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Even Food and Rayment, and the Necessaries by which Life is sustained, are a Grievance and Obstru&tion to zealous and refined Souls : But what must be a Burden, let me not make an occasion of Sin; by ufing thy Creatures intemperately, by a Luxurious Indulgence, or Inordinate Appetite. Nature, I know, it is my Duty to support ; and therefore, entirely to refuse and neglect these Provisions, were Sin and foul Ingratitude. But to enlarge our Defires beyond the proper Uses of these things, and let them loofe upon Superfluity and Vanity, Delicacy and Delight : This the Law of God hath most wisely forbidden; because it were in effect to connive at all Licentiousness, by cherishing the Flesh, and animating
and supporting it in Insolence and Rebellion against the Spirit. Between these two Extremes there lies a safe middle Way, in which I humbly implore the Guidance of thy Hand; left I decline from Virtue on either fide, and going astray after my own Inclination, or unadvised Zeal, forsake my Path, and fly out beyond the Meafures Thou haft prescribed for me.
CH A P. XXXI.
Self-love the greatest Obstruction to Virtue and
Cbrift.} if thou aim at Purchasing All, know
that it is not to be bought at any Price, less than thy All. Earth must be bartered for Heaven, and where I give my self, I expect the whole Man in exchange. Think not therefore of any private Reserves of Interest or Pleasure, in Bar to my entire Poffeffion; for all the World cannot do thee greater Prejudice, than such Self-love. This dicks more close, while
other things are loose and at a distance, and all things faften upon thee, only according as the Degree of your own Love and Inclination for them gives opportunity and advantage. If your Mind and its Affections be pure, and sincere, and moderate, nothing shall have the power to enslave you.
And what pretence can you have for suffering them to be otherwise ? For who would set his Love upon things, which cannot be obtained without Difficulty, oftentimes not with it ; or, if they be, cannot be enjoyed without Danger? Who would court Bonds and Captivity, and be fond of having that, which will obstruct his weightiest Concern, and Rob him of his Liberty ? Were these considerations duly attended to, it must appear prodigious Folly, for any Man not to resign himself up entirely to Me; to wast his Strength with unprofitable Vexations, and labour in the Fire for Vanity, and create Troubles which it is in his power to avoid. Obey my Will then, and submit all to my Disposal, and then thou art out of the Reach of the World, and its Temptations. But, if Interest and private Respect ftill Govern in thy heart, all thy Application will be in vain. Thou runnest away from Troubles in one place to meet them in another ; seeking Reft but finding none, because thou always carriest thy Torment about thee. For, even in thy most successful Attempts, there will be somewhat wanting to give thee compleat Satisfaction; and in thy most private Retirements thou wilt be dogged and haunted by some Crosses.' The World and its Advantages can do thee no Service by being enjoyed, but by being lighted, and despised. This is the Case, not of Riches only, but of Honour and Reputation too, for They also make themselves Wings and fly away; and thou canst never be safe or happy, but by mortifying thy Ambition and Vain-glory.
How many People please themselves with fond Imaginations of Ease and Leisure to be Good, in a Country, or a College-life? But Cloisters and Defarts signify nothing, without the Zeal and Disposition of a Hermit. The Convenience of Place is very little ; and all its boasted Expectations vanish, except the Man be changed, as well as his Residence, and manner of Living. And this Change is not, cannot be effected, unless his Mind be fixed in Me alone, as the proper, the only Center of all its Affections and Defires. The Liberty Men enjoy otherwise, is very short and unfaithful; forfresh Occasions of Sin and Trouble will quickly offer themselves ; and then, not only the old Inconveniences will return again, but new and greater, and such as are peculiar to that new State of Life upon which they have entred : And thus their very Refuge becomes a fresh Temptation.
A Prayer for Purity of Heart, and Heavenly
Disciple.] Stablish me, Lord , with thy free Spirit, Psal. li. 11. Man, I may purge my Soul from all vain Anxiety, and banish Idle Fears, and get over the Dilcouragements and distracting Troubles of the World. Let not the wild and impatient Desires of any thing here, though never so alluring and seemingly valuable, perplex my Thoughts, and draw me off from Thee. Give me Grace to consider my self and all below, as things full of Vanity, and of very short Continuance. For such indeed are all Things under the Sun, vexation of Spirit, and altogether lighter than
Vanity it self. And he who constantly looks upon them as such, is the truly, the only Wise Man.
Impart to me then, O my God, I beseech thee, that heavenly Wisdom, which may dispofe me to seek thy Kingdom and thy Righteousness; to Sell all for this one Pearlof great Price; and to esteem
Matth. xiii. my self sich in no Treasure but Thee; to love and delight in thee alone; to take Satisfaction in all things else, in such Degrees, and in Subordination to such Purposes only, as thou hast appointed ; and to receive every Dispensation of Providence, with such a Spirit and Temper as becomes my Duty, and may render it serviceable to the Ends for which thou fenteft it. Grant me fuch Prudence and Conduct in all my Conversation, that I may decline and despise the Insinuations of Flatterers, and meekly receive the Contradi&tion and Reproaches of Gainsayers and Slanderers. For this is Wisdom indeed, when a Man is not carried about with every Blaft of Air, but stops his Ears against the Syren's Charms; and resolutely proceeds in a straight steady Course of Virtue, in despight of all the Subtilty of those who labour to entice, or the Malice of them who would terrify and drive him from it.
CH A P. XXXIII.
How a Christian ought to behave himself when Men
Speak Evil of him.
Christ. Y , if Detractors and Slanderers
thee much disturb thee. The Provocations to Impatience and angry Resentments, which such ill Treatment usually minifters, will be much better employed against
thy self. Take then this Hint of improving thy Humility, by reflecting how many things which lie concealed from Human Sight, thy own Mind is conscious of; and the more their wicked Malice labours to lessen thy Reputation, so much the less do thou appear in thy own esteem. If all be well within, and thy Heart right with Me, the impertinent Censures of busy envious Men will make no very deep Impresfion. And when these reach thy Ears, instead of Recriminating and Indignation, it will be wisely done to look up to Me, and not to be disordered atany Judgment which Men shall take upon them to pronounce concerning thee. For why should thy Satisfaction be placed upon a thing, which makes thee not one whit the better or the worfe? If they commend and cry thee up, thy real Merit is not the greater ; and if they revile and run thee down, thy Innocence is not the lefs. Seek then true Honour and Satisfaction from Me, from Me alone; whose Sentence never fwerves from Equity and Truth. And great shall thy Content and thy Quiet be, if thou neither solicitously court the Favour of Men, nor servilely fear their Censure and Displeasure. For, after all the Complaints of outward Accidents, the true Original Ground of all Disquiet is within ; For inordinate Affections and vain Fears are the polluted Fountain , from whence those bitter Streams of Discontent, and perplexed Thoughts, and every Confusion and Disorder of a troubled Mind flow.