ANTICHRIST, THE BEAST, HOLY DAYS, WORSHIP, COVENANTED REFORMATION, COVENANTING, COVENANTERS, PURITANS, etc.
Long ago our gracious God was pleased to visit this nation with the light of His glorious Gospel, by planting a vineyard in, and making His glory to arise upon Scotland. A wonder! that so great a God should shine on so base a soil! Nature hath been a stepmother to us in comparison of those who live under a hotter climate, as in a land like Goshen, or a garden like Eden. But the Lord looks not as man: His grace is most free, whereby it often pleaseth Him to compense what is wanting in nature: whence upon Scotland (a dark obscure island, inferior to many) the Lord did arise, and discovered the tops of the mountains with such a clear light, that in God's gracious dispensation, it is inferior to none. How far other nations outstripped her in naturals, as far did she out-go them in spirituals. Her pomp less, her purity more: they had more of antichrist than she, she more of Christ than they: in their reformation something of the beast was reserved; in ours, not so much as a hoof. When the Lord's ark was set up among them, Dagon fell, and his neck brake, yet his stump was left; but with us, stump and all was cast into the brook Kidron. Hence king James his doxology in face of parliament, thanking God who made him king in such a kirk that was far beyond England (they having but an ill-said mass in English) yea, beyond Geneva itself; for holy-days (one of the beast's marks) are in part there retained, which (said he) to day are with us quite abolished. Thus to a people sitting in darkness, and in the shadow of death, light is sprung up. Thus, in a manner, the stone that the builders refused is become the head of the corner. The Lord's Anointed (to whom the ends of the earth were given for a possession and inheritance) came and took up house amongst us, strongly established on two pillars, Jachin and Boaz, and well ordered with the staves of beauty and bands, and borrowing nothing from the border of Rome. Her foundation, walls, doors, and windows were all adorned with carbuncles, sapphires, emeralds, chrysolites, and precious stones out of the Lord's own treasure. God Himself sat with His beauty and ornaments therein, so that it was the praise and admiration of the whole earth. Strangers and home-bred persons wondered. Such was the glory, perfection, order, and unity of this house, that the altar of Damascus could have no peace, the Canaanite no rest, heresy no hatching, schism no footing, Diotrephes no incoming, the papists no couching, and Jezebel no fairding. Our church looked forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners. Then God's tabernacle was amiable, His glory filled the sanctuary, the clear fresh streams watered the city of our God; the stoutest humbled themselves, and were afraid. If an idiot entered the Lord's courts, so great power sounded from Barnabas and Boanerges, the sons of consolation and thunder, that they were forced to fall down on their face, and cry, "This is Bethel, God is here."
But alas! Satan envied our happiness, brake our ranks, poisoned our fountains, mudded and defiled our streams; and while the watchmen slept, the wicked one sowed his tares: whence these divers years bygone, for ministerial authority, we had lordly supremacy and pomp; for beauty, fairding; for simplicity, whorish buskings; for sincerity, mixtures; for zeal, a Laodicean temper; for doctrines, men's precepts; for wholesome fruits, a medley of rites; for feeders we had fleecers; for pastors, wolves and impostors; for builders of Jerusalem, rebuilders of Jericho; for unity, rents; for progress, defection. Truth is fallen in the streets, our dignity is gone, our credit lost, our crown is fallen from our heads; our reputation is turned to imputation: before God and man we justly deserve the censure of the degenerate vine; a backsliding people, an apostate perjured nation, by our breaking a blessed covenant so solemnly sworn.
