« AnteriorContinuar »
Christ bids them, being persecuted in one city, fly into another, it was not (as Grotius acutely observes) that they might lie hid, or be secure in that city, but that there they might preach the Gospel: so that their flight here was not to secure their persons, but to continue their business. I conclude, therefore, that faithful ministers are to stand and endure the brunt. A common soldier may fly, when it is the duty of him that holds the standard to die upon the place. And we have abundant encouragement so to do. Christ has seconded and sweetened his command with his promise: yea, the thing itself is not only our duty, but our glory. And he who has done this work, has in the very work partly received his wages. And were it put to my choice, I think I should choose rather with spitting and scorn to be tumbled into the dust in blood, bearing witness to any known truth of our dear Lord, now opposed by the enthusiasts of the present age, than, by a denial of those truths, through blood and perjury wade to a sceptre, and lord it in a throne. And we need not doubt, but truth, however oppressed, will have some followers, and at length prevail. A Christ, though crucified, will arise; and as it is in Rev. xi. 3, "the witnesses will prophesy, though it be in sackcloth."
IV. Having thus despatched the third thing, I proceed to the fourth, which is, to shew what it is for Christ to deny us before his Father in heaven. Hitherto we have treated of men's carriage to Christ in this world; now we will describe his carriage to them in the other. These words clearly relate to the last judgment, and they are a summary description of his proceeding with men at that day. And here we will consider,1. The action itself, "He will deny them." 2. The circumstance of the action, "He will deny them before his Father and the holy angels."
1. Concerning the first. Christ's denying us is otherwise expressed in Luke, xiii. 27, "I know you not." To know, in Scripture language, is to approve; and so, not to know, is to reject and condemn. Now, who knows how many woes are crowded into this one sentence; "I will deny him?" It is (to say no more) a compendious expression of hell, an eternity of torments comprised in a word. It is condemnation itself, and, what is most of all, it is condemnation from the mouth of a Saviour. Oh the inexpressible horror that will seize upon a poor sinner, when he stands arraigned at the bar of divine justice! When he shall look about, and see his accuser, his judge, the witnesses, all of them his remorseless adversaries; the law impleading, mercy and the Gospel upbraiding him, the devil, his grand accuser, drawing his indictment; numbering his sins with the greatest exactness,
and aggravating them with the cruelest bitterness; and conscience, like a thousand witnesses, attesting every article, flying in his face, and rending his very heart; and then, after all, Christ, from whom only mercy could be expected, owning the accusation. It will be hell enough to hear the sentence; the very promulgation of the punishment will be part of the punishment, and anticipate the execution. If Peter was so abashed when Christ gave him a look after his denial; if there was so much dread in his looks when he stood as prisoner, how much greater will it be when he sits as a judge! If it was so fearful when he looked his denier into repentance, what will it be when he shall look him into destruction? Believe it, when we shall hear an accusation from an advocate, our eternal doom from our intercessor, it will convince us that a denial of Christ is something more than a few transitory words. What trembling, what outcries, what astonishment will there be upon the pronouncing this sentence! Every word will come upon the sinner like an arrow striking through his reins; like thunder, that is heard, and consumes at the same instant. Yea, it will be a denial with scorn, with taunting exprobrations; and to be miserable without commiseration is the height of misery. He that falls below pity, can fall no lower. Could I give you a lively representation of guilt and horror on this hand, and paint out eternal wrath, and decipher eternal vengeance on the other, then might I shew you the condition of a sinner hearing himself denied by Christ; and for those whom Christ has denied, it will be in vain to appeal to the Father, unless we can imagine that those whom mercy has condemned, justice will absolve.
