Sermon (Dr Williams Library - 1023 N.8. 1652. Ralph Josselin)

28.6.1651 (Saturday 28 June 1651)

document 71000025

[A2. recto] To the Worshipfull William Harlakenden of Earls Coln Esquire, Justice of the Peace in the County of Essex.


God giveth counsel that Friends should shew pity to their afflicted Friends, especially when the hand of the Almighty toucheth them: this act of God shooting his Arrows in to your bed and bosome, and wounding to death your dearest outward enjoyment, was not a touch but Stroke, that pierceth deep into the hearts of your Friends, and [A2. verso] must therefore needs Strike thorow the bowels of your self, Seeing the Stroke was on her who was so much your self; Affection to you lest any denial of mine, or reluctancy of my spirit against yours might adde to your sorrow, bowed my heart unto this compliance with your desires, that these troubled, Sorrowful Meditations, and yet also comfortable, drawn out in this Funeral-dress, should passe from my private Closet, into the open viewing world; and seeing they must take their leave of me, I send them to you, accompanied with Prayer, that they might be a Handkerchief of Gods sending to wipe away those remaining tears that still are dropping from your eyes, and not so onely, but as a Token, a comforting Token to take Sorrow from your heart, and leave the comforts of the Text therein to Solace, refresh and Warm the Same: But if your thoughts should be hereby to keep her in your eye, and preserve her Memory, you will but injure yourself, for God would have us forget [A3 recto] the dead, and her much more; here is no Statua to the life, this is no Pillar reared for her Memory, this is but a shadow of her beauties, and Scarce so like herself, as the dead dust to her living perfections; her Mansion is not now in Tabernacles of flesh, she is with the living God: She is present with Jesus, gathered to Jesus, ripened in faith by many Afflictions, Spiritual combats, and experienced inward consolations, and now like a rick of corn brought in, in her due season, there she sleepeth, which was a word much in her dying lips, often saying, I shall sleep with Jesus. Sir, When I weigh your losse in the balance of my own reason, and view your Christian department under it, I bless and bowe my knees in thankfulness to the Father of Spirits, and the God of all consolations, who hath made you so lively an example of the Truth preached, and made you a real evidence, that there is bottom enough in this truth of God to chear the afflicted creatures heart; neither doth your present temper of spirit [A3 verso] in its quietness and peace, flow from any other root, I had almost said it cannot, for all that know your lose, know God took from you a good wife, in finding whom you found favour from God, one that was an Help, and a meet Help, answering the primitive end of a womans creation; and all that knew you together, know that she was to you, not the desire of your eyes only, but also, on whom the fulness of natural affection and delight reposed itself; and what is or can no be left to remove your heart. and cause quietness to bud forth, but the strength of his Grace and Truth, who doth, and will enable his to whatsoever he calleth them unto? And however many others may please themselves with these Notions; and flatter themselves in their own state, and their dead; yet as her life and death was an evidence she was a real Saint, so do I hope he that hath begun his own good work in you, will both continue and perfect the same, that you may have your share in these comforts, and this truth be a reality unto you.

