Acacia John Bunyan - Online Library
By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
L O N D O N,
Published by George Larkin, 1666.
John Bunyan wrote this book while still in Bedford Prison.
It was first published in 1666, the year of the Fire of London.
OR BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE PUBLISHING OF THIS WORK
WRITTEN BY THE AUTHOR THEREOF, AND DEDICATED TO THOSE WHOM GOD HATH COUNTED HIM WORTHYTO BEGET TO FAITH, BY HIS MINISTRY IN THE WORD
CHILDREN, grace be with you, Amen. I being taken from you in presence, and so tiedup, that I cannot perform that duty that from God doth lie upon me to youward, foryour further edifying and building up in faith and holiness, etc., yet that you maysee my soul hath fatherly care and desire after your spiritual and everlasting welfare;I now once again, as before, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, so now from the lions'dens, from the mountains of the leopards (S.of Sol. 4.8), do look yet after you all,greatly longing to see your safe arrival into the desired haven.
I thank God upon every remembrance of you; and rejoice, even while I stick betweenthe teeth of the lions in the wilderness, at the grace, and mercy, and knowledgeof Christ our Saviour, which God hath bestowed upon you, with abundance of faithand love. Your hungerings and thirstings also after further acquaintance with theFather, in His Son; your tenderness of heart, your trembling at sin, your sober andholy deportment also, before both God and men, is great refreshment to me; 'For yeare my glory and joy' (1 Thess. 2.20).
I have sent you here enclosed, a drop of that honey, that I have taken out of thecarcase of a lion ( Judg. 14.5-9). I have eaten thereof myself also, and am muchrefreshed thereby. (Temptations, when we meet them at first, are as the lion thatroared upon Samson; but if we overcome them, the next time we see them, we shallfind a nest of honey within them.) The Philistines understand me not. It is somethingof a relation of the work of God upon my own soul, even from the very first, tillnow; wherein you may perceive my castings down, and raisings up; for he woundeth,and his hands make whole. It is written in the Scripture ( Isa. 38.19), 'The fatherto the children shall make known the truth of God.' Yea, it was for this reason Ilay so long at Sinai ( Deut. 4.10, 11), to see the fire, and the cloud, and the darkness,that I might fear the Lord all the days of my life upon earth, and tell of his wondrousworks to my children ( Ps. 78.3-5).
Moses ( Num. 33.1, 2) writ of the journeyings of the children of Israel, from Egyptto the land of Canaan; and commanded also, that they did remember their forty years'travel in the wilderness. 'Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy Godled thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee,to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, orno' ( Deut. 8.2). Wherefore this I have endeavoured to do; and not only so, but topublish it also; that, if God will, others may be put in remembrance of what He hathdone for their souls, by reading His work upon me.
It is profitable for Christians to be often calling to mind the very beginnings ofgrace with their souls. 'It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringingthem out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the Lord to be observed ofall the children of Israel in their generations' ( Ex. 12.42). 'O my God,' saithDavid ( Ps. 42.6), 'my soul is cast down within me; therefore will I remember theefrom the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.' He rememberedalso the lion and the bear, when he went to fight with the giant of Gath ( I Sam.17.36, 37).
It was Paul's accustomed manner ( Acts 22), and that when tried for his life (Acts24), ever to open, before his judges, the manner of his conversion: he would thinkof that day, and that hour, in the which he first did meet with grace; for he foundit support unto him. When God had brought the children of Israel through the RedSea, far into the wilderness, yet they must turn quite about thither again, to rememberthe drowning of their enemies there ( Num.14.25). For though they sang His praisebefore, yet 'they soon forgat his works' ( Ps. 106.11-13).
In this discourse of mine you may see much; much, I say, of the grace of God towardsme. I thank God I can count it much, for it was above my sins and Satan's temptationstoo. I can remember my fears, and doubts, and sad months with comfort; they are asthe head of Goliath in my hand. There was nothing to David like Goliath's sword,even that sword that should have been sheathed in his bowels; for the very sightand remembrance of that did preach forth God's deliverance to him. Oh, the remembranceof my great sins, of my great temptations, and of my great fears of perishing forever! They bring afresh into my mind the remembrance of my great help, my great supportfrom heaven, and the great grace that God extended to such a wretch as I.
My dear children, call to mind the former days, and the years of ancient times: rememberalso your songs in the night; and commune with your own heart ( Ps. 77.5-12). Yea,look diligently, and leave no corner therein unsearched, for there is treasure hid,even the treasure of your first and second experience of the grace of God towardyou. Remember, I say, the word that first laid hold upon you; remember your terrorsof conscience, and fear of death and hell; remember also your tears and prayers toGod; yea, how you sighed under every hedge for mercy. Have you never a hill Mizarto remember? Have you forgot the close, the milk house, the stable, the barn, andthe like, where God did visit your soul? Remember also the Word-the Word, I say,upon which the Lord hath caused you to hope. If you have sinned against light; ifyou are tempted to blaspheme; if you are down in despair; if you think God fightsagainst you; or if heaven is hid from your eyes, remember it was thus with your father,but out of them all the Lord delivered me.
I could have enlarged much in this my discourse, of my temptations and troubles forsin; as also of the merciful kindness and working of God with my soul. I could alsohave stepped into a style much higher than this in which I have here discoursed,and could have adorned all things more than here I have seemed to do, but I darenot. God did not play in convincing of me, the devil did not play in tempting ofme, neither did I play when I sunk as into a bottomless pit, when the pangs of hellcaught hold upon me; wherefore I may not play in my relating of them, but be plainand simple, and lay down the thing as it was. He that liketh it, let him receiveit; and he that does not, let him produce a better. Farewell.
My dear children, the milk and honey is beyond this wilderness, God be merciful toyou, and grant that you be not slothful to go in to possess the land.
TO THE CHIEF OF SINNERS
OR, A BRIEF RELATION OF THE EXCEEDING MERCY OF GOD IN CHRIST, TO HIS POOR SERVANTJOHN BUNYAN
In this my relation of the merciful working of God upon my soul, it will not be amiss,if, in the first place, I do, in a few words, give you a hint of my pedigree, andmanner of bringing up; that thereby the goodness and bounty of God towards me, maybe the more advanced and magnified before the sons of men.
For my descent then, it was, as is well known by many, of a low and inconsiderablegeneration; my father's house being of that rank that is meanest and most despisedof all the families in the land. Wherefore I have not here, as others, to boast ofnoble blood, or of a high-born state, according to the flesh; though, all thingsconsidered, I magnify the heavenly Majesty, for that by this door He brought me intothis world, to partake of the grace and life that is in Christ by the gospel.
But yet, notwithstanding the meanness and inconsiderableness of my parents, it pleasedGod to put it into their hearts to put me to school, to learn both to read and write;the which I also attained, according to the rate of other poor men's children; though,to my shame I confess, I did soon lose that little I learned, and that even almostutterly, and that long before the Lord did work His gracious work of conversion uponmy soul.
As for my own natural life, for the time that I was without God in the world, itwas indeed according to the course of this world, and 'the spirit that now workethin the children of disobedience' (Eph. 2.2, 3). It was my delight to be 'taken captiveby the devil at his will' (II Tim. 2.26). Being filled with all unrighteousness,the which did also so strongly work and put forth itself, both in my heart and life,and that from a child, that I had but few equals, especially considering my years,which were tender, being few, both for cursing, swearing, lying, and blasphemingthe holy name of God.
Yea, so settled and rooted was I in these things, that they became as a second natureto me; the which, as I also have with soberness considered since, did so offend theLord, that even in my childhood He did scare and affright me with fearful dreams,and did terrify me with dreadful visions; for often, after I had spent this and theother day in sin, I have in my bed been greatly afflicted, while asleep, with theapprehensions of devils and wicked spirits, who still, as I then thought, labouredto draw me away with them, of which I could never be rid.
Also I should, at these years, be greatly afflicted and troubled with the thoughtsof the day of judgment, and that both night and day, and should tremble at the thoughtsof the fearful torments of hell fire; still fearing that it would be my lot to befound at last amongst those devils and hellish fiends, who are there bound down withthe chains and bonds of eternal darkness, 'unto the judgment of the great day.'
These things, I say, when I was but a child but nine or ten years old, did so distressmy soul, that when in the midst of my many sports and childish vanities, amidst myvain companions, I was often much cast down and afflicted in my mind therewith, yetcould I not let go my sins. Yea, I was also then so overcome with despair of lifeand heaven, that I should often wish either that there had been no hell, or thatI had been a devil-supposing they were only tormentors; that if it must needs bethat I went thither, I might be rather a tormentor, than be tormented myself.
A while after, these terrible dreams did leave me, which also I soon forgot; formy pleasures did quickly cut off the remembrance of them, as if they had never been:wherefore, with more greediness, according to the strength of nature, I did stilllet loose the reins to my lusts, and delighted in all transgression against the lawof God: so that, until I came to the state of marriage, I was the very ringleaderof all the youth that kept me company, into all manner of vice and ungodliness.
Yea, such prevalency had the lusts and fruits of the flesh in this poor soul of mine,that had not a miracle of precious grace prevented, I had not only perished by thestroke of eternal justice, but had also laid myself open, even to the stroke of thoselaws, which bring some to disgrace and open shame before the face of the world.
In these days, the thoughts of religion were very grievous to me; I could neitherendure it myself, nor that any other should; so that, when I have seen some readin those books that concerned Christian piety, it would be as it were a prison tome. Then I said unto God, 'Depart from me, for I desire not the knowledge of thyways' (Job 21.14). I was now void of all good consideration, heaven and hell wereboth out of sight and mind; and as for saving and damning, they were least in mythoughts. O Lord, thou knowest my life, and my ways were not hid from Thee.
Yet this I well remember, that though I could myself sin with the greatest delightand ease, and also take pleasure in the vileness of my companions; yet, even then,if I have at any time seen wicked things, by those who professed goodness, it wouldmake my spirit tremble. As once, above all the rest, when I was in my height of vanity,yet hearing one to swear that was reckoned for a religious man, it had so great astroke upon my spirit, that it made my heart to ache.
But God did not utterly leave me, but followed me still, not now with convictions,but judgments; yet, such as were mixed with mercy. For once I fell into a creek ofthe sea, and hardly escaped drowning. Another time I fell out of a boat into Bedfordriver, but mercy yet preserved me alive. Besides, another time, being in the fieldwith one of my companions, it chanced that an adder passed over the highway; so I,having a stick in my hand, struck her over the back; and having stunned her, I forcedopen her mouth with my stick, and plucked her sting out with my fingers, by whichact, had not God been merciful, I might, by my desperateness, have brought myselfto mine end.
This also have I taken notice of with thanksgiving; when I was a soldier, I, withothers, were drawn out to go to such a place to besiege it; but when I was just readyto go, one of the company desired to go in my room; to which, when I had consented,he took my place; and coming to the siege, as he stood sentinel, he was shot intothe head with a musket bullet, and died.
Here, as I said, were judgments and mercy, but neither of them did awaken my soulto righteousness; wherefore I sinned still, and grew more and more rebellious againstGod, and careless of mine own salvation.
Presently after this, I changed my condition into a married state, and my mercy wasto light upon a wife whose father was counted godly. This woman and I, though wecame together as poor as poor might be, not having so much household stuff as a dishor spoon betwixt us both, yet this she had for her part, The Plain Man's Pathwayto Heaven, and The Practice of Piety, which her father had left her when he died.In these two books I should sometimes read with her, wherein I also found some thingsthat were somewhat pleasing to me; but all this while I met with no conviction. Shealso would be often telling of me, what a godly man her father was, and how he wouldreprove and correct vice, both in his house, and amongst his neighbours; what a strictand holy life he lived in his day, both in word and deed.
Wherefore these books with this relation, though they did not reach my heart, toawaken it about my sad and sinful state, yet they did beget within me some desiresto religion: so that, because I knew no better, I fell in very eagerly with the religionof the times; to wit, to go to church twice a day, and that too with the foremost;and there should very devoutly, both say and sing as others did, yet retaining mywicked life; but withal, I was so overrun with a spirit of superstition, that I adored,and that with great devotion, even all things, both the high place, priest, clerk,vestment, service, and what else belonging to the church; counting all things holythat were therein contained, and especially the priest and clerk most happy, andwithout doubt, greatly blessed, because they were the servants, as I then thought,of God, and were principal in the holy temple, to do His work therein.
This conceit grew so strong in little time upon my spirit, that had I but seen apriest, though never so sordid and debauched in his life, I should find my spiritfall under him, reverence him, and knit unto him: yea, I thought for the love I didbear unto them, supposing they were the ministers of God, I could have lain downat their feet, and have been trampled upon by them; their name, their garb, and work,did so intoxicate and bewitch me.
After I had been thus for some considerable time, another thought came into my mind;and that was, whether we were of the Israelites, or no? For finding in the Scripturesthat they were once the peculiar people of God, thought I, if I were one of thisrace, my soul must needs be happy. Now again, I found within me a great longing tobe resolved about this question, but could not tell how I should. At last I askedmy father of it; who told me, No, we were not. Wherefore then I fell in my spiritas to the hopes of that, and so remained.
But all this while, I was not sensible of the danger and evil of sin; I was keptfrom considering that sin would damn me, what religion soever I followed, unlessI was found in Christ. Nay, I never thought of Him, nor whether there was one, orno. Thus man, while blind, doth wander, but wearieth himself with vanity, for heknoweth not the way to the city of God (Eccl. 10.15).
But one day, amongst all the sermons our parson made, his subject was, to treat ofthe Sabbath-day, and of the evil of breaking that, either with labour, sports orotherwise. Now I was, notwithstanding my religion, one that took much delight inall manner of vice, and especially that was the day that I did solace myself therewith,wherefore I fell in my conscience under his sermon, thinking and believing that hemade that sermon on purpose to show me my evil doing; and at that time I felt whatguilt was, though never before, that I can remember; but then I was, for the present,greatly loaden therewith, and so went home when the sermon was ended, with a greatburden upon my spirit.
This, for that instant, did benumb the sinews of my best delights, and did imbittermy former pleasures to me; but behold, it lasted not, for before I had well dined,the trouble began to go off my mind, and my heart returned to his old course: butoh! how glad was I, that this trouble was gone from me, and that the fire was putout, that I might sin again without control! Wherefore, when I had satisfied naturewith my food, I shook the sermon out of my mind, and to my old custom of sports andgaming I returned with great delight.
But the same day, as I was in the midst of a game at cat, and having struck it oneblow from the hole, just as I was about to strike it the second time, a voice didsuddenly dart from heaven into my soul, which said, Wilt thou leave thy sins andgo to heaven, or have thy sins and go to hell? At this I was put to an exceedingmaze; wherefore, leaving my cat upon the ground, I looked up to heaven, and was asif I had, with the eyes of my understanding, seen the Lord Jesus looking down uponme, as being very hotly displeased with me, and as if He did severely threaten mewith some grievous punishment for these and other my ungodly practices.
I had no sooner thus conceived in my mind, but suddenly this conclusion was fastenedon my spirit, for the former hint did set my sins again before my face, that I hadbeen a great and grievous sinner, and that it was now too late for me to look afterheaven; for Christ would not forgive me, nor pardon my transgressions. Then I fellto musing upon this also; and while I was thinking on it, and fearing lest it shouldbe so, I felt my heart sink in despair, concluding it was too late; and thereforeI resolved in my mind I would go on in sin; for, thought I, if the case be thus,my state is surely miserable; miserable if I leave my sins, and but miserable ifI follow then; I can but be damned, and if I must be so, I had as good be damnedfor many sins, as to be damned for few.
Thus I stood in the midst of my play, before all that then were present; but yetI told them nothing: but I say, I having made this conclusion, I returned desperatelyto my sport again; and I well remember, that presently this kind of despair did sopossess my soul, that I was persuaded I could never attain to other comfort thanwhat I should get in sin; for heaven was gone already, so that on that I must notthink; wherefore I found within me a great desire to take my fill of sin, still studyingwhat sin was set to be committed, that I might taste the sweetness of it; and I madeas much haste as I could to fill my belly with its delicates, lest I should die beforeI had my desire; for that I feared greatly. In these things, I protest before God,I lie not, neither do I feign this sort of speech; these were really, strongly, andwith all my heart, my desires; the good Lord, whose mercy is unsearchable, forgiveme my transgressions .
And I am very confident, that this temptation of the devil is more than usual amongstpoor creatures than many are aware of, even to overrun their spirits with a scurvyand seared frame of heart, and benumbing of conscience; which frame, he stilly andslily supplieth with such despair, that though not much guilt attendeth the soul,yet they continually have a secret conclusion within them, that there is no hopesfor them; for they have loved sons, 'therefore after them they will go' (Jer. 2.25;18.12).
Now therefore I went on in sin with great greediness of mind, still grudging thatI could not be so satisfied with it as I would. This did continue with me about amonth, or more; but one day, as I was standing at a neighbour's shop-window, andthere cursing and swearing, and playing the madman, after my wonted manner, theresat within the woman of the house, and heard me, who, though she was a very looseand ungodly wretch, yet protested that I swore and cursed at that most fearful rate,that she was made to tremble to hear me; and told me further, That I was the ungodliestfellow for swearing that ever she heard in all her life; and that I, by thus doing,was able to spoil all the youth in a whole town, if they came but in my company.
At this reproof I was silenced, and put to secret shame, and that too, as I thought,before the God of heaven; wherefore, while I stood there, and hanging down my head.I wished with all my heart that I might be a little child again, that my father mightlearn me to speak without this wicked way of swearing; for, thought I, I am so accustomedto it, that it is in vain for me to think of a reformation, for I thought it couldnever be.
But how it came to pass, I know not; I did from this time forward so leave my swearing,that it was a great wonder to myself to observe it; and whereas before, I knew nothow to speak unless I put an oath before, and another behind, to make my words haveauthority; now, I could, without it, speak better, and with more pleasantness, thanever I could before. All this while I knew not Jesus Christ, neither did I leavemy sports and plays.
But quickly after this, I fell in company with one poor man that made professionof religion; who, as I then thought, did talk pleasantly of the Scriptures, and ofthe matters of religion; wherefore, falling into some love and liking to what hesaid, I betook me to my Bible, and began to take great pleasure in reading, but especiallywith the historical part thereof; for, as for Paul's epistles, and Scriptures ofthat nature, I could not away with them, being as yet but ignorant, either of thecorruptions of my nature, or of the want and worth of Jesus Christ to save me.
Wherefore I fell to some outward reformation, both in my words and life, and didset the commandments before me for my way to heaven; which commandments I also didstrive to keep, and, as I thought, did keep them pretty well sometimes, and thenI should have comfort; yet now and then should break one, and so afflict my conscience;but then I should repent, and say I was sorry for it, and promise God to do betternext time, and there get help again, for then I thought I pleased God as well asany man in England.
Thus I continued about a year; all which time our neighbours did take me to be avery godly man, a new and religious man, and did marvel much to see such a greatand famous alteration in my life and manners; and, indeed, so it was, though yetI knew not Christ, nor grace, nor faith, nor hope; and truly, as I have well seensince, had I then died, my state had been most fearful; well, this, I say, continuedabout a twelvemonth or more.
But, I say, my neighbours were amazed at this my great conversion, from prodigiousprofaneness, to something like a moral life; and, truly, so they well might; forthis my conversion was as great, as for Tom of Bedlam to become a sober man. Now,therefore, they began to praise, to commend, and to speak well of me, both to myface, and behind my back. Now, I was, as they said, become godly; now, I was becomea right honest man. But oh! when I understood that these were their words and opinionsof me, it pleased me mighty well. For though, as yet, I was nothing but a poor paintedhypocrite, yet I loved to be talked of as one that was truly godly. I was proud ofmy godliness, and, I did all I did, either to be seen of, or to be well spoken of,by man. And thus I continued for about a twelvemonth or more.
Now you must know, that before this I had taken much delight in ringing, but my consciencebeginning to be tender, I thought such practice was but vain, and therefore forcedmyself to leave it, yet my mind hankered; wherefore I should go to the steeple house,and look on it, though I durst not ring. But I thought this did not become religionneither, yet I forced myself, and would look on still; but quickly after, I beganto think, How, if one of the bells should fall? Then I chose to stand under a mainbeam, that lay overthwart the steeple, from side to side, thinking there I mightstand sure, but then I should think again, should the bell fall with a swing, itmight first hit the wall, and then rebounding upon me, might kill me for all thisbeam. This made me stand in the steeple door; and now, thought I, I am safe enough;for if a bell should then fall, I can slip out behind these thick walls, and so bepreserved notwithstanding.
