James Meikle, 1730-1799
The author wrote these meditations
ON OUR LORD'S DISPLAYING HIS DIVINITY ON THE SEA.
Spithead, May 26, 1758.
Our Lord, in the days of his flesh, performed cures, and wrought miracles on the sea. At one time, from the surrounding multitude he steps into a ship, and teaches thousands attentive on the shore; and, after finishing his sermon, makes the unsuccessful fishers cast their nets again into the sea, who, catching a great draught of fish, are also caught themselves, and made fishers of men.
Another time, he will go over to the country of the Gadarenes, for there was one there, the captive of the devil—whom he is pleased to deliver. So he enters into a ship, and his disciples, the close attendants on their Master, go along with him. But, while his human nature, fatigued with the toils he daily underwent, is fast asleep—a tempest came down on the ship—either sent by Providence, that, in rebuking it, he might display his divinity; or perhaps Satan, who is the prince of the power of the air, was permitted to send out the fiercest storm which his hellish rage could effectuate, to make the affrighted boatmen row back again, and prevent the happy passage. However it was, his terrified disciples awoke Jesus, and his word makes the fierce winds fall asleep; and his presence in a little while, makes fiercer fiends cry out, when turned out of their long possession. O how pleasant to think, that he who came from heaven to earth to save sinners, goes over a lake, and through a storm, to save a soul or two; and though he comes in love unsent for, yet he does not go away, until desired to depart!
Again, our great Lord, after feeding the multitude with spiritual and earthly bread, constrains his disciples, who, it seems, were reluctant to move a foot without his presence—to sail in a boat, while he sent the multitude away; after which he retires unto a mountain to pray. But, by this time, they are tossed with a double tempest, one beating their ship without, and another disquieting their soul within. It appears they had entered the ship between six and nine in the afternoon, and were tossed on the waters until between three and six in the morning—a long time indeed to the trembling disciples. The scene is altered now, for before they had no more to do, but awaken their Lord, to make the tempest fall asleep. But, though they saw not their dear Master, yet he saw their distress; and, after letting it heighten to an extremity, to sweeten their deliverance, he comes walking upon the waves, and journeys straight to their vessel. The disciples (no doubt, in the morning watch, looking out for land) saw him, and, supposing it had been a spirit commissioned to overset them altogether, it added so much anguish to their anxiety, and terror to their trouble, that they cried out. But how soon does his kind reply check their fears, It is I, be not afraid. Peter, after asking permission, comes down to welcome him on the watery element. But winds above, and waves beneath, make Peter's faith stagger so much, that our kind Lord must stretch forth his hand and save him. No sooner did he enter the ship, than nature is composed. He needs not speak a word—his very presence calms the tempest, and the winds immediately stop blowing upon the barge, where their Creator is a passenger. How happy, then, the soul where he abides forever! This sudden change in the storm effected a no less sudden—but much more momentous change in the minds of the astonished spectators, who are all at once brought over to a belief of his divinity: "Truly—you are the Son of God!"
How often might the observing mariner say of him who rode through the sea of great waters—that he has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet! How often Jesus sends out the storm that puts us to our wit's end—and then calms the dreadful hurricane, to our great comfort! "O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!"
A MEMORANDUM FOR HIM WHO GOES ABROAD.
June 28, 1757.
Sometimes the call of Providence; and sometimes a covetous heart to amass riches—carry men abroad.
If a man cannot exercise his religion with liberty in his native country, which he can find in another land, then he may be said, instead of going abroad, only to go home. But, on the contrary, he who wanders from the place where God delights to dwell, and relinquishes Zion, which God has called his rest, may indeed be said to go abroad; and unless his reasons are valid, when impartially weighed, he ought not to go. On no account should you go with a design to remain in another place—unless the gospel gladdens the distant region. But when you are away, remember a few things, that you may not forget yourself.
1. Be always under the impression of God's omnipresence and omniscience. You can never wander out of the hollow of his hand, or swim beyond his cognizance.
2. Keep in mind the solemn tribunal, where the complete register of all your actions shall be brought forth; such and such a sin at home, such and such a sin abroad—with such and such aggravations.
3. Know that it is better to stand alone, than fall with many. It will not excuse your wickedness, that you were among the wicked, for sinners shall be bound in bundles, that they may burn the fiercer.
4. Think much on death, that you may not be too much charmed with the vanities of life.
5. Oppose sin in others with courage, for the righteous shall be bold as lion; though the wicked flees when none pursues.
6. Remember the deceitfulness and uncertainty of riches; so shall you neither be puffed up with the possession, nor pained at the loss of them.
7. Be not jeered out of your religion, or flouted out of your devotion; better be the object of man's ridicule, than the subject of God's wrath.
8. Set not your heart on any intended acquisition abroad, and so you shall not return home disappointed.
9. Mark providences, and you shall see God's hand in everything.
10. Let Zion and the people of God have a place in your prayers, and you shall again have a place in Zion among the people of God.
11. Since you can not have God in his public ordinances, seek the God of ordinances in private daily; and, when deprived of the preached word, esteem and peruse the written word the more.
12. Be not hasty in making acquaintances, nor rash in choosing your friends.
13. Meditate often; a secret good rises from this secret exercise.
14. Examine your condition often; it is the sign of a bankrupt never to open his books, nor look into his accounts.
15. Let prayer be your daily pleasure and engagement. To be much in the presence of an earthly king makes a courtier. But the presence of the King of kings makes a Christian, an angel.
16. Think much on the unseen world, and let the certainty of that which is to come, dispel the delusion of the present, which so quickly passes away.
17. As you may never again see your native country, and your father's house, let heaven be your native country, and then death shall bring you to your better home.
18. Eye God's glory in everything, and prefer the approbation of God and your own conscience, to the applause of men.
19. Double your diligence. Satan will double his temptations, sins and snares will multiply around you; therefore multiply your cries to God, keep in your strong hold, and act faith on him at all times.
20. Beware that you live not to yourself, the world, or for time. But live above the world, for eternity, and to God.
ANCHORING OFF AN ENEMY'S COAST.
Cancal Bay, June 21, 1758.
Now we are not far from land—but, however fierce the storm, we must not set a foot on shore, else we would soon find ourselves in the power, and at the mercy of our enemies. Even so it fares with the wicked, who are at war with the God of the whole earth. Now, in the day of God's patience, they can put off without making friendship with Him. But what will they do in their last extremity, in the day of God's judgement and wrath? To whom will they flee for help, seeing they then cannot lay claim to one promise; and have no saving interest in him who made the promises? How will they stand when the storm pursues behind, and no shelter presents itself before? And how will it gall them to see the saints in quiet resting places, and themselves exposed forever to the tempest?
But although we may not land here, yet we may return to our own king's dominions, where we shall be joyfully received. But it is not so with the sinner, who is in rebellion against the God of Heaven. Where shall he flee from God, or where can he hide himself from his omniscient eye? How shall he get outside the reach of his all-present arm, or escape the stroke of angry Omnipotence? He has disobeyed God, he has rejected Christ, he has despised the promise, he has sinned away the day of grace, and trampled on the patience of Heaven! So, when the Judge shall come in flaming judgment—what will he do? To what God can he go? To what Savior can he cry? To what hand can he turn—to whom shall he bewail himself—and in what ear make his moan? What promise can he plead, or to which of the saints can he turn? Ah! God is his inexorable Judge, and the Savior is no more his friend! All hopes perish, all helps fail, all friends forsake him. God's pity has no ear to his complaint, and God's mercy no compassion on his moan! O how miserable are the wicked, then, who thus on oceans of burning brimstone, shall be exposed to the storms and tempests of eternal wrath, and never, never see a shore!
But, on the other hand, how happy are you, O saint! Every land is the property of Him who in all his vast possessions is your by promise. He is yours—who can make enemies entreat you well in adversity. He is yours—who is not only the God of the whole earth—but the possessor of heaven and glory; who is not only the Prince of the kings of the earth—but the Father of eternity who holds the waters in the hollow of his hand. You are safe, therefore, upon the depths; and though you should never see your native country, yet you shall arrive, when your course is finished, at the land that lies afar off.
Genuine Christianity is rooted out this city, where a pretended successor of Peter is the fulfillment of that prediction, which mentions the coming of the 'man of sin', and which to me confirms the truth of the scriptures. They have turned the purity of religion into the pomp of superstition; the simplicity of the gospel—into mumbling and muttering of prayers in Latin, an unknown tongue. They have turned the spiritual rule over the flock of God—into a temporal dominion over the kingdoms. They have let go the kernel and substance of religion—for the shell and show. Hence, such adorning of churches, and such abundance of altars and images.
