiall of our mortall bodyes, which Death the period of perishing nature, resolves again to those originall principles from whence they came to which they must return.
Their industrious fr [...] gality, both collecting and reserving, those present remainders for future necessity, teacheth us with the Pismire to take the opportunity, of gathering and keeping things usefull and profitable: for though rectified nature be indeed content with little, renewing grace restraining all excesse, yet are we admonished by their sacred example, not greedily but gratefully to respect the creatures, avoyding those exorbitances which Epicures and Worldlings run headlong into for want of heavenly wisdome, who making a monopoly of pleasure or profit, are trapt up in the snares of profusenesse or penury.
Our Lord and Master hath designed us a work, conducing to our present and future emolument,which precept if wee practice with all painfull diligence, the benefit will countervail our industrious sedulity, but if we be deficient or remisse in duty, neglecting or contemning what time or means affords, our poverty will come like the posting traveller, and our necessity rush in like an armed man, Let us then by labour improve opportunities, tendred unto us by a hand of providence,prizing and valuing the meanest of the creatures as much transcending what wee can merit, that every surplus of our plentifull saciety, may be an ingagement to dutifull obedience, and our daily enjoyment of these present favours, a firme obligation to divine bounty.
Our youth and health is compared to a harvest, wherein men gather in their Winter provision, which season being diligently and industriously improved; possesseth our garners with desired plenty, yea the poore and needy have a portion of it, even that which fals from the hand of the reaper, which they ought laboriously to glean and gather up, to relieve their present and future necessity, and therefore the wisest of men hath this maxime, as a motive inducing us to take opportunity, he that gathereth in Summer is a son of Wisdom, but he that sleepeth in Harvest is a son that causeth shame, The hand of the diligent (sayth he) shall beare rule, but the slothfull or negligent shall be under tribute, the one being dignified with designed honour, the other dejected in servile [Page 5] vassallage,which should cause us to coll [...]ct by painfull industry, those scattered fragments which others count contemptible, and not by negligence to lose the least, which might any way conduce to supply our necessity.
And here all vagrants and idle persons, are check't and censured by this frugall precept, because they gather not by present diligence, what might prevent much ensuing penury, but sottishly slumbring in the summer of their youth, are suddenly surprized by inevitable indigence, and overtaken unawares by declining age,for which they have made no seasonable provision, for alas we see many miserable creatures, instead of gathering by painfull industry, by sloathfull neglect contracting on themselves, the unnecessary burthen of wilfull poverty, whilst indulging their bodies with ease and idlenesse, the epidemicall disease of these sinfull times, they bereave themselves of that sit refreshment, they ought to acquire by their honest labour, and surely where youth and health shall permit a painfull progresse in our lawfull callings, if it be neglected by extravagant courses, it contracts a curse both on soule and body. There is in this life no exemption from labour, for any estate or condition of men, the great and the small, the rich and the poore have a worke to doe while their day doth last, for as Eliphassayth, man is borne to labour, as the sparkes to fly upward from the nature of their element, let us therefore not wave nor decline by commission, our duty in gathering what lies in our way, but what work soever our hand findes to doe, let us labour to doe it even with all our might, because in the grave unto which we are going, there is neither counsell, wisdome nor worke.
The event or successe of the labours of men is very various as experience sheweth, some rising early and going to bed late, eat rather the bread of carefulnesse then industry, some run like Asahell swift as a Roe, and yet attain not the end of their race, because they propound to themselvs in their aimes, the pleasures and profits of the presenc time, and some spend their strength both of brain and body, in gathering things impertinent and meerly superfluous, troubling themselves to conforme their garbe, to the Camelion change of all fantastick fashions.
These follow not the precept of our blessed Saviour, in gathering for present or future necessity, because such industry supplies not our want, but rather increaseth it, by profuse expence of wealth, for that which we should gather to maintain the Gospel, to support the Common-weale, or supply the poors necessity, is miserably scattered in such paths of prodigality, of which wee may say what needed this waste?
We have but our day assigned unto us, which for brevity of life is like a hand breadth, and yet these few dayes are even full of trouble, and many counterblasts to scatter our comforts, yet they are not embittered by lawfull industry, which puts us on the actions of laudable imployment, but rather by negligence which doubles our distresse, and draws on misery by insensible degrees, for the sluggard lusteth and findeth nothing, but the soule of the diligent shall be made fat, he becommeth poore that slacketh his hand, but the hand of the diligent maketh rich, These Elegies which set forth the praise of industry, are used in Scripture as goods to excite us, to awake from the slumber of supine remisnesse, and to gather up supplies for our own and others wants.
This precept of our Saviour should be alway prevalent to perswade us industriously to gather food by Note: Habemus colligen
partes noftras non o
mittamuslabour,sith severall expressions of divine favour, have been shewed to men in the way of their callings, for when Jacob was busied in that painfull service of deceitfull Laban his unkind Uncle, the Lord tooke a view of his labour and affliction, Non quod nos Deo
placemeus propter no
fine fide Deum pl
cere non poffumus.and gave him comfort by a speciall providence, transferring upon him such outward blessings, as made others to envie his augmented riches, and calling him away did also provide for his peace and safety in the midst of dangers.
When humble Moses whose Princely education, adorn'd him highly with all humane learning, became an exile in favour of Gods people, with whom he chose to partake of affliction, He feeds the sheepe of Jethro and leads them, to the backside of the desart even unto mount Horeb, where the Lord was pleased to reveale himselfe, by miraculous means [Page 7] to confirme his message, and to take him from that poore and obscure imployment,to become the Prince and judge of his people, which dearly proves his pious labours, were crowned with the comfort of divine approbation.
David was imployed in the trade of a sheepherd,when Samuel was sent to anoint him King of Israel, and Elisha was plowing with twelve yoke of Oxen, when the Prophets Mantle was cast upon him, So Amos was among the herdsmen ofTekoa when the voice of the Lord first came unto him, and the Apostles were busied in mending their nets, when called by Christ to be fishers of men.
Which examples prove not that men may aspire,above their present particular station, but that none are excluded by their painfull industry from the dignity assigned them by divine providence, for though Ester lived retired in the house of her kinsman, and went not to the Court to seeke for preferment, yet the state of royalty designed her by God, was conferred by his bounty in the appoynted time.
Labour we then to collect by industry what we formerly scattered by negligent omission, sith we have not onely the precept of our Saviour, but the practice of his Saints inciting us to duty, which should put us upon a strict inquisition, concerning our former deficiencie herein, that so being humbled for our manifold failings, our renewed repentance may produce a reformation.
Indeed our endeavours should be carryed on, in a conscientious regard of Gods sacred precept, producing a principle of internall dejection, from the onely originall of all our labour, it being imposed on our father Adam, as a penalty inflicted for his pride and disobedience, that in the sweat of his face he should eat his bread, till his returne to the earth from whence he was taken, and therefore Solomon in his sacred retractations, having given his heart to search and finde out wisdome, draws this conclusion from his various obs [...]rvation, of our miserable progresse in this painfull pilgrimage, This sore travell (sayth he)hath God given to the sonnes of men to humble them thereby, or as is rendred by reverend Janius, to be exercised in, as our later translation hath it,
[Page 8] Let us then I say from this internall principle, stoope down to gather up refreshing food by labour, and when outward successe shall not answer our industry, let us thereby exercise our faith and patience, which will be a signe that our humble hearts, have h [...]gher aimes then wealth or worldly honours, expecting approbation and satisfaction from him, who can only fill the soule with rest and true refreshment.
This command to gather up the fragments which remaine, presupposeth a scattering in our plentifull sacietie, for then are we prone to contemne the creatures, which otherwhiles we prize to supply our necessitie, which hath been the cause that many of us, have so riotously abused these temporall blessings, because we know not in our own experience, wha [...]wofull effects are produced by such want, for did we consider these outward mercies, as pledges and tokens of divine favours, it would cause us carefully to collect and improve them, to glorifie the Donor and purchaser of them, it being surely a crying sin, irreverently or intemperately to abuse such blessings, and a high provocation of exasperated justice, to plague us with indigence to our utter destruction.
Davidwould not drink of that desired water, presented unto him by his valiant worthies, but poured it out as a sacrifice to the Lord, esteeming it their bloud who purchased it with perill, and shall we neglect or abuse the creatures, to vanity, intemperance, excesse or riot, whose forfeited right is again bought in unto us, by a precious price, more worth then heaven and earth.
Have we then so reverently esteemed the creatures, as when being presented to our view or taste, we have lifted up our hearts and our eyes unto heaven, to magnifie his mercie that gives us food convenient, or have we not rather out of custome then conscience, performed the duty remisly and coldly, or ingratefully omitted it to Gods dishonour, and to the danger and detriment of our selves and others.
Have we been so truly contented and satisfied, with what our estate and condition affordeth, that with holy Jacob we humbly acknowledge we are lesse then the least of all Gods [Page 9] mercies, or have we not rather repined & murmured, weeping with theIsraelites at the doores of their tents, who not content with the bread of Angels, had their palats pleased with Quails to their cost, so too many of us inordinatly desiring, with voluptuous Dives to fare deliciously, have passed the limits of Christian sobriery, and contracted that want which attendeth wastfulnesse.
Have we taken pains to collect and gather up, the scattered fragments of our former superfluities, improving our food, Quamdiu quis per
mitus eft turbis,&
in multitudine flectu
antiumvolitatur,non vacat Deo,nec poteft
effe fanctus.our apparell and all things, Qui Deo appro
pinquas non veftium quxre ornamenta fed morum.for the fitting and furthering us to do God service? or have we not rather to our shame and rebuke, taken too much liberty in these times of humiliation, wherein being called to fasting and mourning, old hearts and new garments have proclaymed our folly? for if wee consider how cold and perfunctory, our performances have been, even when judgments lay at our doore, we may justly admire they are not cast back, as dung in our faces to our deserved confusion.
Consider we then in our serious meditation, what collections we have made in sincere obedience, and from what principles wee have proceeded, in the daily progresse of our painfull labours, that eying the footsteps of our blessed Saviour, who went about doing good continually, we make it a part of our joy and solace, to finish the work which he set us to doe, and regardfully to veiw what profitable imployments, best sute with our generall particular callings, that nothing be omitted by pride or negligence, conducing to the benefit of our selves or others, shall our ill-fixt-eyes be gazing on the world, when our hands should be working in the vinyard of our Master, or shall with the evill and slothfull servant, suppose he defers or delaies his comming? no rather let us gather up what mercy afford us, and put into our hand by a precious providence, that we may with comfort heare his sacred approbation, well done good and faithfull servant.
The second generall propounded unto us is the gathering up of treasures for our spirituall state, consisting in precepts to direct our way, that we may not stumble in difficult [Page 10] passages,secondly, in promises of severall kinds which serve for soule physick in every disaster, thirdly, in observations concerning the godly subject in this life to many revolutions, yet alwayes delivered from danger and distresse, as seemes fit in his wisedome, who knowes what is best.
A Christian is compared to that prudent housholder, who brings out of his treasure things new and old, and having gathered by painfull industry, a masse of divine and morall excellencies, he is carefull also to collect opportunities, in dispensing and disposing them for his Masters honour, using all blessings conferred upon him not to serve himself in ambitious ostentation, but counts it the sum of his terrene felicitie, to do good unto all in their various occasions, his care is not so much to gather things temperall, which sad and perish both in keeping and using, as to trade for the treasures of the new Jerusalem, even those durable riches which abide to eternity, and therefore he collects divine precepts, to direct his way as the shining light, that when others stumble who walk in darknesse, he may not precipitate into sin and errour, this lampe and lanterne is able to direct us,when our paths unpaved are most dark and slipperie, for which cause holyDavidstill gathered them up, as peculiar treasures for divine direction, yea all the Saints have esteemed it their honour, to stoope to Christs Scepter in his sacred preceptes, his divine Decalogue even limming to the life, the absolute perfection of a plenall purity.
The choicest expression of our dearest affection, is our cordiall obedience to Gods righteous precepts, as our Saviour witnesseth, saying to his servants, if ye love me then keep my Commandements, this is the touchstone which tries the gold transcending in its purity all others mettalls, the balance of the sanctuary, to prove its worth and weight, from those part all performances which are lighter then vanitie, for though, hypocrite like Herod may do many things, seemingly gathering up some sacred precepts, yet universall obedience bewraies his guile of spirit, for here he stands still and can go no further.
The practick part of Religion and holinesse, is the acting [Page 11] of precepts in a pure conversation,not contenting our selves with a naked Theory, but clothing it comely with pious practice, that our doing and suffering in the cause of God, may outstrip all hypocrites and carnall professours, who please themselves in gathering the husk, or superficiall shell of seeming sanctity.
Preceptes for action are those divine dictates, that call for the duties of Piety and Charitie, being properly reduced into these two heads to which any of their branches may fitly be referred, precepts for suffering consider the cause, and cariage of the patient under the Crosse, that he suffer innocently respecting the one, that he suffer patiently in regard of the other.
For pious action they are faithfull Monitors, calling us continually to particular duties, as to love the Lord with all our heart, with all our soule, and with all our might, to feare him, serve him, and swear by his name, and that in truth, in judgement, and righteousnesse, to trust in the Lord, and that for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength: to invocate his name, with faith and confidence, because he is a God that heareth prayer, to worship him purely with a holy worship, not defiled with the dictates of other mens inventions, that we keepe his Sabbaths, and reverence his Sanctuary,which are sacred pledges of his precious favour.
When holy David had sweetly set forth, the sacred progresse of his zeale and piety, of which the 119 Psalme is a Christall mirrour wherein it may be seen, he comes to epitomize those divine excellencies, so copiously set forth in severall expressions, into this abridgement or concluding corrollary, This I had because I kept thy precepts.
The indefiatigable industrie he used in gathering up such abounding store of these transcending treasures, appeares in his vigilancewho would rise at midnight,to prayse the Lord for his righteous judgments, His eyes preventing even the night watches, to meditate in the Word his delightfull employment, The law of Gods mouth being dearer unto him, then many thousands of gold and silver, neyther lost he ought by th [...]t [Page 12] painfull industry, when in casting his account hee concludes with comfort, saying, by thy precepts have I got understanding, therefore I hate all the ways of falshood.
So holy Jobprofesseth his integrity, in prizing Gods word above his necessary food, as a conspicuous evidence of his sincere affection, and inevitable argument of his sound uprightnesse, which may justly convince them of damnable impiety,who slight and contemne Gods sacred precepts, looking upon them as Laws repealed, which are now of no force to obliege the conscience: but the righteous take these precepts, as their heritage for ever, because they account them the joy of their heart, knowing that Gods Word is setled in Heaven, its power and permanence enduring to eternity.
The benefit ensuing from such sedulity in collecting precepts for divine direction, appears in the pure conversation of the godly, who use them as lamps in darknesse and difficulty, thus pious Jehoshaphat being almost environed with a multitude of enemies though of severall Nations, threatning a direfull and destructive war, from which he could possibly make no evasion, yet goes not with Saul to the Witch at Endor, neyther to Baalzebub the god of Ekron, but being well principled in sacred precepts, herepayres to the Lord by fasting and prayer, and that with abnegation of all carnall confidence, or humane help in his present necessity, not knowing whither to turn for succour, he fixeth his eyes upon God alone.
When the righteous walk in darknesse and can see no light, the precept directs them and shews them a way, evento trust in the Lord, and stay on their God, who is a present help in the time of trouble, when these are afflicted with Haman, they will pray, and fast with Ester, when the Church is in calamity,the precepts of the Lord and practice of his Saints, being held forth in Scripture as a guide unto us, for Gods precepts should be those intimate Remembrancers, with whom we should consult in all our exigencies, using their assistance and familiar direction, which are able to furnish us with all heavenly wisdom.
If severall tentations on the right hand or the left,shall carry us captive into any sinfull way, the precepts of repentance and sorrowfull contrition, must pave a path for our ensuing comfort, for as the deviation from divine direction,is the miserable cause of our many aberrations, so the pious progresse of sincere humiliation puts us in capacity of consolatory refreshment: I know s [...]ch tenets are now traduced, as if they were Popish or did plead for merit, or should imply that our personall performances, are some way satisfactory to divine j [...]stice, which we abhor as most derogatory, to the meritorious sacrifice of our al-sufficient Saviour, who having finished the wo [...] k of our redemption, presents us to his Father in his own imputed righteousnesse, and yet he cals us by his Word and Spirit, to work out our salvation with feare and trembling, yea, seasonably to remember from whence we are faln, commanding to repent and do our first works.
If errours in doctrine come masked unto us, in the specious pretext of sacred verity, we must speedily bring them to the light of Gods precepts, which will cleerly discover their palpable vanity, and therefore we wonder not that the subtill Papists, present us the Script [...]re in an unknown tongue, nor that Sectaries prohibit us the publike Ministery, because it draws out the sword of the Spirit, for although this many headed Hydra, seem very formidable to the faint and fearful, yet these sacred precepts will so maule and wound her, that she shall not be able to do us prejudice, but wee may not think that such knowledge collected, and onely reserved for vain ostentation, will prove a fit antidote to preserve us from infection, or secure our souls from the snares of errour, wee must therefore with David hide the word in our hearts, as a means to keep us from such contagion, that we be not led away with the evill of the times, nor fall from our stedfastnesse into pits of perdition.
And as precepts for piety are comfortably collected, as lights to lead us through difficult passages, so precepts of charity are also fit monitors, concu [...]ring together to call us to duty, for these call upon us to extend compassion, to the [Page 14] poore the stranger,the fatherlesse and widdow, with whose sorrowfull condition we should daily sympathize, condoling their distresses with continuall pittie.
