Page images

destruction; yea, they have limited times thereof, to the shame of their prognostications. Some are full of revenge, and they threaten your ruin, and talk what a catholic interest is complicating, and rising up against you. Some are troubled at your proceedings,—that they are not in such equal paths as might be desired; as though that were a work and way of yesterday; as though we had not been turned and driven out of old tracks and paths above ten years ago; and as though the old paths were not so worn to the interest of a profane multitude, that it is yet impossible to keep the burden upright in them whose guidance you are intrusted with. Some say you will never be able to go through with the charge of your undertakings; ; as though God had never said, “The gold and silver are mine.” Should these things busy or distract you? Doth the issue of the business in hand depend on the thoughts of these men? Will the end be according to their contrivances? Have these things, indeed, any influence at all into the determination of this controversy? Will not this one consideration guide your hearts and spirits, when all these waves roll all together upon you? Yea, but the whole of this affair must be ordered, and will fall out, according as the presence of God is with us, or otherwise. “If God be with us, who can be against us?" How may you on this account triumph against all oppositions whatsoever!

Use 4. Fix, then, your thoughts on the things which lie in a tendency towards the confirming of God's special providential presence with you. You have heard of the tenure of it, the means whereby it is procured and retained: these things I have spoken to in general before. Besides your own dependence on God, and comportment with his providence, the things incumbent on you are such as respect either persons or things.

(1.) For persons, it is that which I have minded you of before, and which I shall do whilst I have life and opportunity to speak to you, or any concerned in the government of this nation, in public or private; because I know it is your life, your peace, your duty;-and that is, that the end and aim of all your consultations be the protection, encouragement, liberty of the seed of Jacob, the remnant, the hidden people,—those whom God hath owned, accepted, blessed, given his presence unto and amongst them. I plead not for their exaltation, promotion, preferment, I know not what; but charge it as your duty, to take care that they be not trodden under foot, nor swallowed up, nor exposed to the rage and contempt of the men of the earth. It is not this or that party of them that I speak of, but the generation of them that seek the face of God; whose cause alone it is, and not [that] of any other men, or frame of things, that is, through the mighty power of God, triumphant in these nations. They


are to God as the apple of his eye; and let their safety be so also to you, and you will not fail of the presence of God.


(2.) For things, they are either, [1.] The things of God; or, [2.] Men: of each a word.

[1.] For the things of God, or the public profession of religion in the land, my time is too far spent for me to enter into a serious discourse on the subject. Some things have of late been done, which, when envy, and anger, and disappointment shall cease to operate, the whole people of God in this nation will have cause to rejoice in.

Let it not be thought amiss, if I mind you of one part of the nation in especial: the example of the saints allows us a special regard to those of our own nation, our kinsfolks in the flesh. It is for Wales I speak, where the unhappiness of almost all men running into extremes, hath disadvantaged the advancement of the gospel and the progress of it, when we had great ground for the expectation of better things. Some are still zealous of the traditions of their fathers; and nothing, almost, will satisfy them, but their old road of beggarly readers in every parish. Others, again, perhaps out of a good zeal, have hurried the people with violence beyond their principles,—and sometimes, it may be, beyond the truth; and, as Jacob said, over-driving the cattle and young ones has almost destroyed the whole flock. Between complaints on one side and the other, I fearbetween misguided zeal and formality—the whole work is almost cast to the ground;—the business of Zion, as such, is scarce by any cared for. The good Lord guide you to somewhat for its relief, that those who are godly may be encouraged, and those that need instruction may not be neglected.

