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First, In meditation argue thus, as in the present ca se and smil tude of the apostle. If an husbandman upon the ordinary principles of reason can wait for the harvest, shall not I wait for the coming of the Lord, the day of refreshing ? the corn is precious to him, and fo is the coming of Christ to me. Shall he be fo patient, and endure so much for a little corn? and shall not I for the kingdom of heaven? He is willing to stay till all causes have had their operations, till he bath received the former and the latter rain ; and shall not I, till the Divine decrees be accomplished ?
Secondly, In meditation, make the resemblance, and discourse thus within yourselves : This is my feed-time, heaven is my harvest; here I muft labour and toil, and there reft. I see the husbandman's life is a great toil: no excellent thing can be obtained without labour, and an obftinate patience. I see the feed inust be hidden in the furrows, rotten and corrupted, e'er it can spring forth with any increase. Our hopes are hidden, light is fown for the righteous; all our comforts are buried under the clods, and after all this there must be long waiting, we cannot fow and reap in a day; effects cannot follow till all neceffary causes have first wrought. It is not in the power of hufbandmen to ripen fruits at pleasure, our times are in the hands of God, therefore it is good to wait ; a long-suffering patience will reap the defired fruit. Thus you have some hints of this heavenly art of improving the creatures.
The motives inducing me to this undertaking, were the Lord's owning with some success, my labours of a like nature*, together with the desire and inclination (ftirred up in me, I hope, by the Spirit of the Lord) to devote my vacant hours to his service in this kind. I confidered, that if the Pharisees in a blind zeal to a faction, could compass fea and land to profelyte men to their party, though thereby they made them sevenfold more the children of the devil than before; how much more was I obliged, by true love to God, and zeal to the everlasting happiness of fouls, to use my utmost endeavours both with seamen and husbandmen, to win them to Christ, and thereby make them more than feventy-seven fold happier than before ? Not to mention other encouragements to this work, which I received from the earnest desires of some reverend and worthy brethren inviting thereunto; all which I hope the event will manifest to be a call from God to this work.
I confess I met with some discouragement in my first attempt, from my unacquaintedness with rural affairs; and because I was to travel in a path (to me) untrodden ; but having once engaged in it, those discouragements were soon overcome. and being now brought to what you here see, I offer to your hands these firł fruits of my spare hours.
I presume you will account it no disparagement, that I dedicate a
book of husbandry to gentlemen of your quality. This is fpiritual husbandry, which here is taught you; and yet I tell you, that great persons have accounted that civil employment (wbich is much inferior to this) no disparagement to them. “The king himself is served « by the field,” Ecclef. v. 9. Or, as Montanus renders the Hebrew text, Rex agro
fit fervus ; The king himself is a fervant to the field. And of king Uzziah it is written, 2 Chron. xxvi. 10. “That he “ loved husbandry.” And Amos vii. 1. we read of the king's mowa ings. Yea, Pliny hath observed, that corn was never fo plentiful at Rome, as when the same men tilled the land that ruled the commonwealth. Quah gauderet terra laureato vomere, fcilicet et aratore triumphali; as though the earth itself rejoiced in the laurelled plow-thare, and the triumphant plowman.
What pleasure you will find in reading it I know not; but to me it hath been a pleasant path from first to last; who yet have been at far greater expence of time and pains in compiling it, than you can be in reading it. The husbandman's work, you know, is no easy work, and the spiritualizing of it hath greater difficulties attending it; but yet the pleasure hath abundantly recompensed the pains. I have found Erasmus's observation experimentally true ; Qui literis addicti sumus, animi laffitudinem a ftudiis gravioribus contractam; ab iifdem fudiis, fed amænioribus recreamus : Those that are addicted to ftudy, (faith he) when they have wearied their spirits with study, can recreate them again with study, by making a diversion from that which is severe and knotty, to some more facile and pleasant subject.
But to hear that God hath used and honoured these papers to the good of any foul, will yield me the highest content and satisfaction imaginable.
May you but learn that leffon, which is the general scope and design of this book, viz. How to walk with God from day to day, and make the several objects you behold, frale et alę, wings and ladders to mount your fouls nearer to him, who is the centre of all blefied spirits. How much will it comfort me, and confirm my hope, that it was the call of God indeed, which put me upon these endeavours !
O Sirs! What an excellent thing would it be for you, to make such holy improvements of all these earthly objects which daily occurto your senses, and cause them to proclaim and preach to you divine and heavenly mysteries; whilst others make them groan, by abusing them to fin, and subjecting them to their lufts. A man may be cast into such a condition, wherein he cannot enjoy the blessing and benefit of a pious and powerful ministry; but you cannot (ordinarily) fall into such a condition, wherein any thing (excepting a bad heart) can deprive you of the benefits and comforts of those excellent fermons, and divinity lectures, which the creatures here offer to preach and read to you.
Content not yourselves, I beseech you, with that natural sweetness the creatures afford; for thereof the beasts are capable, as much, if not more, than you; but use them to those spiritual ends you are bere directed, and they will yield you a sweetness far tranfcending that natural sweetness you ever relished in them; and indeed, you never use the creatures as their Lord's, till you come to see your Lord in and by them. I confess the discoveries of God in the word are far more excellent, clear, and powerful ; "He bath mag“ nified his word above all his name." And therein are the unsearchable riches of Christ, or rich discoveries of that grace that hath no footsteps in nature, as the apostle's expression signifies, Eph. üi. 8.