We cannot enumerate the various calamities, which are daily incident to our frail condition, as sicknesse, poverty, imprisonment, banishment, desertions, dejections, and mentall terrours, here precepts of charity have their proper objects to reflect upon, in their fit opportunities, of feeding the hungry, cloathing the naked, visiting the sick, and harbouring the stranger, and never had we more cause to excite, our dull depraved hearts unto duty, then now when our poore afflicted brethren, have endured such miseries by a savage civill Warre, how should we even collect all occasions, to appear in the posture of pitty and charity by gathering up the fragments of our own superfluities, to relieve the necessities of our suffering neighbours.
But ah the stupidity which sin hath contracted, upon all estates and conditions of men, who gather not up such precepts of charity, nor collect such motives of commiseration, but being themselves even at ease inZion, they forget the calamities of afflicted Joseph, having no bowels of mercie to alleviate their burthens, nor to succour and support them in such deepe dejections, yet the same distresses which others have endured in these sorrowfull times of our sad visitation, may prove our portion who have hitherto been spared, if we proceed to provoke an incensed Majesty, for England hath paralleld the sins of Sodome, in pride, fulnesse of bread and abundance of idlenesse, and now if shee strengthen not the hands of the needy, shee aggravates her guilt and hastens her judgement.
Hath it then been our care to collect such precepts, as the Word holds out for our ample direction, pouring forth our soules to satisfie the hungry, and drawing out our store to relieve the afflicted? have we contributed to them? not only with our purses, but also with the current of our prayers and tears, putting up frequently our passionate petitious, and sorrowfull supplications at the Throne of Grace, if we finde our selves thus fervently affected, with the sorrowfull [Page 15] sufferings of the Church of God, it may prove us such members as are truly sensible, in partaking in the dolours of the mysticall body.
But a higher gradation in our charitable progresse,is our care to collect soule comforts for them, which as they transcend in unvaluable excellencie, so are they permanent in endlesse duration, and therefore we must gather with double diligence, what lyeth in our way by opportune occasion, reserving distributions for particular exigencies, as providence shall call us to make dispensation.
Have we then been industrious in gathering up knowledge, that we might be able to instruct the ignorant, or have we collected such zeale and courage, that we may be fit to admonish the unruly? have we laboured for strength to support the weake, and for moderation to be patient towards all men? or have we not rather been deeply deficient, or totally omissive in these charitable duties?
Have we studied to binde up the broken hearted, by gathering up balme to consolidate such fractures, and then applyed it to to the wounded spirit, with the compassionate hand of a wise and charitable discretion? or have we not rather like unskilfull Chyrurgions, used Corrosives, when Lenatives had been more seasonable, or cauteriz'd to stupifie the sence of suffering, when we should have searcht into the root of the matter?
Have we laboured sincerely to reduce erring soules, preposterously transported by seducing spirits, by gathering up truths to tender unto them, as shining lights to shew them their mistakes, or have we not rather by bitter morosity, widened the breach and highthened our divisions, by paving a path for those schismaticall scandals, and sad separations which we justly grieve at.
Having thus collected for divine direction, these practicall precepts of piety and charity, it resteth that we gather up some suffering instructions, to point at the way of our passive obedience.
Our blessed Saviour prescribes the platforme, positively saying unto his Disciples, If any man will follow me, he must resolve to deny himselfe,yea not only so, but must take up his crosse, by a daily constant cont [...]nued endeavour, for there is no immunity in respect of persons, nor any exemption in regard of time, but as Christ first suffered, then entred into glory, so must all his members have their measure of conformity.
Himself was that pure and immaculate Lamb, in whose blessed mouth was never found guile, who did no iniquity, but fulfilled all righteousnesse, required by the Law in most absolute perfection, yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him by affliction, and to put him to griefe by most passionate dolours, that he might be a Patron and pattern unto us, of humble patient and innocent suffering.
This was the condition of the Prophets, Apostles and holy Martyrs under all persecutions, who being innocent of those horrid imputations, which were fastened upon them by calumnious aspersions, yet suffered with patience what their cruell adversaries, in the evill of those times inflicted upon them, a catalogue whereof is presented unto us, by the Holy Ghost in Heb. 11, shewing the various and heavie afflictions, Gods people have endured from persecuting enemies, Heb. 11.37 38.
They were tryed by cruell mockings and scourgings, by bonds and imprisonments in the lowest dungeons, both tempted with the flatteries of seducing Sycophants, and assaulted with the fears of their humane frailties; yet submitted to be stoned as was faithfull Zechariah, to be sawn asunder as was holy Isayah, to be slain with the sword as was James the Apostle, or beheaded as Saint Paul by flagitious Nero, to wander about in sheeps skins and goats skins, being destitute, aff [...]icted, and tormented with terrours, yea compelled to take up their wofull habitations, in deserts, dens, mountains, and caves of the earth: and as we may read in Ecclesiasticall Histories, were tryed with all various and exquisite tortures, yet never declined their pious profession, nor turned their backs on Christs sacred precepts, but [Page 17] by constant perseverance, overcame all cruelties, being more then conquerours both in life and death: but having occasion in the subsequent discourse, to treat by observation of their severall afflictions; I only drinke here of the brooke in the way, referring the prosecution to its proper place.
Labour we then to gather up the precepts, of a holy harmlesse and pure conversation, that we may by well doing adorne our profession, and put to silence the ignorant and foolish, for we ought not to suffer as evill doers, or as pragmaticall busibodies, in other mens matters, but rather as Christians that we need not be ashamed, but may glorifie God in our cause and carriage: This wil convince the wicked of their folly, and give us encouragement to wayt on the Lord, committing our souls unto him in our sufferings, as a faithfull Creator who will vindicate our innocency.
In collecting treasures for spirituall emolument, which was the second propounded generall, we first considered precepts both active and passive, as lights to direct us in universall obedience, and now are to treat of the second branch, calling us to gather up the precious promises, which have various vertues in their severall effects, both in purging, pardoning, healing, and reviving, some serve like Physick to evacuate corruption, and other as cordials in the qualmes of desertion, some serve as props ro support [...]briefe they comprize a sacred quintessence, of all transcending and desirable excellt our faith, or as brazen pillars to sustain our confidence,encies, which should cause us industriously to gather them up, and to keepe and use them both in weale and woe.
The promises of God are a rich revenue whereupon wee should live in our lowest condition, it being a prerogative peculiar to the Saints, to spend of this stock in their particular pressures,and therefore holy David who was well acquainted, with motives inducing to divine mercie, entreateth the Lord to remember his promise, wherein he caused him to put his trust, professing it was his comfort in trouble, even a quickning word to cheere and revive him, yea the joy [Page 18] of his soule,and the soule of his joy, as he there declareth in patheticall expressions.
Great cause have the faithfull to rejoyce in the promises, as the Magna Charta of all their priviledges, because in Christ Jesus they are Yea and Amen, to all that truly have an interest in him, these trusting in the Lord have his Word to assure them, that they shall be as mount Sion which cannot be removed, The very gates of hell shall never prevail against the Church that is built on this Rock, which implies not only a generall promise, of such sacred immunities to the mysticall body, but is also applyed by particular members, infeoffed by the Spirit in this sacred Charter.
Let us then gather up these most precious promises, as our certain support in the saddest trials, and let us not hang on that broken reed, the arme of flesh which will surely deceive us, for what ever our state or condition be, we may finde sutable and seasonable promises to sustain our souls and supply our wants, with consolatory refreshments in every calamity.
When the spirit is broken with sorrow for sin, by an humble apprehension of our miserable condition, no earthly excellencies can give it true comfort, for it thirsts for those waters that flow from the Sanctuary, then only Christ in the voyce of the Gospel, speaks life and peace and consolation to it, making it a cordiall of his mercifull promises, which revives and cheers it in the deepest distresses.
Gather we up then in the sunshine of propsperity, what may serve for soul shelter in stormes of desertion, that when creature comforts shall fail us as a brooke, we may in this fountain finde full consolation, which will sweeten the cup of our bitterest calamities, by dropping in a word of joy and refreshment, even making ourBacaa heaven upon earth, and changing the taste of those waters of Marah.
When corruption prevails like a mighty Gyant leading us captive to the law of sin, so that with the Apostle we cry out of our misery desiring to be delivered from this body of death,we have the Lord engaged by promise, not only to pardon but subdue our iniquities, yea, to cast our sins into the [Page 19] depths of the sea,for he retaineth not his anger but delighteth in mercie.
If Satan assault us with his fiery darts, dipt in the poyson of his cruell malice, to drive us to despair of divine succour, saying there is no help for us in our God, we have the promise as a precious antidote against the venome of all such tentations, the Lord averring for our certain solace, I will not fail thee nor forsake thee, this promise was made unto valiant Joshuah, who led Gods people to their earthly Canaan,when he was to encounter with Gyantlike enemies, that hee might not doubt but be sure of victory, now the Apostle gathers up this word of comfort,as of speciall use in all our necessities, inferring from it that to answer all tentations, we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, this only is he even the God of peace, who shall shortly tread Satan down under our feet, and cause us in confidence of his truth and faithfulnesse, even to trample on the necks of our spirituall enemies.
If creature comforts shall deny their assistance, or prove deficient in our necessary supply, let us cast all our care, and fixe all our confidence, on him that is the maker and feeder of creatures, saying with Habbakuk, Though the figtree shall not blossome,Hab.3.17.18.
Sed quia nos care
femper ad fua com
tandum eft eorum fponte curam Cl ri
fto fufeepi,quif apos
negligunt. and though there should be no fruit on the vines, though the Olive should fail, and the fields yeeld no meat, and that there should be no herd in the stalls, though the flocks be cut off from the fold by famine, and nothing should remain for our bodily subsistance, yet faith will finde out a satisfying object, rejoycing in the Lord, even the God of our salvation, who is able and willing to support and sustainus, with means or without, as seems best to his wisdome, Matth 4 4.sith man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of his mouth.
But some will say if divine contemplation, Obett.
Dicet aliquis non
effe futd perpetuum
quod faepe videamus
pios dum prorfus re
gno Dei funt addicti,
fame tamen confici,&propemodum ta
Christnum etiamsi hoe modo fidem noft am
probare velit ,refpi
cere tamen e caelo
de en fublevanda
quantam nobis expe
dit effe follicitu,Cal.could fill the hungry when food is wanting, or spirituall graces those living waters, quench the most violent thirst of the body, then maximes of this nature might be sutable supports to keepe the creature from a perishing condition, and the gathering up of promises might haply help us in those heavy exigents [Page 20] not evaded by nature, but we see the devouring vulture famine, seaseth promiscuously on the godly and the wicked, making a prey of them both without difference, by bringing them confusedly to the King of terrours.
We doe not aver that by gathering up the promises, as our certain support in severall calamities, we should plead an immunity from any tryall, incident to man in his transitory pilgrimage, for our life is a warfare wherein severall assailants, cast piercing arrows of heartwounding pressures, the faithfull being the marke, which their malice most ayms at, whose innocence renders them obnoxious to such cruelty.
Yet men that are sharers of like afflictions, may be distinguished by their differing postures, which are as dissonant in the same distresses, as the suffering subjects are in opposite quality, the one still praying and praising God, likePaul and Silas in the the lothsome prison, the other murmuring and belching out blasphemies, behaving themselves like wilde Buls in a net, by which we may see the vitility of collecting, both precepts and promises for our various exigencies, the very crums and fragments of spirituall refection, being abundantly usefull in our bodily necessities.
The innumerable troubles of our care consuming life, both in mentall anxieties and obvious calamities, should put us upon an exact sedulity, in collecting and reserving the precious promises, for these are Panchrestick or universall medicines, which serve for soul Physick in every disaster, they are hidden Manna to sustain the godly, who have meat to eat which the world cannot know of, these promises invest us by divine application, with a robe of righteousnesse which covers our deficiencie, and convey unto us a plenall consolation, in the promised possession of our heavenly inheritance, these are our evidence giving cleere demonstration, what God hath decreed in his eternall purpose, yea teaching us to read all the glorious characters written in the records of his revealed counsell.
Having shewed the profit of collecting precepts, and also promises for our spirituall comfort, it rests that we gather up some holy observations, of the state of the godly in their [Page 21] various revolutions, being somtimes oppressed by cruell enemies, prevailing over them by power and policie, somtimes sorely lasht with the scourg of wicked tongues, piercing like swords into parts most sensible, somtime transported by gusts of tentation, and suddain counterblasts of erring passion in prosperous events in perill of security, and in adverse occurrents of deepe impatience.
Such observations are especially usefull when we apply & appropriate them to particular occasions, and by calling to remembrance Gods wonderfull works, finde props to sustain us in our severall dejections, for as the meanest morsels of refreshing food, are grateful & acceptable to the hungry captive,Qui enim impro-vidus ab adverfitate
deprehenditur, quafi ab hofte dormiens in
venitur. so the crums and fragments of such sacred observations, may prove reviving cordials in heart qualming trials, tis true, our scattered notions, while they lie dispersed, are like severed coals which be presently extinct, but being laid together, & blown up to be kindled, we enjoy the benefit of their heat and light.
When the sacred Psalmist had sweetly warbled forth the glorious promises of Gods gracious providence extended in the many particular extremities of exile sicknesse, captivity, and shipwrack, he collects this conclusion from what he had gathered, in his true experience of those profitable passages, who so is wise will observe these things and they shall understand the loving kindnesse of the Lord.
In gathering observations we may wisely obtain the knowledge of Gods faithfulness extended to his own, whom he supporteth and sustaineth in all afflictions, relieving and rescuing them in the needfull time of trouble, they may indeed with Daniel be cast into the den, but God will shut up the mouthes of the lions, they may with those worthies be thrown into the furnace, and yet the fire have no power on their bodies, they may with Jeremiah be plunged in the dungeon, andstick fast in the mire an uncomfortable posture, tillEthiopian Ebed-melech compassionatly codoling, prevails by petition to procure his enlargment, wherein we may view what various occurrents, God makes subservient to his sacred counsell, the Prophet shall preach and proclaim the judgements, inevitably ensuing to those rebellious Apostates the Princes and [Page 22] people shall combine together, in a cruell designe to put him to death, and the King shall abuse his Regall power by complying with them in their bloudy stratagem whose mercilesse intentions were not by fire or sword, to put a period to his painfull sufferings, but by a ling [...]ing torment of famine, cold, and stench, to macerate and torture his distressed body, yet in the depth of this dungeon would the Lord be seen, as once in the mount unto faithfull Abraham, using a Blackmore as his gracious instrument, to deliver his servant from this deadly danger.Acts 12.7.
When imprisoned Peter was sleeping securely, notwithstanding the rage of his cruel persecutours, being ready like a lamb to be brought to the slaughter, by the impetuous virulence of insulting Herod, that juncture of time (at the prayers of the Church) God wrought his deliverance by the ministry of an Angel, and by an Angel also destroyed that cursed Tyrant, even then when he was Deified by flattering Parasites, Act. 12.23.
When those cruell conspiratours who bound themselves by oath, not to eat nor drinke till they had slain St.Paul, had carryed on their plot with such close contrivance, and Satanicall subtilty, as they supposed him their own, the Lord was pleased to infatuate their counsell, as erst hee did the Dictates of crafty Achitophel, detracting and defeating their cruell project, by the preventing policie of the prudent Captain, Act. 23.27.
Thus we see it the portion of Gods dearest servants, to be brought by the wicked into dangers and distresses, being abused, contemned, and rejected by the World, who want eyes to behold their internall excellencie, and therefore the Apostle propounds it as his judgement, that the Saints are set forth in these later times, as appoynted unto death, yea to be made a spectacle, to Angels and to men in their sorrowfull sufferings, enumerating many severall calamities, incident to Christians professing the Gospel, as afflictions, necessities, distresses, imprisonments, stripes, tumults, labours, watchings and fastings, which shews our condition even [Page 23] limb'd to the life, in the due observation of these various trials, sharpned with labour in hunger and thirst, being contemned as the filth and offscouring of all things.
Which justly reproves those self-loving Christians, which cannot bear a reproch for their Master, but will rather comply with the wicked in their evill, then reprove by their purity the unfruitfull works of darknesse, the cause of this is our being unacquainted, with casting up the cost of sincere profession, and by propounding to our selves such plausible conclusions, as are not compatible with these observations.
Indeed, next unto the soul whose invaluable worth, appears by the price which was payd to redeem it, we value fame, as an incomparable treasure, and precious jewell in our deare esteem, and therefore are very tender and sensible, of any wound or blemish therein, being deeply impatient when any obloquy, reflects injuriously upon our reputation, yet by observation we may see the godly, most subject to this tryall in this valley of Baca, for those shall suffer calumnious aspersions, to render them odious which shine cleer by integrity.
There is never wanting some ambitious Haman, to traduce the Church even to Kings and Princes, representing them as he did the Jews to Ahashuerosh, under the bitter notion of refractory Rebels, and lading with burthens of guilty imputations, their precious candor by such cunning policy, that even Royall authority abused by misprision, may prove the stalking horse of unhallowed designes.
When noble Nehemiah had improved his interest, in the Princely favour of great Artaxerxes, in building the wall and repairing the breaches, of ruined Jerusalem, the Saints desired residence, as his pious, heroick, and honourable atchievements, have their due commemoration in Divine History story, we read what slanders, derisions and contumelies, were fastened upon him by Sanballat and Tobiah who withGeshem the Arabian their craftie confederate, assailed to defeat him both by force and fraud, for which they are marked as malignant enemies, with the blackest brand of perpetuall infamie.
