The Regal Proto-Martyr
By John Allington
London: Printed by J. W. for W. Gilbert, 1672.
Acts 8. part of the 1. Ver.
And SAUL was consenting to his death.
IN these words are two eminent persons to be look'd upon, Saul and Stephen; a Martyr and a Persecutor: and indeed for as much a Veritas Odium, naked Truth begets Armed Malice; no wonder to see the Persecutor at the heels of the Martyr, and to read of his Death, who durst be so bold as to give witness to a Dangerous and Loyal Truth.
Now concerning this Martyr some things are obviously to be observed, before we can come exactly to the Text. 1. His Ordination, he was a person separate from the people. 2. The Danger bound up in that profession. 3. The particular Truth for the which he was put to death.
In the sixth Chapter you shall find a Motion made by the Apostles, vers. 3. That seven men of honest report should be looked up, and be brought to them to be put into Holy Orders; upon which Stephen being found a Man full of faith and the Holy Ghost was one. Where by the way we may observe, that albeit S. Stephen was a person of excellent endowments, a person abundantly gifted, a person full of faith and the Holy Ghost! yet he did not assume or take an Holy Office on him; nay the Congregation who looked him up and made choice on him, they had no power to confer Orders, or to make him what they desired, for v. 6. They set him before the Apostles, and when they had prayed, they layed hands on him. So that though the people lookt him up, v. 3. it was the Apostles who appointed him to his Business; though the people found him out, it was the Apostles who sent him out. Manus ei imposuerunt, it was they that laid hands upon him! So that the first thing observable concerning the Death of the glorious Martyr is, he was an Ordained person, he was one who by Imposition of Apostolical Hands and Prayer, was set apart and designed for holy use. The First Christian Martyr was in Apostolical Holy Orders.
Secondly, The Danger involved and bound up in this profession; for whereas before he liv'd secure and private, as a Christian or a Disciple; now called to a publick employment, and set apart for a peculiar and Holy use, he was not long in his Office; for, for ought we read, his first Sermon cost him his life. 'Tis true indeed he was chosen to minister unto Widows; Acts 6. 1. yet by his employment it appears he was not chosen to that Ministration onely; for Stephen full of Faith and Power did great Wonders and Miracles among the people: vers. 8. yea, though there was an whole Assembly, an whole Assembly of Libertines against him, he held not his peace, ver. 9. but so he disputed, and so spake, that as the Text implies, They dispacht him for it. An Argument to me, That Holy Orders are not onely Honos, but Onus; not onely an advance to Honor, but an expose to Hazard, insomuch that by how much God is pleased to take a man nigher to himself, by so much the more is he, than another, expos'd to the Hate of the World, and bound to abide Death or Danger for him. For our Blessed Lord and Master, he whose Manhood of all others was nighest in conjunction with the Deity, he was (as I may say) therefore put into Holy Orders, therefore made a Priest, that through the Eternal Spirit, he might offer himself to God: Heb. 9. 14. therefore was he made a Priest, that he might be a Sacrifice.
And indeed, whereas Christians in general are by St. Peter called An Holy Priesthood, 1 Pet. 2. 5. I know nothing that this can more safely and seasonably admonish than to remember, if we are Priests, we must then sacrifice, and sacrifice no less than our very selves to God’s glory! For so did our pattern, so did our high Priest who is set before us; So did St. Stephen, who though a Deacon and one in the lowest step of Holy Office, when he was put to it he declined not, but to his Masters and to his King’s glory, he so spake that he died for it, For Saul was consenting to his death!
Lastly, To come up to the Text, let us see and observe what that particular Truth was, and what that very Speech for which he was thus us'd; for the which the Jews cried out, Run upon him, and stoned him to death: and you shall find it was, onely for accusing them, and sharply setting before them the Murther of their King. For, Acts 7. 52. you shall find these words, Which of the Prophets have not your Fathers persecuted, and they have slain them who shewed before of the coming of the just one, of whom yet have been now the Betrayers and the Murtherers.
When St. Stephen though full of the Holy Ghost, was so bold as to tell the Rebellious Jews of their killing the Prophets, and of their putting to death the Just one, it presently followeth v. 53. When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. When St. Stephen was so bold as to tell them how they had betrayed their King, and murthered the Lord’s Annointed! When he was so bold, as to set their so horrid and so bloody Rebellion before their eyes, no wonder if they resolve to cut off him, who had thus cut them; to break his head, who had broke their hearts.
It is oft said, Many a man loves the Treason, who hates the Traitor. But here we have a Treason, which the Traitors themselves endure not to hear on! For,
Acts 5. 40. The Counsel of State for the time being; even those whose hands were imbrued in the blood of their King, they call and command the Apostles, that they should not speak in the Name of Jesus. Jesus the King of the Jews; his Murtherers commanded that no mention be made of him; command even his own Servants, even the nighest to him, not to do any thing, no not to speak in the King’s Name! Yea, so did the memory of their Rebellion crucifie their souls, that witness St. Stephen they were ready to slay and to stone the Speaker: For, having nothing to answer in Defense of their Rebellion, having nothing to answer for their Murther of God’s Annointed! having nothing to keep off that deadly stab which the charge of their killing the just one gave unto their very souls, Acts 7. 57. They stop their ears, but with wide open mouths they ran upon him; and to stop that mouth whose truth cut their hearts, for want of arguments so silenced him with stones, that he died at their feet! of whose death the Holy Ghost is pleased to take notice, and to record not onely the Actors, but a bare Consenter also, in these words, And Saul was consenting to his death.
