By Obadiah Sedgwick
"Hitherto hath the Lord helped us" - 1 SAM. 7:12
London, Printed by J.R. for Samuel Gellibrand, and are to be sold at his Shop at the brasen Serpent in Pauls Church-yard. 1644
To the Honourable House of COMMONS assembled in Parliament at Westminster
The severall and strange Works of Divine Providence, which (in our days) appear thorow-out the Christian world, are a Theam worthy of the best Historians pen, and of the best Christians meditation: Although former Ages have not wanted variety of Experiences; (which their Ecclesiasticall Writers have gathered up and preserved for us) yet the singular Occurrences of this present Age afford Occasions of choiser Observation and richer Discourse: For, besides the various Turns in Germanie, and the many Floats in Scotland, and the Artificiall Desolation in Ireland, there hath also burst out such an Intestine Calamity within our own England, the like whereof our Ancestours never knew; although they had (sometimes) a large share in Broyls and Troubles. In all which heavie Accidents now begirting us, all sorts of men have let slip so much of men, and God hath laid out so much of God, as that a judicious and faithfull Collection of the Attempts by the one, and of Events from the other, would compile a Book (next to that of All Books) fullest of worth and use. And whether such an History of Providence (clasping at least the wonders of this time) would not be a fit Monument of Thanksgiving for your many and strangely-received mercies, I humbly submit (Right Honourable) to your Wisedom.
Of this I am confident, that such a Work (well done) would be as the golden Pot which preserved Manna, and (if I mistake not) The Picture of Policie, The Depths of Popery, The Sum of Men, The Account of Projects, The Map of Miseries, The Cries of a Church, The Pities of a God, and The Magna Charta of Miracles.
Now that Divine Providence which is an Eye to see All things, and a Wheel to turn All things, and a Hand to rule All things, for ever guide, and preserve, and prosper you and all who prize Jesus Christ and his Kingdom above All other things. So prays
Your daily Oratour
at the Throne of Grace and Mercy,
Die Martis, 9 April, 1644.
It is this day Ordered by the Commons assembled in Parliament, that Sir Will. Massam do give thanks, from the House, to M. Obadiah Sedgwick, for the great pains he took in the Sermon he preached this day at S. Margarets Westminster, at the intreaty of the House; it being a day of publike Thanksgiving, for the great Victory the Forces under the Command of Sir Will. Waller and Sir Will. Balfore had against the Forces under the Command of Sir Ralph Hopton: And he is to desire him, from this House, to print his Sermon. And it is Ordered, that no man shall presume to print his Sermon, without being authorized under his handwriting.
H. Elsynge, Cler. Parl. D. Com.
A Sermon preached at the thanksgiving, before the Honourable House of Commons, Aprill 9. 1644
Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: Thy blessing is upon thy people, Selah.
This Psalm suits with our present condition, almost through every verse of it; In the first verse David admires at the Number of his troubles, and at the reason of their quarrrell (Lord How are they encreased that trouble me? Many are they that rise up against me, vers. 1.) and this suits well with us, for what have the Righteous done that such a number rise up against us to take away our lives: Our enemies are many, But why are they so?
In the second verse you may read, their confident blasphemies, (There is no help for him, say they, in God.) As if God could not, or as if God would not helpe: And this suits with us again, for Davids enemies were not more blasphemous against his God, then our enemies are (at this day) against Our God, reproaching either his sufficiencie, or his fidelity to Succour us.
Under this malignity (in vers. 1.) and malediction (in vers. 2.) David applies himself to prayer (ver. 4.) and to dependance on his God (vers. 6.) Prayer, and Faith are the two Great wings of distressed Soules to fly aloft above the pride and rage of men: They are the Channels which let us in to our surest Harbour; And thus far also, it suits with us, for our distresses have raised our prayers (as the Deluge did the Ark) and our own insufficiencies have taught us to denie our selves, and to cast all our hopes on God; and truly a distressed person, or Nation, are neerest to Salvation, when they are neerest to the God of Salvation.
David (Notwithstanding all the malice, and plots, and number, and scoffings, and confidences of his enemies) Is yet delivered, and they are smitten (vers. 7.) Good men are not ruined, because hated and assaulted by wicked men, but preserved, & victorious, because loved, and helped by a good God; And this likewise (blessed be God) suits with our present condition: Wee can say as Samuel against the Philistines, Hitherto hath God helped us, or as the Psalmist for the troubled Church, Yet God is good to Israel; or as Jacob, after all sorrowfull endeavours; Joseph is yet alive.
Lastly, you have Davids acknowledgement, his humble, and thankfull acknowledgment of the deliverance and victorie, which he ascribes, not to his merits, but to Gods mercy; Not to his own policy, but unto Gods Wisdome; Not to his Commanders and Souldiers courage, but unto Gods Arm, his arm alone, (Salvation belongeth unto the Lord, vers. 8.) Not to me, Not to mine, Not to any, but unto the Lord.
And verely, this suits as well as any of the rest, with our present occasion;* For the Lord hath broken the shield, and the sword, and the battell for us: He hath been with us, and for us; It is He, He alone who hath wrought our Salvation, and therefore most meet it is, that we should hang all the glory of our Shields, upon his arm onely; which if we do Really performe, I shall not doubt, but that the last part of the Text, will (ere long) as fully suite with the distressed condition of our own and other Churches, Thy blessing is upon thy people, Selah.
The words of the Text contain in them, two parts:
A just acknowledgement of Salvation, both;
1. In the cause of it (Salvation belongs unto the Lord) Which words, are a finger pointing you to the Fountain; or a glasse representing unto you the originall of all your deliverances and preservations, They are of the Lord: And this David utters, not when he wanted salvation, but when he enjoyed salvation. Our own impotencies in distresses may make us to acknowledge this, when we need it, but it is humble thankfulnesse which makes us rightly to acknowledge this, when we possesse it.
