TEXTS FROM ENGLISH RELIGIOUS HISTORY
Tears in time of Pestilence :
the Reverend Mr. JOHN FEATLY
now Printed for more general
London, Printed by W. Godbid, over against the Anchor Inn in Little Britain. 1665.
Mourning by example in a public calamity
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, says Solomon, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. Is the heart then sometimes in a pilgrimage from the body? Or is the body required to visit the sick, yea thought the disease be infectious? Or are we always, by command, to imitate the prophet, whose tears were his meat day and night? The heart indeed is often from home; and is least where it lives, most where it loves. The sick must be visited, or else my Saviour will complain as he doth in the Gospel, saying, "I was sick and ye visited me not." When Job's three friends heard of the evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place, for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. So they sat down and mourned with him seven days and seven nights. When Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness wherewith he died, Joash the King of Israel came down unto him and wept over his face, "O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof," When wicked King Joram went to be healed in Jezreel of the wounds which the Syrians had given him at Ramah, Ahaziah, the son of Jehoram King of Judah, went down to see him in Jezreel, because he was sick. Thus do I read of a holy patient visited by friendly mourners, a holy prophet visited by a wicked king; a wicked king visited by another as wicked as himself. All these were visitors or visited: but I do not find that the diseases were infectious. No; I must therefore imitate the best of them in my charity to others, but I may not forget charity to myself. Wilfully to run into apparent danger is desperately to tempt the keeper of Israel. What shall I then do? The Passing-bells inform mine ears of the mortality of my neighbours, and yet I cannot, I must not, visit them. What (I say) shall I do? What course shall I take? Charity commands me; compassion hastens me to the dying Christians that by my advice, or at least by my prayers, I might express my commiseration. And yet, when I am just at my door, provided, resolved, intended to go, even then mine own health, the health of my family, and (which is greater than all these) the fear of displeasing my gracious Protector, bring me back again, and keep me at home. I would not be uncharitable; but I must not be desperate. Well, then, I am resolved what I will do: I will (with Solomon) go to the house of mourning, the houses of the visited; yet not in body, but in mind, and in purse. I will pity them, and will send relief unto them. I dare not go in person, but I will go in affection; and for my neighbors groaning under the evil of punishment, and for my self burned with the evil of sin, I will feed upon my tears day & night. I must grieve for myself in particular; and yet I must not be unkindly covetous as to keep my tears only for myself. In public calamities those who shed no tears may be justly suspected to have no bowels. I find myself not unapt to seep; for I am prompted to that by the weakness of my disposition. And yet I suspect myself; I am jealous of myself, that my tears do rather flow from my fear of infection than from a fellow-feeling of the miseries which the infected suffer. To heighten therefore my mourning, and to justify my compassion, I will propose to myself the examples of others such as I find recorded in the word of my God.
When the destruction of the Jews was near at hand, the Lord called upon them by the mouth of his prophet, saying, "Consider ye, and call for the mourning women, that they may come; and send for cunning women that they may come: And let them make haste, and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush out with waters: for a voice of wailing is heard out of Zion, how are we spoiled," &etc. The women were commanded to "hear the word of the Lord, and their ears to receive the word of his mouth: they were to teach their daughters wailing; and everyone her neighbour lamentation: for death was come up into their windows, and entered into their palaces; to cut off the children from without, and the young men from their streets. Even the carcasses of men did fall as dung upon the field, and as the handful after the harvestman; and none did gather them."
The case is now with us as it was then with the Jews. Alas, how are we spoiled too! How is "death come up into our windows" by the infectious air! How do our children die, and your young men fall! Our children which know not the cause; and our young men that trusted in the strength of their youth! O how do "the carcasses of men fall as dung upon the open field, and as the handful after the harvestman," and yet there "are none to gather them up"! They perish without, because either there is not room enough left within doors for them, or not people alive to attend them in their sickness; or not people of strength enough to unlock the doors; or not means for their sustenance if they enter in. Thus necessity drives them into the fields; and there mortality seizes upon them, where no person is found to bury their bodies; no hearers to carry them to the surfeited earth; no friends to bewail the loss of their lives; and no Christians to cover them from their gazing spectators, the very fowls of the air, and the beasts of the field. What heart would not break, why eye would not weep; what soul would not lament for this sad visitation? For "these things will I weep: mine eye, mine eye shall run down with water, because the comforter which should relieve our souls, is far from us."
"The Lord hath thrown down Jerusalem" (saith the prophet) and hath not pitied; and he hath caused their enemy to rejoice over them; he hath set up the horn of their adversary. Their heart cried unto the Lord, O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a river day and night: give thyself no rest; let not the apples of thine eyes cease. Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine eyes like water before the face of the Lord: lift up thy hands towards him, for the life of thy young children that faint in the top of every street." Even thus hath the Lord covered us also with a cloud in his anger, as then he did the daughter of Zion; and "cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty" of our Israel; and "remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger." An enemy destroys, and rejoices over us: but such an enemy it is, as neither can hear, nor will spare. The very air which was created to cool the flames of our scorching hearts is so poisoned with the infection that the more we make of it, the less we ourselves are made by it: the closer we feat [sic] even to and in our hearts, the nearer doth the infection approach our spirits. The corrupted air shall be therefore cleansed by the thick groans that shall fly from my heavy heart, and be purified with the thunder of my loudest cries. With Moab in the prophecy, I will howl over Nebo and over Medeba. "In the streets let everyone gird himself with sackcloth; on all their heads let there be baldness: on the top of our houses, and in our streets let everyone howl, weeping abundantly" for we "are destroyed; for our little ones have caused a cry to be heard." Oh, our sucklings that cry for milk from the breast, suck in destruction when they expect nourishment For these things (with Jerusalem) "I will weep sore in the night" (in this night of general affliction:) my "tears shall be on my cheeks, because among all our lovers there is none to comfort us."
At the final desolation of the house of Israel, the prophet told them that "They that fled away of them should escape, and should be on the mountains like doves of the valleys, all of them mourning, every one for his iniquity: All hands should be feeble, and all knees should be weak as water: They should also gird themselves with sackcloth, and horror should cover them; and shame should be upon all their faces, and baldness upon their heads." Lord, what a time of mourning should here be! What a time of horror! Destruction is threatened; and whom destruction missed, mourning should overtake, feebleness should follow, weakness should pursue, and horror should cover. Oh, that very time is come now upon us; that prophecy is fulfilled in our "Israel"! Here is no sword to slay us, no fiery engines of a hellish invention to murder us, no men to take us captives: but here is worse, far worse; here is the "pestilence that walks in darkness and the destruction that wastes at noonday." Here are houses not inhabited, streets not trampled, churches not frequented, sick not visited, hungry not fed, doors not opened, bells no ceased, and graves not satisfied. "The horseleech hath here her two daughters crying give, give." Here are "three things not satisfied; yea four things that say not, It is enough": The hungry cry give, and the thirsty cry give, and the sick cry give; and the grave cries give. The hungry pine, and therefore cry; the thirsty scorch, and therefore cry; the sick want help, and therefore cry; but oh! the grave is daily fed, and yet is daily hungry. The mouth thereof is opened, and it devours men; and yet for all that, it still cries for our "return to the dust" as we were. The mountains the great persons escape not: the habitations of men are like the wilderness of hearts, because the inhabitants are burnt up with the fiery pestilence. Therefore (with the prophet) "for the mountains will I take up a weeping and wailing; and for the habitations of the wilderness a lamentation; because they are burned up that none can pass through them; neither can men hear the voices of the cattle."
The house of Israel was commanded to seek the Lord; but they on the contrary are said to have sought Bethel, and to have "entered into Gilgal" and to have "passed to Beersheba: Therefore the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the Lord said thus: wailing shall be in all streets, and they shall say in all highways, Alas, alas: and they shall call the husbandman to mourning, and such as are skillful of lamentation, to wailing; and in all vineyards shall be wailing, for I will pass through thee, saith the Lord." Here is again a "cloud of sorrows," a thick "mist of groans;" for "the day of the Lord is darkness and not light." This cloud overcasts us too; this mist chokes us; this darkness binds us. Here is wailing in our streets, to dim our eyes; here is the husbandman mourning, to stifle us with sorrow; and here is the mourning of the vineyards to cloud our souls. Our hearts, which should have been gladdened with the fruit of the vine, are squeezed and pressed like the bunches of grapes. Our bellies, which should have been filled with the fruits of the earth, do cry in their emptiness and wail with the husbandman. One woe courts another: one curse salutes another. Our sickness is great, and yet our famine too is great; not that the earth hath forgotten to be fertile, but by reason that men are afraid to furnish us. Pestilence consumes and hunger cries: thus the visited die they know not of what; for sickness calls, and hunger calls, and want calls, and sorrow calls: all of them join in their hideous concord, in their horrid discord, and call for our ruin and yell for our destruction. That heart which bleeds not for such unutterable sorrow must needs be stone or steel: nay worse; for stones will weep, to complain with the clouds; and steel will drop in a time of storms. Heart, if you are a woman's, break; if you are a Christian's, lament; if you are mine, bemoan the afflictions which dwell among my friends, and the blackness which the faces of my neighbors have gathered. I will (with David) "put on sackcloth now," though for my very enemies which are sick; and humble my soul with fasting: and I will go heavily, as one that mourns for his mother. With the prophet Isaiah, I will bewail with the weeping of Jazer the vine of Shibmah; I will water thee with my tears, O Heshbon, and Elealeh. Or, with Jeremiah "Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease; for the virgin daughter of this people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow.
