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moderate his detestation. There can be no better music in mine ear, than the discord of the wicked. If he like me, I am afraid he spies some quality in me, like to his own. If he saw nothing but goodness, he could not love me, and be bad himself. It was a just doubt of Phocion, who, when the people praised him, asked, "What evil have I done?" I will strive to deserve evil of none; but, not deserving ill, it shall not grieve me to hear ill of those that are evil. I know no greater argument of goodness, than the hatred of a wicked man.
A man, that comes hungry to his meal, feeds heartily on the meat set before him, not regarding the metal or form of the platter, wherein it is served; who, afterwards, when his stomach is satisfied, begins to play with the dish, or to read sentences on his trencher. Those auditors, which can find nothing to do, but note elegant words and phrases, or rhetorical colours, or perhaps an ill grace of gesture in a pithy and material speech, argue themselves full, ere they came to the feast; and, therefore, go away with a little pleasure, no profit. In hearing others, my only intention shall be to feed my mind with solid matter: if my ear can get ought by the way, I will not grudge it; but I will not intend it.
The joy of a Christian in these worldly things is limited, and ever awed with fear of excess; but recompensed abundantly with his spiritual mirth: whereas the worldling gives the reins to the mind, and pours himself into pleasure; fearing only that he shall not joy enough. He, that is but half a Christian, lives but miserably; for he neither enjoyeth God, nor the world: not God, because he hath not grace enough to make him his own; not the world, because he hath some taste of grace, enough to shew him the vanity and sin of his pleasures. So, the sound Christian hath his heaven above; the worldling, here below; the unsettled Christian, no where.
Good deeds are very fruitful; and, not so much of their nature, as of God's blessing, multipliable. We think ten in the hundred extreme and biting usury: God gives us more than a hundred for ten; yea, above the increase of the grain, which we commend most for multiplication: for, out of one good action of ours, God produceth a thousand; the harvest whereof is perpetual. Even the faithful actions of the old Patriarchs, the constant sufferings of ancient Martyrs, live still; and do good to all successions of ages, by their example: for public actions of virtue, besides that they are presently comfortable to the doers, are also exemplary to others; and, as they are more beneficial to others, so are more crowned in us. If good deeds were utterly barren and incommodious, I would seek after them, for the conscience of their own goodness: how much more shall I now be encouraged to perform them, for that they are so profitable both to myself, and to others, and to me in
others! My principal care shall be, that while my soul lives in glory in heaven, my good actions may live upon earth; and that they might be put into the bank and multiply, while my body lies in the grave and consumeth.
A Christian, for the sweet fruit he bears to God and men, is compared to the noblest of all plants, the Vine. Now as the most generous vine, if it be not pruned, runs out into many superfluous stems, and grows at last weak and fruitless: so doth the best man, if he be not cut short of his desires, and pruned with afflictions. If it be painful to bleed, it is worse to wither. Let me be pruned, that I may grow; rather than cut up, to burn.
Those, that do but superficially taste of divine knowledge, find but little sweetness in it; and are ready, for the unpleasant relish, to abhor it: whereas, if they would dive deep into the sea, they should find fresh water near to the bottom. That it savours not well at the first, is the fault, not of it, but of the distempered palate that tastes it. Good metals and minerals are not found close under the skin of the earth, but below in the bowels of it. No good miner casts away his mattock, because he finds a vein of tough clay, or a shelf of stone; but still delveth lower; and, passing through many changes of soil, at last comes to his rich treasure. We are too soon discouraged in our spiritual gains. I will still persevere to seek; hardening myself against all difficulty. There is comfort even in seeking, hope; and there is joy in hoping, good success; and in that success, is happiness.
