The Spiritual Chymist, Meditation XXIX

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Balanites aegyptiaca (balm of Gilead)
Upon the Balsam Tree

Soem faces are by the painter drawn with less difficulty than others, the lineaments and features of them being such as are more easy for his eye to observe, and for his hand also happily to express. And so it wi with some subjects of meditation above others, which with less labor of the mind are by the pencil of the thoughts formed into lively resemblance of heavenly things, and thereby bearing a proportion to our senses, do convey spiritual mysteries by a facile and delightful manner to our understanding.

Such a subject is the balsam tree which while I think of the place of this growth, the way of obtaining it juice, and the sovereign virtue that it hath to effect strange cures, and to heave inveterate diseases, ti carries forthwith my thought to my blessed savior, who is the only repository in which God has laid up allis invaluable treasurers of healing balsams.
It readily suggests to me such moving considerations as to serve to exalt Christ’s excellency in my heart, and to endear him to me in all the ties of choices affections. And that it may do so for others, I will draw the parallel between this tree and Christ, that others may see what a sweet representation it is of him, who, as David says, forties all our iniquities and heals all our diseases. [Ps. 103:3]

First, in the sole place of this tree’s growth is in Emanuel’s Land [Israel. It is Pliny’s observation, Balsamum uni terrarum Judea concessum est, it is a special grant bestowed by God upon Judea: the country which is renowned for Christ’s birth is also only celebrated for this balm, all other nations wholly wanted [lack] it, or least had none like it.

Moses tells us that it was anciently on of the Ishmaelites’ commodities which they carried from Gilead to Egypt. And Ezekiel says it was Israel’s and Judah’s merchandise to Tyre.

Does it not then genuinely point out unto us the whole world must be beholding to Christ for salvation and healing? Does it not as spiritual hieroglyphic assert that weighty doctrine of Peter’s That there is no name under heaven given amongst men, whereby we must be saved, but by the name of Christ? [Acts 4:12]

Whey then do men lay out their month for that which is not balm? Why do they take hold sometimes one one creature and sometimes one another, saying, Be thou our healer, let this ruin be under thy hand? [Is. 3:6] Is it not one of those glorious appellations which God in Scripture is pleased to take unto himself, I am the Lord that healeth thee? [Ex. 15:26]

Take heed then, O Christin, when you are under any distress, or under any malady to cheat yourself with false remedies: to use figs leaves instead of figs themselves. Adam took the one [Gen. 3:7], which did only hide his nakedness but not cure it. But to restore Hezekiah, God took the other. [2 Kings 20:7] Use what God has appointed, not what you fancy.

Secondly, this balsam tree drops and weeps forth its balsam to heal their wounds, that cut and mangle it, and did not our blessed Savior do thus? What a strange requital did this great innocent and holy person make unto those from whom he suffered?
They mock and revile him hanging upon the cross,
and he prays and begs forgiveness for them.
They shed his blood,
and he makes it a precious medicine to heal their putrid sores.
They smite and pierce him to the heart with a spear,
and he erects in his heart a fountain to wash them from their sin and uncleanness.

Was it ever hear that a physician would sweat and bleed for his surfeited patient? Or than an offended prince would expiate the foul treasons of his subjects with his own life?

Surely well might the Apostle [Paul] say, that God commended his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. [Rom. 5:8]

Be astonished ye angels of Heaven who delight to pry into Gospel mysteries [1 Pet. 1:12] of this abyss of divine love from which Seraphim themselves connote be detract if they should if the least conceive that they could either fathom with their knowledge or express in their praises.

And be ye melted O rocky hearts of sinners with ardency and strength of such love, which is stronger than death itself. [Song 8:6] It was his love which held him upon the cross to finish your salvation when death could not hold him in the grave. Let this love of Christ constrain you henceforth not to live unto yourself, but him that died for you.

Thirdly, this balm which distills from this wounded tree of such virtue and efficacy as that is medicana omni morbia, physic [medicine] to cure all diseases, being applied inwardly and outwardly.

It allays the headache, it restores eye-sight, helps asthma, purges ulcers, cures the poison sting of serpents, heals all kinds of wounds. Is not then this balm in the letter an apt emblem of the balm in the master of the blood of Christ (which is of unlimited power and excellency). What is the evil that can befall for which this is not a certain cure?
Oh, when taken inwardly, as in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, it is both food and physic, it enlightens the dark mind, it heals the broken heart, it fells the hungry with good things. [Luke 1:53] When sprinkled outwardly, as in baptism, it is effectual to stop the leprosy of sin, to cure the venom and rage of lusts, to mollify the stony heart, and to make the fruitful barren.

