Preached before the
House of Peers
Abby-Church at WESTMINSTER,
January 30. 1673/4.
SETH Lord Bishop of SARUM.
King's Arms in Ludgate-street, MDCLXXIV.
Ordered by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament, that the Thanks of this House be, and is hereby, given to the Lord Bishop of Salisbury, for his pains in Preaching before the Lords in the Abby-Church at Westminster, on Friday the thirtieth day of January last; and that he be desired to Print and Publish his Sermon then Preached.
John Browne Cler. Parliam.
And he said, This evil is of the Lord, Wherefore should I wait upon the Lord any longer?
THE cause of this Solemn (and most Honourable) Assembly at this time, is to humble our selves in consideration of a most grievous and horrible Calamity, which was some years since (as upon this day) brought upon these Kingdoms, by the Sacrilegious and Bloody Martyrdom of our late most Excellent Sovereign; to afflict our souls in Contemplation of our sins; which brought upon us that heavy Judgment; with humble, penitent, broken and contrite Hearts to wait upon the Lord, to implore his Mercy in removing from us the guilt of that innocent blood, in pardoning our Offences, and taking away his Plagues and Judgments from us.
To work our selves to such a frame or temper of spirit, there are two ways or methods; either by shewing the Necessity and Utility, the Beauty and the Comeliness of such a temper, and the Happiness which will follow thereupon (by convincing us how much it is our Duty, and our Interest, and Concernment) or else by having before our eyes (the indecency and absurdity, the folly and madness, wickedness and misery) how much it is against our Duty and against our Interest to be found in a contrary temper and disposition.
Of these two Methods we find that Solomon (in his Book of the Preacher) made choice of the later; That to bring men to fear God, and keep his Commandments, he thought it best to convince the world of the vanity of all other courses: That giving his mind to understand the reason of things, he applied himself to know the folly of wickedness, and the wickedness of folly and madness: And to bring men to wisdom and virtue, he thought it the best expedient to represent to them the absurdity and ugliness of folly and wickedness.
Something like to this I have proposed to my self at this time, and to that end I have chosen to submit to your consideration this strange and extravagant instance in the Text.
Where (that I may the sooner arrive at what I aim at) I shall not spend time in disputing the Author of the words; but with the best Interpreters (as I conceive) suppose them to have been the words of Joram King of Israel; and (in some measure) to collect and raise a true idea or character of him, I must draw you a little back into the Story.
Our Author I say was Joram; he was the Son of Ahab and Jezabel, and King of the ten Tribes of Israel: his capital City was Samaria: his adjacent neighbour on the North was Benhadad King of Syria, who now made War against him.
Joram not able to keep the Field, was driven up into Samaria, and there was obstinately besieged.
The City was a fenced (or fortified) City, and Benhadad would not storm it, but resolved to take it by Famine.
And the Famine here prevailed to a degree almost incredible: the prices of commodities so great, the diet, to which they were reduced, so vile (an Asses head was sold for 80 pieces of silver, a cab of Pigeons dung for 5.)
So vile! nay, so exceedingly monstrous and unnatural.
Can a woman (saith the Prophet Isaiah) forget her child? Here two women conspire together, and against the laws of God and nature, enter into an engagement (to act that which you will abhor to hear) to devour their tender little ones, and resume into their bodies that fruit whereof they had lately been delivered.
And because one of them repents of her engagement, the other makes her appeal to Joram: she spies him walking the rounds to view the Works, and out of a complicated passion of hunger and sorrow, envy and indignation, in the agony and bitterness of her soul, she cries out, Help O King!
And now begin to take a character of this Joram. He supposed she had cried for Victuals, and he presently falls upon cursing the woman, auth h Qeon. So Josephus mh se swsai kuriwV. So the Septuagint. Let not God help thee, how should I help thee?
Well! this was indeed part of the womans grief, but this was not all, she had killed her child; and her companion (according to agreement) had eaten part of him, and now had withdrawn her own: her spleen would now be satisfied as well as her stomach; she therefore states her case, and cries for Justice.
Indeed the case was lamentable, enough to move the heart of any man, and it put Joram's into motion, but it was not into compassion, but fury.
It had been reason that he should have rent his Heart and not his Garments; but he rends his cloaths, and falls into cursing and raving, and into a wild extravagant resolution, God do so to me, and more also, if the head of Elisha the Son of Shaphat shall stand on him this day.
What is the coherence? or where is the Logick of this cursing and damning resolution? How was Elisha concerned in what had happened?
Before, he cursed the woman, now he curses himself with a grievous curse; God do so to me [that is, take away my life:] and more also [that is, in the language of our times, God damn me] if the head of Elisha--
But why must Elisha suffer? what had he done? had he devoured the child that was dead, or hid the living child; or brougt the Famine upon Samaria?