The prophet Ezekiel tells the Israelites that, "The time is come; the day draws near; let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn; for wrath is come upon all the multitudes thereof. The king shall mourn, and the prince shall be clothed with desolation; and the hands of the people of the land shall be troubled." O Israel, how great were thy pangs, when thus you were visited! O how deep are our groans too in this day of our visitation! The Israelites are dead; their torments are forgotten: but we live we live dying; we live to suffer, we live to die. To die, said I? O that death were sweet indeed, if it would come with a wish, if it would hasten in approach; it were sweeter than thy honey and the honeycomb. What was formerly our dread is now our desire. What we fled from, we would now hasten unto, could but death yet grow so pitiful, so merciful, as to hear our desires. But we cannot either die when we would, or how we would. We may not choose either the time or the manner of our death. See, see, how it stares us in the face; and looks upon us in every passenger that crawls by our doors; in every coffin that is carried by our windows. Die we must; but of what disease? By what means? If of age, tis welcome; if of a consumption, tis kind. But what if of the plague? What if of the pestilence? Woe unto us, there is our fear; thence is our trembling. If that arrow be shot at us, we shall have no preacher to pray by us, or to administer spiritual consolation unto us; no friend to visit us; yea, and it may be, neither physic to help us nor meat to strengthen us, no nor servant to attend us. We may call, but none will dare approach to answer us: we may weep but none will dare come to comfort us. This, this day is come upon us. The buyer rejoices not, fearing lest with his bargain he purchase a disease. The seller mourns not, hoping that though he lose by his bargain, yet his money will furnish him with things for necessity. Thus the wrath of God is come upon us; we are clothed with desolation. This I feel; and yet I feel it not: I hear of it; but it comes not yet upon me: it walks by my doors; it beckons to me in the streets; it knocks at my habitation and yet, for all this (blessed be my God) it is not yet entered. But who knows how soon that affrighting disease may force open my door; or creep in at my window; or peep in at a keyhole; or slink in at a crevice? The disease is general but my sorrows shall be therefore as general. All others shall not week and myself alone rejoice. The "meat-offering and the drink-offering" (the participation of the holy Communion) through fear "is cut off from the house of the Lord: the priests, the Lord's Ministers do mourn. The land mourns and everyone that dwells therein languishes; with the beasts of the field and with the fowl of the heavens." Therefore (with Ezra) I will "go into the chamber; and when I am come thither, I will eat no bread, nor drink water; for I will mourn, because of the transgressions" of us all. Or (with Nehemiah) I will "sit down and weep, and mourn certain days; and fast, and pray before the God of heaven."
"The Lord God of hosts did threaten to touch the land of Israel; and it should melt, and all that dwell therein should mourn; and it should rise up wholly like a flood, and be drowned as by the flood of Egypt." Thus has he threatened us also; and has he not brought it to pass? See, see how the land melts, yes, "melts like wax at the presence of the Lord; at the presence of the God of the whole earth." Needs must the land (the hearts of the inhabitants of the land) melt at his presence, seeing the Apostle styles him a consuming fire. Oh how all do mourn that dwell in the land! The parents lament the sickness of the child; the wife of the husband; the servant of the mistress: all mourn, all lament. It may now be truly said that the whole land is drowned; for, what eye is not dimmed with tears? What house is not filled with tears? What street is not washed with tears? If the saltiness of water will cause a barrenness of the earth, what fruit can possible our land produce, which is thus moistened, thus watered with the brine of our tears? And yet, methinks, the earth appears as greedy as ever; for it speedily devours whatever is sprinkled on it by the sorrows of the inhabitants. The infected cry, and the languishing cry: and shall not my tears much rather trickle down my cheeks, although my door is not yet converted into pasture; nor my walks overgrown with the springing grass? Oh yes, much, much rather: yea and with the more courage will I weep, by how much the more I retain my strength to weep. I hear, methinks, "the voices of the visited as of a woman in travail; and their anguish as of her that brings forth her first child, bewailing themselves, and spreading their hands, and each of them saying, Woe is me now, for my soul is wearied because of this murdering" sickness. Therefore will I take up the resolution of the prophet Isaiah; and whosoever shall come to devert my tears, to them I will say "Look away from me; I will weep bitterly; labour not to comfort me." Or (with Jeremiah) "my soul shall weep in secret places for their pains; and mine eyes shall weep sore and run down with tears; because the Lord's flock is" thus destroyed.
The Second Part of the Soliloquy,Treating of several causes of God's visitations
Wherefore did the prophet Jeremiah cry out and say, "My heart within me is broken; all my bones shake: I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine has overcome, because of the Lord, because of the word of his holiness"? Here I find the prophet in a strange and fervent passion, in a trembling ecstasy: yet not too great if I consider the cause, if I weight the verse that immediately ensues: "For the land (he says) is full of adulterers: for because of swearing (or cursing) the land mourns; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up; and their course is evil, and their force is not right." Was Jerusalem thus visited for swearing and cursing? Was Samaria thus burnt up with drought for adultery? Lord, what then has not this land deserved? An oath in every tongue causes a cross upon every door. Uncleanness in every person causes the foulest sores in every patient. The sins are universal, the punishment must needs therefore be as universal. The punishment is become general; O that our sorrow would grow as general. This disease may be cured by lotion: for my part therefore I will be the first that shall step into Bethesda, for I have lain the longest in my sins: long have I also waited for the salvation of my God. I will imitate the prophet Jeremiah and cry out with him and as truly as he, "My heart is broken."
Why did the prophet Micah resolve to wail, "and to howl; to go stripped and naked; to make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls"? Was it not because the Lord was coming forth out of his place, "coming down to tread upon the high places of the earth"? Was it not because the mountains should be molten under him, and the valleys be cleft, as wax before the fire and as the waters that are poured down a steep place? Here was destruction for Samaria and ruin for Jerusalem, but all this was for the transgression of Jacob, and for the sins of the house of Israel. The graven images were the sins of the people: idolatry incensed the wrath of the Almighty. Well might he punish, when the work of mens' hands robbed him of his honor whose workmanship we are: Well might he resolve to be known the might God in his revenge, whom they would not acknowledge to be God when he forebore them. But is it not just so with us as it was with them? Is not Samaria the sin of our Jacob? Are not the high places of Judah our Jerusalem? Here is wrath, and wrath and plague, and plague; but is not idolatry still in our gates? The God of the patriarch says unto us, as Jacob did unto his household, and to all that were with him, "Put away the strange gods that are among you." If therefore we have still a noise of the beads, of the chaplets pretended to be consecrated at Rome; if we have pictures worshiped; crucifixes adored; prayers not understood; and other footsteps of the heathen remaining amongst us, I cannot choose but remember what our incensed Creator says by his prophet concerning the sins of the Jews: "Shall I not visit them for these things, says the Lord? Shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?" Lord, where you are not truly worshiped, you will be dreadfully feared. Though this sin be not general, though not universal amongst us, is it not to be found in private? Does it not lurk in private closets? Is it not harbored in some secret hearts? It "hates the light because it is not the truth:" but yet our sins may multiply in the dark, until they have brought us to the land of darkness. O that (with Jacob) we would all arise, and "go up to Bethel, and make there an altar unto our God;" then we know he would answer us in our distress. This is our plague, this is our punishment, which now does rage amongst us: and is not that our sin? Is not that our iniquity? What remains but that (so far as lies in me) I should strive to appease the wrath of my God? I will therefore endeavor to blunt his arrow, that it may stick no more when he shoots it at us. I will pray unto him to remove at once both the sin and the punishment. I will do as did Micah: I will wail, and howl: I will wail like the dragons, and mourn like the owls.
When Ezra had confessed the sin of the people, "weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men, women and children; and the people wept very sore." What ailed the priest to cast himself down; and the people so sorely to weep? Were they not come out of captivity? Were they not busied in re-edifying the house of the Lord? Were not their burnt offerings and their sacrifices made unto the God of Israel? What now should deject them? The Lord questioned Cain, the murderer, the fratricide, saying, "Why is your countenance fallen? If you do well, shall you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door." Thus might Judah and Benjamin be likewise examined. They had a sin that lay at the door; yea nearer, closer to them if possible might be; even in their beds, in their bosoms. They "had not separated themselves from the people of the land, and from doing according to their abominations: but they had taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: yea, the hand of the princes, and rulers had been chief in this trespass." Yet for all this, their punishment was not hitherto come upon them to the full. They had yet but a sprinkling of it, only some drops: or at most but a gust, a small storm, a shower or two of rain. When the Lord was angry, the clouds frowned; they knit their brows; and as it were in the abundance of their compassion, they "dissolved into tears" for the sins of the people. But more vengeance was expected; therefore the children of the captivity turned away their wives, that "the fierce wrath of God for this matter might be turned from them." If such a sin as this be the cause of this our dreadful visitation, we ought also (with them) to "sit in the street of the house of God, trembling, because of this matter." Whether this, or whatsoever else is the cause of this contagion, the sin of this land; for my part I will resolve (with the same Ezra) to sit astonished at the sins of the land; and (with the people) I will tremble at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgressions of the people of this land. I will not arise from my heaviness, but I will rent my garments, or rather "my heart, and not my garment; and turn unto the Lord my God: for he is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and of great kindness; and repents him of the evil." I will "fall upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God."
Zion was threatened that "her gates should lament and mourn; and that she being desolate, should sit on the ground." Here was the punishment, a grievous punishment: desolation by war; destruction by the sword. Her men should "fall by the sword and her mighty men in the war." But what was the cause? What stirred up the almighty to shower down his vengeance? Alas! It is too easily found: "The pride of the women was the destruction of the men. It was because the daughters of Zion were haughty, and walked with stretched-out necks, and wanton eyes; walking, and mincing as they went, and making a tinkling with their feet." We are punished; we are afflicted, not only by the sword but also (which is more dreadful) by the pestilence. Our sufferances are not in the same manner indeed as were theirs; and yet we deserve both the manner and the measure. Our sins are alike; and therefore our punishments must be expected alike; alike in the greatness, though they are not in the kind. The seem (methinks) already to agree in part; for, besides our sicknesses, we hear of "wars and rumors of wars," and partly feel them. Yea, they come yet nearer alike: for they were threatened that the Lord should "smite them with a scab on the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion:" and this very judgment appears among us in every blain, in every both, in every carbuncle. Surely our sins are as great, and greater than theirs. The pride ofour sex in their dresses, in their laces, in their jewels, in their fashions, in their gates, in their behaviors, in their attendants, in everything, is greater than Zion's. The effects of pride, their lascivious embracings, their amorous courtings are commoner, are frequenter, than Zion's. Lord, is it not just with thee then, to take away from us (as you did from Zion) "the bravery of our tinkling ornaments, and our attires, and our chains, and our bracelets, and our rings, and our changeable suits of apparel, and our mantles, and our glasses, and our fine linen, and our hoods, and our veils? We may most justly indeed expect a stink, instead of sweet smell, and instead of a girdle rent; and instead of well-set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girdle of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty. for us the land mourns; for our pride the people are humbled; for our sins the pestilence reigns. Lord make us all with Zion lament and mourn: make us sit on the ground, acknowledge thy justice, and our sinfulness. God has "come down to the grave" among us, as he did at the destruction of Assyria for the pride thereof; and caused Lebanon to mourn for us; and the trees of the field to faint for us: therefore, with Zion, I will lament, I will mourn, I will sit on the ground.
