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oft voice; ireless and imp some changin';
fire make way for the soft voice; 1 Kings xix. But I pity the flatteries and self-applauses of a careless and impenitent heart: this jollity hath in it much danger; and, without some change, death. O Saviour, I know thou camest to send fire on the earth; yea, fire into these earthen bosoms, whereof the very best hath combustible matter enough for thee to work upon; and what will 1, thou sayest, if it be already kindled? Luke xii. 49. O Blessed Jesu, my will agrees with thine: I desire nothing in the world more, than that this fire of thine may flame up in my soul; and burn up those secret corruptions, which have lain smothering within me. Set me at full variance with myself, that I may be at peace with thee.
TRUE LIGHT. Thou hast taught us, O Saviour, that even the light of man may be darkness, and that the light endarkened causeth the greatest darkness; Matt. vi. 23: neither can it be otherwise: since the very obscuring of the light maketh some kind of darkness, the utter extinction of it must needs make the darkness absolute. Now, what is darkness, but a mere privation of light? There is but a double spiritual light, the absence whereof causeth darkness. Thine Evangelist hath justly said of thee, Thou art the true light, that enlightenest every man, that cometh into the world; John 1.9. Thy Psalmist hath said of thy Divine Oracles, Thy word is a lantern unto my feet, and a light unto my steps; Psalm cxix. 105: whosoever wants both, or either of these, cannot but be in dark, ness; yea, his pretended light cannot but be darkness itself. I see, O Lord, there is much of this dark light in the world. In one, i observe a kind of glowworm-light, which, in a summer's evening, shines somewhat bright; but he, that should offer to light his candle at it, would be much deceived: this is justly a dark light, since it shines not at all by day, neither is at all communicable to another, no not to the bearer itself. In another, I see the light of a dark-lantern, which casts out some gleams of light; but only to him, that bears it: even this man's light is darkness also, to all the world besides himself. In a third, I see a resemblance of that meteorical light, which appears in moorish places, that seems fire, but is nothing but a slimy glittering exhalation; causing both the wonder and error of the traveller; leading him, through the impulsive motion of the air, into a ditch: and of this kind I find too much variety; all of them agreeing in this, that they pretend visions and revelations of the Spirit, even for contrary projections. O Saviour, what light svever is not derived from thee is no better than darkness. Thou hast sufficiently revealed thyself and thy will to us, in thy word: as for any new lights, except it be a clearer manifestation of the old, O Lord, give me the grace not to follow them. I find a double light to proceed from thee; one, which is a general light, that enlightens every man that comes into the world; the other, especial light of thy Spirit, illuminating the soul of every believer, with a right apprehension of thee and heavenly things. Oh, do thou shine into my soul, with this heavenly light of thine; and, if this be not enough to make me happy, without the accession and with the rejection of other new lights, let me sit in perpetual darkness.
BOSOM-DISCOURSE. O LORD, if I had the skill and grace to be ever communing with my own heart and with thee, I should never want either work or company; never have cause to complain, of solitariness or tedious hours : for there is no time, wherein there is not some main business to be done, between thee and my soul: one while, finding my heart dull and stupid, I should have cause to rouse it up by some quickening meditation; another while, finding it dejected with some unexpected cross, I should be cheering it up with some comfortable applications: one while, finding it distracted with some scrupulous doubts, I should be labouring to settle it in just resolutions; another while, perceiving it to incline towards idle thoughts, I should be checking it with a seasonable reprehension: one while, finding it faint and slack in holy duties, I should chide it into a more sensitive vigour; another while, finding it more cheerful in the performances of devotion, I should encourage it with the assurance of a gracious acceptation: one while, I should find cause to fortify it against temptations; another while, to erect it after a foil: one while, to conflict; another, to triumph: one while, to examine my condition; another while, either to deplore, or congratulate it: one while, I should find time to sue to thee, my God, for the supply of some want; another while, to bless thee, for favours received: one while, to bemoan my wretchedness; another while, to adore thy infinite greatness : one while, to renew my vows; another while, to beg pardon for my omissions : one while, to seek thee with tears and due humiliation; another while, to rejoice in thy great salvation. The varieties of my ever-changing condition, while I am in this vale of misery, cannot want the per. petual employment of a busy soul. O God, let me be dumb to all the world, so as I may ever have a tongue for thee and my own heart,