2. For the circumstance, "He will deny us before his Father and the holy angels." As much as God is more glorious than man, so much is it more glorious to be confessed before him, than before men; and so much glory as there is in being confessed, so much dishonour there is in being denied. If there could be any room for comfort after the sentence of damnation, it would be this, to be executed in secret, to perish unobserved; as it is some allay to the infamy of him who died ignominiously, to be buried privately. But when a man's folly must be spread open before the angels, and all his baseness ript up before those pure spirits, this will be a double hell : to be thrust into utter darkness, only to be punished by it, without the benefit of being concealed. When Christ shall compare himself, who was denied, and the thing for which he was denied, together, and parallel his merits with a lust, and lay eternity in the balance with a trifle, then the folly of the sinner's choice shall be the greatest sting of his destruction. For a man shall not have the advantage of his former ignorances and
error to approve his sin: things that appeared amiable by the light of this world, will appear of a different odious hue in the clear discoveries of the next; as that which appears to be of this colour by a dim candle, will be found to be of another, looked upon in the day. So when Christ shall have cleared up men's apprehensions about the value of things, he will propose that worthy prize for which he was denied; he will hold it up to open view, and call upon men and angels,-Behold, look, here is the thing, here is that piece of dirt, that windy applause, that poor transitory pleasure, that contemptible danger, for which I was dishonoured, my truths disowned, and for which life, eternity, and God himself, was scorned and trampled upon by this sinner: judge, all the world, whether what he so despised in the other life, he deserves to enjoy in this. How will the condemned sinner then crawl forth, and appear in his filth and shame, before that undefiled tribunal, like a toad or a snake in a king's presence-chamber! Nothing so irksome, as to have one's folly displayed before the prudent; one's impurity before the pure. And all this before that company surrounding him, from which he is neither able to look off, nor yet to look upon. A disgrace put upon a man in company is insupportable: it is heightened according to the greatness, and multiplied according to the number of the persons that hear it. And now, as this circumstance ("before his Father") fully speaks the shame, so likewise it speaks the danger of Christ's then denying us. For when the accusation is heard, and the person stands convict, God is immediately lifting up his hand to inflict the eternal blow; and when Christ denies to exhibit a ransom, to step between the stroke then coming and the sinner, it must inevitably fall upon him, and sink his guilty soul into that deep and bottomless gulf of endless perdition. This, therefore, is the sum of Christ's denying us before his Father, namely, insupportable shame, unavoidable destruction.
V. I proceed now to the uses which may be drawn from the truths delivered. And here,
1. (Right honourable) not only the present occasion, but even the words themselves, seem eminently to address an exhortation to your honours. As for others not to deny Christ, is openly to profess him; so for you who are invested with authority, not to deny him, is to defend him. Know, therefore, that Christ does not only desire, but demand your defence, and that in a double respect,
(1.) In respect of his truth. (2.) Of his members.
(1.) He requires that you should defend and confess him in his truth. Heresy is a tare sometimes not to be pulled up but by the civil magistrate. The word "liberty of
conscience" is much abused for the defence of it, because not well understood. Every man may have liberty of conscience to think and judge as he pleases, but not to vent what he pleases. The reason is, because conscience bounding itself within the thoughts, is of private concernment, and the cognizance of these belong only to God; but when an opinion is published, it concerns all that hear it; and the public being endamaged by it, it becomes punishable by the magistrate, to whom the care of the public is intrusted. But there is one truth that concerns both ministry, and magistracy, and all, which is opposed by those who affirm, that none ought to govern upon the earth but Christ in person. Absurdly; as if the powers that are, destroyed his; as if a deputy were not consistent with a king; as if there were any opposition in subordination. They affirm also, that the wicked have no right to their estates; but only the faithful, that is, themselves, ought to "possess the earth." And it is not to be questioned, but when they come to explain this principle, by putting it into execution, there will be but few that have estates at present, but will be either found or made wicked. I shall not be so urgent to press you to confess Christ, by asserting and owning the truth contrary to this, since it does not only oppose truth, but property; and here to deny Christ, would be to deny yourselves, in a sense which none is like to do.
