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Matth. v. 5.
Сн А Р.
EN might live quiet and easy enough, if they
would be careful not to give themselves Trouble, and forbear meddling with what other People do and say, in which they are no way concerned. But how.should he be easy, who makes other Men's Cares his own? Who industriously seeks Disquiet, and when he might rest in Peace within Doors, goes abroad to invite and fetch Disturbance home to his House; who takes such Pains, and spends fo much Time to enquire into the Affairs of Neighbours and Strangers altogether foreign to him ; and seldom or never descends into his own Breast, that he may examine and understand
himself. Blessed are the Meek, says the Ifa. xxix. 19.
Scripture, for they shall inherit the Earth
peaceably, and increase their Joy in the Lord. Whence is it, think you, that some Holy Persons can so perfectly abstract themselves from the Concerns of this World, and find such Satisfaction in their Divine Retirements, and solitary Contemplations? From hence, no doubt; that they have made it their Business to mortify all earthly and sensual Affections, and so have devoted themselves entirely to God, and are at liberty to attend upon Him without Distraction. But we find the Cafe much otherwise with Us ; because our Passions interrupt our Piety, and the Transitory Things of this World continue tenderly to affect
We seldom gain an entire Conquest over any one ill Habit ; nor are we zealous to make every Day we live a Step to higher Degrees of Virtue. This is the Reason why we are so cold and insensible, or at best but lukewarm and indifferent, in the Exercises of Piety and Private Meditation,
Were we but, as we ought to be, dead to the World and our own Lufts, disentangled from those Chains and Snares within, that hamper and keep our Souls down to Matter and Sense; then should we also relish Acts of Devotion, and be ravished with marvellous Joy, when our Thoughts are fixed on God and Heaven. The only, or the greatest Bar to thefe Spiritual Delights, proceeds from Passions unsubdued ; and from our own Sloth, which cares not to encounter Difficulties, nor aspires to the Perfection of the Saints. Hence is that Tameness and Dejection of Spirit, so visible, so scandalous, when any little Miffortune comes across us : Hence our vain Confidence, and anxious Care, which seeks and depends upon Human Helps and Remedies; and neglects God, our only fufficient Refuge and Deliverer.
Would we bụt quit our felves like Men, and resolutely stand our Ground, we should not fail of Succours from above. God is always ready to strengthen those who strive lawfully, and place their Hope in the Asistance of his heavenly Grace: He means our very Hardships and Dangers for our Good; and engages us in new Conflicts and Temptations, that he may make our Victories more glorious, and qualify us for a brighter Crown. If we content ourselves with the Observance of the outward Duties only, and fuppose this is the utmost Perfection necessary for us, we bring Religion into a very narrow Compass, and may quickly get to the End of it. But alas! the main of our Business lies within: The Axe must be laid to the Root of the Tree, and our Sensual Appetites quite cut down, before we can attain to true Pleasure in Holiness, and a Peaceful Serenity of Mind.
Would we but impofe upon ourselves the Task of mortifying a fresh Lust, and conquering a vicious Habit every Year; even thus in a little time we might attain to some Perfection. But alas! we often take the
direct contrary Course ; and are generally more wary, more devout, more zealons to do well, and to avoid Evil, when we first enter upon a Religious Life, than after we have spent some time in it. The Fervor of our Affection, which ought in Reason to grow every Day stronger and brighter, cools and goes out again ; and we reckon it a great Matter, if our Zeal can be kept up to the fame Warmth, which we felt at its first kindling. We are too tender of our Eafe, and loth to put ourfelves upon the stretch : Whereas, would we but use a little Severity, and fubmit to some Violence at first, that Trouble would quickly wear off; and all our Progress in Virtue would prove, nos easy and tolerable only, but even a Delight, and won derful Satisfaction to us.
'Tis hard; I own, to part with our old Friends, and to unlearn Habits to which we have been long accuftomed. “And harder yet it is, to enter into a fora mal War with our own Inclinations, and obftinately to deny what we eagerly desire. But if we do noc, conquer fmaller Dificulties, what will become of us, when assaulted by greater? If we do not resist our natural Propensions at first, before Inclination is strengthened by Cuftom, the Enemy will gather Strength. Every Day's Practice is a fresh reinforce-, ment; and the longer the Delay, the greater will be the Difficulty. think of this in time, and consider the happy Fffects of an early and serious Piety: What, Peace, what Triumphs to your felves;, what Joy to others, to God and Christ, to Angels and Good Men, you will certainly procure, by behaving your selves gallantly in this Spiritual Warfare. This sure will balance all the Hardships of Virtue; reproach your Cowardice and Sloth, provoke and infame your Diligence and Courage ; and make you zealous, resolute, impatient to grow in Grace, and advance every Day in Spiritual Perfection.
David. Nor is it David's Cafe afone ; for many Men have reason to blefs Psal. cxix. 71. that Providence, which fends Crosses and Calamities upon them. These bring a Man's Thoughts home, put him upon Reflection, and help him to understand himself and his Condition. They shew him, that he is in a State of Exile and Pilgrimage, and forbid him to set up his Hope and Reft, in a strange Country, where he is no better than a Sojourner.
Nor is it thus with those Sufferings alone, which the immediate Hand of Heaven inflicts; but even those whereof Men are the Instruments. The Injuries and contumelious Usage, the Calumnies and Cenfures of them who speak and think Ill of us, bring their Profit with them too ; even when most wrongful, most undeferved. For thefe oftentimes are an occafion of rectifying our Measures, as bringing us to a juster and more modest Opinion of our selves. They cure our Ambition and Vain-glory, and convince us how vain a thing it is, to thirst after Reputation and the Praise of Men, when even Innocence and Goodness cannot protect us from Slander and Reproaches. They teach us to set a due Value upon the Testimony of our own Consciences, and the righteous Approbation of God, the Searcher of Hearts; when That, which he will not fail to commend and reward, cannot escape the Contempt and Condemnation of the World, nor prevail for lo much as fair Quarter, from our mistaken and injurious Brethren.
It is therefore both our Duty and our Wisdom, so entirely to place our Happiness and Expectations in
God alone; that we shall not need to be extremely sollicitous for many outward Comforts, or feel our selves deftitute, or much dejected, when any of these happen to fail or forsake us. For when a well-difpofed Man is oppressed with Sufferings and Temptations, or perplexed with evil Thoughts, he then feels experimentally, how necessary the Divine Asistance is, and how little he is able to do or endure without it : Then he is touched with inward Remorse, then does he groan in secret, and, in the anguish of his Heart, pour out his Requests for Relief and Deliverance: Then even Life it self becomes a Burthen, and Death desirable ; as that which will translate him from this Valley of Tears and Corruption, to a Life of Immor. tality with his God and Redeemer. In a word, Such Circumstances as these are more effectual than ten thousand Arguments, to convince him, by his own sensible Experience, that perfect Security, and entire Satisfaction are not so much as consistent with the Condition of Man in this present World ; and therefore we must be content to wait another and Future State, which alone deserves our Affections, because it alone can make us truly and compleatly happy.
CHA P. XIII.
long continue in this World, we must not
flatter our selves with an Imagination so vain, as that of being exempted from Tribulations and Trials. Job vii. 1.
These are so inseparable from MortaSee lxx. E lity, that Job calls the Life of ManaWar. vulg. fare, or Place of Exercise. It highly concerns every one of us upon this account, to take great