He, that hath any experience in spiritual matters, knows that Satan is ever more violent at the last: then raging most furiously, when he knows he shall rage but a while. Hence, of the first persecutions of the first Church, the tenth and last, under Diocletian and Maximinian and those other five Tyrants, was the bloodiest. Hence, this age is the most dissolute; because nearest the conclusion. And, as this is his course, in the universal assaults of the whole Church; so it is the same, in his conflicts with every Christian soul. Like a subtle orator, he reserves his strongest force till the shutting up: and, therefore, miserable is the folly of those men, who defer their repentance till then, when their onset shall be most sharp; and they, through pain of body and perplexedness of mind, shall be least able to resist. Those, that have long furnished themselves with spiritual munition, find work enough in this extreme brunt of temptation: how then should the careless man, that, with the help of all opportunities, could not find grace to repent, hope to atchieve it at the last gasp, against greater force, with less means, more distraction, no leisure? Wise princes use to prepare ten years before, for a field of one day: I will every day lay up somewhat for my last. If I win that skirmish, I have enough. The first and second blow begin the battle; but the last only wins it..
I observe three seasons, where a wise man differs not from a fool; in his infancy, in sleep, and in silence: for, in the two former, we are all fools; and, in silence, all are wise. In the two former yet, there may be concealment of folly; but the tongue is a blab: there cannot be any kind of folly, either simple or wicked, in the heart, but the tongue will bewray it. He cannot be wise, that speaks much, or without sense, or out of season; nor he known for a fool, that says nothing. It is a great misery, to be a fool; but this is yet greater, that a man cannot be a fool, but he must shew it. It were well for such a one, if he could be taught to keep close his foolishness: but then there should be no fools. I have heard some, which have scorned the opinion of folly in themselves, for a speech wherein they have hoped to shew most wit, censured of folly, by him, that hath thought himself wiser; and another, hearing his sentence again, hath condemned him for want of wit in censuring. Surely, he is not a fool, that hath unwise thoughts, but he, that utters them. Even concealed folly is wisdom; and sometimes, wisdom uttered, is folly. While others care how to speak, my care shall be how to hold my peace.
A work is then only good and acceptable, when the action, meaning, and manner are all good: for, to do good with an ill meaning, as Judas saluted Christ to betray him, is so much more sinful, by how much the action is better; which, being good in the kind, is abused to an ill purpose. To do ill in a good meaning, as Uzzah, in staying the Ark, is so much amiss, that the good intention cannot bear out the unlawful act: which although it may seem some excuse, why it should not be so ill; yet is no warrant to justify it. To mean well, and do a good action in an ill manner, as the Pharisee made a good prayer but arrogantly, is so offensive, that the evil manner depraveth both the other. So, a thing may be evil, upon one circumstance: it cannot be good, but upon all. In whatever business I go about, I will enquire, What I do, for the substance; How, for the manner; Why, for the intention: for the two first, I will consult with God; for the last, with my own heart.
I can do nothing without a million of witnesses: the conscience is as a thousand witnesses; and God is as a thousand consciences: I will, therefore, so deal with men, as knowing that God sees me; and so with God, as if the world saw me; so with myself, and both of them, as knowing that my conscience seeth me: and so with them all, as knowing I am always overlooked by my accuser, by my Judge.
Earthly inheritances are divided, ofttimes, with much inequality. The privilege of primogeniture stretcheth larger in many places now, than it did among the ancient Jews. The younger, many times, serves the elder; and, while the eldest aboundeth, all the lat
ter issue is pinched. In heaven it is not so: all the sons of God are heirs; none underlings: and not heirs under wardship and hope, but inheritors; and not inheritors of any little pittance of land, but of a kingdom; nor of an earthly kingdom, subject to danger of loss or alteration, but one glorious and everlasting. It shall content me here, that, having right to all things, yet I have possession of nothing but sorrow. Since I shall have possession above, of all that, whereto I have right below, I will serve willingly, that I may reign; serve for a while, that I may reign for ever.
