173. Now I should find my mind to flee from God as from the face of a dreadful judge; yet this was my torment, I could not escape his hand; "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God," Heb. x. 31. But, blessed be his grace, that scripture, in these flying fits, would call, as running after me, "I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins; return unto me, for I have redeemed thee," Isa. xliv. 22. This, I say, would come in upon my mind, when I was fleeing from the face of God; that is, my mind and spirit fled before him; by reason of his highness I could not endure: then would the text cry, "Return unto me;" it would cry with a very loud voice, "Return unto me, for I have redeemed thee." Indeed, this would make me make a little stop, and, as it were look over my shoulder behind me, to see if I could discern that the God of grace did follow me with a pardon in his hand; but I could no sooner do that but all would be clouded and darkened again by that sentence, "For you know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he found no place of repentance," "though he sought it carefully with tears." Wherefore I could not refrain, but fled, though. at sometimes it cried, "Return, return," as it did halloo after me: but I feared to close in therewith, lest it should not come from God; for that other, as I said, was still sounding in my conscience, "For you know that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected," &c
174. Once as I was walking to and fro in a good man's shop, bemoaning my sad and doleful state, afflicting myself with self-abhorrence for this wicked and ungodly thought; lamenting also that I should commit so great a sin, greatly fearing I should not be pardoned; praying also, that if this sin of mine did differ from that against the Holy Ghost, the Lord would shew it me: and being now ready to sink with fear, suddenly there was, as if there had rushed in at the window, the noise of wind upon me, but very pleasant, and as if I heard a voice speaking, Didst thou ever refuse to be justified by the blood of Christ? And withal, my whole life of profession past was in a moment open to me, wherein I was made to see that designedly I had not; so my heart answered groaningly, No. Then fell, with power, that word of God upon me, "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh," Heb. xii. 25. This made a strange seizure upon my spirit; it brought light with it, and commanded a silence in my heart of all those tumultuous thoughts that did before use, like masterless hell-hounds, to roar and bellow, and
make a hideous noise within me. It shewed me also that Jesus Christ had yet a word of grace and mercy for me; that he had not, as I had feared, quite forsaken and cast off my soul; yea, this was a kind of check for my proneness to desperation: a kind of threatening of me, if I did not, notwithstanding my sins, and the heinousness of them, venture my salvation upon the Son of God. But as to my determining about this strange dispensation, what it was, I know not; or from whence it came I know not; I have not yet in twenty years' time been able to make a judgment of it; I thought then what here I should be loath to speak. But verily that sudden rushing wind was as if an angel had come upon me, but both it and the salvation I will leave until the day of judgment; only this I say, it commanded a great calm in my soul; it persuaded me there might be hope: it shewed me, as I thought, what the sin unpardonable was, and that my soul had yet the blessed privilege to flee to Jesus Christ for mercy. But I say, concerning this dispensation, I knew not what to say unto it yet; which was also in truth the cause that at first I did not speak of it in the book: I do now also leave it to be thought on by men of sound judgment. I lay not the stress of my salvation thereupon, but upon the Lord Jesus in the promise; yet seeing I am here unfolding of my secret things, I thought it might not be altogether inexpedient to let -this also shew itself, though I cannot now relate the matter as there I did experience it. This lasted in the favour of it for about three or four days, and then I began to mistrust, and to despair again.
175. Wherefore still my life hung in doubt before me, not knowing which way I should tip; only this I found my soul desire even to cast itself at the foot of grace by prayer and supplication. But, oh! 'twas hard for me now, to have the face to pray to this Christ for mercy, against whom I had thus most vilely sinned: 'twas hard work, I say, to offer to look him in the face, against whom 1 had so vilely sinned; and indeed I have found it as difficult to come to God by prayer, after backsliding from him, as to do any other thing. Oh the shame that did now attend me, especially when I thought, I am now going to pray to him for mercy, that I had so lightly esteemed but awhile before! I was ashamed; yea, even confounded, because this villany had been committed by me: but I saw that there was but one way with me; I must go to him, and humble myself unto him, and beg that he, of his wonderful mercy, would shew pity to me, and have mercy upon my wretched sinful soul.
176. Which when the tempter perceived, he strongly suggested to me, That I ought not to pray to God; for prayer was not for any in my case; neither could it do me good, because I had rejected the Mediator, by whom all prayers came with acceptance to God the Father; and without whom no prayer could come into his presence: wherefore now to pray, seeing God has cast you off, is the next way to anger and offend him more than you ever did before.
177. For God, saith he, hath been weary of you for these several years already, because you are none of his; your bawlings in his ears hath been no pleasant voice to him; and therefore he let you sin this sin, that you might be quite cut off; and will you pray still? This the devil urged, and set forth that in Numbers, when Moses said to the children of Israel, That because they would not go up to possess the land, when God would have them, therefore for ever after he did bar them out from thence, though they prayed they might with tears, Numb. xiv. 36, 37, &c
178. As 'tis said in another place, Exod. xxi. 14, The man that sins presumptuously shall be taken from God's altar that he may die; even as Joab was by King Solomon, when he thought to find shelter there, 1 Kings ii. 28, &c These places did pinch me very sore: yet I thought with myself, I can but die; and if it must be so, it shall once be said, That such a one died at the foot of Christ in prayer. This I did, but with great difficulty, God doth know, and that because still that saying about Esau would be set at my heart, even like a flaming sword, to keep the way of the tree of life, lest I should take thereof and live. Oh! who knows how hard a thing I found it to come to God in prayer 1
179. I did also desire the prayers of the people of God for me, but I feared that God would give them no heart to do it; yea, I trembled in my soul to think that some or other of them would shortly tell me that God hath said those words to them that he once did say to the prophet, concerning the children of Israel, " Pray not thou for this people," Jer. xL 14, for I have rejected them, so, Pray not for him, for I have rejected him. Yea, I thought that he had whispered this to some of them already, only they durst not tell me so, neither durst I ask them of it, for fear if it should be so it would make me quite beside myself. "Man knows the beginning of sin," said Spira, "but who bounds the issues thereof?"
180. About this time I took an opportunity to
break my mind to an ancient Christian, and told him all my case; I told him also that I was afraid that I had sinned a sin against the Holy Ghost; and he told me he thought so too. Here, therefore, I had but cold comfort; but talking a little more with him I found him, though a good man, a stranger to much combat with the devil; wherefore I went to God again, as well as I could, for mercy still.
