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2. To labor to promote this spirit and frame in the people under your charge. If God continue you that are from among ourselves in this trust, your faithful endeavors in this matter will still be expected. Remember that you rule not only over men, but over a people of God, (though indeed too sadly declined and degenerate,) and therefore you are to take care to manage them so as may set and leave them under the highest degree of divine acceptation; that is, to be as humble and trembling under the word of God as may be. What therefore may be done to convince of, and deter and recover this people from sin of all kinds; and what may be done to encourage, draw on to, and settle this people under a careful attendance to all good works in the reverential fear of God; this is your work: In which the Lord guide, prosper, and long continue you.
II. This exhortation may be proposed to the Lord's servants in the ministry. Fathers and brethren, suffer this word of exhortation from the unworthiest of your order, or rather from your Lord Jesus Christ: Show yourselves patterns, as in other things, so in the humility and meekness of your spirits, the contrition and brokenness of your hearts, awful trembling at God's word, and in the administration of his worship, and labor to promote this frame in the Lord's people, by showing them their sins in the vileness and desert of them, and by setting before them the majesty and glory of God. When God hath eminently improved, succeeded and honored to the last any of his servants in the work of the ministry, he hath given them a good measure of his Spirit. Our work is to receive the word from God's mouth, and to give his people warning from him: To both which a large measure of this spirit is necessary; so much as is not easily or presently attained. It was some time before Elijah's spirit at Horeb, the mount of God, was sufficiently prepared to an awful regard of the divine presence, and to the receiving the Lord's message. First, a great and strong wind rends the mountains, breaks in pieces the rocks before the Lord: after the wind, an earthquake, and after the earthquake, a fire: and after all these the Lord appears in a small still voice, and then Elijah wraps his face in his mantle, and in that awful posture receives the mind of God. 1 Kings xix. 11— 13. To Isaiah the Lord appears in such glorious manner as makes him cry out, "Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips ;" and then he gives him and sends him upon his special errand to his people. Isa. vi. This spirit also is needful for the due delivery of the Lord's mind to his people. 2 Tim. ii. 24, 25. "The servant of the Lord must-be gentle-patient, in meekness instructing," &c. Whatever message we have, whether of mercy or judgment, our souls should be feelingly and heart
breakingly concerned for those to whom we speak. In the discharge of our trust, as we are special servants of Jesus Christ, we should have much of his spirit, who could not denounce judgment against Jerusalem without many tears and heart-breakings for them. Luke xix. 41, 44. "And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the day shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee," &c. I need not say what present cause there is for the Lord's faithful watchmen to be alike deeply affected for Zion. And in all our administrations we should be carried forth with a full sense of our own weakness and unworthiness. What a nothing does the great apostle Paul make of himself in the whole of his ministerial conversation! "I labored more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” 1 Cor. xv. 10. "In nothing am I behind the very chiefest of the apostles, though I be nothing." 2 Cor. xii. 11.
III. Finally, this exhortation is proposed to all the people of the land. You are a professing people, and do something in religion externally; but all your profession, and all that you do, will signify and come to nothing, if this spirit be wanting. What one says of thanks, is true of all worship and service performed to God; the value of it resolves itself wholly into the frame and disposition of the heart. You have the more need to be jealous of yourselves, for many times Christ's own disciples do not know their own spirits: There is a height of spirit sometimes, that under a zeal for the Lord's work and glory grows insensibly upon them, notwithstanding their converse with, and constant attendance upon the Lord, insomuch that they do hence expose themselves to the Lord's rebuke. Luke ix. 54, 55. "And when his disciples, James and John, saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did. But he turned and rebuked them, and said, ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of." O therefore look to your hearts, take heed to your spirits, that there be no pride, loftiness or sinful discomposure lodging there. Labor to be within that promise which makes over the great blessing of the kingdom of heaven; of comfort, and an inheritance on the earth to the poor in spirit, that mourn and are meek. Matt. v. 3-5. As for your outward concerns, those of this day and the like, seeing you have opportunity, and so long as you shall have opportunity to be managing of them, I wish you may show yourselves meek, humble, patient, self
* Arrowsmith. Engl. Eben-ez. p. 28.
