« السابقةمتابعة »
your profit, that you may be partaker of his holiness, (Heb. xii. 10,) and the least degree of holiness cannot be purchased at too dear a rate. His rod and staff have comforted you : and whatever are the beginnings, the end will be the quiet fruit of righteousness, when you have been exercised therein: and though man be mutable, and friends, and flesh, and heart have failed you, yet God is still the strength of your heart, and your portion for ever. (Psalm lxxiii. 26.) O the variety of learning that is contained in the secret writings of a sanctified heart! The variety of subjects for the most fruitful and delightful thoughts, which you may find recorded in the inwards of your soul! How pleasant is it there to find the characters of the special love of God, the lineaments of his image, the transcript of his law, the harmony of his gifts and graces, the witness, the seal and the earnest of his Spirit, and the foretastes and beginnings of eternal life! As thankfulness abhors oblivion, and is a recording grace, and keepeth histories and catalogues of mercies; so is it a reward unto itself; and by these records it furnisheth the soul with matter for the sweetest employments and delights: Is it not pleasant to you there to read how God hath confuted the objections of distrust? How oft he hath condescended to your weakness, and pardoned you when you could not easily forgive yourself? How oft he hath entertained you in secret with his love? and visited you with his consolations? How near him sometimes you have got in fervent prayer, and serious meditation? And when for a season he hath hid his face, how soon and seasonably he returned? How oft he hath found you weeping, and hath wiped away your tears, and calmed and quieted your troubled soul? How he hath resolved your doubts, and expelled your fears; and heard your prayers? How comfortably he hath called you his child; and given you leave, and commanded you to call him Father; when Christ hath brought you with boldness into his presence! How sweet should it be to your remembrance, to think how the love of Christ hath sometimes exalted you above these sublunary things! How the Spirit hath taken you up to heaven, and shewed to your faith the glory of the New Jerusalem, the blessed company of those holy spirits that attend the throne of the majesty of God, and the shining face of your glorified Head! By what seasonable and happy messengers he hath sent you the cluster of grapes as
the firstfruits of the land of promise! and commanded you oft to take and eat the bread of life? How oft he hath reached to your thirsty soul the fruit of the vine, and turned it sacramentally into his blood, and bid you drink it in rémembrance of him, till he come and feast you with his fullest love, and satisfy you with the pleasure and presence of his glory.
But the volumes of mercy written in your heart, are too great to be by me transcribed. I can easily appeal to you that are acquainted with it, whether such heart-employment be not more pleasant and more profitable than any of the entertainments that flashy wit, or gaudy gallantry, or merriments, luxury, or preferments can afford. Is it not better converse with Christ at home than with such as are described, Psalm xii. abroad? To dwell with all that blessed retinue, (Gal. v. 22, 23,) than with pride, vainglory, envy, dissimulation, hypocrisy, falsehood, time-wasting, soul-destroying pleasures; to say nothing of the filthiness which Christian ears abhor the mention of, and which God himself in time will judge, (Eph. v. 3-6; Heb. xiii. 4,) and the rest recited, Gal. v. 19-21. If ungodly persons do find it more unpleasant to converse at home, no wonder, when there is nothing but darkness and defilement; and when they have put God from them, and entertained Satan, so that their hearts are like to haunted houses, where terrible cries and apparitions do make it a place of fear to the inhabitants. But if their souls had such blessed inhabitants as yours, could they meet there with a reconciled God, a Father, a Saviour and a Sanctifier; had they souls that kept a correspondence with heaven, it would not seem so sad and terrible a life to dwell at home, and withdraw from that noise of vanity abroad, which are but the drums and trumpets of the devil, to encourage his deluded followers, and drown the cries of miserable souls. Your dearest friends and chiefest treasure, are not abroad in court or country, but above you, and within you; where then should your delightful converse be, but where your friends and treasure are? (Matt. vi. 21; Phil. iii. 20; Col. iii. 1-4.) When there is almost nothing to be found in the conversation of the world, but discord and distraction, and confusion, and clamours, and malice, and treachery, is it not better to retire into such a heart, where notwithstanding infirmities, and some doubts and fears, there
is order, and concord, and harmony, and such peace as the world can neither give nor take away? O blessed be the hand of love, that blotted out the names of honour, and riches, and pleasures, and carnal interest, and accommodations, from your heart; and inscribed his own in characters never to be obliterated! That turned out usurpers, and so prepared and furnished your heart, as to make and judge it such, as no one is worthy of it but himself. O what a court have you chosen for your abode! How high and glorious! how pure and holy! unchangeable and safe! How ambitiously do you avoid ambition! How great are you in the lowliness of your mind! How high in your humility! Will no lower a place than heaven content you to converse in ? (For heart-converse and heaven-converse are as much one, as beholding both the glass and face :) Will no lower correspondents satisfy you than the host of heaven? Cannot the company of imperfect mortals serve your turn? Nay, can you be satisfied with none below the Lord himself? Well, Madam, if you will needs have it so, it shall be so: What you judge BEST FOR YOU, shall be yours: what you had rather be, you are: and where you had rather dwell, you shall: and seeing you have understood that "one thing is necessary, and have chosen the good part, it shall not be taken from you." (Luke x. 41, 42. Having first sought the kingdom of God and his righteousness, you shall have such additionals as will do you good. (Matt. vi. 33; Rom. viii. 28; Psalm lxxxiv. 11.) You have learned to know while God is yours, how little of the creature you need, and how little addition it maketh to your happiness (you are wise enough if you live to God; and honourable enough if you are a member of Christ; and rich enough if you are an heir of heaven; and beautiful enough if you have the image of God: and yet having made your choice of these, how liberally hath God cast in as overplus the inferior kind, which you find in losing them! As if he had said to you, as to Solomon, (2 Chron. i. 11,) "Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself-wisdom and knowledge is granted to thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour-;" as if God would convince even flesh itself that none are like the servants of the Lord: And when
the envious one hath said, that you serve not God for nought, though he hath been permitted to put forth his hand, and touch you in your dearest friends and relations; your peace, your habitation and estate, yet hath he so restrained him, and supported you, as may easily convince you that the worst of Christ is better than the best of the world, or sin.
