Imágenes de páginas

of proof against all assaults, all miseries; Eph. vi. 13. What a deal of cost and pains do we bestow upon these wretched bodies of ours, only to make them pleasing and lovely to the eye of some beholders, as miserable, perhaps, as ourselves! and yet, when we have all done, we are, it may be, no better than hard-favoured and unbandsome creatures ; and contemptible in those eyes, from whom we desired most approbation. Jezebel, for all her licking, is cast out of the window, and trodden to dirt in the streets. But this robe we cannot wear, and not be amiable in the eyes of the Holiest: Behold, thou art fair, my beloved; behold, thou art fair, and there is no spot in thee; Cant. i. 15. Lo, in this case, the apparel makes the man. Neither is it in the power of any spiritual deformity, to make us other than lovely in the sight of our God, while we have Christ put on upon us. Whatever, therefore, become of the outward man, let it be my care, that my soul be vested with my Lord Jesus: so shall I be sure to be safe, rich, amiable, here; and, hereafter, g'orious. It was part of our Saviour's Charge upon the Mount, Take no care what to put on; but it must be the main care of our lives, how to put on Christ upon our souls. This is the prime stole, wherewith the father of the Prodigal graceth his returned son. The heaven of heavens is not worth such another. When I have once got this on my back, I shall say, though in a contrary sense, with the Spouse in the Canticles, I have put on my coat, how shall I put it off? I have washed my feet, how shall I defile them? Cant. V. 3.

XIV. With how devout passion, doth the Psalmist call to all the works of the Almighty to praise him! as well supposing, that every creature, even those that have no tongues to speak for themselves, yet have a tongue to praise their Maker: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handy work. Day unto day uttereth his speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech, where their voice is not heard; Psalm xix. 1, 2. Neither is the very earth defective in this duty: every plant says, “ Look on me, and acknowledge the life, colour, form, smell, fruit, force, that I have, from the power of my Creator:”' every worm, and fly, says, “ Look on me, and give God the praise of my living, sense, and motion:" every bird says, “ Hear me, and praise that God, who hath given me these various feathers, and taught me these beveral notes :" every beast, while he bellows, bleats, brays, barks, roars, says, “ It is God, that hath given me this shape, this sound:” yea, the very mute fishes are, in their very silence, vocal; in magnifying the infinite wisdom and power of him, that made them, and placed them in those watery habitations; Let every thing that hath breath, saith the Psalmist, praise the Lord: Psalm cl. 5. Yea, the very winds whistle, and the sea roars out, the praise of the Almighty; who both raises and allays them, at pleasure. What a shame were it for man, to whom alone God hath given an under. standing heart, a nimble tongue, and articulate language, wherein he can express his rational thoughts, to be wanting to this so universal devotion; and to be as insensible of the great works of God, as the ground that he treads upon! If others shall be thus unthankfully dumb, yet, Praise thou the Lord, O my soul; and all that is wi'hin me, bless his holy name. While I live, will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises to my God, whilst I have any being ; Psalm ciii. 1. Psalm cxlvi. 2. But, alas, Lord, thou knowest I cannot so much as will to praise thee, without thee: do thou fill my heart with holy desires, and my mouth with songs of thanksgiving

