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us, not only by having, but by desiring also; and, after a sort, accounts us to have that, which we want, and desire to have: and, iny soul assuming, tells me I do unfeignedly wish him, and long after that grace I miss. Let me desire still more, and I know I shall not desire always. There was never soul miscarried with longing after grace. O blessed hunger, that ends always in fulness! I am sorry, that I can but hunger: and yet I would not be full; for the blessing is promised to the hungry. Give me more, Lord, but so as I may hunger more. Let me hunger more, and I know I shall be satisfied.
There is more in the Christian, than thou seest: for he is both an entire body of himself, and he is a limb of another more excellent; even that glorious mystical body of his Saviour; to whom he is so united, that the actions of either are reciprocally referred to each other. For, on the one side, the Christian lives in Christ, dies in Christ, in Christ fulfils the Law, possesseth heaven; on the other, Christ is persecuted by Paul in his members, and is persecuted in Paul afterwards by others; he suffers in us, he lives in us, he works in and by us: so thou canst not do either good or harm to a Christian, but thou dost it to his Redeemer, to whom he is invisibly united. Thou seest him as a man; and, therefore, worthy of favour, for humanity's sake: thou seest him not as a Christian, worthy of honour, for his secret and yet true union with our Saviour. I will love every Christian, for that I see; honour him, for that I shall see.
Hell itself is scarce a more obscure dungeon, in comparison of the earth; than earth is, in respect of heaven. Here, the most see nothing, and the best see little: here, half our life is night; and our very day is darkness, in respect of God. The true Light of the World, and the Father of Lights, dwelleth above: there is the light of knowledge to inform us, and the light of joy to comfort us; without all change of darkness. There was never any captive loved his dungeon; and complained, when he must be brought out to light and liberty. Whence, then, is this natural madness in us men, that we delight so much in this unclean, noisome, dark, and comfortless prison of earth; and think not of our release to that lightsome and glorious paradise above us, without grief and repining? We are sure, that we are not perfectly well here: if we could be as sure, that we should be better above, we would not fear changing. Certainly, our sense tells us we have some pleasure here; and we have not faith to assure us of more pleasure above: and hence, we settle ourselves to the present, with neglect of the future, though infinitely more excellent. The heart follows the eyes: and unknown good is uncared for. O Lord, do thou break through this darkness of ignorance and faithlessness, wherewith I am compassed. Let me but see my heaven, and I know I shall desire it.
To be carried away with an affectation of fame, is so vain and ab
surd, that I wonder it can be incident to any wise man: for what a mole-hill of earth is it, to which his name can extend, when it is furthest carried by the wings of report! And how short a while doth it continue, where it is once spread! Time, the devourer of his own brood, consumes both us and our memories: not brass, nor marble can bear age. How many flattering poets have promised immortality of name to their princes, who now together are buried long since in forgetfulness! Those names and actions, that are once on the file of heaven, are past the danger of defacing. I will not care whether I be known, or remembered, or forgotten amongst men; if my name and good actions may live with God, in the records of eternity.
There is no man, nor no place, free from spirits; although they testify their presence by visible effects but in few. Every man is a host to entertain angels, though not in visible shapes, as Abraham and Lot. The evil ones do nothing, but provoke us to sin, and plot mischiefs against us, by casting into our way dangerous objects; by suggesting sinful motions to our minds; by stirring up enemies against us amongst men; by frighting us with terrors in ourselves; by accusing us to God: on the contrary, the good angels are ever removing our hindrances from good, and our occasions of evil; mitigating our temptations; helping us against our enemies; delivering us from dangers; comforting us in sorrows; furthering our good purposes; and, at last, carrying up our souls to heaven. It would affright a weak Christian, that knows the power and malice of wicked spirits, to consider their presence and number; but when, with the eyes of Elisha's servant, he sees those on his side at present, as diligent, more powerful, he cannot but take heart again: especially if he consider, that neither of them is without God; limiting the one, the bounds of their temptation; directing the other, in the safeguard of his children. Whereupon it is come to pass, that, though there be many legions of devils, and every one more strong than many legions of men, and more malicious than strong, yet the little flock of God's Church liveth and prospereth. I have ever with me invisible friends and enemies. The consideration of mine enemies shall keep me from security; and make me fearful of doing ought to advantage them. The consideration of my spiritual friends shall comfort me against the terror of the other; shall remedy my solitariness; shall make me wary of doing ought indecently: grieving me rather, that I have ever heretofore made them turn away their eyes for shame of that, whereof I have not been ashamed; that I have no more enjoyed their society; that I have been no more affected with their presence. What though I see them not? I believe them. I were no Christian, if my faith were not as sure as my sense.
