by Obadiah Sedgwicke
TO The Honourable House of Commons, Assembled in Parliament at Westminster
You were pleased to appoint a Solemn and Extraordinary Fast, for your united Armies: and since that you have twice desired the Assembly of Divines to Importune God for them: How acceptable all this hath been unto Him, you have experimentally found by the news of our Brethren surprizing of Newcastle (the last week) and the Castle it self (since that) and also by the news of happy successe upon your Armies (neer to Newbery) this week: It is not in vain, Nay it is very good to draw neer to God: No one prayer that gets to heaven is lost: Sometimes divine Wisdome doth take respite, but at this time divine goodnesse made hast: you had scarce begun your prayers, but God prevented you with Answers: Our work on earth is done best, when our work in heaven is done first; you plainly see that God can (and which way he can) provide for his own glory, his peoples safety, and his enemies shame; It is a superlative wisdome to interest our persons in God, and God in our actions: when we have once gained and engaged him, we are then above all the world.
All that I would humbly presse upon you is this: Follow God, what you see him doing, do you the like: his speciall care is for his Church, let yours be so: For my part, my great design shall be, my own Salvation, and the Church and Kingdomes safety: For these we Preach, for these we Pray, for these we Lend, for these we Live, for these we Dye: the God of all mercies Heal these, and Settle these, and ever guide and blesse you for the good of these. This shall be the constant prayer of him, who desires to live no longer then he is a servant to Truth, and both these,
A Sermon Preached before the Honorable House of COMMONS,
At their Extraordinary day of Humiliation
October 22. 1644
By Faith Noah being warned of God, of things not seen as yet, moved with Fear, prepared an Arke to the saving of his house.
These words contain in them 4. parts.
1. An Alarum given: wherein observe, 1. The party giving it, God: [Being warned of God] whether in a dream, as to Abimeleck, Jacob, others, or by voyce extraordinary, or by some Angel, or by some singular impression, The Scripture is silent, and I dare not be so curious as to determine it.
2. The matter of it, [Things not yet seen] He means the deluge, or drowning of the whole world; Great Judgements may be preparing by God, though for the present no effects of them appear to man.
2. The Alarum Taken: where again observe.
1. The Person Taking it, [Noah] called in Gen. 6:9. A just man and perfect in his generations: Godly men are first acquainted with Gods intentions; His secrets (in this sense also) are with them that fear him;
2. The manner how he tooke it: the Text saith,
1. By faith: Faith is the first hand to take a mercy, and the first eye to discover a Judgement: Sense may apprehend Dangers, when Acting upon the visible Stage, but faith onely espies them, when contriving upon the private anvile.
2. By Fear: when faith seeth a good God, then it causeth joy: when it seeth an Angry God, then it raiseth fear: it proportions out all our affections, as God is pleased to proportion out himself: I see an inundation threatned, and it will certainly come, saith Faith: O I tremble at it, saith Feare, and how shall we do to escape it?
3. The Alarum Improved: and that's by prudence: A wise man seeth the evill and hides, or secures, himself: Faith is not opposite to Fear, nor is either of them opposite to care and wisedome: Noahs wisdome appeared in 2. Things.
1. He sets upon the proper Remedy [He built an Ark] there was a deluge comming, and nothing was so proper a safety against a deluge of waters, as a Ship or Arke.
2. He doth this in Time: the Text saith [He prepared an Arke] his action was suitable, and it was seasonable too: A right season, seasons all our works: purposes ill-timed, commonly prove ill or uselesse: Noahs Ark was not to make when the waters came, but it was prepared, and he in it, before they came.
4. The successe of all [To the saving of his house] I shall not finger all the particulars above mentioned, Two onely of them I intend to prosecute at this time, viz.
1. That when Dangers Threaten us, we should be moved with Fear.
2. That against a destroying flood, it is duty and wisdome to prepare a saving Arke.
That when Dangers threaten us,* we should be moved with fear: Thus the Text, Noah being warned of God, &c. was moved with feare.
When Jacob heard that Esau his brother was comming with 400. men, to meete him, He greatly feared, Gen 32:6, 7.
When Jehoshaphat heard that the Moabites and Ammonites, with those of Mount Seir, were ready to invade him, He also feared, 2 Chron. 20:1, 3.
When Micah the Morashite prophecyed in the days of Hezekiah, saying, Zion shall be ploughed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heapes, Jer. 26:18. Then Hezekiah feared the Lord, vers. 19.
When the King of Syria, and the King of Israel confederated against Judah, the Prophet saith, They were moved as the trees of the wood are moved with winde, (i.) They exceedingly feared, Esay 7:2. compared with, verse 4.
Bernard hath long since well taken notice of four sorts of men.*
1. Some who Neither Hope, Nor Fear: such are Atheisticall sinners, to whom Gods mercy seemes no Harbour, and Gods wrath seemes no Terrour.
2. Some who Fear but hope not: such are despairing sinners, who look onely upon mount Sinai, full of thunder and lightning; but never look upon mount Sion, which is as full of Grace and Mercy.
3. Some who Hope but fear not: Such are presumptuous sinners, who like the Heathens of old that made their gods sutable patrons to all their lusts; so these fancy a God onely of mercy and Indulgence, without any Justice to account with them for their sins, and therefore fear not.
