And now I am speaking my experience, I will in this place thrustin a word or two concerning my preaching the Word, and of God’sdealing with me in that particular also. For after I had been about
fiveor six years awakened, and
helped myself to see both the want andworth
of Jesus Christ our Lord, and also enabled to venture my soulupon him, some of the most able among the saints with us, I say themost able for judgment and holiness of life, as they conceived, didperceive that God had counted me worthy to understand something ofhis will in his holy and blessed Word, and had given me utterance, insome measure, to express what I saw to others for edification;therefore they desired me, and that with much earnestness, that Iwould be willing, at sometimes, to take in hand, in one of the
meetings,to speak a word of
exhortation unto them.
The which, though at the first it did much dash and abash myspirit, yet being still by them desired and intreated, I consented to
theirrequest, and did twice at
two several assemblies, but in private, thoughwith much weakness and infirmity, discover my gift amongst them; atwhich they not only seemed to be, but did solemnly protest, as in thesight of the great God, they were both affected and comforted, and gavethanks to the Father of mercies for the grace bestowed on me.
After this, sometimes when some of them did go into the countryto teach, they would also that I should go with them; where, though asyet I did not, nor durst not, make use of my gift in an open way, yetmore privately still as I came amongst the good people in those places,I did sometimes speak a word of admonition unto them also; the which,they as the other received, with rejoicing, at the mercy of God to me-ward, professing their souls were edified thereby.
Wherefore, to be brief, at last, being still desired by the church,after some solemn prayer to the Lord, with fasting, I was moreparticularly called forth, and appointed to a more ordinary and publicpreaching the word, not only to, and amongst them that believed, butalso to offer the gospel to those who had not yet received the faiththereof; about which time I did evidently find in my mind a secretpricking forward thereto; though I bless God, not for desire of vainglory, for at that time I was most sorely afflicted with the fiery
darts ofthe devil concerning my
But yet could not be content, unless I was found in the exercise ofmy gift, unto which also I was greatly animated, not only by thecontinual desires of the godly, but also by that saying of Paul to theCorinthians, “I beseech you, brethren (ye know the household ofStephanus, that it is the first fruits of
Achaia, and that they haveaddicted themselves to the ministry of the saints) that ye submityourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, andlaboureth” (1 Cor 16:15,16).
By this text I was made to see that the Holy Ghost never intendedthat men who have gifts and abilities should bury them in the earth,
butrather did command and stir up
such to the exercise of their gift, andalso
did commend those that were apt and ready so to do, “They haveaddicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” This scripture,
inthese days, did continually run
in my mind, to encourage me andstrengthen
me in this my work for God; I have also been encouragedfrom several other scriptures and examples of the godly, both specifiedin the Word and other ancient histories (Acts 8:4, 18:24,25; 1 Peter4:10; Rom 12:6; Foxe’s Acts and Monuments).
Wherefore, though of myself, of all the saints the most unworthy,yet I, but with great fear and trembling at the sight of my ownweakness, did set upon the work, and did according to my gift, and theproportion of my faith, preach that blessed gospel that God had showedme in the holy Word of truth; which, when the country understood,they came in to hear the Word by hundreds, and that from all parts,though upon sundry and divers accounts.
And I thank God he gave unto me some measure of bowels andpity for their souls, which also did put me forward to labour with
greatdiligence and earnestness,
to find out such a word as might, if Godwould
bless it, lay hold of, and awaken the conscience, in which alsothe good Lord had respect to the desire of his servant; for I had notpreached long before some began to be touched by the Word, and to begreatly afflicted in their minds at the apprehension of the greatness
oftheir sin, and of their need of
But I at first could not believe that God should speak by me to theheart of any man, still counting myself unworthy; yet those who thuswere touched would love me and have a peculiar respect for me; andthough I did put it from me, that they should be awakened by me, stillthey would confess it and affirm it before the saints of God; they
wouldalso bless God for me,
unworthy wretch that I am! and count me God’sinstrument that showed to them the way of salvation.
Wherefore, seeing them in both their words and deeds to be soconstant, and also in their hearts so earnestly pressing after theknowledge of Jesus Christ, rejoicing that ever God did send me wherethey were; then I began to conclude it might be so, that God had ownedin his work such a foolish one as I, and then came that word of God tomy heart with much sweet refreshment, “The blessing of him that wasready to perish came upon me; and I caused the widow’s heart to singfor joy” (Job 29:13).