There the man of sin sways his midnight scepter, for filthy lucre, forgiving sins which God will never acquit, because in a way God never appointed—nor will approve of! This trampling on the divine commandment prostitutes sacred things; hence baptizing of bells, consecrating places, holy water, etc. It were irksome to repeat their deceits, and spiritual whoredoms, with which the nations are drunk. But, what a pity it is to see them, in the matters of religion, go hood-winked to hell! And men so cultured, learned, and expert in other respects—so easily deceived—in the concerns of their salvation! When shall the brightness of the coming of the Son of man, in the purity of the gospel, which is the sword that proceeds out of his mouth, make the kings, who now support, hate the whore, eat her flesh, and burn her with fire?
How great is the happiness, then, of a reformed land, where the glorious truths of Christianity are not concealed from any, where the poor have the gospel preached to them, and the scriptures loosed from their dark originals, in their mother tongue; and where the people are allowed, according to the biblical institution, to commemorate the death and sufferings of our dearest Lord! Woe to those who dwell among a people that are terrified for Papal bulls; that put light for darkness, and darkness for light; good works in the place of justifying righteousness; and the Pope in the place of God; who, not having attained to the spiritual knowledge of the Redeemer, inflame their affections, and kindle their devotions, by gazing on visible representations of a suffering Savior, who can only be beheld savingly by the eye of faith. Though with our bodily eyes we could see Jesus expiring on the cross in deepest agony and pain, which were better than a thousand crucifixes, and lively pictures, it could only move pity in us to him as a tortured man—but could not beget in us the faith of his divinity. Hence so many unconverted spectators of the awful scene; and hence still the lifeless devotions of the blinded Papists.
O! then, that the days of the Son of man would beam on the Christian Churches, such as Rome enjoyed when first obedient to the faith; that they might cast off the yoke of the imperious whore that sits on many a hill, and deliver their souls that dwell in spiritual Babylon! O! then, that the Son of Righteousness would arise with healings in his wings, and with his glorious beams dispel the darkness from the nations, and the gross darkness from the people, that Rome, with Asia-Minor, may return to their former purity, to their first love, and over the revived universe there may be but one Lord, and his name one.
At sea, June 25, 1753.
How do the stately masts thrust their head into the sky, and see the breaking billows far beneath them! Even so sovereigns and princes are exalted far above their subjects. But, for as high as the mast is raised above the hull, yet its safety is only by being sunk into the very body of the ship; so is the king's honor, and the prince's safety—are in the multitude of their subjects.
Of what service could a ship without masts, or masts without a ship be? So in the body, political, spiritual, and natural—Infinite Wisdom has made every member subservient to another, that there may be no schism.
Without masts and expanded sails, a ship could move no where—but would lie like a wreck on the waters; so without rulers, and subordination, must a people perish in tumult and confusion.
If the masts are exalted in the view of all, they are exposed to tempests from every quarter; so fares it with men of station and power—they are hated by one, and envied by another, reproached by a third, and undermined by a fourth.
In a storm, or tempest, it is sometimes necessary, in order to save the ship, to cut the masts; so, sometimes to save a state, or nation, it is necessary to dethrone a cruel, an obstinate oppressor, and chase away a tyrant.
If the hull is rotten, and leaky, though the masts be never so strong and fresh, yet the vessel may perish in the deep waters; so, if the people be impious, and licentious, the prudent conduct and uprightness of the best kings cannot prevent their rushing into ruin.
It is only when a ship goes to sea, with her masts and top-masts in order, and all her sails unfurled, and filled by the gentle breeze, that she makes so grand an appearance to the peopled shores; for, stretching into the boundless ocean, she lessons gradually until she can be seen no more. Even so, the men who now are famed over half the globe, shall in a little while be lost to human eye, on the ocean of eternity, and have no more concern with time.
When the ship is grown old, and accounted no more fit for service, she is brought ashore, and broken up, and then the stately masts lie equally humble on the ground with the common planks. Even so, in death, shall all flesh return to dust, and the distinctions of a few days shall no more avail them, shall take place no more. May a belief of this influence me while I live below.
UPON ONE BEING PUT UNDER CONFINEMENT ABOARD.
Under sail, June 26, 1758.
Truly we might be surprised to think that one could be closer confined in a ship at sea, than only to be in it; for, what is the vessel but a floating prison, where the closest confinement can only deprive a man of a few paces? Where can the man go, who has nothing over him but the canopy of the sky, or around him but the liquid ocean? Yet to be forbid to walk the very deck, to be locked in the cumbrous irons, and put under the care of the sentinel and his sword—are marks of anger and restraint.
Even so, a man may be straitened in himself, a prisoner at home—though he might range the whole globe—and find himself fettered with grief, and manacled with sorrow, pensive amidst his pleasures, and dejected among his friends.
Wherever these prisoners are permitted to go, they are always attended with the sentinels in arms. In like manner, the man whose conscience is awakened, shall find a constant companion, and unwearied reprover, who will either reprove to purpose, or reproach forever.
When a man has transgressed the martial law, neither money nor friends can prevent punishment. In like manner, nothing in the world can preserve from, or enable to support a wounded spirit. If the stroke comes from above, so must the relief. How poor are all possessions to a person that has not peace within!
One of these prisoners mutters and complains, is peevish and displeased at the sentence of his superior—but it avails him nothing. In like manner, to repine at affliction, and complain about God's Providence—is the mark of an unsanctified heart, and cannot shorten our trials, or alleviate our troubles—but must sharpen our sorrows and heighten our sufferings.
But another of them enjoys himself in his confinement, is cheerful and composed, knowing that a very short time shall restore him to liberty. In like manner, the saint, amidst his afflictions, can be happy and serene, knowing that the period is not far distant that shall translate him into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Paul and Silas could sing praises in a prison, because when God gives quietness, none can cause trouble.
In a word, what are all the people in the ship—but prisoners, whether they approve or disapprove the expression? Even so, what is the body but a clog, what the whole world but a confinement to heirs of immortality, and expectants of heaven? In this we earnestly groan for the better state, and long to be unclothed; not that we would peevishly drop our existence, be turned out of house and home—but only change our prison for a palace, and this corruption put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality, and we walk at perfect liberty through everlasting day!
THE PROPHET'S DESCRIPTION OF THE WICKED.
How just, how adequate, how expressive the divine description, "The wicked are like the troubled ocean, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast forth mire and dirt!" When the tides have teemed their wrecks on the inmost shores, and in the ebb have left the smoothed sand, all looks mirthful, and one would think the bottom of the ocean is swept, and washed of all its wrecks and weeds. But the next tide proves my conjecture false, and spreads a fresh proof of my deception on the shore. Just so it is with the wicked; when I think they might have emptied themselves of oaths, imprecations, filthy talk—completed their wickedness, brought forth all their vileness, and wearied themselves in committing sin—yet, without intermission, they proceed from evil to worse!
As there is a continual growth of weeds, and accession of other wrecks, every tide, therefore, spews out mire and dirt. In like manner, out of the evil treasure of the heart, evil things continually proceed. But the 'civilized sinner' has nothing to boast; for, though his words may not be so vile as those of abandoned wretches, yet, as they pour from the carnal mind, and the carnal mind being enmity against God, can produce nothing pleasing in his sight—so they are vile before God. Therefore, though not so disagreeable in a sober ear, as the profane swearer, obscene talker, or unprofitable jester—yet, not coming from a sanctified heart, are accounted sin in his eye, who is purity itself, and with a pleasant countenance beholds the upright.
Sometimes the raging seas ebb, and leave their shores clean and lovely—but, all of a sudden, they return with fresh defilement, and scatter over them mire and dirt. In like manner, I have seen some people, by a temporary repentance, appear to forsake their former courses, and to lead a new life—but, all of a sudden, like a spring-tide, their wickedness breaks out with greater violence than ever, and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
As nothing less than the voice of the Almighty can calm the restless ocean, and say to the raging sea, 'Peace, be still'; so nothing less than infinite power (let not mortals presume, let not sinners despair) can convert transgressors, and make their hearts precious and holy.
ON THE PATIENCE OF GOD WITH SINNERS.
Off France, June 27, 1758.
