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Trembling for the Ark of God

A Sermon by Edmund Calamy.

Preached in the parish church of Aldermansbury, London, 28th December, 1662.

The following is a sermon by Rev. Edmund Calamy, entitled "Trembling for the Ark of God." It is taken from the book, "Sermons of the Great Ejection."

Edmund Calamy (1600-1666) was a strong opponent of the Arminian faction in the Church of England headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, which was attempting to undo the Reformation by bringing back liturgy, vestments and other unscriptural things into church services. Calamy was a convinced presbyterian, and pastor of the parish church in Aldermansbury. He was one of the most popular preachers in London and a compassionate supporter of persecuted protestants in Ireland.

In 1643 Calamy was appointed by the House of Lords to the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, which Assembly spent three years in composing the Westminster Standards : the Confession of Faith, the Shorter and Larger Catechisms, the Form of Presbyterial Church-Government and the Directory for the Public Worship of God. At the start of their work the Assembly of Divines took the great vow to God known as the Solemn League and Covenant. This Covenant was also sworn by members of the Houses of Lords and Commons, and after them, Knights, Burgesses, officers and soldiers of the army, and other nobles, church ministers and common citizens in the three kingdoms of England (which also governed Wales), Scotland and Ireland. It was also sworn by the King.

Briefly, the Solemn League and Covenant was comprised of six articles. In the first, the Covenanters "with ... hands lifted up to the most High GOD" swore to God, in their "several places and callings" in the state and the church, to preserve the reformed religion in the Church of Scotland (which had thus far been reformed further than in other kingdoms in the British Isles), and to promote the reformation throughout the British Isles. In the second, they covenanted to work toward "the extirpation [i.e., uprooting] of Popery, Prelacy ..., superstition, heresy, schism, profaneness, and whatsoever be found to be contrary to sound doctrine and the power of godliness" in the three kingdoms. In the third through sixth, they covenanted to preserve the rights and privileges of both Houses of Parliament; to defend the King's person and authority; to preserve the true religion and national peace in exposing and bringing to trial those who sought to overturn them; to maintain the unity of the three kingdoms; and to assist and defend all who entered into this Solemn League and Covenant against all opposition.

The religious purpose of the Covenanters was to achieve "nearest conjunction and uniformity of religion, confession of faith, form of church-government, and directory for worship and catechising." It was these Standards that the Westminster Assembly, comprised as it was of the soundest leading theologians (known as "Divines") of the day, had been brought together to compose. This they endeavored to do "according to the Word of GOD, and the example of the best reformed Churches." Their overall purpose was to promote a godly, Christian peace in the British churches and kingdoms, "that we, and our posterity after us, may, as bretheren, live in faith and love, and the Lord may delight to dwell in the midst of us."

Typical of presbyterians Rev. Calamy opposed the execution of king Charles I. by the army in 1648. Some years later when the Protector, Oliver Cromwell, desired to make himself king, he sent for Calamy and other leading reformed theologians in London in order to hear their advice. Calamy said that he could prove to the Protector that it was unlawful and impractical that one man should be governor and king of the country. Cromwell replied that in a time of great danger and upheaval, the safety of the nation was the supreme law. But he asked, "Pray, Mr. Calamy, why is it impractical?" Calamy replied, "Oh, it is against the voice of the nation; there will be nine in ten against you." Cromwell answered, "Very well, but if I should disarm the nine, and put the sword in the hand of the tenth, would that not do the business?" After Cromwell's death, Calamy was instrumental in bringing his son Charles II. to the throne of the United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland in 1660.

Charles II, however, favoured Archbishop Laud and the prelatic party. In two years, the anti-Puritan, anti-Covenanter factions in church and state had thrown down the Solemn League and Covenant. In 1662, the King passed the Act of Conformity in order to enforce the use of Laud's Book of Common Prayer in the Church of England, with all its liturgy, and various practices inherited from Romanism, and to enforce the rule of the Bishops in the Church. The Nonconformists in England lost their pastorates and their livings, and were subjected to hardship and persecution. In Scotland and Ireland similar laws were passed, with similar and more disasterous effects for the"Covenanted Work of Reformation."

