A Sermon Preached at St Mary le Bow
Preached at St Mary le Bow
Court of Aldermen, & Citizens
Wednesday the 18th of June;
A Day Appointed by Their MAJESTIES,
A Solemn Monthly FAST.
By JOHN TILLOTSON, D. D.
Dean of St Paul's and Clerk of the Closet to His Majesty.
London: Printed for Brabazon Aylmer, at the Three Pidgeons in Cornhill; Will. Rogers, at the Sun over-against St. Dunstan's Church in Fleetstreet; And J. Tillotson, Bookseller in London, 1690.
PUBLISHED FOR Brabazon Aylmer
PUBLISHED FOR Will. Rogers
PUBLISHED FOR J. Tillotson
1.1. To the Right Honourable
Sir THOMAS PILKINGTON,
Lord Mayor of the City of LONDON,
COURT of ALDERMEN.
IN Obedience to Your Commands, I have published this Sermon lately preach'd before You, and do now humbly present You with it; heartily wishing it may have that good effect for the reformation of our Lives, and reconciliation of our unhappy Differences, which was sincerely intended by,
Your most Faithful
and Humble Servant,
1.2. Jeremiah VI. 8.
Be thou instructed O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee, lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited.
THese Words are merciful warning from God to the People of Israel by the Prophet Jeremiah, the last Prophet that God sent to them before their Captivity in Babylon.
The time of this Prophet was of a long continuance, above the space of forty years, viz. from the thirteen year of King Josuah, to the eleventh year of King Zedekiah, the year in which Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon.
This I observe, to shew the great patience of God to a sinful Nation. And this is much the same place of time that God gave warning by our Blessed Saviour and his Apostles to the same People of the Jews concerning their final Destruction. For it was about forty years after the Prediction of our Saviour concering it, just before his Death, that the terrible Destruction [Page 2] of Jerusalem and the Jewish Nation was executed upon them by the Romans, or rather chiefly by themselves; as I shall presently shew. Of which dreadful Desolation, the first taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, and their Captivity into Babylon was a kind of Type and Forerunner. For, as Josephus observes, the taking of Jerusalem by Titus Vespasian did happen in the very same Month, and on the very same Day of the Month in which Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar, viz. upon our tenth of August.
And it is unworthy of our observation, that the time of God's warning is wont to hold some sort of proportion with the extent of his Judgements. Before the universal Deluge which destroyed the whole World, Noah and his Family onely excepted, God gave a much longer warning by the preaching of Noah, for the space of an hundred and twenty years. Before the destuction of a particular Nation, if we may judge by the Gods dealing with the Jews, his time of warning is forty years. And before the destruction of a particular City, if we may conclude any thing from the single example of Niniveh, the time of Gods warning is yet much shorter, the space of forty days.
And now to what end doth God exercise so much patience and threaten so long beforehand, but that by the terrour of his threatenings men may be brought to repentance, and by repentance may prevent the execution of them? For all the while that God by his Prophet threatens ruine and destruction to the People of Israel, he earnestly invites and urges them to repentance, that by this means they might escape the ruine that was denounced against them: This being a condition perpetually implyed in the denunciation of publique judgements, that if a People repent of the evil of their doings God also will repent of the evil which he said he would do unto them, as he expresly declares chap. 18. vers. 7, 8. At what instant I speak concerning a Nation and concerning a Kingdom, to pluck up and to pull down and to destroy it, if that Nation against whom I have pronounc'd turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil which I thought to do unto them. And here in the Text, after God had threaten'd destruction to Jerusalem, because of the over-flowing of all manner of wickedness and oppression in the midst of her, he gives her a merciful warning to prevent this ruine and desolation by repentance, vers. 6, 7. Thus hath [Page 4] the Lord of Hosts said, Hew ye dewn trees, and cast a mount agianst Jerusalem; this is a City to be visited, she is wholly oppression in the midst of her. As a fountain casteth out waters, so the casteth out her wickedness. Before me continually is grief and wounds. And yet when he had pronounced this fearful Sentence upon her, he tells her that all this misery and desolation might yet be prevented, if they would but hearken to the counsel of God, and be instructed by him concerning the things of their peace: For so it follows in the next words, Be thou instructed O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee, lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited. Be thou instructed O Jerusalem, that is, do but now at last take that counsel and warning which hath so often, and so long, been tender'd to thee by my servant the Prophet, who hath now for the space of forty years continually, and that with great earnestness and importunity, been warning thee of this danger and calling thee to repentence and the better mind.