181. Now also did the tempter begin to mock me in my misery, saying, That seeing I had thus parted with the Lord Jesus, and provoked him to displeasure, who would have stood between my soul and the flame of devouring fire, there was now but one way, and that was to pray that God the Father would be the mediator betwixt his Son and me, that we might be reconciled again, and that I might have that blessed benefit in him that hia blessed saints enjoyed.
182. Then did that scripture seize upon my soul, He is of one mind, and who can turn him? Oh! I saw 'twas as easy to persuade him to make a new world, a new covenant, or new Bible, besides that we have already, as to pray for such a thing, and then would that saying rend my soul asunder, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved," Acts iv. 12. •
183. Now the most free, and full, and gracious words of the Gospel were the greatest torments to me; yea, nothing so afflicted me as the thoughts of Jesus Christ, the remembrance of a Saviour; nothing did twinge my conscience like this: everything that I thought of the Lord Jesus, of his grace, love, goodness, kindness, gentleness, meekness, death, blood, promises, and blessed exhortations, comforts, and consolations, it went to my soul like a sword; for still, unto these my considerations of the Lord Jesus, these thoughts would make place for themselves in my heart: Ay, this is the Jesus, the loving Saviour, the Son of God, whom you have parted with, whom you have slighted, despised, and abused. This is the only Saviour, the only Redeemer, the only one that could so love sinners as to wash them from their sins in his own most precious blood; but you have no part nor lot in this Jesus; you have put him from you; you have said in your heart, Let him go if he will. Now, therefore, you are severed from him: you have severed yourself from him; behold then his goodness, but yourself to be no partaker of it! Oh, thought I, what have I lost! What have I parted with! What has disinherited my poor soul! Oh! 'tis sad to be destroyed by the grace and mercy of God: to have the Lamb, the Saviour, turn lion and destroyer, Rev. vi. I also trembled, as I have said, at the sight of the saints of God, especially at those that greatly loved him, and that made it their business to walk continually with him in this world; for they did both in their words, their carriage, and all their expressions of tenderness and fear to sin against their precious Saviour, condemn, lay guilt upon, and also add. continual affliction and shame unto my soul. The dread of them was upon me, and I trembled at God's Samuels, 1 Sam. xvi. 4.
184. Now also the tempter began afresh to mock my soul another way, saying, That Christ indeed did pity my case, and was sorry for my loss; but forasmuch as I had sinned and transgressed as I had done, he could by no means help me nor save me from what I feared, for my sin was not of the nature of theirs for whom he bled and died, neither was it counted with these that were laid to his charge when he hanged on a tree; therefore, unless he should come down from heaven and die anew for this sin, though indeed he did greatly pity me, yet I could have no benefit of him. These things may seem ridiculous in themselves, but to me they were most tormenting cogitations; every one of them augmented my misery, that Jesus Christ should have so much love as to pity me, when yet he could not help me too; nor did I think that the reason why he could not help me was because his merits were weak, or his grace and salvation spent on others already, but because his faithfulness to his threatenings would not let him extend his mercy to me. Besides, I thought, as I have already hinted, that my sin was not within the bounds of that pardon that was wrapped up in a promise; and if not, then I knew surely that it was more easy for heaven and earth to pass away than for me to have eternal life. So that the ground of all these fears of mine did arise from a steadfast belief I had of the stability of the holy Word of God, and also from my being misinformed of the nature of my sin.
185. But, oh how this would add to my affliction, to conceit that I should be guilty of such a sin, for which he did not die! These thoughts did so confound me, and imprison me, and tie me up from faith, that I knew not what to do. But, oh, thought I, that he would come down again! Oh that the work of man's redemption was yet to be done by Christ! How would I pray him and entreat him to count and reckon this sin among the rest for which he died! But this scripture would strike me down as dead: "Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him," Rom. vi. 9.
186. Thus, by the strange and unusual assaults of the tempter, my soul was like a broken vessel driven as with the winds, and tossed sometimes headlong into despair; sometimes upon the covenant of works, and sometimes to wish that the new covenant, and the conditions thereof, might, so far forth as I thought myself concerned, be turned another way, and changed. But in all these I was as those that jostle against the rocks; more broken, scattered, and rent. Oh the unthought of imaginations, frights, fears, and terrors, that are effected by a thorough application of guilt yielding to desperation! This is the man that hath his dwelling among the tombs with the dead, that is always crying out, and cutting himself with stones, Mark v. 2-5. But I say, all in vain; desperation will not comfort him, the old covenant will not save him; nay, heaven and earth shall pass away, before one jot or tittle of the word and law of grace will fail or be removed. This I saw, this I felt, and under this I groaned; yet this advantage I got thereby, namely, a further confirmation of the certainty of the way of salvation, and that the Scriptures were the Word of God. Oh! I cannot now express what I then saw and felt of the steadiness of Jesus Christ, the rock of man's salvation: what was done could not be undone, added to, nor altered. I saw, indeed, that sin might drive the soul beyond Christ, even the sin which is unpardonable; but woe unto him that was so driven, for the word would shut him out.
187. Thus was I always sinking, whatever I did think or do. So one day I walked to a neighbouring town, and sat down upon a settle in the street, and fell into a very deep pause about the most fearful state my sin had brought me to; and after long musing I lifted up my head, but methought I saw as if the sun that shineth in the heavens did grudge to give light; and as if the very stones in the street, and tiles upon the houses, did bend themselves against me. Oh how happy now was every creature over I was! For they stood fast, and kept their station, but I was gone and lost.
188. Then breaking out into the bitterness of my soul, I said to myself, with a grievous sigh, how can God comfort such a wretch as I? I had no sooner said it but this returned upon me, as an echo doth answer a voice, This sin is not unto death. At which I was as if I had been raised out of the grave, and cried out again, Lord, how couldst thou find out such a word as this? for I was filled with admiration at the fitness, and at the unexpectedness of the sentence; the power and sweetness, and light and glory that came with it also, was marvellous to me to find: I was now, for the time, out of doubt as to that about which I so much was in doubt before; my fears before were, that my sin was not pardonable, and so that I had no right to pray, to repent, <fec, or that if I did, it would be of no advantage or profit to me. But now, thought I, if this sin is not unto death, then it is pardonable; therefore, from this I have encouragement to come to God by Christ for mercy, to consider the promise of forgiveness as that which stands with open arms to receive me as well as others. This, therefore, was a great easement to my mind, to wit, that my sin was pardonable, that it was not sin unto death, 1 John v. 16, 17. None but those that know what my trouble, by their own experience, was, can tell G *
what relief came to my soul by this consideration: it was a release to me from my former storms: I seemed now to stand upon the same ground with. other sinners, and to have as good right to the word and prayer as any of them.
