When the Lord is punishing such a people against whom he hath a controversy, and a notable controversy, every one that is found shall be thrust through: and every one joined with them shall fall, Isa. xiii.15. They partake in their judgment, not only because in a common calamity all shares, (as in Ezek. xxi.3.) but chiefly because joined with and partakers with these whom God is pursuing; even as the strangers that join to the house of Jacob partake of her blessings, chap. xiv.1. To this purpose is Isa. xxxi.2, 3, and Ezek. xxx.5, 6, 8. The mingled people and those that are in league with Egypt partake in her plagues, and those that uphold that throne that God so visibly controverts with, their power shall come down, and all its helpers shall be destroyed, as it is Jer. xxi.12, 20, 24. And this is the great reason of these many warnings to go out of Babylon, Jer. l.8. and li.6. Remember that passage, 2 Kings i.9, 10, 11, 12. The captain and messenger of the king speaks but a word in obedience to his wicked master's command, and the fifty are but with him, and speak not: but their master's judgment comes on them all.
Consider how many testimonies the wise king, in his Proverbs, gives against it. Chap. i. from ver.10, to 19. "My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause. Let us swallow them up alive as the grave, and whole as those that go down into the pit. We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil. Cast in thy lot among us, let us all have one purse. My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path. For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood," &c. Here are the practices and designs of wicked men expressed in their own nature. But certainly they would colour them over with fair pretences. Their purpose is to undo men, especially godly men that classed and purged them. Yea, it is the profession of many, and they scarce lie privily, or have so much wisdom as to conceal their designs till their fit opportunity, but before the power be confirmed in their hand, they breathe out cruelty against all the innocent in the land, and promise themselves great gain by it, and are already dividing their estates among them, saying we "shall find all precious substance," ver.13. But, my son, if thou fear God, though they entice thee with specious arguments of nature, and necessity, and country privileges, yet consent not. Venture not thy stock in one vessel with them. Cast not in thy lot among them. "Walk not in the way with them: refrain thy foot from their path:" for they are not come to the height of iniquity, they are running on to it. And if thou join, thou wilt cast thyself in a miserable snare; for either thou must go on with them to their designed and professed evils, or be exposed to their cruelty.
Chap. ii. from ver.10. to the end. "When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant to thy soul; discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee to deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things, who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness," &c. If thou take the word of God for a lamp to thy feet, and it enter into thy soul, and be received in love and affection, it will certainly keep thee from the evil men's way, who have already left the righteous paths to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in nothing so much as in the sorrows and miseries of the godly, and delight in one another's wickedness. And it will keep thee chaste to thy husband Christ Jesus, and preserve thee from committing fornications with Egypt as Aholah and Aholibah, and joining so nearly with the degenerated seed of Abraham, who are but as strangers. For come near their house and paths, and they will lead thee to destruction with them or make thee a more miserable life. But these that go to them return not again quickly. They are like fallen stars. Shall they ever be set in the firmament again? It is safest to walk with good and righteous men, for God's blessing and promise is on them. His curse and threatening is on the wicked. Therefore thou may fear wrath on that account, if thou join with them.
Chap. iv. ver.14-20 "Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. For they sleep not except they have done mischief, and their sleep is taken away except they cause some to fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence. But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is as darkness, and they know not at what they stumble." It was said, chap. iii.23, that the man who keeps wisdom and the fear of God in his heart, should walk in the way and not stumble. That safety hath ease in it here. Their steps are not straitened, as when a man walks in steep and hazardous places, who cannot choose but it will be. If a man enter into the path of wicked men, he must either go along in their way with them, and then it is broad indeed, or, if he think to keep a good conscience in it, he will be pinched and straitened. Therefore it is most free for the mind and conscience to avoid and pass by that way "for they sleep not," &c. They will never be satisfied till they have done a mischief, they will live upon the ruins of the poor country. And how wilt thou join in that? Or how can thou eschew it, if thou walk with them? If it were no more, it is a suspected by path, that thou never travelled into. O pass by it, or, if thou be entered, turn out of it. If thou wilt enter upon the apprehension of some light and duty in it, know that it is but evening, the sun is setting, and thou wilt be benighted ere it be long, and thou shalt stumble then, and not know whereupon, even on that, thou seest not now and thinkest to eschew and pass by. Then from ver.23, to the end, "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life, &c." Except thou keep thy heart and whole man, thou cannot escape falling into some temptation. O keep thy heart diligently on the knowledge and lore of the truth. Take heed to thy words. Look not a squint but directly to that which is good. Give not a squint look to any unlawful course, for the necessity or utility, it may be that seems to attend it. But look straight on, and ponder well the way thou walkest in, that thou run to no extremity either to one parte or other, that thou walk in the middle way between profanity and error. Thou heldest these ways hitherto for extremes. Ponder, I beseech thee, then, before thou walkest in any of them. See whether they be really come to thee, or thou to them. Mark who is changed.