Be then of good cheer, O ye drooping and afflicted souls, let me say to you, as Paul to those in the tempest, The lives of none of you shall be lost. [Acts 27:22] If you complain, No sins like yours [my sins are greater than your sin]; let me add, There is no salvation like Christ’s. If you say, you are a system, a fardle [a bundle] of sins and lusts, hear what the Apostle [John]says, The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7.

No man every miscarried [failed to achieve this salvation] for being a great sinner, but only for being an impenitent sinner. Be not in love with your sin, as beggars are with their sores, that will not party with them. And then doubt not of your physician’s skill or care. It is his peculiar glory, that never any patient miscarried under his hand, though such was their condition that they were utterly incurable by any other.

Killing as Contagion

Investigators say school shootings have become the American equivalent of suicide bombings — not just a tactic, but an ideology. Young men, many of them depressed, alienated or mentally disturbed, are drawn to the Columbine subculture because they see it as a way to lash out at the world and to get the attention of a society that they believe bullies, ignores or misunderstands them.

The seemingly contagious violence has begun branching off Columbine, researchers say, and is now bringing in more recent attacks, many of them building off the details and media fixation with the last. School gunmen have admitted to investigators that they were now effectively competing with other attackers, in trying to come up with deadlier tactics, and in trying to kill the most people.

Here is the rest

 

The Spiritual Chymist, Meditation XXVIII

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Upon the Rudder of a Ship

Among other similitudes which St. James uses to show that great matters are effected by small means, this of the rudder of a ship is one [James 3:4-5], and he ushers it in with a single word, which the Scripture often prefixes to weighty sayings to render them more remarkable, Behold, also the ships, which though they be so great, are driven by fierce winds, yet are turned about with a very small helm whithersoever the governor listeth.

The right guidance of this single part is of such consequence to the safety of the whole as that every irregular motion may either hazard [here hazard is a verb] the vessel or greatly hinder its progress, when it answers not the just point of the compass. How continually are these words of direction, starboard, starboard, port, port, spoken by him that eyes the compass, repeated by him that hold the helm: to prevent all danger that may arise from mistakes. Or else how suddenly would rocks, waves, or sands make a prey of them? 

Well then might Aristotle in his mechanical questions propose it as a problem worthy of a resolution why a little helm hanging upon the outmost part of the ship should have such a great power as to move a vast bulk and weight with much facility amidst storms and gusts of wind? And may we not answer that the wisdom of these arts is God’s though the industry in the use of them is man’s.

But the more power it has the more apt emblem it is of that faculty of the will which in all moral actions is the spiritual rudder of the soul, to turn the whole man this way or that way as it pleases.  

The position of the Schools [the Medieval theological universities] is a truth, Inclinatio voluntatis est inclinatio totius compositi, the inclination of the will is the inclination of the whole person: and accord to the rectitude or pravity of its motion, both the man and his actions are denoted good or evil. And hence it is that Austin [St. Augustine] does often define sin by a mala voluntas [evil will/desire] and good by a bona voluntas [good will/desire] because of the dominion which the will has in the whole man. 

Of how absolute concernment is it then that this great engine which commands all the inferior powers of the soul, be not disordered.

If there be a dyspepsia in the stomach, in inflammation in the liver, or a taint in some other vital [organ] what can the less noble parts of the body contribute onto the health? If the foundation be out of course, how can the building stand? If the spring be polluted, who can expect the streams should be crystalline? If the will be vitiated, how can it be the fear, hatred, love, joy, desire, which in the sensitive part are passions but in the soul are immaterial affections, or rather, operations of the will and are found in angels themselves, should be pure and free from corruption of their principle? 

It is therefore necessary that this spiritual rudder have also a spiritual compass by which it may steer that so it motion stay not be destructive or at the least vain. And what this compass be but the Word and Will of God? Conformity and obedience unto which is the only happiness as well as the whole duty of man. It is man’s duty to will what God wills, because as he was made like unto God in his image, so he was made for God in his end. And it is the happiness of man to will and nill as God does, because he thereby only comes to obtain a true and perfect rest: Whether he have or want what he desires, he is still miserable: like Noah’s dove, restless and fluttering till it can find out an object where it may acquiescence; like the grave and the horse leech, always craving and never satisfied. 

