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The hardest and most unpalatable Proofs of our Virtue, best declare the Fervency and Sincerity of it And, if Disasters or Calamitous Accidents cool or draw off our Affections, this is an Argument, that a
Man is not yet what the Apostle requires we Ephefi.37. Thould all be, Rooted and grounded in Love.
CH A P. VII.
Tbe Tryal of True Love.
Have observed, my Son, thy Notions of
Divine Love ; but Thou, alas! art not yet arrived to that resolute Bravery and Prudence there described.
Disciple.] Lord, make me sensible wherein I fail, and teach me how to mend it.
Christ.] A small Temptation shocks thy Obedience, Thou boggleft at Difficulties, and falleft from thy own Stedfastness, if I seem to withdraw my Favour. The Comforts and Afliftance of Grace are to be wish'd with Zeal, but not with Impatience : Nor mayest thou so set thy Heart upon them, as presently to recoil, if such Supplies do not at all times answer thy Expectation. I hide my Face to try thy Courage. For true Christian Magnanimity is most earnestly, seen in Troubles and Distresses ; in turning the Deaf Ear to all those crafty Insinuations of the Enemy, which take the Advantage of Melancholy and deep Perplexity of Heart, to ruin and seduce unstable Souls by tempting them to despair. This Virtue rejoices in Prosperity, but does it with such Temper, as not to be offended, and fall away by Reason of Adversity. He that loves prudently, keeps his Eyes upon
the Giver, considers the Kindness and Disposition of his
Friend, Friend, and values the Gift by that, not by his own Quality and intrinsick Worth; he finds more real Satisfaction in my Affe&ion, than in the most profuse and desirable Benefits which flow from it. Not that I would condemn all Doubts and fad Misgivings, for those are incident to the best Men ; and the Infirmities of Nature do not admit such perfect Evenness of Mind, as is always affected alike with the Love and , Delights of Holiness. Those sensible Pleasures that good Men sometimes feel themselves transported with, are the Effect of Bounty and Favour, and great Indulgence; not necessary and inseparable Consequences of Virtue. The sweet Foretastes of Heavenly Joys, such as you cannot depend upon, till brought to the Fruition of that Land of Promise ; And there. fore no juft Conclusions can be drawn from thence, to the prejudice of those who want them; because in this Life they are given at Discretion, and frequently make way for a severer and more seasonable Discipline. And when that Discipline takes place, then to persist in doing well, to strive manfully against all the Reluctancies of a frail Flesh and Blood, and hold out in despight of all the Importunities and discouraging Suggestions of the Tempter ; this is a Proof of true Spiritual Bravery, and entitles such valiant Combatants to a noble Reward, and exceeding bright Crown.
Let Reason therefore, and a well-grounded Faith, not Fancy and Imagination, govern thy Behaviour : And after what manner soever thy Soul is affected, let thy Purposes of Obedience be still the same, and thy Perseverance unbroken. Sometimes perhaps thou art all Rapture and Joy, and these Extasies are not what the prophane World suppose, mere Dreams and Delusions; sometimes again thou wilt relapse into Weakness and Wandrings, these are not thy Choice, but thy Misfortune; Nor dost thou create them to
thy self, but suffer them with much Regret. Now what is not the Man's own Act, shall never be imputed to him as a Fault; and what is thus by God's Permission, or the Frailty of Nature, if rightly managed, will tend to thy Advantage, and rather improve than endanger thy Virtue.