"A voice was once heard from the high places of Israel, weeping and supplications of the people; because they had perverted their way, they had forgotten the Lord their God." Here was sorrow at the heart for the sin of the soul; and yet no destruction of the body threatened for disobedience. Had they continued in this their repentance, they might have prevented the ensuing judgments: but intermission of sorrow proved to be the ground of their sorrow. Hence came their land to be cursed with barrenness, and the prophet to cry out, "How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein?" Here wickedness was the cause, and barrenness the effect. But why should the herbs and flowers of the field suffer for the sins of the people? Alas! They grew up towards heaven in their grateful acknowledgment that from thence they received their nourishment in the earth. Yea, so innocent they were, that when they looked about them, and saw (as it were) the wickedness of them for whose service they were made, every morning hung pearly tears upon their drooping eyes: and when they saw that men had not half so much remorse as they themselves, they sadly shrunk to bed again in the earth. It was a curse to them to be enslaved in the service of cursed sins: so poisonous is transgression; so mischievous is iniquity. Thus the herbs were cursed for the sins of the Jews. But what had the Jews done amiss, which we have not exceeded? What wickedness had they committed which we have not surpassed? Therefore our herbs and our flowers, the beauty of our gardens and the pride of our knots is nipped, is withered with the poisonous breath that arises from our infected bodies; and yet we fear that what we dispatched the air to kill in our gardens will bring poison to us, and slay us in our houses. Thus we suffer; for thus have we sinned. I will therefore resolve with the prophet David, that "rivers of water shall run down mine eyes, because we have not kept the law of our God."
"Shall not the land tremble for this, and everyone mourn that dwells therein?" says the prophet Amos. Tremble? For what? Israel knew well enough; the poor were sensible enough; even the poor that were bought for silver, and the needy that were sold for a pair of shoes. Here was oppression in the streets, and crying in the gates; for the ephah was made small, and the shekel great; and the balances were falsified by deceit. No marvel that the Psalmist concluded, "Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance they are altogether lighter than vanity." It was thus among the Israelites and thus it is among us also. Men of low degree are vanity; vanity in the account, and contempt of superiors; vanity in the cruelty of superiors. Men of high degree, the richest traders, the merchants of corn and the other fruits of the earth, are a lie; their measures are false, their weights are false; yea they buy by one and they sell by another. They devour their brethren, and yet they do it by a show of justice; for the balances they have corrupted, and the weights they have pared; insomuch as men err most, they are most deceived, when they think themselves most righted, best dealt with. This injustice commands us justly to mourn: so the belly cries, and the back cries. The hungry cry when they buy of the rich, and are cozened by the rich: when they suffer in the cozenage: and suffer likewise in the public, in the general punishment for the cozenage. For this our land mourns, for this our people are visited, our houses are shut up, our streets are not frequented, our markets not filled; and yet the hungry lament, and the thirsty do mourn. The poor can neither buy for their money; nor be employed in their willing labors to earn them money; nor live without money. "We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves. We look for judgment but there is none: for salvation but it is far from us." Therefore with the oppressed I will cry, and with the visited also I will cry. I will cry with the oppressed for right; and I will cry with the visited for health. How long, Lord, how long will you punish us? "O remove our sins like a cloud: blot out, as a thick cloud, our transgressions, and as a cloud our sins: return unto us, for you have redeemed us."
The Third Part of the Soliloquy, showing,that sin especiallyis the cause of the pestilence
The rebellious Israelites were threatened by Moses, that "every sickness, every plague which was not written in the book of the law, them should the Lord bring upon them, until they were destroyed." And they should be "left few in number, whereas they were as the stars of heaven for multitude." These were the menaces, these were the threats of the children of Israel: but among all these sicknesses, where is that which reigns among us? Has God prepared a new punishment for us, such as the Israelites never suffered, nor the law ever mentioned, nor skill ever cured? Doubtless thus God could afflict us; but he chooses rather to punish us as he did others, that so we might find out the cause as others have done. He was pleased to tell the Israelites the cause of their plague which he would send upon them; even "because they would not obey the voice of their God." Just thus he punishes us as he punishes them; even until we are almost quite destroyed: and he tells us our sin, our offence too, by his sword, by his ministers, by our own conferences, even, that we refuse to obey the voice of the Lord. Just therefore, most just it is, that seeing we have, we do, we will thus sin; even thus, yes thus severely, likewise we should be punished. Yea, we deserve it in a far greater manner; in a far greater measure. He who threatened those that would "walk contrary unto him, and would not hearken unto him, that he would bring seven times more plagues upon them, according to their sins:" He who by Moses threatened them, that "if they would not observe to do all the words of the Law which are written in that book, that they might fear this glorious name, the Lord thy God: Then the Lord should make their plagues wonderful, and the plagues of their seed; even great plagues and of long continuance: and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance." The self-same God has found us walking contrary to him; and therefore has brought unto us seven times more plagues than formerly. He sees that we do not fear this glorious name, the Lord our God; therefore has he sent us great plagues, and of long continuance; and sore sickness, and of long continuance.
Thus I sit and muse, and consider of the sickness. I hear the bells tolling; even those bells which were wont to invit us to the temple, that we might know our sins at the mouth of the preacher, and pray for remission of our sins by the help of the preacher; the very selfsame bells serve now to tell me that one man lies languishing, and desires my prayers; another man is departed and wants nothing but a funeral; a third man is to be buried, but a neighborly and friendly company is wanting. Every stroke of a bell (methinks) hits me at the heart, and bids me to prepare for my last farewell. Every toll wakes my conscience, and bids me remember what my sins have merited. Thus my ears receive a sound, and thus my trembling heart feels a throb, a beating, a panting for my particular sins which have been some cause of this general sickness.
"Moses went unto the Lord and said, Oh this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold!'" But what followed? "The Lord plagued the people because they worshiped the calf which Aaron had made." There was the sin, and there was the punishment. But was that plague the same as this which now does rave, and rage amongst us? Surely our sins are the same as were theirs; for we dig the entrails of our mother earth and (like the augurs, the soothsayers, though they said no sooth, no truth at all) we conjecture, we divine by those entrails; yea, and we decree him who is rich to be a good man, a sufficient man, an honest man, and what not? We value the man for the gold; we worship him for it; we honor him for it. And is not this to sin with the Israelites? We do very little differ from those idolaters; even nothing at all. They made them gods of gold, and we make gold our God. Justly therefore are we thus punished by the true God, because we honor that which is not God. The Israelites had this very kind, and sort of plague; such a very pestilence as ours; and for just such a sin as this of ours. Though Moses prayed for them, yea, though he desired to be blotted out of God, rather than they should not be forgiven, yet God decreed, saying, "Whosoever has sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book." Whosoever has sinned against him? If he should deal thus with us, who should people the land? Who should inhabit our dwellings? Who should enjoy our treasures? He has begun blotting indeed already. His ink is found in the blackness of every blain; in the blueness of every token; in the redness of every crossed door. but will this blotting always continue? Will he not stay his hand? Will his wrath burn like fire forever? "Our bones lie scattered at the grave's mouth, as when one cuts and cleaves wood upon the earth. But my eyes are to you, Oh God, the Lord; in you is my trust. Either blot not at all, or only blot out our offences. Hide your face from our sins, and blot out all our iniquities. Say unto everyone of us as you did unto Jacob by the mouth of the prophet, "I, even I am he that blots out your transgressions, for my own name's sake, and will not remember your sins."
The Fourth Part of the Soliloquy, consisting of several examplesof dreadful pestilence
But why do I thus
cry out? Why complain I so mournfully, as if our afflictions exceeded
all that ever were sent upon the children of men? If her consider our
estate by itself, I cannot choose indeed by conclude it miserable: but
if I weigh it with the pestilences of former ages, it will not perhaps
appear a burden so unsupportable. Comparisons may peradventure ease my
grief, and lessen my torments: therefore (with David) "I will remember
the days of old; I will meditate on all the works of God." It may
be that Solomon may advise me, and comfort me too, where he thus counsels,
"Say not in your heart, what is the cause that the former days were
better than these? For you do not inquire wisely concerning this."
I will therefore consider the days of old and the years of ancient times.
When Israel abode at Shittim, "the people committed whoredom with the daughters of Moab: and, not contented with this high offence, they also joined themselves unto Baal-peor, and did eat the sacrifices of the dead. Thus they provoked the Lord to anger with their inventions; and the plague broke in upon them: and those that died in plague were 24,000." Their sin was double; it was whoredom both carnal and spiritual: their punishment was therefore almost double to that which was sent for murmuring.
When David sent for the captain of the host to number the people, Joab answered him fairly, saying, "Now the Lord thy God add unto the people (how many soever they be) an hundred fold; and that the eyes of my Lord the King may see it: but why does my Lord the King delight in this thing? Notwithstanding, the King's word prevailed against Joab, and against the captains of the host: and Joab and the captains of the host went out from the presence of the King to number the people of Israel." But what was the event thereof? "The Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people even from Dan to Beersheba 70,000 men;" and all of them in the space of but three days. Here was yet a greater number than before; and yet all of them fell for the sin of one only man: but this one man was a king; and for his eminent offence, five times as many were slain as when the multitude of people joined in a murmuring. He who by the people was acknowledged worth ten thousand of them, now for his sin became the destroyer of seven times as many of them as he was valued at by them: so great was the anger of the Lord, for a sin so great, and committed by a person so great, so eminent.
The Almighty threatened Jerusalem by the mouth of his prophet, that he would "make that city desolate, and an hissing: everyone that passed thereby should be astonished and hiss, because of the plagues thereof." The same God threatened Edom also by the same prophet, saying, "Edom shall be a desolation: everyone that goes by shall be astonished, and shall hiss at the plagues thereof." The same God again threatened Babylon by the same prophet, saying "Because of the word of the Lord, it shall not be inhabited, but it shall be wholly desolate: everyone that goes by Babylon shall be astonished, and hiss at her plagues."
Thus I "remember your judgments of old, O Lord, and receive comfort." Confess I must indeed, that "we have sinned with our fathers; we have done amiss and dealt wickedly:" but are our punishments as great as our fathers' were? Fourteen thousand and seven hundred fell at one time; 24,000 at another time: threescore and 10,000 at a third time. Lord, what mighty numbers were here! And yet we fear when one dies, we tremble when 10; we run when 20; we are dismayed when 100; we are hopeless, heartless, even almost quite dead already, when 1000 depart. But why should not we expect as great plagues as were sent upon any of our ancestors, seeing that our sins are not less either in number or weight? Wherein are we better than Jerusalem, or Edom, or Babylon, that we are not yet as desolate as they were? That everyone that passes by is not astonished, nor hisses at us, as they did at them? He who visited them does visit us: he "visits our sins with his rod, and our offences with his scourges." Yet he visits us not so sorely as he did the Israelites, when 14,700 of them died, or not so severely, as when 24,000 of them were swept away: or not so grievously, as when threescore and 10,000 of them were destroyed: or not so terribly as Jerusalem, Edom, and Babylon; for we are not quite desolate: or not so furiously as Nineveh, to whom God spoke by his prophet saying, "There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous; all that hear the brute of thee shall clap the hands over thee:" Or howsoever, not so remediless as the army of Pharaoh at Euphrates, whom the Lord mocks by the mouth of his prophet, saying, "Go up unto Gilead," and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt: In vain shall you use any medicines, for you shall not be cured." This, O this makes me to "eat my bread with quaking and to drink my water with trembling and carefulness," for fear left our sin-revenging God should punish us as he has done them. O what mercies does he not yet afford us! To our physicians he gives knowledge; to our medicines he gives virtue. The herbs of the fields, and the fruit of the trees, and the flesh of the beasts do yet offer themselves for our cure, and our sustenance. O that we had but so much happiness, as to know the misery which is due to our offences! O that we had but so my mercy from God, as to know his mercy in his gentle visitation! For this our misery will I groan; for these our sins I will lament; for the mercy of my God I will pray, and I will cry, "Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon us: Lord be thou our helper. O be thou our help in trouble, for vain is the help of man."