At this therefore I rejoiced, yea, the tears of those whom God didawaken by my preaching would be both solace and encouragement tome; for I thought on those sayings, “Who is he that maketh me glad
butthe same which is made sorry
by me?” (2 Cor 2;2); and again, Though“I
be not an apostle to others, yet, doubtless, I am to you: for the seal ofmine apostleship are ye in the Lord” (1 Cor 9:2). These things,therefore, were as another argument unto me that God had called me to,and stood by me in this work.
In my preaching of the Word, I took special notice of this onething, namely, that the Lord did lead me to being where his Wordbegins with sinners; that is, to condemn all flesh, and to open and
allegethat the curse of God, by
the law, doth belong to, and lay hold on allmen as they come into the world, because of sin. Now this part of mywork I fulfilled with great sense; for the terrors of the law, and
guiltfor my transgressions, lay
heavy on my conscience. I preached what Ifelt, what I smartingly did feel, even that under which my pour soul
didgroan and tremble to
Indeed I have been as one sent to them from the dead; I wentmyself in chains to preach to them in chains; and carried that fire in
myown conscience that I persuaded
them to beware of. I can truly say, andthat
without dissembling, that when I have been to preach, I have gonefull of guilt and terror even to the pulpit door, and there it hath
beentaken off, and I have been at
liberty in my mind until I have done mywork,
and then immediately, even before I could get down the pulpitstairs, I have been as bad as I was before; yet God carried me on, butsurely with a strong hand, for neither guilt or hell could take me off
Thus I went for the space of two years, crying out against men’ssins, and their fearful state because of them. After which the Lord
camein upon my own soul with some
staid peace and comfort throughChrist;
for he did give me many sweet discoveries of his blessed gracethrough him. Wherefore now I altered in my preaching, for still Ipreached what I saw and felt; now therefore I did much labour to holdforth Jesus Christ in all his offices, relations, and benefits unto theworld; and did strive also to discover, to condemn, and remove thosefalse supports and props on which the world doth both lean, and bythem fall and perish. On these things also I staid as long as on the
After this, God led me into something of the mystery of unionwith Christ; wherefore that I discovered and showed to them also. Andwhen I had travelled through these three chief points of the Word ofGod, about the space of five years or more, I was caught in my presentpractice and cast into prison, where I have lain above as long again,to confirm the truth by way of suffering, as I was before in testifying
ofit according to the Scriptures
in a way of preaching.
When I have been preaching, I thank God, my heart hath often allthe time of this and the other exercise, with great earnestness, cried
toGod that he would make the Word
effectual to the salvation of the soul;still
being grieved lest the enemy should take the Word away from theconscience, and so it should become unfruitful. Wherefore I did labourso to speak the Word, as that thereby, if it were possible, the sins
andperson guilty might be
particularized by it.
Also, when I have done the exercise, it hath gone to my heart tothink the Word should now fall as rain on stony places, still wishingfrom my heart, O that they who have heard me speak this day did butsee as I do what sin, death, hell, and the curse of God is; and also
whatthe grace, and love, and
mercy of God is, through Christ, to men insuch a case as they are, who are yet estranged from him. And, indeed, Idid often say in my heart before the Lord, That if to be hanged uppresently before their eyes would be a means to awaken them, andconfirm them in the truth, I gladly should be contented.
For I have been in my preaching, especially when I have been engaged in the
doctrine of life by Christ, without works, as if an angelof God had stood by at my back to encourage me. Oh, it hath been withsuch power and heavenly evidence upon my own soul, while I have been
labouring to unfold it, to demonstrate it, and to fasten it upon the
consciences of others, that I could not be contented with saying, I believe,
and am sure; methought I was more than sure, if it be lawful so to express
myself, that those things which then I asserted were true.
When I went first to preach the Word abroad, the doctors and priests of the
country did open wide against me. But I was persuaded of this, not to render
railing for railing, but to see how many of their carnal professors I could
convince of their miserable state by the law, and of the want and worth of
Christ; for, thought I, This shall answer for me in time to come, when they
shall be for my hire before their faces (Gen 30:33).
I never cared to meddle with things that were controverted, and in dispute
amongst the saints, especially things of the lowest nature; yet it pleased me
much to contend with great earnestness for the word of faith and the remission
of sins by the death and sufferings of Jesus; but I say, as to other things, I
should let them alone, because I saw they engendered strife, and because that
they neither, in doing nor in leaving undone, did commend us to God to be his.
