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Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood.
THIS short prophecy, out of which I have selected this portion of scripture to discourse of upon this sad and solemn occasion, was uttered (as interpreters do conjecture, for know it certainly they cannot) about the latter end of the reign of king Josiah, or at least in the following reign of his son, but however some time before the Babylonish captivity, that being the great event which it foretells, and the chief subject of which it treats.
The whole prophecy contains in it these two parts: 1st, A double complaint made by the prophet: 2dly, A double answer returned to it by God.
1. And first for the complaint. The prophet cries out of the horrid impiety, the great perfidiousness, and general corruption of the Jewish nation, then grown to that height, that he was forced to invoke the justice of heaven against them, as being too strong for all human control, too big for reproof, and fit only to upbraid the means of grace by their incorrigible impenitence under them.
This loud and grievous complaint of his prophet, God answers with the denunciation of a severe judgment against the persons complained of, by bringing in upon them an army of the Chaldeans, that hasty and bitter nation, as they are styled in the sixth verse of the first chapter, persons that should act all the insolences upon them, that victory in conjunction with ill-nature could prompt them to: men whose hearts were flint, and their bowels brass; who knew not what it was to pity or relent, but were utter strangers to humanity, and uncapable of shewing compassion: but upon all these accounts so much the fitter to be instrumental to the divine vengeance, now enflamed against them, and to surpass, if possible, the severity of the sentence by the fierceness of the execution.
Which dreadful answer of God is so far from satisfying the prophet’s complaint, that it only exasperates his grief, and provokes him to another, in which he expostulates with God the method of this his judgment, that he should punish the wickedness of his people by persons so much viler and wickeder than themselves; that vice should be employed to punish sin, and that his church should be chastised, and, if you will, reformed by persons notable for nothing but blood and rapine, luxury and idolatry.
To this complaint also God is pleased to rejoin, and to clear the justice, equity, and reason of his proceeding, by shewing that it was not to be rated by the qualification of the instruments made use of in it; which instruments he would be sure to account with when they had done his work; and that, as he designed his people for the rod, so he designed the rod itself for the fire. He assures his prophet, and with him all pious and humble persons, who could lift their faith above their sense, that as Nebuchadnezzar and his army were not for any worth or piety in themselves suffered to captivate and trample upon God’s people, and to make havock of 211and vent their rage against the church; so that they themselves should infallibly have their turns in the course and circulation of divine justice, and be strictly reckoned with for their intolerable pride, their insatiable avarice, and their unhuman and remorseless cruelty, shewn in the spoil and waste they had made upon all nations round about them for the propagation of their empire, which they were still enlarging as their desires, and their desires as hell, as it is expressed in the fifth verse of the second chapter: for all this, I say, the prophet is assured that these victorious sons of Belial should pay severely, when God should think fit to rebuild Jerusalem upon the ruins of Babylon; and to convince the proud and the cruel, that he neither loves nor values his scourge, though he is sometimes constrained to use it.
The words of the text contain in them a woe or curse, denounced personally and directly against the great head of the Chaldean empire Nebuchadnezzar, but by consequence against the whole empire itself. The curse is both for the ground, object, and measures of it considerable: and therefore I shall cast the prosecution of the words into these five particulars.
I. I shall shew the ground or cause of this curse, which the text declares to be, that justly abhorred sin of blood-guiltiness.
II. I shall shew the condition of the person against whom this curse was denounced. He was such an one as had actually set up and established a government by blood.