2. In the effect of it (Thy blessing is upon thy people) some (I confesse) do read these words as a petition: q. d. Let thy blessing be upon thy people but (generally) they are read as an assertion, and as an addition to the former: as if David acknowledged a double mercy together; a privative mercy, in the former words, and a positive mercy in these words, q. d. O Lord! Thou hast not onely been a shield, to secure thy people from danger, but hast also been a Sunne, to prosper and increase them with blessing.
And therefore Luther, well observes upon this place; That there is as much, and more in God for his people, then there is in the enemies against his people; and David (as he conjectures) doth here oppose the one to the other: In the enemy there was destruction intended (verse 1.) but from God there is salvation extended to his people (verse 8.) Again, from the enemie there is expressed a malediction (ver. 2:7.) but from God there is a benediction conferr'd, Thy blessing is upon thy people.
2. A quickning excitation, in that word [Selah] which is like a stronger weight, to make the clock to strike lowder. Some think it signifies a direction, or hint, to the Musician, for a peculiar manner of singing; some think it a voice of elevation; some think it signifies a pause, or stop in Musick, for the judgement to consider, and the affection to work to a further height; as if this Salvation did require a solemn consideration, and a speciall degree of Thankfulnesse.
There are three Propositions, which the words thus explained, afford unto us, viz.
1. That the salvation of Gods people, belongs to God.
2. That God is the Authour, not onely of salvation, but also of benediction to his people; He will not onely deliver them, but will also blesse and prosper them: (But I shall not insist on this at this time.)
3. That Gods salvation of his people, is a work, worthy of solemn consideration, and speciall thankfulnesse.
I begin with the first of these.* That the salvation of Gods people, belongs to God himself.
I have read three Translations of these words,* and all of them (if I mistake not) very pertinent and usefull.
1. A Domino salus, Salvation is from the Lord: The Chaldee Interpreter falls upon this, and therefore renders it to this sense,* A facie Domini, liberatio est; and then they hold forth this Truth, That God is the efficient cause of his peoples salvation.
2. Domino est salus, The Arabique Interpreter drives at this, and therefore renders it, Tibi Dominè liberatio; our own Translation bends that way too; and then the words hold forth this Truth; That God, and none but God, is the cause of salvation.
3. Domini est salus, or the virtus salvandi, as well as the munus salvandi, is in God, and then they hold forth this Truth; That God is a most sufficient, and full cause of salvation.
First, Salvation comes from God, by way of efficiency: what else do those Scripture expressions imply, which stile God, The God of salvation, Psal. 85:4. and The Rock of salvation, Psal. 95:1. and The Wells of salvation, Esaiah 12:3. And likewise tell us, that He appoints salvation, Esa. 26:1. and Placeth salvation, Esa. 46:13. and Commands salvation, Psal. 44:4. as if all salvation were at his beck, lying in wait for his pleasure, rising up at his will, and springing forth at his voice.
There were some Heretiques of old,* whom St. Austin justly taxed,* who affirmed, That the good, and great, and invisible, and eternall God, confined himself to matters of eternall life, but for these secular and temporall businesses, they did appertain to the care and power of some other; But (as he well observes) the divine watchfull Providence, manifestly refutes so grosse an error, which doth not onely manage the great monuments of eternall salvation, but also disposeth the least moments of our temporall safety, In giving it to whom, and at what time hee pleaseth. Tis true, that this latter is (in the nature of it) infinitely inferiour to the former; Neverthelesse, for consolation, it mounts up to the same Authour: As the sprig on a tree, owes it self to the same root with the greatest limb.
But I shall not spend time, to confirm so clear a truth, which our prayers do acknowledge, and our praises must acknowledge, and even naturall reason doth acknowledge, if it riseth but thus high, to acknowledge a God, and him to be the first cause, and most universall good.
2. Secondly, Salvation belongs to God, by way of propriety; and this is one degree beyond the former; for now salvation is not onely entitled to God, but (if I may so phrase it) it is entailed to God: It is his (Precisivè) so his, as none else but his, and therefore if you diligently observe the Scriptures, you shall finde,
1. That hee layes claim unto it, and owns salvation (still) as his: My salvation is near, Esa. 56:1. Mine own arm brought salvation, Esa. 63:5. Thou didst ride upon thy horses, and thy charets of salvation, Hab. 3:8, 13.
2. Nay, he challengeth, not onely Idols, but all other things (disjoyned from him) as utterly unable to be salvation to us, which yet we (oftimes) conceive availeable thereto. The bow and the sword, you would think that these can save, but they cannot, Psal. 44:6. The strength of a man, you imagine that it can save, but it cannot, ibid. verse 3. No, nor the horse, for that's a vain thing to save, Psal. 33:17. Nor Princes, in them there is no help, Psal. 146:3. Nor an Hoast, though it be very great, Psal. 33:16. No nor yet a whole Nation, Lam, 4:17. No, nor silver and gold, Ezek. 7:19. No, nor wisdome, nor counsell, Esa. 29:14.
But you will say,* Certainly others may save men with a temporall deliverance and salvation, as well as God: Did not Joshuah save the Gibeonites? Did not God appoint Saul, to save his people out of the hand of the Philistines, 1 Sam. 9:16.
St. Austine took off this scruple long ago;* In tempor alibus angusti is per hominem subvenit Deus, salus tua ipse est, per angelum subvenit Deus, salus ipse tua est; 'Tis true, (saith he) By a man, or by an Angel, God doth sometimes save, but still it is God himself who is the salvation; men and Angels are but his finger, his instruments; the authority to save, and the efficacie of saving, are still proper to God.
