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GOOD THOUGHTS IN BAD TIMES.

PERSONAL MEDITATIONS.

I.

LORD, how near was I to danger, yet escaped! I was upon the brink of the brink of it, yet fell not in; they are well kept who are kept by thee. Excellent archer! Thou didst hit thy mark in missing it, as meaning to fright, not hurt me. Let me not now be such a fool as to pay my thanks to blind Fortune for a favour which the eye of Providence hath bestowed upon me. Rather let the narrowness of my escape make my thankfulness to thy goodness the larger, lest my ingratitude justly cause, that, whereas this arrow but hit my hat, the next pierce my head.

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II.

LORD, when thou shalt visit me with a sharp disease, I fear I shall be impatient; for I am choleric by my nature, and tender by my temper, and have not been acquainted with sickness all my lifetime. I cannot expect any kind usage from that which hath been a stranger unto me. I fear I shall rave and rage. O whither will my mind sail, when distemper shall steer it? whither will my fancy run, when diseases shall ride it? My tongue, which of itself is a fire, [James iii. 6.] sure will be a wild-fire when the furnace of my mouth is made seven times hotter with a burning fever. But, Lord, though I should talk idly to my own shame, let me not talk wickedly to thy dishonour. Teach me the art of patience whilst I am well, and give me the use of it when I am sick. In that day either Lighten my burden or strengthen my back. Make me, who so often, in my health, have discovered my weakness presuming on my own strength, to be strong in sickness when I solely rely on thy assistance.

III.

LORD, this morning my unseasonable visiting of a friend disturbed him in the midst of his devotions: unhappy to hinder another 7man’s goodness. If I myself build not, shall I snatch the axe and hammer from him that doth? Yet I could willingly have wished, that, rather than he should then have cut off the cable of his prayers, I had twisted my cord to it, and had joined with him in his devotions; however, to make him the best amends I may, I now request of thee for him whatsoever he would have requested for himself. Thus he shall be no loser, if thou be pleased to hear my prayer for him, and to hearken to our Saviour’s intercession for us both.

IV.

LORD, since these woful wars began, one, formerly mine intimate acquaintance, is now turned a stranger, yea, an enemy. Teach me how to behave myself towards him. Must the new foe quite justle out the old friend? May I not with him continue some commerce of kindness? Though the amity be broken on his side, may I not preserve my counterpart entire? Yet how can I be kind to him, without being cruel to myself and thy cause? O guide my shaking hand, to draw so small a line straight: or rather, because I know not how to carry myself towards him in this controversy, even be pleased to take away the subject of the question, and speedily to reconcile these unnatural differences.

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V.

LORD, my voice by nature is harsh and untunable, and it is vain to lavish any art to better it. Can my singing of psalms be pleasing to thy ears, which is unpleasant to my own? yet though I cannot chant with the nightingale, or chirp with the blackbird, I had rather chatter with the swallow, [Isaiah xxxviii. 14.] yea, rather croak with the raven, than be altogether silent. Hadst thou given me a better voice, I would have praised thee with a better voice. Now what my music wants in sweetness, let it have in sense, singing praises with understanding. [Psalms xlvii. 7.] Yea, Lord, create in me a new heart (therein to make melody), [Ephes. v. 19.] and I will be contented with my old voice, until in thy due time, being admitted into the choir of heaven, I have another, more harmonious, bestowed upon me.

VI.

LORD, within a little time I have heard the same precept in sundry places, and by several preachers, pressed upon me. The doctrine seemeth to haunt my soul; whithersoever I turn, it meets me. Surely this is from thy providence, and should be for my profit. It is because I am an ill proficient in this point, that I must not turn over a new leaf, but am 9still kept to my old lesson: Peter was grieved because our Saviour said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? [John xxi. 17.] But I will not be offended at thy often inculcating the same precept: but rather conclude, that I am much concerned therein, and that it is thy pleasure, that the nail should be soundly fastened in me, which thou hast knocked in with so many hammers.

VII.

LORD, before I commit a sin, it seems to me so shallow, that I may wade through it dry-shod from any guiltiness: but when I have committed it, it often seems so deep that I cannot escape without drowning. Thus I am always in the extremities: either my sins are so small that they need not my repentance, or so great that they cannot obtain thy pardon. Lend me, O Lord, a reed out of thy sanctuary, truly to measure the dimension of my offences. But O! as thou revealest to me more of my misery, reveal also more of thy mercy: lest if my wounds in my apprehension gape wider than thy tents, my soul run out at them. If my badness seem bigger than thy goodness, but one hair’s breadth, but one moment, that is room and time enough for me to run to eternal despair.

