« PreviousContinue »
contains itself in its own bounds, without any danger of diffusion to others; the spiritual, as extremely contagious, spreads its infection, to the peril of all that come within the air of it.
In this sad case, what is to be done? Surely, we may, as we do, mourn for the miserable distractions of the world; but it is thou only, O Lord, that canst heal them. O thou, that art the great and sovereign Physician of Souls; that, after seven years' brutality, restoredst the frantic Babylonian to his shape and senses; look down mercifully upon our Bedlam, and restore the distracted world to their right temper once again : as for those, that are yet sound, keep them, O God, in their right wits unto the end; preserve them safe, from all the pestilent taintures of schism and heresy : and, for me, the more insight thou givest me into, and the more sense of, these woeful distempers; so much the more thankful do thou make me to thine infinite goodness, that thou hast been graciously pleased to keep me within compass. And oh, do thou still and ever keep me, within the compass of thy revealed will, and all just moderation ; and suffer me not to be miscarried into any of those exorbitances of judgment, which may prove a trouble to thy Church, and a scandal to thy Name.
THE DIFFERENCE OF ACTIONS. THERE is great difference in sins and actions, whether truly or seemingly offensive : there are gnats, and there are camels. Neither is there less difference in consciences: there are consciences so wide and vast, that they can swallow a camel ; and there are consciences so strait, as that they strain at a gnat: yea, which is strange to observe, those very consciences, which, one while, are so dilated, that they strain not at a camel; another while, are so drawn together by an anxious scrupulousness, that they are ready to be choked with a gnat. How palpably was this seen, in the Chief Priest, and Pharisees, and Elders of the Jews ! the small gnat, of entering into the Judgment-Hall of the Roman Governor, would by no means down with them; that heinous act would defile them, so as they should not eat the passover; John xviii. 28 : but, in the mean time, the huge camel of the murder of the Lord passed down glib and easily through their throats. They are ready to choke, with one poor ear of corn pulled on a sabbath by a hungry passenger; yet whole houses of widows, the while, pass down their gorges, with ease. An unwashed hand or cup was piacular; while, within, their hearts are full of extortion and excess; Matt. xxiii. 25. I wish the present age did not abound with instances. It is the fashion of hypocrites, to be seemingly scrupulous in small things, while they make no conscience at all of the greatest : and to be so much less conscionable of greater matters of the Law, judgment, mercy, and faith ; as they are more scrupulously punctual in their mint, anise, and cummin. () God, I would not make more sins, than thou hast made. I desire to have a heart wisely tender, not fondly scrupulous. Let my soul endure no fetters, but thine. If indifferent things may be my gnats, let no known sin be other than a camel to me; and let me rather choke in the passage, than let down such a morsel.
THE NECESSITY OF LABOUR. The great and wise God, that hath been pleased to give to all creatures their life and being, without their endeavour or knowledge, hath yet ordained not to continue their being, without their own labour and co-operation: so as he hath imposed upon them all a necessity of pains-taking, for their own preservation. The wild beasts of the desert must walk abroad, and forage far for their prey: the beasts of the field must earn their pasture, with their work and labour, in very feeding to fill a large maw, with picking up those several mouthfuls, whereby they are sustained: the fowls of several kinds must fly abroad, to seek their various diet; some, in the hedges; some, in the fields ; some, in the waters: the bee must, with unwearied industry, gather her stock of wax and honey, out of a thousand flowers. Neither know I any, that can be idie, and live. But man, as he is appointed to be the lord of all the rest; so he is, in a special manner, born to labour: as he, upon whom the charge lies, to provide both for himself and all the creatures under his command : being not more impotent than they, in his first entrance into the world; than he is, afterwards, by the power of his reason, more able to govern them, and to order all things that may concern both their use and conservation. How willingly, O Lord, should I stoop to this just condition of my creation ! Labour is my destiny; and labour shall be my trade. Something, I must always do, both out of thy command, and my own inclination; as one, whose not unactive spirit abhors nothing more, than the torment of doing nothing. O God, do thou direct me to, and employ me in, those services, that may be most for thy glory, for the good of others, and my own discharge and comfort.
