One midnight ” (towards the end of his life, too) Shepard was found lying on his face in ” a swoon of sweat and tears,” with a copy of the New England Gazette crushed together in his hands. He had just been reading an “especially beautiful sermon of Mr. Thomas Hooker’s! ” And Principal Whyte says that until I see myself to be ” the most to be abhorred, the most malicious, the most wolf-like, the most inwardly rent and distorted, the most hateful and the most hating, the most self-tormenting and the most Shepard-Iike sinner
on this side hell,” I must not pass judgment on Mr. T. S. for
his jealousy of Mr. T. H. Agreed. ” O my ransomed soul! ” Shepard cried on his death-bed, ” one hour in heaven will make me forget all my hell upon earth! ”
This aversion and loathing will oftentimes discover itself in the affections. A secret striving will be in them about close and cordial dealing with God, unless the hand of God in his Spirit be high and strong upon his soul.
let men examine themselves what number of these vain, useless thoughts night and day do rove up and down in their minds. If now it be apprehended too severe, that men’s thoughts of spiritual things should exceed them that are employed about their lawful callings, let them consider what proportion they bear unto those that are vain and useless. Do not many give more time unto them than they do unto holy meditations, without an endeavor to mortify the one or to stir up and enliven the other? are they not more wonted to their seasons than holy thoughts are? And shall we suppose that those with whom it is so are spiritually minded?”
Water that rises and flows from a living spring runs equally and constantly, unless it be obstructed or diverted by some violent opposition; but that which is from thunder-showers runs furiously for a season, but is quickly dried up. So are those spiritual thoughts which arise from a prevalent internal principle of grace in the heart; they are even and constant, unless an interruption be put upon them for a season by temptations. But those which are excited by the thunder of convictions, however their streams may be filled for a season, they quickly dry up and utterly decay.”
There is a being earthly minded which consists in an inordinate affection unto the things of this world. It is that which is sinful, which ought to be mortified; yet it is not absolutely inconsistent with the substance and being of the grace inquired after. Some who are really and truly spiritually minded, yet may, for a time at least, be under such an inordinate affection unto and care about earthly things, that if not absolutely, yet comparatively, as unto what they ought to be and might be, they may be justly said to be earthly minded. They are so in respect of those degrees in being spiritually minded which they ought to aim at and may attain unto. And where it is thus, this grace can never thrive or flourish, it can never advance unto any eminent degree.
O what sorrow-bitten souls are the saints for their want of sorrow. “I mourn, Lord, I lament, I weep; but it is because I cannot mourn or lament as I should: if I could mourn as I ought, I could be comforted; if I could weep, I could rejoice; if I could sigh, I could sing; if I could lament, I could live; I die, I die, my heart dies within me, because I cannot cry; I cry, Lord, but not for sin, but for tears for sin; I cry, Lord, my calamities cry, my bones cry, my soul cries, my sins cry, ‘Lord, for a broken heart,’ and behold, yet I am not broken.
Now from all this, it follows as clear as day that our true sanctification, our true holiness of heart, our true and full and final salvation, all lie in the rectification, the simplification, and the purification of our motives. The corruption and pollution of our hearts—trace all that down to the bottom, and it all lies in our motives: in the selfishness, the unneighbourliness, the unbrotherliness, the ungodliness of our motives. We are all our own motive in all that we do: we are all our own main object and our own chief end. And it is just this that stains and debases so much that we do.”
The meditations of Alexander Whyte are from the writings of Thomas Shepard. 1605-1649. Beeke wrote, When I first read Alexander’s Whyte’s book on Thomas Shepard some 30 years ago, I was frequently moved to tears. This narration includes, I Abhor Myself, The More I do the Worse I am, and It is sometimes so with me I would rather die than pray.