And I beseech you, (Sirs) consider this Truth well; for as in our spirituall salvation, wee are proan to doat much on the power of our wills, so in our temporall salvation, wee are as apt to rely too much upon the power of creatures: And verily I fear, that many of our glasses have been broken, because wee have (thus) Ican'd too hard upon them: I wish you would remember but three Arguments, which will demonstrate, That no creature can save: viz.
1. Creatures cannot (of themselves) use their own abilities; ability is requisite to save, and an use of that ability; suppose an Army of many millions, round about you, If yet they were all asleep (as the Souldiers were about Saul) they could not save you: for Salvation, if it ariseth at all, It comes from ability as Acting it selfe, which failes in these, bound up with sleep: Souldiers and Commanders, They must have Wisedome, Strength, Courage, Resolution, &c. if they would save themselves or others, And all these must be exerted at that time, when they would save: but (Now marke) None of these can (as they please) use any of these abilities, when they come to acting, It may befall them, as it did the Chariots of Pharaoh, God took off the wheeles, and they could go no further: It is a frequent observation, that prudent men (who are so for habite) are many times infatuated when they should give present counsell to act a designe, and valiant men cannot (ofttimes) finde their Spirits, but stand like men amazed when they should put forth their strength to helpe and save; Beloved, the Lord doth many times put on a present courage on the faint-hearted, and many times hee takes off the present resolution of the mighty, and then they are but like a Clocke whose wheeles stand still, when the weights are removed.
2. Again, Creatures cannot Command their own apprehensions; Though they go out with intention to save, and with proportionable abilities, and are ready for the work, Nay are upon the work, yet a new apprehension may step in, and stop all, yea and loose all too. One fancy, and no more, a sudden transient imagination of fear, where no fear is, may amuse, may dismay, may disperse all. I will give you an instance for this: In 2 King. 6:25. the King of Syria gathered all his Hoast, and besieged Samaria, and brought them to the utmost distresses; But if you look into the next Chapter, you shall find them (in vers. 7.) suddenly to arise, and leave their Tents, and every man flies for his life: Why? what was the matter? how came this about? what did befall them? did any force issue out of the City upon them? or did any fresh supply unexpectedly break in upon them? Surely, nothing in the world but this, v. 6. The Lord had made the Hoast of the Syrians to hear a noise of Charets, and a noise of Horses and this noise, even this fancy (which they could not withstand) it alone was sufficient to terrifie and rout them.
3. Nay, but suppose the creatures were able to act their abilities, and were likewise exempted from those over-working imaginations, yet if God steps in, twixt them and their attempts, they cannot save, for either a greater power of the same kinde may break forth and overthrow them, (as the fourth beast in Daniel stamped upon the rest) or else God himself Co-working with a lesser power may over-master them. All second agents (you know) as they do act in the vertue of the first cause, so they do succeed and prosper according to the measure of its concurrence and influence. A little ship with a strong winde, gets on more then a greater ship with a slack Gale; And a little power assisted with a divine power, shall be able to do a thousand times more, then a greater power destitute thereof: Gedeon with three hundred men and God, were too strong for all the Midianites; and Asa with God, overthrew the huge Hoast of the Lubims that came against him.
The Heathen man spake as if hee had found something more then ordinary, which swayed events: Si Pergama dextrâ defendi possent, etiam hæc defensa fuissent; O faith hee, There was as much done as man could do, but yet it could not preserve Troy; for as Solomon saith, The race is not to the swift, nor the battell to the strong, Eccles. 9:11. And there is no wisdome, nor understanding, nor counsell against the Lord: The horse is prepared against the day of battell, but safety is of the Lord, Prov. 21:30, 31.
Thirdly, salvation belongs to the Lord by way of eminencie and sufficiencie; and that's the third sense of the words; for the Text doth not say onely, It belongs unto God to save, But salvation (it self) belongs unto him: and this is higher then both the former; this is as much as can bee said, or imagined. Salvation (in the abstract) belongs to God. This graspes up all the power of salvation, and all the kindes of salvation, and all the degrees of salvation, and all the cases of salvation, and all the methods of salvation, and all the seasons of salvation, and all the extents, and continuances, and progresses of salvation: whatsoever you can say of a salvation, and whatsoever you can imagine to make up a salvation, all of it belongs to God.
There are (if I can hit the meaning of that abstract) three singular hints in it:
1. That, not this or that particular only, but an universall salvation belongs to God. As Christ was able to save to the utmost, so God is able to save His people, with an absolute and full salvation; as much, and as often as they need; In the fire, in the water, in Egypt, in the Red-sea, in the Wildernesse: There is salus ad omnes effectus.
2. That not a low, and a confined salvation, but the highest degrees of saving are to be found in God, (salvation it self) salvation by means, without means, against means; ordinary salvation, and extraordinary, even to miraculous, and omnipotent, as is most evident in the Scriptures, and Ecclesiasticall Writers.
3. That not onely an intensive salvation, from some one speciall distresse, but also an extensive salvation (which respects any future danger) belongs to God. The calamities incident to the Church of God, are like the waves in the Sea, wherein one scrambles upon the back of another; and oft-times like Jobs messengers, one evill is no sooner off, but another renews it self.