As if rage did submit to reason! or from the wrath of man, we were to expect the righteousness of God! that he should swear and curse there was no reason, nevertheless, for his Oaths sake, he sends his Messenger to Elisha's house, and presently follows to see the Execution.
Where (to make up the hiatus, betwixt his coming and uttering the words of the text) we may conceive that Joram has there blustered out the Story of the woman; That he hath raved at Elisha, and blasphemed against the Lord himself; and that in reply, the Prophet and endeavoured to allay the passion, and calm the storm of rage, that was upon him: That he had put him in mind of looking up to God the sender of all Publique Calamities; exhorted him to humble himself under his mighty hand, to wait upon him for deliverance, to pray to him for succour, and the like.
To all which he ungratiously rejoyns, according to the tenor of the text.
You tell me of the Lord, Who is the Lord that I should concern my self about him? You talk of God, and think to draw me into a vain and pucillanimous devotion, and so to drill me into a frivolous hope and expectation.
You talk of Waiting, have I not waited all this while?
You speak of Praying, ti dehqw? to what end should I pray?
I have spoken, and he will not hear; I have called, and he will not answer; I have clothed my self with Sackcloth (Lo! here it is upon my loins!) and he laughs at it.
The more I court him, the more he slights me.
The evils that are upon us are of his own sending, 'Tis evidently his hand that is upon us, and he that hath cast us into all our misery, Wherefore I'le Seek to him no more, I'le Pray no more, I'le Wait no longer.
This evil is from the Lord, Wherefore should I wait upon the Lord any longer?
You see now the absurdity involved in this instance, which that it may make a better impression upon us, we will consider it more particularly.
In the words are
I. A Supposition or Concession (and that Sober and Rational) This evil is of the Lord.
II. An Inference or Conclusion (and that Absurd and Irrational) intimated in the form of a deliberative Question or Interrogation, Wherefore should I wait, &c.
The Supposition or Concession may be considered either
1. Absolutely and simply, and then it will afford us this Observation, viz.
Publique Judgments or Calamities proceed from the hand of God.
2. Relatively as proceeding from Joram, and then it offers us this Observation, viz.
The most wicked and distempered persons are sometimes forced to discern and acknowledg the hand of God in the dispensations of his Judgments.
My business will be, First to evince the Truth of the Observations; Then to shew the Absurdity of Joram's inference; And so to descend to Application.
1. The first Observation is this, That Publique Judgments and Calamities proceed from the hand of God.
That is to say, They do not arise out of the Dust (as Job speaks); They are not scattered into the world by the uncertain distribution of blind and improvident Contingency, nor thrust upon it by an ungoverned overbearing force of a Brute Fatality. They proceed not from a casual coincidence of various senseless Atoms.
Nor from the overpowring influence or combination of the Planets or the Stars. Nor from the malignant ardours of ill-boding and portending Comets (all which are the foolish imaginations of Atheistical or Superstitious persons) But they are sent out of the Armory and Magazine of him, Who hath made all things by his Word, susteins them by his Power, and rules them by his Providence.
I may not upon this occasion be permitted to enter upon a Philosophical or Theological discourse, concerning the Providential Administration of the world, or the Properties or Attributes of God, from whence it ariseth, upon which it is founded; or the manner of his concurrency with secondary Causes (how that insinuates its influence, and performs its operation, so as the Contingency of Events, and Liberty of Agents, may be maintained).
I shall here content my self only to suggest thus much to your Notice and Observation; That As the Providential Administration of the world proceeds immediately from the Efficacy of the Divine Wisdom, Power, and Presence, So there is not any thing in nature wherein every one of these may not by a considering Person be discerned.
(Praesentemque refert quaelibet herba Deum)
And as the smallest Rivolet, attentively and constantly followed, will direct and lead one to the Sea; so the most fortuitous event, being traced through the chain and series of it's Causes, will bring the mind at last to the original Fountain and Ocean of all causality, and force an acknowledgment of a wise, voluntary, providential administration of the world.
And as for this part of Providence in the dispensation of Publick Plagues and National Calamities, it is so obvious to common reason, that it hath forced an acknowledgment not only from men of Philosophical and deep consideration (whether of the Graecanic or Barbaric Families) But from Historians, Rhetoricians, and Poets, persons not obliged by their profession to so severe an enquiry, or so deep a penetration into the works of nature.
Homer refers the Calamities of the Trojan War to the will of Jupiter, DioV de etelesto Balh. Virgil to state the original of the Contest between the Romans andthe Carthaginians, and of the bloudy Wars and Miseries consequent thereupon, enquires, Quo Numine laeso? With Euripides the usual Epithet of xumfora is qepastoV, sent from God.
And to convince the Epicuraeans and the Stoics (i. e. the Assertors of fortuitous or fatal Administration) St. Paul himself appeals to the testimony (of one of their own Heathen Poets, namely to a saying) of Aratus, autw gar kai genoV esmen.
