Page images

is not consumed; the spark of spiritual life that the Lord hath kindled remains still burning, yea, and increasing, for all these showers of sin that seek to quench it. 5. Though I have departed, yet not wickedly from God. I sin neither deliberately, delightfully, with full consent, nor lie impenitently in my sins; I grieve and mourn for them, and hate them. 6.I find sin on the decaying hand. 7. I find advantages by my sins, "Peccare nocet, peccavisse vera juvat." I may say, as Mr Fox, my sins have in a manner done me more good than my graces. Grace and mercy "hath abounded where sin hath abounded." I am made more humble, watchful, revengeful against myself, to see a greater need to depend more upon him, to love him the more that continues such kindness to me notwithstanding of my manifold provocations. I find that true which Shepherd saith, " Sin loses strength by every new fall." Tfdrd Ground. My fearful, dark, hellish ignorance, and carnal conceptions of God, heaven, and hell, by which I am tempted to draw this conclusion, that I am yet in darkness, and that that marvellous light which discovereth Christ really as he is, the glory of the Father, has not shined on my soul; but that all my knowledge is either rational, or notional, or natural. Oh my unspeakable ignorance of him! To which, for satisfaction, I answer these things :—(1.) That no man has seen God face to face, but in his back parts, which is a very imperfect knowledge, Exod. xxxiii. 23; this was it that Moses saw. (2.) Saints "see but through a glass," not immediately in this life, 1 Cor. xiii. 12. (3.) And hence they see but darkly, as in a mystery, 1 Cor. xiii. 12. (4.) The most eminent saints have much lamented their ignorance of God, Prov. xxx. 2, "I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of the holy." O how little a portion of him is known! (5.) This is a time of absence, and it is but a dark knowledge wc have of one not present; it is in heaven we will "see face to face, and know as we are known, and see Christ as he is," 1 John iii. 3. (<>.) "Wc walk by faith, and not by sight," 2 Cor v. 7. Seeing is our life in heaven not here. It is a controversy whether the sight we have here of Christ be specifically different from what they have in heaven. (7.) It is considerable, Job xlii. 5, that when Job saw the Lord extraordinarily, he thought his former knowledge but a knowing God by the hearing of the ear; and yet, when Job knew but by the hearing of the ear, and not by the seeing of the eye, he was then a "just man, that feared God, and eschewed evil." (8.) I saw the Lord in glory with the eyes of my mind once extraordinarily, and as I thought intuitively, the impression and effects of which remain to this day. (9.) I have and find the real effects of saving knowledge. I trust in him, "They that know thy name will put their trust in thee," Psalm ix. 10. It makes me prize and esteem him, and long for him above all things, and mourn for his absence as the greatest evil, John iv. 10, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that asketh water of thee, thou wouldest ask." Though the tiiing be not seen in its cause, yet it is seen in its effects. (10.) Folk may really see and know God, though they neither mind it nor know it, yea, though they think they do not so, John xiv. 9, Philip desired to see the Father, as though he had never been revealed to him; and yet Christ tells him he saw him, because he saw Christ. (11.) The Lord saith, "To execute judgment is to know the Lord." Our knowledge of God is better discovered in our obedience to him than in our uptakings of him. (12.) As "herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us;" so herein is knowledge, not that we know him, but rather, as the apostle saith, Gal. iv. 9, "are known of him." What shall I say, lastly, but as Mr Shepherd on the subject, "If ever the Lord hath revealed Christ to thee, thou wilt go mourning to the grave for want of him, and for thy ignorance of him so long?" The Lord knows that it is the thing in the world I have most desired, to know God and to see his glory.

Fourth Ground. That seldom hath there been a glorious, clear, distinct, and full covenanting with God. Something I remember of the Lord's wooing of me; and how can the Lord be mine unless some marriage-day hath been? And whenever I have gone about this duty, how much hcartlessness and confusion? In trouble I have been, but not a distinct delivery. This objection is of the same nature with the first, and therefore I answer, (1.) When the Lord first made me see a need of himself, and my misery in the want of him, and had wearied me of myself, I remember then he discovered the Lord Jesus in his loveliness, and my soul, even my whole soul, was made fully and for evermore to close with him, and him only, and above all, and for all things. And as this was the upshot of my tossings, so was it the seed of all good that ever followed, and I was made to express this much. (2.) As, in the preparatory work of humiliation, the Lord observes not the same method with all, so, in the soul's closing with Christ, all do it not under the same distinct notion. Some do it explicitly, and expressly subscribe with heart and hand that they are the Lord's, and swear fealty to him; some close with Christ implicitly and really, their heart clinging to him and his ways, though they be not distinct and express in this; yea, some close with Christ, and are married to him by and under the notion of believing on him with all their heart for all things, and so cast themselves on Christ; and this is covenanting, as covenanting is believing. And therefore is faith expressed under several notions and terms, according to the variety of men's apprehensions of it, and the several exercises of the soul in going out after and closing with Christ. Believing on Christ, and the will's liking of Christ, and personal covenanting with Christ, are all one upon the matter, viz., the soul's union with Christ; the Lord is thine, however, and thou art his. It is both a private and public solemn marriage; if once thou know any thing of it, look not for solemn marriages every day. Hardly is the renewal of a covenant, which is frequent, so glorious and signal as the first marriage-day.

