1. 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 and manner of bringing up; that thereby the goodness and bounty of God towards me may be the more advanced and magnified before the sons of men.
2. For my descent, then, it was, as is well known by many, of a low and inconsiderable generation; my father's house being of that rank that is meanest and most despised of all the families of the land. Wherefore I have not here, as others, to boast of noble blood, and of high-born state, according to the flesh; though, all things considered, I magnify the heavenly majesty, for that by this door he brought me into the world, to partake of the grace and life that is in Christ by the Gospel.
3. But yet, notwithstanding the meanness and inconsiderableness of my parents, it pleased God to put into their hearts to put me to school, to learn me 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 what I had learned, even almost utterly, and that long before the Lord did work his gracious work of conversion upon my soul.
4. As for my own natural life, for the time that I was without God in the world, it was indeed according to the course of this world, and the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience, Eph. ii. 2. It was my delight to be taken captive by the devil at his will, 2 Tim. ii. 26, being filled with all unrighteousness; the which did also so strongly work, and put forth itself, both in my heart and life, that I had but few equals, both for cursing, swearing, lying, and blaspheming the holy name of God.
5. Yea, so settled and rooted was I in these things, that they became as a second nature to me; the which, as I have also with soberness considered since, did so offend the Lord, that even in my childhood he did scare and terrify me with fearful dreams and visions. For often, after I had spent this and the other day in sin, I have been greatly afflicted, while asleep, with the apprehensions of devils and wicked spirits, who, as I then thought, laboured to draw me away with them, of which I could never be rid.
6. Also I should, at these years, be greatly troubled with the thoughts of the fearful torments of hellfire; still fearing that it would be my lot to be found at last among those devils and hellish fiends, who are there bound down with the chains and bonds of darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
7. These things, I say, when I was but a child but nine or ten years old, did so distress my soul, that then, in the midst of my many sports and childish vanities, amidst my vain companions, I was often much cast down, and afflicted in my mind therewith, yet could I not let go my sins. Yea, I was also then so overcome with despair of life and heaven that I should often wish, either that there had been no hell, or that I had been a devil, supposing they were only tormentors; that if it must needs be that I went thither, I might be rather a tormentor than be tormented myself.
8. A while after these terrible dreams did leave me, which also I soon forgot; for my 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 still let loose the reins of my lust, and delighted in all transgressions against the law of God; so that until I came to the state of marriage, I was the very ringleader in all manner of vice and ungodliness.
9. Yea, such prevalency had the lusts of the flesh on my poor soul, that had not a miracle of precious grace prevented, I had not only perished by the stroke of eternal justice, but also laid myself open to the stroke of those laws which bring some to disgrace and shame before the face of the world.
10. In these days the thoughts of religion were very grievous to me; I could neither endure it myself, nor that any other should; so that when I have seen some read in those books that concerned Christian piety, it would be as it were a prison to me. Then I said unto God, Depart from me, for I desire not the knowledge of thy ways, Job xxi. 14. I was now void of all good consideration, heaven and hell were both out of sight and mind; and as for saving and damning, they were least in my thoughts. O Lord, thou knowest my life, and my ways are not hid from thee.
11. But this I well remember, that though I could myself sin with the greatest delight and ease, yet even then, if I had at any time seen wicked things, by those who professed goodness, it would make my spirit tremble. As once above all the rest, when I was in the height of vanity, yet hearing one to swear that was reckoned for a religious man, it had so great a stroke upon my spirits that it made my heart ache.
12. But God did not utterly leave me, but following me still, not with convictions, but judgments, mixed with mercy. For once I fell into a creek of the sea, and hardly escaped drowning. Another time I fell out of a boat into Bedford river, but mercy yet preserved me. Besides, another time, being in the field with my companions, it chanced that an adder passed over the highway, so I having a stick, struck her over the back, and having stunned her, I forced open her mouth with my stick, and plucked her sting out with my fingers; by which act, had not God been merciful to me, I might, by my desperateness, have brought myself to my end.
13. This also I have taken notice of with thanksgiving: When I was a soldier, I with others, were drawn out to go to such a place to besiege it; but when I was just ready to 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 in the head with a musket-bullet, and died.
14. Here, as I said, were judgments and mercy, but neither of them did awaken my soul to" righteousness; wherefore I sinned still, and grew more and more rebellious against God, and careless of my own salvation.
15. Presently after this I changed my condition into a married state, and my mercy was to light -upon a wife whose father and mother were counted godly: this woman and I, though we came together as poor as poor might be (not having so much household stuff as a dish or spoon betwixt us both), yet this she had for her part, The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven and The Practice of Piety, which her father had left her when he died. In these two books I sometimes read, wherein I found some things that were somewhat pleasing to me; (but all this -while I met with no conviction.) She also often would tell me what a godly man her father was, and how he would reprove and correct vice, both in his house and among his neighbours; and what a strict and holy life he lived in his days, both in word and deed.
16. Wherefore these books, though they did not reach my heart, to awaken it about my sad and sinful state, yet they did beget within me some desires to reform my vicious life, and fall in very eagerly with the religion of the times; to wit, to go to church, twice a-day, and there very devoutly both say and sing as others did, yet retaining my wicked life; but withal was so overrun with the 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 holy that were therein contained, and especially the priest and clerk most happy, and, without 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.
17. This conceit grew so strong upon my spirit that had I but seen a priest (though never so sordid and debauched in his life), I should find my spirit fall under him, reverence him, and knit unto him; yea, I thought, for the love I did bear unto them (supposing they were the ministers of God), I could nave laid down at their feet, and have been trampled upon by them: their name, their garb, and work did so intoxicate and bewitch me.
18. After I had been thus for some considerable time, another thought came in my mind, and that was, whether we were of the Israelites or no? For finding in the Scripture that they were once the peculiar people of God, thought I, if I were one of this race my soul must needs be happy. Now again I found within me a great longing to be resolved about this question, but could not tell how I should. At last I asked my father of it, who told me, No, we were not. Wherefore then I fell in my spirit as to the hope of that, and so remained.
19. But all this while I was not sensible of the danger and evil of sin! I was kept from considering that sin would damn me, what religion soever I followed, unless I was found in Christ: Nay, I never thought whether there was such a one, or no. Thus man, while blind, doth wander, for he knoweth not the way to the city of God. • Eccles. x. 15.
20. But one day (amongst all the sermons our parson made), his subject was to treat of the sabbathday, and of the evil of breaking that, either with labour, sports, or otherwise; wherefore I fell in my conscience under his sermon, thinking and believing that he made that sermon on purpose to shew me my evil doing. And at that time I felt what guilt was, though never before, that I can remember; but then I was for the present greatly loaded therewith, and so went home, when the sermon was ended, with a great burden upon my spirit.
21. This, for that instant, did embitter my former pleasures to me; but hold, it lasted not, for before I had well dined, the trouble began to go off my mind, and my heart returned to its old course; but oh! how glad was I that this trouble was gone from me, and that the fire was put out, that I might sin again without control! Wherefore, when I had satisfied nature with my food, I shook the sermon out of my mind, and to my old custom of sports and gaming I returned with great delight.
22. But the same day, as I was in the midst of a game of cat, and having struck it one blow from the hole, just as I was about to strike it the second time, a voice did suddenly dart from heaven into my soul, which said, "Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to heaven, or have thy sins and go to hell?" At this I was put to an exceeding maze; wherefore, leaving my cat upon the ground, I looked up to heaven, and was as if I had, with the eyes of my understanding, seen the Lord Jesus look down upon me, as being very hotly displeased with me, and as if he did severely threaten me with some grievous punishment for those and other ungodly practices.
23. I had no sooner thus conceived in my mind, but suddenly this conclusion fastened on my spirit (for the former hint did set my sins again before my face), that I had been a great and grievous sinner, and that it was now too late for me to look after heaven; for Christ would not forgive me, nor pardon my transgressions. Then while I was thinking of it, and fearing lest it should be so, I felt my
heart sink in despair, concluding it was too late; and therefore I resolved in my mind to 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 if I follow them: I can but be damned; and if I must be so, I had as good be damned for many sins as be damned for few.
