Page images
PDF
EPUB

law of their Creator, and never in the least acted contrary to the will of him who, by his powerful word, had given them a being. This brought me to consider how man had carried towards his Lord and benefactor, and speedily I found that, though God made him upright, yet he soon found out many inventions unworthy of his God, and was the only creature, excepting devils, that ever disobeyed his holy, just, and good commandments, on which the depraved state of fallen man, and my own in particular, was more fully laid open to me than what I could well conceive before. But all of a sudden, a bright display of redeeming love did with power shine in upon my soul, [so] that I was filled with wonder at the amazing good will of God to fallen man,t o a creature so unworthy, ungrateful, and rebellious, when, at the same time, he had not only resolved to pardon his rebellion, and bring the elect world into favour again, but would do all this by sending his own Son to be a propitiation for the elect's sin, when a little before he had doomed the fallen angels to endless misery, without the least pity or compassion shown to them, though of a nobler rank by their first make than man. All this, I say, so filled my soul with high thoughts of redeeming love, and a strong admiration of all the perfections of God, which shined so bright in the face of Jesus Christ, and in the way of man’s recovery from his lost estate, that my mouth was filled with praise, and my soul with joy. I thought I never could praise him enough, who was exalted above all blessing and praise; on which I invited the whole creation to join with me in my melodious song. I bespoke them in the words of the Psalmist, in the 148th Psalm,“ Praise him, ye sun and moon ; praise him, ye stars of light; fire, hail, snow, vapours, and stormy wind;" and all that he hath made, help me to sound forth the praises of so great, so good, so condescending, and so faithful a God. Having finished for that time my song of praise, I concluded with prayer, and after went on my way rejoicing.

When all of a sudden the roaring lion did attack my soul. I was not by this time ignorant of his devices, but well acquainted with his wiles. He powerfully suggested to my mind that now I had

got a brave sight of Christ. I being persuaded it was one of his hellish stratagems to make me think meanly of my attainment, I answered the enemy with a holy boldness, and with an audible voice, What hast thou, O enemy, to say against it? To which the tempter speedily replied, You never asked if you had an interest in that Saviour, on whose account you so much praise. To which I replied, Alas! that charge is too true: though thou hast been a liar from the beginning, in this thou speakest truth ; on which I looked up and cried to God, and begged he would let me know wherewith I should answer the enemy. Immediately it was impressed on my spirit, that a God of infinite goodness, mercy, and faithfulness, would never have made me to rejoice in his perfections, being so gloriously displayed in the great work of man's redemption, if I had not an interest therein ; and I told the enemy that the God who had made me glad at his salvation would not, could not, deceive any of his creatures, and in this would I trust. The enemy then suggested, that I would not always be in such a frame. I replied, that I feared, but that I lamented; but told the tempter, though I should meet with winter blasts, after all this sunshine, I would imitate the wise mariner in a winter season, who keeps in harbour; but whenever a favourable gale came, or a springtide of heavenly influences, I should be in readiness to cherish the motions of the Spirit, and in the meantime would wait upon God, as a God of judgment, and the God of my salvation, whose salvation had now set me up on high, and made me ride on my high places ; upon which the enemy left me for a season, and I for some time was filled with joy and peace in believing.

Some time after the above exercise, I was in a considerable outward trouble, and having earnestly entreated God to deliver me out of it, I vowed that my praise should no longer wait for God, or be silent in Zion, than he would be to me in this particular, the hearer of prayer; and so I bound my soul in the presence of God, to set apart a day for thanksgiving, if he would condescend to grant my humble request, and particularly that in the 23d, 24th, and 25th verses of the 22d Psalm, should be a part of my song;

namely, “Ye that fear the Lord, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him, and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel; for he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him, but when he cried unto him, he heard. My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him."

Accordingly, it pleased the merciful God to regard the voice of my supplications, and to command off my trouble; whereupon I resolved to sacrifice to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay my vow unto the Lord. But when I had fixed the day, the great adversary of God and man did assault me with his fiery darts, to keep me back from paying in the rent of praise which was due by me to my great deliverer, alleging that I need not praise so soon, for I was still under many troubles, suggesting that I had better delay my day of praise till all my troubles were removed, and then I might keep one day for all. To this I was helped to answer, that Israel of old, when carried safely through the Red Sea, did sing their song to him who saved them, when they knew they were just entered into the wilderness, where many troubles did abide them; and as they did, so would I. Accordingly, I spent a day in returning praise, and found the God whom I adored very kind to my soul.