ACQUAINTANCE WITH HEAVEN. What a high favour is it, in the Great God of Heaven, that he is pleased to stoop so low, as to allow wretched man, here upon earth, to be acquainted with so Infinite a Majesty! yet, in the multitudes of his mercies, this hath he condescended unto. So far hath he yielded to us, as that he is pleased we should know him; and, to that end, he hath clearly revealed himself to mankind : and, more than so, he is willing and content that we should enjoy him, and should continually make a comfortable use of his presence with us ; that we should walk with him, and impart all our secret thoughts and counsels to him ; that we should call for his gracious aid upon all our occasions; that we should impart all our wants, and fears, and doubts to him, with expectation of a merciful and sure answer,
and supply from heaven : yea, that he should invite us, silly wretches, to his presence; and call us up to the throne of grace; and encourage us poor souls, dejected with the conscience of our unworthiness, to put up our suits boldly to his merciful hands : yea,
that he should give this honour to dust and ashes, as to style us his friends. How shamefully unthankful, and how justly miserable shall I be, if I make not an answerable use of so infinite a mercy! O God, how utterly unworthy shall I be of this grace, if, notwithstanding these merciful proffers and solicitations, I shall continue a willing stranger from thee; and shall make no more improvement of these favours, than if they had never been rendered! Oh, let me know thee; let me acknowledge thee; let me adore thee; let me love thee; let me walk with thee; let me enjoy thee; let me, in a holy and awful familiarity, be better and more entirely acquainted with thee, than with the world, than with myself: so I shall be sure to be happy, here; and, hereafter, glorious.
THE ALL-SUFFICENT KNOWLEDGE. I FIND much enquiry of curious wits, whether we shall know one another in heaven. There is no want of arguments, on both parts; and the greatest probabilities have seemed to be for the affirmative. But, O Lord, whether or no we shall know one another, I am sure we shall all, thy glorified Saints, know thee; and, in knowing thee, we shall be infinitely happy: and what would be more ? Surely, as we find here, that the sun puts out the fire, and the greater light ever extinguisheth the less ; so, why may we not think it to be above? When thou art all in all to us, what can the knowledge of any creature add to our blessedness ? And if, when we casually meet with a brother or a son before some great prince, we forbear the ceremonies of our mutual respects, as being wholly taken up with the awful regard of a greater presence; how much more may we justly think, that when we meet before the glorious Throne of the God of Heaven, all the respects of our former earthly relations must utterly cease, and be swallowed up of that beatifical presence, divine love, and infinitely blessed fruition of the Almighty! O God, it is my great comfort here below, to think and know, that I have parents, or children, or brothers and sisters, or friends, already in possession of glory with thee; and to believe assuredly, that, in my time, I shall be received to the association of their blessedness: but if, upon the dissolution of this earthly tabernacle, I may be admitted to the sight of thy Allglorious Essence, and may set eye upon the face of my Blessed Saviour, now sitting at the right-hand of thy Incomprehensible Majesty, attended with those millions of his heavenly angels, I shall neither have need, nor use of enquiring, after my kindred according to the flesh. What can fall into my thoughts or de: sires, beside or beyond that, which is infinite?
