AFFLICTION -- ITS NATURE AND BENEFITS.
The school of the cross is the school of light; it discovers the world's vanity, baseness, and wickedness, and lets us see more of God's mind. Out of dark afflictions comes a spiritual light.
In times of affliction, we commonly meet with the sweetest experiences of the love of God.
The end of affliction is the discovery of sin; and of that, to bring us to a Saviour.
Doth not God ofttimes even take occasion, by the hardest of things that come upon us, to visit our souls with the comforts of his Spirit, to lead us into the glory of his word and to cause us to savor that love that he has had for us even from before the world began till now? A nest of bees and honey did Samson find even in the belly of that lion that roared upon him. And is all this no good; or can we do without such holy appointments of God? Let these things be considered by us, and let us learn like Christians to kiss the rod, and love it.
The lamps of Gideon were discovered, when his soldiers' pitchers were broken: if our pitchers are broken for the Lord and his gospel's sake, those lamps will then be discovered that before lay hid and unseen.
People that live high and in idleness bring diseases upon the body; and they that live in all fulness of gospel ordinances, and are not exercised with trials, grow gross, are diseased and full of bad humors in their souls.
The righteous are apt to be like well-fed children, too wanton, if God should not appoint them some fasting-days.
The Lord useth his flail of tribulation to separate the chaff from the wheat.
Observe Paul: he died daily, he was always delivered unto death, he despaired of life. And this is the way to be prepared for any calamity. When a man thinks he has only to prepare for an assault by footmen, how shall he contend with horses; or if he looks no further than to horses, what will he do at the swellings of Jordan?
Oh, when every providence of God unto thee is like the messengers of Job, and the last to bring more heavy tidings than all that went before him; when life, estate, wife, children, body and soul, and all at once, seem to be struck at by heaven and earth, here are hard lessons -- now to behave myself even as a weaned child: now to say, |The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.|
Our afflictions work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Our afflictions do it, not only because there is laid up a reward for the afflicted according to the measure of affliction, but because afflictions, and so every service of God, make the heart more deep, more experimental, more knowing and profound, and so, more able to hold, to contain, and bear more.
Let Christians beware that they set not times for God, lest all men see their folly. |It is not for you to know the times and the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power;| yea, I say again, take heed lest, for thy setting of God a seven-day's time, he set thee so many as seven times seven.
God's time is the time, the best time, because it is the time appointed by him for the proof and trial of our graces, and that in which so much of the rage of the enemy and of the power of God's mercy, may the better be discovered unto us. |I the Lord do hasten it in his time;| not before, though we were the signet upon his hand.
Afflictions are governed by God, both as to time, number, nature, and measure. In measure, when it shooteth forth, thou wilt debate with it: |He stayeth his rough wind in the day of his east wind.| Our times, therefore, and our conditions in these times, are in the hand of God, yea, and so are our souls and bodies, to be kept and preserved from the evil while the rod of God is upon us.
Ease and release from persecution and affliction come not by chance, or by the good moods and gentle dispositions of men; but the Lord doth hold them back from sin, the Lord restraineth them.2 Chron.18:31.
|And he stayed yet other seven days.| It is not God's way with his people to show them all their troubles at once, but first he shows them a part: first, forty days, after that, seven other days, and yet again, seven days more; that coming upon them by piecemeal, they may the better be able to travel through them. When Israel was in affliction in Egypt, they knew not the trial which would meet them at the Red sea. Again, when they had gone through that, they little thought that yet for forty years they must be tempted and proved in the wilderness.
|And Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked;| the failing again of his expected comforter caused him to be up and doing. Probably he had not as yet uncovered the ark, that is, to look round about him, if the dove, by returning, had pleased his humor; but she failing, he stirs up himself.
Thus it should also be with the Christian now. Doth the dove forbear to come to thee with a leaf in her bill as before? Let not this make thee sullen and mistrustful, but uncover the ark and look; and by looking, thou shalt see a further testimony of what thou receivest by the first manifestations. |He looked, and behold the earth was dry.|
God doth not let us see the hills for our help before we have first of all seen them drowned. Look not to them, therefore, while the water is at the rising; but if they begin to cease their raging, if they begin to fall, and with that the tops of the mountains be seen, you may look upon them with comfort; they are tokens of God's deliverance. Gen.8.
It was requisite that the hills, Gen.7:19, should be covered, that Noah might not have confidence in them; but surely this dispensation of God was a heart-shaking providence to Noah and them that were with him; for here indeed was his faith tried, there was no hill left in all the world; now were his carnal helpers gone, there was none shut up or left. Now therefore, if they could rejoice, it must be only in the power of God.
Noah was to have respect in his deliverance not only to himself and family, but to the good of all the world. Men's spirits are too narrow for the mind of God, when their chief end, or their only design in their enjoying this or the other mercy, is for the sake of their own selves only. It cannot be according to God, that such desires should be encouraged. |None of us liveth unto himself;| why, then, should we desire life only for ourselves?
