A sermon preach'd before the Queen in the Chapel Royal at St. James's, November the 5th, 1706
Preach'd before the
Chapel Royal at St. James's
November the 5th 1706.
Anniversary Day of Thanksgiving for the Deliverance from the Gunpowder-Treason;
By George Stanhope, D. D. Dean of Canterbury, and Chaplain in Ordinary to Her Majesty.
Publish'd by Her Majesty's special Command
Printed by W. B. for R. Sare at Gray's-Inn Gate in Holborn. 1707.
Deut. iv. V. 7, 8, 9.
What Nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for?
And what Nation is there so great that hath Statutes and Judgments so righteous as all this Law, which I set before you this day?
Only take heed to thy self and keep thy Soul diligently lest thou forget the things which thine Eyes hath seen, and lest they depart from thy Heart all the days of thy Life; but teach them thy Sons and thy Sons Sons.
THE Main of this Fifth Book of Moses is a Recapitulation of several memorable Passages, contained in the Other Four. But they are here repeated and enforced with all that Piety, and Wisdom, and tender Affection, which became so good a Governour. He, having in the Three foregoing Chapters brought to Remembrance many signal Instances of the Divine Favour, whereby God's People had been safely and even miraculously conducted to the Borders of the Promised Land, does here proceed to admonish them, what effect it was expected those Mercies should produce. In my Text particularly he represents both their Privilege and their Duty, in Terms so significant and comprehensive, as were exceeding proper to engage the Attention of Israel at that time. And (Blessed be the Goodness of the same gracious God) they are a Subject of Meditation no less seasonable at This Time: On a Day, that ministers so ample and so manifold matter of Thanks and Joy, to all the Members, and all the Lovers, of Our Israel.
Permit me therefore to shew as well Ours as Israel's part in them, by making some few Remarks upon the Words; First, With regard to their Original Occasion and Meaning; And Then, as they are applicable to the, present happy Circumstances of the English Church and Nation; Those Mercies more especially, which it is the Design of this solemn Assembly to commemorate.
The Text, as hath been already intimated, does plainly consist of Two Parts. Israel's Advantage, and Israel's Duty consequent thereupon. The Former is declared at the Seventh and Eighth; The Latter at the Ninth Verse.
Their Advantage is Twofold, (1.) God's Readiness to hear and grant their Prayers, Express'd by being V. 7nigh unto them in all things that they called upon him for. (2.) The Excellence of that Religion in which they were instructed, meant V. 8by having Statutes and Judgments so righteous, as all the Law, which Moses set before them.
Their Duty is likewise said to be Twofold, (1.) The making These an effectual Motive to Thankfulness and Obedience; V. 9.Only take heed to thy self, and keep thy Soul diligently, lest thou forget, the things which thine Eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy Heart all the Days of thy Life. (2.) Taking Care to perpetuate the Memory of these Mercies, by teaching them their Sons, and their Sons Sons.
1. I begin with the First of Israel's Advantages. The V. 7.Having the Lord their God nigh unto them in all things that they called upon him for.
The Holy Scripture, which frequently condescends to our Capacity, by speaking of God after the manner of Men, hath done so in the Passage now before us. A Being by Nature Omnipresent cannot, in strict speaking, be capable of Local Distance or Approach. He therefore, with regard to his Power and General Providence, must needs be equally everywhere. But Finite Beings have their Presence and Activity limited to some determinate Space. Beyond this they are sometimes Unable and cannot, sometimes Unkind and will not, extend their Help. Now in Allusion to These it is, that we read of God withdrawing from, or coming near to Men, by such a distinguishing Providence, as imports particular Favour and Affection. And, as the Misery of the wicked, who are deprived of This, is described by God'sIsa. i. 15.
Prov. i. 28.
Psal. x. 1. hiding himself from them, not being found of them, not answering or hearing them standing and beholding them afar off,Ps. cxxxviii. 6.
cxxi. 3, 4.
xxxvii. 24, 40. and the like: So is the Security of the Good, to whom it is vouchsased, express'd by his Eyes watching over them, his Ears open to them, his Hand upholding them by standing by them, and in my Text, being nigh unto them, in all things that they call upon him for.