The most eminent in wisdome, courage and zeale, have been deeply depraved by the tongues of the wicked, witnesse our holy and innocent Saviour, causlesly affronted with impudent calumnies, being called a glutton, a bibber of wine, a friend and patron of Publicans and sinners, a perverter of the people, and an enemy to Caesar, a seditious malefactor, and ambitious innovator, yea such a heighth of impudence had his adversaries contracted, by the cruell custome of uncontrold impiety, as they justifie their wickednesse, saying, say we not well, that thou art a Samaritan and hast a Devill.
So the Prophets, Apostles, and Primitive Martyrs, had hatefull crimes still layd to their charge, as in the series of sacred and Ecclesiasticall histories, may be duly observed by the intelligent reader, which we ought the more carefully to collect for our instruction, in that they parallel those present calamities, which are fastned by the wicked on most eminent persons, to obscure their vertues and render them contemptible.
Those orthodox Fathers whose zeale and courage, opposed the current of the Arrian heresie, were grievously afflicted with cruell contumelies and raging persecutions from the heterodox party, for holy Athanasius whose heroick spirit soared most high in his sacred confession, became thereby such an object of their malice, as they thirsted for his bloud and plotted his destruction, yet when he fully had served his generation, and finished his course, to the honour of his Saviour, he dyed in peace, and hath left for our comfort, a fragment memoriall of his zeale and piety.
Such was the condition of couragiousChrysostome, that admired elegant goldenm-outhed Oratour, who set himselfe to oppose the impiety, of those times abounding with most horrid wickednesse, openly reproving those brazenfaced vices, which were boldly committed in contempt of the Gospel, which contracted upon him (notwithstanding his integrity) the implacable hatred of the Empresse Eudoxia, her insulting tyranny exposed him to exile, in which he suffered most sorrowfull pressures, besides which cruelties they laid to his charge such horrid crimes as he never knew of. Yet the [Page 25] Lord was pleased to vindicate his innocency, and to cause it to shine in his darkest affliction, by making his name like a precious unguent, most sweet and odoriferous in the account of the godly. Those famous instruments, which the Lord vouchsafed to use, when truth was detained in the prison of popery, even Wickliffe, Luther, Calvin, andMusculus, with many other of reverend memory, when these stood up as Christs faithfull witnesses, zealously contending for the precious faith, to set forth its luster as a new lighted lampe, which was formerly extinguished by Antichristian malice, the cruell dragon sent forth against them a revengfull torrent of raging persecutions, threatning them not only with fire and sword, to bereave them of their lives by barbarous cruelties, but also oppressing their innocent fame, with slanderous figments and devised forgeries, representing them to the world under the horrid notions of Hereticks, Schismaticks, Impostors and Seducers, so contracting upon them by injurious aspersions, a generall odium from all estates of men.
Yet hath the Lord still frustrated their devices, and crafty machinations so closely contrived, that the vizor of hypocrisie is puld off to their shame, and their folly detected in persecuting truth, the memoriall of those Martyrs and Confessors being blessed, and highly esteemed as venerable and precious, but the name of the adversaries putrid and rotten, and never remembred but with lothed detestation.
The carefull collecting of such observations, are very usefull for our present occasions, our times abounding with malicious spirits, that seeke to deprave the most pious persons, and now when the Lord by our valiant Worthies, hath done great things to the praise of his providence, we either ingratefully contemne the benefits, or deprave the actors to eclipse his glory, not gathering for our comfort by a due observation, how this Land hath been delivered from Hierarchicall tyranny, that cruell bondage imposing upon us the insupportable burthen of superstitious ceremonies, nor how the wicked were catcht in the snare, of their subtile malicious and cruell contrivements, falling in the pit which they dig'd [Page 26] for others, and snared in the grin of their destructive designes.
Doe we but observe how the Lord hath insatuated, the subtill projects of our cruell enemies, by breaking the snare whereby we are escaped, as birds out of the net of our aparent danger, this would be matter of joy and thankfulnesse, and the result a care to expresse true gratitude, in humble sincere and dutifull obedience, to our gracious God in our lives and actions.
But ah how malevolent and gainsaying spirits, requite the Lord and his gracious instruments, who by painfull industry have exposed themselves, to daily danger to secure our liberties, and yet when the worke is almost effected, by Gods gracious blessing on their faithfull endeavours, their indefatigable labours are slighted with contempt, and secret murmurings of malignant whisperers, & now when we are ready to reap the harvest of our long desired and happie reformation, it were just with the Lord even to blast all our hopes, by embroyling us in bitternesse, though our unnaturall divisions, for these are the sins have cryed loud in his eare, being the sad effects of shaking hands, with verity from which many part now, by closing with errour, and setting up Idols in their own evill hearts, for only by pride doe men make contention, to spin and lengthen out the thrid of our miseries, and to turn and twist it into cords of calamity, to fetter and hold us in a wofull condition.
This hath ever been the practice of those turbulent pragmaticks, who infested the Church in the time of her travail, when she either is under some great persecution, or labouring to bring forth some eminent reformation, then malicious Satan, that old red Dragon, appears and draws neer, to devoure her fruit, atracting with his taile even the stars from heaven, and casting them to the earth to comply with his malice, and as when the Sun goeth down, and darknesse brings night, then all the beasts of the forrest creepe forth, so Hereticks and Schismaticks take troublesome seasons to disturb the Church in her greatest affliction, for even now [Page 27] when much of the Christian world, lies under the rage of Antichristian tyranny, they boldly break forth, like wolves of the evening, to devoure and scatter Christs silly sheep.
The sad impression of these considerations, reflecting on our soules by the view of such occurrents, may truly cheere us in our innocent sufferings, that we may with comfort hold fast our profession, for if we be deterred by the tongues of the wicked, and cannot abide the smart of that scourge, how shall we be able to resist unto bloud, in laying down our lives for the cause of the Gospel, wherefore collecting by due observation, what the godly have endured to keepe faith undefiled, it may ever incite us with fortitude and patience, to walke in the steps of their courage and constancie.
This collection is so conducible to the plenall consummation, of that mentall tranquility which the godly should aym at, that incessant labour is required herein, from the birth day of conversion, to our last concluding period, for little doe we know what need we may have, in the many revolutions of our transitory state, of the very fragments, and crums of refreshment, both spirituall and temporall which we now undervalue, sith even holyJob whose heroick vertues could finde no parallel in times of prosperity, was yet so dejected in his deepe affliction, as his eminent graces were ecclipsed with passion.
This appears in that he cursed the day of his birth, bitterly expostulating in his sorrowfull complaint, whose burthen was aggravated by those unskilfull Physicians, and miserable comforters his own unkind friends, for these should have applyed compassionate lenatives, to have cured the disasters of his disconsolate spirits, but instead of cordials to minister comfort, they gave him gall to augment his anxiety, taxing him with hypocrisie, and many other evils, which his innocent soule sincerely abhorred, the least of which pressures might have plung'd him in despair, had he not taken sanctuary in the name of the Lord, by which we may see that eminence in grace is no certain immunity from unjust aspersions, nor the godly at all times competent Judges, to determine infallibly of their own and others state, for bothJob and [Page 28] his friends had their various aberrations, and dangerous excursions in the paths of sinfull passion, which duly observed may furnish us with caution, against the time of approaching trials.
And as we are subject to sad dejections, when Gods rod lies heavy, upon our soules or bodies, so our prosperity is attended with pride and security, lulling us asleepe in the cradle of remisnesse, and thus was the kingly Prophet surprized, saying in his prosperity, he should never be moved, for he looked too much on the strength of his Mountain, which yet could not help him, when God hid his face, he after improves his gifts of faith and prayer, and brings out those treasures he layd up long before, till the voyce of his mourning was turned into sinning, and his sorrowfull sackcloth to robes of joy and gladnesse, Psal, 30.11.
There was a time when zealous Eliah was highly honoured in the presence of Gods people, his prayer being answered by the miraculous descent of that heavenly fire which consumed his sacrifice, yet after enforced to flee for his life, from the cruell persecution of IdolatrousJezabel, he falls into impatience and passionate complaints, desiring death as an end of his afflictions. There was also a time when holy Jeremiah, could exalt and triumph in the strength of his faith, that the Lord was with him as a mighty one terrible, and therefore his persecutors should stumble and fall, inciting the godly by his precept and practice, to sing praise to the Lord for his abundant mercies, in delivering the poore from the hand of evill doers, whose everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten, yet presently, alas, we see him transported, by a sodain Eurodydan of prevailing passion, and cursing the day wherein he was borne, as the sad originall of his labour and sorrow.
The ApostlePeter whose sacred confession rendred him blessed from the mouth of his Saviour who put him in possession of the precious priviledges and divine endowments wherewith he was invested, yet being too confident of his seeming strength, and not wisely wary of his humane frailty, was fearfully foyld in a gust of tentation, that tript up his feet and layd him very low.
The Apostle Paul was wrapt into Paradise, and honoured with the happinesse of heavenly revelations, yet brought down again to converse on earth, and was buffeted by Satan through assailing tentations, & as the Scriptures give ample testimonies of his various and vehement continued afflictions, which as it is supposed by learned Divines can scarcely be paralleld by any meer man, so to mee it seems as his forest triall, that he should again be tortured with inhabitant corruption, after he was elevated to such transcending ravishment, as was altogether inexplicable by the tongue of mortall man.
The use we should make of such sacred observations, may become the matter of our comfort and caution, in the first we eye God in his truth and faithfulnesse, in the latter our selves in our frailty and weaknesse, he never fails us in our deepest distresses, but ever delivers us by life or death, wee wanting rectitude are prone to impatience, and ready to murmure in the sense of our sufferings, and because we observe not the many revolutions, continually incident to our transitory state, we make our bed in the bosome of the creature, and fettle like Moab on the lees of our security.
This have we found by a sad experience, that when only oppressed with some bodily affl [...]ction, we have carryed our selves with bemoaning Ephraim like untamed heifers not used to the yoak, and thus for lack of that spirituall provision, we should store up in time of health and strength, even patience, humility, and selfdeniall, the inseparable concomitants of faith in Jesus Christ, for as himselfe is the bread of life to feed and feast our souls to all eternity, so his precepts, promises, and effects of providence, are our daily viaticum, in our troublesome journey, Jer. 31.18.
Have we then in the dayes of our flourishing youth, industriously laboured to sustain declining age, and with pious Joseph prudently gathered, a timely provision in the years of plenty, especially storing up such permanent treasures, as may serve to support us in the saddest trials, & with blessed Mary have hid up in our hearts, such prime passages of divine providence, we may then be sure in the houre of tentation, [Page 30] to stand fast in the faith, giving glory to God, still declining those byways of turbulent anxiety, which macerate others in times of affliction.
Our meditations having hitherto insisted on Christs frugall precept Gather up the fragments, consider we now his annexed reason, in the words ensuing that nothing be lost.
A free agent whose absolute authority, commands obedience from every creature, can be no accountant as Elihu speaketh, to render a reason of any of his matters, yet our glorious God is graciously pleased in a loving condiscention to our low capacities, to incite our dulnesse by propounding, ends, prevalent to perswade us to the practice of duty, commanding us to keepe his sacred precepts, and that for our good unto all eternity, all spirituall, temporall, and eternall blessings, being promised to excite us to a chearful obedience.
Every man is prone by a naturall instinct to desire benefits and decline losses, the voyce of the first is Who will shew us any good, the complaint of the latter alas it was but borrowed, what was formerly medicated expresseth out benefit, in the considerate collection of conducible excellencies, this annexed reason is the end of our industry, by proposing this maxime that nothing be lost.
First of the creatures from the greatest to the least, which are all at our service in their severall stations, secondly of time which our Lord and Master, betrusts us to trade with in fit negotiations, thirdly of our spirituall or temporall endowments, which must not lie hid like a Talent in the napkin, and fourthly a caution that we lose not our selves, in the intricate labyrinth of sin and errour.
We lose the creatures many severall wayes, especially by ignorance, intemperance and ingratitude in the first for want of that divine dexterity, whereby we should read in the volume of the creatures, in the second for want of a wise mod [...]ration, in their reverent, sober and sanctified use, and in the third for lack of an internall principle, rendring us sensible of our own unworthinesse, that humbled at the footstool of divine bounty, we may gather up these notionsthat nothing be lost.
The Sun is the creature which excels in magnitude, all other that are visible in their severall dimensions, working in the Sphere of its own activity, upon all Coelestiall and Terrrestiall bodies. communicating light to the Stars and Planets, and acting by his influence on plants and mettals, and doth these by an Ordinance from the all-Creator, who thus designed it to be serviceable to man yet the light of the Sun were even lost unto us, if our meditations should terminate in empty speculation, asPythagoras who viewed it with such admiration, that he lost himselfe in his blinde superstition, supposing it a God, and therefore adored it, as a Deity capable of divine honour, again Anaxagoras in another extream, beholding it contemns it as no more but a stone, the one miscarryed in his lofty misprision, the other stupified in his belluine blockishnesse.
Let us therefore beware in contemplatng the creatures, that we raise them not too high in our intimate affections, but use them as stairs whereby we may ascend, to the sovereign good our most glorious Creator, whose invisible and eternall power and Godhead, the Worlds Creation limits out unto us, being a vast volume wherein we may read, the various lectures of his immense power and wisdome, there being such symmetry, order and comlinesse, in all the parts of this spacious structure, as may lead us to adore and admire him in all things, that they may not by ignorance be obliterate as lost.
Now as those excellent and beautifull creatures, styled in Scripture the Host of heaven, are to be contemplated or considered of us, in their Philosophicall or Physicall relations, so are also the smallest to a grain of mustard seed, as usefull to supply our naturall necessity, having innate qualities which being known of us, doe comfortably contribute to our health and safety.
Thus the smallest of the creatures, have the prints and footsteps, of Gods power and providence engraven upon them, his beauty, bounty, magnificense and glory, shining in their excellent and various operations, and therefore the wisest of the sons of men, thought it not unworthy his royall [Page 32] dignity, to treat of plants from the Cedar in Lybanon, unto the very hysope that springs out of the wall, and thus the Psalmist having amply set forth, the admirable frame of heavens glorious fabrike, comparing the expansion to a shadowed curtain, wherein are involved invisible treasures, he descends to describe the earth, with its furniture, being much of it covered with the deep as with a garment, and the rest disposed of, by an ordering providence, into mountains, hils, vallies, and fertile plains, the sea abounding with severall creatures from the great Leviathan to the little shelfish, many of them being both meat and medicine, profitable & necessary for our comfortable subsistence, the habitable part of the earth being the basis of innumerable Cities and sumptuous buildings, her bowels and entrails replete with riches, of mettals, minerals and stones of great value, the superficies of it being clothed with a mantle embroydered with variety of plants and flowers, whose beauties and vertues have been the worthy subject of many discourses both pleasant and profitable, Yet this vast Globe so ponderous and weighty, God hangeth upon nothing as holy Job speaketh, his power being illustrated in bearing up the world, from sinking by ruine into a Chaos of confusion. Now sith all things concur in their silent harmony, to set forth the glory of an Almighty Architect, let not ignorance detain us from reading in this folio, nor from learning this lessonthat nothing be lost.
Those eminent Philosophers who industriously extracted the very spirit or quintessence of all humane knowledge, enriched the world with their learned labours, in acquainting their Readers with the mysteries of nature, these did not lose so much of the creature as Ignorants doe in their senslesse, stupidity, but sought out by painfull and due observation, the occult operations of severall creatures, and finding out many marvellous qualities, in mettals, mineralls, stones, and plants, they communicated by writing what they collected by experience, to the benefit of present and future generations, and although many of them have missed the mark, not propounding right ends in their curious speculations, yet [Page 33]their practicall proficiencie may convince those of negligence, who will not contemplate the visible creatures.
The knowledge of the creation, makes it usefull to us, in the species of its naturall and artificiall influence, as herbs collected and fitly compounded, make precious Physick to evacuate ill humors, the paths we walke in presenting us with plenty of wholsome plants for our cure and comfort, in which are wrapt up such sovereign antidotes, and profitable preservatives as our bodies are in need of, and therefore we should learn in a rationall way, to know both their vertues and noxious qualities, that we may prudently provide fit supplies, and gather them in season that nothing be lost.
It is not in our power or purpose to insist, either on the names or nature of the creatures, which are so numerous and various in quality, as our life is too short for a worke of that length, our intentionall ayme being only to excite, both our selves and others, by a view of some creatures, to consider them all as emblems of his excellencie, whose bounty confers them to relieve our necessity, for though there be many whose venemous natures render them odious, in our ordinary esteem, yet they carry with them a present remedy, against the poyson of their stings and teeth, neither is there any in all the Universe, from the greatest to the least but is some way profitable, either by removing things hurtfull from us, or by bringing in good to supply severall wants.
The Silk-worme doth furnish us with those materials, which serve abundantly for use and ornament, the Indian Nut hath severall properties, to cloath us, feed us, and quench our thirst, the little Emmet is instrumentally usefull for food to some creatures and for Physick to others, her eyes being a banquet to the delicate Partrich but ill used a purgative of violent operation: So many creatures which have only vegation, for a little moment and then quickly perish, have a double use in affording us refreshment, and in giving a memento of our mortall condition, but we have no need of Egyptian hierogliphicks, to informe our judgements in such necessary, knowledge, though they may be somtimes of laudable use, and significant to those who want better instruction, in them there is truly many things observable, yet little [Page 34] that makes for our present purpose, their learning leading them in another way, superstitiously to adore even the basest creatures.