[A4 recto] Sir, I said before, Gods providence leadeth us to forget the dead, and time doth of it self concoct those sorrows, and digest those bitternesses of Spirit that are like death it self, but this forgetfulness is not of the graces and vertues of the dead, for in that respect the Saints live when they are dead, and their memorial is precious; but it is of their persons which in time passe from us, and we Scarce retain their image in our minde; and indeed how should we, when we forget our own face even before the Glasse is set aside? And as it is of their Persons, so there is a forgetfulnesse of them in their Relations unto us; You must forget her as a Wife, She was such, but now she is not, nor ever must be a Wife again, Death hath eternally dissolved that Knot, the Resurrection will bring you together as Saints, but not as Man and Wife, you must not, you shall not know her any more after the flesh, and thus you should forget her, and with these words poured out into your bosom she began to leave you, saying, We must know [A4 verso] one another henceforth after the flesh no more. But though there be ease in forgetfulnesse, and most content themselves in weaving the grievous Remembrance of their dead Friends out of their mindes, yet Gods servants must not look hither, and no further, but to get comfort into their hearts, and the aim and intendment of the holy Ghost in my Text is to enable the Saints to a comfortable mediating upon even their departed Friends, as absent and gone up from their dwellings of flesh; and that by well weighing their State and condition what it is, so that they may, and can look upon their losse in, and want of them that they are not in the Land of the living: you can consider, here I was want to see my dear Wife; here to enjoy her delightsome imbraces; her counsel, Spiritual Discourses, furtherance, encouragement in the wayes of God, I was want to finde her an help to ease me of the burthen and trouble of household affairs, whose countenance welcomed me home with joy, [A5 recto] and delight in whom eased me from many sorrows that the worlds troubles raised up to disturb, disquiet my spirits; a Saint may stand and view, and cast over all the sweet comfort he enjoyed in Wife or other living Friend now departed, yea and ponder, and thorowly consider all his own most private thoughts that make such an ones death bitter to them, and yet get above them all, overcome all, and consider on them departed from them with joy, with delight in reference to them (and thus may you do) when they eye the happiness and tranquility, and blessedness of their estate who are thus called into remembrance; she that is dead and bemoaned is blessed, its not long until you shall come to share therein, its not overlong to the Resurrection, it is near, that will bring you together again, and then no more parting, but you shall be ever with the Lord; and hereby I observe a wonderfull difference betwixt the method of comforting which the [A5 verso] world useth, and that which God directeth in my Text, and as marvellous a difference in their efficacies, many have written Discourses to consolate their sadded Friends groaning and tired out with sorrows under their losses, wherein they shew much promptnesse and sharpness of wit, which sometimes perhaps is mostly their aim; but let a man take up their cordial Papers, and arm himself with all the rational and philosophical Arguments that are therein, to quiet his heart, and sometimes he may think himself so shod therewith, that he can trample and tread down the piercing thorns of his afflictions, yet, yet the ghost of a dead beloved wife or childe maketh all these vanish, sheweth their vanity and weaknesse, but Gods comforts drawn from the state of the dead, their present and future happiness, these make the dead our comforts, so that when others go to the Tombs and Graves to mourn, Christians go to the graves to rejoyce, this is such a way, as [A6 recto] maketh the ordinary cause of sorrow to be the instrument of the highest, sweetest comfort, here death is better than life, thus the worlds comforts are weak and thin, that our sorrows easily pierce and charge through and rout, but Gods comforts turn water into wine, and make sorrow it self lose its nature, and turn into joy, God brings in the dead to comfort the living, this is his method, comfort one another with these words, Thus the eater yields meat, and the strong sweetness, the remedy is where the desease is, if their death sting you, the consideration of their state in death is Honey that cureth and asswageth your grief, our way to comfort is by running to other imploiments, diverting thoughts, bringing in other in their rooms, looking off from them, but come look on the dead as wistly as may be, look on them more and more, consider them as much as may be, so you consider them as you should, what they now are, where they now are, and you will finde your tears [A6 verso] not brinith, but pleasant, this Sir, I have found and do finde and experienced truth, and not a notion, I have thoughts of my sweetest Daughter now with comfort, who have had thoughts of her like the bitterness of death. But yet, Dear Sir, this is not all your work, but one great piece to see why God contendeth with you, The Lord doth not willingly afflict the sons of men, he doth not envy us our Wives like Vines, and our Children like Plants and Branches compassing our Beds and Tables, nothing is too good