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  • GRACE ABOUNDING TO THE CHIEF OF SINNERS - SECTION 6
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    150. And now began I to labour to call again 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 have been torn in pieces, than found a consenter thereto. But alas! these thoughts, and wishings, and resolvings, were now too late to help me; the 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 29.2).

    151. Then again, being loath and unwilling to perish, I began to compare my sin with others, to see if I could find that any of those that 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 the gospel, yea, against the Mediator thereof; I had 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 (Ps. 19.13)? Must that wicked one touch my soul (1 John 5.18)? Oh, what stings 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? Must it needs be 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 could not tell what to do; I thought, at times, they would have broke my wits; and still, to aggravate my misery, that would run in my mind, 'Ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected.' Oh! none knows the terrors of those days but myself.

    154. After this I came 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, and that after light and mercy received; yea, and that too, after warning given him. I also considered, that he did it both 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 to 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 discern the preservation of God towards others, while I fell into the snare; for in my thus considering of other men's sins, and comparing of them with my own, I could evidently see how God preserved them, notwithstanding their wickedness, and would not let them, as he had let me, to 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, I was gone, I had done it; 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 spake of God's keeping His people, shine like the sun before me, though not to comfort me, but to show me the blessed state and heritage of those whom the Lord had blessed.

    157. Now I saw, that as God had His hand in all providences and dispensation that overtook His elect, so He had His hand in all the temptations that they had to sin against Him, not to animate them unto wickedness, but to choose their temptations and troubles for them; and also to leave them, for a time, to such sins only as might not destroy, but humble them; as might not put them beyond, but lay them in the way of the renewing of His 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 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, and them whom He makes to abide under the shadow of the Almighty. But all these thoughts added sorrow, grief, and horror to me, as whatever I now thought on, it was killing to me. If I thought how God kept His own, that was killing to me. If I thought of how I was falling 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, again, I began to compare my sin with the sin of Judas, that, if possible, I might find that mine differed from that which, in truth, is unpardonable. And, oh! thought I, if it should differ from it, though but the breadth of an hair, what a happy condition is my soul in! And, by considering, I found that Judas did his intentionally, but mine was against my 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 locusts, and driven from trouble to sorrow; hearing always the sound of Esau's fall in mine ears, and of the dreadful consequences thereof.

    159. Yet this consideration about Judas, his sin, was, for a while, some little relief unto me; for I saw I had not, as to the circumstances, transgressed so foully as he. But this was quickly gone again, for, I thought with myself, there might be more ways than one to commit the unpardonable sin; also I thought that there might be degrees of that, as well as of other transgressions; 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 at the day of judgment; insomuch, that now I could scarce 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. I was much about this time tempted to content myself, by receiving some false opinion; as that there should be no such thing as a day of judgment, that we should not rise again, and that sin was no such 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 your mind with some such conclusions that Atheists and Ranters do 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; methought the judge stood at the door, I was as if it was come already; so that such things could have no entertainment. 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 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, It is too late, I am lost, God hath let me fall; not to my correction, but 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 dolours, as his tears, his prayers, his gnashing of teeth, his wringing of hands, his twining and twisting, 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 a 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 was I struck into a very great trembling, insomuch that at sometimes I could, for whole days together, feel my very body, as well as my mind, to shake and totter under the sense of the dreadful judgment of God, that should fall on those that have sinned that most fearful and unpardonable sin. 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 breast bone would have split in sunder; then I thought of that concerning Judas, who, by his falling headlong, burst asunder, and all his bowels gushed out (Acts 1:18).

    165. I feared also that this was the mark that the Lord did set on Cain, even continued fear and trembling, under the heavy load of guilt that he had charged on him for the blood of his brother Abel. Thus did I wind, and twine, and shrink, under the burden that was upon me; which burden also did so oppress me, that I could neither stand, nor go, nor lie, either at rest or quiet.

    166. Yet that saying would sometimes come to my mind, He hath received gifts for the rebellious (Ps. 68.18). 'The rebellious,' thought I; why, surely they are such as once were under subjection to their prince, even those who, after they have sworn subjection to his government, have taken up arms against him; and this, thought I, is my very condition; once I 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, that some, though small, refreshment might have been conceived by me; but in this also I missed of my desire, I was driven with force beyond it, I was like a man that is going to the place of 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 thus with myself: Set the case I should put all theirs together, and mine alone against them, might I not then find some encouragement? For if mine, though bigger than any one, yet should but be equal to all, then there is hopes; for that blood that hath virtue enough in it to wash away all theirs, hath also virtue enough in it to do away mine, though this one be full as big, if no bigger, than all theirs. Here, again, I should 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: but, alas! it was all in vain.

    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 continuance and 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 now remained no more sacrifice for sin.

    171. I would then add to those 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, was a wizard, 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, I thought, are great sins, sins of a bloody colour; yea, 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, nor all of them together, was able to equal mine; mine outwent them every one.

    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. 10.31). But blessed be His grace, that scripture, in these flying sins, 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. 44.22). This, I say, would come in upon my mind, when I was fleeing from the face of God; for I did flee from His face, 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, 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 return, but fled, though at sometimes it cried 'Return, return', as if it did holloa 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 how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected', etc.

    174. Once as I was walking to and fro in a good man's shop, bemoaning of myself in my sad and doleful state, afflicting myself with self- abhorrence for this wicked and ungodly thought; lamenting, also, this hard hap of mine, for that I should commit so great a sin; greatly fearing I would not be pardoned; praying, also, in my heart, that if this sin of mine did differ from that against the Holy Ghost, the Lord would show 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 ever refuse to be justified by the blood of Christ? And withal my whole life and profession past was, in a moment, opened 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. 12.25). 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 before did use, like masterless hell- hounds, to roar and bellow, and make a hideous noise within me. It showed 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 chide for my proneness to desperation; a kind of a threatening 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 knew not; from whence it came I knew not. I have not yet, in twenty years' time, been able to make a judgment of it; I thought then what here I shall 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 showed me, as I thought, what the sin unpardonable was, and that my soul had yet the blessed privilege to flee to Jesus for mercy. But, I say, concerning this dispensation, I know not what yet to say unto it; 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 show itself, though I cannot now relate the matter as there I did experience it. This lasted, in the savour 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! it was hard for me now to bear the face to pray to this Christ for mercy, against whom I had thus most vilely sinned; it was hard work, I say, to offer to look Him in the face against whom I 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 a-going to pray to Him for mercy that I had so lightly esteemed but a while before! I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because this villainy had been committed by me; but I saw 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 show 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 prayer came with acceptance to God the Father, and without whom no prayer could come into His presence. Wherefore, now to pray is but to add sin to sin; yea, 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, God did bar them out from thence, though they prayed they might, with tears (Num. 14.36, 37, etc.).

    178. As it is said in another place (Exod. 21.14), 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 2.28, etc.). These places did pinch me very sore; yet, my case being desperate, I thought with myself I can but die; and if it must be so, it shall once be said, that such an one died at the foot of Christ in prayer. This I did, but with great difficulty, God doth know; and that because, together with this, 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 taste thereof and live. Oh! who knows how hard a thing I found it to come to God in prayer.

    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 had said those words to them that He once did say to the prophet concerning the children of Israel, 'Pray thou not for this people,' for I have rejected them (Jer. 11.14). 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?

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