Neither shall we treat of those oecult qualities; mentioned by them that write of that subject, which are either in beasts, plants, mettals or minerals, because we dare not aver them for truth, Yet doe we not any way disparage those Authors, or question the verity of what they affirm, but rather take such testimonies as our daily experience, affords us for probation of what we intend: Divine providence ordaining for our comfort, that wee are not infested with those cruell creatures, as Tygres, Beares, Wolves or Panthers, which are very frequent in other Climates, neither doth our land bring forth Lions or Elephants, but as they are brought us from other Countreys, but instead of these we abound with many more usefull and profitable to supply our necessity, of which for a taste I only name two, as serving to relieve us with severall benefits, The laborious Oxe first treadeth out the corne which fits us with provision both for hunger and thirst, and after hee hath spent and exhausted his strength, goes then to the stall and the shambles for our use, so the sheep an emblem of harmlesse innocence, both feeds us with its milke and clothes us with its wooll, and as I designed by divine bounty to be amply beneficiall to our necessitous condition, it satisfies us with its flesh which is never unseasonable, but is always both fit and covenient nourishment.
But ayming at brevity in my weake meditations, I omit the mentioning of many creatures, though I reverence their memories who have positively concluded, that our enjoyments therein are abundantly various, and one whose learning hath rendred him eminent, and his zeal and piety worthy all honour, maintains in a Tractate the able sufficiencie, of English drugs, for cure of all diseases, for which cause it is requisite by rationall observation, to acquire some experience of their nature and vertues, sith the very bruits by infused instinct, can relieve themselves with them in their frequent necessity, and therefore man who enjoyed by creation, such an ample excellencie of universall knowledge, should labour by industry, to reassume a moity of his pristine [Page 35] intelligence concerning the creatures, not ignorantly shutting the eyes of his intellect, nor sordidly stumbling in supine remisnesse, but so willingly awaking, that he read in these characters, this profitable lesson that nothing be lost.
And as the creatures are lost by ignorance, so especially by intemperance which wastes and consumes them, depriving us not only of their present comfort, but cutting the cable of our health and safety, for by this losse and abuse of the creatures, diseases and disasters like flouds breake in upon us, ruining our soules, our bodies, and estates, in the devouring gulfe of inevitable destruction.
But the miserable losse which most speaks our folly, is gluttonie and drunkennesse, with their ushers and atendants, metamorphosing men like inchanting Circes, into swine the most sordid of all bruit creatures, yea basely bereaving them of their rationall faculty, and rendring them contemptible to the vilest objects, opening the sluces to let in a deluge, even to drown the soule in deepe abominations, For when men become vassals to this horrid vice, they are totally devested of all reall excellencie, and are stript and wounded by that cursed thiefe, the destroying Abaddon of the bottomlesse pit, he hardens their hearts like the nether milstone, and seares their consciences in a reprobate condition, leading them blindfold till they sodainly precipitate, into the hellish whirlpool of finall impenitencie.
Our riotous intemperance is one crying sin, which calleth for vengeance in the ears of the lord, superfluous excesse like a raging torrent, overflowing the banks of all modest sobriety, and indeed a plethory of peace and plenty, had introduced so deepe a distemper, as caused the Lord in his care of our safety, to lanch our tumour with a piercing sword, which heavie judgement hath lyen upon us by a civill War in our unnaturall divisions, turning our fruitfull land into barrennesse, for the wickednesse of us that inhabit therein, For men have been drunk with the bloud of the earth, and lately the earth hath been drunke with mens bloud, yet this hath not awaked them from their sottish ebriety, but still they will lose and abuse the creatures, yea though further calamities be daily threatned to be thundred down from the [Page 36] seat of supream justice, who takes it to heart by an humble sence of sin, or smites his brest saying, what have I done?
Is not this the day wherein the Lord of Hosts, cals us by our miseries to weeping and mourning, to fasting, abstinence, and humiliation, in the sorrowfull sence of our sinfull aberra [...]ions, yet loe instead of repentance, contention and deepe dejection for our multiplyed iniquities, there is joy and gladnesse, mirth and joviality, eating and drinking to ryot and intemperance, this frugall precept or annexed reason, hath found no place in the mindes or lives of men, who desperatly take up the Epicures conclusion, Let us eat and drinke for to morrow we shall die.
How have we lost those happy opportunities of humbling our soules in our solemne fasting dayes, when penitentiall sermons and sad relations did cause our ears to affect our intellect? but alas now the rod is but lifted from our backs, and we have little cause to expect a long cessation, we return to our intemperance abusing the creatures, and slighting Christs precept that nothing be lost.
Intemperance is a vice which contracts a detriment, upon all estates and conditions of men, who lose the creatures by inverting their order, and bringing them into the bondage of vanity, Gods glory is obscured by wasting his benefits, and mans comfort abridged, doth mentall and bodily, yea the Church and Commonweale, are both sadly sensible, of the grievous guilt of this loudcrying sin, while some are devouring the fat of the land, and others are perishing in pining indigence, some clothed like Dives, in silke and purple, while others are exposed to cold and nakednesse, elated with pride some revell in riot, whilst others sinke in dejected calamitie, abuse and excesse bringing murmuring confusion, and turbulent distractions upon all estates, and no marvell if miseries so much breake in upon us, and make an inundation to absorpe our tranquility, when impudent intemperance affronts even the Angel that stands with a brand: shed sword in his hand, for the Lord who hath smitten us with War and Pestilence, now threatens us with Famine the sorest of his rods, the heavens contesting by a confluence of tears, to check our intemperate abuse of the creatures.
How hath our food our apparrell and the rest,Difficile eft i un
tibus quis feratur ho
ventrem &illic men-tem implear. been pervetted from their pure and pristine ordination, and abused as weapons to fight against the Lord, whose incensed fury flames out in fiery judgements, he gave us food for our reliefe and succour, in our naturall necessities of hunger and thirst, and clothes to shelter us from heat and cold, as a modest vail both to shadow and shroud us, Omnia terrena nec
meliores fervi, nee
Domini deteri,res. but we have abused them to riotous excesse, even to pride, prophanesse, lasciviousnesse and folly, while taking occasion of licentious liberty, we have made our selves the servants of corruption, From whence we may conclude to our shame and sorrow, that we are deeply guilty of the l sse of the creature, being not only deficient in contemplative Theory, but also in the practice of sober temperance, for we have not considered how all was forfeited, and at what price bought in again unto us, which rightly remembred would duly direct us, in this pious maxime that nothing be lost.
Thirdly, the creatures are lost by ingratitude, to our best Benefactor, who confers all upon us, requiring only his royall tribute, even the homage of humble and reall gratefulness, not only in verball or orall expressions, which present him with a formall externall complement, but in soule sincerity and mentall integrity, proceeding from a principle of internall dejection, for poverty of spirit in a sence of our indigence will make us lie low confessing our indignity, and saying with Mephibosheth to his bountifull Sovereigne, What is thy servant to enjoy such favour? he counted himselfe a dead dog in comparison of many not meeting with such high preferment, and so may we also esteem our condition, in our vast distance from the highest Majesty.
The Lord expostulateth with ingratefull Israel, concerning the creatures conferred upon them, the corne, the wine, the oyle and the flaxe, their gold and their silver, which he multiplyed in mercie, yet loe what use they make of these favours, which should have obliged them to divine bounty, even to ascribe unto Idols that honour and acknowledgement which they should have rendred to the Lord alone, so many of us who have deeply drunke in the precious dew of his daily benefits, have returned rebellion instead of [Page 38] gratefulnesse,and by slighting his favours have rendred them lost.
Our degenerate unthankfulnesse both for positive mercies, and private blessings proclaims our unworthinesse, the Lord hath in both enlarged his bounty, but we have for neither expressed due gratitude, His gracious goodnesse is like himselfe infinite, even a boundlesse Ocean without brinke or bottome, but our dull stupidity is not capable of rendring, the debt which we owe him by a humble retribution, which is the cause that instead of gratefulnesse, we often grudge at our present condition, repining and murmuring at those severall taxations imposed by the State for publike necessity.
Let us now consider the condition of our brethren, whose insupportable pressures have so far exceeded ours, that there is no comparison berween our little taste, and their deepe draught of the cup of calamity, we are sadly sensible of pecuniary payments, which pare away the excressence of our former superfluities, but they are still pinched with most smarting penury, of hunger and thirst, of cold and nakednesse, the world at this day being in a combustion, and wars making waste by a cruell consumption, those horrid barbarismes in Germany andIreland, not putting a Catastrophe to such tragicall relations, witnesse the wofull and heavy tydings we have lately heard, of their sorrowfull sufferings, and the Wars in the Northen and Western parts, where by sad devastation the creatures are lost.
How shall we ever returne a moity, of that thanks and praise which we owe to the Lord, who hath set his salvation even for walls and bulwarks, hedging us about with his Almighty protection? How should we praise him for our preservation, from the piercing sword which hath shed so much bloud, and for the enjoyment of our quiet habitations? when others are exposed to affrighting exile, we have rested in peace and risen in safety, when terrour and astonishment hath surprised such sufferers, the destroying Angell being charged to spare us, and to passe by our houses in these dayes of visitation, how should we praise him for the fruits of the earth now gathered in for our necessary sustenance, who have justly deserved to be deprived of those benefits, having forfeited the creatures by our former ingratitude, For we [Page 39] have opprest Gods incomparable patience, by many wayes abusing the choicest of his blessings, and setting up Idols in our own evill hearts, to detract from the honour that is due unto his name, and in making our selves the end wee have aymed at, have ingratefully forgotten even the Lord our maker, sacrilegiously robbing him of his sacred prerogative, by sacrificing to the net of our own inventions, For he will not give his glory to another, nor permit the creature to share in his praise, but is jealous of his honour which admits no corrivall, to be shrined or adored in our intimate affections.
Wee live at his finding being dependent on him, for all our present and future felicity, and therefore should sing our Hosanna on earth, as hereafter Hallelujah in the heavenly Hierusalem, thus all the comforts conveyed by the creature, as a conduit unto us for continued refreshment, should run by gratefulnesse as streams into the Ocean, from whence they have flowed in abundance unto us.
When Plato his scholers presented him with gifts, as the ample expressions of their reall gratitude, poor Eschines confreshing his indigent condition bestowed himself as a gift on his Master, which ingenuous Plato so highly valued, that he annexed a promise to his cordiall acceptance, that his endevour should be to enrich him with vertue, and so render him more capable of desired felicity.
So our highest gratitude is to give up our selves, in all holy service to our heavenly Master, in whose sacred Academy we have been instructed, in the saving principles of celestiall wisdome, Let therefore our souls as a living sacrifice be devoted and consecrate unto him alone, who gave a being even when we were not, infusing into us an immortall spirit, and when we had defaced his glorious Image and razed out the Character of originall righteousnesse, he left us not to perish in that wofull condition, but sent his deare Son to redeeme and save us, The very pillars of the world were dissolved by sin, yet this mighty Atlas doth support and sustain them, bearing up the creatures by the word of his power, which else would soon sinke into ruine and confusion.
Had we been redeemed from some temporall bondage as once the Israelites from the iron Furnace, even this might [Page 40] oblige us to celebrate the memory of such a mercie in our thankfull remembrance, but Jesus delivereth us from the wrath to come, even those endlesse, unutterable and inconceiveable horrours, that guilty souls not washed in his bloud, must suffer in hell unto all eternity, Yea he hath restored our right in the creatures, and given us a propriety in their peacefull possession, that they ministring supply to our severall necessities, our senses may knock at the doore of our intellect, in briefe our interest both in heaven and earth, is all comprised in his meritorious sacrifice, and therefore gratitude engraven in our hearts, should be read in this lesson that notbing be lost.
The second propounded generall is time, a Talent which our Master betrusts us to trade with, & therefore we should not remisly lose it, but wisely employ it in fit negotiations, not wasting it in idlenesse, curiosity, or anxiety, the moths and cankers which consume our time, but piously redeeming it by the continued practice, of such holy duties as adorne our profession, first ceasing from evill as the Prophet exhorteth, then learning to doe well to witnesse our sincerity, sith habituall vertues will operate by action, and take hold of occasion that time be not lost.
Idlenesse exhausteth this invaluable treasure, and irrecoverably wastes it in a way of omission, for although in sinne there be nothing positive, yet idlenesse especially is a meere privation, being an anonymy, ataxy, and inconformity, to the perfect purity of Gods righteous Law, yea the pregant mother and nurse of all vices, conceiving and bringing them unto maturity, for it hath been observed in divine History that some eminently famous have been caught in this snare, the bait of concupiscence covering the hook, of that guilt and infamie produced by idlenesse.
Themistocles was wont by a witty allusion to resemble idlenesse to an open Sepulchre, sending out continually a contagious aire, to the danger of all infected by it, who not only bury themselves in this grave, absorpt and swallowed up in sensuall pollutions, but contaminate others with their poysonous breath, and render them obnoxious both to guilt, and punishment, and therefore the light of nature detects it [Page 41] as loathsome and odious to ingenious persons, and only embraced by effeminate sluggards, the professed enemies unto worth and wisdome, for which cause Cleanthes though poor and obscure, was accounted by the vetruous more happy in his industry, then idle Domitian the luxurious Emperour who spent his time in catching of flies.
Idlenesse that devourer of our precious time, like a breach in the wall lets in thieves to destroy us, being a common road or randevouze of vices, which easily findes passage where this paves their way, for indeed the deficiencie or want of good, is the reall habit and presence of evill, which were it beleeved would deject and humble us, that have hitherto not viewed it in the notion of sin, yet so hatefull was it even to ethnike spirits, who had no more but the twilight of nature, that CynicallDiogenes would role his tub, to avoyd the censure of simple idlenesse: for it is not only a personall disaster, defaming the subject in whom it resides, but of pernicious consequence to publike concernments, which suffer a prejudice when time is thus lost.
Time is offered as a precious benefit, in the present use and enjoyment of it, and therefore idlenesse which insensibly consumes it, is dangerous yea deadly in respect of its event, for as poyson kils by its venemous quality, diffusing its contagion into every part, so idlenesse woundeth yea slayeth poor souls, when it robs and bereaves them of the benefit of time, which should fasten upon us the Apostles precept, who bids us walke wisely redeeming the time, it being an abridgement of those documents of vertue, which adorne the conversation of most cautious Christians.
A curious wit conceiving a contest, twixt industrious Euphia and slothfull Argia, brings the first as an actour in the Scene of well spent time, the other as a factor, which trades in sloath and ease, now as vertue and valour give the prize to Euphia, for her pious, painfull and profitable labours, so the merit of infamy, and obloquy of folly, is the sordid encomium of slumbring Argia.
The present time should be valued most precious, respecting both our spirituall and temporall necessities, sith none can call back the day that is past, nor be sure of to morrow in [Page 42] respect of lifes brevity, and therefore the Egyptians in their Hierogliphicall Tables, painted Time with a forelock but all bald behinde, to shew we should be ready to catch opportunity, and lay hold on time before it passe from us, for industry attends to graspe with advantage, the fruit which grows on the tree of time, which comming to maturity is delicious and savorie, to all but the sluggish who render it lost.
Now as idlenesse wastes and consumes precious time, so curiosity crumbles, and trifles it to nothing, for some imployments are so totally impertinent, as they leave no footsteps in the path of vertue, having neither precepts to regulate their way, nor promises annexed for their happy conclusion, of which fort no doubt were those curious Arts, the converts repented of, when Christ was preached to them, for as soon as the scales of their sin and ignorance, began to fall off from the eyes of their minde, they saw such practices were Diabolicall, and altogether incompatible with Christian sincerity, It seems before they had highly valued the Theory and practice of such curious follies, when the price of their books amounted to a sum so large and ample in those antique times,Act. 19.19.
No lesse is their madnesse who will try conclusions, to effect things unfensible both by Art and Nature, undervaluing the time wherein they make probation, of reallizing forms presented to their fancie, others lay out themselves and their short inch of time, in projects and monopolies for private emolument, few of these minding their concluding period, nor remembring this maxime that nothing be lost.
Some search to finde the Philosophers Stone, endeavouring by Alchymy to produce perfect gold, both losing the benefit of their borrowed time, and substracting by Arithmetick their all into nothing. Some study Palmestry, and some Phisiognomy, others will calculate by Prognostication, losing by such practices the commendable exercise, of their wits and fortunes in more profitable employments: Some spend their studies in devising strange fashions, in sophisticating food and disguising of apparrell, not considering how the Lord hath verified his threatning, in visiting these sins in this miserable Kingdom.
The use or abuse of this talent of time, is the hinge on which our estate is so turned, that our day of nature is styled a moment, on which is impending our future eternity, for though the most excellent improvement of time, be no meritory cause of our ensuing felicity, yet the laying of it out in such impertinent follies, may prove a black indictment to aggravate our judgement: yet curious spirits will turne every stone till they weary themselves in the way of vanity, like restlesse Sysiphus the embleme of their folly, whose doome is their destiny when time is thus lost.
And as idlenesse eats and curiosity consumes, like devouring Harpies our precious houres of time, so anxiety melts and diminisheth continually, our few and evill dayes which are swifter then a poste, adding incessant, and unnecessary bitternesse, to our sorrowfull life by immoderate anxiety, which is only a care to fulfill those lusts, against which we should rather contest by endeavour; for what is the flesh but a darling foe, which yet we indulge with too much endearment, it is a prison to the soule, which it fetters and mannacles with the heavie chain and clog of concupisence, confining that high borne immortall essence in a slavery unbeseeming her pristine Nobility, and making her to drudge in the mill of anxiety, to purvey provision for her insolent handmaid, thus Princes goe on foot and servants are mounted while the flesh usurps dominion in depressing the Spirit, and robbing us by care of that sweet contentment, which our time might afford us if it were not thus lost.
