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forced to fly from them for his own safety? But the counsels of God are not to be defeated either by the folly or the madness of the people; and his purposes shall stand, be those whom he intends to punish never so furious or outrageous, or those whom he intends to save never so weak and blind to their own interest. And indeed, were such great events to be guided by human counsels, a nation might be destroyed before they could agree
what method or by what means to be saved ; so variously are men drawn by their passions and their interest, that it is very difficult for them to concur in preserving what all are equally concerned to preserve. In these circumstances, it is very natural for men to dwell on the melancholy prospect, and to forebode that ruin to themselves and their country, which seems to be the just consequence of such distracted counsels : but they ought to reflect that there is one higher than all, who can still the rage of the people, and bring peace and safety out of tumult and disorder, with as much ease as he produced light out of darkness, when he said, “Let there be light, and there was light.' Were it not for the comfort arising from this providential care of God over the world, the best thing a wise man could do for himself would be to get out of it as soon as he could; the only way to secure himself from the miseries and calamities which men by their folly and their wickedness are perpetually drawing down on themselves and others. Nay, could we depend on this care and protection of God no farther than our own merits would justify our expectation, we might have reason still to despond. But as there is another time in which all men shall yield an account of their own doings; and as God has greater views oftentimes in saving and destroying nations, than punishing or rewarding the present inhabitants ; and as mercy and goodness incline him to deal graciously with sinners, in allowing them farther means and opportunities of repentance and amendment, we may reasonably hope from his mercy and goodness to be more favorably dealt with than our consciences, if strictly examined, can give us ground to expect. And if ever these hopes are justifiable, then most certainly they are when the honor of God is immediately concerned in the event; and when the truth of that holy religion which Christ sealed with his own blood is part of the controversy. The
people of Israel had as little to boast of on their own behalf as other nations; but they were chosen by God to bear his name, to be witnesses of his truth in the dark ages of the world, to prepare the way for the coming of our Lord and Master; and though they were often afflicted, yet they were as often restored, till at last they were utterly rejected for denying that great prophet, for whose sake, and for the completion of the prophecies relating to him, they had been so often and so long preserved.
These are the observations I had to make to you from the words of the text. The application of them to ourselves is what I believe every body sees as well as myself. And yet I beg your patience, whilst with all truth and sincerity I discharge my duty and conscience as a minister of this reformed church, now openly attacked by its professed and inveterate enemies. Since the beginning of the Reformation in this kingdom, we never had so good a prospect of a firm establishment of the protestant religion as at this time; and yet I verily think we never had less sense of it; our deliverance is near us, but we understand it not. Whilst we have been striving together about things, however dear to us, yet still of less consequence most certainly than our liberty and religion, we have been in danger of being swallowed up by the common enemy; and the people, never till now insensible of the fears of popery, have stood by unconcerned, seeming, as it were, to invite that slavery and oppression which cost their forefathers so much blood and treasure to get rid of. Could you have thought that this soil, so often watered and enriched by the blood of martyrs shed by the cruel hands of popish tyranny, so often miraculously saved by Providence from Roman slavery and superstition, would ever yield such fruit as this ? that England, famed throughout the world for the bulwark of the protestant religion; hated by her enemies, and envied even by her friends, for the best established church in Christendom, should so far forget herself, and the God who saved her, as to look with any patience on those chains from which she was so lately delivered ? It is still more surprising that this should happen at the very time when Providence seems to have laid the best foundation for our peace and security, by settling a protestant prince in the throne
of these kingdoms, happy in heirs to succeed him in his crowns, and to perpetuate the blessing of liberty and pure religion to these nations. Whatever we think of this advantage, our enemies certainly judge right of it; they foresee that if this settlement prevails, their hopes are at an end, and therefore they are ready to hazard all to disturb and overthrow it: and it seems to have been the main point of the policy of the court of Rome, with respect to these kingdoms, from the earliest times of the Reformation, to secure themselves against a succession of protestant princes. When we have had a prospect of this happiness, then we have been attacked with their utmost fury; Rome has plied all her engines to prevent this foundation being laid amongst us of lasting peace and security. At other times, when the succession has been doubtful, and she had any hopes of seeing one of her own communion exalted, she has moved by gentler steps, and her fury has been abated by the hope of swaying the sceptre of a son of her own.
If we take a short view of this period, it will help not only to convince us of the truth of this observation, but also to give us a just prospect of the security and happiness which are now prepared for us, if we do not obstinately shut our eyes against the things which make for our peace.
