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A VISION OF UNCHANGEABLE, FREE MERCY, IN SENDING THE MEANS OF GRACE TO UNDESERVING SINNERS.
WHEREUNTO IS ANNEXED,
A COUNTRY ESSAY FOR THE PRACTICE OF CHURCH GOVERNMENT THERE.
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.-ACTS xvi. 9.
THE kingdom of Jesus Christ is frequently in the Scripture compared to growing things; small in the beginning and first appearance, but increasing by degrees unto glory and perfection. The shapeless stone cut out without hands, having neither form, nor desirable beauty given unto it, becomes a great mountain, filling the whole earth; Dan. ii, 35. The small vine brought out of Egypt, quickly covers the hills with her shadow, her boughs reach unto the sea, and her branches unto the rivers; Psal. lxxx. 8. The tender plant becomes as the cedars of God; and the grain of mustard-seed to be a tree for the fowls of the air to make their nests in the branches thereof. Mountains are made plains before it, every valley is filled, and the crooked paths made straight, that it may have a passage to its appointed period and all this, not only not supported by outward advantages, but in direct opposition to the combined powerd of this whole creation, as fallen, and in subjection to the god of this world,' the head thereof. As Christ was 'a tender plant," seemingly easy to be broken, and a root
This sermon was preached before the honourable house of commons, April 29, 1646, being the day of public humiliation.
a Ecclesia sicut luna defectus habet, et ortus frequentes; sed defectibus suis crevit, &c. hæc est vera luna, quæ de fratris sui luce perpetua, lumen sibi immortalitatis et gratiæ mutuatur. Amb. Hex. lib. 4. cap. 2. Psal. Ixviii. 13.
b Isa. liv. 11. Zech. iv. 7.
d 1 John iii. 13. Rev. ii. 10. 2 Cor. iv. 4.
Isa. lili. 3-5.
out of a dry ground,' not easily flourishing, yet liveth for ever; so his people and kingdom, though as a' lily among thorns,' as sheep among wolves," as a turtledove among a multitude of devourers," yet stands unshaken, at least unshivered.
The main ground and foundation of all this is laid out, ver. 6-9. of this chapter, containing a rich discovery how all things here below, especially such as concern the gospel and church of Christ, are carried along through innumerable varieties, and a world of contingencies, according to the regular motions and goings forth of a free, eternal, unchangeable decree: as all inferior orbs, notwithstanding the eccentrics and irregularities of their own inhabitants, are orderly carried about by the first mover.
In ver. 6. the planters of the gospel are forbid to preach the word in Asia' (that part of it peculiarly so called), and ver. 7. assaying to go with the same message into Bithynia, they are crossed by the Spirit in their attempts; but in my text, are called to a place, on which their thoughts were not at all fixed: which calling, and which forbidding, were both subservient to his free determination, who 'worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will;' Ephes. i. 11.
And no doubt but in the dispensation of the gospel throughout the world, unto this day, there is the like conformity to be found to the pattern of God's eternal decrees; though to the messengers not made known aforehand by revelation, but discovered in the effects, by the mighty working of Providence.
Amongst other nations, this is the day of England's visitation, the day-spring from on high having visited this people,' and 'the sun of righteousness arising upon us, with healing in his wings," a man of England hath prevailed for assistance, and the free grace of God hath wrought us help by the gospel.
Now in this day three things are to be done, to keep up our spirits unto this duty, of bringing down our souls by humiliation.
Cant. ii. 2.
h Matt. x. 16.
1 Heb. vii. 25. • 1 Psal. lxxiv. 19. k Eo ipso tempore quo ad omnes gentes prædicatio evangelii mittebatur, quædam loca apostolis adire prohibebatur ab eo, qui vult omnes homines salvos fieri. Prosp. Ep. ad Rufin. Διὸς δ ̓ ἐτελέετο βουλή. Hom.
Mal. iv. 2.
First, To take'us off the pride of our own performances, endeavours, or any adherent worth of our own. Not for your sakes do I this, said the Lord; be it known unto you, be ye ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel' [O house of England]; Ezek. xxxvi. 32.
