Goodwin Banner


THOMAS GOODWIN, the eldest son of Richard and Catherine Goodwin, the name of whose family was Collingwood, was born October 5,1600, at Rollesby, a little village in Norfolk. He was brought up religiously by his parents, and they, devoting him to the ministry of the gospel, gave him also a learned education. After some time spent in school, having got the knowledge of the Latin and Greek tongues, he was sent to Cambridge, August 25, 1613, and placed in Christ's College, under the tuition and instruction of Mr William Power, one of the Fellows there. He continued about six years in that college, which flourished in a fulness of all exercises of learning, and in the number of scholars, there being two hundred of them; but, A.D. 1619, he left it, and removed to Catherine Hall, the state of which seemed so contemptible to him, there being no more than sixteen scholars, and few acts or exercises of learning had been performed for a long time, that though he was chosen Fellow, and also lecturer for the year 1620, yet he had some thoughts of leaving it again. He had, by an unwearied industry in his studies, so much improved those natural abilities which God had given him, that though so very young, he had gained a great esteem in the University. But all this time he walked in the vanity of his mind; and ambitious designs and hopes entirely possessing him, all his aim was to get applause, to raise his reputation, and in any manner to advance himself by preferments. But God, who had destined him to higher ends than what he had projected in his own thoughts, was graciously pleased to change his heart, and to turn the course of his llfe to his own service and glory. But as the account of the work of the Holy Spirit on his soul will be most acceptable as related by himself, I shall present it in his own words.
"Though by the course of nature in my first birth I was not like to live, being born before my time, and therefore of a weak constitution, yet God so kept and strengthened me, that he preserved me, as David says, when I hung upon my mother's breasts; as one in whom he meant to manifest his grace, in the miraculous conversion of my soul unto himself. He did often stir up in me in my childish years the sparks of conscience, to keep me from gross sins, and to set me upon performing common duties. I began to have some slighter workings of the Spirit of God from the time I was six years old; I could weep for my sins whenever I did set myself to think of them, and had flashes of joy upon thoughts of the things of God. I was affected with good motions and affections of love to God and Christ, for their love revealed to man, and with grief for sin as displeasing them. This shewed how far goodness of nature might go, as well in myself as others, to whom yet true sanctifying grace never comes. But this I thought was grace; for I reasoned within myself it was not by nature. I received the sacrament at Easter, when I was fourteen years old, and for that prepared myself as I was able. I set myself to examine whether I had grace or not; and by all the signs in Ursin's Catechism, which was in use among the Puritans in the College, I found them all, as I thought, in me. The love of God to such a sinner, and Christ's dying for me, did greatly affect me; and at that first sacrament I received, with what inward joy and comfort did I sing with the rest the 103d Psalm, which was usually sung during the administration! After having received it, I felt my heart cheered after a wonderful manner, thinking myself sure of heaven, and judging all these workings to be infallible tokens of God's love to me, and of grace in me all this while not considering that these were but more strong fits of nature's working. God hereby made way to advance the power of his grace the more in me, by shewing me how far I might go and yet deceive myself, and making me know that grace is a thing surpassing the power of nature; and therefore he suffered me to fall away, not from these good motions, for I could raise them when I would, but from the practice of them; insomuch as then my heart began to suspect them as counterfeit.
"I made a great preparation for the next ensuing sacrament at Whitsuntide, and in the meantime I went to hear Mr Sibbs, afterward Dr Sibbs, then lecturer at Trinity Church to the town of Cambridge, whose lectures the Puritans frequented. I also read Calvin's Institutions, and oh, how sweet was the reading of some parts of that book to me! How pleasing was the delivery of truths in a solid manner then to me ! Before the sacrament was administered, I looked about upon the holy men in Christ's College, where I was bred; and how affected was I that I should go to heaven along with them ! I particularly remember Mr Bently, a Fellow of that College, who was a dear child of God, and so died, and I then looked on him with joy, as one with whom I should live for ever in heaven.
"When I was in my place in the chapel, ready to receive the sacrament, being little of stature, the least in the whole University then, and for divers years, it fell out that my tutor, Mr Power, seeing me, sent to me that I should not receive it, but go out before all the College, which I did. This so much damped me, as I greatly pitied myself, but chiefly for this that my soul, which was full of expectation from this sacrament, was so unexpectedly disappointed of the opportunity. For I had long before verily thought that if I received that sacrament, I should be so confirmed that I should never fall away. But after this disappointment I left off praying, for being discouraged, I knew not how to go to God. I desisted from going to hear Dr Sibbs any more; I no more studied sound divinity, but gave myself to such studies as should enable me to preach after the mode, then of high applause in the University, which Dr Senhouse brought up, and was applauded above all by the scholars.