24. Thus I stood in the midst of my play, before all that then were present; but yet I told them nothing; but, I say, having made this conclusion, I returned desperately to my sport again; and I well remember, that presently this kind of despair did so possess my soul, that I was persuaded I could never attain to other comfort than what I should get in sin; for heaven was gone already, so that on that I must not think: wherefore I found within me great desire to take my fill of sin, that I might taste the sweetness of it; and I made as much haste as I could to fill my belly with its delicates, lest I should die before I had my desires: for that I feared greatly. In these things, I protest before God, I lie not. neither do I frame this sort of speech; these were really, strongly, and with all my heart, my desires: the good Lord, whose mercy is unsearchable, forgive my transgressions.
25. And I am very confident that this temptation of the devil is more usual among poor creatures than many are aware of, yet they continually have a secret conclusion within them, that there are no hopes for them; for they have loved sins, therefore after them they will go. Jer. ii. 25; xviii. 12.
26. Now, therefore, I went on in sin, still grudging that I could not be satisfied with it as I would. This did continue with me about a month or more; but one day as I was standing at a neighbour's shop window, and there cursing and swearing after my wonted manner, there sat within the woman of the house, who heard me; and though she was a very loose and 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 ungodliest fellow for swearing that she ever heard in all her life; and that I, by thus doing, was able to spoil all the youth in the whole town, if they came but in my company.
27. 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, hanging down my head, I wished that I might be a little child again, that my father might learn me to speak without this wicked way of swearing, for, thought I, I am so accustomed to it, that it is in vain to think of a reformation, for that could never be.
28. 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 not how to speak unless I put an oath before and another behind, to make my words have authority, now I could, without it, speak better, and with more pleasantness than ever I could before. All this while I knew not Jesus Christ, neither did I leave my sports and plays.
29. But, quickly after this, I fell into company with one poor man that made profession of religion; who, as I then thought, did talk pleasantly of the Scriptures, and of religion; wherefore, liking what he said, I betook me to my Bible, and began to take great pleasure in reading, especially with the historical part thereof; for as for Paul's epistles, and such like scriptures, I could not away with them, being as yet ignorant, either of my nature, or of the want and worth of Jesus Christ to save us.
30. Wherefore I fell to some outward reformation, both in my words and life, and did set the commandments before me for my way to heaven; which commandments I also did strive to keep, and, as I thought, did keep them pretty well sometimes, and then I 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 better next time, and there got help again: for then I thought I pleased God as well as any man in England.
31. Thus I continued about a year,—all which time our neighbours did take me to be a very godly and religious man, and did marvel much to see such great alteration in my life and manners; and indeed so it was, though I knew not Christ, nor grace, nor faith, nor hope; for, as I have since seen, had I then died, my state had been most fearful.
22. But, I say, my neighbours were amazed at this my great conversion from prodigious profaneness to something like a moral life and sober man. Now, therefore, they began to praise, to cqmmend, and to speak well of me, both to my face and behind my back. Now I was, as they said, become godly; now I was become a right honest man. But oh! when I understood those were their words and opinions of me, it pleased me mighty well; for though as yet I was nothing but a poor painted hypocrite, yet I loved to be talked of as one that was truly godly. I was proud of my godliness, and indeed I did all I could either to be seen of, or well spoken of, by men: and thus I continued for about a twelvemonth or more.
33. Now you must know, that before this I had taken much delight in ringing, but my conscience beginning to be tender, I thought such practice was but vain, and therefore forced myself to leave it; yet my mind hankered—wherefore I would go to the steeple-house, and look on, though I durst not ring: but I thought this did not become religion neither; yet I forced myself, and would look on still. But quickly after, I began to think, " How if one of the bells should fall 1" Then I chose to stand under a main-beam that lay overthwart the steeple, from side to side, thinking here I might stand sure: but then I thought again, should the bell fall with a swing, it might first hit the wall, and then rebounding upon me, might kill me for all this beam. This made me stand in the steepledoor, 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 be preserved notwithstanding.
34. So after this I would yet go to see them ring, but would not go any farther than the steeple-door; but then it came into my head, "How if the steeple itself should fall V And this thought (it may, for aught I know, when I stood and looked on) did continually so shake my mind, that I durst not stand at the steeple-door any longer, but was forced to flee, for fear the steeple should fall upon my head.
35. 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 that or this commandment, or did by word or deed anything I thought was good, I had great peace in my conscience, and would think with myself, God cannot choose but be now pleased with me; yea, to relate it in my own
way, I thought no man in England could please God better than I.
36. But, poor wretch as I was, I was all this while ignorant of Jesus Christ, and going about to establish my own righteousness; and had perished therein, had not God been merciful unto me.
37. But upon a day, the good providence of God called me to Bedford, to work at my calling; and in one of the streets of that town I came where there were three or four poor women sitting at a door, in the sun, talking about the things of God; and being now willing to hear their discourse, I drew near to hear what they said; for I was now a brisk talker in matters of religion, but they were far above my reach. Their talk was about a new birth, the work of God in their hearts, as also how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature: they talked how God had visited their souls with his love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had 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 what means they had been afflicted; and how they were borne up under his assaults. They also discoursed of their own wretchedness of heart, and of their unbelief, and did contemn, slight, and abhor their own righteousness as filthy, and insufficient to do them any good.
38. And methought they spake with such pleasantness of Scripture language, and with such appearance of grace in all they said, that they were 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, Numb, xxiii. 9.
39. At this I felt my own heart began to shake; for I saw that in all my thoughts about religion and salvation, the new birth did never enter into my mind, neither knew I the comfort of the word and promise, nor the deceitfulness and treachery of my own wicked heart. As for secret thoughts, I took no notice of them; neither did I understand what Satan's temptations were, nor how they were to be withstood and resisted, &c.
40. Thus, therefore, when I had heard and considered what they said, I left them, and went about my employment again; but my heart would tarry with them, for I was greatly affected with their words, because by them I was convinced that I wanted the true token of a truly godly man, and also because I was convinced of the happy and blessed condition of him that was such a one.
41. Therefore I would often make it my business to be going again and again into the company of these poor people, for I could not stay away; and the more I went among them, the more I did question my condition; and, as I still do remember, presently I found two things within me, at which I did sometimes marvel; especially considering what a blind, ignorant, sordid, and ungodly wretch but just before I was: the one was a very great softness and tenderness of heart, which caused me to fall under the conviction of what by Scripture they asserted; and the other was a bending in my mind, a continual meditating on it, and on all other good things, which at that time I heard or read of.
42. By these things my mind was so turned that it lay, like a horse-leech at the vein, still crying out, "Give, give," Prov. xxx. 15, which was so fixed on eternity, and on the things about the kingdom of heaven (that is, so far as I knew, though as yet, God knows, I knew but little), that neither pleasures nor profits, nor persuasions, nor threats could make it let go its hold; and though I speak it with shame, yet it is a certain truth, it would then have been as difficult for me to have taken my mind from, heaven to earth, as I have found it often since to get it again from earth to heaven.
43. One thing I may not omit: There was a young man in our town, to whom my heart before was knit more than to any other; but he being a most wicked creature for cursing and swearing, and whoring, I now shook him off, and forsook his company; but about a quarter of a year after I had left him, I met him in a certain lane, asked him how he did: be, after his old swearing and mad way, answered, he was well. "But Harry," said I, "why do you curse and swear thus 1 What will become of you if you die in this condition?" He answered me in a great chafe, "What would the devil do for company, if it were not for such as I am?"
44. About this time I met with some ranters' books, which were highly in esteem by several old professors: some of these I read, but was not able to make any judgment about them; wherefore as I read in them, and thought upon them, seeing myself unable to judge, I would betake myself to hearty prayer in this manner: "O Lord, I am a fool, and not able to know the truth from error: Lord, leave me not in my own blindness, either to approve of or condemn this doctrine: if it be of God, let me not despise it; if it be of the devil, let me not embrace it. Lord, I lay my soul in this matter only at thy feet; let me not be deceived, I humbly beseech thee." I had one religious intimate companion all this while, and that was the poor man I spoke of before; but about this time he 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, and could never hit upon the right till now. Wherefore, abominating those cursed principles, I left his company forthwith, and became to him as great a stranger as I had been before a familiar.
