In these following Experiences there be diverse vows, promises to God, or Resolutions and purposes of my heart, occasioned through the oft experience of my weaknesses in such things, and my great desire of keeping peace and holding communion with God, many of which I have in time observed that I have great need to repent (in some of them) my unadvisedness in making them, considering that they have proved snares to my Conscience, and (in others of them) my wretchedness and sin in not carefully observing them. Mr. Cartwright in his Answer to the Rheims Testament: Acts 5. 4. giveth some directions on this point.
1610 \ [ 1611 \ ] January: After I had much displeased my God by followings idle and vain pastimes, as sitting late up at \ ---, with my unkind omitting my family exercise, I was much unsettled, as there was cause, yet God (when I thought his anger was even hot against me) drew me to repentance and showed me sweet mercy. Wiki Markup
12. But a little after being out of order again through the force of a new temptation, and mine own rebellious wicked heart yielding itself to the slavery of sin, had brought me into the Lords hands again, yet my God, the true natural father of the prodigal, seeing me but have a mind to return, met me in his fatherly love and brought me into his favor notwithstanding all my unkindness.
Another thing which I resolved upon good ground was to leave all my working and inventions of all sorts, especially the doing of such things as required any labor or time, and to content my self with such things as were left by our forefathers, and that for divers reasons as First
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I had prayed oft and earnestly for the mortifying of divers corruptions, and I have certainly found that God hath heard me for some of them, weakening the force of them by means that I never thought of.
Dec: 15. I acknowledge a special providence of God that my wife taking up a mess of porridge, before the children or anybody had eaten of it, she espied therein a great spider.
Finding by much examination that ordinary shootings in a gun, etc: could not stand with a good conscience in my self, as first, for that it is simply prohibited by the law of the land, upon this ground amongst others, that it spoils more of the creatures than it gets; 2 it procures offence unto many; 3 it wastes great store of time; 4 it toils a mans body overmuch; 5 it endangers a mans life, etc; 6 it brings no profit all things considered; 7 it hazards more of a mans estate by the penalty of it, then a man would willingly parte with: 8 it brings a man of worth and godliness into some contempt; lastly for mine own parte I have ever been crossed in using it, for when I have gone about it not without some wounds of conscience, and have taken much pains and hazarded my health, I have gotten sometimes a very little, but most commonly nothing at all towards my cost and labor: Therefore I have resolved and covenanted with the Lord to give over altogether shootings at the creek; - and for killing of birds, etc: either to leave that altogether or else to use it, both very seldom and very secretly. God (if he please) can give me fowl by some other means, but if he will not, yet, in that it is \ [ his \ ] will who loves me, it is sufficient to uphold my resolution. Wiki Markup
That which I promise for my self, I likewise promise for my servants, as far as the former reasons agree to them.
Being further resolved that penal Statutes do bind the person to obedience in these indifferent things, I have proposed not to break the intention of this Law, etc: this further I hold for this matter, that though law cannot bind from the use of the creatures, yet it may limit the manner of taking them.
1611 \ [ 1612 \ ] Jan: 1. Being admonished by a Christian friend that some good men were offended to hear of some gaming which was used in my house by my servants, etc: I resolved that as for my self not to use any carding etc, so for others to repress it as much as I could, during the continuance of my present state, and if God bring me once to be wholly by my self, then to banish all together. Wiki Markup
28. In my sleep I dreamed that I was with Christ upon earth, and that being very instant with him in many tears, for the assurance of the pardon of my sins etc: I was so ravished with his love towards me, far exceeding the affection of the kindest husband that being awaked it had made so deep impression in my heart, as I was forced to unmeasurable weeping for a great while, and had a more lively feeling of the love of Christ than ever before. This followed the same night after I had been visiting Jesus Christ in his faithful servant, old Hudson, to whom as by my presence and help I afforded much comfort so God recompensed me with comfort again. And herein I see great cause to complain of the weakness of my faith that cannot see Christs help as near, now he is in heaven, as it appeared when he was on earth.