So, after this, I would yet go to see them ring, but would not go farther than thesteeple door; but then it came into my head, How, if the steeple itself should fall?And this thought, it may fall for aught I know, when I stood and looked on, did continuallyso shake my mind, that I durst not stand at the steeple door any longer, but wasforced to flee, for fear the steeple should fall upon my head.
Another thing was my dancing; I was a full year before I could quite leave that;but all this while, when I thought I kept this or that commandment, or did, by wordor deed, anything that I thought was good, I had great peace in my conscience; andshould think with myself, God cannot choose but be now pleased with me; yea, to relateit in mine own way, I thought no man in England could please God better than I.
But, poor wretch as I was, I was all this while ignorant of Jesus Christ, and goingabout to establish my own righteousness; and had perished therein, had not God, inmercy, showed me more of my state of nature.
But upon a day, the good providence of God did cast me to Bedford, to work on mycalling; and in one of the streets of that town, I came where there were three orfour poor women sitting at a door in the sun, and talking about the things of God;and being now willing to hear them discourse, I drew near to hear what they said,for I was now a brisk talker also myself in the matters of religion, but now I maysay, I heard, but I understood not; for they were far above, out of my reach, fortheir talk was about a new birth, the work of God on their hearts, also how theywere convinced of their miserable state by nature; they talked how God had visitedtheir souls with His love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises theyhad been refreshed, comforted, and supported against the temptations of the devil.Moreover, they reasoned of the suggestions and temptations of Satan in particular;and told to each other by which they had been afflicted, and how they were borneup under his assaults. They also discoursed of their own wretchedness of heart, oftheir unbelief; and did contemn, slight, and abhor their own righteousness, as filthyand insufficient to do them any good.
And methought they spake as if joy did make them speak; they spake with such pleasantnessof Scripture language, and with such appearance of grace in all they said, that theywere to me as if they had found a new world, as if they were people that dwelt alone,and were not to be reckoned among their neighbours (Num. 23.9).
At this I felt my own heart began to shake, as mistrusting my condition to be naught;for I saw that in all my thoughts about religion and salvation, the new birth didnever enter into my mind, neither knew I the comfort of the Word and promise, northe deceitfulness and treachery of my own wicked heart. As for secret thoughts, Itook no notice of them; neither did I understand what Satan's temptations were, norhow they were to be withstood and resisted, etc.
Thus, therefore, when I had heard and considered what they said, I left them, andwent about my employment again, but their talk and discourse went with me; also myheart would tarry with them, for I was greatly affected with their words, both becauseby them I was convinced that I wanted the true tokens of a truly godly man, and alsobecause by them I was convinced of the happy and blessed condition of him that wassuch a one.
Therefore I should often make it my business to be going again and again into thecompany of these poor people, for I could not stay away; and the more I went amongstthem, the more I did question my condition; and as I still do remember, presentlyI found two things within me, at which I did sometimes marvel, especially consideringwhat a blind, ignorant, sordid, and ungodly wretch but just before I was; the onewas a great softness and tenderness of heart, which caused me to fall under the convictionof what by Scripture they asserted; and the other was a great bending in my mindto a continual meditating on it, and on all other good things which at any time Iheard or read of.
By these things my mind was now so turned, that it lay like a horse leech at thevein, still crying out, Give, give (Prov. 30.15); yea, it was so fixed on eternity,and on the things about the kingdom of heaven, that is, so far as I knew, thoughas yet, God knows, I knew but little; that neither pleasures nor profits, nor persuasions,nor threats, could loosen it, or make it let go his hold; and though I may speakit with shame, yet it is in very deed a certain truth, it would then have been asdifficult for me to have taken my mind from heaven to earth, as I have found it oftensince to get it again from earth to heaven.
One thing I may not omit: There was a young man in our town, to whom my heart wasknit more than to any other, but he being a most wicked creature for cursing, andswearing, and whoring, I now shook him off, and forsook his company: but about aquarter of a year after I had left him, I met him in a certain lane, and asked himhow he did; he, after his old swearing and mad way, answered, he was well. But, Harry,said I, why do you swear and curse thus? What will become of you, if you die in thiscondition? He answered me in a great chafe, What would the devil do for company,if it were not for such as I am?
About this time I met with some Ranters' books, that were put forth by some of ourcountrymen, which books were also highly in esteem by several old professors; someof these I read, but was not able to make a judgment about them; wherefore as I readin them, and thought upon them, feeling myself unable to judge, I should betake myselfto hearty prayer in this manner: O Lord, I am a fool, and not able to know the truthfrom error: Lord, leave me not to my own blindness, either to approve of, or condemnthis doctrine; if it be of God, let me not despise it; if it be of the devil, letme not embrace it. Lord, I lay my soul, in this matter, only at Thy foot; let menot be deceived, I humbly beseech Thee. I had one religious intimate companion allthis while, and that was the poor man that I spoke of before; but about this timehe also turned a most devilish Ranter, and gave himself up to all manner of filthiness,especially uncleanness; he would also deny that there was a God, angel, or spirit;and would laugh at all exhortations to sobriety. When I laboured to rebuke his wickedness,he would laugh the more, and pretend that he had gone through all religions, andcould never light on the right till now. He told me also, that in a little time weshould see all professors turn to the ways of the Ranters. Wherefore, abominatingthose cursed principles, I left his company forthwith, and became to him as greata stranger, as I had been before a familiar.
Neither was this man only a temptation to me; but my calling lying in the country,I happened to light into several people's company, who, though strict in religionformerly, yet were also swept away by these Ranters. These would also talk with meof their ways, and condemn me as legal and dark; pretending that they had only attainedto perfection that could do what they would, and not sin. Oh! these temptations weresuitable to my flesh, I being but a young man, and my nature in its prime; but God,who had, I hope, designed me for better things, kept me in the fear of His name,and did not suffer me to accept of such principles. And blessed be God, who put itinto my heart to cry to Him to be kept and directed, still distrusting mine own wisdom;for I have since seen even the effect of that prayer, in His preserving me not onlyfrom ranting errors, but from those also that have sprung up since. The Bible wasprecious to me in those days.
And now, methought, I began to look into the Bible with new eyes, and read as I neverdid before; and especially the epistles of the apostle Paul were sweet and pleasantto me; and, indeed, I was then never out of the Bible, either by reading or meditation;still crying out to God, that I might know the truth, and way to heaven and glory.
And as I went on and read, I lighted on that passage, 'To one is given by the Spiritthe word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; and to anotherfaith,' etc. (1 Cor. 12.8, 9). And though, as I have since seen, that by this Scripturethe Holy Ghost intends, in special, things extraordinary, yet on me it did then fastenwith conviction, that I did want things ordinary, even that understanding and wisdomthat other Christians had. On this word I mused, and could not tell what to do, especiallythis word faith put me to it, for I could not help it, but sometimes must question,whether I had any faith or no; for I feared that it shut me out of all the blessingsthat other good people had given them of God; but I was loath to conclude I had nofaith in my soul; for if I do so, thought I, then I shall count myself a very castawayindeed.
No, said I with myself, though I am convinced that I am an ignorant sot, and thatI want those blessed gifts of knowledge and understanding that other good peoplehave; yet, at a venture, I will conclude I am not altogether faithless, though Iknow not what faith is. For it was showed me, and that too, as I have since seen,by Satan, that those who conclude themselves in a faithless state, have neither restnor quiet in their souls; and I was loath to fall quite into despair.
Wherefore, by this suggestion, I was for a while made afraid to see my want of faith;but God would not suffer me thus to undo and destroy my soul, but did continually,against this my blind and sad conclusion, create still within me such suppositions,insomuch that I might in this deceive myself, that I could not rest content, untilI did now come to some certain knowledge, whether I had faith or no; this alwaysrunning in my mind, But how if you want faith indeed? But how can you tell if youhave faith? And, besides, I saw for certain, if I had not, I was sure to perish forever.
So that though I endeavoured at the first to look over the business of faith, yetin a little time, I better considering the matter, was willing to put myself uponthe trial, whether I had faith or no. But alas, poor wretch, so ignorant and brutishwas I, that I knew to this day no more how to do it, than I know how to begin andaccomplish that rare and curious piece of art which I never yet saw nor considered.
Wherefore, while I was thus considering, and being put to my plunge about it, foryou must know, that as yet I had in this matter broken my mind to no man, only didhear and consider, the tempter came in with his delusion, That there was no way forme to know I had faith, but by trying to work some miracle: urging those Scripturesthat seem to look that way, for the enforcing and strengthening his temptation. Nay,one day as I was betwixt Elstow and Bedford, the temptation was hot upon me to tryif I had faith, by doing of some miracle: which miracle at that time was this, Imust say to the puddles that were in the horse pads, Be dry; and to the dry places,Be you the puddles. And truly, one time I was a-going to say so indeed; but justas I was about to speak, this thought came into my mind, But go under yonder hedgeand pray first, that God would make you able. But when I had concluded to pray, thiscame hot upon me, That if I prayed, and came again and tried to do it, and yet didnothing notwithstanding, then be sure I had no faith, but was a castaway and lost.Nay, thought I, if it be so, I will never try yet, but will stay a little longer.
So I continued at a great loss; for I thought, if they only had faith, which coulddo so wonderful things, then I concluded that, for the present, I neither had it,nor yet, for time to come, were ever like to have it. Thus I was tossed between thedevil and my own ignorance, and so perplexed, especially at some times, that I couldnot tell what to do.
About this time, the state and happiness of these poor people at Bedford was thus,in a dream or vision, represented to me. I saw, as if they were set on the sunnyside of some high mountain, there refreshing themselves with the pleasant beams ofthe sun, while I was shivering and shrinking in the cold, afflicted with frost, snow,and dark clouds. Methought, also, betwixt me and them, I saw a wall that did compassabout this mountain; now, through this wall my soul did greatly desire to pass; concluding,that if I could, I would go even into the very midst of them, and there also comfortmyself with the heat of their sun.
About this wall I thought myself, to go again and again, still prying as I went,to see if I could find some way or passage, by which I might enter therein; but nonecould I find for some time. At the last, I saw, as it were, a narrow gap, like alittle doorway in the wall, through which I attempted to pass; but the passage beingvery strait and narrow, I made many efforts to get in, but all in vain, even untilI was well-nigh quite beat out, by striving to get in; at last, with great striving,methought I at first did get in my head, and after that, by a sidling striving, myshoulders, and my whole body; then I was exceeding glad, and went and sat down inthe midst of them, and so was comforted with the light and heat of their sun.
Now, this mountain and wall, etc., was thus made out to me-the mountain signifiedthe church of the living God; the sun that shone thereon, the comfortable shiningof His merciful face on them that were therein; the wall, I thought, was the Word,that did make separation between the Christians and the world; and the gap whichwas in this wall, I thought, was Jesus Christ, who is the way to God the Father (John14.6; Matt. 7.14). But forasmuch as the passage was wonderful narrow, even so narrow,that I could not, but with great difficulty, enter in thereat, it showed me thatnone could enter into life, but those that were in downright earnest, and unlessthey left this wicked world behind them; for here was only room for body and soul,but not for body and soul, and sin.
This resemblance abode upon my spirit many days; all which time I saw myself in aforlorn and sad condition, but yet was provoked to a vehement hunger and desire tobe one of that number that did sit in the sunshine. Now also I should pray whereverI was, whether at home or abroad, in house or field, and should also often, withlifting up of heart, sing that of the 51st Psalm, 'O Lord, consider my distress';for as yet I knew not where I was.
Neither as yet could I attain to any comfortable persuasion that I had faith in Christ;but instead of having satisfaction, here I began to find my soul to be assaultedwith fresh doubts about my future happiness; especially with such as these, WhetherI was elected? But how, if the day of grace should now be past and gone?
By these two temptations I was very much afflicted and disquieted; sometimes by one,and sometimes by the other of them. And first, to speak of that about my questioningmy election, I found at this time, that though I was in a flame to find the way toheaven and glory, and though nothing could beat me off from this, yet this questiondid so offend and discourage me, that I was, especially at some times, as if thevery strength of my body also had been taken away by the force and power thereof.This scripture did also seem to me to trample upon all my desires, 'It is not ofhim that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy' (Rom. 9.16).
With this scripture I could not tell what to do; for I evidently saw, that unlessthe great God, of His infinite grace and bounty, had voluntarily chosen me to bea vessel of mercy, though I should desire, and long and labour until my heart didbreak, no good could come of it. Therefore, this would still stick with me, How canyou tell that you are elected? And what if you should not? How then?
0 Lord, thought I, what if I should not, indeed? It may be you are not, said thetempter; it may be so, indeed, thought I. Why, then, said Satan, you had as goodleave off, and strive no further; for if, indeed, you should not be elected and chosenof God, there is no talk of your being saved; 'For it is neither of him that willeth,nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.'
By these things I was driven to my wits' end, not knowing what to say, or how toanswer these temptations. Indeed, I little thought that Satan had thus assaultedme, but that rather it was my own prudence, thus to start the question; for, thatthe elect only attained eternal life, that I, without scruple, did heartily closewithal; but that myself was one of them, there lay all the question.
Thus, therefore, for several days, I was greatly assaulted and perplexed, and wasoften, when I have been walking, ready to sink where I went, with faintness in mymind; but one day, after I had been so many weeks oppressed and cast down therewith,as I was now quite giving up the ghost of all my hopes of ever attaining life, thatsentence fell with weight upon my spirit, 'Look at the generations of old and see;did ever any trust in the Lord, and was confounded?'
At which I was greatly lightened and encouraged in my soul; for thus, at that veryinstant, it was expounded to me, Begin at the beginning of Genesis, and read to theend of the Revelations, and see if you can find that there was ever any that trustedin the Lord, and was confounded. So, coming home, I presently went to my Bible tosee if I could find that saying, not doubting but to find it presently; for it wasso fresh, and with such strength and comfort on my spirit, that I was as if it talkedwith me.
Well, I looked, but I found it not; only it abode upon me; then I did ask first thisgood man, and then another, if they knew where it was, but they knew no such place.At this I wondered that such a sentence should so suddenly, and with such comfortand strength, seize and abide upon my heart, and yet that none could find it, forI doubted not but it was in holy Scripture.
Thus I continued above a year, and could not find the place; but at last, castingmy eye into the Apocrypha books, I found it in Ecclesiasticus 2.10. This, at thefirst, did somewhat daunt me; but because, by this time, I had got more experienceof the love and kindness of God, it troubled me the less; especially when I considered,that though it was not in those texts that we call holy and canonical, yet forasmuchas this sentence was the sum and substance of many of the promises, it was my dutyto take the comfort of it; and I bless God for that word, for it was of God to me:that word doth still, at times, shine before my face.
After this, that other doubt did come with strength upon me, But how if the day ofgrace should be past and gone? How if you have overstood the time of mercy? Now,I remember that one day, as I was walking into the country, I was much in the thoughtsof this, But how if the day of grace be past? And to aggravate my trouble, the tempterpresented to my mind those good people of Bedford, and suggested thus unto me, Thatthese being converted already, they were all that God would save in those parts;and that I came too late, for these had got the blessing before I came.
Now was I in great distress, thinking in very deed that this might well be so; whereforeI went up and down bemoaning my sad condition, counting myself far worse than a thousandfools, for standing off thus long, and spending so many years in sin as I had done;still crying out, Oh, that I had turned sooner! Oh, that I had turned seven yearsago! It made me also angry with myself, to think that I should have no more wit,but to trifle away my time till my soul and heaven were lost.
But when I had been long vexed with this fear, and was scarce able to take one stepmore, just about the same place where I received my other encouragement, these wordsbroke in upon my mind, 'Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled'; 'andyet there is room' (Luke 14.22, 23). These words, but especially them, 'And yet thereis room', were sweet words to me; for, truly, I thought that by them I saw therewas place enough in heaven for me; and, moreover, that when the Lord Jesus did speakthese words, He then did think of me; and that He, knowing that the time would comethat I should be afflicted with fear that there was no place left for me in His bosom,did before speak this word, and leave it upon record, that I might find help therebyagainst this vile temptation. This, I then verily believed.
In the light and encouragement of this word, I went a pretty while; and the comfortwas the more, when I thought that the Lord Jesus should think on me so long ago,and that He should speak those words on purpose for my sake; for I did then think,verily, that He did on purpose speak them, to encourage me withal.
But I was not without my temptations to go back again; temptations, I say, both fromSatan, mine own heart, and carnal acquaintance; but I thank God these were outweighedby that sound sense of death and of the day of judgment, which abode, as it were,continually in my view; I should often also think on Nebuchadnezzar, of whom it issaid, He had given him all the kingdoms of the earth (Dan. 5.19). Yet, I thought,if this great man had all his portion in this world, one hour in hell fire wouldmake him forget all. Which consideration was a great help to me.
I was almost made, about this time, to see something concerning the beasts that Mosescounted clean and unclean. I thought those beasts were types of men; the clean, typesof them that were the people of God; but the unclean, types of such as were the childrenof the wicked one. Now, I read that the clean beasts chewed the cud; that is, thoughtI, they show us we must feed upon the Word of God. They also parted the hoof; I thoughtthat signified we must part, if we would be saved, with the ways of ungodly men.And also, in further reading about them I found that though we did chew the cud asthe hare, yet if we walked with claws like a dog, or if we did part the hoof likethe swine, yet if we did not chew the cud as the sheep, we were still, for all that,but unclean; for I thought the hare to be a type of those that talk of the Word,yet walk in the ways of sin; and that the swine was like him that parted with hisoutward pollutions, but still wanteth the Word of faith, without which there couldbe no way of salvation, let a man be never so devout (Deut.14). After this I found,by reading the Word, that those that must be glorified with Christ in another worldmust be called by Him here; called to the partaking of a share in His Word and righteousness,and to the comforts and first fruits of His Spirit, and to a peculiar interest inall those heavenly things which do indeed fore fit the soul for that rest and houseof glory which is in heaven above.
Here, again, I was at a very great stand, not knowing what to do, fearing I was notcalled; for, thought I, if I be not called, what then can do me good? None but thosewho are effectually called, inherit the kingdom of heaven. But oh! how I now lovedthose words that spake of a Christian's calling! as when the Lord said to one, 'Followme', and to another, 'Come after me'. And oh! thought I, that He would say so tome too, how gladly would I run after him!
I cannot now express with what longings and breakings in my soul I cried to Christto call me. Thus I continued for a time, all on a flame to be converted to JesusChrist; and did also see at that day, such glory in a converted state, that I couldnot be contented without a share therein. Gold! could it have been gotten for gold,what could I have given for it! had I a whole world it had all gone ten thousandtimes over for this, that my soul might have been in a converted state.
How lovely now was everyone in my eyes that I thought to be converted men and women!they shone, they walked like a people that carried the broad seal of heaven aboutthem. Oh! I saw the lot was fallen to them in pleasant places, and they had a goodlyheritage (Ps. 16.6). But that which made me sick was that of Christ, in Mark, Hewent up into a mountain and called to Him whom He would, and they came unto Him (Mark3.13).
This scripture made me faint and fear, yet it kindled fire in my soul. That whichmade me fear was this, lest Christ should have no liking to me, for He called 'whomhe would'. But oh! the glory that I saw in that condition did still so engage myheart that I could seldom read of any that Christ did call but I presently wished,Would I had been in their clothes; would I had been born Peter; would I had beenborn John; or would I had been by and had heard Him when He called them, how wouldI have cried, O Lord, call me also. But oh! I feared He would not call me.
And truly the Lord let me go thus many months together and showed me nothing; eitherthat I was already, or should be called hereafter. But at last, after much time spent,and many groans to God, that I might be made partaker of the holy and heavenly calling,that Word came in upon me: 'I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed:for the Lord dwelleth in Zion' (Joel 3.21). These words I thought were sent to encourageme to wait still upon God, and signified unto me, that if I were not already, yettime might come, I might be in truth converted to Christ.
About this time I began to break my mind to those poor people in Bedford, and totell them my condition, which, when they had heard, they told Mr. Gifford of me,who himself also took occasion to talk with me, and was willing to be well persuadedof me, though I think but from little grounds: but he invited me to his house, whereI should hear him confer with others, about the dealings of God with the soul; fromall which I still received more conviction, and from that time began to see somethingof the vanity and inward wretchedness of my wicked heart, for as yet I knew no greatmatter therein; but now it began to be discovered unto me, and also to work at thatrate for wickedness as it never did before. Now I evidently found that lusts andcorruptions would strongly put forth themselves within me, in wicked thoughts anddesires, which I did not regard before; my desires for heaven and life began to fail.I found also, that whereas my soul was full of longing after God, now my heart beganto hanker after every foolish vanity; yea, my heart would not be moved to mind thatthat was good; it began to be careless, both of my soul and heaven; it would nowcontinually hang back, both to, and in every duty; and was as a clog on the leg ofa bird to hinder her from flying.