But why should I detein you in the out-skirts of humane reason or testimony! seeing we have a surer word of Prophesie, which plainly assures us (both in general and in particular; by way of Assertion and Prediction; in reference to Nations, Plagues and Persons) that Vengeance is the Lord's; and the Distribution of Plagues and Judgments is within his own peculiar Jurisdiction.
That it was he that let loose the Cataracts of Heaven upon the old World, and sent down the fire and brimston upon the Cities of Sodom and Gomorrha. That the plagues of Wars, of Pestilence, Famine, Wild beasts, &c. are all of them his Messengers; and he sends them where he sees cause.
That there can be no evil in a City or a Kingdom which the Lord hath not done. That he it was that prepared and ordered, and marshalled out the Plagues of Egypt, and the Burdens of Moab and Ammon and Dumah, and all the other Nations mentioned in the Prophets. That he gave Jacob to the spoil, and Israel to the robber.
And (to come yet nearer to the Case of Joram in the Text) to shew that he was the dispencer of these things, he punctually foretold the fate of his Father Ahab, and concerning Jezebel his Mother,
That Dogs should eat her by the Wall of Jezreel;
And he may seem long before to have pointed at this very particular instance of the Judgment in the Text.
If thou for sake the Lord thy God--thine Enemy shall besiege thee in all thy Gates--and thou shalt eat the fruit of thy body, the Flesh of thy Sons and of thy Daughters, in the Siege; because of the straitness wherewith thine Enemies shall distress thee: So that I shall say no more in proof of the first Observation, arising from the Concession of Joram absolutely considered; He said, This evil is from the Lord.
2. I come now to the second Observation, drawn from the consideration of this Concession in reference to Joram, from whom it did proceed, viz.
The most wicked and most distemper'd sinners are forced sometimes to acknowledg the hand of God in the dispensations of his Judgments.
To the design and purpose of our present meeting, nothing in the world can be of greater consequence than to be thorowly convinced of the truth of the former Observation. And to this end nothing can be superadded of greater moment, than the manifesting the truth of this which we are now upon.
Surely great is the power and irresistable the force of such a truth, as can assert it self in the most indisposed minds of men, and break through the strongest defences and Barricado's raised against it: That can gain an admittance and extort a Recognition from those whose understandings are most indisposed to receive it, and whose inclinations and affections most averse, and whose endeavours are most engaged against it.
And this is the pretence of the present Observation, in reference to wicked and ungodly persons:
Though they are unacquainted with any religious consideration, and the wayes of God and of his Providence very rarely come in all their thoughts:
Though they give themselves up to vain Imaginations, so that their foolish heart is darkned: Though they endeavour to put out the light within them, and love the darkness rather than the light:
Though they say unto God depart from us, for we desire not the knowledg of thy ways:
Though they do their utmost endeavour to arm and fortifie themselves against all impression, to sear and cauterize their consciences, to hearden their hearts as an Anvile, and their faces as the nether Milstone:
In plainer terms, though they devote themselves to prophaneness and debauchery, enter themselves in the Academy of Atheism and Irreligion, become very hard Students in the Schools of Rioting and Drunkenness, of Chambering and Wantonness, of Hectoring and Ranting: Frequent the Brothels and the Stage.
Yet all this will not serve their turns; when the hand of God is lifted up, though they will not see, yet they shall see and be afraid:
And to this recognition they shall be constreined, by one or both of these two ways especially; either
1. By some special signiture upon the Object.
2. By some special and extraordinary excitation of the Subject.
1. In the dispensation of God's extraordinary works of Providence, (whether in the way of Mercy or of Judgment) he takes an especial care, that neither his hand may be undiscerned, nor the Acts of his Providence unregarded. And to this end he orders them, and sends them forth dressed and trimm'd with circumstances, eminently conspicuous and characteristical.
Elihu tells us (in the Book of Job)
That God sets his hand, and stamps his Seal upon his Works, that all men may see, and every man may know that they are his Works.
The Prophet Esay tells us,
That God doth his Works in such a manner, that they may see, and know, and consider, and understand, that the hand of the Lord hath done them.
Concerning the Works of Mercy David prays, That God would shew some token upon him for good, that men might see it, and that they may know, that this is his hand, and that the Lord hath done it.
And concerning God's Judgments, he declares, that he (plainly and sensibly) discovered in them the hand of the Almighty. Thine arrows (saith he) stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore, there is no health in my flesh, because of thy displeasure, nor any rest in my bones, by reason of my sin.
2. But secondly, this often happens by some great and extraordinary awakening and excitation of the subject; of which kind, though the particular instances are various (as the motion of the wind that bloweth where it listeth) yet they may be generally reduced either to
I. The natural Eruptions, Or
II. The providential stimulation and excitations of the Conscience.
1. Though the Principles of Synteresis, the seeds of Piety and Virtue scattered and disseminated in the Soul (to bring forth the fruit of Vertue and Felicity) may be trampled on and kept under, crop'd and snib'd by the bestial part, yet they will sometimes be starting out, sprouting and putting forth themselves.