for his own account, if his people could eat gold he hath good-will enough to feed of them with it, now when this God striketh, he taketh notice how we eye him that holdeth the Rod, and whether we enquire how he was prevoked to do thus, that seeking his ['force' or ?'face'] he may discover it unto us, sometime we shall not need Search farre, some evil or other presents it self at first view, that God [A7 recto] would have us to repent of, and utterly abandon Afflictions of this nature with yours now, God many times useth to wean his from the Creature, and discover its emptiness and nothingness, he hereby sometimes arouseth his to more watchfulnesse, holinesse, to more close, upright walking with him; Sometime God doth not point at what he intendeth, but its more dark, and then we must seek his face, and intreat that he would show us, why he contendeth with us, that he would not correct, but instruct, and when God hints unto you why, its your duty to arise early, by a Speedy Obedience to answer his motions; None are without sinne: though God doth not always fasten his eyes on sinne, as the bottom ground of his afflicting, yet he that thereby is stirred up to a more sincere, spiritual converse with God, is no looser by such endeavour; and tis our wisdom when God breaketh our fellowship with creatures, and removeth aside these perishing friends [A7 verso] the more lively to endeavour fellowship with our Creator, with our Redeemer, with out Comforter, with our loving gracious Father; and make sure of, and the more account of these friends that shall never be removed from us, and in this enquiry and Search, I humbly intreat you, let not your spiritual eye be removed from Gods love and tenderness; God doth not alwayes knit his brows when he striketh, his face is not always full of frowns or wrinkles as we suppose, he chastiseth us with the same heart-love, and under the exercise of it towards us, as when he dealeth out his mercies; Whom I love, saith God, I rebuke and chasten; Affliction is one way of evidencing love, and it is the note of a Bastard, that he endureth not correction; The same love that gave you your Wife and Children might take them all away, and took them not so much from you, as unto himself whose they were; yea that love which giveth you Christ [A8 recto] in all his glorious actings for your Salvation, may give you these rebukes, and I am sometime high in the perswasion that God will turn your Capacity, and blesse your latter end more then your beginnings: you are in some respects as Naomi, left of your dear Wife and two sons, God hath emptied your bed, your bosom and your arms; your house is empty of Wife and Sonnes, tis clean Swept, he emptied Job, and make all good again; and the Scriptures would have us, as to hear the Patience of Job, so to mark the end of God; it was not Jobs end onely, but Gods end, the end that a God full of Mercy maketh for his Saints; God onely knoweth his thoughts own towards you, or us, and it is our duty to wait untill he maketh them manifest, and in the mean time serve him in all commanded wayes of his, if he should let you stand like a forsaken Ensign, yet say not You are a dry root; God hath given you a better Name then that of Sons and Daughters, he [A8 verso] hath given you that he loved best, his sonne, his onely Sonne! Saying nothing though he hath taken from you that you loved, and wherein you delighted. Sir, I have been over-longe, though such is your respect you will not account me tedious, I must contract my self: your pardon I do not beg, as most Dedications do; for if these lines ever passe publick from you, its your act not mine; and if the reading and perusal of them by any of the Redeemed of the Lord, shall afford or administer any matter of comfort to their damped, grieved spirits, I shall willingly not be minded, so that the Giver of every Good Gift may have his praise; And I would desire that what is written and spoken here was accommodated as much as may be for the house of Mourning, and if our language or plainnesse relish not his palate, let him know our Countrey Mournings call for it, and not for curiosities: I only am glad that this opportunity is now given me, and I may not [A9 recto] let it passe without my acknowledgment of my many obligations to you and yours, of whom we speak (while in the land of the living) your attendance upon, and encouragement of an unworthy labourer in the Lord's vineyard, and such Friends, I hope, I shall mostly value as most rare in these dayes, though your loves did not only abound but Superabound to me and mine, and that with constancy a few such Friends render an habitation pleasant, and maketh me say, My lot is fallen in a goodly place, it pleaseth me well.

Sir, God hath taken from you, what you had from him of Wife and children, wait on him, wait what he doth of himself return to you again, act those Graces given, and do not only eye by Faith what is in God, but draw forth and receive from him, what in Promises he tendereth unto you, which that you might do (as you do) more and more, and do worthily in Ephrata, and be famous in Bethlehem, that in your [A9 verso] generation you might serve the Lord, and serve out your generation in being his servant in Church and State; that to many, as to us especially, you might live desired and die lamented, is, and shall be the prayer of him who is Sir Your most obliged Servant and Paster R. Josselin. (Then follows the Sermon of pp. 1-43)