Preach'd before the Honourable
House of Commons,
King CHARLES I.
By E. Langford, D.D.
Printed for Thomas Bennet, at the Half-Moon in St. PaulÍs Church-Yard. MDCXCVIII.
Isa. 53. v. 7. latter part.„He is brought as a Lamb to the Slaughter, and as a Sheep before her Shearers is dumb, so openeth he not his Mouth.
ONE great Attestation to our Lord Jesus his being the true Messias, and to the Truth of the Gospel, which he preached, is drawn from the many Predictions of Him, most clearly laid down in the Prophets, and most manifestly fulfilled by Him at his Appearance in the World. And therefore disputing with the Jews, after He had alledgÍd the Testimony of his Father, and the Testimony of John, and the Witness of his own Works. He adds at last the Evidence of Scriptures. Search the Scriptures, says he, they are they which testify of me. And again and again, [1/2] we meet with Applications of the Prophecies to his whole Oeconomy. That it might be fulfilled which was said by such or such a Prophet. Then was fulfilled what was spoken in such and such a place, and the like. So our Lord himself, beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, expounded to the Two Disciples going to Emmaus, in all these things concerning Himself. And that I may not trouble you with many Instances in a thing so well known, I shall only mention that place where Christ Himself appeals to what was foretold of the Miracles which were to be wrought by the Messias at his coming, and were all exactly performed by him. John the Baptist sent some of his Disciples to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come, or look we for another? (where, by the way, o ercokmenos, or He that should come, is meant nothing else but the Messias;) Our Saviour bids them go tell John what they had seen and heard, how the blind saw, the lame walked, the Lepers were cleansed, the deaf heard; viz. that the very Miracles were wrought by him, which were foretold by Isaias the Prophet, to be the Works and Signs of the Messias, and to left him to Judg whether he was the Messias or not.
But amongst all the Characters of the Messias, none were more plain and bright than those which set forth his sorrowful Sufferings, and his Infinite Meekness, Patience, Humility and Charity. And they are no where more clearly exprest than in this Prophet, and particularly in this Chapter. He is foretold here, To bear our Griefs, and carry our sorrows; to be wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our Iniquities; to be oppressed, to be afflicted, to be distressed, to be judged, and at last to be cut off our of the Land of the Living. Here you have a short Abstract of his Sufferings; yet notwithstanding all these, such as his Invincible Patience and Meekness, that He opened not his Mouth. But is brought as the Lamb to the Slaughter, and as a Sheep before her Shearers is dumb, so openeth He not his Mouth. [2/3]
He is here compared to a harmless innocent Sheep before the Shearers, and to a poor innocent Lamb under the ButcherÍs hands, both silent and without complaint. The sense or thing hereby signified is no more than this, that
I. He should bear all his sufferings and afflictions, all his Temptations and Trials, with a most wonderful Humility, Meekness and Perseverance. And,
2. That he should lay down even his very Life with all chearfulness and ready Submission to his FatherÍs Will.
These two parts of his Character were absolutely necessary to promote the main Design and Doctrinal part of his Gospel; For He came to call Sinners to Repentance, to teach his Disciples Self-denial; to mortifie all their Lusts and corrupt Affections; to resist the World and all its Pomps and Vanities; to engage in a War full of Difficulties and Dangers, and by consequence, to endure all the Crosses, Troubles, and Persecutions which they should meet withal upon this account.
And if the hatred and violence of the World, or wicked Men should at last proceed to that height, as to seek their very Blood, then to resign their Lives with Joy and Gladness, under the comfort of an Innocent Heart and a Good Conscience.
Now tho these his Precepts, to considering minds, might in themselves seem very rational, yet the Force of his most Divine Example, together with the promise of his most gracious assistance, are sufficient alone to enliven and quicken the Practice of these Duties. For Men are not so easily led by Precept, as by Example, but most Effectually by both.
From this Explication therefore of the Words read unto you, I will, through GodÍs assistance, endeavour,
I. To represent unto you this meek, humble and patient Disposition of Mind, which our Prophet foretels should be so eminently fulfilled in the Person of our Saviour. [3/4]
2. To recommend the Practice of the same, both from his Precepts and Example. And then,
3. With your favourable attention, briefly to set before you the most Christian Behaviour of that Patient and Royal Martyr, whom we this day commemorate, shewing thereby, how strictly he observed his Great Masters Commands, how Religiously he followed his Divine Example.
I. I am, to represent unto you, this meek, humble and patient disposition of mind, which under the Parable of an harmless Lamb and Innocent Sheep, our Prophet foretells, should be so eminently fulfilled in the Person of our Blessed Saviour.