But what talk I of the Murther of a Deacon, upon a day solemnly set a part to be humbled for the Murther of a King! my answer is, I find so nigh a conjunction between Sacred Majesty and Holy Order; between Prince and Priest; between God’s annointed to be Kings, and God’s annointed to be Prophets, that we can scarse find the man who will wrong the one, but if occasion serve, he would do as much for the other, and therefore we find them both equally shielded in one verse, Touch not mine Annointed, and do my Prophets no harm, Psalm 105. They who will harm the Prophets, they will not stick to arm against the Annointed: They who killed the Just one, they made nothing of murthering his Messengers: and indeed, in order to this horrid Murther, in order to the betraying of our Just one, and the Lord’s Annointed, what was more previous than the stoning of his Prophets, the sequestring, silencing and depriving from all comforts of this life, who ever durst as did Stephen, magnifie the Lord’s Annointed, or did dare to say, They were his Betrrayers or his Murtherers?
Indeed, between Deacon and King there is a great disproportion: Deacon the lowest degree of Ministry, and King the superexcellent for Majesty: and yet the same Kings who are sometime called Gods, they are also stiled, Rom. 13. 3, God’s Deacons too, that is, God’s selected and peculiar Servants: and thus considered, St. Stephen and our Soveraign may very well admit a Parallel:
Was S. Stephen, Acts 6. 5. a man full of Faiih and the Holy Ghost: such was our Soveraign. Full of Faith, for it was in faith of a better, that he gave up his earthly Crown. Full of the Holy Ghost, for the most envious cannot deny his Meditations and Solitudes to be the undoubted Breathings of that Spirit!
Was St. Stephen endowed with such high parts and gifts that v. 10. They were not able to resist the Wisdom, and the Spirit by which he spoke? Even so was it with our Blessed Soveraign, or else we had never heard of An Ordinance for no Addresses; nor, as himself speaks, had he been assailed with Armies instead of Arguments: yea, when his cursed Conspirators, when those who sought his life, and those who in order to it had declared him A Fool, one unfit to govern, when they had divested him of all counsel, and sequestred him from all Advice, when many, and the choicest of the pack were sent to him (as the Herodians to our Saviour to entrap and entangle him in his words:) they found him so qualify'd, as the Book of God testifieth of S. Stephen, That they were not able to resist the Wisdom, and the Spirit by which he spake: and therefore as St. Stephen was confuted with stones, because they were not able to do it with Arguments: Even so therefore was our Blessed Soveraign not permitted to speak against the High Court of Justice! Therefore brought to his Scaffold, and therefore cut off; because they were not able to resist his Wisdom! because they found he was no less good than great, as they served St. Stephen, Acts 7. 58. even so they ran upon him and cast him out of the City. Yea, the very circumstance of place, whence those came who did this deed, that relateth to St. Stephen too: for the High Court of Justice, that pack of Miscreants which were sent to do this Villany, they came forth of St. Stephen’s Chappel.
Now being in Stephen’s Martyrdom, the Spirit of God is so severe, as to take notice not onely of those (who as I may say, sealed and signed his death) not onely of those who ran upon him, and were the actors in this Murther: but of a very Accessory, of a stander by, of one who gave no vote, flung no stone, did no hurt: being the Spirit of God takes notice of one who did onely look to the cloathing of those that stoned him, vers. 58. One that did onely look on and like the thing: certainly we shall find Consenters as well as Actors are mightily to be humbled for the sin of this day; Not onely they who plotted, and preached, and prepar'd the Murther; but those also who liked it when it was done: Those who by any complacency or after act, or subscription avowed the thing. All such are guilty of the Horrid Murther of this Day, or else vainly did the Holy Pen observe what is our present Text,
And Saul was consenting to his death.
In, and about these Words we shall consider of these three Propositions. First, a man may be guilty of that sin in which he was no actor, by being onely as Saul here stands recorded, A Consenter.
Secondly, a guilt may be postnate unto a fact, for after the stoning of St. Stephen it is observ'd, and not before, that Saul was consenting to his death.
Lastly, Consent may contract so deep a guilt, that without confession and contrition, it may hale the vengeance of an Actor upon the Consenters head.
First, A man may be guilty of that sin &c. Consent it is the conception, and the first quickning of every sin; consent it is that which gives the first being to every iniquity, insomuch that he who consenteth, though he never act further, is an actual sinner before his God: Nam scelus intra se tantum qui cogitat ultum.
And therefore said our Blessed Master, Matt. 5. 28. Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery already with her in his heart. He who hath a wanton, a lascivious and an adulterat reflection upon a beauty; he who looks, and lusts, though he never exchange a word, never touch, handle or come nigh the woman; even this very consent, this very complacencie it is Adultery in the eye of the most pure: For, saith our Saviour, (the son of a Virgin) he hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
And as consent in the Concupiscible, even so consent in the Irascible it contracts a like guilt: For, as he is an adulterer who looketh and lusteth, though he never violate the chastity of the woman: even so a man may be guilty of Murther, and yet never draw bloud; a man may be a Manslayer, and yet never harm or hurt a person: For the express determination and words of St. John are, Whosoever hateth his brother is a Murtherer. 1 Jo. 3. 15.
Now if it be so, that consent is the window that first lets in the thief, consent the pass by which the Destroyer entreth into our Souls; if it be so, that Consent makes us guilty even of the sin of others; for, if Consent abstracted from all outward Action makes the whole Man guilty; if guilt takes its rise, not from the Act, but from Consent, it is all a matter who Acts, for who ever consenteth he is also guilty.