"It now fell out that Arminianism was set afoot in Holland, and the rest of those Provinces, and it continued hottest at that very time when I was thus wrought upon. I perceived by their doctrine, which I understood, being inquisitive, that they acknowledged a work of the Spirit of God to begin with men, by moving and stirring the soul; but free-will then from its freedom carried it, though assisted by those aids and helps. And this work of the Spirit they called grace, sufficient in the first beginnings of it, exciting, moving, and helping the will of man to turn to God, and giving him power to turn, when being thus helped he would set himself to do it: but withal they affirmed, that though men are thus converted, yet by the freedom of the same will they may, and do, often in time fall away totally; and then upon another fit through the liberty of the will, again assisted with the like former helps, they return again to repentance. Furthermore, I am yet to tell you how I was withal acquainted during this season with several holy youths in Christ's College, who had made known unto me the workings of God upon them, in humiliation, faith, and change of heart. And I observed that they continued their profession steadfast, and fell not off again.
"Though the Arminian doctrines suited my own experience, in these natural workings of conscience off and on in religion, yet the example of those godly youths in their constant perseverance therein made so strong an impression upon me, that in my very heart and judgment I thought the doctrine of Arminianism was not true; and I was fixed under a conviction that my state was neither rght nor sound; but yet I could not imagine wherein it failed and was defective. But notwithstanding my falling thus away, yet I still upon every sacrament set myself anew to examine myself, to repent, and to turn to God; but when the sacrament was over, I returned to a neglect of praying, and to my former ways of unregenerate principles and practices, and to live in hardness of heart and profaneness. When I was thus given over to the strength of my lusts, and further off from all goodness than ever I had been, and utterly out of hope that God would ever be so good unto me as to convert me; and being resolved to follow the world, and the glory, applause, preferment, and honour of it and to use all means possible for these attainments; when I was one day going to be merry with my companions at Christ's College, from which I had removed to Catherine Hall, by the way hearing a bell toll at St Edmund's for a funeral, one of my company said there was a sermon, and, pressed me to hear it. I was loath to go in, for I loved not preaching, especially not that kind of it which good living men used, and which I thought to be dull stuff. But yet, seeing many scholars going in, I thought it was some eminent man, or if it were not so, that I would come out again.
"I went in before the hearse came, and took a seat; and fain would I have been gone, but shame made me stay. I was never so loath to hear a sermon in my life. Inquiring who preached, they told me it was Dr Bambridge, which made me the more willing to stay, because he was, a witty man. He preached a sermon which I had heard once before, on that text in Luke xix. 41, 42. I remember the first words of the sermon pleased me so well as to make me very attentive all the while. He spake of deferring repentance, and of the danger of doing so. Then he said that every man had his day, it was "this thy day," not to-morrow, but to-day. He shewed also that every man had a time in which grace was offered him; and if he neglected it, it was just with God that it should be hidden from his eyes. And that as, in things temporal, it was an old saying that every man had an opportunity, which if he took hold of he was made for ever; so in spirituals, every man hath a time, in which, if he would know the things which belong unto his peace, he was made for ever, but otherwise they would be hid from his eyes. This a little moved me, as I had wont to be at other sermons. Then he came to shew that the neglect of this had final impenitency, blindness of mind, and hardness of heart; concluding with this saying, "Every day thou prayest, pray to God to keep thee from blindness of mind, and hardness of heart."
"The matter of the sermon was vehemently urged on the hearer, (whoever he was that deferred his repentance,) not to let slip the opportunity of that day, but immediately to turn to God and defer no longer; being edged with that direful threatening, lest if he did not turn to God in that day, the day of grace and salvation, it might be eternally hid from his eyes. I was so far affected, as I uttered this speech to a companion of mine that came to church with me, and indeed that brought me to that sermon, that I hoped to be the better for this sermon as long as I lived. I and that companion of mine had come out of our own chambers at Catherine Hall, with fixed design to have gone to some of my like acquaintance at Christ's College, where I had been bred, on purpose to be merry and spend that afternoon; but as I went along, was accidentally persuaded to hear some of the sermon. This was on Monday the 2d of October 1620, in the afternoon. As soon as we came out of the church, I left my fellows to go on to Christ's College; but my thoughts being retired then, I went to Catherine Hall, and left all my acquaintance, though they sent after me to come.
"I thought myself to be as one struck down by a mighty power. The grosser sins of my conversation came in upon me, which I wondered at, as being unseasonable at first; and so the working began, but was prosecuted still more and more, lugher and higher: and I endeavouring not to think the least thought of my sins, was passively held under the remembrance of them, and affected, so as I was rather passive all the while in it than active; and my thoughts held under, whilst that work went on. "I remember some two years after, I preaching at Ely in the minster, as they call it, in a turn of preaching for Dr Hills, prebend of that church, Master of our College; I told the auditory, meaning myself in the person of another, that a man to be converted, who is ordinarily ignorant of what the work of conversion should be, and what particular passages it consists of, was yet guided through all the dark corners and windings of it, as would be a wonder to think of, and would be as if a man were to go to the top of that lantern, to bring him into all the passages of the minster, within doors and without, and knew not a jot of the way, and were in every step in danger to tread awry and fall down. So it was with me; I knew no more of that work of conversion than these two general heads, that a man was troubled in conscience for his sins, and afterwards was comforted by the favour of God manifested to him. And it became one evidence of the truth of the work of grace upon me, when I reviewed it, that I had been so strangely guided in the dark. In all this intercourse, and those that follow to the very end, I was acted all along by the Spirit of God being upon me, and my thoughts passively held fixed, until each head and sort of thoughts were finished, and then a new thought began and continued; that I have looked at them as so many conferences God had with me by way of reproof and conviction. My thoughts were kept fixed and intent on the consideration of the net immediate causes of those foregone gross acts of sinning. An abundant discovery was made unto me of my inward lusts and concupiscence, and how all sorts of concupiscences had wrought in me; at which I was amazed, to see with what greediness I had sought the satisfaction of every lust.