Neverthelesse, salvation extends to all the calamitous exigences of the Church; not onely to those in former Ages, but to those in our present times; not onely to those now, but to all which shall at any time hereafter break out: And therefore you read of a continued salvation in the Scripture, of a genealogy, as it were, or descent from time to time: From Pharaoh, and then from the Amalekites, and then from the Canaanites, and then from the Midianites, and then from the Philistines, and then from the Syrians, and afterwards, from Hamans conspiracies, and after that, from the Babylonian captivity: You read elsewhere, of salvation from the Pagan persecution, and have seen much, and do expect a daily salvation from the Antichristian fury: And truely thus it will bee, whiles the world lasts: Gods hand is never shortned; his Love, his Providence, his Power, his Compassion, his Faithfulnesse are never diminished, nor abated by any action of himself, or revolution of ages and conditions: but are alike certain for his present people, as his forepast people: and are as fresh and vigorous for future cases; as for any experimentall exigents.
Second difficulties are no more to him then the first: The relieving of the Israelites, with flesh, was as easie to him, as Deliverance from Pharaoh at the Red-Sea: It is an exceeding dishonour to God when we limit his Power to such a degree, or his Will to such a work, or his Church-Providence to such an Age, whereas his Salvation is an arme which reacheth from the beginning of the world to the end: Wicked adversaries are not more able now to out plot God then heretofore; Nor to overcome God; then heretofore; Nor to command and dispose events then heretofore; And as God in all Ages will retain his Authority over all the sons of men, so in all the successions of Church-Distresses, he retaines the same sufficiency and Affection for them: It shall for ever be found true, That Salvation belongs unto the Lord.
This assertion (seriously considered) may serve in admirable comfort and seasonable encouragement to all the distressed and oppressed Churches of Christ;* Malice and Subtilty belong to your enemies; troubles and weaknesse belong to you, but Salvation belongs to God, and (which is the soul of all confidence) this God is your God: Our God (saith David) is the God of Salvation: It belongs,
1. To God who, 1. Is an infinite wisedome, and therefore knows every* distresse of yours, and your most proper succour, and every channell or method to convey it, and likewise every season or time to dispense it.
2. Is a soveraign and sufficient power (Twice have I heard this, That power belongs to God: so Psal. 62:11.) which neither borrows help from the arm of flesh, nor receives check from the pride of man: The divine goodnesse is heart enough to raise gracious intentions, and the divine power is hand enough to command glorious Executions: The creature is neither a foot-stool to help, Nor yet a block to hinder God, who is an infinitenesse without the creature, and above the creature, and beyond the creature.
2. To your God: 1. In Relation as a Father: and certainly a Father wants not willingnesse to save and help his child: and
2. In obligation as a* debtor, you have (If I may so phrase it) his Bond to save you harmlesse: and now as the promise of Salvation belongs to you, so the performance of that promise belongs to him: Let me sum up all; Salvation belongs to God, and you belong to God, and Salvation belongs to you; and what can you have more?
In the next place,* This may also be an unspeakable amazement to the Enemies of the Church, their condition is desperate, and attempts hopelesse: If Salvation belongs to God; they may conclude, It shall never belong to them: Salvation is far from the wicked; Oh ye Enemies of God and his Church! Why do ye thus rage? Why do ye take Councell together? Why do ye draw out the sword? Why do you flatter your selves with confidence of successe? Know ye not that Salvation belongs to God, and that for his people?* Know ye not that vengeance also belongs to God, and that for his Adversaries? Are ye able to reverse the purposes, or mis-place the hands of the Almighty? Shall you be heirs of Salvation, who are children of perdition? Will God prosper you, deliver and secure you? did ever God give Salvation to the cruell adversaries of his Church? Remember Pharaoh, remember Senacherib, remember Herod, remember Julian, &c. when you have tryed and done your utmost, you shall confesse that all in the Arke were safe, and all without the Arke were lost: your greater malice shall (in the event) procure a greater Salvation to the Church, and a greater damnation to your selves. But I cannot insist any longer on this first proposition, give me leave to peruse the next point, couched in the word [Selah] which David subscribes unto this thankfull acknowledgment of Salvation: whence observe,
That Gods Salvation of his people,* is a work worthy of solemn consideration, and speciall thankfulnesse.
I shall onely explicate the first part of this Proposition, the second part (which respects thankfulnesse) I shall reserve to the application: concerning the first part, I will discusse two Quæres. 1. What things are or may be remarkable in Gods Salvation of his people. 2. What Arguments may be presented to a solemn consideration of that Salvation.
1. Q. What things are especially considerable in Gods Salvation of his people.
Sol. I answer, that amongst many other, these Five:
1. Unlikelinesse; when sence is at a losse and carnall Reason is puzled, then (usually) doth God save his distressed people; and then too, by such means and instruments which seem either contemptible or inconsiderable: there is this visible difference (ordinarily) twixt the Actions of men and those of God: men presse out Instuments which carry some proportion with the greatnesse of the work which they do intend, but God accomplisheth his work by Instruments which (as so, and in themselves) are the unlikeliest in the judgement of the world.
That superlative Salvation of mankinde was effected by one who had no beauty nor comelinesse,* by one from whom we hid our faces, as the Prophet speaks:* That singular Reformation in Germany was (instrumentally) managed by one, whom Krantius (and many others) thought more fit to pray in his Cloyster then to attempt such an impossible service: and yet that slighted and contemned Luther, did so shake the Popes chair, that to this day he cannot sit safe in it.
And then usually doth God exert his saving virtue in the Temporall acts of Providence for his people: instances thereof are obvious; Gedeon but with 300 men saves Israel from the Midianites: Jonathan with his Armour-bearer saves Israel from the Philistims, I think there is not an Observation more common with us at this time, than to see great works done by mean agents, and where the agents are many, yet a few onely of them pickt out for the work, and all the rest layd aside: The reason of which (I conjecture) may be this, God will so save his people, as withall he will save his own glory: and his glory is most conspicuous, where instruments are least considerable: That work entitles it self most to God, for which the Instruments are most unlikely.