(2.) Christ requires you to own and defend him in his members; and amongst these, the chief of them, and such as most fall in your way, the ministers; I say, that despised, abject, oppressed sort of men, the ministers, whom the world would make antichristian, and so deprive them of heaven; and also strip them of that poor remainder of their maintenance, and so allow them no portion upon the earth. You may now spare that distinction of scandalous ministers, when it is even made scandalous to be a minister. And as for their discouragement in the courts of the law, I shall only note this, that for these many years last past, it has been the constant observation of all, that if a minister had a cause depending in the court, it was ten to one but it went against him. I cannot believe your law justles out the Gospel; but if it be thus used to undermine Christ in his servants, beware that such judgments passed upon them, do not fetch down God's judgments upon the land; and that for such abuse of law, Christ does not in anger deprive both you and us of its use. (My lords) I make no doubt, but you will meet with many suits in your course, in which the persons we speak of are concerned, as it is easy to prognosticate from those many worthy petitions preferred against them, for which the well-affected peti
tioners will one day receive but small thanks from the court of heaven. But however their causes speed in your tribunals, know that Christ himself will recognize them at a greater. And then, what a different face will be put upon things! When the usurping, devouring Nimrods of the world shall be cast with scorn on the left hand, and Christ himself, in that great consistory, shall deign to step down from his throne, and single out a poor despised minister, and (as it were taking him by the hand) present him to, and openly thus confess him before his Father, - Father, here is a poor servant of mine, who, for doing his duty impartially, for keeping a good conscience, and testifying my truths in an hypocritical pretending age, was wronged, trod upon, stripped of all: Father, I will that there be now a distinction made, between such as have owned and confessed me with the loss of the world, and those that have denied, persecuted, and insulted over me. It will be in vain then to come and creep for mercy; and say, Lord, when did we insult over thee? when did we see thee in our courts, and despised or oppressed thee? Christ's reply will be then quick and sharp, -Verily, inasmuch as you did it to one of these little, poor despised ones, ye did it unto me. The
2. Use is of information, to shew us the danger as well as the baseness of a dastardly spirit, in asserting the interest and truth of Christ. Since Christ has made a Christian course a warfare, of all men living a coward is the most unfit to make a Christian; whose infamy is not so great but it is sometimes less than his peril. A coward does not always escape with disgrace, but sometimes also he loses his life; wherefore, let all such know, as can enlarge their consciences like hell, and call any sinful compliance submission, and style a cowardly silence in Christ's cause discretion and prudence; I say, let them know, that Christ will one day scorn them, and spit them, with their policy and prudence, into hell; and then let them consult how politic they were, for a temporal emolument, to throw away eternity. The things which generally cause men to deny Christ are, either the enjoyments or the miseries of this life; but, alas! at the day of judgment all these will expire; and, as one well observes, what are we the better for pleasure, or the worse for sorrow, when it is past? But then sin and guilt will be still fresh, and heaven and hell will be then yet to begin. If ever it was seasonable to preach courage in the despised, abused cause of Christ, it is now, when his truths are reformed into nothing, when the hands and hearts of his faithful ministers are
* Whensoever any petition was put up to the parliament in the year 1653, for the taking away of tithes, the thanks of the house were still returned to them, and that by the name and elogy of the well-affected petitioners.
weakened, and even broke, and his worship extirpated in a mockery, that his honour may be advanced. Well, to establish our hearts in duty, let us beforehand propose to ourselves the worst that can happen. Should God in his judgment suffer England to be transformed into a monster, should the faithful be everywhere massacred, should the places of learning be demolished, and our colleges reduced (not only, as one † in his zeal would have it,) to three, but to none; yet, assuredly, hell is worse than all this, and is the portion of such as deny Christ; wherefore, let our discouragements be what they will, loss of places, loss of estates, loss of life and relations, yet still this sentence stands ratified in the decrees of Heaven, Cursed be that man, that for any of these shall desert the truth, and deny his Lord.
ECCLESIASTICAL POLICY THE BEST POLICY; OR, RELIGION THE BEST REASON OF STATE.
PREACHED BEFORE THE HONOURABLE SOCIETY OF LINCOLN'S INN.
"After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places. And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.”—1 KINGS, xiii. 33, 34.
JEROBOAM (from the name of a person become the character of impiety) is reported to posterity eminent, or rather infamous, for two things, usurpation of government, and innovation of religion. It is confessed, the former is expressly said to have been from God; but since God may order and dispose what he does not approve, and use the wickedness of men while he forbids it, the design of the first cause does not excuse the malignity of the second; and therefore, the advancement and sceptre of Jeroboam was in that sense only the work of God, in which it is said, (Amos, iii. 6,)" that there is no evil in the city which the Lord hath not done." But from his attempts upon the civil power, he proceeds to innovate God's worship; and from the subjection of men's bodies and estates, to enslave their consciences, as knowing that true religion is no friend to an unjust title. Such was afterwards the way 01
† A colonel of the army, the perfidious cause of Penruddock's death, and some time after high-sheriff of Oxfordshire, openly and frequently affirmed the uselessness of the universities, and that three colleges were sufficient to answer the occasions of the nation, for the breeding of men up to learning, so far as it was either necessary or useful.