"Indeed, natural conscience will readily discover grosser acts against knowledge; as in the dark a man more readily sees chairs and tables in a room, than flies and motes: but the light which Christ now vouchsafed me, and this new sort of illumination, gave discovery of my heart in all my sinnings, carried me down to see the inwards of my belly, as Solomon speaks, and searched the lower rooms of my heart, as it were with candles, as the prophet's phrase is. I saw the violent eagerness, unsatiableness of my lusts; and moreover concerning the dispensation of God in this new light, I found the apparent difference, by experience of what I had received in former times. I had before had enlightenings and great stirrings of the Holy Ghost, both unto and in the performance of holy duties, prayer, and hearing, and the like; and yet I had not the sinful inordinacy of my lusts discovered, which had been the root and ground of all my other sinnings. And these forementioned devotions were different also in this respect from the present sight of my inward corruptions, that in all the former, though I felt myself much stirred, yet I had this secret thought run along, that God could not but accept those real services which I thought I did perform; and so I fell into the opinion of merit, which thought I could not get rid of, though the common received doctrine, taught me otherwise. But now when I saw my lusts and heart in that clear manner as I did, God quitted me of that opinion, which vanished without any dispute, and I detested myself for my former thoughts of it. And the sinfulness of these lusts I saw chiefly to lie in ungodliness as the spring of them; forasmuch as I had been a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God: according to that in Jeremiah, "My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and have made unto themselves cisterns that will hold no water." And these lusts I discerned to have been acted by me in things- that were most lawful, answerably unto that saying in Scripture, "The very ploughing of the wicked is sin:" and by the clear light thereof, the sinfulness of my sin was exceedingly enlarged; for that light accompanied me through all and every action that I could cast my remembrance upon, or that my view vent over.
"And by and through the means of the discovery of those lusts, a new horrid vein and course of sin was revealed also to me, that I saw lay at the bottom of my heart, in the rising and working of all my lusts; namely, that they kept my heart in a continual course of ungodliness, - that is, that my heart was wholly obstructed from acting towards God any way, or from having any holy or good movings at all.
"God having proceeded thus far, I perceived I was "humbled under his mighty hand," as James speaks, with whom only and immediately I had to do, and not with my own bare single thoughts. But God continued orderly to possess my thoughts with a further progress as to this subject; I being made sensible of God's hand in it, and myself was merely passive: but still God continued his hand over me, and held me, intent to consider and pierce into what should be the first causes of so much actual sinfulness; and he presented to me, as in answer thereunto, - for it was transacted as a conference by God with me, - the original corruption of my nature, and inward evil constitntion and depravation of all my faculties; the inclinations and disposed nesses of heart unto all evil, and averseness from all spiritual good and acceptableness unto God. I was convinced that in this respect I was flesh, which was to my apprehension as if that had been the definition of a man, "that which is born of the flesh is flesh."
"And here let me stand a while astonished, as I did then: I can compare this sight, and the workings of my heart rising from thence, to be as if I had in the heat of summer looked down into the filth of a dungeon, where by a clear light and piercing eye I discerned millions of crawling living things in the midst of that sink and liquid corruption. Holy Mr Price's comparison was, that when he heard Mr Chattertom preach the gospel, his apprehension was as if the sun, namely Jesus Christ, shined upon a dunghill; but my sight of my heart was, to my sense, that it was utterly without Christ. How much and deeply did I consider that all the sins that ever were committed by the wickedest men that have been in the world had proceeded from the corruption of their nature; or that the sins which any or all men did commit at any time were from the same root; and I by my nature, if God had left me and withdrawn from me, should have committed the same, as any temptation should have induced me unto the like. But what much affected me was a sight and sense that my heart was empty of all good; that in me, that is, in my flesh, there dwelt no good, not a mite of truly spiritual good, as the Scripture describes true inherent grace to be some good in us toward the Lord our God, which none of my goodness nor ingenuity was, which I boasted of. What is all such goodness to God who is only good, and is the only true measure of all that is called good which is so only so far as it respects him, as he is holy and good, as of the law it is said. Thus at present I was abundantly convinced.
