the Provocation be what it will, and come from whom it will, let it be offered but once, or repeated never fo often, 'tis all alike. Because in all the over-ruling Hand of God is attended to ; and every Thing received, as ordained and originally inflicted by him ; and what proceeds from him is always good, and sure to turn to Account. And, as nothing he appoints, tho' seemingly never fo grievous, shall be to good Mens Disadvantage ; so nothing, tho' never so flight and defpicable in it felf, when dutifully and decently entertained, shall be passed over unrewarded. Arm thy self therefore for Combat, and decline no Occasion of Engaging that offers, if thou desire the Glory of the Conqueft. Without Fighting thy Way through, there is no coming at the Crown. And they, who refuse to suffer with Christ, do in effect, and by necessary Consequenice refuse to reign with him. Stand up then bravely to Amictions, and quit thy self like a Man ; Repofe and Happiness is what thou covetest, but thefe are only to be obtained by Labour. Victory and Triumph are the Things thou aimest at : But who was ever yet so absurd, as to think of Triumphs without Enemies and Hardships, or of Conquering without a Battel ?

Disciple.] I acquiesce, dear Lord, in all thou fay'st : nor will I'indulge such vain Imaginations. But since, even where the Spirit is most willing, the Flesh is miserably weak ; affist me, I beseech thee, that by thy . Power and Strength I may be able to do, what by my own I cannot accomplish, and Nature is averse from fo much as attempting. Thou knowest full well, how little I can bear ; how every Shock makes my feeble Heart give ground ; Lord, do thou support and confirm me, that Tribulation may appear, not only tolerable, but even desirable, in compliance with my Will and my Duty. For, what regret foever Humanity may betray in these Cafes, when Danger


Slime to come ; 172 Df the Imitation Book III. approaches ; In my own better Judgment, which conliders Things in the Christian and Spiritual Sense, I am abundantly satisfied, how much the harsher Difpensations of thy Providence conduce to my Soul's Advantage. And, tho' no Chaftisement for the present seems joyous but grievous, yet my better Sense, when I think freely, convinces me of thy Wisdom and Mercy, and that it is even good for me to be afflicted.

The Infirmities and Miseries of our present State.
Disciple.]. I will confefs my Unrighteon finess, unto the

Lord, and my Infirmities before

him. For every trivial Accident cafts me down, and I am often overwhelm'd with Sorrow, upon Occasions which my calmer Thoughts abundantly convince me, deserve rather my. Contempt, than my serious concern. Sometimes I fee and condemn my own Folly ; and mighty Resolutions I make, how and yet, upon the next Afault of some flight Miffortune, this imaginary Hero is beaten from his Post, and cannot stand the Shock of a very common Difficulty. The poorest and most despicable Things are, I sind, capable of becoming great and dangerous Temptations ; And I, who at a distance defy them, yet, when brought to the Trial, feel, by sad Experience, upon how slippery Ground I stand.

This is indeed the wretched Condition of thy poor unstable Servant : But, Lord, do Thou, in much Compafsion, look upon my Frailty, for thou knowest it

more perfe&tly than I my self can. Stretch Pfal. Ixiv. forth thy Hand, and draw me out of these


Pfal. xxxii.

deep Waters, and out of this Mire of Sin and Weakness, that I link not in my Corruption. I cannot eafily express the Melancholy Reflections, the Shame and Confusion, the Indignation and fad Perplexity of Heart, which the Consciousness of my own Inability to resist Temptations, and the Inconstancy of my best and most vigorous Purposes create ; and, tho' my Will be not always vanquished, nor do I (blessed be God) yield to every wicked Suggestion ; yet the repeated Affaults of the Enemy disturb my Quiet, and I am weary of a Life, which consists of

perpetual Hazard, and painful Conflicts with my felf. The Wretchedness of my Condition is but too manifest: I need no other Argument to prove it, than that eaa fy Access evil Thoughts find in my Breast

. Which, in despight of all my watchful Care, and most manful Struggles, are much sooner insinuated, and received, than either driven out again, or prevented from éntring.

