THE LIFE OF
His Conversion – The Painful Exercises of his Mind
"Upon a day, the good providence of God called me to Bedford, to work at my calling; and in one of the streets of that town, I came where there were three or four poor women sitting at a door, in the sun, talking about the things of God: and being now willing to hear their discourse, I drew near to hear what they said, for I was now a. brisk talker of myself, in the matters of religion: but I may say, I heard but understood not, for they were far above, out of my reach. Their talk was about a new birth, the work of God in their hearts, as also how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature. They talked how God had visited their souls with his love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted, and supported against the temptations of the devil. Moreover, they reasoned of the suggestions and temptations of Satan in particular; and told to each other by what means they had been afflicted, and how they were borne up under his assaults. They also discoursed of their own wretchedness of heart, and of their unbelief; and did contemn, slight, and abhor their own righteousness as filthy, and insufficient to do them any good. .
"And methought they spake as if joy did make them speak; they spake with such pleasantness of Scripture language, and with such appearance of grace in all they said, that they were to me as if they had found a new world, as if they were 'people that dwelt alone, and were not to be reckoned among their neighbours' (Numb. 18:9).
"At this I felt my own heart began to shake, and mistrust my condition to be nought; for I saw that in all my thoughts about religion and salvation, the new birth did never enter into my mind; neither new I the comfort of the word and promise, nor the deceitfulness and treachery of my own wicked heart. As for secret thoughts, I took no notice of them; neither did I understand what Satan's temptations were, nor how they were to be withstood and resisted, &c.
"Thus, therefore, when I had heard and considered what they said, I left them, and went about my employment again, but their talk and discourse went with me; also my heart would tarry with them, for I was greatly affected with their words, both because by them I was convinced I wanted the true tokens of a truly godly man, and also because by them I was convinced of the happy and blessed condition of him that was such a one.
“Therefore I would often make it my business to be going again and again into the company of these poor people, for I could not stay away; and the more I went among them, the more I did question my condition; and, as I still do remember, presently I found two things within me, at which I did sometimes marvel, especially considering what a blind, ignorant, sordid, and ungodly wretch but just before I was. The one was a very great softness and tenderness of heart, which caused me to fall under the conviction of what by Scripture they asserted; and the other was a great bending in my mind to a continual meditating on it, and on all other good things, which at any time I heard or read of.
"By these things my mind was so turned, that it lay like a horse-leech at the vein, still crying out, Give! give! (Prov. 30:15). Which was so fixed on eternity, and on the things about the kingdom of heaven - that is, so far as I knew, though as yet, God knows, I knew but little, - that neither pleasures, nor profits, nor persuasions, nor threats, could loose it, or make it let go its hold; and though I may speak it with shame, yet it is in very deed a certain truth, it would then have been a difficulty for me to have taken my mind from heaven to earth, as I have found it often since, to get it again from earth to heaven.
"One thing I may not omit. There was a young man in our town, to whom my heart before was knit more than to any other; but he being a most wicked creature for cursing, swearing, and lewdness, I now shook him off, and forsook his company. But about a quarter of a year after I had left him, I met him in a certain lane, and asked him how he did. He, after his old swearing and mad way, answered he was well. ‘But, Harry,' said I, 'why do you curse and swear thus? What will become of you if you die in this condition?' He answered me in a great chafe."
Bunyan, about this time, met with books written by some enthusiastic men of his day, who lived to disgrace their profession. He says, "Some of these I read, but was not able to make any judgment about them; wherefore, as I read in them, and thought upon them, seeing myself unable to judge, I would betake myself to hearty prayer, in this manner, - 'O Lord, I am a fool, and not able to know the truth from error. Lord, leave me not to my own blindness, either to approve of or condemn this doctrine. If it be of God, let me not despise it; if it be of the devil, let me not embrace it. Lord; I lay my soul in this matter only at thy foot; let me not be deceived, I humbly beseech thee.'
"These people would also talk with me of their ways, and condemn me as legal and dark, pretending that they only had attained to perfection that could do what they would, and not sin. Oh, these temptations were suitable to my flesh, I being but a young man, and my nature in its prime; but God, who had, as I hoped, designed me for better things, kept me in the fear of his name, and did not suffer me to accept such cursed principles. .And blessed be God! who put it into my heart to cry to him to be kept and directed, still distrusting my own wisdom; for I have since seen even the effects of that prayer, in his preserving me, not only from these errors, but from those also that have sprung up since. The Bible was precious to me in those days.
"And now, methought, I began to look into the Bible with new eyes, and read as I never did before. Especially the epistles of the apostle Paul were sweet and pleasant to me; and indeed then I was never out of the Bible, either by reading or meditation, still crying out to God, that I might know the truth, and way to heaven and glory.
