James Meikle, 1730-1799
The author wrote these meditations
Meditations 1 to 30
What a load of business presses me on every hand when about to leave my native country! I must state and clear with all my creditors and debtors before I go! Besides, when I am about my ordinary business, a little pocket-money will defray my charges. But it is not so when going abroad; I must have bills of exchange for a considerable sum, and changes of apparel agreeable to that part of the world to which I am bound. Now, if I am thus busied, thus anxious and concerned about my going from one part to another of this terrestrial globe; with what justice will all this care, anxiety, and concern, be increased, when I must commence my journey to eternity, and set out for the other world? This is an event that unavoidably awaits me; and who can tell how soon? Of what folly would I prove myself possessed, should I propose to go so far without a farthing? But with much greater madness would I be intoxicated, should I launch into eternity without a saving interest in the heavenly treasure! To be poor in any part of this present world, begets contempt among the men. But poverty in the eternal world—is an eternal shame, and an irretrievable loss!
Again, would I not blush to go with tattered clothes and dirty shoes, to a part of the world where it is fashionable to be finely dressed? How, then, shall I appear without the white raiment of a Savior's righteousness, in the presence of God, where angels walk in robes of innocence, and saints in broidered garments? When the marriage of the Lamb shall be come, and his wife shall have made herself ready; if found without the wedding-garment; with what confusion of face shall I be covered, and with what anguish cast into outer darkness!
How I am hurried at the last in setting out, notwithstanding I have been so long proposing, and so long preparing for this voyage! Yes an express arrives, that the ship is ready to sail—and I am taken, as it were, unawares—though for some time I have been expecting such a message. Then, since I have this momentous, this interesting voyage into the eternal world before me, let my daily study be so to set all my grand concerns in order, that when ship of death comes, I may have nothing to do but set my foot aboard, and be wafted over to the land of rest!
Again, though looking for death daily, yet I, and all my friends—may be surprised at last.
Now of friends and acquaintances I take a long farewell. But at death I bid the whole world an eternal adieu.
ON TAKING FAREWELL.
Everything beneath the sun has vanity and vexation engraved on it. And it is fit it should be so, lest men, possessing what they aspire after, should forget that this world is fleeting. So we see, we feel—that pleasure is interwoven with pain, sweet with sour, joy with sorrow, riches with anxiety and cares, greatness with torment, health with disease, and life with death.
When I took farewell of my friends to see other nations, and rise into a more universal knowledge of the world and men (trifles that please an aspiring mind) yet how were all my fine prospects more than balanced to think, that I might never see my native land again, the land of liberty and light. What if I should drop into the unfathomed depths of the ocean, and be a prey to the finny tribe? But, abstracting from these gloomy forethoughts, how was joy turned into a flow of friendly sorrow! Can I yet forget the affectionate grasp of hand, the melting tear, the parting kiss, and kindly look—as if it might have been the last,* and all from friends so near and dear? Yet this must be: I must either refrain from going abroad, or take farewell of all my friends. And who knows if ever I shall see them again, until in another world, where the nearest ties are loosed, and the dearest relations dissolved—unless a spiritual relation unites our souls to him, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, a family that shall never scatter or be dispersed through the ages of eternity! *(The author never saw some friends, alluded to above, again in life, particularly his mother.)
The highest wisdom of the traveler, then, is to be made a member of the heavenly family. Thus, when the frail family, of which he is a mortal member, must be divided, parted, and spread abroad—some in death, some in distant lands—he shall never be cast out of the celestial family, nor denied the high privileges thereof—but may cry to God, 'Abba, Father,' and shall find him not far off, when roaring oceans interrupt the father's passionate care, and bound the tender mother's melting flow of affection. Without such a celestial relationship—we are orphans, though we had the best of fathers, and the kindest of mothers. Without such a celestial relationship—we are friendless, though we had the most sympathizing sisters, and obliging brothers. Without such a celestial relationship—we are destitute, amidst our numerous, rich, and munificent family; and more desolate—though among a world of friends.
But, blessed with being a member of this heavenly family—no tongue can tell our happiness. Our heavenly Father, who knows our need, is ever at our hand. His power and promptitude to do us good exceed the gracious father, and excel the kindly mother. His mercy outshines the sympathizing sisters, and his bounty the obliging brother. His promises are better than all our earthly relations. His providence is better than our richest friends. His presence is better than a world of acquaintances, or the friendship of kings. May this, then, be my case—and I am happy in my travelings, and joyful in my journeys.
THE TEMPER OF A TRAVELER.
Now I leave my native land in peace with all, and wish well to friends and foes, as no doubt I have both.
Gratitude binds me not to forget my friends. Grace binds me to forgive my foes. He carries an evil principle in his bosom, who goes away with rage, in hopes to return and revenge; for "anger rests only in the bosom of fools." It is a Christian grace to forgive even the worst of injuries; for it ennobles a man more to conquer the wicked principle of his corrupt nature, than to take a city. Would I revenge a personal quarrel on any at the day of judgment? Surely not! Shall I, then, carry rancor to the very grave, or lie down in a condition in which I would not wish to rise? Therefore my angry passion shall be converted into pity, and I will not only forgive men what they may have done amiss to me—but implore forgiveness for them in that wherein they may have offended God. Thus shall I go lightly, compared with the mental madman who cherishes revenge. He continually carries about with him a load of hurtful two-edged weapons, in hopes to find his foe, and satiate his revenge upon him. But, while he waits his opportunity, he slips a foot, and fails among the pointed weapons, which wound him unto death. So must every malicious person fare at last—who falls over the precipice of time into eternity—full of envy, and inflamed with wrath.
THE FINAL JOURNEY.
Leith, March 1758.
Though only now and then, one here, and another there, departs this life, yet on the confines of endless ages, on the borders of the invisible world—what numbers of departing souls are daily passing from every part of the inhabited globe—to appear before the tremendous judgment!
If we glance the obituaries of well populated cities, the numbers that daily die are astonishing. And though nothing be more common than death—yet nothing is more affecting than dying.
I have taken one journey, which may remind me of another that shall overtake me—and that, being my final journey, shall never be followed by a future one. Let not, then, my improvidence in spiritual things, cause me to repent, when repentance, though perpetuated, may be too late.
ON ARRIVING AT A STRANGE CITY.
Thousands and ten thousands are the inhabitants of this place, and yet I know none of them. How soon is man a stranger among his fellow-creatures! He may be acquainted with the people where he was born and brought up, or where he dwelt. But a few days journey convinces him, even among the multitude of men, that he is a stranger on this earth; for where he is acquainted with one, he is unacquainted with thousands. This admonishes me to account the world a foreign country, and myself as only passing through it to my native country; and therefore to fix my affections on the things that are above, where I am hastening.
My next reflection leads me to admire your omniscience with astonishment. Not a person among these many thousands but you know their business, their actions, and their way of life, yes more, their words and very thoughts. You also rule and govern them in all their various actions, numbers of whom have never known you. Nor does the conduct of your providence only extend to this circle of men—but to every individual through the extensive universe. O wisdom to be adored! O power to be depended on! And shall not I, who am but one, trust in you who orders all the world so well! Not only the peaceful village in its ordinary round of human life—but the hostile plain in all the tumult and confusion of war, confesses your scepter. Then, if all have an interest in your common providence, shall not I have an interest in your special care?
My next reflection is on the almost incredible numbers of my fellow-creatures who inhabit here; and if I throw my thought through the world, what greater numbers, what nations are held in life! what then must the general assembly at the great assize be, if, according to some, every thirty or forty years sweeps the world of all its inhabitants? By the same great God, who now governs with wisdom, shall all this mighty assembly be judged with equity, who will render to everyone according to his works. While thousands hang their head for shame, may I be among those who shall lift up their face with joy before the great congregation.
GOOD AND BAD MEN MIXED TOGETHER IN THE WORLD.
London, April 16, 1758.
Now the world of mankind is a mingled multitude—good and bad are mixed together—wheat and tares grow in one field. Yes, they dwell now in one house, of whom at the last day one shall be taken and the other left. This is a grievance which cannot be avoided, for we must have connection with the wicked in the affairs of life, else we must go out of the world. And sometimes, as to me at present, there are certain stages of life, in which they are as it were—with the wicked, and handcuffed with the sons of vice—to whom the things of God are foolishness, and by whom the concerns of the immortal soul are never taken into consideration. They live as if they were to live forever in this present state, or as if when they die they would never go to judgment, and then to their eternal state.
What comfort, then, should it be to my soul, that he who once made all things, will again make all things new! He will, as in the old creation, divide, not only between night and day—but between the sons of night, and the children of the day. And while those are covered with shame and confusion of face, and cast into the blackness of darkness forever; the righteous shall shine as the stars, and as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Then shall God's people speak a pure language; and to them, the Lord will manifest all of his glory. Perverse thoughts within, and profane talk without, shall no more disquiet them. Neither wicked company nor wandering cogitations shall vex the child of God any more. Then those who walk with him in white, shall talk with one another on the sublimest subjects of eternity—on the love and sufferings of the Son of God. Idle words in that state of perfection shall cease, where every speech is pure and spotless, every whisper celestial, every word divine, and all is one ravishing paean on redeeming love!
ON BEING ENABLED TO RESIST A TEMPTATION
London, April 17, 1758.
Grace to help in time of need is the gift of God to the child of grace, and the greatest blessing we can receive from heaven in a state exposed to temptations from every quarter.
