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the one, and not the other to himself by Christ. The Lord added to the church such as should be saved;' Acts ii. 47. The purpose of saving is the rule of adding to the church of believers. And Acts xiii. 48. As many believed as were ordained to eternal life.' There fore-ordaining to life eternal, gives them right to faith and belief. The purpose of God's election, is the rule of dispensing saving grace.
2dly. His purpose of leaving some inexcusabled in their sins for the farther manifestation of his glorious justice, is the rule of dispensing the word unto them. Did you never see the gospel sent, or continued to an unthankful people, bringing forth no fruits meet for it? Wherefore it is so sent, see Isa. vi. 9, 10. which prophecy you have fulfilled, John xii. 41, 42. in men described, Jude 4. and 1 Pet. ii. 8. But here we must strike sail, the waves swell, and it is no easy task to sail in this gulf. The righteousness of God is a great mountain, easy to be seen; but his judg ments like the great deep: who can search into the bottom thereof? Psal. xxxvi. 6. And so I have I hope discovered how all things here below, concerning the promulgation of the gospel, are, in their greatest variety, straightly regulated by the eternal purposes and counsel of God.
The uses of it follow.
Use 1. To discover whence it is, that the work of reforming the worship of God, and settling the almost departing gospel, hath so powerfully been carried along in this nation; that a beautiful fabric is seen to arise in the midst of all oppositions, with the confusion of axes and hammers sounding about it, though the builders have been forced oftentimes, not only with one hand, but with both to hold the weapons of war; that although the wheels of our chariots have been knocked off, and they driven heavily, yet the regular motions of the superior wheels of providence have carried on the design, towards the resting-place aimed at; that the ship hath been directed to the port, though the
ante mundi constitutionem, eâ prædestinatione, quâ Deus ipse sua futura facta prævidit: electi sunt autem de mundo eâ vocatione, quâ Deus id, quod prædestinavit, implevit. August. de bon. persev. cap. 16, 17.
d Matt. xi. 21.
Acts xiii. 46.
e Luke ii. 34. 1 Pet. i. 7. 1 Nebem. iv. 17.
Ezek. ii. 5. Matt. xxiv. 15. Rom. ix. 23.
storm had quite puzzled the pilots and mariners: even from hence, that all this great variety was but to work out one certain, fore-appointed end, proceeding in the tracts and paths, which were traced out for it from eternity; which though they have seemed to us a maze or labyrinth, such a world of contingencies, and various chances hath the work passed through; yet, indeed, all the passages thereof have been regular and straight, answering the platform laid down for the whole in the counsel of God. Daniel, chap. ix. makes his supplication for the restoration of Jerusalem, ver. 23. an angel is sent to tell him, that at the beginning of his supplication the commandment came forth,' viz. that it should be accomplished; it was before determined, and is now set on work: but yet what mountains of opposition, what hinderances lay in the way? Cyrus must come to the crown, by the death or slaughter of Darius;h his heart be moved to send some to the work: in a short time Cyrus is cut off; now difficulties arise from the following kings: what their flattering counsellors, what the malignant nations about them conspired, the books of Nehemiah and Ezra sufficiently declare. Whence, ver. 25. the angel tells Daniel, that from the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem unto Messiah the prince, shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall in troublesome times;' that is, it shall be seven weeks to the finishing of Jerusalem, and thence to Messiah the prince, sixty-two weeks: seven weeks, that is, forty-nine years; for so much it was, from the decree of Cyrus, to the finishing of the wall by Nehemiah: of which time the temple, as the Jews affirmed, was all but three years in
I follow in this the vulgar or common account, otherwise there is no part of Scripture chronology so contended about as these weeks of Daniel; most concluding, that they are terminated in the death of Christ, happening about the midst of the last week. But about their original, or rise, there is no small debate, of the four decrees made by the Persian kings about the building of Jerusalem, viz. 1st. By Cyrus, 2 Chron. iii. 6. 2dly. By Darius, Ezek. vi. 3. 3dly. By Artaxerxes, Ezek. vii. Of the same to Nehemiah, chap. ii. following the account of their reign set down in profane stories, the last only holds exactly. Tertullian ad Iud. begins it from Darius, when this vision appeared to Daniel, whom it seems he conceived to be Darius Hystaspes, that followed the Magi, and not Medus, that was before Cyrus: and so with a singular kind of chronology makes up his account. Vid. Euseb. Demon. Evan. lib. 8. cap. Func. Com. in Chron. Beroald. Chron. lib. 3. cap. 7, 8. Montacu. Apparat.
building; John ii. 20. During which space, how often did the hearts of the people of God faint in their troubles, as though they should never have seen an end? And therefore, ever and anon they were ready to give over, as Hag. i. 2. But yet we see the decree was fixed, and all those varieties did but orderly work in an exact method for the glorious accomplishment of it.