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VIII.

LORD, I do discover a fallacy, whereby I have long deceived myself. Which is this: I have desired to begin my amendment from my birthday, or from the first day of the year, or from some eminent festival, that so my repentance might bear some remarkable date. But when those days were come, I have adjourned my amendment to some other time. Thus, whilst I could not agree with myself when to start, I have almost lost the running of the race. I am resolved thus to befool myself no longer. I see no day to to-day, the instant time is always the fittest time. In Nebuchadnezzar’s image, the lower the members, the coarser the metal; [Daniel ii. 33.] the farther off the time, the more unfit. To-day is the golden opportunity, to-morrow will be the silver season, next day but the brazen one, and so long, till at last I shall come to the toes of clay, and be turned to dust. Grant, therefore, that to-day I may hear thy voice. [Psalm xcv. 7.] And if this day be obscure in the calendar, and remarkable in itself for nothing else, give me to make it memorable in my soul thereupon, by thy assistance, beginning the reformation of my life.

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IX.

LORD, I saw one, whom I knew to be notoriously bad, in great extremity. It was hard to say whether his former wickedness or present want were the greater; if I could have made the distinction, I could willingly have fed his person, and starved his profaneness. This being impossible, I adventured to relieve him. For I know that amongst many objects, all of them being in extreme miseries, charity, though shooting at random, cannot miss a right mark. Since, Lord, the party, being recovered, is become worse than ever before, (thus they are always impaired with affliction who thereby are not improved,) Lord, count me not accessary to his badness, because I relieved him. Let me not suffer harm in myself, for my desire to do good to him. Yea, Lord, be pleased to clear my credit amongst men, that they may understand my hands according to the simplicity of my heart. I gave to him only in hope to keep the stock alive, that so afterwards it might be better grafted. Now, finding myself deceived, my arms shall return into my own bosom.

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X.

LORD, thy servants are now praying in the church, and I am here staying at home, detained by necessary occasions, such as are not of my seeking, but of thy sending; my care could not prevent them, my power could not remove them. Wherefore, though I cannot go to church, there to sit down at table with the rest of thy guests, be pleased, Lord, to send me a dish of their meat hither, and feed my soul with holy thoughts. Eldad and Medad, though staying still in the camp (no doubt on just cause), yet prophesied as well as the other elders. [Numb. xi. 26.] Though they went not out to the spirit, the spirit came home to them. Thus never any dutiful child lost his legacy for being absent at the making of his father’s will, if at the same time he were employed about his father’s business. I fear too many at church have their bodies there, and minds at home. Behold, in exchange, my body here and heart there. Though I cannot pray with them, I pray for them. Yea, this comforts me, I am with thy congregation, because I would be with it.

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XI.

LORD, I trust them hast pardoned the bad examples I have set before others, be pleased also to pardon me the sins which they have committed by my bad examples. (It is the best manners in thy court to heap requests upon requests.) If thou hast forgiven my sins, the children of my corrupt nature, forgive me my grandchildren also. Let not the transcripts remain, since thou hast blotted out the original. And for the time to come, bless me with barrenness in bad actions, and my bad actions with barrenness in procreation, that they may never beget others according to their likeness.

XII.

LORD, what faults I correct in my son, I commit myself: I beat him for dabbling in the dirt, whilst my own soul doth wallow in sin: I beat him for crying to cut his own meat, yet am not myself contented with that state thy providence hath carved unto me: I beat him for crying when he is to go to sleep, and yet I fear I myself shall cry when thou callest me to sleep with my fathers. Alas! I am more childish than my child, and what I inflict on him I justly deserve to receive 14from thee: only here is the difference: I pray and desire that my correction on my child may do him good; it is in thy power, Lord, to effect that thy correction on me shall do me good.

XIII.

LORD, I perceive my soul deeply guilty of envy. By my good will I would have none prophesy but mine own Moses. [Numb. xi. 28.] I had rather thy work were undone, than done better by another than by myself: had rather that thine enemies were all alive, than that I should kill but my thousand, and others their ten thousands of them. My corruption repines at other men’s better parts, as if what my soul wants of them in substance she would supply in swelling. Dispossess me, Lord, of this bad spirit, and turn my envy into holy emulation. Let me labour to exceed them in pains, who excel me in parts: and knowing that my sword, in cutting down sin, hath a duller edge, let me strike with the greater force; yea, make other men’s gifts to be mine, by making me thankful to thee for them. It was some comfort to Naomi, that, wanting a son herself, she brought up Ruth’s child in her bosom. [Ruth iv. 16.] If my soul be too old to be a mother of goodness, 15Lord, make it but a dry-nurse. Let me feed, and foster, and nourish, and cherish the graces in others, honouring their persons, praising their parts, and glorifying thy name, who hath given such gifts unto them.

