Ralph Erskine Archive

Ralph Erskine

SERMON XXX


 

THE LITTLE CITY BESIEGED AND DELIVERED; OR, THE DELIVER­ANCE OF THE CHURCH BY CHRIST, AND THE INGRATITUDE OF MEN TO THE GLORIOUS REDEEMER, REPRESENTED.

This Sermon was preached at the Queenaferry, on Monday, October 8th, 1732, after the celebration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper there.

“There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it; now, there was found in it a poor wise man; and he, by his wisdom, delivered the city: yet no man remembered the same poor man.” Ecclesiastes 9:14, 15

It is questioned, amongst interpreters, whether this be a history or a parable. I am not here to dispute the matter, but take it to be parabolical; and reckon the Spirit of God hath left the application thereof for us to make, which I would essay to do, both in an agree­ableness, I hope, to the analogy of faith, and in a suitableness to the present occasion.

The verses contain news from heaven: and particularly, 1. Here is a city described; “There was a little city, and few men within it.” 2. The city besieged; “There came a great king against it, and besieged it; and built great bulwarks against it.” 3. The city delivered, and the siege raised; “Now there was found in it a poor wise man; and he, by his wisdom, delivered the city.” 4. The ingratitude of the citizens, “Yet no man remembered the same poor man.”

1st, Here is a city described, both from the quality of it—a little city; and from the paucity of its inhabitants—few men with­in it. Now, what are we to understand by the city? Why,

1. If by the city we understand the world in general, it might seem strange that the world should be called a little city; but he that walks with God, as Enoch, and, as the prophet Isaiah expresses it, dwells on high, sees this world to be nothing but some shadow; yea, before God, “All the nations of the earth are as nothing;” and as it is little, so there are few men within it; because these we call men cannot, according to scripture, be distinguished from beasts and vipers, a generation of vipers; and of these there are many; but a very few men are to be found in the world; none but these that are transformed, and turned from beasts to men. “The beasts of the field shall honor me, the dragon and the owl. This people have I formed for myself, they shall shew forth my praise,” (Isa. 46:20,21).

2. By the city we are to understand the church of God in particular. The name of the city is Jehovah‑Shammah, the Lord is there; the wall of the city is salvation, which God hath appointed for walls and bulwarks; the food of the citizens is the word of God, and the bread that came down from heaven. But in what respect the church is compared to a city so frequently in scripture, we may afterwards consider. It is but a little city, and a few men in it, in comparison of her enemies, and all the rest of the world, that are without the church.

2dly, Here is the city besieged. Where we may notice,

1. The greatness of the besieger: “There came a great king against it, and besieged it.” Whether we take this great king for God, in one respect; or for the devil, in another respect; and for sin and death that attend him; these, in various respects, lay siege to the city.

2. Notice the greatness of the siege: “He built great bulwarks against it.” God, in his awful justice; the devil, in his desperate malice; sin, in its destructive subtlety; and death, in its dreadful terrors. A great king raising great bulwarks against a little city, and few men in it, they must be in a very dismal situation. But,

3dly, Here is the little city delivered, and the siege raised: “There was found in the city a poor wise man; and he, by his wisdom, delivered the city.” Where notice also two things, namely, How the deliverer is described; and how the city was delivered by him.

(1.) How the deliverer is described: “There was found in the city a poor wise Man.” I think it is not only highly agreeable to the analogy of faith, but very probable to be the intent of the words, to give a description of Christ, the Deliverer and Saviour of his Church; whom we may here view as described,

1. By his humanity, a man; for, “He was a man of sorrows: The Word was made flesh.”

2. By his divinity, a wise man; for, he was, and is, the essen­tial Wisdom of God.

3. By his humiliation, a poor man; for, “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor.”

4. By his destination to this work; he was found in the city: Who found him? God, who says, “I have found a ran­som; I have found David my servant.” Where was he found? Even in the city, among men: “I have laid help upon One that is mighty, says God; even One chosen out of the people,” (Ps. 89:19).

(2.) How and in what manner he delivered the city, even by his wisdom: “He, by his wisdom, delivered the city:” By his Deity; for, if he had not been the infinitely wise God, he could, never have relieved the city; even he who, by his wisdom, stretched out the heavens, when he made the world; by his wisdom, fulfilled the law, and appeased the wrath of God; by his wisdom, outwitted the old serpent, and destroyed the works of the devil; by his wis­dom, finished transgression, and made an end of sin, and vanquished death: and so by his wisdom delivered the city from justice, Satan, sin, hell, and death; in his wisdom he delivers the church, the city of God, by the price of his blood, and by the power of his spirit.­—Thus the city is delivered, and the siege raised.

4thly and lastly, Notice in the words the ingratitude of the citizens, or the citizens upbraided for their unkindness: “Yet no man remembered the same poor man.” Where you have,

1. The nature of their fault, and the aggravation of their in­gratitude; they were so far from requiting him kindly, saying, “What shall we render to the Lord, for his benefits towards us?” that they did not remember him, they never so much as minded him. Their disease was that of sinful oblivion; they forgot him, and his kindness: “They soon forgot his mighty works.”

2. The universality of this ingratitude: “No man remembered the same poor man;”—none remembered, no, not one; they are altogether become ungrateful.—Thus you have the history opened, and a short hint at the mystery contained in it.

From the words, thus opened, we may lay down this doctrinal proposition—

Observation: That though the work of redemption, or the deliver­ance wrought by Christ for sinners, be a very great and memorable work, like the raising of a great siege against a little city; yet there is a proneness in man to forget the Redeemer or Deliverer, and all his work of kindness toward them.

We need go no further for the confirmation of this doctrine, than the institution of the Lord’s Supper, which you have been celebrating, “Do this in remembrance of me;” as if it had been said? Ought you not to remember me, your Redeemer; me, your Deliverer, that hath raised the great siege that was laid against you; yet you are prone to forget men and all the kindness that I have done to you; therefore, I have instituted this ordinance to keep you in mind, “Do this in remembrance of me.” But I shall refer the farther confirmation, to the prosecution of the doctrine, in the following method, according to the former division.

I.     I would speak somewhat concerning the little city, and the few men in it.

II.   Concerning the great siege laid against it.

III.  Of the deliverance thereof, and the reasons of the siege.

IV. Of the ingratitude of the citizens, and their proneness to forget the Deliverer.

V.   Make application of the whole.

I. I am to speak of the little city: “There was a little city, and few men within it.” There are four things remarkable con­cerning the church, which this part of the text presents to us.

Remark 1. “That the church of God is comparable to a city, and often compared thereto in Scripture, “There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God,”1 (Ps. 46:4).  The church, in allusion to a city, is a place of security and defense: “We have a strong city, salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks;” and it hath watchmen upon the walls. It is a place of society; where the saints have fellowship one with another, exhort and comfort one another.—It is a place of unity; where they are to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.—It is a place of trade and traffic; where we may trade with heaven, and buy gold tried in the fire, white raiment, and eye‑salve, exposed freely there for sale. It is a place of freedom and liberty; where all the true citizens are freed from the law as a covenant; from the curse of the law, the wrath of God, and all subjection thereto; also from the guilt of sin and the rule of it.—It is a place of order and regula­rity; where men are regularly entered burgesses, and are to come in by the gate of the city, even by Christ, who is the door.—It is a place of rest, commodious to live in; and there is no resting‑place for the soul but here: It is a place of pleasure and joy; “Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth;” there is the joyful sound, through the silver trumpet of the gospel; and the song of Zion.—It is a place of pomp and splendor, the seat of the King; where is the King’s court, the King’s throne, the throne of grace, and daily access to see the King in his beauty.—It is a place of privileges, a privileged place; where there are privileges belonging to the church visible; they have the fountain open to them; they have a sealed right in baptism to the covenant; having the promise, they have right to the seal of the covenant of promise; and thus a sealed warrant to come to Christ, a general adoption, and thereon many fatherly acts of pity showed to them; God instructs them by his word, corrects them by his rod, reproves them by his servants, and when they go aside directs them by his word, saying, “This is the way.” They have ordinances, sacraments, ministers, and a right to choose the ministers and officers of the city: this is the privilege of every city, much more of the city of God; and, if the city want this, it is so far a city robbed and spoiled. There are privileges belonging to the church invisible, such as pardon of sin, peace with God, sancti­fication, eternal life, access to the King’s table, the Lamb, the light of the place, and the temple; the Lord himself is the temple they come to; they have a title unto the new Jerusalem, the King's pass for heaven, “I appoint unto you a kingdom.”

