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SERMON IV.

PREACHED AT THE

CONSECRATION OF DR. SETH WARD, BP. OF EXON.

JEREMIAH xv. 20.

I will make thee unto this people a fenced brazen wall: and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and deliver thee, saith the Lord.

I SHALL not pretend to derive episcopacy from the Old Testament, as some do presbytery from Jethro, in his humble petition and advice to Moses concerning the government of the Jews. Which presbytery, though some call the rod of Aaron, yet it more resembles those rods of Jacob, as being designed to midwive a piebald, mixed, ringstraked progeny of church-governors into the world. How ever, it is well that we see from whence it first came, even from Midian, an heathenish place, and unacquainted with the true worship of God, then confined only to the Jews.

But it is pity that the Old Testament does not describe the office of those elders, as well as mention the name; we reading scarce any thing of them there, but that some of them scuffled with Moses and Aaron in the classis of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. As also of their idolatry, Ezekiel vi. And of their private examination of Susanna in the story of Daniel; which book, though it be apocryphal, yet the practice remains authentic and canonical.

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I say, I shall not derive episcopacy from the Jewish model; though, if I would take their liberty to use allusions for arguments. I might argue a superintendency of bishops over presbyters from the superiority of the priests over the Levites, much better than they can found their discipline upon the word elder, catching at the bare letter, and. according to their custom, stripping the word from the sense: and also with much more probability than their corypheus in queen Elizabeth’s time argued their discipline from Psalm cxxii. 5, that in Jerusalem there are set thrones of judgment. By which it seems they would be kings as well as priests, and reign as well as rule, dashing the princes of the earth like a potter’s vessel, (an expression which they much delight in.) till, at length, they crouched to the holy discipline, kissed the rod of Aaron, and so acknowledged their elders for their betters.

But surely this I may argue solidly: that if God instituted such a standing superiority and jurisdiction of the priests over the Levites. then these two things follow.

1. That such a superiority is not in itself absolutely irregular and unlawful.

2. That neither does it carry in it an antipathy and contrariety to the power of godliness.

And yet upon these two suppositions, as upon two standing truths, all their calumnies are commenced; as if there were something in the very vital constitution of such a subordination, that was irreconcileable to the power of godliness. As in respect of the civil power, Calvin, in his commentary upon Daniel, chap. v. 21, that it is common to all kings to jostle out God from his government; a good plea for his abetting 56 the ejection of the lawful prince of Geneva from his government and prerogative.

But to come yet closer to the matter; I do not say that Jeremy was a bishop, nor, with an exact parallel, argue from one to the other. But we know, that, in things of a most different nature, we may yet so sever their peculiar, determining differences, as to leave some one general reason in which they may unite and agree; so here, setting aside the peculiar differences of the Jewish and the Christian economy, there is a general nature of government in which both correspond. And therefore, what concerned Jeremy, as a church-governor, may with good logic be applied to a bishop.

Though indeed the correspondence here may extend to more peculiar and personal resemblances; for might not our bishops lately take up and appropriate to themselves that complaint of Jeremy, in chap. xv. 10, I have wronged no man, I have neither lent on usury, nor have men lent to me on usury, and yet every man curses me? Were they not also, like Jeremy, persecuted from prison to prison, and, like him, traduced as secret friends and parties with Babylon, and put into the dungeon for their impartial speaking their consciences? And lastly, notwithstanding their piety, hospitality, and moderation, have they not, with Jeremy, seen a sad and uncomfortable issue of all their ministerial labours, and been forced to second their prophecies with lamentations?

But now to enter upon the words; we have in them these three things considerable.

I. God’s qualification of Jeremy to be an overseer in his church; I will make thee a fenced brazen wall.

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II. The entertainment that he should meet with in the administration of his office, they shall fight against thee.

III. The issue and success of this opposition, that, through God’s eminent and peculiar assistance, they should not prevail against him.

I. And first for the first of these, God’s qualification of Jeremy to his charge, I will make thee a brazen fenced wall. Now a wall imports these two things.

1. Enclosure.

2. Fortification.

1. It implies enclosure. God did not think fit to leave his church without enclosure, open, like a common, for every beast to feed upon and devour it. Commons are always bare, pilled, and shorn as the sheep that feed upon them. And our experience has shewn us, as soon as the enclosures of our church were plucked up, what a herd of cattle of all sorts invaded it. It contained, as commons usually do, both multitude and mixture.