Chap. v.8 to the 15. "Remove thy way far from her, and come not near the door of her house, lest thou give thine honour unto others, and thy years unto the cruel. Lest strangers be filled with thy wealth, and thy labours be in the house of a stranger. And thou mourn at last when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, and say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof, and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me! &c." If thou would be safe from snares, remove from the way and house of the strange woman. Thou must fall in Aholah and Aholibah's whoredoms (Ezek. xxiii.) except thou come not near them. If thou keep not from that assembly and congregation, thou shall be "almost in all evil." If thou join with them, thou cannot but partake of their sins and plagues; and so thou shalt say after, when thou cannot well mend it, "I was near gone, my steps almost gone," and all the assembly of his people shall witness to it.
Chap. vi.16, 17, 18, 24, 25. "These six things doth the Lord hate, yea seven are an abomination unto him. A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief. To keep thee from the strange woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman. Lust not after her beauty in thine heart, neither let her take thee with her eye lids." This describes both our enemies, the malignant party and the sectarian. Pride, violence, cruelty, lying, is the very character of the one. Flattery, beauty of pretended religion, false witnessing and charging of the Lord's people, and seeking to sow discord among these that were one in heart and work, is the character of the other. Now, keep thee from both these abominations, and do not think it is in thy power not to be infected with the contagion of their fellowship. "Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burnt? Can one go on hot coals and not burn his feet?" So whoever associates and goes in friendly to either of them "shall not be innocent," ver.27, 28, 29.
Chap. vii.14, &c. "I have peace offerings with me, this day have I paid my vows." They pretend religion on both sides. And our church says, the malignants have satisfied them, and repented, even like the peace offerings and vows of the whore. She began with her devotion, that she might with more liberty sin more, and have that pretence to cover it, and by means of her offerings, she got a feast of the flesh, even as they by profession of repentance are admitted to trust, and by offering for the like sin, a new sin is covered, and vows undertaken never to be kept. Therefore take heed of these snares. "For she hath cast down many strong," ver.26. Many a tall cedar hath fallen by that fellowship. It is the way to hell, ver.27. See chap. viii.13.
Chap. x. shows us the very different estate of the godly and wicked, both in regard of light and knowledge concerning duty, and of blessings promised. Ver.6, 9, 11, 20, 23. "Blessings are upon the head of the just, but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked. He that walketh uprightly, walketh surely, but he that perverteth his ways, shall be known. The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life, but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked. The tongue of the just is as choice silver, the heart of the wicked is little worth. It is as a sport to a fool to do mischief but a man of understanding hath wisdom," &c. Ver.24, 25, 28, 31, 32, which show us, that if the Lord's mind be revealed to any concerning the present courses, it must be to his poor people that wait on him, and not to all the wicked and ungodly in the land, who almost only are satisfied and clear in the course, who yet before were never satisfied. And beside, though the Lord be chastising his people, yet one may join with them without fear of wrath and indignation on that account, and with hope of partaking of their blessings, when he cannot and dare not join with a wicked party pursued with wrath and indignation in the same dispensation, which may be more clear from chap. xi.3, 5, 8. "The integrity of the upright shall guide them, but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them. The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way, but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness. The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead." And verses 10, 11, show the different condition of people under wicked rulers and godly. All the wicked now rejoice. None shouts but they. They think their day is come. The godly generally hang their head and are discountenanced, even as Psal. xii. The 21 and 31 verses show, that when godly men are chastised and punished in the earth for their sins, "much more the wicked," especially when the godly were chastised for partaking with them, according to 1 Pet. iv 17, 18, Isa. x 12, and xlix.26.
Chap. xii.13. "They are snared by the transgression of their lips." Their ordinary common speeches they drop out with, declare them, and make their cause, more hateful than other pretences, it is covered with, would permit. Yea, they speak like the piercings of a sword, against the godly, ver.18. If our state and church had a lip of truth, they would speak always the same thing. They would not carry in their talk and writings, as now every common understanding perceives. We may find their writings made up of contradictions. For "a lying tongue is but for a moment," ver.19. It is but for a moment indeed before the judicatory; and then out of doors it contradicts itself, as in the mock repentances. But sorrow and anguish will come to these, who before they would speak of terms of peace with one enemy, would associate in war with another. "But to the counsellors of peace is joy," ver.20. The present course contradicts this. Ver.26. "The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour: but the way of the wicked seduceth them." They think these malignants better than the west country forces. They would condescend to any terms to get their help, though it were to reverse the Act of Classes,(395) to give them indemnity, yea, not so much as to condemn their way: but they will not so much as clear the state of the quarrel, or choose a better general(396) for all their help. Their way seems good in their own eyes, ver.15. But it were wisdom to hearken to the counsel of the godly.
