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Matth. V. 5.
C.H A P. XI. Of Peace of Mind, and a Defire of Improvement, M
EN might live quiet and easy enough, if they
would be careful not to give themselves Trouble, and forbear meddling with what other people do and fay, in which they are no way concerned. But how should he be eafy, who makes other Men's Cares his own? Who industriously seeks Disquiet, and when he might reft in Peace within Doors, goes abroad to invite and fetch Disturbance home to his Houfe, who takes such Pains, and spends so much Time to enquire into the Affairs of Neighbours and Strangers altogether foreign to him; and seldom or never descends in to his own Breaft, that he may examine and understand
himself? Blessed are the Meek, says the Ifa. xxix. 19.
Scripture, for they fall inberit the Earth
peaceably, and increasetbeir Joy in the Lord. Whence is it, think you, that some Holy Persons can so perfectly abstract themfelves from the Concerns of this World, and find fuch Satisfaction in their Divine Retirements, and Solitary Contemplations? From hence, no doubt; that they have made it their Bufinefs to mortify all earthly and sensual Affections, and so have devoted themselves entirely to God, and are at liberty to attend upon Him without Distraction. But we find the Cafe much otherwise with Us; because our Passions interrupt our Piety, and the Transitory Things of this World continue tenderly to affect us. We feldom gain an entire Conquest over any one ill Habit; nor are we zealous to make every Day we live a Step to higher Degrees of Virtue. This is the Reason why we are so cold and insensible, or at best but lukewarm and indifferent, in the Exercises of Piety and Private Meditation,
Were we but, as we ought to be dead to the World and our own Lufts, disentangled from those Chains and Snares within, that hamper and keep our Souls down to Matter and Sense; then should we also relish Acts of Devotion, and be ravished with marvellous Joy, when our Thoughts are fixed on God and Heaven. The only, or the greatest Bar to these Spiritual Delights, proceeds from Passions unsubdued ; and from our own Sloth, which cares not to encounter Difficulties, nor aspires to the Perfection of the Saints. Hence is that Tameness and Dejection of Spirit; fo visible, fo scandalous, when any little Misfortune comes across us : Hence our vain Confidence, and anxious Care, which seeks and depends upon Hue man Helps and Remedies ;. and neglects God, our only sufficient Refuge and Deliverer.
Would we but quit our felves like Men, and resolutely stand our Ground, we should not fail of Succours from above. God is always ready to strengthen those who strive lawfully, and place their Hope in the Aslistance of his heavenly Grace : He means our very Hardships and Dangers for our Good į and engages us in new Conflicts and Temptations, that he may make our Victories more glorious, and qualify us for a brighter Crown. If we content our felves with the Observance of the outward Duties only, and suppose this is the utmost Perfection neceffary for us 3 we bring Religion into a very narrow Compass, and may quickly get to the End of it. But alas! the main of our Business lies within : The Axe must be laid to the Root of the Tree, and our Sensual Appetites quite cut down, before we can attain to true Pleasure in Holiness, and a Peaceful Serenity of Mind.
Would we but impose upon our selves the Task of mortifying a fresh Lust, and conquering a vicious Habit every Year, even thus in a little time we mighç attain to some Perfection. But alas ! we often take the C
direct contrary Course ; and are generally more wary, more devout, more zealous to do welland to avoid Evil, when we first enter upon a Religious Life, than after we háve spent some time in it. The Fervor of our Affection, which ought in Reason to grow every Day stronger and brighter, cools and goes out again; and we reckon it a great Måtter, if our Zeal can be kept up to the same Warmth, which we felt at its first kindling. We are too tender of our Eafe, and loth - to put our selves upon the stretch : Wrereas, would we but use a little Severity, and submit to some Violence at first, that Trouble would quickly wear off; and all our Progress in Virtue would prove, not cafy and tolerable only, but even a Delight, and wonderful Satisfaction to us.
'Tis hard, I own, to part with our old Friends, and to unlearn Habits to which we have been long accuftomed. And harder yet it is, to enter into a formal War with our own Inclinations, and obftinately to deny what we eagerly desire. But if we do not conquer fmaller Difficulties, what will become of us, when asfáulted by greater? If we do not resist our natural Propenfions at first, before Inclination is strengthened by Custom, the Enemy will gather Strength. Every Day's Practice is a fresh Reinforcement'; and the longer the Delay, the greater will be the Difficulty. O think of this in time, and consider the happy Effects of an early and serious Piety: What Peace, what Triumphs to your felves ; what Joy to others, to God and Christ, to Angels and Good Men, you will certainly procure, by behaving your felves gallantly in this Spiritual Warfare. This sure will balance all the Hardships of Virtue ; reproach your Cowardice and Sloth, provoke and inflame your Diligence and Courage ; and make you zealous, refolute, impatient to grow in Grace, and advance every Day in Spiritual Perfection.
C H A P.
CHA P. XII.
David. Nor is it David's Cafe alone ; for many Men have reason to blefs Pfal.cxix. 71. that Providence, which sends Crosses and Calamities upon them. These bring a Man's Thoughts home, put him upon Reflection, and help him to understand himself and his Condition. They shew him, that he is in a State of Exile and Pilgrimage, and forbid him to set up his Hope and Reft, in a strange Country, where he is no better than a Sojourner.
Nor is it thus with those Sufferings alone, which the immediate Hand of Heaven inflicts; but even those whereof Men are the Instruments. The Injuries and contumelious Usage, the Calumnies and Cenfures of them who speak and think Ill of us, bring their Profit with them too; even when most wrongful, moft undeferved. For thefe oftentimes are an occasion of rectifying our Measures, as bringing us to a juster and more modest Opinion of our felves. They cure our Ambition and Vain-gfory, and convince us how vain a thing it is, to thirst after Reputation and the Praise of Men, when'even Innocence and Goodness cannot protect us from Slander and Reproaches. They teach us to set a due Value upon the Testimony of our own Consciences, and the righteous Approbation of God, the Searcher of Hearts ; when That, which he will not fail to commend and reward, cano not escape the Contempt and Condemnation of the World, nor prevail for so much as fair Quarter, from our mistaken and injurious Brethren. - It is therefore both our Duty and our Wisdom, to entirely to place our Happiness and Expectations in с 2
God alone ; that we shall not need to be extremely solicitous for many outward Comforts, or feel our selves destitute, or much dejected, when any of these happen to fail or forsake us. For when a well-dispofed Man is oppressed with Sufferings and Temptations, or perplexed with evil Thoughts, he then feels experimentally, how necessary the Divine Assistance is, and how little he is able to do or endure without it : Then he is touched with inward Remorse, then does he groan in secret, and, in the anguish of his Heart, pour out his Requests for Relief and Deliverance: Then even Life it self becomes a Burthen, and Death desirable ; as that which will translate him from this Valley of Tears and Corruption, to a Life of Immortality with his God and Redeemer. In a word, Such Circumstances as these are more effectual than ten thousand Arguments, to convince him, by his own sensible Experience, that perfect Security, and entire Satisfaction are not so much as consistent with the Condition of Man in this present World; and therefore we must be content to wait another and Future State, which alone deserves our Affections, because it alone can make us truly and compleatly happy.
CH A P. XIII.
Of Resisting Temptations,
long as we continue in this World, we must not
flatter our felves with an Imagination so vain, as that of being exempted from Tribulations and Trials. Fob vii. 1.
These are so inseparable from MortaSec. lxx. Elity, that
Job calls the Life of Man a Warvulg. fare, or Place of Exercise. It highly concerns every one of us upon this account, to take great