"But next I was brought to inquire into and consider of what should have been the original canse at the bottom of all this forementioncd sinfulness, both in my heart and life. And after I had well debated with myself that one place, Rom. v. 12, "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by him, and passed upon all men, in whom," or in that, "all have sinned :" that it was in him they all sinned, for they had not in and of themselves sinned actually, as those that die infants, "after the similitude of Adam's transgression;" which limitation is cautiously there added by the Apostle, to shew that they had not actually sinned of themselves, but are simply involved in his act of sinning; and that sin wherein we were all involved, as guilty of it, is expressly said to be the disobedience of that one man; for by one man's disobedience, many of his children of the sons of men were all made sinners, for disobedience notes an act of sinning, not a sinful nature or a habit. This caused me necessarily to receive thus of it, that it was the guilt or demerit of that one man's disobedience that corrupted my nature. Under such like apprehensions as these did my spirit lie convicted so strongly of this great truth, that being gone to bed some hours before, and filled with these meditations, I in the end of all rose out of bed, being alone, and solemnly fell down on my knees before God, the Father of all the family in heaven, and did on my own accord assume and take on me the guilt of that sin, as truly as any of my own actual sins. Bnt now when I was thus concluding in my own heart concerning my sinfnlness, that all that I had acted was wholly corrupt, and that in me there was nothing but flesh, as born of flesh, so that all the actions that came from me were wholly corrupt, and in me, that is in my flesh, there dwelt no good thing, Rom. vii., my pronouncing this conclusion with myself was presently interrupted by the remembrance, which not till now did come in full upon me, in this nick of time and not before.
"The interruption was made by these intervening thoughts, that I had forgot myself, and should wrong myself to end in this conclusion; for I had had abundance of experience, as I thought, of the workings of true grace, enlightenings and ravishments of spirit and of faith in Christ, at sacrament and at other times. I recalled the course of my spirit until I was towards thirteen years old, for I was not thirteen when I came to the University; and I recalled to my remembrance, that during that space when I was seven years old, my grandfather, whom I lived with, had a servant, who observing some sin in me, reproved me sharply, and laid open hell-torments as due to me, whither, he said, I must go for such sins, and was very vehement with me; and I was accordingly affected with thoughts of God and matters of religion from thenceforth. I was indeed but in my infancy, in respect of my knowledge of religion, having childish thoughts, which I began to build my hopes on. For my conscience was opened with the sight of my sins when I committed any, and from that time I began to weep and mourn for my sins, and for a while to forbear to commit them, but found I was weak, and was overcome again; but I could weep for my sins when I could weep for nothing: and I doing this privately between God and myself, concluded it was not hypocrisy. I thought of Hezekiah's example, who turned to the wall and wept, and how it moved God; for I was brought up to read the Scriptures from a child, and I met with that promise of our Saviour's, "Whatever you shall ask the Father in my name, I will do it for you :" and that made me confident, for to be sure I would use his name for whatever I would have of God. Yet still I fell into sins, renewing my repentance for them. As Paul says, when I was a child, my thoughts were as a child, and I judged that whatever is more than nature must be grace; and when I had my affections any way exercised upon the things of the other world, thought I, This is the work of God, for the time was I had no such actings.
"And thus my younger time was at times spent; but God was to me as a wayfaring man, who came and dwelt for a night, and made me religious for fit, but then departed from me. The Holy Ghost moved upon the waters when the world was creating, and held and sustained the chaos that was created, and so he does in carnal men's hearts; witness their good motions at times. In a great frost, you shall see, where the sun shines hot, the ice drops, and the snow melts, and the earth grows slabby; but it is a particular thaw only where the sun shines, not a general thaw of all things that are frozen. But so it was, that for these lighter impressions and slighter workings, my heart did grow so presumptuous, that I thought myself not only to have grace, but more grace than my relations, or any inhabitant of the town that I knew of, and this for the time I was a schoolboy before I came to the University.
"When I was past twelve years old, towards thirteen, I was admitted into Christ's College in Cambridge, as a junior sophister, a year before the usual time of standing; and there being the opportunity of a sacrament of the Lord's Supper, appointed to be administered publicly in the College, and all of that form that I was now in being taken into receiving, I was ashamed to go out of the chapel alone and not receive, and so I adventured to obtrude myself upon that ordinance with the rest. I had set myself to the greatest preparation I could possibly make, in repenting of my sins and examining myself, and by meditations on the sufferings of Christ, which I presumed to apply to myself, with much thankfulness to God. And that which now, since I came to that College, had quickened and heightened my devotion, was, that there remained still in the College six Fellows that were great tutors, who professed religion after the strictest sort, then called Puritans. Besides, the town was then filled with the discourse of the power of Mr Perkins' ministry, still fresh in most men's memories; and Dr Ames, that worthy professor of divinity at Franeker, who wrote Puritanismus Anglicanus, had been Fellow of that College, and not long before my time had, by the urgency of the Master, been driven both from the College and University. The worth and holiness of that man are sufficiently known by what he did afterwards in the Low Countries. These Puritan Fellows of that College had several pupils that were godly, and I fell into the observation of them and their ways. I had also the advantage of Ursin's Catechism, which book was the renowned summaries of the orthodox religion, and the Puritan Fellows of the College explained it to their pupils on Saturday night, with chamber prayers. This book I was upon this occasion acquainted with; and against the time of the forementioned sacrament, I examined myself by it, and I found, as I thought, all things in that book and my own heart to agree for my preparation. "As I grew up, the noise of the Arminian controversy in Holland, at the Synod of Dort, and the several opinions of that controversy, began to be every man's talk and inquiry, and possessed my ears. That which I observed, as touching the matter of my own religion, was, that those godly Fellows, and the younger sort of their pupils that were godly, held constantly to their strict religious practices and principles, without falling away and declining, as I knew of. I judged them to be in the right for matter of religion, and the Arminians in the wrong, who held falling away; yea, and I did so far reverence the opinions of tke orthodox, who are against the power of free-will, and for the power of electing grace, that I did so far judge myself as to suspect I had not grace because of my so often falling away; whereof I knew not any probablier reason that it was not true grace which I had built upon, than this, that still after sacraments I fell away into neglects of duties and into a sinful course, which those godly youths I had in my eye did not.