In the Beginning of Time, when the Devil first endeavour'd to bring sin into the World, He took upon Him the form of a Serpent, Gen. 3. in that he spake unto the woman; told Her, God meant nothing less than what He said, That they should die; yea, rather they should become as Gods; and all this, only to gain a Consent; so that it was consent that brought Sin into the World, it was Consent that made Eve a sinner; Consent that made Her guilty of the Devil’s Machination.
On the other side; when our blessed Lord and Master come to Destroy the works of the Devil; The Devil He could gain no Consent; and therefore though He set before him, All the Kingdoms of the World, and the glory of them, yet saith our Saviour, John 14. 30. The Prince of this world cometh, and hath Nothing in me. Let the Devil and His Angels do all they can, they can get no ground, they can have nothing in us, or any of us, but with consent only; so that, of all things that are under our power; of all the Talents committed to our charge, we ought to be more choice of none than of this we have now in Hand, Our Consent: 'Tis this that makes us miserable; This, that makes us happy, it is this that maketh us virtuous, and 'tis this that makes us vitious; 'Tis this, that makes us God's, and 'tis this that makes us the Devil’s.
'Twas Consent, that made the Devil’s suggestion become Eves sin, it was consent that made Eve's entisement become Adam's Transgression; and it is consent that makes every Tentation become our guilt; so that you see to very great purpose it was here observed, that though Saul was not an Actor, yet He was a Consenter to his death.
Whereas then the Business of this great Day is, to be Humbled before the great God, for the foulest Murder (except that of the Son of God) that was ever read on; it concerns every of us to lay Hand upon the Heart and as the Twelve did, (when their King and Master foretold His Treachery) to say, Master, Is it I? Math. 26. 22. It concerns every of us to consider how far we were toward the guilt of this great Crime; How far either by way of Default or Consent, we have drawn up, even to this Murther.
1 Tim. 5. 22. Lay Hands suddenly on no Man; neither be partaker of other Mens sins. This exhortation of St. Paul, not only admonisheth Timothy to take Heed of sinning, by an over-hasty, either Ordination or Absolution: But also to take heed that He become not a Party, or partaker in other Mens sins.
Now the great sins which we are this Day (or at this Time) to recollect, it is the Murder of God's Anointed, the betraying and butchering of our King; Now this, though it was Paucorum Crimen, the abominable acting of some few; yet it was Multorum Delictum, the Failance and the sin of too too many, and that upon these Accounts.
1. In Respect of Acts Antecedent and going before.
2. In Respect of Acts Consequent and following after.
Upon both which, we shall find, Consent and Guilt, it will rise like a Land-Flood, and carry almost all afore it; so that albeit, few were those who washed their Hands in His Blood, we shall find few also are those who are not besprinkled with it.
First, Then let us consider what previous and antecedent Acts may involve a Guilt in this Murther: I shall instance only in Two:
1. A Provocation of our God.
2. A Desertion of God's Anointed.
For both these are, as the School speaks, Volitum in Causa, a consequential consent, or a consequential guilt.
First, It is a Consequential Consent and guilt to do that which provoketh God to inflict such a Judgment: so that in our provocation of God to permit this Murder, we have contracted enough to call for our Tears: For, if gracious and good Kings be the Blessings of God upon a People, certainly the Removing of such must needs be upon a provocation, and nothing can be so, but our sin.
Amongst us Men, we justly account Him a partaker, who is a Provoker unto sin; He that provokes a Man to Anger, provokes a Man to Drunkenness, provokes a Man to Steal, he is doubtless a partaker even in his sin: Had Job cursed upon the provocation and instigation of his Wife, She, as well as He had been guilt: Not Amnon alone, but Jonadab who promoted and provoked was guilty in his lust, 2 Sam. 13. Now look what is the provoking of a Man to sin, proportionably the same, is the provokeing of our God to Judgment: A sin undoubtedly, for only sin can do it, and sin can do it, even to as sad a Judgment, as to permit the Murder of a good, and a precious KING.
2 Sam. 12. When the Child gotten by David in Adultery was delivered, the Lord sent him word, v. 14. That, Because thou hast given Occasion to the Enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the Child that is born unto Thee shall surely die. The sin of the Father it had an influence even upon the death of the Child; because Thou hast given occasion, therefore shall the Child die. And even so, because we provoked the Lord, therefore did God suffer His Anointed to be thus smitten. And indeed, the School very well observes, there is Volitum in Causa, as well as Directe Voluntarium: There is an indirect consent, and a consequential willing of a Thing, as well as a down-right, and voluntary consent, insomuch that many a Man gladly and willingly consents unto the cause, who perfectly abhors and abominates the effect; and yet where there is an inseparable coherence, He who directly wills the one, he doth consequentially will the other; As for instance, The Men of the first World, Gen. 6. 5. They did directly will and consent unto those abominations and wickednesses for which God threatned, yea and resolv'd to drown the world; But as to the Drowning of the World, they gave no consent, nor had no will; But, for as much as they willed that which necessarily brought on the other, therefore, they were Volitum in Causa, They were the consequential willers of their own Ruine: For, their sins provoked the Deluge, Gen. 18. 20. Even so, the Men of Sodom, they had no will to have had Them and Theirs destroyed with Fire and Brimstone: But, being they continued to Act and do that, whose cry clamored to Heaven for vengeance, and for this Vengeance: Therefore even they were Volitum in Causa, they were the consequential cause and provoker of their own destruction: And this you shall find is gathered, even from the very language of God Himself, for the Lord by his Prophet Rebuking Israel, Thus saith, Why will you die, O House of Israel? Alas! Israel had no mind, no will in the world to die; They would never have given suffrage or consent to their own death; And yet, for as much as they willed that, which would infallibly bring death upon them, God lays their death even to their own charge, and makes their destruction an act of their own will, saying, Why will ye die, O House of Israel.
