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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 the 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 His 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 it was 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. This was to persuade Him that what He had done already was mere folly, and persuade with Him to alter, yea, to disannul, the whole way of salvation; 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 4.12).
183. Now the most free, and full, and gracious words of the gospel were the greatest torment to me; yea, nothing so afflicted me as the thoughts of Jesus Christ, the remembrance of a Saviour; because I had cast Him off, brought forth the villainy of my sin, and my loss by it to mind; nothing did twinge my conscience like this. Every time 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; aye, this is the Jesus, the loving Saviour, the Son of God, whom thou hast parted with, whom you 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 away 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 you yourself be no partaker of it. Oh, thought I, what have I lost! What have I parted with! What have I disinherited my poor soul of! Oh! it is sad to be destroyed by the grace and mercy of God; to have the Lamb, the Saviour, turn lion and destroyer (Rev. 6). 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 carriages, 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. 16.4).
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 those that were laid to His charge when He hanged on the 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 to others, even as ridiculous as they were in themselves, but to me they were most tormenting cogitations; every of them augmented my misery, that Jesus Christ should have so much love as to pity me when He could not help me; 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 them already, but because His faithfulness to His threatening 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 assuredly, 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 that 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 would so confound me, and imprison me, and tie me up from faith, that I knew not what to do; but, oh! I thought, 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 amongst 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. 6.9).
186. Thus, by the strange and unusual assaults of the tempter, was my soul, 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 but as those that justle against the rocks; more broken, scattered, and rent. Oh, the unthought of imaginations, frights, fears, and terrors that are affected by a thorough application of guilt, yielded 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 5. 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 shall fall 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 then I 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 to 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; methought that they all combined together to banish me out of the world; I was abhorred of them, and unfit to dwell among them, or be partaker of their benefits, because I had sinned against the Saviour. O how happy, now, was every creature over what I was; for they stood fast and kept their station, but I was gone and lost.
188. Then breaking out in 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 a grave, and cried out again, Lord, how couldest Thou find out such a word as this? for I was filled with admiration at the fitness, and, also, at the unexpectedness of the sentence, the fitness of the word, the rightness of the timing of it, the power, and sweetness, and light, and glory that came with it, 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, etc., 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 the sin unto death (1 John 5.16, 17). None but those that know what my trouble, by their own experience, was, can tell what relief came to my soul by this consideration; it was a release to me from my former bonds, and a shelter from my former storm. 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 longer retain this word.
190. But the next day, at evening, being under 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, show me that thou hast loved me with everlasting love (Jer. 31.3). I had no sooner said it 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 at 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 an 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 to lightning. I should be sometimes up and down twenty times in an hour, yet God did bear me up and keep my heart upon this world, 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, and that with great shame and astonishment, that I had horribly 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 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 in 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, 0 Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared' (Ps. 130.3, 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 then I 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 transgressions.
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 mouth any more because of their shame, when I am pacified towards them for all that they have done, saith the Lord God' (Ezek. 16.63). Thus was my soul at this time, and, as I then did think, for ever, set at liberty from being again afflicted with my former guilt and amazement.
195. But before many weeks were over I began to despond again, fearing lest, notwithstanding all that I had enjoyed, that yet 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 10.35).
196. Now began my heart again to ache and fear I might meet with disappointment at the last, wherefore I began, with all seriousness, to examine my former comfort, and to consider whether one that had sinned as I have done, might with confidence trust upon the faithfulness of God, laid down in those words by which I had been comforted and on which I had leaned myself. But now were brought those 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. 6.4-6). '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. 10.26, 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. 12.16, 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, O Israel, for joy as other people' (Hos. 9.1). 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, amongst 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 an 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, though it could make some shift to scrabble and spraul 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. 10.14). And indeed I found it was so; for I could not be delivered, nor brought to peace again, until well-nigh two years and an half were completely finished. Wherefore these words, though in themselves they tended to discouragement, yet to me, who feared this condition would be eternal, they were at sometimes as an 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 recall myself sometimes, and give myself a help, for as soon as ever the words 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 the eighteeneth of Luke, 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 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 woman, great is thy faith' (Matt. 15.28), 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, crying, Is His mercy clean gone? Is His mercy clean gone for ever? And I thought sometimes, even when I was groaning in these expressions, they did seem to make a question whether it was or no; yet I greatly feared it was.
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 hopes 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? Doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?' (Ps. 77.7-9). And all the while they run in my mind, methought I had this still as the answer, It is a question whether He had 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 had not forgotten to be gracious, nor would in anger shut up His 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 made me conclude that His mercy might not be quite gone, nor clean gone for ever.
203. At another time, I remember I was again much under the 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, these words did sound suddenly within my heart, He is able. But methought this word scaps able was spoke so loud unto me; it showed such a great word, it seemed to be writ in great letters, and gave such a justle 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 that (Heb. 7.25).
204. But one morning, when 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.' At 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 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 trouble.
206. Therefore I still did pray to God, that He would come in with this 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, I gathered; but farther 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, as 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 so soon as that powerful operation of it was taken off 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 some times, my torment would be very sore, for all those scriptures forenamed in the Hebrews, would be set before me, as the only sentences that would keep me out of heaven. Then, again, I should begin to repent that ever that thought went through me, I should 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 of them? Sometimes, again, I should think, Oh! if it were not for these three or four words, now how I might be comforted? And I could hardly forbear, at some times, but 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 said unto me, All our words are truth, one of as much force as another. 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. 6). And 'it had been better for them not to have known' the will of God, 'than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them' (II Pet. 2.21). 'For the Scriptures cannot be broken.'