God said to Moses, Pull off thy shoes, for the place upon which thou standest is holy ground; which command would have been but of little force amongst us, where the ground has been therefore counted common because holy; church-lands have been every one’s claim, free and common to all but to churchmen; even as common as the churchyard itself; one to be possessed by the living, the other by the dead.

And the offices of the church were as prostitute as her revenues; every one would be a labourer in that field from whence they expected so fair an harvest. Here a brewer, here a cobbler, there a butcher; a fair 58 translation from the killing of one flock to the feeding of another.

We have Christ comparing the kingdom of heaven, that is, the church, to traffick, to merchandise: but we might compare ours to a fair, in which there was a general confluence and appearance of all tradesmen; and he that had broke in any, presently set up in divinity.

Wherefore to stave off the profane intrusions of the rabble for the future, we must have an enclosure, and an hedge will not serve turn. So many rotten stakes of lay-governors will not raise a fence; an hedge that surrounds an orchard may harbour those thieves that intend to rob it.

No, one brazen wall, one diocesan bishop, will better defend this enclosed garden of the church, than a junto of five hundred shrubs, than all the quicksets of Geneva, all the thorns and brambles of presbytery.

2. A wall imports fortification. No city can be secure without it. It is, as it were, a standing inanimate army; a continual defence without the help of defenders.

There is no robbery, but the wall is first broke; no invasion, but it enters through the ruins of this. And therefore David puts up this for Sion in Psalm cxxii. 7, Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy bulwarks. Indeed it had therefore peace and prosperity, because it had walls and bulwarks.

Something must encircle the church that will both discriminate and protect it. And the altar must be railed in, not only for distinction but defence.

And such a thing is a church-governor, a well-qualified bishop. It is he that must secure the church, 59and not the little inferior pastors about him. There is as much difference between his protection and theirs, as there is between being encompassed by one continued wall, and by a rank of little hills.

It was Moses, and not the elders of Israel, that stood in the gap; and for our own parts, if we would determine upon whom to place our government, certainly, of all others, those persons are most unfit to stand in the gap that first made it.

We have seen now what is imported in this metaphor of a wall, as applied to a church-governor. Which title that he may make good and verify, there are required in him these three qualifications.

1. Courage, which leads the way to all the rest; a wall, nay, a brazen wall, will not sometimes prove a defence, if it is not well manned. Every church man should have the spirit of a soldier. And pray let us make an exchange; the soldiers have sufficiently invaded the ministers offices; let ministers now borrow a little of the soldiers courage.

Peter was a resolute and a bold man, and therefore fit to feed Christ’s lambs. But he that is timorous and flexible, apt to decline opposition when he can, and, when he cannot, to yield to it, will be jaded and rid like an ass; and, like a pitcher, he will be took and emptied by his own handle, to the ruin of the church and the reproach of his function. He will be used, instead of being obeyed; and men will make him their instrument, instead of their governor.

He that does not find in himself a courage to withstand the boldness and violence of a proud seducer or a popular schismatic, betrays his charge in the very undertaking it. A servile temper in any one is unworthy; but a spirit of servitude in the 60 place of government is unnatural: and he that fears does something more than serve: he wears his white in his timorous face, and therefore deserves not to wear it in his sleeves.

The greatest attempts in the world that have failed, have miscarried by the treachery of this one quality, irresolution. Fear is a base thing, it enslaves a man’s reason to his fancy; and for the most part proceeds from, but always looks like guilt.

And it agrees to no man living so ill, as to a prelate of the church; of whose qualities if we take a survey, we shall find that, though learning be his ornament, piety a necessary property, yet resolution is his very essence; and now, especially, is the want of it inexcusable, when the ground is firm under you, and the heavens, as yet, fair above you; and all the prudent and judicious for you, that are about you.

Shall those be able to nose and outbrave you, who take all their courage from guilt and from despair? They deride and tax you for bowing and cringing; pray therefore, whatsoever you do, do not bow and cringe to them.

2. There is required innocence and integrity. A brazen wall admits of no cracks and flaws; but that which is made of the baser materials of mud and mortar, of a corrupt conscience, and a corrupter conversation, it gapes into chinks and holes, and quickly totters, being weak and obnoxious.

Hic murus ahencus esto,
Nil conscire sibi.

Let our governors expect reproaches and calumnies, but being thrown at brass, they will never stick, upon mud they will; clay cannot mingle with brass or 61iron. And if men throw dirt, it will not fasten till it meets with dirt.

A bishop’s integrity is the best way to silence a factious minister. Let men first wash their hands in innocency, and then let them compass the altar.

