AMERICA WAS FOUNDED ON GOD'S LAW AND CHRISTIANITY:
ABOUT PURITAN FOUNDERS OF AMERICA:
Thomas Prince, The People of New England (1730)
[Editor's Note: Because of its topic (Puritan Founders of America), this election sermon (preached to commemorate the centennial of the 1630 Puritan migration to New England) provides excellent material for discourses and study about America's Christian heritage and Puritan founders of America.
Thomas Prince (1687-1758), The People of New England Put in mind of the Righteous Acts of the Lord to Them and their Fathers, and Reasoned with concerning them. A Sermon Delivered at Cambridge Before the Great and General Assembly of the Province of the Massachusetts, May 27th 1730. Being the Anniversary for the Election of His Majesty's Council for the Province. By Thomas Prince, M.A. And one of the Pastors of the South Church in Boston.
Boston in New England: B. Green, Printer to His Honor the Lieut. Governor & Council, for D. Henchman, 1730.
(Slightly edited and abridged.)
Note that Prince says here that the Puritans came to New England for religious liberty, rather than for economic reasons. Prince's sermon also calls for government acknowledgment of God. This sermon was preached before the Massachusetts legislature, and was printed by the government's own printer.
For discussion about the Massachusetts Colony Secretary, Josiah Willard (his name is affixed to the government order for printing this sermon), see the article True Heroism and the Rule of Law.
Note also that this sermon was preached in May 1730, shortly before the arrival (in August 1730) of the colony's new governor, Jonathan Belcher (who was Thomas Prince's friend). The appointment of the new governor (a third-generation, native-born American) was alluded to in Prince's sermon in these words: "We the ministers and people account it happy, that we see so many in place of public power, descending from the ancient founders of these towns and churches, and others, in such a measure like them, in exalted stations. We also esteem it a joyful smile of Heaven, that our most gracious KING has given us principal rulers out of ourselves; men of known virtue, and well-acquainted with our constitution, genius, circumstance, and chief concern and interest. And the late surprising turn of Providence in favor to this distressed people, fills us with humble adorations of the sovereign power and government of GOD; and gives us such raised apprehensions of the gracious dispositions of our KING and QUEEN to favor us, as both inspires us with universal joy and gratitude, [....]"
See more about Governor Belcher, including the ministers' address to him, the sermon preached upon his arrival, and his Thanksgiving proclamation in 1730 and the one discussed in "November Thanksgiving Thursday". When Jonathan Belcher was governor of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, he called for the repair of Stoughton Hall at Harvard College. (An interesting note: William Stoughton (quoted at the end of Prince's discourse) was both a minister, a magistrate, and a lieutenant governor of Massachusetts.)
Together with Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Prince can be considered to be "the historian of the Great Awakening".
Note Prince's historical note about the founding of Boston in 1630. (One of the Puritans who traveled with Governor John Winthrop in the Great Migration was Edward Belcher of Guilsborough, Northamptonshire, England, cousin of future Governor Jonathan Belcher (1682-1757). Edward was thus one of the Puritan founders of New England.)
"May this seminary of learning, so fair and pleasant in our eyes, which our wise and pious fathers set up so early to enlighten and rejoice our land; yet still produce such illustrious persons as Stoughton, Dudley, Saltonstall, and Belcher": Here, in these words from his sermon, Prince was referring to newly-appointed Governor Jonathan Belcher, who was a Harvard College graduate (Harvard being "this seminary of learning"), and, by virtue of his governorship, one of Harvard's Overseers. -- ED.]
Psal. 105:5, 6. "Remember his marvellous Works that HE has done, his Wonders, and the Judgments of his mouth; O ye Seed of Abraham his Servant, ye Children of Jacob his Chosen!"
Mr. Prince's ELECTION SERMON.
In COUNCIL, June 1st, 1730.
THAT Thomas Fitch and Daniel Oliver, Esqrs; give the thanks of this Board to the Reverend Mr. Thomas Prince, for his SERMON preached to the General Assembly, on the day of election of counselors, and desire a copy thereof in order to its being printed.
J. Willard, Secr.
A SERMON AT THE General Election.
1 Sam. 12:6, 7.
"And SAMUEL said unto the PEOPLE; 'It is the LORD that advanced MOSES and AARON, and that brought up your FATHERS out of the Land of Egypt; Now therefore, stand still, that I may Reason with you before the LORD, of all the Righteous Acts of the LORD, which He did to YOU and to your FATHERS.'"
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1. When there at any time arise, either in the civil or ecclesiastical order, MEN of eminent wisdom, goodness, power and usefulness among a people of GOD, we must consider, it is the LORD their GOD, that made, accomplished and raised them up, and this in special favor to that particular people.
2. That when such a people are in a remarkable manner brought out of the hands of those that vexed them, to a place or state of ease and liberty; the gracious conduct of the LORD their GOD, is herein to be religiously observed and acknowledged by them.
3. It behoves such a people so treated of GOD, to remember all his signal operations, both of judgment and of mercy, both to them and their fathers, to view them as acts of faithfulness and righteousness to them, and consider the special and great obligations arising from them.
4. And lastly, it becomes their public teachers to remind them therefore of all these things, and from thence to reason with them before the LORD about their answerable carriage [i.e., behavior] towards Him.
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III. And [the] last general head, which is to apply the words and those observations to this particular people in our own land.
And here I cannot forbear observing, that there never was any people on earth, so parallel in their general history to that of the ancient ISRAELITES as this of NEW ENGLAND. To no other country of people could there ever be so directly applied a multitude of Scripture passages in the literal sense, as to this particular country: that excepting miracles and changing names, one would be ready to think, the greater part of the OLD TESTAMENT were written about us; or that we, though in a lower degree, were the particular antitypes of that primitive [early] people.
However, I'm sure, that upon the present occasion, I may justly turn the text into a like address, in the Name of GOD, to this Great and General Assembly, comprehensive both of rulers and people of every order; and say--"It is the LORD that advanced your primitive civil and ecclesiastical LEADERS, and that brought up your FATHERS out of the land of their affliction; now therefore, stand still, that I may reason with you before the LORD, of all the righteous acts of the LORD, which He did to YOU and to your FATHERS!
And how extremely proper is it, upon the close of the FIRST CENTURY of our settlement in this chief part of the land, which will now within a few weeks expire,* to look back to the beginning of this remarkable transaction, and first commemorate the righteous and signal works of GOD towards us, both in our own days and in the days of our fathers; and then consider the great and special obligations they have laid upon us, with the nature of our carriage towards Him for the time past, and our interest and wisdom for the future.