Now this Emblem of the Christian Temper and Spirit we have in the New Testament, painted more at large in those most Lively Colours of Peace and Love unfeigned, kindness, gentleness, goodness, meekness and tenderness of Heart: Bowels of Mercy and Compassion, humbleness of mind, patience, long suffering, forbearance and forgiveness of one another, even as Christ hath forgiven us. all which St. Paul expressed in that one most Comprehensive Word of Charity. Charity, says He, Suffers long and is kind, envieth not, vaunteth not it self, is not puffed up, doth not behave it self unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no Evil, rejoiceth not in Iniquity, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
This is that most admirable and most excellent Beauty of Holiness, without which no Man shall see God; and we are hereby instructed that it arises from a meek heart, and a humble Spirit. For what is it but meer Pride and Desire of Vain-glory, that begets all those inward Diseases and corruptions of Malice and Hatred, Variance, Emulations, Wrath, Strife, Seditions, Heresies, Envyings, Revenge, Murder, and the like? This puffs Men up, and makes them not endure, that others should [4/5] be as good as themselves, Nay, Love that themselves should be thought much better than they are: For even the wickedest Men give that Praise and Attestation to Virtue, that tho amongst their lewd Companions, Perhaps they may Glory in their Villanies, and make themselves seem far more wicked than they are, yet amongst sober Men, they all desire to pass under a more favourable Character. They love to appear under something of the outward form and shew of Godliness, tho they are perfect strangers to the Power thereof.
This gives them a false Sense and Reputation; they are highly ashamed their Faults should be in the least exposed to the Eye of the world, but are nothing concerned how much dishonour they cast upon Almighty God in committing them. To trespass against his Eternal Truth, or out-dare his all-searching Spirit, by telling, and perhaps swearing to a Lye, is too too common a practice among them; but for one to tell them they Lye, is so unpardonable an Affront, in their Esteem, so high a Provocation, that nothing but the Life or Blood of the Party that said it, can make satisfaction for it.
O Blessed Jesus! How far are these Men extranged from thy Divine Love! How far do they make a Holy and Glorious Name to stink, and become a Reproach amongst the Heathen, and unbelieving parts of the world! Never then let us count these most foul Spots of our Sacred Profession, Points of Honour more; Never let him that calls Himself a Christian any longer glory in this his Eternal Shame.
I confess indeed, I find it in some Great Masters of Morals allowÍd in Youth to be a little fond of External Humour, and Popular Applause, Because it may raise their Virgin Thoughts and Innocent Affections to the Enterprize of truly Noble Things, and give a Spur to their Industry, and put them with delight upon Labours and Tasks, which otherwise might be rather a punishment and [5/6] torment to them to undergo. But withal they tell us, That afterwards, to make this a Principle of their Actions, will inevitable prove their Ruin and Destruction. For besides all those dreadful Consequences which I just now mentioned, it makes all Virtue meerly accidental and conditional; they will neither value nor practice it, as it is Good, but only as it is Popular. It begets such an absolute Dotage and Frenzy in their minds, as tho they despise and slight nothing more than the Persons and Conversations of the Vulgar, yet they are so ridiculously besotted, as to Court, and wholly depend upon their senseless Esteem, and rest more satisfyÍd in the vain Opinion of the World, than in the comfort of a Good Conscience, and the Joynt Testimony of that All-knowing God, who will certainly one day Judge the Secret Thoughts of all Mankind.
This Swelling indeed, and Tumour of the Soul, sticks very close unto us; Ítis for the most part the last Rag of our corrupt Nature that we put off, and the last peice of all this Earthly Lumber we bear about us, that we part withal. Since then it is the bitter Root of so many, and so great Evils, and takes such deep hold in those infirm and easy Minds, which cherish it, how chearfully ought we to entertain, how highly ought we to prize that Evangelical Humility and Meekness which we have prescribÍd as a Sovereign Remedy against this pernicious Distemper of the Mind, and so gloriously recommended (Which is the
II. Second Observable in my Text) to our practice, by the Example as well as Precept, of our Blessed Lord and Saviour, who when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatned not, but was led as a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a Sheep before her shearers is dumb, so opened he not his mouth.
Our merciful Father, by sending Christ, the Grand Exemplar, to us, most wisely considered, and most graciously [6/7] condescended to our present condition; For whether it be from our Original Nature, or from our Hereditary Corruption of it, I shall not now determine. We see the Generality of the world led by Example, as much, if not more than by Precept. To do as another doth, was ever counted a great Encouragement, as well as no small Justification. For Precept is but as a fair Picture; whereas Example is the very Life: Without this the other would pass for an Airy Speculation, or meer Romance. Then men are believed to be serious and in good earnest, when what they teach others, theyfirst practice themselves. By their own well-doing, as St. Peter saith, they utterly put to silence the Ignorance of Foolish Men. Or being like St. PaulÍs Bishop, themselves perfectly blameless, they may be able to convince their most Insolent Gainsayers.