Lest my sould depart from thee. In the Hebrew it is, Lest my soul be loosened and disjoynted from thee, as it is in the margin of your Bibles; hereby signifying, in the most emphatical [Page 5] manner, the wonderful affection and kindness which God had for his People, and how strongly his soul was link'd to them, and how loth he was to withdraw his love from them; it was like the tearing off of a limb, or the plucking of a joint in sunder: so unwillingl is God to come to extremity; so hardly is he brought to resolve upon the ruine even of a sinful Nation: How much rather would he, that they would be instructed and receive correction, and hearken to the things of their peace? But if they will not be persuaded, if no warning will work upon them, his spirit will not always strive with them; but his soul will at last, though with great unwillingness and reluctancie, depart from them.
And then, no intercession will prevail for them; as he threatens by the same Prophet, chap. 15. vers. 1. Then said the Lord unto me, though Moses and Daniel stood before me, yet my mind could not be towards this People; cast them out of my sight and let them go forth; away with them into Captivity, for they have lost my heart, and no intercession of others for them, nothing but their own repentance can recover it.
And when his Soul is once departed from a People, and his heart turn'd against them, then all sorts of evils and calamities will be let loose upon them; as we may read in the next verse of that Chapter: Jer. 15.2.And it shall come to pass if they say unto thee, whither shall we go forth? Then shalt thou tell them, Thus saith the Lord, such as are for death to death, and such as are for the sword to the sword, and such as are for the famine to the famine, and such as are for the captivity to the captivity. For then God will be weary of repenting, as he tells them verse 6. Thou hast forsaken me, saith the Lord, thou art gone backward; therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee and deliver thee, I am weary of repenting. By our obstinate impenitency we harden the heart of God against us, and make him weary of repenting. And when his soul is thus departed from a People,Hos. 9. 12. nothing remains but a fearful expectation of ruine. Wo unto them,saith God by the Prophet,when I depart from them.Therefore be thou instructed O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee, lest I make thee desoalte, a Land not inhabited.
Having given this account of the Words, I shall observe from them three things well worth our consideration.
First, The infinite goodness and patience of God towards a sinful People, and his great unwillingness to bring ruine and destruction upon them; lest my soul depart from thee, lest I make thee desolate, a Land not inhabited. How loth is He that things should come to this extremity? He is not without great difficulty, and some kind of violence, as it were, offered to himself, brought to this severe resolution; his soul is, as it were, rent and disjoynted from them.
Secondly, You see here what is the only proper and effectual means to prevent the misery and ruine of a sinful People. If they will be instructed and take warning by the threatenings of God, and will become wiser and better, then his soul will not depart from them, he will not bring upon them the desolation which he hath threatened.
Thirdly, You have here intimated the miserable case and condition of a People, when God takes off his affection from them, and gives over all further care and concernment for them. Wo unto them, when his soul departs from them. For when God once leaves them, then all sorts of evils and calamities will break in upon them.
I shall speak as briefly as I can to these three Observations from the Text.
I. First, I observe the infinite patience and goodness of God towards a sinful People, and his great unwillingness to bring ruine and destruction upon them; lest my sould depart from thee, lest I make thee desolate, a Land not inhabited. How loth is God that things should come to this? He is very patient to particular persons, notwithstanding their great and innumerable provocations. God is strong and patient, though men provoke him everyday. And much greater is his patience to whole Nations and great Communities of men.
How great was it to the old World, when the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, for the space of an hundred and twenty years? And did not expire, till he saw that the wickedness of man was grown great upon the earth, and that all flesh had corrupted its way; not till it was necessary to drown the World to cleanse it, and to destroy Mankind to reform it, by beginning a new World upon the only righteous Family that was left of all the last generation of the Old. For so God testifies concerning Noah, when he commanded him to enter into [Page 9] the Ark, saying,Gen. 7.1. Come thou and all thy house into the Ark; for thee, that is thee only, have I seen righteous before me in this Generation.