All within me desires to bless your holy name, that when the temptation was near, you were not far off; and that, as it was consistent with your divine wisdom to permit me to be tempted to sin, it was also consistent with your grace and goodness to strengthen and deliver me when I was tempted. As my finite wisdom cannot prevent my being tempted, so my feeble powers cannot resist being overtaken by them. I have your providence, therefore, to magnify, that I am not overtaken with more temptations than I am; and your grace to adore, that I am not overcome with every temptation which assaults me.
Human nature (and in me more so than in many) is like a pile of dry wood shavings; and temptation is like a spark of fire cast into it; then it must be power divine that hinders all from going into a blaze. O kind compassion! O tender mercy! O glorious grace! I am nothing; hence I shall think humbly of myself—but highly of your grace.
What a thorny path is human life! How is it strewed with snares, gins, and traps—for head and feet, for heart and hands. If I lift up my head in pride, I fall into the condemnation of the devil. If I am not watchful in my goings, I am cast into a net by my own feet, and walk into a snare. Vanity is ready to fill my heart, and wickedness my hands. There is not an organ of my body—but Satan has his deceptive weapons against it. For my ear, he has false teaching. For my sight, he has the lust of the eye. For my touch, he has the handling of the things that perish. He turns my desires into covetousness; my legitimate concerns into anxiety; my fears into despair. He would run down my hope, and attack my faith. Seeing, then, that I am thus beset with snares on every side, from every hand, O that on my soul—my one precious gem—there may be seven eyes, and a protection round about me better than horses and chariots of fire.
Two lessens I am taught, which, through grace, I never shall forget: 1. To be distrustful of myself. 2. To be confident in God, strong in his grace, and to boast in him all the day long. May the holiness of my life, show the sincerity of my gratitude. And may I mind with joy, that your name, as to my sweet experience I have found—is a "present help in time of trouble."
THE PROMISES A DIVINE TREASURE.
London, April 19, 1758.
Once, with the unthinking world, I esteemed the poor miserable; and called the rich happy. But now, since I glanced the volumes of Scriptural revelation, I am of another mind. If we compare poor and rich in scripture account, we easily see a mighty difference; for while a threatening is dropped here and there against the one; to the other pertain the precious promises. "Woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation." "Go, now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you." Thus riches, though not a curse in themselves, yet, to depraved and corrupt nature, yield so many opportunities, set so many baits to sin, that it is a sacred and friendly admonition, "Labor not to be rich."
Were we only to inspect the lives and deaths of the righteous, it might make us welcome poverty which protects us, by depriving us of so many opportunities to destroy ourselves. But when we see the surprising expressions of paternal care which are scattered in the oracles of truth, we can do no less than account the poor the happy ones; for such is the mercy of God, that when a man is in misery, then becomes the object of his mercy.
Now, to show that the promises of God are not bare expressions of good will, let his providential conduct be surveyed, as recorded in the word of truth, and that in a few instances.
Hagar, an Egyptian, Sarah's handmaid, flees from the face of her unfriendly mistress; flees to whom she knows not, and where she cannot tell. She sits down by a well of water in the wilderness, no doubt overcome with sorrow. But then the angel of the Lord comes to her; tells her that the Lord had heard her affliction; speaks comfort to her, and makes her a promise, under a grateful sense of all which she calls the name of the Lord, who thus followed her with unexpected kindness, "You, God, see me." Again, the same Hagar is plunged into a new scene of distress. Her care and confusion are augmented, as she is not now alone in her perplexity—but has her son, her only son with her, the object of her fondest affection, and the hope of her infirm old age. The bottle of water is spent, and the stripling boy, for thirst—the worst of all deaths—must die. Her melting affections being unable to behold the agony of his last moments, she lays him down under a shrub, to screen him from the sultry heat, and goes away from him. Yet maternal care will not let her go too far away; so she sits down and fixes her eyes on the melancholy spot. And now her grief cannot be contained, as before, in agitating thoughts—but bursts out in briny tears. She lifts up her voice aloud, and weeps. Well, the God who saw her before, sees her still. The voice of the lad, who no doubt mingled his tears and complaints with his mother's, is heard; and Hagar's eyes are opened to see a fountain, at which she fills the bottle, gives him drink, and he revives again.
It may not be amiss to name a few more instances of providential care; as, Lot's rescue by Abraham, when he and all he had were taken captive; and afterwards his miraculous deliverance out of Sodom. Jacob's preservation from angry Laban, when pursued and overtaken by him; and his still more amazing deliverance from Esau's rooted revenge, which is converted into congratulations, tears, and embraces. The astonishing history of Joseph, through all its unparalleled scenes. The deliverance of the children of Israel, when their bondage was grown insupportable, leading them through the Red Sea, while their pursuers perished in the waters; feeding them in the wilderness with manna from heaven, and keeping their clothes from waxing old. And how many times, in the book of Judges, even when his people had sinned against him, did he show mercy to them in their extremity of misery? The accounts of Naomi, Ruth, and Hannah, show how the mercy of God takes place in all the circumstances of the afflicted. The memorable passage of the ark of God in the Philistines' land; Jonathan's victory over the Philistines; the death of giant Goliath, who had defied the armies of Israel, by the hand of David, who afterwards has a beautiful chain of deliverances from a persecuting Saul, and in his old age from the rebellion of his unnatural son; the protection of the seven and thirty worthies, amidst the dangers they were exposed to; Elijah fed by ravens—creatures which live on carrion, and yet they bring bread and meat to the man of God twice a day! The widow's barrel of meal, and cruse of oil, blessed so as not to waste by using; Elijah's forty days journey in the strength of one meal; small armies defeating great multitudes; armies supplied with water in a miraculous way; the barren woman made to bear children; the dead restored to life again; poison prevented from doing harm, and food augmented; the three children preserved in the fire, and Daniel in the lion's den. All manner of diseases were cured by Christ, and his servants, the prophets and apostles; the lepers cleansed, the blind made to see, the deaf to hear, the mute to sing, and the lame to leap; the deliverance of the disciples on the lake, of Peter, when sinking, and afterwards when kept in prison, a destined sacrifice to cruelty and rage. Paul's escape when watched in Damascus, and when laid fast in the stocks with Silas, in the inner prison; when shipwrecked, and when the viper fastened on his hand.
These are some instances which the promises of God have been made out to his people in their adversities. And let those, on the one hand, who have no changes, and therefore fear not God, know, that they have neither part nor lot in these promises. But on the other hand, let him know who suffers under the greatest load of afflictions, that he has a right to the greatest number of promises; and that whenever he loses another enjoyment, then he has a right to another promise, which makes up that loss with a redundancy of goodness.
Now, let us glance at a few of these many great PROMISES, that in all cases and conditions we may take comfort.
If we are troubled with sin in its uprisings in our hearts, and outbreakings in our life, to us then the promise speaks, "I will take away the hard and stony heart. I am he who blots out your iniquities as a cloud, and your sins as a thick cloud. He will subdue all our iniquities, and cast our sins into the depths of the sea, so that in the day when Israel's sins shall be sought for, they shall not be found. Sin shall not have dominion over you. I will heal their backslidings; I will love them freely."
Again, with respect to temptation, hear the promise, "He will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able to bear—but will with the temptation make a way to escape." Moreover, this promise is made by him, who being once tempted himself, knows how to support those who are tempted. Also, if we fear lest we fall into sin, or be overcome when we are buffeted, hear what he says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness. The just shall hold on his way, and he who has clean hands shall be stronger and stronger. The righteous shall be like the palm tree in Lebanon, always flourishing and bringing forth fruit, even in old age, when others fade." If suddenly attacked by the tongue of reproach, or accused at the bar of iniquity, he promises, that in that hour it shall be given how and what to speak, and therefore we should take no anxious forethoughts in the matter.
With his saints in all their afflictions, he is afflicted, and his gracious promises measure breadth and length to all the trouble and distress which can befall them. If poor in spirit, those he cheers, and despises not his prisoners. A bruised reed he will not break, nor quench the smoking flax. He deals very compassionately with young converts, carries the lambs in his bosom, and gently leads those who are with young. He commands Peter to manifest his love to him by feeding his sheep, his lambs. And says to those in the pangs of the new birth, "Shall I cause to come to the birth, and not give strength to bring forth?" Again, if they are poor as to this world, he not only makes promises to them himself—but importunes others to do them good offices; and that he may prevail with them, promises to those who consider the case of the poor, that they shall not lie on a bed of languishing unconsidered—but have their bed made by God in their sickness.
O poor man! he puts you and himself on one side, by promising to repay, as lent to him, what is given to you. Everywhere in the scripture he instructs us to feed the hungry, refresh the weary, clothe the naked, receive the outcasts: "Let my outcasts dwell with you, Moab; be a covert to them."—to entertain the stranger and the traveler kindly, to do justice to the oppressed, to help the widow, and judge the cause of the fatherless. To the afflicted he promises deliverance in the day of trouble: "Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you. I will be with you in trouble to deliver you. I will never fail you nor forsake you, until I have performed the promised good." If exposed to calumny, says the promise, "You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue." Or if reproached, "He shall bring forth your judgment as the noon-day."