Edmund Calamy was a firm Covenanter, and as such he was among those who refused to conform to the Act of Conformity. He would rather suffer loss and persecution than be forced to use the Book of Common Prayer and to do all those unscriptural things commanded to be done in Archbishop Laud's Church of England. His reasons were as follows. Firstly, Calamy understood that the Act of Conformity was an anti-Christ usurpation of state law over church affairs, which usurpation is sometimes called Erastianism. Secondly, he understood that the prayer-book with its liturgy, and the other unscriptural innovations in the public worship of God which the Laudensian party endorsed, together with their Arminianism, were systematically undoing the work of reformation in doctrine, worship, discipine and practice, and were taking the Church of England back towards Rome.

Shortly after the passing of the Act of Conformity, Calamy attended a worship service in his former church of Aldermansbury, not as minister but as a member of the congregation. He knew that his congregation was of the same mind as himself and he wanted to support them by being present with them. On that occasion, the minister whom the bishop had been installed in his place failed to appear, and the people besought Calamy to preach. He consented, and preached extemporarily, without preparation. The sermon was recorded by a note-taker, and is that which is provided for you to read below. For this breach of the 1662 Act of Conformity, Rev. Calamy was put in prison. After an appeal was made to the King, however, he was released.

And when he came, lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside, watching; for his heart trembled for the ark of God. (1 Samuel 4:13)

T HAT you may the better understand these words, you must know that whatsoever God threatened against old Eli, in the second and third chapters, because he did not restrain his wicked sons from their lewd courses, is here executed in this chapter. Therefore we read there were four thousand Israelites slain by the Philistines. The elders of Israel met together to consult how to repair this great loss; they confess it was the Lord that had smitten them. For they say, 'Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us today before the Philistines?' And they conclude, the way to repair this their loss was to fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh, and carry it into the battle. Whereupon they appointed Hophni and Phinehas to fetch it, for they imagined that the presence of the ark would save them from ruin.

But herein, they were miserably mistaken. For this judgement came, not because the ark was not in the camp, but because their sin was in the camp. The ark of the covenant would not preserve those that had broken covenant with God. And therefore there was a great slaughter of the Israelites; thirty thousand men were slain, Hophni and Phinehas were also slain, and the ark itself was taken prisoner. But what was old Eli doing? He was ninety and eight years old, and was not able to go to the battle, but sits upon a seat by the wayside near the battle; and there he sits, thinking what shall become of the ark. 'And lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside, watching; for his heart trembled for the ark of God', for fear lest the ark should be taken. He was not troubled what should become of his two sons, or what should become of the people of Israel, but what should become of the ark of God.

In the words of the text are three parts:

1. Old Eli's concern for the ark,
2. Old Eli's trembling for fear of the ark,
3. Old Eli's preferring the safety of the ark before the safety of his two sons, wife and children.

'He sat upon a seat by the wayside watching; for his heart trembled for the ark of God'. But what was the ark of God? Why should old Eli's heart tremble for fear of the ark?

I answer, this ark was the holiest of all the things of God; it was so holy that it made every place holy where it came. 'And Solomon brought up the daughter of Pharaoh, out of the city of David, into the house that he had built for her, for he said, My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because the places are holy whereunto the ark of the Lord hath come,' 2 Chronicles 8:11. This ark was the dwelling-place of God, it was the habitation of God. 'The Lord reigneth. ... He sitteth between the cherubims,' Psalm 99:1. Now these cherubins were placed over the ark; it was the speaking place of God, He met his people there, and there He gave and answer to them. 'And thou shalt put the mercy-seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee: and there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel,' Exodus 25:21,22. This ark was God's foot-stool, and all the people of God worship Him before the foot-stool of God. 'Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at His foot-stool, for He is holy,' Psalm 99:5. The ark was also the glory and the strength of Israel. 'And he delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy's hand,' Psalm 78:61. It was the terror of the enemies of God, and therefore when the ark came into the battle, the Philistines were afraid, and said 'Woe unto us, for God is come into the camp.' And indeed this ark was called Jehovah. 'And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said, "Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered:" and when it rested, he said, "Return , O Lord, unto the many thousands of Israel",' Numbers 10:35. In a word, the ark was a pledge and visible sign of God's gracious presence with his people. As long as the ark was safe, they were safe; and when the ark was with them, then God's presence was with them. But when the ark was gone, God was gone — His comforting presence, His protecting presence, and His preserving presence.