Mahomet, to the tyrant to join the impostor, and what he had got by the sword to confirm by the Alcoran; raising his empire upon two pillars, conquest and inspiration. Jeroboam being thus advanced, and thinking policy the best piety, though indeed in nothing ever more befooled, the nature of sin being not only to defile, but to infatuate; in the twelfth chapter and the 27th verse, he thus argues, "If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their Lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again unto Rehoboam king of Judah." As if he should have said, The true worship of God, and the converse of those that use it, dispose men to a considerate lawful subjection. And therefore I must take another course; my practice must not be better than my title; what was won by force, must be continued by delusion. Thus sin is usually seconded with sin; and a man seldom commits one sin to please, but he commits another to defend himself; as it is frequent for the adulterer to commit murder to conceal the shame of his adultery. But let us see Jeroboam's politic procedure in the next verse. "Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem, behold thy gods, O Israel." As if he had made such an edict, I Jeroboam, by the advice of my council, considering the great distance of the temple, and the great charges that poor people are put to in going thither; as also the intolerable burden of paying the first-fruits and tithes to the priest, have considered of a way that may be more easy, and less burdensome to the people, as also more comfortable to the priests themselves; and therefore strictly enjoin, that none henceforth presume to repair to the temple at Jerusalem, especially since God is not tied to any place or form of worship; as also because the devotion of men is apt to be clogged by such ceremonies; therefore, both for the ease of the people, as well as for the advancement of religion, we require and command, that all henceforth forbear going up to Jerusalem. Questionless these and such other reasons the impostor used, to insinuate his devout idolatry. And thus the calves were set up, to which oxen must be sacrificed; the god and the sacrifice out of the same herd. And because Israel was not to return to Egypt, Egypt was brought back to them; that is, the Egyptian way of worship, the Apis, or Serapis, which was nothing but the image of a calf or ox, as is clear from most historians. Thus Jeroboam having procured his people gods, the next thing was to provide priests. Hereupon to the calves he adds a commission for the approving, trying, and admitting the rascality and lowest of the
people to minister in that service; such as kept cattle, with a little change of their office, were admitted to make oblations to them. And doubtless, besides the approbation of these, there was a commission also to eject such of the priests and Levites of God, as being too ceremoniously addicted to the temple, would not serve Jeroboam before God, nor worship his calves for their gold, nor approve those two glittering sins for any reason of state whatsoever. Having now perfected divine worship, and prepared both gods and priests, in the next place, that he might the better teach his false priests the way of their new worship, he begins the service himself, and so countenances by his example what he had enjoined by his command, in the 11th verse of this chapter, "and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense." Burning of incense was then the ministerial office amongst them, as preaching is now amongst us. So that to represent to you the nature of Jeroboam's action; it was, as if in a Christian nation the chief governor should authorize and encourage all the scum and refuse of the people to preach, and call them to the ministry by using to preach, and invade the ministerial function himself. But Jeroboam rested not here, but while he was busy in his work, and a prophet immediately sent by God declares against his idolatry, he endeavours to seize upon and commit him; (verse 4,) “he held forth his hand from the altar, and said, Lay hold of him." Thus we have him completing his sin, and, by a stange imposition of hands, persecuting the true prophets, as well as ordaining false. But it was a natural transition, and no ways wonderful to see him, who stood affronting God with false incense in the right hand, persecuting with the left, and abetting the idolatry of one arm with the violence of the other. Now, if we lay all these things together, and consider the parts, rise, and degrees of his sin, we shall find, that it was not for nothing that the Spirit of God so frequently and bitterly in Scripture stigmatizes this person; for it represents him first encroaching upon the civil government, thence changing that of the church, debasing the office that God had made sacred, introducing a false way of worship, and destroying the true. And in this we have a full and fair description of a foul thing, that is, of an usurper and an impostor: or, to use one word more comprehensive than both, " of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin."
From the story and practice of Jeroboam, we might gather these observations, ·
1. That God sometimes punishes a notorious sin, by suffering the sinner to fall into
* Cromwell (a lively copy of Jeroboam) did so.