The Reformation had its first rise here in the days of Henry the Eighth ; he went so far as to throw out the pope, though at the same time he zealously maintained popery. The first breach happened on the point of the king's divorce; and though the court of Rome treated it as a matter of law and conscience, and sent it about to their canonists and divines, yet were they in truth guided by mere politic views : the queen was nearly related to the emperor; and Germany was then in such a state, many of its princes having received the Reformation, that Cæsar's
power was never more wanted, nor more courted by Rome. In this difficulty the 'pope chose rather to hazard losing the king than the emperor : and the king, impatient of the ill usage and artificial delays of Rome, took a shorter way to his divorce, and threw off all subjection to the pope. Yet in his days he maintained himself and kingdoms in tolerable peace and quiet : the court of Rome had reason not to drive to the utmost extremity ; popery still remained in its most essen
tial parts; a fair inlet some time or other to a return of the papal power. It was doubtful also what issue the new queen might have; and the next in appearance was tied not only to popery, but to the pope also, on the plenitude of whose power her own legitimacy depended. When the king had a son born, yet still there were the casualties of childhood to support their hopes, and a prospect of an infancy in the throne, which could not but afford opportunities of practising on the kingdom for their own advantage. In the young king's time the Reformation was pushed with vigor ; but, alas ! his days were few, and Rome had all his time the prospect of a popish successor, which did not only support her hopes, but in some measure abate her fury. When Queen Mary came to the throne, then was the time to see with what spirit popery is to be restored in these kingdoms: the flames of persecution were kindled in all parts ; the bishops, the clergy, and the people fell promiscuously a sacrifice to the enraged deity of Rome : nay, so far did the fury of these barbarians extend, that the helpless infant, forced from the mother's womb by the extremity of her torture, was thrown into the flames again, as guilty of the parent's heresy, and under the sentence of the holy court, which had condemned the mother without excepting her womb. It would be endless to relate to you the fiery trials of that time, when no age, no sex found mercy; but old and young, men and women, were led in triumph to the stake, and were forced to seal the confession of their faith with their dearest blood; and yet at that time there was a woman on the throne, in herself not cruel, and by the tenderness of her sex inclined to compassion ; she was also obliged to her country, which rescued her from a rebellion formed in the very beginning of her reign, and placed her on the throne of her ancestors in spite of opposition : but neither the tenderness of her sex, nor her natural compassion, nor the sen se of gratitude, could prevail against a popish confessor, who first misguided her conscience, and then by her conscience overruled all the sentiments of nature and humanity. If a woman could do all this ; if one obliged by her country could be so unnatural in her returns to it, what have we to expect from one, who, if ever he comes, will come with anger and resentment against his country; who 'must be set on the throne by the
treasure and power of Rome, which must be repaid in the blood of heretics; that is, in the blood of the people of England ? But to proceed.
The main policy of this reign was to secure such a succession of princes as might for ever dash the hopes of the Reformation in England : and for this purpose the wisest step was taken that human policy could contrive: Spain was the only kingdom of Europe not tainted with heresy, (as the Reformation is called ;) its king was young, and bigoted to the superstition of Rome, and therefore chosen out as a proper match for the queen of England; and had that marriage produced heirs according to the hopes of our enemies, England, it is probable, had been at this time as deeply plunged in the darkness of popery as Spain itself; where superstition and idolatry appear in more ghastly forms than they do even at Rome, where the court of Inquisition sits in the fullest triumph, and scatters death and destruction throughout the realm. But the hope of issue failing, together with the queen's life, the glorious Princess Elizabeth ascended the throne, and the Reformation began once more to breathe in England. In the beginning of her reign, hopes were conceived by the popish faction that she might match with a prince of their communion, and their darling Philip was prevailed on to offer himself. But the queen was too wise to match with a prince, where the legitimacy of the marriage must have proved the illegitimacy of her birth; since she could have had her sister's husband only in virtue of that power by which her father had his brother's wife. After Philip, several others were proposed; but these hopes failing, the Roman Catholics, who had hitherto been permitted to join with the established church, to keep the way open to an easier reconcilement, were by the power of the pope intirely separated. In the queen's old age, when the thoughts of her marrying were laid aside, and the hopes of a popish successor in great measure defeated by the fate of the Queen of Scots, there was an attempt from the same quarter to set up a Spanish prince for successor, that they might obtain by birthright what they could not obtain by marriage; and a book full of learning was published by Parsons the Jesuit, to make out the Infanta's title to these crowns; so well did they understand that nothing less than the greatest