The church cries out thus: |God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us.| Why? |That thy way may be known upon earth, and thy saving health among all nations.| So David: |Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free Spirit; then will I teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee.|
So then, we must not desire to come out of trials and afflictions alone or by ourselves, but that in our deliverance the salvation of many may be concerned.
In every affliction and persecution, the devil's design is to impair Christ's kingdom; wherefore, no marvel that God designs in our deliverance the impairing and lessening the kingdom of sin and Satan. Wherefore, O thou church of God, which art now upon the waves of affliction and temptation, when thou comest out of the furnace, if thou come out at the bidding of God, there shall come out with thee the fowl, the beast, and abundance of creeping things. Gen.8:17. |O Judah, he hath set a harvest for thee, when I returned the captivity of my people.|
There are several degrees of suffering for righteousness: there is the scourge of the tongue, the ruin of an estate, the loss of liberty, a jail, a gibbet, a stake, a dagger. Now answerable to these are the comforts of the Holy Ghost prepared, like to like, part proportioned to part; only the consolations are said to abound.2 Cor.1:5.
But the lighter the sufferings are, the more difficult it is to judge of the comforts of the Spirit of God; for it is common for a man to be comfortable under sufferings when he suffereth but little, and knows also that his enemy can touch his flesh, his estate, or the like, but little. And this maybe the joy of the flesh, the result of reason; and may be very much, if not altogether, without a mixture of the joy of the Holy Ghost therewith. The more deep, therefore, and the more dreadful the sufferings are, the more clearly are seen the comforts of the Spirit. When a man has comfort where the flesh is dead, stirreth not, and can do nothing; when a man can be comfortable at the loss of all; when he is under sentence of death, or at the place of execution -- if yet a man's cause, a man's conscience, the promise, and the Holy Ghost, have all one comfortable voice, and do all together with their trumpets make one sound in the soul, then good are the comforts of God and his Spirit.
There are several degrees of sufferings; wherefore it is not to be expected that he that suffers but little should partake of the comforts that are prepared for them that suffer much. He that has only the scourge of the tongue, knows not what are the comforts that are prepared for him that meets with the scourge of the whip. And how should a man know what manner of comforts the Holy Ghost doth use to give at the jail and the gibbet, when himself for righteousness never was there?
Persecution of the godly was never intended of God for their destruction, but for their glory, and to make them shine the more when they are beyond this valley of the shadow of death.
|We that are Christians have been trained up by his Son in his school this many a day, and have been told what a God our Father is, what an arm he has, and with what a voice he can thunder; how he can deck himself with majesty and excellency, and array himself with beauty and glory; how he can cast abroad the rage of his wrath, and behold every one that is proud and abase him. Have we not talked of what he did at the Red sea and in the land of Ham, many years ago; and have we forgot him now? Have we not vaunted and boasted of our God, both in church, pulpit, and books, and spake to the praise of them that attempted to drive antichrist out of the world with their lives and their blood instead of stones; and are we afraid of our God? He was God, a Creator, then; and is he not God now? and will he not be as good to us as to them that have gone before us? or would we limit him to appear in such ways as only smile upon our flesh, and have him stay and not show himself in his heart-shaking dispensations until we are dead and gone? What if we must now go to heaven, and what if he is thus come to fetch us to himself? If we have been as wise as serpents and innocent as doves -- if we can say, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor against Caesar, have we offended any thing at all -- of what should we be afraid? Let heaven and earth come together; I dare say they will not hurt us.|
Religion that is pure is a hot thing; and il usually burns the fingers of those that fight against it.
Ah, when God makes the bed, he must needs lie easy whom weakness hath cast thereon: a blessed pillow hath. that man for his head, though to all beholders it is hard as a stone. Psa.41:1-3.
It is as ordinary as for the light to shine, for God to make back and dismal dispensations usher in bright and pleasing.
Christian reader, let me beg of thee that thou wilt not be offended either with God or men, if the cross is laid heavy upon thee. Not with God, for he doeth nothing without a cause; nor with men, for they are the hand of God: and will they, nill they, they are the servants of God to thee for good. Psa.17:14; Jer.24:5. Take, therefore, what comes from God by them thankfully. If the messenger that brings it is glad that it is in his power to do thee hurt and to afflict thee, if he skips for joy at thy calamity, be sorry for him, pity him, and pray to thy Father for him: he is ignorant, and understandeth not the judgment of thy God; yea, he showeth by this his behavior, that though he as God's ordinance serveth thee by afflicting thee, yet means he nothing less than to destroy thee: by the which also he prognosticates before thee that he is working out his own damnation by doing thee good. Lay therefore the woful state of such to heart, and render him that which is good for his evil, and love for his hatred to thee; then shalt thou show that thou art moved by a spirit of holiness, and art like thy heavenly Father. And be it so, that thy pity and prayers can do such a one no good, yet they must light somewhere, or return again, as ships come laden from the Indies, full of blessings into thine own bosom.