Now, though the promises suit the saints in their various stations; yet, as the afflicted and needy ones have a double share of trouble and sorrow—so they have a double portion of the promises. If they are exposed to storms and drought—he promises to be a hiding-place from the storm, a covert from the tempest, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land, and as refreshful rivers in a parched place. If they are reckoned as the refuse of the world, and the off-scouring of all things—he counterbalances this, by promising them that he will honor them, set them on high, and confess their names before his Father, and his holy angels. But they may be in doubt how or where to walk, and how to act; then, says he, "I will lead the blind by a way they know not; I will make crooked places straight, and rough places plain. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them." And when they are so bewildered as not to know what hand to turn to in their doubts and distress, he says, "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord." Hence says the psalmist, and all saints may say it after him, "You will guide me with your counsel while I live."
But death may invade their family, and lessen the number of their relations. Then says he, "I am the resurrection and the life; and the hour is coming, when all who are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man, and shall come forth." Therefore do not sorrow for your dead as they that have no hope; for they are blessed who die in the Lord, and it is better to be gone, and be with Jesus, than remain here.
If they are subject to bodily infirmity, and bowed down by disease; then says he, "I am the Lord who heals you." And he often shows himself merciful to those who sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, being bound with cords of affliction, and sends his word and heals them.
But the disease may be spiritual, and so of a more piercing and pungent nature; yet says he, "I will restore health to his mourners." He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds; and gives the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. If their grief be on account of the decay of religion, or the afflicted state of Zion, these promises may yield them comfort, "That Israel shall revive as the corn, grow as the lily, and cast forth her roots as Lebanon; that Christ's name shall endure forever, and a seed shall serve him to all generations; and that the gates of hell shall never prevail against his church, since he is both the foundation and chief corner-stone, and will be with her to the end."
But if their sorrow be about the fewness of those who seem to be saved, or who follow Christ, then the word of comfort is, "The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened," so that a great multitude of all nations, tongues, and languages, shall compose the general assembly and church of the first-born. If they are under gloomy shadows by divine hidings, yet then hear the promises, "At evening-time it shall be light. Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. To you that fear his name shall the Son of righteousness arise with healing in his wings, and in the light of your countenance shall they walk on forever." To which promises the response of faith is, "When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light unto me, for he shall bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness."
If they are disquieted through trouble of mind, hear the kindly promise, "As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you. For the Lord has called you, like a wife deserted and wounded in spirit, a wife of one's youth when she is rejected. I deserted you for a brief moment, but I will take you back with great compassion. And, as the waters of Noah shall never return to cover the earth, so the covenant of my peace shall never depart from you; for though you seem as one altogether afflicted with my waves, tossed with the tempests of my indignation, until you groan under the anguish of a deserted soul, yet the day is at hand, when I will no more hide my face from you; for though a woman may forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the fruit of her womb, yet I can never forget you who are so dear to me." Again, to those that are distressed for the divisions of Reuben, the promise speaks, "The watchmen shall see eye to eye, when the Lord brings again Zion. There shall be a day when the watchmen in Mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise! let us go up to Zion. Judah and Israel shall be one stick in my hand; for there shall be one Lord over all the earth, and his name one." And the last prayer of the divine sufferer, which runs thus, "That they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us"—shall be answered in due time.
To those who are called out to dangers, says the promise, "You shall tread on the lion, and adder; the young lion and dragon shall you trample under foot." The Lord who created you says: "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."
Again, if calamities be national, even the time of Jacob's trouble, yet the promise is, "He shall be saved out of it. This man shall be our peace, when the Assyrian comes into our land, and treads in our borders—He will ordain peace for us, who makes peace." If enemies rise in war, then the promise is, that they shall be found liars; and though they be numerous, that one shall chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight; for no weapon formed against Zion shall prosper. But if they should be made prisoners, the promise reaches that situation also: "Verily, I will cause the enemy to treat you well in the time of evil, and in the time of affliction;" which was made good to Israel, who were pitied by those who led them captive.
Are they blind, dumb, deaf, maimed, deformed, feeble, and perishing? Then the promise is that the Son of God, whose coming from heaven we look for, "shall change our vile bodies, that they may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue even all things unto himself." To the barren he promises to give in his house, and within his walls, a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters. To the stranger he promises to be a shield. But perhaps they are not only strangers for a little time—but outcasts for a long time; then "the Lord gathers the outcasts of Israel. I will tell the north to let them go and the south not to hold them back. Let my people return from distant lands, from every part of the world."
But they, perhaps, have been long expecting the performance of the promise, and praying for some blessing that has not been bestowed. The promise says, "The needy shall not always be forgotten, the expectation of the poor shall not perish forever. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear him, he will hear their cry, and save them." But they may be exposed to the cunning plots of designing men; true, say the sacred oracles, "The wicked plots against the just, and gnashes upon him with his teeth. But the Lord shall laugh at him"—in way of derision, whose more terrible doom is at hand, even a day coming that shall pluck him out root and branch, while the righteous shall be an everlasting foundation.
But one may be fatherless, and such is ready to suffer injury at every hand. But, says the promise, "God is a Father to the fatherless, and the widow's Judge in his holy habitation." And so says he, "Leave your fatherless children."—Ah! Lord, may the dying parent say, I must leave them. Well—but, says God, "I will preserve them alive;" that is, provide for them, and bring them up like a kindly tutor, and what more could you do though still with them? Then, may the sympathizing husband say, And what shall this your handmaid do? "Let your widow trust in me," and she shall not be ashamed of her hope; I will be to her as the most tender husband.
Again, the comforting word to such as are living among the ungodly, and chained to bad company, is, "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation," as he did Lot in a like situation. But their work allotted them may be arduous and difficult; then the promise is, "I will be with your mouth; you shall not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you; the tongue of the stammerer shall speak plainly. I will direct their work in truth. As his day is, so shall his strength be."
But they may be solitary, their dearest friends, and nearest relations, being removed by death; then, says the promise: "God sets the solitary in families, and brings out those who are bound with chains." But they may be troubled to think how they shall hold on through this howling wilderness; how they shall make the steep ascent to the hill of God. Then the promise is, "My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest: You shall hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way, walk in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left. They shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. He who is feeble among them, at that day shall be as David."
But they may have their daily difficulties how to support their needy families; well, the promise also speaks to that condition: "those who fear the Lord shall not lack any good thing. Behold the eye of the Lord is upon those who fear him, upon those who hope in his mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and keep them alive in famine. Bread shall be given you, and your water shall be sure. Therefore, I say—don't worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn't life consist of more than food and clothing? Look at the birds. They don't need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not. And why worry about your clothes? Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won't he more surely care for you? You have so little faith! So don't worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. Why worry about these things, when it is your Father's good pleasure, O little flock! to give you the kingdom?
But they may be distressed with daily afflictions, and continued chastisements; well, the promise speaks a good word to dissipate that pain: "Many are the afflictions of the righteous—but the Lord delivers him out of them all." But perhaps old age advancing, with all its train of infirmities, may trouble them; then the promise proclaims the divine protection: "Even when you're old, I'll take care of you. Even when your hair turns gray, I'll support you. I made you and will continue to care for you. I'll support you and save you." But they may be under bondage through fear of death, and even tremble to take the dark step into the unseen world; then the promise speaks comfort in the very last extremity: "O death! I will be your plague; O grave! I will be your destruction!" So that they may break out into the same raptures, that saints viewing the same change, sweetened by the same promise, have done of old, "O death! where is your sting? O grave! where is your victory? This God is our God, and will be our guide even unto death! Yes, though I walk through the valley and shadow of death, yet will I fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me."
THE SACRED INSURANCE.
Horndean, April 30, 1758.
Men that go to sea, conscious of their danger, oftentimes insure themselves. I am also going to sea, and carry a cargo with me more precious than all the treasures of the Indies—even my immortal soul, which is also in danger of perishing upon the waters of vice and profanity. How then shall my all be safe amidst so many dangers; amidst the corruption of nature and the seeds of sin within—and bad example, base advice, bold attacks, and baneful snares without; while perhaps there is not one to counsel me aright, to strengthen my hand in God, and thereby comfort me? Blessed be the God of all consolation, that in this deplorable situation I need not despond. The insurance-office of heaven is willing to contract with me on the most honorable, and most advantageous terms for my soul; and holds forth to me the steadfast promise of his faithfulness, "That his grace shall be sufficient for me, because his strength is made perfect in my weakness, and that he will not allow me to be tempted above measure—but will with the temptation make a way to escape."
Then, Lord, my humble request is—That I may never sin against your love and grace, nor cause you to hide your face by my untender walk—That sin may continue, whatever shape it may put on, as ugly and abominable to me as ever I thought it, yes, the more so the more I am entangled with it; as I would more hate the serpent twisting around my legs, than crawling ten yards distant from me on the ground—That I may ever be grieved with the sins of others, and that, in speaking against sin, I may not fear the face of man—That the more all things would draw me from you, I may draw the nearer to you, and keep the closer by you—That I may never be ashamed of true religion, or of you—That I may remember the concerns of your glory as far as in me lies, and pray for the reviving of religion, and prosperity of Zion—That I may study, since I cannot have the ordinances of God in public, to enjoy the God of ordinances in private—That I may never be cast down for temporal misfortunes—but own the hand of God in all; and, like the honey-bee, suck sweetness to my soul—from that same providence which affords bitterness and disquiet to the unsubmissive mind—That in the midst of all, I may keep my latter end in my mind, and never forget the world to come—That I may depend on nothing in myself—but be always strong in the grace and strength which is in Christ Jesus—That every Sabbath may be sweet to my soul, in spite of all obstruction; and that an opportunity may be afforded to me, to read that word which I should esteem more than my necessary food.