Look down then, thou Almighty Rock of Israel, and Lover of Souls, and interpofe thy Power and Protection ; Give feasonable Succour, and happy Success to my too fruitless Endeavours. Arm and Guard me with Strength from above ; and fuffer not the Old Man, the corrupt Inclinations of my Flesh, which refuses to be entirely subdued and brought to Reason, to usurp the Dominion over my better Part. For this Obstinate Rebel renews its Insurrections daily, and bids me Battel ; calls me to Combats and hazardous Engagements, which must never, never end in perfect Peace and Safety, so long as this miserable State of Mortality endures. Most miserable indeed; since every Action and Accident of my Life involves me in fresh Dangers ; since every Step I take is iipon Snares and Precipices ; since every Time and Place is thick beset with Troubles and Toils, with Treachery and Temptation, and a numerous Host of Enemies ready


[ocr errors]

to devour and swallow me up. For fatal uninterrupted Successions of Trials every Moment renew their Attacks ; and when I have happily vanquish'd many, and fondly promise my self a Truce, as many more immediately draw down upon me, and make fiercer and more furious Attempts upon some other Quarter, which I hoped had been fufficiently covered from their Approaches.

And can a Life, subject to fuch Surprizes and Hazards, embittered with so many Troubles and severe Trials, incumbred with so much Frailty and Corruption, be valued and mightily coveted? Nay, can That deferve the very Name of Life, which naturally breeds Plagues and Diseases, and exposes us to such variety of Deaths ? Yet stupid Man hugs, and embraces, and esteems it his only Happiness ; expects Ease in the midst of Distraction, pursues Joys in a Valley of Tears, and vainly sets up for the boasted Perfection of Pleasure, in a Condition of inevitable. Misery, and lingring, certain Pain. Sometimes indeed the tender Sense of some Afiction cuts us to the quick, and in our Melancholy Moods, we give the World hard Words; call it Deceitful, Treacherous, and Vain ; but even they who Rail at it most Liberally, and profess to Hate and Despise it, cannot be prevailed with to be content to leave it. The Flesh and its Affections have still a powerful Influence, and spur Men on to the Pursuit and Love of those very Enjoyments, which Reason and their own Experience have taught them, cannot be worth their Pains, nor in any degree answer their deluded Expectations. For we must observe, that our Love and Hatred of this World proceed from very different Causes and Principles. The

Luft of the Flesh, the Luft of the Eye, and i Fonn iii.

the Pride of Life, engage our Affections ; and these are ever present, and ever vehement with The Calamities and Griefs, and Pains we feel,


[ocr errors]

provoke our Hatred and Contempt, and represent Life à Burden and Misery ; and these have their Intervals, and work upon us feebly and by Fits., The Former too strike in with Inclination, and are assisted by Nature ; the Latter have no Influence upon us, but what their own Weight gives; all their Impreslions are forcible and violent, heavy and painful, and such as we fubmit to, only because we cannot help it,

Thus Sense and sinful Pleasure get within us, and, which is very lamentable, debauch our Reason. The present Ticklings of the Body cheat the Mind, and vitiate our Palates to that degree, that, being prepossessed with a false Taste of Worldly Sweets, we have no Relish: left for that delicious Entertainment, with which God and Religion feed and feast the Pure and Heavenly-minded Soul. Por, o ! those happy Men, who have learnt to defpife and abandon earthly Things, and confecrated themselves entirely to Ġod, by Mortification, Self-denial, and a steady.Course of severe Virtue ; these exalted Spirits know and feel the Truth of God and his Promises ; They find unspeakable Charms and sensible Delights, in the voluntary Refusal of those Toys and Baits, which cannot be had with Satisfaction, nor coveted with Safety: They fee, and despise, and pity, the Folly of abused Mankind; discover the lurking Frauds of the Tempter ; and, that the imagined Happiness and boasted Pleafures of sensual and earthly Men, are only Snares and Dangers, Vanity and Cheat.

C H A P.

« 前へ次へ »