Poor man, thou hast thy time to be afflicted by thy enemies, that thy golden graces may shine the more; thou art in the fire and they blow the bellows. But wouldst thou change places with them? Wouldst thou sit upon their place of ease? Dost thou desire to be with them? O rest thyself contented; in thy patience possess thy soul, and pity and bewail them in the condition in which they are.
The cup that God's people in all ages have drank of, even the cup of affliction and persecution, it is not in the hand of the enemy, but in the hand of God; and he, not they, poureth out of the same.
There are but two ways of obeying: the one to do that which I in my conscience do believe that I am bound to do, actively; and where I cannot obey actively, there I am willing to lie down and to suffer what they shall do unto me.
A Christian, when he sees trouble coming upon him, should not fly in the face of the instrument that brings, but in the face of the cause of its coming. Now the cause is thyself, thy base self, thy sinful self, and thy unworthy carriages towards God under all the mercy, patience, and long-suffering that God has bestowed upon thee, and exercised towards thee. Here thou mayest quarrel, and be revenged, and spare not, so thou take vengeance in a right way; and thou wilt do so, when thou takest it by godly sorrow.1 Cor.7:10,11.
It is a rare thing to suffer aright, and to have thy spirit in suffering beat only against God's enemy, sin.
Let them that are God's sufferers pluck up a good heart; let them not be afraid to trust God with their souls, and with their eternal concerns. Let them cast all their care upon God, for he careth for them.
|But I am in the dark.| I answer, never stick at that. It is most bravely done to trust God with the soul in the dark, and to resolve to serve God for nothing, rather than give out. Not to see and yet to believe, and to be a follower of the Lamb and yet to be at uncertainty what we shall have at last, argues love, fear, faith, and an honest mind, and gives the greatest sign of one that hath true sincerity in his soul. It was this that made Job and Peter so famous; and the want of it took away much of the glory of the faith of Thomas. Wherefore, believe verily that God is ready, willing; yea, that he looks for and expects that thou, who art a sufferer, shouldst commit the keeping of thy soul to him as unto a faithful Creator.
Is there nothing in dark providences, for the sake of the sight and observation of which such a day may be rendered lovely, when it is upon us? Is there nothing of God, of his wisdom and power and goodness, to be seen in thunder and lightning, in hailstones, in storms and darkness and tempests? Why then is it said, he hath his way in the whirlwind and storm? And why have God's servants of old made such notes, and observed from them such excellent and wonderful things? There is that of God to be seen in such a day, which cannot be seen in another. His power in holding up some, his wrath in leaving others; his making shrubs to stand, and his suffering cedars to fall; his infatuating the counsels of men, and his making the devil to outwit himself; his giving his presence to his people, and his leaving his foes in the dark; his discovering the uprightness of the hearts of his sanctified ones, and laying open the hypocrisy of others, is a working of spiritual wonders in the day of his wrath and of the whirlwind and storm.
These days, these days of trial, are the days that do most aptly give an occasion to Christians to take the exactest measures and scantlings of ourselves. We are apt to overshoot in days that are calm, and to think ourselves far higher and more strong than we find we are when the trying day is upon us. The mouth of Gaal, Judges 9:38, and the boasts of Peter, were great and high before the trial came; but when that came, they found themselves to fall far short of the courage they thought they had. We also, before the temptation comes, think we can walk upon the sea; but when the winds blow, we feel ourselves begin to sink. Hence such a time is rightly said to be a time to try us, or to find out what we are; and is there no good in this? Is it not this that rightly rectifies our judgment about ourselves, that makes us to know ourselves, that tends to cut off those superfluous sprigs of pride and self-concitedness, wherewith we are subject to be overcome? Is not such a day the day that bends us, humbles us, and that makes us bow before God for our faults committed in our prosperity? And yet doth it yield no good unto us? We could not live without such turnings of the hand of God upon us.
Thine own doubts and mistrusts about what God will do and about whither thou shalt go, when thou for him hast suffered awhile he can resolve, yea, dissolve, crush, and bring to nothing. He can make fear flee far away, and place heavenly confidence in its room. He can bring invisible and eternal things to the eye of thy soul, and make thee see THAT, in those things in which thine enemies shall see nothing, that thou shalt count worth the loss of ten thousand lives to enjoy. He can pull such things out of his bosom, and can put such things into thy mouth; yea, can make thee choose to be gone, though through the flames, rather than to stay here and die in silken sheets. Yea, he can himself come near, and bring his heaven and glory to thee. The Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon them that are but reproached for the name of Christ. And what the Spirit of glory is, and what is his resting upon his sufferers, is quite beyond the knowledge of the world, is but little felt by saints at peace. They that are engaged, that are under the lash for Christ -- they, I say, have it, and understand something of it.
Look not upon the sufferings of God's people for their religion, to be tokens of God's great anger. It is, to be sure, as our heavenly Father orders it, rather a token of his love; for suffering for the gospel and for the sincere profession of it, is indeed a dignity put upon us, a dignity that all men are not counted worthy of. Count it therefore a favor that God has bestowed upon thee his truth, and grace to enable thee to profess it, though thou be made to suffer for it.