2. Contrariety; in the Temporall saving of his people, God (frequently) carries matters after that manner as he doth in their spirituall Salvation: when he intends to advance a soul as high as heaven, then he seems to cast down the soul as low as hell: and he ushers in the dearest consolations (commonly) after the deepest humiliations and conflicts: this method he (many times) observes in the temporall deliverance of his Church; Their Salvation is not nakedly after their distresses, but Salvation is (usually) at the door, when there is nothing to be seen but their desolation: when the Israelites were in worse condition than before, even then are they ready for a redemption: when David is a concluding that God did cast him out of his sight, and his foot was even slipping, then did God hear him, and held him up: when all the day long it was a kinde of darknesse, yet towards evening (when men look for nothing but compleat darknesse) then it was light Zach. 14:6, 7. When Peter was sinking then Christ stretched out his hand: when the Jews condition in Babylon (and else-where) was like a dead condition, yet that was the time of their reviving and deliverance: when an Army is crying out, We are lost, yet then God (oft-times) steps down and saves.
3. Easinesse: It is nothing with thee to help (said Asa, 2 Chron. 14:11.) whether with many, or with them that have no power: Beloved, before God puts out his salvation, the wheels are clog'd, and mountains lie in the way, difficulties stand up in their strength; one thing or other is an hinderance, but when God will bring salvation, now the work is easie, it comes off without any more adoe: Every thing is easie to him who is without all weaknesse, and above all opposition: Why criest thou unto me (said God to Moses, Exod. 14. ver. 15, 16.) when the Sea was before the Israelites, and the Ægyptians behind them, Lift up thy Rod, and divide the Sea: No more but so, and there was a way of deliverance. We know not what to do, said Jehosaphat (2 Chron. 20:12.) and wee have no might against this great company, presently a Prophet is sent with a message, (in ver. 17.) Yee shall not need to fight in this battell, stand you still, and see the salvation of the Lord; and (verse 21.) the enemies are all overthrown. We may be in straits, but God is not, who discerns all wayes, and commands all events.
4. Suddennesse: There is a perfection of wisdome in God, and all is ripe in him; when he comes to act, hee deliberates not of any new occurrence about acting; and therefore hee is very quick in working; the work is many times done, before wee think he is doing of it: And this is observable in the salvation of his people; It is (frequently) a sudden work: Mordecai and the Jews, how suddenly saved! but by the reading of one Record, and the delivering of one request from Hester; Hezekiah and Jerusalem, how suddenly saved! but one Angels service, and in lesse then one whole night an hundred fourscore and five thousand of the Assyrians were slain: There was but one cry unto God by Abijah, and the battell was turned,* and Jeroboam with all Israel are discomfited;* The turning of the captivity of Zion was so sudden, that they were like them that dreamed; It was so quick a Turn, that they were amazed at the truth of it.
5. Seasonablenesse: Gods salvation is never too soon, nor yet too late: Hee designes a time for our works, and ever hits the time in his own; hee sometimes defers, but never misseth time; still it may be said, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, in a day of salvation have I succoured thee. Six times (ordinarily) he pitcheth upon,* for the saving of his people: 1. When difficulties are strongest: 2 When their strength is lowest: 3. When their hearts are humblest: 4. When their prayers are ferventest: 5. When their faith is simplest: (fixed onely on God, Master, save us, or else we perish:) 6. When their enemies are highest in rage and pride:* Now is it a time for God to work;* now hee appears indeed as a God; his people will say so, and his enemies too.
But you will say,* What need is there of such a pausing Selah? of such a solemn consideration upon Gods saving of his people?
Arguments inducing us thereto may be these:
1. If it were no more but this,* because salvation is a work of God, it were fit for us to consider it; There can come nothing from him which is not worthy of himself, and of our beholding. If God were pleased to look back on what himself had wrought in Creation, surely it is more meet for us to reflect on the works of his saving Providence towards us; The works of his favour, are as considerable as the works of his power.
2. But besides that, There is not one act of salvation, wherein all the glories of heaven appear not, and (many times) all the graces on earth: All the glorious Attributes of God do center (as it were) in a saving Action: There may you behold his mercifulnesse, in a tender help; his wisdome, in a seasonable help; his power, in a mighty help; his faithfulnesse, in a sure help; yea and his justice, in the scattering and confusion of the adversaries of his people: There also may you behold the acceptance, and vintage, and returns of your believing, humbling, praying souls: In a day of salvation, you may gather up all the arrows which you have shot, and all the seed which you have sowen; All your Ambassadours (on that day) return from heaven, and in those saving effects plainly tell you, how all your suits have sped.
3. Consideration of what is past, may bee a strength for what is future:* Whether we consider of his salvation, or not, it is an Action; but if wee do consider of it, now it is a support; for consideration makes it an experience, and experience turns it into a support in after distresses.
There are three things which area great strength to our faith: 1. Gods promises, which are therefore stiled, strong Holds, and Anchors, and Harbors, and strong Towres. 2. Other mens experiences in their straits: A God tried and found faithfull, and sufficient, gains more confidence. 3. Our own experiences, which are the tastes of divine promises, and such fruits as end not in present comfort, but tend to future encouragement. O (said reverend Musculus)* keep this sentence in minde, this sentence, Domini est salus; You do not imagine (saith he) what a strength this will bee to your faith, to your hope, to your prayers, to your patience, Retinete hanc sententiam cordibus inconcussam; Let this sentence be engraven on your hearts, &c.