2. Remark 2. “That the church is a little city, it is a little flock, (Luke 12:31). It is but a small spot, compared with the vast wilderness of this world; it is an enclosed garden,” (Song iv. 12). The church is compared to a little city in comparison of this world and but a little city in the eyes of the world; little and contemned! And, indeed, the true citizens are but little in their own eyes, “Less than the least of all saints; less than the least of all God's mercies;” yea, nothing in their own account, and less than nothing, worse than nothing. The church is a little city, a little stone cut out of the mountain, yet many great cities and kingdoms have fallen before it. This little city has outlived the great city Nineveh; the magnificent Tyrus; and trampled upon the graves of many famous and remarkable cities, because, though it be but a little city, yet it is the city of the great God; and “Glorious things are spoken of this city of God,” (Ps. 87:3).

Remark 3. “That it is a city of men; “a little city and men in it.” The infinite wisdom of God hath seen fit to make this famous little city consist, not of fallen angels, but of fallen men; “Wisdom crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, saying, To you, O, men, do I call, and my voice is to the sons of men,” (Prov. 8: 3,4). And happy we the men whom wisdom determineth and prevaileth on to enter themselves burgesses of this little city, by com­ing not only into the suburbs thereof, by a profession of Christ; but enter in through the gates into the city, while the King of the city stands at the door of our hearts, and knocks, and assures us that he is the door of the city; “I am the door; by me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved; and shall go in and out, and find pasture,” (John 10:9). It is a city of men, a city for mankind, a city of refuge for man­kind sinners; therefore, let none stand without, saying, It is not the like of me that God is calling to come in. If you be of the posterity of Adam, and of the children of men, Christ is offered unto you, and you are called to accept of the grant of freedom and liberty; the grant of all the privileges and immunities of God’s city, and of being free men there: O, sirs, “If the son make you free, then are ye free indeed.” But yet we have it to remark,

4. “That this little city hath but few men in it, even the visible church.” I mean, these that have a visible and credible pro­fession of faith are few in comparison of the rest of the world; and the invisible church, who have the power of religion, and the truth of faith, are but very few in comparison of the bulk of professors. This little city then, has but “few men within it,” as the text says; many are without the city, and many are about the city, but few are within the city, and they only, are safe; for, “Without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, idolators, murderers, and whoso­ever loveth or maketh a lie,” (Rev. 22:15). Without are drunk­ards, swearers, Sabbath‑breakers, profane persons; yea, beside the openly profane, without are formalists, hypocrites, unbelievers but within are saints, believers, lovers of God; “many are called, but few are chosen.” Yea we may say, there are many bycomers; but few indwellers; many incomers like dogs, that go out again; “They go out from us, because they are not of us,” (1 John 2:19), but few indwellers, like children of Zion, and fellow‑citizens with the saints, (Eph. 2:19). The rest of the world, whether they be bycomers or not, they are not to be reckoned men, but rather dogs and beasts; for thus, all that are out of Christ, and so out of the city, are called, (Isa. 43:20). Thus, in the vast populous city of Jerusalem, a man could not be found; “Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof if you can find a man.” Why, not a man? No: they were only to be reckoned men who execute judgment, and sought the truth; but such could not be found: they were all degenerate into beasts; all transformed through brutish affections into unreasonable creatures: yet of Zion it shall be said, “This man and that man was born there;” but they are but here and there one; a “little city, and few men within it.”

II. The second thing in the method, was, To speak of the great siege laid against the little city.

I shall here consider both who the great king is, that came against the city; and what are the great bulwarks built against it. And here, according to the view I gave in the explication,

1. By the great king we may understand the Great God, in his awful justice, who upon the sin of man, became an enraged enemy to the whole city of mankind; and to whose wrath the little city, which he chose out of the world, is by nature as much exposed as the rest; for, being all children of disobedience, they are by nature children of wrath even as others, (Eph. 2:2‑3), and therefore, his first appearance to them, even when he has a mind to make them a city for himself to dwell in; his first appearance, I say, to them, is in terrible majesty, laying siege to their souls, and building great bulwarks against them. But possibly you may say,

What bulwarks? Even the great bulwarks of law‑curses and law‑threatenings: for, in a work of conviction and compunction, and legal humiliation, which usually precedes any gospel‑work, and saving change, he applies the curse and threatenings of the law to their conscience, saying, “Cursed is every one that continues not in all things, written in the book of the law to do them,” (Gal. 3:10). In so much, that the soul finds itself to be an accursed creature; a condemned creature; and is put in fear of everlasting damnation. The rest of the world, who shall eternally feel this heavy wrath of God in another world, yet lie sleeping, without fear of it, in this world; but the little city, that shall forever be delivered from it, are now in this world awakened and alarmed with the fear of it mercifully, that they may prize the Saviour and Deliverer of the city. The great God storms the city with his terrible artillery, like great warring cannons, sur­rounding a little city; he thunders from Sinai, and builds great bulwarks against it; the great bulwark of a broken law; the great bulwark of a threatened curse; the great bulwark of offended holi­ness; and great bulwark of enraged justice; and, in a word, all the infinite perfections of God injured and dishonored by their sin, appear planted about the city in battle array. When the great God himself appears an enemy, breaking them with breach upon breach, and running upon them like a giant sometimes, and saying, “Who can deliver out of my hand? for, I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever. If I whet my glitter­ing sword, and my hand take hold of judgment, I will render ven­geance to mine enemies;—I will make mine arrows drunk with blood,” (Deut. 32:40). Yea, not only in the first awakening work doth God thus appear formidable to them, for their humiliation and conviction: but even afterwards, he sometimes appears formidable to them for their trial and correction. Thus Job found the great bulwarks of God’s terrible majesty built up against him, when he said, “The Arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirits; the terrors of God do set themselves in ar­ray against me,” (Job. 6:4). Thus Heman, “While I suffer thy terrors I am distracted: thy fierce wrath goes over me; thy terrors have cut me off,” (Ps. 88:15). But,

2. By the great king we may understand the devil in his desperate malice against the little city: he is called a prince, the prince of the power of the air, [or, of darkness], that rules in the hearts of the children of disobedience, (Eph. 2:2). This mighty and malicious prince, in the beginning of the world, came against the little city of mankind, when there was but few men in it; yea, when there was but one man, and one woman in the city, in a literal sense; and he besieged it and built great bulwarks of flatter­ing falsehoods, and lying temptations against it; and conquered the city, and destroyed it: as you read, (Gen. 3), concerning the sin and fall of our first parents, through the powerful subtlety of the serpent; and he continues still to besiege and destroy sinners by his malice and subtlety, force, and fraud; and especially he raises great bulwarks against the little city.

