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he would most gladly compass; but not brag of it too soon, as that, which he hath already compassed. The Remedy of
(3.) As there is no disease incident into the body, Presumption
for which nature hath not provided a Remedy ; so in respect of neither is there any spiritual complaint incident into the Way
the soul, for which grace affords not a Redress. The
way of the general cure of presumption is, to take a just estimate of our privileges and abilities; and to work the heart to a true self-dejection and humiliation, under the mighty hand of God. -in matter of
[1.] Particularly, He can never presume upon Event : of our
those Outward Commodities, that seriously considers due valuation how they are valued by the Owner and Giver of of outward thein. Where are the most curious and rich pearls
laid up, but in the mud of the sea? And what is the earth, but marsupiuin Domini, as St. Malachy termed it of old; “ God's purse,” wherein he puts his most precious jewels and metals. And what baser piece hath the world, than this reposi.
And, if it please him to lay them out, how doth he think them worthy to be bestowed ? He fills the belly of the ungodly, with his hidden treasure, saith the Psalmist; and, The earth is given into the hands of the wicked, saith holy Job in his answer to Bildad; Job ix. 24: neither is it other, that he observes in his reply to Zophar; The Tabernacles of the robbers prosper; and they, that provoke God, are secure; into whose hands God bringeth abundantly; Job xii. 6. How, then, can we esteein those things as pledges of favour, which God makes choice to cast upon enemies? which mere natural men have contemned, as not worthy their affectation or regard? With what scorn, did those naked Brachmanni (the relation is fathered upon St. Ambrose) repel the proffered gold?
And if, at any time, it hath pleased him, whose the earth is and the fulness thereof, to lade his dear ones with this thick clay, as himself styles it; and to store them with abundance; he doth it not, without a further blessing of sanctification. Some kinds of fishes there are, that pass for delicate, with our great masters of the palate; which yet must have the dangerous string in their backs pulled out, ere they can be safely fed upon: such is worldly wealth and prosperity: the wise and holy God plucks out their venom, when he will have them served up, for dainties to his children's table. Or, if he find that the deceitfulness of riches will be apt to beguile good souls, he deals with them, as careful gardeners are wont to do by those trees, from which they expect fair fruit; abate the number of their blossoms, as more caring they should be good, than full.
Lastly then, how can we account those arguments of favour, which the best have had least? Even the great Lord of all the World, for whom heaven itself was too strait, when he would come down and converse with men, could say, The fores have holes, and the fowls of heaven have nests; but the Son of Man hath not
where to rest his head: and when the tribute money was demanded, is fain to send for it, to the next fish: shortly, wore out his few days upon earth, in so penal a way, that his sorrows were read in his face; insomuch as, when he was but two-and-thirty years of age, the by-standers could say, Thou art not yet fifty.
What proofs of divine favour then are these to presume upon, which the worst have; which the best want; which God ofttimes gives in judgment, denies in mercy ? [2.] There cannot be a more sure Remedy for
-in matter of Presumption of Abilities, than to take an exact sur
Ability: an vey of our graces; both of their truth, and degrees. exact survey Satan is a great impostor, he, that was once an angel of our Grace. of light, knows how to seem so still: when he left to be an Angel, he began to be a Serpent: and his continual ex. perience cannot but have added to his art; so as he knows how to counterfeit graces, both in himself and his, in so exquisite a fashion, that it is not for every eye to discern them from true, to what perfection mechanical imitation hath attained: what precious stone hath nature yielded, which is not so artificially counterfeited, both in the colour and lustre, that only the skilful lapidary can descry it? pearls, so resembled, that, for whiteness, clearness, smoothness, they dare contend with the true! gold, so cunningly multiplied and tinctured, that neither the eye can distinguish it, nor the touch, scarce the crucible: so as Art would seem to be a Havilah, whose gold is good; while Nature is an Ophir, whose gold is erceeding good! What marvel is it then, if crafty spirits can make so fair representations of spiritual excellencies, as may well deceive ordinary judgments ? the Pythoness's Samuel was so like the true, that Savi adored him for such ; and Jannes and Jambres made their wooden serpent to crawl so nimbly, and hiss so fiercely, that till Moses's serpent devoured theirs, the beholders knew not whether were more formidable. Some false things seem more probable, than many truths. There must be, therefore, much serious and accurate disquisition, ere we can pass a true judgment, betwixt apparent and real graces. Neither would it ask less than a volume to state
