Behold, ye are all children of Israel; give here your advice and counsel.—Judges 20.7.

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The Second Sermon of

MR WILLIAM GUTHREY.

On Hoſea XIII. Ver. IX.

—But in me is thy help.

IT would ſeem that the Lord in his Providence hath so ordered things, and drawn them to such a period, that he intended I should close the Scripture of Matthew, before I should leave you, that thereby you might learn somewhat of the Doctrine of the Cross, and of the hazard of relinquishing his cause. I did scarce look to have got leave to give an account of that Scripture to the end; and when that was done, that he had but two other words to speak to you by me; one word anent your sin, and that ye are your own overthrow, and that God is not to be blamed for it: and another word anent your help and relief, that though it be so, that you are the cause of your own ruine, and that you have destroyed yourself, yet you are bound to hope for relief in him, when there is no other to help you.  It seems that God had these two words to speak to you, which no man or power could hinder, till these were delivered.

Ye have heard to what a low condition the Church may be brought, and what ever hand God may have in it, and adversaries that are instruments of it, yet her {25} members are chiefly to be blamed for their own overthrow: And God will have all sorts and ranks of persons Noblemen and Gentlemen, bond and free, rich and poor, Ministers and people, Godly and ungodly particularly convinced of these sins, whereof they are guilty, whereby they have destroyed themselves, and the Church; so that he hath not left himself without a witness, and happy shall he be, who shall bear the impression of these ay [ever] till he come.

Now the other word he hath to speak to you is, But in me is thy help.  If the first word have left a deep impression upon your heart, I could with much confidence speak to the second.  These words are not only a ground of encouragement to the poor people of God, the remnant in their low condition; but they are also a vindication of the Majesty of God, that he is free of their destruction, and not to be blamed for it.

We shall speak of them, first, as they are a vindication of the Majesty of God, that he is not to be blamed for their destruction, but in me is thy help.  The words may be rendered in the bypast time, but in me is thy help: so any evil that is upon you, ye may blame yourself for it, for in me thy help hath been, and yet still is.

Here observe, that the Lord hath left abundant testimonies and witnesses at his people's door, that he is not to be blamed for their destruction, or for any misery, calamity or sorrow, that is upon them, for in me thy help hath been, I have been ay [ever] good to you, I appeal to your own consciences, whether or not I have helped you many times, when ye have been low, and whether or not I have given you many favourable casts of my hand, so that ye have no cause to blame me.  God is flyting free [freely scolding] with his people, that he is not to be blamed, these Scriptures and the like prove it, wherein {26} have I weared thee? [Micah 6.3.] have I been a wilderness to you? [Jer. 2.31.] hitherto hath God helped. [1 Sam. 7.12.]

In prosecuting this Doctrine, I shall shew you:  1. What ways people do reflect [wrongly] upon and blame him in their condition.  2. What Testimonies God hath to produce for himself at the hand of his Church, especially at the hand of his Church of Israel, that he is not to be blamed, which will be very applicable to us.  3. Why did the Lord (who is not tied to render an account of his ways) condescend so far as to satisfy his people, in shewing them that he is not to be blamed.

To the first, What ways do people reflect upon God and blame him.  Answer. 1. When they reflect upon his providence, when they are under any stroak or misery brought on themselves, by their own sin; as thus, if the Lord had not done such things to me, it would not have been so with me, this did befall me in his providence, and I could not win by it. This was that which Adam began with, and is a clause irritant in his family since. Hast thou eaten of the tree saith God, whereof I commanded thee thou shouldst not eat? Who is to be blamed for that? The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.  I am not to be blamed, but you, and her; thou gavest me her (indeed, I got a bonny bird that morning I got her) and she gave it me. So we blame God when we blame his providence for what we do.  2. When they reflect upon his predetermining Counsels, as thus, this was even ordained for me, before coat or shirt were shapen for me.  It is the language in the 9th Chapter to the Romans, who hath resisted his will? who could help it, since he decreed it? I say, the plague of God shall be upon you, though you cannot resist that will, for your blaming it.  3. When they reflect upon his free grace and mercy.  Something of this is hinted at, Psalm 77.8,9, is his mercy clean gone for ever? hath he forgotten {27} to be gracious? Free grace might have helped this: though I be an undeserving man, what the matter; if free grace had given me a cast by the common? I have no more grace than God hath given me, which is as much as to say, if grace had done its part, I might have been kept from this evil hour.  4. When they reflect upon the faithfulness of God, though some dare not speak it out, yet it is in their heart. There is a word to this purpose, Psalm 77.8, doth his promise fail for evermore? when folk so question the truth of his promises; this ye would beware of now: For folk are in hazard to question the truth of his promises, in reference to his publick work. This purpose is that of Jeremiah, Jer. 20.7, O Lord thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived, and why art thou unto me as a liar? These are dreadful words of the Creature to the Creator, as if he had not infinite ways to make out his promises, that we cannot take up.  5. When they reflect upon his Justice, severity, and peremptoriness in smiting of his people.  There is a word in one of the Prophets that runs to this purpose, if we be destroyed, how can we live? which is on the matter this: If God so deal with us, there is no living, or being with him; he will not let folk away with the knot of a straw, but he dings [strikes] them down.  When folk hears that God smiteth for this and for that, their heart riseth in passion, and saith, that there is no dallying with him, let him alone, for many have lived with him, and stood before him, and he will not make new laws, nor ordain new ways to follow, neither for your pleasure nor mine.

