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take hold of a withdrawing God?* Some I hope there are that stand in the gap, but oh how few, and how faintly! Where is there a Moses to hold up his hands, a Joshua to fall at God's feet, a Phinehas to execute justice? God sees that there is no man, and may wonder that there is no intercessor. † Strange that there should be none to guide our Zion among all the sons she hath brought forth! What! none to take her by the hand, of all the sons she hath brought up! What! is there no nail strong enough for bearing such a weight? Well, this is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation.
But may not the innocent deliver the island? may not the poor wise man deliver the city? are not saints' prayers effectual? Yes. But where are they? The old stock is worn out, and few new ones come in for a supply. Strong torrents are carried through the dead sea into the ocean of eternity; and new springs are yet rare and faint. Where shall we find Elijah's spirit doubled on a succeeding Elisha? Though a kingdom may have much treasure in it, yet if trade cease, and no bullion or merchandise be imported, it will decay, because it lives upon the old stock. This is our case : aged saints are worn away, few converts fit to plead with God come in their room. And this is the devil's design, to wear out the saints of the Most High, and `extirpate the genuine seed of Jacob. But alas!" whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small." His face waxeth pale, having of late lost so much good blood. And doth not our Lord sometimes withdraw the Spirit of prayer, which is virtually saying, Pray not for this people?" Do not stupidity and sleepiness seize on the disciples, even when Jesus is in his agony? Doth not this bode evil? Are there not in them, even in them, Isa. li. 18.
* Isa. lxiv. 7.
+ Isa. lix. 16.
sins enow to weaken and make void their own prayers? Alas! what divisions, what decays, deadness, unprofitableness? The old Puritan spirit is gone; we are wofully degenerated: professors are grown like the world: how unlike are we to primitive saints? “Abraham is ignorant of us, Israel would not acknowledge us for their genuine seed." But may we not think our disease is grown so stubborn and inveterate, that no doses will conquer the disease, though the hard strugglings of nature may maintain life for a season? Judgments have been prorogued, upon the vine-dresser's interposing importunity, three years longer, but beware of the fourth: God's patience hath bounds; his Spirit will not always strive. We look like a people ripe for ruin however, Noah, Daniel, and Job may deliver their own souls (though none besides) by their righteousness. God can make those few names in Sardis to walk in white, though he come against her as a thief, and leave her in Egyptian darkness:† he can find harbour for his children, though he pull down the house upon the heads of formal hypocrites: and if there be not cause of lamenting after the ark when its removal is feared, to be sure men will see cause to lament when this evil is felt. "The anger of the Lord shall not return, until he hath executed, till he hath performed the thoughts of his heart; in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly."-Jer. xxiii.'
Secondly, Is not the God of ordinances much removed from amongst us? and is not he worth lament
ing after? God makes gradual removes. It is true, sometimes the sun sets at noon day; yet ordinarily the sun leaves the horizon by sensible declinings. The glory of the Lord goes out from the cherub, to the
* Ezek. xiv. 14.
+ Rev. iii. 3, 4.
Amos viii. 9.
threshold of the house, thence to the middle of the city, thence to the mountain.*
I shall briefly mention four removes which our Lord hath taken from us, under the form of questions?
1. Is not restraining grace much gone from amongst us? Some persons in former times were wont to be civil, orderly, and in many things conformable to the letter of the word; but now God hath cast the reins on their necks, and they get the bits of conscience betwixt the teeth of sensual affections, and obstinate sinning, and there is no restraining them; they run mad in their own ways; petty oaths by mass or troth, are converted into broad curses, and full-mouthed blasphemies; tippling into down-drive drunkenness, and open reeling; wanton dalliances into defended adulteries; squibbing at strictness, into open persecution of all that looks like seriousness; from questioning divine Providence, men advance to avowed atheism, and open defiance of heaven. Some men are given up to such sins as are not fit to be named, and which themselves formerly would have blushed to mention; and if any had predicted their committing them, they would have said as Hazael," Is thy servant a dog?" Sinners that used to walk under a vail or mask, now go bare-faced, and men glory in their shame. Many abhor sobriety, justice, and temperance. We overpass the deeds of
the wicked; the moral heathens would be ashamed of Men work all uncleanness with greediness: yea, if they court God in a few formal prayers, they think they are delivered to do all these abominations; as though they had got a Popish indulgence and dispensation to sin as Breerwood in his inquiries tells us, the common people think they do the priest a kindness to find him work by new sinning to get pardons. Yea, * Ezek. ix. 3. xi. 23. + 2 Kings viii. 13.
Phil. iii. 19.
some think it strange of others, that they are not as bad as themselves:* and is not this matter of lamentation, to see the earth thus forsaken by a righteous God, and possessed by so many bears, lions, tigers, and goats?that men are grown wolves, yea devils to each other! Is it not time to lament after that God, that gives up men to such profligate and shocking courses as hasten their own damnation, and England's desolation? Is it not time to seek God till he come and rain righteousness upon us? Hos. x. 12.
2. Is not converting grace much withdrawn from the ordinances of God? and doth not this call sensible souls to lament after the Lord? Time hath been that our Lord hath mounted his white horse, and hath bent his bow, and shot his arrows of conviction, and made them sharp in the hearts of the king's enemies, and caused people to fall under him, going forth conquering, having had his crown set upon his head by the daughters of Jerusalem. But alas! now the church hath a miscarrying womb, and dry breasts: ministers cry out, "Who hath believed our report ?" I have laboured in vain. || God doth not go forth with his word as formerly. The apostles were fishers, and enclosed many at a draught; present ministers are hunters, they shout and run all day, and catch but one or two, and well too. It is worth a whole life's pains. Though it cannot be denied, God's despised servants have now and then seals of their ministry to God's glory, their encouragement, and the stopping of the mouths of slanderers. Jerusalem is built even in troublesome times the gospel is not bound, though ministers be. Men civilly dead, may convey spiritual life. God hath + Terras Astræa reliquit. Psalm xlv. 5. Song iii. 11. xlix. 4.
1 Pet. iv. 4.
not left his servants without some testimonies in the consciences and conversations of their hearers, that he is in his ordinances of a truth. But alas! how few gleanings hath our dear Lord, compared with the full vintage Satan gets among men? We take these first fruits thankfully, till the full harvest come. Let ministers and people lament after the Lord, that he would fill his house with glory, hasten the day of his power, to make people cheerful volunteers in the Lord's warfare. Oh that more might knock at our doors with-"What must I do to be saved? Where is the Lord God of Elijah ?" Lord, clothe thine ordinances with thy power. When shall Aaron's rod bring forth ripe almonds? Lord, let the children of the covenant own the God of their fathers, and be indulged with covenant grace. Lord, let thy love to a world of sinners be manifested in converting grace, as well as in the gift of thy Son let sermons be seconded with power: make thy word the arm of God unto salvation.
3. Doth not God much withdraw from the societies of his servants? Are there to be found that sincere attachment and faithfulness amongst God's people to each other as in former days? Is there not much pride, worldliness, decay of love to God, and want of such spiritual zeal for God, as was in the days of old? Alas! we have reason to think that the Spirit of prayer is much withdrawn; and also that close walking, that distance from appearances of sin, that devotedness to God, that endearedness and usefulness of Christians amongst themselves which formerly prevailed. Yea, hath not God seemed to take peace from the earth? Is not Manasseh against Ephraim, and Ephraim against Manasseh, and they together against Judah ?* Papists against Protestants, and Protestants
* Isa. ix. 21.