Let God's people think never the worse of religion because of the coarse entertainment it meeteth with in the world. It is better'to choose God and affliction, than the world, and sin, and carnal peace.
It is necessary that we should suffer, because we have sinned; and if God will have us suffer a little while here for his word, instead of suffering for our sins in hell, let us be content, and count it a mercy with thankfulness.
The wicked are reserved to the day of destruction, they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath. How kindly, therefore, doth God deal with us, when he chooses to afflict us but for a little, that with everlasting kindness he may have mercy upon us.
Since the rod is God's as well as the child, let us not look upon our troubles as if they came from and were managed only by hell. It is true, a persecutor has a black mark upon him; but yet the Scriptures say that all the ways of the persecutor are God's. Wherefore as we should, so again we should not, be afraid of men: we should be afraid of them, because they will hurt us; but we should not be afraid of them as if they were let loose to do to us and with us what they will. God's bridle is upon them, God's hook is in their nose; yea, and God hath determined the bounds of their rage; and if he lets them drive his church into the sea of troubles, it shall he hut up to the neck; and so far it may go and not he drowned. Isaiah 8:7, 8.
|May we not fly in a time of persecution? Your pressing upon us that persecution is ordered and managed by God, makes us afraid to fly.|
Thou mayest do in this even as it is in thy heart. If it is in thy heart to fly, fly; if it be in thy heart to stand, stand. Anything but a denial of the truth. He that flies, has warrant to do so; he that stands, has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled, Moses stood; Jeremiah fled, Jeremiah stood; Christ withdrew himself, Christ stood; Paul fled, Paul stood.
But in flying, fly not from religion; fly not, for the sake of a trade; fly not, that thou mayest have care for the flesh: this is wicked, and will yield neither peace nor profit to thy soul, neither now, nor at death, nor at the day of judgment.
The hotter the rage and fury of men are against righteous ways, the more those that love righteousness grow therein. For they are concerned for it, not to hide it, but to make it spangle; not to extinguish it, but to greaten it, and to show the excellency of it in all its features and in all its comely proportion. Now such an one will make straight steps for his feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way. Heb.12: 13.
Now he shows to all men what faith is, by charity, by self-denial, by meekness, by gentleness, by long-suffering, by patience, by love to enemies, and by doing good to them that hate us. Now he walketh upon his high places, yea, will not now admit that so slovenly a conversation should come within his doors, as did use to haunt his house in former times. Now it is Christ-mas, now it is suffering-time, now we must keep holy day every day.
The reason is, that a man when he suffereth for Christ, is set upon a hill, upon a stage, as in a theatre, to play a part for God in the world. And you know, when men are to play their parts upon a stage, they count themselves if possible more bound to circumspection; and that for the credit of their master, the credit of their art, and the credit of themselves. For then the eyes of every body are fixed, they gape and stare upon them, Psalm 22:17, and a trip here is as bad as a fall in another place. Also now God himself looks on. Yea, he smileth, as being pleased to see a good behavior attending the trial of the innocent.
There are some of the graces of God that are in thee, that as to some of their acts cannot show themselves, nor their excellency, nor their power, nor what they can do, but as thou art in a suffering state. Faith and patience in persecution have that to do, that to show, and that to perform, that cannot be done, shown, nor performed, anywhere else but there. There is also a patience of hope, a rejoicing in hope when we are in tribulation, that is over and above that which we have when we are at ease and quiet. That also that all graces can endure and triumph over, shall not be known, but when and as we are in a state of affliction. Now these acts of our graces are of such worth and esteem with God, and he so much delighteth in them, that occasion, through his righteous judgment, must be ministered for them to show their beauty and what bravery there is in them.
It is also to be considered that those acts of our graces that cannot be put forth or show themselves in their splendor but when we christianly suffer, will yield such fruit to those whose trials call them into exercise, as will in the day of God abound to their comfort and tend to their perfection in glory.1 Peter, 1:7; 2 Cor.4:17.
Why then should we think that our innocent lives will exempt us from sufferings, or that troubles shall do us harm?
Alas, we have need of those bitter pills at which we so much wince. I see that I still have need of these trials; and if God will by these judge me, as he judges his saints, that I may not he condemned with the world, I will cry, Grace, grace, for ever.
Shall we deserve correction, and be angry because we have it? Or shall it come to save us, and shall we he offended with the hand that brings it? Our sickness is so great that our enemies take notice of it; let them know too that we take our purges patiently.
We are willing to pay for those potions that are given us for the health of our body, how sick soever they make us; and if God will have us pay too for that which is to better our souls, why should we grudge thereat? Those that bring us these medicines have little enough for their pains; for my part, I profess I would not for a great deal be bound, for their wages, to do their work. True, physicians are for the most part chargeable, and niggards are too loath to part with their money to them; but when necessity says they must either take physic or die, of two evils they desire to choose the least. Why, affliction is better than sin; and if God sends the one to cleanse us from the other, let us thank him, and be also content to pay the messenger.