O grant me my request! for, as of old, you allowed none to do your chosen ones harm. Yes, for the sake of your prophets, you reproved mighty kings; so now, if I be among the number of your people, you can, who have the hearts of all men in your hand, not only restrain—but reprove the bold offender, and keep me safe in the midst of danger. As a sign of my gratitude for your great goodness—not a little—but all I am, have, or can do, shall, all my lifetime, be devoted to the advancement of your glory, and honor of your name.
ON PUMPING THE SHIP.
Spithead, May 11, 1755.
No ship can be so well sealed—but she will draw water, more or less, though where or how we scarce can tell; and though it is only by the assistance of the watery element we sail from shore to shore, yet, if too much water were let in on us, it would sink us to the bottom of the sea, and bury us amidst unfathomable waves. Even so, though a moderate portion of the good things of this life be highly useful to us through the various stages thereof, yet, when the cares of this life, carnal pleasures, and a desire after riches, break in on our souls like mighty billows, we are likely to be drowned in destruction and perdition. Again, on such an ocean of waters, and when water also swells within us, what a wonder that we are not lost! So, in such a world of wickedness (witness the wretches around me) and when corruption so swells within, what a miracle of mercy that the soul is not lost forever!
Whatever way the water comes into the ship, it cannot be sent out the same way—but must be pumped out with care and toil; even so, though death and sin came in by mere man, yet life and salvation must be brought in by him who is both God and man in one. And as this water comes not from a lave of the surging waves, or breaking billows—but as it were, springs up within the vessel, and thus is both dangerous and disagreeable; just so, though we keep from scandalous outbreakings, yet, if we indulge ourselves in secret sin, we both defile and destroy the inner man. The faster the ship makes water, the more we ply the pump; so the more that sin attacks, and is likely to prevail, the more I am to watch and pray against it; and prayer is the Christian's pump, which must be employed, else the soul would perish. Lastly, as the mariner must pump again and again, and never think his labor at an end, while his ship is at sea; so I must watch against sin, keep myself from iniquity, attend well to the state of my soul, and implore the inhabitation of the Divine Spirit, until my vessel arrives at the harbor of eternal rest.
ON THE ANCHORS OF THE SHIP.
Spithead, May 4, 1758.
Men unacquainted with navigation, would think that the cables to which the anchors are appended were fastened to some part above deck. But it is not so; they come from the very inmost part of the ship. Even so, faith, which is the anchor of the soul, is no external form, or superficial act—but the very soul, in all her faculties, going out and fastening on Christ.
And, as it is enough to the ship that she rides safe at her moorings, though her anchors are not exposed to every eye—but hidden beneath an heap of waters, and only known by their effects—that she keeps by her station, in spite of winds and waves, of tides and storms. Just so, it is enough that the anchor of the soul is fixed within the veil. And though concealed from view; it will be known by its sweet effects. The soul shall abound in fruits of righteousness, shall find a sweet tranquility within, shall be stable like Mount Zion, while the wicked shall be tossed like straw before the whirlwind.
Sometimes a ship may drift, when the anchor has been lowered. But then it is owing to the anchor losing its hold. But this is remedied by letting out cable, or dropping the anchor anew. Just so, when the soul loses its hold of Christ and heavenly things, it is no wonder that it is driven here and there, by storms and tempests, among rocks and quick-sands; nor is there any other way of bringing the soul to rest and composure—but by acting faith more strongly on Christ, and casting her anchor anew within the veil.
It would be ridiculous for the shipmaster to hoist his sails without an anchor on board. But the Christian can never steer safely through the course of life—but with his anchor fixed within the veil; then, if he is thus heavenly wise, he shall weather every storm, and make the haven, the long wished for haven, at last.
Even the ship at anchor is never altogether free from motion in the greatest calm, and, at sometimes will roll in such a manner as to make some of the ship's company sick, and others believe that the anchor has lost its hold, and that all is in danger. Even so, the saints, though secured against utter ruin, may have many changes, may be much tossed with adversities, and various afflictions, and may have fears without, and fightings within.
But, how much wiser is the mariner in a storm, than the children of wisdom themselves! The fiercer the tempest, and the greater the danger, they cast out the more anchors. But the saints, in times of greatest trouble, instead of acting the strongest faith, are apt to cry out, 'Lost, and undone!' and so cut their cables and cast loose their anchors; and thus, and that always in a night of sorrow and anguish, are tossed on the rough sea of despondency and doubt, for a time.
Faith, however, has this advantage above all the cables ever made, and all the anchors ever fabricated, that it secures in spite of fiercest storms, and keeps safe in the midst of imminent dangers, relying more or less on him who cannot fail, even when providence contradicts the promise.
Now, as no ship goes to sea without her cables and anchors, though of no use until she comes again near the land; so I should do everything in faith; for without faith it is impossible to please God, or come to anchor in the harbor of glory.
Spithead, May 5, 1758.
Anchors are servants to us in the harbor—but are entirely useless at sea, where another kind of tackling is absolutely necessary, namely, the expansive sails which spread their friendly wings, and catch the favoring gales, to forward us in our intended voyage.
Even so, the spiritual seamen must to their anchors of faith, add virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity. These are the sails that bid fair for a prosperous voyage, and bring us daily nearer to the celestial land.
The Holy Spirit breathing on the public ordinances, and the more private duties of Christianity, is like a fair wind, and a brisk gale on a full spread sail, which answers the highest expectation of the homeward bound ship. No shipmaster could ever expect, without sails, to make the desired haven, though favored with a very fresh gale. If he did not both unfurl and stretch his sails in the best direction for the wind, he would look more like a madman than a mariner. In the same way, he who attends on no ordinances, attempts the performance of no duty, reads not the scriptures of truth, and prays not to the God of all grace—is not in the way of the heavenly gale which wafts the saints to glory.
Again, the sails may all be unfurled, by a skillful hand, and spread out to the wind, and yet the ship for a time make little way, because scarcely favored with a breath of wind. So the influences of the Spirit may be restrained for a time, and the saints, even in the use of every means, may make but little progress in their Christian course. But as the experienced seaman, in such a case, opens on all his sails—so we, with the spouse, should rouse up ourselves, rise from our sloth, ask anxiously after him, be earnest and importunate in every duty, until we find him whom our soul loves.
Nothing can be a more pleasant sight at sea than a fleet of ships, richly laden, with a moderate gale, steering a straight course to the port, at which they have long been expected, and which they have long desired to see. But a company of saints traveling Zionwards, rich in heavenly graces, and the hopes of eternal glory; and, under the influences of the Holy Spirit, steering a straight course to the church of the first-born, where they have been long expected by the souls under the altar, and which they have long desired to see, is a more noble sight.
Finally, as the ship never takes down her sails until arrived at her desired haven, so we should be always on our guard, keep every grace in vigor, never be weary in well doing—but press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, until we make the haven of bliss, the harbor of glory.
ON THE COMPASS AND HELM.
Spithead, May 6, 1758.
Anchors and sails are both useful. But without something more, the mariner must steer an unsteady course, and traverse the ocean to little purpose, not knowing where he is, nor where he is heading. These handmaids of navigation are, the compass, the quadrant, and the helm. Without the compass, he dared never venture from the coast, because he would sail he knows not where. Without the quadrant, he must mistake his latitude. And without his helm, he might be driven where he would not. Even so all these in a spiritual sense are absolutely necessary to everyone who would have a safe passage to the other world. Therefore, seeing I am on a long and difficult voyage to eternity, much care should be taken what course I steer, since one point wrong, so to speak, instead of landing me safe in glory, will run me among the rocks of irretrievable ruin. Did not they seem to bid fair for a prosperous voyage, and for making the very harbor, who could boast to Christ himself, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, and in your name cast out devils, and done many wonderful works?" And yet he professes to them, that he never knew them.
Now, I must direct the course of my life, and the end of my actions, by the sacred compass of divine revelation. This should be a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path; my counselor in all difficulties, and my song in the house of my pilgrimage; yes, my daily and delicious food.
Here I must observe, that if the most skillful pilot cannot, without the compass, sail from England to the Indies. In like manner, the heathen—for all the blaze of natural parts, for all their refined manners, or excellent morals, yet, lacking the word of God, the volume of inspiration—can never reach the shore of happiness—for "how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard! and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they are sent?"
Again, like the spiritual mariner, I should take my altitude, and see what length I have run, what progress I have made in my course heavenward. Now, this is known by the height of the Sun of righteousness in my sky. If he enlightens the whole inner man, shines into my heart, irradiates every power of mind, covers me with his healing beams, fills my ravished eye, engages my attention, and excites me daily to adore and bask beneath my Savior's gracious rays—surely I am well on to the meridian, well on to the land of rest.
Again, I should be attentive to order my life according to your word, and have a zeal according to knowledge. Thus shall I at last, under a full sail, in a triumphant manner, have an abundant entrance into the kingdom of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
PROVISIONS AND STORES.
The ship must not only be well supplied with everything necessary for navigation—but with food for the seamen on their voyage. If they have not stored both bread and water, they shall soon be in a starving condition, reduced to eat one another, or die, and never see the country for which they set out. In like manner, if we do not live on a crucified Jesus, if he is not the food of our souls, and in us the hope of glory. And if we cannot make a spiritual meal, a spiritual feast on the promises, we shall be consumed of famine, and perish in our passage.
Again, as this day's allowance will not support us tomorrow, so it is not by past grace received that we must pursue our Christian journey; for we must be strong only in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and daily receive out of his fullness.
