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Thomas Traherne was a 17th Century Anglican pastor, who is now best known as a poet (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/thomas-traherne) He is also known for his Centuries of Meditations (https://ccel.org/ccel/traherne/centuries/centuries). The work which follows, The Soul’s Communion With Her Savior, does not seem to be available since its original publication in 1685.

THE Soul’s Communion With her SAVIOR.

OR, The History of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Written by FOUR EVANGELISTS, Digested into Devotional Meditations.

The First Part.

LONDON,

Printed for W. Crooke at the Green Dragon

nigh Devereux-Court without Temple-Bar, 1685.

THE PREFACE TO THE Devout Reader.

Sir Edwyn Sandys in hisEuropae Speculum[1] observes, That, as one principal means used by the Papacy to countermine the Progress of the Reformation, they took such care to fill all Countries with books of prayer and piety in their own language, that they forbore not to reproach the Protestants[2] (who had upbraided them for confining the people to the dark Devotion of an unknown tongue[3]) with their poverty, weakness, and coldness in that kind, as being forced to take the Catholic Books for their supply therein.[4]

And since the time wherein he made that observation, the Reformed Churches have been too long exposed to the same reproach and inconvenience: for, as it was the highest mark of deplorable servitude, that the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen every man his share and his coulter and his ax and his mattock[5]; so it must needs prov a very dangerous snare to the most religious Protestants that they were constrained to have recourse to the Church of Rome for their best helps to devotion; whose care of souls, in making that necessary provision for piety, carried with it so fair a shew of true sanctity and godliness as invited too many of the unwarily devout, first to a favorable opinion and then to the absolute espousal of her errors and superstition, craftily mingled and recommended in those prayers and meditations that were hammer’d out at her forge.[6]

And what was so a temptation to win her adversaries, may well be thought a more forcible argument to establish and confirm her own friends and abettors[7], to her: So that without a proportionable care to countermine her policy, there could be little hope either of withdrawing any of her members, or withholding many of our own, from her communion.[8]

But now the Church of England hath both expressed herself sufficiently sensible of that defect and made abundant provision for its supply, in compiling and publishing such and such store of books of devotion in her mother-tongue, as neither the Roman nor any of the Reformed can boast of more or better.[9] It may therefore be questioned to what purpose this little tract should be superadded to those many excellent pieces of devout meditation already in print; which makes me judge it requisite to give the reader some short account both of its occasion and design.

A most excellent person, eminent (not to mention her quality, which is very considerable) as well for her devotion as intelligence [understanding], being, by a just and rational conviction of those gross errors and forgeries[10], on and by which the Church (or rather, Court[11]) of Rome hath founded and upheld her greatness, reclaimed from her communion to that of the church of England; to evidence how far she was from being induced thereunto by any other motive besides that of disinterested religion[12], resolved to confine herself to the same strict rules of devotion and abstinence, in the exercise of her protestant principles, whereby she had expressed her exemplary zeal in the popish superstition. And that her soul, in those many hours which she daily allotted for retirement, might not grow languid and dull in the same act either of prayer or reading (as the body is apt to become stiff and unwieldy if long held to the self-same posture or motion) these brief aspirations on the gospel-history were composed to diversify her entertainment, and fill up those Intervals which a pious discretion thought requisite for the better improvement and more orderly disposal of the time set apart for such religious exercises.[13]

And what hath been thus used and approved in the devout solitude of a private closet[14], now appears in public with design to supply the vacant hours of other pious votaries[15], especially at such times as either the wise authority of our superiors, or their own particular resolution, shall dedicate a whole day to the duties of prayer and humiliation.[16]

But lest that different Order where into the several Evangelists[17] have cast their relation of our Savior’s acts and speeches which the Holy Ghost hath thought fit to transfer unto succeeding ages upon record, might occasion a fruitless repetition of any one Ppart, or an unseemly confusion in the whole; I have reduced it to such a Method which Gerard and Chemnitius have digested their Harmony of the Four Gospels[18] into: that the religious peruser  [reader] may more regularly pass through the entire history, or the more readily have recourse to any particular transaction in it which may best suit with the present scope of his devotion. Whereunto if this small essay prov any way serviceable, it will at once recompense my present labor and encourage me to proceed; being ardently desirous to express myself, in communion with my Savior,

A sincere Lover of Souls, P. Traheron.

A General Prayer Preparatory to the ensuing Meditations.

O Father of mercies and God of all consolation[19],

who art the fountain of life and salvation[20],

my soul and all that is within me bless thy Holy Name[21],

 for sending thine only begotten Son into the world[22]

to redeem me and all mankind[23] to thine eternal glory[24].

I beseech Thee withdraw mine affections from this world[25],

that I may serve Thee in Spirit and in Truth[26]:

Enlighten my understanding[27] and reform my will[28],

that my heart may be entirely united to Thee[29],

and (all other business set apart)

as well secretly among the faithful, as openly in the congregation,

adore and praise the God of my Salvation[30].