BUNYAN'S TRIAL AND IMPRISONMENT. FROM BUNYAN'S EXAMINATION BEFORE JUSTICES KEELING, CHESTER, [Footnote: On the restoration of the house of Stuart, Charles II. entered London, in May, 1600. In November of that year, Bunyan was indicted for an upholder of unlawful assemblies and conventicles, and for not conforming to the church of England. |He was sentenced,|] ETC.
KEELING. Justice Keeling said that I ought not to preach, and asked me where I had my authority; with many other such like words.
BUNYAN. I said that I would prove that it was lawful for me, and such as I am, to preach the word of God.
KEELING. He said unto me, By what scripture?
BUNYAN. I said, by that in the first epistle of Peter, fourth chapter and eleventh verse, and Acts eighteenth, with other scriptures; which he would not suffer me to mention, but said, Hold, not so many: which is the first?
BUNYAN. I said, This: |As every man hath received the gift, even so let him minister the same unto another, as good stewards of the grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God.|
KEELING. He said, Let me a little open that scripture to you. As every man hath received the gift; that is, said he, as every man hath received a trade, so let him follow says Crosby, |to perpetual banishment, in pursuance of an act made by the then parliament.| This sentence was never executed, but he was kept in prison for more than twelye years.
Subsequently to this year, 1660, several oppressive acts were passed, as the Corporation act, 1661, the act of Uniformity, 1662, the Five-mile act, 1665, the Conventicle acts, 1666 and 1671, and the Test act, 1673. The act of Uniformity required that every clergyman should be reordained; should declare his assent to every thing contained in the Book of Common Prayer, etc. By this act, about two thousand dissenting ministers were ejected from their livings, and the most cruel persecution followed. The Five-mile and Conventicle acts imposed various fines, imprisonment, and death upon all persons above sixteen years of age, who attended divine service where the liturgy was not read; ordained that no non-conformist minister should live within five miles of any town; and aimed to suppress all meetings for worship among the non-conformists. These in a short time made frightful desolations, and all the jails in the kingdom soon became filled with men who were the brightest ornaments of Christianity. The persecuted included both sexes and all ages, from the child of nine or ten years, to the hoary-headed saint of eighty. In Picart's Religious Ceremonies, it is stated that the number of dissenters of all sects, who perished in prison under Charles II., was EIGHT THOUSAND. On the accession of William III., these penalties and disabilities were removed by the Toleration act. The Corporation and Test acts, however, disgraced the statute-book of England till the year 1828, when they were triumphantly repealed. Offer's Introduction, Hume's History, and Ency. Amer. it. If any man hath received a gift of tinkering, as thou hast done, let him follow his tinkering; and so other men their trades, and the divine his calling, etc.
BUNYAN. Nay, sir, said I, but it is most clear that the apostle speaks here of preaching the word: if you do but compare both the verses together, the next verse explains this gift what it is; saying, |If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God;| so that it is plain that the Holy Ghost doth not so much in this place exhort to civil callings, as to the exercising of those gifts that we have received from God. I would have gone on, but he would not give me leave.
KEELING. He said we might do it in our families, but not otherwise.
BUNYAN. I said, if it was lawful to do good to some, it was lawful to do good to more. If it was a good duty to exhort our families, it is good to exhort others; but if they held it a sin to meet together to seek the face of God, and exhort one another to follow Christ, I should sin still; for so we should do.
KEELING. He said he was not so well versed in scripture as to dispute, or words to that purpose. And said, moreover, that they could not wait upon me any longer; but said to me, Then you confess the indictment; do you not? Now, and not till now, I saw I was indicted.
BUNYAN. I said, This I confess: we have had many meetings together both to pray to God and to exhort one another, and we have had the sweet comforting presence of the Lord among us for encouragement; blessed be his name therefor. I confessed myself guilty no otherwise.
KEELING. Then said he, Hear your judgment. You must be had back again to prison, and there lie for three months following; and at three months' end, if you do not submit to go to church to hear divine service, and leave your preaching, you must be banished the realm: and if, after such a day as shall be appointed you to be gone, you shall be found in this realm, or be found to come over again without special license from the king, you must stretch by the neck for it; I tell you plainly. And so he bid my jailer have me away.
BUNYAN. I told him, as to this matter I was at a point with him; for if I was out of prison today, I would preach the gospel again tomorrow, by the help of God.
I continued in prison till the next assizes, which are called midsummer assizes, being then kept in August, 1661.
Now at that assizes, because I would not leave any possible means unattempted that might be lawful, I did, by my wife, [Footnote: |This courageous woman [his second wife] and lord chief-justice Hale and Bunyan have long since met in heaven; but how little could they recognize each other's character on earth! How little could the distressed, insulted wife have imagined, that beneath the judge's ermine there was beating the heart of a child of God, a man of humility, integrity, and prayer! How little could the great, learn- ed, illustrious, and truly pious judge have dreamed that the man, the obscure tinker whom he was suffering to languish in prison for want of a writ of error, would one day be the subject of greater admiration and praise than all the judges in the kingdom of Great Britain.| Dr. Cheever's Lectures on Pilgrim's Progress, p.158.] present a petition to the judges three times, that I might be heard, and that they would impartially take my case into consideration.
