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INDIFFERENCY OF EVENTS.
Thou givest us daily proofs, () God, of the truth of that observa. tion of wise Solomon, that all things come alike to all, and that no man knows love or hatred by all that is before them ; Eccl. ix. 2. In these outward things, thy dearest friends have not fared better, than thine enemies : thy greatest enemies have not suffered more, than thy beloved children. When, therefore, I look abroad, and see with what heavy afflictions thou art pleased to exercise thy best favourites upon earth, I cannot but stand amazed to see, that horrible torments of all kinds have been undergone by thy most precious martyrs, whose patience hath overcome the violence of their executioners: and to see those extreme tortures, which some of thy faithful servants have endured in the beds of their sickness ; one, torn and drawn together with fearful convulsions; another, shrieking under the painful girds of an unremovable stone; one, wrung in his bowels with pangs of cholic, and turning of guts ; another, possessed with a raging gout in all his limbs ; one, whose bladder, after a painful incision, is ransacked; another, whose leg or arm is cut off, to prevent a mortal gangreen: I cannot but acknowledge how just it might be in thee, O God, to mix the same bitter cup for me; and how merciful it is, that, knowing my weakness, thou hast forborne hitherto to load me with so sad a burthen. What thou hast, in thine eternal council, determined to lay upon ine, thou only knowest. If thou be pleased to continue thy gracious indulgence to me still, make me truly thankful to thee for health and ease, as the greatest of thy outward favours ; but, let me not build upon them, as the certain evidences of thy better mercies : and, if thou think fit to interchange them with the vicissitude of sickness and pain, let me not misconstrue thy severe chastisements as arguments of thy displeasure. But, still teach me to fear thee, in my greatest prosperity ; and to love thee, in my greatest sufferings : and to adore thine infinite wisdom, justice, and mercy in both.
THE TRANSCENDENT LOVE. How justly do I marvel, O God, to see what strength of natural affection thou hast wrought in poor brute creatures towards their masters, and towards their own mates, towards their dams and their young! We have plentiful instances of those, whom death could not separate from their beloved guardians: some, that have died for their masters; some, with them : some, that have fearlessly hazarded their own lives for the preservation of their young ones; some, that have fed their aged dams with the food, whích they have spared from their own maws. Amongst the rest, how remarkable is that comparison of thine, O Saviour, wherein thou wert pleased to set forth thy tender care of thine Israel, by the resemblance of a hen gathering her chickens under her wings ! Matt. xxiii. 37. How have I seen that poor fowl, after the patience of a painful hatching, clucking her little brood together; and, when she hath perceived the puttock hovering over her head, in a varied note calling them hastily under the wing of her protection, and there covertly hiding them, not from the talons only, but from the eye of that dangerous enemy, till the peril hath been fully over! after which, she calls them forth to their liberty and repast; and, with many a careful scrape, discovers to them such grains of food, as may be fit for them; contenting herself to crave for them, with neglect of her own sustenance. O God, thou, who hast wrought in thy silly creatures such a high measure of indulgence and dearness of respect towards their tender brood, how infinite is thy love and compassion towards the children of men, the great masterpiece of thy creation ! How past the admiration of men and angels, is that transcendent proof of thy divine love, in the more than marvellous work of our redemption ! How justly glorifiable is thy name, in the gracious and sometimes miraculous preservation of thy children ! in the experience whereof, if I forbear to magnify thee, or dare not to trust thee; how can I be but unworthy, to be owned of thee, or blessed by thee?
