CHAP. 16.

Two other Helps for the Coring of the former Malady.

CONSIDER that some graces are more substantial in themselves, more profitable to us, and of greater necessity for salvation; as faith, repentance, love, new obedience active and passive, self-denial, vileness in our own eyes, humble walking with God, &c. Others are not so, or absolutely, necessary, but accompany a saving state an separable accidents; as joy and peace in believing, sensible comfort in the Holy Ghost, comfortable feelings of God's favour, rejoicing in hope, a lively freedom in prayer, assurance of evidence, &c. And from hence mayest thou take comfort in two respects:-1. Desertion deprives thee only of these comfortable accessories; but thou art still possessed of the principal, of the substantials of salvation; of which not the utmost concurrence of all hellish and earthly rage can possibly rob thee; and therefore thou art well enough in the meantime, and as safe as safety itself can make thee.

[[358]] 2. Loss of these less principal graces (which by accident is a singular advantage and gain) drives thee nearer unto Jesus Christ, at least by many unutterable groans, every one whereof is a strong cry in the ears of God, and causeth thee better to prize and ply, to exercise and improve more fruitfully those other more necessary graces without which thou canst not be saved. It is a wise and honest passage in Mrs. Juxon's monument: “She continued faithful to the end in the most substantial graces. For howsoever she mourned for the want of that degree of joy which she had felt in former times, yet she continued in repentance, in the practice of holiness and righteousness, in a tender love of God and to his word and children, in holy zeal and fruitfulness even to the last period of her days. And indeed her want of full joy was so sanctified unto her, that it was a furtherance to a better grace, namely, to repentance and self-denial, and base esteem of herself. And I call repentance a better grace than joy. because howsoever joy is a most excellent gift of the Spirit, yet unto us repentance is more profitable. For I make no question but that a mourning Christian may be saved without ravishing joy, and that Christ may wipe away his tears in heaven; but no Christian shall be saved without repentance and self-denial.” For instance, the darkness of our spirits in spiritual desertions sets our faith on work extraordinarily. In such a case it hath recourse with more love and longing to all the fountains of life, the person and passion of Christ, all the promises, God's free grace, his sweet name, and surveys them more seriously, searches and sounds them to the bottom, that by some means at least it may subsist and hold up the head in such an evil time, and amongst so many terrors and boisterous tempests. It is now put to the improvement of the very utmost of all its heavenly vigour and valour; and enforced to put forth its highest and most heroical act, even to cleave fast to the sure word of God against all sense and feeling, against all terrors, tricks of Satan, and temptations to the contrary. And by this extraordinary exercise and wrestling, it is notably strengthened and steeled for the time to come. For as sloth, idleness, and want of exercise doth much emasculate and make our bodies more inactive and unable, but hardship, agitation, and employment, doth much quicken and fortify them; so it is in the present point, without oppositions and assault, faith languisheth and lies hid; but when storms and spiritual troubles are abroad, it stirs up itself, gathers its strength and forces together, casts about for subsidiary assistance by prayer, ministerial counsel, meditation upon special promises for the purpose, [[359]] experimental recounting former deliverances, mercies, and favours upon ourselves and others, and so becomes far more excellent and victorious for future encounters. It furthers also repentance, in respect of,—First, Sight of sins. For through the glass of spiritual affliction we see more of them, and see them to be more monstrously vile. The clouds of inward trouble especially, unite as it were, and collect the sight of our souls, and so represent our sins more to the life and in their true colours; whereas the glistering of prosperity is wont to disperse and dazzle it. Secondly, Of sense. We are then more apprehensive of divine wrath and weight of sin, when we are terrified but with a taste of those immeasurable seas of bitterness and terror which it infinitely merits at the hands of God. Thirdly, Of hatred and opposition. We then grow into a more hearty loathing of that sweet meat which we are too apt to tumble into our mouth and Ale under our tongue, when we feel it accompanied with such sour sauce, and turned into gall and gravel within us. We shall afterwards be far more watchful, and afraid to give entertainment or warmth in our bosoms to those vipers which have so bitten and stung us. It makes self-denial more resolute and thorough; for the dearest and most desirable things of this life, compared with Christ, were never viler dung in our esteem than at such a time. We then find that most true, that though all the stars shine never so bright, yet it is still night because the sun is gone. But the alone presence of that prince of light creates a comfortable and glorious day, though never a star appear. So let us enjoy the Lord Jesus, and no matter though all the creatures in the world be turned into bears or devils about us: but if he withdraw himself, and the light of his countenance set out of our sight, the confluence of all the comforts the whole creation can afford will do us no good at all. It quickeneth notably our new obedience; in respect of, — First, Holiness towards God, and reverent heavenly behaviour about the first table. A general taste and trial whereof we may take, by comparing mariners in a storm with those arrived in a haven; prisons with theatres; burials with banquets; beds of sickness and expectation of death with strength of youth and prosperous health; and, which is punctual for my purpose, fits of temptation with times of spiritual welfare. For as in the one state we may observe too much presumption and putting far from us the evil day, forgetfulness of God, security and sloth; so in the other, trouble, danger, and distress, much alter the case. We shall then see them bitterly bewailing their former sins, trembling in the dust, seeking early God's face [[360]] and favour, falling to prayer, vowing better obedience, and promising upon deliverance much holiness and a happy change. What mighty groans of spirit proceed from the deserted in such a case, which are the strongest prayers, though in that agony they falsely complain that they cannot pray! How greedy are they of godly conference, counsel, and comfort out of the word, days of humiliation, of the most searching sermons, godliest company, presence and prayers of the precisest ministers! How fearful are they to hear any worldly talk upon the Lord's day! How sensible of the least sin, any dishonour of God, and all appearance of evil! In a word, how busy are they about that one necessary thing! Secondly, Of compassionateness towards others. Self-sufferings soften men's hearts towards their brethren: personal miseries make them pitiful and painful to afford all possible help in times of distress. Experience of our own weaknesses, wants, danger to sink under the waves of God's wrath, and disability to subsist by ourselves, begets a sweet mildness and gentle behaviour towards our neighbours, whose assistance, visitation, and prayers we now see we stand in need of in extremities and evil times. Prosperity is apt of itself to beget scornfulness, insolency, self-confidence, and contempt of others; but God's hand upon us, especially in afflictions of soul, teacheth us another lesson; to wit, how frail, weak, and unworthy we are. Thirdly, Of self-knowledge. In times of peace and calmness, looking through the false spectacles of self-love and conceitedness, we are ready to over-estimate and out-prize our gifts, to mistake shadows for substances, smallest mites of virtue for richest talents, the infant beginnings of grace for tallness in Christ. But remove these deceiving glasses, and let the touchstone of some sorer trial represent ourselves unto ourselves, and we shall more clearly see our spiritual abilities in their true nature and proportion. Then all unsound semblances of self-conceited sufficiencies and former flourishes of unhumble assurance, which, like gilded papers or posts, showing gloriously in the sunshine, and seeming pure gold in outward appearance, will vanish quite away and come to nothing in the fire of spiritual affliction. Then the weakness of our too much vaunted of Christian valour will be discovered unto us, and acknowledged by us, when we are put to wrestle with the wrath of God, and left to the horror of some hideous temptation.

