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should stoop to weak and miserable manhood : and, in that low and despicable condition, should submit himself to hunger, thirst, weariness, temptation of devils, despite of men ; to the cruelty of tormenters; to agonies of soul; to the pangs of a bitter, ignominious, cursed death; to the sense of his Father's wrath for us, wretched sinners, that had made ourselves the worst of creatures, enemies to God, slaves to Satan : is above the reach of all finite apprehension. O never-to-be-enough-magnified mercy *! Thou didst not, O Sa. viour, when thou sawest mankind utterly lost and forlorn, content thyself to send down one of thy Cherubim or Seraphin, or some other of thy heavenly Angels, to undertake the great work of our deliverance; as well knowing that task too high for any created power: but wouldest, out of thine infinite love and compassion, vouchsafe, so to abase thy blessed self, as to descend from the throne of thy celestial glory to this dungeon of earth; and, not leaving what thou hadst and what thou wast, to assume what thou hadst not, man; and to disparage thyself by being one of us, that we might become like unto thee, co-heirs of thy glory and blessedness. Thou, that art the Eternal Son of God, wouldest condescend so low, as to be man; that we, who are worms and no men, might be advanced to be the sons of God: thou wouldest be a servant, that we might reign: thou wouldest expose thyself to the shaine and disgrace of thy vile creatures here, that thou mightest raise us up to the height of heavenly honour, with thee our God and thy holy angels : thou wouldest die for a while, that we might live eternally
Pause here awhile, O my soul, and do not wish to change thy thoughts : neither earth nor heaven can yield thee any of higher concernment, of greater comfort: only, withal, behold the glorious person, of that thy blessed Mediator, after his victories over death and hell, sitting triumphant in all the Majesty of Heaven, adored by all those millions of celestial spirits, in his glorified Humanity ; and, what thou mayest, enjoy the vision of him by faith, till thou shalt be everlastingly blessed with a clear and present intuition. Long after that day, and be ever careful, in the mean time, to make thyself ready for so infinite a happiness.
SECT. VII. AND now, O my soul, having left below thee all the trivial vani. ties of earth; and fixed thyself, so far as thy weak eyes will allow thee, upon thy God and Saviour, in his almighty works and most glorious attributes; it will be time for thee, and will not a little conduce to thy further address towards blessedness, to fasten thyself upon the sight of the happy estate of the Saints above, who are gone before thee to their bliss; and have, through God's mercy, comfortably obtained that, which thou aspirest unto. Thou, that wert guided by their example, be likewise heartened by their success: thou art yet a traveller ; they, comprehensors: thou art pant
* Bernard. Serm. de passione Domini.
ing towards that rest, which they most happily enjoy : thou art sweating under the cross, while they sit crowned in a heavenly magnificence.
See the place wherein they are, the heaven of heavens, the paradise of God; infinitely resplendent, infinitely delectable: such as no eye can behold, and not be blessed. Shouldst thou set thy tabernacle in the midst of the sun, thou couldst not but be encompassed with marvellous light: yet, even there, it would be but as midnight with thee, in comparison of those irradiations of glory, which shine forth above, in that Imperial Region; for thy God is the sun there; Rev. xxi. 23: by how much, therefore, those divine rays of his exceed the brightest beams of his creature ; so much doth the beauty of that heaven of the blessed, surpass the created light of this inferior and starry firmament. Even the very place contributes not a little to our joy or misery. It is hard to be merry in a gaol: and the great Persian monarch thought it very improper for a courtier, to be of a sad countenance within the verge of so great a royalty; Neh. ii. 2. The very devils conceive horror, at the apprehension of the place of their torment; and can beseech the over-ruling power of thy Saviour, not to command them to go out into the deep; Luke viii. 31. No man can be so insensate, to think there can be more dreadfulness in the place of those infernal tortures, than there is pleasure and joy in the height of that sphere of blessedness; since we know we have to do with a God, that delights more in the prosperity of his saints, than in the cruciation and howling of his enemies. How caust thou then, O my soul, be but wholly taken up with the sight of that celestial Jerusalem, the beauteous city of thy God, the blessed mansions of glorified spirits ! Surely, if earth could have yielded any thing more fair and estimable than gold, pearls, precious stones, it should have been borrow. . ed to resemble these supernal habitations; but, alas, the lustre of these base materials doth but darken the resplendence of those divine excellencies. With what contempt now, dost thou look down upon those muddy foundations of earth, which the low spirits of worldlings are wont to admire! and how feelingly dost thou bless and emulate the spirits of just men made perfect, who are honoured with so blissful a habitation! Heb. xii. 23.