"But that which chiefly did serve most to convince me, was the powerful and steady example of one of those godly Fellows in the College, Mr Bently, who was a man of an innocent, meek, humble spirit and demeanour, and an eminent professor of religion in the greatest strictness, whose profession was further quickened and enhanced by this, that he lived in a continual fear of death, having had two fits of an apoplexy that laid him for dead, and daily expecting a third. This blessed man I observed and reverenced above all other men but Mr Price, who then was of the University, an eminent example of conversion in the eyes of all, and who was afterwards minister of the gospel in Lynn Regis. I remember that when I came to the prayer, I used to have usually great stirrings of affections and of my bodily spirits to a kind of ravishment, and so I continued in private devotion for a week after; yet still all those impressions proved to be but morning dew, and came to nothing, and I utterly forbore to pray privately, or exercise any other good duty, and so all my religion was soon lost and came to nothing. But again, when the time of the next sacrament came, I renewed the former exercises, and then I grew into a love of the good scholars of the College, both of Fellows and others, and began to continue more constant in duties for a longer time together.
"And I left going to St Mary's, the university church, where were all the florid sermons and strains of wit in which that age abounded, the great wits of those times striving who of them should exceed each other. But from these the work I had the next sacrament upon me did so far withdraw me, as for eight weeks together I went with the Puritans of that College to hear Dr Sibbs, whose preaching was plain and wholesome; and to improve my time the better before sermon began, I carried with me Calvin's Institutions to church, and found a great deal of sweetness and savouriness in that divinity. In those weeks I kept constantly to private prayer, and calling to mind the sweetness of this course, of those eight weeks in these exercises, and acquainting myself more with the youths of that College who held steadfast in their profession. Oh, how did I long for the receiving of the next sacrament, in which I hoped the body and blood of Christ received with due preparation, which I endeavoured to make to the utmost of my ability, would confirm me in the way I had begun and continued in so long, and would strengthen me for ever from falling into the same way of liking florid and scholastic sermons.
"I went to chapel for the sacrament, as I was wont to do, and expected no other but to receive it; but in the nick, when every communicant was rising to go to kneel at the step, as the manner was, my tutor, Mr Power, (who was the only tutor that ever I had,) sent a messenger to me to command me out of the chapel, and to forbear to receive; which message I received with extreme dolour of heart and trouble; but he being my tutor, I obeyed him. But upon this disappointment I was so discouraged, that 1 left off private prayer for the first week after, and at last altogether, and from thence after went constantly to St Mary's, where the flaunting sermons were; and though I never fell into the common sins of drunkenness or whoredom, whereunto I had temptations and opportunities enough, yet I returned nnto the lusts and pleasures of sinning, but especially the ambition of glory and praise, prosecuting those lusts with the whole of my soul. And though I did not walk in profane ways against religion, yet with a lower kind of emnity against good men and good things, resolving to have preached against those at Lynn and their ways, and to have taken part with the whole town against them; which my wicked spirit was too eager and fitted to do by the studies I had pursued; it came to this at last, that if God would give me the pleasure I desired, and the credit and preferment I pursued after, and not damn me at last, let him keep heaven to himself; and I often thought thus with myself, They talk of their Puritan powerful preaching, and of Mr Rogers of Dedham, and such others, but I would gladly see the man that could trouble my conscience.
"When God now by a true work of grace effectually converted me to himself, the vanity of my former religion was, by serious reflections on these passages mentioned, sufficiently manifested. The deficiency of the root of all my devotions did also abundantly add to the discovery. For God did vouchsafe me a new and further light into the bottom of my heart, to discern that self-love and self-flattery, acted by the motives of the word so far as they will extend, were but the roots of all these gaudy tulips which I counted grace: and I needed no other scripture than that in the parable, together with my own heart, for the proof of it: Mark iv. 5, 6, "Some fell upon stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: but when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away." And with this one blast, and thus easily, did the flower of all my former devotions wither and come to nought, because they wanted moisture in the heart to nourish them.
"By the prospect of all these heads of sinning which I lay under, I was surrounded and shut up, and saw no way to escape but together with the sight of all this sinfulness, hell opened his month upon me, threatening to devour and destroy me; and I began withal to consider the eternity of time that I was to pass through under this estate, that it was for ever and ever. But though I was subjugated and bound over to these apprehensions, yet God kept me from the soreness of his wrath, and its piercing my soul through and through: that though I had a solid and strong conviction of God's wrath abiding on me, as being in a state of unbelief, yet my soul suffered not the terrors of the Almighty, though I lay bound as it were hand and foot, subacted under the pressure of the guilt of wrath, or of being subject to the just judgment of the Lord, as the word is to be translated, Rom. iii. 19. How long my soul lay filled with these thoughts, I perfectly remember not; but it was not many hours before God, who after we are regenerate is so faithful and mindful of his word, and his word of promise, as to suffer us not to be tempted above what we are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it; and he loving us with the same love as we are his own dear elect, does not often suffer a destroying apprehension to continue long upon us, but out of time same faithfulness and pity to us finds a way to escape.
