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Boast not of Riches, because they are in your present Posselton ; nor of Friends, because they have Power and Interest; but if you will glory, glory in God, who is able to give all Things, and willing to give that which is better than all, even Himself. And why should the Strength aad Beauty of your Person puff you up with Pride, when it is in the Power of a very little Sickness, to bring upon you extreme Weakness, and odious Deformity? If you be inclin'd to value your Wit and Address above due measure, remember from what Hand these come, and do not provoke the Giver, by abusing the Gift.
Fancy not your self better than your Neighbours, for fear that God, who knows what is in every Man, think the worse of you upon that Account. Nay, value not your self even for what you have done well, for God judgeth not as Man judgeth; and what we often are highly satisfied with, he sometimes thinks not fit so much as to approve. If you be conscious of any thing good in your self, think that the same or better Qualities may likewise be found in others : For while you allow Their Excellencies, it will be no difficult matter to preserve a modest Opinion of your own.
There can come no harm of supposing every other Man better than your self; but the supposing any Man worse than yourself
, may be attended with very ill Consequences. The Meek, says the Scripture, is refreshed in the mul- Psal. xxxvii. titude of Peace; but the Proud in Spirit Isa. lvii. is like a troubled Sea, perpetually tost and driven by the fierce Commotions of Anger, and Emulation and Envy, and Disdain, which never suffer hiin to be easy and composed.
CH A P.
Against too general an Acquaintance, and incon
venient Freedoms in Conversation.
Pen not thine Heart to every Man, but make
close thy Affairs to. Frequent not the
Men and Strangers ; Flatter not the Rich, neither affect to be seen in the Presence of great Men: But associate thy felf with the Devout, the Virtuous, the Humble; and contrive that thy Discourse be profitable. Desire not the intimate Acquaintance of Women ; but, instead of thy Conversation, let them have thy Prayers; and recommend the Preservation and the Reward of their Virtue to God. Converse as much as may be with God, with his holy Angels, with thy own Conscience; and complain not for want of Company, nor think it an Unhappiness to have but few Acquaintance, when thou hast so good Company as this always at hand.
Our Charity indeed should be universal, and extend to all Mankind; but it is by no means convenient, our Friendships and Familiarities should do so too. We often find, that a Person altogether unknown to us, comes recommended by a good Character, which makes us passionately fond of his Acquaintance; and yet this very Man, when better known, loses the great Opinion we conceived of him before, and grows palled and Aat upon our Hands. And this we may be surė is no less likely to prove our own Case: For the Persons, with whom we hope to ingratiate our selves by a freer Acquaintance, frequently discover fome ill quality in us, which makes us less acceptable. And therefore, in Prudence and Tenderness to our selves and others both, we should be sparing in our Intima
cies; because it so very often happens, that the more perfectly Men are understood, the less they are esteemed.
CHA P. IX.
Obedience and a State of Subječtion.
T is a very valuable Advantage to live under the
Direction of a Superior ; and, whatever the Generality of Men think of the Matter, more difficult and hazardous to Command than to Obey. Many submit more out of Necessity, than out of any Principle of Duty or Choice; and, to such as these, this is a State of continual Torment. All they do is against the Grain, attended with constant Murmurings and Complaints; the Life of Slaves and Brutes, and not of Men, who should act with a Spirit of Freedom. And this Native Liberty no Inferior attains to, till he have learnt to obey heartily, for God's, and Conscience sake. Whatever Post you form an Idea of, none will give you Quiet and Inward Content, equal with that of a State of Subjection: Many have fed themselves with fond Imaginations, how happy they should be, if they could change their Condition for a higher ; but few, if any, who have actually made the Experiment, have found themselves at all the happier or easier for it.
'Tis true indeed, every Man's own Judgment is the proper
Rule and Measure of his Actions; and hence it comes to pass, that we are all best affected to them who are of the same Opinions with our selves. But 'tis as true, that if God rule in our Hearts, we shall not think much to recede from our own Sense in some Cases, when Peace and the Publick Good may be pro
moted by such Concessions. For who is so absolutely and compleatly Wise, that nothing escapes his Knowledge? If then our Knowledge be but partial and imperfect, 'tis but reasonable we should not abound too much in our own Sense, but allow a fair Hearing at least to those who differ from us. And in such Cases a Man gains a great Point, when he knows himself in the right, and yet in Tenderness and Charity, can comply with the Infirmities or Mistakes of others, rather than offend God, by being too tenacious of his own better Judgment.
I have frequently been told, That it is much safer to take Advice, than to give it. For a Man may
have considered and determined well; and yet there may be fome Cases, which may make it reafonable to depart from that determination, and give our selves up to be determined by other Persons. And when these Cases happen, To refuse such Compliances, manifestly betrays our own Self-Conceit, and is not Constancy but Obstinacy of Spirit.
CH A P. X.
Ecline Crowds and Company as much as corve
niently you may. For frequent Discourse, even of News or indifferent Things, which happens upon such Occasions, is sometimes an Obstruction to Virtue, when least intended or suspected fo to be. The World and its Vanities easily take hold of us, and our Minds are ensnared and captivated, before we are aware. How often have I found Reason to wish, that I had not been in Company, or that I had said nothing, when I was there? If we examine, how it comes to pafs,
that Mutual Conversation gives so great Delight, notwithstanding we so seldom enjoy that pleasure with perfect innocence; the true Account, I think is this, That we find our felves diverted by Discourse, and unbend our Thoughts from severer Studies : That what we desire and are most fond of, or what we have the greatest Aversion to, lies uppermost in our Minds S; and therefore we propose some Ease in discharging our felves upon these Subjects.
But how very seldom do we find that Ease we propose by doing fo? For this outward Consolation mightily takes off from that inward and Spiritual Satisfaction, in which true Happiness consists. Therefore it is our Duty to Watch and Pray, and to fill up the empty Spaces of Life, with these holy and retired Exercises. And if at any time the Refreshments of Company be chosen, and convenient; a strict Guard Thould be set upon our Tongues, that they utter nothing amiss; but improve these very Diversions to the Edification of our selves, and them that hear us. Impertinent and lavish Talking is in it self a very vicious Habit, and a wretched Hindrance to our Spiritual Proficiency. And these two Considerations ought to make us extremely cautious in our Conversation. But it is the Privilege of Virtuous and Religious Discourse, that Piety and Goodness are wonderfully promoted by such Conferences. And then especially, when Perfons of the like Heavenly Spirit and Temper frequent one another's Company, with a Design of improving