What bulwarks? Why, even his manifold temptations, de­vices, and fiery darts; “We are not ignorant of his devices,” (2 Cor. 2:11). We are called to take, above all things, the shield of faith, that we may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked: for, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers,” (Eph. 6:12‑16). The devil at­tacks the city both by high bulwarks and deep mines; we read of the depths of Satan, (Rev. 2:24), and being the prince of this world, for so he is called, (John 12:31), and elsewhere. He has thousands of wicked instruments by which he batters and besieges the little city. He has a deceitful party for him within, as well as without the little city; within the church as well as without it: within the church visible, he has his treacherous Judases, to betray the city into his hand, and to betray the interest of the city, and the liberties and privileges thereof. We read of the devil’s armor, (Luke 11:22), where he is called the strong man armed, keeping his palace; but when a stronger than he, comes upon him, and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor. And what that armor is, we may partly know; “The god of this world blinds the minds of them that believe not,” (2 Cor. 4:4), hellish darkness ex­cluding and opposing gospel‑light; the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of error, and the darkness of delusion. This is a great part of the devil’s armor, together with high imaginations, carnal season­ings, pride, prejudices, and exalting thoughts, mentioned, (2 Cor. 10:5). These are part of his armor, and his great bulwarks.

3. By the great king we may understand sin; sin is the great king that reigns in, and over us naturally; therefore says the apostle, “Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies,” (Rom. 6:12). Sin and Satan are always confederates together; and their power is very great, in so much, that all men are subject to the rule and go­vernment thereof; and as all the children of men are slaves unto sin, as their king; so all the children of God, in this world, are many times captives to it: “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into cap­tivity to the law of sin that is in my members,” (Rom. 7:3). The power and authority of sin is called a law, even the law of sin and death, which nothing can free us from, but the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, (Rom. 8:2).

Now, what bulwarks does this great king build against the little city? Indeed, sin has the strongest bulwarks in the world. It hath self for a bulwark; and hence, for a man to destroy sin, is to destroy himself in effect, and the best and most useful parts of himself, his right‑hand, his right‑eye, his members; “Mortify therefore your members that are upon the earth,” (Col. 3:5). When a man destroys his lusts, he denies himself; and self is so mighty, that it competes with King Jesus, and fights for the throne, even after Christ has taken possession of the heart. Self‑ease, self-­pleasure, self‑will, self‑wisdom, self‑love, self‑esteem, self‑righteousness, are the bulwarks of sin. It hath also the law for a bulwark: “The strength of sin is the law,” (1 Cor. 15:56). The law of sin is strengthened by the law of works; the strength of sin being a grand part of the curse of the law of works, in so much, that no power can destroy that bulwark, but the power that can give full satisfaction to the law; hence the strong bulwark of sin is never broken down, till a man has, by faith, closed with the law‑satisfying righteousness of Christ. Again,

4. By the great king we may understand death, the king of terrors, (Job 18:14). Death is a mighty king, that all the sinful race of Adam are lawful captives unto; and such is the constant battle that death gives, even to the true‑born children of Zion, the little city, that when all other enemies are defeated and destroyed, death is the last upon the field: “The last enemy to be destroyed, is death,” (1 Cor. 15:26). Now,

What bulwarks does this king build against the little city? There are two great bulwarks it builds; the one before, and the other behind it. Before death, there stands the bulwark of terror and fear because of sin, which is the sting of death, and hence many within the little city are kept long in bondage through fear of death, (Heb. 2:15). The terrors of death sometimes compass them about, and the fears of hell on the back of death. Again, behind death there is another bulwark, and that is seeming victory. When death gets soul and body separate, and the body made death's prisoner in the grave, where the worms destroy it, and rottenness seems to ride in triumph over it; and this is the reason why it is said to be the last enemy that shall be destroyed; because it has a seeming victory over the visible part of the believer, till the last trumpet sound, and the dead be raised incorruptible, immortal, &c.

III. The next thing was, To speak of the deliverance of the city, and the raising of the siege. And here we are led by the text to consider, 1. How the Deliverer is described; 2. How the deli­verance is effected.

1st, Consider how the Deliverer is described: “There was found in the city a poor wise man.” And here he is set before us, so as we may consider him,

1. In his humanity, as a Man. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Saviour and Deliverer, he was a man; he was prophesied of before, that he should be the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham; and in the fulness of time he was made of a woman, born of a virgin: “The Word was made flesh;” and he became man, a true man; he went through all the stages of man, concep­tion, childhood, youth, riper age: he was a distressed man,“a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” He was a mortal as we are, and actually died as we must; he died a painful, shameful, and ignominious death, which we were commemorating at this occa­sion.

2. We may consider the Deliverer in his Divinity, as a wise Man. Wisdom dwells not with fallen men; they had all their heads cracked by the fall of Adam, and were become fools, hav­ing folly bound up in their nature; therefore, the man who is the Deliverer must be a man that never fell in Adam, a wise man—­that is, God as well as man; one that, with the nature of man, hath the wisdom of God; yea, and is “the Wisdom of God,” (1 Cor. 1:24). It is he that says, “I, Wisdom, dwell with Prudence,” (Prov. 8:12). And it is of him the Father says, “My Servant shall deal prudently,” (Isa. 52:13). And it is by his infinite wisdom that he delivered the city, of which more afterwards. He is essentially wise, being Wisdom itself; the God whose understanding is infi­nite. He is communicatively wise, having all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hid in him, and the Spirit of Wisdom to give.

3. We may view the Deliverer in his humiliation; as a poor Man; poor in outward respects: “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet, for our sakes, he became poor, that we, through his poverty, might be rich,” (2 Cor. 8:9). He had all the riches and all the fulness of the Godhead in him, yet he became poor. Many are poor against their will, but he became poor voluntarily; he became a poor servant: “Though he thought it no robbery to be equal with God, yet he took upon him the form of a servant;” taking on our nature, not in its best condition, but the lowest state of our nature. He became poor in his birth, poor in his life, and poor in his death. He was born, not of a queen, but of a mean virgin; born, not in a palace, but in a stable, laid in a manger: “The foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests; but the Son of Man had not where to lay his head.” He had nothing to pay tribute withal till he ordered a fish to bring it. He was ministered unto in his life and in his death, by reason of his real extreme poverty. He was poor as a man, and yet wise as God. The poverty of men and the wisdom of God met and centered in him.

4. We may consider the Deliverer in his destination to this work; he was found in the city. He was found of God, who says, “I have found a Ransom; I have found David my servant,” (Job 13:24; Ps. 89:20). He was found in the city, among men; and was chosen out of the people, (Ps. 89:19). He was found in fashion as a man, (Phil. 2:8). He was found willing and cheerfully ready to undertake this work of redemption and deliverance, (Ps. 40:6). “Lo, I come, I delight to do thy will,” (Heb. 10:7). He was found able and well qualified for the work; “I have laid help upon one that is mighty,” (Psalm 89:19). And, as he had a personal fitness, being God as well as man, and God‑man in one person; so he that found him did also fit him, by the super-eminent [superior distinction] unction of the Holy Ghost; “I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him,” (Ps. 89:20). Thus, “Him hath God the Father sealed,” (John 6:27), for this work, And this is what Christ acknowledges of himself, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he hath anointed me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God,” (Isa. 61:1); to deliver the city.

2dly, How the deliverance is effected. Here two things are to be a little opened, 1. The matter of his work: “He delivered the city.” 2. The manner of the deliverance: “By his wisdom.”

(1.) In general, the matter of his redemption work: He de­livered the little city, he raised the siege. Here we are to view how he manages the work, in opposition to the great kings, that built great bulwarks against the little city.

1. If we view the siege as formed by the Great King, that is, the Great God, when the great bulwarks built against the city are the broken law of God, cursing the sinner; and the injured attributes of God, viz., justice, holiness, and truth, all standing in battle array against the sinner, behold the poor wise man, he comes and fulfils that law that we had broken, and bears the curse that we had incurred. “When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law,” (Gal. 4:4). “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us,” (Gal. 3:13). And, in this way, he satisfies the justice of God, vindicates the holiness of God, and clears the truth of God; Christ hath loved us, and hath given himself a sacrifice for us, of a sweet‑smelling savor, to God, (Eph. 5:2). He is become the Lord our righteousness, and the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes; and in him mercy and truth have met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other, that God might save, and show mercy on the little city, in a consistency with the honor of his injured attributes, which are now glorified more by his obedience and satis­faction than ever they were dishonored by our sin and rebellion. Thus he brake down the great bulwarks that the great King of heaven and earth had built against the little city, and that by the King's order and allowance, and according to his command and will: “This commandment have I received of my Father.”

