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  • GRACE ABOUNDING TO THE CHIEF OF SINNERS - SECTION 8
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    210. These, as 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 they would shut me out for ever (Josh. 20.3, 4).

    211. Thus was I confounded, not knowing what to do, nor 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 diverse frames of spirit, and considering that these frames were still according to the nature of the 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 would meet in my heart at once, I would 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 strangely 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 home upon me, 'Mercy rejoiceth against judgment' (Jas. 2.13).

    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 (II Cor. 3.8-12; Mark 9.5- 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 6.37). Oh, the comfort that I have had from this word, 'in no wise'! as who should say, by no means, for no thing, 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 should answer him again, Satan, here is in this word no such exception; but 'him that comes', scaps 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 sleights 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 to 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 did we make! 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 got the better of him, I got some sweetness from it.

    216. But notwithstanding all these helps and blessed words of grace, yet 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. 13.5). O Lord, said I, but I have left Thee. Then it answered again, 'But I will not leave thee.' For this I thank God also.

    217. Yet I was grievously afraid He should, and found it exceedingly 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 upon His grace. I see 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. 50.15-17).

    218. But above all the scriptures that I yet did meet with, that in the twentieth of Joshua 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 hand, 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, that I felt with great terror; only now it remained that I inquire whether I have 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 unawares shed blood; not 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 Him not aforetime; no, I prayed unto Him, was tender of sinning against Him; yea, and against this wicked temptation I had strove for a twelvemonth before; yea, and also when it did pass through my heart, it did in spite of my teeth: wherefore I thought I had 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 did give 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 indeed 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 of the least ground of hope. and so of spiritual comfort; for to such 'there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins' (Heb 10.26). Secondly, Because they are denied a share in the promise of life; they shall never be forgiven, 'neither in this world, neither in that which is to come' (Matt. 12.32). 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 8.38).

    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 into 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 their visage changed; for they looked not so grimly on me as before I thought they did. And, first, I came to the sixth 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 an absolute denial of the gospel of remission of sins by Christ; for from them the apostle begins his argument (ver. 1-3). 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 fallen, but not fallen 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 tenth 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 also be done openly, before two or three witnesses, to answer that of the law ( ver. 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 twelfth of the Hebrews, about Esau's selling 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 a hasty thought against the continual labour of his mind, but a thought consented to and put in practice likewise, and that too after some deliberation (Gen. 25). Secondly, it was a public and open action, even before 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 went his way; thus Esau despised his birthright' (ver. 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. 33.9).

    226. Now as touching this, that Esau sought a place of repentance; thus I thought, first, This was not for the birthright, but for 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. 27.36). 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 one morsel of meat sold his birthright'; as if he should say, Lest there be any person amongst you 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 would 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 deciding day appears, will cry as loud as Esau, 'Lord, Lord, open to 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. 27.33; Luke 13.25-27).

    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 scripture 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 did oft befal 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 in 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, is my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was a-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. 13.8).

    230. Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed, I was loosed from my affliction and irons, my temptations had fled away; so that, from that time, those dreadful scriptures of God left off to trouble me now; 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, He 'of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption' by this word I saw the other sentence true (1 Cor. 1.30).

    231. For by this scripture, l 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 only for looking upon this and the other benefits of Christ apart, as of His blood, burial, or resurrection, but considered Him as a whole Christ! As He in whom all these, and all other His virtues, relations, offices, and operations met together, and that as He sat on the right hand of God in heaven.

    232. It was glorious to me to see His exaltation, and the worth and prevalency of all His benefits, and that because of this: now I could look from myself to Him, and should reckon that all those graces of God that now were green in me, were yet but like those cracked groats and fourpence-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 wisdom, 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 Eph. 5.30. By this also was my faith in Him, as my righteousness, the more confirmed to me; for if He and I were one, then His righteousness was mine, His merits mine, His 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 my body or person.

    234. Now I saw Christ Jesus was looked on of God, and should also be looked on 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, 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. 26.19). 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' (Hos. 6.2); 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. 2.6).

    235. Ah, these blessed considerations and scriptures, with many others of a like nature, were in those days made to spangle in mine eyes, 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 greatness' (Ps. 150.1, 2).

    236. Having thus, in few words, given you a taste of the sorrow and affliction that my soul went under, by the guilt and terror that this my wicked thought 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 I also 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 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 I be upright, I shall be innocent from the scaps great transgression' (Ps. 19.13). By this very word was I galled and condemned, quite through this long temptation.

    239. That also was another word that did much condemn me for my folly, in the neglect of this duty (Heb 4.16), 'Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.' This I had not done, and therefore was suffered thus to sin and fall, according to what is written, 'Pray that ye enter not into temptation.' 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 affliction that for this thing I did for days, and months, and years, with sorrow undergo.

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