Further, the provision which we carry to sea must be stored in another manner than what is used at land, otherwise it will corrupt, and become altogether useless. Even so, a form of godliness, and counterfeit graces, a mere notional faith, and a family-piety—will not support us in our passage to eternity.
Besides, in a scarcity of provisions, the vermin and rats will attempt to gnaw the flesh of the poor sailors. Even so, when grace is languid or withheld, what lusts prey on the vitals of the soul! O, then, for a full meal on the bread of life, that I may be safe from sin and Satan, earth and hell!
Our provisions, when long at sea, are apt to breed maggots, worms, and insects. Yet, if wholesome when put aboard, will support us until we accomplish our voyage. So, it is no wonder though, amidst so many snares, so many temptations, and in such a variety of circumstances and occurrences, the graces necessary to the Christian life, be more or less languid at times, and sometimes appear so much disposed to putrefaction, that spiritual death is dreaded to be at hand. But, if true grace be first implanted, the Christian shall not perish along the way—but have the bread and water of life bestowed upon him, until he comes to the banquet above.
Moreover, if a supply of provisions, suitable to the length of the voyage, or of the time designed to be at sea, is neglected—a scarcity will ensue, that will ruin the ship. So, how sad to sail through life, with nothing but vanity and wind to feed on! The soul must starve all his life-long, and die at last of spiritual famine, the most terrible of all deaths. A ship, indeed, short of provisions, may meet another at sea, and obtain a liberal supply. But this is not the case with a graceless soul; no other can help, none can spare of his own stores to supply others.
No private person, yes, nothing less than majesty, could afford so many people as are in the navy, this ample provision. So, neither from saints nor angels is the poor sinner to expect righteousness or grace; all are beggars or bankrupts themselves, and so can give no ransom for their brother's soul. But how rich the King of heaven—who gives both grace and glory to his angels and saints—and yet remains an overflowing ocean of goodness!
In a long voyage, it may be sometimes necessary to put the whole ship's company on short allowance of food. So, the saints, in their way heavenward, may find themselves for a time deprived of public ordinances, which should nourish the soul (it is our sin, without urgent causes—to deprive ourselves of the means of grace) yes, may find the communications of grace more sparingly bestowed, or, to their sense, for a season withheld. But still grace in the soul, and the soul itself, shall by faith be kept alive, until they land in glory, where they shall feast on the plentitude of all divine goodness.
Again, we must not only have the ship thoroughly equipped—but we must have spare anchors, spare sails, and spare masts; else in a storm, when we may be driven from our anchors, or at sea, when our sails may be blown to pieces—we must remain at the mercy of wind and wave, and perish in our distress. In like manner, it is proper that every Christian lay up in his mind the promises, the word on which God has caused him to hope; that in the day of darkness and tempest, when likely to sink in the mighty waves, he may have recourse to them, as holding forth an unchangeable love, and call to mind his past experience of divine goodness. Thus shall he weather out the storm, and have a safe passage to the land of promise.
Spithead, May 8, 1756.
Notwithstanding all this needed apparatus, and royal provision made for the vessel designed for foreign climates, there is one thing absolutely necessary for her safety in the main ocean, among roaring winds, and that is a due weight of ballast. To see such a quantity of gravel, sand, stones, pegs of iron, etc. thrown into the ship's hold, would make an ignorant person apt to conclude, that it must sink the ship, and not conduce to her safety.
But, if the vessel were not sunk to a proper depth, she would buoy up on the surface of the water, and be overset by every gale that blows. In like manner, a pressure of affliction is absolutely necessary for the saint in his passage heavenward. If everything went prosperously on, spiritual pride might buoy up the soul, and expose her to be overset by every wind of temptation; and such winds the people of God may expect below. Indeed, there are manifold needs for humility—even in the best of Christians. Before God allows his saints to be exalted above measure, even through the manifestation of the divine favor, he will let loose the messenger of Satan to buffet them, as he dealt with Paul of old.
As the ship sails more safely thus ballasted, though it has a greater depth of water to cut through; so it is safer for the soul to be kept in a due poise of humility and lowness of mind, than to float on the surface, and catch every gale.
Again, it may be necessary sometimes to shift the ballast, to keep the ship upright in her position. Even so, according to our necessity, our afflictions may be removed from one thing, and laid upon another that is dear to us. We may suffer in our estate, or good name; trouble, disease, or death, may be laid on our children, or the wife of our bosom; and we may be afflicted in our bodies, or in our minds, as Infinite Wisdom sees fit—which should silence us under all.
Again, the food and the water are part of the ballast, and keeps us deep in the water. Just so, our best comforts, at least what we thought best, are often made bitter with some cross. Thus, have not some husbands sharp sorrow from her that lies in their bosom? Have not some parents much vexation from those whom they have swaddled, and brought up? Therefore, to expect little from the creature, and all from God, is the way never to be disappointed—but always at rest.
Finally, here is the crowning comfort, that, as the ballast is turned out, when the ship goes into dock, so, when I arrive at my much-desired haven, affliction shall no more have place in me; then shall I obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall forever flee away!
THE MORE WE SEE OF SIN, THE MORE WE SHOULD HATE SIN.
When Israel was in their own land, they were bent on idolatry. But, when forced to sacrifice at Babylon to idols which they knew not, they got such a overabundance of that sin, that they loathed it ever after. How, then, should I henceforth hate sin, when I see how guilty it makes the soul, how it debases even unto hell, how the longer the captive lies in chains, the fetters grow stronger, and the captive weaker; how it kindles hell, scatters brimstone over the body, makes the language of the pit spew from the tongue, and makes its victims restless in its pursuit! In a word, sin despises divine things, proclaims rebellion against Heaven, and wages war against God!
KNOWING A SIN TO BE COMMITTED.
Spithead, May 15, 1758.
In vain, O foolish man! in vain you hide yourself, for "there is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves." Have you chosen the gloom of night? Well—but to God night is as the day, and darkness as the light. You did premeditate the perpetration of your wickedness, and God is preparing the punishment of your crimes.
Lord! your judgments are a great deep, and your justice shall shine in the punishment of sinners, who shall confess the equity of your burning indignation. Thus, they who unweariedly blaspheme in pastime and in sport, shall eternally blaspheme in agony and pain. Thus, the unclean wretch, who burns in impure desires, and satisfies his lusts in an unlawful way, shall be delivered to the flames, where the worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched. He who will not hearken to God's reproof, in the time of his patience, shall hear when God's vengeance shall be his garment, and his fury shall uphold him. Thus, the companions of sin shall be the companions of suffering, being bound in bundles to be burnt together. Thus, the adulterers, who know no shame, shall be ashamed, and covered with confusion in that day. And such as now expose their wickedness to some, with impunity, shall be exposed before the great congregation, and shall not be able to hold up their face before the spotless throne.
Then you, O sinner! shall be there, and I shall be there. Here I know your sin, and, if mercy does not now intervene—there I shall see your punishment. How shall you wish this day, this night, out of the number of the days of your years, and not added to your months! How will you wish darkness to cover it, and a cloud of oblivion to dwell upon it! How will you curse it, when ready to raise up your everlasting mourning! When you were a child, you could not commit this wickedness, and when you are a man, you should not; therefore, how shall you curse your manhood, and bewail the riper years; yes, wish that you had been an untimely birth—and never saw the sun! Your sin is marked in my mournful meditation, in your conscience which is at work secretly, and in the omniscience of your tremendous Judge. There will be no lack of proof against you in the day of your cause; the companion of your wickedness shall be present, I shall be present, conscience shall be present, when you appear before your Judge, who, being everywhere present, is the greatest witness of all. No false witness can appear in your defense at that tribunal; yes, you yourself shall never presume to plead not guilty. As sure as you have committed this sin, shall these solemn events take place! And yet, O man! you are merry in the midst of all your misery, and observe not the impending thunders that are about to break on your cursed head. Sin is that poison that makes a man go laughing to death, and dancing to destruction! Then, let my soul weep in secret places for those who cannot pity themselves, nor show compassion on their own souls—but live in a dream, die in darkness, and plunge into despair!
A MAN OF WAR.
May 16, 1758.
There is a great difference between a trading ship and a 'man of war'. The one goes out for private gain; the other for the public safety. The trading ship neither intends to attack, nor is prepared to resist, if attacked in her voyage. But the 'man of war' spreads the sails, and sweeps the sea, to find and fight the foe; and, therefore, carries along with her weapons of every kind, and instruments of death.
Even so, the Christian has another course of life to lead than the worldling, even while sojourning in the world. And, as the ship of war must not visit from port to port, having more noble things in view—life and liberty to defend, and enemies to subdue—so, "No one serving as a soldier entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who chose him to be a soldier." We are never out of danger, while at sea; for, though it be a time of peace, we may be overtaken with a tempest, wrecked on a rock, or stranded on a sand-bank.
But, in these disquieted times, we may be shattered in a battle, and sunk by the foe. Or, should we escape all these, we may have a mutiny within. Just so, whatever be the situation of the sons of men, still the children of grace have a war to maintain; not only a sea full of storms to struggle through—but a field of foes to fight through. It is through fire and water, through severe trials, and heavy afflictions, that all spiritual champions have to force their way. Satan knows well how to act; when faith would look to the bright side of every event, Satan turns up the black side, to drive the soul to despair. And, on the other hand, when grace looks to the blackness of sin, Satan turns up the beautiful side of pleasure. In adversity, I am ready to dash against the rocks of discontent. And in prosperity, I am ready to sink among the quicksands of worldly cares and temporal concerns. We have foes on every hand to fight, temptations from every quarter to resist, all the powers of darkness, all the principalities of the pit, to combat with. Nor is peace to be expected while an enemy is on the field—we cannot lay aside our armor, the weapons of our warfare, until we lay down the body of death.
