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against Papists, and they together against zealous worshippers, and exact walkers according to pure and primitive institutions ? Are not some members of the same church, that desire to keep close to the rule, rendered black, while the sun hath looked upon them with some malignant aspects and reflections of displeasure? even the same mother's children are angry with them.* Their own watchmen pity them not : nay, some watchmen are so rigid and censorious, that they find them out, wound them, take away their vail from them, t expose the members of their own church, as if they were factious, traitorous, or heretical, and will hold no communion with them, though they have much charity for them, and pursue them with entreaties to beg their consent to walk with them towards heaven, and join in God's work for winning souls: but alas, they browbeat them, and seem to deny them liberty to worship the same God, own the same Bible, or have an interest in the same coinmon Saviour : if this be not for a lamentation, what is ? Methinks some deal with their brethren, as Saul's courtiers with honest David, 1 Sam. xxvi. 19, “ They have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, Go, serve other gods : or, as it is, Ezek. xi. 15, “ Son of man, thy brethren, even thy brethren, the men of thy kindred, and all the house of Israel wholly, are they unto whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, Get ye far from the Lord, unto us is this land given in possession.” Monopolies are dangerous in spiritual things. What envy hath excluding others occasioned in these cases? Lamentable is the account given in the English history, of the haughty carriage of Austin the monk, and petulant behaviour of the British bishops, † who, because of private animosities, * Song i. 6. + Song v. 7. Mr. Clark's Martyrol. part 1, p. 13.
neglected to join with the other in preaching the gospel to the idolatrous Saxons. Austin predicted and menaced, that if they would not have peace with their brethren, they should have war with their enemies. Shortly after Ethelbert king of Northumberland, being a Pagan, went with a great army against the city of Chester, overcame the Britons, and slew eleven hundred monks, that is, persons religiously devoted to God, for praying on behalf of the Britons, only fifty having escaped with Brockmail mayor of Chester. A spirit of jealousy in so good a work, hath always bad effects; and pride hath dreadful consequences. Church divisions are much to be lamented, and very rarely issue without civil dissentions. For the divisions of Reuben there ought to be sad searchings, and heavy thoughts of heart. * Lord, when shall conscience-racking oaths be abolished? How long shall entangling orders for decency rend the vitals of thy church? When shall subscription to Christ's laws suffice ?
It is sure a matter of lamentation that the devil casts the bone of contention among professing Christians, and they snarl at each other about it. How long shall the pride and wrath of mien make and blow up that spark into a flame, which Satan the great makebate casts among them? When will men see the hand of Joab in all this? and discern at last that among all these contending clients, none is gainer but that common barrister ? Lord, open men's eyes, heal our bleed
, ing wounds, and bring back that ancient christian love, and peace, charity, and humility.
4. Once more; is there no cause for God's children to lament after the Lord for his return to their spirits ? Is not God much withdrawn from the hearts of his people? If a child of God say as Samson, “I will go
Judg. v. 15, 16.
out as at other times before, and shake myself; but he wisteth not that the Lord is departed from him."* When he reflects on himself and finds it so, will he not see sad cause to lament? And have not some godly souls cause to say as Gideon, Judges vi. 13, “O my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?” And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of? But now the Lord hath forsaken us,
(1.) In point of quickening, exciting, and actuating their graces. May not that sad complaint be taken up, Isa. lxiv. 7, “There is none that calleth on thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee; for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us because of our iniquities?” Where is that flaming love, that active faith, that gospel repentance, that lively hope, that filial fear, that spirit of adoption, that sound mind, that tender conscience, and those operative affections which existed in former days? It is much to be feared there is a general decay of grace, or damp in point of exercise on the spirits of living Christians: it will be well if the bridegroom find not even the wise virgins asleep.
(2.) As to strength and assistance, against the assaults of temptation, and out-breakings of corruption. Many thorns in the flesh, messengers of Satan, 6 do forcibly push forwards God's children to sin, and they find not his grace sufficient for them, as at other times, but stumble, and fall, and are broken, snared and taken; even sometimes to the breaking of their bones, dishonouring of God, scandal of their profession, and endangering of their precious souls: “Olet not such things be told in Gath, or published in Askelon, lest the uncircumcised Philistines triumph over God's peo
* Judg. xvi. 20 +Heb. melted. # 2 Cor. xii. 7, 8.
ple, and be hardened in their sinful ways." Alas, where shall God's tender-spirited children hide their faces, when their brethren profane God's holy name, and men shall say, “ These are the people of the Lord, and are gone forth out of his land,” Ezek. xxxvi. 20. These are your precisians, and scrupulous zealots, that will not do as others; now they shew that they are a pack of hypocrites. This cuts deep, and wounds to the heart.
(3.) As to communion with God. God's people of old could assert it with an expressive confidence, truly, said they, however carnal men scorn it now, 1 John i. 3, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ;” not only in that secret, essential, fundamental communion, whereby grace is maintained in its being and life, but that sweet, sensible, soul-refreshing fellowship, that gives grace its activity, and maintains intercourse betwixt God and the soul in duty. But alas ! have not God's children cause to complain as the church, that God withdraws himself; she seeks him but finds him not,* in public ordinances, in secret duties, or in communion of saints. God's children complain with Job, chap. xxiii. 8, 9, “ Behold, I
go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive him," &c. He looks east, west, north, and south, but in vain; this is strange, that God who is every where should be found no where—but though the child of God be aware of God's general omnipresence, and experience his common providence, yet he is not satisfied without his presence, and gracious influence; and missing this, he hath reason to lament after the Lord when he hides himself.
(4.) As to assurance, settlement, and comfort. Sometimes God's children are left to a sad unsatisfied and
Song iii. 1. v. 6. VOL. III.
doubting frame, they are full of fears, troubles, and jealousies, and are much in the dark in point of state; this is a very general complaint at this day. Many have blurred their evidences by sins, or carelessness, and cannot give any distinct account how their principles are established, or what condition their souls are in; they are damped and daunted as to their interest in Christ, title to the promises, and hopes of heaven. Have not these great cause to lament after the Lord ? and surely they must say as David, Psal. li. 8-12, “Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice; restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free Spirit.” O my God! my soul is cast down within me;* one while I argue with my own heart,communing, expostulating, challenging, charging my spirit, and alas, I can do no good with it; at other times, I turn myself to God, but still I am restless, I cannot be quiet, but am tossed with tempests, and not comforted. + Well, I am determined to look towards God's holy temple, and cast myself at God's feet in virtue of that promise, Hosea vi. 3, “ Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord; his going forth is prepared as the morning, and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.
Thus much for the doctrinal part, and the removal of an objection.
All the application I shall make of this subject, shall only be in the form of exhortation, that we may be induced to engage in this seasonable and needful duty of lamenting after the Lord, the ark of the Lord, and the Lord of the ark. For this purpose I shall,
First, Propose some motives and arguments to enforce this duty. * Psal. xlii. 6.
+ Jonah ii. 3.