"About this time,
the state and happiness of these poor people at
"About this wall I bethought myself to go again and again, still prying as I went, to see if I could find some way or passage by which I might enter therein; but none could I find for some time. At the last I saw, as it were, a narrow gap, like a little doorway in the wall, through which I attempted to pass. Now the passage being very strait and narrow, I made many efforts to get in, but all in vain, even until I was well nigh quite beat out by striving to get in; at last, with great striving, methought I at first did get in my head, and after that, by a sideling striving, my shoulders, and my whole body; then I was exceeding glad, went and sat down in the midst of them, and so was comforted with the light and heat of their sun.
"Now this mountain, and wall, &c., was thus made out to me: The mountain signified the church of the living God; the sun that shone thereon, the comfortable shining of his merciful face on them that were therein; the wall I thought was the word, that did make separation between the Christians and the world; and the gap which was in the wall, I thought, was Jesus Christ, who is the way to God the Father. For Jesus said, in his reply to Thomas, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the Father, but by me.- Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it,' John 14:6; Matt. 7:14. But forasmuch as the passage was wonderful narrow, even so narrow that I could not, but with great difficulty, enter in thereat, it showed me that none could enter into life but those that were in downright earnest, and unless also they left that wicked world behind them; for here was only room for body and soul, but not for body and soul and sin.
"This resemblance abode upon my spirit many days; all which time I saw myself in a forlorn and sad condition, but yet was provoked to a vehement hunger and desire to be one of that number that did sit in the sunshine: now also should I pray wherever I was, whether at home or abroad, in house or field, and would also often, with lifting up of heart, sing, · O Lord, consider my distress.'
"Neither as yet could I attain to any comfortable persuasion that I had faith in Christ; but instead of having satisfaction here, I began to find my soul to be assaulted with fresh doubts about my future happiness; especially with such as these, - 'Whether I was elected ? - But how if the day of grace should now be past and gone?'
"By these two temptations I was very much afflicted and disquieted; sometimes by one, and sometimes by the other of them. And first, to speak of that about my questioning my election; I found at this time, that though I was in a flame to find the way to 'heaven and glory, and though nothing could beat me off from this, yet this question did so offend and discourage me, that I was, especially sometimes, as if the very strength of my body also had been taken away by the force and power thereof. This scripture did also seem to me to trample upon all my desires, - 'It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, But of God that showeth mercy,' Rom. .
"With this scripture I could not tell what to do; for I evidently saw, unless that the great God, of his infinite grace and bounty, had voluntarily chosen me to be a vessel of mercy, though I should desire, and long, and labour until my heart did break, no good could come of it. Therefore this would stick with me, - 'How can you tell that you are elected? And what if you should not? How then?'
"O Lord, thought I, what if I should not indeed! It may be you are not, said the tempter. It may be so indeed, thought I. Why, then, said Satan, you had as good leave off, and strive no farther; for if indeed you should not be elected and chosen of God, there is no hope of your being saved; 'For it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runnetb, but of God that showeth mercy.'
"By these things I was driven to my wits' end, not knowing what to say, or how to answer these temptations; indeed, I little thought that Satan had thus assaulted me, but that rather it was my own prudence thus to start the question: for that the elect only obtained eternal life, that I without scruple did heartily close withal; but that I myself as one of them, there lay the question.
"Thus, therefore, for several days, I was greatly assaulted and perplexed, and was often, when I have walking, ready to sink where I went with faintness in my mind; but one day, after I had been so many weeks oppressed and cast down therewith, as now quite giving up the ghost of all my hopes of ever attaining life, that sentence fell with weight upon my spirit, 'Look at the generations of old, and see; did ever any trust in God, and were confounded?'
"At which I was greatly enlightened, and encouraged in my soul; for thus, at that very instant, it was expounded to me: 'Begin at the beginning of Genesis, and read to the end of the Revelation, and see if you can find that there were ever any that trusted in the Lord and were confounded.' So, coming home, I presently went to my Bible, to see if I could find that saying, not doubting but to find it presently; for it was so fresh, and with such strength and comfort on my spirit, that it was as if it talked with me.
"Well, I looked, but I found it not; only it abode upon me. Then did I ask, first this good man, and another, if they knew where it was, but they knew no such place. At this I wondered that such a sentence should so suddenly, and with such comfort and strength, seize and abide upon my heart, and yet that none could find it; for I doubted not but that it was in the Holy Scriptures.
'Thus I continued above a year, and could not find the place; but at last, casting my eye upon the Apocrypha books, I found it in Ecclesiasticus, ‘Look at the generations of old, and see; did ever any trust in the Lord, and was confounded? or did any abide in his fear, and was forsaken? or whom did he ever despise, that called upon him?' Ecclus. 2:10. This, at the first, did somewhat daunt me; but because by this time I had got more experience of the love and kindness of God, it troubled me the less, especially when I considered that though it was not in those texts that we call holy and canonical, yet forasmuch as this sentence was the sum and substance of many of the promises, it was my duty to take the comfort of it; and I bless God for that word, for it was of good to me: that word doth still ofttimes shine before my face.
this, that other doubt did come with strength
upon me, 'But how if the day of grace should be past and gone? How if you have
overstood the time of mercy?' Now I remember that, one day, as I was walking in
the country, I was much in the thoughts of this, - 'But how if the day of grace
is past?' And to aggravate my trouble, the tempter presented to my mind those
good people of
"Now I was in great distress,. thinking in very deed that this might well be so; wherefore I went up and down, bemoaning my sad condition, counting myself far worse than a thousand fools for standing off thus long, and spending so many years in sin as I had done; still crying out, O that I had turned sooner! O that I had turned seven years ago! It made me also angry with myself to think that I should have no more wit but to trifle away my time ill my soul and heaven were lost.
