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Epistle to the Reader.
JL HOU hast here iu theibllowing leaves some Prison Thoughts, I wish I could say, Experiences. If I have not written herein what I have Found, I bless God, I have written what I have Sought. I must humbly confess with holy Paul, I count not myself to have apprehended; yet through grace I can add with that blessed saint, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I PRESS TOWARDS THE MARK. God hath
taught me somewhat of the doctrine, if he would please to teach me the use; God hath in some measure shewed me what is to be gained by afflictions, if he would also teach me how to gain it, I should with Moses, account my sufferings greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. The discovery is sweet; if my heart deceive me not, I would not exchange it for the wealth of both the Indies; the possession is infinitely precious. For thy advantage I have been persuaded to print; my prayers shall accompany my papers, that that God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth things that are not as though they were, would please to make those broken expressions answer the aim: and for the aims-sake despise them not, but pray thou also; and when thou prayest, remember the chiefest of sinners, the poor and unworthy author, who, while yet in the land of the living, will be
Dr. Mantons Recommendation*
To my Rev. Friend Mr. THO. CASE.
A THANK you for the favour you did me in affording me a sight of your papers; I had heard much of your notions concerning aflliciions, and therefore was very thirsty till you were pleased to give me to drink of the fountain: I can now say as the queen of Sheba, The one half was not told me; fame came much short of State. We are perfect in no lessons so much as those into which God whippeth us; and cannot speak of any argument so warmly and feelingly, as when we speak out of present experience. To treat of afflictions when we ourselves flourish a:M abound in ease and plenty, savoureth more of the orator than the preacher, the brain than the heart. Certainly guess and imagination, cannot be so good a midwife to such conceptions, as sense and feeling. It seemeth when you went into prison, the Spirit of God went into prison with you; and when you were shut up to others, you still lay open to the visits and free breathings of his grace; the restraints and enclosures of a prison cannot prejudice the freedom of his operations: he is a close prisoner indeed that is shut up, not only from the society of men, but converse with the Holy Ghost. I begin to see there is somewhat more than a strain and reach of wit in Tertullian's consolatory discourse to the martyrs: "You went out of prison (saith he) when you went into it, and were but sequestred from the world, that you might converse with God; the greatest prisoners and the most guilty are those that are at large, darkened with ignorance, chained with lusts, committed not by the proconsul,
but God." The Lord often manifested himself to his prophets in a wilderness, and to you in your secession and retirement.
Sir, I could even envy your prison-comforts, and the sweet opportunities of a religious privacy: we that are abroad are harassed and worn out with constant publick labors, and can seldom retire from the destraction of business for such free converse with God and our own souls: but we are not to choose our own portion; crosses will come soon enough without wishing for them; and if we were wise, we might make an advantage of every condition.
Good Sir, be persuaded to publish those discourses; the subject is useful, and your manner of handling it warm and affectionate; do not deprive the world of the comfort of your experiences; certainly my heart is none of the tenderest; yet if heart answereth heart