I determined to humble myself distinctly for every one of them, and to make a distinct application to the throne of grace about each; but when I began to observe them, they were so many that if I had followed this course, my whole time would not have sufficed. I was fain to take them all in the lump, or rather to go with them all on me at once, and plunge myself in the fountain that is opened for sin and for uncleanness; that is, I took a view of myself as defiled by innumerable evils of this sort, and under a sense of them, cast myself upon the glorious atonement, and endeavoured to lay stress for cleansing as to them all -whether such as I discerned distinctly or such as I had not yet discovered – on that blood that cleanseth from all sin; which I think was the Psalmist’s way under the like case: ‘Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression’ (Ps. 19:12-13). A worthy friend told me a very elegant similitude: ‘If a man see one or two filthy creatures on him, he shakes or washes them off; but if he look and see himself all overspread with such, then he must bethink himself of some general course: he goes to some bridge and leaps into a deep pool, and drowns them all, and leaves them behind him.’
If any one grosser sin overtake us, we must endeavour a distinct recovery and intimation of pardon, by a distinct application to the blood of sprinkling; but when we look upon those sins which cannot be numbered and searched out, and which are still growing, then we must betake ourselves with the man to the bridge, and leap into the pool. To clear this matter yet further, I observe that the light wherein that plenteous redemption that is with God was first discovered, though variously clouded and darkened, yet continued in some measure. A child of light continues light in the Lord (Eph. 5:8). He may walk in darkness, and to his sense have no light (Isa. 50:10), while yet it is the remainder of light that makes him discern his darkness. But he really is not darkness, as before. He has a summer’s sun that shines longer, brighter, and warmer; and his winter’s sun that shines shorter is more frequently clouded and has less heat. He has his fair days and foul and rainy days, and a changeable intercourse of day and night, wherein he has only the moon and stars; but light more or less is still there. When no extraordinary indisposition, no extraordinary darkness was on me, this habitual discovery of forgiveness, and the way to it, had its own use. The winter’s sun was not able to revive when I was cast into any of those distempers mentioned above; and, therefore, as has been narrated, in that case I waited for a blink of the sun in its strength; but ordinarily, I
by the direction of that light did endeavour daily, as to sins of infirmity to betake myself in prayer to the blood of atonement, according as the Lord has taught us by the daily morning and evening sacrifice under the law. As for particular cases and pollutions, there were other institutions with respect to them. This application by prayer to the redemption that is in Christ, even the ‘forgiveness of sin through faith in His blood (Rom. 3:25), according to this discovery of it, in and by prayer especially when the Lord quickened by any new blink (for the winter sun has warm and refreshing blinks even in the coldest season) – this application, I say, especially when the Lord, as He frequently did, gave any new breathing, did relieve me, and help to quiet my conscience as to the afflicting sense of these sins of daily incursion. When the Lord helped to pray for cleansing from secret sins, and keep back from presumptuous sins, I was satisfied as to my uprightness and freedom from the great transgression, and acceptance with Him in following any duty of my station through the Beloved (Isa. 19:12-13). As the case was not so urgent, so neither was the escape so discernible; but it was sufficient to answer in some measure the end mentioned above -freedom from dispiriting discouragement, and some measure of comfort and quiet as to my acceptance with God through Christ. I conclude with four observations as to the whole. –
1. Though we may sometimes heal our own wound slightly (Isa 57:19), yet it is God’s prerogative to speak solid peace, yea, and the speaking of it is a work of the greatest power where the conscience is really exercised. It is a creating peace; and where He creates it, He can make it take effect: ‘When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? and when he hideth his face, who then can behold him? whether it be done against a nation, or against a man only’ (Job 34:29)
2. The Lord let me see that, considering the pride and unbelief of our hearts and the greatness of our guilt, it is not easy to truly believe that the forgiveness that is with
God is able to answer all we need, and so to engage a sinner to betake himself unto it at all times, when once he comes to see his case thoroughly. And when this unbelief is in some measure mastered, and the soul satisfied of the fulness of the fountain and extensive, nay, infinite reach of the forgiveness that is with God, and the pride of heart so far broken that the soul is willing to be daily beholden to grace and mercy, it is not easy to keep up either a due detestation of sin, or keep our carnal hearts from a common use of it, or rather an abuse of it. Here, in my opinion, lies one of the greatest secrets
of practical godliness, and the highest attainment in close walking with God – to come daily and wash, and yet to keep as great a value for this
discovery of forgivenenss as if it were once only to be got, and no more. Indeed, the more we see of it, the more we should value it; but our carnal hearts, on the contrary, turn formal, and count it a common thing. That which is our daily allowance we value little, and we are fond ofnovelties and dainties. Bread is more precious than most, nay, any of the rarities which men purchase at so dear a rate; but because God has provided it in plenty and we daily use it, therefore we make a light account of it. Blessed are they with whom it is otherwise in the case now in hand.
3.I observe that the joy of the Lord is then only to be retained when we walk tenderly and circumspectly. It is inconsistent not only with the entertainment of any gross sin, but with a careless walk: ‘Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and
Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the
Holy Ghost,’ etc. (Acts 9:31).
4. I observe then, when I was at the lowest ebb as to forgiveness, doubting if the Lord would pardon, after many duties have been attempted without finding the Lord or any sense of
His love, I have often found Him in the duty of thankfulness. And whereas one will say,
What had I then to be thankful for? I answer, I began thus: What a mercy it is that I am out of hell! ‘It is of the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed’;
blessed be the Lord for this (Lam. 3:21-22). Again, what a mercy it is that not only the
Lord has helped me to notice His mercy in keeping me out of hell, but to be thankful for it. Again, blessed be the Lord that has kept me out of hell; blessed be the Lord that has made me observe it with thankfulness; and blessed be the Lord that has made me observe His mercy in helping me to thankfulness. Thus I have gone on till the Lord has led me to a sense of His love, and restored comforts to my soul. They that will praise the Lord for little shall have more: ‘Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. Then shall the earth yield her increase, and God, even our own God, shall bless us’ (Ps. 67:5-6).
Upon a further observation of this variety of cases wherewith I was exercised, the Lord’s management of them and what I have felt in myself, I see besides the fruits mentioned before, many others. –
1. The Lord hereby rebuked me for my fondness of enlargement and my thinking to live a life of sense, and trained me somewhat to a life of faith – the faith of adherence that cleaves to God as revealed in the Word, and refuses to quit the Word even when it does not find the Lord in it, in a sensible way that refreshes; which certainly is more strong than that which cleaves to it when it feels sensible refreshment and power. To trust in God when hiding and threatening to slay, is to ‘hope against hope’ (Job 13:15).
2. He taught me not to judge of my state by my frames; beside many other lessons that I cannot recall now.