Our Saviour forbids all carking anxiety, as a pest producing all possible prejudice, the diseases and disasters in our mentull condition appearing in the symptomes of distracting diffidence, as what shall wee eate, or what shall we drinke, or wherewith shall we cloath us sayth unrectified nature, which cannot direct us to lift up our eyes to the liberall hand of Celestiall bounty, for which cause Christ sent us to the inferiour creatures, even to view in them the effects of providence, sith God feedeth the ravens and clotheth the lillies, maintaining as the sensitive so the vegetative creatures, and will he not much more provide for his people, who have interest in his love, which is firm and immoveable, by making [Page 44] a gracious supply of our wants, as his sacred wisdome seeth most convenient, for though care cannot adde a cubite to our stature, nor a mite to our state in the present or future, yet the gain of godlinesse is profitable to all things and confers contentation in every condition: O might we then cast our care on him who careth for us in our deepest dejections, avoyding, dividing and distracting anxiety, which devoureth our time and renders it lost.
Three sorts of worldlings are miserably macerated, with the mentall maladie of this anxious distemper, the covetous, ambitious, and voluptuous sort of men, who have nothing to feed on but the empty creature, and therefore no marvell their insatiable appetite is never filled with terrene enjoyments, sith the soules circumference is too large in its excellence, to be circumscribed in such poor dimensions.
Thus covetous anxiety corrupted Achan, and made him greedy of the wedge of gold, but discovered not the direfull event, to deter him from the sin of sacriledge which proved his ruine, so Gehazie hastened after noble Naaman, who freely gave him even more then he asked, but little was he aware of the spreading leprosie, wrapt up in the bribe he so cunningly gained.
Covetous anxiety consumes the precious time, by shrining up an idol in mans intimate affections, and making it like Michah an Ephod and Teraphim, that he may solemnly sacrifice to his golden god, this makes him also like a cruell Caniball, devouring living men in his quest of greedy gain, when spreading his net to surprise the needy, he makes all a prey which he gets into his fangs, yea such a proficient is the covetous worldling, that hee becomes a graduate in the schoole of Mammon, and falls from grinding the faces of the poore, to eat up himselfe by devouring anxiety, starving like Midas in heaps of wealth, because his desire is inlarged like hell, which puts him to the torture of wretched Tantalus, who sees but tastes not what should refresh him, Thus cruell to his soul, his body and his fame, he postes apace to the pit of perdition, anxious perplexity involving him about, yea consuming his time and proclaiming it lost.
So the ambitious person is anxious in aspiring, to that [Page 45] heighth of eminency he propounds as his end, and swelling with the poyson of popular breath, he cracks like thunder to the amazement of mortals, such was the condition of aspiring Absolom, ambitious Haman, and haughty Antiochus, who fell like Lucifer from their heighth of glory, down into the Abysse of inexplicable misery, for the Word doth witnesse God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble, who enjoy his favour; He putteth down the mighty from their seats of dignity, and exalteth the meeke unto supream honour, which if men did consider, it would bridle their ambition, as Minerva curbed her wingedPegasus, and not suffer them with Phaeton, in their insolent career, to set all in combustion in this lower Region, and indeed it is not easie to enumerate the evils, that ambition produceth in these sorrowfull times, sith the anxious pursuit of an ayrie eminence, hath miserably managed our multiplyed divisions, which should cause us now in a due regard, both of our personall and publike safety, to decline all the by paths of ambitious anxiety, in which precious time is so sinfully lost.
So the voluptuous Epicure whose licentions principles, prohibits all labour as a professed prejudice, yet entertains anxiety to be a purveyor, or rather a pander to impudent incontinence, for not content with paternall provision, hee rangeth with the prodigall in extravagant pastures, and supposing a banquet of exorbitant pleasures, he feeds like a swine on sordid sensuall draffe, yet he findes no satisfaction to his poor deluded soule, in the anxious pursuit of all these empty husks, but like Sardanapalus writes his own Epitaph as a lasting monument of his luxurious infamie: for having devested his soule of right reason, his body of health, and his state of fit subsistence, he leaves little behinde him to solemnize his funeralls, save a rotten memoriall which renders him lost.
Our precious time must be prudently redeemed, not only in the negative by ceasing from evill, but also in the positive or affirmative part, which is doing good in truth and sincerity, so shall we transcend those seeming Sedentaries, which are like a cake on the hearth not turned, being at the best but dow baked Christians, whose Religion relies on a private [Page 46] praise, for though ceasing from evill be an initiall premised, prohibiting those sins which consume precious time, yet the perfect progresse of all pious actions, are as prevalent preservatives that time be not lost.
The Preacher presents us with a various catalogue, of many generals produced by time, from some of which no sex are exempted, as a time to be born, and a time to die, but to plant or pluck up to kill or to heal, to break down or to build, are not common to all, but as branches growing on this fruitfull tree, they are opportunely gathered to sute with our occasions, our renting and sewing, our getting and losing, our war and our peace have their period prefixed: all things being beautifull, in their season by that lustre, which wisdoms rayes reflect on our actions: for which cause the corollary or concluding application, drawn for our use from the former premisses, is summed into a Breviary comprized in two duties, that a man rejoyce and do good in his life, Eccles.3.12.
Joy is a beam of that sacred Son of righteousnesse, whose divine influence inspires true comfort, and therefore a stranger from the life of God, hath no claim or interest to joy in believing, the faithfull onely have internall principles, of peace and joy to revive and to cheer them, unto all the duties of piety and charity, wherein they rejoyce to do good in their life, and in this appears the apparent antipathy that is between the godly and the wicked, their actions running in an opposite current, and their conclusions as distant as Heaven and Hell, for the wicked cannot sleepe unlesse they have done evill which is unto them as a choice repast, but the righteous are impatient of delay in good duties, esteemit their joy to do the will of God, This is indeed an improvement of time, being the errand we are sent of in our present pilgrimage, and should be attended as the important businesse, and work of the day,that time be not lost.
There is a time of doing and a time of suffering, to be duly regarded, and considered of us, some actions requiring our present performance, some causes calling for our passive obedience, but having in our way found occasion to insist, upon such duties in gathering up of precepts, I refer the Reader to that part of the Treatise, and onely instance in these few particulars.
Thus to vindicate truth when detained in unrighteousnes or imprisoned by errour is a redeeming of time, if by open confession, and undaunted resolution, wee stand up to mayntain it, both with tongue and pen, which was the work of those famous Worthies the godly Fathers in contesting with Hereticks, whose divine dexterity in defending the truth is admirable and imitable to succeeding generations.
So resisting unto bloud in Christs cause and quarrell, was graspt of many Martyrs embracing opportunity, who accounted it their glory by innocent suffering, to passe to the palace of heavenly felicity, these vindicated truth and redeemed time, improving and augmenting their betrusted treasure, and are entred already through the strait and narrow gate, into the immortall inheritance which they lookt and long'd for.
In brief the pious and prudentiall practice of all religious and morall actions, are a profitable employment of our precious t [...]me, whereby it is redeemed from losse and detriment, and therefore sedulity and constant diligence is of great necessity while our day continueth, because the night commeth when no man can worke, which should alway excite us that time be not lost.
And as we must be carefull that neither the creatures, nor time be lost for lack of fit improvement, so in the next place our regard must be expressed, that our gifts become subservient to our Lord and Master, for we consider those endowments spirituall and temporall, conferred upon us by divine bounty, as betrusted talents wherewith we must negotiate in the affairs of his Kingdom that nothing be lost.
Spirituall endowments are radicall graces, seated in the soule as their proper subject, as faith, love, patience, humility, and many like vertues called fruits of the spirit, of which should I treat in taking any of them as a Theam propounded to my serious Meditations, I should but even light a candle to the Sunne, and expressing my weaknesse illustrate others worth. For the Lord hath abundantly extended his favour, in stirring up the spirits of his many zealous servants, by their learned labours to limbe out the beauty, and expresse the effigies of those sacred excellencies.
Wherefore I proceed not to any definition, or quaint description of those divine qualifications, but intentionally aym to shew that we are responsible for all our endowments both of grace and nature, not that any simply shall become an accountant, for the happy fruition of such transcending treasures, but for the use and improvement of them, which shall cleerly manifest their true proprietaries, for where the sincerity and truth of these graces, are infused by the spirit into the soule of man, they cannot totally or finally perish, though their acts and operations be not always apparent.
It must then be received and retained as a principle, that spirituall endowments are of two sorts, either saving graces in their reall verity, or common gifts in their reputed excellencie, sith both of these proceed from the spirit, being given to edifie the Church of Christ, and although they be various in their divers operations, yet are they concurrent as effects of one cause, the former to build up our selves in the faith, and saving knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, the latter for the use and instruction of others, who are to be united to the mysticall body.
Now because there be shadows and pictures of graces, which much resemble their reall habits, we should daily be trying the truth of our endowments, that we be not cheated with counterfeit pearls, for there may be such an eminence of common gifts, where saving grace is not truly radicated, as may possibly deceive both our selves and others, with the meer dead shadow and image of faith.
Again we may passe an uncomfortable censure, upon our selves in desertions or afflictions, as if we were bereft of those spirituall endowments, and totally devested of all saving grace, which misery befalls us when Satans malice and our own incredulity conspire to betray us, assailing and battering the fort of our faith, by falsly affirming that our graces are lost.
It will therefore be usefull in the houre of tentation, to know that our graces be right and reall, our faith being built on no sandy foundation, but fixed on the rock whose strength is our confidence, and because we know there will come a time, wherein our gifts must abide a triall, let us prove and [Page 49] examine the truth of them all, by that rule of life the light of Gods word, for this is that pure and transparent glasse, which shews us the spots and defects of our endowments, even the weaknesse of our faith, the scantnesse of our love, the coldnesse of our zeale, and poornesse of our patience, and as it manifests the blots and blemishes, which obscure the beauty of our brightest graces, so it shews us the pure aed most precious fountain, which stands open to purge away sin and uncleannesse: and sith it is impossible that naturall sagacity should fathome the depth of our deceitfull hearts, the Word directs us to aske wisdome of God, to discover our unsoundnesse and spirituall deficiencie, that driven from the props of all carnall confidence, in the seeming excellencie of our best endowments, we may lay all our weight by a holy dependance, on Jesus Christ our allsufficient Saviour, for it is not the merit or worth of our faith, which justifies our persons in Gods sacred presence, but the object apprehended, even the Lord our righteousnesse, who renders us lovely which else had been lost.
This innocent pure and immaculate Lambe, hath sacrificed himselfe the price of our redemption and discharged the debt wherein we stood obliged, to answer the exactnesse of inflexible justice, freeing us thereby from those infernall sorrows, which guilty souls must eternally suffer, and giving us the earnest of an immortall inheritance, reserved for ever in the heavens for us, and because that nothing unclean or polluted shall enter the gates of that celestiall City, we are washed and purified in his precious bloud, from all our originall and actuall defilements, yea invested by him with the garments of salvation and robe of righteousnesse which covers our deformity, not from the eye of Gods sacred omniscience, but from the stroke of his revenging justice, so we see that faith is the roote which gives sap to the severall branches of our other endowments, by fetching from Christ the fountain of grace, such continuall supplies that they cannot be lost.
If then we desire to enjoy the comfort of lasting graces which may ever flourish, they must be the offspring of that immortall seed, which endures for ever and parallels eternity, [Page 50] and therefore beleeves who possesse by precious faith, those durable riches which cannot be exhausted, are especially called as a peculiar people, to be forward and zealous in all good works,for prophesying may fail, and tongues may cease, yea knowledge may vanish, and common gifts perish, but grace is permanent when produced from faith, being acted by love, and attended with humility.
That love acts our graces when they be sincere, most plainly appears from the Apostle his conclusion, who deciphered the vanity of such empty endowments, as are not acted by reall charity: for this pregnant grace like the tree of life, hath alwayes fruit which is fresh and flourishing, no heat of persecution, nor drought of affliction, can cause it to wither, to dye or decay, witnesse its continued and constant operations, in a speciall influence on all our duties, the love of God attracting like the Loadstone, our selves and our love unto him again, for it acts out faith, confirms our hope, perfects our patience, and regulates our zeale, animating and quickning those graces in the soule, as if love were even the soule of our graces, for as in the motion of some curious engine, one wheele artificially moves all the rest, so are our endowments in their divers operations, so acted by love that they cannot be lost.
Three ample eminencies are ascribed to charity by the Apostle Paul in his sacred Encominm, for first he extols it in a negative excellencie, as never doing ought worthy of blame, secondly, he gives it an affirmative praise, as effecting all things deserving commendation: and thirdly, he admires it in its perpetuity, transcending in permanence all other endowments, and as he calleth it the fulfilling of the Law, so may we style it the mirrour of the Gospel, being a glasse wherein the truth of our graces are cleerly discerned to be right and reall.
The theory of love is a divine subject, befitting the dignity of an immortall soule, whose vast apprehensions were created capable of those finite comprehensions in their measure and degree, for as nothing more manifests mans degenerate misery, then his hateful antipathy to God and his Saints, so our regenerate happinesse is never more illustrated, then [Page 51] in shewing the effects of his love unto us, this leads us by an internall principle, to universall obedience both active and passive, quickning our endowments in their various expressions, as the primum mobile of our sincere endeavours, and this put a difference between the Sacrifice of Cain and Abel, though the actions were alike, because they proceeded from contrary causes, and propounded ends as directly opponent, which shall teach us caution in religious duties, and charitable performances though eminently specious, that we looke what influence the love of God, sheds abroad in our hearts, to set our hands to worke.
Let then our compassion in condoling others miseries, be acted and regulated by the law of love, which commands us so to sympathize in the sorrows of our brethren as we would have others to condole our distresses, not behaving our selves like the Priest and Levite, who would take no notice of the poore wounded man, but rather resemble we the good Samaritan, who extended pitty both in care and cost, for what will it profit by a perfunctory complement, to bid the poore be warmed and filled, if we cover not their nakednesse, nor feed their hungry bellies, by a seasonable supply of their severall necessities, for love is bountifull and will not capitulate, but goes to the price to perfect good beginnings, not bidding the poore goe and come again to morrow, so making the eyes of the needy to fail.
Hath it then been our care to finde our compassion in the sence of others sufferings to be acted by love, hath no sinister end of applause or affection, been as flies in the oyntment to putrifie our pity, but that only eying with bowels of mercie, the bleeding condition of Gods poor afflicted, wee have sincerely assisted them, with such satisfying comfort, as our selves would desire in like time of adversity, for ostentation is lothed of love, which is not puft up with the blast of vainglory, but casts down her crown at the footstoole of her Saviour, whose love like an Adamant attracts her to duty, yet a cup of cold water shall not lose its reward, nor the widows mite be cast in undervalued, but even these shall stand registred in the records of love, which preserves the memoriall that it shall not be lost.
And as our pitty so also our patience is acted by charity which directs it in suffering that it may truly transcend those morall excellencies, which many Ethnicks have eminently obtained, whom although we admire for their aequanimity both in prosperous calmes and stormes of adversity, yet dare we not propound their negative excellencie, as a leading principle to guide us in our way, for we have the Saints as a cloud of witnesses whose patience was acted by fervent charity, and their tryals were as Trophies of the victorious conquest, they atcheived in contesting for a Diadem of glory.
But our highest precedent of love acting patience, is hee who was led as a lambe to the slaughter, or as a sheep before her shearer is dumb, so he opened not his mouth in any murmuring impatience, Love brought him from heaven to converse on earth, and to beare the burthen of our sins and sorrows, by undergoing to the utmost, what the justice of God, or the malice of man might inflict upon him, and this was no involuntary or constrained patience, but spontaneous in the ingresse and progresse of his life, love acting all his doings and sufferings, to the plenall consummation of our eternall redemption, so he is a mirrour of absolute perfection, in viewing of whom our eyes will be amended, and our souls illightened and enlivened by love, which acting our graces they shall not be lost.
And as love acts our patience so also our zeale, that it may not preposterously transport our affections, or lead us blindfold to the shelfe of temerity, on which so many have been wrackt and ruined: it rectifies zeale that her ardent opperation, may only act for God and for his glory, ascending heavenward like a flame from the Altar, which is sweetly perfumed with odoriferous incense.
Zeale acted by love like celestiall fire, burns up the drosse of our dearest corruptions, and consumes such combustibles as lie in the way, to hinder us from celerity in the paths of truth and peace, for as radicall heat in the naturall body, is our grand colume of life and motion, so zeale in the soule is of speciall concernment, by its quickning influence upon all our duties, and as our naturall heat is discerned, from that, which [Page 53] is adventiciall, by feaverish distemper, so pious zeale is distinguished by the effects, from that which is preposterous and not fitly principled: now as radicall heat is to be carefully preserved, by diet, physick, good aire, and exercise, so must zeale be kept lively by the motions of the spirit, that it be not extinct and so rendred quite lost.