The differences the diíferences, whereby we may discriminate coun- betwixt coun. terfeit virtues from true, in all their several specialties. terseit virtues They are faced alike: they are clad alike: the marks and true. are inward : and scarce discernable, by any but the owner's eyes. In a generality, we shall thus descry them in our own hearts. True grace is right-bred, of a divine original ; and comes down from above, even from the Father of Lights; God's Spirit, working with and by his own ordinances, produceth it in the soul, and feeds it by the same holy means it is wrought: the counterfeit is earth-bred; arising from mere nature, out of the grounds of sensuality. True grace drives at no other end, than the glory of the Giver; and scorns to look lower than heaven: the counterfeit aims at nothing, but vain applause, or carnal advantage; not caring to reach an inch above his own head. True grace is apt to
cross the plausiblest inclinations of corrupt nature; and cheers up the heart to a delightful performance of all good duties, as the best pastime: the counterfeit is a mere parasite of fleshly appetite; and finds no harshness, but in holy devotions. True grace is undauntedly constant, in all opposition; and, like a well wrought vault, is so much the stronger, by how much more weight it undergoes; this metal is purer, for the fire ; this eagle can look upon the hottest sun: the counterfeit shows most gloriously in prosperity ; but, when the evil day cometh, it looks like the skin of a dead chamelion, nasty and deformed. Lastly, true grace is best alone: the counterfeit is all for witnesses.
In brief, if, in a holy jealousy of our own deceitfulness, we shall put daily interrogatories to our hearts, and pass them under severe examinations, we shall not be in danger to presume upon our mistaken graces : but, the more we search, the more cause we shall find of our humiliation; and of an awful recognition of God's mercy, and our own unworthiness. The Remedy of
(4.) The way not to presume upon salvation, is, in nur Presump
an humble modesty, to content ourselves with the tion of the End, clearly revealed will of our Maker: not prying into which is Sal- his counsels; but attending his commands. It is a modesti cosi grave word, wherein the Vulgate translation expresses deration of the
that place of Solomon, Scrutator majestatis, opprimeWays and tur à gloriá : He, that searcheth into majesty, shall Counsels of be overwhelmed with glory; Prov. xxv. 27. Amongst God.
those sixteen places of the Bible, which, in the
Hebrew, are marked with a special note of regard, that is one : The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things, which are revealed, belong unto us and to our children for ever ; that we may do all the words of this Law; Deut. xxix. 29. Wherein our main care must be, both not to sever, in our conceit, the end from the means; and, withal, to take the means along with us, in our way to the end. It is for the heavenly angels, to climb down the ladder from heaven to earth: it is for us, only to climb
from earth to heaven. Bold men! what do we begin at God's eternal decree of our election; and thence descend to the effects of it, in our effectual calling, in our lively and stedfast faith, in our sad and serious repentance, in our holy and unblameable obedience, in our unfailable perseverance? This course is saucily preposterous. What have we to do, to be rifling the hidden counsels of the Highest ? Let us look to our own ways. We have his word for this; that if we do truly believe, repent, obey, persevere, we shall be saved ; that if we do heartily desire and effectually endeavour, in the careful use of his appointed means, to attaiu unto these saving dispositions of the soul, we shall be sure not to fail of the success. What need we to look any further, than conscionably and cheerfully to do what we are enjoined; and faithfully and comfortably to expect what he hath promised? Let it be our care, not to be wanting, in the parts of our duty to God; we are sure he cannot be wanting, in his gracious performances
unto us. But if we, in a groundless conceit of an election, shall let loose the reins to our sinful desires and vicious practices, thereupon growing idle or unprofitable; we make divine mercy a pander to our uncleanness, and justly perish in our wicked presumption. 3. The other extreme follows. It inay seem a
The Extremes harsh word, but it is a true one; That there may