The Fifth Part of the Soliloquy, showing how God threatens before his Visitation
Gog was threatened for a thing which yet he was suffered to do. The Israelites were to be his purchase, the "unwalled villages his prey; all that dwelled without walls, and had neither bars nor gates" should be made desolate by him. Thus the people of God were to suffer for the sins committed against their God. But was the enemy to escape, by whom the people should be corrected? Was Gog to be enriched, and to enjoy the spoil? Nothing less. The very instrument of the revenge was not to be freed from the wrath of the revenger; nor the executioner to be accounted innocent, though he punished the guilty. "I will plead against him with pestilence (says the Lord) and with blood. I will rain upon him, and upon his hands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire and brimstone." Thus the Israelites offended and were threatened with the armies of Gog. Gog offended in that he knew not his maker; in that he looked only to his advantage and spoils, while yet he executed the vengeance of God: he is therefore threatened; he shall therefore be consumed. When he should have revenged God upon the rebellious people, then God himself would be revenged upon him with judgments from heaven.
The prophet Ezekiel was sent to threatened the Israelites for their many rebellions, and thus said the Lord God unto him, "Smite with your hand, and stamp with your foot, and say, Alas for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel; for they shall fall by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence. He that is far off shall die of the pestilence; and he that is near shall fall by the sword; and he that remains and is besieged shall die by the famine: thus will I accomplish my fury upon them.'" Here is warning given before the blow be stricken; there is the sword already half out; here is the famine already in a due preparation; here is an angel ready to disperse the pestilence; but, before execution here is notice given; before the punishment here is a threatening sent. Even thus also has our God dealt with us: thus has he warned us. He who "delights not in the death of a sinner" does never strike before notice given; for he had rather that our repentance should quiver his arrows than that by our sins he should be enforced to hit us at the heart.
"I will smite the inhabitants of this city (says God by Jeremiah concerning Jerusalem) both man, and beast: they shall die of a great pestilence." Lo here is still the future tense, "I will;" not "I do." God delights not in the execution of his wrath; but yet his "I will" is a sure as his "I do." Thus he has formerly threatened us with his "I will." I confess indeed he has: and yet we would not believe what was to come; and only because we found it not instantly present. Hence it is that now our people cry; now our beasts do roar: and it is but just that men and women should be ranked in the order among beasts, seeing that our sins have discovered us to be more stupid than them. Yet the beasts perish, though they could not sin; and we perish because we can do nothing but sin. So the servant suffers for the offences of the master; so the beasts are punished for the sins of the owners. The pestilence puts no distinction between them both, although the one could not, the other would not avoid the punishment.
In the book of Exodus the Lord says concerning Pharaoh, and the Egyptians, "Now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite you and your people with pestilence, and you shall be cut off from the earth." Take heed Pharaoh, he is true who threatens: and although he says "I will," yet he says "now I will." He is ready for you, although your heart is not ready for him. He is just now prepared to punish, if you are not just now prepared to obey. "I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when you are gathered together in your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and you shall be delivered into the hand of your enemies," says the Lord to the Israelites. And again, "The Lord shall make the pestilence to cleave to you, until he has consumed you from off the land whither you go to possess it." Yea, and yet once again: "The Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? And how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs that I have showed among them? I will smite them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and make of you a mightier nation than thy." O the fathomless treasure of the bounty of my god! O the riches of his goodness, and patience, and longsuffering leading us to repentance! What were the Israelites that he should not plague them? Why not presently? The wages is due so soon as the service is done; and the punishment is due so soon as the offence is committed: and yet, although God be forward in the former, he is slow to the latter. Although he delights in the former, yet he is hardly drawn to the latter. Methinks when I consider the Israelites, I wonder at their rebellions: and yet, methinks when I consider ourselves, I wonder much more. "What could have been done more to this vineyard of God, that he has not done unto us? He has fenced us in, and gathered out the stones from us, and planted us with the choicest vine, and has built a tower in the midst of us, and also made a wine-press in this his vineyard," and yet for all this, when "he looked that we should bring forth grapes, behold wild grapes." Oh how my heart pants within me, and my whole self is in a trembling fear, when I consider his mercies, and our rebellions! O methinks I see a "handwriting" against us almost upon every door, every inhabitant, written as it were, with the fingers of a man's hand (as once "Belshazzar saw upon the plaster of the wall;") which makes my "countenance change and my thoughts be troubled, so that the joints of my loins be loosed, and my knees smite one against another:" and I cry for mercy for I have offended; and I knock for compassion, for I have transgressed. God did threaten Israel with a pestilence when they should be gathered together in their cities; with a pestilence that should consume them from off the land; with a pestilence that should disinherit them: and all this to avenge the quarrel of his covenant, because they still provoked him; because they would not believe him, for all the signs that he had shown among them. But wherein had Israel offended? In what manner? In what measure, which this land has not exceeded? And yet, O how unwillingly does the Almighty punish us! O how slowly! O how gently! "The kingdom of heaven suffers violence," says my Jesus. Violence indeed, by our daring sins, for we draw the revenger's sword for him: we bend his bow for him, "and make it ready: we also prepare for him the instruments of death, because we whet our tongues like swords, and bend our bows to shoot out arrows, even bitter words, that we may shoot in secret at the perfect: suddenly we do shoot at him, and fear not." And what now can we expect but judgments, seeing we will not offer the just, and rightful violence to the Kingdom of heaven, even the violence of our prayers; the violence of our tears; the violence of sobs, and sighs; and groans in our spiritual combats, and conflicts? What can we expect but vengeance? And what do we meet with, but destruction? He has threatened, and threatened, again and again; and yet we have resisted, and resisted, again and again too. When "he looked for righteousness, behold oppression:" justly therefore, now we look for mercy, behold a cry. A cry in the beds of those languishing; a cry in the chambers of the infected, and pined prisoners; a cry of the healthful, for fear of infection; a cry of parents for their tender children; a cry of children for their dying parents. Brother cries for brother; sister for sister; all cry for help; all cry for mercy. "O Lord hear our prayers, and let our cries come unto thee."
The Sixth Part of the Soliloquy, treating of the duty of a Christian; decreeing both to whom, and for whom we ought to pray in the time of Pestilence
But all this while (since my thoughts have been fixed upon those that are visited, and I am certainly resolved for whom I will pray) let me be sure that I direct my prayers aright, or else my devotion may be but blindness, and my religion superstition. To him without doubt, and to him alone, must I tender my petitions, from whom, yea from whom alone, this sickness is sent upon this sinful land. And who is he which visits the earth, but only the great Creator of heaven and earth? The very Philistines could acknowledge this, when the "Ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, and all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again. Then they began to be afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp.' And they said, Woe unto us, for there has not been such a thing heretofore; Woe unto us; who shall deliver us out of the hands of their mighty Gods? These are the gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.'" Thus, even by the testimony of the uncircumcised, my God is determined to be the sin-revenging God, who punishes offenders with these plagues and pestilences. But shall I only depend upon their testimonies who knew not God, for my assurance that this vengeance comes from God? No, I will look a little farther, and find David the prophet acknowledging it in his psalms, and saying "He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death; but gave their life over to the pestilence." This the patient Job confessed, saying, "Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty; for he makes sore, and binds up; he wounds and his hands make whole." This the holy prophet Hosea proclaimed and said, "Come and let us return unto the Lord; for he has torn, and he will heal us; he has smitten, and he will bind us up." This was the song of devout Hannah: "The Lord kills and makes alive; he brings down to the grave, and brings up." Yea, and this God himself does publish to the whole world, and says, "See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no God with me. I kill and I make alive: I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand." It is clear then, it is most apparent, that in this general sickness I must of necessity acknowledge the finger of God. There was once a time when he himself proclaimed, saying, "I am sought of them that asked not for me: I am found of them that sought me not. I said, behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name. I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people." And surely that time is now come again: for we sought him not, and yet we have found him in this day of our visitation, even in this dreadful sickness. He hath spread out his hands all the day long unto us a rebellious people; but we would not hearken unto him; justly therefore do we remain among the graves; and hence it is that our hands are held up unto him. But, alas! So weak are our devotions; so feeble are we in our petitions; so inconstant, so wavering are we in our faith that our hands are heavier than our hearts. We must be fain to have an "Aaron, and Hur t stay them up," or else we are ready to let them down; and if they fall, the great Amalekites (both our sins, and God's revenge) will prevail against us. He cries out unto us, "Behold me, behold me;" and (woe is unto us) we do behold him in his severe and consuming wrath: but oh that we might behold him in the clear and most lovely glory of his mercy! Oh that he might now be sought of us, though formerly we have not asked for him! He once did promise that a "time should be when the children of Israel should come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they should go and seek the Lord their God." Surely that time is now come unto us his Israel: for now we go, and weep as we go (as did David for Absalom). We "weep as we go up to our chambers. With Joseph we seek where to sweep; and we enter into our chambers, and weep there." With the church, in the psalms, we go forth and weep. With the Israelites, we weep before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. With David and the people that were with him, we weep as we go up to the city. Yea with Ishmael, we weep all along as we go. And as we weep, so I hope we shall seek too; even seek the Lord and his strength; yea, seek his face evermore. This is the way for pardon; and this is the means for health: for so God promised King Solomon, saying, "If I shut up heaven that there be no rain: or if I command the locusts to devour the land: or if I send a pestilence among my people: if my people which are called by my name shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven; and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." Lord, this pestilence you have sent among us; among us Christians that are called by your name. Let others do what they will: "as for me and my house, we will serve thee, O my Lord." Do thou turn me from my wicked ways, that you may hear from heaven, and forgive my sins, and heal this land: for I will seek your face: I will humble myself: I will pray unto you and say,
Omnipotent Lord, thou
sin-revenging God, who for disobedience did threaten your own people "Israel
to smite them in the knees, and in the legs with a sore botch that could
not be healed, from the sole of the foot unto the top of the head; to
smite them with the botch of Egypt, whereof they could not be healed."