And since the Mercies of GOD

do at once oblige and encourage me

to present my Soul and Body a Living Sacrifice at thine Altar,

 let this my Reasonable Service be so acceptable unto Thee[31],

that neither Death, nor Life, nor Angels,

nor Principalities,

nor Powers, nor Things present, nor Things to come,

nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature

be able to separate me from the Love of God which is in Christ JESUS our LORD[32].

Give me a clear sight into all the mysteries of his life,

and a due Sense of all the miracles of his love unto death[33],

till I be so ravished with the contemplation of their gracious design upon my Soul[34],

as to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, and be ready to suffer the Loss of all things, and count them but dung,

that I may win Christ; and be found in Him,

not having mine own righterousness, which is of the Law,

but that which is through the faith of Christ,

the righteousness which is of God by faith;

that I may know Him,

and the power of his resurrection,

and the fellowship of His sufferings,

being made conformable unto His Death.[35]

And let the constant secret meditation of His Life and Love,

His sufferings and glory,

His virtues and graces,

His precepts and promises,

His presence and power,

be the hidden manna of my Soul[36],

its food and refreshment in all conditions;

in afflictions, my support;

in poverty, my treasure;

in reproaches, my glory;

in darkness, my light;

in sickness, my health;

 in trouble, my repose;

in prosperity my defense;

in life and health, my joy and consolation;

that Christ being thus formed in me,

I may (through Him who giveth us the victory)

overcome the vanities of the world,

 the lusts of the flesh,

 and the temptations of the Devil,

 till He become my life in death and my happiness in heaven.

Amen.


[1] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Edwin-Sandys

[2] Traherne is using italics to indicate his indirect quotation of Sandys.

[3] One of the critiques raised by the Protestants is that church liturgy and the Bible were Latin, which most people could not understand. However, the Roman church had changed that by creating prayer books written in the common languages of the various countries.

[4] The people had no choice but to make use of such books, even if the books were deficient.

[5] 1 Samuel 13:19–20 (ESV)

19 Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears.” 20 But every one of the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, or his sickle ….

[6] The Israelites were required to hire their enemies, the Philistines, to sharpen their iron tools. Likewise, the protestants were required to go to the “Church of Rome” for their devotional books. Those books contained both piety and also “superstitions” (for example Protestants would not direct a prayer to or through a deceased Christian, a “saint”). By using such books, they came to eventually have a positive view of that Church overall.

[7] An abettor is one who helps. It has no negative connotation here.

[8] If we (the Church of England) are not careful and fail to perform our work as a church, the protestants (in England) will go over to the Church of Rome.

[9] The Church of England has performed its duty and has produced more books in English than any other church.

[10] This is probably a reference to the Donation of Constantine: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Donation-of-Constantine

[11] A court would designate a political as opposed to a religious power.

[12] Religion has a positive contention: the true faith.

[13] Why was this book written? It was written for a particular woman who had for a while been taken up with the Roman Catholic devotional exercises. However, returning to the Church of England, she wished to have the same diligence in her religious exercise but with Protestant content. This book was written for her. In answer to the question of why another book when there are already many books: He uses the analogy of someone who has been in the same posture for too long, they become stiff. To use the same books only, without variation could lead to rote, mechanical actions: just “going through the motions.”

[14] Matthew 6:6 (KJV) “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

[15] Someone dedicated to religious service.

[16] A day of fasting an prayer: “The first is self-debasement.—God complains of the Jews’ fasting: they did hang down their heads like a bulrush, (Isai. 58:5,) but their souls did not bow down within them. We call a fast-day a “day of humiliation;” but we have the name, but not the thing, if the soul be not humbled. What is it for the body to wear sackcloth, if pride cover the heart? or to spread ashes under us, if the soul lie not down in the dust? or to fast from bodily food, if the soul be not emptied of self-fulness.” Nichols, James. Puritan Sermons. Matthew Barker, “A Religious Fast.” Richard Owen Roberts, Publishers, 1981, pp. 155–56.

[17] The  writers of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.

[18] Harmony of the Gospels by Martin Chemnitz (https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Harmony_of_the_Four_Evangelists.html?id=dXeMoAEACAAJ)

[19] 2 Corinthians 1:3 (KJV)  “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;”

[20] Psalm 36:9 (KJV)  “For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.”

[21] Psalm 103:1 (KJV) “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”

[22] John 3:16 (KJV) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

[23] 1 John 2:2 (KJV)  “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

[24] 2 Timothy 2:10 (KJV)  “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”

[25] 1 John 2:15 (KJV)  “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

[26] John 4:23 (KJV)  “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”

[27] Ephesians 1:18 (KJV) “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.”

[28] Leviticus 26:23 (KJV)  “And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me.”

[29] 2 Timothy 2:22 (KJV)  “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

[30] Psalm 25:5 (KJV)  :Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.”

[31] Romans 12:1–2 (KJV) “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

[32] Romans 8:37–39 (KJV)  “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

[33] John 15:13 (KJV) “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

[34] Colossians 3:1–4 (KJV) “1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”

[35] Philippians 3:7–10 (KJV)  “7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”

[36] Revelation 2:17 (KJV) “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.”