Finding Comfort in the Puritans

In this time of isolation and separation, may I encourage you by a reading that has been of special encouragement to me?

Rev. Samuel Shaw (1635-1696) lost two of his children, his sister, a servant, and several friends during the Great Plague of London in 1665. In that same year, he wrote a memoir of his experience titled, “Welcome to the Plague and Farewell to Life,” a theologically deep, yet profoundly devotional, response to his own grief.

Let me share just one brief passage with you below, which I hope will strengthen your resolve to live upon God during these hard days. Meditate on this. Read it more than once. I’ve highlighted some important points in bold:

“God will take more care of his own people than of the rest of the world, and will rather correct them than not restore them. It is their main happiness that he takes care for, and he will in kindness take out of the way whatever hinders it, and give whatever may promote it. God’s thoughts are not as our thoughts; he judges otherwise of health, riches, liberty, friends, &c. than we do. We are apt to measure God by ourselves, and our own affections, which is the ground of our mistake in this business: we mind the things that please our flesh, our senses, our appetite, our fancy; but God minds the things that concern our souls, and their true happiness. The saints are much dearer to God, and much more beloved of him, than they are to themselves; and therefore he will not give them what is sweet, but what is meet; he will give them what makes for their real and eternal happiness, whether they would have it or not. He loves them with a strong and powerful love, and will not deny them anything that is truly good for them, though they cry out under it; nor allow them anything that is really hurtful, though they cry after it. So will a wise father upon earth do by his children, to the best of his skill and power; much more will God then, whose bowels are infinitely more tender than those of a father.

“Now then, labour to converse with the faithfulness of God in the time of afflictions, which is by studying the covenant, and the promises of it, and your present condition, and comparing them together, and observing how consonant and agreeable they are, each interpreting the other; as also, by persuading your hearts of the consistency of afflictions with divine love and favour, and by studying to reconcile the hand and heart of God together. But especially converse with it practically, by a holy establishment and settlement of heart under all afflictions: for, whereas afflictions in themselves are apt to beget a fearfulness, despondency, or at least fluctuation in the soul, the lively sense of God’s faithfulness in inflicting them will settle and sustain it; it is a firm and consistent thing, upon which the shaking soul may settle safely, and centre itself boldly.”

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