I have purposely been long in opening the felicity of the heart-converse, as a matter of your own experience, both for the exciting of you to a life of thankfulness to God, and that this undigested treatise which you have drawn out into the light, may come to your hands with some supply, in that part of the application which doth most concern you: And because your name may draw the eyes of many others to read this preface, I shall add here a few directions to those that would be well acquainted with themselves, and would comfortably converse at home.
Direct. 1. Let him not overvalue or mind the deceitful world, that would have fruitful converse with God and with himself: Trust not such a cheater, as hath robbed so many thousands before us, especially when God and common experience do call out to us to take heed: The study of riches, and rising, and reputation, and pleasures, agreeth not with this study of God, and of our hearts: and though the world will not take acquaintance with us, if we come not in their fashion, nor see us, if we stand not on the higher ground; yet it is much better to be unknown to others, than to ourselves: though they that live upon the trade, do think there is no fishing like the sea, yet those that take it but on the by, will rather choose the smaller waters, where, though the fish be less, yet few are drowned, and made a prey to the fish that they would have catched. A retirement therefore must be made, from the inordinate pursuit of worldly things, and the charms of honours, riches, and delights: and if some present loss do seem to follow, it is indeed no loss, which tendeth unto gain. He will catch no fish that will not lose his fly. Methinks they that sincerely pray, " Lead us not into temptation," should not desire to have bolts and bars between God and them, and to dwell where salvation is most hardly attained! Desire not to be planted in any such place, though it seem a paradise, where God is most unknown, and used as a stranger, and where saints are wonders, and examples of serious piety are most rare, and where a
heavenly conversation is known but by reports, and reported of according to the malice of the servant, and represented but as fancy, hypocrisy or faction: where sin most prospereth, and is in least disgrace; and where it is a greater shame to be a saint than to be a swine; a serious Christian, than a seared, stupified sensualist: Bless you from that place where the weeds of vice are so rank, as that no good plant can prosper near them: where gain is godliness; and impiety is necessary to acceptable observance, and a tender conscience, and the fear of God, are characters of one too surly and unpliable to be countenanced by men; where the tongue that nature formed to be the index of the mind, is made the chief instrument to hide it; and men are so conscious of their own incredibility, that no one doth believe or trust another: where no words are heart-deep, but those that are spoken against Christ's cause and interest, or for their own'; where a vile person is honoured, and those contemned that fear the Lord: Bless you from the place where truth is intolerable, and untruth cloaked with its name; where holiness is looked at as an owl or enemy, and yet hypocrisy must steal its honour from it; where he is a saint that is less wicked than infamous transgressors; and where Dives' life is blameless temperance; and where pride, idleness, fulness of bread, and filthy fornication and lasciviousness, are the infirmities of pious and excellent persons; where great sins are small ones, and small ones are none; and where the greatest must have no reproof, and the physician is taken for the greatest enemy, where chaff is valued at the price of wheat, and yet the famine is of choice: where persons and things are measured by interest; and duty to God derided as folly, whenever it crosseth the wisdom of the world, and hated as some hurtful thing when it crosseth fleshly men in their desires: and where Dives' brethren are unwarned; and none are more secure and frolic, than those that to-morrow may be in hell; and as at the Gladiators' sports, none complain less than those that speed worst, 'quia cæsi silent, spectatores vociferantur.' Old travellers are usually most addicted to end their days in solitude; learn to contemn the world at cheaper rates than they; neither hope, nor wish to live an Alexander, and die a Socrates; a crowd or concourse, though of the greatest, where is the greatest tumult of affairs, and confluence of tempta