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TO THE READER.
The great God, whose all creatures are, and in whose counsels all their changes in all their generations are formed, hath, according to the good pleasure of his own will, reserved us to this our generation, to an acceptable year, to a day of salvation, and assigned to us this place, of which we may say, the lines are fallen to us in pleasant places, we have a goodly heritage, even in the clear sunlight of gospel truths. He hath planted in New England, a vineyard in a very fruitful hill, which he has fenced about with a Christian and godly government, and gathered out the stones, and built a tower in the midst of it, and made a wine-press, and he did plant it with the choicest plants, and did send forth many faithful and skilful laborers thereunto, so to dress the vine that it might want nothing that might make it fruitful and oh, that it could be said that it brought forth no wild grapes. But of late times the great Lord of the vineyard hath called home so many of those his laborers, that it makes many observant hearts trembling to say, what is God about to do with this vineyard? And amongst others of those his choice ones, he hath lately called home the Rev. Author of these two ensuing Sermons, and ordered him to enter into his Master's joy; who was a man that needs not our testimony for his commendation, his work shall praise him in the gate: a man so well approved in the churches of Christ, that he was known to be a faithful laborer in the house of the Lord, a wise builder in his house; he was a burning and a shining light, and we that were of his flock a long season rejoiced in his light, even from the first gathering of the church of Christ in Dedham, which was anno. 1638, until this present year, 1671, wherein August 26, after about ten days' moderate sickness, he entered into rest, in the seventy-fifth year of his age: in all which time he was a very constant, faithful and diligent steward in the house of God; a man of peace and truth; we were led forth by the still waters in green pastures, our table was fully furnished, and our cup did flow over, and sometimes drop upon others. Some he did
plant, and some he did water, and some increase God did give, so that he in some measure had wherein to rejoice amongst us.
But now alas, alas! we that were full are become empty, and even as sheep without a shepherd, are left to beg our bread. The ways of our little Zion mourn because we want our solemn feasts; the joy of our heart is ceased, our dance is turned into mourning; the crown is fallen from our head; wo unto us that we have sinned. We cannot but say, oh that it were with us as in times past, as in the days wherein God preserved us, when his candle shined upon our head, and when by his light we walked through darkness. The memory of those sweet distilling dews, that did formerly drop upon us, are not yet so forgotten but we desire to recall some of them, and most especially the two last sermons our dear and reverend pastor did preach amongst us: being texts that he came to in his ordinary course, and not chosen purposely; yet being by Providence fitted as for his farewell, and for our present state of affliction and emptiness, though then unseen both to himself and us; the consideration whereof hath moved the church here by vote, to order the endeavoring of the re-collecting of these sermons, and the fitting them for public use, and to be kept amongst them for the edification of themselves and others, and for the better keeping alive the memory of him whom we so much loved and honored, and have committed the care of effecting the same to some few of the Brethren. But alas, we that are so entrusted know ourselves altogether below such a work, and after some time travailing betwixt a sense of our own unworthiness and desire the work might be accomplished, we at length by perusing our Pastor's own Notes found in his Study, and comparing the notes of several hearers taken in public, according to our weakness have collected the ensuing lines, knowing that if it had been done by the author himself, they were like to be incomparably better; yet we have endeavored to keep to his own words, matter and method; and we know our God requires not of us according to what we have not, but according to what we have; and we hope and beg that all such as may have the perusal of the following lines, to pass by such our weaknesses as they may there find, and cover them with the garment of love.
We hope we have in no sort wronged the author whom we so much loved and reverenced, but have as truly and candidly as we are able, rendered his own, and presented the truth. And so we commit the whole to that God that is able to give a blessing, and to make his strength known in weakness.
By some of the hearers of the ensuing sermons.
CANTICLES viii. 5.
Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved?
SOME understand this of the Shulamite spoken of before. Others of some other spouse or church of Christ to arise after her, according to that promise of the waters that run from under the threshold of the temple towards the east, leading towards Arabia, Syria and Egypt; (Ezek. xlvii. 1.) but when we consider what went before, and the other like places, that charge, verse 4, seems to be the occasion of this question, namely, "I charge you, oh ye daughters of Jerusalem, that you stir not up, nor awake my Love till he please;" which words give occasion to this question; parallel to this you may see chapter iii. 5, 6, and chapter v. 8, 9, and chapter vi. 1. "Whither is thy Beloved gone, O thou fairest among women," &c.; as in those places the daughters of Jerusalem are brought in, inquiring after Christ the Beloved of the Spouse, so in the text they are brought in, admiring and inquiring concerning the spouse of Christ, saying, "Who is this that comes thus up out of the wilderness," &c. The question is put in the feminine gender, as if they should say, 'What woman is this?' and indeed they that should behold the coming of the Shulamite, viz. the return of the Jews, it will be a question worth the inquiring with admiration, and saying, "Who is this?' and hence I conceive the question is concerning that spouse, that gave such a charge in verse 4, unto which Christ gives answer in the words following: "I raised thee up under the apple-tree," &c., although some take that answer to be the churches, to stir up Christ by prayer, which seems not so suitable; but my purpose is at present
to speak only to the former part of the verse, "Who is this that cometh up," &c.