This indeed you must know and constantly remember, That the inveterate Enemy of Souls is ever labouring by all means to cool your Zeal. He watches and greedily takes hold of all Occasions to slacken your Devotion, to prevail with you to neglect, or abate of, your Prayers and other Holy Exercises ; to divert your Thoughts of Christ and his Sufferings, and fix them upon Objects of a different kind; to beat you off from that strict Guard, which ought always to be kept upon your Soul ; and to undermine your good Intentions, and repeated Resolutions. He conveys'many loose and wicked Thoughts into your Heart, uses a thousand Slights and Artifices, to represent Religion a tiresome, tedious, and unneceffary Thing, and to draw off your Attendance upon God in Prayers, in hearing his Word, in reading the Holy Scriptures. And happy he thinks himself, if by degrees he can draw you to a Difuse of these Things : For nothing more provokes his Malice, and crosses his Designs, than to see Men frequently upon their Knees, zealous in discovering and confelling their Sins ; devout and attentive Comers to Church ; and conftant Receivers of the Lord's Supper. When therefore he would persuade you to be cold and remiss in any Matter of this Nature, be sure to give no Credit to his falfe and wheedling Insinuations, for they are so many Snares laid to captivate and to destroy you. Turn smartly back upon him, with a Get thee bebind
Satan : Blush, if thou canft, unclean Spirit, at thy own treacherous Villany ; I am well aware of thy deadly Baits; and sensible that Hell and Death
are upon the Hook; Thy fly Deceits are lost upon Me, for I am resolved already, and my Jefus, who “ vanquished thee upon the Cross,will affilit my Weak
ness, and enable me to overcome thy Temptations. “Think not to terrify me with Difficulties, for Death
and Sufferings are light Calamities, in comparison of Guilt and Sin; and these I infinitely rather chuse, than once to comply with thy wicked Moti
Be gone then, and for ever hold thy Peace; for I will Itop my Ears, and am from this Minuté “inflexibly deaf to thy most troublesome Sollicitati
Thou thinkest to run down a poor weak Mortal, but even that Mortal is a March for thee through Christ that strengthens him. And strengthen me he will, for the Lord is my Light and Salvation, whom then shall I fear? The Lord is the Strength of my, Psalm xxvii. Life, of whom then shall I be afraid ? Tho'
an Host were banded together against me , yet will I nct " be dismayed, for the Lord is my Helper, and “ the Rock of my Confidence,
Fight therefore the good Fight, and follow the Captain of thy Salvation, like a itout Soldier. And, if at any time thou lose ground through Human Infirmities, rally thy Forces again quickly, and enter upon a second Engagement with redoubled Vigour ; not doubting sealonable Recruits from Me. But if at any time thou prove Victorious, ler not this Success cxalt thee beyond measure. For Pride and Arrogance are of fatal consequence, they often end in dangerous Errors, and are justly punished with almost incurable Blindness. Let the frequent Examples of vain Men, undone by their own Folly and my juft Indignation, be set before thy Eyes, as so many Sea-marks,to warn thee from steering the same dangerous Course ; And
greater Conquests thou obtainest over the Devil and thy own Frailey, the more humble and cautious let these Advantages make thee in thy Conduct; and
my God is
the more just to God, in ascribing the whole Success and Glory to the powerful Aliftance of his Grace.
Christ.] Y Son, when thou feelest thy Soul i
warmed with Devotion and holy Zeal for my Service, it will be advisable to decline all those Methods of publishing it to the World, which Vain Men are so industrious to take , and content thy self with its being known to God and thy own Conscience, Rather endeavour to moderate and supprefs those pompous Expressions of it, in which some place the very Perfection of Zeal. Think meanly of thy Own Virtues. Boaft not of that Grace, whereby thou art capable of differing from another. But let the Remembrance of thy Own Unworthiness make thee fear the loss of Gifts, which thou didst not deserve ever to have. But This is not only an undeserved , it is also a very short and uncertain Privilege ; for the brightest and warmelt Zeal is apt to languish and wax cold; and unless Men could assure themselves of such a Degree of Grace, as would alter and fix these variable Natures of theirs, the Fervours of Religious and Holy Delires can never be constant and equal.
While therefore thou enjoyeft these pleasing pious Comforts, humble thy Soul with Reflections upon thy Impotence and Misery, thy Coldness and Deadness, when thou hast them not, And confider withal, that the Improvement and Commendation of a Chriftian's Virtue consists, notonly in the thankful Use of Grace, but in a modest, hunible and resigned Temper, which