TIMES OF PERSECUTION IN SCOTLAND,
SUFFERERS FOR THE ROYAL PREROGATIVES OF JESUS CHRIST.
Sermons & Lectures by Richard Cameron.
UNTO whom are ye come here today? Are ye come to a man only? Are ye come to see a reed shaken with the wind? Those who come out to see a man only, or to be seen of men here today, will probably go away as filthy as they came. But those who are come rightly here today are come to get a view of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Well, there are many of you come here today. If ye be come unto Him, as we hope some of you are, it is well. But we will not say ye are all come to Jesus Christ. But if ye be come, what have ye to say unto Him? What have ye to ask of Him here today? Have ye any doubts that ye would have solved? Indeed, if ye take that occasion of applying to God either in relation to the state of your bodies or your souls, you will have some questions to propose and some doubts to be solved by Him. Folk will commonly make a great noise and boast about their coming to Christ. And yet when they do come, they have little to say to Him. Indeed, you are all welcome to come unto Christ, and they that are disciples will come with their doubts unto Him.
- At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
- And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them.
- And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
- Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
- And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me.
- But whoso shall offend one of those little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea.
- ¶ Woe unto the world because of offences: for it must needs be that offences come: but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.
- Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands, or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire.
- And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell-fire.
- Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
- For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
- How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them go astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
- And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray:
- Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.
- ¶ Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
- But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
- And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man, and a publican.Matthew 18.1-17.
Here it is said, "At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus." Oh, but there are many that will make a profession of coming unto Christ! It is said that the multitude came unto Christ. Indeed many came unto the ordinances, but it is the disciples only that come to Him. "At the same time came the disciples." Those that know they have anything of friendship will come, and being come to Him they will have somewhat to say unto Him. They will not come without an errand. "At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom?"
Now, in the beginning of the chapter, you have hereFirst, question propounded by the disciples unto Christ; and, Secondly, An answer by Him to the question. And indeed there is more in this answer than what they looked for. So for those who will come seriously to Christ with any question or doubt, God will give them more in the answer than what they expect or look for. But for the answer itself, it imports that there was something that was not right among the disciples, even that there was too much carnal or earthly ambition amongst them. It is natural for men and women to desire to be great, and to be labouring to make themselves of an high account in the world; and even ministers themselves are not free of this evil. They usually have their own failings, and among others they have this evil, a carnal aspiring unto earthly greatness, as we see now in the Church, in the case of many of the bishops. The disciples here were contending which of them should be the greatest. But we see that Christ doth not encourage or strengthen them in this notion, but labours to take them off from it by presenting unto them an humble little child, telling them that except they became as little children, they could not enter into "the kingdom of heaven. And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them." Here they seem to imagine that their Lord and Master Jesus Christ was to have an earthly kingdom here. How many have we in these days who would be content to follow Christ, provided they might have their idols also? Oh but our Lord would have many followers, if He would take unto Himself a kingdom here upon earth! Well, but as to that question our Lord forbears them, and doth not altogether disdain their carnal suit nor says, "I will give you no answer to what ye ask." No, indeed; His answering of them imports these three particulars:
1st, That one may be greater in the kingdom of heaven than another, though not in the Church militant.
2ndly, That there may be no degrees of temporal greatness in the Church.