4. Some who both hope and fear: Such are all truely pious people, who hope in a good God, and yet do fear a just God: rejoyce in his favour, but tremble at his displeasure: when he smiles they blesse him, and when he frownes they feare him.
Now feare (which is the shrinking, the recoyling, the crouching, the flight of the soul in the apprehension of an absent, imminent, prevalent, and approaching evill,) the Schoolemen and others distinguish thus: There is a threefold fear.
1. Timor pœnæ: A fear of punishment (which some call Timorem Gehernalem & Servilem) this is raised by the justice of God, threatning by no meanes to clear the guilty.
2. Timor offensæ: a fear of sinning, and this is raised by the kindnesse of God, whose presence and bounty causeth an exceeding fear to offend him.
3. Timor Reverentiæ, A Reverentiall fear, and this is raised by the Greatnesse, and Majesty, and Ability of God, and it is like that of a child to his Father, or of a wife to her Husband: some use I shall make of this distinction anone, but for the present take me thus.
There is a double Fear.*
1. One of Distraction, or amazement, which routs the soul, and crusheth all its faculties, disabling their command and use in matters either spirituall or civill, take heed of this fear; fear such a fear as this, which is too hard for Reason and Religion too.
2. Another of Discretion,* and Judgement, flowing from faith: Timor debitus, as Aquinæs stiles it: a fear when a man should fear, and as a Christian should fear: to this shall I apply my discourse: such a fear as this should be in us, when God threatens dangers: And it comprehends 4. things in it.
1. An awaking of the Souls of men:* a rouzing of them out of a Lethargie, a shaking off, of the Spirit of slumber, and deep sleepe: Fear speaks to the soul as the Marriners to Jonah, when the ship was endangered, Awake thou sluggard, why sleepest thou? It opens those carelesse and secure eyes, to see the Lord displeased indeed, and now upon the way marching towards the destruction of a Nation or person. We can see wrath and fury in men, and be moved: but right fear seeth wrath in God, it sees the King of heaven and earth displeased, and all the arrows of vengeance (which flye up and down) all of them taken out of his Quiver, and cast abroad and shot by his just and mighty hand: That the controversie with the land, is his controversie; and the sword which is bathed in blood is his sword, and that it shall accomplish his pleasure to the full, till he be pacified with us.
2. A Concussion of the Soul under this Apprehension: the Text doth not say, onely, that Noah feared, but it saith, that he was moved with fear: the meaning is this, That God thus apprehended in the Greatnesse of his wrath and power, should exceedingly affect us: the Indignation of the Almighty should make a dint and strong Impression upon our hearts:* As Moses when he was upon the mount, and heard the sound of the Trumpet, and the voyce of words, and saw also the burnings with fire, he did exceedingly Fear and Quake: So when we heare either by the voyce of Gods Ministers, or by the Trumpet of Gods reall warnings, or by the devouring flames of his acting wrath, that God is provoked by us, and incensed against us; this must make us, like David, to fall flat down upon our faces, or like Moses to quake, or like Habakkuk to quiver with fear: Who should not fear thee O King of Nations.
There are three sorts of behaviour under Gods anger and Judgements.* 1. Some utterly carelesse, disrespective, and deaf, though God cryes aloud in the wayes of vengeance: these men are like foolish children, running out to play in the midst of thunder and lightning: or rather like Zimri and Cozbi, then impudently sinning, when God was judicially destroying the Campe for sinning. Secondly, some are onely amazed and astonished at the first blow: perhaps at the beginning of a judgement, a little husht and stirred, and wrought on; but perceiving the danger to keep a distance, they grow bold to sin still: like the Frogs we read of, all silenced on a sudden, when Jupiter threw down the great beams among them, but observing their immunity, they put on their confidence and old note again. Thirdly, others are throughly affected and stirred in the apprehension of Gods displeasure: As seeing more than heaven in his favour and more then hell in his wrath: our protection, safety, happinesse in that; and our losse, desolation, and compleat misery in this: These are persons who will Fear the Lord, and His displeasure, For who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fiercenesse of his anger? Nahum. 1:6.
3. A solemn consideration upon both the former. The School-men say, that Timor facit consiliativos. And the Philosopher saith, that Fear makes men wise, for it makes them flee to counsel. There is nothing more suspicious and more inquisitive then Fear: for as in Love, all the soul is called in to obtain or rejoyce; so in Fear, all the soul is called in to consider and advise how either to prevent or to sustain the approaching evil. Now there are two grand enquiries which Fear makes, upon the apprehension of Gods displeasure: one is,* What have we done thus to provoke God? another is, What may we do to pacifie this provoked God?
As when Joshua's heart melted with Fear, because God went out against his own people before Ai: why? What is the matter Lord (saith Joshua) that Israel turn their backs upon their enemies? Israel hath sinned (saith God) And now Joshua makes a narrow search to finde out the sinner, he searcheth from Tribe to Tribe, from family to family, from man to man, till Achan was found out: And when Achan (who was the cause of Gods displeasure) was found out, Joshua stones him to death, and then all was well again.