45. Neither was this man only a temptation to me, but my calling lying in the country, I happened to come into several people's company, who, though strict in religion formerly, yet were also drawn away by these ranters. These would also talk with me of their ways, and condemn me as illegal and dark; pretending that they only had attained to perfection, that could do what they would, and not sin. Oh! these temptations were suitable to my flesh, I being but a young man, and my nature in its prime; but God, who had, as I hope, designed me for better things, kept me in the fear of his name, and did not suffer me to accept such cursed principles. And blessed be God, who put it into my heart to cry to him, to be kept and directed, still distrusting mine own wisdom; for I have since seen even the effects of that prayer, in his preserving me, not only from ranting errors, but from those also that have sprung up since. The Bible was precious to me in those days.
46. And now I began to look into the Bible with new eyes; and especially the Epistles of the apostle St. Paul were sweet and pleasant to me; and then I was 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.
47. And as I went on and read, I hit upon that passage, "To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith," &c, 1 Cor. xii. 8, 9. And though, as I have since seen, that by this scripture the Holy Ghost intends, in special, things extraordinary, yet on me it did then fasten with conviction, that I did want things ordinary, even that understanding and wisdom that other Christians had. On this word I mused, and could not tell what to do. Especially this word faith put me to it, for I could not help it, but sometimes must question, whether I had any faith or no; but I was loath to conclude I had no faith; for if I do so, thought I, then I shall count myself a very castaway indeed.
48. Now, said I with myself, though I am an ignorant sot, and want those blessed gifts of knowledge and understanding that other people have, yet at a venture I will conclude I am not altogether faithless, though I know not what faith is; for it was shewn me, and that too, as I have seen since, by Satan, that those who conclude themselves in a faithless state, have neither rest nor quiet in their souls; and was loath to fall quite into despair.
49. Wherefore, by this suggestion, I was made afraid to see my want of faith, but God would not suffer me thus to destroy my soul, but did, against this my sad and blind conclusion, create within me. such suppositions, that I could not rest content until I did come to some certain knowledge whether
I had faith or not; this always running in my mind, But how if you want faith indeed? But how can you tell you have faith 1 And, besides, I saw for certain, if I had not, I was sure to perish for ever.
50. So that though I endeavoured at the first to look over the business of faith, yet in a little time, I better considering the matter, was willing to put myself upon the trial whether I had faith or no. But, alas! poor wretch, so ignorant was I, that I knew no more how to do it than I know how to begin and accomplish that rare and curious piece of art which I never yet saw or considered.
51. Wherefore, while I was thus considering (for you must know that as yet I had not in this matter broken my mind to any one, only did hear and consider), the Tempter came in with his delusion, That there was no way for me to know I had faith, but by trying to work some miracles; urging those scriptures that seem to enforce and strengthen his temptation. Nay, one day as I was between Elstow and Bedford, the temptation was hot upon me, to try if I had faith, by doing some miracle; which miracle at this time was this—I must say to the puddles that were in the horse-pads, be dry; and to the dry places, be you puddles: and truly, one time I was going to say so indeed; but just as I was about to speak, this thought came into my mind, But go under yonder hedge, and pray first that God would make you able. But when I had concluded to pray, this came hot upon me, that if I prayed, and came again, and tried to do it, and yet did nothing notwithstanding, then to be sure I had no faith, but was a cast-away, and lost. Nay, thought I, if it be so, I will not try yet, but will stay a little longer.
52. So I continued at a great loss; for I thought if they Only had faith which could do so wonderful things, then I concluded that I neither had it, nor yet were ever like to have it. Thus I was tossed betwixt the devil and my own ignorance, and so perplexed that I could not tell what to do.
53. About this time the state of happiness of these poor people at Bedford was thus, in a kind of a vision, presented to me. I saw, as if they were on the sunny side of some high mountain, there refreshing themselves with the pleasant beams of the 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 compass about this mountain: now through this wall my soul did greatly desire to pass, concluding that if I could I would there also comfort myself with the heat of their sun.
54. About this wall I bethought 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 none could I find for some time; at the last I saw, as it were, a narrow gap, like a little door-way in the wall, through which I attempted to pass; now, the passage being very strait and narrow, I made many offers to get in, but all in vain; at last, with great striving, methought I at first did get in my head, and after that, by a sideling striving, my shoulders, and my whole body: then I was exceeding glad, and went and sat down in the midst of them, and so was comforted with the light and heat of their sun.
55. Now this mountain and wall was thus made out to me: the mountain signified the church of the living God; the sun that shone thereon, the shining of 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 which was in the wall I thought was Jesus Christ, who is the way to God the Father, John xiv. 6; Matt. vii. 14. But as the passage was wonderful narrow, even so narrow that I could not but with great difficulty enter in thereat, it showed me that none could enter into life but those that were in downright earnest, and left the wicked world behind them; for here was only room for body and soul, but not for body and soul and sin.
56. This resemblance abode upon my spirit many days; all which time I saw myself in a forlorn and sad condition, but yet was provoked to vehement hunger and desire to be one of that number that did sit in the sunshine. Now also would I pray wherever I was, whether at home or abroad, in house or field; and would also often, with lifting up of heart, sing that of the fifty-first psalm, O Lord, consider my distress; for as yet I knew not where I was.
57. Neither as yet could I attain to any comfortable persuasion that I had faith in Christ; but instead, I began to find my soul to be assaulted with fresh doubts about my future happiness; especially with such as these, Whether I was elected: But how if the day of grace should now be passed and gone 1
58. 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 questioning my election, I found that though I was in a flame to find the way to heaven and glory, and nothing could beat me off from this, yet this question did so discourage me that I was.
especially sometimes, as if the very strength of my body 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 of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy," Rom. ix. 16.
59. With this scripture I could not tell what to do: for I evidently saw, that unless God had voluntarily chosen me to be a vessel of mercy, though I should desire, and long, and labour until my heart did break, no good could come of it. Therefore this would stick with me, How can you tell that you are elected? and what if you should not? How then?
60. 0 Lord, thought I, what if I should not indeed? It may be you are not, said the tempter; it may be so indeed, thought I. Why then, said Satan, you had as good leave off, and strive no farther; for if indeed you should not be elected and chosen of God, there is no hope of your being saved: "For it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy."
61. By these things I was driven to my wit's end, not knowing what to say, or how to answer these temptations. Indeed, I little thought that Satan had thus assaulted me, but that rather it was my own prudence thus to start the question; for that the elect only obtained eternal life, that I without scruple did heartily close withal; but that myself was one of them, there lay the question.
62. Thus, therefore, for several days, I was greatly perplexed, and as often ready to sink with faintness in my mind: but one day, after I had been many weeks opprest and cast down therewith, as I was giving up the ghost of all my hopes of ever attaining life, that sentence fell with weight upon my spirit, Look at the generations of old and see: did ever any trust in the Lord and was confounded?
63. At which I was greatly encouraged in my soul; for thus, at that very instant it was expounded to me: Begin at the beginning of Genesis, and read to the end of the Revelations, and see if you can find that there was ever any that trusted in the Lord and was confounded. So coming home, I presently went to my Bible, to see if I could find that saying, not doubting but to find it presently; for it was with such strength and comfort on my spirit, that I was as if it talked with me.
64. Well, I looked, but I found it not; only it abode upon me : then I did ask first this good man, and then another, if they knew where it was, but they knew no such place. And this I wondered, that such a sentence should so suddenly, and with such comfort and strength, seize, and abide upon my heart; and yet that none could find it (for I doubted not but that it was in the Holy Scripture).
65. Thus I continued above a year, and could not find the place; but at last, casting my eye upon the Apocrypha books, I found it in Ecclesiasticus, chap, ii. 10. This, at the first, did somewhat daunt me; because it was not in those texts that we call holy and canonical; yet as this sentence was the sum and substance of many of the promises, it was my duty to take the comfort of it; and I bless God for that word, for it was of good to me. That word doth still oft-times shine before my face.
66. After this that other doubt did come with strength upon me, But how if the day of grace .should be past and gone 1 How if you have overstood the time of mercy 1 Now I remember, that one day as I was walking in the country, I was much in the thoughts of this, But how if the day of grace is past 1 And to aggravate my trouble, the tempter presented to my mind those good people of Bedford, and suggested thus unto me, That these 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.
67. Now I was in great distress, thinking in very deed that this might well be so; wherefore I went up and down bemoaning my sad condition; for standing off thus long, and spending so many years in sin, as I have done, still crying out, Oh that I had turned sooner! Oh that I had turned seven years ago! 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.
