[On top margin: Edward Taylor ex dono Athoris 2 April 1703.]
Shewed in a
Preached at the
Funeral of the Honourable Col.
JOHN PYNCHON ESQ.
Who Deceased January
the 17th. 1702/3.
By SOLOMON STODDARD,
Pastor of Northampton.
BOSTON, N. E. Printed by B. Green, and J. Allen. Sold by Benjamin Eliot, under the Town-House.
Part of v. 1st. with the 2d. & 3d. Verses.
The Lord, the Lord of Hosts doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah, The Mighty man, and the man of War, the Judge, and the Prophet, and the Prudent, and the Ancient, the Captain of Fifty, and the Honorable man, and the Counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the Eloquent Orator.
The sins of the professing people of God do provoke him to anger; men are wont to make many pretences and excuses, and by them they mitigate the terror of their consciences: but this does not prevent the displeasure of God: and if God be angry with his people, it will before it be long, break out upon them: if there be prosperity at present, yet in a little time changes shall pass over them. Thus it was with the people of Judah, they were at present in great prosperity: Isaiah 2:7. Their land is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures, their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots. But they carried themselves very badly: we have an account in general, Chapter 3, v. 8, 9. Their tongue, and their doings are against the Lord to provoke the eyes of his glory, the show of their countenance doth witness against them, and they declare their sin as Sodom, and hide it not. In particular they were guilty of idolatry, Chapter 2: v. 8. Their land is full of idols, they worship the work of their own hands: and are of horrible pride, Chapter 3, v. 16. The daughters of Sion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks, and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet. And accordingly God is threatening of them, with dreadful judgments, v. 1., with famine and drought, v. 2, 3, with the removal of usefull men.
For the understanding of the words, consider;
- 1. Who he would take away? A. In general useful men: such as in their several capacities were very serviceable and profitable to the commonwealth; men that were an honor to the land, and capable to advance and promote the welfare of it. Some by reason of their enjoyments, as the mighty men: some by reason of their qualifications, as the prudent, the artificer, and the orator: some by reason of the offices and stations that they were in, in the commonwealth, as the judge, the prophet, the counselor, etc.
- 2. How does he threaten to take them away? A. As a judgment on the public society. There might be anger against some of them: some of them might be taken away in anger against themselves, as Saul: God took him away in his wrath, Hosea 13: 11. Some of them may be taken away in mercy to themselves: they are taken away from the evil to come, Isaiah 57: 1. But here it is threatened as a public calamity, that which enfeebles the commonwealth, and exposes them to sorrow: God may take them away by mortality, in battle, by captivity: he does not say that he will take them away all such, but many of them.
There is many times a great frown in God’s taking away those that are eminently useful.
God has many ways to punish a disobedient people; sometimes he punishes them by wars, by sickness, by inundations, by earthquakes, by fire, by blastings, by a spirit of division; this is one among the rest, by the death of useful men. There may be a great frown in God’s taking away such young men, as were hopeful to be men for public service; as when he took away Jeroboam’s son: so especially when he takes away such as were men of service: this is not always a frown, for if God have no controversy with his people, yet such must die according to the course of Nature; but, ordinarily it is a frown. Useful and serviceable men are a public blessing; and it is a public frown when God removes them: as God frowns upon a people when he takes away their health, their peace, their wealth; so he does likewise when he takes away those that were a means to preserve their spiritual and outward prosperity. Men that are eminently useful are the pillars of the Church and the commonwealth, and it is a great weakness to the society when such are removed. God smiles upon a people, when he raises up serviceable men, and he frowns upon them, when he snatches such away. Many times it is a token of great anger when such men are removed, and they feel the bitter effects thereof many years after; when their lives are lost, the public society has a great loss; much of the prosperity of a people is buried in the graves of useful men. Hezekiah’s death and Josiah’s gave a deadly wound to the people of Judah, and was a matter of great mourning, 2 Chronicles, 35: 25. Jeremiah lamented for Josiah.