Now, as the Men of the old World, the Deluge; as the Men of Sodom their Fire and Brimstone; and as Israel their Destruction, so were all we the cause of the King’s death, who continued to commit those sins, and to act those wickednesses, for which God was resolved to deprive the Nation of so great an Happiness.
2 Chron. 35. We read how Josiah going out to Battel was slain before Necho King of Egypt: Now Josiah was so good a King, so right-hearted toward his God, so Religious, and so zealous of his Honour, that it is generally concluded, He was slain not for His own, but for the sins of His People, insomuch that some conceive Jeremiah made his Lamentations with Order unto him.
That Soveraign, whose Murther we this Day Commemorate, He was never so much Charls le Grand, as He was le Bon. He was never so Great as he was Good, He was (to say no more) as Gold tried in the Fire, exact and pure; or, as Saul for height, even so, He for Piety was far above his Brethren: and yet even He could not stand before His Enemies! The Lord went not out with His Armies, He fell, as did good Josiah before the Uncircumcized: And why so? Was it for want of Valour? or Prudence? or Skill in Feates of War? No, He had all these! what then? Truly it was, because the Sins of His Party fought stronger against Heaven, than their Armes could do against the Rebels! The lowd Volly of Oaths discharged against God Himself! The Drink Offerings of the Mighty! The Rapine, Plunders, and abominable Exactions done in his Name! This made our King miscarry, this prevented God, from going out with our Hosts; These Achans so troubled our Israel, that as God the Son, King of the Jews, was smitten, wounded and slain for the Transgressions of His People; Even so the Transgressions of His People, the sin of his Three full, and flourishing Kingdoms, these were the Provocations, and these a great cause, why God took away so great a blessing, and delivered into Bloody Hands so innocent a King.
1 Sam. 12. 25, If ye shall do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your King. It is not said if ye and your King do wickedly, then shall both be destroyed; but it is onely said, If ye shall do wickedly, yet both ye and your King shall be consumed.
Whence it clearly appears to me, that the provocation of a people, and the sins of a Nation they may, and oft have a great influence upon the death of a King, and that a King may be taken away, not so much for his own, as for their Transgressions.
And therefore I beseech you all in the name and fear of God; if it onely be that you may live peaceably and plentifully, and every man sit quietly under his own vine, and comfortably eat the fruit of his own labours, let us therefore forbear any longer to provoke our God: Forasmuch as swearing, and whoring, and drinking, prophane and ungodly Ryots; Forasmuch as doing wickedly may again provoke God to consume both us and our King: let us upon this day of solemn Humiliation and Fasting, for the glory of our God, for the safety of our King, for that sad share which we contributed toward this so foul a murther: let us sow in tears that we may reap in joy: let us henceforth abhor, at least those sins which gave the Rebellious an advantage! those sins which gave occasion to the Enimies of the Lord for to blaspheme and to say, the King’s Friends they were onely Libertines, Papists, Atheists, horrible Swearers, and Blasphemers, Enimies to God and the power of Godliness.
I beseech you for God’s sake, that all who profess Loyalty, may profess piety; that Fear God and honour the King may be as close in our hearts, as we find they stand together in the Book of God; and then I am sure we shall ever prevent this first guilt, the provoking of God to take away, or to permit the murther of our King.
Secondly, A second consequential Consent, or previous disposition to the destruction of God’s Annointed, it was The deserting of him. Non obstans, the not preventing, the not bindring of it, whilst yet it was in our power. And this is an undoubted way of contracting guilt from the sin of others: he who hinders not what he may, and where he is bound, doubtless he is volitum in causa, of what effect followeth upon this culpable neglect. As for instance, he who stands or sits before a window, thorow which the wind blows and the snow or rain beats, if he will neither remove thence, nor pull to the cazement, he is undoubtedly a consenter to his own wetting, and a consequential willer of his own cold-taking: for he both might and ought to have prevented it. That Father or Mother, who by a timely and seasonable correction might have kept their children from lewd and vile courses, and have not endeavoured it; such parents they have a guilt even in their transgressions, even in the misdemeanors of such children.
For, 1 Sam. 3. you shall find God threatens a judgment upon old Eli, because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not: because old Eli hindred not when he might, the Lord imputeth a portion of his sons sin even unto him: Now to apply this to our present purpose.
First, Had the people of this Nation kept close and conscientiously to their Allegiance and their Oaths, there had been no Rising; had they kept those cazements as they were, close shut, the Tempest of War and the Storms of Blood had never broken in; yea, had they clapt them to, when they first opened there had been an end. For, (to speak in the phrase of our Royal Martyr) When the Devil of Rebellion first turn'd himself into an Angel of Reformation: Whilst yet the Religious Mask of the Godly Party had but one Presbyterian Face to cover, the Vizard might easily have been knockt off, before numerous Faces, and many Factions appeared under at first but one godly Hood, before the Prince of Darkness transformed himself into an whole Firmament of New Lights, the King (in the right sense) might have been secur'd: For at first what Elisha said to his Servant, was with us most true; There was more for us than was against us, more for than against the King. But with a Non Obstante; for not using the means and power they had, for not preferring a publick and Royal Interest before their own; by omitting the duty, which Oaths and Allegiance obliged to, we betray'd our Soveraign, and by not restraining and Helping when we might, we became Volitum in Causa, even upon this account consequentially guilty even of our Soveraign's Blood.
