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LIFE AND VIRTUES OF THE AUTHOR,
EXCELLENCIES OF THIS BOOK.
To the Christian, more designedly to the clergy-reader of
the same time, and rank, and mind, and in like condition with the epistler. - Grace, &c. and recovery,
and profit by the ensuing tract.
My poor and dear brother, Do not expect, I humbly beseech thee, the high and glorious titles of companion in tribulation, and in the patience of Jesus, &c. I could most willingly (if I thought that I could truly) give thee them; knowing, that what lustre I cast upon thee would by reflex light upon myself. But my mouth is stopped: let God be true, and the justice of God be justified.
1. The reading of those piercing scriptures, 1 Sam. ii. and iii. Jerem. xxiii. Ezek. iii. and xxxiii. Hos, iv. Mal. ii. 2. The view of this ensuing tract; which, methinks, is not a book of thirty-seven chapters, but a bill of seven times thirty-seven indictments against thee and me: a strange speculum sacerdotale; in its discovery something resembling the secret of the holy Urim : as if this good Bezaleel had invented a living, pure looking-glass, in most exact proportions of beauty, that should both present itself as a body of unblemished perfections, and shew all the beholder's deformities at once; that should shew thee both Aaron in the holy of holies, before the mercy-seat, in all his pure ornaments; and Hophni or Phinehas, ravening for their fees of flesh, and wallowing in their lust at the door of the tabernacle. 3. The reflecting on common conversation in the day of our prosperity, and the paralleling the book of mine own conscience with the author's book, in both which I find myself (not to say thee) written highly defective in every duty the good man commends, and not a little peccant in every particular taxed by him. These three have convinced, and even enforced me to confess, that I am sure mine, and, I fear, thy sufferings are not the mere sufferings of pure and perfect martyrs, but of grievous transgressors. Not only under the rods of God's just judgment, but the scorpions of his heavy displeasure, fierce wrath, and sore indignation. Not only from the smoking of God's jealousy, or the sparks of his anger, but the flames of his furnace, (heat seven times more than ever,) yea, even from the furiousness of the wrath of God. Psalm lxxviii. 50.
God's sinking the gates, his destroying the walls, his slighting the strong holds of Zion; his polluting the kingdom, his swallowing the palaces, his cutting off the horn of Israel: God's hating our feasts, his abominating our sabbaths, his loathing our solemnities, Isai. i. God's forgetting his footstool, his abhorring his sanctuary, his casting off his altar, are to me signs that the glory of God is departed to the mountain, Ezek. xi. 23. that God hath in the indignation of his anger despised the king and the priest, Lam. ii. It must be acknowledged sure, that the hand of God hath gone out against us, more than against others of our rank at other times; at least, that God hath not restrained violence against us, so as he did that against those of our profession in the days of old : the portion of the Egyptian priests, that served the Ox, the Ape, and the Onion, escaped sale in time of the famine. Learned Junius, in his Academia, chap. iy. says, that the Philistines spared the schools of the prophets in their wars with Israel : and that the Phænicians, Chaldæans, and Indians were tender over such places : thus then did God restrain the spirits of princes; yet that God, who in his own law, Lev. xxv. 32. gave the Levites a special privilege of redeeming lands (sold by themselves) at any time, when other tribes were limited to a set time, hath not stayed the madness of the people against us, but that our portions are sold unto others without redemption.
We must acknowledge that God's word hath taken hold of us, Zech. i. 5. that the Lord hath devised a device against us, hath watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us; for under the whole heaven hath not been done, as hath been done upon Jerusalem. Dan. ix. 14.
Let us not flatter ourselves presumptuously. The pu-nishment answers the sin, as the wax the seal, and as the mould owns the figure: and let us own both. It is very dangerous to bless ourselves too boldly; God has cursed our blessings, Mal. ii. 2. And that he may bless to us our very curses, let us take with us words and say, To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, and multiplied pardons; to us shame and confusion, as at this day. The most compendious way to get what belongs to God, is, to take to ourselves what belongs to us. would judge ourselves, and every man, knowing the plague of his own heart, lay God's dealing to heart; and, accepting of our punishment, give glory to God, and humble ourselves under his mighty hand; then shall God exalt us, and accept us, and take away our reproach.
If we shall confess our sins, that, like Simeon and Levi, we have been brethren in evil, have broken the covenant of Levi, have done violence to, and been partial in the law, have made ourselves vile, and therefore are justly, by God, made contemptible and base before the people, Mal. ii. If we shall confess, that we neither understood nor valued our high and holy calling as Christians, much less as ministers of Christ; that we did not thrive kindly, when Providence had planted and watered us in those horns of oil, the two universities; or that, when it had removed us into country cures, we did not fructify (as this book will shew) in any proportion to his encouragements, and therefore are justly cashiered out of his service, and stript of his rewards: God is faithful and just to forgive us : for, Job xxxüi. 27. he looks upon men ; if any say, I have sinned, I have perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; he will deliver his soul from the pit, his life shall see the light.
And now, let none think, that this confession will give advantage to the adversaries; they may take where none is given : they may say, “Let the Lord be glorified: by “ their own confession, we offend not, though we devour " them, because they have sinned against the Lord, the “ habitation of justice.” Jer. 1. 7. But they will find at last, that to forsake the Levite is a sin; that it is a bitter thing to help forward affliction, when God is but a little
displeased: that Jerusalem will be a cup of trembling, and a burdensome stone to every one that cries but, Down with it. Woe to thee, O Assur, the rod of God's anger; the staff in thine hand is God's indignation. Thou, Lord, hast ordained him for judgment, and established him for correction; even for our correction, to purify us sons of Levi from our dross; (howbeit, he meaneth not so ;) and by his hand, who punisheth us not only for that which is sin, to put on us martyr's robes; by that contrivance both chastening and covering our sins; as the Persians use their nobles, beating their clothes, and saving their persons.
There can be no credit lost by giving glory to God. Did Achan lose any thing by confessing that God had found him out, and his garment, and his wedge? Hath not Adonibezek got a fame of ingenuity, for acknowledging God's art of justicing, in that most exact way of counter passion or retaliation, which is so frequent in these times, though it is not considered? What lost Luther by confessing his personal defects as to God, though he yield‘ed not a jot in his cause as to men? What enemy ever upbraided that to him? or this to the ingenuous learned Cajetan? his humble and seasonable confession upon lasting record in his comments on the thirteenth verse of the fifth chapter of saint Matthew's Gospel: Ye are the salt -if the salt have lost, &c? The French army had taken Rome, when he was about that text, and offered great abuse to the clergy there: which he christianly resenting, inserts this passage; “We prelates of the church of Rome “ do at this time find this truth verified on us in a special “ measure; being by the just judgment of God become a
spoil, and a prey, and captives; not to infidels, but to “ Christians; because we who were chosen to be the salt “ of the earth, evanuimus, were become light persons, and
unsavoury, good for nothing but outward ceremonies, “and externa bona, the revenues temporal. Hence it is “ that both we and this city be trodden under foot this “sixth of May, 1527.” And that excellent Charles the Fifth is honourable for no one thing more, than for acknowledging the hand of God upon him, both at that pinch which made him pant out, Jam me ab omnibus desertum video; and upon a lesser occasion than that, namely, when his domestics had left him all alone late at night, and he would needs hold the candle to Seldius, shewing him the way down the stairs, and up to God, he said, “ Thine eyes have seen me environed with great armies ;
now thou seest me abandoned of mine ordinary servants.