Even the best things, ill used, become evils; and, contrarily, the worst things, used well, prove good. A good tongue, used to deceit; a good wit, used to defend error; a strong arm, to murder; authority, to oppress; a good profession, to dissemble; are alí evil: yea, God's own word is the sword of the Spirit; which, if it kill not our vices, kills our souls. Contrariwise, as poisons are used to wholesome medicine, afflictions and sins, by a good use prove so gainful, as nothing more. Words are, as they are taken; and things are, as they are used. There are even cursed blessings. O Lord, rather give me no favours, than not grace to use them. If I want them, thou requirest not what thou dost not give; but, if I have them, and want their use, thy mercy proves my judg
Man is the best of all these inferior creatures; yet lives in more sorrow and discontentment, than the worst of them: while that reason, wherein he excels them and by which he might make advantage of his life, he abuses to a suspicious distrust. How many hast thou found of the fowls of the air, lying dead in the way for want of provision? They eat, and rest, and sing, and want nothing. Man, which hath far better means to live comfortably, toileth, and careth, and wanteth: whom yet his reason alone might teach, that He, which careth for these lower creatures, made only for man, will much more provide for man, to whose use they were made. There is a holy carelessness; free from idleness; free from distrust. In these earthly things, I will so depend on my Maker, that my trust in him may not exclude all my labour; and yet so labour, upon my confidence on him, as my endeavour may be void of perplexity.
The precepts and practice of those, with whom we live, avail much on either part. For a man not to be ill, where he hath no provocations to evil, is less commendable: but, for a man to live continently in Asia (as he said), where he sees nothing but allurements to uncleanness; for Lot to be a good man, in the midst of Sodom; to be abstemious, in Germany; and, in Italy, chaste; this is truly praise-worthy. To sequester ourselves from the company of the world, that we may depart from their vices, proceeds from a base and distrusting mind: as if we would so force goodness upon
ourselves, that therefore only we would be good, because we cannot be ill: but, for a man so to be personally and locally in the throng of the world, as to withdraw his affections from it; to use it, and yet to contemn it, at once; to compel it to his service, without any infection; becomes well the noble courage of a Christian. The world shall be mine, I will not be his; and yet so mine, that his evil shall be still his own.
He, that lives in God, cannot be weary of his life; because he ever finds, both somewhat to do, and somewhat to solace himself with: cannot be over-loth to part with it; because he shall enter into a nearer life and society with that God, in whom he delighteth. Whereas, he, that lives without him, lives many times uncomfortably here; because, partly he knows not any cause of joy in himself, and partly he finds not any worthy employment to while himself withal: dies miserably; because he either knows not whither he goes, or knows he goes to torment. There is no true life, but the life of faith. O Lord, let me live out of the world with thee, if thou wilt; but let me not live in the world without thee.
Sin is both evil in itself, and the effect of a former evil, and the cause of sin following; a cause of punishment; and, lastly, a punishment itself. It is a damnable iniquity in man, to multiply one sin upon another: but, to punish one sin by another, in God is a judgment both most just and most fearful; so as all the store-house of God hath not a greater vengeance: with other punishments, the body smarteth; the soul, with this. I care not how God offends me with punishments, so he punish me not with offending him.
I have seen some afflict their bodies with wilful famine, and Scourges of their own making. God spares me that labour: for he whips me daily, with the scourge of a weak body; and, sometimes, with ill tongues. He holds me short, many times, of the feeling of his comfortable presence; which is, in truth, so much more miserable a hunger than that of the body, by how much the soul is more tender, and the food denied more excellent. He is my Father; infinitely wise, to proportion out my correction according to my estate; and infinitely loving, in fitting me with a due measure. He is a presumptuous child, that will make choice of his own rod. Let me learn to make a right use of his corrections, and I shall not need to correct myself. And, if it should please God to remit his hand a little; I will govern my body, as a master, not as a tyrant.
If God had not said, Blessed are those that hunger, I know not what could keep weak Christians from sinking in despair. Many times, all I can do, is, to find and complain that I want him, and wish to recover him: now, this is my stay, that he in mercy esteems