You, I am sure, need not be told, how eminently Israel was honoured in this respect, above any other People then in Being. The manner of their Deliverance out of Egypt, and the wonderfully speedy Redresses they found from the numberless Difficulties that encounter'd them, are Evidences sufficiently known of God's peculiar Care and Kindness for them. And whoever shall reflect at all upon the different Fortunes, of that Nation; how inconsiderable their Beginnings were, how mighty and general the Opposition against them, and yet how, prodigious and, irresistible their Successes, must needs allow, that the Psalmist hath given the true Account of their Establishment and Increase, when declaring, that it was God, who Psal. xliv. 3, 4.drove out the Heathen, and planted Them in, That they got not the Land in Possession through their own Sword, neither was it their own Arm that helped them; But His right Hand, and His Arm, and the Light of His Countenance, even because he had a favour unto them. So exceeding beneficial to Themselves, so manifest a Distinction between Them and all they had to contend with, was the First Advantage specified here, The constant Readiness of God to hear their Complaints, and to assert their Cause.
2. Nor was that Other Distinction less remarkable, The having Statutes and Judgments so righteous, as all the Law that Moses set before them. The Excellence of that Religion might easily be made appear in many more Instances, than the Time will suffer me to mention, I will therefore, as briefiy as I can, reduce my Thoughts upon this Subject to the Three following Heads.
1. Its informing them in the Knowledge and Worship of the One True God. It gave them right and reverent Apprehensions of his Being and his Providence, of the Invisibility and Unity of his Nature, and his sole disposal of Events here below. It prescribed a Service or his own immediate Direction; and enforced their Compliance by Promises and Threatnings of such Temporal Good and Evil, as, by being heretofore erroneously ascribed to false imaginary Deities, was the very Ground and Support of all the Pagan Idolatry and Superstition. It induced such Ceremonies, as might at once carry significint Intimations of inward Purity, and stand for indelible Marks, whose Peculiar they were. It led them to, and prepared them for, Christ and the Mysteries of his Blessed Gospel, by such Emblems and Shadows of better things to come, as, the Corruptions of that Age would admit, and the Condition of that People rendred. practicable and proper: And, Lastly, It required, as one indispensable Act of Obedience, that every Man should frequently meditate upon, diligently read, and be perefctly well versed in, the several Parts of this Law, that could be supposed at any time to fall within the Compass of his Practice.
2. The Virtues of Sobriety, Temperance, Chastity, and all the Moral Perfections reducible to That, which Divines use to distinguish by the Duty to our selves, were provided for; Not only by those Precepts of the Decalogue relating to this matter; (the Reason and Obligation whereof are Universal and Perpetual) but also by several of the Ceremonial Institutions particular to this People. The Frequency and Solemnity of their Fasts, The Prohibition of sundry sorts of Meats, The Abstinence from Pleasures otherwise lawful and innocent, enjoined upon many Occasions, all tended to correct that Proneness to Luxury and Excess in sensual Enjoyments, so visible in, but withal so injurious to, the present corrupt State of Humane Nature. All helped to beget a just Contempt and Detestation of that Licentiousness which sinks Men into Brutes; and yet had gained such Credit with the rest of the degenerate World, as even to be adopted into their Offices of Religion; And so to represent that their Duty and their Glory, which was in truth the highest Aggravation of their Sin and Reproach.
3. Once more. The Excellence of this Religion deserves our particular Regard for the great Wisdom of its Civil Constitutions. The Measures directed to those in a Governing, or private Capacity; for impartial Distiribution of Justice; for punishing , repairing, restraining, and even preventing of Wrongs were admirably tempered for cherishing Peace, and Order and good Understanding. The Precepts of Humanity, and Courtesie, and Compassion to all under any Disvantage of Fortune and Condition, and the strict Engagements to mutual Assistance in any common Distress; The Treatment of Servants, of Criminals, of the Poor; the Fatherless, and the Widow, were nicely calculated for Kindness and Amity, and killing the Seeds of Oppression and Cruelty.. The Sacredness of mutual Contracts, the Rules for Borrowing and Lending, The Years of Release and Jubilee, and the Unlawfulness of alienating Estates finally, These laid the Axe to the very Root of Avarice and Ambition. So that one may venture to say, No Scheme of Gbvernment hath exceeded This in discountenancing a private and selfish, and incouraging generous and truly publick Spirit; in obliging Men to love and live like Brethren, and uniting them in an eager Zeal for the common Cause of their Country, and their God.