What we only hear, we usually little mind, as as easily forget; but what we see, does commonly make a greater impression upon us. Now this the very difference betwixt Precept and Example; and as the Evidence of both these Senses, commit, as it were, a Violence upon our Imagination, so the Influence of both these together, lays as great a Force upon our Will and Understanding.
The Scribes and Pharisees sat in Moses Seat, and without doubt taught many Excellent Notions, and wholsom Lessons; for our Saviour commanded his own Disciples, as well as the Multitude, to observe whatever they commanded. But this was it that quite shakÍd off all their Authority; They said, but did not. They might perhaps press the very Weighty Matters of the Law, but they themselves would not touch them with one of their Fingers. How infinitely beyond them was our Grand Exemplar? ÍTis truly said of Him, He spake as never Man spake; and Ítis certain also, He LivÍd as never Man LivÍd.
And this was most absolutely necessary for Him to [7/8] do. He came into the World to reform both Jew and Gentile; to destroy all Hypocrisie, and meer Shews of Religion; to purge out all unclean and corrupt Affections; to teach us the pure Worship of God, in Spirit and in Truth; to instruct us how to mortify all our Passions and Lusts; how to deny our selves in all unlawful things, and become perfectly dead unto all the Suggestions of the Flesh, the World, and the Devil; to santify us throughout, and keep us not only from all appearance, but also from all secret thoughts of Evil; to beget in our Hearts the true Fears of that dreadful Judge of Heaven and Earth, before whom we shall one day stand to answer for whatever we have thought, or spake, or done amiss: and next to that, to kindle in our Minds a Spirit of Humility and Meekness, Peace and Love, and to direct and keep us in all Holy and Heavenly Conversation towards one another.
Certainly a Lawgiver so Divine and Extraordinary as this, was obligÍd to make His own Life the absolute Pattern of what he taught. As His Doctrine was the most Sublime Instruction that was ever given to Mortal Men, so it was most highly requisite that His own most Blessed Example should fully answer it in all Exactness and Perfection; or, in His own words to John the Baptist, It became Him above all to fullfill all Righteousness. And thus we find him appealing to His own Innocency, Which of you convinces me of sin? This alone, one would think, without his other mighty Deeds, had been enough to assert the Truth of His Doctrine. His whole Life and Death being, as it were, but one intired and uninterrupted Miracle. This made Him in His Discourses, appear as one having Authority, and not as the Scribes.
Thus both the Old and New Testament represent Christ as sent to be a most singular Example to the World. Hence Isaiah, foretelling the Peaceable state of his Kingdom, How the most Furious and Outragious Tempers should be [8/9] quieted and composed by his gentle Precepts and mild Conversation, thus expresses it, by way of Parable, The Wold shall dwell with the Lamb, and the Leopard shall lie down with the Kid, and the Lion with the Calf, and a little Child shall lead them. Men of all Humours and Conditions shall be reconciled to one another, and their Captain, or Leader, shall be Himself as Harmless and Innocent as a suckling Child.
Again, the same Prophet tells us, He was to be a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, He was to be a oppressed and afflicted, to be brought (as in the words of my Text) like a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so was he not to open his Mouth. He was not to cry nor lifte up his Voice in the street. He was not to break the bruised Reed, nor quench the smoking Flax. That is, not to discourage the broken and contrite heart, nor neglect any one that had the least spark of goodness left in him.
And all this he perfectly made good from the very Manger to the Cross, Nay, He did not despise the Virgins Womb. How highly reasonable and weighty then must St. Pauls command be? Let the same mind be in you, that was also in Christ Jesus. He spake his mind, yes, and exactly performÍd it too. Tho He thought it no Robbery to be equal with God, yet he made himself of no Reputation, He humbled himself and became obedient to Death, even the shameful Death of the Cross.
What art thou then, O sinful Worm, that shall think thy self too great for any Condescension? Hereunto, says St. Peter, are we called, because Christ also suffered, leaving us an Example, that we also should follow his steps. And, to instance in no more, let those words of our Blessed Saviour suffice, If any one will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his Cross daily, and follow me. Do you think this daily Cross signifies only Persecution, Affliction or Tribulation? No, it is as St. [9/10] Hierome explains it, Every Temptation likewise from the World, the Devil, or our own deceitful Heart; Whatever is uneasy to a sanctifyÍd Mind; and the taking it up, is here declared to be our Mastering of it by self-denial, after Christs own Blessed Example.
To some weak and willful sinners indeed, such as are too much given up to their Lusts, and Enslaved to their Passions, this may seem a hard saying. Custom, I confess, is another Nature, and therefore must allow those words of the Prophet to be the very Truth its self. Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the Leopard his Spots, then may ye also learn to do good, that are accustomed to do evil. But this is spoken of Men perfectly dead in Trespasses and Sins. Men utterly given over to a Reprobate mind, whose hearts are by continal practice so hardned, As to Drink in Iniquity like water, with all manner of greediness and delight. For if there be any Serious Remorse of Conscience remaining at any time the Flax is still smoaking, there is some little hopes of Life yet left.