After some time I found a cloud arising, [of] which I may say, as the Prophet in another case, that at first it was as a man's hand, but gradually increased till it covered the whole heavens, as it were, and hid from me the refreshing and lightsome rays of the Sun of Righteousness. I may say I feared to enter into the cloud, and it was the greatest and of longest continuance that ever I met with in the house of my pilgrimage; the Lord covered himself with a thick cloud, and made darkness his pavilion; and though I cried, yet he seemed to shut out my prayers. This cloud lasted for two years and some months. The first year my bitter complaint was, “He hath hid his face, and I cannot be troubled,” «for my stroke is heavier than my groaning.” The second year my mournful song was, “He hath hid his face, and I am troubled.” In my first year's distress, his arrows stuck fast in me, and his hand did press me sore: “my wounds did stink and were corrupted, and there was no soundness in my flesh; the arrows of the Almighty did drink up my spirits ; night and day his hand lay heavy upon me, so that even iny bodily moisture was turned into the drought of summer.” When I said sometimes that my couch would ease my complaint, I was filled with tossing to the dawning of the day,” and then in the morning the cry was, when will it be night? and at night, when will it be morning? I remembered God, and was troubled, and I communed with my heart, wherewith I might ease my smart. I remembered the days of old, when he led me through the wilderness, and the Spirit of the Lord, as I thought, had caused me to rest, but now was I ready to cry out, “ Is it true in very deed, that the Lord hath forgot to be gracious ? hath he shut up all his bowels of tender mercy in his wrath ? doth his promise fail for evermore ?” I was ready to conclude that all men were liars, and all former experiences were delusions, and yet glad to cry out,“O that it were with me as in months past, when the candle of the Lord did shine upon my tabernacle, and when by his light I walked through darkness.” But still the comforter that should relieve my soul was far from me, and my broken bones were never like to rejoice. Though it be said, he hideth his face but for a moment, and that his anger endureth but for a night, yet the time of my sad exercise seemed the longest period of my life, for joy was never like to come in the morning. The second year of my distress, I was made indeed to alter a little the ground of my trouble, and cry out, “He has hid his face, and I am troubled.”

In my first year's exercise it was a great part of my burden, that I could not be duly burdened, when the glory was departed from me; but now I was made to own, that as he hid his face, so this was my trouble, and indeed my trouble was so great, that I could not well speak. Amidst all my down-casting, I had the “roaring lion” to grapple with, who likes well to fish in muddy waters. He strongly suggested to me that I should not eat, because I had no

right to food, or if I ventured to do it, the enemy assured me that the wrath of God would go down with my morsel, and that because I had forfeited a right to the Divine favour, and therefore had nothing to do with any of God's creatures. To this I answered, that even the wicked had a right to eat and drink by the law of creation and the indulgence of providence; for even an earthly judge had so much generosity as to allow a condemned criminal to be fed on bread and water, at least till the day of execution, and how much more compassion would God show to his creatures, the workmanship of his hands, even though under a sentence of condemnation, as long as he granted the reprieve, or spared the execution of the formidable sentence; yea, I alleged I had a civil right by the laws of the land, and ought to make use of it for the preserving of the life which God had given, even as I was a member of the society in which providence placed me. However, so violent were the temptations of the strong enemy, that I frequently forgot to eat my bread, and durst not attempt it; and when, through the persuasion of my wife, I at any time did it, the enemy through the day did buffet me in a violent way, assuring me that the wrath of God had gone over with what I had taken : thus went I from day to day about my ordinary employment, broken and much borne down, and the weak body scarce able to subsist any longer; then the enemy persuaded me, if I would tell my case to any Christian friend, I could not give a greater evidence of gross hypocrisy than to pretend to soul exercise. In this I was indeed the devil's closet secreter, (secretary,] to my great prejudice and Satan's advantage; for had I revealed my distress to an interpreter, one among a thousand, the enemy, by God's assistance, might sooner have been foiled : but as my wounds did stink, so my folly made it so, having enjoined my wife to let none know my distress and exercise.

The enemy after all did so pursue me, that he violently suggested to my soul that some time or other, God would suddenly destroy me as with a thunder-clap, which so filled my soul with fear and pain, that every now and then I looked about me to receive the divine blow, still expecting it was a coming; yea, many nights

« PreviousContinue »