Again, though for a time we have no foe to affright us, no tempest to trouble us, no rock to endanger us—yet a mutiny may rise within, which may be more terrible than all these! It is always the 'dregs of the crew' that are chiefly concerned in it, while the officers are sure either to be cut off, or confined. Just so, there may be a tumult raised in the soul, a war in the very mind, when rascally corruptions, headed by unbelief, claim the command; when graces, faith, love, patience, resignation, spirituality, etc. are wounded, and put under confinement. Thus, one complained of old, "I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members." Now, as no scene can be more bitter than a mutiny, until it be suppressed, and order restored; so nothing can be more melancholy than a soul suffering all the calamities of a war within, corruption rampant, and grace bleeding.
But, how happy is the ship, when peace is restored, and the mutineers secured in irons, and what a strict eye is kept on them during the voyage! So it is with the soul; what joy, what exultation and triumph, prevail, when sin is subdued, and the love of God, and peace of conscience, are shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit!
This is known, that when the mutineers get the ascendance, and compel the rest of the ship's company to join them, they turn pirates, are resolute in battle, bloody in their conquests, desperate in all attacks, a terror to, and hated of every nation. Even so, he that sets out with a fair profession of religion, and on the way to heaven—but turns a black apostate, spews out malice against the ways of God, becomes the bitterest of all enemies, the most profligate of all offenders, and is hated by saint and sinner.
When a mutiny takes place, it is sometimes requisite for the safety of the ship, and for the honor of government, to cut off some otherwise very useful hands. Just so, we are to cut off lusts, though dear as our right eye, or useful as our right hand, that we perish not forever.
Again, our being provided with what enables us to defend ourselves, and to distress our foes, has sometimes been the ruin of ships, while the fatal spark makes a terrible explosion, tears the vessel to pieces, and scatters the lifeless crew on the deep. So the best of blessings, the choicest privileges, when not improved, entail the bitterest of curses. Thus Judas, who sat in his divine master's presence, heard his sermons, and witnessed his miracles, not improving these golden opportunities, turned traitor and hanged himself, in the anguish of despair. And Capernaum—which in privileges was exalted to heaven—is threatened to be thrust down to hell.
When war is over, peace proclaimed, ships on foreign stations called home, wages received, ships laid up, and the crews discharged, and set at liberty; how is all mirth and celebration, festivity and joy! But, what tongue can tell the transports, the joy, the rapture, and delight, which the Christian shall feel when his warfare is finished, and he translated to the mansions of glory, to the presence of God!
Some poor creatures, who, though weary of the war, yet not knowing how to support themselves, or where to go after discharged from the ship, would be content to continue still in the service. And this reminds me of some saints, who, not being free of doubts with respect to their state in a future world, notwithstanding all their toils in life, and struggles against sin—cling to life, and startle at the thoughts of death.
But, there are some provident people who have saved a little in the course of the war; and some so happy as to obtain a pension from their prince. These cheerfully retire to live on their money, recite their dangers, recount their conquests, and commend their king. Just so, the souls which are enriched by the King eternal, and blessed with the full assurance of celestial felicity—go triumphant, at the hour of death, to dwell in the courts of God on the treasures of glory, through an endless evermore.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE GODLY AND THE UNGODLY.
Lying off Normandy, June 14, 1758.
There is a wide difference, in both principle and
The affections of the godly are refined—and their
Sin has but a tottering standing, and a momentary
In the godly, grace and sin struggle for sovereignty.
The godly is deeply concerned about world to come.
The speech of the godly is seasoned with grace.
The godly has his hope fixed on God.
The godly use the world without abusing it.
The godly confesses God in his daily conversation,
The godly adores the Creator above all else.
The godly uses God's name with profoundest reverence,
The godly redeems his time.
The godly studies his duty in obedience to all God's
The godly forgives his foes.
The godly commits it to God to avenge his wrong.
The godly loves chastity in all things.
The godly injures himself, rather than his neighbor.
The godly is content with his condition.
The godly is pure in heart.
The godly walks at liberty in the ways of God.
The Holy Spirit rules in the heart of the godly.
The godly has his conversation in heaven.
As there is such a wide difference in their principles
God is faithful—He has promised felicity to the pious,
The godly are under the blessing of God's love.
The godly with joy, draw water out of the wells of
To the godly pertain all the exceeding great and precious
Heaven shall be the palace of the godly!
While the godly shall dwell through eternity with God,
Thus, the righteous and wicked are separated in their
THE JUDGMENT OF SWEARERS, ACCORDING TO EQUITY.
Lying off Normandy, June 15, 1758.
"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." (Exodus 20:7)
"They cursed the God of heaven for their pains and sores. But they did not turn from their evil ways." Revelation 16:11
How justly will God, the righteous Judge, repay the imprecations into the bosoms of these blasphemers! They swear by God, and so they own the divinity they offend. But, they profane the sacred name, and so offend the Deity they own! They damn the whole man, their soul, their blood, their eyes; and every part, even the whole man, shall be tormented. They sow the wind, for there is neither pleasure nor profit in any sense in swearing; and they shall reap the whirlwind, whose truth is disappointment, and pain. They sin in sport—but God hears in earnest, and will punish in zeal. They call on God profanely at every word, and God hears, and will answer them in wrath. They swear, and forget—but God has sworn that he will remember. That which they think adds beauty to their speech, and vigor to their words—shall indeed add anguish to their grief, and fierceness to their torments. They are not weary in blaspheming, so as to cease from it, therefore they shall be weary in bewailing themselves—but never cease. They choose to blaspheme through the whole of their time—and anguish shall cause them to blaspheme through a whole eternity. They despise the day of God's patience—but shall not escape the day of his judgment.
What shall the swearer say, when tossing on the fiery billows, shrieking under consummate despair! 'O miserable state of intolerable torments, which I must endure! How shall I spend this eternity of pain! It was nothing to me in time to hear others curse and blaspheme, and to join in the infernal dialect myself! And now I am encircled with unceasing blasphemies, from all the legions of demons, from all the millions of miserable sinners, suffering under infinite vengeance! And I mingle in the uproar, and join in the terrible tumult against the throne of God, although dreadfully tortured in my rebellion. Then, curses accented every sentence; now, every sentence is one continued curse. I thought God was altogether such a one as myself—and that he would never remember my swearings, which I never minded, nor call me to account for committing what I made no account of. Damn me! damn me! was always on my tongue—and now I am damned forever! The oaths and curses which I sowed in time, are now sprung up into bitter bewailings, and eternal blasphemings! As I took pleasure in cursing, so it is come unto me—but with inexpressible pain! O eternity, eternity, how long!'
This is, indeed, the last—but lamentable end of profane swearers, who shall confess the equity of God in their torments. But let not the petty swearer think that he shall escape with impunity, since the supreme Judge has said, that whatever is more than yes, or no, is evil.
But, as the wicked shall be answered in their ways, so shall the righteous be in theirs. All their imperfect attainments, longings, wrestlings, hopes, desires, prayers, meditations, tears, godly sorrows, spiritual joys, and the seeds of every other grace—shall come to a wondrous conclusion at last. Now they serve God with weakness—but then they shall enjoy him with a vigorous immortality! They sow in tears, and go weeping heavenward—but shall possess him in a triumphant state, where sorrow and signing shall forever flee away!
THINKING ON A DEAD FRIEND.
Spithead, May 10, 1758.
A melancholy gloom had well near spread its midnight shadows over my brooding mind, when thinking on a dead friend. But, all on a sudden, a sacred sentence beamed refreshful on my soul, that he has departed—to be with Christ!
Let me then borrow a similitude, and suppose that my friends and I live under the government of a great king, who has vast dominions, and who has chosen for his royal residence, a pleasant—but remote province, where his palace stands, and where he keeps court, showing himself in kingly glory, and excellent majesty; while we live, compared to the royal country, in a howling wilderness, a dry and thirsty land—but still under the scepter and protection of the king. And further, let me suppose, that this great king (which would be stupendous condescension in him) had conceived such a regard for my friends, that he had given his royal word, that he would send a noble guard, so soon as he thought fit, and fetch them home to himself, that he might bestow on every one of them, not a dukedom—but a kingdom, a crown, and excellent majesty! Now, would I fight against the guard, or murmur at their errand? Yes, would not I rather give the messengers an hearty welcome, and bless their majestic sovereign; and the more so, if I had the royal promise also of being myself transported there?
Then, is there any promise like his, whose counsel stands fast, and whose faithfulness cannot fail? Is there any guard like that of heavenly angels? Or any happiness like the celestial felicity? And, if these things be so, is not the state of the godly dead, happy beyond conception? Now, the glory of my departed friend, infinitely transcends the blaze of created grandeur. Mortality is put off, and immortality put on. For we know that when this tent we live in—-our body here on earth—-is torn down, God will have a house in heaven for us to live in, a home he himself has made, which will last forever!
