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THE SECOND CENTURY
MEDITATIONS AND VOWS;
DIVINE AND MORAL.
TO THE RIGHT VIRTUOUS AND WORSHIPFUL LADY,
THE LADY DRURY,
ALL INCREASE OF GRACE.
MADAM: I KNOW your Christian ingenuity such, that you will not grudge others the communication of this your private right: which yet I durst not have presumed to adventure, if I feared, that either the benefit of it would be less, or the acceptation. Now it shall be no less yours: only, it shall be more known to be yours. Vouchsafe therefore to take part with your worthy husband, of these my simple Meditations. And, if your long and gracious experience have written you a larger volume of wholesome laws, and better informed you by precepts fetched from your own feeling, than I can hope for, by my bare speculation : yet, where these my not unlikely rules shall accord with yours, let your redoubled assent allow them, and they confirm it. I made them not for the Eye; but for the Heart : neither do I commend them to your Reading, but your Practice : wherein also it shall not be enough, that you are a mere and ordinary agent, but that you be a pattern propounded unto others' imitation. So shall your virtuous and holy progress, besides your own peace and happiness, be my crown and rejoicing, in the day of our common appearance.
Halsted, December 4.
Your Ladyship's humbly devoted,
MEDITATIONS AND VOWS.
A „MAN, under God's affliction, is like a bird in a net; the more he striveth, the more he is entangled. God's decree cannot be eluded with impatience. What I cannot avoid, I will learn to bear.
II. I find that all worldly things require a long labour, in getting; and afford a short pleasure, in enjoying them. I will not care much, for what I have; nothing, for what I have not.
III. I see natural bodies forsake their own place and condition, for the preservation of the whole: but, of all other creatures, man; and, of all other men, Christians, have the least interest in themselves. I will live, as given to others; lent only, to myself.
IV. That, which is said of the elephant, that, being guilty of his deformity, he cannot abide to look on his own face in the water, but seeks for troubled and muddy channels; we see well moralized, in men of evil conscience, who know their souls are so filthy, that they dare not so much as view them; but shift off all checks of their former iniquity, with vain excuses of good-fellowship. Whence it is, that every small reprehension so galls them: because it calls the eyes of the soul home to itself, and makes them see a glimpse of what they would not. So have I seen a foolish and timorous patient, which, knowing his wound very deep, would not endure the chirurgeon to search it: whereon what can ensue, but a festering of the part, and a danger of the whole body? So I have seen many prodigal wasters run so far in books, that they cannot abide to hear of reckoning. It hath been an old and true proverb, “Oft and even reckonings make long friends." I will oft sum up my estate with God; that I may know what I have to expect, and answer for. Neither shall my score run on so long with God, that I shall not know my debts, or fear an audit, or despair of payment.
V. I account this body, nothing, but a close prison to my soul; and the earth a larger prison to my body. I may not break prison, till I be loosed by death: but I will leave it, not unwillingly, when I am loosed.
The common fears of the world are causeless, and ill-placed. No man fears to do ill: every man to suffer ill: wherein, if we consider it well, we shall find that we fear our best friends. For my part, I have learned more of God and of myself, in one week's extremity, than all my whole life's prosperity had taught me afore. And, in reason and common experience, prosperity usually makes us forget our death; adversity, on the other side, makes us neglect our life. Now, if we measure both of these by their effects, forgetfulness of death makes us secure; neglect of this life makes us careful of a better. So much, therefore, as neglect of life is better than forgetfulness of death, and watchfulness better than security; so much more beneficial will I esteem adversity, than prosperity.
VII. Even grief itself is pleasant to the remembrance, when it is once past: as joy is, while it is present. I will not, therefore, in my conceit, make any so great difference betwixt joy and grief: since grief past is joyful; and long expectation of joy is grievous.
VIII. Every sickness is a little death. I will be content to die oft, that I may die once well.
IX. Ofttimes those things, which have been sweet in opinion, have proved bitter in experience. I will, therefore, ever suspend my resolute judgment, until the trial and event: in the mean while, I will fear the worst, and hope the best.
X. In all divine and moral good things, I would fain keep that I have, and get that I want. I do not more loath all other covetousness, than I affect this. In all these things alone, I profess never to have enough. If I may encrease them, therefore, either by labouring, or begging, or usury, I shall leave no means unattempted.
XI. Some children are of that nature, that they are never well, but while the rod is over them: such am I to God. Let him beat me, so he amend me: let him take all away from me, so he give me himself.
XII. There must not be one uniform proceeding with all men, in reprehension; but that must vary, according to the disposition of the reproved. I have seen some men as thorns, which, easily touched, hurt not; but, if hard and unwarily, fetch blood of the hand: others, as nettles, which if they be nicely handled, sting and prick; but, if hard and roughly pressed, are pulled up without harm. Before I take any man in hand, I will know whether he be a thorn or a nettle.