"But when I had been long vexed with this fear, and was scarce able to take one step more, just about the same place where I received my other encouragement these words broke in upon my mind, ‘Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled;' and ‘Yet there is room,' Luke 14:22,23. These words, but especially 'And yet there is room,' were sweet words to me; for truly I thought that by them I saw there was place enough in heaven for me; and, moreover, that when the Lord Jesus did speak these words, he then did think of me; and that he, knowing that the time would come that I should be afflicted with fear that there was no place left for me in his bosom, did before speak this word, and leave it upon record, that I might find help thereby against this vile temptation. This I then verily believed.
"In the light and encouragement of this word I went a pretty while; and the comfort was the more, when I thought that the Lord Jesus should think on me so long ago, and that he should speak those words on purpose for my sake; for I did think verily that he did on purpose speak them to encourage me withal.
"But I was not without my temptations to go back again; temptations, I say, both from Satan, mine own heart, and carnal acquaintance; but I thank God these were outweighed by that sound sense of death, and of the day of judgment, which abode, as it were, continually in my view: I would often also think on Nebuchadnezzar; of whom it is said, 'He had given him all the kingdoms of the earth: and for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up: and whom he would he put down,’ Dan.5:18, 19.
Yet, thought I, if this great man had all his portion in this world, one hour in hell fire would make him forget all: which consideration was a great help to me.
"I found, by reading the word, that those that must be glorified with Christ in another world must be called by him here; called to the partaking of a share in his word and righteousness, and to the comforts and firstfruits of his Spirit; and to a peculiar interest in all those heavenly things which do indeed prepare the soul for that rest and house of glory which is in heaven above.
"Here, again, I was at a very great stand, not knowing what to do, fearing I was not called; for, thought I, if I be not called, what then can do me good? None but those who are effectually called inherit the kingdom of heaven. But oh, how I now loved those words that spake of a Christian's calling! as when the Lord said to one, 'Follow me;' and to another, 'Come after me:' and oh, thought 1, that he would say this to me too! how gladly would I run after him!
"I cannot now express with what longings and breathings in my soul I cried to Christ to call me. Thus I continued for a time all on a flame to be converted to Jesus Christ; and did also see at that day such glory in a converted state, that I could not be contented without a share therein. Gold! could it have been gotten for gold, what would I have given for it! Had I had a whole world, it had all gone ten thousand times over for this, that my soul might have been in a converted state.
"How lovely now was every one in my eyes that I thought to be converted, whether man or woman! They shone, they walked like a people that carried the broad seal of heaven about them: Oh! I saw ‘the lot was fallen to them in pleasant places, and they had a goodly heritage,' Psa. 16:6. 'But that which made me sick was what Christ said in. St. Mark, 'He went up into a mountain, and called to him whom he would: and they came unto him,' Mark .
"This scripture made me faint and fear, yet it kindled fire in my soul. That which made me fear was this, lest Christ should have no liking to me, for he called whom he would. But oh, the glory that I saw in that condition did still so engage my heart, that I could seldom read of any that Christ did call but I presently wished, 'Would I had been in their clothes; would I had been born Peter; would I had been born John; or would I had been by and had heard Him when he called them, how would I have cried, O Lord, call me also! But oh, I feared he would not call me!'
"And truly the Lord let me go thus many months together, and showed me nothing, either that I was already, or should be called hereafter: but at last, after much time spent, and many groans to God that I might be made partaker of the holy and heavenly calling, that word came in upon me: 'I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the Lord dwelleth in Zion,' Joel 3:21. These words I thought were sent to encourage me to wait still upon God; and signified unto me, that if I were not already, yet the time might come I might be in truth converted unto Christ.
"About this time I began to break my mind to those poor people in Bedford, and to tell them my condition; which when they had heard, they told Mr. Gifford of me, *Minister at Bedford from 1650 to 1656* who himself also took occasion to talk with me, and was willing to be well persuaded of me, though 1 think from little grounds: but he invited me to his house, where 1 should hear him confer with others about the dealings of God with their souls; from all which 1 still received more conviction, and from that time began to see something of the vanity and inward wretchedness of my wicked heart; for as yet 1 knew no great matter therein; but now it began to be discovered unto me, and also to work at that rate as it never did before. Now 1 evidently found that lusts and corruptions put forth themselves within me, in wicked thoughts and desires, which 1 did not regard before; my desires also for heaven and life began to fail. 1 found also, that whereas before my soul was full of longing after God, now it began to hanker after every foolish vanity; yea, my heart would not be moved to mind that which was good; it began to be careless, both of my soul and heaven; it would now continually hang back, both to and in every duty; and was as a clog on the leg of a bird, to hinder it from flying.
