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and trouble behind them. Excess and intensperance, and all inordinate lusts, are so much enemies to the health of the body, and the interests of this present life, that a little consideration might oblige any rational man 10 forbear them on that very score: and if the religious person go higher, and do not only abstain from noxious pleasures, but neglect those that are innocent, this is not to be looked upon as any violent and uneasy restraint, but as the effect of better choice, that their minds are taken up in the pursuit of more sublime and refined delights, so that they cannot be concerned in these. Any person that is engaged in a violent and passionate affection, will easily forget his ordinary gratifications, will be little curious about his diet, or his bodily ease, or the divertisements he was wont to delight in. No wonder then if souls overpowered with divine love, despise inferior pleasures, and be almost ready to grudge the body its necessary attendance for the common accommodations of life, judging all these inpertinent to their main happiness, and those higher enjoyments they are pursuing. As for the hardships they meet with, they rejoice in them, as opportunities to exercise and testify their affection: and since they are able to do so little for God, they are glad of the honour to suffer for him.
The excellency of humility. The last branch of religion is humility; and however to vulgar and carnal eyes this may appear an abject, base, and despicable quality, yet really the soul of man is not capable of a higher and more noble endowment. It is a silly ignorance that begets pride: but humility arises from a nearer acquaintance with
ent things, which keeps men from doating on trifles, or admiring themselves because of some pretty attainments. Noble and well educated souls have no such high opinion of riches, beauty, strength, and other such like advantages, as to value themselves for them, or despise those that want them: and as for inward worth and real goodness, the sense they have of the divine perfections makes them think very
meanly of any thing they have hitherto attained, and be still endeavouring to surmount themselves, and make nearer approaches to those infinite excellencies which they admire.
I know not what thoughts people may have of humility, but I see almost every person pretending to it, and shunning such expressions and actions as may make them be accounted arrogant and presumptuous; so that those who are most desirous of praise, will be loth to commend themselves. What are all those compliments and modes of civility, so frequent in our ordinary converse, but so many protestations of the esteem of others, and the low thoughts we have of ourselves; ‘and must not that humility be a noble and excellent endowment, when the very shadows of it are accounted so necessary a part of good breeding? The pleasure and sweetness of an humble temper.
Again, this grace, is accompanied with a great deal of happiness and tranquillity: the proud and arrogant person is a trouble to all that converse with him, but most of all unto himself; every thing is enough to vex him; but scarce any thing is sufficient to content and please him. He is ready to quarrel with every thing that falls out, as if he himself were such a considerable person, that God Almighty should do every thing to gratify him, and all the creatures of heaven and earth should wait upon him, and obey his will. The leaves of high trees do shake with every blast of wind: and every breath, every evil word will disquiet and torment an arrogant man: but the humble person hath the advantage when he is despised, that none can think more meanly of him than he doth of himself; and therefore he is not troubled at the matter, but can easily bear those reproaches which wound the other to the soul. And withal, as he is less affected with injuries, so indeed he is less obnoxious unto them: contention, which cometh of pride, betrays a man into a thousand inconveniences, which those of a meek and lowly temper seldom meet with. True and genuine humility beget
teth both a veneration and love among all wise and discerning persons; while pride defeateth its own design, and depriveth a man of that honour it makes him pretend to.