189. Now, I say, I was in hopes that my sin was not unpardonable, but that there might be hopes for me to obtain forgiveness. But, oh how Satan did now lay about him for to bring me down again! But he could by.no means do it, neither this day, nor the most part of the next, for this sentence stood like a mill-post at my back: yet towards the evening of the next day, I felt this word begin to leave me, and to withdraw its supportation from me, and so I returned to my old fears again, but with a great deal of grudging and peevishness, for I feared the sorrow of despair; nor could my faith now long retain this word.
190. But the next day at evening, being tinder many fears, I went to seek the Lord, and as I prayed, I cried, and my soul cried to him in these words, with strong cries: O Lord, I beseech thee, shew me that thou hast loved me with everlasting love, Jer. xxxi. 3. I had no sooner said jt, but with sweetness this returned upon me, as an echo, or sounding again, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." Now I went to bed in quiet; also when I awaked the next morning it was fresh upon my soul; and I believed it.
191. But yet the tempter left me not, for it could not be so little as a hundred times that he that day did labour to break my peace. Oh the combats and conflicts that I did then meet with! As I strove to hold by this word, that of Esau would fly in my face like lightning: I should be sometimes up and down twenty times in an hour; yet God did bear me out, and keep my heart upon this word; from which I had also, for several days together, very much sweetness, and comfortable hopes of pardon: for thus it was made out to me: I loved thee whilst thou wast committing this sin, I loved thee before, I love thee still, and I will love thee for ever.
192. Yet I saw my sin most barbarous, and a filthy crime, and could not but conclude, with great shame and astonishment, that I had horridly abused the holy Son of God; wherefore I felt my soul greatly to love and pity him, and my bowels to yearn towards him; for I saw he was still my friend, and did reward me good for evil; yea, the love and affection that then did burn within me to my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ did work at this time such a strong and hot desire of revengement upon myself For the abuse I had done unto him, that, to speak as I then thought, had I a thousand gallons of blood within my veins, I could freely then have spilt it all, at the command and feet of this my Lord and Saviour.
193. And as I was thus musing, and in my studies, considering how to love the Lord, and to express my love to him, that saying came in upon me, "If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? but there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared," Psalm cxxx. 3, 4. These were good words to me, especially the latter part thereof; to wit, that there is forgiveness with the Lord, that he might be feared; that is, as I then understood it, that he might be loved and had in reverence; for it was thus made out to me, That the great God did set so high an esteem upon the love of his poor creatures, that rather than he would go without their love, he would pardon their transgression.
194. And now was that word fulfilled on me, and I was also refreshed by it: Then shall they be ashamed and confounded, and never open their mouths any more because of their shame, when I am pacified towards them for all that they have done, saith the Lord God, Ezek. xvi. 63. Thus was my soul at this time, and as I then did think for ever, set at liberty from being afflicted with my former guilt and amazement.
195. But before many weeks were gone I began to despond again, fearing lest, notwithstanding all that I had enjoyed, that I might be deceived and destroyed at the last; for this consideration came strong into my mind, That whatever comfort and peace I thought I might have from the word of the promise of life, yet unless there could be found in my refreshment, a concurrence and agreement in the Scriptures, let me think what I will thereof, and hold it never so fast, I should find no such thing at the end; for "the Scripture cannot be broken," John x. 35.
196. Now began by heart again to ache, and fear I might meet with a disappointment at last. Wherefore I began with all seriousness to examine my former comfort, and to consider whether one that had sinned as I had done might with confidence trust upon the faithfulness of God, laid down in these words, by which I had been comforted, and on which I had leaned myself: but now were brought these sayings to my mind, "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance," Heb. vi. 4-6. "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries," Heb. x. 26, 27. Even "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.
197. Now was the word of the Gospel forced from my soul! so that no promise or encouragement was to be found in the Bible for me; and now would that saying work upon my spirit to afflict me, " Rejoice not, 0 Israel, for joy, as other people," Hosea ix. 1. For I saw indeed there was cause of rejoicing for those that held to Jesus; but as for me, I had cut myself off by my transgressions, and left myself neither foot-hold nor hand-hold among all the stays and props in the precious word of life.
198. And truly I did now feel myself to sink into a gulf, as a house whose foundation is destroyed; I did liken myself in this condition unto the case of a child that was fallen into a mill-pit, who thought it could make some shift to scramble and sprawl in the water, yet because it could find neither hold for hand nor foot therefore at last it must die in that condition. So soon as this fresh assault had fastened on my soul that scripture came into my heart, This is for many days, Dan. x. 14. And, indeed, I found it was so; for I could not be delivered nor brought to peace again until well-nigh two years and a half were completely finished. Wherefore
these words, though in themselves they tended to no discouragement, yet to me, who feared this condition would be eternal, they were at sometimes a help and refreshment to me.
199. For, thought I, many days are not for ever, many days will have an end; therefore, seeing I was to be afflicted not a few, but many days, yet I was glad it was but for many days. Thus, I say, I could recal myself sometimes, and give myself a help; for as soon as ever the word came into my mind, at first I knew my trouble would be long, yet this would be but sometimes; for I could not always think On this, nor ever be helped by it though I did.
200. Now while these scriptures lay before me, and laid sin anew at my door, that saying in Luke xviii. 1, with others, did encourage me to prayer; then the tempter again laid at me very sore, suggesting that neither the mercy of God nor yet the blood of Christ did at all concern me, nor could they help me for my sin, therefore it was but in vain to pray. Yet, thought I, I will pray. But, said the tempter, your sin is unpardonable. Well, said I, I will pray. It is to no boot, said he. Yet, said I, I will pray. So I went to prayer to God; and while I was at prayer I uttered words to this effect: Lord, Satan tells me that neither thy mercy nor Christ's blood is sufficient to save my soul. Lord, shall I honour thee most by believing thou wilt and canst? or him, by believing thou neither wilt nor canst? Lord, I would fain honour thee by believing thou wilt and canst.
201. And as I was thus before the Lord, that scripture fastened on my heart, O man, great is thy faith? Matt. xv. 28, even as if one had clapped me on the back as I was on my knees before God; yet I was not able to believe this, that this was a prayer of faith, till almost six months after; for I could not think that I had faith, or that there should be a word for me to act faith on, therefore I should still be as sticking in the jaws of desperation, and went mourning up and down in a sad condition.