We cannot but know, how it was the common Allarm of every factious Trumpet, the Vulgar Theam of every Rebellious Pulpit! Curse ye Meroz, saith the Angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the Inhabitants thereof, because they come not to the Help of the Lord, to the Help of the Lord against the Mighty. Judg. 5. 23.
Now if our Adversaries Judges (to speak in their own words, and out of one of their Catechisms) Neuters are Directly under that fearful Curse, which the Angel of the Lord denounced against Merosh, Rom. pag. 7. I say then, if they who came not out and defended their Rebellious Cause; if the Mighty for not fighting against the Almighty in the Cause of His Anointed, deserved a Curse, and were (as they affirm) Directly under that fearful execration which the Angel of the Lord denounced.
Certainly then a fortiori; Those who were wanting in a far better Cause; Those who deserted their Soveraign, those who came not out to the Help of Him, whom by the Oath of God they were bound to succour, those who to save their own Penny, cared not to see him lose his Crown! These for not using the power and means they had, though they did not spill, they betray'd his blood; and though they were not direct Consenters, yet they were direct strengthners of their Hands who did it.
Now if it be so, That the Son of Man, when in the Person of a King sitting upon his Throne of rich Glory, He shall pass an everlasting curse upon the sins of Omission, that is, upon such who Reliev'd him not, no not in His poorest Members: if for not seeding the Hungry, for not cloathing the Naked, for not visiting the imprisoned, if for omitting Acts of Charity Christ shall Denounce the sad Sentence of everlasting Fire; certainly then, Subjects omitting Acts of Justice, Subjects not doing their bounden duties, Subjects neglecting the King of Glory in his Chief, and most immediate Deputy, the Lord’s anointed: they have a great deal of cause to fear, and grieve, and pray, that even this Grand Omission, and this great failing may be forgiven to Them: For, he who hinders not when he may, and when he is Bound, cannot but be guilty of the Blood he might have saved, and of that sin, which he both should and might have prevented. And therefore, whether we respect our Provocations of God Almighty by our Personal misdoings, or the Omission of our Duty by our not doing, in both respects the most of us have been consequential Consenters, and contradicted guilt enough to be this day humbled, and beg God’s pardon, though not for the Murder, yet for the slaughter of our King. And so I have done with the first Proposition, to wit, How a Man may be guilty of that sin in which he was no actor, by being (as you have heard) a consequential Consenter to it. We shall now therefore pass to the Second.
II. That is, to prove and shew, How a guilt may be postnate unto a Fact, for after the stoning of St. Stephen it is observed, and not before, That Saul was consenting to His Death.
In the last Verse of the preceding Chapter it is written, when St. Stephen had kneeled down and prayed for his Enemies, He fell asleep, so that Dead he was before these words were added, And Saul was consenting, &c.
Now, Two Ways I shall observe how Guilt may come in at the back Door, and be postnate unto the Fact. 1. By applauding the Deed, by commending, liking and joying in it. 2dly. By partaking in the Advantages, and by a Tacit Desire rather the Act should be done, than they want the Benefit and the Rest they have got by it.
First, He who applauds, commends, likes and joys in a foul Transaction, he is a Consenter to it.
Qui laudat obscoenum, perpetrat illud. He who praiseth a piece of obscenity, he acts it, saith the Arabians. And indeed Consent and Commendation they are so nigh Related, that we never heartily commend what we like not, and so alike, are Consent and Liking, that they are not easily distinguished; for as He who frowns, or turns his Ear from a seeming witty piece of lewdness, in so doing checks it; even so He who laughs, and smiles, and seems pleased with it, so far as he is pleased, so far he is a Consenter to it. And therefore St. Paul condemns the impure Gnostiques even upon This account, that they were not onely vile themselves, but they also took pleasure in them that did such things, Rom. 1. 32. And indeed St. Pauls sin here, according to the Original, it seems onely a complacency and a liking, and therefore as in lust, even so it is in point of Blood; He who applauds the Murther, He who is glad 'tis done, He who praises and honours the Doers of it, (though he had no Hand in the doing of it) hath a Consenting Heart to the Deed done, and is in the Eye of the Just God, Guilty of it! For indeed there is no Body joys, and praises, and is glad to hear any Thing is done, but if he durst, even he himself would have done it. Doubtless Saul in my Text, though casually he was onely a Consenter, he could as willingly have been an Aider or Assistant to St. Stephen's death.
In the Case of King Ahab and poor Naboth, we do not read that Ahab had any intelligence or inckling given him of Jesabel's bloody design; all was acted and done, the High Court of Iustice had sped their villany, and dispatcht the Innocent before he knew it; and yet for all that, the Prophet is sent to arrest and charge him guilty of plain Murther, Occidisti, Thou hast killed. Now I pray how could he be guilty of a death he knew not of, of a Murder done altogether unknown to him? Truly if you search the Story, you shall find it onely was by a postnate Consent, by a liking, and approving, and joying what Jesabel had done. There is a Story of one Lucius Carpentus who having kill'd Nicanor, by running him thorow, his Page who deadly hated him, after his Master had dispatcht him, he to show his well-liking of the fact, thrust in his Masters Sword deeper into the dead Heart. Now though the Page could not possibly kill him again, yet he by thus doing, and thus confirming and approving what his Master had done, he became a Murtherer as well as his Master.
