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I have, with good assurance, this account of a minister, who, being alone in a journey, and willing to make the best improvement he could of that day's solitude, set himself to a close examination of the state of his soul, and then of the life to come, and the manner of its being and living in heaven, in the views of all those things which are now pure objects of faith and hope. After a while, he perceived his thoughts begin to fix, and come closer to these great and astonishing things than was usual ; and as his mind settled upon them, his affections began to rise with answerable liveliness and vigour.
He therefore, whilst he was yet master of his own thoughts, lifted up his heart to God in a short ejaculation, that God would so order it in His providence that he might meet with no interruption from company, or any other accident, in that journey — which was granted him; for in all that day's journey, he neither met, overtook, or was overtaken by any one. Thus going on his way, his thoughts began to swell, and rise higher and higher, like the waters in Ezekiel's vision, till at last they became an overflowing flood. Such was the intention of his mind, such the ravishing tastes of heavenly joys, and such the full assurance of his interest therein, that he utterly lost the sight and sense of this world, and all the concerns thereof; and for some hours knew no more where he was than if he had been in a deep sleep upon his bed.
At last he began to perceive himself very faint, and all covered with blood; which, running in abundance from his nose, had discoloured his clothes and his horse, from the shoulder to the hoof. He found himself almost spent, and nature too faint under the prescience of joy unspeakable and unsupportable, and, at last, perceiving a spring of water in his way, he with some difficulty alighted to cleanse and cool his face and hands.
By that spring he sat down, earnestly desiring, if it were
the pleasure of God, that it might be his parting place from this world. He says, Death had the most amiable face in his eye that ever he beheld, except the face of Jesus Christ which made it so; and that he could not remember, though he believed he should die there, that he had once thought of his dear wife or children, or any other earthly concernment.
But having drank of that spring, his spirits revived, and he mounted his horse again; and on he went, in the same frame of spirit, till he had finished a journey of near thirty miles, and came at night to his inn, where, being come, he greatly admired how he came thither; that his horse, without his direction, had brought him thither; and that he fell not all that day, which passed not without several trances of considerable continuance.
Being alighted, the innkeeper came to him with astonishment, being acquainted with him formerly. “O sir," said he, "what is the matter with you? You look like a dead man.” “Friend,” replied he, “ I was never better in my life. Shew me my chamber, cause my cloak to be cleansed, burn me a little wine, and that is all I desire of you for the present." Accordingly, it was done, and a supper sent up which he could not touch; but requested of the people that they would not disturb or trouble him for that night. All this night passed without one wink of sleep, although he never had a sweeter night's rest in all his life. Still, still the joy of the Lord overflowed him, and he seemed to be an inhabitant of the other world. The next morning being come, he was early on horseback again, fearing divertisement in the inn might bereave him of his joy; for, he said, it was now with him as with a man that carries a rich treasure about him, who suspects every passenger to be a thief. But within a few hours he was sensible of the ebbing of the tide, and before night, though there was a heavenly serenity and sweet peace upon his spirit, which continued long with him, yet the trans
ports of joy were over, and the fine edge of delight blunted. He many years after called that day one of the days of heaven, and professed he understood more of the life of heaven by it than by all the books he ever read, or discourses he ever entertained about it,
a Wilheel within a tuheel.
Lord! how stupendous, deep, and wonderful,
For lofty symmetry, the mind of Howe has had few equals among the sons of men; and had his powers of expression kept pace with the grandeur of his conceptions and the fervour of his emotions, he would have been peerless among the theological authors of his century. As it is, no wise man will disdain a heap of treasure, because it contains some jewels badly set, or because there are a few mis-shapen bars and ingots mixed up with bags of minted money,
Like Flavel, Howe was the son of a godly minister, and was born in the parsonage of Longborough, Leicestershire, May 17, 1630.
He commenced his university career at Cambridge, but was early transferred to Oxford, where he became Fellow of Magdalen College, and a member of the Congregational Church under the pastorate of Magdalen's illustrious president, Dr Thomas Goodwin. When he could not have completed his twenty-third year,
he was appointed minister of great Torrington, in Devon. There a few years passed very happily. There he married the daughter of Mr Hughes of Plymouth, a minister famed for his learning, and revered for his goodness. There he formed the friendship of the noble family of Russell, and there he preached courses of sermons, which, published as treatises on “The Blessedness of the Righteous," and "On Delighting in God," are likely to live for ever.
He had not completed four years at Torrington, when he had an errand to London. On the last Sabbath of his sojourn in the capital, he went to worship in Whitehall Chapel. There the keen eye of Cromwell singled him out, and at the close of the service he was summoned to an interview, when the protector commanded him to preach at Whitehall next Sunday. The upshot was, that, much against his own inclination, he was constrained to become one of Cromwell's chaplains; and, both in Whitehall and in St Margaret's, Westminster, he continued to deliver those discourses which fed the faith of the simpleminded, and bowed in unreluctant homage the strongest understandings. With Cromwell his personal influence was very great, and he used it nobly. As one example, it is mentioned that he did his utmost to obtain for Dr Seth Ward, afterwards Bishop of Exeter, and one of the most distinguished mathematicians in England, the principalship of Jesus' College. Cromwell had already promised the appointment to another; but, in consequence of Howe's intercessions for his Episcopalian friend, the protector promised to allow him a yearly sum equal to the income of the office. The exalted purity and disinterestedness of the chaplain's own character made his persuasions irresistible. On one occasion, Cromwell exclaimed, “ You have obtained many favours for others. I wonder when the time is to come that you will ask anything for yourself or your family.”
The Restoration released Mr Howe from his post of chaplain to the younger Cromwell, and for a brief season allowed him to resume his charge at Torrington. But the time of trouble had arrived. In 1662 the Act of Uniformity was passed, and, without re-ordination and the oath of canonical obedience, Howe could not retain his living or his charge. By this time his friend Dr Ward was his diocesan, and, endeavouring to argue him out of his scruples, asked him to name any point on which he hesitated. Howe specified re-ordination. “Pray, sir,” said the bishop, "what hurt is there in being re-ordained ?" “Hurt, my lord !” exclaimed Howe; "it hurts my understanding; the thought is shocking. It is an absurdity, since nothing can have two beginnings. I am sure I am a minister