A Sense of Sin, and desire of Amendment, are two previous Dispositions here always necessary to be supposed. What then remains to do the Work, but a constant and most earnest Endeavour with the Divine Assistance, which our Merciful Father never witholds in such a Case? We see in ordinary Cases of Human Life, what mighty hard Tasks in a little time are overcome by only diligence and a serious application; but here we have the vast advantage besides of Gods most Holy Spirit to direct, guide, strengthen and support us.
We know all Habits are acquired by often repeated Acts, and by several Degrees; and those that are bad, as well as those that are good, meet with an uneasiness and reluctancy at the beginning. For I appeal to the Heart of any Man, whether at the first breach of his [10/11] Innocency, at his first committing of any willful sin. He has not had a Dispute with HImself before it was done; and whether after, his Heart did not smite him, and make him unquiet; tho afterwards, perhaps, by often falling into the same Vice, by little and little his Conscience fell asleep, and He then went on without any further Reflection at all.
On the other side, whether in avoiding some occasion of sin, or restating some Temptation, He has not met with the like Controversy; and when he had overcome, whether the Thoughts of his Escape have not fillÍd his Heart with Joy and Gladness?
Now besides his sensual Appetite and Reason (the outward and the Inward Man) which wage this War, there are (with reverence be it spoken) those Two Auxiliaries, the Instigations of the Devil on the one side, and the gracious Motions of the Holy Ghost on the other, to carry it on. And sure no Man will so far dishonour God, as to say, the Power of the Devil is in it self, so great as that of His.
If it seem so to any one, it is, because he makes it so by his own willful Apostacy. For the Holy Spirit is always willing. Behold, says He, I stand at the Door and Knock, if any Man hear (i.e. obey) my Voice and Open the Door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me.
Who can doubt of Gods help being always ready, or once question his Sincerity and Truth, when he reads those most convincing words. As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasured in the Death of the Wicked, but that he should turn from his way and live. Turn ye, turn ye, from your Evil ways, for why will you Die? Surely, we ought to think the bare Word of God might have been enough, but for our Encouragement, he hath bound it with an Oath, and because He could swear by no Greater, He Swore by his Eternal and Everlasting Life. [11/12]
What doth this then come short of a plain demonstration, That in wrestling with all deliberate sins, it is not only possible, but wonderful easy for us thro Jesus Christ to be more than Conquerors? And if we consider Matters right, the very same Methods and Powers will prove every whit as effectual even in mastering of those sins, that seem to overtake and seise us at unawares, and appear most directly opposite to that peaceable, quiet and meek Disposition we have been discoursing on; I mean, Trouble, Vexation, Anger, or the like.
For no Man can deny, but that there may be perfect habits of Holiness, as well as of Impiety. That a Man may be as absolutely dead unto Sin, as dead unto Righteousness, and that from low beginnings, Men leisurely rise up to both these heights. Now there are very few Men subject to these hasty and violent passions, but upon calm thoughts will be grieved and much displeased at themselves, and perhaps tell you, that they would give all the World that it was otherwise with them. This I look upon as a very fair and laudable Foundation of this great work. I would then as them, if ever they exercised themselves by often putting all those Calamitous Cases, which are most likely to move their particular passions in them; for by such frequent Meditations they by degrees arm and prepare themselves against all events. In time, they will have a Defence and Guard for every blow that Fortune can offer.
If the Crosses of the world disturb thee, or thou art shaken at every Loss, remember then, O man, remember it often, all that thou hast in this world, Wife or Children, or Lands, or Goods, Health, Strength, Honours of Preferments, or the like: They are all but lent thee, and are to be surrendred again upon demand.
That devout and daily Petition, Thy Will be done, O God, on Earth as it is in Heaven, together with these good [12/13] thoughts, constantly and seriously laid to heart and repeated, by the Blessing of God, will at length teach thee such patience and humble resignation, as even in Jobs condition, thou wouldst chearfully say, The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, Blessed be the Name of the Lord. Or something like this. Lord, I am not worthy the least of those mercies, which thou hast left me. Be not then vexed, O my Soul, and be not thou disquieted within me. Still trust in God, for I will yet thank him, who is the help of my Countenance and my God;
And there is the same Methodical cure for anger and wrath, which from their heats and extravagant effects, have got themselves the Name of Passion, by way of Superiority or Singularlity. Certainly, such a serious Course of Spiritual Exercise, as I just now mentioned, would strangely soften and much unbend the spring of any Mans fury, if not quite unwind and let it down.
I would therefore humbly advise an angry Man to make experiment first in small occasions: For if he could not bear a slight offence, a great one must needs quite overset him. There is no hopes he should put up Injurious words, much less blows, if he cannot pass by a frivolous jest. If (as a Philosopher somewhere observes) he rages when his idle Servant lets fall a Trencher or Glass, what would he do, if by sad mischance heshould set fire to his House, or kill his only Child?