I cannot think Justice done to this First Head, till it be left upon You with one Reflection, to which the Words of my Text do naturally lead me. It is, That in the Two Advantages we have been treating of, the Greatness and peculiar Felicity of Israel did chiefly and properly consist. For thus we find Each of them introduced, What Nation is there so great that hath God so nigh unto them? And again, What Nation is there so great, that hath Statutes and Judgments so righteous?
And Great indeed they were in some respects, of which I think no History affords a Parallel. A People, whose vast Increase and Power was not, like that of Other Nations, owing to Foreign Growth of Numbers, ingrafted upon the Original Stock, but all Natural Branches springing from One and the same Root, A People, who, thro' various Revolutions, and differing Forms of Government, preserved their Constitution still entire: Who made a noble Figure for 2000 Years: Who survived Three most potent Monarchies and were not broken by the Fourth, till after Calamities and Devastations incomparably more dreadful, than any state besides was ever able to sustain.
Tis true, their Afiairs were not always prosperous; but when they were otherwise, God still appeared nigh unto them. The dismembring ten Parts of that Body at once, the long Captivity in strange Lands, and the frequent Disasters in their own, did in the nature of the things, plainly tend to their speedy Decay and utter Disolution. But in the Event, What End did all these serve, so much as to render the special Providence over them more conispicuous and astonishing? For to What else can we ascribe those wonderful Recoveries of Strength, which, like Health to Patients given over for dead, no ordinary Means were adequate to, no Rules of Humane Policy could account for? The barbarities of their Adversaries resorted back in Vengeance and Ruin upon the Oppressors themselves, and the subtlest Contrivances to work their Downfal so often converted into Means of their firmer Establishment and more glorious Exaltation, must needs have proceeded from the immediate Hand of Him, who takes the Crafty in their own Devices, and suffers no Weapon formed against his Chosen to prosper.
To these uncommon Consequences the Righteousness of their Statutes and Judgments did also greatly contribute. Upon Them the Promises of Divine Protection and Favour were suspended, so that These, while observed, continued an impregnable Defence. The Afflictions sent for neglect of These, by bringing them back to a better Sense, did at the same time bring back God's Readiness to hear and help. The Wisdom of this Law struck an Awe into Strangers, softned their Enemies, and more than once recommended them to such Indulgence from Heathen Princes, as patronize their Cause, and became the principal Instrument of restoring the Peace of their Country, and the Primitive Splendour of their Religion. A Religion, which, by uniting both their Interests and Affections, rendred them so formidable Abroad, and so safe at Home, that, if we may have Leave to judge froth probable Circurmstances, the Romans could not at last have effected their Overthrow, had not God, as a fatal Introduction to it, permitted a Zeal so bitter, and Factions so furious, to kindle and consume them within, that the Rage of these did the Work of their Enemies without, while by a prodigiously blind and barbarous Infatuation, they first divided from, and then engaged against, and destroyed one another.
II. Having thus shew'd Israel's Advantages, and how justly their Greatness is attributed to them; let me now pass to the Duties enforced from thence. Upon the first Branch whereof I shall not need to argue. For till, not only Scripture, but even, common Sense be abandoned, we must remain persuaded, That all Appearances of an extraordinary Providence in Men's Favour require a Tribute of Glory and Thanks to God; That this Tribute is not duly and honestly paid, unlels express'd by their Lives as well as their Lips: That it is indeed much more effectually express'd by their Lives than, by their Lips, and that the Latter is required only in order to the Former.
As little can I judge it necessary to prove, that the End of Religion in general is Obedience, and that the Piety and Virtue of its Professors ought to shine forth, in proportion to the Purity of their Principles and the Perfection of their Knowledge. These are Remarks so obvious and evident, that every one here present, I take for granted, acquiesces in Israels Obligation to that part of the Command at the Ninth Verse, Only take heed to thy self, and keep thy Soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine Eyes have seen and lest they depart from thy Heart all the days of thy Life.
