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every succeeding prince's coronation, presently followed by a dismal sweeping plague, as if sent purposely to upbraid us with the mortality of our joys, by casting so sudden a cloud over our triumphs, and dashing our wine with our own tears: I say, not to insist upon these more remote instances of the divine judgments, let us cast our eyes upon those latter ones, much surpassing all the former. And here we shall see three kingdoms for some years bleeding by an unnatural civil war, weltering in their own blood, and wasted and spoiled by the fury of their own inhabitants; a calamity so universal, that, like a deluge, it involved all sorts, estates, and conditions of men; from the prince to the peasant; from him that wielded the sceptre, to him that held the plough. And this war we shall find concluded with the success of the rebel cause and army; which in the midst of peace continued upon the kingdom all the miseries of war; acting all the cruelties of banishments, imprisonments, sequestrations, and decimations upon all those that durst own the least loyalty to their prince or affection to the church.
And when it pleased Providence to blow over this storm in the happy restoration of both, it was not long before the destroying angel stretched forth his hand over us in that woful mortality, caused by a spreading devouring sickness, that ceased not to destroy and mow down thousands before it, without stay or stop; till at length it gave over, as it were, out of very weariness with killing.
And when we were still unconcerned, after all these blows falling so thick and heavy upon us, a fire, more dreadful than all, breaks forth upon the metropolis and glory of our nation, the great magazine of our strength and riches, and makes as great a mortality of houses, as the sickness had made of inhabitants.
And, lastly, when the growing impiety of the nation had baffled this judgment also, and brought us out of this fiery furnace with all our dross still about us, God commissions the enemy, the enemy whom he had so often delivered into our hands, to come and outbrave us at our very doors, and to fire those ornaments and bulwarks of our English nation even under our noses: a disgrace and a blot upon us not to be fetched out by the fire that burnt them, nor to be washed off by the whole ocean that carried them; and it is well that there followed not a destruction greater than the disgrace.
We have seen and felt what an angry God can do; and if we still sin on, and make new judgments necessary, so that God can neither fire, nor plague, nor fight us by sea or land out of our sins, what can be expected, but that he, who hitherto has been only a correcting, should, in the next place, be a consuming fire ?
Having thus shewn how God dealt with his people, his vineyard, and his beloved inheritance, namely, by instruction, by mercies, and by judgments, (so that he might well make good this his saying, What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done?) and withal having shewn how parallel to those his proceedings with us have been, let us now come to see how both of us have dealt with God by way of return.
Three things the text remarks of them.
3. Great luxury and sensuality, in verses 11, 12.
1. And first, God charges them with injustice and oppression; though a sin of all others least to be expected from them, that they, who had so lately groaned under the rod of oppression, should presently turn oppressors themselves; and that in the most cruel and inhuman instances of it, neither judging the cause of the fatherless, nor supporting the widow; as this prophet tells them in chap. i. verse 23. It seems no plea sub forma pauperis could thrive or succeed in their courts: they had no commiseration for those who had suffered the same bondage and captivity, and smarted under the same tyranny with themselves.
We have had mercies, indeed great and glorious, in his majesty's restoration : but have those been any gainers by the deliverance who were the greatest losers by the war? No, (in a far different sense from that of the scripture,) to him only that has shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly. But if a man's loyalty has stript him of his estate, his interest, or relations, then, like the lame man at the pool of Bethesda, every one steps in before him.
We keep days of thanksgiving for our deliverance from the powder plot, and for his majesty's return, and the like; but do these experiments of God's goodness to us provoke ours to our brethren, our loyal, suffering, undone brethren ? to whom the greatest kindness had been but the strictest justice. But such have been our methods of treating them, that we must expect the same declaration that God makes in verse 7, that he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a
cry; and it is well if it prove not a cry to Heaven for vengeance.
2. The second thing here charged by God upon his ungrateful people was their abominable covetousness. Every one (says the prophet Isaiah, i. 23) loveth gifts, and
followeth after rewards: and here again he charges them for joining house to house, and field to field; and that deservedly, for the usual way of men's doing so is by their joining sin to sin, and extortion to extortion: a course equally offensive to God, and grievous to man; it being no more possible that a nation should flourish when the wealth of it is grasped into a few hands, than that the body should thrive when the nutriment due to all the parts of it is gathered into two or three swelling wens or imposthumes. The imputation of covetousness, I well know, makes a great and a tragical noise, when it is maliciously and falsely cast upon a certain sort and profession of men, who (God knows) for much the greatest part of them have scarce any thing to be covetous of. But surely this is far more likely to be found amongst those who can raise great estates and families out of nothing, and transmit the fruits of their sin and rapine to their posterity.
How much covetousness endangered this nation, even in reference to this very business of the powder treason, those words of king James sufficiently demonstrate, who, considering how far the conspiracy had gone, and how near we were to ruin, and how narrowly we escaped it, is reported to have said with some heat, but more reason, “ that this horrid “ plot might have been earlier discovered, had not “ some of his officers loved their money or their own
persons much more than their country.” And the truth is, considering how gross the action was, being a conveyance of so much wood and so many barrels to such a certain place, adding withal the number of the persons engaged in the plot, it is a miracle it was not searched into and found out before. sure, upon this and many other accounts, we have cause to adore the truth of that divine aphorism of that eminent prelate and great martyr, both for king and church, archbishop Laud, who lived and acted up to all that he said, even to the sealing it with his last blood. • The Lord (says he) deliver us from 46 covetous and fearful men: the covetous will betray us for money, the fearful for security.”
3. And lastly, the third thing charged by God upon those unworthy persons spoken of in the text, was their excessive luxury and sensuality ; pursued by them even to the degree of a trade or a profession : for in the 11th verse of this 5th chapter, we have them rising up early, and sitting up late at their cups; such painful and laborious drunkards were they ; and to the clattering of their cups we have the additional music of the harp and viol, in the 12th verse, where we find them feasting and gratifying all their senses, till they had utterly silenced their reason; and, which is the natural consequent of voluptuousness, wholly abandoned all thoughts of Providence; as it is in the same verse, not regarding the work of the Lord, nor the operation of his hands.
It is like they might spend their time, as many amongst us do nowadays, in dressing and adorning themselves, in preparing for the great and weighty work of balls and dances, and then in shewing their