In very truth you are God, who can thus bear with the wickedness of men—though you are of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. Did our superior officers meet with equal disobedience to their mandates, the same irreverence, insult and reproach to their very face, from these abandoned wretches—would they put up with it? No! Death, or some dreadful punishment, would immediately be inflicted on the vile transgressors. God will be glorified in the bright display of all his divine perfections. The desperate madness of sinners against the God of heaven, and their blasphemous talk against the most High, cannot prevail with him to change his purpose, and punish them before the time appointed—because he is infinite in his patience. Nor shall their miseries and bemoaning, their anguish and their entreaties, make him spare them a moment longer, when the appointed day comes, or mitigate their torments—because he is perfect in his justice. A thousand years are with God but as one day, seeing all eternity is his immoveable NOW.
Now, what are the few unhappy years of a thoughtless
desperado's life—but as a few moments to a criminal between his sentence and
execution? So God will fill up the measure of his patience; and if they fill
up the measure of their sin, in the time of God's patience, his justice
shall fill up the measure of their punishment in the day that his thundering
right hand shall cast the strength of his fury and fiery indignation on them
forever! He is silent now in the day of his patience, and they will not hear
the voice of his goodness. But he will loudly punish them in the day of his
anger, and they shall hear the thunders of his wrath. God, by his patience,
has a double work on his potter's wheel—
ON THE EXCELLENCY OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION ABOVE THE JEWISH RELIGION, WITH RESPECT TO A TRAVELER.
Off France, June 28, 1758.
The Jewish religion consisted in a noble and emblematical assemblage of rites and ceremonies, which, though glorious—was to give place to that religion which could boast of a triumphant majesty, a superlative glory, and a permanent duration. The old covenant was attended with external pomp and grandeur; the beauty of the new covenant lies in its simplicity and spirituality.
How impossible would my situation be, if I could not approach the Jewish altar, and praise God—without the high-sounding cymbal, psaltery, or harp, and offer up to God my sacrifice in my own bosom! How impossible would my situation be, if I could not be sprinkled with the blood of cleansing—without the high-priest using all the round of ceremonies! How impossible would my situation be, if I could not repent, and be accounted clean—without external washings!
But, as a Christian, I may pray everywhere, and, even in the midst of the unclean, may offer up my sacrifice of mental praise. Yes, to God who sees in secret, and knows the heart, I may pray in secret; or, when that is denied, I may in my own heart pour out to him my supplication, and, in the midst of confusion, may meditate on his glory and goodness. And, as I may thus freely come to him, wherever I am, so he whose fire of old came down, and consumed the sacrifice on the altar, in mercy can come to me, and kindle a flame of love in my soul and speak kindly to me—from off the invisible mercy-seat, Christ Jesus. Then there is one perfect sacrifice which, everywhere, and always, I shall keep in eye; one fountain at which I shall always wash; one Intercessor, and great High-Priest, whom I shall always employ, and through whom I shall seek access to God, waiting to be blessed at last in the full enjoyment of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, world without end.
COASTING ALONG ANOTHER KING'S DOMINIONS.
Under sail, July 1, 1758.
The peasant may never travel far—he may live and die in his own king's dominions. But a fair wind may soon fetch 'him who plows the flowing ocean', where his sovereign cannot claim an inch of land. He may soon find himself distant from all shores, in an unmeasurable world of waters, which owns no superior but Him who formed the sea and the dry land. I may offend my prince, and yet fly out of his reach, and bid defiance to his rage. But, if I sin against God, where shall I fly for help—or how shall I escape? Britain and India are alike before him, height and depth are in his hand; and distance, which only bears relation to creatures, bears none to the Creator who is everywhere present, and fills all in all. I may sooner hide from myself—than keep concealed from Omniscience.
Would a king or an emperor travel around the globe—many times he would find himself in kingdoms where he could claim no interest. But, if I belong to God, I can claim his providence and protection in every dominion, and in every land. How well pleased would a young prince be, to travel home through the extensive dominions of his royal father! Could he quarrel at hard usage, the homely fare, and the poor lodgings he must put up with by the way? Would it not quiet and content him under all, to call to mind that he is traveling home to the palace of his royal father, where he should be welcomed by the loud acclamations of a splendid court, and embraced by the king himself? After this manner, while on his journey, would he address himself: "Though I pass as a stranger in these remote parts of my father's possessions, and unobserved, because it is not as yet proper in the eyes of the king that I should be clothed in princely attire; yet, how am I delighted that all these kingdoms are under his government, tremble at his frown, and own his sovereignty. And though I now seem poorer than many of his subjects in these provinces, who have small estates in hand, yet I am so happy in the nobleness of my descent, in the dignity of my relations, in the prospect of my future greatness, and approaching glory—that I would not change states with any of them. For, on the day appointed for my coronation, by the mighty sovereign, to whom I am so nearly related, I shall, in the sight of assembled thousands, receive a scepter, and a crown."
Even so, the saints are in all respects the happy ones, for the universe belongs to him who cares for them. Distant climates, therefore, need not look strange to them, for, if they live near God they can never be far from home.
ON HEARING FROM FRIENDS.
St. Helen's, July 5, 1758.
He who has not left his affections and concern in his native country, as well as his friends, is refreshed by frequent letters from them—that they are alive, and in prosperity. But all this will not satisfy him who greatly longs to see his loved ones, and his native country, after being long absent from it. A thousand letters, written with all the tenderness of a father, embellished with all the rhetoric of paternal endearments, must give place to an hour's conversation, mouth to mouth, with that father whose kind and affectionate letters increased the filial regard, with that mother whose continual prayers and good wishes, have strengthened the affection of her son. Nothing less than seeing them face to face, talking with them friendly and freely, hearing all their state, and learning of all their welfare—can satisfy his longing, and quiet his struggling bosom.
Even so, nothing can fully satisfy the desires of the soul that is born from above, and is a native of the better country—but the immediate vision of God. All he receives below, only begets a disquietude in his soul, (but such a disquietude as delights) that cannot be at rest until wafted to the fruition of God. The brighter his views of heavenly things, the more ardent his wishes for the possession of them. Hence, says the aged, the experienced, and great apostle Paul—who had been caught up into the third heaven, carried into paradise, and heard the unutterable language of bliss—"I have a desire to depart, and to be with Christ."
All the bright displays of the glory and goodness of God, which saints enjoy below, compared with what is reserved for eternity, is only a sight of his back parts. ("Then I will take My hand away, and you will see My back, but My face will not be seen." Exodus 33:23) Now, let us see the import of the metaphor. The face is like the fair epitome of the whole man, so that artists commonly draw no more than the countenance; the face turned away denotes indignation—but bright and smiling is a sign of favor. Again, the countenance is like the index of the mind, where we can see clouds gather, and tempests break, or peace and tranquility within. Accordingly, we have these expressions in scripture, "Blessed are those who walk in the light of your countenance. Cause your face to shine on us. You did hide your face, and I was troubled. Neither will I hide my face any more from them. As for me I shall behold your face in righteousness." What, then, must the consummate happiness of that state be—where we shall see God face to face!
Then, Lord, the most that I can find below—is but a 'crumb' compared to the 'banquet' above. When your appointed time comes, with what joy will I leave all these merciful communications of your grace and good will, conveyed through your word and ordinances (which, like letters of favor, assure me of the affection of my exalted Head, and cheer me in the house of my pilgrimage) and go home to eternal, uninterrupted communion with you! When, dear Lord, may my love and longing ask—When shall I see the face of my Beloved, that face that is fairer than the sun? When shall all the vast expectations of my faith be realized in glory? When shall my well-beloved, who is unto me as a bundle of myrrh, lie, not for a short night—but through an endless day, on my bosom? When shall distance be done away, that I may approach you, and never more be debarred from your throne? When shall my soul, all eye, fix for eternity on your excellent glory? As yet, I have only seen some passing glimpses of your back parts. But there is an abiding, permanent, assimilating gaze on your glorious countenance, which shall crown my felicity through endless ages. May not the soul that is espoused to that glorious Husband, who is the chief among ten thousand, long to see her husband, long for the marriage-supper of the Lamb, and weary for the day of being brought home, to be forever in his house, forever in his presence? Surely, were my love to him more, I should long more for him. But I am ready to take up with other lovers in his absence. The world, and the things of time, are busy to cool my affection to the sacred suitor, the divine and unchangeable lover. Get away from me—all things that would divert my flame from him who is altogether lovely. When shall these eyes see him for myself? I am like one born abroad, that has never seen his father, nor his friends. But I am traveling home, and shall never be happy until I am with my best Friend. I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, and the account has comforted my soul. But now I long to see you with my eye—and be forever ravished with the heavenly vision. Surely at my arrival at your throne, O gracious Redeemer!—when I shall see your wonderful ascent to it, even by sufferings, the gathering of your saints about it, the apparel and entertainment of your chosen ones, and all your other glories—I shall know then that all the account which I ever heard falls infinitely short of your majesty and glory. Let it, then, comfort me, that in a little while you shall fulfill my request, satisfy my longing, and bring me home to be forever with you, my Lord.