But it is possible, some, who are satisfied in the Reasonableness of such Returns for present and personal Mercies, may not be, equally clear in that other Command, of transmitting down the Remembrance of past Blessings and continuing solemn Acknowledgments for them among Generations yet unborn. If any such now hear me, I shall hope they will think the Equity of This Ordinance also abundantly justified by the following Considerations.
1. The closeness of the Relation between Ancestors so bless'd, and the Descendents from them. For surely it is contrary to Reason, no less than to Nature and Blood, to look upon our selves as unconcerned in Their Fortunes of any kind of whose Substance we are a part and from whence our very Life and Being are derived to us.
2. The Condition of all publick Communities. Which is, that they do not die off like private Men, but continue in that Capacity the same, what Change soever may happen to the Individuals whereof they are composed. And here the Body Civil resembles the Natural, for the Particles of That too undergo daily and hourly Alterations: And yet the Man in one Case, and the Society in the other, is still to all intents and Purposes One, from the first Moment of Existence, to that of final Dissolution. Consequently all National Dangers, and Deliverances do really affect every Member of that Nation, as Such; in how distant a Succession soever he may live from the time of those publick Events.
But, Thirdly, Though such Events themselves be not, yet the Influences and beneficial Effects of them are present to Posterity oftentimes in so sensible a manner, that they may in this respect be very truly stiled Personal Blessings. Thus every Israelite so long as that Dispensation endured, found his account in the Mercies referr'd to by the Text. And therefore the Sons and the Sons Sons were obliged to all fitting Demonstrations of Gratitude, for the Deliverance out of the Bondage of Egypt, and the giving of so excellent a Law; No less, than those Fathers, whose own Eyes had seen the Wonders of God at the Red Sea, and all the awful Pomp of his Majesty at Mount Sinai.
For such Reasons as these, we may fairly presume, God was pleased to institute lasting Memorials of his Goodness to that People. But, whether for these Reasons or not, it ought to suffice us, That such Memorials were certainly of Divine Institution: That the Form and the End of them are Our Pattern by being so contrived, as not only to publish the great Benefactors Praises, but also to promote his true Religion: That the Jewish Rulers afterwards esteemed themselves not only allowed, but obliged, upon extraordinary Occasions, to ordain the like; without any positive and immediate Direction from Heaven in the matter: That such, in particular, were the Feasts of Purim and the Dedication; the Latter whereof our Blessed Lord vouchsased to honour with his Presence. And sure we may have liberty to infer a Parity of good Reason, and good Acceptance with God, when published and important Mercies are in succeeding Ages celebrated by solemn and religious Acknowledgments. Hence have the Wisdom and Piety of our Governours set a Mark of Distinction upon this Day. How very justly, I am now about to observe, by bringing home to our own Church and Nation the Words of my Text, and the principal of those Remarks, which I have hitherto been drawing from them.
I. We sure were of all Mortals the most disingenuous and unworthy, did we not evidently discern, and thankfully rejoice in a lively Resemblance to Israel in the Readiness of God to succour and protect us. No Period of Time, since Miracles have ceased, can produce more remarkable Instances of this nature, than the English Church and Nation have been bless'd with, since rescued from the Bondage of their Romish Taskmasters. The Attempts to reduce us have been not only so numerous and subtle, but so bloody and barbarous, and, base; as prove their pretended Conversions to be of a kind altogether different from those laboured by S. Paul and such as plainly seek not Us but Ours.
Yet in the Design of This Day, they even outdid themselves. Bishop Andrews, Tortua Torti. p.83 &c. A Design so spightful and unprovoked, so cruel in the Intention, so secret in the Contrivance, so long under debate so speedy in the manner of Execution, and so dismal in its Consequences, as carried all the Marks of that Hell, where alone such a Monster could be engendred. A notable Argument of Their Charity to Mens Souls, who found out this new Fire for purging them! A Holy Zeal indeed, for King, Prince, Clergy, Nobility, and the whole People Representative (all pretended to be in a State of Damnation) to be blown away into Eternity at once, without one Moment's Leisure for Repentance! An extraordinary Honour done to Religion, shamelesly to abuse that sacred Name,Thuanus, Lib 135. p. 2. and prostitute its solmnest Ties of Oaths and Sacraments, to advance Rome Christian, by Measures so treacherous and inhumane, as the Principles of Rome Heathen would have rejected with the utmost indignation and Scorn!