4. A quick care to use all proper means by which God may be pacified, and judgements removed: You never knew a man full of Fears, who was not also a man full of Cares: Give me a Christian who fears about his eternall salvation, this man will take care, and give all diligence to work out his salvation, and to make his calling sure: Give me a person who fears his corporall safety; this person cannot sleep for care, how he shall preserve and secure himself. Grief makes men heavie, and Pleasure makes men carelesse, and Despair makes men uselesse, and Fear makes men carefull and diligent. The Lord threatens Nineveh with destruction; the Ninevites believe this,* and fear: this fear commands an immediate Fasting, and humbling, and crying unto God, and repenting.
Jehoshaphat apprehends the danger of Invasion,* and the Text saith, He feared; but then it immediately subjoyns, And set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a Fast.
Jacob he feared his brother Esau; I fear him (saith Jacob) lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.* But this Fear sets on Prayer, and wrestling with God; and one while he presseth God with his Command, another while with his Promise, and at length so closeth with God, that he is resolved God shall not get free of him, unlesse he blesse him.
I should now give you the Reasons,* why we should fear when God threatens dangers: as 1. Because our own sinnes endanger us with all dangers threatned. 2. Because God hath brought the dangers to people which he hath threatned, witnesse the old world, and the Flood; witnesse Israel, and the Captivity; witnesse Jerusalem, and her desolation; witnesse England, and the Sword this day. 3. Because the dangers will be the sooner, and the greater, and the surer, if we fear not. But I shall not need to demonstrate the truth of the Proposition; it rather calls for Application.
First then, If Fear be requisite and necessary in Times of danger, certainly Security (which is opposite thereto) is a most evil Quality in evil Times. No Judge so unjust as he, who said, I fear neither God nor man: nor is any sinner more fearfull, then he who fears not.* Nazianzene spake the truth; This is fearfull indeed, when a sinner is not fearfull: So did Augustine; This should make thee to tremble, because thou hast not an heart to fear. And yet (the Lord be mercifull to us) we have multitudes in this Land, yea, I fear that the greatest part of the Land, and of our selves too, are without Noahs Fear, in this time, not of threatned, but inflicted Judgement. There are three Things which shew that a Person or a Nation are a Fearlesse and secure people in time of misery.*
1. A sensuall and voluptuous course of life. You reade in Amos 6:1, of a secure company of sinners: What was their Posture? see vers. 4, 5, 6. They lie upon beds of Ivory, and eat the Lambs out of the flock, and chaunt to the sound of the Viol, and drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments; and they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. The like you may reade in Isai. 56:12. We will fetch wine (say they) and we will fill our selves with strong drink, and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant. O that I could not apply these passages of old to our present times! Good Lord! what amazing times are our times? some Christians starving, and crying out for a bit of bread, others in gluttony, and throwing to the dogs: some bitterly lamenting, others chearfully spoiling: some tumbling in blood, others tumbling in vomit: some feeding on ashes, and drinking of tears, others faring deliciously, like Dives, and drinking themselves drunk, like Elah. It is with us, as it is spoken of in Esther 3:15. The King and Haman sate down to drink, but the Citie Shushan was perplexed. Is this to fear an angry God?
2. A strange stupidity, benummednesse, I know not what to style it, an unmovednesse, a dull inconsideration, a drowsie imperception of our own sins, and Gods hand upon us. It is generally with us, as with Ephraim, that had a silly heart; though gray hairs were here and there upon him, yet he perceived it not: or as with Israel, though set on fire round about, and burning in the fire, yet they laid nothing to heart. Though all the Churches of Christ (almost) are crying out, The Sword, the Sword; though the pangs of death be upon our selves; though Gods (usually) last Judgement be upon us (the Sword) and in the quickest way of destruction (an Intestine War) and helped on by infinite Divisions: yet men generally intend their own Gain, their own ways, their own ends; as if an angry God were not risen up to be avenged of a sinfull Nation.
3. A generall neglect to make peace with God. If we did fear his wrath, would we not seek his friendship? Because I will do this unto thee, therefore prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.* God is actually doing, doing his strange work amongst us, and yet we prepare not to meet him: You reade that those of Tyre and Sidon, when Herod was highly displeased with them, they with one accord use the best means to make their peace with him,* because that Countrey was nourished by his Countrey: These will rise in judgement against us: they tremble at man, we tremble not at a God; they hasten to pacifie an angry man, and we all this while come not in to make peace with an angry God: they seek for peace, because their Countrey depended on Herod; and we sue not for peace, though our eternity depend upon God: we stand out against a threatning God, and against a destroying God. We may well take up that of the Prophet; The way of peace they know not, and there is no judgement in their doings.* Beloved, there are two ways wherein perhaps the Lord may yet meet us with mercy: one is, Serious Humiliation; the other is, Reall Reformation. Believe me, Prayings will not do it, Fastings will not do it, Declarations and Professions will not do it, Covenantings will not do it, Councels, Armies, Assemblies, nothing will do it, God will never be pacified, till we become an humbled and reformed People.
But then as in Jeremiah, so may God now say of this Land,* I hearkned and heard, but they spake not aright; no man repented him of his wickednesse, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the Battell: Fearlesse, and venturous in sin still. What one person (almost) in this great Congregation, hath (since all our calamities) left one sin? yet this is the fear of the Lord (this is a true character of it) To depart from evil. A man durst not continue in a course which provokes God, if he did truely fear God.
