Joseph Stennett.

The Works of the late Reverend and Learned Mr. Joseph Stennett : in five volumes ; to which is prefix'd some account of his life (Volume 1) online

. (page 22 of 28)
Online LibraryJoseph StennettThe Works of the late Reverend and Learned Mr. Joseph Stennett : in five volumes ; to which is prefix'd some account of his life (Volume 1) → online text (page 22 of 28)
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groaning under tyranny j and one would have
thought fliould have learn'd fo much mo-
deration and prudence as to fufpend their
lefTer quarrels, at leaft while they were
companions in mifery, and bowing under
the yoke of a common oppreflbr ; that they
fliould have facrificed their civil controver-
iies to the publick welfare, and united all
their forces to recover their antient liberty,
and to fecure to themfelves the free exer-
cife of their religion. How great was the
risk they ran on this occafion, who rather
chofe to maintain their unreafonablc divi-
fions, than with united ftrength to attempt
the flopping of that inundation of mifery
which threatened them all with equal ruin !
The ftrength and number of king Jabin's'
3 army,

Serm. VII. of England and Scotland. 323

army, who had 900 chariots of iron, when
the Ifraelites were far from a good pofture
of defence, fince, by the teftimony of De-
borah, a fhield or fpear were fcarce i^Qx\.
among 40000 in Ifrael ' ^ ought to have ex-
cited theie to unanimity, as almoft the only
means left them to regain their liberty : and
yet unhappily the breach concinued during
that hazardous war.

Nor did the danger vanifh immediately
after the overthrow of the Canaanitifli for-
ces ; for it was not impolTible that the tribes
might ufe the fame vigor in deftroying each
other, which they had before employed in
vanquilhing their enemies : and Deborah
might well forefee that glorious victory fhe
had obtained, and the confequent time of
peace and tranquillity the nation had in view,
would be fo far from making them happy
while their civil broils continued, that it
might rather give them opportunity to (heathe
their fwords in the bowels of each other, if
not timely prevented by fome prudent me-
thod to re-unite them.

And who can recount the miferies which
might have befallen Ifrael, if their divisions
had continued, and broke out into a civil
war ? What a hinderance w^ould this have
been to their commerce ? what a devafta-
tion mufl have enfued on their frontiers ?
what a confiderable part of their land muft

i Judg. 5. 8.

Y 2 have

2 24 -^ r/j;^;//^^ii^///^ fcrmon for the union

have lain uncultivated ? And w^hat frequent
alarms on either fide, what deiblating ex-
curfions, what fpoll and ravage, what cru-
eltv and Slaughter would have been the con-
fequence of the continuance of this divilion,
may be learn'd from that dreadful civil war
which happen'd between the Benjamites and
the reft of the Ifraelites, by which a tribe
was likely to have been cut off from Ifrael ^ ;
and by the wars between the two and the
ten tribes at feveral times, after the fatal
breach occafioned by the tyranny and ftupi-
dity of Rehoboam.

That which made their divided ftate
threaten yet greater calamities, was, that
the weaknefs of either party would prompt
them to call in the aid of foreign princes,
as it happened to the kings of Ifrael and Ju-
dah 5 and then 'tis eafy to guefs what a di-
red: courfe was taken even by the conquer-
ing party to become an eafy prey to their
heathen confederates.

However, fince they were furrounded with
ill neighbours, thofe pagans whom, by the
divine appointment, they had difpolleded of
one of the moft fertile and agreeable coun-
tries in the world ; it muft needs appear
very dangerous for them to be difunited
among themfelves, fince this might give oc-
cafion to their inveterate enemies to attack
them with fuccefs, to feize their inheritan-

^ Judg. to. and chap. n. (,


Serm. VII. of England and Scotland. 3 2 j

ces, and carry them and their families into
captivity, or at leaft to reduce them to a
ftate of flavery, and make them tributaries
in their own country.

The danger of divilion among the tribes,
not only affedled their civil, but their reli-
gious flate : for religion is not likely to
profper, where charity, the principal glory
and beauty of it, is violated, and the very
bond of perfedion broken. What a fcandal
muft the contentions of Ifrael have been to
their heathen neighbours ! and what a temp-
tation to one party, at leaft, of the Ifraelites
themfelves, to apoftatize to idolatry, in com-
plaifance to their pagan confederates, there-
by to fecure their affiftance againil their
brethren ; and to banifh from the minds of
the people a defire of vifiting the fandiuary
of God at the folemn anniverfary feafts,
when all the males were obliged to worfhip
there ! And the facred hiftory affures us,
this was the effed: of that famous divifion
of the ten tribes from the two in the time
of Jeroboam.

