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THE WORTHY AND HONOURED
SIR WILLIAM MASHAM, SIR WILLIAM ROWE,
WITH THE REST OF THE
GENTLEMEN OF THE COMMITTEE,
LATELY UNDER IMPRISONMENT BY THE ENEMY IN COLCHESTER:
TO THE HONOURED
SIR HENRY MILDMAY OF WANSTED,
COL. SIR THOMAS HONEYWOOD,
WITH THE REST OF THE GENTLEMEN AND OFFICERS, LATELY ACTING AND ENGAGED AGAINST THE SAME ENEMY.
THE righteous judgments of God having brought a disturbance and noise of war, for our security, unthankfulness, murmuring, and devouring one another, upon our country, those who were intrusted with the power thereof, turned their streams into several channels. Troublous times are times of trial.
Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand; Dan. xii. 10. Some God called out to suffer, some to do, leaving 'treacherous dealers to deal treacherously.'
Of the two first sorts are you. This honour have you received from God, either with patience and constancy to undergo unvoluntarily a dangerous restraint; or with resolution and courage voluntarily to undertake a hazardous engagement, to give an example that faith and truth, so shamefully despised in these evil days, have not altogether forsaken the sons of men.
It is not in my thoughts to relate unto yourselves, what some of you suffered, and what some of you did; what difficulties and perplexities you wrestled withal, within and without the walls of your enemies (the birds in the cage and the field having small cause of mutual emulation), for that which remains of these things is only a returnal of praise to him, by whom all your works are wrought.
It cannot be denied, but that providence was eminently exalted in the work of your protection and delivery; yet truly, for my part, I cannot but conceive that it vails to the efficacy of grace, in preventing you from putting forth your hands unto iniquity, in any sinful compliance with the enemies of our peace. The times wherein we live have found the latter more rare than the former. What God wrought in you, hath the pre-eminence of what he wrought for you; as much as to be given up to the sword is a lesser evil, than to be given up to a treacherous spirit.
What God hath done for you all, all men know; what I desire you should do for God, I know no reason why I should make alike public; the general and particular civilities I have received from all, and every one of you, advantaging me to make it out in another way. I shall add nothing then to what you will meet withal in the following discourse, but only my desire, that you would seriously ponder the second observation, with the deductions from thence. For the rest, I no way fear, but that that God who hath so appeared with you, and for you, will so indulge to your spirits the presence and guidance of his grace, in these shaking times, that if any speak evil of you as of evil doers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ, and glorify God in the day of visitation.
For these following sermons, one of them was
preached at your desire, and is now published upon your request. The first part of the labour I willingly and cheerfully underwent; the latter merely in obedience to your commands, being acted in it more by your judgments than mine own; you were persuaded (mean as it was) it might be for the glory of God to have it made public; whereupon my answer was, and is, That for that, not only it, but myself also, should by his assistance be ready for the press. The failings and infirmities attending the preaching and publishing of it (which the Lord knows to be very many) are mine; the inconveniences of publishing such a tractate from so weak a hand, whereof the world is full, must be yours; the fruit and benefit both of the one and other, is his; for whose pardon of infirmities, and removal of inconveniences, shall be, as for you, and all the church of God, the prayer of,
Your most humble and obliged servant,
In the work of the Lord,
Coggeshall, Oct. 5, 1648.
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Sigionoth. O Lord, I have heard thy speech and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy. God came from Teman, and the holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand, and there was the hiding of his power. Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet. He stood and measured the earth? he beheld and drove asunder the nations, and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting. I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble. Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? was thine anger against the rivers? was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses, and thy chariots of salvation? Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers.—HAB. iii. 1–9.
Of this chapter there are four parts.
First, The title and preface of it, ver. 1.
Secondly, The prophet's main request in it, ver. 2. Thirdly, Arguments to sustain his faith in that request, from ver. 3-17.
Fourthly, A resignation of himself, and the whole issue of his desires unto God, from ver. 17, to the end.
We shall treat of them in order.
The prophet having had visions from God, and pre-discoveries of many approaching judgments, in the first and second chapters, in this, by faithful prayer, sets himself to obtain a sure footing, and quiet abode in those nation-destroying storms.
Ver. 1. A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, that is the title of it. And an excellent prayer it is, full of arguments to strengthen faith, acknowledgment of God's sovereignty, power, and righteous judgments, with resolutions to a contented, joyful, rolling him upon him under all dispensations. Observation I. Prayer is the believer's constant, sure retreat in an evil time, in a time of trouble.
It is the righteous man's wings to the name of the Lord' which is his strong tower;' Prov. xviii. 10. A Christian' soldier's sure reserve in the day of battle: if all other forces
a The time of this prophecy is conceived to be about the end of Josiah's reign, not long before the first Chaldean invasion.
Preces et lacrymæ sunt arma Ecclesiæ. Tertul.
be overthrown, here he will abide by it, no power under heaven can prevail upon him to give one step backward. Hence that title of Psal. cii. A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed.' 'Tis the overwhelmed man's refuge and employment: when 'he swooneth with anguish' (as in the original) this fetches him to life again. So also, Psal. Ixi. 2, 3. In our greatest distresses let neither unbelief, nor selfcontrivances, justle us out of this way to the rock of our salvation.
II. Observation. Prophets discoveries of fearful judgments must be attended with fervent prayers.
That messenger hath done but half his business who delivers his errand, but returns not an answer. He that brings God's message of threats unto his people, must return his people's message of entreaties unto him. Some think they have fairly discharged their duty, when they have revealed the will of God to man, without labouring to reveal the condition and desires of men unto God. He that is more frequent in the pulpit to his people, than he is in his closet for his people, is but a sorry watchman. Moses did not so; Exod. xxxii. 31. neither did Samuel so; 1 Sam. xii. 23. neither was it the guise of Jeremiah in his days; chap. xiv 17. If the beginning of the prophecy be (as it is) the burden of Habakkuk,' the close will be (as it is) 'the prayer of Habakkuk.' Where there is a burden upon the people, there must be a prayer for the people. Woe to them who have denounced desolations, and not poured out supplications: such men delight in the evil, which the prophet puts far from him; Jer. xvii. 16. I have not desired the woful day [O Lord] thou knowest.'
Now this prayer is upon Sigionoth.' That is, 1. It is turned to a song: 2. Such a song.
1. That it is a song, penned in metre, and how done so : (1.) To take the deeper impression; (2.) To be the better retained in memory; (3.) To work more upon the affections; (4.) To receive the ingredients of poetical loftiness for adorning the majesty of God with; (5.) The use of songs in the old church; (6.) And for the present; (7.) Their times and seasons, as among the people of God, so all nations of old: of all, or any of these, being besides my present purpose, I shall not treat. 2. That it is 'upon Sigionoth,' a little may be spoken.