I do not speak now of temptations, but of the just conviction which many such souls have, previous unto their believing. See what God say; Ezek. xvi., of the whole body of his elect church, comparing their condition to that of a child born dead, and covered over with blood, as it came out of the womb, the navel not cut, neither washed in water, but in this plight cast out into the open field, as a child that was dead, among the carcases. And therefore God, when he was said to have compassion on him, said to him, Live, which implies that he was dead. In this plight was my soul, dead in sins and trespasses from my nativity, and from thence so continuing to that very day, together with that heap of actual sin; that were the continual ebullitions of original sin. And no eye pitied me or could help me, but as God there, in Ezek. xvi,, on the sudden, - for it is spoken as a speedy word, as well as a vehement earnest word, for it is doubled twice, "yea, I said unto you, Live," - so God was pleased on the sudden, and as it were in an instant, to alter the whole of his former dispensation towards me, and said of and to my soul, Yea, live; yea, live, I say, said God : and as he created the world and the matter of all things by a word, so he created and put a new life and spirit into my soul, and so great an alteration was strange to me.
"The word of promise which he let fall into my heart, and which was but as it were softly whispered to my soul; and as when a man speaks afar off, he gives a still, yet a certain sound, or as one hath expressed the preachings of the gospel by the apostles, that God whispered the gospel out of Zion, but the sound thereof went forth over the whole earth: so this speaking of God to my soul, although it was but a gentle sound, yet it made a noise over my whole heart, and filled and possessed all the faculties of my whole soul, God took me aside, and as it were privately said unto me, Do you now turn to me, and I will pardon all your sins though never so many, as I forgave and pardoned my servant Paul, and convert you unto me, as I did Mr Price, who was the most famous convert and example of religion in Cambridge. Of these two secret whispers and speeches of God to me, I about a year after did expressly tell Mr Price, in declaring to him this my conversion, while it was fresh with me, as he well remembered long; and I have since repeated them to others I know not how often, for they have ever stuck in my mind. And examples laid before us by God do give us hope, and are written and proposed unto us: Rom. xv. 4, "For whatsoever things were written to us aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope;" and we use to allege examples, not only to illustrate and explain rules, but to prove and confirm them. That God pardoned such a man in such a condition, is often brought home unto another man in the same condition, and impliedly contains a secret promise, that so he may do to me, says the soul in the same condition. And I remember that I, preaching at Ely two years after, urged to the people the example of Paul (which I was before referred to) as an example to win others, in having in my eye and thoughts the said experience of God's dealing with me in the same kind; and that the examples of such are to be held forth by God, as flags of mercy before a company of rebels to win them in.
"Now as to this example of Paul, it was full and pertinent for that purpose for which God held it out to me; I then considered with myself the amplitude of my pardon, that it involved all sorts of sins of the highest nature, in which Paul had so walked as he was even upon the narrow brink of sinning against the Holy Ghost. And God suggested unto me that he would pardon me all my sins, though never so great, for boldness, hardness of heart, and heinousness of sinuing, as he had pardoned Paul, whose story of forgiveness I was referred unto; and also that he would change my heart, as he had done Mr Price's, who was in all men's eyes the greatest and, most famous convert, known to the whole University of Cambridge, and made the greatest and notedest example that ever was, of a strange conversion to God, and who was the holiest man that ever I knew one or other, and was then preacher at King's Lynn, whither my parents had removed from Rollesby, and then lived there.
"The confirmations which myself have had, to judge that these instructions and suggestions were immediately from God, were these
"1. I considered the posture and condition of my spirit, and that this suggestion took me when my heart was fixed, and that unmoveably, in the contrary persuasions, not only that I was guilty of those sins, and had continued in them to that time, but that I was in a damned estate, without hope for remedy: and when God had set a guard upon me as the prisoner of hell, then came in these contrary apprehensions and impressions as it were in an instant; which impressions also were so deep and rooted in my heart, that I remembered them ever since. And I did accordingly acquaint Mr Price at Lynn, a year and a half after this, setting them on upon my heart, in rehearsing to him the story of my conversion, which he exceedingly approved of.
"2. It was a word in its proper season, like that which was spoken to Abraham, the father of all the faithful, and which ran in a proverb among the Jews: "In the mount the Lord will be seen," or "provide;" which they apply to the immediate remedy which God does use to afford out of pity to a man in a strait or distress, and which none but himself can give remedy to. It is a word fitted and proper to such an occasion, and peculiar to the case of the person; a word that was quick and sudden, and interrupting all contrary expectations and fears, as the manner of the speech was, "Abraham, Abraham," as a man that speaks in haste to prevent any contrary fears. It is a word spoken in season, which Christ himself was taught by God to speak to distressed souls, Isa. 1. 4.
"3. This that was suggested to me was not an ungrounded fancy, but the pure word of God, which is the ground of faith and hope. It was the promise and performance of God's forgiving of Paul the most heinous sins that ever any convert committed who was saved; for he was the chiefest of sinners, as himself confesses. And this instance was directed unto me, as the most pertinent to my case that I could elsewhere have found in the Book of God.