The patience of God was great likewise to Sodom and Gomorrah and the Cities about them. For when the cry of thier sins had reached heaven, and called loud for vengence to be poured down upon them, to express the wonderful patience of God towards such grievous Sinners, though nothing is hid from his fight and knowledge, yet he is represented as coming down from Heaven to Earth on purpose to enquire into the truth of things, and whether they were altogether according to the cry that was come up to him. And when he found things as bad as was possible, yet then was he willing to have come almost to the lowest terms imaginable, that if there had been but ten righteous persons in those wicked Cities, he would not have destroy'd them for the ten's sake.
Nay he comes to lower termes yet, with the City of Jerusalem, Jer. 5. 1. Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment and seeketh the truth, and I will pardon it.
What can be imagin'd more flow, and mild, and merciful, than the proceedings of the Divine justice against a sinful People? God is represented in Scripture as taking a long time to make ready his bow, and to whet his glittering sword, before his hand takes hold of vengeance; as if the instruments of his wrath lay up him blunt and rusty and unready for use. Many a time he threatens, and many a time lifts up his hand, before he gives the fatal blow. And how glad is he when any good man will step in and interpose to stay his hand? As we read Psal. 106. 23. Therefore he said, speaking of the People of Israel, that he would destroy them, had not Moses his servant stood in the breach to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them. And how kindly doth God take it of Phinehas, as a most acceptable piece of service done to him, and which he hardly knew how sufficiently to reward, that he was a means of putting a stop to his anger against the People of Israel: Insomuch that the Psalmist tells us that it was accounted to him for righteousness to all generations for evermore. I will recite the whole passage at large, because it is remarkable. When the People of Israel were seduced into Idolatory and Whoredom by the Daughters of Moab, Phinehas [Page 11] in great zeal stood up and executed judgment upon Zimri and Cozbi in the very act: By which means the Plague which was broken out upon the Congregation of Israel was presently stayed. Hear what God says to Moses concerning this act of Phineahs. The Lord spake unto Moses saying, Phinehas the son of Eleazer, the son of Aaron the Priest, hath turned away my wrath from the Children of Israel, whilst he was zealous for my sake that I consumed them not. Wherefore say, Behold I give unto him my Covenant of peace, and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the Covenant of an everlasting Priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the Children of Israel: That which God takes so kindly at his hands, next to his zeal for Him, is, that he pacified God's wrath towards the Children of Israel.
And thus did God from time to time deal with the People of Israel, that great Example of the Old Testament of the merciful methods of the Divine Provindence towards a sinful Nation. And an Example, as 1 Cor. 10. 11.St. Paul tells us, purposely recorded for our admonition upon whom the ends of the World are come.
Let us therefore consider a little the astonishing patience of God towards the perverse [Page 12] People. After all the signs and wonders which He had wrought in their deliverance out of Egypt, and for their support in the Wilderness; and notwithstanding their gross and stupid infidelity and horrible ingratitude to God their Saviour, and all their rebellious murmurings and discontents, yet he suffer'd their manners for the space of forty years.
And when they were at last peaceably settled in the promised Land; notwithstanding their frequent relapses into Idolatory, with what patience did God expect their repentance, and the result of all the merciful messages and warnings given them from time to time by his Prophets, as one that earnestly desir'd it and even log'd for it? Jer. 4. 14. O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved; how long shall vaine thoughts lodge within thee? that is, how long wilt thou delude they self with vaine hopes of escaping the judgements of God by any other way than by repentance? And again, Jer. 13. 27. O Jerusalem, wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be? And chap. 8. vers. 6. says God there, I hearkened and I heard, but they spake not aright; no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? Where God is represented, after the manner of men, waiting [Page 13] with great patience, as one that would have been glad to have heard any penitent word drop from them, to have seen any sign of their repentance and return to a better mind.
And when they made some fits of good resolution that did presently vanish and come to nothing, how passionately does God complain of their fickleness and inconstancy? O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.
And at last, when nothing would do, with what difficulty and reluctancy does God deliver them up into the hands of their Enemies? Hos. 11. 8,9How shall I give thee up Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee Judah? How shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, and my repentings are kinded together; I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not destroy Ephraim. What a conflict is here? what tenderness and yerning of his bowels towards them? He cannot find in his heart to give them up, till he is force'd to it by the last necessity.