In these stars of God’s right hand, it is their power indeed that gives them an influence, but it is their innocence that makes them shine. Unblameableness of life, an untainted pureness of manners, it defends the person and confirms the office; as cleanliness, it both refreshes, and, at the same time, also strengthens the body. Rust, it not only defaces the aspect, but also corrodes the substance; and a. rusty sword does execution upon nothing but its own scabbard.

Nothing that is vicious can be lasting; vice is rotten, and it makes so. Whatsoever is wicked is also weak; Ezek. xvi. 30, Since thou doest these things, how weak is thy heart!

The enemies of the church may fear your power, but they dread your innocence. It is this that stops the open sepulchre, and beats back the accusation upon the teeth of the accuser. The innocent white, it is a triumphant colour.

And believe it, when all these calumniators shall have spit their venom, it will be found, that an unspotted life will be to them both a confutation and revenge.

For sin they love, that is, to enjoy it in themselves, and to accuse it in others; but God forbid that we should so far gratify their malice, as to verify their invectives, or that any crime should sit blushing upon the mitre.

And certainly it were a strange and a shameful thing, to behold vice installed, debauchery enthroned; 62 and to have the whole transaction only the solemnity of an advanced sin and a consecrated impiety.

3. The third and last qualification that I shall mention is authority; it is to be a fenced, as well as a brazen wall. The inward firmness of one must be corroborated by the exterior munitions of the other.

Courage is like a giant with his hands tied, if it has not authority and jurisdiction to draw forth and actuate its resolution. Courage is nothing, if it is not backed with a commission.

There are those who absolutely deny any jurisdiction to belong to the church; affirming, that all the apostolical sanctions were rather advice than law; thus making the church-officers to be only like a college of physicians, who when they consult about, and determine any matter in physic, and prescribe to their patients, their prescriptions command no thing by way of authority, but only propose by way of counsel. Whence it is the less wonder, that Erastus, a physician, should endeavour to reduce the church to such an imaginary power.

Others, amongst which a person of great learning and discontent, though they proceed not to a plain, barefaced denial of the church’s jurisdiction, yet they deny the derivation of it from Christ; and derive it from the consent of the primitive Christians, voluntarily choosing governors and a government, and then submitting themselves to their jurisdiction.

But God forbid that the church should be forced either to follow Erastus’s prescriptions, or to try her title and plead her cause at an adversary’s bar.

Certain it is, that the New Testament makes mention of several acts of ecclesiastical jurisdiction performed by the apostles and others. And we find 63also several express speeches of Christ that do evidently endue them with such a jurisdiction. But we read not a word, that it came from any such consent, or voluntary submission of a company of Christians combining together, and choosing their own model; and it is strange that, in such a matter, the antiquary should so much recede from the judgment of antiquity.

But thanks be to God that our church has not only its jurisdiction from Christ, but also a superadded overplus of confirmation from the secular power, which has piously and prudently provided those laws, that will certainly bind up her breaches, and bring order out of confusion, if they be executed with the same courage with which they were enacted.

But if the governors and trustees of the church’s power fly back, and shrink, and bury a noble law as soon as ever it is born, may not those that made it object to us, that they would have healed us, but we would not be healed? May they not also use that speech of our Saviour to us, Behold, now your house is left to you desolate? You have lost your advantages, and overlooked your opportunities.

Does it become a man, with a sword by his side, to beseech? or a governor, armed with authority, to entreat? He that thinks to win obstinate schismatics by condescension, and to conjure away those evil spirits with the softer lays and music of persuasion, may, as David in the like case, have a javelin flung at his head for his pains, and perhaps escape it as narrowly.

There is a strange, commanding majesty in two 64 things, truth and law, and they are now both on the church’s side; but there is a dastardly poorness in guilt and faction, that will shrink before the face of justice and the aspect of authority.

And let faction look and speak big in a tumult, and in the troubled waters of rebellion; yet I dare vouch this as a truth of certain event, and that without the spirit of prophecy, that courage assisted with law, and law executed with courage, will assuredly prevail.

Come we now to the second thing, namely,

II. The opposition that the church-governor thus qualified will be sure to meet with in the administration of his office, expressed in those words, they shall fight against thee; and this they are like to do these three ways.

1. By seditious preaching and praying.

2. By railing and libels.

3. And thirdly, perhaps, by open force.

1. And first of all, they will assault their governors with seditious preaching and praying. To preach Christ out of contention is condemned by the apostle; but to preach contention, instead of Christ, certainly is most abominable. We have seen men preached into schism, lectured into sacrilege, and prayed into rebellion; the very pulpit has been made to undermine the church.