But I shall leave Phylosophy, for behold a greater Master than even Socrates himself is here. The Meditation of whose Example and Divine behaviour under all those things, which seem most grievous to Flesh and Blood, and are counted the cheifest, if not the only grounds of Provocation, will prove the most effectual means to beget in us the same most quiet and heavenly mind. [13/14]
How easily are Men exasperated with reproach and slander? And ill words, we commonly say, Cut deeper than Blows. Yet he, that was Innocencie it self, thought it no shame to pass them by. They callÍd him a Man Gluttonous, and a Wine-bibber; A Friend of Publicans and Sinners. All he returnÍd was only that meek saying, Wisdom is justifyÍd of all her Children. VVisdom may be scofft at, contemnÍd and abusÍd by the vain or ignorant world, but this is her comfort, she is justifyÍd and esteemÍd, and honoured by those that understand her.
They callÍd him a Samaritane, a Schismatick or Heretick. They said, He had a Devil and was Mad. Nay, that all his mighty works were done by Belzebub himself. Yet when he was thus shamefully and blasphemously revilÍd, He reviled not again, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously. He that shall frequently ponder all these things in his Heart and endeavour to imitate them, will never value opprobrious Language, or any envious Report; for if it be false, he will bless God for the satisfaction and comfort, he finds in his own Innocency. If it hath any thing of Truth in it, he will bless God for that too, because the Reporter thereby proves his Monitor instead of his Enemy. The Venom which is spit at him, he converts to balm and precious Oyntment, that will serve to correct and heal his infirmity; and I dare say, he will be so far from counting it impossible, as he will soon find himself fully able to return the like soft and gentle Answers, to the most piercing and most grievous words whatever, nay, he will find it easier at any time, and I should think, many times much wiser, If like a Sheep before the Shearers, he be dumb, and say nothing at all. [14/15]
2. The next thing that is commonly esteemed matter of Provocation and Resentment, is in general churlish and evil usage. And here our Lord and Master hath trodden this rugged Path, and hath made it also plain, and very easy for those that will tread in his steps. When the Samaritans refusÍd to entertain Him, it seems to have been about the Eating time of the day, when Men usually say, the Peevish Humour is most stirring. Two of his Disciples were presently for commanding Fire from Heaven to consume them. But he rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of Spirit you are of. The Son of Man is not come to destroy Mens Lives, but to save them. When his Countrymen despised and rejected Him, He only returnÍd that Great Truth, A Prophet is not without Honour, save in his own Country, and in his own House. When the Jews took up stones to stone him, He said unto them, Many good works have I shewÍd you from my Father, for which of those works do you stone me? To the ungrateful and treacherous Judas, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a Kiss? To the Officer that smote him, If I have spoken Evil, bear Witness of the Evil, but if well, why smitest thou me? When the Multitude came to take Him, tho he could have had at that instance more than Twelve Legions of Angels for his Rescue, yet He resisted not. And when over-zealous Peter, in his defence, smote off MalchusÍs Ear, He gave him that mild, but astonishing Rebuke, Put up thy Sword into the sheath. The Cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? And what is yet more admirable, that Himself might Exemplify his own Divine Doctrine, of doing good to them that hate us, He restored, and healed the Ear by a miraculous touch.
The Time would fail me to tell you at large how He was mocked and scorned by the Scarlet Robe, the Reed, and the Crown of Thorns. How he was spit upon, buffeted, [15/16] scourged, reviled by the Rulers and gazing Multitude, and railed on by the very impertinent Thief, yet under all this Barbarous usage, he behaved himself, as he really was, like the Son of God; and to Crown all the rest of his sufferings, in his very last Agonies of Death, and as it were gasping upon the Cross, he prayÍd for his Enemies, Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.
Go this way then, O haughty Man of Fury and Revenge, whoever thou art, with earnest prayer and diligence Hear, Read, Mark, and fear not buy by degrees thou wilt Learn and Inwardly digest, this excellent Lesson of imitating what thy Saviour both said and did. If thou never makest the least serious application, never complain that the business is too hard, but blame thy shameful sloth and neglect. Believe him that hath said, Whosoever hath (tho but a little) to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance, And if that be not enough to set you about this necessary work, if thou despairest of arriving to so high a pitch of Perfection, which He, as God, was only able to attain, yet if thou settest before thine eyes those bright and shining Lights which He hath from time to time raised up, thou wilt be sufficiently convince, that these his Laws are easy and practicable to those that Love them. Many and many instances the undoubted History of the Universal Church affords us of this Nature; but to instance only in the Life and Behaviour of this most Illustrious and Royal Martyr, whom we this day commemorate, which brings me to the last observable, wherein I promised.
