Page images
PDF
EPUB

soul wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from him : he only is my rock and my salvation : in God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge is in God; Psalm Ixii. 5–7. It shall not trouble thee to find men false, while thou hast such a true God to have recourse unto.

XLVI.

DANGEROUS PROSPERITY. It was a just and needful precaution, () God, which thou gavest of old to thine Israel: When thou shalt have eaten, and art full; then beware, lest thou forget the Lord; Deut. vi. 11, 12. There was not so great fear of forgetting thee, while they were in a hungry and dry wilderness; although, even there, they did too often forget themselves, in an ungracious murmuring against thee and their leaders : the greatest danger of their forgetting thee would be, thou knewest, when they should come to be pampered in the land that flowed with milk and honey. There it was, that, accordingly, Jesurun waxed fut, and kicked: there, being grown thick and covered with fatness, he forsook God which made hiin, and lightly esteemed the r ck of his salvation; Deut. xxxii. 15. Nothing is more difficult, than to keep ourselves from growing wanton by excess; whereas nature, kept low, is capable of just obedience: like as in the body also, a.full feed breeds superfluous and vicious humours; whereas a spare diet keeps it both clean and healthful. Do not I see, () Lord, even the man, that was after thine own heart, while thou keptest him in breath, with the persecution of an unjust master, how tenderly conscientious he was; remorsed in himself, for but cutting off a lap of the robe of his causeless pursuer; i Sam. xxiv. 5: who yet, when he came to the full scope of his ease and courtly jollity, made no scruple of the adulterous bed of fair Bathsheba, or the bloody murder of a faithful Uriah. Who was I, O Lord, that I should promise myself an immunity from the peril of a prosperous condition, under which thy holier servants have miscarried ? It was thy goodness and wisdom, who foreseest not what shall be only, but what might be also, in prevention of the danger of my surfeit to take away the dish, whereon I might have over-fed. O God, I do humbly submit to thy good pleasure, and contentedly rest upon thy Providence; which hast thought fit rather to secure me in the safe use of my little, than to exercise me with the temptations of a bewitching plenty.

XLVII.

. CHEERFUL OBEDIENCE. It is not so much the work that God stands upon, as the mind of the worker. The same act may be done with the thanks and ad. vantage of one agent, and with frowns and disrespect to another. If we do our business grudgingly, and because we must, out of the necessity of our subsistence, we shall have as much thank to sit still: it is our own need, that sets our hands on work, not our obedience; so as herein, we are our own slaves, not God's servants; whereas, if we go about the works of our calling cheerfully, offering them up to God as our willing sacrifice, in an humble compliance with his commands, and an awful and comfortable expectation of his gracious acceptance, we are blessed in our holy endeavours, and cannot fail of an Euge from our Master in Heaven. Alas, Lord, it is but little, that I can do; and, without thy enabling, nothing. Thou, that võuchsafest to give me an abilitation to the work, put into me also good affections to thee in performing of it: let me do thy will here, as thy angels do in heaven, with all gracious readiness and alacrity; and be no less glad, that I shall do it, than that it is done: so, while carnal hearts shall languish under their forced tasks, my labour shall be my pleasure, and I shall find unspeakable comfort, both in the conscience of my act, and the crown of my obedience.

XLVIII.

HEAVENLY ACCORDANCE. As our condition here upon earth is different, so must our affection needs be also. That, which is one man's joy is another's grief; one man's fear is another man's hope : neither can it be otherwise, while our occasions draw us to so manifest contradictions of disposition. These diversities and contrarieties of inclination and desire, are the necessary symptoms of our wretched mortality; and, the nearer we grow to the perfection of our blessedness, the more shall we concentrate in the united scope of all our actions and affections, which is the sole glory of our Creator. Know then, O my soul, that the closer thou canst gather up thyself in all the exercises of thy faculties, and proposals of thy desires, to the only respect of the honour of that great and good God, which gave thee thy being, thou aspirest so much nearer to thy heaven, where all the blessed saints and angels agree together, in one perpetual employment of praising their Maker; and sweetly accord in that one most perfect ditty and note of an eternal Hallelujah to him, that sits upon the throne of that celestial glory. O God, do thou draw in my heart more and more from this variety of earthly distractions, and fix it upon this one heavenly work: put me upon that blessed task here below, which shall never know any end, but endure for ever in heaven.