It is very well known the Lord of Glory, Christ Jesus our Spiritual King, He can die no more, Death can have no more Dominion over him, Heb. 6. 6. and yet Saint Paul expresly saith, They who fall away, that is, such as fall off from the Faith of Him, They crucifie to themselves the Son of God afresh: So that at this very day to say as the Jews did and do, That Christ was an Impostor, that He was a Deceiver, that He was justly arraigned, condemned, and crucified; This is by a postnate Consent to render us guilty of his Blood, and to crucifie asresh the Lord of Glory: This is to Thrust the Nails into his Hands and Feet again, this is (as the Page did his Masters Sword) to run the Souldiers Spear into his Heart again!
Now as Ahab by approving what Jesabel had done; The Page by confirming what his Master Carpentus had acted, the Apostates by owning and commending what the Jews did; Are all by postnate Consents, guilty of the several Murthers acted to their Hands; even so, of the cruel and barbarous Murder of our King (our King of most blessed and happy Memory) they must all be as was Saul to the Death of Stephen, Consenters; who either rejoyced at his Death, applauded the deed, or so far countenance the Villany, as to slaunder the Foot steps of God’s anointed, to justifie his arraignment! or who dared in their Hearts to say He suffered as a Tyrant, a Traytor, and a Murtherer.
Psalm. 10. 3. The vulgar Latin thus renders it. Quoniam laudatur peccator in Desideriis Animae suae, & iniquus benedicitur, &c. Because the sinner is praised in the desires of his Soul, and the unjust Man is blessed, therefore is God exasperated.
To call evil good, to praise the desires of the wicked, to bless the unjust, this is a ready way to contract a share in their Iniquity.
Acts 12. 22. When Herod making a blasphemous Oration had the Peoples applause for it; this their praise was a sinful consenting to, and an owning of his Blasphemy.
Verse 3. The Jews being pleas'd that Herod killed James, by this became involved in the blood of James: and Saul in my Text, by Countenancing the Executioners, and such as did, became himself a guilty Consenter to St. Stephen’s Death.
Those then, who when our blessed King was Murthered, stuck not to say, now was our Achan, the troubler of Israel taken out of the way; those who to blind the indisputable Villany, Perjury and Treason of those desperately wicked, who dared to Murder the Lord’s Anointed: Those (I say) who to palliate and justifie their abominations, laid all the Blood and Guilt and mischief upon the Innocent, upon their suffering and Martyr'd King; those who cryed him down, as Caput Malignantium, the head of Tyranny! but cryed up his Persecutors as the Saints of the Earth! Those who laid His Honor in the Dust, but advanced theirs to the Highest Heavens, those who did thus justifie the wicked, trample upon and condemn the righteous; they did more than Saul in my Text: for he only kept what Cloaths they had; but these, they cloathed the Murtherers with Majesty and Honor, and therefore if Saul for suffering the Cloaths of the Executioners to lie at his feet was a Consenter to St. Stephen’s death: these who did dare to trample upon their Dead Soveraign, and to put His Robes and Righteousness upon the King-killers: those who did dare to call the Usurper, David; and his Son, Solomon: their lawful Soveraign, Tarquin, or Charls Stewart! But the Seed of the Rebellious, His Highness, the Joy of the Nation, and the Healer of our Breaches! They must needs be deeper in guilt than was Saul, and therefore Consenters, because such Countenancers of his death! amongst us Men, we doubt not for to say, he who really intends, but is prevented for acting, is for all that guilty of his designed mischief.
Those 40. who bound themselves under a Curse, not to eat or drink till they had killed the Consenter in my Text, Acts 23. 12. til they had killed Paul, though Paul was rescued, yet they were guilty; for they had already committed Murther in their hearts. The Husbandmen who said among themselves--This is the Heir, come let us kill him? Math. 21. 28. They were guilty even from that very moment; and doubtless that ungracious Son, Patrios qui inquirit in Annos--who wisheth his Fathers death, that he may have his Lands, he hath already killed him as far as he dares.
Now as an Intention before the act, even so, a Complacency, and well-liking of the Thing done, are proportionable guilts, both Consenters, one to the doing, the other to the deed done; both guilty before the just God. They who wished the King’s death, but did nothing toward it; They who were glad it was done, but had no hand in doing of it, In Uno Tertio Conveniunt, they both meet in this guilt, they are Consenters to his death.
Acts 3. 15. Though the people of the Jews did no more But onely consent unto the Sentence and Judgment of their Magistrates, St. Peter chargeth the whole Nation, saying, Authorem Vitae interfecistis, Ye have killed the Prince of Life.
After his Sentence and Condemnation, some (who perchance were not at his Tryal) were at his Passion or Execution. Now if they who gave No consent toward his death, did, whilst yet dying, or dead, revile, mock or deride him, if they were in their number who when he was dead, said to Pilate, Sir, This Impostor, or this Deceiver, said thus or thus; This derision, this scornful joy, and this reviling of him dead, made them also Consenters, and guilty of his death.
Those then, whose foul Hearts have yet an evil Eye, those who call Murtherers, Martyrs; and Unrighteous Judges, The Beloved of the Lord! Those who love to detract, and to hear Him Lessened who was the greatest Loss that ever Our Three Kingdoms suffered! Such, because they cannot wash their Hands in innocence, they ought to wash their Hearts in penitence; for what Subject soever doth not perfectly abhor, he is in some measure a liker, and and so a kind of Consenter to his death; either by applauding the Doers, or by a tacit commending, liking, and joying in the deed.
Lastly, As by applauding the Actors, commending, liking, or joying in the Act, there is a culpable Consent contracted, Numb. 16. 26. even so by partaking in the Advantages, in the Rapine and ill-gotten goods issuing from that death, there is a sinful and wicked Consent involved. Cui prodest scelus is fecit.