For the meaning of the words, Who is this? it argues something extraordinary, which is matter of special observation and worthy of inquiry. "Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh?" Chap. iii. 6. "What is thy Beloved more than another Beloved," &c.? Ch. v. 9. "Whither is thy Beloved gone, O thou fairest among women?" Chap. vi. 1. It is one thing that shall be inquired into at the return of this church of the Jews, whence they come.
That cometh up out of the wilderness. A wilderness is a desolate place, a land not ploughed nor sowed; so it was to Israel when they came out of Egypt, then God proved them to see what was in their hearts. The wilderness is a land of drought, and the shadow of death, a land of fiery serpents and scorpions; a terrible wilderness God led his people through. (Deut. viii.) What can we expect to find in a wilderness? "What went ye out into the wilderness to see?" Matt. xi. 7. A wilderness is a place of temptation. "Then was Jesus led aside into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil." Matt. iv. 1. Now the return of this Shulamite to their own land is prophesied of, as a people brought out of the wilderness of the people and nations. "And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched-out arm, and with fury poured out, and I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face, like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord God." Ezek. xx. 34-36. He will bring them through great afflictions and temptations to discover the rebels, and to cut them off, (verses 37, 38,) and the rest shall be accepted. (verses 40, 41.) With this agreeth the prophecy of Daniel. "And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people, and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since the time there was a nation, even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book." Dan. xii. 1.
I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountain, and mine elect shall inherit it. But ye are they that forsake the Lord, therefore I will number you to the sword. Isa. lxv. 9, 11. In all these afflictions, trials, and miseries, wherein that people had formerly been, as in a vast howling wilderness, and in all those sad things that shall befal them, such as never were since it was a nation, this spouse shall come up from this wilderness, to the admiration of such as shall behold her. That led them through the deep as a horse in the
wilderness, that they should not stumble, as a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the Lord caused him to rest; so didst thou lead thy people, to make thyself a glorious name.
Leaning upon her Beloved. What is the excellency of this spouse? She is leaning upon her beloved. The word leaning is derived from the Arabian tongue, from which word some conjecture that it should speak of a church from thence. It may be translated leaning or cleaving to, adjoining, associating herself; the Greek translates it, confirming or strengthening herself in her Beloved. Any of these words do well express her faith in Christ, her Beloved, being sensible of her distresses and wilderness-temptations. She dare not trust to any thing but her Beloved, as saith the apostle, We despaired in ourselves, that we might trust in the living God. Being sensible of her own weakness, she leans upon him, she adjoins and associates herself to him that can and will guide her through all difficulties. That he will make you perfect, strengthen, stablish and settle you. (1 Peter v. 10.) Herein the spouse comforts herself, leaning upon her Beloved.
To understand the description of this her Beloved upon whom she thus leans, consider,
1. Who is it but Jesus Christ, the head and husband of his church, who is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him, (Heb. vii. 25.); who is that firm Rock of Ages, that precious Corner Stone, that whosoever believeth on him shall never be confounded. (1 Peter iii. 6.)
2. Her Beloved is he that hath infinitely and most freely loved his church, and given himself for it to purify and cleanse it. (Eph. v. 25.) Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood. (Rev. i. 5.) Who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal. ii. 20.) In these two, the all-sufficiency of Christ and his great and infinite love to her, is ground sufficient to lean upon him in all conditions; as the apostle saith, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him." 2 Tim. i. 2. In Christ are all things that make up a fullness of faith; his omniscience that knows all our needs and dangers, and how and when to supply; and his omnipotence whereby he is able to do it.
3. Faithfulness in his promises. He is the Amen, the true and faithful witness. Sarah believed, for she judged him faithful who had promised.
4. Compassion, or bowels of infinite compassions. His spouse is as the apple of his eye, therefore the Lord Jesus must needs be in every respect the most suitable object of faith, being so allsufficient, faithful, compassionate and loving; now, then, this is the Beloved of the spouse that came leaning on this her Beloved,