I would not by any means, nor did our then injured Sovereign, undertake to charge all of that Persuasion with a part in, or even Approbation of, this unparalell'd Villany. Many, we charitably hope, are not so entirely at the Devotion of their intrigueing-Casuists, as by Their Sophistry to be argued out of the first and: brightest Maxims of Morality and common Honesty. But, whether we can think so favourably of one celebrated Order among them, and the governing part of their Church, let their own Conduct in this single point determine. The first Atttempt was to discredit, and, with their usual Modesty, deny the Fact. A Labour, which many concurrent Intimations from Abroad, but especially the Circumstances of the Discovery, the hardned Gloryings of Some, and the unextorted Confessions of Other Accomplices, did quickly then, and always ought to render unfuccesssful. Beaten from this Evasion, their Next was then to lament it.Tortur. Tort. p. 75, &c. But what did they lament? The Wickedness, or the Disappointment of this Conspiracy? For they have left us under just Sufpense. Sufpense shall I say? Or rather that they have sufficiently explain'd themselves, by the very kind Reception of Two  of the Traitors at Rome, by the Preferment of One in the Pope's own Court, and by inserting Two others, executed for it into the Jesuits, Catalogue of English Martyrs, invoking one of them among their interceding Saints, and valuing the Straw on which his Body lay, as a Relique of great Price? They who act so, put too much upon us, when requiring our Belief, that Abhorrence of the Guilt makes any part of their this Occasion. Till therefore they think fit to give some other sort of Testimonies; we must have Leave to suspect, that such Men condemn this Treason, as a true Popish Spirit does the Massacre of Paris, for being done by halves, and not answering its purpose.
Happy however it is for Us, that One above, whose Judgment is always right, declared the Detestation of the impious Attempt, by detesting, and, as on this Day, utterly defeating it. Happy, that he hath ever since continued, to hew the Snares of these ungodly in pieces. For I cannot think we do them any Wrong, by apprehending the same Hand more or less concerned, in all the Miseries and Confusion of this Kingdom ever since. They apppear but too manifestly never to have wanted the Will, though (God be praised) they have often wanted the Power, to embroil and enslave us. When they imagined themselves in Possession of That also, what Improvement they made of the Opportunity, by abusing the misguided Zeal of an unfortunate Prince, I delight not, and indeed I need not, to put you in remembrance. Your selves both felt the Fear, and saw the Danger. Of which I now desire to make no other Use, than that of exciting your Thankfulness for the Deliverance. For, that the Fifth of November might shine with double Lustre, on It our Religious and Civil Rights began again to triumph over the Malice of their Subverters. This Restitution of Both we owe, next under God, to the unwearied Toils and glorious Conduct of a Prince, whose Memory, (if it were only upon that account) ought to be very Dear to us. But when we add, that there too was laid the Foundation of our present Happiness, the Stability of Her Majesty's Throne, and the unparallell'd Blessings of Her Reign, What Honours can be too great for Her Royal Predecessor's Name? What Distinction too solemn for This so auspicious, so important Day?
I am under a necessity of contracting my self upon so agreeable a Subject. But, by the Little laid upon it, You, doubtless, are convinced, what Right we have to the Words of Moses here, and that indeed they hardly come up to our point. For I know not well, whether it might not look like a Diminution of his Mercies and peculiar Providence toward us, to lay, that our God is nigh in all we call upon him for; When in Many Instances he hath even prevented our Wishes, and in Most very far surpass'd our Expectations.
II. With regard to Israel's Second Advantage we are beyond Comparison superiour. For how justly soever the Preeminence were ascribed to the Jewish, above any other Law then obtaining in the World, yet may we truly affirm with S. Paul, 2 Cor. iii. 10.that what was then made glorious hath now no Glory by reason of the Glory that excelleth. Such is our indisputable Prerogative as Christians.