XIV.

LORD, when young, I have almost quarrelled with that petition in our Liturgy, Give peace in our time, O Lord; needless to wish for light at noonday; for then peace was so plentiful, no fear of famine, but suspicion of a surfeit thereof. And yet how many good comments was this prayer then capable of! Give peace, that is, continue and preserve it; give peace, that is, give us hearts worthy of it, and thankful for it. In our time, that is, all our time: for there is more besides a fair morning required to make a fair day. Now I see the mother had more wisdom than her son. The Church knew better than I how to pray. Now I am better informed of the necessity, of that petition. Yea, with the daughters of the horseleech, I have need to cry, Give, give [Prov. xxx. 15.] peace in our time, Lord.

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XV.

LORD, unruly soldiers command poor people to open them their doors, otherwise threatening to break in. But if those in the house knew their own strength, it were easy to keep them out, seeing the doors are threatening-proof, and it is not the breath of their oaths can blow the locks open. Yet silly souls, being affrighted, they obey, and betray themselves to their violence. Thus Satan serves me, or rather, thus I serve myself. When I cannot be forced, I am fooled out of my integrity. He cannot constrain, if I do not consent. If I do but keep possession, all the posse of hell cannot violently eject me: but I cowardly surrender to his summons. Thus there needs no more to my undoing but myself.

XVI.

LORD, when I am to travel, I never use to provide myself till the very time; partly out of laziness, loath to be troubled till needs I must; partly out of pride, as presuming all necessaries for my journey will wait upon me at the instant. (Some say this is scholars’ fashion, and it seems by following it I hope to approve myself to be one.) However, it often 17comes to pass that my journey is finally stopped, through the narrowness of the time to provide for it. Grant, Lord, that my confessed improvidence in temporal, may make me suspect my providence in spiritual matters. Solomon saith, Man goeth to his long home. [Eccles. xii. 5.] Short preparation will not fit so long a journey. O let me not put it off to the last, to have my oil to buy, when I am to burn it. [Matth. xxv. 10.] But let me so dispose of myself, that when I am to die, I may have nothing to do but to die.

XVII.

LORD, when in any writing I have occasion to insert these passages, God willing, God lending me life, etc., I observe, Lord, that I can scarce hold my hand from encircling these words in a parenthesis, as if they were not essential to the sentence, but may as well be left out as put in. Whereas, indeed, they are not only of the commission at large, but so of the quorum, that without them all the rest is nothing; wherefore hereafter I will write those words fully and fairly, without any enclosure about them. Let critics censure it for bad grammar, I am sure it is good divinity.

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XVIII.

LORD, many temporal matters, which I have desired, thou hast denied me; it vexed me for the present that I wanted my will; since, considering in cold blood, I plainly perceive, had that which I desired been done, I had been undone! Yea, what thou gavest me, instead of those things which I wished, though less toothsome to me, were more wholesome for me. Forgive, I pray, my former anger, and now accept my humble thanks. Lord, grant me one suit, which is this, deny me all suits which are bad for me: when I petition for what is unfitting, O let the King of heaven make use of his negative voice. Rather let me fast than have quails given with intent that I should be choked in eating them. [Numb xi. 33.]

XIX.

LORD, this day I disputed with myself, whether or no I had said my prayers this morning, and I could not call to mind any remarkable passage whence I could certainly conclude that I had offered my prayers unto thee. Frozen affections, which left no spark of remembrance behind them I Yet at last I hardly recovered one token, whence I was assured 19that I had said my prayers. It seems I had said them, and only said them, rather by heart than with my heart. Can I hope that thou wouldst remember my prayers, when I had almost forgotten that I had prayed? Or rather have I not cause to fear that thou rememberest my prayers too well, to punish the coldness and badness of them? Alas! are not devotions thus done in effect left undone? Well Jacob advised his sons, at their second going into Egypt, Take double money in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight. [Gen xliii. 12.] So, Lord, I come with my second morning sacrifice: be pleased to accept it, which I desire, and endeavour to present with a little better devotion than I did the former.

XX.