Though the Scintillae virtutum, the (sparks intended to enlighten and enflame the Soul to goodness) may be smothered, and oppressed, and raked up in ashes, yet sometimes they will make an Eruption, and put all things into a conflagration and combustion:
These Principles are congenit and connatural to the Soul: They are not to be erased or extinguished, but their duration must and will be coextended with the subject of them.
St. Paul assures us, that even the Heathens themselves, and even of them the worst and most depraved and debauched (such as are filled with all unrighteousness, and given up to vile affections, and all manner of uncleanness, have still the work of the Law (of Nature) written in their hearts; that they know the righteous judgment of God, and that they which do such things are worthy of death, That the wrath of God is revealed in them; And they have Consciences accusing or excusing, naturally and certainly tormenting them by particular Applications upon occasion.
2. But secondly, Wicked men are convinced of the hand of God, in the dispensation of his Judgments, by the means of Providential Excitations.
Now these are numberless in particulars, and of many kinds. I shall only instance in a very few.
1. Sometimes they are put into an expectation of Judgments, and thereby prepared and disposed to discover and to apprehend the signature and impression of an Avenging Nemesis, by the eminent Atrocity of their actions.
This was the case of Cain and Lamech, who having committed Murther were perpetually tormented with ominous bodings and fearful expectations. Every man that sees me will slay me, cries one: If Cain shall be avenged seven fold, surely Lamech seventy times seven, cries the other.
This was the Case of Alexander and of Nero, when they were haunted and tormented by the Ghosts of Parmeno and Agrippina (and is generally the Case of secret Murderers.)
2. The secure and dormant Conscience is awakened by Acts of Providence, not in their nature extraordinary, but in the circumstances very suitable and proportioned to some former sin.
When the Sons of Jacob were brought into trouble and great perplexity (into anxiety and anguish of Soul) they presently made this Application, We are verily guilty concerning our Brother, for we saw the anguish of his Soul when he besought us, and we would not hear,
3. Sometimes by some extraordinary Signs and Indications. When Belshazzar saw the singers writing upon the Wall, the joynts of his loyns were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.
4. Oft-times a powerful and seasonable Charge or Admonition from a poor despised Minister, qualified and sent upon that Errand, hath shaken the stoutest heart, and brought down the confidence of the proudest sinner, and forced him to tremble at the apprehension of a present or impendent Judgment.
Of all the Sinners mentioned in the Old Testament, the Sacred History gives preeminence to Ahab: It always mentions him with a note of Eminence and Exoch. This is that King Ahab! He sold himself to work wickedness, he exalted himself against God and man, and went on triumphantly in a course of sinning: He killed, also took possession: yet when Elijah (a poor overgrown neglected hairy man, girt with a girdle of leather about his loins) charges him that it was he that troubled Israel, and denounces the Judgments which should befall him; He rent his cloaths, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, he fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.
Of all the wicked persons mentioned in the New Testament, there is none who (by the History of Josephus, and by Tacitus and other Roman Authors) is represented to have been more impudent and scandalous, more outragiously debaucht then Felix the Roman Governour of Judea under Claudius and Nero: yet when Paul (his Prisoner a little wearish aged man, whose bodily presence was weak, and his speech contemptible) reasoned, before him concerning righteousness and temperance, and the Judgment to come, Felix trembled.
Whether the conviction of Joram did proceed from one or more, or all, or any of these causes, it is not needful to enquire: Thus much appears in fact, that though he was extracted from that King Ahab, and from that Queen Jezabel; though his life and manners were answerable to his extraction and education; though he was under a complicated distemper of mind, a paroxysm of madness, yet in the midst of all his indisposedness he is forced to acknowledge the hand of God in that Calamity, which was upon him. He! even Joram! said, This evil is from the Lord. Even wicked and distempered men are forced sometimes to acknowledge the hand of God in the dispensations of his judgments.
Hitherto I have endeavoured to represent and prove before you the truth and evidence of this concession or supposition (the to didomfon) laid down by Joram, and how agreeable that is to Reason, Scripture, and Experience.
And now what consequence would any one expect from such an antecedent? If the words had been barely (without proof or enlargement) delivered by the Prophet, had it not been reasonable for him to assent to the truth of them, and natural for him to have fallen upon this conclusion: This evil is from the Lord; therefore upon him will I wait; to him will I address my self for our deliverance; and forthwith to have put himself upon all necessary and congruous ways of application? But being delivered by himself, as an extorted acknowledgment of his awaken'd conscience: Who would not expect, that although before his conviction he went on resolutely in his course?
Yet being now rowsed and awakened, he should proceed according to his Conviction, That the same causes which had forced him to see and acknowledge the hand of God in the Judgment, should have prevailed with him to apply himself to him for the removal of it.
