« AnteriorContinua »
hence, of enemies we become, more than friends, sons; and, as sons, may both expect and challenge, not only careful provision and safe protection on earth, but an everlasting patrimony above. This field is so spacious, that it were easy for a man to lose himself in it: and if I should spend all my pilgrimage in this walk, my time would sooner end than my way; wherein I would have measured more paces, were it not, that our scope is not so much to magnify the benefit of our peace, as to seek how to obtain it.
Behold now, after we have sought heaven and earth, where only the wearied dove may find an olive of peace. The apprehending of this all-sufficient satisfaction, makes it ours : upon our satisfaction, we have remission; upon remissioni, follows reconciliation; upon our reconciliation, peace. When, therefore, thy conscience, like a stern sergeant, shall catch thee by the throat, and arrest thee upon God's debt, let thy only plea be, that thou hast already paid it: bring forth that bloody acquittance, sealed to thee from heaven upon thy true faith; straightway, thou shalt see the fierce and terrible look of thy conscience changed into friendly smiles; and that rough and violent hand, that was ready to drag thee to prison, shall now lovingly embrace thee, and fight for thee against all the wrongful attempts of any spiritual adversary. O heavenly peace, and, more than peace, friendship; whereby alone we are leagued with ourselves, and God with us; which whoever wants, shall find a sad remembrancer in the midst of his dissembled jollity, and, after all vain strifes, shall fall into many secret dumps, from which his guilty heart shall deny to be cheered, though all the world were his minstrel! O pleasure worthy to be pitied, and laughter worthy of tears, that is without this!
Go then, foolish man; and, when thou feelest any check of thy sin, seek after thy jocundest companions; deceive the time and thyself with merry purposes, with busy games; feast away thy cares; bury them and thyself in wine and sleep: after all these frivolous deferrings, it will return upon thee when thou wakest, perhaps ere thou wakest ; nor will be repelled, till it have shewed thee thy hell ; nor, when it hath shewed thee, will yet be repelled. So the stricken deer, having received a deadly arrow, whose shaft shaken out hath left the head behind it, runs from one thicket to another; not able to change his pain with his places, but finding his wounds still the worse with continuance. Ah fool, thy soul festereth within ; and is affected so much more dangerously, by how much less it appeareth. Thou mayest while thyself with variety : thou canst not ease thee. Sin owes thee a spite, and will pay it thee; perhaps, when thou art in worse case to sustain it. This Hitting doth but provide for a further violence at last. I have seen a little stream of no noise, which, upon his stoppage, hath swelled up; and, with a loud gushing, hath borne over the heap of turfs wherewith it was resisted. Thy death-bed shall smart for these wilful adjournings of repentance: whereon how many have we heard raving of their old neglected sins, and fearfully despairing when they have had most need of comfort! In sum, there is no way but this : thy conscience must have either satisfaction or torment. Discharge thy sin betimes, and be at peace. He never breaks his sleep for debt, that pays when he takes up.
SECT. VII. Solicitation of sin remedied. The ordering of affections. Neither can it suffice for peace, to have crossed the old scroll of our sins, if we prevent not the future: yea, the present very im.portunity of temptation breeds unquietness. Sin, where it hath got a haunt, looketh for more; as humours, that fall towards their old issue : and, if it be not strongly repelled, doth near as much vex us with soliciting, as with yielding. Let others envy their happiness, I shall never think their life so much as quiet, whose doors are continually beaten, and their morning sleep broken with early clients; whose entries are daily thronged with suitors, pressing near for the next audience : much less, that, through their remiss answers, are daily haunted with traitors or other instruments of villainy, offering their mischievous service, and inciting them to some pestilent enterprise. Such are temptations to the soul: whereof it cannot be rid, so long as it holds them in any hope of entertainment; and so long they will hope to prevail, while we give them but a cold and timorous denial. Suitors are drawn on with an easy repulse; counting that as half granted, which is but faintly gainsaid. Peremptory answers can only put sin out of heart, for any second attempts : it is ever impudent, when it meets not with a bold heart; hoping to prevail by wearying us, and wearying us by entreaties. Let all suggestions, therefore, find thee resolute: so shall thy soul find itself at rest; for, as the Devil, so sin his natural brood, flies away with resistance.