But as the chief exercises of humility are those which relate unto Almighty God, so these are accompanied with the greatest satisfaction and sweetness. It is impossible to express the great pleasure and delight which religious persons feel in the lowest prostration of their souls before God, when, having a deep sense of the divine majesty and glory, they sink (if I may so speak) to the bottom of their beings, and vanish and disappear in the presence of God, by a serious and affectionate acknowledgment of their own nothingness, and the shortness and imperfections of their attainments; when they understand the full sense and emphasis of the Psalmist's exclamation, Lord, what is man! and can utter it with the same affection. Never did any haughty and ambitious person receive the praises and applauses of men with so much pleasure, as the humble and religious do renounce them: Not unto us, O Lord, not
but unto thy name, give glory, &c. Thus have I spoken something of the excellencies and advantage of religion in its several branches; but should be very injurious to the subject, did I pretend to have given any perfect account of it. Let us acquaint ourselves with it, my dear friend; let us acquaint ourselves with it, and experience will teach us more than all that ever hath been spoken or written concerning it. But if we may suppose the soul to be already awakened unto some longing desires after so great a blessedness, it will be good to give them vent and suffer them to issue forth in some such aspirations as these:
• Good God! what a mighty felicity is this to which we are called! How graciously hast thou joined our duty and happiness together; and prescribed that for our work, the performance whereof is a great reward! And shall such silly worms be advanced to so great a height? Wilt
thou allow us to raise our eyes to thee? Wilt thou admit and accept our affection? Shall we receive the impression of thy divine excellencies, by beholding and admiring them, and partake ofthy infinite blessedness and glorý, by loving thee, and rejoicing in them? O the happiness of those souls that have broken the fetters of self-love, and disentangled their affection from every narrow and particular good; whose understandings are enlightēned by the Holy Spirit, and their wills enlarged to the extent of thine; who love thee above all things, and all mankind for thy sake! I am persuaded, O God! I am persuaded, that I can never be happy, till my carnal and corrupt affections be mortified, and the pride and vanity of my spirit be subdued, and till I come seriously to despise the world, and think nothing of myself. But 0 when shall it once be! O when wilt thou come unto me, and satisfy my soul with thy likeness, making me holy as thou art holy, even in all manner of conversation! Hast thon given me a prospect of so great a felicity, and wilt thou not bring me unto it? Hast thou excited these desires in my soul, and wilt thou not also satisfy them? O teach me to do thy will, for thou art my God; thy spirit is good, lead me unto the land of uprightness. Quicken me, O Lord, for thy name's sake, and perfect that which concerneth me. Thy mercy, 0) Lord, endureth for ever; forsake not the work of thine own hands.'
The despondent thoughts of some newly awakened
to a right sense of things. I HAVE hitherto considered wherein true religion doth consist, and how desirable a thing it is. But when one sees how infinitely distant the common temper and frame of men are from it, he may perhaps be ready to despond and give over, and think it utterly iinpossible to be attained. He may sit down in sadness, and beinoan himself, and say, in the anguish and bitterness of his spirit, “ They are happy indlced whose svuls are
awakened unto the divine life, who are thus renewed in the spirit of their minds. But, alas! I am quite of another constitution, and am not able to effect so mighty a change. If outward observances could have done the business, I might have hoped to acquit myself by diligence and care: but since nothing but a new nature can serve the turn, what am I able to do? I could be stow all my goods in oblations to God, or alms to the poor; but cannot command that love and charity, without which this expense would profit me nothing. This gift of God cannot be parchased with money. If a man should give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned. I could pine and macerate my body, and undergo many hardships and troubles; but I cannot get all my corruptions starved, nor my affections wholly weaned from earthly things: there are still some worldly desires lurking in my heart; and those vanities that I have shut out of the doors, are always getting in by the windows. I am many times convinced of my own meanness, of the weakness of my body, and the far greater weakness of my soul; but this doth rather beget indignation and discontent, than true humility in my spirit: and though I should come to think meanly of myself, yet I cannot endure that others should think so
In a word, when I reffect on my highest and most specious attainments, I have reason to suspect, that they are all but the effects of nature, the issues of self-love acting under several disguises: and this principle is so powerful and so deeply rooted in me, that I can never hope to be delivered from the dominion of it. I may toss and turn as a door on the hinges; but can never get clear off, or be quite unhinged of self, which is still the centre of all my motions. So that all the advantage ! can draw from the discovery of religion, is but to see at a huge distance that felicity which I am not able to reach; like a man in a shipwreck, who discerns the land, and envies the happiness of those who are there, but thinks it impossible for himself to get ashore."