XLIX.

DIVINE BOUNTY. Had not the Apostle said so, yet our own sense and experience would have told us, that every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights; James i. 17: for, sure, from below, it cannot come. How should any perfect gift arise from the region of all imperfection? How should evil aftoid any good? What is below, but earth and hell? whereof the one vields vothing, but torment; the other, nothing, but misery and sin. If, therefore, it be perfect or good, since nothing can give what it hath not, it must needs come from above, And, from

whom, above ? Not from those lightsome bodies of the stars, whose influences cannot reach unto the soul; whose substance is not capable of any spiritual power, whether to have or give perfect gifts: not from the blessed spirits, which are angels of light; they may help, through God's gracious appointment, to convey blessings to us; they neither will or can challenge an original and primary interest in the blessings which they convey: only, therefore, from the Father of Lights; who, as he is light, so is the Author of all whatsoever light, both inward and outward, spiritual and sensible. And, as light was the first good and perfect gift which he bestowed on the world, so it well may imply all the spiritual blessings conferred on the creature : so as, he, that said, Let there be light: said also, “Let this man be wise: let that be learned: let that other be gracious and holy.” Whence then, () whence, can I look for any good thing, but from thy hands, O my God, who givest to all men liberally and upbraidest noti James i. 5: whose infinite treasure is not capable of any diminution; since, the more thou givest, thy store is not the less, thy glory more. Thou dost not sell thy favours, as we men are apt to do, looking through our small bounty, at an expected retribution; but thou givest most freely, most absolutely: neither dost thou lend thy best blessings, as looking to receive them back again, but so conveyest them to us, as to make them our own for ever: since, therefore, thy gifts are so free, that all thy heavenly riches may be had for asking; how worthy shall I be to want them, if I do not sue for them to the Throne of thy Grace! Yet even this, since it is a good thing, I cannot do, without thee: Oh, then, give thou me the grace, that I may be ever begging faithfully of thee; and give me the graces, that I beg for,

SWEET USE OF POWER, I SEE that great, wise, and holy God, who might most justly make use of his absolute power; yet proceeds sweetly with his creature, in all his ways. He might force some to salvation, in spite of their will: he might damn others, merely for his pleasure, without respect to their sin; but he doth not, he will not do either of these; but goes along graciously and gently with us, inviting us to repentance, and earnestly tendering to us the means of salvation; on the one side, with effectual persuasions, and strong motives, and kindly inclinations to an answerable obedience; on the other side, laying before us the fearful menaces of his judgments denounced against sinners, urging all powerful dissuasions, and using all probable means to divert us from all the ways of wicked. ness, and, when those prevail pot, justly punishing us for our wilful disobedience, impenitence, and infidelity, O God, how should we learn of thee to proceed with all our fellow-creatures, but much more with our Christian brethren, not according to the rigour of any pretended prerogative of power; but in all merciful tender ness, in all gentle and fair means of their reclamation on the one

side, and, on the other, in an unwilling and constrained severity of necessary justice! And, how much doth it concern thee, O my soul, not to stay till thy God shall drag thee to repentance and salvation; but gladly to embrace all those happy opportunities, and cheerfully to yield to all those merciful solicitations, which thy God offers thee for thy full conversion ; and carefully to avoid those ways of sin and death, which he hath, under so dreadful denunciations, graciously warned thee to shun: else, thy God is cleared, both in his justice and mercy; and thy perdition is of thyself!

LI.