Chap. xiii.10. "Only by pride cometh contention, but with the well-advised is wisdom." There is nothing keepeth up our contention and wars but pride: no party will condescend to another. We will not say we have done wrong in bringing in the king. They will not say they have done wrong in invading. But it were wisdom to fall lower and quit those interests. Ver.16. "Every prudent man dealeth with knowledge: but a fool layeth open his folly." A wise man would count before the war, if he can accomplish it: and if he cannot, then he would send messengers of peace, and cede in all things he may without sin. If it be but more honour and wealth to our king,(397) should we destroy the kingdom to purchase that? Our rash and abrupt proceedings show our folly. Ver.20. "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed." A man will be, must be, assimilated to his company, and then partake of their judgment or blessings.
Chap. xiv. He that is accustomed to speak truth in private, will in his common speech be a faithful witness in public: but a man accustomed to lying, dissembling, swearing in private, will not stick to forswear himself, to make professions and vows contrary to his mind in public, ver.5. (and also chap. xii.17. and vi.19.) Such men seek wisdom and make a show of religion, but find it not; whereas it is easy to godly men to find it, to find repentance and salvation, ver.6. Go away from foolish men, and break off society with ungodly men. Be not privy to their counsels. Use them not as special friends, when thou perceivest that all means are used in vain to reclaim them from their damnable way and principles, ver.7. The knowledge a godly man hath serves to direct his way, and is given of God for it. But all the wit and skill of such wicked men is deceit. They themselves are beguiled by it in opinion, and practice, and hope. And they also beguile others, ver.8. Sin makes fools agree: but among the righteous, that which is good makes agreement (in the old translation(398)), ver.9. It is only evil will unite all the wicked in the land as one man. For it is a sport to them to do mischief, chap. x.23. Albeit our way seem right in our eyes, yet because it is a backsliding way, and departing from unquestionably right rules, the end will be death, and we will be filled with our own devices. O! it shall be bitter in the belly of all godly men when they have eaten it, ver.12, 14. and chap. i.31. "The simple believeth every word;" giveth credit to every vain word that is spoken. But a prudent man looketh well to men's goings, ponders and examines whether their professions and practices agree, what weight is in their words, by the inspection of their deeds, and of their ordinary speaking, and does not account a coined word before a judicatory sufficient to testify repentance. And as he gives not present credit to their professions, who have so often proven treacherous, so he himself scares at every appearance of evil, and keeps himself from it; whereas foolish souls rage and are confident, think any thing lawful if they can have any pretence for it, or use of it, ver.15, 16. Then, what a great difference is between wicked men and godly men, both in their lot, when God is correcting both, and in their disposition! Wisdom that rests in the one's heart, is manifested; wickedness in the other's heart appears also. In the midst of such men there is no other thing, ver.32, 33.
Chap. xv.8, ("The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord; but the prayer of the upright is his delight,") expresses how provoking a thing the outward professions and sacrifices of wicked men, continuing in their wickedness; what an abomination that commonly called public repentance, or ecclesiastical holiness is, when men are visibly unholy and ungodly in their conversation. And therefore he pleaded always with that people, that his soul abhorred their external ceremonies, because of the uncleanness of their hands. He pleaded that he never commanded them, though indeed he did command them. Yet those were aberrations and departings from the express rule and command, -- to accept or be pleased with these sacrifices and ceremonies, -- when there was no evidence of real repentance. To this purpose are chap. xxi.4, 27; Isa. i.11; and lxvi.3; Jer. vi.20; and vii.22; Amos v.22, -- all which show that it is but a mocking of the Lord, and perverting of his law, and profaning of his ordinances, to accept the profession of repentance in those who walk contrary thereto, and to count them ecclesiastically holy enough, who say, they repent, though a thousand actions witness the contrary. Of such the Lord says, "What hast thou to do to take my covenant in thy mouth, seeing thou hatest to be reformed?" Psal. l.16, 17. They have no right to it. They should not be admitted to it for it is a taking the Lord's name in vain. The l6th verse tells us, that it had been better to possess our own land in quietness than to venture what we have for the uncertain conquest of England, and restitution of the king parallel with Eccl. iv.8.
Chap. xvi.7. "When a man's ways please the Lord he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him." Can our States(399) way then please the Lord, seeing they cannot find the way of peace, -- they will not walk in it, and seeing they make the godly in the land to fall out with them, and none to be at peace but the wicked, who may thereby get opportunity to crush the godly? Ver.17 "The highway of the upright is to depart from evil." This is the highway only, to depart from evil, not carnal policies, nor advantages. He thinks the stepping aside to any of these is not the highway. Can then men change their way, and go cross to it and keep the right way in both? No, the godly have this high way and keep it. Chap. xvii.11. "An evil man seeketh only rebellion, therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him." Evil men seek only rebellion, and delight in no other thing. But the King of kings shall send a cruel messenger, he arms men with wrath and power against them. Ver.13, speaketh sadly to the English, and to our State, that rewarded the west country evil for good. Ver.14, 19, tell us how we should advise before we begin a war, and leave no mean of composing difference and state unessayed. We did more in it than the English, but not all we might have done. Ver.15, with chap. xviii.5, is a dreadful sentence against the public judicatories, that all their resolutions, papers, and practices, justify the wicked and ungodly as honest faithful men, and condemn all approven faithful men, that cannot go along in such courses, or were earnest to have them repent, as both malignants and sectaries. Do they not pronounce all malignants friends, and absolve them from the sentences and classes they stand under? And do they not put the godly in their place? They relax the punishment of the one, and impute transgression to the other, and so bring them under a law. See Exod. xxiii.7, Prov. xxiv.24 , Isa. v.23, and the 29th verse of this chapter. It is not good to punish godly men, who have given constant proof of their integrity, for abstaining from such a course, at least having so much appearance of evil, that many distinctions will never make the multitude to believe that we are walking according to former principles, because their sense observes the quite contrary practices, &c.