See the O Christian from whence it is that this world, which is a tempestuous sea unto all, proves so fatal to many in the sad shipwreck of their eternal happiness. Is it not from the lawless motions of the will? Which when not governed by the will of God, as its perfect rule, is Cupiditas non voluntas, an impetuous and raging lust rather than a will. 

What was it that ruined our first parents, and in them all their posterity, but the inordinacy of their will; by which they lost both their happiness and holiness at once? And what is it under the Gospel into which Christ resolves the damnation of those that perish? Is it not that they will not come unto him that they might have life? All obedience or disobedience is properly, or at lest primary in no part but in the will, so that though other faculties of the soul in regeneration are sanctified and thereby made conformable to the will of god, yet obedience and disobedience are formally acts of the will and according to its qualifications is a man said to be obedient unto to God or disobedient. 

O that I could therefore awaken both myself and others to a due consideration of what importance it is like a wise and industrious pilot to guide this rudder of the soul, the will of man, by the unerring compass of the will of God. 

Heaven is a port for which we all profess ourselves bound, and can it ever be obtained by naked and inefficacious velleities, by a few faint wishing and wouldings?  What blind Balaam would then miss of it? What slothful man, that hides his hand in his bosom and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again [Prov. 19:24]might not then possess it, as well as any Caleb or Joshua, that wholly followed the Lord; or as dcivd who fulfilled all his wills [all that God desired]? 

Methink that saying of our Savior should be as goad in the side of every sluggard, Not everyone that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my father which is in heaven. [Matt. 7:21] 

However,

O holy God

Let it quicken me to all diligence

In an entire conformity of my will to thy will

That so I may readily do what thou commands

And let me esteem it the best part of heaven’s happiness

That I shall one day do it perfectly

As the angels which behold thy face.

The Spiritual Chymist, Meditation XXVII

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(From the Spiritual Chymist, William Spurstowe, 1666)

Upon the Weapon Salve

Who was the author of this weapon salve, cannot certainly be affirmed. Some attribute it to Paracelus who was very pregnant in mysterious inventions: others to one Parmensis Anshelmus, an Italian, who was called a “Saint” as Simon Magus of old, the great power of God, though both were no better than sorcerers. But whoever he were, the ointment is much famed (yet not altogether unquestioned) for its strange manner of healing and curing wounds, differing from other physical applications in a double respect: the one is that it is applied not other person who receives the wounds, but to the active instrument that inflicts it, which is a subject not at all capable of sickness of sanity, or ease or pain, and so cannot be receptive of the alternative power of the ointment; which, if it work by virtual contact must necessarily have the intermedial bodies to participate of it.  The other is, the salve cures at distances which are inconsistent with the rule of a mediate contact: it heals the patient when he is a hundred miles off, as well as when he is hear; and the it requires a vicinity of place, as well as a right disposition of the medium.

Now these difference, though they have served to heighten its esteem in the apprehensions of many, and have given learned men who are great admirers of sympathies to write for it or to be fautors [patrons] of it; yet others of no less worth and repute have divided from them and have slighted it as an empty vanity or censured as a magical impiety. 

For my part, I am not satisfied with such subtle niceties as are used to defend it, of common and universal spirits which convey the action of the remedy to the part and conjoin the virtue of bodies far disjoined; neither can I think it worthy of such speculations: it commonly healing only simple wounds, and such, which being kept clean need no other hand than that of nature and the balsam [anything healing] of the proper part.

But there is a weapon salve of which it is easy to speak much, but impossible to say enough: so full it is of divine and mysterious wonders, if we consider what it is, or what the cures are which it effects, or what the distance is in which it operates.

Would you know what this salve is? The blood of Christ crucified, whose sufferings do all turn to the advantage of believers: 

The blood is his, 

but the balm is theirs; 

the thorns are his, 

but the crown is theirs; 

the price is his, 

but the purchase is theirs.

Would you hear what cures it does? It heals inveterate ulcers and mortal wounds; it extinguishes the fiery darts of Satan. It eases pressures; it destroys yokes, and what not that rise to let [stop] or bar to a believer’s life or happiness. 

Would you know the extent of its virtue, and at what distance it operates? Paul tells us that by the blood of the cross he has reconciled all things to himself, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven. [Col. 1:20]

There is no person that can stand so remote or be at any such angle or corner of earth but he may partake of the influence of it, if he do but cast an eye of faith toward heaven and be as fully healed as any other. Like as to the stunned Israelite who lay in the utmost part of the camp did receive equal benefit by looking to the brazen serpent with him that stood next unto the pole upon which it was erected.