THE INSENSIBLE FETTERS. What a subtle devil we have to deal with! He will be sure to give the sinner line enough; so he may be sure to hold him : he shall have his full scope and freedom, to all honest and religious practices; so as, by some one secret sin, that evil spirit may have power over his soul, both to ensnare and retain it. He cares not how godly we seem, how conscionable we are in all other actions ; so as he may still, in one dear sin, keep us fast entangled. Whereupon it often comes to pass, that, not only the eyes of the world, but even our own, are too often deceived, in the judgment of our spiritual estate. We profess strict holiness; and give good proofs,
upon occasion, of a tender and well-guided conscience; so as, this glorious shew wins us the reputation of rare virtue and exemplary piety: yet still, that wicked devil hath a tie upon our heel: there is some peccadillo of smothered lust, or concealed pride, or zealous cruelty and uncharitableness, that gives him the command of our souls at pleasure: and this shall no less fetch us within his power and mercy, than if we were locked up under a thousand chains, O God, thou, who art infinite both in wisdom and power, do thou enable me, not only to resist the power, but to avoid the wiles of that cunning spirit. Let me give him no advantage, by the close entertainment of any bosom sin. Let my holiness and obedience be as universal, as either thy commands, or his mischievous in, tentions.
SATAN'S PREVALENCE. How busy and prevalent Satan is, in this present age, above all former times, appears too plainly, in those universal broils and combustions, which he hath raised, all the world over; whereof no nation, of the whole known habitable earth, is at this day free: in the strange number and variety of sects, schisms, heresies, set on foot by him, every where; the like whereof were never heard of, in the preceding times of the Church : in the rifeness of bold and professed atheism: and, most clearly, in the marvellous multitude of witches abounding in all parts. Heretofore, one of those clients of hell, in a whole country, was hooted at as a strange monster; now, hundreds are discovered, in one shire; and, if fame deceive us not, in a village of fourteen houses, in the north-parts, are found so many of this damned breed: heretofore, only some barbarous and wild deserts, or some rude uninhabited coasts, as of Lapland and Finland, &c. were thought to be haunted with such miscreant guests; now the civilest and most religious parts are frequently pestered with them: heretofore, some silly, poor, and ignorant old women were thus deluded by that infernal impostor; now, we have known those of both sexes, which have professed much knowledge, holiness, devotion, drawn into this damnable practice. What shall we say to all these over-pregnant proofs, of the unusually prevailing power of hell? Certainly, either Satan is now let loose, according to the prediction of the holy Evangelist in Patmos, towards the end of the wor.d: or, because he finds his time but short, he rageth thus extremely; as if, what he must lack in time, he would make up in fury. But, O Blessed God, thine infinite wisdom, and omnipotence, knows how to make a just advantage of that increased power and success, which thou hast permitted to this great enemy of mankind. Thy justice is hereby magnified, in thy just judgments upon the wicked; and thy mercy, in the gain, that hence accrues to thy chosen: for, certainly, thy true Saints would not be so eminently holy, if Satan were not sa malicious. Thou, who, in natural causes, are wont to work by contraries, so as inward heat is ordinarily augmented by the ex. tremity of an ambient cold, canst and wilt do so much more in spiritual. What thy visible Church loseth, in the number of formal professors, is abundantly made up, in the vigorous graces of thy real Saints. Still and ever, do thou so order and overrule these busy workings of the powers of darkness, that thou mayest repay thine unreclaimable enemies with judgments; and heighten the piety, vigilancy, and zeal of thy faithful ones.