It is therefore no wonder that this good old man sat watching here for fear of the ark. I call him good old man, although many are of the opinion that he was not good, because he suffered his sons to be wicked; and indeed his fault was great. But surely he was a good man, and I have two reasons to prove it. First, in that he took the punishment of his iniquity so patiently: 'It is the Lord: let Him do what seemeth Him good.' And secondly, he was a good man, as his care for the ark shows: 'He sat trembling for the ark.'

Now the ark was a type of three things:

First, it was a type of Jesus Christ; for as God spake from the ark, so God speaks to us by Christ.

Secondly, it was a type of the ordinances of Christ; for as God did communicate Himself by the ark, so God by His ordinances communicates His counsels, comforts, and grace unto his people. Thus I have showed you what the ark was.

I shall gather two observations from the words of the text:

I. When the ark of God is in danger of being lost, the people of God have thoughtful heads and trembling hearts.

II. A true child of God is more troubled, and more anxious what shall become of the ark, than what shall become of wife and children or estate.

I shall begin with the first doctrine, namely, that when the ark of God is in danger of being lost, the people of God have thoughtful heads and trembling hearts. Or, if I may put this doctrine in a gospel dress, take it thus: when the gospel is in danger of being lost, when gospel-ordinances and gospel-ministers are in danger of being lost, then the people of God have trembling heads, and concerned and anxious hearts about it.

Mark what I say. I say not when the ark is lost; for that was death to old Eli, that broke his neck, and it cost the life of Eli's daughter-in-law. When the ark of God was taken, she took no comfort in her child; though a man child, she regarded it not. For 'the glory is departed from Israel, the ark of God is taken'.

I say not when the ark of God is lost; but I say when it is in danger of being lost. When the gospel is in danger, the ministers of the gospel in danger, and the ordinances in danger of being lost, then the people of God have thoughtful heads and anxious hearts. When God threatened the Israelites that He would not go with them, they were troubled for the loss of God's presence, and would not put on their ornaments. 'I will not go up in the midst of thee, for thou art a stiff-necked people, lest I consume thee in the way. And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned, and no man did put on him his ornaments,' Exodus 33:3,4. 'And it came to pass while the ark abode in Kirjath-jearim, that the time was long, for it was twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord,' 1 Samuel 7:2, that is after the presence of God, speaking from the ark. In 2 Samuel 11:10,11 David would have had Uriah to go down to his house and make merry; but Uriah said unto David, 'The ark, and Israel, and Judah abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my Lord, are encamped in the open fields: shall I then go into mine house to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing.' In 1 Kings 19:10 Elijah says, 'I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts, for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life to take it away'. Thus you see when the ark is in danger, the people of God mourn and are sorrowful.

There are four reasons why the people of God are so much troubled when the ark of God is in danger.

1.Because of the great love they bear to the ark of God. As 'the Lord loveth the gates of Sion, more than all the dwellings of Jacob,' Psalm 87:2, so the people of God love the ordinances of God, and the faithful ministers of Christ. 'Lord I have loved the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thine honour dwelleth'. Psalm 26:8. 'One thing have I desired of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple,' Psalm 27:4. Now love stirs up the affections, as young Croesus who, though he were dumb, yet seeing his father likely to be killed, cried out,' Do not kill my father.' Such is the love of the saints of God to the ark, that they cannot be silent until the Lord make 'the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth,' Isaiah 62:1.

