TIMES OF PERSECUTION IN SCOTLAND,
SUFFERERS FOR THE ROYAL PREROGATIVES OF JESUS CHRIST.
Sermons & Lectures by Donald Cargill.
"Therefore behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths."Hosea 2.6.A LIFE of prosperity with weddedness to one's own ways, and a broken wall to lean upon, are very dangerous things. We say great prosperity in sin is both dangerous and dreadful, and yet you would be at it at any rate. We would take pleasures were they never so dreadful. Some have taken them as foul as they could have them. I say,
First, Prosperity in sin is a very dangerous thing. There are few that ever love it more than when it is somewhat warm and dangerous. But ye will get it warm yet; yea, ye will get it as hot as hell. We will say this, that devils and wicked men will have it warm enough yet, and they will never give over; for they would have you where they desire to have youeven to run to the same excess "of all riot and wickedness with themselves." Alas! they have got many where they desire already; and they are labouring to get others back the same length. These words now read represent the devil and the world striving to make their snares, to make us turn aside, and to have God stating Himself against us. But,
Secondly, Not only is prosperity in sin dangerous, but it is also dreadful. Wherein is it dreadful? Even in this, in our eagerness and assiduity in the pursuit of sin which is a foretoken of God's purpose to let them go to destruction. Ah dreadful! when God in His holy providence permits and suffers a flood of prosperity to carry away folk with a full tide to hell and utter destruction. Oh, be afraid and tremble at this! We will say this one word of it: It is not affliction, nor the worst providences, that do us most harm. He loves His own in any case or condition they can be in. But it is the woeful wicked nature of man that loves and esteems prosperous providences best; that loves the prosperity of the wicked better than the affliction of the godly.
But the thing we would say is this, that with regard to a people once departed from God, prosperous providences will never bring them back again unto Him. Favours will not do it. The wind must turn before ever they turn again unto Him. We will say this further, that those who get most prosperity from God have least ado with Him. But in these words we see these three following:
1. We see wherein the nature of man appears, even in labouring to come at its lovers. Oh, that we could take heed to it. In effect, he will be at his idols and lovers, should he go through a thorn hedge, or even a stone wall. Can he get no other way to them? And now he will be at his lovers; and then he is at his ruin. It is a wonder that God says not unto us, as a master unto an unthankful servant, that will not obey his commands, "Go where you please." And
2. As the nature of man labours to come at its lovers, so it strives against the goodness of God. Oh, that we saw this! and oh, wonderful, that notwithstanding God's goodness so much appears in keeping us back and hedging us in, we are still so bent on our idols! It is a wonder we are not at a full market ere now with the malignants of Scotland, and yet God has not bidden us be gone, but has kept us and builded a wall betwixt us and them; and in effect some have gone as far as they could, and they will never stand until they be at full match with them. We will say this of it: we will stumble on our lovers even when there are crosses in our way. This is the language of the hearts of the most part, that they will be after them, and though they flee yet they will pursue them. At least the greater part are guilty of backsliding in heart, for they have gone as far as they could get; and many will throng after them till they be destroyed. "Thou hast destroyed all them that go a-whoring from thee." Now we say that, in these two things, man's nature and the goodness of God do eminently appear and discover themselves.
Now, what is the goodness of God doing? It is even keeping us back from what our heart listeth to do, even from following our lovers. And what is man like? He is even like a foolish virgin that will follow her lover, when her wise father will restrain and keep her back, denying her her portion, and keeping it in his own hand. Even so does the Lord with His people that are set upon sin. Now, Scotland is mad upon her loverslike one in a mad fit, obedient enough to them, saying, "I will follow my lovers, and after them will I go." They talk much of making conscience of this and the other thing to men and malignants; but never one word of making conscience to God and giving obedience to Him, or of making conscience of zeal for His glory and against the wickedness of men. Alas! where are our consciences for these things now gone? But here the goodness of God stands in the way and makes a thorn hedge and stone wall, so that they may not go through them, and yet it is a wonder to see what crosses some will go through, Now,
3. What is that? We will say this of it, that it is even a wise result of Providence, in His infinite goodness, hedging up their way. And what is the result of this providence? It is even their returning back unto God. "I will go and return to my first husband; for then it was better with me than now." Folk are never wise till they return back again unto God, till their resolutions be fixed here. It is far better to strive to follow after God, than to strive to be with His enemies. "But I will return unto my first husband," &c. But ye know not if He will receive or take you in again. However, it is a wise resolution. O noble result of this thorn hedge and stone wall! I tell you, that providence which you think best now will turn out worst in the end. Many in Scotland have great need of a cross to awaken them; but many will never be awakened till, with the rich man in hell, they lift up their eyes. Many have proposed peace unto themselves by compositions and paying of cess, but see if they be not as far distant from peace as those who paid it not. Although some have been put to sore sufferings upon that head, yet they have peace with God in this respect.