Chap. xviii.2, ("A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself") shows that if the present cause and course were of God, and tended so much to his glory, fools or wicked men would have no such delight in it. For they delight in nothing but what is agreeable to their humour, to discover themselves, &c. Ver.3 gives the true reason, why our public judicatories and armies are so base and contemptible, why contempt and shame is poured on them, because, "when the wicked comes, then also comes contempt, and with the vile man reproach." Ver.13 "He that answereth a cause before he hears it, it is folly and shame unto him." Many pass peremptory sentence upon the honest party in the west before they hear all parties, and be thoroughly informed, and this is a folly and shame to them. They hear the state and church, and what they can say for their way, and indeed they seem just, because they are first in with their cause, and they will not hear another. But he that comes after will make inquiry, and discover those fallacies. Ver.24 "There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." A godly neighbour, not so near in natural bonds to us, that is a surer friend than many brethren in the flesh. These bonds of country and kindred, should all cede to God's interest. See chap. xvii.17.
Chap. xix.22. "A man's desire is his kindness and a poor man is better than a liar." The godly that cannot concur in the public cause, being disabled, through an invincible impediment of sin lying in the way and means made use of, are better friends, and have more real good will to the establishment and peace of the land, than any ungodly man, let him be never so forward in the present course. Ver.10. Pleasure and its attendants are not comely for a wicked man, (i.e. a foolish man) much less for a servant, (i.e. men enthralled in their lusts,) to rule over princes (i.e. godly men, highly privileged by God). All things that are good do ill become them, but worst of all to have power and superiority over good men, ver.25, joined with chap. xxi.11. Ringleaders of wickedness, refractory and incorrigible persons, should have been made examples to others, and this would have prevented much mischief. The scripture gives ground for putting difference between the scorner and simple, seducers and seduced.
Chap. xx.6, xxi.2, and xvi.2. "Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness, but a faithful man who can find?" It is no great wonder that malignants say they repent, and the state and church say they keep the same principles. For who will say any evil of himself? Ver.8. Magistrates should scatter away evil men with their countenance, by denying it to them, and looking down on them. How, then, do our rulers gather them? Ver.3, shows that war and strife should not be kept up but in extreme necessity. Fools "will be meddling." Ver.11, shows that the best way of judging of men is by their doings and fruits, not strained words and confessions. But those who, upon a bare profession, pronounce a notour(400) malignant a friend, having no proof of his integrity, and will not have any judged such, but such as judicially are debarred, yet contrary to all the testimony of works and fruits, judge and condemn honest men as traitors, though not judicially convicted. Certainly divers measures are an abomination to the Lord, as in ver.10. Then in ver.25 sacrilege is described, and covered perjury, which is a snare to the soul that commits it. He "devoureth that which is holy," i.e. applieth to a common use these things God hath set apart, and commanded to be kept holy, as our profaning of repentance and absolution, by casting such pearls to swine, and for our own advantage, making a cloak of them to bring in wicked men, contrary to the very nature and institution of the ordinance, also our prostituting of our covenant and cause, most holy things to maintain unholy or common interests, -- our committing his holy things to them that will devour them. "And after vows to make inquiry," to dispute now, that we did not bind ourselves in the case of necessity, not to employ wicked men, whereas the ground is perpetual and holds in all cases, shows either temerity, in swearing, -- or impiety, in inquiring afterward and changing. See Deut. xxiii.21. Then ver.26. "A wise king scattereth the wicked, and bringeth the wheel over them." O that our magistrates were so wise! Is the act of levy a scattering of the wicked? Is the act of indemnity a bringing the wheel over them? Psal. ci.8. "I will early destroy," &c.
In Chap. xxi.10. "The soul of the wicked desireth evil, his neighbour findeth no favour in his eyes." The wicked's principles can carry nowhere but to evil, and to do evil to good men. Ver.8. His way and life is full of horrible and tragical chances. But a good man's work is easy and pleasant, directs to a good and peaceable end, Isa. xxvi.7. Ver.12. A righteous man should have his wit about him, to consider ungodly houses and families, and persons that God hath visible controversies with, that he may not communicate with them in their judgments. Ver.16. It is a sad wandering out of the way, when a man leaves the congregation of the living to abide among the dead, -- dead in sins and appointed to death. It is a great judgment as well as sin. Ver.27, with the 4, and places before cited, show how abominable the external professions and pretences of wicked men are, when contradicted by their practice, especially if they do it but out of a wicked mind, when they intend to effect some mischief, under the colour of repentance and being reconciled to the church, as Absalom's vow at Hebron, as Balaam and Balak and the Pharisees, who under pretence of long prayers devoured widows' houses, as Jezebel's fast, and as the people, (Isa. lviii.4.) who fasted for strife and debate, and to strike with the fist of wickedness. All men know that the church is the ladder to step up upon to go to preferment, and repentance the door to enter to places of trust.