ON THE WELL OF THE SHIP.
Spithead, July 7, 1758.
It is necessary to pump out the putrid salt water which leaks into the base of the ship. Even so, original sin is that poison which lies deep within, contaminates all around, whose filth defiles all the powers of the mind, all the members of the body, and whose guilt makes the whole man liable to all the miseries of time, to all the torments of hell.
Again, sometimes God is pleased to permit a person to fall into gross outbreakings, that thereby he may be led to see the corruption of his nature, and to bewail the spring from which such deadly streams proceed. Thus the psalmist confesses, that he, as well as all mankind, was conceived in sin, and born in iniquity. And wherever saving grace is displayed in subduing sin, there also the guilt of original sin is forgiven, and its filth taken away.
It is very remarkable, that God refines his own people, not only by afflictions, judgments, and mercies—but by sins; thus sometimes the air is purified by a thunder-storm. Hence, says God by the prophet Ezekiel, 14:9 and 11. "If the prophet is deceived and speaks a message, it was I, the Lord, who deceived that prophet. I will stretch out My hand against him and destroy him from among My people Israel." Now, for what end is a prophet permitted to speak lies, and the people to seek to a lying prophet? That they might go no more astray, pollute his holy name no more—but that he might be their God, and they might be his people.
Thus, Peter's pride and self-confidence is so cured by his denial of Christ, that when Jesus, after his resurrection puts to him a kindly question, "Simon, son of Jonas, love you me?" he dares not say, as formerly, O Lord, my love is such that I can die for you—but humbly appeals to himself, "You know that I love you." Our Lords repeats the question, and he returns the same answer. But a third time puts him to pain. Does my Lord distrust my love, does he suspect its sincerity? It is true, alas! I have denied him, and he knows me better than I do myself. But my heart, conscious of sincerity, appeals to his omniscience, "You that know all things, know that I love you."
Moreover, the daily experience of the saints will attest, that all their lifetime they hate and abhor that sin most by which they have most dishonored God, and wounded their own souls. Alas! what daily cause have I to mourn over my depravity, whose life is blackened with daily outbreakings from this fountain that defiles! It is from my depravity, that so many vain thoughts, and low apprehensions of the holiness and majesty of God; and so many trifling delights; and such an eager pursuit of perishing pleasures, and polluted joys, which must all be thrown away.
But, such is the wonderful method of him, whose ways are past finding out, that he brings through hell to heaven and, by one sin breaking out, makes the soul hate and abhor, fight and watch against all sin, and have daily recourse to the blood of sprinkling, and to the Spirit of all grace for divine assistance.
THE COMPANY OF THE WICKED.
Spithead, July 8, 1758.
When for our continual company we have the wicked, we cannot but continue our lamentation, and repeat our complaint, "Woe is me that I sojourn in Mesech, and dwell in the tents of Kedar!" When I have considered the carnal men, who know nothing of the power of true religion; and the abandoned wretches, who have not even the appearance of morality; how should I esteem the company of saints here below, and the communion of the glorious multitudes above! When the day of my dissolution comes, how shall I be transported to find myself among an assembly of sanctified ones, where true religion, in its purity, is their eternal theme! Not an idle word among all the amazing multitude, nor one vain thought among the vast throng! Their society is holiness, and their conversation shall comfort forever.
No doubt but the wickedness of the present world will to the saints sweeten the sanctity of the world to come; and their own corruption, from which they cannot wholly rid themselves now, dignify that noble change, when corruptible shall put on incorruption, and mortality be swallowed up of life; so will their imperfect graces aggrandize their perfection in glory. What, then, shall be my happiness when my fellow saints shall be spotless flames of love, and I adore with them in the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of perfect and perpetual peace! when the moving of their tongues in the praises of my dearest Lord, shall assuage all my former grief, and charm my ravished ear! when every soul shall attempt the loudest song, and highest praise on our best Beloved! and when among the adoring throng, not one sinner, which are now so numerous, nay, not one hypocrite shall stand! O how shall we speak to one another of Him who is altogether lovely, and being transformed into his likeness, how amiable and agreeable shall we be to one another! For, like lines in a circle pointing to the center, the nearer to which they come, the nearer to others they approach, until running into the center, they unite in one another!
Just so, dwelling in Christ, we shall be united to one another in love. Then I shall not only be free from my wicked company—but from everything in my soul that can disquiet or give pain. No pollution from without, no corruption within—but all is perfect sanctity. O triumphant state of perfect liberty! where my companions shall not, as now, drive me from God—but, as it were, draw me to the very throne: "Come, let us worship the Lord; I will go also." The forethought of that happy state shall comfort me until the days of my mourning be ended.
ON AWAKING AT MIDNIGHT.
Now the silent night spreads its shadows on all, and calms the uneasy crew, who are locked fast in sleep, except those who are on duty. Never are they less offensive to God or men, than when in slumbers.
In a little while, the busy world shall be awaked to pursue the affairs of life. But the greater part, in respect of spiritual things, are fast asleep, yes, chained among the dead. Hence the apostle says, "Awake, you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light."
Amidst the blackest gloom that dwells on midnight with respect to the natural eye, the soul is at no loss to view invisible realities by the eye of her understanding, and to behold her supreme good by the eye of faith. Yes, 'supernatural light' dwells within the soul—even while dense darkness surround the body; and this 'supernatural light' is much more beautiful than the brightest sunshine to the naked eye.
Now, had all been created pure spirits, like the angels, there had been no need for natural light, for the Father of spirits is to them the Fountain of light. And sometimes they have brought such a brightness with them from the throne of glory, (like Moses when he came down from the mount of God,) such a blaze of light spreading round about, as has amazed the astonished spectators. Thus, neither the natural darkness of the night; nor the thick darkness of sorrow, affliction, and woe; nor the pitchy darkness of death—shall spread a shadow over those who have his presence, diffusing serenest noon in their souls wherever they go. As, on the other hand, the fallen angels, cast out of his favorable presence, are kept in chains of darkness, though allowed to roam over this universe in the noon-day beamings of the natural sun.
Again, a man may enjoy the light of life, and bask himself in the pleasant beams of affluence and peace, while nothing but a dark and stormy night surrounds his soul. As the evening-shadows mantle the world, so they produce a silence and tranquility over all. But the darkness that seizes the soul from an angry or concealed God, awakens the keenest anguish, and pours storms and tempests in all the powers of the mind, which raise this complaint, "You hid your face, and I was troubled." But what comfort may it yield me, that, though the nights seem long, the darkness thick, the tempests loud, and the thunders terrible—that the Sun is on his way, will shortly rise, and afford eternal day! that I shall walk in the light of his countenance, and in his light see light clearly! Then, and not until then, shall "Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning."
ON ONE CURSING AND SWEARING AT AN AFFRONT.
Spithead, July 10, 1758.
This discloses to me the dreadful confusion and deplorable rage which the wicked shall be put into at the final judgment! Listen to that poor wretch—for a matter of no importance—roaring, raging, foaming, and blaspheming! What surprising, chilling, and vile oaths pursue one another in his fiendlike fury! Scarcely can he tell what troubles him for belching out hideous, horrid, and vicious oaths, protestations, and imprecations—not to be allowed to return ever into the memory again but in a way of deploration.
Now, if such be the language of sinners on earth, what shall be their dialect in hell, when they shall turn their blasphemies against the blessed—but tremendous Avenger himself! when their kindling eyes shall swell with fury! Here they curse others, or invoke damnation on themselves. But then and there, they shall blaspheme God for his burning indignation, and, in perpetual rage and fury, rise up against incensed Omnipotence itself. And this shall increase their torment—that they madly oppose their feeble power, and unsubdued enmity, against the infinite Afflicter, whereby they, as it were, approve of their old rebellion against their rightful Lord, and make it evident that he is just when he condemns and punishes his foes.