"Nay, 1 thought now I grew worse and worse; now farther from conversion than ever I was before: wherefore 1 began to sink greatly in my soul, and began to entertain such discouragement in my heart, as laid me low as hell. If now 1 should have burned at the stake, 1 could not believe that Christ had a love for me: alas! 1 could neither hear him, nor see him, nor feel him, nor savour any of his things; 1 was driven as with a tempest, my heart would be unclean, and the Canaanites would dwell in the land.
"Sometimes 1 would tell my condition to the people of God; which when they heard, they would pity me, and would tell me of the promises; but they had as good have told me that 1 must reach the sun with my finger, as have bidden me receive or rely upon the promises: and as soon I should have done it. All my sense and feeling were against me; and I saw 1 had a heart that would sin, and that 1ay under a law that would condemn.
"These things have often made me think of the child which the father brought to Christ, who, while he was yet coming to him, was thrown down by the devil, and also so rent and torn by him, that he lay and wallowed, foaming, Luke 9:42; Mark 9:20. Further, in these days, I would find my heart to shut itself up against the Lord, and against his holy word: I have found my unbelief to set, as it were, the shoulder to the door to keep him out; and that, too, even then, when 1 have with many a. bitter sigh cried, ‘Good Lord, break it open: Lord, break these gates of brass, and cut these bars of iron asunder;' Psa. 57:16. Yet that word would sometimes create in my heart a peaceable pause, '1 girded thee, though thou hast not known me,' Isa. 45:5.
"But all this while, as to the act of sinning, 1 was never more tender than now: I durst not take a pin or stick, though but so big as a straw; for my conscience now was sore, and would smart at every touch: 1 could not now tell how to speak my words, for fear I should misplace them. Oh, how cautiously did 1 then go, in all 1 did or said! 1 found myself as in a miry bog, that shook if 1 did but.stir, and was as there left both of God, and Christ, and the Spirit, and all good things.
"But 1 observed, though I was such a great sinner before conversion, yet God never much charged the guilt of the sins of my ignorance upon me; only he showed me I was lost if I had not Christ, because I had been a sinner. I saw that I wanted a perfect righteousness to present me without fault before God, and this righteousness was nowhere to be found but in the person of Jesus Christ.
"But my original and inward pollution, that, that was my plague and affliction; that I saw at a dreadful rate always putting forth itself within me; that I had the guilt of, to amazement; by reason of that, I was more loathsome in mine own eyes than a toad, and I thought I was so in God's eyes too. Sin and corruption, I said, would as naturally bubble out of my heart as water would bubble out of a fountain. I thought now that every one had a better heart than I had; I could have changed heart with anybody; I thought none but the devil himself could equal me for inward wickedness and pollution of mind. I fell, therefore, at the sight of my own vileness deeply into despair; for I concluded that this condition that I was in could not stand with a state of grace. Sure, thought I, I am forsaken of God; sure, I am given up to the devil, and to a reprobate mind: and thus I continued a long while, even for some years together.
"While I was thus afflicted with the fears of my own damnation, there were two things would make me wonder: the one was, when I saw old people hunting after the things of this life, as if they should live here always; the other was, when I found professors much distressed and cast down, when they met with outward losses, as ,of husband, wife, child, &c. Lord, thought I, what ado is here about such little, things as these! What seeking after carnal things by some, and what grief in others for the loss of them! If they so much labour after and shed so many tears for the things of this present life, how am I to be bemoaned, pitied, and prayed for! My soul is dying - my soul is damning. Were my soul but in a good condition, and were I but sure of it, ah! how rich should I esteem myself, though blessed but with bread and water! I should count those but small afflictions, and should bear them as little burdens. A wounded spirit, who can bear?
"And though I was much troubled, and tossed, and afflicted with the sight, and sense, and terror of my own wickedness, yet I was afraid to let this sight and sense go quite off my mind; for I found, that unless guilt of conscience was taken off the right way, that is, by the blood of Christ, a man grew rather worse for the loss of his trouble of mind. Wherefore, if my guilt lay hard upon me, then would I cry that the blood of Christ might take it off: and if it was going off without it (for the sense of sin would be sometimes as if it would die, and go quite away), then I would also strive to fetch it upon my heart again, by bringing the punishment of sin in hell fire upon my spirits; and would cry, 'Lord, let it not go off my heart, but the right way, by the blood of Christ, and the application of thy mercy, through him, to my soul;' for that scripture did lay much upon me, 'Without shedding of blood is no remission,' Heb. 9:22. And that which made me the more afraid of this was because I had seen some who, though when they were under the wounds of conscience, would cry and pray; yet, seeking rather present ease for their trouble than pardon for their sin, they cared not how they lost their guilt so they got it out of their mind. 'Sow, having got it off the wrong way, it was not sanctified unto them; but they grew harder and blinder, and more wicked after their trouble. This made me afraid, and made me cry to God the more, that it might not be so with me.