O therefore let not any who are exercised with spiritual conflict cast away their confidence, but fight the good fight of faith unto the end. For though they be not invulnerable, yet none of their wounds are incurable. The blood of Christ is more powerful to save, than sin or other enemies to destroy; else the great end of Christ’s coming into the world of being a physician to the sick, a deliverer to the captive, a healer of the broken hearted would be in vain and all the saints must still be in their sins. 

Set then faith on work you that faint and droop in your minds; and say not, who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring this salve unto us that we may live? Or who shall go over the sea for us and bring this sovereign balm [all powerful medicine] of Gilead [Jer. 8:22] unto us that we may e healed by it.

Do but believe and the cure is wrought. Faith is the instrument which makes a virtual contact between Christ and every believer: It receives healing grace from him, and straightways conveys it uno the subject in which it is to terminate. 

For as futuriton [existing in the future] in respect of the existence of things is no prejudice to the eye of faith in beholding of them in the present; so neither is distance of place any hinderance to the efficacy of the touch of faith, but that it may forthwith transmit the sanitive efflux of Christ’s blood [Christ’s blood pour out makes holy] unto him, who by faith touches him [touches Christ].  The woman that labored many years of the bloody issue in the same instant that she touched the hem of Christ’s garment, get in herself, that she was healed of her plague. [Mark 5:24-34]

But I am jealous, that while I commend this sacred remedy, some presumptuous sinner who is more apt to abuse grace, than a wounded spirit to improve it [make use of it]should make no other use of it than to think he may sin securely and need not fear what bruises and wound he contracts, seeing the cure is certain and speedy.

I can therefore, do no less than express myself in a holy indignation against such who would make the precious blood of my Savior subservient to their lusts, desiring rather to be freed from the danger than from the dominion of sin.

O my soul, come thou not into their secrets; unto their assembly mine honor be not thou united:  Cursed be their lusts, for they are vile, and their desires for they are devilish. [Gen. 49:6-7] Let me bless God who has made me whole, and sin no more lest a worse thing come unto me. [John 5:14]

The Spiritual Chymist, Meditation LX

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Upon the Nature Heat, and the Radical Moisture

There is a regiment of health in the soul, as well as in the body; in the inward man, as well as the outward man; they both being subjects incident to distempers, and that from a defect, or excess in those qualities which which when regulated are the principle and the basis of life and strength. [This paragraph relies upon an understanding of medicine going back to the Greeks.]

What preserves and maintains natural life but the just temperament of the radical moistures and the innate heat? And again endangers and destroys it, but the heart devouring moisture, or the moisture impairing the heat? When either of these prevail against each other, diseases do suddenly follow. 

And is it not thus in the soul and inward man? In it those two signature graces of faith and repentance do keep up and cherish the spiritual life of the Christian: faith being like the calor innatus, the natural heat; and repentance like humidum radicale, the radical moisture.  If then any by believing should exercise repentance less or in repenting should lessen their belief, they would soon fall into one of these most dangers extremes: either to be swallowed up in sorrow and despair; or else to puffed up in security and presumption.

Is it not then matter of complaint that these two evangelical duties (as some divines have called them), which in the practice of Christians should never be separated, should be looked upon by many to oppose — rather than to promote each other in their operations. Some out of weakness cannot apprehend what consistency there can be between faith and repentance, whose effects seem to be contrary: the one working peace and joy, the other trouble and sorrow; the one, confidence, the other fear; the one shame, the other boldness. 

Now such as these, when touched with a sense of their sin, judge it their duty rather to mourn than to believe; and to feel the bitterness of sin, than to taste the sweetness of the promise, and put away comfort from them, lest it should check and abate the overflowings of their sorrow. 

Others again, whether our of heedlessness or willfulness, I will not determine what they behold the fulness of grace, in the blotting out of sin, the freeness of grace in the healing of backsliding, they see so little necessity of repentance as they think it below (as they speak) a gospel spirit to be troubled for that which Christ has satisfied for). It is not repentance that they should now exercise, but rather; sorrow  seems interpretively to be a jealousy of the truth of God’s promise in forgiving and of the sufficiency of Christ’s discharge, who was the surety, who has  not left one single mite of debt for believers to pay. Sorrow therefore seems to them unseasonable, as it would be for a prisoner to mourn, when the prison door is opened and himself set free from debt and bondage.

