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BREATHINGS OF THE DEVOUT SOUL.
BLESSED Lord God, thou callest me to obedience; and fain would I follow thee: but what good can this wretched heart of mine be capable of, except thou put it there? Thou knowest I cannot so much as wish to think well, without thee. I have strong powers to offend thee: my sins are my own : but whence should I have any inclination to good, but from thee; who art only, and all good? Lord, work me to what thou requirest; and then, require what thou wilt.
II. Lord God, whither need I go to seek thee? Thou art so with me, as that I cannot move but in thee. I look up to heaven : there I know thy Majesty most manifests itself; but, withal, I know, that, being here, thou art never out of thy heaven, for it is thy presence only that makes heaven. Oh, give me to enjoy thee, in this lowest region of thy heavenly habitation : and, as, in respect of my natural being, I live and move in thee; so, let me not live and move spiritually, but with thee and to thee.
III. Whither now, O whither do ye rove, O my thoughts? Can ye hope to find rest, in any of these sublunary contentments ? Alas, how can they yield any stay to you, that have no settlement in themselves? Is there not enough in the Infinite Good to take you up; but that ye will be wandering after earthly vanities? O my Lord, how justly mightest thou cast me off with scorn, for casting any affective glances upon so base a rival! Truly, Lord, I am ashamed of this my hateful inconstancy : but it is thou only, that must remedy it. Othou, that art the Father of Mercies, pity my wildness and weak distractions. Take thou my heart to thee: it is thine own : keep it with thee: tie it close to thee, by the cords of love; that it may not so much as cast down an eye upon this wretched and perishing world.
IV. Lord, I confess, to my shame, thou art a great loser by me: for, besides my not improving of thy favours, I have not kept even-reckonings with thee: I have not justly tallied up by thy inestimable . benefits. Thy very Privative Mercies are both without and beyond my account; for every evil, that I am free from, is a new blessing from thee: that I am out of bondage, that I am out of pain and misery, that I am out of the dominion of sin, out of the tyranny of Satan, out of the agonies of an afflicted soul, out of the torments of hell; Lord, how unspeakable mercies are these! yet, when did I bless thee for any of them? Thy Positive Bounties I can feel; but with a benumbed and imperfect sense. Lord, do thou enlarge and intenerate my heart : make me truly sensible, as of my good received, so of my escaped evils; and take thou to thyself the glory of them both.
Ah, my Lord God, what heats and colds do I feel in my soul ! Sometimes, I find myself so vigorous in grace, that no thought of doubt dare shew itself; and, inethinks, I durst challenge my hellish enemies : another while, I feel myself so dejected and heartless, as if I had no interest in the God of my Salvation, nor never had received any certain pledges of his favour. What shall I say to this various disposition ? Whether, Lord, is it my wretchedness to suffer myself to be robbed of thee, for the time, by temptation ? or, whether is this the course of thy proceedings, in the dispensation of thy graces, to the sons of men; that thou wilt have the breathings of thy Spirit, as where, so how, and when thou pleasest? Surely, O my God, if I did not know thee constant to thine everlasting mercies, I should be utterly disheartened with these sad intervals : now, when my sense fails me, I make use of my faith; and am no less sure of thee, even when I feel thee not, than when I find the clearest evidences of thy gracious presence. Lord, shine upon me with the light of thy countenance, if it may be, always; but, whenever that is clouded, strengthen thou my faith : so shall I be safe, even when I am comfortless,
VI. O my God, I am justly ashamed to think what favours I have received from thee, and what poor returns I have made to thee. Truly, Lord, I must needs say, thou hast thought nothing either in earth or in heaven too good for me: and I, on the other side, have grudged thee that weak and worthless obedience, which thou hast required of me. Alas, what pleasure could I have done to thee who art infinite, if I had sacrificed my whole self to thee, as thou commandest? Thou art and wilt be thyself, though the world were not: it is I, I only, that could be a gainer by this happy match; which, in my own wrong, I have unthankfully neglected, I see it is not so much what we have, as how we employ it. O thou, that hast been so bountiful in heaping thy rich mercies upon me, vouchsafe to grant me yet one gift more : give me grace and power, to improve all thy gifts to the glory of the Giver; otherwise, it had been better for me to have been poor than ungrateful.
VII. . Ah, Lord, what struggling have I with my weak fears! How do
I anticipate my evils by distrust! What shall I do, when I am old ? How shall I be able to endure pain? How shall I pass through the horrid gates of death? Oh, my God, where is my faith, that I am thus surprised ? Had I not thee to uphold and strengthen my soul, well might I tremble and sink under these cares : but now, that I have the assurance of so strong a helper, as commands all the powers of heaven, earth, and hell, what a shame is it for me, to give so much way to my wretched infidelity, as to punish myself with the expectation of future evils! Oh for the victory, that overcomes the world, even our faith! 1 John v. 4. Thou, O God, art my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble : therefore will I not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea ; Psalm xlvi. 1, 2.
VIII. Lord, I made account my days should have been but an inch; but thou hast made them a span long ; Psalm xxxix. 5. having drawn out the length of a crazy life, beyond the period of my hopes. It is for something, sure, that thou hast thus long respited me from my grave, which looked for me many years ago. Here I am, O my God, attending thy good pleasure. Thou knowest best what thou hast to do with me: dispose of me as thou wilt : only make me faithful, in all thy services; resolute, to trust my, self with thee in all events; careful, to be approved of thee in all my ways; and crown my decayed age with such fruits, as may be pleasing to thee, and available to the good of many : lastly, let me live to thee, and die in thee.