(* On Saturday, June 12, 1630, arrived in Salem River, the Arabella, with Governor WINTHROP and some of his Assistants, bringing the Charter of the MASSACHUSETTS Colony, and therewith the Government, transferred hither: The other ten ships of the fleet with Deputy Governor DUDLEY and the other Assistants arrived in Salem and Charles Rivers before July 11. In the same month the Governor, Deputy Governor and Assistants came with their goods to CHARLESTOWN: And the first Court of Assistants was held there on Aug. 23, the same year.)
"Give ear therefore O my People to my Law: incline your Ear to the Words of my Mouth! I will utter things of old, which we have heard and known and our Fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their Children; shewing to the Generation and Century coming on, the Praises of the LORD, and his Strength, and his Wonderful WORKS that He has done. For He established a Testimony in JACOB, and appointed a Law, a Law of Gratitude in ISRAEL, which He commanded our Fathers, that they should make known the WORKS of GOD to their Children: that the Generation to come might know them, even the Children which should be born, who should arise and declare them to their Children; that they might also set their Hope in GOD, and not forget his Works, but keep his Commandments."
And here we must own, that very many have been the wondrous WORKS which the LORD our GOD has wrought for us: they cannot be reckoned up in order before Him: if I would declare and speak of them they are more than can be numbered. We may now therefore only touch on some of the most material; those of the most important, public and comprehensive nature.
And 1st, let us consider who the FATHERS of these Plantations were, and what were their distinguishing characters; that we may give to GOD the glory of the excellent honor He was pleased to put upon them, and see our own obligations to Him for deriving us from such eminent ancestors.
For the generality of them--They were the near descendants of the first Reformers in ENGLAND. They were born of pious parents, who brought them up in a course of strict religion, and under the ministry of the most awakening preachers of those days. Like so many Timothys, they were from their childhood taught to know the HOLY SCRIPTURES, to reverence them as the inspirations of GOD, as the only rule of faith and piety, and to aim at both a pure Scriptural way of worship, and at the vital power and practice of Godliness: And they continued in the things they had learned and had been assured of, as knowing of whom they had learned them.
Under such means as these they became inspired with a spirit of piety, and with a growing zeal to reform the worship of GOD to the most beautiful and perfect model of His own institutions.
In points of doctrine, they entirely held with the Church of ENGLAND, their judgment of orthodoxy being the very same: But they apprehended it to be the sole prerogative of GOD Himself, and a glory that He would not give to another, to appoint the orders of His own house, and the acceptable ways of His own worship: That RELIGION is a free obedience to the known laws of GOD; and it is neither in the power of men or angels, to make that religion which He has not made so Himself: That His own institutions ought not to be set on a level, mixed or debased with the low devices of men; and that it is a plain, full and decisive rule of His own injunction--"To the LAW and to the TESTIMONY; if they speak not according to THIS WORD, it is because there is no light in them."
This is the pure religion which our fathers admired and aimed at, and at nothing in religion but what was inspired of GOD. This and nothing else, they earnestly breathed and labored after: But for laboring after it, though some of the most pious on earth, they were censured, pursued, seized, imprisoned, fined, and suffered a world of hardship not now to be named.
Their native country, which ever since the Glorious Revolution, has been a happy land of ease and liberty, was in those former times as the land of EGYPT to those pious men; and their lives were made exceedingly bitter with religious bondage.
However, through the infinite mercy and wisdom of GOD, it was well for our fathers and for us, in the end, that they were thus afflicted. For had there been then a succession of such indulgent PRINCES and Bishops in ENGLAND, as there have since the PRINCE OF ORANGE ascended the throne; there never had been such a country as this, for religion, good order, liberty, learning, and flourishing towns and churches; which have given us a distinguishing name in the world, and have reflected a singular honor to the persons and principles of its original settlers for this hundred years. But having a rougher surface, a barrener soil, a more inclement air than the Southern countries, it would in all human prospect, have been at this day as the wastes of NEW SCOTLAND or the wilder deserts between us, but abundantly fuller of barbarous natives; or at most in no better condition than the bordering Plantations.
But the omniscient and sovereign GOD had espied and chosen this land for our fathers, for a refuge and heritage for them and their children; that here they might set up His worship and churches according to the inspired pattern, behold the beauty of the Divine appointments in their Scriptural purity, and leave these inestimable privileges, which they justly preferred above all things else in the world, as a blessed inheritance to their posterity, as we see at this day.
And now let us look back and behold in what a remarkable manner, the GOD of our fathers was pleased to bring them out of the land of their sorrows, to this far distant and quiet recess of the earth, and put it into their hands.
First, He sends a smaller company into a neighboring State (viz. into Holland in 1610); that there they might form themselves into a regular ecclesiastical body, till this hidden part of the earth should appear to the light, and yet come under such a discouraging character, that none but men inspired with a zeal for religion would go on to settle it. He disappoints the successive endeavors of others who came hither only out of secular views, till the country comes to be given up and abandoned as not worthy the looking after by any trading nation. And then He sends both wasting diseases among the native inhabitants, and fierce contentions among the survivors, that greatly diminished their numbers, and made room for His people.
But O how horrid and dismal do these new-found regions appear! On the shores and rivers, nothing but sights of wretched, naked, and barbarous nations, adorers of devils--the earth covered with hideous thickets, that require infinite toils to subdue--a rigorous winter for a third part of the year--not a house to live in--not a Christian to see--none but heathen of a strange and hard language to speak with--not a friend within three thousand miles to help in any emergency--and a vast and dangerous ocean to pass over to this!
But the ALMIGHTY inspires with a zeal and courage that nothing can daunt, with a faith and patience that nothing can break. He raises up men of superior piety, resolution and wisdom to lead and animate in the great design. (Such as Mr. CARVER, Mr. BRADFORD, and Mr. WINSLOW, successive Governors of PLYMOUTH COLONY, who came together in the first ship, which set sail the last time from PLYMOUTH in ENGLAND on Sept. 6 and arrived in CAPE COD harbor on Novemb. 11th 1620.) And on they come, all alone, a small and feeble number, through contrary storms and boisterous seas they were never used to: though twice driven back, a terrible winter approaching, their wives and poor piteous children with them, and like ABRAHAM of old they know not whither. But the LORD is their guide: He divides the seas before them: He leads them through in safety: He brings them with joy to the border of His designed sanctuary, to this mountainous country which His right hand had purchased. And having cast out multitudes of heathens before their arrival, He gives them favor in the sight of the rest: He divides His people an inheritance by line, and makes them to dwell in peace in the midst of many powerful nations, that could have swallowed them up in a moment, for above fifty years together.