Now what shall I say of this common security amongst us? I would say of it as Daniel did of Nebuchadnezzars Dream, Dan. 4:19. The dream be to them that hate thee, and the Interpretation thereof to thine enemies. O that we our selves, and the people of this Land, would remember two things:
1. That Security (in times of judgement) is one of the greatest sins. There are three provoking hearts in such times: 1. An hard heart. 2. An unbelieving heart. 3. A secure heart. A secure sinner keeps up all his sins, he slights all Repentance (of which you heard much in the former Sermon) and he slights and contemns an angry God; he still provokes a provoked God.
2. It is the sinne which immedately goes before destruction; as a great Calm (usually) goes before a great Earthquake. If Security be within the door, Judgement is at the threshold: It is the flash of Lightning before the crack of Thunder: or much like that Silence spoken of in Revel. 8:1. after which the seven Angels sounded their Wo-Trumpets. In Amos 6:1. you reade of some who were Secure in Sion: and vers. 3. did put far away the evil day. But then reade vers. 7. These God resolves shall go captive; nay, They shall go captive with the first. In their own opinion they were the farthest from misery; but in Gods determination they are the very next, the first men for it. So in Isa. 47:8. you finde Babylon drowned in proud Security, following her pleasures, dwelling carelesly, lifting up her self, (I am, and none else besides me) promising safety to her self, (I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the losse of children) But then reade the very next verse, v. 9. These two things shall come to thee in a moment, in one day, The losse of children, and widowhood; They shall come upon thee in their perfection: exact ruine and sudden ruine upon secure Babylon.
I think you cannot in all the Bible pitch upon any secure sinners, but presently you may finde a stroke of judgement upon them.
The old world were in eating, and drinking, and marrying,* and knew not (saith Christ) till the flood came and tooke them all away: they were drowned in security, and then presently drowned in a flood.
Sodom and Gomorrah were a people whose sinnes did cry to heaven: they were high in sin, and deep in security: sinned in the night, shined upon by the Sun in the morning, and all of them consumed to ashes before noon, Gen. 19:23, 24.
The people of Laish were carelesse, quiet, and secure, and now the Danites suddenly come upon them, and smite them with the edge of the sword, and burn their City with fire, Judg. 18:27.
Agag comes forth delicately (as the Scripture stiles it) and confidently too; Surely (saith he) the bitternesse of death is past: and presently he is hewed in peeces before the Lord in Gilgal, 1 Sam 15:32, 33.
The Amalekites are drinking, and dancing, and revelling, because of the great spoile they had taken, but are immediately assaulted, and routed, and killed by David, from the twilight untill the evening of the next day, 1 Sam. 30:16, 17.
Nebuchadnezzar is proudly vaunting in his pallace, Is not this great Babylon which I have built, for the honour of my Majesty? Dan. 4:30. But (vers. 31.) while the word was in the Kings mouth, (the very next word is) There fell a voyce from heaven, O King! To thee (thus proudly secure) it is spoken, The kingdome is departed from thee.
When Belshazar was feasting, and carousing, and quaffing, (inter pocula) Then the hand-writing appeared, and notwithstanding all his confidence on the great River, it was drawn aside, and the Persians entred the City, and slew him that very night, Dan. 4:5, 30. So true is that of the Apostle, 1 Thess. 5:3. When men shall say, peace and safety, Then sudden destruction commeth upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape.* O, said one of security, Thou art my first enemy, and my chiefest enemy: thou killest fear which is my Guardian, and art the enemy which disarmes me in the midst of all my enemies, the soft pillow which betrayes me, the kisse of Joab which murders me: I can neither provide for my Salvation when God is displeased, nor for my safety when man is displeased, because of thee.
If fear should be stirred,* when God threatens dangers: why then (Right honourable and the rest) let us all this day hear and fear: O that there were in us such an heart as to fear! the Scriptures tell us, that fear is our treasure, and our strength, and our wisdome, and our blessednesse: Bernard saith, it is Vigil Animæ, the Captain of the Watch, and Custos animæ, the Captain of the Guard: Nay, saith one, Custodit ipsos custodes, Fear doth guard all our guards; all our graces are preserved by fear; it is their Sentinell, and in some sense their security, their shield and buckler: O that we did Repent and fear, beleeve and fear, pray and fear; do every fit work, and still fear. There are four portions of fear which I would earnestly commend unto you.
1. Timorem Displicentiæ, a fear to anger God, and a fear of God when he is angred: O be afrayd of an angry God! It is a fearfull thing (saith the Apostle) to fall into the hands of the living God: Gods anger is (usually) in Scripture set out by fire, and by consuming fire: Let us fear lest we fall into a consuming fire. When Jehu sent to the Elders of Jezreel to come out and fight for their masters sons, they were afraid; Two Kings (say they) could not stand before him, and how shall we? Why? Beloved, two of our Kingdomes cannot stand before an Angry God! Nay a whole world could not stand before an angry God, and how can we? He is above all the wisdome of men, and above all their dignities and powers: He can lift up the mighty mountains by his voyce, and tread under his feet all the Scepters on earth at his pleasure: he can thresh the Nations to dust, and dissolve the Potentates into nothing: O fear him who can do all that he speaks; as easily make the worke as say the word: fear him who can accomplish all his will, and none can rise up to stay or hinder him: Fear him who can destroy bodies and souls too: fear him whose displeased looks have made the best and strongest of his servants to cry out and roar, whose little finger made Balshazzars joynts to unlose and tremble, whose anger made his best child to sweat drops of blood, and to cry, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
2. Timorem pænitentiæ: a fear of continuing in sin, and of committing any more sinne: Stand in awe and sin not, said David: O that we could be afraid to let so many sins (of which we are guilty) to stand uncancelled before the eyes of an angry God, and lye so close to our hearts, as yet not penitentially broken for them: O that we could fear all sin for time to come: not onely not commit sin, but fear (as Joseph did) to commit it: Non sustinere, as well as abstinere: Fear an Oath, as well as not swear, &c.
