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covery and prosecution of a jesuitical plot; a design, it seems, to destroy the king, blow up your religion, and wrest the government out of your hands: in this, doubtless ye do, well; and all just care to preserve the peace of the kingdom from such mischievous conspiracies, is most commendable in you, and deserves and draws all due acknowledgments from honest and English minds: but, I beseech you, let God have a share in your concern; remember him, as well as yourselves. You confess this great discovery is only owing to his goodness; shall we be then more zealous for our own safety, than for his glory; who, when all is done, must save us, or we are lost? Let us make him our friend, who is stronger than the combinations of all our enemies; and guard ourselves against that which can only bring their evil devices to pass, (alas !) our sin. That is their strength, and the poison of their arrows; let us confess and forsake it; let us humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that it may not "grind us to powder." And truly, if our hearts were not harder than adamants, this testimony he has given us of his care over us, notwithstanding all our repeated provocations given to him, should break us into deep contrition. O let his long suffering prevail upon us to unfeigned repentance! then shall we stand clear men before God; and if so, he will quickly make our enemies to flee before us.
If there be any truth in sacred history, any credit to be given to Christian religion, or the experience of ages, this that I say of God and government is true: and it is our duty, yea, our interest, the truest and easiest way to safety. God has decreed," that nation and kingdom that will not serve him, shall perish, yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted." Isaiah 1x. 12. "But great is their peace, that love thy law: it shall go well with the righteous; but it shall go ill with the wicked:" upon them God hath threatened to rain snares, difficulties, perplexities; they shall not know which way to turn themselves. I am not against the use of means: men have not wisdom and power for nothing: but then let them use them in the fear and name of God: "Cursed is he that putteth his strength in man, and his confidence in the arm of flesh."* And in another place, "Wo to them that go down to Egypt for help, and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong: but they look not to the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord." It was his reproof to the nation that professed him, that they should seek to the stratagems, and rely upon the strength, of heathen na
* Isa. xxxi. 1, 2.
tions, rather than upon faith in him, the living God: and the reason he gives in the third verse is great, viz. "The Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit: when the Lord shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall down, and they all shall fall together." If, then, the hand of God be so much stronger than man, for the Lord's sake let us lay hold of it; let that fight our battles, and decide the controversy: "He that trusteth in the Lord, shall never be confounded." It was the saying of a great king, and a great conqueror, " By thee I have leaped over a wall, by thee I have run through a troop," &c. Psalm xviii. 19. Who preserved the Israelites from Pharaoh's fury, threw down the walls of Jericho, when the priests blew the ramshorns, and gave Gideon his mighty victories; with more of the like kind. And we must not think that God is altered, or faith is in itself weakened, that no wonders are reserved for the latter and Christian ages. The truth is, faith (generally speaking) is lost, and that holy confidence now-adays is esteemed presumption: it is become a principle, that "such things are not to be expected;" so that we shut up, or bar from ourselves, the true and most powerful way of deliverance. Let us not betake ourselves to the common arts and stratagems of nations, incredulous of the strength of the God of Israel, who is the God of true Christians too. O! that our faith may be greater than our arms! no matter for the strength of our enemies, if God be our strength: and truly, it is vain to acknowledge a Providence in human things, and not to confide in him, and rely upon him, that provides for us. "I was young," said David," and now I am old; but I never saw the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread :" it shall go well with the righteous. Therefore fear God, put away the evil that provokes him, and trust not in man, but in the living God, and it shall yet go well with England.
What noble feats did the ancients do by faith! and shall Christians have less than jews had? Is not God the same? Yes; he is unchangeable: but, alas! we are not the same; that is our mischief. Christ did not many mighty works in some places, because they believed him not: if our confidence be not in God, our hopes wil: prove vain, and our success will fail us. We shall but have men of our side, not God; flesh, and not spirit: and if we should be so unhappy as to make this our strength, both the helpers and helped will fall together. But let Nineveh teach us better things, and may her zealous king be the example of ours; and let all the people say amen! the suitableness of which
story to our present occasion makes me choose to end this first part of my address with it.