But a greater colony is now coming on, to strengthen the other, and to fill up the land from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. And here, behold and wonder how this is also accomplished.
Great numbers of eminent persons, and others, of the same pious and pure dispositions in the main with the former, yet continued in the churches of ENGLAND and in communion with them as long as the higher powers indulged them, with earnest desires, labors and hopes of a farther reformation of worship. But a spirit of severe imposition is now let loose upon these. The Book of Sports on the Holy Sabbath of GOD must be read by the ministers in the public assemblies; and their assent to unscriptural ways of worship must be subscribed as a necessary term of their preaching, even though they were solemnly ordained in the church to the office, required by CHRIST Himself to discharge it, and had a woe laid on them if they desisted to do it. And for preserving their conscience pure, they are driven out of their churches, they are forced from their flocks that loved them as the light of their eyes, and are more harassed and worried than the vilest of men.
And now, at once, to the surprise of the nation, in almost every corner they are moved of GOD to look to this part of the wilderness He had been preparing for them. Many persons of shining figures are raised up to espouse their cause and venture with them. Their prince is prevailed on to grant them a Charter of distinguishing privileges. They hear, they rise, they flow together: Their flocks in great numbers attend and follow them. They all relinquish their delightful seats and their dearest friends, they put off their fair estates, they cast themselves and their children on the tumultuous ocean; and nothing can move them, so they may come into a wilderness, rude and hideous, to hear the voice of their teachers, become a covenant people of GOD, observe His laws, set up His tabernacle, behold His glory, and leave these things to their offspring forever.
And the LORD preserves them, He makes the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over: He brings them in thousands to these peaceful shores: And here, they that knew not each other before, salute and embrace with joy: He unites them in the most lovely agreement to profess and serve him: They publicly and solemnly enter into covenant with Him, to love and obey Him, to make His doctrines the only rule of faith, and His institutions the only rule of worship: And with united joy they sing to the LORD--"Thou in thy Mercy hast led forth the People which Thou hast redeemed: Thou hast guided them in thy Strength to thy Holy Habitation: Thou hast brought them in and Planted them in the Mountain of thine Inheritance, in the Place O LORD which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary which thy Hands have established: and the LORD shall Reign for ever and ever."
At first indeed, they met with very grievous trials, and endured a world of hardship and affliction: For though the LORD had thus redeemed and gathered them out of other lands and brought them hither; yet here they had only solitary ways and thickets to wander through, and no towns or houses to receive or cover them. Those who before had lived in the midst of plenty and delights, now greatly suffer for want of lodging, bread, and defense from weather. Hungry and thirsty, their souls fainted in them. They are wet with the showers of the mountains, and embrace the rocks for shelter. They quickly sink their worldly substance; they are forced to give their pleasant things for meat to relieve the soul; and many of their wives and children expire about them. --- But they endure with patience, and cry to GOD, and He sends relief. He satisfies their longing souls and fills them with goodness. He builds them houses and towns for habitation; He prepares them fields for planting, and He turns the desert into a fruitful land. He increased their cattle; and He blessed their persons, so that they multiplied greatly, and He made them families and churches round about.
And now the WILDERNESS and the solitary place is glad for them: The desert rejoices and blossoms as a rose; it blossoms abundantly with peace and righteousness; it rejoices with joy and singing. The glory of LEBANON is given to it, the excellency of CARMEL and SHARON; they see the glory of the LORD and the excellency of our GOD. The waters of the Divine influence break out in the wilderness, and the streams in the desert: The parched ground becomes a pool; and the thirsty land, springs of water: In the habitations of dragons where they lay, there grows up the grass; and a highway now is there, which is called the way of holiness, over which the unclean do not pass, and the wayfaring men do not err therein.
And to the great glory of GOD be it spoken--There never was, perhaps, before seen such a body of pious people together on the face of the earth. For those who came over at first, came hither for the sake of RELIGION, and for that pure religion which was entirely hated by the loose and profane of the world. Their civil and ecclesiastical LEADERS were exemplary patterns of piety: They encouraged only the virtuous to come with and follow them: They were so strict on the vicious both in the church and state, that the incorrigible could not endure to live in the country, and went back again. Profane swearers and drunkards are not known in the land. And it quickly grew so famous for religion abroad, that scarcely any other but those who liked it, came over for many years after. And indeed such vast numbers were coming, that the Crown was obliged to stop them, or a great part of the nation had soon emptied itself into these American regions.
And for those who were here--the SPIRIT from on high empowered upon them, and the WILDERNESS becomes a fruitful field: judgment and righteousness continue in it, and the effect of righteousness is peace. While a cruel war rages in the kingdom they left, lays it waste, and drowns it in blood, the people here dwell in peaceable habitations, in sure dwellings, in quiet resting places. And the LORD enlarges the bounds of their tents: He stretches forth the curtains of their habitations; He makes them to break forth on the right hand and on the left; He makes their seed to inherit the lands of the Gentiles, the desolate places to be inhabited. And in fifty-four years from the first plantation, there appear above fourscore English CHURCHES ( Twelve or 13 in PLYMOUTH Colony, 47 in the MASSACHUSETTS, 19 in CONNECTICUT, 3 in LONG ISLAND, and 1 at MARTHA'S VINEYARD), composed only of known, pious, and faithful professors [professing Christians], dispersed through the wilderness.
But now comes on a cloud which covers our glory! This excellent generation passes away, and there arises another which provokes the HOLY ONE of ISRAEL to anger.
The LORD set up our neighboring enemies against us: He united them together, who never could unite till now: The western INDIANS before, and the eastern behind: They devoured our ISRAEL with open mouth.
The western nations first came up (in 1675 and 1676) like the waters of a flood, strong and many: They came up over all our banks, they passed through our country, they overflowed and came over, they reached to the neck, and filled the breadth of our land! They lay our country desolate; they burn our towns round about with fire; they devour our land in our presence! They draw near and threaten even the chief and central town itself: And there are those now living, who remember, that every man therein was ready to shut up his house and go out for the preservation of the remnant of the people! There was the noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms and nations gathered together: The LORD of Hosts mustered the host of the battle! All hands grew faint, and every heart melted: We were afraid: Pangs and sorrows took hold of us: We were in pain as a woman that travaileth: We were amazed at one another: For the day of the LORD came, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate!