Besides, I saw my work before me did run in another channel, even to carry an
awakening word; to that therefore did I stick and adhere.
I never endeavoured to, nor durst make use of other men’s lines (Rom 15:18),
though I condemn not all that do, for I verily thought, and found by
experience, that what was taught me by the Word and Spirit of Christ, could be
spoken, maintained, and stood to by the soundest and best established
conscience; and though I will not now speak all that I know in this matter,
yet my experience hath more interest in that text of Scripture than many
amongst men are aware (Gal 1:11,12).
If any of those who were awakened by my ministry did after that fall back, as
sometimes too many did, I can truly say their loss hath been more to me than
if one of my own children, begotten of my body, had been going to its grave; I
think, verily, I may speak it without an offence to the Lord, nothing hath
gone so near me as that, unless it was the fear of the loss of the salvation
of my own soul. I have counted as if I had goodly buildings and lordships in
those places where my children were born; my heart hath been so wrapped up in
the glory of this excellent work, that I counted myself more blessed and
honoured of God by this than if he had made me the emperor of the Christian
world, or the lord of all the glory of the earth without it! O these words,
“He which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul
from death” (James ). ‘”The fruit of the
righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise” (Prov ). “They that be wise shall
shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to
righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Dan 12:3). “For what is our
hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our
Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy” (1 Thess 2:19,20). These, I say, with many
others of a like nature, have been great refreshments to me.’
I have observed, that where I have had a work to do for God, I have had first,
as it were, the going of God upon my spirit to desire I might preach there. I
have also observed that such and such souls in particular have been strongly
set upon my heart, and I stirred up to wish for their salvation; and that
these very souls have, after this, been given in as the fruits of my ministry.
I have also observed, that a word cast in by the by hath done more execution
in a sermon than all that was spoken besides; sometimes also when I have
thought I did no good, then I did the most of all; and at other times when I
thought I should catch them I have fished for nothing.
I have also observed, that where there hath been a work to do upon sinners,
there the devil hath begun to roar in the hearts, and by the mouths of his
servants. Yea, oftentimes when the wicked world hath raged most, there hath
been souls awaked by the Word. I could instance particulars, but I forbear.
My great desire in my fulfilling my ministry was to get into the darkest
places of the country, even amongst those people that were furthest off of
profession; yet not because I could not endure the light, for I feared not to
show my gospel to any, but because I found my spirit leaned most after
awakening and converting work, and the Word that I carried did lead itself
most that way also; “yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where
Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation” (Rom
In my preaching I have really been in pain, and have, as it were, travailed to
bring forth children to God; neither could I be satisfied unless some fruits
did appear in my work. If I were fruitless it mattered not who commended me;
but if I were fruitful, I cared not who did condemn. I have thought of that,
“He that winneth souls is wise” (Prov 11:30); and again, “Lo, children
are an heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As
arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of the youth. Happy is the
man that hath filled his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but
they shall speak with the enemies in the gate” (Psa 127:3-5).
It pleased me nothing to see people drink in opinions if they seemed ignorant
of Jesus Christ, and the worth of their own salvation, sound conviction for
sin, especially for unbelief, and an heart set on fire to be saved by Christ,
with strong breathing after a truly sanctified soul; that it was that
delighted me; those were the souls I counted blessed.
But in this work, as in all other, I had my temptations attending me, and that
of diverse kinds, as sometimes I should be assaulted with great discouragement
therein, fearing that I should not be able to speak the word at all to
edification; nay, that I should not be able to speak sense unto the people; at
which times I should have such a strange faintness and strengthlessness seize
upon my body that my legs have scarce been able to carry me to the place of
Sometimes, again, when I have been preaching, I have been violently assaulted
with thoughts of blasphemy, and strongly tempted to speak the words with my
mouth before the congregation. I have also at some times, even when I have
begun to speak the Word with much clearness, evidence, and liberty of speech,
yet been before the ending of that opportunity so blinded, and so estranged
from the things I have been speaking, and have also been so straitened in my
speech, as to utterance before the people, that I have been as if I had not
known or remembered what I have been about, or as if my head had been in a bag
all the time of the exercise.
Again, when as sometimes I have been about to preach upon some smart and
scorching portion of the Word, I have found the tempter suggest, What, will
you preach this? this condemns yourself; of this your own soul is guilty;
wherefore preach not of it at all; or if you do, yet so mince it as to make
way for your own escape; lest instead of awakening others, you lay that guilt
upon your own soul, as you will never get from under.
