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prayers. If we first, though silently, pray that we may pray, the fervour of our devotion shall grow upon us, in praying: these holy waters of the Sanctuary, that, at first, did but wet the soles of our feet, shall, in their happy process, rise up to our chins. I thank thee, O God, that thou hast given me a desire to walk even, between these extremities. As I would be ever in a praying disposition to thee, so I would not willingly break hours with thee : I would neither sleep nor wake, without praying; but I would never pray, without feeling. If my heart go not along with forms of words, I do not pray, but babble ; and, if that be bent upon the matter of my suit, it is all one to thee, whether the words be my own, or borrowed. Let thy Good Spirit ever teach me to pray, and help me in praying: let that ever make intercessions for me, with groanings which cannot be expressed ; Rom. viii. 26 : and, then, if thou caust, send me away empty.
THE SICK MAN'S VOWS. The answer was not amiss, which Theodoricus, Bishop of Coleine, is said to have given to Sigismond the Emperor ; who, demanding how he might be directed the right way to heaven, received answer; “ If thou walk so, as thou promisedst in thy painful fit of the stone or gout *.” Our extremities commonly render us holy ; and our pain is prodigal of those vows, which our ease is as niggardly in performing. The distressed mariner, in the peril of a tempest, vows to his Saint a taper, as big as the mast of his ship; which, upon his coming to shore, is shrunk into a rush candle. There was never a more stiff-necked people, than that, which should have been God's peculiar; yet, upon every new plague, how do they crouch and creep to the power, which their murmurs provoked! And we daily see desperation makes those votaries, whom health dispenseth with, as the loosest of libertines. Were it essential to prosperity, thus to pervert and debauch us, it were enough to make a good heart out of love with welfare; since the pleasure and profit of the best estate is far too short of recompensing the mischief of a depraved jollity; but now, the fault is in our own wretched indisposition: the blessing is God's; the abuse is ours. Is the sun to be blamed, that the traveller's cloak swelts him with heat? Is the fruit of the grape guilty of that drunkenness, which follows upon a sinful excess? Can we not feed on good meat, without a surfeit? And, whose fault is it, but ours, if we forget the engagements of our sick beds ? Rather than health should make us godless, how much better were it for us to be always sick ? O my God, I do acknowledge and bewail this wretched frailty of our corrupt nature: we are not the same men, sick and whole : we are apt to promise thee fair, and to pay thee with disappointment; and are ready to put off our holy thoughts, with our biggins. It is
mu promisedstay to heave; who, denColeine,
thou only, that canst remedy this sickness of our health, by working us to a constant mortification. Oh, do thou ever bless thy servant, either with sanctified crosses, or a temperate prosperity.
THE SUGGESTIONS OF A FALSE HEART. SURELY, if thousands of souls perish by the flattery of others, more perish by their own; while their natural self-love soothes them with plausible, but untrue suggestions, concerning their estate. Is the question concerning grace? The false heart tells a man, he is stored to superfluity and excess; when he is, indeed, more bare and beggarly, than the proud pastor of Laodicea. Is the question of sin? It proclaims him, not innocent only, but a Saint: it tells him his hands are pure, when he is up to the elbows in blood; that his tongue is holy, when it is foul with perjury and blasphemy; that his eye is honest and chaste, when it is full of adultery ; that his soul is clean, when it is defiled with abominable lusts, or with cruel rancour and malice. Is the question concerning virtue ? It tells a man he is just, when he is all made up of rapine, and violent oppression; that he is eminently wise, when he hath not wit enough to know himself a fool; that he is free-handed and munificent, when he sticks not to rob beggars; that he is piously religious, while he pulls down churches. Thus is the man still hid from himself; and is made to see another, in his own skin : he cannot repent, because he thinks himself faultless : he cannot amend, because he is ever at the best : his only ease and advantage is, that he is carried hoodwinked into hell. "If the question be concerning some scrupulous act to be done or omitted, now self-respect plays its prizes at all weapons: what shifting and traversing there is, to avoid the dint of a present danger! what fine colours and witty equivocations doth the soul find out, to cozen itself into a safe offence! If the question be of a sinful act already committed, what a shuffling there is, to face it out by a stout justification! maugre conscience, it was not lawful only ; but, such as the circumstances were, expedient also : and, if it be so foul, that an apology is too odious, yet an extenuation cannot but be admitted : be it amiss, yet, not heinous, not unmeet for pardon. One would think hell should have little need of the fawning assentation of others, when men carry so dangerous parasites in their own bosoins : but, sure, both together must needs help to people that region of darkness. Take heed, O my soul, how thou givest way to these flattering thoughts, whether arising from thy own breast, or injected by others; and know, thou art never in more danger, than when thou art most applauded. Look upon thine estate and actions with unpartial and severe eyes. Behold thine own face, not in the false glass of opinion and mercenary adulation, but in the true and perfect glass of the Royal Law of thy Creator: that shall duly represent unto thee, whether the beauty of thy graces, or the blemishes of 'thy manifold imperfections : that alone shall tell thee, how much thou art advanced in a gracious proficiency, and how shamefully defective thou art in what thou oughtedst to have attained. Judge of thyself, by that unfailing rule; and be indifferent, what thou art judged of, by others.