When a man leads a life secluded from the common delights of the world, and gives himself to walk wholly with God, he shall hear many saying, He will shorten his days, he will pine himself, he will be overrun with melancholy etc: But surely a man so living, shall do more honor to God, and service to his Church in a very short life, then another (although a true Christian, also) living at more liberty shall do in a much longer time: for the more differing that a mans conversation is from the common course of the world, the more occasion and matter there is of the observation of God's work in him: And since there are so many that in an overmuch respect to their own outward felicity take more liberty in these outward things then standeth with God's will, who shall forbid others (there being so few such) to tender God more fruits of their love and thankfulness, by abridging themselves in the number and measure of such outward comforts as they might lawfully enjoy. But yet I see no ground for such opinions, for besides that God hath numbered our days etc, there are many places in scripture which may make us look that holiness should lengthen our life, and sweeten it, but none to make us fear that it should discomfort or shorten it. O Lord, enable me to live righteously and holy, and I shall not be much careful of living long or happily.
I had been overtaken, and turned out of my course by entertaining the love of pleasures, and worldly cares into my heart, which brought me out of peace with my God, and took away my delight in prayer and other duties, and made me utterly unfit for study in my Calling. In this estate my heart could not be at rest, I could not live so; I humbled myself and sought pardon and peace again, and I oftentimes was well comforted and persuaded of it but it was soon gone again, and I returned back to my former unsettled and voluptuous course, yet restless therein. The Sabbath came, I arose betimes, and read over the covenant of certain Christians set down in Mr. Rogers' book, and therewith my heart began to break, and my worldly delights which had healed my heart in such slavery before, began to be distasteful and of mean account with me; I concluded with prayer in tears; and so to my family exercise, and then to Church, my heart being still somewhat humbled under God's hand, yet could not get at liberty from my vain pleasures: After dinner and our family exercise, I read Mr. Perkins treatise of the estate of a Christian, etc, thereby as my heart grew more humbled, so my affections were more reclaimed. I went to Box \ [ ford \ ] Church in the afternoon where I heard with some affection and found sometimes a comfortable consent in prayer; being returned I went into my chamber to prayer, but being hot and weary with going I was forced to leave. I lay me down upon the bed almost overcome with discontent arising partly of my weariness etc. I could not bring my mind to think seriously of any good things, but it began to wander and be idle, so I arose, and knelt down to pray again, but could not; then I endeavored to pray standing, and so striving with the Lord for help against my weakness. At last he enabled me to my full content, and then my heart gave in, and I renounced my beloved pleasures, and was willing to deny myself; then was my mind and conscience at sweet rest, and I desired nothing so much as Christ Jesus and the fellowship of his holy Spirit; then my soul despised and abhorred my former beloved vanities; then was I content to be at God's allowance, that I might enjoy his love and the light of his countenance, although it were with bread and water. Then I saw plainly that the usual cause of the heaviness and uncomfortable life of many Christians is not their religion, or the want of outward comforts (for God's presence in favor brings all sufficiency with it, as Psalm: \ [ 16: \ ] In thy presence there is fullness of Joy etc.) but because their consciences enforce them to leave some beloved unlawful liberty before their hearts are resolved willingly to forsake it: whereas if we could deny our own desires and be content to live by faith in our God, the Christian life would be the only merry and sweet life of all. O Heavenly Father I beseech thee give me grace to watch and be sober, and let thy favor and my peace in it be ever of more account with me then all the world besides it. Amen. Wiki Markup
After this, settling myself to walk uprightly with my God, and diligently in my calling, and having an heart willing to deny myself, I found the Godly life to be the only sweet life, and my peace with my God to be a true heaven upon earth. I found God ever present with me, in prayer and meditation, in the duties of my calling, etc: I could truly loath my former folly in preferring the love of earthly pleasures before the love of my heavenly father. I did wonder what madness was in me, that I should leave the fellowship of my Savior, to keep fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness; I was not then troubled with the common cares and desires that I was wont to be taken up with, as of food, apparel, credit, pleasure, etc: but was well contented with what God sent: what can I say? I find a change in my heart and whole man, as apparent as from darkness to light. God of his mercy continue and increase it. I find withal that I was ready upon every object or occasion, to embrace the delight in earthly things again, which I see plainly will soon get within me again, if I slack my watchfulness never so little, so as I resolve by God's grace to keep my heart with all diligence, and to set a watch over my mouth, eyes, ears, etc, when I am alone, in company, at home, abroad, in every business, service of God, etc. O Lord my God, for Jesus Christ his sake enable me hereunto, and strengthen the poor weak faith of thy unworthy servant.