When we moreover confider that the
Gadites and ManafTites, who had their por-
tion of land with the Reubenites on the
other fide Jordan, were, in all appearance,
engaged in the fame intereft with them,
and that at leafl many of them were of their
party j this divilion feems yet more terrible :
for that they were a numerous and warlike
people, appears by what is related of them
Y 3 on

7 26 A thankfgivlng fermon for the union

on the occafion of a battle in which they
conquered the Hagarites : T^he j'ons of Reu-
ben^ and ih^ Gadites^ mid half the tribe of
Manalfeh, of valiant men^ men able to bear
buckler and fvord^ and to JJ:oot with bow^ and
skilful in ivar^ iccre 44760 that 'went out to
war '. And their popular pretence to fo-
vereignty, by their antient claim of birth-
right, might be fuppofcd capable of draw-
ing many weak and difaffeded people even
of other tribes to their party.

Well might fuch a diviiion as this appear
formidable to Deborah, and the elders of
Ifrael ; and make them think it worthy their
befl: thoughts and greateft application to
provide a timely remedy againft this grow-
ing diflemper, left after the conqueft of their
enemies, the Ifrael ites fliould dcfiroy theni"
f elves for lack of knowledge.

2. As the danger and mifchief of divifion
muft have given Deborah, and the wifeft
and beft of her people, many careful and
uneafy thoughts, and muft have made them
very follicitous to engage the divided tribes
to coalefce ; fo the profped: of the bleflings
of peace and union could not fail to excite
them ftridly to apply their care and thoughts,
in concerting and accomplilhing fo good and
fo glorious a defign.

And here I can't better reprefent to you
the great advantages which would certainly

' I Chron. 5. iS.


Serm. VII. of England and Scotland. 327

have accrued to Ifrael by union, than by
deliring you to refledl on the miferies, al-
ready exprelTed, which muft have attended
their difcord and divifion : for nothing can
give you a more Hvely idea of the bleffings
of peace, than a genuine defcription of the
calamities of war, if you make but this one
refled:ion, That the latter is the very re-
verfe of the former.

Deborah, and her fenators, might well
account the reconciliation of the tribes wor-
thy their greateft care and deliberation ;
becaufe they well knew the happy confe-
quences which would attend that union :
that when peace was within the walk of
Ifrael^ profperity would be in their palaces:
that this would give them credit and efteem
in foreign nations, and render them formi-
dable to their enemies, who would be for-
ced to acknowledge their wifdom, and the
great favours of the divine providence to-
wards them, in fuch terms as thefe : Surely
this great nation is a wife and underfanding
people ; for what nation is there fo greats who
have God Jo nigh unto them ™ .^ &c. That
this would fecure their borders from the
invafions of the idolatrous nations which
furrounded them, who watched for oppor-
tunities of fowing difcord among thele bre-
thren, and of furprifing them with their ar-
mies, when divided : that this would en-

™ Deut. 4. 7.

Y 4 gage

328 A thank/giving fermon for the union

gage the prorecflion of that God whom they
Worfliipped j {o that what the pfahnift fpeaks
of Sion, would be true of the Ifraelitifh na-
tion in general : God is known in her palaces
for a refuge. For /o, the kings were afcmbled,
they faffed by together. 'They faw it, and fo
they marvelled j they were trr-ibled, and haft-
ed away. Fear took hoid upon them there,
and pai?i as cf a woman in travail ". Let
moujit Sion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah
be glad, becaife of thy judgmmts. Walk about
Sion, and go round about her : tell the towers
thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, confider
her palaces ; that ye may tell it to the genera-
tion following. For this God is our God for
ever a?2d ever ; he will be our guide even unto
death °.

Deborah and her nobles might well forefee
that this union among the tribes would foon
make the nation recover its antient vigor and
grandeur, after a tedious fervitude under the
tyrant of Canaan, and the large expences of
the late war for the recovery of their liberty :
That the high-ways Jhould be no more unoccu-'
pied, and the travellers obliged to walk thro'
by-ways : that the inhabitants of the villages
Jhould 710 more ceafe, as they had ceafed in If-
rael, till Deborah arofe ; till fie arofe a mo-
ther in Ifracl p. That they fiould be delivered
from the 7ioife of archers in the places of draw-
ing water \ and there rchearfe the righteous

» Pral.48. 3,4, 5,6. I Pjudg. 5.6, 7»

f Ycr, 11, 12, 13, 14. I "


Serm. VIT. of England and Scotland. 3 29

aBs of the Lord, even the righteous a5fs to-
wards the inhabitants of his villages in Ifrael :
and the people of the Lord foould go down to
the gates without fear '^. That art and com-
merce fhould flourifh among them, and that
the Ifraelites (liould reap the fruit of their
induftry, every one under his vine and fig-tree,
and none to make them afraid. That their
garners jhould be full, affording all manner
of fore : that their fieep pould bring forth
thoufands and ten thoufands in their fireets.
That their oxenfhould be ftrong to labour : that
there JJjould be jio breaking in nor going out ;
no complaining in their freets. Happy is the
people that is in fuch a cafe : yea, happy is the
people whofe God is the Lord.