3. Timorem Reverentiæ, A fear of Reverence: fear to omit, or neglect, or delay to do what God would have you to do, in these evill and dangerous times: when you have Gods work, and Gods warrant. Now fear the Lord, and none but him: Be not afraid of men, be not afraid of events, But sanctifie the Lord himself and let him be your dread and fear: The time was when I pressed you not to be afraid of your enemies and evill men; At this time I presse you also Not to be afraid of your friends, and good men: I beseech you do the work which God looks for, and fear not that a party will fayle you, or will not be pleased with you, or will not hearken unto you, or will thwart you: O that in the work of Reformation (so much desired, and so long expected) you would not know Father nor Mother, nor Friend, nor Enemy, nor Minister, nor any but God alone. We had returned ere this, said Jacobs sons unto him, hadst thou let Benjamin go: I am perswaded the land had been well nigh setled by this, had we let go the fear of our enemies, and the fear of our friends, and exalted the fear of God above all other fear.
I have read lately a Passage in Luther, Timor est idem quod Deus. Feare is (in some respect) God himself; this though I may safely say, That Feare doth (as another hath it) deificare Deum. It is that which doth set up, and exalt the True God; Yea (but take me candidly) it makes men somewhat like God, especially if that be true which one speakes, Qui Deum Timet, cum omnia timent, All things stand in awe of him, who stands in awe of his God; Assuredly you shall finde an awefull feare falling upon them who are under you, if your Superlative Feare be of him who is above you.
4. Timorem Providentiæ: A provident Feare: Beloved! as Faith makes us to depend upon Gods Promise, so Feare makes us to serve Gods Providence: That Fear which makes us over-feare, or over-negligent, which shrivells up all endeavour, or all care; I cannot thinke but it is either dispaire, or folly, or Treachery: Give me that Feare which is a servant to Faith, a Gale to Prayer, a Spur to Repentance, and an edge to Prudence: which can judge of evills, and hasten Remedies; which can fore-see-Dangers, and be prepared with Antidotes: which makes the Eye open, the Head Serious, the Heart faithfull, the hand quick, and the worke seasonable: which cries out about a Soule, O Hearken, Repent, Beleeve, whiles it is called to day, for heaven may be lost, and it too in an hour! which cries out about a Kingdom, It may be lost or saved, in lesse then in one day, and therefore let us not trifle, let us Act for it with all our strength: In a word, Give me such a feare like this in Noah, which found him Righteous, and made him Industrious to prepare an Arke to the saving of himselfe, and of his House: This is the second part, and follows orderly and seasonably to be handled: [prepared an Arke to the saving of his House] whence learne,
That against a destroying flood,* it is duty and wisedome to prepare a saving Arke.
An Arke (in the Scripture) is taken two wayes.
1. Literally, So it is either the Arke of the Covenant which Moses made, or the ship of safety, which Noah made.
2. Analogically: so it notes something, which in the use and vertue of it, doth Answer unto that Arke which Noah made. viz. Some Qualities, or Actions that will keep us safe, though judgements, destroying judgements breake downe into the world.
But here's the Question; what Arke of Safety may that bee?*
To this demand, I answer.*
1. In the Generall.
1. That Arke which saved Noah, was such a Fabricke, as God himself commanded: see Gen. 6:14. Goe (said God) and make thee an Arke; Many men are apt to make an Arke, but few are making such an Arke as God commands; The Iewes made an Arke of their owne Righteousnesse, but this could not save their soules; and sometimes they made an Arke of the Assyrians and Egyptians, but this could not save their lives: The Papists also doe make an Arke of their owne Merits (which Bellarmine dares not thinke safe and sure) and of the Intercessions of Saints departed; Nay, they make an Arke of water (their Holy-water) and a wooden Arke too of Images and Crosses, Arkes in the Ayre, vaine Arkes, which can neither save themselves, nor them that make them: And ignorant people make an Arke of their Good meanings, and devout Service-Booke: Thousands in the Land, place all Religion in it, it is their God, and if you take away that, what have they more: And profane Persons make an Arke of Presumtion upon Gods Mercy: yea, every Sectary makes an Arke of his owne fancie: but when a deluge breakes forth, mens soules will be drown'd for all these: No Arke is safe, which is not built upon God's Word.
2. That Arke which saved Noah, hee himself made it: Gen. 6:22. Other mens Arke will never be safety to us: wee cannot live by another mans soule, nor be nourished by the bread which another man eates, nor be saved by the faith which another man hath. The just shall live by his own Faith, Haback. 2:4. And those three Righteous men could deliver but their owne soules, Ezek. 14:14 The wise Virgins had no oyle to spare, they had no more then would serve for themselves.