Upon the above supposition, my friend, and his kingly patron, might have a falling out—as nothing is more fickle than royal favor. But here, there is no fear of his falling from the favor of the Prince of life, because he rests in his love forever, which kindles gratitude and love in the saints through endless day. In such a place, and in such a condition, would I not wish all my friends? Here we live to die—but there they live to reign! Though a little sorrow may be allowed to us who remain; yet, that boundless glory, and eternal bliss, which, to the highest degree, my departed friend enjoys, forbids me to bewail him to any great degree, or lament him as dead, who never could be said until now to live. Why should my sad reflections terminate on his crumbling clay, and not rather rise to meditate how his active soul is incessantly employed in the hosannahs of the higher house, and unweariedly exercised in beholding and blessing Jehovah and the Lamb? and thus convert my pensive thoughts into a Christian preparation for the same blessed passage to the same blessed place!
THE UNION BETWEEN CHRIST AND BELIEVERS.
Spithead, May 14, 1758.
There is an union between Christ and believers, that every metaphor falls short of. No relation so near as Jesus. The friend may prove false, the brother betray the brother, parents cast off the relation, and husband and wife be separated. Three strong figures hold forth this union, that of the tree and his branches; the head and his members; and eating the flesh, and drinking the blood of the Son of God. Now, what we eat and drink mixes with the mass of blood, and is so intimately assimilated with the fluids, that no power can separate it again; so, when by faith I receive the Son of God, and eat his flesh, and drink his blood, my soul partakes of the divine nature, until every power is holy, every affection heavenly, and until the life of Christ is made manifest in my body.
After this union, the soul and Christ cannot be separated; death may send the soul out of the body—but cannot send Christ out of the soul. And hereupon follows a commonness of interest. Christ renews the will, sanctifies the affections, enlightens the understanding, and claims the whole soul for his temple; yes more, he showers down his mercies, numbers his crosses, weighs his afflictions, wherewith he himself is also afflicted; and bears his sorrows. And all of Christ is the soul's; his righteousness, his love, his joy, his pardon, his mercy, kindness, and compassion; his protection, direction, and conduct; his favor, his power, and sympathy, his light, his glory, his crown, his throne, his felicity, and his eternity in life. Thus the soul lives in Christ, and he in the soul. Their life is divinely interwoven; "you in me, and I in you." Hence, because he lives, they shall live also. Husband and wife must lose their relation by death; the branches may be cut off from the root, and the head, that sympathizes with all, may lose some of its members. But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit, and a spirit can never be divided.
This mysterious union is bliss begun on earth, and heavenly felicity tasted below, and shall be the eternal admiration of angels, the envy of devils and damned spirits, and the wonder of all heaven.
How pitiful are our highest attainments in this imperfect state! But, O how beautiful is it for the child of grace to grow daily in grace, and in the knowledge of God to rise step by step, until at length complete in Him who is the pattern of perfection! Let it be my continual struggle, then, that my grace, like the shining light, may shine more and more until the perfect day of glory. I can never get so near to God—but there still remains, and through eternity will remain, a distance, to be destroyed by approaching yet more near. My attainments can never be so high—but there remains something attainable, which I have not yet attained. "It's not that I have already reached this goal or have already become perfect. But I keep pursuing it, hoping somehow to embrace it just as I have been embraced by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have embraced it. But this one thing I do: Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I keep pursuing the goal to win the prize of God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus." If this was the confession of the great apostle, what must I say, who am but just setting my head through the shadows of the night, and peeping into the dawning of divine things?
Hence let me press vigorously towards perfection, and not be contented with my present attainments. Let me daily be drawing more near to him, until, Enoch-like, I walk with God, and live with him in heaven. Let me daily sit at wisdom's door, and stand at the gate of paradise, that, since as yet I cannot enter in, I may send in my faith to view the fields, the land of my Beloved, and returning, bring me the substance of the excellencies hoped for, the evidence of the glorious things not seen. Let me walk in the mount of God, with him whose form is like the Son of God. Let the desire of my soul be to your name, and the remembrance of you.
Let an uninterrupted communication be broken up between the fountain of life and my soul, that I may bear no more the reproach of barrenness. And from that river of life that springs from the throne of God, and of the Lamb, let me daily drink, that I may thirst no more after the vanities of time. Let me live quite above the world, above its pleasures, and above its pains, disdain its flatteries, and despise its frowns. Let grace grow from one degree unto another, until, at last, O desirable perfection! it grows to glory. Let me hold you, and not let you go, until you bless me, in perfecting my attainments, and crowning my happiness with the full unclouded vision, and uninterrupted communion with Jehovah, and the Lamb, forever more! "But whoever drinks the water that I will give him will never become thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."
ON KING'S ALLOWANCE.
May 19, 1748.
It is surprising, that government allows the youngest recruit the same kind and quantity of provisions that any man or any officer aboard can claim. Yet, it is no more than may be expected from royal generosity, since they, in their capacity, support the same cause, undergo the same hardships, rush into the same dangers, and expose their though young and tender, at the commandment, and for the honor of the King.
Even so, every child of grace that is born into the family of God, has the same ample right to all the heavenly blessings. No sooner is he a son, than he is an heir of all the fullness of the covenant. The young convert is allowed, by the King eternal, to plead the performance of all the promises, and to claim all the privileges that the aged saint can do.
Again, as nothing can be more pleasant, than to see early youth walking in the ways of holiness; so, often to such youth have bright manifestations of love, and large communications of grace, been given. And the love of espousals, and the kindness of youth, is a melting, a long remembered kindness. Have not some youth departed to be with Christ, with such a gale of glory on their spirits, that aged saints have been at once astonished and ashamed?
Have not some youths, who have suffered martyrdom for the name of Jesus, been so assisted with grace, that they despised reproach, and smiled in the face of danger—been so refreshed with foretastes of glory, that they could despise torment, and mount the scaffold with the same joy as if they had been going up the rounds of Jacob's ladder? And, have not some striplings on a death-bed had such a double portion of communion, that they could look on dissolution with delight, forbid their friends to pray for their recovery, and could meet their fatal moments with the same alacrity as a young prince going to the grand solemnity of his own coronation?
ON THE BLOWING UP OF A SHIP.
Many are the appearances which death puts on, and in everyone of them death is dreadful. Sometimes his commission bears him to lay siege to the clay-walls for a long time, and to waste them away with a lingering consumption; and then he steals on them so insensibly, that they still entertain hopes of recovery, and believe themselves better a day or two before death. At one time he comes in flames of fire, at another time in swelling floods; and at another time, by a sudden stroke, he sweeps the man at once off the stage!
Though fire is terrible anywhere, yet much more so when the burning pile is surrounded by a boundless sea. It is, no doubt, a moving sight, to see a naked family, with wringing hands, and weeping eyes, deplore their all in flames!
A family at home, just alarmed out of their midnight sleep, by the doleful cries of affrighted spectators, with no more than time to escape the burning blaze! However, by the assistance of water-engines, and a thousand friendly hands, the fire is got under control, and half the house is saved. Or, should all the house be consumed, they are still happy in the possession of life, and the charity of well disposed Christians.
But the scene alters at sea, and is much more dismal, as the ship I speak of felt. Strong and well equipped, the glory of the fleet, she spread the pompous sails, suspended by the lofty masts, divided the rolling billows with the nimble keel, was abundant in men and officers, and waved the honorary flag from the highest top. But, all at once, while no danger is dreamed of, and at noon, a fire starts below, too far advanced to be got under control, too terrible to be beheld without trembling. It kindles fear in every bosom, and nothing can be done. Signals of distress are fired—but only a poor merchant ship comes to her assistance; yet dares not come too near, for fear of catching fire herself. The fire rages still, and it is strange, in the midst of water, to perish by fire. Were the oceans a plain, with what cheerfulness would they flee the fire, and see the last plank in flames! But, death, gaping from the hollow waves, forbids them to flee, and every moment they expect to be blown into the air, and strewed in mangled legs and arms along the briny deep.
What confusion and disarray! what feeble hands! what fainting hearts! what struggling thoughts! what staring eyes! what screams and cries! The ship's sides are lined with those hoping for deliverance. They look every way—but in vain, for relief. One boat only appears, which dares not come along-side; yet many take the desperate leap, and falling short of the boat, plunge into the sea, and are seen no more, a terrifying sight to all behind! Still the fire increases. Death is in the waters, death is in the fires; it pursues behind, attacks before, and hedges in on every side!
Old and young, who had survived the day of battle, are, in this melancholy manner, and on so short a warning, hurried into the eternal world. The flames grow more furious, and on all sides lifeless bodies float around, a sad sight to surviving friends! Her own boats carry off a few men—but find not the way back again. At length, the masts break down, destroying numbers as they fall, and officers die undistinguished in the throng; while the admiral, stripped of his uniform, hanging by an oar, struggles for life on the liquid wave. Many attempt to save themselves on pieces of the wreck, while the remains of the ship sink out of sight. But the angry waves wash them off their last relief, and they perish in the deep waters. Yet, mercy shines in the midst of shipwreck and death, for many escape with their life, though deprived of everything else.(The ship alluded to, was Admiral Broderick's, which blew up in the Straits of Gibraltar.)
O! strange to tell, will we leave with all that we have, for a few days, or a few years of our natural life; and yet leave with nothing at all for eternal life and endless glory? And, if fire which can be extinguished with water, or burn away to lifeless ashes, is so terrible; what must the fire of infinite wrath be—which shall burn up the wicked forever? Finally, since my situation is the same, may I study to prepare for death at any time, and in any shape; then I shall face the flames, yes, fall into them, knowing, that my immortal soul, from these devouring fires—shall rise to celestial glory, to live many thousands of eternities, and never, never die.