2. If we view the siege as formed by the devil, the great king of hell, and prince of the power of darkness, that rules in the hearts of the children of disobedience, we will find him raising this siege partly by the price of his blood, that he shed for us; and partly by the power of his Spirit, which is given to us.—By the price of his blood he delivers from the devil’s kingdom; for “By death he destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil,” (Heb. 11:14). And, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil,” (1 John 3:8). And he was thus manifested, according to the original pro­mise,“The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent,” (Gen. 3:15). Christ took a wooden cross, as it were, a tree in his arms, and therewith beat down the great bulwarks that Satan built against the little city. As by means of a tree the devil built his battering engine; so, by means of a tree, Christ demolished his building. For, upon the cross, “Jesus Christ spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it,” (Col. 4:15). Again, by the power of his Spirit he destroyed the devil’s bulwarks, when he gives spiritual armor to the citizens, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit, and the rest of that spiritual artillery, mentioned, (Eph. 6:11‑17). Whereby they quench the fiery darts of the devil, demolish his bulwarks, resist the devil, and overcome by the power and strength of the Cap­tain of their salvation. Though they constantly fight while here; yet they gradually defeat the devil and his instruments, that oppose themselves to Christ and his people, to his cause and interest. Truth prevails always at last; and the friends of truth overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, (Rev. 12:11).

3. If we view the siege as formed by the great king, Sin, which naturally reigns in our mortal bodies. How doth the poor wise man destroy the great bulwarks thereof? Why, this he doth, both meritoriously, giving himself a sacrifice for sin; “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world,” (John 1:29); “But now once in the end of the world, has he ap­peared to put away sin, by the sacrifice of himself,” (Heb. 9:26). And then he doth it efficaciously, and that, partly by the actual imputation of his righteousness, for removing the guilt of sin in justification; and partly by the effectual operation of his Spirit, for removing the rule of sin in sanctification. In justification, he destroys the legal power of sin: for, “The strength of sin is the law;” but when the righteousness of God is imputed and received, and Christ is become the end of the law for righteousness, to the person, then the law, being satis­fied, has no more power to keep the person under the curse, whereof the power of sin is the leading part. And, again, in sanctification, he destroys the actual reigning power of sin. Both these are im­ported, I think, in that word, “The law of the Spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, hath made me free from the law of sin and death,” (Rom. 8:2); and both are particularly spoken of: “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak, through the flesh, God [did] sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” (vv. 3‑4). Here is the legal power of sin destroyed; and “If ye, through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live,” (v. 13); there is the destroying of the actual reigning power of sin. Thus, by his pardoning and purifying grace, he demolishes the bul­warks of sin, and all by the means of the gospel, as it is the power of God to salvation; “The weapons of this warfare being not carnal, but mighty; through God, to the pulling down of strongholds, cast­ing down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God; and bringing into captivity every thought, to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Cor. 10:4‑5). Again,

4. If we view the siege as formed by the great king, Death, behold our King, Jesus, “the poor wise Man,” delivers the city, by overturning the great bulwarks that death built; and this he doth by removing both the sting of death and the victory of the grave; The sting of death is sin, which he removes, as I have been just now saying, both meritorious and efficaciously till it be perfectly removed in glory, where we shall be like him, by seeing him as he is. The victory of the grave, which is corruption; the corruption of the body he is to remove at the great day, “When this corrup­tible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immor­tality: and that saying shall be brought to pass, Death is swal­lowed up in victory.” Hence in the faith of all this, the believer may sing that triumphant song, “O, death, where is thy sting? O, grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, the strength of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, that has given us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1 Cor. 15:54,57). Thus you have a view of the deliverance in the matter of it. But then,

[2.] In particular, we are led here to consider the manner of it. It was in infinite wisdom; “He by his infinite wisdom delivered the city.” As it is said of his works of creation, “In wisdom hath he made them all;” so of his work of redemption, “In wisdom hath he delivered the city. He made the earth by the word of his power, established the world by his wisdom, and stretched out the heavens by his discretion,” (Jer. 10:12). And it is even he who, by his wis­dom, delivered the city. Particularly,

1. By his wisdom he removed all the impediments that stood in the way of our salvation, while he gave himself a ransom for many, satisfied the law and justice of God, defeated the devil, destroyed sin, and conquered death. And thus, except one great King, whom he brings to peace and reconciliation with the city, he destroyed all the other great kings, and their great bulwarks, in so much that we may say, “He smote great kings, for his mercy endureth for ever: and slew famous kings, for his mercy endureth for ever!” O the infinite wise Captain of salvation who could, by his wisdom, deliver a little city, so powerfully besieged.

2. By his wisdom he united the most distant and contrary extremes, while God and man are joined in one person: The infi­nite and eternal God, with a bit of clay; which is a mystery ten thousand times greater than if an angel had become a worm. He became a poor man, that he might deliver the poor city: “Great is the mystery of godliness, God made manifest in the flesh.”

3. By his wisdom he united the most contrary interests, God’s interest and man’s: the interest of his glory, and our salvation: they are quite different, after the fall. In some respects (when man came to have no other interest but that of the devil) God’s interest and glory seemed to require man’s destruction; and yet it was man’s interest to be delivered: God’s interest, in infinite wisdom, is made to agree with the interest of [the] little city, while Christ is set forth to be a propitiation, that the glory of God’s justice and righteousness might be reached, as much in saving the city as it can be by destroying them who are without the city, and more.

4. By his wisdom he united the most contrary affections, namely, God’s hatred and love; his hatred of sin and his love to the sinner. Nothing more hateful to God than sin, and yet nothing more dear to God than the sinner that is in Christ, is whom God is well‑pleased. Infinite wisdom contrived the reconciliation of the opposite‑like affection in God that the city might be delivered by the wisdom of God in a mystery: the manifold wisdom of God.

5. By his wisdom he brings about the greatest things by the most unlikely means. In delivering the city, who would have thought that the seed of a poor woman that was deceived should bruise the head of the serpent, the deceiver; that a poor woman should bring forth a poor man‑child; and poor man should conquer all the armed legions of hell; and that, by his stripes, we should be healed; and by his blood we should be washed; and this blood should sap the foundations of all the great bulwarks that were raised against the little city?

6. By his wisdom he brings the greatest good out of the greatest evil. Could there be anything worse than sin? Yet out of this, wisdom brings greater glory to God, and greater hap­piness to man. God had built the fabric of the old covenant with brick, as it were; the devil and our first parents pulled it down. But, says God, I will build with cedar, and all the devils in hell shall not bring it down: “Mercy shall be built up for ever,” (Ps. 89:2). O, here is wisdom! And we may say, “To the King eternal, immortal, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen,” (1 Tim. 1:17).

IV. The fourth general head proposed was, To speak of the ingratitude of the citizens, their proneness to forget their Deliverer; “Yet no man remembered the same poor man.” This is the sin that God has challenged in his church many times; “Of the rock that begat thee thou hast been unmindful, and hast forgotten God, that formed thee,” (Deut. 32:18); “They forgot God their Saviour, who had done great things in Egypt,” (Ps. 106:21).They soon forgot his work. 

I might here speak a little to these four things; 1. Of the nature of their unmindfulness or forgetfulness. 2. The object thereof: they forgot the poor “wise man,” and his work. 3. The universality of this oblivion, No “man remembered the same poor man.” 4. The reason of this forgetfulness.