Who would not expect that the words should run thus? This evil is from the Lord, wherefore upon him will I wait for succour, and not give over until he have mercy on us.
But behold! he said, This evil is from the Lord; wherefore should I wait on the Lord any longer?
And now the absurdity of this Inference is that which remains to be laid open before you. .
I call it an Inference because in effect this deliberative question carries the force of a strong negation, Wherefore should I wait? i. e. I am resolved I will wait no longer.
To take the full meaning of that word; which is here rendred by waiting, I must entreat you to observe, that the question is in the Hebrew Quid expectabo? Chaldee Cur patienter me geram? Septuagint, Quid deprecabor? [DehsiV in the Scripture signifies Prayer and Supplication (and that with earnestness, strong crying and tears) and is usually joyned with fasting and other acts of mortification and humiliation. So that the word is of a large extensive signification, and comprehends all these notions in it.
It seems the Prophet, finding him in a distemper, had exhorted him to give over huffing and ranting, cursing and swearing; and to betake himself to fasting and mourning, to prayers and earnest Supplication: to give over his sturdy and insolent behaviour, and to compose himself to meekness and a deep humiliation.
To leave off his frowardness and impatience, and with patience and due submission, to tarry the Lord's leisure, to expect and wait upon him for deliverance.
To all which he replies in these words, Mah Ochil ladonai: Wherefore should I fast and pray, or betake my self to weeping and mourning? Why should I submit and humble my self under the hand of God? to what purpose should I expect, and wait upon him any longer for deliverance: (intimating a peremptory resolution to the contrary.)
You see now the Question betwixt Joram and the Prophet, and I am to make your selves the Judges, which of them had reason on his side: In order whereunto it is necessary that I premise three things.
1. In every deliberation the end or scope is presupposed, and the question is, of the best and likeliest means for the attainment of that end.
2. When any one is fallen into calamity, it is to be presumed, that the end which he will propose to himself, will be the removal of the calamity.
3. Joram having acknowledged his calamity to have come from God, it was supposed, on both sides, that to remove, or continue this calamity, was entirely and absolutely in the hand and power of God. So that the only question is this, which is the likeliest way to prevail with God, to remove his Judgments, and take away his heavy hand, the way of Elisha, or the way of Joram.
Now, although it seems very easie, to determine this question, upon principles of common reason, and by reflexion upon the ways of men; yet seeing it is to be supposed, that every one knows best, what way it is, that will move and prevail upon himself;
And seeing God hath declared himself in this matter, and his declarations were then extant in the writings of Moses and the Prophets (to which, a King of Israel ought to be no stranger) I should think it most congruous, that the deliberation ought to proceed upon those measures, and the enquiry accordingly to be, what was like to be the issue of Elisha's way, and what on the other side, if Joram's way should be taken, in this case of publick Calamity.
1. Then how hath God declared himself as to Prayer and Fasting on one hand, and to Cursing and Swearing on the other? (and so of the rest of the particulars in Question.)
1. In general, Call upon me, saith the Lord, in the time of trouble, and I will hear thee and help. I cried unto the Lord in my trouble (saith David) and he delivered me out of my distress.
Again! as to Fasting and Mourning, in a day of darkness (i. e. a case of Publick Calamity) the way prescribed by the Prophets is, to blow the trumpet in Sion, to proclaim a Fast, and call a solemn Assembly. For the Priests to weep betwixt the Porch and the Altar. That men turn unto the Lord with all their hearts, and with Fasting, and with Weeping, and with Mourning.
But as for Joram's way, (the ranting, cursing, swearing, blaspheming way) God hath declared, That because of Swearing and of Cursing the Land mourns: He loved not blessing, and it shall be far from him; he delighted in cursing, and it shall happen unto him: it shall come into his bowels like water, and like oyl into his bones. And for the blasphemy, wherewith mine Enemies have blasphemed me, I will up, saith God, and I will ease me of mine Enemies, and avenge me of mine Adversaries.
2. As to Elisha's way of meekness and humiliation, God hath declared, That he will have respect unto the lowly, and give grace and favour to the humble:
And though he dwells in the high and holy place, he will dwell also with him that is of an humble and contrite heart.
More particularly as to the case in hand, he hath expresly promised;
If I bring upon the land Famine, or Pestilence, or Sword, or any other plague; and my people humble themselves: then will I hear from heaven, and will remove their plague.
But in reference to Joram's way, he had declared that he hateth the proud looks, and will destroy the sturdy sinner: That he will pull down the stoutness of their hearts; and the haughtiness of the haughty shall be humbled.
3. Lastly! he hath declared, on one hand, that the patient abiding of the meek shall not perish for ever; but on the other, that the frowardness of the froward is an abomination to him.
And now the case being clearly stated, one would think certainly, that Joram (without any haesitation) should submit to the proposals of the Prophet, and come to a quick and a speedy resolution to pursue them.