We have been robbed and plundered in scripture phrase, and have heard rapines and bloodshed not only justified, but glorified.

People in the mean time thronging to the church, not like doves to their windows, but like eagles to their prey; to have their appetites enraged, to have 65their talons whet against government, and their Consciences fired against whatsoever is constituted in church and state.

Read the collections of sermons upon their bloody thanksgivings, and their bloodthirsty humiliations, and upon other occasions before the two houses, which are so many satires against government, so many declamations against the church; every line and period almost spitting poison against monarchy, against discipline and decency; to the reproach of that exercise, to the shame of their calling, and (so far as it lay at the mercy of their practices) to the blot of Christianity:

I say, let any one read that collection, or, to speak more properly, that magazine of sermons, and then let him confess that it was the sword of the tongue that first drew and unsheathed the other.

He that would hear an invective against the ministry, let him not go to a tavern, to a camp, or to an exchange, but let him repair rather to a church. And when his occasions shall carry him to the market-town, to furnish himself with other commodities, if he would be furnished also with a stock of arguments against loyalty and the church, let him leave the market-place a while, and step aside into the lecture.

2. Their second way of fighting against the officers of the church will be by railing and libels. I may seem to commit an absurdity, I confess, in making this a different head from their preaching and praying. But, considering that they speak from the press as well as from the pulpit, and in other places besides the church, we must admit of this distinction.

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And for this way of opposition, by virulent, unseemly language, odious terms, and vilifying words, none ever improved their talent to such an height of perfection.

The reverend fathers of the church were the chief mark at which their virulence was levelled: and for these, the more moderate of their opposers were contented to call them by no worse names than whited walls, hypocrites, painted sepulchres, scribes and Pharisees, implacable enemies of godliness, limbs of Antichrist, retainers to the whore of Babylon. But others, who had a greater measure of this gift, be stowed upon them higher titles, as, devils incarnate, murderers of souls, dumb dogs; and some, that would tip their virulence with more than ordinary wit, have thought fit to call them dumb dogs that could only bark at God’s people.

I could give you a larger catalogue of these gentle, pious, Christian expressions, used by the brotherhood in queen Elizabeth’s days; though since much augmented with several additions and enlargements never before extant, by their worthy successors and true posterity; persons, whose mouths are too foul to be cleansed, and too broad to be stopped.

But they are in nothing so copious and eloquent, as when they amplify and declaim upon that old, beaten, misapplied theme of persecution. Which charge, if true, yet they, of all men living, were the most unfit to make it. But I shall not busy my self to confute, much less to retaliate their aspersions.

3. In the third and last place, they may oppose the governors and government of the church by open force; and this is fighting indeed; but yet the 67genuine, natural consequent of the other: he that rails, having opportunity, would rebel; for it is the same malice in a various posture, in a different way of eruption; and as he that rebels shows what he can do, so he that rails does as really demonstrate what he would do.

The reason of the thing itself does evince this, and, what is yet a greater reason, experience; and he that will not believe what he has felt, nor credit the experience of twenty years, deserves to undergo it for twenty years more.

As the trumpet gives an alarm to the battle, so bold invectives do as certainly alarm the trumpet; it is the same breath by which men utter the one and blow the other.

What insurrections, what attempts, what tumults they may make, we know not; but we know their principles, and we have sufficiently seen them illustrated in their practices; and therefore from what has been done, do but rationally collect what may.

We have heard much of the power of godliness, by which indeed is meant only the godly party being in power; and the godly party with them are those who have sworn the destruction of monarchy and of the church, and have bewitched the people with a fardle of strange, canting, insignificant words.

And let men know, that, notwithstanding the disguise of a whining expression and a demure face, there is no sort of men breathing who taste blood with so good a relish, and who, having the power of the sword to second their power of godliness, would wade deeper in the slaughter of their brethren, and with the most savage, implacable violence, tumble all into confusion, ruin, and desolation.

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The quicksilver of Geneva is a thing of a violent operation, and cannot lie still long, but it will force its vent through the bowels of a nation; and God grant, that it may be throughly purged out, before it becomes mortal and incurable: and give us the defence of a prudent jealousy, to beware of those whose loyalty and submission lies only in their want of occasion.

We have now despatched the two first things considerable in the text; in which, as in a set battle, we have seen the armour and preparations of defence in the first place, and the assault and opposition in the second. It remains now,

III. That, as in all fights, we see the issue and success, which is exhibited to us in these words; but they shall not prevail against thee.