SACRED MELODY. WHAT a marvellously cheerful service was that, O God, which thou requiredst and hadst performed, under the Law! Here was not a dumb and silent act in thy sacrifices, a beast bleeding before thy altar, and a smoke, and flame arising out of it: here was not a cloudy perfume, quietly ascending from the golden altar of thine incense: but, here was the merry noise of most melodious music, singing of psalms, and sounding of all harmonious instruments. The congregation were upon their knees, the Levites upon their stage sweetly singing, the priests sounding the trumpets, together with cymbals, harps, psalteries, making up one sound in praising and thanking the Lord; 2 Chron. xxix. 25—28. 2 Chron. v. 12, 13. Methinks, I hear, and am ravished to hear, in some of thy solemn days, a hundred and twenty of thy priests sounding with trumpets: thy Levites, in greater number, singing aloud with the mixture of their musical instruments : so as, not the Temple only, but the Heaven rings again. And, even in thy daily sacrifices, each morning and evening, I find a heavenly mirth : music, if not so loud, yet no less sweet and delicate; no fewer than twelve Levites might be standing upon the stage, every day, singing a divine ditty over thy sacrifice; psalteries, not fewer than two, nor more than six; pipes, not fewer than two, nor more than twelve; trumpets two at the least, and but one cymbal * : so proportioned by the masters of thy choir; as those, that meant to take the heart through the ear. I find, where thy holy servants, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, (doubtless by thy gracious direction, yea, by thy direct command; 2 Chron. sxix. 25–28.) both appointed, and made use of these melodious services: I do not find, where thou hast forbidden them: this I am sure of, since thou art still and ever the same, under both Law and Gospel, that thou both requirest and delightest in the cheerful devotions of thy servants. If we have not the same sounds with thy Legal worshippers, yet we should still have the same affections. As they might not wait upon thee, sorrowful; so, it is not for us to praise thee, with drooping and dejected spirits. O God, do thou quicken my spiritual dulness in thy holy service; and, when I come to celebrate thy great Name, while the song is in my mouth, let my heart be the stage, wherein trumpets, and psalteries, and harps shall sound forth thy praise.
BLEMISHES OF THE HOLY FUNCTION. I CANNOT but bless myself, at the sight of that strange kind of curiosity, which is reported to have been used in the choice of those,
* Maimonides in Cle hamikdash. c. 3.