3rdly, And yet that there are spiritual degrees. For instance, one may have more grace, another more knowledge, and a third more holiness. One may be more useful to the Church in his day and generation than another. Now our Lord answers them here by preaching unto their very senses, to their eye and their ear. "And Jesus called a little child unto him," &c. Our Lord takes much notice of little children. He reproves those who would have hindered little children from coming unto Him; for they were all very welcome. And who knows but that children, I mean young folk, may get more good of the word than those of more advanced years, and even shame those that are in old age? "He called unto him a little child, and set him in the midst." He does so first to preach unto their eyes and then He preaches to their ears, telling them, and not without a note of observation, that "except they be converted, and become as little children, they should not enter into the kingdom of heaven." And indeed as little children are few in comparison of the rest of the house, so God knows how few in all this congregation are really within the Church. Now, if we take the Church for the Church militant here upon earth, there will be but few children in the house of God. Now, ye know, if ye be true believers, and walking towards heaven, ye must be converted. Now then, are ye converted? Ye must be converted ere ever ye be fit for the kingdom of heaven. You must see what conversion is. And
1. You must be convinced of sin. There must be brokenness of heart and godly sorrow for sin. Ye must be convinced of the wrath of God that is due unto all the breakers of His holy law, and you must likewise see that there is nothing in yourselves to merit or purchase anything at the hand of God. Thus you are to be truly humbled as little children, for children, ye know, are very humble creatures. The child of a nobleman will be as familiar with the child of his tenant or cotter, yea, with the child of a beggar or any other poor man, as with the child of one who is of equal degree. Now this is one mark whereby folk may know whether they are in a state of grace or not; that is, if they be converted, "and become as little children, they shall inherit the kingdom of God; for of such is the kingdom of God; and whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." A
2. Mark of those that are in Christ is that they will still have a respect unto all that are converted, or that they look upon as godly. To this purpose is "Whoso shall receive one such little child, receiveth me." And moreover, those who look upon the people of God as such may persuade themselves that they have more than ordinary of the favour of God. For as the pride of man's heart brings him low, so to follow truth and holiness in humility of heart doth really exalt the soul in the sight of God. There is no greater piece of wisdom than for folk to employ themselves in the service of the only wise God; for "if we humble ourselves under his mighty hand, he will exalt us in due time." There is no greater folly than to be proud; "for God resisteth the proud." Such He will cast down from their excellency, and will exalt or set up those of low degree, such as are humble and holy and still love the image of God in their brethren.
3. Another mark whereby ye may know whether ye be of the number of those who belong to the kingdom of God is, that ye will be loth to offend any of those little ones who belong unto Christ. "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which belong to me," &c. And that because,
(1.) They are few in number.
(2.) They are much despised by the world. Ye know who they are. The Scripture hath pointed them out. You will even know them by this; they will be very loth to offend or do anything willingly or wittingly to offend any of these little onesI say to offend any of those who belong to Christ. Yea, they will rather suffer the worst punishment that enemies can inflict than offend one of their brethren in the least. Now, having given these marks of those who belong to the kingdom of God, our Lord comes to draw these inferences:
1. "Woe unto the world because of offences," &c. The world indeed denounces many woes, and that against those who least deserve them. But our Lord never denounces any without sufficient ground and reason. "Woe," says He, "unto the world because of offences." Woe unto the world! For what? For offences. What says the world? "Why, there shall be no offences." "Nay," says our Lord; "it must needs be that offences come." "Well, then," says the world, "since it is so that offences must needs come, there shall come offences enough; we shall help them forward." But says our Lord, "Woe unto that man, by whom the offence cometh." There must needs be offences amongst the godly, and there must needs be offences among the ministers, that the weakness of man may be known, lest we should lay too much weight upon ministers, even that which belongs to the Lord Himself. Now, there are two sorts of woes and two sorts of offences. The first woe is of temporal affliction. The second woe is of eternal judgment. Now, those who are godly may give much offence, and much woe may come after it. But that is the only temporal woe. But for the wicked there is no doubt but they give a great deal of offence; and, though they escape temporal woes, yet there is an eternal woe abiding them which they shall never be able to evade or escape.
Now for clearing this further, as there are two sorts of woes, so there are two kinds of offences: The one is the offences given, and woe unto them by whom they are given. The other is the offences taken. Now there may be offences taken where there is none really given. We need not here enlarge upon this kind of offences, having the last occasion delivered somewhat of them already. Only it is evident that there is an offence taken because we speak against the indulgence. But this I would say, if we have given the offence justly; it is by one of these two things, either by speaking of it (as indeed it is a thing in itself sinful, which few of our ministers will refuse to acknowledge), or otherwise, as a thing lawful but not expedient. "All things," says the apostle Paul, "are not expedient for me." But this is clear, that it is a sin of sons and daughters; and the Lord hath contended with sons and daughters for sin. And since it is both expedient and convenient for people to know it to be sin, that it may not become universal wickedness, so for this offence, whether it be an offence given or taken, the Lord knoweth the sin of it lieth not at our door, there fore let them lay it at their door where it should be laid.
