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  • SERMON 2.


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    EBENEZER:

    A MEMORIAL OF THE DELIVERANCE of ESSEX COUNTY, AND COMMITTEE. IN TWO SERMONS PREFATORY NOTE.

    The ancient town of Colchester, which had at an early period in the civil wars declared in favor of the Parliament, was besieged and obliged to surrender to the Royal forces. Lord Fairfax, the general of the Parliamentary army, and a nobleman of high reputation, whom both Milton and Hume unite in praising, after an ineffectual attempt to regain the town by storm, changed his tactics into a rigorous blockade. The Royalists maintained the defense with signal gallantry for nearly eleven weeks, till all their provisions were spent, and they had nothing on which to subsist but horses, dogs, and other animals. At length they surrendered at discretion, when two of their officers, Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle, suffered military execution on the spot. A fine of £14,000 was imposed on the town.

    Owen, at this time pastor of an Independent. congregation at Coggeshall, which is not far from Colchester, and which was the bead-quarters of Fairfax during the siege, seems to have officiated as chaplain to the Parliamentary general; and. on the fall of the town, a day of thanksgiving was observed, when he preached before Fairfax and his victorious army, from Habakkuk 3:1-9. A committee of Parliament bad been sitting at Colchester when the Royalists seized it, and had been under imprisonment during the siege. They also engaged in the same exercise of thanksgiving for their deliverance at Rumford, on September 28, 1648. Owen preached to them another discourse from the same text. Both discourses were published as one. They take the shape of a running comment upon a very sublime passage of Scripture. The verses are expounded in order, and the author educes from them a series of general principles or observations, which he illustrates with tact and power. Exegetic statements are made the basis of important principles, and relieved by eloquent expressions, and maxims of practical wisdom. Though necessarily brief, some of the appeals interwoven with the details of exposition are specimens of close and urgent dealing with the conscience.

    Objection has been taken by Mr. Orme to the warlike tone of the preacher in some parts of the discourse. There is certainly but slight reference to the evils gild horrors of war. Regret might have been expressed that no course was open to the nation in the pending quarrel with its king, but the stern arbitration of the sword. Still, the objection is hardly just. The audience of Owen consisted of men who, at the call of duty, had been hazarding their lives for the best interests of the nation, and except on the principle that all war is unlawful, the preacher could not be expected to utter sentiments which might have sounded in their ears as a condemnation of their conduct.

    Moreover, while he could not but allude to military operations, he abstains from all full-some eulogy of the skill and valor of the conquerors, and ascribes the praise of the victory and deliverance to God; so much so, that he has been charged with committing himself in this discourse to the erroneous principle of inferring the goodness of a cause from the success that may have attended it. Mr. Orme conclusively repels the insinuation, by quoting Owen’s own explicit disclaimer of the sentiment thus imputed to him: — “A cause is good or bad before it hath success, one way or other; and that which hath not its warrant in itself, can never obtain any from its success. The rule of the goodness of any cause is the eternal law of reason, with the legal rights and interests of men.” See Owen’s “Reflections on a Slanderous Libel,” volume 16. ¾ ED.

    TO HIS EXCELLENCY, THOMAS LORD FAIRFAX, ETC.

    SIR, ALMIGHTY GOD having made you the instrument of that deliverance and peace which in the county of Essex we do enjoy, next to his own goodness, the remembrance thereof is due unto your name. “Those who honor him he will honor; and those who despise him shall be lightly esteemed,” 1 Samuel 2:30. Part of these ensuing sermons being preached before your excellency, and now by providence called forth to public view, I am emboldened to dedicate them unto your name, as a small mite of that abundant thankfulness, wherein all peace-loving men of this county stand obliged unto you.

    It was the custom of former days, in the provinces of the Roman empire: to erect statues and monuments of grateful remembrance to those presidents and governors who, in the administration of their authority, behaved themselves with wisdom, courage, and fidelity; yea, instruments of great deliverances and blessings, through corrupted nature’s folly, became the Pagans’ deities.

    There is scarce a county in this kingdom wherein, and not one from which, your excellency hath not deserved a more lasting monument than ever was erected of Corinthian brass. But if the Lord be pleased that your worth shall dwell only in the praises of his people, it will be your greater glory, that being the place which himself hath chosen to inhabit. Now, for a testification of this is this only intended. Beyond this towards men, God pleading for you, you need nothing but our silence; the issue of the last engagements, whereunto you were called and enforced, answering, yea, outgoing, your former undertakings, giving ample testimony of the continuance of God’s presence with you in your army, having stopped the mouths of many gainsayers, and called to the residue in the language of the dumb-speaking Egyptian hieroglyphic, +W gino>menoi kai< ajpogino>menoi , QeoGod hateth impudence.”

    It was said of the Romans, in the raising of their empire, that they were “saepe praelio victi, bello nunquam.” So naked hath the bow of God been made for your assistance, that you have failed neither in battle nor war.

    Truly, had not our eyes beheld the rise and fall of this latter storm, we could not have been persuaded that the former achievements of the army under your conduct could have been paralleled. But He who always enabled them to outdo not only others but themselves, hath in this carried them out to outdo whatever before himself had done by them, that they might show more kindness and faithfulness in the latter end than in the beginning. The weary ox treadeth hard; — dying bites are often desperate; — half-ruined Carthage did more perplex Rome than when it was entire; — hydra’s heads in the fable were increased by their loss, and every new stroke begat a new opposition. Such seemed the late tumultuating of the exasperated party in this nation.