Nay, thought I, now I grow worse and worse; now am I farther from conversion thanever I was before. Wherefore I began to sink greatly in my soul, and began to entertainsuch discouragement in my heart as laid me low as hell. If now I should have burnedat a stake, I could not believe that Christ had love for me; alas, I could neitherhear Him, nor see Him, nor feel Him, nor savour any of His things; I was driven aswith a tempest, my heart would be unclean, the Canaanites would dwell in the land.
Sometimes I would tell my condition to the people of God, which, when they heard,they would pity me, and would tell me of the promises; but they had as good havetold me that I must reach the sun with my finger as have bidden me receive or relyupon the promise; and as soon as I should have done it, all my sense and feelingwas against me; and I saw I had a heart that would sin, and that lay under a lawthat would condemn.
These things have often made me think of that child which the father brought to Christ,who, while he was yet a-coming to him, was thrown down by the devil, and also sorent and torn by him that he lay and wallowed, foaming (Luke 9.42, Mark 9.20).
Further, in these days I should find my heart to shut itself up against the Lord,and against His holy Word. I have found my unbelief to set, as it were, the shoulderto the door to keep Him out, and that too even then, when I have with many a bittersigh cried, Good Lord, break it open; Lord, break these gates of brass, and cut thesebars of iron asunder (Ps. 107.16). Yet that word would sometimes create in my hearta peaceable pause, 'I girded thee, though thou hast not known me' (Isa. 45.5).
But all this while as to the act of sinning, I never was more tender than now; Idurst not take a pin or a stick, though but so big as a straw, for my consciencenow was sore, and would smart at every touch; I could not now tell how to speak mywords, for fear I should misplace them. Oh, how gingerly did I then go in all I didor said! I found myself as on a miry bog that shook if I did but stir; and was thereleft both of God and Christ, and the Spirit, and all good things.
But, I observe, though I was such a great sinner before conversion, yet God nevermuch charged the guilt of the sins of my ignorance upon me; only He showed me I waslost if I had not Christ, because I had been a sinner; I saw that I wanted a perfectrighteousness to present me without fault before God, and this righteousness wasnowhere to be found, but in the person of Jesus Christ.
But my original and inward pollution, that, that was my plague and my affliction;that, I say, at a dreadful rate, always putting forth itself within me; that I hadthe guilt of, to amazement; by reason of that, I was more loathsome in my own eyesthan was a toad; and I thought I was so in God's eyes too; sin and corruption, Isaid, would as naturally bubble out of my heart, as water would bubble out of a fountain.I thought now that everyone had a better heart than I had; I could have changed heartwith anybody; I thought none but the devil himself could equalize me for inward wickednessand pollution of mind. I fell, therefore, at the sight of my own vileness, deeplyinto despair; for I concluded that this condition that I was in could not stand witha state of grace. Sure, thought I, I am forsaken of God; sure I am given up to thedevil, and to a reprobate mind; and thus I continued a long while, even for someyears together.
While I was thus afflicted with the fears of my own damnation, there were two thingswould make me wonder; the one was, when I saw old people hunting after the thingsof this life, as if they should live here always; the other was, when I found professorsmuch distressed and cast down, when they met with outward losses, as of husband,wife, child, etc. Lord, thought I, what ado is here about such little things as these!What seeking after carnal things by some, and what grief in others for the loss ofthem! If they so much labour after, and spend so many tears for the things of thispresent life, how am I to be bemoaned, pitied, and prayed for! My soul is dying,my soul is damning. Were my soul but in a good condition, and were I but sure ofit, oh! how rich I should esteem myself, though blessed but with bread and water;I should count those but small afflictions, and should bear them as little burdens.'A wounded spirit who can bear?'
And though I was thus troubled, and tossed, and afflicted, with the sight and senseand terror of my own wickedness, yet I was afraid to let this sight and sense goquite off my mind; for I found that, unless guilt of conscience was taken off theright way, that is, by the blood of Christ, a man grew rather worse for the lossof his trouble of mind, than better. Wherefore, if my guilt lay hard upon me, thenI should cry that the blood of Christ might take it off; and if it was going offwithout it (for the sense of sin would be sometimes as if it would die, and go quiteaway), then I would also strive to fetch it upon my heart again, by bringing thepunishment for sin in hell fire upon my spirits; and should cry, Lord, let it notgo off my heart, but the right way, but by the blood of Christ, and by the applicationof Thy mercy, through Him, to my soul; for that scripture lay much upon me, 'withoutshedding of blood is no remission' (Heb. 9.22). And that which made me the more afraidof this was, because I had seen some who, though when they were under wounds of conscience,then they would cry and pray; but they seeking rather present ease from their trouble,than pardon for their sin, cared not how they lost their guilt, so they got it outof their mind; and, therefore, having got it off the wrong way, it was not sanctifiedunto them; but they grew harder and blinder, and more wicked after their trouble.This made me afraid, and made me cry to God the more, that it might not be so withme.
And now was I sorry that God had made me a man, for I feared I was a reprobate; Icounted man as unconverted, the most doleful of all the creatures. Thus being afflictedand tossed about my sad condition, I counted myself alone, and above the most ofmen unblessed.
Yea, I thought it impossible that ever I should attain to so much goodness of heart,as to thank God that He had made me a man. Man indeed is the most noble by creation,of all creatures in the visible world; but by sin he has made himself the most ignoble.The beasts, birds, fishes, etc., I blessed their condition, for they had not a sinfulnature, they were not obnoxious in the sight of God; they were not to go to hellfire after death; I could therefore have rejoiced had my condition been as any oftheirs.
In this condition I went a great while; but when comforting time was come, I heardone preach a sermon upon those words in the Song 4.1, 'Behold thou art fair, my love;behold, thou art fair.' But at that time he made these two words, 'My love', hischief and subject matter; from which, after he had a little opened the text, he observedthese several conclusions: 1. That the Church, and so every saved soul, is Christ'slove, when loveless. 2. Christ's love without a cause. 3. Christ's love when hatedof the world. 4. Christ's love when under temptation, and under desertion. 5. Christ'slove from first to last.
But I got nothing by what he said at present, only when he came to the applicationof the fourth particular, this was the word he said: If it be so, that the savedsoul is Christ's love when under temptation and desertion; then, poor tempted soul,when thou art assaulted and afflicted with temptation, and the hidings of God's face,yet think on these two words, 'My love', still.
So as I was a-going home, these words came again into my thoughts; and I well remember,as I came in, I said thus in my heart, What shall I get by thinking on these twowords? This thought had no sooner passed through my heart, but the words began thusto kindle in my spirit, 'Thou art my love, thou art my love', twenty times together;and still as they ran thus in my mind, they waxed stronger and warmer, and beganto make me look up; but being as yet between hope and fear, I still replied in myheart, But is it true, but is it true? At which, that sentence fell in upon me, he'wist not that it was true which was done by the angel' (Acts 12.9).
Then I began to give place to the word, which, with power, did over and over makethis joyful sound within my soul, Thou art my love, thou art my love; and nothingshall separate thee from my love; and with that, Rom 8.39 came into my mind. Nowwas my heart filled full of comfort and hope, and now I could believe that my sinsshould be forgiven me; yea, I was now so taken with the love and mercy of God, thatI remember I could not tell how to contain till I got home; I thought I could havespoken of His love, and of His mercy to me, even to the very crows that sat uponthe ploughed lands before me, had they been capable to have understood me; whereforeI said in my soul with much gladness, Well, I would I had a pen and ink here, I wouldwrite this down before I go any farther, for surely I will not forget this fortyyears hence; but alas! within less than forty days, I began to question all again;which made me begin to question all still.
Yet still at times, I was helped to believe that it was a true manifestation of graceunto my soul, though I had lost much of the life and savour of it. Now about a weekor fortnight after this, I was much followed by this scripture, 'Simon, Simon, beholdSatan hath desired to have you' (Luke 22.31). And sometimes it would sound so loudwithin me, yea, and as it were call so strongly after me, that once above all therest, I turned my head over my shoulder, thinking verily that some man had, behindme, called to me; being at a great distance, methought he called so loud; it came,as I have thought since, to have stirred me up to prayer, and to watchfulness; itcame to acquaint me that a cloud and a storm was coming down upon me, but I understoodit not.
Also, as I remember, that time that it called to me so loud, was the last time thatit sounded in mine ear; but methinks I hear still with what a loud voice these words,Simon, Simon, sounded in mine ears. I thought verily, as I have told you, that somebodyhad called after me, that was half a mile behind me; and although that was not myname, yet it made me suddenly look behind me, believing that he that called so loudmeant me.
But so foolish was I, and ignorant, that I knew not the reason of this sound; which,as I did both see and feel soon after, was sent from heaven as an alarm, to awakenme to provide for what was coming; only it would make me muse and wonder in my mind,to think what should be the reason that this scripture, and that at this rate, sooften and so loud, should still be sounding and rattling in mine ears; but, as Isaid before, I soon after perceived the end of God therein.
For about the space of a month after, a very great storm came down upon me, whichhandled me twenty times worse than all I had met with before; it came stealing uponme, now by one piece, then by another; first, all my comfort was taken from me, thendarkness seized upon me, after which whole floods of blasphemies, both against God,Christ, and the Scriptures, were poured upon my spirit, to my great confusion andastonishment. These blasphemous thoughts were such as also stirred up questions inme, against the very being of God, and of His only beloved Son; as whether therewere, in truth, a God, or Christ, or no? And whether the holy Scriptures were notrather a fable, and cunning story, than the holy and pure Word of God?
The tempter would also much assault me with this, How can you tell but that the Turkshad as good Scriptures to prove their Mahomet the Saviour, as we have to prove ourJesus is? And, could I think, that so many ten thousands, in so many countries andkingdoms, should be without the knowledge of the right way to heaven; if there wereindeed a heaven, and that we only, who live in a corner of the earth, should alonebe blessed therewith? Everyone doth think his own religion rightest, both Jews andMoors, and Pagans! and how if all our faith, and Christ, and Scriptures, should bebut a think-so too?
Sometimes I have endeavoured to argue against these suggestions, and to set someof the sentences of blessed Paul against them; but, alas! I quickly felt, when Ithus did, such arguings as these would return again upon me, Though we made so greata matter of Paul, and of his words, yet how could I tell, but that in very deed,he being a subtle and cunning man, might give himself up to deceive with strong delusions;and also take both that pains and travail, to undo and destroy his fellows?
These suggestions, with many other which at this time I may not, nor dare not utter,neither by word nor pen, did make such a seizure upon my spirit, and did so overweighmy heart, both with their number, continuance, and fiery force, that I felt as ifthere were nothing else but these from morning to night within me; and as though,indeed, there could be room for nothing else; and also concluded that God had, invery wrath to my soul, given me up unto them, to be carried away with them, as witha mighty whirlwind.
Only by the distaste that they gave unto my spirit, I felt there was something inme that refused to embrace them. But this consideration I then only had, when Godgave me leave to swallow my spittle, otherwise the noise, and strength, and forceof these temptations, would drown and overflow, and as it were bury all such thoughtsor the remembrance of any such thing. While I was in this temptation, I should oftenfind my mind suddenly put upon it, to curse and swear, or to speak some grievousthing against God, or Christ His Son, and of the Scriptures.
Now I thought, surely I am possessed of the devil; at other times again, I thoughtI should be bereft of my wits; for instead of lauding and magnifying God the Lordwith others, if I have but heard Him spoken of, presently some most horrible blasphemousthought or other would bolt out of my heart against Him; so that whether I did thinkthat God was, or again did think there were no such thing, no love, nor peace, norgracious disposition could I feel within me.
These things did sink me into very deep despair; for I concluded, that such thingscould not possibly be found amongst them that loved God. I often, when these temptationshave been with force upon me, did compare myself in the case of such a child, whomsome gipsy hath by force took up under her apron, and is carrying from friend andcountry; kick sometimes I did, and also scream and cry; but yet I was as bound inthe wings of the temptation, and the wind would carry me away. I thought also ofSaul, and of the evil spirit that did possess him; and did greatly fear that my conditionwas the same with that of his (1 Sam. 16.14).
In these days, when I have heard others talk of what was the sin against the HolyGhost, then would the tempter so provoke me to desire to sin that sin, that I wasas if I could not, must not, neither should be quiet until I had committed that;now, no sin would serve but that; if it were to be committed by speaking of sucha word, then I have been as if my mouth would have spoken that word, whether I wouldor no; and in so strong a measure was this temptation upon me, that often I havebeen ready to clap my hand under my chin, to hold my mouth from opening; and to thatend also I have had thoughts at other times, to leap with my head downward, intosome muck-hill hole or other, to keep my mouth from speaking.
Now I blessed the condition of the dog and toad, and counted the estate of everythingthat God had made far better than this dreadful state of mine, and such as my companionswas; yea, gladly would I have been in the condition of dog or horse, for I knew theyhad no soul to perish under the everlasting weights of hell for sin, as mine waslike to do. Nay, and though I saw this, felt this, and was broken to pieces withit, yet that which added to my sorrow was, that I could not find that with all mysoul I did desire deliverance. That scripture did also tear and rend my soul, inthe midst of these distractions, 'The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannotrest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to thewicked' (Isa. 57.20, 21).
And now my heart was, at times, exceeding hard; if I would have given a thousandpounds for a tear, I could not shed one; no, nor sometimes scarce desire to shedone. I was much dejected to think that this should be my lot. I saw some could mournand lament their sin; and others, again, could rejoice, and bless God for Christ;and others, again, could quietly talk of, and with gladness remember, the Word ofGod; while I only was in the storm or tempest. This much sunk me; I thought my conditionwas alone. I should, therefore, much bewail my hard hap; but get out of, or get ridof, these things, I could not.
While this temptation lasted, which was about a year, I could attend upon none ofthe ordinances of God but with sore and great affliction. Yea, then was I most distressedwith blasphemies; if I have been hearing the Word, then uncleanness, blasphemiesand despair would hold me as captive there; if I have been reading, then, sometimes,I had sudden thoughts to question all I read; sometimes, again, my mind would beso strangely snatched away, and possessed with other things, that I have neitherknown, nor regarded, nor remembered so much as the sentence that but now I have read.
In prayer, also, I have been greatly troubled at this time; sometimes I have thoughtI should see the devil; nay, thought I have felt him, behind me, pull my clothes;he would be, also, continually at me in the time of prayer to have done; break off,make haste, you have prayed enough, and stay no longer, still drawing my mind away.Sometimes, also, he would cast in such wicked thoughts as these: that I must prayto him, or for him. I have thought sometimes of that-Fall down, or, 'if thou wiltfall down and worship me' (Matt. 4.9).
Also, when, because I have had wandering thoughts in the time of this duty, I havelaboured to compose my mind and fix it upon God, then, with great force, hath thetempter laboured to distract me, and confound me, and to turn away my mind, by presentingto my heart and fancy the form of a bush, a bull, a besom, or the like, as if I shouldpray to those; to these he would, also, at some times especially, so hold my mindthat I was as if I could think of nothing else, or pray to nothing else but to these,or such as they.
Yet, at times I should have some strong and heart-affecting apprehensions of God,and the reality of the truth of His gospel; but, oh! how would my heart, at suchtimes, put forth itself with inexpressible groanings. My whole soul was then in everyword; I should cry with pangs after God that He would be merciful unto me; but thenI should be daunted again with such conceits as these: I should think that God didmock at these, my prayers, saying, and that in the audience of the holy angels, Thispoor simple wretch doth hanker after Me as if I had nothing to do with My mercy butto bestow it on such as he. Alas, poor fool! how art thou deceived; It is not forsuch as thee to have favour with the Highest.
Then hath the tempter come upon me, also, with such discouragements as these: Youare very hot for mercy, but I will cool you; this frame shall not last always; manyhave been as hot as you for a spirit, but I have quenched their zeal. And with this,such and such who were fallen off would be set before mine eyes. Then I should beafraid that I should do so too; but, thought I, I am glad this comes into my mind.Well, I will watch, and take what heed I can. Though you do, said Satan, I shallbe too hard for you; I will cool you insensibly, by degrees, by little and little.What care I, saith he, though I be seven years in chilling your heart if I can doit at last? Continual rocking will lull a crying child asleep. I will ply it close,but I will have my end accomplished. Though you be burning hot at present, yet, ifI can pull you from this fire, I shall have you cold before it be long.
These things brought me into great straits; for as I at present could not find myselffit for present death, so I thought to live long would make me yet more unfit; fortime would make me forget all, and wear even the remembrance of the evil of sin,the worth of heaven, and the need I had of the blood of Christ to wash me, both outof mind and thought; but I thank Christ Jesus these things did not at present makeme slack my crying, but rather did put me more upon it, like her who met with theadulterer (Deut. 22.27); in which days that was a good word to me after I had sufferedthese things a while: 'I am persuaded that neither_5height, nor depth, nor life,'etc., 'shall_5separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus' (Rom. 8.38).And now I hoped long life should not destroy me, nor make me miss of heaven.
Yet I had some supports in this temptation, though they were then all questionedby me; that in the third of Jeremiah, at the first, was something to me, and so wasthe consideration of the fifth verse of that chapter; that though we have spokenand done as evil things as we could, yet we should cry unto God, 'My Father, Thouart the guide of my youth'; and should return unto Him.
I had, also, once a sweet glance from that in II Cor. 5.21: 'For he hath made himto be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of Godin him.' I remember, also, that one day as I was sitting in a neighbour's house,and there very sad at the consideration of my many blasphemies, and as I was sayingin my mind, What ground have I to think that I, who have been so vile and abominable,should ever inherit eternal life? that word came suddenly upon me, 'What shall wethen say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?' (Rom. 8.31).That, also, was an help unto me, 'Because I live, ye shall live also' (John 14.19).But these were but hints, touches, and short visits, though very sweet when present;only they lasted not; but, like to Peter's sheet, of a sudden were caught up fromme to heaven again (Acts 10.16).
But afterwards the Lord did more fully and graciously discover Himself unto me; and,indeed, did quite, not only deliver me from the guilt that, by these things, waslaid upon my conscience, but also from the very filth thereof; for the temptationwas removed, and I was put into my right mind again, as other Christians were.
I remember that one day, as I was travelling into the country and musing on the wickednessand blasphemy of my heart, and considering of the enmity that was in me to God, thatscripture came in my mind, He hath 'made peace through the blood of his cross' (Col.1.20). By which I was made to see, both again, and again, and again, that day, thatGod and my soul were friends by this blood; yea, I saw that the justice of God andmy sinful soul could embrace and kiss each other through this blood. This was a goodday to me; I hope I shall not forget it.
At another time, as I sat by the fire in my house, and musing on my wretchedness,the Lord made that also a precious word unto me, 'Forasmuch, then, as the childrenare partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same;that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, thedevil, and deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subjectto bondage' (Heb. 2.14, 15). I thought that the glory of these words was then soweighty on me that I was, both once and twice, ready to swoon as I sat; yet not withgrief and trouble, but with solid joy and peace.
At this time, also, I sat under the ministry of holy Mr. Gifford, whose doctrine,by God's grace, was much for my stability. This man made it much his business todeliver the people of God from all those faults and unsound rests that, by nature,we are prone to take and make to our souls. He pressed up to take special heed thatwe took not up any truth upon trust-as from this, or that, or any other man or men-but to cry mightily to God that He would convince us of the reality thereof, andset us down therein, by His own Spirit, in the holy Word; for, said he, if you dootherwise when temptations come, if strongly, you, not having received them withevidence from heaven, will find you want that help and strength now to resist asonce you thought you had.
This was as seasonable to my soul as the former and latter rain in their season;for I had found, and that by sad experience, the truth of these his words; for Ihad felt what no man can say, especially when tempted by the devil, that Jesus Christis Lord but by the Holy Ghost. Wherefore I found my soul, through grace, very aptto drink in this doctrine, and to incline to pray to God that, in nothing that pertainedto God's glory and my own eternal happiness, He would suffer me to be without theconfirmation thereof from heaven; for now I saw clearly there was an exceeding differencebetwixt the notions of flesh and blood, and the revelations of God in heaven; also,a great difference between that faith that is feigned, and according to man's wisdom,and of that which comes by a man's being born thereto of God (Matt. 16.15- 17; 1John 5.1).
