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diet, such business, such company, as naturally do SERM. kindle or ferment that humour: if the malady
XLV. grow from custom, using ourselves to bear patiently harsh words, unkind dealings, cross accidents; if our opinion dispose us thereto, reasoning ourselves into moderate conceits about ourselves, considering the reasons that may acquit or excuse others to us upon occasion of offence: using all, or some of these means, or the like, such as the observation of our heart shall discover to us to be most proper and suitable to the nature or to the cause of this distemper infesting us, we shall wholly, or in good part, rid ourselves from it. Again, (to adjoin another example, the matter seeming to deserve our heed,) suppose we experience ourselves inclining to covetousness, eager in getting, solicitous in keeping, unwilling to part with our goods upon reasonable occasion, (for the maintenance of our convenient respect in the world, or for relieving the needs of our brethren, or for serving the public, or for promoting the interests of piety and virtue ;) let us then look, and see whether this ariseth from a natural straitness, hardness, suspiciousness, or diffidence of heart, (some such dispositions may be observed in men,) or from being, by our education, or manner of life, inured to such a love of getting, or of sparing, or of tenacity; or whether it springs from conceits about the worth or the necessity of wealth, (that, without being furnished with heaps of treasure, we shall come into danger of want or disgrace; we shall not be able to maintain our life, or uphold our credit ; we shall not enjoy any thing, or be any bodies among men ;) let us, I say, by examining our hearts, find out from which of these springs this sordid dis
SERM. position floweth, and accordingly strive to correct XLV. it; either praying to Almighty God, that he would
enlarge and supple our heart, if it be natural to us; or addicting ourselves upon reasonable occasion to liberality and free expense, if custom hath therein prevailed upon us; or if vain surmises have seduced us, rectifying our judgments; as by other good discourses, proper against that brutish vice, so especially by considering that God is most good and bountiful, and tender of our being overwhelmed with need; that he continually watcheth over us, so that he cannot but see, and will regard what we want; and that he faithfully hath promised, if we endeavour to please him, and use a moderate diligence in honest ways to maintain ourselves, that he will yield his blessing, and never will leave us destitute. So in all cases we may proceed discreetly in the cure of our spiritual, and in withstanding the temptations to sin, that assault us, if we do but search into our hearts, and learn thence, whence they flow, and by what they are nourished.
10. This practice further doth particularly serve to regulate our devotions, and performances more immediately spiritual, by shewing us what we need to pray for, what we are obliged to give thanks for, what it becomes us to confess and deprecate; for want thereof we shall be apt not only to neglect, but indecently to confound, yea miserably to pervert these duties; to confound them by praying for what is already given us, is put into our hand, or lies within our reach ; for which therefore we are not to pray, but to render thanks; also by giving thanks formally for that which perhaps we are far from possessing, and do most want; so, I say, we shall be
apt to confound and misplace, to render vain and SERM. chimerical in a sort our spiritual addresses, as want
XLV. ing due ground and object; yea to pervert them by asking for things really prejudicial and hurtful to us, (in the circumstances we stand,) and thanking God Psal
. lxxiii. for what in anger and judgment he dispenseth to us, Heb. xii. (so indeed are many appearing goods, grateful to present sense,) as also deprecating things most beneficial and useful, and healthful to our souls; neglecting to return thanks for what God disposeth in mercy, (so are many things at present bitter and unsavoury to our carnal appetite and fancy ;) thus from ignorance of ourselves, and what we truly need, are we apt to pervert our devotions, not only defeating ourselves of the advantages they might yield us, but (if God be not more gracious than to hearken to us, and to grant our wishese) bringing lamentable mischief on ourselves. Many examples of these confusions and perverse misapplications of devotion both scripture affords, and experience will suggest, if we observe them. You know the com- Luke xviii. parison in the Gospel between the devotions of the Pharisee and the Publican, with the different acceptance they found : the one was prompt enough to give thanks for the graces he had received, and the advantages he conceived that he had in his qualities, and in his performances above others; but not having duly studied himself, did not perceive that he was rather bound to ask pardon for the pride of his heart, and the vanity that adhered to his performances, which rendered his thanksgiving very improper and unseasonable. The other being conscious
e Evertêre domos totas optantibus ipsis Dii faciles, &c.
Juv. Sat. 10.
Matt. xx. 21.
SERM. of his demerits and wants, with a manner suitable XLV. to his condition, in words few, but full and fit, did
confess his unworthiness, (which to do did best beseem him,) and implored mercy, (which was the thing he chiefly needed ;) so was his discreet prayer
better accepted, than the other's impertinent thanksLuke xviii. giving: I tell you, saith our Saviour, this man went
down to his house justified rather than the other. The two sons of Zebedee, conceiting that our Lord would shortly become a great prince, and affecting to become favourites then, did confidently sue for the next place of dignity about him; our Lord repressed their fond ambition by downright telling them first, that they knew not what they asked: then by demandíng of them whether they were able to undergo the trials they should meet with; implying what they should rather have requested, that they more needed humility and patience, than pomp and pleasure: and it was the same two persons,
whose intemperate zeal he otherwhere checked with Lukexi. 55. an oủk of date olov neúpatos, Ye know not of what spirit
ye are : and no wonder, if they, who knew not what they were, did ask they knew not what; that, being ignorant of their own hearts, they should endite absurd petitions; that in such a case they should desire things not only incongruous and inconvenient, but dangerous and destructive to themselves. For to make a right distinction of these duties; to be able discreetly and pertinently, if I may so speak, to converse with God, it is requisite to look into our hearts, and from them to take fit matter, due measure, right season of request, and of acknowledgment respectively; things commonly not being as they appear to our present sense, or to our
gross conceit, in themselves, or in their degree, good sERM. or bad; but according to the disposition of our
XLV. hearts, and the effects they work upon them. That is not good which pleaseth our sense and fancy; nor that bad which disgusts them; but that is good, which rendereth our heart wiser and better, which correcteth our inclinations, composeth our affections, informeth our judgments rightly, and purifieth our intentions; that is bad, which hath contrary effects within us. We, it is likely, should pray with greatest seriousness and earnestness for the removal of those infirmities, for ease from those afflictions ; which we see the holy apostles (being better in-Jam. i. 2. structed in things, being more acquainted with 2 Cor. xii. themselves) did rejoice, did glory in, did give thanks Gal
. vi. 14. for; as finding the wholesome operation they had 1 Pet. i. 6. upon their hearts; that by them their virtues were exercised and improved, their faith tried, their patience increased, their hope confirmed; that, to use the apostle's words, they did in the sequel return Heb. xii. the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who were exercised by them: but leaving this point, though deserving perhaps further consideration, I proceed, and say further, that,
11. The continual visitation of our inward parts doth not only yield much advantage, (as in some measure hath been shewed,) at the long-run, by influence at the spring-head upon the principles and causes of action, but doth immediately conduce to good practice, preventing and stifling in the very birth many sinful and vain practices : that so many indiscreet and impertinent, so many irregular and unsavoury, so many unjust and uncharitable speeches do issue from our mouths, it is especially because we