"4. In considering the consequents and effects that followed after God's speaking to me, I was hopefully persuaded it was from God, for the things were fulfilled which God had spoken of. For, first, I felt my soul, and all the powers of it, as in an instant, to be clean altered and changed in the dispositions of them; even as our own divines of Great Britain do set out in their discourse of the manner of conversion in the effect of it. Secondly, I found from the same time the works of the devil to be dissolved in my heart in an eminent manner, my understanding enlightened, my will melted and softened, and of a stone made flesh, disposed to receive, and disposed to turn to God. And, thirdly, I found my spirit clothed with a new nature, naturally inclining me to good; whereas before it was inclined only to evil. I found not only good motions from the Spirit of God, as be was pleased to incite me formerly, not only flushings and streamings of affection, which soon vanish, or stirring my bodily spirits with joy, when I applied myself to a holy duty, but I found a new indweller, or habitual principle of opposition to, and hatred of sin indwelling, so as I concluded with myself that this new workmanship wrought in me was of the same kind as to matter of holiness with that image of God expressed, Eph. iv. 23, 24, but more expressly affirmed, Col. iii. 10. It was this one disposition that at first comforted me, that I saw and found two contrary principle; of spirit against flesh, and flesh against spirit: and I found apparently the difference of the opposition that only conscience makes against a lust, and that which the spirit - that is, the new work of grace in a man's heart - makes against the flesh. That the spirit not only contradicted and checked, but made a real natural opposition, such as fire does to water; so that the spirit did as truly lust against the work of the flesh, as the flesh against that of the spirit.
And this difference I found not by reading, or hearing any one speak of it, but, as Austin did, I perceived it of myself and wondered at it; for I may say of this combat, that it is proper and peculiar to a man that is regenerate. It is not in God or Christ, who are a fulness of holiness; not in devils, for they are all sin; not in good angels, for they are entirely holy; not in wicked men, for they have no grace in them, to fight with their corrnptions after such a manner. Fonrthly, The consequent of this that fell out in my heart was an actual turning from all known sins, and my entertaining the truth of all godliness; and the principles of it, as far as I received it from the word of God, and the best examples of godly men I lived withal. And in general, I took this course through God's direction and assistance, that I looked back upon my sinful estate, and took a summary survey of my chiefest sins and lusts; and I found them to be love of pleasure more than of God, corrupt ends, especially of vain-glory and academic praise, which I sought with my whole soul: and God was pleased to direct me to take up, as the rule of my turning to him, a sincere aim at his glory as the rule of all my inward thought; word; actions, desire; and ends whatsoever. And in this it pleased God to direct and assist me, to consider asunder all the sorts of actions I had gone through in my life, and to take them asunder in particulars, every one in order, but especially the principallest of them.
"And here, in the first place, I considered what was the aim and drift of my studies, which I had spent my whole time upon: and having been devoted by my parents for the work of the ministry, I considered what it was did serve most to the glory of God in the work of the ministry, and that overturned all the projects and designs of my heart hitherto, which were the dearest of all to me; so dear, that I would certainly rather not have lived, than have forsaken that interest. The University in those times was addicted in their preaching to a vainglorious eloquence, wherein the wits did strive to exceed one another; and that which I most of all affected, in my foolish fancy, was to have preached, for the matter thereof, in the way that Dr Senhouse of St John's, afterwards made bishop, did exceed all men in. I instance in him, to explain the way and model that I set up, because his sermons, five or six of them, are in print, and because it is the eminentest farrago of all sorts of flowers of wit that are found in any of the fathers, poet; histories, similitude; or whatever has the elegancy of wit in it; and in the joining and disposing of these together, wit was the eminent orderer in a promiscuous way. His way I took for my pattern, not that I hoped to attain to the sane perfection, I coming far behind-hand of all the accomplishments he abounded in. But I set him up in my thoughts to imitate as much as I was able; and about such collections as these did I set my studies until I should come to preach.
"But this way of his did soon receive a fatal wound, Dr Preston opposing it, and preaching against it, as vain and unedifying. His catechetical sermons in the chapel of that College it fell out I heard whilst unregenerate; but they moved me not to alter my studies, nor should all the world have persuaded me to have done it, nor all angels, nor men; but my heart, upon this my turning to God and setting his glory as my resolved end of all my actions and ways, did soon discover to me the unprofitableness of such a design; and I came to this resolved principle, that I would preach wholly and altogether sound, wholesome word; without affectation of wit and vanity of eloquence, And in the end, this project of wit and vain-glory was wholly sunk in my heart, and I left all, and have continued in that purpose and practice these threescore years; and I never was so much as tempted to put in any of my own withered flowers that I had gathered, and valued more than diamond; nor have they offered themselves to my memory to the bringing them into a sermon to this day, but I have preached what I thougbt was truly edifying, either for conversion of souls, or bringing them up to eternal life: so as I am free to profess that great maxim of Dr Preston, in his sermon of humiliation, on the first of the Ephesian; "that of all other, my master-lust was mortified."