But, oh! now, how was my soul led from truth to truth by God! even from the birthand cradle of the Son of God to His ascension and second coming from heaven to judgethe world.
Truly, I then found, upon this account, the great God was very good unto me; for,to my remembrance, there was not anything that I then cried unto God to make knownand reveal unto me but He was pleased to do it for me; I mean not one part of thegospel of the Lord Jesus, but I was orderly led into it. Methought I saw with greatevidence, from the relation of the four evangelists, the wonderful work of God, ingiving Jesus Christ to save us, from His conception and birth even to His secondcoming to judgment. Methought I was as if I had seen Him born, as if I had seen Himgrow up, as if I had seen Him walk through this world, from the cradle to His cross:to which, also, when He came, I saw how gently He gave Himself to be hanged and nailedon it for my sins and wicked doings. Also, as I was musing on this, His progress,that dropped on my spirit, He was ordained for the slaughter (1 Pet. 1.19, 20).
When I have considered also the truth of His resurrection, and have remembered thatword, 'Touch me not, Mary,' etc., I have seen as if He leaped at the grave's mouthfor joy that He was risen again, and had got the conquest over our dreadful foes(John 20.17). I have also, in the spirit, seen Him a man on the right hand of Godthe Father for me, and have seen the manner of His coming from heaven to judge theworld with glory, and have been confirmed in these things by these scriptures following,Acts 1.9, 10; 7.56; 10.42; Heb. 7.24; 8.3; Rev. 1.18; 1 Thess. 4.17, 18.
Once I was much troubled to know whether the Lord Jesus was both man as well as God,and God as well as man; and truly, in those days, let men say what they would, unlessI had it with evidence from heaven, all was as nothing to me, I counted not myselfset down in any truth of God. Well, I was much troubled about this point, and couldnot tell how to be resolved; at last, that in the fifth of the Revelations came intomy mind, 'And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts,and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb.' In the midst of the throne, thoughtI, there is His Godhead; in the midst of the elders, there is His manhood; but oh!methought this did glister! it was a goodly touch, and gave me sweet satisfaction.That other scripture also did help me much in this, 'To us a child is born, untous a son is given; and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shallbe called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Princeof Peace,' etc. (Isa. 9.6).
Also, besides these teachings of God in His Word, the Lord made use of two thingsto confirm me in these things; the one was the errors of the Quakers, and the otherwas the guilt of sin; for as the Quakers did oppose His truth, so God did the moreconfirm me in it, by leading me into the scriptures that did wonderfully maintainit.
The errors that this people then maintained were: 1. That the holy Scriptures werenot the Word of God. 2. That every man in the world had the spirit of Christ, grace,faith, etc. 3. That Christ Jesus, as crucified, and dying 1600 years ago, did notsatisfy divine justice for the sins of the people. 4. That Christ's flesh and bloodwas within the saints. 5. That the bodies of the good and bad that are buried inthe churchyard shall not arise again. 6. That the resurrection is past with goodmen already. 7. That that man Jesus, that was crucified between two thieves on MountCalvary, in the land of Canaan, by Jerusalem, was not ascended up above the starryheavens. 8. That He should not, even the same Jesus that died by the hands of theJews, come again at the last day, and as man judge all nations, etc.
Many more vile and abominable things were in those days fomented by them, by whichI was driven to a more narrow search of the Scriptures, and was, through their lightand testimony, not only enlightened, but greatly confirmed and comforted in the truth;and, as I said, the guilt of sin did help me much, for still as that would come uponme, the blood of Christ did take it off again, and again, and again, and that too,sweetly, according to the Scriptures. O friends! cry to God to reveal Jesus Christunto you; there is none teacheth like Him.
It would be too long for me here to stay, to tell you in particular how God did setme down in all the things of Christ, and how He did, that He might do so, lead meinto His words; yea, and also how He did open them unto me, make them shine beforeme, and comfort me over and over, both of His own being, and the being of His Son,and Spirit, and Word, and gospel.
Only this, as I said before I will say unto you again, that in general He was pleasedto take this course with me; first, to suffer me to be afflicted with temptationconcerning them, and then reveal them to me: as sometimes I should lie under greatguilt for sin, even crushed to the ground therewith, and then the Lord would showme the death of Christ; yea, and so sprinkle my conscience with His blood, that Ishould find, and that before I was aware, that in that conscience where but justnow did reign and rage the law, even there would rest and abide the peace and loveof God through Christ.
Now had I an evidence, as I thought, of my salvation from heaven, with many goldenseals thereon, all hanging in my sight; now could I remember this manifestation andthe other discovery of grace, with comfort; and should often long and desire thatthe last day were come, that I might for ever be inflamed with the sight, and joy,and communion with Him whose head was crowned with thorns, whose face was spit on,and body broken, and soul made an offering for my sins: for whereas, before, I laycontinually trembling at the mouth of hell, now methought I was got so far therefromthat I could not, when I looked back, scarce discern it; and oh! thought I, thatI were fourscore years old now, that I might die quickly, that my soul might be goneto rest.
But before I had got thus far out of these my temptations, I did greatly long tosee some ancient godly man's experience, who had writ some hundreds of years beforeI was born; for those who had writ in our days, I thought, but I desire them nowto pardon me, that they had writ only that which others felt, or else had, throughthe strength of their wits and parts, studied to answer such objections as they perceivedothers were perplexed with, without going down themselves into the deep. Well, aftermany such longings in my mind, the God in whose hands are all our days and ways,did cast into my hand, one day, a book of Martin Luther; it was his comment on theGalatians-it also was so old that it was ready to fall piece from piece if I didbut turn it over. Now I was pleased much that such an old book had fallen into myhands; the which, when I had but a little way perused, I found my condition, in hisexperience, so largely and profoundly handled, as if his book had been written outof my heart. This made me marvel; for thus thought I, This man could not know anythingof the state of Christians now, but must needs write and speak the experience offormer days.
Besides, he doth most gravely, also, in that book, debate of the rise of these temptations,namely, blasphemy, desperation, and the like; showing that the law of Moses as wellas the devil, death, and hell hath a very great hand therein, the which, at first,was very strange to me; but considering and watching, I found it so indeed. But ofparticulars here I intend nothing; only this, methinks, I must let fall before allmen, I do prefer this book of Martin Luther upon the Galatians, excepting the HolyBible, before all the books that ever I have seen, as most fit for a wounded conscience.
And now I found, as I thought, that I loved Christ dearly; oh! methought my soulcleaved unto Him, my affections cleaved unto Him, I felt love unto Him as hot asfire; and now, as Job said, I thought I should die in my nest; but I did quicklyfind that my great love was but little, and that I, who had, as I thought, such burninglove to Jesus Christ, could let Him go again for a very trifle; God can tell howto abase us, and can hide pride from man. Quickly after this my love was tried topurpose.
For after the Lord had, in this manner, thus graciously delivered me from this greatand sore temptation, and had set me down so sweetly in the faith of His holy gospel,and had given me such strong consolation and blessed evidence from heaven touchingmy interest in His love through Christ; the tempter came upon me again, and thatwith a more grievous and dreadful temptation than before.
And that was, To sell and part with this most blessed Christ, to exchange Him forthe things of this life, for anything. The temptation lay upon me for the space ofa year, and did follow me so continually that I was not rid of it one day in a month,no, not sometimes one hour in many days together, unless when I was asleep.
And though, in my judgment, I was persuaded that those who were once effectuallyin Christ, as I hoped, through His grace, I had seen myself, could never lose Himfor ever-for 'the land shall not be sold for ever, for the land is mine,' saith God(Lev. 25.23)-yet it was a continual vexation to me to think that I should have somuch as one such thought within me against a Christ, a Jesus, that had done for meas He had done; and yet then I had almost none others, but such blasphemous ones.
But it was neither my dislike of the thought, nor yet any desire and endeavour toresist it that in the least did shake or abate the continuation, or force and strengththereof; for it did always, in almost whatever I thought, intermix itself therewithin such sort that I could neither eat my food, stoop for a pin, chop a stick, orcast mine eye to look on this, or that, but still the temptation would come, SellChrist for this, or sell Christ for that; sell Him, sell Him.
Sometimes it would run in my thoughts, not so little as a hundred times together,Sell Him, sell Him, sell Him; against which I may say, for whole hours together,I have been forced to stand as continually leaning and forcing my spirit againstit, lest haply, before I were aware, some wicked thought might arise in my heartthat might consent thereto; and sometimes also the tempter would make me believeI had consented to it, then should I be as tortured upon a rack for whole days together.
This temptation did put me to such scares, lest I should at sometimes, I say, consentthereto, and be overcome therewith, that by the very force of my mind in labouringto gainsay and resist this wickedness, my very body also would be put into actionor motion by way of pushing or thrusting with my hands or elbows, still answeringas fast as the destroyer said, Sell Him; I will not, I will not, I will not, I willnot; no, not for thousands, thousands, thousands of worlds. Thus reckoning lest Ishould in the midst of these assaults, set too low a value of Him, even until I scarcewell knew where I was, or how to be composed again.
At these seasons he would not let me eat my food at quiet; but, forsooth, when Iwas set at the table at my meat, I must go hence to pray; I must leave my food now,and just now, so counterfeit holy also would this devil be. When I was thus tempted,I should say in myself, Now I am at my meat, let me make an end. No, said he, youmust do it now, or you will displease God, and despise Christ. Wherefore I was muchafflicted with these things; and because of the sinfulness of my nature, imaginingthat these things were impulses from God, I should deny to do it, as if I deniedGod; and then should I be as guilty, because I did not obey a temptation of the devil,as if I had broken the law of God indeed.
But to be brief, one morning, as I did lie in my bed, I was, at other times, mostfiercely assaulted with this temptation, to sell and part with Christ; the wickedsuggestion still running in my mind, Sell Him, sell Him, sell Him, sell Him, sellHim, as fast as a man could speak; against which also, in my mind, as at other times,I answered, No, no, not for thousands, thousands, thousands, at least twenty timestogether. But at last, after much striving, even until I was almost out of breath,I felt this thought pass through my heart, Let Him go, if He will! and I thoughtalso, that I felt my heart freely consent thereto. Oh, the diligence of Satan! Oh,the desperateness of man's heart!
Now was the battle won, and down I fell, as a bird that is shot from the top of atree, into great guilt, and fearful despair. Thus getting out of my bed, I went mopinginto the field; but God knows, with as heavy a heart as mortal man, I think, couldbear; where, for the space of two hours, I was like a man bereft of life, and asnow past all recovery, and bound over to eternal punishment.
And withal, that scripture did seize upon my soul, 'Or profane person, as Esau, whofor one morsel of meat, sold his birthright; for ye know, how that afterward, whenhe would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance,though he sought it carefully with tears' (Heb. 12.16,17).
Now was I as one bound, I felt myself shut up unto the judgment to come; nothingnow for two years together would abide with me, but damnation, and an expectationof damnation; I say, nothing now would abide with me but this, save some few momentsfor relief, as in the sequel you will see.
These words were to my soul like fetters of brass to my legs, in the continual soundof which I went for several months together. But about ten or eleven o'clock oneday, as I was walking under a hedge, full of sorrow and guilt, God knows, and bemoaningmyself for this hard hap that such a thought should arise within me; suddenly thissentence bolted in upon me, The blood of Christ remits all guilt. At this I madea stand in my spirit; with that, this word took hold upon me, 'The blood of JesusChrist, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin' (1 John 1.7).
Now I began to conceive peace in my soul, and methought I saw as if the tempter didleer and steal away from me, as being ashamed of what he had done. At the same timealso I had my sin, and the blood of Christ thus represented to me, that my sin, whencompared to the blood of Christ, was no more to it, than this little clot or stonebefore me, is to this vast and wide field that here I see. This gave me good encouragementfor the space of two or three hours; in which time also, methought I saw, by faith,the Son of God, as suffering for my sins; but because it tarried not, I thereforesunk in my spirit, under exceeding guilt again.
But chiefly by the afore-mentioned scripture, concerning Esau's selling of his birthright;for that scripture would lie all day long, all the week long, yea, all the year longin my mind, and hold me down, so that I could by no means lift up myself; for whenI would strive to turn me to this scripture, or that, for relief, still that sentencewould be sounding in me, 'For ye know, how that afterward, when he would have inheritedthe blessing_5he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully withtears.'
Sometimes, also, I should have a touch from that in Luke 22.32, 'I have prayed forthee, that thy faith fail not'; but it would not abide upon me; neither could I indeed,when I considered my state, find ground to conceive in the least, that there shouldbe the root of that grace within me, having sinned as I had done. Now was I tornand rent in heavy case, for many days together.
Then began I with sad and careful heart, to consider of the nature and largenessof my sin, and to search in the Word of God, if I could in any place espy a wordof promise, or any encouraging sentence by which I might take relief. Wherefore Ibegan to consider that third of Mark, All manner of sins and blasphemies shall beforgiven unto the sons of men, wherewith soever they shall blaspheme. Which place,methought, at a blush, did contain a large and glorious promise, for the pardon ofhigh offences; but considering the place more fully, I thought it was rather to beunderstood as relating more chiefly to those who had, while in a natural state, committedsuch things as there are mentioned; but not to me, who had not only received lightand mercy, but that had, both after, and also contrary to that, so slighted Christas I had done.
I feared therefore that this wicked sin of mine might be that sin unpardonable, ofwhich he there thus speaketh, 'But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghosthath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation' (Mark 3.29). And Idid the rather give credit to this, because of that sentence in the Hebrews, 'Forye know, how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected;for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.' Andthis stuck always with me.
And now was I both a burden and a terror to myself, nor did I ever so know, as now,what it was to be weary of my life, and yet afraid to die. Oh, how gladly now wouldI have been anybody but myself! Anything but a man! and in any condition but mineown! for there was nothing did pass more frequently over my mind, than that it wasimpossible for me to be forgiven my transgression, and to be saved from wrath tocome.
And now began I to labour to call again time that was past; wishing a thousand timestwice told, that the day was yet to come, when I should be tempted to such a sin;concluding with great indignation, both against my heart, and all assaults, how Iwould rather have been torn in pieces, than found a consenter thereto. But alas!these thoughts, and wishings, and resolvings, were now too late to help me; the thoughthad passed my heart, God hath let me go, and I am fallen. Oh! thought I, 'that itwas with me as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me!' (Job 29.2).
Then again, being loath and unwilling to perish, I began to compare my sin with others,to see if I could find that any of those that were saved had done as I had done.So I considered David's adultery and murder, and found them most heinous crimes;and those too committed after light and grace received; but yet by considering, Iperceived that his transgressions were only such as were against the law of Moses;from which the Lord Christ could, with the consent of His Word, deliver him; butmine was against the gospel, yea, against the Mediator thereof; I had sold my Saviour.
Now again should I be as if racked upon the wheel, when I considered, that, besidesthe guilt that possessed me, I should be so void of grace, so bewitched. What, thoughtI, must it be no sin but this? Must it needs be the great transgression (Ps. 19.13)?Must that wicked one touch my soul (1 John 5.18)? Oh, what stings did I find in allthese sentences!
What, thought I, is there but one sin that is unpardonable? But one sin that layeththe soul without the reach of God's mercy; and must I be guilty of that? Must itneeds be that? Is there but one sin among so many millions of sins, for which thereis no forgiveness; and must I commit this? Oh, unhappy sin! Oh, unhappy man! Thesethings would so break and confound my spirit, that I could not tell what to do; Ithought, at times, they would have broke my wits; and still, to aggravate my misery,that would run in my mind, 'Ye know how that afterward, when he would have inheritedthe blessing, he was rejected.' Oh! none knows the terrors of those days but myself.
After this I came to consider of Peter's sin, which he committed in denying his Master;and indeed, this came nighest to mine, of any that I could find; for he had deniedhis Saviour, as I, and that after light and mercy received; yea, and that too, afterwarning given him. I also considered, that he did it both once and twice; and that,after time to consider betwixt. But though I put all these circumstances together,that, if possible, I might find help, yet I considered again, that his was but adenial of his Master, but mine was a selling of my Saviour. Wherefore I thought withmyself, that I came nearer to Judas, than either to David or Peter.
Here again my torment would flame out and afflict me; yea, it would grind me, asit were, to powder, to discern the preservation of God towards others, while I fellinto the snare; for in my thus considering of other men's sins, and comparing ofthem with my own, I could evidently see how God preserved them, notwithstanding theirwickedness, and would not let them, as he had let me, to become a son of perdition.
But oh, how did my soul, at this time, prize the preservation that God did set abouthis people! Ah, how safely did I see them walk, whom God had hedged in! They werewithin His care, protection, and special providence; though they were full as badas I by nature; yet because He loved them, He would not suffer them to fall withoutthe range of mercy; but as for me, I was gone, I had done it; He would not preserveme, nor keep me; but suffered me, because I was a reprobate, to fall as I had done.Now, did those blessed places, that spake of God's keeping His people, shine likethe sun before me, though not to comfort me, but to show me the blessed state andheritage of those whom the Lord had blessed.
Now I saw, that as God had His hand in all providences and dispensation that overtookHis elect, so He had His hand in all the temptations that they had to sin againstHim, not to animate them unto wickedness, but to choose their temptations and troublesfor them; and also to leave them, for a time, to such sins only as might not destroy,but humble them; as might not put them beyond, but lay them in the way of the renewingof His mercy. But oh, what love, what care, what kindness and mercy did I now see,mixing itself with the most severe and dreadful of all God's ways to His people!He would let David, Hezekiah, Solomon, Peter, and others fall, but He would not letthem fall into sin unpardonable, nor into hell for sin. Oh! thought I, these be themen that God hath loved; these be the men that God, though He chastiseth them, keepsthem in safety by Him, and them whom He makes to abide under the shadow of the Almighty.But all these thoughts added sorrow, grief, and horror to me, as whatever I now thoughton, it was killing to me. If I thought how God kept His own, that was killing tome. If I thought of how I was falling myself, that was killing to me. As all thingswrought together for the best, and to do good to them that were the called, accordingto His purpose; so I thought that all things wrought for my damage, and for my eternaloverthrow.
Then, again, I began to compare my sin with the sin of Judas, that, if possible,I might find that mine differed from that which, in truth, is unpardonable. And,oh! thought I, if it should differ from it, though but the breadth of an hair, whata happy condition is my soul in! And, by considering, I found that Judas did hisintentionally, but mine was against my prayer and strivings; besides, his was committedwith much deliberation, but mine in a fearful hurry, on a sudden; all this whileI was tossed to and fro, like the locusts, and driven from trouble to sorrow; hearingalways the sound of Esau's fall in mine ears, and of the dreadful consequences thereof.
Yet this consideration about Judas, his sin, was, for a while, some little reliefunto me; for I saw I had not, as to the circumstances, transgressed so foully ashe. But this was quickly gone again, for, I thought with myself, there might be moreways than one to commit the unpardonable sin; also I thought that there might bedegrees of that, as well as of other transgressions; wherefore, for aught I yet couldperceive, this iniquity of mine might be such, as might never be passed by.
I was often now ashamed, that I should be like such an ugly man as Judas; I thought,also, how loathsome I should be unto all the saints at the day of judgment; insomuch,that now I could scarce see a good man, that I believed had a good conscience, butI should feel my heart tremble at him, while I was in his presence. Oh! now I sawa glory in walking with God, and what a mercy it was to have a good conscience beforeHim.
I was much about this time tempted to content myself, by receiving some false opinion;as that there should be no such thing as a day of judgment, that we should not riseagain, and that sin was no such grievous thing; the tempter suggesting thus, Forif these things should indeed be true, yet to believe otherwise, would yield youease for the present. If you must perish, never torment yourself so much beforehand;drive the thoughts of damning out of your mind, by possessing your mind with somesuch conclusions that Atheists and Ranters do use to help themselves withal.
But oh! when such thoughts have led through my heart, how, as it were, within a step,hath death and judgment been in my view; methought the judge stood at the door, Iwas as if it was come already; so that such things could have no entertainment. But,methinks, I see by this, that Satan will use any means to keep the soul from Christ;he loveth not an awakened frame of spirit; security, blindness, darkness, and erroris the very kingdom and habitation of the wicked one.
