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thinks he of that which that good man said to his Eugenius, Non est quod blandiatur celsitudo, ubi solicitudo major ; “What care we for the fawning of that greatness, which is attended with more care?” King Henry VII.'s emblem in all his buildings, in the windows, was still a crown in a bush of thorns : I know not with what historical allusion; but sure, I think, to imply, that great places are not free from great cares. Saul knew what he did, when he hid himself among the stuff. No man knoweth the weight of a sceptre, but be that swayeth it. As for subordinate greatness, it hath so much less worth as it hath more dependence. How many sleepless nights, and restless days, and busy shifts, doth their ambition cost them that affect eininence ! Certainly, no men are so worthy of pity, as they whose height thinks all other worthy of contempt. High places are slippery; and as it is easy to fall, so the ruin is deep, and the recovery difficult. Altiorem locum sortitus es, non tutiorem; sublimiorem, sed non securiorem, saith Bernard; “Thou hast got an higher place, but not a safer ; a loftier, but not more secure.” Aulæ culmem lubricum, “The slippery ridge of the court,” was the old title of honour. David's curse was, Fiut via eorum tenebre et lubricum : “Let their way be made dark and slippery." What difference is there betwixt his curse and the happiness of the ambitious, but this, that the way of the one is dark and slippery, the way of the other lightsome and slippery: that dark, that they may fall; this light, that they may see and be seen to fall? Please yourselves then, ye great ones, and let others please you in the admiration of your height; but if your goodness do not answer your greatness, Sera querela est, quoniam elevans allisisti me, “It is a late complaint, Thou hast lift me up to cast me down.” Your ambition hath but set you up a scaffold, that your misery might be more notorious. And yet these clients of honour say, Bonum est esse hic.
The pampered glutton, when he seeth his table spread with full bowls, with costly dishes and curious sauces, the dainties of all three elements, says, Bonum est esse hic. And yet eating bath a satiety, and satiety a weariness : his heart is never more empty of contentment, than when his stomach is fullest of delicates. When he is empty, he is not well till he be filled; when he is full, he is not well till be have got a stoinach: Et momentanea blandimenta gulæ stercoris fine condemnat, saith Jerom ;“ “And condemns all the momentary pleasures of his maw to the dunghill.” And when he sits at his feasts of marrow and fat things, (as the prophet speaks) his table, according to the Psalmist's imprecation, is made his snare; a true snare every way.
His soul is caught in it with excess; his estate with penury; his body with diseases. Neither doth he more plainly tear bis meat in pieces with his teeth, than he doth himself: and yet this vain man says, Bonum est esse hic.
The petulant wanton thinks it the only happiness, that he may have his full scope to filthy dalliance. Little would he so do, if he could see his strumpet as she is, her eyes the eyes of a cockatrice, her hairs snakes, her painted face the visor of a fury, her heart snares, her hands bands, and her end wormwood; consumption of the flesh, destruction of the soul, and the flames of lust ending in the flames of hell. Since therefore neither pleasures, nor honour, nor wealth, can yield any true contentment to their best favourites, let us not be so unwise as to speak of this vale of misery, as Peter did of the hill of Tabor, Bonum est esse hîc.
And if the best of earth cannot do it, why will ye seek it in the worst? how dare any of you great ones to seek to purchase contentment with oppression, sacrilege, bribery, outfacing innocence and truth with power, damning your own souls for but the humouring of a few miserable days? Filii hominum, usquequo gravi corde? ad quid diligitis vanitatem, et quæritis mendacium?“ O ye sons of men, how long, &c.” But that which moved Peter's desire (though with imperfection) shews what will perfect our desire and felicity : for if a glimpse of this heavenly glory did so ravish this worthy disciple, that he thought it happiness enough to stand by and gaze upon it, how shall we be affected with the contemplation, yea fruition of the divine presence ! Here was but Tabor, there is heaven; here were but two saints, there many millions of saints and angels; here was Christ transfigured, there he sits at the right hand of Majesty ; here he was a representation, there a gift and possession of blessedness. O that we could now forget the world, and fixing our eyes upon this better Tabor, say, Bonum est esse hic. Alas! this life of ours, if it were not short, yet it is miserable; and if it were not miserable, yet it is short. Tell me, ye that have the greatest command on earth, whether this vile world hath ever afforded you any sincere
] TRANSFIGURATION OF CHRIST. 401 contentation. The world is your servant: if it were your parasite, yet could it make you heartily merry? Ye delicatest courtiers, tell me, if pleasure itself have not an unpleasant tediousness hanging upon it, and more sting than honey? And whereas all happiness, even here below, is in the vision of God; how is our spiritual eye hindered, as the body is from its object, by darkness, by false light, by aversion! Darkness, he that doth sin is in darkness ; false light, while we measure eternal things by temporary; aversion, while, as weak eyes hate the light, we turn our eyes from the true and immutable good, to the fickle and uncertain. We are not on the hill, but the valley, where we have tabernacles, not of our own making, but of clay; and such as wherein we are witnesses of Christ, not transfigured in glory, but blemished with dishonour, dishonoured with oaths and blasphemies, recrucified with our sins; witnesses of God's saints, not shining in Tabor, but mourning in darkness, and, instead of that heavenly brightness, clothed with sackcloth and ashes. Then and there we shall have “tabernacles not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” where we shall see how sweet the Lord is : we shall see the triumphs of Christ; we shall hear and sing the hallelujahs of saints