Now, we shall speak a word from these particulars. We see there is both a hedging up their ways with them, and a building them in with a stone wall; which says that God seems even to be worst when He is best. Ye often mistake the providences of God; for these ye think the worst are ofttimes the best of providences. In a word, the roughest dealing that the Lord trysts His people with will be found to be the best for them.
But alas, I fear ye understand nothing of this! The most rough dealings that we have gotten are better for us than the most smiling providences. Fair providences commonly neither awaken sluggards nor recover backsliders. Oh, what a great evil is it, that there is such a scaring at, and shifting of the cross of Christ! But there are many in Scotland at this day who will never awaken, or turn from the evil of their ways, till wrath turn or awaken them. Yea, we will say more: ere long wrath will awaken many. This we are sure of; and we fear where crosses have not turned you, judgments are coming which will consume you. There are these two or three things wherein God seems to be dealing very roughly with us, and yet they are the best of providences for us:
1. Some are afflicted, and so they think they are hardly dealt with, and that they are losers by affliction; and yet these are the best dispensations of God. For this affliction looseth the affections from the world, and tends to take away hardness of heart. Oh, the heart is very hard! We will not say that there is no pride or hardness of heart under affliction, but it is never so great as when in prosperity or out of affliction. However, go to God and desire Him to help you to pray and to take away your slothfulness. I tell you, Sirs, if we were without afflictions, there would be less praying amongst usI say our prayers would be seldom and far between. Indeed, as to the folk that have paid the cess,2 and have got light to pay it, we fear there will be but little praying amongst them; for these are not put upon it by the cross. Alas! may it not be said that the most part have little fervency in their prayers but when put upon it by something of the cross? Now, we will say this of it: mistake not the Lord in His afflicting of us, for He never comes better to with us, so to speak, than by the rod of affliction.
2. We mistake the Lord in His sending crosses to us. We think when we are wholly hemmed in, and get our own will and desires in nothing, that there is nothing of mercy but all is wrath in it. But I will tell you, Sirs, when He is crossing you most in your desires, be sure your benefit and advantage is in it. Yea, in the end He will both make you see and say with the psalmist, "It hath been good for me that I was afflicted." And we say this of it: crosses lie in the way to what is most pleasant, while the seemingly pleasant lies in the way of what is most fatal. But we say the Lord sees what your desires are, and He crosses you in them. Oh, but it is great gain to be hedged in with crosses and afflictions, especially in the case of a people departing from God! Many are complaining they are severely dealt with; that, as it were, they never get leave to draw their breath, and that they are overwhelmed under these crosses. But they never consider that He is doing many a good turn unto them by these crosses, and that He is making us up by them, and thereby making us feed with "and follow the Lamb in a large place." Woeful man, give him his will, would be like the prodigal mentioned in the Gospel. But the Lord is loath to let him away! Now, what would follow if he got his will? It would make him debauch and spend all his stock with riotous living. We will say this word more, that there is nothing that God afflicts you for but your danger is in it. Woe unto them who seek their pleasure farther than their afflictions mortify them unto it! But a
3. Thing wherein God's goodness appears is in hedging up our ways, and disappointing us in the expectations of our heart. Why? Because the great expectations we have is of the things of the world; and the Lord will not have our expectations run in such a channel. In effect, God disappoints our expectations of such things that we may no more pursue themI say that we may follow no more after them. But there are these two or three lessons that we may learn from this:
1. More submission even unto every providence, though for the present ye can see nothing but danger or sorrow in it. Be still, concluding it shall be best for you. Oh, that all of you who belong to God could say that in reality you desire nothing but Himself, and can have pleasure in nothing but in God! But many are apt to say with the prodigal's brother, "Lo, these many years have I served thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment, and yet thou never gavest me a kid that I might make merry with my friends." But oh, to see that the Lord is good to us even in our disappointments! and in that when we were looking for much, behold, little. Oh, to be submissive to His will! and this would be no hindrance to our well-being in Christ, for if our own will had been for our own good, He would have given it us. I say that all this might teach us to be submissive, and to conclude that if He had granted us our desires it had been worse for us; as if a man would take a book in his hand that he cannot read, yet he says, "I wot well that what is in it is good." O Sirs, think it a happy providence whatever it be that keeps you near God and farthest from sin. But it is much that will keep a man from sinning; it must be a thorn hedge or stone wall as says the text. Oh, then bless the Lord that He hath put thorn hedges in our way to prevent us from ruin, that will keep us even from hell and destruction. Many a man is beholden this day to the providence of God. I say then, submit more unto God; and we shall have the more benefit and advantage the more we submit unto Him.
