« PreviousContinue »
I grant this relation hath so powerful an influence upon our hearts naturally, as is pretended; yet such a one, as is easily checked with a small unkindness. How many have we known, who, upon an actual affront, not of the greatest, have diverted their respects from their native country; and, out of a strong alienation of mind, have turned their love into hostility! We shall not need to seek far for histories : our times and memories will furnish us too well. Do we not see those, who have sucked the breasts of our Common Mother, upon a little dislike to have spit in her face? Can we not name our late home-bred compatriots, who, upon the disrelish of some displeasing laws, have flown off from their country, and suborned treasons, and incited foreign princes to our invasion? So as thou seest this natural affection is not so ardent in many, but that it may be quenched with a mean discontentment. If, therefore, there were no other ground of thine afiliction, thy sorrow is not so deeprooted, but that it may be easily pulled up.
The benefit of self-conversation. “ It is not the air or earth,” that thou standest upon : “it is the company," thou sayest, “ from which it is a kind of death to part. I shall leave all acquaintance and conversation, and be cast upon strange faces, and languages that I understand not: my best entertainment will be solitude; my ordinary, inhospitality
What dost thou affright thyself, my son, with these bugs of needless terror! He is not worthy of the name of a Philosopher, much less of a Christian Divine, that hath not attained to be absolute in himself; and, which way soever he is cast, to stand upon his own bottom; and that, if there were no other men left in the world, could not tell how to enjoy himself. It is that within us, whereby we must live and be happy : some additions of complacency may come from without: sociable natures, such is man's, seek and find pleasure in conversation; but if that be denied, sanctified spirits know how to converse comfortably with their God and themselves.
SECT. 3, Examples of those holy ones, that have abandoned society. How many holy ones of old have purposely withdrawn themselves, from the company of men, that they might be blessed with an invisible society ; that have exchanged cities for deserts, houses for caves, the sight of men for beasts; that their spiritual eyes might be fixed upon those better objects, which the frequence of the world held from them! Necessity doth but put thee into that estate, which their piety affected,
“Oh! but to be driven to forsake parents, kinsfolk, friends, how sad a case must it needs be! What is this, other than a perfect distraction? What are we, but pieces of our parents ? And what are friends, but parts of us? What is all the world to us, without these comforts ?"
When thou hast said all, my son, what is befallen thee, other than it pleased God to enjoin the Father of the Faithful : Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, into a land that I will shew thee? Gen. xii. i. Lo, the same God, by the command of authority, calls thee to this secession. If thou wilt shew thyself worthy to be the son of such a Father, do that, in an humble obedience to God, which thou art urged to do, by the compulsion of men.
But what so grievous a thing is this? Dost thou think to find God where thou goest ? Dost thou make full account of his company both all along the way, and in the end of thy journey? Hath not He said, who cannot fail, I will not leave thee nor forsake thee? Certainly, he is not worthy to lay any claim to a God, that cannot find parents, kindred, friends in him alone.
Besides, he, that of very stones could raise up children unto Abraham, how easily can he of inhospital men raise up friends to the sons of Abraham! Only labour thou to inherit that faith, wherein he walked : that alone shall free-denizen thee, in the best of foreign states; and shall entertain thee, in the wildest deserts.
SECT. 4. The advantage that hath been made of removing. Thou art cast upon a foreign nation :-Be of good cheer: we know that flowers, removed, grow greater; and some plants, which were but unthriving and unwholesome in their own soil, have grown both safe and flourishing in other climates. Had Joseph been ever so great, if he had not been transplanted into Egypt? Had Daniel and his three companions of the captivity ever attained to that honour, in their native land? How many have we known, that have found that health in a change of air, which they could not meet with at home! In Africk, the south wind clears up; and the north is rainy. Look thou up still to that hand, which hath translated thee : await his good pleasure: be thou no stranger to thy God: it matters not who are strangers unto thee.
SECT. 5. The right that we have in any country, and in God. Thou art a banished man :- How canst thou be so, when thou treadest upon thy Father's ground? The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness of it. In his right, wherever thou art, thou mayest challenge a spiritual interest : All things, saith the Apostle, are yours; and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's; 1 Cor. iii. 21, 22, 23, No man can challenge thee for a stranger, that is not thy Father's child.
Thine exile separates thee from thy friends :- This were no small affliction, if it might not be abundantly remedied. That was a true word of Laurentius, that “where two faithful friends are met, God makes up a third.” But it is no less true, that where one faithful spirit is, there God makes up a second. One God can more than supply a thousand friends.
The practice of voluntary travel. Thy banishment bereaves thee of the comfort of thy wonted companions :—Would not a voluntary travel do as much ? Dost thou not see thousands, that do willingly, for many years, change their country for foreign regions ; taking long farewells of their dear friends and comrades : some, out of curiosity; some, out of a thirst after knowledge; some, out of a covetous desire of gain? What difference is there, betwixt thee and them; but that their exile is voluntary, thy travel constrained?