And when the Nation of the Jews, after their return from the Captivity of Babylon, had [Page 14] in the course of several Ages greatly corrupted themselves, and fill'd up the measure of their sins by crucifying the Lord of Life and Glory yet how slow was the patience of God in bringing that fatal and final Destruction upon them? Not till after the most merciful warning given to them, by the Apostles of our Lord and Saviour; not till after the most obstinate impenitency of forty years, under the most powerful means of repentence that any People in the World ever enjoyed. I proceed to the
II.Second Observation from the Text, namely, What is the only proper and effectual means to prevent the ruine of a sinful People? And that is, if they will be instructed and take warning by the threatenings of God to become wiser and better, then his soul will not depart from them, and he will not bring upon them the desolation threatened. Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee, and I make thee desolate, a Land not inhabited; intimating, or rather plainly declaring to us, that if we will receive instruction and take warning the evil threaten'd shall not come. For what other reason can there be, why God should threaten so long before he strikes, and so earnestly [Page 15] press men to repentence, but that he might have the opportunity to spare them and shew mercy to them?
And indeed, as I observ'd before, all the denunciations and threatenings of God to a sinful Nation do carry this tacit condition in them, that if that Nation turn from their evil ways, God will repent of the evil which he thought to do unto them. For God never passeth so irrevocable a Sentence upon a Nation, as to exclude the case of repentance: Nay on the contrary He gives all imaginable encouragement to it, and is always ready to meet it, with a pardon on his hand. How often would I have gathered thee, says our merciful Lord when he wept over Jerusalem, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not; therefore your House is left unto yon desolate.
God is very merciful to particular persons upon their repentance. When the Prodigal Son in the Parable, after all his riot and lewdness came to himself and resolv'd to return home, his Father seeing him yet afar of coming towards him, came out to meet him, and had compassion on him and kissed him. And can any of us be so obstinate and hard-hearted, as not presently to resolve to repent and return, and to meet [Page 16] the compassions of such a Father? Who, after we have offended him to the uttermost, is upon the first discovery of our repentence ready to be as kind to us, as he could possibly have been if we had never offended him.
And much more is God ready to recieve a Nation upon their sincere Repentance; when his Judgments must needs make great havock, and so many are like to suffer under them. This consideration God urgeth and pleads with his froward Prophet, in behalf of the great City of Niniveh. John. 4.11.And shall not spare that great City of Niniveh, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons, who cannot discern their right hand from their left? that is, so many innocent children, by which we may judge of the vast number of the rest of the Inhabitants. For this is a great consideration with God in his sending of publique Calamitites, the multitude of the Sufferers; and that not only the guilty but the innocent also, without a special and miraculous Providence, must be involved in a common Calamity.
Sometimes God respites his Judgements upon the meer external humiliation of a People, and some formal testimonies and expressions of their repentance. When the People of Psal. 78.Israel sought [Page 17] God and enquired early after him, though they did but flatter him with their mouth, and their heart was not right with him, yet the Psalmist tells us, that being full of compassion he forgave their iniquity and destroyed them not; that is, he forgave them so far as to respite their ruine.
And much more will a sincere and effectual Repentance stay God's hand, and infallibly turn him from the fierceness of his anger: Insomuch that after he had fix'd and determin'd the very Day for the destruction of Niniveh, and had engaged the credit of his Prophet in it, yet as soon as he saw their works, and that they turned from their evil ways, and how glad was he to see it? he presently repented of the evil which he had said he would do unto them, and he did it not. In this case God does not stand upon the reputation of his Prophet, by whom he had sent so peremtory a message to them; but his mercy breaks through all considerations, and rejoyceth against judgment: For he cannot find in his heart to ruine those who by the terrour of his judgements will be brought to repentance.
And this surely is a mighty motive and encouragement to repentance, to be assur'd that we shall find mercy; and that when our ruine is even decreed, and all the instruments of God's [Page 18] wrath are fix'd and ready for execution, and his hand is just taking hold of vengence, yet even then a sincere repentance will mitigate his hottest displeasure and turn away his wrath. And if we will not come in upon these terms, we extort the judgements of God from him and force him to depart from us, and with violent hands we pull down vengeance upon our own heads.