But O! what a countenance will they put on, what passion, what revenge, what anguish, what rage, what horror, what burning envy in their soul, what rolling eyes, and trembling joints, what tormenting confusion of thought, what terrible derangement, and consummate despair—will tear and prey on them forever! Against whom will they stamp, frown, storm, and foam, like this desperado? Whom will they threaten? God, their eternal foe, is far above their reach, holds them down in chains of everlasting wrath, and roars against them with the thunders of his right hand forever!
Now, as I heard such vile cursings, and oaths to me entirely new (which I pray may never grate my ear again) from hence I infer, that the blasphemies of the damned, now past all hope, and filled with unrelenting enmity, are so extremely and inconceivably dreadful, so excessively horrid, that the most abandoned swearer, the master of the newest and blackest blasphemies on earth, cannot now imagine them; just as the sharpest pains we feel in time, bear no proportion to the excruciating torments of the damned. This desperado's rage assuages little by little, and he becomes more calm by degrees. But in hell, their passion and tumult ever grows, even against God. Their soul abhors him, and his soul also loathes them! O then to be wise, and learn wisdom from everything I see!
GOD'S EQUITY IN THE ETERNITY OF TORMENT.
July 10, 1758.
Man is daringly bold to find fault with God, and tell him to his face—that his ways are not just. For God to make a creature to be miserable for some small offence; to make a creature to be damned—they complain is unjust. Or for God to punish a few follies in frail man, the extravagancies of a few days—with eternal wrath; and the failings of a finite creature, who is crushed before the moth—with the whole collected fury of an Omnipotent God, an Almighty Avenger—they complain is unjust.
As to the first, God creates not to destroy—but still delights in mercy; yet, before any creatures rob him of his glory by a course of sin—he will magnify himself in their damnation. Again, shall the man that derides revelation, scorns to search the word of truth, despises counsel, casts instruction behind his back, hates him who reproves, sins against his light, will not hearken to the reproofs of conscience—but eagerly runs into all sin, and commits wickedness with greediness, dragging as many as he can with him to hell—shall such a wretch (and generally such they are who have these sorry and pitiful pleas) talk of mercy? Would he have God to take him, sin and all to heaven—who would not forsake his sin for heaven, nor cease from wickedness for God? Those who will not receive mercy, who will not have a gift of salvation on God's terms, and in God's time—must expect damnation from him in due time, which shall measure with eternity!
I have, for a long time, been convinced of the punishment for sin being infinite (as far as creatures can sustain) and eternal, on account of the infinite Majesty against whom it was committed. Because it is impossible for finite creatures, who despise the salvation provided by God, to atone for one sin; and because the sinner continues, even in the torments of hell—to be the enemy of God and righteousness. But now I see another thing, even that infinite and eternal punishment, is no more than the just payment of their sin. For the sinner employs all his thoughts, exerts all his might, and goes to the very utmost of his finite omnipotence (may I use the expression?) against God. Had he power equal to his ungodly inclinations, he would destroy righteousness out of the world, just as he does in his own bosom! Yes, could he effect it, he who daily tears the moral law in pieces—would pull the angels out of heaven! More—he, who will not let God govern his poor insignificant self—could he rise in power, he would contend even with the Almighty, and take the government of heaven and earth out of his hand!
Now, is it not strict justice in God to punish to the uttermost of his power—those who sin against him to the uttermost of their power; and to cast the fury of his wrath on those who, in their sinning against him, would not repent? Moreover, is it not equitable with God to punish as long as he lives—those who sinned against him as long as they lived? So may an earthly king condemn to perpetual imprisonment—a rebel or one who attempts to assassinate him.
Again, though their life was short and passing, yet how did they spend it, every moment of it, in abominable sin! And since they spend the eternity of their life (might I again use the expression?) against God, and would never cease to offend the everlasting Jehovah, were they to continue in their present state to perpetuity; therefore it is but just that he should punish them through the eternity of his existence.
Finally, sinners have no grounds of excuse or complaint left, being well apprised of their danger in time, and therefore shall, through an eternity of torment, confess that their own ways have been unjust—but that God is just and righteous in all his ways.
INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE EVIL SPEECH OF THE WICKED.
Spithead, July 12, 1758.
Surely, if ever I was among the saints I have been to blame—who had nothing to utter in commendation of true religion, nothing to say in honor of God. Or if I dropped a word or two, that I dwelt not longer on the theme. But if ever providence permits me to breathe again in the fragrant air of converse with the godly, I think I shall be more open hearted than ever I have been. Forgive me, God; forgive me, saints; forgive me, sinners. Who knows what good a good word might have done some of you? Forgive me, my own conscience; and as I cannot excuse myself for time past, for opportunities lost, let me be more watchful in all time coming.
I am instructed to this by the open profanity of the wicked. They are not ashamed to speak and talk in a strain which we would think the fiends of hell could not go beyond. They expose their secret sins in a manner which makes us blush. How soon they reveal their wickedness to one another, and let it be known to what society they belong—by their horrible vile speech!
And shall you, O saint—and I, when we shall meet, not let it be known that we are heirs of the same promise, soldiers under the same banner, combatants in the same cause, servants of the same Lord, disciples of the same master, and expectants of the same glory? It is true—piety is a secret thing; its duties are to be performed in the closet, not in the street, and He who sees in secret will at the last day reward us openly. Again, we who bear the Christian name often choose to be silent too often on serious matters, lest at any time, by gross out breaking of sin, we become a scandal to religion; or those who have not the root of the matter in them scandalize us for our religion.
But as these wicked ones are under no restraint in their profanity, shall we, who make such a high profession, be altogether silent on serious subjects? They avow their god, who is the devil—the god of this world. And shall we not avow the Lord for our God? They are of their father the devil, and do his works; and shall we not walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever? Is not our Master more honorable, our service more noble, our encouragement more powerful, our reward more certain, our associates more worthy, and our delights and pleasures more permanent and divine—than all the wicked can boast of? Why then not talk to one another of the excellencies of our great Lord, his kindness to his servants, what befalls us in our pilgrimage, the surprising providences of our life, and the outlettings of his love to our souls? "Come and hear, all you who fear God—and I will tell you what he has done for my soul," said the psalmist. And have we nothing to tell, no words with which we may comfort one another? Yes, we should speak in commendation of true religion to all; for whoever mocks—still wisdom is justified of her children; and whoever scoffs—we ought to do our duty. Then, in my present situation, all my communings must be with my own heart. I may make my prayer to the God of my life, express my trouble to him, and pour out my complaint before him, pleading, that as the years are full of evil, and the days of grief, so he may comfort me.
SORROW FOR SIN A SIGN OF GRACE.
Spithead, July 13, 1758.
Surely I am not so zealous for the God of heaven as I ought to be. Had I this day received an insult, or had any spit in my face—would I not carry the affront to bed with me—to sleep and wake with me, yes, disturb me of my sleep? Where is, then, my zeal for God, that I can quietly go to rest, and with an easy mind, when I see and know sinners avowedly wound the glory of God, spit in the face of Divine majesty; daringly break all his commandments, think his precepts are a jest, trample on his reproof, laugh at his threatenings, brave his thunders, and defy his wrath? While their practice is so vile—should my spirit be so unconcerned? Should the loyal subject be quiet and still when he knows a plot of rebellion is forming against his king, by whom he is maintained, yes, and beloved?
Then, what shall I say of these obdurate sinners? I complain against them to you; I hate their conduct, I lament their sinful infatuation and deplore their case. The day is conscious of their crimes, the night attests their debauches. I deplore and protest against all their oaths and profanity, their obscenity and vileness, and all their other abominations. They fly from you in the day of your grace; and shall be punished with everlasting destruction away from you, and the glory of your power—in the day of judgment. May your honor never be less valued by me; nor I less grieved for the wounding thereof, that so many value it so little. May sin never become less odious to me by being committed before me; and let my sorrow for sin in others testify my innocence, and that I have no delight therein, while my soul shall mourn in secret places for those who hate holiness and love hell.
ON HEARING A RUMOR OF PEACE.
Spithead, July 19, 1755.
With what a cheerful countenance did the greater part appear to hear the report of peace! These poor fellows, some of whom were drafted and pressed into the battlefield, some to the warship—now worn out with war, and long absent from their nearest relations, and their dearest friends—exult at the very thought of peace, and feel an inward satisfaction that refreshes every power.