"For word came unto the king of Nineveh; yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. And he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sate in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh, (by the decree of the king and his nobles) saying, let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing; let them not feed, nor drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell, if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not. And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented from the evil that he said that he would do unto them, and he did it not." Jonah ii. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
O Gon! thou that workest wonders in the earth, whose power cannot be controuled, in whose hands are the souls of men, and the spirits of all flesh, who canst turn them in a moment: turn thou the hearts of king and people unto thee, and one unto another. Do thou proclaim a fast from sin throughout these sinful kingdoms: let wickedness and oppression find no place among us: turn away thy fierce wrath, wipe away our reproach, and love us freely, O God! for thy dear Son's sake.
THE SECOND PART.
Five capital Evils that relate to the Ecclesiastical State of these Kingdoms.
HAVING finished the first part of my address relating to the immoralities of the times, and left it with the civil magistrate, as, in conscience, I found myself obliged to do; whose peculiar charge it is, and I earnestly and humbly desire and pray that it may be his great care, effectually to rebuke them; I shall betake myself to the second part of this address, that more immediately concerns us as professed Christians and Protestants. But before I begin, I desire to premise, and do with much sincerity declare, that I intend not the reproach of any person or party; I am weary with seeing so much of it in the world: it gains nothing, that is worth keeping; but often hardens, what it is our duty to endeavour to soften and win. But if, without offence, I may speak the truth, that which, to the best of my understanding, tends to the present settlement and future felicity of my poor country, I shall, by God's help, deliver myself with the modesty, plainness and integrity, that becomes a Christian, a Protestant, and an Englishman.
Those capital sins and errors that relate to the ecclesiastical state, or church-capacity, of these kingdoms, and which are so inconsistent with Christian religion and purest protestancy, and that, above all, displease Almighty God, are
First, Making opinions articles of faith, at least giving them the reputation of faith, and making them the bond of Christian society.
Secondly, Mistaking the nature of true faith, and taking that for faith which is not gospel-faith.
Thirdly, Debasing the true value of morality, under pretence of higher things, mistaking much of the end of Christ's coming.
Fourthly, Preferring human authority above reason and truth.
Fifthly, Propagating faith by force, and imposing religion by worldly compulsion.
These I take to be the church-evils, that have too much and too long prevailed even in these parts of the reformed world and though the Roman church hath chiefly transcended other societies in these errors, and may, in a sense, be said to be the mother of them, she from whom they took birth, by whom they were brought forth, and have been propagated in Christendom, yet there hath not been that integrity to the nature of Christianity, and first reason of reformation from the papacy in our own country, as had been and is our duty to conserve.
Of Opinions passing for Faith.
FIRST, that opinions pass for faith, and are made articles of faith, and are enjoined to be embraced as the bond of communion.
That this is so, let us take the most impartial view we can, and we shall find it to be true, both of the national and many other select societies. That I may be understood in the signification of the word opinions, I explain it thus: 'Opinions are all those propositions, or conclusions, made by men doctrines of faith and articles of communion, which either are not expressly laid down in scripture, or not so evidently deducible from scripture, as to leave no occasion of doubt of the truth of them in their minds who sincerely and reverently believe the text: or, lastly, such as have no new or credible revelation to vouch them."'
That this is our case, let the several confessions of faith, published by almost every party in England, be perused, and you will find such propositions translated into doctrines of faith and articles of communion, as are, first, not only not expressed in scripture, but, perhaps, not well deducible from scripture and if one party may be but believed against another, we can want no evidence to prove what we say. And, in the next place, such as are, though not expressed, yet, it may be, deducible as to the matter of them, are either carried so high, spun so fine, or so disguised by barbarous school terms, that they are rather a bone of contention, than a bond of concord to religious societies. Yet this has been the unhappiness even of this kingdom, after all the light of reformation, which God hath graciously sent amongst us, Men are to be received or rejected for denying or owning of such propositions. Wilt thou be a presbyterian? Embrace and keep the covenant, subscribe the Westminsterconfession and directory: and so on to the end of every