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enough to give them that which is mercy, but he will give it them in a way of mercy. As now in your gifts to God, if you be gracious, you do not think it enough to do that which is gracious, but do it in a gracious manner; so God in his gifts to you, will not only give yon that which is mercy, but he will give it you in a way of mercy: but now if God should be in a way of mercy towards his people, and they sin against him, and he should go on to give them the mercy, they would be hardened in their sin, and so it would not come unto them in the way of mercy. Therefore, if God be in a way of mercy towards his people, and they sin against him, he will break off the course of his mercy,
and ther way, and there shall be a stoppage made in these proceedings.
say we see the contrary : who have more blessings, and outward mercies, than the church of Rome? Who more sinful? What adulteries, wlat idolatries, sorceries, opposition of saints and ministers? And you know what plenty is among them, and God goes on to give them mercy after mercy, outward blessing after outward blessing, and therefore this is not true, we see it in experience otherwise, that our sins do not make a stoppage in the proceedings
But for answer hereunto, The thing is not true, God does not go on in a way of blessing and mercy towards them. Beloved, of all afflictions, it is the greatest affliction to be without affliction ; of all judgments, it is the greatest judgment to want judgment: as you may see for this purpose, Isa. i., “Why should you be stricken any more ; ye will revolt more and more.” It is the greatest stroke not to be smitten, and the greatest affliction to be denied affliction, when there is use and need of it: now though the people of Rome, and that party flourish in the world, yet their souls are smitten, God smites them with blindness, and with spiritual death, so that there is a stoppage made in the proceedings of mercy.
But I rather answer it thus : When God is in a way of mercy towards his people, towards his church, then sin will make a stoppage. Those of Rome are no true church, the church was in Babylon, but Babylun was not the church ; the church was in Egypt, but Egypt was not the church ;
Lot was in Sodom, Sodom was not in Lot's family; Rome is called Babylon, Egypt, and Sodom; they are not the church of God; but if the church of God sin when God is in a way of mercy, a stoppage shall be made rather for them than for others, for these two or three reasons:
They are in God's house, and their sin is greater. The great house of God is as a great man's house, who hath some servants that doth his work abroad in the field, some that tend in his chamber, that are nearer round about him: if those servants that are near him be naught and vile, it makes more to the dishonour of the master, than if those were so that are abroad in the field; now God's people are a people that are round about him, near unto him, his household servants, and therefore if they sin when God is in a way of mercy, God will turn out of that way, and there shall be a stoppage made in God's proceedings.
Their sin is of all others the most scandalous, and therefore the worse, the more dishonouring to God, the more provoking. If two men be drunk, one a professor and the other not; why there is no scandal arises from the drunkenness of him that is no professor ; but if a professor be gotten in, and made drunk, they are all so, what a scandal ariseth? And so, if two commit adultery, the one a professor, and the other not, the scandal ariseth from the professor ; profession is the ground of scandal. And therefore, 2 Sam. xx. 12, when as Amasa was slain and laid in his blood, the people made a stay and went no further, till they drew him out of the way, and cast a cloth over him ; so when a professor falls and lies in his blood, there is a stand made in people's duties and conversations; and therefore just that there should be a stop made in the proceedings of God's mercy.
Their sins are most against the remedy. Sins against the remedy, are the greatest sins : and therefore his sin is greatest that commits adultery being married, than his that commits fornication, though both be evil, because he sins against the remedy; now the people of God have more remedies against sins than others, more light, more grace, more means, more helps; and therefore if they sin when God is in a way of
mercy, God will rather make a stoppage in them than in others. Oh, that I might leave this impression upon you
that are professors and godly, that you may take heed how you sin against God.
Why should this be, that so small a sin should turn the great God of heaven out of the way of his mercy? Achan commits but a small sin, and what a mighty stop is made in the way of mercy ? So, David numbers the people, it was no great matter, and a plague breaks out presently ; what is the reason, that for sins that are little and small, such a stoppage should be made in the proceedings and mercy of the great God?
For answer three things :
1. There is nothing small between God and us, and it is true; if thou hast but the least crumb of bread, it is a great mercy, because it comes from the great God; and if you commit a sin, though never so little in your own eyes, it is great, because committed against the great God; I may boldly say thus much, that men sin a great sin in saying their sin is small.