There is no word or action, but may be taken with two hands; either with the right-hand of charitable construction, or the sinister interpretation of malice and suspicion: and all things do so succeed,
as they are taken. I have noted evil actions, well taken, pass current for either indifferent or commendable; contrarily, a good speech or action, ill taken, scarce allowed for indifferent; an indifferent one, censured for evil; an evil one, for notorious: so, favour makes virtues of vices; and suspicion makes virtues faults, and faults crimes. Of the two, I would rather my right-hand should offend. It is always safer offending on the better part. To construe an evil act well, is but a pleasing and profitable deceit of myself: but to misconstrue a good thing, is a treble wrong; to myself, the action, the author. If no good sense can be made of a deed or speech, let the blame light upon the author: if a good interpretation may be given, and I choose a worse, let me be as much censured of others, as that misconceit is punishment to myself.
I know not how it comes to pass, that the mind of man doth naturally both overprize his own, in comparison of others; and yet contemn and neglect his own, in comparison of what he wants. The remedy of this latter evil is, to compare the good things we have, with the evils which we have not, and others groan under. Thou art in health, and regardest it not: look on the misery of those, which, on their bed of sickness, through extremity of pain and anguish, entreat death to release them. Thou hast clear eye-sight, sound limbs, use of reason; and passest these over with slight respect: think how many there are, which, in their uncomfortable blindness, would give all the world for but one glimpse of light; how many, that deformedly crawl on all-four, after the manner of the most loathsome creatures; how many, that in mad phrensies are worse than brutish, worse than dead: thus thou mightest be, and art not. If I be not happy for the good that I have, I am yet happy for the evils that I might have had, and have escaped. I have deserved the greatest evil: every evil that I miss, is a new
Earth, which is the basest element, is both our mother, that brought us forth; our stage, that bears us alive; and our grave, wherein, at last, we are entombed: giving to us both our original, our harbour, our sepulchre. She hath yielded her back, to bear thousands of generations; and, at last, opened her mouth to receive them; so swallowing them up, that she still both beareth more, and looks for more; not bewraying any change in herself, while she so oft hath changed her brood and her burden. It is a wonder we can be proud of our parentage, or of ourselves; while we see both the baseness and stability of the earth, whence we came. What difference is there? Living earth treads upon the dead earth; which, afterwards, descends into the grave, as senseless and dead, as the earth that receives it. Not many are proud of their souls; and none, but fools, can be proud of their bodies. While we walk and look upon the earth, we cannot but acknowledge sensible admonitions of humility; and, while we remember them, we cannot for
get ourselves. It is a mother-like favour of the earth, that she bears and nourishes me; and, at the last, entertains my dead carcase: but it is a greater pleasure, that she teacheth me my vileness by her own, and sends me to heaven for what she wants.
The wicked man carrieth every day a brand to his hell, till his heap be come to the height; then, he ceaseth sinning, and begins his torment: whereas the repentant, in every fit of holy sorrow, carries away a whole faggot from the flame; and quencheth the coals that remain, with his tears. There is no torment for the penitent; no redemption for the obstinate. Safety consisteth not in not sinning, but in repenting: neither is it sin, that condemns, but impenitence. O Lord, I cannot be righteous; let me be repentant.
The estate of heavenly and earthly things is plainly represented to us, by the two lights of heaven, which are appointed to rule the night and the day. Earthly things are rightly resembled by the moon, which, being nearest to the region of mortality, is ever in changes, and never looks upon us twice with the same face; and, when it is at the full, is blemished with some dark blots, not capable of any illumination. Heavenly things are figured by the sun, whose great and glorious light is both natural to itself, and ever constant. That other fickle and dim star is fit enough for the night of misery, wherein we live here below. And this firm and beautiful light is but good enough for that day of glory, which the saints live in. If it be good living here, where our sorrows are changed with joys; what is it to live above, where our joys change not? I cannot look upon the body of the sun; and yet I cannot see at all without the light of it: I cannot behold the glory of thy saints, O Lord; yet without the knowledge of it, I am blind. If thy creature be so glorious to us here below; how glorious shall thyself be to us, when we are above the sun! This sun shall not shine upward, where thy glory shineth: the greater light extinguisheth the lesser. O thou Sun of Righteousness, which shalt only shine to me when I am glorified, do thou heat, enlighten, comfort me with the beams of thy presence, till I be glorified. Amen.
* The author seems, by oversight, to have introduced a paragraph too many in this Century. One edition, in consequence, gives the No. 86 twice; another repeats the No. 95; and a third the No. 97: but I have thought it best to number the paragraphs regularly through to the end.