68. But when I had been long vexed with this fear, and was scarce able to take one step more, just about the same place where I received my other encouragement, these words broke in upon my mind, "Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled;" "and yet there is room," Luke xiv. 23, 22. These words, "And yet there is room," were sweet words to me; for truly, I thought that when the Lord Jesus did speak these words, he then did think of me; and that he knowing that the time would come, that 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 thereby against this vile temptation. This I then verily believed.
69. In the light and encouragement of this word I went a pretty while; and the comfort was the more when I thought that the Lord Jesus should speak those words on purpose for my sake; for I did think,verily, that he did on purpose speak them to encourage me withal.
70. But I was- not without my temptations to go back again; temptations, I say, both from Satan, mine own heart, and carnal acquaintance. But I thank God these were outweighed by that sound sense of death, and of the day of judgment, which abode, as it were, continually in my view; I would often also think of Nebuchadnezzar; of whom it is said, He had given him all the kingdoms of the earth. Yet, thought I, if this great man had all his portion of this world, one hour in hell-fire would make him forget all. Which consideration was a great help to me.
71. I was almost made, about this time, to see something concerning the beasts that Moses counted clean and unclean: I thought those beasts were types of men; the clean, types of them that were the people of God; but the unclean, types of such as were the children of the wickea one. Now I read, that the clean beasts " chewed the cud;" that is, thought I, they shew us, we must feed upon the word of God: they also "parted the hoof," I thought that 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 as the hare; yet if we walked with claws, like a dog, or if we did part the hoof, like the swine, yet if we did not chew the cud, as the sheep, we are 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 his outward pollution, but still wanted the word of faith, without which there could be no way of salvation, let a man be ever so devout. Deut.
xiv. After this, I found by reading the word, that those that must be glorified with Christ in another world, must 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, which do indeed prepare the soul for that rest, and the house of glory, which is in heaven above.
72. Here again I was at a very great stand, not knowing what to do, fearing I was not called; for thought I, if I be not called, what then can do me good t But oh! how I now love those words that spake of a Christian's calling! as when the Lord said to one, "Follow me;" and to another, " Come after me:" and oh, thought I, that he would say so to me too; how gladly would I run after him!
73. I cannot now express with what longings and breathings in my soul, I cried to Christ to call me. Thus I continued for a time, all on a flame to be converted to Jesus Christ; and did also see at that day, such glory in a converted state, that I could not be contented without a share therein. Gold! could it have been gotten for gold, what would I have given for it! Had I had a whole world, it had all gone ten thousand times over for this, that my soul might have been in a converted state.
74. How lovely now was every one 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 about them. Oh! I saw the lot was fallen to them in pleasant places, and they had a goodly heritage, Psal. xvi. 6. But that which made me sick was that of Christ in St. Mark, He went up into a mountain, and called to him whom he would, and they came unto him, Mark ii. 13.
75. This scripture made me faint and fear, yet it kindled fire in my soul. That which made me fear was this; lest Christ should have no liking to me, for he called " whom he would." But oh ! the glory that I saw in that condition did still so enrage my heart, 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 been born John; or, would I had been by and have heard him when he called them, how would I have cried, O Lord, call me also! But oh! I feared he would not call me.
76. And truly the Lord let me go thus many months together, and shewed me nothing; either that I was already, or should be called hereafter. But at last, after much time spent, and many groans to God, that word came in unto me, "I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the Lord dwelleth in Zion," Joel iii. 21. These words I thought were sent to encourage me to wait still upon God; and signified unto me, that if I were not already, yet time might come, I might be in truth converted unto Christ.
77. About this time I began to break my mind to these poor people in Bedford, and to tell 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 persuaded of me, though I think from little grounds; but he invited me to his house, where I should hear him confer with others about the dealings of God with their souls; from all which I still received no conviction, and from that time began to see something of the vanity, and inward wretchedness of my wicked heart. Now I evidently found, that lusts and corruptions put forth themselves within me, wicked thoughts and desires, which I did not regard before; my desires also for heaven and life began to fail; I found also, that whereas before my soul was full of longing after God, now it began to hanker after every foolish vanity; yea, my heart would not be moved to mind that which was good; it began to be careless, both of my soul and heaven, it would now continually hang back, both to and in every duty; and was as a clog on the leg of a bird, to hinder him from flying.
78. Nay, I thought, now I grow worse and worse; now I am farther from conversion than ever I was before: wherefore I began to sink greatly in my soul, and began to entertain such discouragement in my heart as laid me as low as hell. I could not believe that Christ had a love for me; alas! I could neither hear him, nor see him, nor feel him, nor favour any of his things; I was driven as with a tempest, my heart would be unclean; the Canaan ites would dwell in the land.
79. Sometimes I would tell my condition to the people of God; when they would pity me, and would tell me of the promises; but they had as good have told me, that I must reach the sun with my finger, as have bidden me receive or rely upon the promises; all my sense and feeling was against me; and I saw I had a heart that would sin, and that lay under a law that would condemn.
80. These things have often made me think of the child which the father brought to Christ, who, while he was yet coming to him, was thrown down by the devil, and also so rent and torn by him, that he lay and wallowed, foaming, Luke ix. 42. Mark iXi 20.
81. Further, in these days I would 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 shoulder to the door to keep him out, and that too even then, when I have, with many a bitter sigh, cried Good Lord, break it open: Lord, break these gates of brass, and cut these bars of iron asunder, Psal. cvii. 16. Yet that word would sometimes create in my heart a peaceable pause: "I girded thee, though thou hast not known me," Isaiah xlv. 5.
82. But all this while, as to the act of sinning, I was never more tender than now; my conscience now was sore, and would smart at every touch I could not now tell how to speak my words for fear I should misplace them. Oh, how cautiously did I then go in all I did or said! I found myself as in a miry bog, that shook if I did but stir; and was, as there, left both of God and Christ, and the Spirit, and all good things.
83. But I observed, though I was such a great sinner before conversion, yet God never much charged the guilt of the sins of my ignorance upon me; only he shewed me I was lost if I had not Christ, because I had been a sinner. I saw that I wanted a perfect righteousness to present me without fault before God, and this righteousness was nowhere to be found but in the person of Jesus Christ.
84. But my original and inward pollution : that, that was my plague and affliction; that I had the guilt of, to amazement; by reason of that I was more loathsome in mine own eyes than a toad, and thought I was so in God's eyes too: sin and corruption, I said, would as naturally bubble out of my heart as water would out of a fountain. I thought now that every one had a better heart than I had: I thought none but the devil himself could equalize me for inward wickedness and pollution of mind. I fell therefore at the sight of my own vileness deeply into despair; for I concluded that this condition that I was in could not stand with a state of grace. Sure, thought I, I am forsaken of God; sure I am given up to the devil, and to a reprobate mind; and thus I continued a long while, even for some years together.
85. While I was thus afflicted with the fears of my own damnation, there were two things would make me wonder: the one was when I saw old people hunting after the things of this life, as if they should live here always; the other was, when I found professors much distressed and cast down when they met with outward losses, as of husband, wife, or child, &c Lord, thought I, what is seeking after carnal things by some, and what grief in others, for the loss of them? If they so much labour after, and shed so many tears for, the things of this present 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 of it, ah! how rich should I esteem myself, though blessed with but bread and water! I should count these but small afflictions, and should bear them as little burdens. "A wounded spirit who can bear?"
86. And though I was much troubled and afflicted with the sight and sense of my own wickedness, yet I was afraid to let this sight and sense go quite off my mind; for I found that unless guilt of conscience was taken off the right way, that is, by the blood of Christ, a man grew rather worse for the loss of his trouble of mind; and if it was going off without it, for the sense of sin would be sometimes as if it would die, and go quite away, then I would also strive to fetch it upon my heart again, by bringing the punishment of sin in hell-fire upon my spirit, and would cry, Lord, let it not go off my heart but by the right way, by the blood of Christ, and the application of thy mercy, through him, to my soul; for that scripture did lay much upon me, "without shedding of blood is no remission," Heb. ix. 22. And that which made me the more afraid of this was, because I had seen some who, though when they were under the wounds of conscience would cry and pray; yet, feeling rather present ease for their trouble than pardon for their sin, cared not how they lost their guilt, so they got it out of their mind. Now, having got it off the wrong way, it was not sanctified unto 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 with me.