2. Sometimes what falls short in the greatness of the sin, is made up in the number of sins. Great sins do go alone, smaller sins do go by companies : as with creatures so with sins; you shall observe it so in the heavens, and in the air, and in the water, and in the earth : in the heavens, but one great sun, many less stars; in the air, you have but few great and kingly birds, the eagle she flies alone, but your pigeons that are lesser fly by flights; in the water your great whale goes alone, but your lesser herrings go by shoals; on the earth the great elephant goes alone, your lesser sheep go by flocks, and your hogs by herds; the lesser sands infinite in number, rocks fewer. And so with men's sins; great sins they go alone, but lesser sins go by companies, and oftentimes the number of your lesser sins do make up what is wanting in the greatness of your sin. A man may be drunk but once or twice in his life, in the gross act of it, but he may be so often in drunken company, and spend away so many hours which shall amount to drunkenness; a man may commit adultery but once in his life, but he may have as many unclean thoughts as shall amount to adultery. So, that what falls short in the greatness of sin, is made the number; and therefore say not, why should God for a
a little sin turn out of the way of mercy ? it may be the number of your little sins amount to the greatest sin.
3. Beloved, God will make good his name to the utmost, and his name is, “ A jealous God;” now a husband's jealousy ariseth not when he sees his wife commit adultery, but if he do but see her playing and sporting with a stranger; so God's jealousy ariseth, not only when we commit the gross act of idolatry, when we bow before an idol, but if we be sporting and playing with superstition ; for God is a jealous God. And though the husband do not see cause enough to turn away his wife, because of her sporting, and playing, and dallying, he may see cause enough to deny such a courtesy; so God, though he does not give a bill of divorce for such a sin which you count lesser, yet he may see cause enough to make a stoppage in his proceedings of mercy.
Thus the doctrine stands firm, when God is in a way of mercy towards his people, if they do sin against him, their sins may make a stoppage in his proceedings. By way of application ;
Hence you may see what the reason is, why there is a stop made now of late in our England mercies. This last year God hath done great things for England, as ever England saw,
and that man that sees it not, I shall think that Scripture hath taken hold upon him, which you have in Jer. xxvii. 5, 6.,
“ Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord, for he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh,” whether out of envy or malice, but when good comes upon a people, he shall not see it : but who doth not see what a black cloud is drawn over us again : when the waters swell and stand up, you say, surely there is a stop made; the waters do not run down as before, not long since justice and judgment did run down like a mighty stream; but now, how the waters swell, gather, and stand up again : wicked men lie in prison, and those not censured : priests and Jesuits lie condemned, and those not executed: the plague is begun, and that is not quenched; the sword hath begun to drink deep in our brethren’s blood, and that is not sheathed: the wrath of our king is enkindled: divers of our parlimentary worthies accused of high treason; certainly there is a stoppage made in the proceedings of England's mercies ; oh, beloved, this our sin hath done.
But you will say unto me, Shall there be a stoppage made for ever in the mercies of England ?
You will find, for answer, if you look into Scripture, that there is a twofold stoppage of mercy: final and present: final, as God was in a way of mercy towards Saul, and was about to settle the kingdom upon him and his posterity for ever; but he sinned, and the Lord turned away from Saul and turned away from him for ever; there was a final stoppage of mercy made. Now though there be a stop made in the way of God's mercy towards England, I conceive there is not a final stoppage. And my reasons are these :
Because that though many difficulties and mountains do arise, yet we see how one after another they do melt.
And because God hath raised up instruments that are unwearied in his service, working night and day, and are unwearied in the work of the Lord.
As also because that the type of this work does speak as much. The children of Israel's coming out of Babylon, and building the temple, is a type of our coming out of antichristian bondage, the great reformation that is now begun : now then though there were many lets and hindrances by Tobiah and Sanballat, and others, they could never hinder it fully, but it recovered itself, and was driven on: so in this building and work of reformation, though the Tobiahs and Sanballats of the times may cause the work to cease for a time, the building shall get up, and shall not fully cease, but the work of reformation shall be driven on in the despite of all the enemies. Therefore it is not a final stop now made in England's mercies. But there is a present stop, as when the plague broke out in David's time; and such a stoppage is made now.
But what evil and hurt is in this, if a final stoppage be not made ?
Is it nothing in your ears, and in your hearts, that the Lord should turn out of a way of mercy ? you read in Judges ii., when the angel came with a message unto the people, and told them that the Canaanites should be as “ thorns in their sides, and a snare unto them, they lift up their voice and wept, and they called the name of the place Bochim :"
you shall be brought into Canaan, the promised land, but the natives shall be so mixed amongst you, as they shall be thorns in your sides, hereupon they lift up their voice and wept : and