on the other an evil fear of a good God: a FEAR OF HORROR, and hand :-of the a Fear of Distrust. That God, who is love itself, is Fear of Horterrible to a wicked heart. Even in the beginning, ror: our first progenitor ran from the face of his late Maker, and hid him in the thickets : for it is a true observation of Tertullian, No wickedness can be done without fear, because not without the conscience of doing it. Neither can any man flee from himself, as Bernard wittily: and this conscience reads the terrible things, that God writes against the sinner; and holds the glass, wherein guilty eyes may see the killing frowns of the Almighty. Now offensive objects cause the spirits to retire; as philosophy, and experience, teacheth us: whereupon follows a necessary trepidation, in the whole frame of the body. And now, the wicked heart could wish there were no God; or, which is all one, that this God had not power to avenge himself: and finding, that, after all his impotent volitions, the Almighty will be still and ever himself, he is unspeakably affrighted with the expectation of that just hand, which he cannot avoid. This terror, if, through the improvement of God's mercy, at the last it drive the sidner to a true penitence, makes a happy amends for its own anguish: otherwise, it is but the first flash of that unquenchable fire, which is prepared for danned souls. In this case, men do not so much fear God, as are afraid of him; and such a torturing fear is never but joined with heart-burning and hatred : wherein sinners demean themselves to God, as they say the lamprey doth to the fisher; by whose first blow that fish is said to be dulled and astonished, but enraged with the next and following. Wretched men ! it is not God's fault, that he is terribly just : no; it is his glory, that he is mercifully terrible. It is not for me to say, as Spalatensis* cites from Cyril, that those, who would not be saved, are no less beholden to the bounty of the good God; than those, that are brought home to glory. I know and bless God for the difference: but, certainly, God is wonderfully gracious, as he is also infinitely just, even to those, that will needs incur damnation : having ten. dered unto them many powerful helps to their repentance; which he hath, with much patience and longanimity, expected. That God therefore is just, it is his own praise ; that he is terrible, we may thank ourselves : for, were it not for our wickedness, there were nothing in God, not infinitely amiable.
* Lib.7. de Repub. Ecclesiast. cap. X. nu. 121.
Seest thou then, O sinful man, nothing at all in -How to be remedied.
God's face, but frowns and fury? Doth every beam
of his angry eye dart vengeance into thy soul? so as thou wouldst fain run away from his
and wooest the rocks and mountains to fall upon thee, and hide thee from the sight of that dreadful countenance ? Cleanse thy hands : purge thy heart : clear thine eyes, with the tears of true contrition : and then, look up; and tell me, whether thou dost not see a happy change of aspect; whether thou canst now discern ought in that face, but a glorious loveliness, fatherly indulgence, unconceivable mercy; such as shall ravish thy soul with a divine love, with a joy unspeakable and glorious.
4. Seldom ever is the Fear of Horror separated Of the Fear of Distrust.
from a FEAR OF DISTRUST; which, in the height of it,
is that, which we call despair: for, when the soul apprehends a deep fear of God's dereliction, it cannot but be filled with horror. Now, as the holy and well moderated fear gives glory to God, in all his attributes: so this extremity of it affronts and dishonours him, in them all; but, especially, in his mercy and truth. In his Truth; suggesting that God will not make good bis promises : in his Mercy; suggesting, that he either cannot or will not forgive and save. It was a true observation of St. Hilary*, that “ it is not the least office and effect of faith, to fear :" for that it is said by the prophet Isaiah, He shall fill them with the spirit of the fear of the Lord; and, again, we are charged to work out our salvation with fear. But there cannot be an act more opposite to faith, than to fear distrustfully; to despair, in fearing: none more injurious, either to God, or our own souls. For, surely, as Cyril † well, “ The wickedness of our offences to God, cannot exceed his goodness toward us :” the praise whereof from his creature, he affects and esteems so highly, as if he cared not, in any other notion, to be apprehended by us; proclaiming himself no otherwise in the Mount, than, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands ; forgiving iniquity, and transgressions, and sin ; adding only one word, to prevent our too much presumption, that will by no means clear the guilty ; Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7: which to do, were a mere contradiction to his justice. Of all other, therefore, God hates most to be robbed of this part of his glory. Neither is the wrong done to God more palpable, than that, which is done herein unto ourselves; in barring the gates of heaven upon our souls; in breaking open the gates of hell, to take them in; and, in the mean time, striving to make ourselves miserable, whether God will or no. And, surely, as our experience tells us concerning the estate of our bodily indispositions, that there is more frequent sickness in summer, but more deadly in
* Non est minimum officium fidei metus. Hilar. in Ps. lxv. † Non superat bonitatem Dei, malitia delictorum. Cyril. in Levit. I. ix.