How then, O my soul! who is engaged in a more cruel war, carried on by more bloody foes, pursued without intermission, with all the rage of the roaring lion of hell, the cunning of the old serpent, and vigilance of the pit; the outcome of which is of much greater importance than the struggles for empire, or the strife of kings; how should you rejoice at that eternal peace which shall take place when all your foes shall fall before you, and death, the last enemy, shall be destroyed forever! Then you shall not only depart the field with safety and honor—but come off more than conqueror through him who loved you!
Are men so fond to leave the battlefield, and taste the sweets of peace! What madness then by sin to rise in rebellion against Heaven, and maintain a war against God, to stubbornly charge against him, and defy Omnipotence himself—who can crush worlds with a frown, and punish the most stubborn offenders!
How pleasant for the man that has been often in danger and death, who has long heard the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war, who has been covered with wounds and blood, and been daily beset by cruel bloodthirsty foes—to dwell in peace, and walk at safety, to heighten his present happiness by the remembrance of his past danger, assured that he shall never more be in a state of war—but spend his days in peace and quiet!
Even so, the soul that has been often in danger from spiritual death, has long heard the sound of Sinai's trumpets, the curses of the fiery law, and war denounced from Jehovah's throne—has not only been sore buffeted and wounded—but accounted itself free among the dead, being daily beset by sin, and its outbreakings, Satan and his temptations; how sweet for such a soul to be filled with peace and joy in believing, to have the guarantee of pardoned sin, and acceptance through the Beloved. And, instead of storms and tempests from Sinai—to have the blessing out of Zion. In a word, to have the full assurance of unchangeable love, and endless felicity, and that, in a little while, all the enemies of his salvation, as they are now chained, so shall never vex him more—but he shall sing the riches of grace, and the righteousness of Jesus, world without end.
THE NOBLE PRINCIPLE.
Spithead, July 19, 1758.
Now I am distant from all my pious acquaintances and civilized friends, who might be a check upon me; and, what is worse, I am out of the church, therefore out of the reach of her discipline. But what is worst of all, I am where true religion is a stranger. Here it is applauded to be wicked; and profanity and impiety are supported at the expense of all that is sacred or valuable. Here shame is laid aside, brazen impudence is worn on every brow, and he that departs from iniquity becomes a prey to ridicule and scoff. Yet, for all this, how can I commit wickedness, and sin against God? Shall I not improve this opportunity, to witness for piety against all their vileness, and to strike a terror into the most abandoned; for there is no conscience which slumbers so securely—but there are now and then clamors rising within?
What thanks to me to be for God while among his saints, where for very shame I dare not be against him? But surely it is commendable, when called in providence to be among those among whom Satan has his seat, not only to abstain from the sins in which they revel—but to oppose, to reprove, to let my hatred of the vices which they admire, be known, and not to drop my testimony against sin. Though I don't prevail with sinners; though my diligence is not successful—duty must not be slackened.
The sinner mistakes the matter; for he thinks he has liberty to sin in one situation more than in another. But it mightily aggravates his wickedness, because he carries not the awe and belief of God's omnipresence everywhere. Were he at home, no man would be more moral than he. But the eye of man prevails more with him than the omniscience of God; for when he leaves his friends and native land, he leaves the fear of God also (that is, the form of godliness, for he never knew the power thereof) and rushes into sin wherever he goes. Like the ignorant Syrians, he thinks that God is a God of the hills—but not of the valleys, a God of the land—but not of the sea. And thus, when he casts off men by distance, he sets God also at a distance, and the divine law at defiance. But, to his endless remorse, he shall realize that God sees, not only under the whole heaven—but through the whole heart; and fills not only time—but eternity itself!
As no grateful person would injure a generous friend; so, for my part, I would not sin against God, even supposing that he could not know it. How could I forget your tender mercies, your love, your compassion, your kindness, and supporting grace! How could I sin against your holiness, offend my best, my never-failing friend, wound my conscience, bruise my soul, and trample on your glory! You are ever in the heart which loves you. And you will bring those who willingly forget you to a remembrance of your omnipresence—by the down-pouring of your dreadful wrath. If nothing but the eye of man concerns us—it will make but small impression, and the impression will be quickly gone. But I can never hide from God of Heaven, nor conceal myself from my own conscience.
Moreover, I am bound to be for God by many ties. O how should I honor him whom all dishonor, and witness for him when all are against him! In the time that I alone witness for him, I should not lose the opportunity which may never be put into my hand again. How then should I love him, whom sinners refuse to love; and hate sin the more that ungodly men love it! Surely my zeal should be the warmer—since ungodly men have lost all zeal for God and his glory. What can be more ungrateful than to sin against that God who has sent his Son to save me—than to offend him who defends me every day; than to cast off his fear, who has fed me all my life long; than to join a multitude against him, who, passing by the multitude, has chosen me to eternal salvation? I should have an eye to his glory; and his love should be always before me. His greatness should fill my mind with holy awe, and his goodness with gratitude and joy. But, ah worthless I, how shall I hold up my face when I fall so far short of my duty, and do so little for him, who has done so much—who has done everything for me!
July 20, 1758.
To make my situation more pleasant, in this meditation, let me run a comparison between the sea-life, and the Christian life—which is properly called a warfare.
1. Then, we embark all in one common cause. In like manner, have all Christians one interest.
2. We leave our own country, our friends, and our native land. In like manner, must every Christian leave his father's house, and his old friends.
3. Sometimes we enter into his majesty's service against the opinion and inclination of our nearest friends. In like manner, sometimes, in becoming disciples of Jesus, we must deny our nearest relationships, and dearest friends.
4. We do not entangle ourselves with the affairs of the land, as we belong to the sea. In like manner, must the saint not entangle himself in the affairs of this life, that he may please Him who has chosen him to be a spiritual soldier.
5. We are all maintained by the King. In like manner, are all Christians are maintained by the throne of Heaven.
6. We come here neither uncalled or unwelcome. In like manner, none that come to Jesus, shall ever be cast out.
7. Some are drafted and pressed into the service of their king and country. In like manner, nothing less than almighty power can make the sinner submit to Jesus.
8. We undergo a great change of life when we forsake the land, and dwell on the ocean. But they share in a greater change, who are taken from darkness into light, from the power of Satan, to the living God.
9. Our way of walking must be changed, else we shall have many a fall on the deck. In like manner, Christians must not walk as other men, else, they shall not keep on the path of life.
10. Our food must be changed, and adapted to our way of life. In like manner, must Christians live as well as walk by faith, and feed on heavenly food.
11. Our provisions must be of such a nature as to keep for a long time free of putrefaction, and in every climate. In like manner, must the saint feed on Jesus, the bread of life, who can nourish in every condition below.
12. We must forego our easy life, and expect to be dashed by the briny wave, and beaten by the storm. In like manner, Christians must not expect to lounge about in the lap of pleasure—in a world where they are to have tribulation and pain.
13. We must keep continual watch for the safety of the ship, and the crew dare never all sleep at once. In like manner, must the Christian watch continually, watch unto all prayer, and be ever on his guard.
14. Our very dialect distinguishes us from the inhabitants on land. In like manner, should the Christian be known as different from the men of the world—by his innocent, useful, edifying, and godly discourse, managed always with discretion.
15. We have a discipline peculiar to ourselves, and pretty severe. In like manner, has the Christian church from her Lord a government and discipline which none can alter or abrogate.
16. We must not expect to leave the tempestuous element until the war is finished, and peace proclaimed. In like manner, the Christian needs not expect to be disengaged from trouble and turmoil until the spiritual war is ended, and eternal peace brought in.
17. We must always be ready to engage the enemy, as we don't know where and when he shall attack. In like manner, the Christian, being in the midst of his enemies, must always be ready for the battle.
18. We are provided with armor and ammunition for the day of battle at the king's cost. In like manner, is every saint with the whole armor of God.
19. Sometimes a battle at sea is made more dreadful because of the darkness of the night. In like manner, sometimes, in the darkness of desertion, the saint is surrounded with all his cruel foes.
20. We must fight before we get the victory. In like manner, must the Christian conquer before he obtain the crown.
21. We are provided with medical men to give assistance to the wounded and diseased. In like manner, have the saints a tender-hearted Physician, who binds up the broken heart, cures the painful wound, and pours in the healing balm.
22. We have a steward who gives us our provisions daily, and not all at once. Yet we have no uneasiness, knowing that he has plenty, and will not let us starve. In like manner, the saints, either in respect of spiritual provision, or daily bread, need never be disquieted for futurity, since Jesus is appointed of the Father, a steward to all the children of God, since all the fullness of the Godhead is treasured up in him for their supply. And since, to their unspeakable profit, all their provision, of one or other kind, is not given to them at once—but kept in his hand.
