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doth but walk in the Law of the Lord; Ps. cxix. 1. While thou passest on, though but a foot pace, thou art every step nearer to thy glory so long as thou riddest way, thou art safe. Blessed is the man, whose strength is in thee, O God; in whose heart are thy ways: who, passing through the vale of misery, goes on from strength to strength, till he appear before thee his God in Sion; Ps. lxxxiv.
5, 6, 7.
Our good desires and endeavours.
THY grace is little, but thou wishest and labourest for more:— This is a good beginning of heavenly wealth. He is in a good way to riches, that desires to thrive.
Never any holy soul lost her longing. If thy wishes be hearty and serious, thou hast that, which thou cravest; or, at least, be sure thou shalt have. If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth no man, and it shall be given him; James i. 5.
Were this condition offered us for worldly riches, who would be poor? If we embrace it not in spiritual, either we distrust the promises, or neglect our own mercies.
In these temporal things, how many have so eagerly followed the chase of the world, that they have over-run it; and, while they have greedily swallowed gain, have been choked with it! But, in those better blessings, earnestness of desire, and fervour of prosecution, was never but answered with a gracious impetration.
The happiness of an humble poverty in spirit.
THOU art poor in grace; but, in an humble self-dejection, longest for more:-Know, that an humble poverty is better than a proud fulness. Wert thou poor and proud, there were no hope of thy proficiency: thy false conceit lies in the way of thy thrift; and many a one had been gracious if they had not so thought themselves: but, now that thou art meaner in thine opinion than in thine estate, who can more justly challenge our Saviour's blessing, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven?
Matt. v. 3.
Thou art weak in grace: It is thine own fault, if thou gettest not more strength. Wherefore serves that heavenly food of the Word and Sacraments, but to nourish thy soul to eternal life? Do but eat and digest, and thou canst not but grow stronger. God will not be wanting to thee in an increase of grace, if thou be not wanting to thyself. He offers his Spirit to thee, with the means: it is thy sinful neglect, if thou separate them. Thou knowest in
whose hands is the staff of bread: pray, that he, who gives thee the food and the mouth, would also give the appetite, digestion,
An incitement to more caution, and faster adherence to God. THY grace is weak:-It concerns thee, so much the more, to be cautious in avoiding occasions of temptation. He, that carries brittle glasses is chary of them, that they take not a knock; whereas, strong metal fears no danger. He, that hath but a small rushcandle, walks softly; and keeps off every air.
Thou art weak-Thy God is strong. Dost thou not see the * feeble child, that finds he cannot go alone, how fast he clings to the hand of his mother; more trusting to her help, than to his own strength? Do thou so to thy God; and say, with the blessed Psalmist, Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not; Ps. xvii. 5. Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe. Uphold me, according to thy word, that I may live; and let me not be ashamed of my hope; Ps. cxix. 117, 116. Peter was a bold man, that durst step forth and set his foot upon the liquid face of the waters: but he, that ventured to walk there upon the strength of his faith, when he felt the stiff wind and saw the great billow, began to sink in his weakness; but, no sooner had Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught him, than he takes courage, and walks now with the same confidence upon the sea that he wont to walk on the land. Together with a check, he receives more supportation from Christ, than his own legs could afford him; Matt. xiv. 29, 30, 31. Fear no miscarriage through thine own weakness, while thou art held up by that strong helper.
COMFORTS AGAINST INFAMY AND DISGRACE.
NEXT to our body and soul, is the care of our reputation; which whoso hath lost is no better than civilly dead.
Like sufferings of the holiest; yea, of Christ himself.
THOU sufferest under a public infamy:-I do not ask how justly. He was a wise man, that said, it was fit for every good man even to fear a false reproach. A good name is no less wounded, for the time, with that, than with a just crimination,
This is a sore evil, my son; and such as, against which there is no preservative, and for which there is hardly any remedy. Innocence itself is no antidote against evil tongues. Neither greatness nor sanctity can secure any man from unjust calumny.
Might that be any ease to thy heart, I could tell thee of the greatest of Kings, and holiest of Saints, that have grievously complained of this mischief; and yet were not able to help themselves: thou hast the company of the best, that ever the earth bore, if that may be any mitigation of thy misery.
Yea, what do I speak of sinful men, whose greatest purity might be blurred with some imperfections? Look upon the Lord of Life, the Eternal Son of the Ever-Living God, God clothed in flesh, and see whether any other were his lot, while he sojourned in this region of mortality. Dost thou not hear him, for his gracious sociableness, branded as a man gluttonous, a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners? Matt. xi. 19. Dost thou not hear him, for his powerful and merciful cure of demoniacs, blazoned for a fellow, that casts out devils through Beelzebub, the Prince of the Devils? Matt. xii. 24. Dost thou not hear him slandered to death, for treason against Cæsar, and blasphemy against God? John xix. 12. Matt. xxvi. 65. Dost thou not hear the multitude say, He is mad, and hath a devil? John x. 20. Dost thou not hear him, after this death, charged with imposture? Matt. xxvii. 63. And can there be any worse names than glutton, drunkard, conjurer, traitor, blasphemer, madman, demoniac, impostor?
