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esteem ? Is common Opinion the Standard of Merit ? Nothing less. For here every Man abuses his Fellow : The Cheat imposes upon another as great a Cheat ; the Vain puffs up the Vain; the Blind misleads the Blind ; the Weak supports the Weak; and all the while, by empty undeserved Commendations, each brings a true Reproach upon the other, while he extols him againft Sense and Reason. For after all, these Praises are but Words without any Significance ; nothing more than Air and empty Sound; for every Man is just so much, so good, and neither more nor less than he is in thy esteem only.
CH A P. LVI. A Man must be content with meaner Aits of Virtue,
when he is indisposed for greater. Christ.] N o not suppose, my Son, that thy Zeal
D can always be equally bright, or thy Mind capable of Transport and intent Contemplation upon heavenly Objects at all times. Thou carriest about with thee a Load of Infirmity and Corruption, which will offen damp the cleareft Flames of Devotion, darken thy Mind, and check its noble Flights ; and make thee know and feel, that Mortal Fles and Blood is a heavy, but inseparable Incumbrance upon a Rational and Religious Soul. While Men are in the Body, there is no Remedy, but they must feel and groan under the weight ; And groan they ought indeed, when they consider, how great an Interruption this is to their Attendance, and entire Dedication of their Time and Thoughts, to God and Heavenly Objects. These they must be content to dwell upon as much as may be, by snatching all those happy
Intervals, which Leisure and a good Temper of Mind allow them.
But when the Soul is indisposed for Nobler Exercises, when Cares or Infirmities press it down, let it not be unactive. Variety is here of use; and Works of a meaner Rank in the Scale of Virtue must be recurred to; that thou may'st be still employ'd, still waiting for the happy hour, when I shall return and visit thee with larger measures of my Grace : bearing with Meekness the present Discomfort and Incapacity, the dry and barren State of thy Soul, till I send my refreshing Dews, and infuse a Principle of Fruitfulness for a Product in greater Plenty and Perfection. For I can soon make thee to forget thy past Troubles, and satisfy thy Mind with the abundance of Peace. I open for thee the spacious Plains of Scripture, that thou may'st be enlarged, and run the way of my Commandments in Liberty; and, with a Soul full of Joy and inward Exaltation, say, I reckon that the Sufferings of this present time Rom.
è Rom. viii. are not worthy to be compared with the Glory which shall be revealed in us.
CH A P. LVII. A Man should think Correction, not Comfort, bis due. Disciple.] Ord, I must needs with Shame confess
I my self altogether unworthy thy Comforts, or any part of that Care thou art pleased to take of my Soul; and therefore I have no pretence to complain of hard Usage, or Injustice, when thou withdrawest thy Grace, and leavest me to my self. Whole Seas of Tears could not so cleanse my polluted Soul,
as to render it pure enough to merit the blessed Influences of thy Spirit. Scourges and Vengeance are the Portion of a Wretch, who-by so many and so grievous Transgressions hath offended thy Majesty. The more therefore I reflect upon my own finfulness, the clearer and juster Notions I have of thy free undeserved Mercy. For Merciful thou art, even to Altonishment, whose Bowels thus yearn over the Work of thy own Hands, who thus to all the World haft manifested the Riches of thy Grace in the Vessels of Mercy, and extendest thy Liberality to those who have no right to challenge, no recommendation to
induce thee to it. • But, if we could pretend to Comforts, yet how could we expect such divine, such incomparably sweet and noble Marks of thy Favour? so very unlike, so much above any Human Helps or Encouragements? For how could I expect the Bread of Life from Heaven? Good Works I know of none I have to plead; but the Nightest recollection even amazes and confounds me with Sins innumerable brought to my remembrance. My vehement proneness to Evil, and shameful Sloth and Backwardness to Reformation and Goodness, are of themselves so evident, that should I labour to cloak them, the attempt must needs be vain: For Thou, the Searcher of Hearts, art privy to them; Thou canst disprove me, and no Advocate is to be found, who could offer any thing in my Vindication. What then can I juilly lay claim to, but Hell and everlasting Flames? I own with Grief and Shame, that Reproach and Contempt are my due, and that I am unworthy to be nained among thy Sons, or even thy meaneft Servants. Nature indeed starts back, and cannot without reluctancy acknowledge its own Vileness and Guilt; but I will offer Violence to my native Pride, and freely confefs my Sins, that thou may'st shew thy Justice and Faithful
ness, in a full and free Pardon of the Faults I so freely confefs.