I CANNOT but look, with much pity, mixed with smiles, upon the vain worldling; that sets up his rest in these outward "things; and so pleases himself in this condition, as if he thought no man happy but himself. How high he looks! How big he speaks ! How proudly he struts! With what scorn and insultation, doth he look upon my dejectedness ! The very language of his eye is no other than contempt, seeming to say, “ Base Indigent, thou art stript of all thy wealth and honour: thou hast neither flocks, nor herds, nor lands, nor manors, nor bags, nor barnfuls, nor titles, nor dignities; all which I have in abundance: no man regards thy meanness;
I am observed with an awful veneration.” Be it so, Great Sir, think I: enjoy you your height of honour, and heaps of treasure, and ceremonies of state, while I go shrugging in a threadbare coat, and am glad to feed on single dishes, and to sleep under a thatched roof; but, let me tell you, set your all against my nothing, if you have set your heart upon these gay things: were you
the heir of all the earth, I would be loth to change condition with your eminence; and will take leave to tell you, that, at your best, you shall fall within my commiseration. It is not in the power of all your earthly privileges, to render you other than a miserable vassal. If you have store of gold, alas, it is but made up into fetters and manacles; and, what is all your outward bravery, but mere matter of opinion? I shall shew you an Indian slave, that shall no less pride himself in a bracelet of glass beads, than you can in your richest jewels of rubies and diamonds. All earthly things are, as they are valued. The wise and almighty Maker of these earthen mines, esteems the best metals but as thick clay : and why should we set any other price on them, than their Creator? And, if we be wont to measure the worth of all things by their virtues, and uses, and operations; what is it, that your wealth can do? Can it free you from cares? can it lengthen your steps? can it keep you from head-aches, from gouts, dropsies, fevers, and other bodily distempers ? can it ransom you from death? can it make your account easier in the great day of reckoning? Are you ever the wiser, ever the holier, ever the quieter, for that, which you have purchased with tears and blood? And, were it so precious as you imagine, what hold have you of it? what assurance to enjoy it or yourself, but one hour? As for despised me, I have wealth, that you know not of: my riches are invisible, invaluable, , interminable : God all-sufficient is mine; and, with him, all things: my treasure is not locked up in earth, or in heaven; but fills both: my substance is sure; not obnoxious to plunder, or loss, or diminution: no man hath bled, no widow or orphan hath wept, for my enriching: the only difference is this; you are miserable, and think yourself happy; I am happy, whom you think miserable : however our thoughts may bear us out in both for a while, yet, at
the last, except truth itself can deceive us, the issue must fall on my side. O God, be thou my portion, and the lot of mine inheritance: let the scum of the world spit in my face, as the most despicable of all creatures: I am above the despight of men and devils, and am secretly happy, and shall be eternally glorious.
ACCEPTATION OF DESIRES. What a comfort it is to us weak wretches, that we have to deal with a merciful God, that measures us, not by our performances, but by the truth of our desires! David had a good mind to build God å house; his hands were too bloody to lay the foundation of so holy a fabric: yet God takes it as kindly from him, as if he had finished the work; and rewards the intention of building a house to his name, with the actual building of a house to David for ever. Good Hezekiah knew how easy and welcome a suit he made, when, after all endeavours of sanctifying the people for the celebration of that great passover, he prayed, The Lord pardon every one, that prepareth his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary; 2 Chron. xxx. 18, 19. Alas, we cannot be but lame, in all our obediences. What can fall from defective causes, but imperfect effects ? If we pray, we are apt to entertain unmeet notions of the Infinite Spirit to whom we address our supplications, and sudden glances of wandering thoughts: if we read or hear, we are subject to vain distractions: if we approach God's Table, our souls fail of that exact preparation and purity, wherewith they should be decked, when they come to that celestial banquet : if we do the works of justice or mercy, it is not without some light touch of self-respect; and, well may we say with the blessed Apostle, The good, that I would, I do not; Rom. vii. 19: we should, therefore, find just cause of discouragement in ourselves, if our best actions were to be weighed hy their own worth, and not by our better intentions: but that gracious God, who puts good desires into us, is so ready to accept of them, that he looks not so much at what we have done, as at what we wished to have done; and, without respect to our defects, crowns our good affections. All that I can say for myself, O my God, is, that the desire of my heart is to please thee in all things: my comfort then is, though my abilities fail in the performance, yet thy mercies cannot fail in my acceptation.
HEAVENLY JOYS. DOUBTLESS, O God, thou, that hast given to men, even thine enemies, here upon earth, so excellent means, to please their outward senses; such beautiful faces and admirable flowers, to delight the eye; such delicate scents from their garden, to please the smell ; such curious confections and delicate sauces, to please the taste; such sweet music from the birds, and artificial devices of ravishing