To which purpose, all our heady and disordered Affections, which are the secret factors of sin and Satan, must be restrained, by a strong and yet temperate command of reason and religion : these, if they find the reins loose in their necks, like to the wild horses of that chaste hunter in the tragedy, carry us over hills and rocks; and never leave us, till we be dismembered, and they breathless : but, contrarily, if they be pulled in with the sudden violence of a strait hand, they fall to plunging and careering; and never leave, till their saddle be empty, and even then dangerously strike at their prostrate rider. If there be any exercise of Christian wisdom, it is in the managing of these unruly affections; which are not more necessary in their best use, than pernicious in their misgovernance. Reason hath always been busy, in undertaking this so necessary a moderation : wherein, although she have prevailed with some of colder temper; yet those, which have been of more stubborn metal, like unto grown scholars, which scorn the fe. rule that ruled their minority, have still despised her weak endeavours. Only Christianity hath this power; which, with our second birth, gives us a new nature: so that now, if excess of passions be natural to us as men, the order of them is natural to us as Christians. Reason bids the angry man say over his alphabet, ere he give his answer; hoping, by this intermission of time, to gain the mitigation of his rage: he was never thoroughly angry, that can endure the recital of so many idle letters. Christianity gives not rules, but power, to avoid this short madness. It was a wise speech, that is reported of our best and last Cardinal, I hope, that this Island either did or shall see; who, when a skilful astrologer, upon the calculation of his nativity, had foretold him some specialties concerning his future estate, answered, “ Such perhaps I was born : but, since that time, I have been born again; and my second nativity hath crossed my first.” The power of nature is a good plea for those, that acknowledge nothing above nature: but, for a Christian to excuse his intemperateness, by his natural inclination, and to say, “ I am born choleric, sullen, amorous," is an apology worse than the fault. Wherefore serves religion, but to subdue or govern nature? We are so much Christians, as we can rule ourselves : the rest is but form and speculation. Yea, the very thought of our profession is so powerful, ihat, like unto that precious stone, being cast into this sea, it assuageth those inward tempests, that were raised by the affections. The unregenerate mind 'is not capable of this power; and, therefore, through the continual mutinies of his passions, cannot but be subject to perpetual unquietness. There is neither remedy, nor hope, in this estate. But the Christian soul, that hath inured itself to the awe of God and the exercises of true mortification, by the only looking up at his holy profession, cureth the burning venom of these fiery serpents that within him. Hast thou nothing, but nature ? Resolve to look for no peace. God is not prodigal, to cast away his best blessings on so unworthy subjects. Art thou a Christian? do but remember thou art so; and then, if thou darest, if thou canst, yield to the excess of passions.
SECT. VIII. The second main enemy to Peace, Crosses. Hitherto, the most inward and dangerous enemy of our peace : which if we have once mastered, the other field shall be fought and won with less blood. Crosses disquiet us, either in their present feeling, or their expectation : both of them, when they meet with weak minds, so extremely distempering them, that the patient, for the time, is not himself. How many have we known, which, through a lingering disease, weary of their pain, weary of their lives, have made their own hands their executioners ! How many, meeting with a headstrong grief, which they could not manage, have, by the violence of it, been carried quite from their wits ! How many millions, what for incurable maladies, what for losses, what for defamations, what for sad accidents to their children, rub out their lives in perpetual discontentment; therefore living, because they cannot yet die, not for that they like to live! It there could be any human receipt prescribed to avoid evils, it would be purchased it a high rate : but, both it is impossible, that earth should redress that which is sent from heaven ; and, if it could be done, even the want of miseries would prove miserable: for the mind, cloved with continual felicity, would grow a burden to itself, loathing that, at last, which intermission would have made pleasant. Give a free horse the full reins, and he will soon tire. Summer is the sweetest season by all consents, wherein the earth is both most rich with increase, and most gorgeous for ornament; yet, not received with interchanges of cold frosts and piercing winds, who could live? Summer would be no summer, if winter did not both lead it in, and follow it. We may not, therefore, either hope or strive, to escape all crosses ; some, we may : what thou canst, fly from; what thou canst not, allay and mitigate. In crosses, universally, let this be thy rule: Make thyself none; escape some; bear the rest; sweeten all.