Chap. xxii.3. "A prudent man foreseeth the evil and hideth himself, but the simple pass on and are punished." He is a wise man that knows the judgment of the Lord, as the stork and swallow the time of their coming, that in the consideration of sins and threatenings, and comparing things spiritual with spiritual, apprehendeth judgment coming on such a course and such a party, and hides himself, goes aside, retires to a covert, by avoiding these evils, and the least fellowship with them that bring it on, and eschewing such a society as hath the cloud hanging directly above their head. But simple idiots and blind worldlings go on headlong, and dread nothing, and are punished, ver.5. Most grievous plagues and punishments and all manner of unhappiness encumbereth their wicked life. Therefore he that would keep himself pure and clean (1 John v.18.), and save his own soul, shall be far from them, shall keep himself far from such people. He prays with Job, "Let their counsel be far from me." Job xxi.16, 17. Because their good is not in their hand, their candle is oft put out, &c. And he resolves with Jacob, My soul shall not enter into their secret, to have such intimacy with them as join counsels with them, Gen. xlix.6. And ver.10, 11, Cast out of thy company, family, jurisdiction, the scorner that contemns the godly men, and mocks instruction for such men are infectious, and able to corrupt all they converse with. But cast him out, and contention shall go out with him. It is such only that mars the union of the godly, that stirs up strife, and foments divisions. Thou shalt have more peace, and be more free from sin and shame. But sound hearted upright men, who deal faithfully, not to please but to profit, -- you should choose these to intrust and rely upon, those should be friends of kings. Ver.14. As a harlot's allurements are like pits to catch men, so the allurements of wicked ungodly men, their power, policy, &c., and their fair speeches and flatteries, are a deep ditch to catch men in to this spiritual whoredom and fornication spoken of. Ezek. xxiii. And he whom God is provoked with, by former wickedness, falls into it, Eccl. vii.26, Ver.24, 25. "Make not friendship with an angry man and with a furious man thou shalt not go," &c. And is not association in arms with such, as friends against an enemy, a making friendship with them we are sworn to hold as enemies? If we may not converse with a furious passionate man, how then with men of blood, enraged, whose inveterate malice hath now occasion to vent against all the godly? For thou wilt learn his ways, as we have always seen it by experience, and thou wilt get a snare to thy soul. If thou go not in his ways you cannot agree, you will fall out and quarrel, and that is a snare to thee. Ver.28. "Remove not the ancient land-mark which thy fathers have set." If it be so dreadful and accursed to remove our neighbour's marks and bounds, O! how much more to change and alter God's land-mark, his privileges, oaths and covenants, &c. And chap. xxiii.10, 11, Deut. xix.14 and xxvii.17.
Chap. xxiii.1, 7. "When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee. For as he thinketh in his heart so is he," &c. Consider diligently what men are, not what they pretend and seem to be. For as they think, so are they, not as they pretend with their tongue and countenance, but as they think in their heart, which is better evidenced by their common and habitual speaking and walking, than any deliberate and resolved profession contrived of purpose. But if thou consider not this, the morsel thou hast eaten thou shalt vomit up. Thou shalt dearly pay for thy credulity, and lose all thy sweet words. Ver.23. "Buy the truth and sell it not," &c. Do not we sell the truth, and cause, and all, into the hands of the enemies of all? whereas we ought to ransom the kingdom's liberty and religious interest, with the loss of all extrinsic interest that does but concern the accession of one's honour. Yet we sell, endanger, and venture all for that.
Chap. xxiv.1. "Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire thou to be with them." Godly men's hearts are often tickled to be acquainted with, in league and friendship with wicked men, when they have power, that they may not be hurt by them. But seeing there is no society between light and darkness, let not the godly desire to be with them, (as in chap. xxiii.17,) but rather to be in God's fear always. That is good company. The reason is (verse 2,) their heart studies the destruction of the godly, (why then would thou walk with thine enemy?) and you shall hear nothing but mischief on their lips. Ver.12. It is not according to men's words but works they should be judged. And why do not we follow that rule in our judging? Do we mock God as one mocks another? Job xxxiv.11, Psal. lxii.12, Jer. xxxii.19, Rom. ii.6, Ver.21, &c. Men given to change, false deceitful men, meddle not with such, if thou either fear God or respect man. For such will be sure to no interest but their own. Then calamity shall come suddenly. Therefore have nothing to do with them. For "who knoweth the ruin of them both," of them and all other wicked men, or of both them and the king, if wicked? Also to the wise and godly this belongs, "It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment," whether he be king or nobleman. A righteous state respects not the person of the prince and mighty, saith Job. But he that says to the righteous, you are wicked sectaries, and also malignants, because ye will not approve all their resolutions, and to the wicked, "thou art righteous," to the malignants, you are the honest men, the blessed of the Lord, -- who did ever to this day fall under Meroz' curse, should the people approve him? No certainly, "Him shall the people curse, and the nations shall abhor him," or them. But a blessing on them that would reprove our sins and search them out, ver.25. The malignant party are even speaking so as the classers and purgers did to us, even so will we do to them. But God will render to them according to their work, ver.29.