. Quæ nunc nos angit vesania vitiorum sitire absinthium, &c. saith that devout father. O how hath our corruption bewitched us, to thirst for this wormwood, to affect the shipwrecks of this world, to dote upon the misery of this fading life; and not rather to fly up to the felicity of saints, to the society of angels, to that blessed contemplation wherein we shall see God in himself, God in us, ourselves in him! There shall be no sorrow, no pain, no complaint, no fear, no death. There is no malice to rise against us, no misery to afflict us, no hunger, thirst, weariness, temptation to disquiet us. There, Othere, one day is better than a thousand! there is rest from our labours, peace from our enemies, freedom from our sins! How many clouds of discontentment darken the sunshine of our joy, while we are here below! Væ nobis qui vivimus plangere quæ pertulimus, dolere quæ sentimus, timere quce expectamus ! Complaint of evils past, sense of present, fear of future, have shared our lives amongst them. Then shall we be semper læti, semper satiati, “always joyful, always satisfied,” with the vision of that God,“ in whose presence there is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore.” Shall we see that
heathen Cleombrotus abandoning his life, and casting himself down from the rock, upon an uncertain noise of immortality; and shall not we Christians abandon the wicked superfluities of life, the pleasures of sin, for that life which we know more certainly than this ? What stick we at, my beloved? Is there a heaven, or is there none? have we a Saviour there, or have we none? We know there is a heaven, as sure as that there is an earth below us; we know we have a Saviour there, as sure as there are men that we converse with upon earth; we know there is happiness, as sure as we kuow there is misery and mutability upon earth. O our miserable sottishness and infidelity, if we do not condemn the best offers of the world, and lifting up our eyes and hearts to heaven, say, Bonum est esse hic!
“ Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.” To him that hath purchased and prepared this glory for us, together with the Father and blessed Spirit, one incomprehensible God, be all praise for ever. Amen.
The Prosecution of the Transfiguration. BEFORE, the disciples' eyes were dazzled with glory; now the brightness of that glory is shaded with a cloud. Frail and feeble eyes of mortality cannot look upon an heavenly lustre. That cloud imports both majesty and obscuration. Majesty; for it was the testimony of God's presence of old : the cloud covered the mountain, the tabernacle the oracle. He, that makes the clouds his chariot, was in a cloud carried up into heaven. Where have we mention of any divine representation, but a cloud is one part of it? what comes nearer to heaven, either in place or resemblance? Obscuration; for as it shewed there was a majesty, and that divine, so it shewed them, that the view of that majesty was not for bodily eyes. Like as, when some great prince walks under a canopy, that vail shews there is a great person under it, but withal restrains the eye from a free sight of his person : and if the cloud were clear
, yet it shaded them. Why then was this cloud interposed betwixt that glorious vision and them, but for a check of their bold eyes? Had they too long gazed upon this resplendent spectacle
, as their eyes had been blinded, so their hearts had perhaps grown to an overbold familiarity with that heavenly object; how seasonably doth the cloud intercept it! the wise God knows our need of these vicissitudes and allays. If we have a light, we must have a cloud; if a light to cheer us, we must bave a cloud to humble us. It was so in Sinai, it was so in Sion, it was so in Olivet; it shall never be but so. The natural day and night do not more duly interchange, than this light and cloud. Above we shall have the light without the cloud, a clear vision and fruition of God, without all dim and sad interpositions ; below we cannot be free from these mists and clouds of sorrow and misapprehension.
But this was a bright cloud; there is difference betwixt the cloud in Tabor, and that in Sinai: this was clear, that darksome; there is darkness in the law, there is light in the grace of the gospel : Moses was there spoken to in darkness, here he was spoken with in light. In that dark cloud there was terror, in this there was comfort; though it were a cloud then, yet it was bright; and though it were bright, yet it was a cloud: with much light there was some shade. God would not speak to them concerning Christ out of darkness; neither yet would he manifest himself to them in an absolute brightness: all his appearances have this mixture. What need I other instance, than in these two saints? Moses spake oft to God, mouth to mouth; yet not so immediately, but that there was ever somewhat drawn, as a curtain, betwixt God and him; either fire in Horeb, or smoke in Sinai; so as his face is not more vailed from the people, than God's from him. Elias shall be spoken to by God, but in the rock, and under a mantle. În vain shall we hope for any revelation from God, but in a cloud. Worldly hearts are in utter darkness, they see not so much as the least glimpse of these divine beams, not a beam of that inaccessible light : the best of his saints see him here but in a cloud, or in a glass. Happy are we, if God has honoured us with these divine representations of himself; once, in his light, we shall see light.
I can easily think with what amazedness these three disciples stood compassed in that bright cloud, expecting some miraculous event of so heavenly a vision, when suddenly they might hear a voice sounding out of that cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear him.” They need not be told whose that voice was ; the place, the matter evinced it; no angel in heaven could, or durst have