2. The people of God are troubled when the ark is in dangerbecause of the personal interest they have in the ark of God.

3. The people of God are much troubled when the ark is in danger,because of the mischiefs that come upon a nation when the ark of God is lost. Woe be to that nation when the ark is gone! The heathen Greeks had the image of Apollo, and they conceived that as long as that image was preserved among them they could never be worsted, but must be preserved. The Romans had a buckler, concerning which they had a tradition, that as long as that buckler was preserved, Rome could not be taken. I will give a hint of what happens when the ark of God is lost.

When the ark of God is taken, 'the ways of Zion mourn, and none come to the solemn feasts,' Lamentations 1:4. This was the complaint of the church and matter of sadness.

When the ark of God is taken, the ministers of Christ are driven into corners. This is matter of heart-trembling.

When the ark of God is taken, the souls of many are in danger. When the gospel is gone, your souls are in hazard. There is cause of sadness.

When the ark of God is taken, the enemies of God blaspheme, and are ready to say, 'Where is your God?' Then do the enemies of God triumph. 'As with a sword in my bones mine enemies reproach me: while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?' Psalm 42:10.

When the ark of God is taken, Jesus Christ is trampled under foot, and the ordinances of God defiled and trampled on; and then blasphemy and atheism come in like an armed man.

4. The people of God must needs tremble when the ark is in danger,because they share the responsibility for the losing of the ark. It was this which made old Eli so much troubled, because he knew it was for his sin that God suffered the ark to be taken. He knew that his own guilt in not punishing his two sons, was one cause of that great slaughter the people of Israel met with; and that made him tremble. There is no person here in this congregation, but his heart will tell him that he has contributed something towards the loss of the ark. None of us is so holy but our consciences must accuse us. We have done something that might cause God to take the ark from us, and therefore Mr Bradford, that blessed martyr, said in his prayer, 'Lord it was my unthankfulness for the gospel, that brought in popery in Queen Mary's days; and my unfruitfulness under the gospel that was the cause of the untimely death of King Edward the Sixth'. Again, those that fled in Queen Mary's days sadly complained that they were the cause of God's taking away the gospel from England. O beloved, it is for your sin and my sin that the ark of God is in danger; and therefore the Lord gives us trembling and burdened hearts as to what shall become of the ark.

I come now to the application.

Use 1.
If it is the mark of a true child of God to be concerned when the ark of God is in danger, and to have such a trembling heart for fear of the ark, then this is a certain sign there are but few that are the children of God in truth. O where is the man, and where is the woman, that like old Eli sits watching and trembling for fear of the ark? And the reasons for watching and trembling are these:

First,the many sins in this nation. For let me tell you, there is not one sin for which God ever took away the ark from any people, but it is to be found in England. Did the church of Ephesus lose the candlestick, because they had lost their first love? And have not we lost our first love to the gospel and to the ordinances? And did the church of Laodicea lose the candlestick, because of lukewarmness? And are not we lukewarm? Did the people of Israel, as here in the text, lose the ark, because they abhorred the offerings of God? And do you not so? Are not the sins of Israel amongst us? And the sins of Germany, and the sins of all other nations, about us. And is there any man here before God this day, in this congregation, who can consider the great unthankfulness of this nation, and the great profaneness and wickedness of this nation, and not conclude that the ark is in danger, and that God may justly take the ark from us?

I might tell you of the drunkenness, adultery, covetousness, injustice, uncharitableness, and such like sins, that abound among us. I might tell you of sanctuary sins, profanation of sabbath and sacraments, our unthankfulness, and unfruitfulness, and unworthy walking under the gospel. And you of this place, God may very well take the ark from you; and indeed it was out of the great interest I had in you (the which while I live, I shall never own), and from that great affection and respect I had to you, that I would not send you home this day without a sermon, and let you go without a blessing. Now can any of you in this parish, and this congregation, can any of you say, God may not justly take the gospel from you?