‘But, I thank the Lord, I have been kept from consenting to these so horrid
suggestions, and have rather, as Samson, bowed myself with all my might, to
condemn sin and transgression wherever I found it, yea, though therein also I
did bring guilt upon my own conscience! “Let me die,” thought I, “with
the Philistines” (Judg ,30), rather than deal
corruptly with the blessed Word of God, “Thou that teachest another,
teachest not thou thyself?” It is far better that thou do judge thyself,
even by preaching plainly to others, than that thou, to save thyself, imprison
the truth in unrighteousness; blessed be God for his help also in this.’
I have also, while found in this blessed work of Christ, been often tempted to
pride and liftings up of heart; and though I dare not say I have not been
infected with this, yet truly the Lord, of his precious mercy, hath so carried
it towards me, that, for the most part, I have had but small joy to give way
to such a thing; for it hath been my every day’s portion to be let into the
evil of my own heart, and still made to see such a multitude of corruptions
and infirmities therein, that it hath caused hanging down of the head under
all my gifts and attainments; I have felt this thorn in the flesh, the very
mercy of God to me (2 Cor 12:7-9).
I have had also, together with this, some notable place or other of the Word
presented before me, which word hath contained in it some sharp and piercing
sentence concerning the perishing of the soul, notwithstanding gifts and
parts; as, for instance, that hath been of great use unto me, “Though I
speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become
as sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1,2).
A tinkling cymbal is an instrument of music, with which a skilful player can
make such melodious and heart-inflaming music, that all who hear him play can
scarcely hold from dancing; and yet behold the cymbal hath not life, neither
comes the music from it, but because of the art of him that plays therewith;
so then the instrument at last may come to nought and perish, though, in times
past, such music hath been made upon it.
Just thus I saw it was and will be with them who have gifts, but want saving
grace, they are in the hand of Christ, as the cymbal in the hand of David; and
as David could, with the cymbal, make that mirth in the service of God, as to
elevate the hearts of the worshippers, so Christ can use these gifted men, as
with them to affect the souls of his people in his church; yet when he hath
done all, hang them by as lifeless, though sounding cymbals.
This consideration, therefore, together with some others, were, for the most
part, as a maul on the head of pride, and desire of vain glory; what, thought
I, shall I be proud because I am a sounding brass? Is it so much to be a
fiddle? Hath not the least creature that hath life, more of God in it than
these? Besides, I knew it was love should never die, but these must cease and
vanish; so I concluded, a little grace, a little love, a little of the true
fear of God, is better than all these gifts; yea, and I am fully convinced of
it, that it is possible for a soul that can scarce give a man an answer, but
with great confusion as to method, I say it is possible for them to have a
thousand times more grace, and so to be more in the love and favour of the
Lord than some who, by virtue of the gift of knowledge, can deliver themselves
Thus, therefore, I came to perceive, that though gifts in themselves were good
to the thing for which they are designed, to wit, the edification of others;
yet empty and without power to save the soul of him that hath them, if they be
alone; neither are they, as so, any sign of a man’s state to be happy, being
only a dispensation of God to some, of whose improvement, or non-improvement,
they must, when a little love more is over, give an account to him that is
ready to judge the quick and the dead.
This showed me too, that gifts being alone, were dangerous, not in themselves,
but because of those evils that attend them that have them, to wit, pride,
desire of vain glory, self-conceit, &c., all which were easily blown up at
the applause and commendation of every unadvised Christian, to the endangering
of a poor creature to fall into the condemnation of the devil.
I saw therefore that he that hath gifts had need be let into a sight of the
nature of them, to wit, that they come short of making of him to be in a truly
saved condition, lest he rest in them, and so fall short of the grace of God.
He hath also cause to walk humbly with God, and be little in his own eyes, and
to remember withal, that his gifts are not his own, but the church’s; and
that by them he is made a servant to the church; and he must give at last an
account of his stewardship unto the Lord Jesus; and to give a good account,
will be a blessed thing.
Let all men therefore prize a little with the fear of the Lord; gifts indeed
are desirable, but yet great grace and small gifts are better than great gifts
and no grace. It doth not say, the Lord gives gifts and glory, but the Lord
gives grace and glory; and blessed is such an one, to whom the Lord gives
grace, true grace, for that is a certain forerunner of glory.