Thou who by the mouth of your only Son did foretell to the Jews that "nation
should rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom; and there should
be famine, and pestilence in diverse places." Be pleased, O great
offended Lord, in the bowels of your compassion to "let your anger
cease," and to bow down your ear to your sorrowful handmaid. O my
God, you see how I groan under the burden of your wrathful indignation,
bemoaning the general sufferings for our more general sins. Our sins,
our sins do far exceed the transgressions of Israel; Yea, they are greater
than those of the Jews against the true Messiah; for your own apostle
bore witness that "had they known it, they would not have crucified
the Lord of Glory;" be we, alas, both have known and do know him;
and yet we "crucify to ourselves the Son of thee our God afresh;
and daily put him to an open shame." For these our offences you have
begun your revenge, yea and most justly too; for you are clear, though
Man should judge you. Under this your heavy wrath we groan O Lord, we
cry, we howl; for sickness increases, death approaches; yea, such a sickness
and such a death, as makes us fear both ourselves and our neighbors, because
we have not feared you, the Lord of hosts. You see, O Lord, our afflictions;
even that our houses are made our prisons, and our sores our companions.
Our streets are turned into pastures, our towns into wilderness; and,
for our backwardness in our devotions, our very doors instruct us to address
ourselves to you, and to beseech you Lord to have mercy upon us. Our days
are consumed in sorrows, and languishing; and our nights in weeping and
mourning. You wound us and we cry. You smite us and we roar. You plague
us and we are troubled, we are dismayed. Our Golgothas are surfeited with
the dead, and our habitations infected with the living. We fly from place
to place, from country to country; and yet we fly not from your presence,
we avoid not your judgments. What shall we do? What shall we do? "Is
there no balm, O Lord, in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then
is not the health of the daughter of your people recovered?" Your
son, your merciful son, your sweet son, Jesus, was "sent to bind
up the broken hearted, and to open the prisons to them that were bound
and to comfort them that mourn:" and he was not backward in the performance
of that for which he was sent, for he "healed all manner of sickness,
and all manner of diseases among the people. At thy feet," therefore,
O Jesus, thou best physician, we cast ourselves down. A multitude we are
that lie at your feet: Cure us, O Christ; heal us, O Jesus, as you did
the multitude. A whole multitude once did seek to touch you; for there
went virtue out of you; and you healed them all. You were moved with compassion
and did heal their sick. Many did you cure of their infirmities, and plagues.
"Behold your hand is not shortened that it cannot save; neither is
your ear heavy that you cannot hear." The number of petitioners cannot
deter you; the multitude of suitors cannot molest you; for you have healed
many; therefore, with the multitude in the Gospel, we press upon you,
that we may but touch you; for you have virtue in yourself; you have power
to heal. O Lord hear, O Lord forgive, O Lord heal us of our grievous wounds.
In the depth of your fury, when you did resolve to be revenged of a rebellious
people, it was yet your promise that you would leave a few from the sword,
and from the famine, and from the pestilence, that they might declare
all their abominations among the people where they should come; that they
might know that you are the Lord. Us you have plagued, us you have punished,
so sorely, so grievously, that but few of us are left: Yet, O Lord, now
at last look in mercy upon us: O Lord let this remnant find your compassion.
O cure us, O heal us, O help us for your mercy's sake. When you were angry
with Egypt you did threaten to smite it: but even at that very instant
you did promise to heal it and hat they should "return unto you their
Lord, and that you would be entreated of them." You did proclaim
unto Judah that you would bring it health and cure; and would cure them
and reveal unto them abundance of peace and truth. You did promise unto
Zion that you would "restore health unto her, and heal her of her
wounds, because she was called an outcast by the people, saying This is
Zion, whom no man seeks after." These were your promises even in
the midst of your threatenings: and will you be worse unto us than you
were unto Egypt, or Judah, or Zion? True it is, that you expect our conversion;
you command us to "turn unto thee with all our hearts, and with fasting,
and with weeping, and with mourning." To you therefore, oh God (though
formerly we have not, yet now) do we turn. We turn to you both our weeping
eyes and our dejected countenances, and our wringing hands, and our bended
knees, and our mournful voices, and our groaning hearts. Merciful God
behold our tears, and view our countenances and look upon our hands, and
strengthen our knees, and hearken to our voices, and comfort our hearts.
The priests, oh Lord! Even your own ministers do "weep between the
porch and the altar, and they say, Spare your people, oh Lord! and
give not your heritage to reproach.' Our Ezras "pray and confess
and weep , and cast themselves down before your house; and the people
assemble themselves unto them both our men and our women, and our children;
for we all weep very sore." We weep as the Israelites did before
the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, when 24,000 of them died
of the pestilence. Thus we mourn; thus we weep; our eyes, our hearts,
our very souls do weep: oh, let us taste of your love! Let us feel your
compassion! Make us to boast of your praise, as your servant David did;
when he "cried unto you and you did heal him." You have been
wroth with us, as you were the Jews for their covetousness; and you have
smitten us: you have hid yourself, and have been angry; yet we have gone
on forwardly in the ways of our hearts. But oh, our God! Do make us as
penitent as those Jews: and then say unto us, as you did unto your Judah,
"I have seen your ways and I will heal you: I will lead you also,
and restore comforts unto you and to your mourners." Alas, we mourn,
and yet we are punished. We grieve and yet we are plagued. And all because
"our iniquities do testify against us: but for your name's sake,
O Lord, be pleased to spare us! Oh the hope of Israel, the Savior thereof
in the time of trouble, why should you be as a stranger in the land, and
as a wayfaring man that turns aside to tarry but a night? Why should you
be as a man astonished, as a mighty man that cannot save? You, oh Lord,
are still in the midst of us, and we are called by your name." Therefore
we pray you, leave us not. O here is a pestilence in our land; and we
make our prayers and supplications, and stretch forth our hands toward
your house. Hear therefore in heaven your dwelling place, and forgive;
that we may fear you and walk in your ways all the days of our lives.
Or, if the sins of us your people cause you to stop your ears at our prayers,
oh hear our Hezekiahs praying for us who have not cleansed ourselves.
Stay the plague from us your Israel, as you did from your people when
your servant Phinehas executed judgment. Cause our Aarons to take their
censers, "and to put fire in them from off the altar, and to put
on incense." O let them come quickly to our congregations, and make
an atonement for us. Let them "stand between the dead and the living,
and let the plague be stayed." Your angel "stretches forth his
hand upon our Jerusalem to destroy it." O do as in the time of King
David: "Repent of the evil, and say unto the destroying angel, It
is enough; stay now your hand.'" Hear me, oh Lord, for the distressed
people; and hear them for me; and hear your Christ for us all: that to
him, and you, and your blessed Spirit we may render (as is most due) all
praise, and glory, and thanksgiving, and obedience from this time forth
for evermore. Amen.Tears of her whose house
"Give ear to
my words, O Lord ; consider my meditation.
"Farewell vain world;" thou that hast deluded me with thy follies, and cozened me with thy false and braided wares. Come not near me; my doors are shut, and none such as thou shall enter here. "Farewell false friends," who only gaze upon this rising sun. You who were my companions in folly, and enticers in fond and idle sports: farewell; no more shall you enter with your bewitching charms. Sports, pastimes, games, merry meetings, gossipings; fare ye all well; come no more to my doors: for if you do come, you shall knock, and knock, and knock again, and all in vain, for even to this purpose also are they now made fast. And now mine eyes, the luster of my countenance, you windows of folly, take your leave of your vain objects; for I have a talk to set you, that you never yet were acquainted with.
First, I will prefer you to attend upon my heart; and whatever sighs and sobs my poor heart shall send forth, it shall be your duty to entertain them by the way, and enforce them to accept of the company of your tears. You shall weep till you are weary, and then shall you read; and when indeed you are weary of poring upon divine pages, for your recreation you shall weep again, that by that means you may be fitted to read again.
Next, if at any time I give you leave to consult with the sister of mortality (as sometimes I shall need to afford you a time of intermission by the persuasions of nature), be sure that you stay not too long from your employments; for my haste is great, my business is of consequence; we have only a little work to do for the King of Eternity, and then we shall be at ease.
And you, my ears, that have so often hearkened to the siren songs of the vain world, now bid adieu to your musical harmonies, and ravishing concords; for I must lock you up for a season: and hereafter you shall hear a melody beyond the tuning of the spheres; for the choir of heaven shall ravish you with their hallelujahs.
These hands that so proudly hid themselves under kidskin and blushed when they were beheld by any less than an idolater, shall now entwine each other in a mutual concord; and then revenging the quarrel of their sins upon my treacherous heart, they shall smite it, and thump it, and beat it, until they have mollified it; until they have beaten that stone into flesh, and that flesh into water, and forced that water into tears for the sins of my whole self.
Next, my tongue, my untoward, unruly, wanton tongue; my false, pick-thank, telltale tongue, that could never find the way to tell the truth, or not willingly, or not with delight; you, for your idle, your profane, your wicked speeches shall send out nothing by cries and yells and hideous dins, and horrid screeches, for your offences: and if at any time I shall, by your obsequious service, be contented to trust you with an articulate prayer, be sure that you first take direction from my heart; and then deliver it so loud (but forget not discretion) that it may be heard up to high as the throne of my God. Be sure that you do it; for I will have a watch over my mouth, and at the doors of my lips, that I may be certain you do not offend.
As for the rest of myself (since I cannot stay now to give every part a charge in particular,) I shall command them only to attend the pleasure of my royal guest. Only my thoughts I must commit to the tuition of my heart, although it formerly has been false to me: and desirous I am that they may be pressed, pressed down with great and heavy burdens. But I charge you, O my heart, if ever you hope to be my own dear heart, that you suffer not an imagination, not a thought to come near you, but what shall be commended to you by religion, and what you shall dispatch to your maker.
And now I am prepared for you; Welcome O my God. If my rooms are not clean enough for you, I must entreat from you both direction and assistance to cleanse them. If any dust of wickedness has flown about in the sweeping of them, I will now give my mind to wash my chambers with the tears of my eyes; and that, I know, you delight in.