202. There was nothing now that I longed for more than to be put out of doubt as to this thing in question; and as I was vehemently desiring to know if there was indeed hope for me, these words came rolling into my mind: "Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever 1 doth his promise fail for evermore 1 Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies 1" Psal. lxxvii. 7-9. And all the while they run in my mind methought I had still this as the answer; 'Tis a question whether he hath or no: it may be he hath not. Yea, the interrogatory seemed to me to carry in it a sure affirmation that indeed he had not, nor would so cast off, but would be favourable: that his promise doth not fail, and that he hath not forgotten to be gracious, nor would in anger shut up tender mercy. Something also there was upon my heart at the same time which I now cannot call to mind, which, with this text, did sweeten my heart, and make me conclude that his mercy might not be quite gone, nor gone for ever.
203. At another time I remembered I was again much under this question, Whether the blood of Christ was sufficient to save my soul? In which doubt I continued from morning till about seven or eight at night; and at last, when I was, as it were, quite worn out with fear lest it should not lay hold on me, the words did sound suddenly within my heart, He is able; but methought this word able was spoke loud unto me; it shewed a great word, it seemed to be writ in great letters, and gave such, a jostle to my fear and doubt, I mean for the time it tarried with me, which was about a day, as I never had from that all my life, either before or after, Heb. vii. 25.
204. But one morning as I was again at prayer, and trembling under the fear of this, that no word of God could help me, that piece of a sentence darted in upon me, My grace is sufficient. A t this methought I felt some stay, as if there might be hopes. But, oh how good a thing it is for God to send his word! for about a fortnight before I was looking on this very place, and then I thought it could not come near my soul with comfort, therefore I threw down my book in a pet; then I thought it was not large enough for me: no, not large enough; but now it was as if it had arms of grace so wide that it could not only enclose me but many more besides.
205. By these words I was sustained, yet not without exceeding conflicts for the space of seven or eight weeks, for my peace would be in it and out sometimes twenty times a day: comfort now and trouble presently; peace now, and before I could go a furlong, as full of fear and guilt as ever heart could hold; and this was not only now and then, but my whole seven weeks' experience; for this about the sufficiency of grace, and that of Esau's parting with his birthright, would be like a pair of scales within my mind: sometimes one end would be uppermost and sometimes again the other, according to which would be my peace or trpub'es.
206. Therefore I did still pray to God that he would come in with his Scripture more fully on my heart: to wit, that he would help me to apply the whole sentence, for as yet I could not. That he gave, that I gathered; but further I could not go, for as yet it only helped me to hope there might be mercy for me—My grace is sufficient; and though it came no farther it answered my former question: to wit, that there was hope; yet because for thee was left out I was not contented, but prayed to God for that also. Wherefore one day, when I was in a meeting of God's people, full of sadness and terror, for my fears again were strong upon me, and, as I was now thinking, my soul was never the better, but my case most sad and fearful, these words did with great power suddenly break in upon me: My grace is sufficient for thee, my grace is sufficient for thee, my grace is sufficient for thee, three times together; and, oh! methought that every word was a mighty word unto me, as my, and grace, and sufficient, and for thee, they were then, and sometimes are still, far bigger than others be.
207. At which time my understanding was so enlightened that I was as though I had seen the Lord Jesus look down from heaven, through the tiles upon me, and direct these words unto me. This sent me mourning home; it broke my heart and filled me full of joy, and laid me low as the dust; only it stayed not long with me, I mean in this glory and refreshing comfort; yet it continued with me for several weeks, and did encourage me to hope. But as soon as that powerful operation of it was taken from my heart, that other, about Esau, returned upon me as before; so my soul did hang as in a pair of scales again, sometimes up and sometimes down; now in peace, and anon again in terror.
208. Thus I went on for many weeks, sometimes comforted and sometimes tormented; and especially at sometimes my torment would be very sore, for all those scriptures afore-named in the Hebrews, would be set before me, as the only sentences that would keep me out of heaven. Then again I would begin to repent that ever that thought went through. me; I would also think thus with myself: Why, how many scriptures are there against me? There are but three .or four; and cannot God miss them, and save me for all them? Sometimes again I would think, Oh, if it were not for these three or four words now, how might I be comforted! And I could hardly forbear at sometimes to wish them out of the book. •
209. Then methought I should see as if both Peter and Paul, and John, and all the writers did look with scorn upon me, and hold me in derision; and as if they had said unto me, All our words are truth, one of as much force as the other: It is not we that have cut you off, but you have cast away yourself. There is none of our sentences that you must take hold upon, but these, and such as these: It is impossible, there remains no more sacrifice for sin, Heb. vi. And "it had been better for them not to have known" the will of God, "than after they had known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them," 2 Pet. ii. 21. For "the Scriptures cannot be broken," John x. 35.
210. These are the elders of the city of refuge, I saw, were to be the judges both of my case and me, while I stood with the Avenger of blood at my heels, trembling at their gate for deliverance; also with a thousand fears and mistrusts, I doubted that he would shut me out for ever, Joshua xx. 3, 4.
211. Thus was I confounded, not knowing what to do, or how to be satisfied in this question, Whether the Scriptures could agree in the salvation of my soul? I quaked at the apostles; I knew their words were true, and that they must stand for ever.
212. And I remember one day, as I was in divers frames of spirit, and considering that these frames were according to the nature of several scriptures that came in upon my mind; if this of grace, then was I quiet, but if that of Esau, then tormented. Lord, thought I, if both these scriptures should meet in my heart at once, 1 wonder which of them would get the better of me. So methought I had a longing mind that they might come both together upon me; yea, I desired of God they might.
213. Well, about two or three days after, so they did indeed. They bolted both upon me at a time, and did work and struggle strongly in me for a while; at last, that about Esau's birthright began to wax weak, and withdraw, and vanish; and this about the sufficiency of grace prevailed with peace and joy. And as I was in a muse about this thing, that scripture came in upon me, "Mercy rejoiceth against judgment," James ii. 13.
214. This was a wonderment to me, yet-truly, I am apt to think it was of God, for the word of the law and wrath must give place to the word of life and grace; because, though the word of condemnation be glorious, yet the word of life and salvation doth far exceed in glory, 2 Cor. iii. 8-12; Mark ix. 5-7. Also that Moses and Elias must both vanish, and leave Christ and his saints alone.