if it were
Of crosses that arise from conceit. APPREHENSION gives life to crosses : and, if some be simply, most are as they are taken. I have seen many, which when God hath meant them no hurt, have framed themselves crosses out of imagination ; and have found that insupportable for weight, which in truth never was, neither had ever any but a fancied being : others again, laughing out heavy afflictions, for which they were bemoaned of the beholders. One receives a deadly wound; and looks not so much as pale at the smart: another hears of many losses; and, like Zeno, after news of his shipwreck, as altogether passionless, goes to his rest, not breaking an hour's sleep for that, which would break the heart of some others. Greenham, that Saint of ours, whom it cannot disparage that he was reserved for our so loose an age, can lie spread quietly upon the form, looking for the Chirurgeon's knife; binding himself as fast with a resolved patience, as others with strongest cords; abiding his flesh carved, and his bowels rifled, and not stirring more than if he felt not, while others tremble to expect, and shrink to feel but the pricking of a vein. There can be no remedy for imaginary crosses, but wisdom; which shall teach us to esteem of all events as they are : like a true glass representing all things to our minds in their due proportion; so as crosses may not seem that are not, nor little and gentle ones seem great and intolerable. Give thy body hellebore, thy mind good counsel, thine ear to thy friend; and these fantastical evils shall vanish away, like themselves.
Of true and real crosses. It were idle advice, to bid men avoid evils. Nature hath, by a secret instinct, taught brute creatures so much, whether wit or sagacity: and our self-love, making the best advantage of reason, will easily make us so wise and careful. It is more worth our labour, since our life is so open to calamities, and nature to impatience, to teach men to bear what evils they cannot avoid; and how, by a well-disposedness of mind, we may correct the iniquity of all hard events. Wherein it is hardly credible, how much good art and precepts of resolution may avail us. I have seen one man, by the help of a little engine, lift up that weight alone, which forty helping hands, by their clear strength, might have endeavoured in vain. We live here in an ocean of troubles, wherein we can see no firm land; one wave falling upon another, ere the former have wrought all bis spite. Mischiefs strive for places; as if they feared to lose their room, if they hasted not. So many good things as we have, so many evils arise from their privation : besides no fewer real and positive evils, that afflict us. To prescribe and apply receipts to every particular cross, were to write a Salmeron-like Commentary upon Petrarch's Remedies; and I doubt whether so, the work would be perfect: a life would be too little to write it, and but enough to read it.
SECT. XI. The first remedy of crosses, before they come. The same medicines cannot help all diseases of the body ; of the soul, they may. We see fencers give their scholars the same common rules of position, of warding and wielding their weapon for offence, for defence, against all comers : such universal precepts there are for crosses.
In the first whereof, I would prescribe Expectation, that either killeth or abateth evils. For crosses, after the nature of the cockatrice, die, if they be foreseen ; whether this providence makes us more strong to resist, or by some secret power makes them more unable to assault us. It is not credible, what a fore-resolved mind can do, can suffer. Could our English Milo, of whom Spain yet speaketh since their last peace, have overthrown that furious beast, made now more violent through the rage of his baiting, if he had not settled himself in his station, and expected ? The frighted multitude ran away from that over-earnest sport, which begun in pleasure, ended in terror. If he had turned his back with the rest, where had been his safety, where his glory and reward ? Now he stood still, expected, overcame, by one fact he at once preserved, honoured, enriched himself
. Evils will come never the sooner, for that thou lookest for them ; they will come the easier : it is a labour well lost, if they come not; and well bestowed, if they do
We are sure the worst may come; why should we be secure that it will not ? Suddenness finds weak minds secure, makes them miserable, leaves them desperate. The best way therefore is, to make things present, in conceit, before they come; that they may be half past in their violence, when they do come: even as with wooden wasters, we learn to play at the sharp. As, therefore, good soldiers exercise themselves long at the pale; and there use