But what were the place, () my soul, how goodly and glorious soever in itself, if it were not for the presence of him, whose being there makes it heaven? Lo there the throne of that Heavenly Majesty, which, filling and comprehending the large circumference of this whole, both lower and superior world; yet there, keeps and manifests his state, with the infinite magnificence of the King of Eternal Glory. There, he, in an ineffectible manner, communicates himself to blessed spirits, both angels and men: and that very vision is no less to them, than beatifical. Surely, were the place a thousand degrees lower in beauty and perfection than it is, yet that presence would render it celestial: the residence of the king was wont to turn the meanest village or castle into a court. The sweet singer of Israel saw this, of old; and could say, In thy presence is the fulness of joy; and at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.
It is not so, in these earthly and finite excellencies. A man may see mountains of treasure, and be never a whit the richer; and may be the witness and agent too in another's honour, as Haman was of Mordecai's, and be so much more miserable; or, may view the pomp and splendor of mighty princes, and be yet still a beggar: but the infinite graces of that Heavenly King are so communicative, that no man can see hiin, but must be transformed into the likeness of his glory.
SECT. VIII. Even thy weak and imperfect vision of such heavenly objects, 0 my soul, are enough to lay a foundation of thy blessedness: and how can there choose but be raised thence, as a further degree towards it, a sweet complacency of heart, in an appropriation of what thou seest; without which, nothing can make thee happy? Let the sun shine never so bright, what is this to thee, if thou be blind? Be the God of Heaven never so glorious, yet if he be not thy God; be the Saviour of the World never so merciful, yet if he be not merciful to thee; be the heaven never so full of beauty and majesty, yet if thou have not thy portion in that inheritance of the saints in light; so far will it be from yielding thee comfort, that it will make a further addition to thy torment. What an aggravation of misery shall it be to those, that were children of the kingdom, that, from that utter darkness whereinto they are cast, they shall see aliens come from the east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven! Matth. viii. 11. Cease not then, O my soul, till, by a sure and undefeasible application, thou hast brought all these home to thyself; and canst look upon the great God of Heaven, the gracious Redeemer of the World, the glory of that celestial paradise, as thine own. Let it be thy bold ambition and holy curiosity, to find thy name enrolled in that eternal register of heaven: and, if there be any one room in the many mansions of that celestial Jerusalem, lower and less resplendent than vther, thither do thou find thyself, through the great mercy of thy God, happily designed. It must be the work of thy faith, that must do it: that divine grace it is, the power whereof can either fetch down hearen to thee, or carry thee beforehand up to thy hearen; and not affix thee only to ihy God and Saviour, but unite thee to him, and, which is yet more, ascertain thee of so blessed an union.
Neither can it be, but that, from this sense of appropriation, there must necessarily follow a marvellous contentment and complaceney, in the assurance of so happy an interest. Lord, how do I see poor worldlings please themselves, in the conceit of their miserable proprieties! One thinks, “ Is not this my great Babylon, which I have built ?” Dan. iv. 30. Another, " Are not these my rich mines?" Another, “ Is not this my royal and adored magnificence?" And how are those unstable minds transported, with the opinion of these great, but indeed worthless, peculiarities; which, after some little time, moulder with them into dust! How canst thou then be but pleasingly affected, O my soul, with the comfortable sense of having a God, a Saviour, and Heaven of thine own! For, in these spiritual and heavenly felicities, our right is not partial and divided, as it useth to be in secular inheritances; so as that every one hath his share distinguished from the rest, and parcelled out of the whole: but here, each one hath all; and this blessed patrimony is communicated to all saints, as that the whole is the propriety of every one.
Upon the assurance, therefore, of thy God's gracious promises made to every true believer, find thou thyself happily seized of both the King and Kingdom of Heaven, so far as thy faith can as yet feoff thee in both; and delight thyself, above all things, in these unfailing pledges of thine instant blessedness; and say, with the holy Mother of thy Redeemer, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoiceth in God my Saviour ; Luke i. 46, 47.