- Reason 1. Because useful men are an honor to the people. Useful men are upon that account honorable. Their usefulnes does command reputation: they deserve respect and a good report upon that account. 1 Samuel, 9: 16. He is an honorable man. 2 Kings, 5: 1. He was honorable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria. And their honorableness does reflect honor upon the people that they belong unto. As vile base men are a reproach and disgrace to the people that they belong unto, men are ashamed of them; so honorable and useful men are an honor to the place. It was an honor to the people of Israel, that there were so many worthies in the land in the days of David. It is a commendation of a people in other countries: useful men are an honor to all that are related to them. An useful man is an honor to his parents, to his children, to his wife, to the place of his nativity, to the place where he lives. Honorable men make the place renowned where they dwell. It is an honor to a people to have choice men for magistrates, and for ministers; it raises the estimation of a people in the eyes of the world. Zechariah, 10:4. Out of him came forth the corner, out of him the nail, out of him the battle-bow, out of him the oppressor together’, that is, such as suppress and subdue their enemies. Psalms, 87: 5. Of Sion it shall be said, this and that man was born in her. And when such men are removed the honor of a people is diminished; their estimation and renown does decay and wither away: their honor will sink because the foundation of it is taken away; those that support it are removed: so that they lose much of that fame and respect that they had.
- Reason 2. Because such men have a great interest in the affection of others, useful men discover love: their qualifications are lovely, and their services draws forth love; the consciences of other men do give a testimony of their conscience, and their hearts are captivated thereby. Partly from the testimony of their conscience, and partly from a sense of their own benefit, they have a love to such men, and cannot but prize them; they love to see them, and love to converse with them. Job, 29: 11, 12. When the ear heard me then it blessed me, and when the eye saw she it gave witness unto me, because I delivered the poor that cried, the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. 1 Samuel, 18: 16. All Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them. And because they have an affection to them, it is an affliction to have them taken away. People are smitten with grief and sorrow at the death of such persons, their hearts are wounded, their joy is turned into sorrow, it makes them go with heavy hearts. 2 Samuel, 1: 17. And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son.
- Reason 3. Because such men do procure a great deal of good and prevent a great deal of calamity. They are profitable to the societies that they did belong to. So was Jehoiada, 2 Chronicles, 24: 16. They buried him in the city of David among the kings, because he had done good in Israel, both towards God, and towards his house. When such men are dead people many times want their service, and so are exposed to a great deal of calamity, which by their presence might have been prevented.
- 1. Some by their justice do a great deal of good. They are careful to deliver them that are innocent. Many men would make a prey of others, and under the pretenses of law devour the estates of other men, but while those that are in authority are men of justice, they will give no countenance to such things. Job, 29: 15, 16, 17. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame, I was a father to the poor, and the cause that I knew not I searched out; and I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth. So did David, 2 Samuel, 8: 15. David executed judgment and justice to all his people: So Josiah, Jeremiah, 22: 15. Did not thy father do judgment and justice. Such men will not be overruled by affection, bribed by men’s money, or frighted with their greatness. Job, 31: 34. Did I fear a great multitude, or did the contempt of families terrify me, that I kept silence and went not out of the door. But after such men are dead, sometimes instead of the fir tree comes up the thorn, and instead of the myrtle tree comes up the briar; men get into places of power, that prevent judgment, that encourage those that are wicked. Isaiah, 1: 22, 23. Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water, thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves, everyone loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards, they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.
- 2. Some also by their skill, wisdom and experience do a great deal of good. Some are well skilled in the law and able to direct in difficult cases; they are men of ability to discern between right and wrong, to see through cases that have entanglements and perplexity in them. This was that, that he prayed for, 1 Kings, 3: 9, Give thy servant an understanding heart, to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad. They are men of prudence to find out proper means to advance the public good; to find out expedients in difficult cases, and to discern what is to be done, to advance religion, to prevent miscarriages, to advance peace, and compose differences, 2 Chronicles, 12: 32. By their experience they are fitted to take right methods in doubtful cases. But many times when such men are dead, such may arise after them, as are ignorant and unskillful, rash and unexperienced men, who by their precipitate counsel expose a land to much misery. So the young men that were bred with Rehoboam gave foolish counsel, and laid a foundation of lasting sorrow to Israel by their rashness, they opened a gap that let in a flood of misery. 1 Kings, 12: 10, 11.
- 3. Some by their valor. Leading men that have been men of valor, have done mighty service to their country: they have been instruments under God to save it out of the hands of enemies; and to enlarge the dominion of the country. Valor enables men to look dangers in the face; makes them willing to run the hazard of their lives. Judges, 12:3. I put my life in my hand. They are instruments to free the land from servitude and bondage; a valiant leader animates soldiers, his courage begets courage in others, and damps and discourages enemies, such leaders are a terror to enemies. Genesis, 49: 9. Judah is a lion whelp, from the prey, my son thou art gone up; he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion, who shall rouse him up? In this way Barak and Gideon and Saul and David did abundance of good in their generations, they vanquished the enemies of Israel: From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan turned not back, and the sword of Saul returned not empty, 2 Samuel, 1: 22. But many times when such men are dead, for want of others of the same spirit, people are harassed and brought under hatches.