87. And now I was sorry that God had made me man, for I feared I was a reprobate: I counted man as unconverted the most doleful of all creatures. Thus being afflicted and tossed about my sad condition, I counted myself alone, and above the most of men unblessed.
88. Yea, I thought it impossible that ever I should attain to so much godliness 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 had made himself the most ignoble. The beasts, birds, fishes, Ac., 1 blessed their condition, for they had not a sinful nature; they were not obnoxious to the wrath of God: they were not to go to hell-fire after death. I could therefore have rejoiced had my condition been as any of theirs.
89. In this condition I went a great while; but when the comforting time was come I heard one preach a sermon on these words in the Song (iv. 1), "Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair;" but at that time he made these two words, "my love," his chief and subject matter, from which, after he had a little opened the text, he observed these several conclusions: 1. That the Church, and so every saved soul, is Christ's love, when loveless. 2. Christ's love without a cause. 3. Christ's love which hath been hated of the world. 4. Christ's love, when under temptation and under destruction. 5. Christ's love from first to last.
90. But I got nothing by what he said at present; only when he came to the application of the fourth particular, this was the word he said: If it be so, that the saved soul is Christ's love, when under temptation and destruction, then poor tempted soul, when thou art assaulted and afflicted with temptations, and the hidings of face, yet think on these two words, "my love," still.
91. So, as I was going home, these words came again into my thoughts; and I well remembered as they came in, I said thus in my heart, What shall I get by thinking on these two words? This thought had no sooner passed through my heart but these words began thus to kindle in my spirit: Thou art my love, thou art my love, twenty times together: and still, as they ran in my mind, they waxed stronger and warmer, and began to make me look up; but being as yet between hope and fear, I still replied in my heart, But is it true? But is it true 1 At which that sentence fell upon me, he "Wist not that it was true which was done by the angel," Acts xii. 9.
92. Then I began to give place to the word, which with power did over and over make this joyful sound within my soul, Thou art my love, and nothing shall separate thee from my love. And with that my heart was filled full of comfort and hope, and now I could believe that my sins would be forgiven me; yea, I was now so taken with the love and mercy of God that I remember I could not tell how to contain till I got home: I thought I could have spoken of his love, and have told of his mercy to me, even to the very crows that sat upon the ploughed lands before me, had they been capable to have understood me: wherefore I said in my soul with much gladness, Well, would I had a pen and ink here, I would write this down before I go any farther; for surely I will not forget this forty years hence. But, alas! within less . than forty days I began to question all again; which made me begin to• question all still.
93. Yet still at times I was helped to believe that it was a true manifestation of grace unto my soul, though I had lost much of the life and savour of it. Now about a week or a fortnight after this, I was much followed by the scripture, "Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you," Luke xxii. 31; and sometimes it would sound so loud within me, that once, above all the rest, I turned my head over my shoulder, thinking verily that some man had, behind me, called 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; it came to acquaint me, that a cloud and a storm was coming down upon me; but I understood it not.
94. Also, as I remember, that time that it called to me so loud was the last time that it sounded in mine ears; but methinks I hear still with what a loud voice these words, "Simon, Simon," sounded in mine ears: and although that was not my name, yet it made me suddenly look behind me, believing that he that called so loud meant me.
95. 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 awaken me to provide for what was coming: only I would muse and wonder in my mind, to think what should be the reason of this scripture: and that at this rate it should still be sounding and rattling in mine ears; but as I said before, I soon after perceived the end of God therein.
96. For, about the space of a month after, a very great storm came down upon me, which handled me twenty times worse than all I had met with before; it came stealing upon me, now by one piece then by another: First, all my comfort was taken from me; then darkness seized upon me; after which, whole floods of blasphemies, both against God, Christ, and the Scriptures, was poured upon my spirit, to my great confusion and astonishment. These blasphemous thoughts were such as stirred up questions in me against the very being of a God, and his only beloved Son; as whether there were in truth a God or Christ? and whether the Holy Scriptures were not rather a fable, and cunning story, than the holy and pure Word of God?
97. The tempter would also much assault me with this, How can you tell but that the Turks had as good Scriptures to prove their Mahomet the Saviour as we have to prove our Jesus? And could I think that so many ten thousands in so many countries and kingdoms should be without the knowledge of the right way to heaven (if there were indeed a heaven); and that we only, who live in a corner of the earth, should alone be blessed therewith? Every one doth think his own religion rightest, both Jews, and Moors, and Pagans; and how if all our faith, and Christ, and Scriptures, should be but a thinking so too.
98. Sometimes I endeavoured to argue against these suggestions, and to set some of the sentences of blessed Paul against them; but, alas! I quickly felt such arguings as these would return again upon me; Though we made so great a 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 the pains and travail to undo and destroy his fellows.
99. These suggestions, with many others which at this time I may not, nor dare not utter neither by word or pen, did make such a seizure upon my spirit, both with their number, continuance, and fiery force, that I felt 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, in very wrath to my soul, given me up to them, to be carried away with them, as with a mighty whirlwind.
100. Only by the distaste that they gave unto my spirit, I felt there was something in me that refused to embrace me. But this consideration I then only had when God gave me leave to swallow my spittle; otherwise the noise, and strength, and force of these temptations would drown and overflow, and, as it were, bury all such thoughts, or the remembrance of any such thing. While I was in this temptation, I often found my mind suddenly put upon it to curse and swear, or to speak some grievous thing against God, or Christ his Son, and of the Scriptures.
101. Now I thought, surely I am possessed of the devil: at other times again, I thought I should be bereft of my wits; for instead of lauding and magnifying God the Lord with others, if I have but heard him spoken of, presently some most horrible blasphemous thought or other would bolt out of my heart against him; so that whether I did think that God was, or again did think there was no such thing, no love, nor peace, nor gracious disposition could I feel within me.
102. These things did sink me into very deep despair, for I concluded that such things could not possibly be found amongst them that loved God. I often did compare myself to the case of such a child whom some gipsy hath by force took up in her arms, and is carrying from friend and country. Kick sometimes I did, and also shriek and cry; but yet I was bound in the wings of the temptation, and the wind would carry me away. I thought also of Saul, and of the evil spirit that did possess him; and did greatly fear that my condition was the same with that of his, 1 Sam. xvi. 14.
103. In these days, when I have heard others talk of what was the sin against the Holy Ghost, then would the tempter so provoke me to desire to sin that sin, that I was as if I could not, must not, neither should be quiet until I had committed it; now no sin would serve but that; if it were to be committed by speaking of such a word, then I have been as if my mouth would have spoken that word, whether I would or no; and in so strong a measure was the temptation upon me, that often I have been ready to clap my hands under my chin, to hold my mouth from opening; at other times, to leap with my head downward into some muckhill hole, to keep my mouth from speaking.
104. Now again I counted the estate of everything that God had made far better than this dreadful state of mine was; yea, gladly would I have been in the condition of a dog or a horse; for I knew they had no souls to perish under the everlasting weight of hell, or sin, as mine was like to do. Nay though I saw this, and felt this, yet that which added to my sorrow was, that I could not find, that with all my soul I did desire, deliverance. That scripture did also tear and rend my soul in the midst of these distractions: "The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast \ip mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked," Isaiah lvii. 20, 21.
105. And now my heart was, at times, exceeding hard: if I would have given a thousand pounds for a tear I could not shed one; no, nor sometimes scarce desire to shed one. I saw some could mourn and lament their sins; and others, again, could rejoice and bless God for Christ; and others, again, could quietly talk of, and with gladness remember, the Word of God; while I only was in the storm or tempest. This much sunk me, I thought my condition was alone, but get out of, or get rid of these things, I could not.
106. While this temptation lasted, which was about a year, I could attend upon none of the ordinances of God, but with sore and great affliction. Yea, then was I most distressed with blasphemies: if I had been hearing the Word, then uncleanness, blasphemies, and despair would hold me a captive there; if I had been reading, then sometimes I had sudden thoughts to question all I read; again, my mind would be so strangely snatched away that I have neither known, nor regarded, nor remembered, so much as the sentence that but now 1 have read.