The second reason for trembling isthe discontents and divisions of the nation. As Christ says, 'A nation divided against itself cannot stand'; but I leave these things to your consideration. I believe there is none here but will confess the ark of God is in danger of being lost. But now where are our Elis to sit watching and trembling for fear of the ark? Where is the wife of Phinehas who would not be comforted, because the ark of God was taken? Where are our Moses, our Elijahs, our Uriahs? Where are they that lay to heart the dangers of the ark? You complain of taxes, decay of trading, of this civil burden, and that civil burden, but where is the man or woman that complains of this misery, the loss of the ark? Most of you are like Gallio; 'he cared for none of these things'; if it had been a civil matter, then he would have meddled with it; but for religion, he cared not for that. Every man is troubled about mine andthine, and about civil matters; but who lays to heart, and who regards what shall become of religion? There is a strange kind of indifference and lukewarmness upon most people's spirits. So long as their trading goes on, and their civil burdens are removed, they care not what becomes of the ark. There is a text of Scripture — I shall not spend much time in opening it, but I would have you well consider it — Hosea 7:9: 'Strangers have devoured his strength and he knoweth it not; yea grey hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not'. Shall I say grey hairs are upon the gospel? I come not hither to prophesy; I say not, the gospel is dying, but I say it has grey hairs; for you have had the gospel a hundred years and above, and therefore it is in its old age. And I dare challenge any scholar to show me an example of a nation that has enjoyed the gospel for a hundred years together. Now that grey hairs belong to a hundred years is no wonder. Well grey hairs are here and there, and yet no man lays it to heart.

Now I shall show you what a great sin it is not to be affected with the danger that the ark of God is in. Consider but three particulars:

First, it is a sign you do not love the gospel. If you had any love to it, you would be troubled more for the danger of the ark, than for any outward danger whatsoever.

Secondly, it is a sign you have no interest in the gospel, for interest would stir up your affections. It is a sign you are not concerned in the gospel, for if you were concerned it, you would be affected with it, as even it was with those that were interested in those persons that were in the lamentable fire last week; it was impossible that they should be unaffected. And so it is a sign you have no interest in God and Christ, if your hearts do not tremble for fear the ark be lost.

Thirdly, there is a curse of God pronounced against all those that do not lay to heart the affliction of Joseph. 'Woe be to them that are at ease in Sion, and trust in the mountains of Samaria ... ye that put far away the evil day... that lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches: that eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall: that chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music ... that drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph,' Amos 6:1-6. Woe be to you that enjoy your fulness of outward things, and make merry therewith, and never consider the afflictions of God's people, and the danger of the ark.

Use 2.
Let me, by way of exhortation, beseech you all whom God by a providence has so unexpectedly brought together this day to hear me (and there may be a good providence in it). I say, let me beseech you all to declare you are the people of God in deed and in truth, by following the example of old Eli, to be very concerned for the ark of God, and let me exhort you to five particulars:

First, let me persuade you to believe that the gospel is not entailed upon England; England has no Letters Patent of the gospel; the gospel is removable. God took away the ark, but the temple also. He unchurched the Jews, he unchurched the seven churches of Asia, and we know not how soon He may unchurch us. I know no warrant we have to think that we shall have the gospel another hundred years. God knows how to remove his candlestick, but not to destroy it, God often removes the church, but does not destroy it. God removed His church out of the East; the Greek churches were famous churches, but God removed them, and now the Turk overspreads that country.

Secondly, I would persuade you that England's ark is in danger of being lost, even were it only for the sins of England, those prodigious iniquities amongst us, and that strange unheard-of ingratitude that is in the land. But I will say no more of that, because I would speak nothing but what becomes a sober minister of the gospel.