"And now I was sorry that God had made man, for I feared I was a reprobate; I counted man, as unconverted, the most doleful of all creatures. Thus, being afflicted and tossed about my sad condition, I counted myself alone, and above the most of men unblessed.
"Yea, I thought it impossible that ever I should attain to such godliness of heart as to thank God that he had made me a man. Man, indeed, is the most noble, by creation, of all creatures in the visible world; but, by sin, he has made himself the most ignoble. The beasts, birds, fishes, &c., I blessed their condition, for they had not a sinful nature; they were not obnoxious to the wrath of God; they were not to go to hell fire after death: I could, therefore, have rejoiced, had my condition been as any of theirs.
"In this condition I went a great while; but when the comforting time was come, I heard one preach a sermon on these words in Solomon's Song,- 'Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair,' chap. 4:1. But at that time he made these two words, ‘my love,' his chief and subject matter; from which, after he had a little opened the text, he observed these several conclusions,-
l. That the church, and so every saved soul, is Christ's love, when loveless.
2. Christ's love without a cause.
3. Christ's love, which hath been hated of the world.
4. Christ's love when under temptation and under destruction.
5. Christ's love from first to last.
"But I got nothing by what he said at present; only when he came to the application of the fourth particular, this was the word he said, ‘ If it be so, that the saved soul is Christ's love when under temptation and destruction; then, poor tempted soul, when thou art assaulted, and afflicted with temptations, and the hidings of God's face, yet think on those two words, - "my love," still.'
"So, as I was going home, these words came again into my thoughts; and I well remember, as they came in, I said thus in my heart, - 'What shall I get by thinking on these two words?' This thought had no sooner passed through my heart, but these words began thus to kindle in my spirit, - 'Thou art my love, thou art my love,' twenty times together; and still as they ran in my mind they waxed stronger and warmer, and began to make me look up; but being as yet between hope and fear, I still replied in my heart, 'But is it true? but is it true?' At which that sentence fell upon me, - 'He wist not that it was true which was done unto him of the angel,' Acts 12:9.
"Then I began to give place to the word which with power did over and over make this joyful sound within my soul, - 'Thou art my love, thou art my love; and nothing shall separate thee from my love.' And with that my heart was filled full of comfort and hope, and now I could believe that my sins would be forgiven me; yea, I was now so taken with the love and mercy of God, that I remember I could not tell how to contain till I got home. I thought I could have spoken of his love, and have told of his mercy to me, even to the very crows that sat upon the ploughed lands before me, had they been capable to have understood me; wherefore I said in my soul, with much gladness, ‘Well, would I had a pen and ink here, I would write this down before I go any farther; for surely I shall not forget this forty years hence!’ But, alas! within less than forty days I began to question all again; which made me begin to question all still.
"Yet still at times I was helped to believe that it was a true manifestation of grace unto my soul, though I had lost much of the life and savour of it. Now about a week or a fortnight after this I was much followed by this scripture, - ' Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you,' Luke 22:31; and sometimes it would sound so loud within me, yea, and as it were call so strongly after me, that once, above all the rest, I turned my head over my shoulder, thinking verily that some man behind me had called me; being at a great distance, methought he called so loud. It came, as I have thought since, to have stirred me up to prayer and to watchfulness; it came to acquaint me that a cloud and a storm were coming down upon me: but I understood it not.
"For, about the space of a month after, a very great storm came down upon me, which handled me twenty times worse than all I had met with before; it came stealing upon me, now by one piece, then by another. First, all my comfort was taken from me; then darkness seized upon me; after which whole floods of blasphemies, both against God, Christ, and the Scriptures, were poured upon my spirit, to my great confusion and astonishment. These blasphemous thoughts were such as stirred up questions in me against the very being of God, and of his only beloved Son: as, whether there were in truth a God or Christ; and whether the Holy Scriptures were not rather a fable and cunning story, than the holy and pure word of God.
"The tempter would also much assault me with this, - 'How can you tell but that the Turks have as good scriptures to prove their Mohammed the saviour, as we have to prove our Jesus? *A very slight examination of the Koran, the Mohammedan scnptures, would have satisfied this doubt.*
And could I think that so many ten thousands, in so many countries and kingdoms, should be without the knowledge of the right way to heaven, if there were indeed
a heaven, and that we only, who live in a corner of the earth, should alone be blessed therewith? Every one doth think his own religion rightest, both Jews, and Moors, and pagans; and how if all our faith, and Christ, and Scriptures, should be but a think so too?'
"Sometimes I have endeavoured to argue against these suggestions, and to set some of the sentences of blessed Paul against them; but, alas! I quickly felt, when I thus did, such arguings as these would return again upon me, - 'Though we made so great a matter of Paul, and of his words, yet how could I tell but that in very deed he, being a subtle and cunning man, might give himself up to deceive with strong delusions, and also take the pains and travail to undo and destroy his fellows?'