215. This scripture did also most sweetly visit my soul: "And him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out," John vi. 37. Oh the comfort that I had from this word, in no wise! As who should say, By no means, for nothing whatever he hath done. But Satan would greatly labour to pull this promise from me, telling of me, That Christ did not mean me and such as I, but sinners of a lower rank, that had not done as I had done. But I would answer him again, Satan, here is in these words no such exception; but him that comes, him, any him; Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out. And this I well remember still, that of all the slights that Satan used to take this scripture from me, yet he never did so much as put this question, But do you come aright? And I have thought the reason was, because he thought I knew full well what coming aright was, for I saw that to come aright, was to come as I was, a vile and ungodly sinner, and so cast myself at the feet of mercy, condemning myself for sin. If ever Satan and I did strive for any word of God in all my life, it was for this good word of Christ: he at one end and I at the other: Oh what work we made! It was for this in John, I say, that we did so tug and strive, he pulled, and I pulled; but God be praised, I overcame him; I got sweetness from it.
216. •But notwithstanding all these helps and blessed words of grace, yea, that of Esau's selling of his birthright would still at times distress my conscience: for though I had been most sweetly comforted, and that but just before, yet when that came into my mind, it would make me fear again; I could not be quite rid thereof, it would every day be with me: Wherefore now I went another way to work, even to consider the nature of this blasphemous thought; I mean, if I should take the words at the largest, and give them their own natural force and scope, even every word therein: So when I had thus considered, I found, that if they were fairly taken, they would amount to this: That I had freely left the Lord Jesus Christ to his choice, whether he would be my Saviour or no; for the wicked words were these, Let him go if he will. Then that scripture gave me hope, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee," Heb. xiii. 5. O Lord, said I, but I have left thee. Then it answered again, But I will not leave thee. For this I thanked God also.
217. Yet I was grievous afraid he should, and found it exceeding hard to trust him, seeing I had so offended him: I could have been exceeding glad that this thought had never befallen; for then I thought I could, with more ease and freedom in abundance, have leaned on his grace. I saw it was with me as it was with Joseph's brethren; the guilt of their own wickedness did often fill them with fears that their brother would at last despise them, Gen. L 15-17.
218. Yet above all the scriptures that I yet did meet with, that in Joshua xx. was the greatest comfort to me, which speaks of the slayer that was to flee for refuge: And if the avenger of blood pursue the slayer, then, saith Moses, they that are the elders of the city of refuge shall not deliver him into his hands, because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not aforetime. Oh, blessed be God for this word! I was convinced that I was the slayer; and that the avenger of blood pursued me, I felt with great terror; only now it remained that I enquire, whether I had a right to enter the city of refuge: So I found that he must not, who
lay in wait to shed blood: It was not the wilful murderer, but he who unwittingly did it—he who did it unawares; not out of spite, or grudge, or malice—he that shed it unwittingly: even he who did not hate his neighbour before. Wherefore,
219. I thought verily I was the man that must enter, because I had smitten my neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not aforetime; I hated hiin not aforetime; no, I prayed unto him, was tender of sinning against him; yea, and against this wicked temptation I had strove for twelve months before, yea, and also when it did pass through my heart, it did in spite of my teeth: Wherefore I thought I had a right to enter this city, and the elders, which are the apostles, were not to deliver me up. This therefore was great comfort to me, and gave me much ground of hope.
220. Yet being very critical, for my smart had made me that I knew not what ground was sure enough to bear me, I had one question that my soul did much desire to be resolved about; and that was, "Whether it be possible for any soul that hath sinned the unpardonable sin, yet after that to receive though but the least true spiritual comfort from God through Christ?" The which after I had much considered I found the answer was, No, they could not; and that for these reasons :—
221. First, Because -those that have sinned that sin, they are debarred a share in the blood of Christ, and being shut out of that they must needs be void o*f the least ground of hope, and so in spiritual comfort; for to such "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins," Heb. x. 26. Secondly, Because they are denied a share in the promise of life: They shall never be forgiven "neither in this World, neither in the world to come," Matt. xii. 32. Thirdly, The Son of God excludes them also from a share in his blessed intercession, being for ever ashamed to own them, both before his holy Father and the blessed angels in heaven, Mark viii. 38.
222. When I had with much deliberation considered of this matter, and could not but conclude that the Lord had comforted me, and that too after this my wicked sin, then methought I durst venture to come nigh unto those most fearful and terrible scriptures, with which all this while I had been so greatly affrighted, and on which, indeed, before I durst scarce cast mine eye, yea, had much ado an hundred times to forbear wishing them out of the Bible, for I thought they would destroy me; but now, I say, I began to take some measure of encouragement, to come close to them, to read them, and consider them, and to weigh their scope and tendency.
223. The which when I began to do, I found my visage changed, for they looked not so grimly as before I thought they did. And first I came to the 6th of the Hebrews, yet trembling for fear it should strike me; which when I had considered, I found that the falling there intended was a falling quite away—that is, as I conceived, a falling from, and absolute denying of the Gospel, of remission of sins by Jesus Christ; for from them the apostle begins his argument, verses 1, 2, 3. Secondly, I found that this falling away must be openly, even in the view of the world, even so as "to put Christ to an open shame." Thirdly, I found that those he there intended were for ever shut up of God, both in blindness, hardness, and impenitency: it is impossible they should be renewed again unto repentance. By all these particulars I found, to God's everlasting praise, my sin was not the sin in this place intended.
First, I confessed I was falling, but not falling away—that is, from the profession of faith in Jesus unto eternal life.
Secondly, I confessed that I had put Jesus Christ to shame by my sin, but not to open shame; I did not deny him before men, nor condemn him as a fruitless one before the world.
Thirdly, Nor did I find that God had shut me up, or denied me to come, though I found it hard work indeed to come to him by sorrow and repentance: blessed be God for unsearchable grace.
224. Then I considered that in the 10th chapter of the Hebrews, and found that the wilful sin there mentioned is not every wilful sin, but that which doth throw off Christ, and then his commandments too. Secondly, That must be done also openly, before two or three witnesses, to answer that of the law, verse 28. Thirdly, This sin cannot be committed but with great despite done to the spirit of grace; despising both the dissuasions from that sin and the persuasions to the contrary. But the Lord knows, though this my sin was devilish, yet it did not amount to these.
225. And as touching that in the 12th chapter of the Hebrews, about Esau's selling of his birthright; though this was that which killed me, and stood like a spear against me, yet now I did consider, first, that his was not an hasty thought, against the continual labour of his mind, but a thought consented to, and put in practice likewise, and that after some deliberation, Gen. xxv. Secondly, It was a public and open action, even from his brother, if not before many more; this made his sin of a far more heinous nature than otherwise it would have been. Thirdly, He continued to slight his birthright; "he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright," verse 34; yea, twenty years after he was found to despise it still. "And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself," Gen. xxxiii. 9.
