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to be hurtful unto any, and therefore submit, and leave you both to bear the blame, and take the thanks, if any be returned.
I perceive you value the subjects which you have found in the practice of your soul to be most useful: as they that know God would fain have all others to know him; so those that know themselves, do love the glass, and would have others to make use of it: I wonder not if your experience of the benefits of self-acquaintance, provoke you to desire to have more partakers in so profitable and so sweet a knowledge. Had you not known yourself, you had never known your Saviour, your God, your way, and your end, as you have done: you had never been so well acquainted with the symptoms and cure of the diseases of the soul; the nature and exercise of grace, the way of mortification, and the comfortable supports, refreshments and foretastes of heavenly believers; you had never so clearly seen the vanity of all the pomp and fulness of the world, nor so easily and resolutely despised its flatteries and baits, nor so quietly borne variety of afflictions; norimitated Moses, (Heb. xi. 25, 26,) nor received the holy character, Psal. xv. He that is a stranger to himself, his sin, his misery, his necessity, &c., is a stranger to God, and to all that might denominate him wise or happy. To have taken the true measure of our capacities, abilities, infirmities and necessities, and thereupon to perceive what is really BEST FOR Us, and most agreeable to our case, is the first part of true, practical, saving knowledge. Did the distracted mindless world consider, what work they have at home for their most serious thoughts, and care, and diligence, and of what unspeakable concernment and necessity it is, and that men carry within them the matter of their final doom, and the beginning of endless joy or sorrows, they would be called home from their busy idleness, their laborious loss of precious time, and unprofitable vagaries, and would be studying their hearts, while they are doting about a multitude of impertinencies, and would be pleasing God while they are purveying for the flesh; and they would see that it more concerneth them to know the day of their salvation, and now to lay up a treasure in heaven, that they may die in faith, and live in everlasting joy and glory, than in the crowd and noise of the ambitious, covetous, voluptuous sensualists, to run after
a feather, till time is past, and mercy gone, and endless woe hath unexpectedly surprised them. Yet do these dead men think they live, because they laugh, and talk, and ride, and go, and dwell among gnats and flies in the sunshine, and not with worms and dust in darkness: They think they are awake, because they dream that they are busy; and that they are doing the works of men, because they make a pudder and a noise for finer clothes, and larger rooms, and sweeter morsels, and lower congees and submissions than their poorer, undeceived neighbours have: they think they are sailing to felicity, because they are tossed up and down: and if they can play the jacks among the fishes, or the wolves or foxes in the flocks of Christ; or if they can attain to the honour of a pestilence, to be able to do a great deal of hurt, they are proud of it, and look as high as if they saw neither the grave nor hell, nor knew how quickly they must be taken down, and laid so low, that "the righteous shall see it, and fear, and laugh at them, saying, Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness. (Psal. lii. 6, 7.) "Behold these are the ungodly that prosper in the world, and increase in riches; surely they are set in slippery places, and cast down to destruction, and brought to desolation as in a moment; and utterly consumed with terrors: as a dream when one awaketh, so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image, (Psal. lxxiii.) Though while they lived they blessed themselves, and were praised by men; yet when they die they carry nothing away; their glory shall not descend after them; like sheep they are laid in the grave: death shall feed on them, and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; man in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish; this their way is their folly; yet their posterity approve their sayings," (Psal. xlix,) as the proverb is, ' At last the wolf's skin is brought to the market, and the fox's to the furrier.' They shall find that God is not afraid to lay the hand of justice on the stoutest of them, and will be as bold with silken, shining gallants, as with the poorest worms; and will spit in the face of that man's glory, who durst spit in the face of the glory of his Redeemer, and will trample upon the interest which is set up against the interest of Christ. The jovial world do now think that self-study is
too melancholy a thing; and they choose to be distracted for fear of being melancholy; and will be mad, in Solomon's sense, that they may be wise and happy in their own. (Eccles. ii. 2.) The heart of fools is in the house of mirth, and the heart of the wise in the house of mourning." (Eccles. vii. 4.) And yet there is most joy in the hearts of the wise, and least solid peace in the hearts of fools: they know that conscience hath so much against them, that they dare not hear its accusations and its sentence: they dare not look into the hideous dungeon of their hearts, nor peruse the accounts of their bankrupt souls, nor read the history of their impious, unprofitable lives, lest they should be tormented before the time: they dare not live like serious men, lest they should lose thereby the delights of brutes. O sinful men! against what light, both natural and supernatural, do they offend! They see how all things haste away: the names of their predecessors are left as a warning to them; every corpse that is carried to the grave, being dead, yet speaketh: and every bone that is thence cast up, doth rise as a witness against their luxury and lust; and yet they will have their wills and pleasure while they may, whatever it cost them: and they will set their houses on fire that they might have one merry blaze, and warm them once before they die.