They might, with great pleafure, forefee
how much this union would conduce to
the advancement of true religion among the
tribes ; the fum of which is love and cha-
rity : Charity which fuffers longy and is kind,
and envies not ; charity that vaunteth not
itfelf is not puffed up, doth not behave itfelf
unfeemly, feeks not her own, is not eafily pro-
voked, thinks no evil, rejoices not in iniquity^
hut rejoices in the truth ; bears all things, be-
lieves all things, hopes all things, endures all
things \ That now there would be no dan-
ger of perfecution, when their civil interefls
would be the fame, and all the tribes agreed
in the fubftantials of religion, and that bar-

? Ver. u. ! ! » Cor. ij. 4— — 8.


230 A thankfgiving fermon for the union

barity and cruelty prevented, of which fome
of the tribes were guilty after their divilion
and apoftacy in the time of Jeroboam, for
idolatry and perfecution ufually go together ;
when even the priefls of Dan and Bethel
imbrued their hands with the innocent blood
of their brethren, who went up to worfliip
at Jerufalem, according to the divine com-
mand. Of this cruelty the prophet Hofea
feenis to complain, when he fays, Gilead is
a city of them that work iniquity^ and is pol-
luted with blood. And as troops of robbers
wait for a man^ fo the company of priefls mur-
der in the way by conjent -, for they commit
leudnefs ^. And again, when he fays, — T'he
iniquity of Ephraim was difco'vcred, and the
wickednej's of Samaria : for they commit falf-
hood ; and the thief cometh in^ and the troop
of robbers fpoileth without '. T^hey ?nade the
king glad with their wickednefs^ and the prin-
ces with their lies *. Such dreadful conle-
quences of divifion as thefe, fhew of how
great importance it was to attempt a union
among the tribes, and what a blelled prof-
pedt this princefs and the fenators of Ifracl
might have of putting an etfed:ual bar to
perfecution j a fm contrary to the light of
nature, as well as to the precepts of that
religion God had revealed to Ifrael ; a crime
highly provoking to Cod, and fcandalous in
the account of all mankind, who are not

^ Hof. 6. 8.9. I ' Ver. 3.

- Chap. 7. 1. I


Serm. V II. of England and Scotland. 3 3 1"

fo abandoned to their paflions as to violate
the plaineft laws of reafon and huma-

But while the danger of divifion, and the
good effedts of union engaged the thoughts
of Deborah and her councils, we can't fup-
pofe that the great difficulties attending this
work did not occur to their minds ; and,
according to the words of our text, occa-
fioned great thoughts of hearty much thought
and contrivance, many debates and confulta-
tions : which is the laft thing that falls un-
der our notice from the text, "viz.

3. The difficulty of accomplifliing this
great work. How hard a matter muft it be
to reconcile contending tribes or nations,
when it often proves fo difficult to unite two
contending perfons ! The wifeft of men ob-
ferves, that a brother ojfended is harder to be
won than a Jlrong city ; and their contentions
are like the bars of a cafile ".

Since there is fuch a variety of tempers,
and difference of intereils among men ; fince
they are prone to be led by their paffions,
and biafs'd by a great number of prejudices,
it mull appear very difficult to make any
large communities willing to coalefce and
become one people, efpecially when their
fears and fufpicions of each other are rifen
to a great height. For in national diffe-
rences there are feldom wanting thofe crafty

l Prov. 18. \%


332 A thank/giving fermon for the union

incendiaries, who know how to aggravate
offences, heighten jeaioufies, mifreprefenc
the words and actions of men in publick
employments ; by thefe means to augment
the flame, tho fometimes under the pretence
of attempting to extinguifh it. And 'tis not
to be imagin'd there were none of this cha-
racter among the tribes of Judah, in the
time of Deborah.

There are ufually, in affairs of this nature,
fo many demands and claims made on either
fide, fo many men of influence to be fatif-
fied, io many popular precenfions to be an-
fwered, fo many precautions to be taken, io
many inconveniences to be prevented, and
fo many niceties to be adjuflcd, that to make
a union of this kind fcafible at prefent, and
durable in time to come, a prince had need
have David's character, Tb he wife as an an-
gel of God^ in order to effed: it.