IX. How oft, Lord, have I wondered to see the strange carriage of thine administration of these earthly affairs ! and therein to see thy marvellous wisdom, power, goodness, in fetching good out of evil! Alas, we, wretched men, are apt enough, to fetch the worst of evils out of the greatest good; Turning the grace of thee our God into wantonness ; Jude 4 : but, how have I seen thee, of lifeless stones to raise up children to Abraham ; of sinners, to make saints ! out of a desperate confusion, to fetch order; out of a bloody war, a happy peace; out of resolutions of revenge, love; out of the rock, waters ; out of a persecutor, an apostie! How can I be discouraged with unlikelihoods, when I see thee work by contraries? It is not for me, O my God, to examine or prejudge thy counsels : take what ways thou wilt, so thou bring me to thine own end : all paths shall be direct, that lead me to blessedness.
X. How many good purposes, O my God, have I taken up, and let fall to the ground again without effect! How teeming hath this barren womb of my heart been of false conceptions ! But, especially, when thy hand hath been smart and heavy upon me in mine affliction, how have I tasked myself with duties, and revived my firm resolutions of more strict obedience ; which yet, upon the
continuance of my better condition, I have slackened ! Lord, it is from thee, that I purposed well : it is from my own sinful weakness, that I failed in my performances. If any good come from me, the will and the deed must be both thine : The very preparations of the heart are from thee; Prov. xvi. 1 : and, if I have devised my way, it must be thou that directest my steps; Prov. xvi. 9. O God, do thou ripen and perfect all the good motions, that thou puttest into my soul; and make my health but such, as my sickness promised.
XI. Every man, Lord, is unwilling that his name should die: we are all naturally ambitious, of being thought on when we are gone: those, that have not living monuments to perpetuate them, affect to have dead : if Absalom have not a son, he will erect a pillar. Yet, when we have all done, time eats us out at the last : There is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever ; seeing that, which now is, in the days to come shall all be forgotten; Eccl. ii. 16. O God, let it be my care and ambition, whatever become of my memory here below, that my name may be recorded in heaven.
XII. Thy wise Providence, O God, hath so ordered it, that every man's mind seeks and finds contentment in some thing : otherwise it could not be, since we must meet with so frequent crosses in the world, but that man's life would be burdensome to him. One takes pleasure in his hawk or hound; another, in his horses and furnitures : one, in fair buildings; another, in pleasant walks and beautiful gardens: one, in travelling abroad; another, in the enjoying of the profits and pleasures of his home: one, in a comfortable wife; another, in loving and dutiful children. But, when all is done, if there be not somewhat else to uphold the heart in the evil day, it must sink. O God, do thou possess my soul of thee: let me place all my felicity in the fruition of thine infinite goodness : so, I am sure the worst of the world hath not power to render me other than happy.
XIII. O Lord God, under how opposite aspects do I stand, from the world! how variously am I construed by men ! One pities my condition; another praises my patience : one favours me, out of the opinion of some good, that he thinks he sees in me; another dislikes me, for some imagined evil. What are the eyes or tongues of men to me? Let me not know what they say or think of me, and what am I the better or worse for them? They can have no influence upon me, without my own apprehension. All is, in what terms I stand with thee, my God: if thou be pleased to look upon me, with the eye of thy tender mercy and compassion, what care I to be unjustly brow-beaten of the world ? If I may be blessed with thy favour, let me be made a gazing-stock to the world, to an gels, and to men.
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XIV. Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth : what is it, which thou wouldest have me do, that I may find rest to my soul? I am willing to exercise myself in all the acts of piety, which thou requirest: I am ready to fast, to pray, to read, to hear, to meditate, to communicate, to give alms, to exhort, admonish, reprove, comfort where thou biddest me; and, if there be any other duty appertaining to devotion or mercy, let me serve thee in it: but, alas, () my God, howsoever I know these works are, in themselves, wellpleasing unto thee; yet, as they fall from my wretchedness, they are stained with so many imperfections, that I have more reason to crave pardon for them, than to put confidence in them; and if I could perform them never so exquisitely, yet one sin is more than enough to dash all my obedience. I see, then, O Lord, I well see, there is no act, that I can be capable to do unto thee, wherein I can find any repose : it must be thine act to me, which only can effect it. It is thy gracious word, Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest; Matth. xi. 28. Lo, this rest must be thy gift ; not my earning: and what can be freer, than gift? Thou givest it then, but to those, that come to thee; not to those, that come not: to those, that come to thee laden and labouring under the sense of their own wretchedness; not to the proud and careless. O Saviour, thy sinner is sufficiently laden, with the burden of his iniquities : lade thou me yet more, with true penitent sorrow for my sins; and enable me then to come unto thee, by a lively faith. Take thou the praise of thine own work. Give me the grace to come; and give me rest, in coming.
XV. O Blessed Saviour, what strange variety of conceits do I find concerning thy thousand years' reign! What riddles are in that prophecy, which no human tongue can aread! Where to fix the beginning of that marvellous millenary, and where the end; and what manner of reign it shall be, whether temporal or spiritual, on earth or in heaven; undergoes as many constructions, as there are pens that have undertaken it: and yet, when all is done, I see thine Apostle speaks only of the souls of thy martyrs, reigning so long with thee; not of thy reigning on earth so long, with those martyrs. How busy are the tongues of men, how are their brains taken up, with the indeterminable construction of this enigmatical truth; when, in the mean time, the care of thy spiritual reign in their hearts is neglected! O my Saviour, while others weary themselves with the disquisition of thy personal reign here upon earth fora thousand years, let it be the whole bent and study of my soul, to make sure of my personal reign with thee in heaven to all eternity.
XVI. Blessed be thy name, O God, who hast made a good use even