2. As ye should still learn more submission to all the providences that seem to be hazardous in our way, so ye should learn to be denied unto your own choice, and learn to put God to choose for you in all things. In effect, we will say this, Woe would have been to us and to our choosing if our desires had been given us. But God never makes a wrong choice, but always chooses that which is right.
3. Be not afraid to put God to choose for you. For if you put it upon Him, and it go wrong or misgive in His hand, so to speak, let Him put it right again. Indeed we may say this of the providence of God, that whatever God makes choice of, whatever is put upon Him to choose, it will ever prove effectual at last, while he that gets only man's choice must mourn for it. Indeed, if we have not been mourning for man's choice, we must at length mourn for it. But they that put God on making a choice for them are sure that it is not only best, but if there be any disadvantage in that choice, we may go back again to Him, and get it amended. Oh, it is good to put God to choose for us, and then, whether our lot be mercies or judgments, we shall take the good and the evil of it.
Now, we shall say no more from it, but only this: that ere long it shall be seen that those who are under persecution, and are reckoned to be under the saddest of providences, are in truth under the best of providences. We say, if we live long, we shall see that these are the mercy of His people, and that they shall be yet the steps of peace unto themthey shall be made sure when He comes back unto us again. Now, there are walls and hedges that make us scorned. These are accounted sad and cross providences, but ere long, I say, they shall be seen to be the most favourable of providences. What hath God now been doing with this people? He hath been trying them that He may give them rest in the day of adversity. But we shall say this: that they shall be accounted happy that keep well with God now. Remember this, Sirs, that they shall be most happy that now keep near unto God, and depart not from Him. In reality, it is a mercy to be near unto Him. Still account it the best providence that keeps you most in dependence upon God, and farthest off from sin. "For it is good for me that I draw near unto God."
But another thing we may speak a little unto is this: it will take much to keep a man in the way of God; to keep a man's heart from going out after his lusts and idols, or to bring him back to God again. And considering there are thorn hedges and stone walls, oh, but man's corruption is strong! We shall not insist upon this now; but you see that there is need of great power to withstand man's corrupt nature, and that goodness will not bring back from the evil of pridenothing but temporal judgments will do it. Therefore He will hedge up their ways with stone walls. In effect, man's backsliding is very strange. It is like a flood running down over a precipice or steep place. We shall not stay now to speak of all the ways the Lord takes to hedge in the ways of His people, but He does much; and all is little enough. Here He hedges in their ways with thorn hedges, and hedges them in from the ways that lead to hell and destruction. Thus many are beholden to God and His good providence. And in an evil and dangerous time, sin and corrupt nature are ever drawing farther away from Him. Oh, blessed be God that puts crosses in the way! He raises a thorn hedge and a stone wall in the way of His people, and that puts a stop to their backslidings; and their graces never thrive more than in that way. Oh, but the goodness of God is much seen in bringing us near unto Himself by crosses and afflictions; yea, more in this than in any other thing we are pursued with!
1. An afternoon's sermon.
2. There are some perhaps will think that the indulgence, bonding, cess-paying, &c., so often testified against in these discourses, are but frivolous matters for a sermon. But any person who will consult the "History of the Indulgences," "Hind let Loose," by Mr. Shields, and Mr. Renwick's "Testimony Vindicated," and the other histories of these times, will find them no trifles. The first was, in effect, a taking the crown off Christ's head and setting it upon the head of a mortal man and the vilest of men. The second was a manifest composition with these wicked and avowed. enemies of Christ. And the last was enacted and exacted for the most wicked ends, and so a contributing to uphold tyranny, and supply the enemy with men, arms, &c., for suppressing the gospel then faithfully preached in the fields, and for shedding the blood of all who faithfully adhered unto the cause and interest of Jesus Christ. I shall only add here a few of the words of a very impartial historian who was of no party:"As they looked upon the indulgences as inconsistent with Presbyterian principles, and upon the cess as an unlawful tax imposed with no other design than to suppress the meetings of the Lord's people for worship, and persecute those who could not comply with Prelacy, so it is not to be wondered at though they warned their hearers against these things."Crookshank's "History," vol 1., p. 425.