Our fire on the hearth is of much utility, or rather necessity for severall occasions, and therefore we feede it with fuell continually, and blow it up to maintain and preserve it, but if it be in the roofe or seeling, where mischiefe is threatned if it come to a flame, we quench it speedily, even while it is smoaking, to prevent the feare of a future danger: so zeale is most precious when its sacred operations, move in the Sphere of its own activity, being guided by love, and divinely regulated, by the dictates and directions of essentiall verity, but if it wander in sinister paths, and declines the assistance of holy simplicity, it growes wilde and turbulent and impassionate fury, throws firebrands, arrows, and mortall darts, witnesse the distractions and exorbitant tumults, which have roared aloud from those bellowing brainsicks, who set Germany on fire by their odious insurrections, and may ruine England if mercie prevent not, zeale is in these of no more concernment, then fiery mettall in a horse that is blinde, who rusheth himselfe and his too rash rider, on the rock of some violent inevitable danger.
Zeale acted by love invites moderation, and sacred sapience to become her associates, whose sollid gravity and sober posture, are usefull to byas her swift agitation, that her heavenly heat may reflect on fit objects, and not be exhausted in fanaticall distempers, for the zeale of Gods house is so pure and powerfull, that it eats up all politick preposterous interests, this may we see in those holy Martyrs and couragious Confessors contending for the faith, being meeke as Moses in their own private quarrels, but ardent zealous in the cause of their Master.
Thus ayming at brevity in my limited lines, I willingly omit the many probations, wherein I might manifest how pious zeale being acted by love, hath her sundry operations, setting an edge upon all our endowments, and rendring them [Page 54] usefull in their heighth of improvement, inciting our dulnesse and quickning our graces by this due memorandum that nothing be lost.
And as our graces are produced from faith, and acted by love which gives life unto them so are they ever attended with humility, as the badge or Ensigne of sincere reality, for the humble apprehension of our spirituall indigence, is the first beatitude mentioned by our Saviour, which placeth this above in the front of vertues, which men put below in the reare of disesteem, the poore in spirit being those humble soules, who lie low dejected in the sense of sin, knocking importunately by their prayers and tears, at the gate of mercie for a gracious answer.
H [...]mility attended the specious endowments, of the Patriarks, Prophets, Apostles, agd Martyrs, who ingeniously confessed their frequent failings, as did holy David, Job, Jeremy, and Daniel, these humbled their souls in the penitentiall practice, of duties conducible to their solemne occasions, and have left us a modell of their frame of spirit, deciphered in the record of Divine History: There may we read of their broken bones, their roarings groanings & wounded spirits, their mournfull tears and passionate complaints, poured out as expressions of their internall dolours: Their faces were covered with shame and confusion in the humble apprehension of the heinousnesse of sinne, well knowing, that the Lord hath most pure eyes, and cannot endure to behold iniquity, this causeth the soule to lie prostrate before him, amazed at the view of its own deformity, the loathsomnesse of sinne being so hatefull an object, as cannot be set forth by any humane skill, it being defective, infective, accursed, shamefull, a leprosie, a gangrene, a frenzie, meere filthinesse, and therefore we have cause to be humbled continually, while we carry about us this body of death, no marvell then though Gods dearest servants, were deeply humbled at the sight or sence of sin, when their brightest graces were often ecclipsed by the darke and dismall clouds of this contagion.
But some will suppose the similitude improper, to parallel their state with our present condition, they being under that [Page 55] yoake of the Law, from which we are graciously freed by the Gospel, they living in darke and obscure days, before the time of Christs reall exhibition, we having the light to shine round about us, in the plenall consummation of what they expected: Why then should we (say they) be humbled for sin, when the debt is discharged, and the Bond also cancelled, our Acquittance sealed, and the worke fully finished, which puts us in possession of a Quietus est.
We gratefully acknowledge all this is true for Christ Jesus hath compleated the worke of our redemption, and by one offering hath perfected for ever, all them that are sanctified by faith in his name, but from these premises to draw a conclusion, that we ought not to grieve or be humbled for sin, is no due inference, or have we just warrant to omit the duty upon such ground, for our cleerer light is the greater engagemen to oblige us by love to the practice of penitencie, sith the mercy of God, and the merit of our Saviour, concurred to save even us that were lost.
None can deny that the godly of old, were wrapt even as we are in the mantle of pollution, for all mankind had sinned in Adam, and were thereby deprived of originall righteousnesse: shall we then conclude that the second Adamwas lesse powerfull to save then the first was to destroy, or that the efficacie of justification, was tyed to the time of Christs actuall suffering, this were to deny them the saving benefit of that free grace which they truly possessed, the Scripture styling Saints and righteous, as being justified by faith in the promised Messiah.
Neither may we judge that all those which lived, in such times as the ceremonies of the Law were in force, were therefore under that curse or malediction, which the Law denounceth against them that breake it, for all beleevers both then and now, being under grace are freed from that yoake, and as Abraham was justified by faith in the promise, even so are the faithfull in every age, he saw the day of Christ and rejoyced, embracing the comfort revealed far off, the Scripture averring of the godly fathers, as their highest honour, that they dyed in the faith.
Their eminent graces were attended with humility, and [Page 56] abnegation of themselves and their worth, for Abraham calleth himselfe dust and ashes, even presenting his Petition for sinfull Sodome, Jacob confesseth he is lesse then the least of all Gods mercies extended unto him, David is a worme in his own esteem and Heman accounts himselfe free amongst the dead,, so holyJob abhorreth himselfe, humbly repenting in dust and ashes, Ezra blusheth to lift up his face being ashamed of the sin which others committed, Jeremy mourneth and weepeth in secret for the pride and pertinacie of a stubborne people, Daniel addresseth himselfe to the Lord in prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth, Peter weeps bitterly for his heinous offence, and Paul is humbled for inhabitant corruption, All such narrations being written for our learning, who have need of exemplary light to direct us, sith we are to ready to embrace such tenents, as shake off this practice as totally impertinent, But were we acquainted with the odiousnesse of sinne, and the deepe deficiencie of our best endowments, it would make us more humble in our approaches to the Lord, whose mercie it is that we are not quite lost.
Why should we thinke these Worthies incapable, of the saving benefit of justification, when the Lambe was slain from the foundation of the world, in whose bloud they were washed from all their sins, Christ Jesus being yesterday in the time past, to day and for ever a compleat Saviour, although the revelation of that sacred mystery, be now more amply and cleerly made manifest. These were a part of that glorious Church, which hee purchased to himselfe with a price invaluable, the Saints being only that selected number, which are living members of his mysticall body, shall wee then divest them of those sacred priviledges, wherein they were interested by the grace of adoption, or our selves of the benefit of their godly example, by a false supposition of a legall disparity, for either we must contradict the Holy Ghost which Paul spake by in his fixed confidence, saying, into thy hands I commend my spirit, for thou hast redeemed me O Lord God of truth, or else we must confesse that by joy in believing, they had plenary possession of the promised redemption, faith being the ground of things that are hoped for, and the evidence of things which are not seen.
The eleventh to the Hebrews is not only a catalogue, but a specious Chronicle of the faith of the Fathers, wherein the excellencie of their saving graces, are collected and proposed as a pattern unto us, shall we then decline that way of humility, wherein they walked to the promised rest, by dreaming of a happinesse in abandoning this grace, above the capacity of our present condition: Nay rather know we while sin hath a being, that sorrow attends us even on every side, the godly still both humbled for their personall failings, and also for the evils of the times in which we live, These are the men which the Lord will have marked, that approaching judgements may not seaze upon them, the mourners in Sion, being they that like Moses still stand in the gap, to divert his displeasure, for though heaven be Gods Throne, and the earth his footstool, his glory transcending all finite comprehensions, yet will he looke to him that is poor, contrite and humble, that trembles at his Word, how sweet is this promise to a penitent soul, that seeth the deficiencie of all its endowments, and leans on the prop of this word of truth, which never failing he cannot be lost.
And as humility attends our addresses to the Lord, so it commends our graces in the view of men, as being an index of internall vertue, and a silent embleme of all sacred excellencies, examples whereof we have for our instruction, in the living Library of the lives of holy men, whose lowly deportments are recorded to posterity, as a powerfull inducement to the practice of humility.
Holy Abraham became a petitioner to Lot, when their rustick herdmen were in contestation, craving with meeknesse to compose a difference, which the Canaanite and Perizite might else have derided, for such an opposition in a triviall occasion, might have opened the mouthes of those heathenish Idolaters, to blaspheme the Religion which they professed, who being one in their judgement, were at odds in their practice, Loe here the more emment prefers his inferiour, and gives him the prerogative of chusing or refusing, proposing unto us an imitable precedent, of rare endowments attended with humility.
So his lowly carriage to the people of the Hittites, was [Page 58] also an evidence of his milde moderation, who being a stranger acquaints himself with them by a sweet insinuation both in words and gesture, giving them that reverence whereof indeed himselfe, was the true proprietary as they freely acknowledge, being reputed among them as a mighty Prince, or asJunius renders ita Prince of God.
This vertue of humility hath ever attended the specious endowments of the excellent on earth, for holy Jacob who inherited the blessing, was richly qualified, with this rare ornament, and what could have been more usefull unto him in the many revolutions of his painfull pilgrimage, then an humble spirit submitting both to exile, and obscure employments from that Nabal Laban, How could meeke Moses have endured the murmurings of that proud perverse and stifnecked people, had he not been dignified with divine humility, which fitted him to beare all the burthens of their folly? How should holyJob so bravely have encountered the bitter brunt of such crosses and losses, if his humble soule had not formerly meditated, on the naked condition of our birth and death? How should royall David so silently have suffered, the raging reproaches of rayling Shimes, if his humble spirit had not stoopt so low, as it was out of the reach of that roaring Cannon.
But the heighth of excellence is our humble Saviour, who proposeth himselfe as our most perfect pattern, saying unto us, and to all his Disciples,Learn of me for I am meeke and lowly in heart, adding a promise to his sacred precept that we shall finde rest, yea rest to our soules, for his yoke is easie and his burthen light, his comandements not greivous nor hard to be borne, no clog so heavie as the chain of pride, which hath made men companions to infernall spirits, nor no yoke so easie a the love of humility, which attending our graces they cannot be lost.
Thus have I briefly though weakly treated of our spirituall endowments which are sound and saving, and in the next place shall propound common gifts, promiscuously conferred on the godly and the wicked, the one by vertue of a rectifying principle, returning all to the praise of the Donor, the other receiving such expressions of bounty, but not using them rightly, they are rendred quite lost.
When Saul was called to be King of Israel, a spirit of government was bestowed upon him, and a spirit of valour which fitted him to vindicate, poore Jabesh Gilead from the affront of the Ammonites, so when Judas was called to Apostolicall dignity, he was endowed with abilities to preach and worke miracles, and Nicholas the Deacon was chosen being a proselyte, as a man reputed full of grace and wisdome, soDemes, Duatrephes, and many others, had temporary faith and eminent endowments yet proved Apostates, and by totall defection, have rendred themselves and their graces as lost.
These gifts are either mentall, bodily, or accessary, being the ornaments or tapestry of the lesser world, which is quaintly beautified with these transient jewels, that are variously valued in mens different esteeme, for some have placed their summum Bonum in mentall riches, not knowing him that gives them, the Stoicks have supposed an immunity from passions, to be the very highest attainable felicity, not considering that vertue teacheth men to regulate, but not to annihilate these forms of appetite, which are of most excellent and laudable use, when rectified by wisdome from inordinate excesse.
The Epicure esteems a plentifull enjoyment, of sensuall pleasures as his sovereign good, the Mammonist counts gold his numen divinum, and the ambitious makes honour his adored Idol, the Machiavell gives maximes to circumvent by policie, and the Monopolist wrongs all to advance private gain, thus our rationall powers are miserably blinded, by the the interposition of prevailing passions, which subdue or suffocate those specious excellencies, which by right should rule, not be ruled by them.
The most excellent gift is the understanding facultie, which sits Queen regent enthroned in the soule, the will and memory being those Noble Peers, with whom she consults in the affairs of this Microcosme, the affections and passions are those turbulent Pragmaticks, that doe ill offices by misinformation, abusing those high and superiour powers, to have their ends though they ruine all subservient to these are our bodily sences, which are by [Page 60] the soules immediate operation, being the organs whereby the species of things are heard or seene or perceived by us, the members of our bodies are inferiour agents, employed in their worke by the superiour powers, each totally vitiated in the fall of man, whereby not their essence but their excellencie was lost.
This causeth aberration and miserable ataxie, in our purest naturals, till rectified by grace, and yet comman gifts may be very illustrious, in the admirable abilities of unsanctified nature, for here may reside the ample theory, of all divine and humane learning, brancht out by art into severall Ideas, resembling the habits even of reall graces, but alas they want an internall principle, to give them life in a spirituall existence, and therefore still are but common gifts, which being things transient may quickly be lost.
Mans intellect is capable of severall endowments, by grace or nature infused into it, the first wee have considered in their spirituall excellence, the later we shall briefly now view in their place, for knowledge doth not terminate in empty speculation, or the naked theory of divine or humane things, but must be attired in a habit of gravity, that may fute with the eminence of its birth and worth, for which cause those ingenious & active spirits, which acquired most of this much estemed treasure diffused it again for the benefit of others the light of nature directing them therein.
Socrates is sayd to excell in the active, Pythagoras in the contemplative part of Philosophy, but Plato conjoyned them in a perfect genus, which he subdivided into these three sorts, the morall which chiefly consists in action, the naturall as the subject of contemplation, and the rationall which teacheth in a logicall way, to make a distinction between true and false: but with him to determine of the end of all actions, the cause of all natures, or the light of all reasons, Saint Augustine thought it both tedious to follow, and rash to affirme by a positive conclusion: yet admires his excellency as far transcending, the most eminent of others in Theologicall knowledge, and therefore fingles him from all the rest, as an absolute epitome of all Ethnick perfections.
So Aristotle & Pliny were very profound, in accute searching, [Page 61] out many naturall mysteries, wherein they improved their acquisite sagacity, and enriched others both with light and learning, but he that translated Aristotles Problemes, hath lost the commendation of his art and industry, the vulgar tracing of such abstruse footsteps, being of perniciou consequence, to licentious Wantons.
Aeneus Seneca, who as some suppose, both wr [...]te unto S . [...] Paul, and received writing from him, was free in taxing the turpitude abounding in the fabulous theology of the times wherein he lived, and though subtile discourse and solid judgment, be seldom inherent in the selfsame subject, yet in Cicero and Seneca were found a concurrence, both of art and elegance in their highest apex.
The noble Mithridates, Hippocrates, and Galen, were famous for their knowledge in the usefull art of Physick, so Gentius, Lys [...] machus, andArtimisia, had their Princely studies much exercised this way, improving by experience what art or nature, presented to the view of the eye or intellect, their prudent observation paving us a path, to the precious fountain of that noble Science.
And as the improvement of the liberall arts, have illustrated the gifts of wise and learned Authors, so the curious handycrafts set forth the excellency of mans naturall ingenuity in its sundry operations: Cain being the first that had skill in Architecture, and built a City in the infancy of time, calling it Enoch by the name of his son, to register his Posterity in the records of fame, so from his family was derived to others the musicall numbers, and arts of most antiquity, though their ample excellence and polished perfection, were not brought to maturity untill after ages.
Now although both Philosophy, Physick, and Musick, Astronomy, and Geometry be of great utility, yet practicall knowledge hath worn the garland, and her followers are ranked among the most eminent, for these have been famous for cardinall vertues, even Justice, Prudence, Temperance, and Fortitude, and have by common gifts atteined such morality, as rendred them exemplary to succeeding generations.
Fabricius was fortified in his c [...]ndid integrity, as nothing could divert him from ingenuous dealing, for his solid mind [Page 62] being byassed with vertue, his actions swerved not by feare or favour, King Pyrrhus his gold, nor his promise of preferment, in sharing unto him so much of his Kingdom, could prevail to make him perfidious to the State, or to go a hairs breadth from his innated honesty. How famous for vertues in their various kindes, were also those other noble Romans, as Regulus, the Catoes, the Scipioes, the Gracchi, whose admired excellencies are mentioned in history, and therefore S. Augustine worthily wonders, that these were not deified in their blind superstition, sith the gods they worshipped, were vicious men, or rather Devils as he learnedly proveth: but in stead of such honour the valiant Scipio, the conquerour of Hannibal, and tamer of Carthage, was ingratefully banished fromRome, which he preserved, to poor Linternum where he dyed.
The revolutions which alter mens personall estates, have a speciall influence upon their common gifts, prosperity and adversity, dejection and dignity having their severall effects in the minds and lives of men, for as some are elated by their riches and honour, so others are cast downe in the sense of their sorrows, but vertue is expressed when humble continence and resolved patience still regulates them both.
Seneca sayth of riches and power, that they are a large field for vertue to walk in, where various endowments in their differing expressions, may take their turns and not justle one another, for here is a spacious and desirable way, to discover magnanimity in its utmost extent, in the liberall distribution of those severall gifts, as are eyther of the minde, the body, or estate. Now though indigence cannot expresse munificence, nor obscurity manifest all mentall vertues, yet poverty may illustrate the endowment of patience, and limne it to the life in most orient colours, and though here be no arme of outward potency, to execute the dictates of distributive beneficence, yet want cannot suffocate internall excellence, but still it will shine in the midst of fortunes malice.
So valour is bright where apparent dangers and obvious difficulties occur to impede it, as in Hercules his labours, and Hannibal his marches, who cut his passages through the rocky Alps, forAlexanders atchievments had never been so [Page 63] memorable, if he had not vanquished a potent Darius, nor had Julius Caesar atteined such eminence, if Pompey his Antagonist had been weak or obscure.