226. Now as touching this, that Esau sought a place of repentance: Thus I thought: First, this was not for the birthright, but the blessing; this is clear from the apostle, and is distinguished by Esau himself: he took away my birthright (that is formerly), and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing, Gen. xxvii. 36. Secondly, Now this being thus considered, I came again to the apostle, to see what might be the mind of God, in a New Testament style and sense, concerning Esau's sin; and so far as I could conceive, this was the mind of God, that the birthright signified regeneration, and the blessing the eternal inheritance; for so the apostle seems to hint. Lest there be any profane person as Esau, who for a morsel of meat sold his birthright: As if he should say, that shall cast off all those blessed beginnings of God that at present are upon him in order to a new birth; lest they become as Esau: even be rejected afterwards, when they should inherit the blessing.
227. For many there are who in the day of grace and mercy despise those things which are indeed the birthright to heaven, who yet, when the declining day appears, will cry as loud as Esau, "Lord, Lord, open unto us," but then as Isaac would not repent, no more will God the Father, but will say, I have blessed these, yea, and they shall be blessed;
but as for you, "depart from me all ye workers of iniquity," Gen. xxvii. 34; Luke xiii. 25-27.
228. When I had thus considered these scriptures, and found, that thus to understand them, was not against, but according to other scriptures; this still added further to my encouragement and comfort, and also gave a great blow to that objection, to wit, That the Scriptures could not agree in the salvation of my soul. And now remained only the hinder part of the tempest, for the thunder was gone beyond me, only some drops did still remain, that now and then would fall upon me: but because my former frights and anguish were very sore and deep, therefore it oft befell me still, as it befalleth those that have been scared with fire. I thought every voice was fire! fire! every little touch would hurt my tender conscience.
229. But one day, as I was passing into the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience, fearing lest yet all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, Thy righteousness is in heaven. And methought withal I saw, with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God's right hand; there, I say, was my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, He wants my righteousness, for that was just before him. I also saw. moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, "the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever," Heb. xiii. 8.
230. Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed; I was loosened from my afflictions and irons; my temptations also fled away; so that from that time those dreadful scriptures of God left off to trouble me: now went I also home rejoicing, for the grace and love of God; so when I came home, I looked to see if I could find that sentence, Thy righteousness is in heaven, but could not find such a saying; wherefore my heart began to sink again, only that was brought to my remembrance, "who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption," 1 Cor. L 30; by this word I saw the other sentence true.
231. For by this scripture I saw that the man Christ Jesus, as he is distinct from us, as touching his bodily presence, so he is our righteousness and sanctification before God. Here, therefore, I lived for some time very sweetly at peace with God through Christ; Oh! methought, Christ! Christ! there was nothing but Christ that was before my eyes: I was not now only for looking upon this and the other benefits of Christ apart, as if his blood, burial, or resurrection, but considering him as a whole Christ! as he in whom all these, and all other his virtues, relations, offices, and operations met together, and that he sat on the right hand of God in heaven.
232. 'Twas glorious to me to see his exaltation, and the worth and prevalency of all his benefits, and that because now I could look from myself to him, and would reckon that all those graces of God, that now were green on me, were yet like those cracked groats and lourpence-halfpennies that rich men carry in their purses, when their gold is in their trunks at home: Oh! I saw my gold was in my trunk at home. In Christ my Lord and Saviour. Now Christ was all; all my righteousness, all my sanctification, and all my redemption.
233. Further, the Lord did also lead me into the mystery of union with the Son of God; that I was joined to him, that I was flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone: and now was that a sweet word to me in Ephes. v. 30. By this also was my faith in him, as my righteousness, the more confirmed in me; for if- he and I were one, then his righteousness was mine, his merits mine, hia victory also mine. Now could I see myself in heaven and earth at once: In heaven by my Christ, by my Head, by my righteousness and life, though on earth by body or person.
234. Now I saw Christ Jesus was looked upon of God, and should also be looked upon by us, as that common or public person, in whom all the whole body of his elect are always to be considered and reckoned; that we fulfilled the law by him, died by him, rose from the dead by him, got the victory over sin, death, the devil, and hell, by him when he died, we died, and so of his resurrection, "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise," saith he, Isa. xxvi. 19. And again, "After two days will he revive us; in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight," Hosea vi. 2. Which is now fulfilled by the sitting down of the Son of man on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, according to that to the Ephesians, he " hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus," Eph. ii. 6.
235. Ah! these blessed considerations and scriptures, with many others of like nature, were in those days made to spangle in mine eye, so that I have cause to say, "Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in the firmament of his power; praise him for his mighty acts; praise him according to his excellent goodness," Psalm cL 1, 2.
236. Having thus in few words given you a taste of the sorrow and affliction my soul went under, by the guilt and terror that these my wicked thoughts did lay me under; and having given you also a touch of my deliverance therefrom, and of the sweet and blessed comfort that I met with afterwards, which comfort dwelt about a twelvemonth with my heart, to my unspeakable admiration; I will now, God willing, before I proceed any farther, give you, in a word or two, what, as I conceive, was the cause of this temptation; and also after that, what advantage, at the last, it became unto my soul.
237. For the causes, I conceived they were principally two: of which two also I was deeply convinced all the time this trouble lay upon me. The first was, for that I did not, when I was delivered from the temptation that went before, still pray to God to keep me from the temptations that were to come; for though, as I can say in truth, my soul was much in prayer before this trial seized me, yet then I prayed only, or at the most principally, for the removal of present troubles, and for fresh discoveries of his love in Christ, which I saw afterwards was not enough to do; I also should have prayed that the great God would keep me from the evil that was to come.
238. Of this I was made deeply sensible by the prayer of holy David, who, when he was under present mercy, yet prayed that God would hold him back from sin and temptation to come; "Then," saith he, "shall 1 be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression," Psalm xix. 13. By this very word was 1 galled and condemned quite through this long temptation.
239. That was also another word that did much condemn me for my folly, in the neglect of this duty, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need," Heb. iv. 16. This I had not done, and therefore was thus suffered to sin and fall, according to what is written, "Pray that ye enter not into temptation," Matt. xxiv. 41. And truly this very thing is to this day of such weight and awe upon me that I dare not, when I come before the Lord, go off my knees until I entreat him for help and mercy against the temptations that are to come; and I do beseech thee, reader, that thou learn to beware of my negligence, by the afflictions that for this thing I did for days, and months, and years, with sorrow undergo. •
240. Another cause of this temptation was, that I had tempted God: and on this manner did I do it: Upon a time my wife was great with child, aud before her full time was come, her pangs, as of a woman in travail, were fierce and strong upon her, even as she would have immediately fallen into labour, and been delivered of an untimely birth: now at this very time it was that I had been so strongly tempted to question the being of God; wherefore, as my wife lay crying by me, I said, but with all secrecy imaginable, even thinking in my heart, Lord, if now thou wilt remove this sad affliction from my wife, and cause that she be troubled no more therewith this night, and now were her pangs just upon her, then I shall know that thou canst discern the most secret thoughts of the heart.