- 4. Some by their example also do much good. They are exemplary in religion, diligently practicing all the rules of it. So David was a diligent worshipper of God; so was Job, Job, 1:1. One that feared God; they are examples of sobriety, of humility, of peaceableness, of chastity and charity; and hereby others are led on to carry themselves well, many will follow the examples of principal men, and out of a respect to them, comply with their ways, and so get good habits. But sometimes when such men are dead, there arise others in their room, that give bad examples, don’t much countenance religion, are pot companions, men of rude behavior, tainted with corrupt practices, these examples will poison other men, and infect a country, others will quickly learn such ways, Proverbs 29: 12. If a ruler hearken to lies, all his servants are wicked.
- 5. Some by their honorableness also do abundance of good. They are men well respected, and upon that account capable to do abundance of service; their proposals are much hearkened to by those that are in supreme authority in the country. If they make a motion for the good of the places where they live, they are readily hearkened unto, their judgment and fidelity is relied on; they can do a man a kindness with their word. The prophet inquires of the woman of Shunam, whether she would be spoken for to the king or to the captain of the host, 2 Kings, 4: 13. He could have done her a kindness in that way. They can have access to those in chief authority, when others cannot; their word will be regarded, when the word of others will not. So being honorable, they bear much sway among the people. In many cases their judgment is a law, they can easily crush evil motions, and put a stop to corrupt and factious designs; they can persuade and draw people to that which is for their good. Others will be willing to please, will be fearful of displeasing, will have an high opinion of their judgment. 2 Samuel, 3: 36. Whatsoever the king did pleased the people; but many times when such are dead, others that come after have no such influence; their advice and proposals will not bear sway: others will slight them and thwart them. They that dared not to speak a word in the days of Solomon, grew troublesome after he was dead, i Kings, 12: 3, 4.
It is a great mercy when God raiseth up serviceable men among his people. Sometimes it is otherwise among the people of God. Isaiah, 51: 18. There is none to guide her among the sons which she hath brought forth, neither is there any that taketh her by the hand, of all the sons which she hath brought up. But it is a great mercy when he raises up serviceable men: Amos, 2: 11. I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Isaiah, 1: 26. I will restore your judges as at the first, and thy counselors as at the beginning. Jeremiah, 3:15: I will give them pastors after my own heart, that shall feed them with knowledge and understanding. This greatly helps toward the welfare of a people: It is God’s work to raise up serviceable men: he gives them their qualifications, natural and acquired; he gives them those enjoyments that fit them for public place; he makes them conscientious, religious and Godly men, and he bestows actual advancement on them; he makes them to find favor that they may be put in place. And when he does thus, he greatly favors a people, for this makes way for the outward prosperity of a people, that they may live quietly and peaceably; and this makes way for their spiritual prosperity, that they may be a religious, Godly and well carriaged people; it is a special means to make a people happy.
- 1. This contributes more to the welfare of a people, than for their rulers to know their duty. If rulers be not fitted to be serviceable, all things will run to ruin though they know their duty; if they know they should be just, and give good examples, and seek the public welfare, yet they may lie in the woeful neglect of it. Some men’s knowledge does but make them more capable to do mischief: knowing men if they be not well disposed, will do abundantly more harm than good; if they be like toads, it will be little advantage that they have got pearls in their heads; it had been well for a country if some men had been born fools: David was more afraid of Ahithophel than of others. 2 Samuel, 15:31. O Lord, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.
- 2. This contributes a great deal more than good laws. It is a great part of the care of rulers to make good laws: good laws in civil, and so in criminal cases, have their influence into the welfare of the country. That was one thing wherein the Children of Israel were more happy than other people; they had good laws prescribed unto them. What nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous, as all this law that I set before you this day? Deuteronomy, 4: 8. But good laws will signify little, if the men that are at the helm, be not fitted for service. Laws are like a sword, which if it be kept in a scabbard will do no execution. The Children of Israel had very good laws, laws given them by God himself, yet many times were very miserable. Laws are like physic, which if it be not administered, or duly administered, does no service. Laws as written may do a little good, but as executed do far more. The execution of the law does rectify miscarriages past, and prevent miscarriages for the time to come. But good laws will be as a nose of wax, as the Papists say of the Scripture, if Joel and Abiah have the management of them. 1 Samuel, 8:3. They followed after lucre, took bribes, and perverted judgment.