I found it hard work now to pray to God, because despair was swallowing me up; Ithought I was, as with a tempest, driven away from God, for always when I cried toGod for mercy, this would come in, It is too late, I am lost, God hath let me fall;not to my correction, but condemnation; my sin is unpardonable; and I know, concerningEsau, how that, after he had sold his birthright, he would have received the blessing,but was rejected. About this time, I did light on that dreadful story of that miserablemortal, Francis Spira; a book that was to my troubled spirit as salt, when rubbedinto a fresh wound; every sentence in that book, every groan of that man, with allthe rest of his actions in his dolours, as his tears, his prayers, his gnashing ofteeth, his wringing of hands, his twining and twisting, languishing and pining awayunder that mighty hand of God that was upon him, was as knives and daggers in mysoul; especially that sentence of his was frightful to me, Man knows the beginningof sin, but who bounds the issues thereof? Then would the former sentence, as theconclusion of all, fall like a hot thunderbolt again upon my conscience; 'for youknow how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected;for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.'
Then was I struck into a very great trembling, insomuch that at sometimes I could,for whole days together, feel my very body, as well as my mind, to shake and totterunder the sense of the dreadful judgment of God, that should fall on those that havesinned that most fearful and unpardonable sin. I felt also such a clogging and heatat my stomach, by reason of this my terror, that I was, especially at some times,as if my breast bone would have split in sunder; then I thought of that concerningJudas, who, by his falling headlong, burst asunder, and all his bowels gushed out(Acts 1:18).
I feared also that this was the mark that the Lord did set on Cain, even continuedfear and trembling, under the heavy load of guilt that he had charged on him forthe blood of his brother Abel. Thus did I wind, and twine, and shrink, under theburden that was upon me; which burden also did so oppress me, that I could neitherstand, nor go, nor lie, either at rest or quiet.
Yet that saying would sometimes come to my mind, He hath received gifts for the rebellious(Ps. 68.18). 'The rebellious,' thought I; why, surely they are such as once wereunder subjection to their prince, even those who, after they have sworn subjectionto his government, have taken up arms against him; and this, thought I, is my verycondition; once I loved Him, feared Him, served Him; but now I am a rebel; I havesold Him, I have said, Let Him go if He will; but yet He has gifts for rebels, andthen why not for me?
This sometimes I thought on, and should labour to take hold thereof, that some, thoughsmall, refreshment might have been conceived by me; but in this also I missed ofmy desire, I was driven with force beyond it, I was like a man that is going to theplace of execution, even by that place where he would fain creep in and hide himself,but may not.
Again, after I had thus considered the sins of the saints in particular, and foundmine went beyond them, then I began to think thus with myself: Set the case I shouldput all theirs together, and mine alone against them, might I not then find someencouragement? For if mine, though bigger than any one, yet should but be equal toall, then there is hopes; for that blood that hath virtue enough in it to wash awayall theirs, hath also virtue enough in it to do away mine, though this one be fullas big, if no bigger, than all theirs. Here, again, I should consider the sin ofDavid, of Solomon, of Manasseh, of Peter, and the rest of the great offenders; andshould also labour, what I might with fairness, to aggravate and heighten their sinsby several circumstances: but, alas! it was all in vain.
I should think with myself that David shed blood to cover his adultery, and thatby the sword of the children of Ammon; a work that could not be done but by continuanceand deliberate contrivance, which was a great aggravation to his sin. But then thiswould turn upon me: Ah! but these were but sins against the law, from which therewas a Jesus sent to save them; but yours is a sin against the Saviour, and who shallsave you from that?
Then I thought on Solomon, and how he sinned in loving strange women, in fallingaway to their idols, in building them temples, in doing this after light, in hisold age, after great mercy received; but the same conclusion that cut me off in theformer consideration, cut me off as to this; namely, that all those were but sinsagainst the law, for which God had provided a remedy; but I had sold my Saviour,and there now remained no more sacrifice for sin.
I would then add to those men's sins, the sins of Manasseh, how that he built altarsfor idols in the house of the Lord; he also observed times, used enchantments, hadto do with wizards, was a wizard, had his familiar spirits, burned his children inthe fire in sacrifice to devils, and made the streets of Jerusalem run down withthe blood of innocents. These, I thought, are great sins, sins of a bloody colour;yea, it would turn again upon me: They are none of them of the nature of yours; youhave parted with Jesus, you have sold your Saviour.
This one consideration would always kill my heart, My sin was point-blank againstmy Saviour; and that too, at that height, that I had in my heart said of Him, LetHim go if He will. Oh! methought, this sin was bigger than the sins of a country,of a kingdom, or of the whole world, no one pardonable, nor all of them together,was able to equal mine; mine outwent them every one.
Now I should find my mind to flee from God, as from the face of a dreadful judge;yet this was my torment, I could not escape His hand: 'It is a fearful thing to fallinto the hands of the living God' (Heb. 10.31). But blessed be His grace, that scripture,in these flying sins, would call as running after me, 'I have blotted out, as a thickcloud, thy transgressions; and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me, for I haveredeemed thee' (Isa. 44.22). This, I say, would come in upon my mind, when I wasfleeing from the face of God; for I did flee from His face, that is, my mind andspirit fled before Him; by reason of His highness, I could not endure; then wouldthe text cry, 'Return unto me, for I have redeemed thee.' Indeed, this would makeme make a little stop, and, as it were, look over my shoulder behind me, to see ifI could discern that the God of grace did follow me with a pardon in His hand, butI could no sooner do that, but all would be clouded and darkened again by that sentence,'For you know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he foundno place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.' Wherefore I couldnot return, but fled, though at sometimes it cried 'Return, return', as if it didholloa after me. But I feared to close in therewith, lest it should not come fromGod; for that other, as I said was still sounding in my conscience, 'For you knowhow that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected',etc.
Once as I was walking to and fro in a good man's shop, bemoaning of myself in mysad and doleful state, afflicting myself with self- abhorrence for this wicked andungodly thought; lamenting, also, this hard hap of mine, for that I should commitso great a sin; greatly fearing I would not be pardoned; praying, also, in my heart,that if this sin of mine did differ from that against the Holy Ghost, the Lord wouldshow it me. And being now ready to sink with fear, suddenly there was, as if therehad rushed in at the window, the noise of wind upon me, but very pleasant, and asif I heard a voice speaking, Didst ever refuse to be justified by the blood of Christ?And withal my whole life and profession past was, in a moment, opened to me, whereinI was made to see that designedly I had not; so my heart answered groaningly, No.Then fell, with power, that word of God upon me, 'See that ye refuse not him thatspeaketh'(Heb. 12.25). This made a strange seizure upon my spirit; it brought lightwith it, and commanded a silence in my heart of all those tumultuous thoughts thatbefore did use, like masterless hell- hounds, to roar and bellow, and make a hideousnoise within me. It showed me, also, that Jesus Christ had yet a word of grace andmercy for me, that He had not, as I had feared, quite forsaken and cast off my soul;yea, this was a kind of chide for my proneness to desperation; a kind of a threateningme if I did not, notwithstanding my sins and the heinousness of them, venture mysalvation upon the Son of God. But as to my determining about this strange dispensation,what it was I knew not; from whence it came I knew not. I have not yet, in twentyyears' time, been able to make a judgment of it; I thought then what here I shallbe loath to speak. But verily, that sudden rushing wind was as if an angel had comeupon me; but both it and the salvation I will leave until the day of judgment; onlythis I say, it commanded a great calm in my soul, it persuaded me there might behope; it showed me, as I thought, what the sin unpardonable was, and that my soulhad yet the blessed privilege to flee to Jesus for mercy. But, I say, concerningthis dispensation, I know not what yet to say unto it; which was, also, in truth,the cause that, at first, I did not speak of it in the book; I do now, also, leaveit to be thought on by men of sound judgment. I lay not the stress of my salvationthereupon, but upon the Lord Jesus, in the promise; yet, seeing I am here unfoldingof my secret things, I thought it might not be altogether inexpedient to let thisalso show itself, though I cannot now relate the matter as there I did experienceit. This lasted, in the savour of it, for about three or four days, and then I beganto mistrust and to despair again.
Wherefore, still my life hung in doubt before me, not knowing which way I shouldtip; only this I found my soul desire, even to cast itself at the foot of grace,by prayer and supplication. But, oh! it was hard for me now to bear the face to prayto this Christ for mercy, against whom I had thus most vilely sinned; it was hardwork, I say, to offer to look Him in the face against whom I had so vilely sinned;and, indeed, I have found it as difficult to come to God by prayer, after backslidingfrom Him, as to do any other thing. Oh, the shame that did now attend me! especiallywhen I thought I am now a-going to pray to Him for mercy that I had so lightly esteemedbut a while before! I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because this villainy hadbeen committed by me; but I saw there was but one way with me, I must go to Him andhumble myself unto Him, and beg that He, of His wonderful mercy, would show pityto me, and have mercy upon my wretched sinful soul.
Which, when the tempter perceived, he strongly suggested to me, That I ought notto pray to God; for prayer was not for any in my case, neither could it do me good,because I had rejected the Mediator, by whom all prayer came with acceptance to Godthe Father, and without whom no prayer could come into His presence. Wherefore, nowto pray is but to add sin to sin; yea, now to pray, seeing God has cast you off,is the next way to anger and offend Him more than you ever did before.
For God, saith he, hath been weary of you for these several years already, becauseyou are none of His; your bawlings in His ears hath been no pleasant voice to Him;and, therefore, He let you sin this sin, that you might be quite cut off; and willyou pray still? This the devil urged, and set forth that, in Numbers, when Mosessaid to the children of Israel, That because they would not go up to possess theland when God would have them, therefore, for ever after, God did bar them out fromthence, though they prayed they might, with tears (Num. 14.36, 37, etc.).
As it is said in another place (Exod. 21.14), the man that sins presumptuously shallbe taken from God's altar, that he may die; even as Joab was by King Solomon, whenhe thought to find shelter there (1 Kings 2.28, etc.). These places did pinch mevery sore; yet, my case being desperate, I thought with myself I can but die; andif it must be so, it shall once be said, that such an one died at the foot of Christin prayer. This I did, but with great difficulty, God doth know; and that because,together with this, still that saying about Esau would be set at my heart, even likea flaming sword, to keep the way of the tree of life, lest I should taste thereofand live. Oh! who knows how hard a thing I found it to come to God in prayer.
I did also desire the prayers of the people of God for me, but I feared that Godwould give them no heart to do it; yea, I trembled in my soul to think that someor other of them would shortly tell me, that God had said those words to them thatHe once did say to the prophet concerning the children of Israel, 'Pray thou notfor this people,' for I have rejected them (Jer. 11.14). So, pray not for him, forI have rejected him. Yea, I thought that He had whispered this to some of them already,only they durst not tell me so, neither durst I ask them of it, for fear, if it shouldbe so, it would make me quite beside myself. Man knows the beginning of sin, saidSpira, but who bounds the issues thereof?
About this time I took an opportunity to break my mind to an ancient Christian, andtold him all my case; I told him, also, that I was afraid that I had sinned the sinagainst the Holy Ghost; and he told me he thought so too. Here, therefore, I hadbut cold comfort; but, talking a little more with him, I found him, though a goodman, a stranger to much combat with the devil. Wherefore, I went to God again, aswell as I could, for mercy still.
Now, also, did the tempter begin to mock me in my misery, saying, that, seeing Ihad thus parted with the Lord Jesus, and provoked Him to displeasure, who would havestood between my soul and the flame of devouring fire, there was now but one way,and that was, to pray that God the Father would be the Mediator betwixt His Son andme, that we might be reconciled again, and that I might have that blessed benefitin Him that His blessed saints enjoyed.
Then did that scripture seize upon my soul, He is of one mind, and who can turn Him?Oh! I saw it was as easy to persuade Him to make a new world, a new covenant, ornew Bible, besides that we have already, as to pray for such a thing. This was topersuade Him that what He had done already was mere folly, and persuade with Himto alter, yea, to disannul, the whole way of salvation; and then would that sayingrend my soul asunder, 'Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is noneother name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved' (Acts 4.12).
Now the most free, and full, and gracious words of the gospel were the greatest tormentto me; yea, nothing so afflicted me as the thoughts of Jesus Christ, the remembranceof a Saviour; because I had cast Him off, brought forth the villainy of my sin, andmy loss by it to mind; nothing did twinge my conscience like this. Every time thatI thought of the Lord Jesus, of His grace, love, goodness, kindness, gentleness,meekness, death, blood, promises and blessed exhortations, comforts and consolations,it went to my soul like a sword; for still, unto these my considerations of the LordJesus, these thoughts would make place for themselves in my heart; aye, this is theJesus, the loving Saviour, the Son of God, whom thou hast parted with, whom you slighted,despised, and abused. This is the only Saviour, the only Redeemer, the only one thatcould so love sinners as to wash them from their sins in His own most precious blood;but you have no part nor lot in this Jesus, you have put Him away from you, you havesaid in your heart, Let Him go if He will. Now, therefore, you are severed from Him;you have severed yourself from Him. Behold, then, His goodness, but you yourselfbe no partaker of it. Oh, thought I, what have I lost! What have I parted with! Whathave I disinherited my poor soul of! Oh! it is sad to be destroyed by the grace andmercy of God; to have the Lamb, the Saviour, turn lion and destroyer (Rev. 6). Ialso trembled, as I have said, at the sight of the saints of God, especially at thosethat greatly loved Him, and that made it their business to walk continually withHim in this world; for they did, both in their words, their carriages, and all theirexpressions of tenderness and fear to sin against their precious Saviour, condemn,lay guilt upon, and also add continual affliction and shame unto my soul. The dreadof them was upon me, and I trembled at God's Samuels (1 Sam. 16.4).
Now, also, the tempter began afresh to mock my soul another way, saying that Christ,indeed, did pity my case, and was sorry for my loss; but forasmuch as I had sinnedand transgressed, as I had done, He could by no means help me, nor save me from whatI feared; for my sin was not of the nature of theirs for whom He bled and died, neitherwas it counted with those that were laid to His charge when He hanged on the tree.Therefore, unless He should come down from heaven and die anew for this sin, though,indeed, He did greatly pity me, yet I could have no benefit of Him. These thingsmay seem ridiculous to others, even as ridiculous as they were in themselves, butto me they were most tormenting cogitations; every of them augmented my misery, thatJesus Christ should have so much love as to pity me when He could not help me; nordid I think that the reason why He could not help me was because His merits wereweak, or His grace and salvation spent on them already, but because His faithfulnessto His threatening would not let Him extend His mercy to me. Besides, I thought,as I have already hinted, that my sin was not within the bounds of that pardon thatwas wrapped up in a promise; and if not, then I knew assuredly, that it was moreeasy for heaven and earth to pass away than for me to have eternal life. So thatthe ground of all these fears of mine did arise from a steadfast belief that I hadof the stability of the holy Word of God, and, also, from my being misinformed ofthe nature of my sin.
But oh! how this would add to my affliction, to conceit that I should be guilty ofsuch a sin for which He did not die. These thoughts would so confound me, and imprisonme, and tie me up from faith, that I knew not what to do; but, oh! I thought, thatHe would come down again! Oh! that the work of man's redemption was yet to be doneby Christ! How would I pray Him and entreat Him to count and reckon this sin amongstthe rest for which He died! But this scripture would strike me down as dead, 'Christbeing raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him' (Rom.6.9).
Thus, by the strange and unusual assaults of the tempter, was my soul, like a brokenvessel, driven as with the winds, and tossed sometimes headlong into despair, sometimesupon the covenant of works, and sometimes to wish that the new covenant, and theconditions thereof, might, so far forth as I thought myself concerned, be turnedanother way and changed. But in all these I was but as those that justle againstthe rocks; more broken, scattered, and rent. Oh, the unthought of imaginations, frights,fears, and terrors that are affected by a thorough application of guilt, yieldedto desperation! this is the man that hath 'his dwelling among the tombs' with thedead; that is, always crying out and 'cutting himself with stones' (Mark 5. 2-5).But I say, all in vain; desperation will not comfort him, the old covenant will notsave him; nay, heaven and earth shall pass away before one jot or tittle of the Wordand law of grace shall fall or be removed. This I saw, this I felt, and under thisI groaned; yet this advantage I got thereby, namely, a further confirmation of thecertainty of the way of salvation, and that the Scriptures were the Word of God!Oh! I cannot now express what then I saw and felt of the steadiness of Jesus Christ,the rock of man's salvation; what was done could not be undone, added to, nor altered.I saw, indeed, that sin might drive the soul beyond Christ, even the sin which isunpardonable; but woe to him that was so driven, for the Word would shut him out.
Thus was I always sinking, whatever I did think or do. So one day I walked to a neighbouringtown, and sat down upon a settle in the street, and fell into a very deep pause aboutthe most fearful state my sin had brought me to; and, after long musing, I liftedup my head, but methought I saw as if the sun that shineth in the heavens did grudgeto give light, and as if the very stones in the street, and tiles upon the houses,did bend themselves against me; methought that they all combined together to banishme out of the world; I was abhorred of them, and unfit to dwell among them, or bepartaker of their benefits, because I had sinned against the Saviour. O how happy,now, was every creature over what I was; for they stood fast and kept their station,but I was gone and lost.
Then breaking out in the bitterness of my soul, I said to myself, with a grievoussigh, How can God comfort such a wretch as I? I had no sooner said it but this returnedupon me, as an echo doth answer a voice, This sin is not unto death. At which I wasas if I had been raised out of a grave, and cried out again, Lord, how couldest Thoufind out such a word as this? for I was filled with admiration at the fitness, and,also, at the unexpectedness of the sentence, the fitness of the word, the rightnessof the timing of it, the power, and sweetness, and light, and glory that came withit, was marvellous to me to find. I was now, for the time, out of doubt as to thatabout which I so much was in doubt before; my fears before were, that my sin wasnot pardonable, and so that I had no right to pray, to repent, etc., or that if Idid, it would be of no advantage or profit to me. But now, thought I, if this sinis not unto death, then it is pardonable; therefore, from this I have encouragementto come to God, by Christ, for mercy, to consider the promise of forgiveness as thatwhich stands with open arms to receive me, as well as others. This, therefore, wasa great easement to my mind; to wit, that my sin was pardonable, that it was notthe sin unto death (1 John 5.16, 17). None but those that know what my trouble, bytheir own experience, was, can tell what relief came to my soul by this consideration;it was a release to me from my former bonds, and a shelter from my former storm.I seemed now to stand upon the same ground with other sinners, and to have as goodright to the word and prayer as any of them.
Now, I say, I was in hopes that my sin was not unpardonable, but that there mightbe hopes for me to obtain forgiveness. But oh, how Satan did now lay about him forto bring me down again! But he could by no means do it, neither this day nor themost part of the next, for this sentence stood like a mill-post at my back; yet,towards the evening of the next day, I felt this word begin to leave me and to withdrawits supportation from me, and so I returned to my old fears again, but with a greatdeal of grudging and peevishness, for I feared the sorrow of despair; nor could myfaith now longer retain this word.
But the next day, at evening, being under many fears, I went to seek the Lord; andas I prayed, I cried, and my soul cried to Him in these words, with strong cries:O Lord, I beseech thee, show me that thou hast loved me with everlasting love (Jer.31.3). I had no sooner said it but, with sweetness, this returned upon me, as anecho or sounding again, 'I have loved thee with an everlasting love.' Now I wentto bed at quiet; also, when I awaked the next morning, it was fresh upon my soul-andI believed it.
But yet the tempter left me not; for it could not be so little as an hundred timesthat he that day did labour to break my peace. Oh! the combats and conflicts thatI did then meet with as I strove to hold by this word; that of Esau would fly inmy face like to lightning. I should be sometimes up and down twenty times in an hour,yet God did bear me up and keep my heart upon this world, from which I had also,for several days together, very much sweetness and comfortable hopes of pardon; forthus it was made out to me, I loved thee whilst thou wast committing this sin, Iloved thee before, I love thee still, and I will love thee for ever.
Yet I saw my sin most barbarous, and a filthy crime, and could not but conclude,and that with great shame and astonishment, that I had horribly abused the holy Sonof God; wherefore, I felt my soul greatly to love and pity Him, and my bowels toyearn towards Him; for I saw He was still my Friend, and did reward me good for evil;yea, the love and affection that then did burn within to my Lord and Saviour JesusChrist did work, at this time, such a strong and hot desire of revengement upon myselffor the abuse I had done unto him, that, to speak as I then thought, had I a thousandgallons of blood within my veins, I could freely then have spilt it all at the commandand feet of this my Lord and Saviour.
And as I was thus in musing and in my studies, considering how to love the Lord andto express my love to Him, that saying came in upon me, 'If thou, Lord, shouldestmark iniquities, 0 Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, thatthou mayest be feared' (Ps. 130.3, 4). These were good words to me, especially thelatter part thereof; to wit, that there is forgiveness with the Lord, that He mightbe feared; that is, as then I understood it, that He might be loved and had in reverence;for it was thus made out to me, that the great God did set so high an esteem uponthe love of His poor creatures, that rather than He would go without their love Hewould pardon their transgressions.