III. Thirdly and lastly, the Text intimates to us the miserable case and condition of a People when God takes off his heart and affection from them, when he gives over all further care and concernment for them, and abandons them to their own wickedness and folly, and to the miserable effects and consequences thereof: Wo unto them, when his soul departs from them: For then all sorts of evills and calamities will rush in, and wrath will come upon them to the uttermost; as was threaten'd to the Jews a little before their final destruction, and executed upon them in the most terrible and amazing manner that ever was from the foundation of the World. These, as our Blessed Saviour expresses it, were days of vengeance indeed, that all things which were written, that is foretold by Moses and the Prophets concerning the fearful end of this perverse and stiff-neck'd People, might be fulfilled.
And because my Text speaks to Jerusalem, Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee, lest I make thee desolate, a Land not inhabited; though this was spoken to Jerusalem before her Captivity into Babylon, yet because this first Captivity was but a faint Type of her last and final Desolation by the Romans, when God's Soul was indeed departed from Her, and Judea was left desolate, a Land not inhabited: I shall therefore briefly represent to you the full effect of this Threatning in her last final Destruction, when God's Soul was, as it were, perfectly loosen'd and disjoynted from Her: That you may see what the fierceness and power of God's Anger is, when he departs from them, and wrath comes upon them to the uttermost, because they would not be instructed and know the time of their visitation.
Thus it was with the Jews, about forty years after the Passion of our Lord, whom with wicked hands they had crucified and slain: Then was God's soul departed from them: Then darkness and desolation came upon them; and they were in a far worse condition than a Country would be that is forsaken of the Sun and left condemn'd to a perpetual night, in which darkness and disorder, faction and fury do reign and rage; together with all the fatal consequences of zeal and strife, which St. James tells us, are confusion and every evil work. [Page 20] For when God is once gone, all the good and happiness of Mankind departs together with Him: Then men fall foul upon one another, divide into Parties and Factions, and execute the vengeance of God upon themselves with their own hands.
Thus it happen'd to the Jewish Nation, when the measure of their iniquity was full, and their final ruine was approaching. And that we might know their Fate, and be instructed by it, God provided and preserv'd a faithful Historian on purpose, who was an Eye-witness of all that befel them: I mean Josephus, who was personally engaged, and was a considerable Commander in the Wars of the Jews with the Romans, before the Siege of Jerusalem: And during the Siege was present in the Roman Camp, and being a Jew himself hath transmitted these things to posterity in a most exact and admirable History: such a History, as no man that hath the heart and bowels of a man can read without the greatest pity and astonishment.
In the Preface of that lamentable History he tells us, that all the misfortunes and calamities which the World from the beginning of it had seen, compar'd with this, last Calamity of the Jewish Nation, were but slight and inconsiderable. He tells us likewise that their Civil dissentations were the next and immediate cuase of their confusion and ruine.
And this more than once: For when Pompey [Page 21] about sixty years before our Saviour's birth, fate down before Jerusalem, he tells us, **Lib. 1. c. 5. that the Factions and divisions which they had among themselves were the cause of the taking the City and Temple at that time. And when they rebelled afterwards, that the Heads of their Factions provok'd the Romans, and brought them unwillingly upon them, and at last forced the best natur'd Prince in the World Titus Vespasian to that severity which he most earnestly desired by all means to have prevented. Lib. 4. c. 5.And he further tells us, that even before the Siege of Jerusalem, the Cities of Judea had all of them civil discords among themselves, and that in every City one part of the Jews fought against another.
And when Jerusalem began to be beseiged, What a miserable condition was it in, by the cruelty of the Zealots under the command of John the Son of Giorah? And presently after another Faction arose under Simon, who enter'd into the City with a fresh Force and assaulted the Zealots in the Temple; so that most miserable havock was made between them. And then a third Faction started up under EleazerLib. 7.c. 1., as bad as either of the other: So that infinite almost were the numbers of the People within the City that were barbarously slain by these Seditions.
