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unless they be well exercised, both with God's plough of affliction, and their own industry in meditation. A man of knowledge, that is either negligent or uncorrected, cannot but grow wild and godless.
LVI. With us, vilest things are most common: but, with God, the best things are most frequently given. Grace, which is the noblest of all God's favours, is unpartially bestowed upon all willing receivers; whereas, nobility of blood and height of place, blessings of an inferior nature, are reserved for few. Herein the Christian follows his Father: his prayers, which are his richest portion, he communicates to all; his substance, according to his ability, to few.
LVII. God therefore gives, because he hath given; making his former favours, arguments for more: Man therefore shuts his hand, because he hath opened it. There is no such way to procure more from God, as to urge him with what he hath done. All God's blessings are profitable and excellent; not so much in themselves, as that they are inducements to greater.
LVIII. God's immediate actions are best, at first: the frame of this creation, how exquisite was it under his hand! afterward, blemished by our sin. Man's endeavours are weak in their beginnings, and perfecter by degrees. No science, no device, hath ever been perfect in his cradle; or, at once, hath seen his birth and maturity: of the same nature are those actions, which God worketh mediately by us, according to our measure of receipt. The cause of both is, on the one side the infiniteness of his wisdom and power, which cannot be corrected by any second assays: on the other, our weakness, helping itself by former grounds and trials. He is a happy man, that detracts nothing from God's works, and adds most to his own.
LIX. The old saying is more common than true; That those, which are in hell, know no other heaven: for this makes the damned perfectly miserable, that, out of their own torment, they see the felicity of the Saints; together with their impossibility of attaining it. Sight, without hope of fruition, is a torment alone. Those, that here might see God and will not, or do see him obscurely and love him not, shall once see him with anguish of soul and not enjoy him.
LX. Sometimes, evil speeches come from good men, in their unadvisedness; and, sometimes, even the good speeches of men may proceed from an ill spirit. No confession could be better than Satan gave of Christ. It is not enough, to consider what is spoken, or by whom; but whence, and for what. The spirit is oftentimes
tried by the speech: but other times the speech must be examined by the spirit; and the spirit, by the rule of a higher word.
LXI. Greatness puts high thoughts and big words into a man; whereas, the dejected mind takes, carelessly, what offers itself. Every worldling is base-minded; and, therefore, his thoughts creep still low upon the earth. The Christian both is and knows himself truly great; and, thereupon, mindeth and speaketh of spiritual, immortal, glorious, heavenly things. So much as the soul stoopeth unto earthly thoughts, so much is it unregenerate.
LXII. Long acquaintance, as it maketh those things, which are evil, to seem less evil; so it makes good things, which at first were unpleasant, delightful. There is no evil of pain, nor no moral good action, which is not harsh at the first. Continuance of evil, which might seem to weary us, is the remedy and abatement of weariness: and the practice of good, as it profiteth, so it pleaseth. He, that is a stranger to good and evil, finds both of them troublesome. God therefore doth well for us, while he exerciseth us with long afflictions: and we do well to ourselves, while we continually busy ourselves in good exercises.
LXIII. Sometimes, it is well taken by men, that we humble ourselves lower than there is cause: Thy servant Jacob, saith that good Patriarch, to his brother, to his inferior. And no less well doth God take these submiss extenuations of ourselves: I am a worm, and no man : Surely, I am more foolish than a man, and have not the understanding of a man in me. But I never find, that any man bragged to God, although in a matter of truth, and within the compass of his desert, and was accepted. A man may be too lowly in his dealing with men, even unto contempt: with God, he cannot; but the lower he falleth, the higher is his exaltation.
LXIV. The soul is fed, as the body; starved with hunger, as the body; requires proportionable diet and necessary variety, as the body. All ages and statures of the soul bear not the same nourishment. There is milk, for spiritual Infants; strong meat, for the grown Christian. The spoon is fit for the one; the kyife, for the other. The best Christian is not so grown, that he need to scorn the spoon: but the weak Christian may find a strong food dangerous. How many have been cast away with spiritual surfeits: because, being but new-born, they have swallowed down big morsels of the highest mysteries of godliness, which they never could digest; but, together with them, have cast up their proper nourishment! A man must first know the power of his stomach, ere he know how, with safety and profit, to frequent God's Ordinary.
LXV. It is very hard for the best man, in a sudden extremity of death, to satisfy himself in apprehending his stay, and reposing his heart upon it: for the soul is so oppressed with sudden terror, that it cannot well command itself, till it have digested an evil. It were miserable for the best Christian, if all his former prayers and meditations did not serve to aid him in his last straits, and meet together in the centre of his extremity; yielding, though not sensible relief, yet secret benefit to the soul: whereas, the worldly man, in this case, having not laid up for this hour, hath no comfort from God, or from others, or from himself.
LXVI. All external good or evil is measured by sense; neither can we account that either good or ill, which doth neither actually avail, nor hurt us: spiritually, this rule holds not. All our best good is insensible: for all our future (which is the greatest) good, we hold only in hope; and the present favour of God, we have many times, and feel not.' The stomach finds the best digestion even in sleep, when we least perceive it: and, while we are most awake, this power worketh in us either to further strength or disease, without our knowledge of what is done within. And, on the other side, that man is most dangerously sick, in whom nature decays without his feeling, without complaint. To know ourselves happy, is good: but, oe were to us Christians, if we could not be happy, and know it not !