And who are then these, whom thou art so sorry to forego? Dost thou not remember what Crates, the Philosopher, said to a young man, that was beset with parasitical friends ? “Young man,” said he, “ I pity thy solitude.” Perhaps, thou mayest be more alone in such society, than in the wilderness : such conversation is better lost, than continued. If thou canst but get to be well acquainted with thyself, thou shalt be sorry that thou wert no sooner solitary.
All are pilgrims. Thou art out of thy country :-Who is not so? We are all Pilgrims together with thee ; 1 Pet. ii. 11. Heb. xi. 13.
While we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord; 2 Cor. v. 6. Miserable are we, if our true home be not above. That is the better country which we seek, even a heavenly ; Heb. xi. 16 : and thither thou mayest equally direct thy course, in whatsoever region. This centre of earth is equidistant from the glorious circumference of heaven: if we may once meet there, what need we make such difference in the way.
COMFORTS AGAINST THE LOSS OF OUR SENSES OF SIGHT AND HEARING.
The two inward lights, of Reason and Faith, Thou hast lost thipe eyes : a loss, which all the world is uncapable to repair. Thou art hereby condemned to a perpetual darkness : for, The light of the body is the cye ; and if the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness ! Matt. vi. 22, 23 :
Couldst thou have foreseen this evil, thou hadst anticipated this loss, by weeping out those eyes for grief, which thou must forego.
There are but two ways, by which any outward comfort can have access to thy soul; the eye, and the ear: one of them is now foreclosed for ever. Yet know, my son, thou hast two other inward
eyes, abundantly supply the want of these of thy body; the eye of Reason, and the eye of Faith: the one, as a Man; the other, as a Christian.
Answerable whereunto, there is a double light apprehended by them ; rational, and divine: Solomon tells thee of the one; The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly; Prov. xx. 27: the Beloved Disciple tells thee of the other; God is light : and we walk in the light, as he is in the light; 1 John i. 5,
7. Now these two lights are no less above that outward and visible light whereof thou art bereaved, than that light is above darkness. Il, therefore, by the eye of Reason thou shalt attain to the clear sight of intelligible things, and by the eye of Faith to the sight of things supernatural and divine, the improvement of these better eyes shall make a large amends for the lack of thy bodily sight.
The supply of better eyes. Thy sight is lost :-Let me tell thee what Anthony, the Hermit, whom Ruffinus doubts not to style Blessed *, said to learned, though blind, Didymus of Alexandria : “ Let it not trouble thee, O Didymus, that thou art bereft of carnal eyes; for thou lackest only those eyes, which mice, and flies, and lizards have: but rejoice, that thou hast those eyes, which the angels have; whereby they see God; and by which thou art enlightened with a great measure of knowledge Make this good of thyself; and thou shalt not be too much discomforted with the absence of thy bodily eyes.
* Ruffinus Hist. 1. ii, c. 7.
The better object of our inward sight. Thine eyes are lost :-The chief comfort of thy life is gone with them: The light is sweet, saith Solomon; and a pleasant thing it is, for the eyes to behold the sun ; Eccl. xi. 7. Hath not God done this purposely, that he might set thee off from all earthly objects, that thou mightest so much the more intentively fix thyself upon him; and seek after those spiritual comforts, which are to be found in a better light?
Behold, the sun is the most glorious thing, that the bodily eyes can possibly see: thy spiritual eyes may see him, that made that goodly and glorious creature, and therefore must needs be infinitely more glorious than what he made. If thou canst now see him the more, how hast thou but gained by thy loss !
The ill offices done by the eyes. Thou art become blind :—Certainly, it is a sore affliction. The men of Jabesh-Gilead offered to comply with the tyrant of the Ammonites, so far as to serve him ; but, when he required the loss of their right eyes, as a condition of their peace, they will rather hazard their lives in an unequal war; 1 Sam. xi. 1-3. as if servitude and death were a less mischief, than one eye's loss.
How much more of both ! for, though one eye be but testis singularis; yet the evidence of that is as true as that of both; yea, in some cases more: for, when we would take a perfect aim, we shut one eye, as rather a hindrance to an accurate information. Yet, for ordinary use, so do we esteem each of these lights, that there is no wise man but would rather lose a limb than an eye.
Although I could tell thee of a certain man, not less religious than witty, who, when his friends bewailed the loss of one of his eyes, asked them, whether they wept for the eye which he had lost, or the eye which remained. “Weep rather,” said he, “ for the enemy which stays behind, than for the enemy that is gone*
Lo, this man looked upon his eyes, with eyes different from other men's : he saw them as enemies, which others see as officious servants, as good friends, as dear favourites. Indeed, they
* Brom. V. Sensus.