1. We are first to view the nature of this oblivion. For, un­derstanding thereof, you would know that forgetfulness of Christ is either total or partial. A total forgetfulness takes place in the wicked, of whom it is said, “God is not in all their thoughts.” A partial forgetfulness is coincident to believers themselves, who may, in a great measure, forget what God hath done to their souls. Actual forgetfulness is what the godly may be guilty of, as David, after his gross sin of adultery, when he was contriving the murder of Uriah. But there is an habitual forgetfulness peculiar to the wicked, who desire not the knowledge of God, and never remember God till they be driven to it with a vengeance, as it is said of these, “When he slew them, then they sought him; they remembered that God was their Rock, and the high God their Redeemer.” They never remember till God bring a mortal stroke. But, now, this forgetfulness imports the want of a spiritual view and discovery of God; and the want of that lively impression of him which the right view of him doth require. We cannot rightly remember God if we see not his perfections shining in his work, as David did, when he says of God's works, “In wisdom hast thou made them all.” When we see the wisdom, and power, and other attributes of God shining in his works, particularly in his delivering the little city the church, then, and not till then, do we rightly re­member them; and, when we see his great end in all is the glory of these perfections, and entertain due impressions hereof, so as to remember not only in a speculative, but in a practical and appropri­ating manner; and when we remember his delivering us in particu­lar from the power and policy of the great things that were against us, and render to him the praise due to his name.

2. The object of this forgetfulness: “No man remembered the same poor wise man.” We are apt, and naturally prone to forget our Creator, to forget our Redeemer, and Saviour, and Protector, and Benefactor, our best Friend.—We forget the Deliverer himself, the poor wise man found in the city. We forget his humanity, that he is a man; his divinity, that he is the wisdom of God; his humiliation and poverty, that for our sakes he became poor; and his destination to this redemption‑work;—all is forgotten. We for­get all the deliverances he hath wrought, the redemption he hath accomplished.—We forget his works of creation, though yet the heavens declare his glory. We forget his works of providence, both prosperous and adverse; both ordinary and extraordinary, as Israel did, of whom it is said, “Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked; he for­got God that made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salva­tion.” They forget the plagues of Egypt: the drowning of the Egyptians: the solemn appearance of God on Sinai, when the hill trembled under the weight of God, and the flames ascended to the middle heaven.—We forget his work of redemption. He redeems from the fury of justice, the curse of he law, the bondage of sin, the slavery of Satan, the sting of death; from the wrath of God; that terrible wrath, that intolerable wrath, that interminable wrath, that powerful and eternal wrath, that ever‑coming wrath; he delivers from the wrath to come: and yet we are apt to forget the Deliverer, and the deliverance. We forget this redemption, and the necessity of it; the sufficiency of it; the excellency of it; the efficacy of it; the fulness of it; the acceptableness of it;—all is forgotten.—We forget also his work of regeneration, the work of conviction, and humiliation; the work of conversion and sanctification. Though this work of grace effectuates a real change, a sensible change, an universal change; yet all may be forgotten, in so much, that we may pose the believer himself, have you a regeneration‑frame, the same temper of spirit you had in the day of believing? “Where is the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals?” Yea, communications and manifestations, and communion experiences may all be fearfully forgotten.

3. The universality of this oblivion; no man“remembered the same poor man.” That this unbelieving forgetfulness of Christ, the Redeemer, is universal, appears evident from two arguments.

(1.) From the instances of all ages of the world.—The first man that ever was, began his apostasy from God by his sin; he for­got the favor of God in giving him such an excellent being, and such excellent benefits; forgot the covenant that God entered into with him, forbidding him to eat of the tree that was in the midst of the garden upon peril of eternal ruin to himself and his posterity; yet the hissing of the serpent drove all out of his mind. How quickly did Noah forget the great deliverance from the deluge, when all the rest of the world was overwhelmed in the midst of the waters; he was no sooner saved from water, than he was drowned in wine. How quickly did Lot forget the deliverance from the flames of Sodom, and fell into the fire of lust. Solomon forgot the God that appeared to him thrice, and turned to idolatry. David quickly forgot the Lord's delivering him from Saul, and fell into the sin of adultery and murder. Israel forgot God and all his works of wonder. The ten lepers, all but one, forgot to return and give praise to God that healed them. The disciples of Christ, quickly forgot the miracles of the loaves; they got sweet communion with Christ, yet Judas and his party soon drove all out of their minds. No man remembered the poor wise man.”

(2.) It appears from the many remembrancers and memorials that the Lord Jesus has set up of himself, and his works, as pre­servatives against this forgetting him. God's works of creation are his remembrancers, while the heavens declare his glory.—God's works of providence are his remembrancers. “He hath not left himself without a witness,” even among the heathen, giving them rain and fruitful seasons: every drop of rain is a memorial of God. God's ordinances are his remembrancers; why has he given us Sab­baths and sacraments, but to be memorials of the works of Christ, and the death of Christ? “Do this in remembrance of me.” In a word, the Holy Ghost is given to be a remembrancer, (John 14:26). “I will give the Comforter, and he shall bring all things to your remembrance.” I have been long preaching among you, might Christ say, and given you many a sermon; but all is gone, you for­got all; therefore, I will send the Holy Ghost to be your remem­brance. These things evidence the universality of this sin: “No man remembered the poor wise man.” Now, consider here,

4. The reason of this forgetfulness. And there is these four following reasons we shall assign for it.

(1.) It flows from the universal depravation of our nature; the memory, with all the rest of the faculties of the soul, got a dash by the fall of Adam; our heads were dashed to pieces, when we fell from such a height of happiness to such a depth of misery.

(2.) It flows from the little esteem and value that people have for the poor wise man, and his great works of redeeming and delivering us. It is strange to think, how much the works of men will be admired, and the works of God slighted. If a physician shall perform a cure upon a man that is desperately diseased, and dangerously ill, the man will be more taken up with the physician's work than with God's work; he will pay his physician, but never thank his God. Many will read the works of men with admiration, and read history with rapture; but they will read the history of the life and death of Christ without ever being moved.

(3.) It flows from this that the memory is stuffed with other things, even with the trash of hell; there is no room for Christ and his works of wonder. It was a base treatment of Christ when he was sent out to the stable, laid in a manger, no room for him in the inn. But it is a thousand times worse, when your heart is so full of the world, lusts, and idols, that there is no room for Christ.

(4.) It flows from the little impression that Christ and his re­deeming work takes upon us. Naturalists give this as a reason of remembrance, when a thing makes a mighty impression on the brain. But, alas! the works of God flee over our heads, like a shadow, and so are forgotten. The best thing for the memory is the Spirit of God coming with life and power to the soul: “I will never forget thy words,” says David; why? “for by them thou hast quickened me.” It left an impression, and therefore abode. When the word of God, the works of God, have no im­pression, no wonder they are soon forgotten; there is a fowl of the air, the prince of the power of the air, the devil, he picks away everything you hear, if your hearts be not closets for Christ. If he were your treasure, your hearts would be the cabinets: “Where the treasure is, there the heart is also.”

V. The fifth and last thing proposed, was, The application of the subject. And this we shall essay in an use of information, lamentation, trial and exhortation.

We are, First, to deduce some inferences for information. Is it so, as has been said, hence. see,

1. The despicable case of the church of God in this world; it is but like a little city, and a few men in it. It is a despised city. The world calls it an outcast, saying, “This is Zion whom no man seeks after,” (Jer. 30:17). As Christ was despised and rejected of men, so are his friends and followers; they are a little flock, and a despised flock. Whatever be the state of the church visible; some­times when it appears fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners; and when her visible glory, the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government is not defaced; yet the church invisible, in this world, is, for ordinary, a poor, small, despised company; of whom it is said, “I will leave, in the midst of thee, an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord,” (Zeph. 3:12).

2. Hence see the dangerous circumstance of the church of God in this world. It is a city besieged by a great king, building great bulwarks against it. The church is like a bush burning in the midst of the flames; it is in a dangerous militant state. The church of God is the man‑child, which the red dragon stands ready to devour, as soon as it is born, (Rev. 12: 4). What a helpless case is the church of God into, in outward appearance! A great city can­not stand out well against a great king, and great bulwarks: far less a little city, and few men within it.