CHOICE OF SEASONS, How regularly, O God, hast thou determined a set season for all thy creatures, both for their actions and their use! The stork in the heaven, saith thy prophet Jeremy, knoweth her appointed times, and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow observe the time of their coming ; Jer. viii. 7. Who have seen the stork *, before the calends of August; or a swallow, in the winter? Who hath heard the nightingale, in the heat of harvest; or the bittern, bearing her base in the coldest months? Yea, the Fishes in the sea know and observe their due seasons; and present us with their shoals, only when they are wholesome and useful : the herring doth not furnish our market, in the spring; nor the salmon, or mackerel, in winter. Yea, the very Flies both have and keep their days appointed: the silkworm never looks forth of that little cell of her conception, till the mulberry puts forth the leaves for their nourishment : and who hath ever seen a butterfly, or a hornet, in winter? yea, there are flies, we know, appropriate to their own months, from which they vary not. Lastly, how plain is this, in all the several varieties of Trees, Flowers, Herbs! The almond-tree looks out first, the mulberry last, of all other : the tulip, and the rose, and all other the sweet ornaments of the earth, are punctual in their growth and fall. But as for Man, () God, thou hast, in thy infinite wisdom, endued him with that power of reason, whereby he may make choice of the fittest seasons of all his actions. Thou, that hast ap
Oecolampad. in loc. Jerem.
pointed a time for every purpose under heaven, Eccl. iii. 1. hast given him wit to find and observe it. Even lawful acts, unseasonably done, may turn evil; and acts indifferent, seasonably performed, may prove good and laudable. The best improvement of mo. rality or civility, may shame us, if due time be not as well regarded, as substance. Only grace, piety, true virtue can never be unseasonable. There are no seasons in Eternity : there shall be one uniform and constant act of glorifying thee: thy angels and saints praise thee above, without change or intermission; the more we can do so on earth, the nearer shall we approach to those blessed spirits. O God, let my heart be wholly taken up evermore, with an adoration of thine Infinite Majesty; and let my mouth be ever sounding forth of thy praise : and let the Hosannahs and Hallelujahs which I begin here, know no measure but Eternity.
THE HAPPY RETURN HOME. EVERY creature naturally affects a return to the original, whence it first came. The pilgrim, though faring well abroad, yet hath a longing homeward: fountains and rivers run back, with what speed they may, to the sea, whence they were derived : all compound bodies return to their first elements: the vapours, rising up from the earth and waters, and condensed into clouds, fall down again to the same earth, whence they were exhaled: this body, that we bear about us, returns at last to that dust, whereof it was framed, And why then, O my soul, dost not thou earnestly desire to return home to the God, that made thee? Thou knowest thy original is heavenly : why are not thy affections so? What canst thou find here below, worthy to either withdraw or detain thee from those heavenly mansions ? Thou art here, in a region of sin ; of misery and death: glory waits for thee above: Hy then, O my soul, fly hence to that blessed immortality, not as yet, in thy dissolution ; for which thou must wait on the pleasure of thy dear Maker and Redeemer : yet, in thy thoughts, in thy desires and affections ; soar thou up thither, and converse there with that Blessed God and Father of Spirits, with those glorious orders of angels, and with the souls of just men made perfect: and, if the necessity of these budily affairs must needs draw thee off for a time, let it be not without reluctation and hearty unwillingness, and with an eager appetite of quick return to that celestial society. It will not be long, ere thou shalt be blessed with a free and uninterrupted fruition of that glorious eternity: in the mean time, do thou prepossess it, in thy heavenly dispositions; and, contemning this earth, wherewith thou art clogged, aspire to thy heaven, and be happy.
THE CONFINEMENTS OF AGE. Dost thou not observe, O my soul, how time, and age, confines and contracts, as our bodies, so our desires and motions here upon earth, still into narrower compasses ? When we are young, the world is but little enough for us : after we have seen our own island, we affect to cross the seas, and to climb over Alps and Pyrennees, and never think we have roved far enough. When we grow.ancient, we begin to be well pleased with rest: now, long and unnecessary journeys are laid aside: if business call us forth, we go, because we must ; as for the visits of friendship, one sun is enough to measure them, with our returns. And still, the older we grow, the more we are devoted to our home: there we are content ro sit still, and enjoy the thoughts of our youth and former experience; not looking farther, than a kind neighbourhood. But, when age hath stiffened our joints, and disabled our motions, now, our home-pastures and our gardens become our utmost boundaries. From thence, a few years more confine us to our own floor. Soon after that, we are limited to our chamber; and, at last, to our chair; then, to our bed; and, in fine, to our coffin. These natural restrictions, O my soul, are the appendances of thy weary partner, this earthly body ; but, for thee, the nearer thou drawest to thy home, the more it concerns thee to be sensible of a blessed enilargement of thy estate and affections. Hitherto, thou art immured in a strait pile of clay: now, heaven itself shall be but wide enough for thee. The world hath hitherto taken thee up, which, though large, is yet but finite : now, thou art upon the enjoying of that God, who alone is infinite, in all that he is. Oh, how inconsiderable is the restraint of the worse part, in comparison of the absolute enlargement of the better! my God, whose mercy knows no other limits than thy essence, work me, in this shutting up of my days, to all heavenly dispositions; that, while my outward man is so much more lessened, as it draws nearer to the centre of its corruption, my spiritual part may be so much more dilated in and towards thee, as it approacheth nearer towards the circumference of thy celestial glory.
