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meanly of any thing they have hitherto attained, and be still endeavouring to surinount theinselves, and make nearer approaches to those infinite excellencies which they aduire.
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 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 accounter so necessary a part of good breeding? The pleasure anil 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 ali that converse with him, but inost of all unto himself; every thing is enough to vex him; but scarce any thing is sufficient to content and please liim. He is ready to quarrel with every thing that fulls out, as if he himself were such a considerable person, that God Almighty should do every thing to gratify hiin, 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 se!doin ment with. 'True and groomine lumility hoyet
tath both a veneration and love amor, all wise and discerning persons; while pride defeateth its own design, and depriveth a man of that honour it makes him pretend to.
Pụt as the chief exercises of hnmility 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 nnderstand 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 unto us, 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! low 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 of thy infinite blessedness and glory, 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 enlightened 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 thou 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, O 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 impossible to be attained. He may sit down in sadness, and bemoan himself, and say, in the anguish and bitterness of his spirit, “ They are happy indeed whose souls are
If a man
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 bestow 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 purchaser with money. should give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned. I could pine and inacerate 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 too. In a word, when I reflect on my highest and most specious attainments, I bave reason to suspect, that they are all but the effeets 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. 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 I 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 shipwreek, who discerns the land, and envies the happiness of those who are there, bnt thinks it impossible for himself to get ashore."
The unreasonableness of these fears. These, I say, or such like desponding thoughts, may arise in the minds of those persons who begin to conceive somewhat more of the nature and excellency of religion than before. They have spied the land, and seen that it is exceeding good; that it floweth with milk and honey; but they find they have the children of Anak to grapple with; many powerful lusts and corruptions to overcome, and they fear they shall never prevail against them. Lut why should we give way to such discouraging suggestions? why should we entertain such unreasonable fears, which damp our spirits, and weaken our hands, and augment the difficulties of our way? Let us encourage ourselves, my dear friend, let us encourage ourselves with those mighty aids we are to expect in this spiritual warfare; for greater is he that is for us, than all that can rise up against us: The eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Let us be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might; for he it is that shall tread down our enemies. God hath a tender regard unto the souls of men, and is infinitely willing to promote their welfare. He Jiath condescended to our weakness, and declared with an oath, that he hath no pleasure in our destruction. There is no such thing as despite or envy lodged in the bosom of that ever blessed being, whose name and nature is love. He created us at first in a happy condition; and now, when we are fallen from it, he hath laid help upon one that is mighty to save, hath committed the care of our souls to no meaner person than the eternal Son of his love. It is he that is the Captain of our salvation; and what enemies can be too strong for us, when we are fighting under his banner? Did not the Son of God come down from the bosom of his Father, and pitch his tabernacle amongst the sons of men, that he might recover and propagate the divine life, and " restore the image of God in their souls? All the mighty works which he performed; all the sad afflictions which he sustained, had this for their scope and design; for this