LORD, the motions of thy Holy Spirit were formerly frequent in my heart; but, alas! of late they have been great strangers. It seems they did not like their last entertainment, they are so loath to come again. I fear they were grieved, [Ephes. iv. 30.] that either I heard them not attentively, or believed them not faithfully, or practised them not conscionably. If they be pleased to come again, this is all I dare promise, that they do deserve, and I do desire they should be 20well used. Let thy Holy Spirit be pleased, not only to stand before the door and knock, [Rev. iii. 20.] but also to come in. If I do not open the door, it were too unreasonable to request such a miracle to come in when the doors were shut, as thou didst to the apostles. [John xx. 19.] Yet let me humbly beg of thee, that thou wouldst make the iron gate of my heart open of its own accord. [Acts xii. 10.] Then let thy Spirit be pleased to sup in my heart; I have given it an invitation, and I hope I shall give it room. But, O thou that sendest the guest, send the meat also; and if I be so unmannerly as not to make the Holy Spirit welcome, O let thy effectual grace make me to make it welcome.

XXI.

LORD, I confess this morning I remembered my breakfast, but forgot my prayers. And as I have returned .no praise, so thou mightst justly have afforded me no protection. Yet thou hast carefully kept me to the middle of this day, intrusted me with a. new debt before I have paid the old score. It is now noon, too late for a morning, too soon for an evening sacrifice. My corrupt heart prompts me to put off my prayers till night; but I know it too well, or rather too ill, to trust it. I fear, 21if till night I defer them, at night I shall forget them. Be pleased, therefore, now to accept them. Lord, let not a few hours the later make a breach; especially seeing (be it spoken not to excuse my negligence, but to implore thy pardon) a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday. I promise hereafter, by thy assistance, to bring forth fruit in due season. See how I am ashamed the sun should shine on me, who now newly start in the race of my devotions, when he like a giant hath run more than hah his course in the heavens.

XXII.

LORD, this day casually I am fallen into a bad company, and know not how I came hither, or how to get hence. Sure I am, not my improvidence hath run me, but thy providence hath led me into this danger. I was not wandering in any base by-path, but walking in the highway of my vocation; wherefore, Lord, thou that calledst me hither, keep me here. Stop their mouths, that they speak no blasphemy, or stop my ears, that I hear none; or open my mouth soberly to reprove what I hear. Give me to guard myself; but, Lord, guard my guarding of myself. Let not the 22smoke of their badness put out mine eyes, but the shining of my innocency lighten theirs. Let me give physic to them, and not take infection from them. Yea, make me the better for their badness. Then shall their bad company be to me like the dirt of oysters, whose mud hath soap in it, and doth rather scour than defile.

XXIII.

LORD, often have I thought with myself, I will sin but this one sin more, and then I will repent of it, and of all the rest of my sins together. So foolish was I, and ignorant. As if I should be more able to pay my debts when I owe more: or as if I should say, I will wound my friend once again, and then I will lovingly shake hands with him; but what if my friend will not shake hands with me? Besides, can one commit one sin more, and but one sin more? Unclean creatures went by couples into the ark. [Gen. vii. 2.] Grant, Lord, at this instant I may break off my badness: otherwise thou mayest justly make the last minute wherein I do sin on earth to be the last minute wherein I shall sin on earth, and the first wherein thou mightst make me suffer in another place.

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XXIV.

LORD, the preacher this day came home to my heart. A left-handed Gibeonite with his sling hit not the mark more sure than he my darling sins. [Judges xx. 16.] I could find no fault with his sermon, save only that it had too much truth. But this I quarrelled at, that he went far from his text to come close to me, and so was faulty himself in telling me of my faults. Thus they will creep out at small crannies who have a mind to escape; and yet I cannot deny but that that which he spake (though nothing to that portion of Scripture which he had for his text) was according to the proportion of Scripture. And is not thy word in general the text at large of every preacher? Yea, rather I should have concluded, that, if he went from his text, thy goodness sent him to meet me; for without thy guidance it had been impossible for him so truly to have traced the intricate turnings of my deceitful heart.

XXV.

LORD, be pleased to shake my clay cottage before thou throwest it down. May it totter awhile before it doth tumble. Let me be summoned before I am surprised. Deliver 24me from sudden death. Not from sudden death in respect of itself, for I care not how short my passage be, so it be safe. Never any weary traveller complained that he came too soon to his journey’s end. But let it not be sudden in respect of me. Make me always ready to receive death. Thus no guest comes unawares to him who keeps a constant table.

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