SIN WITHOUT SENSE. ALAS, Lord, how tenderly sensible I am of the least bodily complaint, that can befal me! If but a tooth begin to ache, or a thorn have rankled in my flesh, or but an angry corn vex my toe, how am I incessantly troubled with the pain ! how feelingly do I bemoan myself! how carefully do I seek for a speedy remedy! which till I feel, how little relish do I find in my wonted contentment! But, for the better part, which is so much more tender as it is more precious, with what patience, shall I call it, or stupidity, do I endure it wounded, were it not for thy great mercy, no less than mortally! Every new sin, how little soever, that I commit, fetches blood of the soul : every willing sin stabs it: the continuance wherein festers inwardly; and, without repentance, kills. O God, I desire to be ashamed and humbled under thy hand, for this so unjust partiality; which gives me just cause to fear, that sense hath yet more predominance in me, than faith. I do not so much sue to thee, to make me less sensible of bodily evils, whereof yet too deep a sense differs little from impatience; as to make me more sensible of spiritual : let me feel my sin more painful, than the worst disease; and, rather than wilfully sin, let me die.
· THE EXTREMES OF DEVOTION.
I ACKNOWLEDGE it to be none of thy least mercies, O God, that thou hast vouchsafed to keep me within the due lines of devotion; not suffering me to wander into those two extremes, which I see and pity in others. Too many there are, that do so content themselves in meer formalities, that they little regard how their heart is affected with the matter of their prayers : so have I grieved to see poor mis-devout souls under the papacy, measuring their orisons, not by weight, but by number; not caring which way their eye strayed, so their lips went; resting well apaid that God understood them, though they understood not themselves : too near approaching whereunto, are a world of well-meaning ignorant souls at home, that care only to pray by rote, not without some general intentions of piety, but so, as their hearts are little guilty of the motion of their tongues; who, while they would cloak their carelessness with a pretence of disability of expressing their wants to God, might learn, that true sense of need never wanted words to crave relief: every beggar can, with sufficient eloquence, importune the passenger for his alms: did they not rather lack a heart than a tongue, they could not be defective in bemoaning themselves to heaven for what they lack; especially, while we have to do with such a God, as more esteems broken clauses made up with hearty sighs, than all the compliments of the most curious eloquence in the world. On the other side, there are certain zealous devotionists, which abhor all set forms and fixed hours of invocation, teaching, and so practising, that they may not pray, but when they feel a strong impulsion of God's Spirit to that holy work; whereupon it hath come to pass, that whole days, yea weeks, have gone over their heads, unblessed by their prayers : who might have taken notice, that, under the Law, God had his regular course of constant hours for his morning and evening sacrifices; that the ancient saints, under the Old Testamient, held close to David's rule, evening, and morning, and at noon to pray and cry aloud ; Psalm Iv. 17: so as the very lions could not fright Daniel from his task : and, even after the vail of the Temple was rent, Peter and John went up together to God's house, at the ninth hour, to Evening Prayer; Acts iii. 1: yea, what stand ye upon this ; when the Apostle of the Gentiles charges us, To pray continually? 1 Thess. v. 17. Not that we should, in the midst of a sensible indisposedness of heart, fall suddenly into a fashionable devotion; but, that, by holy ejaculations and previous meditation, we should make way for a feeling invocation of our God, whose ears are never but open to our faithful