SOME SLAIN BY MERCIES, AS WELL AS BY JUDGMENTS.
Spithead, May 22, 1758.
Grace, and grace alone, can conquer the heart of man. For, I have not seen one, who had all manner of misfortunes in his family, substance, relations, character, and person—his family carried off by strange deaths, his substance reduced to nothing, his pomp blown away like a cloud of smoke, his friends falling into grievous calamities, his character suffering by every tongue, the heavens revealing his iniquity, and the earth rising up against him, and his body long the dwelling place of loathsome disease, until death has sent his stinking carcase to the rotten grave! And yet the man remains an unrepentant sinner to the last!
Also, have I not seen the soldier, and the sailor, who in the day of battle had lost a leg, an arm, an eye, a piece of the scull, and some of their senses, have been made prisoners of war, and worn out with long confinement, and cruel usage. And yet these men remain armored against every judgment; incorrigible, though often corrected; stubborn under the strokes of heaven, inattentive to the language of the rod, and daringly defy an angry God?
On the other hand, have I not seen a man, who had a flourishing family, growing up to maturity, like trees by a river; bathing in pleasures, held in common esteem, seeing his children's children; riches, with little industry, pouring in on him from every quarter; himself, though aging, yet possessing the vigor of youth, and his bones full of marrow. And yet this very man walk in rebellion to the Author of all his blessings?
Have I not also seen the man, who, when exposed on the thundering fields of war, or in the more terrible sea-battle, has yet stood safe amidst surrounding dangers, and received not a single wound, while some were losing limbs, or falling down dead on every hand. Or when perhaps the ship sunk; or a fire kindled in her, which consumed the miserable crew—yet he escaped the flames, survives the wreck, and lives to tell the astonishing story of his deliverance in the field, or on the flood? One would think that such a man would be melted down into gratitude, and live to God's glory, who had been his help in the day of distress, and had covered his head in the day of war; yet he continues to walk in rebellion to the Most High, and boldly offends the God of all his mercies.
Thus we see one who is disappointed in every undertaking, crushed at every hand—yet remain impenitent under severe judgments. And we see another who succeeds in every wish, swims in created bliss, and walks in the clear noon of prosperity—yet remains obdurate under his many blessings, and chargeable with an ingratitude towards God—which ingratitude would be accursed among men. To be slain by mercies, or by judgments—is a terrible death. It is the death of the unrenewed in heart. When mercies or judgments are not improved, they give fury to the falling storm, and make the thunderbolts of wrath break with dreadful vengeance on their guilty heads through an endless evermore! O! then to be corrected in love, and to have my heart bettered by the sadness of my countenance; and, on the other hand, to have blessings with a blessing, and all my mercies sweetly drawing my soul out to God.
ON A FINE FLEET.
Spithead, May 23, 1758.
What is the purpose of this splendid fleet, this expensive navy? No doubt, to deal destruction to our foes, and ride triumphant over the sea. Had the world been inhabited in different parts, with people from other planets—we would not wonder much to see fierce contests. But the matter is not so, for we have all one father, and are all of one blood. All mankind are brethren. So why are empires filled with anarchy, kingdoms with rebellion, families with terror and tears, while the brother butchers the brother, the son the father, the husband the wife, and the person that is driven into despair, rises in rebellion against his own life? It is because we are all in a state of rebellion against God. What a shame is it for men to massacre one another, or depopulate whole nations, for a few miles of earth, which, in a few years hence, their eyes shall see in flames—an agonizing sight to their ambition!
We think much of nation rising against nation—but, since Adam turned rebel, the whole universe is up in arms against God—with a few humble supplicants in all ages excepted, who, having made peace through the King's Son, are again received into favor. But what are they to the many millions that are under the command of Satan, the god of this world, the spirit who now works in the children of disobedience! What pity to see serving in the devil's wretched army—the statesman and the general, the soldier and the farmer, the merchant and the mariner, the master and the servant; yes, and woman who, in other wars, tarry at home!
Moreover, besides this general insurrection against Heaven, there is a war in the bosom of all believers, some of the old principles of rebellion rising up against the laws of their rightful Lord and King: "A law in our members warring against the law of our mind, and bringing us into captivity to the law of sin."
This is the army of Gog and Magog, which covers the face of the whole earth, and makes war with the Lamb; whom the Lamb shall overcome, for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings. There is a day of slaughter coming, when the sword of God's justice shall be drunken with the blood of his enemies; when those who would not have him to reign over them in the spirituality of his government—shall be slain before his face, and cast into the lake of fire and brimstone!
Would the princes of the earth submit to the Prince of peace, soon would they beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks, and every man sit under his vine, and under his fig-tree. Were they more careful to extend the Christian religion, than to extend their conquest and commerce, more to grow in grace than in riches, and to improve more for eternity than time—how would our world be Hephzibah, and our earth Beulah, and the general contention between crowned heads and their subjects, through every land, be—who could live most like angels, and love most like seraphim!
Set sail, venturous rover, and let your daring keel cut the dividing billow, and plow the briny deep. But where are you bound? To cruise on a tempestuous ocean—or dash against craggy shores?
Well, my soul, remember that you also have set sail, and are rapidly carried down the stream of time—to the ocean of eternity. I should consider under what latitude, and to what point I am steering. If under the latitude of the new birth, and a living faith, I shall at last drop anchor at the haven of bliss. But if under the latitude of a natural state and unbelief, I shall be driven, by divine indignation, on the rocks of everlasting ruin, and tossed a deplorable wreck on the floods of wrath!
How ignorant is the heathen world of a future state! But, since the Son of God has come, and has taught us all the mysteries of the spiritual navigation, and, in our exalted views, leaving land on every side, we look not at the things which are seen—but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal—but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Why should I fear, or be dismayed? Shall I not have a prosperous voyage, and a pleasant landing—since Christ is both my pilot and my destination—since his Spirit is promised to lead and guide me into all truth—since the scriptures are my compass, a light to my feet, and a lamp to my path—since hope is my anchor, cast within the veil—since faith is my telescope, which gives me views of the world to come—since self-examination my sounding line, to know what depth of water I am in, to try myself, whether I be in the faith or not—and since my log-book is a Christian diary, that I may tell those who fear God, what he has done for my soul—and since all the heavenly graces are like the extended sails, one sail being unfurled after another, first faith, which is to the soul as the main-sail to a ship, and adding to faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly-kindness; and to brotherly-kindness, charity.
Were I once in such a happy state, my next petition would be "Awake, O north wind! and blow, O south wind!" fill my extended sails, and carry me to glory.
TIME TO BE REDEEMED.
Spithead, May 24, 1758.
"Time is short." (1 Corinthians 7:29)
"So, then, be careful how you live. Do not be unwise but wise, making the best use of time because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16)
Time is precious, though misspent, though thought little of. I begin to set an higher value on time—which is ever valuable, than I was accustomed to do. But, ah! I begin to resolve when golden opportunities are past; and lost forever! God has been kind in giving me time, which I have not been cautious in spending, in improving. But, alas! blanks are not the worst, for I have not only trifled away and slept away time—but have sinned away much of my time!
O! what great things are to be done in this little inch of time! God will have none of his servants idle; we must trade with his talents here, and the profit shall be ours hereafter. We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, encouraged by this—that God works all our works in us. Thus, to speak, not like the proud legalist—but, like the laborious Christian, we must scale the walls of heaven (for holy violence is allowed) and take it by force. We must combat principalities and powers, and crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts. I must stand upon my watch, keep a sharp look-out on all my foes, on the least sin, cut off hours which I have too often spent in (shall I call it) sinful sleep and guard against trifling amusements, and superfluous visits; not that visits and recreations are simply sinful—but the excess therein. I must carefully attend to my time as it passes, for with grief I see that I cannot recall time when past. I have much work to do. I have to bear witness to the excellency of true religion, and against sinners; my backslidings to bewail, my failings to amend, my conversation daily to inspect, my accounts to settle for the day of judgment (O to be found in Jesus in that day!) my treasure to lay up in heaven, my affections to set on things above, my sins to mortify, my graces to strengthen, death to prepare for, eternity to improve for, my salvation to secure, God to live to, and the Lord Jesus daily to put on. Now, say if such a one has reason to be idle, or to trifle time away?
IN VIEW OF A BATTLE.
May 24, 1758.
In a few days we shall be contending with the foe. Death will fasten his cold hands on many of us, and numbers shall be dropping into an unknown, an awful, an endless eternity!
Though this is an event that will certainly take place, yet we are all thoughtless and secure, merry and unconcerned—as if it were of no importance to die, and enter into an invisible eternal world. Ask us all, one by one, if we think that we shall die in battle? and all of us to a man, have the fond hopes that we shall escape without a wound. But it would be more realistic, if each of us were saying, 'Perhaps it may be I—who shall be slain!' Though my station be not so dangerous as that of some, yet, in my situation, some now and then are killed, and I rejoice that when I am in danger, I dare not trust to the ship for my defense—but your divine protection, which is better to me than a thousand bulwarks. Let me neither build on false hopes of life, nor be filled with slavish fears of death—but be prepared for all events. In the mean time, I plead that our fleets may be defended, our foes defeated, an honorable peace concluded, and an end put to the effusion of human blood. And I also plead, that you will put a covering on my head in the day of battle, that I may praise your power, and sing aloud of your mercy in the morning.