Thirdly, I would persuade you, and O that I could raise you up to old Eli's practice: 'He sat watching; for his heart trembled of the ark'. He had a thoughtful head and an aching heart for the ark of God that was in great danger. That I might move you to this, consider what a sad condition we are in, if the ark is taken. What good will your estate do you? Or what good will your business do you if the gospel be gone? Wherein does England excel other places? There is more wealth in Turkey than in England, and the other heathen nations have more of the glory of the world than any Christian king has. Where is the glory of England? Is it not Christianity? Where is the glory of Christianity but the gospel? If the gospel be gone, our glory is gone. Pray, remember Eli's daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas. She hearkened not, though a man child was born, and would receive no comfort, but called his name Ichabod, for 'the glory is departed from Israel; the ark of God is taken'. O, when the glory is gone, who would desire to live? I am loth to tell you the story of Chrysostom; he was but one man, yet when he was banished from Constantinople, the people all petitioned for him, and said that they could as well lose the sun out of the firmament as lose Chrysostom from among them.

Fourthly, let me persuade you not to mourn immoderately, neither be discouraged. I would willingly speak something to comfort you before I leave you. I know not by what strange providence I came here this day, and the Lord knows when I shall speak to you again: therefore I would not send you home comfortless. O therefore mourn not as without hope, for I have four arguments to persuade me that the ark of God will not be lost, though it is in danger.

(i). Because God hath done great things already for this nation. I argue like Manoah's wife, Surely, if God had intended to destroy us, He would not have done what He has done for us. He who has done so much for us will not now forsake us. And therefore though our hearts tremble, yet let them not sink within us.

(ii). I argue from the abundance of praying people that are in this nation. There are many that night and day pray unto God that the ark may not be taken; and let me assure you, God will never forsake a praying and a reforming people. When God intends to destroy a nation, and take away the ark, He takes away the spirit of prayer; but where God gives the spirit of prayer, there God will continue the ark. You all know, that if there had been but ten good men in those five cities, God would have spared them. We have many hundreds that fear God in this nation, that do not give God rest, but night and day pray unto God for this land. And who knows but for their sakes God will spare the ark?

(iii). Another ground of comfort is that God has hitherto dealt with England, not by way of rule, but by way of prerogative. We have had sins fitted to unchurch us all the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and King James, and the godly ministers have been threatened with ruin from year to year; but God has hitherto saved England by prerogative. God has spared us because he will spare us, according to that text, 'I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious'. God will not be tied to His own rule, and who knows but God will deliver us again?

(iv). Another ground of comfort is that God is now pouring out His vials upon Antichrist, and all this shall end in the ruin of Antichrist. God is pouring forth his vials upon the throne of the beast, and all these transactions shall end in the ruin of Antichrist. Though some drops of these vials may light upon the Reformed churches, and they may smart for a while, and God may severely punish them, yet it will be but for a little while. God may scourge all the Reformed churches before these vials are fully poured out, and persecution may go through them all; the which I call drops of these vials, but the vials are intended for Antichrist. And whatever becomes of us, yet our children, and our children's children, shall see the outcome of the vials poured out upon the whore of Babylon. This I speak for your comfort.

Fifthly, I am to exhort you that you would all of you contribute your utmost endeavour to keep the ark of God from being taken. And here I shall show you what magistrates, ministers and the people should do.

I shall say but little about what magistrates should do, because I am not now to speak to them. They are to use their authority for the settling of the ark; for the ark of the covenant will be like the ark of Noah always floating upon the waters, until the magistrates settle it. Thus it was with David, 2 Samuel 6:1,2, who gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, and the heads of the tribes, the nobles, and the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel at Jerusalem with a great deal of pomp, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord into its place. O that God would encourage our nobles and magistrates that they might be concerned to settle the ark. Magistrates must not be as the Philistines; they had the ark, but what did they do with it? They set it up in the house of Dagon, but Dagon and the ark could never agree. Where false religion comes in at one door, true religion goes out at the other. You must not put the ark and Dagon together.