LXVII. There are none, that ever did so much mischief to the Church, as those, that have been excellent in wit and learning. Others may be spiteful enough; but want power to accomplish their malice. An enemy, that hath both strength and craft, is worthy to be feared. None can sin against the Holy Ghost, but those, which have had former illumination. Tell not me what parts a man hath, but what grace: honest sottishness is better than profane eminence.
LXVIII. The entertainment of all spiritual events must be with fear or hope; but, of all earthly extremities, must be with contempt or derision: for, what is terrible, is worthy of a Christian's contempt; what is pleasant, to be turned over with a scorn. The mean requires a mean affection, betwixt love and hatred. We may not love them, because of their vanity : we may not hate them, because of their necessary use. It is a hard thing to be a wise host, and to fit our entertainment to all comers: which if it be not done, the soul is soon wasted; either for want of customers, or for the mis. rule of ill guests.
LXIX. God and man build in a contrary order. Man lays the foundation first; then, adds the walls; the roof, last: God began the roof first; spreading out this vault of heaven, ere he laid the base of the earth. Our thoughts must follow the order of his workmanship. Heaven must be minded first; earth, afterward: and, so much more, as it is seen more. Our meditation must herein follow our sense: a few miles give hounds to our view of earth; whereas, we may near see half the heaven at once. He, that thinks most, both of that which is most seen, and of that which is not seen at all, is happiest.
LXX. I have ever noted it a true sign of a false heart, To be scrupulous and nice in small matters, negligent in the main: whereas, the good soul is still curious in substantial points, and not careless in things of an inferior nature; accounting no duty so small as to be neglected, and no care great enough for principal duties; not so tything mint and cummin, that he should forget justice and judgment; nor yet so regarding judgment and justice, that he should contemn mint and cummin. He, that thus misplaces his conscience, will be found either hypocritical or superstitious.
LXXI. It argues the world full of atheists, that those offences, which may impeach human society, are entertained with an answerable hatred and rigour; those, which do immediately wrong the supreme majesty of God, are turned over with scarce so much as dislike. If we conversed with God as we do with men, his right would be at least as precious to us as our own. All, that converse not with God, are without God. Not only those that are against God, but those that are without God, are atheists. We may be too charitable: I fear not to say, that these our last times abound with honest atheists.
LXXII. The best thing corrupted, is worst: an ill man is the worst of all creatures; an ill Christian, the worst of all men; an ill professor, the worst of all Christians; an ill minister, the worst of all professors.
LXXIII. Naturally, life is before death; and death is only a privation of life: spiritually, it is contrary. As Paul saith of the grain, so may we of man in the business of regeneration: he must die before he can live: yet this death presupposes a life, that was once, and should be. God chuses to have the difficultest, first: we must be content with the pain of dying, ere we feel the comfort of life. As we die to nature, ere we live in glory; so we must die to sin, ere we can live to grace.
LXXIV. Death did not first strike Adam, the first sinful man; nor Cain, the first hypocrite; but Abel, che innocent and righteous. The first soul, that met with death, overcame death: the first soul, that parted from earth, went to heaven. Death argues not displeasure;
because he, whom God loved best, dies first; and the murderer is punished with living.
LXXV. The lives of most are mis-spent, only for want of a certain end of their actions: wherein they do as unwise archers, shoot away, their arrows, they know not at what mark: they live only out of the present; not directing themselves and their proceedings to one universal scope: whence they alter upon all change of occasions, and never reach any perfection; neither can do other but continue in uncertainty, and end in discomfort. Others aim at one certain mark; but a wrong one. Some, though fewer, level at the right end; but amiss. To live without one main and common end, is idleness and folly: to live to a false end, is deceit and loss: true Christian wisdom, both shews the end, and finds the way. And, as cunning politicians have many plots to compass one and the same design, by a determined succession: so the wise Christian, failing in the means; yet still fetcheth about to his steady end, with a constant change of endeavours. Such an one only lives to purpose; and, at last, repents not, that he hath lived.
LXXVI. The shipwreck of a good conscience, is the casting away of all other excellencies. It is no rare thing, to note the soul of a wilful sinner stripped of all her graces; and, by degrees, exposed to shame: so those, whom we have known admired, have fallen to be level with their fellows; and, from thence, beneath them, to a mediocrity; and, afterwards, to sottishness and contempt, below the vulgar. Since they have cast away the best, it is just with God to take away the worst; and to cast off them in lesser regards, which have rejected him in greater.
LXXVII. It hath ever been counted more noble and successful, to set upon an ciben enemy in his own home, than to expect till he set upon us, w.. ide we make only a defensive war. This rule serves us for our last enemy, death: whence that old demand of Epicure is easily answered, Whether it be better death should come to us, or that we should neet him in the way: meet him in our minds, ere he seize upon our bodies. Our cowardliness, our unpreparation, is his advantage: whereas, true boldness in confronting him dismays and weakens his forces. Happy is that soul, that can send out the scouts of his thoughts beforehand, to discover the power of death afar off; and then can resolutely encounter him, at unawares, upon advantage: suci. an one lives with security, dies with comfort.
LXXVIII. Many a man sends others to heaven; and yet goes to hell himself: and not few, having drawn others to hell; yet themselves return, by a late repentance, to life. In a good action, it is not