The first time my wife went, she presented it to Judge Hale, who very mildly received it at her hand, telling her that he would do her and me the best good he could; but he feared, he said, he could do none. The next day again, lest they should through the multitude of business forget me, we did throw another petition into the coach to Judge Twisdon, who, when he had seen it, snapt her up, and angrily told her I was a convicted person, and could not be released unless I would promise to preach no more, etc.
Well, after this, she again presented another to Judge Hale, as he sat on the bench, who, as it seemed, was willing to give her audience; only Justice Chester being present, stept up and said that I was convicted in the court, and that I was a hot-spirited fellow, or words to that purpose; whereat he waived it, and did not meddle with it. But yet, my wife being encouraged by the high-sheriff, did venture once more into their presence, as the poor widow did to the unjust judge, to try what she could do with them for my liberty before they went forth of the town. The place where she went to them was to the Swan Chamber, where the two judges and many justices and gentry of the country were in company together. She then, coming into the chamber with abashed face and a trembling heart, began her errand to them in this manner.
WOMAN. My lord-directing herself to Judge Hale -- I make bold to come once again to your lordship to know what may be done with my husband.
JUDGE HALE. To whom he said, Woman, I told thee before I could do thee no good, because they have taken that for a conviction which thy husband spoke at the sessions; and unless there be something done to undo that, I can do thee no good.
WOMAN. My lord, said she, he is kept unlawfully in prison; they clapped him up before there was any proclamation against the meetings; the indictment also is false; besides, they never asked him whether he was guilty or no; neither did he confess the indictment.
ONE OF THE JUSTICES. Then one of the Justices that stood by, whom she knew not, said, My lord, he was lawfully convicted.
WOMAN. It is false, said she; for when they said to him, Do you confess the indictment? he said only this, that he had been at several meetings, both where there was preaching the word and prayer, and that they had God's presence among them.
JUDGE TWISDON. Whereat Judge Twisdon answered very angrily, saying, What, you think we can do as we list! Your husband is a breaker of the peace, and is convicted by the law, etc. Whereupon Judge Hale called for the statute-book.
WOMAN. But, said she, my lord, he was not lawfully convicted.
CHESTER. Then Justice Chester said, My lord, he was lawfully convicted.
WOMAN. It is false, said she; it was but a word of discourse that they took for conviction.
CHESTER. But it is recorded, woman, it is recorded, said Justice Chester; as if it must of necessity be true, because it was recorded. With which words he often endeavored to stop her mouth, having no other argument to convince her but, It is recorded, it is recorded.
WOMAN. My lord, said she, I was a while since at London, to see if I could get my husband's liberty; and there I spoke with my Lord Burkwood, one of the House of Lords, to whom I delivered a petition, who took it of me and presented it to some of the rest of the House of Lords for my husband's releasement; who, when they had seen it, said that they could not release him, but had committed his releasement to the judges at the next assizes. This he told me; and now I come to you to see if any thing can be done in this business, and you give neither releasement nor relief. To which they gave her no answer, but made as if they heard her not.
CHESTER. Only Justice Chester was often up with this, He is convicted, and it is recorded.
WOMAN. If it be, it is false, said she.
CHESTER. My lord, said Justice Chester, he is a pestilent fellow; there is not such a fellow in the country again.
TWISDON. What, will your husband leave preaching? If he will do so, then send for him.
WOMAN. My lord, said she, he dares not leave preaching as long as he can speak.
TWISDON. See here: what should we talk any more about such a fellow? Must he do what he lists? He is a breaker of the peace.
WOMAN. She told him again, that he desired to live peaceably and to follow his calling, that his family might be maintained; and moreover said, My lord, I have four small children that cannot help themselves, of which one is blind; and we have nothing to live upon but the charity of good people.
HALE. Whereat Justice Hale, looking very soberly on the matter, said, Alas, poor woman!
TWISDON. But Judge Twisdon told her that she made poverty her cloak; and said, moreover, that he understood I was maintained better by running up and down a preaching, than by following my calling.
HALE. What is his calling? said Judge Hale.
ANSWER. Then some of the company that stood by said, A tinker, my lord.
WOMAN. Yes, said she, and because he is a tinker and a poor man, therefore he is despised and cannot have justice.
HALE. Then Judge Hale answered, very mildly, saying, I tell thee, woman, seeing it is so that they have taken what thy husband spake for a conviction, thou must apply thyself to the king, or sue out his pardon, or get out a writ of error.
CHESTER. But when Justice Chester heard him give her this counsel, and especially, as she supposed, because he spoke of a writ of error, he chafed and seemed to be very much offended, saying, My lord, he will preach and do what he lists.
WOMAN. He preacheth nothing but the word of God, said she.
TWISDON. He preach the word of God! said Twisdon -- and withal she thought he would have struck her -- he runneth up and down and doeth harm.
WOMAN. No, my lord, said she, it is not so; God hath owned him, and done much good by him.