107. In prayer also I have been greatly troubled at this time: sometimes I have thought I have felt him behind me, pull my clothes. He would be also continually at me in 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 pray to him, or for him: I have thought sometimes of that, Fall down, or, "If thou wilt fall down and worship me," Matt. iv. 9.
108. Also, when I have had wandering thoughts, I have laboured to compose my mind, and fix it upon God; then with great force hath the tempter laboured to distract and confound me, and to turn away my mind, by presenting to my heart and fancy the form of a bush, a bull, a besom, or the like, as if I should pray to these: to these he would also, at some times especially, so hold my mind, that I was as if I could think of nothing else, or pray to nothing else but to these, or such as they.
109. 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 such times, put forth itself with inexpressible groanings! My whole soul was then in every -word; I should cry with pangs after God, that he would be merciful unto me: but then I should be daunted again with such conceits as these; I should think that God did mock at these my prayers, saying, and that in the audience of the holy angels, This poor simple wretch doth hanker after me, as if I had nothing to do with my mercy but to bestow it on such as he. Alas, poor soul! how art thou deceived! It is not for such as thee to have favour with the Highest.
110. Then hath the tempter come upon me also with such discouragements as these: You are very hot for mercy, but I will cool you; this frame shall not last always: many have 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 would be afraid that I should do so too: but thought I, I am glad this comes into my mind: well, I will watch, and take what care I can. Though you do, saith Satan, I shall be 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 do it at last? Continually 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 I can pull you from this fire; I shall have you cold before it be long.
111. These things brought me into great straits; for as I could not find myself fit for present death, so, I thought, to live long would make me yet more unfit; for time would make me forget all, 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: but I thank Christ Jesus, these things did not make slack my crying, but rather did put me more upon it, like her who met with the adulterer, Deut xxii. 27. In which days that was a good word to me, after I had suffered these things awhile: "lam persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth-, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord," Rom. viii. 38, 39. And now I hoped long life would not destroy me, nor make me miss of heaven.
112. Yet I had some supports in this temptation, though they were then all questioned by me: that in Jer. iii. at the first, was something to me; and so was the consideration of verse 4 of that chapter; that though we have spoken and done as evil things as we could, yet we shall cry unto God, "My Father, thou art the guide of my youth;" and shall return unto him.
113. I had also once a sweet glance from that in 2 Cor. v. 21: "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." I remember that one day, as I was sitting in a neighbour's house, very sad at the consideration of my many blasphemies; and as I was saying in my mind, what ground have I to say that I who have been so vile and abominable should ever inherit eternal life 1 that word came suddenly upon me, "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" Eom. viii. 31. That also was an help to me, "Because I live, ye shall live also," John xiv. 19. But these words were but hints, touches, and short visits, though very sweet when present: only they lasted not; but like Peter's sheet, of a sudden they were caught up from rue to heaven again, Acts x. 16.
114. 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 was laid upon my conscience, but also from the tilth thereof; for the temptation was removed, and I was put into my right mind again, as other Christians were.
115. I remember that one day, as I was musing on the wickedness and blasphemy of my heart, and considering the enmity that was in me to God, that scripture came into my mind, he hath "made peace through the blood of his cross," Col. i. 20; by which I was made to see, both again and again, that God and my soul were friends by his blood; yea, I saw that the justice of God and my sinful soul could embrace and kiss each other through his blood. This was a good day to me; I hope I shall never forget it.
116. 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 children are 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, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage," Heb. ii. 14, 15. I thought that the glory of these words was then so weighty on me, that I was both once and twice Teady to swoon as I sat; yet not with grief and trouble, but with solid joy and peace.
117. At this time I also 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 to deliver the people of God from all those false and unsound tests that by nature we are prone to. He would bid us take special heed that we took not up any truth upon trust: but cry mightily to God that he would convince us of the reality thereof, and set us down therein by his own Spirit in the holy Word: for, said he, if you do otherwise, when temptation comes, if strongly upon you, you, not having received them with evidence from heaven, will find you want that help and strength now to resist that once you thought you had.
118. This was as seasonable to my soul as the former and latter rains in their seasons; for I had found, and that by sad experience, the truth of these his words: wherefore I found my soul, through grace, very apt to drink in this doctrine, and to incline to pray to God that in nothing that pertained to God's glory, and my own eternal happiness, he would suffer me to be without the confirmation thereof from heaven; for now I saw clearly the difference betwixt the notion of the flesh and blood and the revelation of God in heaven: also a great difference betwixt that faith that is feigned, and according to man's wisdom, and of that which comes by a man's being born thereunto of God, Matt. xvi. 15-17; 1 John v. 1.
119. But, oh, now, how was my soul led from truth to truth by God! Even from the birth and cradle of the Son of God, to his ascension and second coming from heaven to judge the world.
120. 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 known, and reveal unto rne, but he was pleased to do it for me; I mean, not one part of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus, but I was orderly led into it: methought I saw with great evidence, from the four Evangelists, the wonderful works of God, in giving Jesus Christ to save us, from his conception and birth, even to his second coming to judgment: methought I was as if I had seen him grow up; as from the cradle to the cross; to which also, when he came, I saw how gently he gave himself to be hanged, and nailed on it, for my sins and wicked doing. Also, as I was musing on this his progress, that dropped on my spirit, He was ordained for the slaughter, 1 Pet. i. 20.
121. When I had considered also the truth of his resurrection, and have remembered that word, "Touch me not," &c, I have seen, as if he had leaped out of the grave's mouth for joy, that was risen again, and had got the conquest over our dreadful foes, John xx. 17. I have also, in the spirit, seen him a man, on the right hand of God the Father for me; and have seen the manner of his coming from heaven, to judge the world with glory, and have been confirmed in these things by these scriptures following, Acts i. 9, 10; vii. 56; x. 42; Heb. vii. 24; Eev. i. 18; 1 Thess. iv. 17, 18.
122. Once I was troubled to know whether the Lord Jesus was a man as well as God, and God as well as man: and truly, in those days, let men say what they would, unless I had it with evidence from heaven, all was nothing to me: well, I was much troubled about this point, and could not tell how to be resolved: at last that in Eev. v. 6 came into my 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, thought I, there is the Godhead; in the midst of the elders, there is the Manhood; but oh! methought this did glister! It was a goodly touch, and gave me sweet satisfaction. That other scripture did also help me much in this: "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace," Isa. ix. 6.
123. Also, besides these teachings of God in his Word, the Lord made use of two things to confirm me in this truth: the one was the errors of the Quakers, and the other was the guilt of sin: for as the Quakers did oppose the truth, so God did the more confirm me in it. by leading me into the scripture that did wonderfully maintain it.
124. The errors that this people then maintained were,
(I.) That the Holy Scriptures were not the Word of God.
(2.) That every man in the world had the spirit of Christ, grace, faith, &c.
(3.) That Christ Jesus, as crucified, and dying, sixteen hundred years ago, did not satisfy divine justice for the sins of the people.
(4.) That Christ's flesh and blood was within the saints.
(5.) That the bodies of the good and bad that are buried in the churchyard shall not rise again.
(6.) That the resurrection is past with good men already.
(7.) That that man Jesus, that was crucified
between two thieves on Mount Calvary, in the land of Canaan, by Jerusalem, was not ascended above the starry heavens.
(8.) That he should not, even the same Jesus that died by the hands of the Jews, come again at the last day; and, as man, judge all nations, &c.
125. Many more vile and abominable things were in those days fomented by them, by which I was driven to a more narrow search of the Scriptures, and was not only enlightened, but greatly confirmed in the truth; and as I said, the guilt of sin did help me much; for still as that would come upon me, the blood of Christ did take it off again, and again, and again; and that too sweetly, according to the scripture. O friends! cry to God to reveal Jesus Christ unto you; there is none teacheth like him.
126. It would be too long here to stay, to tell you in particular how God did set me down in all the things of Christ; yea, and also how he did open his words unto me, and make them shine before me, and cause them to dwell with me, talk with me, and comfort me over and over, both of his own being, and the being of his Son, and Spirit, and "Word, and Gospel.
127. Only this, as I said before, I will say unto you again, that in general he was pleased to take this course with me: first, to suffer me to be afflicted with temptations concerning them, and then reveal them to me: as sometimes I should lie under great guilt for sin, even crushed to the ground therewith; and then the Lord would shew me the death of Christ; yea, and so sprinkle my conscience with his blood that in that conscience, where but just now did reign and rage the law, even there would rest and abide the peace and love of God, through Christ.
