Upon the Torrid Zone
When I think or read what strange descriptions the ancients have made of the Middle or Burning Zone, which in regard of its excessive ardors, they judged altogether inhabitable. And how much experience has evinced their ignorance in asserting the healthful temperate and pleasant dwellings that are to be found there.
I cannot but parallel them with the miss-reports [false reports] that carnal man through blindness of mind or depravity of heart have taken up and spread abroad concerning the ways of religion [Christianity] and holiness, rendering them to the world less tolerable then the scorching of the most torrid zone, and more dreadful than a howling desert: such which require austerity and admit no latitude; such which by continual conflicts make watery cheeks and bleeding hearts and what not which may serve as a flaming sword to deter any from entering upon the confines of a holy life.
But, is it not a matter of wonder, that experience — which puts an end to all contradictions that rise up against it, and stops the mouths of gainsayers, should not silence those unjust calumnies that have long cast upon religion by such men who speak evil of those things which they know not? Can there be anything more unreasonably charged upon [Christianity] than that which is contrary to the experience of believers?
Honey may as well cease to be sweet, because the sick man says it is bitter, as the paths of holiness to be pleasant, because carnal men [non-Christians] affirm them to be irksome and difficult; and the sun may be as well accused of darkness, because dim and purblind eyes can see little or nothing of the light.
Let them be asked who have sequestered themselves from the vanities of the world that they might enjoy God and themselves better, whether they have lacked that satisfaction which they expected? Or have missed what they have left? Of have cause to complain of what they endure?
And they will tell such questioners that they have not left their delights; but exchanged them: That religion is joyful, though not dissolute; that it has songs, though not frolics; that a good conscience can feast it always, though not lawless; that they can do what is decent, expedient, or lawful, though not what is sinful.
How vain then are the cavils with which worldliness, like malicious Elymasses [Acts 13:6-8] pervert the straight ways of God. And, how causeless are the scorns which they pour forth upon those that walk in them? Will they not at length, like the drivel of those that spit against the wind, return upon their own faces? Or like arrows shot up against the sun, fall upon those that undertake such vain attempts?
though many will not believe what others have seen and testify,
yet let me not ever disavow what thou hast been please to let me see and know:
But let me always confidently say with David,
I have seen an end of all perfection,
but thy commandments are exceedingly broad.