4. Lastly, such a consideration, is an excellent means to make us thankfull: That which is shallow in our apprehensions, will never bee deep in our affections; for all our praises are measured, not so much by the blessings themselves, as by our estimation of them. There are four sorts of persons which cast an eye upon the present mercies: 1. Some look on them as matters of chance and fortune; these persons are a kinde of philosophicall Atheists. 2. Some look on them, as Isaac and Rebecca did on Esans wife, as a burden and vexation; Gods goodnesse to his Church, makes them more sullen, envious, and malicious. 3. Some look on them, as the births, and sole production of humane wisdome and courage: mercies make these more proud and carelesse. 4. Others look on them, as the sweet effects of Gods free love, tender compassions, mighty arm, and faithfulnesse; mercies make such, and such onely humble, and thankfull: They are most thankfull to God, who can see most of God in their salvations.
Thus have I dispatched as much of the Text,* as the time and your patience can well afford me leave; I will now descend to the usefull applications of all this to our present occasion, and then I shall conclude.
You are met here this day (right Honourable and Beloved) to do Angels work, to performe the service of heaven, to do such work as Christ did, to do such a work as all the people of God are to do: I thank thee, O Father, said Christ: They in heaven are filled with God, and filled with his praises: The saints on earth are a blessed people, and a blessing people; They are still praising of thee, so David speaketh: This is a work very comely for us, and very delightfull with God. There is a three fold sacrifice, in which God much delights. 1. Sacrificium expiationis, which is the blood of Christ. 2. Sacrificium contritionis, which is the broken heart. 3. Sacrificium gratulationis, which is the thankfull soul. Lord (said Bernard) I have two mites; A body and a soul,* O that I could perfectly present them unto thee for a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
Beloved, if we must be thankfull for affliction, should wee not bee thankfull for salvation? If any mercy should make this musick, should not the greater mercy raise it? If one mercy should, what should a cluster of mercies? If any people on the earth, much more may you say, Salvation belongs unto the Lord: God hath been salvation of the Parliament, and in the Parliament, and for the Parliament; Salvation at Edge-hill, salvation at Redding, and Causam, salvation at Gloucester, salvation at Newbery, salvation in Cheshire, salvation in Pembrokshire, salvation in the North, salvation from severall treacheries, and salvation from open hostilities; and here (amidst many) an emminent salvation, in the late battell twixt your forces and the enemies, at Cheriton-down: Your God is the God of the hills, as well as of the valleys; The hills have indeed been hills of salvation to you, and the valleys have brought forth salvation for you.
Psal. 107:21. O that men would praise the Lord, for his goodnesse, and for his wonderfull works to the children of men.
Verse 22. And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoycing.
And truely Sirs, if we look clearly upon this late Victory, and survey it in the full nature, and proper circumstances of it, we may justly say, that salvation belongs to God, and exceeding thankfulnesse belongs to us.* There were six things very observable in this Victory which befell you.
1. It was a remembrance of us in our low estate: O give thanks to the God of heaven, who remembred us in our low estate,* for his mercy endureth for ever. It was a salvation after a three-fold humbling:
1. Gods humbling of us, in our defeat and losse at Newark; A great losse there, and a great reparation here: there a wound, and here a plaister; a frown in one place, and a smile in another place; one week tidings of grief, and next week tidings of joy; God would not suffer boasting to breath long in the mouthes of his adversaries, nor suffer sadnesse to lie long upon the hearts of his servants; we may say as David once,* Thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded mee with gladnesse, To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent.
2. Our own humbling of our selves: Never did any man lose comfort by mourning, or hopes by praying; So neer was the time of our rejoycing, to the time of our humbling, as if the Prophet had literally intended our present condition,* Hosea 6:1. Come and let us return to the Lord, for hee hath torn us, and he will heal us: He hath smitten us, and he will bind us up: After two dayes will he revive us, in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight: The space of our humbling was literally no longer distant from the day of our Reviving.
3. The Humbling of our Army which fought this battell, and prevailed: For I am well informed that your Army (at least the choise of them) did set a solemn day of Humiliation apart to wrastle with God, before they contended with his enemies: And this puts me in minde of the practise of the Israelites, when they went forth against the Benjamites:* (a case very answerable to yours) They fought and were discomfited; They Fasted and Prayed, and fought, and now they are victorious. O Sirs! an Humbling Army, a praying Army, a God-trusting Army, that is the Army which is able (in some sense) to overcome God, that is the Army which is most likely to overcome men: we may say of this course as David once spake,* In my distresse I called upon the Lord, and cryed unto my God; he heard my voyce out of his Temple, he delivered me from my strong enemie, and from them that hated me; Therefore will I give thanks unto thee.
2. It was a victory after the enemies highest confidence, who (like those in this Psalm) said of David, There was no help for him in his God: So confident was the enemy of successe, that divers of their Commanders (who were taken or slain) had Commissions found in their pockets, for raising of more Forces against us in Sussex and Kent: But events shall be as God will have them, and not as his Adversaries design them:* For God ruleth by his power for ever, his eyes behold the Nations, let not the Rebellious exalt themselves, Selah: He will keep the Feet of his Saints,* and the wicked shall be silent in darknesse, by strength shall no man prevaile: And therefore let not the strong boast any more in his strength, nor the cruell boast any more in mischief, Their mischief, shall return upon their own heads; For Salvation is of the Lord!
3. It was a Victory after a mutuall Appeal to God: and this is very remarkable, That each Army by the words they gave out, did put themselves upon God that day; and entitled themselves, with his Name, and his cause, and his service:
The Enemies Word was, God is for Us.
Our Word was, God is with Us.
So that both sides seemed to Appeal unto God: He is for us, say they: He is with us, say we: We both Appeal to heaven, and let God decide it, let him by the event determine the Quarrell: much like that of Joshuah, who when he came neer to Jericho, saw a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshuah went to him and said, Art thou for us,* or for our adversaries: and he said, Nay, but as a captaine of the Hoast of the Lord am I now come: And verily brethren, the Lord himself in that day of our battle, seemed to decide the great doubt, and to resolve the question, which side was right; whose cause was his: who were for him, and who against him: And such a division after such a serious Appeal, may serve to inform the wavering, and amaze the obstinate, and to animate the hearts of all his servants: for If God be with us, who can (or should) be against us?