But now behold and wonder! stand amazed all ye that pretend to sense and reason.
He cannot deny any one of Elisha's premisses, yet he adheres, and sticks to his own conclusion, and roundly resolves, that he will neither fast nor pray (much less betake himself to whining) he will not humble nor submit himself; he will not attend or wait upon the Lord any longer.
Very well and wisely! But what then becomes of the [illegible]? And how shall this same calamity be removed?
To remove the calamity there are but two ways imaginable:
1. The way of Address or Accommodation: or,
2. The way of force and compulsion: and the former of these he hath declined, and will he therefore betake himself to the later?
What King being to make War, sits not down first, and considers, whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand.
The Lord is a Lord of Hosts, and a Man of War: thousand thousands minister unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before him. We see him coop'd up by the King of Syria, and will he now make War with the King of Heaven? Let the potsheard strive with the potsheards of the earth: But who art thou, O Joram! that strivest against God? what is the hope wherein thou trustest? or wherein lies thy confidence, that thou rebellest? Did ever any man exalt himself against God, and hath prevailed?
Call to remembrance things lately past, and of ancient days how he hath formed it: The success of the Giants of old; the modern Fate of Ahab thy Father, the Destiny of Jezabel thy Mother, for the wickedness of the Father Ahab, the Whoredoms, and Witchcrafts of Jezabel thy Mother.
What doth this man intend to do? and what doth this resolution signifie? Will he arise in the power of his might, and make a gallant sally, and so scatter and confound his adversaries? Will he cause the earth to open, and swallow up this Benhadad, and cover the Congregation of the Syrians?
Or will he cause Quails or Manna to fall from heaven, and remove the Famine, wherewith himself and people are distressed?
Judge in your selves Brethren! were not this a foolish imagination, an instance of stupidity and madness?
Well then! Because the Lord hath vexed him by his plagues, will he endeavour to plague the Lord by his wickedness?
Alas! his wickedness extendeth not to him. Is not this the folly and madness of wickedness?
But he will revenge himself upon the Church: and wreak his spleen upon the Prophet,
God do so to him, and more also, if the head of Elisha the Son of Shaphat shall stand upon him.
Is not this the wickedness of folly and madness?
Briefly! is not this case of Joram a monstrous and a prodigious case? Doth he not deserve to be punished and tormented with many stripes? To be tormented (as it were) in Bedlam, for the madness of his wickedness? In the Valley of Hinnom for the wickedness of his madness? There it was that Tophet was prepared of old, for the King it was prepared: and certainly this seems to be the very King, for whom it was prepared.
IS this now your Judgment and Determination? Is this the sentence of this great and noble, this wise and honorable Assembly? Come then (in the name of God, I humbly pray you) and let us reason a while together:
Hath this only been the case of that person, of whom we have been speaking, and is it not also the case of us, that have all this while been speaking and hearing, censuring and judging of him? Plainly! Was it only the case of that King of Israel? and is it not the case of this Kingdom of England?
And we, that have judged another, have we not condemned our selves?
Is not this (I say) Englands case?
1. In respect of Publique Calamities, which have been brought upon us?
2. Of our Behaviour in reference to those Calamities?
1. How great and manifold have been the Calamities of this poor sinful Kingdom?
2. And how plain and conspicuous have been the signatures, and impressions of the hand of God upon those Calamities?
To look no further back, than we are obliged by the occasion of this our meeting together: What sort of Plague or Judgment hath not, within the space of 20 or 30 years, been inflicted upon this Kingdom? What sort (I say) of Spiritual Judgment, or Temporal Calamity?
The Judgment, which we are here met to commemorate, and lament; had in it a complication of all manner of Spiritual Judgments (of Injustice and impiety, of carnal and spiritual Wickedness) as well as Misery and Calamity.
It was a Calamity pregnant and productive of innumerable others, wherewith it hath been succeeded, and which are perpetually pullulating from it. For this the Land hath mourned wellnigh 30 years; and for all that, God's anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
His Judgments have followed us, and grown more and more upon us to this very moment, still eating into our bowels, and corroding into our bones. And if we be not more mad than Joram, we cannot but acknowledge them to have proceeded from the hand of God.
This would evidently appear, if I might be permitted to insist and animadvert upon the evils which have befallen us; and trace them backward to that great and prodigious Judgment, which was the cause of this days observation.
I shall not need to spend time to prove, that our threatning and growing Famine, our present Murrein, or late Pestilence have proceeded from the hand of God: Such plagues as these are so plainly and confessedly qehlata that David being left to his choice betwixt the Sword, the Famine, and the Pestilence, thought it a plain expression of his mind, when he only desired he might fall into the hand of God.
