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Actions. You feel Desires, like inward Springs, put you into Motion, and very eager sometimes you are of doing what you are verily perswaded is good. But, even when the thing it self is commendable, the Intention and Motive Men go upon, ought to be nicely confidered. For it makes a Mighty Difference, whether I, or Themselves,be principally in their
Thoughts. Now this discovery is not hard to make. For, if my Honour be their great Concern ; howsoever my Providence disposes their Affairs,' they will conclude what I'do best; and will be contented with it ; but if under this Disguise of Holiness, there be a lurking Corruption of Private and By-respects, if Gain makes Men Frugal, or Ambition Virtuous, or the Praise of the World Charitable ; or the Confideration of their own Health Temperate ; 'these are Principles, upon which no dependance can safely be had: Their Conduct will be unequal, and vary as Events do ; and every Disappointment of their Expectations will produce Trouble and Impatience.
Do not therefore be too confident of every sort of Inclination to do well; but first advise with Me, and take care to build upon a good Foundation. For Men, who act upon indirect Ends, very often repent when it is too late ; And that which at first they proposed great Satisfaction and Advantage from, proves at long run their Torment and Loss. Nay, I must give you this farther Caution yet, That even good Inclinations are not to be taken at first sight, nor rashly pursued without a diligent and prudent Observation. For it may be convenient sometimes, to put some Restraints upon the very best Intentions. They who neglect this, and give free scope to their Zeal by too great Eagernefs, often exceed the Bounds of Moderation and Decency; sometimes give Offence to their Brethren by their extravagant Heats, and impetuous Sallies; and sometimes, upon any Resistance or Difficulty, which obstructs those precipitate Fervours, lose all their inward Peace, defift from their good Designs, and fall from the Heigth of Rapture, to the Extremities of Melancholy and Despair. Só that to make thy Zeal in Well-doing, in all Points what it ought to be, it is by no means sufficient, that it be honest and well difposed, unless it be also fober, and regular, and discreet.
Again, There are some Occasions and Circumstances, which render a sort of holy Violence necessary, and oblige Men to act quite contrary to their Inclination. To bear no manner of Regard to Flesh and Sense, or what will be most agreeable, any farther than may serve to set the Mind in array against them, and resolutely engage in a formal War, for the reducing, or keeping them in Obedience to the Superior Faculties of the Soul. For, by thus frequently controlling, and counter-working all that Human Nature hath a tendency to, the Outward Man is by degrees qualified for Duty ; and acquires a great Readiness of doing, or suffering, whatever shall be imposed upon it. And in these Exercises the first Foundations are laid, of Contentedness with a Little, of Satisfaction in a private and neglected State, a mean and narrow Fortune ; and of Patience under any Crosses or Calamities, without those mumuring Thoughts, which are apt to beget hard and irreverent Reflections, and too often break out in wicked Complaints, and faucy Expoftulations, against the Justice, and Wisdom, and Goodness of God, and Providence.
C H A P.
The Necessity and Reasonableness of Patience.
Disciple.) Bromh my dear Lord's Instructions, and
Y all the Collections I am able to make from
and the little Experience I have of the World , Patience seems to me a moft necessary Virtue : For the Condition of Man in this Life is so exposed to Calamities and Sorrows, that in despight of all his Endeavours after Peace, Troubles await him every-where, and his State is that of Warfare and continual Suffering.
Christ. It is so, my Son; Nor is it fit it should be otherwise. For those Men have a wrong Notion of Peace, who make it consist in freedom from suffera ing; and, either having no Troubles, or being insenfible of any. This is a State neither attainable by a Man, nor convenient for a Christian, The Peace, I would have thee aspire after, is such as consists very well with AMictions : And This is gained, when a Man hath brought himself to that equal Composure, and resigned Temper of Soul, as firmly to perfiit in his Duty, and to rest satisfied in the Dispenfations of God, when he thinks fit to dry his Virtue, by very great and grievous Adversities. If this appear a hard Saying, think how much harder it will be to endure the Torments of Hell, and the implacable Vengeance of an Angry God. Nature,as welias Religion, teaches Men, of Two Evils to chuse the less. And this is tcne when they set themselves fubmislively to undergo la bulation here, for the sake of God and a good Cou! science, that they may, by such patient Safitring, liver themselves from the dire Effects of his Wrat, and never-çealing Punishments hereafter,
Now Tribulation is a Portion distributed in common to all the Sons of Men; distributed in large Measures, even to those Children of this Generation, which thou perhaps vainly imaginest to be most exempted from it. For even the gayest and most prosperous of them all, are not without their many and fore Evils. 'Tis true indeed, They take a great deal of Pleasure,indulge their Inclinations without controul, and so their Misery makes a less sensible Impression upon their Spirits ; but Miseries they have. Or, put the very best of their Case, and suppose their Joys to be without any Interruption, their Wishes without any Disappointment ; Yet, even thus, how long would their Happiness last? Alas! they vanish like a Dream, and all their Prosperity soon scatters like Smoak; Nay, not only their Enjoyments themselves, but the very Remembrance of them, perish in a Moment. Their Life is but a Vapour ; and Death will be sure to swallow up them and their Gayeties, in speedy and perpetual Oblivion.
But this is putting the Case more favourably than it ever happens in reality. For, even in this Life their Plenty and Pleasures are chequered with Misfortunes, and all their Sweets allayed with a bitter Mixture of Cares and Fears, and inward Perplexities of Heart. The very Objects, that minister Pleasure, bring Pain along with them too. And this is one great Argument, how wise a Providence the World is governed by, that the very Inordinacy of those Affections, which pursue the Pleasures of Sense so eagerly, should prove a Tornient to the Guilty Mind, and embase those very
Pleasures they indulge. These very Pleafures too are short and fieeting, treacherous and deceitful, irregular and exorbitant, a Shame and Blemish to Human Nature; And, if Men be not sensible of this, That Ignorance proceeds from their own Inadvertency. Their Reason is intoxicated with present
Delights, and their Minds blinded by Vicious Habits, by which they degenerate into Brutes , ftupidly abandon themselves to the transitory Pleasures of Sin and Lust, at the Expence of Everlasting Pains; and consult the present Gratification of a vile mortal Body, with the Ruin of a precious and Immortal Soul.
Go not thou therefore after their Excesses, nor place thy Happiness in serving, but rather in commanding, subduing, denying, mortifying, thy own Inclinations. Delight thou in the Lord, and be fail Psal. xxxvii. grant thee thy Heart's Defire. For this Delight will teach thee that the Happiness of Man confists in Inward and Spiritual Satisfactions, in the Contempt of this world and its empty Gayeties. And the less these are esteemed and affected, the greater and more ravishingly sweet shall those generous and noble Pleasures prove, which result from the Experience of God's Favour, and the substantial Comforts of a Good Conscience.
But still these Comforts are not to be had, without much Labour, many Conflicts, and sharp Sufferings. For the Corrupt Inclinations of Flesh and Blood, and the confirmed Habits of Vice, create great Difficulties; and ask Time and Pains to conquer, And conquered they may be, by introducing the contrary Habits of Virtue. The Flesh indeed will recoil, and think it self ill used ; but Reason and Religion will filence those Grumblings, and resolute Perseverance in good Works vanquish all thy Reluctances. The subtle old Serpent will seduce and importune thee, but Prayer and good Thoughts drive the eyil Spirit away, and Fasting and holy Exercise , or constant lawful Bufiness, will keep him out. For he never enters so ealily, so successfully, as when Idleness sers open the Door, and an empty Heart makes room for his wicked Suggestions.
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