Thus this pair of graces and duties, concerning which I may say, as God did of Adam, it is not good that either of them should be alone [Gen. 2:18, said of Adam needing a wife]; are yet divided often times in practice, though indissolubly linked together in the precept. Fain would I therefore evidence to the weak the concord that these two graces, in respect of comfort, and to willful necessity of them both, in order unto pardon.

Unto the weak therefore I say, that the agreement between faith and repentance does no lie in the immediate impressions which they make upon the soul, which are in some respects opposite to each other; but in the principle from which they arise, which is the same, the grace of Christ; and in the end, which is the same salvation of man, in habitude and subordination that they have one to another: for repentance’s never more kindly than when it disposes us to exercise and actings of faith: whose joy, peace and serenity of heart are as gold which is best laid upon sad and dark colors; or as the polished diamond that receives an addition of luster from the watering of it. God’s promise is that the believing Jes who look upon Christ by an eye of faith shall be also great mourners, They shall mourn for him as one mourenth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him as one that is in the bitterness for his first-born.  [Zech. 12:10]

Unto the careless or willful I also say, that God never forgives sin but where also he gives a penitent and relenting heart; so that though faith has a peculiar nature in receiving of pardon, applying it by way of instrument which no other grace does; yet repentance is the express formal qualification that fits for pardon, not by way of causality or merit, but by way of means as well as command, which arises from a con decency both to God himself, who is a holy God; and to the nature of mercy, which is the taking and removing of sin away. 

Never dream then of such free grace or gospel-mercy as does supersede a broken and contrite heart, or take off the necessity of sorrowing for sin. For Christ did never undertake to satisfy God’s wrath in an absolute and illimited [unlimited] manner, but in a well ordered and meet [fitting] way, viz., [that is] the way of faith and repentance. How else should we ever come to taste the bitterness of sin or the sweetness of grace? How to prize and esteem the physician if not sensible of our disease? How to adore the love of Christ, who redeemed us from the curse of the law, by being made a curse for us, if not burdened with the weight of our iniquities? 

Yea, how should we ever give God the glory of his justice in acknowledging ourselves worthy of death, if we do not in a way of repentance judge ourselves, as the apostle bids us? [1 Cor. 11:31] Was not this that David did in that solemn confusion of his in which he cries out, Against thee, thee only have I sinned, had done this evil in thy sight; that thou might be justified when thou speakest and clear when thou judgest. [Ps. 51:4]

Can I therefore wish a better wish to such who are insensible to their sins, that Bernard did, to him whom he thought no heedful enough about the judgments of God, who writing to him, instead of the common salutation, much health, wrote, much fear: that so, their confidence may have an ally of trembling?

Sure I am that it is a mercy that I had need to pray for on my own behalf, and I do, 

Lord, make it my request

That my faith for the pardon of sin

May be accompanied with my sorrow for sin; 

And that I may have a weeping eye, as well as a believing heart,

That I may mourn for the evil that I have done against my Savior

As well as rejoice in the fulness of the mercy the he has showed to me

In a Glorious salvation.

The Spiritual Chymist, Meditation LIX

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Upon Going to Bed

How like is the frail life of Man to a day, as well for the inequality of its length, as the mixture that it has both of clouds and sunshine? What a kind of exact parallel are sleep and death: the one being a state of ligation of the senses; and the other, the privation of them? And how near a kin is the grave to the end, when the Scripture calls it by the same name?

When the clothes that do cover us do the like office the mould [of the grave], that must be cast spread over us. When therefore the day and the labors which Man goes forth unto are ended and the darkness of night dispose unto rest; what though can any better take into his bosom to lie down with? 

Then to think that death, like the beasts of the forest may creep forth to seek its prey, and that when it comes there is no resistance to be made or delay to be obtained. It spares no rank of men, but flies to the rich as well as the poor, the prince as well as the peasant. The glass that has the king’s face painted on it is not the less brittle; neither are kings, that God’s image represented in them, less moral. And whether it comes in at the window or at the door, whether in some common or in some unwonted manner, who can tell?

Many oft times fall asleep in this world and awake in the other, and have no sums at all to acquaint them whither they are going. And yet though every man’s condition be thus uncertain, and that his breath in his nostrils, where there is as much room for it go out as to come in; how few do make their night’s repose to serve as memorial for their last rest? Or their bed to stand for a model of their coffin? 

Some pervert the night, which was ordained to be a cessation of the evils of labor, to make it a season for their activity in the evils of sin. They devise (as the prophet says) inquiry upon their beds, when the morning is light they practice it, because it is in they power of their hand. [Micah 2:1] 

Others are easily brought asleep, by the riot and intemperance of the day, owning their unhappy rest not to the dew of nature but unto the gross and foul vapors of sin, which more darken and eclipse their reason than their sleep. Their dreams having more of it in them than their discourse. 

