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upon them. To fet our mind thus upon the creature, is to difcourfe with the creature; the queftions which man afks • of a beast, are only his own meditations. Again, the crea⚫tures teach us; when we in meditation, make our collecti⚫ons, and draw down a demonftration of the power, wifdom, ⚫ and goodness of God in making them, or the fraility of man • in needing them fuch conclufions and inferences are the • teachings of the creatures.'
Common objects (faith + another) may be improved two ways; viz. In an argumentative, and in a representative way; by reasoning from them, and by viewing the refemblance that is betwixt them and spiritual matters.
First, In meditation argue thus, as in the prefent cafe and fimilitude of the apoftle. If an hufbandman upon the ordinary principles of reafon can wait for the harveft, fhall not I wait for the coming of the Lord? The day of refreshing; the corn is precious to him, and fo is the coming of Chrift to me. Shali he be fo patient, and endure so much for a little corn? And not I for the kingdom of heaven? He is willing to stay till all caufes have had their operations, till he hath received the former and the latter rain; and fhall not I, till the Divine decrees be accomplished?
Secondly, In meditation, make the refemblance, and dif.course thus within yourselves: This is my feed-time, heaven is my harvest; here I must labour and toil, and there reft. I fee the husbandman's life is a great toil: no excellent thing can be obtained without labour, and an obftinate patience. I fee the feed must be hidden in the furrows, rotten and corrupted, e'er it can fpring forth with any increase. Our hopes are hidden, light is fown for the righteous; all our comforts are buried under the clods, and after all this there must be long waiting, we cannot fow and reap in a day; effects cannot follow, till all neceffary causes have first wrought. It is not in the power of husbandmen to ripen fruits at pleasure, our times are in the hands of God, therefore it is good to wait; a long-fuffering patience will reap the defired fruit. Thus you have fome hints of this heavenly art of improving
The motives inducing me to this undertaking, were the Lord's owning with fome fuccefs, my labours of a like nature, together with the defire and inclination (ftirred up in
+ Dr. Manton. ›
me, I hope, by the Spirit of the Lord, to devote my vacant hours to his fervice in this kind.) I confidered, that if the Pharifees in a blind zeal to a faction, could compass sea and land to profelyte men to their party, though thereby they made them fevenfold more the children of the devil than before; how much more was I obliged, by true love to God, and zeal to the everlafting happiness of fouls, to ufe my uttermoft endeavours, both with feamen and husbandmen, to win them to Chrift, and thereby make them more than seventy-feven fold happier than before? Not to mention other encouragements to this work, which I received from the earneft defires of fome reverend and worthy brethren inviting thereunto; all which I hope the event will manifeft to be a call from God to this work.
I confess I met with fome difcouragement in my first attempt, from my unacquaintednefs with rural affairs; and because I was to travel in a path (to me) untrodden; but having once engaged in it, thofe difcouragements were foon overcome: and being now brought to what you here fee, I offer to your hands these first-fruits of my fpare hours.
I prefume you will account it no difparagement, that I dedicate a book of husbandry to gentlemen of your quality. This is fpiritual husbandry, which here is taught you and yet I tell you, that great perfons have accounted that civil employment (which is much inferior to this) no disparagement to them. "The king himfelf is ferved by the field," Ecclef. v. 9. Or, as Montanus renders the Hebrew text, Rex agro fit fervus; The king himself is a fervant to the field. And of king Uzziah it is written, 2 Chron. xxvi. 10. "That he "loved husbandry," And Amos vii. 1. we read of the King's mowings. Yea, Pliny hath observed, that corn was never fo plentiful at Rome, as when the fame men tilled the land that ruled the commonwealth. Quafi gauderet terra laureato vomere, fcilicet et aratore triumphali; as though the earth itself rejoiced in the laurelled plow-fhare, and the triumphant plowman,
What pleasure you will find in reading it, I know not; but to me it hath been a pleasant path, from first to laft; who yet have been at far greater expence of time and pains in compiling it, than you can be in reading it. The hufbandman's work, you know, is no eafy work, and the fpiritualizing of it hath greater difficulties attending it; but yet the pleasure hath abundantly recompenfed the pains. I have found Erafmus his obfervation experimentally true; Qui litteris addicti fumus, animi laffitudinem a ftudiis gravioribus contractum; ab iifdem Audiis, fed amoenioribus recreamus: Those that are addicted to
study, (faith he) when they have wearied their spirits with ftudy, can recreate them again with study, by making a diverfion from that which is severe and knotty, to fome more facile and pleasant subject.
But to hear that God hath ufed and honoured these papers to the good of any foul, will yield me the highest content and fatisfaction imaginable.
May you but learn that leffon, which is the general scope and defign of this book,, viz. How to walk with God from day to day, and make the feveral objects you behold, scalae et alae, wings and ladders to mount your fouls nearer to him, who is the center of all blessed spirits. How much will it comfort me, and confirm my hope, that it was the call of God indeed, which put me upon these endeavours!
