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come nearest the hearts of the godly. Loss of gospel privileges, is a greater affliction than loss of money, goods, houses, liberties, relations, even of life itself. God hath said, “ Woe, also unto them when I depart from them."* He doth not use to depart till he be slighted, or thrust away. This hath been a long, dark and gloomy day, a day of rebuke and blasphemy, a day of scattering and treading down in the valley of vision. Ministers and their flocks rent asunder; solemn assemblies sorrowfully broken up; sad and silent sabbaths, by some profaned ; ignorance increasing, conversion work suspended, sinners hardened, young beginners in religion discouraged, atheism abounding, persecution revived, and thousands of precious souls wandering about as sheep that have no shepherd: many public places being ill supplied, and guilt brought upon the nation, pressing us down towards destruction, yea such sins as leave a people remediless, mocking the messengers of God, despising his words, misusing his prophets, till the wrath of God arise against us, till there be no remedy, or no healing:This brought Israel into captivity out of their own land. This also hath brought on the final scattering of that forlorn nation to this day, killing the Lord Jesus, as well as their own prophets, persecuting the apostles, and forbidding them to speak to the gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always, in consequence of which wrath is come upon them to the uttermost ; # and surely this lics ncarest the hearts of real saints, next to God's glory and their own souls, that poor sinners should ruin themselves and destroy the nation. It is dreadful indeed to see debauchery in the land abounding, and the basest of men vent personal malice against God's dearest children for no other fault than worshipping God, and praying for their persecutors.
Men write voluminous treatises of invectives against us, charging us with schisms, sedition, faction, and rebellion, which God knows, our souls hatc, and wc durst appeal to our worst adversaries in their sober intervals that they cannot but know the contrary; and after all these long-lasting and heavy-pressing evils have come upon us, one harvest is passed, and many summers and winters ended, and we are not saved. ||
66 As for us,
* Hos. ix. 12.
1 Thess. ii. 15, 16.
+ 2 Chron. xxxvi. 16.
our eyes as yet failed for our vain help: in our watching we have watched for a nation that cannot save us : looked for
peace, but no good came; for a time of health, and behold trouble." + And we may discern God's anger in the wrath of men. But after all this, shall we sit still, and be stupid under the awful hand of God ? Surely our work is not to complain of men, much less oppose
but to look into our own hearts and lives by self-examination, and to practise humiliation, and reformation ; for these vapours that darken the heavens, arise from our polluted hearts and lives, these arrows are winged with our own feathers, our destruction is of ourselves; it may be said to ever individual, thy way and thy doings have procured these things for thee, this is thy wickedness; because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine hcart, even to thy soul. || Salvian complained of old, that by our sins the enemies were strong; this is the Achan in the camp, the Jonah in the ship, the worm at the gourd. If sin abide still in us, we cannot be safe ; it is in vain to expect deliverance till the cause of the provocation on our part be discarded and purged away. It is true, God is the inflicting cause, wicked men the instruments, but our own selves are the deserving and procuring cause of all
The protestants in queen Mary's days, lamented that their unprofitableness and contempt of the gospel, under king Edward sixth, brought on them their bloody days of persccution; and if we do not mourn, and reform, we may conclude that these are but the beginnings of sorrow, as drops before the shower of blood ; that after this prophesying in sackcloth, witnesses shall be slain, the number of martyrs accomplished, and Antichrist's sins filled up, by setting up the abomination of desolation, which God Almighty prevent !
These things considered, and often revolved in my thoughts, I cast about to ascertain what was the fittest course to be taken for preventing God's further removes, and to bring him back to our souls, and assemblies :-and I find that,
1. God purposely removes to make us follow him, as a wise nurse doth by a weak child. &
2. He stops and halts, as in suspense what to do, that he
* Lam. iv. 17. || Jer. iv. 18.
# Hos. xiii. 9.
+ Jer. viii. 15.
Hos. v. 15.
both alarm us, and afford us leisure to consider what course
to take. *
3. He makes a gracious promise, that if we do follow on to know the Lord, his going forth shall be prepared as the morning. + And
4. He complaineth that there is none that calleth on his name, that stirreth up himself to take hold on God, I that is, to keep him from departing, or to fetch him back.
Considering the premises, I was desirous in my poor measure, to promote God's work in the souls of his people, and engage all that have any interest in God, to improve it at this day, for the preventing of his total removal, and detaining of God with us; not as the inhabitants of Tyre, when Alexander besieged it; and one of their diviners told them, it was revealed to him in a dream, that Apollo their god, was shortly to depart from them, on which they took the image of Apollo, and bound it with a chain of gold to a post, thinking thereby to detain him. No, no, we cannot force God against his will to tarty; but we are in obedience to God's command, in discharging of our duty, and in performance of the condition of his promise, to lament after the Lord, with prayers, tears, confessions, and reformation, pleading with God through the intercession of his Son, for his return and residence with us. While wicked Gadarencs are by words and works bidding the blessed Jesus depart out of our coasts, it becomes us solemnly to invite him, to open the doors of our hearts to him, and give him free welcome, saying, “ Lord abide with us;" and thus he may be constrained to tarry with us. || And though in this dreadful tempest, with which the ship of the church is sorely tossed, so that it is covered with waves, our Lord be asleep, S yet faith and prayer will awaken him; and though we cannot peremptorily say, he will save our persons, or privileges, or his church in England, yet we may with some confidence say, he will certainly save Zion, and build his church some where in the world; he will save our own souls, and it may be, we shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger; it may be, that the Lord God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph. Ilosea xi. 8.
+ Hosea vi. 3. # Isa. Ixiv. 7. U Luke xxiv. 29. S Matt. viii. 21, 25. Zeph. ii. 3. Amos r. 15.
Who knoweth if he will return, and repent, and leave a blessing behind him ? * Even a heathen king took this course, and upon no other assurance, than Who can tell ? there is hope in Israel concerning this thing; t only it becomes us to wait God's leisure, and with patience, yea, with fortitude pass through the fiery trial before us; wherein Papists will far exceed Protestants in rage. However Mr. Greenham said, “ He that will suffer by Papists, must learn to suffer by Protestants; and he that hath well passed the pikes in camp fight, may hope to pass safe through the fire-ordeal.” Integrity and uprightness will proserve us, seconded by a divine support in sharpest trials. “ The God of all grace, who hath called you unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. I
May it please the Lord to own these weak, though seasonable labours, for quickening the spirits of his people to lament after the Lord; it may be, he will return to the many thousands of his people in these nations ; and after we have been digging ezek and sitnah, || he may cause us unanimously to dig rehoboth, that the Lord may make room for us, and make
, us fruitful in the land. O for such a day! There is a day
O coming wherein nothing shall hurt or destroy in all God's holy mountain ; wherein the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, &c. wherein his people shall see eye to eye, and serve him with one consent, or shoulder, when he will turn to his people a pure language, and when they shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid. ** It becomes God's people to make a catalogue of these and such like promises, and spread them before the Lord; for he is a faithful God, and will perform his promise, which saith, Jer. xxx. 17, “I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord, because they called thee an outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after :” and let all that love her say, Amen. “ Then the angel of the Lord, answered and said, O Lord of hosts ! how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem, and on the cities of Judah, against
• Joel ii. 14. + Jonah iii. 7–9. Ezra x. 2.
** Zeph. iii. I, 13.
# 1 Peter v. 10. § Room.
which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years. And the Lord answered the angel that talked with me, with good words, and comfortable words.” *
That this may be the issue of this dispensation, intercession, and lamentation, is the heart prayer of,
Thy soul's friend,
Aug. 22. 1682.
* Zech. i. 12, 13.