The tedious absence and troubles of Ulysses, illustrated the constancy of his prudent Penelope, and Admetus his misfortune even ministred matter, to his chast Alceste, to expresse her vertue: but contrariwise the height of prosperity and a surfet of pleasures proclaimed the infamy of great Agrippina and imperious Messalina, whose vices made them the monsters of our sex. Thus they which improved what natures light, & fit education infused into them, have set forth the pulchritude of these common gifts, conferred upon them by divine dispensation: but they which have quenched the specious sparks of common ingenuity by impudent wickednesse, were convinced of their madnesse, and irrationall stupidity, from those rayes that shined in the lives of others. Hence see we that the Gentiles who knew not the law, did by nature the things cotained in the law, these having not the law, were a law to themselves, the effect of the law being written in their hearts, but the other which had the same light of nature, and yet did not improve it, by like vertuous actions, became miserably vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts were replete with darknesse. The use to be made of such informations should teach us the improvement even of common gifts, wherein many of them made such happy progresse, as we come far short of their seeming excellency, and have cause to blush at our brutish ignorance, who live in the sunshine of Christs glorious Gospel, & yet have not answered by a holy conversation, the sacred means we have sweetly enjoyed: If they knew so much then we may know more, our light being derived from the meridian of mercy, wch though they walkt in darknes, and the shadow of death, hath guided our feet in the paths of peace. How should our piety excell their prudence, & our Christian purity their morall vertues, lest they rise in judgment, & condemn our remisnesse for non improvement even of common gifts, which may lie heavy on those slothfull servants who hide up the talent of their Lord and Master, bereaving themselves of the use of their endowments, which resting in the napkin are rendred quite lost.
Thus much for our common gifts that are mentall, our bodily and accessary are now to be considered, and they be both so obvious to sence, as every one may know the possessours of them, for that men are young, strong, healthfull and active, is cleerly conspicuous to themselves and others, that they be rich, or honourable, or in eminent authority, is usually engraven in most specious characters, but the excellency of spirituall or mentall endowments, are not so easily or certainly known, for which cause we have laboured with such perspicuity as brevity permitted, to paint out their effigies, and make them discernable.
Neyther can wee without the possession of grace, enjoy the comfort of these accessary benefits, much lesse can wee use them as organs of righteousnesse, in giving up our all to God and his service, for these ornaments of nature were not given unto us, to gratifie Satan and our own concupiscence, but to be subservient to the reasonable soul, that the Lord may be glorified in our bodies and spirits, shall wee thinke that our wealth, our power or authority, were given us as weapons to contest with our Creatour, that we should with those Gyants which warred against Heaven, even fight with our God in abusing his gifts, No these are conferred as firm obligations, to ingage us more exactly to duty and thankfulnesse, in the pious improvement of all our endowments, which otherwise employed, are even rendred quite lost.
The transient mutability of our present condition expresseth the decay of all our outward gifts, our bodies being tossed like brittle barks on the tempestuous Seas of succeeding calamities for a counterblast of sicknesse in the morning of our youth, will quickly wither our beauty and strength, and make us sensible of a sad revolution, as a monitor to minde us of our certain mortality, but if wee live till declining age, we are daily infested with severall infirmities, which rush in like waves till they ruine nature, and resolve us again to our original principles.
The keepers of the house will begin to tremble, and the strong men to stoop and bow by decaying, the grinders to cease because they are few, and they to wax dark that look out by the windows, The Almond tree shall flourish as old [Page 65] age its ensigne, and the grashopper be a burthen where health is exhausted, and a deluge of distresses overwhelme by inundation, our abilities of nature til at length they are lost.
We may not suppose that the span of our life, whichJob sayth isswift as a weavers shittle, is all our own, or to be disposed of, as we thinke fit in doing what we will, fith by many casualties we lose the use, of those instruments of action, even the members of our bodies, some being deprived of sight or hearing, others being lame or bereft of lims, and the most if they live till a length of years, are defective in all or in some of these, which should teach us to improve the best of our strength, health, wealth, & honour, in the service of our Master that when he shall summon us before his Tribunall, we may render our account with abounding comfort.
The cursed hypocrite may have common gifts, and so gain an esteeme by his seeming sanctity, but the spirituall improvement even of temporall endowments, is only peculiar to the possessors of grace, for these are they that employ their talent, of naturall knowledge or acquisite wisdome, to finde out truths revealed in the Word, and to walke by that light as the guide of their lives: Thus may we spiritualize our accessary gifts, which sanctified unto us are of much utility, as did holy Job who used his riches to relieve the poore the fatherlesse and widow, and to clothe the naked whose loynes did blesse him, because they were warmed with the fleece of his sheep, his gracious abilities were as eyes to the blinde, and as feet to to the lame to succour and support them, at his honourable presence the young men withdrew, and the aged arose to render him reverence, for he used his power to vindicate the oppressed, and to deliver, him that was ready to perish, he brake the jaws of the wicked and ungodly, and plackt away the pr [...]y which he held in his teeth, Loe how a concurrence of riches and honour authority and power were improved by him, who when he was tossed with waves of calamity could comfort himselfe that he had walked in integrity, for although he humbly confesseth his failings,as not able to answer God one of a thousand, yet so wisely and innocently had he carryed himselfe, as Satan was non plust when he came to accuse him, Howbeit the Lord in his abundant wisdome, did [Page 66] try him by the losse of all these enjoyments, that as in in prosperity hee was eminent for vertue, so his radiant graces might shine in affliction, his admirable endowments had their daily exercise, and continued improvement in his justice and liberality, but his faith and patience were then most illustrious, when nothing was left him but the Lord alone, and as he is a mirrour of exemplary excellence, teaching as to trade in the employment of our gifts so the end of his affliction was a diadem of comfort, and a double dowry of all accessary endowments, Job. 42.10.
Our Saviour commands to take away his talent, who hid it in the earth and would not negotiate, and give it unto him who improving the five had made them ten by his industrious imployment: for to him that hath (sayth he)shall be given an abundance of blessings attending his endeavours, but from him that hath not a care to use it well; even that which he hath shall be taken from him. This may we see verified by daily experience, in observing the passages that are obvious and apparent, the gifts of some men being likeEphraim, his goodnesse as the dew of the morning, which soon goes away, but grace is a treasure which cannot be exhausted though health and wealth and honour should fail, her precious effects being permanent riches, and these are the endowments can never be lost.
In the reason annexed to Christs sacred precept we generally considered a prohibition of losse, first, of the creatures, secondly, of time, thirdly, of endowments spirituall or temporall, wherefore man being styled the lesser world, as comprizing in his excellence all finite perfections a caution is given that he lose not himselfe in the intricate labyrinth of sin and errour.
A man loseth himselfe when he loseth his way, wandring in some by path beyond his intention, he loseth himself when he walks in darknesse and sodainly falls into unexpected danger, he loseth himselfe when others mislead him, as the Arami[...]s were led into the midst of Samaria, and he loseth himselfe by refusing a guide, which is able to direct him in the wayes of safety.
The metaphor of walking is frequently used for the [Page 67] progresse of our lives either in good or evill, the practice of vertue and pollutions of vice, being the opposite wayes of the godly and the wicked, which should teach us heedfully to shun all sinne, as the sad originall of all our miseries, and the intoxicating cup which so soon as we tasted, we went out of our way, and so became lost.
Errour and sin are terms so convertible, as they cannot be disjoyned nor easily distinguished, for mentall errours contaminate the soule, as vicious practices pollute soule and body, yea so are they involved and wrapped together as they cannot be untwisted by any division, but joyntly make up such cords of iniquity; as draw men insensibly into pits up perdition, for which cause the wicked are branded or stigmatized, with a note of infamy describing their folly, in that they decline the streight wayes of righteousnesse, to walke in the by paths of darknesse and errour, which I wish were well considered of many in our times who looke not upon errour in the notion of sin, and therefore slight it with some poore evasion, as not guilty of censure by our selves or others.
Christ is the way the truth and the life, by whom alone we must go to the Father, therefore they that have no interest in Jesus Christ, are out of the way of life and salvation, the excellencie of his wayes, are set forth unto us, as wayes of pleasure and paths of prosperity, which caused the godly to bee ever solicitous, of walking sincerely in that sacred way.
Mistakes in our way are the originall of errours, and the leading cause of our many aberrations, and therefore the godly have frequently inculcated, their desires herein, by various expressions, somtimes by option breathing their devotions,O that my wayes were direct (say in the Psalmist) somtimes by question in a case of such concernment, wherewith shall a young man clense his way? somtime declaring their constant resolution,I have chosen the way of truth, sayth holy, David, as most eligible, petitioning divine direction, to be taught the way where he should walke, somtime professing his provident caution, I sayd I will take heed to my wayes, somtime affirming by a positive conclusion, they doe [Page 68] no iniquity that walke in his wayes, for the way of the just is like the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day: Have wee not cause then to use all endeavour to be rightly informed concerning our way, fith the Lord himselfe by his Prophet commands us to aske and enquire for the old and good way.
The immortall soule created for felicity, by her naturall instinct seekes the sovereign good, but having by sin lost her pristine way, shee wanders like a vagrant till rectified by grace, for Adam lost by his sinfull defection the way of his comfortable created excellence, a Christian standing with a flaming sword to keep the way of the tree of life, but now Christ hath paved us a fresh and living way to the Throne of Grace through the vaile which is his flesh, and hath left us his Word and Spirit to direct us, in a perfect way to the heavenly Canaan, but every errour is a crooked way, diametrially opposite to the rectitude of verity, which neither declines to the right hand or left, but as a rule of righteousnesse still shews us our way.
Much is the trouble which at this time the Church grones under concerning a way, which though Satans malice and mans miserable at axie, hath ministred the matter of uncomfortable contests, for what can be more grievous to godly souls then to see faithfull brethren fall out by the way, when they that are one in fundamentall truths, shall yet be divided in circumstantiall differences, this is not to contend for the precious faith, delivered to the Saints in the sacred Scriptures, [...] o it rather a deviation by unnecessary bitternesse, from walking in the wayes both of truth and peace, which makes the hearts of the righteous sad, and strengthens the wicked in their pride and prophanesse, who tell it in Gath to disgrace the Gospel, and publish it in Ashkelon to reproach our Religion.
The fruit which grows on this tree of contention, hath a noxious quality and of dangerous consequence, and may be resembled to those poysonous plants, whose shadow proves deadly to those that sleepe under them, so dissentions have ushered in pernicious errours which have slain and wounded many sleeping souls, rendring them obnoxious to those [Page 69] secret pitfalls, into which they are plunged t [...]a [...]erre from their way.
And as errour is a maze wherein we lose our way, so is it darknesse which involves us in danger, by the first we are transported from the path of precious truth, by the latter entangled in the trains of errour, for those strong delusions have prevailing influence, especially on them who believe not the truth, and the Word doth witnesse they are sent of God, as judgements to punish their impious aberrations: O then beware of rejecting verity, and slighting Christs voyce, in his lively Oracles, lest indulging a lye thou be made an example, of his justice in punishing one sin with another.
There is nothing more contrary then light and darknesse, nor any thing more opposite then truth and errour, now for falsehood to put on the shape of verity, needs the cunning contrivement of some great Archimaga, and therefore Satan that subtile Sophister comes in with his fallacies to circumvent us, and pretending new light so wraps us in darknesse, as we cannot discover our approaching danger.
His stratagems are many, and of direfull cons [...]quence, all tending to the eversion of our spirituall comfort, not enduring the sway of Christs sacred Scepter, the Word of truth to direct and guide us, and therefore as he blindes the wicked and prophane, with the filthy foggs of all grosse abominations: so he darkens light to delude the simple, that errour embraced may render them lost.
One engine which he useth to advance his enterprizes, hath a double edge to circumvent and slay us, turning two wayes both besmearing the truth, and painting out errour in a borowed beauty, for one of his methods into cast aspersions, like mire in the face of transparent verity, that her glorious lustre being thereby obscured, shee may seeme contemptible in the view of the vulgar, but contrarywise hee adornes soule errour, in the grave and near mantle of a seeming sanctity, and so covers her deformity with a vail of vertue, that shee may in the darke be admired as amiable.
The Scripture is cl [...]re in proving this assertion, from the deceit he used in beguiling our first parents, to whom he accuseth even the God of truth, as maligning the fruition of [Page 70] their attainable happinesse, whereas himselfe was that cursed Apolyon that bereft them of felicity by his murtherous lying, tempting them to taste of forbidden fruit, which wrapt man in darknes thus wofully lost. Thus hath he ever obscured the beauty, and depraved the dignity of divine truth, by casting an odium on the most illustrious, as we formerly shewed in collecting observations, for the lustre of verity is so transcendingly ravishing, as all should be taken with the admiration of it, if the malice of Satan did not darken her resplendence, by casting in some prejudice to prevaricate our judgement.
It were easie to accumulate in the series of History, many severall examples to prove this maxime, for did he not move the Patriarks to envie, against poore Joseph who told but the truth, they thought to have prevented his Propheticall predictions, revealed in his dreams which hee told unto them, but the Lord would not lose one tittle of that truth, which they sought to exterminate by their cruell malice. Gen. 50.20.
The voyce of him who is truth it selfe, confirms this conclusion instead of many witnesses, when he tels the Jews that they sought to kill him, because he was a man that had told them the truth, against him as a man they could finde no accusation, but they stumbled at the truth which discovered their darknesse, for they could not endure to heare of that excellence, the divine Deity that dwelleth in his manhood, nor patiently would suffer the balme of his truth, to breake the head or heart of their vices: This was the originall of all those aspersions, and bitter calumnies they fastned upon him, their hatred of that truth which so shone in his doctrine, that it bewrayed the darknesse which they lived and lay in: Which was obvious to Pilate that unjust Judge, who knew the high-Priests had delivered him for envie and yet had not courage to vindicate his innocencie but cruelly condemned him against his own light, yet our Saviour told him though he were a King his regall power was not of this world, but that he was borne and came among men to bear witnesse to the truth, which he sealed with his bloud, and as himselfe so many of his Saints, have lost their [Page 71] lives for witnessing the truth; their cruell enemies the ch [...]ldren of darknesse declaring against them by malicious slanders.
And as Satan is malicious in depraving pure truth, so he paints out errout to advance his darke Regiment, and is very ambitious and active to adore her, to delude the simple, with her seeming beauty, for these shee incounters like that impudent harlot, with flattering kisses and insinuating postures, making an ample and elegant Narration, of the pleasure and profit is gained by her enjoyment, but that shee may bring in the prey to her net, shee promiseth peace offerings and paying of vowes, that seeming sa ctity thus placed in the front, unhallowed policy may bring up the reare, after shee proceeds to ensnare with her ornaments, the tapestry, carved works, fine linnen of Egypt, the perfuming of her bed, with myrrh aloes, and cynamon, and with all this variety satiety of love: So he followeth her indeed as an oxe to the slaughter, or a fool that goeth to the stocks for correction, not aware of a dart which strikes through his liver, nor knowing that her guests are in the depth of hell, for errours den is both darke and deadly, being a lively embleme of the bottomlesse pit, for if any fall into it, they neither know when, nor where they shall stay in that dolefull danger.
The way of the wicked is resembled to darknesse, because they know not whereat they stumble, and those that are involved in the darknesse of errour, have the feet of their affections tript up in their stumbling, so that they fall from one evill to another, and hardly are reduced into paths of truth or peace, unlesse mercy dart in, some cleere Gospel light, to dispell that darknesse in which they were lost.
The Philosophers say there is no pure darknes, wherin there is not some mixture of light, so we may say there is no errour, wherein there is not some mixture of truth, for erroneous spirits have boasted of this, that they hold many principles of undoubted verity, yet the leven of their errour so sowreth the lump, that it makes no sweet bread of sincerity and truth: For as darknesse is a privation of light, so is sin or errour, there [Page 72] is nothing positive, neither are they efficient but rather deficient, the evill of defect not admitting definition: yet we know there is darknesse where we see no light, and perceive there is silence, where we heare no sound, but to see the darknesse, or to heare the silence, transcends the activity of our eyes or ears.
The darknesse of errour is a dolefull condition, beset with dangers which are almost inevitable, because being insensible of this mentall malady, they seldome seek to the heavenly Physician, it is easie to convince grosse sinners of their evill, who somtimes with thePublican, will smite upon their breast, and say God be mercifull to me a sinner, as conscious to the guilt and weight of their sin, but to make men understand that they are in an errour, requires the ayd of a divine power, that may speak with a witnesse, as the Lord did to Job, even out of the whirlwind to declare his majesty: for hee was in an errour when hee thought hee might expostulate, to know the cause of his severe correction, or plead with God as a man with his neighbour, requiring satisfaction by the rule of equity, but when hee saw the errour of his rash request, hee was humbled for it even in dust and ashes, his deep apprehensions of a dreadfull Majesty, deterring his soul from that lothed darknesse: So the folly of his friends and their rigid censure, in judging him an Hypocrite was a grievous errour, howbeit they thought they had pleaded for God, to vindicate his justice in Jobs condigne punishment, but the Lord plainly tels them,his wrath was kindled, because they spake not the thing that was right, and bids them bring sacrifice, that Job may pray for them, to divert the judgments their sin had deserved,
I wish the godly in our present times, would acquaint themselves to consider such passages, that they might beware of erroneous mistakes, in contracting harsh censures on other of Gods people, for the bitter root of our sad divisions, bo h in Church and State, hath by these how much fastned, and cannot be pluckt up, to end our calamities till darknesse be dispelled by the rayes of pure light: sith nothing hath so hindred our happy Reformation, not retarded the setling of [Page 73] a pious discipline, as the miserable disturbance both of truth and peace, which darkning our counsels have rendred them lost.