And what an infatuation was this? when the [Page 22] Enemy was at the Gates and ready to break in upon them, to employ their whole strength and force against one another: When the same courage and fury, which they spent so freely upon themselves, had it been turn'd with the like desperateness and obstinacy upon the Romans, might have endanger'd the whole force of the Roman Empire. Once or twice indeed they seem'd to lay aside their enmity for a little while, and to unite in the common defence; but as soon as the danger of a present assault was over, they relaps'd into their former state of intestine enmity and dissention, as if that had been their main business, and the presevation of their City against the Romans only a work by the by, and not much to be regarded.
And to add to all their other miseries, they were so blinded by their own rage and madness, that they wilfully brought upon themselves an extream Famine. For, as the Historian tells us, they themselves set on fire vast stores of corn and other necessaries, sufficient to have serv'd them for many years; and by this means the City was much sooner reduc'd, even by a Famine of their own making, and which could not have been brought upon them but by thmeselves.
This Famine, besides all the other miseries and cruelties which it occasion'd within the City, did force great numbers of them to steal out by night [Page 23] into the Roman Camp; where they met with as cruel but a speedier death. For Titus, in hope to reduce them the sooner by terrour, order'd all those that came out of the City to be crucified before the Walls. Which order was so severely executed, that for several days five hundred a day were crucifi'd, till there was neither room left to place Crosses in, nor wood whereof to make them: So that they who once cryed out so vehemently against our Saviour, Crucify him, Crucify him, had enough of it at last, and by the just and most remarkable judgment of God were paid home in their own kind.
Behold the sad Fate of a sinful People, when God is departed from them! Then all evils overtake them at once. For as their misery increased, so did their Impiety to that degree, that the Historian tells us, Lib. 5. c. 2.they scorned and mocked at all divine and holy things, and derided the Oracles of the Prophets, esteeming them no better than Fables; and, in a word, were carried to that extremity of wickedness, as not only to profane their Temple in the highest manner, and to break the Laws of their own Religion, but even to violate the Laws of Nature and Humanity in the grossest Instances: which made their Historian to give that dismal character of them,Lib. 6. c. 11. that as he thought no City ever suffer'd such things, so no Nation, from the beginning [Page 24] of the World, did ever so abound in all manner of wickedness an impiety: A certain sign that God's Soul was departed from the.
And the same Historian afterwards, upon consideration of the lamentation state into which their Seditions had brought them, breaks out into this doleful lamentation over them, Lib. 7.c. 1.O miserable City! what didst thou suffer from the Romans, though at last they set thee on fire to purge thee from thy sins, that is to be compar'd with those miseries which thou hast brought upon they self?
To such a dismal state did things come at last, that, as the same Historian relates, many of the Jews prayed for the good success of their Enemies to deliver them from their civil Dissentions, the Calamity whereof was so great that their final Destruction by the Romans did rather put an end to their misery than increase it,
-En! quo discordia Cives
To conclude this sad Story it was the Jews themselves that by their own folly and dissentions forc'd the Romans to this sorrowful Victory over them; for in truth all the remorse and pity was on the Enemies side. The Romans were little more than Spectators in this cruel Tragedy, the Jews acted it upon themselves: and they only [Page 25] Who were arriv'd at the prodigious height of Impiety and wickedness were fit to be the executioners of this vengence of God upon one another: As if the Prophet had foretold this, when he says, Jer. 2. 19Thine own wickedness shall correct thee.
When Impiety and wickedness are at their highest pitch in a Nation, then they themselves are the only proper instruments to punish one another. The Romans were by far too good and gentle to inflict a suffering upon the Jews that was equal to the evil of their doings: None but their own barbarous Selves, who were sunk down into the very lowest degeneracy of humane nature, were capable of so much cruelty and inhumanity as was requisite to execute the Judgment of God upon them to that degree which their sins had deserved.
You see my Brethren, by what hath been said upon this Argument, what were the Faults, and what the Fate of the Jewish Nation. Now these things, as the Apostle expresly tells us, were written fo rour admonition, and to the intent that we upon whom the ends of the World are come might be instructed by them: We, I say, who next to the Jewish Nation seem to be a People highly favoured by God above all the Nations of the Earth. We resemble them very much in their many and wonderful Deliverances, and a great deal too much in their Faults and Follies.
