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C# A P. XVII.
A Reclufe Life.
THE Man who desires to maintain Peace and a
good Understanding with others, must learn, in order to it, in many Cases to deny and subdue himself. If then you would keep your Ground, or advance forward in Piety and Virtue, poffefs your self entirely with the Notion of your being no better than a Stranger and Pilgrim only here upon Earth. As such, be content to forego the Enjoyments and Esteem of the World, and to be accounted a Fool for Christ's fake. For till this be done, You are not duly prepared to retire, and enter into a Course of Life wholly devoted to God and Religion.
The peculiar Habit, and Tonsure, and other Formalities, by which Monasticksaredistinguish'd from common Men, add nothing to their Sanctity, nor contribute in the least to render them what they pretend to be. This can only be done by a Temper, as different from the rest of the World, as their Way of Living ; An entire Change of Manners, and an effectual mortification of their Paffions and Desires. He that retreats out of any other Design, but the Service and Honour of God, and the Salvation of his Soul, will be so far from avoiding Misery and Trouble, that he will involve himself in new and greater Troubles, and become more exquisitely wretched than the Affairs of the World could make him. No body can continue easy in his own Mind; who does not endeavour to become least of all, and Servant of all.
Remember then that you come to Obey, and not to Govern: The State of Life to which you are called, is a State of Labour and Hardship, and much Suffering; not of Leisure, and Eafe, and Diverfion. You do not fo properly forsake, as change your Business. For this fort of Life is such a Trial of Men, as the Fire is of Gold: And none make good their Poft in it, but such as are content to humble themfelves, and heartily and chearfully submit to any Thing, for God's fake.
Of the Examples of Holy Men in former Ages.
couragement in Christian Virtues, to keep in View those lively Patterns, which those holy Fathers have set us, whose Zeal and exalted Piety shone clear in former Generations. For, by observing the Brightness of their Lustre, we shall at the same time discern the Faintness and Dimness of our own light, and blushto find the present Age so much eclipsed by the unea qual Comparison. Alas! How poor and mean are our Attainments when put into the Balance with Theirs ! Those excellent good Persons, those affectionate Friends and Followers of Christ, served God instantly, in Hunger and Thirft, in Cold and Nakednefs, in Labour and Weariness, 'in Watchings and Fastings, in Prayers and holy Meditations, in many Persecutionis and sharp Reproaches.
Blessed God! How many, how grievous Miseries and Hardships did the Apostles and Martyrs, the Confef=? fors and Virgins endure heretofore! And not They only, but all those brave and generous Souls in the Pria mitive and purer State of the Church, who made iti the Study of their whole Lives to tread in the Steps of their meek and suffering Saviour ! These heavenlyminded Persons even hated their own Lives unto the Death, that they might preserve them unto Life etern
nal. How very auftere, how entirely mortified, was the Conversation of the Ancient Hermits in the Defarts? How long, how sharp the Temptations they underwent? How fierce and frequent their Conflicts with the Enemy of Souls? How constant and fervent their Prayers ? How rigorous their Abstinence, how unblemished their Chastity ? How eager their Desires, how indefatigable their Endeavours after higher degrees of Perfection? How vigorous and gallant the War they waged against their Vices and rebellious Appetites? How pure and uncorrupt all their Intentions, how free from any Mixture of Worldly Prospects, and sincerely fixed upon God and his Glory? The whole Day they employed in hard Labour, the whole Night in Devotion. From which their very Labours did not hinder them ; for even these were consecrated too, by the frequent intermingling of Prayers and holy Ejaculations.
Their great Care, in a word, was, That no Portion of the Time God gave them in the Body, might be spent unprofitably: And what they laboured to make an Improvement, their Zeal made a Delight. For Time in their Efteem was much too swift; and their Devotions so far from creating Weariness, that every Hour seem'd short, and snatch'd away those joys too hastily, which they felt in conversing with hini whom their Soul loved. Their Thoughts were so intent, their Raptures so entertaining, so ravishingly sweet, that they became almost all Spirit, and quite forgot their Bodies, and the Care necessary for supporting them in Life. Riches, and Honours, and Greatness, and Friends, and Relations were now no longer their Concern. How should they? when even a part of their own Persons ceased to be fo; and providing those things, without which Mortals cannot fubfiit, was now grown a Trouble, and to Persons fo abItracted from Flesh and Sense, a painful and unfeaTonable Interruption of better and much more important Business.
These Men, 'tis 'true, had no earthly Poffeffions, but they who were Poor in that respect, were exceeding Wealthy in another, rich in the Favour of God, and abounding in excellent Virtues. What they wanted of outward Comforts, was much better supplied by the plentiful Communications of Divine Graces, the inward Refreshments and unspeakable Consolations of the Blessed Spirit. These Strangers to the World were intima:ely acquainted with its Maker and Lord; and, how meanly foever they might think of themselves, or how despicable they might appear in the Eyes of others, yet in the sight of God they were particularly dear, highly honourable, and precious. They persevered in their Humility, and sincere Obedience, in their Courage and Constancy, their Meekness, and Patience, and great Charity. And by this continuance in well-doing, and contented suffering, they made daily Advances in spiritual Perfection, and attained to a wonderful high pitch of Grace and Favour with God. By this exenplary Piety they are become proper Patterns for the Imitation of all devout Men in afterAges: And, though but a few in Number, ought to encourage and prevail upon us more powerfully to rival their uncommon Zeal, than the numerous Examples of negligent and lukewarm Christians should do, to sacken, and suffer our Piety to grow cold.
To these we may add the ardent Devotion of those Holy Men, who retired from the World into Cloisters and Cells, which, at their first Institution, were Places of great Piety and severe Virtue. Their Prayers were frequent and devout, their Emulation in spiritual Perf-ctions noble, their Discipline strict and well ordered : their Obedience to superiors modest and respectful. Even those Footsteps of their Piety still remaining, from which their Succeffors have since so scandalousy degenerated, are sufficient to inform us, that the first Combatants in this War against the World and the
Flesh, were Men of Gallantry, and just Renown. But now alas ! how wretched a pass are we come to, when it is counted a mighty Matter, if here and there one keep himself from transgressing the Rules of his Order, and patiently submit to those Exercises, which his Profession imposes upon him?
Oh what a miserable Age of cold Indifference and wicked Carelesness are we fallen into? How are the holy Flames of Primitive Zeal extinguished ! And instead of being a Delight, how greata Weariness, how insupportable a Burthen, are Religious Duties and Exercises become to us! How wretched is that Stupidity, how profound that Sleep, which now oppressesthe Spirit of Mankind, when so many bright Examples cannot prevail with us to shake off our Sloth and Slumber, nor awaken our Souls into any tolerable Concern for banish'd Piety and neglected Virtue !
Сн А р.
The Exercise of a truly Religious Perfon.
HELife of a Christian, who hath delicated him
self to the Service of God, should abound with eminent Virtues of all kinds, that he may be really the fame Person, which he is by outward Appearance and Profession. Indeed he ought not only to be the fame, but much more, in his inward Disposition of Soul; because he professes to serve a God, who sees the inward Parts, a Searcher of the Heart and Reins, a God and Father of Spirits: And therefore, since we are alwıys in his Sight, we should be exceeding careful to avoid all Impurity, all that may give Offence to him, whose Eyes cannot behold Iniquity. We should in a word, so far as mortal and frail Nature can, imitate the BlerD 2