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cản bear its being taking away without Murmuring or Defpondency ; ftill exciting and encouraging it self, still continuing the same Diligence in holy Duties and never suffering Sloth, or Despair, or Discontent to abate one whit of a Man's best Endeavours, to do the utmost his Condition is capable of.
This is an Excellence which very few come up to; Idleness and Impatience are the usual Effects of Spiri. tual Disappointments; which yet is most unreasonable, if we think at all, in whose Disposal There, as well as all other Successes are. For Man cannot command Events ; God is sole Master of his own Favours. He gives to whom he pleases ; nor will be be limited, otherwise than by his own Wisdom, what, or how much, or in what time and manner he shall give. And even, when he is most liberal, Men may convert his best Gifts into Occasions of their own Destruction. Thus some Men of bold ungoverned Zeal aspire at things beyond their Strength, and express more Vehemence than Conduct in their Actions. They are perfectly carried out of themselves with Eagerness; forget they are still poor Insects upon Earth, and think of nothing less than building their Neftin Heaven ; Now These are often left to themselves, and taught by fad Experience, that the faint flutterings of Man are weak and ineffectual, and that none foars to Heaven, except I assist his Flight, and mount him upon my own Wings. .
It is therefore highly expedient, that Persons of more Zealthan Experience, should not proceed upon their own false Measures of themselves, but refer their Proceedings to the Guidance and better Judgment of some Persons, whom long Time and much Observation hath taught to ten per those vain Conceits they are apt to entertain of their own Strength, and to proportion their Undertakings to their Circumstances. But This is a Submission which Humility must qualify
them for. For He who is wise in his Own Eyes, feldom endures to be directed by another. And this Confideration makes a very moderate Degree of Knowledge, attended with a modeft and governable Mind, much more safe and eligible, than the highest Attainments with Pride and Self-conceit. The mighty Transports and great Satisfaction Men frequently feel from their own Improvement in Goodness, are of dangerous consequence, if they be suffered to destroy the Remembrance of a Man's former Weakness, and his Fears of relapsing into Sin again. And, on the other hand, these Fears may run into Excefs, if Difficulties tempt Men to Despair, and beger Melancholy Diftrufts of God's Ability and readiness to relieve and rescue them by the Succours of that Grace, which knows how to scatter and defeat the strongest Temptations.
The same Disposition of Soul, which leads to Se curity in Times of Prosperity and Peace, inclines to Fearfulness and Dejection of Mind in the Day of Adversity and Conflict. For would a Man but guard himself against vain Confidences, and proceed always with Caution and Prudence, when his Graces and his Hopes are at the highest ; This would preserve him from those Dangers, which unwary Heat and too fanguine Hopes are apt to involve him in. And therefore, when you form to your self the fairest and most promising Expectations, it will be seasonable to confider, what may become of you, if God should hide his Face, and abate or wholly withdraw those cheering Comforts, which now so much exalt you. And so again, when these are interrupted, support your Spirits in those dark Intervals, with the Hope, that Day may break upon you again, and that this Night of Amićtion is prolonged, to make you more advised, and get the greater Honour.
. . For
will be of God those chend
For such Tryals as these are more for the Advantage of my faithful Servants, than a constant Succeffion of Prosperity and Consolacion could possibly be. They muft needs be fo; since Virtue does not confift in Abundance of Illumination and Knowledge ; but in Lowliness of Mind, in Meekness and Charity, in a Mind entirely resigned to God, and sincerely disposed to serve and please him ; in a juft Sense of a Man's own Vileness, and not only thinking very meanly of One's felf, but being well content to be so thought of by Others.
CHA P. IX. Of Acknowledging our Unworthiness before God.
Disciple.]R Ehold, now I take upon me to Gen. xviii.
D speak unto my Lord, who am but Dust and Ashes, vile and sinful Duft and Ashes ! For should I entertain any better Opinion of my self, I make my God my Enemy, and stand convicted by the undeniable Testimony, and just Reproaches of my own guilty Conscience. But if I humble my Soul, cast off all vain Imaginations of Merit,and think my self that wretched thing I really am, thy Grace exalts me, thy Light cheers and supports me, and all that groundless Arrogance, to which my Corrupt Heart is naturally disposed, vanishes into nothing. O! give me then a right understanding of my self ; help me truly to discern, what I am now, what I was originally, and whence I come. That I am nothing, and proceeded out of nothing, and, if destitute of thy Grace, have nothing left; but what I had much better be without, even Sin and Infirmity. And yet as vile, as finful, as dejected, as I am of my self, as soon as thy
groturally dispojedinderstanding, what I wa me then a rien, what I am hat I'am not
bright Beams of Favour are caft upon upon me, my Weakness is made strong, and my Heaviness turn'd into Joy : I cannot observe the sudden wondrous Change without astonishment, and am not able to
account for the happy Exaltation of my Nature; · which, tho' by its own weight inclined to sink perpetually, and, by a fatal tendency to Sin and Hell, press’d down with a Load of Flesh and Frailty, is yet, by the mighty Operations of Grace, enabled to aspire to Spiritual and Refined Objects, and take noble Flights to Thee and Heaven.
This I am duly sensible is the strange Effect of thy free Grace alone, preventing my Defires, inspiring noble Thoughts, assisting my Weaknesses, supplying my Wants, rescuing me from Dangers innumerable; which, without these powerful Succours , muft unavoidably destroy and swallow me up. For an inordinate Love of my felf was formerly my ruin, but a finicere Love of Thee, and an entire Dependance upon thy Goodness, recovers and restores me; And the more I love and trust in Thee, the less reason I find to value and have any Confidence in any thing of my own. For Thou, O dearest Redeemer, art bountiful and kind, far beyond my Deserts : My Deserts! Alas! They are none at all, or worse than none: But Thou exceedest even my largest Desires, and givest more, infinitely more, than I either dare presume to ask, or am able to express.
Eternal Thanks and Praise be therefore rendred to my God, for that unspeakable Goodness, which does not disdain to bestow the precious Gifts of his Grace and Spirit, upon a Wretch unworthy the least of all his Mercies. Yea, Blessed and adored be that Liberality and Long-suffering, which, in despight of all our Provocations, continues to engage those by Kindness, who, by their former Ingratitude and Abuse of it, had justly forfeited all future Favours ; And, by
many Excellent Arts, and Holy Importunities, invites and draws Men to himself and their own Happiness, who have an Aversion to both. Even so, sweet Jesus, extend thy Compassion, and continue thy Care of Us, who are too prone to neglect Thee, and ruin our selves. Oh! bring us to thy self, by thankful, humble, pious Dispositions; for We our selves are Nothing, and Thou art Holiness and Health, our only Strength and Salvation.
CH A P. X.
Chrift.] THE fure and only way to Happiness, is,
to make Me, My Son, the chief and ultimate End of all thy. Actions and Desires. By This thy Sincerity will best be proved; by This thy Mind refined and purified from all those fordid Interests and partial Respects, which are apt to debauch Human Nature, too much of it self addicted to private Gain and Selfishness, and those false Prospects of Happiness which the Love of this World vairly proposes. For, as soon asany Man descends to these, and seeks himself in all he does, he finds his own Inability to compass his Intentions, and grows barren and unprofitable. Keep Me then constantly in view, and aim at nothing but the Advancement of my Honour: Which is indeed but reasonable and just, since I am the First and Perfect Good; the Source from whence all things flow, and therefore all of Rignt return to, and fhould center at last in Me again. I ask but of my Own, the Tribute and Acknowledgment of the Successes given by my Providence, of the Actions performed by Virtue of my Concurrence, of the very