Chap. xxv.2. "It is the honour of kings to search out a matter." It is a king and judge's glory to search out a matter, to try dissemblers before they trust them. God's glory is to pardon. Man's glory is to administer justice impartially. Ver.4, 5, show what need there is of purging places of trust, especially about the king. Dross cannot be melted. Take what pains you will, it will not convert into a vessel and become useful. This mixed in, obstructs all equity, justice, and piety, where it is. The ruler should be the refiner to purge away this dross, and the army, or judicatory, or kingdom, is a vessel. You shall never get a fined vessel for use and service till you purge away the dross, Psal. ci.4. Then, (ver.8) we should follow peace with all men as much as is possible, never to begin strife or draw the sluice of contention. But if we be wronged, we should not for all that go out hastily to strife, till, 1. The justice and equity of the cause appear, 2. That the matter whereabout we contend be of great moment, a ground to found a war upon, 3. That we first use all means of peace and agreement possible, 4. That we overmatch not ourselves with those who are too strong for us, (see chap. xvii.14) "lest" thou be brought to that extremity that "thou know not what to do." Thus Christ adviseth, Luke xiv.31. I am persuaded this would plead much in reason to yield security to England, so be it our wrong were repaired, and no more done. Ver.19 shows what the employment of unfaithful men, who mean nothing less than they pretend, is. They fail when most is expected, and hurt beside, as Job's friends, chap. vi.15. And ver.26. A righteous and upright man, consenting with a wicked man in sin, or, through fear of him, not daring to do his duty, turning to him and his way, or dallying and flattering him in his iniquity, is like "a troubled fountain," is not good and profitable for edification nor correction, having troubled the purity of his soul through the mud of carnal respects and interests. Corruption within is the mire, the wicked's seducements are like the beast's trampling it with his foot. And he is like a corrupt, infected, and poisoned fountain, more ready to infect and draw others by his example. Ver.27. A man should not seek honour and preferment that is base and shameful. None of the trees longed for sovereignty but the bramble.
Chap. xxvi. 1. "As snow in summer and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool." It is as unseemly, prodigious, and destructive a thing, to give honours, promotions, and trust to a wicked man, as snow and much rain in harvest, a reproach and punishment more becomes him than honour, the reward of goodness (as ver.3), a whip, rod, and bridle are more for him, to restrain him from wrong and provoke him to goodness. Ver.6. He that commits an errand or business to a wicked man and intrusts him with it, is as unwise in so doing, as if he did cut off the messenger's feet he sent. He deprives himself of the means to compass it. He sends a lame man to run an errand. He is punished by himself as if he had cut off his own feet, and procureth sorrow and discontent to himself, as if he were compelled to drink nothing but what is contrary to his stomach. Ver.7. All good speeches halt and limp in evil men's mouths, for there is no constancy in their mouths. Within they are very rottenness. "Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing," James iii.10. Their very words agree not, the public and extraordinary crosses the private and ordinary. And their actions have less harmony with their words. Professing they know God, in works they deny him &c. Ver.8. To give a madman a weapon, what else is it but to murder? To bring shot to an ordinance which may do much mischief to himself and others, is to be accessory to that mischief. So to give "honour to a fool." He hath given power to them and put them in a capacity to do evil, and set them on work again to perfect their designs against good men. Ver.9. As a drunken man, with a thorn in his hand, can make no use of it, but to hurt himself and others, so wicked men's good speeches and fair professions commonly tend to some mischief. These but cover their evil designs and yet the covering is shorter than that it can hide them. Ver.10. Wicked rulers (look the margin(401)) grieve and molest the subjects: and the means to effect this is, to employ the fool and transgressor, to give offices and countenance to evil men, which may be instruments of their lust, so Abimelech, Judges ix.4, so Jezebel, 1 Kings xxi.10, so in Neh. vi.12. Ver.11. The dog, feeling his stomach surcharged, goes to the grass, -- as our malignants to profess repentance, -- and casts up that which troubles him, by a feigned confession. But because there is no change in his nature, he is inwardly stirred by his old principles to lick up that vomit, to commit and practise what he professed repentance for, yea, and to profess the same he pretended sorrow for. When power is confirmed in their hand they will return to their folly. Ver.17. What else is our interposing ourselves in the king's quarrel concerning England, though we have interest in it to endeavour it in a peaceable way, if he were fit for it, yet in comparison of our kingdom and religion's safety, which may be ruined by war, it is no such matter as belongeth to us. And so it falls out, we are like a man taking a dog by the ears to hold him, we have raised up many enemies, and provoked them to bite us. We cannot hold them long from destroying him, and we provoke them more by holding them, in espousing his quarrel, as Jehoshaphat joining with Ahab. We had done well to interpose ourselves between the king and them to make peace, but