Thus God punished the rebellion of the Israelites, by permitting them to fall into idolatry.
2. There is nothing so absurd, but may be obtruded upon the vulgar under pretence of religion.
Certainly, otherwise a golden calf could never have been made either the object or the means of divine worship.
3. Sin, especially that of perverting God's worship, as it leaves a guilt upon the soul, so it perpetuates a blot upon the name.
Hence nothing so frequent, as for the Spirit of God to express wicked, irreligious kings, by comparing them to Ahab or Jeroboam. It being usual to make the first and most eminent in any kind, not only the standard for comparison, but also the rule of expression.
But I shall insist only upon the words of the text, and what shall be drawn from thence. There are two things in the words that may seem to require explication,
1. What is meant by the high places. 2. What by the consecration of the priests. 1. Concerning the high places. The use of these in the divine worship was general and ancient; and as Dionysius Vossius observes in his notes upon Moses Maimonides, the first way that was used, long before temples were either built or thought lawful. The reason of this seems to be, because those places could not be thought to shut up or confine the immensity of God, as they supposed an house did; and withal gave his worshippers a nearer approach to heaven by their height. Hence we read that the Samaritans worshipped upon mount Gerizim, (John, iv. 20,) and Samuel went up to the high place to sacrifice, (1 Sam. ix. 14,) and Solomon sacrificed at the high place in Gibeon, (1 Kings, iii. 4.) Yea, the temple itself was at length built upon a mount or high place, (2 Chron. iii. 1.) You will say then, why are these places condemned? I answer, that the use of them was not condemned, as absolutely and always unlawful in itself, but only after the temple was built, and that God had professed to put his name in that place and no other: therefore, what was lawful in the practice of Samuel and Solomon before the temple was in being, was now detestable in Jeroboam, since that was constituted by God the only place for his worship. To bring this consideration to the times of Christianity. Because the apostles and primitive Christians preached in houses, and had only private meetings, in regard they were under persecution, and had no churches; this cannot warrant the practice of those nowadays, nor a toleration of them that prefer houses before churches, and a conventicle before the congregation.
2. For the second thing, which is the consecration of the priests; it seems to have been correspondent to ordination in the Christian
church. Idolaters themselves were not so far gone, as to venture upon the priesthood without consecration and a call. To shew all the solemnities of this would be tedious, and here unnecessary: the Hebrew word which we render to consecrate, signifies, to fill the hand, which indeed imports the manner of consecration, which was done by filling the hand for the priest cut a piece of the sacrifice and put it into the hands of him that was to be consecrated; by which ceremony he received right to sacrifice, and so became a priest. As our ordination in the Christian church is said to have been heretofore transacted by the bishop's delivering of the Bible into the hands of him that was to be ordained, whereby he received power ministerially to dispense the mysteries contained in it, and so was made a presbyter. Thus much briefly concerning consecration.
There remains nothing else to be explained in the words: I shall therefore now draw forth the sense of them into these two propositions,
I. The surest means to strengthen, or the readiest to ruin the civil power, is either to establish or destroy the worship of God in the right exercise of religion.
II. The next and most effectual way to destroy religion, is to embase the teachers and dispensers of it.
Öf both these in their order.
For the prosecution of the former we are to shew,
1. The truth of the assertion, that it is so. 2. The reason of the assertion, why and whence it is so.
1. For the truth of it: it is abundantly evinced from all records both of divine and profane history, in which he that runs may read the ruin of the state in the destruction of the church; and that not only portended by it, as its sign, but also inferred from it, as its cause.
2. For the reason of the point; it may be drawn
(1.) From the judicial proceeding of God, the great King of kings, and supreme Ruler of the universe; who for his commands is indeed careful, but for his worship jealous; and therefore in states notoriously irreligious, by a secret and irresistible power, countermands their deepest project, splits their counsels, and smites their most refined policies with frustration and a curse; being resolved that the kingdoms of the world shall fall down before him, either in his adoration, or their own confusion.
(2.) The reason of the doctrine may be drawn from the necessary dependence of the very principles of government upon religion. And this I shall pursue more fully. The great business of government is to procure obedience, and keep off disobedience: the great