1 Kings 21. When Jesabel had dispatcht poor Naboth, had Ahab abhorr'd the Vineyard, had Ahab took no possession, had not Ahab entred upon his Inheritance, we might then have justly thought Naboths death had been wholly Jesabels, not at all his will. But when we find that he who was Sick while Naboth lived, was instantly Recovered when Naboth was dead; when we find how that Ahab as to an Inheritance new fallen, hastens to possess what Blood and Murder gave him Title to: This is a clear demonstration his content was full, and he must needs be a Consenter to his death.
In the crucifying and murthering of the Son of God, the first Motive to a Consult or Consent, it was the Inheritance, Matth. 21. 28. This is the Heir, let us kill him that the Inheritance may be ours. Now as he who killeth for an Inheritance, continues on him the guilt of that Blood so long as he enjoyeth that Inheritance, that being the design and complement of his Murther. Even so, Qui Ratum habet factum, He who approves a Murder done in his Name, and manifesteth that approbation by sharing in the prey, and the advantages of that Murder, he by Ratification makes the deed his own; and as oft as he makes a beneficial use of that Blood, Blood toucheth Blood, and he is a Consenter in that Blood.
Now the Murther which at This Time we are to be humbled for, the execrable Beheading of God’s Anointed, it was done in Our Name, the Cursed and Illegal Indictment it was drawn up in the Name of The People of England. Now if in Law, Qui ratum habet factum Mandanti aequiparatur. If he who approves a mischief done in his Name, and for his Interest, is look'd upon as a Commander of it: Certainly then whosoever hath not disowned, or is so far from disowning, that he shall make a beneficial and glad use of this Murther, he thereby so ratifies, that he owns the Mischief, and as Ahab at Naboths death, is very well pleased and content the deed was done.
Amongst us men we cannot measure Intentions but only by outward proofs; but the Seer of all Secrets, He who shall judge the World even for the abstrusest Crimes, He shall judge according to the Bosom, and the hidden Influence, according to those likings and thoughts of heart which we have, but perchance fear or shame to discover.
As for instance, They who would rather a King should lose his Head, than they the Crown Land; lose all His Majesty and Honour, than they their present Justiceship and Power; they who would rather the Son of God should be crucified a fresh, than they part with their sins: Such in the sight of our Just and All-seeing God, they are liable to these deaths, and shall be sadly accountable for the guilt of them.
It is not yet so long, but we may very well remember those who did this foul deed, they made it their work to draw in as many Consenters as possible. For, first there was a Subscription, then there was an Engagement, then a Recognition, all tending to the Ratification of this Murther. A Sanhedrim or Council there was of Forty, a Readmission to the House; but none might have this Priviledge or Honour, but he must first subscribe; places of Trust, Pensions, other mens good Livings, Promotions, and Offices of profit, none might have without an Engagement against King and Lords: Yea the Capital Head of this Mischief, He for whose Rise the King was Ruin'd, must have a Recognition.
Now put the Case thus. Suppose the Great Sultan, the Grand Seignior, the Turk, had made a Conquest of this Nation, and would admit no Man to any place of Trust or Profit, no, nor to enjoy his own, unless he would subscribe that the Jews did well in putting their King and Soveraign to Death! I beseech you lay your hands upon your hearts, and seriously judge, if this subscription were not (let the mental Reservation be what it may) a sensible Ratification, or a Consenting to his Death.
Now if so, how shall they avoid, the being at least seeming Consenters to the death and blood of our dread blessed Soveraign, who meerly to feed their ambition, and to become what they were never Bred nor Born to, Lords over their Brethren, and Controulers of all about them, subscribed the guilt, and greedily shared, either in the power, authority, or revenue, which was all his; for if we justly charge the Pope for being a guilty Consenter to stews and Brothel-houses, because he takes a Salary and Revenue from them; or, if we justly say, they who eat of the Sacrifice, though they never come at the Shrine, are guilty Consenters to the Idolatry! certainly in like and equitable proportion, those who have been partakers in any of the Royal Ruines! Those who have cemented their Fortunes with the King’s Blood, and have secretly deprecated and prayed against the Return of any of His; these, though they may and have avoided the Law, they have yet a God to reckon with, before whom such a Consenter shall not dare to plead net guilty, but how deep in guilt that must be our last considerable, in which I promised to shew.
III. Consent may contract so deep a guilt, that without hearty confession, and an unfeigned contrition, it may hale the vengeance of an actor upon the Consenters head.
The Senses, the Members, and all the Natural actions and performances of the Body, they are indeterminately considered indifferent; they are in themselves nor good nor evil, it is our consent that makes them morally all they are, Rom. 6. 'Tis our consent that makes our members, as St. Paul speaks, servants either to uncleanness or holiness; The eye of man it may be the instrument either of admiration or of lust; yea, the very heart it self it may be the seat, either of Charity or Uncharitableness.
If so be then we would apprehend how our state stands in Foro Interno, in the Court of Conscience and the eye of God, we must begin at Heart, and look within.
David a good King could tell us, he had Subjects, the Words of whose Mouth were smoother than Butter, Psal. 55. 21, even then, when Warr was at the Heart; their words were smoother than Oil, yet were they drawn Swords.
Men may appear, (and our Martyr'd King sadly found it so) like Saints and Angels, talking of nothing, but of Reformation, Religion in Purity, and the power of godliness; when God knows within, their hearts were full of malice; God not in all their thoughts, nor did they aim at any thing more, than Interest and Destruction!