And now was that word fulfilled on me, and I was also refreshed by it, Then shallthey be ashamed and confounded, 'and never open their mouth any more because of theirshame, when I am pacified towards them for all that they have done, saith the LordGod' (Ezek. 16.63). Thus was my soul at this time, and, as I then did think, forever, set at liberty from being again afflicted with my former guilt and amazement.
But before many weeks were over I began to despond again, fearing lest, notwithstandingall that I had enjoyed, that yet I might be deceived and destroyed at the last; forthis consideration came strong into my mind, that whatever comfort and peace I thoughtI might have from the word of the promise of life, yet unless there could be foundin my refreshment a concurrence and agreement in the Scriptures, let me think whatI will thereof, and hold it never so fast, I should find no such thing at the end;'for the Scripture cannot be broken' (John 10.35).
Now began my heart again to ache and fear I might meet with disappointment at thelast, wherefore I began, with all seriousness, to examine my former comfort, andto consider whether one that had sinned as I have done, might with confidence trustupon the faithfulness of God, laid down in those words by which I had been comfortedand on which I had leaned myself. But now were brought those sayings to my mind,'For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of theheavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the goodword of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renewthem again unto repentance' (Heb. 6.4-6). 'For if we sin wilfully after that we havereceived the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shalldevour the adversaries' (Heb. 10.26, 27). Even 'as Esau, who for one morsel of meatsold his birthright; for ye know how that afterward, when he would have inheritedthe blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he soughtit carefully with tears' (Heb. 12.16, 17) .
Now was the word of the gospel forced from my soul, so that no promise or encouragementwas to be found in the Bible for me; and now would that saying work upon my spiritto afflict me, 'Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy as other people' (Hos. 9.1). For Isaw indeed there was cause of rejoicing for those that held to Jesus; but as forme, I had cut myself off by my transgressions, and left myself neither foot-hold,nor hand-hold, amongst all the stays and props in the precious word of life.
And truly I did now feel myself to sink into a gulf, as an house whose foundationis destroyed; I did liken myself, in this condition, unto the case of a child thatwas fallen into a mill-pit, who, though it could make some shift to scrabble andspraul in the water, yet because it could find neither hold for hand nor foot, thereforeat last it must die in that condition. So soon as this fresh assault had fastenedon my soul, that scripture came into my heart, 'This is for many days' (Dan. 10.14).And indeed I found it was so; for I could not be delivered, nor brought to peaceagain, until well-nigh two years and an half were completely finished. Whereforethese words, though in themselves they tended to discouragement, yet to me, who fearedthis condition would be eternal, they were at sometimes as an help and refreshmentto me.
For, thought I, many days are not for ever, many days will have an end, thereforeseeing I was to be afflicted, not a few, but many days, yet I was glad it was butfor many days. Thus, I say, I could recall myself sometimes, and give myself a help,for as soon as ever the words came into my mind at first, I knew my trouble wouldbe long; yet this would be but sometimes, for I could not always think on this, norever be helped by it, though I did.
Now while these scriptures lay before me, and laid sin anew at my door, that sayingin the eighteeneth of Luke, with others, did encourage me to prayer. Then the tempteragain laid at me very sore, suggesting, That neither the mercy of God, nor yet theblood of Christ, did at all concern me, nor could they help me for my sin; thereforeit was in vain to pray. Yet, thought I, I will pray. But, said the tempter, yoursin is unpardonable. Well, said I, I will pray. It is to no boot, said he. Yet, saidI, I will pray. So I went to prayer to God; and while I was at prayer, I utteredwords to this effect, Lord, Satan tells me that neither Thy mercy, nor Christ's blood,is sufficient to save my soul; Lord, shall I honour Thee most, by believing Thouwilt and canst? or him, by believing Thou neither wilt nor canst? Lord, I would fainhonour Thee, by believing Thou wilt and canst.
And as I was thus before the Lord, that scripture fastened on my heart, 'O woman,great is thy faith' (Matt. 15.28), even as if one had clapped me on the back, asI was on my knees before God. Yet I was not able to believe this, that this was aprayer of faith, till almost six months after; for I could not think that I had faith,or that there should be a word for me to act faith on; therefore I should still beas sticking in the jaws of desperation, and went mourning up and down in a sad condition,crying, Is His mercy clean gone? Is His mercy clean gone for ever? And I thoughtsometimes, even when I was groaning in these expressions, they did seem to make aquestion whether it was or no; yet I greatly feared it was.
There was nothing now that I longed for more than to be put out of doubt, as to thisthing in question; and, as I was vehemently desiring to know if there was indeedhopes for me, these words came rolling into my mind, 'Will the Lord cast off forever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Doth hispromise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shutup his tender mercies?' (Ps. 77.7-9). And all the while they run in my mind, methoughtI had this still as the answer, It is a question whether He had or no; it may beHe hath not. Yea, the interrogatory seemed to me to carry in it a sure affirmationthat indeed He had not, nor would so cast off, but would be favourable; that Hispromise doth not fail, and that He had not forgotten to be gracious, nor would inanger shut up His tender mercy. Something, also, there was upon my heart at the sametime, which I now cannot call to mind; which, with this text, did sweeten my heart,and made me conclude that His mercy might not be quite gone, nor clean gone for ever.
At another time, I remember I was again much under the question, Whether the bloodof Christ was sufficient to save my soul? In which doubt I continued from morningtill about seven or eight at night: and at last, when I was, as it were, quite wornout with fear, lest it should not lay hold on me, these words did sound suddenlywithin my heart, He is able. But methought this word scaps able was spoke so loudunto me; it showed such a great word, it seemed to be writ in great letters, andgave such a justle to my fear and doubt; I mean for the time it tarried with me,which was about a day, as I never had from that all my life, either before or afterthat (Heb. 7.25).
But one morning, when I was again at prayer, and trembling under the fear of this,that no word of God could help me, that piece of a sentence darted in upon me, 'Mygrace is sufficient.' At this methought I felt some stay, as if there might be hopes.But, oh, how good a thing it is for God to send His word! For about a fortnight beforeI was looking on this very place, and then I thought it could not come near my soulwith comfort, therefore I threw down my book in a pet. Then I thought it was notlarge enough for me; no, not large enough; but now, it was as if it had arms of graceso wide that it could not only enclose me, but many more besides.
By these words I was sustained, yet not without exceeding conflicts, for the spaceof seven or eight weeks; for my peace would be in and out, sometimes twenty timesa day; comfort now, and trouble presently; peace now, and before I could go a furlongas full of fear and guilt as ever heart could hold; and this was not only now andthen, but my whole seven weeks' experience; for this about the sufficiency of grace,and that of Esau's parting with his birthright, would be like a pair of scales withinmy mind, sometimes one end would be uppermost, and sometimes again the other; accordingto which would be my peace or trouble.
Therefore I still did pray to God, that He would come in with this scripture morefully on my heart; to wit, that He would help me to apply the whole sentence, foras yet I could not: that He gave, I gathered; but farther I could not go, for asyet it only helped me to hope there might be mercy for me, 'My grace is sufficient';and though it came no farther, it answered my former question; to wit, that therewas hope; yet, because 'for thee' was left out, I was not contented, but prayed toGod for that also. Wherefore, one day, as I was in a meeting of God's people, fullof sadness and terror, for my fears again were strong upon me; and as I was now thinkingmy soul was never the better; but my case most sad and fearful, these words did,with great power, suddenly break in upon me, 'My grace is sufficient for thee, mygrace is sufficient for thee, my grace is sufficient for thee,' three times together;and, oh! methought that every word was a mighty word unto me; as my, and grace, andsufficient, and for thee; they were then, and sometimes are still, far bigger thanothers be.
At which time my understanding was so enlightened, that I was as though I had seenthe Lord Jesus look down from heaven through the tiles upon me, and direct thesewords unto me. This sent me mourning home, it broke my heart, and filled me fullof joy, and laid me low as the dust; only it stayed not long with me, I mean in thisglory and refreshing comfort, yet it continued with me for several weeks, and didencourage me to hope. But so soon as that powerful operation of it was taken offmy heart, that other about Esau returned upon me as before; so my soul did hang asin a pair of scales again, sometimes up and sometimes down, now in peace, and anonagain in terror.
Thus I went on for many weeks, sometimes comforted, and sometimes tormented; and,especially at some times, my torment would be very sore, for all those scripturesforenamed in the Hebrews, would be set before me, as the only sentences that wouldkeep me out of heaven. Then, again, I should begin to repent that ever that thoughtwent through me, I should also think thus with myself, Why, how many scriptures arethere against me? There are but three or four: and cannot God miss them, and saveme for all of them? Sometimes, again, I should think, Oh! if it were not for thesethree or four words, now how I might be comforted? And I could hardly forbear, atsome times, but to wish them out of the book.
Then methought I should see as if both Peter, and Paul, and John, and all the writers,did look with scorn upon me, and hold me in derision; and as if they said unto me,All our words are truth, one of as much force as another. It is not we that havecut you off, but you have cast away yourself; there is none of our sentences thatyou must take hold upon but these, and such as these: 'It is impossible; there remainsno more sacrifice for sin' (Heb. 6). And 'it had been better for them not to haveknown' the will of God, 'than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandmentdelivered unto them' (II Pet. 2.21). 'For the Scriptures cannot be broken.'
These, as the elders of the city of refuge, I saw were to be the judges both of mycase and me, while I stood, with the avenger of blood at my heels, trembling at theirgate for deliverance, also with a thousand fears and mistrusts, I doubted that theywould shut me out for ever (Josh. 20.3, 4).
Thus was I confounded, not knowing what to do, nor how to be satisfied in this question,Whether the scriptures could agree in the salvation of my soul? I quaked at the apostles,I knew their words were true, and that they must stand for ever.
And I remember one day, as I was in diverse frames of spirit, and considering thatthese frames were still according to the nature of the several scriptures that camein upon my mind; if this of grace, then was I quiet; but if that of Esau, then tormented;Lord, thought I, if both these scriptures would meet in my heart at once, I wouldwhich of them would get the better of me. So methought I had a longing mind thatthey might come both together upon me; yea, I desired of God they might.
Well, about two or three days after, so they did indeed; they bolted both upon meat a time, and did work and struggle strangely in me for a while; at last, that aboutEsau's birthright began to wax weak, and withdraw, and vanish and this about thesufficiency of grace prevailed with peace and joy. And as I was in a muse about thisthing, that scripture came home upon me, 'Mercy rejoiceth against judgment' (Jas.2.13).
This was a wonderment to me; yet truly I am apt to think it was of God; for the wordof the law and wrath must give place to the word of life and grace; because, thoughthe word of condemnation be glorious, yet the word of life and salvation doth farexceed in glory (II Cor. 3.8-12; Mark 9.5-7). Also, that Moses and Elias must bothvanish, and leave Christ and His saints alone.
This scripture did also most sweetly visit my soul, 'And him that cometh to me Iwill in no wise cast out' (John 6.37). Oh, the comfort that I have had from thisword, 'in no wise'! as who should say, by no means, for no thing, whatever he hathdone. But Satan would greatly labour to pull this promise from me, telling of methat Christ did not mean me, and such as I, but sinners of a lower rank, that hadnot done as I had done. But I should answer him again, Satan, here is in this wordno such exception; but 'him that comes', scaps him, any him; 'him that cometh tome I will in no wise cast out.' And this I well remember still, that of all the sleightsthat Satan used to take this scripture from me, yet he never did so much as put thisquestion, But do you come aright? And I have thought the reason was, because he thoughtI knew full well what coming aright was; for I saw that to come aright was to comeas I was, a vile and ungodly sinner, and to cast myself at the feet of mercy, condemningmyself for sin. If ever Satan and I did strive for any word of God in all my life,it was for this good word of Christ; he at one end and I at the other. Oh, what workdid we make! It was for this in John, I say, that we did so tug and strive; he pulledand I pulled; but, God be praised, I got the better of him, I got some sweetnessfrom it.
But notwithstanding all these helps and blessed words of grace, yet that of Esau'sselling of his birthright would still at times distress my conscience; for thoughI had been most sweetly comforted, and that but just before, yet when that came intomy mind, it would make me fear again, I could not be quite rid thereof, it wouldevery day be with me: wherefore now I went another way to work, even to considerthe nature of this blasphemous thought; I mean, if I should take the words at thelargest, and give them their own natural force and scope, even every word therein.So when I had thus considered, I found, that if they were fairly taken, they wouldamount to this, that I had freely left the Lord Jesus Christ to His choice, whetherHe would be my Saviour or no; for the wicked words were these, Let Him go if He will.Then that scripture gave me hope, 'I will never leave thee nor forsake thee' (Heb.13.5). O Lord, said I, but I have left Thee. Then it answered again, 'But I willnot leave thee.' For this I thank God also.
Yet I was grievously afraid He should, and found it exceedingly hard to trust Him,seeing I had so offended Him. I could have been exceeding glad that this thoughthad never befallen, for then I thought I could, with more ease and freedom in abundance,have leaned upon His grace. I see it was with me, as it was with Joseph's brethren;the guilt of their own wickedness did often fill them with fears that their brotherwould at last despise them (Gen. 50.15-17).
But above all the scriptures that I yet did meet with, that in the twentieth of Joshuawas the greatest comfort to me, which speaks of the slayer that was to flee for refuge.And if the avenger of blood pursue the slayer, then, saith Moses, they that are theelders of the city of refuge shall not deliver him into his hand, because he smotehis neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not aforetime. Oh, blessed be God for thisword; I was convinced that I was the slayer; and that the avenger of blood pursuedme, that I felt with great terror; only now it remained that I inquire whether Ihave right to enter the city of refuge. So I found that he must not, who lay in waitto shed blood: it was not the wilful murderer, but he who unwittingly did it, hewho did unawares shed blood; not of spite, or grudge, or malice, he that shed itunwittingly, even he who did not hate his neighbour before. Wherefore:
I thought verily I was the man that must enter, because I had smitten my neighbourunwittingly, and hated him not aforetime. I hated Him not aforetime; no, I prayedunto Him, was tender of sinning against Him; yea, and against this wicked temptationI had strove for a twelvemonth before; yea, and also when it did pass through myheart, it did in spite of my teeth: wherefore I thought I had right to enter thiscity, and the elders, which are the apostles, were not to deliver me up. This, therefore,was great comfort to me; and did give me much ground of hope.
Yet being very critical, for my smart had made me that I knew not what ground wassure enough to bear me, I had one question that my soul did much desire to be resolvedabout; and that was, Whether it be possible for any soul that hath indeed sinnedthe unpardonable sin, yet after that to receive though but the least true spiritualcomfort from God through Christ? The which, after I had much considered, I foundthe answer was, No, they could not, and that for these reasons:
First, Because those that have sinned that sin, they are debarred a share in theblood of Christ, and being shut out of that, they must needs be void of the leastground of hope. and so of spiritual comfort; for to such 'there remaineth no moresacrifice for sins' (Heb 10.26). Secondly, Because they are denied a share in thepromise of life; they shall never be forgiven, 'neither in this world, neither inthat which is to come' (Matt. 12.32). Thirdly, The Son of God excludes them alsofrom a share in His blessed intercession, being for ever ashamed to own them bothbefore His holy Father, and the blessed angels in heaven (Mark 8.38).
When I had, with much deliberation, considered of this matter, and could not butconclude that the Lord had comforted me, and that too after this my wicked sin; then,methought, I durst venture to come nigh into those most fearful and terrible scriptures,with which all this while I had been so greatly affrighted, and on which, indeed,before I durst scarce cast mine eye, yea, had much ado an hundred times to forbearwishing them out of the Bible; for I thought they would destroy me; but now, I say,I began to take some measure of encouragement to come close to them, to read them,and consider them, and to weigh their scope and tendency.
The which, when I began to do, I found their visage changed; for they looked notso grimly on me as before I thought they did. And, first, I came to the sixth ofthe Hebrews, yet trembling for fear it should strike me; which when I had considered,I found that the falling there intended was a falling quite away; that is, as I conceived,a falling from, and an absolute denial of the gospel of remission of sins by Christ;for from them the apostle begins his argument (ver. 1-3). Secondly, I found thatthis falling away must be openly, even in the view of the world, even so as 'to putChrist to an open shame'. Thirdly, I found that those he there intended were forever shut up of God, both in blindness, hardness, and impenitency: it is impossiblethey should be renewed again unto repentance. By all these particulars, I found,to God's everlasting praise, my sin was not the sin in this place intended.
First, I confessed I was fallen, but not fallen away, that is, from the professionof faith in Jesus unto eternal life. Secondly, I confessed that I had put Jesus Christto shame by my sin, but not to open shame; I did not deny Him before men, nor condemnHim as a fruitless one before the world. Thirdly, Nor did I find that God had shutme up, or denied me to come, though I found it hard work indeed to come to Him bysorrow and repentance. Blessed be God for unsearchable grace.
Then I considered that in the tenth of the Hebrews, and found that the wilful sinthere mentioned is not every wilful sin, but that which doth throw off Christ, andthen His commandments too. Secondly, That must also be done openly, before two orthree witnesses, to answer that of the law ( ver. 28). Thirdly, This sin cannot becommitted, but with great despite done to the Spirit of grace; despising both thedissuasions from that sin, and the persuasions to the contrary. But the Lord knows,though this my sin was devilish, yet it did not amount to these.
And as touching that in the twelfth of the Hebrews, about Esau's selling his birthright,though this was that which killed me, and stood like a spear against me; yet nowI did consider, First, That his was not a hasty thought against the continual labourof his mind, but a thought consented to and put in practice likewise, and that tooafter some deliberation (Gen. 25). Secondly, it was a public and open action, evenbefore his brother, if not before many more; this made his sin of a far more heinousnature than otherwise it would have been. Thirdly, He continued to slight his birthright:'He did eat and drink, and went his way; thus Esau despised his birthright' (ver.34). Yea, twenty years after, he was found to despise it still. 'And Esau said, Ihave enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself' (Gen. 33.9).
Now as touching this, that Esau sought a place of repentance; thus I thought, first,This was not for the birthright, but for the blessing; this is clear from the apostle,and is distinguished by Esau himself; 'He took away my birthright (that is, formerly);and behold, now he hath taken away my blessing' (Gen. 27.36). Secondly, Now, thisbeing thus considered, I came again to the apostle, to see what might be the mindof God, in a New Testament style and sense, concerning Esau's sin; and so far asI could conceive, this was the mind of God, that the birthright signified regeneration,and the blessing the eternal inheritance; for so the apostle seems to hint, 'Lestthere be any profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright';as if he should say, Lest there be any person amongst you that shall cast off allthose blessed beginnings of God that at present are upon him, in order to a new birth,lest they become as Esau, even be rejected afterwards, when they would inherit theblessing.
For many there are who, in the day of grace and mercy, despise those things whichare indeed the birthright to heaven, who yet, when the deciding day appears, willcry as loud as Esau, 'Lord, Lord, open to us'; but then, as Isaac would not repent,no more will God the Father, but will say, I have blessed these, yea, and they shallbe blessed; but as for you, depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity (Gen. 27.33;Luke 13.25-27).
When I had thus considered these scriptures, and found that thus to understand themwas not against, but according to other scriptures; this still added further to myencouragement and comfort, and also gave a great blow to that objection, to wit,that the scripture could not agree in the salvation of my soul. And now remainedonly the hinder part of the tempest, for the thunder was gone beyond me, only somedrops did still remain, that now and then would fall upon me; but because my formerfrights and anguish were very sore and deep, therefore it did oft befal me still,as it befalleth those that have been scared with fire, I thought every voice wasFire, fire; every little touch would hurt my tender conscience.
But one day, as I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience,fearing lest yet all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, Thyrighteousness is in heaven; and methought withal, I saw, with the eyes of my soul,Jesus Christ at God's right hand; there, I say, is my righteousness; so that whereverI was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, He wants my righteousness,for that was just before Him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frameof heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousnessworse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, and to-day,and for ever (Heb. 13.8).
Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed, I was loosed from my affliction and irons,my temptations had fled away; so that, from that time, those dreadful scripturesof God left off to trouble me now; now went I also home rejoicing, for the graceand love of God. So when I came home, I looked to see if I could find that sentence,Thy righteousness is in heaven; but could not find such a saying, wherefore my heartbegan to sink again, only that was brought to my remembrance, He 'of God is madeunto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption' by this wordI saw the other sentence true (1 Cor. 1.30).