I shall therefore proceed to a few, particulars of another nature. That a novel and upstart Commonwealth of a Nation, lately feeble and poor, whining and submissive, should in the space of not many years arrive at the ungrateful boldness to provoke a powerful and mighty Kingdom, (a Kingdom to which they had been in their weakness and minority so much obliged;) That they should be permitted to disappoint and baffle their strongest Preparations, and come to such an height as to attempt, and endeavour to fix upon them marks and characters of perpetual ignominy and dishonour.
That a fire should proceed out of the Bramble, which should consume the Cedars of Lebanon: That a spark should kindle in a corner, and should be permitted to destroy all the stately Palaces, publick Buildings, and venerable Churches in one of the most considerable Cities of the World, besides 12000 private habitations. This certainly is Digitus Dei: This evil is from the Lord.
When after the miseries of 20 years the Lord had caused Light to spring out of Darkness, and Order out of Confusion; Reduced all things to that state and position, out of which they had been distorted; Had Restored our Religion, our Laws, and Liberties; Had Established the King, the Church, the Nobility, Gentry, Populacy in their ancient Rights and legal Stations; Had fortified all these by new additional Laws, and a Loyal and worthy Parliament.
That after all this, without any disturbance by Foreign Invasion, or intestine Rebellion, meerly by the application of our own wisdom and policy (and our most industrious endeavours) in the short space of about a dozen years (the same Parliament still continuing) This goodly Fabrick should be shattered, and all things e'ne ready to drop into Disorder and Confusion.
That out of Depth of Policy, and Mystery of State, the foundations of Government should be subverted, and the Ligaments of it dissolved.
That for the establishment of Government, every one should be permitted to do that, which is right in his own eyes; as if there were no King in Israel.
That for the Advancement of the Established Religion, there should be permitted to assume to themselves a Toleration of all Religions (or rather irreligions) Schisms, Heresies, and Blasphemies in the world.
That out of Indulgence to tender Consciences, the Principles of Atheism and Anarchy should be permitted to be disseminated, countenanced, watered, cherished and fostered, and all means used, that conscience it self should be eradicated out of the Souls of men.
WIth fear and trembling! horror and amazement! to come up to the prodigious instance of this day!
That the vilest and the worst of men should be permitted in the most horrible and most impious (the most impudent and brazen-faced) manner, under a form of Godliness and Justice, in the sight of this Sun; in contempt and defiance of Providence, and of God himself, to shed the Royal Blood, and take away the Sacred Life of the Lord's Anointed; and of him that was the most Harmless and Innocent, the most Meek and Gentle, the most Virtuous and Religious, the most Sober and Prudent Prince that ever sate upon the English Throne.
Lastly, That after all this, and all the rest that our eyes have seen. After the Massacre and Rebellion in Ireland, The Covenant contrived in Scotland, The Bloody Wars and Sacrilegious Judgment and Execution made here in England.
That after we have seen the end of the Lord, the Vengeance of God so signally executed upon the Principal Authors, Actors, and Promoters, the Judges and Executioners of all those things; Matters should (in so short a time) be brought to that pass, that (according to the various Inclinations of men) some should Fear, and others Hope, that the Monarchy of England, and that Religion, and those Laws, and the very persons, which uphold it, should now be abandoned; And that the great Interests of Religion and Government should be delivered up into the hands of the Irish or English Papists, the Scottish or English Covenanters, or other Sectaries and Fanaticks.
Are not all these things strange and wonderful? are they not marvellous in our eyes? In all this is not the hand of God clearly to be seen? certainly we cannot but acknowledge, that This evil is from the Lord. So that in respect of Judgments and Calamities you have seen the correspondence of our Case with the Case of Joram.
2. Let us now reflect upon the National behaviour, and examine, Whether hath this been ordered according to the way of Elisha, or the way of Joram.
When the Judgments of God have been so many, so grievous, so visible amongst us, have the Inhabitants of the Land learned righteousness, or unrighteousness? Have they prevailed upon us, to break off our sins by Repentance, or to continue in them, and increase them with a brisker and sturdier resolution?
As the Lord's hand hath been more and more lifted up, have not we endeavoured with an higher and higher hand, to sin against him?
As he hath smitten us more and more, have not we revolted more and more?
Instead of being made a Religious and a Praying People, are we not become an Atheistical, and a Scoffing, and Blaspheming People?
Instead of being a Sober and Fasting People, are we not become a Riotous and Drunken People?
Instead of being made a Chast and Modest, a Meek and Humble, a Gentle and Composed People; are we not become a Shameless and Immodest, a Ranting and Tearing, a Hectoring and God-damning People?
Briefly! Instead of turning to the Lord with all our hearts; and with Fasting, and with Weeping and with Mourning for our Sins:
Have we not turned from him with all our hearts, and with laughing, and with scoffing, and with jeering at all Humiliation, and Devotion, and Religion?