III. I shall shew the latitude and extent of the curse, and what is comprehended in it.212
IV. I shall shew the reasons why a curse or woe is so peculiarly denounced against this sin.
V. And lastly, I shall apply all briefly to the present sad occasion.
I. And first for the ground and cause of the curse here denounced, which was the crying, crimson sin of bloodshed; a sin, in the hatred and detestation of which heaven and earth seem to strive for the mastery. The first great disturbance in the world after the fall of man was by a murderer; whom the vengeance of God pursued to that degree, that he professed that his punishment was greater than he could bear, though he himself could not say, that it was greater than he had deserved. Accordingly in all succeeding generations it has still been the care of Providence, both by civil and religious means, to extinguish all principles of savageness in the minds of men, and to make friendship and tenderness over men’s lives a great part of religion. But by nothing has this been so highly endeavoured, as by the rules and constitution of Christianity, the last and noblest revelation that God has made of his mind and will to the sons of men. In which all acts of fierceness, violence, and barbarity, are so strictly provided against, that there are few injuries in which patience and sufferance are not recommended instead of the most just and reasonable pretensions to revenge: nay, and so very tender is it of men’s lives, that it secures them against the very first approaches and preparations to murder, by dashing even angry thoughts, and denouncing damnation to vilifying, provoking words: so that we have both law and gospel equally rising up against this monstrous sin: and the sentence of both confirmed by the eternal 213voice of reason speaking in the law of nations: and so all passing this concurrent judgment, that whosoever sheds man’s blood, ought by man to have his blood shed. A judgment made up of all the justice and equity that it is possible for reason and religion to infuse into a law.
But now the execution of this law being upon no grounds of reason to be committed to every private hand, God has found it necessary to deposit it only in the hands of his vicegerents, whom he intrusts and deputes as his lieutenants in the government and protection of the several societies of mankind; and so both to ennoble and guard their sceptres, by appropriating to the same hands the use of the sword of justice too. From which it follows, that the law has not the same aspect upon sovereign princes, that it has upon the rest of men; nor that the sword can, by any mortal power, be authorized against the life of him to whom the sole use of it is by divine right ascribed. Upon which account, if it so fall out that a prince invades either the estate or life of a subject, that law, that draws the sword of justice upon the life of any private person doing the same things, has no power or efficacy at all to do the same execution upon the supreme magistrate, whose supremacy, allowing him neither equal nor superior, renders all legal acts of punishment or coercion upon him (the nature of which is still to descend) utterly impossible.
But what! does God then approve, or at least connive at those wicked actions in princes, that he so severely takes revenge of in others? No, certainly, the guilt is the same in both, and under an equal abhorrence with God, and shall equally be accounted 214for; but the difference is this, that while God punishes inferior malefactors by the hands of princes, he takes the punishment of princes wholly into his own: and surely no guilty person is like to speed at all the better for having his cause brought before him who has an infinite wisdom to search into, and an infinite power to revenge his guilt. It is God’s prerogative to be the sole judge of princes, and heaven only is that high court of justice, where kings can be legally arraigned, tried, and condemned. God has woes enough in store to humble the highest and the proudest tyrant, without needing the assistance of any of his rebel subjects; and therefore such courses for the curbing or pulling down of princes is neither the cause of God nor the defence of religion, but the doctrine of devils, and the dictates of that which in the judgment of God himself is worse than witchcraft. For be a king never so savage, bloody, or unjust, he is, under all these respects, to be looked upon as a plague or a punishment sent by God upon the people, whose duty I am sure is to submit, be the punishment what it will. And however, that nation is like to find but a strange recovery, be its distemper what it will, if its cure must be a rebellion.
