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[2.] There is the same reason of the reformation and the doctrine of the gospel corrupted with error, and of the worship of God collapsed with superstition, as of the first implantation of the gospel. God in his just judgment of late ages, had sent upon the western world the efficacy of error, that they should believe lies, because they received not the love of the truth, as he foretold, 2 Thess. ii. Now whence is it, that we see some of the nations thereof as yet suffered to walk in their own ways, others called to repentance, some wildernesses turned into green pastures for the flock of God, and some places made barren wildernesses for the wickeduess of them that dwell therein? How comes it that this island glories in a reformation, and Spain sits still in darkness? Is it because we were better than they? Or less engaged in antichristian delusions? Doubtless no. No nation in the world drank deeper of that cup of abomination. It was a proverbial speech amongst all : ‘England was our good ass' (a beast of burden) for (antichrist whom they called) the pope. Nothing but the good pleasure of God and Christ freely coming to refine us, Mal. iii. 144. caused this distinction.
[3.] Though men can do nothing towards the procuring of the gospel, yet men may do much for the expulsion of the gospel. If the husbandmen prove idle or self-seekers, the vineyard will be let to others; and if the people love darkness more than light, the candlestick will be removed: let England beware. Now this men may do, either upon the first entrance of the gospel, or after some continuance of it. The gospel spreading itself over the earth, finds entertainment, like that of men's seeking plantations amongst barbarous nations; sometimes kept out with hideous outcries at the shore, sometimes suffered to enter with admiration, and a little after violently assaulted.
1st. In the first way, how do we find the Jews, putting far from them the word of life, and rejecting the counsel of God at its first entrance, calling for night at the rising of the sun? Hence, Acts xiii. 41. Paul concludes his sermon to them, with, Hear, ye despisers, wonder and perish :' and ver. 46. it was necessary the word should be preached to them, but seeing they judged themselves unworthy, they were forsaken; and ver. 51. 'they shake off the dust
of their feet against them : a common symbol in those days of the highest indignation and deepest curse. The like stubbornness we find in them, Acts xxviii. whereupon the apostle wholly turned himself to the Gentiles, ver. 28. How many nations of Europe, at the beginning of the reformation, rejected the gospel of God, and procured Christ, with the Gadarenes, to depart as soon as he was entered, will be found at the last day, written with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus, that suffered amongst them?
2dly. After some continuance. So the church of Laodicea, having for awhile enjoyed the word, fell into such a tepid condition, so little moved with that fire that Christ came to send upon the earth, Rev. iii. 15, 16. that the Lord was even sick and weary with bearing them. The church of Rome, famous at the first, yet quickly, by the advantage of outward supportments, and glorious fancies, became head of that fatal rebellion against Jesus Christ, which spread itself over most of the churches in the world; God hereupon sending upon them the efficacy of error to believe a lie, that they all might be damned that believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness;' 2 Thess. ii, suffering them to detain the empty names of church and gospel, which because they usurp only for their advantage here, to appear glorious, the Lord will use for the advancing of his justice hereafter, to shew them inexcusable. O Lord, how was England of late by thy mercy delivered from this snare! A captain being chosen for the return of this people into Egypt, O, how hath thy grace fought against our backsliding! And let none seek to extenuate this mercy, by catalogues of errors still amongst us, there is more danger of apostacy against Christ, and rebellion against the truth, in one babylonish error, owned by men pretending to power and jurisdiction over others, than in five hundred scattered amongst inconsiderable disunited individuals. I would to God we could all speak and think the same things, that we were all of one mind, even in the most minute differences that are now amongst us. But yet the truth is, the kingdom of Jesus Christ never
5 Νύν δε έστιν αποστασια, απέστησαν γας οι άνθρωποι της ορθής πίστεως. Cyrillus Heros. γατηχησία.