But, since it hath pleased God to permit, that even Christians should be miserably corrupted and divided; We ought to esteem it our peculiar Felicity, that we are Members of a Church, Of whose Faith and Practice God's written Word is the Rule; Of whose Interpretation of that Word the Sense of the First and Purest Ages is the Standard; Whose Worship, and Ceremonies are solemn without Preciseness, and decent without Superstition: Whose Offices are sound and prudent, apt and edifying; Whose Religion not only dares, but desires, to be seen without Disguise, and carefully examined by all its Professors. A Religion, that heartily embraces all the Counsel of God, but with a just Indignation rejects the additional Articles of Men; and will not submit to the Tyranny, of Idolatry in Practice, and Contradictions in Belief, being imposed as Terms necessary to Salvation. A Religion so exactly Calculated for the Perfection of all divine and human, moral and social, private and publick Virtues; that the Zealots of Rome have nothing truly Primitive and Christian which We want; Nothing particular to Their Communion, which We are not better without; In plain English, Nothing which they stickle for converting us to, but newer or older Errors, Uncharitableness and Faction, Disloyalty and Slavery. Lastly, (which comes up closer to the Occasion of this Assembly) A Religion in Meekness and Innocence so like its Divine Author, that it will not allow Us to take Sanctuary in those infamous Means for our own Preservation, which our Adversaries, without any Scruple or Remorse, make choice of for our Destruction.
On these Two Privilges then let us, alter the Example of Mosses, fix our Contemplation, and ground our Happiness. The Convenience of our Situation, The Benignity of our Climate, The various Productions of our Country, the Benefits of our Navigation, The Wealth of our People, The Wisdom of our Laws, The admirable Temper of our Constitution, The Terrour of our Arms by Sea and Land, And the shining Graces of our Queen, These are glorious Advantages, and an unexampled Concurrence of Blessings. But let me notwithstanding crave leave to say, that, to ascribe our present Enjoyments or our future Expectations to any or to all of These, is to stop too short. They are indeed proper Instruments and subordinate Causes, but the Original and Efficacious Cause of all lies higher yet. It is the Favourable Providence of God, It is the Excellence of our Relgion, that constitute our true Greatness and Glory, our Hope and Crown of Rejoicing. For such is the mutual Connexion and Dependence of these Two, that to the Favour of God we owe the Preservation of his Truth among us, and from a stedfast Adherence to that Truth we may promise our selves the same Favour and Protection, which hath put so visible and so advantageous a Difference between Us and Other Nations.
Only let, that be Ours, I beseech you, which is here commanded to be Israel's Care: To adorn this Truth; and to answer that Goodness of our Almighty Protector, by a Conversation suitable to Both. Nor let us be wanting to That, for which God hath done so much, in all lawful and prudent Methods for securing, increasing, and, if possible, perpetuating this our Glory: Especially by a watchful Prevention of that unwearied and implacable Malice, which labours for Mischief from a Principle of Religion, and teaches our Ruin to be meritorious: That furious Zeal, which, when it cannot call down Fire from Heaven, is not ashamed to impregnate the Bowels of the Earth with it, thence to undermine, and scatter, and consume us. Above all, let no Divisions within (fomented industriously by them that are without) render us an easie and unthinking Prey. For, after so many Warnings and Experiments of an Enemy subtle and restless, insinuating and bold, and always in perfect Agreement against our Faith and Constitution: Any Breach upon us, for want of a yet more United and Enlarged Strength, will deserve hereafter, not to be pitied as Our Misfortune, but censured as our Folly and Reproach.
Oh! therefore that the past Blessings and Escapes, to which we are indebted for remaining hitherto a Reformed Church and a free Nation, may be so devoutly commemorated and so religiously improved by us, that my Text may be answered in the Latter, as punctually as you have seen it is in the Former Branch! May the inestimable Mercies we have received, and the excellent Religion we profess, be effectually taught our Sons and our Sons Sons:, And may the Lord, who hath so signally been Our God, be likewise Their God for ever and ever. Amen.
F I N I S.
- Of these Confessions see Thaun Lib. 135 part.2.
- Gerard alias Everard (before whome the Scrament and Oath of Secrecy was taken) and Greenwel alias Tesmond, who confirm'd the before scrupulous Conscience of Bates, Servant to Catesby, by assuring him, the Design was not only lawful but meritorious. Thuan. Lib. 135. part. 2.
- Hall alias Oldcorn, and Garnet
- Gabr. Naide Considerations Politiques sur les Coups d'Etat. From pag. 167 to 181.