128. Now I had an evidence, as I thought, of my salvation, from heaven, with many golden seals thereon, all hanging in my sight: now could I remember this manifestation; and would often long and desire that the last day were come, that I might be for ever inflamed with the sight, and joy and communion, with him whose head was crowned with thorns, whose face was spit upon, and body broken, and soul made an offering for my sins; for whereas before I lay continually trembling at the mouth of hell, now methought I was got so far therefrom that I could not, when I looked back, scarce discern it; and oh, thought I, that I were fourscore years old now, that I might die quickly, that my soul might be gone to rest!
129. But before I had got thus far out of these my temptations, I did greatly long to see some ancient godly man's experience, who had lived some hundreds of years before I was born: well, after many such longings in my mind, the God, in whose hands are all my days and ways, did cast into my hand one day a book of Martin Luther's; it was his comment on the Galatians; it was so old that it was ready to fall piece from piece, if I did but turn it over. Now I was pleased much that such an old book had fallen into my hands; the which when I had but a little way perused, I found my condition, in his experience, so largely and profoundly handled as if his book had been written out of my heart. This made me marvel; for thus thought I, this man could not know anything of the state of Christians now, but must needs write and speak the experience of former days.
130. Besides, he doth most gravely also, in that book, debate of the rise of these temptations, namely blasphemy, desperation, and the like; shewing that the law of Moses, as well as 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 of particulars here I intend nothing; only that I do prefer this book of Martin Luther upon the Galatians (excepting the Holy Bible) before all the books that ever I have seen, as most fit for a wounded conscience.
131. And now I found, as I thought, that I loved Christ dearly. Oh! me thought my soul cleaved unto him, my affections cleaved unto him: I felt my love to him as hot as fire; but I did quickly find that my great love was but too little; and that I, who had, as I thought, such burning love to Jesus Christ, could let him go again for a trifle: God can tell how to abase us, and can hide pride from man. Quickly after this my love was tried to the purpose.
132. For after the Lord had, in this manner, thus graciously delivered me from this great and sore temptation, and had given me such strong consolation and blessed evidence from heaven, touching my interest in his love through Christ, the tempter came upon me again, and that with a more grievous and dreadful temptation than before.
133. And that was, To sell and part with the most blessed Christ, to exchange him for the things of this life, for anything. The temptation lay upon me for the space of a year, and did follow me Bo 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.
134. And though, in my judgment, I was persuaded that those who were once effectually in Christ, as I hoped, through his grace, I had seen myself, could never lose him for ever: "For the land shall not be sold for ever, for the land is mine," saith God, Lev. xxv. 23, yet it was a continual vexation to me, to think that I should have so much as one such thought within me against a Christ, a Jesus, that had done for me as he had done; and yet then I had almost none others but such blasphemous ones.
135. But it was neither my dislike of the thought, nor yet any desire and endeavour to resist it, that in the least did shake or abate the continuation or force and strength thereof; for it did always, in almost whatever I thought, intermix itself therewith in such sort that I could neither eat my food, stoop for a join, chop a stick, or cast mine eye to look on this or that, but still the temptation would come, Sell Christ for this, or sell Christ for that; sell him, sell him.
136. Sometimes it would run in my thoughts, not so little as a hundred times together, 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 against it, lest haply, before I were aware, some wicked thought might arise in my heart, that might consent thereto: and sometimes the tempter would make me believe I had consented to it; but then I should be as tortured upon a rack, for whole days together.
137. This temptation did put me to such scares, lest I should at some times, I say, consent thereto, and be overcome therewith, that by the very force of my mind, my very body would be put into action or motion, by way of pushing or thrusting with my hands or elbows: still answering as fast as the destroyer said, Sell him: I will not, I will not, I will not: no, not for thousands, thousands, thousands of worlds: thus reckoning, lest I should set too low a value on him, even until I scarce well knew where I was, or how to be composed again.
138. At these seasons he would not let me eat any food at quiet; but, forsooth, when I was sat at the table at any meat, I must go hence to pray; I Inust 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 meat, let me make an end. No, said he, you must do it now, or you will displease God, and despise Christ. Wherefore, I was much afflicted with these things; and because of the sinfulness of my nature, imagining that these things were impulses from God, I should deny to do it as if I denied God; and then should I not be as guilty because I did not obey a temptation of the devil, as if I had broken the law of God indeed.
139. But to be brief: one morning, as I did lie in my bed, I was, as at other times, most fiercely assaulted with this temptation, to sell and part with Christ; the wicked suggestion still running in my mind, Sell him, sell him, sell him, sell him, sell him, 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 times together; but at last, after much striving, I felt this thought pass through my heart, Let him go if he will; and I thought also that I felt my heart freely consent thereto. Oh the diligence of Satan! Oh the desperateness of man's heart!
140. Now was the battle won, and down fell I, as a bird that is shot from the top of a tree, into
great guilt and fearful despair. 'Thus getting out of my bed, I went moping into the field; but, God knows, with as heavy a heart as mortal man, I think, could bear; where, for the space of about two hours, I was like a man bereft of life; and, as now, past all recovery, and bound over to eternal punishment.
141. And withal, that scripture did seize upon my soul: "Or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye 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," Heb. xii. 16, 17.
142. Now was I as one bound; I felt myself shut up into the judgment to come; nothing now, for years together, would alide with me but damnation, and an expectation of damnation: I say, nothing now would abide with me but this, save some few moments for relief, as in the sequel you will see.
143. These words were to my soul like fetters of brass to my legs, in the continual sound of which I went for several months together. But about ten or eleven o'clock on that day, as I was walking under a hedge, full of sorrow and guilt, God knows, and bemoaning myself for this hard hap, that such a thought should arise within me, suddenly this sentence rushed in upon me, The blood of Christ remits all guilt. At this I made a stand in my spirit; with that this word took hold upon me, "The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin," 1 John i. 7.
144. Now I began to conceive peace in my soul; and methought I saw as if the tempter did leer and steal away from me, as being ashamed of what he had done. At the same time also I had my sin and the blood of Christ thus represented to me: That my sin, when compared to the blood of Christ, was no more to it than this little clod or stone before me is to this vast and wide field that here I see. This gave me good encouragement for the space of two or thee 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 therefore sunk in my spirit under exceeding guilt again.
145. But chiefly by the aforementioned scripture concerning Esau's selling of his birthright: for that scripture would lie all day long in my mind; for when I woul 1 strive to turn me to this scripture or that for relief, still that sentence would be sounding in me: "For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing," "he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears."
146. Sometimes, indeed, I should have a touch from that in Luke xxii. 32, "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fa 1 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 should be the root of that grace in me, having sinned as I had done. Now was I tore and rent in a heavy case for many days together..
147. Then began I, with sad and careful heart, to consider of the natu;e and largeness of my sin, and to search into the Word of God if I could in any place espy a word of promise, by which I might take relief. Wherefore I began to consider that of Mark iii., All manner of sins an i blasphemies shall be forgiven 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 of high offences; but considering the place more fully, I thought it was rather to be understood as relating more chiefly to those who had, while in a natural state, committed such things as there are mentioned, but not to me, who had not only received light and mercy, but that had, both after and also contrary to that, so slighted Christ as I had done.
148. I feared, therefore, that this wicked sin of mine might be that sin unpardonable of which he there thus speaketh: "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation," Mark iii. 29. And I did the rather give credit to this because of that sentence in the Hebrews: " For you 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." And this stuck always with me.
149. And now was I both a burden and a terror to myself; now was I weary of my life, and yet afraid to die. Oh how gladly now would I have been any body but myself I anything but a man, and in any condition but my own! for there was nothing did pass more frequently over my mind than that it was impossible for me to be forgiven my transgressions, and to be saved from the wrath to come.
150. And now I began to call back time that was past; wishing a thousand times twice 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 I would rather Lave been torn in pieces than be found a consenter thereto. But, alas! these wishings and resolvings were now too late to help me; this thought had passed my heart, God hath let me go, and I am fallen. Oh, thought I, that it was with me "as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me!" Job xxix. 2.
151. Then again I began to compare my sin with others, to see if I could find any of those who 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, I perceived 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: but mine was against Gospel, yea, against the Mediator thereof; I have sold my Saviour.