3. That Arke which saved Noah, was made by faith; so the Text, By faith Noah prepared an Arke; Nothing will be safety without Faith; Prayer (I confesse) may save, but then it must be the Prayer of Faith, Jam. 5:15. Teares may save, but they must then be teares in the eye of Faith: and Repentance may save, but then it must be rais'd by faith: nothing will save us without Faith, even our Saviour will not save us without faith.
4. The Arke which saved Noah, was made of Gopher wood: Interpreters cannot tell where to match or finde the like in all the Scripture: It was a rare kinde of wood, solid, choice, most apt to keep above water: It must be some rare thing, which is a sinners safety: That which every man can have, will save none: every mans portion, will be no mans security.
5. The Arke which saved Noah, cost him a great deal of paines to make. The saving Arke, is a costly Arke; O it will cost us many Heart-searchings, and humblings, and Prayers, &c. to save our soules: A working out, as Paul speakes, and All diligence, as Peter speakes; it is not an easie worke to be holy here, or happy hereafter.
6. Noah made the Arke, though he met with much opposition, and many a scoffe: They who intend to be safe, must hold to their saving worke, against all the jeares and reproaches of men who are lost.
7. Lastly, the Ark which saved Noah, was that which God shut him in, when he entred into it. All means must be used, but none can be safety, unlesse God himself make us safe.
Secondly in particular.
And now I beseech you heed me: There are five things which will (certainly) be an Arke of Safety to a Person or Nation, whensoever dangers break out like a deluge.
1. A God reconciled: Happy is that people, and that man, who hath the Lord to be his God: let all the floods in the world burst forth, and rage, and swell, and threaten, yet if God be our God, If wee lie in the Armes of his favour, If he hath pardoned our sinnes, If enmity be slaine; If his good will be towards us, if he saith, I am your God, feare not, I will uphold you, I have blotted out your iniquities, you and I are friends, I will cover you with the shaddow of my hand: O this is an arke indeed, This is a shield indeed, A strong Tower, a Refuge from the storme, an All-sufficient Banner of Safety.
But if God be not Reconciled to us, what can be safety to us? the waters now will rise in strength, and cover all the mountaines: A very sad condition, when man is mine enemy about me, and Conscience is mine enemy within me, and God also is mine enemy above me.
2. A Christ possess'd: when Christ came into the ship, the storme ceased presently: now all was calme and safe, though the Disciples were in danger before: how much more is it our safety, when Christ not only is in our ship, but is our very ship; when a Person is in Christ, and Christ is in him: All the houses of the Israelites were safe from the destroying Angel, which had the blood sprinkled upon them: Christs blood is a securing blood, his blood covers us from the wrath of God, and his Blood makes our peace with him, who can make peace on all the earth, Yea, our very enemies to be at peace with us. A Person, who hath Christ, may be upon many waters, but he shall never be under the waters; His Arke may be tossed, but it shall never be drowned: it may be troubled, but still 'tis safe: Christ is an Arke, that can save at a pinch, and that can save to the uttermost.
3. A Conscience purged: purged of dead workes, and purged of deadly workes: All the Ocean cannot drowne a ship, whiles without it; but if they get into the ship, then is the feare of drowning; If Conscience be purged from the love of sinne, and from the service of sin, if it be kept sound, and haile, why! this will be as the Apostle tells us, 1 Pet. 3:21. Like Noahs Arke, it will be confidence to us, and safety to us: O friends! wee have no Enemy like sinne: All our dangers lie in our owne sinnes: The drowning deluge breakes out of a damning deluge, I mean, out of our owne fountaine of sinne: Therefore, if you love your safeties, if you love your lives, if you love your soules, if you love your selves, if you love the Land, Away with sinne: If thou let this man goe, thou art not Cæsars friend, said they of Christ; but I say, If you let your sinnes goe uncrucified, you are not Gods Friend, nor your owne friend, Not the Kingdoms friend.
4. Sincerity maintained; you may read in Esai. 33:16. that the upright person dwells on high (above the regions of danger, above the reach of a deluge) And his defence is the munitions of Rocks: If hee should be where dangers are, yet he still is where defences are; and no defences are like the munitions of Rocks, which none can well assaile, or undermine; In common dangers, if the Lord takes care for any person in the world, it is for the upright person: Noah was an upright person, and here is an Arke for him; Abraham was an upright person, and God was a shield to him; Lot was an upright person, and Zoar is reserved as a security for him; David was an upright person, and he had an Arke which preserved him safe from first to last, through all troubles and dangers.
5. Truths obeyed, and defended. Truth saith to a Nation, as hee to his Buckler, (Epaminondaes it was) Defend me, and I will defend thee: Keepe that safe, and that will keep you safe: Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I will also keep thee from the houre of Temptation, which shall come upon all the world, said Christ to the Church of Philadelphia, Revel. 3:10. the like you read in Esa. 26:1. Wee have a strong City, salvation will God appoint for walls and Bulwarkes, open ye the gates, that the righteous Nation, which keepeth the Truth, may enter in: These are saving Arkes indeed, none like them to save our selves, and the whole Kingdome.
