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haptism under Christ, will now take pay, and make it your profession to fight against him. The emptier your purses are of gain so gotten, the richer you are, or at least the fuller they are, you are so much the poorer. As we that are ministers do find by experience, that it was not without provocation from us that God of late hath let loose so many hands, and pens,
, and tongues against us, though our calling is more evidently owned by God than any one in the world besides, so I doubt not but you may find, upon due examination, that the late contempt which hath been cast upon your profession, is a reproof of your guilt from God who did permit it. Had lawyers and divines less lived to themselves, and more to God, we might have escaped, if not the scourge of reproachful tongues, yet at least the lashes of conscience. To deal freely with you, gentlemen, it is a matter that they who are strangers to your profession can scarce put any fair construction upon, that the worst cause, for a little money, should find an advocate among you. This driveth the standers by upon this harsh dilemma, to think that either your understandings or your consciences are very bad. If, indeed, you so little know a good cause from a bad, then it must needs tempt men to think you very unskilful in your profession. The seldom and smaller differences of divines, in a more sublime and mysterious profession, is yet a discovery so far of their ignorance, and is imputed to their disgrace. But when almost every cause, even the worst that comes to the bar, shall have some of you for it, and some against it, and in the most palpable cases you are some on one side, and some on the other, the strange difference of your judgments doth seem to betray their weakness. But if you know the causes to be had which you defend, and to be good which you oppose, it more evidently betrays a deplorable conscience. I speak not of your innocent or excusable mistakes in cases of great difficulty; nor yet of excusing a cause bad in the main from unjust aggravations : but when money will hire you to plead for injustice against your own knowledge, and to use your wits to defraud the righteous, and spoil his cause, or vex him with delays, for the advantage of your own unrighteous client, I would not have your conscience for all your gains, nor your account to make for all the world: it is sad, that
known unrighteous cause should have a professed Christian, in the face of a christian judicature, to defend it, and Satan should plead by the tongues of men so deeply engaged to Christ : but it is incomparably more sad, that almost every unjust cause should find a patron; and no contentious, malicious person should be more ready to do wrong, than some lawyers to defend him, or a (dear-bought) fee! Did you honestly obey God, and speak not a word against your judgment, but leave every unjust man to defend his own cause, what peace would it bring to your consciences; what honour to your now reproached profession; what relief to the oppressed ; and what an excellent cure to the troublesome contentions of proud or malicious men.
3. To your juries and witnesses I shall say but this, you also are not your own ; and he that owneth you hath told you, “ That he will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” It is much into your hands that the law hath committed the cause of the just; should you betray it by perjury and false witnesses, while there is a conscience in your guilty breast, and a God in heaven, you shall not want a witness of your sin, or a revenger of the oppressed, if the blood of Christ on your sound repentance do not rescue you.
4. If plaintiff and defendant did well consider that they are not their own, they would not be too prone to quarrels, but would lose their right, when God, the chief proprietor, did require it. Why do you not rather take wrong, and suffer yourselves to be defrauded, than do wrong and defraud, and that your brethren ? (1 Cor. vi. 7-9.)
To conclude : I earnestly entreat you all, that have heard me this day, that when you go home, you will betake yourselves to a sober consideration of the claim that God hath laid to you, and the right he hath in you, and all that you have : and resolve, without any further delay, to give him his own; and give it not to his enemies, and yours. When you see the judgment set, and the prisoners waiting to receive their sentence, remember with what inconceivable glory and terror your Judge will shortly come to demand his due ; and what an inquiry must be made into the tenour of
lives. As you see the eclipsed sun withdraw its light,* so remember how before this dreadful final judgment, the sun and moon, and the whole frame of nature, shall be dissolved! And how God will withdraw the light of his countenance from those that have neglected him in the day of their visitation. As ever you would be his, then see that you be his now; own him as your absolute Lord, if you expect he
* This sermon was preached at the time of the eclipse.
should own you then as his people. Wo to you that ever you were born! if you put God then to distrain you for his due, and to take that up in your punishment, which you denied to give him in voluntary obedience. You would all be his in the time of your extremity; then you cry to him as your God for deliverance. Hear him now, if you would then be heard: live to him now, and live with him for ever. A popish priest can persuade multitudes of men and women to renounce the very possession of worldly goods, and the exercise of their outward callings in a mistaken devotedness to God. May not I, then, hope to prevail with you to devote yourselves, with the fruit of your callings and possessions, to his unquestionable service? Will the Lord of mercy but fasten these persuasions upon your hearts, and cause them to prevail, what a happy day will this prove to us! God will have his own, the church will have your utmost help, the souls of those about you will have the fruit of your diligence and good examples, the commonwealth will have the fruit of your fidelity, the poor will have the benefit of your charity, I shall have the desired end of my labour, and yourselves will have the great and everlasting gain.
S E R MON
ABSOLUTE SOVEREIGNTY OF CHRIST;
NECESSITY OF MAN'S SUBJECTION, DEPENDENCE,
AND CHIEFEST LOVE TO HIM.
Preached before the Judges of Assise, at Worcester.
" But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me."-Luke xix. 27.