This affection continued still with me, and the love of Christ was ever in my heart, and drew me to be more enamored of him. Then I oft remembered that in Jeremiah: 2. 2. I remembered thee with the kindliness of thy youth, and the love of thy marriage, etc: which made me to recall to my view the love of my earthly marriages, which the more I thought upon, the more sensible I grew of the most sweet love of my heavenly husband, Christ Jesus; his spirit persuaded my heart, that if I could so entirely affect and delight in such as I had not labored for etc: only for this consideration that they were to become a part of myself; needs must his love towards me be exceeding measure, that had made me, died for me, sweat water and blood for me, etc, and married me to himself, so as I am become truly one with him: then I was persuaded that neither my sins nor infirmities could put me out of his favor, he having washed away the one with his own blood, and covering the other with his unchangeable love: This comfort that I had in his sweet love drew me to deal with him as I was wont to do with my earthly wellbeloved, who being ever in the eye of my affection, I greedily employed every opportunity to be a messenger of the manifestation of my love, by letters, etc: so did I now with my dear lord Christ; I delighted to meditate of him, to pray to him, and to the Father in him (for all was one with me), to remember his sweet promises, etc: for I was well assured that he took all that I did in good part. I considered that he was such an one as should ever be living, so as I might ever love him, and always present, so as there should be no grief at partings: O my Lord, my love, how wholly delectable thou art! let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for his love is sweeter than wine: how lovely is thy countenance! how pleasant are thy embraces! my heart leaps within me for joy when I hear the voice of thee my Lord, my love, when thou sayest to my soul, thou art her salvation. O my God, my king, what am I but dust! a worm, a rebel, and thine enemy was I, wallowing in the blood and filth of my sins, when thou didst cast the light of thy Countenance upon me, when thou spread over me the lap of thy love, and saidst that I should live. Then didst thou wash me in the ever flowing fountains of thy blood, thou didst trim me as a bride prepared for her husband, my clothing was thy pure righteousness, thou speakest kindly to the heart of thy most unworthy servant, and my flesh grew like the flesh of a young child, etc: And now let me ever be with thee, O my Redeemer, for in thy presence is joy, and at thy right hand are pleasures forevermore. Shadow me, and guide me with thy love, as in the days of my marriage, that I may never swerve from thee to run after earthly vanities that are lying and will not profit. Wholly thine I am (my sweet Lord Jesus) unworthy (I acknowledge) so much honor as to wipe the dust off the feet of my Lord and his wellbeloved spouse, in the day of the gladness of their heart, yet wilt thou honor me with the society of thy marriage chamber. Behold, all you beloved of the Lord, know and embrace with joy this unspeakable love of his towards you. God is love, assuredly.
\ [ I do find by experience of some good time, that a spare diet and abstinence from worldly delights, is a great means of keeping both body and mind fit and lively to holy duties; I was wont, when I supped liberally, that I was sleepy and unwieldy in my family exercises, and now, when I eat but little (and that ordinarily but bread and beer), I am cheerful and unweary in them. \ ] Wiki Markup
The unspeakable comfort that I had in the former sweet communion with my Lord Jesus Christ filled me with such joy, peace, assurance, boldness, etc, as I was many times ready to incline into the other extreme of lightness and security, but God gave me grace, when I began to wax wanton, to look into my sins and corruptions, and by the consideration of them I was after kept under, etc.
