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May 11, 1657

I had a sore sickness and weakness took hold of me, which hath by fits lasted all this spring till this 11 May, yet hath my God give me many a respite, and some ability to perform the duties I owe to him, and the word for my family.

Many a refreshment have I found in this my weary pilgrimage and this valley of Baca[1] many pools of water. That which now I chiefly labor for is a contented, thankful heart under my affliction and weakness, seeing it is the will of God it should be thus. Who am I that I should repine at his pleasure, especially seeing that it is for my spiritual advantage? For I hope my soul shall flourish while my body decays and the weakness of this outer man shall be a means to strengthen my inner man.

Yet a little while and he that shall come will come and will not tarry.

 

As spring the winter doth succeed

And leaves the naked trees to dress

The earth all black is clothed in green;

And sunshine each their joy express.

 

My suns returns with healing wings[2]

My soul and body doth rejoice

My heart exalts and praises sings

To him that heard my wailing voice[3]

 

My winters past, my storms are gone

And former clouds seem now all fled

But if they must eclipse again

I’ll run where I was succored.

 

I have a shelter from the storm

A shadow from the fainting heat;

I have access unto his throne[4]

Who is a God so wondrous great?[5]

 

O hast thou made my pilgrimage[6]

Thus pleasant, fair and good

Blessed me in youth and elder age

My Baca made a springing flood

 

I studious am what I shall do

To show my duty with delight

All I can give is but mine own

And at the most a simple mite.[7]

 

 

 


[1] Psalm 84:5–6 (ESV)

5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. 6 As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.

In verse 6a the Hebrew for the valley of Baca is hard to understand. The Masoretic text is BaKa’, “balsam tree,” a tree that grows in dry places; seven Hebrew manuscripts have BeKeh, which is taken to mean “weeping” (so the Septuagint, Syriac, Targum, and Vulgate). AT, RSV, TEV, NIV, and NJV translate as a proper name, a name that appears nowhere else in the Old Testament; Weiser and SPCL have “Valley of Tears”; NEB “the thirsty valley”; NJB “Valley of the Balsam”; BJ, FRCL, and TOB “valley of balsam trees.” It seems preferable either to translate the Masoretic text by “valley of balsam trees,” or else to translate the variant reading in the Hebrew manuscripts and the ancient versions, “Valley of Tears.” Nothing much is gained by transliterating the Hebrew word as a place name, Baca. In any case, as the context shows, it was an arid place.

Robert G. Bratcher and William David Reyburn, A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Psalms, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1991), 740.

[2] Malachi 4:2 (ESV)

2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

[3] Psalm 6:8–9 (ESV)

8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. 9 The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer.

[4] Hebrews 4:14–16 (ESV)

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

[5] Psalm 86:10 (ESV)

10 For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.

[6] Psalm 119:54 (ESV)

54 Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning. [AV pilgrimage]

[7] Luke 21:1-4.