O Madam, how happy are you (if one on earth may be called happy,) that have looked home so often and so seriously, that now you can dwell at home in peace, and need not, as the ungodly, be a terror to yourself, nor run away from yourself, nor seek a place to hide you from yourself; when impious vagrants have so abused their consciences, that they dare not converse with them nor meet them alone or in the dark! What a mercy is it, that in the great Reconciler you are reconciled to your conscience, and that it doth not find you out as an enemy, but is a messenger of peace and of good tidings to you! That you need not the smiles of great ones to refresh you, nor pompous entertainments, compliments, plays or sports to recreate you, and drive away your sorrows, but that you can find more blessed and delectable company and employment at home: that you can daily retire into yourself, and there peruse a richer treasure than bodily eyes on earth can see; and there be taken up with a far more contenting satisfactory employment, and a more fruitful and pleasant converse and recreation, than any
creature in court or country can afford: that your joy is laid up where the hand of violence cannot touch it; and that they that can deprive you of estate, and liberty, and life, yet cannot take your comfort from you. That when fleshly unthrifts love not home, because all is spent, and they can expect no better entertainment there than want, confusion, chiding, and distress, you can withdraw from a confused troublesome world, into a well-furnished and adorned soul, replenished with the precious fruits of the Spirit, and beautified with the image of your Lord! O Madam, what sweet and noble employment have you there, in comparison of that which worldlings are troubled with abroad! There you may read the sentence of your justification, as foregoing and foreshewing the public final sentence of your Judge: there you can converse with God himself, not in his vindictive justice, but as he is love: for the love that dwelleth so plentifully in you, doth prove that God dwelleth in you, and you in him. (1 John iv. 7, 8. 16.) There you may converse with Christ your head, that dwelleth in you by faith, (Ephes. iii. 17,) and with the Holy Ghost who dwelleth in you, and hath communion with you, by the beams of his illuminating, sanctifying, confirming, and comforting grace: there, as in his temple, you are speaking of his glory, (1 Cor. iii. 16, 17; vi. 19, with Psal. xxix. 9,) and rejoicing in his holy praise, and remembering what he hath done for your soul: There you can peruse the records of his mercy, and think with gratitude and delight, how he did first illuminate you, and draw and engage your heart unto himself: what advantage he got upon you, and what iniquity he prevented by the mercies of your education, and how he secretly took acquaintance with you in your youth: How he delivered you from worldly, fleshly snares; how he caused you to favour the things of the Spirit; how he planted you in a sound, well-ordered church, where he quickened and conducted you by a lively faithful ministry, and watered his gifts by their constant, powerful preaching of his word, where discipline was for a defence, and where your heart was warmed with the communion of the saints, and where you learned to worship God in spirit and in truth; and where you were taught so effectually by God to discern between the precious and the vile, and to love those that are born of God, whom the world knoweth not, that no subtleties or calamities of the
serpent can unteach it you, or ever be able to separate you from that love. You may read in these sacred records of your heart, how the Angel of the Covenant hath hitherto conducted you, through this wilderness towards the land of promise; how he hath been a cloud to you in the day, and a pillar of fire by night; how the Lord did number you with the people that are his flock, his portion, and the lot of his inheritance; and led you about in a desert land, instructed you, and kept you as the apple of his eye. (Deut. xxxii. 9, 10.) His manna hath compassed your tent; his doctrine hath dropped as the rain, and his words distilled as the dew; as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers. upon the grass. As his beloved you have dwelt in safety by him, and the Lord hath covered you all the day long, when storms have risen, he hath been your refuge; and when dangers compassed you on every side, he hath hid you as in his pavilion, and his angels have pitched their tents about you, and borne you up: You have been fortified in troubles, and have been enabled comfortably to undergo them: in war and in peace; in your native country and in foreign lands; among your friends and among your enemies; in court and country; in prosperity and adversity, you have found that there is none like the God of Israel, who rideth upon the heaven in your help, and his excellency on the sky: the eternal God hath been your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." (Deut. xxxiv. 26, 27.) You may remember the mercies of your younger years, of your married state, and of your widowhood: your comforts in your truly noble lord, though troubled and interrupted by his death, yet increased by the consideration of his felicity with Christ; your comfort in your hopeful issue, though abated by the injury of Romish theft, which stole one of the roses of your garden, that they might boast of the sweetness when they called it their own: (I may well say, stole it, when all the cheat was performed by unknown persons in the dark; and no importunity by you or me, could procure me one dispute or conference in her hearing, with any of the seducers, before her person was stolen away. Though comforts conveyed by creatures must have their pricks, yet your experience hath partly taught you (and more will do) that by all the mixtures of sour and bitter ingredients, your Father doth temper you the most wholesome composition; he chasteneth you for