O thrice-welcomed, blessed God, welcome, oh welcome my dearest redeemer. O how truly did the kingly preacher affirm that "it is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting; for that is the end of all, and the living will lay it to heart!" My house is shut up indeed; it is shut up for the infection; for fear of the infection; for fear lest others should infect my family; or for fear lest my family should be infectious to others. But what of all that ? I am not the first that ever was shut up: I am not the only one that ever was shut up. The leper in the law was to be shut up seven days: and "at the seven days end, when the priest looked on him, if the plague in his sight were at a stay, and spread not in the skin, he was to shut him up yet seven days more." This shutting up was rather for his cure, than intended for his hurt. Noah was said to be shut up in the Ark; but it was for his preservation: and so my I be likewise. Jeremiah was shut up too; yea, in a prison, although his goal was the house of the King; and yet, even at that time, he was visited by the best; by one better than the King; even by God himself. For he often spoke to him in the time that he was shut up. Thus am I shut up; even in a prison made of my dwelling: I hope that my God will speak comfortably unto me. I will hope that he has shut me up as a jewel in a cabinet; in his care; in his tender compassion. if so, I am sure that no evil shall come in unto me, for he is holy, he is true, he is powerful, who has me in keeping. He has the key of David; "He opens, and no man shuts, and he shuts and no man opens." True it is that sometimes he shuts out; as when he shut out from his ears the prayers of his people. Thus the faithful complain by the mouth of the prophet, "When I cry and shout, he shuts out my prayers." Sometimes he shuts up; and that in judgment too; as "he shuts up the eyes of the idolaters, that they cannot see, and their hearts, that they cannot understand." And sometimes man shuts too, even when he is forsaken of god: for so saith the wise King. A violent man shuts his eyes, to devise forward things. And again, God is said sometimes in judgment to shut up, even heaven itself, as in a time of drought. Therefore Moses advised the Israelites, saying, "Take heed to yourselves that your heart be not deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods, and worship them: And then the Lord's wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit, and lest you perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord giveth you." But sure I am, that although he should shut me up in judgment; yet he, whose "compassions fail not, in the midst of judgment will remember mercy." I know that in former times he has been angry, and then "before him went a pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet." I know that once, when the people of Israel had offended, then the sword was without, "and the pestilence and the famine within; he that was in the field was threatened that he should die with the sword; and he that was in the city, famine and pestilence should devour him." I know that Elijah prophesied against Jehoram in writing, saying, "Thus says the Lord, Because you have not walked in the ways of Johoshaphat your father, nor in the ways of Asa King of Judah; Behold with a great plague will the Lord smite your people, and your children, and your wives, and all your goods: And you shall have great sickness by disease of your bowels, until your bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day." And I know also that "if he cut off and shut up, or gather together, none can hinder him." But what then? What though he has shut me up? Shall I therefore rage and rave like one distracted? What though "I am a sister to dragons, and a companion to owls?" What though my skin should be black upon me; and my bones be burnt up with heat? Should I therefore cry, "Let the day perish wherein I was born; and the night in which it was said, There is a child conceived'?" O no; I will rather resolve with afflicted Job, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." Why should I offer to be dismayed? That God which dwells in the heavens has taken up my house, and is come to sojourn with me upon earth: I will speak in the phrase of a King: "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold the heaven, and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee: how much less this house of mine which thou now dost visit!" O what a happiness it is to have God for our visitant! Though he comes in wrath, yet is he welcome. O let me have my God any way, rather than not have him at all! If he should not sometimes be angry with me, I should suspect that he loved me not: but if forever he should be angry with me, I should feel that he loved me not. He is never angry with me, but when I am not angry with myself. I will soon therefore appease his anger by revenging myself upon myself, for the sins which I have committed against his glorious name. And if I cannot be revenged enough, I will cry for anger; even for anger that I cannot punish myself enough for displeasing him who thus honors my roof. When the Israelites were to eat the paschal lamb, they were commanded to "take of the blood thereof, and to strike it on the two side-posts, and on the upper door-posts of the houses wherein they did eat it. And the blood (says the Lord) shall be to you for a token upon the houses where you are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you when I smite the land of Egypt." O here is comfort now in the midst of affliction: here is joy in the depth of sorrow. See, there, there is that token: there is the blood on the door, or at least, the representation of it; for the red Cross is there. It is to me for a token, or a memorial of the blood of that innocent Lamb without spot, that was slain, that was crucified on the Cross for the sins of the elect. Now Lord do what you please; spare or strike; it shall be all one to me, so long as you give me a firm assurance that he has suffered for me. I value not my flesh: I care not for this lump of walking dust: let it be blown away; let this mud-wall be thrown down: it is no matter; I am content, so long as I am sure that the anger of my God will be appeased by the blood of my Redeemer; and that so soon as my soul shall be freed from the prison of my flesh, I shall forever sit on the right hand of my Jesus. Sure I am, that although my house be shut up because of the infection, yet my Christ will cleanse my soul with his blood. Therefore World, farewell: shut up whom you please. Your company is not so good, nor your courtesy so great, as to command my joy. Although my house here be shut up, yet he who is faithful has promised that "the gates of that new Jerusalem, which is above, shall not be shut at all by day: and that there shall be no night there." O let me beg of my Lord, my Landlord; yea my guest, my friend, my brother, my father, that (seeing I am a woman, a fearful woman, wonderfully afraid, especially of a serpent, or a dragon) he will be pleased to "lay hold on the dragon, that old serpent which is the devil, and Satan; and bind him, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he may deceive me no more." O how contentedly then shall I mourn! How joyfully shall I grieve for all the offences that ever I committed! Well; now my God is pleased to speak to my conscience, away will I go in private, all alone, and cry in a corner. I will weep by myself; away will I go; and separate myself from my family, yes even from him who is my head, and my Lord; that I may the more freely weep. This I will do, and this I may do ; for when Jerusalem had great mourning, not only every family mourned apart, but even their wives also mourned apart. So will I: I will mourn apart too. Because I must not offer to offer unto my God such a present as a little poor bottle of tears, and say nothing to him when I tender it; humbly therefore upon my knees will I fall, and thus will I say unto him:
Glorious and ever-living Lord God, who does "suffer the wicked to live in prosperity; to be in no trouble like other men, nor to be plagued like other men:" but has told us that "whomsoever you love you chasten, and scourge every child whom you receive;" vouchsafe, I beseech you, to sanctify this affliction which you have laid at this time upon me and mine. "You are come, O my God, to call my sins to remembrance." O let me not frustrate your intent, nor repel the motions of your blessed Spirit! Myself and my family are now shut up from the lewd temptations of the seducing world: Lord make me at this time to look into myself, into my own wicked and sinful heart, which has been so long shut up even from my own self, from my own understanding and my knowledge. This, O Lord, is your time to speak: let it, I beseech you, be my time to hear. My house is become a house of your correction; and myself and family are the offenders whom you are pleased to chastise. "Lord correct us, but with judgment, not in your anger, lest you bring us to nothing. Your wrath at this time lies hard upon us; and you afflict us with all your waves. You have put our acquaintance far from us: you have made us to be an abomination unto them. We are shut up and cannot come forth. Our lovers and our friends stand aloof from us, and our neighbors stand afar off. By reason of this affliction my eye mourns. Lord, I call daily upon you, and stretch out my hands unto you. O let not the water-flood overflow us; neither let the deep swallow us up; and let not the pit shut her mouth upon us. All the day long are we plagued, and chastened every day. I am wearing of crying; my throat is dry; my sight even fails for waiting so long upon you, my God." O consider your distressed servants, that we are but flesh; and that we are even "a wind that passes away, and comes not again. Deliver us, O Lord, from the snare of the fowler, from the noisome pestilence." Either send to us, or else be you yourself to us a staff as well as a rod, a supporter as well as a corrector, that so we may not be "afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flies by day, nor for the pestilence that walks in darkness; nor for the destruction that wastes at noonday." Prepare us, O Lord, for those heavenly mansions, where your Son sits at your right hand making intercession for us Hear him pleading for our remission, and interceding for our pardon. Out of his wounds have issued that precious balsam which is able to cure the sins of the whole world. In him be pleased to be reconciled unto us: and since "our times are in your hands," Lord, either spare us for your honor, or else receive us to your mercy. Let the health of our bodies make us mindful to labor for the health of our souls: and let the sickness of our bodies put us in mind of the diseases of our soul. good God, either preserve us from sickness, or protect us in sickness. Be our God, and make us your servants; and then come either with health, or with sickness; thy will be done. You can cause "a thousand to fall at our side and ten thousand at our right hand," and yet preserve us. You can, if you please, so protect us that "no evil may befall us, nor any plague come near our dwelling." O grant therefore that we may make "you our refuge; yes, you who are the most high, our habitation. We are troubled, O Lord; we are bowed down greatly, we go mourning all the day long. We eat ashes as if it were bread, and mingle our drink with weeping, because of your indignation, and your wrath: for you have lifted us up, and cast us down." But O you who are my only rock, "why have you forgotten us?" O why do we go thus mourning by reason of this affliction? "You are the God of our strength, why do you cast us off?" O give me leave (with Queen Esther) to speak yet again before you, the King of Kings, and to fall down at your feet" (as she did at the feet of King Ahasuerus) and to beseech you with tears to withdraw your visitation. O Lord our very souls within us do mourn, for you do cause "our Sun to go down at noon; and do darken our earth in the clear day." You have "turned our fasts into mourning, and all our songs into lamentation." You have "brought sackcloth upon our loins" and made our mourning "as the mourning of an only Son. The joy of our heart is ceased, and "the crown is fallen from our head. Woe unto us that we have sinned." But oh, you who were "anointed to preach good tidings unto the meek; who were sent to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound: to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord; yes, and the day of vengeance of our God: to comfort all that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes; the oil of joy for mourning; the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." You who "set up on high those that be low, that those who mourn may be exalted to safety." Regard, (I most humbly and earnestly beseech you) the prayers of us "the poor destitute, and despise not our desires. You have seen our ways; O do heal us: lead us also, and restore comforts unto us" that we may be called "trees of righteousness," the planting of you our Lord, that you may be glorified. "Do not wound us, O father, with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of our iniquities." Let not our "sorrow be incurable, because our sins be increased." Though for a small moment you have seemed to forsake us, "yet with your great mercy gather us again. In a little wrath, you hide your face from us, for a moment; but with everlasting kindness have mercy upon us, O Lord our Redeemer. O thou who are our Redeemer, the Holy one of Israel, the God of the whole earth," let your "ears be open unto our cries: open your eyes, and see" our afflictions, how we are shut up from the comforts of the godly, and from the society of our endeared friends. "Consider and hear me, O Lord my God: lighten our eyes lest we sleep the sleep of death. Behold as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden to the hand of her mistress: so our eyes will wait upon you, O Lord our God" until you have mercy upon us. O do grant unto us remission of our sins; patience in our miseries; comfort in our distress; physick for our health, and recovery: and in your blessed time, "bring our souls out of prison that we may give thanks unto your name: which thing if you will grant unto us, then shall the righteous resort again unto our company. So shall we that are your people, and sheep of your pasture give you thanks forever; and show forth your praise from generation to generation," world without end. Amen.