But as I intended it not, so God forbid that there should be any just ground for a full and exact Parallel between us; Yet this I must say, that nothing ever came nearer to them than We do in several respects. In our fickleness and inconstancy, in our murmurings and discontents; for we are never pleas'd with what God does, neither when he brings us into danger, nor when he delivers us out of it: We resemble them likewise, in our horrible profaneness and infidelity, and in our impiety and wickedness of several kinds: in our mosterous ingratitude and most unworthy returns to the God of our Salvation: and lastly, in our Factions and Divisions, which were the fatal sign of God's being departed from the Jews, and the immediate cause and means of those dismal Calamities which wrought their final Ruine. And how can we chuse but dread left their Fate should overtake us, the Example of whose Faults and Follies we do in so many things so nearly resemble?
That this may nat, nor any thing like it, be our Fate, let us apply our selves to the great Duties of this Day; a serious and deep Repentance, and humiliation of our selves before Almighty God for the many and heinous Sins which we in this Nation have been, and still are guilty of, against His Divine Majesty; by our profaneness and impiety, by our lewdness and luxury, by our oppression [Page 27] and injustice, by our implacablemalice and hatred one towards another, and by our sensles divisions and animosities one against another, without cause and without end: By our neglect of God's Worship, and profanation of his Holy Day, and by our dreadful abuse of God's great and glorious Name in those horrid Oaths and Curses and Imprecations which are heard almost day and night in the streets of this great City.
For these and all other our innumerable provocations of the patience and goodness and long-suffering of God's towards us, let us saly repent out selves this Day, and turn unto the Lord with all our hearts, with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rent our hearts and not our garments, and turn unto the Lord our God; For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil: And who knoweth if he will return and repent and leave a blessing behind him? Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned: Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously.
And let us earnestly begg of Him, that he would be pleased to prevent those terrible Judgements and Calamities which hang over us, and which our Sins have so justly deserved should fall upon us: And that He would perfect that wonderful Deliverance which he hath begun for us, [Page 28] and establish the thing which he hath wrought: That He would bless Them whom he hath set in Authority over us; and particularly, that He would preserve the Person of the King in his present Expedition, and crown him with victory and good success.
And to our Prepentance and Prayers let us add our liberal Alms, and according to the counsel given by the Prophet to Nebuchadnezzar, let us break of our sins by righteousness, and our iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor, if so be it may be a lengthening of our tranquility.
We are yet, blessed be God, in the full enjoyment of peace and quiet at home, and of our Religion and Civil Liberties. God hath given us two excellent Princes sitting on the Throne together, and both of the same Religion with the main Body of the Nation; and as bright Examples of piety and goodness as England ever saw: And who do by all ways and means study and seek the good of the People committed to their charge.
So that if we did but know our own happiness, and how to value it, we might be the happinest. People this day under Heaven: And yet for all this, we are very far from being happy; because we are neither contented, nor united; and tho we have all the material of Happiness about us [Page 29] and within our reach, yet have we not the skill and wisdom to put them together.
Miserable People! that may be happy and will not: whom neither so fresh a Deliverance from so great a Danger as was just ready to have swallowed us up again into the like confusion, can be a warning to us from returning again unto the same folly: For those odious and unhappy Names of difference which some years ago sprang up among us, the Devil knows how, did seem whilst a common danger threatened us, to be quite dead and buried: But no sooner was the danger over, but by a kind of miraculous infatuation, behold a sudden Resurrection of them, with greater heats and animosities, if possible, than before: Just as it was with the Jews in the Siege of Jerusalem, when the Romans had made a wide breach and the City was furiously assaulted, the Factions then gave Truce to one another and ran in to the common defence; but as soon as ever the danger was a little over, they fell on afresh hand prosecuted their main design of destroying one another.
And now that the danger is a little over with us also, how like a Fate upon us does it look, that we are soon alter'd from our wiser and better temper? Did we well and wisely before our late happy Revolution, when we united for our common [Page 30] defence against a common danger, and did let those unlucky Names of distinction fall, so that they seem'd to be quite extinguish'd? And can it be now wise to revive them, and to take them up again? when the same danger on some degree, and from the same implacable Enemies, still hovers over us? No surely, it would not be wise, if the danger were quite past and over; but when it still remains and threatens us, what greater folly and infatuation can there be then still to divide and quarrel among ourselves? Will nothing but sad and bitter experience be an admonition to us? Will nothing but the last necessity and extremity of thins brings us to our selves and teach us wisdom?
