The fourth Chapter, Of the entier affection and loue of God towards the sinfull soule of man.
I Neuer sawe, or else it was kept wondrous secret, that euer anie husband would tho∣roughlie forgiue his wife, after she had him once offended, and did returne vn∣to him.
There haue beene manie of them, which for to a∣uenge their wrongs, haue caused the Iudges to put them to death. Other, beholding their sinnes, did not spare their owne hands to kill them. Other also, see∣ing their faults to appeare, did send them home again to their owne friends. And some, perceiuing their euill dispositions, haue shut them vp in prison. Now brieflie to conclude vpon their diuers complexions, the end of their pretence is punishment, and the least harme that euer I could perceiue in punishing them, is this, that they would neuer see them againe. But I do wish, that all of this mind should rather helpe to turne them, than to forsake them. And therfore my God, I can find no man comparable vnto thee: for of loue thou art the perfect example. Now therefore I confesse with low∣lie hart, that I haue broken to thee mine oth & promise.
Alas, thou hadest chosen me for thy wife, and didst set me vp in great state and honour. For what greater honour may one haue, than to be in the place of thy Page 16 wife, which sweetelie taketh hir rest so neere to thee, and not onlie in suretie of soule and bodie, but also of all thy goodes, Queene, Mistresse, and Ladie? O what great fauour is it, that I so vile a creature, am so en∣noblished by thee to so honourable an husband! Now to speake it brieflie, I haue more by possessing of thee, than anie man mortall can desire. Yet, when I re∣member mine vnwoorthie deseruing, my hart doth sob and sigh, mine eies let fall abundance of teares, my mouth can not make too manie exclamations. For there is neither new nor ancient writings, that can shew so pitifull a case as the same is which I tell now. Shall, or dare I tell it? May I pronounce it without shame? Yea, for it is my confusion, not to shew the great loue of my husband: and for his worship to de∣clare my fault.
O my sauiour, which wast crucified on the crosse for my sinnes, this deede of thine is not such, as a father to leaue his sonne, or as a child to offend his mother, or as a sister to chide and grudge. But alas, my fault is such, and far greater. For the more familiaritie I haue with thee, and the more benefits I receiue of thee, the greater is mine offence, when I with thee dissemble; speciallie that I should so doo, which am called thy spouse, and loued of thee as thy soule. Shall I now tell the truth? O my spouse, I haue left thee, forgotten thee, and am run awaie from thee; I did leaue thee, for to go at my vaine pleasure: I forsooke thee, and chose me another: yea I refused thee the welspring of all goodnesse, and faithfull promise. I did leaue thee. But whither went I? Into a place where nothing was but cursednesse.
I haue left thee my trustie friend and louer, worthie to be beloued aboue all others: I haue put thee aside, O welspring of all health somnes, by mine owne wret∣ched will: yea I haue forsaken thee, full of beautie, Page 17 goodnesse, wisedome, and power, and sought to with∣drawe me from thy loue. I haue accepted thy great enimies, that is, the diuell, the world, and the flesh, a∣gainst whome for my sake thou foughtedst so sore on the crosse, to set me at libertie, which was by them of long time a prisoner and slaue, and so bound, that no man could cause me to humble my selfe. And as for the loue and charitie that I should haue had towards thee, they did quench it; so that the name of Jesus my deare husband, which before I had found so sweet, was to me tedious and hatefull, so that oftentimes I did iest at it: and when I haue heard the Gospell prea∣ched or taught, the word which I haue hard, hath not tarried with me, but as a feather doth in the winde.
I went neuer yet to heare thy word preached, but for a fashion onlie, which was a worke of hypocrisie: I was also annoied, when I hard speake of thee, because I was more willing to go at my pleasure. Now brief∣lie to conclude, all that thou didst forbid me, I fulfilled: and all that thou commandedst me to do, I did eschue, and this was the cause why I loued not thee. But yet Lord, for all that I did thus hate thee, and forsake thee, ran awaie from thee, and betraied thee, should I giue place to anie other? Hast thou suffered, that I should be mocked, either yet beaten, or killed? Hast thou put me in darke prison, or banished me for euer, setting naught by me? Hast thou taken awaie thy gifts and pretious iewels againe from me, to punish me for my vnfaithfull fruits? Haue I lost my iointure, which thou promisedst me, through mine owne offence done against thee? Am I accused by thee, afore the eternall father, for a naughtie woman? Hast thou forbidden me thy presence, as I haue deserued, and that I should neuer appeare in thine house?