Now albeit it so is, that Figg-leaves, and Sheeps cloathing may blind the Eyes of Men, God will not, God cannot be so mocked! Look what we are at heart, look what we are within, look what is consented to agreed on and concluded in the most secret Recesses of the Soul, by that God judgeth, and to that we shall stand or fall.
Actus exterior nihil Malitiae addit interiori. The School well observes, though the outward act may be the Executioner, it cannot be the Author of any more mischief than what in the Soul is contrived and consented to; so that consent is a compleat guilt, and therefore I have shewed you, Consent may make an Adulterer, and yet the body, not touch a Woman; Malice may make a Murtherer, and yet the hand do no Violence; Soul may be guilty of the death of Stephen, and throw never a stone at him.
The Point then is, how deep a guilt consent may be, and we shall find it deep enough to carry an impenitent soul to eternal sorrows. Psal. 50. 18. When thou sawest a Thief then thou consentest with him. To consent but to a piece of Theevery; it is guilt enough, yea guilt in such a measure, that it is numbred among those sins, for the which God threatens to Tear in Pieces without Deliverance: Now if a consent in theft may amount to this, certainly a consent in blood, and that blood heightned by the greatest circumstances incident to Blood, to wit, Majesty and Innocence! A consent (I say) in the shedding of such blood, it must needs be aggravated, and indeed cannot be extenuated, but by the weakness, and the little measures of consent.
1 Epist. of St. John, ch. 3. v. 15. The beloved Disciple had no sooner said, Whosoever hateth his Brother is a Murtherer; But then he immediately adds, and no Murtherer hath Eternal Life abiding in him.
No Murtherer. A learned Neoterick well upon that place observes Murther is committed--Non tantum occidentis Manu, sed etiam odientis Animo--Homing not only by the Hand, but by the Mind; so that even a mental Murtherer; a consenter, but no acter: a willer, but no doer: he may be even for it in the state of damnation! a Person in whom (he so continuing) the hope of Eternal Life is not. Evidence enough that Consent alone may involve in a deep guilt.
What then Remains? Truly this only, that where consent Once was, Contrition may for ever be.
Saul in my Text, (whilst yet Saul, whilst yet a Persecuter) he made nothing of consenting, no not of putting a Saint to Death. But when he became a Convert, one of the first signal Testimonies he gives, is, the confession of his guilt contracted even at St. Stephen’s death.
Acts 22. 20. Lord, when the Blood of thy Martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by and consenting to his Death, and kept the Rayment of them that slew him. When of a Saul he became a Paul, when his Soul was softened, and his Heart changed, behold him Vir Dolorum, a Man of Sorrows; a Man whose very Soul is troubled for looking on, for standing by, for consenting, yea for that little countenance he gave in keeping the Rayment of them that stoned him. How much then, in the Name of God, ought every of us to be humbled and grieved for the Provocations by which we have moved God to permit this Villany! For our not doing in time what might have stopt this Blood! For applauding the Doers! For liking the Deed! Or when for our own Interest and Advantage we have secretly rather wish'd it so than otherwise! Did Time or Place serve, I might now do well to inforce this Argument from a Bare Consent, to such a Full Consent as includes and implies Plotting, Counselling, Commanding, Contributing and Acting. For if a weak postnate and bare Consent may (as ye have heard) contract a guilt, certainly then as Consents have been heightned, so must needs the guilt. Those who have made it their work to prepare the way for so foul a Murther, those who preached and printed down their King for a Mad-man or a Fool, comparing him to a Pilot whose endeavour was to sink his Ship, and to a General who planted his Ordinance against his own Army, that so he might be (as he was) first disarmed. Those who made it their work to run about with slanders, and spread lying disparagements throughout the Nation, onely to weaken the Repute, and make their King despicable. Those who to save themselves, laid all their own guilt upon his shoulders. And those, who when He had for peace-sake own'd the Debts which he never contracted, and was content to preface a Treaty of Peace with his own Infamy: Those I say who took this advantage for a Confession, and grounded all their closer Machinations of his Death upon this Bottom.
These, and every of these, are Actors in so sad a guilt, that it behoves such, not onely as did David (for the murthering of a Subject onely) go mourning all the day long; but they ought to do so all their lives long, praying and praying again, yea they ought to importune others to pray both with them and for them, that their foul Hearts may happily be cleansed in That King’s Blood which is onely able to wash off this King’s Blood.
In a word to close all. It is observed of St. Paul, that after he became a Convert, and of the Right Side, after he was truly sensible of the Dishonour done to his King then in glory; None of all his most Faithful Adherents out-did him in Pains and Diligence for the Recovery and Advance of the Glory of his Master: for now we find him at that pitch, that he professeth to value Nothing like to it, saying, God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, Gal. 6. 14. and, I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified, 1 Cor. 2. 2.
All then I shall add, is, That we also express our Penitence, as St. Paul did, by a most loyal and double diligence, that so our King who dyed a Martyr, may be found a Prophet also, for in those excellent Meditations (fit to be read and perused upon this Day) He tells his Son. His penitent Rebels, Those that Repent of any Defects in their Duties toward him, them should he find truly zealous to repay with Interest their Loyalty and Love: and the good God grant they may; and that not only they, but even all we, duly considering whose Authority the King hath, may so faithfully serve, and humbly obey him in God, and for God, that God may be a God of peace to us, and to our Children, even from Generation to Generation!
These, O God, and all other Blessings in thy Wisdom known expedient even for our Eternal Welfare, we humbly beg, even for His sake who was a King murthered by His Subjects, even Jesus Christ the Righteous: To whom with Thee and the Holy Ghost be all Honour and Glory now and for ever. AMEN.
Deo soli sit omnis gloria.