TWISDON. God! said he; his doctrine is the doctrine of the devil.
WOMAN. My lord, said she, when the righteous Judge shall appear, it will be known that his doctrine is not the doctrine of the devil.
TWISDON. My lord, said he to Judge Hale, do not mind her, but send her away,
HALE. Then said Judge Hale, I am sorry, woman, that I can do thee no good: thou must do one of those three things aforesaid, namely, either to apply thyself to the king, or sue out his pardon, or get a writ of error; but a writ of error will be cheapest.
WOMAN. At which Chester again seemed to be in a chafe, and put off his hat, and as she thought scratched his head for anger; but when I saw, said she, that there was no prevailing to have my husband sent for, though I often desired them that they would send for him, that he might speak for himself, telling them that he could give them better satisfaction than I could in what they demanded of him, with several other things which now I forget: only this I remember, that though I was somewhat timorous at my first entrance into the chamber, yet before I went out I could not but break forth into tears, not so much because they were so hard-hearted against me and my husband, but to think what a sad account such poor creatures will have to give at the coming of the Lord, when they shall there answer for all things whatsoever they have done in the body, whether it be good or whether it be bad. So when I departed from them, the book of statutes was brought; but what they said of it I know nothing at all, neither did I hear any more from them.
In the house of the forest of Lebanon you find pillars, pillars; so in the church in the wilderness. Oh the mighty ones of which the church was compacted; they were all pillars, strong, bearing up the house against wind and weather; nothing but fire and sword could dissolve them. As therefore this house was made up of great timber, so this church in the wilderness was made up of giants in grace. These men had the faces of lions; no prince, no king, no threat, no terror, no torment could make them yield. They loved not their lives unto the death. They have laughed their enemies in the face, they have triumphed in the flames. None ever showed higher saints than were they in the church in the wilderness. Others talked, these have suffered; others have said, these have done; these have voluntarily taken their lives in their hands, for they loved them not to the death, and have fairly and in cool blood laid them down before the world, God, angels, and men, for the confirming of the truth which they have professed.
That which makes a martyr, is suffering for the word of God after a right manner. And that is when he suffereth not only for righteousness, but for righteousness' sake; not only for truth, but of love to truth; not only for God's word, but according to it, to wit, in that holy, humble, meek manner that the word of God requireth. A man may give his body to be burned for God's truth, and yet be none of God's martyrs.1 Cor.13:1-3.
When we see our brethren before us fall to the earth by death, through the violence of the enemies of God, for their holy and Christian profession, we should covet to make good their ground against them, though our turn should be next. We should valiantly do in this matter as is the custom of soldiers in war; take great care that the ground be maintained, and the front kept full and complete.
There are but few when they come to the cross, cry, Welcome, cross! as some of the martyrs did to the stake they were burned at. Therefore, if you meet with the cross in thy journey, in what manner soever it be, be not daunted and say, Alas, what shall I do now? but rather take courage, knowing that by the cross is the way to the kingdom. Can a man believe in Christ, and not be hated by the devil? Can he make a profession of Christ, and that sweetly and convincingly, and the children of Satan hold their tongue? Can darkness agree with light?
THE CHRISTIAN WARFARE.
Departing from iniquity is not a work of an hour, or a day, or a week, or a month, or a year; but it is a work that will last thee thy lifetime, and there is the greatness and difficulty of it. Were it to be done presently, or were the work to be quickly over, how many are there that would be found to have departed from iniquity; but for that it is a work of continuance, and not worth any thing unless men hold out to the end; therefore it is that so few are found actors or overcomers therein. Departing from iniquity, with many, is but like the falling out of two neighbors; they hate one another for a while, and then renew their old friendship again.
But again, since to depart from iniquity is a work of time, of all thy time, no wonder if it dogs thee, and offereth to return upon thee again and again; for sin is mischievous, and seeks nothing less than thy ruin. Wherefore, thou must in the first place take it for granted that thus it will be, and so cry the harder to God for the continuing of his presence and grace upon thee in this blessed work, that as thou hast begun to depart from iniquity, so thou mayest have strength to do it to the last gasp of thy life.
And further, for that departing from iniquity is a kind of warfare with it-for iniquity will hang in thy flesh what it can, and will not be easily kept under-therefore no marvel if thou find it wearisome work, and that the thing that thou wouldst get rid of is so unwilling to let thee depart from it.
And since the work is so weighty, and makes thee to go groaning on, I will for thy help give thee here a few things to consider of: And,
1. Remember that God sees thee, and has his eyes open upon thee, even then when sin and temptation are flying at thee to give them some entertainment. This was the thought that made Joseph depart from sin, when solicited to embrace it by a very powerful argument. Genesis 39:6, 7.
2. Remember that God's wrath burns against it, and that he will surely be revenged on it, and on all that give it entertainment. This made Job afraid to countenance it, and put him upon departing from it: |For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure.| Job 31: 23.