England's troubles have not yet endured above half the odd years of those reformers' task; yet, good God! how short breathed are men! What fainting is there! What repining, what grudging against the ways of the Lord! But, let me tell you, that as the water in the stream will not go higher than the head of the fountain, no more will the work in hand be carried one step higher, or beyond the aim of its fountain, the counsel of God, from whence it hath its rise. And yet as a river will break through all oppositions, and swell to the height of mountains, to go to the sea from whence it came; so will the stream of the gospel, when it comes out from God, break down all mountains of opposition, and not be hindered from resting in its appointed place. It were an easy thing to recall your minds to some trembling periods of time, when there was trembling in our armies, and trembling in our councils; trembling to be ashamed, to be repented of; trembling in the city, and in the country; and men were almost at their wits' end for the sorrows and fears of those days; and yet we see how the unchangeable purpose of God hath wrought strongly through all these straits, from one end to another, that nothing might fall to the ground of what he had determined. If a man in those days had gone about to persuade us, that all our pressures were good omens, that they all wrought together for our good, we could have been ready to cry with the woman, who when she had recounted her griefs to the physician, and he still replied, they were good signs, of poì àɣaðŵv áróðλvμ, good signs have undone me,' these good signs will be our ruin: yet behold, we hope, the contrary. Our day hath been like that mentioned, Zech. xiv. 6, 7. a day whose light is neither clear nor dark, a day known only to the Lord, seeming to us to be neither day nor night. But God knew all this while that it was a day; he saw how it all wrought for the appointed end; and in the evening, in
the close, it will be light, so light as to be to us discernable. In the mean time, we are like unskilful men, going to the house of some curious artist, so long as he is about his work, despise it as confused; but when it is finished, admire it as excellent: whilst the passages of providence are on us, all is confusion, but when the fabric is reared, glorious.
Use 2. Learn to look upon the wisdom of God in carrying all things through this wonderful variety, exactly to answer his own eternal purpose; suffering so many mountains to lie in the way of reforming his churches, and settling the gospel, that his Spirit may have the glory, and his people the comfort in their removal. It is a high and noble contemplation, to consider the purposes of God, so far as by the event revealed, and to see what impressions his wisdom and power do leave upon things accomplished here below, to read in them a temporary history of his eternal counsels. Some men may deem it strange, that his determinate will, which gives rule to these things, and could in a word have reached its own appointment, should carry his people so many journeys in the wilderness, and keep us thus long in so low estate: I say, not to speak of his own glory, which hath sparkled forth of this flinty opposition, there be divers things, things of light, for our good, which he hath brought forth out of all that darkness, wherewith we have been overclouded. Take a few instances.
(1.) If there had been no difficulties, there had been no deliverances. And did we never find our hearts so enlarged towards God upon such advantages, as to say, Well, this day's temper of spirit, was cheaply purchased by yesterday's anguish and fear? that was but a being sick at sea.
(2.) Had there been no tempests and storms, we had not made out for shelter. Did you never run to a tree for shelter in a storm, and find fruit which you expected not? Did you never go to God for safeguard in these times, driven by outward storms, and there find unexpected fruit, the peaceable fruit of righteousness," that made you say, Happy tempest, which cast me into such a harbour? It was a storm" that occasioned the discovery of the golden mines of
Prov. xviii. 10.
Heb. xii. 11. m Pet. Mart. de Relig. Jud. decad. 1. lib. 1.
India; hath not a storm driven some to the discovery of the richer mines of the love of God in Christ?
(3.) Had not Esau come against him with four hundred men, Jacob had not been called Israel; he had not been put to it to try his strength with God, and so to prevail. Who would not purchase with the greatest distress that heavenly comfort, which is in the return of prayers? The strength of God's Jacobs in this kingdom had not been known, if the Esaus had not come against them. Some say, this war hath made a discovery of England's strength, what it is able to do. I think so also, not what armies it can raise against men, but with what armies of prayers and tears it is able to deal with God. Had not the brethren strove in the womb, Rebekah had not asked, Why am I thus?' Nor received that answer, The elder shall serve the younger.' Had not two sorts of people struggled in the womb of this kingdom, we had not sought, nor received, such gracious answers. Thus do all the various motions of the lower wheels serve for our good, and exactly answer the impression they receive from the master spring, the eternal purpose of God. Of
II. The sending of the gospel to any one nation rather than another, as the means of life and salvation, is of the mere free grace and good pleasure of God.
Now before I come to make out the absolute independency and freedom of this distinguishing mercy, I shall premise three things.
1. That the not sending of the gospel to any person or people, is of God's mere good pleasure," and not of any peculiar distinguishing demerit in that person or people. No man or nation doth majorem ponere obicem,' lay more or greater obstacles against the gospel than another. There is nothing imaginable to lay a block in the passage thereof, but only sin. Now these sins are, or may be, of two sorts; either first, against the gospel itself, which may possibly hinder the receiving of the gospel, but not the sending of it, which it presupposeth: secondly, against the covenant they are under, and the light they are guided by, before the beams
n Qui liberatur, gratiam diligat, qui non liberatur, debitum agnoscat. Aug. de bon. persev. cap. 8. Ex nequissimis in ipso vitæ exitu gratia invenit quos adoptet, cum multi, qui minus nocentes videantur, doni hujus alicai sunt. Pros. de voc. Gen. lib. 1. cap. 17.