3. Hence see the marvelous grace of God in finding out a Saviour, and a great one, to save the little city; and behold “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was great and rich, yet for our sakes he became poor;” and in the capacity of a poor man, though yet infinitely wise, being God as well as man, he de­livered the city, and raised the siege. O see and admire his wis­dom, by which he delivered the city!

4. Hence see the matchless ingratitude of the visible church, where such a great deliverance is wrought; that no man should re­member the poor wise man; that they should be guilty of such uni­versal oblivion. Unbelief discovers itself by unmindfulness; the life of faith is a life of spiritual remembrance, but unbelief appears by forgetfulness; by faith we remember Christ, but by unbelief we forget him and all his acts of kindness and love, though a standing minis­try be appointed to help our memory! and O what a horrid ingra­titude is it to forget him that minded us! Forgetfulness is the spring of that deluge of atheism and wickedness that over‑runs the world and the present generation; people forget God and Christ. If men did but. remember there is a God in heaven, that notices what they do, they could not practice as they do; men have their minds so sunk in a present world, that they mind no other world; they forget him that came to redeem from this present evil world, and to provide a better; while we mind only earthly things, we neglect the great salvation, and the great Saviour and Deliverer.

5. Hence see what is here inferred, (v. 16), that wisdom is better than strength. Christ is frequently here and in the Proverbs represented under the name of Wisdom; and surely the wisdom of Christ is better than the strength of men, better than the strength of carnal policy, better than the strength of human reason, better than the strength of armies; yet the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard; Christ is despised, and his gospel neglected and rejected.

Use 2. Let us then apply this doctrine for lamentation over the besieged city, particularly the Church of Scotland. Let us take a view of the church, and then of the professors therein.

First, Of the church of Scotland, more generally as a city besieged, and a city delivered; and yet a city most ungrateful and unmindful of the Deliverer.

1st, As a city many times and many ways besieged, especially by the devil and his instruments, whom God in righteousness, suffered to vex and disturb the city, and build great bulwarks against it.

I might here begin with the first foundation‑stone, laid in the church of Scotland, more than 1600 years ago, even a few years after Christ's ascension, when God, by means of persecution, sent Christians and gospel‑professors first among us; and we were, in a literal sense, a little city and few men in it. How many great bul­warks of pagan darkness, and heathen idolatries, were built in opposition to the little city, and the little flock that were the followers of Christ, when there was here a temple for Apollo, and there a temple for Diana; one for Jupiter, and another for Juno; one for Mercury, and another for Venus; one for the Sun, and another for the Moon: one for this god and goddess, and another for that; and also many temples for the devil, for offering so many bloody inhuman sacrifices upon! We may think, how could the little city stand when surrounded with such great bulwarks against it.

I might go forward to the fifth century, when the little city was first formally besieged, and the great bulwark of popish darkness and anti‑christian superstition built against it. When Palladius was sent from the Pope of Rome to Scotland, the little city did hold out against Rome for a long time, but the siege continued against the city for no less than ten centuries; for, from the time of Palladius to the Reformation, was about a thousand years; for, till the fifteenth century, the little city was covered with that dark cloud, over‑run, oppressed, and almost wholly destroyed; only, amidst these dismal days, God had his witnesses, from time to time, that testified against Rome and hell, even when they were carrying all before them.

Again, I might descend to latter times, when the little city was again attacked, and had the great bulwark of prelatical tyranny and arbitrary power built against it; when the inhabitants of the city were haunted, pursued, yea, persecute to death, imprisoned, fined, confined, banished, martyred and murdered, because of their adher­ing to the rights and royalties of the glorious Lord and King of the city. Once and again the city was thus molested before the late Revolution; and many witnesses are yet living, that can attest the grievous trials of the late reigns.2

Further, I might here observe how the city has been besieged and attacked several ways in our own time, and within our remem­brance, as well as at this present time; partly without doors, by late foreign invasions, and a late unnatural rebellion,3 wherein a popish faction have attempted to ruin the city in all her most valu­able and sacred concerns; and those attempts favored underhand, by parliamentary acts, tolerating errors, and restoring patronages; and partly within doors, while unnatural citizens seek in a manner to sap the foundations thereof.

Question: Who are these within the little city that disturb the peace, and destroy the foundations of the city.

Answer: Surely, if there be any party within the city, that are thieves and robbers, not coming in by the doors and gates of the city but climbing up some other way; if there be who seek them­selves, and not the welfare of the city; or that lift up hammers and ages against the carved work, the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the city; if there be any that stand not to condemn gospel‑truth, and tolerate damnable errors; if there be any that stand not to offend the generation of the righteous, and to wound the citizens, and smite them, and take away the vail from them; if there be any that violently thrust in pastors upon congregations, or officers upon the city over the belly of the citizens, and that dis­courage a holy and pious set of officers, and encourage a loose, legal, erroneous, and scandalous set; these are surely the disturbers of the peace of the city; these are building up great bulwarks against it.

2dly, Take a view of the church of Scotland not only as a city besieged, but as a city hitherto delivered by the wisdom of the poor wise man, the glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

By his wisdom he delivered the city, first from Paganism: not only did he make the gospel take footing in Scotland, in these early times of Christianity, so quickly after the resurrection of Christ, that some reckon he was not fifteen years in heaven till he sent the gos­pel to Scotland; and about fifteen thereafter, sent another drove of Christians, flying before the second primitive persecution to our land, because they heard the gospel was received there: But also, in the two hundred and third year of Christ, set up a Christian king, Donald the First, who established Christianity by law; and broke down the bulwarks of Paganism, that were supported by the Bards, and Druids, and Pagan priests. This deliverance he effected by little and little, till heathen idolatry was abolished.

Again, By his wisdom he remarkably delivered the city, at the glorious Reformation from Popery, and black antichristian supersti­tion. He turned back our long thousand years captivity, as streams in the south, and made light to shine out of darkness, by raising up burning and shining lights, holy, wise, and zealous instruments, for beginning, carrying on, and advancing that glorious work, and that in a way of Solemn, National Covenanting, from time to time; in which course, the Lord gave signal evidences of his gracious pre­sence and countenance.

Again, By his wisdom he mercifully delivered the city at the late remarkable Revolution, wherein he gave us more than a little reviving in our bondage, that we were under unto Prelacy and tyranny; and put an opportunity in our hands of advancing reformation‑work, more than we had heart and courage to do at that period. But yet, though the glory of the second temple was not equal to the glory of the first; I mean, the Revolution far inferior to the Reformation; yet it was such a glorious work of God, in de­livering the city from these that sought the utter ruin thereof; that multitudes in this generation, have seen the glory of God in his sanctuary, and been brought to enjoy the privileges and immunities of the city of God; in so much, that some have thought, that as many have shared of the blessed fruits of this happy Revolution within these forty years past, though in a more diffused way through the whole nation, as shared formerly of the blessed fruits of the for­mer Reformation, in a more confined way at remarkable times and places, when the spirit was poured out upon great multitudes at once. Whatever be in this, yet we have reason to put a remark upon the wisdom, power, and grace of our glorious Deliverer.

Finally, By his wisdom he has from time to time, and even hitherto, delivered the city, not only from invasions and insurrec­tions that threatened the ruin of the church and state, and reducing of us unto Popish bondage, and Antichristian darkness; but so far has he delivered the city, also, even from disturbers and destroyers within the city, that gospel‑light is yet shining among us, and we have yet access to pure gospel‑ordinances: we are yet allowed, in peace to keep our solemn feasts; we have Sabbath upon Sabbath, sermon upon sermon, “precept upon precept, and line upon line;” and whatever disorders have been, and do take place in the city, hitherto some testimony has been kept up; and I hope he has re­served to himself a wrestling remnant in Scotland, both ministers and people, that have occasion to say, by reflection on all the de­liverances he has hitherto granted, as it is; “Had not the Lord been on our side, when men rose up against us, they had swallowed us up quick; the waters had overwhelmed us, and the proud waters had gone over our souls,” (Ps. 124:1‑4). Thus we may view it as a delivered city.