‘But when Satan perceived that his thus tempting and assaulting of me would
not answer his design, to wit, to overthrown my ministry, and make it
ineffectual, as to the ends thereof; then he tried another way, which was to
stir up the minds of the ignorant and malicious, to load me with slanders and
reproaches; now therefore I may say, That what the devil could devise, and his
instruments invent, was whirled up and down the country against me, thinking,
as I said, that by that means they should make my ministry to be abandoned.’
It began therefore to be rumoured up and down among the people, that I was a
witch, a Jesuit, a highwayman, and the like.
308.To all which, I shall only say, God knows that I am innocent. But as
for mine accusers, let them provide themselves to meet me before the tribunal
of the Son of God, there to answer for all these things, with all the rest of
their iniquities, unless God shall give them repentance for them, for the
which I pray with all my heart.
But that which was reported with the boldest confidence, was, that I had my
misses, my whores, my bastards, yea, two wives at once, and the like. Now
these slanders, with the other, I glory in, because but slanders, foolish, or
knavish lies, and falsehoods cast upon me by the devil and his seed; and
should I not be dealt with thus wickedly by the world, I should want one sign
of a saint, and a child of God. “Blessed are ye [said the Lord Jesus] when
men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil
against you falsely for my sake; rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is
your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before
you” (Matt 4:11).
These things, therefore, upon mine own account, trouble me not; no, though
they were twenty times more than they are. I have a good conscience, and
whereas they speak evil of me, as an evil doer, they shall be ashamed that
falsely accuse my good conversation in Christ.
So then, what shall I say to those that have thus bespattered me? shall I
threaten them? Shall I chide them? Shall I flatter them? Shall I intreat them
to hold their tongues? No, not I, were it not for that these things make them
ripe for damnation, that are the authors and abettors, I would say unto them,
Report it, because it will increase my glory.
Therefore I bind these lies and slanders to me as an ornament, it belongs to
my Christian profession to be vilified, slandered, reproached and reviled; and
since all this is nothing else, as my God and my conscience do bear me
witness; I rejoice in reproaches for Christ’s sake.
I also calling all those fools, or knaves, that have thus made it anything of
their business, to affirm any of the things afore-named of me, namely, that I
have been naught with other women, or the like. When they have used to the
utmost of their endeavours, and made the fullest inquiry that they can, to
prove against me truly, that there is any woman in heaven, or earth, or hell,
that can say, I have at any time, in any place, by day or night, so much as
attempted to be naught with them; and speak I thus, to beg mine enemies into a
good esteem of me; no, not I: I will in this beg relief of no man; believe or
disbelieve me in this, all is a case to me.
My foes have missed their mark in this their shooting at me. I am not the man.
I wish that they themselves be guiltless. If all the fornicators and
adulterers in Englandwere hanged by the neck till
they be dead, JOHN BUNYAN, the object of their envy, would be still alive and
well. I know not whether there be such a thing as a woman breathing under the
copes of the whole heaven, but by their apparel, their children, or by common
fame, except my wife.
And in this I admire the wisdom of God, that he made me shy of women from my
first conversion until now. Those know, and can also bear me witness, with
whom I have been most intimately concerned, that it is a rare thing to see me
carry it pleasant towards a woman; the common salutation of a woman I abhor,
it is odious to me in whomsoever I see it. Their company alone, I cannot away
with. I seldom so much as touch a woman’s hand, for I think these things are
not so becoming me. When I have seen good men salute those women that they
have visited, or that have visited them, I have at times made my objection
against it, and when they have answered, that it was but a piece of civility,
I have told them, it is not a comely sight; some indeed have urged the holy
kiss; but then I have asked why they made baulks, why they did salute the most
handsome, and let the ill-favoured go; thus, how laudable soever such things
have been in the eyes of others, they have been unseemly in my sight.
And now for a wind up in this matter, I calling not only men, but angels, to
prove me guilty of having carnally to do with any woman save my wife, nor am I
afraid to do it a second time, knowing that I cannot offend the Lord in such a
case, to call God for a record upon my soul, that in these things I am
innocent. Not that I have been thus kept, because of any goodness in me more
than any other, but God has been merciful to me, and has kept me; to whom I
pray that he will keep me still, not only from this, but from every evil way
and work, and preserve me to his heavenly kingdom. Amen.
Now as Satan laboured by reproaches and slanders, to make me vile among my
countrymen, that if possible, my preaching might be made of none effect, so
there was added hereto a long and tedious imprisonment, that thereby I might
be frighted from my service for Christ, and the world terrified, and made
afraid to hear me preach, of which I shall in the next place give you a brief