2. What hath the Lord to say for his own vindication at the hands of his Church, especially at the hands of Israel, to prove that he is not to be blamed for their destruction, and the misery that comes on them.  Answer 1. God had this to say to Israel for his own vindication, {28} that he had chosen them out of all the Nations of the World, without anything in them previous to that choice, that might have engaged and influenced him; so did he reason with them, Deut. 7.7,8, The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people, for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved you. If the Lord had had a mind to drag you down, and destroy you; and had delighted in that, he would not have brought you out of that blind condition, wherein ye were lying with the rest of the world, but he would have left you a few blind moles drowning yourselves in your sin.  2. He had this for himself to say: that he had brought them from the slavery and bondage of Egypt, in which they had ruined themselves by their sin. After that he had chosen them, he had ay [always] this to say for his own clearing, whatever came upon them: that he was their God that redeemed them from the Land of Egypt, so that if he had delighted in their destruction, he would have left them there, and suffered them to run to the Devil with the Egyptians, and never owned them nor delivered them.  3. He had this to say for himself, that he had entered into a Covenant with them in the wilderness, after he had brought them out of Egypt, which privilege he had denied to any considerable incorporation before that time; whatever he had done to some particular persons and families, yet he never formally entered in Covenant with any great incorporation, but with them. [Psalm 147.19,20]  4. He had this to say for himself: That he had done many Miracles, and wrought many wonders among them; he had shewed them marvellous and strange Acts and great signs and wonders, after he had chosen them in Egypt, and before and after he had formally entered into Covenant with them, for their confirmation and establishing, that he dang [beat] down every {29} power that had lift up itself against them. What need him have done this, if he had delighted in their destruction?  5. He had this to say for himself, that he had delivered them from many inconveniences; that he reproved Kings for their sake, and suffered no man to do them wrong; that he smote Kings, and mighty Kings, Og King of Bashan, and Sihon King of the Amorites; he never spared great nor small, whilst they abode with him, but he carried still as their husband and Lord;—this sufficiently clears him from bearing the blame of their ruin.  6. He had this to say, that he kept abundance of light amongst them, for to shew them their duty, that they might know what was the way of peace and life: many Prophets did he send them, who late and early did admonish, rebuke, & teach them, so that it was not for want of light & counsel that they went wrong,—they had enough of that,—this sufficiently cleared him.  7. He had this to say, that many times he had forewarned them of their skaith [hurt], whence it should come, and by what, and had made them consent and submit to their own destruction, if ever they should go that black gate [way] he had forewarned them of. Now, saith God, I have told you the right way, & ye may lippen [trust] to me in walking therein, and I have also told you the wrong way, that will bring you down, & bring you under these folks feet that are your enemies;—if ever ye make Covenant with them, I vow and swear, I shall be full of your flesh;—and they were so far convinced of the equity of this, that they consented to their own ruin, if ever they should do it: if ever we join with the people of these abominations, let God consume us from off the earth. [Ezra 9.14.] If ever we take these thieves again by the hand, let the wrath of God pursue us, the heavy hand of God be upon us, that is a strong vindication of him.  8. He had this to say, that notwithstanding of all they had {30} done against him, he took Heaven and Earth to witness, he would accept of a little small thing at their hands.  Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now and know, and seek in the broad places, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment and seeketh the truth, and I will pardon it, Jer. 5.1.  Only acknowledge thine iniquity, Jer. 3.13.  Do but this, I will pass by all bygones, will ye do but this, and I shall defy all the thieves to get you down, but I shall be about with them.