THE POWER OF CONSCIENCE. It is a true word of the Apostle, God is greater than our conscience; and, surely, none but he: under that great God, the supreme power on earth is the conscience. Every man is a little world within himself; and, in this little world, there is a court of judicature erected, wherein, next under God, the conscience sits as the supreme judge, from whom there is no appeal; that passeth sentence upon us, upon all our actions, upon all our intentions; for our persons, absolving one, condemning another; for our actions, allowing one, forbidding another. If that condemn us, in vain shall all the world beside acquit us; and, if that clear us, the doom, which the world passeth upon us, is frivolous and ineffectual. I grant this judge is sometimes corrupted, with the bribes of hope, with the weak fears of loss, with an undue respect of persons, with powerful importunities, with false witnesses, with forged evidences, to pass a wrong sentence upon the person or cause; for which he shall be answerable to him, that is higher than the highest; but yet this doom, though reversible by the tribunal of heaven, is still obligatory on earth : so as it is my fault, that my conscience is misled; but it is not my fault, to follow my conscience. How much need have I therefore, O my God, to pray, that thou wouldest guide my conscience aright; and keep this great judge in my bosom, from corruption and error! and what need hath this intestine arbiter of mine, to take special care, that he may avoid all misinformations, that may mislead his judgment; and all the base suggestions of outward advantage or loss, that may deprave his affections! And, O) thou, that only art greater than my conscience, keep me from doing ought against my conscience: I cannot disobey that, but I must offend thee; since that is but thine officer under thee, and only commands for thee.

LII.

PROUD POVERTY. THAT, which wise Solomon observed in the temporal estates of men, holds no less true in the spiritual: There is, that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing : there is, that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches ; Prov. xiii. 7. On the one side, we meet with a proud, but beggarly Laodicean, that says, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; which will not know that he is wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked; Rev. iji. 17: this man, when the means of further grace are tendered him, can say, as Esau did of the proffered herds, I have enough, my brother; and, with the bragging Pharisee, can boast of what he is not, and of what he is; of what he hath, of what he doth; admiring his own nothing, and not caring to seek for more, because he thinks he hath all: this fond Justiciary can over-do his duty, and supererogate; contemning the poverty of souls better furnished than his own, and laying his merits in the dish of the Almighty. On the other side, there is an humble soul, that is secretly rich in all spiritual endowments, full of knowledge, abounding in grace, which, out of the true poverty of spirit, undervalues himself; and makes no shew of ought, but a bemoaned disability : as we have seen those grounds, wherein the richest mines are treasured, bewray nothing but barrenness in their outside. O my soul, what estimation soever others may set upon thee, thou art conscious enough of thy own wants : be thankful for the little thou hast, and abased for the much thou lackest; and, if thou wilt needs be advancing thyself above others, let it be in the contestation of thy greater humbleness and lower dejection: thy grace shall be no less, because thou thinkest it so; but shall rather multiply, by a modest diminution. And, O Blessed Lord, thou, who resistest the proud, and givest grace to the humble, give me more humility, that I may receive more grace from thee: and thou, whose gracious rain shelves down from the steep mountains and sweetly drenches the humble vallies, depress thou my heart more and more with true lowliness of spirit; that the showers of thy heavenly grace may soak into it, and inake it more fruitful in all good affections and all holy obedience.

LIII.

THE HAPPIEST SOCIETY. I FIND, O Lord, some holy men, that have gone aside from the world into some solitary wilderness, that they might have their full scope of enjoying thee freely, without any secular avocations; who, no doubt, improved their perfect leisure to a great entire. ness of conversation with thee. Surely, I could easily admire the report of their holiness, and emulate their mortified retiredness, if I did not hear them say, The wolf dwells in the wood; and that they could as soon leave themselves, as the world behind them.

There is no desert so wild, no mountains or rocks so craggy, wherein I would not gladly seek thee, O my God, and which I would not willingly climb up to find thee, if I could hope that solitude would yield a spiritual advantage of more enjoying thee: but, alas, I find our weak powers are subject to an unavoidable lassitude; and we can no more contemplate always those divine objects, than our bodily eyes are able to fix themselves on the body of the sun in his brightest splendour: so as, if our minds should not be sometime taken off with a safe variety of cogitations

« PreviousContinue »