"I observed of this work of God on my soul, that there was nothing of constraint or force in it, but I was carried on with the most ready and willing mind, and what I did was what I chose to do. With the greatest freedom I parted with my sins, formerly as dear to me as the apple of my eye, yea, as my life, and resolved never to return to them more. And what I did was from deliberate choice; I considered what I was doing, and reckoned with myself what it would cost me to make this great alteration. I considered the common opinion the world had of those ways of purity and holiness, and walked according to them. But though I considered what the common course and vogue of the world was concerning the ways of one that would be a true convert and sincere to God, yet they hindered me not at all. The weeds that entangled me in those waters, I swam and broke through, with as much ease as Samson did his withes; for I was made a vassal and a perfect captive to another binding, such as Paul speaks of, when he says he went bound in the Spirit to Jerusalem; and I said within myself, of all my old companions, What do you breaking my heart? I am not ready to be bound only, but to give up my life, so as I may serve God with joy in these ways. I parted with all my lusts, not as Lot's wife, looking back on what I departed from; but with my whole soul and whole desires, not to return more to the enjoyment of any lust, and casting down all those childish imaginations of preferment, snch as scholars do generally aim at and promise to themselves, and to attain which they make their aim, and the card of their life they sail by. All these fell, and like bubbles broke and vanished to air; and those which I counted my strongest holds and imagination; "and everything that exalteth itself, was brought into captivity and obedience to Christ," 2 Cor. x. 5. And I was brought in my own thoughts to be content with the meanest condition all my days, so as I might fulfil the course of my life, though never so mean, with uprightness and sincerity towards God.
"I took my leave for my whole life of all ecclesiastical preferments; and though afterwards I was President of Magdalene College, my great motive to it, from the bottom of my heart, was the fair opportunity of doing good in my ministry in the University, and that it might be in my power to bring in young men that were godly, both Fellows and students, that should serve God in the ministry in after-times. And after such as were godly did I inquire and seek, and valued such when I found them as the greatest jewels. And when I failed of such, it was a great affliction to me; bnt this was my heart and endeavour, as my own soul and conscience bears me witness, though I did and might fall short of this my own aim in some particular persons. And this principle I brought with me from Catherine Hall in Cambridge, where I had my first station, and where I was the instrument of the choice of that holy and reverend man, Dr Sibbs; to be Master of that College, and of most of the Fellows of that College in those times, as Dr Arrowsmith, and Mr Pen of Northamptonshire, to name no more. And I was the more fixedly established in the practice of this, that after I had been seven years from Cambridge, coming out of Holland, I had for some years after, well-nigh every month, serious and hearty acknowledgment from several young men, who had received the light of their conversion by my ministry while I was in the University of Cambridge. And this was the great encouragement I had to return again to a university, having enjoyed so frequent a testimony of the fruit of my labours while I was preacher at Cambridge; and what the success has been at Oxford, I leave to Christ till the latter day.
"But the most eminent property of my conversion to God, I have been speaking of, was this, that the glory of the great God was set up in my heart as the square and rule of each and every particular practice, both of faith and godlines; that I turned unto; and of all signs of sincerity, there is, nor can be, none clearer than this, witness our Saviour Christ's speech, John vii. 18, "He that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him." Christ speaketh it of himself, who is the truth itself, and speaketh of himself out of his own experience of what he did who is the truth itself; and the glory of God is God himself, who doth all things for himself: and therefore he that acteth thus predominantly for God above all other ends, must necessarily be judged truly righteous. Nor can any man extract that out of his heart which is not in it. Now there is not the least spark of the glory of God in the heart of man unregenerate, and therefore cannot be extracted out of it, no, not the least spark. Take a flint, and strike it against steel or iron, and you shall have sparks struck out; but if you take a piece of ice never so great, and strike it against a stone, or any other material, you shall not have a spark, for there is none in it, nor any disposition towards it. I remember that when I heard Dr Preston describing true spiritual change of heart, (it was upon Rom. xii. 2, "Be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds,") he spoke in this manner. "It is," said he, "when upon the change of a man's utmost end, there is a change made upon the whole man, and all the powers of his soul ;" which when I had duly considered, I judged I never had anything more punctual, remembering this work of God upon myself at first. For, as he then discoursed it, "if a man changes but unto one particular end, and has but one particular and limited end, the effect is answerable, it is but partial so far as that end serves to : as if a man that had a humour of prodigality, and now thinks it concerns him to be sparing and covetous, this change of his end being but particular, has but a narrowed effect, namely as to sparing and care to keep his money, not to spend it lavishly; but godliness, the height of which lies in a respect to God and his glory above all things else, hath a general, yea, universal end, which extends its influence upon all things."
"Hence my task, from this principle, proved to be to survey and go over every particular kind of act, both what I must forbear, and for what end, and with what heart, as also to observe each particular practice of godliness, which I wretchedly had altogether for a long while lived in neglect of; and hereabout I began with what I was to forbear and practise no longer, but alter my course in: as, first of all, my sins I had lived in; and therein I fixed upon this summary of my whole life, that I had made lusts and pleasures my only end, and done nothing with aims at the glory of God; and therefore I would there begin my turning to him, and make the glory of God the measure of all for the time to come."
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