SECT. IX. From this feeling complacency, in the owning of thy right to glory and happiness, there cannot but arise a longirg desire of the full possession thereof: for thou canst not so little love thyself, as what thou knowest thou hast a just title unto, and withal apprehendest to be infinitely pleasing and beneficial, not to wish that thou mayest freely enjoy it. If thou have tasted how sweet the Lord is, únou canst not but long for more of him; yea, for all.
It is no otherwise, even in carnal delights; the degustation whereof is wont to draw on the heart to a more eager appetition: much more, in spiritual; the pleasures whereof, as they are more pure, so they are of the heavenly-minded with far greater ardency of spirit affected. The covetous man's heart is in his bags: what he hath, doth but augment his lust of more; and the haring of more, doth not satiate, but enlarge his desires. He, that loz cth sil. ver, shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he, that lovelh abund mce, with increase; Eccl. v. 10: but these celestial riches are so much more allective, as they are more excellent, than those, which are delved out of the bowels of the earth.
O my soul, thou hast, through the favour of thy God, sipped some little of the cup of immortality; and tasted of that heavenly manna, the food of angels: and canst thou take up with these slight touches of blessedness? Thou hast, though most unworthy, the honour to be contracted so thy Saviour, here below: thou kyowest the voice of his spouse, Draw me, and we shall run after thec. Slay me with flagons; comfort me with apples; for I am sick of love. Make haste, my Beloved, and be thou like to a roe, or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices; Cant. i. 4: i. 5: vui. 14. Where is thy love, if thou have not fervent desires of a perpetual enjoyment ? if thou do not earnestly wish for a full consunuration of that heavenly match?
O my Lord and Saviour, as I am not worthy to love thee, so I were not able to love thee, how amiable soever, but by thee. () thou, that hast begun to kindle this fire of heavenly love in me,
raise thou it up to a perfect flame: make me not only sick of thy love, but ready and desirous to die for thee, that I may enjoy thee. Oh, let me not endure, that any worldly heart should be more enamoured of these earthly beauties, which are but varnished rottenness; than I am of thee, who art of absolute and infinite perfections, and bestowest them in being loved. Oh, when shall the day be, wherein thou wilt make up these blessed nuptials; and endow me with a full participation of that glory, wherewith thou art invested, from and to all eternity? whereto have all thy sweet favours and gracious love-tokens tended, but to this issue of blessedness? Oh, do thou crown all thy mercies in me, and me with immortality.
SECT. X. UPON this desire of fruition, if thou wouldst be truly happy, there must follow a constant prosecution of that desire: for, if thy wishes he never so fervent, yet if they be only volatile and transient, they shall be able to avail thee little: slight and Aickering motions of good, if they be not followed with due endeavours, sort to no effect.
Content not thyself, therefore, O my soul, that thou hast entertained into thyself some affective thoughts of thy beatitude; but settle thyself in firm resolutions to pursue and perpetuate them: let them not call in as strangers, but dwell in thee as inmates; never to be, by any secular occasions, dislodged. These morning dews of holy dispositions, which are ready to be exhaled with every gleam of worldly prosperity, as they find little acceptance from God, so they are able to afford small comfort to thee; as whose condition is such, that they leave thee more disconsolate in their vanishing, than they yielded thee pleasure in their momentary continuance. Be thou able to say with holy David, My heart is
fi.red, O God, my heart is fixed; and then thou mayst well add, I will sing and give praise; Psalm lvii. 7: otherwise, thy distracted thoughts will admit no cause of sound joy.
In this case it falls out with thee, O my soul, as with some fond child, who, eagerly following a bee in hope of her bag, sees a gay butterfly cross his way; and thereupon leaves his first chase, and runs after those painted wings: but, in that pursuit, seeing a bird fly close by him, he leaves the fly, in hope of a better purchase: but, in the mean time, is disappointed of all, and catcheth nothing. It mainly behoves thee therefore, to keep up thy cogitations and affections, close to these heavenly objects; and to check them, whensoever thou perceivest an inclination to their wandering: like as the careful huntsman, when he finds his hound offering to follow after a new game, rates him off, and holds him to his first scent.
Whither are ye straying, O my thoughts ? What means this sinful and lossful inconstancy? Can ye be happier in a change? Is there any thing in this miserable world, that can be worthy to carry you away from the hopes and affectations of blessedness?