But where shall I find Words fit for so miserable a Condition, or how shall so scandalous a Creature apply to thee for pardon? I know no other Terms than these, that can become my Mouth. “ Lord, I have “ finned, I have done wickedly. Mercy, thou Judge “ of Quick and Dead, Mercy, or I perish. Respire si thy Sentence yet a little while, and grant me some “ time at least to bewail my Misery, before I be “ swallowed up in Darkness, and go into a s Land Black with the Terrors of the sha- 306 x. “ dow of Death. What other reparation dost thou ex
Land place with me errors of the main spect, what other can indeed be had from Men la“ den with Guilt and Infirmity, than that they should “ seriously bewail and humble themselves for their "mighty and manifold Provocations. Hence all our “ Hopes of Remission spring, here the first feeds of “ reconciliation take root; the Joy of a peaceful Con“ science is sown in Tears; the Acknowledgment of “our Weakness is the first step towards repairing our “Loss, the first Defence against the Wrath to come ; 6. and in these melancholy Solitudes the Gracious God “and penitent Soul meet and embrace each other. A " broken and a contrite Heart is reputed a “ Sacrifice, and Thou, in marvellous Con- Pfal.li. “ descension preferreft it before the Odors the sweets eft Incense, or whole Hecatombs of Burnt-offera “ ings. Of this that precious Ointment, whose Perss fumes, when it anointed thy holy Feet, filled the “ whole House, was an Emblem ; for Thou, Lord,
never didst, or wilt despise a Soul afficted with a sc Sense of Sin. Contrition and Humility are our “ Sanctuary against the Rage and Malice of our Spi“ ritual Adversary; and Tears of Penitence, that “ purifying Stream, which washes off the Stains and Blemishes of our defiled Souls,
“ nevere of sin. inft the Rapears of
CH A P. LVII.
Christ.] THE Tokens of my Love are of a nobler
1 kind, than that they should submit to be Rivall’d by the Blessings of this World, and Heavenly Comforts disdain to mix with those of Earth. If then, my Son, thou desire to be filled full of my Benediction and Grace, all that cbftruct its free Possession of thy Heart must be effectually discarded. Cover Retirement, and prefer private Conversation with thy God, before all the Diversions of Human Society, Esteem no Company so delightful as thy Closet and thy Devotions, and there, by fervent Prayers, pour out thy Soul alone, that thy Zeal may be quickned, and thy Peace of Conscience fecured. Let the whole World be mean in thy Esteem, and account it a greater honour to be called and chofen of God, than any Advantages of Fortune or Advancement can confer. For, be assured, thy Soul cannot admit of two such different Affections, as the Love of Me, and transitory Pleasures. The most intimate Acquaintance and dearest Friends must not stand in Competition with Me, but they who will be mine in good earnest, must follow the
Apostle's Advice, and behave themselves as." 2 Pet. 111. Strangers and Pilgrims in a World which mult shortly be dissolved; and when that time of this, or their own Dissolution approaches, the Joy and holy Trust of that Mind, which sits loose to all here below, is more blessed than words can express.
But to live thus abstracted and disengaged from the. World, is a Perfection not attainable by every common Man; nor can the sensual Person taste the Delights, or enjoy the Liberty of a true spiritual State. For this re
more blertedwhich lits is the Joy and