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TO MY DEAR AND WORTHILY RESPECTED FRIEND,
MR. G. H.
I THANK you for your comfortable Letter, which came to me as a seasonable cordial after a strong potion.
It is true, I have been no niggard of my good counsel to others, in this kind ; yet now could not but have need enough of it myself. So 1 have known experienced physicians, in their sickness, to call for their neighbour doctor's advice; and to make use of his prescript, rather than their own. Although, also, I have not been altogether negligent, in the speedy endeavour of my own cure; as you will see by this enclosed Meditation.
Indeed, it pleased my God lately, as you well know, to exercise me with a double affliction, at once ; pain of body, and grief of mind for the sickness and death of my dear consort. I struggled with them both, as I might; and, by God's mercy, attained to a meek and humble submission to that just and gracious hand, and a quiet composedness of thoughts : but yet, methought, I found myself wanting, in that comfortable disposition of heart and lively elevation of spirit, which some holy souls have professed to feel in their wwest depression ; fetching that inward consolation from heaven, which can more than counterpoise their heaviest crosses.
Upon this occasion, you see here how I held fit to busy.my thoughts; labouring by their holy agitation, to work myself, through the blessing of the Almighty, to such a cheerful temper, as might give an obedient welcome to so smarting an affliction ; and, that even while I weep, I might yet smile upon the face of my Heavenly Father, whose stripes I do so tenderly suffer.
If, in some other discourses, I have endeavoured to instruct other's ; in this, I mean to teach myself; and to win my heart to a willing and contented acquiescence in the good pleasure of my God, how harsh soever it seems to rebellious nature. Take this, then, as a thankful return of your consolatory discourse to me ; and help him still with your fervent prayers, who is
Your faithfully devoted friend and fellow labourer,
J. H. B. N.
REVEREND SIR :
WHAT a rich gainer have you made me, in improving those poor sparks, which my dulness could strike out, into a flame! I will now wonder no more, to see the bee extract honey out of the meanest flower.
This treasure of comfortable thoughts you have been pleased to return, how can I value sufficiently ? Songs in the Night, indeed! in which you shew the strong composedness of your soul, victorious, and holily insulting over whatsoever afflictions you have been assaulted with. With David's harp and such songs, what mutinous coil spirit may not be charmed and allayed ? what dull spirit not elevated ?
That nearest loss, which gave you the occasion of thus settling your thoughts, I now cease to condole ; being more ready to gratulate to you the happy advantage you have made of it.
Let me also, in the world's behalf, acknowledge, with gratitude, the benefit it hath received from you in those your later tracts, which it owes to your secession. whatsoever others do, you, I am sure, have brought forth more fruit in your age; and that, such as gives evidence of the ever-living vigour of your mind. Men do find, still, the same nerves and sinews, the same vivacity and fluency,
Here, give me leare, I beseech you, for I cannot forbear to take the liberty of quarrelling with you, as I have just cause, for that over hasty farewell you have taken of the world and the press. How, Sir, can you think yourself discharged as Emeritus, notwithstanding all the great services you have done
to God's Church, when they take notice of your still-continuing strength? This age of ours, which as yourself have complained hath more brain than heart, and of which Lipsius may seem to have given the truest censure, nulla unquam ætas fertilior religionis, sterilior pietatis, wunts more quickenings of devotion ; and yours especially, which flow so experimentally from you: not as some others, of whorn it hath been said, eorum oratio in ore nascitur, non in pectore.
Among other of your tracts, give me leave to say your “ Select Thoughts” do especially make good their tille. In those, you have grasped and taken in the most vitul notions; and, if the Christian find not his soul filled with marrow and fatness, it is because he hath not made those thoughts his own : und, though I ucknowledge them very complete, and needing no addition, yet another edition of them with your“ Breathings of the Devout Soul," being greedily desired, suffer me thus far to offer violence to your fixed purpose of appearing no more in the press, as to presume upon your not angry reluctance to a publishing of this your comfortable Meditation, by which you may lift up many droopa
ing spirits, that are ready to sink under their pressures in these evil times. Let this at least persuade you, it is in some danger to be rarished from me ; and may perhaps steal abroad in a worse dress, or not in such company, as now it may have with its fellows.
Sir, you may thus far acquit me: I am not envious in this motion, while I adventure this for the public good, to have that made beneficial to others, which I might closely have engrossed to myself, If you chide me not downright for thus anticipating your leure to
e you better than your word, I shall have the confidence to take it, ex post facto, for granted.
I now commit you to those your happy enjoyments of God and yourself, and rest, Sir,
l'our very much and deserve.lly devoted,
SONGS IN THE NIGHT.
SECT. I. When thou saidst, O Saviour, The night cometh when no man can work; John ix. 4. thou didst not mean to exclude the work of thy praise. There is no time, wherein that can be unseasonable: yea, rather, as all our artificial melody is wont to sound sweetest in the dark ; so those Songs are most pleasing to thee, which we sing in the saddest Night of our affliction.
O God, it is easy for those, whose bones thou hast filled with marrowe, (Job xxi. 24.) to be cheerful; but, to make the bones, which thou hast broken, to rejoice, (Ps. li. 8.) it is doubtless the praise of thy mercy. It was the charge of thy blessed Apostle, that, if any man be aflicted, he should pray; if merry, he should sing psalms ; James v. 13 : and this, doubtless, is the ordinary temper of a Christian soul; but, if a man can be so affected, as to pray fervently in the height of his mirth, and to sing cheerfully in the depth of his affliction, he can be no other than eminent in grace, and strongly wrought upon by the God of all Comfort.
It is a true word of Elihu, thou only, O God, our Maker, art he, that givest Songs in the Night; Job xxxv. 10. The night is a dismal season, attended with solitude and horror; and an aggravation of those pains and cares, whereof the day is, in any sort, guilty. The light, besides a natural cheeriness, may afford some diversions of sorrow; and present us with such objects and occurrences, as may somewhat allay the sensibleness of our grief: but the night takes part with our misery, and adds no little to our discomfort. Songs, therefore, in the Night are not, cannot be of nature's making; but are the sole gift of the Heavenly Comforter.
And if we, out of the strength of our moral powers, shall be setting Songs to ourselves in the Night of our utmost disconsolation, woe is me, how miserably out of tune they are! how harsh, how mis-accented, how discordous even to the sense of our own souls; much more in the ears of thee the Almighty, in whom dwells no thing beneath an infinite perfection!
But the Songs, that thou, O God, puttest into the mouths of thy servants, in the Night of their tribulation, are so exquisitely harmonious, as that thine angels rejoice to hear them, and disdain not to match them with their Hallelujahs in heaven.
Could there be a more gloomy Night, than that, which thy servants Paul and Silas spent in the gaol of Thyatira? Acts xvi. Pri