II. The second thing to be considered is, the condition of the person against whom this woe or curse is denounced. He was such an one as had actually established a government and built a city with blood. We know that as soon as Cain had murdered his brother, he presently betook himself to the building of a city. And so indeed it falls out, that bloodiness has usually a connection with building, and that upon some ground of reason: forasmuch 215as men, by shedding of blood, are enabled to build cities, and set up governments; and then because such cities being once built, and governments set up, do secure the shedders of blood from the vengeance due to their sin. The person here spoken of I am sure eminently served his turn by his cruelty and bloodiness in both these respects, as having thereby reared, or at least hugely augmented the most magnificent city that ever was; even Babylon, the stupendous metropolis of the eastern monarchy, then the governess of the world: a city so strong and great, that it might well promise its builder sufficient defence against any mortal power, that should presume to call him to account for any of those slaughters and depredations, by which he had been enabled thus to build it. So that it is not for nothing, that the prophet here expresses the whole Chaldean monarchy by this city, which was of such incredible strength, glory, and vast dimensions, that it might well pass for one of the wonders of the world, and render it almost doubtful whether Babylon should be accounted in the Chaldean empire, or the Chaldean empire be said to be in Babylon. The account the world has had of the Assyrian monarchy, the first and greatest of all the four, is indeed but small and imperfect; but so far as the scattered fragments of antiquity have been able to inform us, we may guess at the unparalleled greatness of the structure by the magnificence of its remains. For if we consider the spaciousness of this city of Babylon, it is reported to have been about four hundred and fifty-eight of our English miles in circuit: yea, so exceeding wide and ample was it, that three days after it was taken, one part 216of the city knew nothing of what had befallen the other. The wall that encompassed it was two hundred cubits high, and so thick withal, that two coaches might meet upon the breadth of it. It opened itself at an hundred gates, and those all of brass; which whole wall was the work of Nebuchadnezzar, though falsely ascribed to Semiramis. Add to all this, the horti pensiles, art’s miraculous emulation of nature, that is, vast gardens and woods planted upon the battlements of towers, and bearing trees fifty foot in height: such prodigious instances of the grandeur of this city have the most authentic historians, both Greek and Latin, transmitted to us. So that Nebuchadnezzar might well vaunt himself upon the survey of such a mighty structure, as, in Daniel iv. 29, 30, we find that he does to some purpose; where we have him walking in the palace of his kingdom, and thus braving it to himself: Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of my kingdom, and by the might of my power? Words that sufficiently declare the speaker of them to have little regarded either God or man. And surely while he uttered them, he thought himself in a condition rather to rival and defy heaven, than to fear it, and far above the reach of all woes or curses.
But when God shall send a curse, it shall go with a vengeance, and make its way into the very heart of Babylon, climb its high walls, and break through its brass gates, and drive the tyrant with these very words in his mouth from his throne and all his imperial glories, to herd it with the beasts of the field, till a better mind should fit him for a better condition. For it is worth our observing, that God takes 219a peculiar delight to surprise and seize upon a great guilt in the height of its pride and bravery, and in the very midst of all its strengths and presumed securities. He delights to commission his curse to arrest a bloody Ahab, just as he is going to take possession of the price of blood, and to dash out the brains of a murderous Abimelech in the very head of his army. These are the triumphs of judgment, and the glorious trophies of blood-revenging justice.
III. The third thing proposed was, to shew the latitude and extent of this woe or curse, and what is comprehended in it. Concerning which, there is no doubt but it includes the miseries of both worlds, present and future. And if we go no further than the present, it is grievous enough, and made up of these following ingredients.
1. That it fastens a general hatred and detestation upon such men’s persons. For cruelty and bloodiness, armed with power, is the proper motive and the dreadful object of men’s fears; and fear and hatred usually keep company; it being very hard, if not impossible, to assign that person, who has not the same share and proportion in men’s hatred, that he has in their fears. Every man flies from such an one, as from a public ruin or a walking calamity, who, which way soever he turns himself, both looks and brings certain desolation. He converses amongst the living as an enemy to men’s lives; as a sword or a dagger, which the nearer it comes, the more dangerous it is.
Cruelty alarms and calls up all the passions of human nature, and puts them into a posture of hostility and defiance. Every heart swells against a tyrant, as against a common enemy of mankind, and 218blood rises at the sight of blood; and certainly it is none of the least of miseries for a man to be justly hated; for though it be tied up and restrained from its utmost effects, yet the very breathings of it are malignant, the silent grudgings and glances of it ominous and fatal. A great part of the happiness of this life is, to enjoy a free and amicable converse with such as live about us; and therefore an ingenuous nature cannot but account it a real plague, to see a cloud in every countenance he beholds; to observe the black and lowering aspects of a reserved malice, and, as it were, to read his doom in every face, and to gather his fortune from another’s forehead.