3. Wherefore doth the great God of Heaven so confess, and as it were to vindicate himself so at the hands of poor unworthy worms? He is not bound to give an account of his matters, or to render a reason of his ways; for who may say unto him, what doest thou?  Answer. 1. He doth it for the glory of his Justice. Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight, that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and clear when thou judgest. [Psalm 51.4.] I clear thy justice of all that is come upon me. God will not leave any ground to reflect on that.  2. For the glory of his grace and mercy, which his people are ready to reflect upon: but I refer to yourselves to judge, whether or not I have been merciful, O ye Inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. I refer it to your selves and all the world, whether or not you deserve stroaks, and whether or not I can spare you longer.  3. That he may the more effectually bind his people's sin upon them, whereby they have destroyed themselves, and convince them of the evil of their own way, and of their folly.

Use 1. Lo here the daring boldness of the corruption of men, that dare reflect upon God, and blame him for the miseries, calamities, and sorrow that befall them. We have this legacy left us by our Father Adam, {31} who blamed the holy God for his fall; we have a spice of this from him, although we will not speak it out: yet we think it often in our hearts.  If God had not carved out things to be so, and so, they could not have been; you are not to meddle with that, for he is holy in all his Counsels, though it be so, but you are to be ashamed of your sins, for it is they that are the cause of your destruction. Take heed of blaming the Majesty of God: if there be any apprehension in you to do it, suppress it and bear it down.

Use 2. Know that the Lord hath abundant testimonies lying at our doors, as well as at Israel's, that he is not to be blamed for our overthrow, but we ourselves are to be blamed; he hath this to say, that he did set his love upon us, and gave these ends of the earth to his Son, for his Inheritance, and that he took infeftment [legal possession] of them, and that he took us by the hand, not for any thing in us, for we were but a pack of poor Beggars, in respect of other Nations, and that he brought us out of Egypt from Heathenish, Papistical, and prelatical bondage: and when we were all running the black gate, with the Bishops, and running to black darkness, he brought us back again; and that he entered in Covenant never more formally with any Nation than with us; and many great and glorious things he wrought for us; that he gave us many victories, and reproved many both great and small who opposed us, for our sake, all which we hope to be but an earnest of what is to follow, and that he told us of our duty, and of his way, and warned us what would be our ruin.  He told us, if ever we break Covenant, and joined with the malignant party, and put them in places of Trust, and made them Captains and Officers of our Armies, they should be our ruin; and we consented to this, and put in our Declaration, that even when there should {32} be scarcity of men, we should not do it, not only in offensive wars, (as some do distinguish) but in defensive wars. We said, God forbid, that even in the scarcity of men we should split upon that rock, and that we should join with these abominations, and yet we never rested till we made them Captains and Officers of our Armies and joined with them; God forgive them that brought them in, and forgive us also that suffered them to be brought in. I dare say also, that God would take little off our hand, that he may be about with these thieves; fain would he be at them, and have a fair occasion to be full of their flesh, who have so shamefully broken his Covenant, & spit upon his face.  Well I wot he would take little off our hands.  However, he hath many Testimonies lying at our door, that he is free of our ruin. O but we had been a happy people, if we had bidden [abode] by him. Many things also hath he to say to vindicate himself of at the hands of his people, which would take a long day to tell. He hath this to say, that he hath holden out to you many a time, what is the way of Truth, and the way of peace, and piety wherein ye should walk, and that dearly; you have not fallen in an evil condition for want of light, and that your idols have overmastered you. For want of that he hath this to say, that he hath not ceased to be a reprover to you, though ye have trampled upon reproofs, yet hath he made your Conscience challenge you out and in. He hath this to say, that you never set yourself seriously to seek God, but ye got worth your pains, and met you mid way and more. You never set yourselves so, that ye were at a point; ye would have somewhat in this prayer, or else ye should lay it by: but he met you, he meeteth him who rejoiceth and worketh righteousness. No sooner put ye up the sails, but he put wind in them. That is a Testimony, that he is not to be blamed. He hath this to say, give me the tithes and offerings, as ye were {33} wont to do, and see whether or not I will rain down a blessing.  Give me the ancient tale of duty, and see whether or not I will come and bless you. He hath this to say, that he hath sufficiently discovered the vanity of that, which is the ground of the quarrel betwixt him and you.  He hath convinced you that he hath made your business thrive, as well when ye gave him the due tale of duty, and did not clip them, and better too, than when ye did otherwise: ’tis but daffing [foolish sporting] for folk to slip prayer, that they may win soon out to the plough, or harvest-rig; if they do, God may break some soome or coulter, or some other thing in the plough, or the hook wherewith they shear, or make some accident to befall them, that they shall lose more time for their worldly gain, than all the time that prayer would have taken up to them.  It is in vain for you to rise up early and sit up late, and eat the bread of sorrows, for so he giveth his beloved sleep. [Psalm 127.2.] God can give his people that make conscience of the duties of Religion their full of rest, and make their work go on also.  Again, he hath this witness against you, that there is something he hath been contending with you for, and desiring you to quit and forsake, and yet ye would not do it for him.  Ye know well enough what it is: It's even the thing ye know of,—what is the reason ye will not mend it? it is something that hath cleaved to you this year, and the other year, and several years. Had ye done but this for me (as if the Lord would say) and forgone this little petty thing for me, I should have made your peace run down as a river. Upon your Conscience be it, whether or not I offered it good cheap to you, if ye would give but a little more pains, and forgive a little small thing that ye know well enough what it is for; I will not tell you what it is, I think it not worth the naming, ye should have had peace and perfect peace.  It is a sore matter, that we should still keep in our vexation & {34} disquietness, which is all, because we will not forsake the thing we know of. I say then, God hath the right end of the string, come of us all what will, he is free of our ruin. Let us therefore justify him, and vindicate his justice, and free grace, for it hath done what it could do, with credit and honesty to the Court of Heaven. Let us therefore take with our sins, and blame ourselves, for we have destroyed ourselves.

