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the following testimony has been transmitted by a contemporary :-"I have known him spend part of many days, and nights too, in religious exercises, when the times were so dangerous that it would hazard an imprisonment to be worshipping God with five or six people like-minded with himself. I have sometimes been in his company for a whole night together, when we have been fain to steal to the place in the dark, stop out the light, and stop in the voice, by clothing and fast-closing the windows, till the first day-break down a chimney has given us notice to be gone. I bless God for such seasons, for the remembrance of them, and Mr Shaw at them, whose melting words in prayer I can never forget. He had a most excellent faculty in speaking to God with reverence, humility, and a holy awe of His presence, filling his mouth with arguments. By his strength he had power with God; he wept and made supplication ; he found Him in Bethel (such were our assemblies), and there he spake with us. I have heard him, for two or three hours together, pour out prayer to God, without tautology or vain repetition, with that vigour and fervour, and those holy words that imported faith and humble boldness, as have dissolved the whole company into tears.
In a conversation with the late Dr Gordon of Edinburgh, we remember feeling some surprise and disappointment at his estimate of Puritan authorship; but he made one strong and emphatic exception in favour of Shaw, whose “ Welcome to the Plague" seemed to have impressed his devout but lofty spirit beyond almost any uninspired composition. It was written early in 1666, and, a few months after the destroying angel had visited the author's secluded abode at Loughborough. The preface is singularly solemn and affecting.
* “Palmer's Nonconformist's Memorial," vol. ii. 138.
A WELCOME TO THE PLAGUE.
A Welcome to the Plague. CHRISTIAN READERS, -It is now more than seven months since it pleased the holy and wise God to visit my house with the plague, when some dear and Christian friends from London were with me, whereby He gently touched, and gave warning to myself and whole family, consisting then of eight souls, but called away hence only three members of it, namely, two tender babes, and one servant; besides my beloved sister, and a child of my precious friend, that man of God, Mr G. C., since also translated, who were of those citizens that visited me. You will easily believe that I can have no pleasure to rake into the ashes of the dead, nor to revive the taste of that wormwood and gall which was then given me to drink; and yet I see no reason but that I ought to take pleasure in the pure and holy will of God, which always proceeds by the eternal rules of almighty love and goodness, though the same be executed upon my dearest creature-comforts, and grate ever so much upon my sweetest earthly interest; yea, I see all reason in the world why I should give to God the glory of His attributes and works before all the world, and endeavour that some instruction may accompany that astonishment which from me and my house hath gone out and spread itself far and near.
I will not undertake to make any physical observations upon this unaccountable disease, nor to vindicate myself either from that great guilt that is charged upon me, as if I were a sinner above all that dwell in this country, or from these many false and senseless aspersions that have been cast upon my behaviour during this visitation ; but I do freely commit myself "to Him that judgeth righteously,” and pray with the Psalmist, “Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake ; let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel !” Neither do I pur
posely undertake in this preface to reconcile the providences of the most wise God to His promises, or to solve the seeming difference between the words of His mouth and the language of His hands, between which I have only suspected some kind of opposition, but have experienced an excellent harmony: “ In very faithfulness hast thou afflicted me.” Whence arise all these uncharitable censures with which the afflicted soul is apt to charge both himself and his God too? Spring they not certainly from these two grand causes, namely, a misapprehension of the nature of God, and of the nature of good and evil ? Let the studious and pious reader search and judge.
If ever, therefore, you would be established in your minds in a day of affliction,-1. Labour to be rightly informed concerning the nature of God. Away with those low and gross apprehensions of God, whereby your carnal fancies ascribe to God such a kind of indulgence towards His children as you bear towards yours, which indeed no way agrees to His nature. His good will towards His children is a solid, wise, and holy disposition, infinitely unlike to our human affections. 2. Labour to be rightly informed concerning the nature of good and evil. Judge not the good or evil of things by their agrecableness or disagreeableness to your fleshly taste or carnal interest, but by the relation they have to the supreme Good. The greatest prosperity in the world, is no farther good than as it tends to make us partakers of God; and the greatest aflliction may thus be really good also. But that by the by. My design is to justify and glorify infinite wisdom, righteousness, goodness, and holiness before all men.
O blessed God, who makes a seeming dungeon to be indeed a place of refreshment, -who brings His poor people into a wilderness, on purpose there to speak comfortably to them! Be of good cheer, O my soul ; He hath taken away nothing but what He gave ; and, in lieu of it, hath given thee that which shall never be taken away,--the first-fruits of life, in:
A WELCOME TO THE PLAGUE,
stead of those whom the first-born of death have devoured. But why do I say devoured ? Doth not that truly live at this day which was truly lovely in those darlings? Didst thou, O my fond heart, love beauty, sweetness, ingenuity incarnate? And canst thou not love it still in the fountain, and enjoy in it a more immediate and compendious way? Thy body, indeed, cannot taste sweetness in the abstract, nor see beauty except it be exhibited in matter; but canst not thou, O my soul, taste the uncreated goodness and sweetness, except it be embodied and have some material thing to commend it to thy palate? Be ashamed that thou, being a spirit as to thy constitution, art no more spiritual in thy affections and operations. Dost thou with sadness reflect upon those sweet smiles, and that broken rhetoric, with which those babes were wont to entertain thee? 1. Consider duly what real contentment thou hast lost in losing those. For what were those things to thy real happiness? Thou hast lost nothing but what it was no solid pleasure nor true felicity to enjoy,-nothing but what the most sensual and brutal souls do enjoy as much as thou. 2. Be ashamed rather that thou didst enjoy them in such a gross and unspiritual manner. Art thou troubled because any earthly interest is violated ? Rather be ashamed that thou hadst and cherishedst any such interest.
But pardon me, courteous readers, this digressive soliloquy; and now suffer me patiently, whilst I speak something by way of admiration, something by way of observation, and something by way of exhortation.
I. Let me call upon men and angels to help me in celebrating the infinite and almighty grace and goodness of the eternal and blessed God
Who enabled me to abide the day of His coming, to stand when He appeared, and made me willing to suffer Him to sit as a refiner of silver in my house :
Who carried me above all murmurings against, I had almost said all remembrance of, those instruments that conveyed the infection to me :
Who reconciled my heart to this disease, so that it seemed no more grievous, noisome, or scandalous than any other :
Who subdued me to, I had almost said brought me in love with, this passage of the Divine will. I can remember, (alas ! that I can say little more, but that I do remember) how my soul was overpowered, yea, and almost ravished with the goodness, holiness, and perfection of the will of God; and verily judged it my happiness and perfection, as well as my duty, to comply cheerfully with it, and be moulded into it :
Who gave me a most powerful and quick sense of the plague of a carnal heart, self-will, and inordinate love of the creature; convincing me that those were infinitely worse than the plague in the flesh; so that I did more pity, than I could be pitied by, my ordinary visitors
Who wonderfully preserved me from the assaults of the devil ; never let him loose so much as to try his strength upon my integrity, or drive me to despondency, or to any uncharitable conclusions concerning my state :
Who enabled me to converse with His love and mercy in the midst of His chastenings, to see His shining and smiling face through this dark cloud ; yea, kept up clear and steady persuasions in my soul, that I was beloved of Him though afflicted by Him :
Who knew my soul in adversity, visited me when I was sick and in prison, refreshed, strengthened, comforted my inner man, in a marvellous manner and measure, and made me appear to myself never less shut up than when shut up. Oh, would to God I might be never worse than when I was shut up of the plague! The not removing of that affliction-frame I shall account a greater blessing, and a more proper mercy, than the removing of that afflicted state :