XV. It may seem a strange errand, upon which our Saviour tells us he came into the world: I am come to send fire on the earth; Luke xii. 49. When the two fervent disciples would have had fire sent down from heaven upon but a Samaritan village, our Saviour rebuked them; and told them, they knew not of what spirit they were: yet here, he makes it his own business, to send fire on earth. Alas, may we think, we have fire too much already! How happy were it rather, if the fire, which is kindled in the world, were well quenched! And what is the main drift of the Prince of Darkness, but fire? if not to send fire down from heaven, upon the inhabi. tants of the earth; yet, to send the inhabitants of the earth down to the fire of hell. As then we find divers kinds of material fire; celestial, elementary, domestic, artificial, natural: so, there is no less variety of spiritual fires. It was in fiery, cloven tongues, wherein the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles in their Pentecost; Acts ii. 3: and even this fire, did our Saviour come to send down on the earth; John xvi. 7. Thy word was in me as fire, saith the Prophet; Jer. v. 14: and, Did not our hearts burn within us, said the two disciples, in their walk to Emmaus, while he talked with us? Luke xxiv. 32: this fire he also came to send. Heavenly love and holy zeal are fire: Many waters cannot quench love ; Cant. viii. 7: My zeal hath consumed me, saith the Psalmist; Psalm cxix. 139: and these fires our Saviour came to send into the hearts of men. Holy thoughts are no other than the beams of celestial fire: My heart was hot within me: while I was musing, the fire burned ; Psalm xxsix. 3 : and these, we know he sends. He maketh his angels spirils, and his ministers a flame of fire; Psalm civ. 4. Heb. i. 7: these he sends forth to the earth, to ininister for thein, ihat shall be heirs of salvation; Heb. i. 14. Besides these, afflictions and persecutions are fire: We have passed through fire and water: Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial, which is to try you; as if some strange thing had happened to you; 1 Pet. iv. 12: and even these are of his sending: The Lord hath kindled a fire in Zion, and it halh devoured the foundation thereof; Lam. iv. 11. There is no evil in the city, but the Lord hath done it: The Lord hath done that, which he had devised: he hath thrown down, and not pitied: Lam. ï. 17. But this expression of our Saviour goes vet deeper, and alludes to the effect of separation, which follows upon the fire of our trial. When the lump of ore is put into the furnace, the fire tries the pure metal from the dross; and makes an actual division of the one from the other: so doth Christ by his Word and Spirit. Even he, that is the Prince and God of Peace, comes to set division in the world. Surely, there are holy quarrels, worthy of his engagement: for, as the filesh lusteth and warreth against the spirit; so, the spirit fighteth against the flesh: and this duel may well beseem God for the Author, and the Son of God for the setter of it: these second blows make a happy fray. Nothing is more properly compared, than discord, to fire; Judges jx. 20. This, Christ (the first thing he does) sets in every heart : there is all quietness, secure ease, and self-contentment in the soul, till Christ come there. How should it be other, when Satan sways all without resistance? But, when once Christ offers to enter, there are straight civil wars in the soul, betwixt the old man and the new; and it fares with the heart, as with a house divided in itself, wherein the husband and the wife are at variance: nothing is to be heard, but unquiet janglings, open brawlings, secret opposition : the household takes part, and professes a mutual vexation. This spiritual self-division, wherever it is, though it be troublesome, yet it is cordial : it puts the soul into the state of Rebekah's womb; which, barren, yielded no pain ; but, when an Esau and Jacob were conceived and struggling within, yielded, for the time, no ease: yet this was that, which caused her just joy, That she had not so much children, as nations in her womb; even so the trouble of this inward conflict is abundantly requited with the joy of this assurance, That now Christ is come into our soul, and is working his own desired ends in and upon us. Let vain and sensual hearts please themselves in their inward peace and calmness: there cannot be a greater sign of gracelessness and disfavour of God: When they shall say Peace, Peace; then shall come upon them sudden destruction. The old word was, “ No safety in war:" here, it is coutrary. It is this intestine war of the heart, with fire and sword to our corruptions, that must bring us true rest, for the present; and, hereafter, eternal peace and happiness. Now, Lord, since it is thy desire, that this fire should be kindled, kindle thou and enflame my heart with a fervent desire and endeavour, that this thy desire may be accomplished in me. Set me at war with myself, that I may be at peace with thee.

XVI. In all that we have to do with God, he justly requires and expects from us an awful disposition of heart towards his infiniteness. Hereupon it was, that he delivered his Law in thunder, fire, smoke, and all dreadful magnificence; and when, upon the same day, he would send down his Spirit for the propagation of the Gospel, it was done with an astonishing Majesty; with a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind; and with the apparition of cloven and fiery tongues; Acts ii. 2, 3. And, as it was thus in the descent of the Holy Ghost in the miraculous gifts, so it is in the sanctifying graces: seldom ever doth God by them seize upon the heart, but with a vehement concussion going before. That of St. Paul's conversion was extraordinary and miraculous; but, in some degree, it is thus in every soul: we are struck down first, and are made sensible of our spiritual blindness, ere our full call be accomplished, As it was with Elijah in the Mount of Horeb, there came first a strong wind, that tore the rocks and mountains; and, after that, an earthquake; then, a fire; before the still small voice: so it is usually in our breasts; ere the comfortable voice of God's Spirit speak to our hearts, there must be some blusterings and flashes of the Law. It is our honour and his favour, that we are allowed to love God: it is our duty to fear him. We may be too familiar, in our love: we cannot be too awful, in our fear.