3rdly, We may look upon this church as a city most ungrate­ful and unmindful of her Deliverer; and this is the great cause of all the disorders, divisions, and confusions, all the troubles and dis­tresses, that befall the city: “No man remembered the same poor man.” We are universally unbelieving and unmindful; forget to render the praises due to the Deliverer: we have no due considera­tion of what God has done for us; no deep impression of his won­derful mercy; no practical remembrance of his favor; his goodness has not led us to repentance. No wonder that many desolations are to be seen in the city; for many times Christ has said to us, as to Jerusalem, “How often would I have gathered thy children under my wings, as a hen doth her chickens, and ye would not? therefore, behold, your house is left desolate.” “No man remembered the poor wise man,” who is the great Deliverer of the city.

Where is the man that remembers duly the great deliverance that God gave to Scotland at the first plantation of the gospel, when he paid such an early visit to us, when we were nothing but a pack of blind Pagans; when we were worshipping nothing but stocks, and stones, and devils? Where is the man that remembers the great deliverance he wrought for us at the glorious Reformation, when he threw down the bulwarks of popery, so many ages after he had demolished the bulwarks of paganism? Where is the man that remembers the merciful deliverance wrought for us at the Revolution, (for I confine myself to the most known and remarkable periods), the fruits of which deliverance we yet enjoy (under the in­fluence of a peaceful prince, whose royal family’s succession to the throne was interwoven with that remarkable period); which good­ness and mercy of our great and glorious Deliverer, we ought to re­member as long as we enjoy these gospel‑ordinances in peace and freedom, and without fear of outward hostile disturbance, such as the followers of Christ met with in former reigns, before the said merciful Revolution? Again, where is the man that remembers the many, many other particular deliverances, former and later, that this land has been favoured with? And how many a time he has beat down the great bulwarks of hell against the little city?

O, ungrateful Scotland! How have we forgotten our solemn covenanted allegiance to our glorious Deliverer! We, again and again, swore with uplifted hands to be for him and his truth, and to defend the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of his house, according to the scripture pattern, in opposition to all errors and antichristian corruptions whatsoever. What evidences have we given of our ingratitude and forgetfulness, that, instead of re­membering these national engagements we have, in many instances, contradicted our covenanted allegiance, and deserted our covenanted principles, broken, burnt, and buried our covenants! “Do we thus requite the Lord, O foolish and unwise? “What ingratitude ap­pears towards our Deliverer in the encroachments made upon the rules of God's word, which we swore to walk by; and to the con­stitution of this church, which our reformers declared to be founded thereupon, in the robbing God’s people of the right to choose their own pastors; a right to which our church, by her books of discipline, assert to belong to them, by the warrant of God’s word! But our defection and recession from the good old way in that matter has come to a height by several steps: to me this recession seems to have been commenced in the Assembly, 1649; confirmed and advanced in the Parliament, 1690; and now some way consummate and completed in the present year, 1732, so as it never was before, by any deed of the church.4

Again, what ingratitude do we manifest towards our Deliverer, in our forgetting and neglecting to appoint national thanksgiving-­days for the many mercies and deliverances that God from time to time gave, and national fast‑days and humiliation‑days for our national guilt; particularly in this universal sin of not remembering our Deliverer and deliverance, but casting all his goodness behind our backs? What ingratitude are we chargeable with in not improving gospel‑light yet continued with us?

How guilty are we in not remembering God, and the righte­ousness of God, amidst all the evils that befall the little city? For, “Is there evil in the city, and I have not done it, saith the Lord?” Though we cannot justify any treacherous Judas who betrays Christ and his truth; nay, nor vindicate any timorous Peters, who, under some temptation, may deny Christ and his cause at a time; nor ought to justify any wicked instruments of the dispeace, destruction, and disturbance of the city; yet we ought to justify God in all that does befall us, and acknowledge his righteousness; for, “Have we not procured these things unto ourselves, in that we have forsaken the Lord our God,” the Deliverer of the city?—“Our own wickedness doth correct us, and our backslidings reprove us,” (Jer. 2:17). We have not rightly improven the liberties and privileges of the city, that sometimes we have enjoyed; therefore, God justly suffers us to be a city robbed and spoiled, rent and disturbed. Let us not, therefore, rail upon ministers, assemblies, judicatories, or instru­ments. We ought not to bring a railing accusation against the devil himself, but rather say, “The Lord rebuke thee;” the Lord rebuke the devil and his instruments; the Lord rebuke an erroneous spirit; the Lord rebuke a backsliding spirit; the Lord rebuke the instruments of the church's calamity. “The Lord is righteous, for we have sinned.” Say not, Such and such persons have brought ruin upon the church; for it is you and I, by our sins, that have provoked God to do it, and will provoke him to more terrible wrath, if we be not humbled for our sins; and, particularly, for our not remembering duly our Lord Jesus, the Deliverer of the city. But, now,

Secondly, To forbear any further about the public, and close with what more particularly concerns everyone of us, how may we lament our forgetfulness of Christ? Though his name be as oint­ment poured forth, we do not remember his love, his precepts, his promise, providence, and ordinances. How is this evident? Alas! when do we sit down and admire him, and his works of redeeming love? If you see a curious piece of art, how are you astonished? And yet how little filled with wonder at what God has done! We may pose the consciences of some, whether they ever sat down a quarter of an hour, all their lifetime, full of wonder at the great de­liverance Christ hath wrought for sinners?—Again, when do you trumpet forth the deliverance that Christ hath wrought, and declare to others what Christ hath wrought for you, or for his church? This is the exercise of the saints, with a charming accent, to cry out, “Thou art glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, excellent in working, doing wonders.” Again, when do you meditate upon him, and upon what he has done for you, and the church, and the little city? This is the exercise of the saints that remember him; “My meditation of him shall be sweet.” Alas! we all want consi­deration; “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib, but my people doth not know, Israel doth not consider.” Consider how sinful and provoking this evil of forgetfulness is, and the hurtfulness of it; it is a manifest contempt not to remember or regard the operation of his hand. If a skilful artist should spend half his time in making a curious piece of work, and bring it to you, and you should undervalue it, how highly might the man be offended? How much more may God be offended, when you forget his works! God has spent six days in the work of creation, near six thousand years in the work of providence, and as much time‑yea, an eternity itself ‑in the work of redemption, and shall we forget and undervalue all? What a manifest contempt is this of God and his Christ! It is also horrid unthankfulness, that he should work for us, and work in us, and we never think upon it. It is a defeating the design of his work. His design is that we may see his attributes shining in his works of grace and mercy, in which so many wonders shine; won­derful wisdom, wonderful power, wonderful holiness, wonderful jus­tice, wonderful mercy, wonderful truth. His design is, that his doings may be incentives to duty in us, and that we may publish his doings to posterity; but, by forgetfulness, we endeavor to defeat all his designs. This forgetfulness is the mother of apostasy. If we forget our duty, we forsake our duty; if we forget God, we forsake God, and depart from him. This forgetfulness provokes God; when the city forgets what he hath done for it, this provokes God to do no more for the city. It provokes God, instead of works of deliver­ance and mercy, to work some work of judgment, and to perform a strange work. If we forget God, we provoke him, by the law of retaliation, to forget us; yea, total forgetfulness of God brings on universal ruin; “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”

Use 3. We might apply this doctrine for trial. Hence you may try your state. If you be in a safe state, then,

1. You will lie like a little city; you will be very little in your own eyes; a poor helpless creature in your own esteem.