Who so hated as Cain, Nebuchadnezzar, Saul, Herod, and such other bloodsuckers? All the glory of their power and magnificence was smothered in the hatred of their cruelty, deriving a just hatred upon their persons: for it is the concernment of mankind, and of humanity itself, to abhor such destroyers. He that shews the power he has over men’s lives only by taking them away, must not think to command or reign over their affections.
Neither is this hatred without an equal scorn; for the same temper that is cruel is also sordid and degenerous, and consequently as fit an object for contempt. What so cruel, and withal so base, as a wolf? But on the other side, true worth and fortitude is never bloody. Gold, the noblest of metals, is healing and restorative; and it is only iron, the vilest, with which we wound and destroy.
Let this therefore be the first ingredient of the woe discharged against the tyrant and bloody person, to be universally hated and scorned; to go no whither, but with a retinue of curses at his heels; to 219be murdered in the wishes, and assassinated in the very looks of his subjects. He who is a monster, and an exception from human nature, may perhaps count this nothing, and say with Lucius Sylla, the murdering, proscribing dictator of Rome, Oderint dum metuant; but he that is sensible that man was born for society, that is, to love and to be loved, must in this case look upon himself as an outlaw and an exile from the converse, and consequently from the felicity and proper enjoyments of mankind.
2. The second ingredient of the woe here denounced against bloody persons is, the torment of continual jealousy and suspicion. He that is injurious, is naturally suspicious; and he that knows that he deserves enemies, will always suppose that he has them, and perhaps at length by suspecting come to make them so.
But now, is it not the height of misery thus like a wild beast still to fear and to be feared? for the mind to be perpetually struggling with its own surmises, and first to create torments, and then to feel them? The breast of a tyrant is like a sea, it swallows up and devours others, and is still restless, troubled, and unquiet in itself. Could Herod the Great be more poorly and basely unhappy, than to be afraid of poor sucking infants, and not to think himself safe in the throne, unless he stormed nurseries and invaded cradles? A kingdom can be desirable upon no other account, but because it seems to command more of the materials of happiness, and to afford greater opportunities of satisfaction to the desires of a rational nature, than can possibly be had in any inferior condition. But now what real happiness can that prince or great man find, that has 220his mind depraved into such a jealous, suspicious temper? What can all the enjoyments of a court or kingdom profit, when the tormentor within shall imbitter them all, and the paleness of fear and death sit perpetually upon his heart? What pleasure can it afford to cast roses into that bosom, that feels the gnawings of the wolf?
And therefore if the tyrant is brought to this pass, as to feel the reflections of his tyranny over others in that which his own jealousy exercises upon himself, and if his own thoughts plot and conspire against him, his very diadem is but a splendid mockery, his throne a rack, and all his royalty nothing else but a great and magnificent misery.
3. The third ingredient denounced against him that endeavours to raise and settle a government with blood is, the shortness and certain dissolution of the government that he endeavours so to establish. There is no way by which God so usually punishes villainous designs, as the disappointment of them, by those very methods and instruments by which they were to have been accomplished. It is, as I may so say, the great sport of Providence, to ruin unjust titles and usurped government by their very supports. But of all the means employed by tyrants for this purpose, there is none so frequently made use of, though none so often proves fatal to the user, as this of savageness and cruelty; innocent blood always proving but a bad cement to build the walls of a city with. For how do such governments pass the world like so many furious blasts of wind, violent and short! as it were out of breath and expiring with their own violence. How do tyrants, having by much blood and rapine advanced 221themselves to the sovereign power of a kingdom, like so many fatal comets, shine and blaze, and fright the world below them, in those upper regions for a while, but still portend their own downfall and destruction? For was it not thus with those traitorous captains of Israel, who kinged themselves by slaying their masters and reigning in their stead? How quickly was their usurped government at an end! How soon did they meet with others who did the like for them! Had Zimri peace, who slew his master? Such governments quickly fall and moulder away, like clods dissolved with blood.
Was it not thus also with Cinna and Marius, and afterwards with Sylla himself, who had nothing of Dictator Perpetuus but the name?