III. To shew you how strictly he observed his Great Masters commands, how Religiously he followed his Divine Example, and by consequence how every good Christian, that is true to his own endeavours, and faithfully makes use of Gods assisting Grace, is no less capable of performing and following the same. [16/17]
It is commonly made an Excuse and Cloak for the Impatience, and immoderate Complaint of some men, that they are cast down from some great heighth of Prosperity, and quite stript of ample Fortunes and Possessions; as also on the other side, He that calmly and chearfully bears up in such a Case, is justly counted worthy of all Praise and Admiration.
Of such a one I am now to speak of, a King whose loss we this day commemorate, one who was born to, and possest of, an Imperial Crown of Three Whole Nations, so powerful and great, as they would turn the balance, and give Laws at pleasure to all Christendom. None but Emperors could Rival his Birth and Fortunes; therefore all future complaints in an Inferior Prince, much more in the greatest Subject, are quite cut off.
He was as Just and as Good as he was Great. Who can doubt it, that hath fully hear, or impartially read his amazing Story, or but cast his Eyes upon that Excellent and undoubted piece of his, His Pourtraicture in his Solitudes and Sufferings? He was but a Mortal Man indeed, and in that point infinitely short of his Lord and Master, the Spotless Jesus. We cannot say he was without sin, but certainly He had as few to answer for as any Prince ever had. It was the apparent Design of that Party (that I may use their very Words) to blacken him as much as they could; and it is usual for, Malice to aggravate every thing, and to make even Nothing seem Something in such a Case; yet no man ever read, or heard, that He was any ways guilty of the least Immorality, or so much as one of those Vices which are commonly incident to Mankind.
One Act indeed He did, wearied out by restless Importunities, rather than wone by Reason or Right, which was his perpetual Lament, as it was his heaviest Burthen to the day of his Death, and made him on the [17/18] Scaffold declare all his Sufferings to be just; It was his yielding to that Unjust Sentence against the Lord of Strafford, tho the Earl Himself, by Letter, had desirÍd him to do it. Yet he declarÍd, That he bore no Touch of Conscience with more Regret, and constantly bewailÍd his preferring what he thought Safe before what was Just, his valuing Peace with men before Peace with God, and that to prevent Popular Discontents, he should disturb the Quiet of his own Mind.
Yet even in this he was to us a most remarkable Example; like David, he gave us another Royal Pattern of true Penitence; for he recovered himself by one continual Act of heart sorrow and Repentance to his Lives End.
Notwithstanding all this his admirable Piety, and perfect Innocence, as to all things else, he could not escape the grossest Imputations imaginable. At his Trial he was Impeached for the Highest Treason that was ever acted on the Theatre of England. He was not callÍd a Man Gluttonous, and a Wine bibber, but a Tyrant, a Traitor, and a Murderer, a Publick and Implacable Enemy to the Commonwealth of England, and guilty of all the Desolations, Rapines, Burnings, Damages, Mischiefs and Spoils committed in that Unhappy War. He only smilÍd at all this Foul and Villanous Language, for an undaunted Courage and immoveable Patience are not only the Effects, but also the Indications of a guiltless and perfect Heart. Certainly he that (as I have shewn you) Was so highly concernÍd for the Guilt of consenting unto one Mans Death, could never willfully occasion, much less contrive the Effusion of so much Blood.
However to satisfy the whole World, how well he remembred, and how exactly he observed his MasterÍs words, Blessed are the Peace-makers: Peace I leave with [18/19] you, my Peace I give unto you. No man ever did labour to obtain it more, than He. He sent above 40 Messages to the then Usurping Powers (which are all in Print, as an Invincible Demonstration of his Innocence herein to all future Ages). All these returnÍd without Effect, continually clogÍd with new demands. And there is no Man Living but must be forced to vindicate him herein, who shall but compare the Dates of his, with those of their Commissions and Declarations.
But above all, when his Standard was set up at Nottingham, he there offered a Treaty before one Stroke was struck, but was Proudly and Scornfully rejected. So fully was that saying of David verifyÍd in him, I labour for Peace, but whilst I speak to them thereof, they make them ready for battle.
What a Divine mixture was there of Modesty and Humility with his profound Learning and Understanding? Not the very Fathers of our Church could better have defended it than He did against Dr. Boily and others of the Popish Party; as also against Henderson, Caryl, and other sticklers for the Covenant. Yet He all along laud by the Authority and Majesty of a King, and contented himself only with the Ornaments of a quiet and meek Spirit.
Learn then of Him, ye Scribes, and Disputers of this World, that Religious Controversies are not to be managed with Heats and Jerks of Wit, but by solid Dint of Argument, exprest with all Fairness, Calmness and Christian Compassion.