But when the LORD had brought us to the brink of destruction, then He heard our earnest cries, and arose for our rescue. At the lifting up of Himself, the nations were scattered--He rebuked and set them against one another: He made them to flee afar off: He chased them as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind. As smoke is driven away, so He drove them away: As wax melts before the fire, so they perished at the presence of GOD.
And then, how often has He made (in FOUR several terrible WARS, especially the THREE former, from 1675, to the conclusion of the last peace in 1726) the eastern INDIANS, the rod of his anger, and the staff of His indignation with us! He has sent them against us, and given them the charge to take the spoil and tread us down as the mire of the street. They came with open mouth upon us: They thrust through every one they found abroad: They ensnared and slew our mighty men who went forth for our defense: They spoiled our fields and pastures: They burned up our houses: They destroyed our towns and garrisons: They murdered our wives: They carried our young men and virgins into captivity: They had no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eyes spared not our children, they dashed them in pieces.
But when the LORD had performed His work, His righteous work upon us; He punished the stoutness of their hearts and the glory of their looks. For they said, "By the Strength of our Hands we have done it, and by our Wisdom; For we are Prudent, and have removed the Bounds of the People, and have robbed their Treasures, and have put down the Inhabitants, like a valiant Man." Therefore the LORD of Hosts has sent among their fat ones leanness, and under their glory kindled a burning like the burning of fire: and it consumed the glory of their forest, and they were as when a standard bearer faints: And the rest of the trees of their forest are now grown so few, that a child may write them.
I might go on to mention a great variety of other righteous acts of the LORD our GOD to this covenant people, both corrective and merciful--as distressing droughts and scarcities; contagious and wasting sicknesses; impoverishing disappointments, fires and losses of a public nature and influence: vexations from those that have envied and hated us; the cruel taking away of our most dearly bought privileges, the most grievous affliction of all others, and their wonderful restoration; the insupportable power of strange oppressors, and the surprising appearance of GOD for our rescue, when no other arm could save us, and our hope was almost perished from before Him. But the time would fail me---
I shall therefore only mention one remarkable work of GOD which appears to me to be full of wonder, and a visible and constant monument of His special favor and appearance for us--and that is this--on the account of our pure religion, we have been all along a people misrepresented, envied, and maligned above any other on earth. We have had continually for this hundred years many powerful and active enemies, and but few and feeble friends to stand up for us and plead our cause. How comes it then to pass that we have greater civil and religious privileges than almost any others! The most high GOD has been our mighty friend. To Him have our dear forefathers and we consigned our greatest interests, and He has stood up for us: He has removed kings and set up kings; He has carried the devices of the crafty headlong, that those who mourned might be raised to safety: And when our case has been so helpless that we could only pray, we have then stood still and seen the salvation of GOD. It is all a continued work of His: It can be ascribed to nothing else: Let it be ever marvelous in our eyes: And let Him have all the glory.
And so let Him have the glory likewise of all his other works both of judgment and of mercy to us. Let us frequently call them to mind, peruse the published histories of them, and teach them to our children after us.
But I must now come on, to REASON with you before the LORD, of all these righteous acts of His, which He has done to YOU and to your FATHERS.
And here, in the first place then, we see what a surpassing favor and honor, the MOST HIGH has shown to this particular people in our first formation, and so down to this day. He formed us of a pious people, devoted to Him; and He brought them and their offspring into a special, open, express and solemn COVENANT with Him. They began with this, and this has been successively laid in the foundation of every church, and explicitly owned at the administration of every sacrament, and at the admission of every member.
Now the substance of this COVENANT is, That HE will deal with us, and we will carry to HIM, according to His INSPIRED WORD. The SACRED SCRIPTURES, the promises and threatenings exhibited in them, are the declared rule of His dispensations to us; and the same Divine Writings, the doctrines and injunctions represented in them, are the professed rule of our carriage to Him. This is the rule and the only rule for the people, churches, and religion of NEW ENGLAND. We hold to nothing but what we apprehend to be revealed, taught and required in them; and we leave every one to search and judge for themselves.
By our sacred covenant, we are therefore under the most solemn obligations to preserve an entire and strict adherence to this DIVINE STANDARD, both in belief and practice, both in life and worship: And woe unto us, if we depart therefrom! For if we do--we break our covenant with the Holy GOD, and become exposed to all the fearful and signal judgments denounced in Scripture upon the violators of it; and He is a true and jealous GOD, and will signally avenge the quarrel of His broken covenant. But if we faithfully keep to this holy engagement, then we are entitled to all the distinguishing promises which GOD has made to His covenant people; and He is a gracious and a faithful GOD, and will surely fulfill them for us.
We are also to look on all His past dealings, both afflictive and merciful, both with us and our fathers, as His righteous and faithful acts, according to His wise and well-ordered covenant: They are nothing else but His just and faithful performance of it: And by the tenor of this sacred indenture, we are to expect His treatment of us for the future.
But then, O the extraordinary obligations we are under, both from the covenant of the LORD our GOD, and from all His signal works both of judgment and of favor to us!
Have any of the other Plantations suffered so much as we, by cruel wars, depredations and bloodshed, impoverishing disappointments, fires and losses, both by sea and land, contagious sicknesses and other evils, which have marked us out for the censure and condemnation of the world?
And yet, what people on earth have had more distinguishing advantages than we? Derived of pious ancestors; possessed of a good and large land, with commodious harbors and fruitful seas; living in a clear and healthy air, and in the enjoyment of great privileges civil and sacred: having wise and religious laws; pious and learned magistrates and ministers; sober and virtuous educations; grammar schools in every town of a hundred families, free for the poorest without expense--well-ordered colleges to perfect the accomplishments of our growing youth for the public service--in fine, free and pure churches,* divine institutions, sacred Sabbaths for the preservation of religion in its power and practice. And as the effect of this is general, a sober, civil, charitable, quiet, loyal people; who earnestly wished and prayed for, and now greatly rejoice in, the happy advancement and succession of the illustrious House of HANOVER to the BRITISH THRONE, in which alone, under GOD, we trust, to preserve our constitution, laws and liberties; and desire nothing but the continuance of all these things. And where can they be found in so great a measure as in this happy land?