How soon was the family of bloody Saul extinct! And for Herod the Great, did not the same cruelty, for which he deserved to be childless, almost make him so? Archelaus, the only son he left, succeeding but to part of his kingdom, and that too but for a short time. And when afterwards Herod Antipas the tetrarch was routed, and lost all his army in a war with Aretas, king of Arabia, and when by the subtilty of Agrippa he was outwitted and outed of all, and also banished, Josephus himself says, that even the Jews ascribed all this to a divine vengeance upon him for the barbarous and unjust murder of John the Baptist.
And for the Jews themselves, does not Christ, in the very same place in which he foretells the ruin and destruction of Jerusalem, upbraid that bloody city with her killing God’s prophets, and stoning those that were sent unto her?
And lastly, whereas the high priest counselled 222the putting of Christ to death, lest otherwise the Romans should come upon them, and destroy both their nation and government; is it not evident to any one not obstinately blind, that the very guilt of his blood brought that destruction upon them from the Romans, who not long after sacked their city, burnt the temple, killed, crucified, sold, and dispersed the inhabitants; that is, used them as they had used Christ, till at length they took away both their place and nation? Woe to the bloody city, says the prophet, in Ezek, xxiv. 6.
The sin of blood is a destroying, wasting, murdering sin; murdering others, besides those whom it kills; it breaks the back of governments, sinks families, destroys for the future, reaches into successions, and cuts off posterities.
4. The fourth ingredient of the woe here denounced against the bloody builders of governments, is the sad and dismal end that usually attends such persons. He that delights to swim in blood, is for the most part at length drowned in it; and there is a kind of fatal circulation by which blood frequently wheels about and returns upon the shedder of it. How did Cyrus the Persian verify this by a peculiar significancy of death, having his head cut off, and thrown into a tub of blood! How did the fratricide Romulus die, being torn in pieces by the senate! How did Sylla expire in a murdering fit, causing one to be strangled before him in his chamber, and with that passion so disturbing himself, and enraging his distemper, that within a few hours he breathed out his own bloody soul!
And, to come to the sacred story, how did Samuel treat Agag? As thy sword has made many childless, 223so shall thy mother be childless amongst women. And then for Herod the Great, who so barbarously murdered those poor innocents; he died indeed in his bed, as well as our late grand regicide; but with so much horror and disaster, that for some days before he died, he snatched at a knife to have murdered, or rather to have killed himself; and so to have done that, which only wanted another and an higher hand to have made it a just execution. But upon none did the revenging hand of divine justice appear more signally than upon Herod Agrippa, mentioned in the twelfth of the Acts; who, to please the Jews, and thereby to confirm himself in his kingdom, having slain James, the brother of John, with the sword, proceeded to take Peter also. But we read in what terrible strange manner, even in the height of his pride and glory, he was smote by God, infested with worms, and made a living carcass; thus anticipating the effects of death, and suffering the curse of the grave before he descended into the ground.
Should I endeavour to give a full rehearsal of all such like instances, I must transcribe the stories of all times, which are scarce fuller of pages, than of examples of this kind. Blood seldom escapes revenge, since it is so easily followed and found out by its own traces. And thus much for the third thing proposed; which was, to shew the latitude and extent of the curse or woe here denounced against bloody persons, and the several plagues comprehended in it. I come now to the fourth particular, which is,
IV. To shew the reasons why a curse or woe is so peculiarly denounced against this sin.224
Many may be assigned, but I shall produce only these.
1. The first is, because the sin of bloodshed makes the most direct breach upon human society, of which the providence of God owns the peculiar care and protection.