Others again by their youth and health seem to be seated in such an elevation above death; as that they cannot look down from their bed into the grave without growing dizzy, such a steep precipice they apprehend between life and death. Though this distemper does not arise from the distance between the two terms, but from the imbecility of their sense, which cannot bear the least thoughts of a separation form those delights and pleasures to which their souls are firmly wedded. 

When therefore most of men are such unthrifts [wasters] of time, and like carless navigators keep no journal or diary of their motions, and other occurrences that fall out. What need have others to make the prayer of Moses the man of God, their prayer?  So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. [Ps. 90:12] He who was learned in all the sciences of the Egyptians [Acts 7:22] desires to be taught this point of arithmetic of God: so to number, as not to mistake or make any error in the account of life, in setting down days for minutes and years for days. 

A man would think that a little arithmetic would serve to cast up so small a number as the days of him, whose days are as the days of a hireling, few and evil. [Job 7:1] And yet it is such a mystery that Moses begs of God to be instructed in it, as that which is the chief and only knowledge. Yea, God himself earnestly wishes this wishes this wisdom to Israel, his People, O that they were wise; that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! 

Can we then render the night more senseless? Or keep the bed unspooled from those impurities that are neither few nor small, then by practicing duly this divine art of numbering our days; which is not done by speculation, or prying into the time or manner of our death: but by meditating and thinking with ourselves what our days are, and for what end our life is given to us; by reckoning our day by our work, and not by our time; by what we do, and not by what we are: By remembering that we are in a continual progress to the chambers of death; no man’s life being so long at the evening as it was in the morning.

Night and day are as two axes at the root of our life, when one is lifted up, the other is down, without rest: every day a chip flies off, and every night a chip, and so at length we are hewn down and fall at the grave’s mouth. O what a wide difference is there between those that lie down with these considerations in their bosoms, and others, who pass their time in pleasures, and allow not the leasts portion fit to think what issues are that a day or night may bring forth? 

How free are their conversations from those sensualities and lusts, which others commit in the day, and lie down with the guilt of them in the night? How profitably do they improve their time who count only the present to be theirs, and the future to be God’s? above those, that fancy youth and strength to be a security of succeeding proportions of their life? 

Yea, how comfortable is the date of those who are in daily preparation for it, as well as in expectation of it; above what it is to others, who are surprised by it in the midst of those delights in which they promised themselves a continuance for many years?

In what a differing frame and figure does it appear to the one and to the other? The one behold it as a bridge lying under their feet to pass them over the Jordan of this life, into the Canaan of eternal blessedness; and the other as a torrent roaring and frighting them with its hasty downfall: Gladly, therefore would I counsel Christians, who enter the Church Militant by a mystical death, being buried with Christ by baptism; and cannot pass into the Triumphant but by a natural death, to duly bear daily in their minds, the cogitations of their inevitable end, as the best means to allay the fear of death, in what dress soever it comes, and to make it an inlet into happiness whensoever it comes. 

As Joseph of Arimathea [Matt. 27:57-60] made his sepulcher in his garden, that in the midst of his delights he might think of death; so let us in our chamber make such schemes and representations of death to ourselves as may make it familiar to us in the emblems of it, and then it will be less ghastly when we behold its true visage.

That shortly (as St. Peter says) we must put off this our Tabernacle. [2 Pet. 1:14] I, and think again, what a likeness there is between our night-clothes and our grave-clothes, between the bed and the tomb. What little distance there is between life and death, the one being as an eye open, and the other as an eye shut. In the twinkling of an eye we will be living and dead men. [1 Cor. 15:52]

O what ardors of lusts would such thoughts chill and damp? What sorrows for sins past? What diligence for time to come to watch against the first stirrings of sin would such thoughts beget? It being the property of sin to divert us rather from looking upon our end, then embolden us to defy it. 

Lord then make me to know my end

And the measure of my days, 

That I in my own generation serve the will of God

And then fall asleep as David did

And not as others

Who fall asleep before they have done their work,

And put off their bodies before they have put off their sins.

An Essay on Common Grace, Biblical Counseling and Psychology

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I have attached a rough draft copy of an essay on common grace, biblical counseling and psychology  here. If anyone is interested and willing, I would appreciate the comments, critiques, et cetera.  It is 11,457 words, with 42 footnotes, so it is not a breezy read. In its final version, it will be in the Journal of Biblical Soul Care

Again, this is far from finished: any and everything in it is subject to revision.  It (probably) has typos, incomplete citations, and gaps in the argument. But fortunately I have a couple of months before publication.

