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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Fearful Soul

By Thomas Hooker (1586–1647)

[The Soule’s Humiliation. 1637.]

WHY doth the soul seek for succor from itself, and will not go out to Christ?

The first reason is, because the sinner, being conceived not yet to be in Christ, out of the guilt of sin dares not to be so proud as to think that he shall have any favor at God’s hands, for the sinner being now overwhelmed with the body of death and the guilt of his abominations galling of him, and being starved by reason of his sins, and still his sins being before his eyes, and to this day having gotten no assurance of the pardon of them, and God being angry against him, his heart shrinks in consideration of the eternal wrath of the Almighty against him; and he saith, “Because I have despised justice and abused mercy, how dare I appear before God’s justice; for fear justice consume me and execute vengeance upon me.”

And therefore the soul dares not yet venture to come before God, and hence it is that the soul saith, “Can I not take some course of myself and do it without Christ; must I needs go and hear? Certainly the word will condemn; and must I needs go and confess my sins? What, shall I, a rebel, go before a Prince? To come before him, it is the next way to be executed and have some plague thrown upon me!” As a malefactor will devise some shift that he may not come before the judge, so while the soul may have some succor from himself and the staff is in his own hand there is some hope, and he would willingly do any thing for himself; but for the soul to have salvation out of his own reach, and to put the staff out of his own hand, and to hang his salvation upon God’s good pleasure, whose love and mercy, as yet, he was never persuaded of—oh, this is very hard, and the heart is marvellous shy and careful in this, and it is with the heart in this kind as Rabshecah said to the people of Israel: “If you say to me, is not that he whose altars you have broken down,” etc. Thus he labored to pluck away the hearts of this people from trusting in the Lord. The soul in this kind sometimes shakes and shrinks in the apprehension of his own vileness, and saith as this wretch did, “Have you offended him, and do you look for any succor from him?” This argument was very peevish and keen and yet false, for they were the altars of idols, but the soul saith against itself and marvellous truly; when a minister would persuade a man to go to heaven for mercy, the soul begins to reason thus with itself, and saith, “Shall I repair to God? Oh! that’s my trouble; is not he that great God whose justice and mercy and patience I have abused? And is not he the great God of heaven and earth, that hath been incensed against me? Oh, with what face can I appear before him, and with what heart can I look for any mercy from him? I have wronged his justice, and can his justice pardon me? I have abused his mercy, and can his mercy pity me? What! such a wretch as I am? If I had never enjoyed the means of mercy I might have some plea for myself, but oh! I have refused that mercy and have trampled the blood of Christ under my feet; and can I look for any mercy? No, no, I see the wrath of the Lord incensed against me, and that’s all I look for!”

The soul rather desires the mountains to fall upon him, that he may never appear before God. Nay, I have observed this in experience: In the horror of heart, the soul dare scarce read the word of God, for fear he should read his own neck-verse, and he dare not pray, for fear his prayers be turned into sin, and so increase his judgment. Thus the soul out of the guilt of sin dare not seek out to the Lord, and therefore it will use any shift to help itself without going to God.