Concerning which we must observe, that every man has naturally a right to enjoy such things as are suitable to and required by the rational appetites of his nature; in the due and lawful satisfaction of which properly consists his well-being in this world, which is every man’s birthright by an irrevocable charter from God and nature. For whosoever is born, has a right to live; and whosoever has a right to live, has a right also to live well. Now that men might the better secure both their lives or being, and withal compass such lawful satisfactions to themselves, as should be requisite to their well-being, they first entered into society, and then, to preserve society, put themselves under government. So that the end of society is a man’s enjoyment of himself, and the end of government is society. For in the first and most natural intention of it, no governor, merely as such, is made absolute lord of the lives or proprietor of the estates of those whom he governs, but only a trustee by God to secure them in the free possession and enjoyment of both. And therefore that governor that wrings away a man’s estate, or destroys his life, not yet forfeited to the community he lives in by any crime, is in God’s account a thief and a murderer, and so shall hereafter be dealt with by him as such; though in the mean time (as I said before) neither reason nor religion can authorize the subjects to revenge these injuries upon their governor.225
From whence we learn the reason why God so much concerns himself to punish the unjust shedder of blood; first, because he is the great trespasser upon human society, by being destructive to the lives of men; and next, because if he who is so chances to be a sovereign prince, there is no provision in the ordinary course of human justice to call such a destroyer to account.
As for the life of man, it is an enjoyment in comparison of which nature scarce values all others: this is the very apple of his eye, sensible of the least touch, and irrecoverable after the first loss. For if a man loses his estate, he may get another; and if he loses his reputation, he may perhaps recover it; or if he cannot, he may live without it, not very happily indeed, but yet he may live. But if the tyrant takes away his life, there is no retrieving of that; this sweeps away being and well-being at one blow: the dying man parts with all at one breath, and is but one remove from annihilation; not so much as his very thoughts remaining, but they also perish, Psalm cxlvi. 4.
And now when a tyrant by shedding blood has provoked civil justice, and by shedding so much has put himself beyond the reach of it, does not the matter itself seem to appeal to a superior providence, to invoke the justice of Heaven to make bare its arm in the behalf of injured and oppressed right?
Blood certainly shall not go unrevenged, though it be the greatest Herod that sheds it, and the meanest infant that loses it; though whole parliaments and armies shall conspire against the life of the innocent and the helpless. Briefly, it belongs to God, as the supreme governor of the world, to revenge 226 such grand and unnatural violations of the societies of mankind, committed to the tuition of his providence.
2. The second reason why God so peculiarly denounces a woe against the sin of bloodiness, is not only for the malignity of the sin itself, but also for the malignity of those sins that almost always go in conjunction with it, particularly for the abhorred sins of fraud, deceitfulness, and hypocrisy. The two great things that make such a breach upon the peace and settlement of the world are force and fraud. For all men that are miserable become so either by being driven or cheated out of their enjoyments. Hence the Spirit of God, in Psalm lv. 25, joins the bloody and deceitful man together. And does not Christ himself call Herod, that murdered John the Baptist, fox; a beast notable for his craft, as well as for sucking of blood?
If we look into history, we shall scarce find any one remarkably cruel, who was not also noted for his dissimulation. But we need not much trouble histories; for has not all the bloodshed amongst us, from the blood of the prince to that of the peasant, issued from the most devout pretences of reformation? Has not the nation been massacred by sanctified murderers, who came into the field masked with covenants and protestations, quoting scripture while they cut throats, and singing psalms while they plundered towns; destroying their prince’s armies and shooting at his person, while in the mean time they swore that they fought for him?
But this way and method of proceeding is but natural. For men must be first deceived out of their 227guards and defences, before they can be exposed to the utmost violences. The bird must be caught in the snare, and the fish beguiled with the bait, before they can be killed.
But now there is scarce any thing that God hates more thoroughly, and punishes more severely, than deceit and falseness; for it is most properly a defiance of God; who is always either solemnly invoked, or at least tacitly supposed, for the great witness of the sincerity of men’s dealings; and if men use not truth in these, the great bond of converse is dissolved.
No wonder therefore if bloodiness draw after it such a woe, having always such a sin in its company, and if the curse falls heavy, being procured by two of the greatest sins in the closest conjunction.