denying, forgiving supposed errors and wrongs: Laying aside inconvenient or unreasonable disgusts; not letting anger to rest in your bosoms; and that however God may further try you in these things, that a spirit of patience and quiet submission to any such dispensation as is according to God's will, may ever possess you, while you both render to Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, and to God the things which are God's. But your great business is with God, and the most proper advice I have to offer therein is,
Get and be of a poor and contrite spirit and trembling at the word of God. Let your hearts come down and lie low before God and as the sheep of his hand hear his voice. Ps. xcv. 6-8. "O come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand to-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart as in the provocation and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness." It is hardness and haughtiness of men's hearts that makes all divine exhortations ineffectual. Oh beware of it in the least degree of it! Consider what God hath done to stain the glory of all flesh: He will have no flesh to glory in his presence. Consider "the axe is now laid to the root of the tree." Matt. iii. 10. If we will not lower to bring forth the fruit of true humiliation and repentance, we shall be laid low, even to the ground: But those that tremble when the axe is at the root of the tree, when judgment is gathering in the cloud, God will look to them, that the axe shall not cut them down, nor the storm sweep them away. God will be to them a sanctuary. Isa. viii. 13, 14. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread, and he shall be for a sanctuary." And they shall have rest in the day of trouble, either by escaping, or having full support under it. Hab. iii. 15, 16. "Thou didst walk through the sea with thy horses, through the heap of great waters. When I heard, my belly trembled: my lips quivered at the voice rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble." We should therefore stand trembling before God under the sense and apprehension of present and impending dispensations, but more especially under the sense of whatsoever evils have kindled the Lord's displeasure, and made him threaten a departure from us. Ezra ix. 4, and x. 9.
Let our whole course, garb, guise, converse and spirit, speak humility and humiliation in so humbling a time as this is. Carry it in all things as becomes a poor and an afflicted people. I am sure you will be thereby better disposed to trust in the name of the Lord, and have firmer ground to believe in his salvation.
The subject therefore I have been discoursing is, I trust through grace a suitable word from the Lord, as I was desired to prepare for this occasion. I have not designed to gratify or grieve any, have aimed to speak what may fall upon the consciences of us all, as we are more or less guilty and I fear we have been guilty in this thing, one way or other, most of us, of whatsoever opinion or apprehension. Oh that we might now lift up ourselves no more! That we might now lay our hands upon our mouths, and put our mouths in the dust, if so be there may be hope! Famous, remarkable and admirable might the Lord's providential operations then be for us in the eyes of others, as well as comfortable to ourselves. Isa. xiv. 2. "What shall one then answer the messengers of the nations? That the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it." Acclamations of joy for the Lord's grace; as in laying the foundation of, so in strengthening, defending, carrying on and finishing temple-work among us should not be wanting. It would then be well, yea it could not be otherwise. At the worst, though all passages for comfort and relief on earth were blocked up, yet heaven would be open to you, whence you might receive help: And whatever should threaten, yet you might say with him (when demanded where he would be then, if such a thing as was threatened should come to pass) that you should be aut in cælo aut sub cælo, either in heaven or under heaven: either under Heaven's protection while you live, or in Heaven's possession if you should be moved out of this world.
HEADS OR RULERS,
ARE ABLE TO CHOOSE OUT THEIR PEOPLE'S
THEIR PEOPLE'S COMFORT:
AS IT WAS DISCOURSED IN A
PREACHED TO THE GREAT AND GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE PROVINCE OF THE MASSACHUSETTS BAY, CONVENED AT BOSTON IN NEW
ENGLAND, ON MAY 28, 1701.
THE STATED DAY
FOR THEIR ANNIVERSARY ELECTION
BY MR. JOSEPH BELCHER,
PASTOR OF THE CHURCH IN
"He chose David also his servant to feed Jacob his people and Israel his inheritance. So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands."Psalm lxxviii. 70-72.
PRINTED BY B. GREEN, AND J. ALLEN. SOLD BY SAMUEL SEWALL, JR. 1701.