[2.] The things of man, or righteous administrations of justice in things relating to this present pilgrimage. These wheels, also, are you to set going. Many particulars lie before you, more will present themselves;—troublesome times have always produced good laws;your wisdom will be, to provide for good execution, that not only the generations to come, but the present, may eat of the fruit of your labours and travail




[ocr errors][merged small]

A GREAT event has occurred since the last two sermons, comparatively cheerful and buoyant in their tone, were preached. Oliver Cromwell is dead. His son Richard is in his place; but cannot fill it. The Parliament has been convened on the 27th of January 1659; and on the 4th of February Dr Owen is called to preach before it. It is most interesting to gather the spirit of the day from the scope and character of this discourse. In the last discourses, complacency in the peace prevailing in the country, and jealousy lest unseemly contention should renew the distraction and turmoil from which the nation has made its escape, are predominant characteristics. In the discourse that follows, it is easy to mark a spirit of anxiety as to the future developments of Providence. One emphatic sentence lays bare the very heart of the nation, heaving and throbbing with painful uncer. tainty in regard to the issue of public events :-“We have peace now, outward peace; but, alas ! we have not quietness: and if any thing may be done that may give us quietness, yet perhaps we may not have assurance.” The preacher, however, has not abated his confidence in God,-insists upon His presence and aid as the true source of hope to the nation, and of preservation from ruin,-shows that, from the multitude of the godly in the land, God's presence is still with the nation, and rejoices in the belief that they will prove to it “ as the ark in the house of Obed-edom, as Joseph in the house of Potiphar.” Whatever reasons might exist for the prevailing anxiety, Owen “encouraged himself in God;" and sought in this discourse to infuse into the minds of his hearers his own unshaken stead. fastness of faith.

It appears, from the dedication, that some exception had been taken to certain views which he had expressed in the sermon about civil government. The only passage in it which bears on civil government will be found at the foot of p. 466; in which he mentions, that although he does not think a man may not be lawfully called to magistracy who is not a believer, yet he had “no great expectation from them whom God loves not.” In the dedication he affirms that he had ad. vanced nothing which could “really interfere with any form of civil government in the world, administered according to righteousness and equity.”—ED.




I NEED not give any other account of my publishing this ensuing short discourse, than that which was also the ground and reason of its preaching,-namely, your command. Those who are not satisfied therewith, I shall not endeavour to tender farther grounds of satisfaction unto, as not having any persuasion of prevailing if I should attempt it. Prejudice so far oftentimes prevails, even on good soils, that satisfaction will not speedily thrive and grow in them. That which exempts me from solicitousness about the frame and temper of men's minds and spirits, in the entertainment of discourses of this nature, is the annexing of that injunction unto our commission in delivering the word of God: it must be done, “whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear.” Without, therefore, any plea or apology for whatever may seem most to need it in this sermon, I devolve the whole account of the rise and issue it had, or may have, on the providence of God in my call and your command. Only I shall crave leave to add, that, in my waiting for a little leisure to recollect what I delivered out of my own short notes and others' (that I might not preach one sermon and print another), there were some considerations that fell in exciting me to the obedience I had purposed. The desire I had to make more public, at this time and season, the testimony given in simplicity of spirit to the interest of Christ in these nations, and therein to the true, real interest of these nations themselves,—which was my naked design, openly managed, and pursued with all plainness of speech (as the small portion of time allotted to this exercise would allow),was the chief of them. Solicitations of some particular friends gave also warmth unto that consideration. I must farther confess, that I was a little moved by some mistakes that were delivered into the hands of report, to be managed to the discountenance of the honest and plain truth contended for, especially when I found them, without due consideration, exposed in print unto public view. That is the manner of these days wherein we live. I know full well that there is not any thing, from the beginning to the ending of this short discourse, that doth really interfere with any form of civil government in the world, administered according to righteousness and equity, as there is not in the gospel of Christ, or in any of the concernments of it. And I am assured, also, that the truth proposed in it inwraps the whole ground of any just expectation of the continuance of the presence of God amongst us, and his acceptation of our endeavours about the allotment and just disposal of our civil affairs. Let others lay what weight they will or please, upon the lesser differences that are amongst us on any account whatever; if this shield be safe,—this

« PreviousContinue »