And thus much for the fourth particular, which was to shew the several ingredients contained within the compass or latitude of the curse or woe here denounced. I descend now to,
V. The fifth and last, which is, to apply all to this present occasion.
I shew at the beginning, that ever since the creation of mankind, God has all along manifested such a solicitous care for the lives of men, the noblest of all his creatures, that he has not secured them only by severe laws established against murder, but also by making kindness, mercy, and benevolence a great part of religion; and of all other religions, has he chiefly wove these excellent and benign qualities into the very heart and vital constitution of Christianity. By how much the more detestable, and for ever accursed, must those miscreants appear, who 228have slurred and bespattered the best, the purest, and most peaceable of all religions, by entitling it to all the rapines they have acted, and all the blood they have imbrued their hands in, as shed by the immediate impulse of God’s Spirit, and for the defence and preservation of religion! How much this nation has been concerned in this black charge, we need no other argument than this fatal day to convince us; on which was acted the most disloyal, barbarous, and inhuman piece of villainy, and that with all the solemn disguises of piety and religion, that mortal men were ever yet guilty of, since there was such a thing as sovereignty acknowledged, or such a thing as religion professed upon the face of the earth.
But to shew further how close and home the subject-matter of the text comes to the business of this annual solemnity, we will survey the correspondence that is between them, as to the three main things contained in the words. The first was a charge of unjust effusion of blood. The second was the end or design for which it was shed, namely, the setting up of a government. And the third and last was a woe or curse denounced against the person that endeavours to establish himself by such a course.
As for the first, we must know, that all unjust bloodshed is twofold. 1. Either public, and acted by and upon a community, as in a war. Or, 2. Personal, in the assassination of any particular man.
1. As for that which is public; it is as certain, that he who takes away a man’s life in a war, commenced upon an unjust cause, and without just authority, is as truly a murderer, as he that enters his 229neighbour’s house, and there stabs him within his own walls. And as for the late war, upon the account of all laws, both of God and man, whether we respect the cause for which it was raised, which was, the removal of grievances, where there were none, or the persons that carried it on, who were subjects armed against their prince, it was in all the parts and circumstances of it a perfect, open, and most barefaced rebellion. For not all the Calvins, Bezas, Knoxes, Buchanans, or Paraeus’s in Christendom, with all their principles of anarchy and democracy, so studiously maintained in their respective writings, can by any solid reason make out the lawfulness of subjects taking arms against their prince. For if government be the effect and product of reason, it is impossible for disobedience to found itself upon reason: and therefore our rebels found it necessary to balk and decry this, and to fetch a warrant for all their villainies from ecstasy and inspiration. But besides, if we translate the whole matter from the merit of the cause to that of the person, no people under heaven had less ground to complain of, much less to fight against their prince, than the English then had, who at that time swimmed in a full enjoyment of all things but a thankful mind; no prince’s reign having ever put subjects into a condition so like that of princes, as the peaceable part of the reign of king Charles the First: which indeed was the true cause that made them kick at those breasts that fed them, and strike at that royal oak under whose shadow they enjoyed so much ease, plenty, and prosperity.
2. The other sort of unjust bloodshed is, the assassination of particular persons: and had not our 230bloodsuckers their slaughterhouses and courts of mock justice, as well as the high places of the field, to act their butcheries upon? Strafford and Canterbury lead the way, both as forerunners of, and introductions to the shedding of a more sacred blood, the stain of which will dye the English calendar for ever, and the cry of which sober persons much fear continues still, and rings aloud in heaven, whatsoever arts have been used, and still are, to silence it here on earth. For it was the blood of one, who had those two things eminently in conjunction, either of which alone should be a sufficient safeguard to the life of him that has them, to wit, innocence and sovereignty. For innocence ought to protect the life of the meanest subject, and sovereignty to secure the person of the highest criminal. But we scorn that word when we speak of this blessed martyr, whose virtues were larger than his dominions, and will make his enemies more infamous than their own vices.
Blood therefore we see has been shed amongst us to some purpose: the first thing in which the text is answered by the business of this day.