"These suggestions, with many others which at this time I may not and dare not utter, either by word or pen, did make such a seizure upon my spirit, and did so overweigh my heart, both with their Dumber, continuance, and fiery force, that I felt as if there were nothing else but these from morning to night within me; and as though indeed there could be room for nothing else; and also concluded that God had, in very wrath to my soul, given me up to them, to be carried away with them as with a mighty whirlwind.
"Only by the distaste that they gave unto my spirit I felt there was something in me that refused to embrace them. While I was in this temptation I often found my mind suddenly put upon it to curse and swear, or to speak some grievous thing against God, or Christ his Son, and of the Scriptures.
"At other times, again, I thought I should be bereft of my wits; for instead of lauding and magnifying God the Lord with others, if I have but heard him spoken of, presently some most horrible blasphemous thought or other would bolt out of my heart against him; so that whether I did think that God was, or again did think there was no such being, no love, nor peace, nor gracious disposition could I, feel within me.
"These things did sink me into ""Very deep despair; for I concluded that such things could not possibly be found amongst them that loved God. I often, when these temptations had been with force upon me, did compare myself to the case of a child whom some gipsy hath by force taken up in her arms, and is carrying from friend and country. Kick sometimes I did, and also shriek and cry; but yet I was bound in the wings of the temptation, and the wind would carry me away. I thought also of Saul, and of the evil spirit that did possess him; and did greatly fear that my condition was the same with that of his, 1 Sam. 16:14.
"In these days, when I have heard others talk of what was the sin against the Holy Ghost, then would the tempter so provoke me to desire to sin that sin, that I was as if I could not, must not, neither should be quiet until I had committed it. Now no sin would serve but that: if it were to be committed by speaking of such a word, then I have been as if my mouth would have spoken that word, whether I would or no; and in so strong a measure was this temptation upon me, that often I have been ready to clap my hands under my chin, to hold my mouth from opening; and to that end also I have bad thoughts at other times to leap with my head downward into some muck-hole .or other, to keep my mouth from speaking.
"Now, again, I beheld the condition of the dog and toad, and counted the estate of everything that God had made far better than this dreadful state of mine, and such as my companions were. Yea, gladly would I have been in the condition of a dog or horse; for I knew they had no souls to perish under the everlasting weight of hell or sin, as mine was like to do. Nay, and though I saw this, felt this, and was broken to pieces with it, yet that which added to my sorrow was, that I could not find that with all my soul I did desire deliverance. That scripture did also tear and rend my soul in the midst of these distractions, - 'The wicked are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace to the wicked, saith my God,' Isa. 57:20, 21.
"And now my heart was, at times, exceeding hard; if I would have given a thousand pounds for a tear, I could not shed one; no, nor sometimes scarce desire to shed one. I was much dejected to think that this would be my lot. I saw some could mourn and lament their sin; and others, again, could rejoice and bless God for Christ; and others, again, could quietly talk of, and with gladness remember the word of God; while I only was in the storm or tempest. This much sunk me; I thought my condition was alone; I would, therefore, much bewail my hard hap, but get out of or get rid of these things, I could not.
"While this temptation lasted, which was about a year, I could attend upon none of the ordinances of God but with sore and great affliction. Yea, then I was most distressed with blasphemies. If 1 had been hearing the word, then uncleanness, blasphemies, and despair would hold me a captive there; if I had been reading, then sometimes I had sudden thoughts to question all I read: sometimes, again, my mind would be so strangely snatched away and possessed with other things, that I have neither known, nor, regarded, nor remembered so much as the sentence that but now I have read.
"In prayer, also, I have been greatly troubled at this time; the devil would be continually at me in time of prayer, to have done, break off; make haste, you have prayed enough, and stay no longer; still drawing my mind away. Sometimes, also, he would, cast in such wicked thoughts as these, that I must pray to him, or for him: I have thought sometimes of that, 'Fall down; or, if thou wilt, fall down and worship me,' Matt. 4:9.
"Also when, because I have had wandering thoughts in the time of this duty, I have laboured to compose my mind, and fix it upon God, then with great fore hath the tempter laboured to distract me, and confound me, and to turn away my mind.
"Yet at times I should have some strong and heart affecting apprehensions of God, and the reality of the truth of his gospel. But, oh, how would my heart at such times put forth itself with inexpressible groanings! My whole soul was then in every word; I would cry with pangs after God, that he would be merciful unto me. But then I should be daunted again with such conceits as these: I should think that God did mock at these my prayers, saying, and that in the audience of the holy angels, 'This poor simple wretch doth hanker after me, as if I had nothing to do with my mercy but to bestow it on such as he. Alas, poor soul! how art thou deceived! It is not for such as thee to have favour with the Higbest.'