2. You have seen yourself besieged; you have seen yourself to be under the wrath of God, under the power of the devil, under the dominion of sin and death: you have seen great bulwarks built up against you, which it was impossible for you to bring down; and that you were undone forever unless you met with a Deliverer.

3. If your state be safe, you have a view of Christ, the De­liverer and Saviour; you have got a view of him as a man, a God­-man, a poor man, a poor but wise man, a man found out of God for this work. Have you seen him to be the wisdom of God, and the power of God? And have you seen the wisdom of God shining in his delivering the city, by satisfying the justice of God; destroying the works of the devil, giving himself a sacrifice for sin, and, by death, delivering from the sting of death, and so the wisdom of God in destroying the bulwarks that were built against you?

4. Have you been brought to the believing remembrance of him; to a daily remembrance of him; and are you afflicted that you remember him so little? But your errand to a communion‑table was to remember him, and what he hath done for you; and is it your desire and endeavor to remember him still, and to remember his love more than wine: and to remember to live on him, and to live to him?

Use 4. I would now close with a word of exhortation.

1. That you would come to Christ the Deliverer of the city. O sinner! while you are without Christ you are in a dangerous case; you are like a little city, having great kings against you­ erecting great bulwarks against you. God's bulwarks are set against you; his justice, his wrath, his curse, his vengeance, how can you escape? Are you able to fight against God?—The devil’s bul­warks are against you, and you cannot stand against his temptations; he will tempt you to sin till he turn you to hell, if he get his will of you.—Sin's bulwarks are against you; the guilt of sin, the power of sin you lie under: sin will press you to hell if you be not delivered.—‑Death's bulwarks are against you; how soon you shall die is un­certain; perhaps it may not be this night, or tomorrow, or the next day; you know not precisely: but come death when it will, if it meet you out of Christ, it will have a terrible sting, a terrible train of woes and miseries to all eternity: the first death will be followed with the second death, which is the lake which burns with fire and brim­stone, (Rev. 21:8). And therefore, O sinner! flee from the wrath to come: flee for refuge to Christ the Deliverer.

Will you come to the God‑man for deliverance? Will you enlist yourself with the poor wise man? “Will you go with this man?” You have no wisdom to deliver yourselves, no more than you have power; but he, by his wisdom, delivers the city. Though you have been playing the fool all your days, and though you be never such a witless fool, this man minds you; here is wisdom to deliver you: He is made of God to you wisdom. By his wisdom he satisfied God’s justice; by his wisdom he defeated the devil; by his wisdom he destroyed sin; by his wisdom he conquered death. O take on with the Deliverer, and you have the deliverance; for, he that is the Saviour is the salvation of sinners. Though you can do nothing, it needs be no stop to you, for wisdom can do all for you. O be content that you be nothing, and that he by his wisdom be all to you, and do all for you. It is a leading part of faith to know that you cannot save or deliver yourselves, and to welcome the Saviour and salvation brought to your hand; and believingly to re­member what he has done for you, and what he is ready to do to you Say not, there stands so many things in the way; darkness, deadness, hardness, unbelief, enmity, and innumerable evils that you need to be delivered from; for it is his office to deliver the city, to deliver the soul from all these bulwarks of hell; since he by his in­finite wisdom offers to deliver, put all the work in his wise and powerful hands.

2. I would exhort you to remember the Deliverer; let it not be his complaint, “No man remembered the poor wise man.” O remember him that remembered you in your low estate; that re­membered you from eternity; that remembered you when he was upon the cross; that remembers you now in heaven, when he in­tercedes for you at the Father's right hand; for he ever lives to make intercession; and is he ever remembering you, and will you never remember him? Remember what he has done for you; be­lieve all that ever he did was for you; his works of creations providence, and redemption are on your account. You have an interest in all his works: therefore, do not forget his works. Consider, that he remembers you when you forget him. Yea, when you forget yourself; “Zion said, The Lord hath forgotten me:” but the Lord said “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, she may forget, yet will I not forget thee.”

We shall now shut up the whole discourse by giving you two directions.

1. O seek the Holy Ghost to be your Remembrancer; some on hearing the word have committed it to the Lord by fervent prayer, that he would keep it for them; and that very same word has been brought home to their hearts, with unspeakable pleasure in the day of their darkness. The Spirit of God is the best Remembrancer; seek he may teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance.

2. Seek for a new look of Christ: Christ looked upon Peter, and then Peter remembered Christ and his word. A look of Christ will make your remember your sin with grief and sorrow. O study a perpetual remembrance of him, so as never to forget him and his kindness; and a practical remembrance of him, so as though you cannot remember him, so as to mind all that he says, yet you may remember to do what he says, and glorify your Deliverer with your hearts, lips, and lives. Remember what great things he has done for the little city, and what great things he has yet to do. Wait on him till he finish his work.

 

Footnotes:

1 See the Author's sermon on this text, where he, at length, states the comparison and run the parallel between the church and a city.

2 Alluding particularly to the twenty‑eight years’ persecution, under Charles II. and James VII. between 1650 and 1688

3 Our Author here has his eye probably upon the intended invasion by France, in favor of the Pretender, Anno 1708, and upon the actual invasion and Rebellion in the year 1715.

4 That the origin of Patronage flowed from the papal chair is granted by everyone; that it hath been a heavy burden on the church, and productive of the most direful consequences, is abundantly notour [short for notorious]; that it never did comport with Presbytery, but was always incompatible thereto, is evident from its being frequently abolished when Presby­tery had the ascendant; that it hath always, since the Reformation, been looked upon as an intolerable yoke and grievance in the Church of Scotland, is manifest from the many appearances she hath made against it, and attempts used to get rid of it. This is not at all surprising, seeing it is contrary to the Sacred Volume, and inconsistent with our Standards. That Patronage is neither agreeable to the rule of God's word, nor to the Apostolic practice, is apparent from Acts 1:23, 26; 6:3; 8:14; 13:3; 14:23; 16:9; 1 John 4:1; and 2 John 10. That it is inconsistent with our Standards is plain from the Second Book of Discipline, Chap. 12, Par. 10, 11. How criminally guilty, then, must both the Presenters and Accepters of presentations be! The Presenters of presentations must be highly culpable, since they are diametrically opposite to the sacred canon, contrary to reason itself, the practice of the primitive and purest ages of the church; a plain encroachment upon the natural rights of mankind, and the laws of free societies; a cruel oppression upon societies of men, who duly value their immortal souls; and opens a door for a corrupt and lax ministry to enter into the church. The Acceptors cannot but be highly guilty, because, if the Patron is guilty of a sinful usurpa­tion over the church of God, and spoiling and robbing her of her just rights and privi­leges to choose her own officers and overseers, then the Accepter becomes partner with him, approving him in his sin, homologating his usurped power, encourages and hardens him in his guilt. Besides, the Accepter acts contrary to the known principles of Pres­byterians, and their own engagements; sadly prejudices the success of the gospel, and their own ministry; increases the prejudices of the people against themselves; and opens a door to many dismal evils, as Simonaical pactions, unchristian contentions in judica­tories, oppressive concussions in parishes, vexatious persecutions, and scandalous intrusions; which is still the more unaccountable, in regard they have it in their power, by an act 1719, to render Patronage abortive, by rejecting the presentation. From the above hint, the conduct of the Assembly, 1732, in appending, by their act, such a sanc­tion to Patronage, must appear vastly strange—a sanction unparalleled by any preceding Assembly. That those who should be the guardians of the church’s rights and liberties, and who ought to contribute the utmost of their endeavors to maintain them, and em­brace every opportunity to be quit of any encroachments made upon them, should them­selves wreath a yoke about the necks of disciples which neither they nor their forefathers were able to bear, how amazing! how inconsistent! As the arbitrary proceedings of the Assembly in this matter was one of the principal grounds that gave rise to the Secession, it was judged proper to give this short hint, that that affair may appear in its proper light.

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