to side with one party was not well done. Verses 18, 19. Furious and bloody men take all opportunities to hurt others, especially good men, and so deceive those employed. But they do it under a pretence. As a scorner reproacheth under a pretence of sport, so they, under other pretences, of wrongs done, of the country's defence, &c. Verses 20, 24, show the way to prevent trouble and keep peace. As a contentious turbulent person would inflame a whole country and put them by the ears, so a person, though not contentious in his own nature, yet having many contentious interests following him, which he will not quit, or commit to God's providence, as our king was. O it is the destruction of a nation to have such a person among them. He hath broken the peace of two kingdoms. Verses 23, 24, 25, 26. Burning lips, hot and great words of love and friendship, and a wicked heart revenging its enmity, and minding nothing less than what is spoken, is like a potsherd, a drossy piece covered over with the fairding(402) of hypocrisy, or, like a sepulchre garnished and painted, he dissembles and speaks vanity, and flatters. Psal. xii.3. But he lays up his wicked purposes close within him till a time of venting them. Therefore when he speaks so fair and courteously, be not confident of him, trust him not too far till thou have proof of his reality. Put not thyself and thy dearest interests into his mercy. This is wisdom, and not want of charity, Jer. xii.6; Micah vii.5. Cain, Joab, and Judas, are proofs of this. It may be covered a time, but not long. Naturam expellas furca licet, usque recurret.(403) All the world shall be witness of it, Psal. cxxv. So then, (ver 21.) the calumniator and false accuser, who openly professes his hatred and malice, and the flatterer that seems to be moved with love, both of them produce one effect, viz., ruin and calamity.
Chap. xxvii.3, 4. "A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty, but a fool's wrath is heavier than them both," &c. We see what we may expect of the enraged, exasperated malignant party. Their wrath against all the godly, for their faithful secluding and purging them out of places of trust, is weighty and insupportable like the sand of the sea. It will crush them under it if God support not. It is like a swelling river, or a high spring tide, it goes over all banks, since the state and church have drawn the sluice and let it out. But when it is joined with envy and malice, against godliness and piety itself, who can stand before that? No means can quench that heat. Ver.6: Faithful men's reproofs, remonstrances, and warnings, applied in love and compassion, are better than an enemy's kisses and flatteries, than his oils and ointments are. Therefore we would pray against the one, and for the other, that God would smite us with the mouth of the righteous, but keep us from the dainties of the wicked Joabs, Judases, and Ahithophels. Verse 8 speaks sadly against ministers that withdraw from their charges so unnecessarily, as a bird that wandereth too long from her nest: the young starve for cold or famine, or are made a prey. So these who, having no necessary call to be elsewhere, especially not being members of the Commission, yet stay not with their flocks, are guilty of their soul's ruin. Ver.10: O how doth this speak against the present course of judicatories! They have forsaken their old faithful friends, when they proved ever constant, and have gone in to their wicked countrymen's house in the day of their calamity. But a neighbour in affection and piety, is nearer than a brother in flesh and near in habitation.
Chap. xxviii.1: "The wicked fleeth when no man pursueth; but the righteous is bold as a lion." Wicked men are now chosen for stoutness and courage, but they have no sure foundation for it. It is but like the rage and temerity of a madman or drunkard. But godly men, once satisfied in grounds of conscience about their duty, would have been bold as lions. A good conscience would have made them bold, Psal. cxii.7, 8, Lev. xxvi.36. Now, ver.2, behold the punishment of our sins, our governors are changed, there is almost a total alteration, and we are faces about, which cannot but bring ruin to the land, especially when men of understanding and piety are shut out. Ver.4, with chap. xxix.27: It is a great point and argument of declining and forsaking the law of God, when men praise the wicked, change their names though they themselves be not changed, and leave off contending with, or declaring against them, and do rather plead for them. But godly men, that keep the law, contend with, discountenance, and oppose them, as David, "I hate them that hate thee," and earnestly contend with them. Thus they are kept from partaking with other men's sins. Ver.5: It is not very likely that all the ungodly should now understand the duty of the times and discern the right way, and that so many that fear God understand it not, seeing the Lord's secret is revealed to them, Psal. xxv.14. Verses 6, 7: A poor man, and weak means, if they be of upright men, are better and stronger than many rich and strong perverters. A companion of evil men and a keeper of the law agree not in one person; the one is an honour, the other a shame to all that have interest in them. Ver.9: Their prayers and professions are abomination, no acceptation of those that turn away their ears from obedience to the law, who walk contrary to it. Ver.10: These cunning and crafty men that have enticed some godly men, and led them on in the present course, shall themselves smart for it, when the godly seduced shall see good things after all this. Ver.12: When wicked men have power and trust, good men hide and retire themselves