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To all afflicted and distressed, Christians through

out the world.

Dear Brethren,

.

HE choicest saints are born to troubles,

as the sparks fly upwards, Psal. xxxiv. 19. Job v. 1. Psal. lxxxviii. 3, 4. Many are the troubles of the righteous. If they were many, and not troubles, then, as it is in the

proverb, the more the happier; or if they were troubles, and not many, then the fewer the better. But God, who is infinite in wisdom, and matchless in goodness, hath ordered troubles, yea, many troubles to come crowding in upon us on every side. As our mercies, so our crosses seldom come single; they usually come treading one upon the heels of another; they are like April showers, no sooner is one over, but another comes. And yet, Christians, it is mercy, it is rich mercy, that every affliction is not an execution, that every correction is not a damnation. The higher the waters rose, the nearer Noah's ark was lifted up to heaven; the more thy afflictions are increased, the more thy heart shall be raised heaven-wards.

Because I would not hold you too long in the porch, I shall only endeavour two things: 1. To give you the reasons of my appearing

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once more in print; and, 2. A little counsel, and direction that the following tract may turn to your souls' advantage, which is the object that I have in my eye. The true reasons of my sending this piece into the world (such as it is) are these.

1. The afflicting hand of God hath been hard upon myself, and upon my dearest relations in this world, and upon many of my precious Christian friends, whom I much love and honour in the Lord; which put me upon studying of the mind of God in that scripture, which I have made the subject-matter of the following discourse. Luther could not understand some psalms, till he was afflicted; the Christ-cross is no letter in the book, and yet, says he, it hath taught me more than all the letters in the book. Afflictions are a golden key, by which the Lord opens the rich treasures of his word to his people's souls ; and this in some measure through grace my soul hath experienced. When Samson had found honey, he gave some to his father and mother to eat, Judg. xiv. 9, 10. Some honey I have found in my following text, and therefore I may not, I cannot be such a churl, as not to give them some of my honey to taste, who have drank deep of my gall and wormwood *. Austin observes on that, Psal. Ixvi. 16. Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul. He

* Some have accounted nothing their own that they have not communicated to others.

doth not call them (saith he) to acquaint them, with speculations, how wide the earth is, how far the heavens are stretched out, what the number of the stars is, or what is the course of the sun, but come, and I will tell

you the wonders of his grace, the faith fulness of his promises, the riches of his mercy to my soul. Gracious experiences are to be communicated. We learn, that we may teach, is a proverb among the Rabbins : and I do therefore, lay in, and lay up, saith the Heathen, that I may draw forth again, and and lay out for the good of many. When God hath dealt bountifully with us, others should reap some noble good by us; the family, the town, the city, the country, where a man lives, should fare the better for his faring well. Our mercies and experiences should be as a running spring at our doors, which is not only for our own use, but also for our neighbours, yea and for strangers too.

2. What is written is permanent, and spreads itself further by far, for time, place, and

persons, than the voice can reach. The pen is an artificial tongue; it speaks as well to absent, as to present friends, it speaks to them that are afar off, as well as those that are near; it speaks to many thousands at once; it speaks not only to the present age, but also to succeeding ages, Heb. xi. 4. The pen is a kind of image of eternity, it will make a man live when he is dead. Though the prophets do not live for ever, Zech. i. 5. yet their labours may. A man's writings may preach, when he cannot, when he may not, and when, by reason of bodily distempers, he dares not; yea, and that which is more, when he is not.

3. Few men, if any, have iron memories. How soon is a sermon preached forgotten, when a sermon written remains ? Augustine writing to Volusian, saith, “ That which is « written, is always at hand to be read, when 6 the reader is at leisure." Men do not easily forget their own names, nor their father's house, nor the wives of their bosoms, nor the fruit of their loins, nor to eat their daily bread; and yet, ah! how easily do they forget that word of grace, that should be dearer to them than all! Most men's memories, especially in the great concernments of their souls, are like a sieve or boulter, where the good corn and fine flour goes through, but the light chaff and coarse bran remains behind; or like a strainer, where the sweet liquor is strained out, but the dregs are left behind; or like a grate, that lets the pure water run away, but if there be any straws, sticks, mud, or filth, that it holds, as it were, with iron hands. Most men's memories are very treacherous, especially in good things. Few men's memories are a holy ark, a heavenly store-house, or magazine for their souls; and therefore they stand in the more need of a written word. But,

4. Its marvellous suitableness and usefulness under those great turns and changes that have passed upon us. As every wise hus, bandman observes the fittest seasons to sow his seed; some he sows in the autumn and fall of the leaf, some in the spring of the year, Isa. xxviii. 25. some in a dry season, and some in a wet, some in a moist clay, and some in a sandy dry ground: so every spiritual husbandman must observe the fittest times to sow his spiritual seed in. He hath heavenly seed by him for all occasions and seasons, for spring and fall, for all grounds, heads and hearts. Now, whether the seed sown in the following treatise, be not suitable to the times and seasons wherein we are cast, is left to the judgment of the prudent reader to determine. If the author had thought otherwise, this babe had been stifled in the womb.

5. The good acceptance that my other weak labours have found. God hath blessed them, not only to the conviction, the edification, confirmation, and consolation of many, Rom. xv. 21. but also to the conversion of many, Phil. i. 9, 10, 11. God is a free agent to work by what hand he pleases, and sometimes he takes pleasure to do great things by weak things, 1 Cor. i. 17-29. That no flesh may glory in his presence. God will not despise the day of small things; and who or what art thou that darest despise that day? The Spirit breathes upon whose preaching and writing he pleases, John iii. 8. and all prospers according as that wind blows.

6. That all afflicted and distressed christians may have a proper salve for every sore, a pro

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