(* PURITY in CHURCHES is opposed to human mixtures, and the freer they are from these the purer they are: which is the great and professed design of OURS, who in religious matters make the Revelations of GOD their only rule, and admit of nothing but what they apprehend these Revelations require, both in discipline and worship as well as doctrine and manners. And FREEDOM in CHURCHES, is a liberty to judge of the meaning of these Revelations, and of professing and acting according to our judgment of the meaning of them; and in particular the free choice of our own pastors and ways of discipline and worship, and our consciences in these things not subjected to any power on earth.)
And here give me leave to observe, that though the principal seaport towns of the Province are exceedingly exposed and depraved by the pouring in of trade and strangers; yet we may by no means judge by these of the rest of the country. For to tell you my own experience--though for the acquirement of grammar learning, I lived when young in four considerable country towns; yet I never heard a profane oath or curse till I was fifteen years of age, when I came down and heard them first from a profane youth of our metropolis.
And are not all these distinguishing advantages the plain consequence under GOD, of the pious principles and characters of the first settlers of these Plantations? Don't they reflect a singular and everlasting honor on them? And are they not the strongest obligations on us, to maintain the same happy principles and characters; that we may transmit the same advantages to our posterity?
But then as all these advantages have been bestowed upon us by the LORD our GOD, and on these accounts we may with humble admiration say--He has scarcely dealt so graciously with any other people under Heaven--How distinguishingly great and multiplied are our obligations to remember, love and praise Him, to persevere in our ancient choice and profession of Him, to preserve His pure worship without imposing on any, to obey His laws, to fear Him, and trust in Him for the time to come: And how ungrateful, how sinful, how provoking, how dangerous--to forget HIM and His signal WORKS which both our fathers and we admired and were greatly affected with in the days wherein He wrought them for us--and much more so, to forsake Him, and rebel against Him.
But O! Alas! Our great and dangerous declensions! To what an awful measure are they gone already, how transcendently guilty do they make us, how threatening do they grow! What a melancholy prospect would lie before us--were we to draw the parallel between the first and present generation! In comparison with this, they made a Heaven upon earth--but as when their heads were laid in the grave, there arose another generation after them, which did not so much know the LORD, nor the WORKS He had done for ISRAEL; so the following generation has still declined further: And now we are risen up in our fathers' stead, an increase of sinful men, to augment the fierce anger of the LORD against His people.
And is not this the word of the LORD this day--Go and cry in their ears, and say, "Thus saith the LORD, I remember Thee the Kindness of thy Youth, and the Love of thine Espousals, when Thou wentest after me into the Wilderness, into a Land that was not Sown: This Land was Holiness then to the LORD, and the First Fruits of his Increase. All that devoured Thee, offended ME, and I brought Evil upon them. And now thus saith the LORD, What Iniquity have You or your Fathers found in Me; that You are gone far from Me, have followed after Vanity, and are become so vain a People? Nor do you say, where is the LORD, that brought us up out of a distant Land, that led us through the Wilderness, through a Land of Deserts and Pits, a Land of Drought and of the Shadow of Death? and He brought you into a plentiful Country, to eat the Fruit thereof and the Goodness thereof. But now ye have entered, ye have defiled my Land and made my Heritage an abomination. Wherefore I will yet plead with you, saith the LORD, and with your Children's Children. Hath a Nation changed their Gods;--But my People have changed their Glory for that which profiteth not. Be astonished O ye Heavens at this--For my People have committed two Evils; they have forsaken Me the Fountain of living Waters, and hewed them out Cisterns, broken Cisterns that can hold no Water."
Now we are guilty of these provoking evils, when we turn from the predominant love of GOD and of His holy ways, neglect His interest, and seek the pleasures, wealth or honors of the present world, with a greater ardor, as a more desirable source of good and happiness. And though 'tis true, we still maintain in general the same religious principles and professions with our pious fathers; yet how greatly is the spirit of piety declined among us, how sadly is religion turning more and more into a mere "form of Godliness", as the APOSTLE speaks, without the "power", and how dreadfully is the love of the world prevailing more and more upon this professing people! And this notwithstanding all the zealous testimonies which have from time to time for above this threescore years been borne against these growing evils.
Like as to ISRAEL of old, so the LORD has sent us, from the early days of our apostasy, His faithful ministers to testify against it, and to warn us of the fatal consequence. With what wonderful life and earnestness have they upon all occasions, and especially on such as these, delivered their anxious souls and mourned over us, as their printed sermons show (see the excellent election sermons of Mr. HIGGINSON, MITCHELL, STOUGHTON, DANFORTH, SHEPARD, OAKES, TORREY, etc. which might be of public service, were they reprinted and dispersed): And how solemn, plain and faithful in their public admonitions of our sin and danger! But like that ancient people also, we have not hearkened to the voice of GOD, but hardened our necks against Him, and have done worse and worse in every generation. And what will be the consequence of this, unless a reformation save us--but severer chastisements than others suffer, a growing separation between our GOD and us, the withdrawment of His HOLY SPIRIT from us, the loss of piety, the increase of all corruption both in worship and in manners, as they usually go together, and a terrible entail of vice and ruin to our dear posterity!
And have we not sufficient cause to apprehend that we are already come to such an awful pass, to such a stupid, careless and incorrigible frame as they--when the LORD directed such a word as this to be delivered to them, Jer. 7:25-28: "Since the day that your Fathers came forth out of the land of EGYPT unto this day, I have sent unto you all my Servants the Prophets, daily rising up early, and sending them. Yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their Ear, but hardened their Neck, they did worse than their Fathers. Therefore thou shalt speak all these Words unto them, but they will not hearken unto thee: thou shalt also call unto them, but they will not answer thee. But thou shalt say unto them, This is a Nation that obeyeth not the Voice of the LORD their GOD, nor receiveth Correction".
The following verse I dread to read--and hope it does not yet belong to this backsliding people. But I must needs confess, that considering the inclinations in the children of pious ancestors to degenerate, and the usual course of Providence among them, with our own past behaviors and present state and prospects--I can't but fear, that this declining people will grow worse and worse in every age, if the world continues, till they come to be as much remarked for sinfulness and miseries, as they have been heretofore for piety and great advantages.
Now then, let the affecting view of all these things, both present, past and future, excite us all in our several places, to do our utmost, that we may not share in the dreadful guilt of this declension, nor have our part in drawing on the lamentable consequences of it. But let us lay it to heart, and mourn before the LORD, first our own apostasies and sins and then the apostasies and sins prevailing among this people. Let us cry earnestly for the SPIRIT of grace to be poured forth on us and them, that the hearts of the children may be returned to the GOD of their fathers, and may continue steadfast in his sacred covenant. And being revived ourselves, let us labor to revive religion in our several families; and then rise up for GOD in this evil day, bare our open witness also, against the public degeneracy, and do what in us lies for the revival of the power of piety among all about us.