The Spiritual Chymist, Meditation LVIII, Upon Spiritual Warfare

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(From William Spurstowe’s The Spiritual Chymist, 1666)

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Who can either think or read what a slaughter was made by one angel in the numerous army of Sennacherib, who in a night destroyed a hundred fourscore and five thousand men [Is. 37:36] without reflecting upon a vast disparity that is between the strength and power which in angelical and human beings? 

Great things are recorded in sacred history to be done by some of Israel’s Judges and David’s worthies which would be looked upon as impossibilities, if the Spirit of God were not the voucher of the truth of them. Shammer slew six hundred Philistines with an ox goad; Sampson with the jaw bone of an ass laid heaps upon heaps; and Adino the Tachmonite lifted up his spear against eight hundred, who he flew at one time. 

But if these and the like remarkable acquists [acquisitions, events] which others also are famed for and have their names enrolled in the list of worthies were as several parcels brought to one total, how far short would the foot of the account [the total, the summation] be in regard of this number fell by the sword of one angel? 

Well might the Scripture give to them the name of mighty ones of principalities and powers such as excel in strength. How quickly would a legion of such elohims [Hebrew for gods, mighty one] turn the whole world into a charnel house [house of dead bodies] filled with the skulls and bones of its inhabitants when a single angel can in a small space of time change so many living person into dead carcasses? How soon could they cloy and surfeit the grave itself which is insatiable as any those four things that say, It is not enough? [Prov. 30:15-16]

Does not all this therefore greatly heighten the wonder of the spiritual warfare in which the frail Christian, who has not put off the infirmity of the flesh, does yet go forth to fight and war with the combined hosts and powers of darkness? If young David were looked upon as an unequal match by Saul and all Israel to commute with Goliath, the vastness of whose stature and warlike arms had struck terror into the whole camp; how strange must it needs be deemed that one who to the outward view is as any other man should conflict not with flesh and blood but with spiritual wickedness, which are for number many and for power great?

What is one weak lamb to resist the lions of the forrest? Or one harmless dove to encounter with birds of prey? As impotent as either of these, may the strongest man seem, to do ought to deliver themselves or to offend any of their spiritual enemies when they assault them. 

But yet the resolved Christian, who is called to a holy warfare by God, he does such noble exploits against sin and Satan, as cause both a shout and a wonder in heaven.  Angels are affected to behold what a great fight of afflictions he [the Christian] endures; what replaces he die to the reiterated assaults of enraged fiends; and when at any time worsted, who he rallies again, recovers his ground and comes off both with victory and triumph, putting to flight whole armies of those infernal Anakims. [Joshua 14:12]

It is worth our inquiry and knowledge of them to understand wherein this great strength of a Christian lies, which is not a natural but a mystical and sacramental strength, like Sampson. But it lies not in his hair [like Sampson, Judges 16:17], but in his head and in his armor, which for efficiency of it, as well as for excellency of it, is called the Armor of God. [Ephesians 6:13]

First, the head of every believer is Christ, who derives an influence of life and power of himself [that is, from Christ; Col. 2:10 & 19] worthy of himself. I can do all things (says Paul) through Christ that strengtheneth me. [Phil. 4:13] There is a continued efflux of virtue that goes from him which to every Christian communicates a kind of omnipotency; He, who without Christ can do nothing, can in him [Christ] can do everything. 

What a catalogue of forces does the apostle muster up in the eighth of Romans, from which he supposed an opposition may come: Life, death, angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come, height, depth. And that he may leave out none, he adds, any creature. And yet he pronounces them, that in all these, We are conquerors, yea more than conquerors. [Rom. 8:37-39]. Which, as Chrysostom interprets it, is to overcome them with ease, without pains, and without sweat. 

O that Christians did but understand their own strength, that they war in the power of his might [Eph. 6:10], who spoiled principalities and powers and made a show of them openly, leading them as so many pinioned captives after the chariot of his cross [Eph. 4:8; Col. 2:15], whereon he showed many signal testimonies of a glorious victory in saving a their without means [Luke 23:43]; in ending the veil of the temple from top to the bottom, in the shaking of the earth, cleaving the rocks asunder, opening graves and causing many bodies of saints to arise. [Matt. 27:51-53] How greatly would these thoughts keep us from being weary and faint in our spiritual war, and make our hands steady like the hands of Moses until going down of the sun of our life [Exodus 17:11]. 