who were of old admitted to serve at the altar. If Levi must be singled out from all Israel, yet thousands must be refused of the Tribe of Levi. We are told *, that, notwithstanding that privilege of blood, no less than a hundred and forty blemishes might exclude a man from this sacred ministration ; whereof nineteen in the eyes, nine in the ears, twenty in the feet. Such a holy niceness there was in the election of the legal priesthood, that, if there were not found an exact symmetry of all parts of the body, and not comeliness only, but a perfection of outward form in those Levitical candidates, they might by no means be allowed to serve in the Sanctuary: they might have place in some out-rooms, and cleave wood for the altar, and might claim a portion in the holy things; but they might not meddle with the sacred utensils, nor set foot upon the floor of the holy place. It was thy charge, O God, that those sons of Aaron, which drew near to thee, should be void of blemish: thou, which wouldest have the beasts of thy sacrifice free from bodily imperfection, wouldest much more have thy sacrificers so. The generality of the command was thine : the particularities of the numbers are traditional. And well might the care of these outward observations agree with the pedagogy of that Law, which consisted in external rites; but we well know, it was the inward purity of the heart, and integrity of an unspotted life, that thou meantest to aim at, under the figure of these bodily perfections ; which, if it were wanting, it was not a skin-deep beauty and exquisiteness of shape, that could give a son of Aaron an allowed access to thine altar. Hophni and Phinehas, the ill sons of good Eli, were outwardly blemishless, else they had not been capable of so holy an attendance; but their insolencies and beastliness made them more loathsome to thee, than if they had been lepers or monsters of outward deformity. And can we think that thou hast less regard to the purity of the Evangelical Ministry, than thou formerly hadst of the Legal ? Can we think the spiritual blemishes of thine immediate servants under the Gospel, can be a less eyesore to thee, than the external blemishes of thy Priesthood under the Law ? Oh, that my heud were waters, and mine tye a fountain of tears, that I might weep night and day, for the enormities of those, who profess to wait on thy Evangelical Sanctuary ! Jer. ix. 1. My sorrow and piety cannot but bewail them to thee, though my charity forbids me to blazon them to the world. O thou, that art as the refiner's fire and the fuller's soap, do thou purify all the sons of thy spiritual Levi : do thou purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering of righteousness : then shall the offerings of our Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant to the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years ; Mal. iii. 2, 4.
THE BLESSED REWARD. When Paulinus came first into this island, to preach the Gospel, to our then-pagan ancestors, King Edwin thought good to consult
* Maimon. in Biath hamikdash.
with his priests and nobles, whether it were best to give any entertainment to the Christian religion ; which was, by that stranger, preached and recommended to his people *. Up starts one Coifi, the arch-priest of those Heathen Idols, and freely says: “ There is no virtue or goodness, O King, in this religion, which we have hitherto embraced: there is none of all thy subjects, that hath more studiously addicted himself to the service and worship of our gods, than myself; yet, I am sure, there are many, that have prospered better, and have received more favours from thee, than I have done : and, if our gods could do any thing, they would rather have been beneficent to me, that have most carefully served them : it remains then, if these new doctrines which are preached to us, be found upon examination to be better and more available, that, without all delay, we do readily receive and welcome them.” Thus spake a true Idol's Priest, that knew no ell, whereby to measure religion, but profit; no proof of a just cause, but success; no conviction of injustice, but miscarriage. Yea, even thine altars, 0 Righteous God, were never quit of some such mercenary attendants, who seek for only gain in godliness : if the Queen of Heaven afford them better penny-worths, and more plenty than the King of Heaven, she shall have their cakes, and their incense, and their hearts to boot; Jer. xliv. 17, 18. I know thee, O Lord, to be a munificent rewarder of all that serve thee; yet, if thou shouldest give me no wages, I will serve thee ; if thou shouldest pay me with hunger, and stripes, and prisons, and death, I will serve thee. Away base thoughts of earthly remuneration : I will honour and serve thee, () God, for thine own sake, for thy service's sake; yet I have no reason not to regard thine infinite bounty : it is no less than a cruwn, that thou hast promised me; and that I shall humbly aspire unto, and expect from thee, not as in the way of my merit, but of thy mere mercy. My service is free, in a zealous and absolute consecration to thee: thy hand is more free, in my so gracious retribution. If thou be pleased to give thy servant such a weight of glory, the glory of that gift is thine. My service is out of my just duty : thy reward is of thy grace, and divine beneficence. Do thou give me to do what thou biddest me, and then deal with me as thou wilt. As the glory of thy Name is the drift of all my actions; so the gory, that thou givest me, cannot but redound to the glory of thine infinite mercy. Blessed be thy Name, in what thou givest; while thou makest me blessed, in what I receive from thee.
PRESAGES OF JUDGMENT. SELDOM ever do we read of any great mutation in Church or State, which is not ushered in with some strange prodigies : either, raining of blood; or, apparitions of comets; or, airy armies sighting in the clouds; or, sea monsters appearing; or, monstrous births
* Beda Eccles. Hist. I. ii. cap. 13.