23. We have people among us of all nations, English, Scots, Irish, Dutch, Swedes, Danes, French, Spaniards, Germans, Swiss, Italians, Russians, Indians, etc.—of all dispositions, of all employments, and of all ages. In like manner, the true church is composed of all nations, people, and languages, and of young and old.
24. We are appareled in a different manner from the men on land. In like manner, Christians are covered, both with the justifying righteousness of Christ, and with the righteousness of saints.
25. Officers, men, and boys, are allowed the same quantity of provisions in the same time. In like manner, the fullness of the covenant, the fatness of God's house—is alike free to all the members of Christ.
26. We have several officers here, without whom we could not be governed. In like manner, in the church, there are officers for the government of the whole body.
27. We are in the midst of dangers, and yet are preserved. In like manner, the church, like a lily among thorns, grows and is not choked. The church is like a bush burning—but not consumed; sometimes persecuted by men—but never forsaken by God.
28. In a voyage, we are cut off from all the world, and have no communication with any. In like manner, the church and the people of God shall dwell alone, not mingle with the people, nor be reckoned among the nations.
29. Every loss we sustain in an engagement is borne by government. But when we conquer, we divide the spoil, and share the prize-money among us. In like manner, God supports his people in their spiritual warfare, makes up every loss, enriches them with the spoils of their enemies, and at last puts palms in their hands, and crowns on their heads.
30. When the war is ended, and peace restored, we retire with all our acquisitions, to receive the congratulations of our friends, and enjoy ourselves in peace and tranquility as long as we shall live. In like manner, at death we trample on our last enemy, leave the field with triumph, go to the blessed society of saints and angels, receive a crown of immortal glory—and are happy beyond expression, beyond conception, in the enjoyment of God and the Lamb for evermore!
OUR SORROW FOR SIN TOO CONTRACTED.
July 22, 1758.
Now to my grief I am among sinners; and it pains my heart that those with whom I am concerned in one vessel and in one interest—should so sin against God. Though there were no wickedness committed in this ship, yet how does it prevail through the whole British fleets with which I am connected; but though I were out of the navy, yet I am still concerned with Britain; though out of Britain, I am still in the world, and therefore concerned with the whole inhabitants thereof. Now I see my sorrow for sin is not so universal as it ought to be. For while I lament great sins, gross abominations, and detestable crimes—I am apt to overlook mental corruptions and natural depravity—which is the spring of all. Again, it is too contracted, in that I confine my grief to the wretches who are daily in my view; for though the crew here were all saints, yet how, through the whole fleet, have officers and men all corrupted their way! or though the whole fleet were innocent, yet how through Britain, by her armies, and men of all ranks, is the divine law broken with impunity! But though Britain were righteous, yet what wickedness against the majesty of Heaven is committed through the world!
O contracted sorrow for sin! to grieve for nothing but what I see; as if the glory of God were not alike dear to him in all places; or as if he were not offended at sin on every shore, in every land, and in every heart! Though what I see and hear deserves my heartfelt tears, yet I should continue the flood of tears, because iniquity overflows the universe, because the whole world lies in iniquity, and the earth groans under the sinful inhabitants thereof. Though the enemies of God may not be always in my sight as now some of them are, yet they are always in the sight of the God of Heaven—sinning against him who is everywhere present! My sorrow therefore should continually be before me, and the shame of my face ever cover me; and my unremitting request should be, and shall be—that the knowledge of the Lord may cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea.
St. Helens, July 29, 1758.
This is a common affliction in war—that whoever conquers at last, in the mean time many on both sides lose their life, or suffer by imprisonment, as these poor men, who carry the effects of their long confinement, and scanty allowance, in their countenance. Their meager looks tell they have not been nourished by the bounty of their own sovereign, under whose flag they fought.
But now, when escaped from their cells, they betake not themselves to a slothful, indolent, and easy life—but, with redoubled ardor, fly again to the warfare, eager to be revenged on their enemies, and take those as prisoners—whose prisoners they once were. Even so the soldier, that in the Christian warfare (and all his life is one continued war) is taken captive by Satan, is cast down by some temptation, and overcome by some lust; who is imprisoned in carnality, whose iron gate is despair, and the chains and fetters which bind the prisoners are insensibility, and impenitence of heart; while Satan, to keep all secure, stands sentry himself. In like manner, when such a one is recovered from his captivity, is restored to liberty, by him who takes the prey from the terrible, and delivers the captive—how does his holy indignation rise against sin, and especially that sin especially which had overcome him!
As he had formerly gone backward, now he runs in the way of righteousness, and studies that his path may be like the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day. None has—a greater hatred of sin than he—a greater zeal for the glory of God—a greater jealousy over himself—and a greater compassion for those who groan under the assaults of Satan, and swellings of sin. His soul disease is removed, and being fed and feasted with the bread of life—he grows strong as Samson for the war. Every wound which he received when taken captive—is healed by the balm of Gilead which is poured in by the Physician of souls. And he is filled with joy by the sweet assurance, that none of all the children of God shall die in prison, but with full triumph, and loud Hosanna, shall at last enter the realms of everlasting day!
SHIP DAMAGED AND BEGINNING TO SINK
Under sail from Cherbourg.
How sweet is life—for which a man will part with his all! When these two ships, which my anxious eyes beheld, ran into one another—from the smaller vessel which seemed in greatest danger, how did everyone fly, and never look behind! One comes out half naked, but finds no cold; another, in getting into the other ship, catches a bruise or a wound, but feels no pain until afterwards. I see, then, that man needs no admonition to preserve his temporal life, or avoid bodily danger. But how do they sleep on in sin—until awaked in everlasting agonies!
"Fly from the wrath to come," is the divine admonition to all; but a raging and a roaring tempest, a sinking vessel, and a swelling wave, are more prevalent with men to attempt their escape—than all the terrors of the Lord, and the prospect of future wrath and eternal torment. But some may be discouraged to escape from the wrath to come, because they have so long followed the ways of sin. Yet this, instead of deterring them, should determine them to make greater efforts to escape. Tell the affrighted crew, that because they are in danger, they must dwell in danger sedately, and let themselves drown without disturbance, since it seems to be their fate. Such an advice would seem the language of a madman—which advice they never will accept. They will make the more haste the greater their danger, and the greater speed to deliver themselves the nearer they seem to destruction. Yes, they will attempt to make their escape, though they should perish in the attempt. They will rather attempt to escape—than sit still and perish. O that men, the worst of men, would follow their example! For if they abide in their sins—they must perish; and though they fail in their attempts to escape—they can but perish.
Again, a man fast asleep could not have been concerned in all the confusion these men were in, but would have sunk like a stone in the mighty waters. But all who are awake see danger, and endeavor to accomplish their escape. So those that are in a natural state are spiritually asleep—and see no danger until they plunge into the flames of hell! But the one who is awake to eternity, sees his danger, and flies from the wrath to come! There is as great difference between a man in a renewed and unrenewed state—as between a man fast asleep and fully awake.
Moreover, we see that these men minded nothing but the saving of their life. They left all behind them, even their most precious things, and made their escape. So, when a soul seeks to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, he counts all things but loss and rubbish, even the things he had counted gain before—for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord. He sets his eye on the unseen world, and secures his eternal interest there. Looking on the present world as a shattered vessel that cannot long carry him safely, but must sink him at last—he sees that it is his highest wisdom to escape the leaky vessel, into the safe ark of the covenant, which keeps above the swelling floods of destruction. And finally, he sets his affections on heavenly things, and anticipates a little of that joy and serenity, which shall take place in the world to come, when storms and tempests cease!
Under sail, August 18, 1758.
How often have we cause to cry out of the cruelty of men! Mankind, allied to one another by blood—have more ingenuity to destroy each other, than all the beasts of the forest!
No sooner were these poor soldiers (who never met before, and only meet now that they may kill each other) within the reach of mutual destruction, but they fall to fighting, and deprive each other of their life, and send souls into the eternal unseen world. Cannons roar like the destructive thunders—and all the instruments of war are set a sounding terror and dismay.
PITY has no outlet from the human bosom, until the enemies are all killed, or yield as prisoners. How many souls, by the unsheathed and naked sword, are sent naked into the eternal unseen world! Unprepared for their last moments, they have not a quiet moment at last to prepare for death; but are hurried into their last, unalterable state at once, with a few melting groans. What a piteous sight is the field of battle! The very ground is plowed with the irresistible cannon-balls. Or if the battle borders on a forest, the trees are scarred with continual firing, and the neighboring hills echo with the noise—the confused noise of war, while the shriekings and groanings of the deadly wounded add to the horrors of the day.