It is not here my intention to charge every individual Person with these things: No doubt there are thousands in this our Israel, who have not bowed themselves to these enormities. And it is well for them, and happy for the Kingdom, that there are so: for,
Except the Lord had left us such a remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and made like unto Gomorrha.
Yet (the exception of this remnant notwithstanding) may it not be fit to consider, whether we be not truly and properly a sinful Nation, a People laden with Iniquity?
The Prophet Isaiah tells us, that the Lord had left them such a remnant, and all that notwithstanding, they remained still a sinful Nation, a People laden with Iniquity, that their whole head was sick, and their heart faint; that from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head there was nothing but Wounds and Ulcers, stinking Leprosies, and putrefied Sores.
Will it not be fit therefore for us, to examine our condition, to consider what we may expect, and what is fit for us to do?
To search the Wounds and Ulcers of this Kingdom from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head. To examine or expose the Condition of all Degrees, Orders, and States of men in this Kingdom (The Clergy, and the Laity, the Gentry and the Commonalty, the City and the Court; in their Personal, or Publique, or Politick Capacities) though I suppose that to some it might be acceptable, yet it lies not in my Commission, and I shall wave it.
My Commission reaches to those who have called me hither, at least in that Capacity wherein they have called me: And I hope they will not be offended at me in the conscientious discharge of that Commission. I therefore take the humble boldness in the Name of God, and our King, and Country to enquire of my self, and those, that brought me hither, Whether we also have not fallen into the way of Joram? Whether we can wash our hands of the universal Irreligion and Debauchery which seems to have over spread the Land?
Qui non vetat peccare, cum possit, Jubet.
Have we employed the great and various talents wherewith we have been intrusted, Publick and Private, Personal and Politick; the Advantages of Nobility and Education, the Interest of our Persons and our Places, our Authority Judicial and Legislative to prevent or to punish these horrible enormities.
Nay, have we readily accepted and embraced such means as have been tendered to that purpose?
If we should be examined what good Laws in twelve years space have proceeded from us, to bring our selves and others to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world. What charitable Laws, to prevent the Poverty and Beggery, the Villany and Roguery, the miserable ends, and fatal destiny of such multitudes of people, as daily perish by a fearful end, should we not be puzzled to reply?
If Laws against Rioting and Drunkenness shall have been, or shall be hereafter stifled, left they should prevent Consumption, and make an abatement of our Rents, or the Excise.
Against Atheism and Blasphemy, lest they should dull the Wits and hinder the exercise of Reasoning, abate the disputacity of the Nation.
Against Swearing and Cursing, Ranting and Tearing, Hectoring and Rencountring, lest they should abate the vivacity, and take off the edge, or spoil the mettle of the young Blades of the Kingdom.
Against Prophanation of the Lord's Day (I do not mean tending to Judaism or Sabbatarianism) lest they should intrench upon the Mirth and Jollity, the Sports and Recreations of the People.
When God shall call us to answer upon such interrogatories, how are we provided to reply?
Upon this occasion, in this mixt Auditory, to enlarge any further upon this argument, I do not find my self obliged by my Commission. But there is one thing, which by virtue of another Commission, I find my self obliged plainly and clearly to lay before your Lordships, and it is this (with which I shall conclude.)
That (as sure as there is a God in Heaven, a Lord that is higher then your Lordships, as sure as Christ is now sitting at his right hand, as sure as holy men of old (the Prophets and Apostles) were Inspired by the Holy Ghost) If we do not speedily break out of this way of Joram, if we do not our utmost to redeem and rescue the Kingdom from it; this our Iniquity will be our Ruine.
That (if after so many loud calls to Religion and Virtue, we shall resolvedly go on in the ways of Irreligion and Debauchery, or (which in our case is all one) if we shall not do our utmost for the eradication of them, we must expect a sure and a swift destruction.
In that day (saith the Prophet Isaiah) did the Lord God of Hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, to sackcloth and to baldness,--And behold, jollity and gladness, slaying of Oxen, and killing of Sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine, (Let us eat and drink, for to morrow we shall die) And it was revealed in mine ears by the Lord of Hosts: Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till you die.
If when Gods Judgments are multiplied, a Nation will not turn unto the Lord, he hath sworn, and sworn again (four times together in one Chapter) that though Noab, Daniel, and Job were there, they should deliver neither Son nor Daughter from destruction.
Wherefore (in one word to conclude) return now O Shunamite! return! arise, and bethink your selves, Men, Brethren, and Fathers! O ye Wise and Honourable among the People, consult, and consider! what shall we do, that the Blood of Jesus may speak better things for us, then the Blood of the Righteous Royal Martyr? What shall we do to be saved from ruine and destruction?
You have seen in some measure the folly and the madness of the wickedness, and the wickedness of the folly and madness of this way of Joram.
Wherefore! let us trifle no more, let us sin no more, let us fool no more, lest we fall and perish under the condemnation of Joram, when he said, This evil is from the Lord, Wherefore should I wait upon the Lord any longer?