2. The second inference our Lord draws here is, "Ifthy hand, or thy foot offend thee, cut them off," &c. Here are the things that a sinner must part with. There are many that have many things that they count as dear unto them as a right hand, foot, or eye. But here we seebe what they will, be they never so near and dear unto uswhen they come in competition with Christ's cause or interest and glory, they must be cut off or plucked out and cast away. Indeed there are some things very near and dear unto a Christian. "Oh," says the Christian, "I cannot want such a friend! I cannot be without the company of such and such a godly man. He is as dear to me as my right hand or my right eye." Well, admit he is of singular use unto you, still, says Christ, "If it were your right eye that offends you, ye must pluck it out, and part with it." "But," say ye, "I cannot give up such a friend or such a minister. He is a worthy man. I cannot want him." "Well," says Christ, "if he be thy right hand and offend thee, thou must cut him off and cast him from thee; for it is better for thee to enter into life halt and maimed, than having two hands to be cast into everlasting fire." But a
3. Inference is concerning our carriage towards these little ones. It hath more woes; and take heed that there be none such among you who despise those little ones, who belong to Christ. And however much they are despised now, the day is coming that they shall not be despised. And though ye and all the world despise them, yet our Lord takes a great care of them. "Take heed," says He, "that ye despise not one of these little ones. For I say unto you that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father." Not that there are none of those little ones that shall not be angels in heaven, but there are none of them but what have angels which do always "behold the face of my Father which is in heaven." They have each of them angels waiting upon them, that guard them while walking through the weariness of this world. There is no doubt but that all the truly godly here have their angels attending them this day. There is no doubt that the angels are looking down upon this meeting here today. Oh, how many eyes are now upon us! Ye are a considerable meeting here gathered by degrees, but there are more than what ye now see. And behold our Lord Himself and His angels now behold us, and the devils of hell, many of them, no doubt, are here this day. And he is a strange man, and she a strange woman, who finds not these devils at present suggesting some wicked notion to divert them from hearing or stealing away the word that it may not profit you.
But ye may say, "What are the good angels doing here today?" Why, they are even taking notice how ye carry and behave. They will not take a look only, and then presently go off; but they will take special notice of all that are here this day. When going home, and when at home, they will carry the tidings to heaven of what they have heard or seen. Oh, if there were any soul converted, how would they fly joyfully through the first and second heaven until they entered in among the rest, before our Lord Jesus Christ the Angel of the Covenant. "What tidings," will Christ say, "have ye concerning My people today, and of that meeting at Kirkmahoe?" Who can tell how joyful the news would be that some souls, that before were strangers to Christ, were converted, and brought in to Christ this day? Oh, but it would be joyful tidings unto the angel if some poor young man or woman, some of this or that rank, some gentleman or lady, were here brought in to Christ this day! But we fear that they will have very sad news to tell of us this day. For what are the angels? Are they not "ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them that shall be heirs of salvation?" They are so not only at their meetings and ordinances, but even when in their houses, and at their daily employments, or when traveling by the way, whatever risings up or sittings down they have. They take good notice of all the wrongs done them, whether by devils or wicked men; and they carry all these things before the Lord in heaven. Alas, such are the wrongs now done unto the Lord's people that they cannot make language of! They cannot get their wrongs told or laid out before the Lord. But the angels who can lay them all before the Lord, take good notice of every one of these.
But wherefore is it that angels give such attendance? What? Will no less serve the saint upon earth but to have angels to serve him? No indeed! But what is the reason? Just because it is the Lord's will and pleasure. "The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost." And if He Himself came to seek, save, and suffer for them, well may they come, attend, and guard them home unto heaven, whether the Forerunner is now entered to prepare mansions for them. "In my Father's house are many mansions."
