« PreviousContinue »
to each other, upon all occasions; being, withal, in all meekness of spirit, charitably affected to, and lovingly conversing with, those their brethren and neighbours, which are not yet so sensible of the just cause of their humiliation.
13. That, in the conscience of our own wants and infirmities, we shall make it our care, to spend our main censures upon ourselves and our own enormities: not being apt to fly out upon the weaknesses and defects of our brethren: bearing with those, that are otherwise minded in matters of an inferior nature: not aggra vating the blame of those their actions or opinions, which may be capable of a gentler and milder construction; and reserving the edge of our zeal for those foul and gross offences, which carry open guilt in their faces; making head against them by all spiritual resistance, and godly endeavours of reclamation.
14. That, whensoever we shall be called to deliver the message of God to his people in public auditories, we shall not fail to lay open and bewail the sins of the time and to rouze up our hearers, with all zealous exhortations, to a lively sense of just sorrow, for the universal overflowings of wickedness; and to a vehement and godly striving against the stream thereof, by their prayers and utmost endeavours.
15. That we shall heartily labour not to be found defective, in the use of all good means, whereby the peace and welfare of God's Church may be procured and maintained; and shall carefully avoid all such ways and means, which may, in any sort, endanger the widening of the unhappy breaches, and multiplying of the many and miserable distractions thereof.
These are the Laws, to which we have thought fit, in these dole ful times, to bind ourselves, in the presence of that God, who hath graciously wrought in us a feeling compassion of the public evils; beseeching him, who is the Father of all Mercies, to enable us, by the powerful operation of his Good Spirit, to an effectual performance of all these our holy engagements; that, after the short time of our mourning in this vale of tears, we may be admitted to be the blessed partakers of that eternal joy, which abides for all his in heaven.
Christian Brethren, of what quality soever, I cannot fear, lest it will seem too much boldness in me to invite you all, to take part with me in this Holy Fraternity: which you shall highly wrong, if ye shall look upon it as mine, or any merely human institution. No: the Founder of it is in heaven. It is the charge of the Holy Ghost himself, by the hand of his Chosen Vessel, Weep with them. that weep; Rom. xii. 15. If our tears, therefore, be, as they are, most just, ye are bound to add yours to them; and shall offend, if ye forbear. Neither can ye be ignorant, that the Son of God himself, while he was visibly here upon earth, did not only own it, as well pleasing to him; but encouraged it with a promise of an assured comfort, and crowned it with no less title than blessedness; Matt. v. 4. Luke vi. 21. And, if ye look for a more ancient prece. dent, even before the Lord of Life was manifested in the flesh, ye,
do apparently find this Fraternity of singular note in old Jerusalem: Ye know the man, clothed in white linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side, had this charge from the mouth of the Lord himself: Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men, that sigh and that cry for all the abominations, that be done in the midst thereof, Ezek. ix. 4. Lo, here, a company of Mourners marked out for mercy, even while the sanctuary is contemptuously defiled, and all Jerusalem is in blood!
Shall I now need any other motive, to win you into the Brotherhood of this Sacred Order?
Know, then, that They, which sow in tears, shall reap in joy: and He, that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him; Ps. cxxvi. 5, 6. Know, that they are not tears, but pearls, that thus fall from your eyes; dearly precious to the Almighty; and carefully reserved in his casket, for the decking of your souls to all eternity. Know, that even the Lord of Glory was a Man of Sorrows; and that he bedewed Jerusalem with his tears, ere he watered it with his blood. If therefore ye will be moved, either with the sweet and unfailable promises of a gracious acceptation, and a blessed remuneration of everlasting comfort; or led by the precept or the example of that Dear Saviour, whose Name ye profess to bear; refuse not, delay not, to enter yourselves into this so Holy, Ancient, and Highly-Privileged Fraternity of Mourners in Sion.
Mourn then, my Brethren, mourn heartily: but, as the Apostle in another case, Mourn not as men without hope. Be not disheartened, O ye faithful Mourners in Sion; as if ye were hopelessly condemned to a perpetual darkness, and were doomed to dwell under a cloud of endless sorrow. The Almighty will find a time to have mercy upon his poor Church; and to clear up his countenance towards his chosen ones: wiping all tears from their eyes, and all spots from their faces; and answering the holy desires of their hearts, in shewing them his Sion in her perfect beauty. Could we but weep soundly, he would smile upon us, and comfortably shine upon his sanctuary, and make the place of his feet glorious, even an eternal excellency, the joy of many generations.