Methinks we should all now be glad to be at rest, after the tedious troubles and distractions, the fruitless quarrels and divisions of fifty years. So long I remember; and in all that space how very few years pas'd over us without some great Calamity and dismal Event? So that by this time one would think we should all be sick of our own follies, and so tir'd with our unprofitable feuds and dissentions, as to make both sides look about them, to see if any body will take pity on us, and step in to part our quarrels.
And now I begin to be sensible, that I have engag'd in a tender Point indeed; and do feel my [Page 31] self standing upon a very slippery place. For who is fit to interpose in such hot and fierce differences? who can do it without danger, or with any hopes of success? And yet for Zion's sake Iwill not hold my peace, for Jerusalem's sake I will not keep silence: Of so great consequence is it to the peace and happiness of this Church and Nation, that these Names and Distinctions of Parties should be laid down and ablish'd for ever.
In order whereonto I take it for granted and lay it for a Principle, that he who hopes to persuade both sides must provoke neither: And therefore I will not so much as enquire where the fault lies. It is in these Civil differences as in Family quarrels between Man and Wife, if any man ask on which side lies the fault; ona may almost safely answer at a venture, on both sides. It must indeed begin on one, but if it be not presently heal'd and made up, the other Party is always so civil as to run in and take a share of the fault, that all the blame may not lie wholly on one side.
And now, my Brethren, let me for once persuade and prevail with you for your good: Let me be so happy as to say something that may sink into your hearts, and incline your minds to [Page 32] peace and good agreement with one another. Have salt in your selves, says our Blessed Saviour the great Peace-maker, and peace one with another. By Salt is meant grace and spiritual wisdom, and of that do but rule and sway in our hearts, we shall then endeavour, if it be possible, and as much. as in us lies, to live peaceably with all men.
And if we were but once come to this healing temper, in this divided and distracted Nation, we should not then need to fear all the power of the Enemy. And this our Enemies know full well: and therefore their chief policy and wisdom is, and ever hath been, to divide us; and it will be our selves to be divided: But if we could agree and hold together, then our Jerusalem would be as a City that is compact together, strong and impregnable.
Let us then be instructed, and know, in this our day, things which belong to our Peace, before they be hid from our eyes. And let us all earnestly endeavour and pray for the peace of Jerusalem: Psal. 122.They shall prosper that love her, says the Psalmist, and they do not lover her, that do not seek her peace and endeavour by all means to procure it: That peace may be within her walls, and prosperity [Page 33] within her Palaces: The one cannot be without the other; without Peace there can be no Prosperity. And to go on with the words of the Psalmist, let every one of us say, yea let us all with one heart and voice say, for our Brethren and Companions sake, for the sake of our Protestant Brethren all the World over, let us say, Peace be within thee: For the House of the Lord our God, for the sake of our Holy Religion, and of that excellent Church whereof we all are, or ought to be Members, let every one of us say, I will seek thy good.
And what greater good can we do to the best Religion, how can we better serve the interest of it in all parts of the World, than by being at peace and unity among our selves, here in England? upon whom the eyes of all the Protestants abroad are fixed, as the Glory of the Reformation, and the great bulwark and support of it.
That so under the Providence of Almighty God, and the conduct of two such excellent Princes as He hath now bles'd us withal: The One so brave and valiant, and Both of them so wise, so good, so religious, we may at last arrive at a firm establishment, and become like Mount Zion that cannot be moved; The perfection [Page 34] of Beauty and Strength, and the admiration and joy of the whole Earth: which God of his infinite goodness grant, for his mercies sake in Jesus Christ: To whom, with thee O Father, and the Holy Ghost, be all Honour and glory, dominion and power, thanksgiving and praise both now and ever, Amen.
A Sermon preach'd before the Honourable House of Commons, on Wednesday the 16th of April; a Day appointed by Their Majesties, for a Solemn Monthly Fast.
A Sermon preach'd before the Queen, March 7th, 16 89 90.
Both by John Tillotson, D.D. Dean of St. Paul's, and Clerk of the Closet to His Majesty.
Printed for B. Aylmer, W. Rogers, and J. Tillotson, Bookseller.