241. I had no sooner said it in my heart, but her pangs were taken from her, and she was cast into a deep sleep, and so continued till morning: at this I greatly marvelled, not knowing what to think; but after I had been awake a good while, and heard her cry no more: I fell asleep also; so when I awaked in the morning, it came upon me again, even what I had said in my heart the last night, and how the Lord had showed me that he knew my secret thoughts, which was a great astonishment unto me for several weeks after.
242. Well, about a year and a half afterwards, that wicked sinful thought, of which I have spoken before, went through my wicked heart, even this thought, Let Christ go if he will; so when I was fallen under guilt for this, the remembrance of my other thought, and of the effect thereof, would also come upon me with this retort, which also carried rebuke along with it, Now you may see that God doth know the most secret thoughts of the heart.
243. And with this, that of the passages that were betwixt the Lord and his servant Gideon, fell upon my spirit: now because that Gideon tempted God with his fleece, both wet and dry, when he should have believed and ventured upon his words; therefore the Lord did afterwards so try him as to send him against an innumerable company of enemies, and that too, as to outward appearance, without any strength or help, Judges vi., vii. Thus he served me, and that justly, for I should have believed his word, and not have put an If upon the all-seeingness of God.
244. And now to show you something of the advantages that I also have gained by this temptation; and first, by this I was made continually to possess in my soul a very wonderful sense both of the blessing and glory of God, and of his beloved Son. In the temptation that went before, my soul was perplexed with unbelief, blasphemy, hardness of heart, questions about the being of God, Christ the truth of the Word, and certainty of the world to come. I say, then I was greatly assaulted and tormented with atheism, but now the case was otherwise: now was God and Christ continually before my face, though not in a way of comfort, but in a way of exceeding dread and terror. The glory of the holiness of God did at this time break me to pieces, and the bowels of compassion of Christ did break me as on the wheel; for I could not consider him but as a lost and rejected Christ, the remembrance of which was as the continual breaking of my bones.
245. The Scriptures also were wonderful things unto me; I saw that the truth and verity of them were the keys of the kingdom of heaven: those that the Scriptures favour, they must inherit bliss; but those that they oppose and condemn imist perish for evermore. Oh, this word, "for the Scriptures cannot be broken," would rend the caul of my heart; and so would that other, "whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained!" John xx. 23. Now I saw the apostles to be the elders of the city of refuge, Joshua xx. 4. Those that they were to receive in were received to life; but those that they shut out were to be slain by the avenger of blood.
246. Oh! one sentence of the Scripture did more afflict and terrify my mind, I mean those sentences that stood against me, as sometimes I thought they every one did, more, I say, than an army of forty thousand men that might come against me. Woe be to him against whom the Scriptures bend tneni
247. By this temptation I was made to see more into the nature of the promises than ever I had before; for I lying now trembling under the mighty hand of God, continually torn and rent by the thundering of his justice; this made me with careful heart, and watchful eye, with great fearfulness to turn over every leaf, and with much diligence, mixed with trembling, to consider every sentence, together with its natural force and latitude.
248. By this temptation also I was greatly holden off from my former foolish practice of putting by the word of promise when it came into my mind; for now, though I could not suck that comfort and sweetness from the promise as I had done at other
- times, yet, like to a man sinking, I would catch at all I saw: formerly I thought I might not meddle with the promise unless I felt its comfort, but now 'twas no time thus to do, the avenger of blood too hardly did pursue me.
249. Now therefore was I glad to catch at that word which yet I feared I had no ground or right to own, and even to leap into the bosom of that promise that yet I feared did shut his heart against me. Now also I would labour to take the words as God hath laid it down, without restraining the natural force of one syllable thereof. Oh what did I see in that blessed 6th chapter of St. John! "And him that coineth to me I will in no wise cast out," verse 37. Now I began to consider with myself that God hath a bigger mouth to speak with than I had a heart to conceive with. I thought also with myself that he spake not his words in haste, or in an unadvised heat, but with infinite wisdom and judgment, and in very truth and faithfulness, 2 Sam. iii. 18.
250. I would in these days, often in my greatest agonies, even flounce towards the promise, as the horses do towards sound ground that yet stick in the mire, concluding, though as one almost bereft of his wits through fear, on this will I rest and stay, and leave the fulfilling of it to the God of heaven that made it. Oh! many a pull hath my heart had with Satan for that blessed 6th chapter of St. John. I did not now, as at other times, look principally for comfort, though, oh how welcome would it have been unto me! but now a word, a word to lean a weary soul upon, that it might not sink for ever—'twas that I hunted for.
251. Yea, often when I have been making to the promise, I have seen as if the Lord would refuse my soul for ever; I was often as if I had run upon the pikes, and as if the Lord had thrust at me to keep me from him as with a flaming sword. Then would I think of Esther, who went to petition the king contrary to the law, Esther iv. 16. I thought also of Benhadad's servants, who went with ropes under their heads to their enemies for mercy, 1 Kings xx. 31. The woman of Caanan also, that would not be daunted though called dog by Christ, Matt. xv. 22-28; and the man that went to borrow bread at midnight, Luke ii. 5-8, were also great encouragements unto me.
252. I never saw those heights and depths in grace, and love, and mercy, as I saw after this temptation; great sins to draw out great grace; and where guilt is most terrible and fierce there the mercy of God in Christ, when showed to the soul, appears most high and mighty. When Job had passed through his captivity he had "twice as much as he had before," Job xlii. 10. Blessed be God for Jesus Christ our Lord. Many other things I might here make observation of, but I would be brief, and therefore shall at this time omit them; and do pray God that my harms may make others fear to offend, lest they also be made to bear the iron yoke as I did. I had two or three times, at or about my deliverance from this temptation, such strange apprehensions of the grace of God that I could hardly bear up under it, it was so out of measure amazing, when I thought it could reach me, that I do think if that sense of it had abode long upon me it would have made me incapable for business.