3. Remember the mischiefs that it has done to those that have embraced it, and what distress it has brought upon others. This made the whole congregation of Israel tremble to think that any of their brethren should give countenance to it. Joshua 22: 16-18.
4. Remember what Christ hath suffered by it, that he might deliver us from the power of it. This made Paul so heartily depart from it, and wish all Christians to do so as well as he.2 Cor.5: 14.
5. Remember that those that are now in hell-fire went thither for that they loved iniquity, and would not depart from it. Psalm 9: 17; 11:6.
6. Remember that a profession is not worth a pin, if they that make it do not depart from iniquity. James 2:16, 17.
7. Remember that thy death-bed will be very uneasy to thee, if thy conscience at that day shall be clogged with the guilt of thy iniquity. Hos.7: 13, 14.
8. Remember that at the judgment-day Christ will say, Depart from me, to those that have not here departed from their sin and iniquity. Luke 13:27; Matt 25:41.
Lastly, Remember well, and think much upon what a blessed reward the Son of God will give to them at that day, that have joined to their profession of faith in him a holy and blessed conversation.
He that will depart from iniquity must be well fortified with faith and patience and the love of God; for iniquity has its beauty-spots and its advantages attending on it; hence it is compared to a woman, Zech.5: 7, for it allureth greatly. Therefore I say, he that will depart there-from had need have faith; that being it which will help him to see beyond it, and that will show him more in things that are invisible, than can be found in sin, were it ten thousand times more entangling than it is.2 Cor.4:18. He has need of patience also to hold out in this work of departing from iniquity. For indeed, to depart from that is to draw my mind off from that which will follow me with continual solicitations. Samson withstood his Delilah for a while, but she got the mastery of him at the last. Why so? because he wanted patience; he grew angry and was vexed, and could withstand her solicitations no longer. Judges 16: 15-17. Many there be, also, that can well enough be contented to shut sin out of doors for a while; but because sin has much fair speech, therefore it overcomes at last. Prov.7:21. For sin and iniquity will not be easily said nay. Wherefore, departing from iniquity is a work of length, as long as life shall last. A work, did I say? It is a war, a continual combat; wherefore, he that will adventure to set upon this work, must needs be armed with faith and patience, a daily exercise he will find himself put to by the continual attempts of iniquity to be putting forth itself. Matt.24: 13; Rev.3:10.
THE CHRISTIAN ARMOR.
The war that the church makes with antichrist is rather defensive than offensive. A Christian also, if he can but defend his soul in the sincere profession of the true religion, doth what by duty, as to this, he is bound. Wherefore, though the New Testament admits him to put on the whole armor of God, yet the whole and every part thereof is spiritual, and only defensive. True, there is mention made of the sword, but that sword is the word of God-a weapon that hurteth none, none at all but the devil and sin, and those that love it. Indeed, it was made for Christians to defend themselves and their religion with, against hell and the angels of darkness.
OBJECTION. But he that shall use none other than this, must look to come off a loser.
ANSWER. In the judgment of the world this is true, but not in the judgment of them that have skill and a heart to use it. For this armor is not Saul's which David refused, but God's; by which the lives of all those have been secured, that put it on and handled it well. You read of some of David's mighty men of valor, that their faces were as the faces of lions, and that they were as swift of foot as the roes upon the mountains. Why, God's armor makes a man's face look thus; also it makes him that useth it more lively and active than before. God's armor is no burden to the body, nor clog to the mind, but rather a natural, instead of an artificial fortification.
But this armor comes not to any, but out of the King's hand. Christ distributeth his armor to his church. Hence it is said, |It is given to us to suffer for him.| It is given to us by himself, and on his behalf.
I saw also, that the Interpreter took him again by the hand and led him into a pleasant place, where was builded a stately palace beautiful to behold; at the sight of which Christian was greatly delighted: he saw also upon the top thereof certain persons walking, who were clothed all in gold.
Then said Christian, |May we go in thither?|
Then the Interpreter took him, and led him up towards the door of the palace; and behold, at the door stood a great company of men, as desirous to go in, but durst not. There also sat a man at a little distance from the door, at a table-side, with a book and his ink-horn before him, to take the name of him that should enter therein; he saw also, that in the doorway stood many men in armor to keep it, being resolved to do to the men that would enter what hurt and mischief they could.
Now was Christian somewhat in a maze; at last, when every man started back for fear of the armed men, Christian saw a man of a very stout countenance come up to the man that sat there to write, saying, |Set down my name, sir;| the which when he had done, he saw the man draw his sword, and put a helmet upon his head, and rush towards the door upon the armed men, who laid upon him with deadly force; but the man was not at all discouraged, but fell to cutting and hacking most fiercely. So after he had received and given many wounds to those that attempted to keep him out, he cut his way through them all, and pressed forward into the palace; at which there was a pleasant voice heard from those that were within, even of those that walked upon the top of the palace, saying,
|Come in, come in; Eternal glory thou shalt win.|
So he went in, and was clothed with such garments as they. Then Christian smiled and said, |I think verily I know the meaning of this.|
In the description of the Christian armor, we have no provision for the back.