Tears of her who is visited with the Pestilence being 1. Either wounded with a sore. 2. Or marked with the Tokens.
1. Tears of the visited, being wounded with a sore: The Soliloquie:
"Give ear to
my words, O Lord ; consider my meditation.
Oh, tis come,
tis come! "My heart is sore pained within me; and the terrors
of death are fallen upon me. See, see; what swelling is this? What rising
is this? Oh, it is the messenger of death, and bids me to enquire into
my sinful life. I am struck, oh I am struck to the heart. This is the
impression of anger and the blot of him who in his wrath may justly blot
me out of his wonted compassion. Yet let me not despair: let me not be
too much dismayed. While there is life, there is hope. The woman in the
law who had "gone aside to another man instead of her husband"
(whereof her husband was jealous, and broughtt her to her purgation) was
to be "charged by the priest with an oath of cursing: upon whose
drinking of water, her belly did swell, and her thigh did rot." Surely
I have drunk none of that water: or if I have, it cannot hurt me; for
by that very law, the innocent escaped free from the punishment. I have
never dishonored my nuptial bed; nor defiled myself with any other man,
that this swelling should light upon me. Yet (now I better consider of
it) let me not deceive myself. There is as well a spiritual, as a carnal
adultery. Even a virgin may be styled an adulteress. Have I never turned
from my God? Has my soul never forsaken her dearest husband, my blessed
Redeemer, to commit a spiritual whoredom? O guilty, guilty: woe is me,
I cannot choose but plead guilty, to this my indictment. My conscience
tells me that I have followed the temptations of the enemies of Christ
I cannot tell how often: and justly therefore (I must confess) may this
swelling be my punishment; for greater than this has been my due desert.
Peradventure to correct my pride, this "thorn in my flesh may be
a messenger of Satan, sent to buffet me," as once Saint Paul had
one sent to him; for who of all our sex is not guilty of this folly? Among
us are the "tender and the delicate women" (such as were among
the Israelites) "who will not adventure to set the sole of the foot
upon the ground, for delicateness and tenderness" and (not to flatter
or deceive myself) I may peradventure be one of them. Or if I have not
had power to put in practice what I desired, yet it may be that my desire
has been to be as delicate as the chiefest and finest of our sex.
But what shall I do in this distress? May not these poisoned humors, that have conspired together in this present tumor, as well be some other disease, as the infectious pestilence? Lord, how fain would sinners live in ignorance, and never either understand the offences which they have committed, or know the manner and the kind of their punishments! How fain would the sick delude themselves with the conceit of health; and hoping for life, cozen their knowledge with the falsehood of opinion! I cannot deny but it is the sickness which I am stricken with; the infectious sickness, the dreadful pestilence: and I can have no hope of life if once it seizes on my trembling heart. To prevent that danger, therefore, since my heart has hitherto been so stony, so hard to entertain the motions of the blessed Spirit, I will request it now to continue its obduracy, not against my great God, but against this sad and deadly sickness. What it has usually retained, almost to the utter undoing and destruction of my soul, I will entreat it to continue now for the preservation of my body. Or if that will not do; if it resolve to yield in this time of distress, far rather than I will seek to that, I will humbly beseech my offended Lord to take possession of my heart: and if he will vouchsafe to grant my petition, then come what can come, I am sure I shall have comfort, because I shall have the society of my God. But what if my heart be preserved from these malignant humors? Have I then an assurance that my disease is not mortal? Alas! No, but I must use the means, and beseech my God to give them his blessing. I must apply those things which will mollify this swelling; it must be softened, be broken, be drawn, before it be healed. Thus, even thus must I deal with my heart too. The malicious humors of sin and corruption have already assembled there, and caused it to swell. I will hasten therefore to Job's physician, who "softened his heart and troubled him:" and I will beseech him for Christ's sake to mollify mine, for there are more than the seven abominations of a dissembler in it. I will pray him to rent it; to break it; to break up the fallow ground of it, for he better can break mine, than the misery of reproach could break the heart of the prophet David. I will entreat him to "take away the foreskin" of it and to "wash it from wickedness, that I may be saved, and that no vain thought may lodge in it." I will request him to search it; that he will lay something to it; even all the wickedness that ever I have committed. Then, when he has broken it, I know that he will heal it and "bind up the wounds" of it: for to this purpose he sent his Son, his only-begotten Son, my Redeemer, my Jesus, even to bind up the broken hearted. But when this great cure shall be wrought for me, what have I to render unto him by way of thankfulness? Alas! Nothing, even just nothing at all, unless he will accept of that broken, yet therein that whole and cured heart, that then shall be his, and I know that he will accept of it; for so says David, that "man after his own heart; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise!" From the malice of this heart does proceed the malignity of this my disease; for sin is the cause of every sickness. But all this while I do but talk of this malady; I seek not a remedy. Alas! To whom shall I go? To what physician, or surgeon shall I repair? I read that if any man of the house of "Israel had in the skin of his flesh arising, or a swelling, or a bright spot; and if it were in the skin of the flesh like the plague of leprosy, then he was to be brought to Aaron the priest, or to one of his sons, the priests," and the priest was to "look on the plague in the skin of the flesh, and then to proceed according to order. Thus, under the Law, the priests were the physicians both for the body and the soul: whereupon the prophet Jeremiah complained, and accounted it as a great judgment upon the people for their sins, that "From the prophet even to the priest everyone dealt falsely: they healed also the hurt of the people falsely." Hence also another prophet reproved them, because "The diseased they had not strengthened; neither had they healed that which was sick; neither had they bound up that which was broken." Under the Gospel also the Apostles were likewise physicians for both: for when Christ had "called unto him twelve Disciples," he not only "gave them power against unclean Spirits, to cast them out;" but also "to heal all manner of sicknesses, and all manner of diseases." Doubtless by this I am likewise taught, into whatsoever sickness I fall; whatsoever disease I am visited with; first of all to go to the Priest, to the Minister of God: first to examine my soul, before I look for the cure of my body. To the priest will I therefore go; to the chief priest, to the high priest, to the chiefest and highest that ever was; even to him who is "a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" and humbly will I beseech him to teach me to "fear his name" and then I know that he who is the "Sun of righteousness will arise with healing in his wings;" and will make me "go forth, and grow up as the calves of the stall."
Make use of the prayer which follows the next meditation
"Give ear to
my words, O Lord ; consider my meditation.
There is "a time to kill" (says Solomon) and "a time to heal." O that time to kill is now come upon me; but I know not how so much as to hope for the time of healing; for here I find the tokens of death, the marks of my mortality. This flesh, this sinful flesh of mine, which has been so washed, so unguented, so smoothed and colored, according to the choicest wit of art and industry, has now the stains in it of a contagious sickness. Where are now those admirers of comeliness, and those idolatrous doters upon the beauty of women? Let them come and learn the vanity of their opinions; and chide their simplicity by these tokens of vengeance. O what a frail thing is woman; easily deluded into a belief of her beauty, and as easily stricken with her own deformity!
But what do these spots mean to dye my flesh, and strike such a deep tincture in a smoothed skin? Are diseases blind, that thus they fasten everywhere without either choice or exception? Vain woman as I am, why do I spend these minutes, these few and winged minutes allotted to me, in such impertinent questions? These blemish stains tell me that I must provide to answer for my sins (yea, shortly, speedily) before him who dispatched them hither unto me. Death approaches; mortality knocks at my burdened heart. Lord, how heavy is my soul! Even as if it were already at the great tribunal, and pleaded guilty of millions of enormities.
"They have corrupted themselves (says Moses by the Israelites) their spot is not the spot of God's children; they are a perverse and crooked generation." Is there a spot, then, which even the children of God may be subject unto? Why then may not these be some of those spots and myself be one of those children of God? Lord, how willingly, how greedily, does everyone strive to "die the death of the righteous"! How easily are we apt, through ignorance, to dwell in the letter of the text, when we should rather pry into a farther intent of the blessed Spirit! That spot of the children of God is not seated in the body, but in the soul; and that spot in the souls of the Israelites was chiefly idolatry. True it is that even the righteous have their stains too; but not such blotches, not such great and foul spots; or howsoever, not of such a deep tincture, not dyed so ingrained, as are those of the wicked: for they are washed out with the tears of sorrow through the blood of the Lamb. O that my spots were only in my skin, and not in my soul; and that I could truly justify myself in the language of Job: "Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know my integrity. If any blot has cleaved to my hands." But alas! I cannot, I dare not; yet if I could but come to a sight of my sins, and be truly humbled for them, then am I sure that he who taught Jacob how to increase his flock of the "speckled and the spotted" would easily make me as white as wool. But how, or upon what grounds can I expect mercy, seeing all that I can suffer. Is not punishment enough for all that I have trespassed? "Without shedding of blood is no remission" says the blessed Apostle. What comfort then can I expect, or what mercy can I hope for, seeing that my blood, my life is not of value enough to suffer what my sins have merited; much less to purchase remission of my sins? What now shall I do? What hope can I have that my body should be freed from these spots of my disease, when I know not how to be freed from the polluions of my soul? By the Mosaic law, "if any one of the common people sinned against any of the commandments of God concerning things which ought not to be done, a lamb without blemish" as to be his offering," and so the "atonement was made for the sin, and it was forgiven." Here yet was some ease for a distressed soul: the sin was forgiven through the blood of the Lamb. But what hope have I of remission? That law does not longer stand in force: nor will the blood of a common lamb be accepted for the least, the smallest offence. Yet, cheer up, O my drooping soul; let my fainting spirits and my sorrowful heart take comfort in the middle of my deep distress: for there is a "Lamb, an innocent Lamb, a Lamb without blemish, which once was offered to bear the sins of many." From one of those many who have sinned, and why then should I not be one of those many too, whose sins he has borne? Lord, make me one of your children through the merits of your Son; and cleanse the pollutions of my soul by the blood of that Lamb, even that "Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world."
