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To the right honourable the Commons of England, assembled in Parliament.
It hath always suited the wisdom of God to do great things in difficult seasons. He sets up walls in troublous times, Dan. ix. 25. His builders must hold swords and spears, as well as instruments of labour, Neh. iv. 16. Yea, while sin continueth in its course here (which began in heaven, and, having contemporized with the earth, shall live forever in hell), great works for God will cause great troubles amongst men. The holy, harmless Reconciler of heaven and earth bids us expect the sword to attend his undertakings for and way of making peace, Matt. x. 34. All the waves in the world arise to their height and roaring from the confronting of the breath of God’s Spirit and the vapours of men’s corruptions. Hence seasons receive their degrees of difficulty according to the greatness and weight of the works which in them God will accomplish. To their worth and excellency is man’s opposition proportioned. This the instruments of his glory in this generation shall continually find true, to their present trouble and future comfort.
As the days approach for the delivery of the decree, to the shaking of heaven and earth,203203 Heb. xii. 26, 27; Dan. vii. 27. “Ego nisi tumultus istos viderem, verbum Dei in mundo non esse dicerem.” — Luth. and all the powers of the world, to make way for the establishment of that kingdom which shall not be given to another people (the great expectation of the saints of the Most High before the consummation of all); so tumults, troubles, vexations, and disquietness, must certainly grow and increase among the sons of men.
A dead woman (says the proverb) will not be carried out of her house under four men. Much less will living men of wisdom and power be easily and quietly dispossessed of that share and interest in the things of Christ which long-continued usurpation hath deluded them into an imagination of being their own inheritance. This, then, being shortly to be effected, and the scale being ready to turn against the man of sin, notwithstanding his balancing it, in opposition to the witness of Jesus, with the weight and poise of earthly power; no wonder if heaven, earth, sea, and dry land, be shaken, in their giving place to the things that cannot be moved. God Almighty having called you forth, right honourable, at his entrance to the rolling up of the nation’s heavens like a scroll,204204 Isa. xxxiv. 4, 5. to serve him in your generation in the high places of Armageddon,205205 Rev. xvi. 16. you shall be sure not to want experience of that opposition which is raised against the great work of the Lord, which generally swells most against the visible instruments thereof.
And would to God you had only the devoted sons of Babel to contend withal, — 130that the men of this shaking earth were your only antagonists, — that the malignity of the dragon’s tail had had no influence on the stars of heaven, to prevail with them to fight in their courses against you!206206 Rev. xii. 4. But “jacta est alea,” — the providence of God must be served, according to the discovery made of his own unchangeable will, and not the mutable interests and passions of the sons of men. For verily “the Lord of hosts hath purposed to pollute the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth,” Isa. xxiii. 9.
The contradictions of sinners against all that walk in the paths of righteousness and peace, with the supportment which their spirits may receive (as being promised) who pursue those ways, notwithstanding those contradictions, are in part discovered in the ensuing sermon. The foundation of that whole transaction of things which is therein held out, in reference to the present dispensations of Providence, — being nothing but an entrance into the unravelling of the whole web of iniquity, interwoven of civil and ecclesiastical tyranny, in opposition to the kingdom of the Lord Jesus, — I chose not to mention. Neither shall I at present add any thing thereabout, but only my desire that it may be eyed as the granted basis of the following discourse. Only, by your very favourable acceptation of the making out those thoughts, — which were the hasty conception, and, like Jonah’s gourd, the child of a night or two (which, with prayer for a rooting in the hearts of them to whom they were delivered, had certainly withered in their own leaves, had they not received warmth and moisture from your commands in general, and the particular desires of many of you, to give them a life of a few days longer), — I am encouraged to the annexing of a few lines, as a free-will offering to attend the following product of obedience.
Now, this shall not be as to the opposition which you do and shall yet farther meet withal; but as to the causes, real or pretended, which are held forth as the bottom of that contradiction wherewith on every side you are encompassed.
The things in reference whereunto your procedence is laden with such criminations as these sad days of recompense have found to be comets portending no less than blood, are first civil, then religious.
For the first, as their being beyond the bounds of my calling gives them sanctuary from being called forth to my consideration; so neither have I the least thoughts with Absalom of a more orderly carrying on of affairs, might my desires have any influence into their disposal. Waiting at the throne of grace, that those whom God hath intrusted with, and enabled for, the transaction of these things, may be directed and supported in their employment, is the utmost of my undertaking herein.
For the other, or religious things, the general interest I have in them as a Christian, being improved by the superadded title of a minister of the gospel (though unworthy the one name and the other), gives me not only such boldness as accrueth from enjoyed favour, but also such a right as will support me to plead concerning them before the most impartial judicature.
And this I shall do (as I said before) merely in reference to those criminations which are laid by conjectural presumptions on your honourable assembly, and made a cause of much of that opposition and contradiction you meet withal. Now, in particular, it is the toleration of all religions, or invented ways of worship, — wherein your constitutions are confidently antedated in many places of the nation; the thing itself, withal, being held out as the most enormous apprehension, and desperate endeavour, for the destruction of truth and godliness, that ever entered the thoughts of men professing the one and the other. The contest hereabout being “adhuc sub judice,” and there being no doubt but that the whole matter, commonly phrased as above, hath (like other things) sinful and dangerous extremes, 131I deemed it not amiss to endeavour the pouring a little cold water upon the common flames which are kindled in the breasts of men about this thing. And who knows whether the words of a weak nothing may not, by the power of the Fountain of beings, give some light into the determination and establishment of a thing of so great concernment and consequence as this is generally conceived to be? What is in this my weak undertaking of the Lord, I shall beg of him that it may be received; — what is of myself, I beg of you that it may be pardoned. That God Almighty would give you to prove all things that come unto you in his way, and to hold fast that which is good, granting you unconquerable assistance in constant perseverance, is the prayer of,
Your devoted Servant
In our dearest Lord,
Coggeshall, Feb. 28.
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