We come now to the words, as they are an encouragement, and a ground of hope for the future, but in me thy help shall be; so the word may be rendered, not only have I ay [always] done you good, but I can yet help, and I will help you, for all that is come upon you. I shall once help you in spite of their hearts that would bear you down.  Here observe two doctrines,  1. In the lowest condition the Church of God and Israel can be in, God can help: there is help in God, if he please to put it out for Israel.  Thou by thy sin hast destroyed thyself, and these folk as Instruments have broken you all, and dung [beat] you all down, and they think ye can never be raised up again, but for as low as ye are, I can help you, for all things are possible with God, even these things, that are impossible with men; he doth whatsoever pleaseth him in Heaven and in Earth, being King of Kings and Lord of Lords; he is higher than the highest. Our God can deliver us, say the three Children, yea he will deliver us [Dan. 3.17]; they were as low as we are, they had the King and all the Court about them, and ready to cast them into a fiery furnace made ready also for them, which also they did, and yet God delivered them.  I do not think that ye question this in your judgment, that God can deliver you; yet before I speak to the other doctrine, that saith God will deliver you, I shall shew you some ways wherein God can help his people in their lowest condition, and in any {35} of these ways God can help us, if he please.  1. He can help his people by destroying them,—by that he makes them happy evermore; in death he makes them Conquerors; he makes them say of the bitter afflictions and stroaks, that it is good for me that I was afflicted. [Psalm 119.71.] He teacheth and instructeth them out of his Law by his chastening them.  2. He can help them by his admirable bearing them up, and supporting them in their condition, by staving his rough wind in the day of his East wind, correcting them in measure and judgment, even when he seems to make the waters run over them and overflow them, though he brings them through the fire and water, yet he brings them through [Psalm 66.12]: he takes away the sting of the rod and affliction, and bears them up under it.  3. He can help them, by casting their help in the ordinary channel, by ordinary means and instruments, even when their case is very low, and seems to be desparate, as to an outgate, and there is no man for help appearing, within a short time he can cast their help in the ordinary channel. Ye are, it may be, thinking, that God must work a miracle before we can be helped; but he can put our help in the ordinary channel very soon, as he did in the year thirty-eight [1638], when he threw down the Prelates.  He can cause the spirit descend upon his people, and great Saviours on mount Zion [Obadiah 1.21], and put it in the hearts of his people to arise, to the raising of his interest, cause, Covenant, Ordinances and work; he can raise up seven Shepherds, and eight principal men. [Micah 5.5.]  4. He can do it in an extraordinary manner, he can create help, he shall create help for me, saith David, create deliverance for Israel, is a prayer of faith that it should be, and God shall send down help immediately from Heaven, he will order all things as they are remaining, God will work wonders, but he will be about with these folk, and help his people. {36}

Use 1. The people of God should not despair, though their condition seems to be irrecoverable.  It seemeth so to you, but it is not so to God; the things that are impossible to men are not impossible to God. What the matter, though God ding [smite] us all down, if he will do good to our souls, and teach us out of his law? What the matter though we lie under these folk's feet for a time? he will make our worst condition best.  What the matter though we want the publick ordinances for a while, if he prove a little Sanctuary to us? and if ye get your lesson taught by the Master himself, who is an Interpreter, one of a thousand, not only amongst the threes, but above them all. [1 Chron. 11.15, &c.]  What the matter, though he blow up all outward worldly helps, seeing ye have a proof of their emptiness, & seeing he can help either in an ordinary, or extraordinary channel? Let us never be discouraged, and tyne [lose] heart; if the heart be gone, all is gone.