4. It was a Victory after a long dispute and much fear: the beginning was sad, the middle was doubtfull, but the conclusion was comfortable and Victorious: the battell was much like all our work hitherto; up and down: a wavering ballance, like that day in the Prophet, where The light was neither clear nor dark; not day nor night: yet it was a day known to the Lord, and at evening it was light. Such a day was this day of battle. In the morning our Army seemed more then men; at noon lesse then men; in the afternoon above men: for then, when we were weakest, when we were lowest, then did God arise, then did God stretch out his hand; then gave he a speciall wisedome to our Commanders to espy the way; then gave he speciall courage to our Souldiers to prosecute the way: Then did he fill our enemies hearts with fears, and scattered them: It was onely the Lord, onely the Lord who commanded deliverance for Jacob: And is not all this worth our thanks?
5. It was a Victory with little losse, very little losse on our side: They say, not above 40 of our men slain, and at least 400 of the Enemies: The Enemie was greater in number, and far greater in losse. There was a victory once which one had over an Elephant, who yet was slain by the fall of the Elephant which he slew. Our Victory might have been such a Tragedy, that nothing had been left unto us but the name of a Victory: Our chief Commanders might have been slain, (one of whose lives is worth many thousand of others) but you have a victory with a scratch onely of your Army, with the safety of all your chief Commanders, not one hair of their heads is fallen to the ground: your Enemies are scattered, and your bow still abides in strength, and almost all your arrows safe in the Quiver.
6, Lastly, It was a victory, which proved not onely a losse to your Enemies, but also a speciall preservation to all your Neighbouring friends: and to the City (which hath been so helpfull and faithfull to you) and to your very selves also: It hath prevented a world of cries and teares, and desolations: If God had not at this time been the God of your Salvation, where had we been? what could you have done? what Reserve was there to have opposed or checkt the over-flowing rage of a blood thirsty Enemy? The Lord hath pittied us, and helped, and saved us for his own sake: ô that we could blesse him, him who hath been, and is, and I trust for ever will be the God of our Salvation.
And now (Right Honourable, &c.) let us with David consider, What we shall return to the Lord for all his benefits towards us: you have had some time to consider of your mercies, will you take some time to consider of your returns? All mercies are sweet, yet stong Obligations: the duties which now concern you are these.
1. Take up the cup of Salvation: many take of the cups of healths, but do you take up the cup of Salvation; Salvation is a sweet cup to drink of: God hath blessed you, Now do you blesse God: Give All the glory of this Salvation (and of the rest) to God alone: you will loose you mercies, if you be fingring the glory of them: Do not ascribe this Salvation to your own Wisdome: (you are wise enough to see your own over-sights) Nor to the strength of your Army, (they are humble enough to confesse their own weaknesse) Nor to your own deserts, (you are conscious enough of many sins) Not unto us O Lord,* not unto us, but unto thy Name do we give glory, for thy mercy, and thy truth sake.
2. The next is, live better: The best life is the best thankfulnesse: it is not altogether in observable, That the Israelites mercifull deliverance, is made the Preface to the Ten Commandements: Certainly Gods mercies should better our hearts,* and quicken our duties: I beseech you (saith Paul) by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living Sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.* Saint Austine upon the 15 verse of the 50 Psalm (call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorifie me) brings in a person who pretends thankfulnesse after deliverance, Surgam quotidie, pergam ad Ecclesiam. O saith that person, Now I will rise every morning, and go to Church and pray, and sing &c. Well (saith Austine) this is something but this is not enough; Fortè lingua tua Benedicit, sed vita tua maledicit: Your lips do praise God, but what if thy life doth curse God? O friends, take heed of a thankfull tongue which yet is joyned with an unthankfull life: we should Learn righteousnesse when judgements are upon the earth, and should we not learn Godlinesse when mercies are upon our habitations? when mercies and Judgements both are upon us? wicked lifes after mercies, will be a speedy grave to our comforts; and a sudden Tide of greater sorrows.
3. Learn to put your confidence on God all the dayes of your life, though you should be brought low, though you should meet with any more losses, though you should see matters more doubtfull and difficult than ever heretofore, yet pray, and yet trust on your God: Remember that of David,* Because he hath inclined his eare unto me, Therefore will I call upon him as long as I live:* Remember that of the Prophet, Trust in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength. It is our great unhappinesse that the sense of a mercy stayes but a little time with us, and that the strength of a mercy quickly departs from us; every next distresse is sufficient to disarme us of all promises, and of all experiences: what God hath done doth not encourage us to expect what God will do: but every new wave raiseth up our old feares, our former doubts, our ancient despondencies of spirit: O that we could be humbled for our great unbeleefe, and get more strength of faith from more acts of Providence! Remember that a lesser Army was made victorious over a greater; that a trembling Army was made victorious over a presumptuous Army: That an Army of yours which seemed to be conquered at the first, did yet conquer at the last: and then in future tryals and streits do not say, All will be lost, because we are but few, or weak, or inclosed, or distressed: Answer all Objections by Knees of prayer, and eyes of faith: God hath the scales still in his own hand: Povidence is an everlasting care and Rule: nothing was too hard for God, nor is, nor ever will be: My hand (saith he) is not shortned at all: There is no end of his greatnesse, and his mercy endures for ever: He who did deliver David from the Bear and from the Lyon, could and did also deliver him from that uncircumcised Philistime.