LEISURELY GROWTH. We are all commonly impatient of leisure; and apt to over-hasten the fruition of those good things we affect. One would have wealth; but he would not be too long in getting of it; he would have golden showers rain down into his lap, on the sudden: another would be wise and learned; yet he cannot abide to stay for grey hairs, or to spend too much oil in his tedious lucubrations. One would be free; but he would not wear out an apprenticeship: another would be honourable; but he would neither serve long, nor hazard much. One would be holy; but he would not wait too long at the door-posts of God's house, nor lose too many hours in the exercise of his stinted devotions: another would be happy; but he would leap into heaven suddenly, not abiding to think of a leisurely towering up thither by a thousand degrees of ascent, in the slow proficiency of grace. Whereas the great God of Heaven, that can do all things in an instant, hath thought good to produce all the effects of natural agency not without a due succession of time. When I look into my garden, there I see first a small spire look out of the earth, which, in some months' time, grows into a stalk; then, after many days expectation, branches forth into some leaves: at last, appears the hope of a flower, which, ripened with many suns and showers, arises to its perfection; and, at last, puts forth its seed for a succeeding multiplication. If I look into my orchard, I see the well-grafted scions yield, first, a tender bud: itself, after many years, is bodied to a solid stock; and, under the patience of many hard winters, spreads forth large arms: at last, being grown to a meet age of vegetation, it begins to grace the spring with some fair blossoms, which, falling off kindly, give way to a weak embryon of fruit: every day now adds something to the growth, till it attain, in autumn, to a full maturity. Why should I make account of any other course, in my spiritual proceedings? O God, I shall be always ready to censure my slow pace, in grace and holy obedience; and shall be ever ambitious of aspiring higher, in thy gracious favour: but, when I shall have endeavoured my utmost, I shall wait with humble patience upon thy bountiful hand; as one, that desires thankfully to acknowledge the little that I have received, and meekly to attend thy good pleasure for what I may receive. So thou bring me to heaven, take what time and keep what pace thou pleasest.
ALLOWABLE VARIETY. It is a great and insolent wrong in those men, who shall think to reduce all dispositions, and forms of devotion, and usages, to their own: since, in all these, there may be much variety; and all those different fashions may receive a gracious acceptation in heaven. One thinks it best, to hold himself to a set form of invocation; another deems it far better, to be left free to his arbitrary and unpremeditated expressions : one pleases himself with this notion of that Omnipotent Deity whom he implores; another thinks that may be more proper and affective: one thinks this posture of body may be the meetest for his humble address to the Throne of Grace, or to the Table of the Heavenly Manna; another likes that better : one is for a long prayer; another, for short ejaculations : one de. sires to raise up his spirits, with the Prophet, by the aid of a harmonious melody; another holds them better fixed in a sad silence: one holds it best to set forth God's service in a solemn state and magnificence; another approves better of a simple and inceremonious devotion: one requires a sacred place and a peculiar habit, as best becoming God's public worship; another makes no difference of either room or dress : one makes scruple of coming otherwise than fasting to the Lord's Table; another conceives it more seasonable after a Love-Feast: one thinks his Christian liberty allows him the moderate scope to all not-unlawful recreations; another's austerity interdicts all pastimes : 'one judgeth this hair and that attire, not lawful only, but comely; another thinks he espies sin in both. () God, as thou hast ever shewed thyself justly sea vere, in the avenging of sin ; so I know thee graciously indulgent, in allowing thy servants much latitude, in the free use of all that thou hast not prohibited : in imitation whereof, give me a heart holily zealous to abhor every thing that is truly evil, and charitably affected to the favourable censure of all usages that are merely indifferent. Let my main care be, to look to the sincerity of my soul, and to the sure grounds of warrant for my actions : for other circumstantial appurtenances, where thou art pleased to be liberal, let me not be strait-handed.
MISCONSTRUCTIONS OF HOLINESS. It is no marvel, if there be nothing that undergoes more variety of constructions from the lookers on, than holiness : for that, being an inward gracious disposition of the soul, conformed to God in all the renewed faculties thereof, lies so close in the bosom, that it can only be guessed at, by such uncertain emanations of words and actions, as flow from it to the ears and eyes of others. The par, ticular graces and affections of love, fear, hope, joy, godly sorrow, zeal, and the rest, break forth apparently in such symptoms and effects, as may win a certainty of belief from the beholders; nei.