XIII. I will account no sin little; since there is not the least, but works out the death of the soul. It is all one, whether I be drowned in the ebber shore, or in the midst of the deep sea.
which only is infinitely rich, holdeth nothing in his own hands; but gives all to his creatures. But, if we will needs lay up; where should we rather repose it, than in Christ's treasury? The poor man's hand is the treasury of Christ. All my superfluity shall be there hoarded up, where I know it shall be safely kept, and surely returned me.
XV. The School of God, and Nature, require two contrary manners of proceeding. In the School of Nature, we must conceive; and then believe: in the School of God, we must first believe; and then we shall conceive. He, that believes no more than he conceives, can never be a Christian; nor he a Philosopher, that assents without reason. In Nature's School, we are taught to bolt out the truth, by logical discourse: God cannot endure a logician. In his School, he is the best scholar, that reasons least, and assents most. In divine things, what I may, I will conceive: the rest I will believe and admire. Not a curious head, but a credulous and plain heart, is accepted with God.
XVI. No worldly pleasure hath any absolute delight in it; but as a bee, having honey in the mouth, háth a sting in the tail. Why am I só foolish, to rest my heart upon any of them: and not rather labour to aspire to that one absolute good, in whom is nothing savouring of grief; nothing wanting to perfect happiness?
XVII. A sharp reproof I account better, than a smooth deceit. Therefore, when my friend checks me, I will respect it with thankfulness: when others flatter me, I will suspect it; and rest in my own censure of myself, who should be more privy, and less partial, to my own deservings.
XVIII. Extremity distinguisheth friends. Worldly pleasures, like physicians, give us over, when once we lie a dying; and yet the deathbed had most need of comforts : Christ Jesus standeth by his, in the pangs of death; and, after death, at the bar of judgment; not leaving them either in their bed or grave. I will use them, therefore, to my best advantage; not trust thein. But for thee, () my Lord, which in mercy and truth canst not fail me, whom I have found ever faithful and present in all extremities, Kill me, yet will I trust in thee!
XIX. We have heard of so many thousand generations passed, and we have seen so many hundreds die within our knowledge; that I wonder any man can make account to live, one day. I will die daily. It is not done before the time, which may be done at all times.
XX. Desire ofttimes makes us unthankful: for whoso hopes for that he hath not, usually forgets that which he hath. I will not suffer
my heart to rove after high or impossible hopes; lest I should, in the mean time, contemn present benefits.
XXI. In hoping well, in being ill, and fearing worse, the life of man is wholly consumed. When I am ill, I will live in hope of better; when well, in fear of worse: neither will I, at any time, hope without fear; lest I should deceive myself, with too much confidence; wherein, evil shall be so much more unwelcome and intolerable, because I looked for good: nor, again, fear without hope; lest I should be over-much dejected: nor, do either of them, without true contentation.
XXII. What is man, to the whole earth? What is earth, to the heaven? What is heaven, to his Maker? I will admire nothing in itself; but all things in God, and God in all things,
XXIII. There be three usual causes of ingratitude, upon a benefit received; Envy, Pride, Covetousness: Envy, looking more at others' benefits than our own; Pride, looking more at ourselves than the benefit; Covetousness, looking more at what we would have than what we have. In good turns, I will neither respect the giver, nor myself, nor the gift, nor others; but only the intent and good will, from whence it proceeded. So shall I requite others' great plea. sures, with equal good-will; and accept of small favours, with great thankfulness.
XXIV. Whereas the custom of the world is, to hate things present, to desire future, and magnify what is past; I will, contrarily, esteem that, which is present, best; for, both what is past was once present, and what is future will be present: future things, next; because they are present in hope: what is past, least of all; because it cannot be present; yet somewhat, because it was.
XXV. We pity the folly of the lark, which, while it playeth with the feather and stoopeth to the glass, is caught in the fowler's net: and yet cannot see ourselves alike made fools, by Satan; who, deluding us by the vain feathers and glasses of the world, suddenly enwrappeth us in his snares. We see not the nets, indeed: it is too much, that we shall feel them; and that they are not so easily escaped after, as before avoided. O Lord, keep thou mine eyes from beholding vanity. And, though mine eyes see it, let not my heart stoop to it; but loath it afar off. And, if I stoop at any time, and be taken; set thou my soul at liberty: that I may say, My soul is escaped, even as a bird out of the snare of the fowler : the snare is broken, and I am delivered.
XXVI. In suffering evil, to look to secondary causes, without respect to the Highest, maketh impatience: for so, we bite at the stone; and