God by his great mercy brought me to a sight of my sins, and so to repentance, never (I hope) to be repented of; true Repentance, sweet though sharp repentance; O most happy, and wholesome Repentance, more welcome to me then all earthly pleasures, - for want of it (it having been long absent) my poor soul was almost famished; when by it God opened before mine eyes the state of my soul, O what a polluted conscience found I; what impure affections, what unruly desires, what blindness of mind, what fearful hardness of heart, which although it were shaken and stirred to consideration and slight relentings, sometimes oft in a day by occasion of reading, or prayer, etc, yet it soon shook off all such motions, and grew more stiff necked against God, until it was almost at that pass that it could not repent: But when it pleased God to have mercy upon me, and to set my wickedness upon me, I thought then surely he would be done with me, for my former boldness in sinning and dalliance with the breach of his Commandments: but I found him more gracious then I durst conceive, or make use of for the present; my former rebellion, ingratitude, self love, sloth, carnality, time serving, etc, came so fresh before me, and shewed so foul and odious unto me: Oh that not only my eyes, but that my very heart could melt in tears, that I might mourn night and day for my sins against my good Father. O when shall I be rid of the burthen of this sinful flesh! Would any that had known the sweet mercies that I had received from him, ever have believed that I should have turned from him, to go roaming after worldly pleasures? Could I so soon forget the pleasures, etc, which his presence was wont to afford me, as I had learned out of Psalm: 16. and 36. and prov: 3.
Amongst other sins which I found in my self, I saw my great unbelief was one of the chiefest, for I had not nourished my faith in Christ and in his word, but had given way to doubting and distrust so far, as I had near lost the use of God's word, which although I continued to read daily, yet my faith was so weakened through difficulties and delays, as I had left off to live by faith in the word: and so for want of faith my prayers failed, my meditations, reading, and all grew tedious and unprofitable, I had no heart to any Christian duty, I thought all was in vain. Hereupon I prayed earnestly and morningly to have my faith strengthened, and God soon heard me and by occasion in my family exercises, I felt my faith begin to revive as a man out of a dream. I acknowledged the infallible truth and certainty of God's most pure and perfect word; my heart leaped within me when I considered it, I embraced it, I cast my self in to it: as fast as temptations came either to fear, doubt, of difficulty or danger, etc, the very first thought of God's word, God's truth, did easily dispel them; and whereas before all my care was to gather peace to my heart from the smallness of my infirmities etc, now my comfort was in bringing them (small or great) unto the blood of Christ, and by applying the promise I found how the crimson sins might be made white as well as the palest-colored. God's truth carried all before it: I found my heart, upon this meditation, willing to set upon any duty, whilst I beheld my warrant in God's book: and whereas sometimes many things did discourage me from duty, as the judgment of the greatest part, the unlikeliness of success, the evil acceptation of others, the fear of loss, disgrace, health, etc, now I remembered what Christ said, "Woe to the world because of offences, and blessed are they that shall not be offended in me": I perceived that these and such like rubs to our faith were the offences that Christ doth partly mean there, and I see that they that will take offence from the opinion of others, their own corrupt reason, common experience, etc, shall never enjoy the comfort of living by faith, for the Child of God must break through all these and say with Paul, Rom: \ [ 3. 4. \ ] Let God be true and every man a liar. O Lord I have sinned in that I have not believed thy word that I might sanctify thy name before thy people, but by thy grace I shall not dare hereafter once to doubt of thy holy and eternal truth: Let it be sufficient encouragement and warrant to me in anything, that it is thy Commandment, thy promise etc. Wiki Markup
Resist the Devil and he will flee from you: this have I found true by oft experience, for whereas upon the Sabbath and in hearing of the word etc, my heart would be most pestered with worldly thoughts, etc, so as I should have strong desires to be thinking of some such things at those times, which at other times I should not regard; and from these snares I could not free myself, until it pleased the Lord, in prayer, to discover unto me that it was Satan that did thus follow me with his assaults; whereupon I set myself against him by applying such places of scripture, as did best oppose his temptations: and thus doing, I have oft times had my heart set at liberty from such worldly thoughts and other his snares: The Lord be praised forever.