4. Hear Mr. Hooker, a man of great learning and very sound in this point: I vary some words, but keep the sense entire. “Happier a great deal is that man's case whose soul by inward desolation is humbled, than he whose heart [[361]] is through abundance of spiritual delight, lifted up and exalted above measure. Better is it sometimes to go down into the pit with him, who, beholding darkness and bewailing the loss of inward joy and consolation, crieth from the bottom of the lowest hell, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!” than continually to walk arm in arm with angels; to sit, as it were, in Abraham's bosom; and to have no thought or cogitation, but of peace and blessing himself in the singularity of assurance above other men; to say, I desire no other bliss, but only duration of my present comfortable feelings and fruition of God, I want nothing but even thrusting into heaven, and the like. For in the height of spiritual ravishments thou art in great hazard of being exalted above measure, and so may be justly exposed to a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet thee, which is a very heavy case. But now on the other side, the lowest degree of humiliation under God's mighty hand is the nearest step to rising and extraordinary exultation of spirit. The extremist darkness of spiritual desertion is wont to go immediately before the glorious sun-rise of heavenly light, and unutterable light-someness in the soul. David securely pleasing and applauding himself in his present stability and strong conceit of the continuance of his peace, brake out thus: “I shall never be moved. Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong” (Psalm xxxvi, 7). But he was quickly thrown down from the top of his supposed immoveable hill; taken off from the height of his confidence, and lay trembling in the dust. “Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.” But now that sweetest rapture of incredible joy (for so he spake, “The joy which I feel in my conscience is incredible “) did arise in Mr Peacock's heart when he was newly come as it were out of the mouth of hell. Mrs. Brettergh's wonderful rejoicing followed immediately upon her return out of a “roaring wilderness,” as she called it. What large effusions of the Spirit and overflowing rivers of heavenly peace were plentifully showered down upon Robert Glover's troubled spirit, after the heaviest night, in all likelihood, that ever lie had in this world, by reason of a grievous desertion!