And now (Right Honourable!*) Give me favour to bring this Text in some neerer application to your selves: I look upon you as the Noahs of our Age, and I look upon the condition of our times, as very much resembling that state wherein Noah lived. In his time the sinnings of the world grew common and high; doe they not doe so in our time? In his time the spirit of God warned them of an insuing destruction; Hath not God given us many warnings, vocall and reall? In his time, the Spirit of God did strive with them to draw them from their sinfull courses, and to repent? Hath not the same Spirit striven and wrestled with this Land for that purpose? Towards them God exercised a long patience, or suffering; Hee waited upon them an hundred and twenty yeeres; Hath not the Lord borne and forborn us almost as many yeers? But after all these callings, warnings, strivings, long-sufferings; God still saw that the wickednesse of man was great upon the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart, was onely evill continually, they grew impudent and incorrigible: O that it could not be so affirmed of this land in generall: Hereupon God resolves to forbeare no longer (Hee will beare long, but not for ever.) A flood of water is justly determined to be their destruction, whom an Ocean of Divine Mercy and Patience could not perswade to Repentance and salvation: God grant that we have not given effectuall occasion for an answerable resolution in him concerning our selves: yet in the midst of this Righteous resolution, hee thinks upon his servant Noah, and instructs him to make an Arke to save himself, and all his house: I trust, the Lord hath instructed you so to doe fot your selves, and the Land, against the deluges which sorely threaten us.
I have but three things to put you in minde of, this solemne day of your Humiliation, Nay, the God of heaven put you in minde of them, or else it is in vaine for mee.
1. You have an House to save: Nay, let me call in that expression, it is too short, for you have no lesse then three houses to save.
First, your owne House; Every mans soul is an house, (Domus Dei, & domicilium Christi) The lofty God, dwells in the highest Heavens, and in the humblest Souls: He is the master of this house, you are but the Tenants, your Lease will shortly be out: As you expect a blessed eternity, looke well to the saving of this House.
The second is, The Kingdomes House: The House of Parliament; it is the great House of all the Kingdome, in which are laid up all their Liberties, all their Safeties, Estates, Refuges, Reliefes and Lifes: And truly, if this house be not kept safe, I know no house in England, that can or shall be safe: If this house be suffered to fall, wee shall all have cause to say, (yea, they too who fight to pull downe this House) as of that House in Matth. 7:27. The raine descended, and the floods came, and the winde blew, and beate upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of that house: The fall of a Parliament, will be the greatest fall that ever Englishmen heard of: I am confident, it would prove the fall of the Three Kingdomes, and I feare it would endanger the fall of most of the Churches of Christ.
The third is, Gods House; this is an House to be look't unto before, and above all other houses: as Æneas had a care of his houshold gods, before he tooke care of his houshold goods: Princes of old did strive to joyne their Pallaces next to the Temples, & set the Temples above their own Pallaces: Gods House must be looked unto, before any of our own houses: They in Haggai found it by wofull experience,* that their neglect of Gods House in the first place, was very distastfull to God, and unprosperous to themselves; and so shall any Statesmen finde it, notwithstanding all their Politique conceits: I doe not know three such Houses in the world againe as these, therefore it behooves you to have a singular care of them.
2. But then in the next place, I must tell you, that there are Deluges, many Deluges, not onely probably, but also actually breaking out to endanger the drowning of all these: for the first House (our Soules) O how many sensuall lusts breake forth, and how many worldly lusts breake forth to drowne the soule (as the Apostle speaketh) in perdition? And for the second House (the Parliament) what an inundation of lies and scandalls; what raging waters of Papists, Delinquents, and other people; what a deluge of blood hath beene gushing out to overwhelm and swallow up that House?* And for the third House,* what floods are cast out of the mouth of the Serpent to beare down the House of God?* A deluge of errors,* a deluge of Blasphemies,* a deluge of Schismes,* a deluge of odde opinions,* a deluge of dissentions, and divisions.*
So that all cry out unto you, as the Disciples in the Storme to Christ, Master, save us or else wee perish: your soules cry out, O save us! and the Kingdome cries out, O save us! and the Church of God cries out, O pitty and save us!
3. The safetie of all which consists in making of an Arke both proper and seasonable: for the contriving whereof if I should a little misse of Art in my subsequent directions, yet pardon me, for I shall not faile in will and desire that all may be saved: Thus then,
1. For your Soules (the first House I mentioned) Two things (really got & exercised) will assuredly save them; Repentance and Faith:
2. For the Kingdomes House (the second that I mentioned) foure things will exceedingly conduce to the saving of it.
1. An effectuall care that Justice be executed: why? it is lamentable to behold how loose the raines of Justice are in the Country? every man (almost) does what seemes good in his own eyes; sweare, and cheate, and lie, and swagger, and slight Sabbath-dayes, and Fasting-dayes, and wallowin uncleanenesse and drunkenesse, &c. and there is scarce a Justice of Peace to put them to shame: Good Lord, what will become of us if matters continue thus? sinnes of all sorts will become out of measure sinfull, and God will be extreamely provoked against us. I beseech you therefore take care not onely to name Justices, but that they be sworne, and execute judgement; The life of all Laws (you know well) lies in their execution. O that your care would appeare about this, which I speake not onely from my selfe, but from thousands more; For my part I had rather live where nothing is lawfull, then where every thing is lawfull: The Lacedemonian being asked by one, how they came to be so strong a people, Answered well, The Lawes doe governe us, and we by them doe governe the people: Beleeve me, if you do not carefully see Justice done upon sinne, God himself will see Justice done upon you:
2. A mutuall complying amongst your selves, in matters which necessarily referre to the publike preservation; how familiar is Machiavils destructive maxime to your mindes and tongues, Divide & impera, rent them and ruine them; and yet there is not a more sad spectacle to us, who stand below upon the earth, then to heare of those rents and divisions in that upper Region which is above us! Divisions in Counsells, divisions in Armies, divisions in all: I confesse that division once made a Tower of Babel, but it never made a saving Arke: I once wished (when I preached before you) that the Parliament had no friend (you remember the sense wherein I spake it) And now I wish that the Parliament had but one man left in it: Nay, doe not wonder at the expression, there is no hurt at all in it: I say, but one man: Nothing but Unity, no division at all: that all of you might be as one man, of one heart, of one minde, of one endeavour to save our divided and perishing Kingdome.
3. Timely Supplies: Beloved! there are three After-games, which every Judicious man accounts very ill and sad: The first is for a mans Name; The second is for a mans Soule, And the third is, for a Kingdomes Safety: O how my heart hath aked for the neglecting of our late Army in the West! God knows where the fault rests: every eye was open to see our opportunity both offered, and lost: Let me freely tell them (whosoever they were) that were guilty of delaying their helpe; That a few more such omissions will shake the Thoughts and Hearts of the people, if not also the safety of the whole Kingdome: unlesse any amongst you can assure to themselves the Power of Christ, to raise Lazarus, when hee is Three or Foure dayes dead; I beseech you, and againe I beseech you, let no more seasons be lost; But what you doe, doe in time: for ought you know, the Kingdome might have been setled, if timely succour had been forwarded.
4. Your now prepared Propositions of Peace: The Scriptures tell us, That wee must follow Peace, yea, though it be flying from us: And Peace with all men, much more amongst our selves; Now then, if your Termes of Peace be such (as I presume they are) That Peace and Christ doe meet together, that Peace and Holinesse doe meet together, that Peace and Truth doe meet together, That Peace and Reformation meet together, That Peace and Justice meet together, That Peace and Safety meet together, I will be bold to say, That such Termes of Peace, will speake for you before God, and will acquit you before all the World; They will be our comfort, if obteined, However, they will be our safety, though denied.
3. Lastly, For Gods House (the other which I mentioned) I humbly conceive, That the Arke to save it, may be made (as Times are now with us) of two Acts of yours:
1. One is, your Abhorring of the mentioning, yea, of the very thoughts of Tollerating all opinions in the Church; This were such a monstrous Prodigie! such an Intollerable way of Confusion! Such a mocking of the people of God! Such a mocking of God himself, To whom wee have all Solemnly engaged our utmost for Unity in Doctrine, and Uniformity in Discipline; such a speedy Grave for the Kingdome and Church, that mischief it selfe could not easily digge the like: Such a spirit to revive Arrianisme, Pelagianisme, the Turkish Alcoran, the Popish Hoast, &c. And yet I have seene walking Bookes, and Printed Books for this purpose: For my part (Right Honourable!) If God thinkes fit, I should rather wish to lie in my Grave, then live to behold such an intollerable Tolleration.
Most of the Arguments for this wildnesse of late, I have found heretofore used by one who stiled himselfe Martinus Bellius, a friend to that monstrous Heretick Servetus; all which are related and confuted by learned and pious Beza in his booke de Hæreticis a civili Magistratu punicndis:
2. The second is, Call upon the Assembly to hasten their worke, unto which you have summon'd them; bee pleased to command the sight of that Government, which you desire to have setled in the Church of Christ: If I mistake not, you may finde most of the Principalls agreed upon, as for the fillings up, let them (if time supply us) be debated at leisure: And that no more rubbs may lie in the way. If there be any party more considerable then another, use your Authority, that they may cleerly and fully represent the whole platforme of their Government, that wee may try it by the Infallible Touchstone of the Scriptures, where if it can indure the Tryall, and finde Approbation, wee will with all our hearts embrace it; If not, then neither they should, nor we, nor any else countenance or submit unto it.
And thus have I (as I trust) faithfully discharged my duty unto you this Day: If God will be pleased to incline your Hearts to regard what hath been said, I shall not doubt, but that an Arke of Safety will attend you, and all of us, notwithstanding all the dangerous Deluges which now threaten us.
Die Martis 22. Octob. 1644.
Ordered by the Commons assembled in Parliament: That Mr. Ashurst and Mr. Gourdon, doe from this House give Thanks to Mr. Obadiah Sedgwick, for the great paines he took in the Sermon he Preached this Day at the intreatie of this House, at St. Margarets Westminster, it being a Day especially set apart for a Publique Humiliation; and to desire him to Print his Sermon: And it is Ordered, that none shall presume to Print his Sermon without leave under his hand writing.
H. Elsynge Cler.
Parl. D. Com.
I appoint Samuel Gellibrand to Print this SERMON.