Imatges de pàgina

actions, which are required of him, is hindered, but not by God that requires them, and therefore by himself, or his worst enemy. But the measures of this question are these:

1. If the flesh hinders us of our duty, it is our enemy; and then our misery is not, that the flesh is weak, but that it is too strong; but, 2. when it abates the degrees of duty and stops its growth, or its passing on to action and effect, then it is weak, but not directly nor always criminal. But to speak particularly.

1. If our flesh hinders us of any thing that is a direct duty, and prevails upon the spirit to make it do an evil action, or contract an evil habit, the man is in a state of bondage and sin his flesh is the mother of corruption and an enemy to God. It is not enough to say, I desire to serve God, and cannot as I would: I would fain love God above all things in the world, but the flesh hath appetites of its own that must be observed: I pray to be forgiven as I forgive others; but flesh and blood cannot put up such an injury: for know that no infirmity, no unavoidable accident, no necessity, no poverty, no business, can hinder us from the love of God, or forgiving injuries, or being of a religious and a devout spirit: poverty and the intrigues of the world are things, that can no more hinder the spirit in these duties, than a strong enemy can hinder the sun to shine, or the clouds to drop rain. These things which God requires of us, and exacts from us with mighty penalties, these he hath made us able to perform; for he knows that we have no strength but what he gives us; and therefore, as he binds burdens upon our shoulders, so he gives us strength to bear them: and therefore, he that says he cannot forgive, says only that his lust is stronger than his religion; his flesh prevails upon his spirit. For what necessity can a man have to curse him, whom he calls enemy? or to sue him, or kill him, or do him any spite? A man may serve all his needs of nature, though he does nothing of all this; and if he be willing, what hinders him to love, to pardon, to wish well, to desire? The willing is the doing in this case; and he that says he is willing to do his duty, but he cannot, does not understand what he says. For all the duty of the inner man consists in the actions of the will, and there they are seated, and to it all the inferior faculties obey in those things which are direct

emanations and effects of will. He that desires to love God, does love him; indeed men are often cozened with pretences, and in some good mood, or warmed with a holy passion, but it signifies nothing; because they will not quit the love of God's enemies; and therefore, they do not desire what they say they do but if the will and heart be right, and not false and dissembling, this duty is or will be done infallibly.

2. If the spirit and the heart be willing, it will pass on to outward actions in all things, where it ought, or can. He that hath a charitable soul, will have a charitable hand; and will give his money to the poor, as he hath given his heart to God. For these things which are in our hand, are under the power of the will, and therefore are to be commanded by it. He that says to the naked, "Be warm and clothed," and gives him not the garment that lies by him, or money to buy one, mocks God, and the poor, and himself. "Nequam illud verbum est, Bene vult,' nisi qui bene facit," said the comedy; "It is an evil saying,' He wishes well,' unless he do well "."

3. Those things which are not in our power, that is, such things in which the flesh is inculpably weak, or naturally or politically disabled, the will does the work of the outward and of the inward man; we cannot clothe Christ's body, he needs it not, and we cannot approach so sacred and separate a presence; but if we desire to do it, it is accounted as if we had. The ignorant man cannot discourse wisely and promote the interest of souls, but he can love souls, and desire their felicity: though I cannot build hospitals and colleges, or pour great sums of money into the lap of the poor, yet if I encourage others and exhort them, if I commend and promote the work, I have done the work of a holy religion. For in these and the like cases, the outward work is not always set in our power, and therefore, without our fault, is omitted, and can be supplied by that which is in our power.

4. For that is the last caution concerning this question. No man is to be esteemed of a willing spirit, but he that endeavours to do the outward work, or to make all the supplies that he can; not only by the forwardness of his spirit, but by the compensation of some other charities, or devotion,

• Prinummus. 2. 6. 38.

or religion. "Silver and gold have I none," and therefore I can give you none: but I wish you well; how will that appear? Why thus, "Such as I have, I will give you; rise up and walk." I cannot give you God, but I can give you counsel; I cannot relieve your need, but I can relieve your sadness; I cannot cure you, but I can comfort you; I cannot take away your poverty, but I can ease your spirit; and "God accepts us" (saith the Apostle) "according to what a man hath, and not according to what he hath not." Only as our desires are great, and our spirits are willing, so we shall find ways to make supply of our want of ability and expressed liberality.

Et labor ingenium misero dedit, et sua quemque
Advigilare sibi jussit fortuna premendo.