Fifth Ground is, Not only the dim apprehensions, but the unkindly uptakings and conceivings of the Lord in Christ, as a strange God, and not under the kindly relation of a father, and friend, and husband, which breeds aversion to him, so as I cannot trust on him with my whole heart. And this makes me fear I am but under the relation of a servant," wanting the Spirit of adoption, and that I uin yet but a stranger, and not drawn near to him in Christ, not a son. To which I answer these things: (1.) That however in the beginning there was ground for this complaint, yet that now there is no such cause, because that by serious meditation on Christ, on his offices, on his carriage towards sinners, and on his works of providence towards myself, both as to my spiritual and temporal condition, I have been helped to see the Lord, and uptake him under the kindly notion of a Father, yea, of my best and nearest friend, of my life, hope, health, and light, so as "I am a stranger on earth" with God. (2.) That howbeit many are sons indeed, and "have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear," yet do they take to themselves this spirit again; and the Lord suffers this, that even his children be as servants, especially in the beginning, though they be lords of all; and that the bond-woman with her son be continued with the heir of the promise, Gal. iv. 1, 2, 24. (3.) That as no sin is perfectly healed in this life, so neither is the legal spirit of fear perfectly cast out; but when love is perfect, it will cast out fear, 1 John iv. 18, and is daily casting it out. (4.) That as it is in children who know not distinctly their parents, but as strangers are afraid of them, yet have a secret instinct of nature, their heart warms, and cannot be kept away from them; so I have found with myself, when most under bondage and hardest apprehensions of God, that yet some kind of correspondence hath been kept up, and that I have mourned for his absence as under the greatest evil, could not be kept from him, was intimate and homely, though I had not such boldness and confidence to be heard.

Sixth Ground. Because I am tempted to think I have not been visited with special love, or the favour the Lord shows to his people; and that all my enlargements, visitations, light, change of heart, are but common mercies, no extraordinary thing. And what can I build on them? I answer, (1.) That though at first there appear little more than common mercies in them, yet have I by a more narrow search found some special love and favour engraven upon them, as I purpose to show hereafter. (2.) What we meet with now are but the earnest of the bargain, and that is little in respect of the bargain itself; and it matters not whether the earnest be little or much, 2 Cor. v. 7. (3.) We should judge of the Lord's love rather by his sanctifying influences, humbling and strengthening the heart, than by his ravishing enjoyments and consolations: We see the dreadfid end of such as boast much of that; it is the " adulterous generation" that "seeketh after" such "signs." (4.) The way and manner of conveyance of mercies and spiritual visitations are rather to be looked to than themselves. See if ye have them by prayer, if ye have them of free grace, if they represent, hold out, and draw to God, and the Lord be stamped on them; not the gift but the giver: This day of small things is not to be despised. (5.) The people of God are a poor and needy people, kept empty, have all their fulness in Christ, in the promise; and is to be revealed in heaven, where their treasure is. (6.) This is an evil time, a time of famine and beggary, in which it is good to be preserved from starving, and in which a little is worth twice as much at another time.1

Seventh Ground. That the mercies received come not in a gracious way, not as the answer of prayers, or as the result of my patient waiting, but as it were by chance, my mercies oft-times trysting with my worst frame. To which I answer, (1.) I have prayed, mourned, waited, and hoped for mercies, though with much weakness and imperfection. It is not the degree but the nature that is to be looked to. (2.) They are not the fruits of my prayers and endeavours; for there is more ground of loathing me for these than rewarding me. But they are come in a better and more comfortable way, viz., by grace. The Lord trysts mercies with our indispositions, that grace may be seen. It is rather a sign of love than hatred, that grace is stamped on all favours and enjoyments; "Not unto us, but unto thy name." It is better to hold mercies by this title. It is not fit that the Lord's love should be proportioned to our endeavours; where were grace then ?" Not of works, lest any man should boast." (3.) They draw to God.

Eighth Ground. The Lord carrying as a stranger and an enemy

i This was written in time of persecution, and thus arc other passages also understood.

« PreviousContinue »