It is a bold venture to foretell things future, be cause it is infamous to lie under the shame of a mistaken prediction, and some, if they had prophesied less, perhaps would have preached better.

Things future fall under human cognizance only these two ways:

1. By a foresight of them in their causes.

2. By divine revelation.

For the first of these, moral causes will afford but a moral certainty; but so far as the light of this shines, it gives us a good prospect into our future success.

For which is most likely to prevail, a force marshalled into order, or disranked and scattered into confusion? A force united and compacted with the strength of agreement, or a force shrivelled into parties, and crumbled into infinite subdivisions? A government confirmed by age, and rooted by antiquity, 69and withal complying with the conveniences of society, or a government sprung up but yesterday, and yet become intolerable to day; having the rigour, without the order of discipline; like a rod or twig, both for its smart and also for its weakness?

But besides the arguments of reason, we have the surer ground of divine revelation. God has engaged his assistance, made himself a party, and obliged his omnipotence as a second in the cause: I am with thee to save thee and deliver thee, saith the Lord. We have something more to plead than God’s providence, their old heathenish argument.

We have his word for our rule, and his promise for our support. He that undertakes God’s work, may, by a legitimacy of claim, challenge his assistance.

Yet neither are we destitute of arguments from providence, so far as they may be pleaded. For has God, by a miracle, raised a church from the dead, only to make it capable of a second destruction? has he buoyed it up from the gulfs and quicksands of faction and sacrilege, only to split it upon the rocks of a new rebellion? Has he scattered those mists of delusion, discovered the cheat of a long, religious fallacy, and so strangely opened men’s eyes, that he may more strangely put them out again? Or will Christ invert the order of his works, and having cured us, do another miracle only to make us blind?

No certainly; for as God does not create but with a design to preserve, so he does not deliver but with a purpose to defend.

But you will say, Does not our own late experience stare us in the face, and confute this assertion? For has not the church been exposed to the lust, fury, 70 and rapine of her adversaries? Have they not prevailed and trampled upon her? Have they not ruined, reformed, and torn her in pieces as they pleased? And what assurance have we, that what has been done already may not be done again? And then what will become of the truth of this, they shall not prevail against thee?

To this I answer two things, with which I shall conclude.

1. That even those enemies of the church, in the late dismal swing of confusion, did not prevail against her. For that only is a prevailing, that is a final conquest.

But this was only a cloud that hindered the sun shine for a while, but did not put out the sun. A veil drawn over the church’s face, not to extinguish her beauty, but to hide it for a time. In short, it was only an interruption, not an abolition of her happiness.

2. But secondly, I add, that he who is pillaged or murdered in the resolute performance of his duty, is not properly prevailed against.

It has been a constant tradition of the church, that Jeremy himself, to whom this very promise was made, was barbarously knocked o’ the head and killed in Egypt for his impartial prophesying; yet still this promise was the word of God, and therefore doubtless could not fall to the ground, however the prophet might.

There is a great deal of difference between a murder and a conquest.

So that should God again let loose the reins to the former tyranny; should he once more give the sword to faction, ignorance, and discontent, and arm the 71diabolical legion that lately possessed us, and has been since cast out; should he commission all this rabble to harass and run down the nation with plunders, bloodshed, covenants, and sequestrations; yet still God will verify these words to every faithful, courageous officer in his church, they shall not prevail against thee.

Such an one may be plundered indeed, and yet not undone; he may be sequestered, imprisoned, yea, and slain, and yet, according to the soberest judgment of reason, not conquered.

Some may now think that the work of this exercise is not discharged, unless directions are given for the management of the episcopal office; but I persuade myself, that our government advances none to this office, but such as are able to direct themselves. However I, for my part, had rather promise obedience, than proffer counsel to my superiors.

The business I undertook was to speak encouragement to those that shall sit at the stern of the church in such a discouraging age, and to tell them, that God will make them fenced brazen walls. And he that strikes at a wall of brass may maul his own hands, but neither shake nor demolish that.

Wherefore, let the furies of a new confusion break forth, let the spiritual trumpets sound another march to rebellion, and the pulpit drums beat up for volunteers for the Devil, and threaten the church once more.

Yet the governors of it may here take sanctuary in the text; and, with confidence from hence, be speak their opposers.

Who shall fight against us? it is God that saves. 72 Who shall destroy? it is the same God that delivers.

To which God, fearful in praises, and working wonders, be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.

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