from such a congregation or assembly of the wicked. See chap. x.10, 11. Should we thus choose our own plague, tyranny, oppression, calamity, and misery, and cast away our own glory? Then, (ver.13) repentance requires time and ingenuous confession, and real forsaking. If both these join not, it is but a covering and hiding of sin. If a man confess, and yet walk and continue in them, he is but using his confession as a covering to retain his sins, and such shall not find mercy of God, or prosper before men. Ver.14: It is not so despisable a thing to fear alway, and to be very jealous of sin as it is now made. It is counted a reproach to have any scruples at the present course. But happy is he that abstaineth from all appearance of evil, but he that emboldeneth himself, and will not question any thing that makes for advantage, falls into mischief. Ver.15, 17 show the lamentable condition of a people under wicked rulers. They are beasts and not men towards the people, especially towards the best, Dan. vii.4, 5, Zeph. iii.3. Ver.17: How doth that agree with our sparing of bloody men, of our soliciting for their impunity, of our pardoning them? Are they not, by the appointment of God's law, ordained for destruction, and haste to it? Should any then stay them? Should they not then far less employ them? And, (ver.24) if it be so heinous to take our father's goods upon this pretence, because they are our own, how much more sacrilege is it to rob God of his interests, and give over his money to bankrupts, and say it is no transgression to rob the land of its defence, and make them naked, as Ahaz his confederacy did? Certainly it is murder. Ver.28 and chap. xxix.2 and xi.12 and xxviii.28 are to one purpose. We have forsaken our own mercy and wronged our own souls; and destroyed ourselves in choosing our own judgment, and making our own rod to beat us withal. Chap. xxix.1: We being so often reproved by his word and providence for the sin of association with the wicked, and being so lately punished for it, and having so lately reproved ourselves for it in our declarations and fasts, yet to harden our necks, what can we expect but utter destruction, and that without remedy, as we sentenced ourselves? Ezra ix.13 and xiv.13, Isa. xxx.13, 14. Shall not this iniquity be to us a breach ready to fall, even this iniquity of going down to Egypt for help, &c. Then, (ver.6) there is a snare to entrap thy feet in the sins of the wicked; if thou be joined with them, thou cannot well escape. Ver.8: Wicked profane contemners of God and his people bring ruin on a city or commonalty, they set it on fire and blow it up. But godly men pacify wrath, turn away judgments, and purge all from provocations, which is the only means to turn it away. Ver.16 shows, when wicked men gather together, and grow in state and power, they grow worse, and sin with greater boldness, and transgression then overflows the land, tanquam ruptis repagulis.(404) There is no obstacle. See Psal. xii. And ver.24 shows, he that is partner and fellow receiver with a thief, or conceals such offenders, endangers his own destruction; and he that stays with, and associates with wicked men, must hear cursing and cannot bewray it. He will see many abominations, that though he would, he cannot remedy. Ver.25: Fear of man and of the land's danger, hath brought many into a snare, to run from the Lord to an arm of flesh, but he that trusts in the Lord shall be safe. Ver.27: Here is the deadly enmity between the two seeds, they cannot reconcile well. See ver.10 and chap. xxi.3. It is no wonder the godly abominate such men who are God's enemies and the land's plague.
Chap. xxx.11, 14 describes the malignant party, who make nothing of the godly magistrates or their mother church and land, but curse, malign, oppose as much as they could, and are oppressors, monstrous tyrants, mankind beasts, or beastly men. The subject of their cruelty is the godly afflicted man. They eat up all and will not leave the bones, as the prophet complains, "I lie among men whose teeth are as spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword." And then, ver.12, 13, 20 describe our enemies, the invaders. They think themselves godly and righteous, yet are not purged from their filthiness. They are given up to strong delusions to believe lies, and there is no lie greater than this, that they are a godly party in a godly cause and way. They wipe their mouth after all their bloodshed, and say, I have done no evil. They wash their hands, as Pilate, as if they were free of the blood of these just men, whose souls cry under the altar. Ver.21-23: It is a burden to the world and a plague to mankind, when servants, unworthy men, and persons unfit for high places are set in authority, and when wicked men have their desire of plenty and honour, (chap. xix.10.) and when an odious woman, or men of hateful vicious dispositions, come to preferment and are espoused by a state, -- nought they were while alone, but worse now when they have crept into the bed and bosom of the state; her roots were nought before, but now she is planted in rank mould, and will shoot forth her unsavoury branches and blossoms, -- and when handmaids, kept in a servile estate because of their disposition and quality, get their masters ushered out, and they become heirs, at least possessors of the inheritance or trust. Ver.33 shows how necessarily war and contention follow upon unnecessary provocations by word or deed, such as we have given many to England, though indeed they have given moe.(405) And lastly, chap. xxxi.20, 26, 31 shows how word and work should go together, and men should be esteemed and praised according to their works and fruit of their hands.