XVII. All valuations of these outward things are arbitrary, according to the opinion of their pleasure or their rarity, or the necessity of their use. Did not men's minds set a price upon metals, what were they better than some other entrails of the earth; or one better than other? If, by public law, the Mint were ordained to be only supplied by our Stannaries, how currently would they pass, for more precious than silver mines! To an Indian, a bracelet of worthless beads is estimated above his gold: a hungry Esau values a mess of pottage above his birth-right. In the siege of Samaria, an ass's head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and a cab of doves' dung for five pieces; 2 Kings vi. 25. We have heard, that those of Angola have valued a dog at the price of many slaves. In all these earthly commodities, the market rises and falls, according to conceit and occasion; neither is there any intrinsical and settled worth in any of them : only spiritual things, as virtue and grace, are good in themselves; and so carry their infinite value in them, that they make their owner absolutely rich and happy. When, therefore, I see a rich man hugging his bags and admiring his wealth, I look upon that man with pity; as knowing the poorness of that pelf, wherein he placeth his felicity : neither can I behold him with other eyes, than those, wherewith a discreet European sees a savage Indian priding himself in those trifles, which our children have learned to contemn. On the other side, when I see a man rich in the endowments of mind, well fraught with knowledge, eminent in goodness, and truly gracious, I shall rise up to that man, how homely soever his outside be; as the most precious and excellent piece, which this world can afford.

XVIII. Should I but see an angel, I should look, with Manoah, to die no other death, than the sight of that glory: and yet, even that angel is fain to hide his face, as not able to behold the Infinite Majesty of God his Creator. When Moses did but talk with God in the Mount for forty days, his face did so shine, that the Israelites could not look upon the lustre of his countenance: even the very presence of the Divine Majesty not only hath, but communicates glory. Lord, that I could see but some glimpse of the reflection

of those glorious beams of thine upon my soul! how happy should I be in this vision, whose next degree is perfectly beatifical !

XIX. As good, so evil, is apt to be communicative of itself: and this, so much more, as it meets with subjects more capable of evil than good. The breath of a plague-sick man taints the air round about him: yea, the very sight of blear eyes infects the sound; and one yawning mouth stretcheth many jaws. How many have we known, that have been innocent in their retiredness, miserably debauched with lewd conversation! Next to being good, is, to consort with the virtuous. It is the most merciful improvement of a holy power, to separate the precious from the vile: it is the highest praise of a constant goodness, for a Lot to be righteous in the midst of Sodom.

XX. We are all apt to put off the blame of our miscarriages from ourselves. Eveu in paradise we did so: It was the woman, saith Adam: It was the serpent, saith the woman. How have we heard fond gamesters cast the blame of their ill luck upon the standers by; which intermeddled nothing, but by a silent eye-sight! So the idolatrous Pagans of old, though flagitiously wicked; yet could impute their public judgments to none but the Christians, whose only innocence was their protection from utter ruin. So foolishly partial doth our self-love render us to our own demerits, that all are guilty save ourselves. Yea, rather than we will want shifts, our very stars shall be blamed; which are no more accessary to our harms, than our eyes are to the eclipses of their most eminent lights. As, on the contrary, we are ready to arrogate unto ourselves those blessings, which the mere bounty of Divine Providence hath cast upon us; wliereto we could not contribute so much as a hand to receive them, but by the mercy of the Giver. It cannot be well with me, till I have learned to correct this palpable injustice in both: challenging to myself all my errors, and guilt of sufferings; and yielding to God the praise of his own free and gracious beneficence.

XXI. How profitable and beneficial a thing is affliction; especially to some dispositions, more than other! I see some trees, that will not thrive, unless their roots be laid bare; unless, besides pruning, their bodies be gashed and sliced: others, that are too luxuriant, except divers of their blossoms be seasonably pulled off, yield nothing. I see too rank corn, if it be not timely eaten down, may yield something to the barn, but little to the granary. I see some full bodies, that can enjoy no health without strong evacuations, blood-lettings, fontinels. Such is the condition of our spiritual part: it is a rare soul, that can be kept in any constant order, without these smarting remedies: I confess mine cannot: Liow wild had I run, if the rod had not been over me! Every

« AnteriorContinuar »