For by this scripture, l saw that the man Christ Jesus, as He is distinct from us,as touching His bodily presence, so He is our righteousness and sanctification beforeGod. Here, therefore, I lived for some time, very sweetly at peace with God throughChrist; Oh, methought, Christ! Christ! there was nothing but Christ that was beforemy eyes, I was not only for looking upon this and the other benefits of Christ apart,as of His blood, burial, or resurrection, but considered Him as a whole Christ! AsHe in whom all these, and all other His virtues, relations, offices, and operationsmet together, and that as He sat on the right hand of God in heaven.
It was glorious to me to see His exaltation, and the worth and prevalency of allHis benefits, and that because of this: now I could look from myself to Him, andshould reckon that all those graces of God that now were green in me, were yet butlike those cracked groats and fourpence-halfpennies that rich men carry in theirpurses, when their gold is in their trunks at home! Oh, I saw my gold was in my trunkat home! In Christ, my Lord and Saviour! Now Christ was all; all my wisdom, all myrighteousness, all my sanctification, and all my redemption.
Further, the Lord did also lead me into the mystery of union with the Son of God,that I was joined to Him, that I was flesh of His flesh, and bone of His bone, andnow was that a sweet word to me in Eph. 5.30. By this also was my faith in Him, asmy righteousness, the more confirmed to me; for if He and I were one, then His righteousnesswas mine, His merits mine, His victory also mine. Now could I see myself in heavenand earth at once; in heaven by my Christ, by my head, by my righteousness and life,though on earth by my body or person.
Now I saw Christ Jesus was looked on of God, and should also be looked on by us,as that common or public person, in whom all the whole body of His elect are alwaysto be considered and reckoned; that we fulfilled the law by Him, rose from the deadby Him, got the victory over sin, death, the devil, and hell, by Him; when He died,we died; and so of His resurrection. 'Thy dead men shall live, together with my deadbody shall they arise,' saith he (Isa. 26.19). And again, 'After two days will herevive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight'(Hos. 6.2); which is now fulfilled by the sitting down of the Son of Man on the righthand of the Majesty in the heavens, according to that to the Ephesians, He 'hathraised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus'(Eph. 2.6).
Ah, these blessed considerations and scriptures, with many others of a like nature,were in those days made to spangle in mine eyes, so that I have cause to say, 'Praiseye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness'(Ps. 150.1, 2).
Having thus, in few words, given you a taste of the sorrow and affliction that mysoul went under, by the guilt and terror that this my wicked thought did lay me under;and having given you also a touch of my deliverance therefrom, and of the sweet andblessed comfort that I met with afterwards, which comfort dwelt about a twelvemonthwith my heart, to my unspeakable admiration; I will now, God willing, before I proceedany farther, give you in a word or two, what, as I conceive, was the cause of thistemptation; and also after that, what advantage, at the last, it became unto my soul.
For the causes, I conceived they were principally two: of which two I also was deeplyconvinced all the time this trouble lay upon me. The first was, for that I did not,when I was delivered from the temptation that went before, still pray to God to keepme from temptations that were to come; for though, as I can say in truth, my soulwas much in prayer before this trial seized me, yet then I prayed only, or at themost, principally for the removal of present troubles, and for fresh discoveriesof His love in Christ, which I saw afterwards was not enough to do; I also shouldhave prayed that the great God would keep me from the evil that was to come.
Of this I was made deeply sensible by the prayer of holy David, who, when he wasunder present mercy, yet prayed that God would hold him back from sin and temptationto come; 'Then,' saith he, 'shall I be upright, I shall be innocent from the scapsgreat transgression' (Ps. 19.13). By this very word was I galled and condemned, quitethrough this long temptation.
That also was another word that did much condemn me for my folly, in the neglectof this duty (Heb 4.16), 'Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace,that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.' This I had notdone, and therefore was suffered thus to sin and fall, according to what is written,'Pray that ye enter not into temptation.' And truly this very thing is to this dayof such weight and awe upon me, that I dare not, when I come before the Lord, gooff my knees, until I entreat Him for help and mercy against the temptations thatare to come; and I do beseech thee, reader, that thou learn to beware of my negligence,by the affliction that for this thing I did for days, and months, and years, withsorrow undergo.
Verse note from Judith Bronte (Acacia John Bunyan):
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is thekingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." (Matt. 6:13)
"Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing,but the flesh is weak." (Matt. 26:41)
"Pray that ye enter not into temptation." (Luke 22:40)
Another cause of this temptation was, that I had tempted God; and on this mannerdid I do it. Upon a time my wife was great with child, and before her full time wascome, her pangs, as of a woman in travail, were fierce and strong upon her, evenas if she would have immediately fallen in labour, and been delivered of an untimelybirth. Now, at this very time it was that I had been so strongly tempted to questionthe being of God, wherefore, as my wife lay crying by me, I said, but with all secrecyimaginable, even thinking in my heart, Lord, if thou wilt now remove this sad afflictionfrom my wife, and cause that she be troubled no more therewith this night, and nowwere her pangs just upon her, then I shall know that thou canst discern the mostsecret thoughts of the heart.
I had no sooner said it in my heart, but her pangs were taken from her, and she wascast into a deep sleep, and so she continued till morning; at this I greatly marvelled,not knowing what to think; but after I had been awake a good while, and heard hercry no more, I fell to sleeping also. So when I waked in the morning, it came uponme again, even what I had said in my heart the last night, and how the Lord had showedme that He knew my secret thoughts, which was a great astonishment unto me for severalweeks after.
Well, about a year and a half afterwards, that wicked sinful thought, of which Ihave spoken before, went through my wicked heart, even this thought, Let Christ goif He will; so when I was fallen under guilt for this, the remembrance of my otherthought, and of the effect thereof, would also come upon me with this retort, whichalso carried rebuke along with it, Now you may see that God doth know the most secretthoughts of the heart.
And with this, that of the passages that were betwixt the Lord and His servant Gideonfell upon my spirit; how because that Gideon tempted God with his fleece, both wetand dry, when he should have believed and ventured upon his words, therefore theLord did afterwards so try him, as to send him against an innumerable company ofenemies; and that too, as to outward appearance, without any strength or help (Judg.6, 7). Thus He served me, and that justly, for I should have believed His word, andnot have put an scaps if upon the all-seeingness of God.
And now to show you something of the advantages that I also gained by this temptation;and first, By this I was made continually to possess in my soul a very wonderfulsense both of the being and glory of God, and of His beloved Son; in the temptationthat went before, my soul was perplexed with unbelief, blasphemy, hardness of heart,questions about the being of God, Christ, the truth of the Word, and certainty ofthe world to come; I say, then I was greatly assaulted and tormented with atheism;but now the case was otherwise, now was God and Christ continually before my face,though not in a way of comfort, but in a way of exceeding dread and terror. The gloryof the holiness of God did at this time break me to pieces; and the bowels and compassionof Christ did break me as on the wheel; for I could not consider Him but as a lostand rejected Christ, the remembrance of which was as the continual breaking of mybones.
The Scriptures now also were wonderful things unto me; I saw that the truth and verityof them were the keys of the kingdom of heaven; those that the Scriptures favourthey must inherit bliss, but those that they oppose and condemn must perish evermore.Oh! this word, 'For the Scriptures cannot be broken,' would rend the caul of my heart;and so would that other, 'Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them;and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.' Now I saw the apostles to bethe elders of the city of refuge (Josh. 20.4), those that they were to receive in,were received to life; but those that they shut out were to be slain by the avengerof blood.
Oh! one sentence of the Scripture did more afflict and terrify my mind, I mean thosesentences that stood against me, as sometimes I thought they every one did, more,I say, than an army of forty thousand men that might have come against me. Woe beto him against whom the Scriptures bend themselves.
By this temptation I was made to see more into the nature of the promises than everI was before; for I lying now trembling under the mighty hand of God, continuallytorn and rent by the thunderings of His justice; this made me, with careful heartand watchful eye, with great seriousness, to turn over every leaf, and with muchdiligence, mixed with trembling, to consider every sentence, together with its naturalforce and latitude.
By this temptation, also, I was greatly beaten off my former foolish practice, ofputting by the word of promise when it came into my mind; for now, though I couldnot suck that comfort and sweetness from the promise as I had done at other times,yea, like to a man a-sinking, I should catch at all I saw; formerly I thought I mightnot meddle with the promise unless I felt its comfort, but now it was no time thusto do, the avenger of blood too hardly did pursue me.
Now therefore I was glad to catch at that word, which yet I feared I had no groundor right to own; and even to leap into the bosom of that promise, that yet I feareddid shut its heart against me. Now also I should labour to take the Word as God hadlaid it down, without restraining the natural force of one syllable thereof. O whatdid I now see in that blessed sixth of John, 'And him that cometh to me I will inno wise cast out' (ver. 37). Now I began to consider with myself, that God had abigger mouth to speak with than I had heart to conceive with. I thought also withmyself that He spake not His words in haste, or in unadvised heat, but with infinitewisdom and judgment, and in very truth and faithfulness.
I should in these days, often in my greatest agonies, even flounce towards the promise,as the horses do towards sound ground that yet stick in the mire, concluding, thoughas one almost bereft of his wits through fear, on this I will rest and stay, andleave the fulfilling of it to the God of heaven that made it. Oh! many a pull hathmy heart had with Satan for that sixth of John. I did not now, as at other times,look principally for comfort, though, O how welcome would it have been unto me! Butnow a word, a word to lean a weary soul upon, that I might not sink for ever! itwas that I hunted for.
Yea, often when I have been making to the promise, I have seen as if the Lord wouldrefuse my soul for ever. I was often as if I had run upon the pikes, and as if theLord had thrust at me to keep me from Him as with a flaming sword. Then I shouldthink of Esther, who went to petition the king contrary to the law (Esth 4.16). Ithought also of Benhadad's servants, who went with ropes upon their heads to theirenemies for mercy (1 Kings 20.31). The woman of Canaan also, that would not be daunted,though called dog by Christ (Matt. 15.21-8); and the man that went to borrow breadat midnight (Luke 11.5-8), were great encouragements unto me.
I never saw those heights and depths in grace, and love, and mercy, as I saw afterthis temptation. Great sins to draw out great grace; and where guilt is most terribleand fierce there the mercy of God in Christ, when showed to the soul, appears mosthigh and mighty. When Job had passed through his captivity, he had 'twice as muchas he had before' (Job 42.10). Blessed be God for Jesus Christ our Lord. Many otherthings I might here make observation of, but I would be brief, and therefore shallat this time omit them, and do pray God that my harms may make others fear to offend,lest they also be made to bear the iron yoke as I did.
I had two or three times, at or about my deliverance from this temptation, such strangeapprehensions of the grace of God, that I could hardly bear up under it, it was soout of measure amazing, when I thought it could reach me, that I do think, if thatsense of it had abode long upon me, it would have made me incapable for business.
Now I shall go forward to give you a relation of other of the Lord's leadings withme, of His dealings with me at sundry other seasons, and of the temptations I thendid meet withal. I shall begin with what I met when I first did join in fellowshipwith the people of God in Bedford. After I had propounded to the church that my desirewas to walk in the order and ordinances of Christ with them, and was also admittedby them; while I thought of that blessed ordinance of Christ, which was His lastsupper with His disciples before His death, that scripture, 'This do in remembranceof me' (Luke 22.19), was made a very precious word unto me; for by it the Lord didcome down upon my conscience with the discovery of His death for my sins; and asI then felt, did as if He plunged me in the virtue of the same. But, behold, I hadnot been long a partaker at that ordinance, but such fierce and sad temptations didattend me at all times therein, both to blaspheme the ordinance, and to wish somedeadly thing to those that then did eat thereof; that, lest I should at any timebe guilty of consenting to these wicked and fearful thoughts, I was forced to bendmyself all the while to pray to God to keep me from such blasphemies; and also tocry to God to bless the bread and cup to them as it went from mouth to mouth. Thereason of this temptation I have thought since was, because I did not, with thatreverence as became me, at first approach to partake thereof.
Thus I continued for three-quarters of a year, and could never have rest nor ease;but at last the Lord came in upon my soul with that same scripture by which my soulwas visited before; and after that I have been usually very well and comfortablein the partaking of that blessed ordinance, and have, I trust, therein discernedthe Lord's body as broken for my sins, and that His precious blood hath been shedfor my transgressions.
Upon a time I was somewhat inclining to a consumption, wherewith, about the spring,I was suddenly and violently seized with much weakness in my outward man, insomuchthat I thought I could not live. Now began I afresh to give myself up to a seriousexamination after my state and condition for the future, and of my evidences forthat blessed world to come; for it hath, I bless the name of God, been my usual course,as always, so especially in the day of affliction, to endeavour to keep my interestin the life to come clear before my eye.
But I had no sooner began to recall to mind my former experience of the goodnessof God to my soul, but there came flocking into my mind an innumerable company ofmy sins and transgressions, amongst which these were at this time most to my affliction,namely, my deadness, dulness, and coldness in holy duties; my wanderings of heart,of my wearisomeness in all good things, my want of love to God, His ways, and people,with this at the end of all, Are these the fruits of Christianity? are these thetokens of a blessed man?
At the apprehension of these things my sickness was doubled upon me, for now wasI sick in my inward man, my soul was clogged with guilt; now also was my former experienceof God's goodness to me quite taken out of my mind, and hid as if it had never been,nor seen. Now was my soul greatly pinched between these two considerations. LiveI must not, Die I dare not; now I sunk and fell in my spirit; and was giving up allfor lost; but as I was walking up and down in the house, as a man in a most woefulstate, that word of God took hold of my heart, Ye are 'justified freely by his grace,through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus' (Rom. 3.24). But oh, what a turnit made upon me!
Now was I as one awakened out of some troublesome sleep and dream, and listeningto this heavenly sentence, I was as if I had heard it thus expounded to me: Sinner,thou thinkest that because of thy sins and infirmities I cannot save thy soul, butbehold My Son is by Me, and upon Him I look, and not on thee, and will deal withthee according as I am pleased with Him. At this I was greatly lightened in my mind,and made to understand that God could justify a sinner at any time; it was but Hislooking upon Christ, and imputing of His benefits to us, and the work was forthwithdone.
And as I was thus in a muse, that scripture also came with great power upon my spirit,'Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy hesaved us,' etc. (Tit. 3.5; II Tim. 1.9). Now was I got on high; I saw myself withinthe arms of grace and mercy; and though I was before afraid to think of a dying hour,yet now I cried, Let me die. Now death was lovely and beautiful in my sight; forI saw we shall never live indeed till we be gone to the other world. Oh, methoughtthis life is but a slumber in comparison of that above; at this time also I saw morein those words, 'Heirs of God' (Rom. 8.17), than ever I shall be able to expresswhile I live in this world. 'Heirs of God'! God Himself is the portion of the saints.This I saw and wondered at, but cannot tell you what I saw.
Again, as I was at another time very ill and weak, all that time also the tempterdid beset me strongly, for I find he is much for assaulting the soul when it beginsto approach towards the grave, then is his opportunity, labouring to hide from memy former experience of God's goodness; also setting before me the terrors of deathand the judgment of God, insomuch that at this time, through my fear of miscarryingfor ever, should I now die, I was as one dead before death came, and was as if Ihad felt myself already descending into the pit; methought, I said, there was noway, but to hell I must; but behold, just as I was in the midst of those fears, thesewords of the angels carrying Lazarus into Abraham's bosom darted in upon me, as whoshould say, So it shall be with thee when thou dost leave this world. This did sweetlyrevive my spirit, and help me to hope in God; which, when I had with comfort musedon a while, that word fell with great weight upon my mind, 'O death, where is thysting? O grave, where is thy victory?' (1 Cor. 15.55). At this I became both wellin body and mind at once, for my sickness did presently vanish, and I walked comfortablyin my work for God again.
At another time, though just before I was pretty well and savoury in my spirit, yetsuddenly there fell upon me a great cloud of darkness, which did so hide from methe things of God and Christ, that I was as if I had never seen or known them inmy life; was also so overrun in my soul, with a senseless, heartless frame of spirit,that I could not feel my soul to move or stir after grace and life by Christ; I wasas if my loins were broken, or as if my hands and feet had been tied or bound withchains. At this time also I felt some weakness to seize upon my outward man, whichmade still the other affliction the more heavy and uncomfortable to me.
After I had been in this condition some three or four days, as I was sitting by thefire, I suddenly felt this word to sound in my heart, I must go to Jesus; at thismy former darkness and atheism fled away, and the blessed things of heaven were setwithin my view. While I was on this sudden thus overtaken with surprise, Wife, saidI, is there ever such a scripture, I must go to Jesus? She said she could not tell,therefore I sat musing still to see if I could remember such a place; I had not satabove two or three minutes but that came bolting in upon me, 'And to an innumerablecompany of angels,' and withal, Hebrews the twelfth, about the mount Sion, was setbefore mine eyes (ver. 22-4).
Then with joy I told my wife, O now I know, I know! But that night was a good nightto me, I never had but few better; I longed for the company of some of God's peoplethat I might have imparted unto them what God had showed me. Christ was a preciousChrist to my soul that night; I could scarce lie in my bed for joy, and peace, andtriumph, through Christ; this great glory did not continue upon me until morning,yet that twelfth of the author of (Hebrews 12:22-4) was a blessed scripture to mefor many days together after this.
The words are these, 'Ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the livingGod, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the generalassembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God theJudge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediatorof the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better thingsthan that of Abel.' Through this blessed sentence the Lord led me over and over,first to this word, and then to that, and showed me wonderful glory in every oneof them. These words also have oft since this time been great refreshment to my spirit.Blessed be God in having mercy on me.
A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE AUTHOR'S CALL TO THE WORK OF THE MINISTRY
And now I am speaking my experience, I will in this place thrust in a word or twoconcerning my preaching the Word, and of God's dealing with me in that particularalso. For after I had been about five or six years awakened, and helped myself tosee both the want and worth of Jesus Christ our Lord, and also enabled to venturemy soul upon Him, some of the most able among the saints with us, I say the mostable for judgment and holiness of life, as they conceived, did perceive that Godhad counted me worthy to understand something of His will in His holy and blessedWord, and had given me utterance, in some measure, to express what I saw to othersfor edification; therefore they desired me, and that with much earnestness, thatI would be willing, at sometimes, to take in hand, in one of the meetings, to speaka word of exhortation unto them.
The which, though at the first it did much dash and abash my spirit, yet being stillby them desired and intreated, I consented to their request, and did twice at twoseveral assemblies, but in private, though with much weakness and infirmity, discovermy gift amongst them; at which they not only seemed to be, but did solemnly protest,as in the sight of the great God, they were both affected and comforted, and gavethanks to the Father of mercies for the grace bestowed on me.
After this, sometimes when some of them did go into the country to teach, they wouldalso that I should go with them; where, though as yet I did not, nor durst not, makeuse of my gift in an open way, yet more privately still as I came amongst the goodpeople in those places, I did sometimes speak a word of admonition unto them also;the which, they as the other received, with rejoicing at the mercy of God to meward,professing their souls were edified thereby.
Wherefore, to be brief, at last, being still desired by the church, after some solemnprayer to the Lord, with fasting, I was more particularly called forth, and appointedto a more ordinary and public preaching of the Word, not only to, and amongst themthat believed, but also to offer the gospel to those who had not yet received thefaith thereof; about which time I did evidently find in my mind a secret prickingforward thereto; though I bless God, not for desire of vain glory, for at that timeI was most sorely afflicted with the fiery darts of the devil concerning my eternalstate.
But yet could not be content, unless I was found in the exercise of my gift, untowhich I was greatly animated, not only by the continual desires of the godly, butalso by that saying of Paul to the Corinthians, 'I beseech you, brethren (ye knowthe household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they haveaddicted themselves to the ministry of the saints), that ye submit yourselves untosuch, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth' (I Cor. 16.15, 16) .
By this text I was made to see that the Holy Ghost never intended that men who havegifts and abilities should bury them in the earth, but rather did command and stirup such to the exercise of their gift, and also did commend those that were apt andready so to do, 'They have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.' Thisscripture, in these days, did continually run in my mind, to encourage me and strengthenme in this work for God; I have also been encouraged from several other scripturesand examples of the godly, both specified in the Word and other ancient histories(Act. 8.4; 18.24, 25; 1 Pet. 4.10; Rom. 12.6; Foxe's Acts and Mounments).
Wherefore, though of myself of all the saints the most unworthy, yet I, but withgreat fear and trembling at the sight of my own weakness, did set upon the work,and did according to my gift, and the proportion of my faith, preach that blessedgospel that God had showed me in the holy Word of truth; which, when the countryunderstood, they came in to hear the Word by hundreds, and that from all parts, thoughupon sundry and divers accounts.