    In the many undertakings of the enemy, — all which themselves thought secure, and others esteemed probable, — if they had prevailed in any one, too many reasons present themselves to persuade they would have done so in all. But to none of those worthies which went out under your command to several places in the kingdom, can you say, with Augustus to Varus, upon the slaughter of iris legions by Arminius in Germany, “Quintile Vare, redde legiones,” God having carried them all on with success and victory.

    One especially, in his northern expedition, I cannot pass over with silence, who although he will not, dare not, say of his undertakings, as Caesar of his Asian war, “Veni, vidi, vici,” knowing who works all his works for him; nor shall we say of the enemy’s multitude, what Captain Gain did of the French, being sent to spy out their numbers before the battle of Agincourt, that there were of them enough to kill, and enough to take, and enough to run away; yet of him and them both he and we may freely say, “It is nothing with the Lord to help, either with many, or with them that have no power.”

    The war being divided, and it being impossible your excellency should be in every place of danger, according to your desire, the Lord was pleased to call you out personally unto two of the most hazardous, dangerous, and difficult undertakings; where, besides the travel, labor, watching, heat and cold, by day and night, whereunto you were exposed, even the life of the meanest soldier in your army was not in more imminent danger than oftentimes was your own. And indeed, during your abode at the leaguer amongst us, in this only were our thoughts burdened with you, — that self-preservation was of no more weight in your counsels and undertakings. And I beseech you pardon my boldness, in laying before you this expostulation of many thousands (if we may say to him who hath saved a kingdom what was sometime said unto a king), “Know you not that you are worth ten thousands of us? why should you quench such a light in Israel?”

    Sir, I account it among those blessings of Providence wherewith the days of my pilgrimage have been seasoned, that I had the happiness for a short season to attend your excellency, in the service of my master, Jesus Christ; as also, that I have this opportunity, in the name of many, to cast in my cai~re into the kingdom’s congratulations of your late successes. What thoughts concerning your person my breast is possessed withal, as in their storehouse they yield me delightful refreshment, so they shall not be drawn out, to the disturbance of your self-denial. The goings forth of my heart, in reference to your excellency, shall be chiefly to the Most High, that, being more than conqueror in your spiritual and temporal warfare, you may be long continued for a blessing to this nation, and all the people of God. Sir, Your Excellency’s Most humble and devoted Servant, — John Owen COGGESHALL,ESSEX, OCTOBER 5, 1648.

    TO THE WORTHY AND HONORED SIR WILLIAM MASHAM, SIR WILLIAM ROWE, With The Rest Of The Gentlemen Of The Committee Lately Under Imprisonment By The Enemy In Colchester; AS ALSO, TO THE HONORED SIR HENRY MILDMAY OF WANSTED, COL, SIR THOMAS HONEYWOOD, With The Rest Of The Gentlemen And Officers, Lately Acting And Engaged Against The Same Enemy. SIRS, THE righteous judgments of God having brought a disturbance and noise of war, for our security, unthankfulness, murmuring, and devouring one another, upon our country, those who were intrusted with the power thereof turned their streams into several channels. Troublous times are times of trial. “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand,” Daniel 12:10.

    Some God called out to suffer, some to do, — leaving “treacherous dealers to deal treacherously.”

    Of the two first sorts are you. This honor have you received from God, either with patience and constancy to undergo, involuntarily a dangerous restraint; or with resolution and courage voluntarily to undertake a hazardous engagement, to give an example that faith and truth, so shamefully despised in these evil days, have not altogether forsaken the sons of men.

    It is not in my thoughts to relate unto yourselves what some of you suffered, and what some of you did, — what difficulties and perplexities you wrestled withal, within and without the walls of your enemies (the birds in the cage and the field having small cause of mutual emulation); for that which remains of these things is only a returnal of praise to Him by whom all your works are wrought.

    It cannot be denied but that Providence was eminently exalted in the work of your protection and delivery; yet truly, for my part, I cannot but conceive that it vails to the efficacy of grace, in preventing you from putting forth your hands unto iniquity, in any sinful compliance with the enemies of our peace. The times wherein we live have found the latter more rare than the former. What God wrought in you hath the preeminence of what he wrought for you; — as much as to be given up to the sword is a lesser evil than to be given up to a treacherous spirit.

    What God hath done for you all, all men know; — what I desire you should do for God, I know no reason why I should make alike public, — the general and particular civilities I have received from all and every one of you advantaging me to make it out in another way. I shall add nothing, then, to what you will meet withal in the following discourse, but only my desire, that you would seriously ponder the second observation, with the deductions from thence. For the rest, I no way fear but that that God who hath so appeared with you, and for you, will so indulge to y spirits the presence and guidance of his grace, in these shaking times, that if any speak evil of you as of evil-doers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ, and glorify God in the day of visitation.

    For these following sermons, one of them was preached at your desire, and is now published upon your request. The first part of the labor I willingly and cheerfully underwent; — the latter, merely in obedience to your commands, being acted in it more by your judgments than mine own. You were persuaded (mean as it was) it might be for the glory of God to have it made public; whereupon my answer was, and is, That for that, not only it, but myself also, should, by his assistance, be ready for the press. The failings and infirmities attending the preaching and publishing of it (which the Lord knows to be very many) are mine; — the inconveniences of publishing such a tractate from so weak a hand, whereof the world is full, must be yours; — the fruit and benefit both of the one and other is His, for whose pardon of infirmities, and removal of inconveniences, shall be, as for you, and all the church of God, the prayer of, Sirs, Your Most Humble And Obliged Servant In The Work Of The Lord, Coggeshall, Oct. 5, 1648.

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