On thefe accounts the divifions of Reuben
feem'd to require the counfel of a p^ phe-
tefs, and the matureft thoughts of the San-
hedrim of Ifrael. Her extraordinary piety
could not but prompt her to attempt a thing
fo much for the honour of religion, and for
the publick welfare : her tender care of all
the tribes, as (he was their governor and
a mother in Ifrael, made her refled on their
diforders with compaffion, and earnellly de-
fire to redrcfs them.


Serm.VII. of Enghnd and Scotland, 333

Tho the enterprize was great and difficult,
and perhaps formerly attempted in vain ;
yet the furprifing fuccefs of her troops in the
field, and her equal adminiftration at home ;
the mildnefs of her government, as well as
the terror of her arms, might well give her
hopes of fucceeding. The wifdom and mo-
deration of her condu6t towards all her peo-
ple, when (he fat on the throne of judgment,
and the glorious vidories {he obtain'd in the
field of battle, gave her the hearts of the If-
raelites, and made a re-union of the tribes
appear not altogether impradlicable. Her
great wifdom could not fail to dired her to
imploy proper hands on fo critical an occa-
fion, and her great piety conftantly to im-
plore the bleffing of heaven for the accom-
plifhment of fo juft, fo generous, and fo cha-
ritable a defign j and the prayer of a pro-
phetefs, and on fuch an occafion, was not
likely to want a favourable anfwer.

Yet whether this princefs had the glory of
cementing at this time the divifions of which
fhe complains, we have no exprefs account
in the brief hiftory concerning her govern-
ment. However, this joyful day gives us
occafion to celebrate the fuccefs the divine
providence has given the queen of Great-
Britain, in accomplifhing the union of thefe
two kingdoms, which if they had remain'd
divided, threatened us with no lefs dangers
than thofe we have before enumerated ; and


334 -^ thankfgiving fermon for the union

now they are united, give us a no lefs happy
profpedt than what we have been taking of
the union of the tribes of Ifrael ; tho our
Britiih was in danger of being obftru6ted by
yet greater difficulties than thofe I have been

If we ferioufly refledt on the critical clr-
^cumftances, wherein two different nations
in the fame ifland muft necellarily be, ef-
pecially if under two diftindt princes ; how
hard a matter it would be to maintain a
lafting peace, and how eafy to kindle wars
between them : if we coniider how certainly
great calamities would attend thofe wars,
and how uncertain the event of them would
be J what alliances the weaker fide might
be tempted to affedl, and how fatal fuch
meafures might prove to both nations ; we
Ihall find we had lately no fmall occafion
to apprehend that very fad confequences
would attend the divifion of England and
Scotland, in cafe the latter fliould chufe a
diflindt fovereign from the other, as they
might have done after the preient reign.

The hillory of the wars in England du-
ring the Saxon heptarchy, thofe between
the houfes of York and Lancaster, and thofe
between England and Scotland -, all Ihevv
how inconfiltent it is with the peace and
welfare of this ifland to be divided into dif-
ferent kingdoms.

Such a divifion mufl needs have weakened
the proteftaiu interell both at home and-


Serm. VII. ^/ England ^;/ J Scotland. 33^

abroad, and perhaps in time would have
overthrown the fucceffion of proteftant prin-
ces to both nations ; fince nothing is more
apparent, than that inteftine quarrels might
give opportunity to fome foreign power to
introduce flavery and popery into the whole

Nor are the advantages to be expected
from this union lefs obvious, than the dan-
gers we had to apprehend from the conti-
nuance of divifion. Who is it that fees not
how much it conduces to render Great-
Britain more conliderable to its allies, and
more formidable to its enemies ? that it tends
to infpire all of us, who love our liberty
and religion, with thofe generous principles
of charity and moderation, by which the
publick peace and fafety is heft fecured, and
the honour of our holy religion beft vin-
dicated ? Her majefty and the parliament
of both nations, by concurring in this adt
of union, have fufficiently fignified to the
world, that the different fentiments of pro-
teftants in matters of religion, are very con-
fiftent with their living peaceably together
under the fame government, and being mu-
tually ferviceable to the publick, according
to their feveral capacities and flations.

What advantages this union gives us a-
gainfl both our inteftine and foreign ene-
mies, 'tis eafy to difcern ; and we hope a
little time will farther explain how much
it will flrengthen the hands, as well as chear


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Online LibraryJoseph StennettThe Works of the late Reverend and Learned Mr. Joseph Stennett : in five volumes ; to which is prefix'd some account of his life (Volume 1) → online text (page 22 of 28)