O most true husband, pure and perfect friend, the most louing among all louers! Alas, thou hast done o∣therwise Page 18 for me. For thou hast diligentlie sought for me, when I was going into the most deepe place of Hell, where all euils are done. When I was farthest from thee, both in hart and mind, and directlie out of the waie, then didst thou louinglie call me backe, sai∣eng, My deare daughter, hearken and see, and vow thine eare toward me: forget that strange nation, with whome thou hast run astraie, and also the house of thine owne father, where thou hast dwelt so long, and then shall the King of all faithfulnesse desire thy beautie. But when thou Lord sawest, that thy sweete and gratious calling did not profit me, then begannest thou to crie to me with a lowd voice, saieng: Come vn∣to me all you which are wearilie loden with labour, for I am he that shall plentiouslie refresh you, and feed you with the bread of life.
Alas, sweet Lord, vnto all these sweet words would I not hearken, but rather doubted whether it were thou, that so spake vnto me, or else a fabulous writing that so said. I was so foolish, that without loue I read thy word: I considered not the comparison of the Uineyard, which brought foorth thornes and briers in stead of good fruit, and that it signified me, that so had done. I knew also, that when thou didst call the barren wife, saieng, Returne Shulamite, that thou didst speake it, that I should forsake my sinnes. Yet for all these words did I, as though I had vnderstood neuer a whit. But when I had perused the Prophet Iere∣mie, I confesse that I had in the reading thereof, feare in my hart, and bashfulnesse in my face. I will tell it, yea with teares in mine eies, and all Lord for thine honor, & to suppresse my pride. Thou hast said by that holie Prophet: If a woman haue offended hir husband, and is so left of him, for going astraie with other: if he therevpon refuseth hir, is she not to be e∣steemed polluted, and of no value?
Page 19 The lawe doth consent to put hir in the hands of iustice, or to driue hir awaie, and so neuer to take hir againe. Thou hast made a separation betweene thy bed and mine, saith he vnto me, and placed forren lo∣uers in my roome, committing with them fornication: yet for all this, thou maist returne to me againe, for I will not alwaies be angrie against thee. Lift vp ther∣fore thine eies, and looke about thee on euerie side, and then shalt thou well see, into what place thy sinne hath lead thee, and how filthilie thou liest in the earth. O poore soule, looke where thy sinne hath put thee, euen vpon the high waies, where thou didst waite, and ta∣rie to beguile them that came by, euen as a theefe doth, which is hidden in the wildernesse. Therefore thou, in fulfilling thy wicked pleasure, hast with forni∣cation infected all the earth, which was about thee: thine eies, thy forehead, and thy face, haue lost all their good maner, for they were such as an harlot hath, and yet thou hadest no shame of thy sinne.
And the surplus that Ieremie saith, constreineth me to knowe my wretched life, and to wish with so∣rowfull sighes, the houre, the moneth, the daie, the yeare, and time that my life might haue an end, yeel∣ding my selfe condemned, and worthie to lie for euer in the euerlasting fire. The same feare which proceedeth of thee, and not of my selfe, putteth me rather in hope, than in despaire, as often as I do remember my sinne. For as soone as thou knowest my will, bowing vnder thine obedience, then putting in me a liuelie faith, thou didst vse great clemencie, so that after I knewe thee to be that same Lord, Maister, and King, whome I ought to haue feared, then found I my feare not quenched, but mixed with loue, beleeuing that thou art so gratious, gentle, and sweete, and so pitifull an husband, that I which should rather haue hid me, than to haue shewed my selfe, was not then in feare to Page 20 go foorth, and to looke for thee, & so seeking, I found thee.
But what didst thou then? Didst thou refuse me? No Lord, but rather hast excused me. Hast thou turned thy face from me? No, for thine eie so sweetlie penetra∣ted my hart, that wounding it almost to the death, it did giue to me remorse of my sinnes. Thou hast not put me backe with thy hand: but with both thine armes, and with a sweet and manlie hart, thou didst meete with me by the waie, and not once reprouing my faults, embracedst me. I could not see in beholding thy countenance, that euer thou didst once perceiue mine offences: wherefore thou hast done so much for me, as though I had neuer broken promise with thee. For thou didst hide my fault from euerie bodie, in gi∣uing me againe the part of thy bed, and also in shew∣ing, that the multitude of my sinnes are so hidden and ouercome by thy great victorie, that thou wilt neuer remember them more: so that now thou seest nothing in me, but the graces, gifts, and vertues, which it hath pleased thy free goodnesse to giue me.
O charitie most pretious! I do see well, that thy goodnesse doth consume my lewdnesse, and maketh me a new, godlie, and ioifull creature. The euill that was mine, thou hast destroied, and made me so perfect a creature, that all the good a husband can do to his wife, thou hast done it to me, in giuing me a faithfull hope in thy promises. Now haue I through thy good grace, recouered the place of thy wife. O happie, and desired place! O gratious bed! O thou right honou∣rable seate of peace, rest from all warre, high sleepe of honour, separate from the earth! Doest thou receiue this vnworthie creature, giuing hir the scepter and crowne of thine Empire and glorious Realme? Who did euer heare of such a storie, as to raise vp one so high, which of hir selfe was nothing; and maketh of great valure, which of it selfe was naught?