From William Spurstowe, The Spiritual Chymist, 1666. The prior post is this series is here.
Accents are by the Hebrews aptly called Sapores, tastes or savors that speech or [those] word without some observance of them are like Job’s white of an egg, without salt, insipid, and unpleasant. In the Greek they derive their name from the due tenor, or tuning of words, and in that tongue words are not pronounced according to the long or short vowels, but according to the accent set up on them, which directs the rise or fall, the length or brevity of their pronunciation.
Now, what accents are to Greek words, that methinks circumstances are to sins, which, as so many moral accents do fitly serve to show there just and certain dimensions, and teach us aright to discern how great or small they be. And he, that without respect had onto them, does judge of that bigness of sins, is like to error as much as a man that should take upon him, without mathematical instruments, to give it exactly the greatness of the heavenly bodies, and to pronounce of altitudes, distances, aspects, and other appearances, by the scanning of the eye.
Is this not the Scripture way to set out sin, by the place, time, continuance in it, and repetitions of it? They provoked him at the Red Sea, where they saw the mighty works of his power, and making the deep to be their path to Canaan, and the Egyptian’s grave. They tempted him in the wilderness, where their food, drink, clothes, were all made up by miracles. The clouds yielding them meat [their food], the dry rock water, and their garments not waxing old.
Does he not aggravate them, by the long space of their continuance in them, saying that they grieved him 40 years? Does he not number the times of their reiterated, murmurings and rebellions, and make it as a ground for his justice to destroy them?
Necessary therefore it is, that in the duty of self-examination, and reviews of the book of conscience, we do not only read over the naked facts which have been done by us, but that we look into those apices peccati, little dots and tittles which are set up on the head of many sins(the circumstances I mean with which they are committed) or else we shall never read that book aright, or learn to know what sins are great or what small. The fact and circumstances are both noted in the journals of conscience, though they be not equally legible. And he that is truly penitent will make it a chief part of his work to find out one as well as the other, as being the best means both to get the heart broken for and from sin.
What shame? What fear? What carefulness? What revenge will a serious sight of the several aggravations that meet in the interpretation of a sin move up and stir the heart of the sinner? Will he not say, what a beast am I to sin against so clear a light? To break so often my own vows, to defer so long my repentance and rising again? What revenge shall I now take of myself to witness my indignation? What carefulness shall I exercise to evidence the truth of my return? With diligence shall I use to redeem my lost time, who have joined the morning of the task and the evening of the day together? These, and such like thoughts, will sin, when it is read as it is written, and accented in the conscience produce.
But a general knowledge and sight of it, without such particularities, will neither make nor leave any impressions but what they are both slight and confused.
Do thou therefore, holy God,
teach me to understand the errors of my ways aright,
And by the light of thy Spirit
Make me to see that circumstances in sins are not motes, but beams,
and greatly intend their guilt — if not their bulk.
That so I may mourn for those sins which carnal men conceive to be but so many black nothings;
And abhor myself for those corruptions in which they indulge themselves.