« PoprzedniaDalej »
persons mortification by philosophical instruments, as fasting, sackcloth, and other rudenesses to the body, is wholly useless; it is always a more uncertain means to acquire any virtue, or secure any duty; and if love hath filled all the corners of our soul, it alone is able to do all the work of God.
3. Be not nice in stating the obligations of religion; but where the duty is necessary, and the means very reasonable in itself, dispute not too busily, whether, in all circumstances, it can fit thy particular; but
super totam materiam," upon the whole, make use of it. For it is a good sign of a great religion, and no imprudence, when we have sufficiently considered the substance of affairs, then to be easy, humble, obedient, apt, and credulous in the circumstances, which are appointed to us, in particular, by our spiritual guides; or, in general, by all wise men in cases not unlike. He that gives alms, does best not always to consider the minutes and strict measures of his ability, but to give freely, incuriously, and abundantly. A man must not weigh grains in the accounts of his repentance; but for a great sin have a great sorrow, and a great severity, and in this take the ordinary advices; though, it may be, a less rigour might not be insufficient : expißodikalov, or arithmetical measures, especially of our own proportioning, are but arguments of want of love and of forwardness in religion; or else are instruments of scruple, and then become dangerous. Use the rule heartily and
enough, and there will be no harm in thy error, if any should happen.
4. If thou intendest heartily to serve God, and avoid sin in any one instance, refuse not the hardest and most severe advice, that is prescribed in order to it, though possibly it be a stranger to thee; for whatsoever it be, custom will make it easy.
5. When many instruments for the obtaining any virtue, or restraining any vice, are propounded, observe which of them fits thy person, or the circumstances of thy need, and use it rather than the other; that by this means thou mayest be engaged to watch, and use spiritual arts and observation about thy soul. Concerning the managing of which, as the interest is greater, so the necessities are more, and the cases more intricate, and the accidents and dangers greater and more importunate; and there is greater skill required, than in the securing an estate, or restoring health to an infirm body. I wish all men in the world did heartily believe so much of this, as is true; it would very much help to do the work of God.
Thus, my Lord, I have made bold by your hand to reach out this little scroll of cautions to all those, who, by seeing your honoured names set before my book, shall, by the fairness of such a frontispiece, be invited to look into it. I must confess, it cannot but look like a design in me, to borrow your name and beg your patronage to my book, that, if there be no other worth in it, yet at least it may have the splen
dour and warmth of a burning-glass, which, borrowing a flame from the eye of Heaven, shines and burns by the rays of the sun its patron. I will not quit myself from the suspicion : for I cannot pretend it to be a present either of itself fit to be offered to such a personage, or any part of a just return; but I humbly desire, you would own it for an acknowledgment of those great endearments and noblest usages, you have past upon me: but so, men in their religion give a piece of gum, or the fat of a cheap lamb, in sacrifice to Him, that gives them all that they have or need: and unless He, who was pleased to employ your Lordship, as a great minister of his providence, in making a promise of his good to me, the meanest of his servants, “ that he would never leave me nor forsake me,” shall enable me, by greater services of religion, to pay my great debt to your honour, I must still increase my score; since I shall now spend as much in my needs of pardon for this boldness, as in the reception of those favours, by which I stand accountable to your Lordship in all the bands of service and gratitude; though I am, in the deepest sense of duty and affection,
My most honoured Lord,
And most humble Servant,
RULE AND EXERCISES
HOLY LIVING, &c.
CONSIDERATION OF THE GENERAL INSTRUMENTS AND
MEANS SERVING TO A HOLY LIFE, BY WAY OF INTRO-
It is necessary, that every man should consider, that, since God hath given him an excellent nature, wisdom, and choice, an understanding soul, and an immortal spirit, having made him lord over the beasts, and but a little lower than the angels; he hath also appointed for him a work and a service great enough to employ those abilities, and hath also designed him to a state of life after this, to which he can only arrive by that service and obedience. And therefore, as every man is wholly God's own portion by the title of creation, so all our labours and care, all our powers and faculties, must be wholly employed in the service of God, and even all the days of our life; that, this life being ended, we may live with him for ever.
Neither is it sufficient, that we think of the service of God as a work of the least necessity, or of small employment, but that it be done by us as God intended it; that it be done with great earnestness and passion, with much zeal and desire; that we refuse no labour, that we bestow upon it much time; that we use the best guides, and arrive at the end of glory by all the ways of grace, of prudence, and religion.
And indeed, if we consider how much of our lives is taken up by the needs of nature; how many years are wholly spent,
before we come to any use of reason; how many years more, before that reason is useful to us to any great purposes ;
how imperfect our discourse is made by our evil education, false principles, ill company, bad examples, and want of experience; how many parts of our wisest and best years are spent in eating and sleeping, in necessary businesses and unnecessary vanities, in worldly civilities and less useful circumstances, in the learning arts and sciences, languages or trades; that little portion of hours, that is left for the practices of piety and religious walking with God, is so short and trifling, that, were not the goodness of God infinitely great, it might seem unreasonable or impossible for us to expect of him eternal joys in heaven, even after the well spending those few minutes, which are left for God and God's service, after we have served ourselves and our own occasions.
And yet it is considerable, that the fruit, which comes from the many days of recreation and vanity, is very little ; and, although we scatter much, yet we gather but little profit: but from the few hours we spend in prayer and the exercises of a pious life, the return is great and profitable ; and what we sow in the minutes and spare portions of a few years, grows up to crowns and sceptres in a happy and a glorious eternity.
1. Therefore, although it cannot be enjoined, that the greatest part of our time be spent in the direct actions of devotion and religion, yet it will become, not only a duty, but also a great providence, to lay aside for the services of God and the businesses of the Spirit, as much as we can; because God rewards our minutes with long and eternal happiness; and the greater portion of our time we give to God, the more we treasure up for ourselves; and “ No man is a better merchant than he, that lays out his time upon God, and his money upon the poor.”
2. Only it becomes us to remember, and to adore God's goodness for it, that God hath not only permitted us to serve the necessities of our nature, but hath made them to become parts of our duty; that if we, by directing these actions to the glory of God, intend them as instruments to continue our persons in his service, he, by adopting them into religion, may turn our nature into grace, and accept our natural actions as actions of religion. God is pleased to esteem it