O Sirs! What an excellent thing would it be for you, to make fuch holy improvements of all these earthly objects which daily occur to your fenfes, and cause them to proclaim and preach to you divine and heavenly myfteries; whilst others make them groan, by abusing them to fin, and subjecting them to their lufts. A man may be caft into fuch a condition, wherein he cannot enjoy the bleffing and benefit of a pious and pow erful ministry; but you cannot (ordinarily) fall into fuch a condition, wherein any thing (excepting a bad heart) can deprive you of the benefits and comforts of thofe excellent fermons, and divinity lectures, which the creatures here offer to preach and read to you.
Content not yourselves, I befeech you, with that natural fweetness the creatures afford; for thereof the beasts are capable, as much, if not more, than you; but use them to those spiritual ends you are here directed, and they will yield you a sweetness far transcending that natural sweetness you ever relished in them; and indeed, you never use the creatures as their Lord's, till you come to fee your Lord, in and by them. I confefs the discoveries of God in the word are far more excellent, clear, and powerful; "He hath magnified his word above all his "name." And therein are the unfearchable riches of Christ, or rich discoveries of that grace that hath no footsteps in nature, as the apostle's expreffion fignifies, Ephef. iii. 8.
And if that which might be known of God by the creatures, leave men without excufe; as it is manifeft, Rom. i. 20. How inexcufable then will thofe be, who have received not only the teachings of the creature, but also the grace of the gospel in vain! "How fhall we efcape, if we neglect fo great falvation ?"
They that are careless in the day of grace, fhall be fpeechlefs in the day of judgment.
I am fenfible of many defects in these papers (as well as in myfelf;) they have doubtless a tafte of the diftractions of the times wherein they were written; nor was I willing to keep them so long under-land, as the accurateness and exactness with which fuch a fubject ought to be handled, did require. Had I defigned my own credit, I fhould have obferved that counfel, Nonumque prematur in annum, (i. e.) To have kept it much longer under the file, before I had expofed it to public view but I rather inclined to Solomon's counfel, "Whatever thy "hand finds out to do, do it with all thy might; for there is "no wifdom, nor knowledge, nor device in the grave, whither "thou art going," Ecclef. ix. 10,
I apprehend a neceffity of fome fuch means to be used, for the inftruction and conviction of country-people; who either are not capable of understanding truth in another dialect, or at leaft are lefs affected with it. The propofition in every chapter confifts of an observation in husbandry; wherein, if I have failed in ufing any improper expreffion, your candour will cover it, and impute it to my unacquaintedness in rural affairs: In magnis voluiffe fat eft.
The reddition or application, you will find (I hope) both pertinent and clofe. The reflections ferious, and fuch (as I hope) your confciences will faithfully improve. I have shut up every chapter with a Poem, an innocent bait to catch the reader's foul.
That of Herbert is experimentally true:
A verfe may find him that a fermon flies,
I fhould never have been perfuaded (especially in this fcribling age, wherein we may complain with the poet,
Scribimus indocti, doctique poemata paffim,)
to have fet my dull fancy upon the rack to extort a poem to entertain my reader; for I cannot fay with Ovid, Sponte fua carmen, &c. but that I have been informed, that many feamen, induced by the pleasure of a verfe, have taken much pains to learn the poems in their compafs by heart; and I hope both the children at home, and the fervants in the fields, will learn to exercise themselves this way also. O, how much better will it be fo to do, than to ftuff their memories with obfcene balladsy and filthy fangs, which corrupt their minds, and difpofe them to much wickedness by irritating their natural
corruption! But thefe are purer flames, you will find nothing here of fuch a tendency.
"Tis guilt, not poetry, to be like thofe,
D. DIG S.
I fhall add no more, but to beg that God who inftructeth the husbandman in his civil calling, to teach him wisdom fpiritually to improve it; and particularly, that you may reap a crop of much fpiritual benefit, from that feed which is here fown by the hand of the Lord's unprofitable fervant, and in him, Your very affectionate Friend and fervant, JOHN FLAVEL.
TO THE CHRISTIAN READER.
HERE are three things wherein (as it hath been faid,
T long before my day) the exercife of godlinefs doth
chiefly confift: Prayer, temptation, meditation: Meditation is the fubject of the following manual. The object of meditation is twofold. First, The word. Secondly, The works of God. The works of God are twofold. Firft, Internal. Secondly, External. The external works of God are twofold. First, Of creation. Secondly, Of providence. The works of providence are likewife twofold. First, In things civil, the Lord ordering and over-ruling all the affairs and motions of fingle perfons, families and nations, in a fubferviency to his own moft holy ends, defigns and purposes. Secondly, In things natural, the Lord inftructing the hufbandman to discretion, and teaching him how to drefs and till the earth, that it may give feed to the fower, and bread to the eater; as alfo how to breed up and manage the beafts of the field, both greater and leffer cattle, for the use and service of man.
Meditation' upon this lower part of the works of God, and his wonderful providences about them, may raife our fouls very high; and while we wifely confider these natural things, we may grow more and more wife, in and for fpirituals and eter
The worthy and ingenious Author of the enfuing discourse,