And if that which might be known of God by the creatures, leave men without excuse, as it is manifest, Rom. i. 20. how inexcusable then will those be, who have received not only the teachings of the creature, but also the grace of the gospel in vain! « How "Thall we escape if we neglect fo great salvation ?" They that are careless in the day of grace, shall be speechless in the day of judgment.
I am sensible of many defects in these papers, (as well as in myself.) They have doubtless, a taste of the distractions of thetimes wherein they were written; nor was I willing to keep them so long under hand as the accurateness and exactness with which such a subject ought to have been handled, did require. Had I designed my own credit, I should have obferved that counsel, Nonumque preinatur in annum, i. e. To have kept it much longer under the file, before I had exposed it to public view; but I rather inclined to Solomon's counsel, " Whatever thy hand " finds out to do, do it with all thy might; for there is no wisdom, " nor knowledge, nor device in the grave, whither thou art going," ; Eccl. ix. 10.
I apprehend a necessity of some fuch means to be ufed for the instruction and conviction of country people; who either are not capable of understanding truth in another dialect, or at least are lefs affected with it. The propofition in every chapter con Gifts of an obfervation in husbandry; wherein, if I have failed in using any improper expression, your candour will cover it, and impute it to my unacquaintedness in rural affairs :
In magnis voluiffe fat eft.
That of Herbert is experimentally true :
And turn delight into a sacrifice.
Scribimus indocti, doctique poemata pallom)
to have set my dull fancy upon the rack to extort a poem to enter-
'Tis guilt, not poetry, to be like those,
Your very affectionate
To the CHRISTIAN READER.
THERE are three things wherein (as it hath been said long be
fore my day) the exercise of godlinefs doth chiefly confift: - Prayer, temptation, meditation : Meditation is the subject of the following manual. The object of meditation is twofold. First, The word. Secondly, The works of God. The works of God are twofold. First, Internal. Secondly, External. The External works of God are twofold. First, Of creation, Secondly, Of providence. The works of providence are likewise twofold. First
, In things civil, the Lord ordering and over-ruling all the affairs and motions of fingle persons, families, and nations, in a subferviency to his own most holy ends, designs, and purposes. Secondly, In things natural, the Lord instructing the husbandman to discretion, and teaching him how to dress anu till the earth, that it may give feed to the lower, and bread the eater;
also how to breed up and manage the beasts of the field, both greater and leffer cattle, for the use and service of man.
Meditation upon this lower part of the works of God, and his wonderful providences about them, may raise our souls very high ;
and while we wisely consider these natural things, we may grow more and more wise, in and for spirituals and eternals.
The worthy and ingenious Author of the ensuing discourse hath supplied us with an excellent help, for the spiritualizing of the providential works of God in natural things, by godly meditations; we chiefly want the help of the Holy Spirit (without which all other helps and helpers are altogether insufficient) to frame and wind up our hearts for this both profitable and delightful duty; yet the help which the Lord is pleased to give us for our direction in it, by the ministry of man, is not only not to be refused, but thankfully received and improved ; and all little enough to bring our minds to, or keep them at this work: The best of saints, on this fide heaven, have, though they are not earthly-minded only, much earth in their minds; which like a heavy clog at their heels, or a weight at their hearts, presseth them down when they would make an essay to mount upward in meditation. We find it no easy matter to keep off earthly thoughts, when we are most seriously engaged in heavenly work; how hard is it then to get in, and be fixed upon heavenly thoughts, while we are engaged about earthly work; yea, are (for so is the husbandman) working the very earth, and raking in the bowels of it? It is a great part of our holiness to be fpiritually-minded, while we are converfing with God through Jesus Christ in spiritual duties; but to be spiritually minded, and to mind spiritual things, when we are conversing with the clods of the earth, and the furro vs of the field; when we have to do with corn and grass, with trees and plants, with sheep and oxen ; when we behold the birds and fowls of the air, the worms, and all that creep upon the ground; then, I say, to be spiri- : tually-minded, and thence to have our thoughts ascending, and soaring up to God, in heart-affecting and quickening contemplations, witnesseth an high degree of holiness, and of gracious attainments. To make a ladder out of the earthly materials, for the raising of our. felves in spirit up to heaven, is the art of arts. Holy and happy indeed are they who, being taught of God, have learned this art, and live in daily practice of it. Earthly objects usually hinder us in our way, sometimes turn us quite out of our way to heaven. Many plow and fow, dig and delve the earth, till their hearts become as earthly as the earth itself: Many deal about the beasts of the field, till themselves become even brutish. Is it not then a blessed design which this Author aims and drives at, so to spiritualize all sorts, or the whole compass of earthly busbandry, that all sorts of husbandmen may become spiritual and heavenly? It seems to be a token of good, that God hath an intendment of some special good to the souls of such as are by profession proper husbandmen, seeing he hath lately put it into the hearts of two faithful * ministers (who with all of that profeffron, are husbandmen in a figure) to undertake, though in a different
Mr Richard Stecl, and this Author.