What must the ministers do to keep the ark from being lost? They must endeavour after holiness. The ark will never stand steady, nor prosper upon the shoulders of Hophni and Phinehas. A wicked, profane, drunken ministry will never settle the ark. It must be the sober, pious, godly ministers that must do it. How holy must they be that draw nigh to the God of holiness!

What must the people of God do, that the ark may not be lost? There are five things I shall commend unto you, and then commend you to God.

(i). You must not idolize the ark. That was the sin of the people in the text. They thought the very presence of the ark would excuse them, and keep them safe, and therefore, they carried the ark into the camp. Though they reformed not, and repented not, yet they thought the ark would save them. So there are many that think the ark will save them, though [they be] never so wicked. But nothing will secure a nation, but repentance and reformation.

(ii). Do not undervalue the ark. This was Michal's sin, 2 Samuel 6:14-23. When David danced before the ark, Michal mocked him, and despised him in her heart, 'but,' said he 'it was before the Lord, and if this be vile, I will yet be more vile.' Some men begin to say, what need have we of preaching? Will not reading prayers serve? Others say, what need we of so much preaching? Will not once a day serve? Now this is to undervalue the ark. Therefore let us say as David: If to preach the word, and to fast and pray for the nation is vile, then I will yet be more vile.

(iii). We must not pry into the ark. This was the sin of the men of Bethshemesh. 'They looked into the ark, and God smote them, and cut off fifty thousand and threescore and ten men', 1 Samuel 6:19. Be not too curious in searching where God has not discovered or revealed. For example, there are great thoughts of heart as to when God will deliver His people, and set His churches at liberty; and many men talk much of the year 1666. Some say that shall be the year in which Antichrist shall be destroyed. And there are some strange impressions upon the hearts of many learned men as to that year. Some go to the year 1669, and others pitch upon other times. But, truly, if you will have my judgement, and I am glad of this opportunity to tell you, this is to pry too much into the ark. Remember the text, 'It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power,' Acts 1:7. And thus to fasten upon any particular time, if you find you are deceived, this is the way to make you atheists, and thus afterwards you will believe nothing. Those ministers do no service, or rather ill service, to the church of God, that fix upon the times and seasons.

A Popish author says that in the year 1000 there was a general belief over the Christian world, that the day of judgement should be that year; but when they saw it did not happen, they fell to their old sinning again, and were worse than before, and believed nothing. Well God's time is the best, therefore let us not pry too much into the ark.

(iv). You must not meddle with the ark, unless you have a lawful call to meddle with it. This was the sin of Uzzah, 2 Samuel 6:6,7. The ark was in danger of falling, and he, good man, meaning no hurt, to support the ark took hold of it; but for so doing, he destroyed himself, and made a breach, and hindered the carrying home of the ark at that time.

We have had a great deal of disorder heretofore; and an abundance of well–minded people have usurped the ministerial office. They were afraid the ark was falling, and therefore they touched the ark, they laid hold on the ark; but their touching the ark had undone the ark, and themselves too. O take heed of touching the ark.

(v). If ever you would preserve the ark, then keep the covenant of the ark; keep the law which the ark preserves. The ark was a place in which the two tables of Law were kept. Keep the law, and God will keep the ark. But if you break the law, you will forfeit the ark. The ark was called the ark of the covenant. Keep covenant with God, and God will preserve the ark. But if you break the covenant of the ark, the covenant made in baptism, that covenant often renewed in the sacrament, if you break covenant, God will take away the ark.

Now interest stirs up affection, just as when a man is concerned when a friend's house is on fire. You had a lamentable and sad providence this last week, and it is not to be forgotten — how suddenly in all our feastings, God may dash all our mirth. Now consider how affected they were that had an interest in the ark. God is the haven of the children of God, the portion and inheritance of the children of God; and when God begins to forsake them, they cannot but be afflicted and troubled. The ordinances of God are the jewels of a Christian, and the treasure of a Christian: and the loss of them cannot but trouble him. And Jesus Christ is the joy of a Christian, and therefore when Christ is departing, he cannot but be much afflicted by it.