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them for so excellent a Reward. Well then may we Rejoice in these Temptations, which are ordained certain Forerunners of more abundant Grace, and Signs of those unspeakable Consolations and Delights, which are reserved for them that have approved themselves Faithful. For not to him that is excused
Rev. ii. 7. from Fighting, but to him that overcometb by striving courageously, and endureth to the end, will I give to eat of the Tree of Life:
Most wisely therefore are these Vicissitudes of Pros sperity and Adversity appointed for the Improvement of our Piety and Virtue. Were our Troubles without Intermiffion, no Flesh could be saved ; and therefore God softens and rewards them with inward and hea. venly Comforts, that fo, affifted by his Grace, and encouraged by his Favour, we may be able to hear up against our sharpest Trials. But, were that Grace and Favour constant too, we should be immoderately exalted with our Performances, and impute the Blesfings of God to our own Merit. And therefore the Returns of Affliction, and Spiritual Desertion, are convenient, to prevent or check our Pride. They fhew us, that how greatly soever we may value our selves, yet we are not so perfect, but that we deserve to fuf fer; and the Good we receive, we receive not of Debt, but of Liberality and free Grace. Mistake nôt, Man, the Devil never sleeps. He always watches for an Opportunity to assault, and work thee Mischief. The Flesh is not utterly dead, nor its Appetites and Paffions fo totally extinct, but that every fresh Object will awaken them into Luft. Be Thou therefore a: wake too, and prepare every Day for some new Conflict : Speak not Peace to thy felf, when beset on every Gide with numerous and restless Enemies for wretched is thy Cafe, if their Violence be suffered to bear thee down, or their subtle and wakeful Malice furprige thee into Sini.
CH A P. X.
AN is born to Trouble as the sparks fly upward ;
and dost thou refuse the Condition of Nature,
by hoping to be exempted from Labour "Fob v. 7.
and Suffering? Consider this and apply thy self vigorously to Patience, as a most necessary Virtue; and learn to bear the Cross, as the Business thou art created for. For this will much better become a sinful Creature, than to depend upon Comforts, which thou deservest not, and Pleasures which belong not to thee. Could even the Worldly-minded be fecure of Spiritual Joys without Interruption, he could not, in agreement with his own Principle, but be paffionately fond of them, as yielding more substantial Satisfaction, than all External and Sensual Delight. For what Comparison can there be between those Pleasures, which are attended with Shame, or Deceit; and thofe which are folid and durable, void of Reproach and Indecency, the Fruits of Virtue, and the special Gift of God to chaste and heavenly Souls ? This then were Epicurism indeeds were this to be attained and preserved by any the most afsiduous Care of ours. But that which renders even these Joys less sensible, and less eagerly desired, is, that they are the Free Gift of God, who both dispenses and withdraws them as himself fees fit, and frequently fufpends the Happiness they bring, by strong and fevere Trials. For we are in a State of continual Discipline and Warfare, and our Conflicts must return very thick upon usi so long as we remain in such a State.
Nor are these Difficulties from the Malice of our Enemies only, but we our selves contribute to our own Misery, and obstruct the more liberal Communi
çations of Divine Grace and Comfort, by affecting a mistaken Freedom, and extravagant Conceits of our own Strength and Goodness. The Bounty of God is admirable, who supports us with the inward Satisfactions of his Spirit ; but the Folly of Man is prodigious, who does not discern, and thankfully acknowledge, that all his Ability to do well is imparted by a higher Hand. If then the Gifts of Heaven are distributed to us more sparingly than we wilh or expect, we lessen their Proportions, by not being duly qualified to receive them: And qualify'd we cannot be, while ingrateful to the Author, and negligent to improve all we receive to the Giver's Praise and Honour. For he who hath and useth Grace aright, does by that yery Act incline God to give more. And from the Proud unthankful Neglecters of the Favour, even what they had is taken away, and added to the Portion of the Humble and Diligent ; those who are duly sensible, from whom, and to what Purposes, they have it.