Secondly, To root out that atheistical corruption, which depresses the thoughts of men, not permitting them in the highest products of Providence, to look above contingencies, and secondary causes; though God hath wrought all our works for us;' Isa. xxvi. 12. and known unto him are all his works from the beginning of the world;' Acts xv. 18.
Thirdly, To shew that the bulk of this people are as yet in the wilderness, far from their resting place, like sheep upon the mountains, as once Israel, Jer. 1. 6. as yet wanting help by the gospel.
The two first of these will be cleared, by discovering how that all revolutions here below, especially every thing that concerns the dispensation of the gospel and kingdom of the Lord Jesus, are carried along, according to the eternally fixed purpose of God, free in itself, taking neither rise, growth, cause, nor occasion, from any thing amongst the sons of men.
The third, by laying open the helpless condition of gospel-wanting souls, with some particular application, to all which my text directly leads me.
The words in general are the relation of a message from heaven unto Paul, to direct him in the publishing of the gospel, as to the place, and persons wherein, and to whom he was to preach. And in them you have these four things: 1. The manner of it; it was by vision. A vision appeared.' 2. The time of it. In the night.' 3. The bringer of it.
4. The matter of it. preted, ver. 10. to be by
A man of Macedonia.' Help for the Macedonians, interpreaching of the gospel.
A little clearing of the words will make way for observations.
1. For the manner of the delivery of this message; it was by vision. Of all the ways that God used of old, to reveal himself unto any in an extraordinary manner, which were sundry and various, Heb. i. 1, there was no one so frequent as this of vision. Wherein this did properly consist, and
out of a dry ground,' not easily flourishing, yet liveth for ever; so his people and kingdom, though as a' lily amon thorns,' as 'sheep among wolves," as a 'turtledove amo. a multitude of devourers," yet stands unshaken, at le unshivered.
The main ground and foundation of all this is laid ver. 6-9. of this chapter, containing a rich disc how all things here below, especially such as cone gospel and church of Christ, are carried along innumerable varieties, and a world of contingencie ing to the regular motions and goings forth of a fi unchangeable decree: as all inferior orbs, notw the eccentrics and irregularities of their own are orderly carried about by the first mover.
In ver. 6. the planters of the gospel a preach the word in Asia' (that part of called), and ver. 7. assaying to go with th into Bithynia, they are crossed by the tempts; but in my text, are called to a pl thoughts were not at all fixed: which forbidding, were both subservient to h who 'worketh all things according to will;' Ephes. i. 11.
And no doubt but in the dis throughout the world, unto this formity to be found to the pattere though to the messengers not m velation, but discovered in the ing of Providence.
awake; ὅραμα καθ ̓ ὄναρ, an apcalled sometimes a dream, Job was made to Joseph, Matt. ii. 19.
ot hold, our Saviour calling that .. had at his transfiguration, when Ling, Spaua, Matt. xvii. 9. So that I ision waking; and the night is speoi, not to intimate his being asleep, mess, seeking counsel of God in the ould apply himself in the preaching uch I suppose was that of latter days, to Zuinglius a strong confirmation of d's supper, from Exod. xii. 11. against onstrous figment of transubstantiation. 1, or time of this vision, I need say no. ore I intimated.
1 the message, ἀνήρ τις ἦν Μακεδὼν ἑστὼς,
acedonia in a vision: the Lord made an in, as of a man of Macedonia, discovering eyes a man, and to his mind, that he was as a man of Macedonia. This was, say ; the tutelar angel of the place, say the rs, or the genius of the place, according to the heathens, of whom they learned their perhaps him, or his antagonist, that not long ed to Brutus" at Philippi. But these are ms us it may suffice, that it was the appearin, the mind of Paul being enlightened to apprea man of Macedonia; and that with infallible. such as usually accompanieth divine revelations. whom they are made, as Jer. xxiii. 28. for upon affirmeth, ver. 10. they assuredly concluded, that I called them into Macedonia.
The message itself is a discovery of the want of the onians, and the assistance they required, which the was willing should be imparted unto them. Their is not expressed, but included in the assistance de
icde. Apost. of later times.
▾ A Lapide, Sanctius in locum, &c.
a Plutarch. in vit. Bruti. Calvin. in locum. Dicebat se discernere, (nescio quo sapore, quem verbis icare non poterat) quid interesset inter Deum revelantem, &c. Aug. confes.