But whilst I thus meditate upon the stains of my soul, my body bids me to look upon these unwonted blemishes. Lord, how bluish they appear! Surely if those doters upon our sex should see these spots, they would forget their idolatry, and tremble at the judgment. When Mordecai was clothed in his blue and white, it is said that he went in "royal apparel." The apparel of my skin, methinks, does seem to resemble the covering of his body; for here is the ancient white which nature conferred, and here is the blue come now too, sent me from God. It is royal apparel, because it is sent me by the King of glory: and it is welcome too, because that glorious King is the father, likewise, of mercies, "and the God of all consolation. The blueness of a wound cleanses away evil," says the wise King Solomon. Surely he meant not such a wound, such a spot as is each of these; for although these are blue, yet certainly they do not cleanse; or, if they do cleanse, their cleansing concerns nothing but my soul. They put me in mind of that duty, for my time is short, and suddenly shall my poor soul bid farewell to this corrupted, to this spotted body: but as for this body it cannot be cleansed; it may be ruined by these bluish wounds. Christ said to his church, "You are all fair my love; there is no spot in you:" and St. Paul tells me how it comes to pass that it is freed from spots; for "Christ (he says) gave himself for it, that he might sanctify it, and cleanse it by the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish." Of this church I am a member; a poor, weak, unworthy member; and yet I have my spots, my corruption in my soul, which these in my body peep out to remind me of. But why did I not "keep the commandments without spot, and unrebukable?" Why have I not "kept myself unspotted from the world?" O for this, for this very cause am I now thus visited, am I n ow thus stained: and no more am I able to take these prints out of my flesh, than the Ethiopian is able to "change his skin, or the leopard his spots." Yet I have comfort in my Redeemer; in him who has "redeemed me (not with corruptible things as silver and gold) from my vain conversation; but with the precious blood of himself, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot." Though my body therefore decay, yet I have a confidence that my soul shall live: I have an assurance of that, for he who brings me to a sight of these spots, has given me likewise a sight of my sins (his name be for ever magnified for it); and methinks they appear a thousand thousand times more loathsome, more ugly in my soul, than these do in my body. They are ten millions of times more certainly mortal in their own condition to my soul, without the mercy of my Jesus, than these are to my body. Yet if it might be safe for me to expostulate with my god, I would say unto him in the language of the prophet, "Why is my pain thus perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuses to be healed? Will you be altogether to me as waters that fail? Have you utterly rejected me? Has your soul loathed me? Why have you smitten me, and there is no healing for me? I look for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble." But if I should thus expostulate in the phrase of the prophet, yet must I howsoever conclude with the prophet and say, "I acknowledge O Lord! My wickedness and the iniquity of my fathers; for we have sinned against thee." Yet methinks, these spots will as hardly go out of my mind as out of my body. The express word of God to the Israelites was, "You shall not make any cutting in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord." And good reason there was for this prohibition; for they were very apt to be led by the heathens, among whom it was a custom at the death of their friends to lament and cut themselves. It was their manner also to make incisions, and to fill up the wounds with antimony or ink. But I, alas! I do find here such prints and marks in my flesh, as the very heathen themselves would have stood amazed at; yet these are not carved by the violence of myself, but by the finger of my God. I must therefore content myself, and rejoice at the sight of them, since they proceed from him who is the "father of lights," (although they presage darkness unto me) for "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above." This gift does not seem in itself to be either good or perfect: but upon second, and more serious cogitations, if my true repentance ensue upon them, I shall find that they will hasten me to the best good, to the chiefest perfection; even to the Kingdom which is purchased for me by the blood of my Redeemer. Alas! I cannot choose but cry out with Job, and say, "I was at ease, but he has broken me asunder: he has also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for his mark." Or, with Jeremiah: "He has bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow." Or with Job again, through the extremity of my sorrow I am forced to expostulate with my God and say, "Why have you set me as a mark against you, so that I am a burden to myself?" But I will silence myself in his words again, and say, "I have sinned; what shall I do to you, oh preserver of men!"
When it pleased the Almighty to preserve his children in the city of Jerusalem, when the rest should be destroyed, he commanded a man that was clothed in linen, and had "a writer's inkhorn by his side, to go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and to et a mark upon the foreheads of the men that signed, and that cried for all the abominations that were done in the midst thereof." A mark I have too; yes, more than one, and one, and one, though not in my forehead; and they are set on as if they proceeded from the ink of the writer: but woe is me, I have either not cried at all, or not enough, either for my own sins, or for the abominations of Jerusalem: how then can I hope to escape the destruction? And yet he that spared them, if he please, can spare me likewise: for "his hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither is his ear heavy, that he cannot hear." When Hezekiah was commanded to "set his house in order," and it was told him that "he should die, and not live, he turned his face to the wall and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore." And presently Isaiah was sent to him to tell him, "Thus says the Lord, the god of David your father, I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears, behold I will heal you, and I will ad to your days fifteen years." He may be pleased to say unto me too, as he did to Hezekiah, for I also weep, yes I "weep very sore:" and I also pray, yes I pray heartily, and say, "Be not far from me, O Lord! O my strength, hasten to help me." But Hezekiah was more righteous than I am; for he "walked before the Lord in truth, and with a perfect heart, and did that which was good in his sight:" where "in me dwells no good thing." But Miriam was a woman as I am, yes, and sinful, and yet when she was leprous, Moses cried to the Lord for her, and said, "Heal her now, oh God! I beseech you, and she was shut out from the camp but seven days," and was healed. O! But she had a Moses to pray for her, whereas I, alas, have none. I have no such Moses to pray for me. But what: shall I therefore remain quite destitute of all hopes? Shall I despair of the goodness and the tender mercies of the most high? No; I may not; I must not; for that would but increase my sin, and add to my torments. The woman in the Gospel who for "twelve years' space had an issue of blood, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing better, but rather grew worse; she only came behind my Jesus, and touched his garment; and straightaway the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague." With that fearing and trembling woman will I in like manner fall down before him, and tell him all the truth. I will confess unto him all my sins; or at least, so many as possibly I can call to my remembrance. Who knows but he may say to me as he did to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you whole; go in peace, and be whole of your plague"? I am resolved to take no repulse. The "whole multitude," even the multitude of my sins shall not hinder me, (though they rebuke me) that I should hold my peace: but (with the blind man in the Gospel) I will "cry so much the more, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.'" Or (if that prayer is too short) while he shall prolong my time I will compose and settle myself to a larger form, and earnestly, fervently, zealously I will pray to him, and say:
O eternal and most merciful Lord God, "whose eyes are ten thousand times brighter than the sun," and yet you vouchsafe to look with your eye of providence even upon the meanest of the children of men: regard (I beseech you) "the low estate of your afflicted handmaid. You know all my desires; and my groaning is not hid from you." To you the pollutions of my poor soul are more naked and open than these spots in my flesh are obvious to my sight. The foulness of my corruptions have conspired with the infectious air to cause these stains in my skin: and by them I am commanded to prepare for my dissolution. Lord, if you have decreed by these means to free me from this world of pain and misery, be pleased to translate me from hence to "the joy of you, my Lord" and Master. Give me (oh my father!) a sight of my own perfections; make me loath them, and tremble at them, more than I do at these messengers of death. Wean me from the love of sin by the consideration both of your displeasure and my own mortality. These spots appear like so many eyes, which seem to stare me in the face, and would affright me with horror: and all because I had not always a consideration that your "eyes in every place do behold the evil, and the good." Blessed God give me a sight of my corruptions, and a detestation of them; and then turn your "face away from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities." Speak peace, and health to my wounded soul, which every minute expects your coming. Lord, you are a God who cannot abide to behold unrighteousness: look not therefore with your wrathful eye upon me who am all sin and pollution; but upon your Son, and his sufferings. Or if you cannot choose but look upon me, first clothe me with the righteousness of that immaculate Lamb; so shall you see me with love and delight, and I shall behold you with unspeakable joy. Prepare me, oh my god! that I may be a fit guest to be called and invited to the "supper of the Lamb." Seal to my soul the remission of my offences; and then make me willingly resign up my body to your own disposing. Yet you may "speak the word" (if you so please) and "your servant may be healed." There was a leper in the Gospel who "fell down at your feet, O Jesus! giving you thanks, and with a loud voice glorifying" your name, because you healed him. It is as easy for you to restore me in like manner, as you did that leper. When Ephraim "saw his sickness," and went to the Assyrian; and Judah "saw his wound, and sent to King Jareb," there was found no healing, nor curing of the wounds: but those that come unto you shall find that you are both able and willing to "heal all those that are broken in heart, and to give medicine to heal their sickness;" for unto Israel you did proclaim yourself "The Lord that heals." Have mercy, therefore, upon me, oh Lord! "For I am weak; oh Lord heal me, for my bones are vexed. Strengthen me now upon my bed of languishing: make all my bed in my sickness. Heal me, oh Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for you are my praise." Oh let not my bruise be incurable, though my wound be grievous. Let me have one to plead my cause, even that Holy One, your only begotten Son; that he may bind me up, and give me healing medicines. You are he who did promise Jacob to "correct him in measure, though not to leave him altogether unpunished." You rebuke me for my sin, and "make my beauty to consume away like as it were a moth fretting a garment." These marks in my flesh do cause a trembling even in my spirit. Lord, grant that upon my soul be not found the "mark of the beast," but the mark of thy Son, that he may own me for his. "O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me! Give your strength to your servant, and save your distressed handmaid." Show now "some good token for good," that it may appear unto the world that "you Lord, do help me and comfort me." but if in your secret purpose you have decreed at this time to "gather me unto my fathers," make me with joy and comfort to render my account unto you, the Lord of heaven and earth. Look not upon the sins and offenses of my misled life, but rather look upon my Redeemer's death," who was wounded for my transgressions; bruised for my iniquities; the chastisement of my peace was laid upon him: by his stripes" therefore let me be healed. In the midst of the street of your throne, oh god! "and of either side of the river of life there is a tree of life bearing twelve manner of fruits, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nation." Oh my God, let me but come to taste of those fruits; let me but be shaded under the leaves of that tree of life. "Be merciful unto me: heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee." Then shall "my soul bless thee," oh my Lord! "And all that is within me shall praise thy holy name, who forgives all my iniquities, and can heal my diseases. Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me, oh Lord God of truth. The Spirit and the Bride say come." Therefore let me who now hear it say, "Come." Let me hear your voice, oh God, "in the cool of the day," not in the heat of your displeasure. And you, oh my Jesus! who for such sinners were made a sacrifice on the altar of the cross, bow down your ear as you did upon the tree, and hear, and fulfill the desires of your wounded supplicant. Come O Jesus! and embrace me in your arms: hide me in your wounded side from the wrath of your father. In you alone do I trust; to you alone do I flee. Succor me; help me; save me, O Christ. The world I leave: to you I come. At the door of your mercy do I knock, I call, I cry. Lord protect me: Jesus comfort me. Strengthen my faith; and confirm my hope. As my earthly body draws nearer to the earth, so draw my soul up nearer to you who are the "father of spirits." O God make speed to save me! O Lord make haste to help me. Finish soon these days of sin, and then let me enter into your celestial paradise; and that for his sake in whom alone you are well pleased, even Jesus Christ, my only Mediator and Redeemer. Amen.