Who now can henceforth think much to be slandered with meaner crimes, when he hears the most holy Son of God, in whose mouth was no guile, and in whom the prince of this world could find nothing, (John xiv. 30.) laden with so heinous calumnia
THOU art smitten with a foul tongue-I marvel not, if it go deep into thy soul. That man gave a high praise to his sword, that said it was sharper than slander: and if a razor be yet sharper, such did David find the Edomite's tongue; Ps. lii. 2. And, if these weapons reach not yet far enough, he found both spears and arrows in the mouths of his traducers; Ps. lvii. 4.
Lo, thou art but in the same case with the man after God's own heart. What shouldst thou do, but, for David's complaint, make use of David's remedy? I will cry unto God most high; unto God, that performeth all things for me: IIe shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him, that would swallow me up: God shall send forth his mercy and his truth; Ps. lvii. 2, 3.
Do by thy slander, as Hezekiah did by the railing lines of Rabshakeh, spread them before the Lord; and leave thy quarrel
in the just hands of that great Arbiter of Heaven and Earth, who will be sure, in his good time, to revenge thy wrong, and to clear thine innocence, and will requite thee good for these causeless curses; 2 Sam. xvi. 12.
The clearness of our conscience.
"IN the mean while," thou sayest, "I stand blemished with an odious aspersion: my name passes through many a foul mouth." Thou hearest, my son, what some others say: but what dost thou hear from the bird in thy bosom? If thy conscience acquit thee, and pronounce thee guiltless, obdure thy forehead against all the spite of malice. What is ill fame, but a little corrupted unsavoury breath? Do but turn away thine ear, that thou receive it not; and what art thou the worse? Oh, thy weakness, if thou suffer thyself to be blown over, by the mere air of some putrefied lungs; which, if thou do but a little decline by shifting thy foot, will soon vanish.
The improvement of our reason.
THOU art under ill tongues :-This is an evil proper only unto man. Other creatures are no less subject to disease, to death, to outward violence than he: but none else can be obnoxious to a detraction; since no other is capable of speech, whereout a slander can be formed. They have their several sounds and notes of expression, whereby they can signify their dislike and anger: but only man can clothe his angry thoughts with words of offence; so as that faculty, which was given him for an advantage, is depraved to a further mischief. But the same liberal hand of his Creator hath also endued him with a property of reason, which, as it ought to direct his language to others, so also to teach him how to make use of others' language to him; and, where he finds it wrongful, either to convince it by a just apology, or to contemn it. If, therefore, thou understandest thyself to lie under an unjust obloquy, have so much of man in thee, as either to confute or despise it.
The cause of our suffering.
THOU art shamefully traduced:-I could pity thy suffering; but, withal, give me leave to enquire, not so much what thou sufferest,
as for what if for a good cause, I shall turn my pity into envy. Truth itself told thee, thou art in the way to blessedness. Who can pity thee, for that, wherein thou hast cause to rejoice? Blessed are ye, when men revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake: Rejoice, and be exceeding glad for great is your reward in heaven; Matt. v. 11, 12. Yea, rather pluck up thy spirits; and take up the resolution of holy Job, If mine adversary had written a book against me, surely I would take it upon my shoulders, and bind it as a crown_to_me; Job xxxi. 35, 36: and say, with the gracious King of Israel, I will be yet more vile for the Lord; 2 Sam. vi. 22.
Our envied virtue.
THOU art reproached by lewd men:-Thank thine own virtue, that thou art envied. Wert thou so bad as thy detractors, thou shouldst sit quiet enough. If ye were of the world, saith our Saviour, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you; John xv. 19. While the moon sits, no dogs bark at her: it is her shining, that opens their mouths. Wert thou either obscure or wicked, thou mightest be safe; but, if thou wilt needs be eminently good, look for the lashes of ill tongues. They think it strange, that ye run not with them into the same excess of riot; speaking evil of you, saith the prime Apostle; 1 Peter iv. 4.
It was not without reason, that the great Musician, in the Story, struck his Scholar, because he saw the multitude applaud his skill; as well knowing, that had he been true to his Art, those misjudging ears could not have approved him.
What more excellent instruments had God ever in his Church, than the blessed Apostles; and what acceptation found they on the earth? Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day; 1 Cor. iv. 13. We are made a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men: v. 9. Complain, if thou canst, of a worse condition, than these great ambassadors of the High God: otherwise, resolve, with the Chosen Vessel, to pass cheerfully through honour and dishonour, through evil report and good report, toward the goal of immortality.
Others' slighting of just reproaches.
THOU art disgraced through scandalous reports:-It is not mere air, that we live by. How many hast thou known, that have blown over a just infamy, with a careless neglect; pleasing themselves to