The second was, the end or design for which the blood here spoken of was shed, namely, the erecting or setting up of a government. And was not the very same thing drove at by all our pious murderers? For out of the ruins of a glorious church and monarchy, and all those slaughtered heaps of men sacrificed to the cause of loyalty on one side, and of rebellion on the other, did there not at length rise up a misshapen, monstrous beast with many heads, called a commonwealth; a pack of insolent, beggarly tyrants, who lorded it as long as they were able, till 231 at length they were forced to surrender and pass over all their usurped power into the hands of their great Beelzebub, the prime rebel and regicide, by whom they had done all their mighty works? And so their commonwealth wheeled about again into a monarchy. All those rivulets of tyranny, as it were, emptying and discharging themselves into that great gulf or dead sea of all baseness, cruelty, and hypocrisy: a fellow that had torn and trampled upon all those obligations, either civil or sacred, by which human society does subsist; who, by abusing religion, breaking oaths, mocking of God, and murdering his prince, at length grasped the sovereign power of these three kingdoms, and then called himself their protector, with the same truth and propriety that a wolf or a bear may be said to protect the flocks they worry and tear in pieces.
So then, the parallel we see holds good thus far; that our villains reared themselves a government by the blood they shed, as well as those mentioned by the prophet in the text.
And now, in the third and last place, have they not, think we, also as full a right and title to the woe and curse there denounced in the same words? Yes, assuredly; there being no persons under heaven that more deserved to drink off the very dregs of God’s vengeance, and to empty all his quivers, than these monsters did.
As for the curse that befell these bloody builders of government, I shew, that it manifested itself eminently in two respects.
1. In the shortness of the government so set up. And was it long that these murderers of their prince possessed the government they so usurped? Within 232 five years their infant commonwealth expired; and in five years more Cromwell’s mushroom monarchy was at an end, in spite of all the prophecies of those impostors, that would lengthen out his life and government out of Daniel and the Revelations, telling him, that there was thirty years more generation-work (as they canted it) cut out for him; and that it was contrary to the methods of Providence, having raised up such an extraordinary instrument, to lay him aside, till he had finished his work. But God, who understood his own counsels better than such saucy interpreters, knew that this wretch had disturbed the world too long already; and so in his good time sent him to his own place.
2. Another part of the curse attending the bloody raisers of government, was the general hatred that always follows such persons. And of this I think our usurpers had as large a portion as ever light upon the heads of mortal men. For in the most flourishing estate of all their greatness they were encompassed with curses as well as armies; men being scarce able to keep down the inward boilings of revenge, and to restrain their tongues and hands from ministering to that fulness of hatred that swelled within their hearts. Men hated them even in the behalf of human nature, and for the vindication of common humanity. And still so much and so justly abhorred are they, that all the pardons and indulgences, all the good words, all the great offices and preferments that can be bestowed upon them, will never be able to sweeten their memory, nor rescue them from the detestation of all sober persons and true lovers of their country. And the truth is, to speak the severest words of these vipers is not (as 233some call it) a sacrificing to any personal heat or private revenge; but a real serving of the public interest of society, and the doing an act of mere charity to the innocent and to posterity, who, by hearing with what abhorrence such miscreants are mentioned, will dread the imitation of those villainies, that have derived such an odium and infamy upon the actors of them. Nor can I think that any one can concern himself against the ripping up of the baseness of the king’s murderers, even in the harshest, that is, the most proper terms, but such as have been either the relations, officers, or servants of that grand regicide, and consequently whose unlimited puritan-consciences will equally serve them to act and thrive under any government whatsoever.
But it is well that there is a punishment for villains in the general hatred of mankind; and this is the lot, this the punishment of our rebels: but as for any other penalties that use to descend upon traitors and murderers from the hand of human vengeance, these they have for the most part escaped, as having rebelled under a lucky star, which has prospered their villainies and secured their persons in this world, till the great Judge of all things shall recognise the cause of abused majesty and religion in another, and there award such a sentence upon the violators of them, as shall demonstrate to men and angels, that verily God is righteous; doubtless there is a God that judgeth the world.
To whom be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.234
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