4. Rejoyce in fear: Victories must make us thankfull, but they must not make us secure: Bernards advise to a friend of his (although intended by him for matters spirituall, yet it is pertinent also to matters temporall) Pariter in te sint, fiducia & timor; An eye of faith is good, and so is an eye of circumspection too: It is not good when fears cast faith under feet; nor is it safe when faith casts fear out of doors.
It was a brave commendation, which I have read, given to one of our Saxon Kings:
Si modò victus eras, ad crastina bella parabas:
Si modò victor eras, ad crastina bella pavebas.
Losses did not part him and his courage; nor did victories part him and his providence. I read in 1 Kin. 20. of a victory which Ahab obtained over Benhadad; in verse 22. there comes a Prophet to him and said; Go strengthen thy self, and mark, and see what thou dost, for at the return of the year, the King of Syria will come up against thee. You need no Prophet to fore-tell you such a thing as this, you have sufficient intelligence of your enemies rallying of themselves, therefore go presently and strengthen your selves;* And (with your favour) I will tell you of seven things which will strengthen you, and all who take part with you:
1. Self-deniall: What a reverend Divine once spake on that Text, (I pray not for the world) What? will not Christ pray for the World? Now I pray God (said hee) that never a man of the world bee here. In some sense I would apply this to you: I wish that none of you had any one friend in the world; any one kinsman in the world; yea in the same sense I wish, that there were no preferment, no office, no place for any one of you: my meaning is onely this, that you would intend nothing, minde nothing, contend for nothing but the Publike; onely to save the ship, and then you will save your selves and all the rest. Let Religion and the Kingdom bear down all personall respects and ends whatsoever.
2. Unity: Boards glued together, are safety, but rent asunder, serve onely for a shipwrack: I know not how pleasant division may be in Musick, sure I am, It is wofull in a Church, and fatall in a State. There are three mischiefs which division will create unto you: 1. It will hinder you, and so you shall lose your season: 2 It will weaken you, and so you shall lose your designes: 3. It will (in the end) crush you, and then you will lose your own Honours, and all your expectations. Vespasian and Titus besieged Hierusalem, and took it; so did the Great Turk, Constantinople; so hath the Emperour glean'd up the Princes of Germany: In all which, Historians observe, They were first cut asunder by their own divisions, and then easily cut down by the enemies sword. I had rather my particular opinion were buried in the dust, and my private interest were laid in the grave; Then, at this time, to pursue either the one or the other, to the hazard of a Kingdome, and of all the Churches of Christ.
3. Candidnesse: It is the fairest word I can think on: I intend it in opposition to jealousie: Our times are strange times! wee can hardly trust our God, our friends, our selves; and yet the danger is much alike, to be over-suspitious, or to be over-credulous: Some men do nothing at all, but make and un-make men: unable to direct, and yet busie to suspect Counsels and State affairs: This man is not right; that man means not well; such a failing was a Plot; such an overture is a meer designe to thwart another, &c. A thousand hard thoughts and words; in which I pray God, the highest spring be onely ignorant fearfulnes, and the intention be not a mischievous contrivance. For my part, as Moses wished, That all the Lords people were Prophets, so do I wish, That all of you were most faithfull, and most valiant, and most eminent; yoe I think that no man shall erect unto himself a standing trophy of glory, by scratching, or envying the fame and dignity which another hath purchased by well-doing, although misconstrued; needlesse jealousies, tend only to damp friends and to make enemies.
4. Sincerity: Master (said that poor man to Christ for his childe) if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us: Why Sirs? you see what rents there are in the Church, what confusion in every Town, what sad expectations set on every mans thoughts; what plots yet of Papists, what falshood yet in friends? what supplies yet from Ireland? what cries yet come to your Houses from the remnant in England? Why? if ye can do any thing, any thing, put out your wisdome, draw out your zeal, lay out your thoughts and spirits; act your work like a work unto which you have entitled Law, Liberties, Kingdome, Conscience, Religion, God, and have bound your selves with all that's sacred to God or man; And therefore I beseech you, stir up your hearts to do all you can, and be doing when you do.
5. Courage: How daring are your enemies in a bad cause? be ye as couragious in a good cause: You have justice on your side, and Religion on your side, and divine promises on your side, and multitude of prayers on your side, and God himself on your side: The Lord is with you, and is for you, and he will be with you, whiles ye he for him: one God for you, is more then all the world against you.
6. Encouragement: Punishments and rewards dispose of the whole world: Many persons have served you from the first to the last; none of the meanest in birth, none of the lowest in parts, not inferiour to any in fidelity, in resolution, in pains, in successe; They have sacrificed their honours, their estates, their friends, their children, themselves to the Publike: Good words are the least returns for good works: I say no more, but think of Solomons saying, Thy friend, and thy fathers friend forsake not: Encouragement binds your old friends, and maks new.
7. Speed: Slownesse in Martiall affairs is as dangerous as rashnesse: I have heard of a brave Commander, who marched thorow a Princes Countrey, whiles He was deliberating what answer to give him. High time it is for Ships to be floating at Sea, and for Armies to be marching in the fields: You hear what forces are already raised within the land against you; you hear continually what landing there is of the Popish Rebels, who come to fight for the Protestant Religion; you hear how forward your Brethren of Scotland are in your Assistance: Why? whence is it, that your work is but beginning, when it is high time it were done? God (I confesse) can work wonders, but men must use meanes: Three delayes I approve not; That of a persons repentance; That of a Churches Reformation; nor this of a kingdoms defence: Some perhaps will censure this freedom of speech, but this I know, I speak to such as are wise, and my desires are faithfull, unto which if you be pleased to incline, then as you have now reason to say, Salvation belongs to the Lord, so ere long, you shall have further cause to add, And thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.