shakes amongst a people, until men pretending to act with a combined mixed power of heaven and earth, unto which all sheaves must bow, or be threshed, do, by virtue of this trust, set up and impose things, or opinions deviating from the rule; as it was in the papacy, errors owned by mixed associations. Civil and ecclesiastical are for the most part incurable, be they never so absurd and foolish ; of which the Lutheran ubiquities and consubstantiation are a tremendous example. These things being presupposed,
Use 1. Let no flesh glory in themselves, but let every mouth be stopped; for we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. Who hath made the possessors of the gospel to differ from others? Or what have they, that they have not received ? 1 Cor. iv. 7. Why are these things hidden from the great and wise of the world, and revealed to babes and children, but because, O Father, so it pleased thee?' Matt. xi. 26. 'He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth ;' Rom. ix. Ah, Lord, if the glory and pomp of the world might prevail with thee to send thy gospel, it would supply the room of the cursed Alchoran, and spread itself in the palaces of that strong lion of the east, who sets his throne upon the necks of kings. But alas, Jesus Christ is not there! If wisdom, learning, pretended gravity, counterfeit holiness, real policy, were of any value in thine eyes to procure the word of life, it would be as free and glorious at Rome as ever : but alas, antichrist hath his throne there, Jesus Christ is not there! If will-worship and humilities, neglect of the body, macerations, superstitions, beads, and vainly repeated prayers, bad any efficacy before the Lord, the gospel perhaps might be in the cells of some recluses and monks : but alas, Jesus Christ is not there! If moral virtues to an amazement, exact civil honesty and justice, that soul of human society, could have prevailed aught, the heathen worthies in the days of old had had the promises : but alas, Jesus Christ was far away! Now if all these be passed by, to whom is the report of the Lord made known ? toʻ whom is his arm revealed ? Why, to a handful of poor sinners amongst the nations formerly counted fierce and barbarous. And
c Britannorum inaccessa Romanis loca, Christo vero subdita. Tertul.
what shall we say to these things? 'O sálos, O the depth, &c.
Use 2. Let England consider with fear and trembling the dispensation that it is now under: I say, with fear and trembling, for this day is the Lord's day, wherein he will purge us, or burn us, according as we shall be found silver or dross: it is our day, wherein we must mend our end. Let us look to the rock from whence we were hewed, and the hole of the pit from whence we were digged. Was not our father an Amorite, and our mother an Hittite? Are we not the posterity of idolatrous progenitors ?d of those who worshipped them who by nature were no gods? How often also hath this land forfeited the gospel? God having taken it twice away, who is not forward to seize upon the forfeiture. In the very morning of the gospel, the sun of righteousness shone upon this land; and they say the first potentate on the earth that owned it, was in Britain; but as it was here soon professed, so it was here soon abused. That part of this island which is called England being the first place I read of, which was totally bereaved of the gospel, the sword of the then pagan Saxons fattening the land with the blood of the Christian inhabitants, and in the close wholly subverting the worship of God. Long it was not e'er this cloud was blown over, and those men who had been instruments to root out others, submitted their own necks to the yoke of the Lord, and under exceeding variety in civil affairs, enjoyed the word of grace ; until, by insensible degrees, like summer unto winter, or light unto darkness, it gives place to antichristian superstition, and left the land in little less than a paganish darkness, drinking deep of the cup of abominations, mingled for it by the Roman harlot. And is there mercy yet in God to recover a twice lost over backsliding people? Might not the Lord have said unto us, What shall I do unto thee, O island ? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? But his heart is turned within him, bis repentings are kindled together : the dry bones shall live, and the fleece shall be wet, though all the earth be dry. God will again water his garden, once more purge his vineyard, once more of his own accord he will take England upon liking, though he had twice deservedly turned it out of his service. So that, ' coming as a refiner's fire, and as fuller's soap, to purify the sons of Levi, to purge them as gold and silver, to offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness,' to reform his churches, England, as soon as any, hath the benefit and comfort thereof. Nay, the reformation of England shall be more glorious than of any nation in the world, being carried on neither by might nor power, but only by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts. But is this the utmost period of England's sinning, and God's shewing mercy, in continuing and restoring of the gospel ? No, truly : we again in our days have made forfeiture of the purity of his worship, by an almost universal treacherous apostacy, from which the free grace and good pleasure of God hath made a great progress again towards a recovery.
a Britanniam in Christianam consentire religionem. Origen. Hom. 4. in Ezek. • Niceph. lib. 2. cap. 40. Epist. Eleuth. ad Lucium, an. 169. apud Bar. I Anno 469, the Saxons entered.
There are two sorts of men that I find exceedingly ready to extenuate and lessen the superstition and popish tyranny of the former days, into which we were falling.
(1.) Such as were industriously instrumental in it, whose suffrages had been loud, for the choice of a captain to return into Egypt; men tainted with the errors, and loaded with the preferments of the times; with all those who blindly adhere to that faction of men, who as yet covertly drive on that design: to such as these, all was nothing, and to them it is no mercy to be delivered. And the truth is, it is a favour to the lamb, and not the wolf, to have him taken out of his mouth : but these men have interest by those things which have no ears, against which there is no contending
(2.) Such as are disturbed in their optics, or have gotten false glasses, representing all things unto them in dubious colours : which way soever they look, they can see nothing but errors, errors of all sizes, sorts, sects, and sexes, errors and heresies from the beginning to the end ; which have deceived some men, not of the worst, and made them think that all before was nothing, in compa
& Nunc igitur si nominis odium est, quis nominum reatus ? quæ accusatio vocabulorum ? nisi aut barbarum sonat aliqua vox nominis, aut maledicum aut impudicum.'. Tertul. Apol. ad Gen. cap. 3.