Yet, behold! when this should have been our doom, when all was almost gone, when we were down the hill, when the pit's mouth was opened, and we were at the falling in, and at the very shaking hands with Rome; the Lord, strong and gracious, pitied us, looked on us, and cried, saying, "Return, return, ye backsliding people; come, and I will heal your backslidings." The Lord hath been so saving, and the cry so quickening, that almost all of all ranks, from all quarters and corners, are awakened and on foot, meeting and answering the Lord, saying, "Behold we come unto Thee, for Thou art the Lord our God, other lords besides Thee have had dominion over us, but by Thee only will we make mention of Thy name." All are wondering at the turn, and looking like them that dream, and are singing and saying, "Blessed be the Lord who hath not given us for a prey to their teeth; our souls are escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowler, the snare is broken, and we are escaped: our help is in the name of the Lord who made the heaven and the earth." Who thought to have seen such a sudden change in Scotland, when all second causes were posting a contrary course? when proud men were boasting and saying, "Bow down that we may go over;" and we laid our "bodies as the ground, and as the streets to them that went over." But now, behold one of God's wonders! So many of all ranks taking the honour and cause of Christ to heart; all unanimously, harmoniously and legally conjoined as one man in supplications, protestations and declarations against innovations and innovators, corruptions and corrupters. Behold and wonder! That old covenant (once and again solemnly sworn and perfidiously violated) is now again happily renewed, with such solemnity, harmony, oaths and subscriptions, that I dare say, this hath been more real and true in thee, O Scotland, these few weeks bygone, than for the space of thirty years before. I know Pashurs that went to smite Jeremiahs, are become at this work Magor-missabib, terror round about; Zedekiahs that went to smite Micaiahs, seek now an inner chamber to hide themselves. Tobiah and Sanballat gnaw their tongues, laugh and despise us, saying, "What is this ye do? Will ye rebel against the king? Will ye fortify yourselves? Will ye make an end in a day? Will ye remove the stones out of the heaps of rubbish that is burnt?" Rehum the chancellor, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions, cease not to fill the ears of a gracious prince with prejudice, saying, "Be it known to thee, O king, if this city be built, and the walls thereof set up again, that they will not pay toll, tribute or custom." But to these we answer, "Let the king live, and let all his enemies be confounded, let all that seek his damnation be put to shame here and henceforth: but as for you, ye are strangers, meddle not with the joy of God's people; ye have no portion, right, nor memorial in God's Jerusalem." If the begun work vex them, it is no wonder; it does prognosticate the ruin of their kingdom, and that Haman, who hath begun to fall before the seed of the Jews, shall fall totally: the Lord is about to prune His vineyard, and to drive out the foxes that eat the tender grapes; to pluck up bastard plants, and to whip buyers and sellers out of the temple. The Lord is about to strike the Gehazis with leprosy, and to bring low the Simon Maguses who were so high lifted up by Satan's ministry. The Lord is calling the great ones to put too their shoulder, and help His work; He hath been in the south, saying, "Keep not back," and blessed be God, they have not. He hath now sent to the north, saying, "Give up, bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth:" contend for the faith once delivered to Scotland.
There is one Lord, one faith, one cause that concerns all. Though this north climate be cold, I hope your hearts are not, at least they should not be. The earth is the Lord's and its fulness, the world and they that dwell therein; the uttermost parts of the earth are given to Christ for a possession; His dominion is from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. Come then, and kiss the Son; count it your greatest honour to honour Christ, and to lend His fallen truths a lift; come and help to build the old wastes, that ye may be called the repairers of the breach; and then shall all generations call you blessed; then shall God build up your houses, as He did to the Egyptian midwives, for their fearing God, and for their friendship to His people Israel. Be not like the nobles of Tekoa, of whom Nehemiah complained, that they would not put their necks to the work of the Lord. Be not like Meroz, whom the angel of the Lord cursed bitterly, for not coming to the help of the Lord against the mighty. Neither be ye like these mockers and scorners, at the renewing of the Lord's covenant in Hezekiah's days, but rather like those whose hearts the Lord humbled and moved. Be not like those invited to the king's supper, who refused to come, and had miserable excuses, and therefore should not taste of it. We hope better things of you; God hath reserved and advanced you for a better time and use: but if ye draw back, keep silence, and hold your peace, God shall bring deliverance and enlargement to His church another way; but God save you from the sequel. Nothing is craved of you but what is for God and the king; for Christ's honour, and the kirk's good, and the kingdom's peace. God give to your hearts courage, wisdom and resolution for God and the king, and for Christ and His truths. Amen.