Secondly, a Christian’s strength lies in his armor which when rightly put on is able to preserve that the evil one touch him not. [Eph. 6:13] There is no standing in the battle without it, and there is no fear of perishing in it. When did ever Satan bruise or wound the head of him that had the helmet of Salvation for his covering? Or endanger the vitals of  him who had put on the breast plate of righteousness, and his loins girt about with truth? What one fiery dart of the wicked did ever so burn that the shield of faith could not quench? Or what way of suffering could not he walk in, whose feel are shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace? [Eph. 6:13-17]

Methinks when I consider that God, who best knows the utmost both of Satan’s power and policies, is the maker of the armor It is a voice becoming every soldier of Christ to say, Of whom shall I be afraid? [Ps. 27:1] If he calls to fight, and furnishes us with arms that unable to defend us, or to offend our enemies, he would suffer in his glory as well as we in our comfort: He would then have his champions to be Satan’s captives, and the banner which they spread to his Name become Hell’s trophy. And can he, do you think endure at once to see the destruction of his people and the dishonor of his Name? 

Whosoever therefore you be, that are clad in his armor of proof [tested, pure], let me say unto you as the Lord to Gideon, Go in this thy might and fight the battles of Jehovah. [Judges 6:14] Take unto you the Sword of the Spirit, that will kill lusts and make the Devil flee: It has wrought wonder in all ages and its edge is still as sharp as ever it was. 

By the word of thy lips (says David) I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer. [Ps. 17:4] It is written, says our Savior, when he foiled his and our Adversary and him to flight after his repeated assaults. [Matt. 4:1-11] And in that great battle that we read was fought between Michael and his angels and the Dragon and his angels [Rev. 12:7-17], he and his hosts overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of their testimony. [Rev. 12:11]

Let every man then have his sword upon his thigh, because of fear in the night: put not off your armor till you have put on your robes. [Rev. 7:13]. It is made to be worn, not to be laid up, nor yet to be laid down, because our warfare and our life are both finished together. Till then there is not a truce, must less a peace for to be expected. Sooner may we contract a league [make a treaty, become allies] with poisons that when taken down they shall not kill; or with fiery serpents and cockatrices that they bite not, than to obtain respite in this war, in which the malice of the cursed devils is an unquenchable as the fire of Hell, to which they are doomed. 

Lord, therefore do thou

Who are the Prince of Life,

The Captain of Salvation to all thy people,

Who hath finished thine own warfare,

and behold theirs,

Enable me to prevail unto victory;

Shew forth thy wonders in me,

That I may overcome the Wicked One.

And though the conflict should be long and bitter,

Yet make me to know

That the sweetness of thy reward

Will abundantly recompense the trouble of resistance

And the joy of trip ump,

The bloodiness of war.

John Collins, “Earnestly Contend for the Faith” Part 2

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Collins lays down  series of rules for his congregation, that they may not swerve or fail in the faith. The first rule is discussed here.

The second rule give my Collins is

Be very well rooted and established in the right that has been delivered to you.

When the roots do not go down deep, one can easily be swayed. “There are many Christians that, through their own itching ears and the heaping up of teachers to themselves, have never been root or established in the truth.”

One without depth, cannot distinguish. Without a true “sight” of Christ, one will follow after existing affections and ideas. Christianity entails an entire renewing of the mind (Rom. 12:1-2). Collins expresses it thus, “You must not only hear the things of God, but see them; the first will but blind you, or best leave you in great uncertainty; the last will settle you.”  There must be  renovation of one’s heart.

This will require effort — and an effort which begins by beseeching the Lord to be the teacher, “In order to have a heart established through grace, get the Lord himself by prayer to teach you every truth. What Jesus Christ teaches once is everlastingly taught; no word is abiding, but what the Lord Jesus himself teaches.”

Here we see the great duty and burden of the church. The duty of the gathered people is to create disciples: those who are rooted and grounded in the truth. The truth must shape thought, affections and action. It is the duty of leaders to lead others in the way of truth (Heb. 13:7) and then to give an account for such leadership (Heb. 13:17). The new Christian will easily wonder if left utterly alone. The church is given to bring about this depth of life.

Yes, every individual Christian has the duty to learn the things of God, to study, prayer, mediate, serve, et cetera. But God did not give his Word to be lived in isolation but in communion. This depth takes place among the gathered people of God.