4. A fourth inference is, that the Master Christ will not lose any of those little ones for whom He died, and whom He effectually calleth; as you may see in the verses where Christ is speaking of the sheep that were going astray. But He will carry on that good work once begun by the Spirit unto perfection. He will carry it on unto the day of the Lord. We see in the last verses we have read how Christ the Lord gives it to His own, how they shall carry in case of offences; when it is evident that one godly man may be offended by another. But what shall a godly man do in such a case as this?
First, if the offence be secretly given, he is to use means that it may be secretly taken away. "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone." That is, secretly. But what if I cannot prevail with him? Then take unto thee two, or three more, "that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established." That brother must be one that at least hath somewhat of a profession. If that will not do, take two or three elders, or most intimate friends with thee. But if all this will not do tell it to the Church, that is, the whole collective body of professed ministers and Christians. Now the Independents will admit of none but such as can give a particular account of their conversions. But this can never be, for the devil will have his tares amongst Christ's wheat, until the harvest of the Lord. But if neither particular secret means, nor two or three witnessing brethren, nor the collective body of the Church prevail; then he is in the last place to be cited before the magistrates of the Church, that is, Presbytery or Synod; but if he neglect to hear them, and will not be persuaded to obey any of these, let him be unto thee an heathen man or a publican, and worse than if he had never been a professor. It is true the Independents draw many arguments from this, but here we shall make none against them; but only refer you to what the learned Mr. Rutherford says upon that place, in his "Peaceable Plea for Presbytery."2
Now as to that which we have to say, ye see that ministers have a warrant to rebuke, and if they can to repel offences also. As for some who take occasion from this place in their preaching to condemn some that have upon this occasion preached against the indulgence, we may here by the way tell you they say it was our duty first to have told them of it in secret. Now, in answer to this: As for secret rebukes and admonitions they have not been wanting. It can be made out that, when the second indulgence was granted, there was a meeting of the ministers at Edinburgh, where it was debated this way and the other way, whether it were lawful to accept of any. Notwithstanding all this many have stepped in and accepted of the indulgence, and several have begun to preach in other places of the kingdom, holding it to be good and lawful Now, if there can be no other way got, let us pray and cry unto the Lord that these may be taken away from being an offence unto His Church. I say, they ought themselves to be taken away, and for which I shall give you two Scripture texts, the one in the Old and the other in the New Testaments:And
1st, For that in the Old Testament, you find, in Joshua 7., what Achan's offence brought upon the Church, and how they proceeded against him. Now, he was but one man that committed this trespass; and the most part concluded that he was a good man; and we can say nothing to the contrary, for Joshua says to him, "Make confession to the Lord, and give glory to God." And ye see although he had committed this sin by himself, yet he brought a curse upon the whole Church and people of Israel. "And Joshua brought him before the Lord and all the children of Israel." What need was there for all that? Because it concerned the whole congregation. Having brought him out, Joshua said, "I pray thee my son, make confession to the Lord, and give glory unto God." And oh, but ministers and professors have this day turned aside! They have committed abominations, and taken the accursed thing. But let them make confession to the Lord, and give glory to God. And
2ndly, For the proof from the New Testament, see Mat. 23.13. Our Lord, in the audience of the people, cries out against the Scribes and Pharisees, for the sins of the Church of the Jews. "Woe unto you, ye Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men!" Not long before, He was telling the multitude and His disciples of the Scribes and Pharisees, that they sat in Moses' seat; and says He, "Whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say and do not." Here He is speaking of them again, and in this place He denounces seven or eight woes against them for their sins; and yet perhaps there were none of them present, at least very few, heard Christ on this occasion. But their sins and offences were public; and therefore He proclaims their sins publicly to the Church, and that before all, "Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees." He denounces their punishment before the world. Now, if we were rightly searching into and trying the sins of our Church in Scotland, we would find that we have great reason to "turn our laughter into mourning, and our joy into heaviness."
1. By the sequel of this discourse, it appears that this lecture was delivered at Kirkmahoe, within a few miles of Dumfries.
2. See Mr. Rutherford's "Peaceable Plea for Presbytery," chapter 8, page 85.