- 3. This will contribute more than learned education. Several young ones in the country have liberal education, and are furnished with learning, whereby they are more enabled to get skill in the law, and to discover the fraud in false pleas: but this will not make the country happy, if they have not a spirit to do service. Men of learned education through other unfitnesses may expose a people to great calamity. Learned education is an help both to civility and piety, but it cannot effect either. Some learned men had need to learn somewhat more, before ever they will do any great matter, in order to the happiness of the land. The Scribes and Pharisees, had learned educations, yet helped forward the ruin of the Jews. Men that are brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, have need (as Paul) to see a light from heaven.
Such men as are useful and serviceable should not be despised. There is an evil spirit prevailing in some, and they are ready under one pretence or another to despise useful men: as Michal despised David in her heart. There be many that honor them, yet there be others that undervalue them. It is the spirit of men of Belial to despise such, i Samuel, 10:27. But if men be serviceable men, they are great blessings, and it is a frown when God removes them, and those men are blameworthy that do despise them, whatever notion they do it under.
- 1. Some do it under a notion, that they have such and such infirmities. But if we grant that they have, (though some men count those things faults and infirmities that are none;) yet they may not be despised. Humanum est errare, where shall we find men without infirmities? If David acted rashly in the matter of Mephibosheth, must he be despised? If Jehoshaphat was overseen in joining with Ahab, must he be despised? If Hezekiah’s heart were lifted up when the ambassadors came from Babylon, must he be despised? If it were a precipitate thing for Josiah to take the field against the King of Egypt, must he be despised? Men at the best are but men compassed about with infirmities. God honors men though they have infirmities. 2 Chronicles, 19:3. Nevertheless there are good things found in thee. God hears the prayer of his people, though they have infirmities. James, 5:17. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. Their infirmities are a dishonor unto them, but they are to be honored notwithstanding their infirmities: infirmities are blemishes, but yet they may be praiseworthy for all them.
- 2. Some do it under a notion that we have plenty of men fit for choice service. That we want rather offices for men than men for offices: the country is full of able men. It is very fit that we should take notice of what there is of that nature with thankfulness. But indeed many things must meet together to make men meet for some offices. He that may do God and his country good service, in a lower station, may be altogether unfit for an higher station. The country runs low enough in men. We have nothing to boast of but have cause to be humbled before God, that there be so few every way accomplished for public service; it is a small matter in such a country as this to make a profession of religion. Some that carry pretty well are not like them that went before them. 2 Kings, 14: 3. He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not like David his father. When the foundation of the Second Temple was laid, the young men rejoiced, but the old men wept.
- 3. Some do it under a notion that they might have been more serviceable. It is acknowledged that they do a pretty deal of service, but men despise them because they had opportunity and advantage to have done more. But if the thing be true, yet they are to be honored on the account of what they have done. If they had more zeal and industry and of a public spirit, it had been better; yet possibly they have been great blessings; if through mistake they did not rectify some abuses, if temptation did not prevail with them, to be more indulgent than they should, yet they are not to be despised. Where is the man that might not have done more good, than he has done? Neither Asa’s, nor Jehoshaphat’s, and Hezekiah’s reformation were to perfect as Josiah’s, yet they were men greatly to be honored.
- 4. Some do it under a notion that they were ancient. They were grown old, and had less activity than before, that their judgment and memory began to fail them. But we find in Scripture the ancient and the honorable joined together, Isaiah, 9: 15. Ancient men are to be honored on account of what they have done. The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness, Proverbs, 16: 21. Ancient men are to be honored on account of their prudence and experience; the prudent and the ancient are joined together in the text. Job, 12: 12. With the ancient is wisdom. The ancient men that stood before Solomon, might be thought timorous and inclining to dotage by Rehoboam, but it would have been well for him, if he had followed their advice; they were fitter to give counsel that he was to receive it.
That God is removing serviceable men from us. We have cause to look upon this a great frown from God: beside several others that God has taken away in former times, he has more lately removed his servant danforth, and since that his servant stoughton, and now another honorable man is taken away: a great man is fallen this day in our Israel; and it becomes us to mourn and lament under this dispensation.
- 1. Observe, that God has removed one that has been a long while serviceable; that has been improved about public service for above fifty years: he has been serviceable unto the country in general, and in special among ourselves. He hath had the principal management of our military affairs, and our civil affairs; and labored much in the settling of most of our plantations, has managed things with industry, prudence and moderation. He hath been careful in time of war, and as there has been occasion, he has been a peacemaker among us, and helpful in composing of differences: he has discountenanced rude and vicious persons, bearing his testimony against them.