Might I be allowed to chufe my own Lot). I should think it much more eligible to want my Spiritual Comforts, than to abound in these at the Expence of my Humility. No, let a Penitent and Contrite Spirit always be my Portion, and may I ever so be the Pavourite of Heaven, as never to forget that I am Chief of Sinners. Knowledge in the Sublime and Glorious Mysteries of the Christian Faith, and Ravishing Contemplations of God and a Future State, are most desirable Advantages ; but still I prefer Charity
I Cor. viii. In which edifeth, before the highest intellectual Perfections of that Knowledge which puffeth up. For every thing which is high, is not therefore holy. Many Meats are agreeable to the Palat, which are not conducive to Health ; and those Gifts, which are first in our Efteem, do not always recommend us most to God. Those Spiritual Advantages ase certainly best for us, which increase our Modesty,
and awaken our Caution, and dispose us, to suspect, and to deny our felves. And therefore it is an Argument of Wisdom in God, to recal his Gifts fometimes į as well as of his Goodness, to impart them at others ; that by the loss of what we had, we may ex. perimentally find our own Impotence ; confess and feel our Wants ; and know to whom the whole Glory of all that is excellent in us, does of right belong. Deal justlythen in this Matter; Render to God the things that are God's, and take to thy self what is properly thy own : To Him, the Thanks for his Graçes, nay, for the very Power of using them aright ; To thy felf, the Shame and Condemnation of having used them no better : And know, that His is the Honour for all thou hast done well, Thine only the Blame and juft Punishment for all thou hast done amiss. Sit down in the lowest Place, and then shalt thou
with Honour be promoted to the highest; Luke xiv.
for the loftier the Building, the deeper must the Foundation be laid. The highest in God's Esteem are meanest in their own ; and their Excellence consists in the Meekness and Truth, not in the Pomp and Oftentation of Plety, which affects to be seen and admir'd of Men. The reposing our Hope and Trust in God alone is the most effectual Prevention of Vanity and Infolence ; and ascribing to him all our Virtues and Attainments, is inconsistent with covering the Praise of Men. For such Perfons are concerned to approve their Actions to God only; and labour to advance his Glory, as the chief and only thing, which ought to be magnified in all that is pious and commendable, in themselves and every good Man.
Receive then a little with due Sense of Gratitude, thus thou shalt obtain more. The Gifts, which others esteem meanest and most contemptible, consider as the Gifes of God, and let this raise their value in thy Efteem. For indeed every thing ought to be esteemed,
which is a Mark of his Favour, who is the fupreme Lord of all, Even Stripes and Punishments from his Hands should be, not only submitted to with Patience, but received with humble Thanks: since his Rod is intended for our Good, and no Difpenfation of his Providence is without its profitable and wife Design. If then thou value the Grace of God, and desire to keep it, be thankful when he gives; be resigned and patient when he takes away ; pray fervently and frequently for the Returns of his Favour, and let not thy own Pride or Carelessness provoke him to withdraw it.
C H A P. XI.
ANY we find possess’d with strong Desires of
Christ's Heavenly Kingdom, and eager of reigning with him there; but few, who are in love with his Cross, and content to suffer with him upon Earth. The Graces and sweet Confolations of his Spirit charm and draw us, but Amictions drive us away from him. When he invites Men to sit down at his Table, the Guests come crowding in apace: but if he call us after him into the Wilderness, to Fast and Pray with him, he calls in vain, and goes alone. The Breaking of Bread is what all of us like, but the Drinking of his Bitter Cup we are shamefully averse to. We read the History of his Life, and peruse his Miracles with Reverence and Delight, for these were full of Mercy and Relief to wretched Men; but when he comes to the Tragical Circumstances of his dolorous Passion, and bitter Death, we either shut our Books, or read the me lancholy Story with Coldness and Indifference. Very