253. Now I shall go forward to give you a relation of other of the Lord's dealings with me at sundry other seasons, and of the temptations I then did meet withal. I shall begin with what I met with when first I did join in fellowship with the people of God in Bedford. After I had propounded to the church that my desire was to walk in the order and ordinances of Christ with them, and was also admitted by them, while I thought of that blessed ordinance of Christ, which was his last supper with his disciples before his death, that scripture, "This do in remembrance of me," Luke xxii. 19, was made a very precious word unto me; for by it the Lord did come down upon my conscience with the discovery of his death for my sins, and, as I then felt, did as if he plunged me in the virtue of the same. But, behold, I had not been long a partaker at that ordinance, but such fierce and sad temptation did attend me at all times therein both to blaspheme the ordinance and to wish some deadly thing to those that then did eat thereof; that, lest I should at any time be guilty of consenting- to these wicked and fearful thoughts, I was forced to bend myself all the while, to pray to God to keep me from such blasphemies, and also to cry to God to bless the cup and bread to them, as it were from mouth to mouth. The reason of this temptation, I have thought since, was because I did not with that reverence that became me at first approach to partake thereof.
254. Thus I continued for three quarters of a year, and could never have rest nor ease: But at the last the Lord came in upon my soul with that same scripture by which my soul was visited before: And after that I have been usually very well and comfortable in the partaking of that blessed ordinance, and have, I trust, therein discerned the Lord's body as broken for my sins, and that his precious blood hath been shed for my transgressions.
255. Upon a time I was something inclining to a consumption, wherewith about the spring I was suddenly and violently seized, with much weakness in my outward man; insomuch that I thought I could not live. Now began I afresh to give myself up to a serious examination after my state and condition for the future, and of my evidences for that blessed world to come: For it hath, I bless the name of God, been my usual course, as always, so especially in the day of affliction, to endeavour to keep my interest in the life to come clear before mine eyes.
256. But I had no sooner began to recal to mind my former experience of the goodness of God to my soul, but there came flocking into my mind an innumerable company of my sins and transgressions; amongst which these were at this time most to my affliction, namely, my deadness, dullness, and coldness in my holy duties; my wanderings of heart, of my wearisomeness in all good things, my want of love to God, his ways and people, with this at the end of all, Are these the fruits of Christianity? Are these tokens of a blessed man.
257. At the apprehensions of these things my sickness was doubled upon me, for now I was sick in my inward man, my soul was clogged with guilt; now also was my former experience of God's goodness to me quite taken out of my mind, and hid as if they had never been, or seen: Now was my soul greatly pitched between these two considerations, Live I must not, Die I dare not. Now I sunk and fell in my spirit, and was giving up all for lost; but as I was walking up and down in the house, as a man in a most woeful state, that word of God took hold of my heart, Ye are "justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," Rom. iii. 24. But, oh what a turn is made upon me!
258. Now was I as one awakened out of some troublesome sleep and dream; and listening to this heavenly sentence, I was as if I had heard it thus spoken to me: Sinner, thou thinkest that because of thy sins and infirmities I cannot save thy soul; but behold my Son is by me, and upon him I look, and not on thee, and shall deal with thee according as I am pleased with him. At this I was greatly enlightened in my mind, and made to understand that God could justify a sinner at any time; it was but his looking upon Christ, and imputing of his benefits to us, and the word was forthwith done.
259. And as I was thus in a muse, that scripture also came with great power upon my spirit, Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his mercy he hath saved us, &c, 2 Tim.
i. 9; Tit. iii. 5. Now was I got on high, I saw myself within the arms of grace and mercy, and though I was before afraid to think of a dying hour, yet now I cried, Let me die: Now death was lovely and beautiful in my sight, for I saw we shall never live indeed till we be gone to the other world. Oh! methought this life is but a slumber, in comparison with that above. At this time also I saw more in these words, "Hen•s of God," Rom. viii. 17, than ever I shall be able to express while I live in this world: "Heirs of God!" God himself is the portion of the saints. This I saw and wondered at, but cannot tell you what I saw.
260. Again, as I was at another time very ill and weak, all that time also the tempter did beset me strongly, for I find he is much for assaulting the soul; when it begins to approach towards the grave, then is his opportunity, labouring to hide from me my former experience of God's goodness: also setting before me the terrors of death, and the judgment of God, insomuch that at this time, through my fear of miscarrying for ever, should I now die, I was as one dead before death came, and was as if I had felt myself already descending into the pit; methought I said, there was no way, but to hell I must: But behold, just as I was in the midst of those fears, those words of the angel carrying Lazarus into Abraham's bosom darted in upon me, as who should say, So it shall be with thee when thou dost leave this world. This did sweetly revive my spirits, and help me to hope in God; which, when I had with comfort mused on awhile, that word fell with great weight upon my mind, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" 1 Cor. xv. 55. At this I became both well in body and mind at once, for my sickness did presently vanish, and I walked comfortably in my work for God again.
261. At another time, though just before I was pretty well savouring in my spirit, yet suddenly there fell upon me a great cloud of darkness, which did so hide from me the things of God and Christ, that I was as if I had never seen or known them in my life: I was also so overrun in my soul with a senseless, heartless frame of spirit, that I could not feel my soul to move or stir after grace and life by Christ; I was as if my loins were broken, or as if my hands and feet had been tied or bound with chains. At this time also I felt some weakness to seize upon my outward man, which made still the other affliction the more heavy and uncomfortable to me.
262. After I had been in this condition some three or four days, as I was sitting by the fire, I suddenly felt this word to sound in my heart, I must go to Jesus. At this my former darkness and atheism fled away, and the blessed things of heaven were set in my view. While I was on this sudden thus overtaken with surprise, Wife, said I, is there ever such a scripture, I must go to Jesus 1 She said she could not tell: therefore I stood musing still, to see if I could remember such a place; I had not sat above two or three minutes, but that came bolting in upon me, "And to an innumerable company of angels;" and withal the 12th chapter of Hebrews, about the mount Sion, was set before mine eyes, verse 22.
263. Then with joy I told my wife, Oh now I know, I know! But that night was a good night to me, I have had but few better; I longed for the company of some of God's people, that I might have imparted unto them what God had showed me. Christ was a precious Christ to my soul that night; I could scarce lie in my bed for joy, and peace, and triumph, through Christ. - This, great glory did not continue upon me until morning, yet the 12th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, verse 22, was a blessed scripture to me for many days together after this.
264. The words are these, "Ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel," Heb. xii. 22-24. Through this sentence the Lord led me over and over, first to this word, and then to that, and shewed me wonderful glory in every one of them. These words also have oft since that time been great refreshment to my spirit. Blessed be God for having mercy on me!