When He was brought before his pretended Judges, it is impossible for meer Man to comport Himself with more Majesty and Gravity, with more Christian Wisdom and Magnanimity of Spirit, or with a more stedy and even temper than he did. For Sixty or Seventy Commoners to sit, arraign, try, Judge and Condemn their undoubted King, rudely to check him all along, [19/20] and interrupt him again and again, to over-rule, (as they call it) or rather to over-power and suppress, what they could not answer; Not to suffer his Reasons to be heard, and the like, are such Transcendent Indignities, as I profess my self utterly unacquainted with Language, to express them by. Yet thro this whole Scene of Scorn, not one Ill, Rash, or Unbecoming Word fell from his Lips.
Wherefore let all furious Sons of Wrath blush, and for ever after be ashamÍd to say or think, that any vile Behaviour in Discourse, can under the Light and Power of the Gospel be too injurious, or too provoking for Flesh and Blood to near. Behold here an High-born and most Mighty prince; an Humble, but most Illustrious Precedent of this Perfection to the contrary. For St. James allows me to style him so, If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect Man.
He could very well, as he said himself, have held his Peace, but silence at that time, might perhaps, with Vulgar and Inconsiderate Minds, have seemÍd to argue Guilt. Yet it was to vindicate his PeopleÍs Rights more than his own, that made him offer at what he did: Nay, from the pious Concern for the souls, even of those over-forward and outragious Wretches, there before Him, He (tho with much ado) at last wedgÍd in that Wise and Charitable Caution to them; A hasty Judgment is not so soon recallÍd.
How incomparably did he bare the Insolencies and Affronts of the Barbarous Guards? When they pufft their noysome Tobacco in his Face, (a thing most odious and offensive to him) without any further Notice, He only turnÍd His Head away, or gently fenced it off with his Hand; nay, one had the Incorrigible Impudence to sput in His Face, yet he Past on without [20/21] one Word, and meekly wipt it off with his Handkercheif. They cryÍd out, Justice, Justice, (which in the Jews Language of old was, Crucifie, Crucifie.) Out of the Abundance of Pity and Compassion of his Royal Heart, for once he openÍd his Mouth, and said, Poor Souls! for a piece of Money they would do as much for their Commanders.
He heard the History of his SaviourÍs Bitter Passion, the Morning before he left this Life, read unto him by Bishop Juxton, out of the 27th of St. MatthewÍs Gospel. He thankÍd the Bishop for his Choice, thinking that he did by Design, pitch upon that Portion of Scripture, as being most suitable to his present Condition. But when he understood it to be the ordinary Lesson, appointed by the Calendar for that day, he exceedingly rejoyced at the Blessed Conjuncture, and magnifyÍd the Gracious Providence of God, who had callÍd him in that very Day, to follow the Example of his Master, there most happily set before Him by our Church.
ÍTwas this, which, as if it were a Message sent from him, that encouragÍd and strengthened him. He with Chearfulness callÍd upon his Attendants as he past thro the Park, to make more haste, saying, He now went before them, to strive for a Heavenly Crown, with less Sollicitude, than he had ever encouraged his Soldiers to fight for an Earthly Diadem.
Hear Him next upon the Scaffold. I have forgiven all the World, even the chief Causers of my Death; pray God forgive them: But this (said He) is not all, my Charity must go yet further; I wish they may repent. They have committed a great Sin; I pray God, with St. Stephen, that this be not laid to their Charge. You see how heartily he could have used our SaviourÍs Words: Father, forgive them. Happy had they been, if he could have added, they know not what they do. For the [21/22] Jews indeed, as both St. Peter and St. Paul testifie, were ignorant that they crucified the Lord of Life; but these knew too well whom they DestroyÍd. He out of his tender Bowels and Compassion for their Salvation, had long before bid them beware of so Horrid a Fact. Remember (said he) I am your King, your Lawful King; Think upon it, Think well upon it, before you heap Sin upon Sin, and bring down GodÍs Judgments upon this Land.
But how then, should (I will not say) the Scriptures have been fulfillÍd; but what God had designÍd, and they themselves, tho Hypocritically, had said, that he should be made a Glorious King.
Being just now entring into the Rest of his Righteous Soul, He had these most Excellent Reflexions on it. I have a Good Cause, and Gracious God on my side. I go now from a Corruptible, to an Incorruptible Crown, where no Disturbance can be.
Where there was such a solid Rock of Faith, such a firm Anchor of Hope as this, there needed not those Cords and Staples of Iron, which those poor Spirited Miscreants had prepared to tie him down to the Block. For as he was the Meekest Prince upon Earth, so like a most Heroick Champion of Jesus Christ, with a Resolution unchangeable, and a most Undaunted Courage; He quietly yeilded his Sacred head to the Fatal Stroke.
Thus he valiantly fought a good Fight, like an absolute Conqueror over the whole World, and all the Powers therein. He finished this Course, like a most ExperiencÍd Master of the Christian Race, he kept the true English Apostolick Faith, Firm and Spotless to his last Gasp, and is now gone to receive the Crown of Righteousness, preparÍd for him in Everlasting Rest.