"Then hath the tempter come upon me also with such discouragements as these: 'You are very hot for mercy, but I will cool you; this frame shall not last always; many have been as hot as you for a spirt, but I have quenched their zeal;' and with this, such and such, who were fallen off, would be set before mine eyes. Then I would be afraid that I should do so too; but, thought I, I am glad this comes into my mind; well, I will watch, and take what care I can 'Though you do,' said Satan, 'I shall be too hard for you; I will cool you insensibly, by degrees, by little and little. 'Wbat care I,' saith he, 'though I be given years in chilling your heart, if I can do it at last? Continual rocking will lull a crying child asleep: I will ply it close, but I will have my end accomplished. Though you be burning hot at present, I can pull you from this fire; I shall have you cold before it be long.'
"These things brought me into great straits; for as I at present could not find myself fit for present death, so I thought to live long would make me yet more unfit; for time would make me forget all, and wear even the remembrance of the evil of sin, the worth of heaven, and the need I had of the blood of Christ to wash me, both in mind and thought. But, I thank Christ Jesus these things did not at present make me slack my crying, but rather did put me more upon it, like her who met with the adulterer, Deut. 22:26;. in which days that was a good word to me, after I had suffered these things awhile - ' I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,' Rom. 8:38, 39. And now I hoped long life would not destroy me, nor make me miss of heaven.
"Yet I had some supports in this temptation, though they were then all questioned by me: that in Jer. 3., the first verse, was something to me; and so was tbe consideration of verse 4 of that chapter; that though we have spoken and done as evil things as we could, yet we shall cry unto God, 'My Father, thou art the guide of my youth;' and shall return unto him.
"I had also once a sweet glance from that text, 2 Cor. , - 'For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.' I remember that one day, as I was sitting in a neighbour's house, and there was very sad at the consideration of my many blasphemies, and as I was saying in my mind, 'What ground have I to think that I, who have been so vile and abominable, should ever inherit eternal life?' that word came suddenly upon me, - 'What sha1l we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?' Rom. . That also was a help unto me, - 'Because I live, ye shall live also,' John . But these words were but hints, touches, and short visits, though very sweet when present; only they lasted not; but, like to Peter's sheet, of a sudden were caught up from me to heaven again, Acts 10:16.
"But afterwards the Lord did more fully and graciously discover himself unto me, and, indeed, did not only quite deliver me from the guilt that by these things was laid upon my conscience, but also from the very filth thereof; for the temptation was removed, and I was put into my right mind again, as other Christians were
"I remember that one day, as I was travelling into the country, and musing on the wickedness and blasphemy of my heart, and considering the enmity that was in me to God, that scripture came into my mind, 'He hath made peace by the blood of his cross,' Col. 1:20; by which I was made to see, both again and again, that God and my soul were friends by his blood; yea, I saw that the justice of God and my sinful soul could embrace and kiss each other through his blood. This was a good day to me; I hope I shall never forget it.
"At another time, as I sat by the fire in my house, and was musing on my wretchedness, the Lord made that also a precious word unto me, - ' Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage,' Heb. 2:14, 15. I thought that the glory of these words was then so weighty on me, that I was both once and twice ready to swoon as I sat; yet not with grief and trouble, but with solid joy and peace.
"At; this time, also, I sat under the ministry of holy Mr. Gifford, whose doctrine, by God's grace, was much for my stability. This man made it much his business to deliver the people of God from all those hard and unsound tests that by nature we are prone to. He would bid us take special heed that we took not up any truth upon trust, - as from this, or that, or any other man or men, - but cry mightily to God that he would convince us of the reality thereof, and set us down therein by his own Spirit in the holy word; for, said he, if you do otherwise, when temptations come strongly upon you, you, not having received them with evidence from heaven, will
find you want that help and strength now to resist that once you thought you had.
"This was as seasonable to my soul as the former, and latter rain ill their season; for I had found, and that by sad experience, the truth of these his words; for I had felt no man can say, especially when tempted by the devil, that 'Jesus Christ is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost,' 1 Cor. 12:3. Wherefore I found my soul, through grace, very apt to drink in this doctrine, and to incline to pray to God, that in nothing that pertained to God's glory and my own eternal happiness he would suffer me to be without the confirmation thereof from heaven; for now I saw clearly there was an exceeding difference betwixt the notion of the flesh and blood and the revelation of God in heaven: also a great difference betwixt that faith which is feigned, and according to man's wisdom, and that which comes by a man's being born thereto of God. ‘Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,' - Matt. ; 1 John 5:1.
"But oh! now how was my soul led from truth to truth by God! Even from the birth and cradle the Son of God, to his accession and second coming from heaven to judge the world.
Truly I then found, upon this account, the great God was very good unto me; for, to my remembrance there was not anything that I then cried unto God to make known and reveal unto me, but he was pleased to do it for me. I mean, not one part of the gospel of the Lord Jesus, but I was orderly led into it; methought I saw with great evidence from the four evangelists, the wonderful works of God, in giving .Jesus Christ to save us, from his conception and birth, even to his second coming to judgment: methought I was as if I had seen him born, as if I had seen him grow up, as if I had seen him walk through this world, from the cradle to the cross; to which also, when he came, I saw how gently he gave himself to be hanged and nailed on it for my sins and wicked doings. Also, as I was musing on this his progress, that dropped on my spirit, - 'He was ordained for the slaughter.' I Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world,' 1 Pet. , 20.