152. Now again should I be as if racked upon the wheel when I considered that, besides the guilt that possessed me, I should be so void of grace, so bewitched! What, thought I, must it be no sin but this? Must it needs be the "great transgression?" Psalm xix. 13. Must that wicked one touch my soul? 1 John v. 18. Oh, what sting did I find in all these sentences!
153. What! thought I, is there but one sin that is unpardonable? But one sin that layeth the soul without the reach of God's mercy; and must I be guilty of that? Is there but one sin, among so many millions of sins, for which there is no forgiveness; and must I commit this? Oh! unhappy sin! Oh! unhappy man! These things would so break and confound my spirit that I thought a£» times they would have broke my wits; and still, to aggravate my misery, that would run in my mind, "You know how, that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected." Oh! no one knows the terror of those days but myself.
154. After this I began 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 denied his Saviour, as I, after light and mercy received; yea, and that too after warning given him. I also considered that he did it 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 a denial of his master, but mine was a selling of my Saviour. Wherefore I thought with myself, that I came nearer to Judas than either David or Peter.
155. Here again my torment would flame out and afflict me; yea, it would grind me, as it were to powder, to consider the preservation of God towards others, while I fell into the snare; for I could evidently see, God preserved them, notwithstanding their wickedness, and would not let them, as he had let me, become a son of perdition.
156. But, oh, how did my soul at this time prize the preservation that God did set about his people! Ah, how safely did I see them walk, whom God had hedged in! They were within his care, protection, and special providence: though they were full as bad as I by nature; yet, because he loved them, he would not suffer them to fall without the range of mercy: but as for me, he would not preserve me, nor keep me; but suffered me, because I was a reprobate, to fall as I had done. Now did those blessed places that speak of God's keeping his people, shine like the sun before me, though not to comfort me, yet to show me the blessed state and heritage of those whom the Lord hath blessed.
157. Now I saw, that as God had his hand in all the providences and dispensations that overtook his elect, so he had his hand in all the temptations that they had to sin against him; and also to leave them for a time to such things only that might not destroy, but humble them; as might not put them beyond, but lay them in the way of the renewing hi3 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 let them fall into the sin unpardonable, nor into hell for sin. Oh! thought I, these be the men that God hath loved; these be the men that God, though he chastiseth them, keeps them in safety by him. But all these thoughts added sorrow, grief, and horror to me, and was killing to me. If I thought how God kept his own, that was killing to me; if I thought of how I was fallen myself, that was killing to me. As all things wrought together for the best, and to do good to them that were the called, according to his purpose; so I thought that all things wrought for my damage, and for my eternal overthrow.
158. Then I began to compare my sin with the sin of Judas, that, if possible, I might find if mine differed from that, which in truth is unpardonable: and oh! thought I, if it should differ though but the breadth of a hair, what a happy condition is my soul in! And by considering, I found that Judas did this intentionally, but mine was against prayer and strivings: besides, his was committed with much deliberation, but mine in a fearful hurry on a sudden: all this while I was tossed to and fro like the locust, and driven from trouble to sorrow, hearing always the sound of Esau's fall in mine ears, and the dreadful consequences thereof.
159. Yet this consideration about Judas's sin was, for awhile, some little relief to me; for I saw I had not, as to the circumstances, transgressed so fully as he. But this was quickly gone again, for I thought with myself, there might be more ways than one to commit this unpardonable sin; wherefore, for aught I yet could perceive, this iniquity of mine might be such as might never be passed by.
160. 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 in the day of judgment; insomuch, that now I scarce could see a good man, that I believed had a good conscience, but I should feel my heart tremble at him, while I was in his presence. Oh! now I saw a glory in walking with God, and what a mercy it was to have a good conscience before him.
161. 1 was about this time tempted to content myself by receiving some false opinions; as, that there should be no svich thing as a day of judgment; that we should not rise again; and that sin was no grievous thing: the tempter suggesting thus: For if these things should indeed be true, yet to believe otherwise, would yield you ease for the present. If you must perish, never torment yourself so much beforehand; drive the thoughts of damning out of your mind, by possessing it with some such con
elusions that atheists and ranters use to help themselves withal.
162. 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! 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 error, is the very kingdom and habitation of the wicked one.
163. I found it a hard work now to pray to God, because despair was swallowing me up; I thought I was, as with a tempest, driven away from God; for always when I cried to God for mercy, this would come in, 'Tis too late, I am lost, God hath let me fall; not to my correction, but to my condemnation: my sin is unpardonable: and I know concerning Esau, 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 miserable mortal Francis Spira; a book that was to my troubled spirit as salt, when rubbed into a, fresh wound: every sentence in that book, every groan of that man, with all the rest of his actions in his colours, as his tears, his prayers, his gnashing of teeth, his wringing of hands, his twisting, and languishing, and pining away under that mighty hand of God that was upon him, was as knives and daggers in my soul; especially that sentence of his was frightful to me, "Man knows the beginning of sin, but who bounds the issues thereof?" Then would the former sentence, as the conclusion of all, fall like an hot thunderbolt again upon my conscience: "For you 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."
164. Then should I be struck into a very great trembling, insomuch that I could, for whole days together, feel my very body, as well as my mind, to shake and totter under the sense of this dreadful judgment of God: I felt also such a clogging and heat at my stomach, by reason of this my terror, that I was, especially at some times, as if my breastbone would split asunder; then I thought of that concerning Judas, who by his falling headlong, burst asunder, "and all his bowels gushed out," Acts i. 18.
165. I feared also that this was the mark that God did set on Cain, even continual fear and trembling, under the heavy load and guilt that he had charged on him for the blood of his brother Abel. Thus did I twine and shrink under the burden that was upon me, so that I could neither stand nor go, nor lie either at rest or quiet.
106. Yet that saying would sometimes come into my mind: He hath received gifts for the rebellious, Psal. lxviii. 18. The rebellious, thought I! Why, surely they are such as those who, after they have sworn subjection to his government, have taken up arms against him; and this, thought I, is my very condition: I once loved him, feared him, served him; but now I am a rebel; I have sold him, I have said, Let him go if he will; but yet he has gifts for rebels; and then why not for me?
167. This sometimes I thought on, and should labour to take hold thereof; but in this also I missed of my desire; I was driven with force beyond it; I was like a man going to execution, even by that place where he would fain creep in and hide himself, but may not.
168. Again, after I had thus considered the sins of the saints in particular, and found mine went beyond them, then I began to think with myself, set the case, I should put all theirs together, and mine alone against them, might I not then find encouragement? For if mine, though bigger than any one, yet should be but equal to all, then there is hopes; for that blood that hath virtue enough in it to wash away all theirs, hath virtue enough in it to wash away mine, though this one be full as big, if not bigger than all theirs. Here again, I would consider the sin of David, of Solomon, of Manasseh, of Peter, and the rest of the great offenders; and should also labour, what I might with fairness, to aggravate and heighten their sins by several circumstances.
169. I should think with myself that David shed blood to cover his adultery, and that by the sword of the children of Ammon; a work that could not be done but by deliberate contrivance, which was a great aggravation to his sin. But then this would turn upon me: Ah! but these were but sins against the law, from which there was a Jesus sent to save them; but yours is a sin against the Saviour, and who shall save you from that?
170. Then I thought on Solomon, and how he sinned in loving strange women, in falling away to their idols, in building them temples, in doing this after light, in his old age, after great mercy received; but the same conclusion that cut me off in the former consideration cut me off as to this; namely, that all those were but sins against the law, for which God had provided a remedy; but I had sold my Saviour, and there remained no more sacrifice for sin.
171. I would then add to these men's sins the sins of Manasseh; how that he built altars for idols in the house of the Lord; he also observed times, used enchantments, had to do with wizards, had his familiar spirits, burned his children in the fire in sacrifice to devils, and made the streets of Jerusalem run down with the blood of innocents. These, thought I, are great sins, sins of a bloody colour; but yet it would turn again upon me, they are none of them of the nature of yours; you have parted with Jesus, you have sold your Saviour.
172. This one consideration would always kill my heart, my sin was point-blank against my Saviour; and that too, at that height that I had in my heart said of him, Let him 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, not all of them together, was able to equal mine; mine outwent them every one.