Such are the contests of rulers; such is the vile ambition of kings—who purchase elbow-room to their territories, at the expense of their subjects' lives!
But if the war of mortals is so terrible to one another, what must that day be when God shall rise up to the battle—to rid himself of his enemies, and ease himself of his adversaries? When his angry countenance shall kindle the heavens above, and set the earth on fire beneath? When the thunders of his right hand shall fill hell with universal trembling? When a fiery stream issues from his flaming throne; which shall affrighten the human race, being summoned to make their appearance before the final judgment?
No pity, no compassion then! No mercy, no forgiveness there! If men are cut off by the weapons of war, by the hand of frail mortals; how must they perish under the stroke of Omnipotence, which shall reach to the soul in all her powers? when his almighty hand takes hold of, and whets the glittering sword, and swears he lives forever—to punish his enemies forever?
O that men were wise, and would consider their latter end! O that men would throw down the weapons of their rebellion, and fight under the Captain of salvation! Then would they be happy in this world—and in the world to come!
St. Cas, Sept. 12, 1756.
(Our forces having made a descent on the coast of France, the enemy assembled their forces, before whom our little army retreated. But while the greater part of us escaped, the enemy killed or made prisoners of some 1400 men, in the two hour battle.)
Ah, mournful day! what pathetic sights, what melting sounds have I seen and heard by sea and land this day! My heart bleeds for the men of war, who boldly shed their blood. For though their scanty number was overpowered by the enemy—yet their courage was conspicuous to the last. Ah, doleful event of one fatal day! Many, mirthful and cheerful in the morning—lay gasping at noon—and are clay-cold by the evening twilight! My heartstrings are pierced with pain, while I remember the anguish of their last moments! They fall, but none to lift them up; they groan, but no kindly sympathizer; they die, and there is no tender-hearted mourner, none to lament them. The little army is broken by superior numbers, and take to flight; but where can they fly? A victorious enemy is in front of them, rocks on every side, and a raging sea behind them. Some tried to escape into the water—and are shot while wading for life, or perish in the waves!
How vain the confidence of man! How empty the boast of invincible courage! Let men remember that God gives the victory; and that at his frown heroes fall, and armies fly.
Methinks I see the yet more awful, universal, and conclusive day—when the heavens shall open in tremendous thunders, when the dreadful trumpet, with louder sounds than ever echoed from the martial plains, shall raise the sleeping dust, and the tremendous Judge descend in flaming vengeance on his fiery throne; before whom the nations shall be assembled, and by whom the final sentence passed. This is the decision that shall concern the victors and the vanquished—the survivors and the slain—sovereigns and their subjects—yes, the whole world and myself!
THE NATURAL MAN INSENSIBLE OF MERCY.
Portsmouth Harbor, November 1, 1758.
Did men look but a little towards God, and into themselves, it would be their wisdom. But true wisdom can never shine where saving grace does not dwell. There are some men astonishingly saved from deadly dangers. They are standing monuments of singular mercy, when numbers were dropping down around them, when instruments of death were rattling thick about them, like the hail from the thunder-cloud, and bullets falling like drops of rain—and yet they are preserved safe among the dying crowd. And there are others who have still a more narrow escape—for a bullet breaks one of their bones—which might have cut the thread of their life. Or a sword wounds an extremity—which might have pierced the heart and dislodged the soul.
Through the whole war, they have a kindly remembrance of their singular preservation, and God's special mercy to them. But, O chilling thought! how soon do these very people forget their great deliverer, show not the least gratitude to God—but return to sin, and proceed from evil to worse! Had any other soldier been a means of their preservation, they had displayed so much gratitude as never to forget it. But it was God who preserved them—and they display so much of the sinner, the abandoned sinner, as never to remember it, never to acknowledge it! They pursue their sinful practices, as if their life had at first been given, and preserved when in danger—for no other purpose than to run into wickedness.
These men are the enemies of God. They have been hungry and he has fed them. They have been thirsty and he has given them water to drink. They have been in disease, and he has recovered them. They have been in danger, and he has preserved them. Therefore, if they continue still his enemies—he will heap coals of fire on their head, while his kindness shall be renowned forever. Where God's mercies have no effect—his judgments shall without fail have most terrible effect at last. Since I am a child of many mercies, may gratitude write them, in indelible characters, on the table of my heart!
THE WORD OF GOD IRRESISTIBLE.
Nov. 3, 1758.
O how glorious and irresistible is the word of grace, when it comes accompanied with divine power—the word which turns a sinner from his wickedness to God! Fire and sword cannot convert; war and shipwreck cannot reclaim; dangers and deliverance cannot reform; mercies and judgments cannot change the man. But one verse in the holy scriptures, a sentence or paragraph in a pious treatise, or an expression in a sermon—backed with the divine blessing, and sent home by the Spirit of God—can prick to the very heart, overpower the whole soul, and open his eyes towards God, himself, and eternity! Towards God, to see his holiness and indignation against sin! Towards himself, to see his desperate and deplorable state in such a gulf of impurity and raging enmity against God! Towards eternity, to see his vast concerns and interests there—and that they are of another kind than he once dreamed of. Once he thought of nothing but social gatherings, balls, and the theater; of revelings and parties of pleasure; of knowing and being known; of money, advancements, and commissions from his employer; of grand appearance, expensive houses, splendid clothes, and high-sounding titles.
But now he sees that—judgment awaits all his actions—eternity treads on the heels of time—and that there is a world to come! These things cast out the vain and trifling phantoms that engrossed all his attention before—and give him just and proper ideas of everything around. And this great and wonderful change, which makes him account everything loss, rubbish and dross—in comparison of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ and the unseen eternal world—is effected by a very word—that the excellency of the power may be seen to be of God; while others hear thousands of such words, and continue in impenitence.
Though a man were thrown into hell, and saw and suffered all the torments of the damned, for years and ages—and was then brought up again to the land of the living, to the place of hope—yet all would be to no avail. For without the blessing of the Most High on the means of grace, he would not accept of salvation, nor receive the Savior. This is evident in those who have a foretaste of the terrors of hell, by the horrors of an awakened conscience, which, instead of bringing them nearer to God—drives them farther from him, and plunges them into the tremendous deeps of despair.
Though the words of peace may be more glorious from mount Zion to those who have heard the threatenings of mount Sinai, and though the thunderings of the law may precede to prepare his way; yet still God comes to a soul in the still small voice of the gospel. Then happy are those who know the joyful sound, for faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. By what experience shall they support their plea, who are for free will, and a kind of self-agency, in the work of conversion, when we see thousands and ten thousands perish, although it is natural for all men to wish to be happy! The Arminian will say, because they will not, therefore they are not happy. But the scripture says, "No man can come to me except the Father, who has sent me, draws him." Now, whether I am to believe the Arminian or God—let all the world judge.
Nov. 4, 1758.
It is requisite at certain times to bring ships in to the dock—that they may be cleaned, caulked, and fitted out for sea again. This is indeed attended with trouble—as guns, ammunition, stores, provisions, and ballast—must be removed, that the ship may easily be got into dock, and a proper inspection made into those places which need repair; and that stores, provisions, and everything needful, may be completed for a cruise or a voyage.
Then how much more necessity have Christians, who steer on a more tempestuous sea than the watery element—to inspect and test themselves! For such serious and solemn work, they should set a day apart for prayer and examination; when, that they may know their situation, they should look into their heart and affections, their life and conversation, their thoughts, the ends and motives of all their actions. Assisted by the light of revelation, they should see, and comparing themselves with the rule of the word, they should understand—what is wrong, what is lacking, what is decayed, and what is defective. They ought to search into the state of their soul, and the condition of their graces; and also see what sins have been most predominant in them. Surely those who are cast into wicked company, and are daily hearing and seeing sin—have much to mourn over!
Such an exercise is highly requisite in all the candidates for glory. They are also, from the royal treasury of grace—which is stored up in the Son of God—to take in provisions of every kind, and all sorts of armor—such as the sword of the Spirit, the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, the anchor of hope, and the compass of truth; as they must steer over roaring oceans, struggle through storms and tempests, and fight though foes all along their journey; and thus, spiritually refitted, proceed in their voyage to Immanuel's land!