Indeed, for the present, O our God, thou hast removed our souls far from peace; thou hast most justly filled us with thine indignation for we have deserved that thou shouldest pour our iniquities upon us; and shouldest bring upon us the fruits of our own thoughts, and measure our works into our bosoms; and cause us to drink at thy hand the cup of thy fury, yea, even to have the dregs of the cup of trembling, to be wrung out to us: for we have walked every one after the imagination of his own evil heart. Our transgressions are with us, and are multiplied before thee: and, though we have professed to be humbled under thy mighty hand, we have not cried to thee in our hearts, when we howled upon our beds; neither have we loathed ourselves in our own sight, for the evils that we have committed: so as we do now justly lie down in
our shame, and our confusion covereth us; willingly acknowledg ing, that our iniquities have most deservedly turned away thy blessings from us, and drawn thy judgments upon our heads. But, O Lord, hast thou so smitten us, that there is no healing for us? Have we put ourselves utterly out of the reach of thy boundless mercies? Art not thou the God, that retainest not thine anger for ever, because thou delightest in mercy? Oh, why shouldest thou then be to us as a mighty man that cannot save? O thou, the hope of Israel, and the Saviour thereof in time of trouble, return, return to thy people in the tender bowels of thine infinite pity and compassion. Humble our souls thoroughly, under the sense of our many backslidings and grievous provocations of the eyes of thy glory. Oh, strike thou our heart with an unfeigned repentance of all our evil ways; and, once again, speak peace unto thy servants. Was there ever a more stiff-necked and rebellious people, O Lord, than thine Israel? more eminent in abused mercies? more notorious in all kinds of abominable wickedness? more exercised with variety of judgments? yet, when they cried to thee in their distress, thou wert still ready to hear and deliver them; and to renew thy so oftenforfeited blessings upon them; and wouldest not let loose thy vengeance upon them, till there was no remedy. Behold, we are thy people, though a sinful one; a second Israel, both for sins and mercies. Now, Lord, since it is thy marvellous mercy that we are not yet consumed, be still pleased to magnify thy infinite goodness, in thy gracious forbearances, and our powerful conversion to thee. And, though we cannot but confess that we are a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil doers; yet, Lord, thou knowest that thou hast thy secret ones amongst us; a people, that prayeth and trembleth at thy judgments, and waiteth humbly at the door-posts of thy sanctuary; a people, that desireth to walk close with thee their God, and to be approved of thee in all their ways; a people, that sigheth and mourneth for the abominable sins of the land of their nativity. Oh, for their sakes, be thou entreated to hold off thy revenging hand from this sinful nation; and even yet still provoke us by thy goodness to repentance. O thou, the Righteous and Merciful Judge of the World, who even for ten righteous persons wouldest have spared a Sodom and Gomorrah from their fiery execution, be pleased tenderly to regard the cries of thy many hundred faithful and devout souls, that sue to thee for the stay and removal of thy deserved judgments. Oh, do thou look down from heaven; and behoid, from the habitation of thy holiness and thy glory, the unfeigned humiliation of thy servants, who are prostrate before thee, with fastings, and weeping, and mourning. Turn away thy heavy displeasure from us; and pity thy sanctuary, which is desolate. So shall our mouths be full of the praises of thy Name; and thy saints shall rejoice and sing new songs unto the God of our salvation.
In the mean time, we shall, in silence and hope, wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from Jacob; and not cease to pour out ourselves in tears and supplications to him, that is mighty to save.
Neither will we suffer our cheeks to be dry, or our souls to receive comfort, till we shall receive a gracious answer from heaven; and shall see that the Lord hath been pleased to shew mercy to his Sion.
In this condition, we, that are Sion's Mourners, shall not need to be distinguished, as other Orders are wont, by colours, devices, habiliments. Our qualifications will be easily discerned, by our sad faces, wet eyes, deep sighs, mortified carriage, willing neglect of those vanities wherewith others are transported, our holy retiredness, assiduous devotions, and strict professions of godliness. Carry yourselves thus, Dear Brethren, and God and his angels shall gladly welcome you into that Holy Society of Mourners, which shall be marked out for preservation here, and for eternal comfort hereafter.
Lastly, let none of you discourage himself from entering into this Sacred Fraternity, out of the sense of his bodily infirmity, or the urgent necessity of outward impediments. There is many a holy soul, that dwells inconveniently, in a crazy, tottering, ruinous cottage, ready to drop down daily upon his head, not able to endure the subtraction of one meal's support. There are not a few well affected Christians, whom the necessary exigencies of their calling and estate, like so many hard taskmasters, hold close to their tale of bricks; not allowing them the leisure of our limited devotion. Let all these, of both kinds, know, that they have no cause hereupon, either to hold off; or to think they shall, in this case, need the dispensation of any superior power; since their condition doth sufficiently dispense with itself. Even the severest Casuists of the Roman Church, who are wont to be the rigidest exactors of the outward exercises of mortification, do, in these cases, allow of a just relaxation. My Brethren, if ye cannot fast; yet ye can pray : if your stomachs be weak; yet your zeal may be strong. Ye can mourn, though ye pine not: and, if ye cannot spare a day in seven; yet ye may spare an hour in twelve, and make up the rest in your frequent and fervent ejaculations. Shortly, if you have truly mourning souls, they will be accepted in the necessary want of the strict terms of bodily exercises.
Farewell, in the Lord.