Let this teach us caution in respect of our frailty, for errour is incident to man since the fall, and also compassion on them that are seduced, endeavouring to restore them by the spirit of meeknesse, for this would bring balme to binde up the wound, not multiplyed contentions to make it bleed afresh, if we were lesse confident, in maintaining our assertions, and more compassionate in reforming others.
One caution may be usefull in a double regard, that wenever extenuate the evill of errour, but abhor it as darknesse and be humbled for it, as a high provocation of divine vengeance, again beware of despising or judging, the persons or finall estates of any, sith some by their gracious and humble retractations, have repaired those breaches, they made by their errours, witnesse those famous and admired Worthies, who sought Gods glory by such selfe denyalls, and advanced those truths by ingenious confession, they had formerly opposed in the darknesse of errour, we may well be ashamed to patronize evill, but not to relinquish it when light expels darknesse, lest persisting in errour produce its gradation, from a failing of infirmity, to a fault of presumption.
Our indulging of errour is one of those sins, which the Lord hath visited in our sad castigation, the greatnesse whereof he that runs may read, in the grievous calamities infl [...]cted upon us, yet we have resembled rebellious children, or incorrigible servants not bettered by the rod, while hardning our hearts and stifning our necks, we refuse to return from errours darknesse, this hath occasioned our wretched stumbling, and fearfull falling into many enormities, in that we have doted on indulgent errour, not dreading the event which may render us lost.
Neither have we only mistaken our way, by wandring unhappily in a labyrinth of errour, or been wrapt in the mantle of miserable darknesse, which hath made us obnoxious unto deadly danger, but we have been also misled by others, who like blinde guides have deluded poor souls, and [Page 74] steered their course like unskilfull Pilots, on Scylla and Charybdis, to wrack us with ruine, for the only originall of our multiplyed contentions, was illegall tyranny obtruded in ceremonies, in which such successe was atchieved in short time, as promised a progresse to their subtill machinations, for the enemies of truth then had cause to triumph, and glory in the power they received from the Beast, in working miracles metamorphosing men, into a bruitish stupidity, which renders them lost.
This was the condition of those ignorant souls, who lived in places where preaching was cryed down, and where the prohibition of a painfull ministery, introduced the principles of Atheisticall impiety, for men were taught by many of their leaders, to dash a commandement out of the decalogue, yea to slight Religion and the power of godlinesse, as a main opposition of their ayms and ends.
Thus the leaders of Gods people have caused them to erre, the watchmen being blinde and delighting to slumber, so that no trumpet being sounded by these Sentinels, the Fort might be surprized without any resistance, for it was easie for Popery to slide in unawares, where prophanesse was porter to induce superstition: and affected ignorance entertained innovation, which came posting forward in the posture of Jehu.
But O the misery of our mentall darknesse, which leads us by errour into all extreams, that as soon as we escape the net of one danger, wee fall into another, being quickly misled, for we doe not ponder the path of our feet, nor weigh our gold in the ballance of the Sanctuary, but still take up tenents on trust from others, who deceived themselves have deluded us also: this makes us loath that pure bread of life, the delicious banquet of our poore hungry souls, which once we prized as incomparably precious, hungring and thirsting to be satisfied with it. And therefore it is the more sad and deplorable, that men who have been called by the preaching of the Word, should renounce or contemne that sacred ordinance which they found efficacious in the work of their conversion, is the Lords hand shortned that it cannot save, [Page 75] or is his arme weakned in the power of the Gospell? hath the sword of the spirit now lost its edge, or the armour of God is that grown unusefull? no surely the Word like the rain that descendeth, hath its fructifying effect upon the good ground, and the foolishnesse of preaching so deeply undervalued shall have its operation on them that beleeve.
Woe then to all them that betray the trust of those poore blinde souls, which lean so much upon them, by leading them aside from the streams of living waters, to those broken cisterns which can hold no comfort, how can they dispense with their consciences that tell them, that Christ is contemned in the person of his ministers, sith he taketh the affront as done unto himselfe, which is cast upon them by erroneous spirits, Christs sheep heare his voice and will follow him, rejoycing to find him in the odour of his oyntments, and dare not turn their backs on the preaching of the Word, but are satisfied with it as with marrow and fatnesse.
Christ sayth to the Jews who rejected his Word, Yee will not come unto me that yee might have life, a patheticall expression to shew the perversnesse, of gainsaying spirits which refuse precious means, for though no man can come to Christ of himselfe, unlesse the Father internally draw him, yet have we externall and rationall power, to go to the place where his Word is dispensed and in doing this with sincere affection, may expect the blessing which wisdome pronounceth to those which daily wait at her gates, and give attendance at the posts of her doors, for so we shall prove what our gracious God will vouchsafe to effect by his sacred Ordinance, which is no lesse powerfull to quicken dead souls, then his voyce to raise Lazarus who lay in the grave, and sure this will one day aggravate their judgement, who neglecting means have refused mercie, and following blinde guides were misled in darknesse, and absorpt in those errours which render them lost.
The Apostle puts a Quere to the seduced G [...]lathians, concerning the way of their receiving the spirit, whether it were dispensed in the works of the Law, or communicated to them [Page 76] by the hearing of faith, and the like let a weake one by his holy example, be bold to propound to our seduced brethren, was the publike ministry the means of your conversion, or the private meetings wherein tis cryed down, I mean not th [...]t sweet and christian society, wherein frequently the godly speake one to another, by holy conference and mutuall assistance, to build up themselves both in faith and love, for this is accepted and approved by the Lord, who registers such things in the booke of his remembrance, yea will own these and lay them up, as precious jewels, to be spared as a man spares his son that serves him, for no doubt there be many who assemble in private, to repeat what was delivered in the publike ministry, and to crave a blessing for internall efficacie, on the outward means to themselves and others: These doe not calumniate with reproachfull revilings the message or messengers of Christ in the Gospel, but doe willingly subscribe to this undoubted truth, that the preaching of the Word is powerfull to conversion: Therefore to these I propound not the question, but to them that meet in another way, to erect a Babel or fabrick of confusion, to overtop or undermine the most faithfull ministry: Was it not, I say, the preaching of the Word, whereby ye were called out of natures darknesse, to enjoy the revelation of those sacred mysteries, which made known unto you the counsell of God? How is it then that ye loath the brest, out of which yee have sucked such sacred refreshment, and refuse the benefit of that sincere milke, by vertue whereof yee are grown to maturity: This plainly shewed the rock from whence ye were hewen, even the wofull estate whereunto Adam brought us, then made you partakers by divine dispensation, of those inestimable treasures are layd up in Christ: if you can any where finde food more precious, then those divine delicacies the ministry affords us, I should not blame you although ye did travell even from East to West to finde soule satisfaction, but sith the Manna falls about our tents, Gods bounty vouchsafing it even at the door, let not our plenty now make us grow insolent, to contemne the blessing which we cannot value, no let it be our care to expresse true gratefulness, in embracing [Page 77] and obeying the voyce of the Word, that its active operation may reduce us from errour, and dispell all the darknesse in which we were lost.
In the last place we may lose ourselves, by refusing a guide which might lead us in safety; even the holy Scriptures wherein are revealed all necessary truths for our comfort and instruction, for in these are contained those sacred precepts, and precious promises we formerly mentioned, with those divine observations which we also collected, for the ample benefit of our selves and others, but my intentionall brevity admits me not to touch, what any have written in commendation of Scripture, nor to fall upon that argument by way of common place, which my weaknesse prohibite [...]h as too high and transcending.
This only I desire for my selfe and others, that we looke on Scripture as a continent of comfort, because it hath a treasure contained in it, which cannot be exhausted, unto all e [...]ernity, and therefore though heaven and earth passe away, no tittle or jot of the Scripture shall fail, but its precepts, promises, and propheticall predictions, either of mercie or judgement shall be permanent for ever: for though Christ put a period to the legall ceremonies, which were types and shadows of good things to come, yet the law was not annihilated in respect of its morality, but stands in force as a rule for direction: Himselfe was the substance prefigured in those shadows, and the reall Antitype of their signification: yea he came to fulfill the Law in full perf ction, which shews it is a myrrour of perpetuall purity.
Looke we then on the Scriptures as our safest guide, to lead us through the difficulties of every condition, consulting with them when reason is nonplust, and can finde no footing to direct us in our way: which was the practice of David, and Heman, of Job, Jehoshaphat and many other wor [...] hies, what time they were oppressed, even beyond humane strength, repairing to the Word they found full consolation.
The Scripture is a cleere and transparent fountain, in which we may view our spirituall de [...]ormity, and understand [Page 78] the originall of all our misery, to be the depravation of our nature by sin, and that guilt bound us over to eternall punishment, for the due satisfaction of divine justice, being chained to the curse as a miserable consequent, of our wofull defection, the bitter root of all.
The Scripture declares that the Gospel was preached to man immediately after his fall, That the seed of the woman should breake the serpents head, and conquer the power of infernall darknesse: This was glad tydings to the humble soule, dejected in the sence of its sin and misery, that it might not sinke into the pit of despair but embracing the promise might never be lost.
The gathering of the Church was first in Adams family, wherein were a time, both the godly and the wicked, Cain slaying Abel his innocent brother, Protomartyr and emblem of the Church its persecution, after it was gathered into an Arke, to save it from drowning in the universall deluge, when onlyNoah and them of his family, enjoyed the benefit of lifes preservation: These passages of providence were not only recorded, by Historicall narration in the sacred Scripture, but were also significant setting forth unto us the state of the Church in her militant condition: for which cause a collection of some passages of providence, were presented in the view of our weake observations, serving to illustrate the love of our God, extended to his people that they might not be lost.
A single eye is one of those requisites, which in viewing the Scriptures will be usefull unto us, that the Lord may be lookt on as most wise and holy, and our selves as indigent, sinfull, and miserable, for in viewing the vast and inconceiveable distance, twixt his glorious greatnesse and our miserable basenesse, wee may see the necessity of such a Mediator, as might make an infinite meritorious satisfaction: This shews the grievous nature of sinne, so deservedly odious to the divine Majesty, as all the creatures in heaven and earth could make no answer to his absolute justice: Wherefore Christ is the sum or divine [Page 79] subject, which the Scriptures treat of as their highest argument, for which cause they are styled by a learned Father, the garments or swathing band of the babe Christ Jesus.
Our blessed Saviour himselfe was content to have his Doctrine examined by Scripture, and to call in their testimony as a witnesse to the truth, of those divine Oracles delivered by him, and as it is observed by them that know the Tongues, hee usually quoted the Septuag [...]nts Translation, which refutes their errour who will not admit, that ought is to bee used except the Originall.
So the holy Apostles use Scripture testimony, to confirme the verity of their words and writings, reciting Moses the Psalmes and the Prophets, in their Narrations, Sermons, and Exhortations, inciting their Auditors to the study of the Scriptures, which young Timothyhad traded in, from his tender age, yea it was the commendation of those noble Bereans, that they searched the Scriptures to finde divine truth, and were wee so wise by their godly example, to try all Doctrines by the Touchstone of Scripture, wee should not wander for want of a guide, misled in those errours which render us lost.
All Scripture is given by divine inspiration, being profitable to teach and instruct in righteousnesse, nor is it of private interpretation, to be turned or twisted to the fancies of men, for the godly penmen of the sacred Scriptures, were acted or moved by the Holy Ghost, whose divine dictates they faithfully delivered, to direct the Church as a guide infallible.
It is called also a most sure word of Prophesie, unto which the Saints doe well to give heed, as unto a light that shineth in darknesse, untill the day dawn, and the day star arise: It is a comfort in this time of trouble, that there is such a Judge to stint every strife, for the word shall judge men in their ultimate triall, though now they refuse to be guided by it.
The Scripture is reverently esteemed by the righteous, as the sacred evidence of their heavenly inheritance, giving them here while it guides them in the way, a taste of the fruits of their promised Canaan, but the wicked of the world contemne and despise it, and relish it no more then the white of an egge, as appears by those blasphemous and contemptible epithites, which some in these times have given unto the Scriptures, no marvell though they rush into violent exorbitancies, and ruine themselves on the rock of temerity, when they dare adventure without this safe guide, in the uncoucht wayes of erroneous darknesse: The brightnesse of the Sun gives no light to the blinde, nor can they rightly judge of the beauty of colours, but the hearing eare and the seeing eye, shall enjoy the benefit of the sacred Scripture.
The Hereticks and Schismaticks in every age have perverted the Scriptures to their owne destruction, abusing their authority to mayntain those false tenets, which they flatly opposed in their genuine sence, Thus did Arrius, Donatus, the Manichees, and others, against whom the godly made just opposition, detecting their falshood, and refuting their heresies, which they sought to patronize by wrested Scripture.
These erring spirits refused a guide, which occasioned the p [...]ogresse of their blinde illusions, because the further they erred from light, the more they were involved in the snares of darknesse, and while they contemned pure Scripture truth, they miserably doted on devised fables which drew them unawares into a labyrinth of errours in which circular maze they were miserably lost.
Follow then the Scripture, as an infallible guide, which who so is led by shall never miscarry, because it is a key which openeth the cabinet of Gods sacred counsell concerning all mysteries: for the Scripture is the best expounder of it self, where the text is dubious, in our shallow apprehension, the precedent and subsequent serving to illustrate, the sence of Scripture in its true interpretation, but men should not touch it with polluted hands, defiled in the myre of sinfull prejudice,but wash them in innocency like holy David, [Page 81] what time he came neer to compasse Gods altar: humbly imploring divine assistance, in viewing or meditating this divine subject, that the spirit may lead us into every truth, his sacred operation accompanying the Scriptures, For if we consult with fraile flesh and bloud, with carnall reason or meere humane knowledge, wee may possibly lose our selves these woods, by declining or deserting this absolute guide, which is the cause that new minted errours, are stampt for currant though counterfeit coyne, and the basest bullion of exploded old heresies, now passing for payment, among men misguided, but orthodox truths are accounted thredbare, and like antike fashions are quite laid aside in the deep disesteem which men have of the Scriptures, because their pure light detects each false way.
The Scriptures are sufficient to confirm every truth, revealed to Gods people for their comfort and instruction, and also to refute the most impudent errours, which are now gilded over to obscure their deformity: for habituall aberrations are of great antiquity, deriving their pedigree from Adams defection, even to us who improving that wretched patrimony, are prone to drink in the most poysonous errours: especially wee of the weaker sex, have hereditary evill from our grandmother Eve, on whom the subtilty of the insinuating Serpent, had a fatall influence to seduce and betray her, and therefore the Apostle to humble us the more, sayth, the woman was deceived and was in the transgression, placing her as principall in guilt and sin, who was created subordinate by divine institution: for which cause he inweighs against those seducers,who lead away captive poor silly women, who armed with abilities to understand the Scriptures, become a prey to erroneous teachers.
Let me then in pity even petition our sisters, that they submit to the guidance of the sacred Scriptures, from which precious fountain flow those wholsome streams,that refresh and make glad the city of our God, his Church being the pillar, which holds forth to our view, the Imperiall Edicts of the highest majesty, even the sacred Scriptures wherin is [Page 82] proclaimed his divine dictates for infallible direction: Let these be matter of sweetest meditation, to satiate our souls with enduring comfort, that we may not thirst for those puddle waters, which instead of profit, prove poyson unto us.
It resteth now that we carefully collect, the scattered fragments of our dull meditations, and take a view what wee have observed, from the precept of our Saviour, and his reason annexed, in the first we considered his oecumenicall authority, in designing to his servants this gathering employment, and also their humility, and dutifull obedience, in submitting to his precept, in the work imposed.
In collecting we considered temporall necessaries, as the literall sence of this frugall precept, and then by an argument from the lesse to the greater, we inferred the necessity of spirituall provision, first sacred precepts, of piety and charity, directing our active and passive obedience, then promises purging, pardoning, and healing, salves fit to cure each wound of the soul, lastly, wee gathered up sundry observations, to view in them the condition of the godly, in their many afflictions, miraculous deliverances, and various revolutions into different estates.
In the reason we considered how an absolute agent, condescends to the weaknesse of our shallow capacity, propounding our benefit as a speciall motive, inducing to the obedience of his sacred precept, sith every one sayth, Who will shew us any good? and laments the losse of what was but lent him, which illustrates the usefulnesse of this frugall precept, and annexed reason that nothing be lost.
Neyther of the creatures whose order is inverted, by ignorance, intemperance, and base ingratitude, nor yet of time which is wastfully devoured, by idlenesse, curiosity, and wretched anxiety, nor of our endowments, spirituall and temporall, which were weakly considered in their various kinds, the donations of the spirit being of two sorts, eyther saving graces, or common gifts, the temporals we briefly referred to these three, mentall, bodily, and accessary endowments, which of these be permanent, which subject to decay, wee formerly shewed to incite to their improvement, [Page 83] because wee are accountants for the talent of our master, wherewith we must trade that it may not be lost.
Lastly, a caution was tendred unto us, that we lose not our selves in the labyrinth of errour, into which we fall, when we wander from our way, when wee walk in darknesse, or are wrong misled, and when we refuse that infallible guide, the sacred Scriptures, that might lead us safely, we sodainly erre both from truth and peace, and turn into byways which render us lost.
Our compassionate Saviour whose miraculous mercy, hath been the matter of our poor Meditations, vouchsafe us the assistance of his sanctifying spirit, both to know and do what his word directs us, that our judgments being informed by the light of his truth, and our lives reformed from all sinfull obliquity, we may gratefully consecrate all to his prayse, who came to seeke, and save us that were lost.