And I thank God He gave unto me some measure of bowels and pity for their souls,which also did put me forward to labour with great diligence and earnestness, tofind out such a word as might, if God would bless it, lay hold of and awaken theconscience, in which the good Lord had respect to the desire of His servant; forI had not preached long before some began to be touched by the Word, and to be greatlyafflicted in their minds at the apprehension of the greatness of their sin, and oftheir need of Jesus Christ.
But I at first could not believe that God should speak by me to the heart of anyman, still counting myself unworthy; yet those who were thus touched would love meand have a peculiar respect for me; and though I did put it from me, that they shouldbe awakened by me, still they would confess it, and affirm it before the saints ofGod; they would also bless God for me, unworthy wretch that I am! and count me God'sinstrument that showed to them the way of salvation.
Wherefore, seeing them in both their words and deeds to be so constant, and alsoin their hearts so earnestly pressing after the knowledge of Jesus Christ, rejoicingthat ever God did send me where they were; then I began to conclude it might be so,that God had owned in His work such a foolish one as I, and then came that word ofGod to my heart with much sweet refreshment, 'The blessing of him that was readyto perish came upon me; and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy' (Job 29.13).
At this therefore I rejoiced, yea, the tears of those whom God did awaken by my preachingwould be both solace and encouragement to me; for I thought on those sayings, 'Whois he that maketh me glad but the same which is made sorry by me?' (11 Cor. 2.2);and again, Though 'I be not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you: forthe seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord' (1 Cor. 9.2). These things, therefore,were as another argument unto me that God had called me to, and stood by me in thiswork.
In my preaching of the Word, I took special notice of this one thing, namely, thatthe Lord did lead me to begin where His Word begins with sinners; that is, to condemnall flesh, and to open and allege that the curse of God, by the law, doth belongto and lay hold on all men as they come into the world, because of sin. Now thispart of my work I fulfilled with great sense; for the terrors of the law, and guiltfor my transgressions, lay heavy on my conscience. I preached what I felt, what Ismartingly did feel, even that under which my poor soul did groan and tremble toastonishment.
Indeed I have been as one sent to them from the dead; I went myself in chains topreach to them in chains; and carried that fire in my own conscience that I persuadedthem to beware of. I can truly say, and that without dissembling, that when I havebeen to preach, I have gone full of guilt and terror even to the pulpit door, andthere it hath been taken off, and I have been at liberty in my mind until I havedone my work, and then immediately, even before I could get down the pulpit stairs,I have been as bad as I was before; yet God carried me on, but surely with a stronghand, for neither guilt nor hell could take me off my work.
Thus I went for the space of two years, crying out against men's sins, and theirfearful state because of them. After which the Lord came in upon my own soul withsome staid peace and comfort through Christ; for He did give me many sweet discoveriesof His blessed grace through Him. Wherefore now I altered in my preaching, for stillI preached what I saw and felt; now therefore I did much labour to hold forth JesusChrist in all His offices, relations, and benefits unto the world; and did strivealso to discover, to condemn, and remove those false supports and props on whichthe world doth both lean, and by them fall and perish. On these things also I staidas long as on the other.
After this, God led me into something of the mystery of union with Christ; whereforethat I discovered and showed to them also. And when I had travelled through thesethree chief points of the Word of God, about the space of five years or more, I wascaught in my present practice and cast into prison, where I have lain above as longagain, to confirm the truth by way of suffering, as I was before in testifying ofit according to the Scriptures in a way of preaching.
When I have been preaching, I thank God, my heart hath often all the time of thisand the other exercise, with great earnestness, cried to God that He would make theWord effectual to the salvation of the soul; still being grieved lest the enemy shouldtake the Word away from the conscience, and so it should become unfruitful. WhereforeI did labour so to speak the Word, as that thereby, if it were possible, the sinand the person guilty might be particularized by it.
Also, when I have done the exercise, it hath gone to my heart to think the Word shouldnow fall as rain on stony places, still wishing from my heart, 0 that they who haveheard me speak this day did but see as I do what sin, death, hell, and the curseof God is; and also what the grace, and love, and mercy of God is, through Christ,to men in such a case as they are, who are yet estranged from Him. And, indeed, Idid often say in my heart before the Lord, That if to be hanged up presently beforetheir eyes would be a means to awaken them, and confirm them in the truth, I gladlyshould be contented.
For I have been in my preaching, especially when I have been engaged in the doctrineof life by Christ, without works, as if an angel of God had stood by at my back toencourage me. Oh, it hath been with such power and heavenly evidence upon my ownsoul, while I have been labouring to unfold it, to demonstrate it, and to fastenit upon the consciences of others, that I could not be contented with saying, I believe,and am sure; methought I was more than sure, if it be lawful so to express myself,that those things which then I asserted were true.
When I went first to preach the Word abroad, the doctors and priests of the countrydid open wide against me. But I was persuaded of this, not to render railing forrailing, but to see how many of their carnal professors I could convince of theirmiserable state by the law, and of the want and worth of Christ; for, thought I,This shall answer for me in time to come, when they shall be for my hire before theirfaces (Gen. 30.33).
I never cared to meddle with things that were controverted, and in dispute amongstthe saints, especially things of the lowest nature; yet it pleased me much to contendwith great earnestness for the word of faith and the remission of sins by the deathand sufferings of Jesus; but I say, as to other things, I should let them alone,because I saw they engendered strife, and because that they neither, in doing norin leaving undone, did commend us to God to be His. Besides, I saw my work beforeme did run in another channel even to carry an awakening word; to that thereforedid I stick and adhere.
I never endeavoured to, nor durst make use of other men's lines (Rom. 15.18), thoughI condemn not all that do, for I verily thought, and found by experience, that whatwas taught me by the Word and Spirit of Christ, could be spoken, maintained, andstood to by the soundest and best established conscience; and though I will not nowspeak all that I know in this matter, yet my experience hath more interest in thattext of Scripture than many amongst men are aware (Gal. 1.11, 12).
If any of those who were awakened by my ministry did after that fall back, as sometimestoo many did, I can truly say their loss hath been more to me than if one of my ownchildren, begotten of my body, had been going to its grave; I think, verily, I mayspeak it without an offence to the Lord, nothing hath gone so near me as that, unlessit was the fear of the loss of the salvation of my own soul. I have counted as ifI had goodly buildings and lordships in those places where my children were born;my heart hath been so wrapped up in the glory of this excellent work, that I countedmyself more blessed and honoured of God by this than if He had made me the emperorof the Christian world, or the lord of all the glory of the earth without it! O thesewords, 'He which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soulfrom death' (Jas. 5.20). 'The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he thatwinneth souls is wise' (Prov. 11.30). 'They that be wise shall shine as the brightnessof the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for everand ever' (Dan. 12.3). 'For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Arenot even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are ourglory and joy' (1 Thess. 2.19, 20). These, I say, with many others of a like nature,have been great refreshments to me.
I have observed, that where I have had a work to do for God, I have had first, asit were, the going of God upon my spirit to desire I might preach there. I have alsoobserved that such and such souls in particular have been strongly set upon my heart,and I stirred up to wish for their salvation; and that these very souls have, afterthis, been given in as the fruits of my ministry. I have also observed, that a wordcast in by the by hath done more execution in a sermon than all that was spoken besides;sometimes also when I have thought I did no good, then I did the most of all; andat other times when I thought I should catch them I have fished for nothing.
I have also observed, that where there hath been a work to do upon sinners, therethe devil hath begun to roar in the hearts, and by the mouths of his servants. Yea,oftentimes when the wicked world hath raged most, there hath been souls awaked bythe word. I could instance particulars, but I forbear.
My great desire in fulfilling my ministry was to get into the darkest places of thecountry, even amongst those people that were farthest off of profession; yet notbecause I could not endure the light, for I feared not to show my gospel to any,but because I found my spirit leaned most after awakening and converting work, andthe Word that I carried did lead itself most that way also; 'yea, so have I strivedto preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon anotherman's foundation' (Rom. 15.20).
In my preaching I have really been in pain, and have, as it were, travailed to bringforth children to God; neither could I be satisfied unless some fruits did appearin my work. If I were fruitless it mattered not who commended me; but if I were fruitful,I cared not who did condemn. I have thought of that, 'He that winneth souls is wise'(Prov. 11.30); and again, 'Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord; and the fruitof the womb is his reward. As arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are childrenof the youth. Happy is the man that hath filled his quiver full of them; they shallnot be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate' (Ps. 127.3-5).
It pleased me nothing to see people drink in opinions if they seemed ignorant ofJesus Christ, and the worth of their own salvation, sound conviction for sin, especiallyfor unbelief, and an heart set on fire to be saved by Christ, with strong breathingafter a truly sanctified soul; that it was that delighted me; those were the soulsI counted blessed.
But in this work, as in all other, I had my temptations attending me, and that ofdiverse kinds, as sometimes I should be assaulted with great discouragement therein,fearing that I should not be able to speak the Word at all to edification; nay, thatI should not be able to speak sense unto the people; at which times I should havesuch a strange faintness and strengthlessness seize upon my body that my legs havescarce been able to carry me to the place of exercise.
Sometimes, again, when I have been preaching, I have been violently assaulted withthoughts of blasphemy, and strongly tempted to speak the words with my mouth beforethe congregation. I have also at some times, even when I have begun to speak theWord with much clearness, evidence, and liberty of speech, yet been before the endingof that opportunity so blinded, and so estranged from the things I have been speaking,and have also been so straitened in my speech, as to utterance before the people,that I have been as if I had not known or remembered what I have been about, or asif my head had been in a bag all the time of the exercise.
Again, when as sometimes I have been about to preach upon some smart and scorchingportion of the Word, I have found the tempter suggest, What, will you preach this?this condemns yourself; of this your own soul is guilty; wherefore preach not ofit at all; or if you do, yet so mince it as to make way for your own escape; lestinstead of awakening others, you lay that guilt upon your own soul as you will neverget from under.
But, I thank the Lord, I have been kept from consenting to these so horrid suggestions,and have rather, as Samson, bowed myself with all my might, to condemn sin and transgressionwherever I found it, yea, though therein also I did bring guilt upon my own conscience!'Let me die,' thought I, 'with the Philistines' (Judg. 16.29, 30), rather than dealcorruptly with the blessed Word of God, 'Thou that teachest another, teachest notthou thyself?' It is far better that thou do judge thyself, even by preaching plainlyto others, than that thou, to save thyself, imprison the truth in unrighteousness;blessed be God for His help also in this.
I have also, while found in this blessed work of Christ, been often tempted to prideand liftings up of heart; and though I dare not say I have not been infected withthis, yet truly the Lord, of His precious mercy, hath so carried it towards me, that,for the most part, I have had but small joy to give way to such a thing; for it hathbeen my every day's portion to be let into the evil of my own heart, and still madeto see such a multitude of corruptions and infirmities therein, that it hath causedhanging down of the head under all my gifts and attainments; I have felt this thornin the flesh, the very mercy of God to me (11 Cor. 12.7-9).
I have had also, together with this, some notable place or other of the Word presentedbefore me, which word hath contained in it some sharp and piercing sentence concerningthe perishing of the soul, notwithstanding gifts and parts; as, for instance, thathath been of great use unto me, 'Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal' (1 Cor.13.1, 2).
A tinkling cymbal is an instrument of music, with which a skilful player can makesuch melodious and heart-inflaming music, that all who hear him play can scarcelyhold from dancing; and yet behold the cymbal hath not life, neither comes the musicfrom it, but because of the art of him that plays therewith; so then the instrumentat last may come to naught and perish, though, in times past, such music hath beenmade upon it.
Just thus I saw it was and will be with them who have gifts, but want saving grace,they are in the hand of Christ, as the cymbal in the hand of David; and as Davidcould, with the cymbal, make that mirth in the service of God, as to elevate thehearts of the worshippers, so Christ can use these gifted men, as with them to affectthe souls of His people in His church; yet when He hath done all, hang them by aslifeless, though sounding cymbals.
This consideration, therefore, together with some others, were, for the most part,as a maul on the head of pride, and desire of vain glory; what, thought I, shallI be proud because I am a sounding brass? Is it so much to be a fiddle? Hath notthe least creature that hath life, more of God in it than these? Besides, I knewit was love should never die, but these must cease and vanish; so I concluded, alittle grace, a little love, a little of the true fear of God, is better than allthese gifts; yea, and I am fully convinced of it, that it is possible for a soulthat can scarce give a man an answer, but with great confusion as to method, I sayit is possible for them to have a thousand times more grace, and so to be more inthe love and favour of the Lord than some who, by virtue of the gift of knowledge,can deliver themselves like angels.
Thus, therefore, I came to perceive, that though gifts in themselves were good tothe thing for which they are designed, to wit, the edification of others; yet emptyand without power to have the soul of him that hath them, if they be alone; neitherare they, as so, any sign of a man's state to be happy, being only a dispensationof God to some, of whose improvement, or non-improvement, they must, when a littlelove more is over, give an account to Him that is ready to judge the quick and thedead.
This showed me, too, that gifts being alone, were dangerous, not in themselves, butbecause of those evils that attend them that have them, to wit, pride, desire ofvain glory, self-conceit, etc., all of which were easily blown up at the applauseand commendation of every unadvised Christian, to the endangering of a poor creatureto fall into the condemnation of the devil.
I saw therefore that he that hath gifts had need be let into a sight of the natureof them, to wit, that they come short of making of him to be in a truly saved condition,lest he rest in them, and so fall short of the grace of God.
He hath also cause to walk humbly with God, and be little in his own eyes, and toremember withal, that his gifts are not his own, but the church's; and that by themhe is made a servant to the church; and that he must give at last an account of hisstewardship unto the Lord Jesus; and to give a good account, will be a blessed thing.
Let all men therefore prize a little with the fear of the Lord; gifts indeed aredesirable, but yet great grace and small gifts are better than great gifts and nograce. It doth not say, the Lord gives gifts and glory, but the Lord gives graceand glory; and blessed is such an one to whom the Lord gives grace, true grace, forthat is a certain forerunner of glory.
But when Satan perceived that his thus tempting and assaulting of me would not answerhis design, to wit, to overthrow my ministry, and make it ineffectual, as to theends thereof; then he tried another way, which was to stir up the minds of the ignorantand malicious, to load me with slanders and reproaches; now therefore I may say,that what the devil could devise, and his instruments invent, was whirled up anddown the country against me, thinking, as I said, that by that means they shouldmake my ministry to be abandoned.
It began therefore to be rumoured up and down among the people, that I was a witch,a Jesuit, a highwayman, and the like.
To all which, I shall only say, God knows that I am innocent. But as for mine accusers,let them provide themselves to meet me before the tribunal of the Son of God, thereto answer for these things, with all the rest of their iniquities, unless God shallgive them repentance for them, for the which I pray with all my heart.
But that which was reported with the boldest confidence, was, that I had my misses,my whores, my bastards, yea, two wives at once, and the like. Now these slanders,with the other, I glory in, because but slanders, foolish, or knavish lies, and falsehoodscast upon me by the devil and his seed; and should I not be dealt with thus wickedlyby the world, I should want one sign of a saint, and a child of God. 'Blessed areye (said the Lord Jesus) when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shallsay all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake; rejoice, and be exceedingglad, for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets whichwere before you' (Matt. 5.11).
These things, therefore, upon mine own account, trouble me not; no, though they weretwenty times more than they are. I have a good conscience, and whereas they speakevil of me, as an evil doer, they shall be ashamed that falsely accuse my good conversationin Christ.
So, then, what shall I say to those that have thus bespattered me? Shall I threatenthem? Shall I chide them? Shall I flatter them? Shall I intreat them to hold theirtongues? No, not I, were it not for that these things make them ripe for damnation,that are the authors and abettors, I would say unto them, Report it, because it willincrease my glory.
Therefore I bind these lies and slanders to me as an ornament, it belongs to my Christianprofession to be vilified, slandered, reproached and reviled; and since all thisis nothing else, as my God and my conscience do bear me witness, I rejoice in reproachesfor Christ's sake.
I also calling all those fools, or knaves, that have thus made it anything of theirbusiness to affirm any of the things afore-named of me, namely, that I have beennaught with other women, or the like. When they have used to the utmost of theirendeavours, and made the fullest inquiry that they can, to prove against me truly,that there is any woman in heaven, or earth, or hell, that can say, I have at anytime, in any place, by day or night, so much as attempted to be naught with them;and speak I thus, to beg mine enemies into a good esteem of me? No, not I: I willin this beg relief of no man; believe or disbelieve me in this, all is a case tome.
My foes have missed their mark in this their shooting at me. I am not the man. Iwish that they themselves be guiltless. If all the fornicators and adulterers inEngland were hanged by the neck till they be dead, scaps John Bunyan, the objectof their envy, would be still alive and well. I know not whether there be such athing as a woman breathing under the copes of the whole heaven but by their apparel,their children, or by common fame, except my wife.
And in this I admire the wisdom of God, that He made me shy of women from my firstconversion until now. Those know, and can also bear me witness, with whom I havebeen most intimately concerned, that it is a rare thing to see me carry it pleasanttowards a woman, the common salutation of a woman I abhor, it is odious to me inwhosoever I see it. Their company alone, I cannot away with. I seldom so much astouch a woman's hand, for I think these things are not so becoming me. When I haveseen good men salute those women that they have visited, or that have visited them,I have at times made my objection against it, and when they have answered, that itwas but a piece of civility, I have told them, it is not a comely sight; some indeedhave urged the holy kiss but then I have asked why they made baulks, why they didsalute the most handsome, and let the ill-favoured go; thus, how laudable soeversuch things have been in the eyes of others, they have been unseemly in my sight.
And now for a wind up in this matter, I calling not only men, but angels, to proveme guilty of having carnally to do with any woman save my wife, nor am I afraid todo it a second time, knowing that I cannot offend the Lord in such a case, to callGod for a record upon my soul, that in these things I am innocent. Not that I havebeen thus kept, because of any goodness in me more than any other, but God has beenmerciful to me, and has kept me; to whom I pray that He will keep me still, not onlyfrom this, but from every evil way and work, and preserve me to His heavenly kingdom.Amen.
1. Of all the temptations that ever I met with in my life, to question the beingof God, and the truth of His gospel, is the worst, and the worst to be borne; whenthis temptation comes, it takes away my girdle from me, and removeth the foundationsfrom under me. Oh, I have often thought of that word, 'Have your loins girt aboutwith truth'; and of that, 'When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteousdo?'
2. Sometimes, when, after sin committed, I have looked for sore chastisement fromthe hand of God, the very next that I have had from Him hath been the discovery ofHis grace. Sometimes, when I have been comforted, I have called myself a fool formy so sinking under trouble. And then, again, when I have been cast down, I thoughtI was not wise to give such way to comfort. With such strength and weight have boththese been upon me.
3. I have wondered much at this one thing, that though God doth visit my soul withnever so blessed a discovery of Himself, yet I have found again, that such hourshave attended me afterwards, that I have been in my spirit so filled with darkness,that I could not so much as once conceive what that God and that comfort was withwhich I have been refreshed.
4. I have sometimes seen more in a line of the Bible than I could well tell how tostand under, and yet at another time the whole Bible hath been to me as dry as astick; or rather, my heart hath been so dead and dry unto it, that I could not conceivethe least drachm of refreshment, though I have looked it all over.
5. Of all tears, they are the best that are made by the blood of Christ; and of alljoy, that is the sweetest that is mixed with mourning over Christ. Oh! it is a goodlything to be on our knees, with Christ in our arms, before God. I hope I know somethingof these things.
6. I find to this day seven abominations in my heart: (1) Inclinings to unbelief.(2) Suddenly to forget the love and mercy that Christ manifesteth. (3) A leaningto the works of the law. (4) Wanderings and coldness in prayer. (5) To forget towatch for that I pray for. (6) Apt to murmur because I have no more, and yet readyto abuse what I have. (7) I can do none of those things which God commands me, butmy corruptions will thrust in themselves, 'When I would do good, evil is presentwith me.'
7. These things I continually see and feel, and am afflicted and oppressed with;yet the wisdom of God doth order them for my good. (1) They make me abhor myself.(2) They keep me from trusting my heart. (3) They convince me of the insufficiencyof all inherent righteousness. (4) They show me the necessity of flying to Jesus.(5) They press me to pray unto God. (6) They show me the need I have to watch andbe sober. (7) And provoke me to look to God, through Christ, to help me, and carryme through this world. Amen.