And to direct and quicken us here, let us improve the shining patterns which our ancient FATHERS have set before us.
Let our honorable RULERS of every kind and order, from the highest to the lowest, remember those admirable CIVIL LEADERS of this people, that have gone before us, and imitate their great example.
They were mostly men of good estates and families, of liberal educations, and of large experience: But they chiefly excelled in piety to GOD, in zeal for the purity of His worship, the reverence of His glorious and fearful Name, the strict observance of His holy Sabbaths, the respect and maintenance of an unblemished ministry; the spread of knowledge, learning, good order, quiet, through the land, a reign of righteousness, and the welfare of this people. In short, the making and executing wholesome laws for all these blessed ends: And in wisdom, courage, patience, meekness, self-denial for the public good, and steadfast perseverance in their endeavors after it.
They laid the wise foundations of our succeeding and present happiness: They united with their pastors in consultations and endeavors for the advancement and preservation of religion, and the privileges, peace and order of the churches: By their grave and prudent carriage, they happily preserved a veneration for their persons and authority among the people: And yet carefully protected them in the full enjoyment of their precious liberties.
Mr. MITCHELL, speaking of them in his election sermon in 1667, observes, that "That was the 37th year current with the MASSACHUSETTS Colony" (I may add--the 47th then with PLYMOUTH) "that GOD had given them Godly magistrates"--And that "the sun did not shine upon a happier people than they were, in regard of this mercy." And Mr. OAKES in his election sermon, in 1673--"Many and wonderful are the favors and privileges which the LORD your GOD has conferred upon you. As to your CIVIL GOVERNMENT, you have had MOSES, men I mean of the same spirit, to lead and go before you: The LORD has not given children to be your leaders--but pious, faithful, prudent magistrates, men in wisdom and understanding--men of Nehemiah's spirit, that sought not themselves, but sincerely designed the good, and consulted the welfare and prosperity of these Plantations--men that did not rigorously exact the bread of the Governor, but cheerfully receded from their own right, sympathizing with, and compassionately considering the low estate and condition of this people. Good magistrates, good laws, and the vigorous execution of them, has been the privilege and glory of NEW ENGLAND, wherein you have been advanced above most of the nations of the earth."
In fine, they faithfully served their generation according to the will of GOD: They were greatly concerned for the religion and welfare of their posterity: They now enjoy the glorious fruits of all their services, and have left their excellent examples for those to follow who should rise up in their places, as you are this day.
We the ministers and people account it happy, that we see so many in place of public power, descending from the ancient founders of these towns and churches, and others, in such a measure like them, in exalted stations. We also esteem it a joyful smile of Heaven, that our most gracious KING has given us principal rulers out of ourselves; men of known virtue, and well acquainted with our constitution, genius, circumstance, and chief concern and interest. And the late surprising turn of Providence in favor to this distressed people, fills us with humble adorations of the sovereign power and government of GOD; and gives us such raised apprehensions of the gracious dispositions of our KING and QUEEN to favor us, as both inspires us with universal joy and gratitude, and also assures us, that YOUR HONORS will best please their Majesties, by pursuing your own inclinations to render us an easy and happy people.
And how is it imaginable that this can be better done, than by following the distinguishing examples of the ancient fathers of this country; by whose auspicious conduct, this Plantation grew and flourished under many disadvantages, without any expense or help from the Crown, and soon out-stripped all others in virtue, learning, power and figure, though not in riches.
Let our MINISTERS likewise call to mind and imitate, the burning and shining lights that were first set up in this dismal wilderness.
Instead of my drawing their exalted character, I would rather give it the more authentic terms of those who personally knew them. They are the joint and expiring testimony of the venerable and aged Mr. HIGGINSON and HUBBARD (Mr. WILLIAM HUBBARD of Ipswich) in the year 1701.
"Above seventy years" (say they) "have passed away, since one of us; and above sixty since the other of us, came into NEW ENGLAND. We are therefore capable to make some comparison between the condition of the churches when they were first erected in this country, and the condition into which they are now fallen and more falling every day. We that saw the persons, who from four famous colonies, assembled in the SYNOD, that agreed on our platform of church discipline, cannot forget their excellent character. They were men of great renown in the nation, from whence the Laudean persecution exiled them: Their learning, their holiness, their gravity struck all men that knew them with admiration. They were Timothys in their houses, Chrysostoms in their pulpits, Augustines in their disputations. The prayers, the studies, the humble inquiries, with which they sought after the mind of GOD, were as likely to prosper as any men's upon earth. And the sufferings wherein they were confessors for the Name and truth of the LORD JESUS CHRIST, add unto the arguments which would persuade us, that our gracious LORD would reward and honor them with communicating much of His truth unto them. The famous BRIGHTMAN had foretold, clariorem lucem adhuc solitudo dabit, 'GOD would yet reveal more of the true church state to some of His faithful servants, whom He would send into a wilderness, that He might there have communion with them.' And it was eminently accomplished in what was done for and by the men of GOD, that first erected churches for Him in this American wilderness."
Thus those two ancient witnesses, who brought up the rear of the first generation that came from ENGLAND.
Indeed the inspired SCRIPTURE, as was observed before, is our only authoritative rule of faith and worship: and our platform is no other than the declared judgment of the sense of Scripture in matters of church order, discipline and worship which our ancient ministers and others,* with abundant prayers and humble, free and diligent inquiries and conferences, almost unanimously came into.
(* I say OTHERS; because it has been a fundamental principle with us, that as CHURCHES are composed both of MINISTERS and BRETHREN; and ecclesiastical councils or synods are proper representatives of churches; that therefore there should set in all such assemblies, not only MINISTERS, but also OTHERS chosen by the churches to represent them: That they may not be merely CLERICAL, or synods of the CLERGY, but ECCLESIASTICAL, or synods of the CHURCHES. And such have been all our NEW ENGLAND synods and councils from the first; agreeable to that famous precedent in Acts 15.)