On Wednsday the 24th of March 1618 \ [ -19 \ ] , Margaret my wife was delivered of a son, whereof I desire to leave this testimony of my thankfulness unto God, that she being above 40 hours in sore travail, so as it began to be doubtful of her life, yet the Lord sent her a safe deliverance. Hereby I had occasion to find the great power and benefit of prayer: for Mr. Sandes first praying with her in her trouble, and after myself, it pleased God (although she was not delivered many hours after) yet to increase her strengthen and afterwards, I perceiving her danger, I humbled myself in fasting and mourning, I searched my heart for some sins, and made up my peace with my God, and so getting a more large and melting heart to go unto the Lord, I set myself to prayer, and gave not over until God had sent her deliverance. Wiki Markup
The day after her deliverance she was taken with a burning fever, which healed her so, as that after the viiith day was passed my Cousin Duke made little reckoning of her life, but within one day after, being the 10th day of her sickness, diverse godly ministers meeting together did in their prayer remember her case in particular, and that very day and hour (as near as might be guessed) she found a sensible release of her disease. The Lord be blessed forevermore.
When I think it were good (in some particular pleasures, etc) for the peace of my Conscience, to leave such or such a thing undone, etc, it is a usual objection of my heart - But I shall gain nothing by leaving it etc: so as I see it is good for a man to apply to himself that promise of God to Abraham: I am thy exceeding great reward: and with Moses to have respect to the recompense of the Reward: Hebrews: 11 and therefor to have the eye of Faith always fixed upon life everlasting, for by nature we are all disposed to say as the wicked in Job: What profit shall we have, etc:
It appears by divers precepts of God to Israel, Deut \ [ vi. 7 \ ] , of talking with their children etc, about God, and by the practice of the faithful in the times of persecution, that we should have religion in as familiar practice as our eating and drinking, dealings about earthly affaires etc, and not to tie it only to the exercises of Divine worship, which makes that there is so little free speech of heavenly matters, and that men are ready to blush at the speaking or hearing thereof, as if it were some straining of modesty. Wiki Markup
1620: April 7: being Friday. About one of the clock in the morning Adam my son was borne. I have cause for ever to remember the goodness of the Lord and the power of prayer, for my wife being in long and very difficult travail I humbled myself in earnest prayer to God for her, and being in the next chamber, as I arose from prayer I heard the child cry. I desire of God, I may make more account of prayer, having so oft found the sweet success of it. I perceive the Lord will keep faithfully his promises with his Children.
I have found that a man may master and keep under many corrupt lusts by the mere force of reason and moral considerations (as the heathen did) but they will return again to their former strength: there is no way to mortify them but by faith in Christ, and his death: that as he, when sin etc, had him at the greatest advantage in the grave, yet then got the full victory of sin etc, by arising from under it; so a Christian being in him by faith, is made really partaker of his Conquest.
1620 \ [ -21 \ ] . January 12. Riding through Boxford with Mr. Gurdon in his coach, my son Henry being with me and one of Mr. Gurdon's men, entering into the town the coachman was thrown off and the horses ran through the town over logs and high stumps until they came upon the causeway right against the Church, and there were snarled in the logs, etc; and the coach being broken in pieces, top, bottom and sides, yet by God's most merciful providence we were all safe: blessed be his holy name. Wiki Markup
The water of Bethlehem that David offered unto God was not an offering that had any promise of acceptance, neither for the worth of it could challenge any: yet (no doubt) it was well pleasing unto God, because it was a denial of himself for God's sake in that particular lust of his; we many times have the less heart to beat down our particular lusts in things that are indifferent, or of so small consequence as we think that God will have no respect to us for it. But afterwards even in such things God is well pleased that we do deny our selves, and the sacrificing of any longing affection to the Love of our God (though it be but either a little water, an apple, a trifling pleasure, etc,) is of greater account with him then some works of a far more glorious appearance.