- 2. It is to be feared that we shall feel the sorrowful effects of his removal a long while. Sometimes when parents die, children don’t at present feel so much the want of them, as they do afterwards. We may have occasion afterwards to remember with sorrow that we had such an one among us. Though we have other useful men, yet there may arise such cases wherein there may be great need of his conduct and help. He was honorable and had great influence upon men in authority abroad, and upon the people at home, and had more experience by far, than any other among us.
- 3. This comes in conjunction with other sorrows. We are under an expectation of trouble from enemies; and are under the heavy hand of God, in the diseases that prevail in the land. The afflictions of our principal town are very great, many families are mourning over their dead. God is pleading his controversy with us in that terrible mortality, and in such a day as this, God has added this affliction to aggravate our sorrow; if it had come alone, it had been heavy, but now we have one wave and billow upon another. Our afflictions are like Job’s, one comes upon the neck of another. There was great anger before, but God sees cause to make this addition to it. Our cup was bitter before, this makes it more bitter: if it had come in a time of prosperity, it had been sad, but being in a time of adversity, it is more sad. It is the manner of God many times to comfort his people in their affliction, but he is adding to the grief of them that were wounded before.
To such of you as are in power, or may upon this occasion be put in power, carry so that we may not have so much cause to lament this dispensation. The more serviceable you are in your places, the less there will be of a frown in the removal of this honorable person. If you answer the expectation of God and man from you, that will wonderfully moderate our grief. You commend him for being serviceable, be you so too; you say he was a father to the country, be you so too; you are capable to do a great deal of service, do so, and that will be like clear shining after rain.
Particularly I entreat you,
- 1. That in all causes that come before you, you would act in the fear of God. You must not act either with a preposterous zeal, or with a spirit of sinful indulgence. You must have a great care that you do not condemn the righteous, or justify the wicked; such proceedings are both of them alike abominable unto God: in all controversies between man and man, you must act impartially: you may not out of love, or pity, or anger be influenced in giving judgment. If you have a mind to befriend men, befriend them in other ways; but in judgment have no respect of persons; it is proverbial That a friend in the court is better than a penny in the purse; but you must be friends to no man any further than his cause requireth; you must have a care that you do not countenance any malicious prosecution, but act in the fear of God. 2 Chronicles, 19: 6. He said to the judges, take heed what you do, for you judge, not for men, but for the Lord: v. 7, Let the fear of God be upon you; take heed and do it, v. 9. Thus shall you do in the fear of God faithfully, and with a perfect heart, 2 Samuel, 23: 5. He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. You must so act, that when men hear what judgment you give, they may not do as those, Luke, 23: 48. They smote their breasts and returned; but as it was with the people, 1 Kings, 3: 28. They feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment.
- 2. That you be good examples to the people. They who are to reclaim others from evil, should themselves carry well: if you be bad examples, you will draw on others to do the like; others will be bold from your example. Your practices will be presidential, and will be used as an argument either to justify or excuse evil. With what face can you punish evil in others, and practice it yourselves. Leading men should be sure to lead well. If you carry holily and regularly, you will bring good carriages into request: that will make men to love such carriages, that will make men to expect no favor if they carry ill. Ministers must be examples, 1 Peter, 5: 3. And so must magistrates too; so was Hezekiah and Josiah, and others. Be examples of religion, be examples of fair honest dealing, of sobriety, of chastity, and peaceableness, and all other virtuous carriages. Bad carriages in rulers are a greater reproach than in other men, and of more pernicious consequence; good men are grieved and bad men are hardened thereby; though they do punish others for their miscarriages, they do more for the increase, than they do for the suppression of sin; they are but pretended friends to holiness, for they are real enemies to it.
- 2. That you do nothing to promote any man of vicious conversation. The principal power of promoting men to place of command lies with others; but you may have a considerable influence by information and request. But it is surely an ill office to help forward the promotion of any vicious person, either to military office, or to civil power. It is a great wrong to any people to have vicious men set over them; the setting up of vicious men in places of power, opens a door to abundance of iniquity; they will mightily increase the degeneracy of the land. Let men learn to govern themselves, before they be set to govern others: honor is not seemly for a fool. Such men have more need to be ruled than to rule. Such men have no need to be encouraged, but to be discountenanced; holy and well carriaged men are more like to do service. If men have wit and understanding, yet they will do more hurt than good, if they be vicious: their wit is an argument against their promotion, not for it; for the more witty, the more mischievous. Labor, to promote holy men, Psalms, 101: 6. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me; he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.