But then as no other people in these later ages have been favored with such advantages as the founders of these churches, to search into, discover and put in practice the Christian way of church order, discipline and worship described in the WORD of GOD; they being entirely men of piety, knowledge, judgment, the most about the middle age of life, who had made the Bible their familiar study, many of them persons of superior learning, and all free from any influence of human powers and constitutions in religious matters; they wholly relinquished all devised schemes of men, and set themselves to consult the Sacred SCRIPTURES only, that they might happily see what these directed, and submit thereto; and having renounced all prospects of worldly riches, powers and dignities, for this very end. They were on these accounts most likely to find out the truth in those affairs. And though our faith is not to be subjected to their judgment, but we should also humbly, sincerely and carefully search the SCRIPTURES, and try these things by them, and see whether they are conformable to those Oracles of GOD or not, as the noble BEREANS did when even the APOSTLES taught them; yet the result of their united, pious, anxious and laborious inquiries, under such advantages, demands a very extraordinary veneration from all impartial men, and especially from us their dear posterity.
And can we do any thing better, both for the advantage of our ministry, the satisfaction of our people, and the quiet of our churches, than to go on upon the Scriptural foundations these excellent men have already laid? Not to set aside, or build anew, but to go on further as the light of Scripture leads us, for our common peace and edification. And I know of nothing of greater moment, than to advise to methods about calling councils in a fairer, more peaceable, equal and harmonious manner, than we are now unhappily liable to; that so this sacred ordinance may not be so subject to be frustrated by the dark intrigues of crafty men, nor anti-councils raised to support contending parties, to the great dishonor of CHRIST, the grief of all good men, and the inflammation and continuance of hatred and divisions.
And how happy for these churches, and for all this country both to this and future generations, as I would with submission hope, if with the countenance and invitation of our CIVIL FATHERS, we might have a SYNOD in due time convened: not to make the least injunctions upon any, which is contrary to our known principles, but only to advise and propose those methods which may conduce to the promoting piety, peace and good order in our own churches; but left to every one to receive or not, as they think best. Two such happy synods we had in the reign of King CHARLES I and two more in the reign of King CHARLES II, without offense; invited by the civil rulers, who also sat among them as chosen representatives of our churches, and as grave advisers with the rest, but all without the least coercive power. Even the Protestants in FRANCE were often allowed by their kings to meet in synods, and benevolences given them out of the royal treasury. Nor can we think HIS MAJESTY can be displeased with us, if he were to know, that our New England synods are not like those of other countries, to make decrees or canons, but for counsel only, for the peace and order of the churches who send their pastors and other delegates to consult together and give their free advice: And that as no authority is or ever was put forth by our civil rulers by deriving any power to such a synod, or in inviting the churches to them, the churches being always left at liberty whether to send or not, to comply or not; there can be no invasion on any power in such a free invitation: it being impossible, as I humbly apprehend, there should be any power invaded, where there is none assumed.
In fine, LET THE PEOPLE in general, both now and frequently, look back to their excellent forefathers, and labor after that spirit of grace and prayer, of purity and charity, of zeal for GOD and love to men, which dwelled so eminently in them.
And that we may know something more concerning them; let us hear that great and immortal honor of his country, Mr. WILLIAM STOUGHTON, in his election sermon in 1668,* who lived among them.
(* Then a PREACHER of the Gospel in Dorchester: But three years after chosen a MAGISTRATE of the MASSACHUSETTS COLONY: And afterwards made by King WILLIAM and Queen MARY of ever glorious memory--LIEUT. GOVERNOR and Commander in Chief of this PROVINCE.)
"As for EXTRACTION and DESCENT, if we be considered as a posterity, O what PARENTS and PREDECESSORS, may we the most of us look back unto, through whose loins the LORD has stretched forth the line of His covenant, measuring of us out, and taking us in to be a peculiar portion to Himself!" And then--As to NEW ENGLAND's first ways, What glorious things might here be spoken unto the praise of free grace, and to justify the LORD's expectations upon this ground! O what were the open professions of the LORD's people that first entered this wilderness? How did our FATHERS entertain the Gospel, and all the pure institutions thereof, and those liberties which they brought over? What was their communion and fellowship in the administrations of the kingdom of JESUS CHRIST? What was the pitch of their brotherly love, of their zeal for GOD and His ways, and against ways destructive of truth and holiness? What was their humility, their mortification, their exemplariness? How much of holiness to the LORD was written upon all their ways and transactions? GOD sifted a whole nation that He might send choice grain over into this wilderness." (Again.) "Those that have gone before us in the cause of GOD here, who and what were they? Certainly choice and picked ones, whom He eminently prepared and trained up and qualified for this service: They were WORTHIES, men of singular accomplishments, and of long and great experience: Yet did they walk with fear and trembling before the LORD, in the sense of their own nothingness and insufficiency for the work here to be done." (And again.) "Consider and remember always that the books that shall be opened at the Last Day will contain genealogies in them. There shall then be brought forth a register of the genealogies of NEW ENGLAND's sons and daughters. How shall we, many of us, hold up our faces then, when there shall be a solemn rehearsal of our descent, as well as of our degeneracies! To have it published whose child you are, will be cutting to your soul, as well as to have the crimes reckoned up that you are guilty of!"
These were the distinguished settlers of NEW ENGLAND! And as we are now rejoicing in the happy fruits of their excelling piety, wisdom, magnanimity, hardships, pains and labors--does it not become us to remember and mention them with the most grateful esteem and honor, to treat their names with veneration as the worthy FATHERS of this country, to rise up and call them blessed, to follow their bright examples, to observe their living exhortations and their dying charges, and constantly adhere to the great and noble ends of all their arduous undertakings, sufferings, cares, prayers and labors for us?
But in a steady adherence to these great ends, let us continue also to exceed all others in our extensive charity. To account their churches, to be true churches, and their ministers to be true ministers, as we have always done, whether they will ours or not: to own [acknowledge] and treat them as our Christian brethren, though they should refuse to own us in the same relation: To assume into our worship nothing but revealed religion, or what we apprehend of Scriptural example or appointment; that so the doors of our communion may be as wide as CHRIST allows, there may be nothing on our part to hinder it, and we may still have the glory, safety and satisfaction to be of the most generous and charitable of churches, as being one of the brightest marks as well as ornaments of true religion and of pure Christianity.
And now, Blessed be the LORD our GOD, even the GOD that formed this people for Himself to show forth His praises: who redeemed them out of distant lands, who brought them through the depths of the seas, and showed them His great salvations; who took them into His covenant and gave them the land of the heathen, that they might observe His statutes and keep His laws. They have seen your goings, O GOD, in the sanctuary! Bless you the LORD in the congregations; even the LORD, you descendants from the fountain of our ISRAEL! Your GOD has commanded your strength: Strengthen, O GOD, that which You have wrought for us! Let Your work appear to Your servants, and Your glory to their children! Let the beauty of the LORD our GOD be on us, and establish You the work of our hands to future generations.