What the poor man's need will make him do, that also the good man's charity will; it will find out ways and artificers of relief, in kind or in value; in comfort or in prayers; in doing it himself or procuring others.

Πάντα δὲ ταῦτ ̓ ἐδίδαξε πικρὴ πάντολμος ἀνάγκη.

The necessity of our fortune, and the willingness of our spirits will do all this; all that it can, and something that it cannot; "You have relieved the saints" (saith St. Paul) "according to your power, yea, and beyond your power;" only let us be careful in all instances, that we yield not to the weakness of the flesh, nor listen to its fair pretences; for the flesh can do more than it says, we can do more than we think we can; and if we do some violence to the flesh, to our affairs, and to the circumstances of our fortune, for the interest of our spirit, we shall make our flesh useful, and the spirit strong; the flesh and its weakness shall no more be an objection, but shall comply, and co-operate, and serve all the necessities of the spirit.





Cursed be he that doth the work of the Lord deceitfully.
Jer. xlviii. 10. ver. first part.

CHRIST's kingdom,-being in order to the kingdom of his Father, which shall be manifest at the day of judgment,must therefore be spiritual; because then it is, that all things must become spiritual, not only by way of eminency, but by entire constitution and perfect change of natures. Men shall be like angels, and angels shall be comprehended in the lap of spiritual and eternal felicities; the soul shall not understand by material phantasms, neither be served by the provisions of the body, but the body itself shall become spiritual, and the eye shall see intellectual objects, and the mouth shall feed upon hymns and glorifications of God; the belly shall be then made satisfied by the fulness of righteousness, and the tongue shall speak nothing but praises, and the propositions of a celestial wisdom; the motion shall be the swiftness of an angel, and it shall be clothed with white as with a garment: holiness is the sun, and righteousness is the moon in that region; our society shall be choirs of singers, and our conversation wonder; contemplation shall be our food, and love shall be the wine of elect souls.' And as to every natural appetite there is now proportioned an object, crass, material, unsatisfying, and allayed with sorrow and uneasiness so there be new capacities and equal objects; the desires shall be fruition, and the appetite shall not suppose want, but a faculty of delight, and an immeasurable complacency: the will and the understanding, love and wonder, joys every day and the same for ever: this shall be their state who shall be accounted worthy of the resurrection to this life; where the body shall be a partner, but no servant; where it shall have no work of its own, but it shall rejoice with the soul; where the soul shall rule without resistance or an enemy; and we shall be fitted to enjoy God,

who is the Lord and Father of spirits. In this world, we see it is quite contrary: we long for perishing meat, and fill our stomachs with corruption; we look after white and red, and the weaker beauties of the night; we are passionate after rings and seals, and enraged at the breaking of a crystal; we delight in the society of fools and weak persons; we laugh at sin and contrive mischiefs; and the body rebels against the soul and carries the cause against all its just pretences; and our soul itself is, above half of it, earth and stone, in its affections and distempers; our hearts are hard and inflexible to the softer whispers of mercy and compassion, having no loves for any thing but strange flesh, and heaps of money, and popular noises, for misery and folly; and therefore we are a huge way off from the kingdom of God, whose excellences, whose designs, whose ends, whose constitution, is spiritual and holy, and separate and sublime and perfect. Now between these two states of natural flesh, and heavenly spirit, that is, the powers of darkness, and the regions of light, the miseries of man, and the perfections of God; the imperfection of nature where we stand by our creation, and supervening follies, and that state of felicities, whither we are designed by the mercies of God,-there is a middle state, the kingdom of grace,' wrought for us by our Mediator, the man Christ Jesus, who came to perfect the virtue of religion, and the designs of God, and to reform our nature, and to make it possible for us to come to that spiritual state, where all felicity does dwell. The religion that Christ taught, is a spiritual religion; it designs (so far as this state can permit) to make us spiritual; that is, so as the Spirit be the prevailing ingredient. God must now be worshipped in spirit, and not only so, but with a fervent spirit ; and though God in all religions did seize upon the spirit, and even under Moses' law did, by the shadow of the ceremony, require the substantial worship, and, by cutting off the flesh, intended the circumcision of the heart; yet because they were to mind the outward action, it took off much from the intention and activity of the spirit; man could not do both busily. And then they failed also in the other part of a spiritual religion; for the nature of a spiritual religion is, that in it we serve God with our hearts and affections; and because while the spirit prevails, we do not to evil purposes of abate


« AnteriorContinua »