"When I have considered also the truth of his resurrection, and have remembered that word, - 'Touch me not, Mary,' &c., I have seen as if he had leaped out of the grave's mouth, for joy that he was risen again, and had got the conquest over our dreadful foes, saying, 'I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God,' John 20:17, I have also, in the spirit, seen him a man, on the right hand of God the Father for me; and have seen the manner of his coming from heaven to judge the world with glory, and have been confirmed in these things by these scriptures: 'And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken
up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. - But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory or God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see heaven opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. - And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. - But this man, because he continueth for ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. - Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and to them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. - I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. - For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort ye one another with these words,' Acts 1:9; ; ; Heb. ; ; Rev. 1:18; 1 Thess. 4:16-18.
"Once I was troubled to know whether the Lord Jesus was man as well as God, and God as well as man: and truly, in those days, let men say what they would, unless I had it with evidence from heaven, all was nothing to me; I counted myself not set down in any truth of God. Well, I was much troubled about this point, and could not tell how to be resolved; at last that came into my mind, - "And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders; stood a Lamb as it had been slain,' Rev. 5:6. In the midst of the throne, thought I, there is the Godhead; in the midst of the elders there is his manhood; but oh! methought this did glister! It was a goodly touch, and gave me sweet satisfaction. That other scripture also did help me much in this, - 'To us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called 'Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace,' &c., Isa. 9:6.
"It would be too long here to stay to tell you in particular how God did set me down in all the things of Christ, and how he did, that he might do so, lead me into his words; yea, and also how he did open them unto me, and make them shine before me, and cause them to dwell with me, talk with me, and comfort me over and over, both of his own being, and the being of his Son, and Spirit, and word, and gospel.
"Only this, as I said before, I will say unto you again. - that, in general, he was pleased to take this course with me: first to suffer me to be afflicted with temptations concerning them, and then reveal them unto me; as sometimes I should lie under great guilt for sin, even crushed to the ground therewith; and then the Lord would show me the death of Christ, yea, so sprinkle my conscience with his blood, that I should find, and that before I was aware, that in that conscience where but just now did reign and rage the law, even there would rest and abide the peace and love of God through Christ.
"Now I had an evidence, as I thought, of my salvation, from heaven, with many golden seals thereon, all hanging in my sight; now could I remember this manifestation, and the other discovery of grace, with comfort; and would often long and desire that the last day were come, that I might be for ever inflamed with the sight, and joy, and communion with Him, whose head was crowned with thorns, whose face was spit upon, and body broken, and soul made an offering for my sins: for whereas before I lay continually trembling at the mouth of hell, now methought I was got so far therefrom, that when I looked back, I could scarce discern it! And oh, thought I, that I were fourscore years old now, that I might die quickly, that my soul might be gone to rest!
"But before I had got thus far out of these my temptations, I did greatly long to see some ancient godly man's experience, who had writ some hundreds of years before I was born; for those who had writ in our days, I thought - but I desire them now to pardon me - that they had writ only that which others felt; or else had, through the strength of their wits and parts, studied to answer such objections as they perceived others were perplexed with, without going down themselves into the deep. Well, after many such longings in my mind, the God in whose hands are all our days and ways did cast into my hand, one day, a book of Martin Luther's; it was his comment on the Galatians; it also was so old, that it was ready to fall piece from piece if I did but turn it over. Now I was pleased much that such an old book had fallen into my hands, the which when I had but a little way perused, I found my condition in his experience so largely and profoundly handled, as if his book had been written out of my heart. This made me marvel; for thus thought I, - This man could not know anything of the state of Christians now, but must needs write and speak the experience of former days.
"Besides, he doth most gravely, also, in that book debate of the rise of these temptations, namely, blasphemy, desperation, and the like; showing that the law of Moses, as well as the devil, death, and hell, hath a very great hand therein: the which, at first, was very strange to me; but considering and watching, found it so indeed. But of particulars here I intend nothing - only this methinks I must let fall before all men, - I do prefer this book of Martin Luther upon the Galatians, excepting the Holy Bible, before all the books that ever I have seen, as most fit for a wounded conscience.
"And now I found, as I thought, that I loved Christ dearly: oh, methought my soul cleaved unto him, my affections cleaved unto him; I felt my love to him as hot as fire; and now, as Job said, I thought I should die in my nest; but I did quickly find that my great love was but too little; and that I, who had as I thought such burning love to Jesus Christ, could let him go again for a very trifle. God can tell how to abase us, and can hide pride from man. Quickly after this my love was tried to purpose.
"For after the Lord had, in this manner, thus graciously delivered me from this great and sore temptation, and had set me down so sweetly in the faith of his holy gospel, and had given me such strong consolation and blessed evidence from heaven, touching my interest in his love through Christ, the tempter came upon me again."