May our PRINCES always rule in righteousness and mercy: May our Governors be tender fathers to us as they have been of old. May our country never want [lack] of her own sons brought up in her, to take her by the hand and guide her: May those that lead us never cause us to err, nor destroy the way of our path, but rule in judgment and the fear of GOD! May those be always wise and pure both in heart and life, "that bare the vessels of the sanctuary": And may the LORD our GOD create upon all our churches, as it were, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night; and on all the glory create a defense. May this seminary of learning, so fair and pleasant in our eyes, which our wise and pious fathers set up so early to enlighten and rejoice our Land; yet still produce such illustrious persons as Stoughton, Dudley, Saltonstall, and Belcher; and send forth such great and burning lights, as it has already, into our churches, and may they flow forever! May the LORD of Hosts reign among us, and be for a crown of glory to us, and our salvation in times of trouble: May He forever plead the cause of this His people, defend this country to save it for His own Name's sake, contend with them that contend with us, and save our children: May no weapon formed against us ever prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against us in judgment be condemned! May we be the blessed of the LORD, and our offspring with and after us: May they spring up as the grass, as willows by the watercourses: May they be taught of GOD, and their peace be great: May they take root and blossom, and fill the face of the land with fruit: And may the kindness of the LORD never depart from us or them, nor His covenant of peace be removed from them! May we be EMMANUEL's land, the people of the Holy One of ISRAEL; and may the LORD make us an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations: May our righteousness go forth as brightness, and our salvation as a lamp that burns: May the nations see our righteousness, and all kings our glory: And may the LORD delight in us, and rejoice over us, and make us a praise in the earth.
And to conclude, with that most public, solemn and final CHARGE of another illustrious prophet, to all the princes of the tribes and others assembled then before Him, in 1 Chron. 28:8: "Now therefore, in the Sight of all ISRAEL, the Congregation of the LORD, and in the Audience of our GOD; Keep and seek for all the Commandments of the LORD your GOD, that ye may continue to possess this Good Land which the LORD hath given You, and may leave it for an Inheritance to your Children after you for ever."
FINIS. [THE END]
To fill up these vacant pages, I take leave to insert the following passages from Mr. STOUGHTON's election sermon, April 29, 1668.
"As for special relation unto GOD, whom has the LORD more signally exalted than His people in this wilderness? The Name and interest of GOD, and covenant relation to Him, it has been written upon us in capital letters from the beginning. GOD had His creatures in this wilderness before we came, and His rational creatures, too, yes, a multitude of them; but as to sons and children that are covenant-born unto GOD, are not we the first in such a relation? In this respect we are surely the LORD's first-born in this wilderness. Of the poor natives before we came, we may say as Isa. 63:19: 'They were not called by the LORD's Name, He bear not Rule over them': But we have been from the beginning, and we are the LORD's.
"As for restipulations, and engagements back again to GOD, what awful public transactions of this kind have there been among us? Has not His ear heard us solemnly avouching Him, and Him alone, to be our GOD and Savior? Has not a great part of the world been a witness of these things, even of our explicit owning of, and covenanting with, the LORD as our GOD, laying this as a foundation stone in our building? And of this we may say, it has been a special exasperation unto adversaries and ill-willers, that despised New England has laid claim to, and publicly avouched and challenged a special interest in God above others.
"As for our advantages and privileges in a covenant state, here time and strength would fail to reckon up what we have enjoyed of this kind: If any people in the world have been lifted up to Heaven as to advantages and privileges, we are the people. Name what you will under this head, and we have had it. We have had Moses and Aaron to lead us; we have had teachings and instructions, 'line upon line, and precept upon precept'; we have had ordinances and Gospel dispensations the choicest of them; we have had peace and plenty; we have had afflictions and chastisements in measure; we have had the hearts and prayers and blessing of the LORD's people everywhere; we have had the eye and hand of GOD, watching and working [in] every way for our good; our adversaries have had their rebukes, we have had our encouragements, and a wall of fire round about us. What could have been done more for us than has been done?
"What the LORD expects from us is, not anything of doubtful disputation, not merely civils or prudentials; but the sure and certain, the often acknowledged, and stated, common interest of the people of GOD, and of you the LORD's people in special; the interest of practical piety and holiness; the interest of unmixed, spiritual Gospel worship, and of the sincere and open profession and owning of the truths and ways of CHRIST; the interest of unity and peace in the ways of reformation, and of expecting and waiting for the issue of all those great and astonishing providences that are working everywhere; the interest of these things, and of just and righteous liberties in order hereunto, is all that which I intend. The times are come, and hastening more and more, wherein faithfulness to GOD in all these things, will be the most glorious crown that can be worn upon earth; a crown upon which it shall be graven, 'Here is the faith and patience of the saints'. This then is the Word of the LORD unto His New England churches and people this day, 'Let no Man take your Crown from you'; no temptations, no corruptions, no insinuations, no threatenings, no fears, no adversaries.
"And this we must know, that--'He that is not with CHRIST is against him; He that gathereth not with CHRIST, scattereth abroad'; we must declare for whom we are, and choose our side. We indeed of these ends of the earth have long since made our choice; we have given up ourselves to the LORD JESUS as to our spiritual King and Lawgiver, to be His portion and inheritance: Now that which the LORD expects is, that we stick to this our Choice; that we give not back a whit, so as to become liars unto that GOD who unto us has not been as 'waters that fail'.
"Take heed of and watch against all the various steps, degrees, methods whereby men come to forsake and turn off from the LORD and His ways. 1. Men use the ordinances of GOD slightly and carelessly--church watch, fellowship, discipline does them no real inward good. 2. Now men grow secretly weary of all these things, as of a garment that warms not, and bread that strengthens not. 3. Now men begin to question the ground and warrant of things. 4. Now they hearken after objections, and what may be caviled against the ways and institutions of GOD. 5. Now they are imposed upon by deceitful workers; they greedily listen unto what may be said for the ways and institutions, courses and customs of men. 6. Now they take offense at persons and things, and suffer their spirits to be embittered. 7. Now being given up by GOD, they fall quite off; men gather them, they are joined in with the instruments of Satan, and turn underminers at least, if not open persecutors. O take heed and watch against all these things. Inquire after all the first warpings of your hearts and spirits; be not ignorant of Satan's devices."
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