And there I shall leave Him, for it would be a very vain Essay, to attempt any full Account of his most [22/23] amazing, and most compassionate Story, which neither Pen nor Tongue can worthily express; nor all the Writings in the whole World, except the Gospel, parallel. Wherefore I have contented my self in gleaning here and there a Flower or two, to adorn that Christian Doctrine, which I have endeavoured to dress up in my foregoing Discourse.
And now thou art left wholly inexcusable, O man, whoever thou art, if thou shalt be disordered or disquieted at any Evil that shall befall Thee. What Case canst thou put, which in this short Extract, is not fully Satisfied and Answered? Dost thou stand upon thy Power and Greatness, the Splendour of thy Name and Family, the Vastness of thy Treasures and Possessions? Remember, I will not say, the Patience of Job, but of this Mighty Monarch, when he was treated with such barbarous Inhumanity. He was deprived of whole Kingdoms, robbÍd of his dearest Wife and Children, stript of all the Comforts of this Life, nay, of Life it self, and yet kept, what he says himself he counted most Dear, His Conscience and HonourŸ.
As for thy Conscience, God by His Grace, if thou doth not reject it; hath put it absolutely in thine own Power. and thy true Honour is then best defended, when thou least regardest that, which is so only in presence and shew.
Is Wisdom and Knowledge the Pride of thy Heart? See here the Great Master of Reason in most Points of solid Learning, Dumb as a Sheep before her Shearers, and not permitted to open his Mouth in his own Defence.
Is it too much for thee to brook any silly reflection, tho it be in a private Company, from your Equal or Superiour, or one perhaps heated with Wine, or which is worse, drunk with impertinent Folly, or Self-conceit? Alass! Here is the Innocent Father of his [23/24] Country falsly Charged in a pretended Court by a handful of his meanest Subjects, with the foulest Imputations that Malice could Invent, publickly CondemnÍd, and led like a Lamb to be Sacrified before his own Door, in the sight of the Noon-day Sun, and before the Face of his own Ungrateful People, and yet He from the very Bottom of his tender Soul, forgave them all, and as heartily prayÍd to the God of all Mercies, that they might truly Repent, and Live for Ever.
But I shall forbear launching out any further into the Immense Ocean of his Praise; for the more I Extoll this Incomparable Prince, the more I discover our own perpetual Shame; the more I aggravate the horrid Guilt of this Innocent Blood upon this most unhappy, and most sinful Nation.
O Gracious Lord! how highly Unchristian must this Fact appear, when thou shalt Judge the Secrets of all Men according to thy Gospel! The Actors of it, will, I fear, then be found Sons of Belial, rather than Disciples of the Meek and Humble Jesus.
But I shall spare them now, and if there be any one here yet alive, whose Conscience doth directly accuse him of that sin, in conformity to the Subject of this present Discourse, I shall at this time heartily desire to restore such an one in the Spirit of Meekness, rather than by severe Invectives; and to lead him, if possible, to a hearty and serious Repentance by a gentle Hand.
As for the rest of us, who have either been born since that heavy Captivity, or else in those days by GodÍs great Mercy, were not involved in willfully contributing any thing to that Infamous and most Abominable Deed, let us not vainly and wickedly with the proud Pharisee boast, God, we thank thee, we are not as these Men are: for, except we Repent, we shall all likewise Perish. [24/25]
We all stand Guilty this Day before the Dreadful Majesty of Heaven, and to that National Sin we have every one of us added many and many other most grievous of our own. Tho we have not Eaten the very same sowre Grapes without Fathers, yet our Teeth are much set an edge by our own Impieties. So that God may justly visit their sins upon us in this our Evil and Perverse Generation.
Consider the Distractions Strifes and Animosities which, through a want of Charity, and of this Meekness, so terribly rend and divide both Church and State; consider the Deluge of Wickedness, and all manner of Vice, that covers the whole Face of this miserable Land; if we still go on to full up a measure of our Fathers Iniquities, shall not I visit for these things, saith the Lord? and shall not my Soul be avenged on such a Nation as this? Oh! that our Heads were water, and our Eyes so many Fountains of Tears, that we might weep day and night, not only for the Guilt of this glorious Martyrs Blood, and his Adherents that were slain, but also for a multitude of our own manifold Transgressions.
And grant, O Lord, that neither the Splendor of any thing that is Great, nor the conceit of any thing that is Good, in us, may any ways with-draw our Eyes from looking upon our selves as sinful Dust and Ashes. but that, according to the Example of this thy Blessed Martyr, we pay press forward toward the Prize of the High Calling that is before us in Faith and Patience, Humility and Meekness, Mortification and Self-denial, Charity and constant Perseverance unto the End, and this for thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ his sake, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be all Honour and Glory World without End. Amen